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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
April 5, 2011

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Poll: Israelis Oppose New Diplomatic Initiatives During Mideast Turmoil (Tel Aviv University and Israel Democracy Institute)
    The March 2011 Peace Index survey found that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews (70%) believe that with the Middle Eastern upheavals, the situation at the moment is unclear and therefore it is better for Israel not to take any initiatives at this time.
    Only 28% believe Israel should make a new effort to reach a regional peace at this time.

Assad an Enemy of Change - Loveday Morris (Telegraph-UK)
    In a brief speech bereft of conciliatory gestures, Syrian President Assad dismissed protesters as conspirators in the pay of foreign powers, and hinted that Israel was the principal plotter.
    Unlike other Arab autocrats who sought to appease protesters with concessions, Assad was essentially inviting his opponents to a showdown.
    Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, continued to persist with the line that the Syrian president's hands were tied by hardliners within the regime.
    But former senior Syrian officials and even members of Assad's family have told the Sunday Telegraph that this perception is a fallacy deliberately fostered by the regime and that, in fact, the president is one of the main enemies of change.
    "Some forces want to make people believe that he is a puppet. It's a lie just to keep him pure," said one official.
    "Essentially the family are of one mind," said a former official with close links to the Assad family.

Who Are These Libyan Rebels? - Lysiane Gagnon (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    Who are these Libyan rebels whom the Western powers are helping with their air raids?
    In late 2009, a Canadian intelligence report called the anti-Gaddafi stronghold of eastern Libya an "epicenter of Islamist extremism."
    The Transitional National Council, the group formed by the anti-Gaddafi rebels during the uprising, is chaired by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, a former justice minister in Gaddafi's government. The appellate court of which he had been president twice confirmed the death penalty for five Bulgarian nurses who had been arrested in 1999 on the ludicrous charge of contaminating Libyan children with the AIDS virus.
    Abdul Fatah Younis, a senior military commander of the insurgency, is a former interior and public security minister, responsible for the system of torture set up by the Gaddafi regime.

Claim that Jewish Underground Targeted Churchill Is Rejected - Aviel Magnezi (Ynet News)
    MI5 documents claiming that the pre-state Lehi underground planned to assassinate former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill are a product of "British paranoia," Yair Stern, the son of the group's founder Avraham Stern, said Monday.
    "Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin seems like a preferable target, because he was said to have been anti-Semitic and one of the deciders of British policy that prevented concentration camp survivors from immigrating to Israel," explained Stern, chairman of the Lehi Veterans Association.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Islamists in Egypt Seek Change Through Politics - Jeffrey Fleishman
    The secular reformers and twenty-something urbanites at the vanguard of Egypt's Jan. 25 revolution have found themselves eclipsed. They lack experience and grass-roots networks to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood and other religious groups that have quietly stoked their passions for this moment. In a sense, Mubarak's obsession with both co-opting and crushing Islamists instilled in them the discipline and organization that now propels their political agendas.
        The military council ruling the country has astounded many by permitting Islam a wider role. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition party, expects a strong showing in September's parliamentary elections. In Egypt's first taste of true democracy, the Brotherhood and more fundamentalist Salafist organizations told followers that it was their religious duty to vote to approve a referendum on constitutional amendments that benefited Islamists by speeding up elections. One of Egypt's leading ultraconservative sheiks, Mohamed Hussein Yacoub, influenced by Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi strain of Islam, was quoted as saying after the referendum had passed: "That's it. The country is ours."  (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Egypt's Military Warns Militant Islamic Groups Against Attempting to Take Over
    Egypt's ruling generals told Egyptian newspaper editors Monday they would not allow extremist groups to take over the country. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Defiant Syria Suburb Awaits Its Protest Dead
    Hundreds of Syrians chanted "freedom" as they gathered early Sunday to receive home wounded protesters in Douma, the Damascus suburb taking the fight closest to President Bashar al-Assad's seat of power. Some 50 wounded arrived in secret police cars around midnight in Municipality Square, where at least five were killed on Friday. Thousands took to the streets in major cities after Friday prayers, defying the security forces who fired teargas and live ammunition and used batons to try to disperse protesters who have dismissed reform gestures by Assad. Syria expelled Reuters' Damascus correspondent last week. Two other foreign Reuters journalists were also expelled. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Indicts Palestinian Engineer Over Hamas Weapons Development - Amos Harel
    Palestinian engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, 41, was charged on Monday with helping to increase the range of Hamas rockets from 6 to 22 km. and improving the armor penetration capability of anti-tank missiles from 6 to 26 cm. He was also developing a mortar shell that could penetrate meter-thick armor. Abu Sisi, a director of the Gaza power station, says he was abducted in February during a visit to Ukraine and transferred to Israel. The indictment portrays him as a central Hamas leader. In 2009, after the Gaza operation, Abu Sisi was assigned with establishing and heading Hamas' military academy. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Man Behind the Hamas Military Industry - Yaakov Katz
    Dirar Abu Sisi, the "Rocket Godfather" of Gaza, helped turn a terrorist organization once notorious for suicide bombers into a military force with capabilities of strategic implications for the State of Israel. Abu Sisi studied in Ukraine in the late 1990s at the Kharkov military academy, under a professor who had been one of the key developers in the Soviet Scud missile program. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Indictment of Gazan Engineer Dirar Abu Sisi
    Abu Sisi was indicted for attempted murder, being a party to hundreds of attempts to cause the death of residents of the State of Israel and IDF soldiers. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Dennis Ross: U.S. Opposed to PA Seeking Statehood in UN - Hilary Leila Krieger
    The U.S. is firmly opposed to Palestinians pursuing a unilateral declaration of statehood through the UN, top White House Middle East adviser Dennis Ross told the Anti-Defamation League on Monday. "We have consistently made it clear that the way to produce a Palestinian state is through negotiations, not through unilateral declarations, not through going to the UN." "This doesn't make it more likely that there'll be a Palestinian state," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Actor Murdered in West Bank - Jack Khoury, Avi Issacharoff, and Anshel Pfeffer
    Israeli actor and political activist Juliano Mer-Khamis, 52, was shot dead on Monday in the West Bank city of Jenin by masked Palestinian militants. His mother was an Israeli Jewish activist for Palestinian rights and his father was a Christian Arab. In 2006, Mer-Khamis opened the Freedom Theater in Jenin, along with Zakariya Zubeidi, the former military leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the city. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • America Can Stop the Palestinian Squeeze Play at the UN - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The Palestinian Authority blew off the Obama administration's peace efforts in the last two years, not even deigning to negotiate during the West Bank settlement freeze that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu enacted last year. The PA feels sure that the majority of UN members will back its demands to vote at the General Assembly in September to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem.
        Yet the U.S. is not helpless to stop this strategy. Rather, Washington could start putting serious pressure on the PA at last. Abbas depends on foreign aid to keep his corrupt authority in place and on Western military aid and Israeli protection to prevent a Hamas coup d'etat in the West Bank. Were Obama to make it clear that the U.S. will not tolerate an initiative that disregards our interests, then it is more than possible that Abbas' bluff would be called. (Commentary)
  • The Larger Game in the Middle East: Iran - David E. Sanger
    Libya is a sideshow. Containing Iran's power remains the Obama team's central goal in the Middle East. Every decision is being examined under the prism of how it will affect what was, until mid-January, the dominating calculus in the Obama administration's regional strategy: how to slow Iran's nuclear progress, and speed the arrival of opportunities for a successful uprising there.
        In recent weeks the White House has concluded that it has much less to lose than the Iranians do if Syrian President Assad is swept away. And, as some in Mr. Obama's war council have noted, if protesters succeed in Syria, Iran could be next. (New York Times)
  • Richard Goldstone Recants - Melanie Phillips
    Richard Goldstone has now admitted that his infamous report was wrong. What self-serving rubbish. There was ample evidence at the time from numerous sources that Hamas was telling lies about the number of civilians who were killed by Israeli fire. There was ample evidence that Hamas was deliberately putting civilians in harm's way.
        There was ample evidence that Hamas does not operate under the rule of law or uphold human rights. There was ample evidence that Israeli rules of engagement required the IDF to avoid hitting civilians wherever possible. There was ample evidence that Israel always investigates allegations of misconduct made against its soldiers and holds them to account under the rule of law. All those who have used Goldstone's report as a basis for their own delegitimization of Israel now also stand revealed as having endorsed one of the worst officially sanctioned international falsehoods in history. (Spectator-UK)
  • Goldstone the Belated Penitent - David Horovitz
    The astounding piece in the Washington Post by the Jewish justice who presided over the Goldstone Report that accused Israel of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead represents nothing less than an apology to Israel. How tragic that Goldstone so misplaced his moral compass in the first place. An apology just isn't good enough. The very least he owes Israel is to work unstintingly from now on to try to undo the damage he has caused. (Jerusalem Post)

UN Vote on Palestinian State Could Force Israel's Hand - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)

  • Israel is under mounting pressure to make a far-reaching offer to the Palestinians or face a UN vote welcoming the State of Palestine whose territory includes all of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
  • Israel, seeing the prospect of even more hostile governments as its neighbors, is insisting on caution. It also wants to build in extensive long-term security guarantees in any two-state solution. "Does the world think it is going to force Israel to declare the 1967 lines and giving up Jerusalem as a basis for negotiation?" asked a top Israeli official. "That will never happen."
  • "Whatever we put forward has to be grounded in security arrangements because of what is going on regionally," said former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval. "We are facing the rebirth of the eastern front as Iran grows strong. We have to secure the Jordan Valley. And no Israeli government is going to move tens of thousands of Israelis from their homes quickly."
    See also How Israel Should Handle Pressure for a Palestinian State - Elliott Abrams (Weekly Standard)
  • The Israeli nightmare has the leading nations of the world demanding terms about borders, security, and Jerusalem with which Israel cannot live. The EU is leading this Quartet effort, but every Israeli official with whom I spoke said the U.S. is waving the Europeans on and hiding behind them. Entirely missing is a relationship of confidence between the U.S. and Israel that might foster boldness or risk-taking.
  • In his April 14, 2004, letter to Prime Minister Sharon, President Bush stated that Palestinian refugees had no "right of return" to Israel and argued that a return to the 1949 armistice lines - a term he used in preference to "1967 borders" - was unrealistic given the existence of the major settlement blocs.
  • Those statements have been treated by the Obama administration as if they were some kind of private gesture by Bush in a personal note to Sharon. This devaluation of solemn pledges among allies has been a huge Obama mistake, for it undermines the value not only of past American pledges but of his own future words as well and makes Israel far less likely to take risks for peace.

    The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.

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