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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
April 21, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Stopping the Flow of Iranian Rockets in Sudan - Jonathan Schanzer (Ynet News)
    A recent aerial attack near Port Sudan along the Red Sea killed Abdul-Latif Ashkar, the successor to assassinated Hamas weapons man Mahmoud Mabhouh, who was reportedly taken out by a hit team last year in Dubai.
    In early 2009, Israel appears to have launched three airstrikes in Sudan, targeting Iranian weapons shipments meant for Hamas in Gaza.
    The weapons coming out of Sudan are the same ones that traverse Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and are ultimately delivered to Hamas in Gaza by way of sophisticated tunnels, which Iran finances.
    Iranian arms account for much, if not all, of the more than 120 rockets and anti-tank missiles that have been hammering Israel in recent weeks, and the thousands in recent years.
    Thus, Israel's suspected operations on Sudanese soil should be viewed as an extension of its ongoing efforts to halt the firing of rockets by Iranian proxies, such as Hamas and Hizbullah, onto Israeli territory.
    The writer is vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Preventing the Arab Spring from Reaching Western Sahara - Colum Lynch (Foreign Policy)
    The UN and France have been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the popular uprisings spreading across Africa, resorting to, or at least backing, the use of military force in Ivory Coast and Libya to foster democratic change.
    But their fervor for bold political reform has not been felt in the North African territory of Western Sahara, Africa's last colony, where they have favored deference to the slow incremental path to change advocated by the territory's ruling power, Morocco.
    U.S. diplomatic communications, obtained through WikiLeaks, reveal that the UN and France have yielded to intense pressure from Morocco to limit outside scrutiny of its human rights conduct.
    Just last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon rejected a request from his own human right's chief, Navi Pillay, to establish a full-time human rights monitoring team in Western Sahara.
    See also U.S. and Key Nations Disagree with Independence Supporters on Human Rights in Western Sahara - Edith M. Lederer (AP)

Palestinians Working in Settlements Earn Double Average Wage (Maan News-PA)
    Palestinians who worked in Jewish settlements in 2010 made almost double the wage of their peers in the public and service sectors, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said in a new report released Wednesday.
    14% of the Palestinian workforce are employed in West Bank settlements. Average daily wages for settlement workers were 150 shekels ($44) per day, compared to 76.9 ($22) in the West Bank and 46.2 ($13.50) in Gaza.
    "Palestinian workers in our factories are making closer to three times the wages they would be making in the PA," said settlement leader Yaakov David Ha'ivri. "I guess that is the reason that Salam Fayyad's threats to impose a workers boycott never materialized."
    "It would be very interesting to see the results of a true open and democratic referendum of the local Arab population" to learn if they would prefer a ban on settlements or to continue working in them, he added.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Invitation Puts Obama on Spot on Peace Plan - Helene Cooper
    For three months, White House officials have been debating whether the time has come for President Obama to make a major address on the upheaval in the Arab world, and whether he should use the occasion to propose a new plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. One administration official said that course was backed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the president himself, but opposed by Dennis B. Ross, the president's senior adviser on the Middle East.
        If Obama does put forward an American plan, officials say it could include terms of reference built around the final status issues that have bedeviled peace negotiators since 1979. It could call for Israel to accept a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. For their part, Palestinians would have to accept that they would not get the right of return to land in Israel. Jerusalem would be the capital of both states, and Israeli security would have to be protected. (New York Times)
        See also Clinton Calls for Immediate Resumption of Peace Talks
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday called for an immediate resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and denounced Palestinian efforts seeking unilateral declarations of statehood in the UN. "We do not support any unilateral effort by the Palestinians to go to the United Nations to try to obtain some authorization or approval vote with respect to statehood," she said, adding, "We think we can only achieve the two-state solution that we strongly advocate through negotiations."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Clinton Says Syria Must Stop Detention, Torture - Tabassum Zakaria and Bill Trott
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday condemned violence in Syria and said the Syrian government must stop the arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of prisoners. (Reuters)
        See also Syrian Activists Regroup After Deadly Crackdown - Anthony Shadid (New York Times)
  • Iranian Leader Rebuffs Ahmadinejad over Official's Dismissal - Thomas Erdbrink
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received a public rebuff Wednesday when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, confirmed that Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, whom Ahmadinejad had dismissed Sunday, is to keep his job. The controversy flared against a backdrop of tension about the growing influence of Ahmadinejad's closest aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, in the country's affairs. Semiofficial news media reported that Mashaei played a central role in Moslehi's dismissal.
        Mashaei, a former Intelligence Ministry official, made a controversial trip in December to Jordan, a country with which Iran has frosty relations because of its ties with Israel. Recently, Ahmadinejad has warned neighbors in the region that the U.S. and Israel are planning to divide Jordan to establish a Palestinian state there. Two weeks ago Ahmadinejad abruptly replaced Mashaei, who holds several government positions, as the head of the president's office. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Experts: Bloodbath Could Follow Overthrow of Assad in Syria - Yaakov Lappin
    Syria's diverse population - made up of Sunni Muslims, Druse, Kurds and other groups, who are ruled by the minority Alawites - could, upon the collapse of the Assad regime, turn on each other in a bloody civil conflict. "I think there would be a bloodbath if Assad falls," said Eyal Zisser, a professor of Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University.
        Dr. Mordechai Kedar, of Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said Syria could split up into smaller states following the collapse of the Assad regime. In such a scenario, "many Muslims will chase Alawites with knives - who would in turn have to flee to the Ansariya mountains in western Syria, their traditional lands." "Syria could be divided into six parts: an Alawite state in the west; a Kurdish state in the north, as in Iraq; a Druse state in the south; and a Bedouin state in the east, in the Dir al-Zur region. A Sunni Muslim state in Damascus and another in Aleppo could also rise."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Sees a Weakening PA - Danny Rubenstein
    Before entering unity talks with the PA in Ramallah, Hamas leaders wish to see exactly what the upheavals in neighboring countries - Egypt, Jordan, and Syria - will bring. They expect a significant weakening of the PA in Ramallah, as their political and financial situation worsens. The Mubarak regime in Egypt, which was Abbas' main political backer, is gone. In addition, the financial aid from the Arab nations is drying up. Saudi Arabia, the main donor, has recently allocated $130 billion to hand out to Saudi citizens so they will not join their rebellious brothers in the adjacent countries. A similar tactic can be found in many of the Gulf emirates. Most of these Arab nations will not have money left to give the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Report)
  • Donor States to PA Condemn Provocative Flotillas to Gaza - Amos Harel
    The donor states to the Palestinian Authority, which met last week in Brussels, condemned in its concluding statement uncoordinated aid flotillas to Gaza. The group called on all parties to use land terminals and avoid provocations. Another large aid flotilla is planned for late May. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Damascus Needs Regime Change - Bret Stephens
    Maybe it's time to stop making excuses for the Assad regime in Syria. The Obama administration called on long-standing U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak to step aside when Egyptians took to the streets, on the theory that America should stand with the people in their demand for change - even when we are not yet sure what change will bring. And it did so again with long-standing enemy Moammar Gadhafi on the theory that the international community has a "responsibility to protect" when civilians are being shot in the streets. Both conditions are now operative in Syria. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also What Is Damascus Hiding about its Nuclear Ambitions? - Bennett Ramberg
    Syria is getting a free ride. It has suffered no consequence for snubbing the IAEA. If the nonproliferation treaty cannot be enforced in Syria, a relatively weak country currently buffeted by its own Arab spring, the agreement risks falling into irrelevance - and the region into a tense nuclear future. The treaty's survival requires that the international community draw a line. It should start at the gates of Damascus. (New Republic)
  • America's Failure to Knock Out Gaddafi Emboldens Iran - Leslie H. Gelb
    America's worst enemies like Iran and North Korea are saying: If the vaunted and mighty NATO and the U.S. can't humble Gaddafi and his pint-size army, "what do we have to worry about?" While the West's enemies know well NATO's self-imposed restrictions on air attacks, they assume that NATO and the U.S. would put such limitations on themselves no matter where they fought. Thus, to Tehran and Pyongyang, the lesson of Libya is that the West can't do decisive harm to them.
        Over the past four weeks, NATO airstrikes have destroyed about one-third of Gaddafi's ground armor, as well as most of his fixed air-defense sites and aircraft. Nonetheless, given strictures on killing civilians, NATO pilots patrolling above Tripoli last week could only watch as Gaddafi toured its streets in an open-top car. Also, NATO hasn't been able to protect rebels in Misrata because Gaddafi's troops now use civilian vehicles. As time passes inconclusively in Libya, it becomes harder still to convince Iran and North Korea that NATO is not a paper tiger. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Daily Beast)
  • The Desire for War in Iran - Abdullah Iskandar
    For a very long time, the confrontation with Israel allowed Iran to vent out its strength through its allies. Now, however, it has become difficult for Tehran to use this outlet, considering that the main concern of Hamas - its ally in Gaza - is to consecrate the truce with Israel, not to engage in war with it, while Hizbullah - its other ally in Lebanon - has become restrained. It may be due to these reasons that Iran re-shifted its attention toward the Gulf front. Tehran placed the Bahraini file on the top of its list of priorities.
        But regardless of the controversy surrounding its direct interference in Bahrain and the fact that it considered the demands of its Shiite supporters as being those of all the Bahraini citizens and of citizens in other Gulf states, Tehran adopted several concomitant forms of escalation. In the meantime, all the statements and speeches in Iran stressed the necessity of interfering to confront the GCC policy in Bahrain. And while the Iranian diplomacy is merely alluding to interference by use of force, the leaders of the military institution are bluntly announcing they deem it necessary. (Dar Al Hayat)

Is the Palestinian Authority Ready for Statehood? - Patrick Clawson and Michael Singh (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • At the April 13 meeting of the West Bank/Gaza donors group, the IMF and World Bank presented reports arguing that the Palestinians are ready for statehood. Yet that judgment requires three important caveats. First, it depends on future Israeli-Palestinian cooperation; second, it is contingent on Gaza's return to Palestinian Authority control; and third, it does not take into account the PA's broader political readiness for statehood, which continues to lag.
  • Digging into the tables accompanying the IMF report, one finds that two-thirds of current PA receipts are "clearance revenues," that is, taxes collected on the Palestinians' behalf by Israel and passed on to the PA. In 2010, the PA received $1.26 billion in clearance revenues, compared to the $750 million in domestic revenue it collected on its own. In other words, the PA is able to pay its bills only because of the money transferred by Israel. If bilateral cooperation ceased, the PA would be in no position to pay salaries.
  • The World Bank and IMF are correct to praise Fayad, whose accomplishments came against long odds and will be vital to the success and sustainability of any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. But they have been put at risk by the stagnation of peace negotiations and the looming prospect of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood. Moreover, they are insufficient without greater attention to the political aspects of state building.

        See also Palestinians Get Donor "Birth Certificate" - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The assertion that the PA could actually run a "functioning state" ignores a fundamental truth about Fayyad's regime. It is not merely dependent on massive foreign aid. It also could not function or survive without the protection afforded by Israel's military presence in the West Bank, the very thing that Fayyad claims he wishes to eliminate.
        Although the area's economy is starting to recover from the terror war started by Yasir Arafat in 2000, an Israeli withdrawal would mean that the terror groups who constitute the real power in Palestinian society might obtain the ability to transform this territory into another terrorist launching pad like Gaza. (Commentary)

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