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May 2, 2011

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Syria's Referral to Security Council by UN Nuclear Watchdog Likely - George Jahn (AP)
    The International Atomic Energy Agency is setting the stage for potential UN Security Council action against Syria as the organization prepares a report assessing that a Syrian target bombed by Israeli warplanes was a secretly built nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium, diplomats say.
    Such an IAEA assessment would be the basis of a Western-sponsored resolution to send the issue to the UN Security Council.
    See also IAEA Confirmation Vindicates Israel's Strike on Syrian Nuclear Facility - Rob Corbidge (Scotsman-UK)
    Israel's decision to act swiftly and alone four years ago has undoubtedly done the world a favor.

Gaddafi's Youngest Son, Three Grandchildren Killed in NATO Airstrike - Simon Denyer and Leila Fadel (Washington Post)
    Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, 29, the youngest son of Moammar Gaddafi, was killed in a NATO airstrike on his home on Saturday, along with three of Gaddafi's grandchildren, but the Libyan leader who was also there escaped unharmed, the Libyan government said Sunday.

Hamas Leadership Says It Will Remain in Syria (Los Angeles Times)
    Hamas officials on Saturday denied reports that its top leaders are planning to move from Syria and relocate to Qatar or another Arab country.

Muslim Brotherhood to Contest More Seats in Egyptian Elections - Matt Bradley (Wall Street Journal)
    In a sign of the increasing confidence of Egypt's Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood said Saturday it will compete for 45-50% of seats in September's parliamentary elections.
    The Brotherhood had previously said that its new political party "Freedom and Justice" would field candidates in about one-third of parliamentary districts.

Israel "War Crimes" Bus Ads Group Loses Billboards, Too - Jim Brunner (Seattle Times)
    The same group that failed in a bid to place controversial ads alleging Israel "war crimes" on Metro buses is now losing billboards with a message decrying U.S. aid to Israel.
    Clear Channel Outdoor informed the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign on Wednesday it would remove four billboard ads purchased at about $1,400 apiece which were supposed to run for four weeks.
    Olivia Lippens, president of Clear Channel Outdoor Seattle, said the company wants to ensure any ads, including websites they promote, "are not offensive toward any business, group or individual."
    The group's website, which was prominently promoted in the ads, calls Israel's Palestinian policies "war crimes" and "apartheid."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • CIA Operation Kills Osama bin Laden in Pakistan
    A CIA-led operation has killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and recovered his body after a decade-long hunt for the militant leader who commanded the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. government officials said Sunday. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Bin Laden Dead, U.S. Official Says - Helene Cooper
    President Obama announced Sunday that Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight during an operation inside Pakistan. A small team of U.S. operatives launched a "targeted assault" on a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. (New York Times)
        See also How the U.S. Tracked Down Bin Laden - Mimi Hall and Richard Wolf
    Two years ago, senior U.S. intelligence officials figured out where the man they thought might be hiding Osama bin Laden was living. It was a $1 million complex, in an affluent neighborhood of mostly military retirees 35 miles north of Islamabad in Pakistan, found by tracking one of bin Laden's trusted couriers. On Friday, President Obama made the decision to send a small U.S. team in helicopters into the compound to go after bin Laden, the culmination of months of top-secret security meetings as operatives closed in on bin Laden overseas.
        In August 2010 agents discovered the sprawling compound where bin Laden was hiding, eight times larger than any in the area, built at the end of a dirt road. It has 18-foot walls, two security gates, and no exterior windows. In the course of events, one of the helicopters went down because of mechanical trouble. Those aboard it were able to destroy it and get away with their fellow team members. (USA Today)
        See also The Raid on Osama Bin Laden's Compound
    In the firefight, in addition to bin Laden, three adult males were killed, including bin Laden's adult son and two couriers. One woman was killed when she was used as a human shield, U.S. officials say, and two women were injured in the raid. It will be hard for Pakistan to explain how bin Laden could have been living in a huge compound located in a densely populated suburb filled with retired military unnoticed. (CBS News)
        See also Egypt's al-Zawahri, Bin Laden's Deputy, Likely Next Leader of al-Qaeda
    With bin Laden killed, Ayman al-Zawahri becomes the top candidate for the world's top terror job. Al-Zawahri's extremist views and his readiness to use deadly violence are beyond doubt. In 2001 he set down the long-term strategy for the jihadi movement - to inflict "as many casualties as possible" on the Americans, while trying to establish control in a nation as a base "to launch the battle to restore the holy caliphate" of Islamic rule across the Muslim world. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Israel Marks Holocaust Day
    Thousands of Holocaust survivors and Israelis on Sunday and Monday mourned the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis at memorial services throughout the country. Some 208,000 survivors live in Israel, 74,000 of them survivors of the death camps and ghettos, the rest spending the war years fleeing Nazi persecution. (UPI)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu's Address on Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also The Auschwitz Album: Photos Take by the SS
    The Auschwitz Album is the only surviving visual evidence of the process of mass murder at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Page 7: Women and children being taken to Crematoria IV and V. In Birkenau, elderly women and children were almost always immediately sent to their deaths in the gas chambers as they were deemed "unfit for work."  (Yad Vashem)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas to PLO: Rescind Recognition of Israel - Elior Levy
    Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh urged the PLO Friday to rescind its recognition of Israel. "Their presence on our land is illegal and cannot be recognized," the Hamas leader said. Earlier, Haniyeh stressed that the temporary Palestinian government to be established following the unity deal will not embark on negotiations with Israel. He also made it clear that his group had no intention of recognizing the Jewish state. (Ynet News)
        See also Islamic Jihad Not Joining Palestinian Unity Government - Mohammed Mar'i (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Israel Halts Transfer of Tax Funds to PA - Elior Levy
    Israel has suspended the transfer of tax revenue to the Palestinian Authority in response to its alliance with Hamas. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Sunday that his ministry did not cancel the funds transfer, but rather only suspended it temporarily. "We need to know if these funds will now find their way to Hamas, possibly to fund the purchase of rockets that will then be fired on the south. The burden of proof lies with the Palestinian Authority, to show that not even one shekel is given to Hamas and funds terror."  (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Reviewing Support of PA Security Training in Jordan - Yaakov Katz
    Amid concerns over the new Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, Israel is reconsidering its approval to allow an eighth battalion of Palestinian security forces to travel later this month to Jordan for training by the U.S. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Unnatural Fatah-Hamas Agreement - Zvi Mazel
    According to the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, Hamas will maintain its security forces in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority thus offers official recognition to the Hamas militias in its territory. This resembles the Lebanese model, where Hizbullah, a radical Islamist terrorist group, has its own security forces, and determines the political agenda. The release of Hamas prisoners is also against the interests of the PA, as they will reorganize and try to topple the PA and renew the terror attacks against Israel.
        The PA draws its legitimacy from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that signed the Oslo Agreements with Israel. With the addition of Hamas - a body that does not recognize Israel - to the PLO, what will happen to the Oslo Agreements? The writer served as Israel's Ambassador to Egypt and Sweden. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Damaging Deal Between Hamas and Fatah - Elliott Abrams
    The agreement between Fatah and Hamas may not last very long. Hamas and Fatah militants have been killing each other for decades and reconciliation seems more a ploy for public consumption than a serious goal. But the deal will have extremely harmful effects that deserve attention. The agreement seems to require the departure of Prime Minister Fayyad. Hamas officials hate Fayyad because he is the real leader of the PA security forces, which have been trained by the U.S. in recent years. Those forces have established a working relationship with Israel, and together they have fought to stop terrorism in the West Bank.
        How is it possible that, in the context of this new agreement, President Abbas and the new prime minister will order PA security forces to continue to attack Hamas terrorists? As the American effort to train PA forces is based on the assumption that they will fight terrorist groups like Hamas, our training program may come to an end.
        In addition, the new agreement calls for permitting Hamas to enter the PLO, the organization that negotiates with Israel. How can negotiations be conducted between Israel and a PLO that contains a viciously anti-Semitic terrorist group dedicated to its destruction? (Weekly Standard)
  • Congress and the Palestinians - Ben Smith
    Senator Mark Kirk has taken a look at existing legislation and lays out a number of markers on the Fatah-Hamas deal which suggest Congress will attempt to cut American funding for the Palestinian Authority. "The governing statute clearly states that each minister or such equivalent must publicly acknowledge the Jewish state of Israel's right to exist and commit him or herself to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States, Israel and the international community, including the Roadmap to Peace (which includes the renunciation of violence)."
        "Should PA security forces enter into cooperation with Hamas security forces, U.S. assistance for Palestinian security may be prohibited."  (Politico)

Countdown to September: Israel, the Palestinians, and the UN General Assembly - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The public debate in Israel over the Palestinian plan to seek UN support for statehood in September is based on a fundamental misconception: the UN General Assembly cannot by itself establish or recognize a Palestinian state. It can admit new members to the UN only after they have been nominated first by the UN Security Council, where any of the five permanent members could veto the nomination.
  • The current Palestinian effort at the UN, moreover, seems redundant. The UN General Assembly already recommended the creation of a Palestinian state on December 15, 1988, and has even insisted on the 1967 lines. The 1988 resolution was backed by 104 countries; only the U.S. and Israel opposed it. But this and other past resolutions (including one as recently as December 18, 2008) did not create a new legal reality, nor did they change anything on the ground.
  • In 1998, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was confronted with a plan by Yasser Arafat to declare a state in 1999, the Israeli government warned that such a move would constitute "a substantive and fundamental violation of the Interim Agreement" between Israel and the Palestinians (the Oslo II agreement). It issued a formal statement saying that if such a violation occurred, then Israel would be entitled to take all necessary steps, including the application of Israeli law to settlement blocs and security zones in the West Bank. 
  • Oslo II clearly established that "Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the Permanent Status negotiations" (Article 31). The European Union actually signed Oslo II as a witness. Can EU countries then become active participants in changing the status of the territories whose fate is supposed to be determined only by negotiations?
  • Israel must firmly oppose the September initiative in the General Assembly, even if the Palestinians already have the votes. It must make absolutely clear that this move is no less than a material breach of a core commitment in the Oslo Agreements, as the Israeli government asserted in 1998. Only a strong Israeli response will deter Abbas from going further down the road of unilateralism.

    The writer, a former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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