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May 23, 2011

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At Least 32 Killed as Syrian Troops Open Fire - Liz Sly (Washington Post)
    Syrian forces opened fire on protesters after Friday prayers, killing at least 32 people as the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad showed no sign of easing its military crackdown.
    "The regime has shown that it is betting on a strategy of violence to crush the opposition," said Razan Zeitouneh, a human rights lawyer who is in hiding in Damascus. "But everything that has happened shows that it is failing."

Canada Won't Back Obama's Mideast Peace Proposal - Daniel Leblanc (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    The Harper government is refusing to join the U.S. in calling for a return to 1967 borders as a starting point for Mideast peace.
    At a briefing ahead of the upcoming G8 summit in France, federal officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon.

Poll Affirms Strong American Jewish Support for Israel (CAMERA-IMRA)
    A poll of more than 1,000 American Jews, conducted by Luntz Global on behalf of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) on May 16-17, found that 85% say Israel "is right to take threats to its existence seriously," that Israel's concerns are neither "irrational" nor "overstated."
    84% say the Israeli government is committed to establishing genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, while 77% consider Palestinian incitement against Israel - its "culture of hatred" - to be a major obstacle to peace.
    68% say a Palestinian state created in the West Bank would attack Israel within a short time.

Obama's Peace Tack Contrasts with Key Aide, Friend of Israel - Helene Cooper and Mark Landler (New York Times)
    By almost all accounts, Dennis B. Ross - Middle East envoy to three presidents, well-known architect of incremental and painstaking diplomacy in the Middle East that eschews game-changing plays - is Israel's friend in the Obama White House.
    His strategy sometimes contrasts sharply with that of a president who has bold instincts and a willingness to elevate the plight of the Palestinians to a status equal to that of the Israelis.
    But now, as the president is embarking on a course that, once again, puts him at odds with Israel's prime minister, the question is how much of a split the president is willing to make not only with the Israeli leader, but with his own Middle East adviser.

The Resistance Camp Abandons Assad - B. Chernitsky (MEMRI)
    The international criticism of the Syrian regime's treatment of the protesters has been echoed by elements from the resistance camp, such as Al-Jazeera and other media in Qatar.
    Even elements in Iran criticized Syria's suppression of the unrest, despite that fact that the Iranian regime employs similar methods to suppress its own opposition.
    Turkey, which in recent years has tightened its relations with Syria and Iran, was also harsh in its criticism of the Syrian regime.

Yes, We Can't - Yossi Klein Halevi (New Republic)
    Alone among national movements, only the Palestinian cause conditions its dream of statehood on the disappearance of another state.
    Watching Turkey turn Islamist and pro-Iranian, Lebanon being devoured by Hizbullah, Hamas legitimized by Fatah, the Muslim Brotherhood rising in Egypt, and Iran's nuclear program proceeding apace, Israelis are hardly likely to risk another withdrawal, this time from our most sensitive border, and without even the pretense of a peace agreement.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • President Obama Meets with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House
    After President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel met on Friday, President Obama said: "Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language, and that's going to happen between friends. But what we are in complete accord about is that a true peace can only occur if the ultimate resolution allows Israel to defend itself against threats, and that Israel's security will remain paramount in U.S. evaluations of any prospective peace deal."
        "It is very difficult for Israel to be expected to negotiate in a serious way with a party that refuses to acknowledge its right to exist. And so for that reason I think the Palestinians are going to have to answer some very difficult questions about this agreement that's been made between Fatah and Hamas. Hamas has been and is an organization that has resorted to terror; that has refused to acknowledge Israel's rights to exist. It is not a partner for a significant, realistic peace process."
        Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "We value your efforts to advance the peace process....Israel wants peace. I want peace. What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold." "While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines - because these lines are indefensible; because they don't take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years."
        "Remember that, before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide. It was half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive....And we're going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan [River]."  (White House)
        See also Video: President Obama Meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu (White House)
  • Obama Clarifies '67 Lines Remarks
    President Barack Obama told the AIPAC Policy Conference on Sunday: "Let me reaffirm what '1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps' means. By definition, it means that the parties themselves - Israelis and Palestinians - will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace."  (Chicago Sun-Times)
        See also Video: Obama at AIPAC (Washington Post)
        See also Obama Shifts Tone on Israel Borders - Jay Solomon and Laura Meckler
    President Obama coupled his call Sunday for a resumption of negotiations between Israel and Palestinians with assertions that his administration recognized that Israel won't give up all the lands it gained during the 1967 conflict as part of a final agreement. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Netanyahu Aides Play Down Differences with Obama - Joel Greenberg
    Yaakov Amidror, Netanyahu's national security adviser, said the prime minister told his staff after speaking with Obama on Friday that he had come away reassured after the president clarified points he had made in his speech Thursday, in which he called for a two-state solution based on Israel's 1967 boundaries. "Contrary to the headlines, the disagreement is far less deep," Amidror told Israel Radio. "My sense is that the headlines don't correspond with reality."
        Amidror said that Israeli officials were pleased that Obama had rejected Palestinian attempts to secure recognition of statehood at the UN, that he backed Israel's refusal to negotiate with a Palestinian leadership that includes Hamas, and that he asserted that a two-state peace deal must affirm that Israel is the Jewish state. (Washington Post)
        See also Israel's Leader Denies Crisis with U.S. - Amy Teibel (AP)
        See also Obama Presses Israel to Make "Hard Choices" - Helene Cooper (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Ya'alon: Israel Has No Partner for Two States for Two Peoples - Mazal Mualem
    Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in an interview: By dividing the discussion of the core issues into two phases "in his speech, Obama in effect demanded of us to give up the territorial card without the substantive questions that are important to us - such as recognition of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people - being solved."
        "There is no doubt that there is a political and diplomatic earthquake taking place in the Arab states and perhaps also Iran, and what is clear is that it is not tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama's speech is negative in this context because it brings back the claim that there is a connection."
        The Palestinians "are continuing to educate the young generation to deny the attachment between the Jewish people and this land, and that is being done by Abbas, the moderate....So it is quite clear to anyone with eyes in his head that we don't have a partner to the vision of two states for two peoples." "We don't wish to rule over the Palestinians. In actual fact, we already do not control them - in Gaza they have Hamastan and we are prepared for negotiations without any prior conditions with Abbas in Ramallah."  (Ha'aretz)
  • No Crisis with America - Eytan Gilboa
    It is doubtful whether Obama's speech and his meeting with Netanyahu will have a substantive effect on the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians or on U.S.-Israel ties. In the past two years, the Palestinians proved that they have no interest whatsoever in negotiations. The writer is a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel's 1967 Lines Aren't Defensible - Dore Gold
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas made clear in a New York Times op-ed last week that he plans to lobby the UN General Assembly for a resolution that called on its members to recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. Unfortunately, President Obama asserted in a speech Thursday that Israel's future borders with a Palestinian state "should be based on the 1967 lines," a position he tried to offset by offering "mutually agreed land swaps." Mr. Abbas has said many times that any land swaps would be minuscule.
        The cornerstone of all postwar diplomacy, UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, did not demand that Israel pull back completely to the pre-1967 lines. The central thrust of Arab-Israeli diplomacy for more than 40 years was that Israel must negotiate an agreed border with its Arab neighbors. The 1993 Oslo Agreements did not stipulate that the final borders between Israel and the Palestinians would be the 1967 lines. An April 2004 U.S. letter to Israel, backed by a bipartisan consensus in both houses of Congress, stipulated that Israel was not expected to fully withdraw from the West Bank, but rather was entitled to "defensible borders."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Obama's Speech Was Misunderstood. He Knows There Must Also Be Land Swaps - Robert Wexler and Zvika Krieger
    Mr. Obama never said Israel should return to the 1967 lines. He said the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps should be the basis for negotiations. As Mr. Obama told AIPAC on Sunday, "it means that the parties themselves - Israelis and Palestinians - will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Resolution 242 Did Not Call for Land Swaps - Aaron Lerner
    President Obama argued that by mentioning land swaps, he did not actually call for Israel to withdraw to the indefensible '67 lines since Israel can trade off other land to avoid the '67 line. But the point is that President Obama handed the Palestinians a tremendous concession by embracing the Palestinian assertion that it somehow has the implicit right to every square meter beyond the Green Line and thus must be compensated on a 1:1 basis for any adjustment to the line.
        This was not the meaning of UN Security Council Resolution 242. The framers of 242 were well aware that secure borders for Israel would be achieved by Israel retaining territory beyond the '67 lines, without any requirement to compensate the Arabs for the retention of such land. (IMRA)
  • Land Now, Peace Maybe Later - Jonathan Schachter
    For decades, the Israeli and American approaches to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have rested on the key assumption that Palestinian self-determination and a peace agreement are two sides of the same coin. The international community now has focused its attention almost exclusively on advancing Palestinian self-determination, with the link to peace all but severed.
        This is no trivial matter. Creation of a Palestinian state in the absence of a peace agreement stands to incentivize perpetual Palestinian aspirations to "liberate" the rest of Palestine, thereby guaranteeing that the conflict will go on for as long as the two states exist. The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Obama Bases U.S. Policy on Pre-'67 Lines - Hiba Al-Qudsi
    In an interview, Gamal Helal, a former adviser to U.S. presidents for Middle East affairs, said the Arab stance toward negotiations always started and ended on the consideration that the 1967 borders are the basis of negotiations. However, the surprise is that Obama has considered this principle from now on to be the basis of U.S. policy in the issue of the Middle East peace process.
        "The U.S. stance in all the past years has been to agree to the solutions agreed by the sides through the negotiations without the United States stipulating anything, so that this stipulation would not be an obstacle at the negotiations." "This new thesis, which President Obama presented in his Thursday speech, supports the Arab viewpoint, and is a basic hindrance for the Israeli side, which links the size of Israel before 1967 to the ability to defend it."  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

The Blowup with Israel - Editorial (Washington Post)

  • President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have a powerful and urgent common interest. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has turned his back on both Israel and the United States; he is seeking accommodation with the extremist Hamas movement and has announced that he will seek a declaration of Palestinian statehood from the UN General Assembly in September.
  • Now, of all times, the Israeli and U.S. governments ought to be working closely together; they should be trying to defuse the UN threat and induce Mr. Abbas to change course. Instead, Friday found Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu once again publicly and poisonously at odds with each other, thanks to a handful of lines added by Mr. Obama to his Middle East speech on Thursday. The president's decision to publicly endorse terms for a peace settlement seemingly calculated to appeal to Mr. Abbas, over the strong objections of Mr. Netanyahu, has had the effect of distracting attention from the new U.S. agenda for the region.
  • Mr. Obama's intention is to persuade Mr. Abbas to give up his UN bid and return to negotiations with Israel. To do so, he endorsed one of the conditions Palestinians have tried to set for talks: that they be based on Israel's 1967 border lines. But Mr. Netanyahu has not yet signed on, and so Mr. Obama's decision to confront him with a formal U.S. embrace of the idea, with only a few hours' warning, ensured a blowup.
  • Mr. Obama should have learned from his past diplomatic failures - including his attempt to force a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank - that initiating a conflict with Israel will thwart rather than advance peace negotiations. He may also be giving short shrift to what Mr. Netanyahu called "some basic realities." The president appears to assume that Mr. Abbas is open to a peace deal despite growing evidence to the contrary.
  • This president likes to portray himself as a pragmatist in foreign policy. In this case, pragmatism would suggest that restoring trust with Israel, rather than courting a feckless Palestinian leader, would be the precondition to any diplomatic success.

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