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May 27, 2011

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Iran's Syria Strategy: Heavy Meddle - Michael Singh (Wall Street Journal)
    According to the U.S. government, the Iranians are complicit in the Assad regime's "human rights abuses and repression of the Syrian people."
    Were Assad to fall, a key link in Iran's strategic chain across the region would be broken.
    Furthermore, if protesters in Syria were to inspire Iran's own democracy activists to redouble their efforts, the Iranian regime would find itself in serious peril.
    Thus it is unsurprising that it has dispatched the Quds Force to help Assad stop the Arab Spring at his doorstep.
    The writer, senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, is managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Cars from Libya, Egypt Smuggled into Gaza (AP-Washington Post)
    Luxury cars with Libyan plates are becoming a common sight in Gaza. The gleaming new arrivals are sold in Egypt by Libyan refugees and then smuggled through underground tunnels into Gaza.

By Giving the Palestinians More than They Asked For, Obama Makes It Difficult for Them to Compromise - Alan M. Dershowitz (Jerusalem Post)
    President Obama's formulation requiring Israel to give up the "territorial" card before the Palestinians even have to negotiate about the "right of return" card is a non-starter for Israel and it is more than the Palestinians have privately asked for.
    Once again, as happened with the settlement freeze issue, President Obama, by giving the Palestinians more than they asked for, has made it difficult, if not impossible, for the Palestinians to compromise.

Obama Blind to Nuance on Israel - Steve Huntley (Chicago Sun-Times)
    Israel several years ago withdrew to one 1967 border, the one along the Gaza Strip. For that concession, it got a Hamas terror statelet, thousands of rocket attacks and a Gaza war.
    The Palestinians have yet to make real concessions and have only hardened their stance against direct talks.

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What Was Obama Asking of Israel? - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)
    The problems Israel would face with a two-state "solution" under current conditions would include cross-border raids, incitement, new demands, a possible Hamas takeover, or a Palestinian state reneging on its commitments.
    At the very moment Egyptians are talking about abrogating their peace treaty, Obama urges Israel to sign another one.
    Israel pulled out of Gaza and was attacked by Hamas. Israel turned over land to the PA, then faced terrorist attacks from the territory. Yet Obama suggests Israel turn over the rest of the West Bank to the PA in exchange for security guarantees.
    He has no interest in how ridiculous this sounds in the context of the Israeli experience.

Obama's Opportunity - Clifford D. May (National Review)
    Isolating Israel internationally has long been a goal shared by all Palestinian leaders. Mahmoud Abbas has found that abandoning negotiations actually has helped him advance toward that goal.
    Abbas has not been penalized or even harshly criticized for refusing to negotiate with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the contrary, European leaders, along with most of the media, prefer not to mention it.
    They either lament "the breakdown" of the dialogue - as though it were a car that had stalled - or place the blame on Israel.
    The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Critics of Israel's Palestinian Policies "Just Don't Get It" - Meir Shlomo (Houston Chronicle)
    The conflict between Israel and the Arab world, and part of the Muslim world, is first and foremost about the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to have a Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
    The rest, including the territorial aspect, is secondary at best.
    We have no territorial dispute with Iran, and yet every Monday and Friday its leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calls for the annihilation of the State of Israel from the face of the Earth.
    We have no territorial dispute with Lebanon. The border is marked by the UN itself, to the last inch, and still Hizbullah is seeking nothing short of the destruction of Israel.
    The writer is the Israeli consul general to the Southwest U.S.

New System Would Guide Troops toward Source of Fire - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Imagine a battlefield where every soldier can automatically detect the source of gunshots fired in his direction and immediately turn his weapon and engage the enemy.
    Israel Aerospace Industries has the "Soldier Alert and Response System," which employs infrared and electro-optical technology to detect the location of enemy gunfire, enabling a fast and effective response.
    The detection unit on the soldier's helmet detects the muzzle flash of gunfire within .01 seconds and then takes a snapshot of the gunshot sources and its surroundings within .20 seconds.
    The unit installed on the rifle displays the picture as well as arrows that guide the soldier to point the weapon toward the source of gunfire.

Photo Show Ends after Lebanon Bars Israeli (AP-Washington Post)
    A World Press Photo exhibit in Beirut is shutting down early after Lebanese authorities ordered the removal of Israeli photographer Amit Sha'al's prize-winning work.
    Erik de Kruijf, a World Press project manager, said Friday that the Netherlands-based organization preferred to close the exhibit 10 days early rather than face censorship.

Marvell to Invest $200M in Israeli R and D - Tova Cohen (Reuters)
    Silicon Valley chip designer Marvell Technology said it was to invest $200 million in Israel to accelerate research and development of critical communications, mobile and system-on-chip technologies.
    Marvell, which supplies chips for Research in Motion's Blackberrys, has two R&D centers in Israel that employ more than 1,200 people. The company has made investments and acquisitions in Israel totaling $3.5 billion.
    Co-founder Weili Dai said Marvell developed many of its advanced technologies in Israel, ranging from enterprise networking and cloud service to mobile cellular capabilities.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrians Protest at Night to Elude Forces - Nada Bakri
    In a shift in strategy, protesters across Syria have moved their daily demonstrations against the government to the evening, in the expectation that security forces will have a more difficult time identifying them for arrest. Human rights activists estimate the death toll since mid-March at 1,000, and they say that at least 10,000 protesters are in jail.
        "The protests will continue and will get bigger and stronger because the protesters are now more organized and more experienced," said Bourhan Ghalioun, director of the Center for Contemporary Oriental Studies at the Sorbonne in Paris, who is also a prominent Syrian opposition figure. "They will no longer accept a government imposed on them by the power of tanks."  (New York Times)
        See also Turkey Calls for Syrian Reforms - Anthony Shadid (New York Times)
  • Israel Struggles to Stop Weapons Smuggling at Sea
    Israel's navy is casting its net wider and deeper in an effort to stop Gaza militants from receiving weapons by sea, a difficult mission made harder, Israel says, by political turmoil in Egypt that has hurt Israeli intelligence collection and left the Gaza border far more porous, and by the Egyptian decision to fully reopen its border crossing with Gaza.
        David Benjamin, a former high-ranking officer in the military's legal department, said maritime law entitles Israel to search any merchant vessel it believes is carrying contraband to support its enemies. "The basis is that Israel is in an armed conflict with Hamas. Once you are in an armed conflict, it creates a legal framework in which you can operate," he said.
        Scott L. Silliman, a military law expert at Duke University, noted that the situation is complicated because Hamas is an armed group, and not a sovereign state. "That issue is quite similar to the state of armed conflict which the United States claims exists between itself and al-Qaeda," he said. "I believe the consensus now is that an armed conflict can exist under these conditions."  (AP)
  • Saudi Bid to Curb Iran Worries U.S. - Matthew Rosenberg, Jay Solomon and Margaret Coker
    Saudi Arabia is rallying Muslim nations across the Middle East and Asia to join an informal Arab alliance against Iran, in a move some U.S. officials worry could draw other troubled nations into the sectarian tensions gripping the Arab world. Saudi officials have approached Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Central Asian states to lend diplomatic support - and potentially military assistance in some cases - to help stifle a majority Shiite revolt in Sunni-led Bahrain, a conflict that has become a symbol of Arab defiance against Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Lawyers to UN: Halt Unilateral Palestinian Statehood - Tovah Lazaroff
    An international group of some 60 lawyers, including former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker, has appealed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to prevent a General Assembly resolution on unilateral Palestinian statehood, based on the pre-1967 lines. The attorneys noted that such a resolution would be a violation of all past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and would also contravene UN Resolutions 242 and 338.
        They noted that "the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel was the resolution unanimously adopted by the League of Nations in 1922, affirming the establishment of a national home for the Jewish People in the historical area of the Land of Israel. This included the areas of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem, and close Jewish settlement throughout." As a result, the "650,000 Jews [who] presently reside in the areas of Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, reside there legitimately."
        Additionally, attempts to unilaterally change the status of the territory would be a breach of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian agreement. The Olso Accords did not limit settlement activity, they added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jewish Leaders Seek Positives in U.S.-Israel Ties - Jordana Horn
    After President Obama's speech on Middle East policy and Prime Minister Netanyahu's U.S. visit, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the Jerusalem Post: "I think everybody would like to move beyond the tensions and controversy of the past week."
        Watching Netanyahu's address to Congress on Tuesday, Hoenlein said he was pleasantly surprised by the cross-the-aisle applause for the prime minister: "It was a spontaneous expression of affinity and support for Israel." Netanyahu's reception in Congress "was a really amazing day and something that can only happen in the United States."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Poll: 40 Percent of Israeli Jews Say Obama Is Pro-Palestinian; 12 Percent Say Pro-Israel - Gil Hoffman
    In a Smith Research poll sponsored by the Jerusalem Post, 40% of Israeli Jews saw the Obama administration as more pro-Palestinian, 12% saw it as more pro-Israel, and 34% saw it as neutral. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Names First Female Major General - Hanan Greenberg
    Brig.-Gen. Orna Barbivai became the IDF's first ever female major general Thursday as she was named the new head of the Personnel Directorate. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that there is "extreme importance to integrating women in top positions in the IDF."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    President Obama's Mideast Policy

  • What Obama Did to Israel - Charles Krauthammer
    Israel undertook the Gaza withdrawal on the basis of President George W. Bush's written commitment that America supported Israel absorbing major settlement blocs in any peace agreement, opposed any return to the 1967 lines and stood firm against the so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel. For two and a half years, the Obama administration has refused to recognize and reaffirm these assurances. Then last week, President Obama definitively trashed them.
        Three times the Palestinians have been offered 1967 plus swaps - at Camp David 2000, Taba 2001, and the 2008 Olmert-Abbas negotiations. Every time, the Palestinians said no and walked away. Indeed, in September the Palestinians are going to the UN to get the world to ratify a Palestinian state on the '67 lines. No swaps.
        The '67 line runs right through Jerusalem. Thus the starting point of negotiations would be that the Western Wall and even Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter are Palestinian - alien territory for which Israel must now bargain. The very idea that Judaism's holiest shrine is alien or that Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter is rightfully or historically Arab is an absurdity. And the idea that, in order to retain them, Israel has to give up parts of itself is a travesty. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Is an American Value - Walter Russell Mead
    As the stunning and overwhelming response to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Congress showed, Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth. Well beyond the American Jewish and the Protestant fundamentalist communities, the people and the story of Israel stir some of the deepest and most mysterious reaches of the American soul. The idea of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism is profoundly tied to the idea of American exceptionalism. The belief that God favors and protects Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects America.
        It means more. The existence of Israel means that the God of the Bible is still watching out for the well-being of the human race. For many American Christians who are nothing like fundamentalists, the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land and their creation of a successful, democratic state after two thousand years of oppression and exile is a clear sign that the religion of the Bible can be trusted. Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-America and pro-faith. Substantial numbers of voters believe that politicians who don't "get" Israel also don't "get" America.
        The haste with which liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi left the embattled president to take the heat alone testify to the pervasive sense in American politics that Israel is an American value. The deep American sense of connection to and, yes, love of Israel limits the flexibility of any administration. The writer was the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations until 2010. (American Interest)
  • Mideast Peace Talks Would Face Huge Obstacles - Dan Perry
    President Barack Obama wants Israelis and Palestinians to return to the bargaining table, but it seems unlikely this will happen anytime soon - and even if it did, the sides would find a formidable array of obstacles to agreement. Netanyahu has declared the 1967 lines "indefensible" from a military point of view. And a look at the map shows why: Israel would be about 10 miles (about 15 km) wide at its narrowest point; the West Bank surrounds the Israeli part of Jerusalem on three sides; and, on a clear day, the West Bank's strategic highlands are clearly visible from Tel Aviv, where about a quarter of Israelis live. If there is any chance that a future Palestine could turn hostile, these borders are a challenge.
        Jerusalem's current demographics defy a clean division of the city. Over the years since 1967, Israel has ringed the Arab-populated part of the city with Jewish neighborhoods. Some 200,000 Jews now live in such areas, alongside about 300,000 Palestinians and 300,000 Jews in the western part of Jerusalem. The sides have discussed the principle of each keeping those areas of the city where its people live, but on the ground, such a division would yield an astoundingly kaleidoscopic jumble, with islands of Jews surrounded by Palestinian areas and vice versa. (AP)
  • Lasting Peace Means Secure Borders - Editorial
    Mr. Obama has gone about as far as any American president can go in playing bad cop - pressuring Israel to make "hard choices." But instead of responding positively, Mr. Abbas is making all the wrong moves: shunning negotiations, making a pact with Israel's sworn enemies, and trying to outmaneuver Israel by taking the Palestinian cause to the UN. None of these actions will bring Palestinians closer to fulfilling their national hopes of creating an independent state.
        The realities that govern the peacemaking process are: Israel must have safe and secure borders. Neither the American public nor any U.S. president will support any deal that fails to win Israel's agreement. No agreement is possible as long as the Palestinian Authority has embraced the terrorists of Hamas as allies.
        Mr. Abbas should also rid himself of the persistent illusion in the Arab world that Palestinians can't get a fair hearing because American policy is dictated by an Israeli lobby. On 9/11, the Israeli people mourned alongside Americans. On the West Bank, cheers of celebration rang out. Americans don't need a lobby to remind them of that. (Miami Herald)
  • The Israel-Palestine Equation - George Jonas
    In the Middle East, if your aim is not to have a Jewish state in your region, which has been the Arab/Muslim aim all along, then making peace with a Jewish state next door, on whatever terms, means defeat. If your aim is to establish and defend a Jewish state, which has been the Israeli aim from the beginning, then achieving peace with neighbors who oppose it, on almost any terms, spells victory.
        In other words, peace amounts to an Israeli victory, except on terms that render the country geographically or demographically indefensible. This means that the Palestinians will insist on such terms, and Israel will not agree to them. Two-state solution? By all means. 1967 borders? No can do. (National Post-Canada)
  • Wrongly Comparing Ireland and Israel - Mark Dubowitz
    President Obama is in Ireland praising the Good Friday Peace Agreement that ended decades of strife in Northern Ireland, where former adversaries were able to "reimagine their relationships," in a hint to the Israelis and Palestinians that if Ireland's feuding Catholics and Protestants can make peace, so can they.
        But the Irish Republican Army is not Hamas. It never sought the destruction of Britain nor the mass murder of Protestants. In many cases, it gave authorities prior warnings that an attack would occur. Hamas, in contrast, seeks to murder as many Israelis and Jews as possible, and its signature suicide attacks are designed with this goal in mind (including bombs filled with nails laced in rat poison to inflict maximum injury).
        Peace cannot be fashioned with Hamas. To believe otherwise is to assume that political pressure can overcome a dedication to Jihad. The writer is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Weekly Standard)
        See also The Myths, Misconceptions and Misapplication of the Northern Ireland Peace Process - John Bew and Martyn Frampton (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Palestinians

  • Exposing Abbas - Benny Morris
    In the New York Times, Mahmoud Abbas tells us that in May 1948, as "a 13-year-old Palestinian boy," he was "forced" and "driven" out of his home in Safad by the Zionists. But on 6 July 2009 he told an interviewer on Falastina TV, in Arabic, that his family had actually fled Safad, fearing Jewish retribution for a massacre the Arabs had committed against the town's Jews two decades before. The truth, of course, is that Safad's Arabs fled the town as it was conquered by Haganah troops on 9-10 May 1948; there was no "expulsion."
        The Arab states and the Palestinian national leadership opposed the partition of Palestine, claiming all of Palestine for the Arabs. When the General Assembly voted in favor of partition, on 29 November 1947, the Palestinian leadership rejected the resolution and the Palestinian militias launched hostilities to abort the emergence of a Jewish state. They were aided by money, arms and volunteers from the Arab states. In the first four months of the 1948 War, the Palestinian militias attacked Jewish traffic and settlements, but eventually the Jewish militias went over to the offensive and routed the Palestinians. Abbas' twisted history deliberately omits mention of the first half of the 1948 War in order to portray the Palestinians as innocent victims. In fact, they were primary agents in the events that followed. In history, peoples often pay for their aggression and mistakes, and this is what happened in Palestine.
        Once the Palestinians get their West Bank-Gaza state, they will use it as a springboard for their second-stage assault, political and military, on Israel - and they will no doubt lodge claims "at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies, and the International Court of Justice," as Abbas has warned, as part of that assault. This is the Palestinian aim and end game, the "truth" that Abbas is pursuing. The writer is a professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department of Ben-Gurion University. (National Interest)
  • No Springtime for Palestinians? - Sol Stern
    Do not the Palestinians, at least as much as any of the other peoples of the Middle East, need a new beginning of consensual government? Consider Gaza, where more than a million Palestinians suffer under a regime so repressive that Mubarak's Egypt seems like a bastion of liberty by comparison. Six years ago in Gaza, Israel voluntarily withdrew its forces all the way back to the pre-1967 lines, making possible the birth of a Palestinian mini-state, without even asking for land swaps that would have preserved the Jewish settlements there.
        Through its indiscriminate rocketing of Israeli towns, Gaza's ruling party has made clear that it means what it says about the replacement of Israel by a Palestinian Islamic state. For Hamas, the 1967 line is of little interest; the struggle has always been over the UN partition plan calling for a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian Arab one. (Jewish Ideas Daily)

  • Arab World

  • The Arab Spring from a Counter-Terrorism Perspective - Boaz Ganor
    World War III is occurring right now. It is not only a war of ideas, it is a religious war - not between Islam and the rest of the world, but first and foremost a war within the religion of Islam. It is a war of the culture of Islamic radicalism against the rest of the world, which includes the majority of Muslims worldwide.
        Dr. Condoleezza Rice has said that her next book is going to refer to a pillar of American foreign policy: the introduction of democracy in the Muslim world. My upcoming book will address exactly the opposite. It will be about how terrorists and fundamentalists are misusing the democratic apparatus of the state in order to promote their goals. When fundamentalists win in democratic elections, it is one man, one vote, one time. Dr. Boaz Ganor, acting Dean of the Lauder School of Government and Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, is the founder and Executive Director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT). (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Saudi Arabia, Iran and America in the Wake of the Arab Spring - Joshua Teitelbaum
    For the rulers of Saudi Arabia, the Arab Spring's primary result has been a shaking of the strategic foundation and alignments that have shaped Saudi regional policy since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Saudis had previously believed that they were the leaders, with U.S. backing, of a united Sunni coalition against Shiite Iran. Now its partners have fallen by the wayside - Egypt appears to be dropping out, Bahrain is threatened, and the U.S. is wobbly. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • Other Issues

  • Money Can't Buy Egypt's Diplomatic Love - Colum Lynch
    Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged more than $2 billion in debt relief and investment assistance to Egypt. But what does that money actually buy? Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian government has launched an overture to Iran and mediated negotiations on a new Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas. Egypt has sought to weaken American and European efforts to condemn Syria in the UN Human Rights Council. And Egypt has every intention of using the UN to maintain pressure on Israel.
        Egypt's UN ambassador, Maged Abdelaziz, said, "This new approach is putting us more on the map of the international scene and the regional scene." He noted that Obama's commitment to provide additional funding reflected the "will and wish on the part of the United States to maintain and support such an Egyptian role."  (Foreign Policy)
  • UN Report Proves IDF's Record in Preventing Civilian Deaths in Gaza - Jonathan Hoffman
    Col. Richard Kemp's speech to the "We Believe in Israel" Conference in London, 15 May: No other army in history has ever done more to avoid civilian deaths in a combat zone than the Israel Defense Forces. A UN study shows that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza in 2009 was by far the lowest in any assymetric conflict in the history of warfare. The UN estimates that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three-to-one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one. Col. Richard Kemp commanded British forces in Afghanistan. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
        See also Those Who Are on the Side of Civilization - Melanie Phillips
    Richard Kemp: living proof that the lion-hearted land of liberty has not yet been erased forever, and that there are still great Englishmen who will fight to the death for truth, freedom and justice. If you fight for Israel, you fight for civilization; if you are Israel's enemy, you are an enemy of civilization. (Spectator-UK)

Obama Walking a Fine Line on Borders Issue - Robert Satloff (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)

  • The principles President Obama articulated constitute a major departure from long-standing U.S. policy. To argue that they are just a repackaging of previous statements does not hold up under scrutiny. The very fact that they were the subject of such intense internal debate before delivery and prompted such consternation from Israeli leaders afterward underscores that there was, indeed, something new in what the president said.
  • In his speech, Obama became the first sitting president to say that the final borders should be "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps." (The Clinton Parameters - which former President Bill Clinton presented to the two sides in December 2000 and then officially withdrew a month later, when they were not accepted - did not mention the 1967 borders but did mention "swaps and other territorial arrangements.")
  • The Obama formulation concretizes a move away from four decades of U.S. policy based on UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967, which has always interpreted calls for an Israeli withdrawal to a "secure and recognized" border as not synonymous with the pre-1967 boundaries.
  • The idea of land swaps, which may very well be a solution that the parties themselves choose to pursue, sounds very different when endorsed by the president of the United States. In effect, it means the official U.S. view is that resolution of the territorial aspect of the conflict can only be achieved if Israel cedes territory it held even before the 1967 war.
  • The president also said the new Palestinian state should have borders with Egypt, Jordan and Israel, and referred to the "full and phased" withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces. This implies American opposition to any open-ended Israeli presence inside the future "Palestine." It differs significantly from the Clinton Parameters, which envisioned three Israeli "facilities" inside the West Bank, with no time limit on their presence.
  • For the president not to repeat previous U.S. government statements - that Palestinians will never see their right of return implemented through a return to Israel - is to raise expectations and inject doubt into a settled topic.

    The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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