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June 13, 2011

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Hundreds of Grad Rockets Smuggled from Libya to Gaza (Maariv-Maan News-PA)
    Hundreds of Grad rockets with ranges of 60-70 km. have been smuggled into Gaza in recent weeks, strengthening Hamas and posing a serious threat to Israel, the Israeli newspaper Maariv reported Sunday.
    The weapons were smuggled from Libya through Egypt and into Gaza via underground tunnels, the report said. While Egyptian authorities were trying to intercept the weapons, many convoys managed to reach Gaza.

Ahmadinejad Threatened by Rival Hardliners - Robin Pomeroy (Reuters)
    Half way through his second and final term, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has silenced the opposition, but his presidency is now threatened by rival fellow hardliners.
    Critics in parliament, the judiciary and the clergy accuse him of disrespect for other branches of government, financial mismanagement, and being influenced by a "deviant" clique of aides some say are involved in sorcery.
    Analysts say the fact that he can no longer rely on the complete support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei means Ahmadinejad risks becoming a lame duck or even being forced out.

Erdogan's Party Wins Third Term in Turkish Elections - Sebnem Arsu (New York Times)
    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party won about 50% of the votes in parliamentary elections on Sunday.

The Al-Qaeda-Iran Connection - Turki Al-Saheil (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    In February 2009, Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry issued a list of its 85 most wanted terrorists, and revealed that 35 of them were either present in Iran, or had passed through the country.
    It was also revealed that al-Qaeda inducted its latest recruits in Iran in September 2008, which means that its attraction has not waned, and that the Iranian branch of al-Qaeda is still operational.

The Transformation of Egypt - Barry Rubin (MERIA Journal)
    What has happened in Egypt is not just the undoing of the "Mubarak regime" but the undoing of the "Sadat regime."
    Sadat changed Egypt's course from being a radical state seeking to destabilize other Arab countries, destroy Israel, and oppose U.S. interests.
    He deemphasized spreading revolution, made peace with Israel, and allied Egypt with the U.S.
    It is not clear whether there will be an Islamist majority, but there will be a radical anti-American majority in parliament.

Three Israeli Experiments Conducted on American Space Shuttle Endeavor - Asaf Shtull-Trauring (Ha'aretz)
    Three Israeli experiments to examine the impact of space travel on human health were among the tests conducted on the American space shuttle Endeavor's recent mission to the International Space Station. Endeavor returned from its latest mission on June 1.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House Seeks Israeli Agreement to Negotiate on 1967 Lines - Eli Lake
    The White House is pressing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly adopt President Obama's view that Israel's pre-1967 border should be the basis for future peace talks. Steven Simon, the new White House National Security Council senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, told representatives of the American Jewish community Friday during a conference call: "We have a month to see if we can work something out with the Israelis and Palestinians as accepting these principles as a basis for negotiations. If that happens we are somewhat confident that the Palestinians will drop what they intend to do in the UN."
        In the conference call, Simon said the U.S. would oppose a Palestinian unilateral declaration at the UN whether Israel adopted the Obama principles or not. (Washington Times)
        See also New U.S. Pressure on Israel - Jennifer Rubin
    Israel is being pressured to give up prior understandings that the Western Wall and the Jerusalem suburbs, for example, would never be part of a Palestinian state. A veteran negotiator explains, "This administration believes that every single deviation from 'the 1967 borders' must be paid for by Israel in a one to one swap. That has never before been the U.S. government's demand, and it weakens Israel's bargaining position." In other words, there is zero difference in the Obama scheme between "1967 borders" and "1967 border with land swaps." In both, the starting point is borders Israel has deemed indefensible. (Washington Post)
        See also Israel, White House Send Signals on New Peace Talks Plan - Laura Rozen
    Israeli leaders seem to be sending a signal to Washington that they will not be pushed by the Palestinians' UN bid to accept Obama's proposed terms for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - '67 lines with mutually agreed swaps. (Yahoo News)
  • Berlin to Advise Palestinians Against State Bid
    A high-level German diplomatic mission to the Middle East will try to convince Palestinians to drop plans to gain UN recognition for an independent state in September. Development Minister Dirk Niebel told Der Spiegel magazine on Friday that he and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle would underline Berlin's reservations in talks with Palestinian leaders. "We must convince the Palestinians that a unilateral declaration of independence is the wrong way to go," Niebel said in an interview. (AFP)
  • Syrian Army Defections Reported - Liz Sly
    Syrian troops on Saturday pressed ahead with an effort to regain control over a swath of territory around Jisr al-Shughour in northern Syria that appeared to have fallen out of government control. On Friday tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets again to call for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. At least 34 people were killed. An eyewitness in Jisr al-Shughour said around 2,000 officers and conscripts had defected from the Syrian army and were fighting alongside residents in the town to repel the assault. "They mutinied because of their orders" to shoot at local civilians, he said. (Washington Post)
        See also Syrian Refugees Tell of Atrocities
    Harrowing reports of atrocities committed during Syria's crackdown on protesters, including deserting soldiers' accounts of massacred civilians, sparked fresh international outrage Saturday. Syrian soldier Tahal al-Lush described the operation in Ar-Rastan that had pushed him to desert. "We were told that people were armed there. But when we arrived, we saw that they were ordinary civilians. We were ordered to shoot them." "When we entered the houses, we opened fire on everyone, the young, the old....Women were raped in front of their husbands and children," he said. (AFP)
        See also The Fall of the House of Assad - Robin Yassin-Kassab (Foreign Policy)
        See also Syria Being Assisted by Iran, UK Minister Says - Andrew Osborn and Richard Spencer (Telegraph-UK)
  • Hamas Rejects Fayyad for Palestinian Prime Minister - Joel Greenberg
    Since signing a reconciliation accord more than a month ago, the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have made only slow progress in carrying it out, and Sunday saw a public disagreement over Fatah’s nomination Saturday of Salam Fayyad, a political independent who is the Palestinian Authority premier, as prime minister of a joint government. The candidacy of Fayyad is key to whether a unified Palestinian government will continue to have Western backing. The U.S.-educated economist is respected by foreign donors.
        "Salam Fayyad is unacceptable, because he has drowned the Palestinian people in billions of dollars of debt and made its economy and political decision-making dependent on foreign donors," said Salah Bardawil, a member of the political bureau of Hamas in Gaza. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • UN: Iran Buying Foreign Banks to Sidestep Sanctions - Yaakov Katz
    Iran is trying to purchase foreign banks around the world in an effort to circumvent sanctions aimed at preventing the delivery of nuclear and missile components to it, according to a report prepared for the UN Security Council three weeks ago by the UN Panel of Experts, a group that monitors compliance with UN sanctions imposed on Iran. Iran has made 10 different attempts to buy foreign banks since 2009, and has also tried setting up banking institutions in parts of South America.
        Iran uses a fleet of cargo freighters controlled by the state-owned IRISL shipping company. Between late 2008 and mid-2010, 76 out of 123 IRISL vessels were renamed. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Assad May Succeed to Quell Syria Protests - Zvi Bar'el
    Syria seems unmoved by both Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's remarks and by the UN Security Council, where he has the full backing of China and Russia. Their support enables Assad to continue to characterize his violent suppression of demonstrations and shooting of protesters as an "internal Syrian matter" or the work of "armed gangs."
        Assad is operating on the assumptions that time is not working against him, that his army will succeed in suppressing the demonstrations even if they continue for longer than anticipated, and that even if Turkey or other states sever ties with Syria, it will still be able to count on cooperation from Iraq, Iran and Russia. Another assumption is that Syria will not be subject to a Libya-style international military onslaught. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Assad Supporters Attack Turkish Embassy in Syria (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What the UN Inspectors Say About Iran - Editorial
    Iran continues to stonewall about its illicit nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency isn't falling for it. The agency’s latest report is chilling. It lists seven activities with potential "military dimensions." That includes "activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile"; new evidence that Iran has worked on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology; and "studies involving the removal of the conventional high explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab 3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload."
        We are certain that without more pressure Tehran will keep pushing its program forward. The United States and its allies need to tighten the current round of sanctions and start working on another Security Council resolution with even tougher sanctions. (New York Times)
  • Syria: Where Massacre Is a Family Tradition - Fouad Ajami
    Syria rides with the Iranian theocracy and provides it access to the Mediterranean. It is a patron of Hamas and Hizbullah. And still it managed to sell the outside world on the legend of its moderation. Damascus made a mockery of Lebanon's sovereignty, murdered its leaders at will. Yet the Syrians were able to convince powers beyond that their writ was still preferable to the chaos that would engulf Lebanon were they to leave.
        President Bashar al-Assad and his younger brother Maher, commander of the Republican Guard, are determined to subdue this new rebellion as their father did in Hama - one murder at a time. In today's world it's harder to turn off the lights and keep tales of repression behind closed doors, but the Assads know no other way. Massacre is a family tradition.
        Only in Syria does your neighbor go to work in the morning and return 11 years later. Only in Syria does a child enter prison before entering school. Only in Syria does a man go to jail for 20 years without being charged and is then asked to write a letter thanking the authorities upon his release. (Wall Street Journal)

Hammering Israel on the 1967 Lines - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has renewed President Obama's demand that Israel accept the 1967 lines as the starting point for future Middle East peace negotiations.
  • While the administration is trying to sell this pressure as being part of a master plan to head off a vote in the UN on Palestinian statehood, the administration is misjudging both the Palestinians and the diplomatic situation.
  • It should have already been made clear to both Obama and Clinton that any time they call for a unilateral Israeli concession in the hope that it will entice the Palestinians to return to peace talks, their move has the opposite effect. Obama's calls for settlement freezes in the West Bank and Jerusalem only caused the Palestinians to adopt these as preconditions for talks. The same is now true of the president's ill-advised emphasis on the 1967 lines.
  • Since the Palestinian Authority knows that it cannot sign a peace accord recognizing the legitimacy of Israel no matter where its borders may be drawn, they will seize upon any excuse not to talk and Obama has supplied them with just what they wanted.
  • Moreover, the reported desperation of the Americans to avoid casting a veto in the UN of the Palestinian attempt to gain a state without recognizing Israel and ending the conflict is also misplaced.
  • Appeasing the Palestinians in this manner will damage Israel's position. An Israeli concession on borders prior to talks even beginning will deprive them of their one bargaining chip.
  • The administration can't claim that it is supportive of Israel while at the same time hammering it to give in on borders. The notion that Obama must pressure Israel for its own good is not one that ought to make any sense to mainstream Jewish groups as well as to Congress.

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