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August 26, 2011

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Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Leader Speaks - Interviewed by James Kirchick (Radio Free Europe)
  James Kirchick sat down with Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian in Cairo to discuss many topics, including post-Mubarak Egypt and Israel.
  Do you believe that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state? All Jewish individuals have the right to live among Arab countries. And they lived for decades and centuries in safety in our countries. Existence of a state for Jews is against all rules of states all over the world. Any state is a state of all citizens, as Egypt is a state for Muslims, Christians, and Jewish. As Morocco is for Jewish, Christians, and Muslims.
  There aren’t many Jews here in Egypt.
  To push emigration from Russia, from Poland, from everywhere to be concentrated in one [state] is against any rules of any state.
  So you believe in a single Palestine for everyone, not as a Jewish Israel?
  I hope it can be again the big Assyria. For all individuals, for Jordanians, for Palestinians, for Syrians, for Lebanese. You know this was before the Second World War, one state. This region, under the British. Two states were born after the war. Jordan and Palestine and Israel. And both are still unstable. I hope the revolutions in the Arab world can change the map. All the maps can be changed. Since the Sykes-Picot [Agreement] in 1916, this map was the false one. It is not the one.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren Hosts Ramadan Iftar with Muslim Americans - Jaweed Kaleem (Huffington Post)
  In an effort to foster better relations between Israel and the Muslim-American community, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, will host dozens of Muslim-American leaders Thursday night at his Washington, D.C., home for an Iftar, the traditional meal to break the fast during Ramadan. The event is a first for an Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
  "My job is to reach out to different communities, including communities that have been connected with Israel and those who have not," Oren said in an interview Thursday. "Israel is a country with a large and respected Muslim minority."

Libya's WMD Stockpiles Are Secure: Pentagon (AFP/Defense News)
  The Pentagon said Aug. 24 that Libya's stockpile of chemical weapons are "secure" but that an arsenal of thousands of shoulder-launched missiles remained cause for concern. Asked if sites containing chemical weapons, including over 10 tons of mustard gas, were safe, spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said: "Yes." But he declined to offer more details, only saying that "clearly those are dangerous agents and weapons ... we continue to monitor that."

EU Diplomat says Financial Crisis Causing Some to Talk of Cutting Back Aid to Palestinians (AP/Washington Post)
  Europe’s financial crisis is causing some European Union lawmakers to question whether the bloc can continue to deliver millions in aid to the Palestinians, an EU diplomat said Thursday. The EU is the largest single donor to the Palestinians, contributing about 500 million euros ($720 million) a year to build institutions for a future state and pay salaries. With peace talks deadlocked, the diplomat said that some EU lawmakers doubt a Palestinian state will ever emerge.
  Foreign donations make up about a quarter of the Palestinian Authority’s $3.7 billion annual budget. In July, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad halved the salaries of government employees and appealed to the international community to bridge a $640 million shortfall caused largely by Arab countries’ unfulfilled pledges.

Israeli Experts Near Completion of Jerusalem Walls Restoration (AP/Ha'aretz)
  Israeli experts are nearing completion of an ambitious restoration of the five-century-old walls of Jerusalem, the holy city's dominant architectural feature and a unique record of its eventful and troubled history.
  The $5 million undertaking, which began in 2007, is set to be complete by the end of this year. The first restoration of the walls in nearly a century, it has required decisions about which of the walls' many idiosyncrasies - the falcon nests, for example, the hundreds of machine-gun bullets, the botched restorations of years past - are flaws to be corrected, and which have earned a place in Jerusalem's story and are thus worth preserving.

Jerusalem's Multi-Faith Train Crosses City, Creed and Gender - Anshel Pfeffer (Jewish Chronicle - UK)
  As of last Friday, Jerusalem finally has Israel's first light-rail network. The train travels 14 kilometers from the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood in the north-eastern corner of the capital, all the way through the town center to Mount Herzl in the west, and there are no immediate plans for more lines. But why quibble? For the next three months, it's free of charge.
  Thousands of Jerusalemites flocked to board the train on its first days, crowding the space-age-look, sleek and silent, silver carriages. Going from east to west, through Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, and predominantly secular to strictly-Orthodox quarters, it is a multi-faith train that will test the city's sensitive fault-lines.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Israel Will Permit Egypt to Deploy Troops in Sinai
    “Sometimes you have to subordinate strategic considerations to tactical needs,” says Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister. This is one such time: Mr. Barak, backed by the current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is going to agree to Egypt deploying thousands of troops in Sinai even though the Israel-Egypt peace treaty strictly forbids it. They will have helicopters and armored vehicles, Barak says, but no tanks beyond the lone battalion already stationed there.
      Israel faces a dilemma with far-reaching strategic consequences. Thirty years of peace with Egypt have rested, above all, on a demilitarized Sinai. The peninsula is patrolled by an international force and monitored by America from the air, to ensure that both sides keep their armies out, even though Sinai is sovereign Egyptian soil. Until now, Israel had said no to Egyptian demands to let more troops on to the peninsula, beyond what is specified in the 1979 peace treaty. Yet it urgently needs Egypt to tighten security. (Economist)
  • Gaza Militants Call Truce after Israeli Airstrike Kills 2 Following Rocket Attacks on Israel
    Gaza militants early Friday called their second truce in less than five days in an attempt to keep more than a week of hostilities with Israel from escalating. A leader of the Islamic Jihad faction, Mahfez Azzam, said Egypt mediated the cease-fire, which is to go into effect at 1 p.m. local time Friday. More than 15 rockets and mortar shells were fired toward Israel on Thursday, the IDF said. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Ahmadinejad: Iran Determined to Eradicate Israel
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran was determined to eradicate Israel, ISNA news agency reported Thursday.
      "Iran believes that whoever is for humanity should also be for eradicating the Zionist regime [Israel] as symbol of suppression and discrimination," Ahmadinejad said in an interview with a Lebanese television network, carried by ISNA.
      "Iran follows this issue [the eradication of Israel] with determination and decisiveness and will never ever withdraw from this standpoint and policy," the Iranian president added in the interview with the Al-Manar network. (DPA)
        See also Iranians March on 'Quds Day,' Chant 'Death to Israel'
    Tens of thousands of people marched in Tehran on Friday at the 'Quds Day' rally, an annual regime-sanctioned demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians and against Israel, according to footage aired on state television. The television showed large crowds in major cities, carrying banners of "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." (AFP/Straits Times - Singapore)
  • 9/11: Al-Qaeda Didn’t Act Alone - Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan
    The Iran connection to 9/11 is spelled out in a document filed by American attorneys working on a civil action known as the Havlish case. Fiona Havlish is the widow of an insurance consultant who died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. She and six other bereaved relatives – including the widow of one of the airliners' pilots – joined Iran to a suit brought against bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
      The submission tracks Iran's involvement with al-Qaeda back to 1993. That year, it states, Hizbullah's Imad Mughniyah, a terrorist credited with multiple operations against U.S. citizens, met in Sudan with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, who, following bin Laden's death in May, has now assumed the al- Qaeda leadership.
      Al-Qaeda operatives received training in Iran in airline hijacking, according to the memorandum. Significance is given to a communication four months before 9/11, in which a leading Iranian intelligence official authorized support for "al-Qaeda's future plans."
      Summers and Swan are the authors of the new book, The Eleventh Day, about the 9/11 attack. (Telegraph -- UK)
  • The Persian Explosion: Iran's Role in the 9/11 Attack - Ronen Bergman
    Two former CIA senior officials declared in their affadavit, "Imad Mughniyah, the most dangerous terrorist in the world in our era, who was an Iranian agent and high up in the Hizbullah hierarchy, organized the international transfers for a portion of the 9/11 hijackers through Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, as well as other places."
      This help allowed for vital aspects of the attack plan: 1.) training in Afghanistan and Iran as well as obtaining U.S. visas, 2.) entry into the U.S. Among the materials gathered for a U.S. court case against Iran are the testimonies of Iranian intelligence officials who sought asylum in the West. Witness X said that Iran had advance knowledge of the plan to blow up aircraft in strategic sites in New York and Washington. He was also present at Sunni terrorist training camps inside Iran. (Yediot Ahronot - Hebrew)
  • Iran and Al Qaeda's "Operations Chief" - Thomas Joscelyn
    In July, the U.S. Treasury Department designated six members of an al Qaeda network based inside Iran. Some members of the network are based outside of Iran, but funnel recruits and cash through Iranian soil. The network operates “under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.”
      One member of this network is Libyan-born Atiyah (who’s known to analysts by his first name). Treasury notes that Atiyah is al Qaeda's “overall commander in Pakistan's tribal areas and as of late 2010, the leader of al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan, Pakistan.” The Treasury Department adds that Atiyah was previously appointed by Osama bin Laden to serve as al Qaeda's emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials.
      Atiyah was planning a terrorist attack against the U.S. that was potentially set to coincide with the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Some U.S. intelligence officials think Atiyah is even “more important” than Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s new emir. The described Atiyah as al Qaeda’s “operations chief.”
      Atiyah was appointed al Qaeda’s emissary to Iran and had an explicit deal with the Iranians that allowed him to move in an out the mullahs’ country. Atiyah is one of the beneficiaries of a deal between the Iranian government and Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, who funnels recruits and money from the Gulf States through Iran to Atiyah.
      I’ll add one more dot: Atiyah was protected by the Iranian regime for several years after 9/11. He is one of the senior al Qaeda leaders who the Iranians refused to acknowledge holding in custody and was supposedly held under a loose form of “house arrest.” All of which brings us back to the original question folks should be asking: What role, if any, does Iran play in Atiyah’s plotting? (Weekly Standard)
  • Syria: Cartoonist's Hands Broken - Tim Marshall
    Ali Farzat is Syria's best known political cartoonist. At 4am on Thursday morning he was picked up off the street in Damascus and dragged into a 4x4 by armed masked men. They beat him as they drove to the airport road and said: "We will break your hands so that you'll stop drawing."
      Then they broke both the bones in both of his hands. His beard was singed, a bag was put over his head before he was dumped by the roadside and told: "This is just a warning." Mr Farzat is now in hospital. (Sky News -- UK)
        See also View The Drawings that Landed Ali Farzat in the Hospital (Foreign Policy)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Israel Demands that Cairo Reinstate Its Flags at Diplomatic Institutions - Shlomo Cesana, Lilach Shoval and Daniel Siryoti
    The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday demanded that Egypt once again fly the Israeli flag over the ambassador's residence in Cairo, one day after Egyptian security forces guarding the building complied with the demands of hundreds of demonstrators who urged it be taken down.
      Demonstrators on Tuesday applauded as the blue-and-white flag was removed from the home of Ambassador Yitzhak Levanon and demanded that Egypt scrap the decades-long peace deal with Israel. The Egyptian military also closed the main street leading to the residence, and dozens of police were stationed on surrounding roads for fear that the demonstrators would attempt to break in. (Israel Hayom)
  • Iran to Sue Russia over Breached S-300 Air Defense Contract
    Iranian ambassador to Russia Mahmoud Reza Sajjadi announced on Thursday that Iran has filed a lawsuit against Moscow at the International Court of Justice for failing to deliver the S-300 air defense system to Iran, despite a UN resolution that prohibits weapons contracts with the Islamic Republic, Iranian semi-official news agency Fars News reported.
      Tehran and Moscow signed a contract in 2007 which guaranteed the delivery of "at least five" S-300 air defense systems, according to the report. Although Russia originally assured Iran that it would deliver the system, considerable Western pressure eventually convinced Moscow to cancel the deal. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Despite Some Israel-Libya Contacts, Warm Ties Are Not on the Horizon - Yossi Melman
    The chances that Israel will establish even low-level relations with a new regime that takes shape in Tripoli are not great. This assessment is based on a Ha'aretz interview this week with Ahmad Shabani, a Libyan opposition leader. Since the rebel government formed about six months ago in Benghazi, envoys have been trying to figure out if there are hopes of establishing a diplomatic relationship with Israel.
      Amid the anarchy in Libya, local warlords and foreign middlemen gained control of weapons looted from arsenals. The weapons black market in Libya reached new heights, Israeli intelligence officers discovered. Anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, mortars and other weapons were smuggled to Gaza via Egypt and reached Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Tehran’s Nuclear Endgame - Michael Rubin
    Qaddafi’s rule might be crumbling, but the colonel refuses to quit. On the evening of August 23, Qaddafi loyalists launched Scuds at the rebel-run town of Misrata. The missile strikes will be a footnote to the last days of the Transitional National Council’s struggle to unseat Qaddafi, but Western policymakers should not ignore them, for reasons that have less to do with Libya and far more with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
      In a case where regime collapse is inevitable, assumptions that the regime will act to moderate its own behavior become moot. When Qaddafi recognized his hours were numbered, he launched Scud missiles at his own people. What might the Revolutionary Guards do in a parallel situation? Ideological hatred toward the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia may be rhetorical among many Iranians, but for those in the Qods Force or other elite units, the embrace of ideology is sincere. While they might not normally be suicidal, if they believe the regime and perhaps their lives are over regardless of their actions, why not make good on the ideological goal and launch a nuclear weapon against external enemies?
      Qaddafi’s last stand should provide a wake-up call for those who wish to tie American national security to deterrence. Placing a bet on a nuclear Islamic Republic’s desire for self-preservation discounts two important factors: The determination of the Iranian people to be free, and the ideological sincerity of the small elite whose fingers would be on the nuclear button. (National Review)
  • First Tripoli, Then Ramallah? The Arab Spring and Palestinian Democracy - Elliott Abrams
    With the advent of the Arab Spring, several former Arab tyrannies (Egypt, Tunisia, now Libya, perhaps Syria next) have thrown off dictators and are, or will be, moving toward elections. And in Jordan and Morocco, the kings have announced new constitutional arrangements that move powers to elected officials. In every case, it is understood that free elections are central. And then there is the Palestinian case.
      Palestinians therefore face, and face us with, an interesting situation: Just as they are about to go to the U.N. to demand recognition, they are farther from free elections than they have been since the day Arafat died. The Palestinian parliament does not meet much less hold any authority. There are no elections, much less fair ones. Abbas rules by decree.
      The United States and the EU should be demanding elections, so that there is a legitimate government in Ramallah. Neither the United States nor the Quartet said one word criticizing that cancellation, again, of local elections. But the flimsy excuses offered by Abbas should be rejected flatly, and elections for the presidency and the parliament should be held within six months. Can it be the policy of the United States that autocracy is intolerable in Damascus, Tripoli, Cairo, and Tunis, but just fine in Ramallah? (Weekly Standard)
  • Push for Palestinian State Has Deeper Motive - Elliot Bartky and Allon Friedman
    The establishment of any future Palestinian state depends entirely upon negotiations with Israel within a mutually agreed upon legal framework of longstanding treaties. The Palestinian Authority's unilateral move will violate all previous agreements it signed with Israel, repudiate all relevant U.N. resolutions, and treat the United States, which has supported the PA with billions of dollars and incalculable prestige and good will during the decades-long peace process, with complete contempt.
      Over the past two years, the PA has avoided further negotiations in order to pressure Israel into greater concessions. Moreover, no one can reasonably argue that a Palestinian state is now viable. The PA is dictatorial, violent and corrupt; its civil society is chaotic; and it has no significant economy aside from what it receives in global charity, where it ranks first worldwide per capita. Moreover, Palestinians are now geographically split between Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza, with the governing authorities in these areas constantly battling one another.
      So why is the PA pushing for a state that has no realistic chance of succeeding? The answer is that the Arab world has been more interested in isolating, delegitimizing and destroying Israel than creating a successful Palestinian state. Bartky is president of the Jewish American Affairs Committee of Indiana and a professor of political science at Purdue University. Friedman is a doctor from Carmel. (Indy Star)
  • Observations:

    Legal Opinion Challenges PLO Statehood Bid - Interview with Prof. Guy Goodwin-Gill (Al Jazeera)

  • A legal opinion written by Guy Goodwin-Gill, a professor of public international law at Oxford University and a legal advisor to the Jordanian government and Palestinian Authority (PA), tackles the issues of Palestinian rights, representation, and the right of return, which may all be seriously affected by the outcome of the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN next month.
  • Question: How will the transfer of representation from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to a state terminate/lose the authority to represent the Palestinian people?
  • What we have here is a moment in which certain matters have just not been thought through. Historically, the PLO has been the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, internationally and within the United Nations. Now it is to be the state. Who, though, is the state, and what are the democratic links between those who will represent the state in the UN and the people of Palestine? An abstract entity – a state – is proposed, but where are the people?
  • Question: Why would the creation of a state not represent Palestinian rights?
  • Traditionally, a state for the purposes of international law presupposes territory, population, government and the capacity to enter into international relations. But we have moved beyond that, particularly where representation in the UN is concerned. Today's world expects more – that a state should be representative of the people for whom it speaks and directly accountable to them.
  • One way to establish representative democracy is by elections, though elections also should meet certain international standards. But states which are imposed, top-down, or which are crated without an exercise of the popular will are, by definition, not representative. And as recent events remind us, the lack of representative and accountable government is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
  • Question: If the 'state of Palestine' is meant to replace the 'PLO,' does this not just mean a transfer of authorities from one to the other? Similar to an official name-change?
  • As I understand the present proposal, the state of Palestine may replace the PLO as the representative of the people of Palestine at the United Nations. But we need to ask, what is the legitimate basis for such representation? I am not saying that it cannot be done, for of course it can. But only that I do not see the hallmarks of democratic, representative and accountable statehood – something in turn which depends on an exercise of the popular will. Shouldn't this come first?
  • Does the PA have the power to move the issue of statehood ahead, and if so, what are the origins and parameters of that power? Have the people of Palestine, through their representative - the PLO - granted such power? I recognize that there is an urgent, pressing need for statehood, particularly in the face of the intransigence of other parties, but I am also concerned that the essentials of modern statehood – democracy, representative government and accountability – may be sidelined, if not sacrificed, perhaps to the long-term disadvantage of the people at large.
  • One issue here is that the majority of Palestinians are refugees living outside of historic Palestine, and they have an equal claim to be represented, particularly given the recognition of their rights in General Assembly resolution 194 (III), among others. It is not clear that they will be enfranchised through the creation of a state, in which case the PLO must continue to speak for their rights in the UN until they are implemented.
  •     See also Text of Goodwin-Gill's Legal Opinion (Al Jazeera)

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