Tag Archives: Jordan

Stratfor: The Israeli Periphery

By Reva Bhalla
Vice President of Global Affairs
Stratfor Global Intelligence

The state of Israel has a basic, inescapable geopolitical dilemma: Its national security requirements outstrip its military capabilities, making it dependent on an outside power. Not only must that power have significant military capabilities but it also must have enough common ground with Israel to align its foreign policy toward the Arab world with that of Israel’s. These are rather heavy requirements for such a small nation.

Security, in the Israeli sense, is thus often characterized in terms of survival. And for Israel to survive, it needs just the right blend of geopolitical circumstance, complex diplomatic arrangements and military preparedness to respond to potential threats nearby. Over the past 33 years, a sense of complacency settled over Israel and gave rise to various theories that it could finally overcome its dependency on outside powers. But a familiar sense of unease crept back into the Israeli psyche before any of those arguments could take root. A survey of the Israeli periphery in Egypt, Syria and Jordan explains why.

Maintaining the Sinai Buffer

To Israel’s southwest lies the Sinai Desert. This land is economically useless; only hardened Bedouins who sparsely populate the desert expanse consider the terrain suitable for living. This makes the Sinai an ideal buffer. Its economic lifelessness gives it extraordinary strategic importance in keeping the largest Arab army — Egypt’s — at a safe distance from Israeli population centers. It is the maintenance of this buffer that forms the foundation of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

The question percolating in Israeli policy circles is whether an Islamist Egypt will give the same level of importance to this strategic buffer. The answer to that question rests with the military, an institution that has formed the backbone of the Egyptian state since the rise of Gamel Abdul Nasser in 1952.

Achieving National Security in the Periphery

Over the past month, the military’s role in this new Muslim Brotherhood-run Egypt quietly revealed itself. The first test came in the form of the Gaza crisis, when the military quietly negotiated security guarantees with Israel while the Muslim Brotherhood basked in the diplomatic spotlight. The second test came when Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, attempted a unilateral push on a constitutional draft to institutionalize the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on power.

The military bided its time, waiting for the protests to escalate to the point that rioters began targeting the presidential palace. By then, it was apparent that the police were not to be fully relied on to secure the streets. Morsi had no choice but to turn to the military for help, and that request revealed how indispensable the military is for Egyptian stability.

There will be plenty of noise and confusion in the lead-up to the Dec. 15 referendum as the secular, anti-Muslim Brotherhood civilian opposition continues its protests against Morsi. But filter through that noise, and one can see that the military and the Muslim Brotherhood appear to be adjusting slowly to a new order of Nasserite-Islamist rule. Unlike the 1979 peace treaty, this working arrangement between the military and the Islamists is alive and temperamental. Israel can find some comfort in seeing that the military remains central to the stability of the Egyptian state and will thus likely play a major role in protecting the Sinai buffer. However, merely observing this dance between the military and the Islamists from across the desert is enough to unnerve Israel and justify a more pre-emptive military posture on the border.

Defending Galilee

Israel lacks a good buffer to its north. The most natural, albeit imperfect, line of defense is the Litani River in modern-day Lebanon, with a second line of defense between Mount Hermon and the Sea of Galilee. Modern-day Israel encompasses this second barrier, a hilly area that has been the target of sporadic mortar shelling from Syrian government forces in pursuit of Sunni rebels.

Israel does not face a conventional military threat to its north, nor will it for some time. But the descent of the northern Levant into sectarian-driven, clan-based warfare presents a different kind of threat on Israel’s northern frontier.

It is only a matter of time before Alawite forces will have to retreat from Damascus and defend themselves against a Sunni majority from their coastal enclave. The conflict will necessarily subsume Lebanon, and the framework that Israel has relied on for decades to manage more sizable, unconventional threats like Hezbollah will come undone.

Somewhere along the way, there will be an internationally endorsed attempt to prop up a provisional government and maintain as much of the state machinery as possible to avoid the scenario of a post-U.S. invasion Iraq. But when decades-old, sectarian-driven vendettas are concerned, there is cause for pessimism in judging the viability of those plans. Israel cannot avoid thinking in terms of worst-case scenarios, so it will continue to reinforce its northern defenses ahead of more instability.

Neutralizing the Jordan River Valley

The status of the Jordan River Valley is essential to Israel’s sense of security to the east. So long as Israel can dominate the west bank of the river (the biblical area of Judea and Samaria, or the modern-day West Bank) then it can overwhelm indigenous forces from the desert farther east. To keep this arrangement intact, Israel will somehow attempt to politically neutralize whichever power controls the east bank of the Jordan River. In the post-Ottoman Middle East, this power takes the form of the Hashemite monarchs, who were transplanted from Arabia by the British.

The vulnerability that the Hashemites felt as a foreign entity in charge of economically lackluster terrain created ideal conditions for Israel to protect its eastern approach. The Hashemites had to devise complex political arrangements at home to sustain the monarchy in the face of left-wing Nasserist, Palestinian separatist and Islamist militant threats. The key to Hashemite survival was in aligning with the rural East Bank tribes, co-opting the Palestinians and cooperating with Israel in security issues to keep its western frontier calm. In short, the Hashemites were vulnerable enough for Israel to be considered a useful security partner but not so vulnerable that Israel couldn’t rely on the regime to protect its eastern approach. There was a level of tension that was necessary to maintain the strategic partnership, but that level of tension had to remain within a certain band.

That arrangement is now under considerable stress. The Hashemites are facing outright calls for deposition from the same tribal East Bankers, Palestinians and Islamists that for decades formed the foundation of the state. That is because the state itself is weakening under the pressure of high oil prices, now sapping at the subsidies that have been relied on to tame the population.

One could assume that Jordan’s oil-rich Gulf Arab neighbors would step in to defend one of the region’s remaining monarchies of the post-Ottoman order against a rising tide of Muslim Brotherhood-led Islamism with heavily subsidized energy sales. However, a still-bitter, age-old geopolitical rivalry between the Hejaz-hailing Hashemite dynasty and the Nejd-hailing Saudi dynasty over supremacy in Arabia is getting in the way. From across the Gulf, an emboldened Iran is already trying to exploit this Arab tension by cozying up to the Hashemites with subsidized energy sales to extend Tehran’s reach into the West Bank and eventually threaten Israel. Jordan has publicly warded off Iran’s offer, and significant logistical challenges may inhibit such cooperation. But ongoing negotiations between Iran’s allies in Baghdad and the Jordanian regime bear close watching as Jordan’s vulnerabilities continue to rise at home.

Powerful Partners Abroad

In this fluctuating strategic environment, Israel cannot afford to be isolated politically. Its need for a power patron will grow alongside its insecurities in its periphery. Israel’s current patron, the United States, is also grappling with the emerging Islamist order in the region. But in this new regional dynamic, the United States will eventually look past ideology in search of partners to help manage the region. As U.S.-Turkish relations in recent years and the United States’ recent interactions with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood reveal, it will be an awkward and bumpy experience while Washington tries to figure out who holds the reins of power and which brand of Islamists it can negotiate with amid messy power transitions. This is much harder for Israel to do independently by virtue of ideology, size and location.

Israel’s range of maneuver in foreign policy will narrow considerably as it becomes more dependent on external powers and as its interests clash with those of its patrons. Israel is in store for more discomfort in its decision-making and more creativity in its diplomacy. The irony is that while Israel is a western-style democracy, it was most secure in an age of Arab dictatorships. As those dictatorships give way to weak and in some cases crumbling states, Israeli survival instincts will again be put to the test.
 
The Israeli Periphery is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

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A Peace of Jerusalem

NB: This document version is frozen as it appeared on Feb. 4, 2013.
The live, evolving version of the document can be found @ apoji.org

 

An innovative proposal for long-term Semitic harmony in the Middle East based on ideas from hundreds of ordinary people — 2,000 words (or less!)


 

Initiated: October 27, 2009

 
  First iteration: November 5, 2009
  2010 core text agreed: August 7, 2010
  2010 print edition: December 13, 2010
  2011 edits: February 11 — May 12, 2011
  2012 edits finalised: December 22, 2012
 

Updated: January 31, 2013 — 10:05 JT

 


 
Participation is open to all. Your creative ideas are the lifeblood of this initiative and all constructive criticisms are welcome. The privacy default is ‘anonymous’ but participants are free to self-identify.

Confidential submissions can be made using this form. Public comments are subject to reasonable moderation. This document may change incrementally over time and without notice. How would you improve it?

Be creative but concise, fearless but polite… 

 

 

  

a peace of jerusalem

 

Preamble    


THERE
S A celebrated tale that provides insight into the wisdom of Solomon (Shlomo/Suleiman), son of David (Dovid/Dawoud), King of ancient Israel, and builder of the Temple of Jerusalem:

A newborn was brought before the King in his judgment of a case between two women, each of whom claimed to be the mother of the infant. 

Though a judge of the rarest quality—and despite having conducted a series of tests—Solomon could not determine who was telling the truth. Seeming to be stumped, he called for his swordsman to evenly divide the baby between the women, whereupon one of them tearfully begged the King to spare the child’s life and award it to the other.

By this mercy he discerned the identity of the true mother.

Despite its great antiquity, Jerusalem is easily imagined in the role of the child. The world stands divided over it, some battling for sole custody, some pleading for a split, and all appearing eager to receive their due. However, according to Solomon’s judgment, and as reflected in modern-day family case law, any such critical decisions must clearly favour the interests of the child.

Imagination, pragmatism, love and divine inspiration will surely be central to the creation of any successful plan for enduring peace, but who would have the authority (and the right) to judge the merits of such a case? In the absence of Solomon and his legendary wisdom, it would have to be ‘the people’.

Each individual is a well of possibility and a reservoir of sacred sovereignty. United in common purpose, even the impossible seems somehow less so.

 
    Respectfully,

    – the editors
 
 


 

 
 
Index

I.
   Land of the Covenant
II.
   States in the Balance
III.
   Mutually-Independent Rights of Return
IV.
   Representation and Taxation
V.
   Basic Services, Education & Health Care
VI.
   National Borders
VII.
   Rights of Passage
VIII.
   The Jerusalem Capital Region
IX.
   The Old City
X.
   Security, Order & Defence

 
 
 
 


Word count: 1,867 (2K max.)

 

 

I. Land of the Covenant
 
Let us imagine: two states, conjoined in peace; and two peoples, bound by blood and by a shared love for Jerusalem (Yerushalayim/Ursalim), the place so deeply revered by their common patriarch Abraham (Avraham/Ibrahim).

It was in Jerusalem, upon the Mount (Har haBayith/Haram Ash-Sharif), that the angel stayed Abraham’s hand, as G‑d dramatically (and forever) repudiated ritual human sacrifice — a torturous test of a man’s utter devotion to G‑d and a stirring, implied decree to guard against the senseless forfeiture of life.

The foundations of the Arab and Jewish peoples were both laid in Jerusalem, where Abraham circumcised his son Ishmael (Yishmael/Ismail) and his son Isaac (Yitzhak/Ishaq).

Isaac’s son Jacob (Ya’acov/Yacoub), also known as Israel, would father twelve tribes (B’nai Yisrael/Bani Israil) and become namesake to the modern Jewish state. The destiny of Ishmael (though a Jew by patrimony and rite) would carry him South, to sire the twelve tribes of Arabia.

 

II. States in the Balance
 
To mitigate problems arising from inevitable demographic shifts over time, a special permanent resident class (endowed with rights of residency that are irrevocable but renounceable and non-inheritable) should be established in Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel) and in the new Arab state, such that:

  • an Arab citizen of Israel could:
       retain Israeli citizenship; or
       claim citizenship in the Arab state, while retaining…
           – special permanent residency rights in Israel; and
           – a future one-time right to reclaim individual Israeli citizenship
     
  • an Israeli citizen currently residing in the West Bank could:
       retain Israeli citizenship and become a
         special permanent resident of the Arab state; or
       claim citizenship in the Arab state, while retaining…
           – a future one-time right to reclaim individual Israeli citizenship
               with special permanent residency rights in the Arab state

This arrangement should limit the need for physical population exchanges upon execution of a final agreement while allowing Israel to democratically maintain its character as a uniquely Jewish state that guarantees political participation for its citizens and permanent residents — and freedom of worship for all.

The new Arab state, herein provisionally referred to as Dawlat Ismail (State of Ishmael) or simply as Ismail, would enshrine similar guarantees of religious and secular freedom in its founding charter.

A child born in Israel or Ismail to a special permanent resident of that state would inherit citizenship from his/her parent(s) and, upon attaining age of majority, might opt to become a citizen of the state in which s/he was born.

Each state would pledge to make every reasonable effort to accommodate the safe passage of pilgrims, tourists and other visitors between the two states.

Each state would vow to serve and protect the personal and collective interests of the people under its jurisdiction, regardless of religion, race, gender, political affiliation or citizenship.

Each state would aver to protect and to preserve, without prejudice, all the Holy Places under its mandate.

 

III. Mutually-Independent Rights of Return
 
Each state would be free to set its own policy for the return of its people from the diaspora, with all future “returnees” (Hebrew: olim; Arabic: waa’ilin) becoming resident citizens of whichever state repatriates them.

A “returned citizen” of either nation, once established in his/her new homeland for two years, could petition for residency in the other state, with the approval of both governments, and with priority being given to requests from waa’ilin who resided in present-day Israeli territory prior to 1948. Urgent humanitarian cases would be considered on an expedited basis.

A regime for the compensation of displaced persons should be agreed by all regional states under a comprehensive treaty on refugees and human rights.

 

IV. Representation and Taxation
 
Citizens would vote in the national elections of their respective homelands but would vote in municipal and district/governate elections based on residency.

Revenues from income taxes paid by individuals who are citizens of one state, but who are special permanent residents of the other, would be divided equally between the two states. Tax would be calculated using the methods established by the state in which the income is earned.

Given the disparity between average incomes in Israel and those in the West Bank and Gaza, this revenue splitting arrangement should provide significant economic stimulus for Dawlat Ismail and help to fund the settlement of those making the Arab “ruqia” (Hebrew: aliyah; English: ascent). 

Property tax would be paid to the state, district/governate or municipality in which the property is located.

Sales tax, if applicable, would be paid to the state in which a purchase is made.

 

V. Basic Services, Education & Health Care
 
The enhanced tax base of Dawlat Ismail, along with an expected surge in foreign investment and donations, should contribute substantially to the development of critical infrastructure for the diffusion of services across Ismail’s numerous, fast-growing communities.

State-funded education programs (on either side of a future border) would be required to openly publish their curricula in order to encourage fairness and accuracy of content.

National health insurance premiums, if applicable, would be paid based upon residency, but a citizen of either state would always be free to seek treatment in his/her national homeland.

 

VI. National Borders
 
The division of territory between the West Bank and Israel is seen as generally agreeing with the path of the “Green Line”, with any deviations and associated land-swaps to be negotiated by the parties to a final-status agreement.

The Israel-Gaza border is well-defined, having effectively gained international recognition via the 1949 Egypt-Israel Armistice Agreement, but this proposal suggests a modest expansion of Gaza by gifts of territory from Israel and Egypt, as a gesture of goodwill, and to contribute to the security of these nations by distancing Gaza’s extensive tunnel network from its newly-enlarged borders.

 

VII. Rights of Passage
 
Israel would apportion lands for the creation of road and light rail corridors (above- and/or below-ground) to facilitate travel, commerce and social links between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Security at both ends of each pathway would be jointly managed by Ismail and Israel, with security of the intervening distance (in-corridor) being managed by Ismail and remotely monitored by Israel. The efficacy of this regime should be reviewed periodically to improve system effectiveness and eventually obviate the need for Israeli inspection of rail & motor passengers at the termini.

Commercial goods passing through such conduits would be subject to on-going inspection by customs officials of both states.

Recognising the importance of these corridors to Ismail’s culture and economy, Israel would undertake to minimise delays or closures associated with imminent security threats, health or weather emergencies, natural disasters, etc.

Sovereignty over all such apportioned lands would remain with Israel.

A suitable air traffic regime should be agreed between the parties.

 

VIII. The Jerusalem Capital Region
 
Jerusalem is the national capital of the modern state of Israel and remains, as ever, the singular direction of prayer (mizrach/qibla) for all Jews worldwide.

Jerusalem and its many surrounding communities (on either side of an agreed border) would constitute the Jerusalem Capital Region and share in a common infrastructure network for meeting such basic needs as water, power and waste management.

This network would be directed by a proposed Jerusalem Stewardship Board dedicated to ensuring the highest quality of life for all Capital Region residents. The Board, half elected by the residents of the Capital Region, half appointed by the governments of Israel and Ismail, would shepherd the implementation of appropriate planning, building and environmental codes.

Ismail’s capital would be established in an eastward expansion of Jerusalem contiguous to the Old City along some measure of its easterly perimeter. The exact determination of this contiguity (as well as the basic configuration of the Capital Region) would be decided between the negotiating parties, taking into account matters of culture and faith, geography and demographics, as well as concerns related to the land and its waters, and to the preservation of peace upon them.

There would be a city council and mayoralty office for each side of the border.

The official work week in the Capital Region would be four days, Monday through Thursday, with all government offices closed Friday through Sunday.

 

IX. The Old City (less than 1 km² of land)
 
Rising above Jerusalem’s Holy Basin, the Old City, with its hallowed steps and ancient quarters, serves as sacred platform to the stony font from which the spirit of Jerusalem flows.

As it can be considered neither “east” nor “west” of itself, Jerusalem’s Old City would constitute a separate legal entity managed by a Regency Council with an identical number of members appointed by Israel, Ismail, the Chief Rabbinate, the Islamic Waqf, and the Vatican.

Council activities would be officiated by a Civil Sheriff elected to a five-year term by the residents of the Capital Region from a slate of candidates pre-approved by four of the Council’s five primary seats, with unanimity preferred.

Passage of routine measures in Council would require five primary-level votes, whether obtained by consensus of the five primary Council members or by support of four seats with the assent of the Sheriff.

Critical issues, such as those relating to the status quo of the Old City, would require unanimous support in Council and confirmation by twin, national referenda in Medinat Yisrael and Dawlat Ismail.

Religious and cultural groups could petition the offices of any of the primary members to represent their interests at Council. Those with current standing in the Old City (houses of worship, shrines, cemeteries and other properties) could petition the Council directly on a case-by-case basis.

Mundane civil disputes and crimes committed in the Old City (G‑d forbid) would devolve to a special Magistrate’s court operating independently of either state’s judiciary but affiliated to both. Appointments to the court would be made by Council with the assent of each state’s Chief Justice.

Basic services to the Old City should be freely provided by the Capital Region infrastructure network.

 

X. Security, Order & Defence
 
Responsibility for security in West Bank Areas “B” & “C” would be transferred to Dawlat Ismail on a flexible timetable based upon clear goals decided between the parties. Responsibility for security in Gaza would pass to Ismail within 90 days. (The Palestinian Authority, whose mandate will be subsumed by the new state, presently commands security in Area “A”.)

A permanent Canadian peacekeeping force, reporting to the Sheriff and engaging cooperatively with the security services of both states, would provide general security within the Old City; render personal protection for the Regency Council; guide Ismail in its development of a robust, responsible and accountable police force; ensure reasonable freedom of access to designated Holy Places; and help to maintain order in the Capital Region.

Protection of Ismail against foreign attack would be undertaken by Israel acting in concert with Ismail’s security services and the peacekeeping team. Ismail’s defence would be bolstered by Jordan in the East and by Egypt in the West.

The security of Israel would be tremendously enhanced by a peace treaty with the League of Arab States and by Israel’s formal diplomatic recognition by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
 
 
 
 
 


 
 

 

.

 

There’s a sort of existential futility–and no small irony–inherent in
man’s claiming of land, for in the end, it’s the land that claims us all.
 
This may nowhere be so true as it is in Jerusalem.
 

.
 
 
.
 

It is our fondest hope that the boundaries which separate us
will
be overgrown in time with vines bearing fruit enriched
by the bloom
of tolerance; that we might all derive sustenance
from such bounty; and that, years from now, it will be difficult
to remember
why it seemed so incredibly hard to find peace
 
.
 
 

.


May this work be found pleasing

in the eyes of G‑d, Blessed be He,

to Whom all glory is due
 
.
 
.


 


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Bibi Sets the Tone

protretAccording to the June 14th speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, there are certain “red lines” that Israel will not cross in pursuing peace with its Arab Palestinian neighbours.
(Full text of  address)

Condensed into a few points (with comments):

Israel must be secure. The security argument is based generally upon two needs: 1) That all of Israel’s borders must be defensible; and 2) That any eventual Palestinian state not be permitted to have a standing army or be able to conclude defensive pacts or military alliances with other countries – Iran was specifically mentioned by name because it arms and otherwise supports such groups as Hezbollah and Hamas.

This doesn’t mean that the Palestinian state will be prohibited from having internal security services adequate to the maintenance of order within its territory — in fact, the Palestinian Authority has largely been armed by Israel and the United States.

Beyond Palestine’s imagined borders would rest Jordan, Egypt and, of course, Israel. If any future peace agreement contained commitments by each of these countries to defend Palestine from external attack, why would the young state want to bear the expense of maintaining an army?


Israel must primarily be a Jewish state
, with freedom of religion for all faiths. This touches upon an important demographic requirement: That the Palestinian refugee problem be settled outside of Israel proper (i.e. within the future borders of a Palestinian state).

Aside from the social and economic chaos that would result if Israel (a very small country) was forced to absorb literally millions of Palestinian refugees, there is also a politically existential angle; since Israel is a democracy, it would be exposed to the very real risk of voting itself out of existence.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak implied that no Arab country would ever recognise Israel as a Jewish state, being situated as it is, so close to the heart of the Islamic world. This could be seen as somewhat hypocritical since Egypt does recognise more than a half dozen countries that are officially Islamic states, as well as sixteen nations (plus itself) which have officially adopted Islam as their state religion.


Jerusalem must remain the undivided capital of Israel.
Jews feel and think about Jerusalem in somewhat the same way that Muslims feel about Mecca. Muslims have prayed facing in the direction Mecca for about 1400 years. Jews have been praying towards Jerusalem since Solomon’s edict to do so — almost 3000 years ago.

Though most of the region’s inhabitants were used to praying while facing Jerusalem (most of them being Jews or early Christians who also maintained the established practice), Mohammed issued an edict requiring that all Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca. Ironically, Mecca was itself established and controlled by the Jewish Quraish tribe for centuries prior to the arrival of Mohammed.

Jerusalem is central to the identity of the Jews and is foremost, of all earthly places, in their prayers. Unlike Mecca, though, anyone (of any religion) may visit Jerusalem. The city is mentioned by name more than 600 times in the Torah (the five books of Moses or Pentateuch) and almost 800 times in the larger assembly of books recognised as the Jewish Bible (Tanakh). In the Christian New Testament, it is mentioned by name 154 times. Jerusalem is not mentioned by name even once in the Qur’an.

Under Israeli stewardship, religious tourism and pilgrimages are possible to virtually all Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, but also to all those within Israel proper and throughout a substantial proportion of the West Bank. Such was not the case when the West Bank was under Jordanian rule; all Jews were expelled from their Jerusalem homes in 1948-49 and were unable to return until 1967. Also, during this period, most Jewish houses of worship and a number of shrines sacred to Judaism were destroyed.

The area of greater Jerusalem, beyond the walls of the Old City, is predominantly Jewish in the West and mostly Arab in the East. There are many Jews living in East Jerusalem and many Arabs residing in West Jerusalem, which would make it difficult to divide the city while preserving its character and its ability to function as a municipality. The Palestinians consider the Old City (which contains the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to name a few of its most important holy sites) to rest entirely within East Jerusalem, which they envision to be the capital of their future state. The Old City also contains its own historical Jewish Quarter, Armenian Quarter, Christian Quarter and Muslim Quarter — in chronological order of establishment.

East and West Jerusalem as they are defined on political maps are artificial constructs of man’s own design. The East and the West of Jerusalem, and for that matter, the North and the South of it, can only truly be judged in relation to the Rock that lies at the very heart of it.

Remarkably, the Old City occupies barely more than one-third of one square mile of land!

800px-Jerusalem_Dome_of_the_rock_BW_14.JPG

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