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DAILY ALERT

Friday,
November 17, 2006
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In-Depth Issues:

Video: Hamas Trains New Army - Ben Wedeman (CNN)
    See Hamas recruits at an army training base in the former Neve Dekelim industrial zone.


Lebanese Confirm Flow of Arms to Hizballah from Syria - Jacey Herman (Jerusalem Post)
    Lebanese civilians close to the border with Syria said Thursday that weapons for Hizballah were being brought in by the truckload at night.
    In the Lebanese town of Baalbeck, Hassan Taha, 53, a strident Hizballah supporter, said, "Of course weapons are coming from the border. Everybody here knows that. They're coming from both Iran and Syria and also China and Russia."


Israel HighWay
- November 16, 2006

Issue of the Week:
    How Will the U.S. Elections Impact on the Middle East?

UN General Assembly to Hold Emergency Session Friday on IDF Gaza Action - Shlomo Shamir (Ha'aretz)
    The UN General Assembly will hold an emergency session Friday to discuss the IDF offensive in Gaza.
    The discussion was initiated by the UN's Muslim bloc, in response to a U.S. veto in the Security Council last week of a draft decision to condemn Israel.
    See also European Parliament Votes for International Military Observers in Gaza (AFP/Yahoo)
    The European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted a resolution by an overwhelming majority reiterating an earlier suggestion to send a multinational force into Gaza and the West Bank, based on the example of a mission operating in Lebanon.


Canada Takes Pro-Israel Stance at UN - Steven Edwards (CanWest News)
    Canada voted on the side of Israel at the UN Thursday for the third time in a row on the more than 20 Arab- and Muslim-sponsored resolutions that are annually critical of Israeli policy but light on Arab responsibilities.
    The vote demonstrates a marked shift in Canadian Middle East policy.


Former Iranian Diplomat Sought by U.S. Is Arrested in Britain - Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball (Newsweek)
    Nosratollah Tajik, who served as Iranian ambassador to Jordan and has been previously linked to terror attacks in Israel, was arrested by British authorities last month at the request of the U.S. Justice Department.
    A sealed indictment filed by federal prosecutors in Chicago charges Tajik with seeking to purchase night-vision goggles for delivery to Iran from U.S. companies, in violation of U.S. export-control laws.
    A former top FBI counterterror official said it is likely that the equipment was ultimately destined for Hizballah.


Aussies Probe Hizballah Funding (UPI)
    Australia's anti-money laundering regulator is investigating two persons suspected of transferring money to Lebanon's Hizballah, The Australian reported Friday.


U.S. Reports Progress on Lebanon Munitions Removal (AFP/Yahoo)
    Randall Tobias, the State Department's director of foreign assistance who visited Lebanon late last month, said U.S.-funded teams had removed or assisted in the removal of about 50,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance left from the July-August war between Israel and Hizballah in Lebanon.
    "The effort to remove the unexploded ordnance is moving along very aggressively and we're really making a lot of progress," he said.


Argentina Beefs Up Security Measures after Row with Iran (Xinhua-China)
    Argentine President Nestor Kirchner ordered the police and the Intelligence Ministry on Thursday to step up security measures at key locations in the country, including the U.S. and Israeli embassies and Jewish community centers, in response to a growing diplomatic crisis with Iran over the 1994 bombing in Argentina allegedly plotted by former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani and other high-ranking Iranian officials.


Palestinian Rivalry Rings Up Cost of Guns - Joshua Mitnick (Washington Times)
    An arms race by rival Palestinian militants has nearly doubled the price of guns in Nablus in anticipation that fighting in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah will spread to the West Bank.
    Just after dusk at the city municipality, the echo of gunfire mingled with the normal din of car horns. It's a sound that's become part of Nablus' background noise, explained Mayor Adly Yaish.
    "When we are happy we shoot. When we are angry we shoot. At funerals we shoot, and at weddings we shoot."


"Lost Tribe" of Indian Jews Migrates to Israel - Zarir Hussain (AFP/Yahoo)
    More than 200 Jews from India's northeastern Mizoram state have emigrated to Israel, religious leaders said.
    "A total of 105 people left for Israel on Thursday, while another 103 people went Wednesday with the Israeli Prime Minister's office formally inviting them," said Israeli rabbi Hannoch Avizedek.
    Some 800 people from Mizoram and neighboring Manipur state have migrated to Israel since 1994.


Jordan and Israel Plan to Build Joint Airport at Aqaba (Jane's-UK)
    The Jordanian and Israeli governments are to step up plans to build an international airport at Jordan's Red Sea resort of Aqaba that would serve both countries.
    The planned airport will have two terminals - one Jordanian and one Israeli - and will service international carriers.


Israelis Shed New Light on Fighting Tumors (Reuters)
    Scientists in Israel say they hope to use highly concentrated light from commercial light bulbs to fight tumors, providing an effective and cheap replacement for laser surgery.
    In a study recently published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, Jeffrey Gordon of Ben-Gurion University showed that light from an ultra-bright commercial bulb, similar to that used in movie projectors, could be concentrated by a special optical system to burn away tissue in rats.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Gave $120 Million to Hamas Government
    Iran has donated $120 million to the Palestinian Hamas-led government and has said it is ready to give more, Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar said on Thursday in Tehran after talks with Iran's Islamic government. (Reuters/San Diego Union Tribune)
  • Iranian Commander: Our Shahab Missile with Cluster Warhead Can Destroy an Aircraft Carrier
    In an interview on Iran's Channel 2, that aired on November 12, 2006, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi stated: "The Americans have many weaknesses. In fact, in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they clearly displayed their strengths and weaknesses. We have planned our strategy precisely on the basis of their strengths and weaknesses....We don't see any motivation among the American forces in Iraq. They are very cowardly. There are even scenes from Iraq in which they are seen crying. When their commanders encounter a problem, they burst into tears."
        "The Shahab 3 missile has a cluster warhead, and consequently, its destructive power exceeds several kilometers, because the warhead spreads into bomblets. [It can be used] against large bases, large concentrations of people...even against aircraft carriers, because it explodes from above, so it can completely destroy an aircraft carrier with its planes."
        If the Zionist regime was defeated by a group of Hizballah in Lebanon...how can Israel withstand a great nation that numbers 70 million, 90% of whom are Shiites? As for the IRGC and the Basij [a paramilitary organization connected with the IRGC] - we have 10 million Basij members and strong Revolutionary Guards. There is no comparison." (MEMRI)
        See also Interview with Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Founder Yigal Carmon - Ruthie Blum (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Sanctions Talks Stall at UN - Irwin Arieff
    Deep divisions between Western nations and Russia have stalled talks on a draft UN resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Wednesday. A draft resolution drawn up by Britain, France, and Germany and backed by Washington demands nations prevent the sale or supply of equipment, technology, or financing that would contribute to Iran's nuclear or ballistic missile programs. Russia, backed by China, has submitted amendments cutting roughly half of the European draft and leaves nations to decide which items Iran can buy. (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • Outcry as Iran Set for 11 Public Hangings - Margaret Neighbour
    Tehran's hardline Islamic regime is preparing to publicly hang 11 Iranian Arabs convicted of involvement in a bombing campaign in which over 20 were killed last year. The executions are due to take place by Monday. The intention is to disperse the hangings in several cities with largely Arab populations in order to spread fear, activists say. [Arabs are a disadvantaged minority among Iran's ethnic Persians.] The sentences were imposed after swift trials behind closed doors which human-rights groups say did not meet international standards. (Scotsman-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Rejects European Draft for Middle East Peace Initiative - Avi Issacharoff
    Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday that Israel rejected a new peace initiative sponsored by Spain, Italy, and France which calls for increased international intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Livni told her Spanish counterpart, Miguel Angel Moratinos, that it was unacceptable for an initiative concerning Israel to be launched without coordination with Jerusalem. A senior Israeli official said, "As far as we know, even the European Union is not interested in the idea." Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Thursday announced plans to launch the initiative. (Ha'aretz)
  • Speedy Reinforcement of Sderot Schools Ordered - Aluf Benn
    Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered speeded up efforts to reinforce classrooms in schools near the Gaza Strip after one person was killed and two others seriously wounded in multiple strikes on Sderot. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues Friday - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in north Gaza fired three Kassam rockets at Israel on Friday morning. One landed near a kibbutz cafeteria. (Ynet News)
        See also Israeli Town On Edge after Gaza Rocket Attacks - Ari Rabinovitch
    When the siren sounds, residents of the southern Israeli town of Sderot, opposite Gaza, have 20 seconds to find a safe place before the rockets land. "At home the family runs to our shelter. If you are outside, you stand up against a wall," said Milenna Alhazov, 15. Shlomo Zarka, 49, said he saw a rocket fly overhead last week and land near a bank. "People don't realize how serious they are until someone is killed. Just leaving your house means taking a chance," he said.
        "The rockets are armed with shrapnel and ball-bearings that are sent flying when the rocket lands," said Haim Ben-Shimon, 55, head of the Magen David Adom ambulance service in Sderot. "They are meant to shred the body and tear off limbs. That's what happened Wednesday." (Reuters)
  • Germany Refuses to Alter Israel Ties - Hilary Leila Krieger
    The German Embassy rejected on Thursday a call made by 25 German academics for the country to abandon its "special relationship" with Israel in favor of a stance recognizing Palestinian suffering as an outcome of the Holocaust. A German Embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv reacted to the petition published in the Frankfurter Rundschau regional newspaper Wednesday: "It in no way reflects the position of the German government. The position of the German government regarding the special relationship with Israel will not change....We accept fully that because of the Shoah, the German people and [government] have a special responsibility to the State of Israel." The spokesman also said the professors who signed the petition didn't reflect the views of a majority of German academics. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Gaza

  • In the Wake of Beit Hanoun - Avi Issacharoff
    On Tuesday morning in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, the armed men were noticeably absent from the alleyways. On almost every visit to the town over the past months, you would see them roving about in groups: Hamas people, members of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and others. It's not clear what made them scarce all of a sudden in this town: Perhaps it was the massive IDF strike against the armed militants, or maybe it was shame over their part in the military escalation that sent them into hiding from the furious residents.
        Some in Beit Hanoun were saying that after the shelling last week and the killing of civilians, some prominent local families had expressly threatened members of the rocket cells. In one instance, they say, an armed man identified with Fatah put a gun to the head of a Hamas activist who was busy laying cables to launch a Kassam rocket. The would-be launcher ran away.
        On Wednesday morning, members of the military wing of Hamas returned to Beit Hanoun, launched a volley of rockets toward Sderot, and then fled.
        Ismail Radwan, the Hamas spokesman in Gaza, is not particularly extreme in Hamas. He is ready to talk with Israeli journalists - something that his predecessors (Sami Abu Zohri and Mushir al-Masri) were unwilling to do. "Let's be realistic," I urge. "You know you won't be able to wipe out Israel. So, leaving aside your ideological slogans, what is your realistic solution?" Radwan answers, "The only solution is that we return to our homes within the 1948 territory." Even the people close to Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the "pragmatic" camp in Hamas, are only willing to talk about a cease-fire with Israel, but not about peace, since they too have absolute faith that within a few years, Israel will cease to exist.
        Maher Maqdad, a Fatah spokesman in Gaza, said, "After Beit Hanoun, people were asking themselves: Where is this mighty 'resistance' of Hamas that is trampled by the Israeli army within minutes?" (Ha'aretz)
  • Stop the Palestinian Rockets Now - Editorial
    For months, Kassam rockets have been falling on Sderot and elsewhere in the western Negev, even as far inside Israel as Ashkelon. Allowing such a large section of the country to remain under fire week after week is unacceptable. Thousands of children, not to mention adults, are being traumatized by the constant sirens and rocket salvoes. Turning the targeted areas into a giant bomb shelter is not the solution: the attacks must be stopped. Diplomatically, our government should be demanding an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to condemn the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority for openly launching terrorist attacks against Israel.
        It is also critical that Israel sound the alarm regarding Egypt's refusal to take effective measures against rampant arms smuggling over its border into Gaza. The U.S. and Israel should tell Egypt that if Cairo acts like Damascus and allows Gaza to become southern Lebanon, then Egypt risks being treated like Syria; the U.S. has immense leverage here, in terms of military assistance. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Angered by Rockets, Israelis Weigh Response - Joshua Mitnick
    With one Israeli dead and two critically injured from Palestinian rocket fire on Wednesday, the attack has ratcheted up pressure on the Israeli government to order an all-out offensive in Gaza. Advocates of an incursion say Israel must reoccupy a corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border to block smuggling of weapons with longer firing ranges and improved precision. Palestinians have fired more than 1,000 Kassam rockets into Israel in the last year, killing three civilians and wounding dozens.
        Michael Oren, a military historian and a fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, argues that Israel should be directing its retaliation at Hamas leaders - even those in Damascus - rather than the militants who hide among Palestinian civilians. "[Israel should] stop bombing and stop sending forces into Gaza. You have to make the people who are responsible for the rocket fire pay the consequences," he says. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Call Terrorists By Their Rightful Name - Ed Koch
    The people the New York Times refers to as "militants" in Gaza have been firing rockets daily from the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun at nearby towns on the Israeli side of the border, seeking to injure or kill Israeli civilians. Those who intentionally aim to kill civilians should be referred to as terrorists. I, like most Jews in Israel and the U.S., have come to the conclusion that the Palestinian government and the Palestinian people who overwhelmingly voted for that government are part of the international Islamic terrorist effort to bring the West and its civilization to its knees. For Hamas, the two-state solution is not an option. Hamas believes that all Jews not born in historic "Palestine" must be expelled. (israelinsider)

    Iraq

  • Why Iraq Is Crumbling - Charles Krauthammer
    Our objectives in Iraq were twofold and always simple: Depose Saddam Hussein and replace his murderous regime with a self-sustaining, democratic government. The first was relatively easy. But Iraq's first truly democratic government turned out to be hopelessly feeble and fractured, little more than a collection of ministries handed over to various parties, militias, and strongmen. The problem is not the number of American troops. Or of Iraqi troops. The problem is the allegiance of the Iraqi troops, many of whom swear fealty to political parties, religious sects, or militia leaders. Iraqi national consciousness is as yet too weak and the culture of compromise too undeveloped to produce an effective government enjoying broad allegiance.
        It was never certain whether the long-oppressed Shiites would have enough sense of nation and sense of compromise to govern rather than rule. The answer is now clear: They do not. (Washington Post)
        See also Nurture Iraqi Democracy, From the Ground Up - Michael Rubin (Los Angeles Times)
  • A Vicious Monster Rises in Iraq's Sectarian War - "The Shia Zarqawi" - Colin Freeman and Aqeel Hussein
    Savage new warlords are battling for power in Iraq and the country is starting to splinter. Less than six months after an American airstrike ended Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's campaign of Sunni terror, an equally brutal fanatic has emerged on the Shia side. Abu Deraa's trademark method of killing is a drill through the skull rather than a sword to the neck. In the past year, he and his followers have murdered thousands of Sunnis, their victims' bodies dumped in road craters left by al-Qaeda car bombs.
        Iraq's Shia-dominated government has shown a marked reluctance to sanction the kind of large-scale operation necessary to arrest him in his stronghold of Sadr City in east Baghdad. Increasingly, men such as Abu Deraa appear to operate beyond anyone's control. He is among at least 20 former Mehdi Army commanders who are pursuing their own agendas. The former commander, Moqtada al Sadr, may be a thug himself, but at least he represented a single, identifiable authority. If dozens of freelance players emerge alongside him, negotiation becomes impossible. (Telegraph-UK)

    Other Issues

  • Chirac and the Arabs, as the End Approaches - John Vinocur
    The desire of France to play a major, seemingly disproportionate role in the Middle East - and the willingness of the French to invest their reputation and credibility in an often virtual and vainglorious pro-Arab policy - has been real enough. Now, with Jacques Chirac entering the final six months of his twelve years in power, that approach's coherence and its fairly universal base across the French political spectrum is crumbling. There's no longer a sanctified, national consensus on the Middle East in a country once determined to drive the European Union's view of the region from a French pro-Palestinian stance. (International Herald Tribune/New York Times, 14Nov06)
  • Egypt Relies on Prosperity to Dazzle Critics - William Wallis
    In Egypt, accelerated market reforms since 2004 are starting to pay off. Preliminary official figures, higher than International Monetary Fund estimates, show gross domestic product growth reaching an unprecedented 6.9% in 2005/2006. Government officials hope that improving living standards will eventually help counter radicalism in society and provide some insulation against instability. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Egypt Wanes as Power Broker as Syria, Iran Gain Clout - Mariam Fam
    Egypt, which for decades has acted as peacemaker and behind-the-scenes political broker for the U.S. in the Arab world, has seen its status ebb as Mideast dynamics have been shifting. The destabilization of Iraq, the ascent of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, last summer's war in Lebanon, and Iran's resurgent influence have helped erode Cairo's traditional leading role in the region. "The Egyptian role has taken a back seat, to the benefit of other regional powers. The Israeli-Palestinian issue used to be an Egyptian-Jordanian issue, but now it is more influenced by Syria and Iran," said Emad Gad, a senior researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. Analysts say the Egyptian regime's domestic woes have also contributed to its diminished regional stature. (Wall Street Journal, 15Nov06)

    Weekend Features

  • Judging a Book by Its Cover and Its Content - Abraham Foxman
    In the case of former President Jimmy Carter's latest work, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, all one really needs to know about this biased account is found in the title. In order to reach such a simplistic and distorted view of the region, Carter has to ignore or downplay the continuing examples of Palestinian rejection of Israel and terrorism, which have been part of the equation from the beginning and which are strong as ever today. He has to minimize or condemn all the instances of Israel's peace offers and withdrawals.
        The problem with his approach is twofold. He unjustly encourages Israel-bashers around the world. The legitimizing factor of being able to quote a former president of the United States and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize cannot be overestimated. Secondly, this gives comfort to the extremists on the Palestinian side who are reinforced in their extremism by this kind of "analysis."  (New Jersey Jewish Standard)
        See also Former President Carter Could Lead UN Investigation of Israel - Benny Avni (New York Sun)
  • Al Jazeera Begins Broadcasting in English - Larry Derfner
    On Wednesday, Al Jazeera International, the most-watched TV news station among Arabs, debuted in English. Daniel Seaman, head of the Israel Government Press Office, said he thought Al Jazeera was fairer to Israel than CNN or BBC. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Not Coming Soon to a Channel Near You - Alessandra Stanley
    Major cable and satellite providers in the U.S. have declined to offer the English version of Al Jazeera. Americans could watch it only on the Internet at english.aljazeera.net. (New York Times)
        See also Slick, But Depressing: A First View of English Al-Jazeera (Times-UK)
  • Bloggers Challenge Restrictions in the Arab World - Faiza Saleh Ambah
    Saudi Arabia's most popular blogger, Fouad al-Farhan, is part of a growing wave of young Arabs who have turned to blogging to bypass the restrictions on free expression in a predominantly authoritarian, conservative, and Muslim region. Activists have used their blogs to organize demonstrations and boycotts, and to criticize corruption and government policies. The less politically inclined have turned them into forums for heated debates on religion.
        "Several years ago, Arabic blogs in the Middle East could be counted on one hand," said Haitham Sabbah, Middle East editor of Global Voices Online, a media project sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. "Today, they are in the thousands and are becoming a new source for news and information." Though only about 10 percent of people in the Arab world have Internet access, the rate continues to rise dramatically, having multiplied fivefold since 2000. (Washington Post)
  • Why Can't America's Universities Talk Rationally about Israel? - Jake Halpern
    Why is it so hard to talk about Israel on college campuses in an open, civil, and constructive manner? The answer in part is that Christian, Jewish, and Muslim college students are more organized than they ever have been - and more outspoken. A former official at the national office of the Muslim Students Association estimates that in the late 1980s, there were only about 100 chapters at colleges in North America. Today, that number has grown to more than 600.
        Since 1994, Hillel has doubled its operating budget and doubled the size of its nationwide staff to more than 1,000 people. One of the main programs Hillel helped sponsor was the "Israel on Campus Coalition," designed to improve Israel's image on campuses. Then there is the role of evangelical Christian students, many of whom have become ardent supporters of Israel. (Boston Globe)
  • How to Fight Anti-Israeli Campaigns on Campus - Manfred Gerstenfeld
    The last four years have seen the promotion of boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel in a number of countries. There have also been verbal or even physical aggression and discrimination against Israelis and Jews. The fact that the anti-Israeli boycott campaigners do not propose boycotts of crime-inciting Palestinian universities indicates strongly discriminatory and even racist attitudes. The David Project's documentary on the intimidation of pro-Israeli students at Columbia University has shown that some universities' misdeeds can be effectively exposed by a small outside actor without major financial resources. Israeli universities must play a larger role in fighting both anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli discrimination on worldwide campuses, with an aim to turn the accusers into the accused. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Awaiting the Iranian Messiah - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)

    • Speaking to Ynet News, Professor Raymond Tanter, one of the authors of the forthcoming book What Makes Iran Tick, which explores the Shiite Islamist ideology of Iran, said there was no questioning the belief of Iran's leaders in the coming of the Mahdi.
    • Tanter, President of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, said: "The Iranian leadership, particularly Ahmadinejad, welcome the apocalyptic vision of the return of the hidden Imam....After a period of great destruction, once the forces of evil are defeated, the so-called twelfth Imam is supposed to reign over a period of great prosperity."
    • "When Ahmadinejad was mayor of Tehran, he set up an urban renewal program that would make it easier to facilitate the Mahdi's return. He created passageways and roadways that would allow the Mahdi to return triumphantly."
    • "Ahmadinejad was called the man of a thousand bullets. Because he would give the last bullet for someone who has been tortured, and primarily executed by firing squad. Ahmadinejad's role was to put the last bullet in, in case the person was still squirming," Tanter said.
    • "No conceivable positive or negative incentives will influence the leadership of the clerics and the Revolutionary Guards from acquiring nuclear weapons. They need nuclear weapons in order to facilitate the ideological precepts of the return of the Mahdi."


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