Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Iran Rocket Arsenal Tripled in 2008 (Jerusalem Post)
Germany Increasing Exports to Iran, Despite Sanctions - Assaf Uni (Ha'aretz)
Haj Pilgrims Denounce Israel - Ali Akbar Dareini (AP)
Pakistan Militant Group Builds Web of Western Recruits - Sebastian Rotella
(Los Angeles Times)
PA Accuses Al-Jazeera of Favoring Hamas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Iran on Monday rejected a proposal by President-elect Barack Obama that a combination of economic incentives and tighter sanctions might persuade the Iranian government to change its behavior. Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the international community could develop a set of incentives that would persuade Iran to alter its nuclear program.
But Iran has rejected past offers of economic incentives by the international community in exchange for scaling back its nuclear activities, a sentiment echoed Monday by Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi. "The carrot-and-stick policy has no benefit," Qashqavi said. "It is unacceptable and failed." He reiterated Iran's refusal to suspend enrichment and said the U.S. must recognize Iran's "nuclear right" before the country would dispel concerns about its program. (AP/Washington Post)
In the oil fields of Iran, a 2,000-pound drilling tool, called the azimuthal density neutron tool, probes deep under the earth for fresh supplies of crude, the lifeblood of one of the most formidable foes of the U.S. While helping to enrich Iran's economy, the drilling tool also presents a potential risk to American security, were it to fall into the wrong hands. It is powered by a radioactive chemical that scientists say could fuel a so-called "dirty bomb," capable of spreading radiation across many city blocks.
The tool is the type of sophisticated technology that the U.S. has sought for 13 years to prevent from reaching Iran, a country the U.S. government says is financing terrorism with its oil profits. But the device - developed by the oil-services firm Schlumberger in labs in Connecticut and Texas - was brought to Iran through a legal loophole that allows multinational corporations to use foreign subsidiaries to sidestep U.S. sanctions, according to a Boston Globe investigation. Scientists say that if the five curies of americium-241 used in Schlumberger's tool were to be lost or stolen, the material could be combined with TNT to create a crude nuclear device known as a "dirty bomb" that could contaminate an area of many city blocks. (Boston Globe)
The chief of the world's nuclear weapons watchdog organization considers five years of U.S. and international efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions a failure, as Tehran moves ever closer to obtaining the means to develop weapons of mass destruction. "We haven't really moved one inch toward addressing the issues," said Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "I think so far the policy has been a failure." (Los Angeles Times)
Israel has prodded Qatar, a friendly Persian Gulf nation, into calling off a delegation preparing to transport aid from Cyprus to Gaza. Israel urged Qatar officials to send any Gaza-bound aid via Israel, Israeli government officials said. "The message was delivered, not only to them, but to anybody else that wanted to transfer aid to Gaza, that there is a mechanism on how to do it," said Andy David, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry. Israeli officials say they will allow supplies to enter Gaza if and when Hamas prevents Palestinian militants from firing rockets and mortars into southern Israel. (McClatchy)
See also Police Seize Israeli Arab Boat Ahead of Gaza Sail
A boat scheduled to leave Jaffa port on Sunday with several Arab Knesset members and sail to Gaza was seized by the Israel Police early Sunday. (Ynet News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
The EU's 27 foreign ministers unanimously approved upgrading relations with Israel on Monday, despite vigorous efforts by the PA and Egypt to thwart the move. The first expression of this decision will be a meeting between Israel's prime minister and all the leaders of the EU member states in Brussels this April. In addition, Israel's foreign minister will start meeting three times a year with all 27 EU foreign ministers.
Israel and the EU will also conduct a strategic dialogue on issues such as the peace process, the Iranian threat, counterterrorism and organized crime. Separately, the ministers decided to shelve a proposed action plan for the peace process in 2009, in response to an Israeli request. In addition, the EU pledged to help Israel integrate into UN agencies and to include Israeli experts in EU peacekeeping forces. (Ha'aretz)
Israel granted full pardon on Sunday to another group of 45 men belonging to Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. The gesture, made in the framework of last year's amnesty agreement between Israel and the PA, was finalized at a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian officials. (Ynet News)
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of preventing thousands of Palestinians from making the annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca, Israel Radio reported Saturday. Abbas told reporters in Mecca that Israel had never once prevented Palestinians from making the holy visit. Palestinians wishing to travel to Saudi Arabia through Egypt were not given permits. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Gabriela Shalev, Israel's first woman ambassador to the UN, sees cracks in the longstanding Arab cold shoulder and animosity directed at the Jewish state. When the U.S. and British ambassadors gave lunches in her honor and asked who to invite, Shalev said, "I always asked for the Palestinian observer (Riyad Mansour) - he's very nice and we're friends, more than colleagues - the Jordanian ambassador and the ambassador from Oman." "It's easier for me to connect to them than some of the other ambassadors," she added. "We have a lot in common. I can approach them in Arabic."
At a dinner for new ambassadors, Shalev said Turkey's UN envoy deliberately sat her next to the ambassador from one of the "not so moderate Arab countries," which she refused to identify. "We had a wonderful talk all through the evening," she said. "We talked about peace and the Middle East. We found a lot of things in common." Two days later, Shalev said she saw the ambassador at the UN. "He nodded his head, and he was not as nice and friendly as the evening, and I understand it. Maybe people are watching."
Shalev had some advice for President-elect Obama: Leave the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to the parties themselves. "We have to deal with our own problems without any pressure - not of the UN, not of the U.S., but it should be bilateral between the parties." (AP/International Herald Tribune)
In the assault on Bombay, much of the media abandoned offending formulations - "Islamic terrorists," "Muslim extremists" - and found it easier to call the perpetrators "militants" or "gunmen" or "teenage gunmen." The veteran British TV anchor Jon Snow opted for the more cryptic "practitioners." At the Habad House, the murdered Jews were described in almost all the Western media as "ultra-Orthodox," "ultra" in this instance being less a term of theological precision than a generalized code for "strange, weird people, nothing against them personally, but they probably shouldn't have been over there in the first place." Are they stranger or weirder than their killers?
The New York Times was being silly in suggesting this was just an "accidental" hostage opportunity - and not just because, when Muslim terrorists capture Jews it's not a hostage situation, it's a mass murder-in-waiting. The sole surviving "militant" revealed that the Jewish center had been targeted a year in advance. (Washington Times)
Arab Peace Initiative Can Be a Starting Point, Not a Diktat - Ron Prosor (Guardian-UK)
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