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December 9, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Rocket Arsenal Tripled in 2008 (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran has tripled the number of long-range rockets in its arsenal, Israel TV Channel 10 reported on Monday.
    According to the report, Iran has over 100 Shihab-3 long-range missiles capable of hitting Israel, up from 30 missiles at the beginning of 2008.
    While Iran's ability to strike Israel has long been known, this latest build-up points to an Iranian intent to launch a protracted counter-strike against those who seek to destroy its nuclear program.

Germany Increasing Exports to Iran, Despite Sanctions - Assaf Uni (Ha'aretz)
    German exports to Iran are up 10% according to data from the Federal Statistical Office for the first three quarters of 2008.
    During the first seven months of 2008, the German government approved 1,926 transactions with Iran, a 63% increase over last year, further cementing Germany's position as Iran's largest trade partner.

Haj Pilgrims Denounce Israel - Ali Akbar Dareini (AP)
    Thousands of haj pilgrims to Mecca - mostly Iranians, Lebanese, Iraqis and Bahrainis - held a rally Sunday to denounce the U.S. and Israel.
    Called the "disavowal of pagans ceremony," the Iranian-sponsored, anti-U.S. protest is held annually at the haj.

Pakistan Militant Group Builds Web of Western Recruits - Sebastian Rotella (Los Angeles Times)
    For years, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani extremist group suspected in the Mumbai rampage, has actively recruited Westerners, especially Britons and Americans, serving as a kind of farm team for Islamic militants who have gone on to execute attacks for al-Qaeda, a close ally.
    The Pakistani network makes its training camps accessible to English speakers, providing crucial skills to an increasingly young and Western-born generation of extremists.

PA Accuses Al-Jazeera of Favoring Hamas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The PA has banned Al-Jazeera from Mahmoud Abbas' compound in Ramallah after the TV station failed to carry a live broadcast of a speech by Abbas to the PLO Central Council. Instead, the station broadcast live from Damascus, where Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was addressing a conference of radical groups.
    PA officials accused Al-Jazeera of being biased in favor of Hamas, noting that this was not the first time that the station had served as a platform for Hamas and other radical Islamic groups.
    Seven Palestinian reporters have been arrested by Abbas' security forces in the past few months for allegedly expressing sympathy with Hamas.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Rejects Obama's "Carrot-and-Stick" Proposal - Nasser Karimi
    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)
  • U.S. Oil Firm Sidesteps Sanctions on Iran - Farah Stockman
    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)
  • Nuclear Watchdog Head Calls Efforts Against Iran "a Failure" - Borzou Daragahi
    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)
  • After Israel Objects, Qatar Gives Up Plan for Aid Shipment to Gaza - Dion Nissenbaum
    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:

  • EU Votes to Upgrade Israel Relations - Barak Ravid
    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 Pardons 45 More Fatah Terrorists - Ali Waked
    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)
  • Abbas: Israel Never Prevented Palestinians from Making Haj Pilgrimage Like Hamas Does
    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):

  • Israel's New UN Envoy Sees Cracks in Arab Animosity
    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)
  • Media Ignore Militants' Muslim Identity - Mark Steyn
    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)
  • Observations:

    Arab Peace Initiative Can Be a Starting Point, Not a Diktat - Ron Prosor (Guardian-UK)

    • It is important to realize that the Arab peace initiative cannot be seen as a "take it or leave it" offer. It cannot serve as a diktat, or replace the need for bilateral negotiations, on both the Palestinian and Syrian tracks. The plan is an interesting starting point for negotiations, but the international community should be under no illusions. Elements of the text are a cause for grave concern as regards the survivability of the State of Israel.
    • The demand that Palestinians should be able to relocate to areas inside the borders of the State of Israel jeopardizes Israel's very existence. It is difficult to understand why Palestinians, having created a state of their own, would subsequently insist on sending their own people to the Jewish state.
    • Israel's concern over the future of Jerusalem should also not be underestimated. From time immemorial, Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and will always remain so. The 1967 borders might provide a reference point for negotiations, but the demographic realities and security concerns of Israel's population must be taken into account.
    • The Saudis, Kuwaitis and other Gulf states could do more to encourage the Palestinians towards compromise. Instead of perpetuating unattainable fantasies that have long held back the Palestinian cause, they should help their Palestinian brethren set realistic, attainable goals.
    • Three realities must be acknowledged: Israel exists, Israel belongs, and recognizing Israel would be to the benefit of every Arab society. Everyone in the region with the ability to promote this understanding must be urged to do so.

      The writer is the Israeli ambassador in London.

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