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December 12, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt's Mubarak: "Iran Wants to Devour the Arab World" (Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian President Mubarak told a meeting of the Egyptian ruling party that "the Persians are trying to devour the Arab states," according to a report in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida on Thursday.

Hamas May Have Gotten Cash Israel Transferred to Gaza - Avi Issacharoff, Jack Khoury and Tal Levy (Ha'aretz)
    PA officials in Ramallah have admitted that some of the NIS 100 million in cash transferred to Gaza banks Thursday may have found its way to Hamas.
    The transfer was approved to enable the PA to pay salaries to some 70,000 employees in Gaza.
    In private conversations, senior PA officials - including PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad - admitted that there is no way to check whether the entire sum really reached the employees.
    Some of the banks' branch managers and tellers cooperate with Hamas, they explained, and could easily have diverted some of the money.

Persian Gulf Funds Flowing to Terror Networks - Michael Jacobson and Matthew Levitt (Guardian-UK)
    The Persian Gulf remains a major source of funding for al-Qaeda and its affiliates, with millions of dollars being sent from the region to terrorist groups.
    Recipients of this largesse include the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), suspected of perpetrating the recent attack in India.
    LeT operatives and supporters are particularly active in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. LeT's finance chief, Haji Muhammad Ashraf, has traveled to the Gulf to raise funds for LeT. In 2003, he helped LeT leaders in Saudi Arabia increase fundraising there.
    Similarly, the Saudi-based Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation was designated as a terrorist-supporting entity in part because its office in Pakistan supported LeT.
    The authors are senior fellows at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Jew Murdered in Yemen - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Moshe Yaish-Nahari, the brother of a prominent rabbi in Yemen and the father of eight, was shot to death on Thursday in Yemen, Asharq Alawsat reported.
    Eyewitnesses said the killer had confronted Nahari at the market in Rida, called out to him "Jew, accept the message of Islam," and then opened fire with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

Arab Islamist Cleric to Palestinians: Slaughter the Jews Like You Did in 1929 (MEMRI)
    Sheik Himam Sa'id, Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, said on Arabic TV last week:
    "People of Hebron - you are now waging a war against the Jews. You are well-versed in this. We saw how, on a day in 1929, you slaughtered the Jews in Hebron. Today, slaughter them on the land of Hebron. Kill them in Palestine. Arise, oh people of Palestine...arise and face the [PA] Preventive Security forces."
    "What will you say to the Jordanian government? Expel the Jewish ambassador from Amman. Amman is pure, and the Jewish ambassador must not defile its soil....Stop normalization with the Jews. Stop all imports and exports with the Jews. Our markets are full of Jewish vegetables and Jewish fruits. Traders who bring these fruits and vegetables are traitors, collaborators."

Iran Detains Iranian-Canadian Blogger Who Visited Israel - Anna Johnson (AP)
    Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian blogger who made trips to Israel and helped ignite the blog boom in Iran in 2001 by posting simple instructions on how to create sites in Farsi, was arrested on Nov. 1 in Tehran.
    Derakhshan traveled to Israel in 2006 and 2007, saying he wanted to break the taboo on contacts with Israel and show Israelis a different face of Iran.

Better Place Unveils Prototype of Electric Car Recharging Station in Israel (Israel21c)
    Mobility operator Better Place unveiled the prototype of its electric car recharging station in Israel Sunday. The station was designed in San Francisco and developed in Israel.
    Better Place, which was launched by Israeli businessman Shai Agassi, plans to deploy the world's first nationwide network for charging electric vehicles in Israel, followed by networks in Hawaii, Denmark, Australia and California.

Israel to Upgrade Service for Chinese Tourists - Ma Xiaoyan (Xinhua-China)
    Israel's tourism authority is taking measures to improve its service to cater to Chinese tourists in the face of a boom of Chinese sightseers.
    About 14,000 Chinese tourists visited Israel in 2008, an increase of 40% over 2007, according to Israel's Tourism Ministry.
    Israel expects to lure 30,000 Chinese tourists next year, said Pini Shani, director of the ministry's Overseas Department.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Sarkozy Won't Shake Hands with Someone Who Says Israel Must Be Wiped Off the Map
    Iran summoned France's ambassador to protest about what it said were "inappropriate remarks" by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, state media said on Thursday. Sarkozy, an outspoken critic of Iran since coming to office last year, said on Monday he could not shake hands with Iranian President Ahmadinejad for saying Israel should be "wiped off the map." The French envoy was also summoned in February over what Tehran said was the "unfriendly" position of Paris regarding Iran's nuclear work. (Reuters-Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Belgium Arrests 14 in Anti-Terrorism Sweep - Sebastian Rotella
    As European leaders arrived in Brussels for a summit, Belgian police on Thursday arrested 14 suspects allegedly linked to al-Qaeda, including one who police believe was close to launching a suicide attack. In a yearlong investigation, police tracked militants, mainly Belgians and French of North African origin, who traveled to al-Qaeda hide-outs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, fought against Western troops and then returned to Europe. Authorities grew alarmed during the last week when surveillance showed that a key suspect had begun making preparations for a suicide attack. (Los Angeles Times)
  • UK Lecturers' Union Abandons Attempts to Boycott Israel - Donald MacLeod
    The UK lecturers' union has abandoned attempts to boycott Israeli universities after years of international controversy, opponents of the policy said Wednesday. In the face of legal threats, the leadership of the University and College Union has quietly dropped plans to implement a conference motion that instructed members to "consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions."
        In response to this year's motion, a group of 12 members threatened to sue the union, arguing that it amounted to a boycott in all but name and was illegal discrimination contrary to the UCU's own rules. Prof. Michael Yudkin, emeritus professor of biochemistry at Oxford and the group's spokesman, said: "It is clear that the union has backed down, but they don't want to say it in so many words." "We are not talking about freedom of speech but proposals to discriminate unlawfully against a group of individuals."  (Guardian-UK)
  • U.S. General Says Iran Reduces Bomb Supply for Iraqi Insurgents - Al Pessin
    Lt.-Gen. Thomas Metz says Iranian officials have apparently reduced the supply of material for high-powered roadside bombs that can penetrate armored vehicles. U.S. officials say the technology, materials and training needed to build such bombs comes from Iranian agents. Pentagon statistics indicate the number of roadside bombs in Iraq has fallen from 1,200 in April to 500 in October. But during the same period, the use of such bombs more than doubled in Afghanistan. (VOA News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Complains to UN over Iranian Incitement - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Israel submitted an official letter of complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Thursday, which condemned recent remarks made by Iranian Vice President Esfandyar Rahim Mashaei, who said the destruction of Zionism should become a global goal. Shalev protested "yet another litany of repugnant and appalling statements made by the leadership of the government of Iran. The Iranian leadership continues to incite the destruction of Israel, a fellow Member State of the United Nations."
        "Such language is not mere rhetoric," she wrote. "Iran takes active steps to promote its vision of the annihilation of Israel. Iran actively supplies arms, financial resources, and training to Hamas and Hizbullah terrorist organizations - both of which reject Israel's existence and a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians as endorsed by the UN. Iran continues to support other terrorist and destabilizing forces across the wider Middle East and in other areas. Furthermore, Iran continues to defy the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding Iran's nuclear program."
        "Iran's language, matched with its actions, represents a danger to the work of the international community and to the principles enshrined in the charter of the United Nations. We therefore expect the United Nations' leadership and Member States to rebuke Iran's poisonous language and dangerous deeds in a clear and vigorous manner." (Ynet News)
  • Gen. Dayton: New PA Forces Are the Most Capable Ever - David Horovitz
    U.S. Gen. Keith Dayton, who is overseeing the training in Jordan of the Palestinian Authority's National Security Force for the West Bank, says the new recruits are "the most capable Palestinian security forces that have ever been fielded here." In an interview, Dayton stressed that organizing competent Palestinian security forces "improved law and order in the territories, increased safety and security for the Palestinian people, and improved security for Israel." "Nothing I or my team do here will jeopardize the security interests of the State of Israel. Period. Full stop. We won't do it. It's not what we do as Americans."
        Asked whether he could unequivocally state that the new forces would never use their weapons against Israel, he responded: "What I can say is that so far, in their operations since May, there has not been a single incident of Palestinian security force engagement with Israelis. Either Israeli civilians or IDF." "Something new is out there," said Dayton. "It's worth encouraging. And yeah, we can all be skeptical, but let's not stop it. Let's keep it going."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamastan in Gaza - Amira Hass
    Gone from Gaza are the flags of every color (including green for Hamas) that once flew everywhere, and the billboards commemorating shaheeds (martyrs) with their weapons. The Hamas government doesn't need external symbols to prove its strength and announce its presence. On Nov. 11, the anniversary of Arafat's death, the police in Gaza worked to conceal any symbols related to the date, the man and the movement - in addition to prohibiting the staging of any memorials. When yellow Fatah flags were hung up, police removed them; high school students who wore checkered kaffiyeh scarves - or any other symbol that alluded to Arafat and Fatah - were asked to remove them and also summoned for police interrogation. Even candles in windows in Arafat's memory were confiscated. The removal of these symbols wasn't only an expression of the government's self-confidence, but of intimidation and coercion as well. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egyptians Campaign to Block Israeli Visits
    Egyptian members of parliament and activists are campaigning to prevent Israeli Jews from flocking to Egypt every year to visit the grave of a famous rabbi. Thousands of Israelis make annual trips to Egypt to celebrate the birthday of Rabbi Ya'akov Abu Ha'seira, a 19th-century Moroccan Jew who was considered a holy man and is buried in Demito, Egypt, north of Cairo.
        Locals say they suffer from the tight security measures applied throughout the festivities, and farmers who live in the area around the tomb are being pressured into selling their land so that investors can build a resort to accommodate the annual visitors. The next celebrations are scheduled for Jan. 14, coinciding with the rabbi's Hebrew birthday. Campaigners are hoping to collect a million signatures to have the Egyptian government cancel the festivities. (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Power at the UN - Claudia Rosett
    With Iran racing down the homestretch toward a nuclear bomb, the UN Security Council has spent more than two years expressing "serious concern." In flagrant violation of five Security Council resolutions and a chronic abuser of the UN charter, Iran's despotic, terrorist-backing, nuclear-wannabe regime ought to qualify for expulsion from the UN. At the very least, one might suppose that on UN premises, Iran would be something of a pariah.
        But that's not how it works. Iran's government has the UN so well-wired, in so many ways, that it's hard to find an angle Iran is not busy exploiting. That ought to be of serious concern to President-elect Obama, who has promised to give the UN a far bigger role in U.S. policy.
        Iran, which pays less than 1/100th of the U.S. contribution to the UN, has wangled itself an astounding array of influential slots, including seats on the governing bodies of at least eight prominent UN agencies. That setup serves both to legitimize the same Iranian regime that is busy violating the UN charter, and gives Iran a say in how billions in UN funds - much of that money supplied by U.S. taxpayers - get spent around the world. (Forbes)
  • Why Not to Engage Iran (Yet) - Geneive Abdo
    With presidential elections six months away, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finds himself under attack from all sides. Sixty Iranian economists wrote a letter recently protesting his failed policies that have led to record-high unemployment. In many ways, Iran's leaders view Obama's election as similar to 2000, when bilateral relations seem poised for a breakthrough. But considering U.S. weakness in the Middle East and Iran's strengthened position in the region, Iranians are more optimistic that this time the U.S. is more motivated to initiate a thaw. If the Obama administration does intend to talk to Iran, however, it might be wise to wait until after the Iranian election in June. Otherwise, all the talk over the coming years is likely to be with Ahmadinejad. The writer is a fellow at the Century Foundation. (Foreign Policy)
  • The EU and Syria Move Closer - David Schenker
    On Dec. 14, the EU is slated to initial an association agreement with Syria, a pact that had been on hold since 2004. The agreement is the latest in a series of cost-free diplomatic gains for Damascus in Europe. Europe was impressed this past May by the announcement of Israeli-Syrian (indirect) negotiations in Turkey. But Damascus has already stated it will not meet Israel's quid pro quo - a strategic reorientation away from Iran toward the West - that would make an agreement possible.
        The EU's benign interpretation of Syria's regional activities does not mitigate extremely problematic Syrian behavior regarding Lebanon, WMD, and human rights. In 2006, the EU opened a civil-society awareness center in Damascus headed by Anwar Bunni, a human rights lawyer. The Assad regime shuttered the center just days after it was opened, and Bunni was arrested and sentenced to a lengthy jail term. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel's Strategy Against Palestinian Terrorism Pays Off - Ehud Yaari
    Even though isolated bombings, shootings or stabbings may still occur, the West Bank has been thoroughly cleansed of active terrorist networks. It has taken six years - since Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 - of systematic effort to reach this result, including nightly raids, usually by small detachments, into Palestinian towns and villages to arrest or kill terrorists, concentrated and focused co-ordination between all branches of the defense establishment and, above all, acquisition of accurate, real-time, pinpointed intelligence. This achievement must be credited to the ability of the Israel Security Agency to crack the terrorist networks by making them transparent and creating an almost intimate closeness to their top operatives.
        Of course, sleeper cells may still lie dormant here and there, and there is always the danger that a new network, about which there is no information as yet, is in the process of being set up. However, the production line of suicide bombers, explosive belts and roadside bombs has been totally destroyed. And attempts to manufacture homemade rockets, such as the Kassams in Gaza, have not succeeded anywhere in the West Bank, thanks to the Israeli raids. The final phase of this confrontation, directed against the Islamic Jihad terror network, has been taking place during the past 18 months in the Jenin-Tulkarm sector in the northern West Bank. Fifteen terrorists have been killed and about 150 have been captured. (The Australian)
  • Exporting the Iranian Revolution to Lebanon
    Lebanon is a unique example of Iran's success in exporting the Islamic revolution through Hizbullah. That success is reflected in the establishment of Hizbullah's extensive military infrastructure, with a proven track record of being able to hit Israel's home front, and in the strengthening of Hizbullah's political force on the internal Lebanese scene, to the point of being able to veto decisions made by the Lebanese government.
        One must also consider the extensive social and cultural network established by Hizbullah, through which Iran deepens its long-term influence in Lebanon - mostly with the Shi'ite community, the country's largest ethnic group. The ideological activity conducted by Hizbullah is meant to inculcate Lebanese society with the concept of a "society of resistance" - a society entirely devoted to a long-term armed struggle against Israel, with Hizbullah at the forefront. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Human Rights at 60 Aren't What They Used to Be - Joseph Loconte
    Sixty years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt, then head of the UN Human Rights Commission, said: "Democracy, freedom, human rights have come to have a definite meaning to the people of the world, which we must not allow to so change that they are made synonymous with suppression and dictatorship." Today, the world's dictators and terrorists are no doubt celebrating the prostitution of human rights - often at the encouragement of UN policies and protocols. More than half of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council fail to uphold basic democratic freedoms in their own countries. Some of the most egregious offenders of human rights - including China, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe - typically evade censure. (Weekly Standard)
  • Unholy War Culture - Arnaud de Borchgrave
    Almost 100,000 young boys are graduated every year from some 12,000 Pakistani madrassas, Koranic schools in which the sole discipline is the Koran, which they have to learn by heart. The curriculum is larded with slogans about the hated American, Indian and Israeli infidels who are out to destroy Islam. Madrassas are free, including one meal a day. Most students leave these religious schools at 16 and are easy prey for recruiters from politico-religious extremist movements. (Washington Times)

    Weekend Features

  • The U.S. Spies on Israel - Dan Williams
    The U.S. routinely spies on Israel to try to gather information on its assumed atomic arsenal and secret government deliberations, a new official history of Israel's intelligence services says. According to Masterpiece: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Israeli Intelligence, American spy agencies use technologies like electronic eavesdropping, and trained staff from the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, for "methodical intelligence gathering." The chapter on counter-espionage was written by Barak Ben-Zur, a retired Israeli internal security service officer.
        Contacted by Reuters, Ben-Zur described U.S. spying efforts as largely benign, given the closeness of defense ties between Israel and the Bush administration. "At the end of the day, the United States does not want to be surprised," he said. "Even by us." (Reuters)
  • Israel Developing Armed Robots That Hop Over Obstacles - Mark Rutherford
    SWAT and other urban assault teams could soon be deploying packs of all-seeing robots armed with mini-missiles to ferret out bad guys. The EyeDrive unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) uses remote-controlled 360-degree panoramic video technology and a patented Point and Go sensor guidance mode to run down and "instinctively eliminate" human targets at ranges of up to 90 feet, according to the Israel-based company ODF Optronics.
        This 5-pound, all-terrain UGV can be tossed - or dropped - from up to 10 feet and is self-righting. The "hopper" feature allows the EyeDrive to hop over 3-foot obstacles. ODF plans to produce an armed version in cooperation with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, another Israeli outfit, that could carry up to 16 miniature rockets. (CNET News)
  • Mobile Start-Ups Thrive in Israel - Levi Shapiro
    Israeli companies have made their country a leader in the mobile media sector. More than 30 multinational companies operate telco-related R&D facilities in Israel. Despite the global recession, 462 Israeli hi-tech companies raised more than $1.75 billion last year - the most in six years. Israel, with a population of only 7 million, ranks second in the world (after the U.S.) in funds raised by technology start-ups, according to the World Economic Forum. According to the Israel Export Institute, Israel has the world's highest proportion of scientists and engineers with postgraduate education: 135 per 10,000, compared to 78 per 10,000 in the U.S. (Fierce Mobile Content)
  • Israeli Scientists Study How to Destroy Asteroids
    Israeli scientists say they are studying how Earth might avoid a collision with an asteroid, as fictionally shown in the 1998 movie "Armageddon." Noah Brosch, director of Tel Aviv University's Wise Observatory, and doctoral student David Polishook said the chances of an asteroid hitting the Earth are very real. Astrophysicists agree the best method for avoiding a catastrophic collision would be to change the path of the asteroid heading toward our planet, said Polishook, but for that to work, scientists need to be able to predict what would happen in such an explosion. Blowing up an asteroid might create many equally dangerous smaller asteroids. (UPI)
  • Observations:

    Gaza: Still No Red Cross Access to Captured Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit - Pierre Wettach (International Committee of the Red Cross)

    • Since Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian armed factions on 25 June 2006, the International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly asked to be allowed to visit and to convey family messages to him. In November, the ICRC requested that Hamas forward to him thousands of letters and greeting cards from various organizations, individuals and schoolchildren.
    • Unfortunately, all these requests have been refused. We will continue to do everything we can to obtain information on Gilad Shalit's condition, to gain direct access to him, and to establish contact between him and his family. We would like to meet him in private to make an independent assessment of the conditions he is held in and of his state of health.
    • As a humanitarian organization, we have limited leverage in these matters. All we can do is to remind those who control the situation of their obligation to act in accordance with the spirit and letter of international humanitarian law. The parties to an armed conflict, be they states or non-state groups, have to uphold the law.

      The writer is head of the ICRC's delegation in Israel and the territories.

      Gilad Shalit has been in captivity for 901 days.

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