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December 16, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Influence Over Hamas Is Growing - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran's influence over Hamas has increased in recent months and Tehran is playing a key role in the terror group's decision-making process regarding whether to extend the cease-fire with Israel that will expire on Friday, Israeli defense officials said Monday.
    According to the officials, Egypt - which for years was the main address for dealings with Hamas - has lost its authority over the terror group and is being replaced in part by Iran.
    The Gaza issue has been a source of contention between Tehran and Cairo in recent weeks.
    See also Iranian Pressure on Hamas to Terminate the Lull with Israel - Amir Buhbut (Maariv-Hebrew)
    As the head of the Hamas political bureau announced this week that the cease-fire with Israel will not be renewed, Israel's security establishment says that Tehran is pressuring Hamas to act against Israel and is sending weapons to Gaza.

President Bush Hosts Hanukkah Reception (FOX News)
    President George W. Bush hosted a Hanukkah reception at the White House on Monday.
    Hanukkah commemorates the Jews' successful rebellion against suppression of their religion under the Syrian-Greek empire in 165 BCE.
    Bush compared the Maccabees' victory with the founding of the State of Israel, which he called "another miraculous victory."

Israeli UAVs to Fly in Afghanistan - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    In February, the Israel-made Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) will make its debut in Afghanistan as the main surveillance drone for the Canadian Armed Forces, replacing smaller French-built UAVs.
    The Heron is capable of remaining in the air for two days straight without refueling and can fly at an altitude of 30,000 feet, making it a difficult target for standard anti-aircraft weapons.

The Failed Muslim States to Come - Spengler (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
    The present financial crisis is painful for most of the world but deadly for many Muslim countries.
    Iran's President Ahmadinejad controls Iran through a kleptocracy of Central African proportions, dissipating the country's oil windfall into payoffs to an entire class of hangers-on of the Islamic revolution.
    Iran's regime cannot reduce subsidies or raise taxes without losing control of the constituencies that brought it to power.
    Iran must break down or break out, through a military adventure.

Egyptian Intellectuals Pay Price for Curiosity - Jeffrey Fleishman (Los Angeles Times)
    Egypt and Israel made peace in 1979, but most Egyptian artists and intellectuals don't accept it, and those who do are often vilified.
    Filmmaker Nadia Kamel's recent documentary about her mother's Jewish roots was attacked as a call to "normalize" relations with Israel.
    Opera singer Gaber Beltagui had his membership in the musicians union suspended in 2007 when he sang at the 100th anniversary of a Cairo synagogue.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Expels Hostile UN Rights Investigator - Isabel Kershner
    Israeli authorities on Monday expelled Richard Falk, a UN investigator of human rights in the Palestinian territories, saying he was unwelcome because of what the government regarded as his hostile position toward Israel. Falk, an American, arrived in Israel on Sunday and was placed on the first available flight back to Geneva, his point of departure. A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Falk had been informed in advance that his entry would be barred.
        Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton and the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, has compared Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to Nazi atrocities and has called for more serious examination of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks. Falk issued a statement this month describing Israel's embargo on Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, as a crime against humanity, while making only cursory reference to Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilian centers. (New York Times)
        See also below Observations: 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Should Leave UN Job - Joel Brinkley (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Six Powers and Arabs to Discuss Iran Issue - Louis Charbonneau
    The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany will hold a rare meeting with Arab diplomats to discuss Iran's nuclear program, top diplomats from Britain and Russia said on Monday. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the point of the meeting on Tuesday is for the six powers to discuss the concerns of Arab states about Tehran's atomic ambitions. "Iran's nuclear weapons program is increasingly recognized as a threat to the whole region of the Middle East," Miliband said. (Reuters)
  • Congressional Panel Cites "Tipping Point" on Nuclear Proliferation - Walter Pincus
    The development of nuclear arsenals by both Iran and North Korea could lead to "a cascade of proliferation," making it more probable that terrorists could get their hands on an atomic weapon, a congressionally chartered commission warned Monday. "It appears that we are at a 'tipping point' in proliferation," the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States said in a report. The bipartisan panel, led by former defense secretaries William J. Perry and James R. Schlesinger, added that actions by Tehran and Pyongyang could lead other countries to follow, "and as each nuclear power is added, the probability of a terror group getting a nuclear bomb increases."  (Washington Post )
  • Mideast Quartet Meets to Push for Peace
    The Middle East diplomatic Quartet on Monday called on Israelis and Palestinians to step up talks to end their conflict. A Quartet statement said the U.S.-brokered Annapolis process launched a year ago "is irreversible and these negotiations should be intensified in order to put an end to the conflict and to establish as soon as possible the state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel." (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Agreement in Hamas: Cease-Fire to End Friday - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    After expressing contradictory positions on Sunday, Hamas' leadership on Monday adopted a united stance: The cease-fire with Israel, which expires this Friday, will not be extended. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire at Israel Continues - Ilana Curiel
    Palestinians in Gaza fired four Kassam rockets at Israel Tuesday morning. (Ynet News)
        See also Steep Increase in Palestinian Rocket Fire Despite "Truce" - Hanan Greenberg
    In 2007, Palestinians fired over 1,200 rockets and 600 mortar shells at Israel. As 2008 comes to a close, 2,900 rockets have so far been fired at Israel. In November alone, 148 rockets and 85 mortar shells were fired. A senior military official said, "The data from November proves that there is no lull....We cannot accept the terror organizations firing without end whenever they want to." (Ynet News)
        See also Gaza Lull Is Dying - Alex Fishman
    The Gaza lull is breathing its last breaths. The two sides are approaching a large-scale armed confrontation, according Israel's defense establishment. Gaza is armed to the teeth and has dug a network of underground tunnels extending across dozens of kilometers. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Releases 227 Palestinian Prisoners in Gesture to Abbas - Tomer Zarchin
    Israel on Monday released 227 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. In Ramallah, Abbas greeted each of the prisoners individually with kisses on the cheeks. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Olmert, said: "We hope these releases will be seen as an important confidence-building measure designed to strengthen the trust and the confidence in the negotiations."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Prisoner Release a Confidence-Building Measure
    Through this latest confidence-building measure, Israel seeks to intensify its continued dialogue with partners who are both committed to negotiations and diplomacy and opposed to terrorism. None of the prisoners have blood on their hands, and all belong to factions that support the PA and its leadership. Israel is sending a message that political achievements can be attained only through negotiations, and that the pursuit of terrorism will achieve nothing. To date, approximately 1,000 prisoners who support the PA and its leadership have been released.
        It should not be forgotten that these prisoners have been convicted of participation in terror attacks against Israeli citizens. This policy reflects the priority given by the Israel government to making peace with pragmatic Palestinians. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama and the Middle East - Fouad Ajami
    President-elect Obama has signaled that the foreign world will not be his primary concern, that the repair of the American economy will trump all other pursuits and temptations. There is a detached tone to Obama's utterances on the Islamic world. If Bush believed he could remake that old and broken and wily region, Obama signals a fatigue with it, an acceptance of its order of power. If Bush believed that he could insert himself into the internal affairs of distant Islamic lands, Obama and his foreign-policy advisers portend a return to realpolitik and to a resigned acceptance of the ways of foreign autocracies.
        One thing is sure to go with Bush when he departs: his "diplomacy of freedom." That diplomacy - which propelled the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which drove the Syrians out of Lebanon after they had all but destroyed the sovereignty of that country, and had challenged pro-American allies in Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula - is gone for good. The writer is professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Saudi Columnist: We Need to Get Over Our Obsession with Israel
    Saudi columnist Turki Al-Hamad wrote in Asharq Alawsat on Nov. 16: "Israel and Zionism have always been the axis around which the other components of modern Arab political culture revolved, and the measure against which the compass of Arab politics was largely set. This is in addition to the fact that [this axis] has been the primary 'justification' for every failure and disaster in modern Arab life: from the failure of the project of the great Arab renaissance and of the great Arab unity, to a child's death by starvation in Basra [Iraq]."
        "Israel should not be our greatest concern, nor should Palestine be our be-all and end-all. For even if Israel disappeared entirely, and we had a new Palestinian state from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea to add to the list of Arab states, the situation would still remain the same....Israel, and behind it the West and America, has not prevented us, and cannot prevent us, from building good schools if we want to, and putting in place forward-looking curricula. Israel will not prevent us, and cannot prevent us, from respecting humans and human rights in our countries, if we really wanted that. Israel will not prevent us, and cannot prevent us, from eradicating illiteracy in our countries or rooting out corruption." (MEMRI)
  • Observations:

    9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Should Leave UN Job - Joel Brinkley (San Francisco Chronicle)

    • Last month Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council special rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, published an article in a Scottish newspaper entitled, "9/11, More Than Meets the Eye," in which he writes that theories that the Sept. 11 attacks were a conspiracy planned and executed by the Bush administration warrant further investigation.
    • Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch, notes that "People who question whether 9/11 happened are not serious people. No one in the United States or the West could be in positions of authority if they engaged in 9/11 conspiracy talk."
    • It's a free country; you're entitled to think whatever you like. But this is fringe stuff. The Human Rights Council is already an embarrassment to the UN. Certainly reasonable people can criticize Israel, just as they can find fault with the Palestinians. But the council's pathological obsession with Israel is its defining characteristic, and Falk is its embodiment.
    • The man whose job now is to help the Islamic states pursue their vendetta against Israel also believes that the U.S. government is capable of unspeakable evil.

      The writer is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times.

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