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December 25, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Rocket Fire from Gaza: It Cannot Go on Like This - Editorial (Ha'aretz)
    Twenty meters is all that separated the landing site of a Kassam rocket and a child day-care center.
    Another rocket hit a house in the Western Negev Regional Council's jurisdiction and the Home Front command ordered people to keep children inside protected areas at all times.
    In Sderot, a Kassam struck a public building and in Ashkelon a Grad missile landed in a residential neighborhood.
    No government can put up with such a situation for long.

Christians Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem - Dalia Nammari (AP)
    Christians celebrated Bethlehem's merriest Christmas in eight years Wednesday, with hotels booked solid, Manger Square bustling with families and Israeli and Palestinian forces cooperating to make things run smoothly.
    The festivities contrasted sharply with Hamas-run Gaza.
    See also Gazan Christians Come under Palestinian Mortar Attack (DPA)
    On Thursday morning, Palestinian militants fired four mortars at southern Israel. One shell hit a terminal at the Erez crossing just as a group of Palestinian Christians were passing through on their way to join in Christmas festivities in Bethlehem.

UK NGOs Use Christmas to Attack Israel - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    In time for Christmas, several British NGOs have returned to past theological offensives against Israel by combining stories of Palestinian suffering and false allegations of Israeli cruelty, NGO Monitor reported Tuesday.
    See also "Hijacked by Hatred": British NGOs Use Christmas for Anti-Israel Attacks (NGO Monitor)

Germany to Supply Tanks to Lebanon (Turkish Press)
    Germany is to supply Lebanon with 50 Leopard tanks and military equipment as part of an assistance agreement, which would irk Israel.
    Last week, Russia announced that it would supply Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets.

"VIP Tunnel" Smuggling Wealthy Gazans into Egypt - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    A special "VIP tunnel" was recently dug to smuggle wealthy or important people under the border between Egypt and Gaza, Palestinian sources report.
    The tunnel has electricity and telephone service, and is high enough that people can walk upright.
    The tunnel is also unusually wide, enabling cattle or large electrical appliances, such as refrigerators, to be brought through it. However, passage is more expensive than in other tunnels.
    Hamas collects taxes on all the tunnels in Gaza.

Israel Blacklists 35 Global Terrorist Groups Linked to Al-Qaeda - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday blacklisted 35 terrorist organizations with links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, operating mainly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and African states, that have acted against Western interests.
    Israeli banks and financial institutions will be required to monitor their financial transactions and report any suspicious activity connected to the proscribed groups.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gaza Rocket Fire on Israel Intensifies - Isabel Kershner
    Palestinian militants from Gaza increased the range and intensity of their rocket fire against Israel on Wednesday. The strikes caused extensive damage and widespread panic among local residents. The Israeli security cabinet met to consider options for a response, while Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev suggested that Israel's patience was running out. Regev said the sole responsibility for the deterioration lay with Hamas. (New York Times)
        See also Dozens of Palestinian Rockets, Mortars Barrage Israel - Amy Teibel
    A rocket slammed directly into a house in the small community of Tkuma seconds after a father rushed his children from the living room into a bomb shelter. The living room wall had a gaping hole and was sprayed with shrapnel. Toys lay covered in rubble and dust. A crib was pocked by shrapnel and filled with pieces of concrete. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also UN Chief Calls on Hamas to Immediately End Rocket Attacks on Israel (Xinhua-China)
  • Iran Leader's Christmas Broadcast to UK Denounced
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad is offering season's greetings to Christians in a British TV address and suggesting that if Jesus were alive he would oppose "bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers" - an apparent reference to the United States and its allies. Ahmadinejad's Christmas Day broadcast will be delivered on Britain's Channel 4 television, occupying a slot that provides a counterpoint to Queen Elizabeth II's traditional annual message, the station said Wednesday.
        Israeli Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor said: "That [Channel 4] should give an unchallenged platform to the president of a regime which denies the Holocaust, advocates the destruction of the sovereign state of Israel, funds and encourages terrorism, executes children, and hangs gay people is a disgrace." (AP/Washington Post)
  • EU Parliament Head: Allow Christian Churches to Be Built in Arab Countries Like Mosques Are Built in Europe
    EU Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering called on Arab governments on Tuesday to allow Christian churches to be built in their countries in the same way that mosques can be built in Europe. In Saudi Arabia, at the end of a tour of Gulf countries, Poettering said Arab governments need to be more tolerant of other religions. "It is vital that we get a better understanding of the Islamic culture," he said. "But it's a two-way road. We ask for tolerance for the Arab world. It's mutual."
        Poettering noted that Saudi Arabia is host to millions of foreign workers, including more than one million Filipinos, most of whom are Christian. "There are hundreds of thousands of Catholics here. We have Christmas tomorrow and they cannot assemble in a church."  (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Mocks Israel over Non-Response; Egypt: Time to Teach Hamas a Lesson - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas on Wednesday mocked what it described as the "state of confusion" in Israel over how to react to the latest spree of rocket and mortar attacks. The armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam, issued a leaflet boasting that it had fired dozens of rockets and mortars at Israeli towns in the past few days, pointing out that Israel was "hopeless and desperate" because it doesn't know what to do to stop the attacks.
        Meanwhile, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper quoted Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman as saying that Egypt was not opposed to a limited Israeli operation in Gaza. According to the report, Suleiman said, "The Hamas leaders have become very arrogant....It's time to teach these leaders a lesson so that they would wake up from their dreams." (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas Goes into Hiding in Gaza - Ali Waked
    Most Hamas gunmen in Gaza went into hiding on Wednesday for fear of a harsh Israeli response to their heavy rocket and mortar barrages of Israel. All exposed Hamas structures, including police stations and government buildings, have been abandoned. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Expands Gaza Rocket Alert System - Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    All Israeli towns within a 30-km radius of Gaza were hooked up on Wednesday to an early warning system designed to deliver rocket launch alerts. Among the newly-connected towns are Ofakim and Netivot. Ashdod, just outside the 30-km mark, is expected to be connected to the system this week. Some towns are already connected to the "Color Red" system, which alerts residents living within a 7-km radius of Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Is Hamas Fighting? - Noah Pollak
    The paradoxical bottom line for Hamas is that crisis, both humanitarian and military, is necessary for legitimacy and survival. Should an Israeli invasion or major air campaign seem likely, Hamas will probably accede to another ceasefire. Israel should not take the bait. Instead, a campaign of targeted killings of Hamas leaders and the destruction of Hamas assets, such as smuggling tunnels, should be instituted.
        The national elections in Israel (among other reasons) make this a bad time to commence a ground campaign. If the IDF can make Hamas fear for its ability to maintain institutional cohesion and governing power while limiting civilian casualties - dead Gazans are a major international lifeline for Hamas - Israel could push Hamas into a position in which it would either have to resume the ceasefire on unfavorable, even humiliating, terms, or go down in a blaze of martyrdom. This is a dilemma Hamas hopes it won't have to face. (Commentary)
  • How to Win Islam Over - Olivier Roy and Justin Vaisse
    Aides to Barack Obama have said he may give a speech from a Muslim capital in his first 100 days to "make clear that we are not at war with Islam." This idea of trying to reconcile Islam and the West is well-intentioned, but the premise is wrong. Such an initiative would reinforce the all-too-accepted but false notion that "Islam" and "the West" are distinct entities with utterly different values. Those who want to promote dialogue and peace between "civilizations" or "cultures" concede at least one crucial point to those who, like bin Laden, promote a clash of civilizations: that separate civilizations do exist.
        The page Obama should try to turn is not that of a supposed war between America and Islam, but the misconception of a monolithic Islam being the source of the main problems on the planet. People routinely - but wrongly - single out Islam as the explanation for a host of conflicts, rather than nationalism or separatism, political ambitions or social ills. In addition, there exist as many varieties of Muslims as there are adherents of other religions. Olivier Roy is a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Justin Vaisse is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. (International Herald Tribune)
  • To Track Terrorists, Follow the Money - Matthew Levitt and Michael Jacobson
    The Obama administration would be wise to retain targeting of terrorists' financing as a key part the U.S. government's counter-terrorism tool kit. Although mounting a terrorist attack is relatively inexpensive, the cost of maintaining a terrorist infrastructure is high. Terrorist networks need cash to train, equip and pay operatives and their families and to promote their causes. Recruiting, training, traveling, bribing corrupt officials and other such activities also cost money. Limiting their ability to raise funds therefore limits their ability to function.
        Efforts to disrupt terrorist groups' finances can have a real effect. In 2005, Bin Ladin's deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, wrote to Abu Musab Zarqawi, asking the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq if he could spare "approximately one hundred thousand" because "many of the lines have been cut off." Matthew Levitt is the director of the Stein Program on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Michael Jacobson is a senior fellow in the Stein Program. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also How We're Tying Up Terrorists' Cash - Undersecretary of the Treasury Stuart Levey (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations:

    A Syrian Lesson - Giora Eiland (Ynet News)

    • In the wake of the Hariri assassination, the U.S., France, the UN, and Saudi Arabia joined forces and took a determined decision to remove Syria from Lebanon. Israel joined this initiative with great enthusiasm. Yet it should have been clear to Israel that the removal of Syrian forces from Lebanon would prompt two developments:
      1. Iran would enter the vacuum created. Indeed, Hizbullah's political and military power increased dramatically upon the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon.
      2. Once they lose Lebanon, Syria's focal point of interest would shift to the Golan Heights. As long as the Syrians had to struggle to maintain their hold on Lebanon (which is much more important to them than the Golan Heights), there was no pressure exerted on the Golan front.
    • The question of whether to sign a peace treaty with Syria and return the Golan Heights is a legitimate one. However, it is clear that it would be preferable for such negotiations to be held while the Syrians are still in control of Lebanon. Had they stayed in Lebanon, the Syrians would have to be committed to comprehensive peace that includes Lebanon as well, including the dismantlement of Hizbullah (they were forced to agree to it in 1999). Today, Syria is not responsible for what goes on in Lebanon. We may be able to make peace with Syria, but the Hizbullah problem will not be resolved.
    • In respect to both Lebanon and Gaza, the proper policy requires Israel to properly assess the overall interests involved, rather than automatically backing our allies and automatically objecting to our enemies' demands.

      Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland chaired Israel's National Security Council from 2004 to 2006.

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