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January 26, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

How Iranian Frogmen Bring Weapons to Hamas - Nadav Zeevi and Amir Buhbut (Maariv-Hebrew, 23Jan09)
    According to an Israeli security source, the IDF has encountered Iranian-leased weapons ships anchored ten miles out to sea opposite Rafiah in Egyptian waters.
    The weapons are packed in waterproof containers which travel under the surface. During the night, Iranian frogmen transport the containers and tie them to Palestinian fishing vessels located closer to shore.
    The Palestinian vessels return to Gaza, towing the containers underwater to avoid detection.

U.S. Watching for Iranian Arms to Gaza (UPI)
    The U.S. Navy's Combined Task Force 151, which is patrolling against pirates off the coast of Somalia, has also been instructed to track Iranian arms shipments bound for the Red Sea and heading for Palestinian militants in Gaza, the Sunday Times of London reported.

Report: Hamas Foreign Minister Injured in Gaza Fighting (Jerusalem Post)
    Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar was injured during the final days of fighting in Gaza and was evacuated by ambulance to Egypt for medical treatment, a Kuwaiti daily reported Sunday.
    Zahar, a founding member of Hamas who is widely considered to have been the mastermind of its takeover in Gaza two years ago, had served as foreign minister.

Iran in Scramble for Fresh Uranium Supplies - Robin Pagnamenta, Michael Evans and Tony Halpin (Times-UK)
    Western powers believe that Iran is running short of yellow cake uranium, the raw material required to manufacture nuclear weapons.
    Britain, the U.S., France and Germany have started intensive diplomatic efforts to dissuade major uranium producers such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Brazil from selling to Iran.

Poll: Americans Sympathetic Toward Israel on Gaza - Viola Gienger (Bloomberg)
    60% of Americans sympathized with the Israelis compared with 17% who supported the Palestinians during the recent war in Gaza, according to a CNN opinion poll conducted Jan. 12-15.

Aerial Photographs Show Rocket-Launching Sites and Terrorist Bases in the Heart of Civilian Gaza Neighborhoods (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    Marked aerial photographs show how Hamas turned entire civilian neighborhoods, including houses, mosques, schools, hospitals and UN facilities, into quasi-military compounds from which it waged combat against the IDF.
    By doing so Hamas inevitably caused loss of life and property damage to innocent civilians.

Chavez Providing Aid to Hamas and Hizbullah - Shlomo Shamir (Ha'aretz)
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is providing Hizbullah with training for its fighters, according to The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America, by Douglas Schoen and Michael Rowan.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Says Abbas Must End Its Peace Talks with Israel
    The Palestinian Authority must end its peace talks and security coordination with Israel if it ever expects to reconcile with Hamas, Osama Hamdan, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, said Sunday. Hamdan also vowed that Hamas will continue to bring in arms to Gaza. To aid in reconstructing Gaza, Arab officials are looking to heal the rift between the Palestinians and bring them once more under a unity government. "It's time for us to talk about a reconciliation based on a resistance program to liberate the territory and regain rights," Hamdan said.
        On Friday, French President Sarkozy ordered a frigate deployed immediately to the waters off Gaza in an effort to fight arms smuggling. On Sunday, the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command warned that France's participation in a maritime blockade of Gaza's coast would "make it an enemy of our people...and make its interests, wherever they are, subject to direct targeting by our Muslim nation." (AP/Fox News)
        See also Egypt, Hamas Discuss "Lasting" Truce with Israel - Hala Boncompagni
    A Hamas team met Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Sunday in Cairo in a bid to clinch a lasting truce in Gaza, days after an Israeli negotiator held similar talks. Egypt's state MENA news agency said Suleiman and Hamas officials discussed "Egyptian efforts to consolidate the cease-fire, reach a (permanent) truce, reopen Gaza crossings, and resume the Palestinian national dialogue." The talks include members of Hamas' powerful Syria-based politburo and a delegation from Gaza. (AFP)
        See also Report: Israel Offers Open Crossings, 1,000 Prisoners for Captured IDF Soldier - Khaled Abu Toameh and Yaakov Katz
    Israel has offered to open the Gaza crossings and free 1,000 prisoners in exchange for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Ayman Taha, a member of the Hamas team currently holding talks in Cairo, was quoted as saying Monday. Taha spoke to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram after meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri said Hamas would not agree to a long-term or permanent truce and has proposed a one-year, temporary truce. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Obama Envoy Going to Middle East - Steve Weizman
    Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell will come to Israel Wednesday for talks on keeping alive a fragile Gaza cease-fire and reviving Mideast negotiations, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Saturday. (AP/Washington Post)
  • In Gaza, Cement Is Political - Sabrina Tavernise
    Aid agencies expect several hundred million dollars to be pledged for food, medicine and spare parts for electrical grids. But that does not touch the broader question of rebuilding, which will require large quantities of cement, metal and glass, all of which Gaza lacks. Israel said that letting such supplies in freely would be risky. Hamas militants built rockets from pipes imported for a sanitation plant. Peter Lerner, the spokesman for the Israel Defense Ministry's coordination office for Gaza, said that while Israel was facilitating all humanitarian work, including allowing in cable to fix the electrical grid, it would not consider reopening the border crossings fully for commercial use, and any reconstruction projects would need to be approved individually. "We are not interested in rebuilding Hamas at any stage," he said. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Gaza Operation Caused Huge Backlog in Egypt of Arms Meant for Hamas - Barak Ravid
    Israeli Defense Minister Barak on Sunday said a large quantity of arms had piled up in Egypt en route to Gaza as a result of Israel's recent offensive and that Israel had informed Egypt of the build-up. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Condemns Hamas' Moral Acrobatics
    Prime Minister Olmert told the Cabinet Sunday: "With the typical moral acrobatics," the terrorist organizations, led by Hamas, "and their supporters are trying to turn the attacker into the attacked and vice-versa. The undeniable truth is that for eight years, hundreds of thousands of residents of the State of Israel, who live in the south, were the unceasing targets of brutal, deliberate and planned rocket fire that was intentionally designed to hit civilians, including children and their parents."
        "Now, as a result of unavoidable self-defense actions during which - to our regret - civilians were also hit, they are trying to turn what happened on its face and stick IDF soldiers and commanders - and not those who initiated the terrorism and turned it into a way of life against the residents of the State of Israel for many years - with the responsibility for this. The State of Israel did everything in order to avoid hitting civilians. I do not know of any military that is more moral, fair and sensitive to civilians' lives than the IDF."
        In many instances "IDF soldiers and their commanders refrained from carrying out actions or diverted bombs lest innocents among the enemy be hit. This was also done when terrorists that threatened our soldiers were intentionally shooting at them from among civilian population concentrations and were using them as human shields against an Israeli response. This has been the policy of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations over the years - to fight to the last drop of Gaza civilians' blood." (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • PA Giving Shelter to Islamic Jihad Terrorists in West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Col. Radi Assidah, the PA security commander in the Jenin area, said over the weekend that his force is protecting and providing shelter to Islamic Jihad fugitives. A number of Islamic Jihad terrorists wanted by Israel handed themselves over to PA security forces five months ago out of fear of arrest by Israel, Assidah said. "They sought refuge with us," he said. "Since then we have been hosting them in our headquarters. They are not prisoners and they are entitled to leave whenever they want." Assidah also revealed that the PA government of Salam Fayyad was paying the wanted Islamic Jihad men monthly salaries. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel's Operation in Gaza - David Makovsky
    Israel made several tangible gains during the Gaza campaign. Israel has sharply degraded Hamas' ability to fire rockets at Israeli cities. Israel sustained far fewer fatalities and injuries than it did in the 2006 war with Hizbullah. Much of this decrease in casualties resulted from Hamas' inability to offer serious opposition on the ground - a fact that will make it difficult for the organization to credibly claim that it defended Gaza, let alone scored a victory.
        Another Israeli achievement is a fresh international focus on the tunnel network between the Egyptian Sinai and Gaza. The issue of border security has become increasingly important for Israel since one million Israelis are now within rocket range of Gaza. The Obama administration must follow up, work with allies, and make sure that verbal commitments to stop arms smuggling are transformed into reality. Failure by Egypt to act could lead Israel to occupy the southern edge of Gaza, where the tunnels are located.
        The moment seems right to consider an added mission for the U.S.-led Multinational Forces Organization (MFO) in the Sinai, created after the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The MFO could be enlisted to halt weapons smuggling on the few roads traversing the Sinai. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The George Mitchell Appointment: The Tactics of "Symmetrical Negotiations" May Not Work in "Asymmetrical Conflicts" - Lenny Ben-David
    The Middle East that Senator George Mitchell will confront today is much changed from the one he wrestled with eight years ago as chairman of the committee to investigate the outbreak of the Second Intifada. The 2001 Mitchell Report was issued before the 9/11 al-Qaeda attack, prior to the capture of two weapons-laden ships bound for Gaza, and before Hamas' coup in Gaza. Hamas' alliance with Iran and its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood mark it as an enemy of moderate Arab regimes. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Anti-Israel vs. Anti-Semite - Tom Neumann
    I've seldom found someone who is anti-Israel but at the same time likes Jews. Anti-Israel attitudes do not fall into a pattern of normal political hostility of the type directed toward other countries. At their core, objections to Israel are not based on the country's policies but instead rest on Israel's very right to exist. Faced with terror attacks, there is no country in the world that would not have garnered sympathy except Israel. The exceedingly ugly character of the marches and rallies against Israel makes it clear that what we are witnessing is global anti-Semitism. There is precedent for the Hamas philosophy, the Nazis referred to it as seeking to make the world judenrein.
        That thugs beat a Jewish girl in Paris while telling her that it was revenge for Israeli attacks on Hamas goes well beyond the traditional bounds of protest. It was clear anti-Semitism reminiscent of similar events in European history. The lesson of the Holocaust is that Israel can and should expect neither fairness, honesty or justice from the world community. Israel can only depend on itself because anti-Semitism today remains not only tenacious, it is fashionable. The writer is executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Observations:

    Obama, West Can Help Gaza By Passing Up Hamas - Natan Sharansky (Bloomberg)

    • We can and should expect that the U.S., Europe, Israel and the Arab states will start pouring billions of dollars into construction, investment in business, education, energy and other projects in Gaza. Whoever is in charge of receiving and distributing these funds will hold the keys to power there for the foreseeable future. By giving Hamas the authority over reconstruction, we would be guaranteeing that the funds would go not to Palestinians' actual welfare, but to rebuilding Hamas' arsenal and reasserting its grip over Palestinian life, all with the stated aim of destroying Israel.
    • At this moment, we should do everything in our power to deepen Hamas' political isolation rather than relieve it. This means working with the PA to create a new political reality on the ground. But the PA can't be the answer, either. It is, simply, far too corrupt.
    • As a Minister of Industry and Trade in the Israeli government involved in numerous efforts to help promote the Palestinian economy, I saw this corruption first-hand: Public money was routinely funneled into private accounts; joint economic ventures were agreed to only on condition that they directly benefited the family businesses of PA leaders; and joint industrial zones had to be kept entirely under the control of the PA because, as it turned out, all Palestinian employees were being forced to give up a significant part of their salaries as kickbacks to bureaucrats. Hamas was elected, after all, because of popular backlash against the PA's corruption.
    • The answer is the creation of an international body that makes sure that every project contributes directly to Palestinian life, not politics. If the new Gaza regime isn't built on real standards of transparency and accountability, then all these billions will be an investment not in peace, but in perpetuating the misery of Palestinians - and in the inevitable next round of conflict.

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