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February 3, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Launches Satellite - Fredrik Dahl and Edmund Blair (Reuters)
    Iran launched its first home-made satellite into orbit on Tuesday, state television reported.
    The long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used for launching weapons.

Hamas Chief Urges Iran Students to Help Liberate Jerusalem (AFP)
    Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal urged students at the University of Tehran on Monday to join in helping to liberate Jerusalem.
    "We are fully preparing ourselves to liberate all of Palestine, retake Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and secure the return of all Palestinians," he said.

Venezuela's Main Synagogue Attacked (AFP)
    About fifteen people broke into Venezuela's main synagogue overnight Friday, tied and gagged the guards, destroyed scriptures and sprayed anti-Semitic graffiti.
    Elias Farache, president of Venezuela's Jewish Association, attributed rising tensions to recent diplomatic upsets between Venezuela and Israel.
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Sunday condemned the vandalism.

Terrorist in NYC Bombing Plot Due to Be Released - Adam Goldman and Randy Herschaft (AP)
    In 1973, Khalid Al-Jawary, a Black September terrorist, placed two car bombs along Fifth Avenue and one near Kennedy Airport, timed to coincide with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's arrival in the city.
    The bombs failed to detonate, Al-Jawary fled the country, and was arrested nearly 20 years later.
    He is scheduled to be released Feb. 19 after serving only about half his 30-year prison sentence.

Terror Suspect in Montreal Trial Connected to BBC Reporter's Kidnapping - Graeme Hamilton (National Post-Canada)
    Said Namouh, 36, a Moroccan man accused of spreading al-Qaeda propaganda and plotting a bomb attack overseas from his apartment in Trois-Rivieres, Que., also was tied to the 2007 kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza, a court heard in Montreal on Monday.
    Namouh had played a leading role in editing a video setting conditions for Johnston's release.

Israel Navy Eyes Purchasing Advanced U.S. Warship - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    In July, the IDF - seeking to upgrade its sea-based capabilities - received permission from the Pentagon to purchase a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), under development by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.
    Designed for speed, maneuverability and amphibious operations, the LCS was built to operate in shallow waters along coasts and in depths where there are combined threats from land and sea.
    However, since its price reportedly reaches $500 million, the navy is also considering purchasing more Sa'ar 5-class missile ships instead.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gaza Rocket Hits City of Ashkelon Despite Cease-Fire
    A long-range Grad rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed in the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday. (BBC News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Hits Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
    The rocket landed in a residential neighborhood as residents were making their way to school and to work. Three people suffered shock, several cars were damaged and windowpanes were shattered. Rafi Zvi, a bus driver, said, "The siren sounded as I left the station and began driving. I screamed to the passengers to get out immediately. There are sometimes those who are very confident and just stay there, but this time I had a bad feeling and I virtually pushed the passengers out....As we escaped we saw the missile above our heads and heard a loud explosion. The back part of the bus, where quite a few passengers had been sitting, was shattered. We were really lucky, it was simply a miracle."
        On Monday a Kassam rocket was fired at the Sderot area and several mortar shells were also fired from Gaza (Ynet News)
  • No Thaw with U.S. as Iran Marks Anniversary of 1979 Revolution - Ian Black
    Iran Sunday rejected the idea of improved relations with the U.S. unless there is a sharp change of policy from President Barack Obama, as the country began celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie denied a report that there had been secret contacts between Tehran and Washington about the contentious nuclear issue. (Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Legitimizing Hamas Will Harm Peace Talks - Haviv Rettig Gur
    If the international community engaged and legitimized Hamas, "this would ruin Israel's ability to conduct wide-ranging, comprehensive negotiations with the Palestinian Authority" and Mahmoud Abbas, Israel Foreign Ministry Dir.-Gen. Aharon Abramovich said Monday at the Herzliya Conference. "It is in Israel's interest to renew negotiations with the PA," and not with Hamas, he said.
        In recent years, the Quartet of the EU, UN, Russia and the U.S. have demanded as a precondition for speaking to Hamas that it forswear violence, accept previous agreements between Israel and the PA, and recognize Israel. According to Dr. Oded Eran, director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, "If the international community drops the Quartet preconditions so it can talk with Hamas, it will very quickly discover that it doesn't have a whole lot to talk about." "The Arab peace initiative itself doesn't meet the minimal demands of Hamas, so where can these talks possibly go?" (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah Lists 181 Palestinians Killed, Shot or Maimed by Hamas in Gaza
    Senior Fatah leader Ziyad Abu Ein on Monday published a list of names and neighborhoods of those in Gaza who were killed, maimed, beaten or tortured by Hamas during the Israeli operation in Gaza. He accused Hamas of "terrorism," and said it was preventing media outlets in Gaza from reporting on its crimes. (Maan News-PA)
  • Egypt Supreme Court Approves Supply of Natural Gas to Israel - Avi Bar-Eli
    Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court on Monday overturned a lower court ruling which would have suspended the supply of natural gas to Israel. Commercial supply of gas through the El Arish-Ashkelon pipeline began on May 1, 2008. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama's Outreach to Muslims - Jim Hoagland
    President Obama repeatedly extended his hand to the world's Muslims in his first ten days in power. His respectful tone and gestures toward Arab states in particular were as welcome as they were deft. But it would be a mistake to conclude that the gears of history have shifted and what Americans have come to call the "war on terror" is over. Americans did not initiate the conflict with al-Qaeda and other Muslim extremists, and Americans will not be the ones to declare an end to the struggle against violent extremism practiced in the name of jihad. (Washington Post)
  • What Mitchell Should Try: The Jordan-Egypt Option - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The new reality that has existed on the ground since 2007, where the Palestinians have two separate mini-states in the West Bank and Gaza, casts doubts as to the viability of the two-state solution. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Palestinians have systematically failed in laying the cornerstone for a Palestinian state that would exist alongside Israel. With the help of the U.S. and the Europeans, Yasser Arafat established a corrupt dictatorship called the Palestinian Authority, which did almost nothing to build proper institutions.
        After the Israeli pullout from Gaza, the PA had another chance to start building infrastructure for the long-awaited state. But instead of turning Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East, the Palestinians turned it into a base for radical Islamic organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Today, it seems almost certain that the Palestinians will have to live with these two separate and rival entities for quite some time. So the time has come to consider other options, such as involving the Jordanians and the Egyptians in running the affairs of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. President Mubarak and King Abdullah II do not like the idea, preferring that the Palestinians remain Israel's problem alone. But the Palestinians really need the help of these two countries. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • The Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah Axis - Y. Carmon, Y. Yehoshua, A. Savyon, and H. Migron
    As part of Iran's bid for regional hegemony, a political and military axis has formed, comprising not only Iran and Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, but also various Sunni forces that have an interest in opposing Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It was during the 2006 Lebanon war that a distinct Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hizbullah axis first emerged to oppose the Saudi-Egyptian camp. At a later stage, this axis expanded to include Hamas, which has in recent years received increasing support from Iran, as well as from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
        Qatar played a crucial role in exacerbating the rift in the Arab world by initiating the January 16, 2009 Doha summit, to the dismay of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Qatar's inviting of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to the summit against the will of several Arab countries (such as the UAE, which responded by canceling its participation) clearly identified the summit as a convention of the Iranian-Syrian axis. (MEMRI)
  • Can Hamas Be Trusted? - Nadim Koteich
    Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is a professional deceiver who masters sending mixed messages. Shortly after the guns fell silent in Gaza due to an internationally enforced cease-fire, he said the Gaza battle laid the ground for a serious "strategy of liberation" that would extend beyond Palestine. The strategy of engagement itself has hardened its positions.
        In February 2007 Saudi King Abdullah oversaw the formation of a Palestinian national unity government. The deal announced from Mecca put Mahmoud Abbas and Meshaal on the same level and $1 billion was promised in aid. Less than four months later Hamas militiamen were throwing Fatah supporters from high rise buildings in Gaza, dragging the bodies of "collaborators" through the streets and stretching the borders of Iran to meet those of Israel while consolidating its stranglehold on the Strip. (Middle East Times)
  • Observations:

    The Mother of All Quagmires - Michael J. Totten (Commentary)

    • There is no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict right now. Far too many Palestinians still won't recognize Israel's right to exist even in its 1948 borders. Hamas doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist inside any borders at all.
    • Hamas does not speak for all Palestinians, but let's not kid ourselves here. Hamas speaks for a genuinely enormous number of Palestinians, and peace is impossible as long as that's true.
    • The "occupation" in the Palestinian narrative doesn't refer to the West Bank and Gaza, and it never has. The "occupation" refers to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A kibbutz in the center of Israel is "occupied Palestine" according to most.
    • Fatah Party leader Mahmoud Abbas is clearly more moderate and reasonable than the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but even he can't compromise on the "right of return," the so-far non-negotiable demand that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants from the 1948 war be allowed to return to settle in Israel. Israel would become an Arab-majority country if that were to happen.

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