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March 19, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Minister: "Two-Thirds of Freed Hamas Prisoners Returned to Terror and Murdered Israelis" (Voice of Israel Radio-Hebrew)
    Israeli Minister Haim Ramon, a member of the Ministerial Committee on Security Prisoners, told Israel Radio Thursday that Hamas did not negotiate over the release of prisoners but rather presented an ultimatum for Israeli capitulation.
    Ramon emphasized that two-thirds of Hamas prisoners released in the past had returned to terror and murdered many Israelis.

110 Yemenite Jews to Be Brought to U.S. - Haviv Rettig Gur (Jerusalem Post)
    Fearing a spate of killings following threats to the Yemenite Jewish community, United Jewish Communities, the umbrella body of North American Jewish federations, will evacuate 110 of the remaining 280 Yemenite Jews to the U.S. over the next two weeks.
    Yemen has refused to approve passports for Jews wishing to leave for Israel. The UJC will help those who wish to go to Israel from the U.S. to do so.

Israeli Drones Said Operating over Iraq and Afghanistan - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles have been operating in Iraq and Afghanistan in the service of the U.S.-led coalition for the last three years.
    In Iraq, the U.S. Army has been operating Hunter model UAVs manufactured by Stark Aerospace, an Israel Aerospace Industries' subsidiary in Mississippi.
    The Canadian air force has also operated Israeli-made Heron UAVs over Afghanistan.

UN Official Attacks Western Policies on Iran and Sudan - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, president of the UN General Assembly, lashed out at the West in general and the U.S. in particular on Tuesday, saying that Iran's president had been unfairly "demonized" and that the indictment of Sudan's president was racist.
    D'Escoto denied ever having heard that Ahmadinejad had called for Israel to be erased.

Al-Qaeda's Terrorist Web in Africa - Anna Mulrine (U.S. News)
    Al-Qaeda has increased its influence dramatically across northern and eastern Africa over the past three years, Gen. William Ward, the head of U.S. Africa Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
    Ward cited extremist groups on the rise, including East Africa Al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
    He said that Somalia and Sudan, in particular, provide sanctuary for violent insurgents.

Businessman Convicted in Arms Plot - Benjamin Weiser (New York Times)
    Palestinian-born businessman Tareq Mousa al-Ghazi, 62, was convicted in New York Tuesday on charges that he conspired with Syrian arms dealer Monzer al-Kassar to sell weapons, including 15 surface-to-air missiles, to Colombian FARC terrorists in order to kill American military officers.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Rejects Revised Durban II Statement
    Israel rejected a revised draft of the closing statement for the Durban II anti-racism conference. (JTA)
        See also New Durban II Statement Still Singles Out Israel - Barak Ravid
    While direct references to Israel have been removed - in an attempt to keep the EU from boycotting - the revised draft still implicitly singles out Israel. "The first clause in the new document reaffirms the declaration of 'Durban I,' which calls Israel a racist state, and the change is cosmetic only," a senior Israel Foreign Ministry source said. "This is a diplomatic ruse intended to blur matters and introduce criticism of Israel by the back door." The Foreign Ministry instructed its envoys to continue asking their host countries to boycott the conference. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Warns of Iran-Hizbullah Influence in Latin America - Al Pessin
    The commander of U.S. forces in Latin America, Admiral James Stavridis, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that Hizbullah is involved in drug trafficking in Colombia, and that he is worried about increased Iranian and Hizbullah activities throughout the region. In January, Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Iran of engaging in "subversive" activity in several places in Latin America.
        Stavridis noted "an increase in a wide level of activity by the Iranian government," including the opening of six new embassies in Latin America during the last five years, and "proselytizing and working with Islamic activities throughout the region." "That is of concern principally because of the connections between the government of Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, and Hizbullah," he said. "We see a great deal of Hizbullah activity throughout South America, in particular. [The] tri-border of Brazil is a particular concern, as in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, as well as [other] parts of Brazil and in the Caribbean Basin."  (VOA News)
  • Netanyahu Aide Says U.S. Mistakenly Bars Him - Aron Heller
    Uzi Arad, prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's choice for national security adviser, said Wednesday that he has been denied an entry visa to the U.S. for the past two years because U.S. authorities erroneously tied him to Lawrence A. Franklin, a former Defense Department official who pleaded guilty to providing classified defense information to two pro-Israel lobbyists. Arad confirmed that he had discussed Iran with Franklin in 2004, but insisted the meeting was "superficial" and had nothing to do with the charges against Franklin. "We had coffee and we talked about the agenda of the day - nothing classified, nothing secret, nothing related to espionage," Arad said Wednesday. "If I was not a Mossad employee in the past, they would not have noticed me."
        Arad served in the Mossad for 25 years, becoming Director of Intelligence. He then became the founding head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, where he established the annual Herzliya Conference on Israeli national security. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Arrests Hamas Leaders in West Bank
    IDF troops arrested 10 Hamas officials in the West Bank overnight Wednesday including four members of the Legislative Council. "These men have been the leaders of the ongoing effort to restore the administrative branch of the Hamas terror organization in the region, while attempting to strengthen the power and influence of Hamas," the army said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Officials Welcome Failure of Hamas-Israel Prisoner Exchange Talks - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Some Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah have welcomed the failure of the prisoner exchange negotiations between Israel and Hamas as good news. The release of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners would have been seen as a major victory for Hamas. Over the past two years, the PA has worked hard to isolate Hamas both in the local and international arenas.
        The PA was also worried the release of hundreds of Hamas operatives to the West Bank would have created a big headache for its security forces. Abbas' aides were concerned about the high probability the released men would rebuild their movement's military infrastructure in the West Bank and resume terror activities not only against Israel, but also against the PA. In the past year, the PA security forces, with the help of Israel and the U.S., have waged a massive campaign aimed at eliminating Hamas' political and military presence in the West Bank. The return of senior Hamas activists would certainly increase the chances of a coup against the PA in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What Israel Means When It Talks about Iran Nukes - Yossi Melman
    The head of IDF Military Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, told a cabinet meeting two weeks ago that Iran "has crossed the technological threshold." The term "technological threshold" means that Iran already has the knowledge, the technology, the equipment and the materials with which to produce its first nuclear bomb, if it so desires. Israel believes Iran is no more than a few months, perhaps a little over a year, away from putting together its first nuclear device.
        According to U.S. estimates, on the other hand, even if Iran takes the political decision to manufacture a bomb it would not be ready until 2013 or perhaps even 2015. In any case, the differences between the Israeli and the U.S. assessments are smaller than one might think and are based largely on geographical proximity. Israel, which feels itself threatened by Iran, has more reasons for concern than the U.S. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S.-Syria Relations Mired in Mistrust - Natalia Antelava
    In his Beirut office, pro-Syrian Lebanese politician Weam Wahab explained why it would be hard for the U.S. and Syria to find a common language. The main problem, he said, is that Damascus is never in a hurry, while Washington always is. This fundamental difference in approach is the reason why Wahab is skeptical about President Obama's new attempt to engage with the Middle East. The U.S. wants Damascus to stop its support for the two anti-Israeli militant groups - Hamas and Hizbullah, play a more constructive role in Lebanon, and distance itself from Iran. Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel, believes that the plan is realistic. But Wahab laughs at this assumption. "Iran is the only country that stood with Syria through the hard times. It's an illusion to think that you can distance Syria from Iran," he says.
        Some say the U.S. could win over Syria with the prospect of Israel returning the Golan Heights. However, Karim Makdisi, professor of international relations at the American University of Beirut, says it is not in Syria's interest to give up Hizbullah or Iran for the sake of the Golan Heights. (BBC News)
  • Palestinian Decision to Cut Treatment in Israeli Hospitals Endangers Patients - Aron Heller and Dalia Nammari
    The Palestinian government, angered by Israel's offensive against Gaza militants, decided in January to stop paying Israeli hospitals to treat Palestinian patients, a decision that has cut hundreds of people off from proper medical care. For years, Palestinians and patients from the wider Arab world have regularly been referred to hospitals in Israel for diseases their own hospitals could not treat. Israel promotes its treatment of Palestinians and employment of Arab doctors as a small beacon of coexistence.
        Fathi Abu Moughli, the Palestinian minister of health, acknowledged that the edict aimed to deny Israel a "propaganda" campaign that improves its world image. But Palestinian patients and their Israeli doctors say the measure puts hundreds at risk. "There are kids who simply disappeared in the middle of chemotherapy," said Dr. Amos Toren, head of Sheba Medical Center's Pediatric Hemato-Oncology Department. "As far as they are concerned, it's a death sentence." (AP)
  • Observations:

    An Arab-Made Misery - Nonie Darwish (Wall Street Journal Europe)

    • The media tend to attribute Gaza's decline solely to Israeli military and economic actions against Hamas. But such a myopic analysis ignores the problem's root cause: 60 years of Arab policy aimed at cementing the Palestinian people's status as stateless refugees in order to use their suffering as a weapon against Israel.
    • I lived in Gaza as a child in the 1950s when Egypt, which then controlled the territory, conducted guerrilla-style operations against Israel from Gaza. My father commanded these operations.
    • In those years the Arab League started its Palestinian refugee policy. Arab countries implemented special laws designed to make it impossible to integrate the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab war against Israel, forcing a Palestinian identity on these people for eternity and condemning them to a miserable life in a refugee camp.
    • The Palestinians continue to endure hardships because Gaza continues to serve as the launching pad for terror attacks against Israeli citizens. Hamas missiles indiscriminately target Israeli kindergartens, homes and businesses. Hamas, an Iran proxy, has become a danger not only to Israel, but also to Palestinians as well.
    • If the Arabs really loved their Palestinian brethren, they'd pressure Hamas to stop firing missiles at Israel. In the longer term, it's time for the 22 Arab countries to open their borders and absorb the Palestinians of Gaza who wish to start a new life.

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