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April 13, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

PA PM Fayad Not Returning - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    At the request of the Egyptians, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas decided over the weekend not to ask outgoing Prime Minister Salaam Fayad to form a new government, to avoid closing the door to the establishment of a joint Hamas-Fatah coalition, a senior PA official in Ramallah said Saturday.
    Fayad, who submitted his resignation last month but has stayed in power, was expected to be entrusted by Abbas with forming a new government.
    Hamas has made it clear that it would not sit in any government headed by Fayad, whom it accuses of the continued massive security crackdown on its supporters in the West Bank.

U.S. Troops Take Part in Israel X-Band Radar Test - John Vandiver (Stars and Stripes)
    U.S. troops took part in a missile defense exercise in Israel last week that for the first time incorporated a U.S.-owned radar system deployed to the country in October.
    The Army/Navy Transportable Radar Surveillance system, which was made available at the request of Israel's government, is situated at Nevatim air base in the Negev desert.
    About 100 Europe-based troops continue to operate the X-Band radar, which is intended to give Israel early warning in the event of a missile launch from Iran.
    Last Monday, Israel conducted a test of its Arrow anti-missile system that involved shooting down a rocket that simulated Iran's Shihab missile - the first Israeli test to include the U.S. radar.
    The X-Band radar system, reportedly capable of tracking a baseball-size object from a distance of 2,900 miles, is expected to enable Israel to more rapidly activate its missile-defense system in the event of an attack.

Egypt Detains 15 Over Rockets Bound for Gaza (Reuters)
    Egyptian security forces detained 15 people on Friday accused of helping to make rockets destined to be smuggled into Hamas-run Gaza via border tunnels, security sources said.
    Authorities confiscated the outer shells of 60 rockets from a metal workshop in the Sinai town of Sheikh Zuwayed, near the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.
    See also Egypt Nabs Man Smuggling $2M to Gaza (Reuters)
    Egyptian police have detained a man they say was transporting $2 million to north Sinai to be smuggled into Gaza to Hamas, security sources said on Saturday.
    Hassan Mohamed Hassouna, detained in Cairo along with his driver a week ago, named three other men as accomplices during his interrogation.

Hamas Bomb Factory Found in West Bank Mosque (AFP)
    Palestinian security officials said on Sunday they found a Hamas bomb-making factory underneath a mosque in Kalkilya in the West Bank.
    "Many of the bombs were ready to use and many of them were of industrial grade," a PA interior ministry statement said.

Haifa Suicide Bombing Victim Dies Seven Years after Attack - Ahiya Raved (Ynet News)
    Shimon Shiran, 57, who was gravely wounded in a suicide bombing at a Haifa restaurant in 2002, has died.
    Shiran sustained head wounds and remained hospitalized in serious condition ever since the attack. His 17-year-old daughter, Adi, was killed in the bombing.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel's Netanyahu Vows to Talk Peace with Abbas
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday to hold talks with the Palestinians. In a phone call with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu "spoke of the cooperation and the discussions that they have had in the past and added that he intends to do so again in the future in order to advance peace between us and the Palestinians," a statement from his office said. Abbas had called Netanyahu for the Jewish holiday of Passover and the two had a "friendly and warm" conversation. (AFP)
        See also No Confrontation Expected with Visiting U.S. Envoy - Herb Keinon
    Jerusalem does not expect any confrontation with the U.S. when Middle East envoy George Mitchell arrives Thursday for his first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Because the U.S. envoy is expected to come so often, there is no sense in Jerusalem that every visit will be full of high drama. The prevailing sense in Jerusalem is that the Obama polices do not differ too greatly from those of the former Bush administration when it comes to the Middle East. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel: Differences with U.S. on Mideast "Semantic"
    Differences between Israel and the U.S. over the Middle East conflict are fundamentally semantic and will be harmonized within a few weeks. "They point more to wording and semantics than to reality," Transport Minister Israel Katz told Israel Radio on Saturday. (AFP)
  • Iran Says It Controls Entire Nuclear Fuel Cycle - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iran now controls the entire cycle for producing nuclear fuel, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Saturday, highlighting his country's growing capabilities at a time when the U.S. wants to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad has announced several times in the past that Iran has the knowledge necessary to produce its own fuel, but with the opening of a new facility near Isfahan to produce uranium oxide fuel pellets for a planned heavy-water reactor, the Islamic republic says it now has the capability on a large scale. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Senators Target Firms Doing Business with Iran - Sean Lengell
    Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Sunday called for increased sanctions against foreign companies that trade with Iran, saying such action is crucial to stunt the Middle Eastern country's push for nuclear weapons. The U.S. government must "really crack down on companies doing business with Iran, to increase the cost of that business, to drive up the price of violating these sanctions on the part of the Iranians," Bayh told "Fox News Sunday." Coburn agreed, saying, "Talk isn't going to do it - there has to be consequences, and there are ways to make it very painful for Iran. They produce only about 30% of their consumable gasoline, and yet some of our allies continue to supply them with refined distillates."  (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Gaza Fishing Boat Explodes near Israel Navy Vessel, No Casualties - Amos Harel
    An unmanned Palestinian fishing boat laden with explosives blew up on Monday off the coast of Gaza near the Israeli border after Israel Navy soldiers opened fire on the boat. No one was wounded in the blast. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Leaning Toward Participation in Durban 2 - Shlomo Shamir and Natasha Mozgovaya
    Senior U.S. officials in Washington and New York are leaning in favor of participating in the "Durban 2" UN-sponsored anti-racism conference scheduled to take place on April 20 in Geneva, diplomatic sources said on Sunday. Diplomats informed leading Jewish officials in New York that Washington has increasingly become convinced of the need to dispatch representatives to the conference. Israel plans on boycotting the conference because it expects to be singled out for criticism at the forum. Dozens of human rights groups in the U.S. have petitioned President Obama to rethink his decision to boycott the conference. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hizbullah Accused of Planning Terrorist Attacks in Egypt - Zvi Bar'el
    An unusual statement released in Cairo last week discusses Hizbullah's activities in Egypt, with plans by its operatives to attack tourist sites there and possibly shipping through the Suez Canal. On the basis of the details released in Egypt, this is one of Hizbullah's largest undercover terrorist operations outside Lebanon. "Exposing the ring perhaps reflects the willingness of those who run it to assist Hamas, but mostly to harm Egypt," an Egyptian political source told Ha'aretz. "Whoever thinks Egypt will set aside its national interests and allow terrorist groups run by foreigners to operate from inside its territory is making a bitter mistake." Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is held directly responsible for funding and organizing the terrorist ring inside Egypt.
        Iran is depicted in the Egyptian press as the supreme enemy of Egypt and the Arabs in general. The revelations about the ring confirm Egyptian suspicions and justify Cairo's diplomatic efforts against Iran. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Egypt State-Controlled Paper Denounces Nasrallah and Hizbullah
    The state-owned Egyptian newspaper al-Gomhouria newspaper said Sunday: "We do not allow you, monkey sheikh [Hassan Nasrallah], to mock our judiciary, for you are a bandit and veteran criminal who killed your countrymen, but we will not allow you to threaten the security and safety of Egypt...and if you threaten its sovereignty, you will burn!" The editorial, by editor Mohamed Ali Ibrahim, covered the front page and carried the headline "A criminal who knows no repentance" over a picture of Nasrallah. "I say to you what every Egyptian knows, that you are an Iranian party," Ibrahim wrote. "Are there instructions from Iran to drag Egypt into a conflict?" Egypt and Iran have not had full diplomatic relations since shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. (Reuters)
        See also Egypt: Nasrallah Wants to Turn Us into Lebanon - Ali Waked
    Egyptian officials responded angrily to Hassan Nasrallah's speech Friday, in which the Hizbullah secretary-general admitted that his organization has been smuggling weapons into Gaza. "Nasrallah wants to turn Egypt into a playground like Lebanon," one of the officials told the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper on Saturday. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Diplomacy Without Sincerity - Michael Rubin
    On Apr. 9, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, announced that the Islamic Republic had installed 7,000 centrifuges in its Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The announcement came one day after the U.S. State Department announced it would engage Iran directly in multilateral nuclear talks.
        On June 14, 2008, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami's spokesman, debated advisers to current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the University of Gila in northern Iran. Ramezanzadeh criticized Ahmadinejad for his defiant rhetoric, and counseled him to accept the Khatami approach: "We should prove to the entire world that we want power plants for electricity. Afterwards, we can proceed with other activities." The purpose of dialogue, he argued, was not to compromise, but to build confidence and avoid sanctions.
        "We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the activities," he said. The strategy was successful. While today U.S. and European officials laud Khatami as a peacemaker, it was on his watch that Iran built and operated covertly its Natanz nuclear enrichment plant and, at least until 2003, a nuclear weapons program as well. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hizbullah Shows Its True Colors to the Arab World - Zvi Mazel
    Many Egyptians can't bring themselves to believe that Hizbullah was running agents and planning terror attacks in their country. But last week's news should not have surprised them. Iran never made a secret of its plans to export its brand of Islamic revolution to the whole of the Middle East, bringing about the destruction of Israel in the process. Hamas and Hizbullah are the Tehran regime's tools in working toward this goal. We are not talking this time of a few Bedouin being bribed to launch terror attacks against Israeli tourists: the target was Egypt itself. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Goldstone Mission Another Unfair UN Fact-Finding Farce - Alan Baker (Jerusalem Post)

    • Accusations of war crimes and human rights violations by Israel during the recent hostilities in Gaza seem to be developing into a fixation among those who await the opportunity to bash Israel. The fact that there exists a clear double standard, and that Israel is singled out for special treatment, is regrettably a given factor in the international reality in which we live.
    • Faced with the UN Human Rights Council's appointment of South African Prof. Richard Goldstone to head an international fact-finding mission, the question once again arises whether Israel should agree to cooperate with Goldstone and his mission.
    • However, the impartiality of the mission and its independence, as well as the motivations behind it, are far from genuine. The mandate emanates from a UN Human Rights Council resolution dated January 12 on the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, adopted by 33 votes in favor, one (Canada) against and 13 abstentions (European countries).
    • Israel formally rejected this resolution as one-sided, adopted by a body dominated by a majority of Muslim and non-aligned countries and without the support of the Western and democratic states, and ignoring the terrorism against Israel and the daily rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and other terrorist organizations from Gaza.
    • Clearly, the UN or any other body presuming to investigate Israel's actions must come with clean hands. It cannot base itself on a questionable mandate, generated for hostile political purposes that dictate in advance the conclusion of the mission.

      The writer is former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and ambassador to Canada.

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