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September 3, 2009

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Report: Russia Hijacked Its Own Arms Ship - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    The hijacking of the Russian vessel "Arctic Sea," said to have been carrying arms to the Middle East and possibly to Iran, was ordered by the Russian government, a Ynet investigation revealed Wednesday.
    Admiral Tarmo Kouts, the EU rapporteur on piracy, had told Time Magazine he believed the Arctic Sea was intercepted by Israel as it carried a secret cargo of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles and X-500 anti-ship missiles to the Middle East.
    The Kremlin arrested the alleged hijackers on August 18.
    Sources claim businessmen from the Russian weapons industry were implicated in the deal and that the Kremlin was uninvolved.

Report: Hizbullah Arms Cache that Exploded Contained Chemical Weapons (Jerusalem Post)
    The hidden Hizbullah arms cache in southern Lebanon that exploded in July contained chemical weapons, and three Hizbullah terrorists died as a result of the toxins, in addition to eight other terrorists killed by the blast, the Kuwaiti newspaper Alseyassah Kuwait said on Thursday.
    The paper reported that Iran recently sent Hizbullah new types of chemical weapons and protective equipment, as well as thousands of gas masks, via Syrian airports.

U.S. to Use New Israeli Mortar Shell in Afghanistan (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israel Military Industries has developed a new, very accurate, GPS-directed mortar shell that will be used by the U.S. in military operations in Afghanistan.
    "This is the only mortar shell worldwide that reaches such high accuracy," said Bill Peterson of the Raytheon Company, which successfully tested the shell.
    "The mortar shell has the ability to cope in an advanced way with wind and stormy weather in the mountains. We are ready to quickly deliver the system to be used by the forces in the Afghan mountains."
    During the tests, the shells were fired at a variety of targets in mountainous areas under battlefield conditions and hit precisely seven out of eight times.

On PA TV, "Palestine" Replaces All of Israel - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch-IMRA)
    Two children's quizzes broadcast last week on Fatah-controlled PA television teach children to identify all Israeli cities as Palestinian cities.

Israeli Archaeologists Find Ancient Fortification in Jerusalem - Jen Thomas (AP)
    Archaeologists in Jerusalem have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wall that is the oldest example of massive fortifications ever found in the city, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday.
    The 26-foot-high wall dates to the 17th century BCE, when Jerusalem was a small, fortified enclave controlled by the Canaanites.

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  • Iran's Offer of Nuclear Talks Hinders Security Council Talks on Sanctions - Roger Boyes
    Western diplomats struggled Wednesday in Berlin to secure an agreement on imposing tougher sanctions on Iran in an attempt to end its nuclear program. The meeting of the five UN permanent Security Council members and Germany was complicated by a last-minute offer of talks from Saeed Jalili, the top nuclear negotiator in Iran. Russia and China used the prospect of a peace offering from Tehran, however vague, as an argument against punitive measures.
        One plan, currently before the U.S. Congress, is to ban exports of refined petroleum products. But China is already helping Iran to build new oil refineries in the hope of doubling domestic capacity by 2012. "I believe nothing new should be expected as the six nations differ over which way they should follow to tackle Iran's nuclear program," said Vladimir Sazhin, of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies. (Times-UK)
  • Russia Confirms Syria Jet Deal
    The head of Russia's United Aircraft Corporation, Alexei Fedorov, confirmed the existence of a contract for the supply of eight MiG-31 fighter jets to Syria, but said work on the planes had been frozen, the daily Kommersant reported on Thursday. "A few years ago, two contracts were signed: one for MiG-29s and one for MiG-31s," he said, but according to a government official, the contract had been suspended after Damascus could no longer afford the planes. (AFP)
  • Low Expectations May Be a Helpful Start for Mideast Talks - Ethan Bronner
    For a process that evokes little optimism on either side, there is an awful lot of diplomatic activity just now aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Two high-level Israeli officials are in Washington trying to finalize a modified settlement freeze with the American Mideast envoy George Mitchell. The Israeli public largely agrees with their prime minister that the problem is not settlements but Arab rejection of a Jewish state and the inability of the Palestinians to pursue coexistence given the Hamas rejectionists who rule in Gaza.
        American and European mediators say they have learned much from previous failures. Negotiations cannot simply occur at the top without on-the-ground progress. That is why so much effort is being put into changes in the West Bank - security, economy, freedom of movement. The mediators also seem to hope that low expectations all around may actually make it easier to achieve results. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Foreign Minister Off to Africa to Open "New Directions" for Israel - Herb Keinon
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman embarked Wednesday on a nine-day, five-country tour of Africa, the first since 1991. Lieberman, who recently returned from South America, where he was the first Israeli foreign minister to visit in 22 years, will visit Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. He said one of the issues he will raise in his talks with African leaders will be Tehran's efforts to make inroads into the continent, efforts that - with the exception of Sudan - Israeli officials say have not yet proven overly successful. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli Officials Head for U.S. to Explain Israeli-Arab Conflict - Herb Keinon
    Carrying Prime Minister Netanyahu's message that the core of the Israeli-Arab conflict was not the settlements, but rather the failure of the Arab world to recognize the right of the Jews to a state in the region, a blue-ribbon list of government officials will be traveling in the U.S. over the next month, including government ministers Moshe Ya'alon, Yossi Peled, Dan Meridor and Benny Begin, as well as Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and former consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Appeasing Syria - Elliott Abrams
    Iraq has accused Syria of involvement in terrorist incidents in Baghdad. Iraqi TV has aired a confession by an accused al-Qaeda terrorist, a Saudi who claimed he had been trained in Syria by the Assad regime's intelligence services. Syria also continues to support Hizbullah's blocking of the formation of a government in Lebanon. The Palestinian terrorist groups remain headquartered in Damascus, and under no visible restraints. And on Aug. 19, President Bashar Assad paid a visit to President Ahmadinejad in Tehran.
        The Assad regime is a vicious dictatorship that is an enemy of peace in the region. While there have been six visits to Damascus by high-level administration officials, the new U.S. policy has produced no change in Syrian conduct, but it has produced a change in American behavior: Now we have even lost the moral clarity with which America used to speak about the nature and actions of the Assad regime. The writer, a senior fellow for the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration. (Weekly Standard)
  • Can a State Be Built on a Pack of Lies? - Alan M. Dershowitz
    The people of Gaza really believe that the Holocaust never occurred. They really believe that firing rockets at school children is God's command. They really believe that Jews are a combination of the devil, monkeys, pigs and vermin. They really believe that Israel doesn't want peace and seeks to destroy the Islamic world and its holy places. It is difficult to build an enduring peace on such a structure of lies. That is why the Oslo Accords insisted that the Palestinians stop teaching their children to hate, stop teaching their teachers to lie and stop inciting violence against the Jews. In this respect, the Palestinian leadership, both in Gaza and the West Bank, has been an utter failure. Not much can be expected from the Hamas leadership, but even the Palestinian Authority has failed miserably in this regard.
        Israel, on the other hand, has a free and open press in which the Palestinian narrative is presented honestly and fully - indeed sometimes more favorably to the Palestinians than is warranted by the facts. It should come as no surprise therefore that far more Israelis than Palestinians favor a compromise peace. The two-state solution cannot be built on lies. (Hudson Institute New York)
  • Lessons from World War II - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror
    On the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, we can learn many lessons from that war. But there is one primary lesson. If the enemy camp is headed by a dictator who subscribes to an ideology of destruction, it is important to take his words and intentions seriously. Whoever fails to confront such an enemy while he is still preparing for war will be forced to confront him later, under more difficult conditions, at a time more favorable to him. The writer is former head of the IDF Intelligence Research and Assessment Division, with special responsibility for preparing the National Intelligence Assessment. (Jerusalem Center-Hebrew)
        See also How Appeasement Failed to Stop Hitler - Klaus Wiegrefe
    The West, at the time, was as puzzled over Hitler's personality and goals as it is today over the motives and plans of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Could a determined approach deter Hitler and thus preserve the peace? (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Observations:

    Basic Assumptions on the Peace Process Revisited - Ron Tira (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

    • The peace process represents a legitimate strategic move, but the complement to its risks should have been the strengthening of the IDF. Israel's military power was what created the context and motivation of leaders like President Sadat to abandon the path of war in the first place. However, Israel's leadership believed that the peace process represented a substitute for military power, and did not understand that military power was the foundation of peace. Israel sought to cash in on the peace dividend several decades too early.
    • The Second Lebanon War aroused a sense of competence among Israel's neighbors, and brought war back into the range of viable options. Syria began to invest enormous amounts of money into its military and train it intensively after 15 years of neglect.
    • Since the new fire capabilities of the Arabs are liable to disrupt the mobilization of the reserves, the need for a large regular military benefiting from redundancy becomes acute.
    • Over the years Israel formulated an approach to security arrangements appended to political agreements. Their core is the prevention of surprises. Therefore, Israel strives to disengage the forces by defining demilitarized zones, inviting multi-national supervision, and using other mechanisms intended to give early warning about the enemy preparations for waging war. This approach was perhaps appropriate for the challenges of the past, but its relevance to the present is questionable.
    • The war paradigm of some of Israel's enemies has changed from a direct approach of conquering territory to attrition by means of rocket fire from the depth of enemy territory towards the Israeli home front. In this new reality, placing distance between the armed forces does nothing to protect Israel from a surprise attack.
    • Separating the forces provides the enemy's firepower sources with an additional layer of protection, and makes it more difficult to take control of the launching areas or undertake a strategic maneuver deep into enemy territory. Ironically, what Israel needs today is not the separation of forces but actually convenient corridors of approach to neighboring territories.

      The writer is formerly the head of a unit in Israel Air Force Intelligence.

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