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September 15, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas: We Won't Deliver Parents' Package to Captured Israeli Soldier - Eli Levi (Maariv-Hebrew)
    Arab media reported Tuesday that Hamas has announced it will not allow delivery of a package from the parents of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
    Hamas explained that its refusal was due to fears that technology would be hidden in the package to enable the Israelis to locate Shalit.
    Yoel Marshak, an activist of the Committee to Free Gilad Shalit, interpreted this as a sign that Shalit was still alive.

Rights Group Suspends Analyst over Nazi Collection - John Schwartz (New York Times)
    Human Rights Watch has suspended its senior military analyst, Marc Garlasco, following revelations that he is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia.
    A pro-Israel blog quoted his enthusiastic postings on collector sites under the pseudonym "Flak88" - including: "The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so cool!"
    See also Neo-Nazis Use "88" as Shorthand for "Heil Hitler" (JTA)

Top Lebanese Shiite Cleric Forbids Ties with Israel (UPI)
    Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah issued a weekend fatwa forbidding Arab states from normalizing relations with Israel, Hizbullah's al-Manar reported.
    "The normalization of ties with the Zionist enemy in any form is prohibited by Sharia (Islamic law)," the leading cleric said.
    See also Hamas Official Backs Fadlallah's Stance on Israel (Daily Star-Lebanon)

Algerian Daily: "Jews Are Harvesting Kids' Organs" - Haviv Rettig Gur (Jerusalem Post)
    Algeria's Al-Khabar daily has reported that young children are being kidnapped from Algeria's cities, transported to Morocco, and then sold to Israelis and American Jews who then harvest their organs for sale.
    The story seems to be gaining momentum on mainstream Arab and Muslim Web sites.

New York Homes Raided in Terrorism Case - Raymond Hernandez and Karen Zraick (New York Times)
    At least two apartments in Queens were raided on Monday by the Joint Terrorism Task Force after they had been visited in the last week by a man of Afghan descent under surveillance because of suspected al-Qaeda ties.

Diplomacy Efforts Fuel Hope of a Revival in Syrian Oil - Julien Barnes-Dacey (Wall Street Journal)
    Oil-industry executives in Damascus anticipate a surge of interest by international petroleum companies amid a recent thaw in the country's diplomatic relations with the West.
    Syrian output peaked in the late 1990s at close to 600,000 barrels a day, then dwindled to below 400,000 today.
    Still, Syria's location on the Mediterranean and its relatively unexplored geology make it a potentially profitable frontier.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Commandos in Somalia Kill Al-Qaeda Terrorist Behind Attacks on Israelis in Africa - Luis Martinez
    A U.S. commando attack in Somalia has killed al-Qaeda terrorist Saleh Ali Nabhan, 28, who took part in the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He also orchestrated the 2002 bombing of a resort hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, that claimed the lives of 15 people, including three Israelis, and a failed missile attack on an Israeli airliner leaving Mombasa airport. At least one U.S. helicopter fired on a convoy carrying suspected al-Qaeda targets in southern Somalia. Ali Nabhan ran training camps in Somalia for foreign fighters, some of whose graduates have been tied to attacks and threats around the globe. (ABC News)
  • Iran Agrees to New Talks with Six Global Powers - Joby Warrick
    Iran has agreed to a new round of talks with global powers. EU officials announced an Oct. 1 date for the new talks, which will include Iran's top nuclear negotiator and representatives of the U.S., Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China. In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said, "Talks will focus on disarmament and international concerns, not the Iranian rights enshrined by the Non-Proliferation Treaty."  (Washington Post)
        See also Netanyahu Calls for Tougher Sanctions Now on Iran
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday, "I believe that now is the time to start harsh sanctions against Iran - if not now then when? These harsh sanctions can be effective." "The Iranian regime is weak, the Iranian people would not rally around the regime if they felt for the first time that there was a danger to their regime - and this would be a new situation," Netanyahu said. His comments appeared to signal that Israel had not given up on international diplomacy to curb Tehran's atomic ambitions. (Reuters)
  • Airline Bomb Plotters Sentenced in UK
    A British judge on Monday sentenced four British Muslims convicted of a plot to bring down trans-Atlantic planes with liquid explosives. Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 28, the ringleader, was sentenced to at least 40 years in jail for plotting the biggest terrorist attack since 9/11. Assad Sarwar, 29, was ordered to serve at least 36 years in prison; Tanvir Hussain, 28, was sentenced to at least 32 years; and Umar Islam, 31, received 22 years. Prosecutors said the men were likely just days away from mounting their suicide attacks when they were arrested in August 2006. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • No Agreement Expected from Netanyahu-Mitchell Meeting - Herb Keinon
    Israeli diplomatic officials said Monday it was unlikely Tuesday's meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. envoy George Mitchell would lead to a declaration of agreement on the settlement issue, but rather to a further "narrowing of the gaps" that might enable the relaunching of diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians. The officials stressed that Jerusalem has already said it was willing to start talks immediately and that the PA would have to decide whether it would come to the negotiating table.
        Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that construction already underway in the settlements would continue, and Israel would keep on building public structures such as schools, health clinics, kindergartens and synagogues to enable normal life in the settlements to continue. Netanyahu said there would be a moratorium on new private construction, but that would not be permanent. He emphasized that any settlement construction moratorium would not include east Jerusalem, adding that "Jerusalem is not a settlement and construction will continue as usual."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • World Jewish Congress: Boycott Ahmadinejad Speech at UN - Shlomo Shamir
    The World Jewish Congress on Monday launched a new global campaign to convince world leaders to boycott Iranian President Ahmadinejad's address to the UN General Assembly next week. WJC President Ronald Lauder said: "We ask UN leaders to send a strong message to Ahmadinejad, who regularly uses these forums to spread invective, threats and unspeakable accusations.... Member states have an obligation to show that the UN cannot be hijacked for the purposes of spreading the kind of racist diatribe and bigoted views which the organization was founded to combat and overcome."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Can the U.S. Revive the Middle East Peace Process? - Benny Morris
    President Obama's efforts to revive the Middle East peace process are bound to fail because of the unbridgeable divide separating Israel's and Palestine's political goals. The major problem is that the two-headed Palestinian national movement is averse to sharing Palestine with the Jews and endorsing a solution based on two states for two peoples. Hamas, which won the Palestinian national elections in 2006, assures the believers that "Islam will destroy Israel." It repeatedly compares Israel to the medieval Crusader kingdoms and states that its end will be identical.
        Fatah's head, Mahmoud Abbas, in effect continues to promote the same rejectionist message. He publicly hails, to propitiate Washington, "the two-state solution," but when pressed declines to endorse it. Yes, one state for Palestinian Arabs and another for whoever lives in Israel, but not a "Jewish state." He seems to be hoping that Israel's 20% Arab minority will overtake the Jews demographically; or that Israel will accede to Palestinian demands to allow the return of refugees, turning Israel into an Arab-majority state. (Guardian-UK)
  • Diplomatic Engagement with Syria - John P. Hannah
    Syria is a brutal anti-American dictatorship that, along with its closest ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a charter member of the State Department's "state sponsors of terrorism" list. Since 2003 the Syrian-Iranian axis has worked tirelessly to defeat the American project in Iraq. Hundreds of unreconciled Baathists are harbored in Syria. Thousands of foreign jihadists have been welcomed at Damascus International Airport. After receiving money, training, and arms, they have been transported to the Iraqi border to engage in jihad - resulting in the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqis. Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) - headed by President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat (sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for his links to Iraqi terrorism) - has been up to its eyeballs in this activity, its agents actively facilitating the work of al-Qaeda in Iraq's most lethal foreign-fighter networks.
        True, the flow of jihadists from Syria has slowed significantly, but this has far more to do with al-Qaeda's diversion of recruits to the more promising Afghan theater than it does with any Syrian measures. When it comes to anti-American dictatorships in general, and Syria in particular, history suggests that leverage and pressure, not reassurance and unconditional concessions, are the most reliable ways to ensure that diplomatic engagement advances U.S. goals. The writer, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2005 to 2009. (National Review)
  • Observations:

    The Arrogance of the Advice-Givers - Barry Rubin (New Republic)

    • It seems to be accepted wisdom in Washington and European capitals that Israelis are so stupid about their country, situation, and region on the life-and-death issues which they have been dealing with for decades that they must be saved in spite of themselves by people who have no knowledge or experience on any of these things. No other country in the world is so frequently told this.
    • Is it so hard to comprehend that Israel's views and behavior are based on years of experience? That we know best how to save ourselves and have been doing a far better job of it, against tremendous odds, than many others? That heeding their prescriptions would be disastrous, in fact have already proven so? After all, the tragic history of the last 20 years has largely resulted from listening to such advice.
    • Today, the last thing Israelis need or want is pressure to make more concessions to the Palestinians. They've already made a lot; these didn't lead anywhere good. What Israel needs today is not "tough love" but real support.

      The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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