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January 1, 2010

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Iranian Opposition Grows Beneath the Surface - Iason Athanasiadis and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times)
    Iran's opposition movement has yet to produce a charismatic leader but has a diverse and growing group of organizers, including numerous students and veterans of an abortive 1999 uprising, Iran specialists say.
    While the government focuses on Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two presidential candidates who refused to accept the results of the June election, a new generation of activists is working behind the scenes to sustain the movement's momentum.
    These leaders have "agreed on nonviolence and are trying to reach out to their parent's generation," said Kenneth Katzman, an Iran specialist at the Congressional Research Service in Washington.
    "They are very optimistic," Katzman said. "They believe they are going to be rid of [the regime] in six months to a year. They feel that a lot of security people are starting to back off because they don't know how this will come out and don't want to be" on the losing side.

Focus on Internet Imams as Recruiters for Al-Qaeda - Eric Schmitt and Eric Lipton (New York Times)
    Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab most likely had contacts with radical American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, whom investigators have also named as having exchanged e-mail messages with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, charged with killing 13 people in November at Fort Hood, Tex.
    Awlaki and other Internet imams from the Middle East to Britain offer a televangelist's persuasive message of faith, as well as for the most devout worshipers ready to take the next step, to jihad.
    Abdulmutallab has now become somewhat of a hero, with his photograph posted on Web sites that feature announcements by these prominent clerics.
    American and European authorities say clerics like Awlaki offer a pipeline to al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen and Pakistan. "Awlaki is, among other things, a talent spotter," an American counterterrorism official said. "That's part of his value to al-Qaeda."

Billboards Hail New Lebanese-Syrian Ties (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    Several billboards signaling the start of a new era in Lebanese-Syrian ties have appeared in north Lebanon, Al-Akhbar daily reported Wednesday.
    One of them says: "Your visit to Syria proves former Syrian President Hafez Assad's statement that Syria and Lebanon are one people in two states," referring to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's visit to Damascus earlier this month.

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Hizbullah Flag in Downtown Toronto - Jonathan D. Halevi (ShalomLife)
    Two groups of protesters stood opposite one another outside the Israeli Consulate in Toronto on Dec. 27 to mark the first anniversary of the war in Gaza, one supporting the Palestinians and the other supporting Israel.
    Next to Palestinian, Chinese and USSR flags, one protester was seen carrying the Hizbullah flag, which is listed as a terrorist organization in Canada.

Sharp Increase in Israeli Arabs Volunteering for National Service - Anat Shalev (Ynet News)
    In 2009, 1,400 Israeli Arabs joined the National Service program, compared with only 580 in the previous year - a 90% increase, the Shlomit national service placement organization reported.
    Haya Shmuel, director general of Shlomit, said the figures are indicative of the Arab youngsters' desire to integrate into Israeli society.
    The sharp rise stems from their realization that their involvement in the National Service program benefits their entire sector, as most work within Arab communities in schools, kindergartens and community police.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Netanyahu Proposes Egypt Peace Summit with Abbas - Dan Williams
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed an Egyptian-hosted summit with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as a way to resume stalled peace talks, Israeli officials said on Thursday. Two Israeli officials said Netanyahu raised the plan on Tuesday at talks in Cairo with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak. (Reuters)
        See also PA Talks Will Likely Resume in January - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Netanyahu believes there is a good chance that negotiations with the PA will be renewed by the end of January, senior officials in Netanyahu's bureau said. The Egyptians and the Americans are exploring the idea of a launch event in Egypt for the talks with the participation of the Quartet, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the PA. Sources close to Netanyahu said Thursday that if Egypt invited the parties to a peace conference, Israel would be glad to attend. (Ha'aretz)
  • Fatah Vows to Escalate Struggle
    The Fatah movement led by Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday vowed to step up its struggle against the Israeli occupation with demonstrations and diplomacy. "Our program emphasizes the importance of a two-track approach, with the first being the escalation of the popular struggle to resist occupation," the movement said in a statement. The group said it would model the struggle on the weekly demonstrations in two West Bank towns, Bilin and Nilin, where residents hurl rocks and protest against Israel's separation barrier. Fatah also vowed to "increase movement on the international level to pursue Israel, to isolate it and to force it to answer to international law."  (AFP)
  • Israel Backs Obama's Push for Sanctions on Iran - Howard Schneider
    Israeli officials say they will support President Obama's move to impose sanctions on Iran as a next step in the standoff over the country's nuclear program. With the expiration of the year-end U.S. deadline for Iran to resolve the issue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "focused on working with the international community to upgrade the pressure on Iran in a way that makes the Iranian regime know that its nuclear program is unacceptable, that they are going to pay a price that will make them rethink," said Israeli spokesman Mark Regev.
        Israeli officials say Obama now shares their sense of urgency and will soon propose a meaningful set of restrictions on the Iranian leadership. With European nations and, more importantly, Russia looking poised to go along, "Israel is a spectator, like most other countries in the international community," said Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon. "We trust that Obama and the U.S. will lead." "As long as Obama is engaged in some kind of diplomatic effort, Israel is going to wait and see how it plays out," said Emily Landau, director of the arms control program at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. "It is in Israel's interest for it to be dealt with diplomatically."  (Washington Post)
  • Jordan Asks Canada to Seize Dead Sea Scrolls - Patrick Martin
    Jordan has asked Canada to seize the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea scrolls, on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. While confirming that Canada has received a message from Jordan, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said Thursday that "differences regarding ownership of the Dead Sea scrolls should be addressed by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. It would not be appropriate for Canada to intervene as a third party." The ancient Hebrew scrolls, discovered in 1947, were part of one of the greatest archeological discoveries of the 20th century. The scrolls had been hidden in caves to hide them from the Romans. Israel argues that all the scrolls in its possession are part of the Jewish heritage. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Grad Rocket into Netivot - Yanir Yagana
    Palestinians in Gaza fired at least one Grad rocket into the southern Israeli town of Netivot Thursday evening. (Ha'aretz)
  • Abbas Sponsors Celebrations Honoring Palestinian Terrorist - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    PA TV reported Tuesday: "Under the auspices of President Mahmoud Abbas, the Political and National Education Authority held a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Shahida (Martyr) Dalal Mughrabi, commander of the Coastal Operation (the hijacking of a bus and killing of 37 Israeli civilians in 1978)."  (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Trading Peace for Deterrence - Aluf Benn
    In place of the false anticipation of "an end to the conflict," Israel has developed a new model that can be termed "peace-lite." Instead of political agreements setting out terms for security arrangements and normalization, the new approach relies on setting boundaries that would grant Israel international legitimacy for acts of self-defense. Instead of control on the ground, Israel would deter its enemies from afar, through its air force. It was deterrence in place of peace. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • The World Must Neutralize Tehran's Toxic Threat - Liam Fox
    There are three reasons why we must take the threat from Iran seriously: the nature of the regime itself, its willingness to export instability and terror, and its attempts to develop nuclear weapon technology. When you add Iran's advances in missile technology, its desire to gain nuclear weapon technology, and the growing influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, it becomes disturbingly clear that we are facing the toxic combination of an increasingly militaristic state headed by a hardline theocrat. We have long known about British soldiers being on the wrong end of Iranian training and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
        Iranian involvement in Syria and Lebanon - funding and training terrorists - continues to stoke regional tension and is an obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian solution. One senior Iranian official once boasted to me that "in Syria we pull the strings. It will do what we want." The writer is Shadow UK Defense Secretary. (Times-UK)
  • The Tipping Point in Iran - Abbas Milani
    Falling oil prices are now forcing the regime to reduce the almost $100 billion of subsidies it pays to keep quiet a discontent population. The reserves it accumulated when oil prices were $150 per barrel have long been squandered by Ahmadinejad on harebrained schemes like carelessly making loans to start businesses that ended up fueling a real estate bubble, rather than creating jobs. This inevitable reduction of subsidies is sure to further reduce the standards of living for the poor and middle classes.
        A politically discontented population forced to experience an unexpected economic downturn was a key element of the recipe that overthrew the Shah in 1979. The same sudden change in the country's economic fortune that brought the clerics to power 30 years ago is now coming back to haunt them. The writer is director of Iranian Studies at Stanford University where he is also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Iranian Regime's Battle of Karbala - Michael J. Totten
    Ashura is a Shia religious holiday, a day of lamentation that marks the date when the forces of the Umayyad caliph Yazid killed Hussein, son of Ali and grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, during the Battle of Karbala in the year 680. The Shia - the partisans of Ali and his lineage - have been at war with the Sunnis - those who took the side of Yazid - for thirteen centuries. That Khamenei's security people would murder unarmed demonstrators on this day of all days, and that his opponents now denounce him as the Yazid of Iran, may very well set most of the religious conservatives against him for as long as he and his government live. Ayatollah Khomeini compared the Shah Reza Pahlavi to Yazid during the revolution he led in 1979. (Commentary)
  • Europe's Trade with Iran's Butchers - Goli Ameri
    Security Council resolutions and focused sanctions serve as public relations window-dressing. Europe is the key to any meaningful behavior-modifying sanctions on Iran. The continued focus on Russia and China's intransigence is allowing Europe to stay under the radar. In 2008 the EU was Iran's top trading partner with imports and exports totaling $36.4 billion.
        The prevailing wisdom is that Europe needs Iran for its energy needs and is unable to cut off trade in a recessionary environment. Iran ranks as the EU's fifth supplier of crude oil after Russia, Norway, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia can step in, as it has done at least once in the past, to fill the oil vacuum created by sanctioning the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). To peacefully weaken the IRGC's muscle, Europe has no choice but to act now and cut off their source of capital. Europe should note that Iranians won't fast forget countries that thwart their march toward democracy and freedom. The writer is former U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. (Wall Street Journal Europe)

    Other Issues

  • Israel's Foreign Policy in the Shadow of Iran and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict - Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon
    Israel must simultaneously pursue three interdependent tracks for advancing Israeli-Palestinian relations: capacity-building measures that foster the rule of law within the Palestinian Authority, regional economic cooperation, and meaningful political dialogue. Although conducting dialogue with the Palestinians is a matter of utmost importance for Israel, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's recent plan to unilaterally declare statehood after a two-year state-building process is unrealistic. The emergence of a future Palestinian state will only be a result of consensus and successful negotiations, not an artificial timeline.
        If we are to proceed with a viable diplomatic process with the Palestinians, it is critically important to curb malign Iranian influence in the region and its support of terror proxies like Hizbullah and Hamas. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • CODEPINK's "Gaza Freedom" Mockery - Eric Trager
    If you've been following CODEPINK's so-called "Gaza Freedom March," you probably know it is against the "siege of Gaza." We don't know whether it was similarly against the thousands of rockets that Hamas fired onto Israeli civilians that preceded this "siege," but as most of its participants have indicated, the "Freedom" marchers are overwhelmingly against Israel's very existence.
        It's worth asking what these marchers are for? Is CODEPINK for Hamas using the tunnels that run from Gaza into Egypt for stockpiling anti-aircraft missiles and longer-range rockets? Will these "Freedom" marchers declare that they are for Gazans' freedom from Hamas' imposition of strict Islamist codes; or for a Gazan government that develops its economy, rather than its arsenal; or for a Palestinian government that holds its "democratic" elections on time? If CODEPINK really sought to promote peace, then it would have marched in solidarity with the traumatized residents of Sderot a long time ago. (Huffington Post)
  • Video: Israel's Right to Build in Jerusalem - Dore Gold
    The Obama administration responded disapprovingly to Israel's decision to build housing in the eastern parts of Jerusalem. The whole notion that Jerusalem is occupied territory and that Israel has to therefore handle it in some kind of special way is a very difficult argument to accept.
        Israel captured the eastern parts of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. Previously, the Jordanians had annexed east Jerusalem, but only Pakistan had recognized Jordanian sovereignty in Jerusalem. It became a springboard for attacking Israel, and Israel recovered it in a war of self-defense. Can you say that Israel is occupying someone else's territory? Who did it belong to? Jordan?
        Israel has a claim to Jerusalem which is stronger than any other claimant. An international legal expert, Steven Schwebel, who was later Legal Advisor to the U.S. Department of State and President of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, asserted back in 1970 that of all the claimants to Jerusalem, Israel had the strongest claim. If Israel's claim is the strongest claim, then it becomes difficult to understand how Israel could be criticized for building in Jerusalem for both its Jewish and Arab residents. (Jerusalem Center/YouTube)
  • A Season of Goodwill to All Except Israel - Colin Nevin
    Christmas has become a time for organizations and individuals to release scathing diatribes blaming all of Bethlehem residents' ills on the State of Israel, such as Eamon McCann's article "Merry Christmas, War Is Over (Unless You Live in Bethlehem)." McCann states that mothers are "forced to stand endless hours at checkpoints," yet when I visited Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Hebron in the "West Bank" in October, all the checkpoints we passed onboard a local Arab bus were completely unmanned and we did not get stopped once all the way from east Jerusalem. Perhaps McCann needs to update his information before he lambasts the Israeli security precautions set in place to ensure safety from the unrelenting terror attacks which regrettably emanate from the heart of Bethlehem.
        I think as a New Year resolution we should use the name that God uses, namely Israel, rather than modern labels such as "Palestine" named after the Philistines, Israel's ancient and most bitter foes. Bethlehem, too, is in "Judea" - not the often-used "West Bank" which conveniently erases its inextricable Jewish link. (Belfast Telegraph-UK)
  • Observations:

    How Can Peace Be Achieved? (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • The dream of a future in which Israeli and Arab children can grow up free from the threat of war and the fear of terrorism unites all Israelis. However, the long history of failed negotiations with the Palestinians has proven that simply yearning for peace is not enough. Time after time, Israel has presented far-reaching peace proposals, made major concessions, relinquished extensive tracts of land, uprooted settlements, withdrawn forces, dismantled military bases and taken steps to enable the Palestinians to establish the foundations of self-government. In return, Israel has received a Palestinian campaign of terror, suicide bombings, and rocket attacks against Israelis and Jews; and has been subjected to an ongoing campaign in the international arena to delegitimize Israel's very existence and undermine its economy.
    • Peace can never reign between Israel and the Palestinians as long as generation after generation of Palestinians are being fed a never-ending diet of anti-Israel incitement. There is a direct connection between anti-Israel incitement and terrorism. True acceptance of Israel's right to exist in peace cannot be achieved solely through signatures on a piece of paper; it must also exist in the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people. Just as Israel has educated for peace throughout its history, so too must the Palestinians begin this process.
    • Unlike a large part of Palestinian society, Israeli society sees peace as the noblest of goals, its highest aspiration. The desire for peace is at the very center of Israel's being and culture. Thousands of songs, books, artistic works, and articles have been written about peace in Israel since the very establishment of the state. Peace is an important core value, the greatest dream of every mother and father, the embodiment of the Zionist idea which envisages Israel living in peace and cooperation with all its neighbors.
    • There is no legitimate reason why Israeli children learn about peace and coexistence in their schools, while at the same time Palestinian children are taught to honor suicide bombers and to seek "martyrdom" through Jihad. Those who desire peace should educate for peace, and not promote hatred and murder.

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