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January 5, 2010

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CIA Bomber Was Jordanian Double Agent - Richard A. Oppel Jr., Mark Mazzetti and Souad Mekhennet (New York Times)
    The suicide bomber who killed seven CIA officers and a Jordanian spy last week in Afghanistan was a double agent recruited by the Jordanian intelligence service who was taken onto the CIA base because the Americans hoped he might be able to deliver top members of al-Qaeda's network, according to Western government officials.
    The attack could jeopardize relations between the CIA and the Jordanian spy service which had vouched for the would-be informant.
    Al Jazeera identified the bomber as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi and said he was taken to Afghanistan to help track down al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri.

IDF Officers Cancel UK Visit for Fear of Arrest - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
    A delegation of four to five IDF officers invited to the UK by the British army canceled their departure last week after British authorities could not vouch that the officers would not be arrested.

Palestinians Stop Torturing Hamas Inmates - Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP/Toronto Star)
    Palestinian security forces in the West Bank have stopped torturing Hamas prisoners, ending two years of systematic abuse, Hamas inmates in Nablus said in jailhouse interviews.
    The change in practice, said to have taken effect in October, was confirmed by a West Bank Hamas leader and human rights activists.

Hamas-Affiliated Website Offers Money for Murder of Soldiers - Ilana Brudo (Ynet News)
    An e-mail sent Sunday to many Israelis contained links to videos slandering Israel on the Youtube site, as well as a link to the website which offers a $500 reward for anyone who proves he intentionally murdered an Israel Defense Forces soldier by providing a photo and a news item.

Casualties of the Gaza War - One Year Later - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    Eran Weiss, 30, of Ashdod, was rushed barely alive to the emergency room of Rehovot's Kaplan Medical Center on Dec. 29, 2008, having been wounded by a terrorist missile from Gaza along with two sisters standing at a bus stop (one of whom died).
    Weiss underwent a long series of operations to remove shrapnel from various parts of his body and after months of rehabilitation has returned to the hospital to volunteer in the trauma unit.
    Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer is still treating five soldiers wounded in the war.
    See also A Mideast Bond, Stitched of Pain and Healing - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • New U.S. Plan Sees Palestinian State in 2012 But Israel Wary - Jonathan Adams
    The latest U.S. proposal for Middle East peace envisions a Palestinian state within two years, according to Egyptian officials cited in a report Monday - a goal dismissed by Israel as unrealistic. Egyptian sources gave the Cairo-based Al-Ahram details about the U.S. draft proposal, under which both Israel and the Palestinians would present written guarantees underlining their obligations prior to the completion of final-status talks, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Clinton Says U.S. Still Open to Talks with Iran
    Secretary of State Clinton said Monday the Obama administration remains open to negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program, despite intransigence from Tehran. Clinton said the administration is consulting with other nations about new sanctions, but she stressed that this does not mean the administration is abandoning its effort to start a dialogue with Iran. ''We've avoided using the term 'deadline' ourselves,'' she said. ''That's not a term we have used because we want to keep the door to dialogue open. But we've also made it clear we can't continue to wait and we cannot continue to stand by when the Iranians themselves talk about increasing their production of highly enriched uranium.''  (AP/New York Times)
        See also France Dismisses Iranian Nuclear Counterproposal
    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner rejected Iran's latest move on its uranium-enrichment efforts as a diplomatic "pirouette." In an interview on French radio, Kouchner said it was out of the question the international community would accept an Iranian ultimatum on its nuclear program. He said discussions with the Iranians could continue, but not about Iran's nuclear development. He also noted that the Iranian government was itself divided and that high-level Shi'ites within the government disagreed with the regime. (VOA News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Opposes "Borders First" Approach to Palestinian Negotiations - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    It has been widely reported that the issue of permanent borders would be the first one tackled in future Israeli-Palestinian talks - the idea being that once they are decided upon, this would resolve the issue of settlement building since Israel would clearly be able to build in areas inside the negotiated border. But the problem with that approach, according to a senior official in Jerusalem, is that Israel would be relinquishing land without getting anything in return. "In this case you give up territorial assets, and what have you done?" asked the official. "You haven't ended the conflict, and haven't dealt with refugees or Jerusalem. This idea is a nonstarter."
        The official said the idea that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed must be the guiding principle in future talks, just as it has been in previous rounds. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Monday that Palestinian preconditions for talks had wasted precious time: "I believe that negotiations about the nature of negotiations have delayed the process enough and should be dropped."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel to Distribute Gas Masks - Amos Harel
    The IDF Home Front Command will begin to distribute gas masks to every citizen starting in late February, according to a cabinet decision taken last week. Gas masks were used during the first Gulf War in 1991 and were renewed for possible use during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. They were collected from the population a few years ago. A security source said the distribution of gas masks "is not a sign of fear but of greater preparedness. Whoever is planning to fire missiles at Israel should know that we are ready to protect our population."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Exercise to Simulate Biological Warfare Attack - Anshel Pfeffer
    An extensive exercise simulating a response to a biological warfare attack will be carried out in the Tel Aviv region next week. Rescue units of the IDF Home Front Command and special detection units of the Health Ministry will be tasked to locate a hypothetical biological hazard and deal with hundreds of citizens exposed to the substance. More than 1,000 volunteers have been trained to behave like people who have been exposed to biological agents, and they will receive treatment at three reception centers. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's Wake-Up Call from Al-Qaeda - Editorial
    With its loosely affiliated franchises, its dedicated core of jihadists and its ruthless obsession with blowing planes out of the sky, al-Qaeda is a formidable adversary. Worse, its adherents are prepared - indeed happy - to die for its cause. It seems entirely predictable that this war with al-Qaeda will lead to more attempted terrorist outrages. And inevitably they will get lucky. The one bright spark is that al-Qaeda's technical shortcomings meant no one died. So we got this wake-up call for free and would be foolish not to heed it. (Times-UK)
  • Iran Expands Its Target List - Col. (ret.) Timothy J. Geraghty
    On Nov. 4, 2009, Israeli commandos intercepted a ship 100 miles off the Israeli coast carrying hundreds of tons of weapons from Iran bound for Hizbullah in Lebanon. Since the 2006 war, Iran has rearmed Hizbullah with 40,000 rockets that will likely rain on Israeli cities - and even European cities and U.S. military bases in the Middle East - if Iran is attacked. Our 200,000 troops in 33 bases are vulnerable. Iran is capable of disrupting Persian Gulf shipping lanes, which could cause the price of oil to surge, and could also create mayhem in oil markets by attacking Saudi oil refineries. Moreover, Iran possesses Soviet-made SS-N-22 "Sunburn" supersonic anti-ship missiles that it could use to contest a naval blockade.
        I have seen this play before. In 1983, I was the Marine commander of the U.S. Multinational Peacekeeping Force in Beirut. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps trained and equipped Hizbullah to execute attacks that killed 241 of my men and 58 French peacekeepers on Oct. 23, 1983. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel's Open Road - Editorial
    Last Tuesday, Israel's supreme court ordered that country's government to reopen a major commuter highway to Palestinian motorists. Highway 443 carries 40,000 vehicles a day between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The ruling is representative of how mightily Israel struggles to balance its own security needs with the rights of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. The road was closed to Palestinians in 2002 when, during the second intifada, five Israeli motorists were killed by snipers within a matter of weeks. The Israeli government has spent nearly $3 billion building Palestinians a parallel highway system on which there were no checkpoints to delay their trips.
        Consider this: The case was brought by an Israeli human rights group paid for by donations from Israelis, argued in an Israeli court, and decided by Israeli judges. The decision will now be adhered to by the Israeli cabinet and military. Considering that Jews may be shot merely for walking down a Palestinian street - and there are no Palestinian human rights groups or courts to which they can appeal - Israeli efforts to treat Palestinians with respect, despite the many hundreds of attempted terrorist attacks launched each year from the West Bank and Gaza, are exemplary. (National Post-Canada)
  • Observations:

    The Palestinian Refusal to Negotiate Peace (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

    • Israel's endeavors to achieve an equitable negotiated peace agreement with its Palestinian neighbors have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Palestinian leadership.
    • Since its inauguration in April 2009, the present Israeli government has sought ways to re-engage the leadership of the PA, which unilaterally suspended peace negotiations with Israel.
      • In a speech given at Bar-Ilan University on June 14, 2009, Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly stated his acceptance of a Palestinian nation-state, living alongside a Jewish nation-state, in peace and security.
      • To improve the quality of life of Palestinian civilians and to promote economic development, Israel has removed checkpoints and roadblocks, and extended operating hours at crossing points between Israel and the West Bank.
      • On Nov. 25, 2009, the Israeli government announced an unprecedented ten-month moratorium on new residential housing construction in the West Bank, which Prime Minister Netanyahu described as a step "designed to encourage the resumption of peace talks."
    • The Palestinian rejections of these initiatives are just the latest in a string of Palestinian rejections of Israeli peace initiatives in the past two decades. The Palestinians fundamentally breached their obligations under the 1993 Oslo Accords, refused a comprehensive peace offer at Camp David in 2000, responded with rocket fire to Israel's disengagement from Gaza in 2005, and rejected Prime Minister Olmert's sweeping and unprecedented peace offer in 2008.
    • Israel has achieved negotiated peace agreements, which have turned previous avowed enemies, such as Jordan and Egypt, into peace partners. The consistent rejection by Palestinians of Israeli peace initiatives and its current refusal to negotiate leaves Israel questioning whether its neighbors are in fact committed to peace.

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