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January 22, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: 120 Al-Qaeda Suspects Detained in Turkey (AP/Washington Post)
    Turkey's Anatolia news agency says Turkish police have rounded up 120 people in 16 provinces suspected of ties to the al-Qaeda terror network.
    Those detained include a university faculty member suspected of recruiting students and sending them to Afghanistan for training.
    Homegrown Islamic militants tied to al-Qaeda carried out suicide bombings in Istanbul in 2003, killing 58 people.

Hizbullah Preparing for War - Robert Fisk (Independent-UK)
    The Israeli government has been announcing that the only "army" of Lebanon is Hizbullah, the Iranian-armed and Syrian-assisted guerrilla force whose bunkers and missiles north of the Litani River might just tip the balance in the next Hizbullah-Israeli war.
    The newly resurfaced Lebanese roads near the border - courtesy of Hizbullah money - suggest that someone might want to move men at high speed towards the frontier. Perhaps even to cross the border.

Egyptian Cleric: "The Jews Are Our Enemies and Allah Will Annihilate Them at Our Hands" (MEMRI)
    Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Yaaqub gave a sermon which aired on Al-Nas TV (Egypt) on December 29, 2009:
    "The Jews are our enemies. Allah will annihilate them at our hands. This is something we know for certain. We know this for certain - not because I say so, but because Allah said so."
    "Today, the nation - its young, its elderly, its men, its women, and its children - are prepared to be martyred at the gates of Al-Aqsa [Mosque]."
    See also Syria's Mufti: Islam Commands Us to Protect Judaism (Ha'aretz)
    Syria's foremost Muslim leader declared on Tuesday that Islam commands its followers to protect Judaism, according to Army Radio.
    "If the Prophet Mohammed had asked me to deem Christians or Jews heretics, I would have deemed Mohammed himself a heretic," Sheikh Ahmed Hassoun, the Mufti of Syria and the leader of Syria's majority Sunni Muslim community, was quoted as telling a delegation of American academics visiting Damascus.

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Volunteer Reserve Duty in the IDF - Doug Greener (Jerusalem Post)
    A few brief observations after a recent stint of volunteer reserve duty at a Home Front Command base in the IDF:
    The young man giving out equipment at the reception center was a uniformed soldier with Down's syndrome.
    On three of my assignments (one involving 48 hours in a very cramped "pillbox" watchtower), the commanding officers were 19-year-old girls. For the guys under their command, their officers' gender was irrelevant.
    The privilege of serving in the IDF still moves people across oceans. Within my little group, there was one volunteer from Seattle and another from Frankfurt, Germany, who came here twice a year to do reserve duty. Among the young soldiers on the base, there were two girls who came from the U.S. without their parents to serve in the army.

The Role of the Jews in Italian Society - Interview with Dan Segre by Manfred Gerstenfeld (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    Under the Berlusconi government, Israel's position in Italy is radically different from that in many other European countries. Berlusconi and his followers are pro-Israeli and say so clearly, including in EU forums.
    During the Gaza war there were anti-Israel demonstrations in several Italian cities. However, one of the most impressive pro-Israel demonstrations in Europe took place in Rome on Jan. 14, 2009. More than a hundred parliamentarians from different parties participated.
    This and other external developments have fostered a sudden reemergence of Italian Jewry. It has made Italian Jews again proud of their identity.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Clinton: U.S., Allies Will Not Back Down on Iran Nuclear Issue - David Gollust
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the U.S. and allies will not back down in pressing Iran on concerns that its nuclear program is weapons-related. "Regrettably Iran has not responded to...engagement even as the international community's concern about the intent of Iran's nuclear program has increased....We will not be waited-out and we will not back down," she said. "The prospects of the instability that would potentially ensue from Iran pursuing and achieving a nuclear breakout capacity or even a nuclear weapons program would be so potentially destabilizing that there is not a country in the world that is in the neighborhood, the region, relies on the oil markets, that would not be directly affected."
        The new EU chief diplomat, Catherine Ashton of Britain, said: "We want to have dialogue, but six years of dialogue by my predecessor Javier Solana has not brought us to the outcome that we have wished. So we do have to consider what else needs to be done, and we stand ready to do that."  (VOA News)
  • Obama: U.S. Raised Expectations on Mideast Peace Process - Barack Obama interviewed by Joe Klein
    Obama: "The Middle East peace process has not moved forward. And I think it's fair to say that for all our efforts at early engagement, it is not where I want it to be....A) This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell, who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get. B) Both sides - the Israelis and the Palestinians - have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas' perspective, he's got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process."
        "And on the Israeli front - although the Israelis, I think, after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, they still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures....If we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high."  (TIME)
  • British Military Officer: Hamas "Committing War Crimes" - Jessica Elgot
    Gulf War veteran Col. Tim Collins visited the town of Sderot in Israel and Gaza for BBC Newsnight and said he believes Hamas is committing war crimes. He was shown around Sderot bomb shelters and the police station, where he inspected a rocket from Gaza and pronounced it to be an indiscriminate weapon. While in Gaza, he inspected a mosque bombed by the Israelis. In its cellar, he found evidence of secondary explosions. He said: "It's my opinion that the only thing that could have caused these explosions is that explosives were stored in this cellar. It's the only legitimate explanation." Collins expressed his shock at posters with Hamas' badge on them, showing rockets heading towards Sderot. "This is a war crime by any standard," he said. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
        See also Video: Celebrated Iraq War Veteran's View of the Gaza Conflict - Col. Tim Collins (BBC Newsnight)
        See also below Observations: Proportionality in Modern Asymmetrical Wars - Amichai Cohen (Global Law Forum)
  • Danish Palestinian Gets Ten Years for Attack on Israelis
    A Danish-Palestinian man has been convicted on five counts of attempted murder in the Odense District Court after he shot at Israelis in Odense's Rosengard shopping center. The court did not accept Wissam Freijeh's defense that he felt threatened by the three Israeli men who were operating a skincare booth in the center when he shot at them on New Year's Eve 2008. Two of the men were hit by shots and the judge returned a verdict that the three Israelis and two female customers present could have been killed by the gunman. A group of Israelis involved in the business venture, including those injured in the attack, have since returned to Israel on the advice of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service. (Copenhagen Post-Denmark)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: Al-Qaeda May Recruit Sudanese Refugees to Infiltrate Israel - Roni Sofer
    Prime Minister Netanyahu on Thursday toured the Israel-Egypt border and received a briefing on the infiltration problem in the area. According to IDF officers, 800-1,000 people have infiltrated the border in the past month. In the past 24 hours alone, 24 infiltrators were intercepted near the border. The past four years have seen 20 attempts by terrorists to infiltrate Israel through the Egyptian border. A senior military official said al-Qaeda may attempt to recruit people in Sudan and train them, then have the recruits infiltrate Israel, set up terror cells and recruit other refugees to carry out attacks in Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Netanyahu: Israel Must Prevent Rockets from Being Placed on Our Borders
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Foreign Press Association on Jan. 20: "In the last few years...those of you who have been in Israel have been under missile and rocket fire....Imagine a country somewhere the size of Belgium and Luxembourg sustaining 12,000 rockets and you understand, of course, the nature of our problem and the fact is that we are surrounded by an ever-growing arsenal of rockets placed in the Iranian-supported enclaves, to the north and to the south....The problem is to prevent them from being placed on our borders."
        "Where is the problem that Israel has vis-a-vis Lebanon? It is not on the Lebanon-Israel border. It is on the Lebanon-Syrian border. Where's the problem that we face vis-a-vis Gaza? It is not on the Israel-Gaza seam line. It's not on that border. It's in the twelve-kilometer strip between Gaza and Egypt. That...creates a monumental problem - a security problem for Israel....Therefore, in addition to defensive means, we also must ensure that in that entry to the contiguous areas next to Israel, there is a way to effectively stop the infiltration of rockets and other weaponry. And I believe the case of a future settlement with the Palestinians, this will require an Israeli presence on the eastern side of a prospective Palestinian state."
        "In Lebanon we had an international guarantee - UN Resolution 1701 - an insurance policy signed by the entire international community and you know that that unfortunately has failed, in fact it's failed miserably and Hizbullah is just pouring in weapons, more and more weapons to fire into Israel....We had also an understanding with other countries when we left Gaza about the Philadelphi corridor...but you can see that there is massive infiltration continuing all the time. We can't afford to have that replicated a third time in the center part of the country that dominates our cities, dominates our population, and dominates our airfield....We have to have something to interdict the inflow of rockets and missiles and other weaponry into a prospective Palestinian state."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Hamas Denies Readiness to Accept Israel's Right to Exist
    Hamas on Thursday denied a report in an Israeli newspaper that it is ready to accept Israel's right to exist. Dr. Aziz Dwaik, Hamas' senior representative in the West Bank and speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told the Hamas website on Thursday that the report quoting him was "inaccurate."  (Al Bawaba-Jordan)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Israel Aid Mission to Haiti

  • At the Israeli Army Hospital in Haiti - Jay Newton-Small
    The Israeli hospital is the paramount medical center operating in Haiti in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake. It receives the cases that other hospitals find difficult and cannot manage. Upon entry, patients are photographed, and then they and their electronic records are digitally tracked around the tent complex with bar-coded bracelets. 90% of those in Israeli hands have complex crushed limbs and bones - crush syndrome. But given the severity of the injuries and the conditions in apocalyptic Port-au-Prince, the hospital has had an amazing success rate: of the more than 400 people treated by Jan. 19, only eight had died. (TIME)
  • Israel's Medical Operation in Haiti - Ella Perlis
    The Israeli-run field hospital has operating rooms, an intensive care unit, a pediatric ward, and even a pharmacy. The technology is as sophisticated as most Western hospitals: it has x-ray equipment, respirators, monitors, and incubators that have sustained at least two premature babies. Captain Barak Raz of the Israel Defense Forces told me about Israel's operation in Haiti.
        Raz: The quake hit late at night Israeli time, and by early morning the assessment crew was in the air. That crew advised the government and the army on what was needed. Israel has been doing this for a while with relief missions in Kenya in 2002, El Salvador and India in 2001, and even aiding Rwandan refugees in Zaire in '94. (CNN)
  • A Nation of Caregivers - Frida Ghitis
    Israelis seem determined to do all they can to help the inhabitants of a frail nation thousands of miles away. Within moments of the quake, Israelis were on their way to Haiti, as they have in countless other disasters around the world. Watching the Israeli response - one of the fastest, most effective of any country on Earth - it is striking to see the enormous gap between the grotesque image of Israel woven by its enemies and the reality of the country's character.
        Nobody challenges Israel more energetically than Israelis. The country engages in anguished introspection. Its armed forces enlist ethicists and philosophers. Its political, social and religious leaders constantly discuss the ethically appropriate response to enemies who operate inside a baffling framework of morality - encouraging their supporters to blow themselves up among civilians and promoting an ideology that openly declares their intention to destroy Israel. (Miami Herald)

    Other Issues

  • All Process, No Peace - Elliott Abrams
    In Israel, there is deep suspicion of the Obama administration, both at official levels and among the population at large. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to impose a partial settlement freeze should not have been a surprise despite the months of friction with Washington; for any Israeli government, relations with the U.S. are a central strategic matter, while a (partial) moratorium in West Bank construction is not. In the coming year Israel may have to deal with the Iranian nuclear program - and therefore needs to avoid tension with Washington whenever possible. One official of a previous Israeli government put it this way to me: "Bibi agreed to this freeze to enable Israel to concentrate on Iran without the daily background noise about the settlements."
        Israel will always go far to keep relations with Washington on an even keel. The anti-Israel bias in the UN's Goldstone Report astonished Israelis, but what hurt them more was the acceptance by the "international community" of Goldstone's assault. So the ten-month construction moratorium - to reduce tension with Obama, and to shift the blame for refusing new peace negotiations to the Palestinians - was approved 11-1 by Israel's security cabinet.
        No matter who sits at what table, there will be no serious negotiations: The Israelis and Palestinians are too far apart on the core issues to reach a deal now, and the Fatah and PLO leadership (having lost the last elections to Hamas and having lost Gaza to a Hamas coup) is too weak now to negotiate compromises and sell them to the Palestinian people.
        For two decades the "peace process" has failed to end the conflict. Yet there is a way forward, the one sensible option never really tried: to start at the beginning rather than the end, by creating a Palestinian state from the bottom up, institution by institution, and ending with Israeli withdrawal and negotiation of a state only when Palestinian political life is truly able to sustain self-government, maintain law and order, and prevent terrorism against Israel. This may seem like a formula for endless delay but it is in fact the fastest way forward. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. (Weekly Standard)
  • The Soft Power Solution in Iran - James K. Glassman and Michael Doran
    Immediately after the post-election Green Revolution protests began in Iran, some policy makers argued that overt U.S. support would allow the regime to claim that those in the opposition were somehow our agents. Even with no evidence, the regime did that anyway - to little effect.
        So how can the U.S. support the opposition? Provide moral and educational support for the Green Revolution. Dissidents should be reminded that others have succeeded on the same path they are traveling. Tighten sanctions on the Iranian economy and publicize the connection between regime belligerence and economic malaise. The slogans of the protestors demonstrate that they are connecting the dots between the regime's foreign policy and economic privation. Glassman served as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in the last administration. Doran was deputy assistant secretary of defense for support to public diplomacy from 2007-8. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Escalating Ties between Middle Eastern Terrorist Groups and Criminal Activity - David T. Johnson
    Remarks by the Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Jan. 19, 2010: Hizbullah, al-Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan and others - groups that the U.S. government has designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations - engage or have engaged in criminal activities as a vehicle to finance their terrorist (or violent political) activities. Two years ago, U.S. and Colombian investigators were able to dismantle an international cocaine-smuggling and money-laundering gang that funneled some of its profits to Hizbullah.
        Hamas and Hizbullah continue to finance their terrorist activities mostly through the state sponsors of terrorism, Iran and Syria, and through various fundraising networks in Europe, the U.S., and the Middle East. The funds channeled to these organizations frequently pass through major international financial capitals such as Dubai, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Zurich, London, or New York. Hizbullah also continues to profit from the drug trafficking groups in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also State Dept: Drug Trade Enabling WMD Acquisitions - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Proportionality in Modern Asymmetrical Wars - Amichai Cohen (Global Law Forum)

    • The concept of proportionality permits military personnel to kill innocent civilians, provided that the intended targets of the operation are enemy forces and not civilians.
    • In October 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia, over one thousand civilians are believed to have been killed by American fire. In its air campaign against Serbia in 1999, NATO adopted a policy of zero risk to its soldiers. Pilots flew at a relatively high altitude and the number of civilian deaths was around 500. In Fallujah, Iraq, in April 2004, U.S. forces employed vast quantities of fire power in an urban setting known to house civilians, in order to protect the lives of American soldiers.
    • As the uses of force in Somalia, Kosovo, and Iraq show, Western armies are very concerned about protecting the lives of their soldiers, and to that end are willing to risk many civilian lives. They also find acceptable the notion that civilian lives can be forfeited in order to attain important military goals.
    • Proportionality cannot be detached from the question of responsibility: which side created the situation in which civilians find themselves?
    • Israel's Gaza operation clearly shows that Israeli commanders successfully followed the requirements of the administrative model of the principle of proportionality. The IDF required commanders to take humanitarian law into account in the planning stages of the operation. Legal advisors were involved in the planning of many operations and provided advice regarding specific targets. The right questions were asked, checks were made, and the incidental damage to civilians was on the whole limited.

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