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February 3, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Two More Huge Israeli Gas Fields Found (Globes)
    Canada's Bontan Oil and Gas Exploration announced Tuesday that its Mira and Sarah prospects offshore from Israel have up to 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, worth up to $7.54 billion, at current prices.
    The prospects are located just south of the Tamar and Dalit prospects where natural gas estimated to be worth up to $40 billion was found last year.

North Korea Resumes Military Aid to Syria - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
    North Korea has renewed its supply of sensitive military technology to Damascus, the Japanese business newspaper Nikkei reported Tuesday.
    Western intelligence sources said North Korea is aiding Syria in the production of maraging steel, which is extremely durable at high heats and pressure, and is typically used in missile skins, ballistic warheads, and gas centrifuges critical in the uranium enrichment process.
    A production line for the material was built in Homs in northern Syria, and North Korean experts are training Syrian engineers how to produce the specialized steel.

Nine More Dissidents Facing Execution in Iran - Martin Fletcher (Times-UK)
    Nine more Iranian dissidents are to be hanged soon, Ebrahim Raisi, a senior member of the country's judiciary, declared Tuesday.
    "They had participated in riots with the aim of toppling the system," he said.

Christmas Day Bomb Suspect Abdulmutallab Providing Intelligence - Carrie Johnson (Washington Post)
    Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of trying to blow up a jet airplane on Christmas Day, has been providing FBI interrogators with useful intelligence about his training and contacts since last week, Obama administration sources said Tuesday.

Study: Financial Times Disproportionately Blames Israel - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    A study published by Just Journalism, a London-based media monitoring organization, accuses the Financial Times newspaper's editorial coverage of ignoring the Iranian threat and viewing Israel as primarily responsible for the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after analyzing 121 editorials from 2009.
    The FT is also accused of downplaying factors integral to the conflict such as terrorism and the political split between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank.
    Israeli political leaders are depicted as "irredentist," "hawkish" and "ultra-nationalist," while Palestinian leaders are portrayed as "moderate" and "conciliatory."
    "This report demonstrates that the FT has repeatedly disregarded salient facts when it comes to the Middle East and disproportionately blames Israel for the region's woes," said Robin Shepherd, director of international affairs at the Cambridge-based Henry Jackson Society.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran's Nuclear Program Gaining Ground - Adam Entous
    In written testimony to Congress Tuesday, U.S. director of national intelligence Dennis Blair said Iranian advancements in enriching uranium and other areas backed up judgments in a 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that Iran is "technically capable" of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon in the next few years. "We continue to assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that bring it closer to being able to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so."
        Iran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East and it continues to expand the scale, reach and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces, "many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload," Blair said. (Reuters-Washington Post)
        See also Iran Launches Rocket into Space - Chip Cummins (Wall Street Journal)
  • Senators Warned of Terrorist Attack on U.S. by July - Mark Mazzetti
    Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, told lawmakers on Tuesday that al-Qaeda and its affiliates had made it a high priority to attempt a large-scale attack on American soil within the next six months. (New York Times)
        See also Intelligence Officials Warn Attempted Al-Qaeda Attack Months Away
    Al-Qaeda is deploying operatives to the U.S. to carry out new attacks from inside the country, CIA Director Leon Panetta told Congress. (FOX News)
  • Ahmadinejad: Iran Ready to Send Enriched Uranium Abroad
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told state television Tuesday that Iran has "no problem" sending low-enriched uranium abroad and getting it back several months later, when it is enriched to 20% capacity. He offered no timetable. In response, the White House urged Iran to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency. (VOA News)
  • Mitchell Urges Europe to Pressure Abbas Back to Negotiations - Michel Abu Najm
    Well-informed official French sources have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell has called for French and European officials to pressure Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table with the Israelis. The source quoted Mitchell as saying "the time has come to stop finding excuses" and that the Palestinians "are content" with the current situation. Mitchell rejected French calls for an international conference and for U.S. guarantees to both Israel and the Palestinians. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Berlusconi at Knesset: Goldstone Tried to Incriminate Israel
    Visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told a special session at the Knesset on Wednesday that the Goldstone report tried to "incriminate Israel for its legitimate response" to Palestinian terrorists' rocket attacks. The Italian leader also argued that the world "cannot accept" a nuclear-armed Iran. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Italian Prime Minister Says Israel Should Be an EU Member (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Israel Wants Italy's Aid in Blacklisting Iran's Guards (AFP)
  • IDF Responds to Attacks from Gaza - Ali Waked
    The IDF Spokesperson confirmed that Israeli aircraft attacked two tunnels in southern Gaza on Tuesday. One of the tunnels was meant to be used to carry out a terror attack within Israel, while the other was used to smuggle weapons from Egypt. The attacks were carried out in retaliation for the attempt to detonate explosive barrels on Israel's southern beaches and in response to rocket fire at Israel from Gaza. (Ynet News)
        See also Deputy IDF Chief: Terror Groups Determined to Carry Out Attacks - Hanan Greenberg
    The explosive devices found off Israel's southern shores on Monday point to the determination of terror organizations to carry out attacks and their search for new routes, IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Tuesday. Gantz noted that last year's IDF operation in Gaza was carried out well and "led to a relative calm on the southern border, which joined a very significant state of calm on the northern border." He added that Hamas continues to grow stronger by smuggling weapons through sea and land, and that Hizbullah continues to accumulate weapons from Syria and Iran. (Ynet News)
        See also IDF: Explosive Barrels Endangered Gaza Fishermen - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
  • Fayyad to Israel: Palestinians Want to Live Next to You in Peace - Roni Sofer
    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday that "the state being built here is Palestinian, and who should build it rather than us? A peace process is needed, because this will lead to the end of the occupation. We want to be ready for a state which is about to be established, and we are ready to establish it by 2011. We are encouraged because we have made progress in creating an infrastructure in the past two years."
        "We are currently in a situation of political deadlock. There is not practical dialogue. There have not been negotiations for the past 16 years and we have lost a lot of time. Instead of returning to the Oslo Accords, we must be led by a way which will make us understand that the occupation is about to withdraw. We need a political horizon which will result in a Palestinian state. We, the Palestinians, want to live next to you, in peace, security and welfare." Sources in Fayyad's entourage said he had received death threats following his decision to attend the conference. (Ynet News)
        See also Fayyad Is Not Representative - Howard Schneider
    "The good news: For the first time ever, the Palestinians have someone willing to think constructively and build their society. Bad news: He is not representative," said Dan Schueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa. (Washington Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • On Israel-Palestine, No More of the Same - Yossi Alpher
    George Mitchell recently concluded yet another unsuccessful bid to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. President Barack Obama acknowledged that he had underestimated the difficulties and had failed to move the parties forward. If Obama and Mitchell think that simply applying "more of the same" blandishments and minor pressures in the coming year will break the logjam, they are still underestimating the difficulties.
        Salam Fayyad's current state-building effort finds expression in radically improved West Bank security, economic and institutional capabilities. This is the first time since the Oslo process began that Palestinians are succeeding at state-building. Their "bottom-up" efforts even correspond with Prime Minister Netanyahu's "economic peace" policy.
        Mitchell might consider refocusing his efforts toward developing an integrated policy for stabilizing and pacifying Gaza, shepherding West Bank state-building toward an agreed new interim status even without direct talks, while facilitating an Israeli-Syrian process that advances moderation in Palestine as well. The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. (New York Times)
  • Hamas: Israel Violated the Palestinians' Right to Kill Israelis - Jonathan D. Halevi
    Hamas' line of defense vis-a-vis the Goldstone report has been shaped by a group of Palestinian jurists headed by Diya al-Din Muhsin al-Madhoun, former legal adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and today chairman of the Tawtheeq (documentation) organization on which the Goldstone committee relied for information. In a series of interviews to the media, Madhoun elaborated Hamas' main legal arguments.
        Madhoun asserts that all of historic Palestine is occupied land and that international law legitimizes the right of self-defense of the Palestinian people. Therefore, Madhoun argues that "resistance operations conducted by the Palestinian resistance organizations, including launching rockets and mortar shells at the occupying Zionist forces, and all other military operations, are legitimate according to international law under the principle of defending our people and liberating our occupied land." Madhoun argues that Israel's claim for self-defense constitutes a grave violation of the Palestinian people's right to self-defense as reflected in its armed struggle to liberate the land of Palestine.
        A declared terrorist organization, which adheres to Islamic law (sharia) as the only source of legitimacy and promotes an ideology of genocide, is receiving legal support from human rights organizations and internationally respected jurists in its lawfare waged against a democratic state. Even more peculiar is Judge Goldstone's decision to rely without reservations on Tawtheeq in preparing its report, while its experts publicly make a travesty of international law and argue that Israel violated the Palestinians' right to kill Israelis in the armed struggle to destroy Israel. Lt. Col. (ret.) Halevi served as a senior adviser for political planning in Israel's Foreign Ministry. (ShalomLife-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Finally, Some Palestinian Responsibility - Einat Wilf (Jerusalem Post)

    • The participation of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad Tuesday at the 2010 Herzliya Conference points to the possibility of a deeper cultural change among the Palestinians.
    • The Palestinian national movement has been characterized from its early days by a maddening culture of irresponsibility. As far as they were concerned, their circumstances were never the outcome of their decisions, actions or conduct. It was always someone else's fault - the UK, the UN, the Arab countries, and of course above all, the Zionists and their occupation. No matter the issue, the finger was permanently pointed outward. The Palestinians conducted themselves as eternal teenagers, incapable of moving past blaming others toward shaping their own lives.
    • But it just might be that recently, below the radar, a revolutionary change is underway. For several years now, several players under the sound leadership of General Dayton, Tony Blair and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, were working together to build a Palestinian state from the ground up. Fayyad graduated from the University of Texas rather than Israeli jails, and it is Fayyad and his colleagues who have taken the matter of municipal taxes and sewage seriously and have approached the building of a state with determination and energy.
    • The more this process moves forward and succeeds, the more the cultural change accelerates and deepens. A dour bureaucrat is leading a revolutionary cultural change of fostering responsibility among Palestinians.
    • This change is leaving Israelis, who have long grown accustomed to Palestinians who do nothing but blame the world for their circumstances all the while wasting numerous opportunities, wondering, confused and many - hopeful.

      Dr. Einat Wilf, a Senior Fellow with the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, entered the Knesset on Jan. 10, 2010, for the Labor party.

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