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March 31, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Nuclear Scientist Defects to U.S. - Matthew Cole (ABC News)
    An Iranian nuclear scientist who disappeared last year under mysterious circumstances has defected to the CIA and been resettled in the U.S.
    Shahram Amiri went missing last June three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage.
    Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, and other Iranian officials last year blamed the U.S. for "kidnapping" Amiri.
    Amiri has been extensively debriefed since his defection. One Iranian web site reported that Amiri had worked at the covert Qom facility.

Israel Air Force Scrambles in Response to Foreign Warplanes - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli fighter jets were scrambled Tuesday towards a number of foreign fighter jets that appeared to be approaching Israel.
    IDF sources said the planes were identified as being from a Middle Eastern country and they did not enter Israeli airspace.

Palestinian Journalists Who Visited Israel Face Expulsion from Palestinian Journalists Syndicate - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinian journalists who last week met with their colleagues in Israel now face expulsion from the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Journalists Syndicate on charges of promoting normalization.
    Hamas has also condemned the Palestinian journalists who met with Israelis as "collaborators."

UC Student President Vetoes Divestment Call - Zach E.J. Williams (Daily Californian)
    University of California student president Will Smelko vetoed a bill last week passed by the student Senate that called for the university to divest from companies that have provided military supplies to Israel.
    Smelko said in a veto statement that the bill did not adequately outline an effective divestment strategy or address possible effects on UC and student union finances and "the perception of the bill as a symbolic attack on a specific community of our fellow students."
    He referred to "selective, one-sided focus on a specific country that lacks important historical context and understanding."

India Lines Up Israeli Drones in Race with Pakistan - Rajat Pandit (Times of India)
    As Pakistan continues to badger Washington to give it armed drones like "Predators," India is working towards bolstering its fleet of reconnaissance and "killer" unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
    In the latest such contract inked with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) a few days ago, India has ordered more Heron MALE (medium-altitude, long endurance) drones, ground control systems and data terminals, Indian Defense Ministry sources said on Thursday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • CIA: Iran Capable of Producing Nukes - Bill Gertz
    Iran is poised to begin producing nuclear weapons after its uranium program expansion in 2009, according to a newly released CIA report. "Iran continues to develop a range of capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so," its annual report to Congress states. A U.S. official involved in countering weapons proliferation said the Iranians are "keeping the door open to the possibility of building a nuclear weapon."  (Washington Times)
  • Obama: Jerusalem Dispute "a Disagreement among Friends" - Matt Lauer
    In an interview Tuesday on the "Today" show, President Obama said that despite recent ill will over the issue of east Jerusalem, the U.S. and Israel remain firm allies. "I think the underlying relationship is solid as a rock. So my commitment, my personal commitment, to Israel's security is unwavering, and I think that there is broad bipartisan consensus on that. This is a disagreement among friends about how to move forward," he said. "I think Prime Minister Netanyahu intellectually understands that he has got to take some bold steps. I think politically he feels it. But it's not just on the Israeli side. I've been very clear that the Palestinians have to take steps."  (MSNBC)
        See also White House "Puzzled" over Netanyahu Storm
    The White House expressed puzzlement Tuesday at widely-held perceptions that President Obama delivered a calculated snub to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu last week. "I'm puzzled by the notion that somehow it's a bad deal to get two hours with the president almost entirely alone," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. (AFP)
  • Israeli Ministers Reaffirm Jerusalem Stance - Ethan Bronner
    Senior Israeli ministers have publicly rejected American demands for curbs on building in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem. Benny Begin, a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu's inner cabinet, said Monday on Israel Radio that the status of east Jerusalem should be resolved in direct negotiations with the Palestinians, not in advance. He said the American request "will definitely bring about the opposite of the declared goal. It will bring about a hardening in the policy of the Arabs and of the Palestinian Authority." Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and another member of the inner group of seven ministers, said in an interview: "I have not seen anyone among the seven who has consented to" a building freeze in most of the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S.: No Security Council Resolution on Jerusalem Foreseen - Yitzhak Benhorin
    An Obama administration official denied a recent BBC report according to which the U.S. is considering abstaining from a possible UN Security Council resolution against Israeli construction in east Jerusalem. The official told Ynet on Tuesday, "There is no such initiative before the (Security) Council, and we are not pursuing or encouraging any such action."  (Ynet News)
  • "Obama Must Do More to Mend Ties" - Hilary Leila Krieger
    A top Jewish leader on Monday urged the Obama administration to do more to push back against negative aspersions about the Jewish community and the state of the U.S.-Israel relationship. "The outward appearances have been perceived and described in much of the media in very negative terms, and I would hope that's something the administration would address," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
        He pointed to recent accusations of dual loyalty against Dennis Ross, a key adviser to President Obama on Middle East issues, who is Jewish, and the erroneous reports that Gen. David Petraeus said U.S. ties to Israel were costing American soldiers their lives. "It would be very unfortunate if this is allowed to fester," Hoenlein said. "I would hope they would take advantage of every opportunity to set the record straight." He said his sense was that the administration wants to "calm it down" and "put this behind them."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arab MKs Join 10,000 Demonstrators to Mark Land Day - Jack Khoury
    Ten thousand demonstrators participated Tuesday in an annual procession to mark the events of Land Day in Sakhnin in 1976, in which six Israeli Arabs lost their lives in clashes with Israeli security forces. At the end of the procession, two masked youths raised photographs of Hizbullah's leader Hassan Nasrallah and its terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008. The presence of Arab media networks was notable, especially satellite television stations which broadcast some of the procession live. Only Palestinian flags were raised and Arab Knesset members attended. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Eight Israeli Arabs Charged with Attacks on Soldiers - Yaakov Lappin
    Eight Israeli Arabs, including six from Sakhnin, were charged in Haifa District Court on Sunday with planning and carrying out attacks on IDF soldiers and stealing their firearms. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Sanctions Are Failing. What's Next? - Danielle Pletka
    It has become clear that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's promise of "crippling sanctions" is little more than talk. The administration simply cannot persuade a critical mass of nations to join with it. After months of begging, China will agree only to discuss the possibility of a fourth UN Security Council resolution punishing Tehran's noncompliance with its nonproliferation commitments. But along with Russia, it has already ruled out any measures to target the regime or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Even nonpermanent UN Security Council members Japan, Brazil and Turkey have reportedly rebuffed the administration requests to support tougher sanctions. Sanctions increasingly appear to be a fading hope. Thus we are left with a stark alternative: Either Iran gets a nuclear weapon and we manage the risk, or someone acts to eliminate the threat.
        The mess of U.S.-Israel relations has ironically only bolstered the fears of Arab governments that the current U.S. administration is a feckless ally. If the U.S. won't stand by Israel, by whom will it stand? Conversely, our adversaries view the distancing from Israel as evidence of American retreat. The writer is vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Are Europeans Thwarting Normalization? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    It is easy to understand why Hamas and Muslim fundamentalists are opposed not only to normalization with Israel, but to the very existence of the Jewish state. However, it's hard to see why the "moderates" in Ramallah, Cairo and Amman continue to call for the boycott of Israel. It is even more difficult to understand why EU-funded NGOs are taking an active role in the anti-normalization campaign. Why are Dutch, Swedish, Danish and Belgian tax-payers funding organizations whose main goal is to widen the gap between Jews and Arabs instead of bringing them closer to each other? An organization that combats normalization with Israel is actually serving the interests of the extremists of the Arab world who want peace without - and not with - Israel.
        There's a large degree of hypocrisy in the fact that Fatah is opposed to normalization with Israel. Many Fatah leaders hold Israeli-issued VIP cards that enable them to visit Tel Aviv's fine restaurants and hotels. Others use the VIP cards to travel abroad frequently. Moreover, how can Fatah claim to be opposed to normalization with Israel while its security commanders are collaborating with Israeli security forces on a daily basis? (Hudson Institute New York)
  • Observations:

    Lady Gaga Versus Mideast Peace - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)

    • Pop quiz - What does more to galvanize radical anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world: (a) Israeli settlements on the West Bank; or (b) a Lady Gaga music video? If your answer is (b) it means you probably have a grasp of the historical roots of modern jihadism. If, however, you answered (a), then congratulations: You are perfectly in synch with the new Beltway conventional wisdom.
    • Lady Gaga - or Madonna, Farrah Fawcett, or Marilyn Monroe - personified what the Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb called "the American Temptress." Qutb, who spent time as a student in the U.S. in the late 1940s, is widely considered the intellectual godfather of al-Qaeda. Qutb's disdain for America's supposedly libertine culture would not matter much were it not wedded to a kind of theological Leninism that emphasized the necessity of violently overthrowing any political arrangement not based on Sharia law.
    • This, then, is the core complaint that the Islamists from Waziristan to Tehran to Gaza have lodged against the West. It explains why jihadists remain aggrieved even after the U.S. addressed their previous casus belli by removing troops from Saudi Arabia, and why they will continue to remain aggrieved long after we've decamped from Iraq, Afghanistan and even the Persian Gulf.
    • To imagine that Israeli settlements account for even a fraction of the rage that has inhabited the radical Muslim mind since the days of Qutb is fantasy: The settlements are merely the latest politically convenient cover behind which lies a universe of hatred. If the administration's aim is to appease our enemies, it will get more mileage out of banning Lady Gaga than by applying the screws on Israel. It should go without saying that it ought to do neither.

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    Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed Pesach.