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May 11, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Think Tank: Iran Could Fire Nuclear Missile within Two Years - Damien McElroy (Telegraph-UK)
    The International Institute for Strategic Studies said Iran's missile development program was expanding in tandem with its drive to acquire an atomic capability.
    The Sajjil-2 missile, with a range of 1,400 miles, was test-fired at the end of 2008 and will be ready for deployment in 2012.
    The weapon relies on solid fuel for propulsion, which means it has a short preparation time and can't be as easily deterred by a pre-emptive strike.
    The development of similar missiles in other countries has been closely tied to a nuclear weapons program.

The PLO Never Authorized Abbas to Conduct Proximity Talks - Pinchas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
    The Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi reported that the PLO Executive Committee meeting on Saturday to approve the proximity talks with Israel never succeeded in achieving a minimum quorum.
    To present the appearance of a decision, Mahmoud Abbas added members of the Fatah Executive Committee to the meeting.
    Fatah official Nabil Abro confirmed that there was no quorum at the PLO meeting, and that its decision had no legal standing.
    Though no one asked him, Abbas decided to gain approval for the talks from the Arab League and the PLO institutions.
    The problem is with the PA's system of "pretending" with regard to decisions. At the moment of truth, when Abbas needs to bring any peace agreement with Israel to the PLO institutions, he won't have a majority and will have to pretend.

Test Yourself: How Much Do You Know about Jerusalem?
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    May 12 marks the 43rd anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
    Test your knowledge of Jerusalem's current events and history with a short, interactive quiz.

Volcanic Ash Won't Shut Down Israeli Air Traffic - Ron Friedman (Jerusalem Post)
    Fears that Israel's air traffic would be shut down by volcanic ash from Iceland proved groundless on Monday, after the meteorological services determined that the cloud would pass at an altitude that would not affect flight patterns.

The Zionist Plot You Never Hear About: Saving Arab Children - Jonathon Narvey (National Post-Canada)
    There is a children's cardiac ward at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, near Tel Aviv, where none of the children are Jewish.
    Many come from China, Russia, Hungary, Yemen and other nations far from Israel. Half are Palestinians from the West Bank.
    All are receiving some of the best medical care available in the world.
    The privately-funded Save A Child's Heart program has saved the lives of more than 1,100 children.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hizbullah Prepares for the Next War - Nicholas Blanford
    Recent conversations with Hizbullah fighters reveal an organization at the peak of its military powers, with an army of well-trained, disciplined and highly motivated combatants wielding advanced weaponry, cultivating new tactics and brimming with confidence. "The next war is coming, 100%, but we don't know when," says Ali, a Hizbullah fighter. "We have big plans for it. God willing, you will see the end of Israel."
        Since the end of its latest bout with the Israeli military in 2006, Hizbullah has built new defensive lines and firing positions, its fighters say, in the hills flanking the Bekaa Valley and along the rugged, mountainous spine running up the middle of southern Lebanon. Reports over the past year suggest that Hizbullah has received advanced Russian shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, and some fighters have been trained in Syria on larger truck-mounted missile systems.
        U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources say Hizbullah has also augmented its arsenal with larger, longer-range rockets with guidance capabilities. Many analysts believe that in the event of another war, Hizbullah plans to strike strategic targets deep inside Israel. The group is believed to have acquired Syrian-manufactured M-600 guided rockets. Its guidance system allows Hizbullah to target Israel's Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv from hidden bases in the northern Bekaa Valley. (TIME)
  • U.S. Says Pakistani Taliban Behind Times Square Bomb Plot
    Faisal Shahzad, charged in the failed Times Square bombing, was working with the Taliban in Pakistan, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday, telling NBC's "Meet the Press": "The evidence that we have now developed shows the Pakistani Taliban directed this plot....We know that they helped facilitate it, we know they helped direct it, and I suspect we're going to come up with evidence that shows they helped to finance it."
        John Brennan, the assistant to the president for counterterrorism and homeland security, told CNN's "State of the Union" that the Pakistani Taliban - also known as Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP - is closely allied with al-Qaeda. The group has pledged to carry out attacks outside of central Asia, including the U.S., Brennan said Sunday. (CNN)
  • Iran Executes Five Activists, Sending Message to Critics - Nazila Fathi
    The Iranian government hanged five Kurdish activists, including a woman, on Sunday in Evin prison in Tehran in what appeared to be an effort to discourage people from rallying against the government on June 12, the first anniversary of the re-election of President Ahmadinejad, which many people believe was rigged. At least four other activists, two Kurds and two protesters, were executed before another planned rally on Feb. 11. An additional 11 anti-government protesters have been sentenced to death. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Ya'alon: Israel Has Know-How to Hit Iran - Anshel Pfeffer
    Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told a conference on Israel's air power Monday: "We are already in a military confrontation with Iran....Iran is the main motivator of those attacking us, with its funding and training of Hizbullah."
        "There is no doubt that [Israel's] technological capabilities, which improved in recent years, have improved range and aerial refueling capabilities, and have brought about a massive improvement in the accuracy of ordnance and intelligence....This capability can be used for a war on terror in Gaza, for a war in the face of rockets from Lebanon, for war on the conventional Syrian army, and also for war on a peripheral state like Iran." "As far as I'm concerned, offense remains the best form of defense," Ya'alon added. (Ha'aretz)
  • Two Israeli Arabs Arrested for Spying for Hizbullah - Yaakov Lappin
    Two Israeli political activists were arrested in recent weeks by the Israel Security Agency on suspicion of spying for Hizbullah and communicating with enemy agents, the Israel Police revealed on Monday. The suspects are Ameer Mahoul, 42 - head of Ittijah, an umbrella group for Arab NGOs in Israel - and Omar Abdo, 40, an activist for the Balad party. Mahoul is the brother of Issam Mahoul, who was a Knesset member for the Hadash party. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arab States Threaten to Boycott Mediterranean Summit - Barak Ravid
    Arab countries, led by Egypt and Syria, are threatening to boycott a June meeting of the Mediterranean Union in Barcelona if Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attends. European diplomats said there is disappointment and even anger in Europe over the Arab countries' stance. The feeling at the Foreign Ministry is that the Arab threat could lead to the summit either being canceled entirely or convening at a lower level, with officials of ambassadorial rank only. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Air Force Strikes Gaza Tunnels in Response to Palestinian Rocket Attack - Ali Waked
    Israeli aircraft attacked two targets in southern Gaza Sunday in response to the firing of a Kassam rocket Saturday that exploded south of Ashkelon. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Calls for a Nuclear-Free Middle East Disregard Reality - Ephraim Asculai
    The reemerging campaign to persuade/force Israel to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is strange at best. Asking Israel to join the NPT is ludicrous in today's world, with Iran calling for the destruction of Israel, Syria amassing chemical weapons and trying to develop nuclear ones, and with rockets threatening almost every part of the country. The voices linking the proliferation situation with activities aimed at universal nuclear disarmament are disregarding reality. The writer is a senior research associate at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
  • OECD Membership a Major Diplomatic Achievement - Aluf Benn
    For Israel, joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a major diplomatic achievement. Nothing better answers the calls for boycotting Israel than acceptance into the club of developed economies. Israel has always sought to become a member of international organizations where the Western bloc of nations enjoys a clear advantage. Now we're in the club and the Palestinians, Egyptians and even the Saudis aren't. They're not even on the waiting list. (Ha'aretz)
        See also A Great Day for Israel - Sever Plocker
    Israeli governments have sought to join the OECD for 20 years at least. Three years ago, the organization embarked on negotiations to bring Israel in as a member, scrutinizing the Israeli economy in dozens of meetings by dozens of OECD committees. Israel's membership in OECD indicates that the developed world recognizes that we are an industrial, advanced country; a democratic and competitive state that shares the basic values of the wealthy West. For a state with a population of a mere 7.5 million, and which so many would like to destroy, full membership in OECD is an act with deep national and international significance. (Ynet News)
  • Islam's Nowhere Men - Fouad Ajami
    What can we make of a young man like Pakistani-born Faisal Shahzad, working for Elizabeth Arden, receiving an American MBA, jogging in the evening in Bridgeport, then plotting mass mayhem in Times Square? The Islamists are now within the gates. They fled the fires and the failures of the Islamic world but brought the ruin with them. From tranquil, banal places (Dubai and Qatar), satellite television offers an incendiary version of the faith to younger immigrants unsettled by a modern civilization they can neither master nor reject.
        This is a long twilight war, the struggle against radical Islamism. We can't wish it away. No strategy of winning "hearts and minds," no great outreach, will bring this struggle to an end. America can't conciliate these furies. The writer is a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Proximity Talks: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back - David Makovsky (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Although Israel has been willing to hold direct talks for months, Abbas has convinced himself and others that face-to-face meetings would leave him politically exposed if they do not prove to be serious.
    • To be sure, the Palestinians favor proximity talks because the format maximizes the U.S. role, which they believe will benefit their interests.
    • Israel believes that any statement of U.S. principles would make negotiations more unlikely, given that Palestinians prefer U.S. proposals to those offered by the Netanyahu government. Mitchell reportedly opposes a statement of principles for similar reasons, fearing that it would bring his peace talks to a halt.
    • Offering a set of "Obama Principles" could be useful only if there is broad buy-in from the Israelis, Palestinians, and key Arab states. Presenting U.S. principles in the current environment risks doing more harm than good.

      The writer is director of the Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process.

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