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May 27, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Jordanian Man Pleads Guilty in Dallas Bombing Plot - Jeff Carlton (AP)
    Hosam Smadi parked a sport-utility vehicle in the garage beneath a Dallas skyscraper, activated a timer connected to what he thought was a bomb, and used a cell phone to try to remotely detonate the explosive he had spent months working to obtain.
    Smadi, 19, who pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, had hoped the bomb would bring down the 60-story building, kill thousands of office workers and create financial havoc.
    Instead, he had been supplied with a fake bomb by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaeda operatives.

PA Rounds Up Hamas Men - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    One day after Hamas announced that it would boycott the Palestinian municipal elections slated for July 17, PA security forces arrested scores of Hamas officials and supporters in the West Bank on Tuesday.
    Eyewitnesses said that among those taken into custody was Sheikh Jamal al-Tawil, the mayor of al-Bireh, who was beaten and led away.
    Many of those arrested were recently released from Israeli prisons.

Lebanese Army Fires on Israeli Planes (AFP)
    Lebanese anti-aircraft guns opened fire on two Israeli planes flying over Lebanon on Wednesday, a Lebanese military statement said.
    Israel argues that the overflights are necessary to monitor massive arms smuggling by Hizbullah.

Israel Air Force Conducting Joint Exercise with Greece - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    The Israeli Air Force is holding a joint exercise this week with the Greek Air Force in the skies above the Aegean Sea.
    According to Greek media reports, 10 IAF planes are participating. The exercise includes practice for aerial battles, long-range missions and mid-air refueling.

Inspired by Israel, Ontario Names Chief Scientist - Robert Benzie (Toronto Star)
    Inspired by Israel's success in commercializing advanced research, Ontario will appoint a chief scientist to advise the government, says Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
    McGuinty, who is leading a delegation from Ontario's life sciences industry to Israel, said Tuesday, "the real growth and opportunity is to be found in innovation.... Here in Israel they're all over that because they don't really have natural resources."
    Israel, which ranks first in the world in R&D investment as a percentage of GDP and no. 1 in medical device patents per capita, is proof of the benefits of funding science.

Angola: Children with Heart Problems Get Treatment in Israel (Angola Press)
    Six Angolan children suffering from heart problems left Wednesday for Israel, where they will receive medical treatment through a project dubbed Save a Child's Heart.
    The Save a Child's Heart project has already benefited 42 Angolan children.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Ahmadinejad Assails Russian Support for New Sanctions - Ellen Barry
    In a televised speech, Iranian President Ahmadinejad lashed out at Russia, which last week agreed to support a new set of American-backed sanctions over the Iranian nuclear program. "We do not like to see our neighbor supporting those who have shown animosity to us for 30 years," Ahmadinejad said. "This is not acceptable for the Iranian nation....If I were in the place of Russian officials, I would adopt a more careful stance." A top Kremlin aide, Sergei Prikhodko, said Wednesday that Russia was guided by its own long-term interests, and that "our position can be neither pro-American, nor pro-Iranian."  (New York Times)
  • New U.S. Security Strategy Focuses on Terrorists at Home - Eli Lake
    President Obama's new national security strategy will include a focus on the threat posed by Americans who can be recruited and radicalized by al-Qaeda through the Internet, John Brennan, the president's senior counterterrorism adviser, said Wednesday. Brennan, speaking on the eve of the release by the Obama administration of a new National Security Strategy report, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: "We have seen individuals, including U.S. citizens, armed with their U.S. passports, travel easily to extremist safe havens and return to America, their deadly plans disrupted by coordinated intelligence and law enforcement."
        The new strategy, according to Brennan, will continue the Bush administration strategy of seeking to distinguish al-Qaeda terrorism from the religion of Islam. Brennan specifically said the Obama administration would no longer use the terms "Islamist" and "jihadist." At the same time, the new strategy states that the U.S. remains on a war footing against al-Qaeda and seeks to destroy the group and its affiliates. (Washington Times)
  • Bill Linking Treatment of Hamas Prisoners to Kidnapped Israeli Soldier Passes Initial Reading
    An Israeli bill seeking to toughen the conditions under which Hamas prisoners are held passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday by 52 votes to 10. The bill comes in response to a stalemate over the fate of soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured in June 2006 by Hamas and two smaller armed groups in a cross-border raid in which two other soldiers were killed. Dubbed "the Shalit law," the bill would end family visits to Hamas inmates and restrict their access to newspapers, television and study. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Arab-Israeli Political Activist Charged with Spying for Hizbullah
    Prominent Arab-Israeli political activist Ameer Makhoul, 42, has been charged with spying for Hizbullah. Makhoul, the head of Ittijah (the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations) - an umbrella group for Arab NGOs in Israel - was charged on Thursday with serious espionage, assisting an enemy at a time of war, and maintaining contact with an enemy agent. Another suspect in the case, Omar Abdo, 40, an activist for the Balad Arab political party, was charged with maintaining contact with an enemy agent and transferring information that could be used by the enemy.
        According to the indictment, Makhoul relayed strategic intelligence to his Hizbullah handlers on at least ten different occasions via a specially-designed computer encryption system. Makhoul relayed details and the exact location on two Israel Security Agency facilities, a Mossad office, and a Rafael defense industry facility in northern Israel, and on the Nachshonim army base. He also relayed through coded messages the names and details of Israelis he claimed were potential Hizbullah recruits. The indictment detailed how a Hizbullah operative installed the encryption system on Makhoul's personal computer. Makhoul also disclosed the landing sites of rockets fired by Hizbullah towards Haifa during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. (Ynet News)
  • Israel: Aid Flotilla May Unload Gaza Cargo in Ashdod Port - Barak Ravid, Anshel Pfeffer and Jack Khoury
    The "Freedom Flotilla" of pro-Palestinian demonstrators heading toward Gaza will be permitted to unload their cargo at Ashdod port where it will be inspected and sent to Gaza via the United Nations, the forum of seven senior Israel ministers decided on Wednesday. However, the ministers decided not to allow the ships to dock in Gaza. The ministers decided that the ships would be directed to Ashdod by force if necessary. The activists would be arrested and expelled from the country. Foreign journalists will be allowed to be present on Israel Navy ships during the operation. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Humanitarian Aid to Gaza Despite Hamas Attacks
    Despite attacks by Hamas, Israel maintains an ongoing corridor for the transfer of humanitarian supplies to Gaza which is used by internationally recognized organizations including the UN and the Red Cross. There is no food shortage in Gaza. Pictures in local newspapers show local markets aplenty with fruit, vegetables, cheese, spices, bread and meat. In 2009 alone, 10,544 patients and their companions left Gaza for medical treatment in Israel. While the import of cement and iron has been restricted since these are used by Hamas to cast rockets and bunkers, monitored imports of cement, iron, and building supplies are regularly coordinated with international parties.
        While over 70% of Gaza's electricity comes from Israel, since January there has been deterioration in the supply of electricity within Gaza since the Hamas regime is unwilling to purchase fuel to run the Gaza City power station. The U.S., Israel, Canada, and the EU have frozen funds to the Palestinian Hamas government since 2006, recognizing it as a terror organization. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Is There a Blockade on Gaza?
    Israel has imposed a maritime blockade on Gaza because Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza. According to Sarah Weiss Maudi, the Israel Foreign Ministry's expert on maritime and humanitarian law: "Hamas has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza by various routes, including the sea....Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law, and may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea....The naval manuals of the U.S. and UK recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure that can be implemented in times of armed conflict."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • In Defense of Defense - Shmuel Sandler
    One of the foremost criticisms of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statecraft is that he has refrained from advancing a dynamic foreign policy or what is termed a "peace initiative." But an alternative reading of the situation might lead to the conclusion that a protective or defensive diplomatic strategy is the right strategy in light of Israel's bitter experiences with Middle East peace processes. Israeli "initiatives" of the past twenty years have produced such dismal results that any purported Israeli diplomatic initiative holds more pitfalls than promise. The writer is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Bar-Ilan University. (BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Reforms Transform Syrian Economy, But Not Politics - Hamza Hendawi
    President Bashar Assad in recent years has slowly moved to lift Soviet-style economic restrictions his father, Hafez Assad, left him. But he has not matched his economic policies with any political reforms, and his powerful security services are in constant watch for criticism of the regime. Assad's feared security agencies keep a close watch on everyone, carefully combing Internet postings for criticism of the regime and any sign of religious militancy. Syrians say they are back to whispering again just as they were when they wanted to talk politics under the rule of the late Assad.
        After ten years of Assad's rule, Damascus now smells of money, gripped by a consumer boom sustained by a clique of nouveau riche. Foreign tourists crowd the old city's bazaar, hotels boast full occupancy and trendy restaurants are busy. Opening up a country economically while denying the populace democracy and freedoms is perhaps the Arab world's most popular formula of governance. Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan were pioneers in the field. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    The Real Traitors - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)

    • The former PLO "ambassador" to Australia, Ali Kazak, believes that an Arab journalist who writes about financial corruption and theft in the Palestinian Authority is a "traitor" who should be murdered the same way as collaborators were killed by the French Resistance. Kazak told The Australian: "Khaled Abu Toameh is a traitor. Traitors were also murdered by the French Resistance, in Europe; this happens everywhere."
    • Kazak's threat does not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the methods used by Arab dictatorships to silence anyone who dares to demand reforms and transparency. The threat reminds journalists like me how lucky we are that we live in Israel and not under the jurisdiction of the PLO or Hamas.
    • The real traitors are those who established another corrupt dictatorship in the West Bank and Gaza and stole billions of dollars of international aid that was supposed to improve the living conditions of their people.
    • The real traitors are those who built a casino for the Palestinians instead of building them a hospital and a school.
    • The real traitors are those who are trying to silence journalists and reformists who want to see a better life for their people.

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