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August 9, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

UAE: Japanese Tanker Struck by Suicide Bomber - Praveen Menon (National-UAE)
    A boat loaded with explosives is suspected to have rammed into the Japanese supertanker M Star in the Strait of Hormuz on July 28, UAE experts said on Friday following investigations. A specialized team found traces of homemade explosives on the hull of the vessel.
    See also Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Claims Japanese Tanker Attack (AP)
    The Brigades of Abdullah Azzam, an al-Qaeda-linked group, said Wednesday one of its suicide bombers had hit the Japanese oil tanker in the Persian Gulf last month to avenge the plunder of Muslim wealth.
    A crew member was injured and the vessel sustained a square-shaped dent on the rear side of the hull during the incident.
    The Brigades have in the past claimed responsibility for the August 2005 firing of Katyusha rockets that narrowly missed a U.S. navy ship docked at Aqaba in Jordan and the July and October 2004 bombings at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik and two other resorts that killed a total of 98 people.

Israeli Exports Shift from West to East Adam Gonn (Media Line)
    Israeli exports eastward have increased more than 100%, according to a new report by the Israel Export Institute.
    The U.S. is still Israel's main export destination, but India has now overtaken Europe as the second largest export market, while China has climbed to fifth place.
    Exports to India rose 102% in the first half of 2010, while export growth to China increased 115%, reaching $755 million.
    "This has been a bad year for Europe so they are importing less and it's been a good year for India and China with more stable consumers [markets]," said Prof. Joseph Zeira from the Department of Economics at Hebrew University.

Israelis Teach Martial Arts to Chinese - Boaz Arad (Ynet News)
    A group of former IDF combat soldiers, Krav Maga and martial arts experts are giving security training courses to employees of major Chinese companies operating in danger zones around the world, Yediot Ahronot reported Monday.
    After Chinese employees found themselves victims of armed robbery and abductions during their work overseas, an Israeli company, Alpha Angel, has been operating in China for the past two years to teach the Chinese how to handle dangerous situations.

Older Gazans Recall Israelis - Ben Hubbard (AP)
    Gaza Palestinian Sobhi Hamami, 61, fondly recalls the 23 years he worked on an Israeli kibbutz, where he learned Hebrew, swam in the pool with Israeli friends and celebrated holidays with his Jewish boss.
    Older people remember when jobs in Tel Aviv and contact with Israelis were a short drive away.
    Israel says the current travel ban will remain to keep out would-be attackers until Gaza is ruled by a government that doesn't seek Israel's destruction or consider Israeli civilians legitimate targets. Hamas rejects those conditions.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. F-15 Fighter Jet Sale to Saudis Won't Include Features Israel Opposes - Adam Entous
    The Obama administration plans to sell advanced F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia but won't equip them with long-range weapons systems and other arms whose inclusion was strongly opposed by Israel, diplomats and officials said. Israeli officials have repeatedly conveyed their concerns in private that the U.S. risks undermining its military advantage by equipping regional rivals with top-flight technologies. Two officials close to the negotiations said Israel still had some reservations, but that the country isn't expected to challenge the sale. Successive U.S. administrations have confirmed a longstanding commitment to maintain Israel's military edge in the region. (AP-Wall Street Journal)
  • Lebanon Bent on Building Up Army
    Lebanon said Saturday it was committed to building up its armed forces after complaints by Israel about Western assistance to the military following a deadly border clash. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said the cabinet would meet to ratify a three- or five-year plan to arm the military "so that it can protect the nation's dignity."
        Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he had told France and the U.S., "We think it is a mistake to arm the Lebanese army with weapons, with advanced systems....We used to describe the danger that these things would end up in Hizbullah hands, but before our eyes something more troubling is happening, and they are being used directly by the Lebanese army against us."  (Reuters)
  • U.S. Travel Warning Gets It Wrong, Says Israel
    A warning to U.S. citizens that they should know where the nearest bomb shelter is if they travel to the Red Sea resort of Eilat has irked Israel's government, which says the alert should apply to next door Aqaba in Jordan. There is no equivalent warning for Jordan, where one taxi driver was killed and three other people injured last week by a rocket which exploded outside a five-star hotel in Aqaba. There was no travel advisory either for Egypt's Sinai, where the rocket salvo came from. "Drawing a distinction between Israel and its neighbor was inappropriate," said a Tourism Ministry official, who accused the State Department of "discriminatory" behavior. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Slams "Hamastan," Iran at Israeli Flotilla Probe - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appearing Monday before the Turkel committee probing the flotilla incident of May 31, said that in order to deal with the incident it was necessary to clarify the government's policy toward Hamas. Over the last decade Hamas has increasingly received aid from Iran "which also calls to erase Israel from the map," and has essentially turned the area into "Hamastan." "Iran provided Hamas with thousands of rockets, missiles and other arms" which were used, and are still being used, against Israel, he said.
        "Hamas is in violation of at least four war crimes: The call for genocide, directed fire at civilians, the use of civilians as human shields, and preventing the Red Cross from visiting kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu's Statement Before the Israeli Flotilla Probe Panel (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israeli Held in Libyan Prison Freed in Secret Deal - Barak Ravid
    An Israeli imprisoned in Libya since March was freed on Sunday after secret negotiations between Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Libyan authorities. Rafael Haddad, who is active in a society that seeks to preserve Libyan Jewish history, was arrested while photographing buildings that once belonged to the Jewish community, on suspicion that he was a spy. A deal was made to allow the cargo of a Libyan aid ship into Gaza in exchange for Hadad's release. (Ha'aretz)
  • Experts: No Legal Basis for Palestinian "Right of Return" - Ariela Ringel Hoffman
    "International law does not recognize the right of the Palestinian refugees and their descendents to return to their homes," according to a new position paper by prominent jurists Prof. Ruth Gavison and Prof. Yaffa Zilbershatz. "Any recognition of this right may tie Israel's hands and lead to mass lawsuits that will effectively mean the end of the Jewish state," they wrote. Israel "must not be tempted to recognize the right of return even as a symbolic gesture." Recognizing the right of return "may perpetuate the conflict."
        "The international community's position that it is preferable to fully settle disputes [rather] than to recognize refugees' right of return [is] supported by a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The court debated the right of the Greek refugees who were expelled from northern Cyprus in 1974, and five months ago it ruled that due to the time that has passed, it would be wrong to rectify the situation by allowing them to return to their homes and expelling those who currently live in the area."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Questions About the UN Flotilla Investigation - Anne Bayefsky
    It appears that the mandate of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's flotilla panel is actually still up in the air. Last week the secretary general's spokesperson said, "it will be for the panel to decide exactly how they will operate and decide on what steps may need to be taken in order to obtain...information from the national authorities."  The secretary general's office has refused to release a copy of the panel's mandate, despite requests from states, NGOs, and members of the press. On Thursday, a senior official in Ban's office said that there are no "terms of reference" for the panel yet because "nothing is finalized or agreed." He added, "at this point, there might be different drafts of possible terms of reference."  (Weekly Standard)
  • Palestinian Refugees: Frozen in Time, Addicted to Pity - Robert Fulford
    Palestinian refugees are a special case. For many reasons, various populations across the planet are displaced; only the Palestinians cling to their "refugee" status decade after decade. Members of other history-battered groups choose to make a new life. Palestinians have a different approach: Sit down, wait, stay angry till the world provides for you.
        British historian Andrew Roberts has argued, correctly, that Arab governments "are rich enough to have economically solved the Palestinian refugee problem decades ago." Why haven't they done so? They much prefer to let Palestinians remain poor. Every wretched, ill-fed and ill-housed Palestinian can be used as a living rebuke to Israel.
         The Arab countries love the Palestinians. They just don't want them moving permanently into their neighborhoods. The Arab League advises Arab states to deny citizenship to Palestinians. The Palestinians deserve pity, of course, but pity for what their fellow Arabs have done to them. (National Post-Canada)
  • Politics of Resentment in the West Bank - Salim Mansur
    I am struck by the construction boom across the city as I visit Ramallah, the legislative and political center of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. There is money here, plenty of it, and those who have it are not hesitant to flaunt it. New cars, beautiful residences, fancy stores and restaurants will startle any outsider arriving here with his head filled by the mainstream media in the West about the misery of the West Bank.
        The politics of resentment spill over any conversation with ordinary Palestinians fed on a diet of half-truths and endless lies by their leaders. But visiting with Palestinians is also an invitation to hear their bitterness about Arab leaders, and of their experience with discrimination and violence in places such as Lebanon and Kuwait. They speak of how the Palestinian leadership resembles Ali Baba and his 40 thieves robbing the people of the money that has poured in as aid from the West.
        The term limit of the president and the legislative assembly has expired, and no new elections are scheduled to provide Palestinians with any say on how they are being governed. In effect those in authority have no mandate, and their fear that Hamas will likely win an election whenever held underscores the contempt of ordinary Palestinians for Mahmoud Abbas - the president of the Palestinian Authority - and the men around him.
        If it were not for Israel in the middle, the war of words between the two Palestinian entities, or putative states, would become a ghastly shootout between the Iranian proxy in Gaza and mafia dons receiving protection money from the West and its Arab allies in the West Bank. (Toronto Sun)
        See also Movenpick to Open Five-Star Hotel in Ramallah This Year (AME info)
  • Observations:

    Israel, Arab World Finding Common Ground Over Iran - Elliott Abrams (Wall Street Journal)

    • Who will stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program, the Arabs wonder; they place no faith in endless negotiations between earnest Western diplomats and the clever Persians. Israel is the enemy of their enemy, Iran. Now, the usual description of Arab-Israeli relations as "hostile" or "belligerent" is giving way to a more complex picture. Israel is as unpopular in the Arab street as it has been in past decades (which is to say, widely hated), but for Arab rulers focused on the Iranian threat, the Israeli toughness the Arabs have complained about for over a half century is now their own most likely shield against Iran.
    • The Egyptian regime feels no love for the Israelis, but there is significant security cooperation between the two countries; Egypt's rulers see the Shia in Iran, not the Jewish state, as the more dangerous threat to Arab power in the region.
    • Fears are far greater in the Gulf. Given Iran's proximity - and the existence of a Shia majority in Bahrain and a significant Shia population in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern province - it is not difficult to think of Iranian pressure, money and even guns leading to riots and violent uprisings.
    • The Gulf regimes want Iran stopped. They are not sure the need to do that is understood as well in Washington as it is in Jerusalem. There will be denunciations and UN resolutions, petitions and boycotts, but there is a clear coincidence of interests between the Arab states and Israel today in the face of the Iranian threat. Given the 60 years of war and cold peace between Israel and the Arabs, this is one of the signal achievements of the regime in Tehran - and could prove to be its undoing.

      The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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