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Mossad: Iran's Nuclear Program Has Been Set Back Several Years - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
Meir Dagan, who retired from his post as Mossad chief on Thursday after eight years, does not believe Iran will have nuclear capability before 2015.
He told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that a series of failures had set its nuclear weapons program back by several years.
See also below Observations: Stuxnet for the Nobel Peace Prize - Charley J. Levine (Washington Times)
Poll: Turks See U.S. as Biggest Threat - Sevil Kucukkosum (Hurriyet-Turkey)
43% of Turks perceive the U.S. as the country's biggest threat, according to a survey carried out in December by the Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center.
24% indicated Israel as the biggest threat, 3% said Iran, 2% said Greece, Iraq, or Russia, and 1% said Armenia. In previous years, Armenia, Russia and Greece were perceived as the main external threats for Turks.
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq and "the 'hood incident' in which American soldiers detained Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq and covered their heads with a sack during the arrest, a strong reaction has emerged against the U.S.," said Professor Ozer Sencar, chairman of the center.
"The war in Afghanistan followed this while Armenian bills coming to Congress every year raises tension."
Gaza's Self-Perpetuating Misery - Barbara Kay (National Post-Canada)
Gazans who whine that they live in a "prison" hold the keys to their own freedom and prosperity, but seem to prefer economic privation and complaining to responsible representation and prosperity.
If Gazans want prosperity and dignified communal life, let them look to their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank who without fanfare have conceded that Israel is not going anywhere, that co-existence is possible, and furthermore, peaceful co-existence is good for their economy and collective well-being.
Obama's Syrian Mistake: Rewarding Terrorists - Editorial (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
Syria is a veritable way station for the region's garden-variety terrorists, including the missile-brokering thugs of Hizbullah and anything anti-Israel.
And Syria has done absolutely nothing to suggest it remains anything but a terrorist state.
The Islamification of Britain: Number of Muslim Converts Doubled in 10 Years - Jerome Taylor and Sarah Morrison (Independent-UK)
The number of Britons choosing to become Muslims has nearly doubled in the past decade.
A new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests there are as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year.
Jesus' Baptism Site to Open to Public - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
After 42 years as a closed military zone, the site where John baptized Jesus along the shores of the Jordan River, known as Kasr al-Yehud, will open to the public on Jan. 18.
Israel has invested millions of shekels in upgrading the site, which will operate under the auspices of the Nature and Parks Authority.
Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom noted that the site had great significance in Jewish history as well, as the spot where the Jews crossed into Israel after spending 40 years in the desert.
Video: Jerusalem 1918 - Jacob Gross (YouTube)
This amateur film presents a rare look at daily life in Jerusalem at the end of the Ottoman era.
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- Netanyahu Asks Egypt to Help Persuade Palestinians to Enter Direct Negotiations
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Egypt on Thursday to help persuade the Palestinians to enter direct peace talks. Meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Netanyahu asked Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak to try to persuade the Palestinians to return to "direct, intensive and serious" negotiations, an Israeli government statement said.
This week, Netanyahu offered nonstop negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas until peace is reached. (AP)
See also Netanyahu Meets with Egyptian President Mubarak
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday in Sharm el-Sheikh with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak where the two leaders held a lengthy and comprehensive discussion on efforts to advance the diplomatic process.
Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that he believes that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is possible provided that they are willing to end the conflict. He asked President Mubarak to persuade the Palestinians to move to direct negotiations in which all core issues will be raised.
(Prime Minister's Office)
- Hamas Leader Says Nazi Genocide Was a "Lie"
Senior Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar on Thursday accused Israel of carrying out "countless holocausts" against the Palestinians while saying the Nazi genocide was a "lie."
"The lie according to which they were a victim of a holocaust and the (Jewish) people are a victim - this lie has crumbled with the holocaust of Beit Hanun, the holocaust of Al-Fakhura and the other countless holocausts...committed by the Zionist enemy," he said.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- PA Releases Prisoners Involved in Terror Attacks on Israelis - Khaled Abu Toameh
PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday ordered the release of six Hamas detainees who were on a hunger strike in a PA prison in Hebron.
Israel Radio reported that one of the prisoners, Waed al-Bitar, was involved in a terror attack near Kiryat Arba in which 4 Israelis were killed, and another prisoner was involved in a Dimona area terror attack.
See also IDF Re-arrests Hamas Members Freed by PA
The IDF raided Hebron Friday to re-arrest six Hamas members that the Palestinian Authority had released the day before. The PA had taken the six into custody in September after four Israelis were killed and two injured in two separate shooting attacks in the West Bank.
Hamas took responsibility for both shootings, one of which occurred on the eve of the start of direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in Washington. During the arrest raid, a 65-year-old Palestinian civilian was killed in a building the soldiers had raided to arrest one of the Hamas members.
See also IDF Expresses Regret over Hebron Man's Killing (Ynet News)
- Ten Rockets Launched from Gaza into Israel in First Week of 2011
Within the first week of 2011, more than 10 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel's southern communities. In 2010, over 235 Grad missiles, Kassam rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza into Israel.
The IDF holds the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining calm in Gaza and for any terrorist activity emanating from there.
(Israel Defense Forces)
- Obama's Moment of Truth at the UN - Steven J. Rosen
Abbas is taking his campaign to the UN Security Council, where the Palestinians are circulating a draft resolution that would declare Israeli "settlements" in Jerusalem to be "illegal." The draft demands a halt to all construction in the eastern half of Israel's capital city.
Successive administrations have deplored settlement activity as an obstacle to peace, but no American president since Jimmy Carter has taken the view that building Jewish homes in the West Bank or in east Jerusalem is "illegal."
President Ronald Reagan rejected Carter's position and said the settlements were "ill-advised" and "unnecessarily provocative" but "not illegal." All American presidents since Reagan have taken this view. No president since Carter has permitted anti-Israel UN Security Council Resolutions on settlements to pass. Ronald Reagan vetoed two and Bill Clinton vetoed three draft resolutions condemning Israeli settlements.
In all, seven American presidents have recorded 41 vetoes in Israel's defense at the UN Security Council. The Obama administration has declined up to now to say whether it would veto a draft resolution declaring Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem to be illegal.
The writer, former
foreign policy director of AIPAC, is director of the Washington Project at the Middle East Forum. (Commentary)
- America Pressures Israel Plenty - Leslie H. Gelb
Scholars, pundits, propagandists, and journalists have created two dangerous pieces of conventional wisdom about the Middle East: that Israelis, not Palestinians, have been the main stumbling block to peace, and that the U.S. has failed to use its influence to pressure Israel for serious compromises. Both propositions are largely untrue. Israel has a long and compelling history of making major concessions to Arabs. Israel agreed to return the entire Sinai Peninsula, booty of a war it did not start and an act of territorial generosity unprecedented in modern history. When Israel departed Gaza in 2005, it uprooted 9,000 Israeli settlers. In return, Israel got rockets and a terrorist enclave run by Hamas.
At each step in the tortuous negotiating process, the U.S. has pushed Israel toward concessions, but received little or no credit from the Arab side because they think the U.S. is capable of exerting even more pressure on Israel. Nonetheless, the American role has been real and substantial. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.
- The Big Lie Is Alive and Well in Seattle - Jonathan L. Singer
The failed attempt to place billboard ads on city buses in Seattle claiming that Israel is actively engaging in war crimes with the support of American dollars is a beautiful example of the Big Lie at work. In the past, big lies were used by fascists and dictators as a means of delegitimizing certain groups. If you go to the website of the group sponsoring the ads, they make it clear that no matter what Israel does, it should not exist.
Israel wants peace with its neighbors and has accepted the idea of two states, one Jewish, one Palestinian, existing as neighbors in peace. That is the Big Truth.
The writer is a senior rabbi at Temple Beth Am, Seattle. Another 24 rabbis in the Seattle and Tacoma area support this statement.
- Christians Under Siege - Editorial
Christians are increasingly under siege in Egypt and Iraq. Over the past year, hundreds have been killed or wounded in attacks. All people, regardless of their beliefs, should be outraged. As the Mubarak government's political support has waned, it has sought to pander to the Muslim majority by discriminating against other religions - especially Coptic Christians.
(New York Times)
See also Can Christianity Survive in the Middle East? - Frida Ghitis
The holiday season has now ended, leaving behind a trail of devastation and a rising sense of anguish among Christian communities in the Middle East. With few exceptions, those targeting Christians are the same people who wish to see a return to a Muslim Caliphate and a radical interpretation of Islam in the Muslim world. In other words, the ultimate fate of Christian communities is closely linked to the struggle over liberalism and modernity in the region.
The only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has seen strong growth is Israel, where the total has increased from 34,000 in 1948 to more than 150,000 today. The one country in the region without a Muslim majority is the country where the number of Christians is growing.
(World Politics Review)
See also Christians Arrested and Detained over Christmas in Iran
On Christmas day the Iranian government arrested 25 Christians and sought to detain 16 others. 50 other Christians have also been detained. This was the second year running that security services in Iran had targeted Christians over the Christmas period.
- Sufism Under Attack in Pakistan - Huma Imtiaz and Charlotte Buchen
In Pakistan's heartland, holy men with bells tied to their feet close their eyes and sway to the music. This peaceful tableau is part of Sufism, Pakistan's most popular brand of Islam, which attracts millions of worshipers at about a dozen major festivals throughout the year. Each day, thousands visit shrines dedicated to Sufi saints.
But the rituals came under heavy attack in 2010, as minority hard-line militants took responsibility for five shrine attacks that killed 64 people.
"It's a very disturbing picture that militants have extended their targets to shrines, which are symbols of popular Islam in Pakistan and are widely visited," said Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences. "However, I don't think the militants are succeeding - thousands of people still visit the shrines despite these attacks." The U.S. sees Sufi Islam as a counter force to terrorism, and has given more than $1.5 million since 2001 for the restoration and conservation of Sufi shrines in Pakistan.
(New York Times)
See also Iran Escalates Repression Against Sufis - Stephen Schwartz
Tehran's despots have increased their specific, real measures of repression against Iran's Sufis.
- Under Fire - Sol Stern
Jonathan Spyer, a scholar and journalist specializing in the Middle East conflict, is also an Israel Defense Forces reservist in an armored combat unit. His new book, Transforming Fire, begins like an Israeli war memoir, with his call-up in 2006 for the Second Lebanon War.
His unit took several direct hits, killing one reservist. Abandoning their tanks, Spyer and his comrades scrambled for cover through an irrigation ditch, barely eluding the hundreds of Hizbullah fighters in the area. They were rescued by an Israeli armored vehicle after 13 hours.
In his judgment, the Jewish state now faces relentless Islamist/jihadist warfare. With Hizbullah and Hamas sitting on its northern and southern borders, and with Iran, the principal backer of these two terrorist organizations, about to go nuclear, the Jewish state has entered into what Spyer characterizes as a permanent cold war. By its nature, this overarching struggle is wholly unrelated to whether or not Israel ends its "occupation" of the West Bank. The Islamists are not interested in any territorial or political settlement; they are interested in Israel's elimination.
(Jewish Ideas Daily)
- The Invention of "Peace" in the Middle East - Fiamma Nirenstein
With the Palestinians, the idea that we like to convey is that of a world in which Fatah, in opposition to Hamas, is amenable to achieving peace through a partition plan that would enable "two states for two peoples." But this is far from reality. PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared that there would be no room in a Palestinian state for even a single Israeli, and his chief negotiator, Sa'eb Erekat, said there would be an inevitable "return" of 7,000,000 refugees - or their grandchildren and great-grandchildren - inside the borders of Israel.
There is also the declared Palestinian lack of willingness to negotiate land-swaps or to recognize the existence of a Jewish state. All this is in keeping with the most dramatic rejection of peace: the culture of hate and terrorism which the TV, the press and the Palestinian schools disseminate. The "study" on the Palestinian Authority website declaring that there has never been any trace of Jews in Jerusalem; or the invention of a Palestinian Jesus at a time when the concept of "Palestinians" did not even exist - all this should remind us that a peaceful end of conflict with Israel might not be a priority.
(Hudson Institute-New York)
- Who Started the Six-Day War? - Vin Suprynowicz
Did little Israel decide to attack all its surrounding Arab enemies simultaneously in June 1967 just because the Israelis thought it would be a fun way to spend the summer?
During the first four months of 1967, 37 armed attacks were launched into Israel by the Palestinian Liberation Organization - always targeting civilians. The Syrian army at this point was using the Golan Heights, which tower 3,000 feet above the Sea of Galilee, to shell Israeli farms and villages. Children living in the Huleh Valley had to sleep in bomb shelters.
On May 15, Egyptian troops began moving into the Sinai and massing near the Israeli border. Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser ordered the UN Emergency Force stationed in the Sinai since 1956 as a buffer to withdraw on May 16. The "Voice of the Arabs" radio station proclaimed on May 18: "As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel....The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence."
On May 22-23, Egyptian President Nasser declared the Straits of Tehran closed to Israeli shipping, cutting off Israel's flow of oil from its main supplier, Iran. "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel," Nasser said on May 27. By this time, 465,000 troops, 2,800 tanks and 800 aircraft ringed Israel. On May 31, at Jordan's invitation, the Iraqi army began deploying troops and armored units in Jordan.
(Las Vegas Review-Journal)
- Movie Review: "Precious Life" - Stephen Cole
Shlomi Eldar, Gaza correspondent for Israel's Channel 10 News, filmed "Precious Life," the engrossing story of a Palestinian infant with a rare and deadly disease who can only be saved by a Jewish doctor at the Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel. "Precious Life" is short-listed for best documentary film at this year's Academy Awards. Eldar reveals the child's dire situation to Israel, explaining the infant needs a $55,000 operation. A Jewish man who lost his son in a battle with Palestinians offers to pay for the surgery. The reporter gets the infant's family through a war zone to the hospital and helps choreograph the modern miracle cure.
In the film's big, second-act surprise, baby Mohammed's mother, Raida Abu Mustafa, is asked in the middle of a chat about religious holidays how she feels about shahids (suicide bombers). Raida responds, "For you life is precious, but not for us....After Mohammed gets well, I will certainly want him to be a shahid." (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Stuxnet for the Nobel Peace Prize - Charley J. Levine (Washington Times)
See also Changing Iran's Mind on Pursuing a Nuclear Bomb - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
- 2010 - pegged universally as crunch time for Iran's atomic ambitions - was to be a year characterized by a crippling counterblow to Tehran's plans.
- Just three years ago, the Syrian nuclear site at Deir Ez Zor, a shill for North Korea, was leveled. Both the International Atomic Energy Agency and CIA had concluded the site was heading toward military functionality. Eight "unidentified" aircraft carried out the mission, which included clandestine scouts on the ground. The bombers used Turkish airspace. Brig. Gen. Mohammed Suleiman, Syrian President Bashar Assad's go-to-guy with North Korea and Iran, was subsequently - as if for good measure - fatally shot by an unnamed sniper while on vacation on Aug. 2, 2008.
- Stuxnet, perhaps the most sophisticated, complex worm virus ever designed, invaded the computer control systems of Iran's atomic facilities. Washington's Institute for Science and International Security concluded that Stuxnet infected as many as 30,000 institutional computers involved in the project and outright broke 1,000 Iranian IR-1 centrifuges at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility.
- World security experts opined that Stuxnet was "amazing" and "groundbreaking," even a "prime example of clandestine digital warfare." If the malwarfare were not enough, an assault on Iran's atomic scientists was also an integral part of the campaign. As recently as Nov. 29, quantum physicist Majid Shahriari was eliminated in Tehran - causing the next 5,000 people engaged in weaponizing Iran to perhaps think twice about their career paths.
- A key lesson has clearly been learned: Attack effectively and keep quiet. The temporary derailment of Iran's atomic program is the greatest news story not reported on in 2010. The West can sleep just a little better tonight as a result, comforted by the amazing results secured by a smart and civic-minded Lone Ranger who might be considered for the next Nobel Peace Prize. But nobody for sure knows who that quiet masked man was. Or what he did. Or why he did it.
- Although a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, at this time a military attack on its nuclear facilities is viewed by analysts as counterproductive and would exact an enormous diplomatic, economic and military price.
Iran's leadership, analysts say, would use an Israeli attack to unify the country around the government.
- The Iranians - who are largely responsible for building up Hizbullah to such an extent that today it has more firepower than 90% of the countries of the world - would "call in their chips," and Hizbullah would launch massive rocket attacks against Israel's home front.
- What is left is to change the Iranian government's mind about the wisdom of pursuing a nuclear bomb, or to buy more time that may create other opportunities down the line. Tools that can be used to achieve these goals, analysts say and WikiLeaks cables indicate, include:
- International pressure on Iran to convince it - through sanctions - that the price it is paying to gain nuclear capability is too high.
- Keeping the Iranians from getting the parts to produce the bomb.
- Economic warfare - ensuring that banks don't do business with the country.
- Fanning the ethnic chasms inside Iran, a country made up of 50% ethnic Persians, 25% Azeris, 7% Kurds and a smattering of Arabs, Turkmen, Balochi and other ethnic groups.
- Covert actions to set back the nuclear project.
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