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South Sudan Majority Votes for Independence (AFP)
South Sudan has achieved the majority needed to break away in an independence vote, partial preliminary results collated by AFP showed on Wednesday.
2,198,422 votes for independence have already been returned, comfortably exceeding the simple majority of 1.89 million votes needed for secession.
Sonia Peres, Wife of President Shimon Peres, Dies at 87 (Ha'aretz)
WikiLeaks: U.S. Sought Data on Encrypted Israeli Communications (Reuters)
The U.S. instructed its Middle East diplomats to gather data on "encrypted Israeli communications," according to a secret Oct. 31, 2008, memorandum signed by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and published by WikiLeaks.
Diplomats were asked for a comprehensive overview of Israel's high-tech communications, from Internet and cellphones to state-run "information repositories associated with radio frequency identification (RFID)-enabled systems used for passports, government badges, and transportation systems."
The cable also sought updates on the movements and private contact details of Israeli civilian and military officials.
Ten Jews Move to Israel after Tunisia Uprising (AP-New York Times)
Ten Tunisian Jews have moved to Israel because of the instability following the popular uprising in their home country, an Israeli official said Wednesday.
The 1,500-member Jewish community is concentrated on the island of Djerba and in the capital of Tunis. Most of Tunisia's 100,000 Jews went to France and Israel between the 1940s and the 1960s.
Film Showing Cancelled in Canada after Iranian Request - Robert Sibley, Kristy Nease and Sneh Duggal (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
Threatening e-mails and phone calls resulted in the cancellation Tuesday of a film that exposes Iran's efforts to build nuclear weapons and promote terrorism.
The threats followed a formal complaint last weekend from the Iranian Embassy, seeking to stop the showing of the film "Iranium" at Library and Archives Canada.
"Iranium," produced by filmmaker Raphael Shore, is a 60-minute documentary that examines the policies of the Iranian regime, including its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its support of terrorist groups.
Fred Litwin, president of the Free Thinking Film Society, said, "It's simply astounding that in the capital of Canada we can't show a film that offends the Iranians.... It's as if the mullahs can enforce their cultural values on Canadians."
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- U.S. Warns Palestinians over Security Council Resolution
Palestinian envoys on Wednesday stepped up lobbying for a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building, but the U.S. spoke out strongly against the initiative.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told a Security Council meeting on the Middle East, "As we have consistently said, permanent status issues can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the Security Council.
We therefore consistently oppose attempts to take these issues to this council and will continue to do so, as such action moves us no closer to the goal of a negotiated final settlement." DiCarlo said a council resolution "would only complicate efforts to achieve that goal." (AFP)
See also U.S. Rejects Palestinian Resolution (AP-Boston Globe)
- Khalid Sheik Mohammed Killed U.S. Journalist Daniel Pearl, Report Finds - Peter Finn
A recently completed investigation of the killing of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan nine years ago makes public new evidence that senior al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheik Mohammed - the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - executed the Wall Street Journal reporter.
Mohammed said at a military hearing in 2007 that he killed Pearl. According to the new report, published in conjunction with the Center for Public Integrity, U.S. officials have concluded that vascular technology, or vein matching, shows that the hand of the unseen man who killed Pearl on video is that of Mohammed. The report said that 27 men, including guards and drivers, played a part in the kidnapping and murder, and that 14 remain free in Pakistan. (Washington Post)
- Israeli-Palestinian Dispute Lands Seattle Agency in Court
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the city of Seattle, arguing that its transit agency infringed free speech rights of the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign by refusing to carry its pro-Palestinian placards on buses. The group's advertising bore the words: "Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work," next to a picture of children standing next to a damaged building. In reaction, a pro-Israel group proposed placards to run on buses carrying the words "Palestinian War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work," next to a picture of a bus engulfed in flames. On Dec. 23, King County, which runs public transit in Seattle, said it would no longer carry political advertising on buses.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IDF: Death of Palestinian Woman Caused by Atropine Overdose at
Ramallah Hospital - Hanan Greenberg
An IDF investigation into the death of Palestinian woman Jawaher Abu-Rahma two weeks ago in Bilin determined Wednesday that she died from an overdose of atropine administered at the hospital in Ramallah. According to the investigation, Abu-Rahma hadn't even participated in the Bilin protest.
An examination of her medical records confirmed that the young woman had died as a result of faulty medical care in the hospital and not from the crowd dispersal methods used by the IDF soldiers. The investigation revealed that the Palestinian medical team hadn't properly diagnosed her case, and thought that she needed to receive large amounts of atropine. Had she received a smaller dose, her life would have been saved.
- Senior PA Officials to Come to Israel for Unofficial Talks
Senior Palestinian officials will come to Israel this weekend for unofficial talks concerning the renewal of peace negotiations. American envoys George Mitchell and Dennis Ross are also expected, Israel Radio reported Thursday.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the PA Wednesday that the responsibility for advancing the peace process is on them, and that the Israeli government is ready to negotiate. "They cannot wait to get better conditions from anyone else; this is the government with which to talk." (Jerusalem Post)
- Terrorist Opens Fire at West Bank IDF Post - Yair Altman
A Palestinian terrorist armed with a Kalashnikov rifle opened fire at an IDF post near Mevo Dotan in the West Bank on Thursday. IDF forces fired back and killed the terrorist. Israeli military sources noted, "Recently, there have been several cases in which Palestinians approached checkpoints in an attempt to carry out attacks against IDF soldiers. However, in this case - for the first time in a long time - the Palestinian was armed and had fired his weapon." (Ynet News)
- Controversy over Meir Dagan's 2015 Prediction on Iran Nukes - Ari Shavit
Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks former Mossad chief Meir Dagan's statement that Iran will not produce a nuclear bomb before 2015 has sabotaged the diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Iran already has enough fissionable material for one or two nuclear bombs. If the ayatollahs opt for high-grade uranium enrichment, Iran might obtain a military nuclear capability within a year or two.
In the past year, the Western powers got the international community to adopt a firm approach to Iran that stemmed in part from the feeling of urgency Israel instilled in the powers. Now comes the former Israeli Mossad chief and blurs the sense of urgency. Senior American, British and French officials compared the damage done by Dagan to the damage caused by the complacent, unfounded American intelligence evaluation released at the end of 2007. (Ha'aretz)
- FBI Took Long Look at AIPAC Activities - Eli Lake
FBI agents thought they were hunting a spy for Israel in 2004 when they sought to raid the offices of a top lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), according to a search warrant affidavit obtained by The Washington Times.
The document provides an extraordinary look at a five-year counterintelligence probe of Steven J. Rosen, then-director of foreign-policy issues for AIPAC. However, Rosen, who pioneered AIPAC's practice of lobbying the executive branch in the early 1980s, was never charged with being a spy.
Oliver "Buck" Revell, a former associate director of the FBI who oversaw counterintelligence investigations at the bureau, said the U.S. government had a "rather vigorous discussion with the Israelis" after the arrest of Jonathan Pollard. He said he considers the Pollard affair to be a "one-off" event and not part of a pattern of Israelis recruiting Americans. He also said there were no ties that turned up connecting Pollard to pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC. "We do not consider the Israelis a national security threat to the United States," Revell said. (Washington Times)
- The Hamas-Fatah Two-Step - Elliot Jager
Fatah was founded in the 1950s with the straightforward, nonsectarian goal of destroying Israel via "armed struggle" - this, at a time when Arabs themselves fully controlled the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem. Under the mercurial Yasir Arafat, Fatah came to dominate Palestinian politics. In 1993, abandoning the immediate armed liberation of Palestine for a nebulous alternative strategy, Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, which collapsed in bloodshed seven years later.
Hamas, an offshoot of the virulently rejectionist and anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood, came into its own in 1987. Considering Palestine a Muslim trust, it sees Islam as engaged in a zero-sum religious war with the Jews. Hamas is crystal-clear on its intention to eliminate the State of Israel.
In January 2006, a year after Arafat's death, Hamas overwhelmingly defeated Fatah in the Palestinian Authority elections. Fatah relies on the ostensible moderate Arab states, while Hamas gets its main backing from Shi'ite Iran. As in Gaza under Hamas, Fatah-dominated media in the West Bank and the curriculum of PA schools ceaselessly teach the illegitimacy of Israel and celebrate "resistance" through "martyrdom." (Jewish Ideas Daily)
Who's Afraid of the Palestinians? - Hussein Agha and Robert Malley (New York Review of Books)
- Palestinians have looked to unilaterally declaring statehood, obtaining UN recognition, dissolving the PA, or walking away from the idea of negotiated partition altogether and calling for a single binational state.
- Of these suggestions, arguably the most promising is to seek international acceptance of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders. In the past few months, several countries have recognized such a state and others may follow. The trend is causing Palestinians to rejoice and Israelis to protest, which only makes Palestinians rejoice all the more. What it will not do for now is materially affect the situation on the ground.
- Invoking a one-state solution in which Jews someday no longer will form a majority has its own limitations. Yet Israel possesses a variety of potential responses. Already, by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon transformed the numbers game, effectively removing 1.5 million Palestinians from the Israeli equation. Israel could unilaterally conduct further territorial withdrawals from the West Bank, allowing, as in the case of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's West Bank government, or compelling, as happened in Gaza, large numbers of Palestinians to rule themselves and mitigating the demographic peril.
- Salam Fayyad wants to demonstrate that Palestinians can put their finances in order and build the foundations of a state alongside which their neighbors could live in security. Yet questions have been raised about what a government that rules by decree, with little democratic legitimacy - parliament has not met in years and elections are long overdue - has done to build democratic institutions. Many grumble that Fayyad has conquered the West through his demeanor rather than substantive deeds.
- Palestinians who seem to have scant confidence in themselves have put their hopes in the U.S. instead - an investment that reflects excessive faith in Washington. There is no precedent for a successful start-to-finish American effort to bring about peace in the Middle East. All such endeavors that came to something initially were rooted in local dynamics that the U.S. could influence but did not produce.
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