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February 25, 2011

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Iran Widens Hunt for Uranium - George Jahn (AP-San Francisco Chronicle)
    A new intelligence report prepared by a member country of the International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran is expanding its covert global search for uranium for its nuclear activities.
    Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met secretly last month with senior Zimbabwean mining officials "to resume negotiations...for the benefit of Iran's uranium procurement plan."

Saudi Student in Texas Arrested for Plotting Terror Attacks - Richard A. Serrano (Los Angeles Times)
    The FBI has arrested a Saudi citizen attending college near Lubbock, Texas, on charges of attempting to build and use a weapon of mass destruction after he purchased chemicals and bomb components and began researching U.S. targets, authorities announced Thursday.
    Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari kept a detailed journal outlining his plot for a string of attacks. The targets included a dozen hydroelectric and reservoir dams in California and Colorado, and former President George W. Bush's home in Dallas, which he disparaged as the "Tyrant's House."
    In one entry, he described coming to the U.S. on a financial scholarship that would "[provide] me with the support I need for jihad."
    "And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad."

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Watering a Thirsty Planet - I.C. Mayer (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    Israel has invested great efforts in managing its own limited water resources and Israeli companies have parlayed this experience to develop state-of-the-art water management systems for use throughout the world.
    Israel is the world's leader in wastewater recovery, with a water recycling rate of about 75%.
    Israel Desalination Engineering (IDE) Technologies has deployed some 400 desalination plants in 40 countries.
    In Israel, IDE launched the world's largest sea water reverse osmosis (SWRO) plant in Ashkelon in 2005 and inaugurated an even bigger SWRO facility in Hadera in 2010.
    The company is also building China's largest desalination facility.
    See also What Does the Arab World Do When Its Water Runs Out? - John Vidal (Observer-UK)

Israeli Hospital Saves Gaza Toddler (Rambam Hospital-IMRA)
    2-year-old Wallah Omar arrived at Rambam Health Care Campus from Gaza City, completely paralyzed on her left side due to a large tumor that was pressing on her brain.
    Director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery Unit Dr. Joseph Guilburd operated immediately, removing the entire growth.
    "The care we received at Rambam saved my daughter's life," said the child's father, Ayad.
    Rambam Hospital provides specialized medical care to 700 Palestinian children annually.
    Watch Wallah's Recovery (YouTube)

Israel Trip Challenges, Inspires Teens with Disabilities - Donald Liebenson (Chicago Tribune)
    13 teens with disabilities and chronic illnesses, 11 of whom use wheelchairs, embarked on a 10-day excursion to Israel last month - floating in the Dead Sea and navigating accessibility challenged landmarks like Masada, among other adventures.
    The "Wish at the Wall" journey was made possible by the Hartman Family Foundation and Chai Lifeline.

Israel Army Band Plays in Red Square (YouTube)

Carleton University Student Council Says No to Anti-Israeli Group - Robert Sibley (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
    Carleton University's student council on Thursday rejected a campus fringe group's demand that the university divest its faculty pension plan of companies that do business with Israel.
    According to witnesses, about 80 to 100 members of a radical group waiting outside began yelling and banging on the walls at those inside when they learned of the decision.
    "My personal safety was threatened repeatedly," said student councilor Hashem Hamdy. "Those opposing the motion were subject to intimidation, physical confrontation, and homophobic slurs inside and outside the council chamber. They don't seem to recognize that in a democracy, you don't have a license to riot just because someone opposes what you say."

The Paradox of the Italian Jewish Experience in 1990-2010 - Ephraim Nissan (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    Jews in Italy are more integrated than ever and Israel has been relegitimized in important quarters after being in practice delegitimized by the Communists, Socialists, and those media close to the Christian Democrats in the late 1970s and 1980s.
    However, sporadic expressions of anti-Semitism have occurred recently even at the highest circles of power.
    For all the persistence of hostile attitudes toward Jews and Israel, since the early 1990s, some of Italy’s politicians allow themselves to express sympathy for Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Libyan Rebels Repel Gaddafi’s Forces Near Tripoli - Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick
    Rebels in Libya repelled a concerted assault by Gaddafi's forces on Thursday on cities close to Tripoli, removing any doubt that the protests had evolved into an increasingly well-armed revolutionary movement. In Zawiyah, 30 miles from Tripoli, more than 100 people were killed and 200 were wounded as about 60 foreign mercenaries turned automatic weapons on a mosque filled with protesters, a witness said. (New York Times)
  • Israel: Iranian Warships in Mediterranean an Assertion of Power - Wolf Blitzer
    When Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was asked by CNN about the Iranian warships that crossed the Suez Canal, he replied, "I don't like it but I don't think that any one of us should be worried by it....If they were bringing rockets or weapons or explosives to Hamas or Hizbullah, we would have probably acted against them. But...they're coming with navy cadets to visit a Syrian port. It's a way of projecting that power, that self-confidence and a certain assertiveness in the region."  (CNN)
  • Saudi King Returns Home, Moves to Appease Discontented Citizens - Caryle Murphy
    After three months away, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz promised his subjects billions of dollars in new benefits as he returned home. The king introduced 19 new measures estimated to cost $36 billion, to address inflation and housing, expand social security benefits, and ease unemployment and education costs. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Quartet Tries New Israeli-Palestinian Peace Bid
    The Quartet of Mideast mediators has proposed meetings with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to discuss all core issues blocking a peace settlement, UN Mideast coordinator Robert Serry said Thursday. (AP-Fox News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Will Not Suffer the Bombardment of Its Citizens - Barak Ravid
    Israel will not tolerate the bombardment of its citizens, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, following a missile attack on the southern city of Beersheba. A Grad rocket fired on Wednesday hit a building in a residential area, causing damage. In retaliation, the Israel Air Force bombed targets in Gaza City, wounding three Islamic Jihad militants.
        Meron Reuben, Israel's ambassador to the UN, wrote a letter to the President of the Security Council, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, on Wednesday, imploring the UN to condemn the attack. Reuben said the attacks represent a clear escalation of terrorist activity emanating from Gaza and constitute a clear violation of international law. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Intelligence Aware of Syrian Nuke Facilities - Yaakov Katz
    Israeli intelligence agencies are aware of additional Syrian nuclear facilities, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday, amid reports that Syria was harboring a uranium conversion reactor near Marj as-Sultan, about 15 km. east of Damascus. The German Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Thursday identified the location of the site, which is suspected of containing a uranium conversion facility functionally related to the covert reactor at al-Kibar that the Israel Air Force destroyed in September 2007. Barak said the International Atomic Energy Agency was also aware of the Syrian facilities and that UN inspectors were working to gain access to them. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Norway Demands Relocation of Israel Embassy - Itamar Eichner
    The Israeli Embassy in Oslo, Norway, was officially notified a few days ago that it must move to another location within a year, Yediot Ahronot reported Monday. According to the Norwegians, the embassy poses a security threat to its surroundings and has had a negative impact on the residents' quality of life. Michael Eligal, Israel's ambassador to Oslo, sent the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem a cable saying embassy staffers were having a hard time finding an alternate site. "No one wants to sell us property," he wrote. An Israel Foreign Ministry official said, "The authorities in Norway are capitulating to public opinion that is hostile to Israel."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Uprisings in the Arab World

  • The Long Road to Democracy - Emily B. Landau and Carlo Masala
    The oppressive nature of the autocratic and police-state regimes in many countries in the Middle East makes it natural to sympathize with the popular uprisings that have been sweeping the region. Moreover, the "democratic peace" theory has reinforced the assumption that democracies don't fight each other. Yet the West has forgotten how long the road to democratization can really be.
        A society can be truly democratic only when its population embraces the concepts of tolerance and the protection of minority rights. It took Western Europe more than 200 years to emerge as a region of stable democracies. It would be naive to believe that the states in the Arab world that succeed in overcoming their dictatorial regimes can leapfrog the long and arduous process of establishing a culture of democracy.
        Dr. Emily B. Landau is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. Dr. Carlo Masala holds the chair for international relations at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich. (Ha'aretz)
  • For the Mideast, a Code for Rising Democracies - Tzipi Livni
    In the best-case scenario, the wave sweeping across the region will enable democracy to take root in the Arab world - not merely as a government system but as a values system that embraces nonviolence, coexistence, freedom, opportunity and equality. But the negative scenario is that this opening will be abused by those for whom democratic values are foreign and who seek to use the democratic process to advance an anti-democratic agenda. Another possibility is the emergence of weak regimes that feel compelled to appease extremists at the expense of their own people.
        In the case of Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon, the international community limited its conception of democracy to the technical process of voting. The result was to give a measure of democratic legitimacy and power to armed radical movements that are plainly not committed to democratic principles, that maintain independent militias and that pose a danger to their societies and neighbors.
        Current events in the Middle East highlight the urgency of adopting at the global level a universal code for participation in democratic elections. This would include requiring every party running for office to embrace a set of core democratic principles: the renunciation of violence and the acceptance of state monopoly over the use of force, the pursuit of aims by peaceful means, commitment to the rule of law and to equality before the law, and adherence to international agreements to which their country is bound. The writer, a former vice prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Israel, is head of the Israeli opposition and leader of the Kadima party. (Washington Post)
  • Mideast Unrest a Change the World Should Believe In - Natasha Mozgovaya
    Middle East scholar Prof. Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University said in an interview: "I think Israel should not be afraid of Arab democracy. I've been very friendly to Israel and the prospects of reconciliation between Israel and the Arab world, so take this as advice from a friend. I can remind you of what Natan Sharansky pointed out when he said that democrats who hate you are less dangerous than dictators who love you. There is a certain level of security that comes from autocracies, and Israel is not alone in this. The United States went to many lands and preferred dealing with autocrats because there is stability there. But the bargain with an autocrat is never a good bargain."
        "Israel had made peace with pharaohs, but the peace between Israel and the Arab people has not yet come....Dictators that made peace with Israel and an accommodation with the U.S. - they always played from the bottom of the deck and always resorted to anti-Americanism, anti-modernism and anti-Semitism....But in the long run, if you want a long-lasting peace, you have to be willing to bet on this democratic experiment."
        The Egyptians, Ajami is convinced, will maintain the peace agreement. "Not because they love Israel, but because they know the history of what happened in the Arab-Israeli wars of the past. I think the military will keep this peace. It was Sadat who made the peace and Mubarak kept it. The military is going to be very important in Egypt, come what may."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Arab Revolt Makes Turkey a Regional Power - Soner Cagaptay
    One of the unexpected consequences of the unrest in the Middle East is the elevation of Turkey's role in the region. While the Muslim Brotherhood is emerging as a key player in Egyptian politics, Turkey's ruling AKP party, as an advocate for this movement, has found an ally and voice in Cairo. The same also applies to Tunis, where the local Muslim Brotherhood has emerged from the shadows since the fall of Tunisia's dictator. Moreover, if unrest in other Arab countries were to topple more dictatorships, the AKP would gain additional allies in more Arab capitals.
        The proximity between the AKP and the Muslim Brotherhood goes beyond contemporary political support. In past years, leading AKP politicians, including Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, broke their political teeth in the Muslim Brotherhood's Turkish versions. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Hurriyet Daily News-Turkey)
        See also Turkey, the Global Muslim Brotherhood, and the Gaza Flotilla - Steven G. Merley (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Palestinians

  • Playing Israel's Good Hand - Caroline Glick
    The shift in the regional power balance following Mubarak's fall has caused Fatah leaders to view their ties with the U.S. as a strategic liability. If they wish to survive, they must cut a deal with Hamas. And to convince Hamas to cut a deal, they need to abandon the U.S. Abbas, Salam Fayyad and their PA ministers have sent paid demonstrators into the street to protest against America. They announced a boycott of American diplomats and journalists. They have called for a boycott of American products. (Jerusalem Post, 25Feb11)
  • Palestinian Smoke Screen - Joel Mowbray
    As the Arab world burns, the Palestinians are sending out a smoke screen. Rather than engage in peace talks with Israel or reform the rampant corruption within its government, the Palestinian Authority is driving the West to distraction. While Israel has been eager to return to the negotiating table, the PA is assiduously avoiding talks with Israel. Last week, President Obama reportedly made a personal appeal in a lengthy phone call with PA President Mahmoud Abbas not to push for a vote on an anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council. Mr. Obama was ignored, and the U.S. was forced to veto the latest UN fixation on Israeli settlements. (Washington Times)
  • Freezing Palestinian Myths - Gerald Steinberg
    Palestinian myths of victimization have been the major obstacle to peace for more than 60 years. In place of the myths, Palestinians have to acknowledge that their "suffering" and the refugee problem were the result of the unanimous Arab rejection of UN Resolution 181 - the November 1947 version of the two-state solution. This was followed by military invasions that killed one percent of the Jewish population. The Arab defeat on the battlefield was followed by the entirely fictitious claim to a "right of return" as refugees from illegal wars for which the Arabs themselves were responsible. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • Another Peace Process Trifecta - Rick Richman
    At the UN, the administration tried to replace an anti-Israel resolution with an anti-Israel presidential statement and then issued an anti-Israel ambassadorial statement. The U.S. traditionally vetoes one-sided UN resolutions. You don't single out settlements as an alleged "obstacle to peace" without also mentioning the Palestinian ones: the failure to dismantle terrorist groups (one of them rules Gaza); an unelected "Authority" without the legitimacy to speak for the people; the unwillingness to recognize a Jewish state even in a final agreement; the insistence on indefensible borders; the assertion of a deal-breaking "right of return." It is hard to remember the last time anyone achieved the trifecta of offending each side while embarrassing oneself in the process. (Commentary)
  • Traveling in the West Bank (Part 1) - Jennifer Rubin
    A trip to the West Bank provides some perspective. What I saw surprised me. The West Bank is a mountain range. On one side is the Jordan Valley, and on the other the heart of modern Israel. What strikes you are the vast open spaces - hill after hill of barren land. There is no shortage of living space. 95% of Palestinians are under the jurisdiction of the PA, which is responsible for everything from local police to schools. (Washington Post)
        See also Traveling in the West Bank (Part 2) - Jennifer Rubin
    A plastics factory in Barkan, an industrial center, employs 80 people, half Jews and half Palestinians. Palestinian workers with the benefit of Israeli labor laws make 5,000-6,000 shekels a month; the average Palestinian wage is 1,300-1,500. Outside we talked to two Palestinian brothers. They said they have the nicest homes in their neighborhoods and are sending their children to college. Even a short time on the West Bank leaves one suspecting that for all the talk that the present situation is "unsustainable," the alternatives are as well. (Washington Post)
  • My Israel - Lee M. Hiromoto
    At a Harvard Law School panel discussion on "boycotting the Israeli occupation," I thought back to the four years I spent in Israel. The Israel I experienced differed starkly from the fascist dystopia of which the panelists spoke. That Israel, my Israel, hopes for peace with its neighbors and respects the rights of minority groups, sometimes to a greater extent than the U.S. does.
        I served in the office of the Coordinator for Government Activity in the Territories, the Ministry of Defense agency responsible for liaising with the Palestinian Authority. Israel doesn't have to let thousands of Palestinians, many of whom still deny Israel's basic right to exist, into its communities for medical care or work (as happens every day). But Israel does. These actions, along with Israel's full, painful withdrawals from Gaza in 2005 and Sinai in 1982, speak louder than words to Israel's deep desire to get along with - not replace - its neighbors. (Harvard Crimson)

  • Other Issues

  • Nations United Against Israel - Clifford D. May
    In Libya, Gaddafi is using mercenaries to slaughter protestors. Hizbullah is staging a slow-motion coup in Lebanon. Iran's rulers are executing dissidents daily, developing nuclear weapons, and sending warships through Suez. The response of the UN to these many threats to global peace and security? Condemn Israel. In other words, the issue that the UN considers most critical in the world at this hinge moment in history is that Israelis have been building homes on land the Palestinians want.
        In the end and to its credit, the Obama administration did veto the UN resolution. But Ambassador Susan Rice did not even attempt to suggest how deranged it is for the UN to ignore the crimes being committed by Islamist terrorists and Arab despots while demanding that Israelis surrender territory - taken in a defensive war - to those who remain committed to their extermination. Were Arab and Muslim nations willing to tolerate Israel's existence - not love Israelis, just tolerate them - negotiating borders would be a piece of cake. In the absence of such tolerance, it would be a mistake for Israel to surrender another square inch of soil - as its earlier withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza have demonstrated to all. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Review)
  • New York Times Running Interference for Yusuf Qaradawi - Dexter Van Zile
    For the past several weeks, the New York Times has been running interference for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization set to play a significant role in Egyptian politics after the ouster of President Mubarak. In addition to publishing commentaries by two apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood, Tariq Ramadan and Essam El-Errian, on its op-ed page, the Times has published a news story that depicts the group's spiritual leader, Yussuf Qaradawi, as "committed to pluralism and democracy." In fact, Qaradawi is a virulent anti-Semite who has called on Allah to wipe out the Jewish people. (CAMERA)
        See also Hamas Invites Qaradawi to Visit Gaza
    On Feb. 19, Ismail Haniya, head of the Hamas administration in Gaza, invited Sheikh Dr. Yussuf Qaradawi to visit Gaza and expressed Hamas' appreciation for Qaradawi's support of the Palestinian cause. On Feb. 18, Qaradawi called for the "liberation" of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and asked the Egyptian army to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza, which would make it easier for Hamas to smuggle weapons into Gaza. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center )
  • The Shiites of Saudi Arabia - Joshua Teitelbaum
    Saudi Arabia, with its Wahhabi majority, derives its legitimacy from a form of Islam that is, almost by definition, anti-Shiite. Yet the ascendancy of the Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon has given rise to a feeling of empowerment among Saudi Shiites.
        For many Shiites, their homeland has been occupied since the capture of the al-Hasa region by Ibn Saud in 1913. Saudi Shiites constitute between 10 and 15% of the population, and about 33% of the oil-rich Eastern Province. Deep in Shiite historical memory rests their persecution by the Saudis during the 18th and 19th centuries. (Hudson Institute)
  • Arab Nations Lag Behind World Economically, Despite Oil and Gas - Howard Schneider
    The nations of the Arab Middle East sit atop perhaps half of the planet's oil and a third of its natural gas reserves, yet the economies of the region are among the most stagnant. Growth in per capita income among the Arab countries has lagged behind Asia, Latin America and Africa for the past 30 years. In its 2009 Arab Human Development Report, the UN found that, as of 2007, the Arab states as a whole were less industrialized than they were in 1970, with governments using energy revenue to maintain a large public workforce and cheap goods. (Washington Post)

Israel's Strategic Concerns over Upheaval in Egypt - Brig. Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Historically a regional heavyweight, Egypt wields the strongest Arab military force and shares a 150-mile border with Israel. It has also been the leader of the moderate Arab camp and an important ally of the U.S. Accordingly, Israelis have regarded Egypt as the lynchpin of Arab war or peace with Israel.
  • Notwithstanding the cold nature of the three-decade peace and conflicting policies on some issues (e.g., the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the peace process), the two countries developed close coordination over the years in order to counter radical Islamism and terrorism in their various expressions: Hamas, Hizbullah, al-Qaeda, and other groups. Hosni Mubarak's Egypt also supported the international drive to counter Iran and its proxies.
  • Egyptian-Israeli relations intensified when Hamas commandeered Gaza in June 2007. The specter of an Islamist entity next door projecting radicalism into Egypt haunted the Mubarak government. As a result, Cairo also gave quiet consent when Israel launched an operation against Hamas in December 2008 in a bid to quell ongoing rocket fire from Gaza.
  • Israel has always believed that a democratic Middle East would be more stable and peaceful. What worries Israelis is the transition period to democracy, given the risk of radical Islamist forces exploiting the turmoil to hijack the domestic political process away from democracy and peace.
  • Moreover, the longstanding bilateral peace is between governments, not people, since wide anti-Israeli sentiment among Egyptians was fostered by Mubarak's regime. One common conclusion is that peace agreements should encompass peoples, not just governments, and be fortified by solid security arrangements. Agreements alone do not guarantee stability.

    The writer is an Israel-based international fellow of The Washington Institute.
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