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Pro-Assad Rally Shows Syrian Government Can Still Command Support - Nada Bakri (New York Times)
Tens of thousands of Syrians rallied in Aleppo on Wednesday in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while Syrian troops kept up an offensive in central Syria and battled army defectors in the east.
Syrian state television showed people waving Syrian, Chinese and Russian flags; Russia and China each vetoed a proposed UN Security Council resolution this month to take measures against Syria.
See also Gaddafi's Killing Fuels Demonstrations across Syria - (Reuters-MSNBC)
For Some Palestinians Released in Prisoner Swap, Freedom Is Relative - Rebecca Collard (Christian Science Monitor)
Of the roughly 100 former Palestinian prisoners released in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, 55 will remain under Israeli security restrictions that include limits to their movements and regular check-ins with Israeli authorities.
The restrictions vary based on a risk assessment completed by the Israel Prison System, with some barred from leaving their village or city.
Israel says these restrictions are necessary to protect its citizens because, left alone, some of the former prisoners may soon begin plotting attacks again.
"A high proportion, we've learned from past experience, return to activities in terrorist organizations," says Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. The arrangements allow Israel to "monitor activities" of the released prisoners, he says.
Although Israel is relying heavily on the PA to keep an eye on the released prisoners' activities in the West Bank, Israel will be solely responsible for enforcing these security arrangements, says Maj. Guy Inbar, spokesman for the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
The prisoners deemed by Israel as "high threat" - about 200 - will not return home, at least not immediately. Most were sent to Gaza, which is deemed a more secure place for them because of the strict procedures for entering Israel.
About 40 prisoners deemed the highest risk were sent abroad to Turkey, Qatar, Syria, and Jordan.
"We didn't want to see hardcore terrorists back in the West Bank, where they could more easily target Israelis," says Regev.
"It's clear from the celebrations yesterday in Gaza that these murderers are not showing remorse for killing innocent civilians and Hamas calls them heroes. Anyone that had the illusion that Hamas is somehow moderating their position, this should serve as a wake-up call."
Veteran Palestinian Prisoner Opposes Two-State Solution - Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Nael Barghouti, 54, was convicted in 1978 of staging a raid on the Israeli settlement of Halamish in which an Israeli was killed.
Could he imagine a Palestinian state living alongside Israel?
"Absolutely not," Barghouti said. "Palestine cannot have two states."
"The Jews are welcome to stay, but it's our state."
On the Day After, Moving Ahead and Looking Back - Stephen Farrell (New York Times)
Yehya Sinwar, 49, who was arrested in 1988, is the most senior of the Hamas members freed. As he was driven to Gaza City on Tuesday, he saw thousands of Hamas fighters lining the highway, carrying automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades and driving pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns.
The question is whether he and his fellow prisoners, many of them military-wing hard-liners, will now argue for Hamas to pursue the course of intifada and bombs, or choose a new direction for a new era.
"We turned the prison into sanctuaries of worship and to academies for study....I studied the history of the Jewish people, and you can say I am a specialist in the Jewish people's history," he said.
Turkey and Hamas - Eyal Zisser (Israel Hayom)
Turkey's willingness to absorb terrorist murderers is not a humanitarian gesture meant to facilitate the implementation of the Shalit deal. It is part of a systematic and ongoing policy anchored in the current Turkish government's approach, which views Hamas as a sister movement and natural ally.
We can assume that the current Egyptian government will maintain its commitment to agreements with Israel. No one, not even the Egyptians themselves, knows what will happen in that country after elections in a few months.
We can, therefore, unfortunately assume that the exiled terrorists are likely to find their way, one way or another, sooner or later, back to Gaza.
Azerbaijan to Build Israeli UAVs under License (UPI-Space Daily)
Azerbaijan is to acquire 60 Aerostar and Orbiter 2M Israeli-designed unmanned aerial vehicles built under license in the former Soviet republic.
The burgeoning military and intelligence alliance between the countries is causing growing concern in Iran.
Azerbaijan is one of Israel's largest suppliers of crude oil.
Israel's Volcani Institute of Agricultural Research - Yigal Mashiach (Ha'aretz)
Prof. Yedidya Gafni, director of genetic engineering at Israel's Volcani Institute of Agricultural Research, explains:
"We can get along without high tech...but we can't get along without eating.... Farmland is diminishing, the amount of available water is decreasing, but people are living longer and have to be fed. Without agricultural research we will not survive as a country."
"We learned and taught others how to get more from a dunam [a quarter of an acre] of land and we developed techniques of crossbreeding and genetic engineering to protect plants from dozens of pests....The same piece of land now yields three to five times what it did in the past."
The institute has developed a plant that produces high-quality medical insulin and is working on vitamin-enriched chewing gum for children.
It is studying herbs that could prevent, treat or slow the development of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
There is a project to create diesel fuel from the seeds of castor oil plants.
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- Moammar Gaddafi Captured, Killed in Libya - Mary Beth Sheridan
Former Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was killed Thursday after being seized in a sewage tunnel in his home town of Sirte, the last loyalist holdout in Libya.
Before his capture, a U.S. drone and French fighter jets fired on a large convoy leaving the city that he appears to have been in. Gaddafi's son Mutassim and his army chief of staff were also killed.
- Palestinian Leader Says Time "Not Ripe" for Mideast Peace Talks - Nicole Gaouette
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Wednesday there is little chance for a prompt renewal of peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis that the Obama administration seeks.
"My own assessment" is that "conditions are not ripe at this juncture for a meaningful resumption of talks." He made his remarks as the Quartet is trying to restart talks between the two sides to head off a Palestinian push for statehood recognition at the UN.
Quartet envoys will hold separate meetings in Jerusalem with Israelis and Palestinians on Oct. 26 to discuss ways to restart the talks. "Our relations with the United States are going through a period of strain...against the recent backdrop of activities involving the United Nations," Fayyad told the American Task Force on Palestine.
See also Palestinians to Push for UN Membership Nov. 11 - Frank Jordans
Palestinian diplomats are trying to muster support for a UN Security Council vote in New York on Nov. 11 on their bid for UN membership, the Palestinian envoy to the UN in Geneva, Ibrahim Khraishi, said Thursday.
- Iran's Nuclear Program: The Full Picture - J.E. Dyer
A widely referenced Washington Post story has got folks feeling complacent about Iran's nuclear program. The piece, crediting Stuxnet and sanctions, speaks of a "sharp decline" in the output of low-enriched uranium (LEU) at the Natanz enrichment facility, along with the aging and low-performing condition of Iran's original Pakistani-design centrifuge cascades. Meanwhile, sanctions have apparently made it impossible for Iran to import high-strength maraging steel, forcing the Iranians to manufacture their newest centrifuges from less reliable carbon fiber.
But one of the most important facts is that, according to the September 2011 IAEA report, Iran had - as of mid-August 2011 - piled up a total of 4,543 kg. of LEU. By Western intelligence estimates, that is enough for 4 nuclear warheads. While the efficiency of production has declined and the Iranians are now using more centrifuges to produce the same amount of LEU, between May and August 2011, Iran still produced enough LEU on an annualized basis for a nuclear warhead per year. The writer is a retired commander who served in U.S. Naval intelligence.
See also UK: Iran Nuclear Issue to Grow More Urgent - Adrian Croft
Tackling Iran's nuclear program will become more urgent over the next year and the world must not be distracted from it by the focus on the Arab Spring popular uprisings, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday. This was because Iran had stepped up its nuclear work by increasing the fissile content of its enriched uranium to the 20% level and moving centrifuge machines to a previously secret underground bunker near Qom.
See also Iran's Nuclear Program Suffering New Setbacks, Diplomats and Experts Say - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
See also Report: Iran Could Make Atom Bomb Material Despite Hurdles
Iran's nuclear program is struggling with low-performing enrichment machines but it would still be able to produce material that could be used for atomic bombs, according to a U.S. think tank.
"Is the Iranian enrichment program on a trajectory toward being dedicated to producing weapon-grade uranium for nuclear weapons?" the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS)
asked and replied: "Unfortunately, despite its severe limitations, this program is able to do so." (Reuters)
- Freed Palestinian Prisoner Vows to "Sacrifice" Her Life - Adrian Blomfield
An unsuccessful suicide bomber released from prison on Wednesday vowed to fulfill a childhood ambition by "sacrificing" her life for the Palestinian cause.
As she returned to her family home in Gaza, Wafa al-Bis insisted she would seize any opportunity to mount another suicide mission and encouraged dozens of cheering schoolchildren to follow her example.
In 2005, she tried to blow herself up at an Israeli hospital where she had been given permission to seek treatment for burns she sustained in a gas tank explosion. She was discovered with 22 lbs. of explosives sewn inside her underwear, but the detonator malfunctioned.
Bis' mother Salma said, "This is Jihad, it is an honorable thing and I am proud of her."
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Soldier's Father: Gilad Shalit's Captivity Was Harsh - Hassan Shaalan
Noam Shalit, father of former captive Gilad Shalit, told reporters on Thursday, "It's a transition from being isolated for five and a half years, nearly 2,000 days without daylight." In response to a question quoting Hamas' statement that Shalit was not tortured in captivity, his father said: "I suggest you take anything Hamas says with a grain of salt. Gilad underwent very difficult things during his captivity. I won't go into that now....His treatment did improve a little bit over time." (Ynet News)
- IDF Soldiers Thwart Stabbing Attack in West Bank
On Wednesday a Palestinian woman in her 20s arrived at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank, pulled out a knife and charged at Israeli soldiers and civilians shouting "God is great" and "Death to the Jews," Israel Channel 10 TV reported.
The woman was arrested.
See also Video: Stabbing Attempt Thwarted (IDF-YouTube)
- 12 Israeli Arabs Arrested at Rally Calling for More Kidnappings - Yaakov Lappin
Forty Israeli Arabs arrived at Hadarim prison on Thursday where they held a demonstration calling for the kidnapping of IDF soldiers and the release of all Palestinian security prisoners.
The demonstrators were bused into the area and began waving Palestinian flags while shouting slogans, police said. "After the demonstrators refused to clear the area, 12 of them...were arrested," a police spokesman said.
The Return of Gilad Shalit
- One Nation, One Heart - Amos Regev
Some moments are seared into a nation's memory: the UN partition vote, the paratroopers at the Western Wall, the rescue at Entebbe. Gilad Shalit's return is one of these moments. Such images forge our collective memory. Yes, there is such a thing as a nation: it consists of the fundamental values that unite individuals into a single group with a single heart. This was a human story that anyone could identify with, and that could have happened to any family.
See also Survey Finds 3/4 of Israelis Support Shalit Deal - Aharon Lapidot (Israel Hayom)
- Israeli-Palestinian Prisoner Swap Offers Little New Hope for Peace - Editorial
On closer inspection, the deal between Hamas and the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu looks likely to inject more poison into an already bitter standoff.
Palestinians, including President Mahmoud Abbas, celebrated the returning murderers and would-be suicide bombers as heroes: "You are freedom fighters and holy warriors," said Abbas, who is often credited with opposing violence. In Israel, there was anger over the evidently weak physical condition of Gilad Shalit, who was abducted from Israeli territory by Hamas fighters and held hostage for more than five years. Israeli officials argued that the deal showed Mr. Netanyahu's willingness to make painful compromises with the Palestinians.
- A "Prisoner Exchange"? - Melanie Phillips
Media coverage describes a "prisoner exchange" - more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails for one Israeli prisoner held by Hamas.
But Shalit was a hostage, kidnapped in an act of illegal aggression by an organization whose aim is the destruction of Israel and which allowed him not one visit by the Red Cross during his five-year incarceration.
By contrast, the released Palestinians have not just been tried and punished according to due process of law, but include among their number some of the masterminds behind some of the worst terrorist atrocities in Israel's history.
The equivalence being drawn in the coverage of this deal reflects the morally bankrupt "tit-for-tat" analysis of the Arab war against Israel employed by so many in the West. From the moment Israel was re-established in 1948, it has only ever launched military operations against the Arabs in response to actual or imminent Arab attacks. Yet many refuse to acknowledge the difference between murderous aggression and the defense against it.
They refuse to acknowledge that Hamas sets out to murder as many young Israelis as possible, whereas Israel goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.
The refusal to acknowledge this crucial moral difference has meant that many view Israel as the aggressor in the conflict, and the victimization of Israelis is largely glossed over.
What Israel is up against is what Britain and the West are now up against - an Islamist cult of death, in which the murder of innocents is a cause for exultation and mass killers are lionized as heroes and religious martyrs, not just by Hamas but by the Fatah leadership in the West Bank too.
See also A Tolerable Capitulation - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
- How Gilad Shalit Was Captured - Amos Harel
In June 2006, less than a year after Israel withdrew from Gaza, Palestinian terrorists crossed the border from Gaza before sunrise through a tunnel hundreds of meters long that had been dug under the border fence over the course of months. When the terrorists surfaced in Israeli territory, they came up behind the IDF troops, who were facing Gaza.
At 5:13 a.m., three separate groups of terrorists attacked Shalit's tank and a guard tower, along with an empty armored personnel carrier the IDF had placed there as a decoy. All three targets were hit by antitank fire. Shalit's tank went up in flames.
Two other soldiers in the tank, Lt. Hanan Barak and Staff Sgt. Pavel Slutzker, jumped out and were gunned down on the spot. Shalit emerged from the tank a little later, after a terrorist threw grenades into the tank's turret, and was taken captive. A fourth soldier who was wounded and unconscious was later rescued from the tank by Israeli soldiers. Within six minutes of the assault, two terrorists had returned to Gaza with the wounded Shalit.
Turkey and Iran - Dorian Jones
Despite the cooling of political relations, Turkish-Iranian trade continues to boom. "Turkey was the biggest factor helping and assisting the Iranian regime to survive [sanctions]," claims Iran expert Mehrdad Emadi of the British-based consultancy firm Betamatrix. "Turkey is facilitating and accommodating the regime in Tehran on so many levels. We know of at least 11 cases where Turkish banks and firms, Turkish shipping companies, on behalf of the regime in Tehran, have been acquiring commodities and technologies that Iran needs."
Iran's increasing economic and financial dependence on Turkey means Tehran has limited scope to maneuver against Ankara. "Iran is isolated," says Iran analyst Jamsid Assadi of France's Burgundy School of Business.
"Iran needs Turkey much more than they need Iran." (RFE/RL-Eurasia Review)
See also The Real Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Morton Abramowitz
See also Turkey's Abrupt About-Face:
Erdogan Pivots from Secular West to Islamist East - Suzanne Fields (Washington Times)
- Iran's Decades-Old Infiltration of Latin America - Bret Stephens
Policy analysts and military officials have been warning for years about Iran's infiltration of Latin America. The story begins with the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, an example of the way Tehran uses proxies such as Hizbullah to carry out its aims while giving it plausible deniability. Iran later got a boost when Hugo Chavez came to power in Venezuela and began seeding the top ranks of his government with Iranian sympathizers. In October 2006, a group called Hizbullah America Latina took responsibility for an attempted bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005, Iran has increased the number of its embassies in Latin America to 11 from six.
In September 2010, the Tucson, Ariz., police department issued an internal memo noting that "concerns have arisen concerning Hizbullah's presence in Mexico and possible ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) operating along the U.S.-Mexico border. The potential partnership bares alarming implications due to Hizbullah's long-established capabilities, specifically their expertise in the making of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs)." The memo also noted the appearance of Hizbullah insignia as tattoos on U.S. prison inmates. (Wall Street Journal)
- Gaddafi and the Swindle of Dictatorship - Fouad Ajami
The fight for right and freedom may not be the animating passion of the moment in Washington. There is little taste at the helm of our government for burdens abroad. This awakening - the Arab Spring - is being second-guessed at every turn. Islamists stalk these rebellions, we are told. The Arabs do not have freedom in their DNA, the "realists" tell us, their revolutions are certain to be hijacked and betrayed.
But this is the time when they give freedom a try, and for the first time accept responsibility for their own history. Arabs should be given the time to break out of the habits of tyranny and servitude. We needn't dispatch our forces to all lands of trouble, but our burden of celebrating liberty on foreign shores endures. Good riddance to Gaddafi. He had the end he deserved.
The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
(Wall Street Journal)
- The Unintended Consequences of French Support for Palestinian Statehood - Jonathan Schanzer and Claudia Rosett
The Palestinian drive for UN membership is backfiring on one of its most vocal early supporters, French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In July, France announced it would upgrade the PLO delegation in Paris to a diplomatic mission. In recent weeks, however, while the Palestinians have pressed forward with a bid for full membership in UNESCO, both French diplomats and UN officials have been quietly back-pedaling on the issue.
According to American law since the 1990s, the U.S. is prohibited from giving funds to any part of the UN system that grants the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) the same standing as member states. The U.S. is by far the largest contributor to UNESCO, giving 22%, while France chips in just 6%.
French diplomats are now saying that, despite their earlier backing of the Palestinian unilateral bid, UNESCO is "not the right time, nor the right place" to wrestle with the question of Palestine.
Mr. Schanzer is vice president for research and Ms. Rosett is journalist-in-residence at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Wall Street Journal Europe)
- Middle East Quartet
on a Fool's Errand - Emanuele Ottolenghi
The Middle East Quartet is a creature of the Roadmap, the May 2003 blueprint for Mideast peace that U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to endorse as a payback to European allies for their support in the Iraq war.
Eight years later, the Quartet is still trying to square the circle. While Israel welcomed the Quartet's latest diplomatic initiative and reiterated its willingness to resume negotiations immediately, the PA refuses to meet Israeli leaders to negotiate directly. Since September 2008, Palestinians have not negotiated with Israel in good faith.
The truth is, the Palestinians have never made comprehensive proposals aimed at reaching a compromise. They have only stated impossible goals and never budged from them. They have never displayed any flexibility on their demands for territory, Jerusalem, and refugees.
Palestinian leaders have never come forth with a comprehensive peace proposal that fell short of the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state from the Middle East map.
But rest reassured - when the dust settles, everyone will find a way to blame Israel.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- There Will Be No Peace Process - Barry Rubin
The PA wants an independent state on all the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, with no restrictions to prevent them from pursuing a second stage of wiping Israel off the map entirely. The Palestinians know the West will always offer more if they are intransigent. Palestinian public opinion is relatively radicalized and ideological and does not demand a compromise settlement. Due to religious and nationalist ideology, along with misperception of Israel, the PA (and even more so Hamas) believes that time is on its side.
I have some constructive policy advice.
When the PA rejects the Quartet proposal for negotiations, the U.S. and EU should tell them: "We've tried to help you and you don't want to listen, so since we have lots of other things to do, we'll go do them. Good luck, and if you ever change your mind and get serious about making peace you have our phone number."
- India Too Slow to Recognize Israel as Natural Ally - Sadanand Dhume
Instead of throwing its weight behind Israel - a natural ally with whom India shares more interests than it does with almost any other country - the government in New Delhi has publicly backed Palestinian brinkmanship on the statehood issue. India was the first non-Arab state to recognize Palestinian independence in 1988, while simultaneously deepening security and trade ties with Israel since it established full diplomatic relations in 1992.
Below the radar, India-Israel relations continue to grow.
Two-way trade has ballooned to $5 billion this year from $200 million in 1992. In 2008, space scientists in southern India launched Tecsar, an Israeli spy satellite reportedly aimed at improving the monitoring of Iranian military movements. India has emerged as one of the Israeli defense industry's largest export markets. Among India's purchases: surveillance drones, surface-to-air missiles, advanced artillery, missile defense systems, airborne radar, and sensors to track cross-border infiltration by terrorists into Indian Kashmir.
Yet India has yet to abandon its habit of holding a vital relationship hostage to the vagaries of domestic identity politics.
While Muslim voters account for about 14% of India's electorate and the Congress Party tends to assume they are viscerally hostile to Israel, this remains untested.
New Delhi also is trying to pander to Arab sentiment (India benefits from large remittances from Indian workers in the Gulf region, not to mention energy imports), which tends to favor Pakistan.
India remains stuck in a time warp of supposed Third-World solidarity with "oppressed" Palestinians rather than understanding that as a rising power India's interests lie with democratic Israel. Neither country has a quarrel with Islam - both house Muslim populations that enjoy more rights than their co-religionists in many places - but both are threatened by radical Islamist ideology and the terrorism it spawns. The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal Asia)
The Revisionist History of Sari Nusseibeh - Efraim Karsh (Jerusalem Post)
See also We Are a People, a Response to Sari Nusseibeh - Shlomo Avineri (Ha'aretz)
Sari Nusseibeh has done it again. In an article titled "Why Israel Can't Be a 'Jewish State,'" the supposedly moderate president of al-Quds University goes to great lengths to explain why Jews, unlike any other nation on earth, are undeserving of statehood.
- A Jewish state cannot exist, he argues, because "no state in the world is - or can be in practice - ethnically or religiously homogenous." But the Jewish state that has existed for over 63 years has never been, nor aspired to be, totally homogenous: unlike the Palestinian Arab leadership which, since the early 1920s to date, has insisted on a Judenrein Palestine. Rather, Israel has been home to diverse religious and ethnic minorities accounting for nearly 20% of its total population.
- Nusseibeh claims that a Jewish state must by definition be either a theocracy or an apartheid state, and that its Jewish nature opens the door to legally reducing its substantial non-Jewish minority "to second-class citizens (or perhaps even stripping them of their citizenship and other rights)." This, too, flies in the face of Israel's 63-year history, where Arabs have enjoyed full equality before the law.
- In fact, from the designation of Arabic as an official language, to the legal recognition of non-Jewish religious holidays, to the granting of educational, cultural, judicial, and religious autonomy, Arabs in Israel enjoy more formal prerogatives than ethnic minorities anywhere in the democratic world.
The writer is research professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London, and director of the Middle East Forum (Philadelphia).
See also Why Israel Can't Be a "Jewish State" - Sari Nusseibeh (Al Jazeera)
Nusseibeh maintains that a modern nation-state cannot be defined in religious or ethnic terms. This is just factually wrong: European countries like Greece and Ireland define themselves in such terms, as do most Arab countries, which even have this in their official names: "Arab Republic of Egypt," "Syrian Arab Republic."
- According to Nusseibeh, defining Israel as a Jewish state would deny the possibility of the return to Israel of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants. He gives their number as 7 million. If one is to understand the implications of this sentence, then Nusseibeh supports the return of these seven million to Israel.
- Those of us who have no problem recognizing the Palestinians as a people, based on their own self-determination, are left with a feeling of bitter disappointment that a Palestinian intellectual and philosopher who insists on the right of the Palestinians as a people to a state of their own, is not ready to accept the self-determination of the Jews as a nation.
- The abyss currently separating moderates in Israel from the most moderate of Palestinians is indeed very deep and the chances of reconciliation do not appear to be likely.
The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, served as director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry.
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