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August 14, 2009

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Report: Hizbullah Setting Up Camp in Venezuela - Shimon Shiffer (Ynet News)
    Venezuela has become Hizbullah's major terrorist outpost in South America, according to a senior Israeli official.
    Intelligence assessments warn that Hizbullah is investing significant efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets and Jewish institutions in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Peru, and are collecting intelligence to this end.
    Western counter-terrorism experts warn that Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have established special units to kidnap Jewish businessmen from Latin America and to bring them to Lebanon.
    See also Hizbullah Sleeper Cells in South, Central America Ready for Action - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
    Hizbullah's cells in Venezuela are part of its apparatus dedicated to attacks overseas known as the "Special Operations Command."
    For years, this apparatus operated under Imad Mugniyah's command and was responsible, among other things, for the bombing of Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires in March 1992 and the bombing of the Jewish community center there in July 1994.
    Today, the apparatus is headed by Mugniyah's deputy, Talal Hamiyeh.
    The cell that carried out the attacks in Argentina was one of dozens of sleeper cells deployed by Hizbullah and the al-Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards worldwide, including in the U.S. and Europe.
    Some of these cells have been disguised as community centers or charity organizations.
    In Venezuela, according to Western intelligence officials, Hizbullah cells are mostly found in the centers of the oil industry, which brings in workers from the Middle East.

Gaza PM: "Hamas Will Never Recognize the Zionist Entity" (IMEMC-PA)
    Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh stated Thursday that Hamas will never recognize "the Zionist entity," and would continue the resistance until liberating the land and the holy sites.
    Haniyeh said that Hamas will never recognize Israel and "will remain steadfast, protecting the blood of the martyrs."
    "The resistance will prevail until liberating the land, until liberating Jerusalem," Haniyeh stated.

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Giving a Voice to the Children of "Missile City" - Kelly Rippin (NBC News)
    Liane Thompson, an American producer and director, is working with Noam Bedein and Meital Ohayon from the Sderot Media Center to create a feature-length documentary, "Children of Missile City," on the plight of the youngsters in the city that has been the target of about 10,000 missiles in eight years.
    When residents in Sderot hear the Red Alert, they have 15 seconds to find shelter.
    See also Video: Children of Missile City (Sderot Media Center)
    7,400 children live in Missile City and they run for their lives an average of 3 times a day. Almost 90% suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
    This video follows Sderot children and their struggle to survive under the worst psychological terror on the planet.

Israel's Place in the World - Michael Steinhardt (Wharton School-University of Pennsylvania)
    Michael Steinhardt began the Taglit Birthright Israel program, a philanthropic enterprise which has provided free 10-day trips to Israel for some 220,000 Jewish youth to learn more about their heritage.
    In a recent interview, he said:
    "The circumstance of Israel's birth, and the well-articulated vision of relatively few people - surrounded by tens or hundreds of millions of enemies - who were outnumbered in all sorts of ways, but managed to survive and ultimately achieve a vigorous, democratic, prosperous society, is an extraordinary phenomenon. And for many secular Jews it has been the single miracle of the 20th century."

Young Israeli Settlers Embrace Counterculture Symbols of '60s - Joshua Mitnick (Christian Science Monitor)
    The stage was dominated by a Star of David, an olive tree, and musicians who mix blues licks, reggae rhythms, and messianic refrains from Jewish liturgy.
    The annual "End of Days" festival has become something of a mini-Woodstock in the settlements, with meditation groups, religious study sessions, and a crowd dressed in colorful flowing clothes.
    Staged on a wooded slope amid the ruins of Mesuot Yitzhak, a Jewish settlement captured by Jordan in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the festival is evidence of how the young hilltop generation has embraced many of the counterculture symbols of 1960s America.
    "When the whole world turns on the television, what do they see? Fighting and politics," says Yehuda Leuchter, the festival founder.
    "We're trying to bring rock 'n' roll and good vibes for the Land of Israel and for the whole world."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. House Majority Leader Blames Palestinians for No Peace Talks
    The head of a delegation of U.S. Democratic members of Congress blamed the Palestinians on Thursday for failing to hold talks with Israel. "I think the largest thing impeding the negotiations at this point is simply the unwillingness of (Palestinian leader Mahmoud) Abbas to sit down (with the Israelis)," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in Jerusalem. Senior U.S. Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, who visited Israel a week ago at the head of a similar delegation, also blamed the Palestinians for the stalled talks. (AFP)
        See also Top U.S. Democrat Breaks with Obama on Settlements
    A senior member of U.S. President Obama's party blamed Palestinians for a lack of peace negotiations and cast doubt on calls for a settlement freeze. "I don't think settlements are nearly the big issue that confronts the Palestinians and the Israelis in reaching an agreement," said Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the American House majority leader. The influential lawmaker said he had sympathy for the Israeli government's refusal to halt construction. "Netanyahu's standpoint and Israel's standpoint is that if one of your children gets married and wants to live close to you, there needs to be a place to live [in a settlement]. That's not an irrational argument." (Ma'an News-PA)
  • Syrian President to Visit Iran Soon
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is to pay a state visit to Iran in the near future to congratulate his Iranian counterpart on his re-election and to discuss expansion of mutual relations, the official IRNA news agency reported Thursday. Syria is Iran's closest ally in the region and the two countries enjoy common cultural, political and economic interests. Currently, Iran is carrying out a big number of economic projects in Syria, including car production and housing projects, and Damascus hosts thousands of Iranian tourists and pilgrims every year. (Xinhua-China)
  • Palestinian PM Fayyad Seen at Risk to "New" Fatah - Douglas Hamilton and Mohammed Assadi
    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, an independent technocrat favored by the West, may face pressure to cede his post to a figure from Fatah in the wake of its congress in Bethlehem, political sources said on Wednesday. Many in Fatah have been irked by Fayyad, a former International Monetary Fund official, and complain that budget cuts have hit the party and its loyalists. Fayyad, 57, is rejected outright as a Western puppet by Hamas which runs Gaza. Fayyad said on June 29 that it was time for Palestinian leaders to get on with building the independent state they seek, instead of waiting for a peace agreement with Israel. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Jerusalem Not Counting on Gulf States' Gestures - Roni Sofer
    According to a message recently relayed from Washington, Qatar and Oman may be willing to renew relations with Israel if it freezes construction in West Bank settlements. But as there has been no progress in talks with the U.S. regarding its demand to halt construction, Israeli officials say that no significant change in ties should be expected in the near future. Qatar had an Israeli delegation office until the Gaza operation seven months ago. Ties with Oman, that once included an embassy, were cut following the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Targeted in West Bank Terror Attack Describes Ambush - Yaakov Lappin
    On Wednesday night, Eitan Frankel, 18, and two friends were driving from Dolev to Ma'ale Levona. "As we approached Ma'ale Levona, just a minute from the gate, we...saw a Mitsubishi on the side of the road with its hazard lights on," Frankel said on Thursday. "The car had yellow [Israeli] license plates, and did not look suspicious. The driver signaled from the window to us. We were sure this was an Israeli who needed help with a flat tire." "We pulled up slowly, parallel to the car, and lowered a window." At that point, a man "hiding in the bushes fired a shot, smashing the back right window....We started driving again, and heard six to seven shots ring out behind us."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Human Rights Watch's "White Flags" Report Substitutes Speculation for Serious Research
    Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report Thursday alleging that the IDF killed 11 civilians holding white flags in Gaza. HRW had no presence in Gaza during the conflict and its report is based entirely on unverifiable claims wrapped in a facade of research. The report's co-author, Joe Stork, is a veteran anti-Israel political activist and the antithesis of a professional legal analyst. HRW failed to investigate incidents in which "white flags" - ambulances and hospitals - were used by Hamas to hide military activity. Six of the seven alleged incidents are based on reports by journalists or NGOs with highly biased agendas. (NGO Monitor)
        See also IDF: "White Flag" Report Based on Unreliable Witnesses (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Israel Rejects French Request to Free Terrorist - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Netanyahu responded negatively to French President Sarkozy's plea to free Salah Hassan Hamori, a terrorist of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine imprisoned for planning to assassinate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Prime Minister's Office said Thursday. Sarkozy sent a letter to Netanyahu last week after meeting with Hamori's mother. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah: "Hamas Is About to Be Defeated" - Avi Issacharoff
    After the Fatah convention in Bethlehem, a candidate for the Fatah Revolutionary Council, Ziad Abu Ayin, did not hesitate to voice threats against Hamas on Tuesday: "We will not negotiate endlessly with Hamas....Hamas has turned 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip into hostages. The Fatah leadership must decide how to free these hostages, whether through negotiations or combat. Yes, combat. But everyone must accept this decision, they cannot be allowed to continue to control the lives of the Gazans. Hamas defeated Fatah in the elections because of the chaos within Fatah. But now, after Fatah has unified its ranks, it's a new Fatah. The old Fatah is gone and Hamas is about to be defeated." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Palestinians

  • Notes from the Fatah Convention - Tom Gross
    Among those attending the Fatah Convention in Bethlehem was Khaled Abu Asba, who took part in a notorious attack in 1978 in which an Israeli commuter bus was hijacked and 37 Israeli civilians were killed, including 12 children. At the Fatah conference, former PA Prime Minister Abu Ala welcomed Abu Asba and referred to him as one of the heroes of the Palestinian people. A huge banner in the conference hall showed a boy in a military uniform, toting a Kalashnikov assault rifle. A leaflet passed out among delegates was headlined: "Until the Zionist entity is wiped out." A resolution approved by the assembly stated that Fatah will not give up the armed struggle until all the descendants of those claiming to be of Palestinian Arab origin can live inside Israel. Another resolution decreed that placing both east and west Jerusalem under Palestinian control is a "red line" that is non-negotiable.
        Zakariya Zubeidi, one of the commanders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was asked by a Palestinian journalist about the continuing military training the U.S. is supplying to the PA. Zubeidi smiled and said: "I am happy. In case there is a future war, we will have some people who will be well trained." Fatah spokesman Fahmi Al-Za'arir stated: "The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are the jewel in Fatah's crown. We must...maintain them in a state of alert." Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades activist Kifah Radaydeh said the PA would resume violence against Israel when Fatah is "capable." "It has been said that we are negotiating for peace, but our goal has never been peace. Peace is a means; the goal is Palestine."  (
  • Fatah Continues to Live in the Past - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Fatah's sixth General Assembly has shown that it is still not ready to transform itself from a revolutionary movement into a governing body that cares about establishing institutions and infrastructure for the future Palestinian state. Instead, Fatah seems determined more than ever to maintain its status as a "national liberation movement." The fiery rhetoric of the delegates and the signs on the walls of the conference hall are testimony that Fatah continues to live in the past and not in the present, choosing to blame Israel and Hamas for almost all the miseries of the Palestinians. Instead of forming committees to look into ways of reforming Fatah and restoring its lost credibility among a majority of Palestinians, the delegates preferred to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the death of Arafat. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Flicker of Hope vs. False Premises - Clifford D. May
    One American administration after another has embraced the same false premises and set into motion a "peace process" that ineluctably fails. In 1967, Israel's Arab neighbors fought a war to wipe the Jewish state off the map. When they lost, Israel took control of Gaza and the West Bank. Israelis were willing to relinquish those territories - but they wanted a solid peace treaty in exchange. No Arab leader was willing to pay that price.
        Seven years ago, President Bush officially endorsed the establishment of a Palestinian state - as long as it would not become another terrorist-sponsoring state. Hamas explicitly rejected that condition. Hamas demands that infidels leave the Middle East or, at the very least, submit to Islamic rule. But isn't that just where the bargaining begins? No. For Hamas, Islamic supremacy is not a negotiating position; it's a religious conviction and therefore not open to compromise.
        Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thinks an "economic peace" could pave the way to a broader settlement. He recalls that the economy of the West Bank was among the fastest growing in the world after 1967 and before 1993 - when Israeli leaders brought Yasser Arafat from exile. A precipitous economic decline followed. The writer is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)


  • Ignoring Iran's Nuclear Plan Would Be the West's Greatest Blunder - Con Coughlin
    The West has given up on its attempts to prevent Iran acquiring an atom bomb - and the result will be a nuclear arms race that threatens not only the future of the Middle East, but the entire world. This is the apocalyptic view that now appears to be taking root among some of the world's leading Iran experts, as we approach the point when Tehran's newly re-elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, decides whether he is prepared to enter into a constructive dialogue over his country's illicit pursuit of nuclear technology. To judge by the mood of the delegates participating in a conference on Iran this week in Italy, organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the omens do not look good. The overwhelming consensus was that the chances of Ahmadinejad's responding positively to Obama's appeal to Tehran to "unclench its fist" are remote indeed.
        A mood of defeatism appears to have settled over the White House, while a similar air of resignation has taken hold in Europe. Only Britain and France have any appetite for further tough talking. With political will diminishing in the West, the most likely outcome is that leading Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt, seek to acquire their own nuclear arsenals. The Saudis helped to finance Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, while the Syrians and Egyptians are known to have their own advanced research projects.
        A poly-nuclear Middle East would pose the greatest threat to world peace seen since the creation of the Iron Curtain. But the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, which could be relied upon during the Cold War to prevent a nuclear holocaust, cannot be applied to a region in which national pride and personal honor often take precedence over the more basic human instinct for self-preservation. (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S. Searching for "Plan B" on Iran - James D. Besser
    The Obama administration, frustrated by Iran's non-response to its diplomatic overtures, is considering policy shifts to ratchet up U.S. pressure on the Tehran regime - while still leaving the door open a crack for negotiations. The clock on U.S. diplomatic outreach is running out, says Shaul Bakhash, a leading Iran expert at George Mason University. Any direct engagement by Washington "with an Iranian government that appears illegitimate, that's engaged in an extraordinary crackdown on its own people, would be criticized," he said.
        At the same time, growing international pressure could harden the positions of Iran's religious rulers. "Given that Iran's supreme leader has always said 'don't negotiate from a position of weakness,' it is unlikely Iran would be willing to engage in negotiations at this time," Bakhash said. "Its leaders would not want to appear weak at home by looking for accommodation abroad." Bakhash said he expects Iran's leaders to stall by offering a proposal meant to buy time, and not directly address U.S. and international concerns.
        David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said that reality could force the Obama administration to face politically and morally awkward choices. "You get (Russia and China) to cooperate not because you assert it's the right thing to do, but by offering something that's even more important to them than their relations with Iran," he said. That could include concessions to Russia on NATO expansion - and an easing of human rights pressures on both countries. "These are extremely difficult decisions to make, when realpolitik factors come up against moral imperatives," Harris said. (New York Jewish Week)

    Other Issues

  • Will U.S. Get Syria to Give Up Its Bad Behavior? - Mara E. Karlin
    This week, a U.S. military delegation is in Damascus, Syria, to discuss how the two countries can collaborate to stabilize Iraq. Having served in the Pentagon for four years, including as the Levant director responsible for U.S. policy on Syria, among other countries, I wish them luck. Getting Syria to change its bad behavior in Iraq and Lebanon, to cease its partnership with terrorists and terror-sponsoring states, and to come clean about its nuclear program will not be easy. Though the Syrians can gloat over a few visitors and some announcements, the administration has actually given the Syrians very little. U.S. diplomats have been quick to emphasize that Syria will need to take important steps to change its behavior if it hopes for a sustained relationship.
        Contrary to the bright-eyed wishes of some former U.S. officials, new relations with Syria will not markedly alter the region, as former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Edward P. Djerejian recently argued in the Wall Street Journal. The writer served in a variety of positions in the U.S. Defense Department, including special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for policy. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Damascus and the Road to Mideast Peace - Edward P. Djerejian (Wall Street Journal)
  • Record Set Straight Seven Years After Israel's Top Soldier Was Accused of Trashing Palestinians - Oakland Ross
    In 2002, near the height of a violent Palestinian uprising now known as the Second Intifada, IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon was said to have said, "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people." The statement was published in some of the globe's most distinguished publications, including this one. There's just one problem. Yaalon never said it.
        Only now, seven years later, is the record finally being corrected. In recent weeks, publications including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Boston Globe have all carried retractions or clarifications. "It only takes one mistake, one falsehood, and others pick up on it," said Gilead Ini, senior research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), that has been tracking down publications that have printed the comment.
        In the 2002 Ha'aretz interview in which he is supposed to have said these words, Yaalon actually seems to have been making a very different point. Attempting to define what would constitute an Israeli victory in the Palestinian conflict, he said: "I defined it from the beginning of the confrontation - the very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold." (Toronto Star)
  • Druze Arab Israeli Diplomat Assumes Post in Philadelphia - Stu Bykofsky
    Raslan Abu Rukun is the new deputy general in the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia that handles affairs for Israel in six states. As a Druze Arab, Abu Rukun is among two Christians, three Muslims, and eight other Druze Arabs who are Israeli diplomats. The Druze-Jewish relationship is harmonious, and Druze loyalty is unquestioned. They are the only non-Jews drafted by Israel into its military, says Abu Rukun. He joined his country's diplomatic corps in 2006 and spent two years in Nepal. Culturally, "I'm an Arab, but if you talk about national or political identity, I'm Israeli."
        In addition to Israeli Arabs in the foreign service, an Arab sits on Israel's supreme court; an Arab is the minister of sports, culture and science, and more than a dozen Arabs are members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. This is why it angers most Jews to hear Israel-haters call it "apartheid." It is a deliberate lie. (Philadelphia Daily News)
  • Observations:

    Is Eastern Jerusalem "Occupied Territory"? - Richard L. Cravatts (

    • In characterizing eastern Jerusalem - or any part of Jerusalem, for that matter - as territory that Israel "occupies" but over which it enjoys no sovereignty, the Obama administration is misreading the content and purpose of the 1967 UN Security Council Resolution 242 that suggested an Israeli withdrawal "from territories" it acquired in the Six-Day War.
    • The drafters of Resolution 242 were very precise in creating the statute's language, and never considered Jerusalem to have been "occupied" by Israel. Former U.S. ambassador to the UN Arthur Goldberg, one of the resolution's authors, made this very clear when he wrote some years later that "Resolution 242 in no way refers to Jerusalem, and this omission was deliberate....At no time in [my] many speeches [before the UN] did I refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory."
    • The Palestinians now insist that Jerusalem must be divided to give them a capital in its eastern portion as the location of their new state. But these have always been points for future negotiations, at least before the State Department gave public expression to its new view that eastern Jerusalem has already been assumed to be the Palestinian capital, and that Jews should no longer build or live there. That view is troubling because it reveals a pattern in which Arabs endow Jerusalem with intense significance to serve purposes of political expediency.
    • Scholar of Islam and Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes observed that when Jordan illegally annexed the West Bank and purged Jerusalem of its Jews from 1949 to 1967, Jerusalem's stature declined. But Israel's recapture of the territory in 1967 changed the political landscape, including an Arab desire for Jerusalem. "The Muslim interest lies not so much in controlling Jerusalem as it does in denying control over the city to anyone else."
    • In The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Dore Gold notes that in their desire to accede to Arab requests for a presence and religious sovereignty in Jerusalem, Western states and Islamic apologists may actually ignite the jihadist impulses that they seek to dampen with their well-intentioned, but defective, diplomacy. The establishment of the Palestinian capital in eastern Jerusalem is the first important step in the long-term strategy to rid the Levant of Jews and reestablish the House of Islam in Palestine.
    • "Jerusalem's recapture is seen by some as one of the signs that 'the Hour' and the end of times are about to occur," Gold suggested. "And most importantly, because of these associations, it is the launching pad for a new global jihad powered by the conviction that this time the war will unfold according to a pre-planned religious script, and hence must succeed."
    • Far from creating a political situation in which both Israelis and the Palestinians feel they have received equal benefits, such negotiations and final agreements on Jerusalem would have precisely the opposite effect. Those in the West who are urging Israel "to redivide Jerusalem by relinquishing its holy sites," Gold cautioned, "may well believe that they are lowering the flames of radical Islamic rage, but in fact they will only be turning up those flames to heights that have not been seen before."

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