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December 1, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Expands Naval Clout in Gulf - Adam Entous (Reuters)
    The concentration of fast attack boats and cruise missiles in and along the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, known as the IRGCN, "better allow Iranian naval assets to contribute to and extend Iran's layered defense strategy," the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence said in a new study.
    The Revolutionary Guard has gradually expanded its naval capabilities over the years and now deploys some of the fastest naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the study said.
    The study cited public statements by Iranian leaders indicating that they would "consider closing or controlling the Strait of Hormuz if provoked, thereby cutting off almost 30% of the world's oil supply."

Venezuela to Upgrade Palestinian Ties - Walker Simon (Reuters)
    "We have decided to designate an ambassador and open an embassy in Palestine...[where] we now have a charge d'affaires," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said after talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Caracas on Friday.
    Among aid agreements signed were scholarships for 20 Palestinians to study medicine in Venezuela.
    "We...are on the side of the Palestinian people's memorable struggle...against the genocidal state of Israel," said Chavez. "Venezuela is Palestine; Palestine is Venezuela, we have a common struggle."
    Chavez charged that the U.S., using a recent agreement to expand U.S. troops' access to Colombian military bases, aimed to turn Colombia into "the Israel of South America."

Holland Votes to Put Iran's Revolutionary Guards on EU Terror List - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    The Netherlands parliament voted last week to place Iran's Revolutionary Guards on the EU terror list.
    According to the resolution, "this organization has played a leading role during the bloody suppression of the recent popular protests is increasingly active in facilitating international terrorism, among which support to Hamas, Hizbullah and anti-Western militias in Iraq."
    The resolution will be discussed in December at an EU meeting in Brussels.

Explosion in Car Kills Gaza Militant (Ha'aretz)
    A car exploded in Gaza on Monday, killing a militant and wounding two. The blast was caused by explosives within the car, according to a PA Health Ministry official.

Useful Reference:

Video: Alan Dershowitz Challenges the Goldstone Report (Hasbara Fellowships)
    View his presentation at Fordham University on Nov. 19.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran May Be Planning Decoy Sites to Hide Military Enrichment Efforts, Expert Says - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iran's announcement of plans to build ten more uranium enrichment facilities is largely bluster, analysts said Monday. Nonetheless, the defiance is fueling calls among Western allies for new punitive sanctions to freeze Iran's nuclear program. "They can't build those plants. There's no way," said nuclear expert David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. "They have sanctions to overcome, they have technical problems. They have to buy things overseas...and increasingly it's all illegal."
        Still, the announcement is of major concern because it could signal an intention to put up numerous decoy sites to deceive the outside world, while building perhaps a few secret military enrichment sites that could be put to use in weapons production, Albright said. "This Qom site was probably meant to be a clandestine facility for breakout that they wanted built for nuclear weapons," said Albright. "And now that it's been exposed they may want to replace it."  (AP)
  • Sanctions Urged as Anger Grows over Iran Nuclear Expansion - Catherine Philp
    Iran faced mounting threats of sanctions Monday over its plans to expand massively its uranium enrichment program. French Defense Minister Herve Morin said, "The uranium enrichment programs have no other goal than a military goal," citing evidence "from the intelligence services of several countries, notably France." He said Tehran's defiance meant the international community "would probably have to impose new economic sanctions."
        Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, said, "If Iran rejects the hand that has reached out, it must expect heavier sanctions." A spokesman for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said sanctions could be introduced as soon as next month, while David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, noted that "instead of engaging with us, Iran chooses to provoke."  (Times-UK)
        See also U.S. Envoy to UN Slams Iran Enrichment Plan - John Heilprin
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice on Monday called Iran's plans to build additional uranium enrichment plants "unacceptable," warning they could bring increased international pressure on Tehran. "We view the Iranian completely inappropriate and further isolating Iran from the international community," Rice said. "As Iran makes choices that seem to indicate that it is not at this stage ready and willing to take up the offers on the engagement track, then we will put greater emphasis on the pressure track."  (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • UN Marks 1947 Partition Vote as "Day of Mourning" - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Israel celebrates the historic date of November 29, 1947 - the day the UN approved the partition plan creating the Jewish state - as marking the end of the British mandate and the beginning of independent rule. However, UN headquarters in New York and Geneva are holding ceremonies of mourning and solidarity with the Palestinian people. The UN General Assembly has embarked on a two-day marathon of anti-Israeli debates, which culminates with votes on six anti-Israel resolutions. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians to Ask UN for 1967 Borders - E.B. Solomont
    Israeli officials were bracing for Palestinian diplomats to use a General Assembly debate to ask the UN Security Council to declare a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli officials reject the concept of a one-sided establishment of a Palestinian state, emphasizing that the only way to achieve peace is through negotiations. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Foreign Ministry Warns EU: Don't Declare Jerusalem Palestinian Capital - Herb Keinon
    Sweden's attempts to insert language into an EU resolution on the Middle East that would recognize eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent Palestinian state harms European efforts to play a significant part in mediating between Israel and the Palestinians, the Israel Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. The statement followed a Ha'aretz report that the Swedes were pushing a resolution to be discussed at a monthly meeting of EU ministers next week in Brussels that would officially call for the division of Jerusalem.
        The Foreign Ministry said that after the significant steps that Israel has taken to enable the renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians - a reference to the recent moratorium on new housing starts in the West Bank - "the Europeans should be pressuring the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table. These types of moves being led by Sweden bring about the opposite result."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Adventurism - Editorial
    While Ahmadinejad declares Iran's pacific intentions, that is disingenuous bluster. No disinterested observer can believe that Iran's program is designed purely to generate electricity. Iran pretends to cooperate with the IAEA and comply with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while withholding salient information and continuing its nuclear developments. It has built a second enrichment facility, near Qom, which should have been declared much earlier.
        This was the object of the IAEA's criticism last week. The plan to build ten new plants is a new declaration of recalcitrance. Coming from a leader who believes in a literal and imminent apocalypse and who gleefully anticipates the extinction of the Jewish state, it is chilling.
        The international community, specifically the U.S. and the EU3 (Britain, Germany and France), have been accommodating to a fault to Iran's reasonable needs. Further sanctions will need to bite, and the message from the UN should be single-minded. The multilateral arms control regime will be upheld, or it will be worthless. (Times-UK)
  • Israel Is Europe's Blind Spot - Isi Leibler
    In the "enlightened," postmodernist secular societies of Europe, which shun all manifestations of nationalism, Israel is no longer considered a revival of Jewish nationhood, but as a colonial implant that many would be happy to see somehow disappearing as a national entity. Simultaneously, the realpolitik imposed by oil-producing countries when securing energy that has become the national priority for most nations, together with the growing empowerment of radical Islamic groups throughout Europe, have resulted in many countries siding against Israel rather than confront the jihadists within their own borders. It is in this context that Israel remains the only country in the world whose very right to exist is challenged.
        It also highlights the dilemma facing Israel: the more concessions Israel has made over the last decade in order to reach an accommodation with its neighbors, the greater has been the terror unleashed against it and the more its international standing has eroded. (Guardian-UK)
  • Observations:

    What Prime Minister Olmert Offered Mahmoud Abbas - Greg Sheridan (The Australian)

    • Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's term in office is best remembered for the extensive negotiations and final peace offer that he made to Mahmoud Abbas. Olmert is right to paint this offer as embodying the most extensive concessions, and the best deal, ever offered to the Palestinians by an Israeli leader. If the Palestinian leadership cannot accept that offer, can they accept any realistic offer? Do they have the machinery to run a state? Is their society too dysfunctional and filled with anti-Semitic propaganda to live in peace next to the Jewish state?
    • Olmert explained his position to me in unprecedented detail. "From the end of 2006 until the end of 2008 I think I met with Abu Mazen (Abbas) more often than any Israeli leader has ever met any Arab leader. I met him more than 35 times. They were intense, serious negotiations."
    • "On the 16th of September, 2008, I presented him with a comprehensive plan. It was based on the following principles. One, there would be a territorial solution to the conflict on the basis of the 1967 borders with minor modifications on both sides. Israel will claim part of the West Bank where there have been demographic changes over the last 40 years."
    • Olmert says this would have involved Israel claiming about 6.4% of the West Bank: "Israel would claim all the Jewish areas of Jerusalem. All the lands that before 1967 were buffer zones between the two populations would have been split in half. In return there would be a swap of land (to the Palestinians) from Israel as it existed before 1967."
    • "I showed Abu Mazen how this would work to maintain the contiguity of the Palestinian state. I also proposed a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza. It would have been a tunnel fully controlled by the Palestinians but not under Palestinian sovereignty, otherwise it would have cut the State of Israel in two."
    • "No. 2 was the issue of Jerusalem....While I firmly believed that historically, and emotionally, Jerusalem was always the capital of the Jewish people, I was ready that the city should be shared. Jewish neighborhoods would be under Jewish sovereignty, Arab neighborhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty, so it could be the capital of a Palestinian state. Then there was the question of the holy basin within Jerusalem, the sites that are holy to Jews and Muslims, but not only to them, to Christians as well. I would never agree to an exclusive Muslim sovereignty over areas that are religiously important to Jews and Christians. So there would be an area of no sovereignty, which would be jointly administered by five nations, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Palestinian state, Israel and the United States."
    • "Third was the issue of Palestinian refugees....I think Abu Mazen understood there was no chance Israel would become the homeland of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian state was to be the homeland of the Palestinian people. So the question was how the claimed attachment of the Palestinian refugees to their original places could be recognized without bringing them in. I told him I would never agree to a right of return. Instead, we would agree on a humanitarian basis to accept a certain number every year for five years, on the basis that this would be the end of conflict and the end of claims. I said to him 1,000 per year. I think the Americans were entirely with me. In addition, we talked about creating an international fund that would compensate Palestinians for their suffering. I was the first Israeli prime minister to speak of Palestinian suffering and to say that we are not indifferent to that suffering."
    • "And four, there were security issues." Olmert says he showed Abbas a map which embodied all these plans. "I said 'this is the offer. Sign it and we can immediately get support from America, from Europe, from all over the world.' I told him he'd never get anything like this again from an Israeli leader for 50 years. I said to him, 'do you want to keep floating forever - like an astronaut in space - or do you want a state?' To this day we should ask Abu Mazen to respond to this plan. If they (the Palestinians) say no, there's no point negotiating."

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