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January 7, 2010

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Israel Tests New Short-Range Missile Defense System - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The Iron Dome short-range missile defense system passed a series of tests over the last few days, successfully shooting down Kassam rockets, Grad rockets and mortar shells one after the other.
    It even succeeded in determining which missiles to shoot down - those likely to land in populated areas - and which to ignore.
    The first operational battery is expected to be deployed in May.

Holocaust Museum Shooter Dies in Prison - Del Quentin Wilber (Washington Post)
    James Von Brunn, 89, the white supremacist charged with killing a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in June, died Wednesday at a hospital near the federal prison in Butner, N.C.

France to Set Up Unit to Investigate Genocide, War Crimes - Edward Cody (Washington Post)
    The French government announced Wednesday that it will set up a special judicial unit to investigate and bring charges against people accused of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity in France or abroad.
    Unlike British law, France requires some connection between France and the alleged crime.

World Famous Pianist Protests Against BBC Anti-Israel Bias - Stephen Pollard and Robyn Rosen (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Evgeny Kissin, 38, a child prodigy in his native Russia who is now widely recognized as one of the greatest living pianists, has accused the BBC of "slander and bias" against Israel, broadcasting material he describes as "painfully reminiscent of the old Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda."
    Kissin, who became a British citizen in 2002, said he intends from now on to speak out against media bias against Israel, which he sees as both fueling and being fueled by anti-Semitism.

Egyptian Threatened over Interest in Israel - Daniel Edelson (Ynet News)
    The Israeli Center in Cairo has been in place for almost 30 years, but Egyptian visitors say they have been harassed by the country's authorities.
    After his first visit to the center, Hussein Baker, 20, a fourth-year Hebrew student at Menoufia University, was accosted by a member of the Egyptian security service who asked him why he had visited the center, who he met there, and what he thought about Israel.
    A week later, Baker's girlfriend received a phone call from another security officer who asked about her boyfriend's political opinions.
    Then he received a phone call from the Israeli Center about an upcoming screening of a film. Several minutes later he received a call from an Egyptian officer who warned him: "Don't visit the center again."
    "I was so scared that I told him I would not visit the center anymore." This brought to an end "my dreams of normalization and peace."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • As Zero Hour Nears, Differences Emerge on Sanctions Against Iran - Ron Kampeas
    As long as the Iran conversation was broad and dealt only with "sanctions," the Congress, the White House and the pro-Israel community seemed to be on the same page. But now that Iran has rejected just about every bouquet sent its way and the talk has turned to the details, longstanding differences over how best to go forward are taking center stage. With the backing of many Jewish groups, Congress appears to be pressing ahead with a package that targets Iran's energy sector. The White House appears to favor more narrow measures targeting the Iranian leadership and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. (JTA)
  • Palestinian Sniper Kills Egyptian Guard During Border Riot - Edmund Sanders
    A Palestinian sniper shot and killed an Egyptian border guard Wednesday at a demonstration called by Hamas to protest against Egypt's interference with an aid convoy and its construction of an underground barrier designed to block tunnels used to smuggle goods and weapons into Gaza. Several hundred Palestinian protesters in Rafah began throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Egyptian security forces across the border, who responded with gunfire, witnesses said. (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. Mideast Envoy: Two Years or Less for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks
    George Mitchell, the U.S. Middle East envoy, said on Wednesday that Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations should take no longer than two years and could be finished sooner than that. He said an Israel-Syria track could operate in parallel with an Israeli-Palestinian track. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas signaled on Monday that he is considering a proposal to relaunch stalled Middle East peace talks at a U.S.-backed summit with Israeli and Egyptian leaders early in the new year. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA: Peace Talks Must Resume from Where They Ended in December 2008 - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said, "We want to resume the talks from the point where they ended in December 2008" (which means incorporating all concessions proposed by the previous Israeli government). "We have every right to talk about a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders, including Jerusalem," Erekat explained. Erekat ruled out the possibility that a tripartite meeting between Abbas, Netanyahu and President Hosni Mubarak would be held in Cairo if Israel does not completely freeze construction in settlements. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Mortar Barrage at Israel
    Palestinian militants in Gaza launched a barrage of at least ten mortar shells at Israel on Thursday. The head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, on Wednesday warned residents of southern Israel that the recent quiet along the Gaza border may only be temporary and that civilians in the region should "prepare themselves for another round of fighting."  (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S., Israel Discuss Counter-Terror Cooperation - Yaakov Lappin
    U.S. Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Holl Lute met with Israel Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch in Jerusalem on Wednesday to discuss bilateral cooperation on confronting terrorism. The U.S. is keen to learn about Israel's counter-terrorism experience, as well as how various Israeli law enforcement agencies work together and share information. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Steady Drip of Leaks Corrodes the Core of the Iranian Regime - Michael Slackman
    Beatings, arrests, show trials and even killings have failed to discourage Iranians from taking to the streets in protest. But those same tactics may be taking a toll on the government itself, eating away at its legitimacy even among its core of insiders, Iran experts are saying.
        The evidence? Leaks about private meetings of the intelligence services and Revolutionary Guards; an embarrassing memo from state-owned television on how to cover the protests; a note about how the security services have been using petty criminals to fill out the ranks of pro-government demonstrations. "Since June, there has been much anecdotal evidence that suggests deep divisions between the hard-line commanders of the Guards and between the Guards and members of the regular armed forces who are dissatisfied with the election and its aftermath," said Alireza Nader, an analyst with the RAND Corporation.
        At the moment, at least, few if any experts are predicting that the government will fall. "There is enough commitment to the survival of the Islamic republic among an array of forces in the government and society to assure the continued use of repression and violence," said Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University of Hawaii. "But it is precisely the ineffectiveness of the methods used in controlling the crowds, combined with the unsuccessful effort on the part of some very hard-line forces to cleanse the Iranian political system of all rivals, that may persuade some leaders to change their minds."  (New York Times)
  • When Egypt Clenches Its Iron Fist - Zvi Bar'el
    Egypt exercised considerable force to demonstrate its determination in deciding who enters Gaza, how and when, as it stood off against Palestinians rioting over the delay of an aid convoy. Egypt is making it clear that from now on Damascus and Iran no longer have exclusive control over Hamas' moves, and that Cairo has a powerful economic lever at its disposal. Cairo is fed up with Hamas' foot-dragging and Tehran's meddling. In this Egypt is assisted by Saudi Arabia, which gave Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal an ultimatum to decide whether he is running an Arab organization or is under the "patronage of a foreign power," i.e., Iran.
        Reconciliation with Fatah is one of the two conditions Egypt is demanding for opening the border crossings. The second pertains to the success of the Shalit prisoner exchange deal. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Deadly Price of Pursuing Peace - Evelyn Gordon
    Even today, conventional wisdom, including in Israel, continues to assert that Israel's international standing depends on its willingness to advance the "peace process." That invites an obvious question: if so, why has Israel's reputation fallen so low despite its numerous concessions for peace since 1993? The Oslo process led Israel to sideline its own claim to the West Bank and Gaza, which all Israeli governments (and international Jewish leaders) had stressed to some extent before 1993. The argument in favor of Israel's right to sovereignty there was simple: these territories are the historic Jewish homeland, the heart of the biblical Jewish kingdom. They were explicitly allotted to the future Jewish state by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate, which was never legally superseded.
        None of this precludes an Israeli cession of these areas; countries often waive territorial claims to secure peace agreements. But only if Israel has a valid claim can the act of ceding these lands be a "painful concession" that could arouse sympathy and admiration from the world. If Israel has no claim, it is nothing but a thief. And no one would admire a thief for returning some, but not all, of his stolen property, or for offering to return some, but still not all, of the rest if granted sufficient compensation. (Commentary)
  • Observations:

    How to Foil an Intelligent Enemy - David Lapin (Jerusalem Post)

    • Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport is in one of the most targeted countries in the world for acts of terrorism. Yet it has successfully managed to avoid hijacking and bombing attempts, even though security checks are usually much quicker than at any U.S. airport of similar size. Security officers there do not mindlessly monitor people taking off shoes and belts as they walk through metal detectors. They are looking for intelligence by asking probing questions. Once, after clearing security there, an officer looked into my eyes and said, "Do you know why I am asking you these questions?...I really don't want anything to happen to you."
    • To her, her job was not about checking boxes to make sure that if a plane went down, her own back was covered. Her job was much more meaningful than that. Her job was to care about me and tens of thousands of other travelers that day, and she was passionately committed to it. She was applying her considerable skill, training and intelligence to her job in the most caring way. Only wisdom and intelligence can foil an intelligent enemy. Machines and process alone cannot.
        See also Profile Me If You Must - Michael J. Totten (Commentary)
    • I don't want to be profiled at the airport, but our airport security system is so half-baked and dysfunctional it may as well not even exist. So rather than doubling down on grandma and micromanaging everyone on the plane, we might want to pay as much attention to people as to their luggage, especially military-aged males who make unusual and suspicious-looking travel arrangements. That's what the Israelis do. At Ben-Gurion Airport you don't have to take off your shoes in the security line and you don't have to stand in front of invasive and expensive body-scanning machines.
    • Israeli security agents interview everyone, and they subject travelers who fit certain profiles to additional scrutiny. They take me aside every time, partly because of my gender and age but mostly because a huge percentage of my passport stamps are from countries with serious terrorist problems. They've asked if I've ever met with anyone in Hizbullah. I am not going to lie, especially not when the answer can be easily found using Google. They know I've met with Hizbullah. That's why my luggage gets hand-searched one sock at a time while elderly tourists from Florida skate through. I don't take it personally, and it makes a lot more sense than letting me skate through while grandma's luggage is hand-searched instead.
    • When I get on a plane in the U.S., I often breeze past women decades older than me while they're being frisked. Almost every single person in line knows it's ridiculous. We don't say anything because it feels vaguely "fair." Maybe it is, but it's no way to catch terrorists.

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