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February 2, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas: Dubai Assassins Were Likely Arabs, Not Israelis - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    A preliminary investigation by Hamas suggests that the assassination of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on Jan. 20 was likely carried out by agents of an Arab government, and not by Israel.
    A Hamas source told Ha'aretz on Monday that Mabhouh was wanted by authorities in both Jordan and Egypt, where he previously spent a year in prison.
    On Sunday, a Dubai police commander said Mabhouh was killed by a seven-man team, four of whom had been identified.

Myths About Iran - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)
    A senior Western diplomat recently describe to me his country's efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Tehran over its nuclear programs:
    "We have been trying to negotiate for five, six years. We've tried everything. We have met every Iranian. We have tried to open every possible channel. We've had new ideas and the result is this: nothing."
    He thus disposed of the myth that Iran was ready to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for a "grand bargain" with the West.

Jordan Criticized for Stripping Palestinian Rights - Dale Gavlak (AP/Washington Post)
    Human Rights Watch said Jordan stripped about 2,700 Jordanians of Palestinian origin of their citizenship between 2004 and 2008.

PA TV Sermon: "Jews Are Enemies of Allah and Humanity - Kill Them" - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    A sermon calling for the genocide of Jews was broadcast on Jan. 29 by PA TV, which is under the control of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
    "The Jews, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger...[are the] enemies of humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular."
    "The Prophet says: 'You shall fight the Jews and kill them.'...This land will be liberated only by means of Jihad."

The Jihadist Next Door - Andrea Elliott (New York Times Magazine)
    Omar Hammami was born in Daphne, Alabama. Some 8,500 miles from Alabama, on the eastern edge of Africa, he has become a key figure in the Shabab, a guerrilla army waging a ruthless Islamist insurgency to overthrow the fragile American-backed Somali government.
    The rebels are known for beheading political enemies, chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning women accused of adultery.
    With help from al-Qaeda, they have turned Somalia into an ever more popular destination for jihadis from around the world.
    In a recent propaganda video, Hammami is shown leading a platoon of gun-toting rebels.
    Identified by his nom de guerre, Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, "the American," he says, "We're waiting for the enemy to come....We're going to kill all of them."
    Hammami commands forces in the field, organizing attacks and plotting strategy with Qaeda operatives.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Anti-Missile Test Mimicking Iran Attack Fails - Jim Wolf
    A U.S. attempt to shoot down a ballistic missile mimicking an attack from Iran failed after a radar malfunction in a test over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, the Defense Department said. "The Sea-Based X-band radar did not perform as expected," the agency said. The SBX radar is a major component of U.S. defenses against long-range missiles that could be tipped with chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. It was the first time the U.S. had tested its long-range defense against a simulated Iranian attack.
        The test coincided with a Pentagon report that Iran had expanded its ballistic missile capabilities and posed a "significant" threat to U.S. and allied forces in the Middle East. The Pentagon's Ballistic Missile Defense Review released on Monday said Tehran had developed and acquired ballistic missiles capable of striking targets from the Middle East to Eastern Europe and had fielded increasing numbers of mobile regional ballistic missiles. The report also singled out Syria's short-range missiles as a "regional threat," saying Damascus may have chemical warheads available for some of its missiles. (Reuters)
        See also Ballistic Missile Defense Review (U.S. Defense Department)
  • War Crimes Trials Unlikely for Israel or Hamas - Chris Stephen
    Three months ago, the UN General Assembly told both Hamas and Israel that unless they launch their own investigations of war crimes allegations relating to Gaza, it would call for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to do the job instead. But the chances of the ICC being ordered into action are slight. The UN General Assembly is unable to order a war crimes investigation by the ICC. Only the Security Council can do that, and that is almost certainly not going to happen.
        The U.S. fears that an investigation by the ICC will derail any chances of starting a new Middle East peace process. Certainly, it is hard to see how meaningful negotiations could start among statesmen under threat of war crimes indictment. The result is that the U.S. will veto any vote on the ICC that comes before the Security Council - and it will not be alone. At least three of the permanent members, Britain, France and Russia, are likely to take the same line, and for the same reasons, blocking any move in the Security Council. (Scotsman-UK)
  • Blair: World Faces Decision to Halt Iran's Nuclear Program - Philip Webster
    World leaders might have to go to war to stop Iran developing its weapons program, Tony Blair suggested Friday. The former prime minister, who is now a Middle East peace envoy, said that Tehran's actions had made him more afraid today that a rogue state could supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorists than he was when he took Britain to war with Iraq in 2003. "My we don't take any risks with this issue," he said. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Bombs from Gaza Found on Israeli Beaches - Hanan Greenberg and Ali Waked
    Explosive devices hidden in barrels that originated in Gaza were discovered Monday on beaches in Ashkelon and Ashdod in what was considered a failed terror attack. A senior Palestinian source said the attacks were planned as a joint operation of Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees' Salah a-Din Brigades and the Nabil Masud group, which is affiliated with Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. (Ynet News)
        See also Terror Attack Shows Palestinian Effort to Develop New Capabilities - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The attempted attack got underway on Friday. Israeli Navy vessels spotted two explosions at sea, about 2 km. from Israel's shores. Two days later, the two explosive devices were washed ashore. The devices had no engine and lacked any navigation or homing means. The most reasonable possibility is that the attack masterminds wanted to check whether the water current can be used to direct bombs to Israel's shores or towards Israeli Navy vessels patrolling the area. (Ynet News)
  • Two IDF Officers Disciplined over Artillery Fire during Gaza Operation
    The IDF immediately began investigating itself upon the completion of the Gaza operation with no relation to the Goldstone commission. Within the framework of the independent IDF investigation, it was found that the Commander of the Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, and the past commander of the Givati Brigade, Col. Ilan Malka, had deviated from their authority during an incident which took place two days before the end of the operation on Jan. 15. The two officers had authorized the firing of artillery shells in violation of the orders concerning the use of weaponry near residential areas. The shells were fired near the UNRWA headquarters in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City. Following an IDF investigation eight months ago, the officers were disciplined by the Commander of the Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant, even though there were no known casualties from this incident. (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also Officers Authorized Artillery Fire to Help Rescue Trapped Platoon - Amos Harel
    The incident for which Eisenberg and Malka were reprimanded involved the use of live ammunition to help rescue members of a Givati Brigade platoon, some of whom were wounded, from a situation in which they were under anti-tank missile fire from Hamas - even though the orders allowed firing only smoke shells. The investigation found that Malka exceeded his authority, but his orders did not cause the death of any innocent civilians. Division commander Eisenberg, who was not directly involved in the decision, requested to be tried too, so as not to abandon his brigade commander. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Gaza Incident Did Not Involve White Phosphorus Shells - Anshel Pfeffer
    The IDF Spokesman's Office said Monday that contrary to reports that the officers were disciplined for using smoke shells containing white phosphorus, they were disciplined not for using phosphorus shells but for authorizing regular artillery shells. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Is Both Keen and Able to Hold Itself to Account - Editorial
    Unlike many of its neighbors, Israel has a strong domestic desire to hold itself to account. In addition, condemnatory megaphone diplomacy does not work. For an example of such ineffective megaphone diplomacy, consider Judge Richard Goldstone's report on the Gaza conflict for the UN, released last September. Both dangerously and unreasonably, Judge Goldstone implied an equivalence between the indiscriminate rocket fire with which Hamas bombarded Israel and the steps that Israel subsequently took to defend itself.
        Faced with the Goldstone reportís provocative bias, a country might be expected to slam down the shutters and turn away. Instead, the Middle Eastís only functioning democracy quietly continued to conduct its own investigation into the conflict, which it has now submitted to the UN. Those who cry "war crime" and seek to paint Israel as a pariah do diplomacy itself a disservice. Israel is not a rogue state. It is an accountable, democratic, transparent nation, and fighting to remain one amid challenges that few other nations ever have to face. (Times-UK)
  • Funding Hate Education
    Funding from the British government and the European Commission is helping to fund hate education and promote violence in the Palestinian territories. It is doing this by funding the Palestinian education system. The Palestinian authorities have produced textbooks that promote martyrdom, support the execution of apostates and support insurgents fighting British troops in Iraq. The very best of treaties will not be able to guarantee peace in the medium to long term if a generation of Palestinians is growing up indoctrinated to hate Israel and the non-Muslim world. (Taxpayers Alliance-UK/Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also EU Aid Funds PA Incitement - Ben Hartman (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Israel: Resume Negotiations without PA Preconditions - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

    • Israel has no intention of acceding to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas' call for a freeze of all construction in West Bank settlements and in east Jerusalem for three months, in order to resume direct negotiations with the PA, a senior Israeli government official said on Monday. "We are not going to accept the Palestinian position on Jerusalem as a condition for entering the talks," the official said.
    • Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev said that for ten months, Israel has consistently called for the resumption of diplomatic negotiations without preconditions, and has taken a whole series of confidence-building measures to make the talks possible. "In the same period of time," Regev remarked, "the Palestinian leadership has unfortunately and consistently refused to re-engage in a political process. One has to ask how does one expect to achieve peace without talking. We are ready to talk, we have been for the last ten moths, and the question is, are they?"
        See also Helping Abbas Climb Down the High Tree - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    • Public opinion polls published in the past few days by a number of Fatah-controlled media outlets are seen as an attempt to prepare local public opinion for the possibility that the PA will soon resume the stalled peace talks with Israel.
    • PA officials said that Abbas was under heavy pressure from the Europeans, Americans and some Arab countries to accept U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell's proposals and resume the peace talks with Israel. Abbas "wants to resume the peace negotiations, but he doesn't want it to look as if he has succumbed to the pressure," said one official in Ramallah.

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