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February 24, 2010

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Hamas Founder's Son Worked for Israel Security Agency - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas founder and one of its leaders in the West Bank, served for over a decade as the Israel Security Agency's most valuable source inside the organization's leadership, Ha'aretz has learned.
    During the second intifada, the intelligence he supplied Israel led to the exposure of a number of terrorist cells, and to the prevention of dozens of suicide bombings and assassination attempts on Israeli figures.
    Yousef, 32, became a devout Christian 10 years ago and now lives in California. His memoir, Son of Hamas, will be released next week in the U.S.
    Yousef's former handler says, "So many people owe him their life and don't even know it." "The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money....He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives."
    Yousef says: "Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire....The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis."
    "Palestinians! They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does."

Support for Israel in U.S. at 63 Percent, Near Record High - Lydia Saad (Gallup)
    For the first time since 1991, more than 6 in 10 Americans - 63% - say their sympathies in the Middle East lie more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians. 15% side more with the Palestinians, down slightly from recent years, while a combined 23% favor both sides, favor neither side, or have no opinion.
    Since 2001, there has been a 25-point increase in sympathy for Israel among Republicans (now 85%) and an 18-point increase among independents (60%), while support for Israel among Democrats has been relatively flat (48%).
    Currently, 30% of Americans think "there will come a time" when "Israel and the Arab nations will be able to settle their differences and live in peace"; 67% are doubtful.

Assassination Shows Skillful Planning - Samuel Segev (Winnipeg Free Press-Canada)
    The obsessive concentration of the world press on the use of faked European passports in the killing of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last month diverted attention from the operational aspects of this act. The lessons are now being studied by all intelligence services in the world.
    The most important lesson is the penetration of Hamas, Syrian and Iranian security services. It's clear that the killers visited Dubai in the past and knew the security arrangements.
    They were aware of the videos and monitoring equipment, but trusted the skills of the professionals who specialize in creating fictional identities and different looks.
    The target, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of the Hamas military wing, came to Dubai to organize another Iranian arms shipment to Gaza via Sudan. Mabhouh came to Dubai from Damascus carrying an Iraqi passport and with a false name.

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  • U.S. Calls Iranian Nuclear Offer Unacceptable - David Gollust
    The U.S. Tuesday said an Iranian offer to trade its low-enriched uranium for more highly-processed fuel for a research reactor is unacceptable. The State Department said U.S. diplomats are aggressively pursuing the idea of additional sanctions against Tehran because of its non-cooperation on the nuclear issue. The State Department says the Iranian message does not contain anything that hasn't been heard before, and that Tehran continues to back-track from its initial acceptance of the IAEA plan.
        In its message to the IAEA, Iran said Tuesday it is willing to trade low-enriched uranium for reactor fuel but the exchange would have to be simultaneous and take place on Iranian soil. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley called the Iranian offer "a red herring" - a diversion that would do nothing to reassure the world community that its nuclear program is peaceful. "Under the Iranian proposal, there would be an exchange, but that would require the international community to front its own fuel to satisfy Iranian needs, while Iran continues to violate its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. So this response, the Iranian counterproposal, is unacceptable."  (VOA News)
        See also Iran Letter Repeats Nuclear Swap Terms Rejected by West - Alan Cowell
    Iran's reply was couched in terms the U.S. and its allies have already dismissed, according to diplomats. Some analysts have said that, effectively, the IAEA proposal from last October has collapsed. But with the West demanding tougher sanctions, while China, in particular, resists such penalties, neither side is prepared to formally pronounce it dead. (New York Times)
  • EU Plans Massive Sanctions Against Iran - Hans-Jurgen Schlamp
    The EU is preparing tough sanctions against Iran's energy and financial sectors, aimed at forcing Iran to back down in the nuclear dispute. The EU wants to massively ratchet up the pressure on Tehran - and the instruments have already been prepared. Behind the scenes, EU finance and trade experts have worked out a confidential catalogue of possible sanctions. European governments are more determined than ever to raise the pressure on Iran, especially after the IAEA said in a report last week that Iran may now be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Russia "Very Alarmed" Over Iran
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday, "We are very alarmed, and we cannot accept this, that Iran is refusing to cooperate with the IAEA," after the UN nuclear agency said it feared that Tehran might be working to develop a nuclear missile. "For about 20 years, the Iranian leadership carried out its clandestine nuclear program without reporting it to the IAEA," he said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko hinted that talks on a UN sanctions resolution could start soon. But Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabko reiterated Russia's position that it would not block the export of S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran. (Reuters-Moscow Times-Russia)
        See also China Resists Call for Iran Sanctions
    China is pushing back against any new sanctions for Iran. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that China hopes the nuclear problem will be solved diplomatically. (FOX News)
  • Iranian Website: Iranian Nuclear Bomb Spells Death to Israel
    On Feb. 18, the Iranian website Asr-e Iran posted an editorial stating that Iran's possessing nuclear weapons will threaten Israel's existence and lead to its elimination - even if they are never used. Once Iran possesses nuclear weapons and shifts the balance of power in the Middle East, it states, this will be the end of Israeli society. "Iran's possession of such weapons will sow in Israel a sense of insecurity - and this sense alone will be enough to shatter the glass palace of this illegitimate regime in the Middle East. An Iran with nuclear weapons means an end to the dream of 'secure Israel' - and this means the exodus of most of the residents."  (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Fayyad Criticizes, Israel Defends, Decision on National Heritage Sites - Ali Waked
    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called on the international community on Tuesday to pressure Israel to renege on its decision to add the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb to the list of national heritage sites. He added that the media had ignored the fact that Israel also declared Jerusalem's walls as heritage sites. "The Old City's walls are inside eastern and occupied Jerusalem, which will be Palestine's eternal capital."
        Vice Premier Silvan Shalom responded: "This is insolent and outrageous and another attempt to rewrite history. The Cave of the Patriarchs, like Rachel's Tomb, are Jewish heritage sites pointing to the deep 3,700-year affiliation of the people of Israel to their land. The people of Israel's affiliation to the land did not begin - as the Palestinians are trying to claim - in the past 100 years, but when the Cave of the Patriarchs was bought by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite for 400 silver shekels and Rachel's Tomb was purchased for a full price in the Benjamin region. They are both still mentioned in the Torah in the Book of Genesis, and no one can take that away from the people of Israel. The wild Palestinian attack is aimed at trying to cut off the affiliation and rewriting history. This is a continuation of their ideological objection to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state."  (Ynet News)
        See also Abbas: Heritage Sites Will Ignite a War - Ali Waked
    PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that the Israeli decision to include Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs, located in Bethlehem and Hebron, in the list of national heritage sites was "a serious provocation which may lead to a religious war."  (Ynet News)
        See also Israel: Abbas' War Threats Hypocritical - Roni Sofer
    The Prime Minister's Office responded Tuesday to the Palestinians' war threats. Nir Hefetz, head of the National Information Directorate, said: "This is a false and hypocritical campaign. The State of Israel is committed to the freedom of worship of all religions in all holy sites, and this is what it is doing in practice." "At the present time, the renovation of the entrance plaza and the way leading to the Muslim prayer hall in the Cave of the Patriarchs is being completed. Israel will work in a similar way to renovate the entrance used by Jews arriving at the Cave of the Patriarchs."  (Ynet News)
        Israeli spokesman Mark Regev noted: "Just as Israel understands the Muslim connection to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, we are entitled to hear from the Palestinian side that they respect our connection to a site that is very important to the Jewish people....It is disappointing to hear other messages from the Palestinian leadership."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Is Ahmadinejad Playing the Madman or Is He Really a Madman? - Richard Cohen
    An Iranian bomb is not a matter that concerns only Israel. It would upend the balance of power throughout the Middle East and encourage radical/terrorist organizations such as Hizbullah and Hamas to ratchet up their war against Israel. Other Middle East nations, not content to rely on an American nuclear umbrella, would seek their own bombs. An unstable region would go nuclear. It speaks volumes about Middle Eastern reality and hypocrisy that Egypt serenely lives with an Israeli bomb but breaks out in diplomatic hives at the prospect of an Iranian one. (Washington Post)
  • The Proportionate Killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh - Michael J. Totten
    Hamas senior military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was a terrorist commander on a mission to acquire Iranian weapons for use against civilians. He was a combatant. Unlike his victims, he was fair game. In Dubai, he was taken out quietly without harming any of the civilians around him. If only Israel could fight all its battles this way. It would be the cleanest and least-deadly war in the history of warfare.
        It's always better to take out a high-level target in person whenever possible than with a blockbuster bomb from a distance. I can't help but wonder if those griping about the recent hit in Dubai care less about the lives of real human beings than the latest excuse to bash Israel. If the Arab-Israeli conflict will continue - and it will continue - civilians on both sides should prefer that combatants be taken off the board quietly while everyone else goes about their daily business in peace. (Commentary)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Right to Self-Defense - Gerald M. Steinberg (Wall Street Journal)

    • The headlines and video images allegedly showing Israeli spies in Dubai are titillating, but they mask the serious issues involved in the death of Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. This case is the latest example of the failure of the international legal system and the UN to provide a remedy to mass terror.
    • Al-Mabhouh was a cold-blooded murderer. In an interview just last year on Al Jazeera he boasted about kidnapping and then killing two Israeli soldiers. He was also a major figure in arranging arms shipments from Iran to Gaza. Al-Mabhouh shared responsibility for the thousands of rocket attacks fired at civilians in Sderot and other Israeli towns, which resulted in last year's war in Gaza.
    • But international law provides no means for stopping terrorists like al-Mabhouh. Cases involving Muslim terrorists, supported by Iran, would never be pursued by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, or raised in the framework of the UN. Al-Mabhouh violated the human rights of untold Israeli civilians, but the UN's Human Rights Council has no interest in Israeli complaints.
    • The bitter reality is that for Israel, international legal frameworks provide no protection and no hope of justice. Instead, these frameworks are used to exploit the rhetoric of human rights and morality to attack Israel.
    • Unlike U.S. Predator strikes on jihadi terrorists in the Afghan-Pakistan border region which hardly raise an eyebrow in the West these days, there was no "collateral damage" in Dubai. No innocent civilians were hurt, no buildings were damaged. Justice was done, and al-Mabhouh's preparations for the next war ended quietly.

      The writer is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and heads NGO Monitor.

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