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May 7, 2010

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Times Square Bomb Suspect Linked to Militant Cleric - Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times)
    Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, has told investigators that he drew inspiration from Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric whose militant online lectures have been a catalyst for several recent attacks and plots, an American official said Thursday.
    "He listened to him, and he did it," the official said.
    Friends of Shahzad have said he asked his father's permission in 2009 to join the fight in Afghanistan against American and NATO forces.
    Shahzad has told interrogators that he met with Pakistani Taliban operatives in North Waziristan in December and January, and later received explosives training.

NATO Missile Official Cites Cooperation with Israel - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    Israel has held preliminary technical talks with NATO that could lay the groundwork for joint missile defenses, Alan Berry of NATO's Active Layered Theater Ballistic Missile Defense Program Office said on Wednesday at the Multinational Ballistic Missile Defense Conference near Tel Aviv.

WTO Opens Talks on Syrian Membership (AFP)
    At a meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, the World Trade Organization's ruling General Council agreed to open negotiations on Syria's long-standing bid for membership, the WTO said.

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Undercover NYPD Officers Infiltrate Jihadis' World - Joel Stonington (Wall Street Journal)
    A young Bangladeshi immigrant working undercover found himself among a dozen men at an Islamic bookstore in Brooklyn one day in 2004 to watch videos of U.S. soldiers being slain.
    "That made these guys pumped up and happy," the officer said. "It's like a party at a club. They were hitting the walls with excitement."
    Among the revelers: Shahawar Matin Siraj, who would be sentenced in January 2007 to 30 years in prison for an August 2004 plot to blow up Herald Square. "He loved talking about doing jihad," said the officer.
    The officer fit the profile of the young men he sought to meet: middle-class, first- or second-generation Americans. He said he watched the radicalization process of dozens.
    David Cohen, deputy commissioner for intelligence of the New York Police Department, said such undercover operations have become the city's main defense amid the escalation of threats and plots since the attack on the World Trade Center nearly a decade ago.

German Jihad Colonies Sprout Up in Waziristan - Yassin Musharbash, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    A wave of Germans traveling to training camps for militant jihadists has alarmed security officials back in Europe.
    Colonies catering to German Islamists have taken shape in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Russian Tourists Flock to Tel Aviv - Lital Levin (Ha'aretz)
    Russia is now second only to the U.S. as a source of foreign tourism.
    In 2006, 73,500 Russians visited Israel, according to the Tourism Ministry.
    In 2009, the figure was up to 400,000, and in the first three months of this year, 114,000 Russian tourists had already visited the country, twice the rate for the same period in 2009.
    "The Russian tourist finds a product here that suits his needs, because of the large population of Russian speakers, the good weather, the relatively short distance between Israel and Russia and the lack of a visa requirement," noted ministry spokeswoman Shira Kaveh.

American Jewry's Comfort Level: Present and Future - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    In recent years it has become increasingly clear that anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism overlap to a great extent.
    Anti-Semitism is not a major issue in American society at large. There are, however, areas in the U.S. where anti-Semitism manifests itself significantly, mainly in its anti-Israeli mutation, including college campuses, mainstream Christian denominations, and certain online media.
    There are pockets where Muslim anti-Semitism has made substantial inroads. During Israel's 2008-2009 Gaza campaign, it was mainly Arabs and Muslims who participated in numerous demonstrations against Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • IAEA Chief Focuses on Israel - George Jahn
    International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano sent a letter soliciting proposals from the agency's 151 member states on how to persuade Israel to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty, in a move that adds to pressure on the Jewish state to disclose its unacknowledged nuclear arsenal. Israel, in turn, is suggesting efforts should focus instead on giving teeth to the nuclear treaty to prevent signatories like Iran from acquiring such weapons. In his letter, Amano asked foreign ministers to share views on how to implement a resolution demanding that Israel "accede" to the Nonproliferation Treaty and throw its nuclear facilities open to IAEA oversight.
        In response Thursday, an Israeli government official noted that the treaty obligating nations to stop the spread of nuclear weapons didn't stop countries like Saddam Hussein's Iraq and now Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons programs. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Head of Atomic Agency Asserts Right to Scrutinize Iran - William J. Broad and David E. Sanger
    The new chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, on Thursday rejected Iran's claim that international inspectors have no right to ask questions about research Tehran has conducted into missile technology and warheads. The Japanese diplomat said Iran would not be able to satisfy the world that its nuclear program was peaceful unless it answered a series of questions about its research, its procurement of high technology and the activities of its scientists - including whether they worked on designing a warhead that could be fitted with a nuclear weapon. Amano's stance contrasts with the more accommodating style of his predecessor, Mohamed ElBaradei, an Egyptian who served as the agency's director for a dozen years. (New York Times)
        See also Nuclear Watchdog Urges International Pressure on Iran
    International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano called for concerted international pressure on Tehran. Amano said his agency was unable to rule out that Iran's nuclear work was being diverted for military purposes, as feared by the West. "Without a policy change on the part of Iran, we cannot do our work effectively. Policy change is needed," he said. (Reuters)
  • Iran's Foreign Minister Invites UN Security Council to Dinner - Colum Lynch
    In a highly unusual move, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hosted a dinner Thursday for the 15 members of the UN Security Council at the Iranian mission's sumptuous Fifth Avenue townhouse in New York. The U.S. was represented at the dinner, but not by its top diplomat, Susan E. Rice. Alejandro D. Wolff, the second-ranking ambassador at the U.S. mission to the UN, attended instead. (Washington Post)
  • Gazans Cut Through Egypt's Border Barrier - Jon Donnison
    Mohammed, a Gazan tunnel digger, says the new underground Egyptian barrier aimed at stopping smuggling is a "joke." "We just cut through it using high-powered oxygen-fueled blow torches." The Egyptian government began constructing the barrier along the Gaza-Egypt border last year at a cost of millions of dollars. "We pay around a $1,000 for a man with an oxygen-fueled cutter to come and break through it. It takes up to three weeks to cut through, but we get there in the end," he says of the 5-10 cm. thick steel barrier. The BBC spoke to one man in Gaza employed to cut through the barrier who said he could cut a meter-square hole through it in less than a day. (BBC News)
  • Abbas Warns of Hamas Arms Smuggling - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday accused Hamas of smuggling large amounts of weapons into the West Bank as part of the militant group's efforts to undermine his administration. Israel fears Hamas could also stage a violent takeover in the West Bank, and those security concerns are likely to be a key issue in the new round of peace talks.
        Despite Abbas' allegations, Hamas appears to be significantly weakened in the West Bank after a lengthy crackdown. Israeli defense officials said they were unaware of any significant arms stockpiling by Hamas in the West Bank. (AP-Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Mitchell, Netanyahu Hold Meetings in Jerusalem - Khaled Abu Toameh
    U.S. envoy George Mitchell met for the second time in 24 hours with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The talks are taking place amid an almost total news blackout, with neither side releasing any information about the discussions. (Jerusalem Post)
  • De Facto Construction Freeze in Jerusalem - Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid
    Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias on Wednesday admitted in a Knesset debate that approval of construction in Jerusalem has in fact been suspended for almost six months. "Everything's on hold," he said. "The last time apartments were marketed in Jerusalem was December 2009." Interior Minister Eli Yishai has instructed the Jerusalem district committee to bring any plan with possible implications regarding the peace talks to his approval. The ministry is drafting new regulations for approving building plans in east Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
  • Vice Premier Shalom: PA Already Functioning Like State - Herb Keinon and David Horovitz
    Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are doomed to hit a brick wall because no Palestinian leader will accept anything less than what Yasser Arafat rejected at Camp David ten years ago, and no Jewish prime minister will offer anything more, Vice Premier and Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom said Thursday in an interview. At the same time, Shalom said he was in favor of the U.S.-backed indirect talks because they may bring about a greater understanding between the sides. "It is good that we are talking," he said. "I am in favor of talking."
        Shalom said that for all intents and purposes, the PA was already functioning like a de facto state. "True, they don't have borders," he said, "but we also don't have borders." According to Shalom, the focus of the current talks should be on economic projects, development of industrial areas, and joint projects in the spheres of electricity, sewage, water and infrastructure. Likewise, he said, the talks should focus on increasing freedom of movement in the West Bank through lifting roadblocks, and ways the Palestinians could fight terrorism and increase security. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Palestinians Have Not Moved an Inch - Yechiel Shabi
    Last week, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's secret offer to establish a temporary Palestinian state on about 60% of the West Bank. According to Netanyahu's pragmatic plan, the talks on final-status issues would continue after the temporary state was formed. Abbas argued that this was an attempt to drag him into lengthy negotiations that would reinforce the temporary state's borders and turn them into final-status borders. What prevents the Palestinians from deciding that half a loaf is better than none? Why does Abbas insist on discussing all the issues that may thwart the talks all at once - Jerusalem, borders, refugees, settlements, and territorial contiguity? Why doesn't he choose to be the first president in history of the first Palestinian state, regardless of how small it is?
        One reason is that the Palestinians have not yet renounced their plan to establish "Greater Palestine." Secondly, they feel that Western public opinion and Western governments support them to a greater extent than ever before. While Israel, under Netanyahu, adopted several steps - endorsing the two-state discourse, removing roadblocks, freezing settlement construction, and imposing a de facto freeze in east Jerusalem - the Palestinians have not moved an inch. The writer is a spokesman for Israel's Ministry of Communications. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Israeli Mood Today - Roger Cohen
    Col. Avi Gil of the Israel Defense Forces wanted to show me something: the yellow pages from the West Bank town of Kalkilya. In recent years they had tripled in thickness, an indication of the expansion of business and decline in violence. "It's in our interest to maintain the peaceful trend in the West Bank," Gil said. "It's fragile, but the fact is nobody wants to fight." "When I go into Kalkilya," Gil told me, "I've stopped using body armor, but I do take my rifle."
        That, I think, is not a bad image of Israel today, prepared to relax slightly but mistrustful; feeling burned and misunderstood; seeing the outside world as hostile (including President Barack Obama); unconvinced of the possibility of peace but not prepared to dismiss it entirely; wanting at some level to think Fayyad can forge a reliable Palestine but also persuaded that Arabs are still bent on its destruction; led by a right-religious-Russian-settler coalition that reflects lasting rightward shifts in its society; enjoying the quiet but disturbed by what's over the horizon, not least Iran. An Israel that's shed its body armor for now but still carries a rifle. This is not an Israel that is ready to hurry to peace, not an Israel on Obama's timetable, or the Quartet's, or Fayyad's. "Let's walk slowly to arrive as fast as we can," Gil said. That's about the Israeli mood. (New York Times)
  • Peace Without the Process - David Frum
    No Palestinian leader (the Palestinians believe) can possibly survive signing a treaty that does not deliver: (1) a big slice of Jerusalem; (2) the uprooting of Israeli settlements in the West Bank; and (3) some big acknowledgment of a so-called Palestinian right of return to Israel proper. On the other hand, no Israeli politician will yield those things. The Palestinians do not have the strength to force the concession, and the U.S. is exceedingly unlikely to impose it.
        The status quo is not a great deal for the Palestinians, obviously. Certainly not as good a deal as they would have had if they had accepted the deals on offer in 1937 or 1947 or 1968 or 2000. But they didn't accept those offers, and they have lapsed. There may never be a peace agreement. But the alternative to a signed peace does not have to be fighting. (National Post-Canada)
  • Give Crippling Sanctions a Chance - Clifford D. May
    There is no greater threat to national and international security than the possibility that Iran's current rulers - militant Islamists, terrorist masters, and sworn enemies of both the Great Satan and the Little Satan - may acquire nuclear weapons. Could crippling sanctions and their impact on an already ailing Iranian economy change the behavior of the Iranian regime - or cause a change of regime? There's only one way to find out. Along with support for Iran's dissident Green Movement, this is the last, best chance to peacefully stop Iran's jihadis from achieving the lethal capabilities they need to match the hostile intentions they have long harbored. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Review)
  • Debunking the Gaza Siege Myth - Jacob Shrybman
    Later this month activists on a convoy of ships plan to sail for Gaza in the context of breaking the Gaza siege. What siege? International humanitarian aid has been flowing freely into Gaza for years. 30,576 aid trucks entered the territory in 2009. During the week of April 11-17, 500 trucks with over 17,000 tons of humanitarian aid entered Gaza. In addition, the UN has pumped $200 million into Gaza following last winter's Israeli military operation to halt rocket fire.
        In 2009, 10,544 Gazans and their companions left Gaza for medical treatment. During the week of April 11-17, nearly 500 patients and companions crossed from Gaza into Israel for medical treatment, while another over 100 Gaza residents crossed into Israel for other reasons, and roughly 200 internationals crossed in and out of Gaza. The writer is Assistant Director of the Sderot Media Center. (Huffington Post)
  • Hizbullah Has Violated Egypt's Sovereignty - Editorial
    The sentencing of 26 Hizbullah members for planning attacks against targets in Egypt and operating on Egyptian soil has started a small storm. Twenty-two men are already in Egyptian custody and will serve sentences up to 15 years in jail. Mohammed Qabalan, the Lebanese leader of the cell, and two other senior operatives, have been sentenced to life in prison but they are on the run.
        Non-state actors do not have the right to single-handedly assume the powers of the state and endanger the nation, even less so when they are foreigners. Decisions that can escalate into war must remain in the hands of governments. People may disagree with Egypt and Jordan's decisions to make peace with Israel, but no one has the right to force a conflict detrimental to their interests, population and economy. Every state wants to control its territory and foreign relations. Hizbullah recklessly endangered both in Egypt. (The National-UAE)

    Weekend Features

  • The Israel Pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai
    The Israel Pavilion is composed of two streamlined buildings hugging each other. The pavilion looks like two clasped hands, or a "seashell." One side of the "seashell" is made of authentic stone while the other is made from transparent glass. A green orchard will come into view as visitors enter the pavilion. About 50 orange trees have been planted, and technology will make the trees "whisper" in English and Chinese when visitors walk close to them. The Hall of Light features a 15-meter screen that shows films highlighting the country's innovations and technological achievements. (Expo 2010-China)
        See also Israel Woos Chinese Business - Alisa Odenheimer and Calev Ben-David (Business Week)
  • Fifty Years after Eichmann's Capture - Avner Avrahami
    Seven men, six of them from the Shin Bet security service (not the Mossad) and an anesthesiologist, abducted S.S. officer Adolf Eichmann from a suburb of Buenos Aires on May 11, 1960. Eichmann was one of the planners of the "Final Solution," the organizer of the transports that had carried millions of Jews to death camps in Europe. Fifty years later, those of Eichmann's captors who are still alive are in their eighties or above. At the time, they were 30-something. Three of them agreed to be interviewed. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Eichmann's Abductors - Avner Avrahami (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh - Reviewed by Daniel Pipes (National Review)

    • Nakba Day serves as a mournful Palestinian counterpart to Israel's Independence Day festivities, annually publicizing Israel's alleged sins. The Nakba ideology presents Palestinians as victims without choices and therefore without responsibility for the ills that befell them. It blames Israel alone for the Palestinian refugee problem.
    • In Palestine Betrayed, Efraim Karsh of the University of London - relying on masses of recently declassified documents from the period of British rule and of the first Arab-Israeli war, 1917-49 - argues the opposite case: that Palestinians decided their own destiny and bear near-total responsibility for becoming refugees.
    • "Far from being the hapless victims of a predatory Zionist assault, it was Palestinian Arab leaders who, from the early 1920s onward, and very much against the wishes of their own constituents, launched a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival which culminated in the violent attempt to abort the UN partition resolution." "There was nothing inevitable about the Palestinian-Jewish confrontation, let alone the Arab-Israeli conflict."
    • Karsh successfully establishes two main points: that (1) the Jewish-Zionist-Israeli side perpetually sought to find a compromise while the Palestinian-Arab-Muslim side rejected nearly all deals; and (2) Arab intransigence and violence caused the self-inflicted "catastrophe."
    • From the early 1920s, then, one witnessed a pattern still in place and familiar today: Zionist accommodation, "painful concessions," and constructive efforts to bridge differences, met by Palestinian anti-Semitism, rejectionism, and violence.
    • Proving that for 90 years the Palestinian political elite has opted to reject "the Jewish national revival and [insisted on] the need for its violent destruction," Karsh correctly concludes that the conflict will end only when the Palestinians give up on their "genocidal hopes."

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