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May 21, 2010

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Report: Heightened Hizbullah Activity on Lebanese Border - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    A former IDF intelligence officer told Ha'aretz that lately he and other Galilee farmers have seen plainclothes Hizbullah personnel traveling along the border and photographing Israeli positions.
    They are sometimes accompanied by individuals who do not appear to be Lebanese, as well as interpreters, who appear to be Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers and who have by now integrated into every command level in Hizbullah.
    See also Hizbullah Mobilizes Troops (AFP)
    Hizbullah mobilized thousands of militants in southern Lebanon on Friday in response to week-long Israeli defense exercises due to kick off on Sunday, a Hizbullah official said.

IDF Preparing for Mass Evacuations in Case of Hizbullah Missile Strike - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command is preparing a plan for the mass evacuation of civilians in the event of missile attacks. Hizbullah's rockets can currently hit practically everywhere in the country.
    Sources say that in the event of war, the state would evacuate civilians in certain areas such as the northern border, which may come under heavy bombardment.

Israel to Increase Aid to Underdeveloped States in Africa and Asia - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans to ask the cabinet to triple the budget for Mashav, Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation, Yediot Ahronot reports.
    Israel's new membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) stipulates a significant increase in its foreign aid to the Third World.
    Israel plans to send hundreds of experts in agriculture, water, and irrigation to underdeveloped states in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as experts on alternative energy, public health, education, and internal security.
    Prior to the Yom Kippur War, Israel was considered a foreign aid powerhouse, sending thousands of experts to aid Africa, but following the war, many African countries severed ties with Israel and the experts returned home.

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UK MP Friendly to Israel Gets Mideast Portfolio - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    Alistair Burt, a Conservative member of parliament and former member of the Conservative Friends of Israel, has been given the Middle East portfolio at the Foreign Office, it was announced on Monday.
    Stuart Polak, director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, called Burt's appointment "excellent news." "He has an excellent knowledge and understanding of the complex issues of the region and is well-placed to approach the brief with the balance and fairness it requires," Polak said.

Egypt's Persecuted Christians - Moheb Zaki (Wall Street Journal)
    A few weeks ago in the Egyptian city of Marsa Matrouh, after a mosque's imam exhorted them to cleanse the city of its infidel Christians, called Copts, an enraged mob of 3,000 angry Muslims went on a rampage, destroying 18 homes, 23 shops and 16 cars.
    400 Copts barricaded themselves in their church for 10 hours until the frenzy died out.
    This was only the latest of more than a dozen such attacks during the past year as waves of mob assaults have forced hundreds, sometimes thousands of Christian citizens to flee their homes.
    In each incident the police invariably arrive after the violence is over. No Muslim to date has been convicted for any of these crimes.
    Al-Azhar, the world's preeminent Sunni Islamic institution, has contributed to this widespread hostility by publishing a pamphlet declaring the Bible a corrupted document and Christianity a pagan religion.
    Al-Azhar's textbook for high-school students states that if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim, he is not subject to capital punishment since the superior cannot be punished for killing the inferior.

Arabs Arrested for Vandalizing Jewish Cemetery - Liel Kyzer (Ha'aretz)
    Jerusalem Police on Thursday arrested two Arabs suspected of desecrating 25 graves in the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in recent months.
    The two smashed the tombstones in order to steal the bronze casings in which mourners had placed memorial candles.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Sanctions Loophole: Russia Can Send Missiles to Iran - Bill Gertz and Eli Lake
    A draft UN resolution that would impose sanctions on Iran, including limits on global arms transfers, will not block the controversial transfer of Russian S-300 missiles to the Iranian military, according to U.S. and Russian officials. The CIA has said the S-300 missiles, which have been contracted by Tehran but not delivered, will be used to defend Iranian nuclear facilities.
        A key provision in the resolution made public this week states that all UN member states will agree to block sales or transfers of weapons and "missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms." A close reading of the missile section of the register states that the missile system category "does not include ground-to-air missiles," such as anti-aircraft missiles and anti-missile interceptors like the S-300.
        Asked about S-300s, a senior State Department official said the draft "would not impose a legally binding obligation not to transfer S-300 to Iran" since the register does not cover defensive missiles. Yevgeni Khorishko, a Russian Embassy spokesman, said, "The S-300s is not prohibited....It is not on the list of prohibited items."  (Washington Times)
  • Israel Applauds Watered-Down Iran Nuclear Sanctions - Joshua Mitnick
    Israel is applauding the U.S. push for a fourth round of Iran nuclear sanctions, despite deep-seated concern that the process of diplomatic engagement and then sanctions against Tehran won't stop it from making a weapon. To be sure, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't believe that the proposed UN Security Council sanctions go far enough toward forcing Iran to abandon its effort to acquire nuclear weapons. But Israel is clinging to the hope that individual countries will in the future decide on stiffer punishments that may have a greater impact.
        "We always knew that a UN resolution would require international consensus and would be watered down without the teeth we hoped for. Nevertheless we support the resolution,'' said an Israeli government official. "It shows the international community united acting against the Iranian program. It's an important symbolic act.'' Nevertheless, Israel would have liked harsher sanctions to hurt Iran's energy export sector, said the Israeli official. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • U.S. Lawmakers Back Israel Missile Defense Aid
    The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday voted by a 410-4 margin to back President Obama's plans to give Israel $205 million for production of its short-range "Iron Dome" rocket defense system. "With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman. (AFP)
  • U.S. Says Syria Must Curb Arms Shipments to Hizbullah
    Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman on Thursday urged Syria to do more to prevent arms shipments to Hizbullah and stem the flow of militants into Iraq. Feltman said Washington wants to influence Damascus because of its ties to Iran and other U.S. foes in the region. (AP-Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Palestinians Undercutting Peace Talks with Diplomatic "Intifada" - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    Jerusalem on Thursday denounced a declared Palestinian Authority effort to isolate Israel and eventually have it expelled from the UN, after the PA announced that it was stepping up its diplomatic and economic "intifada" against Israel. The idea of intensifying a campaign of delegitimization of Israel was unveiled on Wednesday by Nabil Shaath, one of the chief architects of the Oslo Accords. Shaath said Fatah's declared strategy was "to endorse a growing nonviolent popular struggle" against Israel, in light of the fact that the "armed struggle" had become impossible and undesirable at this phase.
        A senior Israeli official said such a campaign stood "in complete contrast to the peace process." "You can't on one hand say you want peace with Israel, and on the other hand act to delegitimize us. This is unacceptable and raises questions as to the Palestinian commitment to peace and reconciliation."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Proximity Talks: Netanyahu Meets with U.S. Envoy in Jerusalem
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday with U.S. envoy George Mitchell in the framework of the proximity talks. The meeting dealt with various issues, including the possibility that Israel would consider carrying out confidence-building measures towards the Palestinians in the context of the proximity talks. Israel also expects the Palestinian leadership to work to create a positive atmosphere for the talks and to not undertake international activity against Israel, such as the actions it carried out to prevent Israel from joining the OECD.
        The meeting also focused on the water issue. Israel believes it should be possible to formulate a plan for regional cooperation with additional neighboring countries and mobilize international investments for the benefit of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority alike. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his desire to make progress in the proximity talks in order to proceed to direct talks very soon. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Vice Premier Vows to End Building Freeze in the Fall - Tovah Lazaroff
    Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon vowed on Thursday that construction will resume in the West Bank when the moratorium on housing starts expires on Sept. 26. "We will renew building after the moratorium ends," he said. "We do not want to rule our neighbors. But we will not evacuate settlements. We will not move Jews. We will not sacrifice Jews from any place in Israel." He added that the government would reject any situation in which Jews are forbidden to live in certain areas of the country, while Arabs can live anywhere in Israel.
        "The settlements have never been a stumbling block to peace. The absence of that peace is for reasons that are not connected to us," Ya'alon said. "Our neighbors do not recognize the right of Jews to their land. They do not recognize the right of Israel to exist as a national homeland for the Jewish people." It was this refusal that had been a stumbling block to peace since the dawn of Zionism, he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Kassam Rocket from Gaza Explodes near Ashkelon - Shmulik Hadad
    A Kassam rocket fired from Gaza on Thursday landed within the territory of the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council. (Ynet News)
        See also IDF Strikes Gaza Infiltration Tunnels in Response to Rocket Attack
    Israel Air Force jets attacked three tunnels in Gaza on Thursday, several hours after the Kassam rocket hit Israel. The IDF Spokesperson's Office said the tunnels were located about one kilometer from the border fence. Terrorists were using the tunnels to try to infiltrate Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Brazil and Turkey Give Cover to the Mullahs' Nuclear Ambitions - Charles Krauthammer
    It is perfectly obvious that Iran's latest uranium maneuver, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, is a ruse. Iran retains more than enough enriched uranium to make a bomb. And it continues enriching at an accelerated pace and to a greater purity (20%). Which is why the French foreign ministry immediately declared that the trumpeted temporary shipping of some Iranian uranium to Turkey will do nothing to halt Iran's nuclear program.
        But the deeper meaning of the uranium-export stunt is the brazenness with which Brazil and Turkey gave cover to the mullahs' nuclear ambitions and deliberately undermined U.S. efforts to curb Iran's program. The real news is that already notorious photo: the president of Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, and the prime minister of Turkey, for more than half a century the Muslim anchor of NATO, raising hands together with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the most virulently anti-American leader in the world - a defiant, triumphant take-that-Uncle-Sam picture. (Washington Post)
        See also A Superpower with Declining Clout - Richard Cohen
    On the periphery of Europe is Turkey, seeking to reestablish some of the influence the Ottoman Empire once had in the region. It may also be reverting to a more Islamic state, possibly concluding that nearly a century of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's secularism is enough. Turkey no longer needs the United States as a Cold War ally, and it even blocked military access to Iraq at the start of the war. The waning pull of the American present can no longer match the pull of the Ottoman past. Israel, beware. (Washington Post)
  • Dealing with Tehran: The Return of Diplomacy - Joe Klein
    The real surprise was the Russians and Chinese signing on to a new round of sanctions. The Russians were not pleased that they had to learn about the secret Iranian nuclear facility in Qum from the U.S. And they were definitely not pleased when the Iranians said they'd be more comfortable sending their uranium to Turkey than to Russia. That fed Russian suspicions that the Iranians and Turks were cooking up a deal to build a pipeline that would funnel natural gas from Turkmenistan and Iran through Turkey to Europe, breaking an effective Russian monopoly.
        The Chinese have also not been overly pleased with Iran. China prizes stability, and the Iranian negotiating style is mercurial, to say the least. The Chinese have negotiated an estimated $20 billion in oil-development deals with Iran, but only a fraction have actually been signed and an even smaller fraction activated.
        Clearly, the Iranians are using the Turkey-Brazil deal as yet another means to delay or avoid compliance with the nuclear nonproliferation treaty to which Iran is a signatory. Unfortunately, Iran is still merrily enriching uranium at levels that are approaching weapons-grade, and it isn't likely to stop anytime soon. (TIME)
  • Analyzing the New UN Sanctions Proposal on Iran - Patrick Clawson, Michael Singh, and Jeffrey White
    One of the most encouraging aspects of the May 18 draft resolution proposing additional sanctions to curb Iran's nuclear program is its section on sanctions enforcement. It calls for the secretary-general to appoint a panel of up to eight experts to "gather, examine and analyze information" and to "make recommendations on actions the Council...may consider to improve implementation of the relevant measures." Such expert panels have been important in strengthening sanctions on Sudan and Ethiopia. The "naming and shaming" power of a panel's reports could influence firms and individuals considering whether to run the risk of doing business with Iran. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Treatment of Israel Is Unique in Its Irrationality - Interview with Melanie Phillips by Kathryn Jean Lopez
    Phillips: "The treatment of unique in its irrationality and moral and historical inversion. It takes a nation that is the historic victim of aggression and blames it for jeopardizing peace in the region and causing Islamic extremism worldwide - despite demonstrable evidence that this is simply untrue. It accuses Israel, wholly falsely, of "apartheid" and ethnic cleansing when Israeli Arabs have full civil rights and the Palestinian population has increased many times over - and when Jews are excluded from parts of the Arab world (including the putative state of Palestine)."
        "It takes a nation that has been under exterminatory attack for six decades (nine, if you include the Palestine Mandate) and insists that it make compromises with its attackers, even as they continue to attack it. And if any Jew dares protest at the manifest injustice, lies, and bigotry in this unique delegitimization, they find themselves accused of 'dual loyalty' or being part of a covert global conspiracy to put the world at risk."
        "Jew-hatred...can surely never be eradicated. But the lies that currently fuel it - lies about Israel's behavior, the history of the Middle East, and so on - should be publicly confronted and exploded. Similarly, the ways in which the blood libels about the Jews pouring out of the Arab and Muslim worlds are poisoning minds not just in that world but in the West should also be prominently discussed."
        "While the irrationality of Jew-hatred cannot be defeated by reason, there are many in Britain and the West who are not natural bigots but are actually people of high-minded conscience, who have merely been indoctrinated with falsehoods about Israel that are never publicly challenged. Some of those people, at least, can certainly be reached by addressing their ignorance."  (National Review)

    Weekend Features

  • Israel Opens Largest Desalination Plant of Its Kind - Ari Rabinovitch
    Israel unveiled the world's largest reverse osmosis desalination plant on Sunday in Hadera, which will supply 127 million cubic meters of desalinated water a year, or about 20% of the yearly household consumption in Israel. It is the third in a series of five desalination plants being built that will eventually supply Israel with about 750 million cubic meters annually. Bigger desalination plants can be found in Saudi Arabia that use a thermal-based technology to desalinate sea water, but reverse osmosis requires less energy and is friendlier to the environment, said IDE Technologies CEO Avshalom Felber. Shmulik Shai, CEO of H2ID, said the plant will supply water at the cost of $0.57 per cubic meter. IDE, or Israel Desalination Enterprises Technologies, has operations in 40 countries. (Reuters)
  • Coming of Age Under Kassam Rockets - Anav Silverman
    Ten high school-aged actresses, part of the Sderot Media Center's Community Treatment Theater, performed "Children of Kassam Avenue" at the Knesset last week. The theatrical production tells the story of teenage girls growing up under rocket fire, based on the true life experiences of the Sderot girls, who spent a year undergoing drama therapy to overcome PTSD symptoms resulting from rocket terror. "The past decade of rocket attacks, and the tremendous psychological damage done to a population of young children and teenagers, is often completely ignored," said Noam Bedein, director of the Sderot Media Center. (FrontPageMagazine)
  • Observations:

    There Are No Moderates Within Hizbullah - Michael J. Totten (Commentary)

    • John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for homeland security, has come up with a new way to waste the foreign-policy establishment's time - locate the so-called "moderate elements" within Hizbullah and somehow promote them. There are no moderates within Hizbullah, at least not any who stand a chance of changing Hizbullah's behavior.
    • If you want to catch a glimpse of Hizbullah's organizational chart, just rent a car in Beirut and drive south. You'll see billboards and posters all over the place in the areas Hizbullah controls. Some show Hizbullah's leadership, most prominently Nasrallah. You'll also see Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the two "supreme guides" of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran. It's obvious that Hizbullah is still subservient to Khamenei. His face is almost as ubiquitous as that of Nasrallah.
    • Hizbullah's state-within-a-state doesn't even look like it's in Lebanon. It looks like, and effectively is, an Iranian satellite. Iran's heads of state appear everywhere, while Lebanon's heads of state are personae non grata.
    • I've met those you might call moderate supporters of Hizbullah, Lebanese citizens who believe Hizbullah is there to defend Lebanon from Israel rather than to attack - which is not at all what anyone at the top thinks. The organization takes its orders from Tehran. Hizbullah won't change until its masters change in Iran. The U.S. is no more able to "build up" any imagined moderates within its ranks than it is able to replace Khamenei's hated dictatorship with the Green Revolution.

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