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August 10, 2010

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Iran: 7 Bahai Leaders Sentenced to 20 Years for Spying for Israel (Reuters-New York Times)
    An Iranian court has sentenced seven leaders of the Bahai faith to 20 years in prison, two Bahai activists said Monday.
    The Iranian news media reported in January that the leaders, who were arrested in 2008, had been tried on charges of spying and collaborating with Israel.
    The defendants, five men and two women, deny the charges.

German Mosque Used by Sept. 11 Attackers Shut Down - Kirsten Grieshaber (AP)
    A mosque in Hamburg once frequented by Sept. 11 attackers was shut down and searched Monday because German authorities believed the prayer house was again being used as a meeting point for Islamic radicals.
    "We have closed the mosque because it was a recruiting and meeting point for Islamic radicals who wanted to participate in so-called jihad or holy war," said Frank Reschreiter, a spokesman for the Hamburg state interior ministry.
    The ministry said about 45 supporters of jihad live in the Hamburg area, and the mosque had become a magnet for so-called jihad tourists - Muslims from out of town who bragged about having worshipped at the same mosque used by the Sept. 11 terrorists.

Prices Fall after Israel Lifts Gaza Import Restrictions - Jonathan Ferziger and Saud Abu Ramadan (Bloomberg)
    At Shafiq Nushtaha's Gaza City grocery, dairy prices have been cut in half after Israel loosened import restrictions in June.
    As many as 250 trucks a day unload goods at the Kerem Shalom crossing to Gaza, up from 150 in July and about 80 before that, according to data provided by Raed Fattouh, a liaison officer for the Palestinian Authority, and confirmed by Guy Inbar, a spokesman for Israel's Defense Ministry.
    Daoud al-Saqqa, another grocery store owner, said he has had to cut prices as shelves pile up with chocolate, potato chips, cookies and soft drinks from Israel.
    Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said the question of allowing exports from Gaza "is still pending."
    "You're asking us to take the word of Hamas that there's nothing in a particular shipment that's going to explode when we inspect it?" Regev said. "That's a big risk."

Israel Trains Chileans to Cope with Mass Casualties - Karin Kloosterman (Israel21c)
    At the same time as an Israeli emergency response team was planning a program to train Chilean professionals in how to handle mass casualty situations, a major earthquake hit the country in February, killing hundreds.
    In June, an Israeli team of six professionals traveled to Santiago to analyze the aftermath of the disaster and hold a five-day workshop to train more than 300 emergency response personnel from Chile and Paraguay in how to deal with mass casualty events.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • IAEA: Iran Activates New Enrichment Equipment - Veronika Oleksyn
    Iran has activated equipment to enrich uranium more efficiently in a move that defies the UN Security Council, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday. The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog said Iran has started using a second set of 164 centrifuges linked in a cascade, or string of machines, to enrich uranium to up to 20% at its Natanz pilot fuel enrichment plant. Another cascade there has been producing uranium enriched to near 20% since February. At 20%, it can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than less-enriched uranium. (AP)
  • Israel Threatens to Pull Out of UN Gaza Flotilla Probe - Patrick Moser
    Israel will pull out of a UN probe into the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident if the panel insists on grilling its soldiers, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. "The prime minister said Israel would not cooperate with any commission that would ask to question soldiers," Nir Hefetz told military radio. "Before Israel gave the green light to its participation in the panel we had discreet negotiations in order to ensure that this commission would not harm the vital interests of Israel," he added.
        The remarks came after UN chief Ban Ki-moon denied he had struck an agreement with Israel that would bar the UN panel from interviewing Israeli military personnel. "There was no such agreement behind the scenes," Ban said Monday. (AFP)
  • U.S. Lawmakers Block Money for Lebanon's Army after Border Clash
    U.S. lawmakers said on Monday they were blocking U.S. funding for Lebanon's military after a deadly border clash last week in which an Israeli officer was killed and another seriously wounded. Two key Democrats, Reps. Nita Lowey and Howard Berman, announced they were holding up $100 million that has been approved for Lebanon's army but not yet spent. A senior House Republican, Eric Cantor, said future funding should be stopped too, pending an inquiry.
        "This incident was tragic and entirely avoidable. U.S. assistance is intended to enhance our safety and that of our allies," said Lowey, who chairs the House subcommittee on foreign aid. Cantor noted that the lines between Hizbullah and the Lebanese military and government had become "blurred."  (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Factions Warn Abbas Not to Enter Direct Talks - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell arrived on Monday for two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, even as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was coming under increased pressure from Palestinians to refuse to enter direct talks with Israel. Representatives of dozens of Palestinian factions and organizations on Monday warned Abbas in a statement that entering direct talks under the conditions set by the U.S. administration would "save Israel from the international campaign of boycott and condemnation." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has said he would not agree to preconditions to negotiations that would, in effect, determine their outcome before they started. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas on Killing Spree in Gaza - Alex Fishman
    News stories about bodies found at sea are occasionally published by Gaza newspapers, yet not all them chose to go swimming voluntarily. The Gazans who found their death at sea include mid-level officials at government ministries, alongside police and security officers. Some of them were shot in the head before being sent on their "swim." All of the victims were designated as traitors by the secret service of Hamas' military wing and executed as collaborators.
        Posters urging a war on collaborators hang in the streets, and the issue is discussed on the radio and during sermons at mosques. In the upcoming school year, teachers will be asked to explain that good, suspicious children will turn in their parents. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Exchange of Fire on Israel's Northern Border - Shlomo Brom
    The August 3, 2010, exchange of fire between the Lebanese army and the IDF ostensibly demonstrates the fragility of the ceasefire on the Lebanon border, in effect since the end of the Second Lebanon War in August 2006. Examining the incident more carefully, however, confirms the stability of the ceasefire, based on mutual deterrence between Israel and Hizbullah.
        The most interesting reaction was that of Hizbullah, which did not take part in the incident. Apparently, Hizbullah has no interest in a confrontation, at least at this time. Hizbullah, which was accused of dragging Lebanon into a war in 2006 that caused the country extensive damage, in order to serve outside interests, is unwilling to pay the military or political price of a second round.
        Also important here is UNIFIL's role. If one of the two sides is interested in harming the other, it is not within UNIFIL's power to prevent it. (Institute for National Security Studies)
        See also Military Implications of the Israel-Lebanon Border Incident - Jeffrey White
    The August 3 border clash between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israel Defense Forces has demonstrated the readiness of the IDF to respond to any border incident and revealed the potential for the LAF and the Lebanese state to become directly and substantially involved in a future conflict between Israel and Hizbullah. The IDF was prepared to respond to the LAF incident with significant force, and the incident showed unmistakably that the IDF has no real hesitation about striking Lebanese government forces. The incident also suggests that certain LAF units in the south will actively oppose any future Israeli operations in Lebanon. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Keep the Claws Sharp - Editorial
    Israel's enemies so often destroy their claims of victimhood by launching unprovoked attacks on the Jewish state that any neutral observer would have a hard time accepting their allegations. Last Tuesday, a maintenance squad was engaged in routine work along the country's frontier, cutting down a tree that was blocking observation of the tense border area, when nearby Lebanese troops opened fire. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which helps maintain peace in the region, has confirmed that the Israel Defense Forces were working on Israeli territory.
        The Lebanese government reacted by stating that it disagrees with the orientation of the Blue Line and said it considers the place where the incident occurred to be Lebanese. This illustrates the basic philosophy of so many of Israel's enemies: Follow the rules until they inconvenience you and then break them. If Israel retaliates, scream injustice and blame the Jews.
        Israel is forever being urged, by friend and foe alike, to shrink itself and allow its enemies more room. This, so conventional wisdom goes, will encourage them to live alongside the Jewish homeland in mutual peace and security. Yet somehow, it never turns out that way. Israel needs to keep its claws well-honed because its innumerable enemies are ready and willing to send it into oblivion, with force, if words will not suffice. (Calgary Herald-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Is Israeli-Palestinian Peace Possible? - Walter Reich (Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)

    • Any effort to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians must reckon with the fact that bitter experience has taught many Israelis to doubt that their foes want a lasting concord. For the Obama administration to have any chance to succeed in brokering such a peace treaty, it will have to convince Israelis that the kind of treaty it wants them to accept will be worth the cost because it will result in a real peace - one that will actually last, that's less threatening than the situation they're now in, and that will truly and finally end the conflict with the Palestinians.
    • Increasingly, Israelis are convinced that no concessions they make to the Palestinians will ever be enough - that each concession will be followed by another demand, that each new demand that isn't conceded will be a pretext for more violence, and that each response to that violence will provoke international condemnations of Israel for using disproportionate force, no matter what forewarnings are given and what precautions are taken to prevent civilian casualties.
    • The Palestinians systematically teach their children that they must never accept the existence of Israel. Media controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank regularly undermine any readiness to accept Israel alongside a future Palestinian state. They glorify suicide bombers, quote Muhammad as saying that Jews must be killed, accuse Israelis of poisoning and spreading AIDS among Palestinians, deny that the Holocaust happened, and claim that Jews never had a history in the land. Moreover, the other Palestinian territory - Gaza - is governed by a group, Hamas, that is forthright in declaring that it will fight until Israel is gone.
    • After years of Israeli buses being blown up, after the refusal by Yasir Arafat to accept a peace in which nearly all of the West Bank and Gaza would become a Palestinian state, and after Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, refused concessions that were even more generous, many Israelis concluded that no concession would ever be enough.
    • The main peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict aims at a "two-state solution." But, Israelis ask, why would any sane person believe that, two weeks or two months after a Palestinian state were to come into being - a state that would abut the length of Israel's narrow waist as well as Jerusalem - rockets wouldn't be flying over its border and blowing up in every Israeli city and airport?

      The writer, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, is former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

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