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August 27, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel, U.S. Seek to Block French Anti-Tank Missile Sale to Lebanon (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel and the U.S. are attempting to prevent a French-Lebanese arms deal, the Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported Friday.
    French Defense Minister Herve Moran offered to sell Lebanon 100 HOT anti-tank missiles for the Gazelle helicopters already in use by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
    Washington has grown increasingly skittish over arming the Lebanese military amid concerns that the LAF may become engaged in a fight with Israel, an American ally, or be co-opted by the terrorist group Hizbullah.
    See also European Anti-Tank Missiles Effective Against Explosive Reactive Armor (
    HOT is a long-range anti-tank missile that can be operated from a vehicle or helicopter.
    The HOT 3 has a 6.5 kg. tandem charge warhead which is effective against Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA), penetrating up to 1,300 mm.
    When the missile reaches the target, the forward charge is ejected, which explodes, detonating the ERA. After a delay, the main charge then explodes.

Israel Working to Thwart Russian Arms Deal with Syria - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to stop the sale to Syria of advanced anti-ship missiles.
    Israel considers the sale of P-800 Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles to Syria a significant danger to its navy vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.
    Netanyahu told Putin that missiles Russia had delivered to Syria in the past were then transferred to Hizbullah and used against IDF troops during the Second Lebanon War.
    The highly accurate P-800 has a maximum range of 300 km., carries a 200-kg. warhead, and can cruise several meters above the surface, making it difficult to identify on radar.

Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood Seek World Islamic State - Art Moore (WorldNetDaily)
    As the son of a Hamas co-founder who became a Christian and a spy for Israel, Mosab Hassan Yousef offers a rare perspective on the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood - the spawn of nearly every major Islamic terrorist group.
    Yousef, who recently was granted asylum in the U.S., said in an interview Americans must understand that the ultimate goal of the Brotherhood is not terrorism but to establish a global Islamic state over the entire world.
    "They are required by the Quran to establish this global Islamic state on the rubble of every civilization, every constitution, every government."
    The Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas in 2008 presented evidence of the Muslim Brotherhood's "100-year plan" to gradually destroy the U.S. and Western civilization from within.
    "Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood," Yousef said. "It's the same organization."

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Report: "Shiite Zarqawi" Returns to Baghdad from Iran - Bill Roggio (Long War Journal)
    An Iranian-backed terrorist known as the "Shiite Zarqawi" is reported to have returned to Baghdad to carry out attacks in central and southern Iraq.
    Abu Dura, the notorious former Mahdi Army commander whose group was behind the butchering and execution of thousands of Sunnis in the capital during the height of the violence in Iraq, is said to lead a unit of the Asaib al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, in Sadr City.
    "Our strategic information indicates that he stayed in the city of Qom and that he received further training at the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to carry out terrorist attacks against the Iraqi and U.S. forces, and Sunni civilians," an Iraqi intelligence official told Asharq Al-Awsat.
    Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, also shelters in the city of Qom in Iran.

Britain Faces New Terror Wave - Duncan Gardham (Telegraph-UK)
    Over the next 5 to 10 years, about 800 prisoners - in jail for non-terrorism offenses - are due to be released after having been radicalized in jail, says Prof. Michael Clarke, head of the Royal United Services Institute, in a report published Friday.
    They will be joined by convicted terrorists serving short sentences who, once freed, are likely to be just as committed to the cause of jihad as before they were jailed, the report claims.
    The report serves as a stark reminder that the threat from Islamist terrorism remains "severe," indicating a terrorist attack is considered "highly likely." The level was raised from "substantial" in January.

Canadian Postal Workers vs. the Israeli Navy - Matt Gurney (National Post-Canada)
    The Canadian Union of Postal Workers has endorsed a plan to join with the "Canadian Boat to Gaza" organizers to deliver mail to Gaza.
    Union bosses want to send postcards to Gaza, right through the Israeli Navy, if necessary.
    Israel enforces an embargo of weapons and potential weapon-building material on people who have repeatedly fired rockets blindly at civilian targets.
    Thanks so much, Canadian postal workers. Nice to know where your priorities lay.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Former Top UN Nuclear Official: Iran Has Material for 1-2 Atom Bombs
    Olli Heinonen, the former chief of UN nuclear inspections worldwide, told Le Monde newspaper Thursday Iran now possessed three tons of low-enriched uranium, "enough to make one or two nuclear arms." "But to reach the final step, when one only has just enough material for two weapons, does not make sense," Heinonen said, suggesting this was not sufficient to constitute a serious bargaining chip. "But this constitutes a...threat," he said. (Reuters)
  • Iran Clamps Down on Reporting on Protest Leaders - William Yong and Robert F. Worth
    Iranian authorities have issued a ban on any news relating to the leaders of the protest movement that arose after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year, opposition Web sites reported. Editors of all domestic newspapers and news agencies have been told to refrain from publishing the names, photographs and statements of two defeated presidential candidates, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, as well as former President Mohammad Khatami, because of the "probable negative influence" this would have on the public mind.
        The government has shut down at least 10 newspapers and magazines since the presidential election in June 2009, including major reformist dailies and magazines critical of the government. The publications have been accused of infractions like "printing news contrary to reality," "disturbing public opinion" and "casting doubt on the elections."  (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Proposes Bi-weekly Meetings with Abbas - Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed to the U.S. administration on Thursday that he hold a face-to-face meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas every two weeks. Netanyahu explained that "serious negotiations in the Middle East mean only direct, quiet and consecutive talks between the two leaders on the key issues."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Wants Agreement Now, Peace Later - Shimon Shiffer
    The Obama administration plans to present Israel and the Palestinian Authority with a new outline aimed at ending the Middle East conflict. Yediot Ahronot has learned that the Americans will pressure the parties to sign a framework agreement for a permanent settlement within one year, but that the agreement itself would be implemented within 10 years.
        A protocol summarizing a conference call between leaders of American Jewish organizations and Daniel Shapiro - the National Security Council's top Middle East expert; Dennis Ross, and David Hale - deputy to U.S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell, provides a fascinating peek into the administration's plans in the near future. According to the American plan, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams would hold intensive talks in isolated sites to discuss the core issues of the permanent agreement: Jerusalem's future, borders, settlements and refugees. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be required to hold frequent meetings in order to solve concrete problems and advance the negotiations' stages.
        If the talks reach a deadlock, American officials would intervene and attempt to bridge between the sides. In addition, the U.S. would try to convince the Arab states to offer goodwill gestures to Israel and influence the Palestinians to compromise. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Advocate General: Gaza Blockade Entirely Legal - Anshel Pfeffer
    Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit testified Thursday before the committee investigating the Gaza flotilla, saying that Israel's blockade on Gaza was entirely legal. Mendelblit told the panel that the naval blockade, imposed by Israel in 2007, after Hamas violently seized power over the territory, was in keeping with international law and was imposed due to "pure military considerations" and not as part of "economic warfare" against Hamas. Mendelblit added that even before the blockade was imposed, all supplies were transferred by land because Gaza has no port.
        "We want Hamas to stop launching rockets at our citizens. We have no desire to punish the civilian population [in Gaza]," he said. He stressed that the suffering of Gaza civilians did not constitute a humanitarian crisis, since Israel allows supplies to enter. Mendelblit explained that the blockade was imposed "long before anyone ever heard of flotillas" and that no one in the IDF would think to violate international law. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Legal Basis of Israel's Naval Blockade of Gaza - Ruth Lapidoth
    The writer is Professor Emeritus of International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Peace Process

  • For Once, Hope in the Middle East - Martin Indyk
    Now that President Obama has finally succeeded in bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, the commentariat is already dismissing his chances of reaching a peace agreement. But there are factors that distinguish these direct talks from previous attempts - factors that offer some reason for optimism. Violence is down considerably. Today, the PA is policing its West Bank territory to prevent violent attacks on Israelis and to prove its reliability as a negotiating partner. Hamas - mainly out of fear of an Israeli intervention that might remove it from power - is doing the same in Gaza.
        The simple truth is that most people in the Middle East are exhausted by this conflict, and if Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas can reach a viable agreement, the public on all sides will likely support it. The writer, director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, was the U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration. (New York Times)
  • Palestinian-Israeli Direct Talks: The Case for a Regional Approach - Marwan Muasher
    The history of Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking has shown that incrementalism a la Oslo has exhausted its possibilities. The Israeli public is skeptical of continuing to offer what it believes to be open-ended compromises without a clear picture of the end result, and doubt that their Arab partners can deliver on their commitments.
        The requirements for a separate peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis are no longer attainable and are unattractive to the public on either side. It is difficult for the Israelis to accept painful compromises on their part in return for peace with "half of the Palestinians." The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, is unable to make painful compromises (for example, on the refugee or Jerusalem issues) without Arab cover.
        Given the shortcomings of the incremental approach in the Palestinian-Israeli arena, efforts should focus on a comprehensive accord between Israel and the entire Arab world. The writer, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, served as foreign minister (2002-2004) and deputy prime minister (2004-2005) of Jordan. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
  • The President and the Peace Process - Lexington
    Why, you have to wonder, do they bother with the "peace process." The present conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine has been going on for about a century. Yet every American president is implored upon entering office to bring the quarrel swiftly to an end. Most have a go - or at least go through the motions. Jimmy Carter owes his Nobel peace prize in large part to the peace deal he brokered between Israel and Egypt in 1978 (and has never let the world forget it). Bill Clinton got Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat to shake hands on the White House lawn, but no peace, and no prize, followed the unhappy Camp David summit of 2000. After his own election in 2000, George Bush took one look at the blood and muddle and decided that America had better things to do.
        After the dinner Mr. Obama intends to host at the White House on September 1 for Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, the two sides are supposed to start talking directly again, relieving George Mitchell, Mr. Obama's envoy, of the need to shuttle between them. That is progress of a sort, albeit not the sort that poses the slightest danger of raising high expectations. It merely restores matters to where they stood after Mr. Bush inaugurated a previous set of direct talks in Annapolis at the end of 2007. These were expected to fail, and lived up to expectations. This next lot of talks is expected to fail, too. (Economist-UK)
  • Israeli-Palestinian Direct Talks and the Art of Low Expectations - Shmuel Rosner
    The time may be right for the Obama administration, but it is hardly right for the parties involved. Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, think Iran is a more urgent priority. They believe the Palestinian problem can wait a little longer, and they see no Palestinian leaders they can make deals with. The Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, were dragged to these talks kicking and screaming, they don't seem to intend to give an inch, and they have a hard time dealing with criticism from Hamas, Syria, and other regional belligerents. "There's clearly a trust deficit that we're going to have to find a way to overcome," longtime special envoy Dennis Ross explained. When direct talks were finally announced, not all the Israeli newspapers bothered to carry the news on their front pages. Been there, done that. (Slate)
  • The Need for Reciprocity at the Negotiation Table - Abraham Foxman
    The more Palestinians conclude they can get concessions from Israel without making their own concessions, the less inclined they will be to make the fundamental leap of fully accepting the Jewish state. It is therefore important to frame the upcoming negotiations in a way that it truly will be one of mutual compromise - and this must happen early on in the process. Short of that it will seem like deja vu, with Israel making unilateral moves, as it did in its withdrawal from Gaza, and Palestinians feeling no obligation to do anything. The writer is national director of the Anti-Defamation League. (Jerusalem Post)

    Other Issues

  • Reassessing U.S. Military Assistance to Lebanon - David Schenker
    In the aftermath of the Lebanese Armed Forces' (LAF) August 3 cross-border shooting of two Israeli officers, one fatal, U.S. military assistance to Lebanon has come under increasing scrutiny. The State Department and congressional appropriators should work out clear, transparent, measurable, and verifiable benchmarks by which all sides - including the Lebanese - can evaluate the merit of maintaining assistance to the LAF.
        Are LAF officers who share intelligence with Hizbullah disciplined or congratulated? Does the LAF play a role in preventing the import of weapons from Syria or their flow south of the Litani or in facilitating it? Do officials of Hizbullah's militia transfer directly into the LAF? Does LAF weaponry end up under Hizbullah control? Do LAF units follow Hizbullah guidance in obstructing the operations of UNIFIL? Will the LAF arrest and transfer Hizbullah officials that may be indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri? (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel Through European Eyes - Yoram Hazony
    Every few months, Israel is publicly pilloried in the international media and on university campuses around the world for some alleged violation of human rights, real or imagined. Whatever the ostensible subject, we know for certain that there will be another campaign of vilification in the media and on the campuses and in the corridors of power - a smear campaign of a kind that no other nation on earth is subjected to on a regular basis. We will again see our nation treated not as a democracy doing its duty to defend its people and its freedom, but as some kind of a scourge.
        Israelis and friends of Israel can reasonably be divided on the question of whether the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, or the parallel withdrawal from the security zone in South Lebanon in 2000, was really in Israel's interests. But one thing about which we can all agree, I think, is that these withdrawals did nothing to stem the tide of hatred and vilification being poured on Israel's head internationally. Whatever it is that is driving the trend toward the progressive delegitimization of Israel, it is a trend operating more or less without reference to any particular Israeli policy on any given issue.
        The modern State of Israel was founded, in terms of the understanding of the international community, as a nation-state, the state of the Jewish people. And the birth of Israel was followed by the establishment of dozens of additional independent states throughout the Third World. But now the nations of Europe have established a new paradigm in which the independent nation-state is seen by many intellectuals and political figures in Europe as a source of incalculable evil. Thus the new paradigm understands Israel, and especially the independent Israeli use of force to defend itself, as illegitimate down to its foundations. The writer is founder and provost of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (Jewish Ideas Daily)

    Weekend Features

  • Free Israel Tours Bolster Ties with Young U.S. Jews - Lisa Wangsness
    Michael Silverman, a 21-year-old Northeastern University student, had not thought about Israel much before this spring. An electrical engineering major, he was not interested in the political situation there, and he had not regularly attended synagogue through most of his adolescence. When he got the chance to travel there for free, he signed up; it sounded like fun. But he never anticipated that the trip would transform him into someone who cares deeply about Israel. "Before the trip, I didn't feel anything; I just knew this was a place where Jewish people lived," he said. "Since going there, I feel connected to the people that live there. It felt like family."
        Over the last decade, Taglit-Birthright Israel has given more than a quarter-million young Jews 18 to 26 years old the opportunity to experience Israel first-hand in a 10-day educational tour funded by Jewish philanthropists and the Israeli government. "A generation we thought was going to be so distant now has the opportunity to feel closer to Israel, closer to their heritage, and closer to being Jewish, and that is the miracle of the Birthright program," said Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, which has raised millions for Birthright.
        A Brandeis study which surveyed more than 1,200 U.S. Jews found that American Jews' sense of connection to Israel remains strong - 63% felt either very much or somewhat connected to Israel, and 75% saw caring about Israel as an important part of their Jewish identity. The study also found that travel to Israel is highly correlated with Jews' sense of attachment to the country and that younger Jews were more likely to have traveled to Israel than their middle-aged counterparts. (Boston Globe)
  • A Film Unfinished - John Podhoretz
    "A Film Unfinished," directed by Yael Hersonski, is a provocative work centering on a film crew sent by the Nazis into the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 to take extensive footage of life inside the three-square-mile walled-off area inside the Polish capital into which Hitler's minions had crammed half a million Jews whom they then systematically proceeded to starve before systematically sending them off to their deaths later in the year in Treblinka. In addition to the Nazi propaganda film titled "The Ghetto," Hersonski reveals outtakes cut from the film which show the extent to which the events in the film were staged.
        What the footage truly reveals is half a million people being purposefully starved to death. Typhus-riddled children stagger through the streets on canes; Jews rifle through garbage in the dump in search of any scrap of food; the mass graves of people who have simply died on the streets, sent down a chute into a vast pit, and covered over with paper. (Weekly Standard)
  • Jews Still Emerging from the Woodwork in Poland - Benny Mer
    Traveling in Poland by train earlier this month, I met Ewa, a woman who worked as a translator guiding French tourists in Krakow interested in the Holocaust. She told me that her mother had been Jewish. After the war, when she realized she was almost the only person from her family who had survived, she decided to stick to the false identity she had assumed and was baptized under that name. Only when Ewa was 18 did her mother reveal the secret.
        I had heard many other tales about Jews who remained in hiding after the Holocaust. It is well known that Poles did not welcome the survivors. About 1,000 Jews who sought to return to their homes were murdered. The Kielce pogrom, in July 1946, in which Poles murdered 42 Jews, drove home for many people that there would be no revival of Polish Jewry. It was obvious that the Communist regime, too, was not interested in encouraging a renewal of Jewish life.
        A change began in the 1980s with the labor movement Solidarity and gained momentum after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. "Poles who did not tell their children that they were Jewish decided to tell their grandchildren," explained Yale (Yechiel) Reisner of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Decoding the Mideast Peace Rhetoric - Ben Smith (Politico)

    • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week announced a new round of peace talks, setting a one-year deadline for the talks, amid pessimism on both sides that the bitter Israeli-Palestinian stalemate could truly be broken in that time. In discussing the talks beginning September 2, all the parties spoke in incomprehensible diplomatic code. Here's a Politico translation of what Secretary Clinton really meant:
    • Listen: These talks are going to happen because we insist on it. The Israeli settlement moratorium was about to expire, and then things really could have gotten out of hand. So we had to move quickly, and sure, we may not have worked out all the details yet. But we've pressured you into sitting down for the first time since President Barack Obama took office. We've averted a crisis, and those are small victories.
    • And let's be honest: neither of you is being all that cooperative - and particularly you, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], with your foot-dragging and threats to drop out if somebody puts a concrete block down in the wrong place. So we're going to lock you into a summit before either of you changes your mind. Once you're at the table, the dynamic changes. You'll become more invested in making the process a success and creating a public climate in which peace is imaginable and even popular.
    • We all know we're not going to resolve this in a year. But I had to throw the Palestinians a bone - they're always going on about deadlines - and the Israelis don't want this process to just be an endless pretext for slowing their growth either.

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