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October 6, 2010

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Times Square Bomber Receives Life Sentence (VOA News)
    Faizal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who loaded a van with explosives in May and parked it in New York's Times Square, hoping to kill Americans, was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
    An avowed jihadist, Shahzad criticized the U.S. for attempting to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan. He warned Americans, "The war with Muslims has just begun. Defeat is imminent."
    Shahzad received explosives training in Pakistan in December 2009 from a group affiliated with the Taliban.
    Before he was led away, Judge Miriam Goldman-Cedarbaum said, "I do hope that you will spend lots of time in prison thinking if the Quran wants you to kill people."

    See also Briton Killed in Pakistan Linked to Failed NY Bomber - Dera Ismail Khan (Reuters)
    A British man, Abdul Jabbar, killed by an air strike in Pakistan, had ties with would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani intelligence official said on Wednesday.
    He said Jabbar had been in the process of setting up a branch of the Taliban in Britain.

"More than 100 Dangerous Islamists in Germany" - Stephen Brown (Reuters)
    Reports of eight German militants killed in a suspected U.S. drone attack in Pakistan put a spotlight on a growing number of trained jihadists from Germany who are back in Europe and could take part in attacks.
    "The number of dangerous Islamists (in Germany) lies at more than 100," said Konrad Freiberg, chairman of the main German police union.
    He told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that about 40 had explosives training. With papers showing Berlin landmarks named as potential targets, he warned: "We should expect attacks."

    See also France Arrests 12 Islamic Militants - Gregory Viscusi (Bloomberg)
    French police arrested 12 people suspected of links to Islamic militant groups in southern France Tuesday.
    French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told parliament, "There is a real terrorist menace in France and Europe."

    See also Euro Terror Alert Spotlights Voiceprint Technology - Raphael G. Satter (AP-Washington Post)
    The discovery of an alleged terror plot against Europe owes at least some of its success to "voiceprint" technology that allows law enforcement to electronically match a voice to its owner.
    The British eavesdropping agency GCHQ deployed voice identification software to help uncover the plot that officials say has targeted Germany, Britain and France - with famed sites such as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower under close surveillance.
    Almog Aley-Raz, whose Israel-based company PerSay Ltd. supplies governments and businesses around the world, said that using voice biometrics could allow officials to scan a large number of phone conversations for several suspects' voices, greatly streamlining intelligence work.

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  • Risks and Advantages in U.S. Effort in Mideast - Mark Landler
    On Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu's senior cabinet ministers convened in Jerusalem but did not even take up a package of security guarantees being offered by the U.S. in return for Israel's extending a freeze on the construction of settlements in the West Bank by 60 days, officials said. The Palestinians, meanwhile, rejected a U.S. proposal that they keep negotiating without an extension in return for an American offer to formally endorse a Palestinian state based on the borders of Israel before the 1967 Middle East war.
        The question some are asking is whether President Obama is risking too much too soon - and for too little. Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel and a negotiator in the Clinton administration, said, "We have to be careful not to pay with strategic coin for mere tactical breathing room." "The original sin was putting so much emphasis on settlements, an issue we couldn't resolve," said Robert Malley, the Middle East and North Africa program director for the International Crisis Group. "We've spent the last year trying to undo the damage of that step."
        "We recognize that to get the parties over this hump we have to offer something of value to each side," said State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley. "In return, we need a commitment from the parties to remain in the negotiations long enough to reach an agreement. We don't want to go through this again."  (New York Times)
        See also A Key Back Channel for U.S., Israeli Ties - Glenn Kessler
    Dennis Ross, a longtime Middle East expert, has emerged as a crucial, behind-the-scenes conduit between the White House and the Israeli government to discreetly smooth out differences and disputes. Ross's role is highly sensitive because it might be seen as undercutting the mission of George Mitchell, President Obama's special envoy for Middle East peace. It was Ross - a senior director for Middle East policy on the White House staff - who worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu's private attorney Yitzhak Molcho and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on a package of incentives that the Obama administration is offering Netanyahu to extend a settlement moratorium. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Warns Lebanon Against Ahmadinejad Visit
    The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had warned the Lebanese government about the risks of a visit by Iran's president to Lebanon next week. Lebanon's largest parliamentary bloc, the Western-backed "March 14" coalition, said Ahmadinejad regards Lebanon as "an Iranian base on the Mediterranean." State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "Iran, through its association with groups like Hizbullah, is actively undermining Lebanon's sovereignty." Lebanese political sources have said they expect Ahmadinejad to visit Hizbullah bastions in southern Lebanon. (Reuters)
        View Photos of Iranian Flags in Southern Lebanon (ABNA-Iran)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Discussions Continue in Israel on U.S. Proposals - Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman
    Prime Minister Netanyahu has held private discussions over the last few days with senior ministers regarding the settlement construction moratorium issue. One senior official said that Netanyahu was concerned that if Israel extended the moratorium, Jerusalem would be seen as having no "red lines," a bad perception to foster on the eve of negotiations dealing with much more critical issues. According to this official, the U.S. was putting pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians to show flexibility, and was also making it clear to both sides that it was not in either of their best interests for the negotiations to grind to a halt.
        Another diplomatic official said the impression that Israel was holding out on extending the moratorium by two months to get more "incentives" from the U.S. was "mistaken." Were Netanyahu to hold a vote on extending the freeze at Wednesday's security cabinet meeting, it would almost certainly be defeated. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Settlers Replace Korans after Vandalism Incident
    Israeli settlers on Tuesday gave new copies of the Koran to Palestinians in the West Bank village of Beit Fajjar where several copies of the holy book were scorched in an arson attack at a mosque on Monday. The village is at the edge of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
  • PA Continues to Teach Denial of Israel's Existence - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    The PA continues to educate its people to envision a world without Israel, presenting Israeli cities and regions as "Palestinian." Last week, PA TV rebroadcast an educational documentary that describes the Israeli cities of Haifa, Acre, Ashkelon, Jaffa and the Sea of Galilee as Palestinian. PA TV is under the direct control of the office of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. (Palestinian Media Watch)
        See also PA Announces Boycott of Israeli Supermarket Chain
    The Palestinian Authority Ministry of National Economy announced on Sept. 21 a boycott campaign against the Israeli Rami Levi chain of supermarkets, which it claimed has "spread like cancer" with new stores in Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem. Distributors and promoters of Rami Levi products will be prosecuted for advertising or selling their goods in the West Bank. (Maan News-PA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why We Call on the Palestinian President to Continue Negotiations - Tariq Alhomayed
    The new conditions proposed by the Israeli prime minister to the U.S. administration for a freeze on settlement construction for a specific period of time - thus leading to a resumption of the peace talks - demonstrate why we had been calling on the Palestinian president to continue negotiations. This newspaper reported Monday that Netanyahu would agree to extend the settlement freeze for a period of two months on the condition that the Obama administration pledges to refrain from calling for a new extension, for construction to continue on the settlement projects that have already begun, and for Washington to agree to Israeli troops being stationed in the Jordan Rift Valley as part of any final peace agreement.
        In addition, Netanyahu also demanded U.S. commitment to veto any UN Security Council resolution establishing a Palestinian state, as well as providing Israel with military support. Our source also said that Netanyahu had called on the Americans to help him confront the opposition he is facing within his own government by providing him with a "benefits package" that he could present to his ministers as evidence that this settlement freeze brings with it substantial gains for the Israelis. The writer is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Palestinian Leadership's Unnecessary Foot-Dragging - Yoel Marcus
    Prime Minister Netanyahu passed the decision to freeze construction in the West Bank for 10 months and kept his promise not to extend it "a day longer." It had been assumed this concession would give him the required time to conduct direct talks with the Palestinians. But they, as is their custom, again proved they miss no opportunity to miss an opportunity. When the end of the 10-month freeze approached, the Palestinians demanded a two-month extension. Otherwise, they will not resume the direct talks. Why? Because that's the Palestinian leadership - painting itself into a corner and not knowing how to get out of it.
        And lo, after all the festive meetings in Washington, after 10 months of building freeze, now they're asking for two more months? Why? Because that's what they want. Even the Egyptian foreign minister denounced this demand as unnecessary foot-dragging. (Ha'aretz)
  • Do Palestinians Want a State Alongside Israel? - Jonathan Chait
    A 2009 poll shows that 71% of Palestinians deem it essential that their state comprise all of Israel and the territories. (Only 17% of Israelis deem it essentially that their state control all that land.) From the Palestinian perspective, Israel is a colonial state that was suddenly dropped on their head as a result of European crimes. Most Palestinians seem to think, like Helen Thomas said, that the fair solution is for the Jews to go back to Europe.
        From this perspective, Palestinian political tactics are not an endless series of blunders but a perfectly rational strategy of alternating guerrilla or terrorist attacks on Israel with ceaseless political pressure designed to make Israelis, like the Crusaders, unwilling to pay the price of defending their state over however many decades or centuries it takes.
        If it became clear that the Palestinians' primary goal was to create a homeland living peacefully next to a Jewish state, the Israeli political spectrum would shift back toward a more dovish government. (New Republic)
  • Observations:

    The Al-Qaeda Threat Faced by Europe - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

    • The travel advisory issued on Sunday by the U.S. is not exaggerated. It is based on concrete intelligence that justifies the warning and the beefed up security measures in Europe.
    • Al-Qaeda or an organization operating under its influence is organizing and training in the tribal area in western Pakistan for terror attacks in Britain, Germany, and Sweden. Its members are Muslims with German and British citizenship who arrived in Pakistan and Afghanistan about a year ago and now they are trying to carry out missions in their home countries.
    • The group's immediate objective is to avenge the fatal blows sustained by al-Qaeda in Pakistan as a result of U.S. drone attacks in recent months. Since entering the White House, President Obama has authorized 122 drone hits against senior al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban leaders, more than double the number of attacks former President George W. Bush authorized in eight years. The Times Square bomber said his attack in May was in revenge for the drone attacks.

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