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October 8, 2010

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Hizbullah Planning to Take Over Lebanon? - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)
    Hizbullah, with the help of Iran, may be planning to stage a coup in Lebanon to cover up and divert attention from its role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
    Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's plan to visit Lebanon in the coming weeks should be seen in the context of Hizbullah's plot to take over the country.
    The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon is about to publish the results of its investigation into the killing of the former prime minister. According to reliable sources, the report is expected to hold Hizbullah responsible for the assassination.
    Now that its true face is about to be unmasked, Hizbullah is panicking and searching for ways to get out of the sinkhole.
    Nawwaf al-Moussawi, a Hizbullah MP in the Lebanese parliament, warned that any Lebanese who accepts the international tribunal's indictment findings would be killed as a "collaborator" with Israel and the U.S.
    According to reports from Lebanon, Hizbullah militiamen have been deployed in several "sensitive" locations throughout the country in preparation for overthrowing the government and taking over the entire country.
    Hizbullah's message to the world is: If you publish the truth - that we killed Hariri - we will seize control over Lebanon and turn it into another Iran."

In Hunt for Dubai Hit Men, Trail Goes Cold - Chip Cummins and Alistair MacDonald (Wall Street Journal)
    Dubai police thought they could link Israel to the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in January 2010 after finding dozens of forged passports, but eight months later the trail has gone cold, a Wall Street Journal examination shows.
    A string of apparent dead ends has frustrated international investigators, lengthening the odds that anyone will be caught or that definitive proof of Mossad involvement will emerge.
    Israel has said there's no evidence linking Mossad to the murder of Mabhouh, one of the founders of the military wing of Hamas, which Washington, London and Israel designate as a terror organization.
    The U.S. and many Western nations have for decades quietly worked with Mossad and other Israeli agencies, benefiting from their intelligence gathering in the Middle East and beyond.

Russia to Return $166.8 Million Prepayment to Iran for S-300 Missile Defense System (RIA-Novosti-Russia)
    Russia owes Tehran only the prepayment of $166.8 million for S-300 air defense missile systems, Rostekhnologii head Sergei Chemezov said on Thursday.
    Russia canceled the $800 million contract to supply Iran with the missiles because of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
    The missile systems originally destined for Iran have been built, and could possibly be supplied to a third country, Chemezov said.

Anti-Israel Activist Acquittal Judge Reprimanded (BBC News)
    Judge George Bathurst-Norman, who compared Israel to the Nazi regime in the Hove Crown Court trial of seven activists who were cleared of plotting to damage a Brighton weapons factory, has been formally reprimanded.
    Jewish groups said his comments were offensive, one-sided and unbalanced.
    An investigation by the Office for Judicial Complaints found that "a number of these observations did not arise directly from the evidence at trial and could be seen as an expression of the judge's personal views on a political question. This was an error." The judge was formally reprimanded.

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For Some Palestinians, Settlements Are Good News - Jason Koutsoukis (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
    Some 25,000 Palestinians depend on Jewish settlements in the West Bank for a living. Haitham Asfour, a Palestinian construction worker, said he can earn $85 to $100 a day when he is working in the settlements, double what he gets building homes for Palestinians.
    ''As long as the settlers are willing to pay me, then I am willing to work," he says. Far from feeling the disapproval of friends and family, Asfour said people who know how he earns a living often ask if there are any jobs.

Demand for Birthright Trips on the Rise (Ynet News)
    Demand among young Jews in the diaspora to participate in Taglit-Birthright educational tours of Israel rose by 11% compared to last year.
    Birthright received 23,623 applications for 9,576 places on its forthcoming winter trips.

Israel Studies Increasingly Popular in U.S. - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
    "There are some 1,300 courses on the State of Israel today in U.S. universities. That is three times as many as there were three years ago. This is a revolution," says Prof. Ilan Troen from Brandeis University.
    "Half the courses are from the humanities, like film and comparative literature. This has huge value when there is knowledge of the country beyond the headlines as part of the general education. The students learn about Israel not only in the context of the conflict."
    Israel studies departments exist today in every corner of the U.S., from New York University, Rutgers University, Maryland University, Emory University, University of Miami, through to Northwestern University, University of Texas in Dallas and Austin, and UCLA and California State University.

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  • U.S. Believes Arab States Won't Scuttle Mideast Talks - Mark Landler and Ethan Bronner
    The Obama administration believes it has persuaded Arab states not to scuttle the fledgling Middle East peace negotiations, officials said Thursday. After days of intensive diplomacy, the U.S. now expects the Arab League's meeting on Friday in Libya to produce a stream of vitriol against Israel but no formal declaration that negotiations should be abandoned. Such an outcome would leave the negotiations stuck in the starting gate, with no further meeting scheduled until the issue of settlements is resolved. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Pushes Arab Nations on Mideast Peace Talks - Matthew Lee
    The Obama administration is pressing Arab leaders to help keep the U.S.-brokered peace talks alive ahead of Arab League meetings in Libya on Friday. U.S. officials have spent days trying to persuade Arab leaders not to withdraw their earlier backing for the current negotiations. The State Department said Thursday that it wanted to see "a positive signal" on the negotiations from the Arab League. To secure that support, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell have been making calls to Arab leaders. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Palestinians Seek Border Deal Within Two Months - Josef Federman
    Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said Thursday that the Palestinians accepted a U.S. proposal for a 60-day extension to the Israel settlement slowdown, with the idea that final borders between Israel and a Palestinian state be negotiated during that time. If borders are set, Israel could then resume construction on all territories it expects to keep. "We accepted a moratorium for two months on condition that by the end of this period we will reach an agreement on the issue of the borders," he said.
        Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, confirmed to the Washington Post that the U.S. has offered "incentives" for Israel to extend the settlement curbs. Israeli officials have said that a package of "assurances" is being sought, ranging from U.S. diplomatic support at the UN to new military aid to backing for key Israeli positions in the peace talks. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Video: What Israel Wants - Jackson Diehl interviews Michael Oren (Washington Post)
  • How Arms Deals Are Shaping the Mideast - Kristen Chick
    From 2005 to 2009, the U.S. sold up to $37 billion in arms to Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The recent U.S.-Saudi deal, which is expected to be submitted to Congress for approval soon, could be worth as much as $60 billion. In addition, U.S. officials are discussing a $30 billion package to upgrade Saudi Arabia's naval forces. The U.S. is also expected to agree next year to sell the Theater High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system to the UAE for about $7 billion. The U.S.-Saudi deal could spur new job growth, supporting at least 75,000 jobs at Boeing and United Technologies. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S.-Israel Discussions on Settlement Freeze Continue - Attila Somfalvi and Ali Waked
    Contacts between the U.S. and Israel are continuing on an extension of an Israeli construction freeze in West Bank settlements. On Thursday, senior government sources said the main point of contention between Israel and the U.S. was the formulation of the statement of agreements. Netanyahu insists on a clear formulation, while the Americans prefer a more cautious formulation. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Kills Two Hamas Terrorists in Hebron - Anshel Pfeffer and Avi Issacharoff
    IDF forces killed two members of Hamas' Izzadine al-Kassam terror brigades in Hebron on Friday responsible for a shooting attack which killed four Israeli residents of Beit Hagai six weeks ago. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Thwarts Attempt to Locate Kidnapped Soldier Gilad Shalit
    A collaborator with Israel was planting bugs in two-way radios he supplied to Hamas' Izzadine al-Kassam brigades in order to locate captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Egypt's Al-Ahram reported Thursday. Hamas said the man maintained relationships with top Hamas members in order to learn information about where Shalit is being held. Hamas said they stopped using the radios, and that Israel had extricated the agent from Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Military Intelligence: Terror Groups Eye Tel Aviv - Hagai Einav
    IDF Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said Monday that Iran, Syria and Hizbullah possess missiles that could threaten Tel Aviv, and that Israel's enemies "are trying to increase their missile arrays in terms of range and accuracy." He also noted, "Our enemies expect our hands to be tied, like in the case of the Goldstone Report. This may allow Iran and Hizbullah to continue arming themselves, while hiding in the midst of civilian population. But at any time there are those in the IDF who are devising an answer to any future threat."  (Ynet News)
  • Jerusalem Mayor: Sharing Israel's Capital Would Bring "a Trojan Horse into the Heart of the City" - Natasha Mozgovaya
    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Wednesday that a divided capital could never function. "There is not one example in the world of a split city that worked," he said. The mayor cited Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. "Israel took a risk in Gaza....We thought we were doing business with the PLO, but we got Hamas. Doing the same thing in Jerusalem would be like having a Trojan horse in the heart of the city."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Mayor's Vision for Jerusalem - Nir Barkat (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Peace Process

  • Netanyahu and Obama on the Brink - Again - Jackson Diehl
    Both sides agree that the settlement moratorium issue is purely symbolic. No Israeli settlement construction that occurs in the next year - the term set for reaching a peace agreement - will have a material impact on the final agreement. Both sides say they want the negotiations to continue. So why might settlements kill the talks? The main reason, in my view, is that the Obama administration has once again chosen to ask Netanyahu for an unnecessary concession - and one he may be unable to deliver.
        Netanyahu finds himself in a familiar bind. When he last led an Israeli government, in the late 1990s, he also came under crushing U.S. pressure to make concessions in an earlier round of peace talks. When he did so, his allies deserted him, his government fell, and he lost the subsequent election. So the prime minister is unlikely to accept the deal with the U.S. unless he can persuade his coalition partners to go along.
        Another U.S.-Israel crisis is probably what Abbas is hoping for - and why he has taken a hard-line position on the settlement issue. The Palestinian president has engaged in negotiations with Israeli governments for years without demanding any such freeze. All along, Abbas has shown scant interest in these peace talks. He turned down a far-reaching peace offer from Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert. If he were genuinely interested in reaching a peace settlement with Israel, he could set aside the settlement issue. So why has the Obama administration chosen to focus its diplomacy on extracting a purely symbolic but next-to-impossible concession from Netanyahu? (Washington Post)
  • Why Target Netanyahu? - Ari Shavit
    Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert all built in the West Bank in the course of the peace process. Demanding of Benjamin Netanyahu to do otherwise - while the Palestinians are not required to do anything to advance the peace process - is blatantly unfair. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Peace Talks That Kill - Thanassis Cambanis
    In the years I've spent covering the region, I've been hard pressed to see any tangible peace dividend from the many rounds of Middle East peace talks. Not a single person I interviewed in the Middle East during the last two months expected anything to come of the current talks, although no one predicted either that a failed peace process would unleash a new intifada. Instead, the Arab diplomats, analysts, and activists who support Hamas and Hizbullah with whom I spoke seemed in accord that for the time being, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians saw anything to gain from dialogue, except for earning chits with Washington.
        The main benefit of a peace process, in this view, is that Washington wants one, and so long as it doesn't cost anything, Washington's allies in Ramallah and Jerusalem are happy to oblige. The writer has covered the Arab world since 2003, including four years as the Boston Globe Baghdad and Middle East bureau chief. (Daily Beast)
  • An Israeli Arab's Views on the Israeli-Palestinian Talks - Ishmael Khaldi
    Israel's primary interest is to see a democratic, independent Palestinian state, clean of terror and threats. Since the Oslo accords in 1993, Israeli authorities granted permission to build in the West Bank settlements many times, while, at the same time, talks continued and agreements were signed between both sides. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians set a condition or precondition for sitting down at the table and talking, except for the demand to fight terror. In my eyes, the Palestinians should stop making settlements a condition to continue or not continue in the direct talks. The writer, a Bedouin, served as Israel's Deputy Consul General in San Francisco, 2006-2009. (Huffington Post)
  • Calling All Bluffs in Middle East Peace Negotiations - Frida Ghitis
    The ultimate goal of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations is an agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state, something Palestinians insist they desperately want. Yet it is the Palestinian side that threatens to walk out. Israelis beg them to stay, as if negotiations were a big favor to Israel. Many Israelis believe Palestinians have no real intention of seeing the talks through. They say Palestinians want an excuse to blame Israel for the talks' failure and would rather pursue alternative strategies.
        Those alternatives include, for the most extremist, the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian state not just in the West Bank and Gaza but in all of Israel. (Official Palestinian television routinely promotes this idea.) The other possible strategy is making the international community - including Washington - pressure Israel to compromise without Palestinian concessions. That approach helped bring the just-expired settlement moratorium. (McClatchy)

    Other Issues

  • Why Do Radical Muslims Want to Kill Europeans? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Some Middle East and terror "experts" have foolishly endorsed the argument that terror attacks against U.S. targets are the result of the Israeli-Arab conflict. But then why is al-Qaeda also planning a new wave of terror attacks in Europe? If the Americans deserve to be murdered because of Washington's "bias" in favor of Israel, why are countries such as France, Britain and Germany - which have been very supportive of the Palestinians - now on the blacklist of radical Islamic groups?
        Europeans are being targeted for the same reason the Americans are: for being "infidels" and enemies of Islam and for the Western values they represent. They are being targeted because of their failure to transform into Islamic countries. Those who think that solving the Israeli-Arab conflict will undermine al-Qaeda and its allies do not know what they are talking about.
        Bin Laden and his friends want to kill Europeans not because of settlement construction in the West Bank or the blockade on Gaza; they want to kill Europeans because Europeans are not Muslims and have different values. Europeans need to understand that their support for Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular will not help them avoid "punishment" by radical Muslims. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • Paris Synagogue Blast Echoes Across the Years - Chris Cobb
    France is fighting to extradite an Ottawa academic with alleged links to the bombing of the Copernic Synagogue in Paris in 1980. The French allege that one of the five Palestinian terrorists is Hassan Diab, 56, an Ottawa university professor. The powerful bomb, planted inside the saddlebag of a motorcycle outside the synagogue, killed four passersby on rue Copernic, injured 40 and narrowly missed killing dozens of children who were about to leave the building after a Friday evening service. Diab, a Lebanese-born Canadian citizen, was arrested two years ago at the request of the French government, which has applied for his extradition. The formal extradition hearing is now scheduled for Nov. 8. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
        See also Justice Delayed - Shimon Samuels
    For years, it was believed that Copernic was perpetrated by the extreme Right. The bomber has now been identified as, allegedly, Hassan Diab, a Lebanese professor of Palestinian origin, reportedly then a PFLP splinter-group operative. Justice has been delayed for 30 years. Closure can only come by Canada's extradition of Hassan Diab to face a French tribunal. That trial would impact on contemporary anti-Semitism and carry significant conclusions for the authorities regarding their treatment of other minorities today. The writer is director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Collateral Damage: The Hidden Costs of the Ariel Boycott - Qanta Ahmed
    In an increasingly polarized world, anti-Israeli boycott as a means to influence political climate is urged more and more often. The cultural boycott of the Ariel Cultural Center in the West Bank seeks to penalize spaces which should remain sacrosanct and devoid of political positioning. Cultural and academic boycotts carry their own special devastation, taking causalities on all sides of ideological divides. As a Muslim physician enriched by American Jewish and Israeli colleagues I feel especially strongly that channels of collaboration and engagement must always remain open. Such dialogue is especially important at times of heightened tension.
        The extraordinary successes Israelis have demonstrated through a nearly peerless intellectual aegis is something all of us must learn from, particularly within the surrounding region. Boycotts seek to put a stop to exactly such valuable exchanges. I support all Israeli scientists, physicians and artists and their academic efforts without restriction, and those who collaborate with them, because I am enriched by such collaboration both to my benefit and that of my practice of medicine. (Huffington Post)

    Weekend Features

  • IDF Soldiers to Speak on U.S. Campuses - Gil Shefler
    In 2006, at the height of the fierce battle with Hizbullah over the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail, infantryman Inon Tagner, 20, faced an almost impossible dilemma. He thought he saw a Hizbullah terrorist strapping an explosives belt on an elderly woman, who then started walking toward where his platoon had taken cover. Despite persistent calls from him and other soldiers for the woman to halt, she kept approaching. When the woman came near enough to be identified with certainty as carrying an explosives belt, the order was given to open fire. The dead woman did indeed have an explosives belt wrapped around her. Tagner's story illustrates the challenges IDF soldiers face on an everyday basis in trying to balance their mission to protect Israel from its enemies with respecting human rights.
        Stand With Us, a pro-Israel advocacy group, has organized a U.S. speaking tour for several former IDF soldiers this month. For information on the tour's itinerary, see (Jerusalem Post)
  • Time to Reclaim Zionism - David Bernstein
    Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, has long been treated by much of the world as a kind of ideological disease. Zionism is in its simplest form the belief that Jews have the right to a state in the Land of Israel. Just as it was in the 19th century and at Israel's founding, Zionism is a big tent, encompassing a range of perspectives, from those who want to normalize the Jewish condition in a pluralistic, secular democracy to those who pine for a theocratic Torah state. Those who malign Zionism either don't understand it or outright reject Jewish self-determination. The writer is executive director of The David Project. (New York Jewish Week)
  • Observations:

    Palestinians Exploiting Settlement Freeze Issue - Joel Lion (New York Jewish Week)

    • When the Palestinians say the resumption of talks requires Israeli action, this is where we disagree. The only action needed by both sides to come to the negotiating table is a short car ride. Both sides have their concerns. Solutions to these concerns can only be made when Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas are in the same room.
    • Israel's settlement freeze was a one-time confidence-building measure to facilitate the Palestinians entering into direct talks. The Palestinians were livid with the freeze, calling it unacceptable. Apparently, the settlement freeze has magically gained importance right when it can be used as a political football.
    • Despite the constant headlines of "settlements as obstacles to peace," history presents a pretty strong rebuttal. Peace was achieved with Egypt and Jordan, and the Oslo Accords were signed with the Palestinians, without a moratorium on settlement construction.
    • We essentially extended the olive branch, and for nine months, rather than grasping it, the Palestinians have sharpened that branch so they can accuse us of pointing a spear at them.
    • If the Palestinians do believe that settlements are the key obstacle to peace, they need to sit with us and discuss what we need to do, together. As our prime minister said, the resolution of any and all issues, whether they are settlements, borders or water, will be decided as a result of peace talks, not imposed as a precondition.
    • Since the 2003 Roadmap Agreement, no new Jewish settlements have been constructed. The narrative that Israelis are engaged in "manifest destiny" on the West Bank is bogus.

      The writer is consul for media affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York.

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