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November 8, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Bush Considered Attack on Syrian Nuclear Facility - Steve Holland (Reuters)
    In his memoir, Decision Points, former President George W. Bush says he considered ordering a U.S. military strike against a suspected Syrian nuclear facility at Israel's request in 2007 but ultimately opted against it. Israel eventually destroyed the facility.
    "George, I'm asking you to bomb the compound," then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Bush, according to the book.
    A bombing mission was considered, "but bombing a sovereign country with no warning or announced justification would create severe blowback," Bush wrote.
    See also Bush Memoir: U.S. Can't Appear to Be Doing Israel's Bidding - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)

Report: Iran Gave Hizbullah UAVs, Attack Aircraft (Ha'aretz)
    Hizbullah has obtained three different kinds of UAVs and an Iranian aircraft that could reach long distances and attack specific targets on the ground, Channel 10 quoted the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyasa on Saturday.
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard is responsible for the transfer of the aircraft to Hizbullah, and dozens of Iranian experts have been sent to Lebanon to train Hizbullah.
    Tehran has allocated a very high budget for the project, and Western sources fear the aircraft could be an "important card" in a possible future conflict between Israel and Hizbullah.

700 Africans Infiltrate Israel's Border in One Week (Jerusalem Post)
    700 Africans illegally infiltrated Israel's border with Egypt since the beginning of November, the majority from Eritrea and Sudan.
    Since the beginning of the 2010, nearly 11,000 people have infiltrated the border from Egypt.

West Bank Terrorist List Dwindles - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    For the first time since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, not a single security suspect is being sought by Israel in the northern West Bank.
    In the southern West Bank, there are only a few names on the wanted list, a reflection of both the improved security situation in the West Bank and the increasing cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces.
    The last fatal suicide bombing emanating from the northern West Bank occurred in April 2006, committed by Islamic Jihad in Jenin.
    In the last year, several major terrorist attacks have been carried out in the West Bank, but Israel located the perpetrators, Fatah members from Nablus and Hamas members from the Hebron area, and killed them.
    Among the few wanted figures still at large are Hamas members operating in Hebron.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gates: Sanctions Are Impacting Iran
    Sanctions aimed at stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons are having an impact, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday. "We know that they are concerned about the impact of the sanctions. The sanctions are biting more deeply than they anticipated," he said. Gates said he disagreed with a recent assertion by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a military threat was the only way to influence Iran's nuclear policies. "I disagree that only a credible military threat can get Iran to take the actions that it needs to, to end its nuclear weapons program. We are prepared to do what is necessary, but, at this point, we continue to believe that the political-economic approach that we are taking is, in fact, having an impact on Iran." But, he noted, "when it comes to Iran, all options are on the table."  (CNN)
  • UN Indictments of Hizbullah Members Near in Lebanon Killing - Jay Solomon and Margaret Coker
    The UN-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is moving to indict between two and six members of Hizbullah by year-end. The militant group threatens violence if the indictments are handed down. The UN probe is looking at Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hizbullah military commander and brother-in-law of Imad Mugniyah, who was among the FBI's most-wanted men before his death nearly three years ago.
        Mugniyah oversaw a string of terrorist attacks against American interests in the 1980s, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 servicemen. Mugniyah is believed by UN investigators to have also played a role in the car bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri and 22 others. The president of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon told reporters in The Hague on Wednesday that it is his hope that the indictments will be issued next month. Hizbullah isn't likely to give up any of its members to the tribunal, and Lebanon's armed forces are significantly weaker than Hizbullah's militia.
        Last Wednesday, the U.S. said it was providing an additional $10 million for the court's operations. "We wanted to reaffirm our support for Lebanon and the work of the tribunal," said a senior U.S. official. "We also wanted to remind President Suleiman that we have certain expectations of the Lebanese military and the state."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Biden: U.S.-Israel Ties "Unbreakable"
    Vice President Joe Biden called the U.S.-Israel bond "unbreakable" in a speech to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America on Sunday in New Orleans. "This administration represents an unbroken chain in American leaders who have understood this critical relationship," he said.
        Biden said his love of Israel dated back to 1973 when he took his first trip to Israel as a U.S. senator from Delaware, where he had an hour-long meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir. Meir, he said, told him, "We Israelis have a secret weapon....We have nowhere else to go." "All these years later I feel both alarm and solace at those words," he said. "I feel that our support for Israel must continue on always and forever." Biden assured the group that U.S.-Israeli "disagreements when they have existed have only been tactical in nature. They have never been fundamental."  (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Tells Biden: Peace Agreement Must Not Be Forced on Us from Above - Natasha Mozgovaya
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday in New Orleans that there must be a peace agreement that is not forced on the parties from above, and that the Palestinians must not attempt to circumvent negotiations by declaring statehood through the UN, sources said. Netanyahu said that Israel has done enough to prove that it is serious, while the Palestinians have not taken any steps to demonstrate their seriousness about peace, sources said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel to Withdrawal from Part of Lebanon Border Town - Barak Ravid
    Israel is expected to inform UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon on Monday of its intent to withdraw from the northern side of the divided village of Ghajar on the border with Lebanon, a government official said Saturday. The international border between Israel and Lebanon runs through the middle of the village. The planned withdrawal from Ghajar's northern side has been discussed with the commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in recent months. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Ghajar Plan - Hagai Einav
    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Kobi Marom said the plan for the 2,300 residents of "Ghajar is based on two important principles: Preventing the entrance of Hizbullah operatives to the northern part by two UN squadrons patrolling the area, which is small, and the acceptance of responsibility for the civil and humanitarian situation of the residents by the State of Israel."  (Ynet News)
  • Foreign Anarchists, Palestinians Set Fires Near West Bank Settlement - Yair Altman
    Six foreign nationals and Palestinians who set fires near the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin in the Gush Etzion bloc on Sunday were taken in for questioning by the police. "This is a known Palestinian method to take over state land," said Dov Mark, land supervisor for the Gush Etzion Council. "With the support of anarchists, who usually come from abroad, they come to an area of natural woodland which has never been cultivated, burn it on purpose and at the same time plant trees....In today's case, some 20 acres of natural woodland were burned by a group of 25 Palestinians and anarchists."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Syria and America: The End of the Honeymoon Period - Tariq Alhomayed
    It seems that the American-Syrian honeymoon has come to an end. Two years after Washington extended its hand to Damascus, the U.S. is outraged by Syrian behavior in Lebanon, with the Americans believing that Damascus is contributing to undermining security and stability there. Syria is snubbing Washington, relying upon cards that are entirely in the hands of Iran. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also The Damascus Mirage - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Arab Lobby: The European Component - Steven J. Rosen
    The strongest external force pressuring the U.S. government to distance itself from Israel is not the Arab-American organizations, the Arab embassies, the oil companies, or the petrodollar lobby. Rather, it is the Europeans, especially the British, French, and Germans, that are the most influential Arab lobby to the U.S. government. The Arabs consider Europe to be the soft underbelly of the U.S. alliance with Israel and the best way to drive a wedge between the two historic allies. Europe is not hostile to Israel on every issue, and not every European intervention with U.S. officials is meant to move U.S. policy in the Arab direction. But, on the whole, the Arab road to Washington runs through Paris, London, and Berlin. (Middle East Quarterly)
  • Is the Palestinian Authority Preparing Its People for Peace? - Itamar Marcus, Nan Jacques Zilberdik and Barbara Crook
    The four-month period of May-August 2010 brought no changes in the quality of the messages being transmitted from the Palestinian Authority and Fatah to Palestinians. An examination of the Palestinian leaders' statements, official media, children's programs and PA and Fatah-controlled events reveals that, contrary to the PA's moderate statements to the West, its statements to its people in Arabic continue to deny Israel's right to exist, define the conflict with Israel in religious terms, promote hatred through demonization and libels, and glorify terror and violence. (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Observations:

    The Case for an Immediate IAEA Special Inspection in Syria - Olli Heinonen (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • In the case of Syria, the IAEA found uranium particles at Deir Al-Zour (destroyed in a reported Israeli air strike in 2007) and other locations that could be functionally related to it. Satellite imagery and procurement information point toward possible construction of a nuclear reactor there.
    • If it was a nuclear reactor, this would have been the first time that an IAEA member state and an NPT signatory constructed a plutonium production reactor on such a scale without reporting it to the IAEA.
    • If the world nuclear order is to be maintained and sanctuary for future nuclear proliferators prevented, the international community should expect nothing less than that the IAEA will use all its inspection rights in Syria, including a special inspection, now.

      The writer, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard University, was formerly deputy director-general and head of the department of safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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