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December 24, 2010

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WikiLeaks: U.S. Memo Says Israel Bombed Syrian Reactor (Ynet News)
    A confidential cable sent on April 25, 2008, by then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to State Department representatives worldwide states that "on September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed the nuclear reactor built by Syria secretly, apparently with North Korea's help."
    The document is a first official and detailed confirmation of the attack.
    "Our intelligence experts are convinced that the site targeted by the Israelis is in fact an atomic reactor of the same type built by North Korea in Yongbyon," she wrote.
    "The American intelligence community engaged in intensive efforts for many months to confirm the information provided to us by Israel about the reactor and collect additional information through our sources and methods."
    "We have good reason to believe that the reactor was not built for peaceful purposes," she wrote. "First of all, we estimate that it was not designed as a power station, was isolated from populated communities and was not suitable for research purposes."
    "Second, Syria took far-reaching steps to keep the real nature of the site secret."
    "The hiding and lies spread by Syria in the months after the attack are clear proof that it has something to hide."

Live Video Simulcast: What Are Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace? (Hadar-Israel)
    Maj-Gen (res.) Uzi Dayan, Maj-Gen (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former UN Amb. Dore Gold
Sunday, Dec. 26
7:30 pm in Israel, (12:30 pm in U.S., 5:30 pm in UK)

Did Stuxnet Take Out 1,000 Centrifuges at the Natanz Enrichment Plant? - David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Christina Walrond (Institute for Science and International Security)
    In late 2009 or early 2010, Iran decommissioned and replaced about 1,000 IR-1 centrifuges in the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz, implying that these centrifuges broke.
    The crashing of such a large number of centrifuges over a relatively short period of time could have resulted from an infection of the Stuxnet malware.

PA Police: Hamas Cell Planned Attack on Ramallah (AFP)
    Palestinian police said Wednesday they uncovered a Ramallah-based Hamas cell that stockpiled weapons intended for use against Palestinian security forces.
    Maj.-Gen. Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the PA's security forces, said the cell had been discovered two months ago. "We seized their weapons, which were intended to target the (Palestinian) national authority and were not intended for use against Israel."
    "The [PA] security establishment considers the actions of Hamas in Gaza and Damascus to be very dangerous...and their language contains a direct call to murder and a direct call to civil war," he said.

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Israeli Population in U.S. Surges - Sue Fishkoff (JTA)
    According to newly released U.S. Census Bureau figures, 140,323 people living in the U.S. today were born in Israel, up from 109,720 in 2000.
    Of those, 90,179 have U.S. citizenship and 50,144 do not.
    But Israeli expatriates and Israeli government sources say the true figure is actually much higher.
    One discrepancy could be in how Israelis are counted. Israel considers as Israelis children born to Israelis, even if they’ve never been to Israel. Those children would not show up as Israelis in the U.S. Census figures.
    From 2000 through 2009, 23,640 U.S. citizens made aliyah to Israel, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Israel and the Innovative Impulse (Wharton-U. of Penn.)
    Israel has developed a global reputation for its cutting-edge high-tech industry. This special report explores the drivers behind Israel's innovative impulse and looks at the partnerships Israeli firms have forged with U.S. companies.

Chelm Awards Reveal the Quirkier Side of Israel - Daniella Ashkenazy (JTA)
    A roundup of some of the best odd news stories from Chelm-on-the-Med Online, an Israeli Internet news outlet in English that features snippets of daily life gleaned from the Hebrew press, reveals the lighter side of Israeli life.
    Take Israeli innovation. Advances include naturally dehydrated tomatoes for spreading on bread to end the bane of soggy sandwiches.
    Or a lifelike motorized plastic Nile crocodile to convince 70,000 pelicans to stop feeding at kibbutz fish ponds when migrating between Europe and Africa.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Did Not Refuse to Extend Settlement Freeze - Gary Rosenblatt
    I wrote on Tuesday of "Jerusalem's refusal to accept a U.S. deal, including military and diplomatic perks, in return for a 90-day extension of the freeze on building in the settlements." The next day a senior Israeli official contacted me to say that "contrary to widespread conventional wisdom, Jerusalem did not refuse Washington's offer." The official said Netanyahu was "willing and ready to bring it to a vote" when "the U.S. informed us, much to our surprise, that they did not want to move forward on that path."
        Sources in Washington confirm that scenario, noting that the administration, after much bargaining, concluded that extending the freeze on building in the settlements for another 90 days was not likely to produce any diplomatic results. (New York Jewish Week)
  • Wide Saudi "Loopholes" Let Charity Funds Slip to Terrorists - Shaun Waterman
    Despite some success in disrupting funding for al-Qaeda, "there are still loopholes," said a Saudi official. "It is still possible for [extremist] groups to use the system for their own advantage with impunity." A charities commission that Saudi officials promised to establish as long ago as 2002 "hasn't started functioning yet," the official said.
        "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," said a U.S. diplomatic cable from December 2009 posted by WikiLeaks, adding that the groups "probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan," major Muslim festivals. (Washington Times)
  • Seattle Rejects Bus Ads Alleging "Israeli War Crimes" - George Tibbits
    The outcry over a proposed bus ad to protest Israeli actions in Gaza prompted King County Executive Dow Constantine on Friday to order the county's transit system not to accept it or any other new noncommercial advertising. Metro Transit officials received hundreds of e-mails and other messages objecting to the ad. Two organizations also sought to buy bus ads to counter it. "Given the dramatic escalation of debate in the past few days over these proposed ads, and the submission of inflammatory response ads, there is now an unacceptable risk of harm to or disruption of service to our customers should these ads run," Constantine said. (AP-Seattle Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Criticizes PA Bid to Take Settlement Construction Issue to UN - Shlomo Shamir and Barak Ravid
    The U.S. responded with criticism to the Palestinian Authority's circulating a draft resolution to the members of the UN Security Council condemning Israeli construction in the settlements. A senior U.S. official told Ha'aretz: "Final status issues can only be resolved through negotiations between the parties, not by recourse to the UN Security Council. We, therefore, consistently oppose any attempt to take final status issues to the council as such efforts do not move us closer to our goal of two states living side by side in peace and security."
        Since President Carter in the 1980s, no U.S. administration has supported a Security Council resolution that stated that the settlements are illegal. The traditional U.S. position has been that the settlements are an obstacle to peace. The Americans have made clear to Israeli diplomats that they oppose the Palestinian circulation of the draft resolution to the members of the Security Council, but they did not state clearly that they would veto it. The Palestinians reportedly intend to call for a meeting of the Security Council to vote on the resolution only in January, when Bosnia and Herzegovina replaces the U.S. as president of the council. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Policy on Israeli Settlements - Dore Gold (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Netanyahu: Israel Ready for Substantive Negotiations, Palestinians Refuse - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel is ready for substantive negotiations and has taken significant steps to launch them, but the Palestinians have simply refused to engage. Israel wants to make progress on the Palestinian track because it wants peace, Netanyahu said, but the idea that this needs to be done to tackle Iran has been proven as a non-starter by the WikiLeaks cables.
        Netanyahu also stressed that any final accord must include an Israeli security presence on the Jordan River to prevent the type of arms smuggling from Jordan into the West Bank that Israel has seen from Sinai into Gaza, or from Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon. He said international forces are not effective in places where there is an attack on the force, or where they have to deal with ongoing hostilities. It is clear, Netanyahu said, that any force designed to prevent the smuggling of arms to terrorists would come under attack by terrorists who wanted to get those arms. Only Israelis, he said, could be counted on to effectively do the job. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: Syria Uncovers Israeli Spy Networks with Egypt's Help
    A security official was arrested and three "spy networks" were found in Syria, allegedly gathering intelligence for the Mossad, UK daily Al-Quds al-Arabi reported on Friday, days after four were arrested in Egypt Monday on suspicion of espionage for Israel. Tarek Abdel-Razek, a Kung Fu coach, reportedly bribed a senior Syrian security official "for a huge sum of money" to give him security-related files. Egypt reportedly shared intelligence with Syria that led to the arrest. (AP-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • A Suggestion to Promote Middle East Peace - Jennifer Rubin
    Andrea Levin, president of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting, offered an addition to the list of suggestions for productive actions that the Obama administration could take in the wake of the breakdown of the Middle East "peace process." "Israel and the U.S. should continually and relentlessly insist on the cessation of anti-Israel/anti-Jewish bigotry pouring out of [Palestinian Authority] media, mosques, public discourse. This has to be stated and re-stated and made central to achieving peace. Because it IS central to achieving peace. Unfortunately, much of the media have no interest in reporting this."
        This is a critically important point. The parties can sit in conference rooms for months or years. The U.S. can give billions to build roads, schools, courtrooms and other governmental facilities in the West Bank. But how does Israel live side by side with a peaceful Palestinian state so long as Palestinians are taught appalling anti-Semitism, the Palestinian Authority honors terrorists, and Holocaust denial is a mainstay of Palestinian discourse? (Washington Post)
  • Christianity Near Extinction in the Ancient Lands of Its Origin - Jeffrey T. Kuhner
    Many Christians across the Middle East are in peril: Muslim fanatics seek to exterminate them. After al-Qaeda gunmen stormed an Assyrian Catholic church in Baghdad during Mass, slaughtering 51 worshippers and two priests, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia issued a bulletin claiming that "all Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for" jihadists. The Assyrians are one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, going back to the time of Christ. Some even speak Aramaic. Nearly two-thirds of the 500,000 Christians in Baghdad have fled or been killed. In Mosul, about 100,000 Christians used to live there. Now, just 5,000 remain.
        In Egypt, Coptic Christians routinely are murdered, persecuted and prevented from worshipping. In Saudi Arabia, Muslim converts to Christianity are executed. In Turkey, Islamists have butchered priests and nuns. In Lebanon, Christians have dwindled, menaced by surging Shiite and Sunni populations.
        If Muslims - funded and supported by Saudi Arabia - can build mosques and madrassas in Europe and America, then Christians should be entitled to build churches in the Arab world. Clearly, some Muslims cannot live in peaceful coexistence with non-Muslim peoples - especially in countries where Muslims form the majority. Christian minorities living in the overwhelmingly Muslim-dominated Middle East pose no possible danger to Islamic hegemony. Hence, why the hatred against them? (Washington Times)
  • Russia Takes a New Look at the Peace Process - Zvi Magen
    Russia has recently taken a renewed interest in the Middle East peace process. Its self-confidence is returning, and it apparently assesses that the international standing of the U.S. is weakening and the current peace process has reached a dead end. The Russians thus propose to revive the idea of the multilateral channel, since the present current bilateral track has lost its effectiveness.
        To the Russians, the idea of the Quartet is a reasonable international channel. However, it must be upgraded to include additional players such as China and India (the possibility of adding representatives from the Middle East has also been raised). It is also critical to the Russians that the Quartet's current envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair, be replaced with a Russian envoy. Russia is convinced that it would be able to act more energetically in the Israeli sector because of its positive relations and its improving image as a fair broker, even though it has no real leverage. The writer is a research fellow at the INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The Arabs vs. Iran: What They Really Think - Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi
    One of the major points raised about the recent leak of U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks is the apparent hostility Gulf Arab leaders display towards Iran in private. However, viewing the present Middle East as a cold war between an Arab front and Iran is simplistic. It is more accurate to note that the current cold war is between what Daniel Pipes terms a "revolutionary bloc," led primarily by Turkey, Syria and Iran, and a "status-quo" bloc, headed by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, it could well be that the Arab leaders cited in the cables are simply telling American diplomats what they think U.S. policymakers want to hear.
        As Dalia Dassa Kaye of the RAND Corporation puts it, "Arab leaders are still resentful of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its overturning of the regional balance of power in ways that have strengthened Iranian influence. Despite considerable U.S. arms sales and missile defense cooperation with allies in the region in recent years, American credibility is in decline, and popular views of the United States are overwhelmingly negative, most alarmingly in states that are key U.S. partners, such as Egypt and Jordan." Likewise, popular anti-Israel sentiment among the populations prevents the prospect of overt cooperation with Israel against Iran. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • Hamas' Charmless PR Offensive - Editorial
    Hamas recently launched what the AP described as a "charm offensive" in Gaza, which it controls, to celebrate the anniversary of its founding. But all this PR is unlikely to change a fundamental fact about Hamas: It has never been a particularly popular movement among Palestinians. Three and a half years after Hamas won sole control over Gaza, ousting Fatah following the dissolution of the newly elected Hamas-Fatah unity government, the citizens there don't seem particularly thrilled about Hamas' imposition of conservative Islamic stances on social issues, its repression of its political enemies, or the extent to which it has hampered the chances of a peace deal with its militant anti-Israel rhetoric. (Boston Globe)

    Weekend Features

  • Israel's Emerging Energy Sector - David Wurmser and Jonathan M. Baron
    Wedged between Cyprus and the shoreline from Syria to Sinai, the Levant Basin encompasses approximately 32,000 square miles. The first noteworthy hydrocarbon discovery in the area was made in March 2000 offshore Israel west of the city of Ashkelon. This find, which ultimately was determined to contain about 1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, encouraged additional exploration.
        In January 2009, a major natural gas discovery was confirmed at the Tamar field within 60 miles of the northern coast of Israel. Beneath approximately 5,500 feet of ocean and another 10,500 feet of sand and rock, Tamar holds a resource now estimated at 8.4 Tcf, which represents the world's largest natural gas discovery in 2009. Even at significantly greater consumption rates, the field should supply all of Israel's domestic natural gas demand for at least 20 years.
        Tamar, however, may be only the beginning. At this moment, drilling is underway to explore the Leviathan field, estimated to have a 50% probability of holding nearly double Tamar, with the results expected by the end of the month. The total, lifetime financial value of Leviathan could exceed the entire current annual budget of the State of Israel. Moreover, Leviathan is only one of many prospects currently being pursued across the Levant Basin, and the majority of those opportunities are within the equivalent of Israel’s exclusive economic zone.
        An assessment of the Levant Basin published by the U.S. Geological Survey earlier this year estimated a total mean volume of 122 Tcf of undiscovered, technically recoverable gas resources. If exploration at Leviathan is successful, resulting development would make Israel a natural gas exporter, as China and India are experiencing explosive growth and clamoring for energy resources. (Energy Policy Information Center)
  • The Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel - Karen Rosenberg
    In 1996 construction workers widening a highway in the Israeli town of Lod stumbled on a major archaeological discovery: a Roman mosaic floor, dating from about C.E. 300. Once part of a grand private residence, it's now installed (temporarily) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
        In a short video produced by the museum, you can see workers lifting the mosaic from the ground. You can also catch glimpses of the other portions of the mosaic (which measures about 50 by 27 feet in all) and of the footprints left by the Roman workmen who laid the tile. (New York Times)
        View the Video (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
  • A British Deserter Who Joined the Jews in the 1948 War - Dalia Karpel
    On April 13, 1948, British Army Sgt. John Patrick Cooper sensed that an attack by the Arabs in Jerusalem was imminent. He saw the Jewish convoy ascend the road toward Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus and noticed that, in contrast to past occurrences, there were no British armored vehicles escorting the convoy. When Cooper asked what was going on, his superior officer threatened to court-martial him.
        The convoy was attacked as it made its way through Sheikh Jarrah. 78 men and women, most of them from the faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and from Hadassah Hospital, were killed. As historian Benny Morris wrote in his book 1948, the English "were there, didn't lift a finger and prevented others from helping." That evening, Cooper deserted his unit in order to fight "on the side of the Jews." "I cannot serve in an army that allows atrocities like that," he told Yohanan Piltz, the IDF officer who received Cooper into his unit. (Ha'aretz)

The Facts of Israeli Peace Efforts - Eric Rozenman (Baltimore Sun)

  • The writer of an anti-Israel letter ("U.S. should cut Israel off," Dec. 17) erroneously charges:
  • "Israel doesn't want a peace settlement with the Palestinians, today or ever."
        In that case, why did Israel propose a West Bank and Gaza Strip state, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, to Palestinian leadership in 2008, 2001 and 2000 - only to be rejected, with no counter-offer each time, and with violence on the earlier two occasions?
  • "All Israel wants to do is continue stealing Palestinian land and water in the West Bank and East Jerusalem."
        If so, why have water sources and per capita usage among Arabs in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem increased under Israeli development? Why has Israeli settlement construction taken less than 5% of the West Bank, virtually all of it state land under the Ottomans, British and Jordanians as well as the Israelis, and designated by the League of Nations, upheld by the UN for "close Jewish settlement"? Should Arabs be able to live in western Jerusalem, as some do, but not Jews in the eastern part of the city?
  • Israel maintains a "strangulation blockade of the Gaza Strip, referred to as the world's largest prison."
        If so, why are plentiful consumer goods smuggled back to Egypt, where they fetch higher prices? Why have new beach clubs and shopping malls opened, and how do hundreds of truckloads of humanitarian goods, including food and medicine, enter regularly?

    The writer is Washington Director of CAMERA - Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
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