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December 31, 2010

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Report: Israel, U.S., UK Cooperating to Sabotage Iran Nukes (Jerusalem Post)
    U.S. and UK intelligence services are cooperating with Israel to sabotage Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for Israel agreeing not to launch a military strike on Iran, the French weekly Le Canard enchaine reported on Thursday, quoting French intelligence sources.
    Acts of sabotage carried out in the past year in Iran were conducted by Israel with the help of the CIA and MI6, the sources said.
    The sabotage included the introduction of the Stuxnet virus into 30,000 computers in Iran's nuclear reactors, explosions in October in which 18 Iranian technicians were killed at a factory in the Zagros mountains that manufactured Shihab missiles, and the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists.

Former President Katsav Convicted of Rape - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
    Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav's conviction for rape, sexual assault and harassment truly is "a sad day for Israel," as Prime Minister Netanyahu noted Thursday.
    It is tangible proof that equality before the law is protected in Israel, regardless of one's connections. This is a testimony to the strength of Israeli democracy.

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Israelis Flock to Egypt for Jewish Festival amid Protests - Mustafa Suleiman (Al-Arabiya-Dubai)
    The announcement of the arrival of 550 Jewish pilgrims from Israel, Europe, and the U.S. to Cairo to commemorate Rabbi Abuhasira, a Moroccan Jew who died in the village of Damatiuh, outside the Nile Delta city of Damanhour, stirred fury of village residents, civil organizations, and political parties.
    The Muslim Brotherhood, the You Will Not Cross My Land campaign, and the opposition parties of al-Ghad and al-Karama announced plans to protest on Jan. 6 in front of the Damanhour Courts Complex against holding the festival.
    Residents of the governorate of al-Behira, in which the village in located, collected one million signatures and filed several lawsuits against the event, and the Supreme Administrative Court issued a verdict in 2001 that cancelled the celebration and annulled the decision of Culture Minister Farouk Hosni to consider the Abuhasira shrine a national heritage site.
    Dr. Emad Gad, head of the Israeli Studies Division at al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, said, "If the event is banned, the Jewish lobby in the United States will launch a severe campaign against Egypt, and the United States might accuse Egypt of religious intolerance."
    The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel stipulates freedom of movement between the two countries and that is why it is impossible to prevent Israelis from entering Egypt, said Judge Mohamed al-Bayoumi.

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Israelis Pay High Gasoline Tax - Amir Ben-David (Ynet News)
    Gasoline prices in Israel are about $1.98 (NIS 7.10) for a liter of 95 octane fuel, among the highest in the world. One of the reasons is the high excise and VAT taxes on fuel which amount to 56%.
    Countries such as Germany, Finland, France, Britain and Holland pay taxes of up to 68% of the price, while the excise tax in the U.S. is 15%.

2010 a Record Year for Tourism - Ziv Reinstein (Ynet News)
    The Tourism Ministry announced on Monday that since January, 3.45 million tourists visited Israel.
    Surveys carried out by the ministry among visiting tourists included a poll rating visitor satisfaction from one to five. Among the services receiving the highest marks were archeological sites (4.6), tour guides (4.4), airports and even security checks (4.3).
    Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov envisions that in 2011 the ministry will set aside resources for marketing Israel in Christian communities in India (close to 150 million), Poland and South Korea.
    66% of tourists stated that the purpose of their trip was a pilgrimage, recreational or an excursion. "They come because of religion but stay because of other reasons: Bird watching, wine, bike tours and other attractions," the minister said.
    In 2010, 19% of the tourists came from the U.S., 15% from Russia, and 9% from France, while Britain and Germany each sent 5% of the total.
    69% of the tourists are Christians, while 23% are Jews. Over 50% were visiting Israel for the first time.

Jerusalem's Western Wall Gets an iPhone App (AP)
    The Western Wall Heritage Foundation in Jerusalem has launched an iPhone application that streams live from the site of the biblical Jewish Temple around the clock - except on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays when such transmissions are forbidden by Jewish law.
    The application allows users to send e-mails to be placed in the crevices of the wall, and includes a compass that allows users to pray in the direction of Jerusalem.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • WikiLeaks: Egypt Still Sees Israel as Main Enemy
    Egypt's military, the biggest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel, is in decline, according to U.S. diplomatic memos leaked this month. The U.S. has been pressing Egypt to focus its military toward terrorism, halting cross-border smuggling and helping out in regional crises. To the dismay of the Americans, the Egyptian military continues to see Israel as its primary adversary 31 years after the two neighbors signed a peace treaty.
        "The United States has sought to interest the Egyptian military into expanding their mission in ways that reflect new regional and transnational security threats, such as piracy, border security, and counterterrorism," said a memo dated Dec. 21, 2008. "But the aging leadership, however, has resisted our efforts and remained satisfied with continuing to do what they have done for years: train for force-on-force warfare with a premium on ground forces and armor."
        Egyptian military officials don't welcome pressure by the Americans to change the doctrine of their armed forces. Hossam Sweilam, a retired Egyptian army general, said, "The U.S. should not impose on us reformulating our military the way it wants, which we think is ultimately what suits Israel and we don't want to do what suits Israel."  (AP)
  • After UN Votes for Durban III, Battle Lines Are Drawn - Marcy Oster
    When the original UN anti-racism conference, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, devolved into an anti-Israel hate fest, Jewish groups around the world were caught unawares. So when the Durban Review Conference was called for Geneva in 2009, Jewish activists started their fight early, convincing numerous countries to boycott the conference, dubbed Durban II, effectively blocking it from becoming a repeat of Durban I. Now, with last week's UN vote to authorize Durban III - a UN General Assembly session planned for September 2011 to commemorate the original Durban conference - the battle lines again are being drawn.
        The vote was 104-22 in favor of the special General Assembly session; 33 countries abstained. Voting against the Durban III session were Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Macedonia, the UK and the U.S. Among the countries abstaining were Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and Spain.
        "The vote of the UN General Assembly, while not unexpected, sets the stage for a celebration of the outrageous events that took place during Durban I, which were permeated by manifestations of bigotry and hatred," said a statement from the leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Canada announced in November that it would boycott the Durban III session. The American ambassador to the UN, Susan E. Rice, said in a statement: "We voted 'no' because the Durban Declaration process has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we do not want to see that commemorated."  (JTA)
  • Cyprus: Turkey Has No Right to Talk about International Law - Stefanos Evripidou
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently declared the Cyprus-Israel maritime agreement as null and void. In response, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said: "According to international law, the presence of the Turkish army in Cyprus is void and illegal therefore; neither the UN Charter nor international law can justify the level of Mr. Davutoglu's cynicism and arrogance."  (Cyprus Mail)
        See also Israel Must Actively Counter Islamic Turkish Regime - Guy Bechor
    Israel can offer to serve as mediator between the Greek administration in Cyprus and the puppet regime set up on the island by the Turks. After all, isn't that occupation? Turkey should end its own occupation before concerning itself with other cases of occupation. Israel can also volunteer to mediate between the Turks and the Kurds who are being massacred by Ankara.
        Erdogan came to power because the immense secular majority in Turkey was fed up with the corruption of secular parties, and not necessarily because it endorsed most of Erdogan's positions. It is now important to make it clear to this majority that the Islamic regime is causing harm. (Ynet News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Palestinians Evading Negotiations with Israel - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Thursday that the Palestinians are responsible for the deadlock in peace talks, that they have been evading negotiations while Israel is striving for peace. The Israeli government "is striving to achieve peace. This is our target and objective - to reach an agreement in negotiations with the Palestinians," Netanyahu said. "Unfortunately, the Palestinians have thus far been evading negotiations."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Netanyahu: Conflict Continues Due to Refusal to Accept Israel - Herb Keinon
    The root of the Israeli-Arab conflict is not Israel's presence in the settlements, but rather its presence in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu said Thursday. "This conflict continues because there is a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and bring an end to the conflict." Peace will require the Palestinians to "give up their right of return, because it is impossible to have a Jewish state and in parallel to flood it with Palestinian refugees."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Smuggled Hundreds of Rockets to Gaza in 2010 - Yaakov Katz
    Iran smuggled into Gaza about 1,000 mortar shells, hundreds of short-range rockets, and a few dozen advanced anti-tank missiles over the past year, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) revealed on Thursday. The agency said Iran continued to serve as Hamas' main supplier of weaponry throughout the past year using smuggling routes in Sudan and the Sinai Peninsula. Iran was also instrumental in funding the training of Hamas operatives in Lebanon and Syria.
        The agency warned that Hamas was making efforts to reestablish its military infrastructure in the West Bank with an emphasis on the Hebron area. The agency also warned that Sinai was turning into the “backyard” for Hamas operations as well as for storage of weaponry that can later be smuggled into Gaza and used against Israel. While the weaponry is in Sinai it is not vulnerable to Israeli attacks. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also 2010: Lowest Number of Terror Attacks in a Decade - Hanan Greenberg
    2010 saw the lowest number of terror attacks and terror victims in a decade, the Israel Security Agency reported. 9 civilians and soldiers were killed in 798 terror-related incidents in Israel and the territories, compared with 15 deaths in 1,354 incidents in 2009. 16 shooting incidents killed 5 Israelis in the West Bank in 2010. (Ynet News)
  • Is Settlement Growth Booming? - Tovah Lazaroff
    Settlements are communities located in the West Bank that were created between 1967 and 1999 by the Israeli government, in most cases through a cabinet decision. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, as of June 2010, 303,900 people lived in 122 West Bank settlements. Only five were built between 1990 and 1999 when Negahot was approved. All new legal settlement building involves construction within the boundaries of an existing settlement.
        Construction is going on in fewer than half the settlements. It occurs on a large scale in only a small number. Since Prime Minister Netanyahu took office in March 2008, he has approved no public tenders and has given the go ahead to only 500 new units of private construction. As a result, 14 of the 19 largest settlements are out of permits, including Betar Illit (pop. 35,000) and Ma'aleh Adumim (34,300). (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Media Issues

  • Israel Is Not Expanding Settlement Areas - Eric Rozenman
    The Baltimore Sun's editorial, "Peace is remote in the Mideast" (Dec. 28), states, among other things: "Israel is continuing to expand settlements at a rate that will soon render the whole issue moot because eventually there won't be enough land left to create a viable Palestinian state." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the end of the freeze on construction in existing settlements does not mean an expansion of the area encompassed by those communities. New building is overwhelmingly what contractors here call "in-fill," construction on unused land or additions to existing structures inside current neighborhoods or subdivisions. Mark Regev, the prime minister's spokesman, said last week that construction under way now "will not in any way change the final map of peace."
        After more than 40 years of building, Jewish villages and towns comprise less than 5% of the West Bank. The 95%-plus of West Bank "land left to create a viable Palestinian state" will not change appreciably. The issue is not rendered moot by new construction in existing Jewish settlements, and can be taken up again any moment Palestinian leaders choose to, in indirect or direct negotiations with Israel. The writer is Washington director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). (Baltimore Sun)
  • Another NPR Hit Piece on Israel - Ira Stoll
    National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" on the NPR website Thursday included the lead story: "In Israel, No Welcome Mat for African Migrants," accusing Israel of being inhospitable to refugees. There's no mention of Israel's welcoming 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union or tens of thousands of Jews from Ethiopia, which, last I checked, was in Africa. Nor is there any mention of whether any other countries are laying out welcome mats for refugees. It seems likely that the NPR piece is afflicted by a certain confusion between a "refugee" and an "illegal immigrant." One could argue that holding Israel to a higher standard of behavior represents a certain sort of philo-Semitism, but from National Public Radio I'd settle for mere accuracy. (Commentary)
  • Israeli Forest Fire Singes Washington Post Feature
    A Dec. 27 Washington Post feature by Joel Greenberg on Israel's worst forest fire says, apropos of nothing, that "Jewish National Fund forests, some planted over the ruins of Palestinian villages emptied during Israel's war of independence, became popular picnic and recreation areas." In "Storm Socks East Coast" in the same edition, the Post did not write "flights were grounded at airports from the Carolinas to Boston, land largely emptied of its native American Indian population even before the U.S. War of Independence." The latter would be read instantly as irrelevant editorializing in a news story. What accounts for the former?
        As for "Palestinian villages," early in the 20th century the term "Palestinian" applied usually to the Jews of that part of the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, it typically meant a Jewish inhabitant of British Mandatory Palestine. Arabs often shunned it as a synonym for Zionist, sometimes describing themselves as residents of greater Syria. And what portion - probably quite small - of JNF forests were planted over war-ruined Arab villages? How many of those villages were relatively new, built by Arabs attracted by Jewish economic development? Most of all, would any of them have been destroyed had not the Arabs rejected the UN's 1947 partition plan and started a war they lost? (CAMERA)

  • Other Issues

  • Fictionalizing Facts on Pollard - Kenneth Lasson, Angelo Codevilla, Lawrence Korb and John Loftus
    It is now acknowledged by intelligence professionals that the vague, secret charges initially leveled against Pollard for somehow causing the then-unexplained loss of U.S. agents working in the Soviet Union were for crimes committed by two others. In fact, he kept his part of a plea bargain with federal prosecutors under which he agreed to cooperate fully with its investigation in return for a less-than-maximum sentence. By all indications the government did not.
        The government's own Victim Impact Statement portrays, at worst, short-term friction between the U.S. and unnamed Arab countries, and a temporary reduction in bargaining leverage by the U.S. over Israel. There is no charge that Pollard ever passed information to a third country. In fact, no permanent, overwhelming damage to U.S. national security is even alleged, much less proven. The U.S. security establishment was outraged when Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, after which it cut the Israelis off from the normal interchange of intelligence. Pollard wrongly took it upon himself to remedy that failure.
        Last month, Jonathan Pollard completed his 25th year behind bars. In this season of good will, let us hope that President Obama has the courage and character to set him free. Kenneth Lasson is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore. Angelo Codevilla served as a senior staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee (1978-85). Lawrence Korb was Assistant Secretary of Defense (1981-85). John Loftus is a former U.S. prosecutor and Army intelligence officer. (Arizona Republic)
  • Palestinians Paying the Price for Aversion to Peaceful Coexistence - Editorial
    Ten years ago, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton tried to coax an agreement from then-Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. But Clinton's efforts foundered on Arafat's hard-core unwillingness to commit to a non-violent end to the conflict. Seven years earlier, Clinton and so many hopeful, wishful thinkers dared to dream that the Oslo accords were a true harbinger of peace. But the dreamers were forced to take shelter from the Palestinian rejectionists' unremitting campaign of violence and terrorism directed at the Jewish state.
        Despite Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the subsequent negotiating generosity of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the Palestinians have consistently refused to declare finally and for all time an end to the conflict. Nor does it seem they will be willing to do so any time soon.
        To be sure, the current Israeli government is philosophically and politically committed to striking a harder bargain with the PA than its predecessor was. But that is the price the Palestinians are paying for the cumulative effect of their long-drawn aversion to peaceful coexistence alongside a Jewish state. (Canadian Jewish News)

  • Weekend Features

  • Reich Bureaucrats Seen in a New Light - Judy Dempsey
    Coming to light now - and causing a major debate in Germany over the past few weeks - is the active involvement by Nazi Germany's civil servants in the annihilation of Jews. In 2005, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer commissioned a study of the ministry's past. The result, a thick tome called The Ministry and the Past, was published this autumn. It became a best seller, shocking a public used to looking up at its diplomats as gentlemen who would never dirty their hands. Eckart Conze, head of the commission of historians who wrote the study, described the Foreign Ministry under Hitler as a "criminal organization."
        The decision by the Foreign Ministry to break its silence led to much soul-searching in other official bodies in Germany, among them the Finance Ministry. It seemed the Finance Ministry was a highly efficient organization for collecting money, particularly targeting Jews, in order to help underwrite the Wehrmacht (German army). "The Reich's Finance Ministry literally plundered the assets of the Jews," said former Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck. "It was systematic." "The Jews were stripped of savings, assets, anything with a financial or material value." The head of the investigating commission, Professor Hans-Peter Ullmann of Cologne University, estimated that up to 30% of the Wehrmacht was at one stage financed by confiscated Jewish assets. (New York Times)
  • Holocaust Art Endures at Israel's Yad Vashem Museum - Edmund Sanders
    Yad Vashem's art museum offers an unexpected glimpse into how a group of persecuted artists managed to secretly produce a body of work that was often quiet, understated and beautiful. Yehudit Shendar, senior art curator of Yad Vashem's 10,000-piece collection, adds about 300 pieces a year, mostly donated from survivors' families or uncovered during accidental finds in attics. One Nazi commander in Ukraine ordered Jewish artist Bruno Schulz to paint his children's playroom with images from fairy tales. In an act of secret subversion, Schulz painted his own family members' faces as some of Snow White's dwarfs and himself as one of Cinderella's horsemen. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Selling the Talmud as a Business Guide in China - Isaac Stone Fish
    A surprising trend in publishing over the last few years in China involves books purporting to reveal the business secrets of the Talmud, that capitalize on the widespread impression among Chinese that attributes of Judaism lead to success in the financial arts. Titles include Crack the Talmud: 101 Jewish Business Rules, The Illustrated Jewish Wisdom Book, and Know All of the Money-Making Stories of the Talmud. There's even a Talmud hotel in Taiwan - that features a copy of the book Talmud Business Success Bible in every room.
        While the Talmud mentions contract law, zoning, and problems involved with charging interest, it's not a get-rich-quick guide, says Rabbi Eliezer Diamond, associate professor of Talmud and rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. "There aren't too many people in the Jewish Theological Seminary pulling in the big bucks."  (Newsweek)

Israeli Gas Find Portends Security But Not Exports - Tova Cohen (Reuters-Washington Post)

  • Israel can look forward to long-term energy security after the discovery of a huge offshore natural gas field, but obstacles lie in exporting its output, experts said Thursday.
  • "It's not a great time for Israel to enter a lot of the markets," said Brenda Shaffer, an energy expert at the University of Haifa. "European consumption is going down, new suppliers are coming on. I'm not sure there's a buyer waiting by the door at this point." Shaffer noted that larger amounts have been discovered onshore, where it is also cheaper to produce than in deep water.
  • Israel, Shaffer said, needs to develop technologies to expand the use of natural gas beyond generating electricity and into transportation and chemicals.
  • The gas at the Leviathan prospect, 80 miles from Haifa, will give Israel, which has always been dependent on imports, long-term energy security. Amir Kahanovich, a macroeconomist at the brokerage Clal Finance, estimated that the gas at the site could be worth $95 billion.
    See also Israel Needs to Find Gas Export Markets, Central Bank Chief Says - Alisa Odenheimer and Calev Ben-David (Bloomberg)
  • Israel will have to find export markets for natural gas after Wednesday's announcement of a major field off the country's Mediterranean coast, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said Thursday. "We don't have a domestic market for the Leviathan gas, at least not at the moment, so we will have to export it, and this requires a large investment in infrastructure....The State of Israel will have to solve the problem of where we will find markets for the gas."
  • Leviathan is almost double the size of the Tamar field, discovered in 2009, which by itself is sufficient to fulfill Israel's estimated domestic gas needs for the next two decades.
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