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March 4, 2011

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Egyptian Company Won't Restore Natural Gas to Israel (JTA)
    An Egyptian company will not resume delivering natural gas to Israel as expected, one month after its pipeline was sabotaged.
    The East Mediterranean Gas consortium, which supplies 45% of the gas needed to produce Israel's electricity, has missed four promised deadlines to reinstate the gas supply since the pipeline was damaged in a terrorist explosion Feb. 5.
    The Israel Electric Company requested permission from Israel's Environmental Protection Ministry to use diesel and fuel oil to run power plants.

Too Late, Gaddafi Seeks the Aid of Muslim Clerics - Emad Mekay (New York Times)
    Libya's embattled leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, who crushed his country's Islamic movement during his 41-year rule, turned in the past week to Saudi Islamic scholars in a bid for religious backing.
    Sheik Ayed al-Qarni, a prominent Saudi cleric, told Al Arabiya on Sunday that he had refused an appeal in a phone call from Gaddafi's son Saadi to issue a fatwa, or religious edict, banning demonstrations against his father's rule. Instead, the cleric issued a fatwa against Gaddafi.
    Mainstream Islamic Web sites mocked the attempts by Gaddafi's sons to drum up religious support. At one point he sought to market his Green Book, in which he spells out his philosophy, as an alternative to the Koran.

Looted Libyan Arms May Find Way to Terrorists - C. J. Chivers (New York Times)
    Security analysts say the armed uprising in Libya poses a long-term security threat - that weapons looted from government stockpiles could circulate widely, including heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles that could be used against civilian airliners.
    Photographs and video from the uprising show civilians carrying a full array of what were once the Libyan military's weapons - like the SA-7 shoulder-fired missile and several types of anti-tank missiles.
    Once these weapons slip from state custody, they can be sold through black markets, swiftly and quietly, to other countries and groups.

Russia Could Lose $4 Billion in Libya Arms Deals (AFP)
    Russia could lose almost $4 billion in arms export contracts to Libya after Moscow joined other world powers in an arms embargo on Gaddafi's regime.
    The Interfax news agency on Sunday quoted a military source as saying, "Among the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, Libya is one of the main buyers of Russian weapons."
    "As of today, contracts for military hardware of around $2 billion had been agreed with Libya. Work on contracts for aviation equipment and air defense was also in the final stage. These were valued at $1.8 billion," the source said.

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Queen Rania of Jordan Sparks Controversy - Frasr Nelson (Spectator-UK)
    Queen Rania of Jordan was born and brought up in Kuwait; her father, a Palestinian doctor. Her husband, now King Abdullah II, was not even Crown Prince when they married.
    Rania had worked in marketing for Citibank and Apple and spoke perfect English. When she became queen she threw herself into selling Jordan to the West.
    Last September when Rania held a lavish 40th birthday party in Wadi Rum, 600 guests were flown in from all over the world. Two giant figure "40s" were beamed on to mountainous outcrops - although the neighboring villages don't even have electricity.
    Locals still speak of the water used to dampen down the sand so that the guests could walk more easily, though there were desperate water shortages nearby.
    Jordanians claim that Rania has a hand in appointing ministers and local politicians. People point to friends and associates who have won top jobs, often at a surprisingly young age.

China, Israel Pledge to Enhance Economic Cooperation (People's Daily-China)
    Israeli President Shimon Peres and visiting Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming met Wednesday in Israel and pledged to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries.
    Sino-Israeli trade volume reached $7.65 billion in 2010, nearly 150 times that of 1992, when the two countries established diplomatic relations.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Administration Prepares for Possibility of New Post-Revolt Islamist Regimes - Scott Wilson
    The Obama administration is preparing for the prospect that Islamist governments will take hold in North Africa and the Middle East. An internal assessment, ordered by the White House last month, identified large ideological differences between various movements in the region that promote Islamic law in government. "It's the behavior of political parties and governments that we will judge them on, not their relationship with Islam," said a senior administration official. None of the revolutions over the past several weeks has been overtly Islamist, but there are signs that the uprisings could give way to more religious forces.
        Jonathan Peled, spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said Israel fears that "anti-democratic extremist forces could take advantage of a democratic system," as, he said, Hamas did with its 2006 victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections. "We live in the neighborhood, obviously, and so we experience the results more closely," Peled said.
        In a speech Monday in Geneva, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implicitly invited Islamist parties to participate in the region's future elections with conditions. "Political participation," Clinton said, "must be open to all people across the spectrum who reject violence, uphold equality and agree to play by the rules of democracy."  (Washington Post)
  • Israel Sees No Palestinian Peace Deal Possible Now - Amy Teibel
    Israel has concluded that a final peace deal with the Palestinians cannot be reached at this time and is weighing alternatives to try to prove that it is interested in keeping peacemaking with the Palestinians alive, officials said Thursday. Israeli officials are meeting with international mediators, including U.S. envoy Dennis Ross and representatives of the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers.
        "The consistent refusal of the Palestinian leadership to negotiate with Israel has made a negotiated agreement all but impossible to achieve, at least for the time being," one government official said. "And so we're looking at an Israeli initiative, and steps that we can take that would be a phased approach to a final status agreement."
        U.S.-led peace talks, launched six months ago with the ambitious goal of striking a final deal by September 2011, broke down shortly after they began when the Palestinians demanded a freeze in Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel refused to yield to that demand, insisting that previous rounds of talks took place while settlement construction was under way, such a precondition was unprecedented, and the issue should be settled in negotiations. (AP-Washington Post)
  • The Radical Islamist Roots of the Frankfurt Attack - Matthias Bartsch, Matthias Gebauer and Yassin Musharbash
    Arid U., who admitted on Thursday to having carried out the Wednesday shooting of two U.S. airmen at the Frankfurt airport, appears to have had extensive contact with radical Islamists via his Facebook page. "He seems to have belonged to an unstructured militant-Salafist environment," said a source familiar with the investigation. Arid U., who is originally from predominantly Muslim Kosovo, bought the weapon used in the attack months ago. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Another Iranian Diplomat Defects
    Ahmed Maleki, who was vice consul of Iran's consulate in Milan before fleeing to Paris with his family last month, is the latest in a string of officials to defect from the Islamic state. He said in an interview Tuesday that Iranians had been inspired by images of popular revolt in North Africa but faced a regime far more brutal than those of Egypt, Tunisia or even Libya. "They are willing to...resort to whatever measure, including slaughter and bloodshed to the extreme, in order to retain power."  (Reuters)
  • Offshore Natural Gas to Arrive in Israel by 2013
    Israeli conglomerate Delek Group's controlling shareholder said natural gas from the Tamar field would arrive in Israel by 2013. "We will supply all the needs of the country," Yitzhak Tshuva told an energy conference on Wednesday. Israel has discovered two fields in the eastern Mediterranean that could provide the country with its natural gas needs for decades. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA Refuses to Consider State with Interim Borders - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday reiterated its opposition to any interim agreement with Israel that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders. The PA's announcement came in response to reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu was considering a long-term interim peace deal with the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
  • British Prime Minister Cameron: Israel Has a Right to Search Vessels Heading to Gaza - Jonny Paul
    British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday reaffirmed his commitment to Israel. He told the Jewish community's Community Security Trust: "When rockets are being launched at Israeli citizens, and when children are in danger, Israel is within its rights to protect its people." "When over 100 rockets are fired into Israel from Gaza in one year, Israel is within its rights to search vessels bringing cargo into Gaza."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah Officials Demand Abbas Fire Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah political faction has demanded that he sack Western-backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, according to a letter signed by senior Fatah officials sent to Abbas on Saturday. (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Banks Close in Protest of Hamas Cash Seizure
    Banks in Gaza closed on Thursday in protest against Hamas' seizure of $250,000 in cash in a dispute with the PA. A banking official said Hamas police went to the Palestine Investment Bank on Wednesday and demanded the money from the account of the PA-backed Palestine Investment Fund. "[Hamas police] said unless they were given the money, they would take it by force," the official said. A West Bank official for the Palestinian Monetary Authority said the Hamas police had committed "armed robbery."  (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Armor Protection Company to Help Fight Crime in Mexico - Navit Zomer
    The Plasan armor protection company, owned by Kibbutz Sasa, has won a $35 million contract to supply 250 Sand Cat 2 armored vehicles to the Mexican ministry of defense to fight organized crime in urban areas. Plasan has fortified some 20,000 U.S. Army vehicles in Afghanistan and Iraq in the past four years. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Changing the Middle East Status Quo - Kenneth M. Pollack
    The people of the Muslim Middle East saw the preservation of the status quo as condemning them to eternal misery. This, more than anything else, is why so many Arabs admired Hassan Nasrallah, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and even Osama bin Laden. They at least seemed to be fighting for change, for an overturning of the status quo. And although most Arabs did not like what they stood for, they loved what they stood against - the traditional order that oppressed them. Because the U.S. supported the traditional order for geopolitical reasons, this also put us on the wrong side of public opinion. The writer is director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. (National Interest)
  • As Arab Strongmen Exit, Will Democracy Really Take Root? - Walter Rodgers
    Something in the new political calculus of the new Middle East does not seem to compute. The overthrow of several "strongmen" does not miraculously nor instantly transmogrify an autocracy into a democracy. The emergence of another authoritarian figure or combination of figures seems to be a more likely outcome of the street revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya than genuine democratic governance. Arabs traditionally disdain political weakness. Some vital components of democracy, such as compromise, dissent, and tolerance, can be too easily mistaken for impotence in that part of the world. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • At the UN Human Rights Council, the Inmates Are Running the Asylum - Daniel Ayalon
    The United Nations, which began its life with a plurality of democratic nations, now allows for an automatic majority of nondemocratic nations. The international system dictates that Arab and Islamic nations, and their knee-jerk defenders, have a majority in almost all of its bodies. This is amply demonstrated by the disproportionate amount of time spent condemning Israel.
        If there were ever an example of the inmates running the asylum, it is the UN Human Rights Council. This body has whitewashed the human rights record of some of the world's most repressive regimes, while also providing them with a forum to condemn the actions of a free and open nation, Israel. The Libyan regime, which is currently massacring its citizens, successfully sought a place on the Human Rights Council only last year with the support of 155 states in a secret ballot. The council recently released a lengthy report partly praising Libya's human rights record, and commending the Libyan regime for "the importance that the country attached to human rights." The writer is Israel's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Foreign Policy)
  • Israel Focus a Distortion of Real Concerns - Colin Rubenstein
    Gazans - frequently typecast as the greatest victims of Israeli "oppression" - have a lower infant mortality rate than Libyans, a higher life expectancy and standard of living than Egyptians and higher literacy levels than Bahrain. The authoritarian governments in these three - and other - Arab countries ensure their tightly-controlled media not only blame Israel for all their problems, but also fabricate lies about the Palestinian situation.
        The UN routinely ignores Arab dictators killing their own or other subjects, and instead focuses on Israel. Resolution after resolution in all the UN bodies condemn the slightest perceived Israeli transgression. Meanwhile, Arab dictatorships trampling on human, religious, sexual and women's rights is a non-issue.
        As long as Palestinians receive one-sided international gestures - such as the recent Security Council resolution - without first needing to make moves toward peace, they will feel disinclined to return to the negotiating table, much less begin preparing their people for the concessions every sensible analyst and many Palestinian negotiators privately concede are needed for a lasting peace deal.
        The international community promised Israel support if it undertook required security risks during the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But Palestinian terrorism actually increased steadily after the signing of the agreement and on through the next decade. Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert made serious offers of Palestinian statehood. Yet UN condemnations of Israel only increased, focusing on the only Middle Eastern country that actually guarantees human rights for all its citizens. The writer is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. (ABC-Australia)
  • Oppose Tehran's Human-Rights Abuses Just Like Gaddafi's - Emanuele Ottolenghi
    Western democracies have been quick to condemn Libya's Gaddafi, and have passed a number of measures against him and his regime since Tripoli's crackdown began. By contrast, there appears no urgency in the West to adopt human-rights sanctions against Tehran. Like Libya, Iran is a place where dissent has been put down, with varying degrees of brutality, for decades.
        There, torture is rife and the family members of dissidents are intimidated, kidnapped and sometimes raped; hundreds of political prisoners, minorities, homosexuals and women die at the hangman's hands every year, following hasty trials held in utter disregard for the most elementary rules of fairness and justice; and cruelty is dispensed regularly for the sole purpose of instilling fear in the population. Western leaders should show they're not indifferent to the Iranian people's suffering by hitting Tehran with similar measures to the ones they're imposing on Gaddafi. The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Israelis Have Good Reason to Be Fearful of Regional Change - Evelyn Gordon
    Over the past two decades, Israelis have lived through numerous regional changes, each of which, we were confidently assured, would benefit us greatly. We were told that the 1993 Oslo Accords would bring us peace and international legitimacy. Instead, the first four years of the Second Intifada alone produced more Israeli victims of terror than the entire preceding 53 years.
        We were told that withdrawing from Lebanon in 2000 would eliminate Beirut's casus belli. Instead, it allowed Hizbullah to take over southern Lebanon, build an arsenal far superior to anything it had before Israel left Lebanon, and launch cross-border attacks. One of those sparked the Second Lebanon War, which caused unprecedented destruction to northern Israel, more casualties than Israel averaged in six years pre-withdrawal, and massive international condemnation - of Israel.
        Leaving Gaza in 2005 brought a Hamas takeover and incessant rocket fire on southern Israel. And when Israel finally struck back, in December 2008, international condemnation hit new heights, culminating in the infamous Goldstone report. While nobody could lament Saddam Hussein's demise from a moral standpoint, from a security standpoint it's far from clear that Israel is safer with Iran as the uncontested regional power than it was with Iran and Iraq containing each other. (Commentary)
  • Demographic Trends in Israel - Yaakov Faitelson
    According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), the Jewish population of the State of Israel reached 5,802,000 in 2010. The Jewish population is growing faster than was estimated by the ICBS in 2007 and this figure surpasses the high estimate of the 2007 projection for the year 2010 by 147,200.
        The total fertility rate (TFR) of Israeli Jews increased between the years 2001 and 2009, from 2.53 to 2.90 children per woman. The TFR of Israeli Arabs fell from 4.37 in 2000 to 3.50 in 2009. Continuation of this trend could lead to equal TFR for Arabs and Jews in Israel by the end of the second decade of the 21st century.
        In 2009, the TFR of Jewish women in the Jerusalem district was 4.16, while the Arab TFR fell to 3.87 children per woman.
        According to the CBS of the Palestinian Authority, the Arab TFR in Judea and Samaria is 3.12, down from 4.25 children per woman in 2000. The TFR of the Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria is 5.06. (Institute for Zionist Strategies)

Who Is Running Libya's Revolution, and Does It Matter? - Marc Ginsberg (Huffington Post)

  • Libya is really two countries - one centered on the capital city Tripoli, the other centered on the eastern city of Benghazi - 480 miles apart. Each city has a number of tribes that control their environs. Gaddafi has his tribe (the Qadhadhfa), and Benghazi is protected by the largest adversarial tribe to Gaddafi known as the Senoussi.
  • Another tribe, Libya's largest, known as the Warfala, could very well decide Gaddafi's fate since its leadership has turned against Gaddafi and thrown its vast influence and resources into the fight against the regime.
  • The National Council based in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, is composed of representatives of the defecting military, tribal elders, former government officials, and designated officials from cities and towns that are under the control of anti-government forces.
  • There is no shortage of military officers who bolted from Gaddafi and are now leading revolutionary forces. Any of them could emerge as the strongman opponent to Gaddafi. One of the preeminent military leaders is Abdul Fatah Younis, a former Libyan general and interior minister.
  • Circulating in Benghazi are also remnants of the Libyan Fighting Group, a franchise cell of al-Qaeda and theoretically linked to the larger al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) as well as Islamic militants who escaped prison during the initial days of the revolution. They should not be underestimated. AQIM is a growing, potent al-Qaeda franchise throughout the Sahara.

    The writer is a former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco.
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