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Israel Security Agency: Al-Qaeda-Affiliated Groups Behind Gaza Violence - Jonathan Lis (Ha'aretz)
The head of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), Yuval Diskin, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that al-Qaeda-affiliated groups were behind some of the recent Gaza violence.
"There are about 500 militant activists that identify with this idea there, and some are in touch with al-Qaeda's regional command."
"All the factions in Gaza want an Islamic caliphate," Diskin said. "Hamas wants to achieve that through charity organizations, while other, more radical, groups want the same goal through violence."
He also noted that Egypt was not doing enough to prevent militants smuggling weapons into Gaza.
"If the Egyptians wanted to, they could end weapons smuggling to Gaza in 48 hours," Diskin said. "They have only 14 kilometers of border with Gaza."
Iran's Limited Ability to Project Conventional Military Power (Defense-Aerospace.com)
In its annual Middle East market analysis, Forecast International's Middle East defense analyst Dan Darling notes, "Iran's manpower and missile strengths camouflage some serious weaknesses, such as command-and-control shortcomings, a combat aircraft fleet falling into disrepair and an armored vehicle inventory of questionable capability."
"Other than its long-range missiles, Iran is limited for now in its ability to project conventional military power across the Gulf."
Saudi Writer: Israel Deserves Respect (Al Bawaba-Jordan)
Saudi writer Fahd Amer Ahmadi wrote a column in the Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh on Tuesday titled: "Unfortunately, Israel is a country that deserves respect."
"Israel is better than all the Arab and Muslim countries with regard to democracy and political integrity."
"Today Israel is in third place globally in terms of arms exports and in first place in the world in the production of drones. It is also the smallest country in the world that can produce tanks and fighter planes."
Intel to Invest $2.7 Billion in Israel Chip Plant (Reuters)
U.S. chipmaker Intel will invest $2.7 billion over the next two years upgrading its Kiryat Gat, Israel, chip plant to produce 22 nanometer technology.
The amount includes a $210 million Israeli government grant.
Intel Israel, which employs 7,057 people, will hire 1,000 people over the coming year.
Russia to Launch Muslim TV Channel (Reuters-Ynet News)
Russia will launch a Muslim satellite television channel in February or March in the hope it will foster tolerance, state-run media reported on Tuesday.
The channel will serve some 20 million Muslims, a seventh of the country's population.
"We believe it is necessary to cultivate a spirit of tolerance towards representatives of other faiths," RIA news agency quoted Russia's chief mufti Ravil Gaynutdin as saying, adding that programs will be designed for a young audience.
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- Arab Nations Submit UN Resolution Condemning Israeli Settlement Construction - Barbara Plett
Arab nations have formally submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council that condemns Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which the U.S. will almost certainly veto if it is brought to a vote. Not since 1980 have the Americans supported such a resolution, and they've traditionally vetoed others critical of Israel.
The U.S. objection appears to be not so much to the text, as to the principle of taking the matter to the Council. In the past 20 years, the framework for peace talks has shifted from the UN to a U.S.-led bilateral process and the Americans want to keep it that way. The Israelis have dismissed the resolution as a Palestinian attempt to bypass direct negotiations, which, they say, is hindering attempts to reach a two-state solution.
Few if any at the UN expect that a resolution demanding a halt to all settlement activity would stop Israeli construction - it hasn't in the past. To bring the settlement resolution to a vote, the Palestinians would have to be ready to confront not only Israel, but the U.S. Yet it would be a real problem for the West Bank leadership to alienate its closest ally and main financier.
See also U.S. Senators Ask Clinton to Oppose Anti-Israel Resolution at UN (PTI-MSN News)
- Lebanon Shows Shift of Influence in Mideast - Anthony Shadid
The confrontation in Lebanon is the latest sign of a shifting map of the Middle East, where Saudi Arabia and Egypt have further receded in influence, and emerging powers like Turkey, Iran and Qatar have decisively emerged. It is yet another episode in which the U.S. has watched - seemingly helplessly - as events unfold unexpectedly and beyond its ability to control. "There is a sense that the regional players have gone up as the United States has gone down in terms of its presence, its viability, its role," said a high-ranking Lebanese official allied with the American-backed side in the crisis.
Turkey has projected an increasingly assertive and independent foreign policy in an Arab world bereft of any country that matches its stature, though, so far, the interventions of Turkey and others in the Lebanese crisis are mostly symbolic.
(New York Times)
See also Hizbullah Stages Show of Force in Beirut - Hussein Dakroub
Hizbullah staged a quiet show of force Tuesday in Beirut in a move viewed as a "rehearsal" for what might happen if the group is accused of involvement in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Groups of unarmed Hizbullah members, clad in black uniforms, fanned out in several neighborhoods in West Beirut, creating panic among the residents. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Russian President Falls Short of Recognizing Palestinian State - Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday during a visit to Jericho in the West Bank that his country did not withdraw its 1988 recognition of a Palestinian state, but fell short of a new and unequivocal recognition of the state within the 1967 borders, similar to declarations made by a number of countries over the past two months. Medvedev reiterated his call for a peace summit that would bring all players in the peace process to Moscow.
- Congresswoman Criticizes PLO Flag-Raising in Washington - Hilary Leila Krieger
After the PLO hoisted its flag above its Washington mission for the first time on Tuesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in a statement:
"Raising this flag in D.C. is part of the Palestinian leadership's scheme to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state, while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel, or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state."
She said the flag-hoisting continues the effort on the part of Palestinians to be recognized by foreign governments, and that it's "part of the same strategy aimed at extracting concessions without being required to meet international commitments." (Jerusalem Post)
- IDF Foils Terror Attack at Gaza Border
The IDF fired at terrorists who approached the security fence in northern Gaza in an attempt to plant an explosive device on Tuesday. One Palestinian was killed and two others were wounded, a medical official in Gaza said. The IDF said Gazans fired five mortar shells at Israel earlier Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
- Iran's Nuclear Setbacks: A Key for U.S. Diplomacy - David Albright and Andrea Stricker
Iran's nuclear program is suffering mounting setbacks, which in turn will provide more time for diplomacy and reduce the imminence of military strikes. Production of enriched uranium at the Natanz enrichment facility is significantly lower than expected by now. Only about 60% of the installed centrifuges are actually enriching uranium. ISIS estimates that about 2,000 IR-1 centrifuges have broken at the centrifuge plant since it started in 2007.
Technically, Iran could decide to build a nuclear weapon now using the Natanz enrichment plant. The U.S. has estimated that Iran could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a bomb in about one year. ISIS estimates Iran could halve that time to six months with advance preparation, and with somewhat better operation of the IR-1 centrifuges. If Iran built a secret site using more advanced centrifuges, it could be ready to build a bomb as soon as 2012 or 2013.
David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector, is the president and founder of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) in Washington. Andrea Stricker is a research analyst at ISIS.
(U.S. Institute of Peace)
- Why Tunisia Isn't a Tipping Point for the Arab World - Josef Joffe
In The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, published in 1991, Samuel Huntington found that rising wealth spells falling tyrants.
Of the non-democracies which reached a per-capita income between $1,000 and $3,000 in the 1970s and 1980s, three-quarters got rid of their overlords.
Why are the other Arab and Maghreb African countries - police states all - proving so immune to regime change? Because they don't make Huntington's cut.
Not counting the petro-potentates and strife-torn Lebanon, Tunisia is the richest of them all. Its per-capita income is almost twice as high as neighboring Morocco, and it is ahead of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria by similar margins. If you are poor, you have neither the time nor the energy to engage in politics. If you are not educated, you lack the cultural skills to articulate your demands - to agitate and organize. And, if you are poor, uneducated, and thus isolated, as much of the Arab world is, then you have no benchmark against which to measure your misery. The writer is the editor of Die Zeit in Hamburg, a senior fellow at the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies, and an Abramowitz Fellow at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford.
See also No Tunisian Scenario in Other Arab Countries - Salman Masalha
What happened in Tunisia is not about to repeat itself in other Arab states. A Tunisian scenario is impossible in states composed of collections of tribes and religious communities and ruled by tribal regimes that behave according to ancient traditions of repression. The Arab world has a ready explanation for all its troubles: a Jewish, Zionist and imperialist conspiracy. In the Arab world, the "Zionist conspiracy" opiate provides an easy and safe way to avoid genuinely confronting the problems at home. (Ha'aretz)
The Office of Israel's Prime Minister Responds to TIME - Ron Dermer
I wanted to bring to your attention a recent article in TIME entitled "Israel's Rightward Lurch Scares Some Conservatives." I hope that you will agree that the article's obvious bias and numerous distortions are not worthy of the standards of your prestigious magazine.
Israel is depicted in the article as essentially sliding towards fascism. Your correspondent refers to Israel's Shin Bet (the equivalent of the FBI) as a "secret police," claims that the Israeli government "increasingly equates dissent with disloyalty," and accuses the prime minister of "taking a page from neighboring authoritarian states." The evidence offered for these outrageous allegations includes a preliminary vote in our parliament that would require naturalized citizens to make a pledge of allegiance, a proposal to strip citizenship from Israelis convicted of espionage and terrorism, and a motion to investigate foreign government funding of local NGOs.
Oaths of allegiance are commonplace in most democratic countries, including the United States. Naturalized citizens in America swear an oath to its Constitution and to defend the country against "all enemies, foreign and domestic." Israel's proposed pledge would require naturalized citizens to swear an oath to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, words taken directly from our Declaration of Independence.
- Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy are just some of the many countries where citizenship can be stripped for various infractions that are defined as undermining "national interests." Are these European countries not democratic?
- As for questioning the legitimacy of foreign government funding of Israeli NGOs, America's Foreign Agent Registration Act requires that any organization engaged in lobbying in the U.S. that receives money from foreign individuals, let alone foreign governments, must register as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice and permit the Attorney General to inspect all of its activities.
- What would the U.S. do if the Iranian government was funding American NGOs pressing for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Middle East?
The writer is Senior Advisor to Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.
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