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November 11, 2011

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Israel Rushes Airliner Defenses as Libya Leaks SAMs - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    Israel has accelerated the installation of anti-missile defenses on its airliners, a security official said on Friday, seeing an enhanced risk of attack by militants using looted Libyan arms.
    Jets flown by El Al and two other Israeli carriers are being equipped with a locally made system known as C-Music that uses a laser to "blind" heat-seeking missiles, the official said, giving a 2013 target for fitting most of the fleet.
    Israel's main international gateway, Ben-Gurion Airport, is 10 km. (6 miles) from the West Bank.

Obama's Mideast Envoy Dennis Ross to Resign - Mark Landler (New York Times)
    Dennis B. Ross, 62, a seasoned diplomat who has been one of President Obama's advisers on Iran and the Middle East, announced Thursday that he would leave the White House.
    His resignation, six months after that of special envoy George J. Mitchell, symbolizes how much the Middle East peace process has faded.
    Ross's departure, effective in December, is not a result of disputes over policy, several officials said.
    See also Ross to Rejoin The Washington Institute - Jeff Rubin (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

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India to Purchase Two More Israeli AWACS Planes - Rajat Pandit (Times of India)
    India will order another two advanced Israeli Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems), or "eyes in the sky,'' capable of detecting hostile aircraft, cruise missiles and other incoming aerial threats over 400 km. away, at a cost of over $800 million.
    The Indian Air Force inducted three Phalcon AWACS in 2009-10.
    See also India Gets Israeli Assault Rifles to Combat Maoists - Aman Sharma (India Today)
    India's elite Cobra commandos in its paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are being equipped with advanced X-95 assault rifles from Israel, which could prove to be a game changer in the fight against Maoist rebels.
    The X-95 weighs just 2.98 kg. and can be fired with one hand. The rifle can fire 240 rounds continuously and can be safely fired after being submerged in water, making it the first choice of the special forces in 46 countries.

President Abbas, Please Visit the Penn Museum - Shlomo Klapper (Daily Pennsylvanian)
    When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas recently addressed the UN General Assembly, he noted the attachment of Christians and Muslims - but not Jews - to the Holy Land and received a standing ovation.
    I extend to Abbas an invitation to visit the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology's extensive Canaan and Israel Gallery, which vividly illustrates that Jews have a history in the region.
    Mainstream scholars, based on extensive material remains, agree that the Jews settled in present-day Israel approximately 3,000 years ago, established independent kingdoms and, in historian Martin Gilbert's words, "for more than 1,600 years formed the main settled population."
    In 1919, Emir Faisal, a leader of the Arab movement, wrote, "The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. We will wish the Jews a hearty welcome home."

Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel Advocacy - Rory Lancman (Jerusalem Post)
    How much of the rising crescendo of worldwide criticism aimed at Israel reflects anti-Semitism?
    The current worldwide campaign against Israel reflects what can only be described fairly as a grotesquely unequal application of moral, social, political and legal standards.
    Israel's unequal treatment, when presented in the current lawfare and BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns, or in the relentlessly one-sided focus on Israel in the UN, deserves to be called what it is, anti-Semitism.
    The writer is an assemblyman in New York City and an advisory board member of the Lawfare Project.

Belgium's Attitudes toward Israel and the Jews - Interview with Jehudi Kinar by Manfred Gerstenfeld (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    Israel has more friends in Flanders than in Wallonia. Several senior members of the Flemish Liberal and Christian parties have very positive attitudes toward Israel.
    The right-wing separatist N-VA party is currently the largest in Flanders. Yet its leader, Bart De Wever, is hostile toward Israel and has opposed the apologies of Antwerp mayor Patrick Janssens, a Socialist, for the municipality's misconduct during the Shoah.
    Out of principle the Israeli embassy does not maintain relations with the extreme-right Vlaams Belang.
    In Wallonia the Socialists are the leading party and often take hostile positions toward Israel. Israel's friends there are mainly among the Liberals, even if some of their leaders are also anti-Israel.
    The major Walloon media also frequently display very problematic attitudes toward Israel.
    Jehudi Kinar served as Israeli ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia Rejects Further Sanctions of Iran over Nuclear Program - Julian Borger
    Russia has rejected as "unacceptable" EU calls for further sanctions against Iran in the wake of a UN report that Tehran had experimented with nuclear weapon designs. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Wednesday, "Any additional sanctions against Iran will be seen in the international community as an instrument for regime change in Tehran....That approach is unacceptable to us, and the Russian side does not intend to consider such proposals."  (Guardian-UK)
        See also China Supports Dialogue, Not Coercion, with Iran
    China says UN sanctions against Iran cannot fundamentally resolve tensions over the country's nuclear program. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Friday that China continues to hold dialogue and that cooperation rather than coercion is the most effective approach to Iran. He defended China's economic dealings with Iran against critics who say this props up the Iranian regime and allows it to continue its nuclear program. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Officials Coming to Israel to Discuss Iran - Barak Ravid and Zvi Bar'el
    Two senior U.S. officials - David Cohen, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, who is charge of America's economic sanctions on Iran, and Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides - will come to Israel next week to discuss plans for new sanctions on Iran in response to the IAEA's latest report on its nuclear program.
        Since both Russia and China remain adamantly opposed to new sanctions on Iran, Washington is focusing on mobilizing a "coalition of the willing" to impose new sanctions unilaterally. It hopes this coalition will include Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea and more. (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA Warns Violence Could Follow Stymied UN Bid - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
    A Palestinian Authority official warned Thursday that the region could be headed toward "violence and anarchy" because of the failure of the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN. PA officials on Thursday expressed outrage with the U.S., Britain and France for opposing the statehood bid. "The Americans, British and French leaders are hypocrites and liars," the official told the Jerusalem Post. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA Unlikely to Ask for Full UN Membership - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
    The Palestinian Authority failed in its bid for full UN membership, its officials admitted on Wednesday. They said they were now unlikely to call for a vote on the matter in the Security Council. "Our plan now is to take the battle to the UN General Assembly, where we are certain to score victory. This will allow us access to many important UN agencies and organizations, including the International Criminal Court," a PA official said.
        An Israeli official said the international community had sent a clear message to the Palestinians that the only path to statehood was through negotiations. The Prime Minister's Office called on the PA to resume talks and to abort its UN initiatives. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Sarkozy: Palestinians Must Recognize Jewish State - Tovah Lazaroff
    Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is key to any peace agreement, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Wednesday. WJC President Ronald S. Lauder and members of the Counseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) underscored for Sarkozy the importance of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people, and that it was important not to divide it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Americans' Support for Israel Rising - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    Americans' support for Israel is up, with a 10% increase in support among Democrats in the past six months, an Israel Project poll released on Thursday revealed. The poll demonstrated that the majority of Americans believed that Prime Minister Netanyahu was more committed to peace than his Palestinian counterpart.
        The support of "opinion elites" - those who display high engagement in foreign policy, education and income - exceeded the general sample by 7 percentage points. 68% characterized Israel as "one of our strongest allies," while 56% consider Palestinians to be "extremist" and an "obstacle to peace." 73% of voters and 86% of the opinion elite support a two-state solution that would recognize "Israel as a homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • UNESCO Files Complaint Against Israel over Newspaper Cartoon - Barak Ravid
    Israel's ambassador to UNESCO was handed an official letter of protest from the organization's director general, Irina Bokova, on Wednesday regarding a cartoon published in Ha'aretz on Nov. 4 after UNESCO decided to accept Palestine as a full member. The cartoon showed Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak sending an air force squadron to attack Iran, with Netanyahu ordering, "And on your way back, you're gonna hit the UNESCO office in Ramallah!"
        Ambassador Nimrod Barkan pointed out that the government has no control over editorial cartoons printed in the papers. "Ask yourselves what you did to make a moderate paper with a deeply internationalist bent publish such a cartoon," he suggested. "Perhaps the problem is with you."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Running Out of Time to Stop Iran's Nuclear Program - Editorial
    The International Atomic Energy Agency has now spelled out in detail what governments around the world have known for a long time: Iran's nuclear program has an explicit military dimension, aimed at producing a warhead that can be fitted onto one of the country's medium-range missiles. The IAEA's evidence ought to end serious debate about whether Tehran's program is for peaceful purposes. The Obama administration and other Western governments must recognize that the sanctions they have so far put in place, and covert operations aimed at sabotaging Iranian centrifuges and killing scientists, have not succeeded in changing the regime's intentions or stopping its work.
        The Obama administration appeared to back away from measures that would have real impact - such as a Treasury ban on transactions with Iran's central bank. The administration is wary that, by effectively shutting down Iran's oil exports, it would provoke a spike in energy prices that would damage the fragile global economy.
        President Obama has said repeatedly that Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable - and the IAEA report makes clear the danger is growing, not diminishing. If Iran is to be stopped without the use of military force, the president, and the country, should be willing to bear some economic pain. The alternative - allowing Tehran to go forward - would be far more costly. (Washington Post)
  • If Iran Gets the Bomb - Editorial
    The International Atomic Energy Agency this week released its most detailed assessment to date about Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. The report lays to rest the fantasies that an Iranian bomb is many years off. The serious choice now before the Administration is between military strikes and more of the same. As the IAEA report makes painfully clear, more of the same means a nuclear Iran, possibly within a year.
        It is perilous to assume that Iran is a "normal" regime that wouldn't dare use nuclear weapons. Iran's regime was born in revolutionary religious fervor and routinely vows to annihilate Israel and its "Great Satan" protector, the U.S.
        All of this adds up to a far more dangerous world - in which Iran becomes a regional hegemon, Israel faces a threat to its very existence, the Middle East embarks on a nuclear arms race, America's freedom of action is curtailed, and the dangers of a nuclear exchange rise to levels above what they were even during the early Cold War.
        Opponents of a pre-emptive strike say it would do no more than delay Iran's programs by a few years. But something similar was said after Israel's strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, without which the U.S. could never have stood up to Saddam after his invasion of Kuwait. A strike that sets Iran's nuclear programs back by several years at least offers the opportunity for Iran's democratic forces to topple the regime without risking a wider conflagration. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Iran Wants the Bomb - Con Coughlin
    Rather than being dismayed by the IAEA's findings, I suspect the majority of Iranians will be delighted that the report shows that their country is still very much on course to join the world's elite club of nuclear-armed powers. We in the West might be horrified at the prospect of the mullahs getting the atom bomb, but Iranians have a very different take on their country's nuclear ambitions.
        Any distinctions between moderates and hardliners are meaningless so far as Iran's nuclear program is concerned. Many of the biggest advances in Iran's nuclear development were made when so-called moderates such as Khatami and Rafsanjani ruled Tehran. The widely held national desire of Iranians to reassert the influence their country once enjoyed, when the mere mention of the Persian empire struck fear into the hearts of its enemies, is a factor that should not be discounted lightly. (Telegraph-UK)

  • Palestinians

  • Hamas Support on the Wane Amid Crackdowns on Political Dissent - Chris McGreal
    Hamas has been enjoying a surge in popularity following the swap of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, for the release of more than a 1,000 Palestinian prisoners last month. But the huge rallies to welcome the prisoners back masked growing disillusionment with the armed Islamist movement's five-year rule amid rising dissatisfaction at corruption, suppression of political opposition and, above all, its claim that violent resistance to Israel is more important than jobs.
        "The prisoner swap has boosted Hamas' popularity for now," said Mkhaimar Abusada, professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza. "But it won't last more than a few months. Hamas' popularity has declined every year it has been in power." Hamas' upset election victory in 2006 was built largely on despair with the corruption, misgovernance and authoritarianism of the ruling Fatah, led by Yasser Arafat. Many residents of Gaza now voice similar complaints about Hamas. (Guardian-UK)
  • Gazan Activists Looking at Hamas - Kristen Chick
    As Arab populations rose up in revolt against their dictators this year, Gazan protesters who called for unity among Palestinian leaders were shut down by their increasingly repressive Hamas rulers. While youths who led the charge against corrupt and dictatorial regimes in other countries emerged empowered and exhilarated, young Gazans have been left embarrassed, disillusioned, and envious.
        "We as Palestinians used to deliver the revolution. We used to give the lessons on how we can struggle for our rights," says activist Samah Ahmed. "But here...why are we not allowed to talk about our rights?" The anger and resentment is increasingly directed at the Hamas government, and activists say it won't go away. (Christian Science Monitor)

  • Other Issues

  • Whining for Gaza - Jonathan Kay
    Spare a tear, please, for the Gaza flotilla crowd, which has seen its once-fashionable cause fall into obscurity. The first flotilla in 2010 made headlines when Israeli commandos confronted pro-Hamas martyrdom-seeking "activists" armed with knives and blunt instruments aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. The second Gaza flotilla, in the summer of 2011, was an embarrassing flop: The flotilla leaders couldn't even sail out of Greek waters. Last week brought more flotilla news: Two ships, including a Canadian-owned vessel, were intercepted and boarded en route to Gaza. No one in Canada seems to care much, though: Even among protest junkies, flotilla theatrics now play a distant second to the ongoing Occupy phenomenon. (National Post-Canada)
  • Prisoner Swap Opens Way for U.S. to Prosecute Terrorists Who Slew U.S. Citizens - Nathan Lewin
    On Aug. 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi, a member of Hamas, drove a suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem, where the bomber blew himself up, killing 15 people including Judy Greenbaum, an American citizen from New Jersey. On March 5, 2003, Abigail Leitel, 14, from New Hampshire, was killed, along with 14 Israelis, by a suicide bomber on a Haifa bus plotted by three Hamas members: Fadi Muhammad al-Jabaa, Maedh Abu Sharakh, and Majdi Muhammad Amr. On Sep. 9, 2003, a Hamas suicide bomber slew seven people including American citizens David and Nava Applebaum at Cafe Hillel in Jerusalem. Ibrahim Dar Musa helped plan that bombing.
        The perpetrators of each of these murders of Americans are now free and living in Jordan or Gaza because Hamas demanded that they be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit. Since the Antiterrorism Act of 1990, it has been a capital crime under American law to "kill a national of the United States, while such national is outside the United States." No statute of limitations precludes prosecution of old offenses. Another law, passed in 1994, made it a federal crime to use an explosive bomb "against a national of the United States while such national is outside of the United States."
        The Department of Justice should now indict, extradite, and put to trial in U.S. courts, under American law, these killers of American citizens. The writer was a federal prosecutor and served as deputy assistant attorney general in the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice. (New York Sun)
  • Pakistan: The Ally from Hell - Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder
    U.S. taxpayers provide more than $2 billion in annual subsidies to the Pakistani military. Bin Laden's hideout was located less than a mile from Pakistan's preeminent military academy. Much of the world is anxious about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea. Pakistan might not be the safest place to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons.
        Pakistan would be an obvious place for a jihadist organization to seek a nuclear weapon or fissile material. Pakistan's military and security services are infiltrated by an unknown number of jihadist sympathizers; and many jihadist organizations are headquartered there already.
        "There are three threats," says Graham Allison, an expert on nuclear weapons who directs the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The first is "a terrorist theft of a nuclear weapon, which they take to Mumbai or New York for a nuclear 9/11. The second is a transfer of a nuclear weapon to a state like Iran. The third is a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group during a period of instability or splintering of the state."  (Atlantic Monthly)

  • Weekend Feature

  • Gilad Shalit and the Rising Price of an Israeli Life - Ronen Bergman
    Mossad official David Meidan, Prime Minister Netanyahu's representative in the Shalit case, said that he believed the Egyptian-mediated channel established between Israel and Hamas for the negotiation could perhaps be used for other deals, and that from a point of total mistrust in April, a fragile mutual trust had been built between the two parties after the Shalit deal.
        This fragile optimism, of course, will die immediately if one of the released prisoners takes part in the killing of Israelis, a fate that some intelligence officers say is inevitable. For now, though, 80% of Israelis supported the Shalit deal, and will until another soldier will take Gilad Shalit's place in Israel's collective conscience. (New York Times Magazine)

Resenting Israel, Not Netanyahu - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

  • When Sarkozy and Obama grouse about Netanyahu, what really annoys them is his inherent skepticism about the peace process.
  • Netanyahu has a long record of attempts to conciliate the Palestinians in order to make peace. During his first term as prime minister in the 1990s he signed two agreements conceding parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. He enacted a settlement-building freeze in the West Bank during his current administration and formally endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state.
  • But despite all of this, Netanyahu has never consented to playing the familiar game in which the onus for peace is placed only on Israel to make concessions and not the Palestinians. Netanyahu has insisted on pointing out the failures of the Palestinians to abide by their Oslo commitments.
  • Rather than meekly nod along when Obama or Sarkozy speak of the need for Israel to relinquish territory, Netanyahu has had the chutzpah to publicly talk back to them about Israel's rights and not just its immediate security needs.
  • Any Israeli who speaks in this manner, which necessarily complicates the efforts of the peace processers to ignore the Palestinians' reluctance to make peace, is not going to be liked.

        See also What Obama Really Thinks of Netanyahu - Aaron David Miller
    Barack Obama is only the latest in a line of frustrated American presidents and secretaries of state who have had to deal with a close ally who can also be withholding and maddening when it comes to protecting Israel's political and security interests in a conflict in which they have much more to lose than the American mediator if things don't turn out right. The writer, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, served as a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations. (CNN)
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