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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday Links Part 1

From Ian:

Michael Oren blasts 60 Minutes' Iron Dome segment
On his personal Facebook page, Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, blasted the segment.
60 Minutes was right: The Iron Dome missile defense system does not take lives, it saves lives. But 60 Minutes missed the true connection between Iron Dome and settlements: Israel was compelled to build Iron Dome after it uprooted 21 Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip and Hamas took over Gaza and used it to launch thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. Israel and the Obama Administration, together, call for the immediate resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians, without preconditions, to discuss all the core issues–borders, security, mutual recognition – leading to a solution based on two states for two peoples. We deeply appreciate American support for the Iron Dome system, which gives Israel the time and space to make peace, if the Palestinians wish to do so.

The Truth About Hamas’ Smuggling Tunnels
A senior Israeli Defense Force officer, speaking exclusively to the Investigative Project on Terrorism on condition of anonymity, explained why that continues.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson suggested that the idea that the tunnels were kept open for tax collection doesn’t necessarily make sense. “Hamas runs the Gaza Strip,” he said. “They could quite easily impose a tax system on goods coming across the border with Egypt. If Hamas were to get a deal with the Egyptians to pass goods on top of the border rather than under it, they could tax the goods as much as they want. But there are things going through the tunnels that wouldn’t be allowed by the Egyptians anyway, such as drugs trafficking, human trafficking, and of course, arms trafficking.”
Gerald Steinberg, president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor and a professor of political studies at Israel’s Bar Ilan University is the author of ‘NGOs, Human Rights, and Political Warfare in the Arab-Israel Conflict.’ Steinberg has no doubt as to what is behind Hamas’ tunnel strategy.
“The Hamas leadership thrives on conflict and of portraying the situation in Gaza as one of Palestinian suffering. It is created for the Palestinian leadership by playing the victim card strongly and has been assisted in that by the NGO network and by the UN human rights frameworks all working together. They will always exaggerate claims that they cannot import basic materials, while at the same time seeking to downplay changes that will actually benefit the population. There is always a careful play off that Hamas does between allowing materials in [to Gaza] and playing the victim card.”

Female Drivers Escape Arab Ambush
Jewish women escape PA gang’s carjacking attempts.
Palestinian Authority resident criminal gangs continue to target Israeli drivers for theft, and women travelling alone in particular. Two women escaped attempted carjackings at the last minute on Monday evening.

Man suspected of throwing acid on 15-year-old girl
Nazareth resident charged with attacking teen, who refused a relative’s marriage proposal
The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday remanded into custody a 50-year-old resident of the northern city who is suspected of throwing acid in the face of a 15-year-old girl.

Fatah official warns of violence if prisoners aren’t freed
Kadoura Fares says no one wants a third intifada, but events may ‘get out of hand’ if a Palestinian held in Israeli jail dies

IDF trains for potential clashes with Hezbollah
Engineering Corps reconnaissance soldiers train in subterranean warfare as preparation for possible clash with Hezbollah.
Reconnaissance soldiers from the the IDF’s Engineering Corps recently completed an intensive series of subterranean warfare drills to prepare them for a potential clash with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah has placed its command and control centers in underground bunkers, and dug a maze of tunnels where commanders, fighters and weaponry can be placed out of sight of the Israel Air Force.
Soldiers from the reconnaissance platoon of the Assaf Engineering Brigade underwent month-long exercises simulating complex terrain fighting, much of which involved dense forests. A week of training was dedicated to combat in tunnels.

The Triple Threat to Egyptian Press Freedom
The Muslim Brotherhood, an intrusive state bureaucracy, and a dangerously deflated economy all endanger the country's newly-open media environment.
As the Arab uprisings continue, war and state repression aren't the only threats to free expression. Egypt in the last week saw two other factors impinging on the independent media: bad finances and malignant bureaucracy. They pose a potent threat that could drastically worsen the dimming prospects for a transition away from authoritarianism.
Meanwhile, the dismal values of the Muslim Brotherhood's media commissioners have driven out the editor of Al Ahram Online, an odd bright spot of breaking news and dissenting journalism that thrived, in English, within the otherwise moribund state publishing conglomerate. Ahram Online's editor Hani Shukrallah is a secular leftist with Christian origins. He was forced into early retirement by the new Ahram supervisors put in place by the Muslim Brotherhood. Shukrallah believes it's a purely political decision, and spoke out only after his salary was cut and his chosen successor passed over. "The object of course is humiliation," he wrote in a Facebook note. "Fools! I have something immeasurably more precious: my dignity and self-respect. What do you have?" So far, his successor hasn't been named and his staff continues its impressive work. A Muslim Brotherhood loyalist has already been put in charge of Ahram's daily Arabic edition, and prospects don't look good for the independent editorial line of Ahram Online in English.

99% of Americans consider Iranian nukes a threat
North Korean nuclear program also widely preceived as ‘critical threat,’ poll finds; Republicans fear Islamism more than do Democrats
The Gallup poll found that 99 percent of Americans believe the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program is a threat “to the vital interests of the United States in the next 10 years,” with 83% saying it was a “critical threat” and another 16% saying it was an “important, [but] not critical” one. Just 1% declined to say it was at least an important threat.

Ahmadinejad threat to cancel Iranian poll
IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned that he could scrap this year's presidential election, threatening to drag the Islamic Republic into a constitutional crisis as he attempts to retain power.
With months to go until Iranians vote for his successor in June, Mr Ahmadinejad has reignited his bitter power struggle with Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.

Syria ‘mulled killing Vatican ambassador’
Intelligence chief said to have proposed assassination after Archbishop Zenari criticized international silence on civil war
A top Syrian intelligence official planned to assassinate the Vatican’s ambassador to Syria following his outspoken criticism of the Bashar Assad regime late last week, a Saudi news website reported on Tuesday.
Archbishop Mario Zenari told Vatican radio on February 15 that he was saddened by the silence of the international community in the face of the bloodshed in Syria.
“We are walking over the blood of the victims,” said Zenari, while the international community has “washed its hands of the Syrian conflict.”

Greece's Golden Dawn: Holocaust Memorial Day 'Unacceptable'
Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has denounced the country's decision to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, calling it “unacceptable.”
Golden Dawn MP Ioannis Lagos lashed out at the country's education and interior ministers over new regulations requiring state institutions and schools to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, in commemoration of the over six million murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

Swiss mayoral candidate ‘pro-Hamas, pro-Iran’
Media in Switzerland accuse Green Party politician of anti-Semitism, denying Israel's right to exist.
Swiss Jewish leaders and the Simon Wiesenthal Center sharply criticized MP Geri Müller, a Green Party politician running for mayor of Baden, because he supports close ties with Hamas and engages in pro-Iranian regime activities.