A Digest of DEBKAfile Round-the-Clock Exclusives in the Week Ending March 18, 2010

March 12, 2010 Briefs
• Palestinians dedicate a Ramallah square to terrorist Dalal Moghrabi Friday, breaking their word to Biden. Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Young Fatah representatives attended the ceremony. Moghrabi was part of Palestinian group which in 1978 blew up and set fire to a civilian bus, burning 35 men, women, children alive.
• Two blasts kill at least 39 people, injure more than 100 in Pakistani town of Lahore.
• US State Department reports anti-Semitism rising world wide. Criticism of Israeli policy, Zionism crosses the line into demonizing all Jews.
• Rights abuses slammed in China, N. Korea, Iran.

Biden visit blights US-Israel relations

12 March: US Vice President Joe Biden's 48 hours in Israel undid a year of effort by the Netanyahu government to build a foreign policy and an understanding with Washington as the bedrock of a coordinated proactive policy on Iran, debkafile's exclusive sources report.
Instead of ironing out the misunderstandings, the visitor struck out with his own aggressive agenda. The heat nearly brought Netanyahu and Barak to blows.
The crisis in US-Israeli relations took a sharp turn for the worse Friday night, March 12, with a phone call from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the relationship was at risk.
debkafile reports: He was given to understand that Israel must make sweeping concessions to prove its interest in renewed talks with the Palestinians, including in Jerusalem, and accept the Obama administration's line on Iran.
At his lecture to Tel Aviv University Thursday, March 11, before his departure, Biden said: "The United States is resolved to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon" – a general statement with no commitment.
Members of his party leaked word that he was leaning hard on Israel to prevent its resort to military action against Iran's nuclear projects, without however offering any commitment on painful sanctions.
Saudi Arabia and its Arab Gulf neighbors got wind of the slugging-match over Iran in Jerusalem and were alarmed enough to demand clarifications from Washington.
Finally, instead of smoothing ruffled feathers in Jerusalem with interviews to the host media, Vice President Biden snubbed them all and granted the only interview of his trip to the Arabic Al Jazeera TV.

March 13, 2010 Briefs
• Israeli ambassador rebuked at the State Department over Jerusalem housing episode.
• Palestinians lob firebomb at Israeli car driving to Jerusalem along 443 Highway. Two passengers hurt.
• Another Qassam missile from Gaza explodes in an Eshkol region field.
• Netanyahu calls inner cabinet on spiraling crisis with Washington.
• ADL's Foxman: "We are shocked and stunned at the Administration’s tone and public dressing down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem.
• A spate of suicide bombings kill 30, injure 50, in S. Afghan town of Kandahar Saturday.
• Senior US official Saturday says Netanyahu's political position is "perilous". This is because of divisions in his government over peace moves "sought by Palestinians and US".

US may hold back arms Israel needs for war with Iran

13 March: debkafile's military and Washington sources report: The Obama administration is considering withholding from Israel military items urgently needed in case of a flare-up of hostilities with Iran and its allies. This would further ratchet up the row over the added 1,600 homes in E. Jerusalem.
The requests were filed by defense minister Ehud Barak when talked to defense secretary Robert Gates in Washington on Feb. 26. Gates has not yet responded. It was tailored to a potential four-front offensive against Israel launched by Iran and its allies. It includes systems needed by the Israeli Air Force, certain types of missiles and advanced electronic equipment.
Defense sources in Washington reported the view that the Obama administration, which has never cultivated warm relations with the Netanyahu government, has seized on the Jerusalem housing spat as a device for restraining Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear sites.

March 14, 2010 Briefs
• Brazilian president Luis Ignacio (Lula) Da Silva begins 3-day state visit to Israel Sunday. Good friend of Ahmadinejad, Lula visits Tehran May 15.
• White House spokesman Sunday: Israel's apology over Jerusalem housing is just the beginning. Washington wants more.
• Netanyahu calls Merkel, Berlusconi to remind them Israeli construction in E. Jerusalem goes back decades.
• State Department official summons ambassador Oren for more harsh criticism of Israeli Jerusalem construction. He demands "trust-building" steps to enable Mitchell to commence talks with Palestinians.
• Lebanese Druze leader Jumblatt publicly forgives late Hafez Assad for assassinating his father. He asks the son, Bashar Assad, to receive him in Damascus.

US will raise the heat until Israel toes the line on Iran

14 March: While exploiting Israel's ill-timed announcement of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem to extract more concessions for the Palestinians, debkafile's Washington sources report Washington will keep twisting the Netanyahu government's arm until it toes the line on Iran, as Vice President Joe Biden made clear to his Israeli hosts.
This issue goes way beyond a campaign to unseat Netanyahu, in which Washington and Israeli elements have happily joined forces. Not only Israel but Saudi Arabia as well as the moderate Arab regimes of the Middle East are profoundly ill-at-ease with Obama's Iran policy.
After failing to arrest Iran's race for a nuclear weapon by diplomatic engagement or sanctions, the US president will stop at nothing to prevent Israel resorting to military action and is pushing for endorsement of a policy that would let Iran take its nuclear program up to the threshold of assembling a bomb. If Israeli can be bullied into buying this premise, maybe the Arab regimes will follow, Washington hopes, especially now that midterm congressional elections are not far off. The Democrats could lose their majority if the president was shown to have capitulated to Tehran, enhancing the clout of its allies and terrorist proxies..

March 15, 2010 Briefs
• Netanyahu greets visiting Brazilian president Lula Da Silva with hope for an eternally united Jerusalem. All former prime ministers added suburbs to Jerusalem, he said. Da Silva replied: Jerusalem building could undermine peace talks. Invited to visit tomb of Zionism founder Herzl, Da Silva opted to visit Arafat's resting place in Ramallah. FM Lieberman boycotted the visitor.
• Khalid bin Laden, son of Osama, publishes letter asking Tehran to free family members under house arrest.
• AIPAC lobby voices "serious concern" over US administration's actions against Israel. Obama must take immediate steps to defuse tensions with Jewish state.
• Israel's top soldier Gen. Ashkenazi leaves for Ankara at invitation of Turkish chief of staff. He is to attend NATO conference on terror, meet Turkish military leaders.
• Jerusalem police cancel monthly Jewish Temple Mount Gates procession schedule Monday night to calm unrest in Old City.
• Jerusalem planning committee to approve only Arab building applications Monday.
• Multiple terror attack simulated in Haifa home forces exercise.

March 16, 2010 Briefs
• Tehran claims anti-air fire downed US drone over SW Iran. US Gen. Petraeus calls Iran a major threat to regional stability. It continues its nuclear program, also arms, supports and directs extremist elements in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan.
• Clinton says Israel must prove its commitment to Mideast peace process with actions. She denied crisis in relations, restating US "dismay and disappointment" in E. Jerusalem housing scheme. US remains committed to Israel security, she said. She hoped Mitchell would soon return to region after he cancelled his arrival Tuesday.
• Israeli Jew detained trying to force his way onto Temple Mount.
• Israeli police chief does not see Palestinian intifada erupting in response to leaders. Hopes life will return to normal by Sunday.
• World Islamic conference says Hurva synagogue rededication drags region into religious war.

US to post ambassador to Damascus after Assad publicly mocked Hillary Clinton

16 March: On Feb. 25, when the Iranian and Syrian presidents met in Damascus to confirm their military pact, they publicly mocked the US and its demands for Bashar Assad to distance himself from Tehran and made fun of secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
But still the Obama administration is going easy on Iran and Syria and this week sought senate confirmation for Robert Ford as the first US ambassador to Damascus in five years.
Neither Clinton nor any other US official has referred to Assad's public insult to America and herself – in dramatic contrast to their harsh reaction to Ian Israeli bureaucratic step – for which prime minister Binyamin apologized – on a long-term plan for  1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem. Since then, Washington berates Israel on a daily basis.
Syria's contempt for the US, intransigence and commitment to Arab violence against Israel have not discouraged the Obama administration from courting this terror-sponsoring dictatorship.
On March 14, The Wall Street Journal wrote succinctly:
"Mr. Obama's foreign policy pattern to date: Our enemies get courted; our friends get the squeeze. It has happened to Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras and Colombia. Now it's Israel's turn."

Palestinian leaders use anti-Semitic language to stir up riots

16 March: In a bid to bring out the masses and ignite a general Palestinian uprising, Abu Ala, former Palestinian prime minister and peace negotiator with the Olmert government, and Hatem Abdul Qader, head of the Jerusalem desk in the Palestinian Authority, indulged in rabid anti-Semitic diatribes, accusing "the Jews" of "plotting to seize al Aqsa" in order to build their Third Temple.
All Jewish claims of an ancestral connection to Jerusalem "was one big lie," they said.
There never was a Hurva (Ruin) Synagogue in the Old City, said these Fatah spokesmen, referring to the 300-old synagogue, rebuilt and rededicated Monday, March 15, on the ruins of the Jewish house of worship and community center the Jordanians destroyed during their 19-year presence in the Old City up until 1967.
Palestinian leaders took encouragement from the Obama administration's harsh campaign against Israel as their big chance to embark on another violent war of "resistance" to Israel. They believed the Jewish state was in such bad odor with its best friend, America, that it would be held responsible for the violence by the rest of the world too.

Palestinian "Day of Rage" passes with low-key local outbreaks

16 March: The Palestinian and Israeli Arab masses did not show up for the Day of Rage, Tuesday, March 15, called by Fatah, Hamas and Israeli Muslim leaders in a bid to stir up a third uprising (intifada) against Israel. No more than 500 teenagers were out on the streets of half a dozen Palestinian enclaves in Jerusalem, hurling rocks, rolling burning tires and blocking roads against the thousands of Israeli police armed with tear gas and rubber bullets ranged against them.
Around 14 policemen and three dozen Palestinians were injured in clashes – none seriously, and 60 arrested. Police commissioner Dudi Cohen said reinforced Jerusalem units would stay on alert for more outbreaks until after the Muslim Friday prayers on Temple Mount. He hoped that by Sunday, life would be back to normal.
The riots scarcely seeped over into the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority's US-trained security force drove a flying wedge between would-be rioters and Israeli troops.

March 17, 2010 Briefs
• Temple Mount shrine reopened to visitors, unrestricted Muslim prayer Wednesday. Closure lifted on West Bank. Police remain on full alert for Palestinian violence after Tuesday's outbreaks.
• Two Palestinians arrested overnight throwing firebombs on traffic from Jerusalem's Abu Tor.
• Netanyahu sends aide to Washington with answers to Clinton's demands. He stresses Israel has confirmed its commitment to peace.
• Stanley Fischer to stay on another five years as governor of Bank of Israel.
• Sahara states led by Algeria agree on collective effort to fight al Qaeda spread in new haven.
• Newly expanded Jewish Museum London opens Wednesday tracing centuries of Anglo-Jewish history

More than 2,000 Fatah join Hizballah, Iran's first big Palestinian conscription

17 March: debkafile's military sources: The first major Palestinian defection to the Shiite Hizballah of 2,000 armed men has given Iran and its proxy a large foot hold inside Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization in Lebanon and the West Bank. It has also swelled Hizballah's fighting strength by some 15 percent.
The defection has reduced Fatah strength in Lebanon to 3,000. Most came from the big Ain Hilwa refugee town near the southern Lebanese port of Sidon led by their commander Col. Munir Maqdah, who also controlled Fatah ties with its sleeper cells in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Jenin and liaised with al Qaeda affiliates in Lebanon. His defection hands his networks and contacts over to Tehran.

March 18, 2010 Briefs
• Palestinian missile from Gaza kills a Thai farm worker in Israel. It was the first Qassam fatality since the 2009 Gaza campaign. Al Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al-Sunna claims Qassam attack, the third in two days.
• EU foreign executive Catherine Ashton enters Gaza through Israel. She first called on President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem.
• Obama's first reference to crisis with Israel was denial. Israel is one of our closest allies and that will not go away. Sometimes friends disagree, interior minister's action was not helpful to peace process. He criticized Palestinian disturbances in Jerusalem. On Iran, Obama pledged aggressive sanctions. No options off the table, he said.

Washington heaps more punishment on Israel

18 March: The Obama administration demands Israel extend its West Bank construction freeze to East Jerusalem for the duration of peace talks and offer more concessions to the Palestinians. This – plus a pledge not to attack Iran -is the price for ending the crisis. Gen. Petraeus's suggested transfer of the "Palestinian territories" to his Central Command is tantamount to providing the Palestinians with a US military shield against Israel, say debkafile's military sources.
The gloves were off in earnest when insinuations were made that Israel's settlement policy is the root-cause of Iran's drive for a nuclear bomb and of the conflicts endangering American lives in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Vice President Joe Biden was the first to tell Netanyahu: "What you are doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan." This theme was echoed by Gen. Petraeus in a senate briefing.

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