Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
Another Huge Gas Field Confirmed Off Haifa Shore
by Gil Ronen
Initial drilling confirms that a huge gas field has been found off Israel's Mediterranean shore. The amount of natural gas in the Leviathan gas field is estimated at 450 billion cubic meters - almost twice the size of the previous large gas discovery at the Tamar field. The find was announced in June but the size could not be confirmed until now.
About one month ago, the partners in the drilling project reached their target layer in an underwater geological structure 135 km west of Haifa. The Sedco Express rig drilled through 1,634 meters of water and penetrated to 5,100 meters under sea level. When it reached a layer of sand, advanced geological tests were conducted, and their results confirmed the presence of the gas.
One of the partners, Delek Energy, said Wednesday that of all the gas fields discovered in deep waters worldwide in the last ten years, the Leviathan is the largest
"This is happy news for the Israeli energy market, and the results have great economic and strategic importance," it said.
Trading in stocks of drilling partners "Delek Drilling," "Avner Oil Searches" and "Ratio" were halted earlier Wednesday, after they announced they would issue a "meaningful report."
"We have received the most important energy-related news since the founding of Israel, that will undoubtedly bring a blessing and have a meaningful influence on many fields in Israel," Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau said glowingly Wednesday.
If Israel handles itself properly, he predicted, it can use the gas to become a supplier of gas in the Middle East. The finds "will enable Israeli citizens to enjoy clean, cheap electricity production, and the income the state can expect following these discoveries."
U.S., Europe Move Away from 'Unilateral Palestine'
JERUSALEM, Israel - The United States and Europe are moving away from the idea of unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Wednesday.
Speaking on state-run Israel radio, Ya'alon said that both Egypt and Jordan, along with Israel, fear a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria - the West Bank - where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is currently in control.
According to Ya'alon, a unilaterally declared Palestinian entity would be a failing authority, a hostile authority, and in the end "Hamastan."
Earlier this month Israel and the U.S. criticized the declaration of South American countries unilaterally recognizing the state of Palestine based on what it said were the 1967 borders.
In fact that is a common mistake since there were no 1967 borders. The reference is to the 1949 armistice lines between Israel and Jordan and Egypt in areas where Palestinians lived at the time. Those boundaries were between Israel and Jordan in Judea and Samaria - including eastern Jerusalem - and Israel and Egypt in the Gaza Strip since there never was an independent Palestinian state.
Brazil was the first country this month to say that it recognized aPalestinian state, followed by Argentina. Uruguay has also indicted its likely intention to follow suit.
Abbas is scheduled to lay the cornerstone of a new Palestinian Embassy in the Brazilian capital at a ground-breaking ceremony on Friday, AFP reported.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly adopted a resolution declaring that a "true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties" and urged U.S. leaders to "deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state" as well as veto any U.N. Security Council resolution intended to establish a Palestinian state outside of a negotiated agreement.
Abbas said he had no choice but to ask for unilateral recognition after the most recent round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations collapsed.
But Israeli experts say the Palestinians have changed their strategy and are asking for unilateral recognition because they believe they can get more out of it than if they come to a negotiated deal with Israel.
IDF warns reservists to be wary when traveling abroad
By YAAKOV KATZ
Hizbullah, Iran may be targeting officers, army says; advises to avoid routine, like shopping, when overseas.
Fearing Hizbullah or Iranian retaliation, the army sent a letter to senior officers in the reserves on Wednesday urging them to take extra security precautions when traveling overseas.
The letter, written by Brig.- Gen. Kobi Barak, head of the IDF Operations Division, said that the background for the warning was the 2008 assassination of Hizbullah military chief Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, which was attributed to the Mossad, as well as the recent assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Teheran, also attributed to Israel.
Protection upped for officials abroad
War criminals' list still circulating, after removal
The letter also mentioned the recent publication of the names, addresses and personal details of 200 IDF officers who participated in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip two years ago, under the claim that they were war criminals.
“We thought it was right to again sharpen the procedures regarding your personal security, as we did last year,” Barak wrote in the letter, sent to the homes of senior IDF officers who recently retired.
Routine, the letter warned, makes people vulnerable and allows an adversary to find “your soft spot.”
“Try not to repeat the same action too many times – the time you do something, and the place,” the letter said: For example, what time the officers leave the house, the routes they take, and the places where they shop.
When traveling overseas, the letter warned, retired officers should pay attention to the airlines they use and the airports at which they land, and ensure that the hotels they choose have been approved by Israeli security officials. The letter also recommended staying on a middle floor at hotels, and in a corner room.
Israel has significantly boosted security for officials traveling overseas in the almost three years since Mughniyeh’s assassination.
During that period, officials from the Defense Ministry who in the past did not have a security detail were accompanied by bodyguards on trips abroad.
In addition, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has warned dozens of businessman that they might be kidnapped during trips overseas.
Iran Upset over Yaalon’s Remarks that Israel Can Strike
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon’s remarks that Israel can strike Iran, and that “offense is the best defense” prompted reactions in Iranian media that an Israeli attack is more theoretical than practical.
The Arab world widely covered the remarks of Yaalon, now Minister for Strategic Affairs. “We are already in a military confrontation against Iran,” he told a conference of military experts. "There is no doubt that the technological capabilities, which improved in recent years, have improved range and aerial refueling capabilities, and have brought about a massive improvement in the accuracy of ordnance and intelligence."
Most analysts have questioned whether Israel can do any more than slightly delay the Iranian nuclear program’s apparent aim to build a nuclear warhead that can hit Israel. Most attention has been focused on Iran’s having scattered several nuclear sites throughout the country, buried in deep and reinforced concrete bunkers in mountainous regions.
However, the failed efforts of U.S. President Barack Obama to engage Iran in diplomatic talks or to convince the United Nations Security Council to pass harsh sanctions have left “the military” option as the only alternative to a nuclear Iran.
Yaalon told the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies that Israel is in a proxy war with Iran because of its military and financial aid to the Hizbullah and Hamas terrorist organizations.
"There is no doubt, looking at the overall situation, that we are already in a military confrontation with Iran," he said. "Iran is the main motivator of those attacking us."
Beirut-based policy expert Oussama Safa told the Iranian government-monitored Press TV that Yaalon’s remarks are “diversionary tactics by the Israelis who fear, under a lot of pressure, their military options are shrinking, particularly in Lebanon and in Gaza.”
He added that Yaalon’s remarks were “more of a provocation that I do not think will materialize or has any potential to materialize anytime soon” because an attack is more theoretical than practical, politically and militarily.
American journalist Danny Schechter, who specializes in the areas of human rights and the media, told Press TV, “This is part of a war of words not only directed at Iran but at the United States. Basically, they are trying to pressure the United States first to stop pressuring them on settlements but secondly, to take stronger action to impose stronger sanctions by threatening, you know, kind of a military option…. This is all sort of psychological warfare staged that was going on now with statements of this type. I think we are going to see more of it.”
Schechter also charged that if Iran did not exist, Israel “would need to invent Iran” to divert attention from the Palestinian Authority-Israeli struggle.
Israel is “escalating the rhetoric,” he said, but added, ‘this is, you know as far as I can tell, a road to nowhere. But it is a road that is convenient for Israeli politicians and to some degree for Iranian politicians. Iran likes Israel as an enemy too. You know the more noise that Israel makes, the more the government in Tehran can also respond in kind and needs to prepare defensively and all the rest of it. So in a sense, this war of the words is functional for both sides right now.”
Obama bypasses Senate, appoints envoy to Syria
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Robert Ford to become first US ambassador to Damascus since 2005; opponents say move rewards Syrian regime for bad behavior.
WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama has bypassed the US Senate and directly appointed four new ambassadors, including Robert Ford, who will become the first US envoy to Syria since 2005.
Specific senators had blocked or refused to consider the confirmations of the nominees for various reasons, including questions about their qualifications. But in the most high-profile case, that of the new envoy to Syria, a number of senators objected because they believed sending an ambassador to the country would reward it for bad behavior.
Assad: Israel has extremist gov't not interested in peace
Assad: US creates chaos in every place it enters
"Making undeserved concessions to Syria tells the regime in Damascus that it can continue to pursue its dangerous agenda and not face any consequences from the US," Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. "That is the wrong message to be sending to a regime which continues to harm and threaten US interests and those of such critical allies as Israel."
The administration had argued that returning an ambassador to Syria after a five-year absence would help persuade Syria to change its policies regarding Israel, Lebanon and Iraq as well as its willingness to support extremist groups. Syria is designated a "state sponsor of terrorism" by the State Department.
Former President George W. Bush's administration withdrew a full-time ambassador from Syria in 2005 after terrorism accusations and to protest the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, killed in a Beirut truck bombing that his supporters blamed on Syria. Syria denied involvement.
Obama nominated Ford, a career diplomat and a former ambassador to Algeria, to the post in February but his nomination stalled after his confirmation hearings and was never voted on.
The White House announced Wednesday that Obama would use his power to make recess appointments to fill envoy posts to Azerbaijan, Syria and NATO allies Turkey and the Czech Republic.
Recess appointments are made when the Senate is not in session and last only until the end of the next session of Congress. They are frequently used when Senate confirmation is not possible.
The other Obama nominees announced Wednesday are Matthew Bryza for Azerbaijan, Norman Eisen for the Czech Republic and Francis Ricciardone for Turkey
Vahidi says Israel murdered his ex-deputy. Israeli braces for terror reprisal
DEBKAfile Special Report December 29, 2010, 8:09 PM (GMT+02:00)
Alireza Asgari missing for 4 years
Iran's Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi took the most extreme step thus far when Wednesday, Dec. 28, he accused Israel of "the suspected death" of Iranian prisoner Ali-Reza Asgari. He said: "If the credibility of this report is proved, the dossier on Israel's kidnappings, assassinations and murders will become thicker."
In Israel, a blackout was imposed on any information relating to Asgar. It was assumed, according to debkafile's military sources, that the Iranian defense minister would not have leveled so serious an allegation unless a large-scale act of terror against Israel or an Israel target overseas was on the way – carried out directly or through Hizballah - to avenge Asgari's alleged murder and last month's attacks on Iranian scientists in Tehran.
debkafile reported earlier Wednesday:
The Iranian-Israeli clandestine war is heating up . Just a day after Iran publicly hanged alleged Israeli spy Ali Akbar Siadat, hinting that at least one more Iranian national was due to be executed for working for the Mossad, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle East and Russia Affairs Mohammad Rauf Sheibani announced Wednesday, Dec. 29 that Tehran would ask international organizations to investigate "the murder by the Israeli Mossad'" of the former Iranian deputy defense minister Alireza Asgari in Israel's Ayalon Prison.
Asgari went missing form his Istanbul hotel shortly after arriving there from Damascus on Dec. 9, 2006 and has not been seen since.. Until now, Iranian sources claimed he was in American hands. Western intelligence had reported in fact that he was the source of the information about secret Iranian nuclear installations, including the underground enrichment plant near Qom. Now, for the first time, Tehran has come up with the tale not only that he was taken to an Israeli prison after his disappearance in Istanbul, but that he died there.
Commenting on this new claim, Asgari's wife, Ziba Ahamdi, said Wednesday that she had no idea if the report of her husband's murder was true. If it were, she said, it would mean he had achieved his greatest ambition, which was to serve the Islamic Revolution.
On the morning of that same Wednesday, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Strategic Affairs, Gen (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, told a radio interviewer that Iran was not currently able to manufacture a nuclear bomb because of technical difficulties but he estimated it would attain this capability within three years.
debkafile's intelligence sources note that the current Israeli intelligence timeline for a nuclear-armed Iran was previously 2011. Yaalon did not go into the reasons for the delay, but our sources mention two:
1. His estimate represented the first official Israel evaluation of the scale of the destruction and havoc the Stuxnet malworm has wrought to Iran's most secret nuclear weaponization facilities. Up until now, only the nuclear reactor at Bushehr and the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz had been admitted to have been affected by the invasive virus.
2. The second factor seriously slowing progress is the tightening ring of sanctions which are keeping Iran from receiving the materials, replacement parts and new electronic and technical systems needed to bring its clandestine military nuclear program to fruition.
These revelations came to a head in the last 24 hours for good reason, say debkafile's intelligence and Iranian sources.
The regime in Tehran is under pressure to account to its own public and friendly Muslims for the shambling pace of its nuclear effort. Loth to admit the devastation caused by Stuxnet, the Iranians have seized on a distraction in the form of a "revelation" on the Eurasia Review web site that Alireza Asgari while held in Israel's Ayalon jail under the name of Prisoner X had committed suicide. The Review cites inner circles of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and goes on to speculate that he did not die by his own hand but was murdered by Mossad agents - although there was no suggestion about motive.
Tehran has made big play of this report and is calling for an international investigation into the fate of the missing deputy defense minister - partly also to demonstrate that leaders of the Islamic Regime are willing to lay down their lives for the sacred mission of arming Iran with a nuclear bomb.
Tehran is moreover girding up for the resumed nuclear talks in Istanbul on Jan. 5 with the Five UN Security Council Permanent Members and Germany. The first round in Geneva on Dec. 6-7 was taken up with a long-winded tirade by senior negotiator Saad Jalili which held US and Israeli intelligence guilty of murdering Iranian nuclear scientists in broad daylight in downtown Tehran.
For the next session, Iran has prepared a fresh indictment against the Israeli Mossad, now accused of murdering Asqari.
Palestinian terrorism begins in the schools
Among most nations or people groups engaged in conflict, a small group of mostly male adults will take up arms while everyone else, especially children, are kept as safely behind friendly lines as possible.
Not so with the Palestinian Arabs.
By now it is no secret that Palestinian Arab children are encouraged from the youngest ages to engage in acts of violence against Israeli Jews, and to see death in “battle” with the Jews as a glorious accomplishment to aim for.
What perhaps is less known is that this encouragement toward violence, this indoctrination of death is for most young Palestinian Arabs first presented at their schools. A host on government-controlled Palestinian Authority TV acknowledged as much during a December 21 broadcast:
“The teachers were the main agitators for the Intifada (terrorist uprising), for nationalism and for awareness . Therefore it is our duty to honor them more.”
These are the same schools and teachers funded by American and European financial aid (which comes from your taxes). The equivalent would be if your taxes were to be used to finance warlords in sub-Saharan Africa who indoctrinate, train and arm local children to participate in brutal campaigns against their neighbors.
In the case of the Africans, such behavior is condemned. In the case of the Palestinians, it is ignored, and money is poured in to ensure the child abuse continues.
Report: Hamas captures, tortures African migrants in Sinai
It has been known for some time that the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas is operating in the Egyptian Sinai. But Israel is not the only victim of this development. African migrants and refugees seeking asylum in Israel have reportedly been captured and grossly ill treated by the Palestinian militants.
The Italian-based human rights organization EveryOne reported at the weekend that it had petitioned the Egyptian government to intervene and save the lives of 250 Eritrean refugees who were taken by Hamas operatives in Sinai earlier this month.
The Eritreans were reportedly making their way to Israel when they came across Hamas men in the desert. The Palestinians offered to smuggle them into Israel for a payment of $2,000, but instead took them to a holding facility outside the Sinai-Gaza border town of Rafah.
The Africans have been kept in abysmal conditions. What’s worse, EveryOne reported that eight of the migrants were murdered and four others disappeared. All of them are believed to be victims of organ harvesting and trafficking. About 100 of the Africans have been moved to another facility purportedly in preparation to have their organs harvested, too.
A statement released by EveryOne said that the women and children among the African captives are regularly beaten and raped, and many are contemplating suicide.
Israel itself is hotly debating what to do about the massive influx of African migrants to the country over the past decade. There are roughly 30,000 illegal African migrants living in Israel. They constitute about 4 percent of the entire population of Tel Aviv, where most of the migrants reside.
Earlier this month, Israel sent several planeloads of migrants back to their countries of origin, but local human rights groups have blocked the deportation of many on the grounds that their lives would be put in danger by returning to Africa.
Many Israeli are sympathetic toward the plight of the Africans entering their country, and believe that Jewish history compels them to lend a helping hand and provide safe haven. But many Israelis also fear that such an influx of foreign non-Jewish migrants could eventually disrupt the demographic balance in the country, as well as adversely affect Israel’s economy.
Ya'alon: Iran’s Nuke Program Set Back Three Years
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Iran now is at least three years away from being able to produce a nuclear bomb because of technical problems and sanctions, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Voice of Israel government radio Wednesday.
Yaalon, a former IDF Chief of Staff and considered a leading “hawk” on Iran, said that “we are talking in terms of three years” before the Islamic Republic can achieve its presumed aim of producing a nuclear weapon. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said several times that Israel should be destroyed but has insisted that Iran’s nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.
Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities recently suffered severe damage from the Stuxnet virus. Israel has been widely mentioned as being behind the infection of Iran’s computers with the virus.
Despite the new time frame, Yaalon said that the United States eventually will have to take actions beyond sanctions to stop Iran, which he said “must choose between continuing to seek nuclear capability and surviving.”
The Obama administration has been hoping that local unrest in Iran will engineer an overthrow of the regime currently headed by Muslim clerics and Ahmadinejad, whose re-election last year was largely viewed as fraudulent, sparking widespread unrest until riot police and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards brutally subdued the protests.