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Out of the Frying Pan, Into Iran

Today in the Dubai Murder Mystery

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Sales are way, way up.(Vos Iz Neias?)

The Dubai Murder Mystery—figuring out who killed Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mahbouh in Dubai last month (hint: probably Mossad), and how—took a turn for the yet crazier today, with the revelation that two of the 26 suspects, both of whom carried fake Australian passports, escaped to Iran following the January 19th assassination. This suggests either that it wasn’t Mossad, or (more likely) that Mossad is yet more badass than previously thought.

Spy correspondent Yossi Melman holds out the possibility that some of this information—nearly all of which originates with the Dubai police force—could be tenuous or deliberately (or accidentally) false:

It is hard to believe that, if the Mossad intelligence agency carried out the operation, the planners were so irresponsible as to dispatch nearly 30 agents and to expose an entire select operational unit on one assassination operation. … Either the new revelations are another salvo in Dubai’s psychological warfare or the police investigators are groping in the dark.

Another intelligence expert agreed: “Mossad believes if two people can do something instead of three people, then send two.”

We’re learning more and more about the folks whose names were used on those fake passports: much of it is amusing, until you imagine that it was your name, at which point it seems less enjoyable. These folks’ names are now in the public domain as associated with the killing, after all, although these names are matched to the pictures of the actual suspects. Adam Korman visited the United Arab Emirates three times in the past year … except Korman, an Australian-Israeli dual national, has never been to Dubai; someone who had a forgery of his Australian passport was the frequent flyer (“I have been frightened and shocked since receiving the news,” says Korman.) Then again, Philip Carr, an Israeli citizen whose British passport was faked, is taking the incident more in stride: “It’s a bit of a shock,” he said, “it’s surprising, but it’s more interesting than annoying.” He added: “That picture is certainly not me. He’s wearing glasses. I’ve got 20-20 vision.” (Also, for the record, France believes that all three of the French passports used by suspects were forged.)

The effect the incident could have on Israeli diplomatic relations and intelligence-gathering is starting to look minimal. A senior Israeli intelligence official tells the Washington Times, “There is a lot of hyperventilating about this in the public arena,” but “the countries that coordinate the war on terror with allies like Israel and the United States and Europe are not as exercised about this.”

Al-Mabhouh was a disguise expert, who routinely wore colored contact lenses and dyed his hair, and possessed multiple identities; he even underwent cosmetic surgery. Yet most reports have it that al-Mabhouh traveled as himself, undisguised, and without bodyguards. Something remains fishy, in other words.

Finally, while it’s reasonable to believe that Israel benefits from al-Mabhouh’s death—he was a prime weapons smuggler for Hamas, after all—the entity that most unequivocally comes out ahead in all this is the company that sells kitschy pro-Mossad t-shirts: sales are reportedly up ten-fold.

Inquiry Grows in Dubai Assassination [NYT]
Was Mossad on a Fantastic Adventure in Dubai? [Haaretz]
Israeli Official: Mossad Hit Didn’t Upset Intel Ties [Washington Times]

Meet the New Jews

Not quite the same as the Old Jews

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Generally, articles about Asian-Americans as “the New Jews”—the ethnic group that works hard, is academically successful, and generation-by-generation is realizing the American Dream—are written by Jews (see here and here, for example). So it’s cool to see Jeff Yang, writer of the San Francisco Gate’s Asian Pop column, discuss the connection from the Asian-American perspective.

Yang’s piece is about education:

nowhere is the shared arc of the Asian and Jewish American journey so clear as in the area of education, that paramount priority of both communities. The story of parents toiling to create academic opportunity for their offspring (and using guilt, bribery and punishment to ensure that those kids take advantage of it) is the same whether its narrator is named Josh Li or Joshua Leibowitz.

He bemoans informal quotas at top universities, of the type that targeted Jews a half-century ago, and notes that admissions policies that favor legacies inherently work against Asian-American advancement, instead instilling “demographic inertia” (great phrase).

Yang is equally keen on the differences between New Jews (Asian-Americans) and Old Jews (Jews). It’s not just that Jews, having had more time, are now less the ethnic group being kept out of the mainstream and more in the mainstream (as many as 30 percent of all Ivy League students are Jewish). The stereotypes of the two groups are also different:

The caricature of the one-dimensional, passive, hard-working but personality-free Asian American is indeed hard to reconcile with Jewish stereotypes; as one Jewish friend commented, “Even the most anti-Semitic depictions of Jews never make us seem boring.”

So best of luck to the New Jews. (And to the Old Jews too, of course.)

The Asian-Jewish Connection: Is It Really Kosher To Call Asians ‘The New Jews’? [SF Gate]

NYT Story Opens Door For Ravitch

If Paterson resigns, new governor is a Jew

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Gov. Paterson last Saturday, announcing his re-election bid.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

So after weeks of rumors and a couple articles that drew little if any blood, the New York Times today ran an investigative piece on New York Governor David Paterson that could well prove fatal to the Democrat’s tenure. In essence, it reports a heap of circumstantial evidence—without, it should be said, a true smoking gun—that Paterson personally intervened to make a domestic assault allegation against a longtime aide go away. If Paterson used the power and prerogatives of his office to influence the criminal justice system away from doing its job when it came to credible allegations of violence against a woman, then, well, would you want him remaining as your governor?

Blogger Ben Smith, a keen observer of the absurd world of New York state politics, reports that many state Democrats—oh, right, did we mention this is a gubernatorial election year?—are uneasy with the prospect of Paterson running for reelection, as he announced he would last Saturday; one operative calls the article “lethal.” Already, Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York) has asked Paterson to sit this one out.

There’s not running for re-election, on the one hand, and then there’s resigning. Should Paterson depart office prematurely, his handpicked lieutenant governor would take over for the duration of his term. That person is Richard Ravitch, who comes from several generations of Jewish New Yorkers, who made their name as builders. He’s 76, and is not a factor in terms of the upcoming election. But if the fallout from the Times story proves deathly not just to Paterson’s re-election bid but to his current governorship, then the country’s Jewiest state will—after a two-year absence, since Eliot Spitzer resigned—have a Jewish governor again.

Question of Influence in Abuse Case of Paterson Aide [NYT]
NYT Report Could Be End for Paterson [Politico]

Today on Tablet

Purim FAQs, Purim costumes, Purim chicken, and more (happy Purim!)

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Purim starts Saturday night! Today in Tablet Magazine, we tell you everything you always wanted to know about Purim but were ever-so-slightly too bashful to ask. Cookbook author and contributing editor Joan Nathan discusses what mousakhan, a Palestinian baked chicken dish, means to her, before explaining how to make a delicious version along with Moroccan challah. The Winter Olympics and Purim stir in Dvora Meyers memories of being an Orthodox girl who dressed up as Tonya Harding one year. Poetry columnist David Kaufmann celebrates the work of Charles Bernstein. Purim is The Scroll’s favorite holiday.

Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Are Pro-Israel

Figure much higher than at the height of Oslo Accords

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Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shake hands on the White House lawn.(Reuters)

Despite President Barack Obama’s tougher line on Israel, particularly regarding West Bank settlements, support for the Jewish state among the U.S. population has rarely been as high as it is now. Gallup found that 63 percent of Americans favor Israel more than the Palestinians. That figure has not been that high since Saddam Hussein attacked Israel in 1991; in the late ‘90s, it dipped below 40 percent.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans are very skeptical that Israel will ever be at peace with its Arab neighbors (or with all of them, anyway), which means a sizable chunk both supports Israel over the Palestinians and thinks Israel will never be at peace.

I’m not sure how much sense that makes. An Israel at peace with its neighbors requires some sort of equitable resolution for the Palestinians. You can think that the lack of peace, and the absence of a Palestinian solution, is overwhelmingly not Israel’s fault, and yet still believe there are better policies Israel could adopt in order to increase the likelihood of peace. Maybe the more useful question is not whom you support between the two sides, but whether you are satisfied with the overall direction.

Gallup Poll: American Support for Israel Near Twenty-Year High [Arutz Sheva]

Daybreak: The Dubai Mystery, Weirder Still

Plus Israel goes to California, Weiner on “chutzpah,” and more in the news

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• We learn that two of the suspected (and allegedly Mossad) assassins of Hamas’s chief weapons man escaped to Iran after the killing. The Scroll will have more on the yet more bizarre mystery later in the day. [NYT]

• In public and private, the Obama administration tsk-tsked Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to landmark two Biblical sites in Israel-controlled West Bank. [AP/Haaretz]

• Israel has become crucial to California’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, with candidate Tom Campbell’s support for the Jewish state being questioned by two rivals. [LAT]

• Now that the New York Times has published a fairly damning story regarding New York Gov. David Paterson and his alleged intervention in a longtime aide’s assault case, it’s worth noting that the lieutenant governor—who would assume the job if Paterson leaves—is Richard Ravitch, a Jew. [NYT]

• Selma G. Hirsh, a longtime staffer and then official at the American Jewish Committee, died at 92. [AP/NYT]

• Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) decries Republican health-care “chutzpah.” It’s really funny (and great, if you happen to agree with Weiner’s analysis).

Sundown: Israel and America, Still BFFs

Plus, another Jewish N.Y. Senate candidate, oh no Canada, and more

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• Laura Rozen notes a spurt in high-level diplomatic and defense meetings between the United States and Israel. Most notably, Vice President Biden heads there next month. [Laura Rozen]

• Could recent scandals in the ultra-Orthodox community—Tropper, Balkany, Dwek, et al—lead to a waning of the bloc’s political influence? [The Jewish Week]

• Dan Senor, one of the top Jewish foreign policy advisers in the Bush administration, is mulling a Senate run … for Kirsten Gillibrand’s New York seat, also (maybe) to be contested by Mort Zuckerman and Harold Ford. [NY Post]

• The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada rose over 11 percent from 2008 to 2009, reaching its highest figure in three decades. False reports alleging Jewish/Israeli organ trafficking were blamed in part. [JTA]

• The family of Rachel Corrie—the American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed by an IDF bulldozer in Gaza in 2003—is suing Israel in Israeli court. An army investigation found that her death was accidental, and that the bulldozers driver did not see her. [JTA]

• Ira Stoll: anti-Semite. (If you know who Ira Stoll is, you know how funny this is.) [JTA]

What Iran Thinks of Iranian Nukes

Quote of the Day

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Iran’s possession of such weapons will sow in Israel a sense of insecurity—and this sense alone will be enough to shatter the glass palace of this illegitimate regime in the Middle East. An Iran with nuclear weapons means an end to the dream of “secure Israel”—and this means the exodus of most of the residents.

-Asr-e Iran, a popular Iranian Website.

Iranian Website: Iranian Nuclear Bomb = End of Israel [Arutz Sheva]

Twenty-Six Assassins

Today in the Dubai Murder Mystery

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To read a timeline of the Dubai killing and its aftermath, click here.
To read last Friday’s update, click here.
To read Monday’s update, click here.
To read yesterday’s update, click here.

The big news today is the Dubai police’s disclosure of 15 additional suspects in the assassination (likely carried out by Mossad) of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, bringing the total to 26. These suspects’ passports—which, according to host countries, were “issued in an illegal and fraudulent manner”—were from Britain, France, Ireland, and (this is a new one) Australia. One of the Australian passports was that of Marcus Korman, who lives in Tel Aviv … and has never been to Dubai. “It’s identity theft—simply unbelievable,” Korman told a reporter.

Yet even as Korman and the others whose passports were forged supply a compelling anti-assassination human interest story, the Jerusalem Post reports that diplomatic tensions related to the incident are falling; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the whole thing didn’t come up during a lengthy meeting with his European counterparts in Brussels (instead, they discussed Iran and the Palestinians). Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman theorize that European political leaders will be talked out of their anger by European intelligence leaders, who know that Mossad does far more good than harm: “Israeli intelligence can get its contacts in London’s MI6 and Berlin’s BND to put in a good word, pointing to favors Israel regularly does for European security agencies. The Mossad might even unveil dossiers showing how dangerous Hamas is to everyone.”

Raviv and Melman also see no reason to believe this will be Mossad’s final assassination:

Mossad, on the other hand, might well do again what it apparently did in Dubai. The agency would prefer not to—and certainly they would rather choose cities and streets not covered by CCTV systems and competent police forces. But Israel’s spymasters don’t mind being perceived by their enemies as still running “Murder, Inc.” from Warsaw to Bangkok, and from Paris to Dubai. And while they don’t relish risky assassinations, when the target is important enough, Mossad’s chiefs have been known to say, “Nothing is impossible.”

Meanwhile: where previously a couple of Fatah or ex-Fatah folks have been implicated in the plot, now a Hamas man—an associate of al-Mabhouh’s in Syria, in fact—was reportedly arrested by the Syrians on Dubai’s behalf. The man, Mahmoud Nasser, was apparently aware of al-Mabhouh’s plans, and arrived in Dubai shortly before he did. Hamas, on the other hand, denies he was arrested. Well, somebody’s not telling the truth.

Dubai Now Seeking 26 Suspects in Hamas Killing [Reuters/NYT]
Assassin from Tel Aviv: ‘I’m Shocked’ [Ynet]
Diplomatic Fallout Surrounding Mabhouh Hit Receding [JPost]
Israel’s Hit Squads [Atlantic.com]

Lakshmi’s Daughter is Half-Jewish

The father is a Dell

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Lakshmi in New York in December.(Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

We hear … and by hear, I mean read in Page Six … that the mystery baby-daddy of former model, Salman Rushdie ex, and Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi is may be Adam Dell, the younger brother of Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell. Dell, who was raised Jewish in Houston, is reportedly going to play a fatherly role to Krishna Thea Lakshmi, who was born Saturday (UPDATE: her actual biological father is unconfirmed). So, mazel tov to both parents.

Padma Lakshmi’s Baby Will Grow Up With a Dad [Page Six]

Israel’s Hamas Informant Was Founder’s Son

And he now has choice words for daddy’s group

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Mosab Hassan Yousef(Haaretz)

If the story of the Mahmoud al-Mahbouh assassination leaves you wanting more cloak-and-dagger spy stuff, Haaretz broke a much-buzzed-about story today revealing that the Israeli security service’s best informant within Hamas during the early-2000s Second Intifada was the son of one of Hamas’s founders and top officials.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, left the West Bank a few years ago and now lives in California as a Christian. But several years before, he was known in Shin Bet as “The Green Prince”; information he gave them led to the arrests of a number of powerful Palestinian military leaders, including notorious terrorist Marwan Barghouti. (Yousef is only 32 now; that would have made him only 18 when he was first held by Shin Bet and began to cooperate.)

Yousef’s zeal of the converted extends beyond his religion, as he tells Haaretz:

Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis. That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. … They do not hesitate to massacre people in a mosque or to throw people from the 15th or 17th floor of a building, as they did during the coup in Gaza. The Israelis would never do such things. I tell you with certainty that the Israelis care about the Palestinians far more than the Hamas or Fatah leadership does.

Hamas and the Yousef family, which resides in Ramallah (interestingly, not in Hamas-controlled Gaza), have returned the compliment, claiming the story is incorrect and libelous.

Haaretz Exclusive: Hamas Founder’s Son Worked for Shin Bet for Years [Haaretz]
Hamas: Story About Leader’s Son on Shin Bet Payroll is Zionist Propaganda [Haaretz]

One Woman’s Junk is Everyone’s Junk

This week on ‘Millionaire Matchmaker’

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Every Wednesday, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman recaps the previous night’s episode of the glory that isMillionaire Matchmaker.

Good news! Bravo reran the season premiere of Millionaire Matchmaker last night—presumably in an effort to get us all to watch the twirling Olympic sprites on parent network NBC—which gives us the chance to fill in a little blank in the recap archive. So, sit back and listen to the ballad of Nick and Omar.

Nick Friedman (yes, he’s Jewish) and Omar Soliman are definitely pretty-lookin’ people; so pretty-lookin’, in fact, that their multimillion-dollar business is called College Hunks Hauling Junk. They’re high-school buddies who, at 27, have blossomed into entrepreneurs, though it probably didn’t hurt that their high school was Sidwell Friends, one of the most prestigious prep schools in Washington, D.C., where their classmates included Chelsea Clinton and Al Gore III. But they’ve clearly worked hard to build the brand, and now deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Enter Patti Stanger, the titular Matchmaker, who knows from fruit: she’s getting nachas in heaven, and nachas in life. In this case, “nachas” means a sparkly new four-carat diamond ring her fiancé, Andy Friedman (no relation to Nick, we think), picked up for her in Israel. (“It’s a non-conflict stone,” Patti told People).

But the true do-gooder—as profiled by the Daily Beast—needs no rest; she’s got work to do, too. See, Omar is a freak about women wanting him for his money, and Nick is a little immature. Also, they live in Tampa. Ick!

Luckily, Omar’s uncle has a house in L.A., and the boys have flown in. First up, Omar: he’s half-Egyptian and half-Italian, he’s clean-cut, and he has a Maserati. W00t! But, not so fast. See, his idea of a dream date is “Take Your Girl to Work Day.” Like, he wants her to haul junk with him. Like, actual trash. “If you’re testing girls that way, this is the reason you’re single,” Patti tells him. She suggests he take his girl on a hot-air balloon ride, because of some crackpot theory about how thin air gets the love pheromones pumping.

Next, Nick. This boy, who grew up in leafy northwest D.C. and went to Pomona College in California, shows up in his audition video speaking fluent faux-thug. Patti is appalled. “You’re JEWISH,” she shouts. Nick didn’t want to be on the show—he’s just supporting his boy Omar, who needs serious help. Although, he says, some of his friends have gotten engaged recently. And, he admits, his mom does harass him about his dating “Barbie dolls” who aren’t smart enough for him. Patti decides to break him of his bimbo addiction. No sex before monogamy, she intones. Nick’s eyes bulge out of his head. See, he’s got franchises all over the country, and monogamy isn’t part of that business model.

Patti skitters off to find these two some girls. For Omar, she picks Rachel, a pretty brunette who “radiates exotic sensuality.” For Nick, there’s Dakota, a German-Puerto Rican choreographer who’s a few years older. On to the mixer! Everyone’s cleaned up nicely, but—oh, no. Nick didn’t get his hair cut! “This is my Greek-god, Julius Caesar hair,” he insists. “It’s a Jewfro, man!” Patti retorts. Thankfully, you can get lots of things delivered in L.A. these days, including haircuts; stylist Tiffany shows up and solves the problem.

Newly shorn, Nick flourishes, like a reverse Samson. There he is, rollin’ in a bright-red Bentley! Now he’s taking his girl to the Hollywood sign! Here they are at Kress! And, what? Dakota isn’t in a relationship because she’s always traveling for work? “Well, to be honest, that’s probably better for me, because that’s how my life is,” Nick says. And then he promptly sticks his tongue down her throat.

Meanwhile, Omar. Silly Omar ignored Patti and picked up exotic, sensual Rachel in a garbage truck. “You’re the hottest hunk I’ve ever seen,” Omar says. “Tha-anks,” replies Rachel, slipping a bright green suit on over her cocktail dress. And off they go to work. There’s something winning about Omar’s relentless naïveté. “It’s been a while since I’ve been out in the field,” he admits. “I kind of forgot how bad it can be.” How bad can it be? Well, he shatters a big-screen TV, and he admits that that was wrong of him. “This freakin’ sucks,” he observes. But Rachel proves she is a good sport, and she is rewarded with dinner at Il Cielo in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, she does not return the favor: it is an early night for the two. “Going to dinner with Omar felt like a guy friend,” Rachel tells the camera. And Omar starts asking the right questions: “Am I just an idiot?” he wonders. Well, Omar, yes.

Today on Tablet

Entertainment for men by Jews, more on the Leveretts, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Josh Lambert looks at Playboy’s golden years, and finds that many of the editors responsible for making it smart and sophisticated were Jewish. Mideast columnist Lee Smith responds to Flynt and Hillary Mann Leveretts’ retorts against him with brand-new reporting that casts them as much closer to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard than they claim. It’s worth reading The Scroll for more than just the pictures of naked women.

Anti-Israel Paul Wins Conservative Contest

Will CPAC victory harm GOP with Jews?

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Paul last October.(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

In last week’s Jewish Week, James Besser expressed concern that the rise of the right-wing Tea Party movement within the Republican Party could cause the GOP real problems with minority voters—including, and maybe especially, Jews—once the Tea Partiers moved beyond taxes and health care and into social issues. A number of political scientists agreed. One argued:

This is bad news for Jewish Republicans. The Tea Party movement hearkens back to the old anti-immigration movement, to the Ku Klux Klan, to the George Wallace movement in the 1960s. Lurking behind all of these was the idea of 100 percent “pure” Americanism—and of taking America back from the “outsiders.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told Besser, “It’s not a danger at the moment, but it bears watching.”

Well, those watching last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference will have noticed, as Besser did, that the potential presidential candidate favored by attendees in a straw poll was … Texas Rep. Ron Paul (Mitt Romney won second; Sarah Palin came in a distant third).

Forget the cultural cues that infamously makes Jews “hate” Palin. Paul opposes sanctions on Iran and aid to Israel, and has compared Gaza to a “concentration camp.”

“Yes I know,” Besser concludes,

the tea party movement is a big, churning and somewhat diverse collection of people, including some conservatives who think Israel is cool.

But as almost all the political scientists I talked to said, the insurgent movement also includes elements that are likely to scare the heck out of Jewish voters.

At least regarding his extreme-isolationist foreign policy views, Paul is probably not exactly whom Besser was talking about. He represents a totally different type of knot.

Ron Paul, Tea Parties, and the GOP’s Jewish Problem [JW Political Insider]

Tea Party Revolution Could Undermine Jewish Republican Outreach [Jewish Week]

Earlier: Why We Hate Her

Daybreak: Holes in the ‘Iron Dome’

Plus more Dubai suspects, leave Bronner alone!, and more in the news

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• Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system seems wonderful in theory, but it’s not perfect yet still costly, and is therefore stirring controversy. [LAT]

• Dubai has 15 new suspects in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, all of whom carried European or—in a new twist—Australian passports. The Scroll will have a full update later today. [Ynet]

• The Los Angeles Times press critic argues that New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner should be kept in his job—and not booted since his son joined the IDF—because he is a scrupulous writer and reporter. [LAT]

• It turns out that Israel’s most valuable Palestinian informant during the Second Intifada was the son of a prominent Hamas founder and official. [Haaretz]

• At least one Palestinian group has vowed to resume attacks in Israel in response to the landmarking of Abraham’s and Rachel’s tombs. [Ynet]

• Jewish-American leader Mortimer B. Zuckerman continued maneuvers toward running for Senate from New York as a Republican. [NYT]

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