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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
April 13, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Benefits from Regional Turmoil as Price of Oil Soars - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran is benefiting from the upheaval in the Middle East as the rising price of oil undercuts the effect sanctions were having on the country, according to recent Israeli defense assessments.
    At the same time, Hizbullah is concerned with the ongoing protests in Syria and the possibility that President Bashar Assad will lose power.
    Iran is believed to still be suffering from technical setbacks due to the Stuxnet computer virus, but has gotten most of its program back on track.

Israel Warns Travelers of Passover Attacks (AFP)
    Israel on Sunday urged its citizens and foreign Jews to exercise special caution against possible militant attack when traveling over the week-long Passover holiday that begins next week.
    "Terrorist elements intend to carry out attacks on Israeli and Jewish individuals abroad ahead of, and during, the Passover holiday in the Mediterranean basin and in the Far East," the national anti-terror bureau said.

New York Times "Goldstones" Israel Again. Doubles the Number of Civilian Casualties in Gaza - Lenny Ben-David (I*Consult)
    In the middle of an article about Justin Bieber's visit to Israel, the New York Times' Isabel Kershner writes that "an anti-tank missile fired by Hamas militants at a school bus in Gaza...triggered days of intense exchanges of fire, during which 18 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, were killed."
    So how much is "about half" of 18? 8? 9? 10?
    Actually, the real number of civilians killed is 5, and, according to Arab sources, 4 were in close proximity to terrorists firing missiles at Israel.

IDF Medical Team Sent to Belarus (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF will send a team of three military doctors to Belarus to aid in the aftermath of the deadly metro bombing in Minsk that claimed the lives of at least 12 people, the IDF spokesperson said Tuesday.
    The medical team is being sent in response to a request by the Belarus government and will deal primarily with victims suffering post-traumatic stress.

Islam Takes Hold in Russia's Backyard (Economist-UK)
    In the small Dagestani village of Novosasitli in the north Caucasus, dogs do not bark. All "unclean" animals have been exterminated.
    Most women wear the hijab. Alcohol is forbidden, polygamy common. Disputes are settled by imams.
    Abdurakhim Magomedov, a charismatic spiritual leader of Islamic fundamentalists, said, "Fifteen years ago, only half the people in Novosasitli wanted to live by sharia law. Today everyone in the village wants it."
    Salafism rejects secular rule and insists that Islam should govern all spheres of life. Ten years ago only 10% of people in Novosasitli were Salafis. Today at least 50% are, and almost all the young embrace it. Many of them have studied in Egypt and Syria, and speak Arabic.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Clinton: U.S Plans New Push on Arab-Israeli Peace - Arshad Mohammed
    The U.S. plans a new push to promote comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday, suggesting a stronger U.S. hand in trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "While it is a truism that only the parties themselves can make the hard choices for peace, there is no substitute for continued, active American leadership - and the president and I are committed to that," she said. (Reuters)
        See also Kerry: Obama Wasted 1 1/2 Years on Mideast Peace, May Try Again Soon - Josh Gerstein
    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said Tuesday that the administration's effort to set the table for broader talks by resolving the impasse over Jewish settlements in the West Bank was futile. He also suggested that Obama may move soon to get the peace process going in order to head off a possible showdown at the UN in September. (Politico)
  • Mubarak, Sons Detained in Egypt - Liam Stack
    Egyptian prosecutors said on Wednesday they had detained former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons for 15 days to face questioning about corruption and abuse of power. (New York Times)
        See also Mubarak Hospitalized in Egypt - Liam Stack (New York Times)
  • New Hamas Weapon Alters Strategic Balance along Gaza-Israel Border - Leland Vittert
    Hamas' recent use of a Russian-made, laser-guided anti-tank missile against a school bus marks a clear change in the strategic balance along the Gaza-Israel border, putting in danger tens of thousands of Israelis who drive on roads with a line of sight view from Gaza.
        Hamas has now shown a willingness to use a next-generation weapon against a civilian target. "Everybody should bear in mind that if this missile would have been fired five minutes before (when the bus was filled with children), we would have been witnessing a full-scale war between Israel and the Gaza Strip today," said Israeli security expert Ronen Bergman. (Fox News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Condition of Teen Injured in Rocket Attack on Bus Worsens - Ilana Curiel
    Daniel Wipliech, 16, who was seriously injured in last week's rocket attack on an Israeli school bus, has taken a turn for the worse. "We see no evidence of any brain activity," said Professor Shaul Sofer, Chief of Pediatric ICU at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. "The injury is mortal and we don't use that term often."  (Ynet News)
        See also Fayyad Advisor Dismisses Palestinian Missile Attack on School Bus - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    Political advisor to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Omar Al-Ghoul, told PA TV on April 8: "The [school] bus wasn't that badly damaged, but Israel wants to use the attack on the bus as an excuse for its latest war crime against our people."  (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Israel Speeds Production of Iron Dome Anti-Missile Defense System - Anshel Pfeffer
    Israel plans to have a third Iron Dome anti-missile defense system ready for use within six months and three more ready by the end of 2012. Prime Minister Netanyahu announced this week he planned to allocate funding immediately for four more Iron Dome batteries, rather than waiting for the more than $200 million recently approved by the U.S. Congress for missile defense. The air force estimates that up to 13 anti-missile batteries are needed to provide maximum protection in the north and the south. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Missile Defense System Only a Partial Solution - Reuven Pedatzur
    The number of missiles allocated for each Iron Dome system is classified, but there is reason to fear that if the Palestinians intensify the rate of rocket fire, we will soon be left without defense missiles. In any case, Iron Dome does not provide hermetic defense. On Sunday the system tried and failed to intercept a Grad rocket. The main problem is that Iron Dome cannot intercept rockets aimed at areas less than 4 km from the Gaza border, particularly Sderot, and it is incapable of countering mortar shells along the border area. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Video: Hamas Fires Rockets from Civilian Areas
    Hamas released video footage of its operatives firing rockets at Israel from densely populated civilian areas in Gaza. (Israel Defense Forces)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Is Obama Abandoning Diplomatic Support for Israel? - Jennifer Rubin
    Until the current president took office, it was accepted U.S. policy - consistent with multiple UN resolutions, expressions of U.S. policy and international agreements - that a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood was unacceptable and that Israel was entitled to defensible borders.
        The Economist reported last month: "If [British Prime Minister David] Cameron offers Israel mixed messages, he does so with the blessing of America's president, normally reliable diplomatic sources claim....Before the UN vote [condemning Israeli settlements] of Feb. 18, Barack Obama reportedly encouraged Mr. Cameron and others to take a tough line on Israel. In phone calls to his European allies, Mr. Obama is said to have expressed frustration at Mr. Netanyahu's approach to settlements, but to have explained he had 'too many domestic fires to extinguish' to risk a bust-up over Israel....In private, European officials have told Israel that their pressure is choreographed with America."  (Washington Post)
  • Syrian Uprising Worries Iran and Hizbullah - William Harris
    Bashar al-Assad's regime is a throwback to the totalitarian European states of the 1930s. The dictator is a rigid ideologue cocooned by sycophants and gangsters; he sports a massive secret police machine, established under his father in the style of the East German Stasi. Unlike Egypt, where Mubarak's National Democratic Party specialized in packing parliament but did not have ideological aspirations, the Syrian Baath can still mobilize crowds - hirelings, coerced school-children and those who have surrendered their minds to state propaganda - to bay their adulation for the leader.
        The ruling Assads have failed abysmally to deliver a decent life to most Syrians and are viscerally hostile to demands for basic freedoms. They have no hesitation in unleashing the security apparatus, rooftop snipers and gangs of thugs to kill and maim their own people. The only constraint is the continuous external exposure of the regime's bestiality made possible by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
        The suddenly uncertain outlook in Syria must be a worry for Bashar al-Assad's Iranian and Hizbullah allies. A new Syria would have no reason to be friendly to Iran and Hizbullah, which have both declared their backing for the Syrian autocracy and therefore for its murders, its criminality and its savage treatment of popular protest. Indeed, crowds of Syrian demonstrators have already chanted "No Hizbullah, no Iran." The writer is professor and head of the politics department at the University of Otago, New Zealand. (Now Lebanon)
  • Islamists in Egypt Moving toward Center Stage - Arnaud de Borchgrave
    In Cairo, the latest conventional wisdom sees a groundswell of Islamist fundamentalism cloaked in moderate colors moving adroitly center stage. Following elections in the fall, the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to deliver about 40% of the vote, possibly even a majority. Behind Cairo's political stage, says one ranking Egyptian on a private visit to Washington, Iran's mullahs and Egypt's Brothers are unobtrusively sidling up. The Obama administration now backs a role for the Brotherhood in a reformed Egyptian government on the condition that it "rejects violence and recognizes democratic goals." But it would be terminally naive to expect a friendly bunch of Muslim Brothers on good terms with U.S. diplomats.
        In one of his weekly sermons last year, Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie displayed his colors: "Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslims' real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded." He titled his sermon: "The U.S. is Now Experiencing the Beginning of its End."  (Washington Times)

Importance of General Assembly Vote Greatly Exaggerated - E. Kontorovich (Jerusalem Post)

  • The UN General Assembly only has the power to admit states, not the power to create or determine members' borders. (That role, within the UN system, would fall to the International Court of Justice or the Security Council.) The Security Council has already determined in Resolution 242, adopted in the wake of the Six-Day War, that Israel need not return all of the land it took in that conflict. Thus it is meaningless to speak of the General Assembly recognizing Palestine with any particular set of borders.
  • If General Assembly resolutions controlled Israel's legitimacy, Israel would long have ceased to exist within any borders. The GA in 1975 famously adopted its "Zionism equals racism" resolution, condemning the very project of a Jewish state in the Middle East within any borders. Yet the endorsement of the idea by an overwhelming vote did not make it real or true.
  • When friends of Israel fret about delegitimization by the General Assembly, they unwittingly give the body more power than it has.

    The writer is a professor of law at Northwestern University.
    See also Putting UN Recognition of a Palestinian State in Perspective - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
  • UN General Assembly resolutions are largely political and symbolic. A recognition-of-statehood resolution could call for an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice, as was done in 2004 when the GA sent the security barrier to The Hague. The ICJ ruled against Israel, but the fence still remains.
  • The Palestinian hope is that UN recognition would give them full rights as a state within the UN system, including the prohibition of the use of force against it. But even the UN recognizes the right of self-defense, which means Israel would have legal rights to respond to attacks coming from Palestinian territory.
  • The UN doesn't create states, it recognizes them. It is a bit ironic that the Arabs, who in 1947 rejected the UN vote in favor of partition and then attacked the fledgling Jewish state, are now looking to that same body as the moral authority for the creation of a Palestinian state.

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