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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
April 26, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Egyptians Favor End of Peace Treaty with Israel (Pew Research Center)
    By a 54%-to-36% margin, Egyptians want the peace treaty with Israel annulled, according to a survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project released on April 25.
    Only 20% of Egyptians hold a favorable opinion of the U.S., while 79% hold an unfavorable opinion. 15% of Egyptians want closer ties with the U.S., 43% would prefer a more distant relationship, and 40% would like the relationship to remain as it has been in recent years.

Syria's Assad Faces Indictment by the International Criminal Court - Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph-UK)
    The International Committee of Jurists, an influential body of international judges and lawyers, called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his lieutenants to be held to account for Easter weekend attacks in which troops and militiamen fired on civilians.
    Syria has deployed many of the same tactics used by Gaddafi in Libya, with unarmed protesters facing live fire by both the security forces and loyalist militiamen and snipers.
    See also Campaign to Bar Syria from UN Human Rights Council - Edith M. Lederer (AP-Miami Herald)

Moroccans Demand Faster Moves to Democracy - Aida Alami (Bloomberg)
    Moroccans calling for faster democratic change took to the streets Sunday in non-violent demonstrations in Casablanca, Fez, Rabat and Marrakech.

Egypt Oil Ministers to Be Tried over Israel Deal (AFP)
    Two former Egyptian oil ministers, Sameh Fahmi and Mahmud Latif, are to face trial for selling natural gas to Israel at a low price, judicial sources said on Saturday. Five oil ministry officials will also stand trial on the same charges.
    See also Mubarak Questioned on Israel Gas Deal - Mira Awad (Globes)

WikiLeaks: Palestinians with Terrorist Links Held in Guantanamo - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    Several Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza have been held in the Guantanamo detention camp in Cuba, according to WikiLeaks documents obtained by Ha'aretz which consist of personal dossiers of prisoners held on suspicion of belonging to al-Qaeda or to radical Islamic organizations identified with al-Qaeda.
    Some of the prisoners told their American interrogators they were afraid of being extradited to Israel. But after they were assured this would not happen, they give details about themselves and, in some cases, even cooperated.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • 120 Dead after Unrest in Syria - Bassem Mroue and Elizabeth A. Kennedy
    Syrian security forces fired on funeral processions that drew tens of thousands Saturday, one day after the bloodiest crackdown so far in the uprising against President Bashar Assad. Ammar Qurabi, the head of Syria's National Organization for Human Rights, said 112 people were killed Friday and at least 11 on Saturday. (AP)
        See also Monumental Crackdown by Syria's Assad Well-Planned and Deadly - Patrick Martin
    Thousands of Syrian troops backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers stormed the southern city of Daraa on Monday, killing as many as 25 people, witnesses said. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
        See also 500 Arrested in Syria Crackdown - Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Reuters)
  • Israel Eyes Turmoil in Syria - Joel Greenberg
    In a recent interview, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked whether it was in his country's interest to see the downfall of the government of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. Netanyahu replied, "We'd like to see everywhere, including in Syria, genuine reforms for democracy, genuine emergence of democracy. That's no threat to any of us." Syria has long been a bitter enemy of Israel. Yet it has also been a reliable foe, keeping its cease-fire lines with Israel quiet for decades. A power shift in Damascus could alter those dynamics.
        Dore Gold, a former foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu who heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, noted, "Israel views a lot of the current developments through the prism of the Iranian threat....It would be unfortunate if Iran becomes the beneficiary of the developments across the Middle East. Iran could face a tremendous strategic loss if the Syrian regime falls and is replaced by a more Western-oriented leadership." Given the current turmoil, Israel "will have to err on the side of caution given the total uncertainty it faces, from the Turkish border down to the Suez Canal."  (Washington Post)
  • Palestinian Police Kill Israeli Visiting West Bank Holy Site - Ethan Bronner
    The Palestinian police shot and killed one Israeli and wounded four others early Sunday after the Israelis surreptitiously visited Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus, inside a Palestinian-controlled area, without coordinating their plans through the Israeli Army. Twice-monthly trips to the tomb have been organized with army escorts for the past four years without incident. The dead man is Ben-Yosef Livnat, 24, a father of four and a nephew of Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat. (New York Times)
        See also Defense Minister Barak: Nablus Shooting Was Murder - Yair Altman
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Sunday's shooting incident near Joseph's Tomb "a murder." "No coordination mishap justifies this kind of outcome or the shooting of innocent people."  (Ynet News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Assad Regime Threatened by Syria Protests - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    The iron fist policy of the Syrian security forces seems to have failed. Protest is growing gradually stronger and is spreading to other cities. On Friday, Syrian security forces fired indiscriminately at protesters. The film clips posted on the Internet document bursts of gunfire and dozens of injured in most of Syria's cities. Al Jazeera has joined efforts to bring down the regime, broadcasting pictures of the killing of protesters on the outskirts of Damascus, Homs, Dara'a and other places to every home in Syria. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why Syria Isn't Likely to See an Islamist Takeover - Barry Rubin
    Unlike in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood was allowed to operate, spread its propaganda, build a large membership, and control institutions, in Syria, there was a bloody suppression of the Brotherhood in the 1980s and the Islamists there are a lot less organized. Paradoxically, Islamists in Egypt opposed the regime but the Syrian government enjoyed their support. Indeed, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood declared a few years ago that it was not permissible to oppose the Assad regime because of its strongly anti-American and anti-Israel policies. Some Syrian Islamists seem to be hesitating to support the protesters, both because they are suspicious of the anti-regime opposition and think Assad might well win.
        Roughly speaking, I would bet that while the level of support for Islamism in Egypt is at around 30% - and has a tremendous capacity for growth - the equivalent number for Syria is about 15% and is naturally limited by the size of the community. For the moment, the case for cheering on the Syrian revolution is stronger than that of Libya by far. But by the same token, its prospects are poorer than in Egypt or Tunisia precisely because those states were more moderate than the ruthless, radical Syrian regime. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Shameful U.S. Inaction on Syria's Massacres - Editorial
    Growing numbers of Syrians have been gathering in cities and towns across the country to demand political freedom - and the security forces of dictator Bashar al-Assad have been responding by opening fire on them. Massacres on this scale usually prompt a strong response from Western democracies, as they should.
        The Assad regime is one of the most implacable U.S. adversaries in the Middle East. It is Iran's closest ally; it supplies Iranian weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza for use against Israel. Since 2003 it has helped thousands of jihadists from across the Arab world travel to Iraq to attack American soldiers. It sought to build a secret nuclear reactor with the help of North Korea and destabilized the pro-Western government of neighboring Lebanon by sponsoring a series of assassinations.
        Yet the Obama administration has effectively sided with the regime against the protesters. Even if his massacres allow him to survive in power, Mr. Assad will hardly be a credible partner for Israel. As a moral matter, the stance of the United States is shameful. To stand by passively while hundreds of people seeking freedom are gunned down by their government makes a mockery of the U.S. commitment to human rights. (Washington Post)
  • The Villains from Damascus - Mordechai Nisan
    The fall of the Assad regime in Damascus would be a great blessing for the Middle East and the world. The list of Syria's crimes is legion. As godfather and patron of Palestinian terrorism, Hafez the father and Bashar the son crafted a policy strategy that demonized Israel, consolidated the regional hegemony of Iran, and perpetuated an Alawite sectarian regime in defiance of the Sunni Muslim majority in the country. The Assads persecuted the Kurds, intimidated the Druze, and despoiled the tiny Jewish community.
        Syria was responsible for a ruthless and bloodthirsty occupation of Lebanon in 1976 that only seemingly ended in 2005, as well as a series of Syrian assassinations of key Christian Lebanese personalities. Syria's torturing of Israeli POWs after the 1973 Yom Kippur War should never be forgotten.
        When and if the Assad regime falls, the collapse of Iranian hegemony across the region may not be far behind. Losing its strategic hinterland and ideological benefactor, Hizbullah too will suffer a blow. The writer taught Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Ynet News)
        See also Syria's Assad - World's Most Devilish Despot - Joel Brinkley (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Palestinians Dupe the West - Benny Morris
    The Palestinians' current diplomatic campaign is aimed at achieving international recognition of statehood by September when, it is expected, the matter will be brought to a vote at the UN General Assembly. Yasser Arafat's strategy from the late 1980s, after he realized that he wasn't going to orchestrate the destruction of Israel, was to establish a Palestinian Arab state encompassing the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, but without recognizing Israel or making peace with it. According to Palestinian strategy, the Israelis will eventually unilaterally withdraw, so why give the Israelis recognition and peace in exchange?
        Rather, once this mini-state is achieved, unfettered by any international obligations like a peace treaty - and having promised nothing in exchange for their statehood - the Palestinians will be free to continue their struggle against Israel, its complete demise being their ultimate target. On the military and political levels, no one will be able to fault the Palestinians. They will have broken no treaty and violated no solemn agreement. They will have received their mini-state, a launching pad for further assault on Israel, without giving anything in return. (National Interest)

The Ultimate Ally: America Needs Israel Now More Than Ever - Michael Oren (Foreign Policy)

  • On an ideological level, an ally is a country that shares America's values, reflects its founding spirit, and resonates with its people's beliefs. Tactically, an ally stands with the U.S. through multiple conflicts and promotes its global vision.
  • An ally enhances American intelligence and defense capabilities, and provides ports and training for U.S. forces. An ally assists in saving American lives on and off the battlefield. And an ally stimulates the U.S. economy through trade, technological innovation, and job creation. Israel is certainly one of the few countries that fit this description.
  • Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig's observation 30 years ago still resonates today: "Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security."
  • For the price of annual military aid equaling roughly the cost of one Zumwalt-class destroyer, the U.S. helps maintain the military might of one of the few nations actively contributing to America's defense. It reinforces the only country capable of deterring Hamas and Hizbullah and impeding the spread of Iranian hegemony.

    The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S.
Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Isru Chag.
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