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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
August 18, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Protests to UN over Increase in Gaza Rockets (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday demanding that the body condemn rocket attacks against Israel.
    "Israel expects the Security Council, the Secretary-General, and the international community to condemn all of these attacks immediately and unequivocally," Prosor wrote.
    Noting an increase of rocket fire emanating from Gaza in recent weeks, Prosor added, "It is only by chance that these most recent attacks did not cause civilian casualties. With rockets continuing to rain down on our major cities, Israel cannot and will not rely on good luck to defend its citizens."

Clinton Didn't Pressure Netanyahu on Turkey Apology (Jerusalem Post)
    The Prime Minister's Office rejected reports Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu to apologize to Turkey, calling the reports "incorrect."

Assad Puts Hamas in Corner over Syrian Assault - Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Syria's crackdown on government opponents has deeply embarrassed the Palestinian group Hamas, which is anxious not to anger its backers in Damascus while at the same time hoping not to alienate its supporters at home.
    Syrian security forces attacked a refugee camp in Latakia this week, causing thousands of Palestinians to flee.
    Ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been swift to denounce the violence, but Hamas has said nothing and tried to prevent public displays of anti-Syrian sentiment.
    See also Palestinian Factions Reconsider Relations with Assad - David E. Miller (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)

Hamas Bans Gaza Students Studying Abroad - Kari Huus (MSNBC)
    Gaza's Hamas rulers have barred travel by a group of teenagers who were awarded scholarships to study in the U.S., the Palestinian Center for Human Rights says.

PA Cuts Satirical TV Series - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The Palestinian Authority leadership has ordered Palestine TV to stop airing Watan ala Watar (Homeland on a String) after the show came under fire for allegedly ridiculing PA policemen, physicians and civil servants.
    Bassam Zakarneh, chairman of the Public Workers Union in the West Bank, claimed that the last few episodes had depicted policemen as drunkards and ridiculed Yasser Arafat.
    Imad Farajeen, one of the producers of the show, responded: "This decision is not only about Watan ala Watar, but also about general freedoms - especially freedom of expression."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • At Least Six Israelis Killed, 25 Injured in Terrorist Attacks Near Egyptian Border
    Three terrorist attacks occurred in the Eilat region of southern Israel on Thursday. In the first incident, terrorists in a car opened fire on a bus travelling along the Israel-Egypt border. In a second incident, terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at a private vehicle that was carrying civilians. In a third incident, an explosive device exploded next to an IDF patrol. Several armed terrorists were killed by IDF forces. (Israel Defense Forces-VOA News-RTE)
  • U.S. General: Iran-Backed Groups Biggest Iraq Threat - Lolita C. Baldor
    Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said the Shiite militias are working to keep the Baghdad government weak and isolated. Decisions on the number of types of attacks launched by the three main militia groups, he said, are made inside Iran, including through their ties with the powerful Quds force. "The Quds force is providing direct support (to the militias) in terms of manning, equipping, provision of intelligence," Buchanan said.
        While al-Qaeda in Iraq may be responsible for the recent wave of violence, the group is not as big a threat to the stability of the state as the Shiite militias. He said there are 800-1,000 al-Qaeda in Iraq - far fewer than they used to have. The three militia groups total more than that, with several thousand in the Promised Day Brigade, the militia group linked to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army. Kataib Hezbolla is much smaller with hundreds of members. And the third group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or Band of the People of Righteousness, is somewhere in the middle. (AP)
  • UN Court Indicts Hizbullah Members in 2005 Assassination in Lebanon - Liz Sly
    A UN-mandated court charged with investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri named four members of the Shiite group Hizbullah as the perpetrators, according to an indictment released Wednesday. The broad outlines of the charges and the identities of the suspects had been leaked to the media over the past year, but the document details for the first time the evidence that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has unearthed during the six-year investigation. (Washington Post)
        See also Lebanon Indictment: Rafiq Hariri Tracked for Three Months with Elaborate Phone Network - Patrick Galey (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Hizbullah Thumbs its Nose at Hariri Murder Indictment - David Frum (National Post-Canada)
        See also The Story of an Assassination - David Kenner (Foreign Policy)
  • Syrian Security Forces Adopt Shoot-on-Sight Policy
    Syrian security forces have adopted a shoot-on-sight policy to prevent refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey, according to families who have braved the journey in the past week. Human rights campaigners say they are investigating dozens of reports that civilians have been shot dead as they try to cross.
        Mohammed, a former policeman, described how when he was about 15 minutes' drive from the border they were flagged down by a policeman. After checking their driver's documents, he waved them on. "When we started to drive on we saw a burnt-out car hidden in the trees and then they started shooting. They had given us permission to go but it was an ambush." His wife was killed. "They are just shooting at anyone who gets close to the border," said a Syrian man who has been arranging for refugees to cross. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Resistance Transforms a Once Mute Syrian City
    In Homs, the graffiti against the Assad family is scrawled on walls, garbage bins, phone booths, doors and even tree trunks. No one seems ready to give up, as Syria's uprising enters its sixth month. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA to Soften UN Statehood Bid? - Attila Somfalvi
    The Palestinian Authority has spent the past few days trying to advance a move to soften its bid for recognition at the UN in order to gain wider support among European nations. According to the proposed version, the PLO's status within UN institutes will be significantly upgraded but without an official declaration of independence. A Palestinian official confirmed that the PA fears that major European powers will not endorse the UN bid and has therefore decided to try to revise the proposal. (Ynet News)
        See also Abbas Ready to Accept U.S. Statehood Veto - Mackenzie Weinger
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas indicated on Tuesday that he is prepared to accept the expected Obama administration veto of Palestinian statehood at the UN next month, saying he will "continue to cooperate with the Americans." "We don't want to boycott Americans," Abbas said. (Politico)
  • Jordan Agrees to Raise Egyptian Gas Prices, Israel Stands Firm
    Jordan's cabinet has agreed to raise the price of the natural gas it imports from Egypt, the Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Youm reported Tuesday. Egypt and Jordan signed a gas agreement in 2004 stipulating that Egypt would supply the kingdom with 2.4 billion cubic meters annually for a period of 15 years, enough to supply 80% of Jordan's electrical needs.
        The supply of Egyptian natural gas saw a sharp decline in 2010 and continued to fall this year due to frequent interruptions of supplies after five bombings of Jordan's gas pipeline since last February. The Jordanian government is exploring options for the supply of natural gas from Russia and Qatar since the interruptions cost Jordan up to $5 million a day.
        Egypt is demanding to re-price the gas it sells Israel. Nimrod Novik, a board member of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), responded: "EMG's price is higher than that of any other Egyptian export venue, is better than other regional exporters receive and is in line with international prices."  (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Critiquing Israeli Construction in Jerusalem: Another U.S. Miscue with the Quartet - Robert Satloff
    The Obama administration is gamely trying to avert President Mahmoud Abbas' promise to apply for full Palestinian membership in the UN by restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The U.S. strategy is to entice the Palestinians away from their self-generated diplomatic train wreck at the UN by building on President Obama's May 2011 speech that included the Palestinian-friendly formula of "1967 lines with mutual swaps."
        In this context, Tuesday's Quartet statement expressing "great concern" about Israeli plans to build additional housing in Jerusalem and the large West Bank settlement of Ariel seems, at best, to run counter to the overall U.S. effort. The administration has once again endorsed the concept that Israeli construction in Jerusalem is forbidden. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Chinese Chief of Staff Visits Israel - Yoram Evron
    On Aug. 14, 2011, Gen. Chen Bingde, the Chinese Chief of Staff, arrived on a state visit to Israel. In the early 2000s, Israel arrived at an understanding with the U.S. that prevented further military exports to China. While Israel has nothing new to offer China, nonetheless, it seems that even under present circumstances, strengthening military relations may benefit China. Israel, with its vast operational experience, is viewed by China as an authoritative source. China has not conducted a military campaign since 1979, and any information it receives may be of value.
        Given China's rising global status, Israel has an interest in strengthening bilateral ties. In addition, strengthening ties with China may offer Israel an additional means to promote its campaign against the Iranian nuclear program and limit the transfer of Chinese weapons and ammunition (apparently indirectly and unintentionally) to Hamas and Hizbullah.
        If China is sincerely interested in a long-term strengthening of military relations with Israel, it will likely not force Israel to choose between China and the U.S. - a choice whose outcome is not in question. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

Will Ariel Block Peace? - Elliot Abrams (CNN)

  • This week Israel announced a plan to construct 277 more housing units in Ariel, a West Bank town of 18,000. The new units are to be constructed in the center of the town, so Ariel will expand in population but not in land area. It is not, in the usual Palestinian Authority parlance, "taking more Palestinian land."
  • When I worked on these issues in the Bush Administration, we discussed settlement expansion thoroughly with the government of Israel and reached agreement on some principles. These were that Israel would create no new settlements and that existing settlements would expand in population but not in land area.
  • New construction would be in already-built-up areas, and the phrase we used was "build up and in, not out." That way whatever the chances of a peace deal were, construction in the settlements would not reduce them.
  • This agreement the Obama Administration ignored or denounced, suggesting at various times that it never existed, and that all construction must be frozen - even in Israel's capital, Jerusalem. (To be more accurate, construction by Israeli Jews was to be frozen; construction by Palestinians could continue.)
  • The announcement that new units were to be built in Ariel evoked a new denunciation from Washington. The Administration still does not understand the difference between expanding a settlement physically and expanding the population of a settlement by building in already-built-up areas. Why not? In the real world those new units in Ariel do not make a final peace agreement harder.

    The writer is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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