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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
September 7, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Palestinians Support Negotiating with Israel Instead of Going to UN - Nabil Kukali (Palestinian Center for Public Opinion)
    A Palestinian public opinion poll released on Sept. 6 asked: "Which, in your opinion, is the preferable option for the future of Palestine? Is it going to the UN for the recognition of the Palestinian state without concluding a peace agreement with Israel, or going back to the negotiation table with the Israelis for the sake of a permanent peace with them and then resort to the UN?"
    35% said "going to the UN," while 59% said "going back to the negotiation table with the Israelis for the sake of a permanent peace with them and then resort to the UN."
    After the proclamation of the UN resolution recognizing the State of Palestine, 26% of Palestinians said they supported "making big peaceful demonstrations that overrun the barriers and close the roads against the Israeli army and the settlers," 15% favored "carrying out violent actions against the Israeli army and the settlers," while the majority, 53%, are in favor of "going back to peaceful negotiations with the Israeli government."

U.S. Eyes Covert Plan to Counter Iran in Iraq - Julian E. Barnes, Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman (Wall Street Journal)
    Military commanders and intelligence officers are pushing for greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq, according to U.S. officials.
    The move comes amid growing concern in the Obama administration about Iran's attempts in recent months to expand its influence in Iraq and the broader Middle East and what it says is Tehran's increased arms smuggling to its allies.
    The U.S. has conducted secret operations against Iran in Iraq before. In recent months the U.S. military has quietly boosted efforts to capture Iranian agents and intercept Iranian munitions in Iraq.

NYPD Watched 250 NY Mosques - Adam Goldman (AP)
    The New York Police Department compiled lists of mosques and Muslim businesses it saw as potential security risks, according to internal police documents obtained by AP.
    The records reveal an undercover effort that initially studied more than 250 mosques in New York and New Jersey and identified hundreds more "hot spots" in a hunt for terrorists. Many showed obvious signs of criminal behavior.
    Every day, undercover officers and informants filed reports from their positions as "listening posts" inside Muslim communities.
    Police identified 53 "mosques of concern" and placed undercover officers and informants there.

PA to Pay Half Salaries in September (Reuters)
    The Palestinian Authority will pay only half wages in September, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Tuesday, because of a financial crisis it blames on Arab states which are failing to meet commitments to provide support.
    The PA pays salaries to 150,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza and monthly allowances to another 75,000 people.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Alarmed at Israeli-Turkish Breakdown in Ties - Matthew Lee
    The Obama administration is scrambling to keep ties between U.S. allies Israel and Turkey from deteriorating further. Senior American diplomats, including Secretary of State Clinton, are working with both countries to "de-escalate" and "defuse" the crisis, the State Department said Tuesday. Clinton discussed the matter at length with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last Thursday in Paris. (AP-MSNBC)
  • U.S. Defense Chief: Iran Revolution a "Matter of Time"
    Revolution in Iran appears to be a matter of time, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta predicted on Tuesday, saying the Iranian reform movement was learning from revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria. When asked whether the Arab Spring might spread to non-Arab Iran, Panetta responded: "Absolutely....It's a matter of time before that kind of change and reform and revolution occurs in Iran as well."  (Reuters)
  • Egypt Builds Wall Around Israeli Embassy in Cairo
    Egypt has walled off Israel's embassy in Cairo after a series of angry protests last month when a demonstrator scaled the building and removed the Israeli flag. Egyptian officials said the 8-foot-high concrete barrier was to protect other residents of the high-rise embassy building. "It is obvious that the reason behind building the wall is to prevent protesters in the future from reaching the embassy and to protect it," said political analyst Mustapha al-Sayyid. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Cooperation with U.S. Better than Ever - Herb Keinon
    Israeli-U.S. cooperation and coordination has improved markedly over the last few months and is now better than it has been since the beginning of the Obama administration, senior Israeli government officials said Tuesday, following reports of critical remarks made by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "The way we are working on the issue of unilateral Palestinian statehood at the UN, and the way we are dealing with other contentious issues, is better than ever," one official said, saying the level of cooperation improved significantly since Netanyahu's visit to Washington in May. The official noted that under Gates' watch, there has been an unprecedented level of security cooperation between Israel and the U.S. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Gates' Negative Comments on Netanyahu - Herb Keinon
    Anyone who has paid any attention knows there are wide gaps in the way the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government view the world since both took power in early 2009. What was new in what Jeffrey Goldberg revealed in his Bloomberg column Tuesday about how Gates really feels about Netanyahu was not the content of what Gates was quoted as saying, but rather that these feelings were brought to the fore now. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Terrorist Killed After Firing Mortars at Israel - Elior Levy
    Palestinian sources said Khaled Sahmoud, 23, who was in charge of the Popular Resistance Committees' al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades' mortar unit, was killed in Khan Yunis by an Israeli aircraft after his unit fired five mortar shells at Israel. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • As Israel-Turkey Alliance Disintegrates, Analysts Worry - Piotr Zalewski
    For Turkey, the breakup with Israel is another nail in the coffin of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's vaunted "zero problems" policy that, until recently, allowed the country to keep lines open with all sides of the Middle East's conflicts. By downgrading its relations with Israel, Turkey might also have increased pressure on Egypt - whose relationship with Israel is under serious strain - to do the same.
        According to Shlomo Avineri, a former director general at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey is deliberately distancing itself from Israel. "It has to do with...the Islamic nature of the regime, where it has distanced itself from the U.S. on many issues, and also from Israel." "I don't think Turkey is interested in reconciling with Israel." If they were, "they could have accepted the Palmer report [on the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident], with reservations if you wish, but they have just rejected it."  (Atlantic Monthly)
        See also Israel Under Siege - Benny Morris
    In the past months, Washington, worried about Turkey's gradual abandonment of the West and its warming relations with Teheran, pressed Israel to appease Ankara by issuing the desired apology. But as one Israeli commentator put it, in the Middle East pride and honor are real assets and registers of strength; apologizing, especially when in the right, would be seen as weakness and inevitably invite further depredations. (National Interest)
  • Classic Anti-Semitism - Dan Margalit
    Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan decided to build up his status in the Arab world on the backs of the Jews. This is classic anti-Semitism. Our region is in the grip of a psychotic attack of the mental illness called anti-Semitism. It is a chronic malady and there is no cure. All we can do is try to lower the flames and alleviate the insanity for extended periods of time. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan looks to Iranian President Ahmadinejad for inspiration, while newspapers in Cairo take a page from the Iranian and Turkish leaders. Under such circumstances, Israel cannot return Israel-Turkish relations to their former glory. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Turkey Is No Great Power - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Despite its 80 million citizens and its large military, Turkey has failed to position itself as an influential regional element. Turkey's efforts to join the EU failed. With the exception of Turkey, no other state in the world recognizes Northern Cyprus, the republic established by Ankara after invading Cyprus in 1974. On the other hand, Greek Cyprus was accepted as a member of the EU. Turkey was Gaddafi's most important ally before the Libyan uprising and Turkey tried to avert a NATO operation against Gaddafi.
        Turkey under Erdogan's leadership is neither a reliable ally nor a credible rival. In 2003, when the Bush Administration was about to invade Iraq, Erdogan refused to allow the American army to pass through Turkish territory. Erdogan makes rash, extreme statements that he has no military or political ability to realize or desire to implement. (Ynet News)
  • The Undimmed Danger of Iran's Nuclear Program - Editorial
    Iran has taken two more steps toward producing a nuclear weapon. According to a report released Friday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has begun to use a new, more advanced centrifuge to enrich uranium, which could allow it to produce bomb-grade material in a much shorter time. It also has begun installing centrifuges in a facility dug into a mountain near the city of Qom, which could be nearly invulnerable to air attack. Iranian officials say those centrifuges will be used to triple the production of uranium enriched to 20%, creating a stockpile for which Tehran has no plausible legitimate use.
        The report underlines the fact that the danger that Iran will become a nuclear power is growing, not diminishing. The administration deserves credit for the diplomatic effort that produced stricter sanctions. But the grim reality is that Iran's leaders have not been deterred from their goal of producing a weapon, and the project is making steady progress. Iran's rate of enrichment is nearly double what it was in 2009.
        The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that, should Iran decide on a "breakout" strategy of rapidly producing the highly enriched uranium for a weapon, it could do so in as little as 62 days - and that by the end of next year that timeline could fall to 12 days, making it possible to produce the core material for a bomb between visits by international inspectors. (Washington Post)

Former Israel Navy Chief: Israel Can Defend Its Gas Fields - Yuval Azoulai (Globes)

  • Unmanned naval patrol vehicles produced by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems will protect national interests at sea, with a focus on the gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea. The IDF has already received a number of these "Protector" vehicles over the last year, and the security establishment is looking to purchase additional ships. This will double the Navy's manpower that regularly patrols near the gas fields, and provide a response to terrorist attempts to attack them. The Protector meets the challenge of declarations by Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations that view these fields as possible targets for attacks.
  • The ships are equipped with advanced radar systems that enable them to warn security forces about suspicious movements approaching the rigs using sophisticated night and day vision equipment and an independent firing system. They are routinely carried on board large ships and are sent out to sea in times of need. According to foreign reports, Singapore's navy uses such vessels in its routine operations.
  • The Protector is not the only solution to the threats on the gas fields: foreign media reported that the Israel Air Force routinely operates unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with advanced identification and detection systems to protect gas fields located off Israel's coast.
  • A few months ago, Minister for Home Front Defense Matan Vilnai warned that there is a threat to the gas fields from Syria's missiles. The Israeli security establishment is concerned about the Syrians owning Russian Yakhont cruise missiles. A missile that can hit accurately at 300 km. is more capable of hitting a fixed target, like a gas rig. The security establishment assumes that whatever Syria has will eventually reach Hizbullah. It is some consolation to know that the IAI's Barak 8 surface-to-air missile is capable of intercepting the Yakhont.
  • "Israel has the capability to protect its gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea," said former Israel Navy Commander Vice Admiral (res.) David Ben-Ba'ashat, in an interview with Globes. "We must protect our installations out at sea. We must protect them since they are considered easy prey by Hizbullah and others. Of course the need to protect these sites will expand as Israel relies more and more heavily on natural gas."
  • "These requirements sharpen the need to enlarge a security presence at sea, to create deterrence, to achieve complete control over intelligence gathering, to streamline the monitoring and control capability of boats that approach Israel's maritime border, and when there is an unusual occurrence, to have control over the breaking situation swiftly, and to react quickly," he said.

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