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April 27, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: 93 Percent Proud to Be Israeli - Aharon Lapidot (Israel Hayom)
    According to a poll of Israelis conducted in honor of Independence Day, 93% are proud to be Israeli, and 70% describe themselves as "very proud."
    80% say they prefer to live in Israel over any other place in the world, while only 9% would rather live abroad.
    83% intend to display their national pride by flying a flag outside their house or on their car on Independence Day.
    65% said they see themselves as Jews first, then Israeli. 21% feel more Israeli than Jewish.
    81% said they feel an affinity towards diaspora Jews.

India Expels Iranian Who Spied on Israelis - Gitesh Shelke (Pune Mirror-India)
    Police in Pune last month deported Iranian national Hamid Kashkouli, 40, after he was found spying on Israeli nationals and Israeli centers such as Chabad House in Koregaon Park, and the Rasta Peth Synagogue. It was also learned that Kashkouli was on the payroll of Iranian intelligence.
    "He came to India under the pretext of being a student but was keeping a close eye on the Jewish centers in Pune. He had collected information about visitors' movements at the Chabad House and the Synagogue which he forwarded to intelligence officials in Tehran," a Special Branch officer said.
    It was found that he regularly traveled in a private car to the Iranian Consulate in Mumbai for unexplained reasons.

Sanctions Pull Rug from under Persian Carpet Trade - Alexandra Hudson (Reuters)
    U.S. sanctions forbidding the import of Iranian-made carpets, even from third countries, have deprived Persian carpet dealers in Hamburg, Germany, of one of their largest markets. New sanctions on payments to and from Iran have only made life harder.
    Tehran exported around $600 million worth of carpets in the calendar year from March 2011 and aims to export up to $1 billion in the year starting March 2012, largely by increasing sales to China and the UAE, Iran's Mehr news agency reported. Before the September 2010 embargo hit, the U.S. imported $41 million of Persian carpets.
    Last month Belgium-based SWIFT, the world's biggest electronic payment system, decided to expel all Iranian banks blacklisted by the EU. This has crippled legal trade in goods as companies can no longer receive or make payments.

Israel Foreign Ministry Slams British Guardian for Insisting Tel Aviv Is Israel's Capital - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
    On Sunday, the London-based Guardian ran a correction of a photo caption it had run two days earlier that described Jerusalem as being Israel's capital.
    "The caption...wrongly referred to the city as the Israeli capital," the correction read. "The Guardian style guide states: 'Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is.'"
    Israel Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Ilana Stein said: "When a claim is so factually wrong as to insult intelligence, then unfortunately the word 'lie' is not too harsh."
    "Jerusalem is Israel's capital by decision of the Knesset and nothing can change that," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said last month. "Every country is entitled to choose its own capital and it is not for others to designate anyone else's capital."

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Banks Fuel "Ramallah Bubble" But Debt Cannot Be Far Behind - Michael Jansen (Irish Times)
    The center of Ramallah is thronged with people shopping, strolling and eating pastries under the eyes of the stone lions that grace the traffic circle at Manara Square. Cafes are filled with boys with spiky gelled hair and girls in headscarves and tight jeans smoking water pipes and gossiping.
    Ramallah is hot, hip and expensive, a boom town administered by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.
    Under a system introduced recently in the PA, the percentage of money banks must lend has been raised. "People are financing homes, cars, marriages, computers and education by borrowing," says business consultant Sam Bahour.
    "Banks get loan guarantees, but individuals get into debt," as they did in Western countries suffering from massive individual and national indebtedness.

Israeli UAV Technology Trends - Arie Egozi (Israel Defense)
    According to Israeli Air Force statistics, UAVs carry out almost half of today's missions and major military campaigns (such as Operation Defensive Shield in Gaza in January 2009).
    Elbit Systems' Skylark-2, which became operational in late 2011, is now deployed in the south for intelligence gathering. The system is part of efforts to intercept attacks from the Sinai Peninsula.
    Front line commanders want to see inside the buildings where terrorists are holed up, and know exactly what is happening. Israel is developing almost imperceptible, soundless mini-UAVs capable of flying through open windows and airshafts, and then transmitting pictures to a ground station.

War Diary: An Eyewitness Account of the 1948 Battle for Jerusalem - Matti Friedman (Times of Israel)
    In the days and weeks surrounding the declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, Jews and Arabs were battling for control of Jerusalem.
    British missionary Rev. Hugh Jones of Christ Church, in the Old City, wrote a remarkable journal of those days that was rediscovered two years ago in the church archive.

Egyptian Actor Insulted Islam, Court Finds - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
    A Cairo court found Egypt's most popular comic actor guilty on Tuesday of insulting Islam in roles in films mocking religious hypocrisy, alarming liberal-minded artists and intellectuals already anxious about the growing power of Islamists here.
    The court fined the actor Adel Imam about $170 and gave him a suspended sentence.
    Imam was convicted for performances in the blockbuster films "The Terrorist," in which he plays a radical Islamist hiding among a moderate, middle-class family, and "Terrorism and Kabab," in which his character becomes enraged at a lazy civil servant pretending to pray to avoid work.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Violence in Syria's Capital Even with a Cease-Fire - Neil MacFarquhar and Hwaida Saad
    Three members of the Syrian security services used to suppress anti-government dissent were killed in and around Damascus on Tuesday. In addition, a small bomb exploded outside an Iranian culture and travel center in the center of Damascus, wounding four. Government forces followed the pattern established since the cease-fire, resuming attacks where the UN had just visited. The Damascus suburb of Douma, which staged a massive anti-government protest when the observers visited Monday, was shelled heavily on Wednesday, activists said.
        Satellite images showed that Syria had not fulfilled its obligation under UN envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan and still deployed heavy weapons in urban centers, said Annan's spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi. (New York Times)
        See also Obama Officials: Annan Plan "Failing" - Josh Rogin
    Two top Obama administration officials said Thursday that the diplomatic initiative to end the violence in Syria, led by UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan, "is failing." At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, both Kathleen Hicks, the current deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, and Derek Chollet, National Security Council senior director for strategy, said that the Annan plan was headed toward collapse. (Foreign Policy)
  • Only a Military Threat Can Stop Assad, Says France - Loveday Morris
    France said it may put forward a proposal to the UN Security Council which would allow for military action to end the bloodshed in Syria. Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, said he would push for a Chapter 7 resolution - which allows for military action to "restore international peace and security" - if Damascus does not comply with the ceasefire by 5 May, when envoy Kofi Annan presents a report to the Security Council on Syria's compliance with his plan.
        "If that does not work, we cannot allow the regime to defy us. We would have to move to a new stage with a Chapter 7 resolution at the UN to take a new step to stop this tragedy," he said. But a Chapter 7 resolution is likely to be vetoed by Russia and China. (Independent-UK)
  • Russia, Iran Keep Fuel Flowing to Syria - Jessica Donati and Julia Payne
    Russia and Iran are helping Syria import fuel for heavy vehicles including army tanks, allowing Damascus to avoid the full impact of tightening Western sanctions. Syria received regular shipments of Russian gasoil and diesel over the winter and sent another delivery this month.
        Syria's need for gasoil makes it a perfect fit to swap with Iran, which produces plenty of diesel but has struggled for years to find sufficient supplies of gasoline, the fuel used in most civilian cars. An Iranian vessel completed an exchange this week in which it delivered around 32,000 tons of gasoil to Syria and returned to Iran with about 33,000 tons of gasoline. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egypt Prevents Vandalism of IDF Memorial in Sinai - Roi Kais
    Egyptian security forces prevented Islamists from vandalizing an IDF memorial in Sinai on Wednesday - the day Egypt celebrates Sinai's liberation. According to al-Youm al-Sabaa, members of the Sinai Revolutionaries Movement were stopped in their vehicles. They were planning to paint the colors of the Egyptian flag over the monument which commemorates 10 Israeli soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash. Egypt pledged to guard the memorial as part of the 1979 Peace Treaty. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Develops Active Missile-Shield for Helicopters - Yaakov Katz
    Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' Fliker system, a protective shield for helicopters, successfully intercepted a rocket-propelled grenade in its first test recently. Fliker is activated when automatic flares fail to divert an incoming missile. It fires an interceptor that is designed to minimize debris and reduce the risk that shrapnel will hit the aircraft. Both Hamas and Hizbullah have obtained a significant number of shoulder-to-air missiles. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizbullah shot down a Yasour (Sikorsky CH- 53) transport helicopter in Lebanon, killing its crew. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Where UN Monitors Go in Syria, Killings Follow - Editorial
    So far, a UN monitoring mission in Syria has had one tangible effect: It has gotten people killed. On Sunday and Monday, monitors toured neighborhoods in the city of Homs and in the Damascus suburbs of Doura and Zabadani. When they left, the areas they visited were shelled, and security forces carried out sweeps in which civilians suspected of speaking to the monitors were taken from their homes and shot or had their houses burned down. How did Mr. Annan and the UN Security Council react to these horrific reports? By urging the deployment of more monitors.
        Numerous Syrians have been killed every day since the supposed UN cease-fire went into effect April 1. The observers are not "changing dynamics" but providing cover and even targets for the regime of Bashar al-Assad. (Washington Post)
  • America's Syria Abdication - Fouad Ajami
    In a Syrian refugee camp near Antakya, Turkey, the ongoing Kofi Annan diplomacy and UN-brokered "cease-fire" are seen for what they are - an alibi for the abdication of Western powers, and a lifeline for the regime. Syria is not Libya, the Obama officials opine. The air defenses of Syria are thick when compared with those of Libya, the army of the Damascus regime is mightier.
        The truth is that the air defense system of the Syrians can be dismantled with ease. And that mighty army of the House of Assad? The Syrians refer to it as jaysh abu shahatta (the army in slippers). The Sunni recruits are worn out, terrified and underfed, thrown into assignments they abhor and dread - the killing of their fellow Sunnis.
        A no-fly, no-drive zone on the border with Turkey would critically alter the terms of engagement and encourage greater defections from the regime's forces. Everyone is waiting on Washington's green light and its leadership. Turkey would act, but only under the banner of NATO. In the markets in Dubai, the Assad dictatorship is dumping its gold reserves - at a discount. In the long run, this regime is doomed. The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • While Syria Burns - Charles Krauthammer
    Last year President Obama ordered U.S. intervention in Libya under the grand new doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect." Moammar Gaddafi was threatening a massacre in Benghazi. To stand by and do nothing "would have been a betrayal of who we are," explained the president. In the year since, the government of Syria has more than threatened massacres. It has carried them out. More than 9,000 are dead.
        Russia flies planeloads of weapons to Damascus. Iran supplies money, trainers, agents, more weapons. And what does America do? Support a feckless UN peace mission that does nothing to stop the killing. And establish an Atrocities Prevention Board. Military intervention - bombing, boots on the ground - is not the only alternative. Why aren't we organizing, training and arming the Syrian rebels in their sanctuaries in Turkey? (Washington Post)
  • In Shift, Israeli Leaders Say It Is Time for Syria's Assad to Step Down
    Israeli officials have become increasingly outspoken in their belief that Syria's President Bashar Assad should relinquish power after a 13-month uprising that has killed thousands of his citizens. With Islamic parties on the rise throughout the region, there was no telling who might replace Assad. But as the death toll mounted in recent months, a number of Israeli officials have concluded that the Middle East would be a better place without Assad.
        Although Israeli officials now believe Assad's days are numbered, they say they are keeping their distance from the key players in Syria. They do not want to be seen as intervening in Syrian affairs. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel would welcome international action against Assad, just as international action in Libya helped oust the late Moammar Gaddafi. But he said, "We know our place. It's not for us to give advice....We're not doing anything to make him go. We're not getting involved or even thinking of any interference."
        Israeli security officials believe that if Assad goes, there is a good chance that a moderate, Sunni, Western-leaning government will take his place, based on "the latest intelligence" and the belief that Syria is far different from Egypt, where Islamic parties have risen in influence. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Are Syrian Alawites and Turkish Alevis the Same? - Soner Cagaptay
    The Arab Alawites are a part of a highly secretive offshoot of Islam, thought to be open only to men and, in this case, an initiated few. The Alawite faith is considered by some to be close to Shiism. Following the Islamic Revolution, Iran reached out to the Alawites, disseminating propaganda suggesting that they are really Shiites, in the hopes of justifying Shiite Iranian support for the Alawite-backed regime in Damascus.
        The Alevi faith, on the other hand, is a relatively unstructured interpretation of Islam, open to both genders and, historically, even to non-Muslims. Alevism is unique among Muslim sects, as it does not segregate men and women, even during prayers. The Alevi faith mixes Islam and Sufism, as well as harboring respect for some traditions of Christianity and the Turks' pre-Islamic religion, Shamanism. Unlike the Alawite faith, Alevism lacks written traditions and does not emphasize religious practice.
        Many assume that because the Alevis are not Sunnis, they must be Shiites, confusing them with the similarly named Alawites. This myth is common even among some Muslims who assume that the Alawites and Alevis are identical. Surprisingly, this misconception even exists among the Turkish Alevis. Turkish Alevis have historically defined themselves as a minority group persecuted by the majority Sunnis. Accordingly, should the conflict in Syria turn Sunni on Alawite, it is conceivable that religiously conscious Turkish Alevis will empathize with the minority Alawites in Syria. The writer is director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (CNN)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel's Gas Diplomacy - Lawrence Solomon
    After Israel survived its war of independence, it set about winning friends in the Middle East among non-Arabs, including Iran and Turkey, two non-Arab regional powers that became full-blown military allies. Now Israel's periphery strategy is back big time, thanks largely to hydrocarbon diplomacy.
        Israel has known gas reserves of $130-billion in the Mediterranean, with some estimating that twice as much will materialize as exploration continues. Cyprus is also discovering immense amounts of gas in the sea bed adjacent to Israel's. The two are now developing their gas jointly, with plans to export it to Europe or Asia or both. Greece is now talking of joining in joint ventures.
        Israel's periphery strategy includes other European countries such as Christian Romania and Bulgaria, and Muslim Albania, which has been a standout defender of Israel in the UN. Israel also has allies such as Georgia and Azerbaijan in Central Asia, and works with predominantly Christian Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and South Sudan to fend off Iran and Islamist terrorism.
        Israel's stock in East Africa is particularly high because of its role in gaining independence for South Sudan. Over much of South Sudan's half-century struggle for independence, Israel almost single-handedly armed and supported the black African rebels against what was widely recognized as genocide and enslavement perpetrated by the Arabic rulers based in northern Sudan. (Financial Post-Canada)
  • Egyptian Gas - Editorial
    Egypt's unilateral abrogation of its gas transaction with Israel hardly augurs well. The 20-year agreement signed in July 2005 was based on the peace treaty between the states and was contracted by the two governments. The Mubaraks now stand accused of having sold gas too cheaply to Israel in return for kickbacks. The truth is irrelevant in Cairo. Israel is cast as the villain.
        The sabotaged gas pipes are the least of our troubles in Sinai, where Bedouin tribes have made the peninsula a highway for illegal migration from Africa, human and drug trafficking and terror operations. Under these circumstances, the gas deal with Egypt was a goner anyway. But with matchless insolence Egypt actually accuses the Israeli buyers of its fuel of not paying for the gas which was consumed in flames after the pipes were blown up in Egyptian territory or for gas not delivered altogether because the pipeline connections had been violently severed. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel - A Foreign Activists' Paradise - Tal Dror
    I once asked two Swedish activists why they came to Israel of all places? Why not Syria? Egypt? Russia or China? One of them replied, "Are you insane? These are all extremely dangerous places!" And that's when it hit me. These people know that nothing bad is going to happen to them here. The massive exposure of the Israeli officer who struck a protestor, and the amount of condemnation it received, proves how unusual this incident was.
        After all, in Egypt or Syria you would become another dead body on the street. In China or Russia you would find yourself imprisoned for the rest of your life if you even attempted to raise your hand against a local police officer or soldier.
        For many of those foreign peace activists, this is all just a game. They come from all corners of the world to a faraway country they have never been to before. They confront soldiers and policemen, blocking roads and holding signs. Moreover - as long as they have their cold beer by the end of the evening, as long as they lay their heads in a comfy and friendly hostel - they will continue to arrive. They take advantage of what we're most proud of: our freedom, democracy and tolerance.
        I hope they will embrace how lucky they are to be "spoiled radicals" here with us. Hopefully they will realize that if Israel disappeared, they will not have anywhere else to go. (Ynet News)
  • Why Do They Hate Us? The Real War on Women Is in the Middle East - Mona Eltahawy
    The region has risen up, fueled not by the usual hatred of America and Israel but by a common demand for freedom. An entire political and economic system - one that treats half of humanity like animals - must be destroyed along with the other more obvious tyrannies choking off the region from its future. Until the rage shifts from the oppressors in our presidential palaces to the oppressors on our streets and in our homes, our revolution has not even begun.
        When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating "virginity tests" merely for speaking out, it's no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband "with good intentions" no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. Not a single Arab country ranks in the top 100 in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report, putting the region as a whole solidly at the planet's rock bottom. Poor or rich, we all hate our women. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Debating the War on Women
    Six observers weigh in on Eltahawy's claim that many of the men of the Arab world hate women. (Foreign Policy)
        See also The Real Roots of Sexism in the Middle East - Max Fisher (Atlantic Monthly)

  • Weekend Features

  • Taking Back Israel's National Sovereignty - Gerald M. Steinberg
    In a recent meeting with European officials, diplomats, and journalists, I was asked why many Israelis criticized and resented their intense efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians and democracy for Israel. The problem, I tried to explain, was in the ways that Europeans, in particular, have sought to impose and force their views on Israelis, often via secret processes that manipulate Israeli democracy.
        By funneling tens of millions of euros or pounds every year to a small group of carefully selected Israeli political organizations, European officials are in effect rolling back Jewish self-determination. Telling Israelis that grants to these groups are "for our own good" is condescending and counterproductive. The writer is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor. (Times of Israel)
  • The Future of the Jews - Daniel Gordis
    Just after World War II when Hitler had annihilated one-third of the world's Jews, including 90% of Eastern Europe's Jews, no sane, level-headed person could have imagined that 67 years later we would have what we have. A language brought back to life, and bookstores filled with hundreds of linear feet of books in a language that just a century ago almost no one spoke. An economic engine that is the envy of many more established countries. A democracy fashioned by immigrants, most of whom had never lived in a functioning democracy. Cutting-edge health care. An army that keeps us so safe, we go days on end without even thinking about our enemies.
        It's worth remembering that the Jews have a future because the Jews have a state. There are moments when a People has earned a celebration. Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day) is, without question, one of those moments. Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President of the Shalem Center. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Desert Yields a Harvest of Energy - Isabel Kershner
    Yosef Abramowitz, a social activist, Jewish educator and multimedia entrepreneur from Boston, Ed Hofland, a businessman from Kibbutz Ketura, and David Rosenblatt, an investor and strategist from New Jersey, founded the Arava Power Company, now the leading commercial developer of solar power in Israel. 20 acres of photovoltaic panels from China - 18,600 in all - that harness the sun. There is no smoke, only a slight buzz in the spotless rooms where the panels' current is turned into electricity that can be fed into the electrical grid. Depending on the time of year and rate of energy consumption, this field provides power for as many as five communities.
        Siemens, the German conglomerate, invested $15 million, and its Israeli branch built the field. The Jewish National Fund made a strategic investment of $3 million in a twist on the national ideal of making the desert bloom. Last month, Israel's Public Utility Authority issued licenses for nine larger solar fields, including a 150-acre site at Ketura that will eventually meet one-third of the peak daytime energy needs in the city of Eilat.
        Arava Power has entered deals to lease land from numerous farms and communities in southern Israel. It has also teamed up with Bedouins in the Negev Desert: the tribes will lease their lands to Arava Power for solar installations, and the company will provide jobs for the clans. (New York Times)

Defense Minister Adds to Israel's Recent Mix of Messages on Iran - Jodi Rudoren (New York Times)

  • One day after Israeli newspapers reported that the nation's top general had said economic and diplomatic pressures against Iran were beginning to succeed, his superior, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, said Thursday that the chances "appear low" that the Iranian government would bow to international pressure and halt its nuclear program. In an interview published Wednesday in Ha'aretz, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz described the Iranian government as "very rational." Mr. Netanyahu had told CNN on Tuesday that he would not count "on Iran's rational behavior."
  • Gantz said Thursday that he thought Iran would ultimately decide against building a weapon because of sanctions and the threat of a military strike from multiple nations. Hours later, Barak said he thought it unlikely that the sanctions would succeed and that he did not see Iran as "rational in the Western sense of the word, meaning people seeking a status quo and the outlines of a solution to problems in a peaceful manner."
  • An aide in Gantz's office said his words had been taken out of context. "The headlines that were trying to be made that there's a difference of opinions between the leaders, that's not true," the aide said. "They both view Iran in the same way. There is really no difference in the fact that Iran is the main threat for Israel and Israel is ready to cope with Iran." Similarly, a senior aide to Barak said "the minister of defense and the chief of staff are completely on the same page."
  • Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, said the apparent disagreement on rationality could be explained: "The Iranians have irrational goals, which they may try and advance in a rational way." "This is one of those subjects where every word and nuance is sometimes interpreted to mean a lot more than it does," said Gold, author of The Rise of Nuclear Iran.
  • Amos Harel, the Ha'aretz defense correspondent who conducted the original interview with General Gantz, said he thought reports of disunity between the prime minister and the general were overblown.
    See also Ha'aretz, New York Times Play Telephone with IDF - Jonathan S. Tobin
Reading the New York Times account of an interview with Benny Gantz, the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, that was first published in Ha'aretz is like a children's game of "telephone." What Gantz actually said wasn't reflected in the misleading headline of the Israeli newspaper. That headline, repeated in the Times article, had more to do with the editorial agenda of the press than the reality of Israel's security dilemma. (Commentary)

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