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May 4, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Bin Laden Papers Reveal: Fatah Offered Money to Al-Qaeda - Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor.)
    A letter seized during the Osama bin Laden raid and posted online Thursday by the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center notes that Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, "has offered us funds, purportedly to [support] jihad, but there is another reason, namely their fear of becoming targets of our swords."
    See also Letters from Abbottabad (Combating Terrorism Center-West Point)
    See also Bin Laden Documents at a Glance (AP-Washington Post)
    Bin Laden wanted al-Qaeda to focus on the U.S. and not waste time and resources attacking other enemies such as Britain or trying to overthrow governments in the Muslim world.

Israel Issues Terror Warning for Tunisia - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)
    Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau on Thursday warned Israelis to refrain from visiting Tunisia, in light of intentions to carry out terror attacks in the country against Israeli and Jewish targets during the Lag b'Omer festival next Wednesday and Thursday in Djerba.
    Last year the festival did not take place "due to the unpleasant atmosphere towards Jews in the country," said Haim Damari, Director General of Tunis Tours.
    In April 2002, 21 people were murdered in the synagogue on Djerba Island after a suicide bomber blew himself up in a gas-filled tanker.

IDF Paramedics Save Life of Palestinian Woman - Daniel Temkin (Israel Defense Forces)
    IDF paramedics provided emergency medical care to a 30-year-old Palestinian woman on April 27, saving her life.
    Paramedic Sgt. (res.) Tom Tzarfati was on call at an IDF base in Samaria when a car approached the front gate with a 30-year-old Palestinian woman who was unconscious and experiencing a seizure.
    The paramedics provided first aid treatment at the base's infirmary, after which the woman was transported to an Israeli hospital for further medical care.

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Bnei Menashe Aliya from India to Resume This Summer (Jerusalem Post)
    For the first time in five years, a large group of Bnei Menashe immigrants from northeastern India is slated to make aliya this summer.
    50 families, numbering 250 people, will arrive in August and settle in the Galilee.
    More than 1,700 Bnei Menashe moved to Israel over the last decade.

Impressions of an IDF Reserve Soldier - Yaniv Blumenfeld (Ynet News)
    Last week I returned from month-long IDF reserve service in Judea and Samaria. Israelis maintain a daily routine under a constant threat to their lives. Jewish communities must be surrounded by a fence so their residents won't be butchered.
    I suddenly understood how truly shocking it is that I'm lying in ambush in mud near a Jewish community on the eve of a holiday, just to prevent the murder of Jews.
    The Palestinians do not draw their hatred for Israel from the soldier at the checkpoint. They take in the hatred from PA and Hamas TV. They get the hatred from incitement at mosques, schools, and the photos of martyrs adorning every wall and square in their cities.

Women of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)
    Israel is the only country in the world that requires women to serve in the military.
    92% of positions in the IDF are available for female soldiers and women make up one-third of the IDF.
    Read the stories of ten women who serve in the IDF.

Music Moguls to Artists: Don't Boycott Israel - Danielle Berrin (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
    Leading music executives, talent agents and entertainment lawyers have joined together in the nascent group Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), a nonprofit seeking to counter artist boycotts of Israel.
    While some high-profile musicians have succumbed to pressure to cancel their Israel tours, many prominent artists are still performing there - Lady Gaga, Elton John, Rihanna, Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen are just a few who have taken the stage there in recent years.
    This summer, 46 musical acts are scheduled, including Madonna, Rufus Wainwright, Herbie Hancock and Lenny Kravitz.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel: Iran Could Seek Short Build Time for Bomb - Dan Williams
    Iran's nuclear strategy could eventually allow it to build an atomic bomb with just 60 days' notice, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday. His remarks elaborate on long-held Israeli concerns that Iran is playing for time even as it engages world powers in negotiations aimed at curbing its uranium enrichment drive. Talks are due to resume in Baghdad on May 23.
        "They are currently trying to achieve immunity for the nuclear program," Barak told the Israel Hayom newspaper. "If they arrive at military nuclear capability, at a weapon, or a demonstrated capability, or a threshold status in which they could manufacture a bomb within 60 days - they will achieve a different kind of immunity, regime immunity."  (Reuters)
  • Iran Imported $566 Million in Weapons Despite Arms Embargo - David Blair
    Iran imported weapons worth $566 million over three years despite being the target of a UN arms embargo, Oxfam disclosed on Thursday. In all, ten countries subjected to arms embargos bought weaponry worth over $2.2 billion between 2000 and 2010, showing the ineffectiveness of current restrictions, said Anna MacDonald of Oxfam. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Iran's Oil Production at Lowest Level in 20 Years - Benoit Faucon
    Iran's oil output has reached its lowest level in 20 years, independent data showed Wednesday, as the impact of sanctions dramatically deepens. According to Vienna-based JBC Energy GmbH, Iran's crude output fell to 3.2 million barrels a day in April, down 150,000 barrels a day in two months. A planned EU ban on imports of Iranian oil has led to a 14% decline in the country's crude exports in March as refiners anticipate the embargo.
        Tehran's oil sales are also coming under pressure in its core markets such as Japan or China. Data released Thursday by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry showed a 36% decline in Iranian oil imports in March 2012 compared to a year earlier. China's customs figures also show March imports of Iranian oil have fallen by more than half compared with last year. India's two largest importers of crude oil from Iran will also cut oil imports by at least 15%. (Dow Jones-Wall Street Journal)
  • Syrian Forces Kill Four Students at Aleppo University - Neil MacFarquhar
    A violent clampdown by Syrian security forces against a student demonstration at Aleppo University ended with at least four students killed, including one heaved out a fifth-floor window, and scores arrested, activists and opposition organizations said Thursday. The suppression prompted sympathy rallies at universities around Syria and a large march in Aleppo with protesters chanting "We don't want Bashar!"
        Aleppo University is one of the country's largest public universities with 60,000 students and President Assad enjoys significant backing among many of the students. Student supporters of the government and the thugs known as shabiha helped the police and soldiers put down the demonstration, activists said. It was fellow students and shabiha who threw Samer Qawass, an 18-year-old Islamic studies student from Idlib, out of the fifth-floor window in Building 17, killing him. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Gets Fourth Submarine - Gili Cohen
    Israel received a fourth Dolphin submarine from Germany on Thursday. The new sub, called "Tanin" (alligator), will be put into operation in 2013. According to a senior Israel Navy officer, "this submarine can stay underwater for longer." Israel has ordered two more submarines from Germany.
        According to foreign sources, the submarines are equipped to carry Israel-made cruise missiles with a range of 1,500 km. and the ability to carry nuclear warheads, giving Israel "second-strike" abilities in case of a nuclear attack. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Removes Key West Bank Roadblocks - Yaakov Katz
    In an effort to improve Palestinian quality of life, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria removed a number of roadblocks on key roads throughout the West Bank in recent weeks. Roadblocks were lifted from six roads near Tulkarem, Nablus, Balata and Ariel. "Lately, in light of increased stability and calm in the region, the IDF and the civil administration are making efforts to facilitate Palestinian movement throughout the territories," one official said.
        Since 2008, the IDF has evacuated 30 manned checkpoints throughout the West Bank, leaving 11, mostly located along the Green Line. "Nowadays, Palestinians can travel from northern Samaria to southern Judea within record time while crossing maybe one checkpoint, when three years ago it would have taken a few hours and they would have had to cross several checkpoints," another officer said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Nabs Palestinians with Pipe Bombs - Sam Ser
    Border policemen arrested two Palestinians carrying backpacks filled with pipe bombs and knives near Tapuach Junction in the West Bank on Thursday. Also Thursday, a security guard at Elon Moreh alerted soldiers to a Palestinian approaching the settlement's security fence. Soldiers arrested the man, who was armed with a knife. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Is a Palestinian Revolt Against Mahmoud Abbas Brewing? - Adrian Blomfield
    Instead of going to the polls as they were promised, Palestinians are remaining at home this Friday, betrayed once again by bickering leaders whose quarrels have contributed to an increasingly dangerous sense of malaise across the West Bank and Gaza. For many ordinary Palestinians, the failure to hold legislative elections as promised represents the culmination of a deeply disappointing year in which politicians had sharply heightened their expectations only repeatedly to dash them.
        Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, polls showed, was the single most important issue for most Palestinians, outstripping even peace talks with Israel. But political reconciliation has stalled. Neither Hamas nor Fatah can agree how to share power in an interim government or to merge their respective security forces.
        An opinion poll last month indicated that support for Hamas and Fatah has fallen to historic lows, with 50% saying they would vote for neither party were an election actually to be held. Not only have Palestinians had the ballot box option ripped away from them, they also have a leader who has essentially been in power unconstitutionally for more than three years. Abbas' term officially expired in January 2009. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Link U.S. Aid to Palestinians to an End to Hatred and incitement - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The U.S. has given the Palestinians more than $3.5 billion since 1994. No matter how much the U.S. tries to help the Palestinians, it will always be viewed by many of them as an enemy. Last week, President Barack Obama gave $147 million to the Palestinians. A few days later, Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah against the U.S. The Palestinians want the U.S. to endorse all their demands and force Israel to give them everything.
        The anti-U.S. sentiments are the direct result of incitement by the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinians against the U.S. Palestinians are reminded almost every day that the U.S. is a foe rather than a friend, although no one seems to ask how come a foe is so generous. U.S. aid should be conditioned not only on PA transparency and accountability, but also on an end to the campaign of hatred and incitement, as officially agreed in the Oslo Accords but never implemented. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Out of Ideas, Palestinian Authority Censors Critics - Dan Murphy
    The Palestinian Authority's democratic mandate expired two years ago, when scheduled elections were cancelled because of the five-year rift between Abbas' Fatah Party, which is dominant in the West Bank, and Hamas, the Islamist movement that now runs Gaza as a separate Palestinian enclave. Amid on-again, off-again reconciliation efforts, the PA under Fatah's guidance has shown increasing signs of authoritarianism and thuggish control of free speech.
        Last week the PA blocked eight websites tied to a Fatah rival of Abbas, which had been heavily critical of the president. In March, Palestinian reporter Yousef al-Shayeb was arrested after a report alleging corruption at the Foreign Ministry. Two bloggers who criticized Abbas online were also recently arrested. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Hamas a Loser from the Arab Spring - Elliott Abrams
    It would be logical to assess that Hamas (a part of the Muslim Brotherhood) must be a winner from the "Arab Spring." But that assessment would be premature. Hamas has lost its long-time headquarters in Damascus due to the revolt in Syria. Those who worked there have scattered and, as a result, more power is centered in Gaza. Yet, to the extent that its key leaders are in Gaza, they are vulnerable to Israeli retaliation for any acts of terror they authorize.
        One of the reasons Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections was the reputation of Fatah for corruption. Now, according to recent polls, Hamas is seen as almost equally corrupt. Only 31% of Palestinians in Gaza give their Hamas rulers a positive evaluation. That number is more likely to decline than to rise. Hamas is one of the losers from the Arab Spring. (Council on Foreign Relations)

  • Other Issues

  • Assad Plays the Sectarian Card - Jackson Diehl
    There has been, from the very beginning, a streak of raw sectarianism in the Syrian version of the Arab Spring: of a disgruntled Sunni majority turning on the corrupt ruling clique based in the Alawis. It is sectarianism that has motivated much of the foreign intervention, from Shiite Iran to the Sunni Persian Gulf kingdoms and Turkey's Sunni Islamist government.
        Syria has become the focal point of at least four regional conflicts: between the old autocratic order and the liberal movements for modernization and democracy; between Iran and its allies and the U.S., Israel, and the "moderate" Arab states; between the Western powers and Russia and China; and between the Sunni and Shiite sects. In the end, the sectarian battle - with its potential for unending, pitiless carnage - may drive all the rest.
        According to U.S. and Arab sources, Iran has sent advisers from the Quds Force of its Revolutionary Guard to Syria to advise Assad, supplied him and his family with bodyguards, and flown in planeloads of weapons through Iraqi airspace.
        The central thrust of U.S. policy has been to head off a full-scale sectarian war in Syria. The quicker Assad falls, administration officials believe, the more likely it is that he could be replaced with a liberal and democratic order. Conversely, the longer the domestic bloodshed goes on, the more likely it is that sectarian fighting will take over the country, and possibly spread to Lebanon or Iraq.
        From the beginning, Assad has described the opposition as "jihadists" linked to al-Qaeda. The regime's message to the Alawi community is simple: "If we die, you will die with us." To minority Christians, Kurds, and Druse, the message is: "You will be crushed by the Islamist Sunni majority if it comes to power."  (World Affairs)
  • They're Scared in Tehran - David Patrikarakos
    For years, Tehran was able to sell its nuclear program to the Iranian people as a totem of national achievement under threat from the "imperialist" West. "Our people want nuclear power," said Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, in 2004, "even more so because the United States says we can't have it." But those days are gone. Iranians now care less about nuclear centrifuges than they do about jobs. Former president Rafsanjani now routinely uses the nuclear issue to attack Ahmadinejad, blaming his diplomatic crassness for Iran's increasing isolation and suffering.
        The nuclear program has transformed from a national rallying cry to a political hand grenade; what was once the regime's strength has become its weakness. The price Iran is now paying for its program threatens to destabilize or even destroy the regime - the one thing the mullahs fear above all else.
        Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, uncharacteristically described the discussions in Istanbul on April 14 as "very successful." It was a signal. The last time the Iranians were this scared was shortly after Washington had conquered Baghdad, in mid-2003. Four months later Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment. (Ha'aretz)
  • Sinai Instability Threatens Egypt-Israel Peace - Steven A. Cook
    The Sinai is a haven for drug smuggling, human trafficking, gun running, and extremists of all types, ranging from Egyptian takfiris and Palestinian jihadists to al-Qaeda sympathizers. On Wednesday, the IDF mobilized six reserve battalions as a precautionary measure given the potential for instability in Syria and Egypt.
        The reason for Israel's mobilization is not only because the IDF does not believe that the Egyptian armed forces are up to the task of cleaning up the mess in Sinai, but that the Egyptian military happens to share that view. The Egyptians have no capacity to execute a sustained military effort in Sinai that would improve the security environment there. (Council on Foreign Relations)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Inventor Unveils New Printing System - David Shamah
    Benny Landa has a new technology he believes will become the next industry standard. At this week's Drupa international trade show in Dusseldorf, the world's largest printing equipment exhibition, Landa displayed his latest innovation - a nanotechnology-based print system, which he says provides cheaper, higher quality, more efficient, and more environmentally-friendly printing.
        Digital printing is seen as a great way to produce short-run jobs. But for larger print jobs, offset printing is considered the cheapest method of producing 5,000 or more copies. The new system reduces the cost per page of digital printed matter to meet or beat the price of offset printing, Landa said.
        Digital printing - directly from a computer file - was an Israeli invention. The first digital printer was designed and built by Landa at Indigo, which was bought by HP in 2000. As an HP unit, Indigo went on to dominate the world market; three out of four commercial digital printing presses sold today are made by HP.
        At the heart of the process is a new ink invented by Landa, comprised of pigment particles only tens of nanometers in size. This enables images that are ultra-sharp, very glossy, more colorful, and longer-lasting than can be attained with other printing processes. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's Medical Tourism Industry - Danny Rubenstein
    A good medical reputation and relatively lower costs draw patients from all over the globe to receive medical care in Israel. Annual revenues in Israeli hospitals from medical tourism amount to some $120 million, as Israeli hospitals charge 30% more from foreign patients than they do from Israeli patients.
        These figures do not include the thousands of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank who receive medical treatment in Israel each year. In 2011, the PA health department tightened its policies on approving medical treatment in Israel due to a serious financial crunch and it has been sending more patients to receive medical treatment in Jordan and Egypt. (Ynet News)

Beware a Bad Deal with Tehran - Amos Yadlin and Yoel Guzansky (National Interest)

  • An additional round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran about the nuclear issue is due to take place in Baghdad in May. In any possible deal, the assumption is that Iran will be granted legitimacy to enrich uranium on its soil. Thus, the difference between a "good deal" and a "bad deal" lies in parameters of Iran's enrichment that would prevent it from breaking out towards nuclear weapons.
  • A bad deal, one that the Iranians are likely to offer and that the international community would be tempted to accept, would include explicit legitimacy for Iran enriching uranium on its soil up to the 5% level but would not include removal of most of the already-enriched uranium from within Iran's borders.
  • The bad deal also would include not limiting the number or type of centrifuges and enrichment sites. Iran then would be able to continue securing its sites in a way that would make damaging them much harder than it is at present. With such a deal, Iran would be able to improve its chances of breaking out toward nuclear weapons in a relatively short time after making the decision to do so.
  • Israel would find it hard to live with a situation in which Iran could at any moment decide to break out toward rapid nuclear-weapons manufacturing thanks to an extensive nuclear infrastructure and a significant amount of enriched uranium.
  • The American red line is an Iranian breaking out toward nuclear arms. According to Washington, the U.S. would know of this development ahead of time. Israel is not convinced and has expressed its reluctance to accept that risk. The result is that a compromise with Iran also means a deepening gulf and widening disagreement between Israel and the U.S.

    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin is director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). He served as the IDF's chief of defense intelligence and as deputy commander of the Israel Air Force. Yoel Guzansky is a senior research fellow at INSS and a former member of Israel's National Security Council.
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