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October 19, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: More Americans Want "Firm Stand" on Iran Nuclear Threat (Los Angeles Times)
    A growing share of Americans say they want firm action to end the threat of the Tehran regime building a nuclear bomb, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.
    56% said they favor Washington taking a "firm stand" with Iran, up from 50% in January, while 41% said it is "more important to avoid military conflict."
    57% said they don't believe the uprisings that ousted governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya will lead to lasting improvements for their citizens, up sharply from 43% in April 2011.
    See also Poll Results: Growing Pessimism about Arab Spring Aftermath (Pew Research Center)

Egypt: Sinai Jihadists Planning Attack on Israel - Yousri Mohamed (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    An Egyptian security source revealed that a number of Sinai-based jihadists had completely disappeared, increasing the likelihood of a retaliatory strike being carried out against Israel following the killing of two prominent Palestinian militants in Gaza last week.
    The source also said that Cairo had information confirming the presence of a terrorist sleeper cell in hiding in the mountains of southern Sinai.

Report: Cyprus Thwarts Terror Attack Against Israelis (Ynet News)
    Cyprus' secret service has thwarted a terror attack against Israelis at Limassol Airport, the Cypriot newspaper Althia reported Thursday.
    According to the report, 100 grams of pink-colored explosives were found in the airport.
    It was further reported that the attack was meant to target Israeli tourists visiting Cyprus onboard cruise ships.

Jordanian Tribe Mourns Appointment of Clansman as Ambassador to Israel - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
    Seven Jordanian villages near Irbid, Jordan, where members of the Obeidat tribe live, declared a state of public mourning after Walid Obeidat presented his credentials to Israeli President Shimon Peres Wednesday, Al-Hayat reported.

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Selection of Israel Critic for U.S. Delegation to Human Rights Forum Raises Concern - Joseph Weber (Fox News)
    Muslim Public Affairs Council founder Salam al-Marayati, an outspoken critic of Israel who once said the Jewish state should be added to the list of 9/11 terror suspects, was recently selected to be part of the U.S. delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe forum on human rights.
    "The United States has done a lot of dirty work that has served the interests of Israel," al-Marayati said in January.
    "It destroyed Iraq. It supported the destruction and crippling of Egypt. It has crippled the Gulf. And now, it is looking to Iran as the next target for crippling and destroying. Who is driving our foreign policy - President Obama or Prime Minister Netanyahu?"

Divided Palestinians Hold Municipal Elections without Hamas - Jihan Abdalla (Reuters)
    Palestinians in the West Bank go to the polls on Saturday in long-delayed municipal elections.
    Hamas is boycotting the election and preventing voting from taking place in Gaza, leaving the field largely clear for the Fatah party.
    Fatah could still lose what should have been an easy victory. It is being challenged by an array of independent candidates as well as well-known Fatah dissidents who failed to make the official party list.

Drilling to Start at Israel's Pelagic Gas Fields (Reuters)
    Drilling at Israel's Pelagic offshore natural gas fields will begin in November and last for about three months, at a cost of around $103 million, exploration firm Israel Opportunity said on Thursday.
    The Ishai field, the first of five Pelagic licenses to be drilled, is located 160 km. off Israel's coast in waters 1,700 meters deep. It is estimated to hold 3.7 trillion cubic feet of gas and the drilling has up to a 76.7% chance of success.
    The Pelagic fields are near Israel's Tamar and Leviathan fields.

Salafists Destroy Ancient Carvings in Morocco - Olga Khazan (Washington Post)
    Hard-line Muslims who adhere to an interpretation of Islam that forbids idolatry have destroyed 8,000-year-old stone carvings in Morocco's High Atlas mountains.
    "One of the carvings, called 'the plaque of the sun,' predates the arrival of the Phoenicians in Morocco," Aboubakr Anghir, a member of the Amazigh (Berber) League for Human Rights, told AFP.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Chief Calls Hizbullah's Drone Launch to Israel a "Reckless Provocation"
    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Hizbullah's recent drone launch into Israeli airspace a "reckless provocation that could lead to a dangerous escalation threatening Lebanon's stability" in a report submitted Thursday to the Security Council. Ban also criticized Israel, saying its use of drones and fighter jets in Lebanese territory violates Lebanon's sovereignty. The UN chief said he has told Lebanon's leaders that militias like Hizbullah pose serious risks "to the stability of the country and the region." He called on Hizbullah to disarm. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Text: Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (United Nations-Ha'aretz)
  • Israel: Hate Indoctrination in Gaza Producing More Terrorists - Crispian Balmer
    Yosef Kuperwasser, the director of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, said Wednesday that more than 800 rockets and mortar rounds had been fired into Israel from Gaza since the start of the year. "If worst comes to worst, we can (launch) a much wider operation in Gaza. But that is not going to really solve the problem," he said. "There is a wide and deep problem of hate indoctrination that produces more and more terrorists all the time."
        Kuperwasser said that Hamas leaders had tempered their desire to strike at Israel, aware of the heavy cost the general Palestinian populace was paying in the violence. But he said the smaller groups were far less bothered by such concerns. "Most of the activity is coming now not from Hamas," he said, adding that Islamic Jihad was receiving a relatively bigger share of the weapons that had "been pouring into Gaza." He said that since the downfall of Gaddafi, huge quantities of arms from Libya had been smuggled into Gaza, adding to continued arms supplies from Iran.
        He said Hamas itself was worried about the gathering strength of other armed factions, but did not know how to deal with them. "They are not very comfortable confronting them....They are not sure that if their people get the order to do it, they will really do it."  (Reuters)
  • Jewish and Christian Groups at Impasse over U.S. Aid to Israel - Lauren Markoe
    Leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism, the American Jewish Committee, and other Jewish groups sent a letter Wednesday to their Christian counterparts on the Christian-Jewish Roundtable saying they would not be attending a long-planned Oct. 22-23 meeting. At issue is an Oct. 8 letter that many Christian leaders sent to Congress, asking that U.S. aid to Israel be re-evaluated in light of the Jewish state's alleged human rights violations.
        "There is no question in our minds that this is an unbalanced demonization of Israel completely lacking in context," said Rabbi Noam Marans, the interfaith director at the American Jewish Committee. "It pretends that Palestinian human rights violations do not exist, but above all, our concern is that when the world currently is focused on the Iranian nuclear threat, Christian leaders have chosen to mount another political attack on Israel." "The current conversation with some Christian leaders is unacceptable and needs to change," he said. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Morsi's Office Confirms Warm Letter to Israeli President Peres
    A spokesman for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi confirmed on Thursday that the president had sent a letter to Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres calling him a good friend. The letter, presented to Peres by incoming Egyptian ambassador Atef Salem on Wednesday, sparked an outcry in Egypt for marking a new level of normalization, with one Muslim Brotherhood official calling it a "fabrication." But Morsi spokesman Yassir Ali told the Egyptian state-run newspaper Al Ahram that the letter was "100 percent correct."
        The letter called Peres a "great and good friend," and expressed a desire for "maintaining and strengthening the cordial relations which so happily exist between our two countries."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Sees Slight Gain in New UN Security Council Composition - Herb Keinon
    The five new members of the UN Security Council selected on Thursday may tilt slightly more in Israel's favor than the countries they are replacing, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said. On the plus side, one Israeli source said, is the replacement of South Africa - one of Israel's harshest critics - with Rwanda, with which Israel has good ties; and the replacement of Portugal with Australia, a staunch friend of Israel.
        On the negative side is the replacement of Colombia, Israel's best friend in South America, with Argentina; and the replacement of Germany, one of Israel's strongest supporters, with Luxembourg, one of the most critical countries of Israel inside the EU. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Counter-Terror Experts Visit Israel
    Ten senior U.S. counter-terrorism experts are visiting Israel through Project Interchange, an educational institute of the American Jewish Committee. Commander Richard Webb of the Los Angeles Police Department said, "The Israelis are considered world leaders and innovators in counter-terrorism and security....Equally as important, they do their duties while vigilantly protecting human rights....I observed several new techniques for security operations including multi-level security measures at an international airport."
        Assistant Chief Russell E. Hamill of the Montgomery County [MD] Police Department said, "This has been some of the most meaningful training I've ever attended....The Israeli people...refuse to be terrorized. In the battle against terrorism, that's how you win and the Israelis are winning. They are not victims but survivors."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Among the Snipers of Aleppo - Benjamin Hall
    In the Syrian city of Aleppo, there are neighborhoods that are almost entirely abandoned, and blocks of buildings with their facades blown off, apartments open to the street. Broken water pipes have turned roads into debris-clogged rivers. The snipers, both rebel and regime, are everywhere. The MIG jets are always overhead, and shelling continues day and night.
        For a few days in September, I was embedded with the Ahrar al-Sham, or Free Men, rebel faction in the city. Every couple of streets in Aleppo is under the watch of a different brigade, and while they sometimes work together, they are just as often at odds. Many of the rebels are fighting for a noble cause, and have no motive beyond protecting their homes and families. But it is hard to pick them apart from those who seek to transform Syria into a Sharia-based fundamentalist state. (New York Times)
  • War Arrives in Damascus - Janine Di Giovanni
    War has come to Damascus. Few people venture out after dark and kidnappings are rampant. Gasoline is increasingly scarce. Shelling and machine-gun fire are so commonplace, children no longer react. As recently as summer, Damascus existed in a bubble of denial. Now, suicide bombings are more frequent, and the rebels of the Free Syrian Army say they are slowly establishing control of the suburbs that ring the city. (New York Times)
        See also UN: 150,000 Syrian Refugees Have Fled to Egypt - Maggie Fick
    The UN refugee agency said Thursday the number of Syrian refugees who have fled their country's civil war and found shelter in Egypt has now topped 150,000. Egypt does not share a border with Syria, but the Egyptian government allows Syrians to enter without a visa. The UN humanitarian office last week said more than 340,000 people have fled across Syria's borders. (AP)

  • Iran

  • Sanctions Not Stopping Iran - Kenneth Katzman
    The principal objective of international sanctions - to compel Iran to verifiably confine its nuclear program to purely peaceful uses - has not been achieved to date. However, a broad international coalition has imposed progressively strict economic sanctions on Iran's oil export lifeline, producing increasingly severe effects on Iran's economy.
        Department of Defense and other assessments indicate that sanctions have not stopped Iran from building up its conventional military and missile capabilities, in large part with indigenous skills. However, sanctions may be slowing Iran's nuclear program somewhat by preventing Iran from obtaining some needed technology from foreign sources. (Congressional Research Service)
  • Seeking Closure on the Iranian Nuclear Issue - Aaron David Miller
    When it comes to dealing with Iran's nuclear program, we may be living with great uncertainty for some time to come. Nobody wants war when sanctions and the prospects of diplomacy hold out even the slightest hope of changing Iran's course, least of all the U.S.
        A negotiated settlement is preferable, but even that may not be able to provide the kinds of iron-clad guarantees that will reassure the U.S., let alone the Israelis, that Iran has abandoned its nuclear-weapons aspirations. We have to get used to the fact that without a fundamental change in the Iranian regime, it's unlikely that we will ever reach this level of certainty and assurance. The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Foreign Policy)

  • Other Issues

  • Saudi Textbooks Incite Hate, Say Leaders in American Publishing - Robert L. Bernstein, Harold Evens, Larry Kirshbaum, Adam Bellow, Larry Hughes, Andre Shiffrin, and Jonathan Karp
    As current and former heads of major American publishing houses, we are writing to express our profound disappointment that the Saudi government continues to print textbooks inciting hatred and violence against religious minorities. An eighth-grade textbook says, "The Apes are the people of the Sabbath, the Jews; and the Swine are the infidels of the communion of Jesus, the Christians." Children who are indoctrinated with such hatred are susceptible to engage in bigotry and even violence. Hate speech is the precursor to genocide. This makes peaceful coexistence difficult, if not impossible.
        Despite repeated promises to reform Saudi textbooks, the most recent books remain full of bigotry and intolerance. We call on Saudi Arabia to immediately stop distributing and printing children's textbooks that incite hatred of others. Mr. Bernstein is chairman of Advancing Human Rights, founder of Human Rights Watch, and former chairman and CEO of Random House. (Daily Beast)
  • Setting Sail toward Conflict
    The vessel Estelle owned by the "Swedish Ship to Gaza" organization is trying to break through the Israeli sea blockade of the territory. Matti Koskenniemi, a professor of international law at the University of Helsinki, sees the blockade as legal, on the grounds that an armed conflict exists. He says that with the blockade in place, Israel actually has an obligation to prevent the passage of all vessels, lest it be accused of discrimination. (Helsingin Sanomat-Finland)
        See also The Legal Basis of Israel's Naval Blockade of Gaza - Prof. Ruth Lapidoth (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • UK Funding Anti-Israel NGOs - Alex Ryvchin
    When the British taxpayer-funded Hebron Rehabilitation Committee issued a statement in August describing a terror attack by Islamic Jihad as a "heroic operation," it should have been met with a very swift and severe response from the British Government, and a review of the Foreign Office's funding practices. It is indicative of a broader trend of financing individuals and organizations whose political activities undermine the Government's own policies promoting peace in the Middle East.
        The Holy Land Trust (HLT) is another recipient of numerous government grants. It supports calls for an academic boycott of Israel and its executive director and founder, Sami Awad, has asserted that non-violent demonstrations are "not a substitute for the armed struggle." Such activities are not only an egregious misuse of donor funds, they do absolutely nothing to serve the interests of peace. The writer is an Israel Research Fellow at NGO Monitor. (Commentator-UK)
  • Protect Free Speech on Campus - For Jewish Students Too - Seth Mandel
    The University of California dispatched a task force to its campuses to interview Jewish students. They found that things were just fine for students who openly criticized Israel, but were far less comfortable for Jewish students who supported Israel openly and even for those who refused to join in the routine condemnation of Israel found around campus and in classrooms. The U.S. Department of Education's civil rights office announced this month that it has opened an investigation into whether the school is fostering a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students by permitting anti-Semitism to thrive on campus. (Commentary)
        See also Jewish Student Campus Climate Report - Richard D. Barton and Alice Huffman (University of California)
        See also Feds Investigate Claims of Anti-Semitism at UC Berkeley - Teresa Watanabe (Los Angeles Times)

  • Weekend Features

  • Preparing for War, Israel's North Looks to Lessons from 2006 - Ben Sales
    When missiles rained down on northern Israel from Lebanon six years ago, surgeons at Rambam Hospital in Haifa worked, terrified, on the building's eighth floor. "There wasn't even a bomb shelter because we thought they'd never bomb a hospital," said David Ratner, Rambam's spokesman. Missiles struck fewer than 20 yards away.
        Rambam's wartime operating room is now the third level of an underground parking garage that will become, should bombs fall again, one of the world's largest emergency hospitals. Israeli cities and institutions like Rambam are planning for a potential repeat of the missile fire seen during Israel's 2006 war with Hizbullah, in which more than 4,000 missiles were fired at Israel over 34 days.
        American Jewish communities have supported the efforts of the National Emergency Authority, a division of the Home Front ministry, through the Jewish Federations of North America. Since 2006, U.S. Jewish federations have raised $350 million for the North, much of which has gone to renovating bomb shelters. (JTA)
  • Israel's Energy Opportunity - Jonathan Baron and David Wurmser
    Israel has discovered in excess of 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The debate in Israel has juxtaposed the energy security advantages of maintaining a large strategic natural gas reserve against the economic and other benefits of export, which requires scale to justify the considerable capital expenditures to build the required infrastructure. Israeli natural gas consumption currently equals roughly 200 billion cubic feet per year. Israel possesses ample supplies to ensure energy security in the power sector for a generation. Even assuming robust domestic demand growth and limited future discoveries, Israel will enjoy a large supply buffer once current reserves are developed.
        Offshore Israel remains in the early stages of exploration. The well-established pattern of such development suggests that the natural gas discoveries to date represent only a fraction of the total recoverable resource. Based on other basins, current discoveries in the Israeli Levant Basin likely are only a fraction of the total technically recoverable resources. (Forbes)

The Meaning of Benghazi for Israel and the Middle East - Dore Gold (Israel Hayom)

  • The attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, highlighted many unanticipated developments that were a direct outgrowth of Gaddafi's fall. Even before the attack, according to an October 2, 2012, report in the Washington Post, the White House held a series of secret meetings out of a growing concern that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) was gaining strength after it took control of the northern parts of the African state of Mali where it created a new Afghan-like sanctuary.
  • In the last year it has begun to spread its influence across the Sahara. AQIM's weaponry came from post-Gaddafi Libya, whose arsenal was boosting the arms trade from Morocco to Sinai. Israeli sources have noted that Libyan weapons, including shoulder-fired SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles, were reaching Gaza as well, where one was fired last week at an Israeli helicopter for the first time.
  • While only a small number of AQIM combatants were involved in the Benghazi consulate attack, within hours U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted communications between members of Ansar al-Sharia, the main Libyan militia behind the operation, and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
  • When the Libyan revolution began in 2011, the flag of al-Qaeda was raised over the courthouse in Benghazi, indicating that elements identifying with al-Qaeda were present from the start. After the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound, the black flag of al-Qaeda was raised again.
  • When the U.S. Army investigated where the foreign fighters in Iraq came from during 2007, they discovered that while the largest contingent were Saudis, Libyans were the second largest group. Most of the Libyans came from two towns in eastern Libya: Darnah and Benghazi.
  • Bruce Reidel, who was one of the top Middle East analysts in the CIA and later served on President Clinton's National Security Council, wrote already on July 30, 2012, that what was happening in Libya and across the Middle East was nothing less than a comeback for al-Qaeda, which had created "its largest safe havens and operational bases in more than a decade across the Arab world." He called AQIM "the best armed al-Qaeda franchise in the world." Thus AQIM is on the rise.

    The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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