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November 2, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Britain on Standby to Send Warplanes to Gulf as Iranian Tensions Rise - Kim Sengupta (Independent-UK)
    Britain is considering stationing warplanes in the Persian Gulf amid rising tension with Iran over its nuclear program, The Independent has learned.
    The possible deployment of the Eurofighter Typhoons follows talks with the United Arab Emirates to bolster the UK's presence in the region.
    The Al Dhafra airbase, 20 miles south of Abu Dhabi, is being looked at as a possible station for the Typhoons. The base is in use by French Mirage fighter-bombers as well as the U.S. Air Force and is well located for operations in the Gulf.

Tunisia Foils Plot to Kidnap Jews - Tarek Amara (Reuters)
    Tunisian police have arrested four people for plotting to kidnap local Jews for ransom, said an official, Lofi Hidouri, on Thursday.
    "The security forces intercepted a plan to kidnap young Jews in Zarzis. Police arrested four young men and seized two weapons."
    There are less than 2,000 Jews in Tunisia, mostly in the town of Zarzis and the nearby island of Djerba.

Sifting Through the Wreckage in Israel (Strategy Page)
    An examination of the Iranian UAV that was shot down over Israel on October 9 revealed that some of the components were from Germany. This is no surprise, as Iran has been smuggling industrial goods from Germany for decades.
    Most Israeli experts believe the UAV flight was a publicity stunt, because Iran and Hizbullah were desperate for a win, any kind of win, given the problems they are having in Syria and with the stronger Iranian embargo and the resulting economic crisis.

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Israel's Local Start-Ups See International Success - Ben Rooney (Wall Street Journal)
    It is hard not to be impressed by the sheer width and depth of the Israeli start-up community. For a country of just under eight million people, Israel punches considerably above its tech weight.
    According to the Israeli government, the country has the most scientists and technicians in the world per capita, and the largest number of start-ups per capita.

Jordan and Canada Sign MoU to Develop Oil Shale Resources (Amman Daily News-Jordan)
    Jordan's Natural Resources Authority has signed an MoU for the development of oil shale resources in the country with Canadian Whitehorn Resources Inc.
    Whitehorn will conduct oil shale exploration in Wadi Abu Al Hamam in the south.

FAA Upgrades Israel's Safety Rating (AP-Washington Post)
    The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday returned Israel to the list of nations the U.S. says meet international safety standards.
    The upgrade means Israeli airlines can expand their service to the U.S. and form partnerships with U.S. carriers.

Young, Jewish and Going to Israel - Naomi Schaefer Riley (Wall Street Journal)
    Thirteen years ago a program called Taglit-Birthright Israel ("Taglit" is Hebrew for discovery) began to offer Jews a free 10-day trip to Israel before they turned age 26.
    It was established by Jewish philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, among others, in collaboration with the Israeli government and various Jewish communal organizations.
    So far, more than 300,000 Jews from 59 countries have visited Israel - mostly from the U.S. and Canada.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Abbas Hints at No "Right of Return" to Israel - Dan Williams
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a rare if symbolic concession to Israel on Thursday, saying he had no permanent claim on the town where he lived as a child in 1948 before the Jewish state's founding. Speaking to Israel's Channel 2 television, Abbas was asked whether he wanted to live in Safed, his boyhood town in what had been British-ruled Palestine. "I visited Safed before once. But I want to see Safed. It's my right to see it, but not to live there." "I believe that (the) West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts (are) Israel."
        Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said: "If he wants to see Safed, or anywhere else in Israel, for that matter, we would happily show him anywhere. But there has to be a desire to move forward on the peace process."  (Reuters)
  • Syrian Rebels Wary of U.S. Push to Overhaul Opposition - Karin Laub
    Members of Syria's opposition-in-exile bristled Thursday at the Obama administration's suggestion that Washington will handpick more representative leaders at a crucial conference in Qatar next week. The new U.S. push appears aimed at creating a unified leadership that could work more closely with the West. But opposition groups are wary of attempts by foreign backers to dictate strategy.
        The U.S. administration responded to the criticism by saying it was not issuing dictates. "We're not giving them a list," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. "Ultimately it's up to the Syrians themselves to make those choices. This is in no way telling them what to do."  (AP)
        See also Syrian Rebels Execute Unarmed Government Soldiers - Babak Dehghanpisheh
    Syrian rebels executed at least a half-dozen unarmed government soldiers Thursday after attacks on checkpoints near Saraqeb in northwest Syria. The execution was documented in a graphic video posted online Thursday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 120 people were killed in fighting across the country Thursday. (Washington Post)
  • Turkey's Erdogan Planning to Visit Gaza
    Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has revived a plan to make a postponed visit to Gaza and demanded that Israel lift its blockade as a precondition to restore ties between Turkey and Israel. Israel has many times reached out to Turkey to normalize ties, but Turkey says its three demands must be realized to restore relations. Turkey has demanded an apology for the Marmara incident, compensation for the families of victims and the lifting of the Gaza blockade. Israel only expressed regret and says its soldiers acted in self-defense. (Zaman-Turkey)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: "Our Hearts Go Out to the People of America" in Hurricane Sandy's Wake
    President Shimon Peres on Thursday sent a letter to President Obama saying: "From Jerusalem I am joined by the people of Israel in an expression of concern for the ravages caused by Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it left in its wake. Our hearts go out to the people of America and I would like to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones in this superstorm."
        "We are looking with admiration upon the courage of the American people and its leaders in dealing with the present ordeal. Our hearts are with you."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Nabs Gazan Who Transferred Millions to Hamas - Lilach Shoval
    The Israel Security Agency recently arrested Mahr Attiah Abed Abu Gabba, 41, a Gaza metal merchant involved in transferring millions of dollars into Gaza and to Hamas. In addition, he sold metal components to Hamas to build tunnels, military posts and bunkers. Abu Gabba had authorization to enter Israel thanks to his profession and was arrested at the Erez border crossing on the Gaza border.
        He confessed to taking advantage of the nature of his business to transfer millions of dollars. Hamas operatives overseas would transfer millions of dollars to Abu Gabba's family in Egypt, ostensibly for the metal business, and Abu Gabba would transfer the same amount to Hamas representatives in Gaza.
        According to Abu Gabba, ever since President Morsi took power in Egypt, it has become easier for Hamas to transfer money into Gaza, with operatives who enter Egypt through the Rafah border crossing and return with briefcases full of cash. He also revealed that some of the metal was used to build bunkers beneath mosques. (Israel Hayom)
  • Christian Arab Youth Come Under Fire over Desire to Enlist in IDF - Danny Brenner
    The Arab media is waging an unrestrained and vicious campaign against a small group of Christian Arab youth who wish to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Two weeks ago, a conference was held at an Upper Nazareth community center for 121 Christian 11th and 12th grade high school students, all residents of Nazareth, Upper Nazareth, and Arab villages in the Lower Galilee region, who had expressed their desire to enlist in the IDF, even in combat units. Every year, some 50 youths from the Christian Israeli-Arab sector enlist for military duty.
        After the conference, some Arabic newspapers and online news sites began a smear campaign against the participants, depicting them as traitors. Journalists wrote articles promising to "take care of them" and hunt them down. The Arab Orthodox local council in Nazareth announced that priest Jobrail Nadaf, who took part in the event and supports IDF enlistment among Christian Arab-Israeli youth, had been suspended from his duties as priest and excommunicated from his church for "cooperating with the enemy."
        The Israel Defense Ministry said in a statement that it "will not accept that people who work to promote this issue come under threat or attack, and it will act to grant the greatest possible aid and support to all those being threatened."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Anti-Semitism Virulent in Egypt - Adam Kredo
    A rising tide of anti-Semitism in Egypt has stoked concerns among Americans and Israelis that extremism will guide Cairo's foreign policy under the Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi. Egyptian anti-Semitism is nothing new. However, the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power has amplified the hate.
        "The real problem is that a cynical government that used anti-Semitism as a tool may have been replaced by an ideological government in which anti-Semitism is deep and serious," said Elliott Abrams, a former top National Security Council staffer in the administration of George W. Bush. "The Israelis are right to worry." Anti-Semitism is more "visible nowadays" following Mubarak's "replacement by the Muslim Brotherhood," Abrams explained. While Mubarak may have "put some limits" on public displays of anti-Semitism, "those limits are now off," Abrams warned. (Washington Free Beacon)
  • The Plight of Syria's Christians - Kim Sengupta
    "We left [the Syrian city of Homs] because they were trying to kill us," said 18-year-old Noura Haddad. "They wanted to kill us because we were Christians. They were calling us Kaffirs, even little children saying these things. Those who were our neighbors turned against us. At the end, when we ran away, we went through balconies. We did not even dare go out on the street in front of our house. I've kept in touch with the few Christian friends left back home, but I cannot speak to my Muslim friends any more."
        Ms. Haddad is among thousands who have left Syria as the prospect of reconciliation gets more remote by the day. Now it is the Christians, who have largely sought to remain neutral, who are on the receiving end of abuse and attacks. The recent bombing in Beirut that killed the head of Lebanon's domestic intelligence, and a blast in Damascus the following day killing 13 people, both took place in Christian areas. In addition, recent inroads made into Christian parts of Aleppo by rebel fighters have added to the trepidation in the community.
        A nun from the Homs area, Mother Agnes-Mariam de la Croix, recounts that her Greek-Melkite monastery of St James was blown up a few months ago. The culprits, she says, are Islamists. Mother Agnes-Mariam believes that opposition fighters have driven out 80,000 Christians from the Homs region alone and says she escaped after being warned that she was the target of abduction. "Aggressive, armed gangs that wished to paralyze community life are abducting people, beheading, bringing terror even to schools," she said, maintaining that many of them are affiliated to "al-Qaeda and with Muslim Brotherhood backgrounds."  (Independent-UK)
  • Interview Reveals Details of PLO Co-founder's Assassination - Sara Sidner and Kareem Khadder
    Israel's censor is for the first time allowing the publication of a 12-year-old interview with a now-dead Israeli agent who claimed he killed Khalil al-Wazir, widely known as Abu Jihad, who helped found the Palestine Liberation Organization. Abu Jihad was killed by gunfire in Tunis in 1988. Yediot Ahronot obtained access to an interview with operative Nahum Lev, who died in 2000, done by reporter Ronen Bergman. Lev said he shot Abu Jihad with no hesitation after reading the file that Israeli intelligence had on him which connected him to horrific acts against civilians. (CNN)
  • Who Is a Refugee? - David Matas
    Palestinian refugees are unlike any others. Unlike other refugees, their status is hereditary. They also maintain their refugee status even if they hold nationality in another state. There are an estimated two million Palestinians who have refugee status with UNRWA despite having Jordanian nationality. Two million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza are also locally integrated.
        Palestinian refugees need only to have been living in British Mandate Palestine for two years, between June 1946 and May 1948, to be eligible for UNRWA refugee status. They did not have to have nationality or even permanent residence in British Mandate Palestine to be considered UNRWA refugees.
        Persons claiming refugee status who are not Palestinian are excluded from refugee protection if they have the substantive rights of nationality of the country in which they have taken up residence, even if they are not nationals. The writer is legal counsel to Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. (Winnipeg Jewish Review)

The Palestinians' UN Ploy Is Just the Latest Stalling Tactic - Daniel Taub (Telegraph-UK)

  • Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have not yet resulted in a final agreement. But they have actually produced significant results. In fact, the very institutions and bodies that the Palestinians point to as the basis of their claim to statehood in the UN are themselves the result of face-to-face negotiations between the two sides. Decades of UN General Assembly resolutions, by contrast, have produced nothing. The current Palestinian initiative at the UN is likely to do the same.
  • Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the Arab media in recent weeks that the Palestinian plan was to exploit a UN upgrade to commence campaigns against Israel in international forums, including the International Criminal Court and a slew of UN bodies. So not only will the current unilateral initiative fail to move the parties closer to peace, it will undermine what delicate cooperation does exist.
  • The relative stability that the West Bank has witnessed is due in no small part to quiet cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian officials, including in the sensitive fields of intelligence and security. The economic welfare of the Palestinian population also owes much to Israeli efforts. It is hard to conceive how such cooperation could survive an initiative which is intended not to end the conflict but to internationalize it.
  • The current UN initiative is another in a long line of evasive tactics to avoid coming to the table and making tough choices. As British Prime Minister David Cameron clearly put it: "There is no path to statehood except through talks with Israel. So if the Palestinian plan is simply posturing with the UN rather than negotiating with Israel, Britain will never support it."

    The writer is Israel's ambassador to Britain.
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