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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 12, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Responds to Shelling from Syria - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Defense Forces fired a warning shot at Syria on Sunday after another Syrian mortar shell landed in Israeli territory, the fourth in a week. The IDF fired in the direction of a Syrian army mortar crew that had launched the shell.
    This was the first time Israel has fired at Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
    The Israeli military said: "The IDF has filed a complaint through the UN forces operating in the area, stating that fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity."

Egyptian Salafis Fleeing to Gaza, Upsetting Cairo - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz-Hebrew, 9Nov12)
    Scores of jihadists who are active in Sinai have fled to Gaza in recent days through the smuggling tunnels, Palestinian and Egyptian security sources report.
    During the recent Eid al-Adha holiday, Arab media reported that Egypt prevented a major attack that was planned to take place during the holiday.
    The Egyptians arrested two cells of 4-5 members each who were equipped with weapons and explosives. One of the commanders of a cell that planned to carry out attacks in Cairo and Sinai was an officer in the Egyptian army.
    Members of the cells who were not arrested escaped to Gaza.

Iran Rejects U.S. Hotline Request (Fars-Iran)
    The U.S. asked Iran last year to establish a hotline to avoid unwanted confrontations in the Persian Gulf, but Tehran turned down the request a few days later, Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior military aide to Iran's Supreme Leader, announced on Sunday.

Hamas Police Attack Women's Gathering with Sticks - Nasouh Nazzal (Gulf News-Dubai)
    Hamas police violently attacked a group of women who were peacefully calling for Palestinian reconciliation on Tuesday in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza.
    Using sticks and batons, Hamas police attacked the women and dispersed the protest.

Catholic Development Agency Accused of Anti-Israel Bias - Jerome Reilly (Independent-Ireland)
    Trocaire, the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church, has been accused of mounting a biased and partisan political campaign against Israel, calling for a boycott of Israeli products.
    Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan said the state-funded charity, which will receive €15.7m of taxpayers' money this year, was conducting a "very active political campaign in the Middle East."
    "Trocaire is waging this campaign against Israel. I believe it is biased and partisan."
    "I hope every family, whose children bring home a Trocaire box for the mantelpiece, should be aware of the true nature of Trocaire's campaign in the Middle East."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Asks Palestinians to Back Off Statehood Push - Byron Tau
    President Obama called PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, asking him to back off a Palestinian push for statehood at the UN. "In his discussion with President Abbas, President Obama...reiterated the United States' opposition to unilateral efforts at the United Nations," the White House said in a statement. (Politico)
        See also Israel to Stop Collecting Taxes for PA If It Seeks UN Statehood - Ori Lewis
    "If the Palestinians continue to advance their unilateral move [at the UN], they should not expect bilateral cooperation. We will not collect their taxes for them and we will not transfer their tax revenues," Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Saturday. "It cannot be that they hit us unilaterally and then expect bilateral cooperation with us on economic matters." Interim peace deals task Israel with collecting taxes and customs duties on the Palestinian Authority's behalf amounting to around $100 million a month on goods imported into the Palestinian territories. (Reuters)
  • Searching for a Diplomatic Formula with Iran, U.S. Weighs an Expanded Offer - Bradley Klapper
    The Obama administration is considering a new approach in negotiations to curb Iran's nuclear program that would ease economic sanctions faster than previously offered if Tehran makes greater concessions than it has ever discussed, officials said Friday. Sanctions would be eased if Iran halts its enrichment of uranium that is getting closer to weapons-grade, sends abroad its existing stockpile of such uranium and suspends operations at its underground Fordo facility.
        A U.S. official said the administration would be open to direct talks with Tehran as part of the broader negotiations involving the larger group of world powers, if those would advance hopes of a negotiated agreement. But a one-on-one encounter sometime in the next three months is considered highly unlikely by the administration because it sees no willingness by the Iranians.
        Meanwhile, in Congress, lawmakers are working on a set of new sanctions that could prevent Iran from doing business with most of the world until it agrees to international constraints on its nuclear program. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Mideast Nuclear Talks Called Off - George Jahn
    Diplomats say proposed high-level talks between Israel and its Muslim neighbors on a Mideast free of weapons of mass destruction have been called off, saying that with tensions in the region high, "the time was not opportune" for such a gathering. The meeting was to have been held in Helsinki by year's end. (AP-ABC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Over 140 Rockets at Israel - Yanir Yagna, Gili Cohen and Avi Issacharoff
    Palestinians in Gaza have fired more than 140 rockets at Israel since Saturday. The rocket barrage began after Palestinians attacked an IDF jeep near the border with Gaza with an anti-tank missile, wounding four soldiers. The IDF responded with shelling that killed four Palestinians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the IDF will respond aggressively to any attacks by Palestinians in Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Defense Minister Barak: In Our Region, "Weakness Is Not Looked at with Mercy"
    In response to ongoing rocket fire from Gaza, which has left eight Israelis wounded since Saturday - four soldiers and four civilians - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday: "This isn't North America or Western Europe; it is a place where weakness is not looked at with mercy....Keeping our eyes peeled, we need to dish out hits when necessary, and sometimes take a few. That's how it is in the ring. We do not expect our neighbors to disappear and they are not going to become Dutch or Belgian any time soon." "The main fight is on the [Gaza] border fence....Israel will not allow them [terrorists] to try to change the rules."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also Israel Under Fire - November 2012 (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israelis in Sderot Have Faced Ten Years of Rocket Fire - Ben Hartman
    Sderot resident Amir Ben-Abu, 38, said Sunday that a few hours earlier his wife had called him in shock. She was frozen in her car on the side of the road, moments after shrapnel from a Kassam rocket crashed into the car in front of her, moderately wounding the driver, Moshik Levy, and his wife. "Things like this ruin your life. Every time my son hears a 'Code Red' [rocket siren] it takes years off my life," he said.
        Sha'ar Hanegev resident Varda Goldstein described leaving her house for work in the morning when the Code Red alarm went off, and heading back seconds before a rocket hit outside her neighbor's home. "I heard the Code Red and I went back into the safe room and heard the sound of the rocket going overhead and then heard windows exploding and felt the shockwave," Goldstein said. "Tell me, what country in the world would be willing to live like this, to let their grandchildren live like this, that their children are born into a reality of war, 12-year-old children who never lived in peacetime?" she asked. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Border Town Residents Live "Routine of Rockets"
    Yossi Peretz, 32, of Sderot, said: "I'm used to the fire, but this morning when I had to lie on top of my seven-year-old daughter to protect her during an alert, I felt fear and I can't take a little girl trembling on her way to school."  (AFP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Powder Keg in Gaza - Michael Herzog
    Hamas sees itself as an Islamic jihadist organization committed to Israel's destruction through "armed resistance." At the same time, Hamas has domestic and external responsibilities as a government. The scars of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in 2009 remain fresh in its mind, and Egypt has been pressing the group for restraint.
        With the loss of Syria as an anchor and the resulting rift with Iran, Hamas is even more dependent on Cairo and therefore more careful not to undermine relations with it. Cairo is now demanding that Hamas maintain better control over jihadists in Gaza, halt its cross-border activities in and through Sinai, and prevent escalation.
        Nearly four years after Cast Lead, it is clear to Israelis that their deterrence in Gaza is eroding. The rockets and mortars falling daily in southern Israel have been driving hundreds of thousands of people into shelters. Accordingly, Israeli forces have stepped up their pinpoint airstrikes against jihadist and Hamas targets in a bid to compel Hamas to impose a ceasefire on the other militant groups.
        The situation in Gaza is explosive, with Hamas and other armed groups lighting matches on the powder keg. Hamas should be made to understand that it is miscalculating Israel's willingness to continue taking fire and could face undesirable consequences, to the point of losing its hold on Gaza. The international community should use its leverage over key Hamas backers - namely Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar - to convince the group to clamp down on jihadists and enforce a ceasefire. Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog, a fellow of The Washington Institute, served as chief of staff to Israel's minister of defense. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Upgrading the Palestinian Observer Mission at the UN General Assembly to a Non-Member State: The Negative Consequences
    The designation of the Palestinian Authority as a state by the UN would be regarded by Israel as a material breach of the Oslo II Agreement from 1995 that stated: "Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of permanent status negotiations." Israel and the PLO committed themselves to resolving their differences at the negotiating table. By turning to the UN, Abbas would be operating unilaterally.
        The language of the UN resolution is likely to contain phraseology that pre-judges the outcome of negotiations on critical issues like borders and the status of Jerusalem.
        The PA has sought to involve the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Defining the Palestinians as a non-member state of the UN could open up the floodgates of a wave of politicized charges against the officers of the Israel Defense Forces. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Debunking the Verbal War Against Israel - Sam Hailes (Times of Israel)

  • On the 95th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dore Gold addressed the Royal United Services Institute, the UK's oldest military think tank located in Whitehall.
  • He noted three elements to the modern-day verbal war against Israel: accusations of war crimes, apartheid, and colonialism. "You can disprove pretty easily the thesis of war crimes because ultimately these false charges are shown to have been baseless. You can disprove the apartheid charge because all you have to do is visit Israel."
  • Dr. Gold noted that the Balfour Declaration formed part of the treaty at Sevres which not only allowed the Jewish state to emerge, but gave independence to many Arab states such as Jordon, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Furthermore, the Balfour Declaration did not invent Jewish rights but rather recognized a preexisting Jewish right to the land. "Balfour and his generation back then knew the Jews were a people who lived in that land. They had roots in the land."
  • "Anyone looking at history over the last couple of centuries would know that Jews had been streaming back to their historical homeland for a very long time." "We're not talking about people from overseas who have no connection with the land. We're talking about a Jewish people who were intimately connected with their ancestral homeland, but this is precisely what those who want to delegitimize Israel want you to forget."

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