Israel's "Red Cross" Rejects Blood from Ethiopia-Born Lawmaker (Reuters-New York Times)
A blood-collection crew turned down an offer of a blood donation from an Ethiopian-born lawmaker at the Knesset on Wednesday.
See also Necessary Precautions, Not Discrimination - Ran Reznick (Israel Hayom)
Anyone who lived in England during the time of the outbreak of Mad Cow disease (1986-2001) may carry a protein in their blood that could cause the disease, so they are not allowed to donate blood in Israel.
For the same reason, the ban extends to people who were in Ireland and Portugal during that time.
These restrictions are only part of a host of constraints dictated by Israel's Health Ministry (and implemented by the MDA blood bank) to decrease the likelihood of Israeli patients receiving infected blood.
Additional restrictions on blood donation include men who have sex with other men, people addicted to drugs, and people who were born or spent more than a year in most African countries, including Ethiopia, that unfortunately have a very high incidence of AIDS.
These three groups account for 75% of the 6,102 people in Israel infected with HIV in the last 30 years.
It is impossible to justify or accept incidents in which Israeli hospital patients become ill from receiving infected blood because every possible precaution was not taken. These facts cannot be distorted by screaming headlines.
Perhaps we must find a more sensitive way to deal with blood donations, but we cannot be any less careful.
See also The Non-Racism of Israel's Blood Donation Policy - Ben Sales (JTA)
Magen David Adom, Israel's version of the Red Cross, accepts blood donations from native-born Israelis of Ethiopian descent.
Why Is Saudi Arabia Buying 15,000 U.S. Anti-Tank Missiles for a War It Will Never Fight? - David Kenner (Foreign Policy)
Saudi Arabia just put in a huge order for U.S.-made anti-tank missiles that has Saudi-watchers scratching their heads and wondering whether the deal is related to Riyadh's support for the Syrian rebels.
The proposed weapons deal, which the Pentagon notified Congress of in early December, would provide Riyadh with more than 15,000 Raytheon anti-tank missiles at a cost of over $1 billion.
Saudi Arabia's total stockpile this year amounted to slightly more than 4,000 anti-tank missiles.
The Saudis can't send U.S. anti-tank missiles directly to the rebels - Washington has strict laws against that. Recipients of U.S. arms are not allowed to transfer weapons to a third party without explicit approval.
What may be happening, analysts say, is that the Saudis are sending their stockpiles of anti-tank weapons bought from elsewhere to Syria and are purchasing U.S. missiles to replenish their own stockpiles.
Riyadh also recently bought advanced fighter jets from the U.S. for a whopping $30 billion - but the Saudis' lack of pilots and ability to maintain them means that it's an open question how long they can keep them airborne, said William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.
"There was a [Washington] lobbyist who used to say, 'When you buy U.S. weapons, you're not just buying the weapon - you're buying a relationship with the United States,'" said Hartung. "I think that's kind of the concept."
U.S. X-Band Radar Sites Focus on Iran - Walter Pincus (Washington Post)
There has been a continued buildup of U.S. X-band radar in the Middle East that enhances antimissile defense capabilities against Iran.
The first AN/TPY-2 radar went into a spot atop Mt. Keren in Israel's Negev Desert, where a discreet U.S. military installation is operated by 150 U.S. service members and contractors.
Tehran is about 1,000 miles to the northeast, but the radar is "so sensitive it can spot a softball tossed in the air from 2,900 miles away," TIME magazine reported in 2012.
Another AN/TPY-2 radar is deployed at Turkey's Kurecik air force base, 240 miles from the Iranian border. It, too, is operated by 150 U.S. military personnel and contractors.
More recently, the Wall Street Journal disclosed a similar X-band radar going to a secret site in Qatar, all but guaranteeing early warning for missiles launched from almost any part of Iran and aimed at the Middle East.
Hamas Condemns Red Sea-Dead Sea Agreement (Al-Qassam Brigades-Gaza)
Hamas has expressed its total rejection of the agreement by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea via a water pipeline, considering it a step toward normalization and legalization with Israel.
Hamas stressed that the PA is not entitled to give up or compromise on any inch of Palestinian land or water resources and called on the PA not to take unilateral decisions.
Radio Nisaa: All-Female Palestinian Radio Station - Louisa Peacock (Telegraph-UK)
Radio Nisaa FM, a commercial women's radio station, gives Palestinian women (and men) a public platform in a way they've never had before in a patriarchal culture.
Recent panel debates at the station have discussed honor killings, where a member of a family (usually a woman) is murdered by other members of the family, and polygamy, which is common in Arab culture.
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- Kerry in Middle East to Talk Jordan Valley Security Proposals with Israelis, Palestinians - William Booth and Anne Gearan
The Obama administration is struggling to convince Israel and the Palestinian Authority to accept a security arrangement that could leave Israeli troops stationed inside a future Palestinian state, on the border with Jordan. For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, limiting the number of Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley, and how long they can be there, would not guarantee safety.
Since 1967, the valley has been under the control of the Israeli military. Israeli generals are concerned about terror groups seeking to infiltrate the West Bank and use it as a platform to attack. The area bristles with covert listening stations, radar sweeps and thermal- and night-vision cameras. On the mountain tops that rise steeply from the valley floor, Israel maintains a series of early-warning stations. Troops are on constant patrol along the river and the passes.
Israel explains its security concerns by pointing to Gaza, where Israel withdrew in 2005. Hamas came to power two years later. Now, rockets and shoulder-fired missiles are routinely smuggled into Gaza from Egypt, Israeli officials say, while no such weapons have been found in the tightly-controlled West Bank.
At one point, U.S. diplomats discussed placing international troops in the Jordan Valley. But Israelis pointed to failures by UN forces in demilitarized zones along the Lebanon and Syrian borders. (Washington Post)
See also Kerry Holds Talks on Israeli-Palestinian Security Arrangements - Joshua Mitnick
Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday held another round of talks on Israeli security demands after the establishment of a Palestinian state.
An Israeli security official said that threats in the region have become more "complex" because of instability since the Arab Spring, and a deal should reflect that.
"The Middle East has changed...but there is no less motivation to attack Israel, only through different means," said the official. "That still requires a significant deployment along the border. We won't deposit our security in the hands of others." (Wall Street Journal)
- Iran Halts Nuclear Talks in Vienna
Iran's team of experts on Thursday halted nuclear talks with world powers in Vienna on implementing a deal agreed last month, to return to Tehran for consultations, an Iranian negotiator said. (AFP-Economic Times)
See also Iran Says It's Wrong to Think Nuclear Activity Slowed
Ali Akbar Salehi, director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Thursday there was no basis to claims that Iran's nuclear activities had slowed down.
- U.S. to "Relentlessly Enforce" Iran Sanctions - Kambiz Foroohar
The Obama administration targeted companies and individuals Thursday for evading international sanctions against Iran and supporting its nuclear program.
The Treasury Department said it was freezing assets and banning transactions of entities that attempt to evade the sanctions, including by doing business with the National Iranian Tanker Co., Iran's primary shipper of crude oil.
"We will continue relentlessly to enforce our sanctions, even as we explore the possibility of a long-term, comprehensive resolution of our concerns with Iran's nuclear program," said David Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
- UN: Chemical Weapons Used at Least 5 Times in Syria - Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone
Chemical weapons were used repeatedly in the Syria conflict this year, not only in the Aug. 21 attack near Damascus which killed hundreds of civilians, but also in four other instances, including two subsequent attacks that targeted soldiers, the UN said in a report released Thursday. The report avoided saying who was responsible in any of the attacks.
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- "Abbas Rejects Most of Kerry's Proposals"
A senior Palestinian official told Israel Hayom that "before he spoke to [Secretary of State] Kerry, Abbas updated King Abdullah [of Jordan], telling him of his intention to reject most of the paragraphs of the American plan." The official said the meeting between Kerry and the PA leader was difficult and tense.
In interviews given by Abbas after the meeting with Kerry, he said, "It is possible that we will decide on adding an additional month to the current round of talks, beyond the nine months scheduled, but we won't agree to more than that. All discussion of an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley is futile talk." (Israel Hayom-Hebrew, 13 Dec 2013)
- Jerusalem Snowed In
A rare winter storm dumped several centimeters of snow on Jerusalem Thursday, setting a December record and shutting down the city. Police and Israel Defense Forces crews worked throughout the night and into the morning to rescue around 2,000 people stranded in cars and buses on the roads leading into Jerusalem.
Elsewhere in Israel there were several incidents of people caught in flash floods that swept their cars away.
(Times of Israel)
See also Rabbis: You Can Stop Praying for Rain Now - Gavriel Fiske
Now that Israel's winter has begun in earnest, Jews around the world should stop saying the special prayer for rain they were asked to utter last week, Israel's Chief Rabbinate said.
(Times of Israel)
- Israel Joins European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
The 20-state European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) unanimously voted on Thursday to accept Israel as its first non-European full member.
At present, some 40 Israeli scientists divide their time between Israel and CERN in Switzerland. There are also 22 Israeli doctoral students and 22 post-doctoral students active at CERN. Israel has been an associate member of CERN since 2011. (Jerusalem Post)
Observations: The Bedouin in Israel's Negev Region
- Israeli-Palestinian Issue Isn't America's Top Mideast Priority Anymore - Elias Groll
The U.S. may be heavily engaged in shepherding peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but according to Anne Patterson, who has been nominated as the State Department's next top Middle East official, the issue just isn't a top priority for the U.S. any more.
On Wednesday, Patterson agree with Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a former Obama administration official, that the Israeli-Palestinian issue has moved away from its central place in U.S. policy toward the region. "It's certainly not the most urgent problem that we face now in the Middle East, but it's one that could have enormous long-term consequences," Patterson said.
Nasr said, "It's good if we make any kind of progress [on the Israeli-Palestinian issue], but right now, as I said, the future of that region is being written in Syria, to some extent in this discussion of Iran, and when you have a country the size of Egypt - its future somewhat open to question - that really is much more important." (Foreign Policy)
- Kerry's Peace Framework - Jonathan S. Tobin
Secretary of State Kerry is back in Israel and demanding that both the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority accept the security provisions he has envisioned for the aftermath of a peace deal. Even more, reports say he is telling both the Netanyahu government and Mahmoud Abbas' PA regime he expects them both to accept a framework for an accord by the end of January.
A common desire for a deal simply isn't present between Israel and the Palestinians and no amount of U.S. pressure can manufacture it.
Kerry's belief that Israel needs peace and would benefit from a two-state solution in which the Palestinians renounce the conflict for all time is largely correct.
But unfortunately his assumption that Abbas has made such a decision to give up the conflict is not based in fact.
The PA continues to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. It also won't or can't give up its demand for the "right of return" for the descendants of the 1948 refugees. Both show that while Abbas would accept more territory, he won't pay for it with genuine peace.
Israel desires peace as much as Kerry. It has already taken many risks for the sake of an accord. But Palestinian political culture regards Israel as an illegitimate intrusion into the region. Until a sea change in that culture occurs, it will remain the real obstacle to peace. And no amount of pressure on Israel can change that. (Commentary)
- Muslim Brotherhood Still Functioning in Egypt's Rural Areas - Eric Trager
Hussein Morsi, a high school math teacher, is 15 years younger than his infamous brother Mohamed. The family hails from Al-Adwa, a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold in the Sharkiya governorate.
The current government's crackdown on the Brotherhood, which has forced the organization underground in the major cities, hasn't had much of an impact on its activities in Al-Adwa.
According to Hussein Morsi, the Brotherhood's command chain in Al-Adwa and the surrounding rural areas is still intact. The Brotherhood cell he heads continues to meet weekly and still collects its members' monthly dues. Despite the arrest of many higher-ranking provincial and national Brotherhood leaders, the Brotherhood's provincial office in Sharkiya continues to disseminate orders that it receives from national Brotherhood leaders.
The fact that the Brotherhood is still functioning even somewhat normally in Egypt's rural areas, despite a nationwide crackdown, is good reason to question the widespread analysis that the organization cannot reemerge politically anytime soon.
The writer is a Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- In Year Four of Arab Awakening, Islamists Are Less Attractive - Marwan Muasher
The Arab uprisings transformed Islamist movements - mostly offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood - from opposition groups into major political forces in most countries undergoing transitions.
Yet over the past few years, Islamists have lost their "holiness" in the Arab world. Their once-popular slogan, "Islam is the solution," is no longer attractive to wide sectors of the population.
There has been a significant drop in public support for Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia.
The same Egyptians who voted for Islamists demonstrated in unprecedented numbers against them in the short course of one year, confirming that the Arab street judges the forces in power by their performance, not their ideology. The writer, a former Jordanian Ambassador to Israel and the U.S., is Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment.
(Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
- A Real Arab Spring - Norman Lebrecht
Coming out of a movie last month at an Israeli mall, I ran into a conga line of men, women and children shuffling their way into a McDonald's. The men wore T-shirts and jeans, the women flowery headscarves and varied outfits. It was someone's birthday.
It took a second look to realize that the celebrants were a family of Israeli Arabs. Today there are 1.6 million Israeli Arabs, some 20% of the population. They enjoy full civic rights and a high level of prosperity.
As I drove through the Arab heartlands in Galilee, I passed a noisy town with three-storey houses and an exclusive European car dealership.
On Friday night, there are as many Israeli Arabs strolling along the promenade along the Tel Aviv seafront as there are Israeli Jews.
Over the past 25 years, normalization has set in. Learning Hebrew at school, Israeli Arabs have made careers in most parts of the economy and in academic life. One of the most popular comedy series on commercial Israeli television is entitled "Arab Labor." It makes merry with the tensions raised by a middle-class Arab family who move into an urban Israeli apartment block. One of the Arab actors, Mira Awad, has represented Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Economic progress and social participation are positive indicators of how the country and the region might function if and when a peace agreement is reached. The Israeli Arabs serve, in this respect, as role models for a postwar utopia. They also refute hostile cliches such as the perpetual accusation that Israel is somehow an "apartheid state." The apartheid libel denies the blatant reality that Israel is an evolving society with more tolerance for minorities than any of its neighbors (and most European states). The casual confidence of its Arab citizens is testimony to a healthy society.
- IDF Introduces New Techniques to Reduce Combat Deaths - Mitch Ginsburg
The IDF Medical Corps is seeking to prevent the deaths of soldiers on the battlefield by bringing better technology closer to the scene of combat.
At a recent drill, Col. Dr. Tarif Bader, the chief medical officer of the Northern Command, discussed several new items that have been given to combat soldiers and medics on the front lines.
Old pad bandages, meant to apply pressure and absorb the blood flow from combat wounds, have been replaced by small, vacuum-packed hemostatic dressings that also help blood clotting. Another measure is the introduction of freeze-dried plasma, a powdered unit of blood that can be kept at room temperature, unlike the commonly administered plasma.
Additional technologies moved up to the battlefield include small coagulation-measuring devices; a far more effective, orally administered morphine substitute called fentanyl citrate; an oxygen saturation clip that slips onto a soldier's finger; and a host of portable standard tools, including a defibrillator, a vital sign monitor, and an automatic oxygen resuscitator. (Times of Israel)
- Israel's Economic Dominance of the Middle East; Foreign Currency Reserves Dwarf Neighbors - Joshua Levitt
The Bank of Israel said Friday that foreign currency reserves hit a record $80.59 billion at end-November, after breaking the $80 billion threshold, for the first time, in October. In 2004, Israel held only $25 billion.
"Israel's ability to put spare cash in the bank for emergencies very much signifies that the Israeli economy is growing, especially compared to its Arab neighbors," said Prof. Joseph Pelzman of George Washington University and a permanent visiting professor at Ben-Gurion University. His book, Economics of the Middle East and North Africa (2012), compares Israel with its Arab neighbors in the Middle East instead of with European countries.
The comparable foreign currency reserve figures are Egypt $18.6 billion, Syria $4 billion, Lebanon $51 billion, and Jordan $12 billion.
Energy exporters include Saudi Arabia with $700 billion, Libya $130 billion, Algeria $121 billion, Iraq $80 billion, and Iran $69 billion.
Israel has begun to tap its new underwater natural gas reserves. Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom said that with reduced fuel imports, Israeli natural gas is already saving the country's economy $300 million a month, a figure that could reach as high as $1 billion as more electricity generation switches to gas. "Because the gas will be much cheaper, we will cut the tariff for electricity. We will cut the tariff for water that is produced by electricity," Shalom said.
"What the Israeli miracle shows is how a state can maintain its identity - in this case, Jewish - while embracing the best of what is available from around the modern world," Prof. Pelzman said.
"In the case of the Arab countries...in their zeal for self-preservation from any Christian influences, Muslim countries totally closed themselves off to the world's ideas, and never thought about the consequences." (Algemeiner)
The Bedouin Problem and the Solution - Mordechai Kedar (Middle East and Terrorism)
- Israel is interested in solving the matter of illegal Bedouin settlements through legal procedures. However, the problem is not only an issue of land. There are tremendous gaps between the Bedouin culture and a state culture. If the state desires to solve the problem at its root, it must take care of problems that are a result of tribal culture.
- The state must behave toward its Bedouin citizens in the Negev exactly as it does toward citizens in Tel Aviv. If a citizen in Tel Aviv is forbidden to build illegally on state land, a citizen in the Negev should not be permitted.
- A Bedouin girl must learn that, according to state law as well as Islamic law, she has the right to choose a life partner for herself, even if he is from another tribe, and that she can marry him with the condition that he not take another wife after her.
- The educational system must provide the youth of the Bedouin sector with information and awareness regarding the genetic dangers associated with marriage between relatives.
The writer is director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam at Bar-Ilan University.
See also How to Solve Israel's Bedouin Problem - Moshe Arens
There were 18,000 Bedouin in the Negev when the State of Israel was established 65 years ago; now there are over 200,000. They are in the midst of a traumatic transition from their age-old nomadic desert lifestyle to living in an urbanized, high-tech society.
Assisting Bedouin to make this transition is not basically a legal problem or one involving claims to land ownership, but one of inadequate education. The move away from dispersed unrecognized villages will happen automatically once they acquire the skills needed for integration into Israeli society. The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times and once as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
See also Israel Suspends Beduoin Resettlement Plan - Ariel Ben Solomon
Former minister Benny Begin announced on Thursday that Prime Minister Netanyahu had accepted his recommendation to suspend Knesset consideration of a bill to regulate Bedouin settlement in the Negev.
The bill involved a five-year economic development initiative for tens of thousands of Bedouin scattered in unrecognized villages.
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