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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
December 26, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Russian Experts: Arafat Died a Natural Death (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Russian forensic experts studying the remains of Yasser Arafat on Thursday said the Palestinian leader died a natural death.
    "We have completed all the studies," said the head of Russia's Federal Medical-Biological Agency (FMBA) Vladimir Uiba. "The person died a natural death and not from radiation."
    See also Poll: Most Palestinians Believe Israel Poisoned Arafat (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
    59% of Palestinians believe Israel fatally poisoned Arafat, according to a poll published Tuesday by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Iran Revolutionary Guards Tweets: "The Easiest Way to Send Infidels to Hell Is Through Barrel of Death" (Iran Daily Brief)
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards has hailed Syria's government forces' use of aerial "barrel bombs" in their recent attacks on Aleppo and other cities.
    At least 364 people have been killed, including 105 children, in the attacks on Aleppo.

West Bank Refugee Camps Seethe under Weakening PA Control - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Dozens of Palestinian youths took to the streets and burned tires in Tulkarm in the West Bank over the weekend, blocking roads for hours in protest over plans by the PA and the municipality to put electric meters in the homes of the residents in order to charge them for electricity usage.
    Some of the refugee camps have become no-man's-lands, with Palestinian security forces understanding that entering these places will inevitably lead to complications.
    The Israeli security establishment's criticism of Palestinian security forces focuses mostly on the lack of meaningful operations inside the camps, from which emanate most of the warnings about plans for attacks, while in the big cities the PA has proven its abilities and motivation.

Energy Firms Near Deal to Sell Israeli Gas into Jordan - Sarah Kent (Wall Street Journal)
    A drilling consortium developing Israeli offshore natural-gas fields is closing in on a politically sensitive deal to supply gas to Jordan.
    Oded Eran, Israel's former ambassador to Jordan, said an agreement in principle has already been reached, but both sides are still discussing pricing and other technicalities.

Former Palestinian PM Caught Speeding near Jerusalem - Noam Dvir (Ynet News)
    Former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) was caught driving at 140 kph. (around 90 mph.) near Ma'ale Adumim outside Jerusalem on Saturday.
    Qureia refused police requests to pull over, and after a long, high-speed chase was stopped by an Israel Police roadblock.
    At the roadblock, Qureia refused to open the doors of the black Mercedes and refused to identify himself and provide identification.
    According to eyewitness reports, the car even attempted to flee the scene, but was blocked with the aid of an IDF jeep and road spikes.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Egypt Calls Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Group - Kareem Fahim
    Egypt's military-backed leaders designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization on Wednesday, outlawing the country's most successful political movement and vowing to treat anyone who belongs to it, or even takes part in its activities, as a terrorist. The decision came a day after officials blamed the Brotherhood for a suicide bombing at a police headquarters north of Cairo that killed 16 people, though on Wednesday a separate group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has derided the Brotherhood for its lack of militancy, claimed responsibility for the bombing. "The Muslim Brotherhood remains as it was," the cabinet said in a statement. "It only knows violence as a tool."  (New York Times)
        See also Egypt Steps Up Total War on Muslim Brotherhood - Zvi Bar'el
    Branding the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization was a step demanded by the public. A poll by the liberal newspaper Al-Watan found that 79% of Egyptians supported declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, with 21% opposed. Before the Egyptian revolution, when it was defined merely as a banned organization, the Brotherhood suffered restrictions primarily on its political activity. Being defined as a terrorist organization, however, means the battle against it will be a national security priority. (Ha'aretz)
  • Report: Egypt Army Foils Hamas Sinai Attack
    Egyptian military spokesman Col. Ahmed Ali said Wednesday that the army arrested "a Palestinian belonging to Hamas who illegally entered Egypt." During questioning "he confessed he planned to blow up (his car) in front of a strategic security building" in northern Sinai. (AFP)
        See also Explosion Hits Bus in Cairo, Wounding 5 (AP-Washington Post)
  • Tehran Stock Exchange Soars on Hopes for Detente - Ladane Nasseri
    The Tehran Stock Exchange's benchmark index soared 133% this year through Dec. 24 to a record, with most of the rally following the June election of President Hassan Rouhani, who has pledged to re-establish ties with the world economy. Iranians are pulling out of conventional stores of wealth - gold, dollars and real estate - to invest in the stock market, according to Tehran-based investment boutique Turquoise Partners. (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Kills 2 Palestinian Terrorists, Thwarts Bombing on Gaza Border
    The Palestinian attack on the Gaza border Tuesday in which an Israeli civilian Defense Ministry worker was gunned down was part of a more sophisticated terror plot in which terrorists sought to target IDF forces with a bomb at the fence, Israel's Channel 10 TV reported Wednesday. At the same time as the sniper fire from Gaza, terrorists sought to place "a large explosive device" further along the fence, which was to be detonated close to an IDF patrol. Troops opened fire at the terrorists, killing two. (Times of Israel)
  • Defense Minister: Escalation in Palestinian Terror Attacks Linked to Peace Talks - Gili Cohen
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Wednesday that the recent escalation in terror attacks is unequivocally linked to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. "In recent months, there have been more terrorist attacks and victims. The explanation for this is simple: The moment the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian issue arises, it also unfortunately leads to incitement and hatred, and those are the primary causes of terrorism. And yes, it has to do with the peace process." He said the Palestinian Authority was to blame for the incitement. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rocket at Ashkelon - Ilan Ben Zion
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket that slammed into an open area near the Israeli city of Ashkelon late Wednesday night, the second rocket fired at Israel this week. The IDF has deployed Iron Dome missile interception batteries near the southern cities of Beersheba, Sderot, and Ashdod. In spite of the heightened readiness, sources in the IDF said they expected a deescalation by Hamas. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Christmas Propaganda from Palestine - Petra Marquardt-Bigman
    It's the time of year again when Palestinians and their supporters gear up to use Christianity's most popular holy day for their own political purposes. The PLO has just released a short animated clip that declares: "Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ." "Jesus was a Palestinian" fantasies are part of the annual Palestinian Christmas propaganda routine. Yet practicing Christians who acknowledge history remember that at the first Christmas, Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, the shepherds, and the baby were all Jewish.
        The fact that the historic Jesus was a Jew is merrily ignored by Palestinians, who don't seem the least bit embarrassed to press Jesus into the service of Palestinian nationalism - never mind that the declared goal of this nationalism is a state with Islam as the official religion.
        Can you imagine what would happen nowadays if Joseph tried to buy any property in Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem? Any Palestinian willing to sell to him would risk being sentenced to death for the crime of selling property to a Jew. The writer is a German-Israeli citizen with a PhD in contemporary history. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The ASA: Where Foolishness and Ignorance Collide - Walter Russell Mead
    Even by the strictest measures, Israel is by no means the worst human rights violator on this planet, and the Palestinians, despite their entirely legitimate complaints, are not the worst treated people alive. Muslims in Burma, many Tibetans, just about everyone in North Korea, and the hundreds of millions of enslaved bonded workers in the Indian subcontinent all endure greater injustices and deprivation in their daily lives than the mass of the Palestinian people. Yet Israel clearly gets a disproportionate weight of global disapproval for what it does.
        I've frequently noted that even when it comes to the suffering of the Palestinians, there's a tendency to focus one-sidedly on Israeli actions and to minimize the injustices Palestinians experience at the hands of Arabs from the Gulf to Egypt (which keeps its borders with Gaza firmly closed), not to mention the systemic and ugly discrimination against Palestinians in Lebanon. (American Interest)
  • Eastern Jerusalem: Where Jews Have Lived for Millennia - Ricki Hollander
    While Palestinians reject Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem, they claim eastern Jerusalem - with holy sites to three religions - as the capital of their future state. Israel considers Jerusalem - both western and eastern - the country's eternal, undivided capital based on its historical, religious and political claims to the holy city. In 1980, the Israeli Knesset passed a Basic Law declaring reunified Jerusalem the eternal capital of Israel, while providing for freedom of access to each religion's holy sites.
        For over three millennia, since King David established Jerusalem as the capital of his kingdom in 1004 BCE, there has been an almost continuous Jewish presence in Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism. And for most of that time it was concentrated in east Jerusalem, where Judaism's holy sites lie. Jews have constituted the largest single group of residents in the city since the mid-1800s.
        The area was only exclusively Arab for the 19-year period between 1948 and 1967 during which Jordan occupied eastern Jerusalem. In the 1948 war, Transjordan's Arab Legion seized east Jerusalem, expelled its Jewish residents, destroyed Jewish property and religious sites, and made it Judenrein (Jew free).
        Far from being ethnically cleansed, the Arab population of Jerusalem has grown rapidly under Israeli rule, from 68,600 in 1967 to 268,600 in 2008, with the increase in Jerusalem's Arab population outpacing the growth of the city's Jewish population. (CAMERA)

International Humanitarian Law, ICRC and Israel's Status in the Territories - Alan Baker (International Review of the Red Cross)

  • There are some basic assumptions in International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) official positions and statements regarding the status of the territories administered by Israel since 1967 that appear to have become lingua franca in the UN. The most frequently repeated and inaccurate assumption is to describe the historically-termed areas of Judea and Samaria, Gaza, and the eastern part of Jerusalem as the "Occupied Palestinian Territory." This expression is inaccurate historically and legally, and is inherently and clearly politically-slanted.
  • These areas - situated in the "West Bank" of the Jordan River, an area originally described in the November 29, 1947, UN General Assembly "Partition" Resolution 181 as "the hill country of Samaria and Judea" - have never been part of any sovereign or other formal Palestinian entity. There has never been any binding treaty, agreement, resolution or any other international document that has accorded this territory to the Palestinians. The expression "Occupied Palestinian Territory" is a political term, representing nothing more than a political viewpoint.
  • The unique historic and legal nature of the West Bank territories of Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, with basic historic rights emanating from time immemorial and encapsulated legally in official, binding and still valid international documents, renders invalid any attempt to use loaded and inappropriate definitions such as "occupied territories" to designate or describe their status.
  • By any objective criterion, the status of the territory could only be considered to be "disputed territory," subject to an ongoing negotiation process between the involved parties, aimed at determining by agreement the fate of the territory. Any claim or determination, even by the ICRC, attempting to designate and assign the territory to one party, or to deny the rights and status of any party, could only be seen as a departure from the strict policy of neutrality dictated by the fundamental principles of the Red Cross.

    The writer is former legal adviser to Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former ambassador of Israel to Canada.

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