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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
April 16, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Saudi Arabia Replaces Intelligence Chief (Al Arabiya)
    Saudi Arabia's king on Tuesday relieved intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan of his post and appointed his deputy Youssef al-Idrissi as acting head of intelligence, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
    Prince Bandar has been on medical leave since early this year.

Saudis Lead Middle East Military Spending (Al Jazeera)
    Saudi military spending has more than doubled in 10 years and its military budget is now the fourth largest in the world, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
    The Kingdom spent $67 billion last year, leapfrogging the UK, Japan and France in budget terms.
    See also Report: German Government to Cancel Saudi Tank Deal (AFP-Defense News)
    The German government will not approve a reported deal to sell up to 800 battle tanks to Saudi Arabia, the German Bild am Sonntag said Sunday, citing government sources.

Palestinians Riot Again on Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Times of Israel)
    Dozens of masked Palestinian rioters hurled stones and firecrackers at Israeli police Wednesday morning on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
    On Sunday, riot police were called in to quell a similar violent incident at the Temple Mount's Mughrabi gate.

Three Palestinians Die in Gaza "Work Accident" (Ma'an News-PA)
    Three Palestinian men were killed and four others injured in an explosion in Khan Yunis in Gaza, medical sources said.
    Hamas sources said the victims were members of its al-Qassam Brigades and were killed while preparing explosive devices.

China-Israel Tourism Up 30 Percent in 2013 (Xinhua-China)
    The number of Chinese tourists to Israel rose 30% in 2013 to 30,000 and they spent more than travelers from other countries, Israeli Tourism Ministry director general Amir Halevi told Xinhua.
    "We are preparing to receive more Chinese visitors, providing special tour services and recruiting more Chinese guides," he said.

Winemaking Returns to Judean Hills after 2,500 Years - Kate Shuttleworth (USA Today)
    In his latest wine guide, Israel's top wine critic, Daniel Rogov, has six top picks from the Judean Hills. Yatir Winery took the No. 1 spot this year with grapes grown in the Judean Mountains near Mount Hebron.
    Yatir's vineyards are situated nearly 3,000 feet above sea level in the Yatir Forest, Israel's largest planted forest, a project of the Jewish National Fund begun in 1964.
    JNF regional forest director Amir Mazor said excavaters in the area had uncovered ancient wine presses and storage vessels dated to 2,500 years ago.
    "When the wine-making history of the area was uncovered and linked to biblical times, it made sense that winemakers were going back to their roots and producing wine again," Mazor said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Escalates Dispute over UN Envoy - Somini Sengupta and Rick Gladstone
    Iran's increasingly angry protests over the American decision to not grant a visa to its new UN ambassador have laid bare the limits of global law when its provisions clash with the interests of the U.S., the host country. Experts said Tuesday that even if Iran does have legal grounds to argue that its new ambassador's rights have been violated, there is little it can do. Some suggested the U.S. might even have sympathy and international law on its side.
        The 1947 UN Headquarters Agreement obliges the host to allow access to foreign diplomatic representatives, even from countries the U.S. dislikes. But the U.S. also enacted a law that year in which it reserved the right to "safeguard its own security" by denying visas to foreign visitors to the UN deemed to be a threat. The ambassador, Hamid Aboutalebi, was a translator for the Iranian revolutionaries in Tehran who seized the American Embassy and took hostages in 1979.
        In a 1988 case, when the U.S. denied a visa to Yasir Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the UN meeting was moved from New York to Geneva. (New York Times)
  • Al-Qaeda Affiliate Intends to Target U.S. - Greg Miller
    A video that recently surfaced on Islamist militant websites shows a large group of al-Qaeda fighters - including the terrorist network's second in command - at a brazen open-air gathering, apparently unconcerned about a U.S. drone strike. In the footage, al-Qaeda's leader in Yemen, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, warns: "We must eliminate the cross...the bearer of the cross is America."
        The al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has been responsible for a series of attempted attacks, including a failed effort to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day in 2009. The U.S. military's armed drone flights have been suspended since an apparently errant strike in December killed a dozen people in a wedding-related caravan of vehicles. (Washington Post)
  • UN Official Condemns Use of Torture in Syrian War - Nick Cumming-Bruce
    UN human rights chief Navi Pillay condemned the rampant and routine use of torture by the Syrian authorities in a report released Monday, which also records torture by some armed opposition groups. "Upon arrival at a detention facility, detainees are routinely beaten and humiliated for several hours by the guards in what has come to be known as the 'reception party'," the report states, drawing on 38 interviews with released prisoners conducted by UN investigators.
        "Our findings confirm that torture is being routinely used in government detention facilities in Syria, and that torture is also used by some armed groups," Pillay said. "In armed conflict, torture constitutes a war crime. When it is used in a systematic or widespread manner, which is almost certainly the case in Syria, it also amounts to a crime against humanity."  (New York Times)
        Read the Report: Torture and Ill-Treatment in the Syrian Arab Republic (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights)
        See also Hizbullah Has Abetted Assad's Worst Acts - Michael Young (National-UAE)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Murdered, 2 Wounded in Palestinian Terrorist Attack near Hebron - Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury
    Israel Police Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi, 47, was killed in a shooting attack as he was driving near Hebron on Monday. Mizrahi's wife was wounded in the shooting. A 9-year-old boy in another vehicle was lightly injured. The shooter, armed with an AK-47, stood at the side of the road and opened fire on passing cars. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Netanyahu: "Murder Result of Palestinian Incitement"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday: "This reprehensible the result of the incitement for which the Palestinian Authority is responsible. The Palestinian Authority continues to constantly broadcast - in its official media - programs that incite against the existence of the State of Israel. Last night this incitement was translated into the murder of a father who was traveling with his family to celebrate the first night of Passover."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Hamas Praises Hebron Attack, Warns of More (AP-Times of Israel)
        See also After Palestinian Gunfire Hit Her Husband, Wounded Wife Took Control of Car - Akiva Novick
    Hadas Mizrahi told Ynet: "Baruch saw a terrorist. He told me, 'they're shooting, they're shooting.'...Baruch put his foot down on the gas pedal. I felt a pain in my back. I told the kids, 'take off your seatbelts and lie down on the floor.' I took the steering wheel, shifted into low gear and used the handbrake to reduce the speed. I used a rag to wipe up the blood; I saw that Baruch was dead. When the soldiers arrived, I told them to dress my wounds and put the children in a protected vehicle, so that they didn't see their father lying dead."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Internal Challenges to Abbas' Leadership Behind Peace Talks Failure - Lee Smith
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas is now in the ninth year of a four-year presidential term. Staying in power requires keeping his rivals at bay.
        The leaders in the Gulf states are more worried about Iran and its nuclear program than about the Israelis. Their objective, right now, is to find a Palestinian version of Egypt's new strongman, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - someone who can take on Hamas and other Islamist factions, block Iranian influence, and keep his nation united, stable, and, most importantly, quiet.
        Mohamed Dahlan, the former Gaza-based Fatah strongman, has been living in the United Arab Emirates. The plan some Arab leaders are pursuing, apparently, is to strengthen Dahlan to make another run at Hamas in Gaza, then muscle Abbas out of the leadership in Ramallah.
        Abbas' moves against Israel at the negotiating table should be seen in the context of his fight for political survival. If Abbas can get more prisoners released, then he's a hero for liberating the foot soldiers of the resistance. There's nothing to be gained by making concessions to Jerusalem or Washington. (Tablet)
  • Palestinians' "Anti-Normalization" Movement - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian Authority security forces used force to disperse and arrest Palestinian activists who tried to prevent the Indian Classical Dance Performance, Kathak, from performing in Ramallah on April 12. The activists accused the Indian dancers of appearing before members of the Indian community in Tel Aviv, calling its performance in the PA a form of "normalization" with Israel. "Anti-normalization" activists who infiltrated the theater shouted abuse at the Indian dancers and their Palestinian hosts.
        The PA Ministry of Culture later issued a statement accusing the anti-Israel activists of cursing and physically assaulting members of the audience. The government of India recently contributed $10 million as budgetary support to the PA. In 2009, India completed the construction of the Palestinian Embassy building and residences in New Delhi as a gift to the Palestinians.
        If Abbas ever signs a peace agreement with Israel, the first to come out against him will not only be Hamas or Islamic Jihad, but the "anti-normalization" activists who are already accusing him of being a traitor for meeting with Israelis. (Gatestone Institute)
  • 35 Years of Cold Peace with Egypt - Zvi Mazel
    The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt turned 35 last month, but it never brought about the hoped-for development in relations between the two countries. The peace did have one outstanding success - in the field of agriculture.
        Thanks to Yusef Wali, a devout Muslim who was minister of agriculture, in the '80s and '90s Israeli experts were dispatched to Egypt, model farms set up and thousands of young Egyptians went to Kibbutz Bror Hayil, near Sderot, to learn advanced agricultural techniques. Egypt became almost self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables. Yet all this was done with the utmost discretion, not to say secrecy. Following the revolution that overthrew Mubarak, Wali was jailed for alleged corruption.
        Should Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi be elected as is generally assumed, he will have to decide whether to go along with the cold peace as before or to take the difficult and bold decision to promote cooperation with Israel for the greater benefit of both countries. The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden. (Jerusalem Post)

What Washington Is Missing in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks - Michael Singh (Foreign Policy)

  • Secretary Kerry was not wrong to pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace - doing so is in our interest and is an important element of American leadership in the region. Yet he should not seek to reconstitute the process as it previously stood. It was tactically flawed, insofar as it required both leaders to take political risks for a scant payoff.
  • Secretary Kerry has argued that it is better to try and fail at peace than not to try at all, but failure has a cost. A high-profile failure deepens pessimism and feeds enthusiasm for counterproductive alternatives.
  • There can be no substitute for direct engagement between the parties themselves. Kerry substituted parallel U.S.-Israel and U.S.-Palestinian discussions. Emphasizing direct dialogue means lowering the talks' profile and dispensing with overly-ambitious deadlines.
  • A greater emphasis should be placed on Palestinian economic growth and reform. Doing so helps Palestinians focus on what they stand to gain through peace. It also reassures Israelis that their Palestinian neighbor will not be a failed state.
  • The U.S. should repudiate the "BDS movement," which calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, rather than attempt to use the specter of boycotts to spur Israel along. The BDS movement persuades Israel that the campaign against its existence as a Jewish state will not cease even with an agreement. In addition, the success of a future Palestinian state will depend on economic cooperation with Israel, which will be undermined by boycotts and sanctions.

    The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed Pesach.
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