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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 3, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

After Losing 1,000 Men in Syria, Hizbullah Builds "Security Zone" - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Almost six months have passed since the last suicide bombing in Dahiya, the Shi'ite quarter of Beirut and a Hizbullah stronghold.
    A major reason for the stabilized security situation in Shi'ite areas is the "security zone" Hizbullah has created on the Syria-Lebanon border.
    It features a series of permanent bases built in recent months to prevent the flow of Sunni terrorists into Lebanon.
    According to various estimates, 1,000 Hizbullah fighters are stationed within the outposts alone. Another 4,500-5,000 are operating in Syria.
    According to a senior Israeli official, Hizbullah has lost more than 1,000 fighters fighting alongside Assad's forces.

Abbas Extends Condolences to Family of Man Who Shot Rabbi Glick in Jerusalem (Ha'aretz)
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas sent a condolence letter to the family of Muataz Hijazi, the man who shot Rabbi Yehuda Glick in Jerusalem last week.
    He wrote that Hijazi "rose to heaven as a casualty in the fight for the Palestinian people's rights and for the holy sites," and made no reference to Hijazi's involvement in the shooting.

Egypt Arrests Islamic State Terrorists - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian security forces captured members of a "terrorist cell complicit in several terrorist operations in Egypt" that received training in Syria, Interior Ministry Spokesman Hany Abdel Lattif told the Aswat Masriya website on Saturday.
    The Egyptian state news agency MENA reported that the cell was made up of five members affiliated with the Islamic State.
    See also Egypt Finds Evidence of Connection between Sinai Terror Group and Islamic State - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)
    Egyptian security officials have intercepted phone calls and text messages from the Sinai-based terrorist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis to Islamic State with requests for aid, Israel Radio reported on Sunday.
    The Sinai group asked the senior leadership of Islamic State to send trained members to help carry out terrorist attacks.

Gulf Arabs See Specter of Iran in Rise of Yemen's Shiite Rebels - Glen Carey and Mohammed Hatem (Bloomberg)
    Houthi fighters in Yemen, with scimitars hanging from their waists, now guard key ministries and the central bank in Sana'a.
    Outside the capital, they have fought their way into Yemen's second-largest port on the Red Sea and seized a crossing post on the Saudi border.
    For Saudi Arabia, it's the perception of an Iranian hand that makes the advance a threat.
    The conflict in Yemen spread into Saudi Arabia five years ago when the Houthis seized territory across the border. More than 100 Saudi soldiers were killed while driving them out.
    Iran is interfering "most recently and dramatically" in Yemen, Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Oct. 1.

Official PA Daily Tells Children and Adults to Use Violence - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    A cartoon in the official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Nov. 2 showed a father and son at the entrance to the Dome of the Rock.
    The father hands his son a slingshot and instructs him: "Purification before prayer is performed with stones."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Blocks Inspections, Hobbling Nuclear Deal - Jay Solomon
    Iran's government continues to stonewall UN weapons inspectors, complicating the Obama administration's effort to forge a nuclear agreement with Tehran by a Nov. 24 deadline, according to U.S. and UN officials. The U.S. and EU have said Iran's cooperation with the UN in addressing evidence that Tehran conducted studies in the past on the development of atomic weapons is crucial to reaching a broader accord on the future of the Iranian nuclear program. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Friday there has been almost no progress in resolving the outstanding allegations of weapons development, despite a year of negotiations. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S.-Backed Syria Rebels Routed by Fighters Linked to Al-Qaeda - Liz Sly
    On Sunday, moderate rebels who had been armed and trained by the U.S. either surrendered or defected to the extremists as the Jabhat al-Nusra group, affiliated with al-Qaeda, swept through the towns the moderates controlled in the northern Syrian province of Idlib, capturing significant quantities of weaponry. Other moderate fighters were on the run, heading for the Turkish border as the extremists closed in, heralding a significant defeat for the rebel forces Washington had been counting on as a bulwark against Islamic State.
        Among the groups whose bases were overrun was Harakat Hazm, the biggest recipient of U.S. assistance offered under a covert CIA program launched this year, including the first deliveries of U.S.-made TOW antitank missiles. The group's headquarters outside Khan Subbul was seized by Jabhat al-Nusra on Saturday after rebel fighters surrendered their weapons and fled without a fight. Another Western-backed group, the Syrian Revolutionary Front, on Saturday gave up its bases in Jabal al-Zawiya. (Washington Post)
  • Qatar Remains a Haven for Anti-Western Groups - Amena Bakr
    Qatar has joined the American-led coalition to fight Islamic State, yet the emirate provides a haven to anti-Western groups such as the Afghan Taliban, Palestinian Hamas and Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front. "The Qataris are trying to do the absolute minimum," said a senior Western diplomat in the Gulf. At the same time, an Arab diplomat in the Qatari capital said, "Islamists here use Doha as an active launch pad for their media campaigns, communications and logistics which directly have an impact on the security of other Arab states."
        In a CNN interview aired on Sept 25, Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim said some countries had argued that "any group which comes from an Islamist background are terrorists. And we don't accept that....To consider them extremist, I think, this is a big mistake."  (Reuters)
        See also Cousin of Qatari Foreign Minister Convicted for Terrorist Funding - Andrew Gilligan
    Abdulaziz bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, the cousin of Qatar's foreign minister, has been found guilty in absentia by a Lebanese court of channeling financial support to al-Qaeda. He was detained in Lebanon - apparently following a tip-off by British and American intelligence - but was allowed to leave the country before his trial after intense pressure by Qatar. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: U.S. to Unveil New Peace Talks Proposal - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
    The U.S. is planning to present a proposal to resume the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after Tuesday's mid-term elections, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported over the weekend. PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday in Washington. On Friday, Kerry phoned PA President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the possibility of reviving the peace talks. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PLO Expected to Reject U.S. Peace Framework - Lazar Berman
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas will present to the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership an American framework for the resumption of peace talks with Israel, Israel Radio reported. The Palestinian newspaper al-Quds quoted sources who indicated that the PLO would reject the proposal. (Times of Israel)
  • Netanyahu Accuses Islamic Fundamentalists of Spreading False Stories about the Temple Mount - Tovah Lazaroff
    The status quo on the Temple Mount will be maintained, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. Muslims worshipers could continue to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel had no plans to harm or destroy it. He accused Islamic fundamentalists of spreading false stories about Israeli actions on the Temple Mount by way of igniting religious violence.
        "We will certainly oppose all systematic and continuing attempts by Islamic extremist elements to stir up unrest. They would like to set a religious fire in Jerusalem and thereby ignite the entire Middle East," Netanyahu told the cabinet. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report: Netanyahu Met with Jordanian King Abdullah Secretly in Amman amid Temple Mount Tensions
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with Jordan's King Abdullah on Saturday in order to calm tensions at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rocket at Israel - Gadi Golan
    A rocket fired from Gaza landed inside Israel on Friday night, the Israeli military said on Saturday, the second such incident since the Gaza War ended in August. In response, Israel closed the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings from Gaza into Israel. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Hamas Arrests Five Palestinians over Rocket Fire at Israel - Amos Harel and Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • President Obama Should Try to Reset Relations with Benjamin Netanyahu - Editorial
    The barnyard epithet directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a "senior administration official" reflects an unreasonable and disproportionate reaction to Mr. Netanyahu's resistance to U.S. nostrums on matters of crucial importance to his country - as well as rank unprofessionalism by one or more of the president's senior aides.
        U.S. administrations have often clashed with Israeli governments. But presidents prior to Mr. Obama tended to smooth over differences, at least in public. They understood that an open rift with Israel could encourage political assaults on the Jewish state by U.S. allies and military adventurism by adversaries - such as Iran. Given the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and the very real threat that it will spread and escalate, Mr. Obama would be wise to initiate a reset with Mr. Netanyahu. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Insults Hurt Obama More than Netanyahu - Jonathan Ferziger and Calev Ben-David
    "When a guy close to the leader of the world's greatest superpower uses such vulgar language to describe the prime minister of a close ally, I don't think that's good for the U.S.," says Israel's former ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren. "Leaders of other nations, friendly and unfriendly, are looking at this and making conclusions on whether this administration is reliable."  (Bloomberg)
        See also An Attack on All Israeli Prime Ministers - Nicholas Casey and Joshua Mitnick
    Dore Gold, an adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, criticized the White House remarks as an attack not just on Mr. Netanyahu but all prime ministers "from Golda Meir to Yitzhak Rabin who insisted on keeping Jerusalem united to people of all faiths."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also The U.S. Has No Better Friend than Israel - Moshe Arens
    Let it first be said: The relations between Israel and the U.S. are good and will continue to be so. The U.S. is Israel's best friend, and the U.S. has no better friend than Israel. Thus it has been for many years, and so it will continue to be. The intimacy of America's relations with Israel on many levels is probably not matched by America's relations with any other country. This is based on common values, ideals and strategic interests. The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times and once as Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli-American Relations and the Iranian Nuclear Threat - Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror
    Every year, the Americans give Israel a gift of about $3.5 billion for its defense needs (3/4 of which are to be used only for purchases from the U.S.). In addition, the U.S. partners with Israel in the development of anti-missile technology, there is robust intelligence cooperation, and the exchange of ideas between military commanders is extremely important to both sides. U.S. friendship is important to Israel in the diplomatic realm as well, especially in the international arena and in the UN.
        The Americans have brought the Iranians to the negotiating table, after imposing unprecedented sanctions and recruiting the Europeans to follow suit. However, at the negotiating table, the U.S. has created the impression that the ultimate agreement is more important to them than it is to the Iranians, and that they would do anything to avoid resorting to the military option.
        If a permanent agreement fails to guarantee the bare minimum that Israel feels is necessary, it will have to act in its best interest and avoid being influenced by the fact that its close ally signed the agreement with Iran. If Israel cannot rely on anyone on this matter of enormous importance to its security and even its existence, then it will have to defend itself by itself. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror is a former National Security Advisor of Israel. (Israel Hayom)

U.S. Policy, Viewed from the Middle East - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)

  • During some recent travel to the Middle East, I've heard the same views from Arab and Israeli leaders: the Obama administration has drawn Israel and the Arabs closer together. The officials with whom I spoke all perceive the U.S. government as not only conceding Iranian hegemony in the region, but even promoting it as a positive good.
  • Washington is moving to containment of Iran, while Obama administration officials tell all who will listen that they are not doing that.
  • For the Arabs, what the King of Jordan once called a "Shia crescent" is forming before their eyes: Iranian hegemony from Yemen through Iran to Iraq and Syria and Lebanon. If a nuclear deal means that sanctions on Iran begin to crumble, Iran will have more resources with which to project force through war and subversion.
  • The damage done by administration officials who savaged Prime Minister Netanyahu is deep, including among Arab leaders. That's not because they like Netanyahu, but because it suggests that administration officials are undisciplined and untrustworthy.
  • After all, those remarks were made with the intention that they be published; they were not off the record. The speakers obviously thought that trashing allied leaders in the press is fine. The officials who made those remarks did serious damage to U.S. credibility, and not just in Israel.

    The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR.

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