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February 13, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Gaza's Rogue Islamists Pose Risk to Truce with Israel - Nicholas Casey (Wall Street Journal)
    On a recent surveillance patrol, Israeli soldiers watched as a squad of Hamas militants approached the border between Gaza and Israel to block rogue militants seeking to launch rockets into Israel, an Israeli commander said.
    "They are trying to embarrass Hamas," said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist in Gaza City, referring to the extremists. "The aim is to destabilize the cease-fire. Hamas is trying to maintain the cease-fire."
    In December, Hamas blamed a Salafist group for launching rockets into Israel, an event that sparked Israel's first airstrikes into Gaza since the summer conflict ended.
    An Israeli military official said Hamas has attempted to rearm itself in recent months, but its appetite for a new war with Israel has been tempered by its inability to get sophisticated weapons through a blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt.

Israeli Supreme Court Rejects Appeal in Rachel Corrie Case - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by Rachel Corrie's family of a lower court decision which had denied them civil damages for wrongful death after Corrie died near an IDF bulldozer while she was protesting in Rafah, Gaza, on March 16, 2003.
    The state had said the incident was a tragic accident, with the bulldozer driver unable to see Corrie in the closed military zone - where she should not have been.
    The court upheld the "combat activities exception" principle in which the state cannot be held liable for damages from activities which occur in a war zone.

Half of Palestinian Journalists Killed in Gaza War Belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Half the names that appear on a Palestinian list of journalists killed during the 2014 Gaza war actually belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported Thursday.
    "Eight out of the 17 names were operatives who belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, or who worked in Hamas media outlets," the report stated.
    Dr. Reuven Erlich, head of the Center, compared the operatives to Islamic State cameramen who film the beheadings of hostages. "To call them journalists is completely absurd."

Official: No Operational Weapons Left Behind in Yemen Embassy Evacuation - Hope Hodge Seck (Marine Times)
    The Marine security detachment guarding the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, left no operational weapons behind as troops evacuated the country, a senior Marine official said.
    Houthi rebels seized more than 25 official U.S. vehicles, but "No Marines handed over a functional weapon to anybody," the official said.

French Jews Plan an Exodus - Griff Witte (Washington Post)
    In homes, shops and synagogues guarded night and day by soldiers wielding assault rifles, conversations are dominated by an agonizing choice: stay in France and risk becoming the victim of the next attack by Islamic extremists, or leave behind a country and a community that Jews say they are proud to call home.
    "The question is not will they leave or won't they leave," said Alain Assouline, a prominent doctor and president of a Jewish community center in Saint-Mande, east of Paris. "The question has become when they will leave."

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Philadelphia City Councilwoman Honors Palestinian Governor - Then Has Regret - Eric Berger (Philadelphia Jewish Exponent)
    Philadelphia City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez provided Leila Ghannam, governor of Ramallah in the West Bank, with two official city honors on Jan. 29 at the Al Hidaya Mosque in North Philadelphia.
    Sanchez is now expressing regret, claiming she was not aware the honoree had compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi Germany and had praised the killing of Israeli civilians.
    Ghannam said she "believes murder of Israeli civilians is an act sanctioned by Islam, promoted by Allah, and an act to be admired by Palestinians."

Microsoft Buys Israeli Digital Pen Maker N-trig (Reuters)
    Microsoft is buying N-trig, an Israeli provider of digital pens and chips for touch screens, for at least $200 million, the Calcalist financial news website said on Thursday.
    N-trig sold 1.3 million digital pens in the first half of 2014.

Top Israeli Innovative Companies (Fast Company)
    An estimated eight million times a year, errors in U.S. drug prescriptions can have life-threatening consequences.
    MedAware's Prescription Analysis and Alert System analyzes the prescription a health care provider enters, compares it to the patient's records and to other patients with the same condition, analyzes the provider's prescribing patterns, and approves the prescription within seconds or flags it.
    Billguard identifies breaches of credit-card security, detecting patterns that could mean that a person's credit-card number was stolen.
    Salient Eye lets you deploy unused smartphones that have built-in cameras as a do-it-yourself home-security system. Its motion-sensor app for Android allows users to monitor the area or room where the phone unobtrusively rests. The app emits an alarm and sends photographs, texts, or e-mail alerts of intruders.

Archaeologist Finds 8-Meter Giant Lizard Fossil in Israel - Ruth Schuster (Ha'aretz)
    Gideon Ragolsky of the Dead Sea and Arava Center was conducting an archaeological survey in the Negev desert one day in 2012 when he noticed a bone sticking out of the hillside.
    It was a vertebra of an elasmosaurus, an 8-meter-long reptile from the days of the dinosaurs 85 million years ago. Scientists found about 20 pieces of skeleton, including seven vertebrae and a tooth.
    The site, about five km. south of Moshav Faran, was part of the prehistoric Tethys Sea seafloor.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Moves to Choke Off Islamic State's Cash - Joe Lauria
    The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously tightened sanctions on Islamic State militants in an effort to block the revenue they derive from smuggling oil, antiquities and ransoms from kidnapping. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power told the council that the resolution was "part of a comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy" the group. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A "Creeping Cultural Acceptance" of Anti-Semitism Is Sweeping Britain, Warns Cabinet Minister - Holly Watt
    A "creeping cultural acceptance" of anti-Semitism is taking over in Britain, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has warned. "Only the most naive" would dismiss the potential risks for Jews in Europe.
        "The history of antisemitism shows the worst atrocities can begin when ordinary people turn a blind eye to small acts of discrimination, and minds drift lazily towards a mainstream, even fashionable, acceptance of prejudice," he said.
        He highlighted the decision last year by Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, to fly the Palestinian flag at the council offices. "These public bodies should use their position of authority to promote community cohesion - not to grandstand and stir up tensions," he said. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Manchester Council Rejects Move to Fly Palestinian Flag - Josh Jackman
    The Manchester City Council Communities Scrutiny Committee rejected on Wednesday a proposal to fly the Palestinian flag over the town hall. The proposal came before the committee after the Manchester branch of the Stop the War Coalition presented a petition to fly the flag signed by more than 2,500 people.
        The North West Friends of Israel, whose counter petition was signed by more than 3,000 people, wrote the council that it was running "the risk of importing a conflict from many thousands of miles away to the streets of Manchester, which is no place for it."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Syria Making Gains in Bid to Regain Golan, with Help of Hizbullah and Iran - Jack Khoury and Amos Harel
    A joint offensive by the Assad regime, Hizbullah and advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in southern Syria has registered some early successes, as regime forces retook several towns from rebel groups. The area being targeted runs from the town of Daraa to the southern part of the border with Israel on the Golan Heights. The operation reflects an attempt by Syrian President Assad to push rebels out of areas they took control over in the second half of 2014. In recent weeks, rebel groups have shot rockets from the south toward Damascus several times.
        Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem announced a few days ago that Syria will not allow the rebels to establish a "security zone" for Israel near the border between the two countries. (Ha'aretz)
        See also With Airstrikes Stopping Islamic State, Assad Can Now Concentrate on Repelling Rebels in the South - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The onslaught by Syrian, Hizbullah and Iranian forces south of Damascus, in the direction of Israel's border, is intended to relieve some of the rebel pressure on the embattled capital city. The Syrian army has tried - unsuccessfully - to take over the main road connecting Damascus and Daraa three times. In one such attack, regime forces were aided by professional Russian consultants who liaised with Iranians, but to no avail. With the Islamic State on the defensive due to the U.S.-led coalition's air campaign, Assad can coordinate efforts south of Damascus and other important fronts. (Ynet News)
        See also Map of Syrian Offensive (Ynet News)
  • Friends of 11-Year-Old Israeli Firebomb Victim to UN: Condemn Burners of Children - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Hundreds of friends of Ayala Shapira, the 11-year-old girl who was seriously wounded after a firebomb was hurled at her car in the West Bank on Dec. 25, urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a letter to issue a harsh "condemnation against burners of children." Shapira, who sustained third degree burns in the attack, remains sedated and on a respirator.
        Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said Shapira "is, as we speak, fighting for her life in hospital. Does this disgusting attack on a child merit condemnation? Because I haven't heard one - not from the Palestinian leadership and not from this [Security] Council."  (Ynet News)
        See also Israel to UN: Demand an End to Palestinian Terrorism - Amb. Ron Prosor (Mission of Israel to the UN)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Anatomy of a Bad Iran Deal: A Preliminary Assessment - Dore Gold
    The lead editorial of the Washington Post on Feb. 5, 2015, "The Emerging Iran Nuclear Deal Raises Major Concerns," expressed the growing concern in elite circles with the contours of the emerging nuclear accord between Iran and the P5+1. Part of the concern emanates from the change in the goals of Western negotiators: rather than eliminate Iran's potential to build nuclear weapons, they now want to restrict Iranian capabilities, which would leave Tehran in a position to break out of any restrictions in the future.
        Israel's position is that Iran should have zero centrifuges. If Iran truly needs enriched uranium for civilian purposes, it could import enriched uranium as do Canada, Mexico, and Spain. The Israeli position is in line with six UN Security Council resolutions adopted between 2006 and 2010 with the support of Russia and China.
        According to Gary Samore, President Obama's former non-proliferation adviser, the U.S. was demanding that Iran significantly reduce its stock of centrifuges to 1,500, but dropped the longstanding U.S. policy that Iran eliminate its centrifuges completely. According to multiple press reports, Western negotiators have raised the ceiling for the number of centrifuges to 4,500, and they now appear to be ready to let the Iranians have 6,000 centrifuges. Yet the proposed 6,000 centrifuge limit will not allow sufficient time to respond to an Iranian breakout.
        Other countries in the Middle East will react to these concessions by accelerating their own nuclear programs. A bad agreement with Iran, in short, will leave the world a much more dangerous place. The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and author of The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West (2009). (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • How Is Netanyahu's Speech to Congress a Violation of Protocol? - Liel Leibovitz
    In the Calvin and Hobbes comics, Calvin enjoyed playing a very special game called "Calvinball," in which he made up the rules as he went along to make sure he was always winning. Reading the continuous coverage of Netanyahu's visit in the last few days makes you feel that the White House and its supporters are now playing their own version of Calvinball, called "protocol."
        President Obama said he would not meet with Netanyahu so close to the Israeli elections in March because that would be a violation of "protocol." Except that Netanyahu never asked for such a meeting. Instead, he was invited to address Congress by the speaker of the House of Representatives - just as he had been invited in 2011 by the very same man to address the very same branch of government without anyone mentioning the word "protocol."
        There are real issues at stake here. Netanyahu forswore an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities because of the stated commitment of the past two U.S. administrations to UN-approved sanctions whose stated goal was to eliminate Iran's capacity to build nuclear weapons. Now, it seems, American policy has swung 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Instead of eliminating Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities, the Iranians will be able to retain a large proportion of their centrifuges and facilities, while sanctions will be lifted - strengthening the current regime. (Tablet)
  • When a Regime Leads Its People in Chants of "Death to America," We Should Believe They Mean It - James S. Robbins
    As Iran celebrates the 36th anniversary of the return of Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in 1979 and the advent of the Islamic Revolution, in speeches, rallies and state-sponsored television shows Tehran is reaffirming messages of the destruction of its enemies, particularly Israel and the U.S. The celebrations remind us that Iran is not just a state with dreams of regional hegemony. It is a revolutionary regime seeking to reshape the map of the region and the belief system of the world.
        Iran is not seeking nuclear-weapons capability simply to preserve its regime; it is also doing so to extend its revolution. Arms-control agreements, verification regimes and international inspections cannot guarantee that Iran is not still secretly developing nuclear weapons. The writer is Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council. (National Interest)
  • How Making Nice with Tehran Boosts ISIS - Ahmad El Assaad
    Take it from me, a leader of a Lebanese political party and a Shia Muslim: The supposedly Shiite regime in Iran is a bully, and repeated failures to stand up to it play into the hands of Sunni extremists. Sunnis across the Middle East feel bullied by Tehran's increasingly dominant role in the region, and angry as the world remains on the sidelines. One main reason ISIS has grown so powerful is that it represents a way for Sunni Arabs to regain their pride in response to the ever-increasing Shia dominance led by the regime in Iran. (New York Post)

  • Palestinians

  • Palestinian Moves to Join ICC Have Nothing to Do with Justice - Einat Wilf
    Recent Palestinian moves to join the International Criminal Court are one more step in the decades-long campaign to vilify Israel. It is a direct continuation of the "placard strategy" of anti-Israel activism, whereby Israel and Zionism are equated with colonialism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide. These words are not chosen because they somehow reflect reality, but because they are universally considered evil. The effect of the continuous repeating of Zionism/Israel = Evil is to create an intellectual environment in which physically ridding the world of Israel would be considered desirable, even noble.
        The purpose of the Palestinian moves in the ICC is to achieve an officially sanctioned international consensus that Israel is a war criminal country. As such, the resulting implication is that its entire existence is illegitimate. Israel's concerns are not about being "found out," but rather about the failure of the UN and international system of human rights to give Israel a fair trial. There is no justice for Israel in the UN. There is definitely no justice for Israel in the Human Rights Council. And there will be no justice for Israel in the ICC. Israel is concerned because it knows that no matter what it does, it will be found guilty.
        The tragic irony is that much of the UN and its system of human rights was created to counter the darkness of the Holocaust, then grossly misinterpreted and abused against the world's only Jewish state. The writer is a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute and an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (The Australian)
  • Gaza Reconstruction Stalled by Fatah-Hamas Deadlock - Neri Zilber
    The UN-designed postwar reconstruction of Gaza after last summer's conflict has effectively ground to a halt, due to continued divisions between Hamas and Fatah. According to the deal reached at war's end, the prerequisite for any wide-ranging reconstruction was the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority returning to Gaza. However, the PA has shown no inclination to make good on its commitments, and Hamas has yet to relinquish real authority over the territory.
        While some have taken to blaming donors for their paltry financial support, the lack of which UN Middle East peace process coordinator Robert Serry termed "scandalous," the real scandal is why the international community should feel compelled to care about the people of Gaza when their own self-selected leaders, both Fatah and Hamas, so clearly do not. The writer is a visiting scholar at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • We Palestinians Hold the Key to a Better Future - Bassem Eid
    After 66 years of mistakes and missed opportunities, it is time for us Palestinians to create the conditions for peace and to work for a better future. It is time we stopped pretending that we can destroy Israel or drive the Jews into the sea. It is time we stopped listening to Muslim radicals or Arab regimes that use us to continue a pointless, destructive, and immoral war with Israel.
        In Gaza, our schools are controlled by Muslim fanatics who indoctrinate our children, and Hamas uses our civilians as human shields in a losing battle against Israel. Hamas maintains power through violence, and it ensures that money is spent on its arsenal rather than on making Palestinians' lives better.
        In the West Bank, the only good jobs are with Israeli companies, and the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment) movement is doing its best to take those jobs away from us. Abbas runs a corrupt dictatorship that uses international funds to consolidate its own administration rather than to develop the Palestinian economy. In eastern Jerusalem, the PA is so mistrusted that most Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli rule rather than under PA rule.
        Despite what we tell ourselves, Israel is here to stay. What's more, it has a right to exist. It is the nation of the Jews, but also a nation for Israeli Arabs who have better lives than Arabs anywhere in Arab countries. The answer is to live in peace and democracy, side by side with Israel. We know that Israelis want to live in peace, and that the vast majority of Israelis are friendly and neighborly. We have it within our power to transform a long-time enemy into a friend. The writer is founder and former director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. (Times of Israel)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel's Efforts to Protect Civilians Are Unprecedented in the History of Warfare - Ehud Yairi
    On Feb. 13-14, 1945, three months before the end of World War II in Europe, British and American air forces carried out a massive bombing of Dresden, a German city lacking nearly any military significance. They did not provide advance warnings of any kind, nor did they aim the bombs at potential military targets. Conservative death toll estimates range from 25,000 to 35,000. A few days after the Dresden operation, the bombing of Tokyo resulted in 80,000 to 100,000 civilians killed.
        In the summer of 2014, the IDF went out of its way to minimize civilian casualties while attempting to eliminate enemy positions from where rockets were launched at Israel's civilian population. Prior to bombing, the IDF made warning telephone calls directly to Palestinian homes identified as military installations about to be destroyed, and dropped printed messages by airplane advising people which buildings to evacuate. All of these efforts to protect civilians are virtually unheard of in the history of wars of other nations. The writer is professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Assessing the Strategic Threat from ISIS - James F. Jeffrey
    In the campaign to degrade and eventually destroy ISIS, I urge the administration to move faster, take more risks, apply more resources, and not assume "time is on our side." In the Middle East of today, it is not. ISIS is the latest of a long series of pan-regional Islamic movements that espouse violence, like al-Qaeda and to some degree political Islamic movements such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Its specific nature not only gives it significant resilience, but also an inevitable drive to inflict harm on the U.S. and other Western nations, either directly or by inspiring local jihadists.
        Certain steps could make the coalition campaign move forward faster and more effectively. These could include a higher tempo of airstrikes, the deployment of Joint Terminal Attack Coordination teams, using U.S. army artillery and attack helicopters, and providing heavier weapons to the Kurds. James F. Jeffrey, a former U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor and Ambassador to Iraq, Turkey and Albania, is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute. This is from his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Feb. 12, 2015. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The World War Inside Islam - James Traub
    The establishment of a self-declared "caliphate" in the heart of the Arab world, as well as the slaughter of a group of cartoonists in the heart of Europe, has made radical Islam look far more effective, more powerful, and more threatening than it had when the movement was led by a handful of men in caves.
        The 9/11 attacks gave the misleading impression that the rise of Islamist extremism was "about" the West. But Islamist extremism is about Islam and about the regimes that rule in the name of the faith; it is hard to imagine the extremist narrative losing its appeal unless and until Arab regimes gain real legitimacy in the eyes of their own citizens.
        There is a great deal that the West can, must, and will do to defend itself from the terrible consequence of this struggle inside another civilization, but there's little it can do to change the terms of that struggle. But doing little is not the same as nothing. Anything outside actors can do to fortify the legitimacy of Arab states in the eyes of their own citizens will help tip the scales in the war inside Islam. The writer is a fellow of the Center on International Cooperation. (Foreign Policy)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israelis Helping to Save Africa's Endangered Animals - Abigail Klein Leichman
    African poachers slaughter at least 35,000 elephants each year for their ivory. The danger to law enforcers has increased in the past three or four years along with the price of ivory. Israeli Nir Kalron, 36, is working to strengthen the continent's environmental security. Kalron's Maisha Consulting conducts anti-poaching and anti-trafficking intelligence and investigations, installs security technology, and trains rangers to more effectively clamp down on criminal activity.
        In cooperation with African governments and NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund, Maisha's seven-person team teaches local rangers intelligence analysis and data management; operational discipline; weapons and tactics; aviation; first aid; dog handling; sea rescue; Krav Maga hand-to-hand combat; arresting suspects and stopping vehicles. (Israel21c)
  • The Humanitarian Face of Israel - Mordechai Ben-Dat
    Five years after Haiti was devastated by an earthquake, IsraAID: The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid is still operating there, helping rebuild lives and communities. IsraAID director Shachar Zahavi told Israel21C, "You'll still find IsraAID workers in Japan, for example, nearly four years after a deadly earthquake and tsunami, and helping in Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong and South Korea."
        As the battle for the Syrian town of Kobani raged late last year, IsraAID assisted some 1,000 Christian and Yazidi families by sending 2,000 blankets, mattresses and food for 1,015 babies and young children. (Canadian Jewish News)

The "New Normal"? Parsing Iran Policy in the U.S. and Israel - Dennis Ross (Washington Jewish Week)

  • Israel and many Arab countries have expressed great concern that the current U.S. administration is giving Iran a pass and seems ready to treat the Islamic Republic as a future regional partner. In the meantime, Tehran is actively trying to change the regional balance of power while transferring increasingly accurate missiles to Hizbullah.
  • The U.S. and Israel hold conceptually different perspectives on the nuclear issue. What Israelis fear is an agreement that eventually permits Iran to have an industrial-size nuclear program - one capable of breaking out to a nuclear weapons capability at a time of its choosing.
  • The U.S. position seems to hold that Iran would technically be permitted to have an industrial-size program down the road. The U.S. seems to believe it has no better alternative, and that deferring the Iranians for 10 to 15 years could produce favorable changes in the interim.
  • Interestingly, this basic conceptual difference with Israel may be moot because Tehran is unwilling to concede much at the moment, greatly diluting the prospects of a comprehensive deal, though Israel fears that Washington might continue making concessions to Iran.
  • Another difference could emerge if the U.S. does not achieve a comprehensive agreement, but instead settles for the Joint Plan of Action interim agreement as the "new normal." This arrangement could leave Iran three months away from achieving a nuclear weapons capability and put Israel in an untenable situation.

    The writer, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as a special assistant to President Obama for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011. This is a summary of his remarks given Jan. 29 at a Washington Institute Policy Forum.
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