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March 25, 2011

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Iran-Backed Islamic Jihad Behind Rocket Attacks on Israel - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    The Grad rockets that hit Ashdod and Beersheba this week were launched by terrorists from Islamic Jihad, as were the numerous mortars fired toward Israel.
    Four of the five terrorists killed by Israel on Wednesday were longtime Jihad members who had been firing rockets and mortars at Israel for years.
    Islamic Jihad members completely reject Israel's right to exist, and believe the only way to liberate "all of Palestine" is through armed Jihad, or holy war.
    Whenever Hamas is interested in escalation, it gives Islamic Jihad the green light to fire rockets at Israel.

Gulf States to Deport Hizbullah, Iranian Agents (AFP)
    Arab states in the Gulf plan to deport Lebanese Shiites over links to Hizbullah and Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah reported Thursday.
    Based on assessments by the U.S., France and Bahrain, Hizbullah and Revolutionary Guard agents were leading the protests along with local Shiite clerics in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province.
    Bahrain is preparing to deport 90 Lebanese Shiites, most of them arrested during the recent demonstrations in the kingdom, and is examining the status of 4,000 Lebanese families living in the country.

Iran Website Recruits "Jihadists" for Bahrain "War" (Al-Arabiya-Dubai)
    Iranian authorities have licensed the Raheel website which features Quranic verses that call for Jihad, or holy war, including the use of volunteer suicide militants, against the "invasion" of Bahrain by troops from countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
    The website claims that a "redeemer" would wage war against Arab Gulf countries, Israel, and the U.S., and that the divine promise of the redeemer's advent is materializing.
    According to the website, 1,858 have so far volunteered, 60% from Iran, 18% from Bahrain, and the others from several countries in the region including Kuwait.

Sanctions in 72 Hours: How the U.S. Pulled Off a Major Freeze of Libyan Assets - Robert O'Harrow Jr., James V. Grimaldi and Brady Dennis (Washington Post)
    The $32 billion in Libyan assets in U.S. banks frozen so far by the U.S. represents a significant portion of that nation's wealth.
    The plan to find and freeze Libyan assets began taking shape Feb. 23 at the White House. Treasury official Stuart Levey led the drafting of Executive Order 13566.
    On Feb. 25, the order took effect. Within minutes, dozens of employees at the nation's largest banks, who were waiting for the signal, began freezing more than $30 billion in an effort to cripple a violent dictator half a world away.

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WikiLeaks: Lebanese Army Seized Hizbullah Rockets during War - Michael Omer-Man (Jerusalem Post)
    During the height of the Second Lebanon War, the Lebanese army (LAF) seized a shipment of rockets destined for Hizbullah, according to a leaked U.S. State Department cable, furnished by WikiLeaks and published by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on Sunday.
    According to the cable, in a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr claimed that during the first week of August 2006, the LAF had intercepted and seized a container of rockets.
    See also WikiLeaks: Lebanese Christians Sought Israeli Victory in '06 War - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)

Facebook Makes First Ever Israeli Acquisition - Roy Goldenberg (Globes)
    Facebook, operator of the world's largest social network, is buying Israeli start-up Snaptu for $60-70 million - Facebook's first acquisition in Israel. Snaptu's application allows mobile phones, even those less advanced than an iPhone or Android phone, to access mobile Internet.

Israel's Special Relationship with the Solar Water Heater - Rhonda Winter (Reuters)
    Heating water usually accounts for 40% of an average family's monthly energy costs. Nearly 90% of all Israeli households use solar thermal energy to heat their water, and many buildings are entirely powered by the sun.
    Relative to its small size, Israel has invested more of its resources into waste water treatment and reclamation research than any other country in the world. A whopping 70% of its used water is now recycled.

Israeli University to Award Honorary Doctorate to Bob Geldof for Humanitarian Work (AP-Washington Post)
    Ben-Gurion University said Monday that it will award an honorary doctorate to the Irish singer and social activist Bob Geldof in May for his work to end hunger in Africa and raise awareness about poverty.
    Geldof staged the Live Aid fundraising concerts in London and Philadelphia in 1985 to help hunger victims in Africa.

Spa Treatments by the Dead Sea - Alice Pfeiffer (New York Times)
    According to legend, Cleopatra ordered the Roman envoy Mark Antony, her lover, to conquer the Dead Sea region so that she would have a lifetime supply of its mud, believed in antiquity to have healing and rejuvenating properties.
    Today, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the hot springs of Ein Gedi have become the basis for a thriving spa-based tourism industry.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Jordan Protesters Set Up Camp in Amman - Ranya Kadri and Ethan Bronner
    More than 1,000 pro-democracy demonstrators of the "March 24th Movement" set up a tent camp in the center of Amman, the Jordanian capital, on Thursday in conscious imitation of Tahrir Square in Cairo, saying they would stay put until they saw real change. While Muslim activists were in evidence, the thrust was for democratic government. (New York Times)
        See also Unrest in Jordan - Don Duncan
    Jordan recently has been shaken by popular protests. The upheaval also reflects a factor peculiar to Jordan - its delicate demographic balance between indigenous tribes, known as East Bankers, and Palestinians who have received Jordanian citizenship. Most agree that Jordanians of Palestinian origin are now a majority, and may even number as much as 70% of the country's estimated 6.4 million population.
        The demographic divide has an economic dimension. Traditionally, East Bankers have dominated the public sector, and Palestinian Jordanians the private. Today, as a result of economic policy changes, Amman is dotted with start-up enterprises, many of them steered by young Palestinian Jordanians. The demographic anxiety among East Bankers has caused them to see Jordan's recent pro-private sector economic policy as an attack on their welfare, in favor of the Palestinians. (Le Monde Diplomatique-France)
  • Syria's Bashar al-Assad Faces Most Serious Unrest of His Tenure - Leila Fadel
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was facing the most serious unrest of his 11-year tenure Thursday as anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa threatened to escalate after a deadly crackdown. Syria expert Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, said the Syrians "are hesitating, but it seems like there is a big hole in the dike here, and the fear factor is collapsing."  (Washington Post)
        See also Fear Barrier Crumbles in Syria - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    In his sermon, the preacher of the Saladin Mosque in Damascus was reflecting on the joys of Mother's Day when a young man jumped up to the pulpit and grabbed the microphone. "Why are you talking about this in these circumstances? Tell us about the political situation!" he shouted, referring to the dramatic protests now gripping Syria, before secret police arrested him and hurried him away. In Damascus, as in the provinces, a barrier of fear which had blocked dissent is breaking down. (Reuters)
        See also White House Condemns Syria's "Brutal Repression" of Demonstrators (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Syria Protests Call for Strong U.S. Stance - Andrew J. Tabler (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Muslim Brotherhood a Rising Force in a New Egypt - Michael Slackman
    In post-revolutionary Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government. When the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square this month, Mohamed el-Beltagi, a prominent Brotherhood member, stood by his side. "There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on," said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. "It makes sense if you are the military - you want stability and people off the street. The Brotherhood is one address where you can go to get 100,000 people off the street."
        It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force. Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, said, "The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone."  (New York Times)
        See also Egypt Tells Israel It Is Committed to Peace Treaty - Tom Perry and Mark Trevelyan
    Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby told Rafi Barak, a senior Israeli foreign ministry official, in a meeting in Cairo on Thursday that Egypt was committed to its international treaties, Egypt's foreign ministry said, reiterating that the countries' peace accord is secure. (Reuters)
  • Scottish Bible Translator Killed by Jerusalem Bus Stop Bomb - Laura Roberts
    Mary Jean Gardner, 55, was caught in the bomb blast at the central bus station in Jerusalem on Wednesday. A well-regarded Bible translator, Gardner came to Israel to study Hebrew. Heading to a restaurant to meet a friend, she happened to be passing the bus stop on foot when the bomb exploded. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also British Envoys Lay Wreath at Bomb Scene (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jerusalem Bus Bombing Injured Six Americans
    Six Americans were injured in the deadly Jerusalem bus bombing Wednesday, a State Department official said. (Fox News)
        See also Obama Telephones Netanyahu Over Terrorist Bombing
    President Barack Obama has reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel's security in a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following a deadly bombing at a bus stop in Jerusalem. Obama also extended his condolences and expressed concern about recent rocket and mortar attacks against Israel from Gaza. (AP-New York Times)
  • Gates: Middle East Tumult Should Spur Israel-Palestinian Peace Talks - Viola Gienger and Gwen Ackerman
    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a visit to Israel Thursday, "I know there may be a temptation during this time of great uncertainty in the region to be more cautious about pursuing the peace process....I carry a different message - that there is a need and an opportunity for bold action to move toward a two-state solution."
        Gates also advised caution on any response to the Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel and a bombing in Jerusalem. "No sovereign state can tolerate having rockets fired at its people," he said. "We all just need to be mindful that we don't want to do anything that allows extremists or others to divert the narrative of reform that is going on."  (Bloomberg)
        See also Gates Prods Israel on Resumption of Peace Talks amid New Attacks - Yochi J. Dreazen
    A senior Defense Department official told reporters traveling with Gates: "You look across the landscape in the Middle East and you see this kind of populist wave crashing across the region, and I think it is probably in the Israeli interest to get out ahead of that populist wave by leaning forward on the Palestinian track and taking that issue away from the discourse....At the moment, Israel is not the center of the story...but at some point this rising tide of populism in the region will have real implications for Israel."  (National Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu in Moscow Questions Abbas' Desire to End Conflict - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Moscow on Thursday that it was not clear whether PA President Mahmoud Abbas genuinely wanted to end the conflict with Israel. "[Abbas] speaks peace to the world, but domestically there is incitement and education toward hate," Netanyahu said. "The first thing that needs to be discussed is the root of the problem: that the Palestinians don't recognize our existence alongside them."
        The prime minister said it was "nonsense" to think that the major problem in the region was the construction of two homes on a street where 100 homes already exist. "The settlement issue needs to be discussed and decisions made, but for that we need to sit and talk."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Rocket Barrage from Gaza Strikes Israel Thursday
    Rockets landed in and north of Ashdod on Thursday afternoon and sirens were heard in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gedera and Gan Yavne. Another rocket landed in the Eshkol Regional Council, the eighth rocket attack since Thursday morning. Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Thursday that Israel will not tolerate "terrorist attacks or shooting rockets at our citizens." "Hamas is responsible for everything that is shot out of Gaza and if it does not take responsibility, it will pay the price."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Nowhere to Run: Ashdod, Ashkelon Grapple with Rockets - Ben Hartman (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Braces for Rocket Fire Close to Tel Aviv - Yaakov Katz, Yaakov Lappin and Tovah Lazaroff
    The IDF is bracing for a possible further expansion of missile fire from Gaza after two Grad-model Katyusha rockets flew some 30 km. and slammed into Ashdod on Thursday for the first time since the Gaza operation two years ago. The blast from the missiles was heard in Rishon Lezion, Rehovot and Yavne. Palestinian terror groups in Gaza are believed to have Iranian-made rockets, like the Fajr-5, that are capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
        Strategic Affairs Ministry Director-General Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser said, "We used to think that Hamas was in control [in Gaza]. What we see in the last few days is that they do not want to control or cannot control [the violence]."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF to Activate New Anti-Missile System in South - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Due to the recent escalation of rocket fire from Gaza, the IDF plans to activate the Iron Dome portable anti-missile system on Sunday in order to intercept short-range rockets and mortar shells. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Continues to Assist Gaza Civilian Population - Florit Shoihet
    In the shadow of the recent increase in rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, the IDF continues to aid the civilian population living there. Over the past week, an average of 300 aid trucks entered Gaza per day, carrying a variety of materials including wheat, gravel and animal feed. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Palestinian Shot by Policeman While Attacking IDF Soldier
    An Israeli policeman shot a Palestinian in the leg on Friday after he attacked an IDF soldier, hitting him in the head with a rock in an attempt to snatch his weapon at a bus stop near Tomer in the Jordan Valley. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Two Palestinians Arrested Carrying Four Pipe Bombs in West Bank
    Israeli security forces arrested two Palestinians found carrying four pipe bombs on Friday morning at a roadblock near Nablus. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Threats to Israel's Security

  • Iran Seen Behind Escalation in Violence in Israel
    Amid a surge of terrorist attacks in recent days, Israelis are bracing for an escalation in violence. There are strong suspicions, and not just in Israel, that Iran is seeking to provoke a confrontation. (UPI)
        See also Why Israel Is Wary of Another Gaza War - Joshua Mitnick
    Despite absorbing a week of rocket attacks and a Jerusalem bombing, Israeli officials find the idea of a broad offensive in Gaza unappealing at a time when the region is awash in protests. Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said: "Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with the unrest that goes all the way from Morocco to Afghanistan, it would not be an advisable step for Israel to give in to the provocations of factors like the Islamic Jihad, which would very much want to put Israel in the center."  (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Understanding the Violence in Israel - John Hannah
    Big Iranian weapons shipments seized off the coast of Gaza; an Israeli family of five slaughtered in their beds; a barrage of more than 90 rockets fired at Israeli population centers over the past few days; and the terrorist attack at a bus station in Jerusalem are not isolated events. Nor are they outbursts of random violence by otherwise peace-loving Palestinians driven to despair by a stalemated peace process.
         These outrages are better understood as part of a strategic campaign by hardened terrorist groups, closely tied to Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah, to divert attention from the popular uprisings that have targeted tyrannical governments across the Middle East.  Iran's mullahs know full well that the bell tolls for them, as the contagion of popular uprising now at work across Muslim lands threatens to reignite the Green Movement that in 2009 shook the Islamic Republic to its core.  Iran, Syria, and their allies want to change the subject as fast as possible. The easiest way to do that has always been to trigger a major dustup with Israel. (National Review)
  • Terrorist Bombing in Jerusalem a Brutal Reminder Why Israel Must Keep Tight Security Controls - Editorial
    The past came screaming back to Jerusalem Wednesday when a bomb exploded at a bus stop in the center of the capital, killing one civilian and wounding more than 20 others. It was the first such attack in nearly four years, evoking painful memories of the days when blood regularly spilled on the floors of pizza parlors and malls. While the world's eyes have turned to Libya and Egypt, the Palestinian rejectionists are seizing the moment, resuming their campaign to attack and terrorize the Israeli people. To all those who laugh off the need for security checkpoints in the territories, this is why they're a must: because a hardened band of violent Palestinians will accept nothing but perpetual war. (New York Daily News)
  • Arab World

  • Why Did Syrian Protests Begin in Daraa?
    Syria's socialist government launched a massive state-run wheat growing project in the 1990s and began pumping large amounts of water from the aquifers around Daraa, leaving private pasture and farmland increasingly parched. The rising tension in Daraa in southern Syria is in marked contrast to the prosperous cities of Damascus and Aleppo, where the wealthy Sunni merchant classes have loaned their political support to Assad's minority Alawite government in exchange for relatively generous amounts of personal and economic freedom. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Europe Will Pay a Price for Reliance on Libya - Eric J. Weiner
    The destruction of Libya Inc. is likely to be a most painful blow to the nations of Europe that have come to rely on a steady flow of oil and petrodollars from Moammar Gaddafi's nation. Libya supplies almost a quarter of Italy's oil. Libya also owns 7.5% of the Italian bank UniCredit and has investments in Fiat, the defense conglomerate Finmeccanica, the energy company ENI, the soccer team Juventus and a variety of other Italian businesses. In 2009, the EU's two-way trading with Libya amounted to more than $37 billion, with Germany, France and Spain among its leading partners. The bulk of this was petroleum, as Libya supplies more than 10% of Europe's oil. That's what Europe is losing as Libya burns.
        In many ways, the nation with the most at stake economically is Britain. Libya has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on prime London commercial real estate. With Libya descending into chaos, Europe is losing a major partner just when its key economies are struggling to regain their footing. (Los Angeles Times)
  • To Some in Libya, Gaddafi Still a Hero - Liz Sly
    Six days into the allied bombardment of Libyan military targets, it is clear that Gaddafi can count on the fierce loyalties of at least a significant segment of the population in the vast stretches that lie beyond the enclave of rebel-held territory in the east. Mustafa Fetouri, director of the MBA program at the Academy of Graduate Studies in Tripoli, said the powerful tribal structure that forms the backbone of the government has remained behind Gaddafi, despite initial reports that powerful tribal leaders had defected. Gaddafi has apparently been helped in this regard by making good on a pledge to distribute weapons. "There are two kinds of people: those who believe in the regime itself and just don't care too much about freedom, and then there is the tribal structure, which is behind him."  (Washington Post)
  • Other Issues

  • UN "Palestine" Resolution May Have Real Impact - David Horovitz
    The Palestinian bid to win UN General Assembly endorsement for statehood in September might not be merely declarative, but could have profound practical consequences, Gabriela Shalev, the former Israeli ambassador to the UN, told the Jerusalem Post. Resolution 377, also known as the "Uniting for Peace" resolution, was passed during the Korean War in 1950, at the initiative of the U.S., because the Soviet Union was vetoing UN Security Council action to protect South Korea. It permits the General Assembly to recommend a range of "collective measures," including sanctions and even the use of force, in cases where the permanent members of the Security Council cannot reach unanimity.
        If the Palestinians can gain General Assembly recognition for statehood under a "Uniting for Peace" resolution, she warned, "it would be a real obstacle...not just a public relations setback. This would seek to impose on us some kind of Palestinian state."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also How Palestinians Will Use the UN General Assembly to Advance Statehood - David Horovitz (Jerusalem Post)
  • All the President's Messengers: Unraveling David Cameron's Views on Israel
    The British prime minister's views on Israel are a bit of a mystery. First, there is the typically "European" leader, pushing for Israel to offer concessions to the Palestinians and playing up his differences with America, Israel's main ally. This critical stance was on view during David Cameron's visit to Turkey in July 2010, when he compared the blockaded Gaza Strip to a "prison camp" and denounced the Israeli boarding of a flotilla bound for Gaza. The other Cameron said Israel was "within its rights to search vessels bringing cargo into Gaza."
        Is this a case of a prime minister telling each audience what it wants to hear? Not entirely. If Cameron offers Israel mixed messages, he does so with the blessing of America's president, normally reliable diplomatic sources claim. (Economist-UK)
  • Weekend Features

  • Milken Institute Brainstorms Funding for Israel Heritage Sites - Michele Chabin
    Israel's 30,000 archaeological and other heritage sites far outnumber the financial means to support them. The Milken Institute, an economic think tank, has come up with a plan to alleviate the problem through start-up financing models used in the private economic sphere. The entire 2008 budget for the Israel Antiquities Authority was a mere $36 million. Even worse, Israel's Nature and Parks Authority, which maintains the sites once they are excavated, received just $4 million in 2009 for site development.
        Glenn Yago, Milken's director of capital studies and the report's co-author, said a handful of Israeli archeological sites and attractions, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and Masada, are already self-sustaining, even profitable. "Archaeology created an enormous amount of value," Yago said. "Intellectual property became commercialized into an array of products that became income-producing properties."
        Yago gave especially high marks to the city of Rome's award-winning Rome Reborn project, a three-dimensional virtual tour of ancient Rome. Just as the Rome Reborn project has generated "a tremendous amount" of income via tourism, video game development, movies, education, and related products, a Jerusalem Reborn project, which would depict the city in the time of the Second Temple, is being developed. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
        Read the Report: Cultural Heritage as an Economic Development Resource in Israel - Caitlin MacLean and Glenn Yago (Milken Institute)
  • Oil Shale Reserves Can Turn Israel into Major World Producer - Ian King
    Dr. Harold Vinegar, the former chief scientist of Royal Dutch Shell, is at the center of an ambitious project to turn Israel into one of the world's leading oil producers. Israel Energy Initiatives, where Dr. Vinegar is chief scientist, is working on projects to extract oil and natural gas from oil shale in the Shfela Basin, to the south and west of Jerusalem. According to Dr. Vinegar, Israel has the second-biggest oil shale deposits in the world, outside the U.S. The marginal cost of production, IEI estimates, will be $35-40 per barrel. This is cheaper than the $60 per barrel that it costs to extract crude from inhospitable locations such as the Arctic. IEI hopes to begin production on a commercial basis by the end of the decade. (The Australian)

"Arab Spring" Reduces Palestinian Issue - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)

  • The onset of the Arab spring suggests that priorities have shifted away from external reference points - Israel and the U.S. - to the more authentic forces of internal processes of political change. Playing out in Arab capitals and countrysides is a process of ownership, the regaining of control over the Arab story (and future) by Arabs themselves. Zionists are unlikely to figure as prominently in the Arab story.
  • The Arab spring has captured the attention and imagination of the peoples of the region, creating a new set of priorities and agenda that has set the Palestinian issue in a new light, reducing it to a much tinier scale. The days when manipulative leaders can use Palestine as a rallying cry to mask their own abusive behavior may be numbered. For those countries that have peace treaties with Israel (Egypt, Jordan), Arab publics will finally have to own those relationships and decide for themselves whether or not they make sense.
  • Does the Arab spring reflect the end or the erosion of the resonance of the Palestinian issue in Arab politics? Hardly. Secularists and Islamists - not to mention extremists of all stripes - will keep Palestine alive as a rallying cry. But this time, across the Arab world, the focus is now on elections, constitutions, and the revolutions yet to come.
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