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August 12, 2011

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U.S. Threatens to Halt Gaza Aid Over Hamas Audits - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)
    The State Department sent a message to Gaza's Hamas leaders on Thursday that it would withdraw some $100 million it is spending in Gaza on health care, agriculture and water infrastructure if they did not back off a demand to audit the books of American-financed charities operating there.
    The threat, delivered via an intermediary, came after Hamas officials suspended the operation of the International Medical Corps on Sunday for its refusal to submit to a Hamas audit at the charity's site.
    Early this year, Hamas asked all such groups to register with the central government, pay a fee and submit financial reports.
    U.S. policy forbids direct contact with Hamas, labeled a terrorist group. As a result, on-site audits by Hamas officials would lead to suspension of aid, American officials said.

The Toll in Syria - Emanuele Ottolenghi (Weekly Standard)
    According to Ammar Abdulhamid, a prominent Syrian opposition figure, as of last week, the regime had murdered 2,675 people, including 158 children below the age of 14, and detained 16,000. Another 4,382 are missing.
    In addition, since protests began in March, there have been 28 documented cases of rape and 89 of death under torture. Thousands of refugees have fled for Turkey or Lebanon.

Opposition to Normalization with Israel Gaining Strength in Jordan - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Elements in Jordan that oppose normalization with Israel have become more active since the beginning of the year, sources in Jerusalem said Tuesday.
    Last week the Jordanian insurance agency that provided policies for the Israeli embassy's fleet of cars in Amman said it would no longer work with the embassy.
    In addition, the sources said that since the beginning of the year there had been a 25-30% decrease in agricultural products exported to Jordan because of pressure placed on Jordanian businesses to end their contact with Israeli firms.
    Even Jordanian exporters - such as businesses selling olives to Israel - are being pressured to stop.
    Furthermore, the sources said the Jordanian press was increasingly becoming more anti-Israel.

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State Department Funds MEMRI Study of Middle East Anti-Semitism (U.S. State Department)
    The State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor awarded a $200,000 grant to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) to document anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and Holocaust glorification in the Middle East.
    MEMRI is a non-governmental organization based in Washington whose research is translated into ten languages.

U.S. Must Not Let a Hizbullah Killer Escape Justice - Editorial (Washington Post)
    Ali Mussa Daqduq is a dangerous man. A senior operative with the Hizbullah terrorist organization, Daqduq has been held without charge by U.S. forces in Iraq for the past five years for helping to train militant Shiites to carry out attacks against U.S. soldiers. One such attack claimed the lives of five U.S. service members.
    But the U.S. may be forced to hand him over to Iraqi authorities before year's end because of a security agreement signed during the Bush administration.
    The Obama administration must ensure that this does not happen.

PA TV Honors Mother of Suicide Bomber - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    On the occasion of Ramadan, PA TV chose to visit the mother of Darin Abu Aisheh, a suicide bomber who blew herself up at a roadblock in 2002, wounding three Israelis.
    The TV camera focused on a poster of the terrorist displayed in the mother's home with the text: "The Palestinian National Liberation Movement - Fatah - Beit Wazan branch is happy to announce [the death of] the heroic martyrdom-seeker."
    The mother spoke with pride of how she received the news of her daughter's death, seeing it as her wedding day.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hoyer: Let Israel Build in East Jerusalem - Mackenzie Weinger
    House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is leading a congressional delegation on a week-long trip to Israel, broke with U.S. policy on Thursday and said the Jewish state should be allowed to build in disputed East Jerusalem. Hoyer told Politico in an interview that he sees Israel's recent authorization of additional housing construction in the eastern section of the city as involving a Jewish neighborhood that must be expanded to accommodate growth. "Essentially, this is a Jewish neighborhood. It may be in East Jerusalem, but it's a Jewish neighborhood and it's expanding."
        Hoyer said he thinks the new housing project should not damage the peace process. "This is not something that ought to undermine the much, much larger objective of reaching a peaceful resolution between the Palestinians and Israelis."  (Politico)
        See also Israel Will Advance Plans for Homes in Disputed Area - Joshua Mitnick
    Israel said it is advancing public construction projects for thousands of new homes in contested East Jerusalem in response to a wave of domestic protests over the cost of living. Israel is accelerating building plans to ease a housing shortage that has pushed real-estate prices up by more than a third in three years, triggering mass demonstrations nationwide.
        An aide to Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, spokesman Roei Lachmanovich, said the project approvals in East Jerusalem are meant to satisfy the public outcry in Israel about a lack of affordable housing. "We need to build in Jerusalem. There is no room in the center of Jerusalem, so we are building in these places.'' Israel considers East Jerusalem, which it captured and annexed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, part of its sovereign territory. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Aims to Avoid Casualties If Palestinians Demonstrate in September
    Israeli security forces are importing horses, water cannons, tear-gas launchers and a nauseating noise machine to control crowds if they become violent at Palestinian protests planned next month to support their bid for UN endorsement of statehood. Israel hopes the measures will avoid casualties among demonstrators.
        Palestinian authorities have made plans that aim to keep the protests peaceful and avoid confrontations with Israelis, but Israel fears that a single incident could trigger a flood of violence when large crowds are already out protesting.
        A section of southern Israel has been turned into a "September training camp" to train soldiers on how to handle violent scenarios without causing fatalities, Israeli officials said. The officials also told AP that Israeli security is working with top Palestinian commanders to coordinate activities aimed at avoiding casualties. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also PA: September Rallies to Avoid Confronting Israeli Military
    All rallies in support of the Palestinian bid for UN membership in September will be confined to areas where the Palestinian Authority has security control, thus avoiding confrontation with the Israeli army, high-ranking PA sources told Ma'an Thursday. "Ramallah rallies will be carried out in Manara square, Bethlehem rallies will be carried out in the yard of the Nativity Church and so on," the sources said. The locations are in the heart of urban areas that were designated "Area A" under the 1993 Oslo agreement - and thus formally under full Palestinian Authority civil and security control. (Ma'an News-PA)
  • As U.S.-Egypt Strains Grow, USAID Boss Quits the Country
    Jim Bever, the USAID director in Egypt, abruptly flew back to Washington on Thursday after less than a year on the job, the first major casualty of a row between the two longtime allies over American funding for pro-democracy groups. Egypt's military rulers are growing anxious over foreign aid they fear could strengthen the liberal groups behind Egypt's uprising at the expense of the military's own vast power. Those pro-democracy groups have grown more critical of the ruling generals lately.
        The government insists that American aid funding must go through official channels, and not directly to the groups. Last month, Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, criticized the U.S. for funding pro-democracy groups without submitting to Egyptian government supervision.
        Claims of a "meddling foreign hand" have routinely found resonance among Egyptians. More than a few are convinced that the U.S., Israel and others are constantly scheming against their nation and Islam. Amid all the xenophobia, anti-American sentiments have stood out. Egypt's military has for more than 30 years received about $1.3 billion in annual U.S. assistance. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Engineer Admits Helping Hamas Develop Rockets to Fire at Israel - Yanir Yagna
    Details emerged Thursday about the investigation of engineer Dirar Abu Sisi, who according to foreign reports was abducted by Israeli forces in the Ukraine last February. Sisi told investigators he helped Hamas boost its rocket capabilities, including launch and range capabilities. He said he used "mathematical equations, which improve the ability of the iron rods to withstand pressure and heat."
        In 2002 Abu Sisi began working with Mohammed Def, the head of Hamas' military wing. "In 2003, Hamas asked me to extend the Kassam rocket's range by up to six kilometers," Abu Sisi told the interrogators. "In 2005 they asked me again to extend the range to nine km., then 15."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Top Hamas Engineer Tells All - Ilana Curiel
    Hamas engineer Dirar Abu Sisi provided interrogators with priceless information on Hamas' modus operandi and the terror group's readiness for a clash with Israel. According to interrogation excerpts cleared for publication Thursday by the Beersheba District Court, following Israel's 2009 Gaza military operation Abu Sisi was put in charge of establishing Hamas' new military academy.
        "An analysis of the war with Israel was undertaken. It found that a large number of Hamas activists ran away from their positions. A failure occurred in decision-making coupled with an inability to use arms during the battle - because of fear," he said. "A program of study had to be created in order to improve the situation." Selected graduates of the academy reached military academies in foreign countries, he said, including Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Iran. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Bolsters Israel-Syria Border Defenses - Reut Farkash
    The IDF has placed new anti-personnel mines along the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights. Combat engineering forces conducted the mine-laying operation in an overt manner during daylight hours. On Nakba Day in May, demonstrators from Syria crossed existing anti-personnel minefields and infiltrated into Israel. A combat engineering officer said the new mines are meant to strengthen the defenses along the border with Syria and prevent similar incidents from recurring in the future. (Bamahane-Israel Defense Forces)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Stopping Syria's Slaughter - Editorial
    Bashar al-Assad's use of tanks and artillery against Hama and Deir al-Zour, at the cost of hundreds of civilian lives, has provoked an angry backlash by governments that until now quietly tolerated his repression. Assad himself has no intention of heeding the demands that he stop the killing and introduce democratic reforms. He knows that if he allows Syrians free choice, he and his regime will not survive. (Washington Post)
  • Sanctions, Pressure and Syria's Assad - Suzanne Presto
    The Obama administration says Syria would be "a better place" without leader Bashar al-Assad. Although senior U.S. officials repeatedly have called on President Assad to stop the brutal crackdown on demonstrators, President Barack Obama has not explicitly called on him to step down. The head of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, Radwan Ziadeh, says it is important for President Obama to explicitly call on Assad to step down. "Seeing that will encourage also more Arabic countries and more European countries to do the same," said Ziadeh. "It will encourage more army, especially more Alawite senior army officers, to defect."  (VOA News)
  • Without Saudi Support, President Bashar al-Assad's Brutal Dictatorship in Syria Looks Doomed - Con Coughlin
    The fall of the House of Assad in Syria is going to have the most profound and lasting impact of all the revolts that are currently challenging the established order of the Arab world. With Egypt currently preoccupied with its own political chaos, Saudi Arabia is generally held to be the pre-eminent power in the Arab world.
        In previous years, the Saudis have tended to turn a blind eye to the excesses of the Assad government. Even when, in 1996, Saudi intelligence discovered that the truck bomb that destroyed the U.S. military compound in Dharhan, killing 20 people, had been assembled in Damascus, there was no official act of censure. This time, though, the provocation has been too much - not least the endless video footage of innocent civilians being mown down by vengeful troops as Assad's minority Alawite clique seeks to prevent the Sunni Muslim majority from seizing power.
        Syria's long-standing alliance with Iran has been driven to a large extent by the fact that Tehran's Shia Muslim ayatollahs have been prepared to accept the legitimacy of Assad's Alawite cult, whereas most Sunnis regard the Alawites as heretics. The overthrow of the Alawites would remove the raison d'etre of Syria's alliance with Iran.
        In addition, a Sunni Muslim government in Damascus would be unlikely to provide the same level of unstinting support for Hizbullah. Without such backing, Hizbullah would no longer be able to terrorize Lebanon's political establishment. Indeed, there is no reason to suppose that a Sunni-led government in Damascus would not follow the example set by its neighbors in Jordan and Egypt and negotiate a lasting peace settlement with Israel. All the more reason, then, to hope that the campaign to drive the Assad regime from power is a resounding success. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Syria and Turkey: The Farewell Meeting - Tariq Alhomayed
    The meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus took place at a time that the al-Assad regime is moving closer to sharing the fate of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in Libya. It is clear that the al-Assad regime is closer to collapse than survival, for this is a regime that has failed to move with the times, and engage with the changes that have occurred in the regional and international arena. Here we see the Syrian regime clashing with its closest ally, the Turks, who have tried for years to provide first aid to the Baathist regime.
        The al-Assad regime's problem is not that it is against change, but rather that it is incapable of change, for it is a regime that is solely concerned with remaining in power, even if this comes at the cost of the blood of innocent Syrians. The writer is editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. (Al-Arabiya)
  • Vultures over a Wounded Syria? - Rami G. Khouri
    The sudden heightened rhetoric on events in Syria by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and the Arab League is unlikely to change how events in Syria unfold, but it marks an important shift in Syria's and other states' place and role in the wider Middle East. The most significant trend is the more assertive role of regional actors, as international players find that they have very limited means of influencing Syrian government actions. This is linked to the slow transformation of Syria from a leading actor into a more passive player whose domestic troubles have suddenly clipped its regional wings.
        Syria's ruling establishment remains strong and broadly unified for now, but its end is certain if it uses no other means than military force to respond to the populist national uprising that challenges it. The writer is editor-at-large of the Beirut Daily Star and director of the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut. (Toronto Star-Canada)

  • Other Issues

  • Time to Call the Palestinians' UN Bluff - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Both the U.S. and Israel are expending a great deal of effort trying to convince UN member states to oppose the Palestinian effort to gain the world body's recognition for their independence in the 1967 lines. But as harmful as this debate may be to Israel's standing in the world, it is becoming increasingly clear the effort is a gigantic bluff. For all of the scare-mongering that has been going on about the PA's UN plans, it is the Palestinians who have the most to lose from this strategy.
        Even Western European nations unsympathetic to Israel understand what is going on here. The PA has turned to the UN because it fears going back to peace talks where their unwillingness to accept a deal that recognizes the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn will again be exposed.
        This initiative is rightly viewed by the Obama administration as a direct challenge to its leadership. The PA's tactics are sufficiently insulting to the U.S. that it just may motivate the administration to make good on threats to cut off American aid. The U.S. and Israel must stand firm in their refusal to be bulldozed into concessions that might tempt the Palestinians to back off. If they follow through on their UN threat, the Palestinians, not Israel or the U.S., will be the big loser. (Commentary)
  • Libya's Ragtag Rebels Are Dubious Allies - Patrick Cockburn
    Members of the Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC) in Benghazi last month detained their military leader, Gen. Abdel Fatah Younes, on suspicion of treachery, lured him away from his bodyguards and murdered him. This week the head of the TNC, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, sacked his whole government on the grounds that some were complicit in the killing. He was apparently forced to do so in order to quell the rage of the powerful Obeidi tribe to which Younes belonged.
        At the very moment the rebel leaders are at each other's throats, they are being recognized by country after country as the legitimate government of Libya. If this is how the rebels behave today, when it is much in their interests to make a show of unity, how will they act once they are installed in power in Tripoli? (Independent-UK)

  • Weekend Feature

  • Search for Displaced Holocaust Kids Seen in Photos - Sharon Cohen
    The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has some 1,100 pictures of children who survived the Holocaust, photographed by social service agencies across Europe soon after World War II. More than 65 years later, the museum is reaching out around the world to find the people in these extraordinary photos. It has posted their pictures online and spread the word the search is on. Theodore Meicler, now retired in Texas, recognized his 8-year-old self immediately; he had never seen the post-war photo. Meicler was just 4 years old when his father was arrested. He still remembers the coats the Gestapo agents wore when they took his dad away.
        More than 1 million children died in the Holocaust. Tens of thousands of others were uprooted, temporarily or permanently. Many didn't talk about these experiences, not even decades later with their own children. But now that they're in their twilight years, the Holocaust museum decided the time was right to harness social media to find them - and collect their stories - in an effort called "Remember Me?" Since the photos appeared online, over 190 children have been identified from the U.S., Canada, France, Italy, Scotland, Belgium, Hungary, Switzerland, Israel, England and Australia.
        Michlean Amir, a research coordinator at the museum conducting the Hebrew interviews, says: "The amazing thing for me is most of them established normal lives. They managed to marry, have healthy relations, have children and grandchildren. People go through much lesser trauma and are unable to function in society."  (AP)
        See also Remember Me? (U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

The Lessons of the Second Lebanon War: Israel Cannot Allow a Future Palestinian State to Become a Terrorist Stronghold - Michael B. Oren (Wall Street Journal)

  • The presence of Israeli troops in Lebanon did not create Hizbullah, no more than the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia created al-Qaeda. Rather, Hizbullah sprang from the resentment of Lebanon's long-oppressed Shiite population, and the bounteous backing of Iran.
  • A year after the First Lebanon War began, in 1983, Hizbullah terrorists killed 241 U.S. servicemen in Beirut. Hizbullah later turned its weapons on Sunnis, Christians and Druze, and, together with Syria, vanquished the country. Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a Sunni who resisted Hizbullah's hegemony, was assassinated by a car bomb in February 2005.
  • In July 2006, Hizbullah ambushed an Israeli border patrol, killing 10 soldiers, two of whose bodies were held for ransom. The Israeli government under then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered an immediate counterstrike against Hizbullah's strongholds in the South and its headquarters in Beirut. While hiding behind Lebanese civilians, Hizbullah fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, killing 43. The fighting raged for more than a month before the UN Security Council imposed a cease-fire.
  • The long-term results of the Second Lebanon War were that Israeli forces succeeded in deterring Hizbullah. During Israel's 2008-9 operation against Hamas in Gaza, Hizbullah remained utterly passive. Once revered by Arabs, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah is now reviled for his support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
  • UN peacekeepers in Lebanon have proven both unable and unwilling to fulfill their mandate. Hizbullah now has some 50,000 rockets - four times the number it possessed in 2006. Villages south of the Litani have been transformed into a phalanx of Hizbullah fortresses.
  • We must not forget the lessons of the previous conflicts. While committed to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, we cannot rely on international forces to guard the borders of a future Palestinian state. Only the Israel Defense Forces can prevent that state from becoming another Lebanon.

    The writer is Israel's ambassador to the United States.
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