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November 25, 2011

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Mysterious Explosions in Southern Lebanon - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
    Hizbullah has been establishing as many arms depots as possible in urban areas and in non-residential regions in southern Lebanon under the noses of UNIFIL and with the quiet backing of the Lebanese army, as part of the preparations for the Third Lebanon War.
    Israel, which invests great intelligence resources in Lebanon, is seeing this. The Israeli aircraft that hover across Lebanon record, day after day, Hizbullah's military buildup with arms deliveries which mostly arrive from Syria.
    In the past two years, some of these arms depots started to explode under mysterious circumstances.

Photographs from Inside the Besieged Syrian City of Homs - Mani (Guardian-UK)
    See also French Photographer Tries Not to Be Caught by Assad's Security Forces - Ian Black (Guardian-UK)
    These extraordinary images by French photographer Mani show rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army, night-time demonstrations, the funerals of victims, and the anger and defiance of ordinary Syrians facing violent state repression.
    One of the worst situations, said Mani, was that people injured by the security forces must be treated in secret. "When I was in Homs, there were reports that some of the injured had been tortured and executed at the hospital."

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Sweden Funds Anti-Israel Brochure - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Sweden has funded the publication of an anti-Israel booklet titled "Colonialism and Apartheid - the Israeli Occupation in Palestine," Yediot Ahronot reported Sunday.
    The Swedish government transferred $104,600, under the guise of humanitarian aid, to a Swedish-Palestinian solidarity group for the creation of the ornate booklet.

OECD: Israel 5th in Life Expectancy - Itay Gal (Ynet News)
    A new report released Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reveals that Israeli life expectancy is among the highest in the world (81.6 years in 2009) and fifth among OECD countries; the infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the world (3.8 deaths per 1,000 births); and a significant improvement has been recorded in the treatment of chronic diseases.
    A significant drop has been seen in mortality rates from heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
    At the same time, healthcare spending per capita is 30% lower than the OECD average.

Israel Sets World Record for Largest Chemistry Lesson (AP)
    Guinness World Records says it has recognized Israel's Science and Technology Ministry for holding the "largest chemistry lesson," Guinness spokeswoman Anne-Lise Rouse confirmed on Thursday.
    On Sept. 22, the ministry organized a class in 13 locations that drew 4,207 participants to carry out a reenactment of an experiment performed in space by the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster.

Israelis Win Computer Chess Tournament (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli chess computer program Deep Junior, programmed by software engineers Amir Ban and Shay Bushinsky and assisted by Grandmaster Alon Greenfeld, won the 2011 world computer chess championship held in Tilburg in The Netherlands this week.
    Deep Junior beat teams from around the world without losing a single game. It was the seventh world title that the Israeli team has won.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Unrest in Egypt, Alarm in Israel - Peter Goodspeed
    Israelis are nervously watching Egypt's revolution reignite with protests in Tahrir Square, raising fears a decades-old military dictatorship may soon be replaced by Islamist radicals who will pose a new security threat. Maariv reported that Israel's army chief, Benny Gantz, "presented the Security Cabinet with a scenario involving the cancellation of the peace treaty" between Egypt and Israel. The peace treaty with Egypt has been a cornerstone of Israel's security doctrine for three decades, guaranteeing relative quiet along its southern border and allowing Israel's military to focus on threats elsewhere.
        "In light of the Jan. 25 Revolution, Israel no longer has the luxury, or the security, of dealing with a handful of Egyptian leaders," writes Mirette Mabrouk of the Brookings Institute. "Israel is still going to have to deal with a government more accountable to its people. And considering that any new government is going to struggle with the prodigious social and economic burdens left by the former regime, a populist foreign policy may be considered an easy crowd-pleaser."
        Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense and foreign minister, said, "The Islamists are going to inherit the mantle of the dictators. A wave of Islamic rule, with all it entails, is sweeping across the Arab world. It will replace secular dictatorships with Islamic ones. We should have expected nothing else."  (National Post-Canada)
  • France Moots Iran Oil Ban - John Irish and Marie Maitre
    France's foreign ministry on Thursday first suggested and then back-tracked on the imposition of a unilateral ban on oil from Iran, making clear it would only act as part of an EU-wide plan. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said: "The interruption of Iranian oil purchases is among the measures proposed by France to its partners."
        While most of Iran's oil goes to Asia, it still supplies significant volumes to Europe via the Suez Canal. Europe saw a big drop in crude supplies from Libya when civil war broke out this year but Libyan deliveries are rising again now. U.S. government data shows EU countries accounted for 18% of Iranian oil purchases in the first half of 2011. Italy purchased 180,000 bpd, Spain took 137,000 bpd and France 20,000 bpd. (Reuters)
        See also Italy: Sanctions on Iran Oil "Inevitable" - Jessica Donati
    Italian sanctions prohibiting imports of crude oil from Iran are inevitable, Pietro de Simone, director of Italy's oil industry body, Unione Petrolifera (UP), said Thursday. (Reuters)
  • EU Plans Financial Sanctions on Syria
    The EU plans to adopt a wide range of financial sanctions against Syria next week, an EU diplomat said Wednesday. The new measures are expected to include a ban on European investment in Syrian banks, trading in Syrian government bonds and on provision of insurance to state bodies. They are also expected to ban new loans to the government, bilaterally or through international financial institutions, prohibit trading of gold or other precious metals and bar sales of computer software used to monitor the Internet or telephone communications. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA and Hamas Leaders Meet in Cairo - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met Thursday in Cairo, saying they would open a new page in relations, but they failed to reach agreement over the formation of a Palestinian unity government. They did agree, however, to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in May.
        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped "the Palestinians choose to move away from the prospective union with Hamas, and to move away from unilateral steps." In this way, "peace will be advanced, and this will serve the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians." Israeli government officials, noting that there was no joint press conference after the meeting and that Abbas left quickly, said it appeared that the meeting was "more ceremonial than practical."
        Hamas is strongly opposed to the appointment of current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as head of any government. A PA official in Ramallah said that Abbas had emphasized to Mashaal that he was unable at this stage to dump Fayyad because of American and European pressure and threats to suspend financial aid to the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Congressmen Seek Probe into PA Use of U.S. Funds - Lahav Harkov
    Congressmen Ted Deutsch (D-Fla.) and Steve Israel (D-NY) have asked U.S. Comptroller-General Gene Dodaro to investigate the Palestinian Authority's use of American funding in paying freed Palestinian prisoners who had been convicted of murder. "Many of the released prisoners were convicted of orchestrating and carrying out Hamas-sponsored terrorist attacks in Israel, including the bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub that killed 21 people, the attack on a Netanya hotel that killed 29 people, and the bombing of a Sbarro pizzeria that killed 15 people," Deutsch and Israel wrote.
        They "are troubled by reports of President Abbas' use of Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF) funds to provide housing for these convicted terrorists." The U.S. has contributed to the PIF. They were also "concerned about the increasing lack of transparency for the PIF as well as reports that Prime Minister Fayyad is no longer overseeing the fund and that Hamas has taken control of PIF assets in Gaza."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Double Identities of Hamas "Police"
    On Nov. 14, 2011, in response to rocket fire from Gaza, the Israeli Air Force attacked a Hamas police post in Gaza City, killing Muhammed Zaher al-Kilani, a police coast guardsman. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military-terrorist wing, issued an official statement on the death of al-Kilani, who was one of their operatives. Many members of Hamas' police coast guard units also belong to the al-Qassam Brigades and have military-terrorist duties which bear no relation to naval policing functions.
        One of the greatest failures of the Goldstone Report was that it disregarded the double identities of the Hamas police, claiming that the police and other internal security forces were civilian in nature. However, reliable intelligence information proved that a large number of Hamas policemen also concurrently served in its military-terrorist wing. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Arab World

  • After the Arab Spring, Winter - Douglas Murray
    When the Arab Spring arrived in the Middle East and North Africa it was unhesitatingly welcomed by Western leaders. Everyone hoped for the best. But hope is not quite enough. The shooting of protestors in Tahrir Square by the Egyptian army is the latest sign that the Arab Spring is giving way to an Arab winter. Elections have indeed taken place in Tunisia, but as in Algeria, they have simply served as a springboard for well-organized Islamist parties to gain power. In Egypt, the polls already suggest a similar triumph for the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood's political aims are akin to those of the revolutionary Khomeinists in Iran.
        Libya's election is further off, but Islamists have a head-start. The end result may well be that this push for democracy produces its antithesis: the rule of militant Islam. it will be far harder to justify the Libyan intervention should it transpire that NATO merely facilitated an Islamist takeover. In the long-term, representative democracy provides the only answers to the failures of the Arab world. But in the short-term this process will be complex, fraught and bloody. The writer is an associate director of the Henry Jackson Society. (Spectator-UK)
  • The Islamic Republic of Egypt? - Alexander Bligh
    The current Egyptian military regime is faced with a complex predicament: If it shoots, it might prolong its rule slightly, but will go down in history as another Gaddafi- or Assad-like regime; if it holds its fire, it will seal its fate. With no obvious alternative to the military except the Muslim Brotherhood, once the military council falls, the Islamic forces will take over almost by default. Thus, the current wave of unrest, regardless of its outcome, serves as a significant boost for radical Islam in Egypt and could hasten its rise to power. With military rule on its way out, Israeli leaders would be wise to immediately consider a scenario in which a new, hostile regime takes power in Egypt. The writer is a professor at the Department of Israel and Middle East Studies at Ariel University Center. (Israel Hayom)
  • Arabs in Love with Anarchy - Guy Bechor
    Egypt is home to 87 million citizens, and a million babies were already born since Hosni Mubarak was toppled. After all, there is no problem in getting hundreds of thousands and even millions of people out to the streets. Yet the Egyptians failed to realize that with the "million-man" rally at Cairo's Tahrir Square they are sanctifying an aggressive and even violent move, which from now on will threaten any kind of regime that emerges there. After all, there will always be frustrated and disappointed people out there. From a stable, powerful state, Egypt is turning into a country that is perceived as unsafe, overcome by despair, and dangerous. (Ynet News)

  • Other Issues

  • Moscow Should Rethink Its Iran Policy - Ilan Berman
    In recent days, Moscow has publicly rejected the new IAEA findings and argued for renewed diplomacy in response to Iran's nuclear transgressions. This obstructionism is unfortunate, but understandable. The strategic relationship between Moscow and Tehran includes vibrant defense and industrial trade, including nuclear technology and assistance from Russia; a quiet understanding that Iran will steer clear of spreading its brand of radical Islam in Russia's turbulent southern regions; and a shared opposition to a range of U.S. foreign policy efforts.
        Russia's arms sector, which two decades ago was on the verge of collapse, is now booming, thanks in large part to Iran. In addition, Iran's nuclear program has proven to be very good for Russian business as Russia has become the world's leading exporter of nuclear technology.
        But Iran's nuclear advances have been mirrored by an increasingly aggressive, revisionist foreign policy line. Armed with nuclear weapons, an emboldened Iran may seek to revise regional arrangements in its favor at the expense of Moscow. The writer is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council. (Moscow Times-Russia)
  • Bus Security Is for Self-Defense, Not Inequality - Editorial
    Six Palestinians arrested on West Bank buses used by Israelis sought to claim they were acting like the Freedom Riders in the American South in the early 1960s. But this ignores just one minor detail: The black victims of segregation and racism in the American South did not plant bombs on the buses they tried to integrate, did not throw bombs at those buses, did not shoot women and children on those buses, and did not steer those buses off the highway into ravines, killing the buses' passengers. Palestinians suffer from separate bus lines due to the violent, deliberate, massive, sustained attacks by Palestinians on Israeli buses. We wish it were different. Separate Israeli buses in Palestinian areas are a means of self-defense, not inequality.
        Let the Palestinians affirm not only non-violent action on buses, but also lay down their rockets fired into Israel from Gaza and their knives from the West Bank used to butcher Israelis sleeping in their beds. Then we can talk about equal access to buses. (Intermountain Jewish News)
        See also Not-So-Easy Riders - Liat Collins
    Six Palestinian activists tried to revive memories of the American "freedom riders" of the 1960s, followed by a crowd of some 50 journalists. The protesters pointed out that they cannot travel freely from Ramallah to Jerusalem without the correct permits, or an Israeli identity card. Jews, of course - no matter what papers they are carrying - cannot travel on a Palestinian-owned bus to Nablus, or Shechem as it's been known in Hebrew ever since the Bible put it on the map. That, apparently, is not considered discrimination. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Weekend Feature

  • How Israel Turned Itself into a High-Tech Hub - Katia Moskvitch
    Tiny Israel has managed to transform itself from a stretch of farmland into a high-tech wonder. Israel currently has almost 4,000 active technology start-ups - more than any other country outside the U.S., according to Israel Venture Capital Research Center. In 2010 alone the flow of venture capital amounted to $884m. The result: high-tech exports from Israel are valued at about $18.4bn a year, making up more than 45% of Israel's exports. Israel is a world leader in terms of research and development spending as a percentage of the economy; it's top in both the number of start-ups and engineers as a proportion of the population.
        "If you look at how this country was created, it was really a start-up on the large scale," says entrepreneur Yossi Vardi, who has invested in more than 80 Israeli high-tech firms. "A bunch of crazy people came here, trying to pursue a dream of 2,000 years."  (BBC News)

A Time for Caution in the Middle East - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Knesset Wednesday:

  • "The Middle East is no place for the naive....Last February, when millions of Egyptian citizens were pouring into the streets of Cairo, commentators... explained to me that we were on the verge of a new era of liberalism and progress that will wash away the old order. I said that we hope that will happen, but despite all our hopes, the chances are that an Islamist wave will wash over the Arab countries, an anti-West, anti-liberal, anti-Israel and ultimately an anti-democratic wave....They are not moving forward towards progress, they are going backwards."
  • "The earth is shaking. We do not know who will take over any land that we give up." "I will not ignore the present or give up on any of our security requirements that have increased because of the recent crises and not diminished."
  • "It is the time to be cautious in our connections with the Palestinians." "We want to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians that will withstand the test of time and will not buckle as soon as it is signed."
  • "Iran is developing nuclear weapons....It is imperative that sanctions be imposed on this regime, severe sanctions, even more severe than the sanctions imposed over the last few days."
  • "We have made it clear to the Palestinians that we will not sit idly by if they move ahead with their plans to bypass peace negotiations with unilateral steps. I hope...that we find a way to resume negotiations."
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