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May 11, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Between Calm and Chaos - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Huge dramas continue to roll across the Middle East. This week, too, the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad continued to kill civilians and opposition activists who are trying to drive out the regime. In Egypt, preparations for the presidential election are at their height.
    Amid all the unrest, Gaza and the West Bank are emerging as islands of political and security stability.
    Next week, on May 14, the Palestinians will mark Nakba Day, recalling what they refer to as the "catastrophe" of 1948: Israel's establishment. This week the leaders of Fatah and the PA worked to ensure that the demonstrations will be confined to the Palestinian cities of the West Bank and will not assume a violent character.
    A sign of changing times in Gaza can be seen in the bustling activity at the Kerem Shalom crossing. The terminal is packed with trucks, most of them carrying goods from Israel to the Strip, some from Gaza earmarked for overseas.
    Gaza is no longer under siege. Meanwhile, Egypt has opened the Rafah land crossing for Gazans traveling to Egypt, and it's used by about 1,200 people a day.
    Egyptian forces in Sinai are being attacked almost daily by armed Bedouin. Some of the latter belong to smuggling squads, others to Global Jihad.
    At the end of last week, six Egyptian soldiers were kidnapped by Bedouin who demanded the release of their comrades from prison.

Saudi Clerics Use Social Media to Spread Hate - Jonathan Schanzer and Steven Miller (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
    The Foundation for Defense of Democracies has released "Facebook Fatwa," the first-ever study of what radical Saudi Wahhabists are preaching to their followers about the U.S. and non-Muslims on social media sites.
    "A staggering 75% of the Arabic-language posts we saw reflected xenophobic beliefs, or hostility toward the U.S., the West, and non-Muslim cultures," said FDD vice president for research Jonathan Schanzer.
    Saudi clerics are increasingly gravitating toward these tools to spread their own messages.
    Read the Report (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
    While clerics have cut back on overtly violent rhetoric, they still view Western culture with disdain, exhibit a lack of respect for women's rights, and speak with open hostility about minorities, other religions, and non-Wahhabi Muslims.

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Palestinian Airlines Renews Operations - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    Seven years after grounding its planes, Palestinian Airlines was back in business on Wednesday, with an inaugural flight between the Egyptian town of El Arish and Jordan's capital, Amman.
    In the future, the company intends to offer flights to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Istanbul, Turkey.

Israeli Stem Cells Save Young Girl - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Working with stem cells developed by Israel's Pluristem Therapeutics, doctors at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital announced this week that they were able to significantly increase the number of red blood cells in a seven-year-old girl whose condition was rapidly deteriorating.
    "With her body rejecting all possible treatment - and with no other options - we finally turned to Pluristem's PLX cells, which literally saved her life," said the child's physician, Prof. Reuven Or, director of the Bone Marrow Transplantation, Cell Therapy and Transplantation Research Center at Hadassah.

Israeli Students Win International Robotics Competition - Tomer Velmer (Ynet News)
    A team from the Savionim middle school in Yahud-Monosson on Sunday won first place in the First Lego League International Robotics Competition in Orlando, Florida, competing against 64 teams from around the world.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • "Moderate" Islamist Egyptian Candidate: Israel an "Enemy," Revise Peace Treaty - Leila Fadel
    The two top-rated Egyptian presidential candidates battled Thursday in the first televised presidential debate in the nationís history. It featured Amr Moussa, 75, former chief of the Arab League, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 60, considered a moderate Islamist. Aboul Fotouh called Israel an "enemy" of Egypt and promised to revise the peace treaty. "The agreement with Israel should be revised, and that which is against Egyptís interests should be removed immediately."
        Moussa said the treaty should be slightly revised but stopped short of calling Israel an enemy. "Most of our people consider it an enemy, but the responsibility of the president is to deal with such things responsibly and not run after hot-headed slogans," he said. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Seeks a Lifting of Sanctions in Upcoming Talks - Scott Peterson
    A senior Iranian figure stated that Iran's "minimum expectation" for the upcoming negotiations on May 23 was a lifting of some sanctions. Yet sanctions are notoriously hard to remove. In the U.S., the power to adjust American sanctions resides not with President Obama but with Congress. Administration officials say that "sanctions relief is not on the table unless and until we see substantial concessions" from Iran, says Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Israel Seeks Deal with Palestinian Hunger Strikers - Shatha Yaish
    Israel's prison service has offered to ease restrictions on Palestinian prisoners in a bid to end a mass hunger strike, sources told AFP on Thursday. The prisoners are protesting against solitary confinement, detention without charge and restrictions on family visits, education and various privileges. An official with the Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer said negotiations between prisoners and the Israel Prison Service appeared to be making progress. Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said authorities "are interested in containing the strike and ultimately ending it as soon as possible." "We don't want to see any of these prisoners hurt themselves."  (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iran, Hizbullah Planning More Attacks on Israelis Overseas - Yaakov Katz
    Iran and Hizbullah are plotting attacks against senior IDF officers and official military delegations traveling overseas, a senior IDF officer revealed on Thursday. "The threat has significantly increased over the past half-a-year," he said. "There seems to be - as recent attempts have shown - an increase in motivation to carry out such an attack" - referring to recent attempted attacks in Thailand, Georgia, India and Azerbaijan. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Seizes Arms Convoy Headed to Sinai - Roi Kais
    Egyptian security forces intercepted three trucks carrying weapons en route to Sinai, Ynet learned Thursday. The arms shipment, which included surface-to-surface and anti-tank missiles, as well as RPG rockets, originated from Libya. According to Al-Ahram, Egyptian security forces seized 40 surface-to-surface missiles, 17 RPG rockets, seven assault rifles, surveillance equipment and over 10,000 rounds of ammunition. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that the shipment was "not sponsored by private individuals, but rather by international intelligence agencies trying to undermine Egypt's internal security."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel Unites - Charles Krauthammer
    Israelis today face the greatest threat to their existence since May '67 - nuclear weapons in the hands of apocalyptic mullahs publicly pledged to Israelís annihilation. The world is again telling Israelis to do nothing as it looks for a way out. But if such a way is not found - as in í67 - Israelis know that they will once again have to defend themselves, by themselves. Such a fateful decision demands a national consensus. By creating the largest coalition in nearly three decades, Netanyahu is establishing the political premise for a preemptive strike, should it come to that. The new government commands an astonishing 94 Knesset seats out of 120.
        For centrist Kadima (it pulled Israel out of Gaza) to join a Likud-led coalition whose defense minister is a former Labor prime minister (who once offered half of Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat) is the very definition of national unity - and refutes the popular "Israel is divided" meme.
        Netanyahu, the first Likud prime minister to recognize Palestinian statehood, did not need Kadima for him to enter peace talks. For two years heís been waiting for Mahmoud Abbas to show up at the table. Abbas hasnít. And wonít. Nothing will change on that front.
        Those counseling Israeli submission, resignation or just endless patience can no longer dismiss Israelís tough stance as the work of irredeemable right-wingers. Not with a government now representing 78% of the country. (Washington Post)
  • A Shameful Impasse on Syria - Editorial
    Administration spokesmen now publicly recognize that the UN diplomatic initiative it has backed for the past seven weeks has been a failure. They acknowledge that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has no intention of ending violence against his opposition, or meeting any other condition of the "Annan plan."
        The prolongation of the conflict poses serious threats to U.S. interests and allies. Events may degenerate into a sectarian war in which the majority Sunni community targets Mr. Assadís minority Alawites, while Kurds, Christians and other minorities are caught in the middle. A second danger is that al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist movements will take advantage of the chaos. The third threat is that sectarian war in Syria will jump across borders. Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey all have the same divides among Shiite and Sunni sects. (Washington Post)
  • The Iranian Security Threat in the Western Hemisphere: Learning from Past Experience - Matthew Levitt
    As Iran presses on in its efforts to become a nuclear power, the regime in Tehran also employs an aggressive foreign policy that relies heavily on the deployment of clandestine assets abroad to collect intelligence and support foreign operations. From a U.S. perspective, Iranís massive diplomatic presence in the Western Hemisphere presents a particularly acute problem. In response to Iranís abuse of the diplomatic system, the international community should collectively press our friends and allies in Latin America to severely restrict the size of Iranís diplomatic missions to the minimum needed to conduct official business. The writer is director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. (SAIS Review)
  • Mexican Jihad - Raymond Ibrahim
    Mexico has been targeted by Islamists and jihadists who, through a number of tactics - from engaging in da'wa, converting Mexicans to Islam, to smuggling and the drug cartel, to simple extortion, kidnappings and enslavement - have been subverting Mexico in order to empower Islam and sabotage the U.S. The evidence is overwhelming that many Islamists in Mexico are plotting against the U.S., using all means such as drug trafficking, which is not forbidden in Sharia law if it serves to empower Islam. (Gatestone Institute)
  • They Aren't Really Refugees, They're Pawns - Clifford D. May
    After World War II, the British left India, which was to be partitioned into two independent nations - one Hindu, the other Muslim. More than 7 million Muslims moved to the territory that became Pakistan. A similar number of Hindus and Sikhs moved to India. Today, not one remains a refugee.
        After World War II, the British left Palestine, which was to be partitioned into two independent nations - one Jewish, the other Muslim. About 750,000 Muslims left the territories that became Israel. A similar number of Jews left Arab/Muslim lands. Today, not one of the Jews remains a refugee. But there are still Palestinian refugees - indeed, their number has mushroomed to almost 5 million.
        In 1965, UNRWA decided - against objections from the United States - to include as refugees the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who left Israel. in 1982, UNRWA further extended eligibility to all subsequent generations of descendants - forever. According to UN projections, by 2030 UNRWA's refugee list will reach 8.5 million. By increasing the number of refugees and by maintaining that population in poverty, dependence, and anger, UNRWA is helping the extremists to wage a war of annihilation against Israel. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Review)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israelis "Hyper-Connected" to the Internet - David Shamah
    Three out of four Israeli 15-17-year-olds connect to Facebook or other social media every day, engaging socially online far more than their American contemporaries. Furthermore, more than a third of Israelis 55-64 connect to social networks either daily or several times a week, as do 22% of those 65 or older.
        In addition, Israeli Arabs are the biggest readers and writers of blogs, while nearly one-third of the ultra-Orthodox population is online, according to a study, "Israel in the Digital Age," by Dr. Yuval Dror at the College of Management in Rishon Lezion. (Times of Israel)
  • 200 More Ghettos Identified from World War II
    Details are only now emerging about more than 1,100 German-run ghettos in Eastern Europe where the Nazis murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews. "There were actually about 200 more ghettos than previously believed," said Martin Dean, editor of the recently published Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933Ė1945, Volume II. It's part of a long-term effort to document every site of organized Nazi persecution.
        Helen Segall, now 81, was 11 when she witnessed SS troops torch her town of about 2,000 residents in Mizocz, Ukraine, with hundreds of hidden Jews burned to death before they could escape. Others were killed outside the town. "People had to undress and walk in small groups into the trench and lie face down, where they were shot by an SS man helped by a Ukrainian policeman," she wrote. In two days - Oct. 13 and 14, 1942 - the 300-year-old town "ceased to exist," wrote Segall. (Israel Hayom)

Peacemaking Mythologies from Taba to Olmert - Dore Gold (Israel Hayom)

  • Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, interviewed last Friday by CNN's Christiana Amanpour, sought to give his audience the impression that he had been on the verge of a historic peace agreement with Mahmoud Abbas in 2008, and only because of the interference of individuals from the U.S. that brought in outside money, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was not reached.
  • This was not the first time that the myth of an impending Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough, that never happened, was widely promoted. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the end of the Taba talks issued a joint statement on Jan. 27, 2001, saying: "The sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement." Yet when Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami repeated this to an Israel Radio reporter, Muhammad Dahlan responded, "Kharta Barta" (slang for baloney). The EU representative Miguel Moratinos even wrote in his internal report on Taba that "serious gaps remain" between the parties.
  • The most detailed version of the Olmert proposal appeared in a cover story in the New York Times Magazine by Bernard Avishai. Olmert told Avishai: "We were very close, more than ever in the past, to complete an agreement on principles that would have led to the end of the conflict between us and the Palestinians." Yet Olmert told Avishai two years later that the exact number of refugees that would return was still subject to further negotiation. How could this gap lead Olmert to conclude that he was "very close" to completing an agreement with Abbas?
  • In the area of security, the Olmert proposals were even more troubling. Mahmoud Abbas told Avishai in the New York Times that "the file on security is closed." But he then added, "we do not claim it was an agreement but the file was finalized." How was security "finalized" without an agreement between the parties? Abbas explained that the Israeli security concerns had been worked out with Gen. James Jones, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's security advisor, but not with Israel.
  • Rice writes in her memoirs that Abbas "refused" to accept Olmert's offer, even after President Bush appealed to him to reconsider his position. In 2009, Abbas was interviewed by Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post and explained why he could not take Olmert's offer to the Palestinians: "The gaps were too wide."
  • Israel is in a very different situation today than it was when these peace proposals were made in the past. Israelis have gone through a second intifada with suicide bomb attacks in the heart of their cities, the failure of the Gaza withdrawal that led to a massive escalation of rocket attacks on southern Israel, and an Arab Spring that has demonstrated the fragility of the regimes with which Israel has signed peace treaties. Under these circumstances, in future negotiations Israeli security needs must be stressed harder and not subcontracted to envoys from any country.
  • What is required is an alternative diplomatic strategy, and a more secure path for achieving Middle East peace, rather than trying to revive a formula that has only led to diplomatic failure.
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