Prepared for the
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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 20, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

CIA Racing to Find Syria's Chemical and Biological Weapons - Eli Lake (Daily Beast)
    The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is scrambling to get a handle on the locations of Syria's chemical and biological weapons. U.S. officials say the CIA has sent officers to the region to assess Syria's weapons program.
    Paula DeSutter, who served as assistant secretary of state for verification, compliance, and implementation between 2002 and 2009, said biological weapons could be a big concern.
    DeSutter also said she would want the U.S. and international community to secure any remaining nuclear-related equipment from the al-Kibar reactor destroyed in 2007 by Israeli jets.
    Also unclear is what, if anything, Iraq transferred to Syria before the 2003 U.S. invasion.

U.S. Says Iran Plans to Disrupt Oil Trade - Julian E. Barnes (Wall Street Journal)
    U.S. government officials, citing new intelligence, said Iran has developed plans to disrupt international oil trade, including through attacks on oil platforms and tankers.
    The information suggests that Iran could take action against facilities both inside and outside the Persian Gulf, even absent an overt military conflict.
    Defense officials cautioned there is no evidence that Tehran has moved assets in position to disrupt tankers or attack other sites, but stressed that Iran's intent appears clear.
    The decision by officials to discuss the new intelligence is intended in part to deter Iran. "They have to know this would provoke some sort of response," said a senior defense official.

Why Iran Is Targeting Israelis Abroad - Michael Widlanski (New York Post)
    Israeli officials said that they'd warned Bulgarian officials that Israel had intelligence information that Iran and Hizbullah have been trying to infiltrate agents into Bulgaria from Turkey.
    Hizbullah and Iran have been concentrating on generally "soft" targets away from Israel for two reasons: They're easier to hit than targets in Israel, and they make it harder for Israel to justify a direct reprisal on Iran or Hizbullah.
    Israeli strategists also believe that Iran and Hizbullah are using the attacks to force Israel to lose its focus on Iran, undermining Israel's drive to stop Iran's nuclear program.
    Israeli intelligence believes there are more Iranian-directed terror squads trying to attack Israelis.
    See also Eight Recent Attacks Israel Blames on Iran - Scott Baldauf (Christian Science Monitor)

Suspect in Bulgaria Bus Bombing Was Not Qaeda Henchman - Alison Gendar and Larry McShane (New York Daily News)
    The suicide bomber who blew up a busload of Israeli visitors to Bulgaria Wednesday was not a suspected al-Qaeda fighter released from Guantanamo Bay in 2004, contradicting earlier reports in the Bulgarian media.

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Israeli President Peres Extends Ramadan Greetings to Muslims Worldwide - Noam Dvir (Ynet News)
    In a video message sent Wednesday to thousands of websites and blogs, President Shimon Peres wished the Muslim world a "generous Ramadan."
    Peres said, "I use this platform as president of Israel to send Ramadan greetings to the millions of Muslims in Israel and throughout the world."
    "The Arab world around us is changing. Young people are demanding their freedom, social welfare, and prosperity. The younger generation wants change. I wish the younger generation in Arab countries success in creating a better society, more open, and more prosperous," the president said.
    "When Assad's regime falls and Syria will be free and peaceful - of course we will seek good relations with it," he added.

UK Muslim Couple Convicted of Plotting Terror Attack on Manchester Jews - Miriam Shaviv (Times of Israel)
    Mohammed Sajid Khan, 33, and his wife Shasta, 38, were convicted on Thursday of plotting a terror attack aimed at Jews in Manchester, England.
    The couple downloaded a manual called "Make a Bomb in Your Mom's Kitchen" from the Internet and, following its instructions, began gathering material for a homemade bomb.
    The couple regularly scouted out Jewish targets in Manchester including synagogues and the Jewish Agency's building, which was saved as a favorite destination in their Satellite Navigation System.
    Material on their computers included searches for "shotgun cartridges" on eBay and 71 videos of executions.
    This is the third terrorist plot against British Jews to be uncovered recently.

Germany Sees Rising Threat from Militant Islamists - Frank Jordans (AP-Fox News)
    Germany faces a growing threat from militant Islamists and far-right fringe groups, top security officials said Wednesday.
    A report by Germany's domestic intelligence agency puts the number of Salafi Muslims in the country at 3,800 last year, with a small number of those prepared to use violence to achieve their aims.
    The wider number of Muslims with extremist views is estimated at more than 38,000, according to the report.
    See also Disillusioned German Islamists Abandoning Jihad - Oezlem Gezer and Holger Stark (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    More than 200 Islamists are believed to have left Germany to join the jihad in Pakistan.
    But, after learning what life there is really like, many of them are abandoning the cause and heading home - right into the unwelcoming arms of the law.

Israel Gas Fields Pose Naval Security Challenge - Maxime Perez (AFP)
    Faced with new challenges posed by major offshore gas discoveries, Israel is looking to significantly increase its military presence on the high seas in a bid to protect its economic waters.
    With extraction of vast reserves of recently-discovered natural gas due to begin next year, top military officials have been putting together a plan for securing oil rigs stationed within Israel's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
    The gas fields are likely to provide an attractive target for enemies of the Jewish state.
    Israel's EEZ extends 70 nautical miles (129 km.) offshore from Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border and some 100 nautical miles from Israel's border with Gaza in the south.

Israel Electric's Fight to Keep the Lights On - Ari Rabinovitch and Tova Cohen (Reuters)
    Israel Electric Corp. (IEC), the state-owned utility, just lost 40% of its natural gas supplies from neighboring Egypt and fuel costs are soaring. Reserves are low and capacity insufficient.
    The remaining 60% of natural gas, Israel's main energy source, comes from a small offshore field that is nearly depleted.
    Israel recently discovered huge offshore natural gas reserves, enough to secure its needs for decades. But production at the first field, Tamar, is not due to begin until mid-2013.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Blames Hizbullah for Attack on Israeli Tourists in Bulgaria - Nicholas Kulish and Eric Schmitt
    American officials on Thursday identified the suicide bomber responsible for a deadly attack on Israeli vacationers in Bulgaria as a member of a Hizbullah cell that was operating in the country and looking for such targets, corroborating Israel's assertions.
        A senior Israeli official said on Thursday that the attack was part of an intensive wave of terrorist attacks around the world carried out by the Iranian Quds Force as well as by Hizbullah. "They work together when necessary, and separately when not necessary," the Israeli official said.
        Bulgarian authorities released a security video Thursday showing the suspect wandering into the arrivals hall at the airport, for all appearances just a tourist in his plaid shorts, Adidas T-shirt and baseball hat. But it is his oddly bulky, oversized backpack that, in terrible hindsight, stands out the most. (New York Times)
        See also Video: Suicide Bomber in Bulgaria (YouTube)
  • Syria Rebels Seize Border Posts as Residents Flee Damascus - Neil MacFarquhar and Tim Arango
    Rebel fighters in Syria seized all four border crossings with Iraq and one into Turkey on Thursday, while intense street fighting continued in Damascus. Government helicopters blasted the northern Damascus suburb of Qaboun with rockets, while the armed forces warned residents of a wide area of the southern part of the capital to evacuate ahead of an assault.
        President Bashar al-Assad appeared on state television to swear in the new defense minister to replace the one assassinated in a bomb attack. One top Iraqi government official said the border crossings were closed and that Iraqi border forces had witnessed the execution of 22 Syrian Army soldiers at the hands of the Free Syrian Army rebels.
        In Washington, a senior American official said Thursday that American intelligence concluded that Syrian forces were moving some of their chemical weapons arsenal to safeguard it, not to use it. The official said the upsurge in fighting did not presage an imminent fall of the government, predicting that Assad could likely hold out for at least six months. "This is an episodic erosion in his power, but he'll recover," he said. (New York Times)
        See also Report: Dozens of Casualties in Attack on Damascus Police Headquarters
    A rebel attack on the Damascus police headquarters on Thursday left dozens of security personnel and militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad dead or wounded, an opposition activist said. (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
        See also Eyewitness to Assad's Retaliation on a Rebel Town (TIME)
  • Russia, China Veto UN Sanctions on Syria - Colum Lynch
    Russia and China on Thursday vetoed a Western-backed UN Security Council resolution threatening the government of Syria with sanctions - the third time they had blocked a measure seeking to pressure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Accuses West of Creating Drought
    Hassan Mousavi, the head of Iran's cultural heritage and tourism organization, said Monday that he was "suspicious about the drought in the southern part of the country." He accused the West of using "technology" to influence Iran's climate, saying sand storms and droughts were a method of war. "The world arrogance and colonists (term used by Iranian authorities to label the West) are influencing Iran's climate conditions using technology," Mousavi was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. "Soft war is completely evident....This level of drought is not normal."  (Daily Mail-UK)
  • Senate Report: European Bank Exposed U.S. Financial System to Iran
    A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations charged that Europe's largest bank, London-based HSBC, exposed the U.S. financial system to potentially illicit transactions involving Iran and other countries as well as money laundering by Mexican drug cartels. Two affiliates for years sent thousands of transactions through the bank's key U.S. affiliate, HBUS, "without disclosing links to Iran" even though they were supposed to. For that period from 2001 to 2007, an auditor so far has uncovered nearly 25,000 such transactions involving billions of dollars. (Fox News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • "We Stand Before These Five Caskets and Our Heart Is Broken" - Sam Ser, Ron Friedman and Stuart Winer
    Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, presiding over an official ceremony for the five Israelis killed in Wednesday's terror attack in Bulgaria upon their return to Israel, declared the victims' "only crime" was "being Israeli, being Jewish." "We stand before these five caskets and our heart is broken," he said. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel Names Five Victims of Bulgaria Terror Attack - Jack Khoury and Chaim Levinson
    The Israelis killed in the suicide bombing in Bulgaria were Maor Harush, 24, and Elior Price, 25, from Acre; Itzik Kolangi, 28, and Amir Menashe, 28, from Petah Tikva; and Kochava Shriki, 42, from Rishon Letzion. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Victim Had Just Learned She Was Pregnant - Tovah Lazaroff
    Before boarding a flight to Bulgaria on Wednesday, Kochava Shriki, 42, got a call from her doctor with the good news that after many unsuccessful attempts, she was finally pregnant. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Blast Survivors Arrive Back in Israel - Eli Ashkenazi and Revital Hovel (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Boosts Security Overseas - Yaakov Katz
    Israel boosted security at El Al airport counters and around embassies across the globe on Thursday amid concern that Iran and Hizbullah are plotting additional attacks in the near future. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ya'alon: Israel Will Respond to Burgas Attack at the Right Time - Ilan Ben Zion
    Israel will respond at the right time and place to the Iranian-perpetrated deaths of five civilians in Bulgaria, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned Friday. "We have no doubt that Iran and its emissaries stand behind this terrorist attack, in light of their recent attempts of late to harm Israeli targets."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Time for More Surgery - Hirsh Goodman
    In the early 1970s, a spate of attacks hit Israeli targets around the world, with the 1972 attack on the Israeli delegation to the Munich Olympics being only one of many examples. Prime minister Golda Meir entrusted Aaron Yariv, a former head of Military Intelligence, to deal with the issue. Her orders to Yariv, as he later recounted, were simple: Cut off the head of the snake, she said, and the body will die soon after, and with that gave him a mandate to go after the terrorist leadership wherever they may be.
        With systematic efficiency and in silence, Yariv's team surgically removed dozens of key international terror operatives, often on the soil of countries friendly to Israel. Boats sank, cars exploded, rifles fired backwards, grenades went off unexpectedly early, supposed businessmen died getting into their limousines on the streets of Paris and others fell onto the rails of oncoming subways.
        Now we have yet another cycle of international terror being directed against Israelis. So it's time for more surgery. Terror, unfortunately, is something we know a lot about. Let the professionals deal with the problem and the surgeons do their work. The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Hizbullah, Iran and Assad's Departure - Ron Ben-Yishai
    According to credible Western sources, senior Alawite figures are starting to discuss the option of abandoning Assad and are also asking Hizbullah to dispatch men who would protect them the day after the regime collapses. Hizbullah and Iran are interested in gaining a significant foothold in Syria the day after.
        The expected chaos would mean that many areas in Syria will not be ruled by the central government. The threat to Israel is that terrorists affiliated with the Global Jihad will exploit the chaos to establish themselves near the Golan Heights border and carry out attacks. In fact, quite a few Global Jihad groups are already in southern Syria, near the border with Israel.
        An even graver threat is that the chemical and biological weapons and some of the Syrian army's immense missile and rocket arsenal will fall into the hands of Hizbullah, which will smuggle these arms into Lebanon. Israel closely monitors the movements of weapon systems and arms within Syria. Defense Minister Ehud Barak made it clear that Israel will not accept the transfer of these weapon systems to Hizbullah. We can carefully estimate that within weeks, and possibly days, we'll see the final collapse of the Damascus regime. (Ynet News)
  • 300 Palestinians Killed in Syria Violence - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA officials Thursday said that some 300 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the uprising in Syria. More than 500,000 Palestinians live in Syria. The officials said that in recent weeks a number of Palestinians were kidnapped and killed by unidentified gunmen. In the worst incident, 16 members of the Palestine Liberation Army, which is backed by the Syrian authorities, were killed after gunmen stopped their bus and kidnapped them. Their bodies were found with their throats slashed.
        In the last few days, the officials noted, thousands of Syrian civilians fleeing the violence in Damascus have found shelter in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp. Commentator Rashad Abu Shawar said that dozens of armed Muslim fundamentalists entered the camp in the past few days, chanting slogans against Assad and in favor of an Islamic caliphate. They succeeded in recruiting Palestinian militiamen to their ranks. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Syria's Alawite Refuge - Katie Paul
    The Syrian port city of Tartus has become a refuge for the country's minority Alawi Shiite population. In their view, Alawites are under attack by a Sunni majority, which uses its religious identity to mobilize the militias operating under the Free Syrian Army umbrella. In turn, the coastal Sahel region is the only safe haven, and this stretch of land - encompassing the port cities of Latakia, Baniyas, Jableh, and Tartus, and the mountains separating them from the rest of Syria's plains - must be protected against Sunni encroachment at all costs.
        Alawites are increasingly setting up shop in the Sahel, looking to cordon themselves off from the chaos that they believe will come as Assad's grip on the country weakens. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Syria's Nerve Agents - Editorial
    Syria holds one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the Middle East, composed of blister and nerve agents, including sarin. It is believed to have sought out the deadliest nerve agent ever created, VX. The chemicals have been weaponized in aerial bombs, missile warheads and artillery shells. There is a danger that they will be up for grabs as the regime's power crumbles.
        One drop of sarin can kill an adult. Thirteen people died and hundreds were injured when the nerve agent was released on Tokyo subway cars in 1995 by the Aum Shinrikyo cult. One can only imagine the terror and uncertainty that would follow the disappearance of sarin shells or warheads from Syria. If Syria begins to crack up, international intervention may be required on an emergency basis. Russia ought to see that controlling these weapons is in its interest, too, and join in the planning. One reason for the U.S. and others to begin planning now for what to do with Syria's chemical weapons is to keep Israel from acting unilaterally. (Washington Post)

  • Other Issues

  • Alternate Oil Routes Making the Strait of Hormuz Irrelevant? - Gal Luft
    The more desperate the Iranians become, the more aggressively they threaten to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40% of the world's seaborne oil passes each day. In fact, talk of closure has already made the Strait of Hormuz increasingly irrelevant.
        In recent weeks, two pipelines that bypass the Strait have become operational. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline can now pump 1.5 million barrels per day from Habshan in Abu Dhabi some 230 miles south to Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman. Saudi Arabia in June reopened the Iraq Pipeline through Saudi Arabia (IPSA), which was confiscated from Iraq in 2001 and travels from Iraq across Saudi Arabia to a Red Sea port north of Yanbu. This pipeline will be able to carry 1.65 million barrels per day. Together, these two pipelines could eventually reduce oil traffic in the Strait by 25%.
        But this is only the beginning. At least two more projects connecting Saudi Arabia to Oman and Yemen are under consideration. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Iran Threatens Two More Naval Chokepoints Besides the Strait of Hormuz - Lenny Ben-David (Weekly Standard)
        See also Top Indian Buyer of Iran Oil Turns to Saudi, UAE, Azeri Crudes
    India's biggest buyer of Iranian oil, Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals (MRPL), bought Azeri, Saudi and Emirati crude to replace imports from Iran in July and may halt purchases from Tehran altogether as sanctions make shipments more difficult, industry sources said Monday. "It makes sense to...look at alternatives rather than dealing with Iran-related problems on a daily basis. If they shut the Strait of Hormuz then MRPL will be in a difficult situation," said a source. (Gulf Times-Qatar)
  • Qassem Suleimani: Iran's Spymaster in America's Sights - Michael Theodoulou
    Brig.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani looks more like a bank manager than one of the Middle East's most feared and powerful spymasters. He heads the Quds Force, the external operations unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards that has tentacles in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan. More recently, it has been accused of training Syrian forces to quell anti-government protests. (National-Abu Dhabi)
  • Anarchy Surrounds Israel - Daniel Pipes
    Lebanon remains anarchic and the home base for Hizbullah. Egypt ruled Sinai with an iron fist until late in Mubarak's term when, as the Bedouin became increasingly Islamist, his regime did not keep control. Terrorism increased after Mubarak's resignation. Hamas took over in Gaza two years after the unilateral Israeli withdrawal in 2005; not surprisingly, it began shelling Israeli territory. The shelling continues.
        Now comes word from Israeli military intelligence that it expects the Golan Heights to become anarchic as the Assad regime pulls its forces for more urgent duties and various terrorist groups make hay. (National Review)
  • Jewish Blood Is Cheap - Deborah E. Lipstadt
    For the past few months there has been a concerted effort to get the International Olympic Committee to set aside one minute of silence at the opening ceremony at this year's games to commemorate the Israeli athletes who were murdered at the Munich games in 1972.
        IOC President Juan Samaranch said the Olympic movement avoided political issues, though at the 1996 opening ceremony he spoke about the Bosnian war. The 2002 games opened with a minute of silence for the victims of 9/11. At the 2010 winter games, there was a moment of silence to commemorate an athlete who died in a training accident.
        The IOC's explanation is nothing more than a pathetic excuse. The athletes who were murdered were from Israel and were Jews - that is why they aren't being remembered. I have long inveighed against the tendency of some Jews to see anti-Semitism behind every action that is critical of Israel or of Jews. Here the charge is absolutely accurate.
        This was the greatest tragedy to ever occur during the Olympic Games. Imagine for a moment that these athletes had been from the U.S., Canada, Australia, or even Germany. The writer is Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. (Tablet)
  • The Middle East's Greatest Untold Story - Ron Prosor
    At the end of World War II, 850,000 Jews lived in Arab countries. Just 8,500 remain today. After Arab leaders failed to annihilate Israel militarily in 1948, they launched a war of terror, incitement, and expulsion to decimate their own ancient Jewish communities. In Iraq, Jewish businessman Shafiq Adas, then the country's wealthiest citizen, was immediately arrested on trumped-up charges and publicly lynched. This was followed by bombings targeting Jewish institutions, arbitrary arrests of Jewish leaders, and massive government seizures of property.
        Similar scenes played out from Egypt to Syria to Libya to Yemen. State-sanctioned pogroms descended on Jewish neighborhoods, killing innocents. The total area of land confiscated from Jews in Arab countries amounts to nearly 40,000 square miles - about five times Israel's entire land mass.
        Year after year Palestinian refugees attract attention and resources at the UN, yet not a single syllable about the Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries can be found in any of the 1,088 UN resolutions on the Middle East or the 172 UN resolutions dedicated to Palestinian refugees.
        The historic Jewish presence in the Arab World must be recognized. The grave injustices inflicted upon them must be acknowledged. The crimes committed against them must be rectified. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the UN. (Huffington Post)
  • Who Will Save the Christians in Gaza? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    According to the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza, at least five Christians have been kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam in recent weeks. Archbishop Alexios, head of the Greek Church in Gaza, is spearheading protests against persecution of Christians and forced conversions. In the past few days the archbishop has come under sharp criticism from many Palestinians and the Hamas government for daring to speak out about the plight of his community. Leaders and members of the Christian community now fear reprisal attacks by Muslim extremists.
        Radical Islam, and not checkpoints or a security fence, remains the main threat to defenseless Christians not only in the Palestinians territories, but in the entire Middle East as well. (Gatestone Institute)
  • How Not to Host a Summit - Aaron David Miller
    Twelve years ago, U.S. President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat gathered at Camp David to launch a historic bid to put an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Camp David represented the ultimate "How Not to Summit" - a poster child for what to avoid, what not to do, and how not to think about reaching an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
        The gaps on the big issues were simply too large to be bridged. But before we had a chance to actually sit down with Clinton to assess whether they could be bridged, the U.S. had already issued the invitations. Clinton commented that trying and failing was better than not trying all. But that can't be the working assumption on which the world's greatest power bases its approach to negotiations or foreign policy. (Foreign Policy)

  • Weekend Features

  • Water from the Sea: Israel's Huge Bet on Desalination - Meredith Mandell
    At the Ashkelon Desalination Plant south of Tel Aviv, 15,000 cubic meters of seawater is converted into fresh water every hour. The plant churns out 15% of Israel's yearly water supply. Israel currently has three large-scale desalination plants and two more are coming.
        Israel is also a world leader in recycling waste water, reusing over 80% of "treated wastewater," or approximately 400 million cubic meters a year, far beyond that of any other country. By comparison, Spain, in second place, recycles 20% of its wastewater. (International Business Times)
  • Israel Plans to Revive Ailing Jordan River - Ari Rabinovitch
    Today, as a result of years of overtaxing for irrigation and drinking water, the Jordan River is just a few meters wide. "It's five percent of what once flowed," said Ramon Ben Ari, head of Israel's Southern Jordan Drainage Authority. "You can easily walk across without getting your head wet." Almost all the water that feeds the river is diverted by Syria, Jordan and Israel before it reaches the south, he explained.
        The government plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to clean the Jordan River valley and develop it into an even bigger tourist hotspot, with campgrounds and lodgings by its banks. A major wastewater treatment facility is being constructed at the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee which, when opened in two years, will improve river water quality. (Reuters)

The Political Battle Over the "Occupation" Narrative - Dore Gold
(Israel Hayom)

  • Looking back over the last two weeks, what appeared to hit a raw nerve with the critics of the report of Justice Edmond Levy's committee was not what it had to say about the specific issues for which it was appointed. This became evident in how the reaction focused on the report's conclusion that "the classical laws of 'occupation' as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to…Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria."
  • How did Justice Levy, who recently retired from Israel's Supreme Court, reach this conclusion along with his two colleagues? They argued that the Israeli presence in the West Bank was unique, sui generis, because there was no previously recognized sovereign there when it was captured by the IDF during the Six-Day War in 1967. The Jordanian declaration of sovereignty in 1950 had been rejected by the Arab states and the international community, as a whole, except for Britain and Pakistan.
  • There were other issues that made the Israeli presence in the West Bank unique. With the advent of the Oslo Agreements in the 1990s, there was no longer an Israeli military government over the Palestinian population. With the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, some functions of government were retained by the IDF, other functions were exercised by the Palestinians, and there were also shared powers. True, the Palestinians did not have an independent state, but they could not be considered to be under "occupation" when at the same time they were being ruled first by Yasser Arafat and then by his successor, Mahmoud Abbas.
  • It is instructive to see how the international community looks at far clearer cases of territories that came under military control of foreign forces as a result of armed conflict. The cases of Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara, and the Kuril Islands are open-and-shut cases of foreign occupation under international law and yet in the diplomatic arena the term "occupation" is not formally applied to them. Ironically, in the case of the West Bank, where the Israeli presence is a far more complex legal issue, the term "occupation" has been uncritically applied, even by Israelis.
  • Thus the decision to use the term "occupation" appears to emanate as much from political considerations as it does from any legal analysis - for "occupation" is a term of opprobrium. Those being constantly bombarded by the term "occupation" in Europe undoubtedly make subconscious links between Israeli behavior in the territories and the events of the Second World War. Indeed that is the intention, in many cases, of those adopting this language, despite the fact that such analogies are repulsive to anyone with the least bit of Jewish historical memory.
  • At the end of the day, there is a huge difference in how a compromise will look if Israel's negotiating team comes to the peace table as "foreign occupiers," who took someone else's land, or if they come as a party that also has just territorial claims. If the Palestinians are constantly fed the "occupation" narrative by the international community, their propensity to consider making a real compromise, which is critical for any future agreement, will be close to nil. In fact, this false narrative only reinforces their mistaken belief in the delegitimization campaign against Israel as an alternative to seeking a negotiated settlement of the conflict.

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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