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October 5, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Thousands of Christians March in Jerusalem in Show of Support for Israel (AP-Washington Post)
    Waving blue and white Israeli flags, thousands of evangelical Christians from around the world filled streets of downtown Jerusalem on Thursday in a show of support for the Jewish state during the weeklong Jewish Sukkot holiday.
    Thursday's event was organized by the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem, which also sponsored a conference this week that drew more than 5,000 people from nearly 90 countries, including 25 parliamentarians from various nations.

Meeting of Argentina and Iran Ministers Rankles Israel, U.S. (JTA)
    "The Government of Israel received with great disappointment the news about the Argentine acceptance of a meeting with the Islamic Republic of Iran on a foreign ministers level," the Israeli government said in a statement on Saturday.
    "Iran does not come with clean hands to this dialogue about global terrorist acts."
    Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman, who is Jewish, met on Sep. 27 with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, at the UN in New York to discuss the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community's main complex in Buenos Aires that killed 85 and wounded hundreds.
    Iran is accused of directing the bombing that was carried out by Hizbullah.
    The U.S. government also came out against the talks.
    See also Argentina's Jews Balk at Negotiations with Iran over '94 Bombing - Diego Melamed (JTA)
    Relatives of victims of the deadly bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires and Argentine Jewish leaders are urging their government not to negotiate with Iran.

Egypt's Hardline Islamist Party Unravels (AP-Washington Post)
    A fight for leadership could paralyze the Al-Nour Party, which became Egypt's second most powerful political force, winning a quarter of the seats in the legislature, second only to the Muslim Brotherhood's 50%.
    "The party is exploding from inside," Mohammed Habib, who was once a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, said of Al-Nour.
    "In the street, it has lost its credibility. People see clerics who they used to see as men of God engaging in earthy disputes." 

U.S. Freezes Assets of Lebanese Groups Supporting Hamas (Reuters)
    The U.S. on Thursday imposed asset freezes on two Lebanese charities that fundraise for Hamas: Al-Waqfiya and Al-Quds International.
    It is not known whether the two charities hold U.S. assets.

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U.S. Film Protests Bring Boom for Pakistan Flag Makers (AFP)
    As Pakistan's mullahs railed against a U.S.-made anti-Islam film, Naveed Haider's print works in Rawalpindi went into overdrive, running off hundreds of U.S. flags for angry protesters to burn at demonstrations.
    "Whenever we have these demonstrations, I make 10 times as much money as normal," he told AFP.
    With a surge in anti-American feeling in Pakistan, the U.S. has replaced traditional rival India as enemy number one in public opinion, according to the flag-sellers.
    Asim, 22, a waiter in a seafood restaurant, says he has set four U.S. flags alight in a month. "It brings me such pleasure," he adds.
    Protests against the film have led to more than 50 deaths across the Muslim world.

Poster: Israel Loves America (Elder of Ziyon)
    There is one Middle Eastern country where citizens don't burn American flags.

The Dead Sea Is Sinking Fast - Zafrir Rinat (Ha'aretz)
    Over the last year the level of the Dead Sea has gone down by 1.5 meters (over 4.5 feet), the sharpest decline in its recorded history.
    Dams built by Israel, Jordan and Syria have cut off all the sea's main water sources. The sea today is almost 30 meters lower than it was 30 years ago.
    Israel and Jordan, with the cooperation of the World Bank, are working on a plan to save the Dead Sea by replenishing it with water from the Red Sea. But even if the project comes to fruition, its effects won't be felt for many years.
    See also World War I Weapons Found at Dead Sea as Waters Recede - Lenny Ben-David (Israel Daily Picture)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Dismisses Iran Plan on Nuclear Crisis - David E. Sanger
    Iranian officials have begun to describe what they call a "nine-step plan" to defuse the nuclear crisis with the West by gradually suspending the production of 20%-enriched uranium. But the plan requires so many concessions by the West, starting with the dismantling of all sanctions, that American officials have dismissed it as unworkable.
        Obama administration officials say the deal is intended to generate headlines, but would not guarantee that Iran cannot produce a weapon. "The way they have structured it, you can move the fuel around, and it stays inside the country," a senior Obama administration official said. "They could restart the program in a nanosecond. They don't have to answer any questions from the inspectors" about evidence that they conducted research on nuclear weapons technology, but nonetheless would insist on a statement from the agency that all issues have been resolved. "Yet we're supposed to lift sanctions that would take years to reimpose."
        Under the American vision, Iran would halt all production of its 20%-enriched uranium immediately, ship the existing stockpile out of the country and close the underground Fordow plant. (New York Times)
  • As Iran Currency Keeps Tumbling, Anxiety Is Rising - Thomas Erdbrink
    After a week in which the Iranian currency, the rial, fell by 40%, in the Iranian capital it is all anyone talks about. While only a few people actually need to exchange the rial for foreign currency, its fall has sharply raised the prices of most staples. (New York Times)
        See also Food Prices, Inflation Rise Sharply in Iran - Joby Warrick and James Ball
    Prices for beef and lamb had already soared out of reach for middle-class Iranians. But when the cost of yogurt spiked this week, Iran's economic troubles hit home for virtually every household in the country. Calm was reported Thursday in the capital after protests Wednesday, as security forces patrolled key intersections and presided over mostly empty stalls in the city's largest street bazaar. But Iran's currency remained at near-historic lows.
        While the International Monetary Fund last year estimated Iran's foreign-currency reserves at $80 billion, Gary Hufbauer, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the market turmoil is likely a sign that the regime has spent that down. He estimates that Iran's reserves have dropped by 50% or more. The collapsing exchange rate and shortages of goods could be countered, Hufbauer said, only by using some of that hard currency to stop the run on the rial. The fact that it continues, he said, is evidence the government does not want to let go of the reserve money it has on hand. (Washington Post)
  • West Seizes on Iran's Currency Woes - Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman
    The U.S. and Europe are working on new coordinated measures intended to accelerate the recent plunge of Iran's currency and drain its foreign-exchange reserves, according to officials from the Obama administration, U.S. Congress and EU. A stepped-up sanctions campaign would include a ban on Iranian natural-gas exports and tighter restrictions on transactions with Tehran's central bank, European officials said. The U.S. and EU are also considering moves to block all export and import transactions through Iran's banking system.
        U.S. officials believe that the widening financial penalties on Iran are making it harder for Iran's central bank to gain access to as much as 30% of its reserves, which are invested overseas. Outside economists now estimate inflation is running as high as 70% annually. (Wall Street Journal)
  • 21 Syrian Republican Guards Killed Near Damascus
    An explosion followed by an exchange of fire with rebels in Qudsaya, west of Damascus, on Thursday left at least 21 members of Syria's elite Republican Guards dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. (AFP)
  • Jordan's King Abdullah Dissolves Parliament Ahead of Elections
    Jordan's King Abdullah on Thursday dissolved the country's parliament to pave the way for elections expected early next year. The announcement was made on the eve of a rally on Friday organized by the main Islamist opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, is threatening to boycott the elections unless its demands for wider representation are met. (Reuters)
        See also Jordan Bracing for Protests - David Schenker (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Citizen Kills Eilat Hotel Worker, Then Shot by Police - Yanir Yagna
    An American citizen in his 20s stole a firearm from a security guard at the Leonardo Club Hotel and killed a fellow hotel worker on Friday. The shooter was later killed by police during an exchange of gunfire. Army Radio reported that the shooter was recently fired from his job. Police spokesman Doron Ben-Amo said: "The event was strictly of a criminal nature. Initial investigations point to a conflict between two workers, over money."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Jerusalem Court: Jews Should Be Allowed to Pray on Temple Mount - Oz Rosenberg
    Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Judge Malka Aviv said Wednesday that the police should allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. The High Court of Justice has previously ruled that policy on the Temple Mount is the sole purview of the police. Police currently enforce a Muslim ban on Jewish prayer at the site, citing security concerns.
        "There is room to allow for Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount," said the judge during a remand hearing for Hagai Weiss, who was arrested on suspicion of trying to pray at the site. "The [police] explanation that Muslims don't approve of Jews praying on the Temple Mount cannot, in and of itself, prevent Jews from fulfilling their religious obligations and praying on the Temple Mount." She said Jewish prayer should be permitted on the Temple Mount "in a structured fashion, in a place designated for it," that would maintain the security of Jewish worshipers.
        Israel gained control of the Temple Mount in the Six-Day War in 1967, but decided to leave the administration of the mount in the hands of the Jerusalem Wakf, or Islamic trust, which bans non-Muslim worship in the compound. Fifteen Jews have been arrested over the past few days for trying to pray on the Temple Mount. (Ha'aretz)
  • France Signs Agreement with "East Jerusalem," Bypassing Israel - Elhanan Miller
    The Regional Council of Ile-de-France announced its approval on Sep. 28 of a "cooperation agreement" with the Palestinian Authority district of Jerusalem, making it "the first French community to sign an agreement of cooperation with the Arab part of the holy city."
        A spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry responded that east Jerusalem "does not exist" as a separate entity and that the French council was "living in a make-believe world." Israel extended its sovereignty to the entire city of Jerusalem following the Six-Day War of 1967, and does not recognize the PA's Jerusalem district. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel, Palestinians Cooperate on Gaza High-Speed Internet - Tovah Lazaroff
    For two days hostilities ceased along a half kilometer stretch of the Gaza fence as workers wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets lay 15 km. of new optical cables in an area that faces an almost daily barrage of mortars and rockets from Gaza. The new infrastructure will support high speed Internet service for Gaza. "This is Israel's answer to the hundreds of mortars, to connect the people in Gaza to the world," said IDF Maj. Adam Avidan. He added that Israel was fighting terrorists in Gaza, not its civilians. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • West Should Be Wary of Playing Turkey's Game in Syria - Con Coughlin
    Before NATO gets too carried away with committing itself to Turkey's defense, alliance leaders would do well to consider Prime Minister Erdogan's less-than-altruistic reasons for seeking a change in the way Damascus is governed. Before the recent wave of Arab uprisings hit the Middle East, Erdogan's main focus was to develop better relations with the ayatollahs in Tehran. He was forced to abandon this policy only after it became clear that he could no longer tolerate the survival of the Assad regime, which happens to be Iran's most important regional ally.
        To compensate, Erdogan has made a point of befriending Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood president. Like Morsi, the Turkish leader would be happy to see the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria emerge as the eventual victors, a development which would lead to the establishment of a network of Islamist governments - a "Sunni arc" from North Africa to the eastern Mediterranean. It is highly questionable whether such an outcome would benefit Western interests. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Waiting for Turkey's Apology - Gerald M. Steinberg
    The Turkish government's forceful response to the killing of five of its citizens in an artillery barrage fired by Syrian government forces is understandable. In the wake of this attack and the swift response, surely the Turkish government will understand and support the Israeli response to far more violent attacks on its civilian population in order to stop the thousands of deadly rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
        Instead of demanding an apology from Israel for the unfortunate events related to the 2010 "Free Gaza" flotilla, Prime Minister Erdogan might consider apologizing to Israel for his unjustified and vitriolic attacks. The writer is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor. (Times of Israel)
  • The End of Jordan as We Know It? - Oded Eran
    Jordan is engaged in a domestic political battle that must be seen as part of the Arab awakening sweeping the region. King Abdullah II can probably manage the domestic problems by wielding a velvet fist - that is, the judicious use of power, the careful management of economic means, and the implementation of political reforms. Israel's preference must be the political stability and continuity of the present regime in Jordan. The writer served as Israel's ambassador to Jordan (19972000) and as director of the Institute for National Security Studies (20082011). (Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Jordan's Election Law: Reform or Perish? - Ehud Yaari
    While the reform movement in Jordan has not requested regime change, it seeks profound constitutional reforms that would strip the King of Jordan of his executive and legislative authorities. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Gutter Anti-Semitism at the Free Gaza Movement - Walter Russell Mead
    The Free Gaza Movement wants you to think that it is a group of humanitarians. But its co-founder and board chair, Greta Berlin, is a conscious propagandist of anti-Semitic hate. On Sunday, the Free Gaza Movement posted a link to a video on its Twitter feed entitled: "Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews." Greta Berlin linked the video on her Facebook page. This is not anti-Zionism or defense of Palestinian rights. It is gutter anti-Semitism. (American Interest)
  • New Book Portends Crisis, Possible Revolt in Saudi Arabia - Bruce Riedel
    A timely new book, On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future by Karen Elliot House, presents an ominous picture of a country seething with internal tensions and anger. 60% of Saudis are 20 or younger, most of whom have no hope of a job. 70% of Saudis cannot afford to own a home. 40% live below the poverty line.
        The royals, 25,000 princes and princesses, own most of the valuable land and benefit from a system that gives each a stipend and some a fortune. 8.5 million foreign workers make the kingdom work.
        The Saudi state will soon face an unprecedented succession challenge. Since the death of ibn Saud in 1953, succession has moved only among his sons. Now they are all old, ill and few in number. Soon the kingdom will have to pick a grandson of ibn Saud and there is no agreed formula for how to do so other than that the last of the current line will choose from his own sons. Revolution in Saudi Arabia is no longer unthinkable. (Al Monitor)

Israeli Development Teams in 110 Countries - Guy Seemann (Jerusalem Post)

  • Israeli development teams operated in some 110 countries in 2011 including Haiti, Nepal, El Salvador, Malawi, Chad, and East Timor, through two NGOs - Tevel B'Tzedek and IsraAid.
  • In Haiti, the Israeli NGOs run a multifaceted medical clinic, originally set up in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Today, the clinic has grown and serves as an education center for Haitian medical personnel; a public health facility providing daily lessons on everything from cholera prevention to malnutrition; a center focusing on diabetes and hypertension; and most importantly, a family clinic where people know the doctor, know the nurses and have a file on record.
  • The clinic has become a hub of knowledge, handling those who need special treatment, and providing free medication once a patient has paid their visit fees.
  • The second project in Haiti is a unique initiative to assist local farmers. An Israeli agronomist is partnered with a Haitian agronomist. Crops are irrigated with an inexpensive gravity water-drip system. Farmers are taught about fertilizers, compost, storage, and nursery care. We help them develop a yearlong growing season made up of half a dozen crops, where before they were only growing one or two crops over three to four months.
  • A Haitian organization provides no-interest loans for one year in order to purchase our locally-designed farming kit that includes everything you could possibly need to start your own farm, at a total cost of $900. Farmers can multiply their yearly earnings by up to 20, and are able to pay off the loan within six months. This model has been so successful that the Haitian President's Office would like us to replicate it on a large scale.

    The writer is the country director for Israel's development mission to Haiti.
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