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December 21, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Religious Leader: Western Wall in Jerusalem Is Part of Al-Aqsa Mosque (Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades-Hamas)
    Sheikh Dr. Ikrima Sa'id Sabri, head of the Supreme Islamic Council and the Al Aqsa Mosque preacher, stressed on Wednesday that the western wall (sic) was not and will never be a Jewish property.
    Sheikh Sabri stressed that the western wall, including the Buraq Wall, is an integral part of the Al Aqsa Mosque.

UN Sanctions Iran Firms that Shipped Arms to Syria (Reuters)
    A UN Security Council committee on Thursday imposed sanctions on two Iranian firms that violated a UN arms embargo on Tehran by shipping weapons to the Syrian government.
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said: "These companies - Yas Air and SAD Import Export Company - were responsible for shipping ammunition, assault rifles, machine guns, mortar shells and other arms from Iran to Syria."
    "The committee's decision underscores the growing international concern over Iran's use of the transportation and shipping sectors as a means to export arms and conduct other illicit activities in violation of UN sanctions."

Outrage in Damascus after Israeli Reporters Enter Syria (France 24)
    Two Israeli journalists have returned from an undercover reporting mission to Syria in news that has been picked up by the Damascus regime.
    Itay Angel and Amir Tivon, two reporters for Israel's Channel 2 TV, entered Syria via Turkey. Their report, broadcast Monday, covered the rebel-held Idlib region.
    The report was relayed on Syrian state TV, as well as on Hizbullah's al-Manar network.

Useful Reference:

Poll: Views of the Israeli Public on Israeli Security and Resolution of the Arab-Israeli Conflict - Dec. 2012 (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Dahaf Institute)

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Will Morsi Go the Way of Mubarak? - David Rosenberg (Ha'aretz)
    Egypt is going Islamist and it's doing so according to all the democratic rules. For all the flaws of Egypt's nascent democracy, the Islamists won fair and square.
    The narrative that developed at Tahrir Square was that the revolution was sparked by years of repressive rule by a population yearning to breathe free.
    But when it came time to choose a new leader the voters preferred an Islamist or a holdover from the old regime, neither of whom are paragons of democracy or liberty.
    Yet Egypt's disastrous economy is more likely to undo Morsi than is resistance to an increasingly repressive Islamic rule.
    Egypt is in far worse shape than before the revolution. Foreign currency reserves last month stood at just over $15 billion, down from $36 billion on the eve of the revolution.
    In the face of opposition, Morsi retracted plans last week to raise taxes to help cover the deficit and put off taking an IMF loan.
    Under Mubarak, growth averaged 5.1% in the last half decade. Economic growth slowed to 2.6% in the third quarter of 2012.
    But Egypt's economy needs to grow at a 7% rate just to provide jobs for those entering the workforce every year.

Is Twitter Above the Law? - David Brog (Roll Call)
    Twitter must certainly recognize that not everyone is entitled to the privilege of a Twitter account.
    If a Mexican drug cartel used the site to brag about its latest mass beheadings, I suspect that Twitter would shut them down.
    So why is Twitter allowing a terrorist group with American blood on its hands to operate freely on its service?
    The military wing of Hamas - the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades - uses a twitter account to threaten Israeli civilians and brag about the missiles they fire at Israeli population centers.
    We are not talking about law-abiding citizens who sympathize with Hamas. Such independent advocacy is clearly and completely protected by the First Amendment. What we are talking about here is a page run by the terrorists themselves.
    The U.S. government has designated Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. It is illegal for any U.S. company to provide "material support" to such an organization.
    The writer is executive director of Christians United for Israel.

Hunting for the Perfect (JNF) Christmas Tree - in Israel - Ben Sales (JTA)
    Jewish National Fund forests in Israel are selling subsidized Christmas trees this week for $20.
    JNF's director of VIP ceremonies and protocol, Andy Michelson, estimates that individuals, embassies and Israeli churches will buy nearly 1,000 trees this year.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinians Aim to Isolate Israel - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    Palestinian officials are plotting a series of tough steps against Israel. Emboldened by their newly upgraded status at the United Nations, the Palestinians are talking of filing war crimes charges against Israel, staging mass demonstrations in the West Bank, encouraging the international community to impose sanctions, and ending the security cooperation that has helped preserve quiet in recent years. "There will be no security cooperation as long as there is no political horizon," said Mohammed Ishtayeh, a Palestinian cabinet minister. The Palestinians also talk of increasing the "popular struggle," a term they use for demonstrations against Israeli soldiers.
        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, said: "One would hope we will in fact see in 2013 the re-emergence of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process. There is no substitute for direct talks. You're not going to make peace in resolutions at the United Nations or other international forums."  (AP)
        See also Israel: Palestinians Seeking Confrontation - Itamar Eichner
    "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking to incite a confrontation with Israel no matter what," the Israel Foreign Ministry said Friday, following the Palestinian leader's announcement that the PA will actively try to isolate Israel in the international community. "The 'new rules' the Palestinians are talking about are no different than the old rules that have always brought upon conflict, hatred, violence and their defeat," ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
        "The Palestinians' tragedy is that instead of dedicating efforts to building themselves, they are focusing on trying to harm Israel. Instead of building their future, they are immersed in attempts to ruin ours. This strategy has led to nothing but failure after failure for them. They continue digging in their heels out of some delusional, suicidal power drunkenness."  (Ynet News)
  • Syria Unleashes Cluster Bombs on Town, Punishing Civilians - C. J. Chivers
    The plane released its weapons over the town of Marea in Syria on Dec. 12 and within seconds, scores of finned bomblets struck and exploded on its homes and narrow streets. The staff at the local hospital counted 4 dead and 23 wounded, all civilians. The victims of the cluster bomb attacks describe the tactic as collective punishment, a mass reprisal against populations that are with the rebels. The town is the home of Abdulkader al-Saleh, a prominent rebel field commander in the Aleppo region.
        In the attack, at least three dispensers, each containing 42 bomblets slightly smaller than a one-liter bottle and packed with a high-explosive shaped charge, were dropped squarely onto neighborhoods and homes. (New York Times)
        See also Syria Fires More Scud Missiles at Rebels - Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Calls on UN Security Council to Condemn Rearming of Hizbullah
    Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor urged the Security Council on Thursday to condemn Hizbullah's significant rearming in clear violation of a UN arms embargo. Prosor said an explosion at a weapons depot in the southern Lebanese town of Tair Harfa on Monday was "yet another reminder to the world about the grave danger before our eyes in Lebanon."
        "In flagrant breach of (Security Council) Resolution 1701, Hizbullah has built its arsenal to unprecedented levels, amassing 50,000 deadly missiles in Lebanon - more missiles than many NATO members have in their possession," he said.
        "I call on the Security Council and all responsible members of the international community to send a clear signal that Hizbullah's rapid rearmament will not be tolerated - backed by concrete steps on the ground. A logical first step is to ensure that Hizbullah is placed on relevant terrorism watch lists in all corners of the globe, including in the European Union."  (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
  • Israel, Egypt Hold Quiet Talks over New Gaza Policy - Herb Keinon
    Israel and Egypt are carrying on discussions in Cairo that could lead to the further easing of restrictions on Gaza and prevent a swift rearming of Hamas, an Israeli government official confirmed on Thursday. An official said Israel had a keen interest in cultivating a serious dialogue with the new regime in Egypt. "If by moving forward on civilian issues in Gaza, we are able to strengthen the cease-fire there and engage the Egyptians in a positive way, then that, of course, would be advantageous."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Dennis Ross: If Diplomacy Fails, Be Sure the U.S. Will Attack Iran - Shlomo Cesana
    If diplomacy fails to stop Iran's nuclear program, the U.S. will use military force, Dennis Ross, a former top adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, said on Wednesday in Jerusalem. "If we do everything we can but it doesn't succeed, are we prepared to live with an Iran that has a capability and then contain it afterwards, or do we believe that the acquisition of that capability is so profoundly threatening to our interests that we really can't live with it and we have to prevent it?"
        "When President Obama says 'I don't bluff,' I think he means what he says. If diplomacy doesn't work, we have to be prepared to use force, and I think we will be."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • At the UN: Nine Resolutions Against Israel, Silence about Syrian Attacks on Palestinians - Elliott Abrams
    On Dec. 18, the UN General Assembly adopted nine resolutions against Israel. Perhaps the most striking event in the Middle East this past week was the attack on a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. At the Yarmouk camp, roughly 100,000 Palestinians are said to have fled after air strikes that killed dozens of people. On this, the General Assembly is silent, while it repeats its litany of complaints against Israel.
        The logical conclusion is that the UNGA isn't interested in Palestinians except as a weapon with which to attack Israel. When someone else acts, and actually attacks Palestinians, that's too bad but isn't of widespread interest. The writer is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the CFR. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Hamas' Hard Line - Editorial
    If you were hoping that Hamas might be persuaded to support a two-state solution, the message this month of Khaled Meshaal, the top leader of Hamas, was: Forget it. He, at least, will apparently not be satisfied with a West Bank and Gaza state, and continues to insist that all of Israel belongs to the Palestinians.
        That's outrageous, irresponsible and deeply depressing, even from the leader of a well-known terrorist organization, because Hamas is not just a militant fringe group but actually runs Gaza and has significant support among Palestinians. (Los Angeles Times)
  • What Is Behind Salam Fayyad's Call for an "Economic Intifada"? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, this week called for an economic intifada against Israel in response to Israel's decision to seize tax revenues belonging to the PA in order to cover Palestinian debts to the Israel Electric Company. Many Palestinians refuse to pay water, electricity and other bills because they believe the international community should be covering all their expenses. Others refuse to pay because they believe the money eventually falls into the hands of corrupt PA officials.
        Fayyad is hoping that by calling for an economic intifada, he will succeed in diverting growing anger and frustration on the Palestinian street towards the Israelis. This has always been the PA's way of avoiding responsibility for anything that goes wrong. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Israeli Construction

  • Building Blocs - Editorial
    All Israeli governments have backed building in Jewish east Jerusalem and in the large settlement blocs. A majority of Israelis have viewed Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem such as Pisgat Ze'ev, Gilo and Ramat Shlomo as an integral part of the state since they came into Israeli control in the wake of the Six-Day War. Large settlements such as Efrat, Ariel and Maale Adumim are seen as remaining a part of Israel in any two-state solution reached with the Palestinians.
        While a strong majority of Israelis has consistently supported a two-state solution for well over a decade, Palestinians both in Gaza and the West Bank have remained unwavering in their irredentism and if anything have grown more extreme in their rejection of a Jewish state existing anywhere in "Palestine."
        It is Palestinian intransigence, not Jewish building in consensus Jerusalem neighborhoods and settlement blocs, that is the real obstacle to a negotiated peace and a two-state solution. Most Israelis understand this. Perhaps one day the world will understand it, too. (Jerusalem Post)
  • To the Media, Building Settlements in Israel's a Crime - Michelle Whiteman
    Whatever one's opinion about the wisdom of building in disputed areas, the Oslo Accords do not prohibit Israel from building homes or "settlements." According to international law, the status of the settlements is "disputed," though the media routinely defines it as "occupied Palestinian territory." Abbas recently acknowledged the disputed status when he admitted going the UN route was meant to transform the Palestinian territories from the status of disputed lands to a state under occupation.
        Abbas has also acknowledged that settlements take up approximately 1.1% of the pre-1967 West Bank territory. Yet the media reinforced the fable that settlements "eat away at land meant for a future Palestinian state."
        The firestorm over building in the E1 corridor is particularly instructive of the double standard applied to Israel. E1 is in Area C which, by virtue of the Oslo Accords, allows Israel to retain full control of the area. This includes zoning and planning. E1 construction plans include a new Palestinian bypass road which would actually decrease, rather than impede, the driving time in the north-south direction. In addition, without E1, Israel's own contiguity would be compromised. But expect to continue reading all about how building homes in 1.1% of the West Bank puts a wrench to all hope of peace. The writer is Regional Director for HonestReporting Canada. (Huffington Post-Canada)
  • Jews in the Judean Desert? - Clifford D. May
    Israel is considering building homes on barren hills adjacent to Jerusalem. The E1 area covers 4.6 square miles. For the sake of comparison, Denver International Airport is 53 square miles. E1 lies within a territory that has a much older name: the Judean Desert. Might Jews think they have a legitimate historical claim to the Judean Desert?
        Developing E1 would help in the defense of Jerusalem, and would connect Jerusalem to Maale Adumim, an Israeli town with a population of 40,000. It has been widely reported that if Israel should build in E1, the possibility of a two-state solution would be shattered. But the New York Times later published a correction stating that building in E1 "would not divide the West Bank in two," nor would it cut off the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem from Jerusalem. Anyone looking at a map would see that. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Review)
  • EU Detached from Reality over E1 - Yochanan Visser
    Reading the EU Foreign Affairs Council statement issued last week about the "Middle East Peace Process" brings to light that the EU obviously bases its policy on information from Palestinian sources or from NGOs affiliated with the Palestinians.
        The EU even claimed that the E1 plan "could entail the forced transfer of civilian population." E1 is an area almost empty of residents. The only Palestinians living there are illegally dwelling in the area, which has been the scene of relentless illegal Palestinian building and land grabs by Bedouin tribes. Building in E1 will not threaten the contiguity of a Palestinian state because east of Maale Adumim at least 15 km. of land remains to connect the north West Bank to the south. (Ynet News)

  • Other Issues

  • Hizbullah Doubles Down as its Allies in Syria Collapse - Michael Young
    In a speech last Sunday, Hizbullah's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, affirmed that the rebels fighting the regime of President Assad could not defeat him. As Hizbullah contemplates the possibility of a future without a Syrian ally, it has fallen back on stopgap mechanisms to ensure that it can retain its weapons in a Lebanese society that is not eager to enter into another war with Israel. The party has systematically rejected all calls for its disarmament as unthinkable, knowing that Tehran would regard such a step as betrayal.
        Inside Lebanon, the Sunni community is mobilized, taking its strength from the uprising in Syria. Facing domestic hostility, Hizbullah cannot easily impose a fresh conflict on a Lebanese population that refuses to see its country destroyed on Iran's behalf. Once Assad goes, Hizbullah must adapt, or be isolated in Lebanon as a vestige of an Iranian agenda that many Lebanese will want to cancel. (National-Abu Dhabi)
  • Saturday People, Sunday People - Jennifer Rubin
    Saturday People, Sunday People is a new, mesmerizing book by Lela Gilbert, subtitled "Israel Through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner." Gilbert is able to pierce a number of myths about the Jewish state and find the essence of a country that is not, contrary to the popular perception, consumed by war and death.
        Israel's answer is to defy death by living joyously and intensely. She is transfixed by the celebratory spirit, the national love affair with music and the gritty determination to build, rebuild and thrive in spite of wars, terrorist attacks and, as she vividly describes, shelling by rockets.
        Through personal experience, she demolishes the notion that Israel is an apartheid state. Indeed it is one of the few places in the Middle East in which Arabs and Jews intermingle in everything from politics to shopping. (Washington Post)

How the World Enabled 25 Years of Palestinian Decline - Evelyn Gordon (Commentary)

  • After 25 years of fighting Israel in every possible way, all the Palestinians have to show for it is 25 years of steady decline. Despite massive international aid, Gaza's per capita GDP has remained virtually flat, totaling $817 in 1987 and $876 in 2010.
  • To add insult to injury, neither terror nor diplomatic warfare succeeded in preventing Israel from flourishing over those years. The sadder part of the story is that none of this has managed to persuade the Palestinians that such tactics are self-defeating.
  • Yet the international community has played a crucial role in enabling the Palestinians' counterproductive tactics, cushioning them from the consequences of their bad decisions with more than four times as much per capita aid as any other nation receives. Gaza's situation may not be rosy, but it outranks more than 110 countries in terms of both life expectancy and infant mortality.
  • As long as international aid is keeping them relatively comfortable, Palestinians feel little incentive to change their tactics.
  • Far worse, however, is that by offering the Palestinians almost unstinting diplomatic support while relentlessly criticizing Israel, the world feeds Palestinian fantasies that these tactics will someday succeed - that eventually, the world will force Israel to its knees. So why would Palestinians conclude that they are the ones who need to change their behavior?
  • For all its vaunted concern for the Palestinians, it seems the international community would rather let them suffer another 25 years of steady decline than try to wean them from their failed strategies.
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