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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
January 2, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Armed Masked Fatah Men March near Bethlehem - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    A video posted online shows dozens of masked men taking part in a march marking 48 years since Fatah's inception.
    The men are marching at the Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem carrying knives, axes, clubs and rifles. Two men were seen carrying a model of a rocket.
    Palestinian security forces were not present at the scene.

Bahrain Uprising Was "Hijacked" by Iran - Sandeep Singh Grewal (Gulf Daily News-Bahrain)
    Bahrain's uprising was "hijacked" by Iran which continues to pose a threat to regional security, according to a new study by Yenus Rahman published in the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS).
    The study explores how the Bahraini movement, which initially had true democratic demands, was taken over by extremists linked to Hizbullah and Iran in a bid to interfere in the internal affairs of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Al-Qaeda in Yemen Offers 3 Kg. of Gold for Murder of U.S. Ambassador (AP-Fox News)
    Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen is offering a bounty of 3 kg. of gold, worth $160,000, to anyone who kills Gerald M. Feierstein, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen.
    The group said it will pay $23,000 to anyone who kills an American soldier.
    The bounties were set to "inspire and encourage our Muslim nation for jihad," the al-Qaeda statement said.

Egypt Interrogates Israeli in Sinai (AFP-Al-Arabiya)
    "An Israel man was arrested on Monday in Taba on suspicion of espionage," an Egyptian judicial source told AFP. Egyptian prosecutors were interrogating the man on Tuesday in Nuweiba.
    See also Friends of Israeli Held in Egypt Insist He's a Peace Activist - Gilad Morag (Ynet News)
    Friends of Andre Pshenichnikov, 24, the Israeli national who was arrested on Friday in Sinai, said Tuesday that he is not a spy, "just a peace activist."

Gaza Sees Tourism Boom - Doron Peskin (Ynet News)
    Gaza sources are reporting on a tourism boom that has not been seen in years, and high occupancy rates in local hotels.
    Some 130 solidarity delegations from Arab and Islamic countries involving 5,000 visitors have arrived in Gaza in the past month, boosting the local tourist sector.

Israeli Peppers Discovered in South Lebanon Grocery - Mohammed Zaatari (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    While shopping at Spinneys in Sidon on Tuesday, a man discovered a bag of three kinds of peppers made in Israel. He immediately contacted local authorities who in turn contacted the Lebanese Army.
    Members of military intelligence and police discovered 13 similar bags with the word "Israel" printed on the sales tag.
    Spinneys had a similar incident ten years ago when shoppers discovered mugs made in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Clashes Shut Down Aleppo Airport in Syria
    Clashes between government troops and rebels on Tuesday forced the international airport in Aleppo to stop all flights in and out of Syria's largest city, while fierce battles also raged in the suburbs of the capital Damascus. Rebels have warned that they would target civilian as well as military planes using Aleppo airport, saying the regime is using civilian planes to bring in supplies and weapons.
        There was heavy fighting in the Damascus suburb of Daraya, which is near the strategic military air base of Mazzeh. Syrian warplanes bombed Daraya on Tuesday. Daraya is also on the edge of the Kfar Sousseh neighborhood that is home to the government headquarters, the General Security intelligence agency head office and the Interior Ministry. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also 46,068 Deaths in Syrian Civil War - Ben Brumfield and Yousuf Basil (CNN)
  • Egypt Cracks Down on Satirists and Media
    Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian satirist who has made fun of President Mohamed Morsi on television, will be investigated by prosecutors following an accusation that he undermined the leader's standing, a judicial source has said. Youssef rose to fame with a satirical online program that has been compared to Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" in the U.S.
        In a separate case, the independent daily al-Masry al-Youm is being investigated by the prosecutor following a complaint from the presidency accusing it of "spreading false news representing a danger to civil peace, public security and affecting the presidency."  (Al Jazeera)
        See also In Egypt, Young Revolutionaries Feeling Despair - Reem Abdellatif (Los Angeles Times)
  • Iran Blasts Obama for Law Aimed at Countering Its Influence in Latin America
    Iran has blasted President Obama for enacting a law aimed at countering Tehran's influence in Latin America. "It is an overt intervention in Latin American affairs...that shows they are not familiar with new world relations," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday. The U.S., he said, still "considers Latin America as its back yard."  (Al Jazeera)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Hamas Could Replace PA in West Bank If Peace Deal Rushed
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday warned against rushing into a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority, saying that the PA regime in the West Bank could potentially be overthrown and replaced by Hamas following an accord. Netanyahu said that Israel must avoid allowing a "third Iranian terror base in the heart of the country," stating that peace will only come once security is assured. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Prevents Large-Scale Smuggling of Weapons into Gaza - Amir Rapaport
    Western sources have revealed that Egypt has prevented three instances of large-scale smuggling of weapons into Gaza (two from Libya and one from Iran through Sudan) since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November, as part of Egyptian-U.S. coordination agreed upon in discussions involving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two days before the end of the operation. The agreement includes intelligence cooperation and U.S. technological measures being made available for Egyptian use in order to counter the smuggling of weapons. (Israel Defense)
  • Israel Presses Case for EU Ban on Hizbullah - Benjamin Weinthal
    The Israeli government is redoubling its efforts to convince the EU to outlaw Hizbullah because of the Lebanese group's record of terrorism. Israel's new case involves showing Hizbullah's role in the 2005 murder of Lebanese president Rafik Hariri, based on evidence culled from the international tribunal that investigated the bombing. Israel is also slated to reveal documentary material about Hizbullah's role in destabilizing Syria and joining forces with Bashar Assad's regime, as well as Hizbullah's narcotics and money-laundering operations. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Democracy at Work in Israel - Walter Russell Mead
    Last week a politically marginal Arab Palestinian activist had her political rights upheld when a panel of nine judges on Israel's Supreme Court overruled a decision by the Central Elections Committee to disqualify Haneen Zoabi from seeking re-election as a member of the Israeli parliament. The committee's decision was based on her participation in a flotilla attempting to breach the blockade of Gaza in 2010.
        The vindication of her right to run for office is a heartening sign that Israel's democratic institutions continue to work. How many of the European countries who constantly upbraid Israel would maintain the same level of freedom under the same kind of pressure that Israel faces? Not many, we suspect. How many of Israel's enemies are this scrupulous in protecting civil rights?
        How does Israel's treatment of its Arab minority contrast with the fates of national and religious minorities (like the Kurds, the Copts and the Berbers) in the Arab world? Israel's tolerance for opposition and forceful criticism is one of its greatest strengths and is a signal to the whole world about the remarkable nature of this society. (American Interest)
  • Syria Isn't America's Fault - Aaron David Miller
    The idea that Syria was anyone's to win or lose, or that the U.S. could significantly shape the outcome there, is typical of the arrogant paternalism and flawed analysis that have gotten this country into heaps of trouble in the Middle East over the years. Since this conflict began in early 2011, all of the military options for intervention have been heavily skewed toward risk rather than reward. The Assad regime had firepower, allies (Russia and China blocking actions in the UN Security Council; Iran supplying money and weapons), determination to do whatever it took to survive, and succeeded in keeping much of the Alawite military, security and intelligence forces intact.
        To blame this crisis on Washington is to fail to understand the cruel nature of the Syrian tragedy and the limits of U.S. power and our national priorities. The U.S. is coming out of the two longest wars in its history, in which the standard for victory was never "can we win?" but "when can we leave?" The writer is vice president for current initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Washington Post)
  • Gaining a Clearer View of the Syrian Civil War - Christoph Reuter
    By late autumn 2012, tens of thousands of rebels were fighting against the Assad regime, but they didn't match the cliched image of the fearless super-terrorist, heavily bearded and always ready for action. Likewise, the 200 to 300 Libyans who were in northern Syria in September came not to establish an Islamic state, but to topple their next dictator. There are also dozens of Iraqi Sunnis fighting on the rebels' side, for example around the city of Deir el-Zour near the Iraqi border, and they are the ones most likely to have connections to al-Qaeda's former Iraqi presence.
        Two groups identifying themselves as fundamentalists have also cropped up in Aleppo: "Ahrar al-Sham," which translates as "Free Men of Syria," and the "Al-Nusra Front." Both groups work together with the FSA, but operate outside its command structure. The two groups each include around 50 foreigners in their ranks - Dagestanis, Tajiks, Pakistanis, Tunisians, Libyans, Iraqis, Yemenis, Saudis, Turks - most of whom met in Egypt at a year-long program for Islamic preachers.
        What these foreigners in Aleppo have in common, says one member of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, is less a hatred of Assad than a conviction that they must fight against all Shiites, whom they consider traitors to Sunni Islam. "When this is over," the man says, "they want to continue on and fight against Hizbullah."  (Der Spiegel-Germany)

Overheated Rhetoric on Israeli Settlements - Editorial (Washington Post)

  • Two mistaken but widely held notions regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace are that the settlements are the principal obstacle to a deal and that further construction will make a Palestinian state impossible.
  • Following the 1993 Oslo accords, Prime Minister Netanyahu's government, like several before it, has limited building almost entirely to areas that both sides expect Israel to annex through territorial swaps in an eventual settlement. For example, the Jerusalem neighborhoods where new construction was announced last month were conceded to Israel by Palestinian negotiators in 2008.
  • Overall, the vast majority of the nearly 500,000 settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank live in areas close to Israel's 1967 borders. Data compiled by the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace show that more than 80% of them could be included in Israel if the country annexed just 4% of the West Bank.
  • Diplomats were most concerned by Netanyahu's decision to allow planning and zoning - but not yet construction - in a four-mile strip of territory known as E-1 that lies between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim, a settlement with a population of more than 40,000. Israel wants to prevent Ma'ale Adumim - which will almost certainly be annexed to Israel in any peace deal - from being isolated.
  • This is a difficult issue that should be settled at the negotiating table, but Netanyahu's zoning approval is hardly the "almost fatal blow" to a two-state solution that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described.
  • The exaggerated rhetoric puts pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make a "freeze" on the construction a condition for beginning peace talks, a demand which has prevented negotiations for most of the past four years. If Security Council members are really interested in progress toward Palestinian statehood, they will press Abbas to stop using settlements as an excuse for intransigence - and cool their own overheated rhetoric.

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