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February 1, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israelis: Missiles Were at Syrian Military Base When Aircraft Struck - Sheera Frenkel (McClatchy)
    The anti-aircraft missiles that were the target of an Israeli airstrike on Syria this week were on a military base outside Damascus when they were destroyed, two Israeli intelligence officials said Thursday.
    The base is less than five miles from the Lebanese border. Waiting until the missiles had reached the main Beirut-Damascus highway risked civilian casualties, one said.
    "What is important is that a convoy carrying weapons which would have been very dangerous for Israel was taken out before it could reach its destination in Lebanon."
    "Weapons systems that make our air force vulnerable will not be allowed to fall into the hands of terrorist groups," an Israeli official said.

Satellite Imagery Shows No Signs of Emergency at Iran's Fordo Enrichment Plant - David Albright (Institute for Science and International Security)
    Satellite imagery of Iran's Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant taken the day after a reported explosion shows no signs of damage and no intensified activity.

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Sarkozy Slams Israel at Jewish Group Dinner in Geneva - Joseph Strich (Jerusalem Post)
    Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was paid 150,000 euros for a 45-minute speech in Geneva on Jan. 24, which he dedicated to harsh criticism of Israel, the French newsweekly Le Nouvel Observateur reported Thursday.
    The Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal gala dinner was hosted by the local Jewish community.
    Sarkozy "called on the Jewish diaspora and the international community to put pressure on Israel to force it to restart negotiations with the Palestinians," said the report, emphasizing that "these words didn't please the audience, which was vociferous in its dissatisfaction."

Poll: French Consider Jews "Tolerant," Distrust Islam - Rebecca Benhamou (Times of Israel)
    A survey published Jan. 24 in Le Monde reported that 72% of the French consider Catholicism either "completely" or "fairly" accepting of other groups, with 66% sharing similar attitudes toward Jews, while 74% see Islam as intolerant.

Why France Can't Fight - Editorial (Wall Street Journal Europe)
    The French armed forces field sophisticated fighter jets, nuclear submarines, attack helicopters and armored vehicles. The country spent $52 billion last year on defense, which is more than twice what South Korea, Turkey and Israel spend.
    Yet in its commendable efforts to fight terrorists in Mali, Paris is all but begging for logistical and military support. Independently deploying a brigade-sized force to a country a mere five hours flight-time away is proving a bridge too far.
    On paper France has 230,000 men and women in uniform, but only 30,000 are deployable on six months notice.
    See also France: Europe's Army? - Paul Ames (Global Post)
    French troops have deployed in more than a dozen African missions during the past two decades. Before the Mali deployment, France had 4,750 troops on operations around the world, including 1,650 in Afghanistan, 950 in Chad, 900 in Lebanon, and 460 in Ivory Coast.
    French troops had to hitch rides on British and U.S. heavy transport planes to get to West Africa.

Report: Venezuela Is Spying on its Jews (JTA)
    Venezuela's secret service, SEBIN, is spying on the country's Jewish community. Last week, Analisis24, an Argentinean news website, released 50 documents attributed to the Venezuelan intelligence agency containing private information on prominent Venezuelan Jews, local Jewish organizations, and Israeli diplomats in Latin America.
    The papers include a dossier on Espacio Anna Frank, a coexistence group in Caracas, with clandestinely taken photos of its offices and private information on its personnel, including their home addresses, passport numbers and recent travel itineraries.

Israeli Stops Runaway Bus in New York City - Philip Podolsky (Times of Israel)
    An Israeli became the hero of the day in New York City on Monday after taking over the wheel of a bus when the driver suddenly lost consciousness, managing to bring the runaway vehicle to a halt without serious injuries to any passengers or passersby.
    Guy Preissler, a high-tech entrepreneur living in New York, told Israel Channel 2 News on Thursday: "I gathered that something happened to the driver. I jumped up from my seat and saw he was unconscious. The bus kept colliding with cars parked sideways....I grabbed the steering wheel, spun it around and put the bus back on its course."
    "I tried to move the driver's leg to get to the brake, but couldn't. I saw that we were speedily approaching the cars in front of the bus, as the driver's foot rested on the gas pedal....I managed to move his foot - the bus slowed until it stopped....The driver then regained consciousness."

Gas Flow to Israel from Liquefied Natural Gas Buoy Begins - Kobi Yeshayahou (Globes)
    Israel last week inaugurated its new liquefied natural gas (LNG) buoy with the docking of an LNG tanker and the transfer of its cargo to the national gas pipeline network.
    Within the buoy's first few weeks of operation, it will save Israel NIS 500 million by replacing more expensive diesel fuel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Washington Warns Syria Not to Transfer Weapons to Hizbullah
    The White House warned on Thursday that Syria's government should not transfer arms to Hizbullah in Lebanon. "We've been very clear that Syria should not further destabilize the region by transferring, for instance, weaponry to Hizbullah," said deputy U.S. national security advisor Ben Rhodes. (AFP-Hurriyet-Turkey)
  • Clinton: Iran Sending More People, Weapons to Syria - Indira A.R. Lakshmanan and Nicole Gaouette
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Iran is boosting its support for Syria's President Assad, increasing the number and quality of weapons, and is aiding Hizbullah. "We know that the Iranians are 'all-in' for Assad," Clinton said Thursday. (Bloomberg)
  • Al-Qaeda Affiliate in North Africa Said to Have Sights on Other Western Targets - Greg Miller
    New intelligence on al-Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa indicates that the militant group is seeking to carry out attacks on other Western targets in the region after its deadly assault on a natural gas complex in Algeria, senior U.S. intelligence officials said Thursday. A senior U.S. intelligence official said that new streams of information have surfaced since the assault and that "what we have seen is intelligence suggesting a desire to carry out more attacks." American counterterrorism officials are concerned about the danger posed by a mix of militant groups in North Africa, particularly Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). (Washington Post)
        See also The Islamist Challenge from the Sahel Region and North Africa - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • UN Human Rights Council Probe Ups Anti-Israel Atmosphere - Herb Keinon
    The UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission report on the settlements released Thursday slammed Israel for violating human rights and international law, called for a withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and called for private businesses to terminate their business interests in the settlements.
        The Israel Foreign Ministry responded in a statement: "The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that." From Israel's point of view this is just another step in the Palestinian strategy of confronting Israel in the international diplomatic arena and trying to isolate it. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel: UNHRC Report "Utterly Misguided" - Raphael Ahren
    "The [UNHRC] report is so utterly misguided that it steps widely out of line in recommending a boycott that would harm Palestinians and Israelis alike," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. "The authors seem so enraged that they forget they have no authority on such issues, and their hubris leads them to decree as states, rather than opine as individuals."
        Last March, the UN Human Rights Council decided to "investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem." In response to the UNHRC's over-obsession with Israel, Jerusalem cut all ties with the Geneva-based body, ceasing all cooperation and barring its fact-finders from entering Israeli territory. (Times of Israel)
        See also UN Human Rights Council and NGO Allies Produce Another Politicized Report
    A number of European government-funded NGOs, including Al Haq and Badil, played central roles in creating the framework for the publication of the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission report on Israeli settlements. As with the discredited and biased Goldstone Report, claims made by Israeli, Palestinian and international NGOs serve as the primary sources for the latest UN report. (NGO Monitor)
        See also One-Sided UN Report Ignores Essential Context
    UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said the UN Human Rights Council's latest report is categorically one-sided, denying the slightest consideration to any basic human rights for Israelis. The report disregards the thousands of suicide bombings, knifings, and other terrorist attacks committed by Palestinian Arab groups, failing to acknowledge how this violence brought about Israeli security measures in the territories that did not previously exist.
        By calling for the forced eviction of Jews from Jerusalem's Old City, the UN body endorses a policy inconsistent with UN conventions on the elimination of racism. In the entire history of the HRC, there have been seven one-sided inquiry missions on Israel, and only five on the rest of the world combined. (Canada Free Press)
  • Israel Arrests Cell Plotting to Kidnap IDF Soldier - Yaakov Lappin
    Israeli security forces arrested 20 Palestinian Hamas members in the Hebron area who planned to kidnap an IDF soldier, the Israel Security Agency announced Thursday. Nabil Muhammad Awada, 32, from Dura, who has served time in an Israeli prison for terrorist activities, acted as the cell's chief. Mahmoud Abu Warada, 34, from Fawwar, provided weapons to the cell members. "Large numbers of weapons have been seized in the investigation," the ISA said. Tarek Garaib, 35, from Tarqumia, was in touch with Husaam Badran, a Hamas operative based in Qatar, who was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Why Iran's Nuclear Enrichment Upgrade May Be a "Game Changer" - Peter Grier
    Iran on Jan. 23 notified the International Atomic Energy Agency that it plans to introduce 3,000 upgraded centrifuges at its Natanz facility. "Iran's installation of more efficient centrifuges at Natanz could be a game changer," said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament program at the Institute for Science and International Security, on Thursday.
        Right now Iran uses IR-1 centrifuges based on parts and designs provided by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan - technology from the 1970s. Second-generation IR-2 centrifuges, thought to be based on a later European design, are capable of enriching uranium much faster. The U.S. is concerned that better centrifuges could shorten Iran's break-out time to a nuclear weapon.
        Currently, Iran would require two to four months to produce one weapon's worth of highly enriched uranium, according to an Institute for Science and International Security report last fall. But IR-2 centrifuges work three to four times faster than Iran's current models, which could shave weeks off their break-out time. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Jordan's King Abdullah Won This Round - Oded Eran
    Prior to the parliamentary elections in Jordan on Jan. 23, 2013, King Abdullah II agreed to some changes to the election law, but these were mostly cosmetic and certainly not enough to limit the monarch's power in any significant way.
        Because the Muslim Brotherhood boycotted the election, it is difficult to assess its strength. On two occasions, the opposition tried to rally its supporters to participate in anti-election demonstrations, but the number of protesters fell far below the number expected by the organizers. In another indicator, while the Muslim Brotherhood sought to keep voter turnout low, 70% registered to vote despite the pressure of the opposition.
        At this stage of the domestic power struggle, the King has the upper hand. The fact that 19 women were elected - a new record in Jordanian history - only strengthens the reliability of the election results in the eyes of most Jordanians.
        One may assume that the Muslim Brotherhood's failure to stabilize its rule in Egypt and the horrors of the violence in Syria will limit the power of Jordan's opposition, but the King's future path is hardly rosy. The writer, a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies, is a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and the EU. (INSS-Tel Aviv University)
  • Welcome to the New Arab World - Where No One Really Cares Much about Israel - Jonathan Kay
    For the populations of Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, it as if the Israeli menace were merely an engrossing film that suddenly has come to an abrupt finale. The house lights have come on, and the viewers' minds are returning to the real-life internal problems that have been festering in their autocratic societies for generations.
        While the Western press has spotlighted President Mohamed Morsi's views on Israel, and Jews in general, the whole subject of confronting the Zionists is non-existent as an Egyptian national priority. In the May 2012 presidential debate between former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa and Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, four and half hours passed before the word "Israel" was even mentioned. The Arab Spring has destroyed the cynical Arab political game of funneling all of their population's accumulated hate and frustration at Israel and the Jews.
        I haven't the slightest doubt that anti-Semitism remains rife in these Arab societies, and that solidarity with the Palestinians will continue to guide their posturing at times of war. But current upheavals show that ordinary Arabs now increasingly view Israel as a sideshow. Amid all the death and chaos, that counts as good news. (National Post-Canada)
  • A Scholar Defends Israel from Biased Criticism - Johanna Ginsberg
    Michael Curtis, author of the new book, Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation Under Attack by the International Community, considers the UN to be the most egregious offender of justice where Israel is concerned. "There are 193 nations in the UN but Israel is the one that is picked out incessantly," said Curtis, a distinguished professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University. ""The rest of the world is barely material at all, and that includes places like Syria, Burundi, and Congo....To criticize Israel to the exclusion of other nations is inappropriate."
        "An attack on Israel is an attack on every democratic country, and an attack of this kind eventually leads to attacks on the United States and other democratic counties."  (New Jersey Jewish News)
  • Jerusalem, Capital of Israel: An Islamic Prophecy - Ali Salim
    It is a violation of the will of Allah to sidestep calls for recognizing Jerusalem as the official capital of the Children of Israel, and moving the American embassy there. It ignores the prophecy of the Qur'an, which predicts the return of the Children of Israel to their land from the four corners of the earth, as it is written in Al-Isra, Verse 104: "And we said to the Children of Israel after him, 'Dwell in the land, then, when the final and the last promise comes near, we shall bring you altogether as a mixed crowd.'"
        In the Qur'an the Children of Israel are mentioned countless times and they are mentioned as the Chosen People, as it is written in Al-Baqara, Verse 47, "O Children of Israel, remember My favor that I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over the worlds." They are mentioned as inheritors of the Holy Land which, according to all the Islamic commentators, is Jerusalem and the country around it.
        Nearly a century ago, when the Turks went back home, the Children of Israel came from all the corners of the earth, as it is written in Al-A'raf, Verse 137, "And we caused the people who had been oppressed to inherit the eastern regions of the land and western ones, which We had blessed. And the good word of your Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel because of what they had patiently endured."  (Gatestone institute)
        See also Turkish Activist: Hatred of Jews in Muslim World Stems from Misinterpretation of Koran - Sinem Tezyapar
    It is true that there is a widespread hatred of Jews in the Muslim world. However this does not stem from the Koran, but from various interpretations that do not reflect the spirit of Islam. The way to put things right is for people of reason and good conscience to educate people against terror, radicalism and fundamentalism. (Ynet News)
  • Did Israel Deceitfully Give Ethiopian Jews Birth Control Injections? - Brendan O'Neill
    When it was reported earlier this week that Israeli officials had been giving birth control to arriving Ethiopian Jews "without their consent," the international media had a field day. Ha'aretz says these African Jews were indeed given Depo-Provera, a birth-control injection that lasts for three months, but it has not been proven that they were given these injections deceitfully, without their consent. Ha'aretz says "the vast majority of the Ethiopian women who received Depo-Provera were aware it was birth control and received it willingly."
        Some Ethiopian women continued voluntarily to receive Depo-Provera even once they were settled in Israel, because they "preferred being injected at a clinic rather than having to take pills daily in the presence of other family members who might disapprove of that decision." That is, the injections became culturally convenient for some Ethiopian women in Israel. Yet the story was treated as "some kind of villainous genocidal plot of sterilization aimed at ethnic and racial cleansing," says Ha'aretz.
        The mistreatment of this story, the exaggeration of it, the warped repeating of it by observers and tweeters around the world, reveals a thirst for treating Israel as a uniquely racist, wicked, barbaric outpost. When it comes to pointing a big, white Western finger at Israel and accusing it of carrying out the kind of crimes of racism and colonialism that the rest of us grew out of years ago, it seems facts count for little. (Telegraph-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • At Hospitals throughout Israel, Handshakes and Hugs between Arabs and Jews Are the Norm - Avigayil Kadesh
    In 1997, Detroit-born Larry Rich was taken to Emek Medical Center in Afula, Israel, after suffering a heart attack. "When I woke up in the cardiac intensive care...I saw Arab and Jewish physicians working together to save me. The medical center's professional staff mirrors the national ratio: 20% is Arab, and 20% of the heads of medical departments are Arab Muslims or Christians, Druse or Circassians. Rich, today the director of development and international public relations at Emek, notes: "In the northeast, we are the primary healthcare provider for a population of 500,000, equally divided between Arabs and Jews."
        He wrote of "Arrif and his 15-year-old-son, Mohammed. They come from Gaza. They have been 'living' in Emek for 10 months as young Mohammed is being treated for severe facial cancer." Asked about how he feels being among the Jews of Israel, Arrif replies, "Perfectly normal and at ease. Grateful - so very grateful." What does your family back in Gaza say about Mohammed's treatment here? "They are amazed and they send their sincere gratitude. They cannot believe what has and is being done for Mohammed and me."
        Rich says, "I am not a politician or a general in the army. I am just a guy from the street come to open a small window for you to peek in and visit Israel, and then I started telling real-life stories of cooperation, education and life-saving on a professional, patient and family level." "These stories are the norm. They go on in Israel all across the spectrum, every hour of every day." It's "an example of human behavior at its best, of people making conscious decisions to live and work together. This is something people are hungry to hear."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israeli Scientists Developing the Produce of the Future - Ora Coren
    Black tomatoes, banana-yellow eggplant and purple beans are some of the agricultural innovations on display this week at the Arava Open Day Agricultural Exhibition near Moshav Hatzeva. There are also personal-size watermelons and seedless bell peppers. The purpose of these new varieties, with their unusual appearance and higher nutritional value, is to enable Israeli farmers to better compete in the world market as the global health trend grows stronger.
        "To compete in the world market, you have to innovate in color and nutritional value," says Alon Gadiel, research manager for Central and Northern Arava Research and Development, which is hosting the exhibition. "The new produce is richer in anti-oxidants and vitamins than the existing produce. It tastes better and looks unique, so its cost and agricultural profit are higher."  (Ha'aretz)

Another Mideast War? How Syria Is Different from the Congo - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

  • In an interview this month, President Obama stressed "our limitations" in intervening in Syria, along with the risk that U.S. intervention would only make things worse.
  • "How do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo?" mused the President, posing a question that would effectively have prevented every U.S. intervention in history.
  • Unlike in the Congo, the U.S. has vital national interests in the Syrian war.
    • One interest is to inflict a strategic blow to Iran by deposing its principal Arab client.
    • Another is to cut Iran's military-supply link to Hizbullah, a terrorist group that has killed hundreds of Americans.
    • A third is to prevent Syria's unrest from spilling into its neighbors.
    • A fourth is to avoid the outbreak of a wider regional war.
    • A fifth is to make sure that the U.S. might have some leverage and standing with a post-Assad government in Syria.
    • A sixth is to prevent further thousands from being killed.
  • The fruit of two years of U.S. inaction in Syria is that the very nightmare scenarios the administration fretted about are closer to occurring.
  • The U.S. doesn't have to put boots on Syrian ground to help bring the Assad regime to an end, such as by imposing a no-fly-zone over Aleppo and the rest of western Syria. A similar no-fly-zone over Libya in 2011 helped spell Moammar Gaddafi's demise.

        See also How the U.S. Can Help Avert a Failed State in Syria - Naser Danan and Louay Sakka (Wall Street Journal)
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