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February 25, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Conducts Successful Test of Arrow 3 Anti-Missile System - Michael Schwartz (CNN)
    Israel conducted a successful test flight of its Arrow 3 interceptor system over the Mediterranean Sea on Monday, designed to defend against missiles from countries such as Iran, the Ministry of Defense said.
    "The successful test is a major milestone in the development of the Arrow 3 Weapon System and provides further confidence in future Israeli defense capabilities to defeat the developing ballistic missile threat," a statement said.

Israel-Initiated Secret Talks with Turkey Failed (Times of Israel)
    Israel initiated efforts to heal ties with Turkey when Israeli officials met in Rome three weeks ago with their Turkish counterparts, but the contacts did not produce a breakthrough, Israel Channel 2 TV reported Saturday.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, accompanied by former Foreign Ministry director general Joseph Ciechanover, held talks with Turkish Foreign Ministry Director Feridun Sinirlioglu to try to formulate terms for easing the rift between the two countries.

18 Attempts to Kidnap Israeli Soldiers in Four Months - Yifa Yaakov (Times of Israel)
    Hamas and other Palestinian groups have made 18 attempts in the past four months to kidnap Israeli soldiers to use as bargaining chips for the release of Palestinian security prisoners, Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi, head of the IDF's Central Command, said Saturday.
    Despite the escalation of protests, Mizrahi said he did not believe Israel was witnessing the beginning of a third Palestinian intifada.
    "We have all the means to see" if a more major uprising were unfolding, he said. "There's no interest and no 'fuel' to motivate something like this," he said.

FBI: Neo-Nazi's Hit List Included Detroit Jewish, Black Leaders - Tammy Stables Battaglia (Detroit Free Press)
    Richard Schmidt, a convicted killer and neo-Nazi sympathizer who was arrested in December by the FBI with an arsenal of weapons in Ohio, compiled a list that included Scott Kaufman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP.
    At the time of his arrest, the FBI found 18 weapons, 40,000 rounds of ammunition and body armor.

Oxford in Uproar over Motion to Boycott Israel - Conal Urquhart (Guardian-UK)
    The Oxford University Students' Union (OUSU) meets on Wednesday to decide on a motion backing the boycott of Israel.
    Last week, OUSU gave its component colleges a further two weeks to debate the issue.
    Henry Watson of Magdalen College said: "The boycott goes against everything the university stands for. The idea that we are not going to read your books or articles or hear your arguments on the basis of your nationality is ridiculous."
    Magdalen College voted 39-3 against the motion, Watson said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • In Syria, New Weapons to Rebels Tilts the Battle Against Assad - Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung
    A surge of rebel advances in Syria is being fueled at least in part by an influx of heavy weaponry in a renewed effort by outside powers to arm moderates in the Free Syrian Army. The new armaments, including anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, have been sent across the Jordanian border to counter the growing influence of Islamist extremist groups in the north by boosting more moderate groups fighting in the south. The shift was prompted by the realization that rebel gains across the north of the country over the past year were posing no major threat to the regime in Damascus located in the south.
        The M-79 anti-tank weapons in particular appear to be giving the rebels new confidence to attack government positions and armor, said Jeff White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • Syrian Rebels Attack Hizbullah Positions in Lebanon
    Syrian rebels started to attack Lebanon's Hizbullah on Feb. 21, after the Free Syrian Army (FSA) chief of staff issued a warning to Hizbullah to stop shelling territory held by the insurgents. "We have bombed the territories of Hizbullah in Lebanon and Syria. The Free Syrian Army will continue bombing these positions," said Col. Hisam al-Avvak of the Group of Free Officers, which operates under the umbrella of the FSA. (Hurriyet-Turkey)
        See also Hizbullah Occupying Areas of Syria, Rebels Claim - Ilan Ben Zion and Agam Rafaeli (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians Threaten to Boycott Sponsors of Jerusalem Marathon - Jodi Rudoren
    A lawyer representing Palestinian government agencies sent letters this week to the American sneaker company New Balance and the InterContinental hotel chain threatening a boycott and legal action if they did not withdraw their sponsorship of the Jerusalem Marathon. They say the marathon, scheduled for March 1, is a "serious breach" of international law because it runs through east Jerusalem, territory that Israel captured during the 1967 war and later annexed. The Israelis see it as part of their capital city. The Arab League called for a boycott of Adidas over its sponsorship of the Jerusalem marathon last year.
        "This is not politics, this is sport, this is culture," said Jerusalem spokesman Barak Cohen. "This is a major international event," noting that 2,000 of the more than 18,000 registered runners were from 52 countries. "Arab residents and Jewish residents are welcome to participate and celebrate together."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Fatah and Hamas Leaders Agree on New Intifada - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he was in favor of a new campaign of popular resistance and that he and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal have reached agreement on the need for a new intifada. Abbas told Al-Arabiya TV that he fully supported demonstrations against the security barrier and settlements, as well as Palestinian attempts to establish outposts in the West Bank, but stressed that "armed resistance is banned."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah: Palestinian Authority Supports Escalating Popular Resistance
    The Palestinian Authority supports and helped organized an escalation in popular resistance in the West Bank, Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's Central Committee, told the Beirut-based al-Mayadeen satellite channel on Sunday. "Resistance is a natural right and we agree unanimously on escalating popular resistance," he said. (Ma'an News-PA)
        See also Palestinian Poll: 65 Percent Oppose New Intifada
    According to a Palestinian poll conducted on Feb. 10-12, 2013, 65% of respondents oppose a new intifada to achieve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, while 32% support a new intifada. 41% believe that a new intifada will lead to a decline in the status of the Palestinian issue. Only 25% believe it will lead to progress. (Arab World for Research and Development-PA)
  • Israel Demands PA Curb Protests
    Israel on Sunday demanded the Palestinian Authority stem a surge of anti-Israeli protests ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to the region next month. "Israel has conveyed to the Palestinian Authority an unequivocal demand to calm the territory," an Israeli government official said. In the latest clashes, hundreds of Palestinian protesters, in several towns and villages in the West Bank, hurled stones at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
        Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, questioned whether the protests were just a tactical move by the Palestinians to draw international attention before Obama's visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. However, he told Israel Radio: "Things can get out of control."  (Reuters-Ynet News)
        See also Outbreak of Third Intifada Depends on Palestinian Authority - Amos Harel
    Israel is currently making a huge effort to calm nerves in the West Bank, taking steps on the ground in an attempt to rein in the violence and prevent an escalation. Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered that tax revenues designated for the PA be released. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has sent a warning to the PA through his envoy, Isaac Molho, demanding the Palestinian leadership put an immediate stop to the present wave of violence. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • West Bank Tension Escalates as Obama's Visit Draws Nearer - Amos Harel
    Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank are closer to the boiling point than they have been in many years. For the first time since 2007, it seems that the Palestinian Authority has an interest in making waves. First, diverting attention away from the PA's ongoing failure to reach a reconciliation agreement with Hamas to the plight of the Palestinian prisoners creates a much needed issue of consensus. That is apparently why senior Palestinian officials like Qadura Fares and Jibril Rajoub are active behind the scenes in the current protests. Second, in light of the PA's worsening economic situation, controlled clashes with Israel could persuade the Arab world to renew donations to the PA. (Ha'aretz)
  • West Bank Disturbances Not Intifada, Yet - Yaakov Lappin
    Security sources familiar with the West Bank say the term "third intifada" has been misused in the media to describe the upsurge in disturbances in recent days. As one senior source noted, when the second intifada erupted in 2000, mobs consisting of thousands of Palestinians clashed with the IDF. In contrast, on Sunday between 100 and 200 Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers in a few locations. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Obama's Intifada Welcoming Committee - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The whole point of renewed Palestinian unrest is to manufacture a sense of crisis that requires U.S. intervention. Any escalation of violence, no matter how much it is the product of a political decision rather than a popular protest, will generate a lot of negative press for Israel. Even the most restrained measures of Israeli self-defense will be denounced as disproportionate.
        But although the Palestinians are certainly capable of churning up enough violence and suffering to get more attention for their cause, their obvious disinclination in making peace on any terms makes it difficult to sustain the interest of even the most sympathetic of foreign leaders. Their refusal to return to the negotiating table with the Israelis even after Obama had pressured Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze West Bank settlement building and their decision to abandon the U.S.-led process in favor of a dead-end bid for UN recognition may have finally made it obvious to the administration that any political capital expended on them would be wasted.
        Nor, even under U.S. duress, is there much chance that Israel will consent to a West Bank withdrawal that is likely to duplicate the situation in Gaza, where Hamas terrorists used land vacated by the Israelis to create a terrorist state. This means that while the Palestinians have the capacity to make themselves troublesome, they do not have the ability to take advantage of the good will felt for them by many in the administration.
        Another intifada will be a trial for the Israelis and an annoyance for President Obama. But it will be a tragedy for the people of the West Bank. Until they are ready to throw off a leadership that is incapable of ending the conflict or recognizing a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, they will continue to suffer. (Commentary)

For Israel's Last Military Attache in Tehran, "Argo" Is Kids' Stuff - Gilad Halpern (Ha'aretz)

  • When IDF Brig. Gen. (ret.) Itzhak Segev, Israel's last military attache in Tehran, watched the Academy Award-winning "Argo," it was a reminder of his own much more harrowing experience.
  • On Feb. 1, 1979, when Khomeini returned to Tehran, six Israeli diplomats and a handful of businesspeople remained in Iran. The Israelis, headed by Ambassador Joseph Hermelin, realized they'd better take the first flight out of the country. That weekend, an angry mob took over the (empty) Israeli Embassy. Segev was entrusted by Hermelin to find an escape route for the 33 Israelis who were by then scattered in three hideouts across the city.
  • The IDF planned to send a transport plane. Then the Americans agreed to include the stranded Israelis in the evacuation of U.S. nationals - by two TWA jumbo jets the following weekend. While waiting in Tehran, Segev was the Israelis' only contact with the outside world.
  • "We ran out of vegetables, and I went to the Grand Bazaar to get some," he says. "I asked for boxes upon boxes of tomatoes, cucumbers, and so on, and then I made a little mistake. My pockets were full of local money, which had been devalued by 100 percent. So when the stall owner told me how much I owed him, I just gave him the money." That gave him away - an Iranian, true to his heritage, would always haggle, no matter what.
  • A militia commander asked him where he was from. "I mustered my survival instinct and said I was a PLO delegate in Tehran." The commander told the stall owner that as a hero of the revolution, Segev was entitled to receive as many vegetables as he wanted, for free.
  • On the day of the evacuation, Feb. 17, the assembly point, the Hilton Hotel, was teeming with revolutionary troops. Two Israelis were detained. Segev decided to come clean. "I went to the top commander and told him: 'My name is Sartip [General] Segev, and I would like to hand in my credentials to the new government.'"
  • Two nerve-wracking hours later, Ayatollah Beheshti, Khomeini's deputy, walked in. "I walked up to him and said in Persian: 'Your Highness, I'm honored that you came all this way to receive my credentials.'" Beheshti was not amused. "He looked at me and said: 'Sartip Segev, get the hell out of this country at once!' I said okay, but I'm not leaving without my men. He ordered that they be released, and I demanded that he put it in writing. And he did."
  • "The reason they let us out so easily wasn't because they wanted to be nice to us. It was much simpler: It was a few days after the revolution and they still needed to consolidate their rule. They didn't want to mess with Israel before they were safe in their new place."

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