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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
March 19, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

38 Hizbullah Fighters Killed in Syria Buried Secretly in Lebanon (Ya Libnan-Lebanon)
    Al-Joumhouria quoted Free Syrian Army media head Fahed al-Masri as saying that the bodies of 38 Hizbullah fighters who were killed inside Syrian have been sent to Lebanon to be buried secretly.
    "The corpses were transferred secretly to Lebanon and arrangements for the burial were being made after buying the silence of the deceased's relatives," the newspaper reported.
    On Sunday, Hizbullah member Hassan Nimr Shartouni, 25, killed in Syria on Saturday, was buried in Mays al-Jabal in southern Lebanon, local residents told AFP.
    Residents told Future TV on Monday that 20 of their sons are missing.

Syrian Warplanes Strike Lebanese Territory - Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times)
    Syrian warplanes bombed an area of Lebanon near the Bekaa Valley town of Arsal along the border with Syria on Monday.
    State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "This constitutes a significant escalation in the violations of Lebanese sovereignty that the Syrian regime has been guilty of."

NY Synagogue Terror Plotter Ferhani Gets 10-Year Term - Chris Dolmetsch (Bloomberg)
    Algerian native Ahmed Ferhani was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being arrested for plotting to attack synagogues and churches in Manhattan.
    Ferhani was arrested in May 2011 with Mohamed Mamdouh, a Moroccan immigrant. They were apprehended following an eight-month undercover operation after buying two Browning semi-automatic pistols, a Smith & Wesson revolver, ammunition and an inert grenade, police said.
    Ferhani, who came to the U.S. with his parents in 1995, will probably be deported after his sentence ends.

Palestinian Airline Bomber to Be Released from U.S. Prison - Eric Tucker (AP-Boston Globe)
    Mohammed Rashed slipped a bomb beneath the jetliner seat cushion, set the timer, and disembarked with his wife and child when the plane landed in Tokyo.
    The device exploded as Pan Am Flight 830 continued on to Honolulu, killing a Japanese teenager in a 1982 attack.
    Now, credited for his cooperation against associates, Rashed will be released from a federal prison in Colorado within days, after more than two decades in custody.
    His 2002 guilty plea stipulated that Rashed, a Jordanian-born Palestinian from Bethlehem, would be deported to a country of his choice upon his release.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Ready for "Historic Compromise" with Palestinians - Joel Greenberg
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israel was ready for a "historic compromise" in talks with the Palestinians, as he presented his new government to the Knesset. "The new government in Israel extends its hand for peace with our Palestinian neighbors," Netanyahu said. "Israel has proven time and again that it is ready for compromises in return for genuine peace."
        "With a Palestinian partner that is ready to conduct negotiations in good faith, Israel will be ready for a historic compromise that will end the conflict with the Palestinians once and for all."  (Washington Post)
        See also List of Ministers and Senior Officials of Israel's New Government (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • U.S. Criticizes UN Human Rights Council for Anti-Israel Bias
    U.S. Ambassador Eileen Donahoe told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday during a discussion of human rights issues: "The United States remains extremely troubled by this Council's continued biased and disproportionate focus on Israel....The legitimacy of this Council will remain in question as long as one country is unfairly and uniquely singled out."  (U.S. Mission in Geneva)
        See also U.S. Shuns UN Debate on Israeli Settlements
    The U.S. refused to take part Monday in a UN Human Rights Council debate on Israeli settlements. (DPA-Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Vandalize Billboard of Obama in Bethlehem - Elior Levy
    On Monday dozens of Bethlehem residents vandalized a large billboard bearing the image of U.S. President Barack Obama prior to his upcoming visit. The Palestinians removed the billboard from its location near the Church of the Nativity and drove away with it. They spray-painted the billboard with swastikas and a large "X" over Obama's face. (Ynet News)
        See also Bethlehem Rioters Set Fire to Pictures of Obama - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinians in Bethlehem set fire to pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday, saying he was not welcome in their city. PA policemen did not intervene. There were even indications that the PA leadership was encouraging or initiating some of the protests.
        Scores of protesters gathered near Manger Square and threw shoes at a U.S. diplomatic vehicle that had arrived as part of preparations for Obama's visit to Bethlehem later this week. Protester Fayez Mansour declared, "We want to tell America that we hate you and you have no place here. We don't want to see Obama in Palestine." Anti-Obama demonstrations are expected to take place in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities in the coming days. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Wounded in West Bank Drive-By Shooting - Efrat Forsher
    An Israeli man was wounded in the leg on Monday in a drive-by shooting attack at a hitchhiking post near the Kedumim junction in the West Bank. The vehicle from which the shots were fired fled toward the nearby Palestinian village of Jit. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Where Have All the Gaza Rockets Gone? - Uzi Rubin
    Prof. Ted Postol of MIT - a veteran opponent of the doctrine of anti-missile defense - has claimed that Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system succeeded in intercepting only 5-10% of the rockets fired into Israel in Nov. 2012, while the IDF claimed that more than 80% of the rockets aimed at built-up areas were intercepted and destroyed in the air. Both the IDF and Hamas say that over 1,500 rockets were fired. About 480 rockets were about to fall in built-up areas. But if only 10% of the rockets were intercepted, where did the other 430 rockets go?
        The IDF has studied and reconstructed each interception with the help of a complete and detailed sky picture received from the myriad sophisticated sensors that document every engagement. The rocket battles, successful or not, have been fully reconstructed and analyzed, interception after interception, and the results are unambiguous: The success rate matches the IDF's statements. The author is head of the Homa administration for anti-missile defense at the Ministry of Defense. (Ha'aretz)
  • Forget the Fatwa - Michael Eisenstadt and Mehdi Khalaji
    Iran claims that it will never build nuclear weapons because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa banning "the bomb." Yet fatwas are not immutable and can be altered, depending on circumstances. In any case, it is the principle of maslahat (the interest of the regime) that guides the formulation of Iranian policy.
        During the Iran-Iraq War, Ayatollah Khomeini reportedly issued a fatwa regarding chemical weapons. Yet this did not stop Tehran from producing a "chemical weapons capability" during the latter phases of the war. So if Iran's chemical fatwa did not preclude it from subsequently acquiring a chemical-weapons capability, would Iran's nuclear fatwa preclude it from acquiring a nuclear-weapons capability?  The writers are senior fellows at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (National Interest)
  • Mideast Seeks a New Commitment from Obama - Michael Singh
    President Obama's trip this week is about neither Israel nor Jordan. It is about the U.S. and the role we see for ourselves in the Middle East. Our allies want more American leadership in the region and greater clarity regarding U.S. policy on vital issues.
        The administration should spend less time listening to public polling in the Middle East and more time listening to our friends and trying to understand their interests. Our allies see Iran's regional activities, the disintegration of Syria and the rise of Islamism as threats. Their cooperation will depend less on our popularity than on convincing them that we share those interests and will act decisively.
        Exercising leadership means building consensus, not following it; forming coalitions, not joining them; and shaping outcomes, not reacting to them. If Washington declines to take a leading role in addressing the Middle East's problems, the alternative is likely to be a proliferation of problems as the region's main players and outside supporters stake out their positions. The writer, who worked on Middle East issues at the National Security Council during 2005-2008, is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • The Meaning of Obama's Mideast Trip - Robert M. Danin
    The president is going to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum, a very symbolic and important move. One of the criticisms leveled against the president is that in his previous speeches, he always rooted his discussions about Israel in terms of the Holocaust, and Israel as the haven for the Jewish people as a result of the Holocaust. Israelis took issue with this, because they felt that it shortchanged the real, more fundamental reason for Israel, which is the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
        By visiting the Dead Sea scrolls, which is the most tangible physical manifestation of the ancient Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, he's shifting the narrative and acknowledging that in fact Israel was about the Jewish people's connection to this area, and not just as a safe haven from persecution in the twentieth century.  The writer is a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at CFR. (Council on Foreign Relations)

Monarch in the Middle - Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic)

  • Israel, in some ways, is Jordan's most important ally. As the guarantor of quiet on Israel's eastern front, and as the defender of the peace treaty that King Hussein forged with Yitzhak Rabin in 1994, King Abdullah II's Jordan is essential to the Israelis. Jordan and Israel are also working together to prevent the chaos of Syria from spilling into their countries. Several sources in Amman and Tel Aviv told me that Israeli drones are monitoring the Jordan-Syria border on Jordan's behalf, and that military and intelligence officials from the two countries are in constant contact, planning for post–Bashar al-Assad chaos.
  • Even as Abdullah envisions ceding more of his power, he draws one red line: "I don't want a government to come in and say, 'We repudiate the peace treaty with Israel.'" He is in regular communication with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. He said his relationship with Netanyahu is "very strong. Our discussions have really improved."
  • Though he acknowledges the role Netanyahu plays in maintaining Jordanian stability, he is not optimistic about Israel's future. King Abdullah is known as an advocate of two states for two peoples, but said, "It could be too late already for the two-state solution....Part of me is worried that is already past us."
  • The king is certain that the Muslim Brotherhood wants to see him gone. The Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID) has told him that the Brotherhood high command in Cairo is actively fomenting unrest in Jordan. The GID claims to have intercepted communications from Brotherhood leaders in Egypt to their Jordanian affiliates, encouraging them to boycott elections and destabilize the country. Abdullah told me that "behind closed doors, the Muslim Brotherhood here wants to overthrow" the government.
  • The Brotherhood is run by "wolves in sheep's clothing" and wants to impose its retrograde vision of society and its anti-Western politics on the Muslim Middle East. This, he said, is "our major fight" - to prevent the Muslim Brothers from conniving their way into power across the region.

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