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April 12, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Interior Minister in Gaza Promotes West Bank Terrorist Attacks (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    Since the end of Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, Hamas operatives in Gaza, led by Hamas Minister of Interior Fathi Hamad, have increased their efforts to establish terrorist squads in the West Bank.
    Planned attacks against Israel include suicide bombings and the abduction of IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians.
    Hamad is one of the most extreme figures in Hamas, close to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
    In April 2010, Hamad's three year-old daughter was treated at an Israeli hospital in Ashkelon after heart surgery performed in Jordan failed and her life was in danger.

Islamist MP: Egyptians "Would Love" to Be in a Union with Israel (Al Arabiya)
    Egyptians "would love" to be part of an Islamic Union model which will bring together not only the Muslim countries but Israel as well to discuss how to solve regional conflicts, Abdulmawgoud Dardery, head of the Foreign Relations Committee at Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party, told Turkey's A9 TV during a visit to Istanbul this week.

110 Palestinian Families Flee from Syria to Gaza (Ma'an News-PA)
    At least 110 Palestinian families have fled from Syria to Gaza, an official in Gaza said Wednesday.
    UNRWA is providing a temporary housing allowance to the families and the government has provided the refugees with temporary employment, the official said.
    At least 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Syrian uprising.

Israeli 24-Hour Global News Channel to Launch (JTA)
    A new Israeli television channel that will broadcast news 24 hours a day in English, French and Arabic is set to launch this summer.
    Carlos Gurovich, head of production for the "i24news" channel in France, said the channel would be funded privately.

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Who Funded the Palestinian "Blood Libel" NGO? (NGO Monitor)
    On March 27, MIFTAH, a Palestinian NGO founded by Hanan Ashrawi, published an article by Nawaf al-Zaru that repeated the antisemitic blood libel.
    He wrote, "Much of the historical stories and tales about Jewish blood rituals in Europe are based on real rituals and are not false as they claim; the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover."
    In response to criticism, MIFTAH removed the piece on March 28 and eventually apologized - although the apology only appeared in English, and not on the Arabic website.
    The government funders that have enabled MIFTAH's publication of articles that promote anti-Semitism, demonize Israel, and glorify terrorists include the EU, NGO Development Center (joint funding from Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands), Italy, Austria, Ireland, Norway, and indirect U.S. government funding via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Fatah Glorifies Suicide Bomber as "Bride of Palestine" - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    On the 11th anniversary of the attack by Ayyat Al-Akhras, a female Palestinian suicide bomber who killed 2 Israelis and wounded 28 near a Jerusalem supermarket on March 29, 2002, the Palestinian Fatah movement chose to glorify her as a hero, calling her the "Bride of Palestine" on Fatah's Facebook page.
    See also YouTube Restores Video Blocked after Exposing Hate Speech - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    YouTube had blocked a Palestinian Media Watch video that exposed a hate-poem broadcast on Palestinian Authority children's TV, saying it was a "violation of YouTube's policy prohibiting hate speech."
    After public protests, YouTube removed the block within 24 hours.

Synchrotron Project Brings Together Unlikely Partners in Middle East - John Horgan (Scientific American)
    Plans to build a synchrotron particle collider in Jordan have received overwhelming support from countries in the Middle East, including Iran, Pakistan, the PA and Israel.
    Those involved hope that this installation, appropriately dubbed SESAME (for Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East), will open lines of communication between countries that would not normally work together.
    As of 2012, Iran, Israel, Jordan and Turkey have agreed to make contributions of $5 million each to fund the project, which is expected to open in 2015.

Hamas Shaves Heads of Gaza Youths with Long Hair - Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP)
    Police in Hamas-ruled Gaza have started grabbing young men with long or gel-styled spiky hair off the streets and shaving their heads, a rights group said Sunday, in the latest sign that the Islamic militants are imposing their strict practices on the population.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Al-Qaeda Planned Attack on Istanbul Synagogue, U.S. Embassy in Turkey - Sebnem Arsu
    Turkish police said Thursday that they had found evidence of a plot linked to al-Qaeda to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, a synagogue in Istanbul, and other targets. During a raid on two houses in February, police had seized nearly 50 pounds of plastic explosives with detonation systems attached, as well as six laptop computers. Analysis of the computers' contents and other documents revealed preparations for bomb attacks on the embassy and a synagogue in the Balat district of Istanbul. Photographs, floor plans and other information were found concerning those targets. (New York Times)
  • Human Rights Watch: Hamas Failed to Probe Palestinian "Collaborator" Deaths
    Human Rights Watch says Gaza's Hamas government has failed to investigate the killings of seven Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel. The men were shot in public and the body of one was dragged through the streets by a motorcycle. The incident took place in November during the eight-day conflict between Hamas and Israel.
        The men had already been convicted by a military court in Gaza, before armed men seized them from custody. But HRW said their convictions may have been based on evidence extracted through torture. "Hamas' inability or unwillingness to investigate the brazen murders of seven men makes a mockery of its claims that it's upholding the rule of law in Gaza," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of HRW. "Even before the killings, the abuses the men suffered made the criminal justice system a travesty, regardless of their guilt or innocence."  (BBC)
  • UN Reopens Gaza Food Distribution Centers after Palestinian Attack
    The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reopened its food distribution centers in Gaza on April 9 after they closed following violent protests over aid cutbacks. The centers were closed on April 4 after a compound was stormed by protesters. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said, "While UNRWA understands the frustration of the population...and respects the right to peaceful demonstrations, UNRWA must ensure the safety and security of its staff."  (BBC)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel to U.S.: Conflict with Palestinians Is Not Primarily over Territory - Barak Ravid
    A senior Israeli official involved in the talks held in Jerusalem with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Israel opposes Kerry's proposal to resume negotiations with the PA on the basis of discussing border and security issues alone. The official said that Kerry "thinks that the conflict is primarily over territory...and that is wrong." "Israel opposes placing the issues of borders and security at the preliminary stage of negotiations, and we said this to Kerry. On this issue, there is full consent among all the ministers dealing with the Palestinian subject, including Tzipi Livni."
        Israel demands that if negotiations are to be resumed, they will need to address, in parallel, all core issues of the final settlement - including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a solution to the refugee problem. "If the discussion commences with talks about borders and security, Israel will only give, and will get almost nothing in return," the official said. "When we get to the issues where the Palestinians will need to give something up - like the right of return - we won't have any bargaining chips left."
        In addition, Israel also opposes making significant gestures toward the Palestinians before the resumption of negotiations. Off the table are any moves such as releasing prisoners, transferring weapons to the PA's security services, and the promotion of economic projects that would require the transfer of land to Palestinian control. "There is no problem with setting up sewage treatment plants, schools or roads in Area C. But if we're talking about transferring land through economic projects, then we're not ready to do so. If negotiations are renewed, we will be willing to perform many gestures and steps, but they will take place as part of a process that is already underway."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Egypt Detains Four for Trying to Smuggle Maps of Egyptian Security Sites into Gaza
    An Egyptian security official said Wednesday, "We have captured four people near the Rafah crossing (on the Egypt-Gaza border). They were attempting to smuggle blueprints and designs for Egyptian police, army and intelligence facilities in the cities of Rafah, Sheikh Zuwaid, and el-Arish [in Sinai]." "In addition to the blueprints, they had automatic weapons, ammunition, bombs, landmines, and anti-aircraft shells."
        He said the suspects admitted they were planning to take the documents and arms to contacts in Gaza who intended to target the sites. (Ma'an News-PA)
  • Canadian Foreign Minister Breaks Taboo Against Visiting East Jerusalem, Golan Heights - Barak Ravid
    Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird met this week with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in her office in eastern Jerusalem. Most Western countries refuse to let their officials attend such meetings, lest this be viewed as recognizing Israel's annexation of that part of the city. Baird also visited the Golan Heights, another area annexed by Israel. A nongovernmental Israeli source said, "Baird recognizes the sensitivity, but he wants to set a precedent."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The EU Must Join Canada in Designating Hizbullah a Terrorist Organization - Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird
    The time has come for the European Union to join Canada in designating Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. Since it reared its ugly head in 1982, Hizbullah has become one of the most technically advanced terrorist groups in the world. It is a grave threat to security and stability in the Middle East and beyond.
        Hizbullah killed over 300 soldiers and civilians with the 1983 suicide bombings of the U.S. and French barracks in Beirut. In 2011, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon indicted Hizbullah members for their involvement in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. There are strong indications that Hizbullah was behind the July 2012 bombing of a tourist bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing one Bulgarian and five Israelis. A Hizbullah operative also has been found guilty of planning a similar attack on Israeli tourists in Cyprus. Hizbullah is also helping Syria's Assad regime in its bloody war on its own people. These are not our friends.
        A terrorist designation is more than a label: It criminalizes financing to the group. Moreover, it's about sending a strong political message that the international community is united in its rejection of terrorist activities. Canada designated Hizbullah as a terrorist entity in 2002. It is time for the EU to stand up with its allies and designate Hizbullah for what it is, and thereby remind the world that terrorism will not be tolerated. (National Post-Canada)
  • Reality Check: The Hazards of Optimism - Walter Laqueur
    The exultant reception of the Arab Spring is a particularly poignant example of the triumph of hope over experience in international affairs. When the Arab Spring first bloomed in the winter of 20102011 it was welcomed by jubilation on the part of foreign correspondents who carried the good news about the fall of tyrants to the rest of the world. What followed were elections in which the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis received an overwhelming majority. A new constitution was prepared according to the rules of Islamic sharia law. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi successfully grabbed more power in order to incorporate religious fundamentalism as the constitution's guiding light. It was not what the freedom fighters had hoped for.
        Optimism has not entirely disappeared in the past two years. However, the enthusiasm no longer concerned the prospects of the progressive forces themselves. Nicholas D. Kristof, the New York Times columnist, wrote of the "mutually beneficial relationship" which had developed between the American Embassy in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Salafis who had been the main beneficiaries of the redistribution of power. Such encouraging views were not shared by secular Egyptians and Tunisians. (World Affairs Journal)
  • Tired of the Brotherhood, Egyptians Want the Military Back - But Only Temporarily - Eric Trager
    Non-Islamists in Egypt openly admitted that their increasingly violent protests against the government of President Mohamed Morsi, including a string of arsons targeting Muslim Brotherhood headquarters nationwide, are intended to force the military to reclaim control. Public support for a new military takeover grew tremendously after Dec. 5, when the Brotherhood used organized violence against protesters outside the presidential palace. According to one poll, 82% of Egyptians now want the military back in power.
        "We just want the military to protect us during the intermediate period, not rule," said Islam, a member of the revolutionary Suez Youth Union. Yet the generals are staying away from direct political involvement for the time being. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Atlantic)
        See also Poll: Egyptian Support for Muslim Brotherhood Wanes - Sarah Lynch
    Amid Egypt's mounting problems, support for the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood is dwindling. President Morsi's approval ratings were as high as 79% in September, but have dipped to 49%, according to a poll by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research. Egypt is witnessing "the beginning of the demise of the Islamist project," said Khaled Fahmy, professor and chair of the history department at the American University in Cairo. (USA Today)
  • Report Warns of Hizbullah, Iran Threats in Balkans - Benjamin Weinthal
    A new report, titled "Israeli Security Concerns and the Balkans" by Chris Deliso was published last month on the website Dr. Ely Karmon, senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, was quoted in the study as saying that "there is a clear pattern. Iran begins [in small countries] with diplomatic relations, investment promises and cultural relations. But all Iranian diplomatic and cultural activities carried out are under the control of their intelligence services."
        "For Iran, the Balkans is a good platform for two reasons. First, countries like Bosnia have already been long penetrated. Second, the local security and law enforcement are not sufficiently prepared for an adversary like Iran."
        Yossi Melman, a veteran Israeli journalist on intelligence and strategic affairs, said, "Israeli agencies know that Iran's MOIS [Ministry of Intelligence and Security] and the Quds Force [a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for foreign operations] have established sleeper cells of agents and they try to locate weak links in the European chain. One such weak link is the Balkans." He added that "excellent cooperation" exists between Israel and local Balkan intelligence services. (Jerusalem Post)
        Read the Report (
  • Would You Name Your Kid "Sword"? - Harold Rhode
    Would we name our children "Warrior," "Conqueror," "Sword," or "Holy War"? These are names commonly used in the Muslim world, and may give some insight into Muslim values, especially regarding violence. Violence has been endemic to Muslim society from its inception more than 1,400 years ago. A large proportion of the ancestors of today's approximately 1.3 billion Muslims converted to Islam under duress.
        Western societies almost never give their children names which denote violence. The Protestants who settled America often gave their children names indicative of their values, such as "Felicity," "Charity," "Prudence," "Hope," "Faith," and "Joy." Of course, many Muslims choose names such as "Beautiful," "Kind," and "Generous," but many do not.
        Islam as a civilization still continues to see itself in a perpetual state of war with the non-Muslim world. Islam has always divided the world into two - the Dar al-Islam [the area of the world ruled by Islam] and the Dar al-Harb [the world of war, the area of the world that remains to be conquered by Islam and submit to Islamic rule]. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Blessed Are the Peacemakers - Burak Bekdil
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has outlined further steps Israel needed to take in order to restore full diplomatic ties, including a complete lifting of economic restrictions on Gaza. No more restrictions on imports of weapons? Rockets? Material for innocent Katyushas? There will be plenty of time before President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry will be able to see the real face of Turkish triumphalism over the Israeli apology and, subsequently, the forced and fake detente. Erdogan does not hide the fact that he accepts Israel's right to exist "only within the pre-1967 borders."
        We all know that the Americans are hoping for a miracle - in which the mildly-Islamist Erdogan should be able to persuade the not-so-mildly-Islamist Hamas to metamorphose into an entity living in the realm of reason. For that mission to be accomplished, perhaps the Americans must first find someone who should be able to persuade Erdogan to metamorphose into a political figure living in the realm of reason. (Hurriyet-Turkey)
  • WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Relationship with Arafat - Lee Smith
    Declassified State Department cables dating from 1973-1976 that WikiLeaks put online this week offer a fascinating window into the U.S. relationship with Yasser Arafat. U.S. diplomats knew Arafat was a terrorist and that he was responsible for the death of American diplomats, like Ambassador Cleo Noel, who was assassinated in Khartoum in 1973 under Arafat's orders. But Washington overlooked those facts for the sake of winning the Cold War. The cables show that the Americans were keen to have Arafat on their side in order to thwart Moscow's regional ambitions.
        Israel long believed that Arafat's intelligence chief Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the masterminds of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic games, was a CIA asset. What Arafat, the father of Arab terrorism, offered the U.S. was the fact that he was a power on the ground with men and weapons and called his own shots. Unlike other Palestinian factions, he wasn't beholden to Moscow, or owned by the Syrians, Egyptians, or any other Arab states. In other words, Arafat had made himself available to the Americans, and they scooped him up. Kissinger and his State Department believed that solving the Arab-Israeli conflict would win the good will of the Arabs and hurt the Soviets - and they saw Arafat as their ace in the hole. (Tablet)

  • Weekend Features

  • 2,000-Year-Old Ritual Bath Uncovered in Jerusalem - Matti Friedman
    The remains of a 2,000-year-old ritual bath, in use around the time of the Second Temple, were uncovered near the modern-day Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat Menachem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday. The remains were found in a salvage dig ahead of the construction of a new road. Archaeologist Benyamin Storchan said the construction of the bath was unique: "The complex that was exposed at this time is a more sophisticated and intricate system."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Rare Ritual Bath Revealed in Jerusalem (Israel Antiquities Authority)
  • Mysterious Stone Structure Discovered Beneath Sea of Galilee - Owen Jarus
    A "monumental" stone structure discovered beneath the Sea of Galilee in Israel has archaeologists puzzled. The structure is cone shaped and made of unhewn basalt boulders. Rising nearly 32 feet (10 meters) high, it has a diameter of about 230 feet (70 meters), twice as large as Stonehenge.
        The structure was first detected in the summer of 2003 during a sonar survey. Researchers say it is definitely human-made and probably was built on land, only later to be covered by the Sea of Galilee as the water level rose. Researcher Yitzhak Paz of the Israel Antiquities Authority believes it could date back more than 4,000 years. (LiveScience)

Negotiations on Iran Are Failing - Emily B. Landau (Ha'aretz)

  • The latest round of negotiations with Iran has ended in failure, with the two sides as far apart as ever. When Iran wants to develop a military nuclear capability, and the P5+1 wants to convince it to give that up, it makes little sense to try and search for common ground.
  • Moreover, as far as confidence-building is concerned, the situation is not symmetrical: The crisis is a direct result of Iran cheating on its explicit nonproliferation commitment. It is Iran that broke the rules, not the P5+1.
  • But with confidence-building so prominent in the P5+1 rhetoric, Iranian negotiators feel they can demand reciprocal assurances from the other side. Sanctions are punishment for Iran's defiance, and the only leverage the P5+1 have. Iran's demand that these sanctions be lifted as a "confidence-building measure" is ludicrous.
  • Time is running out for the international community. Iran has built up its nuclear infrastructure and will continue to do so until a decision to move to nuclear weapons is unstoppable. Time works in Iran's favor as long as it can string the international community along, and ward off military action by convincing it that cooperation is just around the corner.
  • If Obama is truly committed to stopping Iran, the lack of any reasonable prospect for a negotiated settlement after ten years of efforts should make it clear that the U.S. has no choice, and it's time for more forceful options.
  • A limited, surgical strike to Iran's nuclear facilities would send a serious message, perhaps one that would bring them to the table looking for a deal. Military action is far from the preferred option, but it is beginning to look like the one that has a realistic prospect of compelling Iran to seriously consider changing course.

    The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
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