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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
May 2, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

40% of Palestinian Muslims See Suicide Bombing as Justified (Israel Hayom)
    Out of all the Muslim respondents to a new Pew Research Center global survey, Palestinian Muslims polled the highest in favor of suicide bombings as a justifiable means "to defend Islam."
    40% of Palestinian Muslims see suicide bombings as often or sometimes justified, while 49% take the opposite view.
    See also Survey of the World's Muslims (Pew Research Center)

Israel Increases Estimate for Leviathan Gas Field - Eran Azran (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's Leviathan natural gas field contains an estimated 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and not 17 TCF as previously thought.
    See also The Geopolitics of Israel's Offshore Gas Reserves - David Wurmser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Palestinian Authority Keeps Media under Thumb - Vivian Bercovici (Toronto Star)
    At the end of March, a West Bank appeal court upheld a one-year sentence for a man alleged to have defamed PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas by posting his photo online next to that of a TV villain who had collaborated with French colonial rule.
    The convicted man claimed to have been detained without legal counsel for 20 days and interrogated for 53. Following his lost appeal, Abbas pardoned the man, a small gesture after he'd been churned in the justice system for two years.
    The previous month, a PA resident was sentenced to a year in prison for posting a photograph of Abbas kicking a soccer ball with a silly caption: "Real Madrid's New Striker." The charge against him? Defamation.
    The PA has been making a habit of threatening to sue journalists, Hamas activists and just about anyone who doesn't agree with them and Abbas, in order to intimidate dissenters from expressing their views.

Fear and Fundamentalism as the "Modesty Police" Patrol Gaza - Phoebe Greenwood (Telegraph-UK)
    Police in Gaza arrested at least 41 men on charges of immodesty in April.
    Three weeks after his arrest, Ismail Halou, 22, still has streaks of purple bruising on the soles of his feet. On April 4, he was arrested by plain-clothed police, blindfolded and driven to the nearest police station.
    "I could hear the screams of people being beaten in the rooms next to me. Two men held my legs down and tied them together on a wooden board, then they beat the soles of my feet with a plastic rod....It was the worst pain I've ever felt."
    It was only after the beating that police officers shaved off the one-inch fin of gelled hair that was the cause of his arrest.
    "At no point did they tell me why they had arrested me. I found out from neighbors when I got home that it was because of my hair," Halou explained. He could not walk for three days after his release.
    A violently enforced public modesty campaign is new. Gaza is gripped with a palpable fear that Hamas is driving the population towards militant Islamic fundamentalism.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Cool to Arab Land-Swap Initiative - William Booth
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel and the Palestinians could not achieve a peace deal based on land swaps alone and insisted that the most important thing is for Palestinians to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. "You saw what happened when we left the Gaza Strip. We evacuated the last settlers, and what did we get? Missiles," he said, referring to Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
        "The root of the conflict is not territorial," Netanyahu said. "The Palestinian lack of will to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people is the root of the conflict....Until the Palestinians recognize our right to exist as a national state - no matter what the borders - and until they declare that the conflict is over, there will not be peace."  (Washington Post)
  • Hamas Military Wing Securing Borders with Israel - Kifah Ziboun
    Fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, have replaced policemen on the borders of Gaza in an effort to prevent the firing of rockets at Israel. A number of Salafist groups hostile to Hamas recently fired several rockets at Israel.
        According to a Palestinian source, Israel sent messages through Egyptian mediators to Hamas emphasizing the need to stop the firing of rockets, saying anything short of this would result in a large-scale attack on Gaza.
        The Al-Qassam Brigades have set up roadblocks and have begun searching cars and travelers in areas near the border. The brigade was also deployed in areas far from the border that were used in the past to fire rockets at Israel. The Hamas government has also been carrying out a campaign of arrests among Salafist jihadists. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Iran: Our Fajr-5 Rockets Sent Three Million Israelis to Bomb Shelters
    On Feb. 8, 2013, Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for international affairs, said: "We saw how the Palestinians managed to drag three million Israelis to bomb shelters and to target Tel Aviv with the extremely simple [Fajr] missiles given to them by Iran." On Feb. 11, Ali Saeedi, Khamenei's representative in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), stated: "What solved Gaza's problem are the Fajr-5 missiles that Iran gave as a gift."
        In November 2012, former IRGC official Javad Karimi said: "We sent the besieged Gaza 50,000 missiles and thousands of anti-tank rockets." He added: "Launching Fajr-5 missiles at the center of Tel Aviv attests to a major victory in the conflict over Palestine in favor of the Iranian nation, and allowed Iran to once again prove its strength to the world. These 50,000 Fajr missiles show the crucial role Iran played in Gaza's victory."  (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Is Hizbullah Resurrecting Its Military Facilities in Southern Lebanon? - Nicholas Blanford
    UNIFIL patrols in southern Lebanon are finding paths blocked and former temporary observation points suddenly out of bounds in standoffs with suspected members of Hizbullah. With Lebanese Army units withdrawn in response to deteriorating security situations in Tripoli, Sidon and the north, Lebanese troop strength has dwindled to an estimated 3,000 soldiers in the border district.
        The absence of Lebanese soldiers as interlocutors leaves UNIFIL patrols more vulnerable to intimidation by Hizbullah. Recent confrontations have spurred speculation within UNIFIL that Hizbullah may have resurrected some of its pre-2006 war military facilities in the southern border district. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Israel Concerned about U.S. Drift toward Arab League Stance - Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury
    Prime Minister Netanyahu is concerned that U.S. Secretary of State Kerry will accept the Arab League definition of the borders for a Palestinian state and the principle of territorial exchanges, believing that this could undermine Israel's position in negotiations with the Palestinians, according to an Israeli source familiar with recent talks. While there were positive parts of the Arab League's announcement, such as the desire to renew the peace process, there were concerns of a drift in the American position, moving it toward the Arab position of "small" border shifts and minimal land swaps of identical size. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Our Shared Islamist Enemy - Yair Shamir
    After the recent terrorist attacks in Boston, there was immense incredulity when the ethnic nationality of the perpetrators was made known. The U.S. had not played a significant role in the decades-long war in Chechnya. Modern terror connected to an extremist Islamist mindset is simply something that many in the West are unable or unwilling to truly understand.
        We ignore terrorists' ideology at our own peril. We would not accept Christians meting out vengeance against Muslims for massacres in Nigeria or the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Why do we accept the argument that perceived Muslim persecution in one part of the world necessitates Islamist violence in another?
        The perpetrators of the Boston attacks, while seemingly unconnected to a terror organization, are examples of people imbued with a radical ideology. Aggressive and offensive jihad, unconnected to any particular conflict or borders, is a murderous and invasive mindset that drove the Tsarnaev brothers to attack innocent civilians in Boston. The writer, Israel's minister of agriculture, is a former commander in Israel's Air Force. (Foreign Policy)
  • Is the Arab Peace Plan Really about Peace? - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative flopped the first time around because it's not really a peace proposal. Conceived in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when the Arab states, and in particular Saudi Arabia, were viewed with disgust by most Americans, the initiative was more about polishing the image of the Arab world in the U.S. than anything else.
        It fizzled because it was not an invitation to negotiate, but a diktat. Even worse, it contained a vital poison pill: the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel that would, in effect, mean the end of the Jewish state, not peace with it.
        The Arab League proposal envisions an Israel that has been forced to retreat from all territories it won in a defensive war in 1967, one that would be forced to accept millions of Arabs who would change it from a Jewish nation into yet another Arab one. (Commentary)
  • The PA Threat of the International Criminal Court - Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
    For months now, the Palestinian Authority has threatened to file for membership at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, which would enable it to press war crimes charges against Israeli soldiers and senior officials. The Hague's authority, however, is a two-way street. From the moment the PA becomes a member, it opens itself to similar war crimes claims. Its leaders are liable to find themselves responsible for crimes against humanity and genocide.
        Sending terrorists to commit suicide bombings; launching tens of thousands of missiles and rockets against civilian communities; inciting and directing its own population and security forces to kill innocent civilians - these are all crimes against humanity. The writer is director of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center. (Israel Hayom)
        See also PA to Halt ICC Plans Against Israel as "Peace Gesture" - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

Iran's Plans to Take Over Syria - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • In mid-April, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah paid a secret visit to Tehran where he met with the top Iranian officials headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Gen. Qasem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Suleimani prepared an operational plan named after him based upon the establishment of a 150,000-man force for Syria, the majority of whom will come from Iran, Iraq, and a smaller number from Hizbullah and the Gulf states.
  • Suleimani's involvement was significant. He has been the spearhead of Iranian military activism in the Middle East. In January 2012, he declared that the Islamic Republic controlled "one way or another" Iraq and South Lebanon. Even before recent events in Syria, observers in the Arab world have been warning for years about growing evidence of "Iranian expansionism."
  • An important expression of Syria's centrality in Iranian strategy was voiced by Mehdi Taaib, who heads Khamenei's think tank. He recently stated that "Syria is the 35th district of Iran and it has greater strategic importance for Iran than Khuzestan [an Arab-populated district inside Iran]." Significantly, Taaib was drawing a comparison between Syria and a district that is under full Iranian sovereignty.
  • Tehran has had political ambitions with respect to Syria for years and has indeed invested huge resources in making Syria a Shiite state. The Syrian regime let Iranian missionaries work freely to strengthen the Shiite faith in Damascus and the cities of the Alawite coast, as well as the smaller towns and villages. In both urban and rural parts of Syria, Sunnis and others who adopted the Shiite faith received privileges and preferential treatment in the disbursement of Iranian aid money.
  • Iran is also recruiting Shiite forces in Iraq for the warfare in Syria. These are organized in a sister framework of Lebanese Hizbullah. Known as the League of the Righteous People and Kateeb Hizbullah, its mission is to defend the Shiite centers in Damascus. It is likely that Tehran will make every effort to recruit additional Shiite elements from Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and even from Pakistan.

    The writer is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center.

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