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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
May 16, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

An Atrocity in Syria, with No Victim Too Small - Anne Barnard and Hania Mourtada (New York Times)
    After dragging 46 bodies from the streets near his hometown on the Syrian coast, Omar lost count.
    Omar survived one of the darkest episodes in the Syrian war, a massacre in Tartus Province that has inflamed sectarian divisions, revealed new depths of depravity and made the prospect of stitching the country back together appear increasingly difficult.
    Government and rebel fighters have filmed themselves committing atrocities for the world to see. That lurid violence has fueled pessimism about international efforts to end the fighting.
    See also Video of Syrian Rebel Atrocity Highlights Challenges Facing West on Aid - Loveday Morris (Washington Post)
    A graphic video showing a Syrian rebel atrocity has revived concerns about the makeup of opposition forces.
    British Prime Minister David Cameron said in Washington on Monday that his government would double its military support to Syrian rebels, but the Obama administration has remained cautious.

Russia Wary of Attacks by Rebels Returning from Syria - Olga Dzyubenko (Reuters)
    Russia estimates that about 200 of its citizens are fighting alongside Syrian rebels and fears that they could carry out militant attacks once they return, Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Alexander Bortnikov said Wednesday.

7 Egyptian Security Officers Kidnapped in Sinai (Reuters-Al Arabiya)
    Militants kidnapped three Egyptian policemen and four army officers on Thursday who were travelling in taxis in Northern Sinai.

Fatah Threatens Palestinian Teens Who Played Soccer with Israelis - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    After a soccer match between Palestinian and Israeli teenagers sponsored by the EU, Fatah activists denounced the event as a form of "normalization" with Israel.
    Several Fatah activists posted threatening messages on the Internet against the Palestinian boys and girls who participated in the tournament.
    Fatah leaders in Ramallah also condemned the event, dubbing it a "strange trend."

Video: Israeli Navy Demonstrates Its Firepower - Sam Kiley (Sky News)
    Israel's population is concentrated on its coast. It has also just begun pumping natural gas from its Mediterranean fields.
    Much of Israel's maritime security rests with high speed, Dvora-class patrol boats.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Hints at New Strikes, Warning Syria Not to Hit Back - Mark Landler
    In a clear warning to Syria, a senior Israeli official told the New York Times on Wednesday: "Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizbullah....If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies, he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate."
        "Israel has so far refrained from intervening in Syria's civil war and will maintain this policy as long as Assad refrains from attacking Israel directly or indirectly....Israel will continue its policy of interdicting attempts to strengthen Hizbullah, but will not intercede in the Syrian civil war as long as Assad desists from direct or indirect attacks against Israel."  (New York Times)
        See also Report: Assad to Allow Hizbullah to Attack Israel from Golan - Jack Khoury
    Iran has convinced Syrian President Bashar Assad to allow Hizbullah to open a front against Israel in the Golan Heights, Al-Hayat reported Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • International Criminal Court Launches Inquiry into Israeli Raid on Gaza Flotilla
    The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary inquiry into an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in May 2010, following a request from the Comoros Islands, in which one of the vessels was registered. ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said Tuesday, "My office will be conducting a preliminary examination in order to establish whether the criteria for opening an investigation are met."
        A UN inquiry in 2011 found that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza "was imposed as a legitimate security measure" which "complied with the requirements of international law." Israel is not a party to the treaty establishing the ICC. (BBC News)
        See also Court between a Rock and a Hard Place: Comoros Refers Israel's Raid on Gaza Flotilla to the ICC - Dapo Akande (European Journal of International Law)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Doubts ICC Probe Will Lead to Full Investigation - Herb Keinon and Yonah Jeremy Bob
    A senior Israeli official called the submission to the ICC "an abuse of process." With the submission "being three years after the event," the event does not meet the "gravity requirement" (the ICC typically only handles cases in which many more persons were killed). "It is hard to see it going anywhere," he concluded. An Israel Foreign Ministry official stressed that the suit was not filed on behalf of the Turkish government. (Jerusalem Post)
  • New Israeli Gas Find Reported - Sharon Udasin
    A significant gas presence was reported on Wednesday at the Karish 1 well located about 75 km. northwest of Haifa, the Delek Group said. The well is located in the Alon C field near the Tamar field, which has just begun supplying gas to Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Helicopter Carrier Docks in Eilat - Or Heller
    The USS Kearsarge, an American helicopter carrier, docked Tuesday in the port of Eilat for several days of routine maintenance on its way to the Persian Gulf. The Kearsarge carries 1,800 marines, 20 V-22 helicopters and Harrier fighters. (Israel Defense)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestinians Curb Israeli Reporters' Access to West Bank - William Booth
    Palestinians gathered in Ramallah in the West Bank on Wednesday to commemorate the day they call al-Naqba, or the catastrophe, when the State of Israel was born in 1948. The day unfolded according to the script. At the checkpoints, Palestinian teenagers threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, who answered with tear gas. Except that today there are fewer journalists from Israel covering these events.
        Palestinian journalists are waging a campaign to make it harder for Israeli reporters to cover stories in the West Bank. Now, members of the shrinking Israeli press corps that regularly covers Palestinian affairs face being ejected from news conferences and questioned by Palestinian security forces. Palestinian journalists who are friendly with their Israeli colleagues are labeled "collaborators."  (Washington Post)
  • Rumors of Hamas Interference in Egypt Find Audience - Dina Ezzat
    Hussein, an Egyptian taxi driver in Cairo, is listening to a news broadcast announcing that "Egyptian authorities prevented two Palestinian Hamas members from entering Egypt from Gaza." "They should absolutely close the border with Gaza; we have had enough of these people," Hussein says. He is convinced that Hamas "is to blame for so many things we are suffering today." He buys wholesale the new narrative of Hamas involvement in the killing of protestors in Tahrir Square on 2 February 2011 after a script of recorded conversations between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas leaders was released.
        Political scientist Hassan Nafaa said the readiness of so many people to believe in Hamas involvement indicates "the growing anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment in public opinion....In the eyes of many there is this link between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. People are frustrated with Muslim Brotherhood rule to a point at which they are equally frustrated with anyone or anything associated with them."  (Al Ahram-Egypt)
  • Is Egypt's Government Getting More Islamist? - Shadi Hamid
    Despite considerable legislative and executive powers, the Muslim Brotherhood has passed almost no "Islamic" legislation. Islamization is not something you do on the fly. The Brotherhood's priorities, for now, are simply to survive and get to the next elections. In the midst of an existential struggle, all the organization's resources have been directed toward ensuring Morsi does not fall and take the Brotherhood down with him.
        When the judiciary dissolved the country's first democratically elected parliament, based on a legal technicality, this created an institutional logjam at the top of the state. Legislative powers were ultimately passed on to an upper house of parliament that was never supposed to have that authority in the first place. Without a legitimate legislative authority, the passing of laws slowed to a trickle. Meanwhile, Morsi loyalists were waging an internal battle to gain control of the executive branch. The writer is director of research at the Brookings Doha Center. (Foreign Policy)
  • The "Rabid" Rage of Israel's Enemies - Robert Fulford
    Haroon Siddiqui wrote in the Toronto Star of Canadian Prime Minister "Stephen Harper's rabid pro-Israeli stance." Oxford defines "rabid" as "Furious, raging; wildly aggressive." Doesn't sound like Stephen Harper. He's cool and careful. He finds it unfair that so much criticism is directed by others against "the one country of the global community whose very existence is threatened." He also draws a lesson from history: Those who choose the Jewish people "as a target of racial and religious bigotry will inevitably be a threat to all of us." He believes those who target Israel also threaten "all free and democratic societies."  (National Post-Canada)

Asia Is Becoming Israel's New Frontier - Here's Why - Jonathan Adelman and Asaf Romirowsky (Forbes)

  • Economically, Israel's rapid transition to a "start-up nation" echoes the great transformation underway in such Asian countries as India, China and the Four Tigers. Scientifically, Israel has emerged as a high-tech superpower, thereby very attractive to Asian high tech.
  • Politically, the growing threat of Islamism draws many of these countries towards a country that is in the forefront of fighting this threat. Militarily, the Israeli military, a world leader in anti-missile technology and UAVs, with $5 billion in military exports, is attractive to Asian countries developing their own militaries.
  • Most of all, Israel has developed strong relations with China and India, which had no diplomatic relations with Israel before 1992. Militarily, Israel is the second biggest arms exporter to India today, and at one time in the '90s Israel was the second biggest arms exporter to China.
  • Economically, Israel can claim $5 billion worth of trade with India and over $8 billion with China. Politically, Israel supports India in its fight over Kashmir and against Pakistan, while China also battles Islamic fundamentalism in Xinjiang Province.
  • In addition, Israel has extensive trade with Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam. It also has growing economic and educational ties with Singapore. Israel has developed strong relations too with former Soviet states including Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.
  • As China and India have risen economically, so has Israel's global status. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's four-day visit to China last week highlights the importance of China to Israel. As Chinese Ambassador to Israel Gao Yanping stated ahead of the visit, "China views its relationship with Israel with tremendous importance." Truly Asia is the new frontier for Israel in the 21st century.

    Jonathan Adelman is a professor of international studies at the University of Denver. Asaf Romirowsky is the acting executive director for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).
Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Isru Chag.
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