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June 3, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Deploys Additional Forces to Sinai, with Israeli Consent - Ilan Ben Zion (Times of Israel)
    An Israeli military source confirmed Sunday that the Egyptian military has deployed "additional ground forces" to northern Sinai in an attempt to rein in Islamist extremists.
    Egypt has deployed six Apache helicopters to reinforce its ground troops, and additional infantry and naval craft have been dispatched to the Suez Canal to protect maritime traffic from terrorist attacks.
    An IDF source said, "The Egyptian military activity in Sinai is coordinated with the Israeli military and authorized at the most senior Israeli levels, in order to address security concerns that pose a threat to both countries."

Russia to Supply MiG-29 Fighter Jets to Syria under Old Contract (Itar-Tass-Russia)
    Russia will supply at least ten MiG-29 jet fighters to Syria under an old contract, a source in the Russian defense complex said Friday.

Hizbullah Recruited Arab-Israeli Spy on Hajj Pilgrimage in Mecca (Israel Hayom)
    Zahar Omar Yousfin, 45, of Shfaram was charged in Haifa District Court on Sunday with giving his Hizbullah handlers information on Israeli military bases.
    Yousfin met with Hizbullah agents during his trips to Saudi Arabia for the traditional Muslim hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
    While in Saudi Arabia, he met with Hizbullah agents and Palestinian groups, and coordinated meetings with other young Arab Israelis visiting Mecca for the purpose of recruiting them.
    Yousfin provided a Hizbullah agent with exact locations of missile strikes during the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Alicia Keys Will Perform in Israel Despite Calls from Boycotters (European Jewish Press)
    R&B singer Alicia Keys announced that she is going forward with a July 4 performance in Tel Aviv despite calls from other artists to cancel her trip as part of a cultural boycott of Israel.
    Keys told the New York Times on Friday: "I look forward to my first visit to Israel."

Israeli Child's Kidney Saves Palestinian Boy - Aaron Kalman (Times of Israel)
    When three-year-old Noam Naor fell out of a window and was pronounced clinically dead, his parents decided to donate his organs.
    One kidney was given to another Israeli child. The other saved the life of a 10-year-old Palestinian.
    The Palestinian boy had been treated with dialysis at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center for seven years before the match was found.
    The father of the boy who received the donation said he wanted to thank the donor's family who gave his son "a new life after years of waiting."

Israeli Wins International Piano Competition - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    Moscow-born Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg, 28, won the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Music Competition in Brussels on Sunday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Rebels Reinforced in Battle Against Hizbullah and Regime Forces in Qusayr - Ma'ad Fayad
    Lebanese Hizbullah and the Syrian Republican Guard sent military reinforcements to the strategically important town of Qusayr earlier this month in an attempt to recapture the rebel stronghold. In response, Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters are flooding the area. A key military source said some 1,700 rebel fighters, mostly affiliated to Aleppo's rebel Al-Tawhid Brigade, have arrived in Qusayr.
        The interim president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), George Sabra, said Friday, "More than 1,000 FSA fighters from all over Syria are now joining the resistance inside Qusayr to defend against the foreign terrorist invaders, who are infiltrating our country from Lebanon."  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also The Qusayr Rules: The Syrian Regime's Changing Way of War - Jeffrey White (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • In Syria, Hizbullah Forces Appear Ready to Attack Rebels in Aleppo - Loveday Morris
    Thousands of Lebanese Hizbullah militants were massed around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday, broadening Hizbullah's backing of President Assad's forces. A senior Hizbullah commander said there were about 2,000 fighters in Aleppo province, largely stationed in Shiite towns north of the city. He added that there were 3,000 Hizbullah fighters in Qusayr, among "no more than 10,000" in the whole of Syria.
        Emile Hokayem, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said of the Aleppo deployment, "A deployment so deep into Syria and in such a crucial place would be a clear indication that Hizbullah's role in Syria was never limited to defensive aims but is geared toward helping Assad score major victories."  (Washington Post)
        See also Sunni Cleric Issues Appeal for World's Muslims to Help Syrian Rebels - Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad
    Prominent Sunni Muslim cleric Sheik Yusef al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian based in Qatar, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, on Friday calling on Muslims around the world to help Syrian rebels in Qusayr, and labeling Hizbullah and Iran, which support the Syrian government, enemies of Islam "more infidel than Jews and Christians."  (New York Times)
  • Russian, Iranian Technology Is Boosting Assad's Assault on Syrian Rebels - Joby Warrick
    Sophisticated technology from Russia and Iran has given Syrian government troops new advantages in tracking and destroying their foes, according to Middle Eastern intelligence officials and analysts. They include increased numbers of Iranian-made surveillance drones and anti-mortar systems that trace the source of mortar fire. Syrian military units also are making greater use of monitoring equipment to gather intelligence about rebel positions and jamming devices to block rebel communications. At the same time, Syrian military leaders are adopting new tactics that some experts also attribute to foreign advisers and training. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Warns Russia Against Sending Missiles to Syria - Anne Gearan
    The Obama administration strongly warned Russia on Friday not to undermine peace efforts for Syria or upend the balance of power between Israel and its neighbors by supplying the Syrian regime with advanced S-300 antiaircraft weaponry. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said provision of the weaponry would have "a profoundly negative impact on the balance of interests and the stability of the region, and it does put Israel at risk."  (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Withholds Millions Pledged to Help Syrian Opposition - Hannah Allam and Roy Gutman
    The U.S. is withholding $63 million that it had pledged to the Syrian Opposition Coalition, the main Syrian opposition organization, because the Obama administration is frustrated with the group's disarray and is searching for more credible partners to support in the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad, knowledgeable officials said Friday. U.S. officials said privately that they are fed up with the group's inability to organize, appoint a government-in-exile or reach decisions on a wide range of issues.
        State Department officials have pledged $250 million in nonlethal aid to boost the Syrian opposition. However, only $54 million has been delivered. (McClatchy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Abbas Wants Israel to Release 120 Terrorists as a Precondition for Restarting Talks - Nadav Shragai
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas has made the resumption of peace talks with Israel conditional on the release of roughly 120 "heavy-duty" murderers, most of whom committed their crimes before the Oslo Accords were signed. One of the murderers was Fatah operative Ala Abu Sata. On Dec. 31, 1993, he and a fellow attacker stabbed to death David Bublil and Haim Weizmann in their sleep in an apartment in Ramle. He mutilated the bodies of his victims, cutting off their ears as proof of his act. Another is Issa Moussa, a Hamas operative, who was involved in the kidnapping and murder of police officer Nissim Toledano, and two other police officers, Daniel Hazut and Mordechai Yisrael, in 1993.
        It was one thing to release 1,027 terrorists in exchange for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. It's another thing entirely to release murderers in exchange for resuming the talks. (Israel Hayom)
  • Is a New Peace Process Underway? - Shlomo Cesana
    Abbas is setting preconditions before agreeing to return to the negotiating table. He defines his demands as "guarantees to ensure the negotiations' success," but in practice he is trying to gain victories that no one has any intention of giving him. Abbas' list of demands includes a request that Israel present a map with the permanent borders of the future Palestinian state, release all terrorists jailed in Israel before the Oslo Accords, and an immediate moratorium on construction beyond the Green Line, including in Jerusalem.
        For his part, Netanyahu has made it abundantly clear to the U.S. that he is willing to sign a historic peace deal. Netanyahu has already declared that he supports the two-state solution. Israel has no preconditions. All the issues will be discussed at the negotiating table.
        Netanyahu wants a demilitarized Palestinian state, without a foreign army, between the Jordan River and the sea, in addition to large Israeli buffer zones. Jerusalem will remain unified, and Israel will retain full control over settlement blocs in the areas enveloping Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Ariel. (Israel Hayom)
  • New Palestinian Prime Minister Named - Barak Ravid
    Rami Hamdallah, 54, a linguistics professor and president of An-Najah University in Nablus, was appointed on Sunday as the new Palestinian prime minister, replacing Salam Fayyad. Despite terming himself a political independent, many Fatah leaders consider Hamdallah "one of their own," unlike Fayyad. Formally, he is supposed to head a transition government that will serve until the elections, but even the most optimistic scenarios do not envision these elections happening in the foreseeable future.
        Hamdallah is familiar with crises. A decade ago, he experienced a personal tragedy when his wife and three daughters were killed in a car accident. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • No Foreseeable Gaza-West Bank Reconciliation - Ahmad Samih Khalidi
    Ever since its 2007 putsch (or pre-emptive counter-putsch), Hamas in Gaza has been systematically building the basis of its Islamist-inspired authority, all mutually pious and insincere words about national reconciliation with the PA/PLO in Ramallah notwithstanding. As Hamas has consolidated its rule, there are almost no foreseeable circumstances in which it is going to relinquish its control of the Strip in favor of the PA/PLO in Ramallah - or vice versa. In short, the chances of a single Palestinian umbrella, unified polity or political entity are fading with each passing day.
        The consequences of this alter the whole shape and contour of the Palestinian national project. If Gaza is subtracted from the West Bank, then the entire concept of a Palestinian state changes: its demographic weight and population, its access to the sea, its borders. An irreversible secession in Gaza means that the remaining area of dispute between Israel and Palestinians is the West Bank, and with this, the influence of Jordan's gravitational pull on the West Bank gets stronger, as does Egypt's influence on Gaza. The writer, a senior associate member of St. Antony's College, Oxford, is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Palestine Studies. (London School of Economics)
  • What Caused the Turkish Protests? - Ihsan Dagi
    Protests erupted when the government sought to demolish Gezi Park in the center of Istanbul and build a shopping mall and luxurious residences. Now Erdogan says he will build a mosque in Taksim. Trying to shift the debate from building a shopping mall in Gezi Park to the building of a mosque instead is a prime example of how religion is used to cover up and generate popular support in Turkey. The ruling party knows that as the debate revolves around Islamic symbols, it can control and rely on the support of the religious masses.
        The disproportionate and indiscriminate violence used by the police under the command of the government turned an environmentalist movement into an anti-government protest. (Zaman-Turkey)
        See also Islamization of Istanbul Continues - Pinar Tremblay (Al-Monitor)

If it Comes to Force: A Credible Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Military Option Against Iran - Amos Yadlin, Emily B. Landau, and Avner Golov (Strategic Assessment-INSS-Tel Aviv University)

  • A study published in 2012 by the Iran Project, signed by thirty former U.S. government officials including the current Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, seeks to create the basis for an informed discussion regarding the option of a military strike against Iran.
  • The report presents a biased analysis of the costs of attacking Iran - the result of a mistaken choice of model for an attack on Iran's military nuclear facilities and an overestimate of the cost to the U.S.
  • The U.S. air force has sufficient capabilities to carry out a surgical strike, over several days, on Iranian nuclear facilities that could set back the Iranian nuclear program by several years.
  • The option of a surgical aerial strike makes it possible to carry out an additional attack several years later if Iran seeks to rehabilitate its military nuclear capabilities.
  • A surgical strike that does not harm widespread Iranian military and economic assets could encourage a positive Iranian response to negotiations, and the fact that many assets remain in Iran's possession that stand to be harmed in the event of escalation could moderate Iran's response.

    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin is Director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Dr. Emily B. Landau is a senior research fellow at INSS. Avner Golov is a research assistant to the Director of INSS.

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