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June 10, 2013

In-Depth Issue:

Google Set to Acquire Israeli App Waze for $1.3b - Hagai Golan, Tzachi Hoffman (Globes/Jerusalem Post)
  Sources inform "Globes" that Google Inc. will acquire Waze for $1.3 billion. The acquisition of the Israeli navigation app and traffic report start-up will be completed after months of reports that Waze would be sold to either Google or Facebook Inc.

Saudi Silence on Deadly MERS Virus Outbreak Frustrates World Health Experts - Helen Branswell (Scientific American)
  Middle East respiratory syndrome, a cousin of SARS, has sparked global concern for its pandemic potential, but Saudi Arabia has yet to release information that could help protect the rest of the world. The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, begins July 9 and could draw as many as two million people from around the globe to the holy sites of Saudi Arabia.
  Saudi Arabia is currently waging battle with MERS, yet it has released only the barest of details that scientists or public health officials could use to try to prevent its spread. Since the start of May there have been 38 new cases worldwide — 31 of them in Saudi Arabia — and 20 of the victims have died.
  MERS triggers severe pneumonia and kidney failure in some cases.

Palestinian Terrorists Step Up Attempts to Abduct Israelis (JTA)
  Palestinian militants are stepping up efforts to abduct Israeli soldiers, according to data released by the Israel Defense Forces.
  A total of 27 attempts to abduct an Israeli soldier have been foiled so far in 2012.

Israel's African-Born Beauty Queen - 3 Part Series - Sara Sidner (CNN African Voices)
  From Orphan to Israeli Beauty Queen: Yityish (Titi) Aynaw. She reflects on her move to the Holy Land and connecting with Judaism.

Israel Aids Oklahoma Tornado Victims - Video (KOCO - TV News)
  A group of volunteers from Israel is in Moore, OK to help clean up from the May 20th storm. The assistance is from IsraAid.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Israeli PM: Peacekeepers Leaving Golan Shows Israel Can Only Depend on Itself for Security
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the planned withdrawal of some U.N. peacekeepers from the Golan Heights shows that the Jewish state can only rely on itself for security. Netanyahu was speaking Sunday at a government meeting days after Austria announced it was withdrawing its U.N. peacekeepers from the Golan. Netanyahu told the ministers that "the crumbling of the U.N. force on the Golan Heights underscores the fact that Israel cannot depend on international forces for its security." (Washington Post/AP)
        See also The Risks of Foreign Peacekeeping Forces in the West Bank - Maj.-Gen. [res] Yaakov Amidror, National Security Advisor (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iran Ups Cyber Attacks on Israeli Computers
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran and its Palestinian and Lebanese allies on Sunday of carrying out "non-stop" cyber attacks on major computer systems in his country. He gave no details on the number of attacks but said "vital national systems" had been targeted. Water, power and banking sites were also under threat, he added. (Reuters)
  • Foreign Militant Islamists Streaming into Syria to Face Hizbullah - Hannah Allam
    Foreign Islamist extremists are streaming into Syria, apparently in response to the Shiite militant group Hizbullah’s more visible backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a development that analysts say is likely to lead to a major power struggle between foreign jihadists and Syrian rebels should the regime collapse. While many foreign fighters have been absorbed into established Syrian rebel groups, there are signs now that an increasing number are remaining in free-standing units that operate independently and are willing to clash with other rebels and Syrian communities to implement their own rigid vision of Islamist governance. (Kansas City Star/McClatchy)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Abbas Rejected Netanyahu Offer to Free 50 pre-Oslo Prisoners for New Talks - Avi Issacharoff
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year offered to free 50 Palestinian security prisoners who have been held since before the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, in a bid to get Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come back to the peace table. Abbas rejected the offer.
      Today, a senior Palestinian official told The Times of Israel, the Palestinians might agree to renew talks with Israel if Netanyahu releases all 107 of the pre-Oslo veterans still in jail, most of whom have blood on their hands. It is understood that the Israeli security establishment has no objections on security grounds to the release of the 107 pre-Oslo veterans. The Prime Minister’s Office had no comment on the matter. (Times of Israel)
  • German Report: Berlin a Hub of Hizbullah Activity - Benjamin Weinthal
    Hizbullah has 950 members in Germany, including 250 in the capital, a study by Berlin’s domestic intelligence agency released last week showed. According to the Berlin Agency for the Protection of the Constitution, the agency responsible for security in the capital and which published the report, "The supporters of Hizbullah in Germany behave in a largely inconspicuous way. One distinguishable role is played by the Orphans Project Lebanon [Waisenkinderprojekt Libanon e.V] in Göttingen and supports the survivors of fighters against Israel." The charity is "the German branch of a Hizbullah suborganization" that “promotes suicide bombings" and aims to destroy Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Deadly Clash Outside Iran Embassy in Beirut
    A young Lebanese man was killed on Sunday after two groups clashed in southern Beirut following a protest over the roles of Iran and Hizbullah in Syria. The shooting incident happened near the Iranian embassy in Bir Hassan, which is in an area where support for the Shia group Hizbullah is strong. (Al Jazeera)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Is the Sunni Saudi Kingdom Next? - Joel Brinkley
    Every nation bordering Syria—Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey—is being drawn into the conflict there. The leaders in these countries are worried, to say the least. But why is Saudi Arabia in a panic? Hundreds if not thousands of Saudis are pouring into Syria to fight with one or another of the factions trying to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. And that has Saudi leaders terrified.
      King Abdullah warned Saudis to stay out of the fighting to no good effect. Why are they so concerned? Well, all of them remember well what happened almost 10 years ago when thousands of Saudis joined the jihads against the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and then came back and turned their weapons on Saudis and foreigners who lived there. Hundreds died. (World Affairs)
  • Turkey's Erdogan: "We've Been Patient for Too Long" - Tulin Daloglu
    It was a shocking speech — as if Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had declared a war against a segment of his own people. "We’ve been patient for far too long," Erdogan said on Sunday, June 9, upon his arrival in Ankara's international airport. Erdogan increasingly perceives that the people protesting in the streets are conspiring to bring him down illegally. He is convinced that the protesters have not really come to the streets on their own, but that domestic and foreign provocateurs have goaded them into doing so.
      If there is provocation on the streets, it first started with excessive use of force by the police, and the more the prime minister continues to refuse to find a middle way. His decade-long policies, and the weak opposition, are responsible for the unrest on Turkey’s streets. But with this speech, Erdogan made it clear that he wants to pick a fight with those who disagree with him. He is doing his best to divide the nation between his supporters and the others, and increasing the risks of clashes between those groups. Turkey has turned a corner to a dangerous path. (Al-Monitor)
  • Alicia Keys, Israel and Civil Rights - Richard Friedman
    Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, has lately garnered more attention for her unhinged political views than for her writing. Perhaps nothing was more off-base—at least morally speaking—than the open letter Ms. Walker wrote in late May to singer-songwriter Alicia Keys urging Ms. Keys to cancel a July 4 performance in Israel. Ms. Walker wrote: "You are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an apartheid country."
      The analogy is false: "Apartheid" is a more apt description for the systemic discrimination against women across the Arab world than the only democracy in the Middle East. But this comparison is also an insult to the courageous civil-rights activists who risked their lives in the South. What characterized the civil-rights movement was its strict adherence to the philosophy of nonviolence. The Palestinian leadership, by contrast, for decades has used violence whenever missile attacks or suicide bombers suit its aims.
      Ms. Keys rebuffed Ms. Walker: "I look forward to my first visit to Israel," she told the New York Times. "Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show."
      Mr. Friedman is executive director of the Jewish Federation in Birmingham, Ala. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Sykes-Picot and Israel - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

  • The political order artificially constructed in the Middle East by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement is disintegrating. As the Syrian civil war rages, the borders drawn nearly a century ago are becoming blurred.
  • Syria is gradually splintering into three different entities: one region along the coast is loyal to the Alawite regime of President Bashar Assad; another yet-to-be-determined swath of territory might fall under the control of Sunni opposition forces; and a Kurdish enclave with ties to northern Iran and Kurdish groups in Turkey is also emerging.
  • Meanwhile, Iraq's territorial integrity is also in danger of being compromised. The changing balance of power might have ramifications for Jordan, where Beduin tribes rule over a Palestinian majority.
  • The breakdown of the old Sykes-Picot political order is also testing Israel's border with Syria along the Golan Heights.
  • Israel nearly opened fire on pro-Assad forces during fighting Thursday in Quneitra. Syria had moved five tanks and five armored personnel carriers into the demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights separating Syria and Israel, to remove rebel forces that had taken over the Syrian-Israel border crossing.
  • In response, the IDF relayed a message to the Syrian army via the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), warning that it would take action if the Syrian tanks remained in the demilitarized zone.
  • The battles spooked UN peacekeepers, and at least one country – Austria – has announced it will pull its soldiers out of the mission.
  • Still, Israel is not relying on an international contingent to protect its border, nor should it. In fact, the potential disintegration of UNDOF is proof that Israel cannot rely on international forces for its security.
  • And this realization has important implications, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry continues to spearhead efforts for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel cannot, for instance, agree to replace IDF troops with an international force in the Jordan Valley.

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