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June 21, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Philippines Warns that It May Pull Peacekeepers Out of Golan - Rick Gladstone (New York Times)
    The future of the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights was thrown into further doubt on Thursday as the Philippines, which provides one-third of the force's soldiers, warned that it might withdraw them unless they receive heavy weapons and protection to survive any attacks by warplanes, tanks and chemical munitions deployed in Syria's civil war.

Sensor System to Be Deployed along Israel-Lebanon Border - Amir Rapaport (Israel Defense)
    The IDF Northern Command has decided to deploy the advanced MSS (Multi-Sensor System) across Israel's northern border.
    A race is currently underway between the defensive situation, which is deteriorating from one week to another, and between the rate of construction of a new fence along the border.
    Countless observation, radar and camera measures have already been deployed in the area, and a new situation room has been established based on the MSS, through which soldiers receive warnings concerning any movement on the Syrian side of the border.
    The system is already deployed along the Gaza border.
    By August 2013, the entire state-of-the-art border defense system will be completed along a 60-km. stretch of the Syrian border, and the IDF is planning to utilize the MSS along the 90 km. Lebanese border.

Israel at the Paris Air Show - Yaakov Katz (Daily Beast)
    The Paris Air Show opened on Monday and, as in years past, the Israeli booths were quite busy.
    Visitors, including many from countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations, came to see the Iron Dome launcher, the long-endurance Heron drone and a variety of sophisticated smart bombs and intelligence systems.
    Over the past decade, Israel has established itself as a leading arms exporter with sales of $7 billion annually. In 2000, exports barely reached $2.5 billion.
    Israel has proven itself a world leader in drones, missile defense, radars, intelligence systems, satellites and command-and-control systems.

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Arab Spring Adds to Global Restrictions on Religion (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)
    A new study by the Pew Research Center finds that the region's already high overall level of restrictions on religion continued to increase in 2011, despite hopes that the Arab Spring would lead to greater freedoms for the people of the region.

Young Officer Fixes IDF Satellite - Akiva Novick (Ynet News)
    It was revealed on Wednesday that a young IDF officer developed a unique model that saved Israel's vital Ofek 5 satellite and put it back into operation, saving the state nearly NIS 500 million.
    "The satellite Ofek 5, which was in space for many years and supplied good intelligence, just started sputtering and provided pictures in rapidly deteriorating quality until they were nearly unusable," recalled Col. (res.) Shai Gilboa.
    Major Yanki devised a theory which determined the cause of the fault and proved it in the lab, after which the engineers on the ground changed the cameras' focus. "To our surprise, it fixed the camera."

Israel to Export 40 Percent of Natural Gas (Prime Minister's Office)
    Israel decided Wednesday to export 40% of its new natural gas findings, while keeping 60% for the Israeli market.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "The State of Israel received a gift from nature in large quantities of natural gas."
    Israel decided to retain enough gas to "supply our needs for 25 years....Israel expects to earn $60 billion from gas exports."

Chinese School Kids Study Israel History - Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
    Eighth-grade students in Beijing schools are preparing for their world history exam, and Israeli history plays a large role in what they are being taught, Yediot Ahronot reported.
    In the history book used by Chinese students, there is a chapter dedicated to the changes that resulted following the wars of Israel, with maps and information taken from Israeli sources.

Women Soldiers Complete IDF Infantry Officer Course - Cara Dorris (Jerusalem Post)
    Two women completed the IDF's infantry officer course on Wednesday. Noam Maoz, 21, described the eight-month course:
    "You never stop working out. You have all kinds of training - navigations of 30 km. all by yourself, no map, no nothing. Then there is a week that literally doesn't stop. We don't sleep for three days."
    "You carry your weight all week long - 25 kilos with the vest and weapon - and finish at sunrise by climbing the highest mountain in Israel. It even snowed that week."

A Sporting Push for Peace in Israeli-Palestinian Relations - James Masters (CNN)
    Mifalot, an initiative backed by one of the biggest soccer clubs in Israel, Hapoel Tel Aviv, brings together children from all backgrounds - not just across Israel and the Palestinian territories, but from countries across the world.
    Arabs, Jews, Bedouins, Druze all take part, while there is a program dedicated to those with special needs. Israel's national under-21 team included five Israeli Arab players, two Ethiopian Jews and a Bedouin.
    "It's a great honor for me to represent Israel," Munas Dabbur, an Israeli Arab striker who plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv, told CNN. "I always felt that I was proud to be invited to the team and I want it to continue."
    While Arab players do not sing the Israeli national anthem, essentially an ode to the Jewish homeland, they also refrain from speaking in Arabic during training to avoid dividing the group.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Gulf Countries Arming Extreme Islamist Groups in Syria
    A new weapons shipment to Syrian rebels sent earlier this month by Gulf countries went to one of the extreme Islamist groups, Ahrar al-Sham. The group is the strongest member of the Syrian Islamist Front, made up of 11 Islamist factions, which is increasingly posing as a parallel to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. Ahrar al-Sham has fighting units in nearly all the provinces. It has coordinated to some degree with the new unified Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, created in December. Activists and residents in areas the group controls describe them as hardcore Islamist.
        Mustafa Alani, a Dubai-based expert on Gulf countries' policies, said the shipment included Russian anti-tank missiles, which rebels have previously obtained from raids on Syrian military arsenals, and some Chinese anti-aircraft missiles in small quantities. He said there was already evidence of rebels using the new anti-tank missiles in Aleppo.
        Alani said "different intentions" among international arms providers bring a complication. "The regional states, especially the Gulf states...want the arms supply to help (rebels) to score a military victory. The Americans and the European Union want only to restore balance because they think once you restore balance both parties will be ready to come to the table."  (AP-Washington Post)
  • Syria Spillover Violence Threatens Cease-Fire with Israel - John Ray
    In a rare opportunity, we were invited to an Israeli air base in the north of the country. As it turned out, just as the crew arrived, a deafening siren sounded and pilots raced to their aircraft. Within a few moments, F-16 aircraft thundered down the runway. "It's the kind of thing happening more and more," one of the uniformed escorts explained.
        "We have for 40 years been training for this exact moment. And we are ready for anything," said a pilot identified as "Major L." "We are searching for peace, but preparing for war."
        "We don't know what will come the day after Assad," explained "Commander M." "It could be that weapons that are pointed internally in Syria at the moment might be pointed at us in the future and that's what we need to be ready for."
        For the past several days, Israeli troops, sailors and airmen have been taking part in a massive military exercise in the north. We're told it's a routine war game. But the message is clear. At the airbase, the F-16s we watched take off a few minutes earlier soon safely returned. A false alarm, this time. (NBC News)
  • Egypt's Morsi Faces Widespread Discontent - Ben Hubbard and Mayy El Sheikh
    As the one-year anniversary of Mohamed Morsi's inauguration as Egypt's president approaches, angry crowds have barred his appointees from their offices, millions have signed petitions calling for his ouster, and work crews have fortified the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood to prevent attacks the police have failed to stop. Morsi inherited a dysfunctional state, but during his year in office, life has grown only harder, with power cuts, gas shortages and rising food costs. (New York Times)
        See also Will Morsi Weather the Storm? - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu to EU: If Hizbullah Isn't a Terror Group, What Is? - Barak Ravid
    After EU states failed to support a move to include Hizbullah's military wing on its list of terrorist organizations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in Jerusalem on Thursday: "If Hizbullah isn't a terrorist organization, I don't know what is a terrorist organization.... They're butchering people left and right across the world." Netanyahu said he found it hard to understand why a consensus among EU nations could not be reached, considering Hizbullah's role in the Syrian war and in the murder of civilians across the world - including on European territory. (Ha'aretz)
        See also PM Netanyahu Meets with EU Representative Ashton (Prime Minister's Office)
  • PA Snarled in Internal Dispute over New Prime Minister's Power - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Less than a month after he was sworn in, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Thursday abruptly submitted his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas. A source attributed the move to a power struggle between Hamdallah and his two deputies - Muhammad Mustafa and Ziad Abu Amr - who were appointed by Abbas. Some said the real prime minister was Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Muhammad Mustafa, who also serves as the director of the PLO's Palestine Investment Fund.
        "Hamdallah quit because he was lacking any authority," said Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri. "He had two deputies who were in charge of the political and economic portfolios."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iranian Actions Speak Louder than Election Results - Michael Singh
    The U.S. administration should focus on Iranian actions, not Iranian personalities. Unless and until Iran is willing to meet international demands regarding its nuclear program and its support for terrorism, fundamental U.S. policy should not change, even as the administration probes for new diplomatic openings. Indeed, until Iran relents, U.S. policy should continue to become firmer, especially in response to Iran's deepening involvement in Syria. Easing the pressure on the regime in response to an election would send Khamenei the message that relief can be had on the cheap, without a true strategic shift.
        Washington can hold the Iranian regime accountable - by demanding of Rowhani and Khamenei changes not just to Iranian rhetoric, but also to Iranian actions. The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • Elections in Iran: The Regime Cementing Its Control - Karim Sadjadpour
    Hassan Rowhani is less a reformer than a consummate regime insider who is committed to the preservation of the Islamic Republic. Indeed, if he was anything less, he would not have been permitted to run. His campaign did not focus on pursuing democracy, or altering the Islamic Republic's strategic principles, but on moderating its style more than its substance.
        Rowhani's victory is unlikely to alter the conditions needed for a rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran. The writer is Senior Associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
  • Why You Shouldn't Get Too Excited about Rowhani - Mark Dubowitz
    Rowhani lived in Paris in exile with Ayatollah Khomeini and followed him to Iran. He was a political commissar in the regular military, where he purged some of Iran's finest officers, and a member of the Supreme Defense Council responsible for the continuation of the Iran-Iraq War, at a great cost in Iranian lives, even after all Iranian territories were liberated. As Iran's lead negotiator, Rowhani masterfully wielded temperate rhetoric to mask an iron determination to expand Iran's nuclear program.
        In the face of increasingly crippling sanctions, Iranians appeared to embrace the "anyone-but-Jalili" vote, if only to counter the candidate who appeared to be Khamenei's first choice. Rowhani, after all, promised that his moderate positions could bring the West around to authorize sanctions relief before the Iranian economy collapses.
        Iran's new president will negotiate to play for time in order to reach an industrial-size nuclear weapons capacity and a nuclear breakout which will allow Iran, without detection, to produce enough weapons-grade uranium or separated plutonium for one or more bombs. The election of Rowhani, a master of nuclear deceit, doesn't get us any closer to stopping Iran's nuclear drive. The writer is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Atlantic)
  • Rowhani Is a Tool of Iran's Rulers - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    The odds are poor that the election of Hassan Rowhani to the presidency will change Iranian society or diminish the power of the supreme leader Ali Khamenei and his praetorians, the Revolutionary Guards, who now effectively control the Iranian economy and oversee the regime's nuclear program and its terrorist and covert-action operations overseas.
        Rowhani is a well-known commodity. It would be more than a little surreal to see the new president champion ideas that he's spent most of his revolutionary life ignoring or crushing. The writer, a former case officer in the CIA, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (New York Times)
  • President-Elect Rowhani Faces Inflated Expectations - Amir Taheri
    Rowhani is a mullah and thus acceptable to clerics although he has never worked as a cleric. Thanks to decades of close association with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), he is acceptable to the military that have emerged as a power behind the scenes in Iran. His position as a security official for years also makes him acceptable to the powerful intelligence services that helped wreck Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's second term. Rowhani is also acceptable to technocrats and managerial elites of the regime. He is a successful businessman and, for years, was chief executive of the IRGC's biggest conglomerate, granting thousands of lucrative contracts to the private sector. (Asharq al-Awsat-UK)

  • Hizbullah in Syria

  • Hizbullah's Adventure in Syria - Daniel Nisman
    Hizbullah's ambitions stretch far beyond protecting Lebanon's once-demeaned Shiite community. Hizbullah is a political Islamist organization that seeks to export its version of Shiite Islam throughout Lebanon and the greater Muslim world. The Iranian Revolution enabled the group's emergence as an anti-Western military force in the early 1980s. The resemblance of Hizbullah's emblem to that of Iran's Revolutionary Guard is no coincidence.
        Hizbullah is now providing tactical support and training to thousands of Assad forces deploying to Aleppo. Hizbullah's adventure in Syria has captured the attention of the Sunni-dominated countries that are looking to oppose Iran's regional influence and also fear that Hizbullah may establish militant proxies within their own Shiite communities.
        Meanwhile, the European Union continues to fumble over whether or not to blacklist Hizbullah as a terror group, which would do untold damage to the group's financial operations across the Continent. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Hizbullah's Necessary War of Choice in Syria - Aram Nerguizian
    Hizbullah decided to commit to offensive military operations inside Syria in concert with Assad's forces. Hizbullah's choice reflects its own priorities in Syria: the primacy of preserving the "Resistance Axis with Iran," and Shi'a communal fears as a regional minority group with a need to create strategic depth in Syria. These factors have led Hizbullah to the bitter conclusion that it can choose to fight Sunni forces in Syria today or fight Sunni forces in Lebanon tomorrow, should Assad fall.
        Yet such a war also presents very real risks. It endangers Shi'a communities in the Gulf, further alienates regional Arab public opinion, and pushes the U.S. to provide anti-Assad rebels with weapons in order to "rebalance" the military balance in Syria.
        Hizbullah can continue to absorb more combat deaths, largely thanks to the dramatic expansion of the group's armed wing in the wake of the 2006 Israeli-Hizbullah war. Compared to some 3,000 fighters in 2006, Hizbullah's current fighting strength may be 20,000-30,000, of which 25% may be full-time, active-duty personnel. The writer is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. (Real Clear World)

  • Other Issues

  • The World's Preferred Refugees - Ron Prosor
    From Mali to South Sudan and from Myanmar to Haiti, countless men, women and children face an uncertain future, aided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which works with all refugee groups but one. Set apart by the shortsighted interests of the Arab states, Palestinian refugees are the world's only card-carrying, professional group of refugees, with their own set of rules, their own funding and even their own international agency, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
        In 2012, the UN spent six times more on every Palestinian refugee as compared to all other refugees. The Palestinians have been on the UN's permanent payroll for over 60 years and are entitled to every service from healthcare to housing and from food rations to education. All other refugees must depend on the host country to provide basic assistance.
        While UNHCR's approach teaches independence, UNRWA's approach prepares the Palestinians to be lifelong dependents. Under UNRWA's framework, Palestinians can continue to be called refugees long after they acquire citizenship and find permanent housing.
        By allowing refugee status to pass to Palestinian children and grandchildren, the number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned from a few hundred thousand in 1948 to over five million today. Left unchecked, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will continue to be added to the UN's permanent payroll every year. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ethiopian Dam over Blue Nile Raises Specter of Conflict with Egypt - Jacques Neriah
    Egypt's Islamist President Mohammad Morsi threatened on June 10 that "all options were open" if Ethiopia would divert the waters of the Blue Nile, which originates from Lake Tana in Ethiopia, with its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project, to be constructed by Italians and partly funded by China. But Morsi appeared to leave room for compromise. He did not renew an Egyptian call to stop work at the dam and described Ethiopia as a "friendly state."
        Ethiopia's decision to construct the dam challenges a colonial-era agreement that had allocated both Egypt and Sudan rights to the Nile water. That agreement, first signed in 1929, took no account of the eight other African nations along the river and its basin. While the dam itself may not reduce the flow greatly, the filling of the reservoir behind any new dam means cutting the river's flow for a time. Evaporation from reservoirs can also permanently reduce water flowing downstream. The Egyptian air force does have the capacity to carry out a massive strike at the dam. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Egypt-Africa: The Nile Crisis - Zvi Mazel
    Following meetings between Egyptian President Morsi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Desalegn, Ethiopia announced that the Nile river would be diverted to facilitate the completion of the Grand Renaissance Dam. Yet Egyptians have yet to come to terms with the needs of other countries.
        As is always the case with Egypt, Israel is accused of a variety of sins: inciting Ethiopia against Egypt, and even granting agricultural assistance to Ethiopia and thus increasing that country's need for water. Egyptians are forgetting that they themselves were the recipients of Israel's technology in the '80s and '90s, and that it was thanks to that help that they were able to grow crops in the light desert soil.
        Egyptian agriculture today is based on Israeli techniques of drip irrigation, and on Israeli varieties of fruits and vegetables. Thousands of young Egyptians trained at Kibbutz Bror Hayil, where they learned how to cultivate the soil and save precious water. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Nile Belongs to Ethiopia Too - Maaza Mengiste (Guardian-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • IDF Commander Lost Eye in War, Ready for Another - Yoav Zitun
    Lt.-Col. Barak Hiram, commander of Battalion 51 in the Golani Brigade, suffered head injuries in combat with Hizbullah fighters during the 2006 war, but the injury did not deter him, then a commander in the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit, who insisted on returning to the front the moment his wounds healed. In the battle, Hiram led a force in a charge against Hizbullah fighters who had opened fire on his troops while they were evacuating soldiers hurt in a previous engagement. Hiram stayed in the same spot the whole night after the opposing force was vanquished despite his heavy injury, so as not to expose his soldiers. Few in the brigade know Hiram lost an eye in that battle.
        Last week he led hundreds of men in a wide-scale, four-day battalion drill starting in the Lower Galilee and continuing to the Golan Heights. Lt. Col. Hiram politely refused to discuss his injury, and preferred to focus on his troops. (Ynet News)
  • Arab Muslims Serving in the IDF
    Pvt. Muhammad Atrash, 18, an Arab Muslim from the Galilee village of Dabburiya, stands in front of his commander in the IDF's Golani Brigade. Instead of the Hebrew Bible, the young soldier picks up a Quran and swears his allegiance to the State of Israel. His older brother, Milad, 19, enlisted a year earlier. Muhammad says that during his service he has never had to face any case of racism, nor has his older brother. However, the brothers say that their military service was not always well received back in their home village.
        Muhammad makes it clear that he would encourage others from his background to serve in the IDF. "It doesn't matter where they serve - contribution is the most important thing....We are guarding our country, we have to protect it and it doesn't matter who the other side is....In the end, everyone protects his or her family."  (Israel Defense Forces)

When Will the Palestinians Accept Us as We Accept Them? - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the 2013 Israeli Presidential Conference on Thursday:

  • From Morocco to Pakistan there is an earthquake. There's a struggle in this vast region between medievalism and modernity. I'm convinced that the forces of modernity, freedom, information, education will ultimately win out. But ultimately is not good enough for the Jewish people. Ultimately the forces of light overcame the forces of darkness in the last century, but our people paid a terrible price. That will not happen again.
  • The greatest threat that we face is that the most dangerous weapons in the world fall into the hands of the most dangerous regimes in the world. We cannot allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons. The Iranian regime has to abide by the international demands, stop all enrichment at all levels, remove the nuclear material that's already been enriched, and shut down the illicit nuclear facilities.
  • In addition to security, in addition to prosperity, we want to achieve peace. The only way to achieve peace is to begin the negotiations for peace. We're ready to begin negotiations with the Palestinians now, without preconditions. There's no reason on earth we shouldn't negotiate. And we give Secretary Kerry all the support for his important effort.
  • But the reason there is no peace has to be addressed. Why have successive governments, six prime ministers since Oslo - and before Oslo - not been able to achieve peace with the Palestinians? Why has this conflict rage from 1920, when the first Palestinian Arab attacks on the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa began? It was the fervent opposition to a Jewish state in any boundary.
  • If we're going to have peace, we're going to have Palestinian leadership that says: "We are willing to make peace with the Jewish state. We will accept the right of the Jewish people to have a nation state." That was and remains the underlying problem that makes peace elusive.
  • Ultimately it is the willingness of the Palestinians to accept a Jewish state, to accept the right of the Jews to live in their ancient homeland as a sovereign people, that will determine the success of our efforts. The heart of the matter is the willingness of our neighbors to accept us as we accept them.

        See also Interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - Lally Weymouth (Washington Post)
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