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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
June 27, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Russia Removes Military Personnel from Syria (AFP-Al Arabiya)
    Russia has withdrawn all its military personnel from Syria and left its Tartus naval center unstaffed because of the escalating security threat in the country, the Vedomosti daily said Wednesday.
    Furthermore, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Al-Hayat on Friday, "Today, the Russian defense ministry does not have a single person in Syria."
    The Vedomosti report said the decision did not cover technical experts who are helping Syria train its army to use Russian-issued weapons.

Hizbullah Has Edge on Syrian Battlefield - Jamie Dettmer (VOA News)
    The decision by Western and Arab Gulf nations to speed up weapons deliveries to Syria's anti-government rebels is testimony to the battlefield effectiveness of Lebanon's Hizbullah fighters.
    In the retaking of the Syrian town of Qusayr, initially Hizbullah reservists were deployed, but then elite and special-forces units were sent in to overcome stiffer than expected resistance.
    "You can see the improvement in military strategy," says a U.S. special forces officer. "First, there's the rolling back of rebel positions along the Lebanese-Syria border....Then there's a focus on clearing up some Damascus suburbs and reaching out to towns to the east of the capital."
    A Hizbullah fighter told the NOW Lebanon website that the group's elite units are "using the training in street fighting they received in Iran, which was done in mock cities specifically built for this purpose."
    British journalist Nicholas Blanford said that elite training was done with Israel in mind. Hizbullah's tacticians had focused since 2006 on ways to go on the offensive against Israel by seizing and holding Israeli towns.

Egypt Charges 9 with Spying for Israel - Mariam Rizk (AP-ABC News)
    Egyptian Judge Hisham el-Karmouty referred three Egyptians and six Israeli Arabs to criminal court on Wednesday for allegedly passing on sensitive information to Israel about security centers in Sinai and about tunnels running under Egypt's border with Gaza.
    Claims by Egyptian authorities of uncovering espionage rings run by Israel are not uncommon despite a 1979 peace treaty between the two.

Saudis Repeat Al-Aqsa Libel - Again - Mohammed Mar'i (Saudi Gazette)
    Under the headline "Israel Planning to Raze Al-Aqsa to Build 'Second Temple'," the Saudi Gazette reported Tuesday that Israeli excavations in Jerusalem's Old City "put in serious danger the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque."
    The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage said that the goal of excavations "is to Judaize Jerusalem and the collapse of Al-Aqsa Mosque to build the so-called second temple on its ruins."
    See also The "Al-Aksa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry: Need to See Progress in Mideast Peace Push Before September - Michael R. Gordon and Jodi Rudoren
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday in Kuwait that progress toward a Middle East peace agreement needed to be made before the UN General Assembly resumes its debate over the Middle East in September. Kerry stressed that he was not setting a firm deadline for resuming peace talks, but said, "Long before September we need to be showing some kind of progress in some way."
        "Almost everybody who's been professionally involved in the peace process does not believe that a permanent status agreement is possible at this time," cautioned Dore Gold, a former Israeli negotiator and aide to Netanyahu who is now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "What is needed is a new paradigm in order to make this work, but there's no indication that any new ideas are surfacing."  (New York Times)
  • U.S., UK: Syria Used Chemical Weapons Ten Times - Edith M. Lederer
    Britain and the U.S. have notified the UN of 10 different incidents of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, a UN diplomat said Wednesday. He added that the Americans and British have found no evidence that the opposition possesses or has used chemical weapons. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Disputes View that Syrian Civil War Has Swung Assad's Way - Gili Cohen and Amos Harel
    A senior Israeli security official said Wednesday that Western intelligence assessments that Assad has changed the course of the Syrian civil war are groundless. The source said neither side has the military strength to prevail.
        Israeli defense officials say Hizbullah's entanglement in the war in Syria is causing it grave damage. The overall number of fatalities Hizbullah has suffered in Syria so far appears to exceed 500.
        "The era of a united Syria under Assad's rule is over. What remains is two million Alawites who can hold onto the Damascus area and the Alawite region in the northwest of Syria in the meantime. They cannot rule the rest of the communities and regions in the country anymore. That's over," the Israeli official said.
        "The problem of the opposition organizations is that they too are divided into more than 100 groups and factions. From Israel's point of view, this mutual paralysis is not necessarily that bad, because the stronger rebel factions are radical Muslim organizations whose rule in Syria could be worse even than the current state of affairs."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Turkey Yet to Fulfill Its Side of Reconciliation Deal with Israel - Shimon Shiffer
    Despite Israel's apology to Turkey three months ago over the Mavi Marmara incident, Ankara has yet to fulfill any of its commitments as part of the reconciliation agreement brokered by President Obama, Yediot Ahronot reported Wednesday. Turkey was to normalize diplomatic relations, including an exchange of ambassadors, and was to terminate all legal proceedings against IDF soldiers involved in the raid. However, the Turks now say they cannot guarantee that IDF soldiers and officers would not be prosecuted.
        Israel had agreed to pay $5 million in restitution, while Ankara demanded $40 million. During talks held over the past few days the Turks have agreed to receive $24 million from Israel, while the Israeli side raised its offer to $14 million. (Ynet News)
  • EU Labels Settlement Goods But Doesn't Label Hizbullah as Terrorists
    European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Dr. Moshe Kantor sent a letter to the leaders of the EU on Tuesday, urging them to relinquish plans to label goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He said the EU's decision to pursue the matter over recognizing Hizbullah as a terrorist organization was "sending a worrying message."
        "This policy is seen as discriminatory as the European Union appears to be singling out one disputed territory of the world for special treatment, whereas the European Union has no similar policies for the other tens of territories that are the subject of international disputes."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Critic of French Al-Dura Coverage Convicted of Defamation
    French media analyst Philippe Karsenty was convicted Wednesday of defamation for accusing state television network France 2 of staging a video that depicted a young boy, Mohammed al-Dura, being killed in a firefight between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers. Karsenty accused the network's Jerusalem bureau chief, Charles Enderlin, of fabricating parts of the segment.
        Last month, an official Israeli government report concluded that al-Dura was not harmed by Israeli forces and did not die in the exchange of fire. Prime Minister Netanyahu said the accusations aired on France 2 were "a manifestation of the ongoing, mendacious campaign to delegitimize Israel."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What's Really Wrong with the Middle East? - Aaron David Miller
    I know it comes as a shocker, but the Middle East really isn't the center of the world any more. Many in the Middle East still believe that the world sits on the edge of its collective seat 24/7 wondering what's going to happen next in their region and devising new ways to rescue them. I'm really tired of hammering the United States for not rescuing the peace process and of Arabs waiting for us to punish Israel, which too many ridiculously dismiss as either America's master or its unruly child. The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Foreign Policy)
  • Hate, Not Time, Is the Enemy of Peace - Jonathan S. Tobin
    With his decision to try to rush the parties into a negotiation with no evidence of common ground for an agreement, Secretary of State Kerry is setting the region up for a blowup that could have been avoided. Instead of listening to the parties and seeing that the Palestinians are not ready to make the sort of sacrifices needed for peace, Kerry is blind to the fact that the real enemy of peace is the hate that fuels the conflict.
        A failure to negotiate is bad enough, but negotiations that are doomed to failure are even worse. American diplomats should remember the last time they tried to muscle Israel and the Palestinians into an agreement at Camp David in the summer of 2000. That led to the second intifada and over a thousand slaughtered Jews and even more dead Palestinians. (Commentary)
  • How Qatar Seized Control of the Syrian Revolution - Roula Khalaf and Abigail Fielding-Smith
    Two months ago a new embassy for the Syrian Arab Republic was inaugurated in Qatar, run by the Syrian opposition. Whether in terms of armaments or financial support for dissidents, diplomatic maneuvering or lobbying, Qatar has been in the lead, readily disgorging its gas-generated wealth in the pursuit of the downfall of the House of Assad. People close to the Qatar government estimate that Qatar has contributed as much as $3 billion to the rebel cause. (Financial Times-UK)
  • The Myth of the Inevitable Jewish Minority in Israel - Jeff Jacoby
    It's an old refrain, erroneous but popular: Israel must make peace with the Palestinians before high Arab birthrates turn the Jews into a minority in their own land. This ominous "demographic argument" rests on an obsolete stereotype of Arab women as baby mills, outbreeding their Jewish sisters. In the 1960s, the fertility rate for Israeli Arabs (9.2 births per woman) soared far above that of Israeli Jews (3.4 births per woman). Within Israel, the birth rate among Muslims is now at 3.5 children per woman. It is even lower for Palestinians in the West Bank - just 2.9, according to the CIA Factbook.
        The bottom line is that the 6.3 million Jews living in Israel and the West Bank represent 66% of the area's population (not including Gaza). (Boston Globe)

The Bane of Palestinian Infighting - Kimberly Marten (New York Times)

  • The resignation of two Palestinian prime ministers in quick succession has left the PA leadership in limbo. But naming a new prime minister will accomplish little unless the Palestinians can also overcome the patronage, corruption and infighting in their security forces.
  • As PA prime minister from 2007 until earlier this month, Salam Fayyad made security-sector reform a priority. Fayyad strove to replace the corrupt and intimidating militias of the Arafat era with professional security forces who earned the respect of the population.
  • But old patronage networks ultimately proved stronger. Fayyad never managed to control the rat's nest of overlapping Palestinian security agencies, whose constant infighting was encouraged by struggles within President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.
  • Much of the training supported by the U.S. and EU was conducted in Jordan, away from traditional Palestinian bases. Yet old neighborhood and clan ties continued to be used in recruitment and some of the most powerful Palestinian security organizations remained outside the reform regimen.
  • Jenin had been a showpiece of security-sector reform. U.S.-funded and Jordanian-trained PA forces swept through in 2008, arresting militias which had long spread terror and extortion among residents. But in May 2012 the home of Jenin's reformist governor was attacked by gunmen.
  • When the dust settled, it became clear that factions inside the supposedly reformed security forces had been fighting one another for control over territory and patronage. At least two of the senior officers who were arrested had undergone U.S.-funded training in Jordan.

    The writer is a professor of political science at Barnard College and acting director of the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

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