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August 23, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Harbors Sinai Jihadists - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Senior figures in jihadist groups that identify with al-Qaeda are hiding out in Gaza under the auspices of Hamas, Egyptian sources confirmed Thursday.
    According to authorities in Israel and Egypt, some of the fighters hiding out in Gaza were involved in an August 2012 attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.
    Last week, 35 shooting incidents were recorded between the Egyptian army and jihadists in Sinai.
    Since the execution of 25 Egyptian policemen earlier this week by armed extremists in Sinai, the Egyptian authorities have been trying to send a clear message to Hamas that it must halt the activities of elements that identify with al-Qaeda.
    The jihadists in Sinai are not yet coordinated, with no single body that directs the fighting against the Egyptian army. On the other hand, this makes them harder to hit.

Prime Minister Netanyahu to Address UN Next Month - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday that he will address the annual UN General Assembly meeting on September 30 in a speech expected to focus on Iran.
    This will be the third year in a row that Netanyahu will address the UN.

U.S. Blacklists Four Senior Hizbullah Officials - Rick Gladstone (New York Times)
    The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned four senior Hizbullah officials, banning them from any American dealings and freezing any assets they may have under American jurisdiction.

Israel's Tammuz Missile Helps Defend Northern Frontier - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
    The IDF artillery corps has swelled in size by 30% over the past four years.
    Aside from operating the portable, man-launched Skylark UAVs for infantry troops and the see-shoot network of radars, it has switched its focus to guided rockets - a shift that began during the Second Lebanon War.
    Israel has responded to recent cross-border fire on the Golan Heights on at least four occasions - each time with a Tammuz missile. A GPS-equipped, operator-guided, Non-Line of Sight missile, the Tammuz can be mounted on an armored personnel carrier, or even transported by foot into the field.
    With a maximum range of 25 km., it is the flagship weapon of the artillery corps. Col. Benny Beit-Or, an engineer who had served as the head of weapons development for IDF ground forces, conceived the notion of a unit of tank-hunting troops equipped with long-range missiles able to hit a moving target. The idea was to counteract Syria's quantitative superiority in armor.
    The Tammuz is a weapon that can "attack in a super accurate way, without causing unintended damage, especially as terror operates within a civilian environment," said Lt. Col. A, commander of the Meitar unit that operates the missiles.
    The Tammuz was like an attack helicopter, "with the only difference being that they have to go up in the air and then push a button and we just have to push the button," the commander of the unit said.
    Today, according to military sources, the Golan Heights are to a large extent being guarded by Tammuz missile operators, allowing Israel to protect its border with Syria without amassing armor, and enabling decision-makers to return fire into Syria without mistakenly hitting the wrong target.

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Congressman Baffled by PA Stance - Bill Thompson (Ocala [FL] Star Banner)
    Recently returned from a trip to Israel, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who sits on subcommittees that oversee the Middle East and terrorism, said he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, as well as military and civilian leaders and Israeli citizens.
    Security officials he met with while in Israel convinced him that Iran is close to having a nuclear weapon and further developing missiles or "dirty bombs" that could potentially be used against the U.S.
    Netanyahu said that Israel would prefer to not act alone in trying to halt Iran's nuclear push.
    Yoho said he was baffled by Erekat's response to his question. Erekat, he said, conceded that the nation of Israel had a right to exist, but rejected the premise that it should be populated by the Jewish people.
    That position, Yoho said, undermines any real chance of negotiating peace.

U.S. Marine and IDF Exercise (Israel Defense)
    For the first time, soldiers from the IDF Givati Brigade held a joint exercise with U.S. Marine Corps units at the IDF Urban Combat Training Center at Ze'elim, Israel, which simulates urban environments.
    The exercise was carried out over two days, with each side learning from the other's knowledge and experience.
    "During this exercise, each side served as a simulation of the other side's enemy, so that we observed different defense tactics than those we use," said Maj. Nadav Danino, commander of the Givati reconnaissance unit. "We received feedback that strengthened us considerably."

Jews in Israel Still See Their Country as "a Villa in a Jungle" - Aluf Benn (Guardian-UK)
    Seen through a mainstream political prism in Israel, the latest switch in the Arab spring revolutions with the military retaking of Egypt simply proves that the Jewish state is, as former prime minister Ehud Barak once said, "a villa in a jungle."
    Israel is uncharacteristically an island of calm in a troubled region.

Islamist Targets: First the Jews, Then the Christians - Ali Salim (Gatestone Institute)
    In the days of the Prophet, we Muslims blamed the Jews of Khaybar in the Arabian Peninsula for our ills.
    Now the imams who head the militant Islamist organizations tell us that the Jews, a tiny people who pose no threat to the might of Islam, are responsible for all our ills and for all our failures.
    The Islamists repeat the ancient adage: First we will get rid of the Jews and then we will get rid of the Christians - as we are seeing now in Nigeria, Iraq and especially Egypt.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Officials Weigh Response to Syria Assault - Mark Landler, Mark Mazzetti and Alissa J. Rubin
    The day after a deadly assault in Syria that bore many of the hallmarks of a chemical weapons attack, senior officials met at the White House on Thursday to deliberate over options for the U.S. Among American officials, there was a growing belief that chemical weapons had been used in the latest attack on Wednesday east of Damascus. (New York Times)
  • Among Many Egyptians, a Dramatic Shift in Favor of the Military - Mary Beth Sheridan and Abigail Hauslohner
    How can a country that revolted against an autocratic regime less than three years ago now embrace strong-armed military rule? The Egyptian public's rejection of Morsi is rooted in the wildly high hopes that ordinary Egyptians had for the Arab Spring - and their bitterness at how democracy failed to deliver jobs or social justice.
        "Islam is the solution" was the Muslim Brotherhood's pledge. "But this didn't happen. There was only more injustice," said cabdriver Mohammed Abdul Qadir, 43, whose life only got worse as the already weak economy sputtered. There were gasoline shortages. Food prices climbed. Crime rose as Mubarak's police force melted away. And there were constant, sometimes bloody, protests by workers and political groups. "What we have seen in the past year has made me long for Mubarak's rule," Abdul Qadir said. (Washington Post)
  • Ex-Egyptian President Mubarak Leaves Cairo Prison - Sarah Lynch
    Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was released from prison Thursday after more than two years in detention and was headed to a military hospital because of his health, Egyptian state TV reported. (USA Today)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Syria Chemical Attack Proves We Cannot Allow Dangerous Regimes to Acquire Dangerous Weapons
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Thursday: "The reported use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians is terribly disturbing. If verified, it will be a horrible addition to the roster of tragic crimes committed by the Syrian regime against the people of Syria."
        "Iran is closely watching whether and how the world responds to the atrocities committed by Iran's client state Syria and by Iran's proxy Hizbullah against innocent civilians in Syria. These events prove yet again that we simply cannot allow the world's most dangerous regimes to acquire the world's most dangerous weapons."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Four Rockets Fired at Israel from Lebanon - Haviv Rettig Gur and Elie Leshem
    Four rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel on Thursday, damaging several homes in the Acre-Nahariya area. An Israeli anti-missile battery intercepted one of the rockets. Lebanese media reported that two volleys of rockets had been fired from a Palestinian refugee camp east of the Lebanese city of Tyre. There was an attempt to fire a third volley, but the missiles fell short of the border. IDF sources said they regarded the incident as a one-off attack by a jihadist group rather than the beginning of a wider campaign. (Times of Israel)
        See also In Response to Rocket Fire, IDF Targets Terror Site in Lebanon
    The Israel Air Force on Thursday night targeted a terror site between Beirut and Sidon in response to a barrage of four rockets launched at Israel. Israel will not tolerate terrorist aggression originating from Lebanese territory. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Sunni Islamists Seen Behind Rocket Attack - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The area from which the rockets were launched, near the village of Al Kalila south of Sidon, is predominately Sunni, harboring Palestinian refugee camps known for their cooperation with Lebanon's Sunni jihadist groups. There have been at least four or five such incidents in recent years when radical jihadist Sunni groups have perpetrated terror attacks in southern Lebanon in an attempt to cause a flare-up between Hizbullah and Israel. (Ynet News)
        See also Rocket Narrowly Misses Dozens of Holocaust Survivors
    Dozens of elderly Holocaust survivors, in a facility in the Acre area, came very close to being hit by a Katyusha rocket fired into Israel from southern Lebanon on Thursday which fell a short distance from their facility, causing damage to "four or five homes" and two cars, Channel 2 TV News reported. The residents heard the warning sirens but were unable to reach bomb shelters before the rocket struck. (Times of Israel)
  • Abbas: No Progress in Peace Talks with Israel - Gil Hoffman and Khaled Abu Toameh
    There has been no progress whatsoever in the first four meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators since diplomatic talks restarted, PA President Mahmoud Abbas told a visiting group of Israeli Knesset members in Ramallah on Thursday. Abbas said he was not optimistic that the talks will succeed. He also said the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails was unrelated to the launching of the peace talks.
        PLO Secretary-General Yasser Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio that Israel remained opposed to the presence of a U.S. official at the talks, calling the absence of a U.S. representative "problematic."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Palestinians Don't Want to Be Alone with Israel - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, has publicly complained about PA negotiators having to actually talk one on one with their Israeli counterparts: "The Americans from the beginning were supposed to be there. I don't see why the Israelis don't want the Americans there, as witnesses....These are not two-way negotiations."
        The Palestinian negotiators fear being trapped in a room with the people they are supposed to be crafting a deal with. That is because the last thing they want is to actually reach an agreement they'd have to justify to a Palestinian people that is still not ready to accept a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. (Commentary)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Lessons from Syria's Chemical Weapons Use - Michael Rubin
    Multiple reports suggest that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus killing hundreds. One overarching lesson from the Syrian chemical weapons abuse is that the red line imposed on radical and rejectionist regimes should be their acquisition of chemical weapons rather than their use. Syria shows that given enough time, ideological and radical regimes will use the capabilities they have.
        Syria has had a chemical weapons capability for decades. Sometimes, preempting the ability of a state to acquire the worst weapons is a paramount national and international interest. Let the world condemn Israel for striking Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, and Syria's secret nuclear plant in 2007, but frankly the world is much better off with those programs and facilities eradicated.
        President Obama might now reconsider what the Syria situation means for Iran: Should Iran achieve a nuclear weapons capability or an outright arsenal of nuclear weapons, then the chance exists that at some point Iranian ideologues will choose to use such weaponry. The time to act is before rogues can equip themselves with weapons beyond the pale; not after. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. (Commentary)
  • American Describes Dark Side of Syrian Rebellion - C. J. Chivers
    Matthew Schrier, 35, an American photographer, was held in a rebel-controlled prison in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Wearing masks, his captors began whipping his feet with a metal cable. When the torture ended he could not walk. As they dragged him to his cell, he remembers his captors' parting phrase: "Have you heard of Guantanamo Bay?"
        For seven months, Schrier was a prisoner of jihadi Islamist fighters, accused of being an American spy. His captors drained one of his bank accounts. They also sent messages from his e-mail account to his mother and his best friend assuring them he was fine but had extended his trip to do more work.
        Schrier escaped on July 29, he said, by squeezing out of a basement window. Schrier said his captors were mostly members of the Nusra Front, a group aligned with al-Qaeda and designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. His experience reflects the sharply deteriorated climate for foreigners and moderate Syrians in areas subject to the whims of armed religious groups. (New York Times)

  • Egypt

  • The Choice in Egypt - Charles Krauthammer
    In Egypt today the choice is binary: the country will be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood or by the military. We'd have preferred there be a democratic alternative. Unfortunately, there is none.
        The Brotherhood offered nothing but incompetent, intolerant, increasingly dictatorial rule. In one year, Morsi managed to squander 85 years of Brotherhood prestige garnered in opposition by persecuting journalists and activists, granting himself the unchallenged power to rule by decree, enshrining a sectarian Islamist constitution and systematically trying to seize the instruments of state power. As if that wasn't enough, after its overthrow the Brotherhood showed itself to be the party that, when angry, burns churches.
        The U.S. administration is right to deplore excessive violence and urge reconciliation. But let's not fool ourselves into believing this is possible in any near future. For now, we should not be cutting off aid, civilian or military, as many in Congress are demanding. It will have no effect, buy no influence and win no friends. (Washington Post)
  • In Egypt, U.S. Is Better Off Doing Nothing - Robert Satloff
    Obama's reluctance to punish the generals by suspending aid is really a bet that they are more likely than the ideologically driven Muslim Brothers to remain committed to the security partnership with America and the regional peace that goes along with it. Obama seems uninterested in intervening to change the course of regional events going in the wrong direction, such as Syria's civil war or Iraq's domestic implosion. Given this reluctance, he is wise not to diminish U.S. influence further by cutting ties with the Egyptian military. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Boston Globe)

  • Other Issues

  • Have the Fundamentals of Israel's Strategic Environment Inextricably Changed? - Dore Gold
    There are certain constants in Israel's security predicament that are not going to be altered even with the developments the Middle East is witnessing. For Israel remains a small state surrounded by states that have a combined population of 300 million, in territories that are hundreds of times the size of Israel. As a result, Israel's military assets may be seen as geographically concentrated in a limited area, while neighboring Arab states have been able to disperse launch sites, weapons depots, and military bases across a vast expanse of territory.
        While some neighboring armies have been badly degraded by internal conflicts, it would be a cardinal error to base national planning on a temporary snapshot of reality. For example, Iraq is planning to modernize its ground forces and convert its army from a counterinsurgency force to a force with maneuver warfare capabilities based on new armored and mechanized formations. There are estimates that it will have over 2,000 main battle tanks by the middle of the next decade.
        The Gaza Strip has been flooded with Iranian and Libyan weapons. In the West Bank, where Israel holds on to the outer perimeter of the territory in the Jordan Valley, the same weaponry has not reached terrorist organizations. Global jihadists have been unable to reach the West Bank in order to reinforce their Islamist compatriots, as they did in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Thus, territorial considerations remain applicable to the new threats.
         The pressures Israel faces at this time to agree to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and to acquiesce to the loss of defensible borders pose unacceptable risks for the Jewish state. The writer, Israel's former ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iran Adapts to Economic Sanctions - Moshe Efrat
    Despite the many negative economic indicators and the devaluation of the Iranian currency, the steep rise of the Tehran stock exchange continued in 2012 at a real rate of more than 15%, and at more than 22% in January-June 2013. Moreover, since early 2012 the construction and real estate sector has boomed, with a significant rise in real prices. In addition, as a result of the limits imposed on imports, various industrial plants have experienced significant recovery.
        Iran's enormous income from oil exports over the period 2007-2012 netted $500 billion. The vast majority of Iranian annual foreign trade is conducted with Asia and the Far East, with only 20% conducted with the West. On May 20, 2013, the IMF estimated that Iran will amass a $25 billion surplus in its current account. In addition, after two years of especially harsh Western sanctions, Iran will, in late 2013 or early 2014, still have $79 billion in foreign currency and gold reserves. According to the IMF, in 2014 Iran will experience renewed real growth at least at a 1.1% rate. Dr. Moshe Efrat is the former head of the economic branch in Israel Military Intelligence's research division and a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Where Muslims Can Speak Freely in the Middle East - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Arab journalists and columnists in Israel have been expressing their views about the Egyptian crisis without fear, while their colleagues in Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are afraid to speak their mind. Israel, for example, is one of the few countries in the Middle East where Muslims are permitted to demonstrate in favor of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood organization. This is not because Israel supports Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood; it is because the Muslim protesters know that in a democratic country like Israel they can hold peaceful demonstrations and express their views without having to worry about being targeted by the authorities.
        Israel has become a safe place not only for Arab Christians, but also for Muslims who wish to express their opinion away from intimidation and violence. For the past five weeks, thousands of Muslim worshippers have been using Friday prayers at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to organize demonstrations in support of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Not a single Muslim has been hurt or arrested in Israel for demonstrating in favor of Morsi. By comparison, the Palestinian Authority, which has come out in support of the ouster of Morsi, continues to crack down on Muslims who voice solidarity with him. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Israel's Heroic Restraint - Deroy Murdock
    Last November, the goal of Israel's Operation Pillar Defense in Gaza was to foil the Palestinian rockets that rained down on Israel, including the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The operation involved striking some 1,500 targets. Before the IDF hit the Hamas-operated targets, it scrutinized them to protect the safety of non-combatants. This objective is complicated by the fact that Hamas routinely locates its weapons among civilians, in total violation of the Geneva Convention and some 700 years of the just-war tradition.
        The IDF took multiple steps to protect Palestinian civilians. First, IDF aircraft released leaflets to tell people that they should evacuate the area. Britain's Col. Richard Kemp said: "When possible, they left at least four hours' notice to civilians to leave areas designated for attack, an action that handed a distinct advantage to Hamas." The Israelis then dropped a small, low-impact bomb on the roof of the targeted building - calling it a "Knock on the Door." This tells people the IDF is not kidding and will return soon to take care of business. Rather than encourage the civilians to flee, Hamas told them that it is their Islamic duty to remain in their apartments and become martyrs. The writer is a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. (National Review)
  • Peace Will Take More than Trust and Hope - Gerald Steinberg
    The results of negotiations between warring nations, tribes and religions are determined by power and interests, not amorphous psychology. Although Kerry and U.S. President Barack Obama emphasize the need for faith and trust between Israelis and Palestinians, these terms disappear in their conflicts and discussions with China, North Korea or Vladimir Putin's Russia.
        The concepts of trusting each other, "feeling each other's pain," empathizing or apologizing for past actions - taken from interpersonal conflict resolution - are irrelevant in politics, in which the fates of nations in a violent, anarchic world are determined. In November 1977, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat began negotiations leading to a treaty that has prevented war for more than three decades. Begin and Sadat didn't trust each other. Instead, they recognized that after many destructive wars, both countries needed peace.
        Similarly, Netanyahu and Abbas will only make progress if the tangible benefits outweigh the costs and risks, and if they can sell this to their constituencies. Before Israelis agree to transfer more territory, realistic security arrangements are necessary. In this process, terms such as trust, faith and hope are entirely irrelevant. The writer is a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and the founder of the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation. (Canadian Jewish News)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel Helping the Bedouin Move into the 21st Century - Doron Almog
    Negev Bedouin leader Sheikh Uda Zanoon has reached agreement with the State of Israel to establish a modern Bedouin settlement for his tribe near the Israeli town of Yeruham. The settlement will be planned with the full participation of the 300 families of the Uda Zanoon tribe, who today are without basic infrastructure, such as electricity, running water and roads.
        The Israeli government has decided to allocate $2.6 billion to resolve land disputes and promote economic development within the Bedouin sector. The plan includes building thousands of new housing units, expanding and developing existing settlements and establishing new Bedouin settlements. The guiding principle is to push for a dramatic improvement in Bedouin quality of life without harming tradition. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog is the Director of the Headquarters for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Bedouin in the Prime Minister's Office, and former Head of the IDF Southern Command. (i24 News)
  • Israeli Scientific Breakthrough Could Ease Droughts and Famines - Anav Silverman
    A team of Israeli scientists has developed a new technology that may enable crops to weather droughts worldwide. The team, led by Professor Shimon Gepstein, Chancellor of Kinneret College, genetically engineered a plant that can withstand droughts by "freezing itself" after not receiving water for a certain period of time. The plant then "returns to life" after the water supply is renewed, and this occurs without any damage to the plant's physical structure.
        Moreover, the engineered plants flourished with only a third of the water other plants required. International firms have expressed interest in the technology. (Algemeiner)
  • Israel's "Green" House Takes 4th Place in World Contest - David Shamah
    Israel is officially a world power in environmentally sensible home design, coming in fourth in the biennial Solar Decathlon last week in Datong, China. In the contest to build the best "house of the future," Israel's 85-meter modular house, built of locally-produced materials, came in first in the "energy balance" category for homes that produce more energy than they consume. It also won the hot water production category, and was second in the architecture category and fourth in the market appeal category. The Solar Decathlon, first held in 2002, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. (Times of Israel)

Iran: What New Nuclear Opportunity? - Emily B. Landau (National Interest)

  • All of the talk about a new opportunity with the new Iranian president, Hassan Rowhani, lacks credibility. Rowhani has clarified unequivocally that there will be no suspension of uranium enrichment, which is a basic demand of the P5+1. More advanced centrifuges have been installed at Natanz, and suspicions regarding hidden facilities continue. The plutonium route to a military capability is on course, with the reactor at Arak due to become operational in 2014. And stockpiles of enriched uranium are growing.
  • Of course Rowhani is interested in dialogue, in order to (ab)use his image of moderation to get sanctions off his back, but not to reverse Iran's military nuclear ambitions. He has offered no new proposals, and has said that he is looking for the U.S. to make the first move by taking "practical steps."
  • Those clinging to the narrative of moderation should also take note of the statements Rowhani has made on Syria. The new president is strongly supporting the Assad regime, and has blamed Israel for being behind what is happening in that country.
  • Pressure is the only card the West has to play in terms of leverage on Iran, and therefore cannot give it up. Without pressure - indeed, without greatly increased pressure - Iran will never negotiate seriously on the nuclear issue, especially now that it is so close to its goal. Blaming the West for pressing too hard is something that merely plays into Iran's hands.

    The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

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