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September 20, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Has Best Intelligence on Syria in Western Hands - Ronen Bergman (Foreign Policy)
    On March 10, 2013, Israeli intelligence sources began reporting that the Syrian regime had made use of chemical weapons, based on sources that eavesdropped on the Syrian army's tactical frequencies and surveillance satellites that monitored movement out of a bunker known to contain chemical weapons.
    Israel shared its findings with the U.S., but Washington would not acknowledge those findings' veracity. In the end, the U.S. admitted that the information was correct.
    Israel continues to share vast amounts of information about Syria with the U.S. The Wall Street Journal credits Israel with giving the CIA "intelligence from inside an elite special Syrian unit that oversees Mr. Assad's chemical weapons" after the massive Aug. 21 sarin attack outside Damascus.
    "We have a very extensive knowledge of what is happening in Syria. Our ability to collect information there is profound. Israel is the eyes and ears, sometimes exclusively, sometimes as complementary aid, to what U.S. intelligence is able or unable to collect itself," Maj. Gen. Uri Sagi, Israel's former chief of military intelligence, told me on Sept. 19.
    Today, Israel enjoys the best intelligence on Syria in Western hands, and it is sharing that intelligence with the U.S.
    The Americans are also getting information from Jordan and Turkey, both of which gather information themselves and allow the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to set up listening posts on their territory.

U.S. Poll: Syria Will Not Give Up Chemical Arms (Pew Research Center)
    By 67% to 23%, the U.S. public approves of President Obama's decision to delay military airstrikes and pursue a diplomatic effort to convince Syria to give up its chemical weapons.
    However, just 26% think Syria will give up control of its chemical weapons, while 57% think it will not.
    49% oppose U.S. airstrikes against Syria even if it does not give up its chemical weapons, while 37% favor such airstrikes.

Iran Denies Plan to Close Fordo Nuclear Facility (Ynet News)
    Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, firmly denied on Wednesday that his country was willing to shut down its underground uranium enrichment facility in Fordo, as reported Monday in Der Spiegel.

Islamist Legitimacy for Egypt's Military Government - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    In Egypt, a 50-strong committee of academics, jurists, protest activists and clergy charged with writing the new constitution has two months to present the draft, which is to be put to a swift referendum, followed by elections.
    While the Muslim Brotherhood refuses to cooperate with the committee, representatives of the Salafi Al-Nour party are taking part.

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Israeli Firm Unveils "Breakthrough" System for Jamming IEDs - Angus Batey (Aviation Week)
    Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have killed and injured more military personnel in the 21st century than any other weapon.
    Elbit Systems' Miniature Reactive Jammer (MRJ), introduced at the Defense Systems and Equipment International event in London this week, is already in use with the Israel Defense Forces.
    The MRJ is small enough to fit in car-sized vehicles, low-powered enough to run from the vehicle's battery, and can receive, detect, analyze, decide and trigger a jamming effect in response to a signal it picks up without interfering with command-and-control transmissions.

Tel Aviv U. Opens Israel Studies Center at Shanghai University - Danielle Ziri (Jerusalem Post)
    Tel Aviv University has established an Israel Studies center at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai, China.

Israeli Expert Saves PayPal Millions - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Israeli Shai Rod is a "pentester" - a hacker who conducts a penetration test against a site to determine its vulnerabilities.
    He was named one of the top ten hackers who have helped PayPal make its site more secure. He gets paid under their Bug Bounty program.
    He has also tested for Google, Twitter, Dropbox, and Adobe.

Israelis Living Long, Happy Lives, Study Finds - Lazar Berman (Times of Israel)
    Israelis are living longer, happier lives, according to the 2013 Statistical Abstract of Israel released Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
    88% of Israelis say they are happy with their lives, compared with only 83% percent in 2002. 60% are also satisfied with their financial situation.
    Life expectancy has risen significantly in the past decade and is now 79.9 years for males born in 2012, and 83.6 for females.

Photos: Israel's Sea Turtle Rescue Center (CBS News)
    At Israel's sea turtle rescue center in Mikhmoret, volunteers and staff are doing their best to protect the creatures.
    Efforts include transplanting turtle nests during the nesting season to protected beaches, rescue and treatment of wounded turtles brought in by fishermen or washed up on Israel's shores, and development of a long-range breeding program for the threatened green turtles.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry Presses Security Council to Act on Syrian Arsenal - Michael R. Gordon
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that it was essential for the UN Security Council to pass a resolution next week to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal. Since the U.S. and Russia reached a framework agreement on Saturday to remove or destroy Syria's chemicals weapons, important differences have emerged that call into question whether the agreement will ever be carried out. The U.S. and France said the threat of force must be maintained to ensure that Assad follows through. But Russia has rejected the potential use of force.
        Sergei V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, has continued to assert that there is no proof the Assad government carried out the chemical attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, suggesting this week that additional investigation was needed before the Council could take any firm action. (New York Times)
  • Israel Calls Iranian President's Nuclear Comments Deceptive
    Israel said on Thursday a U.S. television interview in which Iranian President Rouhani pledged that Tehran would never develop nuclear weapons was an Iranian attempt to deceive the world. "One must not be fooled by the Iranian president's fraudulent words," said a statement issued by Prime Minister Netanyahu's office. "The Iranians are spinning in the media so that the centrifuges can keep on spinning."
        The Israeli statement said Iran was out to achieve a deal in which it would agree to give up an "inconsequential" part of its nuclear program while moving ahead with other activities that would enable it to build a bomb quickly from the moment it decides to do so. (Reuters)
        See also Iran President Blames Israel for Mideast "Instability" - F. Brinley Bruton (NBC News)
        See also Israel: Don't Be Deceived by Rouhani "Charm Offensive" - Herb Keinon
    The Prime Minister's Office on Thursday ridiculed Rouhani for accusing Israel of causing instability in the region at a time when Iran was sending people into Syria to slaughter innocent civilians, and was supporting terrorism around the world. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Cabinet Minister Lapid on Syria, Iran: Words Not Enough - Christiane Amanpour
    "If you want to negotiate, you better have a big stick in your hand," Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid told CNN on Tuesday. "It's the Middle East; you have to have sticks with the carrots....Unless there is a credible threat, all the negotiations are just empty words."
        Not only Syria, but also Iran has to be shown that the world "will not be silent when regimes and dictatorships are gathering weapons of mass destruction." "When the reactor in Qom will be closed, when they will stop enriching uranium, when they take off the enriched uranium they already have, then we can discuss the fact whether we can all hold hands and sing hallelujah together. I'm happy to listen to any new music coming from Iran, but this has to be backed not only by words but also by deeds."  (CNN)
  • Rebel-on-Rebel Violence Seizes Syria - Noiur Malas
    Across northern and eastern Syria, units of the jihadist group ISIS, an Iraqi al-Qaeda outfit whose formal name is the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, are seizing territory from Western-backed rebels. Some U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters now consider the extremists to be as big a threat to their survival as the forces of President Assad. "It's a three-front war," a U.S. official said. The FSA rebels face the Assad regime, forces from its Lebanese ally Hizbullah, and now the multinational jihadist ranks of ISIS. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Nuclear Chief Warns of Iranian "Deception" - Yoel Goldman
    The head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, Shaul Chorev, told the annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Wednesday: "The picture that the Iranian representatives are portraying regarding openness and transparency of their nuclear program...stands in sharp contradiction with Iran's actual actions and the facts on the ground." The issue was not whether Iran has "modified its diplomatic vocabulary...but whether it is addressing seriously and in a timely manner outstanding issues that have remained unresolved for too long."
        Chorev castigated Iran for "deception and concealment, creating a false impression about the status of its engagement with the agency...with a view to buy more time in Iran's daily inching forward in every aspect of its nuclear military program."  (Times of Israel)
  • Number of West Bank Palestinians Working in Israel Highest in Over a Decade - Amos Harel
    The number of West Bank Palestinians who have permanent permits to work in Israel has soared from 33,000 to 48,000 in less than two years and is now at its highest level since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000. Another 3,000 Palestinians have permission to work temporarily in Israel to help with the olive harvest and 27,000 more Palestinians work in industrial zones and settlements in the West Bank. Another 30,000 work in Israel illegally. Thus, about 100,000 Palestinians rely on jobs in Israel for their livelihood. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel to Allow More Building Materials into Gaza
    Israel plans to allow building materials meant for private projects into Gaza for the first time since 2007, when Hamas seized control of the territory, an Israeli defense official said on Tuesday. 350 trucks of cement, steel and concrete will cross into Gaza weekly. Israel's decision followed a request by PA President Abbas. (Reuters-Jerusalem Post)
  • Video: Palestinians Attack Israel Police with Bricks near Jerusalem - Itamar Fleishman
    A video documents Palestinians attacking Israeli Border Guard and police forces last weekend in the village of Anata near Jerusalem, following a brawl between clans, during which two youngsters were killed. Israeli forces called to the scene to restore order were attacked with rocks, firebombs, bricks, and cans of paint. The officers responded with crowd-control means. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Why Iran Will Only Disarm under U.S. Military Pressure - Emily B. Landau
    The goal of threatening to use military force is not to use it, but to effect change on the party being threatened. If this can happen without force being used, this is the best possible outcome. So it is quite unwarranted to say that President Obama projected weakness and indecision by "backing down" from his punishment threat. In fact, the U.S. got results - far better than anything that could have been achieved with a targeted and limited use of military force. But without a firm threat, the deal would not have materialized.
        What does all of this mean for international efforts to stop Iran? Complex cases of WMD non-compliance will most likely not be resolved by the UN, or even the Security Council. Rather, they will be decided by the U.S. and Russia. Determined WMD proliferators like Syria and Iran are not likely to back down and reverse course without facing a credible threat of military force. This lesson has been driven home by the Syrian case.
        There will almost certainly be additional obstacles along the road of disarming Syria of its chemical weapons. Still, this experience has shown that taking a firm stand in international affairs can work. The writer is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Perils of an Iran Nuclear Deal - Amir Taheri
    This week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered a preview of Moscow's plan for "solving" the Iranian nuclear stand-off. According to Fars, a news agency owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Lavrov mentioned the possibility of Iran "voluntarily" suspending uranium enrichment above the 20% level in exchange for full recognition of its right to enrich uranium.
        If America buys into it, the five Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran would be set aside. The fact that Iran has been violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty for more than 20 years will be forgotten. Iran will get to keep almost all of the 4,000 kg. of uranium it has illegally enriched.
        At next week's UN General Assembly, Rouhani will be all smiles and will do his utmost to appear moderate and reasonable. In the run-up to his trip, Rouhani spread the message that his administration does not deny the Holocaust and that the end of Ahmadinejad means an end to annual Holocaust-denial conferences in Tehran. (New York Post)

  • Palestinians

  • Does Jordan Want Palestinians in Control of the Border? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas says that the Palestinians will not accept any Israeli presence along the border between a future Palestinian state and Jordan. But in a recent closed briefing, a high-ranking Jordanian security official responded: "May God forbid! We have repeatedly made it clear to the Israeli side that we will not agree to the presence of a third party at our border." Their worst nightmare is that once the Palestinians are given control over the border, thousands of them from the future Palestinian state would pour into Jordan, strengthening the Palestinian majority already living there.
        Israel has its own reasons for refusing to cede control over the strategic Jordan Valley. Israel's main concern is that the border with Jordan will be used by Palestinian terror groups and Islamist fundamentalist organizations to smuggle weapons and terrorists into the West Bank and Israel. (Gatestone Institute)
        See also Jordan Says No to Hamas - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Jordan's King Abdullah has turned down a request from Hamas to re-open its offices in his country, according to informed sources in Amman. Qatar offered hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Jordan in return for allowing Hamas to open offices in the kingdom. However, "King Abdullah turned down the Qatari offer," the sources said.
        Last year, relations between Jordan and Hamas seemed to be warming up as the Islamist movement's leader, Khaled Mashal, was permitted to visit Amman and hold talks with King Abdullah. But the monarch refused to allow Hamas to resume its activities in Jordan. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Beyond Words: Causes, Consequences, and Cures for Palestinian Authority Hate Speech - David Pollock
    Some top Israeli officials, and many ordinary Israelis, question the credibility of any agreement with Palestinian leaders who still pay tribute to terrorists on government-run television, deny Israel's legitimacy, and claim all of Israel's territory as their own. This time, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks must confront incitement and hate speech up front and head-on. The writer, a former senior advisor at the State Department, is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • How Fares the New Palestinian City? - John Reed
    Bashar Masri is the initiator of Rawabi, a vast planned Palestinian city in the West Bank, a $1 billion project backed by Qatar which will house 25,000 people. Masri has taken considerable grief from his fellow Palestinians for Rawabi. Some accuse him of "normalization" because of his occasional dealings with Israeli businessmen and institutions. He was also castigated for accepting trees from the Jewish National Fund, a Zionist group. Masri responds: "You cannot do business without Israel....The cement comes through Israel; the electricity is all Israeli."
        Because of the financial crisis in the PA, the West Bank's largest employer, Rawabi has had to cut prices for its flats. The lower income, added to the project's other delays, means a business plan designed to be solidly profitable will barely break even. "If trends continue this way, it will be a losing project," says Masri. (Financial Times-UK)

  • Other Issues

  • Russia Is Back in the Region - Zalman Shoval
    Without minimizing the importance of the agreement to rid the Syrian regime of its chemical weapons arsenal or the American contribution to the deal, one gets the impression that the Kremlin was at the wheel. Perceptions, primarily in the Middle East, are sometimes more important than facts, and America in our region today looks like it is following; compared to Russia, which was able to dictate - and it does not matter that objectively the U.S. is much more powerful than Russia.
        Israel cannot ignore the potential consequences that Russia's increased diplomatic standing will have pertaining to crucial diplomatic matters on Israel's agenda. Israel has differences of opinion with Russia on several issues, in particular over Moscow's turning a blind eye, at least on the surface, to the dangers posed by Iran's nuclear program, but there are also quite a few agreements, either declared or veiled.
        Israel is certainly not indifferent, for example, to one of the major trends in Russian diplomacy, which is to stymie the expansion of Islam in the world, particularly in its close vicinity. In other areas as well, relations between Moscow and Jerusalem are doing exceedingly well and serve both parties. However, Russia also understands that Israel will stay unequivocally tied to America and the American people (and to the Jewish community there). The writer served twice as Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. (Israel Hayom)
  • Dining with Al-Qaeda - Anna Therese Day
    I sat down for dinner near Aleppo in northern Syria with four Western-educated, radical jihadists from Pakistan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), an organization that has close ties to al-Qaeda. Each said he was eager for his turn to become a "martyr for the global jihad." All were under 30 and Western-educated college graduates who spoke fluent English. They spoke fondly of their college days in Canada and the UK.
        They also talked about a future in Paradise, as martyred suicide bombers. "It is a dream," said Mohammed, his eyes glazing over as he spoke. The 24-year-old Kuwaiti engineering graduate explained that the selection process for suicide missions is very competitive. (Daily Beast)
  • Muslims, Stop Blaming Israel - Sinem Tezyapar
    Whenever calamities befall Muslim-majority nations, there is always a country to blame: Israel. This madness of putting the blame on Zionists - and Israel in general - has no basis in logic. The most surprising part is that so many people believe this without question. We are no longer surprised to hear Israel's being the scapegoat for every single evil in the world, but Iran's blaming the Zionist entity for a deadly earthquake was pushing the limits of credulity. This, despite the fact that Jews are a handful of people, a tiny population when compared to the overall population of the world.
        Let's look at what is really going on in the Islamic-Arab world. There is a continuous and unending stream of hate. Hatred is deeply ingrained in their tradition, in their culture and in their own education. This fierce, venomous style is what is tearing the Islamic world apart - with Muslims killing Muslims. How do Jews make Muslims kill other Muslims?
        As Muslims, let's stop pointing the finger at others for our problems. It is time for the Muslim world to take responsibility and to ponder what has gone so horribly wrong with the Muslim world. Superstitions, innovations, localized traditions and bigotry have replaced the Quran in some Islamic countries. This hatred has to stop and Muslims must embrace the true spirit of the Quran, which is love, compassion and brotherhood for all. The writer is an executive producer at a Turkish TV network. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • Israel Wants Peace. Period - Israel Kasnett
    Israel wants peace. Period. The Jewish people have never held a desire to rule over others and this remains true today. The Oslo Accords were initially met with enthusiasm among the Israeli public. It quickly became clear, however, that PLO leader Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian people continued to seek the destruction of the Jewish state. Since 1967, when Israel became the ruling military authority over the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai, it has sought ways to arrive at a peaceful settlement with the Arab world. For this reason it has never entirely annexed any of these areas. In fact, in exchange for peace with Egypt, Israel gave up control of the entire Sinai.
        For years, Israelis have been subject to terrorism and rocket attacks. Anti-Israel incitement is rife throughout Gaza and the Palestinian-controlled territories. Israel cannot make peace with only some of the Palestinians. Peace can only be achieved once all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza unify under one authority, with Hamas giving up its intent to destroy Israel. (Al-Jazeera)

The Oslo Accords: 20 Years Later - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)

  • Watching the famous Sept. 13, 1993, handshake on the White House lawn that marked the signing of the Oslo Accords, Dore Gold, the former Israeli ambassador to the UN from 1997 to 1999, was concerned that the process had placed politics over security. "Rather than start with Israel's security requirements...and then construct a political settlement that would protect Israel's security, it worked in the exact opposite way - of first coming to a political agreement and then asking the army to break its head finding a solution," Gold said.
  • On top of that, "You were taking an organization which was on your terrorist list, living in Tunisia, and which was on the losing side of history and you were planting it in Gaza and the West Bank." It raised obvious questions, he said. "Are you certain it has made a transformation? Are you really dealing with the Nelson Mandela of the Palestinians or with a movement that retained a fundamental reservation about Israel's existence?" asked Gold.
  • As policy adviser to Netanyahu when he first became prime minister in 1996, Gold said he was privy to intelligence reports that showed that in 1997 Arafat gave the green light to terror attacks against Israel. That was followed by the more than 1,000 Israeli deaths in Palestinian terror attacks during the Second Intifada, which began in October 2000.
  • "We have to reach peace with our Palestinian neighbors, but the diplomatic approach that you take is the $64,000 question. You want a peace process that is workable, not one that is doomed to fail." Yet until a permanent solution is found, he believes the Oslo Accords should be retained. "It became a document that allowed Israelis and Palestinians to manage their differences. I think it would be a mistake for Israel to renounce it," Gold said.
  • Israel's former ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, served as Israel's legal adviser on the Oslo Accords. He said that Oslo II grants legal standing to both the presence of the PA and Israel in the West Bank. "From the minute we [Israel] signed Oslo II in 1995, Israel's presence in the West Bank in Area C was with the agreement of the Palestinians," Baker said. Palestinian agreement to Israel's presence in Area C until a permanent agreement is reached means that Israel cannot be considered an occupying power, Baker said.
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