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February 7, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Opposition Leader Herzog: PA Should Recognize Israel as Jewish State - Zev Kam (Maariv-Hebrew, 7Feb2014)
    Opposition leader and Labor Party chairman Yitzhak Herzog said in an interview Friday:
    "I think that the demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland as part of a final agreement is correct and I support it."
    "The basis for this request is in the (UN) Partition Plan, which would have seen two states - one of them a Jewish state."

Syria: 50 Americans Have Joined Extremist Units, U.S. Says - Ken Dilanian (Los Angeles Times)
    At least 50 Americans have joined extremist groups fighting in Syria, and some could try to mount terrorist attacks at home, U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday.
    CIA Director John Brennan said, "We are concerned about the use of Syrian territory by the al-Qaeda organization to recruit use Syria as a launching pad" for attacks on the West.
    James B. Comey, the FBI director, has said that counter-terrorism officials are trying to track U.S. veterans of the Syrian war who have returned home.

Syrian Rebels Free Hundreds in Attack on Aleppo Prison (AP-Washington Post)
    A Chechen suicide bomber from the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front blew himself up at the gates of a Syrian prison in Aleppo Thursday and rebels stormed in behind him, freeing hundreds of inmates.
    Government forces, meanwhile, dropped "barrel bombs" that have killed more than 250 people in Aleppo in the past week.

Jordanian MP: Muhammad Said "Judgment Day Will Not Come until the Muslims Fight the Jews" (MEMRI)
    During a Feb. 3, 2014, Jordanian parliamentary debate on U.S. Secretary of State Kerry's peace efforts, MP Zakaria al-Sheikh said:
    "In a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah, the Prophet Muhammad said: 'Judgment Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews, and the Muslims will kill them.'"
    "In another version, it says: 'You will fight the Jews - you to the east of the river and they to the west of it.' One of the Prophet's companions asked him: 'Which river?' He replied: 'The Jordan River.'"
    "Historical Palestine is the occupied Islamic, Arab, Palestinian land, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea....Nobody has the right to relinquish a single inch of it."
    "The Palestinians are the original owners of Palestine, who lived on its land when they moved from the western Mediterranean Basin to its east in 7000 BCE. The Israelites have existed as a nation only since 1800 BCE, with the birth of Jacob, who is also called Israel. Moreover, Judaism as a religion emerged only in 1300 BCE."
    "Any solution must include the return of every inch of historical Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, must guarantee unconditional 'Right of Return' for Palestinians worldwide, and must provide just financial and international compensation."

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Israeli Start-Up Claims It May Be Able to Stop All Viruses - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Liran Tancman, CEO and co-founder of the Israeli start-up Cyactive, claims it may be able to put an end to viruses, malware, and trojan horses.
    "Much of the code found in even major attacks is reused over and over again in new attacks," Tancman said. "There has actually never been a virus that did not draw substantially on malware that was already in existence."
    Tancman, a former head of cyber-strategy in an elite IDF intelligence unit with a decade of experience in Israel's intelligence corps, has developed "defenses against the core of the malware, the 98% of the code that is just a variant of existing malware."
    According to Yoav Tzruya, a member of Cyactive's board, "What they are essentially doing is applying the principles of genetic computation to detect the next generation of viruses."

UN's Misguided Year of "Palestinian Solidarity" Is Antithetical to Peace - Oren Kessler (Daily Caller)
    The UN has launched the "International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People" - a move certain to push back the prospect of regional peace further still.
    Why? Because the Palestinian Authority will seize on the latest UN folly as another excuse not to engage seriously in peacemaking.
    The writer is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society in London.

240 Million Trees Have Been Planted in Israel - Karin Kloosterman (Israel21c)
    Thanks to the visionary Jewish National Fund (JNF) set up in 1901, Israel is the only country in the world to have a net gain of trees in the last 100 years.
    Some 240 million trees have been planted in Israel by JNF over the last 11 decades.
    JNF has also helped build 180 dams and water reservoirs and has established 1,000 parks.

Brazil's Auto Theft Explosion Is Boon for Israeli Auto Location System - Gabrielle Coppola (Bloomberg)
    Brazilians are fueling a boom in Ituran Location and Control Ltd.'s stolen auto tracking business.
    Sales in Brazil, home to the world's highest auto theft rate according to a 2013 ranking of 34 countries, are climbing so fast that the nation now contributes as much revenue to Ituran as its home market Israel.

Dead Sea Scrolls Website Revamped - Daniel K. Eisenbud (Jerusalem Post)
    An upgraded website featuring the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library has been launched by the Israel Antiquities Authority, allowing visitors to view some 10,000 newly uploaded images of "unprecedented quality," the IAA announced Tuesday.
    The scrolls, written in paleo-Hebrew script, survived for over 2,000 years in Judean Desert caves.

Video: Israel - Reach for the Sky (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    Music by Matisyahu, views by Israel.

    See also Photos: Beautiful People of Israel - Sarah Tuttle-Singer (Times of Israel)
    Sure, this is a beautiful country, but the people - in all of their cultural complexities - make Israel all the more magnificent.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Tehran Enabling al-Qaeda in Syria - Jay Solomon
    The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday charged that Tehran has allowed senior al-Qaeda members operating from Iranian soil to facilitate the movement of Sunni fighters into Syria. The Treasury sanctioned a senior Uzbek member of al-Qaeda, Jafar al-Uzbeki, for using Iran to move fighters into Syria, part of an al-Qaeda network operating from Iran that "operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities." "The network also uses Iran as a transit point for moving funding and foreign fighters through Turkey to support al-Qaeda-affiliated elements inside Syria," including the Nusra Front, the Treasury said.
        U.S. officials have said that cooperation with Tehran on Syria is complicated by the fact that Iranian policy on Syria is in the hands of the IRGC, not with President Rouhani or the Foreign Ministry. Secretary of State John Kerry sought to discuss Syria with Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, last week on the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich, a senior U.S. official said, but Zarif said he didn't have the authority to discuss the Syrian conflict.
        U.S. officials have said they have picked up intelligence in recent months suggesting the Assad regime was buying oil from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), one of the most powerful Sunni militias in Syria's north, and holding back from bombing the group's offices in Rakka province. Some believe Damascus has been seeking to use the militia to further undermine other rebels. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Targets Businesses for Evading Sanctions on Iran - Jason Lange
    The Obama administration targeted a host of businesses across Europe and the Middle East on Thursday for evading sanctions against Iran. "We strongly believe that sustaining sanctions pressure will be critical," a senior U.S. Treasury official said. The targeted businesses and individuals operated in Turkey, Spain, Germany, Georgia, Afghanistan, Iran, Liechtenstein and the UAE. The companies and individuals were prohibited from carrying out financial transactions under U.S. jurisdiction. (Reuters)
  • Kerry: If the Iranians Do Not Produce the Agreement Necessary, We Can Have New Sanctions - Jake Tapper interviews John Kerry
    Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday: "I can absolutely sit here and look you in the eye and I've looked Prime Minister Netanyahu in the eye and said, I believe Israel and the region are safer today then they were before we made this agreement because the [Iranian nuclear] program is stopped and rolled back and we have greater insight and accountability into the program....The bottom line is, we're not losing anything here. If the Iranians do not produce the agreement necessary, then we can put sanctions in in 12 hours, five hours. Congress will pass it like that. We can have new sanctions."
        "[Regarding a boycott of Israel] I have always opposed boycotts. I even traveled to Vilnius in the last months to meet with 28 foreign ministers of the European Union to argue with them against taking any measures against Israel in order to give us the space to be able to negotiate."
        "I am not going to stand down with respect to President Obama's commitment to try to find peace in the Middle East....It's between the parties, not us. They're the ones who have to negotiate. And we're doing everything in our power to encourage them to stay at the table."  (CNN)
  • Top U.S. Jewish Leader Calls on World to Combat Boycott of Israel
    Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, on Thursday called on Western governments to combat the growing international campaign to boycott Israel. He said the drive masks a "politically correct" form of anti-Semitism and urged "zero tolerance" of the boycott.
        "We have to counter the BDS movement in the strongest possible way," Hoenlein said. "That means zero tolerance....This is something that future generations will judge us by because they will pay the price for it." "People are beginning to recognize how nefarious this is, how insidious this movement is," he added. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Rocket Fire from Gaza on Israel Continues - Matan Tzuri
    Two rockets launched from Gaza exploded in southern Israel on Thursday, one near the city of Ashkelon, despite assurances by Hamas that it will prevent rocket launches on Israel. (Ynet News)
  • EU Condemns Israeli Building in Jerusalem's Jewish Neighborhoods - Herb Keinon
    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Israel to reconsider and reverse the Jerusalem Municipality Planning and Building Committee's decision to approve building permits in three Jewish neighborhoods in the city. Permits were approved for 386 new units in Har Homa [today a neighborhood of 25,000] in southern Jerusalem, and 136 for Neveh Ya'acov [pop. 30,000] and 36 for Pisgat Ze'ev [pop. 50,000] in northern Jerusalem.
        Ashton has been increasingly criticized by Israeli government officials for swiftly condemning every building announcement beyond the 1967 lines but not similarly protesting Palestinian incitement or violence. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S. Double Standards on Jerusalem - Tom Wilson
    The State Department has condemned plans by the Jerusalem municipality to issue building permits for 558 new homes in Jewish neighborhoods of the city. This reaction highlights the administration's confused policy on Jerusalem, which has become a tangled web of inaccuracies, double standards, and even outright hostility to Israel's right to enforce the law in its own capital.
        It's far from true that the State Department opposes unilateral moves by both sides. When it comes to claims in Jerusalem, they only condemn the Jewish side. The municipality issues housing permits all the time for both Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, yet only the permits for the Jewish neighborhoods provoke a reaction. The State Department has actively supported unilateral building by the Arab side, while opposing building homes for Jews in Jerusalem.
        The very notion that this is somehow about "prejudging final status issues" is absurd. All of the building permits are for housing in existing Jewish neighborhoods. The WikiLeaks documents revealed that in 2008 the Palestinians already accepted that the "final status" of these neighborhoods would be Israeli. Thus the State Department is condemning Israeli building in Israeli neighborhoods that even the Palestinians say will remain part of Israel. (Commentary)
  • Poll: 70 Percent of Israeli Jews Don't Trust U.S. on Security - Gil Hoffman
    70% of Israeli Jews do not believe the U.S. can be relied upon to maintain key Israeli interests and security requirements in the American-brokered agreement being drafted with the Palestinians, a Geocartography Institute poll taken this week found. Asked whether they agreed with recent criticism of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by top Israeli officials, 67% said yes and 32% said no. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Peace Process

  • How Dare Those Stubborn Israelis Deny Kerry His Nine-Month Peace Treaty - David Horovitz
    John Kerry may feel heartfelt concern about the growing campaign to delegitimize Israel and to boycott it. However, one of the least constructive ways to tackle the danger is by issuing an anguished public prediction that this is what awaits Israel if his peace effort fails.
        It remains inexplicable how Kerry could decide that he was capable of bridging the gulfs between Abbas and Netanyahu, in an era of utter instability in the Middle East. Did he not recall that five years earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - operating at a time when extremists were not filling every possible territorial vacuum in Israel's immediate neighborhood - was rebuffed by Abbas with a peace offer Netanyahu would never come close to replicating?
        Kerry was undeterred by two decades of incontrovertible evidence that setting deadlines and trying to turn the screws on the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships to force a deal simply doesn't work. Yet in the last few weeks it has become clear that even a binding framework agreement is beyond reach.
        The true path to Israeli-Palestinian peace lies in identifying every potential grassroots advocate of reconciliation and gradually achieving change from the bottom up.
        Good diplomacy means addressing the boycott and delegitimization issue in public - to make plain that it is unconscionable to misrepresent Israel as some kind of illegal entity; to underline that historic Jewish Israel was revived by international mandate; and that it was those who spoke for mandatory Palestine's Arab residents who prevented the simultaneous establishment of a Palestinian state 66 years ago. The writer is the founding editor of The Times of Israel and former editor of The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011). (Times of Israel)
  • Defending Kerry While Blaming Israel - Tom Wilson
    White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice has hit back at Israel for criticism from government ministers concerning recent comments by Secretary of State John Kerry, in a succession of tweets. Kerry had raised the possibility of an advancing boycott campaign against Israel in the event that Israel and the Palestinians fail to reach an agreement.
        Kerry may not be endorsing these moves against Israel, but he serves to legitimize them by suggesting that they are the natural response if Israel won't find a way to make a deal with the Palestinians. If the deal genuinely offers Israel peace and security, we can be confident Israelis will jump at it.
        Rice slammed the Israeli criticism that Kerry has received, but where is her response to the criticism Kerry receives from Palestinians? Senior Palestinian Authority officials regularly accuse Kerry of having a pro-Israel bias and Kerry's visits to Ramallah are routinely met by public protests. In making these comments, administration officials contribute to an atmosphere that will ultimately put Israel in the dock for the failure of the negotiation process. (Commentary)

  • Israel Boycott

  • The Boycott Mirage - Efraim Inbar
    So far, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign waged by Israel's enemies has not achieved much success. With the exception of isolated cases, Israeli exports are well received all over the world, particularly if they are competitive in quality and price.
        Israel has found ways to penetrate important markets and Israeli products are imported even by Arab states. Moreover, some Israeli-made products have unique qualities which make them indispensable. Israeli high-tech components have become part of the standard equipment of many global brands. Most Israeli businessmen hardly meet obstacles that are connected to political animosity toward Israel.
        The U.S. is the number one export country for Israel. Attempts to boycott Israeli products are unlikely to be successful in America, where public support for Israel has remained stable for the past two decades at over 60%.
        Several Western European states, prime recipients of Israel's exports, are indeed displaying a growing anti-Israel bias, despite good bilateral relations. As the euro crisis lingers, the purchasing power of European countries is in decline. Even in Europe there are strong pockets of pro-Israeli sentiments.
        Israeli exports are gradually being redirected to Asian markets. The Asians are business-like and do not carry anti-Semitic historical baggage. Israel is generally viewed in Asia as a successful country and a model to be emulated. Prof. Efraim Inbar is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Israel Hayom)
  • Scarlett Johansson, War Criminal? - Daniel Schwammenthal
    The Israeli company SodaStream is a real-life example of coexistence, a place where Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Muslims, Druze and Christians work together in peace. To boot, they assemble a product that cuts the production of environmentally damaging beverage containers.
        It is quite a spectacle to see European companies suggest that it's unethical to do business with Israelis, while so many of their colleagues are flocking for new deals in Iran, the land of public stoning of adulterers and hanging of gays. European governments that now claim to be opposed to such boycotts have in fact long funded a number of non-profits that support the BDS movement.
        The EU must unequivocally reject the boycott of Israel. And it must warn the Palestinians not to use settlements or any other excuse to break up the peace talks. The writer is director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Boycotts Driven By Hate, Not Settlements - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Israel must be prepared for boycotts no matter what happens in the negotiations because the driving force behind the support for these measures isn't principled disagreement with Israeli policies but rather the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe. The impetus for the growing support for the boycott movement isn't based on anything the Israelis are doing. Widespread support in Europe for new laws that restrict Jewish religious practices, as well as efforts to smear Israel and its supporters, have all increased and have grown ever more virulent. (Commentary)
  • Scarlett Johansson's West Bank Stand - Michael M. Rosen
    SodaStream was founded decades ago in Europe. In 1998 the company was acquired by Soda Club, an Israeli company which adopted the older company's name. SodaStream's largest manufacturing facility is in Ma'ale Adumim, a burg of 40,000 located five miles east of Jerusalem's Western Wall, just over the "green line" separating pre-1967 Israel from the West Bank.
        Because of its size and proximity to Jerusalem, Ma'ale Adumim itself, along with the SodaStream factory, is all but certain to be included within the final borders of Israel after a peace agreement with the Palestinians. The town is essentially a garden suburb of Jerusalem, which itself will largely if not completely remain under Israeli control. (Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Other Issues

  • What Would an El-Sisi Presidency in Egypt Mean for Israel? - Alex Traiman
    "Abdul Fattah El-Sisi is Egypt's strong man right now, and has been fighting against radical Islam and against the Muslim Brothers. This is very positive both for Egypt, but also for Israel and the entire Middle East," said former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel.
        "For us in Israel, it is very difficult to understand recent American positions toward Egypt," Mazel said. "When Morsi was elected, they gave him all this support, despite the fact that any good observer could see that Morsi was working to establish a new Islamic dictatorship, by monopolizing legislative and judicial powers and stuffing all the government ministries with Muslim Brothers."
        "And when the second, or corrective, revolution came, the U.S. was against it, and threatened immediately to cut off military assistance. This is hard to understand because this new temporary regime is fighting against the Muslim Brothers and radical Islam in general. And this is in the best interests of the United States, and obviously also in the best interests of Israel."  (Algemeiner-JNS)
  • The Importance of the Jordan Valley Corridor - Reuven Berko
    Neither Jordan nor Israel is eager to place the Jordan River corridor in Palestinian or international hands. The Jordanians have not forgotten how the Palestinians under Arafat tried to depose King Hussein, and the fierce battles waged against them during the "Black September" of 1970, which led to the expulsion of the leaders of the Palestinian terrorist organizations from Jordan to Lebanon. Likewise, the Israelis have not forgotten how the Palestinians in Jordan crossed the river to slaughter Israeli families.
        Can the Palestinian Authority leadership seriously be expected to patrol the Jordan River corridor and stem the tide of Islamist terrorists and their weapons who come from all over the world to wage jihad against Israel? (Algemeiner)
  • Social Media Discourse in Saudi Arabia: The Conservative and Radical Camps are the Dominant Voices - Orit Perlov and Yoel Guzansky
    Since 2012, the number of active Internet users in Saudi Arabia has grown by 300%. The number of Twitter and YouTube users in the kingdom is the highest per capita in the world. While in other parts of the Arab world, the dominant forces using social networks are seeking to challenge the existing social and political structures, in Saudi Arabia the conservatives, radical forces, religious clerics, and mouthpieces for the regime are more dominant on social networks and use them for indoctrination and mobilization.
        Conservative forces have learned to use social networks to preach sermons to the faithful in Saudi Arabia and abroad, and to recruit Salafist and jihadi fighters. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Drone Makers Fight Off Export Rivals - John Reed
    Elbit Systems' Hermes 450 is the Israeli defense group's top-of-the-line unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone. With its 300 km. range and ability to stay aloft for 17 hours, the Hermes 450 forms the backbone of Israel's military fleet. Brazil's air force used it last year to monitor and secure the pan-American football cup. Danny Israeli, Elbit vice-president for business development, speaks of proliferating uses for drones in new areas such as policing borders or monitoring agriculture, forest fires or mass events.
        At Israel Aerospace Industries, Israel's other big producer of UAVs, Joseph Weiss, IAI's chief executive, says, "about 50 countries globally are using our UAVs" including "about five countries" who operate its UAVs in Afghanistan. Israel in 2013 became the world's largest exporter of UAVs - a distant second, as measured by production, to the U.S., with its huge domestic military's demand, but the premier supplier of drones sold overseas.
        Despite growing competition from overseas, analysts think Israel's niche UAVs are safe for now because of their record, proven in hundreds of thousands of hours of flights. "When you have armies that are conservative, and fiscal austerity, will you invest in something that is not proven - or will you buy an Israeli system that has proven itself with the IDF and overseas?" says Huw Williams, unmanned systems editor with IHS Jane's. (Financial Times-UK)
  • British Soldier Who Gave Israel Its First Tanks Dies - Marissa Newman
    Mike Flanagan, a former British soldier who smuggled two Cromwell tanks to the Haganah in 1948, passed away on Friday at the age of 85. "We owe Flanagan a debt of honor," said Lt. Col. Michael Mass, vice president of the IDF Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum. "The two Cromwells helped us greatly in the battles of the War of Independence and he himself fought bravely in our ranks."
        Flanagan, an Irishman, fought in the British army during World War II and participated in the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. After the war, he was stationed in British Mandate Palestine. On June 29, 1948, Flanagan, alongside his friend and tank commander Harry McDonald, stole the two tanks from a military base near the Haifa airport and drove them to Tel Aviv where they formed the basis of Israel's Armored Corps. (Times of Israel)

Assessing U.S. Strategy in the Israeli-Palestinian Talks - Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • The second Obama administration has adopted a profoundly different strategy on the peace process than it did when the president came to office in 2009. Today, the peace process is not the top priority, the president is not personally engaged, and settlements are not the focus of diplomacy.
  • Secretary of State Kerry likes to entice Israelis with the idea that a deal with the Palestinians will trigger the Arab Peace Initiative's promise of recognition from the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.
  • In fact, a close reading of that initiative shows that Israel has to make peace on both the Palestinian and Syrian fronts before any commitment to Arab and Muslim recognition applies. Obviously, the chances for a Golan deal with the current Syrian government or any conceivable successor are close to zero.
  • Current U.S. policy on the peace process is missing four critical items:
    1. A rigorous effort to build a Palestinian constituency that will support tough decisions about peacemaking;
    2. An appreciation of the opportunities that flow from Hamas' current vulnerability;
    3. High-level investment in bottom-up efforts to match the current top-down approach;
    4. Public airing of costs to the Palestinians should their leaders reject the U.S. framework.

    The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute.
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