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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
February 26, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Confirms Airstrike on Hizbullah Missiles - Karl Vick and Aaron J. Klein (TIME)
    Israeli planes hit a convoy carrying surface-to-surface missiles into Lebanon on Monday, a senior Israeli security official confirmed.
    The seventh known operation since 2011 was an expression of Israel's clear policy that it will not let Hizbullah improve its anti-Israeli arsenal.
    See also Report: Israeli Strike on Hizbullah Missiles Killed Four - Rakan al-Fakih (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Four members of Hizbullah were killed in the Israeli airstrike on the eastern Lebanese-Syrian border on Monday that targeted a missile shipment from Syria, security sources said Tuesday.
    Sources said the airstrike was aimed at two trucks, one transferring missiles and the other carrying a missile launcher, heading to Hizbullah's missile warehouses in Lebanon.
    See also Hizbullah Says Israel Bombed Its Positions, Vows to Retaliate - Zeina Karam (AP)

IDF Sees Steep Rise in Submarine Operations (Times of Israel)
    The IDF's submarine fleet has seen a sharp increase in the number and duration of its at-sea operations, with a special focus on Lebanon, according to a senior Israel Navy officer.
    Some of the deployments lasted several weeks and took the submarines thousands of kilometers from Israel.
    Israel has bought its top-of-the-line Dolphin submarines from Germany, with two new subs to be delivered in the second half of 2014, the INS Tanin and INS Rahav.
    The new submarines have engines that don't require surfacing to acquire new air supplies.

PLO Official: Abbas' Successor Could Return to Armed Resistance (Ynet News)
    A senior official in the Fatah movement warned that the next Palestinian leader might return to violent resistance should peace talks fail, Israel Radio reported Wednesday.
    "If diplomatic negotiations fail to bear fruit, and there will be no hope or prospect, it is possible Fatah will give up and return to its old ways," the official said.

Seven Egyptian Christians Found Murdered in Libya (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
    Seven Egyptian Coptic Christians were found shot dead on a beach in Grotha in eastern Libya on Sunday.
    Local residents told Reuters the killers dragged the men from their apartments after going door to door asking if people were Christian or Muslim.
    Egyptian foreign ministry spokesperson Badr Abdel-Aty said the dead men were identified by an eighth Egyptian who was abducted but managed to escape.

Israel's Arabs Live Longer than Americans - Joshua Muravchik (Fathom-BICOM)
    According to a study released in 2010 by Ben-Gurion University, the life expectancy of Israeli Arabs is 79 years, one year more than that of Americans, and almost ten years longer than in the Arab world.
    Infant mortality for Israeli Arabs is 8 per thousand live births, a figure driven upward by the Bedouin who are more affected by hereditary diseases. Still, it is less than half of the global median of 17 per thousand.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Germany's Merkel in Jerusalem: Iran Not Just a Threat to Israel - Andreas Rinke
    Speaking about a potential Iranian nuclear bomb, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday in Jerusalem: "We see the threat not just as a threat for the State of Israel but as a general threat for Europe as well."
        At a joint news conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that world powers had "talked about the possibility of some enrichment" continuing in Iran as part of a final deal. "I think it's a mistake," he said. "Every single leader that I've talked to in the Middle East agrees with that position, whether they say so publicly or not. Why? Because if Iran really wants just civilian nuclear energy, then they don't need any enrichment. They don't need centrifuges."  (Reuters)
  • Turks Stage Protests Demanding Erdogan's Resignation
    Thousands of Turks took to the streets in 11 cities on Tuesday demanding the resignation of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. An audio recording disclosed on the Internet on Monday suggested the Turkish prime minister ordered his son Bilal Erdogan to dispose of vast amounts of cash just after a graft probe was launched on Dec. 17 when police raided sons of three ministers. Erdogan labeled the leaked recording as "fake." The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, claimed that the leaked phone conversation is genuine. (Xinhua-China)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Ya'alon: Israel More Worried about Iran than in the Past
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told visiting German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday: "Our main worry is the Iranian regime, and today we are more worried than we were in the past....We are concerned that Iran will escape the pressure, among other reasons - because they are no longer diplomatically isolated and they are beginning to enjoy relief in sanctions. The Iranians would like to preserve the ability to enrich uranium to 3.5% - which will allow them to continue to develop a military nuclear weapon."
        Ya'alon also noted: "Iranian missiles presently cover all of Israel and parts of Europe, and the regime in Tehran intends to develop and produce missiles that will also reach the United States."  (Al-Manar-Lebanon [Hizbullah])
  • Israeli President Honors German Chancellor, Lauds Her Stance Against Anti-Semitism
    Israeli President Shimon Peres awarded Israel's highest civilian honor on Tuesday to visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Presidential Medal of Distinction "was bestowed upon Dr. Merkel for her unwavering commitment to Israel's security and the fight against anti-Semitism and racism, in particular through education," the President's Residence said in a statement.
        "Germany under your leadership does not forget the painful past, the Holocaust, and does not allow it to be forgotten," Peres said at the award ceremony. "You stand with determination against all appearances of anti-Semitism."
        He also praised Merkel's tough stance on the Iranian nuclear program. "You stood against the Iranian threat and stressed, 'A nuclear bomb in the hands of an Iranian president who denies the Holocaust, threatens Israel and denies Israel the right to exist is not acceptable!'"
        Earlier Tuesday, at a press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Merkel expressed strong support for his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jews. (Times of Israel)
        See also Germany's Merkel Backs Main Israeli Stances in Peace Talks - Rafael Ahren (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • How Nuclear Talks Help Iran Dominate the Middle East - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    The only U.S. policy that had proved successful - the tightening of the sanctions - is now falling apart. Iran's international legitimacy is on the rebound. From Iran's standpoint, the nuclear talks are creating an atmosphere where the economic pressure will subside as Iran gains time to fill in the missing pieces of its nuclear program. Iran's foreign policy is also gaining momentum, as it seeks to persuade the Gulf states to align with it while they can still do so peacefully.
        The nuclear talks allow Iran to keep developing those parts of its nuclear program - essentially, the military component - that have not yet come to full fruition, while it makes "concessions" in areas such as uranium enrichment where it already has a proven capacity. Thus, Iran is hewing to its strategy of nuclear progress and foresees no substantial danger as it keeps marching toward its goals. IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center and the Terrogence Company. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Egypt's Move towards Russia Hints at Shifting Regional Alliances - Ahmed Eleiba
    Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's recent visit to Russia marks a major turning point in strategic relations between Cairo and Moscow, and also served to hand a "yellow card" to Washington. The U.S. is in the process of formulating new security arrangements in the Middle East after having acknowledged that its influence in the region had reached an unprecedented low. At the same time, Russian foreign policy is acquiring a stronger profile in the region.
        Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, who served in senior posts in the Departments of State and Defense, admires Field Marshal El-Sisi for his political realism and believes that the U.S. should engage him in dialogue more actively. He also accepts and understands why El-Sisi has turned to Russia. "I do not have a polite way to express my opinion of what U.S. foreign policy makers are doing in the region," he says. "They have no clear idea about what is happening there."
        "Egypt is an important country for the U.S. We helped remove Mubarak from power. But in the absence of a healthy state of transition it was only to be expected the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power and not those who made the revolution against Mubarak. My advice now is to support the army in Egypt and the military establishment in order to help make up for the abuses the Muslim Brotherhood committed, on the one hand, and to move towards the political realism that Egypt needs, on the other. I should add, here, that transitional phases can take decades until there is a robust civil society and democratic culture."  (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • Arab Demonization of Jews Is a Historical Anomaly - Aomar Boum
    In the Arab world, one of the most shared and lingering perceptions between liberals and Islamists, Shi'a and Sunni alike, remains their belief in a Jewish plot behind the social, economic, and political chaos of the Arab Spring. Jews have largely vanished from the Arab world, but those looking for a scapegoat imagine a hidden Jewish hand that conspires to throw their countries into turmoil. Tweets, Facebook postings, radio and TV commentators, graffiti, and banners circulate stressing how Jews are bringing down Arab governments and replacing them with new subservient allies.
        But it's a relatively recent idea. In fact, Jews were historically frequent, and eventually essential, mediators and intermediaries in traditional Middle Eastern and North African societies. In most villages and towns, local residents held Jews in good faith. Even sultans surrounded themselves with Jewish traders, advisers, and ambassadors and sought their advice to revive economies and establish relations with foreign powers. The writer is assistant professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. (Tablet)

Clarifying the Security Arrangements Debate: Israeli Forces in the Jordan Valley - Michael Eisenstadt and Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • For the Israelis, the principle is that the Jordan River must, for a lengthy period, remain their eastern security border. This means maintaining an Israeli military presence that not only guards against terrorist infiltration and weapons smuggling, but that could also provide the basis for a first line of defense against threats that may someday emerge east of the river.
  • While Israel welcomes cooperative security arrangements with Jordan and the Palestinians in this effort, it looks around at the ineffectual third-party forces on its other borders - especially UNIFIL in Lebanon, UNDOF in the Golan Heights, and UNTSO which still operates in Jerusalem six decades after its creation - and rejects the idea that international forces, even from NATO, could replace its own troops.
  • Israel also wants the term of its military presence along the river defined by certain criteria, not limited by a "date certain" that would be determined without regard to existing strategic realities.
  • In fact, the current Israeli military presence in the valley consists of a handful of infantry companies (totaling 200-500 troops) plus a smaller number of security personnel at the border crossings, many not in uniform. Israel is able to maintain such a limited force because of close coordination with highly professional Jordanian security forces, cooperative working relations with Palestinian security forces, and the supplementary use of advanced technology.
  • Palestinians may take a different view if their leaders clarified that the question of Israel's future military presence in the valley concerns a few hundred personnel, not the thousands that are often implied.
  • The size and status of residual Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley is only one of several thorny security issues that remain unresolved, including Israel's demand for early warning stations on strategic hilltops in the West Bank; arrangements for the aerial approaches to Ben-Gurion International Airport; access and control over the main east-west roads and passes in the West Bank; management and control of airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum in the Palestinian territories; and details of the Palestinian state's demilitarization.

    Michael Eisenstadt is director of The Washington Institute's Military and Security Studies Program. Robert Satloff is executive director of the Institute.

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