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March 14, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Did Iran Cooperate with Al-Qaeda on the Eve of 9/11? - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
    American intelligence had information about the connection between Iranian intelligence and al-Qaeda, including proof that Iran was responsible for planning the journeys of at least eight of the 10 Saudi terrorists in the months before the 9/11 attacks.
    The Iranians may not necessarily have been aware of the full plans, but provided jihad groups with general aid, both logistic and financial, which helped them execute their plans.

Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda at Israel's Gates - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Across Israel's border with the Syrian Golan, various areas are ruled by moderate rebels, Islamists, and regime forces. 60% of the border area is under the control of the opposition.
    The Syrian army today numbers 230,000 men. Facing them are 120,000 rebels, two-thirds of whom are Islamists - 10% affiliated with al-Qaeda - and they're all killing each other.
    In nearly every flash point in Syria, Hizbullah can be found. Their numbers in the country stand at 3,500-4,000 - one-third of their fighting force.
    Alongside them fight hundreds of members of the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
    This week Al-Arabiya reported that 56 bodies of Hizbullah fighters killed in al-Yabrud were transferred to Lebanon in recent days.
    The likelihood that Hizbullah is also operating on the Golan Heights is high. Israeli officials believe the cell that tried to place an explosive device last Wednesday along the border fence, in an area ruled by the regime, either belonged to Hizbullah or operated on its orders.

Is Dutch-Belgian Border Arrangement a Possible Solution for Jewish Towns in West Bank? (Times of Israel)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit to investigate a Dutch-Belgian border arrangement under which citizens of one country live in enclaves within the other, as a possible precedent to enable Jewish towns in the West Bank to remain under Israeli rule inside a future Palestinian state, Israel's Channel 2 TV reported Sunday.
    The Belgian "Baarle-Hertog" and Dutch "Baarle-Nassau" areas involve 24 non-contiguous Belgian areas that are fully or largely surrounded by Dutch sovereign territory. Some of the Belgian areas have Dutch enclaves inside them.

Legendary Israeli War Hero Meir Har Zion Dies at 80 (Jerusalem Post)
    Meir Har Zion, one of the best known members of the IDF's famous commando force Unit 101, died on Friday at the age of 80 at his home in the Beit Shean area.
    Har Zion was among the founders of the IDF's tank commando unit and was its first commander. Unit 101 was responsible for counter raids against Arab terror units in the 1950s.
    After being seriously wounded during a military strike in September 1956, Har Zion recovered and helped found the elite commando unit of the General Staff.
    During the Six-Day War in 1967 Har Zion fought with a tank unit on both the Golan Heights and Jerusalem fronts.
    During the Yom Kippur War in 1973 he rescued injured IDF soldiers from Syrian territory.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his sorrow on the passing of Har Zion, saying that he was among Israel's greatest heroes.
    "He was filled with the spirit of love of country and of the nation," Netanyahu said.
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon remembered Har Zion on Friday as someone who was always in front of his fighters.

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British Shoe-Bomb Plotter Says He Flew with Bomb (AP)
    Saajid Badat, a British man testifying in the terror trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, said Tuesday he flew on planes over the Middle East and Europe with explosives in a shoe after the Sept. 11 attacks but didn't detonate them because he was saving the bomb for an attack over America.
    Badat testified he wore a shoe bomb on at least one flight from Karachi, Pakistan, to Holland and another from Holland to Great Britain in December 2001.
    See also Al-Qaeda Training: Poisoning Dogs and Rabbits, Building Shoe Bombs - Tina Susman (Chicago Tribune)
    Saajid Badat had been through three years of training, from firing weapons while riding a motorcycle to watching dogs and rabbits, trapped under glass, die slow, agonizing deaths as he learned poisoning techniques.
    "It was an experiment," Badat said of the killing of the animals. "The instructor would shout out, 'This is Clinton, this is Bush, this is Sharon.'"
    Badat admitted that upon learning of the Sept. 11 attacks, he had bowed in prayer to show his joy and had secretly wished he could have been part of the mission.

Syrian Refugee Crisis Brings Jews and Arabs Together - Carli Teproff (Miami Herald)
    While Israel and Syria have been foes for decades, a group of Jewish leaders and Israelis are focusing on the humanitarian side of the Syrian civil war.
    Georgette Bennett, founder and president of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding in New York, formed the Jewish Coalition for Syrian Refugees in Jordan after reaching out to Alan Gill, the CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
    "We are commanded as Jews to respond to human suffering," she said. "We are talking about individual human beings." They chose to focus on Jordan because the small country was being overwhelmed by refugees.
    Meanwhile, there has also been an effort in Israel to aid the refugees. Nir Boms, an Israeli policy analyst, said their first efforts began around March 2012. Through Operation Human Warmth, Israelis have sent 1,350 tons of goods including food and clothing.

Survey: 86 Percent of Israelis Satisfied with Life - Niv Elis (Jerusalem Post)
    86% of Israelis are satisfied with life, according to the 2012 Social Survey, released Wednesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics. One-third said they are "very satisfied."
    56% said they were satisfied with their financial situation, while another 40% said they thought their financial situation would improve in years to come.
    Among the employed, there were no significant differences between men and women in the overall level of financial satisfaction.

BDS Bullies on Campus - Alan Johnson (Times of Israel)
    When I tried to speak on March 5 at the National University of Ireland, Galway, against a "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" (BDS) push at the university, BDS supporters shouted vile abuse and tried to break up the meeting.
    The Palestinians are a stage on which the BDS activists act out their identity. Palestinians being starved by Assad hold no interest. Palestinians being thrown from rooftops by Hamas members hold no interest.
    The writer is a senior research fellow at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM).

Israeli Persimmons Found in Saudi Market (Saudi Gazette)
    The Qurayyat Municipality is on alert after its inspectors confiscated 140 kg. of persimmons from the local fruit market that had Israeli stickers, it was reported Tuesday.

Israel Launches Mobile Phone Blood Sugar Monitor (Reuters)
    Israeli start-up LabStyle Innovations on Tuesday launched a mobile-phone glucose meter for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels.
    Called Dario, the meter plugs directly into a smartphone and has a software application that gives real-time recording and analysis of blood sugar readings.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Oil Exports Peak after Interim Nuclear Deal - Benoit Faucon
    Iran's oil exports peaked at a one-year high in the past two months, the International Energy Agency said Friday, as a thaw in relations with the West boosts the troubled economy of the Islamic Republic. Though bans of importing oil in the EU remain in place, Asian oil buyers are getting more comfortable buying Iranian oil because of decreased political risks, oil officials and foreign traders in Tehran say.
        India's Iran oil imports jumped by 175,000 barrels a day to 415,000 barrels a day. In February, imports of Iranian oil surged in Japan and South Korea, by 155,000 barrels a day and 145,000 barrels a day, respectively. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hamas in Worst Cash Crisis Since Seizing Gaza
    Gaza's Hamas rulers have been hit by the worst economic crisis since seizing the territory seven years ago and face growing discontent, even among core supporters. An internal poll carried out by Hamas in December showed that support for the group had dropped to 29%, down from 55% in late 2012. Ahmed Yousef, an intellectual from Hamas' pragmatic wing, warned the status quo in Gaza is unsustainable. "It is no longer possible for the government stop the continued decline in all walks of life," he wrote to journalists on Wednesday. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Political Tensions Arise in Turkey Ahead of Elections - Joe Parkinson and Ayla Albayrak
    Days of protests in Turkey have deepened fears of a resurgence of political violence. Thousands gathered in the central Istanbul neighborhood of Kulaksiz Dortyol to mark the burial of 22-year-old Burak Karamanoglu who was fatally shot on Wednesday. The episodes, including the vandalizing and torching of offices of rival political parties, come after the death of teenager Berkin Elvan on Tuesday that kicked off the largest anti-government demonstrations since last year.
        Political tensions have risen sharply since the emergence in December of a sprawling corruption scandal that touches the prime minister and dozens of his allies. Three elections in the next 16 months are set to shape the political scene in Turkey for the next decade. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also A Guide to Turkey's Tape Scandal - Ayla Albayrak (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Rocket Fire from Gaza Continued Thursday - Lazar Berman and Adiv Sterman
    Rocket alert sirens rang out across southern Israel for a second straight night Thursday, as over a dozen rockets were fired from Gaza. Two missiles, including one heading for Netivot, were shot down by Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries, the IDF said. Earlier in the evening, two rockets were launched at the Ashkelon region. IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said a total of 18 rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel: No Gaza Truce Deal, Calm Will Be Met with Calm - Ron Ben-Yishai
    Israel has not reached a ceasefire agreement with Islamic Jihad and will continue its policy that "calm will be answered with calm," a senior Israeli security official said Thursday. Islamic Jihad sustained casualties in the Israeli military response to its rocket fire from Gaza, despite the group's claims to the contrary. Since Thursday afternoon, it is rogue organizations such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Gaza-based Salafist groups who have been firing rockets.
        The Egyptians negotiated with Islamic Jihad to end hostilities. The Egyptians are finding it difficult to hold direct talks with Hamas so soon after declaring it a terror organization. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Cabinet Minister: Palestinians Are Raising Every Possible Obstacle in Peace Negotiations - Shlomo Cesana
    Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), known to be perhaps the most dovish minister in the Israeli cabinet, laid blame on PA leader Mahmoud Abbas for stymieing progress in the peace talks in an interview published Friday.
        "We have a really difficult partner," he said. "There isn't an obstacle the Palestinians haven't raised in the negotiations. Whenever it looks like you're just about to wrap things up, it turns out that's just the beginning for them. We have a partner who has a really hard time making compromises."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Gaza Prime Minister: Palestine Is From the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River
    While extending condolences to the family of the martyr Ibrahim Al-Ghoul on Monday, who was killed while preparing an explosive device last Saturday, Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas asserted that resistance against Israel would never be forsaken. He stressed that no negotiations or agreements would make our people forsake their right to historical Palestine from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. (Izz a-Din Al-Qassam Brigades-Gaza)
  • Another "Work Accident" in Gaza Kills Four Hamas Terrorists - Jack Khoury
    Four Palestinians, members of Hamas' Izz a-Din Al-Qassam militia, were killed in an explosion on Tuesday in Beit Hanoun in Gaza in what local officials have termed a "work accident." According to reports, the blast was inside a house. AP said the four were preparing a bomb. On Saturday, a Hamas commander in the Izz a-Din Al-Qassam Brigades was killed in Gaza and nine others were injured when an explosive device accidentally blew up, Palestinian sources said. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • The Seizure of the Klos C: Significance and Implications - Yiftah Shapir, Yoel Guzansky, Ephraim Kam, and Yoram Schweitzer
    It is likely that Iran will again attempt to ship weaponry to both Lebanon and Gaza by sea and will try to improve the camouflaging of the shipments. While the March 5, 2014, seizure of the Klos C is a blow to Iran, in the overall balance of weapons smuggled to advance the struggle against Israel, Iran has also had successes - apparently more often than failures - and has successfully shipped many weapons to both Hizbullah and the Palestinian organizations in Gaza.
        It is clear that the seizure of the shipment will not have much effect on the nuclear talks with Iran because the Western governments are eager to reach a final agreement on the issue. There is an understanding between the parties to the nuclear talks that they will focus on the nuclear issue and not expand them to other matters such as Iranian involvement in terror, including arms shipments to terrorist organizations. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)

  • Palestinians

  • Abbas Uses Fatah Speech to Reject U.S. Plan - Pinhas Inbari
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a speech to the Fatah Revolutionary Council on March 9, pledging that he had no intention of betraying the values of the movement. Fahmi Zaarir, vice-chairman of the Council, stated on Radio Palestine on March 11 that Abbas remains faithful to Fatah's founding principles. "Everyone knows what these principles are: Palestine's borders from the Jordan River to the 1967 lines and no compromise regarding all of Jerusalem based on the '67 lines." Regarding refugees, Abbas spoke of the "right of return" of all refugees into the State of Israel itself.
        Abbas repeated emphatically that he would under no circumstances accept the "Jewish state" principle and that he would bring any agreement - if one was reached - to the entire Palestinian people, wherever they may be, for their approval.
        On the eve of the Council's official opening, Abbas reportedly revealed to the Fatah leadership that he would come to Obama with a decision "not to accept American pressure," a position that won unanimous approval. Abbas said that he would agree to an extension of the peace negotiations only if its outcome is known in advance. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Abbas and the "Right of Return" Will Defeat John Kerry - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Radical Palestinian Groups Vie for Power by Attacking Israel - Michael Oren
    Back in the mid-1960s, a Palestinian guerrilla group called Fatah - the Conquest - began launching cross-border attacks against Israeli civilians. Sponsored by Syria and led by Palestinian activists, among them the young Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah aroused admiration throughout the Arab world. Egypt, then Syria's rival, formed its own group and called it the Palestine Liberation Organization - the PLO - which also staged attacks into Israel.
        Though Fatah and the PLO merged long ago and are now headed by Mahmoud Abbas, who has since forsworn terror, other Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are vying for power. By attacking Israel, they gain credibility in the Palestinian street and prestige throughout the region. The writer was formerly Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (CNN)
  • Jewish State Recognition a Test of Palestinian Intentions - Ira Sharkansky
    Netanyahu's insistence that Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or the state of the Jewish people, is not meant to deprive them of their political rights. The rights of Israeli Arabs are as substantial as those for anyone throughout the Middle East, and do not fall below those of ethnic or religious minorities in any democracy.
        Netanyahu's demand is more a test of the Palestinians than a sine qua non for Israel's existence. Yet, it is a fair test. It examines the willingness of the Palestinian leadership to accept Israel as a legitimate neighbor. The failure of the Palestinian leadership to accept Netanyahu's formulation should tell us that Palestine is not ready for elevation to a state, with anything like the rights and powers of other states claiming sovereignty. The writer is professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Would Peace Continue after Abbas? - Bassem Tawil
    It is said that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is the one rational man with whom Israel can make peace. Some Palestinian leaders threaten that if no agreement is reached, a third intifada may break out. That clearly means the entire peace process depends on one man alone, not on the will of the Palestinian people.
        The result of such a deal will be that the conflict will not have been resolved after Abbas' eventual departure from the political scene: the next Palestinian leader will simply say that any agreement was Abbas', not his. Thus, according to Palestinian reasoning, Israel's one chance for peace depends on one rational man, and will evaporate when he quits, is ousted or dies. The enterprise is thus doomed to failure from the outset.
        The Israeli demand for the end of incitement and threats is directly related to Israel's demand to construct a foundation for the Palestinian people which includes a real peace that will continue even after Mahmoud Abbas is no longer the Palestinian leader. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Gaza Missiles: Palestinian State in Practice - Jonathan S. Tobin
    A Palestinian state currently exists in all but name in Gaza. There, asWednesday's barrage of missile fire aimed at Israel from Gaza shows, this Palestinian state presents a clear and present danger to both the Jewish state and regional stability. The Palestinian state in all but name is bristling with weapons and honeycombed with fortifications. Even worse, its Hamas rulers tolerate the existence of another even more extreme Islamist terrorist movement in the area - Islamic Jihad.
        As long as Gaza provides an example of what Palestinian statehood means in practice, it is not reasonable to expect Israelis to replicate it in the West Bank or in portions of Jerusalem. (Commentary)
  • The Palestinian Narrative: The Missing Link in the Peace Process - Eric R. Mandel
    Secretary of State Kerry's well-meaning attempt to forge a framework agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian governments is based on the conventional Western perspective of conflict resolution. Western democratic nations that sign treaties overwhelmingly respect the words on the paper they sign. But what happens when a democratic nation is asked to sign a Western-style treaty with an adversary that values tribe and clan over the nation-state? What happens when one party's narrative is almost totally based on the negation of the other?
        Is a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace achievable if only one side accepts the legitimacy of the other's narrative? The Palestinian Arab national identity is almost exclusively defined by negating the Israeli narrative, including Israel's legitimate right to exist as a Jewish state. Their quintessential narrative is the "Nakba," the catastrophe of the creation of the State of Israel. They view the Jewish historical narrative as fabricated. Israel may be a reality, but to most Palestinians, it is not one that can be accepted for the long term. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Arab World

  • Hizbullah Support for Syrian Regime Risks Eroding Support Base in Lebanon - Maria Abi-Habib
    The streets of Dahiyeh, a Hizbullah bastion on the southern edge of Beirut, once bustled with well-to-do merchants and bargain-hunting shoppers, but they are now largely deserted and many shops are shut or protected by sandbags, after a series of bombings in retaliation for the hundreds of Hizbullah fighters sent to Syria to fight for President Assad. Since the start of the year, four attacks have targeted Dahiyeh, killing 18 people and wounding 117.
        For the first time, some Shiites are leaving Dahiyeh and returning to their villages in the south, their dream of achieving a better life by moving to the capital outweighed by their fears for their safety and their livelihoods. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Watches Warily as Hizbullah Gains Battle Skills in Syria - Isabel Kershner
    Hizbullah is acquiring battlefield experience in the Syrian civil war. "Hizbullah has 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers today in Syria," a senior Israeli military officer said. "This is a major burden for Hizbullah but also a major advantage....I have no doubt that Hizbullah gained much more self-confidence because of the Syrian experience." However, analysts said that Hizbullah's experience in Syria should not be overstated since the group is fighting rebel forces like the Free Syrian Army and jihadist groups, not a modern, regular army.
        At the same time, the group's image in Lebanon and in the broader Arab world has been severely damaged because it is fighting Sunni rebels in Syria. Yoram Schweitzer, an expert at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, said that although Hizbullah is acquiring battle experience, "in my view, the price it is paying is greater than the gain."  (New York Times)
  • Jordan's Energy Balancing Act - David Schenker and Simon Henderson
    In February, two private Jordanian firms signed a contract with a private U.S.-Israeli consortium to import natural gas from Israel's Tamar field in the Mediterranean. The deal may set a precedent in fostering regional economic cooperation and establishing a framework for Jordanian energy security.
        Jordan is wholly reliant on imported energy. After the toppling of President Mubarak in 2011, the Egypt-Jordan gas pipeline - which helped generate nearly 90% of the kingdom's electricity - was sabotaged nearly twenty times. Israel could provide Jordan with an inexpensive and reliable means of meeting all of its domestic gas requirements. Israel is heavily invested in the kingdom's stability and the survival of the moderate monarchy, and it would be glad to fill this need. Yet King Abdullah fears a domestic backlash. Israel already provides significant water supplies to the kingdom. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Other Issues

  • The Western European Double Standard Against Israel - Alan Dershowitz
    The time has come to point an accusing finger at the many Western European academics, artists and activists trying to isolate Israel by imposing boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) only against the nation state of the Jewish people, and to ask some hard questions about their underlying biases. Why have we seen such an increase in anti-Semitism and irrationally virulent anti-Zionism in Western Europe?
        The Holocaust was not solely the work of German Nazis aided perhaps by some Polish, Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian collaborators. The Holocaust was perpetrated by Nazi sympathizers and collaborators among the French, Dutch, Norwegians, Swiss, Belgians, Austrians and other Europeans. In light of the widespread European complicity in the destruction of European Jewry, the pervasive anti-Semitism and irrationally hateful anti-Zionism that has recently surfaced throughout Western Europe should surprise no one. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Was There a Deal with Iran over Lockerbie Bombing? - Con Coughlin
    In December 1988, fire and airplane debris rained down on the Scottish village of Lockerbie, after a civilian passenger flight was blown up in mid-air, killing 270 people, by a terrorist bomb concealed in a radio cassette player. Though no conclusive proof could be found to link Tehran directly to the worst terrorist atrocity committed in Britain, few - myself included - were under any illusions that Iran's Islamic republic was the center of global terrorism. If the evidence of a former Iranian intelligence officer is to be believed, the attack was authorized by Ayatollah Khomeini.
        In the mid-1990s, a senior British intelligence official who had been involved in the original investigation told me that, although there was more than enough evidence to show Iran's involvement, there was not enough to secure a conviction in a British court. The issue was swept under the carpet after Washington (or so I was led to believe) did a secret deal with Tehran on the eve of the first Gulf War in 1991 to secure Iran's support for the liberation of Kuwait, in which the West agreed to drop charges over Lockerbie in return for the release of Western hostages.
        At a time when Washington and the EU are desperate to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, the latest reports about Iran's potential involvement in the Lockerbie bombing might be considered a great inconvenience. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Israelis Don't Care that We Hate Them - Brendan O'Neill
    Last year, a BBC World Service global survey found that Israel was the fourth most "negatively viewed" nation in the world, after Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. Out of EU nations, 72% of Brits surveyed felt negatively about Israel. Israel is the state that it's super hip to hate. But why?
        The most interesting explanation I hear for Israel's unpopularity comes from Richard Pater, a political analyst from Britain who has lived in Israel for the past 15 years. "The lesson many in the West took from the Holocaust is that nationalism is bad; the message Jews took from it is that nationalism is necessary."
        What many Westerners seem to find most nauseating is that Israel is cocky, confident and committed to preserving its national sovereign rights against all-comers. It's a lot like we used to be before relativism. I think that Israel reminds us of our pre-EU, pre-green days, when we, too, believed in borders, sovereignty, progress, growth. Now it's de rigueur in the right-thinking sections of Western society to be post-nationalist and multicultural, to be fashionably uncertain about one's national identity. (Spectator-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Personal Touch in Arab-Israeli Diplomacy: Amb. Samuel W. Lewis - Tamara Cofman Wittes
    Amb. Samuel W. Lewis has left us. With his death on Monday at age 84, we have lost not just a famous Middle East peacemaker, but one of the great American diplomats of the 20th century. "If Arab and Israeli leaders are to acquire any real confidence in a third-party mediator," he said, "the mediator will have to demonstrate real understanding, not only of the issues, but also of the historical connections, underlying fears, and basic principles that shape the behavior of both sides."
        Sam understood the limits of "blunt" tools for influencing foreign leaders, like aid and military force, and the skill of using relationships as the best means of influencing foreign leaders. Most famously, Sam in 1977 worked with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to produce a historic peace between Israel and Egypt. At the Camp David talks, he persuaded President Carter that the key to working with the Israeli leadership was not to push them in the desired direction, but to put your arm around their shoulders and show them where you wanted to go. The writer, former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, is director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. (Brookings Institution)
  • Zubin Mehta Talks about his "Lasting Marriage" to the Israel Philharmonic - John Von Rhein
    Zubin Mehta first led the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1961 when he was 25 years old. He was named the IPO's first music director in 1977 and music director for life in 1981. What he calls their "lasting marriage" of 46 years (and counting) has no real equal on today's world symphonic stage. He says conducting the philharmonic is "something I do for my heart."
        He recalls the day in 1967, at the outset of the Six-Day War, when he hopped the last plane to Israel before the closing of Tel Aviv airport, to demonstrate solidarity with the people of his adopted nation. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War he conducted special concerts dedicated to soldiers in the field. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Israeli Researchers: Blind Can "Hear" Colors and Shapes
    The blind and visually impaired are being offered tools, via training with sensory substitution devices (SSDs), to receive environmental visual information and interact with it in ways otherwise unimaginable. Using a visual-to-auditory SSD, users wear a miniature camera connected to a small computer (or smart phone) and stereo headphones. The images are converted into "soundscapes," using a predictable algorithm, allowing the user to listen to and then interpret the visual information coming from the camera.
        With the EyeMusic SSD, available free at the Apple App store, one hears musical notes to convey information about colors, shapes and location of objects. The work of Prof. Amir Amedi at the Center for Human Perception and Cognition at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Medicine has been patented by Yissum, the Hebrew University's technology transfer company. (Jewish Business News)
  • Book Review: How Denmark's Jews Escaped the Nazis - Richard Overy
    Denmark's Jews were almost all saved from the Holocaust when they fled to Sweden in 1943. In Countrymen: The Untold Story of How Denmark's Jews Escaped the Nazis, a careful study of the fate of two families at the moment of exodus, Bo Lidegaard, editor of one of Denmark's leading newspapers, presents the fine detail of just how Danish Jews managed to escape the grim fate that awaited them from their German occupiers.
        The Danish experience was different from other occupied areas, chiefly because Denmark's place in the German "New Order" was also unique since it was reckoned part of the "Aryan" region of Europe. Technically a neutral, though occupied state, Denmark had been allowed to keep its own administration and was not obliged to introduce legislation to penalize Jews. No Danish Jew was forced to wear the yellow Star of David.
        The Danish population was solidly anti-German, but for the most part aware that active resistance might provoke a more menacing occupation regime. All this changed when a wave of strikes and sabotage broke out in the summer of 1943 and the Danish government was replaced by a German administration, which prepared for a round-up of the country's 7-8,000 Jews. At the last moment a German official, Georg Duckwitz, warned the Danes of the impending action.
        By the middle of October, 7,742 had arrived at Swedish ports; the round-up secured only 202 for deportation, and a further 190 were caught trying to hide. The meat of Lidegaard's story, based on contemporary diaries written by a number of Danish Jews, describes exactly how the escape of two families was planned and carried out, hour by tense hour. It is as exciting as any spy thriller. Not all Danes were angels, though a high proportion had enough decency to offer what aid they could to frustrate German ambitions. (Telegraph-UK)

Israel Gets No Credit from Obama for a Year of Moderate Settlement Construction - Elliott Abrams and Uri Sadot (Washington Post)

  • Two days before meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Obama publicly accused Israel of more "aggressive settlement construction...than we've seen in a very long time."
  • But the president had his facts wrong, and a careful reading of the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) data proves it. The pace is not "aggressive," and almost all of the construction took place within the major settlement blocs - areas that past negotiations have recognized would remain part of Israel.
  • Israel built 2,534 housing units last year in the West Bank. Of these, about a quarter (694) were in two major blocs near Jerusalem, Giv'at Ze'ev and Betar Illit, and 537 were in two other major blocs, Modiin Illit and Ma'ale Adumim, also near Jerusalem. They are towns with populations in the tens of thousands, near the Green Line, as the 1949 armistice line is known.
  • The CBS data tell us that only 908 units were built last year in Israeli townships of 10,000 residents or fewer. And most of those units were built in towns that are part of the major blocs. So much for the president's claim of "aggressive construction."
  • In fact, the data reveal that Netanyahu's track record on this issue is more restrained than that of Ehud Barak, the last Labor Party prime minister, whose government approved three times more new houses in small settlements in 2000 than Netanyahu did last year.

    Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and was a deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration. Uri Sadot is a research associate at the CFR.
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