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May 2, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

In Italy, Al-Aqsa Mosque Imam Urges Destruction of Israel - Yifa Yaakov (Times of Israel)
    Raed al-Danna, an imam from Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, last week called for Israel's destruction while on a visit to Italy, urging Arab armies - including those of Egypt and Jordan, with whom Israel has signed peace agreements - to "liberate" the land.
    During an Islamic conference in Milan, al-Danna said Israel would soon "vanish," in comments filmed by Al-Jazeera and translated by media monitoring group MEMRI.
    "We will return to the sea of Jaffa, to the sands of Haifa, to the palm trees of Beit Shean, and to the hills of Lod and Ramla," al-Danna predicted.
    He said the clerics and worshipers at Al-Aqsa Mosque were awaiting "the legions of the conquerors" who would take over Israel.

47% Say U.S. Should Reduce Role in World Affairs - Carrie Dann (NBC News)
    In a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll, 47% said the U.S. should dial down its activity in foreign affairs, versus 19% who said the country should be more active around the globe. 30% said the current level is correct.
    In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks, 37% said they wanted to see more engagement around the world, 14% said the nation should be less active and 44% said the current level is correct.

Israeli Woman Murdered in Suspected Terror Attack - Ben Hartman (Jerusalem Post)
    Shelly Dadon, 20, was found dead in a Migdal Ha'emek parking lot on Thursday night with multiple stab wounds.
    Northern District Police Commander Moshe Cohen said that evidence found at the scene led investigators to focus on nationalistic motives, Channel 10 reported.
    Police sources noted that Dadon was found near the spot where the body of taxi driver Yafim Weinstein from Upper Nazareth was found on November 30, 2009.

Israel Police Challenge U.S. "Terror" Findings (AFP)
    Israeli police on Thursday challenged Washington's inclusion of Jewish extremist attacks on Palestinians in a global terror report, saying such incidents could not be likened to militant attacks.
    For the first time, the State Department's 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, published Wednesday, included a reference to racist anti-Palestinian vandalism, known as "price tag" attacks.
    Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said there "is vandalism with nationalistic motives but these are not nationalistic attacks on Palestinians."
    "You cannot compare whatsoever between terrorist acts, the cold-blooded killing of Israelis, and...vandalism on that level."
    See also Israeli Minister: "Graffiti Is Not Murder" - Spencer Ho (Times of Israel)
    Israel's Minister of Communications Gilad Erdan castigated the U.S. State Department report on Thursday.
    He told Channel 10 TV: "We are not talking about acts of murder; this is graffiti. There is a difference between murder and destruction of property."
    "We are taking these appalling acts very seriously," he said. "These are immoral, criminal acts that damage the State of Israel."

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On Its 66th Birthday, Israel's Population Nears 8.2 Million - Lidar Grave-Laz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics released a report on Thursday estimating the country's population at 8.18 million.
    There are 6.135 million Jewish residents - 75% of the total population - and the Arab Israeli population stands at 1.694 million, or 20.7%. 4.3%, approximately 345,000 people, are non-Arab Christians or people of other religions or no religious affiliation.
    178,000 babies were born this past year and 24,000 new immigrants and returning residents arrived. 14 cities have populations of more than 100,000 and six have more than 200,000.

Campus Divestment Votes Surge, But with Few Wins - Talia Lavin (JTA)
    In the past two years, at least 16 student governments at American universities have weighed divestment resolutions targeting Israel, including nine this spring, though a majority have rejected them, a worse showing than the previous year for pro-Palestinian activists.
    "In terms of actually winning votes, it's been an overwhelmingly unsuccessful year for divestment activists," said Max Samarov, a senior research assistant with the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs.

Israeli Lab Develops Blood Test to Detect Breast Cancer - Yifa Yaakov (Times of Israel)
    Eventus Diagnostics, a Miami-based medical technology company with an R&D subsidiary in Israel, has developed an easy, non-invasive method to detect breast cancer early on - using a simple blood test.

Poppies Replace Tourists in Egypt's Sinai Desert - Gert Van Langendonck (Christian Science Monitor)
    Egypt's unrest has led to a sharp slump in tourism in southern Sinai, where resorts that cater to foreigners line the Red Sea coast.
    Bedouins who made a living from tourism have turned to illegal opium production, risking the death penalty if caught.
    Poppy cultivation began in Sinai in the early 1990s. Until then, opium had been smuggled from Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, before the Syrian Army - then occupying Lebanon - began cracking down.
    Egypt's 2011 revolution chased police off the streets, creating a security vacuum in which drug seizures dropped to almost nothing.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Mideast Peace Talks Were Not in Vain, Kerry Says - Anne Gearan
    Speaking about the collapse of U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, "We believe the best thing to do right now is pause, take a hard look at these things, and find out what is possible and what is not possible in the days ahead."
        Kerry acknowledged that nine months of face-to-face talks had failed to produce the outline deal he had sought, or any visible progress. The effort he began last summer marked the most intensive U.S. involvement in peacemaking in many years. Kerry said a surprise Palestinian announcement that the militant Hamas would join a unity government with Fatah was the last straw. He insisted that the talks produced tangible progress, which he said he would detail "at some appropriate moment."  (Washington Post)
  • Suicide Bombers Hit in Egypt's Sinai - Ashraf Sweilam
    Two suicide bombers struck in el-Tor in southern Sinai in near-simultaneous attacks on Friday. In the first attack, the bomber targeted an army checkpoint, killing one soldier and wounding five. The second bomber stepped out on a road and blew himself up in front of a bus, wounding four passengers. (AP-ABC News)
  • Hamas Maintains Links with Sinai Jihadists, Israeli Security Sources Say - Yaakov Lappin
    Despite ideological differences, the Palestinian militant group Hamas has forged operational links with al-Qaeda-inspired Salafist-jihadist groups in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, allowing it to order attacks on Israel without "leaving a fingerprint," Israeli security sources said. Egypt's military government now sees Gaza as a source of arms and fighters who infiltrate into Sinai to support attacks. (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Says It Would Impose More Sanctions on Iran If Talks Fail - Michael Wilner
    Jake Sullivan, deputy assistant to President Obama, said Thursday, "If talks break down, and if Iran is not negotiating in good faith, we are prepared to work with Congress to impose more sanctions....The logic behind that is that there is an opportunity to continue to sharpen the choice for Iran: they can either negotiate in good faith, and arrive at a resolution that resolves the international community's concerns about their program, or they are going to face mounting pressure."
        "We've also made clear that sanctions aren't the only tool available," Sullivan told a Foundation for Defense of Democracies forum. "As the situation unfolds, we're prepared to consider a very wide range of options."
        Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, told the forum that Israel fears a bad deal is imminent between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program. Dermer said the negotiations risked leaving Iran "a threshold nuclear power" that would move them back from "two months, where they are today, to maybe two or three months further" from a nuclear weapon. "They cheated in Natanz, they cheated in Qom," Dermer reminded the group. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Abbas Rebuffed Bid to Find Mutually Acceptable Wording on "Jewish State" - Raphael Ahren
    Israeli negotiators were willing to work with PA President Mahmoud Abbas during negotiations on the wording of a formula that would have described the Jewish people's and the Palestinian people's right to self-determination in precisely equivalent terms, and would have also included phrases to guarantee the rights of Israel's Arab minority.
        "The goal of the process was to receive mutual recognition for two nation states, and that both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people have national rights," a senior government official said Thursday. The proposed phrasing was "based on total parity." The Palestinians, however, resolutely refused to accept the very concept of such recognition, he said.
        The Palestinian refusal to even consider working toward a formulation on this point may have been one of the factors that led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce on Thursday that he would push for a new Basic Law that would provide "a constitutional anchor for Israel's status as the national state of the Jewish people."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Prepares to Mourn 23,169 Casualties of War and Terrorism - Yaakov Lappin
    On Sunday evening, Israel will hold events marking the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, paying tribute to 23,169 casualties of war and terrorism who have fallen since 1860. The Defense Ministry is preparing for the arrival of over a million and a half people at military cemeteries across the country. A minute-long siren will be heard throughout the country on Sunday at 8 p.m., marking the start of the Day of Remembrance. A two-minute siren will be heard on Monday, at 11 a.m. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • After Latest Palestinian "No," the Search for Plan B - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Israelis are pondering their next step now that the Palestinians have blown up the peace process. Some believe there must be a "plan B" and suggest a withdrawal in the West Bank. But the problem here is that withdrawing from one place won't convince anyone that Israel has a right to keep another.
        To the contrary, as with the various withdrawals that Israel has undertaken since the start of the Oslo Accords, every retreat is considered by both the Palestinians and the international community as proof that the territories are all stolen property that must be returned to the Arabs rather than as disputed lands that should be split as part of a rational compromise.
        The rejection of a mutual declaration of recognition by Abbas constituted the fourth Palestinian "no" to peace and statehood in 15 years. That won't change until the political culture of the Palestinians that inextricably links rejection of Zionism to their national identity changes. Rather than seeking unilateral moves that will strengthen neither Israel's security nor its popularity abroad, the Jewish state must be prepared to wait patiently until the Palestinians are finally ready to make peace.
        Managing the conflict doesn't satisfy those who want to resolve the conflict. But, as the Israelis have shown over the last forty years, it is the safest and most reasonable approach to a problem that, despite their best intentions, they can't solve by themselves. (Commentary)
  • Note to U.S.: We're Not Children - Einat Wilf
    After the most recent round of failed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the fact is that the sides are miles apart. At the end of the day, Israelis and Palestinians are not children - they are political players quite capable of making their own calculations and choosing alternatives that are the least bad from their own perspective. They might not always be the alternatives that outside observers think they should choose, but both sides should, as other peoples around the world are, be free to judge what is in their own interests.
        Both Israelis and Palestinians are also very much aware of the decisions they need to make if they are to come to a full and complete peace agreement, one that recognizes the right of both peoples to the land. If they don't make those decisions, it's not because they don't know what they are. One day, when the geopolitical and political stars are aligned, peace will be possible. But until that moment comes, no amount of external prodding is going to make the two sides take decisions that they just aren't ready to make.
        The writer, an adjunct fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute, is a former member of the Israeli Knesset. (CNN)
  • The Hamas Deal Poisons Peace Talks - Yaron Sideman
    At the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and what makes it so difficult to resolve, are two diametrically opposed national movements and narratives, both claiming ownership to the same piece of land. In order for reconciliation to occur and a path toward peace to be forged, both sides need to make painful compromises that include giving up parts of their narratives.
        Long before maps are unfurled and borders discussed, it is critically important that a basic pillar be firmly established on both sides: recognizing the fundamental right of the other side to exist, whatever the final borders. That recognition must start from the top, but it has to become embedded in the collective mindset of the people. It is the basis that will support any future agreement. Without it, no agreement can hold.
        This is why when one party chooses to align itself with a terrorist organization that does not recognize the right of the other to exist, and which openly calls for its destruction, it deals a death blow to attempts at reconciliation and to any prospect of peace. How can Israeli citizens seriously be expected to have confidence that the Palestinian leadership really wants peace, when it teams up with an organization that repeatedly calls for their death? The writer is Israel's consul general to the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., based in Philadelphia. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • On Egypt and Hamas - Hicham Mourad
    The Palestinian question has suffered most from the popular uprisings that still shake the central states of the Arab political system, Egypt and Syria. Absorbed by its difficult political transition, the government of Cairo, as with Damascus, stuck in an endless civil war, is unable to provide the traditional political attention to the Palestinian cause.
        Cairo remains the main support and mentor of the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, who also enjoys the support of Saudi Arabia and Western states. Syria, by contrast, alongside Iran and Qatar, supported the Islamist Hamas, the rival of the Palestinian Authority.
        In the current regional situation, Hamas has lost two main allies: the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, after the dismissal of Mohamed Morsi in July, and the regime of Damascus, which broke with Hamas following its support for the armed opposition seeking to overthrow Assad.
        Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, is now in the crosshairs of the interim regime in Cairo, which is waging a war without mercy against the Brotherhood, accused of terrorism. Hamas is accused of collusion with the Brotherhood and of providing them assistance in their use of violence. According to a senior Egyptian security official, Egypt cannot get rid of the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt without ending it in neighboring Gaza. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)

  • Other Issues

  • The Mideast Missile Race - Editorial
    Saudi Arabia's rulers capped a large military exercise on Tuesday by publicly parading their DF-3 ballistic missiles for the first time. Parading them at all is a signal that the Kingdom can strike an adversary far outside its borders. Tehran is 800 miles from Riyadh. Jane's reports that the Saudis have between 30 and 120 such missiles.
        The missile display is one more sign of the Middle East arms race that is already well underway. As the U.S. retreats from the region, and Iran advances to the edge of acquiring a nuclear weapon, the Saudis no longer trust U.S. security guarantees. A world of proliferating ballistic missiles and nuclear powers will become America's problem soon enough. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Saudi Arabia's Missile Messaging - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Why Assad Can't Win - Joshua Cohen
    With the help of his ally Hizbullah, Syria's Assad has won a series of victories, including recapturing parts of Aleppo and surrounding areas as well as pushing the rebels back from Damascus. Assad has largely succeeded in recapturing the Qalamoun region in southwest Syria, and the regime is also in the final stages of gaining control over the critical city of Homs. Once Assad achieves this goal, the regime will have a clear link between Damascus and Homs, which ensures that the regime's Alawite heartland will be reconnected to Damascus.
        Despite Assad's recent success, however, it is still highly unlikely the regime will be able to regain control over the entire country. The rebels still hold huge chunks of Syria, especially in northern and northeastern Syria. The Kurdish regions have disappeared from Assad's grasp. It is probably safe to say that a solid half of Syria remains out of the regime's hands. The Assad regime simply does not have the troop strength to reclaim the majority of lost territories, and likely never will. Moreover, Syria's oil and gas resources are now largely in rebel hands. (NOW Lebanon)
  • They Gave Till It Hurt - Editorial
    On Tuesday the government placed IRFAN-Canada on a list of terrorist entities. In 2011 the Canada Revenue Agency revoked IRFAN-Canada's charitable status. The 2010 CRA audit states: "IRFAN-Canada knowingly maintained operational partnerships with organizations which the CRA had previously identified to it as being linked to Hamas." Hamas was designated as a terrorist entity in Canada back in 2002.
        The government says Hamas "uses political and violent means to pursue its goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in Israel. Since 1990, Hamas has been responsible for several hundred terrorist attacks against both civilian and military targets." The CRA believes "IRFAN-Canada is an integral part of an international fundraising effort to support Hamas." The government and the CRA made the right call. (Toronto Sun-Canada)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel Independence Day Torch-Lighters This Year Are All Women - Leora Eren Frucht
    Israel's official Independence Day ceremony will be held on Monday evening, May 5, at the Mount Herzl national cemetery. The heart of the ceremony is the lighting of 12 beacons, one for each of the tribes of Israel. This year, for the first time, all the torch-lighters will be women.
        They include educator Adina Bar Shalom, IDF Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai, Paralympic athlete Pascale Bercovitch, Israel's highest-ranking tennis player Shahar Peer, prestate underground fighter Geula Cohen, National Students Council chairwoman Gal Yoseph, Intel Israel CEO Maxine Fassberg, veteran military affairs reporter Carmela Menashe, educator and mother of two Israeli army officers who fell in the line of duty Miriam Peretz, director of a center to help victims of sexual assault Tali Peretz-Cohen, Technion researcher Kira Radinsky, Israeli Arab entrepreneur Hindia Suleiman, Israel's ambassador to Ethiopia Belaynesh Zevadia, and theater actress Miriam Zohar. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Paratrooper Survives Despite the Odds - Jordan Adler
    In December 2008, IDF Lt. Aharon Karov was celebrating his wedding. Twelve hours later, he was on the ground in Gaza as Operation Cast Lead began, a member of the Paratrooper Brigade. In January 2009, Karov was walking through an old building in Gaza when an explosive detonated above his head. Members from his team thought he was dead. Miraculously, despite a head and body pierced by more than 500 fragments of shrapnel, Karov survived.
        "Today, I don't feel anything from the injury," Karov said. The wounded soldier, known as "the groom who went to war," lay in a coma for 10 days. When he woke up, Karov was unable to move, could not recognize his wife, and was unable to speak. "When I arrived at rehab, [the doctors] did not have a goal that I was going to be normal again," he said. A few years later he ran the New York Marathon in four hours and 14 minutes. (Canadian Jewish News)
        See also 48 Hours after Wedding, IDF Soldier Critically Wounded in Gaza - Nir Hasson, Dana Weiler-Polak and Nadav Shragai
    Two weeks ago, 2nd Lt. Aharon Karov got leave from his paratroop unit so he could attend his own wedding. Less than 48 hours after marrying Tzviya Mordechai, he was called back to his unit, and on Monday night he was critically wounded in an explosion in a booby-trapped house in northern Gaza. (Ha'aretz-14Jan2009)

Formulating an Outline for a Final Agreement with Iran - Amos Yadlin and Avner Golov (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • Iran's strategy in the negotiations is to maximize its nuclear program's achievements and minimize concessions. While attempting to portray itself as prepared to make significant compromises, Tehran is preserving its core capabilities in two areas related to the development of nuclear weapons: uranium enrichment and plutonium production.
  • Iran agreed to reduce its stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20%, which are not sufficient for even one bomb, in order to keep the inventories of material enriched to a low level (3.5%) which are sufficient for at least six bombs if enriched to a military level.
  • Instead of agreeing to convert the reactor in Arak so that it cannot produce plutonium for nuclear weapons, Iran is proposing technical changes that would be reversible if it decided to violate the agreement.
  • Despite six UN Security Council resolutions calling for the immediate suspension of Iran's enrichment process, it appears that the U.S. has already reached a decision to allow Iran to have a nuclear program within certain limitations.
  • The key parameter is the time it will take Iran to develop nuclear weapons. This time must be measured in a number of years and not, as Secretary Kerry suggests, a number of months. Only a long period of time will allow the international community to discover a breakout to nuclear weapons, decide on action, and implement a decision before Iran possesses nuclear weapons.

    Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, who served as the IDF's chief of Defense Intelligence, is director of INSS, where Avner Golov is his research assistant.
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