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May 9, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Human Rights Complaints Rise Against Palestinian Authority - Maher Abukhater (Los Angeles Times)
    Complaints of torture and other mistreatment rose by 50% last year in areas governed by the Palestinian Authority, according to a report by the Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), published Thursday.
    The report offers a hint at the kind of scrutiny the PA might face after joining UN agencies and treaties this year.
    Commission officials said the international community would be watching the PA to make sure it abided by the terms of those agreements.
    "Palestine will be now obliged to present periodic reports on what measures it is taking to eliminate torture to show that it is committed to the Convention Against Torture," said Randa Siniora, executive director of ICHR.
    The report notes "a remarkable increase in the number of complaints received on alleged cases of torture and violations involving the right to physical safety in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip."

Israel Navy Has New Radar to Counter Hizbullah - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    The Israel Navy's new "MF-STAR" radar, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), is designed to counter the Yakhont (S-800) anti-ship missiles used by Syria and Hizbullah.
    It has a greater range than previous systems, can mark more targets at once, and can detect enemy ships hiding among dozens of friendly or non-combatant vessels.
    "The new radar can detect and handle sea, air and land targets, including missiles and enemy aircraft," a Navy source said.

IDF's Teleprocessing Corps Completes Comms Networks along Egyptian Border - Yaakov Lappin (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly)
    The Israel Defense Forces' Teleprocessing Corps has completed a four-year project to create multiple military communications networks along Israel's mountainous desert border region with Egypt.
    The enhanced communications infrastructure, made possible by the rapid construction of dozens of communications masts, is part of Israel's move to improve border security to counter the rising jihadist threat from the Sinai Peninsula.
    The structures also mount hi-tech sensors (radars and electro-optical devices) that can peer deep into the Sinai region, with feeds piped into control rooms operated by the IDF's Combat Intelligence Collection Corps.

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"Grey's Anatomy" Spotlights Israeli Med Tech - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)
    In a recent episode of "Grey's Anatomy," Dr. Cristina Yang comes across Israeli cutting-edge technology while visiting a Swiss hospital - the hyper-realistic, dynamic 3D holographic image of a beating heart, "floating in the air."
    The image is enhanced with digital data from X-ray, MRI or ultrasound imaging and can be manipulated and even sliced open virtually.
    RealView Imaging, based in Yokneam, is making it possible for surgeons to use three-dimensional holography in planning the steps of delicate, complex procedures.

Top Muslim Theologian Admires Israeli Democracy - Khaled Diab (Ha'aretz)
    TV theologian Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose program on Al Jazeera has an estimated audience of 60 million, expressed, back in the 1990s, admiration for the achievements of Israeli democracy: "We hope that our countries will become like this country [Israel]."
    Why? "There, it is the people who govern. There, they do not have the 'four nines' which we know in our countries," referring to the 99.99% of the vote with which Arab dictators once used to "win" elections.

Orthodox Arab Priest Sacked for Backing IDF Service (AFP-Times of Israel)
    The Greek Orthodox church in the Holy Land has dismissed Father Gabriel Naddaf, an Israeli Arab priest who publicly supported Israeli army service for Christian Arabs, from his post in Nazareth, church spokesman Essa Musleh said Thursday.

Increase in Druze Girls Doing National Service in Israel (Yediot Ahronot-IMRA)
    The number of Druze girls volunteering for national service in Israel rose from 5 in 2008 to 691 in 2014, Yediot Ahronot reported on April 9.

Iranian Conservatives Demand Harsher Measures Against Women Who Flout Islamic Dress Code - Thomas Erdbrink (New York Times)
    Separate columns of Iranian men and women in black chadors fist-pumped their way through Tehran on Wednesday, shouting for the government to arrest all women who are improperly veiled.
    "Corruption and immorality have engulfed the nation," Shala Mousavi told Iran's state television. "We are forced to act."

Record Number of Birthright Participants Coming to Israel This Summer - Sam Sokol (Jerusalem Post)
    32,000 young Jews from 42 countries are expected to participate in free ten-day trips to Israel through Taglit-Birthright Israel this summer, organizers announced on Wednesday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Top U.S. Middle East Envoy Gives Post-Mortem on Peace Talks - Ali Weinberg
    Martin Indyk gave an expansive post-mortem of the failed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Thursday. "One problem that revealed itself in these past nine months is that the parties, although both showing flexibility in the negotiations, do not feel the pressing need to make the gut-wrenching compromises necessary to achieve peace," Indyk said.
        Palestinians decided it was easier for them to sign on to worldwide conventions and gain recognition by international bodies in pursuit of statehood than to work on a long-lasting compromise. Indyk noted that Abbas in particular had one other factor that caused him to withdraw, because he is nearing the end of his career and became more focused on his political legacy and succession than on reaching an agreement as the talks went on.
        Despite the failure of the negotiators to achieve progress in this round, Indyk said all parties are better informed about what it takes to achieve a permanent status agreement. And he dismissed the idea that the peace process was dead for now. "In the Middle East, it's never over," he said. (ABC News)
        See also Text of Remarks by Martin Indyk on Negotiations Breakdown (State Department)
        See also U.S. Officials: Blame Palestinians, Too - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Last week, the dean of Israeli newspaper columnists, Nahum Barnea, reported that senior American officials are placing almost all the blame for the collapse of the Middle East peace process on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Well, that was last week. This week, perhaps in reaction to the reaction to Barnea's article, American officials I spoke to were careful to apportion blame in a way that was slightly more evenhanded. Officials I spoke to said they are peeved at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for, in essence, checking out of the peace process as early as February.
        One key moment in this drama came in March, when Abbas, at his own request, met U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House and heard Obama present a set of fairly dramatic American-inspired proposals (some of which had to do, apparently, with the future borders of the Palestinian state). Obama told Abbas in a direct way that he would be awaiting his response to the proposals. "I want you to get back to me soon," Obama said, according to officials.
        But a response never came. American officials I spoke to likened Abbas' lack of response to the decision made 14 years ago by Abbas' predecessor, Yasser Arafat, to leave the Camp David peace talks without even countering an Israeli proposal for Palestinian statehood. (Bloomberg)
  • Syrian Regime Hasn't Abandoned Chemical Weapons - Christoph Reuter
    The Assad regime is attacking towns and villages with chlorine gas bombs. Der Spiegel visited the communities hit by the most recent bombings to interview victims, doctors and eyewitnesses.
        On the evening of April 21 in Telminnes, a bomb landed near Abu Abdu's garden. "I thought the point of impact was far away," he recalls. Then he saw the cloud before he had a chance to flee. "Yellow vapor rose, it smelled strongly of chlorine and it burned like fire. I could no longer speak or breathe." Neighbors took him to a makeshift hospital where he was treated with oxygen and an anticonvulsant. "Hours later, I could still barely move my arms, I was coughing up blood and every breath I took was hellish." Between 200 and 300 people went to hospital in Telminnes that night.
        Given chlorine's use in everyday products, it isn't included in the list of weapons the Syrian regime has agreed to place under international control. At least 10 chlorine gas attacks have been carried out since April 10 in Idlib and Hama provinces. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Israel: Assad Has Killed with Poison Gas 30 Times since August - Mitch Ginsburg and Adiv Sterman
    Syrian forces loyal to President Assad have used chemical weapons in over 30 cases since Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention last year and agreed to the destruction of its entire arsenal, a senior IDF officer said Thursday. Assad's regime is now focused on developing "non-classic" unconventional weapons based on weaker gas such as chlorine, he added. With regard to classic chemical weapons, "our assessment is that [Assad] will attempt to retain a small stockpile," the officer said. (Times of Israel)
        See also Remaining Syrian Chemical Weapons Trapped behind Rebel Lines - Joe Lauria
    The remaining 8% of Syria's chemical weapons stock is trapped on a government air base near Damascus behind rebel-held roads, preventing international inspectors from reaching it, Sigrid Kaag, who is running the joint UN/Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons operation, said Thursday. The chemicals are the precursors needed to make sarin gas, and airlifting them from the base has been ruled out as too dangerous. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Egyptian Governor Blames Obama for Burned Churches - Peter Hessler
    In Minya in Upper Egypt last August, local mobs attacked government buildings, Coptic Christian churches, and a museum, killing dozens, including a number of police officers. The mobs were responding to events in Cairo, where security forces had violently dispersed two sit-ins held in support of deposed President Morsi, a longtime leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, the Minya judicial system has rushed to punish hundreds of people accused of inciting the local violence. On Monday, after a trial that lasted only a few minutes, a Minya court issued death sentences to 683 alleged rioters, most of whom weren't even present at the trial. A month earlier, the same court had sentenced 529 others to death.
        I scheduled a meeting with the highest-ranking local official, Governor Salah Zeyada. I was surprised to hear whom the governor blamed for Minya's problems: Barack Obama and the U.S. "They broke into six police stations in Minya and stole all the weapons....They burned 14 churches completely. And they burned four prosecution offices and courts, and they attacked the Mallawi Museum and stole all the antiquities. This was an American plot to turn Egypt into a new Syria, or a new Libya, or a new Iraq."
        I asked the governor to clarify who was responsible for the burned churches. "It was Obama," he said. "And all of the American politicians who have divided all of the world. They are the only people who supported the Muslim Brotherhood, because they knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would destroy all of Egypt."  (National Geographic)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Refusal to Recognize Israel as Jewish Is the Root of the Conflict - Shlomo Cesana and Gideon Allon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Wednesday that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the refusal to recognize Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. "The conflict has been ongoing for 90 years. It is not continuing because of the settlements, because of the territories - it exists and continues because of the ongoing refusal to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people."
        Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday: "I do not think Hamas and Fatah will be able to resolve their differences, and therefore they won't even reach the point of an election." Ya'alon clarified that even if the deal does go through, Israel would not allow Hamas to participate in elections in the West Bank, as it did in the past. (Israel Hayom)
  • Meeting Abbas, Rice Outlines Path Forward for Peace with Israel - Michael Wilner and Herb Keinon
    Any power-sharing Palestinian government must recognize the State of Israel, renounce violence and adhere to previous agreements, whether it includes Hamas or not, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday. The White House said Rice made "clear...the principles that must guide a Palestinian government in order for it to play a constructive role in achieving peace and building an independent Palestinian state."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Barak: U.S. Attack on Iran's Nuclear Program Easier than Planned Campaign Against Assad's Chemical Weapons - Michael Wilner
    Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Thursday that an American military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities would take a "fraction of one night" to complete should President Obama order one. Barak said such an attack would be easier for the U.S. than last year's planned campaign against Syrian President Assad's chemical weapons infrastructure. "It's a simpler operation to get rid of the [Iranian] arsenal," Barak said.
        "The American administration changed its objective from no nuclear military Iran to no nuclear military Iran during the term of this administration," Barak said, adding that the U.S. "is perceived to have been weakened" over the last several years. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • More Soothing American Efforts on Iran - Zalman Shoval
    U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, the person who more than anyone has President Barack Obama's ear on foreign policy matters, arrived in Israel on Wednesday to coordinate positions on the emerging agreement with Iran on its nuclear program, accompanied by Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who leads the American negotiating team in the Iran talks.
        Israel considers Iran's nuclear efforts an existential threat. The Obama administration wants to make sure that Israel will not act unilaterally against Iran. Israel does not object, in principle, to a compromise, and is not thrilled at the notion of acting militarily against Iran without U.S. support. But it is far from being convinced that the deal on the table will in fact put an end to Iran's nuclear program.
        Rice and Sherman will certainly try convincing the Israelis that Washington is aware of deceptive Iranian maneuvering and that America will not concede even the military option. However, not only would this probably be too little too late, but in light of America's policies of restraint in places like Syria, Libya and Ukraine, it is hard not to doubt the veracity of these promises and soothing words. The American team is sure to hear Israel's reservations.
        To our great remorse, it appears that the scenario of American firmness is not on the horizon. The Obama administration is interested in presenting a deal with Iran as a lofty diplomatic success and will therefore minimize the significance of its flaws. At the beginning of his tenure, Obama repeatedly declared his objection to a policy of "containment," but it appears this could precisely be the real and negative result of the approach taken with Iran. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Supreme Leader's Nuclear Veto - Michael Rubin
    In Iran, the supreme leader wields the ultimate authority. One of the problems with the ongoing nuclear negotiations is that the supreme leader never blessed nuclear deal-making. Nor, contrary to President Obama's claims, has he ever issued a nuclear fatwa - at least one he bothered to write down for inspection. So, for all the progress being claimed, it's not clear the world powers are negotiating with anyone empowered to make a decision.
        There's a pattern among rogue regimes in which negotiators reach agreements, rogue leaders refuse to abide by the agreements their negotiators supposedly produced, and then the regimes pocket the concessions that were meant to be final, transforming them into the starting point for new talks. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Commentary)
  • Getting in Touch with Mideast Reality - Guy Bechor
    From the very beginning, the American-brokered peace negotiations with the Palestinians were an unrealistic initiative: We are in the midst of a storm in the Middle East with national regimes fighting for their lives, and an Arab country that could turn within a short time into a base for al-Qaeda. The writer heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Ynet News)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Rock and Roll Boycott of Israel - Adam Shay
    For the last ten years there has been an ongoing attempt to promote a cultural boycott of Israel. While this campaign has achieved very few actual victories, it has received widespread attention and media coverage disproportionate to its success. Once one scratches the surface of any given concert cancellation, one quickly concludes that ideology, conscience, and support for the Palestinian cause have very little to do with it. The true factors leading to a cancellation are usually online bullying, threats of damaging an artist's reputation and sales, disrupting concerts, sabotage letters, deceit, and explicit death threats.
        More often than not, the so-called "success" the boycott movement has enjoyed never happened. Just because a pro-boycott site claims that an artist or band has boycotted Israel doesn't necessarily mean that this is true. Overall, the cultural boycott of Israel appears to be losing ground. The biggest names in the world of music continue to frequent Israel. As Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones recently said: "We've been slammed and smacked and twittered a lot by the anti-Israeli side; all I can say is: anything worth doing is worth overdoing. So we decided to add a concert."  (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • 18 Israeli Inventions that Could Save Your Life
    The First Care Emergency Bandage, invented by an Israeli military medic, is credited for saving the life of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a 2011 shooting. Jerusalem-based Mobileye technology for identifying and alerting to driving hazards is being built into virtually every new vehicle in the world. SensAheart, by the Israeli diagnostic technology company Novamed, can be used at home and in the hospital to detect a heart attack coming on. The Agilite Instant Harness, the world's smallest Class II rappelling harness, saved the lives of South African miners trapped underground in 2013.
        The Babysense breathing monitor by HiSense has helped protect more than 600,000 babies from crib death. When the iMayDay iPhone app senses that your car has been in a collision, it sets off an alarm and emails five pre-determined addresses (or generates up to 50 SMS messages) to inform emergency workers and/or loved ones about the accident. It works anywhere in the world. PerSys Medical's Blizzard Survival jacket was pivotal last March in the rescue of a mother and son by the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team in Wales. (Israel21c)
  • Virginia Sheriff Recommends a Trip to Israel - Ali Rockett
    York-Poquoson Sheriff Danny Diggs volunteered for a trip to Israel when one of the 17 sheriffs from the National Sheriff's Association dropped out at the last minute. Diggs said he was surprised to find that everyday Israelis don't harbor any resentment toward those across its hotly contested border. "You saw people in traditional Muslim attire, traditional Jewish attire and in modern clothing walking along the street, working side by side and coexisting," he said.
        Visiting southern Israel near Gaza, he said, "The bomb shelters look like bus stops. They are common as fire hydrants here." He said there are shelters within a 15 second run of most public areas and all homes have one. Fifteen seconds is how long the people have to take shelter from the time that a siren sounds, signaling that a rocket or mortar has been launched, until the missile hits. The tour group saw a stack of shelves filled with exploded shells. "At some point, I guess they stopped collecting them," Diggs said. "It is a constant fear, but a fear that most have come to deal with."
        "I learned that almost everyone, the everyday people like you and me, want to live in peace. In spite of the violence and the possibility of terrorist attack, it appeared that the people wanted to peacefully coexist without regard to their religious and cultural differences." Diggs said he would recommend the trip to anyone. "Every day something significant happened. It was a very emotional trip." The week-long trip in April was sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. (Daily Press-Hampton Roads, VA)

Palestinian Rejectionism Has Been Exposed - Mortimer B. Zuckerman (U.S. News)

  • We recently passed the deadline set by Secretary of State John Kerry for the nine months of make-or-break negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Kerry's was a valiant effort to put forth an outline of a two-state agreement after three sterile years.
  • Scores of east-west journeys, 34 meetings with the PA's President Mahmoud Abbas and many more with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu produced only one affirmation: that the PA is not interested in a Palestinian state if it means recognizing the legitimacy of the State of Israel.
  • Six days before the deadline, Abbas made a pact with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian terror groups based in Gaza. Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department, put it clearly: "It is hard to see how Israel will negotiate with a government that does not recognize its right to exist." Secretary Kerry has now exposed Abbas' rejectionism.
  • Ever since the founding of Israel, Palestinians have lived in the belief that one day all of Israel will be theirs. Bringing an end to the conflict requires that both sides recognize each other as equals.
  • But the Palestinians have never acknowledged the validity of the Jewish narrative, as if the Jewish identity of Israel were not deeply embedded through thousands of years of the longing of patriarchs, prophets, dreamers and fighters.
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