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June 6, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Weapons Sent to Rebels in April Ended Up with Al-Qaeda - Jonathan Spyer (Fathom-BICOM)
    The U.S. remains justifiably concerned at the possibility that weapons it provides to Syrian rebels could find their way into the hands of extremist jihadis.
    Informed sources revealed to me that items from a shipment of TOW anti-tank missiles, sent to rebels in the north in April 2014, have already ended up in the hands of Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, despite supposed precautions taken by the U.S. and the Saudis.
    The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya.

A Persistent Threat: Number of Jihadist Fighters and Attacks Has Increased Since 2010 - Seth G. Jones (RAND Corporation)
    Based on an analysis of thousands of primary source documents, this report - examining the status and evolution of al-Qaeda and other Salafi-jihadist groups - concludes that there has been an increase in the number of these groups, fighters, and attacks over the past several years.
    Examples include groups operating in Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Libya, Egypt (including the Sinai Peninsula), Lebanon, and Syria.
    These trends suggest that the U.S. needs to remain focused on countering the proliferation of Salafi-jihadist groups, which have started to resurge in North Africa and the Middle East.
    The U.S. should consider a more aggressive strategy to target Salafi-jihadist groups in Syria, which in 2013 had more than half of Salafi-jihadists worldwide, either clandestinely or with regional and local allies.
    The writer is associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation.

Poll: Israelis Oppose Unilateral Withdrawal from West Bank - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
    Most Israeli Jews (60%) oppose unilateral withdrawal from substantial parts of the West Bank, while 25% support it, according to the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University's monthly Peace Index Poll, published Thursday.

Openness on Israeli Issues Seen in Survey of Iranians - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
    According to a survey conducted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, 40% of Iranians would be willing to give up any ability to produce nuclear weapons in the future in return for the full removal of sanctions.
    Nearly 40% agreed that Iran should recognize Israel if Israel reached a peace accord with the Palestinians.
    More than 74% agreed that Iran should establish full trade and diplomatic relations with the U.S.
    About a half-dozen Israelis of Iranian origin, who speak Farsi as a mother tongue, telephoned the 530 respondents in May and early June without revealing that they were Israelis in a random phone survey conducted across Iran.

FBI: Terror Suspect Wanted to Kill Returning Soldiers - Gary Craig (USA Today)
    Last Saturday, FBI agents and members of the agency's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Rochester, NY, arrested Mufid Elfgeeh, 30, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Yemen.
    They allege that he'd planned to buy firearms and he wanted to use them to kill returning American troops as well as Shiite Muslims living in the Rochester area.
    He announced his allegiance with al-Qaeda on Twitter, writing, "al-Qaeda said it loud and clear; we are fighting the American invasion and their hegemony over the earth and the people."

Hamas Leader's Mother-in-Law in Israel for Medical Treatment (AP)
    The mother-in-law of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was allowed to enter Israel from Gaza on Monday to receive cancer treatment at a Jerusalem hospital, Maj. Guy Inbar, an Israeli spokesman, said Tuesday.
    While Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group, Gaza residents - even those with ties to Hamas - are authorized to cross the border on a humanitarian basis.
    Last November, Haniyeh's granddaughter received treatment in Israel.

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Israeli Mobile Social Gaming Company Dragonplay Bought for $100M (Business Wire-Wall Street Journal)
    Bally Technologies, a leader in gaming machines, table game products, and casino-management systems, announced Thursday it had acquired Dragonplay Ltd., a leading online social casino company headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, with top-grossing applications for Android, as well as a significant presence on Facebook and Apple iOS.
    Launched in 2010, Dragonplay ranks among the 10 top-grossing game developers in the social casino genre with approximately 700,000 daily active users.

3rd Big UK Water Contract for Israeli Water Purification Company - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    United Utilities, the UK's largest listed water company, is the third UK water provider to purchase Israel's Mapal Green Energy water purification system for wastewater treatment.
    The deal is set to supply Mapal-purified water to approximately 7 million northwest England homes.
    "The system will provide a number of benefits in addition to attractive power savings and may provide a financially viable lower cost solution compared to traditional installations for small to medium-sized surface aeration plants," said Dale Walker, a senior engineering manager at United Utilities.

New UAV Gives Ground Troops Reconnaissance Capabilities - Udi Etsion (Ynet News)
    Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has developed a reconnaissance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) meant to accompany infantry into the battlefield and allow soldiers to see the enemy before they are seen.
    The Kestrel or "Club" is equipped with night and day cameras. It can remain active for eight hours while observing a target, or 15 minutes when hovering, sending pictures to soldiers located 5 km. away.
    The aircraft can fly itself, guide soldiers through complex urban battlefields, and can even navigate through the inside of buildings. Its batteries can be replaced while in the field.

IDF Deploys Driverless Vehicles - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    The IDF has been using unmanned vehicles for at least five years. The Guardium Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) patrols the Gaza fence around the clock.
    Among the new vehicles that will enter into army service in the coming two years is the Loyal Partner, an armored patrol carrier that will carry weapons and equipment to soldiers in the field.
    It is controlled from a nearby base station by joystick and mouse controls, and is capable of traversing rough terrain and steep hills.
    The Carrier Robot, is smaller than the Loyal Partner, is lightweight and designed to be carried on the backs of soldiers on patrol. It is specially designed for exploring the interior of buildings or tunnels.
    The Border Protector is being developed to replace the Guardium in patrolling the Gaza border. It can operate for longer periods and contains more and better sensor and communication equipment.

Switzerland Selects Israeli UAV for Armed Forces - Craig Hoyle (Flightglobal)
    Switzerland's Armasuisse procurement agency has selected Elbit Systems' Hermes 900 to meet the Swiss armed forces' future unmanned air vehicle requirements.
    Armasuisse valued the procurement at an estimated $279 million.

Photos: Capturing the Many Faces of Israel - David Rosenberg (Slate)
    Frederic Brenner has created a photographic look at Israel.

Israel's Newest Cyberwarriors: Ultra-Orthodox Jews - Christa Case Bryant (Christian Science Monitor)
    On a campus in Jerusalem, 16 young ultra-Orthodox men are being prepared for two-year stints as cyberdefenders in the Israeli Defense Forces.
    The men spend their daytime hours poring over religious texts and engaging in vigorous theological debates, but in the evenings, they apply those critical thinking skills to the 1,000 hours of cyber training.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Reviewing Hamas Role in PA Government - Mark Landler
    This week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas called for elections in the West Bank and Gaza within six months. With Hamas expected to field candidates, the White House will have to decide whether to oppose its participation, and then, whether to deal with a government in which Hamas could play a bigger role. Israel has made clear that it will fight the inclusion of any Hamas candidates in the race and will not negotiate with any Palestinian government that includes the group.
        "We made a mistake in allowing Hamas participation in 2006, and I hope we will not make that mistake twice," said Elliott Abrams, who served as deputy national security adviser in 2006 when the George W. Bush administration went along with Hamas participation in Palestinian legislative elections.
        Israeli officials insist that senior American officials assured them that the U.S. would take a wait-and-see attitude with the new Palestinian government. "Instead of taking a standoff approach, they, in effect, became the first government in the world to recognize the Palestinian government," said an Israeli official. "They essentially became the first domino."
        "We're not naive," a senior U.S. official said. "We understand that this could be Hamas' nose under the tent, that it could lead Hamas to get a foothold in the West Bank, that terrorist cells could spring up in the West Bank again under a looser regime. So we're watching all of that very carefully to ensure that that doesn't happen."  (New York Times)
        See also below Observations: Did the U.S. Promise Not to Recognize a Hamas-Backed Unity Government? - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Demands New Palestinian Government Pay Its Workers
    Hamas demanded Thursday that the Palestinian Authority take employees of the disbanded Gaza government onto its payroll, after scuffles broke out at banks in Gaza where the PA had paid its Gaza-based employees as usual on Wednesday, but Hamas government employees did not receive their wages. Hamas has 50,000 civil servants who are not registered as PA employees. Hamas has been unable to pay most of its workers for several months.
        According to a Hamas statement, Qatar's emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani promised to help paying the salaries of Hamas employees. (AFP)
  • Israel Says Iran Giving "False Explanations" to UN Nuclear Inquiry - Fredrik Dahl
    Israel has condemned as unacceptably slow Iran's cooperation with a UN watchdog inquiry into suspected nuclear bomb research and accused Tehran of providing "false" explanations for its disputed activities. Israel's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency suggested Iran was just trying to buy time while pressing on with its nuclear work.
        "Iran continues to abuse what is termed as a 'step-by-step' approach to the resolution of outstanding issues," Israeli Ambassador Merav Zafary-Odiz said. "This pace of investigation is unacceptable....Iran will continue to provide false explanations and to hide the true nature of its activities."  (Reuters)
        See also July Deadline for Iran Nuclear Deal Unlikely - Louis Charbonneau and Parisa Hafezi
    It is increasingly unlikely that six world powers and Iran will meet their July 20 deadline to negotiate a long-term deal for Tehran to curb its nuclear program in return for an end to economic sanctions, diplomats and analysts say. The November 24 agreement on an interim deal allowed for a six-month extension if more time were needed.
        The latest round of talks in Vienna last month ran into difficulties when it became clear that the number of centrifuge enrichment machines Iran wanted to maintain was well beyond what would be acceptable to the West. (Reuters)
  • Bashar al-Assad Wins Re-election in Syria
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been re-elected in an 88.7% landslide, officials said on Wednesday, capturing another seven-year term in the middle of a bloody three-year-old uprising against his rule that has devastated the country. The supreme constitutional court put turnout at 73%. After the results were released, Damascus erupted into a thunderous, rolling clap of celebratory gunfire that appeared to include heavy weaponry.
        A delegation of officials from more than 30 countries, including legislators and dignitaries from Iran, Russia and Venezuela, toured polling stations on Tuesday and declared Syria's presidential election as transparent and free. (AP-Guardian-UK)
        See also Iran Claims Victory with Assad's Win in Syrian Election - Liz Sly
    With Syrian President Bashar al-Assad winning a third term in office in an election denounced as a sham by the West, his chief ally, Iran, is trumpeting his victory as its own. Top Iranian officials have been celebrating not only the affirmation of Assad's continued hold on power, but also the defeat it appears to signal for three years of U.S. policy in Syria, which has as its stated goal Assad's fall.
        Iran vowed early in the conflict that it would not permit Assad to fall, and it has so far delivered on its word, pumping billions of dollars into the Syrian economy and providing weapons and training to loyalist forces. Shiite militias from Iraq, funded and trained by Iran, have provided much-needed manpower, as has the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah movement, which played a crucial role in turning back Syrian rebel advances over the past year. (Washington Post)
  • Israel's Ambassador: Move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem - Adam Kredo
    Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, has called on Congress to "finally" move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Lawmakers have for years tried to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. However, successive administrations have been reluctant to formalize the move.
        Dermer told U.S. lawmakers at a Capitol Hill event marking Jerusalem Day on May 29 that it is "finally" time for the United States to acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel's "undivided" capital and to relocate the U.S. embassy there. "In doing so you will not undermine the prospects for peace, you will strengthen the chances for peace because for peace to hold in our region it has to be based on truth," Dermer said.
        "We all want to see peace happen. The best way we can do that is by beginning to speak the truth, by defending Jerusalem and defending the eternal connection that we have to our ancient capital....Jerusalem is the heart and soul of the Jewish people," he said, adding that Jerusalem will never again be divided. "It is the center of our national life and the center of our religious life."  (Washington Free Beacon)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Defense Minister Ya'alon: Abbas Must Disarm Hamas - Lazar Berman
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday to disarm Hamas and take control of Gaza after creating a unity government. If Abbas fails to do so, it will be clear that the reconciliation is a farce meant to fool the world, Ya'alon told a meeting of foreign military attaches in Israel, according to Israel Radio. Ya'alon blamed the PA for its unwillingness to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and to reach an agreement that will end the conflict for good. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Officials to EU: Focus on Syria, Not Settlements - Barak Ravid
    Senior Jerusalem officials on Thursday slammed the European Union for calling on Israel to cancel plans for Israeli construction in the West Bank. "It's strange that in the international community there are those who say that a Palestinian government, which a murderous terrorist organization is a member of, could advance peace," they said, "while others...claim that building in Jerusalem - the capital of Israel - as well as in other places that even the Palestinians know will stay under Israeli sovereignty in any future arrangement, is a step that should be taken back."
        The Israeli officials called on "the international community to regroup and focus on the really pressing issues in the Middle East, such as putting an end to the massacre of women and children in Syria."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Despite Unity Pact, Abbas Forces Arrest Ten Hamas Activists in Hebron - Avi Issacharoff and Stuart Winer
    Palestinian Authority security forces arrested 10 Hamas activists overnight Wednesday in Hebron, continuing a crackdown against the Islamist group ahead of a large demonstration planned in the city Thursday. The arrests came ahead of a call by Hamas for a general strike in Hebron to mark "Naksa Day" on June 5, commemorating Israel's victory in the 1967 Six-Day War. Several of the detainees were former prisoners held by Israel. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • The U.S. Embrace of the Palestinian Unity Government - Zvi Bar'el
    When it comes to Lebanon, the Americans have long ignored the rule barring cooperation with a government in which terrorist organizations are a party. Lebanese governments have benefitted from American aid even though some of its ministers have been representatives of Hizbullah, which is classified as a terrorist organization.
        This week, when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beirut, he granted half a billion dollars to Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam to aid Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon. At the same time, Hizbullah, which is a member of the government, continues to fight in Syria on the side of Assad and in the process is causing additional refugees to flee to Lebanon. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Palestinian Unity Charade - Efraim Inbar
    The new Palestinian unity government is not about the re-establishment of one Palestinian political entity that could develop into a functioning Palestinian state. Already in the early 2000s, the Palestinian Authority degenerated into a failed state as it lost a monopoly over the use of power in the territory under its jurisdiction with the advent of several competing militias.
        The only true test for unity of a political entity is a monopoly over the use of force. As long as the military branch of Hamas remains independent there is no unity, but just evidence of the Somalization of Palestinian politics. Moreover, instead of the PA regaining lost Gaza, Hamas is gaining better access to the West Bank.
        The extremist Hamas ideology demands building Islamist political structures and keeping alive the military and theological struggle against the unacceptable Jewish state. Hamas made it loud and clear that it has not mellowed a bit on that issue. The bitter truth that Westerners prefer to ignore is that many Palestinians like Hamas.
        Palestinian society, under the spell of a nationalist and Islamic ethos, is simply unable to bring itself to a historic compromise with the Zionist movement that would end the conflict. Palestinian rejectionism has won the day. The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a political studies professor at Bar-Ilan University. (Israel Hayom)
  • American Taxpayers Now Paying the Salaries of Palestinian Terrorists - Lee Smith
    America's response to the announcement of a Palestinian unity government that would include Hamas, which the State Department has designated as a global terrorist organization, was a shocking change in U.S. foreign policy. Instead of making war on terrorists, America would henceforth be directly funding one of the largest and most deadly terrorist armies in the world.
        PA President Mahmoud Abbas' move to bring Hamas into a unity government with his own Fatah party means that U.S. taxpayers will be paying the salaries of men who belong to an organization sworn to the destruction of an American ally - and who repeatedly endorse and employ the murder of innocent civilians through the grim arsenal of terror as a means of achieving their goals. Abbas is gambling that the Obama administration will continue to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to whatever he proclaims to be the new Palestinian government. (Tablet)
  • Fatah Leaders: Abbas Is a Dictator - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas expelled five "unruly" officials from Fatah due to their close links to ousted Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan. Abbas has accused Dahlan, a former security commander of Gaza, of being responsible for the murder of six Palestinians and involvement in the "poisoning" of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
      Abbas' move is seen in the context of his efforts to "cleanse" Fatah of officials who pose a direct challenge to his autocratic leadership. In response, Dahlan, who has been living in the UAE, said: "We won't allow Mahmoud [Abbas] and [his sons] Tarek and Yasser to steal Fatah from us." The split in Fatah, of course, will play into the hands of Hamas and improve its chances of winning the next elections, if and when they are held. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Iran

  • Preventing Iranian Nuclear Weapons - Gregory S. Jones
    Negotiations on Iran's nuclear program are continuing in an effort to prevent Iran from being able to produce nuclear weapons. However, this objective will not be attainable unless the agreement addresses key aspects of Iran's nuclear program, fixes the flaws in the interim agreement which seriously constrain any agreement, and recognizes fundamental problems with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards as currently implemented.
        Iran's ability to quickly produce Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) means that Iran is already a de facto nuclear weapon state. Any successful nuclear agreement with Iran would need to deny it easy access to HEU, not only in the short-term but in the long-term as well. Similarly, any fix for Iran's Arak plutonium production reactor would need to address the possibility that the reactor could be reconverted to produce significant amounts of plutonium.
        The terms of the final agreement have already been enunciated in the November 2013 "Joint Plan of Action" (JPA), namely that Iran will have an unrestricted centrifuge enrichment program. This will only enhance Iran's nuclear weapon capability in the long term. Iran should have no centrifuge enrichment capability and it should not be possible to reconvert the Arak reactor to natural uranium fuel for large-scale plutonium production. (Nonproliferation Policy Education Center)

  • Egypt

  • Egypt: Sissi Wins with 97 Percent - Mayy El Sheikh
    Egypt's elections commission on Tuesday formally declared former defense chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi the winner of last week's presidential election with nearly 97% of the vote. Turnout was about 47%, compared with the 52% who voted in the 2012 election won by Mohamed Morsi. (New York Times)
  • Sissi's Election as President: What Does It Mean for Egypt? - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
    Abdel Fattah el-Sissi is the first Egyptian president who has not participated in a war with Israel. When the moment was ripe, Sissi moved to repair a historic mistake made by the Muslim Brotherhood, after it sought to emasculate the Egyptian military and deny it its traditional role as the gatekeeper, power broker, and guarantor of modern Egypt.
        The eradication of the jihadists in Sinai is of crucial importance to the national security of Egypt. Past experience has shown that jihadist organizations inside Egypt have chosen Sinai as a safe haven for their training. Moreover, Sissi will have to maintain a close grip on the Gaza Strip, which has proven to be a safe haven for many terrorists who escaped from Sinai.
        Egyptian politicians had always claimed that the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel infringed upon Egyptian sovereignty. Nevertheless, under Sissi the negotiations that took place allowed a meaningful change in the redeployment of the Egyptian army in Sinai - a de facto alteration of the peace treaty duly accepted by Israel. As a matter of fact, the peace treaty with Israel was now being honored on its own merits and not as an imposed condition for obtaining American economic and military aid. Oddly enough, it was the pro-Israel lobby in Washington that mobilized in order to convince the U.S. administration to continue its economic and military assistance to Egypt.
        Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Egypt After the Election: Advancing the Strategic Relationship - Michael Singh
    The story now unfolding in Egypt will be a long one and largely beyond Washington's control. The country's politics do not represent a dichotomy between democracy and autocracy or Islamism and secularism, but rather the interplay between several large forces (an entrenched bureaucracy, a sprawling military, political Islam) to which a new and potent force has been added: the people's expectation of political participation.
        The State Department is unlikely to be in a position anytime soon to certify that Egypt is on the road to democracy and thereby clear the way for resumption of military aid. But Sissi's victory should be seen as an opportunity to redefine the relationship so that it once again merits the label "strategic."
        For the U.S.-Egyptian relationship to truly be "strategic," the U.S. should emphasize security cooperation and bolstering its allies' own capabilities, while promoting long-term democratic and economic reform. The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Who Was Left Off the Guest List for Sissi's Inauguration? - Zvi Bar'el
    Israel, Turkey, Qatar, and Syrian President Assad were left off the invitation list for the festivities to mark the inauguration of Egypt's new president next week. Israel's omission was expected.
        Sissi loathes Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan because he remains unwilling to recognize Egypt's new government. Erdogan has spent the past year harshly denouncing the Egyptian army's takeover of the government and its suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood.
        The real surprise is that Sissi invited Iranian President Hassan Rohani. Tehran has already announced that it will send someone to the ceremony, though it may not be Rohani himself since he is slated to visit Turkey at that time. (Ha'aretz)

  • Other Issues

  • U.S. Foreign Policy: Groping for a Reset - Walter Russell Mead
    The world of June 2014 is not a world the Obama administration wanted or foresaw. The plan was that six years of no-drama, no-stupid-stuff diplomacy would repair the damage of the Bush years, isolate jihadis in a democratizing Middle East, develop a new relationship with Iran, build a businesslike relationship with Russia, and pacify East Asia. It was a beautiful plan, but it hasn't worked out.
        Al-Qaeda is no longer "on the run" according to as sober a source as the Financial Times; it's in its best shape since October 2001 by some analyses. The Syria horror continues to grow more intense and the consequences, more dire; Western intelligence agencies say they are unable to track the activities of thousands of Western passport holders now being trained in the finer points of jihad as they fight against Assad.
        The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is in ruins despite major pushes by the president in each of his two terms. Saudi Arabia is cold to the administration's regional policy. Libya is a disaster. Years of "democracy promotion" in Egypt revealed the depth of American illusions about the Arab Spring and exposed the limits of our influence in Egypt. (American Interest)
  • The Mirage of Political Islam - Mustapha Tlili
    The U.S. administration's ill-advised support of Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia is clearly a strategic error stemming from a failure to grasp the nature of political Islam. At root, this misjudgment lies in the belief that Islamists were ever the legitimate voice of Islam. During the decades of dictatorship in the Arab world, political Islamists marketed themselves in the West as "moderate" movements that sought to reconcile Islam with democracy. In reality, they were proponents of a messianic ideology in which the fundamental tenet is to implement God's will on earth. While they succeeded in disguising their true intentions in talks at Chatham House or the Council on Foreign Relations, they could not possibly provide the partner America needed.
        The administration bought into the fallacy of "moderate" political Islam. Regrettably, the U.S. failed to recognize the need to strengthen the Muslim world's secular democratic parties and empower their supporters, who want to build a society based on tolerance, moderation, the rule of law, women's rights and constitutional freedoms.
        It took just a year for the incompetence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to reveal itself (the fall of Ennahda in Tunisia took longer). Washington must acknowledge the new reality, and engage with the Sissi government in Egypt and with Tunisia's secular political parties. America should help, not hinder, the secular democrats of the Muslim world. The writer, a research scholar at New York University, is the founder and director of the NYU Center for Dialogues: Islamic World - U.S. - the West. (New York Times)
  • The Myth of Ethnic Inequality in Israel - Steven Plaut
    It is a common but mistaken belief that the numerical representation in any profession or wage range for all groups in a society should be the same as the proportion of that group in the general population. Israeli Arabs are grossly over-represented among students in schools of pharmacy, and it is not because these schools discriminate against Jews. Israeli Arabs own proportionately twice as many cars as Israeli Jews; no one has suggested that this attests to discrimination in Israel against Jews.
        A significant portion of earnings disparities reflects nothing more than age structure differences. Older adults invariably earn far more than younger ones. It is estimated that the median age of Muslim Israelis is 19 while the median age of Jewish Israelis is 31. Moreover, Arab women in Israel, especially married Muslim women, have very low participation rates. This means that most employed Arab women are young and not yet married, which in turn generates a considerable gap in earnings levels when compared with Jewish women. The writer teaches at the Graduate School of Management at the University of Haifa. (Middle East Quarterly)

  • Weekend Features

  • Tales from Israel's Naval Commando Chiefs - Moshe Ronen and Elad Zratt
    Shayetet 13 is the Israeli army's elite naval special forces unit. Six prominent Shayetet 13 commanders are interviewed here: Izzy Rahav, who became the unit's commander in 1950; Maj.-Gen. Zeev Almog; Maj.-Gen Yedidia Yaari, now Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' CEO; Uzi Livnat; Brig.-Gen. Yishayahu Brosh, under whose command the unit assassinated Abu Jihad in Tunis and sunk a PLO ship in Cyprus; and Eli Glickman, today the CEO of Israel Electric Corp.
        "We changed the terrorists' agenda," Brosh concludes. "Instead of terrorists spending 99% of their time planning and preparing their next steps for attacking us, we put them on the defensive in their own bases."  (Ynet News)
  • Preparing Jerusalem for the Next 100 Years - Yoni Goldstein Interviews Mayor Nir Barkat
    Barkat: Tourism to Jerusalem is up. Hotel occupancy rose from 40% to 70%, and we have investments in the pipeline to create more than 10,000 hotel rooms. We are building a very large business district at the entrance to the city. There will be 13 towers of 35 stories, with 11 million square feet of office space, hotel rooms and commerce. We're building the largest sports complex in the country, which includes the expanded Teddy soccer stadium and a new arena, the largest in the country.
        Q: How would you characterize the security situation in Jerusalem right now?
    Barkat: We are one of the safest cities in the world, with one-third the crime of Tel Aviv and one-tenth of any American city. If you come and walk the streets, you will feel extremely secure. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • Israel a Leader in Neonatology, Says Israeli Expert - Ron Csillag
    Dr. Michael "Miki" Karplus headed the department of neonatology at Ben-Gurion University's Soroka Medical Center for nearly 30 years. During a recent visit in Toronto, he said that over the past few years, through two "mother and baby" units Israel established in the African nation of Ghana, it has learned how to treat troubled newborns cheaply and without expensive medical intervention that is unavailable anyway.
        The units in Ghana do not rely on expensive respirators, ventilators or incubators. "The high mortality in babies in the developing due to infections and complications from being born small," Karplus explained. "Many of these complications could be dealt with [using] limited resources so that mortality can be reduced with simple means."
        Among the best known methods is "kangaroo mother care," in which the mother, through skin to skin contact, warms her baby, replacing expensive incubators. Great care is taken to allow only the mother to handle her newborn. "Infection will be minimal because no one else is handling the baby....With these very simple means, you can reduce mortality tremendously."  (Canadian Jewish News)

Did the U.S. Promise Not to Recognize a Hamas-Backed Unity Government? - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)

  • Did the U.S. backtrack on an informal agreement reached between Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the possibility of a Palestinian unity government backed by Hamas?
  • The head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Satloff, claims that "Kerry and Netanyahu had a detailed conversation focusing specifically on the possibility of a 'technocratic government'...whose composition is shaped and approved by Hamas," and had reached an agreement that the U.S. would not deal with any Palestinian government backed by Hamas.
  • Satloff told Ynet that "there was an understanding between Netanyahu and Kerry that the U.S. would take a 'wait-and-see' position." Satloff says U.S. relations with the new Palestinian government should be defined according three central points: A commitment to the Quartet's principles (recognition of Israel, renunciation of terror, acceptance of previous agreements), abiding by Congress' legal constraints regarding the funding of terrorists groups, and support of Israel.
  • "The third point," he said, "means not just recognizing Israel's right to do something - supporting Israel means preventing its isolation under such conditions."
  • "Israel's response to a Hamas-backed government would likely be directly proportional to its sense of isolation on the issue....The more support Israel finds in Washington...on its position toward an unacceptable Palestinian government, the less need it will feel to impose harsh economic and other costs on that government to prove its point."
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