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September 1, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Jordan to NATO: ISIS Terrorists Have Begun to Infiltrate Our Borders - Eli Leon and Yoni Hirsh (Israel Hayom-Hebrew)
    Saudi media report that Jordan has provided NATO with detailed secret information that IS (formerly ISIS) terrorists are infiltrating into the kingdom from Iraq and Syria.
    The British ambassador to Jordan, Peter Millet, said that his country and NATO were prepared to assist Jordan against the threat from IS.

UN Withdrawal Points to a New Order on the Golan Heights - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    UN observers on the Syrian-Israel border are abandoning their posts following the abduction of Fijian soldiers and threats to the lives of other UN soldiers.
    Syrian rebel groups now control all areas south of the Quneitra border crossing, down to the border with Jordan, as well as several enclaves north of Quneitra. Yet Israel does not foresee an immediate danger.
    According to Arab media, Israel has been improving its relations with villagers east of the border over the last two years, by, among other things, opening a field hospital nearby. Hundreds of injured Syrians have been treated there.
    The crossing is now held by an alliance of groups considered to be more moderate and not keen on a confrontation with Israel. The Nusra Front, which helped them take control of the crossing, was subsequently moved away from the border.

Examination of Palestinians Killed in Gaza War - Part Four (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    ITIC has now examined the names of 667 of the Palestinians killed in the Gaza war. Of the 589 dead who could be identified, 46% were terrorist operatives, while 54% were non-involved civilians.

Did Iran Stage "Downing" of Israeli Drone? - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)
    Patrick Megahan, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Iran may have staged what it claimed was the downing of an Israeli drone in its airspace a week ago.
    "First, the remnants of the aircraft [shown in the Iranian video] do not match those of any known Israeli UAV." In fact, the aircraft that Iran claims to have shot down "actually resembles an Iranian-developed Shahed 129 drone more than any known Israeli one."
    Second, Iran's claim that the drone was on its way to the Natanz uranium enrichment plant is dubious. While there was speculation that it came from Azerbaijan, Natanz is too far from Azerbaijan for those Israeli drone models most similar to the drone in the video.

Countering Iraq's ISIS Challenge - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
    Having absorbed the initial shock of ISIS' rise, Iraq is starting to fight back. In recent days both government units and Kurdish peshmerga have inflicted serious defeats on ISIS units, regaining control of 30-plus towns.
    Several top ISIS figures have been killed or captured, including "Defense Minister" Khalil al-Mufakhakhah and nine of his commanders.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Abbas Says Hamas Caused Prolonged War - Mohammed Daraghmeh and Ian Deitch
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blamed Hamas on Friday for extending fighting with Israel in Gaza. "It was possible for us to avoid all of that, 2,000 martyrs, 10,000 injured, 50,000 houses [destroyed]," Abbas told Palestine TV. He said Hamas prolonged the violence needlessly.
        "The Egyptian formula was on the table on July 15th, it was backed by the Arab League, it was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas then and now more than a month later has belatedly been accepted by Hamas," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. "As the dust clears from the conflict I'm sure many people in Gaza will be asking why did Hamas reject a month ago what it accepted today, and if it had accepted then what it accepted now, how much bloodshed could have been avoided."  (AP)
  • Defiant Gaza Militants Vow to Rearm - Adel Zaanoun
    Thousands of militants paraded in Gaza on Friday, defiantly saying they would rearm as the prospects of a final deal on a long-term Israel-Hamas truce looked shaky. Thousands of Islamic Jihad fighters paraded through Gaza City in a show of force, marching with light weapons and holding aloft rockets similar to those fired at Israel. The spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades delivered a speech praising backers Iran and allies Hizbullah and declaring the militants would "redouble efforts" to rearm. (AFP)
  • Amid ISIS Violence, Saudi King Warns of Threat to U.S. - Abdullah al-Shihri and Sameer Yaacoub
    The king of Saudi Arabia has warned that extremists could attack Europe and the U.S. if there is not a strong international response to terrorism. While not mentioning any terrorist groups by name, King Abdullah's statement appeared aimed at drawing Washington and NATO forces into a wider fight against the Islamic State. "I am certain that after a month they will reach Europe and, after another month, America," he said Friday. "You have witnessed them severing heads and giving them to children to walk with in the street," the king said. (AP-CBS News)
  • U.S. Airstrikes Help Iraqi Forces Break Islamic State Siege - Abigail Hauslohner and Erin Cunningham
    Iraqi troops and militias aided by U.S. airstrikes broke through a two-month siege of the town of Amerli on Sunday, opening up a humanitarian corridor to thousands of Shiite Turkmen who had been trapped by Sunni militants from the Islamic State. At least three of Iraq's most notorious Shiite militias, which fought U.S. forces and killed thousands of Sunni civilians during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, are playing a lead role in the ground offensive. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Soldier Wounded by Rocket Dies - Yaron Kelner and Raanan Ben-Zur
    Sgt. Netanel Maman, 21, who fought in Gaza and was critically wounded a week ago when a Palestinian rocket hit in Gan Yavne while he was on leave, died on Friday. (Ynet News)
        See also Israeli Soldier Wounded in Gaza Dies
    Sgt. Shachar Shalev, 20, who was injured in Gaza on July 23, died of his wounds on Sunday, bringing the Israeli death toll in the war to 72. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt: We'll Open Rafah Crossing Only If PA Troops Guard It - Amos Harel
    Egypt is conditioning an easing of transit restrictions at the Rafah checkpoint on the presence of a Palestinian Authority force being stationed on the Gaza side of the crossing. PA forces were expelled by Hamas in June 2007. Israel has no objection. Hamas hasn't given a final answer. Egypt also wants PA units deployed along the border between Sinai and Gaza. Egypt opposes a European proposal that it train the PA forces, nor is it interested in a force of international inspectors at Rafah.
        Israel and the PA are conducting talks with local UN envoy Robert Serry on establishing an inspection mechanism for goods to be allowed to enter Gaza from Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Recognizes 988 Acres in Gush Etzion as State Land - Elior Levy and Itay Blumental
    Israel announced Sunday that it will recognize 988 acres in the Gva'ot settlement in the West Bank as state land. The IDF said there was no Palestinian claim on the area in question. In June, three Israeli teenagers - Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach - were kidnapped and murdered in the area. (Ynet News)
        See also below Observations: Israel's Decision to Declare 988 Acres of West Bank Territory as State Land (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • IDF Shoots Down Drone Near Syrian Border - Stuart Winer
    Israeli forces shot down an unmanned aircraft as it entered the country from Syria on Sunday. The drone was hit with a Patriot missile. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Saudi Arabia Ups Pressure on Qatar - Simon Henderson
    A recent visit by a top-level Saudi delegation to Qatar is believed to have discussed Saudi Arabia's concern about Qatari support for Muslim Brotherhood elements in the member states of the GCC, Libyan Islamists, and Hamas in Gaza. For Washington, the scale of the differences between the Gulf neighbors could affect the U.S. military's ability to operate in the Persian Gulf region, where responsibilities for action against the extremists of the Islamic State have been added to protecting the sea lanes and deterring Iranian subversion. The writer is director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Time to End the Qatari War-Mongering - Yair Hirschfeld
    On Aug. 19, the Qataris ordered Hamas' Khaled Meshal not to dare to sign a Gaza cease-fire with Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Qatar Makes Mischief in Middle East - Henry Srebrnik
    Only 278,000 of its 1.5 million residents are Qatari citizens. Thanks to oil and natural gas revenues, Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world. It is using its money shrewdly to buy influence throughout the Middle East, playing host to Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood with money and political assistance. (Halifax Chronicle Herald-Canada)
  • Centrifuge Research and Development Limitations in Iran
    Iran's centrifuge research and development (R&D) program poses several risks to the verifiability of a comprehensive solution under the Joint Plan of Action. Equipped with more advanced centrifuges, Iran would need far fewer centrifuges than if it had to use IR-1 centrifuges, permitting a smaller, easier to hide centrifuge manufacturing complex and far fewer procurements of vital equipment overseas.
        Advanced centrifuges bring with them significant verification challenges that complicate the development of an adequate verification system. Even with an intrusive system, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors would be challenged to find such small centrifuge manufacturing sites, detect the relatively few secret procurements from abroad, or find a small, clandestine centrifuge plant outfitted with these advanced centrifuges. (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • Give the PA - Not the UN - Responsibility for Palestinians - Alexander Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky
    After we called to defund UNRWA, Matthew Reynolds, the UNRWA Representative in the U.S., responded with criticism. When we observed that UNRWA's union in Gaza is dominated by Hamas members, who won 25 out of 27 seats in a 2012 election, he said all UNRWA workers are subject to thorough vetting. This vetting is done under a terrorist screening list meant to ensure that no known members of al-Qaeda join the organization. A 2010 Congressional Research Service report notes that the "list does not include Hamas, Hizbullah, or most other militant groups that operate in UNRWA's surroundings."
        Our substantive proposal is that Western donors should reprogram monies from UNRWA to the Palestinian Authority, in order to strengthen the latter in Gaza. Let the putative Palestinian state take responsibility for its own people. (New Republic)

Israel's Decision to Declare 988 Acres of West Bank Territory as State Land (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • There is considerable confusion about the recent action of Israel's civil administration declaring 988 acres of West Bank territory as state land. Those who oppose the recent declaration may appeal the Israeli decision. When Palestinians have brought proof of ownership of contested territory to Israeli courts, including Israel's Supreme Court, the courts have at times issued decisions calling on the Israeli government to restore the property in question to its Palestinian claimant, even if that requires dismantling the private homes of Israeli citizens.
  • It should be remembered that the Oslo II Interim Agreement, signed by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at the White House in 1995, established a division of the West Bank into three areas: Israeli responsibilities in Area C included the power of zoning and planning. The territory which Israel declared as state land is within Area C.
  • The architects of the Oslo Agreements understood that Palestinians would develop areas under their jurisdiction while Israel would develop areas it controlled. That is why there was no settlement freeze in the original Oslo Agreements. What will determine Israel's borders are negotiations and not construction; after all, Israel dismantled all its settlements in Sinai when it made peace with Egypt in 1979 and it withdrew all its settlements from the Gaza Strip as part of its Gaza Disengagement in 2005.
  • Moreover, the territory in question is part of a settlement bloc, south of Jerusalem, known as Gush Etzion, which was settled by Jews prior to 1948, but lost by Israel when it came under attack by Arab forces. During past negotiating rounds it became clear to Israelis and Palestinians alike that at the end of the day, Israel will retain the settlement blocs.
  • The determination that Israel will retain the settlement blocs is reflected in U.S. diplomatic communications like the 2004 letter by President Bush to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the statements made by President Obama in 2011 about demographic changes on the ground and changes in the 1967 lines. The least controversial of these settlement blocs is Gush Etzion.
  • The question of legality of settlements relates to Article 49 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. The view of Israeli jurists, and important U.S. jurists as well (like Eugene Rostow, the former dean of Yale Law School), is that this section relates to the forcible movement of an occupier's population into an occupied territory. This language was incorporated as a reaction to Nazi German policies of forcibly transferring German Jews to Occupied Poland for extermination.

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