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October 17, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Conduct Ebola Drill at Airport - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    As the Ebola scare spreads worldwide, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued instructions Thursday for more stringent preventive measures at the entry points into Israel, including taking the body temperatures of visitors coming from areas badly hit by the disease.
    A drill will be held at Ben-Gurion Airport on Friday simulating the arrival of a passenger afflicted with the disease.

Spanish Parliament to Vote on Recognizing a Palestinian State (Al-Arabiya)
    The Spanish parliament is set to vote on recognizing a Palestinian state, the Al Arabiya news channel reported Thursday.

Islamic Jihad Chief Hails Iran Role in Gaza War (AFP)
    The head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, praised Iran for its role in last summer's Gaza conflict against Israel, during a visit to Tehran on Thursday.
    "The victory was achieved with the assistance of the Islamic republic," he told Iran's supreme guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "Without Iran's strategic and efficient help, resistance and victory in Gaza would have been impossible."
    Iran provides the technology for Palestinian fighters of Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Gaza to fire missiles at towns in Israel.
    Khamenei urged the militants to "boost their preparedness day by day and reinforce their resources."

How the U.S. Refused to Help Locate a Missing IDF Soldier - Steven Emerson (Jerusalem Post)
    On July 20, Hamas terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli APC in Gaza, killing seven soldiers. Half a dozen Hamas terrorists converged on the burning vehicle and took parts of the body of St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul.
    Hamas claimed it had kidnapped Shaul and hacked into his Facebook page. Israel made an urgent appeal to the FBI for help in determining the remote source that hacked into the Facebook page. On July 21, the FBI issued a "preservation letter" to Facebook ordering them to preserve all data saved on their server pertaining to Shaul's account.
    But on July 22, the FBI told the U.S. Attorney's Office: "I regret to inform you we have been denied approval to move forward with the legal process." Thus, the FBI was never able to supply Israel with any information on Shaul's Facebook account that might have led to the location of the soldier or his remains.
    Law enforcement officials knowledgeable about this incident say both prosecutors and the FBI were shocked at the turn of events.
    The writer is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Poll: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon Reject IS - David Pollock (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    New polls conducted in September show that the Islamic State has 3% support in Egypt, 5% support in Saudi Arabia, and only 1% support among Lebanon's Sunnis.
    In Egypt, one-third voice a positive attitude toward Hamas. In Saudi Arabia, that figure is 52%.
    Hizbullah, a Shiite Islamist organization, receives just 12-13% approval among Egypt's or Saudi Arabia's overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim populations.

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Long Loyal to the Assad Regime, Some Golan Druze Are Changing Their Tune - Assaf Uni (Vocativ)
    Until the 1967 war, when Israel gained control of the Golan Heights, the area's Druze, who now number around 30,000, were Syrian citizens, and most longed for their land to be returned to their home country, where many still had family.
    Until a few years ago, Syrian flags fluttered above buildings in Majdal Shams, the largest Druze town in the Golan, and most residents refused Israeli citizenship, which the state offered them after officially annexing the area in 1981.
    For young Druze in Majdal Shams, however, the war against Assad has been a wake-up call. "It's an event which totally transformed the reality of this community," says an older resident. "If you ask an elder in this village, he will say, 'I am Syrian.' If you ask a teenager, he will say, 'I am Druze.'"
    Firas, a young Druze, says, "The whole village is waiting for someone to break the taboo. I would say it's just a matter of time before we all have blue [Israeli] IDs."

IDF Steps Up Tunnel Warfare Training Following Gaza War - Yaakov Lappin (IHS Jane's)
    The Israel Defense Forces is prioritizing tunnel warfare training as part of the lessons learned during the recent conflict with Hamas.
    The IDF Ground Forces have begun building a number of training centers designed to simulate subterranean warfare.
    Lt.-Col. Dotan Druck said the new training centers simulate spaces where soldiers must fire while kneeling, lying, or standing in enclosed spaces.

Video and Photos: Hot Air Balloon Festival in Israel (Ynet News)
    The International Hot Air Balloon Festival at Ma'ayan Harod near Mt. Gilboa took place on Monday and Tuesday. Teams came from the U.S., Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria.

Israeli Returns Cash that Fell from Brinks Truck - Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
    Yarden Ben-Ezra was driving behind a Brinks security truck in Kiryat Ata on Sunday when the truck's back doors suddenly swung open and a sack full of money fell out onto the road containing 400,090 shekels ($107,424) in cash.
    Ben-Ezra picked up the bag, followed the truck, and returned the money.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Weighs U.S. Nuclear Offer - George Jahn
    Iran is considering a U.S. proposal at nuclear talks that would allow it to keep more of its nuclear infrastructure intact while still reducing its ability to make an atomic bomb, two diplomats told AP on Thursday. Iran is refusing U.S. demands that it cut the number of working enriching centrifuges from nearly 10,000 to only a few thousand.
        Ahead of a Nov. 24 deadline to seal a deal, diplomats told AP last month that the U.S. had begun floating alternatives to reducing centrifuges that would increase the time Iran would need to make a nuclear weapon. Diplomats said Iran recently began discussions with Moscow on possibly shipping some of its low-enriched stockpile to Russia for future use as an energy source.
        Experts say the low-enriched uranium Iran has stored, if further enriched, could arm up to seven nuclear weapons. They estimate it would take Tehran 3 to 12 months to have enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb. (AP)
        See also Background Briefing: P5+1 Talks (State Department)
  • U.S.: Hundreds of Islamic State Militants Killed in Kobane Airstrikes - Phil Stewart and David Alexander
    U.S.-led airstrikes have killed several hundred Islamic State fighters around the Syrian town of Kobane, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, but it cautioned that the town near Turkey's border could still fall. (Reuters)
  • Turkey Fails in Bid to Join UN Security Council
    Turkey failed in its effort to join the UN Security Council on Thursday in competition with New Zealand and Spain for two seats representing the Western group of nations. Turkey fell behind as New Zealand easily gained a seat on the first secret ballot of all General Assembly members and Spain made it on the third. (AP-USA Today)
        See also Turkey Loses UN Security Council Seat in Huge Upset - Benny Avni
    On Wednesday, Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, hosted a posh party for diplomats at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, where many of the guests predicted an easy victory for Turkey. "It's surprising, because I was told just days ago that Turkey received letters of support from 160 countries, said one diplomat after the secret ballot ended in Turkey's failure to edge out Spain. After several rounds of voting, Turkey ended up receiving the support of only 60 General Assembly members, while Spain got 132 votes. (Newsweek)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Abbas Derides Hamas Talk of "Victory" in War Against Israel
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas derided Hamas claims of victory in the conflict it waged against Israel this summer, in an interview with Egyptian television on Wednesday. "What did we get out of it?...For what did we suffer through those 50 days? We had 2,200 fatalities, 10,000 injured, 40,000 homes and facilities and factories destroyed. Tell me, what did we achieve?"
        Abbas also castigated Hamas for orchestrating the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank on June 12 that led to the war. (Times of Israel)
  • Three Israelis Dead, One Missing after Nepal Avalanche - Attila Somfalvi and Itay Blumenthal
    The Israel Foreign Ministry confirmed Thursday that three Israelis have been killed and one is missing after freak heavy snowstorms and avalanches struck Nepal on Tuesday and Wednesday. (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Air Force Female Navigator Tamar Ariel among Nepal Avalanche Victims - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jerusalem Light Rail Line Crippled by Arab Rock Throwing - Shlomi Diaz
    The company that runs Jerusalem's light rail system, City Pass, said Sunday that its fleet of 23 railway cars had been effectively reduced to 14 as a result of repeated rock throwing in Arab neighborhoods. On Sunday, four rail cars were damaged in five rock throwing incidents. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Jerusalem Residents Describe Commuting on Jerusalem Light Rail - Yori Yalon
    The Jerusalem residents most inconvenienced are those in Pisgat Ze'ev, a large neighborhood in northeastern Jerusalem, the train route to which passes through the Arab neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina. The past three months have seen 150 incidents in which the city's light train cars were damaged by rock throwers.
        Pisgat Ze'ev resident Ohad Rokach said: "I work in the city center....In the morning there aren't any problems, but the trip back is terrifying. You don't know when or where it will come from. I was already involved in 10 of these [rock-throwing] incidents. It's really unpleasant."
        Orna Ron said: "You hear a big 'boom' and everyone is startled....The train keeps going, the window is cracked, but no one is hurt because the windows are coated with plastic that keeps shards from falling in."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Ya'alon: Palestinians Want to Destroy the Jewish State - Shlomo Cesana
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon was asked in an interview why Israel decided not to topple Hamas' rule in Gaza: "Many options were raised, among them operational plans that involved entering Gaza, conquering it and cleansing the territory. After a cost-benefit analysis we concluded that it was not the right move right now to attempt such an operation. We realized that there is no one that could take our place once we conquer and cleanse: Not Mahmoud Abbas, not the Egyptians, not the Arab League and not the UN. That means that if we went in there, we would get stuck there."
        "I assert that victory is bringing the other side to agree to a cease-fire on your terms....And indeed, we brought Hamas to agree to a cease-fire in a way that ran contrary to their wishes. That is undoubtedly an achievement. There is victory on the ground because of the heavy price that Gaza had to pay. I expect that they will think twice before escalating violence again in the future."
        "Ever since the clashes began in 1936, Dr. Moshe Beilinson, who served as the deputy editor of the [now defunct] Davar newspaper, was asked 'when will it end?' and he would reply 'when the last of our enemies understands that we are here forever.' There are no shortcuts. Our efforts to create shortcuts over the last two decades - from Oslo until the present day - have all failed."
        "Abbas has never said that he recognizes us as the nation state of the Jewish people. He also never said that if a compromise is reached, even one that adheres to his vision of the 1967 lines, it would end the conflict and the [Palestinian] demands. He never said that he has given up on demanding refugee rights. So where can we go with him?"
        "The other side doesn't think that the 1967 lines will be the end of the story, and they never said that it would be the end of the story. To them it is merely a stage; it is not about establishing a state, but rather destroying the Jewish state and negating its existence. There is a lack of symmetry here that is not in our favor, so we need to learn how to manage this conflict without delusions."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Taking Responsibility - Editorial
    Representatives from the U.S., the UN, the Arab League and the EU convened in Cairo to discuss the reconstruction of Gaza. But success depends on a radical change in the Palestinian mindset. Only when they take responsibility for their actions and stop playing the victim will there be hope for a brighter future.
        Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah is mixing up cause and effect when he blames his people's poor condition on occupation or on the blockade of Gaza. The measures Israel and Egypt are forced to use in self-defense are all reactions to Palestinian violence.
        As long as Gaza is ruled by a terrorist organization that insists on building its military capabilities to continue its attacks on the "Zionist entity" and as long as Hamas collaborates with Islamist terrorists operating in Sinai, Israel and Egypt will maintain a blockade designed to prevent or slow Hamas' militarization.
        Palestinians would have had a state decades ago if they had renounced violence and focused on improving their lives. Random suicide bombings, rocket fire directed at civilians and other forms of violence adopted by Palestinians over the decades are not a protest against poverty and unemployment. They are a cause of it. As long as Palestinians continue to justify violence as a legitimate means of political action they will live in poverty. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Bogged Down in Policy Contradictions - Hussein Ibish
    Hamas has been trumpeting a great victory against Israel, but as the dust settles, the shine seems to be wearing off with public opinion. The reality is that, with winter approaching, the amount of devastation and lack of housing in Gaza as a consequence of the war is going to become a very serious humanitarian issue. And for all of the talk of PA security forces replacing Hamas militia at the Palestinian side of the border crossings, there is no sign of any Palestinian agreement whereby that could happen.
        Abbas has toyed with the internationalization route for a long time, but in truth, it's another dead end. The international community is not going to be able to pressure Israel, particularly not without the cooperation of the U.S. Getting the UN Security Council to impose a deadline for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank isn't going to be possible given a U.S. veto, and if the General Assembly did so it would be meaningless. Even if the Security Council did impose such a deadline, Israel certainly would ignore that too.
        Joining the International Criminal Court and attempting to bring war crimes charges against Israeli officers and officials is a lengthy and complicated matter. There are numerous hurdles, most notably getting the court to recognize that the PA has practical sovereign control of Gaza, which would probably be necessary for any prosecution to go forward. (Now-Lebanon)
  • The House of Commons Vote to Recognize the State of Palestine - Melanie Phillips
    In a spectacular display of ignorance, moral illiteracy and malice, Britain's House of Commons this week, by 274 votes to 12, voted to "recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel." The Commons vote may encourage other countries to follow suit. It also threatens to deepen the Middle East conflict.
        A state of Palestine cannot precede a two-state solution. It has to be negotiated into existence, not least because of the evidence that its real purpose is as a beachhead to destroy Israel. Unilaterally declaring a Palestine state tears up the Oslo treaty committing both sides to such a negotiation, thus destroying the peace process.
        Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said (in Arabic) that the Palestinians will never accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. His PA glorifies those who murder Israelis, and teaches Palestinian children to hate and kill Jews. These are the people the MPs declared have a "right" to a state. If Israel were to depart the West Bank it would be overrun by Hamas or other Islamists, maybe even Islamic State. This is what the UK Parliament has now so warmly endorsed. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Handling Hamas Money Just Got a Lot Riskier for Middle East Banks - Michael Pizzi
    After a landmark ruling against Jordan-based Arab Bank, found liable for knowingly processing transactions of Hamas members and thereby supporting its attacks on civilians, the world's financial institutions have been put on notice: Turn a blind eye to clients designated by the U.S. as "foreign terrorist organizations" and face the consequences. Among other Hamas-related transactions that totaled about $100 million, Arab Bank processed a series of $5,300 payments to the families of suicide bombers from a Saudi-registered charity, the Saudi Committee.
        The Arab Bank case, tried in a federal court in Brooklyn, marked the first time a bank has been held liable in a civil suit under the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act. "What's been liberalized here is that you don't have to show the bank knew the material support was going towards terrorism. It's enough to know the funds went to a terror organization," said John Coffee, a law professor at Columbia University. (Al Jazeera)

  • Iran

  • Iran's Aggressive Information Campaign - Tony Badran
    The Islamic Republic of Iran is managing an aggressive information campaign capitalizing on President Obama's war against the Islamic State. Take, for instance, the photo shoots Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani has been doing in Iraq. There's Soleimani the General visiting his men on the front, with fighters from the Shiite militias he runs. Soleimani's photo shoots were designed to make clear that not only were the Iranians and the Americans in alignment, but also that the Iranians were the real force on the ground. Hence, U.S. air power serves only to shore up the Iranian order.
        Earlier this month, the Iranians set in motion a play centered around support for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in its role against Sunni armed groups. At the end of September, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, arrived in Beirut where he met Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam as well as Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Following his talks, Shamkhani declared that Iran was ready to offer military aid to the LAF. The Saudis have already pledged $3 billion to Lebanon.
        The Iranians deliberatelyspecifiedwhat types of weapons they were ready to provide, free of charge, as soon as the Lebanese government consented. They also offered to provide training. The objective was to contrast the Iranians' concrete offer with the yet unfulfilled Saudi promise. The whole Iranian campaign, as retired Israeli Brigadier General and Hizbullah scholar Shimon Shapira put it to me, was "a wily trick." They orchestrated the whole affair, framed it, and controlled the flow of information about it. The writer is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Now-Lebanon)
  • March of the Houthis - Editorial
    Yemen's Houthis, a Shiite rebel group from the north of the country, took control of the capital Sanaa in late September, and is now marching south, having taken the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah. Once they take the Bab al-Mandeb port, the Houthis - and by extension the Iranians - will control a port through which passes 40% of the world's oil each day, as it controls the Strait of Hormuz. With such power at its disposal, Iran will have control over the global oil market.
        And yet the international community has been virtually silent on the apparently unstoppable approach of the Houthis, and American drones continue to focus on al-Qaeda elements elsewhere in the country. Events in Yemen could prove far more damaging to the region and the world than what is happening elsewhere. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
        See also Houthis in Sanaa - Medhat Al-Zahed (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
        See also Iran's Dangerous Game in Yemen - Amir Taheri (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel Sees Gas as Key to Transforming Mideast Relations - Shoshanna Solomon and Calev Ben-David
    Israel has a new foreign policy tool to build relations with its neighbors: natural gas. By the end of the year, Israel may have binding agreements to sell billions of dollars of gas to Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Israel's chance to be a regional energy power comes from two mammoth fields under the Mediterranean Sea, holding more gas than the country could consume in decades. "We are much more accepted in the world as a result of us finding natural gas," said Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom. (Bloomberg)
  • The Israeli Homeland Security Industry - Avi Dichter
    Facing a multitude of terror threats over the past decades, Israel has initiated and supported the development and implementation of state-of-the-art homeland security solutions. Israeli companies are involved in security projects worldwide, as prime contractors or partners. Israeli security services and technologies are involved in securing major sports, entertainment, and mega-public events worldwide, including the Olympic Games in Atlanta and Athens.
        Israeli security systems protect the Vatican and the Eiffel Tower, as well as JFK airport in New York City, Heathrow in London, and Changi in Singapore. On November 9-12, 2014, Israel will host the 3rd International Conference for Homeland Security. The writer is former director of the Israel Security Agency, former Minister of Public Security, and former Minister of Home Front Defense. (Jerusalem Post)

Israel's Legal Wars - Daniel Reisner (Israel Defense)

  • For the last fifteen years, every military operation or war in which Israel has been engaged has generated a follow-on "wave" of attempted legal proceedings against Israel, Israelis, Israeli companies or even foreign companies and individuals somehow related to Israel.
  • I am often asked why Israel, which is consistently faced with enemies who show little or no respect for legal or moral values, continues to place such an emphasis on complying with the laws of armed conflict (more commonly referred to today as "international humanitarian law" - IHL).
    • First, from a purely legal perspective, international law does not allow one party to a conflict to cease to comply with the relevant rules, solely due to the fact that the other party is violating them. The fact that Hamas consistently commits blatant violations of all international legal norms, amounting to severe war crimes, does not entitle Israel to disregard these same rules
    • Second, Israel has made a legal and moral decision to adhere to the relevant laws and norms of international law, in spite of the serious challenges such behavior generates in the Middle East. It is a testament to the commitment of the people of the State of Israel to maintain our own values, even when all around us people appear to be losing theirs.
    • Finally, the military and legal authorities, all too keenly aware of the fact that, immediately once the fighting dies down, voices will clamor for international investigation of alleged wrongdoings, recognize the necessity of ensuring (and being able to retroactively prove) that IDF operations fully complied with all relevant norms.
  • For all of these reasons, during the mid-90s I initiated a process of integrating military lawyers into the IDF operational decision-making processes. Today, IDF lawyers specialized in laws of armed conflict are deeply involved in all stages of military operations.

    Col. (res.) Adv. Daniel Reisner served as head of the IDF's international law department.
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