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October 31, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Temple Mount Reopened after Jerusalem Shooting (BBC News)
    Israeli police have reopened the Temple Mount in Jerusalem ahead of Muslim Friday prayers, following the shooting of a well-known campaigner for the right of Jews to pray at the site.
    On Thursday, a spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas described Israel's temporary closure of the site as a "declaration of war."

ISIS Kills 220 Iraqis from Tribe that Opposed Them (Reuters-Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Islamic State militants executed at least 220 Iraqi members of the Sunni Muslim Albu Nimr tribe which opposed their takeover of territory west of Baghdad, security sources and witnesses said.
    Two mass graves were discovered on Thursday containing some of the 300 members of the tribe that ISIS had seized this week.
    The bodies of more than 70 men were dumped near the town of Hit in Anbar province. A mass grave near Ramadi contained 150 members of the tribe, security officials said.
    See also Tribal Chief: Baghdad Not Doing Enough to Combat ISIS in Anbar - Hamza Mustafa (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

Report: Hizbullah Attack on Jews and Israelis in Peru Foiled (I24 news)
    Peruvian authorities have foiled a terrorist attack against Jews and Israelis, Israeli Channel 2 TV reported Thursday.
    Hizbullah member Mohammed Zuheir Amadar, 28, a Lebanese who belonged to Hizbullah's foreign terror operations branch, was arrested after collecting intelligence on Jewish and Israeli targets in Peru.
    He was reportedly planning to attack locations popular among Israeli backpackers, the Israeli embassy in Lima, and several institutions of the local Jewish community.
    During a search in his apartment the police discovered explosives and weapons.

Poll: Israelis View Obama Administration as Pro-Palestinian - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    53% of Israelis consider the Obama administration more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, 16% believe it is more pro-Israel, 20% called it neutral, and 11% had no opinion, according to a Smith Research poll taken Wednesday.

Hamas Still Producing Rockets - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Despite intensified Egyptian efforts to eliminate the smuggling of weapon components into Gaza, Hamas is still producing rockets, a senior Israeli official said.
    The source said Egyptian counter-terrorism activities have drastically improved recently, including in the intelligence realm. The Egyptians are preventing the smuggling of dual-use materials that can be used in building rockets, such as metal pipes and fertilizer, while tightening control on Egypt's borders with Sudan and Libya.
    Hamas is also working hard to rehabilitate its tunnel network. In the past, Hamas has built tunnels without cement, as it did in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.
    The Egyptians and Israelis have intelligence that Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, the organization responsible for a number of serious attacks against the Egyptian Army, is being helped by known Hamas operatives.
    In addition, there is a permanent presence of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terrorists within Gaza who are providing Sinai jihadists with weapons and training.

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The Islamic State Is Raising an Army of Child Soldiers - Kate Brannen (Foreign Policy)
    They stand in the front row at public beheadings and crucifixions in Raqqa, the Islamic State's stronghold in Syria. They're used for blood transfusions when Islamic State fighters are injured.
    They are paid to inform on people who are disloyal or speak out against the Islamic State. They are trained to become suicide bombers.
    They are children as young as 6 years old, and they are being transformed into the Islamic State's soldiers of the future.
    The Islamic State has put in place a far-reaching and well-organized system for recruiting children, indoctrinating them with the group's extremist beliefs, and then teaching them rudimentary fighting skills.
    The militants are preparing for a long war against the West, and hope the young warriors being trained today will still be fighting years from now.

Israel Upgrading Tanks with Trophy Active Protection - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF's Seventh Armored Brigade is in the midst of a modernization process that will see all tank battalions equipped with the Merkava Mark IV tank by 2016, a senior army source said Tuesday.
    The tanks will come equipped with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' Trophy active protection against anti-tank missile attacks.
    "The Merkava Mark IV can destroy anti-tank firing cells. It brings with it a new level of ammunition. It is more deadly," the source said.

Israeli Firm Adapts Iron Dome for Intercepts at Sea - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    Israel's Rafael Ltd. is developing ship-based versions of Iron Dome, the system that has scored more than 1,200 operational intercepts since its initial deployment in 2011.
    Dubbed C-Dome, Rafael said the system aims to defend offshore patrol vessels, corvettes and other small ships.

Israel Cancels Purchase of Six U.S. V-22 Planes - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has canceled a deal with the U.S. to purchase six advanced vertical-takeoff and landing V-22 Osprey aircraft. Israel had not yet signed the contract.
    The decision is a result of financial concerns linked to the summer's Gaza war. Ya'alon recently decided to purchase a larger quantity of Namer heavy armored personnel carriers and expand the IDF's precision munition arsenal.
    Nixing the V-22 coincided with a decision to purchase a second flight squadron of F-35 stealth fighters.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry Says Reported U.S. Slur of Israel's Netanyahu "Damaging"
    Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday condemned a derogatory description of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by an anonymous U.S. official as quoted in a U.S. magazine this week. "We condemn anybody who uses language such as was used in this article," Kerry said. "It does not reflect the president, it does not reflect me, it is disgraceful, unacceptable, damaging. I have never heard that word around me in the White House. I don't know who these anonymous people are who keep getting quoted, but they make life much more difficult."
        Susan Rice, national security adviser to President Barack Obama, and Yossi Cohen, national security adviser to Netanyahu, met Thursday at the White House. Kerry dropped by the meeting, the White House said. The consultations focused on ongoing nuclear talks with Iran and the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the White House said. (Reuters)
  • Foreign Fighters for Islamic State Are Streaming into Syria - Greg Miller
    More than 1,000 foreign fighters are streaming into Syria each month, despite airstrikes against the Islamic State and efforts by other countries to stem the flow of departures, according to U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials. "The flow of fighters making their way to Syria remains constant, so the overall number continues to rise," a U.S. intelligence official said. (Washington Post)
  • Report: Syrian Airstrikes Kill over 200 Civilians in Ten Days
    Bombing by the Syrian air force over the past 10 days has killed at least 221 civilians, a third of them children, and more than 500 people have been wounded, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday. (Reuters)
  • Hizbullah under Strain as It Battles on Several Fronts - Hugh Naylor
    Hizbullah, Lebanon's most powerful military organization, is losing its aura of invincibility as militants from Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra have carved out footholds in Lebanon along the porous Syria border. "Hizbullah is spread thin. They are waging so many battles and are positioned on so many fronts," said Imad Salamey, associate professor of political science at the Beirut-based Lebanese American University. As many as 5,000 of its soldiers are thought to be in Syria, where hundreds of its fighters have been reported killed. (Washington Post)
        See also Hizbullah Is Bruised - Hussain Abdul-Hussain
    Syria's war has taken a toll on Hizbullah. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Lebanon's Shiite population is thinning out as families search for better lives away from the "society of resistance" and its perpetual war. Today, there is hardly a Shiite village that has not lost a dozen or more of its men. Sooner or later, Hizbullah will run out of men to recruit. In Lebanon, Shiites number one million, a quarter of the population. The disparity in numbers that clearly favors the Sunnis in the Levant is beginning to catch up with Hizbullah. The writer is Washington bureau chief of the Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai. (NOW-Lebanon)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas, Islamic Jihad Call for Palestinians to Step Up "Resistance" Against Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Thursday called on Palestinians to step up their "resistance" against Israel following the assassination attempt on Yehuda Glick and the temporary closure of the Temple Mount. Islamic Jihad praised the assailant, one of its members, Mu'taz Hijazi, for carrying out his "sacred duty to defend the Aqsa Mosque."
        Hamas, for its part, called on Palestinians to avenge the killing of Hijazi by the IDF. Abu Obaida, spokesman for Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades, said: "We salute the sacred hands that pulled the trigger of dignity and fired the bullets of revenge toward the Zionist criminal who desecrated the blessed Aqsa Mosque."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Minors Indicted for Attempted IDF Courthouse Suicide Bombing - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Two Palestinian minors were indicted last week for trying to carry out a suicide bombing on the Salem Military Courthouse in the West Bank on Sep. 22. The two minors, residents of Nablus, intended to use seven explosive charges, while a third Palestinian helped with assembling the explosives. When they arrived at the IDF's Salem Base, where the court is located, they found the main gate locked. When they put the bag that contained the explosives on the ground, next to the gate, base guards became suspicious and apprehended them. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Recalls Sweden Ambassador in Protest of Palestine Recognition - Barak Ravid
    The Israel Foreign Ministry has recalled its ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, from Stockholm for consultations in protest of Sweden's recognition of a Palestinian state. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called Sweden's move Thursday a "very unfortunate decision" that only strengthens "radical and intransigent" Palestinian elements. "The only chance to reach an accord is through honest negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and steps like this only bolster the Palestinians' unrealistic demands and push an accord farther away."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Assassination Attempt in Jerusalem

  • Standing Up to Intimidation - Editorial
    When violence is used to terrorize and bully a group into abdicating basic human rights, it becomes a threat to the foundations of democracy. On Wednesday, Mu'taz Hijazi, who is affiliated with the Islamic Jihad terrorist group, tried to assassinate Rabbi Yehuda Glick. This was a horrific act of violence directed at a man who was singled out for his religious and political beliefs.
        What makes this crime all the more tragic was the fact that Glick, who is a vocal activist for the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, is also a strong defender of Muslims' right to freedom of religious expression on what they call Haram a-Sharif.
        We must disabuse ourselves of the idea that innocuous acts such as Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount are the trigger for Muslim rioting, stone-throwing, destruction and murder. Rather the Arabs who commit these offenses choose to lash out against Jews in order to intimidate them into ceding their rights.
        Permitting Jews - or members of any other religion - to visit the Temple Mount and even pray there should be a religious freedom that is carefully protected by a democracy. Caving in to the demands of militant Muslims out of a desire to avoid "escalation" is capitulating to extremism and betraying the ideals of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Struggle for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Nadav Shragai
    Wednesday's assassination attempt on Yehuda Glick puts the Temple Mount at the center of the Arab-Jewish struggle over Jerusalem. Former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan in 1967 prohibited Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, while Glick waged a worldwide battle to get the government to allow Jewish prayer there. That was what made him a red flag for Muslims, who believe (as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas put it) that Jews defile the Islamic character of the Temple Mount. (Israel Hayom)
        See also "Al-Aksa Is in Danger": The Lie that Won't Die - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Islamic Jihad Operative Who Shot Rabbi Glick
    Mu'taz Hijazi, 32, an Israeli citizen from east Jerusalem, committed the assassination attempt on Rabbi Yehuda Glick on Wednesday. In 2000, Hijazi was sentenced to 6 years in prison for seven arson attacks in Jerusalem, some in schools, but his jail time was extended after he was involved in two serious attacks on wardens. He was released in 2012. (Ynet News)

  • U.S.-Israel Relations

  • Sneers at Israel Won't Help U.S. Interests in the Mideast - Editorial
    The public show of condescension toward Israel makes no sense for an Administration facing multiple Mideast crises and struggling to keep the friends it has. It makes even less sense if Mr. Obama strikes a nuclear deal with Iran next month. The White House has leaked that it intends to bypass Congress to conclude a deal, but it cannot unilaterally overturn sanctions passed by Congress. Broadcasting its dislike for the Jewish state won't instill confidence in Congress and the public that such a deal won't mortally threaten Israel.
        Israel will draw its own conclusions about what it needs to do to survive in a tough neighborhood. The Administration's main accomplishment is to have needlessly unsettled an alliance in a fit of pique. (Wall Street Journal)
  • External Pressure Unites Israelis - Dan Margalit
    The low language used by U.S. government officials about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in comments made to Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg was not appropriate, given the fact that Israel is an American ally. The unusual language used by the officials was a manifestation of the U.S. government's realization that it has failed in the Middle East in general, and in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere in particular.
        America's adoption of a gloves-off approach with Israel will not achieve the goal that the initiators of the confrontation hoped for. The average patriot in a democracy will defend his or her prime minister who is under an illegitimate verbal assault from abroad. External pressure always brings people together, and this is how Israelis react to diplomatic attacks from abroad. (Israel Hayom)

  • Other Issues

  • Iran: The Revolution Is Over
    Talks to curb Iran's nuclear program have less than a month to run. Iran insists that it wants civilian nuclear power and not a bomb. But nobody really believes that. If the talks break down, atomic weapons could proliferate in the Middle East; or, in a bid to stop Iran, America or Israel could launch a military attack on its infrastructure. Either outcome would be a disaster.
        Much that Iran does is wrong. It finances terrorists and militias in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and backs the murderous regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. Its politicians routinely deny Israel's right to exist. They treat opponents at home with cruelty and injustice. The UN's nuclear agency recently complained that Iran is failing to come clean about its nuclear research - part of a litany of evasion and deceit.
        Our special report describes a country whose revolutionary fire has been extinguished. As people have moved from their villages to the cities they have got richer and acquired a taste for consumer goods and Western technology. The traditional religious society that the mullahs dreamt of has receded. With the passing of time, the mosques have started to empty. Here is one Islamic state where religion is in retreat. (Economist-UK)
  • The Kurds' Lonely Fight Against Islamic State Terror - Ralf Hoppe, Maximilian Popp, Christoph Reuter and Jonathan Stock
    In a 50-sq.-km. area of rugged, mountainous territory in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq is the headquarters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). It provides a home for PKK leadership in addition to training camps for fighters. It also has its own police force and courts. The surrounding hillsides are dotted with Humvees, captured by the PKK from the Islamic State terrorist militia, which had stolen them from the Iraqi army. It is here in the Qandil Mountains that PKK leaders coordinate their fight against Islamic State jihadists in the Syrian town of Kobani and in the Iraqi metropolis of Kirkuk, in addition to the ongoing battle in the Sinjar Mountains.
        Just a few years ago, the idea of the West working together with the PKK would have been preposterous. Over the past three decades, PKK has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Turkish civilians. With an estimated size of 15,000 fighters, PKK is the strongest fighting force in the region and the only one that seems willing and able to put up a fight against Islamic State. They are disciplined and efficient in addition to being pro-Western and secular.
        It was the PKK that established a protective corridor in Sinjar that enabled tens of thousands of Yazidis to flee. It was also PKK that defended the cities of Makhmour and Kirkuk in Iraq against Islamic State militias. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Who Are the Kurds? A User's Guide to Kurdish Politics - Richard Spencer (Telegraph-UK)
  • In the Core Sunni-Shia War, the West Has No Ally - Jonathan Spyer
    The West has no ground assets in Syria capable of destroying IS, and history contains no examples of states which were destroyed solely from the air.
        What is taking place in Iraq, Syria and increasingly also in Lebanon is a single, cross-border sectarian war, effectively pitting a Shia alliance led by the Iranians and including Hizbullah, the government of Iraq, Iraqi Shia militias and the Assad regime against a much more confused and disparate Sunni camp, of which IS is a mutated product. In the core Sunni-Shia war, the West has no ally.
        The Shia bloc constitutes the most powerful anti-Western alliance currently in existence in the Middle East. Among the Sunni Arabs, meanwhile, are some of the most brutal organizations ever to have emerged anywhere - such as IS. The victory of either camp would not constitute progress in any form for the people living in the states in question. (Fathom-BICOM)
  • The Long Road to Choosing Iran's Next Leader - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    In September, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei (now 75) was hospitalized for prostate surgery, and rumors again circulated that he has prostate cancer. On Oct. 21, Ayatollah Mohammadreza Mahdavi Kani died at the age of 83. He had been chairman of Iran's Assembly of Experts, a body of 86 clerics entrusted with electing Iran's next Leader.
        Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani 80, seeks a central role in determining Khamenei's successor. At present the short list of names for the post of chairman includes Rafsanjani. He is considered a "darling" of the Western states, which continue to view him as someone who can put Iran on a course of constructive dialogue on various issues including its nuclear program.
        Rafsanjani was among the Iranian leaders who tried, without success, to contain or limit the Revolutionary Guard's increasing influence over the years and who recognized the danger of its ascendancy. He also continues to be regarded as their historic rival. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Selective Memory: Iran's Role in the Marine Barracks Bombing - Tony Badran
    Last Thursday marked the 31st anniversary of Hizbullah's twin attack on the U.S. Marine barracks and the French paratroopers base in Beirut in 1983. The U.S. has placed the onus of the 1983 Marine barracks bombing on Imad Mughniyeh, even though it was an Iranian operation from top to bottom. Mughniyeh was a fervent disciple of Imam Khomeini.
        According to leading Hizbullah expert Shimon Shapira, in 1982-83, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard force in Lebanon, Hossein "Dehghan took Mughniyeh under his wing. He was his operator." Mughniyeh, often described as the "mastermind" of the attacks, in fact, was the tactical commander. The planning and financing of the operation was Iranian.
        U.S. National Security Agency intercepts of traffic between Tehran and Ali Akbar Mohtashami, the former Iranian ambassador to Syria, revealed how Hizbullah reported to Mohtashami, and acted on orders that came from the IRGC command and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security. A month before the attack, Tehran was issuing directives to Mohtashami to have their assets in Lebanon "take spectacular action against the United States Marines." The writer is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (NOW-Lebanon)
  • How Islam Has Been Hijacked - Aly Salem
    Sayyed Qutb was the principal theorist of the Muslim Brotherhood and the intellectual impetus behind the Islamist parties it spawned. Qutb's ardent disciples included Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri of al-Qaeda. It is not an exaggeration to say that Qutb is to Islamism what Karl Marx is to communism.
        Qutb concluded that the reason for the Muslim world's decline were external cultural and political influences that diluted Islam. The only path to an Islamic renaissance was to cleanse Muslim societies of these contaminants and restore Islam to its seventh-century purity.
        Today, Qutb's outlook - Islamism - is the dominant political ideology in most Muslim-majority countries. Polls by the Pew Research Center indicate that in many Muslim countries, the population is overwhelmingly in favor of veiling for women, the death penalty for leaving Islam and stoning as punishment for adultery; rabid anti-Semitism is rampant. In Egypt, veiling was virtually extinct until the Islamists resurrected the practice in the 1970s. Today an estimated 90% of Egyptian women are veiled. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Weekend Feature

  • Could an Israeli Innovation End World Hunger? - David Shamah
    Between a third and a half of all food grown today is lost to spoilage. Thanks to an invention by Israel's Pimi Agro, using hydrogen peroxide "with a few key additions," fruits and vegetables remain fresh and viable for up to 10 weeks, significantly cutting losses due to rot and deterioration during the transportation process, said Nimrod Ben-Yehuda, CTO and co-founder of Pimi. "For places like India, China, and Africa, this is huge, especially because the transportation systems in those areas are slow and refrigeration is hard to come by," he said.
        Agricultural and food authorities in the U.S., UK, Germany, Australia, China, and many other countries have approved Pimi's all-natural, zero-chemical method of preserving produce. "They're not necessarily organic, but they are much healthier than ordinary produce - besides having a much longer shelf life - because farmers can cut down significantly on the use of fungicides."
        Pimi Agro's secret: Its products are formulations based on 99.4% Stabilized Hydrogen Peroxide (STHP), which decomposes into oxygen and water, leaving no chemical residue. The trick, said Ben Yehuda, was getting that other 0.6% of the formulation right - and that took him, along with researchers at the Technion and at Hebrew University, 15 years. (Times of Israel)

Palestinian Politics after the Gaza Conflict - Ben Cohen interviews David Pollock (Fathom-BICOM)

  • Common to Hamas and Islamic State is the existence of an "uncompromising goal and the adoption of violent means towards that goal. A commitment to jihad, in one form or another, is shared by Hamas and IS."
  • "The idea that Hamas could moderate, or that there are moderates in Hamas who could somehow be enticed into the peace process, is a fantasy. It's in the very nature of Hamas to insist that there can never be peace with Israel, that there can only be tactical ceasefires - what they call in Arabic a 'hudna.' Permanent peace with Israel is just not acceptable. They have never varied from that position, and I don't see any sign that they could ever vary from that position."
  • "Hamas is an old-fashioned jihadi terrorist organization. Some people say, 'well, it won an election,' and so it did. Once. But that doesn't make it any less radical, or terrorist, or violent, or jihadi, or rejectionist."
  • "I have found in my own discussions with some European diplomats and other officials, that they'll say, 'Israel should just withdraw even if the Palestinians give nothing in return.' My answer to that is, 'number one, it's never gonna happen, number two, equally important, it means that there will never be peace.' So if you want peace, then you shouldn't encourage that attitude."
  • "Some Palestinian leaders view international pressure against Israel as a legitimate tool....The problem is that it's so one-sided and inflammatory that, from a Palestinian perspective, it's self-defeating. They drive the Israeli public and the Israeli government further away from imagining that concrete territorial concessions to the Palestinians can be made."
  • "If the Palestinians are indulging in that kind of antagonistic rhetoric, avoiding negotiations and turning to outside pressure instead, then the Israelis can be forgiven for concluding that they don't really have a good partner for peace. So in the end, I think the result really is to perpetuate the conflict rather than to move to any kind of resolution."

    David Pollock, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served in senior State Department positions during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
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