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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
November 4, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Dismisses Reports of New American Peace Plan (State Department)
    Asked about news reports that Secretary of State Kerry will present a peace plan to the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday:
    "It's up to the parties to take steps. We know what the issues are. We know what the conditions would be. But it's up to them."
    "We're obviously having a range of discussions and conversations with them privately, but there are no plans to introduce a peace plan."

Free Syrian Army Consolidating Hold on Israel Border Region - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
    The Free Syrian Army on the Golan Heights consolidated its fighting units under a unified command two months ago, and has convinced radical elements - including members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front - to leave Syrian villages located just miles away from the Israeli border, a Free Syrian Army member told the Times of Israel.
    At the moment, the entire province of Quneitra is in opposition hands with the exception of the provincial capital Khan Arnabeh and the Druze town of Hadher on the slopes of Mt. Hermon, which remains loyal to the Assad regime.

Senior Hamas Official Marzouk's Sister Hospitalized in Israel - Nati Gabbay (Jerusalem Post)
    Halamia Shcata, 60, the sister of senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk, is suffering from cancer and is being treated in an Israeli hospital, it was revealed Monday.

Over 210 Killed in Fighting over Libya's Benghazi (AP-Washington Post)
    At least 210 people were killed in fighting in the Libyan city of Benghazi since troops loyal to the country's elected government launched an attempt to retake the city from Islamist militias two weeks earlier, a medical official said Sunday.

Iranians Mark Anniversary of U.S. Embassy Takeover (AP-Washington Post)
    Thousands of Iranians in Tehran on Tuesday chanted "Down with America," "Death to Israel" and "Death to Britain" at a major anti-U.S. rally to mark the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy.

Palestinian Calls from Al-Aqsa Mosque to Sever Economic Ties with China (MEMRI)
    In a weekly lesson delivered at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Palestinian scholar Yasser Al-Khatwani said:
    "The least the decision-makers [in the Arab and Muslim world] could do...would be to sever economic ties [with China], to protest against the way China treats the Uyghur Muslims."
    "It is well known that the Muslims in East Turkestan, which is called Xinjiang - the New Chinese Province - have been subjected to all kinds of torment and oppression for a long time, at the hands of the Chinese."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Sinai Terror Group Swears Allegiance to Islamic State
    Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt's most active militant group, has sworn allegiance to Islamic State. "After entrusting God we decided to swear allegiance to the emir of the faithful Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph of the Muslims in Syria and Iraq and in other countries," a statement from Ansar said Monday. (Reuters)
        See also Sinai: Terrorist Presence Becomes Full-Fledged Insurgency - Abdallah Schleifer
    Egypt is still reeling from the coordinated attack in the Sinai last week that cost 33 soldiers their lives. Army investigators said dozens were involved in this highly-coordinated attack, which benefited from experienced and possibly foreign hands. According to rumors circulating among Sinai tribesmen, there is now a working relationship between the Islamic State and a rejuvenated, enlarged Ansar al-Maqdis that has incorporated other local jihadist groups. There are reports from Syria that former Egyptian officers with jihadist sympathies, who had fled Egypt and now serve as a mainstay for ISIS intelligence, are involved.
        In other words, Sinai is now home to a full-fledged insurgency, in all likelihood operating from bases in Gaza close to the border with Egypt, and staffed increasingly by Egyptians and Gazans who are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq and have now returned. The threat of a Hamas-tolerated or clandestinely-aided jihadist insurgency based in Gaza and raiding the Sinai would be cause for the Egyptian military to enter Gaza and destroy the insurgency. The writer, a veteran American journalist covering the Middle East, is professor emeritus at the American University in Cairo. (Al-Arabiya)
        See also Sinai Terrorists Using Gaza as Base - Smadar Perry
    The assassination cell that murdered 33 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai last week disappeared through the Gaza tunnels, and a new cell took its place and carried out another attack. (Ynet News)
  • Plans to Rebuild Gaza Keep Getting Undermined - Benny Avni
    Very slowly and unsurely, Gaza is starting to rebuild its devastated homes after the summer war with Israel. But as winter approaches, unresolved political and regional issues are dimming any hope that there will be a quick return to normal life. The UN finally announced a week ago that the first batches of cement and steel, locked up in Gaza warehouses, could be handed over to local contractors.
        On Sunday, after mortars were fired from Gaza, Israeli officials temporarily shut the Kerem Shalom crossing. Egypt, reacting to an attack on Oct. 24 that killed at least 33 Egyptian troops in northern Sinai, has completely shut the border crossing with Gaza at Rafah.
        The pace of reconstruction also depends on future negotiations between Palestinian officials, Israel and the UN. Egypt canceled a meeting it was to host in Cairo a week ago between Israeli and Palestinian officials on long-term arrangements to rebuild Gaza. A new date for the talks has yet to be fixed.
        Israel is eager for Gaza's civilian infrastructure to be rebuilt fast, on the assumption that only a stable Gaza can be a peaceful neighbor. "When it comes to the civilian population, Israel fully supports international efforts to bring humanitarian relief and rebuild," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev. (Newsweek)
        See also Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings - Spencer Ho (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Israel Passport Case - Josh Gerstein
    The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case about whether U.S. passports should list Israel as the birthplace for American citizens born in Jerusalem. A lower court ruled last year that the passport law enacted by Congress unconstitutionally infringes on the president's power to recognize foreign countries and to decide what territories they have sovereignty over. (Politico)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Arab Sentenced to 22 Months for Fighting with ISIS - Noa Shpigel
    A Haifa court on Monday sentenced Ahmad Shurbaji, 23, from Umm al-Fahm, who took part in training with Islamic State fighters in Syria, to 22 months in prison. The court accepted the state's argument that "going to an enemy country for military training, especially Syria and most especially for training with Islamic State, is an offense that poses a great threat to Israel's security." The verdict stated that Arab citizens of Israel who return from fighting in Syria could potentially use their acquired military expertise to act against Israel or to create ties between returning fighters and global Islamic Jihad fighters.
        The court ruled that even a potential threat establishes jurisdiction, and that "a country that is defending itself must not wait for the threat to go from theory into practice." During Shurbaji's stay in Syria he took part in several armed battles waged by Islamic State. He attended a week-long military training session, took part in lessons on Sunni and Shia Islam, and practiced shooting rifles and using a variety of weapons. So far, two Israeli Arabs have been reported killed fighting alongside ISIS. (Ha'aretz)
  • Jewish Heritage Sites in Arab Countries Face Extinction - Ksenia Svetlov
    Old Jewish synagogues and cemeteries in Syria, Iraq, Libya and the rest of the Arab world are being turned into mosques or completely destroyed. In Iraq, Ezekiel's Tomb has been turned into a mosque. Most of the ancient Jewish inscriptions there have been destroyed or covered with cement. Daniel's Tomb in Mosul was blown up by Islamic State.
        In Syria, the Jobar Synagogue in Damascus, also known as the Prophet Elijah Synagogue, was demolished in May 2014. In Libya, all memory of Jewish life was almost wiped out under Gadhafi's regime. Cemeteries were destroyed over the locals' desire to use the tombstones as building materials, and synagogues were turned into mosques or public buildings. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Arabs Arrested in Jerusalem for Smashing Headstones in Ancient Jewish Cemetery - Noam Dvir
    Three Arab residents of Jerusalem's A-Tur neighborhood were arrested on Monday for smashing dozens of headstones at the ancient Jewish Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem last month. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran Poised to Choose Nuclear Power over Economic Prosperity - Ray Takeyh
    Since the exposure of its illicit nuclear program in 2002, Iran has wrestled with how to expand its nuclear infrastructure while sustaining a measure of economic growth. As the Nov. 24 deadline approaches, Iran has finally come to the crossroads, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and many hard-line elements seem ready to forge ahead with their nuclear ambitions even if they collide with economic imperatives.
        In the impractical universe of conservatives, Iran can meet the basic needs of its people by developing local industries. Hard-liners believe that isolation from the international community can best preserve Iran's ideological identity. This siege mentality drives Iran's quest for nuclear arms and their deterrent power.
        Although many in the West may privately hope that the interim accord will simply roll on, Iranian adherence is hardly assured. The history of Iran's nuclear diplomacy suggests that it will abandon the agreement when it has sufficient technological capacity to carry out a rapid surge of its program. It already seems clear that Khamenei and the hard-liners are poised to choose nuclear power over economic prosperity. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Washington Post)
  • How Iran Views the Fall of Sana'a, Yemen: "The Fourth Arab Capital in Our Hands" - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Yemen's geostrategic location at the entrance to the Red Sea, along with the inherent weakness of its central regime, have made it an attractive target for subversion by external powers. In September, Shia rebels took over the capital city of Sana'a and the Al-Hudaydah port on the Red Sea. Iran has long been trying to take over the sea lanes surrounding the Arab world. It commands the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf and now is trying to seize the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.
        A member of the Iranian parliament who is close to Khamenei declared, "Three Arab capitals (Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad) have already fallen into Iran's hands and belong to the Iranian Islamic Revolution." He suggested that Sana'a was the fourth capital. Iran views Yemen as a convenient staging ground for subversive activity against Saudi Arabia, its main religious-political rival in the Middle East. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Do U.S. Officials Believe It Is Advantageous to Have a Nuclear Iran? - Danielle Pletka (American Enterprise Institute)

  • An important piece by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic about U.S.-Israel relations lays out the rather shocking notion that team Obama thinks it has somehow played the Israelis into allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon: "It's too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it's too late."
  • How can we read this as anything other than an appalling display of hypocrisy, hostility to Israel and warmth toward the very powers that have killed almost as many Americans (Iran, Hamas, et al) as al-Qaeda?
  • Let us focus on the fact that an unnamed "senior American official" is waxing triumphant over the fact that it is now "too late" for Israel to strike Iran's nuclear weapons complex. This is good news?
  • The fact that American officials believe it is more advantageous to have a nuclear Iran than to have someone in power in Israel who will not kowtow to the U.S. president shows contempt for the national security of the American people - who are at terrible risk from an Iranian nuclear bomb.

    The writer is senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI.

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