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December 5, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Israelis Appreciate U.S. Support, Wary of Obama - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    37% of Israelis believe President Obama has a "positive" position toward Israel, and an equal number said he had a "negative" attitude, according to a Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies survey released on Tuesday. In 2012, 51% said Obama had "positive" attitudes toward Israel.
    65% said America's position in the Middle East has been weakened since 2009 when Obama took office.
    At the same time, nearly 3/4 feel the U.S. is a loyal ally of Israel.
    Yael Bloch-Elkon, who co-directed the poll, noted that "the Israeli public remains one of the most pro-American communities in the world."
    "Overwhelming majorities view the U.S. and Israel as having similar strategic interests in the Middle East, see the U.S. as Israel's loyal ally, and as a friend that will come to Israel's aid in times of trouble."

Iran Extends Imprisonment of Washington Post Reporter - Rick Gladstone (New York Times)
    Judicial authorities in Iran have extended by at least two months the detention of Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post Tehran correspondent.
    Rezaian has been imprisoned without explanation since July 22, kept in solitary confinement and denied access to a lawyer.

Palestinian Terrorists Have Gone Online - Nevo Ziv (Ynet News)
    Palestinians are establishing a new terrorist infrastructure.
    They've moved over to online recruitment via popular campaigns designed to sow hatred and covey the sense that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is under threat - in the hope of prompting a terror mission carried out by a lone attacker, one who is not affiliated with any terrorist organization.
    Prof. Yair Amichai-Hamburger, director of the Research Center for Internet Psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center's School of Communication in Herzliya, explains that the discourse on the Internet functions as a breeding ground for extremists.
    "The propaganda is absolute. We are perceived there as Satan's earthly representatives....Every Jew represents a part of the threatening mechanism."
    "Once the message has seeped in, the sense of solidarity becomes absolute, and the attacker's personal existence becomes meaningless. He turns into the long arm of Islam."
    "This gives rise to a new profile of a terrorist, one who perhaps just a few days earlier had no intentions of driving his car into a group of soldiers or people at a train station, but ends up saying to hell with the world."

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Death of Nazi War Criminal Alois Brunner in Syria Confirmed - Adam Chandler (Atlantic)
    The death of Alois Brunner, the world's most wanted Nazi, was all but confirmed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
    Brunner, who was the top aide to "Final Solution" architect Adolf Eichmann, is thought to have died four years ago in Syria, where he lived for decades, at age 98.
    Deborah Lipstadt, a professor and Holocaust historian at Emory University, said Brunner "didn't just go fishing for the next 30 years. He participated and apparently advised [former Syrian dictator Hafez] Assad."
    Efraim Zuroff, the noted Nazi hunter, said that while living in Syria under the pseudonym Dr. Georg Fischer, Brunner had taught the elder Assad how to torture.
    Israel's Mossad targeted Brunner twice with letter bombs, causing him to lose an eye and three fingers.

Convicted of Being a Jew in Syria - Michelle Devorah Kahn (National Post-Canada)
    From 1948 to 1950, my grandfather was a prisoner, convicted of being a Jew in Syria.
    Joseph Avraham Esses grew up side-by-side with his Muslim Arab neighbors in Aleppo. At the end of the 1940s, everything in Syria changed and the attitude towards the Jewish people, who were once the "brothers and sisters" of the Muslim Arabs, shifted greatly.
    Friends and family members often disappeared, never to be heard from or seen again, or were slaughtered during broad daylight for all to see.
    One incident involving a Jewish family man who was hiding from the Muslims, lead to his three young daughters being kidnapped from the marketplace and held captive for days, where they were tortured and ultimately killed. A few days later, their cut-up bodies were delivered to the family's home and left on their doorstep in a sack.
    Being Jewish became a crime. Men, women and children were often hung for this crime in the town square, as the Arabs cheered. My grandfather was luckier than most.

Sino-Israeli Economic Ties Blossoming - Gregory Noddin Poulin (Diplomat-Japan)
    The People's Republic of China and the State of Israel are developing an increasingly integrated bilateral economic partnership that is poised to flourish over the next decade.
    Bilateral trade surged to $10 billion in 2013, with plans to double that figure in the next few years.
    Bloomberg named Israel the world's leading country for R&D intensity and placed China first for manufacturing.
    Avi Hasson, Israel's Chief Scientist, noted, "What China needs, we have to offer. We are good at innovation and technology transfer, and they can scale up manufacturing and beyond."
    Increasingly, China has turned to Israel to acquire the technology necessary to maximize agricultural output and efficiency, as well as to develop a proficient water purification and reclamation apparatus that can sustain China's urbanization and economic expansion.

Israeli Kibbutz Sends 380 Million Flies to Croatia (Jerusalem Post)
    The Biobee company at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu has sent 380 million sterilized flies to Croatia to help fight fruit fly populations in the country's citrus orchards.
    The Israeli company devises natural biological methods to fight pests in agriculture in order to decrease reliance on harmful pesticides.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Threatens Hizbullah Missile Attack on Israeli Gas Fields - U. Kafash, Y. Mansharof, and A. Savyon
    In November, websites close to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) began reporting about the capabilities of the IRGC missile unit, and in particular about its capability to strike and destroy Israel. At the same time, there has been a marked increase in threats by IRGC officials on behalf of Hizbullah about the latter's readiness to strike any point in Israel. Furthermore, the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency is touting the capability of Hizbullah's Iranian missiles to damage Israel's natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as Israeli naval vessels.
        Fars published statements by IRGC Aerospace Force and missile unit commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh and his deputy Majid Mousavi, who said that Hizbullah is in possession of Iranian missiles with a range of 300 km., covering Israeli territory as far south as Dimona. Hajizadeh added that the IRGC and Hizbullah were a single apparatus. (MEMRI)
        See also MEMRI Back Online after YouTube Backtracks - Oded Yaron
    YouTube temporarily closed the account of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) this week for the third time due to complaints by the institute's opponents. MEMRI monitors the Arabic and Farsi media, and its YouTube channel features clips from Arabic or Farsi television channels along with translations in English, Hebrew, French and other languages. (Ha'aretz)
  • Warily, U.S. Learns to Live with More Muscular Iran Role in Iraq - Phil Stewart and Warren Strobel
    Air strikes by Iran inside Iraq in recent days are only the latest manifestation of an increasingly muscular role by Tehran in Baghdad's war against Sunni militants. "I think it's self-evident that if Iran is taking on ISIL in some particular place and it's confined to taking on ISIL and it has an impact, it's going to be - the net effect is positive," Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday. Some U.S. officials credit Tehran for its critical role in helping stop the advance of Islamic State in June - by mobilizing Iraqi Shi'ite militias.
        U.S. officials said privately that Iran's dispatch of jets over eastern Diyala province was not setting off alarms within the U.S. government. "It's no secret that Iran has had military assets, resources and activities inside Iraq," a U.S. official said. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Options in Syria Shrivel as Islamists and Assad Regime Make Gains - Tim Lister
    The fortunes of potential U.S. allies among Syrian rebel groups are ebbing fast as hardline Salafist groups and especially al-Qaeda's affiliate go on the offensive. The past month has dealt further reverses to moderate groups, whose presence in the northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo has further eroded. This is a growing headache for the U.S., which is trying to identify and train moderate rebel factions to take on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
        Kimberly Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, said, "the moderate opposition remains marginal and incapable of shaping the battlefield in any material way." Noah Bonsey of the International Crisis Group said coalition airstrikes against ISIS had allowed President Assad to refocus on hitting mainstream rebels, and the regime had made gains around Hama and Aleppo. (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Video: Israeli Security Forces Neutralize Knife-Wielding Palestinian Woman at Checkpoint - Noam Dvir
    Israeli security forces took control of a knife-wielding Palestinian woman at a checkpoint at the Palestinian village of Qalandiya in the West Bank on Thursday. A security camera taped the entire incident. (Ynet News)
  • Egyptian President al-Sisi vs. Hamas - Yoni Ben Menachem
    At the end of last month, Egypt's Prosecutor General filed a lawsuit against Hamas' military arm Ezzedin Al Qassam, intending to declare Hamas a terrorist organization and outlaw its activity. Hamas claims that the directive to the Prosecutor General originated from Egyptian President al-Sisi himself.
        The Egyptian move against Hamas comes after the grave terror attack in northern Sinai six weeks ago in which 33 Egyptian soldiers were killed. The extremist Ansar Beit al Maqdes, that recently joined ISIS, claimed responsibility, but according to Egyptian intelligence, Hamas was actively involved in this terror attack by smuggling explosives and its fighters through Gaza's tunnels.
        The Egyptians claim the terror attack was masterminded by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, that the logistical support was provided by the Turkish intelligence services, and that Qatar financed the operation with $6 million. Hamas has denied all connection to the attack. The writer, a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center, is former Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Netanyahu Hails British Christian Zionist "Godfather" of the IDF - Herb Keinon
    The ashes of Lt.-Col. John Henry Patterson, a British Christian Zionist who commanded the Jewish Legion during World War I, were interred along with those of his wife in an official ceremony Thursday at Moshav Avihayil, which was founded by Jewish Legion soldiers. According to Patterson's grandson, Alan, who attended the ceremony on Thursday, one of Patterson's final wishes was to be buried in Israel close to his men, and Prime Minister Netanyahu initiated the move.
        Patterson was a friend of Netanyahu's father, Benzion Netanyahu. Ze'ev Jabotinsky wrote about Patterson that "never in Jewish history has there been in our midst a Christian friend of his understanding and devotion." At the ceremony, Netanyahu said Patterson was the "commander of the first Jewish fighting force in nearly two millennia. And as such, he can be called the godfather of the Israeli army."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iranians Feeling Far More Emboldened than Previously Thought - Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror
    Presumptions about the nuclear negotiations with Iran were wrong. It was assumed that at the very last moment, the Iranians would offer a small gesture to ensure that the agreement would be signed. But this assumption was wrong. The Iranians are feeling far more emboldened than previously thought. They have come to believe the six world powers are more eager to ink an agreement than they are.
        Iran knows that as long as the negotiations continue it need not worry about a military strike or any new economic sanctions. It also knows that the longer the talks drag out, the better the offer it will be able to secure. This is how things have always been in the history of Iran's negotiations with the West.
        The Iranians want to be able to pursue nuclear weapons development more quickly, without the risk of severe consequences. The odds of the Iranians relenting on their demands without graver sanctions and a serious military threat are slim. Unfortunately, the odds of the six powers compromising further, on other significant issues, are much greater.
        The U.S. has created a situation by which a deal - any deal - is the West's only exit strategy. In addition, alleviating the sanctions imposed on Iran has released the pressure off it. The writer is a former Israeli national security advisor. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Preparing for a Nuclear Iran - Ami Rojkes Dombe
    Prof. Uzi Arad, a former senior Mossad official and former Israeli national security advisor, told the Israel Defense Energy 2015 Conference: "Let's say that Iran announces it is a threshold [nuclear] state....What will happen? No one will be surprised. For a long time now, there are plans in the Mossad about a situation in which another country around us has nuclear (weapons). Such discussions were begun in the '80s. Responses were prepared in advance. If you see a new submarine enter the port of Haifa, it does not take a genius to figure out what it signifies."  (Israel Defense)

  • Palestinians

  • European Parliament to Vote on Recognizing Palestinian State - Mose Apelblat
    The European Parliament is expected to vote on a proposal this month to recognize the state of Palestine. But to the European Union, this is a political issue that needs careful consideration. All final-status issues remain unresolved: the future Palestinian state's borders, security arrangements, the status of Jerusalem, water allocation and the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
        These are all difficult issues that require mutually acceptable and agreed-upon solutions. That's why the official EU position until now has been that recognizing Palestine now would be premature. The European Council has often declared that the EU will only recognize those borders that have been agreed upon by the parties to the conflict as the result of direct peace negotiations.
        The Palestinian government obviously believes that it can achieve statehood without having to negotiate with Israel and will no doubt feel encouraged in its misconception if the European Parliament recognizes Palestine as a state.
        I have the feeling that those who favor recognition of Palestine now, preempting any negotiations, do it because they think that a solution to the conflict is an easy fix. But no, it isn't. Solving the conflict is complicated - if it weren't, we would already have peace. The writer, from Sweden, is a former official at the European Commission in Brussels. (Ha'aretz)
  • ISIS in Gaza: When One Radical Group Believes Another Is Not Radical Enough - Khaled Abu Toameh
    In Gaza these days, supporters of the Islamic State are accusing Hamas of failing to impose strict Islamic laws on the Palestinian population. Almost everyone is talking about the Islamic State threats against poets, writers and women. Two separate leaflets signed by the Islamic State threatened to target Palestinian poets and writers for their "wantonness" and "atheism." The leaflets mention them by name - a move that created panic among many Palestinians in Gaza.
        According to sources in Gaza, many disgruntled members of Hamas and other radical salafi-jihadi groups have already joined the Islamic State, with some fighting together with ISIS groups in Syria and Iraq. Islamic State flags can be seen in many parts of Gaza, especially at football stadiums and public buildings. Islamic State stickers can also be seen on windshields, and families have begun attaching the Islamic State emblem to wedding invitations. Photos of Palestinians who were killed while fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appear in mosques and educational centers.
        Even if the Islamic State still does not have many fighters in Gaza, it already has countless followers and admirers. If and when the Hamas regime collapses, it is clear that Gaza will not fall into the hands of less-radical Palestinians. Countries in Europe now voting for a Palestinian state may effectively be paving the way for a takeover by the Islamic State. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Arab World

  • Rising Discontent within Assad's Power Base - Oula Abdulhamid Alrifai
    In recent months, there have been signs of growing resentment and infighting within Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite clan. In August, Douraid al-Assad, the president's cousin, called for the resignation of Syria's defense minister, Fahd Jassem al-Freij, following the execution of 120 Syrian soldiers at the Tabqa airbase by the Islamic State. Alawite activists called Freij "the minister of death" in their #Speak Up Against Assad campaign, protesting the high number of Alawite deaths since the start of the conflict.
        More than 8,000 pro-regime military personnel from the Jableh district in the primarily Alawite region of Latakia have reportedly been killed since the beginning of the fighting, not to mention the thousands from other Alawite regions who have died. The division in the Alawite community reflects the backlash against Assad's favoritism toward his Kallasieh clan, while other Alawite communities, such as the Haidariya, are forced to go out to the front lines and fight. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Yemen Exposes Difficulties in U.S. Strategy to Combat Extremist Militants - Maria Abi-Habib
    The steady weakening of Yemen's pro-U.S. government over the past two months has exposed some of the same difficulties Washington faces in its efforts to battle the extremist group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Houthi rebels have taken control of towns and cities throughout Yemen, while the rival Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) mounted some of its deadliest attacks in an effort to thwart the Houthi advance. Only a remnant of the Yemeni government remains in power. Despite years of training and hundreds of millions of dollars invested, Yemeni troops have failed to develop into an effective fighting force that could fend off the threat of AQAP and the Houthis. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Other Issues

  • Boycott Fever at MESA - Martin Kramer
    As an Israeli educator, I'm strongly opposed to the academic boycott of Israel, especially by American academic associations. But there's one exception: the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), whose conference I attended last week. MESA has mostly become a pro-Palestine political society whose members just happen to be academics.
        If MESA were to decide in favor of an academic boycott, I'd have a field day, since I've been asserting for many years that MESA isn't what it claims to be (a "non-political association" according to its bylaws). So when MESA plunged into boycott politics before and during its annual conference in Washington, I figured it was a win-win. Boycott defeated? Win for Israel and scholarly freedom. Boycott adopted? Vindication of MESA's critics, myself included.
        People in the know have told me that the resolution that was adopted would be still worse were it not for the heroic, behind-the-scenes efforts of MESA's current president, Nathan Brown, a George Washington University political scientist. He's said to have steered a compromise: a resolution that the BDSers can cite as progress, but which falls short of endorsing a boycott. (Commentary)
  • The IDF Code of Ethics and the Gaza War - Doug Chandler
    Claiming that Israel "indiscriminately, callously, carelessly or indifferently" killed civilians in Gaza last summer is "nonsense," Moshe Halbertal, a law professor at New York University, a professor of Jewish thought and philosophy at Hebrew University, and an author of Israel's military code of ethics, told the Jewish Theological Seminary of America last month.
        Halbertal outlined the basic principles on which the code is based. "Necessity" means that an army or individual soldier can apply force only for the purpose of the mission. Soldiers can break into a home to conduct a search, but they can't "break the TV," which has nothing to do with the mission.
        "Distinction” instructs soldiers that their firepower can only be aimed at those who pose a threat, either to the soldiers themselves or to civilians. Targets can include anyone who's part of the "causal chain," including the planner, the person who recruits the terrorist and the one who builds the bomb, but they don't include civilians who cheer the action.
        Under the principle of "responsibility," soldiers know that the war is bound to cause "collateral harm to civilians," but they have to do whatever they can to minimize that harm - even to the point of "assuming a calculated risk" to their comrades in arms.
        "Proportionality" requires soldiers to ask themselves if the collateral harm that may be generated by their action is proportionate to the military achievement they hope to achieve. Overall, Halbertal said, the IDF did a great job in following its own code of ethics. (New York Jewish Week)
  • The Jew of Nations: The Global Demonization of Israel - James Kirchick
    North Korea functions as a vast gulag, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deploys chemical weapons on children, and the Castro brothers have ruled despotically over their Cuban island fiefdom for five decades running, but none of these dictatorial regimes invite anywhere near the scrutiny, never mind spittle-flecked loathing, engendered by the Jewish democratic state. An Israeli soldier fires a rubber bullet in the West Bank and it will generate venomous crowds in cities around the globe; Iranian paramilitary basij forces murder peaceful demonstrators in broad daylight and the world emits barely a peep of protest.
        Why the Jewish state generates such disproportionate anger is the subject of Joshua Muravchik's thorough and careful study, Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel. The writer is a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative. (World Affairs)
        See also Here's How the World Turned Against Israel - Lee Smith interviews Joshua Muravchik (Weekly Standard)

A Nuclear Deal with Iran Will Require the West to Reevaluate Its Presumptions - Eric Edelman, Dennis Ross and Ray Takeyh (Washington Post)

  • After a decade of patient negotiations with Iran over its contested nuclear program, the prospects of the United States and other world powers securing a final deal are not good. It is time to acknowledge that the policy of engagement has been predicated on a series of assumptions that, although logical, have proven largely incorrect.
  • Two administrations - those of George W. Bush and Barack Obama - have relied on financial stress to temper Iran's nuclear ambitions. At its core, this policy has argued that steady economic pressure would change the calculus of the Islamic Republic, eventually leading it to concede the most disturbing aspects of its nuclear program.
  • What was missed was that the Islamic Republic is a revolutionary state that rarely makes judicious economic decisions. In fact, the notion of integration into the global economy is frightening to Iran's highly ideological rulers, who require an external nemesis to justify their absolutist rule.
  • Iran will not easily alter its approach. If there is any hope of changing the Iranian calculus, its leaders must see that the price - as they measure it - is high.
  • Any coercive strategy still has to be predicated on further segregating Iran from global markets and financial institutions. But this cannot be the end of it. Iran must face pressure across many fronts.
  • It is important for Tehran to see that there are no divisions for it to exploit between the White House and Congress. The president would be wise to consult with Congress on the parameters of an acceptable deal and to secure a resolution authorizing him to use force in the event that Iran violates its obligations or seeks a breakout capacity.

    Eric Edelman served as undersecretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration. Dennis Ross served as a special assistant to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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