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December 12, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Shots Fired at Israeli Embassy in Athens (Reuters)
    Four assailants on two motorcycles opened fire on the Israeli embassy in Athens with a Kalashnikov assault rifle early Friday, police said.
    Bullets were lodged in the walls, while 15 spent bullet casings were found about 40 meters away. No injuries were reported.

French Senate Approves Nonbinding Motion to Recognize Palestine (JTA)
    On Thursday, France's Senate voted 154-146 to approve a nonbinding resolution that "invites the French government to use the recognition of the state of Palestine as an instrument to bring about a definitive resolution of the conflict."
    A similar resolution was approved by the French Parliament's lower house, the National Assembly, earlier this month.

Israel Donates $10 Million to UN Ebola Fund - Itamar Sharon (Times of Israel)
    Israel on Thursday donated $10 million to the UN's Ebola aid fund, reflecting "Israel's commitment to assist African nations dealing with the difficult epidemic," the Foreign Ministry said.
    Israel has also set up three field hospitals in disease-ridden areas in recent months and has dispatched health specialists who help treat victims and guide the local population on practices to stop the illness from spreading.

Al-Aqsa TV Reporter Killed in Gaza War Turns Out to Be Hamas Fighter (MEMRI TV)
    This video, posted on the Internet on Oct. 30, is the "recorded will" of Al-Qassam Brigades fighter Abdallah Murtaja.
    On Nov. 14, UNESCO retracted its Aug. 29 condemnation of the killing of Al-Aqsa TV reporter Abdallah Murtaja in Gaza, after it transpired that Murtaja was in fact a fighter in the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
    Abdallah Murtaja says in the video: "I say little children - Omar, Abd Al-Rahman, Nada, and Dana - I preceded you to Paradise. Don't take long in joining me."

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Israeli Firm: Charge Up Smartphone in 30 Seconds, Electric Car in Five Minutes - Nathan Jeffay (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    In January, Tel Aviv-based StoreDot will give industry experts a glimpse of a new smartphone battery that uses nanotechnology to absorb a day's worth of power in just 30 seconds.
    The battery could be ready for commercial use within a year, said StoreDot's founder and chief executive Doron Myersdorf.
    He added that the same technology will be applied to electric vehicles and could power a car for 200 miles in five minutes.

Israeli Dairy-Tech Firm Acquired in $250 Million Deal - Inbal Orpaz (Ha'aretz)
    SCR, an Israeli company that makes systems for monitoring dairy cows, has been acquired by the U.S. company Allfex for $250 million under an agreement signed on Thursday.
    SCR CEO Yariv Avisar said being acquired by Allflex will enable his firm to expand to new markets and develop products faster and more comprehensively than it could as an independent company.
    The company says that more than 13 million cows are monitored and milked using its technology.

Israel Aerospace Industries to Found Space Technology Incubator - Roy Goldenberg (Globes)
    Opher Doron, head of Israel Aerospace Industries' MBT Space Division, announced Tuesday that the IAI intends to found a space technologies and applications incubator called Space-Nest for space start ups.

Biggest Children's Book Publisher Erases Israel from Map - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
    Scholastic, the world's largest publisher of children's books, eliminated Israel from the map in a children's book it published in 2012.
    In Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarab Hunt, a map of modern Egypt and neighboring countries appears with the territory of Israel completely covered by Jordan.
    A spokesperson for Scholastic said the company would stop selling the book until the error was corrected.

Egyptian Jews: A Community in Danger of Extinction - Dina Darwish (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
    Magda Haroun, 62, is the youngest of nine Egyptian Jewish women, most in their eighties, who are all that remains of a community that numbered 64,000 in 1947 and was one of the most prosperous in the Middle East.
    Families like Mosseiri, Quatawi, Rolo and Sawares started the first Egyptian banks (Egyptian Immobile Bank, Egyptian National Bank, and Egyptian Commercial Bank).
    Moreover, Jews were a fundamental pillar of the cinema industry and they contributed to the prosperity of cultural life in Egypt in the beginning of the 20th century.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel: No Sanctions Relief for Iran If No Nuclear Deal by June - Dan Williams
    Israel will not press Washington to tighten sanctions on Iran while nuclear negotiations continue for the next six months, but will push for tough action if the talks' June deadline is not met, Israeli Intelligence Ministry Director-General Yuval Wollman said on Thursday. "Within the framework of the extended talks, we think what is right is a steady and strong sanctions regime," Wollman said in an interview. "We are not dealing with additional sanctions now."
        If a deal is not struck by June 30, the latest deadline, Israel wants world powers to cancel limited sanctions relief granted Iran under a 2013 interim deal, Wollman said. "The United States has yet to exhaust its ability to toughen matters for Iran."
        "We believe and we see that the American administration is listening to us, is open with us and is conducting a very positive dialogue with us. So we hope that, if a deal is signed, it will be a good deal."  (Reuters)
  • Congress Unites to Denounce Hamas and Support Israel
    The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to condemn the use of civilians as human shields by the terrorist group Hamas. "The Senate has sent a united signal that we denounce Hamas' barbaric tactics and unequivocally support Israel's right to self-defense," said Sen. Cruz. "I hope the international community will join America in condemning their deplorable use of human shields, which is a war crime."
        The resolution also supports the sovereign right of Israel to defend its territory and its citizens from Hamas rocket attacks, kidnapping attempts and the use of tunnels. It supports Palestinian civilians who reject Hamas and all forms of terrorism and violence, desiring to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It supports efforts to demilitarize Gaza, removing Hamas' means to target Israel.
        The resolution also condemns the UN Human Rights Council's biased resolution establishing a commission of inquiry into Israel's Gaza operations. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the resolution on Wednesday. (Nexstar Broadcasting-Texas)
  • Congress Set to Approve $3.7 Billion in Military Aid for Israel, with Emphasis on Anti-Missile Systems - Ben Cohen
    Included in a spending bill expected to pass Congress in the next few days is a $3.7 billion allocation for Israel, composed of $3.1 billion in regular annual military aid - in accordance with the multi-year agreement between Jerusalem and Washington - and $619 million for Israel's missile defense, including the Iron Dome anti-missile system which played a key role in protecting Israeli population centers from Hamas missile attacks during the summer war in Gaza. The bill requires that 55% of the components for Iron Dome be manufactured in the U.S.
        The Israeli contractor Rafael Defense Systems is said to be keen on selling Iron Dome to the U.S. Defense Department, emphasizing that the system can intercept drones as well as missiles. Each missile in the current Patriot system used by the U.S. costs $2 million, in contrast to the Tamir missiles fired by Iron Dome, which cost $100,000.
        The bill also allocates $1.3 billion in military aid and $150 million in economic aid to Egypt, while Jordan will receive $1 billion in economic and military aid, in addition to U.S. humanitarian aid for millions of Syrian refugees that have fled to the kingdom. Under the bill, the U.S. will halt assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it becomes a member of the UN or of UN agencies without an agreement with Israel. It also prohibits funds for Hamas. (Algemeiner)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Unlikely to Break Security Ties with Israel over Official's Death - Zvi Bar'el
    At a meeting of the PA cabinet on Wednesday following the death of Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein, President Mahmoud Abbas said that "popular resistance" should continue in all its forms. On Thursday, Abbas spoke by phone with senior American officials who demanded that he not halt security cooperation with Israel, and this demand was apparently augmented by Egyptian pressure.
        To convince the UN Security Council to support the PA's demand to set a deadline for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, Abbas must demonstrate his willingness to be a "responsible neighbor" - to continue security cooperation with Israel. Absent such cooperation, he will have trouble convincing not just America, but also European countries to support him in the council.
        It's not yet clear how Washington will respond to the PA's UN initiative. Its options range from vetoing the Palestinian resolution to backing a softer version drafted by France. According to American sources, Washington understands that it can no longer completely reject the Palestinians' demands if it wants to maintain the Arab coalition that is helping the West fight Islamic State. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel-Palestinian Security Cooperation Is Not in Danger - Elior Levy
    The termination of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians will allow Hamas to consolidate its position and power in the West Bank, which would undermine the position of the Palestinian Authority. An informed source in Ramallah told Ynet, "Even if Abbas does announce tomorrow that he is stopping security coordination, the coordination will not stop. It will continue, just in a quieter and less ostentatious manner."  (Ynet News)
  • Abbas Using PA Minister's Death to Incite Against Israel - Herb Keinon
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to "incite" the Palestinians by claiming that Israel killed PA Minister Ziad Abu Ein, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday. He said the autopsy conducted in the presence of representatives from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Israel determined that Abu Ein died of a heart attack.
        "Israel and the IDF have proven time after time that despite having to deal with violent activity - organized violence and difficult situations that no other democracy in the world has to deal with - they do it in the best way possible....The contemptible charges of excessive force made by the representatives of the Palestinian government - thereby making 'Israel responsible for murder' - attest only to the motivations of the Palestinian inciters who are doing everything to exacerbate the conflict."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Blasts Switzerland for Acceding to Palestinians with Geneva Convention Meeting - Barak Ravid
    Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon lashed out at the Swiss government on Thursday over its decision to convene a meeting of signatory states to the Geneva Conventions on Dec. 17 and said Israel will boycott the meeting, which is expected to condemn Israel for its construction in the West Bank. Nachshon noted that as the depositary of the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland is obligated to act in a neutral, apolitical manner.
        "Israel views the Swiss government's decision to accede to Palestinian demands to convene a meeting of signatories to the Geneva Conventions very gravely," Nachshon said. "Via this decision, Switzerland is lending a hand to the politicization of the conventions and the laws of war in general. Convening the signatory states is a political move whose only purpose is to exploit the important platform of the Geneva Conventions for attacking Israel." In the more than 60 years since the Geneva Conventions were drafted, only two meetings of the signatories have ever been convened - and both dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
        "They're convening a meeting like this at a time when many other conflicts are being waged throughout the world, including in theaters where atrocities are taking place right now....Israel urges every country that cares about the Geneva Conventions and the proper conduct of the depositary not to participate in this conference."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Mosque Blaze Was an Electrical Fire, Not Arson, Firefighters Say - Chaim Levinson
    Israeli firefighters have determined that a fire at a mosque in the Palestinian village of Mughayer, close to Ramallah, on Nov. 12 was an electrical fire. Palestinians had claimed that the mosque had been set ablaze by arsonists from a nearby Jewish town. Firefighters found no traces of flammable materials or liquids. The fire is believed to have been caused by a space heater. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Gaza Palestinians Flee Hamas - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Over the past two months, more than 20 Palestinians have been arrested while trying to cross from Gaza into Israel, according to Palestinian sources. The Palestinian news website Al-Watan Voice interviewed two of the young men who said they prefer the "comfort" of Israeli prisons to life in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
        Ahmed al-Rai, 19, was shot and wounded by IDF troops as he approached the security buffer zone along the border. He lost a leg and is now in Nasser Hospital in Gaza. "I thought it would be easy to infiltrate the border, but now my life has become even more miserable," he said.
        The second youth, identified as Rabi, 16, was held in detention for three months before being sent back home. "I'm sad that I'm back in Gaza," Rabi said. "I went through happy times [in Israeli detention], where I had food, calm and good work." He said that when the interrogator asked him about the reason he wanted to come to Israel, he responded: "My father, who once worked in Israel, told me it was beautiful there."  (Gatestone Institute)
  • Gaza Is Almost Totally Cut Off from the World - Armin Rosen
    Hamas' summer hostilities failed to coerce Israel into lifting its border restrictions and likely convinced Egypt to tighten theirs. Palestinian political gridlock and Hamas' weapons arsenal leave little optimism that the root causes of Gaza's isolation - Hamas' empowerment, the Palestinian Authority's collapse, and the chaos and radicalism that each have given rise to - can be resolved peacefully. And there's almost no possibility of a negotiated resolution to the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict if Gaza remains outside the full control of the PA, which is the only entity that the peace process empowers to make a deal on the Palestinian people's behalf.
        Meanwhile, more than 1.6 million people will be caught in a deadening limbo. "Nobody's optimistic," a doctor based in Gaza City told me. "People are very tired and exhausted." In the 1990s, when the PA was in decisive control of Gaza, "the borders were open. Seventy thousand people worked in Israel. Farmers would export products abroad. All they were thinking was how to develop farms and factories and improve their lives." A return to those conditions now seems inconceivable. (Business Insider)
  • On Iran, Israel's Margin for Error Is Zero - Gary Rosenblatt interviews Michael Oren
    Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, speaking last week to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that "this administration [in Washington] has a worldview that is not in accord with any Israeli government," not just the current one. Describing the Obama administration as "ideological" on the Mideast, Oren said the White House views Jerusalem communities like Gilo as not necessarily part of the Jewish state, a position he said no Israeli government would accept. (Gilo is over the Green Line but part of the Jerusalem municipality, with a largely Jewish population.)
        Though he said the U.S.-Israel relationship is crucial - "we [Washington and Jerusalem] have no choice but to be allies" - he asserted on several occasions that "Israel has to take responsibility for itself." While on security matters, Israeli officials give the U.S. high marks on cooperation, it was clear, if not explicitly stated, that Oren feels the Obama administration has not lived up to its "no daylight" pledge to be in sync with Israel on key strategic and diplomatic issues.
        Asked about the West's negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, Oren first noted that Israel's "margin for error is exactly zero" on this issue, given Iran's longstanding threat to destroy the Jewish state. "We [the Jewish people] have not come back after 2,000 years to disappear," he added.
        As for the prospect of peace with the Palestinians, he said, "I've erased the wold 'solution' from my vocabulary." He spoke of "managing the conflict" and seeking to enhance the lives of Israelis and Palestinians through cooperation in trade, exports, etc., until conditions improve enough to explore a real peace. Last week he told the Saban Forum of the Brookings Institute that the Palestinians aren't interested in negotiations. "The Palestinians have chosen a different path, the destructive path of delegitimization of Israel."  (New York Jewish Week)
  • Hizbullah and Iran Keep Syria's Assad in Power - Eyal Zisser
    The Syrian civil war, which will soon mark its fourth anniversary, has all but obliterated the country. Syria proper has been reduced to a narrow, north-bound strip stretching from Damascus through Aleppo, to the Alawite provinces along the coast. What was once eastern Syria is now controlled by the Islamic State, and the rest of Syria is controlled by various rebel groups.
        In the past few years President Assad has become more dependent on his Iranian ally and its proxy, Hizbullah. It is doubtful that Assad could have survived this long without their aid. It is Hizbullah's hundreds of wounded and dead that have been keeping Assad in power. Prof. Eyal Zisser is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • In Algeria, "After President Bouteflika" Is Rapidly Approaching - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
    On November 14, 2014, Algeria's president, Abd el-Aziz Bouteflika, 77, was admitted to the cardiology department of a French military hospital. The race for Algeria's top position will be wide open. The Algerian president is the chief of Africa's second largest army and also heads the largest producer of natural gas in Africa and its second largest oil producer. Protests and strikes sweeping the country are an indicator of political and social instability, as prospects are dimming for a peaceful and stable transition of power.
        Algeria is at the forefront of the fight against extremist Islamist groups in the deserts to the south as well as in neighboring Tunisia. For the West, Bouteflika's departure could be a big loss. Since the Arab Spring eliminated longtime allies such as Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Zein el-Abdine Ben-Ali, at the end of the day the West could find itself without reliable interlocutors in North Africa. Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a special analyst at the Jerusalem Center, was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • UN Marks Human Rights Day by Promoting Violation of Human Rights - Anne Bayefsky
    The month of November saw six full days at UN headquarters dedicated to dehumanizing Israelis, led by speakers from UNRWA, the Palestinian Authority and Iran. The public entrance to UN headquarters featured an exhibit, "The Long Journey," purportedly telling the history of the Palestinian "exodus" that began in 1948. At the UN in Geneva is another public exhibit entitled "The Nakba: Exodus and Expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948." The writer is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. (Fox News)

What Can Israel Do to Postpone the Next Round of Violence in Gaza? - Kobi Michael and Udi Dekel (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • Over three months have passed since the end of the Gaza war and little substantive reconstruction work has yet to begin in Gaza. Egypt has toughened its policy on the Rafah crossing, which is closed most of the time, and has expanded its security zone along the border between Sinai and Gaza.
  • PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' refusal to transfer salaries and budgets that Hamas needs to function in Gaza has aggravated Hamas' difficulties and worsened conditions for Gazans.
  • In order to postpone the next round of violence for as long as possible, Israel seeks to facilitate reconstruction in Gaza and enable a dramatic improvement in living conditions there. For the moment, it serves Israel's interests to continue and expand existing supervised procedures, with the help of the UN, to transfer building materials and other goods required for basic existence and housing construction.
  • Nonetheless, there exists tension between the need to rein in Hamas and the fact that Israeli assistance will lead to strengthening its rule in Gaza and to the rehabilitation of its legitimacy. This result is also not consistent with Egypt's interests.

    Dr. Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at INSS, was deputy director general and head of the Palestinian desk at the Israel Ministry for Strategic Affairs. Brig. Gen. (ret.) Udi Dekel, managing director of INSS, was head of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Directorate of the IDF General Staff.
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