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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
March 18, 2015


In-Depth Issues:

Netanyahu Owes Win to Jitters over Iran, Says Gulf Official (Reuters)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu owes his election win to Israeli security fears, notably about Iran's growing regional influence, said an official of a Gulf Arab government wary of Tehran's progress towards a nuclear deal with world powers.
    Gulf Arabs identified with Israel's fear of Iran's influence, suggested Sami al-Faraj, a Kuwaiti security adviser to the Gulf Cooperation Council.
    "Without any sense of collusion with Israel, there is a feeling of affinity in the Gulf with Israel's stance on curbing the influence of Iran in the area."
    He said the Iranian nuclear talks were "really scary" for Gulf Arab states, which are unnerved by Iran's backing for Shi'ite forces in conflicts in Iraq and Syria and its alliances with Lebanon's Hizbullah and Yemen's Houthi militia.




Pentagon Loses Track of $500 Million in Weapons Given to Yemen - Craig Whitlock (Washington Post)
    The Pentagon is unable to account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid given to Yemen, amid fears that the weaponry, aircraft and equipment is at risk of being seized by Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.




Syria Downs U.S. Drone - Phil Stewart and Mariam Karouny (Reuters)
    The U.S. lost an unarmed Predator drone aircraft operating over northwest Syria on Tuesday, U.S. officials said, as Syrian state media reported that its air defenses brought down the plane in Latakia province.
    A U.S. official said the aircraft took off from a base in Turkey.




The Spy Who Fooled the Assad Regime - Phil Sands and Suha Maayeh (National-UAE)
    A senior army officer from the Assad regime secretly gave Western-backed rebels vital intelligence that led to critical losses for government forces in southern Syria.
    Rebels overran the strategic military installation at Tal Al Harra on Oct. 5, where regime forces, and their allies from Iran and Hizbullah, intercepted Israeli communications and tracked rebel movements.
    Gen. Mahmoud Abu Araj secretly defected and gave the rebels detailed plans of defensive positions, force strength, military orders, code words and information about Iranian military reinforcements.
    The defeat at Tal Al Harra sent Assad's secret police on a hunt for the source of the leaks and resulted in the killing of dozens of military personnel wrongly accused of treason.




Egypt to Buy $1.2 Billion Worth of Natural Gas from Israel - Ari Rabinovitch (Reuters)
    Egyptian firm Dolphinus Holdings has signed a seven-year deal to buy $1.2 billion of natural gas from Israel's Tamar field, the partners in the field said on Wednesday.
    The gas will be exported through an underwater pipeline.



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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Soundly Defeats Chief Rival in Israeli Elections - Jodi Rudoren
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel won a clear victory in Tuesday's elections and seemed all but certain to form a new government and serve a fourth term. With 99.5% of the ballots counted, Netanyahu's Likud Party had captured 29 or 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, sweeping past the Zionist Union alliance, which got 24 seats. (New York Times)
        See also Who Was Elected to the New Knesset? (Ynet News)
        See also Photos: Election Day in Israel (Ynet News)
        See also High Voter Turnout in Israeli Elections
    Israel's Central Elections Committee on Tuesday reported voter turnout for the 20th Knesset at 71.8%, the highest turnout since 1999 and 4.1% more than the last election in 2013. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Washington Responds to Netanyahu's Victory in Israel
    As Washington digested Prime Minister Netanyahus surprisingly strong victory on Tuesday in Israel's elections, the consensus among Republicans and Democrats was that the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Israel remained intact. Members of both parties said that ties between the two countries were too deep and too crucial to be disrupted by the blowup over Netanyahu's address to Congress, and that the U.S. would stand alongside whatever new government was formed.
        "U.S.-Israeli relations are very strong," said Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "It's important to our own national security to support the security of Israel." At the White House, where there was no doubt some disappointment that Netanyahu did not get his comeuppance, the view was that the resentment would not influence future relations with Israel. (New York Times)
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards: We Shall Not Rest until We Raise the Flag of Islam over the White House
    Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's representative in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Ali Shirazi, said on Feb. 26 that Iran would persist in fighting the U.S. until it had "rais[ed] the banner of Islam over the White House. The Islamic nation is determined to enter the arena with all its force, backed by God's will and his grace, and to stand fast against the world of arrogance....You, the enemies of Islam, must expect and realize that every day [you] will be beaten, across the world."
        On the same day, Khamenei himself stressed the need to instill the values of jihad and martyrdom in Iranian society, and reiterated the Islamic Revolution's enmity towards the U.S. and opposition to American hegemony and the existing world order. (MEMRI)
  • European Jews "Bankrupted" by Security Costs
    "Every Jewish community in western Europe certainly needs security support. Many of them are being bankrupted by the money they have to spend to protect their institutions," Ira Forman, the U.S. State Department's special envoy on anti-Semitism, said on Friday in Stockholm. "If current trends continue, and they're not good... we have to worry about small Jewish communities in Europe and their very viability." Jewish community leaders say the perpetrators of hate crimes against Jews are typically young men of Middle Eastern origin. (AFP)
        See also Demand for Jewish Guards Spikes in Europe - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Vow to Intensify Diplomatic Offensive after Netanyahu's Win
    "It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, so we say clearly that we will go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and we will speed up, pursue and intensify" all diplomatic efforts, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP on Tuesday.
        On Jan. 2, the Palestinians moved to formally join the court in a process which is due to take effect on April 1, setting the scene for potential legal action against Israeli officials for alleged war crimes. Israel reacted by cutting off millions of dollars in monthly tax payments it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. (Ynet News)
  • Jordan Concerned over Iranian, Hizbullah Fighters on Its Border - Daniel Siryoti
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard along with Hizbullah have recently begun deploying along the Syrian-Jordanian border, Al-Hayat reported on Monday. The Iranian force comprises some 10-15,000 soldiers. The Hizbullah fighters arrived from training camps established by the Revolutionary Guard in southern Lebanon near the border with Syria. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh went to Tehran recently to express concern over Iran's troop deployment. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel Voted on Security - Stephen Pollard
    It's easy from our comfortable, safe countries to accuse Netanyahu of scaremongering with his claims that the world is out to get Israel; the problem is that, from an Israeli perspective, it happens to be true. When Israel defends itself, most of the world turns on it. Israelis live in genuine fear not just of terror but of obliteration. So Netanyahu's campaign struck a chord. It was security, not domestic issue focus, that won out.
        The statement this week that a new Netanyahu government would rule out a Palestinian state isn't quite what it seems. It will have zero impact on any peace negotiations towards one, because there has been zero prospect of one for years - at every stage when Israeli leaders (including Netanyahu) have offered olive branches or deals, the Palestinians have rejected them. The writer is editor of the Jewish Chronicle (UK). (Telegraph-UK)
  • Why Iran Is Not a Reliable Negotiating Partner - Jonah Goldberg
    It has been an Iranian tradition since 1979 to end Friday prayers with chants of "Death to America!" In a purely rational world, that would be all one needed to know that Iran is not a reliable negotiating partner. But there's more.
        Iran, according to our State Department, has been the chief exporter of terrorism for the last three decades. It has worked closely with al-Qaeda. Most of the Sept. 11 hijackers traveled through Iran with the help of the government. U.S. judges have ruled that Iran was an accomplice in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa and the Sept. 11 attacks. During the Iraq war, Iran was responsible for numerous American deaths. On Sunday's "Meet the Press," former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said he fears Iran more than Islamic State. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Egypt's Al-Nour Party: A Salafi Partner in the Fight Against Terrorism? - Jacob Olidort
    The leading Egyptian Salafi political party, al-Nour, continues to position itself as a partner in the Sisi regime's fight on the domestic and regional threats posed by terrorist groups. Al-Nour's posture is likely connected to the party's larger strategy of maintaining its physical security, particularly in light of the Muslim Brotherhood's disastrous governance record and the regime's possible interest in cultivating alliances and credibility at the grassroots level.
        Established in June 2011, al-Nour is the political party of the Egyptian Salafi group al-Dawa al-Salafiya, which, from its 1982 inception in Alexandria, explicitly disavowed both violence and direct political involvement. The new party won more than a quarter of the Egyptian parliamentary seats after Hosni Mubarak's ouster. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Observations:

Israel and Gaza: Why Economic Sanctions Are Not Collective Punishment - Justus Reid Weiner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The economic measures that Israel uses against the Hamas proto-government in Gaza are legitimate under the Geneva Convention. Other global organizations and countries, including the U.S., EU, and UN, routinely impose similar economic sanctions without being criticized.
  • In fact, UN resolutions require that Israel prevent Hamas from obtaining funding and supplies that it could use for terrorist purposes.
  • Many of those who claim Israel perpetrates collective punishment do the same or worse themselves. Egypt, which also borders Gaza, has stricter restrictions on its crossing than does Israel.
  • While no one questions that Gazan residents suffer hardships, the fault lies with Hamas, not Israel.
  • The current sanctions were only put in place after nothing else stopped attacks from Gaza. Rather than being punitive measures against the general population, they specifically focus on items that can be used for military purposes for kidnapping and attacking Israelis.

    The writer, an international human rights lawyer, is currently a scholar in residence at the Jerusalem Center.

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