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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
May 6, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Vows to Protect Lebanon's Eastern Border - Hashem Osseiran (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    The Lebanese state is not capable of responding to the jihadi threat on its eastern border with Syria, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Tuesday, so the party's fighters are taking responsibility for securing the region.
    Hizbullah is expected to launch an offensive in the Qalamoun region in Syria to oust Islamist rebels who, he said, were intent on entering Lebanon.
    On Tuesday, Hizbullah troops ambushed an Al-Nusra convoy in Qalamoun on the outskirts of the Lebanese enclave of Tfail, killing 15 militants, according to a Lebanese security source.
    See also Hizbullah Commander Killed in Syrian Fighting (Now-Lebanon)
    "At least four Hizbullah members, including a Hizbullah field commander [Ali Khalil Olyan], were killed during the clashes with [rebels] in Qalamoun," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Tuesday.

Oldest Complete Copy of Ten Commandments on Display for Two Weeks in Israel - Karen Graham (Digital Journal)
    Never before publicly shown in Israel, the 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scroll containing a complete copy of the 10 Commandments is being displayed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, beginning on May 1.
    The manuscript is very brittle, so will only be displayed for public viewing for a period of two weeks. It will then be returned to its pitch-black, climate-controlled facility.

French Judges Conclude Inquiry into Death of Yasser Arafat (i24 News)
    Judges in France have concluded their investigation into the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, it was reported on Tuesday.
    French experts reexamining evidence had in March confirmed that Arafat's death was not the result of poisoning.
    The prosecutor for the Paris suburb of Nanterre said the experts found there was no foul play in Arafat's death. The French findings matched those of a Russian team.
    Arafat died at age 75 at the Percy de Clamart Hospital near Paris. His widow Suha lodged a complaint in Nanterre in 2012, claiming that her husband was assassinated, sparking an inquiry.

Palestinians' Unpaid Electric Bills Mount Up - Diaa Hadid (New York Times)
    The Palestinians continue to rely on Israel for critical utilities, including more than 170 electricity lines that power the West Bank.
    Palestinian officials are supposed to guarantee electricity payments from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, but unpaid electric bills now total $430 million.
    The World Bank estimated in November that Palestinians had failed to pay for 58% of the power they used in 2013, up from 37% in 2010.
    About 40% of the power debt is from Gaza, where Hamas has ruled since 2007. The World Bank says Hamas collects payments from Gaza residents but refuses to hand the money over to the Palestinian Authority.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Aims to Make Restoring Sanctions on Iran Immune to Russian, Chinese Veto If Nuclear Deal Fails - Louis Charbonneau
    Washington wants to be certain that any nuclear deal between Iran and major powers includes the possibility of restoring UN sanctions if Tehran breaks the agreement without risking Russian and Chinese vetoes, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday. U.S. and European negotiators want any easing of UN sanctions to be automatically reversible - negotiators call this a "snapback" - if Tehran fails to comply with terms of a deal.
        U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said, "We're going to do so in a manner that doesn't require Russian and Chinese support or a vote for snapback...because we are in a different world in 2015 than we were when the sanctions architecture was put in place." Western diplomats said that Iran and the six powers were far from agreement due to divisions on sanctions, monitoring, and other issues. (Reuters)
  • Nasrallah: Iran Will Decide When to Go to War with Israel - Abraham Rabinovich
    According to a report Tuesday in the Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the Syrian regime would be unable to take back all the territory rebel groups have seized. The normally aggressive Nasrallah, whose frequent tirades against Israel are often accompanied by predictions of its near-term demise, adopted a new tone last month when he said Hizbullah alone was incapable of bringing down the Jewish state.
        "Are we supposed to lie to our people and ourselves, saying that we are capable of launching a war against Israel, wiping it off the map, and liberating Palestine?" he told Syrian state television. "We are realistic. We are facing a real force." The assessment reflects a sharp change in attitude from his famous remark a decade ago that Israel was "weaker than a spiderweb" and would be swept away easily when the time comes.
        "No resistance faction can be responsible for a war of such magnitude by itself," he said. "A decision like this should be taken by partners who are capable of accomplishing the goal," he said, referring to Iran. (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also Nasrallah: Fall of Assad Would Mean the Fall of Hizbullah
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday, "President Assad and his government cannot fall, as it would also mean the fall of Hizbullah and the axis of resistance."  (Fars-Iran)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Defense Minister Ya'alon: In Gaza War, IDF Did What It Had to Do to Protect Israeli Civilians - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    After war crimes allegations following last summer's Gaza war, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday, "I can still look at myself in the mirror." Ya'alon recounted targeting decisions in which he was involved when Hizbullah was purposely placing weapons in civilian homes in Lebanon. "If we don't intercept the rocket-launchers in advance, [Israeli] civilians will be hurt, if not killed. If we hit the launchers, it will hurt or kill Lebanese civilians." He said a "long, deep discussion" regarding the "moral and legal considerations" took place before the final decision to strike the rocket launchers.
        "Later we were blamed for collateral damage and killing civilians," but maintained that the IDF had done what it had to do then, "did it again in Gaza, [and] will do it in any round of hostilities in the future." At the same time, he said that sometimes the IDF worked so hard to avoid civilian casualties that it gave extensive warnings to people to leave an area, and thereby "loses tactical surprise - but we still do it."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Defending Israel's Border with Syria - Ron Ben-Yishai
    A UN bomb disposal team guided a sapper in a heavy protective suit toward four bodies lying at the foot of Mount Hermon last Tuesday. The bundle of explosives carried by one of the terrorists was clearly visible. The four had attempted to lay explosives intended for IDF soldiers, but Israeli troops saw them cross the cease-fire line and begin laying charges in an area that is undisputedly Israeli. Israel Air Force jets fired several precision missiles that thwarted the attack and took out the perpetrators.
        UN Disengagement Observer Force personnel were invited to document the bodies and see their explosives up close, to see that this was a foiled attempt to attack Israeli territory. Moreover, the attempted attack was carried out just 350 meters from a UNDOF post, right under the noses of the Irish battalion stationed there. Had the UN officers picked up their binoculars, they would have seen the four heading for their destination.
        For defense of the Golan Heights, the IDF has prepared a well-defended border with a new fence at its center, tied to a system of alerts as well as broad technological and human intelligence-gathering. An IDF mobile unit operates in the area round the clock, backed by an array of sensors, radars and cameras, operated both day and night by soldiers deep in Israeli territory, together with unmanned aircraft that enable Israel to see everything that moves on the ground. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Paid by Foreigners to Say Things about Israel that Foreigners Want to Hear - Matti Friedman
    A report by "Breaking the Silence" is currently being played up by the international press, as is any report that fits the narrative of Israelis as war criminals. War is awful and people come back feeling upset about things they've seen and done. Infantrymen at the bottom of the hierarchy often don't understand what they're seeing, or the reasons for what they're doing. Drawing broad conclusions about Israeli military practice from "testimonies" of this kind is irresponsible.
        IDF open-fire regulations are lax - compared to what? Civilian casualty rates are high - compared to what? Compared to the U.S. in Fallujah? The British in Northern Ireland? The Canadians in Helmand Province? We need to know what the comparison is. Otherwise, the broad criticism is meaningless.
        Breaking the Silence today is a group funded in large part by European money which serves mainly to provide international reporters with the lurid examples of Israeli malfeasance that they crave. They are exploiting Israelis' uniquely talkative and transparent nature in order to defame them. The writer is a former Associated Press reporter. (Facebook)
        See also New "Breaking the Silence" Report Maliciously Defames Israel - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Israel, Gaza and Humanitarian Law: Efforts to Limit Civilian Casualties - Lt. Col. (res.) David Benjamin (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Gazan Casualties: How Many and Who They Were - Lenny Ben-David (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Why Is Israel Criticized for Helping Nepal Earthquake Victims? - Steven A. Cook
    The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sent 260 doctors, nurses and personnel trained in finding disaster victims to Kathmandu after the major quake. Criticism of the IDF's Nepal mission from some well-known anti-Israel activists is to be expected, even if it is bizarre. But for those genuinely interested in human rights it seemed rather odd to call out the Israelis for sending relief. Human Rights Watch's Ken Roth tweeted: "Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel's making in Gaza."
        Let's review why it is easier for the Israelis to provide relief in Nepal than in Gaza: 1) Since 2005, about 15,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza. 2) The Nepalese have not fired a single rocket at Israel. The way Israelis see it, Gaza is rockets and tunnels and terrorists, whereas Nepal is temples, mountains and nice people.
        Roth does a disservice to both himself and his organization with his ill-considered tweet. When the executive director of Human Rights Watch criticizes the Israelis for providing humanitarian relief, it actually makes it easier to dismiss his criticism of Israel's human rights record. The writer is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Newsweek)

Israeli Professor: Turkish-Israeli Relations Hurt by Erdogan's Hate Speech, Not Mavi Marmara - Arif Tekdal (Zaman-Turkey)

  • When Turkish President Erdogan was the head of the youth commission of the Beyoglu branch of the National Salvation Party (MSP) in the 1970s, he wrote a play titled "Maskoya," an acronym of "Mason" (Freemason), "Komunist"  (Communist) and "Yahudi" (Jew), Israeli Professor Raphael Israeli of Hebrew University reminded a conference in Ankara on Monday. Israeli said that Erdogan wanted to show, "as Hitler did in Mein Kampf, that communists and Jews were the two great evils in the world."
  • "That play was shown to the public and Erdogan participated in it. I cannot believe someone who writes horrible about Jews can suddenly, after he becomes prime minister and then president, forget all that and decide that his policy [regarding Israel] takes into consideration strategic or logical reasoning."
  • "Hatred by necessity creates lies, because when you have hatred you have to justify it; to yourself, to your people and to the world. Why do you hate so deeply? And when you don't have facts to sustain your stories, then you create them and those are the lies I am talking about."
  • "That is the reason why I believe that rather than the stories about the Mavi Marmara that you hear about the deterioration [in relations between Israel] and Turkey, I think that [the Mavi Marmara incident] was an outcome, not the reason, and not even the trigger of it."
  • Replying to a question about why Turkish-Israeli relations were better in the first half of the 13-year rule of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Israeli said, "In 2002, after Erdogan came to power...the army was still strong. In the next period, he reinforced his position. He Islamized Turkish society. He put his people in charge of the army and then only when he knew he was strong enough - that the army could not interfere, that it could not reverse his steps - he moved very directly and very openly against Israel and the Jews."

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