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May 15, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Envoy: Inspection of Military Sites Not Included in Framework (Fars-Iran)
    In response to remarks by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano about inspecting Iran's military sites, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, stressed on Wednesday that none of the paragraphs of the framework nuclear understanding in Lausanne allow for inspection of the country's military sites.

Dozens Injured in Blast at Hamas Training Camp in Gaza - Majd al-Waheidi (New York Times)
    A huge explosion at a training camp for Hamas militants in Beit Lehiya in northern Gaza wounded more than 60 people, including women and children, on Thursday night, Hamas officials said.

Rights Group: Human Rights Worsened under Palestinian Rule (AP)
    The annual report by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights said human rights for people living in the Palestinian territories are at their "worst" in years.
    According to the report, hundreds of people were tortured by authorities in Gaza, ruled by Hamas, and in the West Bank, governed by the Palestinian Authority.
    It says several people died in Hamas detention and one died while incarcerated in the West Bank.
    Commission chief Ahmad Harb said other violations include bans on peaceful gatherings.

Anti-BDS Bill Poised for Passage in Illinois Legislature - Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon)
    A milestone bill to combat boycotts of Israel cleared a major procedural hurdle in the Illinois House on Wednesday when it passed by a 10-0 vote through a key executive committee, paving the way for the state to become among the first to divest funds from any company supporting the anti-Israel Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement.
    In addition to barring the state's pension funds from contracting with BDS supporters, it also prevents taxpayer-funded groups from interacting with any country that supports rogue nations such as Iran and Sudan.

Lebanese-American Sent Three Shipping Containers of Weapons to Beirut - Phil Helsel (NBC News)
    Ali Afif Al Herz, 50; his son, Adam Ben Ali Al Herz, 22; Ali Afif's brother, Bassem Afif Herz, 29; and Bassem's wife, Sarah Zeaiter, 24, were charged with conspiracy for sending three shipping containers to Beirut between August 2014 and May 11. The last two containers were stopped and found to contain 152 guns and 16,300 rounds of ammunition.
    A gun dealer in Iowa contacted authorities in February and reported three men and a woman bought several guns and all of the store's 5.7mm ammunition on two occasions.

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Syria's Mercenaries: The Afghans Fighting Assad's War - Christoph Reuter (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The Assad family dictatorship is running out of soldiers and is becoming increasingly reliant on mercenaries. Afghans, Pakistanis and Iranians have been taken prisoner by rebel groups in Aleppo.
    Some 700 men from Afghanistan's Hazara Shiite minority are thought to have lost their lives in Aleppo and Daraa alone.
    Up to 2 million Hazara live in Iran, most of them as illegal immigrants. Iran's Revolutionary Guards have recruited thousands for the war in Syria over the last year and a half in return for money and residence permits.

Iraq Counts on Magic Wands to Stop ISIS - Jacob Siegel (Daily Beast)
    Between 2007 and 2009 the Iraqi government spent $85 million to purchase ADE-651 bomb detectors that are still carried today by police and soldiers manning checkpoints in Baghdad.
    The "magic wands" were sold by British businessman James McCormick, who repackaged a device designed to find golf balls. In 2010 McCormick was arrested by British authorities for fraud and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2013.
    The wands provide a visible symbol of Iraq's rampant corruption. They were bought despite warnings that they didn't work and kept in service after it was proved they didn't work.

Israel Stocks Up on Bullet-Resistant Grenades - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    Israel's Defense Ministry is restocking supplies of locally produced, IM26 hand grenades, proven to withstand a direct hit by enemy fire without exploding.
    In last summer's Gaza war, a paratrooper took an enemy bullet that lodged in the grenade he was carrying "and would have killed him instantly," Avi Felder, CEO of Israel Military Industries, said Wednesday. "Not only that, it most likely would have killed those operating around him."
    The product is named Eliraz in honor of Eliraz Peretz, an IDF major killed in an August 2010 counterterror operation when an enemy bullet ignited a grenade he was carrying in his vest.

Video: Jerusalem - 4000 Years in 5 Minutes (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Sunday, May 17, marks the 48th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
    Under the sovereignty of Israel, Jerusalem is a city that works. But has it always been this way?

    See also Test Yourself: How Much Do You Know about Jerusalem? (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Test your knowledge of Jerusalem's current events and history with a short, interactive quiz.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • House Approves Bill to Provide Oversight on Easing Iran Sanctions - Lisa Mascaro
    The House voted 400-25 Thursday to approve legislation that will provide congressional review of any potential nuclear deal with Iran, following the bill's almost unanimous support from the Senate. Many in Congress do not trust Iran and are uneasy with the framework of the agreement that would ease sanctions. The measure would give lawmakers 30 days to review any final deal, and establish a mechanism for Congress to vote to support or oppose it.
        The House also approved a separate measure that would broaden sanctions on financing streams to Hizbullah. It would sanction banks doing business with Hizbullah, cut off satellite providers to a television station associated with the group, and study whether Hizbullah should be designated as a major drug trafficking organization. (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. Intelligence: Assad Failed to Disclose More than Ten Chemical Weapons Sites - Josh Rogin and Eli Lake
    Officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the Obama administration early this year that its inspectors had found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent during an inspection of the Syrian government's Scientific Studies and Research Center near Damascus. The administration is said to have not yet decided about how to respond.
        One administration official said the discovery confirmed long-held suspicions inside the U.S. government that Syria was not completely forthcoming when it declared its chemical weapons in 2013. U.S. officials said the Assad regime was informed of the discovery and subsequently barred OPCW inspectors from returning to the facility.
        Former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn said his assessment was that Assad was concealing many chemical weapons sites and most likely still has chemical weapons capability. "It's nearly impossible to confirm that Syria got rid of all their chemical weapons," he told us. "Their track record is not one of full compliance on anything." A senior intelligence official told us that the U.S. has intelligence indicating that more than ten of Assad's suspected chemical weapons sites had not been disclosed. (Bloomberg)
  • Iran Patrol Boats Fire on Commercial Oil Tanker in Gulf - Dion Nissenbaum and Asa Fitch
    Three Iranian patrol boats opened fire on the Singapore-flagged oil tanker Alpine Eternity as it moved through the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, the second time in two weeks that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval patrol boats confronted a commercial ship moving through the strait. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Gulf Arab States at Camp David: No Breakthroughs - Nahal Toosi
    President Obama, who invited six Gulf allies to the Camp David presidential retreat in the hopes of getting more support for his opening to Iran, made only limited headway. The parties announced they would pursue more joint military exercises and cooperate more on cyber-security, counter-terrorism, maritime security and ballistic missile defense. They also touted plans to fast-track arms transfers to the Gulf Arab states.
        Both sides agree it's worth pursuing a comprehensive and verifiable nuclear deal with Iran, but whether they will define those terms the same way is an open question. Sunni Muslim Arab leaders are nervously watching U.S. overtures to their regional and religious rival. They worry whatever deal is reached will not fully curb Iran's ability to build a bomb, and that lifting sanctions quickly will let Tehran access large amounts of cash it can use to further influence Shiite minorities in the Gulf states. (Politico)
        See also The Arab States Have Four Minutes to Act If Iran Fires a Missile - Marcus Weisgerber
    If Iran launches a ballistic missile at the Middle East, nuclear or not, Arab states would have as little as four minutes to act before impact. Ideally, the launch would be detected, the missile tracked during its flight by radar and its trajectory then passed to an interceptor missile, which would collide with the Iranian missile as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere. But which country would shoot down the missile?
        So, the U.S. is renewing its push during this week's Gulf Cooperation Council summit outside Washington to get Arab states to link-up the missile interceptors and radars into a single Middle East missile shield. And while the Gulf states have purchased top-end missile interceptors, they do not have the sophisticated radars and satellites that the Pentagon uses to track ballistic missiles. (Defense One)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Rams Car into Israeli Students at West Bank Bus Stop, Injuring Four
    Muhammed Arfaaya, 22, of Hebron, has confessed to ramming his vehicle into a bus stop outside Alon Shvut in the West Bank on Thursday, leaving four young Israelis injured. "He crossed the highway and with great force struck a group of students who were waiting for the bus," said Moshe Savil, deputy head of the Etzion Bloc regional council. Arfaaya was released from Israeli prison last year.
        Dalia Lemkus, 26, from Tekoa, was struck by a Palestinian driver and then stabbed to death near the same junction in November. Nearby, three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered by Hamas-linked terrorists last June. There has been a spate of terror attacks against Israelis by Palestinians using vehicles. (Times of Israel)
        See also My Classmate Was Run Over by a Terrorist in Israel Today - Alexander Rabinowitz (New York Observer)
  • Israel Foils Palestinian Terror Attack in Jerusalem - Ben Hartman
    The Israel Security Agency announced Thursday that earlier this month it arrested Muhammad Nasser Ahmed Abassi, 21, Murad Muhammad Uda Kustiro, 23, and a minor for plotting to attack security guards in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem. Abassi, affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, confessed to having the minor carry out surveillance ahead of the planned attack, and to acquiring a knife and axe. He also admitted to making pipe bombs and firebombs which were used against Israeli police during recent rioting in east Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Latest "Breaking the Silence" Report Isn't Journalism, It's Propaganda - Matti Friedman
    Breaking the Silence, usually identified as an organization of Israeli veterans but foreign-funded, has released numerous reports in recent years. Its latest report, based on interviews with "over 60" soldiers, contains no dates or names. Having promised to reveal the secret of the civilian death toll in Gaza in the form of systematic Israeli misdeeds, and having selected, with that purpose in mind, the most incriminating segments from much longer interviews, the report fails to deliver. Perhaps that is why the activist-editors felt compelled to add a heated introduction announcing that their report "exposes" the true face of the Gaza operation.
        In fact, the interviews themselves show the army taking numerous steps to avoid harm to civilians. The soldiers regularly mention warning leaflets, "roof-knocking" rockets, phone calls, warning shells, warning shots, lists of protected sites like UN facilities, and drones vetting targets for civilians before an airstrike. What is truly striking is that the soldiers simply take all of these steps for granted, as if they were obviously part of warfare, when in fact many are unique to Israeli military practice.
        Nowhere in the entire report are there massacres or anything similar, or a single incident in which a civilian is shot in circumstances that could not be defended as either warranted or as a legitimate error on a battlefield where even a grandmother could have been (and, in 2006, was) a suicide bomber.
        I am willing to guess that in many or most cases, these soldiers did not fully understand whom they were talking to, or what they were participating in. Were the Israeli army to adopt what Breaking the Silence appears to recommend - that is, to act with less force and expose soldiers to greater risk - Hamas would have an easier time fighting Israel and more Israelis would die. The writer was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press between 2006 and 2011. (Mosaic)
  • Distorting Netanyahu's Words in the New York Times - Ricki Hollander and Tamar Sternthal
    Anat Biletzki charged in the New York Times Opinionator blog on May 11 that after last summer's kidnapping of three Israeli teens, before their bodies were discovered: "During those three weeks, Israeli leaders openly called for retribution, with Prime Minister Netanyahu openly quoting the national poet Haim Nacham Bialik's 'Vengeance like this, for the blood of a child, Satan has yet to devise.'"
        In fact, Netanyahu did not call for retaliation. Bialik's lines, and Netanyahu's quotation of them, are a call for heavenly justice and a rejection of human vengeance for a heinous crime. The full, relevant quotation from the poem in question, penned by Bialik in response to the Kishinev pogrom, is: "And cursed is the man who says: Avenge! No such revenge - revenge for the blood of a little child - has yet been devised by Satan."
        By including Biletzki's false implied charge against Netanyahu - that he had called for vengeance - under its imprimatur, the New York Times is willfully deceiving its readers. (CAMERA)
  • How Iran Conducts Itself - Elliott Abrams
    The U.S. has been careful not to exacerbate relations with Iran during the period when it is supposed to negotiate a comprehensive agreement about Iran's nuclear program. And how is Iran conducting itself during this period? Its seizure of the cargo ship Maersk Tigris served notice that Iran would use military force when it pleased, negotiations or no negotiations.
        A second example is the espionage charge against imprisoned Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. There was really no reason for Iran to charge an American journalist with espionage during this period except to show Americans how little they think of us - and how confident they are that nothing will lead President Obama to back away from doing this nuclear deal. We need to pay more attention to the actual conduct of the regime than to Foreign Minister Zarif's assurances of Iran's good faith and pacific intent. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Experts: Palestine Cause Eclipsed by Arab Turmoil
    As Palestinians mark the Nakba (Arabic for "catastrophe") on May 15, the date on which the State of Israel was established in 1948, observers argue that ongoing political upheaval in several Arab countries has largely shifted the focus away from the Arab-Israeli conflict, pushing the plight of the Palestinians further off the agenda of most Arab governments. "The Palestinian cause has become much less of a priority on both the international and Arab levels," said Tarek Fahmi, political science professor at the American University in Cairo. "Arab regimes are preoccupied with the tumultuous ramifications of post-revolution transition phases, which has taken the focus off the Palestinian file."
        Talal al-Atrissi, director of the Lebanon-based Center for Strategic Studies, noted, "Priority had earlier been given to negotiations related to resolving the Arab-Israeli struggle. But currently, the focus has shifted to issues like combating extremist groups and averting fresh popular revolts."  (Anadolu-Turkey)
  • The Middle East Is Running Out of Water - Daniel Pipes
    Over two-thirds of Iran's cities and towns are on the verge of a water crisis that could result in drinking water shortages; already, thousands of villages depend on water tankers. Much of the Middle East is running out of water due to population growth, short-sighted dictators, distorted economic incentives, and infrastructure-destroying warfare.
        In Gaza, seawater intrusion and the leakage of sewage has made 95% of the coastal aquifer unfit for human consumption. In Syria, between 2002 and 2008, water resources dropped by half, as did grain output, causing 250,000 farmers to abandon their land. Hundreds of villages have been abandoned as farmlands turn to desert and grazing animals die off.
        In Israel, by contrast, thanks to a combination of conservation, recycling, innovative agricultural techniques, and high-tech desalination, the country has all the water it needs. Israel can desalinate about 17 liters of water for one U.S. cent. Desperate neighbors might think about ending their futile state of war with the world's hydraulic superpower and instead learn from it. The writer is president of the Middle East Forum. (Washington Times)
        See also Israel to California: Here's How to Save Water - Michele Chabin (USA Today)
  • Hamas Understands the West Better than the West Understands Hamas - David P. Goldman
    Never in the entire history of warfare has a belligerent done what Hamas did during the Gaza war, namely, maximize civilian casualties on its own side in order to win sympathy. Yet there is a reflex in the West to declare the deaths of civilians "unacceptable" even if it is engineered by Hamas. Hamas understands the West better than the West understands Hamas. The horror over civilian deaths overwhelms the West and prompts a significant body of Western opinion to demand a "solution" where no solution is to be found. (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
  • Palestinian Human Rights Activist Calls for Gazan Spring - Rachel Avraham
    Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid told a conference in Jerusalem that Palestinians suffer mainly because of their own leadership. "I want to see a Gazan spring against Hamas that is ruining daily lives." He described how when Hamas started to build the tunnels, they would pay Gazans $50 to have a tunnel go underneath their house. Gazans have two choices: accept the money and risk Israel potentially destroying their home or be killed. "This is how Hamas is destroying daily lives in Gaza."
        In Beit Lehiya, Eid noted, Israel asked the Palestinians to evacuate in order to clear out the tunnels, but Hamas would not permit people to leave the area: "Hamas sent gangsters to Beit Lehiya in Gaza that forced people to go back." As a result, many Gazans were killed who would not have died otherwise. But "no one speaks about the human shields, not Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch."  (Jerusalem Online)

  • Weekend Features

  • Injured Syrians Find Treatment in Israel - Oren Liebermann
    Jamal is 7 years old. In Syria, a rocket destroyed his leg. Eighteen surgeries later, Jamal is recovering after treatment at Ziv Medical Center in northern Israel, one of a group of hospitals that has treated nearly 2,000 injured Syrians over the last two years. "When somebody comes to the border, we don't ask them who they are. We just make sure that they don't have any weapons on them. And they get the medical aid that they require," said IDF Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. (CNN)
  • Israeli Arab Diplomat: Israel Important for the Survival of Diversity in the Arab World - Josh Jackman
    George Deek, a Christian Arab who is Israel's deputy ambassador to Norway, sees no contradiction in someone with Arab roots representing Israel. He says: "The biggest challenge the Arab world is facing is that it's moving from a place of diversity to a place of uniformity, from a place where we had Kurds and Yazidis and Jews to a place where people are hostile to each other just because they're different....Israel is the only minority in the region which keeps hope alive for the Arab world. As long as Israel exists, there is a chance we can move back from uniformity to diversity."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • China Investment in Israeli Companies Rises - John Reed and Charles Clover
    When Israel held its biggest agricultural technology conference, Agrivest, last month, one in 10 delegates came from China. A few weeks before, a large delegation from Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, had been in Tel Aviv to attend Cybertech, Israel's main conference on cyber security. Chinese companies are pushing deeper and further into Israel than ever before, and Israeli companies and government officials are returning the embrace.
        "When you say 'Israel' in China they think innovation, they think high technology," says Ophir Gore, Israel's trade attache in Beijing. Israel's trade turnover with China reached $11 billion last year, about double the amount recorded in 2010. (Financial Times-UK)

Legal Experts Question International Court's Authority to Intervene on 2014 Gaza War - Asaf Golan (NRG-Hebrew, 13 May 2015)

  • The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, asked Israel on Wednesday to respond to Palestinian charges that it committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war. In response, Israel said that the Palestinian Authority is not a state (a stance also taken by the U.S. and other countries) and therefore has no standing at the ICC.
  • Prof. Avi Bell of the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University responded, "I would recommend to Israel not to respond to the prosecutor's request, but rather to answer that this is not within the court's authority....The prosecutor does not have a shred of evidence against Israel, and she herself will close the case."
  • "There have been previous cases like this even when war crimes were indeed committed, unlike in our case, for example with Sudan. There was indeed genocide and war crimes, but despite the ICC prosecutor's investigation, she closed the case and stopped the investigation because there was no cooperation and she had no information."
  • "All the testimonies that the Palestinians and other organizations have collected are far beneath the minimum standard of evidence for crimes. There is nothing here. This is in addition to the reality that Israel is a normal state that investigates itself, a factor which in itself prevents the court from investigating what occurs in Israel."
  • "The second that you provide material, you enable the prosecutor to find in it whatever she wants and to interpret the situation in the way that she wishes, and I would not depend on the good faith of such an international body with its own agenda."
  • Dr. Sigall Horovitz, an international law expert who worked as legal adviser to the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, believes that "in the current case of the 2014 Gaza war, the court has no jurisdiction with regard to Israel because Israel itself investigates any crimes that were committed, if they were committed. Israel checks every act and every claim, and therefore the court has no excuse to become involved."
  • "At the end of the day, without any connection to the stance of the prosecutor of the court, Israel can easily prove that its justice system performs its task in a truthful manner, and there is no room or authority for the ICC to intervene."

        See also Accountability of Hamas under International Humanitarian Law - Sigall Horovitz (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, June 2009)
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