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  DAILY ALERT Friday,
June 19, 2015

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In-Depth Issues:

Quiet in the Golan, For Now - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    IDF officials on Wednesday said the border on the Golan Heights is quiet and there is no real danger to the Druze in Syria.
    The focus of attention right now is the Syrian Druze village of Hader, controlled by the Assad regime, where rebel groups have seized two Syrian military positions near the village but have not entered it.
    Contrary to reports circulated by Israeli Druze, who are worried about the fate of their brethren in Syria, the fighting this week has taken place near, but not inside, Hader and there has not been a massacre of Druze there. Many of the residents of Hader are armed and trained to fight.
    Moreover, Israel has delivered clear messages to rebel groups in Syria, cautioning them not to harm the Druze.

    See also An Autonomous Druze Region in Syria? - Caroline B. Glick (Jerusalem Post)
    In 1921, when the French established their mandatory rule in present-day Syria and Lebanon, they divided the territory into six "independent" or autonomously ruled "states."
    The Druze received a state of their own centered in Jebl Druze - the Druze Mountain, which existed until 1936, when the French reorganized the mandate and set up a central government in Damascus.
    During the Six-Day War, Israeli minister Yigal Allon put together a plan to establish a Druze state, again centered on Druze Mountain - whose population today numbers nearly three-quarters of a million.
    Allon explained, "I had visited Sweida [the capital of Druze Mountain] several times and I dreamed a dream of a Druze Republic that would stretch across southern Syria...that would be in military alliance with Israel."
    Over the decades, the Druze of Syria were just as loyal to the Assad regime as the Druze of Israel have been loyal to the Jewish state.
    Now that the regime is on the verge of military collapse, all the forces that have been fighting the regime view the Druze as their enemies.
    As a result, the Syrian Druze have been quietly reconsidering their views of Israel.
    Israel's Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister, Ayoub Kara, a Druze, says that if the Druze are able to secure autonomy, their area would stretch along 150 km. of Israel's border with Syria.


Fourth Islamic State Supporter Arrested in NY Area (AFP)
    Samuel Rahamin Topaz, 21, from Fort Lee, N.J., was charged with conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State extremist group, officials said, the fourth U.S. citizen arrested in the greater New York area in less than a week.
    Court papers allege he was in close contact with Munther Omar Saleh, 20, who was arrested last Saturday after trying to stab an FBI surveillance officer. Saleh is accused of planning a bomb attack in New York City.
    Topaz told a friend that "they" promised him $7,000 a week and four wives, possibly in Iraq, court papers show.
    Prosecutors said Topaz confessed to sympathizing with IS, had watched the group's videos and discussed plans to reach it.



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78 New Arrivals to Israel from Bnei Menashe in India - Gedalyah Reback (Times of Israel)
    78 Bnei Menashe from India arrived in Israel on Thursday on the first of three flights, with the other two next week bringing the rest of some 250 arrivals.
    The number of Bnei Menashe immigrants to Israel now totals more than 3,000. Some 7,000 Bnei Menashe live in India.




Golda Meir Picture Removed from Egypt Exhibit after Outcry (Times of Israel)
    A photograph of former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir was removed Saturday from an exhibition at an Egyptian museum following an outcry by Egyptian media personalities.
    The exhibition at the Pharaonic Village in Giza featured images and stories of 70 prominent women from around the world including former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
    Many in Egypt still hold a negative attitude toward Israel and chafe at the idea of normalized relations.




Largest Gold Treasure Ever Found in Israel Displayed to Public for First Time (Art Daily)
    The Archaeology Wing of the Israel Museum is displaying the largest gold cache ever discovered in Israel - 2,600 coins of pure gold (24 karat).
    The gold treasure was discovered in February by divers on the seabed near Caesarea. The treasure included thousands of dinar and quarter-dinar coins from the 9th century to the 11th century CE.
    The discovery is of particular importance for the Druze community; most of the coins carry the name of the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim, who is considered the founder of the Druze faith in 1017 CE.




Sniffer Mice Are Being Trained in Israel to Detect Explosives at Airports - Simon Calder (Independent-UK)
    The Israeli security firm X-Test claims that mice can detect explosives far more effectively than humans, dogs or machines.
    Airport security checkpoints of the future may deploy small, furry creatures to trap terrorists.
    The firm's vice-president, Yuval Amsterdam, is a former bomb-disposal expert for the Israel Defense Forces. He says mice "are as good as dogs as far as their ability to sense, but they're smaller and easier to train."
    "They're cheap, and you don't have to take them for a walk," he added. "Once they are trained, they become bio-sensors."



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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • As Iran Deal Takes Shape, Israel Emphasizes Regional Common Ground - Luke Baker and Dan Williams
    With a deal on Iran's nuclear program drawing near, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, Prime Minister Netanyahu's lead official on the issue, told Reuters this week: "We are very worried. What we are seeing is a certain crumbling, or signs of a crumbling, even in the clauses that had looked very clear and settled," suggesting a harder U.S. line was needed on inspections.
        All of the region's Sunni Arab powers oppose Tehran's backing of Shi'ite groups in the region. "There hasn't been a time when our interests and those of moderate Arab states have overlapped as much as they do now," said a senior Israeli official. "There is a very strong coincidence of interests and that has allowed for regional dialogue."
        "Indirect secret cooperation vis-a-vis Iran is happening with these countries and there is the possibility to deepen it," said Haim Tomer, a former head of international operations at Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence agency. He added that any coordination would remain "under the table."  (Reuters)
  • U.S. Three Years Late in Slapping Certain Sanctions on Iran - Julian Pecquet
    Under the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA), the State Department is supposed to inform Congress every six months of attempts to help the three countries obtain weapons of mass destruction and certain missile technology. The law requires the agency to sanction violators or justify its decision not to.
        But the department has fallen way behind in recent years, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, with Congress receiving an update on violations committed in 2011 only in December 2014. "The imposition of sanctions no sooner than 3 or more years after the transfer occurred may diminish the credibility of the threatened sanction," the report concludes. The State Department faults a complex web of agency reviews to make sure allegations of violations are substantiated. (Al-Monitor)
  • U.S. to UN: Listing Israel on the Same Page as Islamic State Is Fundamentally Wrong
    U.S. Ambassador David Pressman told the UN Security Council on Thursday: The Secretary General's Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict should be a valuable and trusted resource for advancing accountability against the world's most serious abusers of children.This year alone, we have seen the Islamic State publicly execute and stone children; kids manipulated to literally explode themselves in service of Boko Haram terrorists; and the continued unlawful recruitment and use of children in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan.
        The Secretary-General's Annual Report should contribute to our common cause to protect children by using standards that are applied uniformly, when documenting the actions of all parties in conflict - so that it is perceived as credible, objective, and non-political.But if this report is politicized, if it becomes more of a political tool to advance political agendas, it will be seriously compromised.
        Let's be clear: the idea that the Government of Israel, as some have suggested in this debate, would be listed on the same page as ISIL, Boko Haram, or Syria is factually and fundamentally wrong. (U.S. Mission to the UN)
  • Israeli Police Investigate Arson at Church - Isabel Kershner
    A Catholic church at Tabgha near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel was damaged by fire early on Thursday, in what the police are treating as an arson attack and possible hate crime. Firefighters extinguished the blaze before it reached the main prayer hall and the church's ancient mosaic floors. Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, said evidence found at the scene indicated that the fire was set deliberately.
        Israeli leaders condemned the attack. "Such terrible desecration of an ancient and holy place of prayer is an attack on the very fabric of life in our country, where people of different faiths seek to live together in harmony and mutual tolerance and respect," President Reuven Rivlin told the Rev. Gregory Collins, the leader of the Order of St. Benedict in Israel. (New York Times)
        See also Netanyahu: An Attack on a Church Is an Attack on Us All
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Israel Security Agency Director Yoram Cohen to conduct a full and speedy investigation of the arson attack. Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "This morning's outrageous arson attack on a church is an attack on us all. In Israel freedom of worship is one of our core values and is guaranteed under the law. Those responsible for this despicable crime will face the full force of the law. Hate and intolerance have no place in our society."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • 1982 Paris Attack Suspect Arrested in Jordan
    Zuhair Mohamad Hassan Khalid al-Abassi, alias "Amjad Atta," was one of three men for whom France issued an international arrest warrant earlier this year over a 1982 attack on the Chez Jo Goldenberg restaurant in Paris that killed six people and wounded 22. He was detained in Jordan on June 1 and later released on bail. The attack was blamed on the Abu Nidal organization, a Palestinian militant group. A Jordanian source close to the case said on Thursday, "Jordan does not usually extradite its citizens to other countries."  (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas: We're Exchanging Ideas with Israel on Long-Term Ceasefire - Elior Levy
    Hamas sources said Tuesday that Israel and Gaza's rulers have been holding an indirect "exchange about ideas" for cementing a long-term ceasefire in Gaza. "There has been indirect contact between Israel and Hamas, messages passed via Arab channels as well as through European and Turkish sources," one Hamas source told AFP. But he insisted the contacts were purely informal and that there was no formal initiative or proposal on the table. (Ynet News)
        See also PA Wary of Reports of Israel-Hamas Talks - Avi Issacharoff
    Indirect talks between Israel and Hamas are in progress. Hamas is not hiding its desire for a significant agreement with Israel - one that will change Gaza's economic situation significantly and boost Hamas' status immeasurably. Israel, at least at present, shows no signs that it intends to accept the proposal. PA officials are aware of these talks and fear that an agreement will lead to the further strengthening of Hamas.
        At the same time, neither the PA, nor the residents of the West Bank, want large-scale violent conflict with Israel. The Palestinians want to stabilize their economic situation. The Palestinian street has certainly welcomed the many significant relief measures that Israel announced Tuesday in honor of Ramadan. (Times of Israel)
        See also A Five-Year Ceasefire with Hamas? - Dan Margalit (Israel Hayom)
  • U.S., Israel to Cooperate on Tunnel Warfare - Yitzhak Benhorin
    An amendment passed by the U.S. House on Wednesday views cross-border tunnels as a threat to America and its allies, pledging $40 million on research and development to find a solution in cooperation with Israel. Since 2009, over 150 tunnels have been discovered on the U.S.-Mexico border to smuggle illegal immigrants and drugs. Tunnels have also been used to attack U.S. military personnel in South Korea. Israel is already conducting research and development in the field, largely due to Hamas' prevalent use of tunnels during last summer's war in Gaza.
        Congressman Steve Israel, who initiated the amendment, explained: "These tunnels are sophisticated, these are expressways underground, it's like the Queens-Midtown tunnel going from Gaza to Israel. They are ventilated, they are lit, they are massive, they are deep, they are huge, they are impenetrable and they are very difficult to detect."  (Ynet News)
  • Former Israeli Foreign Minister Livni Dodges War Crimes Arrest in London - Stuart Winer
    Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni was forced to use a legal loophole to avoid possible arrest over alleged Israeli war crimes when she attended the Fortune Most Powerful Women International Summit this week in London. Anti-Israeli activists applied to have an arrest warrant issued for Livni, who was foreign minister during the 2008-2009 war in Gaza.
        Livni's attendance at the women's summit could have been considered a personal visit, leaving her vulnerable to arrest. To preempt the problem, Livni arranged to meet with senior UK government officials, enabling the Knesset speaker to approve her travel as an official visit, Yediot Ahronot reported on Wednesday. In 2011, UK authorities granted automatic immunity to all Israelis on official visits to Britain. (Times of Israel)
  • Returning to the West Bank after 30 Years - Marwan Asmar
    There has been a total transformation since I was last in Howara in the West Bank in 1985. One can see a buzz of activity at the shops, restaurants, offices and cafes. This wasn't the sleepy village I saw long ago. Buildings, villas, mosques and rest areas have been constructed everywhere. There is even a swimming pool.
        This was certainly not the picture I had in mind. This was not the picture the media presents - of Palestinians surviving on daily wages of $2 as pointed out by the World Bank, of high unemployment and pockets of poverty. The people I spoke to here said many worked as laborers in Israel and were paid high daily wages. This is how they could build their houses, they told me. (Gulf News-Dubai)
  • IDF Reservist to EU: "IDF Is a Moral Army Fighting in an Immoral Neighborhood" - Lilach Shoval
    Israel Defense Forces Capt. (res.) Matan Katzman told the European Parliament's Human Rights Subcommittee on Wednesday: "The IDF is a moral army fighting in an immoral neighborhood." "In Gaza, our mission was clear: It was to stop the rocket fire that put over a million Israeli children in bomb shelters last summer."
        Katzman said the IDF has a clear policy to protect Palestinian civilians, even at the expense of compromising the safety of its own missions, as it does when it repeatedly warns civilians about upcoming attacks. He clarified that the most important rule of engagement in the IDF is: "in cases of doubt, don't shoot. If there is doubt, there is no doubt - we don't shoot."
        "During last summer's war, the Israeli army aborted and cancelled multiple missions from air and from ground in cases where Palestinian civilians were present, or we even thought they were present. Our policy is so concrete and clear that Hamas is an expert on it and uses it to their advantage. They place snipers in schools and hospitals, they stock weapons in homes. UN-funded medical clinics are booby-trapped to harm soldiers."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Iranian President Toes the Supreme Leader's Red Lines - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    In a speech on June 14, 2015, to mark the second anniversary of his election, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani adhered to the red lines stipulated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei concerning the scope of the monitoring of Iran's nuclear program, asserting that inspectors would not be allowed to enter military sites. He declared that "no one in the world...doubts any longer that Iran has the right to enrich uranium and that the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo will not be shut down. This is Iran's greatest achievement in the nuclear sphere."
        Rouhani added that no one had anticipated two years ago that a final agreement would lead to "the cancellation of all the cruel decisions and sanctions that the Security Council imposed on Iran," and that Iran would be able to keep injecting uranium hexafluoride gas (UF-6) for purposes of research and development of centrifuges. Rouhani stressed that Iran continues to insist that "the signing of the agreement must be accompanied by the [simultaneous] lifting of the sanctions." IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center and at Foresight Prudence. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Why Israel Lets Qatar Give Millions to Hamas - Emily Harris
    Israel's long-standing policy has been to isolate Hamas, and Israel has long accused Qatar of financing Hamas, including providing money used for rockets fired into Israel during last summer's war. Yet Israel permitted Qatari official Mohammad al-Emadi to visit Gaza and spend tens of millions of dollars on reconstruction projects, including 1,000 new homes.
        Emadi had just left a meeting with the Israeli general in charge of permitting goods and people in and out of Gaza when a rocket fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel. Emadi says he immediately called his contacts in Gaza. "I told them, 'You are crazy.' They said, 'No, no, it's not us.' And they control the situation. They catch the guy."
        Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of research for Israel's military intelligence, says: "Nobody else is ready to help but Qatar....We believe that better conditions in Gaza would lessen the incentive of Hamas and the population to go again to a war. So in a way, it is helping the deterrence. But the purpose is to improve the conditions of the people of Gaza and enable them to live a respectable life."  (NPR)
  • A Decade after Israel Left Gaza - Maurizio Molinari
    Ten years after Israel's disengagement from Gaza, all traces of the its Netzarim settlement have been wiped off the face of the earth. The Palestinians have destroyed everything that the Israel Defense Forces left intact. The synagogue was burned to the ground, and Islamic Jihad flags now fly where the house of worship once stood. The Palestinians have built an amusement park on the ruins of the place where 60 Israeli families once lived.
        Scattered among the remains of the Israeli settlements in Gush Katif in southern Gaza are training camps and bases belonging to various armed groups - Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Everyone here is readying for the next conflict. Another amusement park was built on the ruins of Ganei Tal.
        Neve Dekalim was the largest settlement in the Gush Katif bloc with 500 families. The IDF left all public buildings standing. The Palestinians demolished one of the yeshivas and the two synagogues a few days after the Israeli pullout. The remaining public buildings have been converted into a branch of the al-Aqsa University. The Neve Dekalim regional school is now an Islamic college for girls. The writer is Middle East correspondent for the Italian daily La Stampa. (Ynet News)
  • The Islamic State Creates a Nation of Fear - Zeina Karam
    Untold numbers have been killed because they were deemed dangerous to the Islamic State, or insufficiently pious; 5-8 million endure a regime that has swiftly turned their world upside down, enforcing its own radical interpretation of Islamic law. The Islamic State is a place where men douse themselves with cologne to hide the odor of forbidden cigarettes; where taxi drivers or motorists usually play the IS radio station, since music can get a driver 10 lashes; where women must be entirely covered, in black, and in flat-soled shoes; where shops must close during Muslim prayers, and everyone found outdoors must attend.
        "People hate them, but they've despaired, and they don't see anyone supporting them if they rise up," said one Syrian political activist, 28, whose family still lives under IS rule. (AP)
  • UK Universities Know the Importance of Israel Ties - Leslie Wagner
    The representative body of the 133 British universities, Universities UK, was quick to reiterate its firm opposition "to any academic boycott of Israeli universities," after the National Executive Council of the British National Union of Students adopted a boycott-divestment-sanction Israel (BDS) resolution on June 2, 2015. In reality, co-operation between Israeli and British universities and their academics has grown in recent years.
        The latest examples are the BIRAX agreement signed earlier this year and the post-doctoral student agreement signed two months ago. The British Israel Research and Academic Exchange (BIRAX) will invest 10 million pounds to support advanced medical research projects at 11 British and Israeli universities. Prof. Leslie Wagner was chancellor of the University of Derby in the UK, and prior to that vice-chancellor (president) of Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of North London. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Observations:

Judging Whether the Iran Deal Is Acceptable - Michael Singh (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Iran's primary objective in the nuclear talks, as inferred from its actions and negotiating positions, is to free itself from sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and military threat, while maintaining the capabilities necessary to develop a nuclear weapon in the future should it choose to do so.
  • The deal parameters announced in Lausanne on April 2 raise the prospect of significant sanctions relief without clearly denying Iran what is required to maintain a nuclear weapons capability and undertake a future clandestine effort to develop an actual weapon.
  • The deal currently under negotiation leaves Iran with a large, legitimized nuclear fuel fabrication supply chain - mining, milling, converting, and enriching uranium; the manufacture of centrifuges and related technology; and the storage of fuel and centrifuges in various stages of usability - from which Tehran could seek to divert materiel, technology, personnel, and expertise for any parallel clandestine effort.
  • The deal's current parameters would also permit Iran to continue conducting R&D on advanced centrifuges. This work could dramatically reduce the number of centrifuges required to produce high-enriched uranium (HEU), enabling Iran to do the work in a smaller and thus more easily concealed facility.
  • Leaving Tehran unfettered by sanctions or military threat, yet with the option to clandestinely produce a nuclear weapon, reduces the cost to Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon when conditions permit, while increasing the possibility that other regional states will seek nuclear weapons capabilities of their own.
  • Denying Iran a nuclear weapons capability - or at least severely constraining it - remains possible even at this late stage of the talks. Doing so would require defending the Lausanne framework's most useful provisions (e.g., relating to long-term inspections of Iran's nuclear supply chain).
  • In addition, any sanctions or financial relief should be phased according to Iranian performance, and sanctions related to matters not addressed by the agreement (e.g., terrorism sponsorship) should remain in place altogether and be zealously enforced.

    The writer is managing director at The Washington Institute and a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.
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