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September 25, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Sends Condolences to International Muslim Community after Mecca Stampede (Jerusalem Post)
    "Israel sends condolences to Muslims everywhere following the tragedy that befell Mecca this Eid al-Adha," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Office wrote on Friday.

Egypt's War on Terrorism - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
    Egypt began this week flooding smuggling tunnels along its border with Gaza with water from the Mediterranean Sea.
    The Egyptians are convinced that Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza have been providing aid to the terror groups in Sinai that have killed dozens of Egyptian soldiers and police officers.
    At the same time, Hamas continues to dig new tunnels on the border between Gaza and Israel. It is no secret that Hamas has rebuilt many of the terror tunnels that were used to infiltrate gunmen into Israel during last year's military confrontation.
    Hamas is planning to use these tunnels in the future, to dispatch its men to kill as many Israelis as possible.
    See also The Gaza War 2014: Hamas' Tunnel Network - A Massacre in the Making - Daniel Rubenstein (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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3,000-Year-Old Seal Discovered by Temple Mount Sifting Project - Daniel K. Eisenbud (Jerusalem Post)
    A 3,000-year-old seal, from the time of King David in the 10th century BCE, was recently discovered by a 10-year-old Russian volunteer at Jerusalem's Temple Mount Sifting Project.
    The project sifts through thousands of tons of earth illegally removed from the Temple Mount in 1999 by the Wakf religious trust to build a mosque.
    "The dating of the seal corresponds to the historical period of the Jebusites and the conquest of Jerusalem by King David, as well as the construction of the Temple and the royal official compound by his son, King Solomon," said archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkay, co-founder and director of the project.
    See also Stone Seal from King David Era Found in Temple Mount Fill - Ilan Ben Zion (Times of Israel)
    The seal, carved from brown limestone, features two crudely engraved animals, one atop the other, "perhaps representing a predator and its prey," said Dr. Gabriel Barkay.
    Barkay said the stone seal was unique because it was the first of its type and from that period found in Jerusalem.
    Seals of this sort would have been used to stamp documents or clay vessels. Barkay said the seal's discovery attests to "the administrative activity which took place upon the Temple Mount during those times."

Israeli Defense Firm Awarded $70M Homeland Security Contract by Latin American Customer (Globes)
    Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems has been awarded a $70 million contract by a Latin American customer to supply the Hermes 900 Unmanned Aircraft System and an intelligence gathering system.

U.S. Navy Buys Israeli Therapy System to Treat Vets - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    The U.S. Navy will be using an Israeli-developed transcranial magnetic stimulation system to treat patients with a range of psychological conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress, major depressive disorder, and others.
    The Navy has ordered several Deep TMS therapy helmets made by Jerusalem-based Brainsway. The device applies brief magnetic pulses to the brain.
    Studies have shown TMS to be effective in a number of neurological, psychiatric and medical conditions.

U.S. Firm LivePerson Employs 400 in Israel - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Rob LoCascio is CEO of LivePerson, a U.S. company that provides help services for online businesses in the form of help chat services, analytics, and other forms of customer engagement.
    LoCascio says the company remains committed to Israel because of the high quality of work LivePerson gets out of its workers here.
    "We've been in Israel for fifteen years," LoCascio said. "We are in Israel by choice - and not because of any ethnic, religious, or political ties."

P2P Lending Giant Prosper Acquires Israel's BillGuard - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Israeli start-up BillGuard, which provides a crowd-driven platform to help consumers protect their money, is being acquired by Prosper Marketplace for $50 million.
    BillGuard was the first service that enabled users to keep track of their financial transactions and alert them to possible fraud events across financial institutions and systems.
    Prosper, with $4 billion in loans over the past four years, is the biggest platform in the U.S. that connects individual lenders with borrowers.

American Twins Join the Israeli Navy - Danny Brenner (Israel Hayom)
    Danielle and Ariel Shulman were born and raised in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, near the ocean.
    Now the 20-year-olds are serving together in an Israeli Navy Snapir unit, which conducts maritime patrols and protects the country's ports.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Acts to Combat Violence in Jerusalem - Isabel Kershner
    Israel's security cabinet approved a series of measures on Thursday as part of a crackdown on rock-throwing and firebombing by Palestinians in Jerusalem. Under the new regulations, police have permission to open fire not only when their own lives are threatened, as was the case previously, but also when there is "an immediate and concrete danger" to civilians, according to a government statement.
        In addition, the government is preparing legislation to impose minimum prison terms of four years for adults who throw rocks, firebombs or shoot fireworks directly at people. Increased fines will be imposed on convicted minors, ages 14 to 18, and their parents, and child support benefits will be revoked for jailed minors. Israel's attorney general approved the cabinet decisions, according to a spokesman for the Justice Ministry.
        "We intend to change the norm that has become established here, that the State of Israel allows these deadly and murderous objects to be thrown without response and without being thwarted," Prime Minister Netanyahu said. (New York Times)
  • Israeli, Russian Military Working to Prevent Accidental Fire in Syria - Dan Williams
    An Israeli-Russian coordination team set up to prevent the countries accidentally trading fire in Syria will be headed by their deputy armed forces chiefs and will hold its first meeting by Oct. 5, an Israeli military officer said on Thursday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Monday to set up the team. Israel is worried the new Russian deployment risks pitting Russian forces against its own over Syria. Israeli jets have occasionally struck in Syria to foil handovers of sophisticated Russian- or Iranian-supplied arms to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
        An Israeli military officer said the upcoming talks with Moscow would focus on aerial operations in Syria and "electromagnetic coordination." This appeared to refer to the sides agreeing not to scramble each other's radio communications or radar-tracking systems, and devising ways of identifying each other's forces to avoid any unintended confrontation in the heat of battle. Israel and Russia will also coordinate on sea operations off Syria's Mediterranean coast. (Reuters)
  • Migrants Are Disguising Themselves as Syrians to Enter Europe - Souad Mekhennet and William Booth
    Moving among the tens of thousands of Syrian war refugees in Europe are many who are neither Syrian nor refugees, but hoping to blend into the mass migration and find a back door to the West. There are well-dressed Iranians speaking Farsi who insist they are members of the persecuted Yazidis of Iraq. There are Indians who don't speak Arabic but say they are from Damascus. There are Pakistanis, Albanians, Egyptians, Kosovars, Somalis and Tunisians. "What we see here has nothing to do with seeking refuge and safety," Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said Monday. "It is nothing but opportunism."
        A native Arabic-speaking reporter who wandered through train stations in Vienna found plenty of newcomers whose accents did not match their stories and whose stories did not make sense. Swimming in the river of humanity are shady characters, too, admitted criminals and Islamic State sympathizers. At Vienna Westbahnhof railway station, when a reporter asked a group of men where they were from, the men answered, "We are from Syria." When the reporter switched to the North African dialect, the men admitted, "We are Algerians." One said he met Tunisians, Moroccans and Libyans playing the same game. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel's Enemy Is Twofold - Shiite and Sunni Radical Islam
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday: "Today our enemy is twofold: It is Shiite radical Islam led by Iran and its proxies and the Sunni [radical Islam], which for now is led by ISIS. They are fighting each other, but it is an accepted norm that we have no place in the Islamic world, as they see it."
        "Facing this changing world, Israel must be a major power, not just a regional power, but in certain areas a world power. This only deepens and enhances our ability to leverage our relations with elements in the region and elements outside the region."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Abbas: "We Welcome Every Drop of Blood Spilled in Jerusalem"
    Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, told Palestinian television on Sept. 16: "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every shaheed (martyr) will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward." He said only the Palestinians have rights to Jerusalem: "Al-Aqsa is ours and the (Church of the) Holy Sepulcher is ours. Everything is ours, all ours." Abbas also praised two recently outlawed radical Islamist organizations whose activists are paid to harass Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Photo: See the Knife of the Palestinian Woman Who Tried to Stab IDF Soldiers in Hebron
    A Palestinian woman attempted to stab an IDF soldier in Hebron on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Here is a photo of her weapon, which had triggered a metal-detector warning. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Twitter)
  • Israel Intercepts Sulfuric Acid Shipment to Gaza - Yaakov Lappin
    The Israel Tax Authority's Customs Office and Israel Security Agency intercepted 15 tons of sulfuric acid en route to Gaza, authorities announced on Thursday. The acid, which was labelled as paint thinner, could have made three tons of TNT explosives. (Jerusalem Post)
  • On Yom Kippur, 29 Migrants Cross from Egypt to Israel - Itamar Eichner
    29 people, mostly from Sudan, crossed Israel's border with Egypt using a ladder during the Yom Kippur holiday on Wednesday, the largest group to illegally enter Israel in the past year and a half. Over 140 people have crossed the border fence since the beginning of the year, all using ladders. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Russia in Syria

  • Russia's Return to Middle East - Yaroslav Trofimov
    Russia's return to the Middle East, with its lightning military deployment to Syria, is fundamentally different from the Cold War. Because Moscow is no longer constrained by ideology, it could ultimately prove more successful in challenging American influence in the region. "Russia today is not trying to spread its own model of life - in part because there is no such model," said Andranik Migranyan, a professor at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. A perception in the Middle East that the U.S. has pulled back and can't be trusted to protect its allies helps lubricate Russian ambitions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • What Will the Russians Do in Syria? - Jonathan Spyer
    The arrival of Russian personnel and equipment in Latakia province is intended to bolster the Syrian regime's enclave in the western coastal area as part of a larger effort on the part of the regime and its allies to consolidate control over roughly 20% of Syria. The deployment suggests a limited ground component, with a greater focus on air operations to back beleaguered government forces and relieve pressure on Assad's overstretched air force.
        Ibrahim al-Amin, editor of the pro-Iran and pro-Hizbullah Al-Akhbar newspaper in Lebanon, announced the arrival of the "4+1" alliance. The "4" are Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria, plus Hizbullah. According to Amin, this new alliance is to include the "sending of Russian and Iranian special forces to the areas controlled by...Assad." The Russians will "play a prominent role on the ground and will participate in combat on the battlefield with their advanced weaponry by leading operations and taking part in artillery shelling [and] air raids." The writer is director of the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Russia: The New Landlord in Syria - Yossi Mansharof
    Russia has established a clear presence in Syria and is lending significant power to Assad. In addition, Iran has increased its military presence in Syria and, according to rebel reports, established an airbase near Homs for use by its own forces and Russia's. Russian forces have already become a target for rebel groups. On Sept. 17, Jaysh al-Islam released a video documenting a Grad rocket attack it carried out against Russians at Latakia airport. The writer is a researcher at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa. (Israel Hayom)

  • Jerusalem

  • Jerusalem: Delusions of Division - Nadav Shragai
    A recent opinion survey shows that more than half of Jerusalem's Arab residents prefer to obtain Israeli citizenship with equal rights rather than live within the framework of a Palestinian state. However, 60% of Jerusalem Arabs also support armed struggle against Israel, and Hamas is very popular among this group.
        Over the course of 48 years, numerous patterns of Jewish-Arab cooperation have emerged in the city of Jerusalem in areas of commerce, employment, tourism, business, health, and leisure. Dissolving those patterns of unity would damage the existing urban fabric. In addition, Jerusalem enjoys common networks of infrastructure in the areas of transportation, water, electricity, telephone, sewage, and health. Separating such networks is impossible without causing suffering to the city's residents.
        Moreover, dividing Jerusalem and subtracting its Arab neighborhoods is likely to cause much worse security problems and hamstring the work of Israeli security forces in thwarting Palestinian terrorist attacks. Furthermore, a division of the city is likely to diminish Jerusalem's Jewish majority. Jerusalem expert Nadav Shragai, a veteran Israeli journalist, is a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Temple Mount Is in Danger - Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz
    Over 80 years ago, even before the establishment of the State of Israel, the Muslim mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, began to spread lies about Jews trying to harm the Aqsa Mosque. Since then, this evil, false accusation has led to the deaths of many Jews and Muslims alike.
        48 years have passed since the Temple Mount returned to Jewish sovereignty - and never have Muslims been restricted from entering. On the contrary, the State of Israel has invested great effort to make freedom of worship possible on the Mount - even at the cost of harming Jewish visitors who wish to ascend to the site.
        The Temple Mount is aflame, with fire bursting forth from firebombs and pipe bombs that were hoarded in preparation for a well-planned attack on Jewish worshipers praying at the Western Wall during Rosh Hashanah. The Temple Mount is in danger from those who claim to be men of religion, but who use their position to spread hatred and war. If the Temple Mount were sacred to you, you would not dare turn its mosques into armories. The writer is rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • Reporter Jason Rezaian's Case Proves Iran Still Can't Be Trusted - Editorial
    With the international community preparing to lift most sanctions on Iran, its president, Hassan Rouhani, no doubt will present his nation as ready to take its rightful place in the world when he addresses the UN General Assembly on Monday. The world, including the Obama administration, should think twice about that. Any nation that holds innocent journalists captive, in violation of its own laws and of international norms, will be regarded with suspicion, and deservedly so.
        Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was seized by Iranian security officials 14 months ago based on what the State Department has called "patently absurd" allegations of espionage and aiding a hostile government. Rezaian, a talented journalist with U.S. and Iranian citizenship, had dedicated his life to improving understanding between the two nations. Any foreign companies contemplating investment in Iran will have to wonder: To what extent can they count on Iranian courts to protect their assets or their employees? (Washington Post)
  • German Jews Fear Backlash from Country's Welcome of Refugees - Uriel Heilman
    Many Jews are watching the wave of migrants flocking to Germany with some measure of alarm, concerned with what a massive influx of Arabs could mean for Germany's Jews and the country's relationship with Israel. They're worried that the influx of hundreds of thousands of Muslims will turn Germany into a place hostile to Jewish concerns and to Israel - and that along with the migrants there are terrorist infiltrators who will try to realize their dreams of jihad on German soil. Germany's Jews number 200,000 in a country of 80 million. Their political influence is negligible.
        Jews aren't the only ones with deep reservations toward the migrants. Otto, a Berlin taxi driver, said, "Berlin is full of immigrants from Poland, Russia and Turkey. The Poles have integrated well, the Russians so-so and the Turks hardly at all. The Arabs will be even worse."  (JTA)
  • Mideast Countries Are Agents of Their Own Destiny - Neil Rogachevsky
    No superpower can fix the Middle East's endemic malaise, writes Efraim Karsh, a longtime professor at King's College London, in The Tail Wags the Dog, his fast-paced history of British, American and Russian involvement in the Middle East since World War I. Karsh argues that foreign powers have had a much more limited impact on regional politics than is assumed. Success stories like the emergence of Turkey as a secular modern state in the 1920s was due to the statecraft of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979 was the result of local factors seized upon by local players rather than American diplomacy.
        Similarly, the sectarian violence currently engulfing the region is, at root, the product of religious and political divisions that foreign powers have sometimes helped contain but have never resolved. At a time when the ills of the Middle East are so often blamed on colonialism, imperialism or "Satans" great or small, the author's perspective is refreshing. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israelis Are Happier than Ever - Ben Caspit
    Israelis'optimism and vitality are not only reflected in public opinion surveys. One can see these trendsin fertility ratesas well. Israel'saverage birthrate per family - close to three children in 2013 -is far higher than that in the West. When walking around Tel Aviv, the number of children, babies, strollers, young mothers andpregnant women catches theeye.
        Even secular Israelis regard the raising of children as their life's mission. They look around, purse their lips andask themselves, "What kind of world have we brought our children into?" And then they have more of them. (Al-Monitor)

Canada Park Wasn't Stolen from the Palestinians - Alan Baker (Canadian Jewish News)

  • Some serious misconceptions appeared in a recent column charging that the land on which the Jewish National Fund-administered Canada Park is located was illegally stolen from Palestinians in contravention of the Geneva Convention. The land, including the former Arab villages that existed in what is now Canada Park, was never part of any Palestinian state or entity. No such entity has ever existed, and hence the land could not have been "stolen" from a non-existent entity that neither owned nor occupied it.
  • During the 1948-49 War of Independence, in which Israel defended itself from a combined attack by neighboring and local Arab forces, the area in question, including the villages that were located there, together with units of the Jordanian army, played an active and strategic role in blocking the route to Jerusalem and in attacking and bombarding both Jerusalem itself and convoys driving to and from Jerusalem.
  • In the 1949 Jordan-Israel armistice agreement, the Latrun area, including what is now Canada Park, was determined as "No-Man's Land" and remained so until the 1967 Six-Day War. The armistice demarcation line has never been considered to be a border and has never been so designated by UN agencies or governments.
  • During the course of the Six-Day War, in which Jordan attacked Israel, the area fell under Israel's control and administration, together with the other West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria. In light of its strategic location commanding the main route to Jerusalem and the vital security implications involved, and in accordance with Israel's rights pursuant to the rules of armed conflict, the area was declared by Israel to be a closed military area. Since then, Israel has undertaken to observe the relevant norms of international humanitarian law, pending a final peace agreement and ultimate disposition of the territory.
  • This area, together with all other areas that fell under Israel's control in 1967, are the subject of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiation process pursuant to the 1993-95 Oslo accords signed by the Palestinian leadership and Israel, and endorsed and witnessed by the major powers. Therefore the legal status of the area is pending negotiation. It cannot be denominated as "Palestinian territory," since the Palestinians themselves are committed to negotiating the permanent status of the area with Israel. It is therefore governed by the special regime agreed upon by the Palestinians and Israel under the Oslo accords.
  • As such, any claim that Israel's administration of Canada Park is in violation of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention has no basis in fact or law. Maintaining the area as a park in which its natural and historic character, integrity and heritage are preserved and protected, falls squarely within the requirements of international humanitarian law and cannot in any way be described as a violation of the Geneva Convention.

    The writer served as the legal adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and Israel's ambassador to Canada (2004-08).
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