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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
March 2, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Ramps Up Fight Against Tunnelers with "The Obstacle" - Rory Jones and Orr Hirschauge (Wall Street Journal)
    At least 10 operatives of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the militant arm of the Islamist movement Hamas, have died since the middle of January while building tunnels underneath the Gaza Strip near the border with Israel.
    In the war of 2014, Hamas mounted assaults on Israeli forces through a labyrinth of tunnels.
    Israel is training its soldiers in underground combat and buttressing its defenses.
    Israeli security officials recently asked the Knesset for funding to develop and construct a system to detect and destroy cross-border tunnels.
    Known as "The Obstacle," the system is being funded in part by the U.S. government.

There Are Palestinian Areas in the West Bank the PA Does Not Enter - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    The Kalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem, where two IDF soldiers were extracted after being attacked on Monday, is awash with automatic weapons and trigger-happy Palestinians who are very willing to fire on the first Israelis they see in their neighborhood.
    Yet the Palestinian Authority could also find itself under fire in such places. It does not send its forces into this area, even though it is under its security jurisdiction.
    The rioting encountered by the IDF soldiers is not an indication of a general escalation in Palestinian violence.
    Rather, it is a reminder that in "refugee camps" in Kalandiya, Nablus, Jenin, and even Shuafat in northeast Jerusalem, gunmen wander around openly, while youths with firebombs and rocks loiter on the streets, and the PA police are not present.

Reports of BDS "Momentum" Are a Myth - Jonathan Marks (Commentary)
    In 2005, when the most recent wave of anti-Israel boycott activity commenced, Gallup asked survey respondents: "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or with the Palestinians?
    52% sympathized more with Israel, 18% more with the Palestinians.
    More than ten years of relentless campaigning against Israel later, 62% sympathize more with Israel, 15% more with the Palestinians.
    Among Democrats in 2005, 41% sympathized more with Israel. Today that figure is 53%.
    Among the young, in 2005, 51% reported sympathizing more with Israel. This year it's 54%.

In Hamas' Gaza, Women Now Need Chaperones for Driving Lessons (Middle East Online)
    Local media in Gaza were filled Monday with reports of new regulations that women must be accompanied by chaperones for driving lessons with male instructors.
    The move in Gaza, controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas, is in line with Muslim tenets that women in public be accompanied by a husband or male family member.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • A Truce in Syria? - Dexter Filkins
    The "cessation of hostilities" agreement for Syria announced by the U.S. and Russia stipulates that the Assad government and an array of rebel groups opposing it, which includes those backed by the U.S. and its allies, will stop fighting each other. But it does not cover operations involving the two strongest rebel groups: the Islamic State and the al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat al-Nusra.
        Aid groups said they hoped that the pause in the fighting might allow them to distribute more food and medicine within the country, where 400,000 people are living in areas under siege and are threatened with starvation. Five million more are being fed regularly by the UN. In Syria, with as many as half a million dead and half the prewar population driven from their homes, any agreement, however limited, that offers relief to the suffering ought to be celebrated.
        Turkey has declared it will not honor the truce with respect to Kurdish forces in Syria, which it sees as a branch of the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. But the Kurds in Syria have been the U.S.' most effective ally in the fight against ISIS. (New Yorker)
  • ISIS Executes Eight Dutch Jihadists for Attempting to Desert
    "Daesh [ISIS] executed eight Dutch fighters on Friday in Maadan, Raqqa province, after accusing them of attempting desertion and mutiny," said Abu Mohammad, a member of the citizen journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), via Twitter on Monday. (AFP-Guardian-UK)
  • Hamas Commander Is Killed By His Own - Diaa Hadid and Majd Al Waheidi
    Mahmoud Ishtiwi, 34, was a commander from a family of Hamas loyalists who, during the 2014 war with Israel, was responsible for 1,000 fighters and a network of attack tunnels. Last month, his former comrades executed him with three bullets to the chest. He was accused of moral turpitude, by which Hamas meant homosexuality.
        On Jan. 21, 2015, Ishtiwi was summoned to an interrogation by Izzedine al-Qassam military intelligence officials who suspected that during the war he had diverted money allocated to his unit for weapons. His sister Samia, 39, said that during a visit to Ishtiwi in prison, he had given her two pages crammed with writing, describing the torture he had received and proclaiming his innocence. His siblings said it listed episodes in which rival commanders had made errors that led to the killing of Qassam fighters in the 2014 war, and it accused them of orchestrating Ishtiwi's detention. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Wounded in Stabbing Attack near West Bank Home - Tovah Lazaroff
    Major (res.) Roi Harel was wounded attempting to stop two Palestinian assailants from entering his home in Eli in the West Bank on Wednesday morning. Labib Haldon Anwar Azzam and Mihmoud Hisham Ali Z'jlan from a village south of Nablus, both 17, tried to come in the front door and stabbed Harel in the process. He was able to push them out and lock the door.
        The two assailants then hid in a yard. When they saw soldiers, the Palestinians came out and attempted to stab them. The soldiers then shot and killed the two. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Wife of Israeli Who Struggled with Two Terrorists Describes Attack (YouTube-Arutz Sheva)
  • Netanyahu: Israel Ranked 8th Most Powerful Country in the World - Shlomo Cesana
    On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited the "Best Countries Rankings" recently published by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, U.S. News & World Report and BAV Consulting. "Israel was ranked as the number eight power in the world based on three things - military power, international influence and, notice how they put it, international alliances," Netanyahu said. "I didn't choose to say it, they did. They ranked us for our international power because of our international alliances."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also Power Rankings: These Countries Project Their Influence on the World Stage
    Top Ten: United States, Russia, China, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, South Korea (U.S. News)
  • Jerusalem Downplays Turkish Claim of Impending Normalization - Shlomo Cesana
    The political echelon in Jerusalem on Monday downplayed reports from Turkey that the countries were on the verge of a deal to normalize relations. Officials stressed that Israel was insisting Ankara terminate Hamas' base of operations in Turkey. About one month ago Israel said parameters for reconciliation had been agreed upon, but a comprehensive deal, which would include the mutual reinstatement of ambassadors, has yet to be finalized. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • An Ominous Election in Iran - Ilan Berman
    A new surveyof Iranian public opinion by the University of Maryland's Center for International and Security Studies found that 71% expressed unfavorable views of the U.S. There's good reason to suspect that the new nuclear deal is to blame for this trend. First, the agreement undercuts confidence in the West among ordinary Iranians as a champion of human rights and democratic ideas in the face of repressive clerical rule. The sanctions relief inherent in the agreement has greatly strengthened Iran's current regime without compelling any meaningful change in its domestic behavior. At the same time, Western nations - worried about ensuring continued Iranian compliance with the terms of the accord - have systematically downgraded their concerns about the regime's internal deformities. As a result, to Iranians it appears as though the West has abandoned them.
        Second, the nuclear deal has helped fuel a rising sense of Iranian nationalism. Its conclusion in a fashion overwhelmingly favorable to Iran's interests has helped convey thesensethat the regime has gotten the upper hand in its dealings with the West. As a result, the once-rickety political standing of the Iranian regime is more stable, and its persistent anti-Western outlook is more accepted. The writer is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. (U.S. News)
  • Iran's Impotent Assembly of Experts - Michael Rubin
    When Iranians went to the polls on Feb. 26, they cast their ballots for parliament and the Assembly of Experts, the 86-member clerical body which picks the new Supreme Leader. So isn't the ouster of some conservative figures and the triumph of a few reformers significant? The answer is no.
        The Assembly of Experts has met only once in its history, back in 1989, to choose a new supreme leader after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's death. Even then, it served as little more than a rubber stamp body because leading Islamic Republic officials had already consulted informally and settled upon Khamenei as a compromise candidate. The same thing will likely occur again - the Assembly of Experts rubber-stamping a pre-ordained decision.
        The Iran deal has disproportionately empowered the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by allowing it to receive the bulk of unfrozen assets. This means that the IRGC will go into the next leadership shuffle with the strongest hand at the table and can effectively veto anyone who doesn't reflect its values. The chance for substantive policy change with the next supreme leader just diminished significantly. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Commentary)

Israel's Parliament Speaker, a Visitor to Britain, Is a Settler and Former Soviet Prisoner - Raf Sanchez (Telegraph-UK)

  • Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the Knesset, will visit Parliament this week at the invitation of John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons. He will speak to a joint session of peers and MPs in the first-ever official visit by an Israeli Knesset speaker. Edelstein is one of around 350,000 Israelis living in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority called his visit to London "a slap in the face."
  • Edelstein has been hearing these criticisms since 1987 when he arrived in Israel after being released from a Soviet labor camp where he was imprisoned for secretly teaching Hebrew. After being sent to a gulag near the Mongolian border, he was released nearly two years later after an international campaign by Jewish activists and human rights groups.
  • "I would never spend one day of my life in occupied territories," he said, but argues that the West Bank - which he refers to by the biblical Jewish name Judea and Samaria - is not occupied territory because the land did not belong to a sovereign state before it was captured by Israel in 1967. "It's a disputed territory. We didn't take it from any other country. They claim it's theirs, we claim it's ours," he said.
  • When British or European officials urge Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, Edelstein says he points them to Israel's 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. "All the Gaza settlements have been evacuated. There is not a single Jew or Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip and what do we have? A million plus Israelis sitting in bomb shelters because of rockets, Hamas in power, and Palestinians suffering."
  • Edelstein's request to his parliamentary counterparts in Britain is not to change their minds about the conflict, but to give up on the idea that they "know how to make peace in five minutes" in one of the world's most complicated regions.
  • "Those who say to us: as long as there are settlements there can never be peace, I say thank you very much, you hate us and Arabs the same way because you're actually saying you guys are cats and dogs who can never live together," he said. "The solution will come from this area because we are the ones who live side-by-side with the Palestinians."

        See also Palestinians to UN: Ban Settlers from Your Countries - Tovah Lazaroff
    Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday that the international community should not allow Israeli settlers to enter their countries. Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, slammed Maliki's call as "pure anti-Semitism," comparing it to the "labeling of Jews during the darkest periods in the history of humanity."  (Jerusalem Post)

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