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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
April 13, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Readies "Plan B" to Arm Syria Rebels - Adam Entous (Wall Street Journal)
    The CIA and its regional partners have drawn up plans to supply more-powerful weapons to moderate rebels in Syria in the event the country's six-week-old truce collapses, according to U.S. and other officials.
    The so-called Plan B centers on providing vetted rebel units with weapons to help them in attacks against Syrian regime aircraft and artillery positions.

Abbas' Brother Hospitalized in Israel - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' younger brother, Abu Louai, 76, who lives in Qatar, is currently hospitalized in severe condition with cancer at an Israeli hospital in Tel Aviv.

Palestinian Faction in Gaza Burns Pictures of Abbas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Gaza on Tuesday burned photos of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and called for his resignation, protesting his decision to suspend PLO funding for their group.
    The PFLP is the second largest group in the PLO after Abbas' Fatah faction.

Palestinians to Build West Bank Power Plant - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    Israel has approved in principle the construction of a Palestinian power station in the Jenin Industrial Zone in the West Bank.
    The 450-megawatt power station, which will take four years to build, will be fueled by Israeli gas from the Leviathan field in the Mediterranean.
    The Israel Electric Corporation currently provides the PA with up to 1,000 megawatts a day.
    See also Gaza's Sole Power Plant Shuts Down over Fuel Shortage (AFP-Times of Israel)
    The only power plant in Hamas-run Gaza has been closed since Saturday due to a shortage of fuel caused by a dispute over taxes between Hamas and the PA, officials said.
    The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has gradually removed a tax exemption on fuel, demanding that Hamas pay taxes on imports to Gaza.

Britain's Muslim Problem - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
    A new survey of 1,081 adult British Muslims found that 31% believe a British Muslim man should be permitted to marry more than one woman, 52% believe homosexuality should be illegal, and 23% support replacing British law in some areas of Britain with Shariah (Muslim) law.
    More than a third of Muslims think Jews have too much power in Britain, compared with 9% of the general population.

Jerusalem's First Female Bomb Disposal Expert - Roi Yanovsky (Ynet News)
    Master Sergeant Alex Pekerman, 27, is the first female bomb disposal specialist in the Jerusalem Police.
    "My father is an explosive disposal officer," she said. "I saw him doing the job, I knew the people, and somehow it always attracted me."
    "There is a sense of purpose, I feel that I can do this and if I can, then I should do this."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Military Campaign Takes Toll on Islamic State - Matthew Rosenberg
    American airstrikes have killed 25,000 Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria and incinerated millions of dollars plundered by the militants, according to Pentagon officials. Iraqi and Kurdish forces have taken back 40% of the militant group's land in Iraq, the officials say. Yet the fight against ISIS is likely to go on for years. While ISIS fighters in the Middle East have proved susceptible to American airpower, the U.S. and its European allies must now also engage in a far more complex struggle against homegrown militants who need relatively few resources to sow bloodshed in the West.
        "You can defeat ISIS in ISIS-controlled territories, but you're not going to defeat ISIS itself. The ideology of jihadism continues to evolve and continues to exist," said Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the Treasury Department who is now with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. (New York Times)
  • U.S. May Replace Some Sinai Peacekeeping Troops with Sensors - Phil Stewart
    The U.S. said Tuesday it has formally notified Egypt and Israel that it is reviewing whether to automate aspects of multinational peacekeeping operations in the insurgency-wracked Sinai, potentially allowing a reduction in American troop deployments. U.S. officials said using remote surveillance technology could allow the withdrawal of hundreds of its 700 peacekeeping troops. Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the military would "look at the number of people we have there and see if there are functions that can be automated or done through remote monitoring."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: With Red Sea Islands Deal, Saudi Arabia Gave Written Assurances over Freedom of Passage in Tiran Straits - Gili Cohen
    Israel's freedom of passage in the Straits of Tiran following the transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir from Egypt to Saudi Arabia was guaranteed in the deal, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday. A document handed to Israel ensures the commitment of Saudi Arabia, which doesn't have formal agreements with Israel, to carry on with the principles reached by Israel and Egypt in their 1979 peace agreement. According to the accord, the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba are international waterways open to free sailing and flying. The two islands control entry to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Israeli port of Eilat.
        "We reached an agreement between the four parties - the Saudis, the Egyptians, Israel and the United States - to transfer the responsibility for the islands, on condition that the Saudis step into the Egyptians' shoes regarding the military appendix of the peace agreement," Ya'alon said. He added that Israel does not object to the construction of an overland bridge at the site, and that the move was carried out with Israel's consent. (Ha'aretz)
  • Back to the Straits of Tiran - Eyal Zisser
    The Six-Day War broke out in 1967 because of the Straits of Tiran. In May 1967, Egyptian President Nasser closed the straits to Israeli shipping. He hoped this would economically suffocate the Israeli city of Eilat just as it was becoming Israel's gateway to Africa and the Far East. Egypt said it had the right to deny Israeli passage because it had sovereignty over the islands of Sanafir and Tiran. The two islands fell under Israeli control during the Six-Day War and were returned after the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
        Renewed Egyptian-Saudi cooperation is very much in line with Israel's vested interests. The new partnership is necessary if there is to be a moderate axis of Sunni-Arab states to counter the radicalized forces in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This cooperation is also an important counterweight to Iran, which Saudi Arabia considers a major threat.
        Saudi Arabia essentially vowed to comply with the terms of the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel. That treaty mandates that these two islands remain demilitarized. The treaty also led to the creation of an international peacekeeping force to ensure free passage through the straits. The writer, Vice Rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel's Nuclear Research Center Cooperates with U.S., European and International Bodies - Chaim Levinson
    Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona is involved in 65 joint research projects with agencies abroad, including the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EU, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr. Ehud Netzer, director of the Nuclear Research Center-Negev, said Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Boycott Israel Campaign Is Wrong - David Adelman
    Before his trip to Israel, Tshediso Mangope, a South African human rights activist, had been a dedicated advocate of a boycott of Israel. But seeing the complexity of the situation firsthand, and meeting the "many peace-loving Arab and Jewish people engaged in a process of finding peaceful ways of resolving the conflict," changed his mind.
        The boycott movement - widely known by the initials "BDS" - is a hate campaign. Its proponents don't believe that Israel has the right to exist in the first place. Out of nearly 200 states in the world, they select Israel as the only candidate for elimination. The boycotters say very clearly that the "occupation" began in 1948, when Israel was created. Israel could withdraw from the entire West Bank tomorrow and the boycotters would still find a reason to continue their malicious campaign. The writer is president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines. (Des Moines Register)
        See also Israel-Palestine: It's Not as Simple as You Think - Tshediso Mangope
    I visited the Israeli and Palestinian people and was shocked by the amount of falsehoods upon which my views on Israel were edificed. Regrettably, there has been a sustained campaign to demonize the State of Israel without adequately understanding the real issues. This is what continues to undermine the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
        Inside territories like Ramallah, there are extremists who savagely kill innocent Israeli women and children, and in turn they are celebrated as martyrs should they be killed in the line of fire with the Israeli army. Celebrating these extremists as martyrs undermines efforts to resolve the conflict. There must be an appreciation that Jewish people too deserve protection. Boycotting one side and completely exonerating the other can only perpetuate the conflict, not resolve it. The writer is a South African human rights activist. (Politicsweb-South Africa)
  • Whitewashing Palestine to Eliminate Israel: The Case of the One-State Advocates - Joseph S. Spoerl
    An increasingly fashionable position is to advocate the "one-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, envisioning a single "secular, liberal, democratic state" encompassing the entire former Mandate of Palestine, with a "right of return" for millions of Palestinian "refugees." There is, however, a serious blind-spot in the argument.
        The one-state proponents systematically whitewash Palestinian political culture by denying, ignoring, or obscuring its Islamic, Islamist, and anti-Semitic aspects to distract their readers from the illiberal, undemocratic aspects of Palestinian society. They blind well-meaning but uninformed readers to the very real risks that Jews would face as a minority living under an Arab and Muslim majority in a re-unified Palestine. The writer is Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. (Jewish Political Studies Review)

Israel Is Here to Stay - Aaron David Miller (RealClearWorld)

  • Having worked the Israel issue for half a dozen secretaries of state, I'm more convinced than ever that Israel is here to stay.
  • The region in which Israel lives is melting down at a rate no one would have anticipated. Yet if any states disappear, these may be on the Arab side. A good part of the Arab world, including many of Israel's traditional adversaries, have gone offline.
  • The region's three non-Arab states - Israel, Turkey, and Iran - are probably the most highly functioning polities in the region. All are domestically stable, have tremendous economic power, and are capable of projecting their power in the region. Of the three, Israel by far has the best balance of military, economic, and technological prowess and brain power. By any significant standard - GDP per capita; educational assets; share of Nobel prizes; even the global happiness index - Israel leads the region, and much of the rest of the world, by wide margins.
  • Compare the situation Israel faces in 2016 with any other period since the founding of the state 68 years ago, and there is little doubt the country is stronger, more secure, and holds a more pronounced qualitative military edge than it ever has. Furthermore, with the exception of Iran, its traditional adversaries are weaker and are falling further behind.
  • The situation, of course, is far from perfect. Israelis face a rash of attacks by Palestinians, as well as more substantial threats from Hizbullah, Hamas, and ISIS wannabes in Sinai. But these aren't existential security threats to the state, and Iran's putative quest for a nuclear weapon has been constrained for now.
  • Functional cooperation with Jordan, improving ties with Turkey, close relations with Egypt, and an emerging alignment of interests with Saudi Arabia against Iran, all suggest a certain lessening of the Arab state allergy to Israel.
  • In a region with not a single Arab democracy, a rising Iran, and threats from transnational jihadists, Washington will almost certainly continue to look to Israel as an ally in the region. Indeed, the threat of significant terror attacks on domestic soil from a Middle East in meltdown will provide the best set of talking points for the continuation of the U.S.-Israel special relationship.
  • Israel is a highly functional state that has powerful agency, extraordinary human resources, a demonstrated capacity to deal with its security challenges, and neighbors who seem to be growing weaker, not stronger.

    The writer, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center, served as a Middle East negotiator, analyst and adviser in Republican and Democratic administrations.

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