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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
April 28, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel: IS-Affiliate's Use of Chemical Weapons a "Red Line" (Times of Israel)
    A senior Israeli official told Channel 10 on Wednesday the IDF would strike an Islamic State-affiliated group operating near its border with Syria if there were any indications the jihadist group was testing or using chemical weapons.
    Israeli defense officials are concerned the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade may have recently acquired chemical weapons which once belonged to the Assad regime.
    The report noted that the jihadist group was preoccupied with fighting other factions in the Syrian civil war and was not currently concerned with Israel.

IDF: Hizbullah "Obsessively" Gathering Intelligence on Israel (Times of Israel)
    Lt. Col. Eliav Elbaz, an IDF battalion commander stationed on Israel's border with Lebanon, told Channel 2 on Wednesday that Hizbullah was "obsessively gathering [information] about everything happening here, everything our security forces [are doing]."
    "Right now they're up to their necks in the war in Syria, but we still see them walking around" and scouting the Israeli positions.

Iowa Senate Approves Anti-BDS Legislation - William Petroski (Des Moines Register-Times of Israel)
    The Iowa Senate voted 38-9 Wednesday to approve a bill that prohibits state funds from being directly invested in companies that boycott Israel.
    The bill, which passed the Iowa House of Representatives by a vote of 70-24 in February, also prohibits a public entity from entering into a contract of $1,000 or more with a company that boycotts Israel.

UK Debuts Bunker-Buster Bombs Against Islamic State - Gareth Jennings (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly-UK)
    On April 21, UK Royal Air Force combat aircraft operating out of Cyprus dropped a pair of "bunker-buster" 2,000 lb. precision-guided munitions onto Islamic State facilities in Iraq.
    "The Tornados flew as part of a coalition airstrike on a large complex of tunnels and bunkers dug into terraced hillsides above the Euphrates in western Iraq, successfully scoring direct hits...on two entrances to the bunker network," the Ministry of Defense said.

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Gaza Kids Put on Play about Stabbing, Killing Israelis (Times of Israel)
    Palestinian children participating in a festival in Gaza this week wore military fatigues and brandished toy knives and machine guns as they performed a play simulating violence against Israelis.
    The event was broadcast on Hamas television, according to Israel Channel 2 news.
    Ofir Gendelman, the Arab media spokesperson at the Prime Minister's Office, noted, "When Palestinians send their kids to act in this school play, no wonder their kids commit attacks when they're older."

Israeli Doctors Save Gazan Child from Paralysis - Maytal Yasur Beit-Or (Israel Hayom)
    Sliman, 3, from Gaza, had developed a benign tumor which caused a malformation in his spine and posed a risk of permanent paralysis.
    After a rare procedure performed at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, the boy was released from the hospital walking on his own.

Novocure Uses Electrodes to Treat Brain Tumors - Gali Weinreb (Globes)
    Novocure, which offers a treatment for brain tumors that uses electrodes, has proven its approach better than the current method in its clinical trials.
    Two of the first ten participants in a trial conducted eight years ago are still alive: the average life expectancy for the disease was six months.
    Recently, one of the company's trials was stopped because it was too successful. The FDA determined it would be unfair to keep participants in the control group when the efficacy of the treatment was evident.
    The person behind the technology at Novocure is Prof. Yoram Palti, 78, who came up with the idea during his retirement.
    "I had a notion about how to hit some cells and not others. I started making calculations and models in my basement and saw it could work."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.-Russia Cooperation Frays as Syria Truce Falls Apart - Karen DeYoung
    Barely two months after the U.S. and Russia joined to forge a partial cease-fire in Syria, cooperation between them is rapidly eroding. Some U.S. Defense Department and intelligence officials think Russia and its Syrian government client are clearly violating the cease-fire and provoking the opposition into doing the same.
        Violence has escalated throughout April, leading the opposition last week to suspend participation in UN-run political talks in Geneva. At least 90 people, including more than two dozen women and children, have been killed over the last four days in shelling and airstrikes by the Russian-backed Syrian government on rebel-held zones in Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (Washington Post)
        See also As Syria Talks Stall, a Hunt for Alternatives - Sam Dagher
    Talks aimed at ending the five-year war in Syria ground to a halt with the government and opposition divided over fundamental issues, including whether President Bashar al-Assad's political fate even belongs on the agenda. "Geneva is a process without content," a senior Western diplomat said. The two-week session that ended Wednesday was the third round of talks since January. The Syrian regime and various opposition delegations are still not talking face-to-face, but rather using the UN as a go-between in proximity talks. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Commanders Discuss the Decline in Palestinian Terror Attacks - Yossi Yehoshua
    Six battalion commanders from the Judea and Samaria Division discussed the current wave of terror attacks and the methods employed which brought about their significant decline. Col. Roman Gofman said: "In two-and-a-half months, 12 terrorists came from the village of Sa'ir near Hebron, for example. We checked the clans that they belonged to and targeted them and them only, while we made things easier for the rest of the clans. They quickly recognized this and stopped whoever they needed to."
        Col. Roi Strait said that the village of Budrus, north of Ramallah, "with about 2,500 residents, caused a lot of problems. But the moment that we began to pave a central road for them, the mayor and the principal of a school came and stopped a demonstration that had erupted."  (Ynet News)
  • Israel's Economic Prospects - Ilan Evyatar
    Israel's economic prospects are looking a whole lot better than Europe's and that of most member countries of the OECD, says Adam Reuter, CEO of risk management firm Financial Immunities. Looking forward, Israel has an "enormous demographic advantage." The 34 OECD member states have an average median age of 42 while Israel's median age is 31. In the crucial 20-34 age group the OECD is set for a 14% drop, while Israel is headed for a 28% gain.
        Other areas where Israel has an edge include its technological advantage - Israel is among only eight countries that launch satellites into space; Israel is the world leader in R&D employees per capita and first in business expenditure on R&D, first in cyber security and second in scientific research. Then comes Israel's global edge - its export-oriented focus; generations of immigrants from around the world with their knowledge of cultures and languages and global networks of connections.
        Israel is also undergoing revolutions in three major fields: water, where Israel now has a surplus due to investment in desalinization; energy, where Israel is set to achieve independence and to become a gas exporter; and transportation, where massive investment is bringing the periphery closer to the center. Moreover, while the world is experiencing a net loss of jobs due to automation, Israel's hi-tech industry is creating new professions and new jobs. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel a Role Model for U.S. Air Force - Jonathan S. Tobin
    U.S. Air Force Gen. Peter Gersten said this week that Americans seeking to take out terrorists embedded in civilian areas were now using the "knock on the roof" technique created by the Israelis. During the fighting in Gaza, the Israelis sought to warn civilians in a building that was being used by Hamas by shooting a non-explosive device onto the roof allowing non-combatants as well as any terrorists present to escape. The tactic saved many lives, though sometimes Hamas discouraged civilians from availing themselves of the chance to get out of harm's way.
        Of course, when one is fighting terrorists who deliberately choose to place themselves in and around civilians, no technique is foolproof. As Gen. Gersten admitted, a women and child were killed when the Americans tried the "knock on the roof" tactic in Mosul because, unfortunately, they rushed back into the building when the lethal shell hit.
        The rules of engagement used by Israel are highly restrictive as are those of the U.S. armed forces. But if terrorists are in built-up areas, they must still be tracked down and killed lest they be allowed to slaughter even more innocents. The Israelis have been role models for Americans tasked with the same thankless job of hunting killers. (Commentary)
  • Misleading Claims about U.S. Barriers to Iran-Europe Financial Ties - Patrick Clawson
    Iran blames the U.S. for the various problems that continue to hinder its businesses, especially in terms of accessing the international banking system. Indeed, Washington has erected significant barriers to Western banks seeking to work with Iranian banks. Yet the reasons for this practice have nothing to do with the nuclear issue.
        The 2010 U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) places tough requirements on foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to report accounts of U.S. taxpayers. FFIs that do not report face a 30% withholding tax on certain U.S.-source payments made to them. In practice, almost every financial institution in the world insists that its correspondents be FATCA-compliant because that is the only way to avoid the heavy withholding tax.
        The barriers to Iranian banks gaining full access to the international financial system stem from the simple fact that Iranian firms are not following the same rules applied to all other foreign banks. If Iran wants to enjoy the fruits of the nuclear deal, it must join the rest of the world in implementing the tough standards adopted over the past decade regarding tax avoidance, financial reporting, money laundering, and other issues. The writer is director of research at the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Hizbullah Develops New Skills in Syria, Posing Challenges for Israel - Jamie Dettmer
    There is increasing concern among Israeli defense analysts that Hizbullah is gaining valuable battlefield experience in Syria, especially when it comes to large-scale, coordinated offensive operations, something the Shi'ite militia had little knowledge of before. Hizbullah has been in the vanguard of large assaults on Syrian rebels. "Syria is a dress rehearsal for our next war with Israel," a Hizbullah special forces commander told VOA.
        "Hizbullah has become more proficient at mass force maneuvers and of tying together different battle groups - and leveraging all of that with the lessons it learned from the war with Israel in 2006, especially when it comes to defeating armor," says Aram Nerguizian, a Mideast analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
        "Yes, it [Hizbullah] has taken greater losses in this conflict than it has in all the wars against Israel," says Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "But overall it is seeing higher recruitment levels and more people being drawn to the cause." "The Islamic State has been a saving grace for Hizbullah's recruitment efforts....Hizbullah is seen as the only one capable of defending Shi'ites from the onslaught of the radical Sunnis."  (VOA News)
  • The Limits of the Iran-Russia Alliance - Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Lidia Kelly
    The Kremlin's decision a year ago to press ahead with the stalled sale to Iran of the S-300 anti-aircraft missile system was evidence of a growing partnership between Russia and Iran that has turned the tide in Syria's civil war and is testing U.S. influence in the Middle East. But the delay in implementation of the deal also points to the limitations of the relationship, and Russia is showing signs of reluctance to let the alliance develop much more, according to diplomats, officials and analysts.
        Russia is now weighing the financial and diplomatic benefits of arms sales to Tehran against the risk of upsetting other countries including Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Israel, or seeing Iran become too powerful. "On a geopolitical level, Iran and Russia can only form a tactical short-term alliance, not a strategic one. I think the ideological differences between the two are just too deep," said Maziar Behrooz, associate professor of Mideast and Islamic history at San Francisco State University.
        Some Iranian officials are also wary of getting too close to Russia, which fought Britain for domination of 19th century Iran and occupied the country during both World Wars. (Reuters)
  • U.S. and Saudi Arabia, Trapped in a Bad Marriage - Aaron David Miller
    When President Obama visited Saudi Arabia last week to discuss the state of the region and the U.S.-Saudi relationship with King Salman, the Saudis sent a lower-level official to greet Obama and Saudi state television didn't even bother covering the President's arrival.
        Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian regime that discriminates against women, doesn't permit religious freedom, and prevents freedom of the press. It has been exporting a fundamentalist Wahhabist ideology for years that demonizes Shia, Jews, Christians and the West. Yet Saudi Arabia is not seeking to undermine the regional order or sponsor terror against the West and create a caliphate. In fact, the Saudis are themselves a victim of jihadi terror and have worked closely with the U.S. against al-Qaeda in Yemen and on counterterrorism against ISIS.
        While the Obama administration has sold almost $95 billion in arms to the Saudis, the perception that the U.S. is withdrawing from the region, the Iranian nuclear deal, and what must appear to the Saudis as U.S. acquiescence in a rising Iran have combined to create a foundation of suspicion and mistrust.
        Wahhabis or not, Washington still needs the Saudis for intelligence sharing and operations against ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and requires Riyadh's cooperation in trying to manage the Syrian problem. The writer is a vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (CNN)
        See also The Long Divorce - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Weekend Features

  • In Israel, Iraqi Jews Reflect on Baghdad Heritage - James Glanz and Irit Pazner Garshowitz
    During a Passover Seder with her extended family in Givatayim, Israel, Sabiha Ziluf, 75, paused and said she could still see the Baghdad streets of her childhood. Ziluf is one of countless Iraqi Jews in Israel taking fresh interest in their heritage. A Babylonian heritage center near Tel Aviv has drawn daily crowds of more than 1,300 people during Passover, and its number of yearly visitors has increased by more than 50 percent since 2011. As of 2014, there were 227,900 Jews of Iraqi descent living in Israel.
        An Ottoman census in 1917 counted 80,000 Jews in Baghdad out of 202,000 residents, a community described as "perhaps the wealthiest, and certainly the best educated" in that era. In the first half of the 20th century, Jews were not only major forces in Iraq's financial institutions, but also produced the nation's most renowned historian, most famous singer and most influential composers. A pogrom in June 1941, the Farhud, killed nearly 200 Jews in Baghdad. (New York Times)
  • Marking the Holocaust - in Mississippi - Diane A. McNeil
    In 2009, teachers Susan Powell and Melissa Swartz at Horn Lake Middle School in Mississippi realized that many of their students had "never heard there was a Holocaust." The teachers opted to encourage personal involvement by collecting 1.5 million pennies - one for each child who perished in the Holocaust. After three years of collecting, the pennies weighed in at more than 4 tons.
        In March, child survivor Friderica Beck Saharovici told the students at the opening of the Unknown Child Holocaust Memorial/Park in Horn Lake, "I was a first-grader when all the Jewish children were thrown out of the public schools for no other reason than being born Jewish."
        The centerpiece for the memorial park will be a life-sized sculpture by Canadian-born sculptor Rick Wienecke, now an Israeli citizen. He explained that the child in the piece is leaning against the inside of a crematorium door in a fetal position with his hand (in his mind) reaching through the door in Auschwitz and clutching a small plot of ground, the Land of Israel, the only place where he knows he will be safe.
        Mississippi native and architect Doug Thornton has designed the memorial/park, which will include towering Star of David walls holding each of the collected pennies.
        Saharovici concluded, "By preserving the memory of the Holocaust and its moral lessons, we tell the world that such atrocities should never happen again to Jews or to any other people in the world. I don't want my past to become anyone else's future." The writer is president of the Unknown Child Foundation, Inc. (Jerusalem Post)

Direct Diplomacy Is the Only Way to Peace - Danny Danon (Los Angeles Times)

  • There are increasing calls for world leaders to back a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative. Some are planning an international summit; others have proposed a UN Security Council resolution that would set parameters for a final agreement.
  • While Israel welcomes the good intentions of our friends, the modern history of Israeli-Arab peacemaking has taught us that only direct negotiations between the two sides can actually achieve results. Israel's enduring peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan were the result of representatives and leaders coming together to negotiate without preconditions.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enacted a controversial construction freeze in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and released dozens of convicted murderers, all in the hope of convincing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with him. Abbas, however, continually tosses out new preconditions to agreeing merely to talk.
  • Our peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan have proved that bitter enemies can settle their differences if they sit down to talk. Peace will come only when the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state as a legitimate partner for direct negotiations to resolve this conflict.

    The writer is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.
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