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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
May 17, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Middle East Peace Conference in Paris Delayed (AP-ABC News)
    France's president Francois Hollande said Tuesday that an international conference in Paris aimed at reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process scheduled for May 30 will be delayed to allow U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to attend.

Report: Mustafa Mughniyeh Is Hizbullah's New Military Chief (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Hizbullah has appointed Mustafa Mughniyeh, the son of former military chief Imad Mughniyeh (who died in a 2008 car bombing in Damascus), as military commander following the death last week of his uncle Mustafa Badreddine.
    Mustafa Mughniyeh's brother Jihad was killed in an Israeli raid in the Syrian region of Quneitra last year.

Israel Thanks Norway for Saying Aid Won't Go to Imprisoned Terrorists (Times of Israel)
    Israel Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold thanked Norway on Sunday for stating that it will not transfer money to the Palestinian Authority that will be used to support convicted terrorists or their families.
    Gold expressed "Israel's appreciation" to Norwegian Ambassador Jon Hanssen-Bauer and said, "It is outrageous that killing Israelis has become a source of income for many in the PA. This completely contradicts what peace is all about. These payments incentivize terrorism and must be stopped."

Reports of Continued ISIS Brutality - Yochanan Visser (Western Journalism)
    Islamic State continues to commit horrific crimes against humanity. On Thursday, ISIS released a video showing at least 16 Ethiopian Christians lying on a beach in Libya dressed in orange jumpsuits, while their masked executioners stand behind them.
    One group is shot, while the other undergoes beheadings. The video also shows images of burning churches in Nineveh (Mosul) and other places in Iraq.
    Last week ISIS buried alive 45 of its fighters after the men were caught fleeing from a battlefield during fierce fighting with the Kurdish Peshmerga militia in northern Iraq.
    In the same region, an Iraqi family of five was burned alive for trying to escape ISIS territory.

Videos: IDF Special Forces in Action - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
    Watch how 7 IDF elite commando units operate.
    Videos include Duvdevan (Israeli soldiers disguised as Arabs), Naval Commandos, Egoz (trained to fight against Hizbullah), Lotar Eilat (counter-terrorism and hostage-rescue), Maglan (urban combat), Rimon (desert warfare), and Yahalom (combat engineers, tunnels).

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Al-Qaeda to Challenge ISIS in Syria - Eric Schmitt
    Al-Qaeda's top leadership in Pakistan has secretly dispatched more than a dozen seasoned veterans to Syria, according to senior American and European intelligence and counterterrorism officials. The operatives have been told to create an alternate headquarters in Syria and lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate through al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, to compete with the Islamic State.
        A Syria-based Qaeda state would not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but would also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. (New York Times)
  • Governor Abbott: "Texas Will Maintain Its Sanctions Against Iran" - Peggy Fikac
    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday rebuffed a request from the federal government that Texas review its Iran sanctions in light of the nuclear agreement. "Because the Iran deal is fundamentally flawed and does not permanently dismantle Iran's nuclear capability, Texas will maintain its sanctions against Iran. Further...I have called on the Texas Legislature to strengthen the Iran sanctions that Texas already has in place."  (San Antonio Express-News)
  • Methodist Church Votes Down BDS Resolutions - Emily McFarlan Miller and Lauren Markoe
    The Finance Administration committee of the United Methodist Church's General Conference rejected four divestment resolutions to pressure Israel over the weekend. (Religion News Service)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Arrested Gaza Smuggler Reveals Hamas Strategies - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israeli Navy arrested a Hamas-affiliated smuggler off the coast of Gaza last month. Salim Jamal Hassan Naman, 39, from Shati admitted that he had helped bring in weaponry and "materials used in the production of rockets, like fiberglass resin."
        Naman provided his interrogators with information regarding Hamas' smuggling operations and attack strategies. He gave additional information on the group's methods of using smugglers and Gaza fishermen to bring contraband to and from Egypt. He also revealed information regarding Hamas' plans to use Gazan fishermen as "camouflage" for their military actions. (Times of Israel)
  • Video: Why Is Hamas Digging Attack Tunnels? - Hirsh Goodman
    Digging tunnels is a source of employment for thousands of young Gazans who have no other employment, which also makes them loyal to Hamas and dependant on Hamas. Psychologically, the tunnels have a heavy impact on Israel. These tunnels can allow thirty, forty trained people to enter Israel very quickly to inflict as many casualties as possible, to sow terror by suicide bombings on strategic installations. They can get to Ashdod on a motor bike and set off a mega explosion. Tunnels are the only way they can get into Israel. They don't want to conquer Tel Aviv. They want to send a message that Israelis will never live a normal life.
        There's no question that Hamas is under tremendous pressure. Their ability to go to war again for fifty days is zero. I think their military leadership was wiped out in the last campaign - the thinking people there. The writer, a former military correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, established the program on media strategy at the Institute for National Security Studies. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Borders Melt-Down: 100 Years after the Sykes-Picot Agreement - Alan Baker
    The 1916 signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement marked the division of the Middle East between Britain and France and its restructuring in its present borders. However, since then and virtually without any interval, the region has been marked by treaties and international conferences, often contradictory and rarely strictly observed and respected. Arab tribes found themselves separated and dispersed into different states. They strongly rejected the artificial divisions and centralized governmental frameworks.
        From Libya to Iraq, authority has collapsed and people are reaching for their older identities - Sunni, Shi'ite, Kurdish and even tribal. During the past six decades, 23 conflicts have been recorded, including the war between Iranian Shi'ites and Iraqi Sunnis which caused more than a million casualties. All the unrest in the Arab world is internal, social, religious and tribal - with no link to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
        Today's greatest challenge is radical Islam, which rejects the idea of nationalism in general and of local nationalism in particular. Radical Islamic movements believe in reviving the Islamic Ummah (nation) as one political entity that should be governed according to Shariah (Islamic law). All radical Islamists reject Western culture and are committed to the need to establish a caliphate over all Muslim-populated areas and later over the entire world. The writer served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry and as Israel's ambassador to Canada. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Don't Blame Sykes-Picot for the Middle East's Mess - Steven A. Cook and Amr T. Leheta
    The failure of the Sykes-Picot agreement signed 100 years ago is now part of the received wisdom about the contemporary Middle East. The borders of the countries in the region do not make sense, according to this argument, because there are people of different religions, sects, and ethnicities within them.
        For starters, Sykes and Picot never negotiated state borders, but rather zones of influence. And the framework the two diplomats hammered out never came into existence. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George's government actively began to undermine the accord as soon as Sykes signed it.
        Nor are the Middle East's modern borders completely without precedent. These boundaries were not whimsical lines drawn on a blank map. They were based, for the most part, on pre-existing political, social, and economic realities of the region, including Ottoman administrative divisions and practices. Steven A. Cook is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, where Amr T. Leheta is a research associate. (Foreign Policy)
  • No to Unilateral Measures with the Palestinians - Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror
    The prolonged stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has bred suggestions for "partial steps seeking to meet current challenges." However, the majority of these suggestions include unilateral measures which are harmful and cannot help the situation. The proponents of this approach seem willing to pay a hefty price for meager results. Moreover, terrorism will only become worse, as it has after every Israeli concession.
        In 2005, the proponents of the disengagement from Gaza explained how the unilateral move would win Israel precious points with the international community, but that did not last for more than a few months. When standing on the edge of a cliff, keeping still is better than stepping forward, and this is doubly true for the Middle East.
        Israel should focus on improving the lives of the Palestinians, as well as on how to navigate the situation the day after PA President Mahmoud Abbas' regime ends, as he has no heir apparent. The writer is a former Israeli national security advisor and former head of the IDF's Research and Assessment Division. (Israel Hayom)

The Palestinian Authority: A State Failure? - Kobi Michael and Yoel Guzansky (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies)

  • During the years of the Oslo process, extensive efforts and resources were invested in promoting the political process so as to encourage the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
  • But despite the resources the international community poured into building Palestinian institutions, civil society, democratization processes, and infrastructure, the PA did not succeed in properly instituting and securing the foundations necessary for the establishment of a viable, democratic, and functional state.
  • Even after Israel's disengagement from Gaza, the PA failed to build a functional government.
  • In many ways the level of the PA's performance is higher than that of states such as Somalia, Yemen, or Libya. Nonetheless, based on the accepted theoretical foundation and practical standards for failing states, the PA remains a failing entity.
  • The PA had the means to develop a functional state and institutional infrastructure and significantly improve its performance. Instead, the conduct of the PA and its leadership for the 22 years of its existence matches the patterns of conduct of failing states.
  • Unless real change takes place, a Palestinian state - when established - will almost certainly be a failing state.

    Dr. Kobi Michael, a senior research fellow at INSS, was deputy director general and head of the Palestinian desk at the Israel Ministry for Strategic Affairs. Yoel Guzansky, a research fellow at INSS, was formerly in charge of strategic issues at the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office.

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