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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
April 13, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Thousands Gather at Western Wall in Jerusalem for Priestly Blessing (Jewish News-UK)
    Thousands of Jewish pilgrims attended the annual priestly blessing ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Thursday morning.
    In the ceremony - a traditional Passover event known as Birkat Kohanim - Jews who are descended from the tribe of priests - the Cohanim - cover their heads with a talit (prayer shawl) as they give the blessing.

Trump Told Chinese President about Syria Airstrikes over Dessert - Rebecca Savransky (The Hill)
    President Trump said he told visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping about the U.S. missile strike on Syria while the two were eating dessert.
    In an interview on Fox Business, Trump said, "I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you. This is during dessert. We've just fired 59 missiles...heading toward Syria, and I want you to know that."
    "He said to me, 'Anybody that...was so brutal and uses gases to do that to young children and babies, it's OK.'...He was OK with it."

Sweden Warming Up to Israeli Methods Against Terrorism (Sputnik-Russia)
    "Many Western countries, including Sweden, often criticize Israel openly, while they at the same time are secretly eager to learn how the country has fought Islamic terrorism and other security threats," Anders Persson, a political scientist at Lund University, wrote in the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.
    Most of the terror tactics employed today, such as suicide bombings and car bombs, were pioneered in strikes against Israel.
    "It would be a nightmare scenario for Sweden if angry and alienated young men (and to some extent even women) would choose to channel their frustration through 'popular terrorism,' which Israel has witnessed in the past 18 months," Persson wrote.

Photos: Passover During the Years of the Holocaust (Yad Vashem)
    In "And You Shall Tell Your Children," through photos, artifacts and personal testimonies, we explore the ways Passover was observed throughout Europe prior to and during the Holocaust, and in the displaced persons camps and children's homes following the war.

Israeli Arabs Develop a Liking for Matzo (Economist-UK)
    Hours before the start of the Passover holiday this week, a housewife hurried out of a supermarket with a carton of matzo, the unleavened bread eaten to recall the Biblical exodus from Egypt.
    Except that this woman was wearing a hijab and the market was in Umm al-Fahm, an Arab city where the Jewish population is roughly zero.
    "My children can't get enough of it," she says. "I'll probably come back for more later this week."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Intelligence Intercepted Communications between Syrian Military and Chemical Experts - Barbara Starr
    The U.S. military and intelligence community intercepted communications featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in Idlib last week, a senior U.S. official said. The intercepts were part of an immediate review of all intelligence in the hours after the attack to confirm responsibility for the use of chemical weapons.
        The U.S. did not know prior to the attack it was going to happen. The U.S. scoops up such a large volume of communications intercepts, the material often is not processed unless there is a particular event that requires analysis. (CNN)
  • Russia Vetoes UN Condemnation of Syria Attack - Michelle Nichols
    Russia blocked a Western-led effort at the UN Security Council on Wednesday to condemn last week's deadly gas attack in Syria as Moscow used its veto power for the eighth time to shield Assad's government. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called on Moscow to stop protecting Assad and said the U.S. wants to work with Russia toward a political solution for Syria.
        China abstained in the vote, along with Ethiopia and Kazakhstan. Ten countries voted in favor, while Bolivia joined Russia in voting no. (Reuters)
  • EU Extends Sanctions on Iran over Human Rights Violations
    The EU has extended by another year a travel ban and asset freeze against 82 Iranians and also a ban on EU exports that might help in the repression of internal dissent, due to Iran's serious human rights violations. In 2011, the EU imposed the restrictions over the repression of peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and human rights defenders. The sanctions also target those involved in torture, inhumane treatment and stonings or hangings. (AP-New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • French Presidential Candidate Macron Says Recognizing Palestinian State Would "Create Instability" - Roni Bar
    A leading French presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, broke with government policy and told France's Radio J that unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state "would not serve anyone" and would "create instability."  (Ha'aretz)
        Asked about the campaign to boycott Israel, Macron said, "There are several laws against boycotting. There is no question of changing that law and no question of acting indulgently on this. For me, these are anti-Zionist moves, thus profoundly anti-Semitic."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Rising Tensions in Gaza after PA Cuts Salaries - Pinhas Inbari
    In Gaza there are on-going protest demonstrations by PA employees whose salaries have been reduced by 30% after a decision by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's government in Ramallah. These are the employees that served the Palestinian Authority before Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, who were ordered to stay home by the PA in order not to recognize the Hamas regime as legal. So, they were getting salaries while staying home.
        According to Fatah sources in Ramallah, when President Abbas decided to take this step, he had in mind to stir the emotions of Gazans against Hamas and in a way revive the recent electricity-shortage protests that were directed against Hamas. Senior Fatah officials in Ramallah of Gaza origin warned Abbas against taking this line but were ignored.
        And indeed, when the PA employees in Gaza gathered for the angry protest, they did not direct their blame at Hamas but at Rami Hamdallah, the PA prime minister, calling for him to "go" in slogans copied from Egypt's Tahrir Square demonstrations against Egyptian President Mubarak. At this stage, they did not formally direct blame at Abbas because they did not want to risk the rest of their salaries The writer, a veteran Arab affairs correspondent for Israel Radio, is an analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Re-establishing the Power of Deterrence - Clifford D. May
    If you're still unsure about whether President Trump did the right thing when he launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria's Shayrat air base last week, consider the alternative. He knew that Assad had again used chemical weapons to murder Syrian civilians. He knew that Iran and Russia had enabled this atrocity, as they have many others.
        He knew he had two choices. He could shrug and instruct his UN ambassador to deliver a tearful speech calling on the "international community" to do something. Or he could demonstrate that the U.S. still has the power and the grit to stand up to tyrants and terrorists - thereby beginning to re-establish America's deterrent capability.
        In the last century, most Americans recognized, in some cases with enormous reluctance, that there was no good alternative to doing whatever was necessary to rout the Nazis and Communists, whose goal was to kill off the democratic experiment.
        In this century, jihadists and Islamists harbor the same ambition. We can attempt to appease them. We can try to make ourselves inoffensive to them. We can keep our hand extended, hoping that in time they will unclench their fists. Or we can decide instead to plan for a long war that will end with the defeat of these latest enemies of America and the rest of the civilized world. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)
  • The U.S. Strike in Syria: Global Message - Amos Yadlin and Assaf Orion
    Syria basically enabled Trump to send a message to the more problematic countries that are preoccupying the U.S. government. The denouncements from Iran show that Tehran got the message. Above all, the U.S. attack constitutes a challenge to Russia, the power that is the Assad regime's protector and, to date, has expanded its influence in Syria and in the Middle East, largely due to the U.S.' lack of interest.
        This single U.S. attack does not yet symbolize a change in policy. Trump and administration officials emphasized that at issue is a single strike whose purpose was to deter the Assad regime from launching any further chemical weapons attacks.
        Israel is very much interested in Syria's chemical weapons disarmament, when it is clear now that this has not yet been completed; in maintenance and enforcement of the ban on the use of chemical weapons; and in the repercussions of these events as a precedent to Iran's compliance with the restrictions prescribed in the nuclear agreement, and the costs that Iran will pay when it violates the agreement.
        It is important to reexamine the de facto acceptance of Assad's remaining in power in the longer term, as it facilitates the strengthening of Hizbullah and Iran in Syria, and their entrenchment constitutes a very grave threat that is too close to Israel.
        Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, heads Tel Aviv University's INSS. Brig.-Gen. Assaf Orion served as head of Strategic Planning in the Planning Directorate in the IDF General Staff (2010-2015). (Institute for National Security Studies)
  • The World's Watchdog Is Back in Town - Ron Ben-Yishai
    In its strike in Syria on Thursday, the U.S. conveyed a message: We have red lines, and anyone who crosses them will experience the military force of the strongest power in the world. Another message is: You can't do as you please in the Middle East. Assad suffered considerable damage, as this is the base which is used for attacks against Islamic State targets in eastern Syria.
        The operation is good news for Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey because the U.S. has made it clear that it views the use of non-conventional weapons as a red line, and that if such weapons are used, it will act as if the U.S. itself has been attacked. The U.S. is also warning the Iranians. If they thought they would be able to violate the nuclear agreement and get away with it like Assad, they will now think twice. (Ynet News)

Syria Teaches a Lesson about Cheating on Arms Control - Editorial (Washington Post)

  • Bashar al-Assad's regime relinquished a large stockpile of chemical weapons under pressure but concealed some, or made new stocks, to eventually kill again, possibly with the connivance of Russia and Iran.
  • The arms-control agreement Damascus signed did not protect the civilians who were murdered. Ever since the removal operation, suspicions had been growing that Assad possessed an undeclared cache of chemical weapons.
  • In recent years, there has been far too much complacency about the dangers of non-nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Chemical and biological substances that cause great harm can be easily concealed.
  • Arms-control agreements work when they are verifiable, with intrusive inspections. But they can be subverted.

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