Latest News from the Middle East
Syria Joins UNESCO Committee on Implementation of Human Rights - Eli Bardenstein and Amit Cohen (Maariv, 17Nov11)
A short time after UNESCO, the UN's organization for education and science, accepted the Palestinian Authority as a full member despite strong U.S. and Israeli opposition, it is now Syria's turn to receive a present from the organization.
On Wednesday, the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad was chosen to be the Arab representative on the UNESCO committee the deals with issues relating to the implementation of human rights.
UNESCO's decision comes after Assad's regime managed to kill 3,500 demonstrators and arrest tens of thousands, without any due process whatsoever.
Iran Training Palestinians to Operate Anti-Tank Missiles - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian terrorists from Gaza have undergone extensive military training recently in Iran to operate sophisticated anti-tank missiles.
The IDF believes that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have obtained several hundred advanced Russian-made anti-tank missiles - such as the Kornet and the Fagot - which have a range of more than 4 km. and are capable of penetrating armored personnel carriers and some IDF tanks.
Terrorist groups in Gaza had only a small number of these missiles at the time of Israel's offensive against Hamas in 2009. "They were not trained well then, and as a result, the missiles were not effective," a senior IDF officer explained this week.
"Since then, the groups have significantly increased the stockpile and have also sent specific terrorists to Iran for extensive training where they became anti-tank missile experts."
The level of expertise was demonstrated earlier this year when Hamas fired a Kornet anti-tank missile from a distance of 3 km. at a school bus near Nahal Oz, which killed 16-year-old Daniel Viflic.
"Gaza is completely different today than what it was almost three years ago," a senior defense official said. "The amounts of weaponry are significantly higher as well as the type of weaponry and its sophistication."
Anti-Israel Activists Planning New Challenges to Israel (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Anti-Israel organizations and activists intend to continue challenging Israel with "awareness-raising" events, including flotillas, convoys and fly-ins.
A "Million Man Worldwide Caravan" to be held near the Israeli-Jordanian border is planned for November 25.
Flotilla organizers plan to send vessels from various ports to exert continuous media and operative pressure.
In April 2012 pro-Palestinian activists are scheduled to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport in a protest "fly-in."
Activists plan to arrive in the Arab states bordering on Israel in convoys in March 2012 to breach the borders of Israel to reach Jerusalem.
- Iran: Missile Base Blast Not Caused by Israel or U.S. - Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Iran has insisted that an explosion that killed the architect of its missile program was not carried out by Israel or the U.S. Iran's armed forces joint chief of staff, Maj.-Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, said: "The recent incident and blast is not related to Israel or America." He added that the explosion has disrupted the production of "a very important product." It is believed that the Alghadir base is a depot for Iran's Shahab-3 missiles, which have a range of 1,200 miles, making them capable of reaching Israel. (Guardian-UK)
See also Speaking of Blast, Iranian Describes Work on Weapons - Rick Gladstone
The explosion occurred while researchers were working on weapons capable of delivering Israel a "strong punch in the mouth" and disrupted their project by a few days, the Iranian military chief of staff said Wednesday. (New York Times)
- Egypt Islamists to Rally Against Planned Army Role - Marwa Awad
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood will protest with other political groups Friday against a constitutional proposal to shield the army from parliamentary oversight. The group said Wednesday that the mass rally would be the first in a series of protests aimed at pressuring the cabinet to withdraw draft plans it said could allow the army to defy the elected civilian government. The proposal "has ignited a dangerous crisis in Egyptian political society for containing articles that rob the people's sovereignty...representing a coup against the principles and aims of the January 25 revolution," the Brotherhood said. (Reuters)
See also U.S. Hones Warnings to Egypt as Military Stalls Transition - David D. Kirkpatrick and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times)
See also Egypt's Constitutional Crisis: The Military versus the Islamists - Hillel Frisch (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- Israel Allows Construction Materials into Gaza to Rebuild Ten Factories
Israel allowed truckloads of construction materials into Gaza on Wednesday to allow the reconstruction of ten privately owned factories, the Israeli military and Palestinian officials said. In Gaza, Palestinian government coordinator Raed Fattouh said the coming weeks would also see the export of agricultural products and several shipments of Gaza-made furniture. (AP-Washington Post)
The building materials will be imported under a supervision and control mechanism designed by the international community in order to ensure that the raw materials do not fall into the hands of terrorist organizations. The initiative is part of a p ackage of gestures agreed to by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Quartet envoy Tony Blair in February 2011. (Israel Defense Forces)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Israel Decries Continued Rocket Fire from Gaza - Jordana Horn
For the fourth time in the past month, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and the UN Security Council condemning the continuing rocket fire from Gaza. Since October, more than 70 rockets and mortars have been launched at civilian targets in Israel from Gaza. "Nearly every day, we witness new scenes of destruction. Israeli men, women and children continue to be killed and injured. Shrapnel flies into homes, schools and playgrounds," Prosor wrote. "Fires rage in the streets. Yet, the Security Council still has not uttered a single syllable of condemnation against these attacks."
Calling the attacks "a flagrant violation of international law," Prosor requested that the Security Council and international community immediately condemn the rocket fire. "No people should be expected to live under such a specter of violence," he wrote. (Jerusalem Post)
- Finance Minister Calls to Build in E-1 Area Next to Jerusalem - Tovah Lazaroff
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Tuesday, "I think we have to build in E-1, and elsewhere in Ma'ale Adumim and the other settlement blocs," during a tour of the city of Ma'ale Adumim, adjacent to Jerusalem. Located 4.5 km. over the pre-1967 line, Ma'ale Adumim is home to 36,000 people. New construction there has slowed to a trickle because the only tracts of land left for new construction projects are in E-1.
For close to two decades, every prime minister has promised to authorize E-1, but the U.S. has pressured Israel not to build there. "It should be clear that Ma'ale Adumim [including E-1] will remain in Israel in any future peace agreement," Steinitz said. Even former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin belie ved this. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: The E-1 Area and the Link between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim - Nadav Shragai (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Israel Breaks Up Two West Bank Terrorist Cells - Yoav Zitun
The Israel Security Agency announced Wednesday that it had exposed two terrorist cells in the West Bank. According to the indictment filed against eight suspects, one of the cells planned a series of additional attacks, mainly in the Bethlehem area. The cell members would initiate riots and then fire at security forces dispatched to the area.
The investigation revealed "an extensive activity of a local cell, highly motivated to target Jews and the security forces, which armed itself with improvised weapons, underwent training and carried out several shooting attacks and placed explosive devices, as well as hurling Molotov cocktails in many instances," the indictment states. According to the indictment, the cell members' arrests prevented additional shooting attacks and thwarted a plan to murder a settler driving Palestinians in the Shuara area and a Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- First Real Threats to Assad Emerge - Walter Russell Mead
The list of outside powers who want Assad out is slowly growing; so too is the intensity of their desire to see him gone. The primary reason isn't the blood in the streets, although that helps. It is the alliance with Iran. The struggle of the Sunni Arab powers with Iran, and the struggle between Turkey and Iran, is growing - and Syria is the flashpoint. Tossing Iran's client out of Damascus is becoming a more important objective for everyone on earth who wants the mullahs curbed: that is a lot of people and their numbers are growing. If these outsiders start to smell blood in the water, their incentives to intervene either overtly or covertly could grow. Fast.
Signs that the unorganized, pop ular unrest is mutating from political action into sectarian violence is going to make a lot of rich and powerful Syrians extremely nervous. The Assad family is accepted because it brings stability; if it is driving the country into anarchy and meltdown, many powerful Syrian interests who have stuck with the Assads this long will begin to think about change. (American Interest)
- Israelis Mapping Vast Mount of Olives Necropolis
A Jewish group in Jerusalem is using 21st-century technology to map every tombstone in the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives, a sprawling necropolis of 150,000 graves stretching back three millennia and among the oldest cemeteries in continuous use in the world. The goal is to photograph every grave, map it digitally, record every name, and make the information available online. Around 40,000 graves have been mapped so far by the team, which began work in 2008. They expect to finish recording all of the intact gravestones - an estimated 100,000 in total - by the end of next year. (AP-Washington Post)
See also The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem - Nadav Shragai (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Palestinian Diplomacy, Lost at Sea - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)
- PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has refused to negotiate with Israel for nearly three years now. He thought he had an ace up his sleeve going to the UN instead, but that option has not panned out. American opposition and the lack of enthusiasm elsewhere (Europe, for example) doomed the effort in the Security Council.
- Initially, going to the General Assembly to raise the PLO's status to "non-member state" observer could have been claimed as a real victory, but Palestinian diplomatic mismanagement ruined that. They talked it down instead of up, devaluing the only success available to them.
- The taste of victory at UNESCO was also bitter, for the Palestinians were quickly told - by friendly countries and by the UN system as well, which wants American dollars to keep flowing - not to try that again in any other UN agency.
- Abbas is now turning to "unity" talks with Hamas, at the cost of the resignation of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. That would be another self-inflicted Palestinian wound, for the "unity" with Hamas will never last. And the loss of Fayyad will cost the PA plenty, for he is the only Palestinian official whom donors in Europe, the U.S., and the Arab oil producing countries trust.