Middle East News and Opinions from Israel
Hamas Sets Up Rocket Production Line in Sinai - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas has established forward bases and rocket production facilities in the Sinai Peninsula in an effort to protect them from Israeli air strikes, the Jerusalem Post has learned.
The Egyptian military has held back from dismantling the Hamas infrastructure in Sinai.
See also Palestinians Fire 17 Rockets at Israel from Gaza; Air Force Retaliates (Ynet News)
Israeli Air Force jets struck a weapons factory in northern Gaza Sunday in retaliation for 17 rockets fired at I srael over the weekend.
Iran's Captured Stealth Drone: How Bad Is the Damage? - Dave Majumdar (Defense News)
After Iran claimed it captured a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel UAV last week, U.S. Air Force Chief Gen. Norton Schwartz raised the specter of a foreign power copying the stealth jet's top-secret technology. "There is the potential for reverse engineering, clearly," he said.
The captured aircraft will help adversaries copy U.S. stealth design techniques, coating materials, engine technology, and UAV command-and-control systems, said Dan Goure, an analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. It will also help them develop countermeasures against stealthy U.S. aircraft.
Moreover, "Everybody now will get an understanding of our state-of-the-art intelligence collection capa bilities."
Islamic Jihad Rise in Gaza Challenges Hamas Rule - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Until about a year ago, Islamic Jihad was considered one of Hamas' proxies. In recent months though, Islamic Jihad has made an impressive leap in its capabilities and military infrastructure.
This is a direct result of Iran's decision to divert funds traditionally allocated to Hamas to Islamic Jihad instead. The Iranian objective is to establish a force on Israel's southern border that will have capabilities and quantities like those of Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Mughrabi Bridge to Temple Mount in Jerusalem Closed Due to Safety Concerns - Melanie Lidman (Jerusalem Post)
Officials closed the Mughrabi Bridge leading from the Western Wall plaza to the Temple Mount on Sunday after the Jerusalem city engineer, Shlomo Eshkol, warned that the temporary bridge is unsafe.
Repair work on the bridge in 2007 touched off widespread Muslim rioting in Jordan and Jerusalem and calls for a third intifada.
Most people agree that the bridge is indeed dangerous to use, and that closing it is not a political move.
See also The Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: The Urgent Need for a Permanent Access Bridge - Nadav Shragai (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
- Syrian Troops Battle Army Defectors
Syrian troops battled army defectors Sunday in clashes around the nation. In one clash in the northwestern town of Kfar Takharim, two of the military's armored vehicles were set ablaze. Three other vehicles were burned near the southern village of Busra al-Harir. Similar battles took place in several other parts of the south, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (AP-Washington Post)
See also Free Syrian Army: Defections from Syrian Army on the Rise - Yousef Diab
Defections from the Syrian army and other security forces is on the rise, leading to an incr ease in the frequency of armed clashes between Syrian security forces and defectors in a number of Syrian provinces, particularly the Idlib Governorate, which borders Turkey. Observers have been surprised by the recent defection of a large number of elements from the Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate, previously considered one of the units most loyal to the Syrian regime.
A Free Syrian Army source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Syrian army soldiers are now aware that the al-Assad regime's claims that they are fighting "terrorists" or "foreign elements" are completely untrue. He also claimed that more than 1,100 Syrian army officers have been imprisoned by the regime, and some have been executed. The source said that Syrian security elements and the Shabiha [militia] have begun to refuse to patrol the country in ordinary cars for fear of their lives, and they have been provided with armored vehicles. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
- Israel Calls for "Paralyzing" Sanctions on Iran - Fredrik Dahl and Michael Shields
Iran's ruling clerics could use nuclear weapons to strengthen their grip on power and the world must urgently impose crippling sanctions to prevent them from building such arms, Israel's defense minister said on Sunday. Ehud Barak also predicted that Syria's ruling Assad family could fall within weeks and that this would be a "blessing" for the Middle East.
Barak said he still believed that it was "time for urgent, coherent, paralyzing" punitive steps targeting Iranian oil trade and its central bank. "Nothing short of this kind of sanctions will work," he said.
"This regime in Iran, the ayatollahs, they will be not be there I believe in 10 or 15 years. It is against the na ture of the Iranian people and what happens all around the world. But if they turn nuclear they might assure another layer of immunity, political immunity for the regime in the same way that Kim Jong-il assured his," Barak said, referring to the North Korean leader and that country's development of nuclear weapons. He suggested that the Libyan conflict could have taken a different course if Muammar Gaddafi had declared at the outset that "he has three or four nuclear devices." (Reuters)
- Rocket Fired at Israel Injures Lebanese Woman
A Lebanese woman was injured after a Katyusha rocket fired from southern Lebanon's Bent Jbail valley landed in the village of Hula near the border with Israel, a senior Lebanese security official said. Two weeks ago a series of rockets were fired from southern Lebanon that landed inside Israel. An al-Qaeda-linked group calling itself the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam claimed responsibility for the latest attack, as it did for the previous ones. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Israeli Call to Resume Direct Talks Rebuffed by PA - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
Israel proposed, and the Palestinians rejected, a call to resume direct negotiations when Quartet representatives come to Jerusalem Wednesday, Israeli officials said Sunday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, said, "We are disappointed and frustrated by the Palestinian leadership's repeated refusal to engage directly with Israel....They say they believe in peace, but it is very difficult to square this rejectionist position - a position that boycotts sitting at the table with Israel - with their stated aim of supporting peace and reconciliation." (Jerusalem Post)
- Muslim Brotherhood: Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty Needs to Be Reviewed
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said that the country's peace treaty with Israel needs re-evaluation by the country's new parliament, Mahmoud Hussein, the group's secretary-general, said Friday. He denied a report saying that the Muslim Brotherhood had reached an understanding with the U.S. and Israel on "the importance of safeguarding the peace treaty with Israel." (DPA-Ha'aretz)
See also U.S. Senator Kerry Meets with Egypt's Brotherhood
U.S. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on Saturday. (AP)
- Netanyahu to Visit Africa in Bid to Stem Illegal Migration to Israel - Moti Bassok and Barak Ravid
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday that he plans to travel to Africa to examine the possibility of returning illegal labor migrants to their home countries. He said the phenomenon of infiltrators entering Israel via Egyptian Sinai is a "blow to [Israel's] economy, society, infrastructure, welfare and internal security."
Netanyahu emphasized that the Africans infiltrating into Israel are labor migrants, not refugees. "We will continue to care for refugees, but they make up a minimal part of the human wave flooding. Entire populations are starting to move and, if we don't act to stop this, we will be flooded." There are cur rently 52,487 illegal labor migrants in Israel. A plan approved on Sunday includes completion of a new border fence with Egypt within the coming year and an increase in fines on employers who hire illegal migrants. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- The Iranian Nuclear Threat Is Not about Israel - Dore Gold
According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's former national security advisor, a poll by the Saban Center in Washington showed that in order to get Iran to give up its nuclear weapons, a majority of Israelis would favor Israel giving up its reported nuclear capabilities. The actual question asked was: "Given a choice of two options, one where both Israel and Iran have nuclear weapons and one where neither has them, 65% of Israeli Jews support the latter while only 19% support the former."
Notably, the poll did not offer the Israeli public a third option: namely that Iran be denied nuclear weapons and Israel be left alone. It also did not ask Israelis if Iran could be trusted to live up to a commitment to halt its nuclear progra m.
In addition, why would anyone want to create a link between the Iranian nuclear program and Israel? The intellectual flaw in the Israel-Iran question is the idea that Iran's quest for nuclear weapons is connected primarily to Israel and to what Israel does, rather than the fact that Iran seeks nuclear capability to dominate the Middle East. (Israel Hayom)
- In Egypt, a Conservative Appeal Transcends Religion - David D. Kirkpatrick
In the first round of parliamentary elections in Egypt, the Al Nour party of the Salafis outpaced the liberals to emerge as the principal rival - or potential partner - of the Muslim Brotherhood, the mainstream Islamist group whose party won 40% of the vote and is positioned to lead Parliament. A closer examination of the Salafi campaigns suggests their appeal may have as much to do with anger at the Egyptian elite as with a specific religious agenda. The Salafis are a loose coalition of sheiks, not an organized party with a coherent platform, and Salafi candidates all campaign to apply Islamic law as the Prophet Muhammad did, but they also differ considerably over what that means.
The Salafis have thrived off the gap between most Egyptians and the elite - including the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood - both in lifestyle and outlook, said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. Until the uprising against Mubarak, the Salafis shunned politics, so the Mubarak government allowed them broad latitude to operate out of mosques as an alternative to the more political Brotherhood, which it banned. But the Salafis' appeal, centered in the poor communities, is also strikingly different from that of the Brotherhood, which is dominated by middle-class professionals and can sound condescending. (New York Times)
See also The Rise of Politic al Islam (Economist-UK)
How Israel's Defense Industry Can Help Save America - Arthur Herman (Commentary)
- Kibbutz Sasa is the home of Plasan, which makes body armor for the Israel Defense Forces and for IDF vehicles. Today 90% of the company's orders come from Europe and the U.S. Plasan specializes in a very dense plastic composite product that affords ballistic protection without significantly adding to the weight of the vehicle.
- Plasan-armored mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) have been serving in Afghanistan since August 2009, and contractor Oshkosh Company has another 8,800 on order. In 2009 Plasan opened a factory in Bennington, Vt., that employs 350 American workers.
- An Israeli company called Camero came up with a way to use ultra-wideband wireless transmissions to see through walls - literally - and detect armed men and explosives on the other side. In December 2010, one of Camero's top clients became the U.S. Department of Defense.
- Ten years ago Israel ranked 15th in foreign defense industry sales. In 2007 it surpassed the UK to rank fourth, behind the U.S., Russia, and France. The day when it takes France's place is not far off. This is a remarkable achievement for a country of some six million people.
- At the Plasan plant in Kibbutz Sasa, the hallways are covered with poster-size copies of thank-you notes from American GIs. One of them is signed by Brian, an Army sergeant serving in Afghanistan who wrote that the Plasan armor saved him from a bullet that would have blown off his head if it had gone through the door.
The writer is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.