Wednesday’s “News in Review” Round-Up

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Contents:  Weekly Quotes |  Short Takes On Topic Links



Download a pdf version of today's Isranet Daily Briefing.pdf


On Topic Links


Hamas Sermon from the Gaza Strip: Our Doctrine Entails Exterminating the Jews (Video): Memri, July 28, 2014

The One Thing Everyone in Israel Seems to Agree on: John Kerry Blew it: Adam Taylor, Washington Post, July 28, 2014

Israel Says it Has Targeted and Killed High-Profile Terrorists During Gaza Fighting: Felice Friedson, National Post, July 29, 2014

Israel Must Be Permitted to Crush Hamas: Michael Oren, Washington Post, July 24, 2014



"The Security Council Presidential Statement relates to the needs of a murderous terrorist organization that is attacking Israeli civilians and does not address Israel's security needs, including the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip according to the principle laid down in the interim agreements with the Palestinians. —Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Monday. Netanyahu spoke with UN chief Ban Ki-moon to protest a statement issued by the UN Security Council that urged an immediate cease-fire in fighting in Gaza, telling him that the international body's call reflected the needs of Hamas – but not of Israel. In the statement, the Security Council called for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" in the Gaza Strip, joining a similar call by U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday. Netanyahu pointed out that “the statement does not refer to attacks on Israeli civilians, or to the fact that Hamas has turned the residents of Gaza into human shields and uses UN facilities to attack Israeli civilians. Israel accepted three UN proposals for humanitarian truces, and Hamas violated them all. Even now they are continuing to fire at Israeli civilians. Israel will continue to deal with the terrorist tunnels, and this is only the first step in the demilitarization. Instead of the funds of the international community serving the construction of terrorist tunnels for perpetrating large-scale attacks against Israeli civilians, the international community needs to act toward the demilitarization of Gaza." (Israel Diplomatic Network, July 28, 2014)


“I demand that Israel agrees to an immediate, unilateral cease-fire and halt all offensive activities, in particular airstrikes,” —U.S. President Barack Obama, reportedly during a heated phone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, according to a report aired on Israeli TV Tuesday. Obama’s demands prompted Netanyahu to ask what Israel would get in exchange. “I believe that Hamas will cease its rocket fire — silence will be met with silence,” Obama responded, according to the TV outlet. In one bitter exchange, Obama declared that Qatar and Turkey — Hamas’ biggest international supporters, along with Iran — would mediate with the terrorists on Israel’s behalf, according to the TV channel. “I trust Qatar and Turkey. Israel is not in the position that it can choose its mediators,” the president reportedly said in Sunday’s 35-minute call. Both leaders quickly denounced the purported transcript of their private discussion as fake. (New York Post, July 30, 2014)


“If Kerry did anything on Friday it was to thwart the possibility of reaching a cease-fire in Gaza. Instead of promoting a cease-fire, Kerry pushed it away. If this failed diplomatic attempt leads Israel to escalate its operation in Gaza, the American secretary of state will be one of those responsible for every additional drop of blood that is spilled,” —article by Ha’aretz columnist Barak Ravid, on Kerry's cease-fire plan, titled simply "What was he thinking?" Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at Kerry right now. The secretary of state has been lambasted by all sides for his apparent failure in attempts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. (Ha’aretz, July 27, 2014)


"Kerry’s mistake isn’t any bias against Israel, but rather a bias in favor of an executable, short-term deal," —David Ignatius, in the Washington Post. Kerry originally was pushing Egypt’s plan that Hamas agree to an immediate cease-fire. But when it became clear that Hamas would not back down and Egypt didn’t have the leverage to make it work, the secretary turned to Turkey and Qatar, which holds sway over the Islamic organization due to their financial support. "By turning to Turkey and Qatar, Kerry also enhanced their position in the regional power game," Ignatius wrote. "That’s contrary to the interests and desires of the United States’ traditional allies, such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the moderate Palestinian camp headed by Abbas." (Washington Post, July 28, 2014)


"Give us diplomatic cover in the U.N. The best thing that Kerry can do is stay out,'' —Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S. until last year. "We need time to do the job, we need to inflict a painful and unequivocal blow on Hamas. Anything less would be a Hamas victory," added Oren. Kerry ultimately left France Saturday night without a long-term cease-fire. (Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2014)


“If Secretary Kerry and President Obama want a safer future for innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike, the most useful thing they can do is let Israel finish the job,” —A New York Post editorial. (New York Post, July 25, 2014) 

“All these achievements of Hamas, if they strike a deal without achieving something for the people of Gaza, they will lose everything and will bury themselves,” —Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian political scientist at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem. “It’s a very critical moment; Hamas is to be or not to be,” he added. “If they didn’t reach what they promised to reach, it will be like a balloon, just punctured.” Despite mounting IDF casualties (53 as of Tuesday), Hamas shows little readiness to declare victory, as it did only 20 months ago, based largely on a single rocket hitting an apartment building in a Tel Aviv suburb. Analysts attributed this apparent intransigence to a fractured leadership, redrawn regional alliances, the sharp downturn in Gaza’s condition and a sense within Hamas that this time the fight is for its very existence. (New York Times, July 27, 2014)


“The way to understand the Hamas decision-making calculus is not by Western perspective but by their own perspective,” —Alex Mintz, dean of the school of government at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. “Hamas, the leadership does not care so much about the civilian casualties; what he looks at is the military balance. They think they can gain more. They do not feel pressure as much as we perceive.” (New York Times, July 27, 2014)


“We want a cease-fire, of course, but it has to be based on the demands of the resistance,” — Faraj al-Loul, a plumber shopping for vegetables on Sunday in a Gaza City market. “If they refuse to open the crossings, then we’ll all become martyrs, God willing,” he added. Many Gazans see the so-called resistance as the only possible path to pressing Israel and Egypt to open border crossings. Hamas and its backers in Qatar and Turkey have also been calling for a seaport and airport in the coastal enclave. (New York Times, July 27, 2014)


“No one in Libya can win,”—Mahmoud Okok, 33, a civil engineer who lived near the airport and the United States Embassy, and who abandoned his apartment because of the shelling. A cousin who also lived near the airport was killed when a rocket landed on his home. Now Mr. Okok was moving, with his wife and young son, overseas. “Enough is enough,” he said. “I have lost hope in Libyans.” For weeks, rival Libyan militias had been pounding one another’s positions with artillery, mortar rounds and rockets in a desperate fight to control the international airport in the capital, Tripoli. Then suddenly, early Saturday morning, the fighting just stopped. The pause came as United States military warplanes circled overhead, providing air cover for a predawn evacuation of the American Embassy’s staff. (New York Times, July 27, 2014)


“It is shocking that the Province would allow this group to hold what is ostensibly an Anti-Israel rally at Queen’s Park. The site of Ontario’s democratic legislature should not be a place where a group supporting the destruction of Israel is given permission to gather,” — Toronto City Councilor James Pasternak, in a statement issued before Al Quds Day Rally at Queen’s Park, Toronto. Councillor Pasternak was especially alarmed that the rally was being allowed after video footage from last year showed speeches encouraging the killing of Israelis.  Flags supporting Hamas were also seen at the rally. “I do not understand how after the numerous disturbing incidents at this rally in previous years it is being allowed to continue at Queen’s Park. We cannot allow our public spaces to be used to incite violence and anti-Semitism. This is an affront to the efforts of governments at all three levels in Canada to promote respect and tolerance,” said Pasternak. Despite Pasternak’s objections, “pro-Palestinian” and pro-Zionist supporters gathered in Queen’s Park Saturday afternoon, waving signs and shouting “terrorist” at one another across a metal barrier guarded by dozens of police officers. The pro-Palestinian event, known as the “International Day of Al-Quds” is held in Queen’s Park every year at the end of the month of the Muslim holiday Ramadan. (, July 25, 2014) & (Canadian Jewish News, July 27, 2014)


“If European countries fail to protect their Jews, the State of Israel will. Jewish blood is not cheap blood,” —Knesset Member, and former deputy Shin Bet chief, Israel Hasson, to a visiting group of European diplomats on Monday. Hasson added that “if you do not stand by our side, the day when Islamic terror will reach your homes, your beds and your kindergartens will come soon.” A wave of violent protests, direct attacks and ominous antisemitism in the streets, schools, and media has swept the Continent is recent weeks. (Algemeiner, July 28, 2014)


“Anti-semitism, this old European disease…[has taken] a new form. It spreads on the Internet, in our popular neighborhoods, with a youth that has lost its points of reference, has no conscience of history, and who hides itself behind a fake anti-Zionism,” —French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The occasion was the 72nd anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup—the arrest of 13,000 Jews in Paris in 1942, by the French police under German authorities during the Second World War. Valls' strong, clear words are a breakthrough that separates him from the general complacency on the subject among most European politicians—and separates France from its growing reputation as a beacon of antisemitism. (Tablet, July 23, 2014)





PALESTINIAN CASUALTIES AT GAZA HOSPITAL, CAMP FROM TERRORISTS’ ROCKETS FALLING SHORT (Gaza City) —The IDF said it was not operating in the vicinity of Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza on Monday, where an explosion reportedly killed and wounded dozens of Palestinians. “A short while ago Al-Shifa Hospital and Al-Shati Refugee Camp were struck by failed rocket attacks launched by Gaza terrorists,” the army said in a statement sent to reporters. Channel 2 The IDF has documented a significant percentage of Gaza rockets that fall short and strike within Gaza. During the three weeks of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has been caught using hospitals, mosques and schools to hide terrorists and weapons, all of which are contrary to international rules of war created to protect civilians. (Algemeiner, July 28, 2014)  


THIRD SET OF ROCKETS FOUND IN UNRWA SCHOOL (Gaza City) —The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) announced on Tuesday that another rocket stockpile has been found at one of its schools in Gaza. This marks the third time since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge that a weapons arsenal has been found at an UNRWA school in Gaza. UNRWA has yet to place blame on any individuals or organizations for placing the weapons stockpile within a children’s school. The UN body refused to do so on the past two previous occasions as well. After the first finding of rockets at an UNRWA school, it was reported that rather than destroying the rockets, UNRWA workers called Hamas to come remove them. (Arutz Sheva, July 30, 2014)


HAMAS EXECUTES ALLEGED SPIES, SHOOTS PROTESTERS IN GAZA (Gaza City) —Hamas shot some 20 Palestinians on Monday night for protesting against Hamas for the massive destruction inflicted on their neighborhood in Shejaia by the IDF in the past weeks, Channel 10 reported on Tuesday. Over the past few days, Hamas has executed more than 30 civilians from various parts of the Gaza Strip which it suspected of collaborating with Israel, unidentified Palestinian security sources told the Palestine Press News Agency. Hamas claimed it had detected alleged “spies” in the area of Shejaia and said that they were executed after an investigation into some of them. Such investigations reportedly revealed weapons and communication devices in the possession of the "spies." (Jerusalem Post, July 29, 2014)


IRAN'S AYATOLLAH KHAMENEI CALLS FOR ARMING GAZA TO FIGHT ISRAEL (Tehran) —Iran's supreme leader on Tuesday called on Muslims from around the world to help arm Gaza Palestinians in their fight against Israel. The call by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was his latest such message during the ongoing war between Gaza's Hamas rulers and Israel. Khamenei claims that while Israel and America seek to disarm Hamas, Iran says "the opposite … the Muslim World has a duty to arm the Palestinian nation by all means." Iran, a staunch Hamas ally, does not recognize Israel and supports militant anti-Israeli groups such as the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah group. Iran does not recognize Israel and has considered the Jewish state its archenemy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. (Huffington Post, July 29, 2014)


HAMAS TRYING TO CUT AN ARMS DEAL WITH NORTH KOREA (Pyongyang) —Hamas is secretly trying to cut an arms deal with North Korea so it can keep bombarding Israel with missiles fired from the Gaza Strip, according to a published report. Officials of the terror group are suspected of having already made a cash down-payment on hundreds of rockets and communications gear they hope to buy from the North Koreans. “Hamas is looking for ways to replenish its stocks of missiles because of the large numbers it has fired at Israel in recent weeks,” a Western security official told the Telegraph. “North Korea is an obvious place to seek supplies because Pyongyang already has close ties with a number of militant Islamist groups in the Middle East.” Ties between Hamas and North Korea were first exposed in 2009 when 35 tons of weapons was seized from a cargo plane that made an emergency landing in Thailand. The arms were bound for Iran, which allegedly planned to smuggle them to Hamas in Gaza and the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon. According to NK News, North Korea has denied claims that Pyongyang negotiated an arms deal with Hamas. (New York Post, July 28, 2014) & (NK News, July 28, 2014)


ERDOGAN RETURNING JEWISH AMERICAN AWARD (Ankara) —Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is returning an award given to him by a Jewish American group in 2004, after the group asked for it back because of comments ha made regarding the conflict in Gaza. Turkey's US ambassador wrote to Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, on Erdogan's behalf saying that because of Israel's actions in Gaza and "the regrettable stance" of the American Jewish Congress, Erdogan "will be glad to return the award." Last week, Rosen described Erdogan as "arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world." He said Erdogan was given the Profile of Courage award for working for a peaceful solution in the Middle East his commitment to protecting Turkey's Jewish citizens. Rosen's open letter to Erdogan had cited the Turkish leader's recent comments that Israel had "surpassed Hitler in barbarism" through its attacks on Gaza. (Ynet, July 29, 2014)


WESTERN LEADERS AGREE TO WIDER SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA OVER UKRAINE CRISIS (London) —U.S. and European leaders agreed on Monday to impose wider sanctions on Russia's financial, defense and energy sectors as Ukraine said its forces advanced towards the crash site of Malaysian flight MH17. The new sanctions, which U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of Germany, Britain, France and Italy discussed in a conference call, are aimed at increasing the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Malaysian airliner was shot down over territory held by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine. The crash earlier this month has led to calls for much tougher action against Russia from Western countries who had previously imposed sanctions but only on small numbers of individuals and firms. EU member states were expected to try to reach a final deal on Tuesday on stronger measures that would include closing the bloc's capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo on future arms sales and restrictions on energy technology and technology that could be used for defense. (Huffington Post, July 28, 2014)


OVER 50 DEAD IN TRIPOLI AIRPORT BATTLE AS FOREIGNERS LEAVE LIBYA (Tripoli) —Over 50 Libyan fighters died in exchanges over Tripoli's airport during the weekend in one of the worst outbreaks of violence since Gaddafi's ouster. With state authority on the verge of collapse, France and Britain have ordered citizens to evacuate. The Canadian Embassy in Tripoli has suspended operations, and staff members have been withdrawn from Libya, the Canadian government said Tuesday, citing the "unpredictable security environment in Tripoli.” One hundred people have died in the battle for the airport, with 400 others believed to be wounded, the country's health ministry announced. Over the past two weeks, radical Islamist militias have tried to wrest control of the airport from the Zintan militia, which made its name during battles against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi three years ago, and has controlled the country’s international gateway since. (RT, July 27, 2014) & (CBC, July 29, 2014)


CANADIAN MAN FACES TERROR-RELATED CHARGE (Vancouver) —A British Columbia man has been charged under a new anti-terrorism law for allegedly leaving Canada to join Islamist fighters in Syria. It's the first time charges have been laid under the new section of the Criminal Code that penalizes terror-related travel, said RCMP Cpl. David Falls. Hasibullah Yusufzai, 25, is accused of committing an offence for the benefit of a terrorist group or was directed by or associated with such a group. "The individual is known to have travelled to Syria to join Islamist fighters," the RCMP said in a statement. "This case underscores the reality that there are individuals in Canada who have embraced the extremist ideology and who are willing to act upon it," the RCMP statement said. “It is now considered a criminal offence ‘to leave’ or ‘attempt to leave’ the country to take part in terrorist activity, and the RCMP will pursue such criminal actions to the full extent of the law." Last month, federal intelligence officials issued a warning about an estimated 130 Canadians alleged to have joined terror groups in Syria, Yemen, Somali and North Africa. (CBC, July 23, 2014)


ISLAMIC STATE ORDERED WOMEN IN IRAQI CITY TO UNDERGO GENITAL MUTILATION (Mosul) —Islamic State ordered all girls and women to undergo genital mutilation in the Iraqi city of Mosul, the United Nations said Thursday. The demand by the Islamic State could affect 4 million females within the region, according to UN official Jacqueline Badcock. “This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” Badcock told reporters from Erbil, Iraq, via a video link. “This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists.” The “fatwa” said all women age 11 to 46 should have the non-medical ritual done, as it is believed to help prepare them for adulthood, according to the BBC. But often, the dangerous procedure leaves women susceptible to severe bleeding, infections, infertility and even death. The UN passed a resolution in December 2012 that banned the practice for all member states. (New York Post, July 24, 2014)


ISLAMIC STATE DESTROYS JONAH’S TOMB IN MOSUL (Mosul) —Islamic jihadis blew up a revered Muslim shrine in Mosul last week, traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah. The terrorists first ordered everyone out of the Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, then blew it up, residents said. Several nearby houses were also damaged by the blast. The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to 8th century BC and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale. Iraq is facing its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of US troops amid the blitz offensive launched last month by al-Qaeda breakaway Islamic State group, which captured large swaths of land in the country’s west and north, including Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. (Times of Israel, July 25, 2014)


POLL: 86.5% OF ISRAELIS OPPOSE CEASE-FIRE (Jerusalem) —Public opinion in Israel is solidly against ending Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, according to a poll released Sunday. The poll was conducted by pollster Mina Tzemach,  and was sponsored by strategist Roni Rimon, who once worked with Likud and Prime Minister Netanyahu, but who insisted he took it at his own initiative. When asking about a potential cease-fire, the poll gave two choices. The first endorsed a ceasefire because “Israel had enough achievements, soldiers have died, and it is time to stop.” The second said Israel cannot accept a cease-fire because “Hamas continues firing missiles on Israel, not all the tunnels have been found, and Hamas has not surrendered.” Only 9.7 percent chose option one, 86.5% option two, and 3.8% said they did not know. Asked how they would rate the operation if a cease-fire happened Sunday, 2.2% said a big success, 22.6% a good result, and 47.6% a so-so result. “Israelis want victory,” Rimon said. “The public has a bitter taste in its mouth from the results of the war so far.” (Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2014)




On Topic Links


Hamas Sermon from the Gaza Strip: Our Doctrine Entails Exterminating the Jews (Video): Memri, July 28, 2014

The One Thing Everyone in Israel Seems to Agree on: John Kerry Blew it: Adam Taylor, Washington Post, July 28, 2014—Anyone who has made even a passing glance at the Israeli media in the past few days will have noticed the incredible chorus of criticism being directed at John Kerry right now.

Israel Says it Has Targeted and Killed High-Profile Terrorists During Gaza Fighting: Felice Friedson, National Post, July 29, 2014—Israel’s strongest blow to Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a guerrilla-like army that participated in the previous rounds of fighting against Israel in 2009 and 2012, was the assassination of Salah Abu Hassanein, commander of its Military Media Division.

Israel Must Be Permitted to Crush Hamas: Michael Oren, Washington Post, July 24, 2014—U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of Great Britain and France all are rushing to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.


Rob Coles, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research/L'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284.






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Media-ocrity of the Week


Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens US interests.”—US Vice President Joe Biden, stating that the Taliban, an al-Qaeda-aligned terrorist group that American forces have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001, is not considered an enemy of the US by President Barack Obama. (Contentions, December 21.)

Weekly Quotes


If nothing happens by Jan. 26, we are going back to our international campaign for recognition.”—Senior Palestinian Authority official, Nabil Shaath, announcing the PA will resume its unilateral campaign for statehood recognition at the UN if the quartet is unable to make any breakthroughs in the peace process over the next month. This, despite the Quartet having last week reiterated its call for direct Israel-Palestinian negotiations “without delay or preconditions,” points of reference summarily rejected by the PA. (LA Times, December 22.)


UNESCO is shocked and dismayed by the content of the February issue, and has requested more detailed information and clarification from the editors of the magazine and the Palestinian Authority. UNESCO strongly deplores and condemns the reproduction of such inflammatory statements in a magazine associated with UNESCO’s name and mission and will not provide any further support to the publication in question.”—Excerpt of a letter written by the Office of UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova,denouncing an article in the Palestinian Authority-funded Zayzafuna magazine in which Hitler is presented as a role model for Palestinian youth. In November, UNESCO became the first UN organization to grant full membership to “Palestine.” (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 23.)


The armed option is the best defense against the Zionists.”—Ali Abufoul, a Palestinian prisoner released in the second stage of the Gilad Shalit deal, affirming that warfare against Israel is the best option for Palestinians to pursue, and calling on Hamas to take more Israeli soldiers hostage. 550 Palestinian prisoners were freed last week, completing the Shalit deal. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 25.)

The aid from Congress is the next level in the strengthening of defense ties between Israel and the US.”—Defense Minister Ehud Barak, commending the US Congress’ approval of an additional $235 million in aid to Israel’s defense establishment—funds that will be directed towards improving the capabilities of anti-missile programs including the Arrow missile and “David’s Sling” projects. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 25.)


The duties of Egypt’s Arab and Islamic nation…[is] to defend the rights of Arab and Islamic peoples, especially our brothers in Palestine.… [It] should be noted that the party stands strongly against the attempts of normalization and dialogue in all its forms and against the establishment of relations with [an] entity that wants to obliterate our identity [and has] occupied our land.…This is the position of the party which is adhered to by all its members and leadership.”—Statement issued by Egypt’s Salafist Al Nour Party, strongly denouncing recent reports claiming the Islamist group would consider normalizing relations with the Jewish state. Al Nour has received approximately 30% of the vote in the first two stages of Egypt’s ongoing Parliamentary elections. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 24.)


The Americans have pulled out without completing the job they should have finished. We have warned them that we don’t have a political process which is inclusive of all Iraqis and we don’t have a full-blown state in Iraq.”—Former Prime Minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi, attributing the intensifying political crisis as well as the resurgence of violence in Iraq to US President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw American forces from the country. (Wall Street Journal, December 23.)


“[The bill’s passage] is a clear example of how racism, discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment have reached new heights in France and in Europe. French President [Nicholas] Sarkozy’s ambition is to win an election based on promoting animosity against Turks and Muslims.”—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, condemning as “anti-Muslim” the passage by French lawmakers of a bill making it a crime to deny that the 1915-1918 mass killing of 1-1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks constituted genocide. (Washington Post, December 23.)


There have been substantial new finds of offshore natural gas, which will strengthen the fiscal position, further decrease dependence in imported fuels and improve options regarding energy security.”—Excerpt from a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), describing the prospect of Israel becoming energy-independent due to the discovery of additional natural gas reserves in its territorial waters. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, December 13.)


Short Takes


ABBAS PUTTING EXTREMIST MURDERERS ON PEDESTAL—(Jerusalem) Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is “disappointed” by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ “unfortunate decision” to meet last week with freed Palestinian terrorist Amna Muna. Abbas met with Muna along with ten other Palestinians released and exiled to Turkey as part of the Gilad Shalit deal. Muna, the so-called “Internet Murderer,” was serving a life sentence for luring 16-year-old Ofir Rahum to Ramallah where he was murdered in 2001. The PA president, according to a statement released by his office, “praised the prisoners for remaining steadfast in the face of Israeli wardens’ mastery.” Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said that “instead of promoting peace and reconciliation, the Palestinian leadership seems to be putting extremist murderers up on a pedestal.… This raises serious questions as to their commitment…to end the conflict.” (Jerusalem Post, December 21.)


ZAHHAR: HAMAS WILL SWEEP TO VICTORY IN NEXT ELECTIONS—(Cairo) Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar has predicted that the terror organization will win a “sweeping” victory in Palestinian legislative elections tentatively scheduled for May. In an interview with the London based pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Zahar affirmed that Hamas stands to improve on its 2006 election victory, when it won 74 of an available 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Zahar’s comments come as Palestinian factions are engaged in reconciliation talks in Cairo. According to reports, Fatah and Hamas leaders took a significant step towards reunification last week when Hamas allegedly agreed to join President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestine Liberation Organization. At least three senior Palestinian officials have voiced strong reservations over the decision to incorporate Hamas into the PLO, saying the move would empower Hamas to eventually replace Fatah as the dominant party in the body.In this respect, Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, recently said that the Palestinians are considering cancelling the agreements signed between the PLO and the Jewish state, including the “recognition” of Israel.(Independent Media Review and Analysis & Jerusalem Post, December 26.)


IRAN ISSUES SECOND WARNING IN 2 DAYS THAT IT COULD CLOSE STRAIT OF HORMUZ—(Tehran) For the second time in two days, Iran has warned that it will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz—the passageway through which a sixth of the world’s oil flows—if the West imposes sanctions on Iranian oil shipments. Both Vice President Mohamed Reza Rahimi and navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari threatened to close the strait, with Sayyari telling state-run Press TV that “Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces” and that “Iran has comprehensive control over the strategic waterway.” The threats belie Iranian concerns that the West is about to impose new sanctions that could target Tehran’s vital oil industry and exports. To reduce the possible ramifications of such a move, a senior Saudi oil official this week confirmed that Gulf Arab nations are prepared to increase oil output to offset any potential loss of Iranian crude in the world markets. Iran’s navy is in the midst of a 10-day drill in international waters near the strategic oil route. (Associated Press, December 28.)


IRAN OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF VOTE—(Beirut) The leader of Iran’s opposition Green Movement, Mehdi Karroubi, has issued a rare statement from house arrest urging Iranians to boycott the upcoming parliamentary election. Karroubi, who has been detained without trial in an undisclosed residence for 10 months, said that Iran’s leaders had no interest in the public’s vote or opinion and would stage “sham elections” to bring loyalists to power. “The authorities want to repeat what they did in the 2009 presidential election by disqualifying the candidates…and filling up the ballot boxes with counterfeit votes and creating an atmosphere of fear in the country,” Karroubi affirmed. The parliamentary election, scheduled for March 2, will be Iran’s first polls since the tumultuous 2009 vote, which sparked nationwide protests over the contested re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Wall Street Journal, December 27.)


NUKE EXPERT: TIME TO ATTACK IRAN—(Washington) A former special adviser on Iran policy to the Obama Administration believes that a US-perpetrated strike on the Islamic Republic is the “least bad” option in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. Matthew Kroenig, a nuclear security expert who served as a strategist under Defense Secretary Robert Gates, wrote in an article published by Foreign Affairs Magazine that “a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.” Kroenig acknowledged that a military operation in Iran is not an “attractive prospect,” but explained that it is within the US’ power to minimize the anticipated effects. Kroenig warned that waging a cold war against Tehran, aimed at containing its nuclear capabilities, is “a costly, decades-long proposition that would likely still result in grave national security threats. The United States should conduct a surgical strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities…and then seek to quickly de-escalate the crisis. Addressing the threat now will spare the United States from confronting a far more dangerous situation in the future,” he concluded. (Ynet News, December 24.)


BAGHDAD EXPLOSIONS KILL AT LEAST 63 IN FIRST MAJOR VIOLENCE SINCE U.S. DEPARTURE—(Baghdad) More than a dozen explosions in Baghdad have killed at least 60 people and injured hundreds more—the first major violence in Iraq since the U.S. completed its troop pullout. The attacks come in the midst of an ongoing governmental emergency in which sectarian rifts and ethnic tension threaten to rip apart the country’s fragile ruling coalition. An Al Qaeda-linked group, The Islamic State of Iraq,claimed responsibility for the bombings, with US officials speculating that the terrorist organization is seeking to capitalize on the ongoing political fight between Shiites and Sunnis to sow greater dissent in the country. Last week, Prime Minister Maliki’s Shiite-controlled government shocked US officials and other observers by announcing that an arrest warrant had been issued for vice president Tariq al-Hashimi, a leading Sunni politician, on charges that Hashimi enlisted personal body guards to run a hit squad. (Washington Post, December 22 & 27.)


IAF MAY BUY JETS USED BY US IN IRAQ—(Jerusalem) Due to the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East and potential delays to existing procurement plans, the IDF is considering purchasing F-15 fighter jets used by the United States military in Iraq. According to a senior IDF officer, Israel’s primary concern is that the delivery of its first batch of US-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighters will be pushed back farther than the scheduled 2017 date. A number of reports recently came out of the Pentagon regarding potential problems with the development of the aircraft and the possibility that production plans will be slowed down. In this event, Israel might be asked to pay more than the $2.75 billion it committed to paying for the 20 F-35s under a 2010 deal, or suffice with less aircraft. Meanwhile, the IDF has been holding marathon talks with Israel’s Treasury in recent weeks in an effort to reach an agreement regarding the size of the defense budget for the coming year. The IDF is claiming that due to the changes in the region—particularly in Egypt—the defense budget should not be cut, but rather increased in order to facilitate the build up new military formations and capabilities needed to counter future threats.(Jerusalem Post, December 26.)



The senior American commander in Afghanistan has suggested that American forces could remain in the country beyond 2014, despite previous signals from President Obama that the bulk of troops would be withdrawn by then. In an interview with The New York Times, Gen. John R. Allen provided the most emphatic signal to date that the US military intends to secure a long-term presence in Afghanistan, saying negotiations with the government of President Hamid Karzai on a strategic partnership agreement would “almost certainly” include “a discussion with Afghanistan of what a post-2014 force will look like.” The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan C. Crocker, also recently said that the United States was open to keeping forces in the country if the Afghan government requested them. (NY Times, December 20.)


ISRAEL, TURKEY REACTIVATE AIR FORCE TIES—(Jerusalem) According to a senior officer, Israel’s Air Force (IAF) has reestablished a coordination mechanism with Turkey that works to prevent aerial misunderstandings and potential clashes over the Mediterranean Sea. Once long-time friends and training partners, ties between the IAF and the Turkish Air Force were greatly reduced following Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009, and came to an abrupt end in September when a United Nations commission, established to investigate the 2010 Turkish flotilla incident, determined that Israel’s sea blockade over the Gaza Strip is legitimate and that Israel acted within the law when boarding the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara ship. The resumption in military coordination is being viewed as part of a greater effort to stabilize and improve Israel-Turkey relations. (Jerusalem Post, December 21.)


NO KEYSTONE PIPELINE, NO PROBLEM—(Ottawa) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that Canada will consider selling its oil to China and other overseas markets with or without approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in the United States. In a year-end television interview with CTV National News, Mr. Harper doubted the $7-billion pipeline would receive political approval from US President Barack Obama, and said that Canada is “very serious about selling [its] oil off this continent, selling our energy products off to Asia. I think we have to do that.”Mr. Harper’s comments came a day after the White House sent signals it might kill TransCanada’s oil sands pipeline if it is forced to make a decision on the project within 60 days, saying there was insufficient time to complete an environmental review. The Obama administration has spent three years reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline. (National Post, December 19.)


HOW TO CONTROL LIBYA MISSILES? BUY THEM UP—(Tripoli) The United States is currently discussing with the Libyan interim government the creation of a program to purchase shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles from militia members who acquired them during the war. The talks are the latest step in a multinational effort to contain the risks posed by the thousands of portable antiaircraft weapons that are unaccounted for after rebel fighters overran government weapons depots during the battle against Col. Muommar Qaddafi’s forces. Western security officials worry that terrorists could use the missiles, which are lightweight and relatively easy to fire, to target civilian passenger planes. The United States has thus far committed $40 million to secure Libya’s arms stockpiles. (NY Times, December 22.)


UN HONORS NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG-IL—(United Nations) The UN General Assembly has granted a request from North Korea to hold a moment of silence for Kim Jong-il, the country’s former leader who died two weeks ago. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the 193-nation General Assembly, cited “protocol” as the reason for agreeing to the request. Pyongyang is currently under Security Council sanctions due to Kim Jong-il’s nuclear weapons program, which Western officials say ate up huge sums of money that could have been used to help feed North Korea’s starving population. North Korea’s UN mission made a similar request to the Security Council, though Western diplomats said it was rejected. (Reuters, December 22.)


JEWISH LEADERS IN BELGIUM SPLIT OVER LIBEL SUIT—(Brussels) A former leader of Belgian Jewry has resigned from the country’s Jewish board in protest of a decision to honor a prominent politician who previously equated Israel with Nazism and sued the board for libel. Joel Rubinfeld, ex-president of the Umbrella Organization of Jewish Institutions of Belgium (CCOJB), says his resignation was in response to the organization’s decision to host André Flahaut, president of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives, as a guest of honor at a gala dinner in September. “Honoring Flahaut was inappropriate and absurd in light of his statement and the lawsuit he filed against the CCOJB,” Rubinfeld said. Flahaut sued both the CCOJB and Rubinfeld individually in 2008 for libel, claiming they called him “an anti-Semite.” Flahaut has been documented leading anti-Israel demonstrations in which protestors were seen holding signs reading “Jew Nazi,” “Gaza worse than Auschwitz” and “Protocols of Zion, final stage?” (Jerusalem Post, December 26.)


CUBA TO RELEASE 2,900 PRISONERS; GROSS NOT INCLUDED—(Havana) According to government officials, Cuba will release 2,900 prisoners in the coming days ahead of a visit next spring by Pope Benedict XVI. However, Jewish American Alan Gross, who is serving 15 years in prison for setting up internet equipment on the island under a US program, is not included amongst those to be pardoned. The US State Department declined to comment on the amnesty and its failure to include Gross, but has repeatedly said in the past that he was only providing internet access for Jewish groups in Cuba and should be released immediately. Gross’ arrest halted a brief warming in US-Cuba relations that have been hostile since Fidel Castro embraced Soviet Communism after his 1959 revolution. (Reuters, December 24.)