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

The (Social) World in Which Israel and Hamas Do Converse : Joshua Mitnick, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 22, 2013

The Last of the Sheiks?: Christopher M. Davidson, New York Times, Oct. 20, 2013





“I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal…you wisely insisted there wouldn’t be a partial deal with Syria, you were right. If (Syrian President Bashar) Assad had said, ‘I’d like to keep 20 percent, 50 percent, or 80 percent of my chemical weapons capability,’ you would have refused — and correctly so.”—   Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a private meeting in Rome. (Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2013)

“I’ve worked in this field for a long time, and I’ve studied the history. I know of no analogous period. I’ve never seen so many disagreements on so many key fronts all at once. And I’ve never seen such a willingness on the part of the Saudis to publicly express their frustration…Iran is the number one issue — the only issue for Saudi policy makers. When you add up the whole Middle Eastern map — Syria, Iraq, Iran — it looks to the Saudis as if the US is throwing Sunni allies under the bus by trying to cut a deal with Iran and its allies.” — Michael Doran, a Middle East expert with the Brookings Institution who served on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, commenting on Saudi Arabia’s rejection of a UN Security Council seat and criticism of US foreign policy in the Middle East. (Daily Telegraph, Oct. 23, 2013)


“The greater the pressure, the greater the chances for diplomacy to succeed…It would be unwise, to say the least, to ease the pressure on Iran before you get a final and satisfactory solution to the problem…The Iranians are trying to save the Iranian economy and to save their nuclear project. They’re trying to have them both, to save them both, and to manoeuvre in order to get this,” Mr. Steinitz said. “And the world should tell them, enough is enough. … If you decide to proceed with your military nuclear project, you will destroy the Iranian economy, and maybe expose yourselves to military attack…and there is no third way. Nothing in between. No place to manoeuvre…Canada is very influential and can exercise its influence elsewhere – in Europe, in China, in America, in Russia, and elsewhere. It’s very important. And I know that the Canadian government is already doing so.” With Iran, he said, the world must stop its military nuclear program, and only pressure will work. “This is the main working tool. Actually the only tool, why give it up before satisfactory results?” — Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, in Canada this week for meetings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. (Globe & Mail, Oct. 20, 2013)


“Given Iran’s refusal to halt its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the Senate should immediately move forward with a new round of economic sanctions targeting all remaining Iranian government revenue and reserves.” — U.S. Senator Mark S. Kirk, an Illinois Republican and Iran hawk. (New York Times, Oct. 18, 2013)


“Anyone who seeks to harm Israel should know it is more powerful than meets the eye”, President Shimon Peres said Tuesday during a visit to the Palmahim Air Force base. Commenting on the IAF’s hidden strength, and hinting to Iran and other enemies of Israel, Peres said: “The full power of the army and the air force is not visible to the naked eye, but anyone who is disdainful of Israel and plans to attack us, should take this into account.” —Former President Shimon Peres, speaking on Tuesday, Oct. 22. (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 22, 2013)


 “In December 2010, Nigeria experienced its first wave of terrorist bombings at Christian churches. In 2011, we had our first-ever suicide car bombing, at the United Nations headquarters here. The explosion rattled my nearby office building. Flinging myself on the floor, I assumed it was an earthquake. A bomb was still the last thing on my mind. Just a few years ago, we thought terrorism was something that happened in faraway countries, like Israel. Now we know differently; the threat hangs over us all the time. Some weeks ago, shortly before Nigeria’s independence day, I received a mass text message. Nigeria was going to turn 53 years old a few days later, on Oct. 1, and there were concerns that the [Islamist] terrorist group Boko Haram might have planned something special to mark the big day in the country’s capital city. “Dear All,” the message read, “The Diplomatic Missions in Abuja have received a security alert today morning from the Federal Govt requesting everyone to stay indoors and not to visit any shopping malls or public places which is crowded for the next few days. Please inform all your dear ones!” — Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Nigerian author of the novel I Do Not Come to You By Chance, in a New York Times op-ed piece. (New York Times, Oct. 23, 2013)


“In an hour, we will bury a soldier who was murdered by a Palestinian so that his body could be traded and a terrorist could be released from jail, this is a tactic that, unfortunately, has been used in the past. 1,500 Israelis were killed after Israel signed a peace accord with the Palestinians. These are the fruits of peace” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, expressing skepticism about the current round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, calling it “another political process our allies think will bring peace.” —Ya’alon was speaking with Christian lawmakers from around the world at the Israel Allies Foundation’s Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference. (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 23, 2013)


 “I grew up with the words, ‘never again,’ it is kind of inconceivable that there are people who say the Holocaust didn’t exist. George Horner is a living contradiction of what those people are saying.” (Ma) said Horner was able to survive “because he had music, because he had friends, because the power of music could fill in the empty spaces. To me George Horner is a huge hero, and is a huge inspiration, he is a witness to a window, and to a slice of history, that we never want to see again, and yet we keep seeing versions of that all over the world. I hope we are inspired by that and we keep that memory forever.” —world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma speaking about George Horner, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who made his orchestral debut with Ma on Tuesday to benefit a foundation dedicated to preserving the work of artists and musicians killed by the Nazis. (The Times of Israel, Oct. 23, 2013)


FROM THE PAST: “The Zionists want only one thing, Jewish immigration; and this Jewish immigration is what the Arabs do not want. This means that [Zionist colonization] can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach. In this matter there is no difference between our ‘militarists’ and our ‘vegetarians.’ Except that the first prefer that the iron wall should consist of Jewish soldiers, and the others are content that they should be British.”— Revisionist Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote in The Iron Wall (1923) (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 22, 2013)






JERUSALEM’S SECULAR MAYOR FENDS OFF STRONG CHALLENGER TO WIN REELECTION—(Jerusalem) Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem — a former high-tech venture capitalist who has been fighting to maintain the city’s secular and less strictly religious population — won reelection here as final votes were counted early Wednesday and his opponent conceded. Barkat faced a strong challenger, Moshe Leon, who was supported by two powerful political brawlers — and strange bedfellows: Avigdor Lieberman, founder of a nationalist, sometimes even anti-rabbinical party created to represent the interests of Russian-speaking Israelis, and Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Shas party, which serves ultra-Orthodox Jews whose roots are in the Middle East and North Africa. Leon’s loss will reflect less on the candidate and more on his patrons Lieberman and Deri, who are seen by supporters as political kingmakers in Israel — a designation that could take a hit after his defeat. Barkat’s political base is built upon the middle-class, center-right Jerusalem Jews who are less strict in their religious practices than the ultra-Orthodox residents, who now make up about one-third of the city. (Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2013)


TRADITION OF NOT VOTING KEEPS PALESTINIANS POLITICALLY POWERLESS IN JERUSALEM—(Jerusalem) As part of a broader “anti-normalization” campaign, the Palestinian leadership has for decades warned residents against casting ballots. So a vast majority do not vote, despite the possibility that their large numbers could win a solid blocking minority on the 31-member City Council, if not a winning coalition with sympathetic Israelis. “The whole thing is not really rational,” said Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al Quds University, whose family has 1,300-year roots in Jerusalem. “It’s not by reason that people are guided; it’s by sentiments and feelings and fears and histories.” Mr. Nusseibeh once advocated Palestinian voting, backing an Arab newspaper publisher who ran for mayor in 1987 but withdrew after his cars were burned and his home vandalized. Yet Mr. Nusseibeh himself has never voted here, either. (New York Times, Oct. 21, 2012)


YA’ALON: WEST BANK SEEING ‘INFECTIOUS’ WAVE OF TERROR ATTACKS,’ BUT NO SIGNS OF INTIFADA— (Hebron) Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday warned that an "infectious wave of terror attacks" was being seen in the West Bank over the past month, but said he did not see signs of a third intifada. Speaking during a tour of Hebron, Ya'alon said that six terror attacks had taken place in the West Bank over the past month, but added that they were carried out by individuals and did not have an organization such as Fatah or Hamas behind them. Ya'alon blamed continued incitement by the Palestinian Authority for the attacks. (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 22, 2013)


ISLAMIC JIHAD PLANNER OF BUS BOMB KILLED IN EXCHANGE OF FIRE WITH IDF—(Tel Aviv) An Islamic Jihad member, who took part in the planning of a 2012 Tel Aviv bus bombing during Operation Pillar of Defense, was killed in an exchange of fire with the IDF at a cave hideout near the West Bank village of Bil’in, security forces announced on Tuesday. Muhammad Asi, of the Palestinian village of Bet Likya, was one of the planners of the bus attack that injured 29 civilians in Tel Aviv, the IDF said. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) spent months tracking down his location, before homing in on his hideout in the cave, where he had been staying for several weeks. Launching an operation to apprehend him early on Tuesday, the Shin Bet, IDF, and Israel Police circled the cave, a senior army source said, and came under fire. Soldiers fired two LAV anti-tank missiles in response, killing Asi. (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 22, 2013)


BOMBER TIED TO AL QAEDA KILLS DOZENS IN SYRIAN CITY— (Beirut) A suicide bomber detonated a truck filled with propane tanks at a crowded military checkpoint in central Syria on Sunday, killing more than 30 people, most of them civilians, in the second such attack by fighters linked to Al Qaeda in two days. The attack, which was reported both by the state-run news media and by antigovernment activists, shook the city of Hama, ignited dozens of cars and sent up a column of smoke visible for miles around. One activist said the secondary explosions of bursting gas tanks had continued long after the initial blast. Activists said the Nusra Front, one of the two Qaeda affiliates fighting alongside the rebels who seek to topple President Bashar al-Assad, was responsible for the attack. The bombing followed a similar attack that killed 16 soldiers east of Damascus the day before, suggesting an increasing reliance on suicide attacks to try to break government strongholds that the rebels are unable to take by conventional means. More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria in two and a half years of conflict. (New York Times, Oct. 20, 2013)


TORONTO TRANSIT TURNS DOWN ‘INACCURATE’ ANTI-ISRAEL ADS— (Toronto)  The Toronto Transit Commission rejected four anti-Israel advertisements for being “inaccurate and misleading.” Brad Ross, a spokesman for the transit commission, [said] Monday that the ads were turned down because they were “inaccurate and misleading.” The ads were intended to run on buses and subways, as well as the commission’s shelters. Proposed by the Montreal-based Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, the ads were similar to the “Disappearing Palestine” ad that ran this summer in Vancouver’s transit system. The Vancouver ad showed four maps, spanning from 1946 to 2012, that suggested Israel was taking over Palestinian land. The CJPME ads claimed that Palestinian “loss of land” has been “unfair” and “illegal under international law.” “Our legal opinion,” Ross said, “is that there has never been a finding by any international court or tribunal with respect to the illegality of loss of land, and by making that statement, it potentially could cause discrimination or advocate hate towards a specified group, in this case Israelis and/or the Jewish people.” Ross said the four ads contained similar language, maps and the line “illegal under international law.” He said “the real legal issue” for the transit commission “was a statement that we determined to be either inaccurate or misleading.” (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 22, 2013)


ISRAEL’S NEWEST GENERAL, 100 YEARS OLD, FINALLY HEALS HIS WOUNDS—(Tel Aviv) Israel’s newest general, a 100-year-old man who received his longed-for promotion in August, was exasperated. Seated on the couch in his Kfar Yona home, beyond earshot of his in-house caretaker, he lamented the roller coaster of calm and crisis on Israel’s southwestern border. “Give me Gaza,” Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yitzhak Pundak said, “and I’ll do just what I did back when I was the governor.” That was in 1971. At the time, Pundak said, the locals would ask his permission to play soccer. They’d ask him to ref the matches. The border was quiet. The train ran daily from Gaza to Tel Aviv. Terror, he went on, would be met with a firm hand. Here’s what he would not be doing: fortifying more Israeli homes and bombing tunnels. “People fire at you and you bomb their tunnels. “How nice,” he said in his broad Polish accent, stretching the Hebrew vowels. “How nice.” No, he would open up the Strip and offer residents ample employment, and he would wage war each time a rocket was fired on Israel to force the Palestinians “to sit quietly.” “But I’m 100 years and 2 months old. What do I know?” (Times of Israel, Oct. 21, 2013)






On Topic

The (Social) World in Which Israel and Hamas Do Converse: Joshua Mitnick, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 22, 2013—Officially, Israel and Hamas don’t talk. In the so-called Twitterverse, however, the two sworn enemies engaged in a rare, but brief, dialogue on Tuesday. The direct exchange began with a tweet by Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. The Israeli army’s foreign media chief spokesman defended an arrest operation reported Tuesday in which a Palestinian accused of involvement in a 2012 bus bombing was killed in the West Bank.

The Last of the Sheiks?: Christopher M. Davidson, New York Times, Oct. 20, 2013— This summer, disgruntled Saudis took their grievances online in droves, complaining of ever-growing inequality, rising poverty, corruption and unemployment. Their Twitter campaign became one of the world’s highest trending topics. It caused great alarm within elite circles in Saudi Arabia and sent ripples throughout the region. The rallying cry that “salaries are not enough” helped to prove that the monarchy’s social contract with its people is now publicly coming unstuck, and on a significant scale.



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-o-crity of the Week


Re[garding] the giant billboard being put up in Los Angeles demanding freedom for Gilad Shalit: Shalit was not kidnapped. He was in a tank crew firing on Gaza and was legitimately captured in a military action designed to protect Gazan civilians to the greatest extent possible under the circumstances. By rights, Hamas had every right to execute Gilad Shalit, and it certainly has the right to keep him incarcerated for the rest of his life. A Gazan tank soldier firing on unarmed civilians on Israeli soil would get much worse punishment than Shalit has gotten from his captors.”—Excerpts from a “Letter to the Editor,” entitled “Shalit is a Legitimate Prisoner,” written by Jerrold Cohen, Seal Beach, Calif. and published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, validating Hamas’ treatment of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, despite Shalit having been held hostage without visitation, thus in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions and international law, for more than five years,. (JTA, August 11, 2011.)

Weekly Quotes


The social protests in Israel began 4 weeks ago with a national outcry over the rising price of basics such as cottage cheese. They then snowballed into a full-blown national movement by way of a simple act by a then unknown young woman. The act? Striking a tent in Tel-Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard in protest of high apartment rental costs.… Small potatoes aside, it’s been four weeks and zero acts of the barbaric, non-discriminatory violence we’ve seen across the middle east, and even in the UK. No shots fired. No stores looted. No form of communication has been shut down. In fact, not only have the Israeli police and army not taken any role other than safeguarding the protests themselves, they have even been applauded, literally, by hundreds of thousands for their efforts. While in neighboring countries regimes are slaughtering the opposition, in Israel we have complete free speech to criticize our politicians and leaders.…”—Excerpts from an article entitled “Hello World: Israel is Out-Classing You in Civil Disobedience,” juxtaposing Israel’s ongoing peaceful demonstrations over a lack of affordable housing against the violent civil upheavals taking place throughout the Arab world, and the urban riots in the UK. (Washington Post, August 14.)


The viability of an independent Palestinian state will depend less on strictly political factors than on sound and sustainable Palestinian economic capacities, without which any declaration of independence will be rendered empty and imprudent. Is the Palestinian economy ready for statehood?… Not all economic indicators…are…favorable. Unemployment is rising. A June UNRWA report showed that unemployment among Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem rose from 21.7% to 25% during the last year. More to the point, without annual external assistance of some $1b. from donor countries, the Palestinian economy is far from sustainable. At least one-third of the PA budget comes from external aid, including loans and grants from the US, the EU and Arab states. Just a few weeks ago, the PA coffers confronted a severe shortfall when promised donations—including $330m. that Gulf states have pledged to send every six months—failed to appear.… Most significantly, there is the heavy economic dependence on Israel, a country that according to the PA’s Central Bureau of Statistics accounts for nearly 89% of PA exports and 81% of its imports. The PA also depends on Israel to collect and remit tax revenues of about $1.5b. per yearA unilateral declaration of statehood that imperiled cooperation by spurning Israel’s offer of direct negotiations would be not only politically premature, but economically self-destructive, for the PA.”—Excerpts from a Jerusalem Post editorial, entitled “The PA Economy,” describing the fragility of the Palestinian economy and the potentially devastating ramifications should Israel decide to halt economic cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, following the PA’s bid for a unilateral declaration of statehood (which would violate the Oslo Accords) at the UN in September. (Jerusalem Post, August 16.)


The French Initiative reshaped the issue of the ‘Jewish State,’ a formula that is also unacceptable to us—‘two states for two peoples.’ They can describe Israel as a state for two peoples, but we will be a state for one people. The story of two states for two peoples means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this.…”—Fatah foreign relations director Nabil Sha’ath, in an interview with Lebanese TV, reiterating the Palestinian Authority’s unequivocal rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. (Israpundit, August 14.)


Ask Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas] why he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state. I have recognized a Palestinian state, he [Abbas] should be able to recognize a Jewish state.… Ask him, ‘why don’t you come and negotiate with Israel?’ I am willing to immediately start direct negotiations with him without preconditions.”—Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to a delegation of United States Congressmen currently visiting the Jewish state, reiterating his willingness to resume negotiations with the Palestinians: “I am willing to invite [Abbas] to my house in Jerusalem and I am willing to go to Ramallah,”Netanyahu affirmed. (Jerusalem Post, August 15.)


Ahead of the gathering of the UN General Assembly in September, I ask you to oppose a unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Regardless of the path the Palestinians choose, their UN bid is an attempt to avoid negotiations that are based on mutual compromise. It also violates existing agreements between the two sides and places in doubt the option of direct negotiations—which is the only way to solve this conflict.”—Excerpts from a letter, written by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and sent to over 40 heads of state across the globe, urging foreign leaders to oppose the Palestinians’ request for statehood at the UN in September. According to senior Israeli diplomatic officials, “Israel is sending emissaries to all parts of the world with messages from Netanyahu.… Any Israeli minister, ambassador or senior diplomat that travels to another country is asked to take this letter. We are covering all continents.” (Ynet News, August 15.)


The last time the Middle East Quartet met, on July 11, it was unable even to issue a statement about the key issue before it—the Palestinian effort to get the UN General Assembly and Security Council to declare Palestine a state and admit it to membership. Nor has the Quartet been able to issue a statement about the attacks the Assad regime has been carrying out this week against Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, which have led thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes. But it did on August 16 get itself organized to address what it apparently saw as a graver issue and a greater threat to peace, Israel’s announcement of plans to construct additional housing units in Jerusalem and Ariel. Nowadays the Quartet seems able to reach agreement on only one thing: criticism of Israel. This is the lowest common denominator among the United States, EU, United Nations, and Russia, and it is pretty low indeed. If this is the only function of the Quartet, the better path would be to disband it now—for the statements it is making and the statements it seems unable to make combine to bring discredit on all participants.”—Excerpts from an Elliott Abrams article, entitled “Quartet Statements—And Quartet Silences,” criticizing the Quartet’s hypocritical condemnation of Israel’s plans to build 277 additional homes in the Ariel “settlement.” (Council on Foreign Relations, August 16, 2011)


For six years, Steven Sugar pursued a one-man legal battle against the BBC in an attempt to force it to disclose a secret report. He was trying to get the corporation to publish an internal assessment of its coverage of the Middle East conflict, which he believed would reveal bias against Israel. Mr. Sugar won an appeal for a full court hearing but when he died of cancer in January at the age of 61 it appeared his mission was at an end. Now, his widow, Fiona Paveley, has taken up the fight to reveal the contents of the 20,000-word document and the case is to be heard at the Supreme Court.…”—Excerpts from an article, entitled “Widow takes on BBC over Israel bias,” describing the efforts of the late Steven Sugar, and his wife Fioana Paveley, to reveal the contents of an internal report “written in 2004 by Malcolm Balen, a senior journalist, for Richard Sambrook, then BBC director of news,” which allegedly proves the BBC’s anti-Israel bias, and which “the BBC has spent more than £270,000 on legal fees to prevent the public from seeing.”(Telegraph, August 13.)


Short Takes


PALESTINIANS SET DATE FOR UN STATEHOOD BID—(Jerusalem) According to Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki, the Palestinians will present their bid for membership of the United Nations on September 20. “Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas will personally present the request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon…at the opening of the sixty-sixth session,” Malki confirmed. Also, Abbas “will insist [that] this historic initiative [be referred by] Ban Ki-moon…to the Security Council.” Malki noted that the Palestinian Authority chose September because Lebanon, which will hold the presidency of the Security Council, would be in a strong position to push the bid forward. (Ynet News, August 13.)


ABBAS SAYS SEEKING PALESTINIAN STATE WITHOUT SETTLEMENTS—(Jerusalem) Palestinian news agency WAFA has reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking a Palestinian state completely devoid of Israeli settlements. According to the report, Abbas also told visiting US legislators he does not consider seeking  recognition of statehood at the UN as conflicting “with the essence of the peace process.” The PA president also gave his vision of security in a future Palestinian state, saying that a third party comprised of NATO forces under US command would take responsibility.(Jerusalem Post, August 12.)


SENATORS PRESS OBAMA ON IRAN’S CENTRAL BANK—(Washington) More than 90 U.S. senators have signed a letter to President Barack Obama pressing him to sanction Iran’s central bank, with some threatening legislation to force the move. According to U.S. officials such a measure, if effectively implemented, could potentially freeze Iran out of the global financial system and make it nearly impossible for Tehran to clear billions of dollars in oil sales every month. Last year, Congress passed legislation barring from the U.S. financial system any foreign firm doing business with sanctioned Iranian banks, Iran’s energy sector, or the businesses of Tehran’s elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The law also contains a provision allowing the White House to sanction Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi, a step that President Obama has so far decided not to take. (Wall Street Journal, August 8.)


UN COMMITTEE ACCUSES IRAN AND HEZBOLLAH OF KILLING SYRIAN SOLDIERS WHO REFUSE TO SHOOT AT PROTESTERS—(Jerusalem) The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) committee has confirmed that Iran and Hezbollah are involved in killing Syrian soldiers who refuse to shoot at anti-regime protesters. The committee said that it will soon publish a detailed report, which will include images and testimonies from refugees and soldiers who defected from the army. The Syrian government has sought to crush the democracy movement with brutal force, killing more than 2000 civilians and arresting thousands of dissenters. The committee said that Syrian soldiers who refused to shoot at protesters were killed after they were detained by Hezbollah or Iranian Revolutionary Guards members, “who are present in Syria to help the regime repress protesters.” Both Iran and Hezbollah have denounced the accusations. (Independent Media Review and Analysis, August 6.)


SPANISH ENVOY OFFERS SYRIAN PRESIDENT ASYLUM—(Jerusalem) According to Spanish newspaper El Pais, Spain has offered Syrian President Bashar Assad political asylum should he relinquish power in Syria. The report alleges that Spanish President Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero sent Secretary General of the Prime Minister Bernadino Leon to Syria in order to hold meetings with top Syrian officials. The envoy purportedly told an aide close to Assad that the government in Madrid would be willing to provide Assad asylum should Assad stop the bloody crackdown on Syrian protesters; engage with Spain in organizing a national conference in Madrid; and formulate with Spain a timetable for a transitional government with members of the Syrian opposition to help implement reform. Leon, El Pais reported, did not report much willingness from the government in Damascus, saying that he was under “the impression that [Assad] is not going to compromise on anything substantial.” (Jerusalem Post, August 15.)


‘DAHLAN INVOLVED IN POISONING OF YASSER ARAFAT’—(Jerusalem) A Palestinian commission of inquiry has concluded that ousted Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Dahlan was involved in the “poisoning” of former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. According to the commission’s 118-page report, published by a number of Arab news web sites, including Al-Jazeera, the deposed Fatah official was involved in sending poisoned medicine to Arafat before the latter’s death. This marks the first time that the Palestinian leadership has accused a Palestinian of being behind the “assassination” of Arafat; until now, the PA had held Israel fully responsible for the mysterious death of Arafat of an unknown disease in November 2004. (Jerusalem Post, August 7.)


FAMILIES OF PALESTINIAN SUICIDE BOMBERS GIVEN £5M IN BRITISH AID CASH—(London) The Palestinian Authority, which receives £86million of British aid a year, has authorised payments of almost £5million to the families of ‘martyrs,” and another £3million has been allocated to 5,500 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. According to the official Palestinian daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, payments to the families of ‘martyrs’—those killed fighting Israel, including suicide bombers—total 3.5 per cent of the entire Palestinian Authority budget. The payments to families and prisoners are on a sliding scale, from £250 a month for prisoners sentenced to less than three years, to a maximum of £2,140 a month for anyone serving more than 30 years. The payments compare with salaries of £515 for a regular Palestinian civil servant and £480 for officers in the Palestinian security forces. (Daily Mail-UK, August 8.)


COORDINATED BLASTS KILL SCORES ACROSS IRAQ—(New York) Iraqi insurgents have launched a bombing spree across Iraq, killing at least 60 and wreaking havoc in more than a dozen cities in the worst attack so far this year. The furious pace of the bombings throughout the day appeared designed to create havoc and undermine the ability of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to maintain security in the country. The attacks come as Iraqi leaders have been discussing whether to allow some U.S. troops to remain in the country after Dec. 31, when U.S. forces are scheduled to withdraw. U.S. officials have told Mr. Maliki that without a formal invitation soon the U.S. will not be able to prepare to leave even a small number of troops behind to provide training and assistance after the bulk of U.S. forced depart at the end of the year. (Wall Street Journal, August 16.)


ISRAEL WILL NOT TO APOLOGIZE TO TURKEY—(Jerusalem) An official has confirmed that Israel will not apologize to Turkey for last year’s Mavi Marmara incident, dampening any prospects for reconciliation between the former allies. The decision, which the official said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conveyed to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a telephone call, was made days before the publication of the findings of a UN inquiry into the seizure of the Mavi Marmara. The so-called Palmer report has been repeatedly delayed to allow for Israeli-Turkish rapprochement talks amid concern in Washington that a rift between two countries, previously strategic partners, would increase the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. Citing advance copies of the report, officials say that Israel’s blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip will be vindicated, a finding that Turkey will not accept. The Palmer report is scheduled for release August 22. (Reuters, August 17.)


HAMAS REFUSING TO HAND OVER EL-ARISH TERRORIST SUSPECTS—(Jerusalem) According to the Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm, the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip has refused several Egyptian requests to hand over Palestinian terrorists alleged to have participated in a recent attack on a police station in the Sinai city of El-Arish. Citing a “well-placed Egyptian source,” the report said that Egyptian authorities have provided evidence to Hamas implicating the men who Egypt says escaped back into Gaza via tunnels. Egypt recently launched a large military operation, deploying 1,000 soldiers and hundreds of armored personnel carriers, to rein in armed Islamic elements operating in the Sinai and Gaza Strip, including al-Qaida affiliated terrorists. The operation required Israeli approval as the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries limits the number of troops Egypt may move into the Sinai. An Egyptian security official said that the operation is expected to last a number of months. (Jerusalem Post, August 16.)


U.S. SAYS IT KILLED TALIBAN WHO HIT COPTER—(Kabul) Gen. John Allen, the top international commander in Afghanistan, has confirmed that coalition forces killed the Taliban fighters responsible for shooting down a U.S. CH-47 Chinook, an attack that claimed the lives of 30 American service members and eight Afghans. According to Allen, after tracking the Taliban insurgents, F-16 fighter planes killed the insurgents, as well as Mullah Mohibullah, a Taliban leader. The aircraft downing caused the largest number of U.S. casualties of any single incident in the decade-long Afghan war. (Wall Street Journal, August 11.)