Everything you need to know about today’s media coverage of Israel and the Midast.
The PLO has an agressive 2012 diplomatic war up its sleeves, Hezbollah defies common sense with another show of support for Bashar Assad, and Turkey’s putting the finishing touches on a new spy satellite. How concerned should Israel be?
Israel and the Palestinians
• The PLO’s planning diplomatic war against Israel. Haaretz says they’re going to push for several things in 2012:
- A UN Security Council resolution condemning settlement activity and imposing sanctions.
- International Criminal Court action over IDF “war crimes” during Operation Cast Lead.
- Formally applying the Fourth Geneva Convention to the West Bank.
- An international fact-finding committee to investigate settlement activity.
- Popular, non-violent rallies across the West Bank and Gaza on a massive scale.
- Renewing the Palestinian statehood bid in the UN.
The paper adds:
The diplomatic campaign is expected to begin January 26, which marks the end of the three-month period the Quartet alloted to Israel and the Palestinian Authority for resuming talks and presenting substantive proposals on borders and security arrangements.
The Palestinians agreed not to take any unilateral steps in international forums before that date.
But Benny Avni isn’t worried.
• IDF confirmed that two mortar shells fired from Gaza contained phosphorus. The Jerusalem Post says the two shells landed in an open field and caused no injuries.
• The Guardian reports that former gunman Zakaria Zubeidi’s in a PA prison because Israel revoked his amnesty. It’s incredibly sloppy journalism by reporter Harriet Sherwood because she fails to independently confirm the two most important pieces of info:
- That Israel indeed revoked Zubeidi’s amnesty.
- That Zubeidi is even behind bars.
Zubiedi stressed that the deal was, in fact, signed with the Palestinian security forces and “not between me and Israel.”
Yet Sherwood that can write is:
“I am in a Palestinian Authority jail in Jenin,” he told the Guardian by phone. His account could not be confirmed by either Israeli or Palestinian sources.
• One of the terrorists released in the Gilad Shalit swap was appointed as Mahmoud Abbas’s newest advisor. Israel HaYom says Gen. Mahmoud Damara was a former commander of Yasser Arafat’s Force 17, his personal bodyguards.
Damara was charged with initiating shooting attacks and bombings against Israelis through Force 17. He himself even fired RPG missiles at Israel Defense Forces tanks during the second Intifada.
Arafat had entrusted his personal safety to Force 17 for years, but the Israelis say its activities extended far beyond protecting the Palestinian leader.
Under Damara’s guidance, members of the Ramallah unit have carried out 25 shooting attacks in Jerusalem, Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank, killing eight Israelis and wounding more than 20 in recent months, the Israeli army said in a document released Thursday.
• Israeli, Palestinian and Quartet representatives are set for a Tuesday pow-wow in Amman. Reuters says everybody’s lowering expectations. ‘Nuff said.
• Hezbollah’s latest statement supporting Bashar Assad shows how much the organization is dependent on Iran and politically obtuse in the face of the Arab uprising. The Daily Star writes:
The head of Hezbollah’s Shura Council, Sheikh Mohammad Yazbek, said over the weekend the resistance group would remain supportive of Syria in the face of conspiracies.
“Syria’s only guilt is the support it has given to those who resist and we will stand by this country, its army, leadership and people so that it would remain in the face of all conspiracies aimed at tearing the [Arab] nation,” Yazbek said Sunday.
The fallacy-ridden letter appears to have been printed on Yehioth Ahronoth stationary, and incorrectly describes the manner in which the exiles fled Syria with the help of US diplomats . . .
Moreover, the document contains manipulative statements aiming to implicate individuals who had no connection to the article, while also intending to spark a dispute between Syrian opposition factions. The name of the supposed sender and other details have been removed from the document.
Yedioth Ahronoth stressed Sunday that the publication had nothing to do with the letter.
• Sky News reports massive anti-government demonstrations in the Hama and Idlib provinces — 250,000 protesters in both areas. Syrian snipers killed five and injured several dozen more. Michael Totten comments on the numbers:
Think of it this way. If fifty people out of a half-million were shot, that’s only one in 5,000, or 0.0002 percent. It’s not safe to take to the streets and challenge the government, but it hardly means certain death or arrest anymore. Assad’s totalitarian stranglehold over his citizens has completely evaporated.
Iranian Atomic Urgency
• Iran seeks to expand its influence in Latin America to circumvent sanctions and obtain raw materials. Ahmadinejad’s visiting the region later this month. The Washington Post adds:
Former U.S. intelligence officials say the presence of Quds Force officers and other military personnel in diplomatic missions enhances Iran’s ability to carry out covert activities, sometimes in conjunction with members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group that operates extensive networks in Latin America and maintains ties with drug cartels. U.S. officials say the Quds Force was behind the alleged plot to hire Mexican drug gangs to assassinate a Saudi diplomat in Washington.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• Turkey plans to launch the Gokturk spy satellite within two years that will have a resolution of two meters per pixel. And Israel’s nervous — till now, only the US was capable of that kind of imagery, and Washington won’t allow companies to distribute such detailed pictures.
But as Russia Today reports, “there are no American-style legal qualms in Turkey about upsetting its photo-sensitive neighbor.” Images could soon find their way into the hands of Israel’s enemy.
• Ilan Grapel describes his Egyptian imprisonment in a Washington Post op-ed:
Was my trip reckless or “wrong”? No. Despite the peril, the U.S. government sends Peace Corps volunteers to volatile regions because of the benefit of grass-roots diplomacy. Hasbara, the Hebrew term that refers to efforts to explain the Israeli viewpoint, has much to gain from such a strategy, given the pernicious myths about Israel and Jews prevalent in much of the Arab world.
My hasbara provided a viewpoint that changed the mentalities of former Muslim Brotherhood members, the prosecutor and my guards, whose last words were “Shalom, we hope you forgive us.” Israelis and Arabs can continue to maintain the status quo of mutual avoidance or they can dare to coexist. To those who wrongly held me, I say simply, I forgive you.
• Ismail Haniyeh’s Mideast tour continues in Turkey, where he met with Prime Minister Erdogan and also visited the Mavi Marmara. More at the BBC.
• Aaron David Miller (LA Times) looks at the Bibi-Obama relationship:
In the end, the Barack-Bibi relationship is likely headed south because the trust and capacity to give each other the benefit of the doubt has long ago evaporated. If both are still in office in 2013 when the political dust settles, the game of gotcha will continue. Newly empowered but still wary and suspicious, neither will be in the mood to kiss and make up.
Without some common enterprise to bind them together, and with a great many issues to drive them apart (settlements, the peace process), relations will get worse, taking their toll on the U.S.-Israel relationship;
• Israel to build security fence along Jordanian border. More at the Jerusalem Post.
• LA Times: Israeli TV shows would be making an impact on Hollywood. Who knew?
Nearly half a dozen shows in development at U.S. networks — including the divorce sitcom “Life Isn’t Everything” (CBS), a time-travel musical dubbed “Danny Hollywood (the CW) and the border-town murder-mystery “Pillars of Smoke” (NBC) — are based on hit Israeli series, their themes and language tweaked for American audiences.
Unbeknown to most viewers, a small group of creators and industry types has built a pipeline between Israel and the Los Angeles entertainment world 9,000 miles away.