Everything you need to know about the weekend coverage of Israel and the Mideast.
Israeli govt backs off from ill-conceived ad campaign, but one paper suggests it’s a conspiracy. Israel reveals drones program in Gaza. And why did the PLO subpoena The Green Prince?
• Khaled Abu Toameh: Fatah and Hamas are too comfortable with the status quo to pursue real unity.
Many Palestinians remain skeptical about the intentions of Fatah and Hamas. They know that the two parties would rather preserve the status quo than risk losing financial aid because of a unity government. As far as Hamas and Fatah are concerned, two Palestinian states are better than one.T
• Salam Fayyad tells Haaretz he will not lead a unity government.
• The Washington Post takes a long look at Israel’s drone program and its effect on Gaza. Scott Wilson quotes some Palestinians saying aerial surveillance and occasional air strikes drones are proof they are still occupied. But it’s clear to me the collateral damage has decreased. Key point from Scott Wilson’s dispatch:
The Israeli military says it works hard to distinguish between militants and civilians, but that the task is made harder because many of those who fire rockets from Gaza operate amid the fields and houses of residential neighborhoods.
Since 2006, Palestinian rocket fire has killed 16 Israelis, the vast majority of them civilians, including 56-year-old Moshe Ami, who died in a late October rocket strike on the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon. As the Palestinian rocket arsenal improves, more Israeli cities, from the border town of Sderot to the southern suburbs of Tel Aviv, are sharing Gazans’ everyday fear of attack from the sky.
I would raise a flag over the civilian casualties claimed by the Palestine Center for Human Rights. After the Gaza war, The New Republic discovered why Palestinian and Israeli figures for civilian casualties were so widely divergent: they don’t share the same definition of “civilian casualties.”
• David Ignatius says Leon Panetta’s comments about Israel not doing enough to push the peace process were “interesting.” The audience at the Saban Forum, where Panetta spoke, apparently had the same assessment:
The audience included senior Israeli officials attending the forum. They gave Panetta a standing ovation at the end of his remarks, as they had at the beginning. He may also have earned an award for “chutzpah,” in voicing comments that are widely shared by U.S. officials but rarely expressed so bluntly in public.
At the same forum, Hilary Clinton expressed concern for — Israeli democracy?
• Gerald Steinberg (The Australian) comments on the child soldiers of Hamas.
• Uh-oh: Not only did the Muslim Brotherhood win 40 percent of last week’s vote, Salafists took about a quarter of the vote. And the NY Times says Egypt’s Islamic tide is still rising:
Although this week’s voting took place in only a third of Egypt’s provinces, they included some of the nation’s most liberal precincts — like Cairo, Port Said and the Red Sea coast — suggesting that the Islamist wave is likely to grow stronger as the voting moves into more conservative rural areas in the coming months. (Alexandria, a conservative stronghold, also has voted.) . . . .
The unexpected rise of a strong ultraconservative Islamist faction to the right of the Brotherhood is likely to shift Egypt’s cultural and political center of gravity to the right as well. Leaders of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will likely feel obliged to compete with the ultraconservatives for Islamist voters, and at the same time will not feel the same need to compromise with liberals to form a government.
Michael Totten cautions against labeling the Brotherhood “moderate.”
I’ve always scoffed at those who describe the Muslim Brotherhood as moderate. It’s not at all an objectively moderate organization, and certainly not by any Western standard. Conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans are moderates. These guys are authoritarian theocrats. If a Christian counterpart existed in the United States, they’d be called fascists.
They really are moderate compared with the Salafists, though. The Salafists are the Taliban-style totalitarians that produced Al Qaeda.
• The leader of Syria’s main opposition group says he would cut ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. More at the WSJ.
• AFP: Russia delivered an undisclosed number of Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria:
The deal immediately angered Israel, which fears the weapons may fall into the hands of Hezbollah militants in neighbouring Lebanon.
• Carlos Latuff, the Brazilian cartoonist who has a dim view of Israel, is making news for having turned his poison pen against Egyptian politics. Maan News says this cartoon put Latuff front center of the public debate.
• The iPhone Revolution: Syrian government cracks down on use of iPhones to prevent video and photo leaks of the violence.
Rest O’ the Roundup
• YNet News reports that Gilad Shalit carried out a hunger strike shortly before his release. The report says the tactic hastened his release because Hamas worried Shalit would die on them. So now we know: Gilad Shalit Launched Hunger Strike, But it Didn’t Make a Sound.
• The NY Times covers the flap between the American Jewish community and the Israeli Absorption Ministry over ads calling on Israelis in the US to return. And the Daily Mail suggests a deeper and darker conspiracy behind the Absorption Ministry’s campaign.
It has also been claimed that the right-wing Likud party want to prevent liberal Americans moving to Israel and making the country’s electorate more left-wing.
See also Losing My Religion?
• AFP looks at the same controversy, but with a headline that badly mischaracterizes the point of the campaign.
• The UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, will be visiting Israel, the West Bank and Gaza this month. La Rue may want to make a special point of visiting Mohamed Abumuailek in Gaza. This gunman-turned-dissident was acquitted by a Hamas court of collaboration, but the WSJ finds life ain’t a bed of roses:
The 26-year-old computer network expert says he now lives in fear that he could be the target of violence by vigilantes. He shuns direct contact via telephone or email for fear of being accused of collaboration, and says he delayed telling the outside world about his acquittal to avoid attention.
Why did he Abumuailek come under scrutiny anyway?
[Abumuailek] was jailed by Hamas security forces in April 2009 on spy charges after going on camera to denounce rocket fire on Israeli cities and talking about an online friend from Tel Aviv
• Jonathan Miller makes The Liberal Case for Israel.
• The PLO issued a subpoena for Mosab Hassan Yousef, better known as the Green Prince who spied for Israel. According to Haaretz:
The legal wrangling is part of a lawsuit filed against the PLO by victims of seven terror attacks or their relatives. They say the PLO was involved in some of the attacks and is responsible for damages.
• The Daily Star reports that Sheikh Nasrallah’s backing down on Lebanon funding STL (UN Special Tribunal Lebanon). The STL’s investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri, and as Hezbollah figures have already been implicated, Nasrallah was saying for months that Lebanon should not fund the STL. Elliott Abrams explains the significance:
When the Hezbollah leader, who has repeatedly plunged Lebanon in to crisis and into war, now has to say “we will not create a problem,” tectonic plates are moving in the Middle East. Without understating Hezbollah’s strength and viciousness, the crisis of the Assad regime in Syria has already reduced its power. Assad’s fall will reduce it more. This is yet another reason why the United States should be doing all we can to bring Assad down, the sooner the better.
• Lauren Booth split from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Booth’s righteous outrage was piqued when the PSC disassociated itself Gilad Atzmon, a radical Israeli-born musician too radioactive for even the PSC’s mainstream. I’ll let Booth
speak for herself froth at the mouth.