Newsletter : 13fx0812.txt
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Ministers Approve Release of 26 Terrorists
By IsraelNationalNews.com & The Times of Israel
The ministerial committee headed by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon met Sunday evening
and approved the release of 26 terrorists as part of a gesture to the Palestinian
Authority, in order to get it to resume peace talks with Israel. Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu did not attend as he was recovering at home from his emergency hernia
Fourteen of the terrorists to be released will be exiled to Gaza, and the remaining 12
will be transferred to PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria. Eight of the terrorists on
the list were to be released over the next three years, two of them in the coming six
Netanyahu's office said that the terrorists will be released about 48 hours after the
publication of the list. It was emphasized that if one of the terrorists resumes hostile
activity against the State of Israel after his release, he will be returned to prison to
continue serving his sentence.
Earlier on Sunday, families of victims of terrorism marched through Jerusalem in a
protest against the government's plan to approve the release of 26 terrorists. They
marched from the central memorial for terrorism victims, located in Mount Herzl in
Jerusalem, to the Supreme Court building, where the court is to hear a petition against
terrorist release filed by the Almagor organization.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) had harsh criticism Sunday for the
government he is a part of, over the decision to release the terrorists. "I am angry at
the approach that says that releasing terrorists brings peace nearer, and building a
kindergarten prevents peace," he said in a reference to the "peace camp" and its
criticism of construction for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
He noted that the highest salary paid by the Palestinian Authority is that paid to
terrorist murderers in Israeli jails. While a person serving in the PA security forces
makes about 3,000 to 4,000 shekels per month ($850 to $1,150), the salary of a terrorist
prisoner is between 10,000 and 12,000 shekels ($2,850 to $3,400)."
What is even worse, Elkin added, is that the more serious a terrorist's crime was, the
higher his salary. "There is a very problematic educational message here," he said
Likud MK Urges Police to Allow High Holiday Prayer at Temple Mount
By The Times of Israel
The police should prepare for the arrival at the Temple Mount of Jewish worshippers and
tourists during the upcoming High Holidays, MK Miri Regev (Likud) urged on Sunday.
Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset's Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, which
she chairs, Regev led a discussion on police readiness and deployment at the site ahead of
and during the planned events. Leading public and religious figures present also
questioned the police's recent restrictions of Jewish prayer at the holy site during the
Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Regev, a vocal advocate of expanding Jewish rights to pray at the site, claimed at the
meeting that the state should do away with regulation of prayer at the Temple Mount,
regardless of the religious affiliation of those seeking to pray. "The issue of the Temple
Mount is neither political nor religious," Regev said. "The rights of Jews visiting the
Temple Mount should be no different than those of the Palestinians."
Regev went on to criticize the police for imposing restrictions on non-Muslim entry to
the mount during Ramadan, and to request that police officials outline their plans to
prepare for the High Holidays at the site.
Last month, the Jerusalem Police closed the Temple Mount to Jewish and Christian
visitors in an effort to prevent clashes between different religious groups. The closure
order came on Tisha B'Av, the Jewish day of mourning that marks the destruction of the
Jewish Temples that stood at the site, which this year fell during Ramadan, when many
Muslims pray at the Dome of the Rock.
"Security assessments were made, and the decision was made by the Israel Police to
close the Temple Mount to all visitors, in order to prevent disturbances," police
spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Times of Israel after the site's closing in July.
Is a Free Kurdistan, and a New Israeli Ally, Upon Us?
By The Times of Israel
In late July, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in Syria, also known as the PYD,
revealed its intention to declare some form of self-rule in majority Kurdish areas in
northeastern Syria. PYD leaders clarified it was only for the duration of the Syrian civil
war, but the move was part of a larger pattern in which the group has been taking
advantage of the power vacuum caused by the two-year-old conflict to push out rival
opposition fighters and move closer to autonomy.
The announcement caught the attention of neighboring countries, perpetually nervous
about the prospect of full Kurdish independence. "It's not possible to accept any de facto
declaration of an autonomous entity in Syria," said Turkey's foreign minister Ahmet
Davutoglu, "and that could only lead to further crisis."
Turkey, home to the world's largest Kurdish population and skittish about any moves
that could re-ignite unrest in the country, streamed more troops to its border with Syria
after the PYD statement, announcing that it had "a parliamentary mandate to intervene in
the Syrian territories if there is a serious risk."
While Turkey, Iraq, and other countries balk at indications of increased Kurdish
self-rule, an independent Kurdish state in the Middle East would be a gift for Israel,
many Kurdish and Israeli experts believe. "Kurds are deeply sympathetic to Israel and an
independent Kurdistan will be beneficial to Israel," argued Kurdish journalist Ayub Nuri
in July. "It will create a balance of power. Right now, Israel is one country against
many. But with an independent Kurdish state, first of all Israel will have a genuine
friend in the region for the first time, and second, Kurdistan will be like a buffer zone
in the face of the Turkey, Iran and Iraq."
The Kurds are the world's largest stateless nation, numbering well over 30 million
spread across Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq, according to figures in the CIA Factbook,
though exact population numbers are hard to pin down. Iraq's 6 million Kurds have achieved
the greatest measure of independence; they run the autonomous Kurdistan Regional
Government, or KRG, within the federal Iraqi system since 2005 (though de facto autonomy
began after Saddam's army was forced out of the region during the 1991 Gulf War). But
despite a booming economy and striking freedom of action, the Kurdistan Regional
Government in Iraq still has presented no concrete plans for independence.
Will it be Syria's Kurds who lead the way toward a Kurdish state? Syrian Kurds, the
largest ethnic minority in the country, make up some 9% of the country's 23 million
people, according to US government figures. Their loyalties in the conflict are split,
though Kurds have managed to carve out a once unthinkable degree of independence in the
northeast of the country, where they constitute a majority. They've created their own
police forces, issued their own license plates and have thrown off restrictions on their
language and culture.
The announcement of autonomy followed the capture of the multi-ethnic Syrian border
town of Ras al Ayn from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front rebels. The Sunni extremist
group had tried imposing its strict form of Islam on the more moderate Kurds. Clashes
between Kurdish gunmen and Islamists belonging to al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant over the past weeks left dozens of gunmen dead on both sides. Kurdish
commanders charged that the mainstream Free Syrian Army commanders are also sending
fighters to join the al-Qaeda-linked groups in fighting the Kurds, hinting at the
possibility of an Arab-Kurdish mini-war breaking out in Syria.
However, it is still unclear if the Syrian Kurds declared autonomy with an eye toward
PYD officials tried to play down the significance of the declaration. "This is not a
call for separation," PYD leader Salih Muslim maintained in an interview with France 24.
"It's just that for a year now we have been on our own in our own territories and people
have needs, they want some kind of administration to run their issues, they can't be left
According to Kurdistan expert Ofra Bengio of Tel Aviv University, independence is not
on the Syrian Kurds' agenda any time in the near future. "The PYD is not talking about
independence now and will be reluctant to use such terminology in order not to antagonize
any of the governments or the international community," she said. "Autonomy is the safer
goal now. Things may change according to changes on the ground."
But Syria might be so far gone that the Kurds will never agree to rule from Damascus,
even under a federal system. "The idea of independence is also likely, because I don't see
the PYD having friendly relations with the future government in Damascus that is run by
the current opposition fighters," said Nuri. "I think the Syrian Kurds as a people have
independence as their ultimate goal," he continued, "but at this point it is not up to
them to decide."
Even if the PYD isn't planning for imminent independence, its growing autonomy and its
influence on the Kurdistan Regional Government's calculations in Iraq could be an
important development. The autonomous Kurdistan Region in Iraq borders Kurdish areas in
Syria and the two populations' connections run deep.
Iraq's Kurds and their leaders are deeply sympathetic to the Syrian Kurds, and have
been eager to help their brethren across the border avoid the political mistakes they
made, some of which resulted in a bloody Kurdish civil war in Iraq almost twenty years
While Syria crumbles, the KRG in Erbil continues to help Syrian Kurdish doctors and
teachers find employment in the Kurdistan Region. Kurdish students from Syria are allowed
to enroll in universities in the KR, despite the fact that Bashar Assad refused to grant
them passports. Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds have fled to the Iraqi Kurdish city of
Duhok since the civil war started.
When the move to independence does finally come, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq will be hostile
to the development. Israeli interests run counter to the current American position. Ties
between Israel and the Kurds run deep. A Mossad officer named Sagi Chori was sent to help
his close friend, the late iconic Kurdish leader Mulla Mustafa Barzani, manage the Kurds'
battles against the Iraqi army in the 1960s. (The partnership has been well-documented in
Kurdish and Israeli media.) And reports of Israel training Kurdish commandos continue to
surface. Nationalist Kurds tend to see Israel as a role model for an independent
Kurdistan, a small nation surrounded by enemies and bolstered by a strategic partnership
with the United States.
Israel has long developed alliances with non-Arab countries on the periphery of the
Middle East. Today, that policy rests on partnerships with Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, and
Caucasian and central Asian countries. Kurdistan fits perfectly into that framework.
The new Kurdish country will likely open full diplomatic relations with Israel. "The
Kurds are the only nation in the region that has not been filled with hatred toward Israel
and America," said Saadi. "The way Kurds see the world is different from Arabs
Generally, Islamists are more powerful in the Arab world, they think that Islamic Sharia
is the solution. However, the majority of Kurds believe in a European style of government.
The problem is they don't know how to get there. They don't have experience."
With few friends in the region, the Kurds will likely look to Israel to help them gain
security and closer relations with the United States. As Arab governments in the Middle
East totter and fall, and Islamists look to exploit the chaos, the alliance is one that
both countries may find beneficial to pursue.
New Deal to Connect Israel to European Electric Grid
Israel's Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom signed a memorandum of
understanding on Thursday with Cyprus and Greece to lay an underwater electric cable
connecting the three countries' electric grids, paving the way for a connection to the
If the plan is realized, it would mean that Israel could export energy to Europe, and
in times of crisis could fall back on European electricity. "This agreement is a testament
to the close and continuously improving ties between the countries," Shalom said.
Israel Among Leading Arms Exporters In 2012
By Aviation Week
In the competition to market weapons internationally, Israel ranks among the world's top
In 2012, Israeli defense exports soared to a record of $7.47 billion, making it the
world's sixth-largest exporter of arms. The 30% increase in global arms
salescompared with 2011 levelspositions Israel's total weapons exports behind
the U.S., U.K., Russia, China and Germany and ahead of France and Italy. "I wouldn't
speculate on our exact position," said Shmaya Avieli, head of Israel's defense exports
agency Sibat, "but I could safely say that we're well among the top 10 exporters." The
figures represent the total of defense contracts signed in 2012 by all Israeli defense and
Countries in Asia continue to be the Israeli defense industries' leading market with 50%
of sales, or $3.7 billion, concentrated there. India is the leading customer. Sales to
Europe have increased dramatically, to $1.6 billion, as the result of a $1 billion offset
contract signed with Italy. In return for Israeli procurement of Aermacchi's M-346
advanced jet trainer, Italy committed to buy two Israel Aerospace Industries
(IAI)/Gulfstream G550 Special Electronic Missions Aircraft (SEMA), as well as IAI's
optical reconnaissance satellite. In early 2012, Germany also signed a contract to buy
additional Rafael Spike anti-tank missiles, totaling several hundred million dollars.
Missile technology and air defense systems represent 25% of Israel's overseas sales. IAI's
Barak-8 naval air and missile defense system continues to generate revenues through an
ongoing $1.4 billion contract with India. Israel has refused to confirm reports that the
long-range naval missile was also sold to Azerbaijan, in a contract estimated at $800-900
Surprisingly, Israel's Iron Dome counter-rocket system, which scored remarkable results
during recent conflicts between Israel and Gaza, has not yet translated combat success
into sales. Despite intensive marketing efforts by Rafael to South Korea and India,
neither country has selected the system, although South Korea did acquire the Iron Dome's
multi-mission radar (MMR) for rocket detection and warning. The Iron Dome system has
reportedly been sold to Singapore, but Israel maintains a veil of secrecy on all defense
contracts with the Asian city-state.
The third-largest market for Israel is the U.S. and Canada, with $1.19 billion sales in
2012. Attempts by scores of Israeli companies to close significant security contracts in
Brazil before the upcoming soccer World Cup and Olympics achieved little success. Overall
sales to Latin America totaled $604 billion.
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