Prepared for the Conference of Presidents
May 20, 2019
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The German Parliament on Friday passed a nonbinding resolution that designates the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as anti-Semitic. "The pattern of argument and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic," the resolution stated, vowing not to fund any organizations that question Israel's right to exist, call for a boycott of Israel or actively support BDS.
The resolution, which mentioned "growing unease" in the German Jewish community as anti-Semitism has increased, was brought to Parliament by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party and its Social Democratic coalition partner, as well as the liberal party and the Greens.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel congratulated the Bundestag on its "important decision." "I particularly appreciate the Bundestag's call on Germany to stop funding organizations that work against the existence of the State of Israel," he said. (New York Times)
See also Arab League Urges German Parliament to Reverse Anti-BDS Motion (AFP)
The White House announced Sunday that it would host an economic workshop with Bahrain on June 25-26 as the first stage of the U.S. Middle East peace plan. Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner told CNN: "People are letting their grandfathers' conflict destroy their children's futures. This will present an exciting, realistic and viable pathway forward that does not currently exist."
A senior administration official said the plan will discuss infrastructure, industry, empowering and investing in people, and governance reforms "to make the area as investible as possible." Kushner is said to have modeled details of the economic proposal on what has worked in Poland, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.
A second senior administration official said the workshop will "show that you can't have peace without economic stability and opportunity, but you also can't have economic opportunity and stability without peace and free of terror and resolving some of these core issues." (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
A rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and diplomatic missions, on Sunday night, falling near the U.S. Embassy but causing no casualties, the Iraqi military said. U.S. intelligence has showed Iran-backed Shi'ite militias positioning rockets near bases housing U.S. forces, according to two Iraqi security sources.
A U.S. State Department official said, "We take this incident very seriously. We will hold Iran responsible if any such attacks are conducted by its proxy militia forces or elements of such forces, and will respond to Iran accordingly." The embassy in Baghdad has already evacuated non-emergency staff, out of concern over perceived threats from Iran. (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
Syrian state media accused Israel of launching airstrikes against targets in Syria on Friday and Saturday. According to pro-opposition reports, the strikes targeted the First Division HQ of the Syrian Army near al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. The site is near Iranian and Hizbullah storage sites and air defense batteries. Other local reports said the strikes targeted Iranian arms depots. (Jerusalem Post)
A blast hit a tourist bus carrying 25 South Africans near the Giza pyramids on Sunday, injuring at least 14. Four Egyptians in a nearby car were also wounded, state TV said. (Ahram Online-Egypt)
U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt shared a Palestinian Media Watch report on Twitter showing how PA officials were receiving medical care in Israel while the Palestinian Authority was depriving its own citizens of the same right.
Greenblatt explained to Israel Hayom: "Despite the Palestinian Authority's refusal to pay the health care bills of its own people, members of its senior leadership - even individuals who have threatened terror attacks on Israel - continue to receive treatment in Israeli hospitals. This just goes to show the hypocrisy of the Palestinian Authority's position. Senior Palestinian officials and terrorists are taken care of, while ordinary Palestinians are put at risk. Anyone seeking to blame the United States for this situation needs to review the facts." (Israel Hayom)
Former Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade commander Zakariya Zubeidi and east Jerusalem lawyer Tareq Barghut have been indicted in a West Bank military court for firing at Jews near Ramallah. Zubeidi had been given amnesty for his role as one of the leaders of the Second Intifada. Barghut is a well-known lawyer.
The Israel Security Agency announced on Monday that intelligence "pointed to the involvement of Zakariya Zubeidi and Tareq Barghut in a series of attacks in the Beit El area." The two carried out two shooting attacks - on Nov. 7 and on Jan. 5 - toward buses after first carrying out reconnaissance of the area. The two were arrested on Feb. 27. They carried out another shooting attack on Dec. 27 when they opened fire on a bus going to Psagot. Barghut admitted that he carried out another shooting attack on Nov. 19, 2016, at a police car at the Zeitim crossing near Jerusalem.
"This is a serious incident involving a senior official in the Palestinian Prisoners' Ministry and an Israeli lawyer working in the Palestinian Prisoners' Office who carried out severe terrorist attacks using a Palestinian Authority vehicle used by Zakariya as part of his job in the prisoner's office," a senior ISA official said. (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli police deployed a new anti-drone unit to protect the Eurovision Song Contest, Israeli Channel 12 TV reported Sunday. Eran Salomon, head of the police's Bomb Disposal Division, said his unit brought down - but did not shoot - 80 UAVs that approached the Eurovision Village or the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds last week despite police instructions not to fly drones near the competition venues.
The report said the unit was armed with Chinese-made Hikvision UAV Jammer frequency-jamming guns that "neutralized" the drone, forcing it to land. It was then returned to its operator, who was given a warning. If an approaching drone was believed to be attempting a terror attack, the gun could instantly shoot the drone out of the sky or force it to return to its base. Police in Israel are increasingly concerned about potential terror attacks carried out via drone, and additional precautions will be required at all major events in the future. (Times of Israel)
On May 16, assailants broke into the Church of God in the village of Aboud, west of Ramallah in the West Bank, and stole some of the contents of the church. Photos showed damaged furniture and smashed windows inside the church.
On May 14, a similar incident took place at Saint Charbel Monastery in Bethlehem. The perpetrators cut the fence surrounding the monastery and stole some of its contents, including expensive equipment and surveillance cameras. This was the sixth time that this monastery has been subjected to sabotage and robbery over the past few years. Some Christians expressed concern that the PA security forces are not doing enough to protect Christian holy sites in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
35,000 Palestinians who left Gaza via Egypt in 2018 haven't returned, according to Israeli estimates, most of whom were young, educated and comparatively well-off. Among them were 150 doctors employed at Gazan hospitals. Hamas now bars physicians from leaving the territory. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would welcome the Iranian regime's sudden implosion, but not at the price of an American war with Iran. Israeli security strategy toward Iran rests on Iran's constant understanding of Israeli deterrent overmatch. Israel ensures that Iran knows any critical threat it poses to Israel will lead to far greater Israeli threat to Iran. Israelis tend only to employ force where they believe doing so is the only option to save lives.
Israel recognizes that a violent escalatory struggle with Iran carries outsize risks. In a U.S.-Iran war, the Israelis would face a barrage of Iranian ballistic missile strikes - possibly armed with chemical warheads. Iran's proxies in Lebanon would do the same, meaning a full-scale rocket onslaught from Hizbullah. It would also mean assassination and bombing campaigns against Israeli government officers and civilians around the world. (Washington Examiner)
The most recent round of fighting between Gaza and Israel was a battle between Israel's Iron Dome air defense system and Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets. Israel sustained four civilian deaths and 150 injuries. Palestinian rockets have been upgraded significantly over the years, with some short-range rockets now carrying dozens of kilograms of explosives, which definitely affected the scope of casualties and damage.
At the same time, Iron Dome achieved an interception rate of more than 90% for rockets launched at inhabited areas. This percentage was maintained even when the enemy launched a massive salvo of 117 rockets within one hour at the city of Ashdod. A total of 690 rockets were launched, with 35 reaching populated areas. When Israel first sought to develop Iran Dome, the Defense Ministry had hoped for an interception rate of 70%. During a round of fighting in March, 100% of 50 rockets launched from Gaza were intercepted successfully.
"No other system, worldwide, can even come close to the interception percentages of the Iron Dome," said a senior source at Rafael, which developed Iron Dome jointly with IAI. "The number of deaths would have been hundreds of times higher if the Iron Dome had not existed." (Israel Defense)
Is There Room in Academia for Honest Scholarship on Israel? - Jonathan S. Tobin (JNS)
See also Word Crimes: Reclaiming The Language of The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Donna Robinson Divine
The writer is Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and Government at Smith College. (Israel Studies)