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February 15, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Intelligence Assessment: Syria Did Not Declare All of Its Chemical Weapons in 2013 Deal - Armin Rosen (Business Insider)
    In August 2014, the Obama administration declared that Syria's chemical stockpile had been destroyed.
    However, on Feb. 9, 2016, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate committee:
    "We assess that Syria has not declared all the elements of its chemical weapons program to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Despite the creation of a specialized team and months of work by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to address gaps and inconsistencies in Syria's declaration, numerous issues remain unresolved."
    "Moreover, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime has used chemicals as a means of warfare since accession to the CWC in 2013." 

Report: Hizbullah Has Radar that Can Track Israeli Jets (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    Hizbullah is using sophisticated radar to track Israeli fighter jets on reconnaissance flights over Lebanon, Israeli media, including the Hebrew Walla website, have reported.
    Hizbullah has acquired the radar technology since Russia's entry into the Syrian civil war.
    "The connection between Hizbullah, Russia and Syria has greatly changed the rules of the game in the region," a security official was quoted as saying by Walla.

Two Palestinian Gunmen Open Fire Outside Jerusalem's Old City Sunday - Nir Hasson (Ha'aretz-Times of Israel)
    Two Palestinian men in their 20s armed with rifles - one a Palestinian police officer - approached police officers and soldiers at Damascus Gate and began to shoot, but the forces killed the gunmen.
    See also Palestinian Teen Tries to Stab Israeli Troops in Hebron Sunday - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    Yasmin A-Tamimi, 14, a resident of Hebron, "arrived at the Border Police post near the Cave of the Patriarchs, drew a knife, tried to stab one of the officers at the roadblock and he fired at her," Israel Police reported Sunday.
    See also Palestinian Tries to Stab Soldiers at Jerusalem Checkpoint Sunday - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    A Palestinian man attempted to stab Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Har Homa in Jerusalem on Sunday, and was shot and killed.
    See also IDF Kills Two Palestinian Terrorists in Exchange of Fire in West Bank Sunday - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    An IDF unit shot dead two Palestinians after coming under automatic weapons fire north of Jenin in the West Bank on Sunday.

    See also Three Border Policemen Injured in Car-Ramming Attack Saturday - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Three Israeli border policemen were injured when Palestinians rammed their jeep on Saturday near Maale Adumim. The two Palestinian attackers were injured.
    See also Female Palestinian Tries to Stab Soldier, Wounds Another Palestinian Saturday - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    A female Palestinian attempted to stab a soldier in Hebron on Saturday, before being shot dead by security forces.
    During the attack near the Cave of the Patriarchs, the woman stabbed and wounded a Palestinian bystander.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • A Mini World War Rages in Aleppo, Syria - Liz Sly
    In the northern Syrian province of Aleppo, a battle with global dimensions risks erupting into a wider war. Russian warplanes are bombing. Iraqi and Lebanese militias aided by Iranian advisers are advancing on the ground. An assortment of Syrian rebels backed by the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are fighting back. Kurdish forces allied both to Washington and Moscow are extending Kurdish territories. The Islamic State has snatched a couple of small villages while all the focus was on the other groups.
        The Aleppo offensive is affirming Moscow's stature as a dominant regional power. The advances by Shiite Iraqi and Lebanese militias are extending the sway of Iran far beyond the traditional Shiite axis of influence into Sunni areas of northern Syria. Almost all of the advances are being made by Lebanese Hizbullah, the Iraqi Badr Brigade, Harakat al-Nujaba and other Iraqi Shiite militias sponsored by Iran. (Washington Post)
        See also Turkey Attacks U.S.-Backed Kurdish Fighters in Syria - Dion Nissenbaum
    The U.S. government called Saturday on Turkey to stop shelling American-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria as the militants sought to seize new ground before a possible ceasefire. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Skeptical of Syria Ceasefire - Dan Williams
    "The situation in Syria is very complex, and it is hard to see how the war and mass killing there are stopped," Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said in Munich on Saturday. "Syria as we have known it will not be united anew in the foreseeable future, and at some point I reckon that we will see enclaves, whether organized or not, formed by the various sectors that live and are fighting there....As long as Iran is in Syria, the country will not return to what it was, and it will certainly find it difficult to become stable as a country that is divided into enclaves, because the Sunni forces there will not allow this."
        Ram Ben-Barak, director general of Israel's Intelligence Ministry, told Israel's Army Radio: "Ultimately Syria should be turned into regions, under the control of whoever is there - the Alawites where they are, the Sunnis where they are....I can't see how a situation can be reached where those same 12% Alawites go back to ruling the Sunnis, of whom they killed half a million people there." An Assad victory in Aleppo, Ben-Barak said, "will not solve the problem because the battles will continue. You have ISIS there and the rebels will not lay down their weapons."  (Reuters)
  • Ohio Restaurant Owner: Machete Attack Was Anti-Israel Terrorism - Shiri Moshe
    Hany Baransi, an Israeli Christian Arab, opened the Nazareth Restaurant & Deli in Columbus, Ohio, 27 years ago. In addition to having a sign bearing an Arabic greeting - "Ahlan Wa Sahalan" - the restaurant displays an Israeli flag. Baransi says he has always been outspoken about his Israeli identity, and so when his restaurant was attacked on Thursday by a machete-wielding man, he believed it was no coincidence. Baransi said the attacker, Mohamed Barry, "came in and asked where I was from." A young waitress told Barry that the owner is from Israel. Barry returned 30 minutes later with a machete and start hacking people. "It was a terrorist attack," Baransi said.
        "You know, we are Israelis, used to this in our lives, people attacking us and wanting to kill us," he observed. When asked whether he would consider removing the Israeli flag in his restaurant as a precaution, Baransi replied, "I am going to get a bigger flag."  (The Tower)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Defense Minister Ya'alon: Arab States Seeking Nukes in Wake of Iran Deal - Yaakov Lappin
    Israel is "seeing signs that states in the Arab world are preparing to get nuclear weapons, because they are unwilling to sit quietly with a nuclear Iran, or an Iran on the verge of a nuclear bomb," Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said at a Munich security conference on Saturday. Israel is closely monitoring the enforcement of the nuclear deal with Iran, Ya'alon said, warning that even if Tehran keeps to the agreement, "15 years [when it expires] is around the corner."
        Dr. Emily Landau, who heads the Arms Control Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said, "I believe that the motivation in some states to go down the nuclear path has increased....The three states that are often mentioned as those who would have the strongest motivation to become nuclear states if Iran were to cross the threshold are Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey."
        "The first step is to set up a nuclear infrastructure that is civilian in nature. All of the proliferators have gone this route - developing a military capability under the guise of a civilian one, and all under the cover of the NPT [Nonproliferation Treaty]."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU Backs Down from Product-Labeling Push - Shlomo Cesana
    Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said relations with the EU had "overcome the crisis" caused by the bloc's decision to label Israeli exports manufactured beyond the Green Line, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini spoke by phone Friday. The conversation followed a negotiation process led by Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold.
        The European Commission's original labeling resolution was set to be adopted by all 28 member states. Under the new agreement, the EU said it will leave product-labeling decisions up to each individual member country. The EU also promised that it would not assist in labeling efforts and that it would oppose any boycott or isolation campaigns against Israel.
        The EU further announced that it is opposed to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, that it is dedicated to Israel's security and that it condemns terrorism and incitement to violence. Gold said: "We received a clear commitment from Mogherini that there is no attempt here to determine the borders between Israel and the Palestinians."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel's Options in the Face of Hamas Attack Tunnels - Amos Yadlin
    The repeated rounds of fighting in Gaza forced on Israel by Hamas since 2009 have not achieved long-term deterrence, severe damage to the Hamas military wing, the weakening of the organization, or effective constraints on its future military buildup. Hamas, which is preparing for the next confrontation with Israel, is heavily invested in building attack tunnels.
        The 2014 Gaza war failed to ensure any essential change in the situation over what existed formerly. Another round fought by the same rules is not recommended; it will only exact high costs from both sides while producing no positive results for Israel's long-term security.
        The optimal situation for Israel vis-a-vis Gaza entails a technological solution for Hamas' attack tunnels. This would postpone the inevitable next round of fighting and put Israel in a better position when it does break out. But no such technical solution is currently ripe for use.
        Israel must establish that the discovery of cross-border tunnels ready for Hamas attacks requires preemptive action. If such action should escalate into a full-blown conflict, the conflict must be brief but forceful, based on a clear strategic objective that, unlike all previous military encounters, has the potential to effect a fundamental change in the balance of power and the dynamics between the sides. Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, chief of Israeli military intelligence from 2006 to 2010, is director of INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies)
  • Palestinians Pretend Israel Is Stolen Arab Property - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The idea of Palestine as an Arab nation dates back only to the beginning of the 20th century. The Arab political awakening there only happened as a reaction to the return of the Jews to the land beginning in the late 19th century. But even then, the Arabs didn't call themselves Palestinians. Up until the creation of the State of Israel that was a name only used by Jews who had embraced the British Mandate for Palestine created by the League of Nations to facilitate the creation of a national home for the Jewish people after World War I. It was only after Israel's rebirth in 1948 that the Arabs began to call themselves Palestinians.
        The Palestinians' national identity is not so much bound up with a specific language, culture, or land as it is with the idea of resisting the return of the Jews. Without Zionism, there was no Palestinian Arab nationalism. Palestinian nationalism means rejecting the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn.
        In order to justify their relatively newly minted national identity, the Palestinians have embraced a narrative that completely negates the Jewish connection to their ancient homeland. Their attempt to claim that Jerusalem, its Temple Mount and the Western Wall have no Jewish connections isn't merely an insult. Such canards, which are promoted by the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority as well as Hamas, are rooted in a need to justify the expulsion of the Jews and to pretend that the country is stolen Arab property. (Commentary)

Netanyahu: Better Relations with the Arab World Could Help Bring Progress with the Palestinians (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Sunday:

  • Major Arab countries are changing their view of Israel. They don't see Israel anymore as their enemy, but they see Israel as their ally, especially in the battle against militant Islam with its two fountainheads: the militant Islamists led by Iran and the militant Islamists led by Daesh [ISIS].
  • Most of the Arab countries in the Middle East, with the exception of Syria, feel threatened by this dual threat. This is something that is forging new ties, many of them discreet, some of them open.
  • It used to be said that if we can have some kind of political progress with the Palestinians, that would bring about better relations with the Arab world. I think it could actually be the other way around. I think the better relations with the Arab world could help bring progress with the Palestinians.
  • The encouragement of leading Arab states for a more realistic position on the part of the Palestinian Authority might contribute to a stabilizing situation and even advancing to a better future.
  • America remains the best friend of the State of Israel. The United States and Israel are the greatest allies. And I deeply appreciate the support of President Obama, the Congress, and the American people. I think the American people understand that in this turbulent Middle East and this turbulent world, America has no better friend than Israel and Israel has no better friend than the United States of America.
  • I am committed to the simple principle that all Jews must feel at home in Israel. You are always welcome here; your help is deeply appreciated; your friendship is unassailable; and your loyalty to the future of our people is indisputable. And for all that, I want to thank you.

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