Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
May 19, 2016


In-Depth Issues:

EgyptAir Plane with 66 Passengers Crashed on Flight from Paris to Cairo (Egyptian Streets)
    EgyptAir flight MS804, carrying 66 people from Paris to Cairo, crashed 200 km. off the Egyptian coast early Thursday.




French Intelligence Chief: France "Clearly Targeted" by IS (AFP)
    The head of France's internal intelligence agency DGSI, Patrick Calvar, has warned that the country is "clearly targeted" by the Islamic State.
    He told a parliamentary committee on national defense on May 10, "We know that Daesh (IS) is planning new attacks - using fighters in the area, taking routes which facilitate access to our territory - and that France is clearly targeted."
    He viewed France as "the country most threatened" by IS as well as al-Qaeda, which he said wants to "restore its image."




Islamic State Takes Its Battle to Baghdad - Loveday Morris (Washington Post)
    Islamic State militants launched four separate bombings in open-air markets in Baghdad over the past week, killing more than 150 people.
    The Islamic State-linked news agency Amaq claimed the group had killed 522 people in the capital in less than a month.
     U.S. and Iraqi military officials say the attacks are part of an effort by the Islamic State to stall any offensive to retake its strongholds in Iraq - Fallujah and Mosul.




Islamic State Grows in Libya - Lolita C. Baldor (AP)
    The number of Islamic State militants in Libya has doubled in the last year to 6,000, with aspirations to conduct attacks against the U.S. and other Western nations, Army Gen. David Rodriguez, head of U.S. Africa Command, said Thursday.
    See also ISIS Executed Dozens in Libya (Human Rights Watch)
    Islamic State has executed at least 49 people in its Libyan stronghold of Sirte since February 2015, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday in a report, "Life under ISIS in Sirte, Libya."
    Residents described public beheadings and corpses in orange jumpsuits hanging from scaffolding in what they referred to as "crucifixions."




A Hundred Tiny Hizbullahs in Syria - James Harkin (Foreign Policy)
    Hizbullah is playing a crucial mentoring role among pro-government paramilitary forces across Syria, inspiring a new generation of decentralized, autonomous militias forged in its image.
    Hizbullah's services as specialists in irregular warfare are in massive demand by Syria's religious minorities as it provides these locals with the training and logistical expertise to defend themselves from jihadists.



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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • French Plan for Middle East Peace Talks Hits Israeli Opposition - Isabel Kershner
    A new, French-led effort to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has gotten off to a contentious start as Israel is strongly opposed. After meeting with the French foreign minister in Jerusalem last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "I told him that the only way to advance a true peace between us and the Palestinians is by means of direct negotiations between us and them, without preconditions." He added: "They simply avoid negotiating with us as part of their desire to avoid resolving the root of the conflict, which is recognizing the nation state of the Jewish people, i.e., the State of Israel."
        Dore Gold, the director general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the conference that France was trying to convene would "provide a new escape route for Abbas to avoid direct talks with Israel." Though France and Israel are allies, Gold said, "there is a disconnect on this issue." American-brokered talks collapsed in 2014. Since then, international players have been preoccupied with other issues, including the battle against the Islamic State. (New York Times)
  • Kerry Explores Egyptian Proposal for Renewed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks - Carol Morello
    Secretary of State John F. Kerry came to Cairo on Wednesday to explore a new Egyptian proposal for resuming peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The Egyptian leader made an overture to Israelis on Tuesday, offering to warm up their frosty relationship if they would resume negotiations to settle the conflict with the Palestinians. Obama administration officials have said they are not actively trying to get the talks going again before a new president comes into office. (Washington Post)
  • IMF Tells Iran to Fix Its Banking System - Golnar Motevalli
    Iran must tackle problems in its banking system and bolster anti-money laundering and terrorism-financing laws if it wants to reconnect to the global economy, David Lipton, the second-ranked official at the International Monetary Fund, said in an interview in Tehran on Tuesday. "The best thing the government can do, and the banks can do, is to bring those standards up to international levels and try to reassure foreign partners, banks and otherwise that Iran's banks are safe to deal with," said Lipton, a former special assistant to President Obama, who is Ěthe first IMF senior management official to visit Iran since the 1979 revolution. (Bloomberg)
  • Methodists Vote to Cut Ties with Anti-Israel Group - Emily McFarlan Miller and Lauren Markoe
    United Methodists, voting at their General Conference, have called on their church's mission agency to withdraw from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation in a 478-318 vote on Tuesday. Critics see the group as more anti-Israel than pro-peace. "Blaming only one side while ignoring the wrongdoing of Hamas, Hizbullah, and Iran will not advance the cause of peace," a petition asking for the agency's withdrawal said, naming groups that have stated their aim to destroy the Jewish state. (Religion News Service-National Catholic Reporter)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Video: Israel Tests "Iron Dome" to Protect Offshore Facilities - Raoul Wootliff
    Israel has successfully tested a maritime missile interception system that can shoot down short-range missiles, dubbing it the "Iron Dome of the Sea," the navy announced on Wednesday. Col. Ariel Shir, head of operational systems in the navy, said that during tests carried out two weeks ago, a battery mounted on a ship shot down every one of a salvo of rockets fired from the shore. The system will be used to protect strategic assets such as natural gas rigs in Israel's territorial waters. (Times of Israel)
  • Three Indicted for Harboring Stabber after Jerusalem Attack - Dov Lieber
    Three Arab residents of the Old City of Jerusalem were indicted for helping a Palestinian stabber evade capture by security forces on May 2, police said Wednesday. Muhannad Muhtaseb, 20, stabbed an elderly Jewish man in the back in the Old City, then fled the scene. Muhtaseb, who was eventually arrested, managed to evade police for hours after his attack due to the help of the three locals. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Captures 60,000 Grenade Springs Headed to Gaza
    Israel Police on Wednesday captured a shipment of 60,000 hand-grenade springs on their way to Gaza. Police arrested a resident of the Bedouin town of Rahat as he was loading the springs onto his vehicle. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Islamic Revolution Continues beyond Iran's Borders - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in April that the U.S. Fifth Fleet and other international forces recently intercepted four ships ferrying weapons from Iran to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. In March, Lebanese and Gulf media reported that Hizbullah missile and rocket experts were training and assisting Houthi rebels with precision barrages on Saudi territory.
        Iran's ongoing subversive activity in assisting Lebanese Hizbullah in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and other places is intended to signal that Iran will keep working to export the Iranian revolution. In this context, Iran's supply of missiles and rockets to the Houthis in Yemen, Lebanese Hizbullah, and the Palestinian terror organizations is of great importance.
        Standing against this trend is Saudi Arabia, which continues to draw blood in Yemen and to pay large sums for the ongoing campaign in Syria - two arenas where Iran is heavily involved. The Saudis are thus trying to forge an effective blocking coalition against Iran's expansionist ambitions in the region. The writer, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel Has No Partner for Peace - Gadi Taub
    Israeli-Palestinian negotiations rested on the assumption that another kilometer, another percentage of territory, another 10,000 refugees, and it would be possible to finish stretching the bridge over the abyss. However, accumulated experience showed that at every critical junction the Palestinians found the kilometer or percentage (let alone the right of return) to prevent agreement.
        It is no coincidence that Palestinian textbooks continue to draw the map of Palestine without Israel. It is no coincidence that PA propaganda praises martyrs. It is no coincidence that the PA has not dedicated the enormous resources that the international community has provided it to nation-building. And, it is no coincidence that they continue to promise the right of return.
        The Palestinian leadership does not recognize our right to a nation state of our own in the areas that it sees as its land, and no combination of the details can hide this fact. Thus, the continued conflict is not our sole responsibility, and its conclusion does not depend currently on our will. The Palestinians seek to be portrayed always as the sole victims, but the responsibility for the continued conflict rests in great deal at their doorstep. The writer, an Israeli historian, author, screenwriter, and political commentator, is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Policy at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
Observations:

For Middle East Peace, Look to Israel's Arab Partners - John Hannah (Foreign Policy)

  • It's virtually impossible to imagine Israel and the Palestinians conducting fruitful negotiations under the current circumstances. Mistrust is at an all-time high. Gaps on the core issues are wide. Talks have been in deep freeze for over two years. For months on end, young Palestinians have targeted innocent Israelis in a wave of random stabbings.
  • The Palestinian leadership seems weaker, more divided, and more paralyzed than ever, utterly incapable of taking on the compromises that even the most generous peace offer would require.
  • If outside intervention to impose a deal rewards the Palestinians' refusal to negotiate, what incentive would they have to return to the table, rather than merely sit back and wait for even greater international pressure to be brought on Israel?
  • President Obama might more productively direct his energies during his waning months in office to the slightly more auspicious diplomatic ground of Israel's thickening links with a handful of key Arab states.
  • Unfortunately, Israeli officials complain that the U.S. remains far too focused on the Palestinian issue, while missing entirely the historic opportunity to advance relations between Israel and the Arab states. That's the real peace process play that America should be pursuing.

    The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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