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May 27, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Rushes Disaster Relief to Sri Lanka (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    Israel has sent disaster relief supplies to Sri Lanka following recent floods.
    The supplies include water pumps, water filters, solar lighting kits and LED flashlights, as well as 50,000 tablets for water purification.

Islamic State Fighters Mixing In with Refugees Heading to Europe - Nick Paton Walsh (CNN)
    Islamic State is trying to get their people to Europe from Libya as the route from Turkey to Greece becomes more heavily policed, Libyan police officials report.
    A senior Libyan military intelligence official in Misrata, Ismail Shukri, said that ISIS militants sought to disguise themselves by traveling with "their families, without weapons, as normal illegal immigrants. They will wear American dress and have English-language papers so they cause no suspicion."

U.S. Commandos Work with Syrian Fighters in Push toward ISIS Stronghold - Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
    American Special Operations forces and the Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters they are advising this week pushed closer to Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital in northern Syria.
    A Syrian opposition commander said that American advisers were "present at all positions along the front."
    About 25,000 Syrian Kurdish fighters and 5,000 Syrian Arabs make up the Syrian Democratic Forces the U.S. is supporting.

U.S. Says Its Airstrikes Are Hitting More Significant ISIS Targets - Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
    Nearly two years into the American-led air war against the Islamic State, military officials say they are hitting targets like oil rigs and secret cash coffers that finance the terrorist group's war machine.
    The destruction in recent months of these targets, deep behind enemy lines - which commanders previously avoided for fear of causing civilian casualties - has seriously damaged the Islamic State's ability to pay its fighters, govern and attract new recruits, military officials say.

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American Who Joined - then Escaped - ISIS Speaks Out Against "Evil" - Richard Engel (NBC News)
    A New York City man who joined ISIS and then fled the group after five months warned others not to follow in his footsteps.
    Finding brutality and chaos when he got to Syria, he told NBC News, "I did see severed heads placed on spiked poles."
    "It's obviously the worst decision I've ever made in my life," he said of his time with ISIS.
    "I'm helping in every sense that I can to help rid the world of the evil that I saw."

Bangladesh Opposition Leader Charged with Sedition for Meeting Israeli Official (Pakistan Today)
    Aslam Chowdhury, a joint secretary of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was arrested last week for sedition for plotting against the state after local media reported he had met an Israeli government adviser in India in March.
    Chowdhury has denied plotting against the government and told reporters he met the Israeli adviser during a "personal business trip" to India.

Morocco Refuses to Play Israel in Paralympic Tennis World Team Cup - Allon Sinai (Jerusalem Post)
    The Moroccan team refused to play against Israel at the World Team Cup wheelchair tennis event in Tokyo on Thursday.

VW Invests $300 Million in Israeli Taxi-Hailing Company Gett - Moshe Golan (Globes)
    Israeli tax-hailing company Gett (formerly Get Taxi) announced Tuesday that it has raised $300 million from German carmaker Volkswagen.
    Gett was founded in 2010 and offers transport and courier services in 60 cities worldwide including New York, London, and Moscow.
    Gett founder and CEO Shahar Waiser said, "The investment from Volkswagen will speed up our geographic expansion to the rest of Europe and the U.S. beyond New York."

Israeli Start-Up Gives New Powers to Tablets and Smartphones (Bloomberg)
    Jerusalem-based Umoove's software allows the mobile device you're looking at to detect your eye and head movements.
    You can fly through a video game just by moving your head from side to side or issue a command to your computer with a blink.
    In addition, just by following eye movements, Umoove can perform concussion and sobriety checks and potentially detect Alzheimer's disease and strokes as well.

LA Girl Joins IDF Combat Unit - Danny Brenner (Israel Hayom)
    Two months ago Alisa Sheldon, 25, realized her dream of serving in the IDF as a combat soldier, joining the ranks of the Lions of the Jordan Valley Battalion.
    "Basic training isn't easy for me," she says. "I'm with girls who are six or more years younger than me. But what's most important is being a combat soldier and contributing to the state."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Ayatollah Khamenei: World Powers Forced to Accept Nuclear Deal with Iran
    Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei said Thursday that Iran's nuclear advancements and power forced the world powers to negotiate a deal with Tehran "after they saw Iran's might." He said that enrichment to the 20% level, building 19,000 centrifuges, production of second, third and fourth generation centrifuges, and construction of a heavy water plant are other symbols of Iran's nuclear power. "The enemy, which once wasn't ready to accept even the existence of one centrifuge in Iran, was forced to accept the same fact after facing the country's nuclear power; actually, the Americans didn't make this concession, but we took it in light of our own power."  (Fars-Iran)
  • House Votes to Bar Purchases of Heavy Water from Iran - Andrew Taylor
    The U.S. House of Representatives voted 251-168 on Wednesday to bar the U.S. government from future purchases of heavy water from Iran. Last month, the Obama administration completed an $8.6 million deal to buy 32 tons of heavy water from Iran. Heavy water is a key component for one kind of nuclear reactor and can be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium. (AP)
        See also below Commentary - U.S. Purchase of Iran's Heavy Water: Encouraging a Dangerous Nuclear Supplier - David Albright and Andrea Stricker (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • Iran's Oil Deals Hit Banking Snag - Benoit Faucon
    Even after the lifting of international sanctions against Iran, long-standing U.S. banking limitations are impeding the country's oil resurgence by forcing energy companies to use small lenders or barter to get their deals done. U.S. banking restrictions remain in place over Iran's support for terrorism and its testing of ballistic missiles. They ban dollar transactions processed through the U.S. financial system, as well as any dealings with entities accused by the U.S. government of supporting terrorism, human-rights violations and long-range missile programs.
        The remaining U.S. restrictions ban transactions with Iran in dollars, the currency of choice in the global oil market. But most important, major European banks refuse to take on even legal business for fear of falling foul of U.S. authorities. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Foils Attempt to Smuggle Rocket Materials from West Bank to Hamas in Gaza
    Israeli security forces intercepted a large shipment of materials for making weapons, intended for Hamas in Gaza, at the Tarqumya checkpoint near Hebron in the West Bank on Thursday, the Defense Ministry announced. The consignment included hundreds of pipes with four-inch fittings that can be used for the production of mortars, as well as dozens of electric motors that can be used for terrorist infrastructure, including the excavation of infiltration tunnels. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Opposes Palestinian Bid to Join Interpol - Shlomo Cesana
    The international police organization Interpol is expected to decide next week whether to admit the Palestinian Authority as a member. Israeli diplomatic officials are working to convince Interpol to reject the PA, concerned that it could try to use membership to take legal steps against Israel. (Israel Hayom)
  • Home Front Command Giving Civil Defense Training to Israeli Arabs in Northern Israel - Linda Gradstein
    Israel is forming civil defense units throughout northern Israel, including in the Arab sector, to assist in any future conflict between Israel and Hizbullah, Col. Eren Makov, the Northern Regional Commander of the Homefront Command, said in an interview. "There is a big change in the Arab population in Israel in that they are much more willing to cooperate with us," Makov said. "We give them training in what to do." He said that more than half of the residents of northern Israel are Arab citizens who are under the same missile threat from Hizbullah as Jewish citizens. (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
  • Lapid: World Health Organization Condemnation of Israel Is Anti-Semitism - Lahav Harkov
    A World Health Organization resolution stating that Israel violates Palestinians' health rights is "a modern manifestation of anti-Semitism," Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid wrote to WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan on Thursday. The agency voted 107-8 with six abstentions on Wednesday to single out Israel for condemnation at its annual assembly in Geneva over its operations near Palestinian hospitals, and claiming Israel violates health rights in the Golan Heights.
        Lapid pointed out that Palestinian terrorists often operate in and around hospitals, and in 2014 Shifa Hospital in Gaza City was used to launch rockets into Israel, targeting civilians. "It is Hamas and the Islamic Jihad who should be the focus of your condemnation," Lapid wrote. He added that Israel often treats those injured in the Syrian civil war, bringing them into Israel through the Golan Heights. "This orchestrated campaign against the sole Jewish state in the world is a modern manifestation of anti-Semitism."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • U.S. Purchase of Iran's Heavy Water: Encouraging a Dangerous Nuclear Supplier - David Albright and Andrea Stricker
    Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Iran has agreed to a cap on the amount of heavy water it can have in the country. However, Iran wants to produce more heavy water than it needs. The U.S. intends to buy about 32 tons of Iranian heavy water that has been temporarily stored in Oman, and it may buy more. The heavy water sale risks legitimizing Iran as a nuclear supplier.
        Iran has frequently violated a series of UN resolutions instituting an embargo on its access to nuclear goods. It continues to violate remaining UN and national missile and conventional arms embargos. The U.S. should consider ending the planned purchase of heavy water, encourage Iran to stop making excess heavy water, and blend down any excess to normal water. David Albright is founder and president of ISIS, where Andrea Stricker is a senior policy analyst. (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • The Southern Front in Syria - Ehud Ya'ari
    For the past two years, Washington has focused its attention on northern Syria, where it has attempted to strengthen the Syrian Democratic Forces and rout the Islamic State. It has paid much less attention to southern Syria. That is a mistake; the U.S. has an opportunity there to consolidate and expand upon recent rebel gains. A relatively modest assistance program from Washington could help the local factions expel ISIS from its small enclave in the region and gradually dissolve the local al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.
        What's more, strengthening the rebels' position in the south may convince the half million Druze in the southwestern city of Sweida to turn away from the Assad regime. In recent years, the Druze and the rebels have agreed not to attack one another, and the rebels are careful to avoid the Druze Mountain. The writer is an international fellow with The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel and Greece Get Closer - Amos Harel
    There are growing signs of a new regional alliance for Israel with Greece, Cyprus, and to some extent Egypt. Officials in the Greek Defense Ministry say they have asked Israel to help them set up an effective air intelligence system. Greece needs such prowess due to the increasing risks posed by radical Islamist groups in Europe.
        Greece supported the Palestinian struggle for decades, but when the economic crisis hit, the Arabs didn't go out of their way to help. Greece is hoping for stronger military ties, intelligence assistance and economic opportunities, partly based on Israel's natural-gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean. Nikos Xydakis, Greece's alternate minister for European affairs and a member of the ruling leftist Syriza party, says both countries are in the middle of a region in anarchy and thus need each other. (Ha'aretz)
  • Conference Highlights: 100 Years since the Sykes-Picot Agreement - Lessons for the Middle East
    From an international conference organized by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, May 18, 2016, in Jerusalem
    Video: Why Middle Eastern States Failed - Prof. Shlomo Avineri
    Professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and former director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Video: Europe Should Not Underestimate the Islamist Movements Today - Dr. Michael Borchard
    Head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Office in Israel
    Video: How Resilient Is the Current Middle Eastern State System? - Amb. Itamar Rabinovich
    Israel's Chief Negotiator with Syria (1992-1995) and Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (1993-1996)
    Video: The "New Turkey," Islamicism, and Turkey's Relations with Israel - Dr. Ahmet K. Han
    Associate Professor of International Relations at Kadir Has University, Istanbul
    Video: Sykes-Picot Was an Obstacle to Zionist Ideals - Dr. Martin Kramer
    President of Shalem College in Jerusalem and former director of the Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University
    Video: Russian Policy in the Middle East - Alexey Drobinin
    Minister-Counsellor, Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the State of Israel
    (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Jews of the American Revolution - Meir Y. Soloveichik
    In an annual ritual ahead of Memorial Day, members of the New York synagogue Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in North America, visited their historic cemetery at Chatham Square to honor 20 members of their congregation who had fought in the Revolutionary War. It is striking that so many of its congregants sided with George Washington against England at a time when New York was known as a Tory stronghold. Shearith Israel's spiritual leader at the time, Gershom Mendes Seixas, a member of the Continental Congress, was known for his vocal support for the Colonists' cause.
        When independence was declared, Shearith Israel's members decided "that it were better that the congregation should die in the cause of liberty than to live and submit to the impositions of an arrogant [English] government." The synagogue was abandoned, the Torah scrolls spirited out of the city by Seixas, and the congregation fled to Philadelphia for the duration of the war. Many congregants enlisted in the Colonial Army. The writer is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan and director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought of Yeshiva University. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel's Spectacular Champions - Dov Lipman
    Last weekend Hapoel Beersheba clinched the championship of Israel's premier soccer league, its first championship since 1976. Team owner Alona Barkat took over an unsuccessful, second-division team and built it into a champion, demonstrating that there is no glass ceiling for women in Israel, neither in the business world nor in the sports world. Seeing a female owner being celebrated by all the male coaches, managers and players demonstrates a beautiful side of Israel.
        Next we look to the players. The team's roster includes Jews, Muslims and Christians, from different races. All came together with respect and friendship to win this championship. All stood side-by-side as the national anthem was sung before games. What better example demonstrates what we are as a Jewish state, where minorities and members of different faiths are given equal opportunity and equal rights? The writer, a former MK, is director of the Department of Zionist Operations for the World Zionist Organization. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Could a New Smart Cam for the Blind Also Help Dyslexic People? - Ruth Eglash
    OrCam, a Jerusalem high-tech company, was set up five years ago by the same folks who brought us the accident avoidance system Mobileye, that little camera that sits on your vehicle to stop it - or us - from colliding with a foreign object.
        The company has been developing a device to enhance the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired called MyEye. A smart camera connected to a tiny computer that attaches to a pair of glasses can be programmed to identify places, people and products. And, more important, it reads text. As well as helping those with vision disabilities, MyEye could also assist dyslexic children keep pace with their classmates. After pointing to text, the camera scanned it and read it back in a computer-generated voice - choose from Kendra or Brian.
        OrCam is being marketed in the U.S., Canada and Britain. The company has already reached a deal with the California Department of Rehabilitation, which will supply MyEye to qualifying blind and visually impaired state residents. (Washington Post)
  • Trouble Falling Asleep? Israeli Start-Up Has the Answer - Luke Tress
    Israeli medical device company 2breathe Technologies has developed a system that helps users fall asleep without the use of pharmaceuticals. Erez Gavish, co-founder and CEO, and his father, Dr. Benjamin Gavish, began developing the technology with an earlier company they founded, called RESPeRATE. They created a device that monitors and guides people's breathing to lower their blood pressure and the company has sold 250,000 units. But there was an unexpected side effect. Users would often drift off before completing their daily 15-minute exercise.
        2breathe tracks clients' breathing as they try to sleep, and composes a melody in real time that is in sync with their individual breathing pattern. The tones accompanying exhalations are gradually lengthened, so users begin to exhale more slowly without thinking about it. Their algorithm detects when people fall asleep, and the app turns itself off shortly after.
        The company found an unexpected fan base - parents of school-age children and older people. About 20 to 30% of kids have difficulty sleeping, Gavish said, and some parents found that their children followed the apps' tones easily and fell asleep faster. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Anti-Suicide Drug Shows Promise
    A treatment for depression developed by Israeli start-up NeuroRx recently successfully completed a Phase II trial. Cuclurad produced a reduction of symptoms within two hours of treatment and those positive results lasted for over eight weeks.
        Dr. Jonathan Javitt, founder and CEO of NeuroRx, said, "When someone dies from cancer, we blame the disease and look for a cure. Even though suicide is driven by chemical pathways in the brain, when people die of this disease, we tend to blame the patient. Our mission is to develop a first-class lifesaving drug for an unmet medical need, specifically suicide and depression."
        "Suicide has long been viewed as an end stage of depression, when in fact it's a distinct medical entity that appears to be driven by different brain pathways than those that drive depression. Every anti-depressive drug on the market today is known to increase the risk for suicide."  (Times of Israel)

Iran's Ballistic Missile Program - Michael Elleman (International Institute for Strategic Studies-UK)

  • Iran's missiles can already hit any part of the Middle East, including Israel. However, Iran's ballistic missiles have poor accuracy. Against large military targets, such as an airfield or seaport, Iran could conduct harassment attacks aimed at disrupting operations or damaging fuel-storage depots. However, the missiles would probably be unable to shut down critical military activities. Missile defenses would further degrade the military utility of Iran's missiles.
  • Without a nuclear warhead, Iran's ballistic missiles might trigger fear, but the casualties would probably be low, even if Iran unleashed its entire ballistic missile arsenal and a majority succeeded in penetrating missile defenses. Substantial improvements in missile accuracy will take years, if not a decade, to materialize.
  • Ballistic missiles no doubt would be the preferred delivery platform should Iran ever acquire an atomic weapon. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) offers a broadly accepted classification of a "nuclear-capable missile" as one capable of delivering a 500 kg. payload to 300 km. Under this definition, Iran possesses more than 300 nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
  • Flight tests are an essential element of any missile program. Iran did not conduct a nuclear-capable missile launch in 2005, 2013 or 2014, when serious nuclear negotiations were underway. From 2006 to 2012, when talks were going nowhere, Iran averaged roughly five test launches per year. Three flight tests were performed in 2015, and five have occurred so far in 2016.

    The writer, a former missile scientist at Lockheed Martin's R&D laboratory and the author of a 2010 IISS study on Iran's Ballistic Missile Capabilities, testified on May 24, 2016, before a U.S. Senate committee investigating the effects of the Iran nuclear deal.
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