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July 11, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Offers to Host Direct Talks between Israel and Palestinians - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Egypt wants to host direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Cairo with the participation of senior Egyptian and Jordanian officials.
    The goal is to develop a package of confidence-building measures that would lead to calm in the territories and improve the atmosphere between the parties, Western diplomats and senior Palestinians told Ha'aretz on Sunday.

Iran, Once Quiet about Its Casualties in Syria and Iraq, Now Glorifies Them - Thomas Erdbrink (New York Times)
    For years, Iran covered up its military activities in Syria and Iraq, so the government could deny any official involvement on the ground. Now every Iranian killed in action is named, his picture published, his valor lauded in elaborate tributes.
    The Revolutionary Guards see publicizing the sacrifices of the fallen as a way to build domestic support for the current Syria policy and squelch any talk of compromise.
    Facebook and Twitter are blocked by the state in Iran, but the photo-sharing app Instagram is freely accessible.
    Previously used mostly by middle-class Iranians showing off new puppies, the app is now suffused with images of "martyrs" and young men proudly wielding machine guns.

Man Charged with Marking Targets in D.C. for Islamic State - Matthew Barakat (AP)
    Haris Qamar, 25, from a northern Virginia suburb of Washington, was charged last week with attempting to assist the Islamic State by photographing targets in the Washington, D.C., area for a video encouraging lone-wolf terrorist attacks in the nation's capital.
    After Qamar came to authorities' attention through Twitter posts supporting terrorist attacks, the FBI set up a sting operation.
    Qamar tried to join the Islamic State in 2014 but was thwarted because his father had possession of Qamar's passport and threatened to turn his son in to authorities if he persisted.

Israeli Navy to Get U.S. Sea Hawk Helicopters to Defend Gas Fields - Jeremy Binnie (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly)
    The U.S. announced on July 6 that Israel plans to acquire eight surplus U.S. Navy SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopters for its new German-made frigates.
    The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the Sea Hawks would be used on board "four new frigates to secure the Leviathan Natural Gas Field" in the Mediterranean.

Israeli Group Sues Facebook over Palestinian Violence (AP)
    An Israeli rights group says it's suing Facebook for $1 billion on behalf of families of American victims of Palestinian attacks.
    Shurat Hadin says Facebook is violating the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act by providing groups such as the Islamic militant Hamas with a platform for spreading violence.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN: Iran Missile Tests "Not Consistent" with Nuclear Deal - Michelle Nichols
    Iran's ballistic missile launches "are not consistent with the constructive spirit" of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, but it is up to the Security Council to decide if they violated a resolution, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report seen by Reuters on Thursday. Iran is still subject to a UN arms embargo and other restrictions. Under the UN resolution, Iran is "called upon" to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years.
        "I call upon Iran to refrain from conducting such ballistic missile launches since they have the potential to increase tensions in the region," Ban wrote in his first bi-annual report to the Security Council on the implementation of remaining sanctions and restrictions. (Reuters)
  • Democratic Party Platform Committee Rejects "Occupation" Language - Jacob Kornbluh
    Supporters of Hillary Clinton on the Democratic Party platform committee on Saturday rejected several proposals that would have undermined the party's longstanding support for Israel. At a meeting of the platform drafting committee in Orlando, supporters of Bernie Sanders proposed an amendment that would add "an end to occupation and illegal settlements" to the original language. The proposal was voted down 95-73.
        Another amendment to remove the military option from the Iran non-compliance language failed 67-98. (Jewish Insider)
        See also Bid to Add "Occupation" to Democratic Party Platform Fails - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
    A group of activists led by academic Cornel West and Arab American Institute President James Zogby demanded tougher language on Israel. The language on Israel, decided on by the full 187-member platform committee, was the subject of a similar, unsuccessful fight last month within the smaller drafting committee. (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egyptian Foreign Minister Visits Jerusalem
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met on Sunday at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "Our two nations have been at peace since we concluded our historic peace treaty 37 years ago and the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan are the cornerstone of stability in the region, and are critical assets for our countries. They are also the cornerstones of a broader regional peace and a broader stability that we hope to achieve. To this end I welcome President el-Sisi's recent offer of Egyptian leadership in efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians and a broader peace in our region."
        "Today I call again on the Palestinians to follow the greatest example of Egypt and Jorden and join us for direct negotiations. This is the only way we can address all the outstanding problems between us, and turn the vision of peace based on two states for two peoples into a reality."
        Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry said: "My visit to Israel today...comes in the context of President el-Sisi's vision, which he elaborated on the 17th of May, for the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people, bringing this long conflict to an end. Such a monumental achievement will have a far reaching and dramatic and positive impact."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israel, Egypt Working to Arrange Netanyahu-Sisi Meeting in Egypt (Times of Israel)
        See also Netanyahu and Egyptian Foreign Minister Watch Euro Soccer Final Together (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Wounded in Drive-by Shooting in West Bank - Gili Cohen and Chaim Levinson
    An Israeli man was wounded as he was driving near Metzad in the West Bank on Saturday night when he came under fire from a passing car at Sa'ir Junction. The IDF confirmed that his car was shot at multiple times. His wife and six children in the car were unharmed. The shooter was seen heading toward the Palestinian town of Sa'ir. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Terror Victim Recounts Harrowing Attack - Kobi Nachshoni
    "When we got to the junction, my wife and I saw a terrorist with a machine gun about two meters from us," Eitan Finkel, who was wounded in the shooting attack, said Sunday. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Egyptian Foreign Minister's Visit to Jerusalem Marks a New Level of Cooperation - Zvi Bar'el
    The decision to send Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Jerusalem shows a new level of ties closer to political normalization. Egypt has concerns that require it to go public with Israel. The first part of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Ethiopia is building on the Nile, is expected to be completed next year, and Egypt says it will reduce Egypt's water supply and lower its electricity output by 25-40%. Egypt believes, quite rightly, that Israel has leverage in Ethiopia, and can persuade Ethiopia to coordinate water-sharing with Cairo so Egypt's economy doesn't suffer.
        Cairo is also very interested in the renewed ties between Turkey and Israel, which lets Turkey be a major supplier of consumer goods and construction materials to Gaza. Turkey's entrance puts Egypt in an uncomfortable position in which it, with Israel, continues to impose a formal closure on Gaza while Turkey becomes an ally of Hamas.
        The widening of the Israeli-Egyptian map of political interests, with an economic bonus in the background in the realm of natural gas, is a key development. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egyptian Foreign Minister's Visit an Encouraging Step - Zvi Mazel
    The visit to Israel of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry on Sunday is an encouraging, significant step. The visit is intended to show the world - and especially the Arab world - that Egypt is reclaiming its leading position in the Middle East. The country is now relatively stable: economic growth in 2015 was 4.2%, and similar numbers are expected for the current year.
        Shoukry's visit also testifies to the resurgence of the pragmatic alliance comprised of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Jordan to fight Islamic terrorism and Iranian subversive attempts. The writer served as Israel's Ambassador to Egypt, Sweden, and Romania. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Holding Arab Culture Accountable - Hiam Nawas
    The Middle East region's fundamental problems are not political but rather cultural, therefore the U.S. and its military might is unable to fix them. The current chaos draws on an Arab culture and identity that lacks internal and external empathy, favors authoritarianism over autonomy, and opts for zero-sum solutions.
        The Arab moral code values revenge over compromise, men over women, and groups over individuals. Collective Arab identity is based on tribalism, submitting to paternalistic authority, a sense of honor linked to women's virginity, and an ossified sanctification of custom and tradition. There is a glorification of the past along with a refusal to take responsibility for the present and the hope that the future will miraculously be better.
        The contemporary Arab world lacks self-reflection and self-directed criticism. Conversations with Arabs repeatedly demonstrate an overall narrative of victimization and blaming the other. This manifests into a plethora of conspiracy theories, such as the suspicion that ISIS is an American-Israeli invention or that the Arab Spring was a Western plot to hand the region over to Islamists. The writer is a Jordanian-American analyst based in Washington. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Israeli Prime Minister's Africa Trip: A Bid to Change the Balance of Power - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)

  • During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's four-day tour last week to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia - which required unprecedented security arrangements, including special forces and armored personal carriers brought from Israel - he was treated like the chief of a global superpower. He was received and bid farewell at the airport by the countries' heads of state. They spared no effort: red carpets, white gloves, military marching bands, national anthems, honor guards, gun salutes and girls handing flowers to the first lady.
  • As Netanyahu noted in his speeches, many parts of the continent want to get closer to Israel, mostly because they are interested in Israeli technology and security know-how. In an age of escalating terrorism many leaders in this continent have concluded that they can no longer afford to show a cold shoulder to the Jewish state.
  • The Arab Spring and the crumbling of hitherto powerful states has also allowed for the realignment. "Global problems that we now share are different than what they were some 30 years ago. And we need to partner with each other. We need to deal with the security threats we have together," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Tuesday.
  • Netanyahu is bidding to change the balance of power in the way the world relates to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The Palestinians have in recent years tried to internationalize the conflict. Blocking this effort was a central goal of his mission to Africa.
  • "It might take a decade, but we will change the automatic majority against Israel," Netanyahu said last Monday on the plane to Kenya. Expanding Israel's foreign ties "will lead to a situation in which the Palestinians will no longer have this shelter [of international forums] and will have to discuss with us on a bilateral basis, something they refuse to do as long as they have the international refuge."

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