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August 12, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

German Intelligence Head Warns of ISIS "Hit Squads" Disguised as Refugees - Jessica Chasmar (Washington Times)
    "We have substantial reports that among the refugees there are hit squads. There are hundreds of these reports, some from refugees themselves," Manfred Hauser, the vice president of Bavaria's domestic intelligence agency, BayLfV, told the BBC on Thursday.
    "We have irrefutable evidence that there is an [Islamic State] command structure that makes an attack in Germany very likely."

Report: Hundreds of Russian Mercenaries Have Died in Syria - John Sparks (Sky News-UK)
    A group of young Russian men told Sky News that they were recruited by a private military company called Wagner and flown to Syria aboard Russian military transport planes.
    For the equivalent of 3,000 pounds a month, they say they were thrown into pitch battles and firefights with rebel factions.
    "Approximately 500 to 600 people have died there," claimed Dmitry. "No one will ever find out about them." The official number of Russians killed in Syria stands at 19.
    According to military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, "These kind of 'volunteers' do appear in different war zones, where the Russian government wants them to appear. So first in Crimea, then in Donbass (eastern Ukraine), now in Syria."

Belgian High School "Proud" of Teacher Honored at Iran's Holocaust Cartoon Show - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    Faculty at the Sint-Jozefs Institute high school in Torhout, Belgium, said they were proud of teacher Luc Descheemaeker, who won an award and a $1,000 cash prize at Iran's International Holocaust Cartoon Contest in Tehran in May for his drawing comparing Israel's West Bank security barrier to Auschwitz.

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Britain's New Foreign Secretary Is a Former Kibbutz Volunteer - Danna Harman (Ha'aretz)
    Boris Johnson, Britain's new foreign secretary, first visited Israel in 1984 with his sister Rachel for a six-week stint at Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi.
    Boris was assigned to the communal kitchen, scrubbing pots and pans.
    As a young journalist, Boris also arranged to interview Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek.

Is Gaza Facing an Opioid Epidemic? - Shlomi Eldar (Al-Monitor)
    According to Palestinian sources, hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents take Tramadol on a regular basis. Tramadol is a drug that affects the central nervous system and is used primarily to treat severe pain after surgery.
    A pharmacist from Gaza estimated that from 2012 until 2014, some half a million pills were sold per day.
    After Egypt cracked down on the smuggling tunnels, the cost of a pack of Tramadol soared from $5 to $50 on the black market. A new, locally manufactured variant costs $25.

U.S. Games Developer Buys Israeli Game Studio - Tali Tsipori (Globes)
    U.S. casino games developer Playstudios has acquired Scene53, an Israel-based game studio specializing in real-time, multi-player mobile games.
    The two companies jointly developed the newest Playstudios mobile app, POP! Slots. The game allows players to play in groups, share jackpots, and interact with friends as they explore virtual versions of iconic Las Vegas resorts.

Israel Seeks to Open New Markets in Latin America - Dan Schwartz (Times of Israel)
    With the opening of trade offices in Peru and Chile earlier this month, Israel is on track to greater integration with the Pacific Alliance - a trade group that also includes Colombia and Mexico.
    The combined GDP of Pacific Alliance nations constitutes 40% of Latin America's GDP. If they were a single nation, the alliance would form the world's sixth largest economy, according to the World Bank.
    Since 2007, Israel has had a free-trade agreement with Mercosur, the other large South American trade bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
    This is all part of Israel's strategy of expanding its "economic footprint in Latin America," said Ohad Cohen, director of the Foreign Trade Administration in the Ministry of Economy.

Standard and Poor's Maintains Israel's A+ Rating - Amiram Barkat (Globes)
    International credit rating agency Standard & Poor's announced last Friday that it was maintaining its A+ rating for Israel.
    S&P sees Israel's economy as robust in the face of shocks on the financial markets, thanks to its diversity, its balance of payments surplus, and its higher than projected tax receipts that have continued into 2016.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Improving Cyber Abilities, Missiles Since Nuclear Deal, Pentagon Says - Nick Wadhams and Anthony Capaccio
    Iran has gradually improved its offensive cyber abilities and developed more advanced ballistic missiles since signing an accord last year to curb its nuclear program, the U.S. Defense Department said. The Islamic Republic now has a "substantial inventory of missiles capable of reaching targets throughout the region, including U.S. military bases and Israel," according to an unclassified summary from a Pentagon assessment of Iran's military prowess, prepared for Congress.
        The report also reiterated that Iran is pressing ahead with covert activities. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is still trying to improve its ability to "support and carry out" terrorist attacks that advance its interests, the Defense Department said. (Bloomberg)
  • Pollard Loses Challenge to U.S. Parole Conditions - Nate Raymond
    Jonathan Pollard, 62, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel, on Thursday lost a bid to overturn restrictive probation conditions imposed when he was released in November after serving 30 years in prison. Pollard's lawyers argued that he posed no threat to disclosing secrets as he would need to remember information from over 30 years ago that they said had no remaining value. As part of his parole, Pollard must remain in the U.S. for five years. (Reuters)
  • The Battle for Aleppo - Yaroslav Trofimov
    The escalating fight for Aleppo has emerged as a test of whether Russia and Iran can in fact help President Assad win a decisive battle in the five-year Syrian war. In July, Syrian government forces, aided by Iran, Lebanon's Hizbullah militia, and Russian air power, severed the lifeline that connected rebel-held east Aleppo to wider rebel areas. Last week, rebel forces surprised the regime by mounting a successful counteroffensive.
        Those advances were made possible by the participation of the Syrian Conquest Front, the new name of the Nusra Front. Importantly, they also cut off the main supply route into regime-controlled west Aleppo. Precisely because this status quo is unsustainable for either side, the fighting is intensifying, with Russia launching airstrike after airstrike and Hizbullah and other foreign Shiite militias pouring in more troops to back regime forces. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Jewish Man Stabbed by Arab in Jerusalem - Yael Friedson
    A Jewish man who was leaving the Mount of Olives cemetery was stabbed in the back and neck by an Arab with a screwdriver on Thursday. The attacker escaped. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Police to Boost Presence in Jerusalem Arab Neighborhoods - Daniel K. Eisenbud
    The Israel Police announced an initiative to heighten security in Jerusalem's Arab sector on Tuesday, featuring five new stations, 1,200 additional officers, and nearly 200 more CCTV cameras. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Trophy Anti-Missile System Reveals Location of Enemy Rocket Cells - Yaakov Lappin
    Armored vehicles, once dismissed as relics of 20th century warfare, are today once again treasured assets because they are turning into intelligence-gathering platforms that can reveal the exact location of hostile combatants all around them. Rafael's Trophy active protection system, used heavily during the 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza, can intercept missiles and RPGs in mid-air. Yet this is only half the story.
        The same system can go on the offensive and use the enemy's missile attacks against it. Trophy's radars instantly detect the position of the cell that fired the missile, and the IDF's command and control network can broadcast those coordinates to all friendly forces in the area. That means that an enemy cell that fired on a tank or APC with Trophy will itself become a target in seconds. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    International Aid to Gaza

  • Where Palestinian Aid Really Goes - Jonathan S. Tobin
    In the last week, two scandals involving aid to the Palestinians have emerged. What people who give to causes that purport to help poor Palestinians should understand is that this kind of malfeasance is not a matter of individuals going off the rails but a function of the political culture in which they live. Stealing money intended for humanitarian use is endemic.
        The UN and World Vision and all those who contribute to other Palestinian charities should spare us their expressions of shock or denials about these scandals. While the Palestinians have genuine needs, anyone who gives money to them should do so in the knowledge that they are just as likely to be financing a terrorist's pension, a terror tunnel, or a Hamas bunker than they are to feed a child or build a home. (Commentary)
  • Your Tax Dollars Fund Palestinian Terror - David Feith
    For two decades the Palestinian government has used U.S. and other foreign taxpayers' money to pay generous rewards to the families of terrorists. The deadlier the crime, the larger the prize, up to about $3,100 a month, or several times the average salary of a Palestinian worker. In 2014 Israel estimated the terror payments at $75 million, or a sum equal to 16% of all aid sent to Palestine from overseas. This year the figure is nearly $140 million, says Yigal Carmon of the Middle East Media Research Institute. This is a political scandal far greater than any single charity funneling funds to Hamas. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Palestinian Charity Trap - Gerald M. Steinberg
    For years, World Vision promoted the Palestinian cause, developed alliances and provided funds to some of the NGOs active in demonizing Israel and promoting boycotts. In publications designed to bring in donations, the brutality of Palestinian terrorism is erased while images of victimization are highlighted. Palestinian corruption is whitewashed, as is the fact that Israel has been out of Gaza for more than a decade.
        World Vision's troubles in Gaza reflect the broader moral failures of the humanitarian-aid industry. The narrow vision of aid workers contributes to a willful blindness to terrorism. The competition for publicity and donations results in alliances with brutal regimes and corrupt warlords. The writer is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Other Issues

  • Egypt's Shifting Relations with Israel - Hassan Nafaa
    Considerable evidence suggests that relations between Egypt and Israel have steadily developed during the past two years and that they may be shifting from conventional cooperation to the level of strategic alliance. Foremost evidence is Israel's agreement to surpass the security arrangements stipulated in the peace accord that has bound the two countries since 1979 and not oppose the presence of an Egyptian force larger in size and more heavily armed than stipulated under the agreement.
        Other evidence is Egypt's recent agreement to allow Israeli drones not only to fly over Sinai in order to monitor the movements of terrorist groups but also to take part in combat operations against those groups there. The writer is professor of political science at Cairo University. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • Why Baghdadi's "Caliphate" Should Be Destroyed - Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman
    Islamism is not the only possible version of Islam. It is a relatively new political ideology that claims to compete with other "isms," including nationalism, communism, and other manifestations of modernity. The Islamists' claim to supremacy depends not on the quality of their religious interpretation but on the force of their actions. Whereas Sh'ia traditions sanctify losers in battle, Sunnis do not. Total defeat on the field of battle would thus lead to the collapse of the ideas for which IS stands.
        Will Hizbullah feel safe going after Israel once IS is gone? Not likely. There will still be many angry Sunnis in both Syria and Lebanon who will not be inclined to forget who shed their blood on Assad's behalf.
        It would be best for Israel, side by side with our regional partners in the "camp of stability," to join those within the American security and policy establishment who still see all Islamists - Iran, IS, and Muslim Brotherhood - as enemies. Together, these partners should outline a phased campaign that begins with the destruction of IS, moves on to the marginalization of the Muslim Brotherhood, and ultimately isolates the Iranian regime and takes back the gains it made in the name of fighting IS.
        The writer, former deputy for foreign policy and international affairs at Israel's National Security Council, served for over 20 years in IDF Military Intelligence. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • After Five Years, No End in Sight to Syrian Rebellion - Jonathan Spyer
    Five years on, the conflict in Syria appears nowhere close to conclusion. The rebellion - now an entirely Sunni Islamist affair - still holds ground and appears in no immediate prospect of eclipse. In the Sunni-Shia proxy war currently under way, no side has a clear and obvious advantage. Rather, the proxies appear capable of surviving each other's assaults, but not of achieving comprehensive victory. The writer is Director of the Rubin Center (formerly the GLORIA Center), IDC Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. (Jeusalem Post)
  • Iran and Hizbullah Remain Hyperactive in Latin America - Matthew Levitt
    Iran and Hizbullah remain hyperactive in Latin America - a fact that has the full attention of U.S. intelligence officials. Iranian presence in the region expanded from just a handful of missions to twelve by 2010.
        Alberto Nisman, an Argentine prosecutor who was killed while investigating the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, brought worldwide attention to Hizbullah operations in Latin America as directed by Iran. He released a report specifically warning the authorities of Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Colombia to be vigilant of Iranian infiltration.
        In light of their long history of menacing behavior in South America, and given the increased tempo and nature of their malign activities in the region, it is critical that the necessary attention and resources be devoted to tracking and countering the threats posed by Iran and Hizbullah. The writer is director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Ancient Jewish Jerusalem Is a Fact - Naftali Bennett
    Facing attempts to rewrite history we must restate the facts: Jewish ties to the Temple Mount were recorded by the Romans after they pillaged Jerusalem, centuries before Islam existed. The Arch of Titus in Rome displays the famous image of Jews forcefully marched to exile after the suppression of the Revolt in Judea 2,000 years ago.
        Despite this historic image, literally carved in stone, there are those who deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem in an attempt to delegitimize Israel's claim to our capital. The existence of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, is accepted by all archaeologists and historians. The writer is Israel's Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs. (Times of Israel)
  • Opposition to Israel Has Become the Litmus Test for Progressive Students in U.S. - Lauren Sonnenberg
    Students on college campuses talk about creating "safe spaces" for people with all sorts of ideas, but increasingly the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is creating only two spaces: one for those that are "appropriately" liberal and caring, and one for those who are not. BDS does this by creating a false relationship between the plights of oppressed peoples throughout the world and the Palestinian cause. So where does that leave progressive Jews who want to fight racism in America and care about green issues but don't want to renounce Israel to find their space? To be accepted, to be a supporter of the oppressed, one must accept the pro-BDS iteration of the pro-Palestinian narrative without nuance or variation. The writer is a journalism student at Northwestern University. (Ha'aretz)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel Air Force Trains to Evade Enemy Radar - Vered Talala
    The "Celestial Crows" unit of the Israel Air Force recently held a wide scale, intensive training exercise to operate electronic warfare (EW) packages that help IAF aircraft evade enemy discovery systems, such as radar. (Israel Air Force)
  • Israeli Start-Ups Win Top Global Innovation Awards - Dan Schwartz
    NiNiSpeech - which has developed a revolutionary digital platform for treating speech disorders - took first place in the Global Innovation Awards 2016, a global start-up competition held in China. AerialGuard - which has created an autonomous navigation system for civilian drones - won second place. The winners were selected by 11 judges from around the world as well as real-time voting from an audience of over 1,000 people. The finalists were selected from 3,000 international start-ups.
        Last year, Israeli start-up DiaCardio, developer of innovative software for decoding echocardiograms, took first prize. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here - Rowan Jacobsen
    Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore is transformed at Israel's new Sorek desalination plant into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people. The plant is the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world. Just a few years ago, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus.
        That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel's meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.
        Biofouling has always been an Achilles' heel of desalination. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. Microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, requiring periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Israel has developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes.
        Branching off from the main line where the Sorek water enters the Israeli grid is a simple spigot, a paper cup dispenser beside it. I open the tap and drink cup after cup of what was the Mediterranean Sea 40 minutes ago. It tastes cold, clear and miraculous. (Scientific American)
  • The President of Peru Is Jewish
    Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 77, who was sworn in as head of state in Lima last week, is Jewish. He was raised in the jungle, where his father served as director of the San Pablo leper colony at Iquitos, deep in the Peruvian Amazon.
        Pedro attended an English boarding school and then Exeter College, Oxford and Princeton University. He began his career as an economist at the World Bank before returning to Lima to serve as deputy manager of the Peruvian Central Bank. In 1980, he was named energy and mining minister and went on to serve twice as finance minister, as well as prime minister until 2006. Peru's Jewish community numbers less than 3,000. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

Should the U.S. Engage at All with the Wider World? - Richard N. Haass (Wall Street Journal)

  • What has become painfully clear is that our effort to remake the Middle East has failed. The gap between promises and results, benefits and costs, has been huge.
  • At home, disillusionment and recrimination are pervasive. Intervention fatigue has set in, and the public no longer has an appetite for an ambitious foreign policy. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that most Americans prefer for the U.S. to deal with its own problems and to let other countries handle their own as best they can. These preferences cross party lines.
  • It is one thing to question American overreach; it is something very different to question American reach. The world is not self-organizing. For the past 75 years, the U.S., more than any other factor, has created and maintained conditions of stability.
  • Given the number and strength of forces now undermining order around the globe, a capable and reliable U.S. is more essential than ever before.
  • The consequences of a lasting American retreat from the world would be dire. The Middle East is arguably the most salient example of what happens when the U.S. pulls back. The substance and signal of a diminished U.S. role have contributed greatly to instability in the region.
  • Not acting can be every bit as consequential as acting.

    The writer is president of the Council on Foreign Relations.
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