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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
August 17, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

China Seeking Closer Military Ties with Assad (RT-Russia)
    The director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China's Central Military Commission, Guan Youfei, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday for talks with Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij, Xinhua reported.
    Guan noted that Beijing is now seeking closer military ties with Damascus. A high-ranking People's Liberation Army officer said the training of Syrian personnel by Chinese instructors was discussed, as well as humanitarian aid.
    Political expert Qin Duo Xu said, "If you look at the Chinese media, Chinese public opinion, [the] absolute majority is siding with the Syrian government and support Russian military involvement."
    "China has its own problems with terrorists: At least 100 Chinese citizens are fighting alongside the rebels and Islamic State against the Syrian government."

Rebels Assassinate High-Ranking Syrian General (NOW-Lebanon)
    The Army of Free Tribes - a Jordanian-backed tribal coalition active in Daraa province in southern Syria - claimed responsibility Sunday for the killing of Ali Sabouh, a three-star general serving in the government's elite Republican Guard.

FIFA Scraps Malaysia Hosting Rights after Israel Spat - P. Prem Kumar (Anadolu-Turkey)
    International soccer governing body FIFA has revoked the rights for Malaysia to host its 2017 congress after Israeli delegates complained that Malaysia was "not being friendly in granting travel documents."
    Malaysia's deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Saturday, "We have a policy that we cannot accept countries with whom we have no diplomatic ties, what more with the flag which would have to be hung outside the conference and on the it's better if we avoid being the host."

Israel's Gas Royalties Hit New Record (Globes)
    The Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources has reported that Israel received NIS 392 million ($103 million) in royalties from the Tamar gas field in the first half of 2016, a rise of 12.8% from the same period last year.

Israeli GDP Growth Surpasses Expectations - Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
    The Israeli economy grew by an annualized rate of 2.9% in the first half of 2016, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday.
    Second quarter growth figures came in at an annualized rate of 3.7%, painting a much brighter picture for the economy than had been feared.

Moody's Affirms Israel's A1 Credit Rating - Zeev Klein (Israel Hayom)
    International credit rating agency Moody's affirmed Israel's A1 credit rating on Friday.
    Moody's found that Israel's foreign currency reserves are at an all-time high of $100 billion.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Helps Russia Add Firepower in Syrian War - Neil MacFarquhar and David E. Sanger
    Russia launched an air attack in Syria on Tuesday from an Iranian air base, becoming the first foreign military to operate from Iranian soil since at least World War II. "The irony is that the [Iranian] revolutionaries denounced the shah as a foreign puppet," said John Limbert, a former American foreign service officer who was taken hostage in 1979 at the embassy in Tehran and is now a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. "But these guys have done something that the shah never did."
        The arrangement enables Russia to bring more firepower to the Syrian conflict. Instead of flying heavy bombers from Russia, the trip will now be 1,000 miles shorter and the planes will be able to carry heavier payloads. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. and Israel Had Advance Knowledge of Russian Bombers in Iran - Yossi Melman (Jerusalem Post)
  • New Jersey Enacts Law Banning State Pension Investments with Businesses Boycotting Israel - Matt Arco
    New Jersey on Tuesday became the third state in the U.S., joining Florida and Illinois, to put a law on its books to oppose a movement that encourages a boycott of Israeli goods and services. Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bipartisan measure that bars the state's public worker pension fund from investing in companies that refuse to do business with Israel. "Israel is an overseas relative in need of our support," Christie said. "We'll encourage other states to join in likewise."  (
  • Two Years after War, Rebuilding in Gaza Is Far from Done, and International Donors Are Bailing - Rushdi Abu Alouf and Joshua Mitnick
    About 75,000 Gazans are still displaced as a $3.5-billion effort to rebuild Gaza from the destruction of the 2014 war creeps along at a pace officials say has fallen years behind schedule. According to the UN, it will take Gaza's economy another two years to return to the point where it was before the war.
        Only about 50% of promised donor aid - about $1.4 billion - was disbursed as of the end of March, according to the World Bank. Among large donors, the U.S. had transferred all of its $200 million pledge, but Persian Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia had transferred only 15% or less of their pledges. (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Uncovers Hizbullah Terror Cells in West Bank - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israel Security Agency broke up two terror cells created by Hizbullah, arresting nine suspects, officials revealed Tuesday. The terror cells had planned to carry out suicide bombings and ambush IDF patrols in the West Bank. They received funding from Hizbullah, and some members had begun preparing explosive devices for use in attacks. Hizbullah's foreign operations unit, working out of Lebanon and Gaza, recruited members in the West Bank, Gaza and within Israel through social media sites, notably Facebook. (Times of Israel)
  • Dennis Ross Doubts Obama Will Push UN Resolution - Herb Keinon
    President Barack Obama will probably deliver a final speech on the Mideast before leaving office in January, though he is unlikely to translate the principles of that speech into a UN Security Council resolution, according to veteran U.S. Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross. Speaking Monday in Washington, Ross said that while it is unlikely Obama wants to launch a big diplomatic initiative before his term ends, a speech laying out the parameters of a Mideast accord was likely, and something Obama would see as his "legacy." Ross also noted that speeches by presidents at the end of their presidencies "frankly don't have that big of an impact on anybody."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What the Olympics Say about Anti-Israel Racism - David Rosenberg
    Egyptian judoka Islam el-Shehaby refused to shake hands or ceremoniously bow to his Israeli opponent Or Sasson and was reprimanded by the International Olympics Committee. But the media response to the story only touched the surface.
        A search of Olympic snubs comes up with zero incidents apart from Arabs dissing Israelis. There are no cases of Israelis dissing Arabs, and none of Yemenis insulting the Saudis who are bombing their country. There are no protests against the Syrians, Iran or Russia, who are playing a key role in the Syrian bloodbath. Anti-Israeli racism is exactly what we see, not just at the Olympics, but in the Arab world's attitude toward Israel in general.
        The racist attitude of Arabs toward Israel is the kind based on deep hatred that lumps all Israelis into one monstrous, violent people who don't deserve to live in our neighborhood and should go back to where they came from. Anti-Israeli racism goes beyond criticism of Israeli behavior. It gets down to the very personal level of refusing to have direct contact with Israelis or even be in their presence.
        Arab anti-Israeli racism has far greater implications for Israel than an occasional Olympic snub. We can sign peace treaties and we can form strategic alliances, but those ties haven't penetrated below. Like the first black family with the courage to move into a white neighborhood, we can buy the property and make it our home. But we're not going to be a part of the neighborhood until our neighbors' attitudes change. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas' Meddling in Gaza Charities Is a Massive Moral Failure
    Last week, allegations arose that Hamas in Gaza had diverted tens of millions of dollars from three major humanitarian organizations to support their own ends. For many, this kind of behavior reminded them of Hamas' rival Palestinian faction, Fatah, which was known for corruption, bribe-taking and nepotism.
        The funds donated to Gaza by aid groups are a lifeline for the region's inhabitants: Nearly 80% of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid to survive, according to a report published last year by the UN. Hamas' shenanigans have now severely jeopardized the delivery of these funds, and thereby jeopardized the future of the very people it claims to serve. (Albawaba-Jordan)
  • Foreign Aid for Hamas - Elliott Abrams
    Employees of leading charitable and development agencies like World Vision and the UN Development Program (UNDP) may be diverting funds to Hamas. Those accused are said to have confessed. The larger question is the culture of foreign aid to the Palestinians, much of which falls under what President George W. Bush once called "the soft bigotry of low expectations."
        The "soft bigotry" is the failure to hold the Palestinians to global standards. We see this, for example, when it comes to the toleration of the way the Palestinian Authority glorifies terrorism and terrorists, naming parks and schools after murderers and broadcasting on official stations all kinds of anti-Semitic hate.
        The only way to solve this problem is for donors to withhold funding unless and until the independence of their programs can be assured. Yes, the people of Gaza would suffer, but they would know why: because Hamas is more interested in its own terrorist actions than in the welfare of Gazans. The writer, a senior fellow at CFR, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Council on Foreign Relations)

UNIFIL in Lebanon: Strong Force, Weak Mandate - Brig. Gen. (res.) Assaf Orion (Institute for National Security Studies)

  • UN Security Council Resolution 1701 of August 11, 2006, ended the Second Lebanon War and outlined the security regime that has been in effect for the past decade. UNIFIL, the temporary UN force in Lebanon first established in 1978, was expanded from 2,000 soldiers to 12,000 troops of higher quality. Yet UNIFIL's operations - as well as its inactions and passivity - demonstrate the limits of multinational UN forces authorized by a limited and limiting mandate.
  • Resolution 1701 sought to ensure "the establishment between the Blue Line [the Israeli border] and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons, other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL." This mechanism has been critical in preventing escalation, reducing the risk of renewed flare-ups, resolving disagreements, transmitting messages, and formulating creative solutions for maintaining the calm.
  • However, UNIFIL has failed to a degree to prevent attacks from Lebanon aimed at Israel and to keep this area free of hostile activity. Since the end of the war, more than 20 incidents of rocket fire from Lebanon to Israel have been recorded.
  • UNIFIL's major failure has been its failure to address the Hizbullah arms issue. Hizbullah has beefed up, broadened, deepened, and increased its military deployment in southern Lebanon and elsewhere in the country.
  • UNIFIL was charged with helping the government of Lebanon dismantle armed militias. But in practice, Lebanon's government is held hostage by Hizbullah, which is part of the government.
  • Certain UN forces became known early on for being particularly assertive. Then in the summer of 2007, six soldiers of the Spanish battalion were killed by a bomb near the Shiite village of al-Khiyam. Over the years, many UNIFIL patrols have been attacked. Under the increased pressure, UNIFIL forces gradually scaled back their determination. For example, after UNIFIL received European UAVs to assist in its mission in Lebanon, these were sent back unopened under Hizbullah pressure.

    The writer served as head of Strategic Planning in the Planning Directorate in the IDF General Staff (2010-2015).

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