February 14, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. State Department: Possible Netanyahu Indictment an "Internal Israeli Matter" (State Department)
    U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday:
    "The United States has a very strong relationship not only with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but also the Israeli Government. We're certainly aware of [the Israeli police recommendation], but we consider it to be an internal Israeli matter."

UNIFIL Spokesperson: New Barrier Is on Israeli Side of Lebanese Border - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Andrea Tenenti, a spokesperson for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), said Tuesday that the barrier Israel is building along two sections of the border with Lebanon is on the Israeli side of the border between the two countries in areas that are not sensitive.
    Last week Lebanese leaders said they would act to stop Israel from building the barrier.
    The new fence will replace existing barriers in two sections along the border - between Metula and Misgav Am in the east, and between Hanita and Rosh Hanikra in the west.
    In places where homes adjacent to the border are under a direct threat of sniper fire or anti-tank missiles, the barrier will take the form of a wall.

Three Arrested with Pipe Bombs outside Israeli Military Court in West Bank - Yotam Berger (Ha'aretz)
    Three Palestinians bearing four pipe bombs were caught by military police outside an army courthouse in the West Bank on Wednesday, a day after a Palestinian man was caught in the same place with a similar bomb.

Iran Accuses West of Using Lizards to Spy on Nuclear Program - Alex Green (Daily Mail-UK)
    Former Iranian chief-of-staff Hassan Firuzabadi, senior military advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tuesday that Western spies used lizards which can "attract atomic waves" to spy on Iran's nuclear program.
    See also No, Iran, Lizard "Spies" Can't Detect Uranium - Tia Ghose (Live Science)

Police Called after Kings College London Protest of Israeli Speaker Dan Meridor - Jenni Frazer (Jewish News-UK)
    A screaming crowd of 60 students shouted down a talk by former Israeli deputy prime minister Dan Meridor to an Israel Society meeting at Kings College London.
    Students bearing posters with the words "War Criminal" began screaming at anyone who was making their way into the hall to hear Meridor, and chanting and screaming from outside continued throughout his address.
    Meridor said before the meeting that he believed in dialogue and hoped that it might be possible for those who were critical of Israel to come inside and have "a civilized discussion." But that did not prove possible.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iran Should Withdraw from Other Mideast Countries and Send Their Forces Home
    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Al Hurra TV in an interview on Tuesday: "I had a very lengthy telephone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the [air] strikes, and we had a long discussion around the threats that Israel is confronted with that emanate both from Lebanon due to Lebanese Hizbullah, but also from Syria. We take the threats to Israel seriously and we take a view that Israel has every right to defend itself from those threats."
        "With respect to Iran's broader involvement in the region, we have spoken very clearly about Iran's destabilizing presence in Yemen, their destabilizing presence in Syria, in Lebanon, and in Iraq as well. It is our view...that Iran's presence in these countries is not helpful....We ask Iran to withdraw and send their forces home."
        "I understand President Abbas, his concern about certain steps and decisions taken by the United States. My message to President Abbas is the United States is still committed to seeing a successful Middle East peace process, and are prepared to assist in that effort going forward. We hope that President Abbas will find his way back to the table."  (State Department)
  • Dozens of Russians Believed Killed in U.S.-Backed Syria Attack - Ivan Nechepurenko
    Four Russian nationals, and perhaps dozens more, were killed in an American airstrike in eastern Syria during fighting on Feb. 7-8, according to Russian and Syrian officials. A Syrian military officer said that about 100 Syrian soldiers had been killed in the fighting.
        There are hundreds if not thousands of contract soldiers in Syria whom the Russian government has never acknowledged. Aleksandr Ionov, a Russian businessman working in Syria offering security services, said he estimated that more than 200 Russians might have been killed. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Facing Growing Danger from Advanced Iranian Weapons Factories in Lebanon - Anna Ahronheim
    "We have a concrete threat...from the north," Orit Perlov, a social media analyst for the Institute for National Security Studies, told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. "We have a factory for advanced weapons in the north of Lebanon, in Sunni areas," she said referring to an Iranian-built factory near the town of Hermel in the eastern Bekaa Valley. It can produce Fateh-110 missiles with a range of close to 300 km. with a half-ton warhead.
        According to a report by the French online magazine Intelligence Online, another factory is located between the towns of Sidon and Tyre in southern Lebanon, which is capable of producing surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles as well as unmanned aerial vehicles able to carry explosives.
        Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has stated that Israel is "determined to prevent Lebanon from becoming one large factory for the production of precision missiles."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Defense Minister Praises Security Coordination with Palestinians - Anna Ahronheim and Adam Rasgon
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the PA security officers who helped extract two IDF soldiers who accidentally drove into the Palestinian city of Jenin on Monday. "Thanks to the cooperation and security coordination we saw the results. The Palestinian officers and the security coordination deserve a good word. The Palestinians also understand that the security coordination is a mutual interest, which is why we work to preserve it."
        More than 100 members of the PA security forces in civilian and official attire worked to bring the soldiers to safety, a Palestinian security official said Monday. "Our forces pushed the boys on the street away from the soldiers. We then put the soldiers in one of our police cars and brought them to the Israeli authorities in the Civil Administration. We also returned the military vehicle to the Israelis." One soldier's weapon, which was taken during the incident, was returned to Israel by Palestinian security officials on Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli-Palestinian Security Coordination - Neri Zilber and Ghaith al-Omari
    According to official Palestinian figures, in 2017 alone over 500 Israelis strayed into Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank; they were all detained safely by PA security forces and returned to Israel unharmed. This is only one facet of Israeli-Palestinian security coordination, which also includes intelligence sharing, counterterrorism, deconfliction during Israeli military raids into PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, and riot control.
        Israeli and Palestinian officers are in constant contact to discuss common threats in the West Bank. Working to interdict attackers during the eruption of "lone wolf" terror attacks in 2015-2016, by the end of 2016, PA forces were responsible for a third of all terror suspect arrests.
        The PA also works to stop large-scale demonstrations from escalating. It's not an accident that, in the two months since President Trump's December speech recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the level of unrest on the ground has been tepid. A senior Israeli security official said security coordination with the PA has actually grown closer since Trump's speech. (Daily Beast)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran Turning Its Sights on Israel - L. Todd Wood
    We've predicted for some time that once the fight between pro-Assad Shia elements (Iran/Hizbullah) and Sunni Islamists in the Middle East wound down, Iran and its proxies would turn their attention towards Israel to achieve their longstanding dream of wiping the Jewish state off the map. Israel has been attempting to slow the process by preemptively destroying targets inside Syria which threaten its security.
        If you've looked at a map of the Middle East, it is painfully obvious that Israel really is not defensible from a geographic standpoint. Once military forces with dangerous capabilities are in place along its borders, it's too late. That is why the "land for peace" narrative is so dangerous, as it really is an agenda to make Israel impossible to protect militarily. (Washington Times)
  • Hizbullah Commander Imad Mughniyeh: 10 Years since His Assassination - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    On Feb. 12, 2008, exactly 10 years ago, Imad Mughniyeh, the head of Hizbullah's military and security wing, was assassinated in Damascus. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei knew Mughniyeh personally.
        Mughniyeh directed the kidnappings of foreigners in Lebanon during the 1980s. He headed the Islamic Jihad organization in Lebanon in close cooperation with Iranian intelligence agencies. Among its major operations were the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, and the later attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. He also met with Osama Bin Laden in Sudan in the 1990s.
        When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, Mughniyeh came to be known as the hero of the withdrawal and the "liberator" of the south. The writer, a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center, served as Military Secretary to the Prime Minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

When Will the Next War in Gaza Begin? - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror (Israel Hayom)
  • There is almost no way of predicting the moment when the other side will decide to attack. It is clear to Israel's rivals in both the north and the south that they will pay a very serious price for such an attack, and they must therefore have a very good reason should they take such a step.
  • It seems logical to assume that it is only when the other side feels it has a genuine ability that Israel would find it difficult to contend with that they would contemplate going into battle. Therefore, it is precisely at a time when Israel is advancing a solution to the terror tunnel threat and Hamas has yet to find a solution to Israel's ability to intercept its rockets, that it makes no sense for Hamas to embark on an offensive campaign.
  • My assessment that Hamas does not have game-changing weapons in its arsenal and that is why it seems likely to avoid an operation at this time.
  • Will Hamas embark on an operation as a result of deterioration in the economic situation in Gaza? It doesn't seem like a logical move. No group has ever attacked Israel for such a reason, so why would this time be any different?
  • And what would Hamas get out of the further destruction of Gaza and the serious harm inflicted on its people and industries following the operation? The economic situation that followed such an operation would certainly not be any improvement.
  • Israel wants to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Gaza because it would be best to not have our close neighbors be in such a state. Although Hamas and PA President Mahmoud Abbas would be much more responsible for the crisis, the world would certainly blame Israel. However, the fighting will renew whenever Hamas decides it is interested in doing so, regardless of whether there is an improvement to Gaza's economy.

    The writer is former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel and former Head of Israel's National Security Council.