February 22, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian General Soleimani's Rising Profile - Sune Engel Rasmussen (Wall Street Journal)
    Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and their Middle East allies. But his public profile in Iran is soaring.
    In a recent poll from the University of Maryland, 64.7% of Iranians had a "very favorable" view of Gen. Soleimani, compared with 23.5% for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, suggesting that the main architect of Iran's wars in the Middle East is the most popular official in the country.
    That is a sign of support for Shiite Iran's aggressive push for influence in the Middle East.
    "He is like an ambassador of Iran's power...I think all Iranians are proud of him. Who wouldn't be?" said Ramin Mozafarian, 42, who owns a gold shop in Tehran.

Hamas: Abbas' UN Speech Does Not Reflect the Palestinian National Consensus - Nour Mahd Ali Abu Aisha and Hacer Baser (Anadolu-Turkey)
    Hamas on Wednesday criticized President Mahmoud Abbas' Tuesday speech at the UN Security Council, saying it did not "reflect the [Palestinian] national consensus, which wants to terminate the Oslo agreements and rejects negotiations."
    See also Hamas Rules Out Mohamed Dahlan as Abbas' Successor (Anadolu-Turkey)
    Osama Hamdan, the Hamas official responsible for international relations, told Hamas-run Al-Aqsa radio on Wednesday that Mohamed Dahlan, Mahmoud Abbas' main political rival who is supported by Egypt and the UAE, "was not and will never be" Hamas' choice to succeed Abbas as Palestinian president.

Cape Town May Dry Up Because of an Aversion to Israel - Seth M. Siegel (Wall Street Journal)
    Water taps in Cape Town, South Africa, are expected to go dry on July 9, due to drought, inept management, and a devotion to anti-Israel ideology.
    Israel has trained water technicians in more than 100 countries, and in 2016, Israel's Foreign Ministry offered to bring in desalination experts to help, but South African officials ignored or rebuffed the no-strings Israeli proposal.
    If the South Africans are snubbing the Israelis out of solidarity with the Palestinians, they might want to consider that the Palestinian Authority has worked with Israel on a range of water projects since 1995.
    Israel provides the PA with more than half the water for domestic consumption by Palestinians in the West Bank. And it pipes more than 2.5 billion gallons of water into Hamas-controlled Gaza each year.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Foiled "Plane Terror Plot" in Australia
    Israel helped avert an ISIS-linked terror plot in Australia to bring down a plane last year, both nations have confirmed. Last July, Australian police charged Lebanese-Australian brothers Khaled Khayat, 49, and Mahmoud Khayat, 32, over a plan to blow up an Etihad Airways flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.
        On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Jewish-American leaders, "The Israeli intelligence services thwarted the downing of an Australian plane, an unimaginable slaughter. This would have caused a major disruption in global air transport and this is only one of dozens of terrorist attacks we have foiled around the world."
        Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said, "The Etihad flight was almost blown out of the sky and would have resulted in hundreds of people losing their lives so we are very grateful for the assistance Israel provided in that matter."  (BBC News)
        See also Video: Israel Helped Stop Australia Terror Attack (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
  • President Sisi: Egypt "Scored a Big Goal" with Israel Gas Deal - Samy Magdy
    Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi declared on television on Wednesday that his country "scored a big goal" by signing a $15 billion deal with an Israeli company to supply natural gas that will help turn Egypt into a regional energy hub. The project "has a lot of advantages for us (Egyptians). And I want people to be reassured," he said. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Sisi: Egypt Has "Nothing to Hide" about Gas Deal with Israel (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Most Arab Countries See Israel as Their Indispensable Ally Against Iran
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Wednesday: "Most Arab countries now see Israel not as their enemy, but as their indispensable ally in the battle against common challenges. The greatest challenge that we face comes from the regime in Iran. They see it; we see it."
        "The nuclear deal emboldened Iran. The nuclear deal enriched Iran....If this deal is not changed...Iran will have basically a free course to walk into a nuclear arsenal....It has a highway to a nuclear arsenal. Not to a nuclear bomb, but to an arsenal of nuclear bombs."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Egypt Gas Deal a Cause for Celebration - Editorial
    Celebration is in order after the operators of the Tamar and Leviathan natural-gas fields off Israel's coast signed a $15 billion deal with an Egyptian consortium in Israel's biggest gas export deal to date. The claim that no Arab neighbor would be willing to enter into an agreement with Israel was wrong. As soon as a proper pipeline is set up, the Israeli gas will be transferred to Egypt where it will be liquefied and exported to Europe.
        Geopolitically, the deal fortifies commercial ties with Egypt and provides an example of how it is possible to do business with the Jewish state. Israel signed a deal with the Jordan Electric Power Company in 2016. Now two Arab countries that share borders with Israel shared an appreciation of Israel's contribution to their own well-being. Additional export deals are reportedly in the offing with Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Cyprus.
        The Egyptian sale will provide funding to develop the Leviathan field, which still has not begun producing. The deal also provides Israel with additional tax revenues.
        Skeptics have claimed that exporting gas will mean that less is left for Israel. However, less than half is slated for export, and Israel has enough gas to provide its needs for about 50 years, even if no new reserves are discovered. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also What Is the Best Way to Transport Eastern Mediterranean Gas to Europe? - Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Abbas' Peace Plan without Peace - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    In his speech Tuesday at the UN Security Council, PA President Mahmoud Abbas presented a peace plan predicated on enlisting the international community to force Israel to capitulate to the Palestinians' demands. Abbas continues to hope that someone will do the Palestinians' job for them, squandering, yet again, a window of opportunity for the Palestinians to advance their national interests.
        The U.S., not the UN, is the only player presently capable of promoting a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians refuse to accept this fundamental fact. They are willing to accept the generous financial aid Washington gives them, but at the same time are boycotting its diplomats and rejecting its efforts to foster peace. This is not how one moves toward peace. The writer, vice rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Majestic Palestinian Parliament Building in Abu Dis - Jonathan Ferziger and Fadwa Hodali
    With its sky-lit lantern dome, tiered floors and speaker's well, the majestic Palestinian Parliament building on the edge of east Jerusalem in Abu Dis needs only some lighting fixtures and a few truckloads of furniture. Last month, PA President Mahmoud Abbas explained to senior Palestinian officials that Washington was preparing to propose Abu Dis as the capital of Palestine.
        When Abu Dis was first identified as a potential Palestinian capital at the turn of the millennium, the idea was to incorporate the village into Jerusalem's expanded municipal borders. The plan was co-authored by Abbas himself. The idea was so seductive that Palestinians spent millions of dollars to build a parliament there. (Bloomberg)
        See also Abbas Rejects Jerusalem Suburb Solution for a Palestinian Capital - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Iran's Syrian Front - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
  • The driving political power in Syria is Iran and its attempt to make Syria part of its growing Shiite-Persian empire. Iran has propped up Assad since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, and along with Russia is largely responsible for the regime's survival.
  • Iran wants to establish a new imperial outpost on the border with Israel. Toward that end, Iran is building a robust military presence of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops, Iran-backed Lebanese Hizbullah, foreign fighters from Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, and local Syrian militias in Assad-controlled areas. Iran's ultimate goal is "the eradication of Israel," as the leader of the IRGC's Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, said recently.
  • An Iranian redoubt in Syria would open another front in a war with Israel from which to launch more rocket and other attacks. U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster worried publicly in December about "the prospect of Iran having a proxy army on the borders of Israel."
  • Earlier this month, Iran-backed forces launched a drone from Syria into Israeli air space. The provocation is a sign that Iran is turning its attention from propping up Assad and toward establishing a more permanent presence in Syria, including the construction of military bases and weapons factories.
  • Israel is protected by a robust antimissile system. But even Israel's defenses would be strained by 1,500 to 2,000 incoming missiles a day from Syria and Lebanon, especially if Iran succeeds in upgrading Hizbullah's arsenal to precision-guided weapons.
  • President Trump promised in October to work with allies to counter Iran's "destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region," but in Syria the U.S. has shown no strategy for doing so.