February 26, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Syria Defies UN Cease-Fire Resolution - Liz Sly (Washington Post)
    Syrian government forces defied a new UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire on Sunday by launching a ground offensive and airstrikes, including at least one bomb laden with chlorine, against the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus.
    Warplanes and artillery pounded the area, killing at least 22.
    On Saturday, the Security Council unanimously approved a 30-day cease-fire which was to go into effect "without delay."
    To secure the support of Russia, the language of the resolution was diluted to exclude unspecified "terrorists."
    Maj. Gen. Mohammed Hossein Baqeri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, said the suburbs of Damascus would not be included in the cease-fire because they are "under terrorists' control."

IDF Finds F-16 Downed Due to Pilot Error - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    The pilot and navigator of an Israeli F-16 downed by Syrian anti-aircraft fire on Feb. 10 failed to defend themselves as required, according to the IDF's investigation of the incident, made public on Sunday.
    The IDF said the crew had chosen "to complete the mission and not defend themselves sufficiently. Their actions did not correlate with standard procedure while under enemy fire."
    The warning systems in the F-16 that was hit alerted the crew of the threat on time. The seven other planes on the mission were all able to defend themselves from enemy missiles.
    The crew in the plane leading the attack on the Iranian drone's control and commander center should have defended themselves as a priority over completing the offensive mission, a senior IAF officer said.

Israeli Satellite Reveals Russia's New Stealth Fighter Jets in Syria - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    An Israeli satellite revealed images Saturday of Russia's deployment in Syria of new Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighters, located in Khmeimim air base.
    The Su-57 is considered in a class that includes the F-22 and the F-35.
    See also Russian Su-57s in Syria to Flight-Test New Weapons (Sputnik-Russia)

France: Security Forces Foiled Two Islamist Attacks This Year (Reuters)
    French security forces have foiled two planned attacks so far this year, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said Sunday.
    One attacker arrested in January had planned to hit a "major sporting facility." Another suspect had been targeting troops on anti-terrorism patrols and had acquired bomb-making equipment.
    "Because the Islamic State is disappearing, people are seeking to stage attacks in Western countries as a distraction from its defeat," Collomb said.
    See also France Unveils New Plan to Tackle Radicalization (AP-New York Times)
    France on Friday unveiled a new program of 60 measures to counter radicalization, with an accent on prevention, aimed at trying to catch danger signals within society.
    The new plan targets prisons, schools and sports clubs.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. to Open Embassy in Jerusalem in May
    State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert announced Friday: "In May, the United States plans to open a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. The opening will coincide with Israel's 70th anniversary. The Embassy will initially be located in the Arnona neighborhood, in a modern building that now houses consular operations of U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem."  (State Department)
        See also Trump on Jerusalem Embassy Move: "We Have to Do It, It's the Right Thing to Do"
    President Donald Trump spoke about moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem on Friday: "We officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel....I put the word out that...I'm going to do it. I was hit by more countries and more pressure and more people calling, begging me, 'Don't do it.'...I said, 'We have to do it. It's the right thing to do."  (White House)
        See also Israel Welcomes U.S. Embassy Announcement
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "Over the weekend we learned that President Trump has decided to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, on this coming Independence Day. This is a great moment for the citizens of Israel and this is an historic moment for the State of Israel. We will celebrate it together, all citizens of Israel. This will have significant and historic long-range implications."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israel Discussing Jerusalem Embassy Move with 10 More Countries - Herb Keinon
    Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last week that Israel was currently in discussion with 10 other countries about moving their embassies to Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Lawmakers Speak Out after Being Detained on Temple Mount - Israel Kasnett
    U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) were detained by Israel police after an Islamic Waqf official, which administers the Temple Mount, lodged a complaint against them when they visited the site on Thursday. When Tipton bent down to pick up a broken olive branch off the ground, his movement seems to have agitated the Waqf official who apparently believed that the congressman was bowing as if in prayer. The congressmen were removed from the Temple Mount by police officers, then released without incident.
        Tipton said: "I happened to pick up an olive branch, ironically a symbol of peace. Apparently, that broke a rule....We were trying to take in what is obviously a religious site not only for Jews and Muslims, but for Christians as well....Apparently they viewed something as an infraction and then chose to detain us."
        McKinley said: "We should be able to pray and reflect on the history and culture, but you're not allowed to do that as Jews and non-Muslims. You're pushed, literally, and they have a time frame to get you through. That's not right." When the congressmen met afterwards with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and related the story, he apologized, saying "it shouldn't have happened."  (JNS)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Shares Anti-Terrorism Expertise with Europeans - Lahav Harkov
    MK Anat Berko, a criminologist, represented Israel at a meeting in Vienna on Thursday of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It was the first time Israel participated as a full member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, after having been an observer.
        Berko said, "It is clear to the Europeans that they need our experience....We see how Europe understands that Israel is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to dealing with and fighting terror."
        "The Europeans are starting to be well aware of the danger Iran poses to the West....It looks like the winds of change are blowing in their attitude toward Israel. I hope to see that in votes in the UN and its Security Council. After all, the information we provide them on terrorism and security is significant for them."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jibril Rajoub vs. Muhammad Dahlan to Replace Mahmoud Abbas - Yoni Ben Menachem
    During an interview on the BBC's Arabic service on Feb. 17, Jibril Rajoub, secretary-general of Fatah in the West Bank, attacked Egypt for supporting his bitter political rival Muhammad Dahlan. Rajoub believes he is the most suitable candidate to succeed Abbas. Dahlan has the backing of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, and Hamas.
        Senior officials in the Trump administration have accused Dahlan of propagating statements calling for the annulment of the Oslo accords and declaring the territories "a state under occupation," which contravenes U.S. policy. Yet the American campaign against Dahlan actually helps him to construct an image as an authentic Palestinian leader. Dahlan is very careful to be photographed with a picture of Yasser Arafat in the background and to quote Arafat at any opportunity. Dahlan presents the Arafat era as a "golden age" in the Palestinian struggle in contrast to Mahmoud Abbas' weakness.
        Abbas' preferred successor appears to be Gen. Majid Freij, head of intelligence in the West Bank, but Abbas has taken no steps to signal this to the Fatah leadership. Israeli concerns are that after Abbas leaves office, there will be armed confrontations and security chaos throughout the West Bank. The writer is a veteran Arab affairs commentator for Israel Radio and Television. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Abbas Downplays Health Concerns after Medical Checks in U.S. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israelis Believe a Palestinian State Will Look Like Gaza - Bret Stephens
    Since 2009, Israel's economy has grown by nearly 30% in constant dollars - nearly twice the growth rate of Germany or the U.S.  Some 3.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2017, a record. Israel's relations with India, Japan, African countries, and the Arab world are the best they've been in decades. Reaction in Riyadh and Cairo to the Trump administration's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem amounted to a shrug. Netanyahu's 2015 speech to Congress opposing the Iran deal turned out to be an inspiration for Israel's neighbors, and his arguments against the deal now prevail in the current White House.
        A Palestinian state is a terrific idea in principle - assuming that it resembles the United Arab Emirates. But Israelis have no reason to believe that it will look like anything except the way Gaza does today: militant, despotic, desperate and aggressive. Israel's foreign critics are demanding that it replicate on a large scale what has failed catastrophically on a smaller scale. Any successor to Netanyahu will have to pursue essentially identical policies. (New York Times)
  • Israel's Position on U.S. Military Aid to the Lebanese Army - Eldad Shavit
    The U.S. believes that providing military assistance to Lebanon's armed forces helps maintain state stability. It does not appear that the U.S. has confronted the reality of Hizbullah's partnership in the Lebanese government, or the identical interests of Hizbullah and official Lebanese government positions.
        Israel's official view of U.S. aid to the Lebanese military runs sharply counter to the U.S. approach. Therefore, Israel should seek to ensure that the aid does not significantly increase the threat against Israel, based on the working assumption that Hizbullah will be able to appropriate the weapons. Israel should also seek to strengthen the administration's use of this aid to motivate the authorities in Lebanon to impose limitations on Hizbullah. Col. (res.) Eldad Shavit served as head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

Israel Is Waiting for a Palestinian Sadat or King Hussein to Make Peace - Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon (Times of Israel)
  • PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' address to the UN Security Council was a unilateral declaration by the Palestinians that when it comes to possible peace with Israel, their current leadership is no longer seeking a solution.
  • Speaking in January, Abbas claimed that the Zionist movement, which returned the Jewish people to their historic homeland, was a colonialist plot. He even claimed that Jews welcomed anti-Semitism as an excuse to advance their national goals.
  • These are not the words of a Palestinian leader ready to accept the legitimacy of the world's only Jewish state and enter into serious negotiations. His declaration that he is now boycotting American mediation all but ensures a state of prolonged and unresolved conflict.
  • Attempts by Abbas to lay the blame for the diplomatic impasse on the Americans' announcement regarding Jerusalem amounts to nothing more than an excuse to avoid the negotiating table.
  • Israelis are an optimistic people. We weathered four bloody wars with Egypt while waiting for a leader of Anwar Sadat's caliber to come forward and courageously visit Jerusalem. It took decades of talks with Jordan until King Hussein entered into a "peace of the brave" with Israel. We have no doubt that the day will come when the Palestinian people will be blessed with such leadership as well.
  • This will be a leadership that ends the despicable practice of incentivizing murder by paying monthly salaries to terrorists. It will be a leadership that educates its people towards tolerance instead of peddling anti-Semitism. It will need to be a leadership that recognizes that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people.