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April 18, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Aid Workers Join Relief Efforts in Quake-Rattled Japan, Ecuador (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israeli humanitarian aid agency IsraAID announced on Sunday that it already has a delegation in southern Japan, which was hit by earthquakes. Israeli relief workers have been distributing goods and opening child care centers in affected Japanese communities.
    In addition, an IsraAID team was headed to Ecuador after an earthquake ravaged that country. The Israeli team in Ecuador will offer medical treatment, psycho-social outreach and child resources.

UK to Slash UN Agency Funding over Failed UNESCO Reforms - James Tennent (International Business Times)
    According to the Sunday Times, "insiders" are expecting a number of UN agencies to lose almost all of their direct UK funding, in part due to UNESCO failing to reform wasteful practices.
    Officials said UN agencies can expect UK funding to be cut by up to £180m.
    "Funding cuts are the only tool that makes the leadership of international agencies pay attention," said Beatrice Edwards, international project director at the Government Accountability Project.

Report: Dozens of Hizbullah Militants "Accidentally" Killed in Syrian Chemical Attack - Yasser Okbi (Maariv Hashavua-Jerusalem Post)
    Dozens of Hizbullah members were killed last week in Aleppo in an "accidental" chemical attack carried out by Syrian planes that attacked the town of Al-Eis, south of Aleppo, diplomatic sources told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.
    On the bodies of the dead militants were signs of burns typical of chemical explosives.

Arabs Hurl Firebombs at Jewish Jerusalem Neighborhood - Roi Yanovsky (Ynet News)
    Arab residents of east Jerusalem threw firebombs Saturday at police and border police in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, adjacent to the Jewish neighborhood of Ma'ale ha-Zeitim.
    Residents of Ma'ale ha-Zeitim say such incidents occur almost daily.
    A video on Palestinian social networks shows firebombs being thrown and one of throwers injured by a firebomb thrown by another Arab.

Anti-Israel Campaign Calls on Jordanians to Refuse Working in Israeli Hotels - Maayan Groisman (Jerusalem Post)
    Jordan's committee against normalization with Israel has launched a campaign against Jordanians seeking employment in Israeli hotels, amid calls by Israeli officials to recruit additional Jordanian employees to work in hotels in Eilat.

Rally for Hizbullah Held in West Bank - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine held a pro-Hizbullah rally in the West Bank town of Kafr Ni'me, west of Ramallah, on Saturday, attended by dozens of Palestinians as well as Druze from the Golan Heights.
    The rally featured Hizbullah and Palestinian flags alongside placards of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Army Discovers Tunnel from Gaza into Israel
    The Israeli military said Monday it has discovered and destroyed a tunnel burrowing from Gaza into Israel - the first tunnel to be discovered since Israel's 2014 war with Hamas. The tunnel extended about 100 meters into Israel and was lined with cement and outfitted with electricity, ventilation and rail tracks to cart away dirt from digging, IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. (AP-New York Times)
        See also IDF Uncovers Gaza Terror Tunnel Dug into Israeli Territory - Judah Ari Gross
    Security forces discovered the tunnel inside Israeli territory just over a week ago, the Israel Defense Forces revealed on Monday. Israel has been developing a detection system to locate such tunnels and the army reportedly used the system to discover this tunnel. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel Drills for Hamas Attack on Gaza Border
    Israel on Thursday carried out its largest civilian drill near Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, Israel Channel 2 reported Friday. Soldiers and emergency response teams simulated a Hamas incursion into Israeli territory, including an attack on an Israeli kibbutz near the border and the taking of hostages by terrorists. (Times of Israel)
  • UNESCO Resolution Ignores Jewish Ties to Temple Mount, Western Wall
    A resolution adopted Friday by the executive board of UNESCO, meeting in Paris, does not recognize a Jewish connection to the Western Wall and the Temple Mount and calls Israel an "occupying power." The measure refers to the Western Wall as Al-Buraq Plaza and to the Temple Mount as the Al-Aksa Mosque/Al-Haram Al Sharif. It also criticizes Israel for its decision to build an egalitarian prayer area in the Western Wall Plaza.
        Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu responded Saturday night: "UNESCO ignores the unique historic connection of Judaism to the Temple Mount, where two temples stood for a thousand years and to which every Jew in the world has prayed for thousands of years. The UN is rewriting a basic part of human history."  (JTA)
        See also Video: UNESCO's Resolution to Condemn Israel Conflicts with Its Mission - Amb. Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Will Never Leave the Golan Heights - Shlomo Cesana
    "Israel will never come down from the Golan Heights," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday. "In the 49 years Israel has controlled the Golan, it has been a place of peace and prosperity," Netanyahu said. "Israel today is the solution, not the problem." "The border line is not going to change, regardless of what there is on the Syrian side. The time has come for the international community to finally recognize that the Golan will remain under Israeli sovereignty permanently."
        Netanyahu's statements came amidst reports that, as international diplomatic efforts to achieve a diplomatic resolution to the Syrian civil war continue, Bashar Assad is demanding territorial concessions from Israel in the Golan. Netanyahu recently informed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, "Israel will not hand over the Golan Heights to anyone."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also Netanyahu: Iranian, Hizbullah and ISIS Forces Must Be Removed from Syria
    At the weekly Cabinet meeting, held on the Golan Heights on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "The Golan Heights have been an integral part of the Land of Israel since ancient times; the dozens of ancient synagogues in the area around us attest to this....During the 19 years that the Golan Heights were under Syrian occupation, when they were a place for bunkers, wire fences, mines and aggression, they were for war. In the 49 years that the Golan Heights have been under Israeli rule, they have been for agriculture, tourism, economic initiatives and building. They are for peace."
        "I spoke last night with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and I told him...that we will not oppose a diplomatic settlement in Syria, on condition that it not come at the expense of the security of the State of Israel, i.e., that at the end of the day, the forces of Iran, Hizbullah and ISIS will be removed from Syrian soil."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israel Signals to Protect Its Interests in Any Syrian Peace Deal - Joshua Mitnick
    Netanyahu's declaration that Israel will never relinquish control over the Golan Heights comes as the Syrian peace talks in Geneva sputtered on. "Geneva presents another opportunity for Netanyahu to lay down a marker and get the world accustomed to the idea that the Golan is Israeli and that it is futile for people to think of it in any other context," said Dr. Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
        It also signals to the international community that it must take Israel's position into account in negotiating a solution to the Syrian civil war, said Eyal Zisser, a political science professor at Tel Aviv University. "Now there's a sense that there might be a settlement imposed by Russia and the Americans, and it's important for Netanyahu to remind everyone that we are there, and they should be taking our interests into consideration."  (Los Angeles Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What If Israel Had Given Up the Golan Heights? A Lesson for Syria's Crisis - Aaron David Miller
    As Syria continues to be ravaged, I wonder what would have happened had U.S. efforts succeeded in negotiating an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement in the 1990s. For almost two decades, I was part of a U.S. negotiating team that tried to reach such a deal. But had we succeeded, the results might have been catastrophic for Israel and for the U.S.
        Several U.S. presidents and Israeli leaders considered longtime Syrian President Hafez al-Assad a strategic thinker with whom one might do business. Rarely did we focus on the prospect that an Israeli-Syrian accord might be at risk if instability in Syria led to a change in regime. But fear of instability in the Arab world didn't stop Menachem Begin from returning Sinai to Egypt; it didn't stop Rabin from concluding a peace deal with Jordan's King Hussein; nor did it prevent the Oslo accords with the Palestinians.
        Had Israel given up the Golan, Israel would be facing a hot front confronting Hizbullah, Iran, and a range of Islamist jihadis. Given the Golan's strategic importance, Israel would have had to reoccupy it and would have found itself in the middle of Syria's civil war.
        Withdrawal from Gaza produced Hamas. Leaving the Golan could have produced worse. It's a cautionary tale for well-intentioned U.S. and Israeli peacemakers alike. The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Video: As the Mideast Descends into Chaos, Israel Must Have Defensible Borders (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • What Iran Needs to Fix - Editorial
    Since concluding the nuclear deal last July, Iran has yet to realize the expected economic benefits, but to a large extent has itself to blame. One impediment is that most American sanctions remain in place because of Iran's involvement in terrorism and human rights abuses and its testing of ballistic missiles. Iran knew that lifting all American sanctions was never part of the nuclear deal. Iran is still barred from using the American financial system, and many foreign banks who are free to engage with Iran hesitate to do so, fearing they will run afoul of American sanctions.
        Iran's banking system has not kept up with strict new rules to prevent money-laundering and terrorist financing. Experts say Iranian banks are badly run, politicized and lack transparency. Iran's warlike behavior in the region further discourages investment. (New York Times)

How Will the Transfer of Islands from Egypt to Saudi Arabia Affect Israel?

  • Risks for Israel in the Straits of Tiran - Zvi Mazel
    Egypt will transfer the small islands of Tiran and Sanafir in the Straits of Tiran to Saudi sovereignty. It was the closure of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli vessels that triggered the Six-Day War. Saudi Arabia is formally an enemy of the State of Israel. Until and unless a peace treaty is concluded between them, the situation remains volatile. Saudi Arabia is ruled by an Islamist family regime, based on Wahhabism, one of the most extremist schools of Islam, with a deeply rooted hatred of Israel. Moreover, a revolution in this authoritarian kingdom could happen.
        Egyptians have been taught from infancy that the islands belong to them. President Nasser proclaimed in 1957 and 1967 that the islands are "a hundred percent Egyptian." Ancient maps show that both islands were considered Egyptian for half a millennium. The agreement to transfer the islands to Saudi Arabia has led to angry protests and demonstrations in Egypt. Thus, their transfer leaves Israel in strategic limbo. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Strengthened Saudi-Egypt Ties May Serve Israeli Interests - Herb Keinon
    The growing relationship between Saudi Arabia and Egypt is definitely in Israel's interests, said Yitzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to Cairo from 2009 to 2011. The Saudis are positioning themselves for a leadership role in the new Middle East, he said, and "understand that they need Egypt. It is the biggest country, with the strongest army and great influence."
        Eran Lerman, former deputy for foreign policy and international affairs at Israel's National Security Council, says the Saudi-Egyptian move strengthens the regional forces for stability, a camp that includes Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The transfer of the islands in the Straits of Tiran from Egypt to Saudi Arabia "is clearly part of a larger bargain to bind the two countries together. From our perspective, anything that helps Egyptian stability is good." In exchange the Egyptian economy will get a cash infusion of billions of dollars, he said. In addition, this will likely draw Egypt closer to Saudi Arabia's position on Iran, which is much closer to Israel's position on the matter.
        The anger in Egypt that accompanied the announcement that emerged in the social media was largely orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, he added. The Brotherhood sees Egyptian-Saudi cooperation as harming its own fading designs for regional hegemony. And in this case, what is bad for the Muslim Brotherhood is good for Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Meaning for Israel of Restored Saudi Sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir Islands - Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman and Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum
    The fact that Saudi Arabia has now undertaken to uphold in practice the obligations assumed by Egypt under its peace treaty with Israel means that Israel's place in the region is no longer perceived by Arab leader Saudi Arabia as an anomaly to be corrected. This is a far cry from normalization of Saudi relations with Israel, but it is nevertheless a welcome ray of light.
        Egypt took care to explain its decision to Israel and to allay any fears that this may have any effect on the freedom of navigation. The Saudis did so as well, according to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon.
        With the need to confront Iran high above all other considerations in the Saudi and Egyptian national security playbook - and in Israel's - any major step that helps bring together the "camp of stability" in the region under joint Egyptian-Saudi leadership will also serve Israel's interests. The writers are senior research associates at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies. (BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)
  • The Israeli Angle to the Saudi-Egyptian Island Deal - Simon Henderson
    Diplomatic challenges could arise if the proposal to build a bridge across the Straits of Tiran linking Egypt and Saudi Arabia actually goes forward. The prospect of Israeli naval vessels sailing beneath a Saudi-Egyptian bridge could prompt heartburn in the kingdom. Moreover, Israel and Jordan will want to be consulted on such details as the bridge's height (e.g., to allow tankers, container ships, and cruise liners to pass). The U.S. will also have an interest - in 2013, the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge passed through the straits to visit Eilat. The writer is director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

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