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April 22, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Conducts Space Launch - Bill Gertz (Washington Free Beacon)
    Iran on Tuesday conducted the first launch of the Simorgh space launch vehicle, a new rocket that the Pentagon views as a key element of Tehran's effort to build long-range missiles.
    The Simorgh is believed to be based on North Korean missile technology. U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korea supplied Iran with design data, stage separation technology, and booster equipment for the Simorgh and other rockets.
    During negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. intelligence agencies detected two shipments of large-diameter rocket engines from North Korea to Iran.
    The Simorgh is assessed as having enough lift to carry a nuclear warhead.
    Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, told a House hearing last week, "Iran's continuing pursuit of long-range missile capabilities and ballistic missile and space launch programs, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, remains a serious concern."
    "In light of these advances, we assess Iran may be able to deploy an operational ICBM by 2020."

Turkish Tank Crew Saved by Israeli Upgrades - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    A Turkish M60T tank with Israeli upgrades survived an attack by an advanced anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) shot by ISIS, the defense magazine Jane's reported Thursday.
    The upgrades on the U.S.-made tank were made by Israel and sold to Turkey 10 years ago.
    The anti-tank missile was a Russian-made 129K9 shot at the Turkish tank last week near the town of Ba'ashiqa, 30 km. northeast of Mosul in Iraq.
    The tank was hit by the missile, but suffered no significant damage and none of the crew were injured thanks to the Israeli defense system.

29 Ex-German Soldiers Joined ISIS - Vijeta Uniyal (Legal Insurrection)
    29 former German Army soldiers have joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, a new German military intelligence report reveals.
    Additionally, the military is investigating 65 suspected jihadists serving as active duty German soldiers.
    According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, since 2007 the German Military Counter-Intelligence Agency has investigated 320 active duty soldiers for having suspected links to jihadist circles.
    Islamic State has been urging potential recruits in Europe to get military training before heading to Iraq and Syria.
    Some 700 Germans have left for Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State, including 100 female fighters.

Islamic State Income Falls 30 Percent as It Loses Territory - Ben Farmer (Telegraph-UK)
    Islamic State's revenue has been cut by almost 30% in the past year as it has lost control of territory and people to tax, a new report by IHS estimates.
    Militant leaders have introduced new fines and taxes to halt the slide in funding and have begun accepting money from criminals in lieu of meting out brutal corporal punishments.
    Taxes have been introduced for truck drivers, installing satellite dishes, and exit fees for anyone trying to leave a city.

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Chart: The Long Arm of Iran (Embassy of Israel-Washington)
    A look at Iranian terror activities around the globe

U.S. Army Tests Israel's Iron Dome Interceptor Missile - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. Army this week carried out a successful trial of the Israeli-made Tamir air-defense missile against a target drone in the U.S.

Francisco Partners Buys Israeli Company SintecMedia for $400M - Tali Tsipori (Globes)
    U.S. private equity fund Francisco Partners has acquired the Israeli company SintecMedia for $400 million.
    SintecMedia has developed Internet-based management applications and software systems for broadcasters.

Magic Leap Acquires Israeli Cyber Security Company NorthBit - Gwen Ackerman (Bloomberg)
    Magic Leap Inc., a U.S. startup working on a device that simulates reality, has acquired Israeli cybersecurity company NorthBit.
    The deal will ensure Magic Leap products ship with the highest security standards.
    Last month, NorthBit discovered a software vulnerability that could affect millions of customers using the Android operating system.

Tel Aviv-Made Apps in Local Hotels to Improve Tourist Experience in Israel (Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)
    Tel Aviv is leading an integration of travel apps (made in Tel Aviv) into some of the city's hotels.
    The apps include Howazit, which provides a seamless connection between guests and hotels throughout the different phases of the visit; Dotz, which offers the ideal events guide for visitors based on their geo-location and personal interests; and Aspectiva, which offers customer review insights.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • In Saudi Arabia, Obama Says U.S. Still Has "Serious Concerns" on Iran - Alexander Smith
    The U.S. continues to have "serious concerns" about Iran's behavior even after the nuclear deal last year, President Barack Obama said Thursday during a meeting in Saudi Arabia. Illegal Iranian arms shipments, ballistic missile tests, and "destabilizing acts" were a continued worry for the U.S. and its allies, the president said.
        "We have to be effective in our defenses and hold Iran to account where it is acting in ways that are contrary to international rules and norms, but we also have to have the capacity to enter into a dialogue," Obama said. Mistrust has grown "in part because of Iranian provocations."  (NBC News)
  • After Court Ruling for Terror Victims, Iran Accuses U.S. of Theft - Rick Gladstone
    Iran reacted furiously on Thursday to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Iran's central bank must pay nearly $2 billion to American victims of the 1983 bombing of a Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, calling the ruling thievery. The ruling will, at least theoretically, allow the families to obtain compensation from Iranian central bank assets that have been impounded. A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, said the court's ruling on Wednesday "amounts to appropriation of the Islamic Republic of Iran's property."  (New York Times)
  • Europe Says U.S. Regulations Keeping It from Trade with Iran - Thomas Erdbrink
    Three months after the lifting of many sanctions against Iran, European banks are refusing to finance any new deals, wary of running afoul of sanctions imposed by the U.S. over Iran's missile program and its sponsorship of terrorism. Europeans also point to new American visa regulations that make it more difficult for them to enter the U.S. if they have traveled to Iran.
        U.S. officials say - and most European experts agree - that it is not only the sanctions that are blocking Iran's access to the American financial system but also Iran's failure to update laws governing money laundering and prohibitions against the financing of terrorism. (New York Times)
  • France to Hold Summit on Israel-Palestinian Peace
    France will host a meeting of ministers on May 30 to try to relaunch the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced on Thursday. Ayrault said the aim was to prepare an international summit to be held in the second half of 2016. (AFP-France 24)
        See also France to Convene Mideast Peace Meeting Without Israel or Palestinians - Herb Keinon
    France will convene a meeting of 30 countries and international organizations to discuss the parameters for an international peace conference to be held in Paris. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be invited to the meeting, though they will be asked to join the peace conference. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Congressional Panel Queries U.S. Education Department on Campus Anti-Semitism
    Citing reports of an increase in anti-Israel activity on college campuses, the U.S. House of Representatives Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism asked U.S. Education Secretary John King on Wednesday to outline how his department is tracking anti-Jewish bias. The 38 signatories said in the letter that they "hope you share our view that any campus activity that threatens, harasses, or intimidates Jewish students should not be overlooked simply because it is presented as 'anti-Israel' or 'anti-Zionist.'"
        The task force is chaired by Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Steve Israel (D-NY), Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Tells Putin in Moscow: Golan Heights a "Red Line" for Israel - Jonathan Lis
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Moscow on Thursday: "Israel has clear red lines for purposes of self-defense. First, we are working to the best of our ability to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran and Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Second, we are working to prevent the establishment of an additional terror front against us on the Golan Heights. These are red lines and we will continue to maintain them."
        "Regarding the Golan Heights, we will not go back to the days when they fired at our communities and at our children from atop the Heights. Therefore, with or without an agreement, the Golan Heights will remain under Israeli sovereignty."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Netanyahu Says He Got Russian Assurances over Syrian Threat - Ilya Arkhipov and Jonathan Ferziger
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said he received assurances of military coordination from Russia that would help Israel stop the transfer of weapons through Syria to Iranian-backed Hizbullah in Lebanon. Netanyahu said his meeting with Russian President Putin was "very successful." His senior military advisers will meet with Russian counterparts to work out a plan to help "preserve freedom of movement for the Israel Defense Forces and Air Force in the places most important to our security."  (Bloomberg)
        See also Report: Russian Forces in Syria Fired on Israeli Jets at least Twice - Yoav Zitun
    Russian fighter jets fired at Israel Air Force aircraft near Syria on at least two occasions, Yediot Ahronot reported Friday. The issue was raised during Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's visit to Moscow in March. Prior to his meeting with President Putin on Thursday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "I came here with one main goal - to strengthen the security coordination between us so as to avoid mishaps, misunderstandings and unnecessary confrontations."  (Ynet News)
  • Israel Arrests Hamas Members Linked to Jerusalem Bombing - Gili Cohen and Yair Ettinger
    The Israel Security Agency said Thursday that several Hamas members from the Bethlehem area have been arrested for involvement in the planning and carrying out of the bus bombing in Jerusalem that wounded 20 on Monday. Three of the wounded are still in intensive care, mechanically ventilated and sedated. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Jerusalem Bus Bomber Came from a Well-to-Do Palestinian Family - William Booth
    Abdel Hamid Abu Srour, 19, the first suicide bomber in Jerusalem in a decade, did not grow up in a refugee camp and his uncles are prosperous merchants. But the cover photo on his Facebook page includes the image of Yahya Ayyash, the chief bombmaker for Hamas, who was killed in 1996.
        His relatives said Abu Srour was more of a Palestinian preppy, the scion of a well-to-do clan of eight prosperous brothers who own and operate a string of furniture outlets and take their children for holidays in Jordan. His relatives scoffed at the idea that Abu Srour would know how to make a bomb himself. Who gave him the bomb and how it was detonated is now the object of an investigation. (Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Maturing of Israeli-Russian Relations - Anna Borshchevskaya
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has pursued improved ties with Israel since he came into office in March 2000. Russian and Israeli officials maintain multiple open channels of communication. The two countries have an agreement on visa-free tourist travel. Israel is home to over a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
        Putin wants to be seen as a key player throughout the Middle East, and Israel matters in the region. Putin's regional policy, however, is primarily driven by zero-sum anti-Westernism, while Israel is a pro-Western democracy. Moscow's growing aggression in the former Soviet Union, especially in Ukraine, and increasing influence in the Middle East in the context of a Western retreat from the region, complicates Russian-Israeli relations.
        At the same time, the Western retreat from the Middle East is especially problematic for Israel, as it reduces Israel's options. The writer is a Fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Afghans Sent by Iran to Fight for Assad - Fariba Sahraei
    Iran has sent thousands of Afghan men, mainly ethnic Hazaras recruited from impoverished migrant communities in Iran, to fight alongside Syrian government forces. Almost three million Afghans live in Iran as second-class citizens. They were offered Iranian passports if they joined the multi-national Shia Muslim militia that Iran has mobilized to support Syrian President Assad. After two weeks of basic training, the Afghan recruits are flown directly to Syria.
        Many have since fled the battlefield and joined the refugee trail to Europe. At a migrant camp in Greece, a clearly traumatized teenage veteran describes how Afghan fighters were used as first-wave shock troops and were effectively disposable. "We would take ground at great cost and then have to hand it over to the Syrian soldiers. But they would usually lose it back to ISIS after a day or two."
        Another Afghan fighter who had served a year in Syria said that when he finally got back to Iran, the Revolutionary Guards broke their promises and gave him a only 30-day temporary residency document instead of a passport. (BBC Persian)
  • Seven Months of Popular Palestinian Terrorism
    This study is an interim summary of the Palestinian popular terrorist campaign, currently concluding its seventh month. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • UNESCO Declares the Holiest Site in Judaism to Be the "Al-Aqsa Mosque" - Nadav Shragai
    In response to a Palestinian Authority initiative, UNESCO has decided to stop using the term "Temple Mount" and from now on will refer to the holiest site in Judaism as the "Al-Aqsa Mosque."
        For hundreds of years, Muslim scholars wrote in their own religious and historical texts that Solomon's Temple was located on the Temple Mount. They include Jerusalem-based Muslim historians such as Al-Muqaddasi or Aref al-Aref, Iranian scholar Al-Mastoufi, the poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, and the Muslim preacher Abu Bakhar al-Wasati. In the time of Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Waqf published a visitor's guide to the Temple Mount that read, "The site's identification with the Solomonic Temple is beyond all doubt."
        The Temple's existence is supported by archeological discoveries such as a fragment of a Second Temple-era Greek inscription found near the Lion's Gate, or the corner where trumpets were blown to herald the start of the Sabbath and holidays, unearthed at excavations at the compound's southern wall. And, of course, there is the Bible, the Mishnah, the Talmud, and a wealth of Jewish and other historical sources that show that the Temple stood on the Temple Mount. (Israel Hayom)
  • Hizbullah Is a Transnational Criminal Organization - Matthew Levitt
    Hizbullah is deeply involved in organized criminal enterprises, running illicit networks of its own while also plugging into those of other criminal entities. In some cases, Hizbullah criminal operatives are carrying out direct instructions from Hizbullah officials. In other cases, members or supporters share the proceeds of their crimes with Hizbullah.
        The recent spike in criminal investigations has spooked the group. In a speech last December, Nasrallah categorically denied charges that Hizbullah is involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, and other crimes, challenging his accusers to "Bring me the evidence!" That has now been done, in case after case, with ample evidence from American and European law enforcement agencies. The writer is director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Weekend Features

  • Frederick Mayer, Jew Who Spied on Nazis after Fleeing Germany, Dies at 94 - Eric Lichtblau
    Frederick Mayer, a German Jew who fled Nazi Germany for the U.S. as a teenager in 1938, parachuted back into Nazi-controlled Austria seven years later as an American spy. Mayer dropped behind enemy lines in February 1945 and posed as a German soldier for more than two months in the Tyrol region of western Austria, gathering critical intelligence on Nazi troop movements. He learned of a convoy of German military trains headed for Italy with troops and munitions, and he had the information radioed to American commanders, allowing Allied warplanes to bomb them.
        In Austria, Mayer also secretly organized hundreds of anti-Nazi resistance fighters and helped produce the "organized disintegration of enemy defenses" in the Innsbruck area and sped the Germans' early surrender without any further fighting, according to an OSS report in September 1945 that nominated Mayer for a Medal of Honor. (He did not get it.) "What he accomplished was just astonishing: He saved thousands of lives on both sides," said Charles Pinck, president of the OSS Society.
        Just weeks before the end of the war, the Gestapo discovered Mayer's identity and imprisoned him. His German captors tortured him for days, waterboarding and pistol-whipping him repeatedly to try to get him to reveal the locations of his American colleagues, but he would not talk. (New York Times)
  • Death in the Forests of Lithuania - Barbara Sofer
    Ruta Vanagaite, one of Lithuania's most popular authors, used her celebrity and talent to co-author a volume about the shameful and shocking past of her homeland, where 96% of the Jewish community was murdered during the German occupation in World War II. The vast majority of Lithuania's 220,000 Jews weren't deported to death camps. The Jews of Lithuania were slaughtered by their neighbors, with more than 20,000 Lithuanians taking part in the murder. Vanagaite discovered her relatives were involved. Her grandfather had made a list of Communist Jews for the Germans, and one uncle was a high-ranking police office.
        Her co-author is Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Israeli Nazi-hunter who heads the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem. Together, they visited 35 of the 227 mass-murder sites in the villages and forests of the country. Their book, Our People: Journey With an Enemy, published in Lithuanian in January 2016, has become a best-seller, to the surprise of the publishers and despite the topic. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Surgical Sealant Gets EU Approval, FDA Fast-Track Status - David Shamah
    LifeSeal, the no-leak sealant solution for patients who have undergone gastrointestinal (GI) surgery, is now approved for use in the EU. The unique "glue" developed by Israel-based LifeBond allows doctors to prevents leaks after bariatric and GI operations. LifeSeal "has been proven in clinical studies to make a major positive difference for patients," said Ittai Harel, chairman of LifeBond. The sealant is stronger and longer-lasting than others and uses only natural ingredients so it is much better tolerated in patients. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel a Role Model for Disaster Medicine, Says Red Cross Chief Surgeon - David Shamah
    "Providing medical assistance under emergency conditions where there are few resources and no order or protocol is far different than the ordered medical facilities where most doctors learn to treat people," Dr. Harald Veen, chief surgeon of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told a conference in Israel last week. "Israelis are very good at this kind of medicine, and they have successfully used their skills both on the battlefield locally and in emergencies such as earthquakes and floods, where they have set up effective and successful field care operations. Not all countries can do that."  (Times of Israel)

Anti-Zionism Is Indeed a Form of Anti-Semitism - Andres Spokoiny (Ha'aretz)

  • Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. It holds that Jews, like any other people, have the right to national self-determination.
  • Denying that right to Jews, and only to Jews, can't be called anything other than anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism isn't directed at any other national movement but that of the Jews.
  • Most anti-Zionists wholeheartedly embrace other national movements, or at least fail to condemn the existence of any nation state other than Israel. Most notably, anti-Zionists often champion Palestinian national aspirations, but the stark double standard seems to escape them.
  • Zionism restored freedom and dignity to a people oppressed for two millennia. Zionism is profoundly liberal and democratic.
  • It was rooted in Jewish humanistic principles and in progressive ideas of 19th century national democrats like the Italian Giuseppe Massini, who understood that true democracy and freedom can only take place in the context of a sovereign national state.
  • The Zionist movement's creation of the modern State of Israel was, and is, a triumph for human rights.

    The writer is President and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network.
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