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May 16, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Islamic State Fighters Training with Hamas in Gaza (Times of Israel)
    Islamic State fighters have recently arrived in Gaza to train with Hamas, IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, told the Saudi news website Elaph in an interview published Friday.
    Mordechai said military cooperation with Islamic State is unfolding with the full knowledge and consent of Hamas' leaders.
    Hamas also treats wounded IS terrorists from Sinai.

Video: Ancient Roman Treasure Trove Found Off Israel's Coast (Jerusalem Post)
    A treasure trove of recently discovered ancient artifacts from a merchant ship that went down off of Caesarea 1,600 years ago during the Roman period represents the biggest such discovery in at least 30 years, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Monday.
    After two divers discovered some artifacts by chance last month, IAA divers found the remains of the ship buried beneath the sea floor.
    Many bronze items were amazingly well-preserved. The sand which covered the bronze statues preserved them "as if they were created yesterday, and not 1,600 years ago," the archaeologists said.

UNESCO Head Condemns Iran's Holocaust Cartoon Contest (JTA)
    Irina Bokova, the director general of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has condemned a state-sponsored, Holocaust-themed cartoon contest taking place in Iran.
    "Such an initiative, which aims at a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people, a tragic page of humanity's history, can only foster hatred and incite to violence, racism and anger. This contest goes against the universal values of tolerance and respect, and runs counter to the action led by UNESCO to promote Holocaust education, to fight anti-Semitism and denial."

Southern Gaza in Blackout after Egypt Disconnects Power Line (Ma'an News-PA)
    The last power line from Egypt to Gaza was disconnected on Saturday after reported damage, leaving the areas of Rafah and Khan Yunis in a full electricity blackout.
    One of the two lines which feed electricity to southern Gaza from Egypt was disabled two weeks ago.

Ex-Argentine Leader Tells Court Son Was Killed by Hizbullah (AP)
    Former Argentine President Carlos Menem said Friday he believes his son was killed by Hizbullah.
    Carlos Facundo Menem was 26 when the helicopter he was piloting crashed on March 15, 1995.
    Argentine prosecutors believe Hizbullah and Iran were responsible for the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people.
    Many Argentines believe the bombings were triggered by President Menem's decision to bolster the country's relations with the U.S. while withdrawing support for Iran's ambitions to develop nuclear technology.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hizbullah Says Military Leader Badreddine Was Killed by Sunni Islamist Artillery Fire, Not Israel - Anne Barnard
    Hizbullah declared Saturday that Mustafa Badreddine, the senior commander who died in Syria last week, had been killed in an artillery attack by insurgents. Lebanese media outlets had initially blamed Israel for the death. (New York Times)
        See also A Severe Blow for Hizbullah and Iran - Eyal Zisser
    The assassination of top Hizbullah commander Mustafa Badreddine, in an artillery strike carried out by Syrian rebels on his headquarters near the Damascus airport, is another severe blow for Hizbullah and its Iranian patron. That the rebels - who have been bombed to shreds by Russian planes for over half a year now - were able to kill the man who many considered Hizbullah's "chief of staff" is not just a matter of luck. It illustrates that the rebels are far from surrendering or collapsing.
        Badreddine led the operation in 2005 to assassinate Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as well as a series of terrorist attacks on Israeli targets including the attack in 2012 in Burgas, Bulgaria.
        Iranian and Hizbullah fighters have suffered multiple defeats and have sustained unprecedented casualties in ground battles near Aleppo in recent weeks. Iranian troops and Hizbullah fighters have also been taken prisoner, and photos and video footage of their captivity have spread online. The writer, Vice Rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
  • Bill Clinton: "I Killed Myself to Give Palestinians a State" - Jessie Hellmann
    Bill Clinton on Friday defended his record on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in New Jersey when a spectator yelled "What about Gaza?" Clinton replied: "Hamas is really smart. When they decide to rocket Israel, they insinuate themselves in the hospitals, in the schools, in the highly populous areas, and they are smart. They said they try to put Israelis in a position of either not defending themselves or killing innocents. They're good at it. They're smart. They've been doing this a long time. I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state. I had a deal they turned down that would have given them all of Gaza."  (The Hill)
        See also The Palestinians Could Have Had a State If They Wanted One - Jonathan S. Tobin
    When Bill Clinton says, "I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state," he's right. If they had wanted one, they could have had it. But they didn't. Nor was Arafat's successor Mahmoud Abbas willing to accept a state in 2008 when Ehud Olmert offered even more generous peace terms at the prodding of George W. Bush. Since then Abbas has refused to negotiate seriously. The problem was that the Palestinians were not prepared to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn. (Commentary)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: French Initiative Gives Palestinians "Escape Hatch" to Avoid Negotiations - Tovah Lazaroff
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday that the French peace initiative gave the Palestinians an opportunity to evade direct negotiations. "Any other process [like the French initiative] just pushes peace farther away and gives the Palestinians an escape hatch to avoid confronting the root of the conflict, which is the recognition of the state of Israel [as a Jewish state]," Netanyahu said. He added that Israel's historical experience is that direct talks do lead to peace, as occurred with Egypt and Jordan. Netanyahu spoke following a meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Tells France It's Not Interested in Multilateral Peace Talks - William Booth
    Dore Gold, director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: "Israel has been very clear. We are not going to accept the French initiative. We think it is a big mistake and we are not going to get involved."  (Washington Post)
        See also Russia's UN Envoy: Mideast Quartet "Only Mechanism" to Mediate Palestine Conflict (Sputnik-Russia)
  • Israeli Wounded in Jerusalem Stabbing Attack on Monday
    A Palestinian from the West Bank stabbed and wounded an Israeli man on Ha'nevi'im Street in Jerusalem on Monday before being apprehended by police. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Arrests Two Palestinians in West Bank Bombing - Yoav Zitun
    Israel has arrested two Palestinians for involvement in the planting of the explosive that seriously wounded an IDF officer last week at the entrance to the village of Hizma, north of Jerusalem. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Terror Suspect Nabbed in West Bank - Efrat Forsher
    A 36-year-old male Palestinian resident of Bethlehem suspected of planning to impersonate an Israeli police officer and perpetrate a terrorist attack was apprehended on Saturday in Mishor Adumim industrial park east of Jerusalem. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Demise of Hizbullah's Untraceable Ghost - Robin Wright
    Mustafa Badreddine, a Lebanese bomb maker and one of the architects of Islamic terrorism, was Hizbullah's top military commander. Badreddine, 55, was killed in a mysterious explosion in Syria, where he commanded at least 6,000 Hizbullah fighters who are propping up the regime of President Bashar Assad. "Along with Imad Mughniyah and a couple of others, Badreddine initiated the era of modern terror in which we still live," Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador to Lebanon, told me Friday. "I could not be happier that someone killed the son of a bitch."
        Badreddine gained fame for developing a sophisticated technique for using gas to increase the power of plastic explosives. It was used in the 1983 suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine compound in Beirut, the largest loss of American military personnel in a single incident since Iwo Jima in 1945. Two months later, a truck laden with 45 large cylinders of gas connected to explosives careened through the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait, and over the next few hours, five other bombs went off in Kuwait City, including one at the French Embassy.
        After Badreddine was caught by Kuwait, Mughniyah launched at least three commercial hijackings and a wave of kidnappings of Americans to pressure Kuwait to free him. In the end, Badreddine was freed when Saddam Hussein's troops invaded Kuwait in 1990 and the prisons were emptied. Over the next decade and a half, Mughniyah and Badreddine developed the armed wing of Hizbullah into the most sophisticated militia in the Middle East. (New Yorker)
        See also Hizbullah's Biggest Loss to Date in Syria - Nadav Pollak and Matthew Levitt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Can Assad Keep Crossing the "Red Line"? - David Ignatius
    The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, apparently relying on a government source, reported May 2 that Assad's forces used sarin gas last month against Islamic State fighters after they attacked two Syrian air force bases east of Damascus. Stockpiles of this deadly gas were supposed to have been removed from Syria in 2014. "With the continuation of fighting in Syria, it is reasonable to assume that the regime won't hesitate to use these weapons again, especially after already having done so...without any reaction," an Israeli source told me.
        Are Obama and Putin ready to tolerate a situation in which the use of chemical weapons is seen as "normal," despite a Russian-American agreement that they should be banned? (Washington Post)

Israel's Ambassador to the U.S.: Groups that Criticize Only Israel Are Anti-Semitic, Military Aid Provides Tools to Better Defend Ourselves - Ron Dermer interviewed by Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

  • "When I hear that church groups or academic associations have decided to boycott or divest from Israel, my first question is whether Israel is the 51st, 71st or 121st country on their list of boycotted nations. If Israel is one of many countries they are boycotting, then at least I know these groups may have some principle by which they are judging Israel."
  • "But if these groups single out Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, and are silent on all the egregious human rights violations that exist throughout the world - North Korea, Syria, Iran and dozens of other countries that I will not mention because I am a diplomat - then they are anti-Semites."
  • "We live at a time when ancient Christian communities in the Middle East are being decimated, when Christians are being decapitated en masse, when Christians are literally fleeing for their lives in the region - and a group of Christians actually call to divest from Israel, the one country in the region where Christians are free and safe, with a Christian population five times larger than it was in 1948?"
  • Why does Israel still needs military assistance? "It is true that Israel has a relatively high GDP per capita - about $37,000. The problem is that Israel doesn't have enough 'capita.' That is, we have a very small population - 8.5 million people....Because of Israel's enormous defense needs and very small population, Israel has always been forced to dedicate a much larger percentage of its GDP to defense than other countries."
  • "European countries spend about 1% of their GDP on defense and almost never more than 2%. The United States traditionally spends about 4% of its GDP on defense. In recent years, Israel has spent roughly 6% of our GDP [on defense]."
  • "The prime minister recently pointed out that in the last 10 to 15 years, the U.S. has spent over $1.5 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's the equivalent of about 500 years of U.S. assistance to Israel. And Israel has never asked American soldiers to risk their lives to defend us - only to provide us with the tools we need to better defend ourselves."

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