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June 3, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Islamic State Commander in Sinai Meets with Hamas Officials in Gaza - Daniel Douek (Times of Israel)
    Top Islamic State commander in Sinai Shadi al-Menii met with Hamas officials in Gaza Thursday to discuss cooperation, Israel's Channel 2 reported.
    Al-Menii fled to Gaza in May 2015 after his organization attacked an Egyptian military base and killed a soldier.
    Al-Menii's branch of ISIS in Sinai helped Hamas smuggle arms into the strip via tunnels in return for sophisticated weapons.

Three Syrians Planning ISIS Attack Arrested in Germany - Noah Barkin and Michelle Martin (Reuters)
    Three Syrian men with links to Islamic State have been arrested in Germany for planning a large-scale attack in Duesseldorf, a German federal prosecutor said on Thursday.
    The plot was uncovered because a fourth Syrian man voluntarily turned himself in to authorities in Paris on Feb. 1 and confessed to the plot.
    German intelligence officials have said they believe ISIS militants took advantage of the chaotic influx of hundreds of thousands of migrants to sneak fighters into Germany.

Islamic State Calls for Destruction of Satellite Dishes Ahead of Ramadan - Chiara Palazzo (Telegraph-UK)
    ISIS officials have called for satellite dishes to be destroyed in Raqqa and Mosul ahead of Ramadan.
    A video released on Tuesday by the terror group's media office in Mosul discusses the dangers of Western media, including the risk of intelligence agencies using TV satellite dishes to identify targets.
    Citizens are asked to destroy or surrender satellite dishes to the local Islamic police.

Finland's Foreign Minister: We're Against BDS - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini on Thursday.
    At the meeting, Soini stressed that Finland opposes a boycott of Israel, and expressed total opposition to BDS activities.

Egyptian Power Lines to Gaza Out of Order, Causing Electricity Blackouts (Ma'an News-PA)
    Egyptian power lines to Gaza were out of order early Friday due to a sudden problem at the al-Arish power station, causing electricity blackouts in southern Gaza.
    At the beginning of May, Gaza had power for six-hour intervals followed by 12 hours without power for two weeks, due to a problem with the Egyptian power lines.
    In mid-May Gaza was to return to the usual schedule of eight hours with electricity followed by eight hours without power.

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IBM Buying Israel's EZ Legacy to Simplify Cloud Integration - Sead Fadilpasic (ITProPortal)
    IBM announced Thursday it is buying Israeli-based start-up EZ Legacy to help companies understand and make changes to the mainframe code in cloud apps.
    "Today's applications can be made up of millions of lines of code, and to update this code can take days or weeks. EZSource provides a visual dashboard to quickly and easily show developers which applications have changed to ease the process of modernizing applications," IBM said.
    Behind the idea of this acquisition is a statistic showing that 80% of businesses are expected to adopt a hybrid cloud strategy before the end of 2017.

Someone Is Launching Cyber Attacks on Websites Critical of Israel - Justin Ling (Vice News)
    Early this year, the main website for the Palestinian BDS National Committee was targeted by a denial of service attack.
    The attacks were uncovered, and defended against, by Deflect Labs, a cyber security group headquartered in Montreal that seeks to protect activist and independent media organizations from organized cyber attacks.
    The group has been protecting a host of websites since 2014, thanks in part to nearly $500,000 in funding from the Canadian government.

U.S.-Israeli Company WalkMe Raises $50M - Tova Cohen (Reuters)
    WalkMe, whose platform guides users through online processes, raised $50 million in a funding round, the firm said on Thursday.
    Established in Israel in 2011, WalkMe is headquartered in San Francisco and has 270 employees, including 160 in Israel.
    WalkMe is used by customers such as Kimberly Clark, Stanley Black & Decker and SAP to drive users to action as they interact with software of websites, which can increase sales.

Video: Watch New Namer Engineering Armored Personnel Carrier - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF's new Namer Engineering APC completed its first combat drill on Wednesday, crossing an anti-tank ditch in the Golan Heights, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.
    The new vehicle significantly upgrades the IDF's land combat capabilities in challenging terrain and comes with the Trophy active-protection system against shoulder-fired missiles.
    Namer APCs saved many soldiers' lives during the 2014 conflict in Gaza.

Israeli Students Find 3,000-Year-Old Egyptian Amulet during Galilee Dig - Yori Yalon (Israel Hayom)
    On Tuesday, a group of Israeli high school students participating in an archaeological excavation run by the Israel Antiquities Authority at the ancient site of Tzipori (Sepphoris) in the Galilee discovered an Egyptian amulet that is over 3,000 years old.
    Dr. Daphna Ben-Tor, curator of Egyptian archaeology at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, identified the find as "an Egyptian scarab from the times of the Ramses, the 19th Dynasty, the golden days of the pharaohs of Egypt."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Not Bringing Specific Proposals to Middle East Peace Talks in Paris
    The U.S. will not bring any specific proposals at a Paris conference meant to set out a framework for fresh negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, nor has it decided what, if any, role it may play in the French effort, a senior State Department official said on Thursday. The U.S. will "listen to the ideas that the French and others may have, and talk through with them what might make sense going forward," the official said. Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the French conference on Friday. Kerry's efforts to broker a two-state deal collapsed in April 2014. (Reuters)
  • U.S.: Iran Still Main State Sponsor of Terrorism - Matthew Lee
    Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism despite a nuclear deal with world powers, the State Department said in its annual survey of worldwide terrorism released Thursday. There were 11,774 terrorist attacks that resulted in 28,328 deaths in 2015, including 19 private American citizens. The report identified Iran as the world's "foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2015" through its provision of financial support, training and equipping of various extremist groups, notably Lebanon's Hizbullah, as well as the government of Syrian President Assad.
        Iran in 2015 continued to use the Quds Force of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to create instability throughout the Middle East. Iran also provided weapons and other assistance to militants in Bahrain and remained active in supporting anti-Israel groups such as Hamas. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Israel Approves Development of Leviathan Offshore Natural Gas Field
    Israel's government on Thursday approved the development of the Leviathan natural gas field that will give Israel a second source of gas supply while potentially turning it into a gas exporter. The field was found off Israel's coast in 2010 and is expected to become operational in 2019. The site will cost at least $5 billion to develop. (Reuters)
  • Comparing Israel to Nazis Is Anti-Semitic, 31 Western Nations Declare
    The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a body of 31 Western nations launched in 1998 and devoted to commemorating the Holocaust, on May 26 adopted a definition of anti-Semitism that includes some hate speech against Israel. Examples of anti-Semitic behaviors include "claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor" and "applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation." Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is also listed, along with "accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust."  (JTA)
  • The Militia Commander Beating Back ISIS in Iraq Makes the U.S. Nervous - Nour Malas
    Behind the rise of a paramilitary force in Iraq credited with saving the country from Islamic State is an Iran-trained jihadist, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, who is under a Kuwaiti death sentence for orchestrating bombings at the American and French embassies there in the 1980s. Today, known mostly as Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, he is the most influential commander in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a force of mostly Shiite Muslims that is a parallel Iraqi army.
        "He says he represents Ali Khamenei," Iran's supreme leader, says Mishaan Jbouri, a Sunni lawmaker. He is also the right-hand-man in Iraq of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, senior militia leaders said. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Foreign Ministry Chief: Paris Peace Initiative "Doomed to Fail" - Raphael Ahren
    The director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, said Thursday that France's bid to revive Israel-Palestinian peace talks, beginning with a one-day summit in Paris on Friday, was doomed to fail. "The only way to get a stable regional arrangement that will allow us to create real peace in the Middle East is if the parties of the region come to understandings between them," Gold said.
        "A century ago, Sykes and Picot tried to dictate a new order in the Middle East. That was at the high point of colonialism in our region. It failed then and it will fail today as well. The only way to make peace is through direct negotiation, without prior conditions, with the support of the Arab nations and not by conferences in Paris. If you have a conflict with your neighbor, you don't go all the way to France and bring Senegal over to solve it. You talk directly to your neighbor."  (Times of Israel)
        Gold continued: "We believe that the Arab states have the ability to influence the Palestinians to conduct serious and direct negotiations, and that's why we prefer to have the Arab states influence them rather than have them think of creating an alternative to a direct dialogue between us and our neighbors."
        "International conferences of the type that will take place in Paris give the Palestinians an escape route from direct negotiations with us. We've been through that and seen that. They must be brought back to sit face-to-face with Israeli diplomats. That's our aspiration. We are not fleeing negotiations with them; they're running from negotiating with us....If the international community will state clearly that the objective is direct negotiations and not some detour, there's a chance it will happen."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel: Palestinian Violence, Not Settlements, Are Main Threat to Peace - Herb Keinon
    Forget unrelenting terrorism, the Hamas-Fatah split, and the consistent Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the national home of the Jews. According to a pre-summit paper published on Thursday by the French Foreign Ministry to explain the French initiative, settlement activity is the main threat to a two-state solution.
        Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said in response that what has disrupted the peace process more than any other factor since the 1993 Oslo Accords has been the "breakdown of security due to the Palestinian adoption of violence against Israel." Citing the suicide bombings, the rockets from Gaza, and the current wave of knife attacks, Gold said that "to ignore this recent history and focus on Israeli settlements is to completely distort what is going on in the Middle East."
        The French document did not include a word regarding any Palestinian culpability for the current diplomatic logjam and seemed to revitalize the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the core of instability in the Middle East. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Woman Tries to Stab IDF Soldiers - Judah Ari Gross
    A Palestinian woman attempted to stab a group of soldiers on Thursday near Einav in the northern West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces said. Forces at the scene "responded to the immediate threat by shooting the attacker and killing her."  (Times of Israel)
  • Cpl. Avigdor Lieberman - Israel's New Defense Minister
    Israel's new defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, made aliya in 1978 from the former Soviet Union republic of Moldova and was drafted into the IDF through a stream intended for older immigrants who are still eligible for military service. Reacting to inquiries concerning his army background, Lieberman posted a response on his Facebook page Thursday.
        Corporal Avigdor Lieberman completed rifleman basic training and served in 1982-1983 as an NCO for territorial security duties in Hebron as part of the military administration. Upon the completion of his regular service, Lieberman continued to serve regularly in the reserves as a soldier in the Artillery Corps until 1996, when he began working as the CEO of the prime minister's office under Benjamin Netanyahu, then in his first term.
        Lieberman concluded: "Every soldier who enlists is familiar with the adage coined by Napoleon: Every soldier carries a general's baton in his backpack. So now every soldier in the IDF knows he also carries the baton of the defense minister - and this is certainly a credit to Israel!"  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Half of French Immigrants Are Young, Academics - Mickael Bensadoun and Dafna Aviram-Nitzan
    From 2013 to 2015, Israel added more than 16,000 French Jews. In 2014, about half of French immigrants were 34 or younger, and about half had higher education with at least 16 years of schooling in fields such as medicine, engineering and finance.
        A recent survey conducted for the French president by the research institute IFOP estimates the potential French aliya at 200,000 at least, most of whom would be young. The survey found that at least 43% of French Jews were seriously considering emigrating to Israel, mainly based on the insecurity they feel in France today. Among those aged 24 to 34, the number was 64%. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Paris Peace Conference

  • The Paris Talks Represent a Victory for the Palestinians - Grant Rumley
    For the Palestinians, the Paris conference represents a twofold victory. For one thing, it shrinks the role of the U.S. from chief mediator to mere participant. In the broader international community, the logic goes, the Palestinians believe they will find a more sympathetic audience, especially among their European allies. As Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah party official, said in February, "Anything is better than American control of the negotiations."
        For another thing, by moving the peace process away from bilateral negotiations and toward a multilateral forum, the Palestinians hope the conference could result in binding international parameters for a future Palestinian state.
        The origins of the Palestinians' conference strategy lie in last summer's Iranian nuclear deal. In the talks that produced that agreement, Palestinian leaders saw world powers coming together to sign a diplomatic agreement over Israel's strenuous objections. The meeting in Paris will most certainly bolster Ramallah's confidence in its internationalization campaign. The writer is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Palestinians Blew Up U.S.-Sponsored Negotiations in 2014 - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Based on the way the Palestinians blew up the negotiations sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2014 and their subsequent refusals to resume talks with Israel, there is no reason to think the Palestinians will be any more willing to make peace with Israel now than they were before.
        Without support from both of the parties or the enthusiastic backing of the U.S., no Middle East negotiation is likely to succeed. There will be a new American president taking office in January, and it's pointless to expect anything to be accomplished before then, even if there was a will to push for it in Washington. (Commentary)
  • Israel-Palestinian Peace Initiatives Are Suddenly Popping Up Everywhere - William Booth and Carol Morello
    In March, President Obama said he wouldn't seek to jump-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process - the two sides were too far apart; it was not in the cards. Now Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives are popping up all over. The Israelis are concerned that the Obama administration will, before leaving office, enshrine a two-state solution in a speech or a UN resolution, in effect laying out the final status ahead of negotiations.
        Kerry has not said much about the French effort, but the fact that he is attending the Friday meeting worries the Israelis. Netanyahu said if Paris really wants to advance peace, the French should encourage PA President Abbas to negotiate directly with the Israelis. (Washington Post)
  • Paris Middle East Peace Talks More Grandstanding than Grit - Jan van der Made
    On Friday, Paris hosted a Middle East peace conference. "Many Israelis, including commentators across the political spectrum, see this more as a French effort to rehabilitate its international reputation," says Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist with Bar-Ilan University. "The Hollande government has its own internal problems, so it is always convenient to have a grand Middle East peace conference in order to get headlines." The Palestinians flatly rejected Israel's proposal for a one-on-one meeting between their two leaders, fearing it would give Israel the upper hand in the negotiations. (RFI-France)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel Boycott Is Failing When Measured by Main Economic Gauge - Sangwon Yoon
    Foreign investments in Israeli assets hit a record high last year of $285.12 billion, a near-tripling from 2005 when the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement was started by a group of Palestinians. Money managers, economists and government officials say Israeli assets are an attractive alternative to weak performers elsewhere. The country's economy is slowing but growing faster than those of the U.S. and Europe and its interest rate is higher. Plus, many reject the notions driving the boycott - that investing in Israeli innovation and natural gas violates Palestinian rights, and that Israel's misdeeds are so exceptional that they justify singling it out for censure.
        Israeli startups raised $3.76 billion last year from non-Israeli investors, the highest annual amount in a decade. Foreigners spent an additional $5.89 billion acquiring them. A survey of nine Israeli companies with ties to settlements showed major non-Israeli holdings have increased or remained largely unchanged over the past three years. The increase easily made up for a handful of divestments such as Barclays Plc's sale of its 50,000 shares in Elbit Systems in 2014, worth about $3 million.
        One fund manager said that while state pension funds in northern Europe have opposed investing in companies linked to Israeli activities in the West Bank, many others in China and elsewhere simply want assets with good management, high dividend yields and healthy balance sheets. (Bloomberg)
  • Israel Criticized for Declining Invitation to National Suicide - Charles Krauthammer
    Israel followed high-minded advice in 2005 and terminated its occupation and evacuated Gaza. That earned it (temporary) praise from the West. And from the Palestinians? Not peace, not reconciliation, not normal relations, but a decade of unrelenting terrorism and war.
        Israel is now being asked - pressured - to repeat that same disaster on the West Bank. That would bring the terror war, quite fatally, to the very heart of Israel - Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion Airport. Israel is now excoriated for declining that invitation to national suicide. (Washington Post)
  • Arab Israeli Salafists Take Aim at Sport and Culture - Majeda El-Batsh
    Salafist Islamists are increasingly asserting themselves among Israel's Arab population. Citing their strict interpretation of Sunni Islam, Salafists have taken their campaign to cultural institutions and local governments, opposing anything they view as immoral.
        When Hanin Radi, who has finished third in the Tel Aviv marathon, sought to stage a marathon in her hometown, she received death threats from radical Islamists who believe it would violate their rigid ideas about women and modesty. In the middle of the night, "shots were fired at my house and my car," she said.
        Recently, radicals in several towns banned performances of a play and a concert featuring Palestinian singer Haitham Khalailah, a runner-up in the "Arab Idol" singing contest, as "contravening Islam and morality." Activists also succeeded in having a high school Arabic teacher fired for showing the Oscar-nominated Palestinian film "Omar" to his students. (AFP)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel to Light Up Georgia with State's First Solar Field - Michelle Malka Grossman
    On Friday, Georgia Power and Israel's Energiya Global subsidiary Energiya USA will inaugurate a 59-acre solar power field in Glynn County, Georgia, after winning the competitive $30 million tender in 2014 - the state's first commercial-scale solar field. The field is Energiya's 10th commercial-size solar field worldwide, and the latest after setting up Rwanda's first solar power field. Other ventures have brought Israel's south to benefit from 60% solar energy power during daytime hours. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Startups Get Google Grants to Develop Accessibility Technology for the Disabled - Abigail Klein Leichman
    Two Israeli nonprofits have won Impact Challenge grants from Google to make the world more accessible to people with disabilities. Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra'anana received $1,000,000 toward the joint development with Sesame Enable of a free solution that will allow people with limited mobility to operate smartphones with head movements. It also received $700,000 to develop Makeathon-in-a-box, a template for community make-a-thons that bring makers and people with disabilities together to build prototypes of new solutions for accessibility challenges.
        Ezer Mizion of Bnei Brak won a $400,000 grant for its project with Israeli startup Click2speak to develop a keyboard controlled by eye tracking for people with limited mobility and high cognitive function. Click2Speak CTO Gal Sont, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2009, programmed an on-screen virtual keyboard controlled by eye tracking. (Israel21c)

Why History Matters: The 1967 Six-Day War - David Harris (Huffington Post)

  • 49 years ago this month, the Six-Day War broke out. In June 1967, there was no state of Palestine. It didn't exist and never had. Its creation, proposed by the UN in 1947, was rejected by the Arab world because it also meant the establishment of a Jewish state alongside.
  • The West Bank and eastern Jerusalem were in Jordanian hands. Violating solemn agreements, Jordan denied Jews access to their holiest places in eastern Jerusalem, and they desecrated and destroyed many of those sites.
  • Meanwhile, Gaza was under Egyptian control, with harsh military rule. And the Golan Heights, which belonged to Syria, were regularly used to shell Israeli communities below.
  • The Arab world could have created a Palestinian state in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and Gaza any day of the week. They didn't. There wasn't even discussion about it. And Arab leaders, who today profess such attachment to eastern Jerusalem, rarely, if ever, visited. It was viewed as an Arab backwater.
  • The 1967 boundary at the time of the war was an armistice line dating back to 1949 - known as the Green Line. That's after five Arab armies attacked Israel in 1948 with the aim of destroying the Jewish state.
  • In the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War, Egyptian and Syrian leaders repeatedly declared that war was coming and their objective was to wipe Israel off the map. 22 years after the Holocaust, another enemy spoke about the extermination of Jews. The record is well-documented.
  • Today, there are those who wish to rewrite history. They want the world to believe the 1967 war was a bellicose act by Israel. It was an act of self-defense in the face of blood-curdling threats to vanquish the Jewish state, not to mention the maritime blockade of the Straits of Tiran, the abrupt withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces, and the redeployment of Egyptian and Syrian troops. The aggressors have failed to take responsibility for the actions they instigated.

    The writer has led the American Jewish Committee since 1990.
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