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June 17, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

U.S.-Israel Hold Strategic Dialogue (U.S. State Department)
    Israeli and U.S. delegations met Thursday in Jerusalem for the latest round of the annual U.S.-Israel Strategic Dialogue.
    The delegations discussed a full range of security matters, including shared threats, opportunities for regional cooperation, and other regional issues including Iran.

Report: Intense Battles between Assad Forces and Hizbullah in Syria (MEMRI)
    There have been increasing reports in the Arab media and on social networks that intense battles are taking place between Hizbullah forces and Syrian regime forces in the rural area north of Aleppo.

Iran's Oil Comeback - Anthony Dipaola and Grant Smith (Bloomberg)
    Iran easily beat expectations with its speed in boosting oil exports after the lifting of sanctions, with exports having doubled to 2 million barrels a day, flowing again to previously prohibited markets in Europe.
    A series of output disruptions from Nigeria to Canada and Venezuela has meant that the extra Iranian oil has been easily absorbed by the market, said Mike Wittner, head of oil-market research at Societe Generale SA in New York.

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Israeli Cyber Security Company Sixgill Raises $5M - Tali Tsipori (Globes)
    Israeli cyber security startup Sixgill has closed a $5 million financing round.
    Sixgill analyzes the Dark Web, seeking to detect and defuse cyber-attacks and sensitive data leaks originating from the Dark Web before they occur, and provide clients with this information through real-time alerts.
    Its staff is comprised of former officers from Israel's elite intelligence units.

Israeli Startup Nuro Secure Messaging Raises $2.6M (Globes)
    Israeli startup Nuro Secure Messaging has closed a $2.6 million financing round.
    The company offers a cognitive enterprise-grade, secure group-messaging and collaboration platform designed for employees and external partners to communicate in a controlled private messaging environment.
    Nuro can analyze patterns in messaging and provide the transparency and predictive analytics needed to ensure that security breaches are not only detected, but prevented.

Israeli Cyber Security Company Armeron Raises $2M - Tali Tsipori (Globes)
    Israeli cyber security company Armeron has secured $2 million in financing from Glilot Capital Partners, a venture capital fund.
    Armeron was founded by Tsion Gonen, who explained that in the 15 years since the introduction of web application protection such as Web Application Firewalls (WAF), "the core technology remains the same. In today's dynamic web application reality, WAF is no longer a viable solution. We decided to do something about it, not by trying to filter malicious HTTP requests, but by developing technology which makes them irrelevant."
    Kobi Samboursky, Managing Partner at Glilot Capital, added, "The world needs a better way to protect applications. WAFs simply do not cut it anymore. Armeron's isolation technology provides effortless, comprehensive web security that will revolutionize the web application security market."

Israeli Smart Dashcam Company Nexar Raises $10.5M (Globes)
    Israeli smart dashboard camera developer Nexar has closed a financing round of $10.5 million.
    Nexar uses smartphones to create an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-supported vehicle-to-vehicle network that works to predict and prevent accidents, part of the self-driving car technology revolution.
    Using the smartphone's camera, machine vision, and AI algorithms, Nexar recognizes the license plates of the vehicles around it, and tracks their location, velocity, and trajectory.
    If a car speeds past or performs an illegal maneuver like running a red light, that information is added to a profile in Nexar's online database. When another Nexar user's phone later detects the same vehicle, it can flash a warning to give it a wide berth.

Israeli Video Marketing Company Eyeview Raises $21.5M - Tali Tsipori (Globes)
    Video marketing technology company Eyeview announced Wednesday it has received $21.5 million in new financing.
    Erez Shachar, managing partner at Qumra Capital, said, "With the expansion of video consumption, Eyeview is delivering on the long-awaited promise of marrying the engagement and appeal of television quality video advertising with online data and targeting capabilities in order to drive sales."

Israeli Augmented Reality Firm Lumus Raises $15M - Tova Cohen (Reuters)
    Lumus, a developer of technology for augmented reality, said on Wednesday it has received $15 million in funding led by Chinese investment group Shanda along with Zhejiang Crystal-Optech Co, a Chinese photo-electric component manufacturer.
    Lumus' technology consists of a unique eyeglass lens that contains an array of ultra-thin transparent reflectors and a patented mini-projector that injects an image into the lens.

Israeli Sales Promotion Company Yotpo Raises $22M - Tali Tsipori (Globes)
    Israeli user-generated content marketing platform Yotpo has closed a $22 million round of financing.
    Over the last year, Yotpo says it has seen a triple-digit YoY increase across all major SaaS metrics including revenue, volume of content collected and number of customers.
    Yotpo was started in 2011 as a convenient and accessible platform for reviews by surfers that succeeded in promoting genuine reviews and preventing forged ones.

Cisco Invests $15M in Israeli Storage Firm Elastifile (Reuters)
    Cisco Systems has invested $15 million in Israeli storage software start-up Elastifile, the company said on Tuesday.
    Elastifile's technology enables customers to expand the number of applications they can deploy on flash.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • CIA Chief: IS Working to Send Operatives to the West - Deb Riechmann
    CIA Director John Brennan told Congress on Thursday that Islamic State militants are training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks on the West. In remarks prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brennan said IS has been working to build an apparatus to direct and inspire attacks against its foreign enemies, as in the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels - ones the CIA believes were directed by IS leaders.
        "ISIL has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West," Brennan said. "In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda."  (AP-ABC News)
        See also Text: Statement by CIA Director John Brennan (Central Intelligence Agency)
  • U.S. Helicopters Join the Fight Against ISIS in Iraq - Kris Osborn
    "U.S. Apache helicopters conducted the first strike against a Da'esh [ISIS] target in Iraq in support of Iraqi Security Forces in the Tigris River Valley June 12. The Government of Iraq approved the use of Apaches in support of ISF operations. The strike was vetted and approved through the same process the Coalition uses for all strikes. The Apache strike destroyed a Da'esh vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) near Qayyarah, Iraq," Department of Defense spokesman Christopher Sherwood said.
        Ongoing U.S. and allied drone, helicopter and aircraft attacks against ISIS have led the Army to massively rev up its production of air-launched Hellfire missiles, a weapon regularly used to destroy Islamic State buildings, bunkers, armored vehicles, fighter positions and equipment. ISIS fighters regularly hide among civilians and at times use women and children as human shields, making the need for precision air-to-ground weapons all the more pressing. (Scout Warrior)
  • Israel's Intelligence Chief: Syria as a State No Longer Exists - Barbara Opall-Rome
    Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevy, Israel's military intelligence chief, told the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday, "The chances of a reunified Syria are very slim." Syria as a state no longer exists. "I can't predict a good end in Syria. There are 400,000 killed up until now," he said. "There are millions of refugees; 75% unemployment, negative growth; 80% live below the poverty line. You can't even measure [gross domestic product] in Syria."
        He noted that Islamic State has lost significant numbers of people and vast stretches of territory since U.S.-led coalition operations began last year. "The question is not how we would like this story to end, but how would we not like it to end," he said. "Let's say [ISIS] has been contained. The superpowers have left the area, and we are stuck here with the Iranian axis with caches of advanced weaponry." To avoid such an outcome, he said Israel would have to act "through coordination with the superpowers and through other means as well."  (Defense News)
  • EgyptAir 804's "Black Box" Recovered in Mediterranean - Nour Youssef and Nicola Clark
    The cockpit voice recorder from the EgyptAir flight that crashed in the Mediterranean last month has been recovered, Egyptian investigators said Thursday. The recorder had been found in a "damaged state," but a team aboard the search vessel John Lethbridge, owned by Deep Ocean Search, was able to recover parts of the recorder, including its memory card. Underwater search teams will continue to scour the wreckage for the second black box, the flight data recorder. (New York Times)
  • UN Says Islamic State Committing Genocide Against Yazidi Minority in Iraq and Syria - Karen Leigh
    In a report released Thursday, the UN said that Islamic State has sought to destroy the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and Syria through mass killings, sexual slavery, torture and forced conversions. "Genocide has occurred and is ongoing. [Islamic State] has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of atrocities," said Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. House Okays Funding Boost for Israel's Missile Defense - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
    Under the shadow of a presidential veto threat, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a defense appropriations measure Thursday that included $635.7 million for Israel's missile defense programs, an amount that exceeded the Obama administration's request by over $400 million. The House also included $42.7 million for U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation.
        On Thursday, leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called the Obama administration's rejection of the spending increase for Israel "very troubling" and "a disturbing departure from the prior practice of this and previous administrations."
        Conference of Presidents Chairman Stephen M. Greenberg and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman, asserted that "in a time of escalating threats to Israel from the arsenal of more 150,000 missiles and rockets supplied by Iran and stockpiled by Hizbullah, including sophisticated precision guided weapons capable of targeting hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians in major population areas in Israel; the belligerent threats to Israel posed by Iran's ongoing development and testing of its long-range missiles in blatant violation of internationally imposed restrictions; and the ever-present peril of renewed rocket and missile attacks on Israel from Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza, the decision by the Obama Administration to oppose the overwhelming bipartisan Congressional support for increasing Israel's ability to defend its people is very troubling."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel to Construct Massive Barrier around Gaza - Gili Cohen
    A new barrier around the Gaza Strip planned by the Israeli army's Southern Command will include two fences. Work will commence in the coming weeks. In certain places an underground barrier will also be constructed. (Ha'aretz)
  • Ten Years after the Second Lebanon War, the Threat from Hizbullah Continues - Yaakov Lappin
    Hizbullah has evolved from a terrorist organization into an organized, hierarchic army. Armed with over 120,000 surface-to-surface rockets, its firepower eclipses that of most states in the world. Hizbullah also possesses hundreds of drones that it uses in combat against Syrian Sunni rebels. 70% of Hizbullah's billion-dollar annual budget comes from Iran. On the ground, Hizbullah maintains 40-45,000 armed members. It has lost more than 1,300 fighters in Syria and suffered 5,500 wounded. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Has Abbas' Internationalization Strategy Set the Palestinians on the Path to Statehood? - Grant Rumley and Adam Rasgon
    Abbas' campaign to internationalize the conflict with Israel has yielded mixed results. On the one hand, he has crystalized new alliances with European, Asian, and South American countries and upgraded Palestinian status at the UN. On the other hand, raising a Palestinian flag at Turtle Bay or joining the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has hardly changed the facts on the ground for many Palestinians.
        The French conference may lead to another summit and ultimately a push at the Security Council, but such a plan is likely to only antagonize Israel and thus amount to little more than another data point in the Palestinians' failed diplomatic campaign for statehood. Grant Rumley is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Adam Rasgon is an independent journalist. (Fathom-BICOM)
  • Abbas' Sons Must Be Excellent Busienssmen - Clayton Swisher
    Tareq Abbas, the son of the Palestinian Authority president, is said to own villas in Amman, Jordan, and a rooftop pad in Beirut, Lebanon. And according to official British Land Registry records from 2012, Tareq registered a $1.5 million luxury flat in Merchant Square East, a high-end London development. Tareq's flat has stayed largely unoccupied since he bought it, which seems to indicate that he does not need the rental income.
        The president's eldest son, Yasser, made his fortune from the monopoly sale of U.S.-made cigarettes in the PA. Their financial blessings are merely the result of being "Grade A businessmen," Yasser once remarked. (Al Jazeera)
  • Palestinians Are Safer than Muslims Anywhere Else in the Middle East - Sean Durns
    Bassem Eid, the founder of the former Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, briefed congressional staff members on Capitol Hill on June 14. Eid called for greater economic cooperation between Israel, Jordan and the PA to help "the average every-day Palestinian."
        Eid said that most Palestinian Arabs are "seeking dignity, not identity." Their identity they have. What they lack is leadership that can or wants to build opportunities for jobs, education and health care. The concern for their individual and family welfare trumps any current attention to diplomacy about a Palestinian state.
        Eid noted that the PA has received "billions in aid" from the international community, including the U.S., but the authority has "failed to create jobs for Palestinians." He called corruption among the Palestinian leadership "big and wide." "If you ask Palestinians who Abbas represents, they would say himself, 'his wife and two sons.'"
        Eid added that if a Palestinian state were to come into being, the current state of Palestinian politics in Gaza and the West Bank would suggest that such a state would be repressive and undemocratic. Eid pointed out that "as a Muslim, as an Arab," he is safer in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than anywhere else in the Middle East. (CAMERA)
  • Anarchy Returns to the West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinians fear that their communities may be facing a return to anarchy. Recent incidents in refugee camps such as Balata (near Nablus), Kalandia (near Ramallah), and Jenin are an indication of mounting tensions among rival camps inside Fatah and between camp residents and Palestinians living in the big cities surrounding the camps. These camps, which are hotbeds for gunmen and terror groups, have long been off-limits to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces. Attempts by Palestinian security forces to arrest camp residents wanted for various crimes have often resulted in armed confrontations.
        A quick chat with young Palestinians, including Fatah members, in any refugee camp in the West Bank will reveal that the PA seems as much the enemy as Israel. They speak of the PA as a corrupt and incompetent body that is managed by "mafia leaders." Many activists believe it is only a matter of time before Palestinians launch an intifada against the PA.
        Hassan Abu Ayyash, a Fatah activist from the Al-Amari camp near Ramallah, said the PA leadership is "getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the international community and distributing them among themselves and their sons. Look at all the big buildings and fancy restaurants and bars in Ramallah. Where do they get all the money to purchase expensive cars?"  (Gatestone Institute)
        See also Luxury Alongside Poverty in the Palestinian Authority (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Security Chaos in Nablus - Adnan Abu Amer (Al-Monitor)
  • The Daily Palestinian Terrorism You Don't Hear About - Michael Freund
    Palestinian terrorism is literally a daily - and sometimes even an hourly - occurrence. The media don't bother to report the overwhelming majority of incidents. According to a spokesman for Hatzalah Judea and Samaria, an emergency first-response organization, "There are an average of 10 to 15 reported Palestinian rock and firebomb attacks throughout Judea and Samaria on a daily basis." In addition, "There are certainly other incidents in which the terrorists miss their mark, or hit a car but fail to cause damage or injure the occupants, and the motorist doesn't bother to call it in."
        Journalist Josh Hasten said he was nearly lynched last October when a group of Palestinian Arabs armed with rocks and slabs of concrete charged his car as he was driving south of Jerusalem. And last month, his windshield took a direct hit from a Palestinian stone-thrower near the Gush Etzion Industrial Zone. "The ongoing danger is simply being whitewashed," he told me. "While statistically, the number of 'major attacks' is down, the reality on the ground is unacceptable."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Firebombs Damage Home in Jerusalem
    Four firebombs were thrown at a house in Jerusalem's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood overnight Thursday. (Times of Israel)

  • Other Issues

  • Can an Orlando-Style Attack Happen in Israel? - Ben Caspit
    An incident like the June 12 massacre in Orlando, in which a terrorist armed with an automatic weapon succeeds in reaching a crowded space and kills dozens of civilians, is a nightmare scenario for Israel's security establishment. A high-ranking Israeli security source told Al-Monitor: "When it comes to these kinds of attacks, the main difference between the situation in Israel and the situation in the United States is the availability of guns."
        In America, anyone who wants to commit an attack with mass casualties can go to a gun store and buy a submachine gun, just like Omar Mateen did. In Israel, firearms are heavily supervised. Obtaining a pistol license is a complicated and painstaking process. The only option left for Palestinians is to obtain a weapon on the black market or acquire a homemade gun. (Al-Monitor)
  • Defeating Assad Could Bring About Hizbullah's Downfall - Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
    The losses Hizbullah has encountered with the Syrian civil war outweigh all those undergone against Israel combined. The most optimistic estimations place Hizbullah's loss at a thousand members of its elite, while other estimations speak of at least 3,000 lost.
        If Hizbullah fails in Syria, they will be unable to garner the support of Lebanese Shi'ites after having embarked on a frontier so far from home. Fighting on behalf of Iranian interests has reduced Hizbullah fighters to none other than militias for hire. Hizbullah's involvement in Syria has cost it its reputation, popularity, legitimacy, youth, and leaders. The writer is general manager of Al-Arabiya television. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Saudis Waiting for a New U.S. Administration - Simon Henderson
    While Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman is visiting the U.S. this week, the U.S.-Saudi relationship is not good. After President Obama's decision to set a red line in Syria (over Syria's use of chemical weapons) and then to walk away from that red line, Saudi suspicions of whether President Obama is on their side have only increased.
        To put it bluntly, they haven't lost faith in the U.S., but they have lost faith in the Obama White House. In Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with the President for The Atlantic, Saudi Arabia came in for critical comment more often than any other country in the world. So they are just waiting for the day that the Obama Administration ends. The writer is director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. (Cipher Brief-Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • European Nations Review Funding of Anti-Israel NGOs
    On June 16, the Dutch Parliament approved a proposal requiring the government to review funding for NGOs that promote BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) targeting Israel. A similar debate and vote is scheduled in the Swiss Parliament on June 17. The Dutch and Swiss governments, along with Sweden and Denmark, provide $17 million that is used for core funding to 24 NGOs, including many of the leaders of BDS and lawfare campaigns, such as Badil and Al Haq, and a number of Israeli political NGOs.
        In parallel, the British Parliament held a debate this week on the government's international aid activities, including the distribution of funds by the Department for International Development. After DFID officials announced policy changes, Sir Eric Pickles, MP declared: "I welcome a shift in DFID's funding toward peaceful coexistence projects that better support a peace process, along with the Minister's agreement to look at alleged abuses of British aid by particular Palestinian NGOs."  (NGO Monitor)

  • Weekend Features

  • 4-Year-Old Sanusey from Gambia Is the 4,000th Child Saved by Israel's Save a Child's Heart
    At three months old, Sanusey was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. The surgery needed to repair his heart is not available in Gambia. Sanusey arrived in Israel on May 15, together with 12 other children from Gambia and Tanzania. He was accompanied by his older sister, Penda. He is currently recovering at the Save a Child's Heart Children's Home in Holon. His contagious laughter bellows through the house. It is a pleasure to see him play with the other children from all over the world, smiling, happy, and finally healthy. (IMRA)
  • Israeli High-Tech Company Mellanox Hires Programmers in Gaza - Tova Cohen and Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Israel's Mellanox Technologies already employs a large number of Arab programmers in Israel and 68 people in Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank. Now, working with the Palestinian software firm ASAL Technologies, Mellanox has hired four programmers in Gaza and hopes to add at least six more in the next six months. Israeli companies have begun to outsource work to other countries, such as India. But Palestinians have the same skills and they are in the same time zone, said Mellanox Chief Executive Eyal Waldman. (Reuters)
  • IDF Upgrading Soldiers' Protective Gear after Gaza War - Luke Tress
    In response to the army's experiences in the 2014 Gaza war, the IDF is introducing new protective gear for soldiers including combat vests, safety boots, protective eyewear and uniforms. The new lightweight combat vests have rows of webbing that allow soldiers to attach pockets suitable for carrying specialized equipment and feature added back support to prevent injury.
        New protective eyewear uses polycarbonate lenses that will protect eyes from shrapnel. New uniforms are lighter, more breathable and use ripstop technology which prevents small tears from getting any bigger. Flexible knee pads and elbow pads are built into the uniforms. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Fuel Tank Stands Up to Heavy Machinegun Fire
    The Israeli firm Magam Safety has introduced a lightweight, self-sealing fuel cell able to withstand gunshots from weapons up to .50 calibre. The flexible fuel cells can withstand extreme temperatures, shocks, pressure and water, and are 75% lighter than metal tanks. (IHS Jane's-UK)
  • Israeli Company Nano Textile Unveils Antibacterial Fabric
    Israeli company Nano Textile has introduced an innovative technology that can transfer any type of fabric to one that kills bacteria. The unique technology, which permanently prevents the growth of bacteria on both natural and synthetic fibers, can prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infections and reduce cross contamination between patients and medical staff. (Globes)
  • Israeli Baby Monitor Company Nanit Raises $6.6M
    Israeli baby monitor developer Nanit has raised $6.6 million in financing. Nanit provides comprehensive sleep reports that measure a baby's behavior throughout the night without requiring any wearable component. The camera tracks and analyzes baby sleep patterns using smart algorithms. The technology provides parents with actionable information to not only improve their child's sleep, but their sleep as well. (Globes)
  • Google Chief Says Israeli Tech Second Only to Silicon Valley
    Eric Schmidt, formerly Google chief executive and now executive chairman of its parent company Alphabet, said Tuesday that Israel, a country of only eight million people, was punching far above its weight in technology. "For a relatively small country, Israel has a super role in technological innovation," he told an audience at Google's offices in Tel Aviv. "I can't think of a place where you could see this diversity and the collection of initiatives aside from Silicon Valley. That is a pretty strong statement."  (AFP)

Egypt's Nuclear Project: An Expensive Solution to a Nonexistent Problem - Eric Trager (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Egypt is finalizing a $25 billion loan from Russia to construct a civilian nuclear power facility near Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast. During the tumultuous years that followed Mubarak's exit, Egypt suffered major electricity shortages.
  • But after developing new gas, solar, and wind turbine energy sources, electricity production capacity rose from 27,000 megawatts in June 2013 to 32,000 in May 2015. Egypt's production now exceeds demand.
  • Egypt's nuclear plan is very cost-ineffective compared to other energy deals Cairo has signed in recent years. For example, last year's $9 billion deal with Siemens to build gas- and wind-powered plants will add 16,400 megawatts to Egypt's grid - more than three times the output of the proposed nuclear plant for roughly a third of the cost.
  • Moreover, the Italian firm Eni discovered the giant Zohr gas field along Egypt's northern coast in August 2015, while BP's local branch discovered another massive field earlier this month. Extracting these resources would be more cost effective than building the nuclear plant.
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