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June 24, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah MP Calls to Capture Israeli Communities, Take Civilians Hostage in Next War (MEMRI-TV)
    Hizbullah MP Walid Sukkarieh told Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV on June 18:
    "What would the capturing of settlements [in a future war] mean? First, we would be liberating land. Second, we would take hostages, prisoners....If they kill us, we will kill them."
    See also Hizbullah Discusses Its Operational Plan for War with Israel: Conquest of the Galilee - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2011)

Bedouins Made "Homeless" by Israel Moved into Illegal Structures Only Four Days Earlier - Tal Raphael (CAMERA)
    Ha'aretz's Amira Hass claimed on June 8 that Israel dismantled "six prefab houses and one prefab that served as a kindergarten for 12 children." As a result, "26 people, including 13 children, lost their homes."
    But the real story is neither dramatic nor heart-wrenching.
    Israel's Civil Administration said the illegal buildings were built only four days before they were dismantled.
    To avoid detection, Bedouin covered the "prefab" buildings with cloth to disguise them as tents.

Turkey and Israel Are Back on Speaking Terms, with Saudi Encouragement - Seth J. Frantzman (National Interest)
    Returning from a trip to Saudi Arabia in January, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told reporters that Turkey "needs" Israel and asserted that Israel needed Turkey, "a fact of the region."
    After the Iran deal in 2015, the Saudis, who are close to Erdogan, encouraged rapprochement with Israel.
    On June 13, sources told the Anadolu news agency, which is close to the Turkish government, that Turkey would be appointing a new ambassador to Israel.

Actress Helen Mirren Criticizes Israel Boycotters (AP-Guardian-UK)
    Actress Helen Mirren, 70, who has won an Oscar, a Tony and four Emmy awards, said during a visit to Israel that she was a "believer" in the country and that she rejected efforts to boycott it.
    Mirren, who is not Jewish, has visited Israel several times and has been a vocal critic of pro-Palestinian activists who have called for a cultural boycott of Israel.
    "I am a believer in Israel....I think this is an extraordinary country filled with very, very extraordinary people," said Mirrin, who volunteered on a kibbutz in 1967.

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Video: The Knife and the Message (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Was the recent Palestinian terror wave in Israel as random as it seemed?
    Experts reveal a larger underlying political framework orchestrated by Palestinian leaders and fueled by incitement. It is "a plan to be unplanned."

Iranian Boycotts World Cup Medal Ceremony with Israeli Winner - Allon Sinai (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli shooter Sergey Richter claimed a bronze medal in the 10-meter air rifle competition at the World Cup event in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Thursday.
    Iranian Hossein Bagheri, who won the silver medal, didn't show up for the ceremony to ensure he wouldn't be photographed alongside the Israeli. Richter revealed that Bagheri shook his hand off camera.

Unemployment in Israel Drops to Lowest Rate Since 1983 (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics said Thursday that the unemployment rate in May was 4.8%, down from 4.9% in April and the lowest rate since 1983.

Israeli Design-Builder Wins $90-Million Sugar Irrigation Job in Ethiopia - Neal Sandler (Engineering News-Record)
    The state-owned Ethiopian Sugar Corp. has awarded to Israel-based design-build firm Baran Group a $90-million contract to engineer and construct a 61-km. irrigation network over 19,000 acres of sugar cane within 20 months.

The Dead Sea Is Sinking a Meter a Year - Kevin Connolly (BBC)
    The Dead Sea, the salty lake located at the lowest point on Earth, is shrinking at an alarming rate - the surface level is dropping more than a meter a year.
    As the level drops, the density and saltiness are rising and will eventually reach a point where the rate of evaporation will reach a kind of equilibrium. So it might get a lot smaller, but it won't disappear entirely.
    The landscapes of the Dead Sea have an extraordinary, almost lunar quality to them - imagine the Grand Canyon with Lake Como nestling in its depths.
    In the tourist resort of Ein Gedi, the main building was built towards the end of the 1980s when the waves lapped up against its walls. Now the resort has had to buy a special train to take tourists to the water's edge - a 2-km. journey.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • EU Hopes for Israel-Palestinian Talks Fall Flat - Joseph Ataman
    European officials were unable to orchestrate a meeting between Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who were both visiting Brussels this week. European officials acknowledged that Rivlin had offered to sit down with his Palestinian counterpart but that Abbas had refused. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Israeli President Rivlin Laments Abbas' "Strange" Refusal to Meet Israeli leaders - Stuart Winer
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday called Abbas' ongoing avoidance of meetings with Israeli leaders "strange" during a joint press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini in Brussels. "Direct talks is the only possible way to build trust to restore the condition for a peace perspective between Israelis and Palestinians," Rivlin said. "I find it strange that President Mahmoud Abbas - my friend Abu Mazen - refused again and again to meet with Israeli leaders."
        "I was very sorry to learn he rejected such a meeting. We will not be able to build trust between us if we don't begin to speak directly and look at what we can do and what can be done, and not at what cannot be done. And there is a lot, a lot, to be done."  (Times of Israel)
  • Boeing's Aircraft Deal with Iran Rests on Shaky Foundations - Bradley Klapper and Matthew Lee
    Boeing Co.'s $25 billion deal with Iran Air potentially rides on hopes that Tehran would stop using the planes to ferry fighters and weapons across the Middle East. Five years ago, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Iran Air for using passenger and cargo planes to transport rockets and missiles to places such as Syria, sometimes disguised as medicine or spare parts, the Treasury Department said at the time. In other instances, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps took control of flights carrying sensitive cargo. Although U.S. officials never have said such conduct ended, the administration used a technicality to drop those penalties as part of last year's nuclear deal.
        State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that the aircraft sale and any future deals depend on Iran's good behavior. The U.S. could revoke the license for the deal if planes, parts or services are "used for purposes other than exclusively civil aviation end-use" or if aircraft are transferred to individuals or companies on a U.S. terrorism blacklist. (AP-ABC News)
  • Lockheed Shows Off New Israeli Stealth Fighter Jet - Max B. Baker
    Lockheed Martin Aeronautics on Wednesday rolled out its first F-35 bound for Israel where the stealth fighter is known as "Adir," Hebrew for mighty. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the fighter jet will "dramatically enhance" his country's ability to defend itself against security threats both "conventional and unconventional." "This yet again emphasizes the U.S. commitment to maintaining Israel's military superiority and Israel's security."
        Israel's air force, which will be the first to have the F-35 outside the U.S., is to buy 33 Lightning IIs and has an option to buy 17 more. The aircraft shown Wednesday will undergo additional testing and actually be delivered in December. Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute in Washington, said Israel's purchase of the F-35 means it "will be the dominant air power in the Middle East for the foreseeable future." Wednesday's rollout ceremony was broadcast live on Israeli television. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
        See also The F-35's First Missions: Intelligence and Covert Operations - Yaakov Lappin
    As soon as the Israel Air Force receives its first F-35s, the planes will begin flights that are critical to maintaining Israeli security - and the F-35s will perform them at a level previously unseen in the Middle East. Intelligence flights will deploy an array of sensors and share large quantities of data on a military Intranet in real time. A single F-35 can fly far from Israel's borders, monitor enemy activity, and deal with advanced surface-to-air missile systems if needed. The F-35 should be able to take the lead in striking transnational Iranian weapons trafficking networks and budding Iranian-sponsored terrorism cells. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Criticism of Hizbullah on the Rise among Shi'ites in Lebanon over Involvement in Syria - E.B. Picali
    A new wave of criticism from Hizbullah's opponents has crested. Even the Shi'ite public in Lebanon that has traditionally supported Hizbullah is now less convinced of the rightness of its path in Syria. While no end to the war is in sight, more and more dead and wounded Hizbullah fighters are returning to Lebanon. One report even stated that young Shi'ites - including sons of Hizbullah officials - are fleeing to Europe for fear that they will be recruited to fight. Moreover, it is apparent that Hizbullah's Shi'ite opponents, both politicians and journalists, are feeling safer to express their views. (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Abbas Tells EU that Rabbis Called to Poison Palestinian Water - Barak Ravid
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday accused Israeli rabbis of calling for the poisoning of Palestinian water, invoking a widely debunked media report that recalled a medieval anti-Semitic libel. "Only a week ago, a number of rabbis in Israel announced, and made a clear announcement, demanding that their government poison the water to kill the Palestinians," Abbas said. Abbas received a standing ovation from EU lawmakers after his speech. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Netanyahu: Abbas Spread Blood Libel in EU Parliament
    Responding to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' remarks to the EU, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday: "In Brussels Abu Mazen [Abbas] showed his true face. Someone who refuses to meet President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu for direct negotiations and spreads a blood libel in the European Parliament falsely claims that his hand is extended in peace. Israel awaits the day when Abu Mazen stops spreading lies and dealing in incitement. Until then, Israel will continue to defend itself against Palestinian incitement, which motivates acts of terrorism."  (Times of Israel)
        See also PA Libel: Israeli Rabbis Called to Poison Palestinian Wells - Itamar Marcus
    Official PA TV news reported on June 20 that a nonexistent rabbi and rabbinical council called to poison all Palestinian water sources. From one false accusation about a supposed poisoning of water "a few years ago," the Palestinian Authority is now accusing Israel of planning to murder thousands of Palestinians. It should be noted that Israelis and Palestinians share many of the same water sources. (Palestinian Media Watch)
        See also A Current of Lies - Ben Dror Yemini
    There has been a water infrastructure revolution in the West Bank since 1967. When Israel first took the West Bank, only four out of 700 towns had running water. By 2004, that number had grown to 643 out of 708 towns with running water. (Ynet News)
  • Video: Israeli Navy Drills Against Hamas Frogmen - Itay Blumental
    The Israeli Navy held a drill this week simulating a Hamas commando attack on the southern Israeli coastal towns of Ashdod and Ashkelon. During the 2014 Gaza war, five Hamas commandos stormed the beach at Zikim before they were caught and killed. Lt. Col. Liab Zilberman said, "Since the event at Zikim...we understood that these frogmen are an issue which affects us all. We...are constantly training every week and every month."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Terrorist Spillover in Jordan - David Schenker
    On June 6, five Jordanians were killed during an assault on a General Intelligence complex at Baqaa near Amman, Jordan's largest terrorist attack in more than a decade. While the general uptick in terrorist activity is troubling, perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the Baqaa attack is the perpetrator, the nephew of a former parliamentarian.
        To date, three sons of sitting members of parliament have been killed fighting either with ISIS or the al-Qaeda affiliate Jebhat al-Nusra in Syria. The susceptibility of the most privileged segment of Jordan's population to Islamic militancy does not bode well for the long-term stability of the kingdom.
        The Jordanian military is well trained and loyal, and will not collapse under assault from the Islamic State. But as Jordan's leading expert in Islamist groups, Mohammed Abu Rumman, recently wrote in Al Ghad, "the real danger of [ISIS] is not external, it is internal." The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Palestinian "Red Lines" - Adam Garfinkle and Walter Russell Mead
    A basic fact which many well-meaning people keep missing is that Palestinians' giving up the "right of return" is the key to any hope of a deal with Israel. The Israeli public won't accept big concessions for anything short of a formal end to claims.
        Many Palestinians also refuse to make a deal on religious grounds: Muslim lands cannot be ceded to infidels without breaking God's law. Meanwhile, there are pragmatic worries: Many Palestinians who might be fine with a deal themselves don't want to get assassinated by people who disagree. The Palestinian leadership is, for all of these reasons, under pressure not to make a deal and especially not to cave on the "right of return."
        There are a lot of "nevers" out there - the Palestinians will never this or that. But there were old "nevers," too: Egypt would never, Jordan would never, Arafat wouldn't ever. Often enough, these "nevers" become self-defeating and immobilizing false-truths. Circumstances change and the parameters of what people will do change with them. Adam Garfinkle is the founding editor of the American Interest. Walter Russell Mead is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University. (American Interest)
  • Egyptian Statesman: What Palestinian Refugees? - Amos Harel
    At a recent meeting a well-known Egyptian statesman sat down to talk with an Israeli acquaintance. The conversation touched on the Palestinian refugees, and this person, who held top positions in the past and still has great influence, lost his cool. "What refugees are you talking about?" the Egyptian said. The region is flooded with millions of new refugees living under impossible conditions and desperately needing help. These people fled the terrors of war in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Giant tent cities have sprouted in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
        Against this backdrop, the Palestinians' insistence on portraying third-generation refugees, the grandchildren of those who fled during the 1948 war, is groundless. Many of these refugees live in stone dwellings with proper infrastructure, continuing to benefit from handouts from the UN. Their leaders use them to perpetuate the Palestinian problem. (Ha'aretz)

  • Weekend Features

  • Couple Who Fled Nazis Leaves Millions to Israeli Water Research - Seth M. Siegel
    Howard and Lottie Marcus have given $400 million to Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, it was announced on June 24. In 1934, after Nazi goons murdered her brother outside their home in Linden, Germany, 17-year-old Lottie persuaded her parents to allow her to go to the U.S. After the election of Hitler in 1933, Howard, a dentist, made his way to Naples, only to find himself in jeopardy again in 1936 when Mussolini agreed to Hitler's demand that Italy expel all foreign Jews. One of Howard's patients was the U.S. consul general who helped him reach the U.S. in 1939. Nearly everyone in their families perished in the Holocaust.
        Lottie spoke fluent German, French and English, and developed secretarial skills in all three languages which helped her get a job on Wall Street. One day, the Marcuses asked a friend for investment advice, who told them about a student of his at Columbia Business School, a young man he thought a prodigy, Warren Buffett. Their investment grew to many millions, but the Marcuses continued to live modestly and no one who knew them had any idea of the magnitude of their wealth.
        The couple decided to give nearly all of their estate to Ben-Gurion University, with a special emphasis on research into improving water management, conservation and irrigation. Howard died in 2014, when he was 104. After Lottie's death in December 2015, at nearly 100, the gift will now be disbursed. It will more than double the university's endowment, and will likely turn the school into a global center for water research. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Builds Railway to Boost Commerce with Arab Neighbors - Orr Hirschauge and Rory Jones
    Israel is poised to open in October a new 40-mile rail line between the port city of Haifa and a terminal 5 miles short of the Jordanian border, as trade with the country's Arab neighbors flourishes along the route. Trade through Israel has increased in recent years as shipping companies have avoided Syria, where war has been raging since 2011. Cargo handled at the Sheikh Hussein border crossing between Israel and Jordan increased 65% between 2010 and 2015, with the number of cargo and container trucks using this route nearly quadrupling. Boats are coming into Haifa bearing containers and trucks that then travel by road to Jordan and on to Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Gulf, carrying Spanish oranges, Jordanian textiles and car parts from Europe. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Roman Hospital Saved Jews during WWII by Inventing an "Infectious Disease" - Anna Momigliano
    During the Nazi occupation of Rome between September 1943 and June 1944, the city was struck by a mysterious epidemic. A previously unknown and highly contagious disease, the "K syndrome," forced the Fatebenefratelli hospital to isolate dozens of infected patients in a special wing, completely inaccessible to outsiders. The fictitious illness kept dozens of Roman Jews safe from the Nazis who were hunting them down. The letter "K" was a reference to Albert Kesselring, the German officer in charge of the city.
        A young doctor, Adriano Ossicini, came up with the idea and the other staff played along, saving at least 40 lives. More than a thousand Roman Jews were arrested and deported to death camps. Ossicini told La Stampa, "We were telling [Nazis officers] to be careful, not to go to that wing or they might catch the disease. Since they weren't particularly smart nor very brave, it was easy to scare the Nazis off."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel's Most Decisive Air Force Victory - Uri Milstein
    In 1982, the Soviet Union believed that the West lacked the capability to withstand its surface-to-air missile batteries (SAM). But during the First Lebanon War, within two hours on June 9 of that year, the Israel Air Force (IAF) destroyed 15 of 19 SAM batteries in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley while downing 90 Syrian aircraft at the same time. To this day, the details of the operation remain classified. It was perhaps the IDF's greatest military achievement, maybe even surpassing the opening air strike at the start of the Six-Day War, when Israel practically destroyed the Syrian and Egyptian air forces.
        When the First Lebanon War broke out on June 6, the IAF had the intelligence capability to know at any given moment where its targets were located. It also had the capability of disrupting the Syrians' electronic communications, and could destroy the missile batteries with electro-optic missiles from a distance of 40 km. During the next two days the remaining batteries were destroyed, together with a total of 97 Syrian planes, without even one Israeli aircraft being hit. (Jerusalem Post)

Why the Western-Backed Assault on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Is Failing - Shiraz Maher (New Statesman-UK)

  • Ever since the latest offensive against IS began in Syria and Iraq in May, it has become clear that the group will not concede territory easily around Raqqa - the nerve center of IS operations in Syria - or elsewhere. All of its major urban centers remain well-fortified. Few observers expect them to fall any day soon.
  • IS has too much invested in Raqqa, as well as Mosul in Iraq. Occupying the cities fuels the group's prestige by projecting the impression of viable statehood. IS has long anticipated a campaign against its Syrian base and has fortified Raqqa with trenches and landmines.
  • What makes the fight against IS even more challenging is that its fighters are not easily disheartened. They are resolved to fight until victory or martyrdom - and for them both outcomes represent success.
  • Islamic State has repeatedly invoked the vulnerability of the Sunnis to justify its violence. Videos released on social media from the latest assault on Fallujah appear to show how incoming Shia fighters have beaten and tortured Sunni civilians. The rapid deterioration in sectarian relations that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq explains how IS was able to capture Sunni areas of Iraq with such ease. Ordinary residents do not necessarily agree with the authoritarian strictures of the IS regime, but they mostly understand them.
  • These latest outrages from incoming Shia-dominated al-Hashd al-Shaabi fighters will only fuel the belief among Sunnis that they are best served by Sunni administrations - however brutal.
  • That is the story behind so much of IS' strength today. Remove that constituency, and the group would collapse.

    The writer is deputy director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College London.
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