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July 25, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Putin, Netanyahu Discuss Cooperation against Middle East Terrorism (Reuters)
    Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a phone conversation on Saturday, discussed cooperation in fighting terrorism threats in the Middle East, Russian news agencies quoted the Kremlin as saying.

Fostering Understanding between American Muslims and Jews - Noa Amouyal (Jerusalem Post)
    The American Jewish Committee (AJC) has tapped Robert Silverman, a former U.S. diplomat with extensive experience in the Arab world, as its first head of Muslim-Jewish relations. “We really want to solidify ties first within the United States,” Silverman explained. “First between American Jews and American Muslims at a community level, and also at the national level.”
  One of his biggest revelations during his three months on the job was how helpful reaching out to African-American Muslims can be. Unlike their counterparts of Arab descent, African-American Muslims don’t harbor the same pre-conceived notions against Israel that dominate much of the Arab world.

Israel's Roads Most Heavily Congested in OECD (Globes)
    Israel has the greatest average traffic density per kilometer among OECD countries. This data is presented in a new OECD paper examining Israel's green taxation. According to the paper, the effect of green taxation on the purchase of cleaner vehicles has been "tremendous" and by 2014 about 83% of the private cars sold in Israel were in the lowest pollution grades, compared with 19% in 2009.
  At the same time, OECD researchers claim that the green tax had the side effect of drastically reducing the real purchase tax for many cars, due to green tax benefits, and has therefore reduced family car prices and led to new car sales skyrocketing. The OECD claimed that this leap has facilitated a substantial increase in traffic congestion.

Korean Startup to Learn from Israel - Rachel Lee (Korea Times)
    Israel has chosen startup company Dodotdo as Korea's representative for Start Tel Aviv 2016, an annual global competition that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has run since 2011.
  The goal is to "help promising early stage startups to meet and establish relationships with potential customers, partners and high-profile industry leaders alike," according to the Israeli Embassy.
  Dodotdo, led by Sim So-young, has developed a hotel management system that uses devices such as smartphones and smart watches.

Iran Destroys 100,000 Satellite Dishes in Morality-Driven Crackdown (Jerusalem Post/AFP)
    As part of its widespread ban on illegal devices, Iran collected and destroyed 100,000 satellite dishes and receivers on Sunday, at a ceremony in Tehran. Reza Naghdi, the head of Iran's Basij militia, warned that the devices are morally damaging.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:
  • Ten Years after Last Lebanon War, Israel Warns Next One Will Be Far Worse - William Booth
    Ten years after Israel and Hizbullah fought a bloody but inconclusive 34-day war that left more than 1,000 soldiers and civilians dead in July and August of 2006, the Lebanese Shiite militant group has been transformed.
      Hizbullah is now a regional military power, a cross-border strike force, with thousands of soldiers hardened by four years of fighting on Syrian battlefields on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad. There are 7,000 Hizbullah fighters in Syria, Israeli commanders say. “In 2006, Hizbullah fought a guerrilla war. Today, Hizbullah is like a conventional army,” said Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese army general who teaches at the American University of Beirut.
      In briefings with reporters in Tel Aviv, Israeli military intelligence officers in the past year have begun to show aerial photographs of villages in Hizbullah’s southern stronghold. A photograph of the town Muhaybib is covered with red squares marking the placement of what the Israelis say are command posts, anti-tank positions, tunnels and launch pads. Israel says there are 90 buildings in the village of 1,100 people and that 35 buildings are being used by Hizbullah. (Washington Post)
  • Turkey's Purge: More than 2,000 Charities and Schools Closed
    President Tayyip Erdogan tightened his grip on Turkey on Saturday, ordering the closure of thousands of private schools, charities and other institutions in his first decree since imposing a state of emergency after the failed military coup.
      Turkish authorities also detained a nephew of Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt. (Reuters/Christian Science Monitor)
  • "Law is Suspended": Turkish Lawyers Report Abuse of Coup Detainees - Loveday Morris
    Thousands of people taken into custody since Turkey’s attempted coup are being held in sports facilities and stables, where some have been beaten and mistreated, according to lawyers familiar with the cases. Lawyers from the Ankara Bar Association’s human rights commission report clients complained about a lack of food and that their hands have been bound for days. The mistreatment is “systematic." The Turkish government strongly denies the allegations. (Washington Post)
        See also Amnesty: Independent Monitors Must Be Allowed to Access Detainees Amid Torture Allegations
    Amnesty International has gathered credible evidence that detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centers in the country. More than 10,000 people have been detained since the failed coup. Amnesty International has credible reports that Turkish police in Ankara and Istanbul are holding detainees in stress positions for up to 48 hours, denying them food, water, and medical treatment, and verbally abusing and threatening them. (Amnesty International)
  • Iran’s President Is Confronted by Scandal over Inflated Government Wages - Thomas Erdbrink
    Less than a year before new elections, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is confronting a major scandal involving inflated salaries for the managers and executives of state-run companies. Having cleaned house after supplanting the corruption-riddled administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and putting his own people at the top rungs of state-run enterprises, Mr. Rouhani finds himself vulnerable as the disclosures of inflated salaries multiply.
      Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has harshly criticized the inflated salaries, which far exceed the legal cap of $2,353 a month for government employees. The disclosures first emerged in conservative news outlets that oppose the president. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:
  • Saudis in Rare Israel Visit, Meet Senior Foreign Ministry Official
    The head of a rare Saudi delegation to Israel and the West Bank met a senior Israeli government official during his trip, the Foreign Ministry told AFP on Sunday. The meeting between retired Saudi general Anwar Eshki and ministry Director General Dore Gold took place at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.
      Israeli media reported that Eshki was leading a delegation of "businessmen and academics" on a mission to promote a stalled Saudi-led 2002 Arab peace initiative. He reportedly met with Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the COGAT, the military body that coordinates Israeli activities in the West Bank and Gaza, and talked Friday in the West Bank to a group of Israeli opposition MKs. (Ynet News/AFP)
        See also Knesset Members to Visit Saudi Arabia, Recognized Relations with Israel Come to Light - Mahmoud Mostafa
    Arab-Israeli member of the Knesset Issawi Frej told Israeli state media on Sunday that preparations are ongoing for a visit of opposition members in the Israeli parliament to Saudi Arabia—a first of its kind. Frej, a member of the left-leaning Meretz party, said that a Saudi delegation met with opposition MPs and expressed willingness to enhance relations with Israel. The meeting of the Saudi delegation with opposition members in the Knesset was attended by a member of the central committee in the Palestinian Fatah movement, Jibril Rajoub. (Daily News - Egypt)
  • Cyprus President: Cyprus-Israel "Forming a Common Language"
    Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “Cyprus and Israel share common challenges and common opportunities,” after welcoming Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to Jerusalem on Sunday. Anastasiades stated that Cyprus and Israel "are reliable partners that see eye-to-eye on a wide agenda of issues, ranging from energy to security to a very sincere, open and frank political dialogue.” (Sigma Live - Cyprus)
        See also Israeli Delek Company Seeks Gas Off Cyprus
    Two of Delek Group subsidiaries, Delek Drilling and Avner, announced in a July 24 filing to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange that they had submitted bids in a tender for gas exploration in Cypriot territorial waters. The tender was published by the Cyprus government. Delek is taking part in the bid as a 50 percent partner in the consortium. The other half is held by Capricon Oil, a 100 percent subsidiary of the British producer Cairn Energy. (Natural Gas Europe)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel’s Foreign Policy Strategy Shift Bears Fruit - Evelyn Gordon
    A new Israeli strategy aimed at improving relations with the non-Western world has begun bearing fruit. Highlights of Prime Minister Netanyahu's recent trip to Africa included announcements by both Kenya and Ethiopia–two of Israel’s closest African allies–that they would push for Israel to receive observer status at the African Union, as well as Tanzania’s announcement that it planned to open an embassy in Israel, 21 years after renewing relations.
      There are two reasons why Israel ascribes such importance to its warming ties with Africa. The first is the need to diversify its trading partners. Africa is the world’s poorest continent, but it’s experiencing rapid economic growth, and many of Israel’s fields of expertise fit well with Africa’s needs, including agricultural technology, water conservation, and counterterrorism.
      The second, as Netanyahu said during his Africa trip, is the hope of ending the automatic majority against Israel in international forums.
      Israel’s burgeoning relations with Africa obviously stem partly from something beyond its control: the rise of Islamist terror. As several African leaders openly acknowledged during Netanyahu’s trip, counterterrorism assistance is currently the thing they most want from Israel. (Commentary)
  • A Reality Check on the Middle East from America’s Spy Chief - David Ignatius
    National Intelligence Director James Clapper, America’s top spymaster offered contrarian assessments of some key issues: warning against “hyping” the threat posed by the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate (terrorist group) Jabhat al-Nusra, cautioning against Obama administration plans to share intelligence with Russia on Syrian targets, and questioning Turkish claims that last Friday’s coup attempt was organized by a cleric living in the United States. (Washington Post)
  • Ethnic Opposition to Iran’s Regime Is on the Rise - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Since June 2016, Iran has been enduring terror attacks and assassinations by ethnic-opposition elements operating within its territory and adjacent to it. Attacks on Iranian petroleum infrastructure in Ahvaz are a reaction to Iran’s ongoing repressive policy against the Arab minority in Ahvaz, including the ongoing arrests, trials, executions, and expulsions of young people in that area.
      There are currently six to seven million Kurds living in Iran. Although they are part of the Iranian state, they may be distinguished from the Shiite minority by language and religion (most Kurds are Sunnis). The Arab Sunni fighters’ targeting of the oil facilities, if it gains momentum, could pose a problem for Iran just as it is trying to renew oil exports after the lifting of sanctions. The Iranian regime, which so far has been spared the regional repercussions of the Arab Spring – or Islamic Awakening as the regime calls it – is now starting to feel the effects. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Troubling Forces Unleashed in Turkey - Interview with Soner Cagaptay (The Cipher Brief)

  • This coup goes beyond everything we know about the Turkish military in the sense that when the military orchestrated coups in the past, they were usually top down. This time, it seems to have been splintered within the military, with some high-level officials taking part, but not the chain of command of the top brass. In the past, when the Turkish military carried out coups, it never fired at its own people, and this time the military fired on its own people. This is going to have long-term debilitating effects on the military's standing.
  • The coup involved a pretty sizeable group, for example, 20 percent of all admirals and generals and one-third of all one and two-star generals. So it's a very sizeable population.
  • Turkey has been deeply polarized, between supporters and opponents of the ruling party, the AKP. The military, which is based on universal military conscription, was the only organization in which all Turks participated -- until this coup. When the military fired at its own people, it sort of fired on itself. The military is no more a unifying institution.
  • Any democratic regime is better than even the best coup. But the aftermath of the coup is troubling, because the forces Erdogan unleashed that prevented the coup are not the forces of democracy and liberalism, nor are they garden variety conservative AKP supporters. Rather, they seem to be Islamists, and in some cases jihadists, who have taken to the streets. At the same time the Diyanet, which is a government public office that controls all mosques, asked all imams in the country that they should use their mosques to call for prayer and also to call them to rally in support of Erdogan. So that's a kind of religious mobilization that we have never seen before in Turkey at least not since the end of the Ottoman Empire.
  • The failed plot could not have come at a worse time for the U.S., because this is after the U.S. had worked with Turkey diligently to build counter-ISIS cooperation. That included talks with Turkey for two years. Turkey had finally come on board, first opening its bases to U.S. missions flying into Syria last summer, and coming on board a few months ago in the battle against ISIS in northwest Syria. Now, Turkey will freeze, at least temporarily, cooperation with the U.S.

    Cagaptay is the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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