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August 1, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

U.S.: Turkey Military Purge Harming Fight Against Islamic State - Warren Strobel (Reuters)
    Turkey's purge of its military after a failed coup attempt is hindering cooperation in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State, James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, said on Thursday.
    "Many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested," he said. "There's no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with the Turks."
    See also America's Friends Get Arrested in Turkey's Post-Coup Purges - Eli Lake (Bloomberg)

Photo: Palestinian Islamic Jihad Displays Shoulder-Launched Surface-to-Air Missiles - Michael Horowitz (Twitter)
    At a rally in Rafah, Gaza, on July 28, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militants displayed shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.

Golan Druze Leader Disputes UN on "Hardship of Israeli Occupation" (JTA)
    Dulan abu-Saleh, the mayor of Majdal Shams, the largest Druze town in the Golan, told Makor Rishon that the UNESCO statement earlier this month on "economic and social the occupied Syrian Golan" was "a total joke."
    Druze in the Golan "don't serve in the IDF and so far are only receiving from the state....Golan residents have a good life."
    "When we build and make up plans we never felt discrimination. On the contrary, we always found an attentive ear."

Israel Nabs Palestinian Security Officer for Weapons Dealing (AP)
    Israel arrested Mahayub Borhan Rashad Knaza - a member of the Palestinian security services who was a "major weapons dealer" - in the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday and confiscated weapons manufacturing equipment.

China's Giant Leads Consortium to Buy Israel's Playtika for $4.4 Billion - Dean Takahashi (VentureBeat)
    A consortium of Chinese companies led by Giant has agreed to pay $4.4 billion for Playtika, the social casino game company in Herzliya, Israel, that was owned by Caesars Interactive Entertainment.
    Playtika will continue to run independently with its headquarters remaining in Israel and its existing management continuing to run day-to-day operations.
    Playtika, founded in 2010, has more than 6 million daily active users in 190 countries. In the second quarter of 2016, Playtika generated $240 million in revenues.

Israel Completes Jezreel Valley Railway Line (Globes)
    Israel Railways has completed a new 60-km. line down the Jezreel Valley between Haifa and Beit Shean.
    The railway revives the line first built by the Ottoman Turks in the late 19th century between Haifa and Damascus. The line was closed by the British in 1946.
    The new line includes 3 tunnels and 26 bridges.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia, Iran Discuss Broader Military Cooperation
    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Iranian Brig.-Gen. Vali Madani discussed ways to expand military cooperation between the two countries, Iranian media reported Sunday. "Iran and Russia have the needed capacities to broaden their mutual cooperation in the defense field," Madani told Iran's Fars news agency at the start of the 2016 International Army Games in Moscow. (Sputnik-Russia)
        See also Iran, EU Launch Talks to Boost Economic Cooperation
    A delegation of European Union officials visited Iran from 11-14 July to discuss deeper cooperation in the fields of economic policy, trade, investment and finance. (Merh-Iran)
  • Hamas Hands Out Land to Civil Servants in Gaza in Lieu of Unpaid Salaries
    Hamas has started handing out plots of land in Gaza where Jewish settlements once stood to some 13,000 civil servants to make up for the millions of dollars in salaries it owes them for the past two years. Since March, they have been receiving 45% of their salaries. The land giveaway allows groups of four Hamas employees to share a 500-square-meter plot that they can either build on or sell. The West Bank-based PA opposes the program. It still pays monthly salaries to about 70,000 civil servants in Gaza. (AP)
        See also Qatar Coordinated Payment to Hamas Employees with Israel, PA - Adam Rasgon
    Qatar will pay $31,030,752 for the July salaries of Gaza's public sector employees. Qatar coordinated its decision with both the PA and Israel, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported. A European party will assume responsibility for the transfer of funds. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Is Building Alliances as an "Intelligence Superpower" - Gil Hoffman and Herb Keinon
    In a briefing with reporters Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said U.S. Secretary of State Kerry had updated him on his meeting in Paris Saturday with PA President Abbas. The prime minister, who has come out against a French initiative for an international Middle East peace conference, said Egyptian President Sisi had expressed an interest in moving forward a regional peace process, which Israel favored. Netanyahu said that countries in the region had a "stake" in the diplomatic process, and that it had a better chance of succeeding if they were involved.
        Netanyahu explained Israel's strategy of seeking alliances around the world - not as a replacement for that with the U.S., but in addition. "What we see in the world is that the strong survive; the weak do not survive. And the strong build alliances." Israel was building alliances based on the fact that it is an "intelligence superpower." The intelligence Israel has provided other countries prevented a number of attacks around the world, he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Thwarts Palestinian Attack in West Bank - Gili Cohen and Yotam Berger
    A Palestinian man who ran at IDF soldiers with a knife at the Hawara checkpoint at the entrance to Nablus in the West Bank on Sunday was shot and killed. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Six Pipe Bombs Found at West Bank Checkpoint
    Ministry of Defense guards uncovered pipe bombs in the car of an Israeli-Arab man on Sunday night at a checkpoint in the Shomron region of the West Bank. While the guards found four bombs, police sappers later found an additional two in the vehicle. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Waqf Guards Attack Israeli Archeologists on Temple Mount - Roi Yanovsky
    Several Waqf guards attacked a group of archeologists on the Temple Mount last Wednesday. One archeologists who was attacked said, "This looked liked the beginning of a lynch."
        Tzachi Davira, who led the group, said, "This is a tourist and an investigative project. We sometimes do professional visits as visitors on the Temple Mount. There was never a problem. In the eastern section, where there are no police, one of the participants picked something up from the ground. It looked like an archeological artifact. But one of the Waqf administrators...came towards us and asked us to leave without any authority....Seven or eight of them came....They blocked the way so we couldn't call to the police and it got physical. They put [tour guide] Yuval Marcus, one of the members of the group, on the ground and started hitting him."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • New State Department Assault on Israel - Elliott Abrams
    Last week the State Department engaged in a remarkable assault on Israel marked by hostility and ignorance in both tone and content. Its five-paragraph statement not only protests certain recent settlement activities but actually accuses Israel of no longer being interested in a negotiated settlement.
        The history of Obama administration efforts gives the lie to that accusation: it's quite clear that the Palestinians repeatedly refused to come to the table and ultimately defeated Secretary Kerry's efforts to get something going. As Obama negotiator Martin Indyk told Ha'aretz in 2014, "We tried to get Abu Mazen [Abbas] to the zone of possible agreement but we were surprised to learn he had shut down."
        Moreover, the State Department refers to construction in Jerusalem, Israel's capital, as settlement construction, and refers to Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem as "East Jerusalem settlements." There are no "East Jerusalem settlements;" the term "settlement" loses meaning when applied to Jews building homes in their nation's capital city. Construction in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem is not a problem in creating a Palestinian state, nor is construction in major blocs Israel will keep.
        With all the misery and bloodshed in the Middle East; with all the terrorist attacks Israel must face; with chaos in Iraq and Syria; with a PLO thinking not about talks but about lawsuits against the UK over the Balfour Declaration, it's remarkable that housing construction strikes the State Department as the critical problem we face. The writer, a senior fellow at CFR, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The Right Target for the U.S. in Syria: Hizbullah - Daniel Serwer
    Since 2012, Hizbullah has deployed forces inside Syria where its thousands of fighters are aligned with Assad's army. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps pays Hizbullah's bills and provides its command-and-control operations. Along with the Russian air intervention and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Hizbullah fighters have enabled Assad to make progress against his opponents, especially those associated with the Free Syrian Army fighters backed by the U.S.
        A shift in the military balance is essential to ending the war in Syria, which is what Washington says it wants. Hizbullah is a U.S.-designated terrorist group that has murdered Americans, among many others. U.S. targeting of Hizbullah would mostly please and embolden Washington's friends and discomfit its antagonists. It would also reassert U.S. commitment to fighting terrorism of all sorts, renew Washington's commitment to holding Hizbullah accountable, hasten an end to the Syrian civil war and make a political settlement more likely. The writer is a professor and director of the conflict management program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. (Washington Post)

Sisi's New Approach to Egypt-Israel Relations - Mohamed Soliman (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Shortly after the toppling of former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, Israel began unequivocally backing the new regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Israel launched diplomatic missions in Washington and several major European capitals to support Egypt's new political situation and prevent a diplomatic blockade on Cairo. Since then, Egypt-Israel relations have witnessed unprecedented growth, often driven by Sisi himself.
  • Sisi's government coordinated with Israel, which gave Egyptian forces the green light to deploy in response to terrorist attacks against the military in northern Sinai with heavy weapons, armored vehicles, and air incursions. These actions went directly against what is stipulated in the security appendix of the Camp David Accords, and they demonstrated flexibility and coordination between Egypt and Israel.
  • Israel itself has conducted a number of aerial intelligence missions to uncover terrorists' hiding spots.
  • Sisi has insisted that Egypt-Israel relations are a necessity in light of their shared regional foe: Hamas, seen as an extension of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, Sisi has shifted Egypt's role with Israel from that of an "existential struggle" to a partnership of necessity.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded favorably to Egypt's shifting role as negotiator in the larger peace process, as it presents an alternative to the recent French initiative.
  • Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry's recent visit to Israel was also monumental. His meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv was incredibly symbolic, as it sidestepped the traditional diplomatic taboo on such visits. The visit demonstrated a recent trend where Israel has been able to shift its relationships with Arab countries from behind closed doors into the public sphere.

    The writer, a political analyst based in Cairo, is a member of the Dostour Party's political bureau.

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