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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
September 20, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

UN Aid Convoy in Syria Hit by Airstrike - Josie Ensor (Telegraph-UK)
    A UN aid convoy in Aleppo province in Syria was hit by air strikes carried out by either Syrian or Russian warplanes on Monday, minutes after the military declared the end of a ceasefire.
    More than a dozen were killed including Omar Barakat, director of the Syrian Red Crescent.
    Steffan de Mistura, the UN Syria envoy, said, "Our outrage at this attack is enormous...the convoy was the outcome of a long process of permission and preparations to assist isolated civilians."

Wave of Palestinian Attacks Seen as Tip of the Iceberg - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    The latest lone-wolf Palestinian attacks in Israel are only the tip of the iceberg.
    The growing main threat detected by the Israel Security Agency in the past year involves terror cells inspired by the Islamic State, mainly in the Jerusalem area and in northern Samaria.
    The wave of lone wolf attacks - which began on Oct. 1, 2015 - was curbed in April.
    In addition to warnings of 50-60 potential lone-wolf terrorists, there are about 15 local cells in the West Bank that have carried out or are about to carry out shooting attacks.
    Some of these cells are based on Hamas infrastructure.

Islamic State Suspects Arrested in Saudi Arabia - Summer Said and Asa Fitch (Wall Street Journal)
    Saudi police arrested 17 Islamic State suspects, members of three cells, including 14 Saudis and three foreign nationals, who were preparing to hit civilians, religious scholars, security forces and economic facilities, the Saudi Interior Ministry said Monday.
    Also seized were 43 pounds of high explosives and 16.6 pounds of belts packed with explosives, weapons and ammunition, and 600,000 Saudi rials ($160,000).

Textbooks Showing Israel instead of Palestine Stir Debate in Algeria (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Calls for the resignation of Algerian Education Minister Nouria Benghabrit grew on Friday after a secondary school geography book labeled a map as "Israel" instead of "Palestine."
    The ministry withdrew the book and opened an investigation into the "scandal."

Israel's Economy Grew 4 Percent in 2nd Quarter (Globes)
    The Israeli economy grew at 4% on an annual basis in the second quarter of 2016, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported, making a 3% growth rate for the first half of 2016.

Who Was the Foreign General in the Synagogue Mosaic? - A.R. Williams (National Geographic)
    Archaeologists are revealing an extraordinary mosaic discovered among the ruins of a Roman-era synagogue at Huqoq in Israel.
    Dated to the fifth century CE, the mosaic depicts a meeting between two high-ranking male figures, one of whom appears to be a great general leading his troops.
    Excavation director Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, believes the leader of the army is Alexander the Great.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Ahmad Khan Rahami Is Arrested for Manhattan and New Jersey Bombings - Catherine E. Shoichet
    Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, a naturalized citizen of Afghan descent who police said set off bombs in Manhattan and Seaside Park, N.J., on Saturday, was arrested on Monday after a shootout in Linden, N.J.  Rahami traveled to Afghanistan multiple times, according to law enforcement sources. He spent several weeks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Quetta, Pakistan, a stronghold of the Taliban, in 2011. He was also in Pakistan for a year in 2013-14. (CNN)
  • 88 Senators Urge Obama to Veto "One-Sided" Anti-Israel UN Resolutions
    88 senators signed a bipartisan letter Monday urging President Obama to maintain long-standing U.S. policy and veto any one-sided UN Security Council resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The letter cites President Obama's 2011 General Assembly address saying, "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations."
        The senators noted, "Even well-intentioned initiatives at the United Nations risk locking the parties into positions that will make it more difficult to return to the negotiating table and make the compromises necessary for peace."  (AIPAC)
        See also Text of Senators' Letter to Obama (AIPAC)
  • In Gaza and West Bank, Palestinian Journalists Fear Squeeze on Free Press - Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ali Sawafta
    On Sept. 1, half a dozen Hamas security officials called at the home of Mohammed Othman, 29, a journalist in Gaza who had written several probing articles. After an intense interrogation and being slapped around, he was asked to sign a document promising not to criticize Hamas. Media monitoring and human rights groups say press freedom is under threat in the West Bank and Gaza, with both Hamas and Fatah increasingly wary of journalists and bloggers who write critically or seek to expose wrongdoing.
        "Both Palestinian governments, operating independently, have apparently arrived at similar methods of harassment, intimidation and physical abuse of anyone who dares criticize," Human Rights Watch said in a report in August. The Independent Commission for Human Rights reported that 24 people in the West Bank and 21 in Gaza were arrested in 2015 for criticizing Palestinian authorities or writing about forbidden topics. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Terror Attacks Continue - Gili Cohen
    A Palestinian man attempted to stab an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint at the entrance to the town of Bani Naim near Hebron in the West Bank on Tuesday. The assailant was shot and killed.
        On Monday, a stabbing attempt was thwarted in Hebron when soldiers managed to subdue the Palestinian assailant without opening fire.
        Earlier on Monday in Hebron, two Palestinian assailants attempted to stab Israeli soldiers near the Tomb of the Patriarchs before they were shot dead. (Ha'aretz)
  • Surge in Palestinian Terror Shows "Contagion" Is Still at Work - Avi Issacharoff
    There is a sudden uptick in the wave of Palestinian lone wolf terror attacks. One terrorist inspires other friends and relatives to carry out an attack. There is no discernible rise in incitement or in the level of hostility between Israel and the Palestinians, nor is there any dramatic deterioration in ties between the PA and Israel.
        Later this month, Israel will detail a series of economic steps it intends to take in order to improve the economic situation in the PA. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Life During Wartime - Bret Stephens
    Between January 2002, when I moved to Israel, and October 2004, when I left, there were 85 suicide bombings, which took the lives of 543 Israelis. Palestinian gun attacks claimed hundreds of additional victims. In a small country it meant that most everyone knew one of those victims, or knew someone who knew someone. Israelis recoiled after each bombing, mourned every victim, then picked themselves up.
        What's the lesson here for Americans? One is that there is a benefit for a society that allows competent and responsible adults to carry guns, like the off-duty police officer who shot the knife-wielding jihadist in St. Cloud, Minn. Another is that there is an equal benefit in the surveillance methods that allowed police in New York and New Jersey to swiftly identify and arrest Ahmad Khan Rahami before his bombing spree took any lives. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Don't Rely on Iran's Good Intentions - Olli Heinonen
    Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his country's intent to build up to eight nuclear reactors in Iran. The nuclear agreement and the UN Security Council resolution endorsing it establish a dedicated "procurement channel" for the transfer of materials, equipment, and technology required for Iran's nuclear activities. However, prior approval by the Security Council is not necessary if Tehran wants to purchase specified nuclear equipment for light-water reactors, low-enriched uranium fuel elements for the reactor, or dual-use items if they are used exclusively in light-water reactors.
        Therefore, any contracts between Iran and foreign countries for the provision of nuclear goods should require that the technology provider be able to intervene if Tehran uses the nuclear material for reprocessing to separate plutonium, which is nuclear material suitable for nuclear weapons.
        Last month, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, a foreign affairs adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, called for building a "massive institute for nuclear research" and said that Iran must convince the world that it can build a bomb within 48 hours. This is not the language of a country that wants to build nuclear reactors simply to generate electricity. The writer, senior advisor on science and nonproliferation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of its Department of Safeguards. (Cipher Brief)
  • In the Safe Spaces on Campus, No Jews Allowed - Anthony Berteaux
    Arielle Mokhtarzadeh, an Iranian Jew at UCLA, arrived at the University of California, Berkeley, to attend the annual Students of Color Conference. The conference has maintained a reputation for 27 years as being a "safe space" where students of color, as well as white progressive allies, can discuss issues of structural and cultural inequality on college campuses. But on the first day, she was horrified when the discussion became an attack on Israel - and soon devolved into attacks on the Jews.
        "My history was denied, the murder of my people was justified, and a movement whose sole purpose is the destruction of the Jewish homeland was glorified. Statements were made justifying the ruthless murder of innocent Israeli civilians, blatantly denying Jewish indigeneity in the land, and denying the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered," she said. "These statements, and others, were met with endless snaps and cheers....It was in that moment, during that conference, that I realized that every identity and every intersection of identity was to be welcomed and championed in progressive spaces - except mine."
        The most recent FBI hate crime report found that 58% of hate crimes motivated by religious bias were targeted at Jews, who make up 2% of the American population. (Washington Post)

Israeli National Security Strategy - Moshe Yaalon (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • In the Arab world over the past five years, artificially constructed states such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya are breaking apart and creating dangerous power vacuums. These broken states are unlikely to put themselves back together again and will probably be reconstituted into ethnically homogenous cantons or loose confederations. Israel does not wish to intervene in these internal Arab conflicts.
  • Israel's biggest threat comes from Iran. Although the nuclear deal lengthened Tehran's timetable for building a bomb, the Iranians will retain some of their nuclear infrastructure, and thus the capacity to build a weapon in the next ten to fifteen years. They also continue to make regular conventional weapons deliveries to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East, including Hizbullah, radical Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthis in Yemen.
  • Iran has helped establish terrorist infrastructure on five continents - a fact that belies its portrayal as moderate under the leadership of President Hassan Rouhani. Some see Tehran as part of the solution to the regional conflicts because of its willingness to fight the Islamic State. Yet its opposition to that Sunni jihadist group should not be viewed as anything more than a ploy to remove an ideological rival and gain a greater foothold in the region.
  • The Sunni Arab camp comprises Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, and others. Israel shares several common adversaries with this camp. The U.S. should join Israel in publicly aligning with the Sunni Arab camp. These states are not asking the U.S. to deploy ground troops to the region - they just want Washington to be more engaged by supporting partners on the ground with airstrikes and intelligence and making their alliances known more openly.
  • While the Palestinian question still occupies a good deal of attention, it is not solvable at this time. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the core of the conflict does not stem from the disputed territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war, but from the fact that the Palestinians are not willing to accept the presence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. As long as they are unwilling to recognize Israel's legitimacy, there is no value in making territorial concessions. This line of reasoning also dispels the idea that unilateral Israeli withdrawals would create the political momentum for a peace plan.
  • Israel should focus on improving economics, infrastructure, law enforcement, and governance in the Palestinian Authority. Ultimately, the Palestinians will also have to make sweeping changes to their education system, stop demonizing Jews, and concede that Israel has a right to at least some of the land. In other words, they cannot advance the cause of peace while also claiming that Tel Aviv is a settlement. These broad changes to Palestinian society are a prerequisite to real negotiations.

    Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon is a former Israeli defense minister and IDF chief of staff.

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