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September 26, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Is Still Operating in Turkey with Turkish Assistance - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Despite recent understandings between Israel and Turkey which led to renewed relations, Hamas' military wing is still operating from Istanbul under the protection of the Turkish security organizations.
    Israel asked Turkey to close Hamas' office in Istanbul. The Turks refused, but clarified that the Hamas office would only deal with political issues.
    Saleh al-Arouri, Hamas' senior representative in Istanbul, did move to Qatar, but those operating Hamas' branch in Istanbul instead of him are members of the military wing who were released in the Shalit deal.
    The office in Istanbul keeps trying to build Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank, continues to collect and send money to the West Bank for terror purposes, and is still recruiting among Palestinian students studying in Europe to establish terror cells in the West Bank.

Senior Egyptian Intelligence Chief Mocks Abbas in Leaked Phone Call with Dahlan (Middle East Eye)
    A leaked telephone conversation between Maj.-Gen. Wael el-Safty, in charge of the Palestinian portfolio for Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate, and exiled Palestinian strongman Mohammed Dahlan was revealed Saturday by Mekameleen, a Turkey-based Egyptian satellite television channel known for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
    Safty refers to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, 81, as someone whose "concentration isn't at full capacity" and "has nothing to offer."
    "He isn't smart at all....He doesn't want to change, he doesn't want to do anything."

U.S. Muslim Leaders Ask Hamas to Return Bodies of IDF Soldiers - Bridget Johnson (PJ Media)
    Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Andre Carson (D-Ind.), two Muslim members of Congress, together with eight other prominent U.S. Muslims, sent a letter to Hamas leader Khaled Mashal asking for the return to Israel of the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed in the 2014 conflict in Gaza.
    "As Muslims, we believe the struggle for justice must align with the teachings of the Prophet. Mr. Goldin and Mr. Shaul are now deceased and it is just and honorable to return the remains to their families," they wrote.

Gaza Palestinians Returning from Haj Smuggle Parts for Explosive Devices (Al-Masry Al-Youm-Egypt)
    Cairo Airport authorities detected a bag containing a large number of electrical circuits used in explosive devices among the luggage of Palestinian pilgrims from Gaza returning from Saudi Arabia via Qatar after the Haj.
    Insurgents are battling Egyptian security forces for control of North Sinai, with almost daily clashes involving firearms and explosives.
    Explosives are also a concern for air transport after two passenger aircraft were downed in the past year.
    On Oct. 31, 2015, a Russian jet was brought down over Sinai, with the loss of 224 passengers and crew. On May 19, 2016, an EgyptAir plane crashed into the Mediterranean with the loss of 66 lives.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Aleppo Hit by Worst Airstrikes in Months as Putin, Assad Ignore U.S. Plea - Tom Perry and Lesley Wroughton
    Syrian and/or Russian warplanes mounted the heaviest air strikes in months on Thursday against rebel-held districts of Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub and largest city, ignoring a plea by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to halt flights so aid could be delivered and the ceasefire salvaged. On Wednesday at the UN, Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that stopping the bombardment was the last chance to find a way "out of the carnage."  (Reuters)
        See also Syria's Su-24 Bombers Have Become Its Most Proficient Hospital-Destroyers - Tom Cooper
    Moscow has overhauled and upgraded the Su-24 bombers it sold to Syria to carry heavier bomb-loads over much longer ranges and deliver the munitions with much higher precision. Additional Su-24s arrived in Syria in several batches in May and June 2016, and Russia trained Syrian air crews to fly at night. Since then, Syria's Su-24s have heavily damaged, if not destroyed, more than 70 medical facilities in Aleppo and Idlib governorates. (War Is Boring)
  • Netanyahu: Cooperation with Russia Is No Substitute for Israel's Alliance with the U.S.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked about Israel's relationship with Russia at the Hudson Institute on Thursday. He said Russia's first interest is to make sure that militant Islam doesn't penetrate and destabilize Russia, noting that there are many millions of Muslims in Russia, including up to two million in greater Moscow.
        Moreover, Netanyahu said he told President Putin that in the aftermath in Syria, "we don't want to see an Iranian military presence, we don't want to see Shi'ite militias which Iran is organizing from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, and we certainly don't want to see Iranian game-changing weapons being transferred through Syrian territory to Hizbullah in Lebanon....We do not allow Iran to form a second terror front on our borders. And we act against that."
        He added, "I don't think there's a substitute or an alternative for Israel's tremendous alliance with the United States. This is the first alliance and irreplaceable alliance....It's the one alliance we have...that is based on shared values....It's the identification of the American people that Israel is like the United States and the United States is like Israel."  (Hudson Institute)
  • Jordanian King: U.S. Thinks It Knows Middle East Better than Its Residents - Jessie Hellmann
    In an interview with "60 Minutes," the king of Jordan, Abdullah II, says to fight terror, the world has "got to get ahead of the curve because they're reacting much quicker than we are." He said one problem in the fight against global terror is that the U.S. thinks it knows the Middle East better than the people who live there.
        "The problem with the West is they see a border between Syria and Iraq. ISIS does not. And this has been a frustration, I think, for a few of us in this area with our Western coalition partners, for several years. You know, the lawyers get into the act and say, 'But there's an international border.' And we say, 'For God's sake, ISIS doesn't work that way,'" he said. "So if you're looking at it and want to play the game by your rules, knowing that the enemy doesn't, we're not going to win this."  (The Hill)
        See also Interview with Jordanian King Abdullah II - Scott Pelley (CBS News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: No Matter Who Wins U.S. Election, Israel Will Have a Friend in the White House
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Army Radio on Monday following his meetings with presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton behind closed doors in New York on Sunday. He said both candidates are "well versed in Israeli affairs."
        "It is important for Israeli citizens to know no matter the election results we will have a friend in the White House. The next president will continue the strong alliance between Israel and the United States."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Trump, Clinton Meet Separately with Netanyahu in New York - Jose A. DelReal and Anne Gearan (Washington Post)
  • IDF Turning Tunnels into "a Death Trap for Hamas" in Gaza - Judah Ari Gross
    Reconstruction following the 2014 Gaza war has been slow, in part because Hamas has siphoned off a substantial portion of the reconstruction materials in order to create new attack tunnels, according to Israeli authorities. "Hamas is not rebuilding Gaza, it's rebuilding its military capabilities," a senior officer from the IDF Southern Command said Sunday.
        Israel is in the process of creating "a barrier that will provide a response to above-ground and below-ground threats...[to] be built in a matter of months....We're turning the underground into a death trap for Hamas. We're putting a lot of effort into that."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Netanyahu's Invitation to Abbas - Editorial
    The Palestinians should not be too quick to dismiss the invitation extended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to address Israel's parliament. The invitation is reminiscent of the one issued by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to visit Israel - and the rest is history. On Nov. 19, 1977, Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel when he met with Begin and spoke before the Knesset in Jerusalem about his views on how to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
        The visit led to the 1978 Camp David accords, then the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in the U.S. the following year. For good measure, both Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for creating the treaty. For all its shortcomings, Camp David demonstrated that negotiations with Israel were possible and that progress could be made through sustained efforts at communication and cooperation. (Saudi Gazette)
  • Restoring U.S.-Israel Trust on Middle East Policy - Chen Kane, W. Seth Carus, and Nima Gerami
    With the effective conclusion of U.S.-Israeli negotiations for the military aid package, the next U.S. administration should take note of the need to restore trust with Israel and find ways to foster a more collective security mindset in the Middle East. A perception of eroding U.S. credibility is widely shared by the Israeli national security community, as well as by America's staunchest allies in the Gulf region.
        At the core of the divergence in U.S. and Israeli strategic objectives are fundamental differences in threat perceptions, strategic prioritization, and policy options for confronting unprecedented change in the Middle East. The signing of the Iran nuclear agreement last year contributed to a growing perception, shared by Israel and Gulf Arabs, that the U.S. is tolerating Iran's antagonistic role in the region at the expense of its traditional allies.
        Israel's recent outreach to Gulf Arab states and Turkey is emblematic of their shared sense of abandonment by the U.S. and a common interest in developing new security relationships to compensate for what they all see as a U.S. desire for rapprochement with Iran and a reduction of America's footprint in the region. In an increasingly turbulent Middle East, the U.S. and Israel both carry the responsibility to take proactive steps to restore trust at the highest political levels.
        Chen Kane is director of the Middle East Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, D.C.  W. Seth Carus and Nima Gerami are Distinguished Research Fellow and Research Fellow at the National Defense University's Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction. (National Interest)

Israel's Diplomacy Is Moving from Strength to Strength - Walter Russell Mead (American Interest)

  • In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Israel's diplomacy is moving from strength to strength. Even among people who hate it, Israel's prestige has grown.
  • Netanyahu has a practical relationship with Putin; they work together where their interests permit and where their interests clash, Putin respects Israel's red lines.
  • Netanyahu understands how the world works. He believes that in the harsh world of international politics, power wisely used matters more than good intentions eloquently phrased.
  • The value of Israeli power to a Sunni world worried about Iran has led to something close to a revolution in Israel's regional position. Israel's neighbors may not like Netanyahu, but they believe they can count on him.
  • In Asia, Israel has stronger, deeper relationships with India, China and Japan than at any time in the past, and Asia may well replace Europe as Israel's primary trade and investment partner as these relationships develop.
  • The marginalization of Abbas at the UN reflects a global perception that the Sunni Arab states overall are less powerful than they used to be and that they care less about the Palestinian issue than they used to.
  • This is why African countries that used to shun Israel as a result of Arab pressure are now happy to engage with Israel on a variety of economic and defense issues.

    The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University.

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