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October 31, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian-Backed Shiite Militias Join Offensive to Retake Mosul from Islamic State - Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim (Washington Post)
    Iraq's Shiite militias said Saturday that more than 10,000 of their fighters had joined the operation to recapture the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, launching an offensive toward Tal Afar, 40 miles west of Mosul.
    In past battles against the Islamic State, the Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have been accused of kidnappings and executions.

UN Hires Assad's Friends and Relatives for Syria Relief Operation - Emma Beals and Nick Hopkins (Guardian-UK)
    The UN has hired scores of friends and political associates of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, as part of its relief operation in the country, according to documents leaked to the Guardian.
    According to the documents, 64% of the kits and medicines provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) since January have been delivered to areas held by or supporting Assad.
    Only 13% of WHO supplies reached areas controlled by forces opposed to the regime.

Hizbullah Ally Set to Become President of Lebanon - Zeina Karam (AP)
    Veteran Christian leader Michel Aoun, 81, a former general and a strong ally of Hizbullah, is poised to be chosen by Parliament on Monday as Lebanon's new president, ending a two-year vacuum in the country's top post.
    "Aoun's election is a clear victory for the pro-Iranian axis in the Levant and another climb down for Saudi Arabia," wrote Paul Salem, vice president for policy and research at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.
    Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri formally endorsed Aoun for president last week - reportedly in exchange for becoming prime minister.

Israeli Border Police Train for Islamic State Attack inside Israel (Times of Israel)
    An Israeli Border Police unit is training for the threat of Islamic State terrorists infiltrating Israel from Sinai to carry out an attack, Israel's Channel 10 news reported Friday.
    Possible scenarios included combating cells of 15-30 terrorists armed with anti-tank and other weapons.

Reykjavík, Iceland, Votes to Boycott Israeli Products (Iceland Magazine)
    The City Council of Reykjavik, Iceland, voted on Sep. 15 not to purchase any goods manufactured in Israel.
    Soley Tomasdottir of the Left Green Alliance told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service that the boycott created pressure on authorities in Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories.
    A local barrister, Einar Gautur Steingrimsson, claims the decision violates the Icelandic constitution.
    The city has no place setting foreign policy, he told the local news site "This is as illegal as refusing to do business with red-haired people and it makes no difference whether they justify their decision with references to some alleged actions by the Israelis."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iran Supplying Weapons to Yemen's Houthi Rebels - Courtney Kube
    Vice Admiral Kevin Donegan, the head of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, tasked with securing the waters off of Yemen, disclosed Thursday that Iran has supplied weapons to the Houthis in Yemen - including coastal defense cruise missiles like the ones that were fired at U.S. Navy ships earlier this month.
        The U.S. and partner nations have intercepted five weapons shipments from Iran that were headed to the Houthis in Yemen. In addition to cruise missiles, the weapons intercepted included thousands of AK-47s, reverse engineered Iranian missiles similar to TOW anti-tank missiles, sniper rifles, and higher end weapons systems. (NBC News)
  • Kerry Slams Human Rights Council's "Excessive, Biased Focus on Israel"
    After the U.S. was reelected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council on Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry noted that "important challenges remain, including ending the Council's excessive and biased focus on Israel."  (U.S. State Department)
  • West Bank Arms Itself in Run-Up to Succession War for Post-Abbas Era
    Jihad Harb, who lives in Balata refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, sees three kinds of armed men in Balata: gunmen from Fatah, who are funded by and loyal to various leaders in the movement; gunmen from criminal gangs involved mostly in the drug and arms trades; and gunmen from the Palestinian Authority, funded by the security apparatus and local governors. The situation in Balata is being replicated in cities and villages across the West Bank.
        Harb believes senior Fatah leaders are buying the loyalty of gunmen and arming them in preparation for the expected succession conflict after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 82, dies. "Some groups are loyal to more than one leader at the same time," said Harb, who is himself a Fatah activist. Recent armed clashes in Balata, Jenin, and al-Amari near Ramallah raised concerns among Palestinians who fear they are witnessing a dress-rehearsal for what will happen in the post-Abbas era.
        Most of Fatah's executive committee members believe they are eligible to succeed Abbas, but no one has a majority. Abbas has no deputy and no plans to groom a successor. "If President Abbas goes, Fatah leaders will fight each other," Harb said. "The worst is yet to come."  (Middle East Eye-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Rams Car into Three Soldiers Sunday - Gili Cohen
    A Palestinian driver, Khaled Ikhalil, 23, struck three Israeli border policemen outside the West Bank town of Beit Ummar before he was shot dead by other border police officers on Sunday. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Terrorist Attempts Vehicle and Stabbing Attack in West Bank Saturday - Yoav Zitun
    A Palestinian terrorist attempted to run over and stab soldiers near a checkpoint at Ofra near Ramallah on Saturday. After the car attack, the terrorist exited the vehicle armed with a meat cleaver before he was shot and wounded. The checkpoint was set up after a terrorist opened fire in the direction of Ofra on Friday. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Woman Targeted in West Bank Shooting Attack Saturday - Elisha Ben Kimon and Yoav Zitun
    Ruth Gillis, whose husband, Dr. Shmuel Gillis, was killed in a shooting attack on Highway 60 in the West Bank in 2001, reported that her car was shot at from a passing vehicle on Saturday evening near her home in Karmei Tzur. "I was just at the exit from Karmei Tzur on my way to Route 60, when I see a masked terrorist in front of me, shooting at me with a weapon," Gillis said. "I saw the terrorist clearly."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Ancient Muslim Inscription Proves Jewish Ties to Temple Mount - Yori Yalon
    A 1,000-year-old Muslim inscription provides yet more proof of Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. On Thursday, archaeologists Assaf Avraham and Perez Reuven presented the inscription that was discovered at a recently excavated mosque in the village of Nuba near Hebron. It refers to the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount as "Bait al-Maqdess," an Arabicized version of the Hebrew words for the Temple, Beit Hamikdash. Other sources from the early Muslim period also refer to the Dome of the Rock as "al-Maqdess," demonstrating how Jewish tradition influenced the religious worldview of nascent Islam in the seventh century.
        "At the start of the Muslim period, religious rites were held inside the Dome of the Rock compound that imitated the ceremonies conducted in the Jewish Temple," Avraham said. "The people who conducted those ceremonies would purify themselves, change their clothes, burn incense, anoint the rock with oil, place curtains around the Foundation Stone, just like the ornamental curtain that existed in the [Jewish] Temple. In addition, those worshippers would wear ceremonial clothing and use incense burners over the Foundation Stone. These actions teach us that the Muslims saw the Dome of the Rock as the continuance of the Jewish Temple."
        "There is plenty of evidence that shows the Jewish influence on the Muslim world at the beginning [of Islam]. Among other things, we can take notice of Muslim coins minted in the Land of Israel in the eighth century by Muslim rulers, which feature the symbol of the menorah of the Temple," Avraham said. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Anti-Israel Virus that Pervades the UN - Editorial
    A recent UNESCO resolution identifies Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount - site of the twice-destroyed Temple - only by its Arabic name, Haram al-Sharif, the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. The resolution also refers to Bethlehem's Tomb of Rachel and Hebron's Tomb of the Patriarchs - burial site of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - as "two Palestinian sites." The language of the resolution was drafted by the Palestinians who, since joining UNESCO in 2010, have put great energy into demonizing and delegitimizing Israel.
        As we know from the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, it has become possible for ideologues to seize on a strategy of emotive "narratives" that favor feelings - or, in this case, mass delusion - over objective truths. The film "Denial," which recreates American historian Deborah Lipstadt's ordeal in a British court facing notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, reminds us that even the most well-documented genocide in human history is not an impenetrable archival fortress; determined anti-Semites neither slumber nor sleep in their obsession to justify their hatred. Constant vigilance is called for - and, as the film also shows, appeasement of haters is never the right option. (National Post-Canada)
  • UNESCO's Insult - Editorial
    In further appeasement to Palestinians, UNESCO dismissed the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem to Israel, which it refers to as the "occupying power." Rightfully so, the U.S. has suspended its UNESCO funding - U.S. laws prohibit funding any UN agency that grants membership to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
        The Obama administration has tried repeatedly to change the law to allow U.S. funding. In effect, that would reward Palestinian efforts to avoid a negotiated peace or even recognizing Israel. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

The Changing Anti-Israel UN Voting Patterns - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

  • When diplomatic officials in Jerusalem recently surveyed the list of 21 countries that make up UNESCO's World Heritage Committee (WHC) in an effort to see who might soften the blow of yet another anti-Israel resolution, the list did not include any countries that Israel traditionally can count on for diplomatic assistance. Then Croatia and Tanzania stepped forward.
  • Israel has good relations with Croatia. It is numbered among those former Soviet-bloc countries inside the EU which usually casts a ballot either with Israel or abstains.
  • In Tanzania, a country that is about 60% Christian and 30% Muslim, President John Magufuli, elected last October, is a staunchly believing Christian and sees Israel as a natural ally. Since assuming office he has sent Israel strong signals of an interest in significantly upgrading ties. Tanzania's foreign minister was one of the seven African leaders Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at a summit in Uganda last July.
  • According to diplomatic officials, Netanyahu spoke in recent days to both Magufuli and Croatian leaders. The two countries forced a secret vote on the resolution at the WHC meeting in Paris on Wednesday, infuriating the Palestinians and their supporters in the body who wanted to ram the resolution through by consensus.
  • Instead of a consensus, the resolution passed by a vote of 10 to 2, with 8 abstentions. The number of countries that can be counted on to reflexively raise their hands in votes against Israel is shrinking.
  • Five years ago, when then French President Nicolas Sarkozy led a successful push to have UNESCO accept "Palestine" as a full member state, then Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP that the Palestinians would use their newfound status to "hijack" the organization as a vehicle for anti-Israel propaganda.
  • The reason UNESCO has turned into one of the central battlegrounds against Israel has to do with the Palestinian status in that organization, where it is a full member state.

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