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November 25, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Russia and Hizbullah "Officially" Working Together in Syria - Dov Lieber (Times of Israel)
    Russia and Hizbullah have begun "official" military coordination in Syria at the behest of Moscow, according to a report published Thursday on the pro-Hizbullah news site al-Akhbar.
    It said Hizbullah officials met with "senior" Russian officers in Aleppo last week, and noted that Russian and Hizbullah officials have met before in non-official capacities, such as in battle operations rooms.
    The meeting, arranged by Russia, was to establish "continual" communication between the two sides. Russia is interested in coordinating with Hizbullah's infantry on the ground in Aleppo.
    MK Avi Dichter, a former head of the Israel Security Agency, warned on Nov. 16 that Russian interests in the Middle East do not coincide with Israel's and said the Jewish state must be vigilant concerning Russia's growing influence in the region.
    Dichter told Reuters, "Russia does not view Iran and its proxies according to the level of threat they pose or broadcast toward Israel."
    He added that Russia "view[s] Hizbullah positively as the errand lackey of Iran in Syria and Lebanon, [and is] backing the Shiite militia activity in Iraq and Syria."

One by One, ISIS Social Media Experts Are Killed - Adam Goldman and Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
    In August 2015, Junaid Hussain, an influential hacker and recruiter for the Islamic State, was killed by a Hellfire missile in Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State's de facto capital.
    One by one, American and British forces have killed the most important members of a cell of English-speaking computer specialists who had given a far-reaching megaphone to Islamic State propaganda and exhorted online followers to carry out attacks in the West.

Car Bomb Attack Kills 8 Soldiers in Egypt's Sinai - Haitham El-Tabei (AFP)
    Eight Egyptian soldiers were killed in a car bomb attack targeting a checkpoint in northern Sinai, the army said Thursday. Three Islamic State jihadists were also killed.

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The Balfour Initiative (Israel Forever Foundation)
    On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Lord Rothschild - head of the Zionist Federation - expressing British support of a Jewish state in Palestine.
    This represented the first political recognition by a world power of the historical link of the Jewish nation to its ancient homeland.

Israeli Blood Test to Aid Diagnosis of Parkinson's - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)
    Israeli startup BioShai has developed PDx, the world's first simple blood test for the early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.
    "Having a diagnosis at an earlier stage can lead to a more precise treatment and a higher quality of life for the patient," says BioShai CEO Jennifer Yarden.
    The PDx blood test measures changes in particular molecules known to be associated with Parkinson's.

Israeli Digital Stethoscope Gets FDA Clearance - Viva Sarah Press (Israel21c)
    Israel-based medical device company Tyto Care has announced that its digital stethoscope has been granted U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance.
    At present, telehealth is somewhat limited because clinicians rely on phone or video conferencing only to examine and diagnose a patient, without the benefit of a physical exam.
    Tyto can provide vital physical exam data. "We are making it possible to closely replicate, from home, a face-to-face visit to the doctor's office," said Dedi Gilad, CEO and co-founder of Tyto Care.
    Digital audio captures heart rate and rhythm. Stethoscope attachment enables clinicians to hear and diagnose whether its a cold, asthma or something more serious.
    Digital images of the ear canal and membrane can better inform clinician diagnosis of ear infections. Digital images of moles, rashes and other skin lesions inform dermatology diagnoses.
    "The use of digital technologies that support high quality remote examinations...promises to transform how patients are treated today," said Karen S. Rheuban, a pediatric cardiologist, and Chair of Tyto Care's Advisory Board.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Calls in Reservists to Battle Wildfires
    A wildfire roared through parts of Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, on Thursday, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and prompting a call-up of military reservists to join police and firefighters. Spreading quickly due to dry, windy weather, the fire raced through Haifa's northern neighborhoods. The blaze was the largest of several fires to erupt across the country in recent days.
        A spokesman for Israel's fire and rescue service, Yoram Levy, told Channel 2 that the fires in Haifa "are probably arson,'' and that there was an attempt to torch a fire station. (AP-VOA)
        See also Photos: Fires in Israel (Business Insider-UK)
        See also Photos: Fires in Israel (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S., Western Allies Push Iran to Reduce Stockpile of Enriched Uranium - Laurence Norman
    The U.S. and its Western allies are pressing Iran to reduce its enriched-uranium stockpile to well below the cap agreed to in the 2015 nuclear deal, Western officials said. The initiative is one of several by the U.S. administration to bolster the agreement before President Obama leaves office. (Wall Street Journal)
  • France Urges Labelling Goods from Israeli Settlements - Philippe Sotto
    France published an official notification Thursday urging businesses to use labels to identify goods produced in Israeli settlements. The notification says it's necessary to add the words "Israeli settlement," such as "made in the West Bank (Israeli settlement)" or "made in the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)."
        Israel condemned France's decision, saying it lends support to an international movement calling for a boycott of Israeli goods over its policies toward the Palestinians. On Thursday, Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said, "It's unfortunate that France, which has a law against boycotts, is advancing steps like these which can be interpreted as giving a tail wind to radical actors and the boycott movement against Israel."  (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Fires Burn Throughout Israel for Third Day
    Fires that spread nationwide were declared "under control" Thursday night. Some 2,224 acres were burned in Israel's biggest natural disaster since the Mt. Carmel fire of 2010. In addition to several fires in the Haifa area, several homes were set alight in the central Israeli towns of Nirit and Savyon. A fire erupted next to the train station in Modi'in and another next to train tracks near Caesarea. A blaze also began in Rishon Letzion, while another sprang up in Menashe Forest. Near Jerusalem, fires spread around Canada Park and Sha'ar Hagai.
        Firefighters also fought blazes near Lotem in the Galilee, Avtalyon south of Lotem, the Segev Forest near Karmiel, Beit Keshet northeast of Nazareth, Kfar Hahoresh near Nazareth, and Hazore'a Forest southeast of Haifa. Another blaze spread in the area of Esh'har in the Galilee. A large forest fire spread outside Midrach Oz in the Jezreel Valley. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Accepts Palestinian Offer to Send Teams to Combat Fire - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
        See also "Israel Is Burning": Palestinians, Arab World Rejoice over Fires on Social Media - Roi Kais and Elior Levy (Ynet News)
  • Evidence of Arson in Israeli Fires - Roi Yanovsky
    An initial investigation by the Fire and Rescue Authority on Thursday raised suspicions that at four areas of Haifa the fire was a result of arson. Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh said some of the cases of arson were nationalistically motivated and that arrests have been made. Ran Shalf, the head of the Fire and Rescue Authority's investigations department, said that 60-70% of the cases were arson. "There's physical evidence," he said. (Ynet News)
        See also New Fires on Friday Confirm Arson Fears
    Israel continued to battle fires in different parts of the country on Friday, with outbreaks reported in Beit Meir in the Jerusalem hills, and near Kiryat Gat in the south. On Friday, the Israel Police in Jerusalem reported that the Beit Meir fire was a result of arson, and two suspects had been arrested. Channel 10 reported that an investigation into Thursday's fire in Zichron Yaakov found the blaze was caused "indisputably" by arsonists.
        As of Thursday night, over 200 fires were dealt with over the course of three days, with 75,000 residents evacuated from their homes in Haifa and thousands more across the country. There were no deaths or critical injuries, police said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Police Arrest 12 for Arson, Incitement - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israel Police said Friday that it had 12 suspects in custody on suspicion of arson or inciting people to deliberately start fires. Among them are six believed responsible for starting some of the devastating fires that ripped through Haifa on Thursday. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Terrorism, at Home, by Fire - Avi Issacharoff
    The wave of fires that has broken out nationwide in Israel is neither coincidence nor the result solely of weather conditions. Fires are being deliberately started, professional investigators have concluded. This is an unprecedented wave of arson within sovereign Israel, carried out for nationalistic motives and fanned by vicious incitement on Arab social media.
        The fires apparently began with a few individuals, who went into action when the first blazes broke out through negligence and weather. From the moment that the fires began to dominate Israeli media, there were more and more arson attacks. And now others are jumping on the bandwagon. (Times of Israel)
  • Dichter: Israel Can't Take Risks in the Golan Heights or the Jordan Valley - Avi Dichter interviewed by Yaakov Katz
    Former Israel Security Agency chief Avi Dichter, the current head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said this week that fighting "terrorism is like driving in a jeep in the sand. The worst thing to do is to stop since you will sink. You need to keep on driving. The same with fighting terrorism. You can't stop." The rest of the world has not yet internalized what a war on terrorism looks like, he said.
        Dichter emphasized that even if the major powers in the region set borders and change the current makeup of some of the nation-states around Israel, "we need to be sure that the solution they bring does not fall on us." What this means practically is that Israel can't gamble with its security by withdrawing, for example, from strategic places like the Jordan Valley or the Golan Heights.
        "The debate about the Jordan Valley is over," he said. "We need to understand that what happened over the last six years - an Arab earthquake that no one foresaw - means that we can't take risks that will undermine our ability to be prepared for surprises and scenarios looming on the horizon."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Status of the Syrian Rebellion - Fabrice Balanche
    A March report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) categorized 23 of Syria's hundreds of rebel groups as the main "powerbrokers" and "potential powerbrokers" in the opposition. In total, these groups command an estimated 90,000 fighters. Among the "powerbroker" rebels, 20% are transnational jihadists, 31% are national jihadists, 24% are political Islamists, and 25% are "secularists."
        In comparison, the Syrian regime has 125,000 regular army troops and 150,000 pro-government militia members, including around 50,000 Shiite foreign fighters (i.e., Hizbullah and Iranian-trained Iraqis, Pakistanis, and Afghan Hazaras). Most of the native forces are preoccupied with defending territory; only a fourth of them are able to launch offensives.
        The non-jihadist rebels are very fragmented and marginalized on most fronts, which gives the jihadists the ascendancy. Helping the "secularist" rebels become major actors would not work if Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey continue supporting Islamist factions. The writer, an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon 2, is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Weekend Features

  • Female Combat Soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces - Lt. Shahaf Shoval
    Female soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces serve in combat positions based on merit. People keep asking me why I decided to serve in a combat role, and I tell them that before I enlisted, a combat position in the Combat Intelligence Collection Corps was made available to women, and I saw it as a real opportunity to protect my country, my family and friends. This was my turn to repay my country directly for everything it has given me throughout the years and to defend it, like so many fighters - men and women - before me.
        During my military service, I had extraordinary experiences; I felt the satisfaction of meeting goals I had set for myself; I educated generations of female combat soldiers; I shattered the glass ceiling; I had the honor of commanding amazing women - but beyond that, I did not feel different, not for even one moment, from the male combat soldier fighting next to me with his camouflage face paint and weapon. Moreover, I knew that none of the women beside me felt any different. The writer is the commander of a reconnaissance company of the IDF Combat Intelligence Collection Corps. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Calling of an Israeli Firefighter - Maj. Dan Josephberg
    A firefighter's job is no ordinary job - it is a calling. Being a firefighter means knowing that at any given moment you may be called up. Being a firefighter means running into places that other people are escaping from. Running into the unknown. Being a firefighter means seeing tough sights, hearing screams from people who are trapped, smelling the scent of death.
        But being a firefighter, more than anything, is knowing that people's lives depend only on you, that there is no one else who will do the job. Whenever you call - we will come. Whenever you scream for help - we will hear. The firefighters of the State of Israel understand the great responsibility. The writer is a firefighter with the Netanya District Fire Department. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Mobil App Warns Drivers of Dangers - Gwen Ackerman
    Nexar Ltd., an Israeli startup whose app records video from a smartphone's camera, is turning its users into a vehicle-to-vehicle network to prevent crashes before they happen. Nexar installed in one car will be able to send an alert to a driver in another vehicle if it makes a sudden stop, for example, or if an obstacle is blocking traffic. These sensors are delicate enough to let the app log potholes.
        Since launching in February with its recording application, Nexar has signed on 50,000 users in Tel Aviv, San Francisco and Manhattan, and recorded about half a million instances of dangerous driving events. Wide-scale deployment of vehicle-to-vehicle networks could prevent about 79% of all collisions, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a 2014 report. (Bloomberg)

Abbas in a Race Against Time to Choose Successor - Yoni Ben-Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, 81, is not in the best of health. He has heart problems, and soon he will need medical treatment in Jordan after having already undergone a cardiac catheterization. Fatah sources say the movement views Abbas' retirement as imminent.
  • Abbas wants a successor who will ensure the interests and security of his family members, especially the future of his two sons. Yasser and Tarek are entrepreneurs who have amassed great wealth through connections with their father. Abbas has long feared that as soon as he retires, the new Palestinian leadership will settle scores, confiscate their assets, and even put them on trial. Many in Fatah already accuse them of corruption and stealing money.
  • Abbas is intending to declare the appointment of a deputy during the Seventh Fatah Congress, which will be held in Ramallah at the end of November 2016. Abbas is under pressure since the PLO Executive Committee is holding discussions on the possible imminent appointment of a deputy. The existence of such talks indicates that the PA chairman has concluded that he can no longer skirt this demand.
  • On October 10, 2016, in an interview with the Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad, PLO Executive Committee member Dr. Assad Abdel Rahman revealed that Abbas had told the committee: "Choose a vice-president from your ranks, or agree on a deputy from your ranks, and I will adopt your decision."
  • At the same time, Hamas, the Popular Front and the Democratic Front say that if Abbas is incapacitated, then according to the law it is the Legislative Council Chairman Aziz Duwaik (a Hamas man) who should replace him.

    The writer, a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center, served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

        See also Abbas Wants to Integrate His Sons into the Fatah Leadership - Yoni Ben-Menachem
    There is rising anger among Fatah activists in response to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' intention to integrate his sons Yasser and Tarek into the Fatah leadership during the upcoming Fatah Congress. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
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