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February 6, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Intelligence Trends Predict Hamas Takeover of West Bank - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF Lt.-Col. Maurice Hirsch, the newly retired chief West Bank prosecutor, is convinced, based on intelligence regarding West Bank terror trends, that the area will become the next Hamastan once PA President Mahmoud Abbas dies.
    "The basic understanding is that the Fatah-run West Bank will not last for very long... once Mahmoud Abbas passes on. The basic understanding is that Hamas will take over. Very soon, we will find ourselves with a Hamas-led government in the West Bank."
    "Hamas has never stopped with its aspirations to take over the West Bank...even if it requires violent means."

Louvre Attacker Said to Be Egyptian (France 24)
    The suspect in the machete attack near the Louvre in Paris on Friday is a 29-year-old Egyptian national who entered France from Dubai on an Egyptian visa.

Jordan Plays It Safe (Economist-UK)
    Rich Iraqis who decamped to Amman, Jordan's capital, after the American invasion of 2003, have helped turn it into one of the region's fastest-growing cities.
    Living in mansions, Sunni tribal sheikhs exiled from Anbar, Iraq's western province, broadcast appeals on their satellite networks to establish an autonomous region for Sunni Arabs, as the Kurds have done. Connected to Jordan, together they would build a Sunni bulwark against Iran's advance west.
    A bilateral agreement to build a pipeline from Basra's oilfields in Iraq to Jordan's port of Aqaba promises to turn the kingdom into an energy hub.
    King Abdullah is most cautious on the Palestinians. Palestinian nationalists shot his grandfather dead in 1948. His father, Hussein, only just survived a Palestinian revolt in September 1970.
    Abdullah prefers to keep out of the fray. Jordan First, he tells the Palestinians who make up most of his population.
    See also Jordanian Air Force Targets ISIS in Southern Syria - Roi Kais and Liad Osmo (Ynet News)
    The Jordanian air force conducted air strikes against Islamic State targets in southern Syria on Friday using drones and guided missiles, hitting an ammunition depot, a car bomb factory and a barracks, the Jordanian military said Saturday.

Intel Unveils Israeli Technology at Super Bowl (Globes)
    At the NFL Super Bowl final on Sunday, Intel unveiled its unique action replay technology "Be the Player," which replays the action from the player's viewpoint.
    The technology was developed in Israel by Replay Technologies, which was acquired by Intel last March for $175 million.
    "Be the Player" allows viewers to fully immerse themselves in the action of the game. It offers a powerful technology that will transform the sports experience for the next generation of fans.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Iran over Missile Test - David E. Sanger
    New sanctions that the Trump administration imposed on Friday to punish Tehran's latest ballistic missile test marked the beginning of what officials called the end of an era in which the U.S. was "too tolerant of Iran's bad behavior." In the first in a series of efforts to confront Iran, a ban on bank transfers was levied against 25 Iranians and companies that officials said assisted in Tehran's ballistic missile program and support of terrorist groups. President Obama took similar steps a year ago after another Iranian missile test, and the new sanctions drew from a list of targets drawn up last year by the Obama administration.
        Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said, "The entire eight years of the Obama administration was an example of unprecedented but largely unreciprocated overtures for cooperation with Iran in the Middle East. The Iranians weren't interested."  (New York Times)
  • Iran to Have 60 Percent More Uranium than Before the Nuclear Deal
    Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi says Iran will have 60% more stockpiled uranium than it did prior to the 2015 nuclear agreement after a shipment expected later this week, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Sunday. Iran will receive a final batch of 149 tons of natural uranium by Tuesday, in addition to 210 tons already delivered since early 2016. Under the nuclear accord, Iran's import of uranium is supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (AP-ABC News)
  • Trump Administration Looks at Driving Wedge Between Russia and Iran - Jay Solomon
    The Trump administration is exploring ways to break Russia's military and diplomatic alliance with Iran in a bid to both end the Syrian conflict and bolster the fight against Islamic State, said senior administration, European and Arab officials. "If there's a wedge to be driven between Russia and Iran, we're willing to explore that," a senior administration official said. The Kremlin is a major supplier of weapons and nuclear equipment to Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Intelligence Chiefs Met with U.S. Officials in Washington - Alexander Fulbright
    Israeli Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and acting National Security Adviser Jacob Nagel met with U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. Michael Flynn and other officials in the new administration on Jan. 18 in Washington. The talks focused on Iran, Syria, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Times of Israel)
  • New U.S. Administration Not Seeking Contact with PA - Avi Issacharoff
    Jason Greenblatt, the new U.S. administration's special representative for international negotiations, met on Friday with three Palestinian businessmen with close ties to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and informed them that the administration does not intend to build relations with the PA at this juncture. It was understood that the administration will likely only engage with the PA after President Trump meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Feb. 15, Palestinian sources said. (Times of Israel)
  • 3 Palestinians Charged with Arson in November West Bank Fire
    Three men from the Palestinian village of Deir Abu Mashal were accused on Sunday of starting a fire outside the West Bank town of Halamish on Nov. 25 that destroyed 17 homes and damaged 25 others during a wave of blazes across Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Completes Drill Simulating Hamas Infiltration from Gaza - Anna Ahronheim
    The IDF Gaza Division completed a five-day drill last week which simulated a massive infiltration by Hamas commando units into communities near Gaza via tunnels, para-gliders and from the sea. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas Explosives Expert Dies from Gaza Blast - Jack Khoury
    Hamas explosives expert Mohammed al-Kuka, 37, died Sunday of wounds he suffered in an explosion on Saturday at a warehouse where explosive devices were made. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Trump Wants to Push Back Against Iran, But Iran Is Now More Powerful - Liz Sly and Loveday Morris
    With its warning last week that Iran is "on notice," the Trump administration signaled a sharp departure from the policies of President Obama, whose focus on pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran eclipsed historic U.S. concerns about Iranian expansionism. Except that now the U.S. will be facing down a far stronger Iran, which has developed missiles capable of hitting U.S. bases and allies across the Middle East and commands the loyalties of tens of thousands in allied militias and proxy armies that are fighting in Syria, Iraq and Yemen with armored vehicles, tanks and heavy weapons.
        As the Institute for the Study of War noted in a report last week, Iran has developed the capacity to project conventional military force for hundreds of miles beyond its borders. Any misgivings America's Sunni Arab allies may have had about Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric have been dwarfed by their enthusiasm for an American president they believe will push back against Iran. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Policy Change Important to Deter Iran - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    It is important for the Trump administration to establish with Iran that "we are not going to play the same game that the Obama administration was. We see what you are doing. We don't accept it and we will respond. This is important for U.S. deterrence," Emily Landau, head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said on Sunday.
        "There is a certain equation between the U.S. and Iran. If Iran provokes and the U.S. does not react, Iran's deterrent power goes up because it learns it can do these provocations with no consequences. U.S. power goes down because it is so afraid that it will let any provocation go by, even acting as Iran's advocate so that there is no problem with anything Iran does."
        Former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror noted, "This [U.S.] government is not afraid Iran will walk away from the [nuclear] deal, so it has more freedom...this advantage allows it to put pressure on Iran" and to respond to Iranian provocations. Amidror said the current government "thinks the deal is bad for the U.S....thinks it must contain Iran...does not worry about the outcome if the agreement ended and...would be happy" if it could blame Tehran for ending the deal. He added, "It is not connected to Israel. It is connected to an American understanding that these things are not good for the U.S."  (Jerusalem Post)

How Israelis See the Settlements - Yossi Klein Halevi (Wall Street Journal)

  • Unlike critics abroad, who denounce settlements as illegal under international law, mainstream Israeli discourse takes for granted the legitimacy of Israel's claims to the West Bank - lands where the Jewish people find their deepest historical roots, won in a war of self-defense against the Arab world's attempt to destroy the Jewish state. The debate, instead, is over the wisdom of implementing these claims to the "territories."
  • The mainstream Israeli left no longer promises "land for peace." This shift recognizes that, after years of terrorism and Palestinian rejection of past Israeli peace offers, the Israeli public has become deeply skeptical of Palestinian intentions. According to an October 2016 poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute's Peace Index, nearly 65% of Israelis backed peace talks - but only 26% thought they would succeed.
  • Israelis worry that a Palestinian state would be overtaken by the radical Islamist Hamas movement and would threaten Israeli population centers with rocket attacks - precisely what happened in 2005 when Israel uprooted its 21 settlements in Gaza and withdrew.
  • Palestinian media regularly ignore any distinction between Israel's boundaries before and after the 1967 war, labeling coastal cities such as Tel Aviv and Ashkelon as settlements too. For Israelis, the refusal of Palestinians to come to terms with Israel's legitimacy is proof that the conflict isn't about settlements, but about the very existence of a Jewish state.
  • Israelis across the political spectrum regard building in Jerusalem as a category separate from the West Bank. For Israelis, the international community's discourse over Jerusalem seems delusional. About 300,000 Israelis live in a dozen Jerusalem neighborhoods built after the Six-Day War. For almost all Israelis, these Jewish neighborhoods are just that: neighborhoods, not settlements.
  • I live in a post-1967 Jerusalem neighborhood called French Hill. Not once have I heard any neighbor doubt the status of French Hill as part of the State of Israel. In recent years, growing numbers of Arab Israelis have moved into the neighborhood. But for the UN, French Hill residents - including its Arab Israeli residents - are "settlers."

    The writer is a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

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