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February 13, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Americans Tepid on Palestinian Statehood (Gallup)
    A new Gallup poll conducted Feb. 1-5 finds the American public closely split over Palestinian statehood. Currently, 45% of Americans support establishing an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, while 42% oppose it.
    In 2015, 42% favored a Palestinian state and 38% were opposed.
    In the new poll, 62% of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israelis and 19% with the Palestinians.
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is viewed more favorably than unfavorably by Americans, 49% vs. 30%.

Radical Muslim Cleric Caught Being Smuggled into U.S. at Mexican Border (Daily Mail-UK)
    U.S. border guards found a hardline Muslim cleric - banned from France and Canada - curled up in the trunk of a BMW crossing from Mexico into California.
    Said Jaziri, who led protests calling for the death of a Danish cartoonist that drew pictures of the prophet Mohammed, was deported from Canada to Tunisia in 2007.

Deepening Cooperation between the Lebanese Army and Hizbullah - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Standing on the Israeli side of the frontier with Lebanon, you can see a military outpost where Hizbullah troops keep close track of the movements on both side of the border.
    Security Council Resolution 1701, adopted at the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, prohibits any Hizbullah presence south of the Litani River, well north of the border. But that doesn't stop Hizbullah from maintaining a large presence in the area.
    On the Israeli side, officials are following the deepening cooperation between the Lebanese army and Hizbullah. This coordination will require Israel to put a great deal of thought into planning what to do about the Lebanese army in the next war.
    The new close relationship of Lebanon and Hizbullah comes as a consequence of a common fight against the Islamic State, where they are working shoulder-to-shoulder in regions near the Syrian border.
    Along the Israeli border, Hizbullah operatives, sometimes in civilian clothing and sometimes in Lebanese army uniform, often participate in vehicle patrols, Israeli officials say.
    In southern Lebanon, every village has been transformed into a fortified Hizbullah bastion. Each possesses an entire array of command and control and communications systems, and a variety of arms including rockets and anti-tank weapons.
    See also Lebanese President: Hizbullah's Weapons "Complete" the Lebanese Army's Weapons (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    Lebanese President Michel Aoun told Egyptian TV channel CBC on Sunday: "As long as the army is not strong enough to fight Israel, we sense that there is a need for the presence of the resistance's arms so that they complete the army's weapons."
    "Certainly Hizbullah's arms do not contradict with the State and are an essential component of the means to defend Lebanon."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranians Vilify U.S. President in Annual Rally - Asa Fitch and Aresu Eqbali
    Iran's annual celebration of its 1979 Islamic Revolution found a new villain on Friday in U.S. President Donald Trump. The annual march in Tehran on Friday featured the ritual burning of American flags, augmented this year with shows of hostility such as an effigy of the American president hanging by a noose and a poster of Mr. Trump with rifle sights on his face. Such displays were also routine during the Obama administration. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Criticizes Naming Palestinian to UN Post - Zachary R. Dowdy
    U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Friday, "The United States was disappointed to see a letter indicating the intention to appoint the former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister to lead the UN Mission in Libya....For too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel. The United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations."  (Newsday)
        See also Netanyahu Hails U.S. Veto of Ex-Palestinian PM as Libya UN Envoy
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday hailed the U.S. veto of the naming of a Palestinian as UN envoy to Libya. "The time has come for reciprocity in the UN's relations with Israel and free gifts cannot be constantly given to the Palestinian side. The time has come for positions and appointments to be made to the Israeli side as well."
        According to media reports, Israel could accept the appointment of former Palestinian premier Salaam Fayyad if former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni were offered the post of a UN deputy secretary of state. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Elects New Radical Leader in Gaza: Yahya Sinwar - Elior Levi
    Yahya Sinwar has been elected to lead Hamas in Gaza after internal elections, Al Jazeera reported. He replaces Khaled Mashal. (Ynet News)
        See also How Likely Is Another Israel-Hamas War? - Avi Issacharoff
    Gaza's Islamist rulers are seeking to avoid another major round of fighting similar to the 2014 Gaza war. Since members of the upper echelon of Hamas' political wing sense that they are on the edge of a political-economic breakthrough with Egypt, runs the Israeli assessment, they will do a great deal to keep things from getting out of hand.
        However, one key factor in Hamas could lead to a dramatic escalation of hostilities - Yahya Sinwar. Sinwar, 55, was released from Israeli prison six years ago as part of the Shalit prisoner-exchange deal, after 22 years behind bars. He is widely considered the strongest man in Gaza.
        Sinwar is an extremist even by comparison to other high-ranking members of Hamas' military wing. At one point he became known as "The Man of the 12" for the 12 Palestinians, suspected collaborators, whom he murdered with his own hands. (Times of Israel)
  • Police Stop Palestinian Running towards West Bank Playground with Knife
    Israeli Border Police arrested a 17-year-old female Palestinian who drew a knife and ran at an officer at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on Saturday, the Israel Police announced. When the officer aimed his weapon at her, she began to run towards a nearby playground where children were playing. (Ynet News)
        See also Armed Palestinian Arrested in West Bank
    When Israeli Border Police at the Shiloh junction north of Ramallah stopped a Palestinian taxi on Friday, a passenger was found to be carrying a handgun, Channel 2 reported. (Times of Israel)
        See also IDF Arrests Palestinians Responsible for West Bank Shootings - Anna Ahronheim
    The IDF arrested two Palestinians from the West Bank village of Rantis who carried out a shooting attack against an Israeli vehicle between the Israeli communities of Beit Aryeh and Nili in December. In another operation, five Palestinians from the West Bank town of Yabed were arrested for a drive-by shooting at an army position on Dec. 30, 2016. A senior IDF official said there were 89 shooting attacks in the West Bank in 2016, with most using weapons produced locally. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • When Foreign Governments Meddle in Israeli Politics - Editorial
    In the only stable democracy in the Middle East - Israel - anyone can criticize the government. But when foreign countries fund groups that wantonly slander the Jewish state, Israelis have a right to be miffed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made that point clear to British leader Theresa May and Belgium's PM Charles Michel last week. Who can blame him?
        "How would you feel if I was funding - with Israeli government money - organizations that call British soldiers 'war criminals'"? Netanyahu asked May. "I think the time has come to stop the funding."
        Directly or indirectly, UK government outlays of more than $2.5 million have gone to "groups that polarize Israeli society and for campaigns exploiting false allegations of 'war crimes,'" says Gerald Steinberg of the watchdog NGO Monitor. It certainly looks like "intervention in internal Israeli affairs," as Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked says. Israel faces enough hate. Allies like Britain shouldn't feed the beast. (New York Post)
  • Dershowitz Would Defend Israel in The Hague over Settlements Law
    American law professor Alan Dershowitz said that he would defend Israel in an international court if necessary over settlements legislation approved by the Knesset last week. "I'm opposed to the statute," Dershowitz said in an interview broadcast Saturday on Israel Radio, but said the court in The Hague was not the proper venue for such a case.
        "The International Criminal Court was set up to deal with genocide, with mass murderers, not to deal with property disputes. So I think it would be utterly improper for the International Criminal Court to set up an investigation based on a dispute over land....I would feel very comfortable defending Israel in front of the International Criminal Court if a case were brought on the kind of land dispute that is represented by that statute."  (Times of Israel)
  • ISIS Worries about a Hamas-Egypt Detente - Yoni Ben Menachem
    Why did the Islamic State, which is fighting an all-out war against the Egyptian army in northern Sinai, decide to open an additional front with Israel with rocket fire on Eilat? In an effort to placate Egypt, Hamas has lately begun hunting down operatives of the Salafi jihadist, Islamic State-affiliated organizations in Gaza. So far Hamas security forces have arrested about 350 Salafi operatives in Gaza, including some wanted by Egypt for terror activity in Sinai.
        The Salafi groups apparently want to damage Hamas and goad Israel into attacking Hamas for violating the ceasefire agreement reached after the 2014 Gaza war. Recently, senior figures of the Islamic State branch in Sinai, Sinai Province (Wilayat Sina'a), have begun referring to Hamas operatives as "infidels." Last week, Sinai Province proclaimed that "Hamas is an ally of Iran that keeps a ceasefire with the Jews while it fights Islamic State warriors."
        Hamas has decided to prioritize relations with Egypt. The Hamas leadership has concluded that, in terms of its interests, it has much more to gain from cooperation with Egypt than from cooperation with Sinai Province. Improved relations with Egypt means the opening of the Rafah crossing and a significant easing of the blockade on Gaza, which in turn strengthens Hamas' rule there.
        According to Israeli security sources, the Egyptian leadership is concerned about the rocket fire from Sinai at Eilat because it does not want to be seen as losing control of the territory. These sources say Israel and Egypt are now discussing the most effective military measures for eliminating the Islamic State threat in Sinai. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Dispelling the Myth that Israel Is the Largest Beneficiary of U.S. Military Aid - Hillel Frisch (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • Countless articles discrediting Israel note that Israel receives the bulk of U.S. military aid. But the numerical figure of $3.1 billion, while reflecting official direct military aid, is almost meaningless compared to the real costs of U.S. military aid abroad.
  • There are 150,500 American troops stationed in 70 countries that cost the American taxpayer an annual $85-100 billion, according to David Vine, a professor at American University and author of a book on the subject. Once the real costs are calculated:
    • The largest aid recipient is Japan, where 48,828 U.S. military personnel are stationed at a cost of $27 billion.
    • Germany, with 37,704 U.S. troops, receives aid equivalent to $21 billion; South Korea, with 27,553 U.S. troops, receives $15 billion; and Italy receives at least $6 billion.
    • Kuwait and Bahrain, whose American bases are home to over 5,000 U.S. military personnel apiece, receive military aid almost equal to what Israel receives.
  • U.S. air and naval forces constantly patrol the Northern, Baltic, and China Seas to protect American allies in Europe and in the Pacific - at American expense.
  • By contrast, no U.S. plane has ever flown to protect Israel's airspace. No U.S. Navy ship patrols to protect Israel's coast. And while in many countries U.S. troops act as a vulnerable trip-wire, no U.S. military personnel are put at risk to ensure Israel's safety.
  • Moreover, 74% of military aid to Israel is spent on American arms, equipment, and services. Under the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding, that figure will be changed to 100%.

    The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center.

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