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February 20, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah May Have Game-Changing Anti-Ship Missiles - Alexander Fulbright (Times of Israel)
    Hizbullah has obtained advanced, Russian-made, Yakhont anti-ship missiles, potentially threatening Israeli gas fields and the Israeli Navy in the Mediterranean Sea, the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot reported Sunday.
    The information was revealed by Western intelligence officials over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference.
    Israel is said to have targeted at least two shipments of Yakhont systems in 2013 from Syria to Hizbullah.
    The Yakhont has a reported range of up to 300 km.

Vice President Pence Visits Former Nazi Concentration Camp (AP-CBS News)
    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence toured the site of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany on Sunday, walking along the grounds where tens of thousands of people were killed during World War II.
    "We can never forget atrocities against Jews and others in the Holocaust," Pence said. He was accompanied by Abba Naor, a survivor of the camp.
    Pence, joined by his wife, Karen, and daughter, Charlotte, 23, placed a wreath beneath the International Memorial at the center of the camp, toured the barracks, and viewed the ovens inside the crematorium.
    Established in 1935, more than 200,000 people from across Europe were held at Dachau and subsidiary camps, and more than 40,000 died. The camp was liberated by U.S. forces in April 1945.

Hamas-Islamic State Conflict Intensifies in Gaza - Yaakov Lappin (
    Islamic State-affiliated armed groups are challenging Hamas rule in Gaza and are seeking to topple the Hamas regime, which they accuse of lacking in jihadist spirit.
    Hamas prefers to build up its military wing, fill up its rocket depots and dig tunnels for future cross-border attacks, while smaller Salafi jihadist groups insist on armed conflict with Israel now.
    At its ideological core, Islamic State considers Hamas a counterfeit movement due to its willingness to embrace Palestinian nationalism.
    In Islamic State's worldview, all forms of nationalism are to be discarded in favor of a single global Islamic identity.
    If Hamas were to choose to crush the Salafi jihadists in Gaza, it could so "without difficulties," argued Prof. Boaz Ganor, founder of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.
    "But they don't want to do this. It is comfortable for them to have a more extreme element than them in the Palestinian arena. This portrays Hamas as a rational and stabilizing force in the arena."

360-Degree View from IDF Observation Balloon at Gaza Border (Israel Defense Forces)
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Saudi Arabia, Israel Present De Facto United Front Against Iran - John Irish and Andrea Shalal
    Saudi Arabia and Israel both called on Sunday for a new push against Iran, signaling a growing alignment in their interests. Their ministers demanded at the Munich Security Conference that Tehran be punished for propping up the Syrian government, developing ballistic missiles, and funding separatists in Yemen.
        Turkey also joined the de facto united front against Tehran, as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized an Iranian "sectarian policy" aimed at undermining Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. He added, "It's good that we are now normalizing our relations with Israel."  (Reuters)
        See also Saudi Foreign Minister: Iran Main Sponsor of Global Terror
    Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that "Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world." "I believe that the Iranians must understand that acting the way they have for the past 35 years is not acceptable. I believe that the Iranians must understand that the world will not let them get away with literally murder. And I think when they do, their behavior will change. But so far we haven't seen a change in behavior."  (Saudi Gazette)
  • Jewish Leaders Applaud Trump's Focus on Palestinian Incitement - Rafael Medoff
    At his press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Feb. 15, President Trump said "the Palestinians have to get rid of" the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish material that appears in PA school texts. "They're taught tremendous hate," he said. "I've seen what they're starts at a very young age and it starts in the schoolroom."
        Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said, "The U.S. government should use all leverage at its disposal to do something about changing the Palestinian schoolbooks, especially when the U.S. provides the Palestinians with over $350 million in aid each year. It's an outrage that the incitement continues." Hoenlein emphasized that "ending the incitement should not be a result of negotiations, but rather must be a prelude to negotiations."
        Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president emeritus of Conservative Judaism's Rabbinical Assembly, said, "I am glad President Trump believes it is time for us to become more forceful in our efforts to force change....The road to peace cannot be achieved by teaching hate to generation after generation in school curriculums or by publicly praising killers of Israelis."
        Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg, former president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), noted that "the U.S. in the past verbally urged the PA to stop incitement, but there was no enforcement. If this was enforced, it would push the Palestinians to shift from the victimhood mode and start acting like a peace partner."  (
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Defense Minister: U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis Is Completely With Us on Iran - Ronen Bergman
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with his American counterpart in Munich on Friday for the first time since former Gen. James Mattis assumed the role of secretary of defense, telling him that the three central problems that need to be dealt with were "Iran, Iran and Iran."
        Lieberman told Yediot Ahronot on Saturday, "Defense Secretary Mattis is even stricter and harsher than us in his positions on Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. There is no need to convince him of anything. He's completely with us." Former "Defense Secretary (Ashton) Carter was also a supporter of Israel and we saw things eye-to-eye; he was the most pro-Israel official in the Obama administration." However, "it's clear now that this is a different administration, which is going to take decisive measures."
        In 2013, when the U.S. launched secret talks with Iran, President Obama ordered a significant reduction in U.S. actions against Tehran. "We know you were angry when President Obama ordered to halt some of the operations against Iran in early 2013," American officials told their Israeli colleagues on Friday. "We're working to rectify the situation."
        On Saturday, Lieberman met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, where he demanded that any agreement in Syria include the complete halt of arms transfers to Hizbullah. (Ynet News)
  • ISIS Says Israel Killed Four of Its Members in Sinai Drone Strike - Jack Khoury
    The ISIS-aligned Amaq news agency said Sunday that Israel killed four members of its Sinai branch on Saturday in a drone strike. They were planning on firing rockets at Israel. Mohammed Id, a Palestinian from Gaza, was among those killed in the strike. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Two Rockets from Sinai Hit Southern Israel Monday - Judah Ari Gross
    Two rockets fired from Sinai struck an open field in southern Israel on Monday near Gaza. (Times of Israel)
  • Hoenlein: Regional Cooperation with Israel Is Growing - Tamara Zieve
    After visits to Morocco and Egypt, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, on Sunday stressed the importance of fostering ties between Israel and moderate countries in the region. The Conference of Presidents works to foster closer relations between Israel and countries in Asia, Africa and the Arab world, largely behind the scenes. Hoenlein said there are many other "surprising" countries which have privately expressed interest in increasing cooperation with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestinian Leaders Have Spurned Countless Offers for a State - Editorial
    Talking of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict Wednesday, President Trump simply declined to endorse a Palestinian state for now, preferring instead to defer to the parties. For the record, a poll out of Israel on Wednesday showed that most Israelis (55%) back two states - yet only a minority of Palestinians (44%) do. Israelis have long been open to a Palestinian state, if their security is assured. Palestinian leaders have spurned countless offers for just that. The barrier is that they won't accept the existence of the Jewish state. (New York Post)
  • Trump Is Looking for a Better Path to Peace - Elliott Abrams
    Benjamin Netanyahu, for eight years scorned and insulted by the Obama administration, found himself warmly embraced in the Trump White House last week. No more name-calling, no more deliberate "daylight" between Israeli and American positions, no more abandonment of Israel at the UN. This was the central achievement of the Netanyahu visit: to put Israeli-American relations back where they were in the George W. Bush administration.
        At least since Bill Clinton, a "two-state solution" has been the insistent American goal, but where has it gotten us - or the Israelis and Palestinians? Trump is focusing instead on the goal, which is peace, and saying any road that gets us all there can work for him if it can work for the parties. Trump is challenging the conventional wisdom and asking if there is a better path to peace. The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. (Weekly Standard)
  • What Is Trump's Israel Policy? - Jennifer Rubin
    "For all of President Trump's image as a disruptor of the status quo, his approach to the Middle East so far has really involved returning to the traditional U.S. approach toward the region that President Obama had upended - viz. maintaining strong relations with our traditional Arab and Israel allies and opposing Iran and other radical Islamic entities. His meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is part of that approach," said Michael Makovsky, chief executive of JINSA.
        "Too much was made of Trump's comment about a one- or two-state solution being okay with him - he clearly was just stating his intention not to impose a solution. This was a sober recognition of reality, and offers a greater chance of a more realistic deal between the two parties."
        Robert Satloff, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says, "The U.S. doesn't have an interest in the specifics of the eventual agreement except that it be satisfactory to the parties and doesn't add insecurity to the broader region."  (Washington Post)

Israel Welcomes the Return of the U.S. Superpower - Ron Prosor (Newsweek)

  • President Trump seems to be hugging America's traditional allies close. Trump and Netanyahu see eye to eye on the fight against radical Islamist terror, the threat of Iran, and Israel's importance as a strategic asset for the U.S. in the Middle East.
  • The UN is systematically, institutionally hostile to Israel, but it is systematically hostile to America too, its institutions all too often hijacked by dictators to push extremist, pro-terror and anti-peace agendas.
  • Paradoxically, the UN's biggest funder is the American taxpayer, who last year contributed $9.2 billion to UN-linked groups.
  • The new president has a golden opportunity to hold the UN to account. It can no longer remain anti-Western, anti-democratic and unaccountable, and expect to get a star-spangled paycheck.

    The writer is Israel's former ambassador to the UN and the UK.

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