Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
February 23, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Netanyahu Meets with the Australian Cabinet (Prime Minister of Israel-YouTube)
    See also Video: Netanyahu Meets with Jewish Community in Sydney (Prime Minister of Israel-YouTube)
    See also Video: Netanyahu Visits Jewish School in Australia (Prime Minister of Israel-Facebook)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visit the Jewish Moriah College in Sydney.

Israeli Artillery Poised for Longer-Range Precision Strikes - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    The job of destroying fixed targets as well as targets of opportunity is increasingly being given to the IDF Artillery Corps, which operates precision-strike assets formerly reserved for the Israeli Air Force.
    In addition to increasingly precise and longer-range missiles and munitions, the Artillery Corps is operating UAVs.
    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Eli Reiter said the technology allows ground forces to strike targets within less than 10 meters - regardless of range.
    "Forces on the ground are just as capable as air power in delivering precision strikes, whether targets are a few tens of kilometers or hundreds of kilometers away," Reiter said.
    "And because we're working with GPS systems, we don't have to deal with fog, smoke or bad weather. From the moment you identify the target, the C4I system serves as the trigger that fires the rockets."
    "Then it's a matter of one to three minutes, according to the flight time of the rocket. You don't need to wait for an airplane or helicopter to arrive."

Apple Buys Israel's Facial Recognition Firm RealFace - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    Apple Inc. has acquired Israel's Realface, a startup whose facial recognition technology can be used to authenticate users, the financial website Calcalist reported Sunday.

The U.S.-Israel Economic Bond - Jon Medved (Washington Times)
    Despite having a tiny population of eight million people, Israel is playing a crucial role in helping to power the U.S. economy for the next generation.
    Innovative startups create new jobs. As the U.S. looks to encourage more business growth, Israeli technology startups launching in the U.S. will be a big part of the answer.
    According to a recent Massachusetts-Israel Economic Impact Study, Israeli-founded businesses generated $18.1 billion in economic impact for Massachusetts alone in 2015, which is 4% of the state's GDP.
    Over 200 Israeli-founded businesses in greater Boston created 28,000 jobs.
    American companies accounted for two-thirds of the 300 multinational research and development centers in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Vice President Pence Joins Cleanup at Vandalized Jewish Cemetery - Alexandra Larkin and Faith Karimi
    Vice President Mike Pence and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Wednesday visited the vandalized Jewish cemetery in a St. Louis suburb where at least 170 headstones were toppled and damaged. Pence thanked residents for their efforts to restore the toppled headstones, then picked up a rake and helped in the cleanup. (CNN)
  • Iran Training Its Military Officers on Syrian Front - Sirwan Kajjo and Mehdi Jedinia
    Iran is increasingly using Syrian battlefields as a proving ground for its military officers in training, according to Iranian media reports and Syrian opposition figures. Tehran says its forces are in Syria to protect the Zeinab Shrine in Damascus, a Shi'ite holy site. But since 2011, Iran has expanded its forces far beyond the shrine area.
        Morteza Saffari, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, said at least 100 students from Imam Hossein University in Tehran have been dispatched to Syria for training in combat situations. "Some of the students sent for two-month training sessions got martyred (killed), many were injured and some have been deployed in Syria for a longer period," he said. Iran's Tasnim news agency said 1,000 Iranian soldiers have been killed in Syria. (VOA News)
  • Partners in Israeli Leviathan Gas Field Okay $3.75 Billion Investment
    Developers of Israel's Leviathan natural gas field, discovered in 2010, said on Thursday they had approved a $3.75 billion final investment decision on the first phase of the largest energy project in Israel's history. $1 billion has already been invested in exploration and planning for the reservoir, located 100 km. (62 miles) west of Haifa. According to a development plan approved by the government in 2016, gas will be available by the end of 2019. The first stage will involve drilling four production wells at an average depth of 5 km. below sea level. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Chief: Hizbullah Suffering from Crisis of Morale - Yoav Zitun
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday that while Hizbullah's involvement in the Syrian civil war allowed its fighters to gain significant operational experience, it sparked a crisis affecting both the group's finances and its fighters' morale.
        Eisenkot asserted that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah's recent threats were meant to maintain the status quo with Israel as he sees it. Eisenkot said that, at present, he does not see a willingness among Israel's enemies both on the northern front and in Gaza to initiate a military campaign against Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Successfully Tests Improved Anti-Missile System
    Israel has completed a series of successful tests of an improved version of the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the Israeli Defense Ministry said Wednesday. The interceptor rockets tested were made with components manufactured by U.S. defense contractor Raytheon under Israeli supervision. During the 2014 Gaza War, Iron Dome intercepted 735 incoming rockets. (Times of Israel)
  • Culture Minister Flies to Turkey to Help Protect Israeli Basketball Team
    Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev traveled with the Ironi Nahariya basketball team to its Europe Cup match in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Wednesday after Turkish officials refused to allow the team to be accompanied by armed security forces. After Turkish authorities said they only approve armed escort for guests with the rank of minister and above, Regev joined the team's flight. Gaziantep, in southeastern Turkey, has been the scene of several attacks attributed to Islamic State. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • New U.S. National Security Adviser Has a Different Assessment of America's Relationship with Islam - Eli Lake
    While Gen. Michael Flynn focused on defeating the ideology of radical Islam, the new U.S. national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, has focused on getting radical Muslims to turn on al-Qaeda and other terrorists. McMaster helped rewrite the Army's counterinsurgency doctrine during the Iraq war, to apply the lessons of asymmetric warfare to the Muslim world.
        This meant in practice that he learned how to make allies out of Muslim fighters who had killed Americans, to turn the local population against al-Qaeda. In McMaster's war, ideological purity was a hindrance to an effective campaign for the hearts and minds of pious Muslims. Lt.-Col. (ret.) John Nagl said McMaster "understands that the world is not one dimensional, that the Muslim world is not one-dimensional. Even people who are our enemies today may decide to fight on our side tomorrow."  (Bloomberg)
  • Can Iran Hold Together Long Term? - Walter Russell Mead
    A growing protest movement in Ahvaz, a majority Arab Iranian city near the Iraqi border, has lately been shut down by security forces. It is important not to over-interpret the significance of one regional movement. Still, the biggest trend in politics for the last 150 years has been the break-up of multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic states into smaller and more homogenous units as people demand more control over their own lives.
        Iran is one of the world's most vulnerable states to this trend, with Azeris, Kurds, Balochs, and many other minority groups under the corrupt, heavy-handed and often not-very-effective rule of the mullahs. The Iranian Kurds want independence, and many of Iran's Arabs would gladly join with their Shi'a Arab brethren (and fellow tribesmen in many cases) across the border. The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University. (American Interest)
  • What Would a Palestinian State Look Like? - Father Raymond J. de Souza
    As much as Israel might be leery of what a Palestinian state might look like, the Jordanians are terrified. If the West Bank were to become like Gaza, controlled by Hamas, or like Sinai, effectively a stateless territory, or like parts of Syria and Iraq, under the control of ISIS, or like Lebanon, home to Iranian proxies - the Hashemite Kingdom might not survive. (National Post-Canada)
  • Israel's Need for Defensible Borders - Sir Eric Pickles
    I first came to Israel in 1980 and fell in love with the place and its people. Israel is a bastion of democracy in a region plagued by chaos and autocracy. It celebrates and protects the same values that we in Britain cherish. In sheer defiance of its tough neighborhood and limited natural resources, Israel has fast become one of the world's most advanced countries.
        The importance of Israel's need for defensible borders was brought home to us when we visited the Gaza border and were reminded of the threats that Israel faces on a daily basis. An elderly resident of the Netiv Ha'asara moshav recalled how a Hamas tunnel came out of the ground just yards from a kindergarten, with the potential of carrying out mass Israeli casualties. The writer is parliamentary chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel and the prime minister's UK envoy on post-Holocaust issues. (Jerusalem Post)

Hizbullah Losing Its Luster under Iranian General Soleimani - Hanin Ghaddar (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • The deteriorating relations between Hizbullah and the Syrian regime are no longer secret. Lebanese social media platforms affiliated with supporters of Hizbullah are replete with mockery of the Syrian army's incompetence, corruption, clumsiness, and cowardice, with Assad's forces often blamed for causing Hizbullah losses.
  • Hizbullah has been working under the supervision of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for years, but IRGC-Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani began micromanaging their military operations to an unprecedented degree.
  • As one Hizbullah fighter told the author in December, "It was clear to many of us that [Soleimani's] priority was to protect the Iranians, and that [Hizbullah fighters] and all non-Iranian Shiites could be sacrificed."
  • Similarly, a number of other Hizbullah fighters have complained of being abandoned by their Iranian and Iraqi Shiite allies on the battlefield. Such incidents led to many losses among Hizbullah's ranks, and some fighters subsequently refused to fight under Iranian commanders.
  • As a result, significant numbers of veterans have been leaving Hizbullah and are being replaced by newcomers who are thrown into battle after a month or two of training. Previously, Hizbullah spent decades screening and preparing its fighters. Today, Hizbullah's army in Syria is full of unreliable young fighters who have no real moral compass.

    The writer, a veteran Lebanese journalist, is a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute.

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