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February 24, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Culture Minister Seeks Return of Ancient Hebrew Inscription Taken from Jerusalem by the Ottomans - Ilan Ben Zion (Times of Israel)
    Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev used a trip to Turkey on Wednesday to offer Gaziantep mayor Fatma Sahin a trade: Two elephants for an ancient inscription from Jerusalem, currently housed in a Turkish museum, that is considered one of the most important ancient Hebrew inscriptions in existence.
    Sahin, a politician from the ruling AKP party, had spoken of her zoo's elephant problem: it has just one.
    Regev told her aides: "We'll make a deal. We'll give them the elephants, and they'll give us the inscription of Hezekiah."
    Regev was referring to the Siloam Inscription, a 2,700-year-old ancient Hebrew text that provides concrete historical support for the Biblical account of the construction of a tunnel which brought water from the Pool of Siloam to the City of David, below the southern edge of the Temple Mount, during the reign of King Hezekiah.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said he offered in 1998 to trade Turkish antiquities in Israeli museums for the inscription, but was turned down.
    Turkey holds two other ancient inscriptions at the Istanbul museum.

Israeli Archaeologists Discover 1,800-Year-Old Donor Plaque at Ancient Synagogue - Daniel K. Eisenbud (Jerusalem Post)
    An 1,800-year-old limestone column capital engraved with two Hebrew inscriptions dating to the Roman period was discovered during a recent restoration project in an ancient synagogue in Peki'in in Western Galilee.
    "A preliminary analysis of the engravings suggests that these are dedicatory inscriptions honoring donors to the synagogue," the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday.
    There has been a Jewish presence in Peki'in for 2,000 years. Margalit Zinati, the last Jewish resident, resides in a house next to the synagogue.

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Palestinian Kids Jump for Jihad at European-Funded Dance Competition - Itamar Marcus (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The Yafa Cultural Center in Nablus recently hosted a folk dance competition for youth where children danced to the prize-winning song "Pull the Trigger."
    "We replaced bracelets with weapons. We attacked the despicable [Zionists]....Jihad is needed. Pull the trigger."
    The center receives funding from the German development agency GIZ, Norway, and the EU.

Israeli Christian Arab in Air Force Pilots Course - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
    An Israeli Christian Arab began the Israel Air Force pilots course three months ago.
    Israeli Arabs are not required to do military service but they may volunteer. Several dozen Christian Arabs are currently serving in the IDF.
    The IDF notes that all military roles are open to Christian Arab volunteers provided they meet the same job and security requirements as all other soldiers.

Elbit Systems' U.S. Subsidiary Receives $102 Million Contract from U.S. Army (IHS Jane's)
    Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of the Israeli firm, was awarded a contract to provide and field mortar fire control systems by the U.S. Army Contracting Command.
    The maximum value of the contract is $102 million over five years.
    The Elbit control system improves mission success with greater accuracy while reducing potential exposure to the enemy.

Gazans Excited over New Shopping Mall - Fares Akram (AP)
    A new Western-style indoor shopping mall - complete with an international retail chain, three-story bookstore and bustling food court - has opened in Gaza City.
    The gleaming Capital Mall appears to be thriving. Thousands of Gazans have visited in recent weeks, buying shoes and clothes from the Turkish chain "De Facto," searching for gifts and school supplies in the bookstore and heading up to the fourth-floor food court to enjoy burgers, pizza and ice cream.
    There are stores that sell perfume and makeup, home decor and mobile phones. People can often be seen stumbling and giggling as they ride an escalator for the first time.
    See also AP Corrects on Gaza's "First" Mall (CAMERA)
    Initially, AP referred to the newly opened facility as the "first indoor shopping mall in the Gaza Strip."
    The new Capital Mall is the largest in Gaza, but it is not the first. Two smaller facilities were opened in 2010 and 2011.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump: "Two-State" Solution Hasn't Worked So Far - Steve Holland
    President Donald Trump spoke about the concept of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an interview with Reuters on Thursday: "I like the two-state solution, but I ultimately like what both parties like. People have been talking about it for so many years now. It so far hasn't worked. I like this two-state solution, but I am satisfied with whatever both parties agree with. I'm looking at two states and one state, and I like the one both parties like. I can live with either one."  (Reuters)
  • Turkey-Backed Rebels Seize Islamic State's al-Bab Stronghold in Syria - Louisa Loveluck and Liz Sly
    Turkish-backed rebels from the Free Syrian Army seized the Syrian town of al-Bab from Islamic State on Thursday, ending an offensive launched in August. (Washington Post)
  • Strike on ISIS Drone Unit Highlights Novel Intelligence Methods - Oriana Pawlyk
    A U.S. airman in Virginia spotted a piece of intelligence thousands of miles away. Ten days later, U.S. planes bombed 11 sites in the Middle East where American military officials say Islamic State militants manufactured deadly drones.
        Air Force Lt. Gen. VeraLinn Jamieson, the service's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said in an interview at the Pentagon on Thursday that Senior Airman Jean was able to maneuver her way through the data in large part because of her training in critical analysis and observation. The airman was working on intelligence from drones and spy planes when she spotted an anomaly. As a result, more than 10 facilities with parts of small drones controlled by ISIS were destroyed because "of one senior airman identifying a signal," Jamieson said. (
  • British Universities Urged to Crack Down on Anti-Semitism Ahead of Israel Apartheid Week - Camilla Turner
    British Universities Minister Jo Johnson has written to the chief executives of the representative bodies for higher education institutions, urging them to tackle "intimidation and violence" against Jewish students ahead of Israel Apartheid Week. Johnson reminded them of their responsibility to ensure students do not suffer "discrimination, harassment or victimization."
        "I am sure you share my concerns about the rising reports of anti-Semitic incidents in this country and will want to make sure that your own institution is a welcoming environment for all students and that the legal position and guidelines are universally understood and acted upon at all times."  (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Fighter Jet Shoots Down Hamas Drone - Yoav Zitun
    An Israeli Air Force fighter jet shot down an unmanned aircraft of Hamas which was making its way from Gaza to the Mediterranean on Thursday. The drone was identified immediately after takeoff. According to IDF policy, Hamas UAVs are shot down when they exit Gaza's airspace, either towards Israel or towards the sea. (Ynet News)
  • Israel to Provide Anti-Aircraft Missiles to India - Anna Ahronheim
    The Indian government has cleared a $2.5 billion deal to buy the Medium Range Surface to Air Defense Missile (MR-SAM) system from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the Indian Army, another step towards the signing of the deal, Indian media reported on Thursday. The MR-SAM system, jointly developed with India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), is a land-based configuration of the Barak-8 naval air defense system. Able to shoot down enemy aircraft at a range of 50-70 kilometers, it will help protect India and will replace the country's aging air defense systems.
        India and Israel are also jointly developing similar systems for the Indian Air Force and Navy. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Record 40,000 Runners at Tel Aviv Marathon
    A record number of 40,000 runners from across the country and abroad took part in the annual Tel Aviv marathon on Friday, which was won by Ethiopian runner Balata Mekonnen. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Video: The False Narrative of Iranian Moderation - Dore Gold
    The Iranian threat to Israel over the last number of years has been measured either by looking at the capabilities the Iranian armed forces have and are able to employ in any future conflict, and by the intentions that Iran harbors with respect to Israel's future and its security.
        In May 2016, the chief strategist for the previous administration, who marketed the Iran agreement to the American public, was Ben Rhodes. He explained that in order to make this agreement palatable in the United States and internationally, he needed to present Iran as a country that was moving in a much more moderate direction. But was it true?
        We've all seen evidence that Iran's behavior in the Middle East has become far more dangerous and severe. The Iranian navy is regularly moving throughout the Middle East region, from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, and has even visited the Mediterranean. Iran is testing new generations of missiles, despite the fact that the UN Security Council prohibited this type of activity.
        But where we have gotten a real reminder that this analysis of Iranian moderation is completely false is from the statements of Iranian leaders in just the last few months. In fact, on February 21, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khomenei, once again referred to Israel as a cancerous tumor in the Middle East that had to be removed. He spoke about the complete liberation of Palestine - which means the complete destruction of Israel. And he called for a holy jihad.
        That is not the voice of moderation. That is the voice of continuing conflict and escalation. When one considers the future of sanctions on Iran and whether the Iranian budget should be enriched so that it can procure more weapons, one has to take into account that Iran is not moving in the direction that we were promised and that Iran remains a very dangerous state. The writer, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former Israeli UN ambassador and director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Iranian Official and Social Media Call for the Destruction of Israel after the Iran Deal (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • America Is Right to Keep Up the Pressure on a Belligerent Iran
    The hardliners who are in charge in Tehran need to reconsider their priorities. Judging by their actions and rhetoric, they appear to believe that the nuclear agreement marked the end of a process of rehabilitation. In fact, it goes only part of the way. The purpose of the deal was to put tight limits on Iran's destabilizing enrichment program - nothing more, nothing less. In return, the rest of the world agreed to lift the UN-mandated economic sanctions that had crippled Iran's economy.
        However, other American sanctions on Iran remain, imposed a decade earlier to penalize Iran's human-rights abuses, support for terrorism, and development of weapons of mass destruction, including the missiles to deliver them. Congress extended these sanctions for ten more years in December. The Senate backed the extension by 99-0 and the House by 419-1. Iran's record of making trouble continues unabated. (Economist-UK)
  • For Trump and Arab Leaders, Confining Iran Is Top Priority - Dina Ezzat
    Containment of Iran and rolling back its expanding regional influence, not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will top the agenda for leaders of the Middle East, including Arab leaders, when they start to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump throughout March and April. A Washington-based Arab diplomat said, "I think it is safe to say that the U.S. is acting to make it very hard for Iran to maintain its current regional influence. This is precisely what two leading Middle East countries, Saudi Arabia and Israel, have been working for."
        In Cairo, one official said any plans that Cairo had to explore further cooperation with Tehran have been suspended. According to another source, Washington is already making it clear that it expects Egypt to have a leading role, "political and otherwise," in "handling Iran."  (Al-Ahram-Egypt)

  • Other Issues

  • A Common Sense UN Move - Richard Schifter and Eric Rozenman
    UNRWA was established as a temporary measure just after Israel's 1948-1949 War of Independence to provide short-term humanitarian assistance to the 420,000-650,000 Arab refugees from what became Israel. Over the years, UNRWA has helped prolong the refugee problem it was created to resolve. It boasts an annual budget of $1.3 billion, of which American taxpayers provide $400 million.
        During the 2014 Gaza war, UNRWA facilities - including schools and clinics - served wittingly or unwittingly as weapons depots and rocket launch pads. During periods of quiet, anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish curricula in UNRWA schools have indoctrinated future generations of terror recruits.
        Since simply abolishing UNRWA would overburden Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. should call for UNRWA to be folded into the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and require that Palestinian Arab refugees be treated like all other displaced groups. Amb. Richard Schifter is chairman of the American Jewish International Relations Institute. Eric Rozenman is communications consultant for the Jewish Policy Center. (The Hill)
  • Trump's New Ambassador Is Right: the UN Is Anti-Israel - Rod Liddle
    Nikki Haley, the new U.S. ambassador to the UN, has called out the organization's anti-Israel bias. Now that she's said it, we all can, with a bit more confidence. (Spectator-UK)
  • Zionism Is the Jewish Civil Rights Movement - Nadiya Al-Noor
    Zionism is the support for and affirmation of the Jewish right to self-determination in their indigenous homeland of Israel. It's the Jewish civil rights movement. It is the struggle of a native people who have been oppressed for thousands of years, expelled from their land, killed and persecuted wherever in the world they went. It is the celebration of victory, of the return home after millennia of diaspora, of surviving and flourishing against all odds. (Times of Israel)

  • Weekend Features

  • Jerusalem Art School Fosters Design Talent among Students with Disabilities - Andrew Tobin
    Asaf Ventura was seriously injured during a 2002 mission with his army unit in the West Bank. "I remember in the hospital thinking, 'I'm only 22 and I've lost my body and my looks. I can't do any of the things I used to do.'"
        After years of intensive and painful rehabilitation, at the age of 28 he entered the prestigious Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. Now 35, he says, "As a designer...I learned I have an advantage. My work comes from my feelings, and I know what it is to suffer and to have a disability. I can use technology to create things that other people wouldn't think of."
        About a decade ago, Bezalel started a class in industrial design for people with special needs. Over the years, students have created dozens of products: costumes that encourage children to move during physical therapy; air-cushioned prosthetic legs with superhero designs; fashionable clothes that people with limited range of movement can easily get on and off.
        For his final project, Ventura built a floating gym for people rehabilitating from injuries. Wounded soldiers at the army center in Haifa where he did more than four years of intensive rehabilitation helped him test his designs in the training pool. (JTA)
  • Photos: IDF Alpine Soldiers Train in Winter - Itay Blumental
    The IDF Alpine Unit is stationed on Mt. Hermon on the Syrian-Lebanon border. With winds blowing at 70 km/h, the fighters went out on patrol wearing white snow suites, skis strapped to their feet and carrying heavy equipment on their backs. The unit consists of reserve soldiers who, during their active duty, served in elite infantry units. Over the summer, regular infantry units patrol the peak of Mt. Hermon. However, in the snowy winter, the Alpine fighters receive their orders to report for reserve duty due to their unique set of skills.
        "The guys leave their families and their jobs, and come to serve in extreme weather. We come here to do our work in order to protect Israel," explained Amir Shukrun, Commander of the Alpine Unit Training Company. "Motivation is high."  (Ynet News)
  • How Israel Became a Leader in Cybersecurity and Surveillance - Tim Johnson
    Israel, with a population of just eight million people, has become a powerhouse in cybersecurity. Only the U.S. has greater strength in the field. A good number of the 420 companies in the field of cybersecurity that get funded by venture capital were founded by veterans of the Israel Defense Forces' legendary high-tech spy branch. Unit 8200, which comprises several thousand cyber warriors, is the Israeli equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency.
        "You literally grow up with the unit's motto of everything is possible. There is no such thing as impossible. This is impressed into you since day one," said Yonatan Striem-Amit, a Unit 8200 veteran. Motivated by patriotism, aware of the proximity of mortal enemies with increasing cyber skills, and without superiors insisting on traditional ways of doing things, the unit's members dive headlong into task-oriented challenges. (McClatchy)
  • The Historical Ties between the Jews and the Chinese - Yaniv Pohoryles
    "The Jews and the Chinese are the most ancient people in the world," says Dr. Danielle Gurevitch of Bar-Ilan University. "China's ancient culture developed in parallel to ancient Jewish culture, and they have a lot in common. China was known as a place of refuge for Jews who lost their homes, and they lived on Chinese soil in coexistence and with mutual help."  (Ynet News)

Claims that Relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem Will Derail a Comatose Peace Process Ring Hollow - Amos Yadlin (Financial Times-UK)

  • The decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would be a long-awaited recognition of Israel's historic capital by its closest ally. Although the proposed relocation is accompanied by some risks, smart and co-operative diplomacy can mitigate the dangers.
  • Opponents of the proposal note that it risks obstructing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, would cause the deterioration of Israel's relations with its Arab neighbors, and could incite Muslim terror groups worldwide. But all these warnings are overblown. Claims that the embassy move will derail a peace process comatose for nearly a decade ring hollow.
  • The exact opposite might be true: the decision could prompt the Palestinians to re-evaluate their strategy of refusing direct negotiations, which has paralyzed the peace process.
  • Predictions of a looming intifada ignore reality: the Palestinians have little interest in escalating the conflict in light of the meager results that violence has achieved compared with the heavy toll it has taken.
  • Consultations between the U.S., Israel, Egypt and Jordan should clarify that relocating the U.S. embassy does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city of Jerusalem, nor does it affect Jordan's role in administering - or Muslims' access to - holy sites.

    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, heads Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies.
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