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March 13, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

New Bomb Threats Target Jewish Centers in U.S., Canada - Emanuella Grinberg and Jessica Rajendra (CNN)
    At least five North American Jewish centers reported bomb threats Sunday as Jews observed the holiday of Purim.

Photos: Celebrating Purim in Israel - Itay Blumental and Ilana Kuriel (Ynet News)

Jordan Releases Terrorist Who Murdered 7 Israeli Girls in 1997 (Israel Hayom)
    On March 13, 1997, Cpl. Ahmed Daqamseh of the Jordanian army opened fire on a group of 7th- and 8th-grade Israeli schoolgirls visiting the Island of Peace, a joint Israeli-Jordanian tourist resort, killing seven girls and wounded five others and a teacher.
    Daqamseh was released Sunday after serving 20 years in prison.
    Jordan's King Hussein made a public apology to Israel over the murders and paid condolence visits to the girls' families.
    See also Freed Jordanian Who Killed 7 Israeli Girls Shows No Remorse - Omar Akour (AP-Washington Post)

Intel to Buy Israel's Mobileye for $15 Billion - Omri Zerachovitz (Ha'aretz)
    Technology giant Intel is purchasing Israeli company Mobileye for $14-15 billion, in the biggest deal in the history of Israel's high-tech industry, sources told The Marker.
    Mobileye, based in Jerusalem, develops driver assistance systems and is developing the technology for automated cars.
    In 2016, Mobileye teamed up with BMW and Intel to develop new technology that could put self-driving cars on the road by 2021.

How Iran Exports Weapons and Illicit Goods - Perry Chiaramonte (Fox News)
    In Iran, 90 docks have been taken over by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is using them to circumvent sanctions and fund terrorist activities in the Middle East and beyond, according to the anti-regime People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran.
    In order to fund its activities, the Revolutionary Guard engages in smuggling products that net $12 billion annually.
    These docks are also used to transfer arms to other countries without international supervision.

IDF Report Highlights Palestinians Who "Seek Suicide" through Attacks - Dov Lieber (Times of Israel)
    A new Israeli army report titled "Beyond the Knife: How Domestic Problems Can Lead to Terror," highlights attacks by Palestinians over the last year and a half that were motivated by a desire to commit suicide, rather than by ideology.
    Reasons for some lone-wolf attacks "include but are not limited" to "domestic violence within the household (with family members such as siblings, spouses, fiance, etc.); social criticism for an immoral act such as adultery, lack of respect for the family, matriculation failure and more; and serious psychological issues stemming from depression, despair, and mental illness."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinian Leader Invited to White House in Trump Call
    President Donald Trump invited Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to the White House to discuss resuming peace talks in their first contact since Trump took office in January. "The president emphasized his personal belief that peace is possible and that the time has come to make a deal," the White House said. "The president noted that such a deal would not only give Israelis and Palestinians the peace and security they deserve, but that it would reverberate positively throughout the region and the world."
        Trump underscored that such a peace agreement must be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Palestinian and Israeli leadership to make progress toward that goal. (AP)
        See also Trump Invites Abbas to White House in Bid for Middle East Peace - Michael Lipin
    The Mideast peace process has been deadlocked since April 2014, when indirect talks led by then-Secretary of State John Kerry broke down. Since then, Netanyahu has repeatedly offered to resume talks with Abbas without preconditions, while Abbas has declined such offers.
        On Thursday, Reuven Azar, deputy head of Israel's embassy in Washington, told a Wilson Center forum that Trump and Netanyahu agreed to form a U.S.-Israel "working group" to strengthen the Palestinian economy, as a way of changing the status quo of the conflict. (VOA News)
  • Palestinian Children Pretend to Execute Israeli Soldier - as Teachers at Schools Funded by UK Tell Pupils that Terrorists Are Heroes - Ian Birrell
    Britain is pumping huge sums of foreign aid into 24 Palestinian schools named after mass murderers, which encourage pupils to see child killers as role models. Pictures of "martyrs" are posted on school walls, revolutionary slogans and symbols are painted on the premises, and children are encouraged to act out shooting Israeli soldiers in plays. Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: "We cannot stand idly by while the Palestinian Authority sanctions anti-Semitic incitement which poisons young minds and makes a two-state solution ever more difficult to achieve."
        Itamar Marcus, the director of Palestinian Media Watch, said, "Britain and the European Union bear responsibility for this terror when they are funding a school system that is actively promoting, and thereby creating, terrorism. This is simply child abuse, encouraging kids to die in armed struggle."
        Western donors, stung by accusations of aiding terrorism, forced the PA to change its school curriculum. But teachers said they ignored the bans on certain issues, claiming their leaders agreed to controls just to obtain aid cash. However, Anwar Abu Quak, an English teacher in Ramallah, asked, "Where does all this aid money go? First look at the schools, with no libraries or playgrounds and 45 children to a class - then look at the well-furnished offices of officials."  (Mail on Sunday-UK)
  • Assad: U.S. Military Forces in Syria Are "Invaders" - Joe Sterling, Jennifer Deaton and Barbara Starr
    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad called American troops deploying to Syria "invaders" because he hadn't given permission for them to enter the country. "And we don't think this is going to help. What are they going to do? To fight ISIS? The Americans lost nearly every war. They lost in Iraq, they had to withdraw at the end. Even in Somalia, let alone Vietnam in the past and Afghanistan."
        The Syrian leader was interviewed by China's Phoenix TV and his remarks were reported by Syria's SANA news agency on Saturday. U.S. Marines have arrived in northern Syria with artillery to support U.S.-backed local forces prior to an assault on Raqqa, ISIS' capital. (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Two Israeli Border Policemen Wounded in Jerusalem Stabbing - Roi Yanovsky
    Two Israeli border policemen were wounded Monday after being stabbed by a Palestinian near the Lions' Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. The attacker, a resident of the Jabel Mukaber neighborhood of Jerusalem, was shot dead by one of the injured officers. This is the first attack in the area in three months. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Arrests Hamas Cell near Jerusalem - Gili Cohen
    Five Palestinians from a Hamas cell in Bidu in the West Bank near Jerusalem were arrested in February for planting bombs, throwing firebombs at security forces, and taking part in shootings at the town of Har Adar in 2015, the Israel Security Agency said Sunday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Uncovers a Second Hamas Terror Network - Anna Ahronheim
    Muhammad Aazi, 20, a Hamas operative from Jamma'in, southwest of Nablus, was arrested along with Noor Aldin Ghaith, 22, from Hebron, for planning shooting attacks against Israeli targets, the Israel Security Agency said Sunday. The two planned to scatter nails on a main road to cause vehicles to stop so they could attack them. Weapons bought to carry out the attack were seized. The two also built bombs to throw at Israelis and tested the devices. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iranians at the Gate - Eyal Zisser
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Russia last week was dedicated to Israel's red lines on any Iranian presence in Syria if and when the war there comes to an end. Iran potentially could have physical control of the country, thanks to tens of thousands of its operatives on the ground from Hizbullah, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, or Shiite militia fighters "imported" by Iran into Syria from across the Middle East.
        The immediate issue Israel must deal with is the Iranian and Hizbullah presence in southern Syria, while the long-term issue is the question of Iran's status in Syria. The writer, vice rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
  • Who Will Dominate the Post-Islamic State Landscape in Iraq and Syria? - Jonathan Spyer
    While the tactical contests are continuing, the general direction of events in both the war against Islamic State and the fight between Assad and the rebels is now clear. Islamic State is on its way to ceasing to exist as an entity controlling significant territory. Having lost tens of thousands of fighters and with the flow of recruits drying up, facing enemies with complete control of the skies and vast superiority in numbers and equipment, Islamic State has no means of reversing the trend. Moreover, the rebellion against Assad is in retreat, and its eventual eclipse seems a near certainty.
        As the direction of events becomes clear, so the possibility emerges of the Iran-led alliance achieving an overall victory in the Syria and Iraq wars. Assad's own forces are entirely dependent for advances on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hizbullah, Iraqi Shi'a militia forces and paramilitary formations created by the Iranians. That is, the real power would be Iran-arranged forces on the ground.
        Yet advances for the Iranian side are possible only with the support of Russian air power. And Russian goals in Syria do not necessarily dovetail with Tehran's. The writer is Director of the Rubin Center, IDC Herzliya, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum. (Jerusalem Post)

Trump's Middle East Diplomacy Is Complicated by Palestinian Terror Incitement - Josh Rogin (Washington Post)

  • The Trump administration's budding efforts to establish a new Middle East diplomatic process are about to run into calls in Congress to cancel U.S. aid to the Palestinians because of payments made to militants who attack Israelis.
  • On the agenda of White House Israel affairs adviser Jason Greenblatt, who is headed to the region this week, is whether the U.S. and Israeli governments should raise the pressure on the Palestinian Authority to stop paying the families of Palestinians imprisoned or killed after attacking Israeli or American civilians, a practice both governments believe incentivizes violence.
  • Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are pushing legislation that would cut off all U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, more than $300 million in fiscal year 2016, unless the PLO ceases rewarding the families of attackers. The bill is named after Taylor Force, a former Army officer who was stabbed to death last year by a Palestinian attacker while on a student trip to Israel.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee for foreign operations, argues that withholding U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority is the only way to get Abbas' attention and pressure him to dismantle a sprawling bureaucracy dedicated to compensating families of Palestinians involved in attacks.
  • Even some longtime advocates of Palestinian institution-building are now on board with defunding. "We have been doing the same thing for decades, and it isn't working to change Palestinian political culture, and that political culture has to change if we want peace," said Elliott Abrams, a former White House and State Department official.
  • An Israeli embassy official told me that the government thinks it very important to shine a spotlight on the issue, especially as the peace process gets going again. "You can't pay terrorists and support peace."

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