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March 17, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Israel's Arrow-3 Defense System Intercepts Syrian Missile - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel used its Arrow-3 missile defense system for the first time on Thursday after Israeli jets were targeted with Syrian anti-aircraft missiles during an operation over Syria.
    Three SA-5 surface-to-air missiles were fired by Syria at Israel Air Force planes. The missile intercepted by Israel's Arrow-3 apparently fell in Jordan, while two more fell in Israel. (Times of Israel)
    See also The Arrow Missile Has Undergone a Revolution - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The Arrow missile system was originally designed to intercept enemy ballistic missiles on their way to Israel outside the atmosphere - as far way as possible.
    The Arrow apparently can now be used against shorter-range surface-to-air missiles as well.

Hizbullah Is Preparing Syria as Second Battlefield Against Israel - David Daoud (Long War Journal)
    The pro-Hizbullah news site Ya Sour quoted Hizbullah sources last week saying the group intends to fire long-range missiles at Israel from the Qalamoun and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges, areas under its control on both sides of the Syrian-Lebanese border.
    Hizbullah sources said the region's vast expanses were ideal for easily and safely firing long-range missiles at Israel.
    This coincides with other reports that Hizbullah has transferred its longer-range rockets to Syria, as they require launching pads too large to be hidden in Lebanon from Israel's aerial surveillance.
    Placing its longer-range weapons in Syria is thought to put Hizbullah's rockets out of range of IDF ground troops, and they could be hidden in the Syrian army's hardened shelters to better insulate them from air strikes.
    On the second day of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, it took the Israeli Air Force 34 minutes to destroy most of Hizbullah's medium and long-range missiles tucked away in the rugged Lebanese terrain.
    With the dispersal of Hizbullah's missiles across the Qalamoun Mountains, Israeli jets would have to cover a much larger area to locate and destroy them, while also worrying about Syrian and Russian air defenses.
    However, Israeli strikes in the Qalamoun region - 43 to date - demonstrate that Hizbullah's arsenal lies well within Israel's reach.
    The writer is an Arabic-language analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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Photos: Kenyan Runner Wins Jerusalem Marathon (Jerusalem Post)
    The Jerusalem Marathon was held on Friday with 30,000 people who registered to participate.
    The winner of the full marathon was Shadrack Kipkogey, 26, from Kenya.
    Among the participants were children with disabilities, who were helped by volunteers from the Aleh organization.

Sisi Saved Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood and the Entire Region from Disaster - Smadar Perry (Ynet News)
    IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, 64, who retired after 13 years as director of the Defense Ministry's Political-Military Affairs Bureau, said:
    Egyptian President "al-Sisi is a miracle. I knew him even before he was elected president. He is determined, devoted and very honest. An Egyptian patriot and a religious person."
    "When the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power, they gave him a five-star rank of field marshal and were certain that he would do their job for them. But al-Sisi surprised and got rid of them, despite pressures from the Western countries, including the United States."
    "Al-Sisi - and I know this personally - reached the conclusion that if the Brotherhood took over and established regional alliances with similar movements, Egypt would fall into an abyss. And so, for purely patriotic reasons, he took a huge risk and removed them."
    "He saved Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood monster, and the entire region from a historical disaster."

New Golan Mine-Clearing Project - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    "This summer the Israeli Mine Action Authority (INMAA) will begin a three-year project to demine the Golan Heights," Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan told the Knesset on Wednesday.
    There are 825 hectares of known minefields and 9,000 hectares suspected of being mined throughout the country, mainly in open fields in the Golan Heights and on the Jordanian border.
    While incidents of civilians wandering into minefields are rare, 15 Israelis were injured in landmine accidents from 1999 to 2015.

IAI Unveils Foliage Penetration Radar (UPI)
    Israel Aerospace Industries on Tuesday revealed a new foliage penetration radar capable of identifying targets traveling through heavily wooded areas.
    The radar is supported by Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave technology, which allows operators to track personnel and vehicle movements in congested regions of interest in real-time regardless of a clear line-of-sight.
    "Using this radar has opened our eyes in places that were so far beyond our vision; this system has huge operational value," the company said, quoting a border protection commander.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Signaling Intention to Roll Back Iranian Influence, in Syria and Elsewhere - Nicholas Blanford
    Having successfully propped up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for more than six years, Iran appears to be preparing the ground for a long-term presence in the country, causing rising alarm in neighboring Israel and garnering the attention of Washington. Iran has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to buttress Syria's economy, oversees a multi-national Shiite militia force to bolster Assad's flagging army, and trains Syrian militia networks based on Iran's Basij paramilitary volunteer force.
        But Iran's expanding reach into Syria has made the country potentially a key arena if the U.S. wants to undermine Iran's regional stance, analysts say. As a consequence, President Trump's administration has signaled an intention to roll back the Islamic Republic's influence, not only in Syria but elsewhere in the region.
        "The best strategy to roll back Iranian influence is to weaken it in Syria by denying it the resources it has invested in through the Assad regime," said Randa Slim, an expert on Hizbullah at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. "Syria anchors the Iran-Syria-Iraq-Hizbullah axis. Denying Iran that anchor will roll back its influence not only in Lebanon and weaken Hizbullah but in the whole region."  (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Foreign ISIS Fighters Increasingly Isolated in Mosul Battle as Local Militants Flee - Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ali A. Nabhan
    Islamic State fighters from outside Iraq are increasingly being abandoned by local militants as the group loses ground in Mosul. Many foreign fighters and Iraqis from other parts of the country are unable to quit and blend in with civilians who are fleeing the city by the thousands.
        Between 1,500 and 2,000 Islamic State fighters remain in western Mosul, with 70-90% of them hailing from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, China, Tajikistan and Russia, including Chechnya, top counterterrorism officers estimate. "The foreign fighters stayed because they have no other place to go," said a senior Iraqi field officer. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Meets Again with Trump Envoy Greenblatt
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump's special representative, Jason Greenblatt, met Thursday for another positive discussion regarding the shared interest of the U.S. and Israel in advancing a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians that strengthens the security of Israel. Toward that end, they discussed concrete measures that could help support and advance Palestinian economic development.
        They also made progress on the issue of Israeli settlement construction, following up on President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu's agreement in Washington last month to work out an approach that reflects both leaders' views. Those discussions are continuing. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel Designates Palestinian Fund that Pays Terrorists and Their Families as "Terror Group" - Judah Ari Gross and Eric Cortellessa
    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared the Palestinian National Fund to be a terrorist organization on Thursday, accusing the PA-linked group of providing "massive support" to terrorists and funneling "tens of millions of shekels" each month to Palestinian security prisoners and their families. "The fund has a crucial role in the financial support for Palestinian terrorist operatives imprisoned in Israel, and it is used as the most significant route for transferring money." The fund is ultimately controlled by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
        Lieberman said that Israel will take steps to seize the fund's "money and property" in order to prevent the support of terror. Last year, the British government's Department for International Development froze part of its aid to the Palestinian Authority over concerns the aid was being used to fund salaries for convicted Palestinian terrorists. (Times of Israel)
        See also Incentivizing Terrorism: Palestinian Authority Allocations to Terrorists and their Families - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    President Trump's Envoy Visits Israel

  • On His First Visit to the Middle East, Trump's Envoy Jason Greenblatt Surprises Everyone - Barak Ravid
    President Trump's envoy Jason Greenblatt proved this week that even if he lacks the experience of veterans of the peace industry in America, he is blessed with sharp instincts, seriousness, common sense and a great deal of personal charm and emotional intelligence. Everyone on the Israeli side who met with Greenblatt this week, on both the right and the left, as well as everyone on the Palestinian side, had a positive impression.
        He surprised many by meeting with Palestinian residents of the Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah and with settlement leaders. He met with Palestinian and Israeli students, with residents of Gaza, and with senior Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics. The message Greenblatt reiterated was that President Trump is very serious when he talks about his desire to make "the ultimate deal" and that Israeli-Palestinian peace is very high on his priority list. (Ha'aretz)
  • The New Middle East Peace Process - Aaron David Miller
    This week President Trump's senior adviser on international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process - now in a virtual coma. The chances of the Trump administration waking the patient up, let alone facilitating a real road to recovery, are pretty close to zero. Even Greenblatt opined he was in a listening-only mode.
        The idea that the Sunni Arab states - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Emirates - can pressure the Palestinians has been tried before without much success. The new alignment between Israel and Arabs is real, premised on the mutual hostility both share toward Iran and Sunni jihadists. What is less evident is that these Arab states will reach out publicly to Israel and pressure Palestinians. And given Abbas' deep unpopularity on the Palestinian street, he's in no position to make concessions.
        The Arab states are eager to be in Trump's good graces and may be telling him much that he wants to hear. But is anyone really serious about the peace process? And that applies to the president, too. The writer, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations. (CNN)
  • How Trump Has Confused the Jews - Melanie Phillips
    President Trump continues to be the focus of confusion within the Jewish world. At first he was hailed as massively pro-Israel. He said he was opposed to the Iran deal and Israel's treatment by the UN, promised to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and appointed as U.S. ambassador a supporter of the settlers. But then he invited Mahmoud Abbas to the White House and sent his envoy Jason Greenblatt to make nice with him in Ramallah, asked Benjamin Netanyahu to hold back on settlement building and back-pedaled on moving the embassy. The writer is a columnist for The Times (UK). (Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • International Donors Have Become Accessories to a Palestinian Protection Racket - Hillel Frisch
    In neither Gaza nor the West Bank is the Palestinians' economic welfare determined by a functioning domestic economy, but rather by financial aid. What is wrong, one might ask, with living a highly subsidized life as long as international donors such as USAID, the EU, and church-related NGOs are ready to foot the bills?
        The PA, its militia Fatah, and Hamas have perfected a deadly political economy rather than building a functioning one. It is the use of force, or the threat of the use of force, that assures the flow of aid from international actors who have become accessories to a form of protection racket. The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • As Long as the Arab World Views Israel as a Temporary Aberration to Be Conquered, Israel Will Stand Fast - Einat Wilf
    The Arab, Muslim and Palestinian countdown until the end of Zionism and the State of Israel reflects the prevailing view that Zionism is a historical aberration that will not last. Any Israeli effort to end the military occupation in a manner that would bring it peace and security thus clashes with the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian view that no place for compromise and agreement exists that would grant legitimacy to Zionism and the State of Israel and that would accept its permanence.
        After all, if the Crusader state lasted 88 years, then in 2017 - when Israel will mark 69 years - all the Arab Palestinians have to do is wait a mere 19 more years until the second Crusader state will disappear.
        It is necessary to demonstrate to the Muslim-Arab world that, rather than constituting a second Crusader state, Israel is the sovereign state of an indigenous people who have come home. This can only be achieved if those who truly seek peace support the Jewish people in sending the message to the Arab world that the Jewish people are here to stay. Dr. Einat Wilf, a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute, is a former Knesset member. (BICOM-UK)
  • Israel's Entry Law, and America's
    A New York Times editorial and a number of other media outlets claim that Israel's new law restricting access to the country for some of those advocating a boycott of the Jewish state bars entry to anyone who "supports" BDS. In fact, the law is worded much more narrowly, and refers not to supporters but rather anyone "who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott - if the issuer was aware of this possibility."
        The U.S. has long had similar restrictions. Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act says that an alien "whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable ground to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States is inadmissible." That's much broader than Israel's language. It also bars those who would break laws for the purpose of "opposition to...the United States."  (CAMERA)
  • Assad Is Not the Solution in Syria - Matthew R.J. Brodsky
    Those who argue that Assad should remain in power as a check against the Islamic radicals ignore the war crimes and other atrocities committed by the regime, including chemical attacks, mass hangings, mass graves and the targeting of hospitals and schools. Keeping Assad in power would undermine both America's credibility and core values.
        Moreover, Assad doesn't have the military capability to hold Syria together. What's left of Assad's army is an empty shell, precariously held together by Russia, Iran and Hizbullah. Any plan to keep Assad in power means turning Syria into a Russian and Iranian state, an outcome clearly counter to American interests.
        There are no pillars left upon which Assad's legitimacy can rest; Bashar Assad can't "Make Syria Great Again." The majority of Sunnis are at war with the Alawis and Shiites, be they Arab Hizbullah or Persian Iranians. The name "Syria" is of ancient Greek origin and was long forgotten for hundreds of years until it was resurrected in the 19th century by local non-Muslims. The name reflected no overarching identity and evoked no national memory. Entering the seventh year of the conflict, the Syrian state exists today in name only. The writer is former director of policy at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington. (The Hill)
  • Iran's Budgets Are Fiction - Patrick Clawson
    On Feb. 27, the International Monetary Fund released its annual report about the Iranian economy. Buried in the report's supplement is the following: "Non-central government agencies can commit government funds (e.g., through public guarantees) and shift the cost of these commitments to the central government, who then fund these obligations. Moreover, there is no system to record these commitments or monitor arrears."
        Note the present tense in those sentences. The Rouhani government has no control over institutions that report directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), clerical foundations, and other such entities that can incur major debt for which the government is then liable. In other words, the Iranian government does not even know about, much less control, much of the country's spending, and the main international agency responsible for evaluating Tehran's fiscal policy is glossing over this massive problem. The writer, director of research at The Washington Institute, previously worked as a senior economist at the IMF and World Bank. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Weekend Features

  • Polish Historian's Book on Killing of Jews Exposes Raw Nerve - Aron Heller
    Barbara Engelking, a prominent Polish historian, presented evidence Wednesday about Polish villagers' widespread killing of Jews fleeing Nazis during World War II, in launching the English-language version of her 2011 book, Such a Beautiful Sunny Day, at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. The title is taken from the last words of a Jew pleading with peasants to spare his life before he was beaten and shot to death.
        Engelking, the founder and director of the Polish Center of Holocaust Research in Warsaw, said her decade-long research relied on diaries, documents and court files. "There was severe punishment from Germans for helping Jews. They (the saviors) acted not only against German law, but against their neighbors, against the atmosphere, against the common sense of anti-Semitism," she said. Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer said the significance of Engelking's findings was the enormity of the cruelty toward Jews that she details. "It is something that we assumed but she proves," he said.
        Havi Dreifuss, director of Yad Vashem's center for research on the Holocaust in Poland, said some 160,000-250,000 Jews escaped and sought help from fellow Poles. Only 10-20% survived, with the rest rejected, informed upon or killed by the rural Poles themselves. Jews found themselves in "a reality where very few acts of kindness were lost among the countless acts of cruelty, abuse and meanness," she said. (AP)
  • The Bolivian Who Helped Thousands of Jews Escape from the Nazis - Jose Arturo Cardenas
    German Jewish entrepreneur Mauricio Hochschild, who migrated to Bolivia from Germany in 1921, helped thousands of Jews flee to the South American country in the 1930s to escape the Nazis. "He saved many souls from the Holocaust by bringing them to Bolivia and creating jobs for them," said Carola Campos, head of the Bolivian Mining Corporation's information unit. "In 1938 Hochschild calculated that he had brought between 2,000 and 3,000 Jews over. But seven months later, in 1939, he calculated that he had brought 9,000," said historian Robert Brockmann.
        Hochschild paid the Jews' passage to Bolivia and housed them to begin with after they arrived. For many it was a stepping stone on to the United States, Brazil, Argentina or Israel. The Bolivian government nationalized Hochschild's mining company in 1952. (AFP-Times of Israel)
        See also Video: Old Files Reveal Wartime Tale of "Bolivian Schindler"  (AFP)

Was the Balfour Declaration Legal? - Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The Palestinian leadership's campaign to demand an apology from the UK for issuing the Balfour Declaration gives rise to questions regarding its continued relevance and legal status today.
  • The document was not an international agreement, but a letter acknowledging and declaring a national commitment by the British government, issued by the British Foreign Secretary.
  • International law and practice have consistently recognized and accepted unilateral declarations officially issued.
  • The International Law Commission determined that such public declarations create legal obligations to be respected by other states.
  • The subsequent incorporation of the Balfour Declaration into international multilateral instruments, such as the San Remo Declaration of 1920 and the League of Nations Mandate of 1922, further solidified its internationally binding nature.

    Amb. Alan Baker served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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