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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
March 21, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Intercepted Syrian Missile Carried 200 Kg. of Explosives - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    The Syrian SA5 missile intercepted by Israel's Arrow 2 defense system on Friday carried a warhead with 200 kg. of explosives and would have landed in the Jordan Valley.
    The Syrian missile was launched from a base near Homs around 2:40 a.m., and Israel's aerial defense forces had less than a minute to decide to launch the Arrow.
    "It is a heavy-weight Syrian armament," said a senior Air Force officer on Monday. "We didn't care if it was a surface-to-surface missile or a surface-to-air missile.... The Arrow was chosen in accordance with the level of threat and the availability of the defense systems on hand. There was no other option except to intercept."
    The commander of the IAF's Aerial Defense, Brig.-Gen. Zvika Haimovich, said: "The missile fired posed a threat to Israeli citizens. The guidelines are to protect the people of Israel and that is what we did."

Iran Loses Thousands, 10 Generals in Syria-Iraq Wars - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center analyzed the different estimates of Iranian losses in the Syria-Iraq wars on Sunday.
    Washington Institute for Near East Policy researcher Ali Alfoneh recently put the number of losses under Iranian command at 2,603, including 511 Iranians, 1,045 Hizbullah fighters, and 1,047 Afghan, Pakistani and other Shi'ite militia fighters.
    More than 10 Iranians of the rank equivalent to brigadier-general have been killed.

Hamas Leader: The Quran Tells Us to Drive the Jews Out of All of Palestine (MEMRI TV)
    Hamas co-founder and senior official Mahmoud al-Zahar told Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV on March 8:
    "Removing the Jews from the land they occupied in 1948 is an immutable principle, because it appears in the Book of Allah."
    "Let me advise our brothers and sisters from the Islamic movement - from Hamas and Islamic Jihad - never to use the term '1967 (borders)'."
    "Our position is: Palestine in its entirety, and not a grain of soil less."

Inside an Israeli Hospital that Treats Wounded Syrians - Tim Samuels (BBC News)
    BBC Radio 4's Tim Samuels spent 24 hours in Ziv hospital in northern Israel where Israeli doctors tend to Syrians who have been smuggled over the border for life-saving treatment in a country with which Syria is technically still at war.
    Several thousand Syrians have been treated in Israel.
    In the children's ward, a mother who has brought her son for treatment describes how her trip to Israel must remain a secret - or she could be killed when they return.
    In the hospital - staffed by Jewish, Muslim and Druze medics - the doctors talk about the psychological toll of treating the war wounded.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Boycotts UN Rights Council Debate Due to "Long-Standing Bias Against Israel" - Jamey Keaten
    The U.S. on Monday boycotted a Human Rights Council session focusing on Palestinian areas, saying the council's "long-standing bias against Israel" threatens the credibility of the UN body. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley denounced how Israel was the only country that is a permanent fixture on the HRC's calendar. "It is not Syria, where the regime has systematically slaughtered and tortured its own people. It is not Iran, where public hangings are a regular occurrence. It is not North Korea, where the regime uses forced labor camps to crush its people into submission. It is Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East."  (AP-ABC News)
  • Istanbul Conference Asserts Right of Return to Israel for Millions of Palestinian Refugees - Ali Younes
    Thousands of diaspora Palestinians converged on Istanbul last month to demand an end to what they see as concessions made by the political leadership based in Ramallah in their name that favor Israel and demand the right to return to Palestine. The final statement of the two-day conference demanded the right of return of millions of refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.
        Israel views this demand as beyond consideration because it would, for all practical purposes, undermine its founding principle as a state created for the Jewish people. (Al Jazeera)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Foiled 400 Terrorists in 2016 - Jonathan Lis
    Nadav Argaman, head of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that the ISA foiled over 400 potential terrorists last year before they could execute their plans. "The infrastructure of Hamas and global jihad is constantly trying to mount attacks in Israeli territory. Sadly, during the last year, 16 people and one foreign national were killed by terror attacks in Israel." In addition, in 2016, 149 people were injured. In 2015, there were 20 deaths in terror attacks and 188 injuries.
        Argaman said that in 2016 the ISA frustrated 344 major terror attacks, including 184 that involved guns; 16 potential abductions; 16 suicide attacks; and 86 attacks using knives or vehicles. During 2016, 1,035 Hamas activists were arrested in the West Bank and 114 local Hamas cells were apprehended. There were 44 terror attacks that originated in Gaza, but for the first time in 30 years there were no Israeli casualties. Some 29 Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem were involved in terrorism in 2016, up from three in 2015. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iran Accused of Planning Attack on Head of French-Israel Business Group - Benjamin Weinthal
    Iran's Quds Force plotted to surveil - and possibly assassinate - French-Israeli business professor David Rouach, the head of the French-Israeli chamber of commerce. The Berliner Zeitung reported that Pakistani citizen Syed Mustafa, 31, spied on Rouach, who teaches at the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris (ESCP). The Quds Force, a U.S.-classified terrorist entity, paid Mustafa at least 2,052 euros. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel, Lebanon on Gas Tender Collision Course - Nati Yefet
    Israel has asked the U.S. and the UN to pressure Lebanon to change the oil and gas exploration tenders it has planned in five maritime blocks, three of which are within Israel's marine border. (Globes)
  • Syrian Militia Leader Killed in Drone Strike - Daniel Siryoti and Lilach Shoval
    Yasser al-Sayed, who commanded Iranian-backed Druze and Palestinian militias loyal to Bashar Assad, was killed on Sunday in an alleged Israeli drone strike while traveling in a vehicle in the Syrian Golan Heights. According to media reports, al-Sayed recently had been in contact with senior members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and was planning and trying to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel with Iranian support. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The U.S. Human Rights Report Travesty - Evelyn Gordon
    The U.S. State Department's latest report on human rights practices around the world, published in March, channels the Israel obsession of the UN Human Rights Council. The document devotes 141 pages to the human rights situation in Israel and the territories, more than any other country except China, which gets the same number. Israel alone, excluding the territories, gets 69 pages; by comparison, Iran gets 48 and Syria 58.
        The report becomes even more surreal when you start examining the "crimes." "Residents suffered from the dust raised by construction [in the planned new town of Hiran]." Do State's human rights gurus seriously think people suffering from the dust of nearby construction constitutes a human rights violation? By that logic, we'd essentially have to shut down all construction worldwide.
        The report also traffics in unsupported libel: "NGOs reported employers subjected Palestinian men to forced labor in Israeli settlements." The State Department apparently just copy-pasted anything it could find from such organizations, no matter how ludicrous or unsubstantiated. (Commentary)
  • Islamic State's Wane Sets the Stage for Regional Superpower Iran - Avi Issacharoff
    Iran is looking more and more like the big winner of the Arab Spring. The Shiite crescent, which King Abdullah of Jordan warned about, is amassing unprecedented power even without possessing an atomic bomb. Iran is in control of swaths of territory running from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea; it has taken control of Iraq and is expelling Islamic State from there using Shiite militias under its command.
        The Hebrew-language Walla news site reported this week that Iran has been paving a "trans-Iraq" highway from Iran to Syria. Iran operates a cellular franchise throughout Iraq, and is working to build a port in Latakia, Syria. The proposal states that Iran will lease land for fifty years for a port that would be under Iranian sovereignty, and the Syrians would have no access to it, like the naval base that the Russians established in Tartus.
        Roughly 1,300 to 1,500 Iranians - combat soldiers, intelligence personnel, members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, logistics personnel - currently operate in Syria. In addition, there are 7,000-10,000 Iranian-funded Shiite fighters and another 8,000 Hizbullah Shiite fighters on Syrian soil who take orders from Tehran. (Times of Israel)
  • Iran Looks to Profit in Syria - Tony Badran and Saeed Ghasseminejad
    In January, Iran signed five economic memorandums of understanding with Syria, which gave Iran important assets in the country. One of the agreements grants the Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI), a company controlled by the IRGC and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a license to operate a mobile network in Syria.
        In addition, Iran was granted leases on 12,000 acres of land in Homs and Tartous provinces to construct oil and gas terminals, and a long-term lease to develop the Sharqiya phosphate mines in eastern Homs province. The Syrian regime will award another 12,000 acres of farmland to Iranian agricultural companies. Tony Badran is a senior fellow and Saeed Ghasseminejad is an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Cipher Brief)

Offering Carrots to the Palestinians Before They Have Committed to Peace Negotiations - Efraim Inbar (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • In March 2017, Jason Greenblatt, President Trump's Special Representative for International Negotiations, was sent to Jerusalem and Ramallah to test the waters for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • The Israeli consensus is that there is no peace partner in Ramallah and/or in Gaza. Yet, in the absence of a Palestinian peace partner, there is some merit to engaging in a "process" that lowers tensions in the region and removes a sticky, if increasingly marginal, issue from the diplomatic table.
  • Greenblatt stressed how important it was to President Trump to stimulate the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life for Palestinians. However, it is odd to offer carrots to the Palestinians before they have committed to returning to the negotiations table they left in March 2014.
  • The impulse to give out carrots displays the conventional wisdom that the Palestinians must be well fed to prevent their erupting into violence. However, short-term calculations of this kind only prolong the conflict. Indeed, the campaign of terror that started in September 2000, dubbed the Second Intifada, took place after several years of economic progress during which the Palestinian standard of living was the highest in history.
  • The carrots awarded the Palestinians indicate that their intransigence and unwillingness to compromise have no correlation to the level of support they receive. They will never change if their poor decisions never exact a cost.
  • The Palestinians are still committed to unrealistic goals like Jerusalem and the "right of return." Yet without tacit and/or manifest threats, there is little chance that their behavior will improve.

    The writer is professor emeritus of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and the founding director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (1991-2016).

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