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May 8, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Is Killing Islamic State's Online Operatives One by One - W.J. Hennigan (Los Angeles Times)
    French-born Rachid Kassim, 29, a former rapper, once beheaded a man in an online video and played a role in a string of terrorist plots in France last year. On Feb. 8, a drone-launched missile destroyed his truck as he drove through the Iraqi city of Mosul.
    The strike was part of a U.S.-led effort that seeks to silence Islamic State operatives who use social media and encrypted messaging to reach disaffected Muslims overseas.
    On Aug. 30, a drone strike killed Abu Muhammad Adnani, head of ISIS external terrorism plots.
    Eight days later, Abu Mohamed Furqan, who oversaw production of propaganda videos and created the monthly online magazine Rumiyah, was killed by a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria.

Photos: Palestinian Resistance Brigades Conduct Joint Military Exercise in Gaza (Ma'an News-PA)
    The National Resistance Brigades of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) conducted a joint exercise with a group affiliated with Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in Gaza on Sunday, displaying new artillery and missile tactics.

New Israeli Drone Can Locate People - Yuval Azulai (Globes)
    The Condor, developed by defense companies BLER and Istar, is a drone that can operate in extreme weather conditions, cover an area of 5-8 kilometers, and provide information about the precise location of lost hikers or wanted terrorists, even if they are hiding inside buildings or tunnels.
    "We recently completed a number of tests of the new drone in several countries, including Peru, where a local rescue company used the Condor to locate and rescue a missing hiker," says BLER cofounder Uri Boros.

India-Israel Ties: Not Just About Defense - Tridivesh Singh Maini (The Diplomat-Japan)
    The India-Israel bilateral relationship has witnessed massive strides, and not just in the area of defense.
    Trade is estimated at $5 billion (not including defense) and Israeli foreign direct investment (FDI) in India over the past decade and a half (between 2000-2016) is estimated at over $100 billion.
    Cooperation in spheres like agriculture and education has witnessed a significant rise.
    At the same time, New Delhi has a strong economic and strategic relationship with Iran.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Pressures Abbas to End Controversial Payments to Terrorists' Families - Rory Jones
    Western countries are pressuring Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to end payments to families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails and to families of those killed while attacking Israelis. President Trump raised these payments in a meeting with Abbas on Wednesday at the White House, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Israel says the system incentivizes terrorism, and it sees the payments as a test of the Palestinians' willingness to make compromises.
        This "is not a social-welfare program," said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). "If the Palestinian Authority is truly concerned about human welfare, it should show a little more concern for the innocent people these terrorists have killed." The Palestinian Authority in 2016 paid out roughly $300 million to tens of thousands of families of prisoners or Palestinians killed by Israel, according to data published by the Palestinian administration and collated by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Incentivizing Terrorism: Palestinian Authority Allocations to Terrorists and their Families - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • German President Vows to Back Israel
    German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid a solemn visit to Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Sunday. "We Germans have burdened ourselves with unfathomable guilt," Steinmeier said on Sunday, adding that commemorating the Holocaust served as a reminder of his country's "pain, sadness and shame." "As part of taking responsibility for what happened, we stand firmly alongside Israel and are working together for our common future."  (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
  • British Foreign Office Cancels Prince Charles' Visit to Israel - David Willetts and Jack Royston
    Prince Charles was set to travel to Israel to honor 16,000 British and Commonwealth war dead at the centenary of the WW1 Palestine Campaign and the historic Balfour Declaration. But insiders say the trip - penciled in for later this year - has now been dropped by the Foreign Office. The heir to the throne was set to become the first Royal to carry out an official state visit to Israel since it was created in 1948.
        Australian PM Malcom Turnbull has confirmed he will attend commemoration services. Col. Richard Kemp, a former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, wrote, "The Foreign Office's Camel Corps have sabotaged any chance of a visit to Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. Out of respect for our war dead, the Prime Minister must overturn this timid and mean-spirited ban."  (Sun-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Video Shows Palestinian Hunger Strike Leader Barghouti Eating - Eliyahu Kamisher
    The Israel Prison Service released a video on Sunday that appears to show Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti eating in his prison cell on April 27 and May 5 while leading a hunger strike. (Jerusalem Post)
        An Israel Prison Service official told Channel 2 on Monday that the IPS sought to induce hunger strike leaders to eat by hiding food in their cells. Most of them, however, resisted the temptation, the official said. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Sunday that "Barghouti is a murderer and hypocrite who urged his fellow prisoners to strike and suffer while he ate behind their backs."  (Times of Israel)
  • Ismail Haniyeh Becomes Head of Hamas - Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal announced Saturday that Ismail Haniyeh has been chosen as his successor. For 21 years the political bureau was headed by Mashaal, a native of the West Bank. Haniyeh is a Gaza native and his appointment signifies the Gazan takeover of Hamas.
        Haniyeh, 54, has often threatened Israel in speeches and at rallies, and has praised the killing of Israeli civilians in terror attacks. He has pledged to continue violent opposition to Israel until it is "liberated." Haniyeh enjoys widespread support among Palestinians both in Gaza and the West Bank. Polls taken in recent years show that Haniyeh would defeat PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas' strategy is to turn itself into an alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the representative of the Palestinians. (Times of Israel)
  • Romanian Prime Minister Opposes Terrorist Salaries - Tovah Lazaroff
    Romania opposes the Palestinian Authority's payments to terrorists' families, visiting Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu told the Jerusalem Post. "It is against our values."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • For Arab Gulf States, Israel Is Emerging as an Ally - Yaroslav Trofimov
    Attitudes about Jews are beginning to change in some parts of the Arab world. Mohammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, secretary-general of the Saudi-based Muslim World League, recently pointed to a lesson in coexistence from Islam's past. "The neighbor of the Prophet [Muhammad] was a Jew, and when that Jew was ill, the Prophet visited him and gave him kind words," said Mr. al-Issa, who is also a former Saudi minister of justice. "The hard-liners don't wish to know that."
        The White House said Thursday that Mr. Trump's first foreign trip as president will feature stops in both Israel and Saudi Arabia. "We have the same enemy, the same threat," Saudi Maj. Gen. Ahmed Asiri, the kingdom's deputy intelligence chief, said in February. "And we are both close allies of the Americans."
        Most of the influential TV news channels and pan-Arab newspapers are owned by the Gulf states. "On TV, we no longer hear the usual words 'Israeli aggression.' Now, it's mostly about the 'Persian aggression,'" said Ahmad al-Ibrahim, a Saudi political analyst. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Video: Abbas, UNESCO, and the Test of Diplomacy - Dore Gold
    In its latest resolution on Israel, UNESCO speaks about the Bilal Bin Rabah mosque in Bethlehem. Where did they get this? From the Palestinian Authority, which has taken Rachel's Tomb, a famous Jewish holy site, and converted it into an exclusively Islamic site.
        The irony is that in the documents of the Ottoman Empire, an imperial firman (decree) by the Ottoman Sultan describes Rachel's Tomb as a Jewish site. Moreover, Bilal Bin Rabah, the first muazzin of Islam, was buried in Damascus, not in Bethlehem, according to Islamic tradition. UNESCO is supposed to be responsible for maintaining educational truth, but it doesn't do so. 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)

When International Guarantees Utterly Failed - David Makovsky (Jerusalem Post)

  • On May 22, 1967, Egypt's president Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran, a critical blow to Israel which relied on oil imports from Iran. Israel believed it had received a guarantee from the international community in 1957 that it would reopen the Straits if Nasser again closed them, as he had in 1956.
  • After the Suez Crisis of 1956, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion conceded in principle to withdraw from Sinai, but requested assurances that the Straits of Tiran wouldn't be blocked again, and that Israeli ships would have access to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Israeli port at Eilat.
  • When in 1967 Prime Minister Levi Eshkol dispatched Foreign Minister Abba Eban to Paris, London, and Washington to see if the international community would re-open the Straits, as Michael Oren writes in his Six Days of War, de Gaulle declared, "that was was 1967." President Lyndon Johnson was preoccupied with Vietnam.
  • Properly constructed agreements, such as the peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994, have withstood the test of time. Agreements work that serve the interests of both parties.
  • The vacillation in the run-up to the 1967 war still teaches an important cautionary lesson, illustrating where international guarantees utterly failed. If the chips are down, Israel needs to be able to defend itself by itself.

    The writer is director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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