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May 19, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Jordan Says Its Spies, Not Israel, Provided ISIS Bomb Intelligence - Ali Younes (Al Jazeera)
    Veteran Jordanian intelligence officials said intelligence on an ISIS airliner bomb plot given by President Trump to Russian officials originated in part with Jordanian spies, not Israelis.
    Several Jordanian sources said they don't believe Israel has any high-level spies inside ISIS.
    "When it comes to ISIS, unlike Jordan, Israel relies on its electronic surveillance collection and its intelligence sharing-arrangement with its Arab partners," one source said.
    Jordanian intelligence has assets inside several fighting groups in Syria and Iraq, including ISIS, officials said.

Israelis Send Medical Aid to Syrian Children - Assaf Kamar (Ynet News)
    The Israeli group Just Beyond Our Border has sent hundreds of different types of medicine and medical equipment to children affected by the civil war in Syria.
    The group has raised over $550,000 through a crowd-funding campaign from hundreds of Israelis.
    The group teamed up with Israeli Flying Aid, an organization founded in 2005 that works to send life-saving aid to civilian populations in countries that have no diplomatic ties with Israel.
    Israeli Flying Aid has been sending vital aid to Syrian women and children since April 2011.

Palestinian Authority Names Schools after Terrorists and Nazi Collaborators - Itamar Marcus (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The names that the Palestinian Authority has chosen for its schools encourage children to see terrorists as personal role models and heroes.
    The PA Ministry of Education has named at least 28 schools after terrorists and at least 3 schools after Nazi collaborators.

Red Cross Closes Office in Ramallah over Threats (Anadolu-Turkey)
    The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) closed its office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, citing "the serious threats against the staff and the office."
    "A group of people stormed the office, this evening, threatened the safety of staff, and violently demanded them stop work and leave the office."

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Report: Jerusalem's Arab Population Has Grown Twice as Fast as Its Jewish Population - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
    According to a forthcoming statistical abstract from the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research (formerly the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies), the Jewish population of Jerusalem has grown by 174% in the last 50 years, while the Arab population grew at twice that rate - 374% - in the same period.

Israeli Company that Provided Armor to U.S. Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan Reinvents Itself - Ora Coren (Ha'aretz)
    Plasan Sasa is an Israeli company that sells vehicle armor to the U.S. army that has saved countless American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    While revenues sank after the U.S. largely withdrew from those countries, Plasan changed from making armor to making armored vehicles for armies, police forces, and border guards.
    The company, based in Kibbutz Sasa in the Galilee, employs 1,300 people, of whom 650 are in the U.S. and 180 in France.
    Plasan built a special vehicle for the military police of Sao Paulo that can transport 24 fighters, which was used in the last Olympics in Brazil.
    South Korea bought Plasan's SandCat for patrol and routine security missions.

Israel Air Force Introduces Maritime Patrol Drones (Globes)
    The Israel Air Force is replacing its manned Sea Scan maritime patrol aircraft with the Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. maritime version of the Heron 1 UAV.
    The maritime Herons will provide comprehensive protection of Israel's coastline and strategic infrastructures, including offshore natural gas production installations.

Jerusalem: One Nation's Capital through History - Eli E. Hertz (Myths and Facts)
    In 1898, Cosmopolitan Magazine published an article, "The Jews in Jerusalem," written by Edwin S. Wallace, former U.S. Consul in Constantinople.
    "Palestine is the land of Judaism and its chief city is beyond doubt the world's capital of this particular form of religious belief. In this City of the Jews...the Jewish population outnumbers all others three to one."
    See also 50 Jerusalem Facts for the 50th Anniversary of Its Reunification - Eliana Rudee (
    During the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem (1948-1967), Jews were not allowed to access their holy sites, including the Western Wall.
    Jerusalem is mentioned more than 600 times in the Hebrew Bible, but not once in Islam's Quran.

Life Expectancy in Israel Ranks High - Itay Gal (Ynet News)
    Life expectancy for men in Israel is 80.6 years, ranked fourth in the world, while life expectancy for women is 84.3 years, eighth in the world, according to a report by the World Health Organization published on Wednesday.
    The infant mortality rate is four deaths per 1,000 births per year, while the maternal death rate is five per 1,000 births, some of the lowest rates in the world.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Wants Trump to Stop Palestinian Payments to Prisoners and Families of "Martyrs" - William Booth
    Palestinian authorities have been paying prisoners for years, but the issue is now front and center as Israel's government and its supporters in Congress are pressing the Trump administration to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority unless the payments stop. "Fund peace, not murder," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month.
        "Aid provided by the donor countries to the Palestinian Authority every year ends up funding terrorists who murdered innocent Israelis," said Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon. "This is official Palestinian blood money, rewarding terrorists who kill Jews."
        Yossi Kuperwasser, a former top intelligence officer and Israeli army general, who now works as a scholar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said the Palestinian government allocates $300 million a year for these payments, which is more than 20% of the annual foreign aid given to the government by all donors. Kuperwasser said that it's common-sensical that stopping payments to Palestinians who attack Israelis would reduce terror assaults. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Strikes Pro-Assad Militia in Syria Threatening Allied Forces - Phil Stewart and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
    The U.S. military carried out an air strike on Thursday against a militia supported by the Syrian government that posed a threat to U.S. and U.S.-backed Syrian fighters in the country's south, U.S. officials said. A convoy comprised of Syrian and Iranian-backed militias was headed toward the garrison used by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces near the town of At Tanf. "The coalition came and destroyed the advancing convoy," said Muzahem al Saloum of the Maghawir al Thwra group.
        U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, "We are not increasing our role in the Syrian civil war. But we will defend our troops." A Western intelligence official said the strike sent a strong message to Iranian-backed militias. (Reuters)
  • Erdogan Watched as His Guards Attacked Protesters in Washington - Nichlas Fandos
    New video surfaced on Thursday that shows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey looking on as armed members of his security team violently charge a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington.
        U.S. investigators were paying particular attention to two members of the Turkish security detail who assaulted American Diplomatic Security officers. The men were briefly detained at the scene Tuesday and their guns confiscated, but when it was determined that they held diplomatic status, they were promptly released. The two men remain the subject of an active criminal investigation and will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. (New York Times)
        See also A Thug in Washington - Noah Rothman (Commentary)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Palestinians Refuse to Agree to a Jewish State within Any Borders
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Gonzalez Sanz on Thursday that the reason peace has not been achieved in the conflict with the Palestinians is, and remains, the Palestinian refusal to agree to the existence of the state of the Jewish People within any borders whatsoever. He also called on Costa Rica to change its voting pattern at the UN and international organizations on issues relating to Israel. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israeli Driver Survives Near-Lynch by Palestinian Mob in West Bank - Tovah Lazaroff
    An Israeli driver survived a near-lynch on Thursday in the Palestinian town of Hawara where a crowd blocked his car and started pelting it with rocks. The driver, a resident of Itamar, opened fire, killing one Palestinian and injuring another. Videos of the incident showed the man's car being blocked by an ambulance and then assaulted by a mob of about 200 Palestinians. The Israeli, a social worker, said he was on his way home from grocery shopping when the attack took place. He told reporters that he saw his life flash before his eyes as his car was under attack. According to the IDF, Palestinian stoning attacks in the West Bank have increased in recent months. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Nabs Palestinian Ambulance Driver Who Blocked Israeli's Escape from Riot - Judah Ari Gross
    The IDF and Israel Security Agency arrested on Friday the driver of an ambulance that blocked the escape of an Israeli man whose car was attacked by rioters in the West Bank on Thursday. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    U.S. Policy in the Middle East

  • U.S. Policy on Recognizing Israel's Capital - Amb. Alan Baker
    Ahead of the upcoming visit of President Trump to Israel, the U.S. Jerusalem consulate staff, part of the White House advance team, charged that the area of the Western Wall is not Israel's territory. The U.S. Jerusalem consulate is perceived by the State Department as being the informal U.S. embassy to the Palestinians. It is high time that the role and the activity of the U.S. Jerusalem consulate, including the attitude of its staff, be placed under serious review, with the aim of bringing them into line with the U.S. relationship with Israel.
        According to media reports, some U.S. officials have warned the White House that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital would be "harmful to the peace process and carry broader regional risks." As long as the Administration allows itself to be intimidated by threats, it cannot expect to be considered credible regarding this or any other issue that may come up in the political negotiating process.
        The effectiveness of such intimidation in limiting the actions of the Administration will, of necessity, be viewed by the Palestinian leadership and Arab states as American weakness and a green light for maximalist demands. It will serve as a precedent for any other controversial issue and is tantamount to allowing external elements to dictate to the U.S. president.
        The writer, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center, served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The U.S. Relies on Israel for Indispensable Intelligence - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The controversy over whether President Trump revealed classified intelligence to the Russians highlights the fact that Israel is an inestimable strategic asset to America, its ally. Throughout recent decades, Americans have been able to draw upon Israel's extensive intelligence network throughout the region, as well as take advantage of Israel's expertise in designing and perfecting weapon systems.
        With Iran seeking regional hegemony, and with radical Islamists taking up the vacuum left by the collapse of Syria and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the U.S. finds itself increasingly in need of Israeli intelligence. Those who cling to the fallacy that Israel is a burden on U.S. interests need to realize that without its help, America is often flying blind in the Middle East. (National Review)
  • A Trump Doctrine for the Middle East? - Michael Doran
    President Barack Obama embraced Iranian ascendancy with open arms. He dropped efforts to contain Iran because he was convinced that recognition of an Iranian sphere of influence would persuade Tehran to function as a partner in stabilizing Iraq and Syria. This was a miscalculation, and it led directly to the Russian-Iranian military alliance in Syria.
        It is false that U.S. support for our longtime friends in the Middle East is a cause of instability, and that by distancing ourselves from them while reaching out to our enemies we can make the world a safer place. (It's an even worse fallacy to imagine that we can create a Middle East without enemies.) And it's just as wrong to assume we can cleverly pull Russia away from Iran in Syria. The tensions between them are insignificant compared with their shared interest in propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime and eroding American influence.
        Finally, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not the center of gravity in the Middle East, nor is it ripe for solution. If Mr. Trump recognizes these fallacies, he will be far ahead of the game. The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, was a senior director at the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. (New York Times)
  • President Trump's Helicopter Ride to Jerusalem - Raphael Ahren interviews Michael Oren
    Donald Trump has never been to Israel. After landing Monday at Ben-Gurion Airport, he is scheduled to fly via helicopter to Jerusalem. Deputy Minister Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said that Trump's seeing Israel and its geographical dimensions for the first time with his own eyes will likely increase the president's appreciation of the country's security concerns.
        "Seeing the actual dimension of Israel is shocking to people. They understand our security concerns much more. 'Wow, this place is tiny. Wait a minute, that's the West Bank, and that's the sea? Let me get this straight: that's all there is of Israel?' It's literally that moment, that holy cow moment. I've seen it again and again."  (Times of Israel)

  • Palestinians

  • Celebrating the Murder of Innocents - Yair Lapid
    In May 1980, four Palestinian terrorists shot and killed six unarmed Israeli civilians and injured 20 more outside Beit Hadassah in Hebron in the West Bank. Two of the victims were American citizens. One was a decorated Vietnam veteran. This week, there were local elections in the Palestinian Authority. The new Fatah mayor of Hebron was Tayseer Abu Sneineh, one of the four terrorists who carried out the attack.
        The next time the nations of the world ask us why there is still no peace between Israel and the Palestinians we should point them to Tayseer Abu Sneineh. Can Israel afford to trust a man who says that his greatest achievement is murdering innocent people at point-blank range? Can an agreement be signed with a national movement that celebrates his actions? Can they be trusted to keep their word? What lesson do the children of Hebron learn from his election? What role model does it present them for the future?
        The State of Israel will not hand over our security to others, not to international forces and certainly not to the Palestinians. The writer is chairman of the opposition Yesh Atid party and a former finance minister. (Jerusalem Post)
  • No Breakthrough for Peace with Abbas - Lior Akerman
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas inherited from his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, an authority that is completely malfunctioning. Nothing has changed over the past 20 years; the PA still fully relies on contributions from other countries and on Israel's government for electricity and transportation infrastructure. During all these years, the PA has never developed any industry and almost every Palestinian family depends on Israeli employers for its livelihood.
        The most likely scenario is that Abbas will do nothing remarkable before disappearing into the annals of history. We should hope that the next PA leader will revolutionize the Palestinian community, be willing to support a peace settlement that Israel can also live with, and forgo fantasies and unrealistic aspirations. The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Israel Security Agency. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Creating a Culture of Peace - David Horovitz
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas stood next to President Trump at the White House and claimed: "I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children, our grandchildren on a culture of peace." Really?
        A "culture of peace" means a Palestinian education system that acknowledges that the Jewish people have sovereign history here, that of course there were Jewish Temples in Jerusalem, and that, however inconvenient, two peoples are fated to share this narrow strip of land.
        It means that far from discouraging "normalization" with Israel and Israelis as is currently the case, a Palestinian leadership that wants statehood needs to promote constructive interaction with the people who live next door. It emphatically means an end to all those Fatah social media posts encouraging violence, an end to the glorification of terrorists and terrorism. Most Israelis would respond with enthusiasm to genuine evidence of change on the Palestinian side. (Times of Israel)

  • Other Issues

  • Why ISIS Is Bullet-Proof - Michael W.S. Ryan
    By all measures, ISIS is weaker now than before the U.S. ramped up its military and intelligence campaign against the group. But ISIS, like al-Qaeda, still operates within the strategic wrapper of classic guerrilla warfare. Losing territory translates into moving down the strategic ladder to terrorism and perhaps light guerrilla warfare.
        We must consider ISIS, or perhaps its replacement, as a permanent terrorist threat in Syria and Iraq, unless sectarian divisions can be healed and its apocalyptic brand of jihadi Salafist ideology is thoroughly discredited. If ISIS is severely degraded, a likely scenario would be the migration of ISIS fighters and operatives to al-Qaeda or some new group.
        ISIS and a variety of jihadi-Salafist groups already operate in Europe. They do not need returning foreign fighters to mount attacks. However, we are seeing that the most devastating attacks tend to be directed and even supported by al-Qaeda and ISIS outside European territory. The writer, who served in senior positions in the State Department and the Pentagon, is a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. (Cipher Brief)
  • The Six-Day War: An Inevitable Conflict - Efraim Karsh
    The June 1967 war was anything but accidental. Its general cause - the total Arab rejection of Jewish statehood, starkly demonstrated by the concerted attempt to destroy the State of Israel at birth and the unwavering determination to rectify this "unfinished business" - made another all-out Arab-Israeli war a foregone conclusion.
        On May 22, 1967, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced the closure of the Strait of Tiran, at the southern mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, to Israeli and Israel-bound shipping. On May 26, he announced that if hostilities were to break out, "our main objective will be the destruction of Israel." By this time, the conflict was no longer about the presence of UN forces on Egyptian soil in Sinai or freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Aqaba. It had been transformed into a jihad to eradicate the foremost "remnant of Western imperialism" in the Middle East.
        The writer, emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London, directs the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Middle East Quarterly)

  • Weekend Features

  • Meet the Israel Air Force Unit that Restored a Totaled F-15 - Barbara Opall-Rome
    An F-15B recently returned to flight operations after a 2011 mishap which prime contractor Boeing had considered a total loss. A flock of pelicans was ingested into one of its engines, sparking a massive fire that burned the entire back end of the aircraft. Then specialists at the Israel Air Force's Depot 22 proposed a plan to mate the front end of the F-15B with the back end of an obsolete single-seater F-15 that had been parked out in the desert for the past 20 years.
        Lt. Col. Maxim Orgad, commander of Depot 22's Engineering Division, estimates the entire project cost less than $1 million. "Today, to buy an aircraft like this would cost more than $40 million."
        Lt. Col. Haim Mirngoff, aircraft engineering branch commander at Depot 22, estimated in his 16 years with the unit, he's brought "seven or eight" frontline fighters back to life from severe mishaps, including three that were determined total losses by U.S. prime contractors.
        "We always consult with Lockheed and Boeing. We have an agreement of sharing knowledge and we always have officers that stay in the United States. But sometimes, because our pilots tend to fly the aircraft much more severely than other pilots in the world and our aircraft tend to be much older, we are the first to detect problems," said Orgad. (Defense News)
  • Cyclists Pay Tribute to Italian Champ Who Saved Jews during Holocaust
    Italian and Israeli cyclists are paying tribute this week to Gino Bartali, an Italian cycling champion who saved hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust and in 2013 was recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations. Bartali smuggled Resistance messages and false documents for Jews in his bicycle frame when riding through Italy, supposedly as part of his training schedule. (JTA)

The Changing Reality of Arab-Israeli Ties - Evelyn Gordon (Commentary)

  • The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have grown tired of having their relationship with Israel held hostage to the Palestinian problem, and are discussing a proposal to normalize certain types of commercial relations with Israel in exchange for Israeli gestures toward the Palestinians.
  • In exchange for Israel freezing settlement construction in "certain areas" of the West Bank and relaxing its blockade of Gaza, the Arabs would establish direct telecommunication links with Israel, let Israeli aircraft overfly their countries, lift certain trade restrictions and perhaps grant visas to Israeli athletes and businessmen.
  • Even if the proposal goes nowhere, these details are significant. They show that Arab leaders are no longer willing to give the Palestinians (or Syria) a veto over their relations with Israel.
  • The last time Arab states proposed normalization with Israel (in the Saudi-sponsored Arab Peace Initiative of 2002), they conditioned it on Israel signing final-status agreements with both the Palestinians and Syria and withdrawing completely to the 1949 armistice lines.
  • The very fact that this proposal is being openly discussed shows that Arab-Israeli relations are thawing at a faster pace than anyone would have predicted a few years ago.
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