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May 22, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

U.S.: ISIS Creating Chemical Weapons Cell in Syria - Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr (CNN)
    U.S. intelligence believes ISIS is bringing together all of its experts on chemical weapons from Iraq and Syria into a new "chemical weapons cell" in Syria in the Euphrates River Valley.
    U.S. defense officials have observed ISIS officials increasingly abandoning their unofficial capital in Raqqa for towns further south along the Euphrates River, such as Mayadin and Deir-e-Zor.
    Military officials said ISIS staged more than 15 chemical weapons attacks since April 14 in or around West Mosul in Iraq.

Israel: "Exact a Price for Iranian Behavior" - Jonathan Ferziger and David Wainer (Bloomberg)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is preparing to ask U.S. President Donald Trump to impose tough new sanctions on Iran for threatening Israel with ballistic missiles and bankrolling terrorism, Michael Oren, a deputy cabinet minister to Netanyahu and former ambassador to the U.S., said in an interview on Thursday.
    "You have to exact a price for Iranian behavior."

Should Israel Worry about Trump's Huge Saudi Arms Deal? - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    President Donald Trump signed a $110 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
    According to former National Security Council head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, Israel has no reason to worry about the new, massive Saudi-U.S. arms deal.
    "It does not change the balance [of power] in the Middle East. The U.S. administration is very sensitive about keeping Israel's military edge."
    Amidror said that beefing up Saudi Arabia's military against Iran, a common enemy with Israel, might increase the Saudis' "self-confidence" and their readiness to expand their engagement with the Jewish state in an anti-Iran alliance.

Israel, India Sign $630 Million Missile Defense Deal - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel Aerospace Industries has signed a $630 million deal with the Indian state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited to provide India with the Barak 8 aerial defense system for four navy ships.

Video: U.S., Israeli Air Forces Fly Together in Air Exercise - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The U.S. and Israeli Air Forces completed a two-week exercise over Israel on Sunday.
    The annual Juniper Falcon exercise involved F-15 and F-16 fighter jets staging dogfights and bombing runs against an enemy nation.
    The Americans "showed tremendous bravery" and favored "high risk" and "aggressive" flying, an IAF official said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump Arrives in lsrael in Bid to Revive Peace Process - Carol E. Lee and Rory Jones
    President Donald Trump arrived in Israel Monday in an attempt to build on talks in Saudi Arabia with Gulf leaders about a regional thaw between Arabs and Israelis to help unlock stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. In Israel, Trump will focus on pressing Israeli and Palestinian leaders to each take steps to convince the other that they are prepared to negotiate in good faith. White House officials say leaders from both sides have agreed in principle to direct talks. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Trump in Saudi Arabia: Fight Against Terror Is a "Battle between Good and Evil" - Jonathan Lemire and Julie Pace
    During a meeting with more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday, President Donald Trump recast the fight against terrorism as a "battle between good and evil" instead of a clash between the West and Islam. "We are not here to lecture - we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership - based on shared interests and values - to pursue a better future for us all."  (AP-Washington Post)
        See also President Trump's Speech to the Arab Islamic American Summit
    "I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic Faith."
        "Above all we must be united in pursuing the one goal that transcends every other consideration. That goal conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism....A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out....Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion."
        "For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror. It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room....Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes....Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve."  (White House)
        See also Trump in Saudi Arabia: The Right Speech in the Right Place - Anthony H. Cordesman (The Hill)
  • Israel Focuses on American Help in Containing Iran during Trump Visit - Isabel Kershner
    During President Trump's visit on Monday, the Israeli government is likely to be more focused on American help in containing Iran's influence in the region, former Israeli officials said. "For a long time, Israel's priority has been the Iranian threat," said Dore Gold, a former director general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a longtime adviser to Netanyahu. "The shift that the Trump administration has made in wanting to block Iranian hegemonialism is significant for Israel."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu on Jerusalem Day: "We Didn't Occupy, We Liberated" - Nir Hasson
    Speaking at celebrations on Sunday marking 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Fifty years ago, we didn't occupy, we liberated; by the heroism of our warriors and the love of our people, Jerusalem was liberated....Jerusalem was and always will be the capital of Israel. The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will always remain under Israeli sovereignty."
        The event included an audiovisual show projected on the walls of the Old City and the Tower of David. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Photos: Jerusalem Jubilee Festivities Begin - Yael Freidson (Ynet News)
  • Israel Approves Economic Measures to Benefit Palestinians - Barak Ravid
    Israel's Security Cabinet on Sunday approved a package of economic measures to benefit the Palestinians in the West Bank, including permits for thousands of homes in Area C, in a gesture ahead of President Trump's visit to Israel. The measures include easing passage at crossing points used by Palestinian laborers, keeping the Allenby crossing to Jordan open 24/7, expanding the Tarqumiya industrial zone, and providing permits for thousands of Palestinian homes in those parts of Area C that are adjacent to Palestinian cities. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel: Goodwill Gestures to Palestinians Came at Trump's Request (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Trump Setting the Stage for a Renewal of the Peace Process - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog interviewed by Calev Ben-Dor
    When PA President Mahmoud Abbas came to the White House he was received warmly. President Trump went out of his way to make Abbas feel comfortable, and the Palestinians reported that the meeting and the whole visit was a huge success. The Palestinians in recent months have expressed willingness to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu without preconditions. They agreed to hold such a meeting in Russia, and now with Trump. But we should not expect the Palestinians to be soft in any future negotiations despite appearing soft on their previous preconditions.
        I think Trump's visit is more of a symbolic nature, to create a positive atmosphere. It's more about setting the stage than about starting the process itself.
        The administration needs to set realistic goals. If the Americans decide to go for a full, comprehensive deal, then based on past experience and my reading of the current situation, I think they will fail. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, a participant in nearly all Israeli-Palestinian negotiations since 1993, is a former chief of staff to Israel's minister of defense. (BICOM-UK)
  • Trump's Middle East Strategy and Its Chances for Success - Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky
    President Trump's strategy for dealing with the challenges the U.S. confronts in the Middle East appears to revolve around the creation of an "axis of good" - composed of Israel and a coalition of Sunni Arab states comprising Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies, Egypt, Jordan, and possibly the Palestinian Authority. But Washington's approach seems driven more by hope than experience.
        When it comes to the peace process, the Arab states are to push and offer to support Palestinians and reach out to Israel. However, this strategy appears to be based on the somewhat dubious notion that the tough issues between Israelis and Palestinians - borders, Jerusalem and refugees - can somehow be finessed. But the gaps between Israeli and Palestinian positions on the core issues are likely too great to be bridged by anything the Gulf Arabs are willing or able to do.
        Trump might get a breakthrough if the Israelis and Palestinians are willing to lower their expectations and settle for an interim accord. But there are long odds against this approach. Trump might - if he pushes - get Netanyahu and Abbas to sit with him and perhaps announce some follow-up measures. But it's a very long way to the "ultimate deal" from there.
        Aaron David Miller, a former U.S. Middle East negotiator, is vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Richard Sokolsky, a former member of the Secretary of State's Office of Policy Planning, is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. (Politico)

Israelis and Palestinians as Co-Workers: Opportunity, Not Separation, Is the Key to Peace - Oded Revivi (Wall Street Journal)

  • Conventional wisdom for almost a century has dictated that for peace to prevail, Israelis and Palestinians must be physically separated. But peace is fostered over generations, through personal bonds and even business relationships.
  • Some 450,000 Israelis and more than one million Palestinians live side by side in Judea and Samaria, or what many call the West Bank. The tens of thousands who work together every day in the area's 14 industrial zones have built the closest bonds.
  • During his visit to Israel this week, Trump should drop in on a business like Lipski Plastics in the Barkan Industrial Park. Half the company's workers are Palestinian and half are Israeli. They eat, laugh and solve problems together. The Palestinians at Lipski make four times the average wage in the autonomous Palestinian areas. Many are in senior management, with dozens of Israeli employees beneath them.
  • Islands of peace like Barkan show what could be achieved on a massive scale. Businesses like Lipski Plastics may not be as glamorous as an international peace summit, but they are far likelier to yield serious dividends in the long run.

    The writer is chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, which represents the 450,000 Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria.

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