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July 3, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Navy Carrier Stops Off in Israel (AFP)
    The U.S. Navy supercarrier USS George H.W. Bush anchored off the Israeli port of Haifa Saturday on a break from operations against the Islamic State. The ship dropped anchor three miles offshore and did not enter the port due to its length.
    The Israel Defense Forces said that in a joint exercise at sea last week an Israel Air Force helicopter landed on the vessel.
    Israel Radio said the crew would celebrate July 4th onshore in Israel.

Jordan's King Discusses Peace Process with Senior U.S. Officials (Petra-Jordan)
    King Abdullah II met with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, during his current private visit to the U.S.
    The talks focused on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and the fight against terrorism, as well as the Syrian crisis and the situation in Iraq.

Israel to Treat Sewage from Northern Gaza - Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
    Israel will build a pipeline to treat sewage from Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanun in northern Gaza after the sewage treatment facility there was shut down due to the electricity crisis in Gaza.
    The Israel Water Authority called the matter "an emergency event, to stop the massive flow of sewage from Gaza into the territory of the State of Israel (via Nahal Hanun)."

Spanish Courts Force Companies to Suspend Anti-Israel Boycotts - Eldad Beck (Israel Hayom)
    The Spanish High Court of Justice in Madrid last week upheld a lower court ruling against full boycotts of Israeli institutions, companies, and organizations, calling such boycotts "discriminatory."
    The court's ruling came on the heals of petitions by local Jewish communities aided by the New York-based Lawfare Project.

China-Israel Investment Summit Attracts Chinese Investors - Mark O'Neill (Hong Kong Economic Journal)
    On June 25-26, Hong Kong hosted the Third China-Israel Investment Summit, attracting 120 Israeli innovation start-ups and 300 investors from Hong Kong and the mainland.
    China has become the biggest foreign investor in Israel, surpassing the U.S., with investment reaching US$16.5 billion in 2016.

3 Years after Gaza War, Southern Israel Is Flourishing - Gadi Golan (Israel Hayom)
    Three years after the 2014 Gaza war, Israeli communities on the Gaza periphery are blooming, with building starts at record numbers and more people moving into the area than leaving.
    "The Gaza periphery communities are known for their quality of life because of the supportive community, the good schools, the quiet surroundings, and personal safety [of residents], despite the proximity to Gaza," explains Maya Lieberman, who moved with her family to Kibbutz Nirim.
    The population of the Eshkol Regional Council has increased by 1,200 people since the war. Almost all the communities have waiting lists of potential new residents, with almost no available homes.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.-Backed Forces Close to Trapping ISIS in Raqqa, Syria - Michael R. Gordon
    Forces backed by the U.S. have nearly sealed off the Syrian city of Raqqa, trying to trap as many as 2,500 hard-core Islamic State militants defending the capital of their caliphate. Most Islamic State leaders and personnel responsible for administering the caliphate and plotting attacks have evacuated the city. They have relocated to Mayadin, a Syrian town on the Euphrates River.
        ISIS is still defending strongholds in other towns in the Euphrates River valley, from Deir al-Zour in Syria to Rawah in Iraq, as well as the Iraqi towns of Tal Afar and Huwaija. It is estimated that 1,100 militants were killed in the past month. Of those who remain, almost a third are foreign fighters.
        The U.S. is providing much of the firepower in support of the Arab and Kurdish forces trying to rout ISIS from Raqqa, using artillery, Himars satellite-guided rockets, Apache attack helicopters, armed drones and warplanes. (New York Times)
        See also As the Islamic State Falls in Syria - David Ignatius
    The black balloon of the Islamic State caliphate is deflating quickly in Syria, as in Iraq. The surprise for U.S. officials is that the battle in eastern Syria is going faster and better than expected.
        The Russians quietly agreed last weekend on a 80-mile "deconfliction" line between pro-Syrian and U.S. coalition forces. It's a promising sign that broader U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria may be possible. But U.S. officials frankly admit they don't have the resources or a clear strategy to repair Syria as a whole. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Working on an Israel-Palestinian Deal - Franco Ordonez
    A negotiating team led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is working with Israeli and Palestinian officials to try to agree on a basic list of principles that could be used as the framework for future negotiations, according to U.S. and former Israeli officials. Teams of Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are expected to visit Washington separately in the coming weeks.
        During a recent visit to the region, Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, special representative for international negotiations, asked the negotiators to each bring to Washington a list of about a dozen issues that they would like to be part of the negotiations. Those close to the talks say it would be a significant accomplishment if the two sides can find enough common ground for a signed declaration outlining what they'd like to achieve.
        The hope is that the Israelis and Palestinians, along with Arab Gulf states, can eventually reach a basic commitment on a U.S.-led process that includes some form of Palestinian independence and a comprehensive security agreement between the Arab nations and Israel, a former Israeli official said. (McClatchy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Livni: Political Conflicts Harm UNESCO - Itamar Eichner
    Former Israeli foreign minister MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) spoke at a UNESCO conference in Paris on Friday about how the Palestinians take advantage of the organization to pass anti-Israeli resolutions. Livni said she was at first unsure whether to attend, "after the adoption of distorted resolutions about Jerusalem, and with a fraudulent resolution about Hebron currently on the table....I lead the opposition in Israel, but not an opposition to the history of my people nor an opposition to the truth. These resolutions won't harm my people's ties to these sites, but they will harm UNESCO and the ability to advance shared efforts. This is not the way. It prevents cooperation."
        "UNESCO must not be made into a political arena....Unfortunately, there are member states that take advantage of UNESCO for political interests and open conflicts."  (Ynet News)
  • UNESCO Experts: PA Hebron Heritage Request Excludes Judeo-Christian Heritage - Tovah Lazaroff
    The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) reported to UNESCO that the Palestinian request to list Hebron's Old Town and the Cave of the Patriarchs on the "World Heritage in Danger" list as part of the "State of Palestine" has overly focused on Hebron's Muslim history to the exclusion of the Judeo-Christian heritage. The PA proposal only focused on Hebron from the Mamluk period of 1250 and onward. "This excludes the extremely important time depth of Hebron, a town whose history can be extended back at least a thousand years before the Mamluk period and possibly much longer," ICOMOS said.
        "The emphasis of the nomination is on a small period of that history in the form of the Mamluk town, apart from the earlier structures of the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque/The Cave of Patriarchs. This means that the association of Hebron with Jewish and early Christian societies is given little recognition, and Tel Rumeida [an area of Biblical Hebron] and other sites are excluded from the boundaries."
        ICOMOS also rejected the Palestinians' 2012 proposal to put Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity and 2014 request to place the ancient agricultural Terraces of Battir on the list. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee overlooked those recommendations, however, and approved the requests. Israel fears it will do the same this time around. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Nasrallah Invites the Iranian Shi'ite Legion to the Next War with Israel - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    In a speech marking al-Quds [Jerusalem] Day, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened that in the next war with Israel he would open the borders of Lebanon to tens of thousands of fighters from Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq. In effect, Tehran received an open invitation to fight Israel with the "Shi'ite Legion" which was established under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, who is now fighting in Iraq and Syria.
        Israel has confirmed reports that Iran has established factories to manufacture rocket components in Lebanon. The factories were built at a depth of 50 meters to protect them from air attack. The Iranian military industries in Lebanon are intended to operate independently, regardless of the situation in Syria and if Iran is unable to transfer missiles to Lebanon.
        The Lebanese newspaper Al Nahar reported that "Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Hizbullah over the development of Iranian rocket manufacturing installations inside Lebanon," and that Israel is "seriously" studying the possibility of "destroying the Iranian weapons factories." The writer, a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center, served as Military Secretary to the Prime Minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry Chief of Staff. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Lebanese Officials Slam Hizbullah Threat to Turn to Iran Revolutionary Guards in New Israel War - Caroline Akoum (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • The Occupation Is a Political Matter, Not a Legal One - Prof. Ruth Gavison
    I understand the spirit of the occupation's opponents, Jews and Arabs, who have despaired of the chance to change the situation through politics and are therefore trying to turn the question of the occupation into a legal one (with the justification that the occupation is illegal and must end immediately) or one of human rights (with the justification that the Palestinians have the right not to live under occupation, so Israel must end it immediately).
        Such formulations create the impression that this isn't a political question but a legal obligation - or at least a moral obligation for Israel that justifies demands that it end the occupation immediately without conditions.
        But I think such a step is mistaken and dangerous. This step creates the impression that the conflict's just solution is only a matter of identifying the answer based on international law and human rights without referring to Israel's security, military and identity needs, or to the conditions required to provide a solution for these needs.
        Israel has the right and obligation not to act in a way that could expose it and its people to security and diplomatic risks, which must be reduced significantly in a binding agreement ending the occupation. The writer, an Israel Prize winner, is emeritus professor of law and holder of the Haim Cohen chair for human rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)

Modi Is Coming to Jerusalem - Prof. Efraim Inbar (BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)

  • Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP party came to power in May 2014, his administration has shed its predecessors' reservations about regular public discourse regarding India's ties with Israel.
  • Modi's trip to Israel on July 4 is not planned to be "balanced" with a visit to the Palestinian Authority, indicating that India has freed its relations with Israel from its historical commitment to the Palestinian issue. Indeed, India has modified its voting pattern at international organizations by refraining to join the automatic majority against Israel.
  • India and Israel display high levels of threat perception and share a common strategic agenda. They are both involved in protracted conflicts characterized by complex ethnic and religious components not always well understood by outsiders.
  • Both face weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of their rivals. The two nations share a common threat: radical offshoots of Islam in the greater Middle East. Moreover, India fears the Pakistani nuclear arsenal might ultimately fall into the hands of Islamic radicals.
  • Initially, Russian failure to deliver promised weapons at expected prices and/or schedules led India to turn to Israeli companies to upgrade its aging Soviet platforms, such as its Mig-21s and T-72 tanks. Today, Israel is India's third-largest arms supplier.
  • India and Israel represent two ancient civilizations. They share a British colonial past and were the first to become independent (in 1947 and 1948, respectively) in the post-WWII decolonization wave. Both were born as the result of messy partitions and have maintained democratic regimes under adverse conditions ever since.

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

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