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August 4, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Russian Military Police Deploy near Syria-Israel Border - Alexandra N. Gutowski (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
    In late July, Russia deployed four military police battalions to monitor a pair of safe zones in Syria, including a southwestern zone negotiated with the U.S.
    The zone, roughly the size of Delaware, shares lengthy borders with both the Golan Heights and Jordan.
    Russian personnel will have exclusive responsibility for monitoring the zone from positions at its perimeter.
    Israel has publicly opposed the U.S.-Russian agreement, raising concerns regarding Russia's unwillingness to prevent Iran and Hizbullah from entering this zone.
    In conversations with American officials, Israel objected to Russia policing the zone.
    The writer is a research analyst at FDD.

New Israeli System Can Identify Explosive Devices from Afar - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has developed a Counter Improvised Explosive Device and Mine Suite (CIMS) mobile system, integrating optic sensors with radars to expose roadside charges before military forces ever go near them.
    This new Israeli innovation will protect soldiers against explosive charges in all weather conditions, at night and even under cover of fog and dust.
    "The system is able to identify concealed or camouflaged charges that may otherwise appear to be rocks or bushes to the naked eye, when in reality they're extremely powerful explosive devices containing dozens of kilograms of explosives and shrapnel," IAI explained.
    See also Video: CIMS - Counter IED and Mine System (Israel Aerospace Industries)

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Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret CIA War in Syria - Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times)
    Ending one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the CIA, President Trump agreed with the recommendation of agency director Mike Pompeo to shut down a four-year-old effort to arm and train Syrian rebels.
    The rebel army was by then a shell, hollowed out by more than a year of bombing by Russian planes and confined to ever-shrinking patches of Syria that government troops had not reconquered.
    Reports that CIA-supplied weapons had ended up in the hands of a rebel group tied to al-Qaeda sapped Congressional support for the program.
    The program did have periods of success, including in 2015 when rebels using tank-destroying missiles, supplied by the CIA and Saudi Arabia, routed government forces in northern Syria.
    But by late 2015 the Russian military offensive in Syria was focusing squarely on the CIA-backed fighters.
    By the final year of the Obama administration, the program had lost many supporters in the White House - especially after the administration's top priority in Syria became battling the Islamic State rather than seeking an end to Assad's government.

U.S. to Invest $32 Million More in Israeli Burn Treatment - Gali Weinreb (Globes)
    The U.S. government's Biomedical Advanced R&D Authority (BARDA) will inject $32 million more into developing the Israeli company MediWound's burns treatments, after previously investing $100 million.
    MediWound's products are designed for the removal of dead tissue in burns and hard-to-heal wounds.
    The product is produced from the pineapple plant and removes 100% of the dead tissue with no harm to healthy tissue.
    The small size of the market has hampered funding for development.
    Under the revised agreement, BARDA is paying for all the trials necessary in order to obtain approval of the product in the U.S., plus the trial currently being conducted for treatment of burns in children.
    MediWound founder Prof. Lior Rosenberg, a former chairman of the International Society for Burn Injuries disaster committee, said, "The current management of pediatric burns requires intensive medical therapy and typically several traumatic surgical procedures.... MediWound is aiming to replace the traumatic conventional treatments for burns."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Senate Panel Approves Bill to Cut Off Funds to Palestinians over Terrorism - Sumner Park
    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation on Thursday that would restrict funding to the Palestinian Authority until it stops offering rewards to those who commit acts of violence against Israelis. The Taylor Force Act, which passed the committee in a 16-5 vote, is named after American West Point graduate Taylor Force, 28, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian last year in Tel Aviv. The Palestinian Authority spends as much as $300 million a year on financial compensation to the families of terrorists. (The Hill)
        See also Taylor Force Act Passes Senate Committee with Bipartisan Support - Amir Tibon
    All Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to approve the Taylor Force Act, as did Democratic Senators Ben Cardin (Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Robert Menendez (N.J.), and Ed Markey (Mass.). The committee approved an amendment proposed by Sen. Kaine which said that aid money supposed to go to the Palestinian Authority will be kept in escrow for one year, giving the PA an opportunity to prove that it has changed its practice of paying the terrorists and their families. The State Department will report to Congress every 180 days on the PA's conduct on this issue.
        AIPAC applauded the bill's approval and noted in a statement: "The legislation does not affect U.S. funding for security cooperation, nor does it cut humanitarian programs if the U.S. government can certify that the PA is taking credible steps to end violence against Israelis and Americans."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Terrorist Who Plotted Attack on Israel Soccer Game Killed in Syria
    Lavdrim Muhaxheri was killed by a coalition airstrike on June 7 near Mayadin, Syria. Muhaxheri was an ethnic Albanian and a self-proclaimed leader of ISIS foreign fighters from Kosovo. He was directly responsible for inciting jihadist ideology within European communities and encouraging foreign fighters to travel to ISIS-controlled territory. He was also responsible for planning numerous terrorist attacks, including the failed plot to bomb the 2016 Israel-Albania soccer match in Albania. Four senior ISIS associates of Muhaxheri also are confirmed dead. (U.S. Department of Defense)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Video of Palestinian Stabbing Attack at Israeli Supermarket
    A Palestinian attacks an Israeli man stocking shelves at a supermarket in the central Israeli city of Yavneh on Wednesday. (Times of Israel)
  • 15 More Arrested for Involvement in Temple Mount Riots
    15 suspects were arrested Thursday night in Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem for involvement in riots in recent weeks. Police have so far arrested 50 people for rioting in Jerusalem and are continuing investigations in order to find all those suspected of actively engaging in these riots. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Muslim African States Upgrade Diplomatic Ties to Israel - Raphael Ahren
    Senegal and Guinea are sending their first-ever ambassadors to Israel next week, as Israel continues to expand its outreach to Africa. While both countries had existing diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, neither has ever appointed an ambassador to Israel. Earlier this week, Cape Verde announced it will no longer vote against Israel at the UN. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • "Revenge of the Rejects": Why Palestinians Commit Lone-Wolf Attacks - Amos Harel
    Since October 2015, there have been more than 300 Palestinian lone-wolf terror attacks and copycat attacks. An analysis of the backgrounds of the first 80 terrorists revealed a number of key differences compared to the terrorists of the previous generation. The new attackers were not very religiously devout, most had no history of active involvement in a terrorist organization and they mostly fell in the middle of the socioeconomic spectrum, with only a few coming from refugee camps.
        Many suffered from personal problems: young men and especially young women who suffered abuse at home, family crises, or were relative outsiders in their society. They viewed attacking Israelis, and possibly dying as a martyr, as a way to escape their plight. Picking up a knife temporarily transformed these shunned youths into superheroes.
        These personal issues as motivators became wedded to the very powerful engine of incitement. The PA, which had softened the tone of some of its media during 2016, let loose once more in recent weeks against the backdrop of the fury surrounding the Temple Mount. This has been the main motivation cited by all the terrorists of the last few weeks. Israeli intelligence has found that the number of declarations of readiness to commit terror attacks on Palestinian social networks has risen sharply.
        At the same time, there are tremendous economic incentives for the terrorists' families. A young terrorist will receive from the PA more money than the salary of a junior Palestinian police officer, from the very first day of his arrest in Israel. A long-term prisoner can receive $3,400 a month, a fortune in West Bank terms. Anyone who serves five years in prison is also eligible for a pension. The army has already arrested some Palestinians who showed up at checkpoints with knives, and later explained that they were six months of prison time away from obtaining the coveted pension. (Ha'aretz)
  • Trends among Arab Jerusalemites - David Koren and Ben Avrahami
    Eastern Jerusalem Arabs assert their Palestinian national identity while showing an unprecedented demand for Israeli citizenship; harass visitors to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus but value the care that Arabs receive in its clinics and wards; campaign against any manifestation of normalization with Israel in tandem with a tremendous interest in learning Hebrew and an increasing preference for an Israeli matriculation certificate. They also fly the flag of Palestine and spray-paint nationalist slogans on the walls of buildings, while expressing vicious criticism of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on social networks.
        The authors have been in direct and intense contact with the residents of eastern Jerusalem by virtue of our membership on the municipal team that oversees all of Jerusalem City Hall's interactions with the Muslim and Christian populations of the city. Residents of eastern Jerusalem have the legal status of permanent residents, which grants them the right to live and work in Israel without the need for special permits and also entitles them to benefits under the National Insurance Law and the National Health Insurance Law.
        Jerusalem is home to the largest concentration of Palestinian Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean (excluding Gaza) - 320,000 people. By comparison, the population of Ramallah is 280,000 and of Nazareth, the largest Arab town in Israel, 75,000. The numerical growth of the Arab population has been powered by the migration to Jerusalem of thousands of Palestinian families from the West Bank (chiefly Hebron). There are villages and neighborhoods, such as Ras al-Amud and Abu Tor, where there is a large majority of Hebronite families.
        There is also an influx of Arabs from northern Israel who in the last few decades have flocked to Jerusalem to study or work and stayed on. This group lives both in the higher-class Arab neighborhoods and Jewish neighborhoods such as Pisgat Ze'ev and French Hill.
        The disintegration of the secular nationalist organizations and institutions in Jerusalem has facilitated the rise of the Islamist factions. Yet an opposite trend derives from the same disintegration: normalization of relations with Israel and even integration into its society. More and more residents of eastern Jerusalem are choosing to adopt a much more pragmatic policy than in the past. (Hashiloach)
  • Jerusalem's Forever Crisis - Yardena Schwartz
    Today, Palestinians and much of the Muslim world deny any Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, rejecting the notion that a Jewish temple once stood there. Yet, as Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, noted, in 1925, the official Waqf booklet given to tourists visiting the Temple Mount clearly stated that it was once the site of the Temple of Solomon. "This was less than a century ago, and this has changed. Today, the vast majority of Palestinians would vehemently reject it...though it's an established archeological fact."
        The change occurred, Zalzberg said, because until the 1930s and 1940s, the Jewish history of the Temple Mount was not perceived as a threat to Muslim preeminence there. Today, however, the presence of Jews is characterized as a "storming" of the compound.
        Mkhaimar Abusada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, says, "To allow Israelis to believe that al-Aqsa Mosque was built on the ruins of the Temple Mount, it's a dangerous thing to even accept, because that means that one day the Jews will basically destroy al-Aqsa to rebuild the temple on the ruins of al-Aqsa Mosque. That's what's scary to Muslims and Palestinians."
        To be sure, there are elements within Israeli society that would like to see a third temple built on the Temple Mount. But their goal is widely perceived as a fantasy: Netanyahu, along with Israel's security establishment, has consistently rejected any calls to change the status quo. (Foreign Policy)
  • After ISIS, Will We See the Emergence of an Iranian Radical Empire? - Dr. Henry Kissinger
    In the Middle East, four states - Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen - have ceased to function as sovereign and have become battlegrounds for factions seeking to impose their rule. Across large areas of Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army, ISIS, has declared itself a relentless foe of modern civilization, seeking violently to replace the international system's multiplicity of states with a single Islamic empire governed by Sharia law.
        Which entity is supposed to inherit ISIS' territory - a coalition of Sunnis or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran? If the ISIS territory is occupied by Iran's Revolutionary Guards or Shia forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire. The writer was former Secretary of State and National Security Advisory under President Richard Nixon. (CAPX-Centre for Policy Studies-UK)

  • Weekend Feature

  • China Prepared a Plan to Resettle Persecuted European Jews in 1939 - Aharon Shai
    In 1939, China prepared a plan to settle persecuted European Jews in the southwestern Yunnan province, close to the Burmese border, according to documents recently found in Chinese state archives. The plan was never implemented.
        After Germany's union with Austria in 1938, and the exit of those countries' Jews in response to harsh, brutal persecution, the Chinese government adopted a suggestion to settle Jewish refugees raised by Sun Fo (also known as Sun Ke), the son of the Republic of China's founder and first president Sun Yat-sen. It's important to note that when the initiative was drafted, in 1939, the Chinese government itself was in the midst of a humiliating withdrawal inland from the Japanese forces on the coast charging west.
        The documented discussions reflect the Chinese establishment's sympathy for the Jews and its readiness to help them in their time of need. One document, describing the rationale for the plan, claimed that the U.S. and British governments had not given the Jews sufficient help. In contrast, the Chinese city of Shanghai had granted them vital shelter. But now that city was inundated with refugees.
        The documents show that the first secretary in Germany's embassy in China expressed his government's concern over the initiative and demanded China take into consideration the Jews' supposed hostility toward Germany. Apparently Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek, with whom Sun Fo had consulted, was apprehensive, at that critical time in the battle against the Japanese, about supporting a plan that would harm China's relations with Germany. Japan's threatening stance against the plan presumably also played a part in Chiang Kai-Shek's decision. The writer is Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)

Will Iran Become the Next North Korea? - Philip Gordon and Amos Yadlin (Foreign Affairs)

  • Leaders and populations around the Middle East, especially in Israel and the Gulf states, are asking whether Washington's apparent willingness to live with North Korean nuclear weapons - even those that can now be delivered to the U.S. itself - foreshadows what is to come in Iran.
  • The right approach to Iran today is not to give up on negotiations, which would leave the disastrous alternatives of accepting an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran, but to make such negotiations work.
  • Iran is a more open and dynamic society than North Korea. It has an unpopular government, an educated middle class, and a young population eager to join the international community, which makes the regime more susceptible to pressure and to incentives.
  • It would be naive to believe that any Iranian government - even one no longer particularly hostile to Israel - would entirely abandon decades of work to develop a nuclear energy industry. But it would also be unwise not to test the proposition that the right combination of incentives and disincentives could lead different Iranian leaders to accept meaningful limits and effective monitoring of that industry.
  • A key difference between North Korea and Iran is that a military option to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb remains viable as a last resort. In North Korea, military preemption has long been precluded by the strategic reality that most of the South Korean population, including the capital city of Seoul, lies within range of thousands of North Korean rockets, and all of North Korea's neighbors, including South Korea, oppose military action to prevent proliferation.
  • A preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear program would, of course, be costly and problematic as well, but given the costs and consequences of an Iranian nuclear capability, it remains a real option - one many of Iran's neighbors would support. Even though a military option for Iran is far from ideal, the U.S. and its allies need to keep the option viable.

    Philip Gordon served as White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf Region (2013-15) and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (2009-13).
        Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israeli military intelligence, heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

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