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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
August 29, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Expert: Hizbullah Has Built Tunnels into Israel - David Schenker (Cipher Brief)
    In its next conflict with Israel, Hizbullah says it's going to put people on the ground in Israel.
    To me, it's all but certain that Hizbullah has built tunnels which enter into Israel, and that Hizbullah operatives will go behind the Israeli lines to target civilians as well as military infrastructure on Israeli territory.
    The writer, director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense as Levant country director.

Israel Seeks Saudi Flights Deal for Hajj Pilgrims (Bloomberg-Arabian Business)
    Israel is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to permit special Hajj pilgrimage flights to Mecca for its Muslim citizens, who now must endure a 1,000-mile bus route across the Jordan River and through the Saudi desert to reach Islam's most sacred shrine.
    Israel's Communications Minister Ayoob Kara wants them to fly directly from Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport.
    "Reality has changed," Kara said. "This is a good time to make the request, and I'm working hard on it."
    About 6,000 Israeli Arabs make the Hajj journey every year, though only a few hundred are allowed to fly to Saudi Arabia from Jordan, Kara said.

Netanyahu Seeks Meeting with Caribbean Leaders - Jansher Khan (Caribbean News Now)
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to have a summit meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly in September.
    Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who visited Israel in January, is working behind the scenes to make the summit a reality.
    Israel is also making inroads in forging friendships with African nations. In October, Netanyahu will host a summit with African leaders in Togo.

Israeli-Founded Kite Pharma Bought for $12 Billion - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    U.S. bio-pharmaceutical firm Gilead Sciences said on Monday it has agreed to buy Israeli-founded Kite Pharma for about $12 billion.
    Kite, a bio-pharmaceutical company that develops cell therapies in which the patient's own immune cells fight cancer, was founded in 2009 by Israeli-American oncologist Arie Belldegrun.
    The core technology was developed by Prof. Zelig Eshhar from Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science.

Israel's Tips Help Indian Farmers - Niranjan Kaggere (Bangalore Mirror-India)
    Karnataka, a state in southwestern India, has transformed 59,305 acres of drought-stricken land in Hunagund into a fertile green pasture, thanks to Israeli drip irrigation.
    As a result, come October, 15,000 farmers will harvest their first monsoon season crop in several years.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hamas Leader: Iran Is Our Largest Backer Financially, Militarily
    Iran is now "the largest backer financially and militarily" of Hamas, its leader in Gaza, Yehya al-Sinwar, said Monday. "Relations with Iran are excellent and Iran is the largest supporter of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades with money and arms." The "relationship had become fantastic and returned to its former era." Sinwar added that with Iran's help, Hamas is accumulating military power in preparation for a battle for the liberation of Palestine. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • U.S. Pursuing a Strategy of Quiet Diplomacy on Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Benny Avni
    Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner and international negotiator Jason Greenblatt do their best not to discuss the substance of their talks on promoting a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, saying they would rather conduct quiet diplomacy. Dani Dayan, Israel's consul general in New York, commended Kushner's slow, quiet approach. "Past American administrations jumped into the peace process pool before checking if there's any water in it; we jumped after them and cracked our heads."
        Dayan said that rather than seeking a final deal to end the dispute once and for all, Kushner should seek smaller victories. Dayan cited a deal reached recently about water-sharing between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. "You won't get a Peace Nobel for things like that, but they may be more achievable" and helpful.
        A White House official close to the negotiations noted that Abbas didn't pull out of the talks, which indicates that they are substantial after all. Past administrations "put process ahead of results. It was about a road map, timelines, impositions of deadlines," the official said, adding that past diplomacy "suffered from a constant effort to show some achievement," which doomed it to failure as the parties pushed back against public statements in Washington. (Daily Beast)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu to UN Secretary-General: UN Has Failed to Live Up to Its Mandate When It Comes to Israel
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday: "The mandate of the UN was to advance peace and security and international cooperation...but...the UN has failed when it comes to Israel to live up to this mandate. The UN is mandated to preserve world heritage, but UNESCO, a world body, time and again makes a mockery of that heritage most absurdly when it denies the 3,000-year-old connection of the Jewish people to our eternal capital, Jerusalem. The UN is mandated to pursue peace, but it allows Palestinian hate speech to flourish in its institutions."
        "The UN was mandated to prevent Hizbullah weapon shipments, but effectively it has not reported, to my knowledge, even one of the tens of thousands of weapon smugglings into Lebanon for Hizbullah, contrary to Resolution 1701....Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as warfronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel. It is also building sites to produce precision-guided missiles towards that end in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the UN should not accept."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also UN Secretary General Guterres' Record on Israel - Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • IDF Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion Documents Palestinian Rioters - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF's Nitzan Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion has identified 650 of the main instigators of the Palestinian riots in the West Bank earlier this year during the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike and the Temple Mount crisis, which has led to the imprisonment of 200 of them since the beginning of 2017.
        "We reach the home of the rioter in a matter of days, arrest him and bring him in front of a judge. These are mostly rioters aged 18-30, because our focus is not on children and teens," said Lt. Col. Ayalon Peretz, commander of the Nitzan Battalion. "The stone-throwers who are not arrested might throw a firebomb in tomorrow's riot. The next day they might throw a firebomb on a vehicle on the roads, and in a week they might carry out a serious terror attack. This accurate tool has led to a substantial drop in the number of rioters."
        The Nitzan Battalion also uses drones to help create an intelligence picture detailing where the rioters come from, how many there are, and where they flee to. In this manner, even masked rioters can be tracked and incriminated. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Netanyahu Raising Alarm on Iran, Again - Ben Caspit
    An Israeli security official told his American counterparts in Washington on Aug. 18, "Take heed, a few days before President Donald Trump arrived for his visit in Saudi Arabia in May, the rebels in Yemen fired missiles toward Riyadh. It's a clear message. The Iranians are already building the capacity to strike with surface-to-surface missiles across a huge belt in the region, which will strike fear among the Sunni regimes. Do you think the king of Jordan would survive this? That stability in Saudi Arabia will be maintained?"
        "Whatever happens here after the war in Syria will shape the face of the Middle East, and perhaps the entire world, for generations. If the cease-fire agreement does not also include a Shiite retreat, and not just a victory over the Sunnis, a disaster will happen. You're disturbing the incredibly delicate balance in the Middle East. The immediate price will be paid by those who live here, but in the end, the bill, once again, will be sent to you."
        An Israeli intelligence source noted, "The Iranians are the only ones who are working toward the long term. They are the only ones with a strategy in this sphere. They think and act like a world power."
        Netanyahu sees the nuclear deal as a grave mistake whose ramifications will be suffered for generations. He believes his current warnings to Trump's staff and Russian President Vladimir Putin are like Winston Churchill's attempts to warn Europe and the West about the German threat in the late 1930s. As with the Iranian nuclear deal, the Israelis are making sure to tell the Americans, and also the Russians, that "if Israel's security needs won't be met in the cease-fire agreement in Syria, we'll act in other ways," the source said. (Al-Monitor)
  • Iran Is Taking Over Syria. Can Anyone Stop It? - David W. Lesch
    Since the civil war began in 2011, the government of Bashar al-Assad has relied on Iran and its proxies like the Lebanese Hizbullah to stay in power. If Syria's orientation toward Iran continues, Israel will feel that when it looks across the Golan Heights, it sees Iran staring back.
        The Trump administration has so far seemed willing to cede Syria to Russia, but this really means ceding it to Iran. Moscow wants little more than to maintain its military bases in Syria. It will not actually provide a counterweight to Iran once the war is over. If the U.S. isn't interested in Syria and if Russia continues to focus solely on security issues, Iran will be dominant in Damascus. If Iran is the only party invested in Syria's future, the outcome could be catastrophic. The writer is a professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in San Antonio. (New York Times)

Do the Original Assumptions Underlying the Iran Nuclear Agreement Have Any Basis Today? - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The Iranian nuclear agreement (JCPOA) of 2015 was based on several key premises. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Iran was just two months away from having enough fissile material for an atomic bomb. With the agreement, that breakout time could be stretched out to a year or more. 
  • Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to using only its first-generation centrifuge, the IR-1, for the 10-year period following the 2015 agreement. But the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Saheli, has now warned the West that Iran will be able to "mass produce" more advanced centrifuges if "the other side violates its commitment." According to one assessment, Iran's breakout time will drop to four months with the installation of more advanced centrifuges. In short, there are scenarios evolving which completely contradict the timelines presented back in 2015.
  • Another underlying assumption was that once the JCPOA came into force, Iran would moderate its international behavior. Yet, Iranian force deployments in Syria and elsewhere, weapons transfers to radical elements in the Middle East, and threats against its neighbors all demonstrate that the expected moderation of Iran as a result of the JCPOA never occurred.
  • A third underlying assumption was that Iran had given up on its quest for nuclear weapons and that the Iranian nuclear program was peaceful. The roots of this observation could be traced to the unclassified summary of the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was later discredited by Britain, France, Germany, and Israel. Even the IAEA concluded that it could not say with certainty that Iran's nuclear weapons program had indeed ended.
  • Finally, the idea that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program requires a robust inspection system to verify that this change indeed had occurred. Yet Iranian officials have rejected the idea that IAEA inspectors now have access to their military sites. In the meantime, Iran has been condemned for testing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, because it is an act which is inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the legal foundation of the JCPOA.
  • The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015 lays out in detail what Iran must do to earn presidential certification that Iran was complying with the JCPOA. Yet, as David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, testified before Congress in April 2017: "It is not possible to judge Iran in 'full compliance' with the JCPOA." Indeed, there are multiple indications that Iranian violations of the agreement have occurred, or are being planned and on their way to being committed.

    The writer, president of the Jerusalem Center, served as Israel's ambassador to the UN and director general of the Foreign Ministry.

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