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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
September 14, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

PA Freezes Bid to Join UN Tourism Body after U.S. Pressure - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    The Palestinian Authority decided Wednesday to postpone its bid to join the UN's tourism agency following U.S. pressure.
    A senior White House official said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas promised President Trump's special adviser Jared Kushner and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt that he wouldn't renew attempts to push through unilateral decisions against Israel in the UN.
    The Americans made it clear that advancing the resolution at the UN's tourism agency did not align with Abbas' promise.

    See also Palestinian Government Calls to Foil Israeli Membership in UN Security Council (Xinhua-China)
    The Palestinian cabinet issued a statement Tuesday calling on the world to reject Israel's candidacy to become a member of the UN Security Council for 2019-20.

Palestinians Reveal PA Torture, Seek Justice in Israeli Courts - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Stories of Palestinian Authority torture have been coming out since the Jerusalem District Court ruled earlier this summer that Palestinians can sue the PA in Israeli courts.

Uproar as Ex-Israeli Soldier Featured in Morocco Jazz Festival (Middle East Monitor)
    The appearance at Tangier's Tanjazz of Israeli jazz singer, trombonist and pianist Noam Vazana, who has previously spoken of her pride in serving in the Israeli military, has led to criticism that the move normalizes ties with Israel.

Textbook Featuring Israeli Flag Raises Ire in Egypt - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
    A textbook for eighth grade students showing Israel's flag on a map of the Middle East has raised ire in Egypt.
    The publisher said this was an error that would be rectified in future copies of the book.
    A senior Egyptian Education Ministry official told Al-Masry al-Youm the ministry had ordered the removal of the page with the map from the textbook.

Israel Air Force Holds Large-Scale Joint Exercise in Bulgaria (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli and Bulgarian air forces are holding a joint exercise over Bulgaria, the Xinhua news agency reported.
    Bulgaria will commit MiG-29 fighter aircraft and land-based air defense systems - likely the S-300 system that Iran has just received from Russia.
    42 Israeli aircraft, including F-15 and F-16 fighters, will also take part.

Israel Builds Patrol Vessel for Cyprus (Cyprus Mail)
    Cyprus Defense Minister Christophoros Fokaides was in Israel this week to attend the launch ceremony for an offshore patrol vessel being built in Haifa's shipyards for Cyprus.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: Fix or Nix the Iran Nuclear Deal - Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash
    The Iranian nuclear deal is "bad" and needs to be fixed or canceled, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of a visit to the U.S.  Changes to the "sunset clause" which sets expiration dates on limits imposed on Iran's nuclear program are among several demands Netanyahu will present to President Trump during their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, according to a report Wednesday on Israel Army Radio. Netanyahu has said that the agreement in its current form shortens the breakout time for Iranian development of nuclear weapons. After 10 years, this breakout time will shrink to zero.
        According to the Army Radio report, Netanyahu will ask Trump to prevent Iran from conducting research in the nuclear field and developing advanced-stage centrifuges. Israel will also demand that Iran cease developing long-range missiles and that a clause be added to the agreement to limit Iran's support of organizations such as Hamas and Hizbullah, which Israel and the U.S. consider terrorist groups.
        With deep concern over North Korea's nuclear tests, there is currently an "opportunity" to send a message over the Iranian threat, said Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former director of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs. "It's clear that if we don't do anything, Iran will become a new North Korea, except more dangerous."  (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Trump Can Make the Most of a Bad Iran Deal - Michael Singh (New York Times)
  • Israel Is Courting Syrian "Hearts and Minds" to Keep Hizbullah Away - Loveday Morris
    Israel's "Good Neighbors" program, which began treating injured Syrian fighters and civilians in the early days of their country's civil war, has expanded into a more complex operation that also sends fuel, food and supplies into Syria. Israel's aim is to create a friendly zone just inside Syria to serve as a bulwark against Hizbullah, which is building its presence across the border. For the moment, Sunni rebel groups control most of the Syrian side of the 45-mile boundary between the two countries and Israel hopes to keep it that way.
        "First of all, it had to do with morals. People were injured on the other side of the border, coming to our fence - they were going to die," said Brig.-Gen. Eli Ben-Meir. "Then it led to a lot of other things." As fighting has died down along the border, Israel has started offering medical care for more routine ailments. More than 600 Syrian children have been bused to Israeli hospitals for treatment in the past year. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • In Bogota, Colombian President Thanks Netanyahu for Israeli Help Clearing Landmines - Raphael Ahren
    In Bogota on Wednesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for Israel's help to defuse landmines. After a 52-year civil war that ended in November 2016, Colombia has the second highest number of landmines, after Afghanistan. In September, Israel's National Mine Action Authority hosted eight Colombians for a week-long workshop on mine-clearing procedures. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli UN Envoy Danon Assumes Position of Vice President of the General Assembly - Stuart Winer
    Israel's envoy to the UN Danny Danon has begun a one-year term as Vice President of the UN General Assembly, his bureau said Wednesday. He will preside over the assembly when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks there on Sep. 19. "I am proud to represent Israel in this important role that reinforces our position as an equal partner at the UN," Danon said. "We have proven once again that there is no role we cannot fulfill in the world's most important international organization." There are 21 vice presidents of the General Assembly. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Stabbing Attacks Thwarted in West Bank
    A Palestinian man brandishing a knife ran toward a bus stop at the entrance to Kiryat Arba in the West Bank on Wednesday before being shot and wounded, the IDF said. On Tuesday, Israeli Border Police arrested a Palestinian carrying a knife near the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Why Legal Avenues to Mideast Peace Are Misguided - Peter Berkowitz
    To subject the resolution of political controversies to legal reasoning that purports to yield rational, objective judgments is to pretend that one right answer is available for disputes that can only be managed through compromise and mutual accommodation.
        In July, Hebrew University professor of law emerita Ruth Gavison, an Israel Prize winner, argued that pursuit of a legal resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian controversy "actually deepens the deadlock." That's because the resort to legal reasoning obscures "the crucial political, social, cultural and religious processes in Israeli and Palestinian society" and "weakens, on both sides, the fortitude needed for painful concessions based on an agreement between the people and their leaders on what's the best outcome under the present circumstances."
        Gavison maintains, "From the perspective of international law, the Palestinians have no 'right' to end the occupation - which was the result of a defensive war - and Israel has no obligation to end it without a peace agreement." The writer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. (Real Clear Politics)
  • Getting to No with Iran - Jamil N. Jaffer 
    The Iran nuclear deal was a terrible deal from the start, combining a significant weakening of the long-standing international position on ballistic missile development with offering Iran the opportunity to conduct advanced R&D on uranium centrifuges, a self-testing regime on nuclear military sites, and a potential long-term path to a weapon even in compliance with the deal.
        Moreover, Iran has proven itself to be an inveterate cheater. The Institute for Science and International Security in Washington has repeatedly cataloged Iran's bad behavior since the beginning of the deal, including attempts to acquire carbon fiber, a key centrifuge component, and Iran's multiple violations of numerical limits on heavy water, a key component for the development of plutonium, not to mention the arms transfers and travel ban violations that U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley outlined in her recent speech at the UN. Professor Jamil N. Jaffer is the founder of the National Security Institute at George Mason University Law School. (U.S. News)
  • Family and Friends of Murdered American: Pass the Taylor Force Act - Bradley Martin
    In March 2016, a Palestinian terrorist went on a stabbing rampage in Tel Aviv, killing visiting West Point graduate Taylor Force and wounding 10 others. This act of barbarism spurred the creation of the Taylor Force Act, which would stop American economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until the PA ceases paying stipends to terrorists and their families.
        The PA pays the murderer's relatives a monthly pension equal to several times the average monthly Palestinian wage. Every year, the U.S gives nearly half a billion dollars to the PA. Most of those funds, or their equivalent, are used to pay Palestinian terrorists who have murdered innocent Americans, Israelis and others.
        Taylor's father, Stuart, said, "I feel that rewarding people for terrorism is totally out of the realm of decency. Taylor would have been proud of the effort to pass this act and know we were behind it." It is our responsibility to make sure that murderers are not rewarded and that a good man who served his country did not die in vain. The writer is a senior fellow at the Haym Salomon Center. (The Hill)

Trump Can Make the Most of a Bad Iran Deal - Michael Singh (New York Times)

  • The problem the U.S. faces with the Iran nuclear deal is not Iranian compliance, but the very terms of the agreement. It permits Iran to work on its missile and centrifuge technology even while uranium enrichment is paused, and it's only temporary.
  • The U.S. should work with allies to more strictly interpret the existing text of the accord, close any loopholes being exploited by Iran, increase intelligence cooperation on Iran's nuclear activities, and push international inspectors to interpret their mandate more broadly.
  • Through a package of sanctions, export controls, interdictions and missile defense, the U.S. and its allies should aim to prevent Iran from acquiring an intercontinental ballistic missile and from continuing to export missile technology.
  • The U.S., Britain, France and Germany should also address the problem of the nuclear deal's expiration date by jointly declaring now that they intend to expand and extend the agreement, rather than allow Iran's nuclear activities to suddenly increase when it expires.
  • All of this must go hand in hand with a larger strategy to counter Iranian aggression in the Middle East. American officials need to communicate boundaries to Iran and back them up with a range of tools, including sanctions, diplomacy, and limited military force, if necessary.

    The writer, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, is the managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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