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October 13, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Islamic State in Syria Sets Up Training Camp near Israel Border (Times of Israel)
    Several senior Islamic State commanders who recently fled from Iraq and northern Syria are now based in southern Syria, just across the Golan Heights border with Israel, and are training hundreds of new recruits there, Israel's Channel 2 reported.
    The commanders have made their way to an Islamic State-controlled enclave "close to the border" with Israel and have set up a training camp for 300 local youths. The report showed footage of the camp and training sessions.

Report: Hizbullah Militants Entered Germany among Refugees - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    "Since mid-2015 there are increased indications of fighters from Shi'ite militias entering Germany as legal refugees," according to a German intelligence report released this month.
    "The indications regarding roughly 50% [of the fighters] show a direct connection to Hizbullah."
    The report, which focused on the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said the Imam-Mahdi Center in Munster is a meeting place for Hizbullah members. Additional cities where Hizbullah is active are Essen, Bottrop, Dortmund and Bad Oeynhausen.
    The document noted that Hizbullah's goal is the "destruction of the State of Israel as well as Islamic domination over Jerusalem."

PA Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat Undergoes Lung Transplant in U.S. (WAFA-PA)
    Saeb Erekat, 62, chief Palestinian negotiator and secretary general of the PLO Executive Committee, underwent a lung transplant on Thursday at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia.

UNIFIL Has Become a Fig Leaf for Hizbullah's Military Deployment in Southern Lebanon - Lt.-Col. (res.) Sarit Zehavi and Christina Hen (Jerusalem Post)
    According to Israeli assessments, 40,000 to 50,000 rockets targeting Israel are hidden inside or under the Shi'ite villages in southern Lebanon by Hizbullah in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
    This 2006 resolution called for the establishment of an "area free of any armed personnel, assets, and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL" in southern Lebanon.

Israelis, Palestinians "Celebrate Coexistence" in West Bank Sukka (Times of Israel)
    A year after a similar event landed four Palestinians in a Palestinian Authority jail, over 30 Palestinians joined dozens of Israelis as guests at the sukka of Efrat mayor Oded Revivi "to celebrate coexistence."
    The Palestinian participants were not identified in order to protect them from any backlash by PA authorities. They were described in a press release as "local Palestinian leaders from half a dozen local cities and towns."
    It is a Jewish tradition to host friends in the temporary structures that are used during Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) to recall the biblical account of the booths erected in the desert by the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt.
    The event included music from a joint Muslim-Jewish musical group, and was attended by IDF Brig. Gen. Nir Aran, head of the Judea and Samaria Division, and Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.
    Revivi called the Palestinian participants "heroes," saying, "I salute your bravery for coming here today...after the outrageous Palestinian Authority arrests last year."
    "We cannot allow those who prefer separation over coexistence to prevail. We must continue to break down the imaginary walls that separate us and continue to build bridges between our two communities."

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Changing Israeli Arab Attitudes toward Women Joining the Workforce - Ayelett Shani (Ha'aretz)
    Maha Daka, 50, is director of the employment bureau in Israeli Arab city of Taibeh. Since she took over, about 70% of the women in Taibeh who were living on guaranteed income support have freed themselves of the need to receive welfare allowances, and most now work.
    Daka explains, "Today's young women are more highly developed socially. They want a career and higher education; they don't want to stay at home."
    "Women who for years were as good as paralyzed - they did they come and say, 'I want to work. I dream of studying something.'"
    How did Daka get to be a manager? "I was born into a family of 11 souls. My father didn't work, my mother didn't work, we lived in poverty."
    "I dreamed of university. No money. For six years I worked all kinds of jobs, whatever there was, and then I went to college. Those studies saved my life." 

Six Videos: IDF Commandos in Training - Yehonatan Bnaya (Ynet News)
    View videos of six IDF Special Forces commando units during training drills.

Israeli Soldiers Come Under Fire along Gaza Border - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli soldiers patrolling near Kissufim along the border with Gaza came under fire Wednesday, the Israeli army said.
    No soldiers were hurt in the incident.

Useful Reference:

Video: Buchenwald Survivors Sailing to Israel in 1945 Sing Hatikva (YouTube)
    In 1945, Holocaust survivors from Buchenwald on the Hagana ship Unafraid sing Hatikva before being arrested by the British for trying to get into Israel.
    See also Audio: Bergen Belsen Survivors Sing Hatikva in 1945 BBC Report (YouTube)
    BBC reporter Patrick Gordon Walker reported on April 20, 1945, on the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp and recorded the inmates singing Hatikva, the anthem of hope.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • The United States Withdraws from UNESCO
    State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Thursday: "The Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the organization....This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO....U.S. withdrawal will take effect on December 31, 2018."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also Amb. Haley: UNESCO's Extreme Politicization Has Become a Chronic Embarrassment
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Thursday: "In July, when UNESCO made its latest outrageous and politically-based decision, designating the Old City of Hebron and the Tomb of the Patriarchs as part of Palestinian territory, the United States clearly stated that this decision would negatively affect our evaluation of our level of engagement with the organization."
        "The purpose of UNESCO is a good one. Unfortunately, its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment....Just as we said in 1984 when President Reagan withdrew from UNESCO, U.S. taxpayers should no longer be on the hook to pay for policies that are hostile to our values and make a mockery of justice and common sense."  (U.S. Mission to the UN)
        See also Israel to Prepare for UNESCO Withdrawal alongside U.S.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Thursday: "The prime minister instructed the Foreign Ministry to prepare Israel's withdrawal from [UNESCO] alongside the United States." Netanyahu said he "welcomes the decision by President Trump to withdraw from UNESCO. This is a courageous and moral decision because UNESCO has become the theater of the absurd and because, instead of preserving history, it distorts it."  (Times of Israel)
  • Trump Won't Certify Iran Nuclear Deal, But He Also Won't Unravel It - Mark Landler and David E. Sanger
    In a speech on Friday, President Trump will declare his intention not to certify Iran's compliance with the nuclear agreement. But the Trump administration made it clear that it wants to leave the 2015 accord intact, at least for now. Instead, it is asking Congress to establish "trigger points," which could prompt the U.S. to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it crosses thresholds set by Congress.
        Trump plans to outline a broad strategy that "focuses on neutralizing the government of Iran's destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants," the White House said in a summary issued Thursday. However, the U.S. will not designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization. (New York Times)
        See also Core Elements of President Trump's New Strategy on Iran (White House)
  • Iran's Secret Sites Linked to Nuclear Weapons Development Revealed - Hollie McKay
    A new 52-page investigative report by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), entitled: "Iran's Nuclear Core: Uninspected Military Sites," asserts that the country's nuclear weapons program is far from halted.
        "The military aspect of the program has been and remains at the heart of Iran's nuclear activities," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the Washington office of the NCRI. "The weaponization program is fully operational," Jafarzadeh said. "The military sector has gone through changes in name, location and reorganizations over the years. However, it has never halted its work and key figures in the sector have remained unchanged."
        The report identifies four major sites that "with high degrees of certainty" have been involved in nuclear weapons. Pazhouheshkadeh, located at the Parchin military complex, has become the main center for tests by the Center for Research and Expansion of Technologies for Explosion and Impact (METFAZ).
        "The project to actively pursue production of nuclear warheads is conducted in Khojir by the Hemmat Missile Industries Group," the report notes. "Scores of large underground tunnels have been constructed in this military complex," providing "the possibility and flexibility of covering up the activities of the warhead project." North Korean experts have been "particularly helpful" in design aspects of the project.
        At the Hafte Tir site near Isfahan, "the research site related to nuclear activities is located inside of a tunnel." Workshops at Hafte Tir were used in the past to produce centrifuge components. The Sanjarian site until recently was deemed the central testing site of METFAZ and is still functional. "None of the key nuclear sites situated in military centers have been inspected by the IAEA, certainly not since the JCPOA," said Jafarzadeh. (Fox News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Fatah and Hamas Sign New Reconciliation Agreement - Elior Levy
    The reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas signed on Thursday in Cairo is their third in the past six years. The parties decided that a unity government headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas will be responsible for Gaza's electricity, road construction, sewage, education, welfare, and tourism by Dec. 1. The rival parties chose to set aside all of the difficult issues, which are what ultimately led to the failure of the other agreements of reconciliation in the past. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas: With Unity Deal "We Can All Work Together Against the Zionist Enterprise"
    Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement with Fatah "so that we can all work together against the Zionist enterprise," Hamas deputy political leader Saleh al-Arouri said in Cairo on Thursday. (Times of Israel)
  • Netanyahu: PA-Hamas Reconciliation Must Honor International Agreements, Recognize Israel, and Disarm Hamas
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the announced agreement on Palestinian Authority-Hamas reconciliation: "Any reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas must include honoring international agreements and the Quartet conditions, first and foremost among them, recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas. Continuing to dig tunnels, manufacture missiles and initiate terrorist attacks against Israel are incompatible with the Quartet conditions and the efforts of the United States to renew the diplomatic process."
        "Israel demands that these conditions be met and the immediate release of Israeli civilians Avra Mengistu and Hisham a-Said, who are being cruelly held by Hamas, and the remains of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin."
        "As long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for the destruction of Israel, Israel holds it responsible for all terrorist actions originating in the Gaza Strip. Israel opposes any reconciliation that does not include these components. Israel insists that the PA not allow any base whatsoever for Hamas terrorist actions from PA areas in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] or from Gaza, if the PA indeed takes responsibility for its territory."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Ending America's Paralyzed Iran Policy - Jonathan Schanzer
    By decertifying the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the president is, in fact, signaling his intent to strengthen it, with the help of Congress, so that the deal advances U.S. national security interests. Right now, the Iranians are hindering inspection of military sites, working feverishly on their ballistic missile program, and banking on the nuclear deal's sunset clauses, which all but guarantee Tehran an advanced nuclear program in roughly a decade.
        In response to decertification, Iran's leadership will undoubtedly threaten to walk away from the table. But it's not that simple. There are benefits the Iranians have yet to reap from the deal - beyond the more than $100 billion in released oil funds - ranging from increased foreign investment to greater integration with the global economy after years of economic isolation. In other words, Iran can still cash in considerably, but not if it balks at Trump's calls to fix the deal. The writer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury, is senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Atlantic)
  • Iran Believes It Can Deceive the West - Yair Lapid
    Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's article in The Atlantic this week is full of lies, distortions, and half-truths. Iran didn't improve the accuracy of its missiles to avoid "civilian or non-combatant deaths" (I had to read that sentence twice to believe he wrote it), but rather to intensify the threat and ability to sow destruction. Iran is not a democracy, as he portrays it, because a democracy doesn't hang homosexuals from cranes and doesn't enshrine in law the right to stone adulterers to death.
        Iran does not show "good will and peaceful intentions," because if it did, it wouldn't have sent the Revolutionary Guard to help the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad murder more than half a million people in Syria. Iran is not interested in the "promotion of peace, stability, progress, and prosperity in the region" because Zarif's boss, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has announced that Iran will support anyone who aims to "wipe Israel off the map."
        The ayatollahs always believed in their ability to deceive the West. In their view, the West is weak and immoral, and will do anything to avoid conflict. Sadly, the deal signed with Iran in 2015 only strengthened that conviction. The Iranian regime hasn't forgone, even for a moment, the desire to turn into a dominant nuclear power and to sow chaos in the Middle East. They won't stop until they are stopped. The writer is chairman of the opposition Yesh Atid party and a former Israeli finance minister. (Atlantic)

  • Palestinians

  • Palestinian Reconciliation Deal: Abbas to Rule the Land and Hamas the Underground - Jack Khoury
    Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza, realize that it's premature to celebrate reconciliation in the broader sense of national and strategic unity. Many see the agreement as a compromise between two organizations that divided the nation for a decade and were forced to reconcile due to massive pressure from Egypt.
        Gaza's Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has shown a willingness to concede civilian control over Gaza, but not to disarm. If there is any chance that President Trump can come up with an effective peace plan, Abbas cannot afford to speak only for the West Bank. In view of this, the reconciliation seems like the only option open to Abbas and Fatah. The PA and Fatah will rule aboveground and Hamas will rule underground.
        Egyptian intelligence led the reconciliation move as a matter of national security. Egypt, grappling with Islamic State terror in Sinai, saw Gaza under Hamas rule as an Islamic State base and a refuge for terrorists from Sinai. Its only option was to return the PA to Gaza as part of the deal signed in Cairo six years ago. (Ha'aretz)
  • Egypt Wanted Fatah-Hamas Unity Deal - Avi Issacharoff
    If indeed, Thursday's agreement actually goes into effect, and responsibility for the Gaza border crossings is transferred to the PA, the Gaza economic situation would likely improve dramatically. For a start, there'll no longer be a blockade on the Egyptian border. Gazans will be free to come and go. There'll also be a huge jump in the supply of electricity to the Strip. Water supplies will improve too. Jobs are likely to be created.
        But there was no reference to the fate of Hamas' terrorist mini-army in the agreement. That would mean the digging of tunnels toward and under the border with Israel will continue. And so, too, Hamas' relentless rearming and its rocket development. Indeed, Hamas would be able to focus more exclusively on its military arsenal, boosting its capabilities, while Abbas and the PA take care of the ongoing, financially costly needs of the Gaza citizenry.
        The Egyptians wanted a reconciliation deal, even if it leaves key problems unsolved. And they got it. Egypt wants to signal to all Arab and Muslim nations that it is the Arab heavyweight, when it comes to the Palestinians and more generally. It also wants to ensure quiet for itself and for Israel where Gaza is concerned, and this agreement, it believes, will hobble Hamas, and prevent it from embarking on dangerous military escapades. (Times of Israel)
  • Will Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation Deal Succeed? - Jonathan Cook
    The Egypt-brokered reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas only addressed civil and administrative matters. Far more contentious issues - such as national elections, reform of the PLO, and the status of Hamas' armed wing - were set aside for consideration at the next meeting in late November.
        Ghassan Khatib, a former PA minister, said, "The price of this kind of reconciliation-lite is affordable....As long as reconciliation deals only with humanitarian and environmental problems, and with the provision of services and the salaries of employees, it can succeed. But the moment it addresses major security and political matters, it will fail."
        "Reconciliation is something everyone wants now," Khatib said. "Abbas wants to extend his jurisdiction to Gaza. Hamas wants to be rid of the burden of the day-to-day governance of Gaza....Even Israel has an interest in a solution to Gaza's humanitarian problems. After all, Gaza's untreated sewage ends up on Israeli beaches, too."
        But it is hard to see how national elections can be conducted. It was Hamas' upset election victory 11 years ago that led to a civil war with Fatah. Polls indicate that Abbas or any of his likely successors would lose the presidential election to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. (Al Jazeera)
  • Little Difference between the PA and Hamas regarding Israel - Nave Dromi
    The latest PA-Hamas reconciliation, like its predecessors, won't hold water, but will remind us that there isn't much of a difference between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. There are almost no gaps between the PA and Hamas with regard to relations with Israel.
        Over the years there has developed an erroneous perception that the PA is more moderate than Hamas and therefore there's someone to talk to in Ramallah. But the truth is there is no difference other than in their public relations image. Reconciliation between the PA and Hamas doesn't just bring the PA into Gaza, but brings Hamas closer to Ramallah. The writer is head of the Blue & White human rights organization, an arm of the Institute for Zionist Strategies. (Ha'aretz)

  • Other Issues

  • Students for Justice in Palestine, Unmasked - Dan Diker
    Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have all been lionized and glorified by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the campus arm of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. SJP describes itself as a grassroots student organization that supports "Palestinian freedom and equality" in advocating for Palestinian statehood.
        More accurately, SJP is an international network that actively seeks the dismantlement of the Jewish state. They have launched often violent anti-Semitic assaults against Jewish and Israel-friendly students and have demonstrably expressed support for Palestinian terrorists and Islamic jihadist groups. The writer is a fellow and director of the Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Kurds Are the Largest Stateless People on Earth - Michael J. Totten
    Roughly six million of the world's 28 million Kurds live in Iraq. They are the most staunchly pro-American and anti-Islamist people in the entire region by far and were, for a time, the only ones truly willing and able to take on ISIS and win. None of the Iraqi Kurdish parties and movements are terrorists. Kurdistan is a nation in all but name while Iraq is a nation in name only. Of course the Kurds want out.
        Iraqi Kurdistan does not threaten anybody. Iraq's Kurds have never invaded anybody, have no interest in invading anybody, and have never supported terrorists or militias on anyone else's territory, and especially not on their own.
        The Kurds are far better friends of the U.S. than Turkey or Iraq ever have been or ever will be. By punishing our friends and taking the sides of enemies and non-friends, the predictable result is the empowerment of our enemies at the expense of our friends. (World Affairs Journal)
  • Century-Old Kurdish Statehood Dream Not Handiwork of Israel - Bashdar Ismaeel
    A frequent line emanating from Turkey and Iran is that the Kurdish drive toward independence is an initiative fostered by Israel, seeking to divert attention from a peaceful vote where the voice of millions of Kurds was abundantly clear.
        First, any support from Israel, a key power in the Middle East, is not a stain on the Kurds. Second, Kurdistan was promised a country of its own long before Israel was even created. As the largest nation in the world without a state, and the fourth largest ethnicity in the Middle East, even hostile regional players struggle to justify why Kurdistan is not worthy of the principle of self-determination. Kurdistan has continuously suffered under the Iraqi umbrella.
        It is the Kurds who were betrayed by imperial powers over a century ago, then through repressive policies of respective governments, and again in 2003, under the promise that a new Iraq would usher in a new plural, federal, and democratic chapter in the country. Having waited decades for their time, the majority of Kurds would choose statehood in spite of the costs this may entail. (Kurdistan24)

  • Weekend Feature

  • How a Network of Citizen-Spies Foiled Nazi Plots to Exterminate Jews in 1930s Los Angeles - Steven J. Ross
    On July 26, 1933, a group of Nazis held their first public rally in Los Angeles, wearing brown shirts and red, white and black armbands with swastikas. The Nazis belonged to a growing movement of white supremacists in L.A. that included the Ku Klux Klan, the Silver Shirts, the American Nationalist Party, the Christian American Guard, and the National Protective Order of Gentiles.
        Leon Lewis, a Jewish lawyer and World War I veteran who had helped found the Anti-Defamation League, decided to investigate the anti-Semitic hate groups. He recruited four mostly-Christian World War I veterans, plus their wives, to go undercover and join every Nazi and fascist group in the city. They repeatedly heard fellow Americans talk about wanting to overthrow the government and kill every Jewish man, woman and child.
        Lewis' spies uncovered a series of Nazi plots. There was a plan to murder 24 Hollywood actors and power figures, including Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Charlie Chaplin and James Cagney. There was a plan to drive through Boyle Heights and machine-gun as many Jewish residents as possible. There were plans for fumigating the homes of Jewish families with cyanide, and for blowing up military installations and seizing munitions from National Guard armories. The writer is a professor of history at USC and author of Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America. (Los Angeles Times)

Russia's Hand Is Visible Everywhere in the Middle East - Nikolas K. Gvosdev (National Interest)

  • The Russian hand is visible everywhere in the Middle East. The Kremlin is no longer interested in spreading a particular ideology, nor does it seek to impose any sort of binary choice on countries in the region to "choose" between Moscow and Washington. Instead, the Kremlin offers itself as a more reliable mediator than Washington and proffers equipment and capabilities that Washington is reluctant to provide.
  • Russia has been able to reestablish its presence because every country in the region, after two decades of U.S. transformational efforts, is now more interested in stability. It is clear that Washington lacks the ability to follow-through on its grandiose promises, and in particular no U.S. presidential administration is now in a position to commit large amounts of U.S. personnel or resources.
  • The Russian approach has been to recognize that, at present, long-term solutions are not possible, so Moscow's efforts are instead focused on jury-rigging a series of compromises: the deconfliction zones in Syria; maintaining a balance between Sunni and Shia interests in Syria; guaranteeing Iran's ability to reach its Hizbullah proxies in Lebanon while allowing Israel to enforce its red lines.
  • Moscow also expects to reap tangible benefits from its policies. Beyond validating Russia as a global power, the Russian calculation is that a return to playing a more active role in Middle Eastern affairs can create demand for Russian goods and services, starting with arms and nuclear power plants.

    The writer is chair of economic geography and national security at the U.S. Naval War College.
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