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November 6, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Yemen's Houthis Fire Missile at Saudi Capital Riyadh - Tim Lister (CNN)
    Yemeni rebels on Saturday targeted an airport in Saudi Arabia's capital with a ballistic missile, Yemen's Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry claimed.
    But the missile was intercepted by a Patriot missile over Riyadh, the Saudi Ministry of Defense said.
    See also Trump Blames Iran for Missile Fired at Saudi Capital - Bonnie Kristian (The Week)
    President Trump accused Iran of being responsible for the missile attack intercepted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday.
    "A shot was just taken by Iran, in my opinion, at Saudi Arabia. And our system knocked it down," Trump said Saturday, referring to the Patriot missile batteries Saudi Arabia purchased from the U.S.
    See also Iran-Saudi Cold War Intensifies as ISIS Threat Fades - Asa Fitch (Wall Street Journal)
    A cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, fought with proxies, is sharply escalating as the two powers jockey to shape a Middle East regional order devoid of Islamic State.

Israel Finds Bodies of Five Islamic Jihad Militants in Israeli Territory - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Israel is holding the bodies of five Islamic Jihad militants killed in last week's attack on a Gaza tunnel, the Israeli army said on Sunday.
    "Over the last few days, the Southern Command and the Gaza Division have completed their efforts in exposing and destroying terror tunnels," said the IDF spokesperson.
    During this process, the five bodies were found in Israeli territory.
    On Thursday, Israel said it would not allow Palestinians to search for the missing men unless progress was made on returning missing and slain Israelis held by Hamas.

Video: Israeli Border Police Arrest West Bank Terror Cell Planting Bomb by Security Fence (Times of Israel)
    Israeli Border Police on Sunday released footage of the ambush and arrest of a Palestinian terror cell as it attempted to plant a bomb last Monday near the West Bank security barrier northeast of Jerusalem.

Will Palestinian Reconciliation Reduce Hamas' Cash Flow? - Evelyn Gordon (Commentary)
    How would the Palestinian reconciliation deal affect Hamas finances if it were implemented?
    This past spring, the PA finally tired of serving as Hamas' ATM and stopped paying for most of Gaza's civilian needs.
    The result was that Hamas for the first time had to spend some of its own money on those needs, causing its military budget to plummet from $200 million in 2014 to just $50 million in 2017 (not counting the extra money it gets from Iran for military spending).

Israel Hosts "Blue Flag" Exercise with Seven Countries (TPS-Ynet News)
    Delegations from Greece, Poland, Italy, USA, India, France and Germany on Sunday began the biggest-ever version of the bi-annual joint military exercise hosted by Israel.
    Close to 100 aircraft will take part in the 11-day drill.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Lebanese PM Saad Hariri Resigns Citing Iranian Meddling
    Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation on Saturday and implicitly blamed Iran and its ally, Hizbullah, for his decision. He said he suspected there were covert plans to target his life. Hariri said Iran planted "disorder and destruction" in the country and meddled in the internal issues of Lebanon as well as other Arab countries. Referring to Hizbullah, Hariri said, "Iran's arm...has managed to impose a fait accompli on Lebanon through the power of its weapons....They have built a state within a state."  (Al Jazeera)
  • Saudi Prince, Asserting Power, Brings Clerics to Heel - Ben Hubbard
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is curbing the power of Saudi Arabia's religious establishment as part of his drive to impose his control on the kingdom and press for a more open brand of Islam. Dozens of hard-line clerics have been detained, while others were designated to speak publicly about respect for other religions.
        If the changes take hold, they could mean a historic reordering of the Saudi state by diminishing the role of hard-line clerics in shaping policy. "Most of the Wahhabi clerics are not happy with what is happening, but preserving the alliance with the monarchy is what matters most. They have much more to lose by protesting," said Stephane Lacroix, a scholar of political Islam at Sciences Po, the Paris Institute of Political Studies. (New York Times)
        See also Saudis Arrest 11 Princes, Ex-Ministers in Shake-Up
    Saudi Arabia's heir to the throne is overseeing an unprecedented wave of arrests of dozens of the country's most powerful princes, military officers, influential businessmen and government ministers - some potential rivals or critics of the crown prince now consolidating his power. Among those taken into custody overnight Saturday in an anti-corruption sweep were billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest men, as well as two of the late King Abdullah's sons. (AP-New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: A Nuclear Iran "Infinitely More Dangerous" than North Korea - Ben Flanagan
    Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the Chatham House think-tank in London on Friday, said Iran would be "infinitely more dangerous" than North Korea should it develop nuclear weapons, pointing to Tehran' aim for "world domination." "The one potent force in militant Islam that has emerged is Iran. And it is devouring one nation after the other. It is doing so either by direct conflict, or more usually by using proxies."
        "The good news is that the other guys are getting together with Israel as never before. There is something that I wouldn't have expected in my lifetime but we are working very hard to establish, and that is an effective alliance between Israel and the moderate Sunni states to (combat) the aggression from Iran....When Arabs and Israelis are saying the same thing, it's worth paying attention."  (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Netanyahu: Iran Seeks to Send Its Submarines to Syria's Mediterranean Ports - Amos Harel
    Speaking on BBC on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Iran openly calls for our destruction. Iran openly says it's out to destroy what they call the 'small Satan' en route to the 'Great Satan' which is the United States....It is seeking to colonize Syria for that purpose - that is, to 'Lebanonize' Syria; what they did in Lebanon that Prime Minister Hariri resigned over is basically took over the country....The same thing is being done in Syria."
        "As ISIS collapses, as ISIS moves out, Iran moves in, but they want to bring their air force there, right next to Israel; they want to bring Shi'ite and Iranian divisions right next to Israel; they want to bring submarines and military vessels into the Mediterranean, right next to Israel. So we will not let that happen; we will resist it."
        When asked if Israel would go to war to stop this from happening, Netanyahu responded, "You know, the more we're prepared to stop it, the less likely we'll have to resort to much greater things. There is a principle I very much adhere to, which is to nip bad things in the bud."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Despite Reconciliation, Fatah Continues Arresting Hamas Operatives in West Bank - Elior Levy
    In October the Palestinian Authority arrested more than 50 Hamas operatives in the West Bank, together with 130 from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The arrests point to Abbas' continued policy to block Hamas from developing any military or civilian foothold in the West Bank. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Authority Is Unable to Fight Terror Tunnels - Daniel Siryoti
    After the recent terror tunnel incident, a senior PA official said, "Palestinian reconciliation and the transfer of control [in Gaza] are on the declarative level only. In actuality, Hamas is in control on the ground in Gaza, and the PA's security apparatus currently has no ability to contend against it and against the other [armed] Palestinian factions, certainly not with regard to preventing digging new terror tunnels."
        "We are not interested in a confrontation with Hamas, certainly not because of the tunnel issue....For the time being it is not in our interest or desire to prevent Hamas from continuing its security-related activity in Gaza."
        A senior Palestinian security official explained, "For all intents and purposes, the police in Gaza merely swapped the blue Hamas uniforms for PA uniforms. Hamas still has control on the ground and is continuing its security-related activities more intensely than ever, including digging tunnels for the purpose of terror and training....We don't actually have control on the ground. We couldn't even arrange a safe trip for Abbas to Gaza."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Can Hamas and the Palestinian Authority Reconcile in Gaza? Be Skeptical. - Editorial
    The Hamas-Palestinian Authority reconciliation deal demands a healthy dose of skepticism: Half a dozen previous unification pacts have broken down since their violent split a decade ago, and the most difficult questions about this one have yet to be tackled.
        The problem is that Hamas' leadership appears more wedded than ever to its determination to "erase Israel from the map," as its political chief in Gaza recently put it, and it has rejected the disarmament or disbanding of its 20,000-plus-member militia, which wields an arsenal of rockets and has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.
        The U.S. administration is rightly insisting that Hamas disarm and recognize Israel before it joins a unity government. Were that to happen, there might be a genuine opening for a peace process. (Washington Post)
  • Demolition of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad Tunnel Inside Israel - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Sami Turjeman
    On Oct. 30, Israeli forces destroyed a tunnel infiltrating their territory, resulting in the deaths of several senior members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which operated the tunnel. Several Hamas members were killed as well. Neither PIJ nor Hamas in Gaza have responded by firing on Israel. This lack of armed action would have been inconceivable in the past. In 2014, Operation Protective Edge showed Gaza's leaders the costs of war. The Strip has not yet recovered from that conflict, in large part because the Hamas government's main focus is on reconstructing its military force and suppressing popular opposition to its rule.
        What can we learn from the incident? Hamas has not yet been able to regain its former military, civil, and political stature three years after the war. Both PIJ and Hamas seem to regard building extensive cross-border tunnel networks for the sake of launching raids on Israeli soil as critical components of their future warfare strategy. Yet the incident brings Palestinian terrorists to the uncomfortable realization that Israel has a tunnel-detection solution capable of eliminating a key part of their military strategy
        The writer, a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute, led the IDF Southern Command overseeing the 2014 Gaza war. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Turks, Arabs Welcomed the Balfour Declaration - Efraim Karsh (Middle East Quarterly)

  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict evolved in spite of the Balfour Declaration, not because of it. The Balfour Declaration was quickly endorsed by the contemporary international community, including the leaders of the nascent pan-Arab movement.
  • Moreover, it was not the Balfour Declaration that paved the road to the displacement of many Palestinians but its rejection by the extremist Palestinian Arab leadership headed by the Jerusalem mufti Hajj Amin Husseini - this against the wishes of ordinary Palestinian Arabs who preferred to coexist with their Jewish neighbors and take advantage of opportunities created by the evolving Jewish national enterprise. Had this leadership not ignored the wishes of its subjects, and the will of the international community, there would have been no nakba.
  • On August 12, 1918, Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha, one of the triumvirs who had run the Ottoman Empire - head of the world's Muslim community - since 1913, issued an official communique expressing "sympathies for the establishment of a religious and national Jewish center in Palestine by well-organized immigration and colonization" and offering to promote this enterprise "by all means" provided it "does not affect the rights of the non-Jewish population."
  • The leaders of the nascent pan-Arab movement were perfectly amenable to endorsing the Balfour Declaration so long as this seemed to be conducive to their ambitions. And none more so than the Hashemite emirs Faisal and Abdullah who, together with their father, the Sharif of Mecca Hussein ibn Ali, perpetrated the "Great Arab War" against the Ottoman Empire. They were generously rewarded for their endeavors in the form of vast territories several times the size of the British Isles.
  • On June 4, 1918, Faisal met Chaim Weizmann, the head of the Zionist movement. The two struck up an immediate rapport, and the emir readily acknowledged "the necessity for cooperation between Jews and Arabs" and "the possibility of Jewish claims to territory in Palestine."
  • At a dinner held on his behalf by Lord Rothschild, to whom Balfour sent the letter containing his famous declaration, Faisal reiterated, "No true Arab can be suspicious or afraid of Jewish nationalism, and what better intermediary could we find anywhere in the world more suitable than you? For you have all the knowledge of Europe, and are our cousins by blood."
  • On Jan. 3, 1919, Faisal signed an agreement with Weizmann supporting the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine in accordance with the Balfour Declaration and pledging the adoption of all necessary measures "to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale."

    The writer, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is emeritus professor of Middle East studies at King's College London and professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, where he directs the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

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