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November 10, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iran and Proxies Threaten Dubai and Abu Dhabi - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The Iranian newspaper Kayhan, which is Ayatollah Khamenei's mouthpiece, this week praised the Houthi missile launch at Riyadh and headlined: "Next Target, Dubai."
    "Even the UAE recognizes the fact that the recent threats of Abdulmalik Houthi, leader of the Houthis, to hit the Emirates are being fulfilled. A spokesman for the Houthis said at the end of October 2017 that Abu Dhabi is the main target of their ballistic missiles."
    See also Iranian Daily Threatens War on Saudi Arabia, UAE (MEMRI)

Turks Tidy Up Jerusalem Legacy (Daily Sabah-Turkey)
    A delegation of 110 people has gone to Jerusalem to clean ancient Ottoman buildings and repair mosques constructed during the Ottoman rule in Jerusalem.
    President Erdogan has urged the nation to visit Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque to protect the Muslim identity of the holy site.
    "We need to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque often, each day that Jerusalem has it under occupation is an insult to us," he said.

Blue Flag 2017: Israel's Fighter-Jet Diplomacy - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    At the current "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise in Israel, a Eurofighter jet carrying the cross of the German Luftwaffe lined up beside an F-15 with the Israeli Air-Force's blue Star of David. French Mirage 2000D fighter jets were there too, along with an Indian C-130J transport aircraft.
    Blue Flag is not only a military exercise; it is a demonstration by Israel that more countries than ever are willing to engage with it publicly as strategic allies.

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Israel Aerospace Industries Develops Unmanned Ground Vehicles of the Future - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Israel Aerospace Industries has developed two new unmanned ground vehicles: a D9 Panda bulldozer and Robattle, an engineering vehicle-robot hybrid.
    The unmanned D9 can maneuver on rough terrain, pinpoint mines and explosive devices, and construct earthworks to defend forces in enemy territory. It can also extract other armored vehicles stranded under fire in enemy terrain and demolish buildings where terrorists are hiding.
    The Robattle appears to be a real life Transformer. It contracts or expands according to need, has claws capable of picking up and shaking large suspicious objects such as cars suspected of containing explosives, and has outstanding maneuverability in mountainous or obstacle-fraught terrain.
    Both vehicles boast dozens of sensors capable of scanning their environments to a radius of hundreds of meters to locate the enemy and bypass any obstacles.

How an Israeli Tech Startup Changed the NBA - Ben Cohen (Wall Street Journal)
    Gal Oz and Miky Tamir, based in Israel, invented a product called SportVU - a new way to view sports that uses high-resolution tracking cameras in the catwalks of NBA arenas to capture the precise movements of players thousands of times per minute.
    SportVU changed the way basketball teams make decisions, basketball players are valued, and basketball fans understand the sport.
    But after seven years, the SportVU era is over. Before this season, the NBA awarded its player-tracking contract to another company.
    Tamir had a Ph.D. in physics and decades of experience working for defense contractors on drones, satellites and computer imaging.
    Oz spent 10 years in an Israel Defense Forces unit that specialized in "visual-intelligence-related work."
    Their goal was to apply optical recognition techniques to sports.

Three Israeli Startups Raise a Combined $180 Million in Single Day - Ruti Levy and Eliran Rubin (Ha'aretz)
    Three Israeli or Israel-founded startups announced funding totaling more than $180 million on Wednesday.
    Compass' search technology pairs people with homes that fit their needs, providing details to help them evaluate neighborhoods, and matches them with agents to complete a purchase.
    Founded four years ago, the company received a $100 million investment and expects to generate $350 million in revenues this year.
    Tel Aviv-based Yotpo, whose platform lets users of products and services generate their own marketing content, said it had raised $51 million.
    Mitrassist, an Israeli startup that has developed a valve to help people suffering from mitral regurgitation, expected to raise $30 million from Chinese investors.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Planning UN Action Against Iran - Josef Federman
    Following the surprising resignation of Lebanon's prime minister, Israel is planning a diplomatic offensive to step up pressure on Iran and its proxy Hizbullah at the UN, Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said Thursday. "The resignation of Lebanon's Prime Minister (Saad) Hariri exposes Hizbullah's real face. Iran is taking over Lebanon. Hizbullah is taking over Lebanon." He said Israel wants the world, after years of inaction, to tightly enforce a 2006 cease-fire agreement that called on Hizbullah to disarm and stay away from Israel's border.
        Katz said changing circumstances make the time ripe for diplomatic action. He cited the strong support for Israel by the new U.S. administration and what he called Israel's "shared interests" with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries who also feel threatened by Iran. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Syrian Forces Capture ISIS Border Stronghold - Louisa Loveluck
    Syrian government forces said Thursday they have recaptured the Islamic State's border stronghold of Bukamal in eastern Syria, leaving the militants with only a few enclaves along the Euphrates River. Despite Islamic State's promise to fight to the last man, the group withdrew from its former Syrian bases without a major fight. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egyptian Envoy Hails Peace with Israel - Tamar Pileggi
    Just before the 40th anniversary of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel in 1977, Egypt's ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat told Israel Radio on Thursday that his country's 1979 peace agreement with Israel should serve as encouragement to Palestinians and other Arab states to reach their own peace agreements with the Jewish state. "We can say, 'Look, we have reached peace, there is no reason why you cannot reach this peace either.'"  (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Army Remains on High Alert Expecting Islamic Jihad Retaliation - Yaniv Kubovich
    Senior Israeli defense officials believe that Islamic Jihad is planning a revenge attack after 14 people were killed, most of them Islamic Jihad members, when a cross-border tunnel was blown up last week. Islamic Jihad claimed the destroyed tunnel wasn't the only one it has. The group could also respond from the West Bank, rather than in Gaza.
        Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Army Radio on Wednesday, "We live in a tough neighborhood with a lot of tension, sometimes with Hizbullah, sometimes with Hamas and sometimes with [Islamic] Jihad. There are also nonstop attempts to commit attacks in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Video: Palestinian Terrorists View Israel through Gunsights - Yasser Okbi
    The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine released threatening video on Tuesday showing terrorists in Gaza viewing targets in Israel through their gunsights. (Maariv Hashavua-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement - Context, Consequences and Open Questions - Brig. Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog
    After the September Palestinian reconciliation agreement signed under Egyptian auspices, the Palestinian Authority is back in Gaza for the first time in ten years and is assuming responsibility for the Strip in the civilian arena. The upside of the deal for the West and Israel lies in the fact it turns Hamas away from Qatar and towards Egypt and the UAE; it allows for addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza; and it enhances the potential for a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.
        But despite the agreement, there is a very different view of the deal in Ramallah than in Gaza. For Abbas, the deal is about Hamas handing over all responsibilities in Gaza to the PA, so he can present himself as representing both areas. For Hamas, the reconciliation deal should allow Hamas free political action in the West Bank and to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Ultimately, Hamas' goal is to take over the PLO in the post-Abbas era.
        At the same time, as its leadership repeatedly emphasizes, Hamas is not going to give up its military wing, forsake its Islamist character, and agree to recognize Israel. Moreover, Hamas continues to foster excellent relations with the regional "axis of resistance" led by Iran.
        Once the U.S. launches its peace initiative, will Israel be expected to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, or is backed by it? Netanyahu has said this isn't going to happen and his position has been supported by the U.S.
        According to the reconciliation deal, both parties committed to resolve the issue of salaries of Hamas civil servants by February 2018. The UAE is willing to provide some funding but not for all 40,000 people. An EU official recently calculated that covering salaries would amount to $40 million a month or $480 million a year. I don't see any enthusiasm in the international community to provide funds to cover this financial burden. The writer is a former chief of staff to Israel's minister of defense. (BICOM)
  • What Anti-Israel Protestors Get Wrong about the Balfour Declaration - Einat Wilf
    The campaign waged by Palestinians and their supporters to demand that Britain apologize for the Balfour Declaration betrays their fundamental misunderstanding of how and why the modern State of Israel came into being. Israel is the outcome of deliberate Jewish action - not of foreign hand-outs. Israel is a country attained - not a land given. Without collective Jewish mobilization in the name of self-determination and liberation, this declaration would have come to naught.
        The idea of Jews as active players in history - as masters of their fate - still grates on the consciousness of peoples and civilizations that were structured on the presumption that the Jews should have headed to the dustbin of history. For too many, the story that Jews could attain something for themselves by operating, as all peoples do, on multiple fronts - diplomatically, economically, militarily - is still so fanciful that to some, the story of Israel only makes sense if presented as a series of handouts by foreign powers with shady motivations.
        To the chagrin of those who want to put the Jews back "in their proper place," the State of Israel came into being 31 years after the Balfour Declaration precisely because Zionist Jews were done entrusting their fate to others. Through their actions, from 1917 on, the Zionist Jews simply said to Britain, and the world: "Thank you very much Lord Balfour. We'll take it from here." Dr. Einat Wilf served in the 18th Knesset. (Forward)
  • Hizbullah Consolidates Its Stranglehold over Lebanon - Michael J. Totten
    Hizbullah effectively controls Lebanon's army now. In 2011, an independent UN tribunal fingered Hizbullah for the assassination of recently resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's father in 2005.
        I met Saad Hariri once when he invited me and some other journalists to his home in Beirut for dinner (before he became prime minister the first time in 2009). ) He wants peace with Israel even though he's shy about saying so for reasons that I trust are obvious.
        By refusing to collaborate with terrorists and mass murderers, Hariri is doing the rest of us a favor by exposing Lebanon's government for what it truly is - the subject of a hostile takeover by malevolent foreign powers in Damascus and Tehran. Now that Hariri is out, Iran's conquest and de-facto annexation of Lebanon is complete.
        Lebanon has dozens of political parties, almost 20 different religious sects crammed together in a space only half the size of miniscule Israel, pretty much every family is armed to the teeth, and few are shy about pulling the trigger to protect their communities. (World Affairs Journal)
  • Why the Saudi "Purge" Is Not What It Seems to Be - Ali Shihabi
    The "purge" by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of numerous members of the royal family, as well as current and former ministers and prominent businessmen, on charges of corruption is not about removing political rivals who threatened his position, but rather about sending a message to political and economic elites that their entitlement to extreme wealth and privilege, and their impunity, is coming to an end. With the exception of Minister of the National Guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdallah, the detainee list is made up entirely of individuals who had no capacity to challenge MBS' succession. Nor did Prince Mutaib, despite leading the national guard, pose a political threat to the Crown Prince.
        Given the relatively young age of the new Crown Prince, his appointment last June naturally alienated many of MBS' older cousins, and even some uncles, who suddenly found themselves politically marginalized. But alienation does not mean that these princes possess the power to threaten the throne or to determine the succession. No royal maintains an independent constituency among the population at large that they can galvanize against the monarchy.
        King Salman and MBS have chosen to go the populist route by appealing to the Saudi public, and specifically to the youth, rather than seeking to placate the many "losers" by lavishing them with money (a tactic widely used in the past that was highly unpopular with the Saudi public and that has become increasingly unaffordable). Now there will be no paying-off of discontented princes in exchange for their loyalty and acquiescence. (Arabia Foundation)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel Has World's Highest Percentage of Teenage EMTs - Abigail Klein Leichman
    11,000 Israeli teenagers working voluntary shifts on MDA ambulances throughout Israel make up 60% of the volunteer staff of Magen David Adom, Israel's national emergency-response network. "We have the biggest youth corps by percentage in the world, as far as I know," says Eli Yaffe, MDA deputy director for training and culture.
        MDA started a formal youth program in 1993 for 15- to 18-year-olds as an option for fulfilling the Education Ministry's mandatory 60 hours of volunteering for high-school students. Dina Abu Toameh of Jerusalem, a 17-year-old Muslim, says sometimes her Arabic translation abilities are critical. "In our shifts we can have both Arabs and Jews, but sometimes I'm the only one in the crew who knows Arabic."  (Israel21c)
  • Ancient Hebrew Manuscripts to Go Online in Israel-Russia Deal
    One of the most treasured collections of ancient Hebrew manuscripts and books will be digitized and available for public view online under an agreement by the state libraries of Russia and Israel announced on Tuesday. The digitization shelves a century-old ownership dispute.
        The 14,000-item Guenzburg collection of medieval books, rare works of Jewish ritual law and mysticism, prayer books and biblical commentaries was purchased by Zionist activists in 1917 for shipment to Jerusalem. But that was delayed by fighting during World War I and the collection was ultimately seized by Soviet authorities after the Russian Revolution.
        Thousands of new high-quality images of the ancient Hebrew texts will be integrated into the National Library of Israel's online Ktiv manuscript site. (Reuters)
        See also Russian Oligarch Funds Digitizing Jewish Manuscript Collection (AP)
  • How a Talented German-Jewish High Jumper's Dreams Came Crashing Down in 1936 - Renee Ghert-Zand
    "The Margaret Lambert Story," a new short documentary premiering Nov. 9 on the Olympic Channel, recounts how German-born Lambert, then known as Gretel Bergmann, was cheated out of competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by the Nazis because she was Jewish. Lambert died earlier this year at age 103 in Queens, New York.
        Successful at the national level in athletics, Lambert moved to England to train and compete after being banned from sports clubs in Germany after the Nazis' rise to power in 1933. In 1934, she won the British national championships. In 1935 the Nazi government wanted Lambert to return and try out for the German Olympic team, and threatened reprisals against her family if she did not acquiesce. But the Nazis were only interested in using her to convince the international community that Germany did not discriminate against Jews.
        At 22, Lambert tied the German national record at the Olympic trials in June 1936 with a jump sufficient to win the Olympic gold medal. Then she received a letter that she was dismissed from the German Olympic team. Lambert arrived in New York in 1937 and won the U.S. women's high-jump in 1937 and 1938. (Times of Israel)
        See also An Olympic Invitation Comes 60 Years Late - Ira Berkow (New York Times, 1996)
  • World War II Relic Found in Nazi Death Camp Helps Reunite Jewish Family - Cristina Maza
    Archeologists from Israel's Antiquities Authority were excavating the site of a Nazi death camp in Poland when they discovered mass graves, gas chambers and a small silver pendant with a date, the place name Frankfurt, and the Hebrew words "mazal tov" written on it. The pendant's discovery set off a chain of events that brought together the long-lost relatives of the little girl who once wore the pendent. The girl's name was Karoline Cohn, and over 30 of her relatives will unite in Frankfurt, Germany, her hometown, next week.
        Chaim Motzen, an amateur genealogist, located over 100 of Karoline's cousins and their descendants in the U.S., Israel, Japan, Great Britain, Nicaragua, and Hong Kong. (Newsweek)

U.S. Policy on Jerusalem Embassy Held Hostage by Threats and Outdated Arguments - Prof. Eugene Kontorovich (U.S. House of Representatives)

  • Jerusalem is the only world capital whose status is denied recognition by the United States. The U.S. embassy's location outside of Jerusalem undermines U.S. foreign policy and helps isolate Israel. Moreover, delaying the embassy's move to Jerusalem rewards threats of violence and allows U.S. policy to be held hostage by terrorists and aspiring terrorists.
  • The U.S. embassy was never established in Jerusalem because the U.S., upon Israel's creation, refused to recognize any part of the city as under Israeli sovereignty. This was originally due to the UN General Assembly's 1947 proposal, in Resolution 181, to have the greater Jerusalem area become an internationalized city under no sovereignty. The General Assembly's proposal had no legal force and was unworkable, and was in any case completely rejected by the Arab states, who opposed a Jewish state within any borders.
  • The borders of the proposed international city included significant parts of Bethlehem, so as to incorporate Christian holy sites. Yet the U.S. treats Bethlehem as part of the territory administered by the Palestinian Authority, instead of treating it as a unique entity. The insistence on maintaining the policy legacy of a hypothetical international city when it comes to Israel but not the Palestinians locks in a deeply anti-Israel bias in America's regional diplomacy.
  • The central argument against moving the embassy is that it would lead to violence, and in particular to attacks against American targets. Invoking hypothetical threats as a reason for distorting U.S. foreign policy towards a key ally is deeply inconsistent with U.S. foreign policy. U.S. embassies in the Middle East routinely face concrete and specific threats. Indeed, in 1998, Islamic terrorists blew up the U.S. embassies in Dar El Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks were said to be a response to various aspects of U.S. foreign policy. But America did not respond by rethinking those policies, or by withdrawing its embassies from those cities.
  • In April of this year, Russia announced that it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Experts would have predicted that such a unilateral recognition would provoke anger and violence from at least the Palestinians. Note what happened next: No explosions of anger in the Arab world. No end to Russia's diplomatic role in the Middle East. No terror attacks against Russian targets.

    The writer, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law and head of the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Nov. 8.
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