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November 17, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Base near Syria Border Caught on Camera - Sue Surkes (Times of Israel)
    Israeli satellite photos published Thursday appear to strengthen a BBC report a week ago that Iran is building a permanent military base in Syria, just 50 km. (31 miles) from Israel's northern border.
    The ImageSat International pictures, published by Hadashot (Channel 2) news, show renovations undertaken at the al-Kiswah site.

The Iranian Threat on Israel's Northern Border - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    For decades, Israel lived with having five Syrian divisions on the Golan Heights border, armed with tanks, artillery and missiles.
    In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, we proved we are capable of dealing with such a force.
    The biggest force the Iranians are capable of stationing 5 to 20 km. from the Israel-Syria border is two divisions of armed militias.
    These militias could try to carry out terror attacks and infiltrate Israeli territory, or fire rockets and mortars, but these are activities the IDF knows how to deal with.
    What we should be concerned about is the Russian legitimization of long-term strategic Iranian presence in Syria.
    This could result in the deployment of modern Iranian surface-to-air missile batteries that could block the Israel Air Force from entering Syria and Lebanon's skies.

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Number of Women in IDF Combat Roles Reaches Record High - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
    In 2017, 2,700 women were recruited into the IDF's four mixed-gender battalions and to the Home Front Command's Rescue Division, up from 600 in 2012.
    Commander of the Rescue Division Col. Yair Barkat said that the young women's motivation to serve was exceedingly high, as was their quality.
    The drop-out rate among female recruits was no higher than their male counterparts.

Why a Growing Number of Religious Women Want to Serve in the Israeli Military - Ruth Eglash (Washington Post)
    All Israelis are drafted into the military at age 18, with a few exceptions.
    Religiously observant women, known in Israel as modern Orthodox, traditionally have opted to enroll in national service, volunteering in schools or the community for a year or two, instead of the military.
    But since 2010, the number of religious women who want to serve has jumped from 935 in 2010 to 2,499 in 2016.
    They are increasingly choosing to serve out of a sense of duty to defend Israel, military officials and soldiers say.
    Women make up roughly a third of Israel's military, compared with about 14% in the U.S. armed forces. The IDF says that today around 90% of all military jobs are open to women.
    Brig.-Gen. Sharon Nir, the adviser on gender affairs to the IDF chief of staff, said, "These women have realized the army is a very important component of feeling part of Israeli society, and they want to contribute to the state. They are religious Zionists - their brothers serve, and now they want to, too."

Photos: Hidden Gems of Jerusalem - Noam Chen (Times of Israel)
    Some of Jerusalem's most fascinating sites are literally hidden from sight.

231 Immigrants from Two "Lost Tribes" Arrive in Israel (Times of Israel)
    Members of two "lost tribes" - 162 people from India's Bnei Menashe and 69 from Ethiopia, reputedly descendants of the Tribe of Dan - arrived in Israel Thursday to reunite with family members and make new lives in the country.
    Some 1,700 Bnei Menashe have settled in Israel over the past 15 years, with a further 7,000 waiting to immigrate.

U.S.-Israel Fund Invests $4.8M in Clean Energy - Priyanka Shrestha (Energy Live)
    The U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation has announced $4.8 million in funding for five new clean energy projects in hydrogen storage, advanced biofuels, sustainable transportation and energy efficiency.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russian Veto Kills Syria Chemical Arms Panel - Rick Gladstone
    Russia on Thursday blocked an American-sponsored resolution at the UN Security Council to extend the life of a panel investigating who is using chemical weapons in Syria. The Russian veto means the panel will be dissolved. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said, "The message to anyone listening is clear: In effect, Russia accepts the use of chemical weapons in Syria." It was the 10th time Russia had used its veto power to protect the Syrian government. Eleven of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the American resolution. (New York Times)
  • Saudi Arabia Calls on Hizbullah to Lay Down Its Arms
    Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Thursday described Hizbullah as a "first-class terrorist organization" that should lay down its arms and respect Lebanon's sovereignty. "Hizbullah has kidnapped the Lebanese system," Jubeir said, adding that "consultations and coordination between peace-loving countries and Lebanon-loving countries are underway to try to find a way that would restore sovereignty to Lebanon and reduce the negative action which Hizbullah is conducting in Lebanon."  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Russia Has $8 Billion in Weapon Orders from Arab Countries
    Orders from Arab countries make up 20% of Russian weapon exports, said Alexander Mikheev, CEO of Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport. Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Tunisia are interested in Russian products, he said. (Sputnik-Russia)
  • Kuwait Airways Can Bar Israeli Passengers, German Court Rules
    A court in the German city of Frankfurt ruled on Thursday that Kuwait Airways was within its rights to refuse to transport an Israeli because of his citizenship. The passenger had sued the airline for discrimination after it refused to fly him from Frankfurt to Bangkok via Kuwait City in 2016. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Wounds Two Israelis in Car-Ramming Attack - Yotam Berger
    On Friday a Palestinian man rammed his vehicle into a 70-year-old pedestrian at the Efrat South Junction in the West Bank before continuing on to the nearby Gush Etzion Junction where he attacked a second pedestrian. The assailant then exited his vehicle and ran towards a group of soldiers with a knife before being shot. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: Israel Ready to Exchange Intelligence with Moderate Arab Countries - Amos Harel
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told the Saudi online newspaper Elaph in an interview on Thursday, "We need to carry out a large and inclusive strategic plan to stop the Iranian danger. We are willing to exchange information with moderate Arab countries, including intelligence information, in order to deal with Iran."
        "I participated in the meeting of chiefs of staff in Washington and heard what the Saudi representative said. It is precisely what I think concerning Iran and the need to deal with it in the region and the need to stop its program of expansion."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Saudi Newspaper Is Israel's Backchannel to the Arab World - Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
  • Spanish Court Suspends Anti-Israel Boycott in Seville - Tamara Zieve
    Last week, a court in Seville, Spain, halted a boycott of Israeli products by the City Council of La Roda de Andalucia, as well as its decision to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. The Lawfare Project's Spanish counsel, Ignacio Wenley Palacios, has secured over 40 writs of injunction and decisions against the Spanish boycott campaign. "That groups target Israelis, and ultimately Jews, in the name of spurious arguments on collective rights, with discrimination and blatant breaches of the principle of equality under the law, should concern all of us, Jews and non-Jews alike," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Collapse of the Islamic State: What Comes Next?
    In 2014, at the height of its expansion, the Islamic State's territory covered a third of Iraq and Syria. ISIS' expansion was halted in 2015 and a continuous campaign waged against the Islamic State by an American-led international coalition, Russia, Iran and Iranian-backed forces, and the Syrian and Iraqi armies is about to be completed.
        ISIS will continue to exist after the collapse of the Islamic State but will change its character and modus operandi to revert to what it was before, a terrorist-guerrilla organization unconnected to a territorial base. At the same time, the concept of jihad against the "infidels" wherever they are found still exists and will lead to the continued existence of most (if not all) of ISIS' provinces beyond Syria and Iraq.
        Only a small number of attacks carried out by ISIS abroad were planned by ISIS headquarters in Syria. Most of the attacks in the West were ISIS-inspired, carried out by individuals who identified ideologically with ISIS. Thus, ISIS-inspired attacks will not come to an end and in the short term may increase to avenge the collapse of the Islamic State. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Why a Marshall Plan for Gaza Is a Bad Idea - Efraim Inbar
    Some have advocated a "Marshall Plan" - a massive international mobilization - for the improvement of Gaza's living conditions in the belief that this will reduce anti-Israel violence. Yet the belief that poverty leads to terrorism is unsubstantiated. There has been no proven connection between one's standard of living and political violence and terrorism.
        The belief that greater affluence for Gazan civilians will bring moderation to the Hamas military leadership is naive. Radical ideology and religious fervor are unlikely to be influenced by the wealth of unarmed civilians.
        Massive economic aid for Gaza is synonymous with supporting Israel's bitter enemy, one which seeks Israel's destruction. Did the West ever consider granting economic aid to the Islamic State for fear of greater radicalization? The writer, founding director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, is president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Can Israel Maintain an Alliance with Moderate Sunni Arab States? - Lior Akerman
    Over the years, many unexpected political, military and economic connections have been formed between Israel and moderate Sunni Arab states. Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt and then with Jordan. Israel also formed extensive unofficial commercial ties with a number of Sunni Gulf states. All of this is apparently leading Saudi Arabia to change its political positions, recognize Israel, and push other countries to settle regional conflicts and recognize the Jewish state.
        Israel has common interests with many of the moderate Sunni countries in the region, such as a desire to eradicate radical Islamist terrorism, to advance the region's economy, to improve the welfare of residents, and to prevent the outbreak of war.
        Yet most Middle Eastern countries lack governmental stability. Heads of state are constantly being ousted, and ruling leaders often change their positions according to the political climate of the moment and their current military needs. Today's ally could turn into an enemy tomorrow - and vice versa. The writer is a former deputy head of the Israel Security Agency. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Myths and Facts: Palestinian Bedouin Encampments in the Jordan Valley - Meir Deutsch
    Recent headlines accuse Israel of planning to evict hundreds of Palestinian Bedouin from two villages in Israel's Jordan Valley - Ein al Hilweh and Umm Jamal. While it has been claimed that the residents "have been there for decades," aerial photos taken in 2004 show no villages. At most, in certain seasons there were tents constructed by nomadic shepherds who passed through with their flocks. This hardly constitutes ownership or historic claims to land.
        The location of the "villages" endangers everyone who utilizes the roads and interchanges these illegal settlements are currently obstructing - including Jewish, Arab, and Bedouin residents of the area. The Umm Jamal camp has even begun to encroach upon an IDF firing zone - putting the Bedouin squatters themselves in grave danger.
        The government of Israel has repeatedly offered alternative housing solutions to the Bedouin - solutions that the Palestinian Authority has consistently rejected. The Bedouin have become pawns in the PA's bid to establish a de facto Palestinian state in Area C through a systematic, calculated policy of illegal activity. The writer is director of policy and government relations at Regavim. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel, NATO States Share Urban Warfare Insights - Yaakov Lappin
    Representatives from 12 NATO countries visited Israel on Nov. 5-8 for the first-of-its-kind conference on urban warfare and combat in populated areas. Israel has amassed significant experience in this area, experts say.
        "The IDF set up one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the world at the Tzelim Ground Forces Training Center," said Dr. Eitan Shamir, former head of the National Security Doctrine Department in Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry. He was referring to a mock Palestinian village used for Israeli military training. "American units and others have asked to come and train in it. I personally have heard senior American officers say they do not have a facility like the Israeli one, which was built after many lessons and experience."
        "A non-state actor fighting a guerrilla war from within an urban jungle, this is the type of enemy and challenge. The confrontation with radical Islam looks like it will continue, and in this context, the Arab-Muslim urban environment is highly relevant, and this is the natural environment in which the IDF acts.... NATO militaries have also gained experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in Africa and other places, so the IDF is also learning from their experiences."  (

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Scientists Have Helped Develop Life-Saving Cancer Drugs - Benjamin Brafman
    Israel has made disproportionately large contributions to the fight against cancer. A breakthrough in the 1980s by Israeli scientist Eli Canaani was critical to the development of Gleevec, a drug that has saved the lives of millions diagnosed with leukemia. Velcade, a drug used to treat bone marrow cancer, was based on the research of Israeli professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover, and their collaborator Irwin Rose, who went on to win the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2004.
        Israeli scientists discovered the role that mutations in the p53 gene play in causing cancerous tumors, and how a minor mutation in the RAD51 gene increases the risk of breast cancer in women with the BRCA2 gene mutation. It was scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center who contributed to the platform science that resulted in the development of Doxil, the first drug encapsulated in a microscopic fat bubble for direct delivery to a tumor site. (JTA)
  • Hoops in the Holy Land: African-American Basketball Players Embrace Israel - Myles Dichter
    In the last 40 years, more than 800 African-Americans have relocated to Israel to play in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. David Goldstein, chief operating officer for USports, the governing body for university sports in Canada, has written a new book about these players, Alley-Oop to Aliyah.
        Many of these American players went to Israel begrudgingly, if only to showcase themselves for a bigger contract elsewhere. But many have stayed, living as culturally Jewish, while more than 20 eventually converted to Judaism. (CBC Sports)
  • Zubin Mehta, from India to Israel, Making Beautiful Music - Tunku Varadarajan
    Zubin Mehta, 81, an Indian Zoroastrian, has been the musical director of the Israel Philharmonic orchestra for more than 50 years. "It started by chance," he says. "A great conductor, Eugene Ormandy, fell ill and couldn't do a series of concerts with the Israel Philharmonic in 1961. I was a jobless conductor in Vienna...and they called me to cover as a substitute."
        He recalls there was "an immediate good feeling between me and the orchestra. We hit it off, musically and spiritually. And I felt very at home in Israel....Their temperament is very much like India. They all talk at the same time. They're very opinionated, very argumentative, very hospitable." The writer is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)

Behind the Creation of Israel - Michael Mandelbaum (Mosaic)

  • As Martin Kramer notes in his superb essay, "Who Saved Israel in 1947?," the UN resolution recommending the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state came about because it had the endorsement not only of American President Harry Truman, but also of Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union. Measured by the breadth of international support for its creation, Israel has as much legitimacy as any state has ever had.
  • Zionism's trajectory was also the product of major forces that have shaped the world of the 21st century. The French Revolution of 1789 introduced the idea that sovereignty properly resides not in the monarch, as had been the rule almost everywhere for centuries, but rather in the people.
  • The movement to endow distinctive peoples - nations - with their own states gained momentum in Europe over the course of the 19th century. After World War I, American President Woodrow Wilson, who a year earlier had approved the Balfour Declaration, persuaded the other victorious powers to accept the proposition that, initially in Europe, the nation-state should become the universal form of political organization.
  • In practice, a nation is a group of people who are willing and able to establish and defend their own state. To be sure, the Jews have had to fight harder and longer for their state than have many other nations. The heroic figures are the millions of people who sacrificed in blood to secure a Jewish state.
  • While Zionism has commanded widespread international support, without the efforts of the people who put their lives on the line, that support would have meant nothing. Great enterprises like Zionism are the work of many hands - and the Zionist enterprise owes its success, ultimately, to the commitment and resolve of all the world's Zionists.

    The writer is professor emeritus of American foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
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