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November 20, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Completing Its Land Bridge to Israeli Border - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    Regime forces in eastern Syria are 2 km. from the strategic border town of Abu Kamal - the last link in the Iranian "land bridge" from the Iraq-Iran border to the Mediterranean Sea and the border with Israel - while the U.S.-supported, mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) remain 25 km. north of the town.
    Control of the border crossing at al-Qaim/Abu Kamal and of the roads leading west from it will enable the Iran-led alliance to transport fighters and weaponry in both directions.
    This means that in a future confrontation with Hizbullah, Israel could see its enemies reinforced by supplies and volunteers from other Iranian clients.
    Tehran is presently pressing forward. As the Iranians continue to solidify and extend their gains in Syria, the likelihood will grow of direct friction with Israel's enforcement of redlines.
    The writer is a senior research fellow at the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs, IDC Herzliya.

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander Killed in Syria (Reuters)
    An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander and another Iranian fighter were killed fighting Islamic State in Syria last week, Fars News reported on Sunday.
    More than 1,000 Iranians have been killed in Syria.

BDS Resolution Defeated at University of Maryland - Jeffrey Herf (Times of Israel)
    On Nov. 15, the Student Government Association of the University of Maryland, College Park decided not to support a resolution introduced by the Students for Justice in Palestine which called for the university to divest from U.S. companies investing in Israel.
    The Student Affairs committee rejected the resolution by a vote of 1 in favor and 21 opposed. In the Government Affairs committee the vote was 0 in favor and 14 opposed.
    Many student legislators at Maryland appeared to take the view that the Student Government should not have a foreign policy.
    Moreover, the counter-mobilization by Jewish organizations as well as non-Jewish students who opposed such attacks on Israel was indispensable.
    The writer is Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Maryland.
    See also Students for Justice in Palestine Unmasked - Dan Diker and Jamie Berk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Egypt Welcomed the Balfour Declaration - Ayman S. Ashour (Egyptian Streets)
    In 1917, and for over a decade, the Balfour Declaration was not seen by most Egyptian intellectuals as detrimental to the Palestinians.
    The Governor of Alexandria, Ahmad Ziour Pasha - later Prime Minister of Egypt - went to a party in the city celebrating the Balfour Declaration that culminated in their sending a telegram to Lord Balfour to thank him.
    A delegation of leading Muslims and Christians traveled to congratulate the Jews of Palestine.
    The Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar officially hosted Chaim Weizmann in 1918.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Threatens to Close Palestinian Office in Washington - Elise Labott
    The Trump administration put the Palestine Liberation Organization on notice Friday that it will close the group's office in Washington if the Palestinians don't get serious about peace talks with Israel, State Department officials said. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has determined the Palestinians violated a U.S. law that calls for the closure of the PLO mission if they act against Israel in the International Criminal Court.
        In a speech to the UN General Assembly in September, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ran afoul of the law when he called on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israel for war crimes against the Palestinians. The 2015 law requires shuttering the PLO mission if the Palestinians seek to "influence a determination by the ICC to initiate a judicially authorized investigation, or to actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians."  (CNN)
  • Pentagon Says It's Staying in Syria, even though ISIS Appears Defeated - Mark Katkov
    Despite the defeat of ISIS in Syria and the capture of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said last week that U.S. forces will remain in Syria. The intention, he said, is to prevent the appearance of "ISIS 2.0."
        Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies are demanding the U.S. leave Syria. The next meeting of the Geneva peace talks is Nov. 28. The U.S. is pressing for the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian Kurds to be at the negotiating table. But it's unlikely that Assad and the Russians will agree. (NPR)
  • U.S. Seeks to Bolster Saudi Arabia in Face of Expanding Iranian Threat - Dion Nissenbaum and Felicia Schwartz
    The Trump administration is looking at ways to quickly strengthen Saudi Arabia's missile defenses and disrupt the flow of advanced Iranian-made weapons across the Middle East. Last month, the Trump administration cleared the way for Saudi Arabia to purchase up to $15 billion in launchers, missiles, radar and technology for a missile defense system. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Responds to Syrian Army Incursion in Demilitarized Border Zone - Yaniv Kubovich
    The Israeli army fired several tank shells at Syrian army positions across the border from the Israeli Golan Heights on Sunday after Syrian forces entered the demilitarized zone in violation of Israeli-Syrian cease-fire agreements. Last week, Israel shot down a Syrian drone on an intelligence-gathering mission that had entered the demilitarized zone and flew toward Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Court Orders Palestinian Authority, Terrorists to Pay $17 Million for Deadly 2001 Attack - Nir Hasson
    The Palestinian Authority and the terrorists who killed three Israelis and wounded two children in an attack on the Jerusalem-Modi'in highway in 2001 must pay 62 million shekels ($17.6 million) in damages to the families of the victims, an Israeli court ruled on Sunday.
        On Aug. 25, 2001, during the second intifada, Palestinian terrorists ambushed a car carrying members of an Israeli family, spraying bullets into the vehicle. Sharon and Yaniv Ben-Shalom, ages 26 and 27, respectively, died in the attack. Sharon's brother, Doron Sueri, 20, died the following day. Sharon shielded her two infant daughters with her own body. The families of the victims sued the PA and PLO in 2009.
        Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Yair Drori ruled in 2014 that the PA was responsible for the attack because it gave the perpetrators money and weapons that were used to carry out the attack. He ordered the PA to pay 40%, with the rest to be paid by the terrorists. One of the terrorists convicted of the three murders was Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life terms in an Israeli prison for these and two other murders, along with other crimes. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Saudis and Israel - Elliott Abrams
    As part of its efforts to promote an Israeli/Palestinian peace plan, there are reports that the administration asked the Saudis to permit overflights of Saudi Arabia by El Al and have some public meetings with Israeli officials. The problem is that the Saudis are right now getting the military and intelligence cooperation they want from Israel. Public collaboration with Israel or concessions to it would be politically dangerous for the Saudi government, at a moment when its plate is full.
        So the cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia will likely continue, and deepen, but a great leap forward is highly unlikely. The Trump administration was counting on Saudi and pan-Arab desire to help the Palestinians and the "peace process," but that was an over-estimation of the degree of Arab official concern about the Palestinians. The writer, a senior fellow at the CFR, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Saudi Arabia Is Fighting for Survival - Hillel Frisch
    Saudi Arabia is fighting an all-out war for survival, as was recently demonstrated when Houthi forces in Yemen launched a ballistic missile at Riyadh's largest airport. As Iran, its formidable nemesis, became ascendant, the Saudis no longer consider the U.S. to be reliable to stave off external threats.
        Regionally, the Saudis have had to face the realization that it is the only Sunni Arab state with the potential power to meet the Iranian challenge. This position stems from the sharp decline of Egyptian power. To the east, the Saudis could once rely on Iraq to be a buffer against Iranian imperial ambitions. Not only has that buffer ceased to exist, but Iraq has come under Shiite rule.
        Financing proxies has been the central mainstay of the Saudi security architecture for decades. The comeback of the Assad regime at the expense of the Sunni rebels financed by Riyadh represents a major strategic loss for the kingdom in terms of its balance of power with Tehran. The writer, a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University, is a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Iran, Turkey Divide Saudi-Led Bloc - Giorgio Cafiero
    The Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ) is comprised of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Saudi/Bahraini view is that Iran, which represents the No. 1 threat to stability in the Persian Gulf and greater Middle East, must be countered aggressively, while Turkey is seen as a natural partner in the Sunni Muslim world and a state that the ATQ must cooperate with.
        However, Egypt sees Turkey as a state sponsor of terrorism that the ATQ should seek to isolate until Ankara recognizes Egypt's government and severs Turkey's support for Islamists across the Middle East. If the Saudi and Emirati leaders seek to establish the ATQ as an anchor of a new regional order, the bloc will need to address internal divisions over which Middle Eastern countries and nonstate actors in the Arab world the ATQ should target. The writer is the CEO of Gulf State Analytics. (Al-Monitor)

Israel Marks 40th Anniversary of Sadat's Visit to Jerusalem (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday:

  • "Today we mark 40 years to the historic visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Jerusalem and Israel [on November 19, 1977]. President Sadat took a bold step, he came to the Knesset; he came to Israel. He was welcomed by the entire nation."
  • "Since then, the peace treaty with Egypt has survived despite its ups and down. Today, Egypt and Israel, as well as other countries, are on one side of the barricade in a stubborn struggle against the terror of radical Islam in its various fronts."
    See also Sadat and Begin - The Peacemakers - Dr. Martin Kramer (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Anwar Sadat came from a poor village in the Nile Delta. Menachem Begin came from the crumbling world of East European Jewry, later erased from the earth. Sadat was an Axis sympathizer during WWII. Begin's parents and brother were murdered by the Nazis. Sadat was an authoritarian dictator who sent his opponents to prison. Begin was a classic liberal with a firm commitment to democracy and the rule of law.
  • But the similarities between the two are just as striking. Here were two men forged by prison and violence into believers in their own destiny, but who had been written off politically for decades. Here were two men possessed not only by a strong sense of peoplehood, but of its geography, which they conceived in ways that left no overlapping territorial claims.

    The writer is founding president emeritus of Shalem College in Jerusalem.
    See also Sadat and Me in Jerusalem 40 Years Ago - Lenny Ben-David (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Forty years ago, as AIPAC's Director of Research, I covered Sadat's electrifying visit to Jerusalem for its Near East Report:
  • "There is no doubt that barriers of belligerence have begun to crack. Incredulous as it seemed to everyone in Jerusalem - and throughout the world - Egyptian flags were flying in Israel, planes were flying from Cairo to Tel Aviv, and the President of Egypt was negotiating face-to-face with Israel's Prime Minister." ("Cautious Optimism in Jerusalem," November 23, 1977)

    The writer served as Israel’s Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy in Washington, D.C.

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