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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
November 23, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Kuwaiti Writer: The Land of Israel Was Promised to the Jews by Allah - Eric Sumner (Jerusalem Post)
    Kuwaiti columnist Abdullah Al-Hadlaq told Alrai TV on Sunday, "Like it or not, Israel is an independent and sovereign state. It exists, and it has a seat at the United Nations, and most peace-loving and democratic countries recognize it."
    The countries that don't recognize Israel are "the countries of tyranny and oppression."
    "When the State of Israel was established in 1948, there was no state called 'Palestine'," he said. "There is no occupation. There is a people returning to its promised land."
    The Land of Israel was promised to the Jews by Allah, he said.

Al-Qaeda Clearing a Path to Dominance in Southern Syria - Bryan Amoroso and Genevieve Casagrande (Institute for the Study of War)
    Syrian opposition forces that could serve as a viable alternative to both Syrian President Assad and Salafi-jihadist groups are under attack in southern Syria.
    A recent wave of assassinations beginning in August 2017 has killed over 11 ranking anti-regime opposition commanders and governance officials in Dera'a and Quneitra provinces.
    More than half of the 42 assassination attempts targeted former or current U.S.-backed opposition groups.
    Al-Qaeda seeks to marginalize remnants of U.S.-backed opposition groups in southern Syria to create a sustainable power base along the Syria-Jordan border.
    The decision by the U.S. to dismantle a covert program to support vetted opposition factions in Syria by December 2017 will likely further embolden and empower al-Qaeda in southern Syria.

Pentagon Budget Calls for $143 Million Buildup at Jordan Air Base - John Vandiver (Stars and Stripes)
    The Pentagon wants to pump $143 million into upgrades at the strategic Muwaffaq Salti Air Base near Jordan's border with Syria and Iraq, as the military moves to expand drone and fighter flights in the region.
    The funding highlights the growing importance of Jordan in a neighborhood of unpredictable partners.

Photos: Israeli Jew Visits Holy Sites across Muslim World - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
    Russian-born Ben Tzion, 31, who became an Israeli citizen in 2014, posted photos and video on social media of his visits to holy sites across the Muslim world, including mosques in Iran, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
    Tzion stressed that he is coming as a friend and has respect for Islam and the Arab world.
    He insisted that an overwhelming majority of ordinary people he meets in person warmly embrace him.
    See also Israeli Man's Photos in Holy Muslim Site Cause Social Media Rage (BBC News)
    Images of an Israeli citizen inside the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, have caused anger among Arab users on social media.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Moves toward Open-Ended Presence in Syria after Islamic State Is Routed - Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly
    The Trump administration is expanding its goals in Syria beyond routing the Islamic State to include a political settlement of the country's civil war, a potentially open-ended commitment that could draw the U.S. into conflict with both Syria and Iran. U.S. officials say they are hoping to use the ongoing presence of American troops in northern Syria, in support of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to pressure Assad to make concessions at peace talks in Geneva.
        U.S. officials emphasized that an ongoing U.S. military presence in Syria is necessary to ensure that Islamic State remnants are mopped up and that repopulated communities are stabilized under local governance. "We're going to make sure we set the conditions for a diplomatic solution," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week. "Not just, you know, fight the military part of it and then say good luck on the rest of it."  (Washington Post)
  • Iran: Revolutionary Guards to Play Active Role in Syria Ceasefire
    Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said his forces will play an active role in establishing a "ceasefire" in Syria, Iranian state TV reported Thursday. He added that "Hizbullah must be armed to fight against the enemy of the Lebanese nation which is Israel. Naturally they should have the best weapons to protect Lebanon's security. This issue is non-negotiable."  (Reuters)
        See also Five More IRGC Personnel Killed in Syria - Mehdi Jedinia
    Iranian media report that five Iranian "shrine defenders" - including two high-ranking commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps - have been killed in Syria. Tehran says its fighters in Syria are there to protect the Zeinab Shrine, a Shi'ite holy site near Damascus. (VOA News)
  • No More Access to the European Parliament for Terrorists
    The European Parliament has endorsed a proposal of its president, Antonio Tajani, to systematically deny access to all persons, groups, or entities involved in terrorist acts. The decision followed a complaint by several MEPs after Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was invited last September to speak in the European Parliament. Khaled was involved in the hijacking of an American airplane in 1969 and a failed hijacking attempt on an El Al flight the following year. (European Jewish Press)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel May Target Iran Activity in Syria, Netanyahu Tells French President Macron
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed events in Lebanon and Syria with French President Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on Sunday, according to a report by Israel's Channel 10 TV on Wednesday. Netanyahu reportedly said, "I don't care who the Lebanese prime minister is or what goes on in the internal politics there. What worries me is the strengthening of Hizbullah with Iran's support. What's important is that all the factions in Lebanon work to prevent the arming of Hizbullah with additional advanced weaponry. The goal must be to minimize Iran's influence, not only in Lebanon but also in Syria."
        "Israel has tried up until now not to intervene in what is going on in Syria. But after the victory over Islamic State, the situation has changed because the pro-Iranian forces have taken control. From now on, Israel sees Iran's activities in Syria as a target. We will not hesitate to act, if our security needs require us to do so."  (Times of Israel)
        See also below Observations: Israel's Red Lines on Iran's Foothold in Syria - Udi Dekel and Zvi Magen (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Study Shows Jews, Arabs Work Together in Jerusalem Despite Tensions - Nadav Shragai
    About half the employed Arab residents of east Jerusalem, some 35,000 people, work in the Jewish sector, according to a new study by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research. Arabs comprise 71% of workers in the construction sector, 57% in public transportation, 40% in the hotel and restaurant industries, and 20% in municipal health care and welfare. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Thousands of Israeli Arabs Are Getting into Hi-Tech - Max Schindler
    In 2007, there were 300 Israeli Arab engineers working in hi-tech. Today, there are 5,000 Arab computer programmers and software engineers employed across Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Territories Taken from the Islamic State Should Not Be Surrendered to the Islamic Republic - Clifford D. May
    The territories being liberated from the Islamic State are coveted by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran's rulers are global revolutionaries and jihadis - that's how they describe themselves. What they plan to do next is no mystery. They will increasingly threaten the pro-American nations of the region: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Israel among them.
        White House national security advisors harbor no illusions about America's sworn enemies. They understand that when Iran's rulers chant "Death to America!" they are not asking that their "legitimate grievances" be addressed. They are, instead, articulating an intergenerational project intended to reclaim long-lost power for Islam and Iran. Iran's rulers cannot be appeased. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)
  • How a Saudi-Israeli Alliance Could Benefit the Palestinians - Hussein Ibish
    Many Palestinians and their supporters are likely to conclude that any meaningful efforts at building a new strategic relationship between Israel and Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia will be at their expense. But, in fact, there is every reason for Palestinians to see far more opportunity than danger in these potential developments. A new opening between Saudi Arabia and Israel wouldn't deprive Palestinians of anything they currently possess.
        The Arab, and especially Saudi, position appears to have evolved lately to accept the virtue of "concurrence," whereby limited Israeli peace moves and concessions toward the Palestinians would be matched by limited Gulf Arab gestures toward Israel. The idea is that new paths to an eventual peace between Israel and the Palestinians could be created, and then the full normalization with the Arab and Muslim worlds for Israel can be accomplished.
        Naturally this isn't what Palestinians would ideally want. However, it may be the best they can hope for under the circumstances, and certainly seems to be the only game in town. Though they may have to adjust their expectations, the Palestinians definitely stand to be net beneficiaries of a greater openness between Israel and Arab countries that, politically, would have to insist on movement on Palestinian issues in order to develop a new strategic relationship with the Jewish state.
        It would be wise for Palestinians to look for ways of maximizing how this dynamic can work for them rather than indulging in knee-jerk denunciations and recriminations that will gain them nothing. The writer is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. (Atlantic)

Israel's Red Lines on Iran's Foothold in Syria - Udi Dekel and Zvi Magen (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • The U.S. and Russia have finalized a deal regarding the ceasefire and de-escalation zones in southern Syria. Among the understandings reached this month between the powers is acceptance of Iranian forces and Iranian-controlled militias deployed not far from the Golan Heights border, where Israel had announced it would not tolerate an Iranian presence.
  • A senior U.S. official said the understandings allow Iranian troops, Shiite militias, and Hizbullah to be stationed 7 km. from the Israeli border on Mount Hermon and 20 km. from the border in the central and southern Golan Heights.
  • During the previous round of talks between the U.S. and Russia in July, Israel worked behind the scenes to keep Iran's forces and proxies 60 km. from the border. In neither round of talks was there discussion of Iran's consolidation in Syria - including the establishment of Iranian ground, naval, and aerial bases and infrastructures for the manufacturing and storage of advanced arms.
  • Senior Israeli officials have stressed that Israel is opposed to any Iranian military presence in Syria, and that the understandings between Russia and the U.S. do not provide a solution for Israel's security interests in Syria. Thus, Israel is not bound by these understandings and will continue to maintain the red lines it drew in the past.
  • The U.S. and Russia have handed Iran control and influence over Syria on a silver platter and at this point have no desire to confront it. Now Iran is busy tightening its long-term grip on Syria.

    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel, managing director of INSS, was head of the Strategic Planning Division in the IDF General Staff.
    Lt.-Col. Zvi Magen, who served in IDF Military Intelligence, is a former Israeli ambassador to Russia and Ukraine.

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