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December 1, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Stopped Selling Weapons to Myanmar Months Ago - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Foreign Ministry stated Thursday that Israel had frozen all military sales to Myanmar several months ago.
    The ministry statement came after it summoned Myanmar Ambassador to Israel U Maung Maung Lynn for a dressing-down, after which he apologized for an interview he gave to Army Radio saying that Israel was still selling weapons to his country.
    The French Intelligence Online magazine reported Wednesday, "The Israeli defense minister has discreetly but significantly decided to block military export licenses for Myanmar."

ICC Prosecutor Reaffirms She Won't Open Gaza Flotilla Probe - Mike Corder (AP-Washington Post)
    In November 2014, International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda declined a request by Comoros to investigate the May 31, 2010, storming of the Mavi Marmara, saying the case wasn't serious enough to merit an ICC probe.
    After ICC judges told her to reconsider, Bensouda said Thursday that after carefully reviewing more than 5,000 pages of statements from more than 300 passengers on the ship, she has reaffirmed her decision to close her preliminary investigation.

Lapid Calls on Europeans to Ban Hizbullah - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    Yair Lapid, leader of the opposition Yesh Atid party in Israel, met on Thursday in Amsterdam with ALDE, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a coalition of European centrist parties that champion liberal democratic values.
    "I am here to convince centrist parties in Europe to take the lead in ending the fake distinction between a military and a political wing of Hizbullah because that distinction just doesn't exist," Lapid said.
    "Hizbullah is one terrorist organization and it should be banned entirely." The idea that "in Europe, Hizbullah can raise funds, open offices and act freely is absurd."

Is Reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority Possible? - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    One of the major obstacles to implementing the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is the Palestinian Authority's difficulty in paying government workers' salaries.
    Saudi Arabia rejected PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' request to finance the reconciliation.
    Qatar is prepared to do so, but Abbas cannot comply because of the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
    Abbas does not want Abu Dhabi's money because it comes via his enemy in Fatah, Muhammad Dahlan.

Saudi Arabia Intercepts Missile Fired from Yemen (AFP)
    Saudi Arabia on Thursday intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen at the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, state media reported, the second such attack this month claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Head of Britain's Armed Forces Arrives in Israel for Official Visit - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The head of Britain's armed forces, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, arrived for an official visit to Israel on Thursday.
    See also Flagship of the Royal Navy Visits Israel (UK Defence Journal)
    The British helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, the flagship of the Royal Navy, docked in Haifa, Israel, on Thursday.

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Israel's Mythical "Isolation" - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)
    This week Kenya inaugurated President Uhuru Kenyatta for his second term.
    Only one Western head of government was present, joining ten African presidents.
    Only one foreign leader was asked to speak at the celebratory lunch, while being seated next to Kenyatta: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Israel is succeeding in an extraordinary campaign of outreach to India and China, to Africa, and to Latin America.
    The writer, a senior fellow at the CFR, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.
    See also Zambia to Host Africa-Israel Summit in 2018 (Lusaka Times-Zambia)

Israeli Startups Raised over $300 Million in November (Globes)
    Israeli startups raised more than $300 million during November.
    Startups raised a record $3.8 billion in the first nine months of 2017, and a further $550 million in October.

Israeli Firm Granted U.S. Patent for Skeletal Muscle Regeneration - Maayan Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. Patent Office on Thursday issued a patent to Haifa-based Pluristem Therapeutics Inc. which uses mesenchymal stem cells in skeletal muscle regeneration after muscle injury. The patent has already been granted in Europe, Hong Kong and Israel.
    Previous clinical studies showed a 300% improvement in muscle volume and a 500% boost in muscle force six months after surgery.

Alibaba to Buy Israeli QR Startup Visualead - Hagar Ravet (Calcalist)
    Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has agreed to buy Israel-based personalized QR code startup Visualead in a deal worth tens of millions of dollars.
    Visualead has developed software that creates personalized QR codes which users can scan with their smartphones.
    Visualead codes differ from the typical black-and-white QR codes by incorporating colorful designs.

More Migrating Birds Winter in Israel - Lee Marzel (Reuters)
    Some 45,000 cranes currently winter in Israel, compared with less than 1,000 in the 1950s, said Israeli ornithologist Shay Agmon. "In the last few decades Israel has become more than just a short stopover."
    Each year 500 million migrating birds stop over briefly in Israel before flying on to Africa.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House Weighs Plan to Move Embassy to Jerusalem - Felicia Schwartz
    The Trump administration is considering a plan to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the U.S. Embassy there in the future, U.S. officials said. The Trump administration this week notified U.S. embassies overseas about the plan and a possible forthcoming announcement so envoys can inform their host governments and prepare for possible protests.
        Officials said the administration is mulling laying out a long-term plan to move the embassy that would play out in President Donald Trump's second term, should he be re-elected. The disclosures about the potential move come as Trump faces a December 1 deadline under U.S. law to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem or sign a presidential waiver to keep it in Tel Aviv.
        Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a former head of Israel's military intelligence research, said of the U.S. administration, "I guess they realized that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel....[The Palestinians] are going to protest fiercely and express their unhappiness. We may have some violent repercussions. Even if there is a wave of violence, it will die eventually."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also 151 UN States Vote to Disavow Israeli Ties to Jerusalem - Tovah Lazaroff
    The UN General Assembly voted 151-6 to disavow Israeli ties to Jerusalem as part of six anti-Israel resolutions it approved on Thursday. The 6 were Israel, the U.S., Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Nauru. Nine countries abstained: Australia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Honduras, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan and Togo. All the EU member states voted against Israel.
        The resolution on Jerusalem stated that "any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever."
        The General Assembly also approved a resolution sponsored by Syria which condemned Israel's continued presence on the Golan Heights. It was approved with 105 nations in favor, 6 against, and 58 who abstained. (Jerusalem Post)
  • How the U.S. Is Going After Hizbullah in America's Backyard - Matthew Levitt
    In October, a joint FBI-NYPD investigation led to the arrest of two individuals who acting on behalf of Hizbullah. One "conducted missions in Panama to locate the U.S. and Israeli Embassies and to assess the vulnerabilities of the Panama Canal and ships in the Canal," the Justice Department said. The other "conducted surveillance of potential targets in America, including military and law enforcement facilities in New York City." The director of the National Counterterrorism Center warned: "It's our assessment that Hizbullah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook, and that is something that those of us in the counterterrorism community take very, very seriously." These cases are "likely the tip of the iceberg," one official said.
        On October 30, 2017, the FBI Miami Field Office website posted an updated bulletin seeking information about a Hizbullah suicide bomber newly identified as Ali Hawa Jamal. On July 19, 1994, the day after Hizbullah operatives blew up the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, the group sent Jamal to take down a flight on Alas Chiricanas Airlines, a Panamanian commuter airliner carrying mostly Jewish passengers.
        The plane exploded shortly after take-off from Colon on its way to Panama City. The 21 passengers and crew were killed. Amazingly, given the tiny size of the Jewish community in Panama (about 8,000 people), 12 of the 18 passengers were Jewish, including four Israelis and three Americans. Investigators determined that the bomber carried out surveillance, including flying the route several times, presumably to test security and select the optimal seat to maximize the impact of the explosive device.
        The FBI appears to have collected new information which, together with evidence gleaned from other current investigations, is likely to serve as the basis for a variety of actions aimed at Hizbullah, Iran's most powerful proxy group. The writer, former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, directs the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Politico)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Soldier Stabbed to Death in Arad - Ilana Curiel and Yoav Zitun
    An Israeli soldier, Ron Yitzhak Kukiya, 19, who was waiting for a bus, was stabbed to death outside the mall in Arad on Thursday night. An eyewitness said, "Someone came up to the soldier from behind and stabbed him."  (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians in West Bank Attack Israeli Children with Rocks, Israeli Shoots Rioter
    An Israeli shot dead a Palestinian on Thursday who was among a group of Palestinian rioters throwing rocks at a group of Israeli children touring an area in Samaria on a bar mitzvah trip. "Dozens of Palestinians threw stones and rocks at us, we were in a life-threatening situation, and we were trying to protect the children," said one of the children's fathers, who shot the Palestinian. "I had to shoot in self-defense. I hope common sense prevails and people understand what happened here."
        "We were hiking in an open area, near the road. Some 200 meters from Highway 5 and the Alon road, we were attacked by dozens of Arabs with stones, rocks and clubs. We were busy protecting the children, and I got hit in the head with a stone. The second father was also wounded....I tried to keep them away by shooting into the air, and it didn't help, they kept coming closer." He noted there were two Palestinians who tried to protect him and the children, but "30 others just tried to lynch (us)."
        The second father who accompanied the trip said he took the children into a nearby cave to protect them from the barrage of stones. One of the children said the Palestinians "started threatening us with a gun, throwing stones at us, told us 'give us your bags, give us your phones.' They swore at us, slapped us, punched us."  (Ynet News)
  • IDF Retaliates after Mortar Fire from Gaza
    Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired 10-12 mortar shells at an IDF outpost north of Gaza on Thursday. In response, IDF tanks and fighter jets attacked four Hamas lookout positions and two Islamic Jihad military posts. The IDF said Islamic Jihad sought to exact revenge for the destruction of their border-crossing tunnel in October. (Ynet News)
  • Iran Works to Create Facts on the Ground in Syria - Amos Harel
    Israeli intelligence officials say there are currently several hundred Iranian combatants in Syria. These belong to the Revolutionary Guards, some serving as advisers and others as commanders guiding Syrian and Shi'ite militia. There are several thousand militia fighters in Syria from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan that are paid by Tehran, alongside 7,000 Hizbullah fighters. Hizbullah combatants, the militias, and a few Iranian advisers are on the front line with rebels in the south of Syria, but so far they have not been seen close to the border with Israel in the Golan.
        According to Israel's analysis, Tehran wishes to establish an advance outpost in Syria, as it did previously with Hizbullah in Lebanon. Israel's moves are meant to deny an Iranian presence in southern Syria and to reduce the chances for its establishing bases and a port in northern Syria. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The U.S. Embassy and Jerusalem's Status - Scott R. Anderson and Yishai Schwartz
    U.S. policy does not recognize Israel or any other state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. In 1947, the UN General Assembly adopted a plan to partition the mandatory territory into separate Arab and Jewish states with Jerusalem as a separate entity under UN administration, but this plan was never implemented.
        The U.S. described its position in a 2014 court brief: "U.S. Presidents have consistently endeavored to maintain a strict policy of not prejudging the Jerusalem status issue and thus not engaging in official actions that would recognize, or might be perceived as constituting recognition," of Jerusalem as "a city located within the sovereign territory of Israel," which would be "damaging to the cause of peace and...therefore the interest of the United States." The Palestinian Authority and many Arab states maintain that all of Jerusalem should be subject to permanent status negotiations and that east Jerusalem should be the capital of any future Palestinian state. (Lawfare)
  • Move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - Wilson Shirley
    Official U.S. policy towards Israel is to give deference to a defunct UN General Assembly resolution that never had the force of law; to undermine legitimate Israeli claims to west Jerusalem; and to allow decades-old threats of violence to veto where and how America's ambassador and diplomatic staff conduct their work and live their lives.
        Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is complicated, and should only be done in consultation with the Israelis, with the knowledge of Arab governments, and with a great deal of sensitivity to the holy sites in east Jerusalem. But it is the right thing to do. (National Review)
  • The World Ignores Hizbullah's Armament in Lebanon - Ron Prosor
    This week the UN Security Council debated a report recently published by UNIFIL, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, which ignored Hizbullah's 150,000 short- and medium-range missiles directed towards Israeli cities and threatening the entire Middle East. Instead of detailing the locations of weapon stockpiles and asking the UN Security Council to strengthen its mandate so they are able to raid them, the report goes into detail about the 420 Lebanese shepherds spotted near the border area.
        Hizbullah's ability to roam freely in southern Lebanon emboldens it everywhere else. It grows stronger by the day and wealthier through Iranian funding. The writer, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, heads the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the IDC Herzilya. (Algemeiner)
  • Jihadist Terror Needs No Excuse - Ben-Dror Yemini
    We are told that the massacre at a mosque in Sinai at which 305 people were murdered was because the Bedouins there are deprived by the Egyptian government and are just reacting. Is that an excuse for intentionally firing on hundreds of innocent people? The only sin of those who were murdered was that they were there, within the jihadists' reach. More than 95% of the victims of jihadist terror are Muslim and nearly 70% are Sunnis murdered by Sunnis.
        There are other deprived groups in the world. Aren't there deprived Christians in Africa? Haven't Jews been persecuted and deprived wherever they lived? Aren't the Copts deprived in Egypt? Aren't the Romani people deprived all over Europe? Aren't black people deprived? Oddly enough, none of these groups has produced a sect engaged in organized, worldwide murder. (Ynet News)
  • Tehran Is Winning the War for Control of the Middle East - Jonathan Spyer
    In Lebanon, Hizbullah vanquished the Saudi-sponsored "March 14" alliance of political groups that aimed to constrain it. The establishment of a cabinet dominated by Hizbullah in December 2016, and the appointment of Hizbullah's ally Michel Aoun as president two months earlier, solidified Iran's grasp over the country.
        In Syria, Iran's provision of finances and know-how to the regime and its mobilization of proxies gave the regime access to the manpower necessary to defeat its rivals. In Iraq, Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) developed an independent military force, the 120,000-strong Popular Mobilization Units. While not all of its militias are pro-Iranian, the three core Shiite groups of Kataeb Hizbullah, the Badr Organization, and Asaib Ahl al-Haq answer directly to the IRGC. In addition, in Baghdad the ruling Islamic Dawa Party is traditionally pro-Iranian.
        In Yemen, Saudi Arabia is bogged down in a costly war with no end in sight. This, then, is the scorecard of the Saudi-Iranian conflict. So far, the Iranians have effectively won in Lebanon, are winning in Syria and Iraq, and are bleeding the Saudis in Yemen. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs, IDC Herzliya. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Iran Reshapes the Middle East - George Friedman (Huffington Post)
  • To Get a State, Palestinians Should Do What the Zionists Did - Benny Avni
    The UN General Assembly's vote of Nov. 29, 1947, to partition Palestine merely recognized reality. The Jews had built their state. The Zionists had competing political parties, active and effective workers unions, and universities and scientific research institutes. A free press thrived, a budding legal system developed, and a united army under civilian control was formed as soon as independence was declared.
        Not so the Palestinians. They never really undertook the tasks required to become a state. In Palestinian-controlled West Bank cities and in Hamas-ruled Gaza, political differences are resolved by force. The powers-that-be control the legal system. Corruption is rampant. Dissent is suffocated. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is nearly a decade past the end of his one elected term, yet he still wields power.
        So, no. The UN, the Arab League, the Saudi plan, President Trump's new peace deal, and BDS will not create a Palestinian state. Only the Palestinians will, and they're far behind. The two-state solution will wait until Palestinians get their act together. (New York Post)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Bedouin Policewoman Blazing Trail - Shlomi Eldar
    On Nov. 21, Israel dedicated new police stations in the Arab villages of Jisr az-Zarqa and Kafr Kanna. Four days later, a short video on Facebook showed Sabrin Saadi, a young policewoman from the Bedouin village of Basmat Tabun, making her way to the Kafr Kanna station in her uniform wearing a hijab, walking past a group of Arab demonstrators. Saadi's father, Ali Saadi, said, "We are part of this society, so we should serve it. The people attacking her are a gang of wild kids with nothing better to do with their lives. They should go find themselves and think about what, if anything, they have actually done on behalf of their community."
        The decision to establish police stations in Arab localities is in response to soaring levels of violence in the Arab sector, the extensive stockpiling of arms in the community, and calls by local authorities to show greater resolve in policing and enforcing the law. For example, Ha'aretz reported Nov. 29 that gun battles take place every night in the Arab village of Salem. Children are put to sleep in bathrooms to be spared the incessant gunfire outside.
        Mohammad Kabiya, from the Bedouin village of Kaabiyye, who enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces, is a friend of Saadi. He promises he will not allow groups led by the Islamic Movement to hurt her or other young people who follow her example. Addressing Arab public figures who advocate extremism, Kabiya wrote on Facebook: "Your time is up. The new generation that has grown up sees the truth and feels a sense of belonging and identification. It understands the mood in the community much better than you and realizes that many of the problems facing Arab society are the result of those slogans, lies, and conspiracy theories that you have been peddling to us to benefit yourselves."  (Al-Monitor)
  • How the NYPD Helped at Israel's Birth - Joanne Palmer
    NYPD Patrolman Wolf Silberstein earned the police department's medal of honor in 1934 for "extraordinary heroism" while off duty during a poolroom hold-up by three men with revolvers, killing one of the bandits. Leon Katz, a former New York City policeman, described in 1995 how he put together a group of city cops who had smuggled guns to the Jews in mandatory Palestine as they fought for freedom from the British. Wolf Silberstein was one of those cops.
        At the time, veterans returning from World War II often brought back guns, both their own and weapons that they took from the enemy as souvenirs. That was illegal, but they were promised that they would not get into any trouble if they turned them in. Those guns were to go back to the army, but many were siphoned off to a warehouse on the Lower East Side and then shipped off to Israel. The police brass knew about it, but they chose to look the other way. They felt sympathy for the Jewish fighters trying against towering odds to make their own state.
        One day a box that was going onboard a boat fell, and guns fell all over the dock. A foreman called the police, and the policeman he called said, "Don't worry about it." But the shipping company reported it to the FBI. Paul Caine, Silberstein's grandson, said, "The FBI agents were two Irish guys, and when my grandfather heard about it, he and his friends went and intercepted those two agents, and they went to a bar with them, and they drank together, and they bonded on their mutual hatred of Britain. And in the end the Irish gents decided to drop the case."  (New Jersey Jewish Standard)
  • Video: After Nazis Killed Her Family, This Woman Joined the Partisans to Fight Back - Josefin Dolsten
    Rose Holm was 16 when the Nazis found the underground bunker where she and her family had been hiding. Holm's parents, brother and one of her sisters was shot and killed as well as scores of other Jews outside Parczew in eastern Poland. She survived lying among the corpses.
        A few months later, she met a childhood friend who recruited her to join a group of Jewish partisans. Members of the fighting unit, under the command of Chiel Grynszpan, lived in the forest by day and fought the Nazis at night. "I was thinking 'I have to take revenge, whatever's going to be, I don't care,'" said Holm, now 92 and living in New York City. "I never [used to] think I'm going to be alive, and that's the way I survived with the partisans."
        The Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation website features the testimonies of Jewish partisans, including Holm and her late husband, Joe. It collected testimonies from 51 Jewish partisans from 2002 to 2015; only 16 are still alive. (Times of Israel)
  • Innovation Nation - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    With 8.5 million people, Israel has more companies on NASDAQ than almost any other country outside North America and ranks third in the World Economic Forum's ranking of most innovative economies. Israel recycles 87% of its waste water, five times more than the runner-up. Israeli cows produce more milk per animal than those of any other country.
        People everywhere benefit from Israeli innovations in their mobile phones, car navigation systems, life-saving drugs, medical devices - even the cherry tomatoes in their salads. Equally, Israel's intelligence services have helped stop dozens of terrorist attacks in dozens of countries.
        Our technological prowess has brought us many new friends, alongside our irreplaceable alliance with America. We negotiated economic pacts with Japan and China. Relations with India are booming. Many Arab countries now see Israel not as an enemy but as an indispensable ally in our common battle against militant Islam. (Economist-UK)

The Illusion of Russian Power - Yigal Carmon (MEMRI)

  • Russia is now claiming victory over ISIS in Syria in order to flaunt its role as a global power on the world stage, but that victory is a sham.
  • Russia and its allies in Damascus and Tehran did not bear the brunt of the fight against ISIS. It was American planes in the air, and the U.S.-equipped and advised Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian Democratic Forces on the ground, which defeated ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul, Kobani and Raqqa. Meanwhile, Russia, Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah spent much of their time fighting everyone but ISIS.
  • While Russia may visualize itself as a global power, it is nothing of the sort. To cite retired Russian General Staff Col. Mikhail Khodarenok: "We have 200 warplanes while NATO has 3,800; we have 1,600 armored vehicles and APCs while NATO has more than 20,000; and the situation is similar in all other domains."
  • In the naval arena, the U.S. has 19 aircraft carriers, 10 of which are Nimitz-class nuclear powered supercarriers, while Russia has one smoke-belching old carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.
  • Russia lacks the staying power to impose any solution in Syria, and Turkey and Iran are not allies but rivals when it comes to Syria's future. Moreover, it is in Europe - not in the Middle East swamp - that Russia wishes to restore its bygone glory.

    IDF Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon, former counter-terrorism advisor to two Israeli prime ministers, is President of MEMRI.
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