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December 4, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Bases in Syria: Imagine Iranian Jets 200 Km. from Israel - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shachar Shohat (Ynet News)
    If Iran is allowed to set up air bases in Syria, Israel's entire strategic picture will change for the worse.
    Today Iranian jets have to fly 2,000 km. to reach Israel, requiring mid-air refueling and prior intelligence.
    Iranian air bases in Syria would mean planes stationed 200 km. from us, a proximity which would also allow the Iranians to have a better intelligence picture of Israel.
    Presently, the Iranian enemy is located mostly to the east, and can, to a limited extent, attempt to attack from Israel's north and south. But it cannot come from the West.
    If Syria becomes home to Iranian bases, Iran could head west to the Mediterranean Sea, and then fly toward any Israeli coastal city - be it Haifa, Tel Aviv, or Ashkelon. The same holds true for Iranian drones.
    This would require an entirely new line of defense - a front that does not exist today, and would represent significant danger to Israel. So it is vital to prevent Iran from moving into Syria.
    The writer commanded the Israel Air-Defense Forces in 2012-15.

Iranian Bases in Syria: Dealing with the Problem While It's Still Small - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    The attack on an Iranian base in Syria was meant to validate the red lines Israel set to the Russians, the Americans, Bashar Assad's regime, Hizbullah and the Iranians.
    Permanent Iranian military presence in Syria is a red line that will not be accepted, even in its initial stages. It's better to handle a problem when it is still small than to bomb this facility when it is fully manned and causing many casualties.
    The strike was done from outside Syrian airspace using air-to-surface missiles. Contrary to the Syrian regime's claims, it does not appear the Israeli missiles were hit by interception fire.
    The Israeli jets were likely on their way back to base when Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were fired.

Iran Controls 70,000 Fighters in Syria - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    The Iranian opposition has reported in detail on the location of Iranian bases in Syria and the deployment of Iranian forces and its proxies in that country.
    These forces number 70,000, and include members of the Revolutionary Guards, Afghan recruits operating as a militia (Al Fatemiyoun), Hizbullah fighters, and other foreign operatives.

Israel Counters Iranian Cyberattacks - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Four years ago, specialists at the Israel Security Agency discovered a carefully planned cyber offensive against Israel by one of the country's most sophisticated adversaries (usually a euphemism for Iran).
    The enemy had been "deployed" at several sensitive nodes of Israel's communications layout. The agency let them continue to operate while counter-spying until they learned their identities and even hours of work.
    During a prolonged holiday, they eliminated the threat and activated a counterattack, revealing the attackers' details to communities of hackers.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump to Keep Embassy in Tel Aviv, But Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's Capital - Mark Landler and Julie Hirschfeld Davis
    President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital but not to move the American Embassy there for now, people briefed on the deliberations said on Friday. Declaring Jerusalem to be Israel's capital would not itself mark a change in American law. In 1995, President Clinton signed a statute declaring, "Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel."  (New York Times)
        See also Inside the Trump Administration Debate over Declaring Jerusalem to Be Israel's Capital - Anne Gearan
    President Trump's senior national security aides convened at the White House last Monday for a discussion on how the administration would handle an upcoming deadline on moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Then Trump showed up. He became exasperated at what he saw as overly cautious bureaucratic hand-wringing, two people familiar with the discussion said. He seemed frustrated with pushback about the potential backlash among Palestinians and their supporters.
        The U.S. already treats Jerusalem as the headquarters of the Israeli government, holding meetings there, and has a large consulate in Jerusalem. (Washington Post)
  • CIA Chief Pompeo Warns Iranian Gen. Soleimani over Iraq Aggression
    CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Saturday he sent a letter to Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for Iran's Revolutionary Guards, expressing concern after Soleimani indicated that forces under his control might attack U.S. forces in Iraq. Pompeo said, "We will hold him and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control. We wanted to make sure he and the leadership in Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear." Iran's Fars news agency reported that Soleimani refused to accept the letter. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Syria Claims Israeli Strike on Military Base near Damascus - Jack Khoury
    Israeli planes struck an Iranian military base near Al-Kiswa, 13 km. south of Damascus, overnight Friday, Syrian state television confirmed. Earlier this month, BBC reported that Iran has built a permanent military base in Syria near Al-Kiswa. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israeli Strike in Syria a Signal to Iran and Russia - Amos Harel
    Israel seeks to send the message that Iran's continued inroads into Syria will encounter Israel's active military opposition. At a time when new rules of the game are emerging in Syria, Israel appears to be intervening by force in places where the world powers are ignoring the warnings it conveys.
        Gen. (ret.) John R. Allen, who led the battle against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and was recently installed as president of the Brookings Institution, told the Saban Forum in Washington on Friday that Tehran and Moscow's interests no longer overlap now that the war against the rebels has begun to subside. That is also the impression in Israel. Russia has not lifted a finger to thwart attacks attributed to Israel against arms convoys to Hizbullah and Iranian installations in Syria. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Arab Media Report 12 Iranians Killed in Israeli Airstrike in Syria (Times of Israel)
        See also below Observations - Netanyahu: We Will Not Allow the Iranian Regime - that Calls for the Destruction of Israel - to Entrench Itself Militarily in Syria (Prime Minister's Office)
  • U.S. Reassures Israel It Won't Abandon Syria to Iran
    A U.S. official told Israel Channel 10 TV, "We've made it clear to Israel that we are not pulling out of Syria, we are staying there until the end of the civil war," the station reported Saturday. "The ceasefire agreement is the first stage. We will try to widen the buffer zone and push the Iranians back, 20 km. (12 miles) at first, and later perhaps as far as Damascus."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Video: The U.S. Mideast Peace Initiative - Jared Kushner interviewed by Haim Saban
    U.S. presidential advisor Jared Kushner told the Brookings Institution's Saban Forum in Washington on Sunday: "We don't view a peace agreement as just signing a piece of paper and then hoping everything works out. We're focused on what happens after, and how do you create an environment where ten years down the road the people who are the beneficiaries of the peace have jobs and opportunity that they didn't have before."
        "I think there are a lot of instances of great trust between Israelis and Palestinians. I think there is not a lot of trust between the leadership and that's what we've been working on....I've been very overwhelmed by all the cases I've seen of Israelis and Palestinians working together and having great relationships and saying, 'Look, if we could only get this thing resolved politically, then we could move on to a much brighter future.'"
        "As the Middle East has evolved, a lot of these countries look and say they all want the same thing. They want economic opportunity, they want peace for their people, and they look at the regional threats and I think they see that Israel, who was traditionally their foe, is a much more natural ally to them today then perhaps they were 20 years ago, because of Iran, because of ISIS, because of extremism....So you have a lot of people who want to see it put together, but we have to overcome this Israeli-Palestinian issue in order for that to happen."  (Saban Forum-Brookings)
  • Trump and Jerusalem - Jonathan S. Tobin
    According to the Wall Street Journal, what Trump might do is recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announce plans for the embassy move, but make it clear that won't happen for several years. In the interim, the U.S. ambassador could work in Jerusalem and peace talks could resume.
        This would merely recognize reality. Jerusalem has been Israel's capital since 1949. The map put forward by the 1947 UN Partition Plan resolution, that set aside the holy city as an international zone, has been a dead letter for 70 years.
        The move would put the Palestinians on notice that their decades of denial of the legitimacy of a Jewish state and its historic ties to Jerusalem will no longer be tolerated. It would be a symbolic gesture aimed at reminding them that their century-long war on Zionism must end.
        The conflict will only really cease when the Palestinians get the message from an international community that has enabled their rejectionism that it is no longer willing to keep playing the same game. Peace will never come except by jolting the Palestinians into accepting reality. (
        See also The Mechanics of the Jerusalem Embassy Act Waiver - Eugene Kontorovich
    The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. (Washington Post, May 30, 2017)
  • The Perversity of the Israel-Boycott Blacklist - Editorial
    UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein is set to release a blacklist of companies that operate in Israel's West Bank settlements. The UN Human Rights Council believes companies doing business in the settlements somehow constitutes a human-rights violation, never mind that many of these firms provide jobs for Palestinians and that the blacklist could cost many of them meaningful work.
        The panel has never voiced any human-rights concerns about firms in "occupied territory" elsewhere in the world. The World Bank itself has lent billions to companies in occupied territories around the world. Even the UN's own legal adviser, in a 2002 memo on Western Sahara, concluded that such a practice raised no human-rights concerns. But the move isn't really about fighting human-rights abuses. It's about trying to hurt Israel in any way possible. (New York Post)

Netanyahu: We Will Not Allow the Iranian Regime - that Calls for the Destruction of Israel - to Entrench Itself Militarily in Syria (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Brookings Institution's Saban Forum in Washington on Sunday:

  • Recently, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia referred to Iran's Supreme Leader as the new Hitler of the Middle East. Both regimes do have two important things in common: one, a ruthless commitment to impose tyranny and terror, and second, a ruthless commitment to murder Jews.
  • Many of you have heard Iran's silver-tongued foreign minister charmingly explain that Iran is a moderate power which harbors no hatred toward anyone. Right. Mr. Zarif: Tell that to the journalists tortured in Evin prison. Tell that to students shot in the streets. Tell that to hundreds of thousands of dead Syrians killed by Iran's proxies. Tell that to Bahais and Christians denied any semblance of human rights.
  • Tell that to Jews in Argentina who were blown up in a community center by the Iranian regime. Tell that to Americans whose flag is stomped on and whose country is called the Great Satan in the heart of Tehran. Tell that to Israeli mothers and fathers whose children are routinely condemned to annihilation by Iran's fanatic leaders.
  • I speak so often about Iran because I read history. When tyrants call for the destruction of my people, I believe them. I don't have the luxury of discounting their genocidal threats. So let me reiterate Israel's policy. We will not allow a regime hell-bent on the annihilation of the Jewish state to acquire nuclear weapons. We will not allow that regime to entrench itself militarily in Syria, as it seeks to do, for the express purpose of eradicating our state.
  • One day the Iranian regime will fall. Iranian mothers and fathers will rejoice in the street. Israel will be first in line to restore relations and rebuild our great partnership.

        See also Video: Netanyahu at the Saban Forum (Prime Minister's Office)

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