December 26, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

ISIS in Sinai Tried to Assassinate Egyptian Defense Minister - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    A video released last week by Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State offshoot in Sinai, shows a Kornet anti-tank missile being fired at an Egyptian air force helicopter parked at the military airport near Al-Arish.
    The missile hit the helicopter and killed three people - one of the pilots, a security guard, and the bureau chief of Egyptian Defense Minister Sedki Sobhy.
    The strike was an assassination attempt against Sobhy and Egyptian Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar during their visit to the base.

New Hamas Threats at the End of the Tunnel - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Israeli construction of a high-tech obstacle along the border with Gaza could leave Hamas without cross-border tunnels by the end of 2018.
    Yet the next threat from Gaza is waiting around the corner. Following the use of armed quadcopters by Hizbullah and Islamic State, Hamas is making a major effort to smuggle quadcopters into Gaza.
    At the same time, Hamas is focusing on smuggling in naval fighting equipment to enable vessels, swimmers and divers to reach Israel's shores.
    Another possibility is an attempt to forcibly break through the border and infiltrate Israel using a car or truck bomb for the initial breach.

New Jersey Bans Business with Danish Bank for Israel Boycott - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced last week that the state has divested all of its investments from the Danish bank Danske due to its boycott of Israeli companies.
    Danske, the largest bank in Denmark, blacklisted two Israeli defense companies from its customer investments.
    New York State outlawed state business with Danske because of a violation of its anti-BDS law.
    In September, Colorado added Danske to a blacklist for its anti-Israel business activities.
    See also Norway Will Stop Funding Groups Promoting Israel Boycott - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)

Egypt Announces Major Urban Development Project in Northern Sinai - Ahmed Eleiba (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
    Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said Saturday that the housing ministry has been mandated with implementing a major urban development project in northern Sinai that should be finalized within two to three years at a cost of $5.6 billion, including Bir El-Abd.
    Last month, Bir El-Abd was the site of a terrorist attack where gunmen killed 311 people at Al-Rawda Mosque during Friday prayers.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • After ISIS Campaign, Iran-Backed Fighters in Iraq Vow to Drive Out U.S. Troops - Hollie McKay
    Some in the ranks of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militia in Iraq may be training their sights on the U.S.-led coalition troops in the country. "America should only be here for embassy, any military presence and we will target them," said Saif Ali, 37, a member of the PMF's Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba militia. Mohand al-Eqqaby, the PMF spokesman, said, "We are strong now, and as long as we are fighting, Iraq does not need Americans on our land." Hashim al-Maihi, 44, a leader in the "League of the Righteous People" battalion in the PMF, said, "Our goal is...to fight in Syria and al-Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem)...[and] my dream is not to see Americans in Iraq."
        "Now that ISIS is not much of a threat, the PMF is likely to plan attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq that would be carried out as soon as Tehran gives the orders," said James Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation. But an American coalition spokesperson said, "There are certain factions within the PMF that may cause concern, but the PMF as a whole is not considered a threat to coalition forces."  (Fox News)
  • U.S. Hunts Remaining Pockets of ISIS in Syria - Eric Schmitt
    Drones and surveillance jets are boring down on 3,000 remaining Islamic State fighters who are hiding in Syria along a stretch of the Euphrates River and surrounding deserts, as the American military campaign enters its final phase. But the skies are congested with Russian, Syrian and Iranian aircraft.
        Senior military commanders and counterterrorism specialists caution that ISIS remains a dangerously resilient force. "As they lose the caliphate's physical terrain, they'll adapt guerrilla tactics," said Gen. Joseph L. Votel, head of U.S. Central Command. "They've been very adaptive."  (New York Times)
  • Jewish Leaders Praise New U.S. Security Strategy that Says Israel Not the Root of Mideast Turmoil - Rafael Medoff
    American Jewish leaders are applauding the administration's new global strategy doctrine, which rejects the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main cause of Mideast turmoil. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he views the document as "a positive change" and that he agrees that Iran and terrorist groups "are the real threats to peace."
        B'nai B'rith International said that the actions of Hizbullah and Hamas, and "Iran's growing presence and influence in Syria, which already effectively controls Lebanon," are the main threats to peace, and "should be a cause for alarm....Rather than spending time on Jerusalem resolutions at the UN, the international community should be focusing on Iran and its proxies."  (JNS.org-Algemeiner)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iran Pledges Full Support to Hamas in Battle for Jerusalem - Dov Lieber
    "All of our capabilities and potential are at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem," Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, told Hamas' Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar in a phone call, the pro-Iranian Lebanese news outlet al-Mayadeen reported Monday. "Iran, the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force stand with all they have with our people in order to defend Jerusalem so that Jerusalem will endure as the capital of the state of Palestine," Sinwar quoted Soleimani as saying.
        In recent months, Hamas has publicly flaunted its burgeoning ties with Iran, with Sinwar saying Iran has become the group's key military sponsor. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Says 10 More Countries in Talks about Moving Embassies to Jerusalem - Herb Keinon
    The Israel Foreign Ministry is in contact with more than 10 countries that have expressed interest in following the U.S. lead and moving their embassies to Jerusalem, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Israel Radio on Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Opposition Leader Would Not Divide Jerusalem - Raphael Ahren
    Opposition Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid said Monday: "I am not willing to conduct negotiations over Jerusalem. It's ours. I don't want to divide it. And if there's no peace because of this, let there be no peace."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The U.S. Should Not Be a Neutral Peace Mediator - Moshe Arens
    Of course the U.S., the world's leading democracy, cannot be a neutral mediator between democratic Israel and the Palestinians, with both the Palestinian Authority led by Abbas and Hamas being the very antithesis of democratic rule and the values of modern democracies. It cannot and should not be neutral in a conflict between its ally Israel and those who are in conflict with Israel.
        Actually, there is no need for a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. There is no substitute for direct negotiations. Yet the Palestinians are not interested in direct negotiations that could lead to an end to the conflict. The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times and once as Minister of Foreign Affairs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital Marks an End to Discrimination Against Israel - Richard Schifter
    By 1954 it was clear that the proposed UN-run separate entity to govern Jerusalem would not be established. The idea had been overtaken by events. West Jerusalem was part of Israel and east Jerusalem was part of Jordan. At that point it would have been logically and legally appropriate to recognize West Jerusalem as part of Israel and move the U.S. Embassy there. But the Eisenhower administration was concerned about Soviet penetration of the Arab world and wanted to avoid a step that would antagonize the Arab states.
        Thus, the Cold War caused the U.S. to create an exception by maintaining an embassy in a city other than the country's declared capital. But the Cold War concerns of 1954 are now obviously no longer relevant.
        President Trump's official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was not a special favor granted to the State of Israel. It was a matter of ending a policy of discriminating against the State of Israel, which has been the only country worldwide in which the U.S. Embassy is located in a city other than the country's capital. The writer, former deputy U.S. ambassador at the UN, is founder and chairman of the American Jewish International Relations Institute. (Washington Times)

  • Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are displeased with the way the Palestinian Authority has reacted to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
  • Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced over the weekend that he would head a new committee, comprising the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the PA, to devise a new policy on Jerusalem. "The decision to establish this committee was, in effect, imposed on the Palestinian Authority by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan in a move that was backed by the Arab League," a senior Jordanian official said.
  • "It effectively puts the Arab League in charge of the policy on Jerusalem, taking it away from the Palestinians. The Palestinians' efforts to sway public opinion have been a complete failure, and as a result...Abbas has created a rift between us [the Arab world] and Trump. We are once again left with the demagogic, hollow and inflammatory rhetoric of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan."
  • Despite the lip service and the appearance of consensus on Jerusalem in the form of harsh condemnations, the Arab states have avoided taking concrete measures to counter the American declaration. Senior Arab officials have gone as far as to urge Abbas to scale back his rhetoric aimed at the international community.
  • A senior Jordanian official said, "We are very worried that the Palestinians' actions over Jerusalem, their efforts to shun the U.S. from the peace process, and their insistence on international intervention are a double-edged sword that...could bring about the exact opposite of the intended result."
  • "Many more countries could do what the U.S. has done after seeing that the region has not been destabilized and only a few thousand protesters have taken to the streets."