January 12, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

The Spark Behind Iran's Unrest: Millions of Defrauded Investors - Farnaz Fassihi and Asa Fitch (Wall Street Journal)
    The call to protest came through a group channel on the smartphone app Telegram. Most of the group's thousand members had lost their savings when a financial firm promising huge returns went bankrupt amid bad investments and corruption.
    Millions of Iranians have been hit by losses at loosely regulated credit institutions. The business of financial firms boomed under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the mid-2000s.
    Iranians, whose purchasing power was diminishing from inflation and the devaluation of the currency, flocked to them. The firms appeared to have the backing of the country's central bank.
    Iranian analysts and economists say the firms were doomed to fail. They were owned and managed not by financial experts but by people with close links to religious institutions, the judiciary and the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran Is Nearly Bankrupt - David P. Goldman (PJ Media)
    The most probable scenario for Iran under any likely regime is a sickening spiral into poverty and depopulation.
    Iran has the fastest-aging population of any country in the world.
    It has the highest rate of venereal disease infection and the highest rate of infertility of any country in the world.
    It has a youth unemployment rate of 35% and it has run out of water.
    The government is nearly bankrupt. It has allowed several major banks to fail, wiping out the savings of millions of depositors. The cost of cleaning up the bank mess is estimated at half of GDP.
    Iran's pension funds are bankrupt. The civil service pension fund has only 100 employees paying in for every 120 employees receiving a pension.
    Iran has two of the best engineering universities in the world, except virtually all the top graduates leave the country.

Turkey Building Walls on Iranian, Syrian Borders - Orhan Coskun and Tuvan Gumrukcu (Reuters)
    Turkey has completed more than half of a 144 km.-wall on its border with Iran and will finish it next spring, the firm building the barrier said.
    Turkey is also building a 911 km.-wall on the border with Syria that is 98% complete.

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Opposition Leader Lapid: Israel Will Prevent a Permanent Iranian Presence in Syria - Raphael Ahren and Avi Davidi (Times of Israel)
    MK Yair Lapid, head of the opposition Yesh Atid party, told the Times of Israel Persian, "Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian military presence only a few kilometers from our border. And of course we cannot tolerate the idea of an [Iranian] airbase or a naval base in Syria."
    "All the players involved must know that we feel free to do whatever is in our power to prevent a permanent Iranian presence in Syria. And that is not a threat, it is a fact of life."
    "As long as there are Iranian forces on the ground in Syria, there will be no stability."

A New Palestinian-India Rift - Caroline B. Glick (Jerusalem Post)
    Last month at the UN, India reverted to its previous posture of blind support for the PLO and joined the chorus in attacking America for recognizing that Jerusalem is Israel's capital.
    A few days later, the PLO envoy to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, shared a stage in Rawalpindi with Lashkar e-Taibi leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai which killed more than 160 people.
    Saeed is also wanted for his involvement in terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2006 which killed more than 200 people, and for a shooting at the Indian Parliament in which another 14 were killed in 2001.
    Indian social media exploded in rage against the Palestinians and the PLO, saying, "This is how they pay us back for abandoning the U.S. and Israel to support them at the UN." 

Shame: 10 Ways Israel Is Treated Differently - David Harris (Huffington Post)
    Israel is treated according to a totally different standard than other countries in the international system.
    Of course, Israel deserves attention and scrutiny as does every other nation. But it also merits equal treatment - nothing more, nothing less.
    Israel is the only state whose capital city, Jerusalem, is not recognized by almost all other countries.
    Israel is the only UN member state whose very right to exist is under constant challenge.
    Israel is the only UN member state that's been targeted for annihilation by another UN member state - Iran.
    Israel is the only country that has won all its major wars for survival and self-defense, yet is confronted by defeated adversaries who have insisted on dictating the terms of peace.
    Israel is annually targeted by more UN resolutions than the other 192 UN member states combined.
    The writer is the CEO of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

Fighting for Israel on Social Media - Tracy Frydberg (Times of Israel)
    On July 28, 2014, Daniel Rubenstein was scrolling through Twitter at IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv when he saw a tweet from NBC News reporter Ayman Mohyeldin:
    "Israeli airstrike has hit the outpatient clinic at Shifa Hospital. Local Palestinian media is reporting several children among dead #gaza." Minutes later Mohyeldin tweeted again, this time accusing Israel of striking Al Shati refugee camp.
    Rubenstein, originally from Texas, was an IDF reservist during the 2014 Gaza war, leading the Spokesperson Unit's English social media team.
    He switched into crisis mode, moving quickly to get the facts before responding.
    An hour after Mohyeldin's first tweet, Rubinstein sent information via text message to reporters after receiving confirmation that the airstrikes were actually from Hamas rockets.
    Mohyeldin subsequently tweeted, "IDF: Palestinians killed in Gaza at Shati and strike at Shifa hospital were result of Hamas rockets that landed in Gaza."
    This anecdote is included in the new book, War in 140 Characters: How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century, by journalist David Patrikarakos.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Justice Department Announces Hizbullah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team
    Attorney General Jeff Sessions Thursday announced the creation of the Hizbullah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team (HFNT), a group of experienced international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, and money laundering prosecutors and investigators. HFNT is tasked with investigating individuals and networks providing support to Hizbullah, and pursuing prosecutions in appropriate cases.
        HFNT will begin by assessing the evidence in existing investigations, including cases stemming from Project Cassandra, a law enforcement initiative targeting Hizbullah's drug trafficking and related operations. (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • British Woman Attacked by Palestinian Terrorists Demands Probe of UK Aid Used for Terrorists - David Maddox
    Kay Wilson, a British woman who was butchered and left for dead by Palestinian terrorists, discovered that the Palestinian Authority is using British taxpayers' money to pay her imprisoned attackers, who also killed her American friend Kristine Luken.
        "I watched my friend being killed before my eyes. I only survived because I played dead," she said. She was stabbed 13 times and had over 30 bones broken. After leaving her for dead they returned for one final assault. "I watched my attacker plunge the knife into my chest, just missing my heart."
        The two attackers were jailed but belonged to a group allied to Fatah which runs the Palestinian Authority, which has since used aid money to pay them while they sit in jail.
        Wilson has written to House of Commons International Development Committee Chairman Stephen Twigg asking for an investigation of the Palestinian Authority's funding and incitement of terrorism. She also asked for a British version of the U.S.' proposed Taylor Force Act which would block payments to the Palestinian Authority until it terminates its payments to terrorists. (Daily Express-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Gaza Is a Failing Territory Due to Palestinian Mismanagement - Elior Levy
    The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, told the Globes Israel Business Conference on Thursday that the situation in Gaza was due to the Palestinians' financial mismanagement. "The Gaza Strip is a failing territory. 90% of the drinking water there is unfit for drinking, unemployment among young adults is at 60%....This is mainly a problem for Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, but the State of Israel is very much affected by this."
        "If Hamas demilitarizes, abandons its tunnels and arms smuggling, and reaches a compromise on the issue of POWs and MIAs, Gaza could be turned into a very large economic opportunity. It is possible to invest there in infrastructure and make it very successful. A failed economy can create terror and war. A stable economy can postpone and not require a war and confrontation, and this is another component of the IDF's concept of security."  (Ynet News)
        See also Israel to Increase Work Permits for West Bank Palestinians - Adam Rasgon
    Some 100,000-110,000 Palestinians currently work in Israel, including 30,000-40,000 laborers without permits, while 30,000 work in Jewish communities in the West Bank. "There will probably be an approval of a government [measure] next week, which... would increase the number of work permits by 7,500," Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said Thursday. Among many Palestinians, jobs in Israel are coveted as they usually pay better than comparable positions in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Arrests 3 Palestinian Sisters Who Planned Stabbing Attack in Hebron - Omri Ariel
    The IDF arrested three Palestinian sisters on Thursday in Hebron who were planning to carry out a terror attack but were having second thoughts. The sisters, aged 23, 18 and 15, arrived at a checkpoint near the Cave of the Patriarchs at 5 p.m. IDF Border Police officers found a knife strapped to the body of one of the women and another one on the ground. (JerusalemOnline)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

  • Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital: Trump's Shock to the System - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gershon HaCohen
    With his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, President Trump has abandoned the idea of pursuing the same dead-end peace plans promoted by his predecessors. Instead, he sought to shake up the system in a highly calculated manner.
        Trump, in essence, realized that the current situation is leading nowhere, and threw a rock into the water to see how the system would rearrange itself. This is similar to a military tactic seeking to get an enemy to give up its position, by sending a forward reconnaissance unit, provoking enemy fire, and mapping out its position.
        Trump understood what his predecessors did not. After the mass terrorism of the second intifada, and the conversion of Gaza into an enemy Hamas territory after Israel's withdrawal from it, Israeli society no longer believes in the idea of giving land for stability, or in the ability of the U.S. to supervise and guard this stability.
        With recognition of Jerusalem, Trump closed the door to future blackmail and demands from the Palestinian side, which is welcome news indeed for Israel. The writer served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battle on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. (Ynet News)
  • Abu Dis or Ramallah: Alternative Locations for a Palestinian Capital? - Yoni Ben Menachem
    On Jan. 6, the Jerusalem committee of the Arab League, headed by Secretary-General Ahmed Abu Gheit, met in Amman to discuss President Trump's declaration on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki demanded that the committee adopt resolutions that would end the American role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, reject any American peace initiative until President Trump rescinds his declaration on Jerusalem, and impose sanctions on any country that transfers its embassy to Jerusalem. Maliki's demands were rejected entirely.
        The Palestinians do not doubt that President Trump's declaration was meant to lower their expectations that the new political plan he is formulating will make Jerusalem their capital. The Arab regimes show no inclination to confront the Trump administration about Jerusalem on the Palestinians' behalf and senior Fatah sources say the names Abu Dis and Ramallah are beginning to percolate into Palestinian consciousness as a replacement for east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
        Ramallah already serves as the de facto PA capital. All PA ministries and institutions operate in the city. The village of Abu Dis was mentioned as a possible Palestinian capital beginning in 1995. It is 1.5 km. from the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In 1996, construction began in Abu Dis for the parliamentary building of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The writer is a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Video: Palestinian and Israeli Officials Debate PA Payments to Terrorists - Calev Ben-David and Nurit Ben
    Fatah Member Ahmed Ghoneim and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser debated this week the $350 million paid out last year by the PA to terrorists and their families.
    Ghoneim: "We are free to support all Palestinian groups. Those families are very weak and they need the financial support from the Palestinian Authority."
    Kuperwasser: "These payments have nothing to do with whether these families are weak or not. They don't have to go through any financial needs test to get the money. The only reason they get the money is because they carry out terror attacks against Israelis."
        "More than that, they get more money if they carry out worse attacks because the more time you spend in prison, which means that you carried out an attack that caused more damage, the payments grow with the time. When you reach the really heavy sentences like more than 20 years, you get a salary from the Palestinian Authority that is five times more than the average salary....They call them prisoners of war and define them in their law as 'the fighting sector of the Palestinian Authority'."
        "Is there a justification that the United States will give the Palestinians money in order to pay salaries to terrorists to kill Israelis? Is there any logic behind that?"  (i24news)
  • Will Israel Cut Palestinian Budget for Terror Payouts? - Shlomi Eldar
    On Jan. 9, the Israeli Defense Ministry published the total cash stipends in 2017 that the Palestinian Authority dispensed to the families of Palestinian prisoners incarcerated in Israel and to the families of Palestinian assailants either wounded or killed in the course of terror acts against Israel. The Knesset is considering a proposal to deduct the amount the PA gives to terrorists and their families from the funds that the PA receives from Israel. It is similar to the Taylor Force Act being considered in the U.S. Congress.
        Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that the terror "price list" proves that the PA encourages terror attacks and clearly rewards the perpetrators on a sliding scale based on the severity of the attack. "The moment the payments are set based on the severity of the crime and the prison sentence, namely that those who murder and are sentenced to life receive a lot more, this is funding terror attacks against Israelis."
        Hakim and Amjad Awad murdered five members of the Fogel family in their home in Itamar in 2011 - Ehud and Ruth Fogel, along with three of their children, Yoav, 10, Elad, 4, and Hadas, a three-month-old baby. The Awad family receives 10,000 shekels ($2,900) every month, according to the Defense Ministry. (Al-Monitor)
  • UNRWA Has Done Nothing to Build a Sustainable, Peaceful Palestinian State - Liat Collins
    Britain ended its rule of India and Pakistan in 1947 and of Israel in 1948. An estimated 15 million people were uprooted in Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Between one million and two million were killed. Seventy years on, India and Pakistan have an uneasy relationship that occasionally flares into conflict, but there is not a "refugee problem." The Hindus and Sikhs who fled Pakistan and the Muslims who escaped in the other direction have not spent the past seven decades constantly being sold the illusion that they will move back and destroy their enemies.
        Similarly, the 850,000 Jews who left/fled Arab countries do not consider themselves "refugees" in Israel. Strangely, there are only "Palestinian refugees." When the UN uniquely granted the Palestinians "perpetual refugee status" that is passed down through the generations, it ensured the perpetuation of their plight. UNRWA's mandate to resettle the Palestinian refugees was rescinded in 1965. UNRWA is not the solution to the Palestinian refugee problem; it is the reason the problem still exists.
        Funding that could go to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to help the Rohingya or the millions made homeless in the civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or throughout Africa is instead being spent on the great-grandchildren of the original Palestinian refugees of '48. I can't help wonder whether the preferential treatment of the Palestinians over millions of their Muslim brethren is because they point a judgmental finger at Jews as the source of their sorrows. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Iran

  • Regional Pushback, Nuclear Rollback: A Comprehensive Strategy for an Iran in Turmoil - Michael Eisenstadt
    The U.S. must show - by word and deed - that it will no longer ignore provocations that it accepted in the past (e.g., harassment of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf) and that it is more risk acceptant in its dealings with Iran than in the past. The intent should be to induce caution in an increasingly assertive yet still fundamentally risk-averse Iran, in order to contain its regional influence. This will not only reduce the prospects of a regional conflict involving Iran, but could cause Iran to act with greater caution in the nuclear realm.
        Restoring U.S. credibility is best accomplished by consistent actions over time that demonstrate American resolve and commitment, including, inter alia: pushing back on Iranian naval harassment in the Persian Gulf; interdicting Iranian arms shipments to its proxies and partners; supporting action by regional allies against Iranian weapons factories being built in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen; committing to a long-term security-assistance relationship with Iraq; supporting remaining non-Salafi rebel forces in Syria in order to deny pro-regime forces a clear-cut victory and deter new regime offensives; and using all the instruments of national power to impose political, economic, and military costs on Tehran. The writer is director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Assad Cannot Rule in Syria without Iran - Frederic C. Hof
    No doubt many Iranians think that the propping up of Syria's Assad regime will lead to a lifetime of unrequited expense: an observation whose accuracy is manifest. There is simply no way the Assad regime can exercise and maintain country-wide power without Shia militias organized, financed, and led by Iran. Might ongoing instability in Iran persuade the Supreme Leader to cut losses in Syria? Probably not. The jewel-in-the-crown of Iranian regional policy under current management is Lebanon's Hizbullah, for which Syria is vital.
        Hizbullah's reliance on Syria for strategic depth and for a logistical link to its Iranian home base will not decrease as the extent of the organization's drug dealing and money-laundering becomes a matter of detailed public knowledge. Hizbullah is at the heart of Iran's "Islamic Revolution," the name given to a clerical kleptocracy supported by a violent and wealthy "Revolutionary Guard Corps." The writer, appointed by President Obama in 2012 as ambassador and special adviser for transition in Syria, is director of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.  (Atlantic Council)

  • Other Issues

  • Why Israel Blocks Entry to Anti-Zionist Student Groups - Shiri Moshe
    Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is among the American anti-Zionist student groups named in a new initiative announced Sunday by the Israeli government that will prevent the entry to the country of foreigners that promote a boycott of Israel. SJP activists "threaten, intimidate, and harass students on campus," argued Dan Diker, project director of the program to counter political warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who co-authored an extensive report on the group in November."They shut down free speech and they promote anti-normalization of relations not only with Israel, but with Jewish students on campus."
        "They are, simply put, a tyrannical student organization that university administration has been afraid to confront....They have basically co-opted the university campus as a place for the peaceful exchange of ideas" to advance their own agenda - "the dissolution of Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people. No civilized country can countenance that kind of behavior."  (Algemeiner)
        See also Students for Justice in Palestine Unmasked - Dan Diker and Jamie Berk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Feature

  • What Did Germans Know? Secret Anti-Nazi Diary Gives Answers - Matt Lebovic
    A vociferous critic of the Nazis, Friedrich Kellner used his diary to document the regime's atrocities beginning in 1939. His Nazi-era diary, My Opposition, to be published in English by Cambridge University Press in January, is seen by some historians as a barometer for what "ordinary" Germans might have known about the mass murder of Jews, Poles, and Slavs.
        "There is no punishment that would be hard enough to be applied to these Nazi beasts," wrote Kellner. "Of course, when the retribution comes, the innocent will have to suffer along with them. But because 99% of the German population is guilty, directly or indirectly, for the present situation, we can only say that those who travel together will hang together."
        Kellner, a veteran of World War I, was a public opponent of Hitler and his movement. A lifelong Social Democrat, he delivered anti-Nazi speeches during the Wiemar Republic years, for which he was often assaulted.
        Kellner wrote in 1941, "A solider on leave here said he personally witnessed a terrible atrocity in the occupied part of Poland. He watched as naked Jewish men and women were placed in front of a long deep ditch and, upon the order of the SS, were shot by Ukrainians in the back of their heads, and they fell into the ditch. Then the ditch was filled in as screams kept coming from it."
        "This cruel, despicable, and sadistic treatment against the Jews that has lasted now several years - with its final goal of extermination - is the biggest stain on the honor of Germany," wrote Kellner on Dec. 15, 1941. "They will never be able to erase these crimes." (This is much prior to formal implementation of the Final Solution.)
        Friedrich Kellner gave his diary to his American-born grandson, Robert Scott Kellner, two years before his death in 1970. Robert said, "[Friedrich's] voice will remain, a new voice to check revisionist historians and Holocaust deniers with an irrefutable account - an account not by a Nazi or a victim of the Nazis, but by an average German citizen who never lost sight of the simple truth that a person always has a choice between right and wrong, between good and evil."  (Times of Israel)

The Faded Palestinian Issue - Victor Davis Hanson (Washington Times)
  • Given that the U.S. channels much of its Palestinian aid through third-party UN organizations, U.S. aid may exceed $700 million per year. But the entire Middle East has radically changed - and along with it the role and image of the Palestinians. Iran is the greatest supporter of Palestinian armed resistance, while the so-called "moderate" Sunni autocracies despise Iran.
  • Moreover, the terrorist bloodlettings perpetrated by Islamic State and al-Qaeda have discredited terror as a legitimate means to an end in the eyes of the Arab world, despite previous support for Palestinian terrorists.
  • Israel was founded in 1948. Palestinian rhetoric that they would push the Jews into the sea is by now stale. There have been seven decades of failed intifadas and suicide bombing campaigns, along with full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.
  • Around the time Israel was created, 13 million German-speakers were ethnically cleansed from East Prussia and Eastern Europe. Seven decades later, the grandchildren of refugees do not replay World War II. "Prussians" do not talk about reclaiming their ancestral homelands in present-day Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. German-speaking youth do not demand a "right of return" to their grandparents' homes to the east.
  • Since the Palestinian proclamation of independence in 1988, there have been only two "presidents": Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Neither has allowed open and transparent elections. A Palestinian president gets power by seizing it. He loses it only by dying in office. Over the same period, Israel has elected seven different prime ministers from a variety of political parties.
  • Polls show that less than 20% of Americans support the Palestinian cause. Many U.S. citizens are tired of subsidizing those who claim that they do not like their U.S. benefactors. It finally may be time for the Palestinian factions to fund their own causes.

    The writer is a historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
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