January 16, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Arab Arrested for Planning ISIS Attack in Israel - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Hassan Taher Shir Yusuf, a resident of the Israeli-Arab city of Taibeh, was indicted on Sunday for planning to carry out an attack on behalf of the Islamic State.
    Yusuf tried to persuade others to join him in carrying out attacks against Israelis, including a shooting attack in Jerusalem, a car-bomb attack at the police station in Taibeh and a stabbing attack.

Palestinian Rocket Fired at Israel Strikes Home in Gaza, Wounds Three - Hagay Hacohen (Jerusalem Post)
    A rocket fired at Israel from Gaza struck a Palestinian home in Deir al-Balah by mistake, wounding three, Arab media reported Monday.

Palestinians Plant Bomb at West Bank Holy Site - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Army sappers detonated a cellphone-operated explosive device planted by Palestinians at the entrance to Joseph's Tomb in Nablus in the West Bank early Tuesday morning, ahead of a visit by 1,000 Jewish worshipers, an IDF spokesperson said.

Israel Seizes Military Equipment Headed for Gaza (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli customs personnel at Ashdod port discovered a large consignment of military equipment destined for Gaza, including thousands of items of military clothing, including boots, coats and combat vests, all in camouflage colors.

ISIS in Sinai: Weakened But Still Dangerous - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
    Terrorist attacks by "the Sinai Province of the Islamic State" plummeted from 594 in 2015, to fewer than half that in 2016 and 2017, according to a recent report by Al-Ahram Weekly.
    The Egyptian Army killed the group's leader, Abu Anas el Ansari, in May 2016. He was replaced by Abu Hajer al-Hashemi, who is rumored to be a former Iraqi Army officer.
    More non-Egyptians have joined the group, including deserters from Hamas' Izzadin Kassam Brigades.
    These "foreigners" have failed to respect the Bedouin tribes of northern Sinai, even those who in the past had demonstrated sympathy toward the jihadists.
    At the same time, there have been bitter conflicts between the "Egyptians" in the group and the newcomers.
    Bedouin hostility combined with growing pressure from the Egyptian army led to the desertion of many militants. Some went back to Gaza, others departed for Libya.
    The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.

Shell's Gaza Gas Field Sale Hits Problems - Ron Bousso (Reuters)
    Royal Dutch Shell is struggling to find a buyer for its 55% stake in an undeveloped gas field off the Gaza Strip.
    The Gaza Marine field has long been seen as a golden opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to join the Mediterranean gas bonanza.
    Shell became the field's main shareholder when it acquired BG Group in 2016.
    The field is estimated to hold over 1 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, the equivalent of Spain's consumption in 2016.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia Will Not Back U.S. Efforts to Change Iran Deal - Morgan Chalfant
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow will not back efforts by the U.S. to change the Iran nuclear deal. "We will not support what the United States is trying to do, changing the wording of the agreement, incorporating things that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran." President Trump called last week "to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal."  (The Hill)
  • Erdogan: We Will "Strangle" U.S.-Backed Force in Syria "Before It's Even Born" - Ellen Francis and Ezgi Erkoyun
    Turkish President Erdogan threatened on Monday to "strangle" a planned 30,000-strong U.S.-backed force in Syria "before it's even born." The U.S. announced its support on Sunday for a "border force" to defend territory held by U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led fighters in northern Syria. The Syrian government vowed Monday to crush the new force and drive U.S. troops from the country. Russia called the plan a plot to dismember Syria and place part of it under U.S. control. (Reuters)
  • Coalition Analysis Warns of Potential Islamic State Resurgence - Rhys Dubin
    The Islamic State in Iraq appears on the brink of defeat as it lost its last urban strongholds. But an unreleased analysis presented at recent coalition meetings by the UN speaks to a much more fluid situation on the ground - one characterized by the real possibility of an Islamic State resurgence.
        According to the UN, five of the newly liberated areas urgently require stabilization. "There is a risk that if we don't stabilize these areas quickly, violent extremism might emerge again. The military gains that have been made against [the Islamic State] could be lost," said Lise Grande, head of the UN Development Program in Iraq. The areas are centered around the group's former strongholds in northern Iraq. (Foreign Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Abbas Speech Revealed Truth about Conflict - Noa Landau
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech on Sunday had exposed "what we have been saying all along, that the roots of the conflict are opposition to a Jewish state within any borders it might have....The things he said help us show the truth."
        "For too long, the Palestinian Authority has been pampered by the international community, which didn't dare tell them the truth - not about Jerusalem and not about recognizing Israel. That has changed. I think Abu Mazen [Abbas] was reacting to that. This is the first time somebody's told him the truth to his face."  (Ha'aretz)
  • President Rivlin: Abbas Returns to Past Anti-Semitic Rhetoric - Jonathan Lis
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told a visiting AIPAC delegation in Jerusalem on Monday that in Mahmoud Abbas' speech on Sunday, he reengaged with ideas for which he had in the past been accused of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. "To say that Israel is the result of the Western conspiracy to settle Jews in Arab lands? To say that the Jewish people have no connection to the Land of Israel? He said exactly what he had been accused of years ago with anti-Semitism and denial of the Holocaust. These are exactly the things that block us [from making any progress]."
        "In his words, he denies our return to our homeland, even though Abu Mazen [Abbas] also knows very well that the Koran itself mentions the recognition of the Land of Israel as our land."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Abbas Is Not a Peace Partner - Dore Gold interviewed by Gil Hoffman
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas has disqualified himself as a serious peace partner unless he pulls back and changes the tone and content of his approach, former Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold told the Jerusalem Post on Monday. Israel has complained for years about Palestinian incitement and Abbas' speech on Sunday revealed that the source for the incitement has been Abbas himself.
        "It's critical for Abbas' strategy to characterize Israel as an apartheid state, to put Israeli history in the context of colonialism and to advance boycotting, divesting, sanctions and other lawfare. These become the messages he wants to leave for Palestinian youth even after he goes, and this is extremely destructive."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Abbas' Ramallah Rant - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    In his speech to the PLO Central Council in Ramallah on Sunday, Mahmoud Abbas rejected exclusive American sponsorship of the diplomatic process because of "the crime it committed against the city of Al-Quds [Jerusalem]" in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
        Abbas also denied the Jewish people's historical and religious link to the Land of Israel, and hence its right to the land. "This is our land since the days of the Canaanites, and in this context we are the descendants of the Canaanites." He maintained that the Jews were brought to Israel in the 20th century as part of a Western colonial endeavor "that has no connection to Judaism." He also accused Israel of massively exporting drugs to the PA.
        Furthermore, he declared the continuation of what he called "the peaceful popular struggle" - which, since September 2015, has seen thousands of terror attacks involving stabbing, vehicle ramming, shooting, explosives, and firebombs. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Transcript of Abbas' Jan. 14 Speech to the PLO (MEMRI)
  • Should the U.S. Continue to Fund the Palestinians Regardless of Their Intransigence? - Brett D. Schaefer
    Since the 1990s, according to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has given the Palestinians $5 billion in bilateral economic assistance. It has supported the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) to the tune of $6 billion. Despite this support, the Palestinians have repeatedly walked away from peace negotiations, refused to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, instigated violence against Israel, and used the UN to attack and harass Israel by, among other efforts, working to pass three times as many General Assembly resolutions condemning Israel as the rest of the world's countries combined.
        The sad truth is that, over the past two decades, the United States has established a pattern of funding the Palestinians regardless of their intransigence and provocations. Contrary to the wishes of multiple American administrations, the Palestinians continue their effort to achieve recognition absent a peace agreement with Israel. They also use international organizations like the ICC, UNESCO, and the Human Rights Council to isolate, harass, and condemn Israel. Why change their behavior when they believe that there will be no diplomatic or financial repercussions? This pattern must be broken.
        Leaving aside the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, the U.S. should withhold contributions to UNRWA until it implements critical reforms. In the medium term, Washington should seek to eliminate UNRWA, shifting responsibility for recent Palestinian refugees resulting from the war in Syria to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The writer is a Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at The Heritage Foundation. (National Interest)

Do the Palestinians Really Want Their Own State? - Josef Joffe (American Interest)
  • Last December, Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Yet nobody seemed to notice that he did not hand over all of Jerusalem to Israel, insisting: "We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem." That was "up to the parties involved." So, go for it and start talking, he signaled to the Palestinian Authority.
  • Predictably, the Palestinians revived their classic game, which has failed them regularly in the past. Their message read: "We will not deal directly with Israel; we want the world to force the Zionists to hand us our state on a silver platter." Palestinian leaders are going for the international option once more.
  • This seasoned negotiator knows a state can only be had from Israel, and it must embody a painful, dream-destroying compromise thrashed out by the two antagonists. A harsh conclusion follows: If one party says no for 80 years, it isn't interested. It is all or nothing, and "all" implies not only Hebron, but also Haifa.
  • During the UN partition vote in 1947, the Arab world acted as one. Yet today, Israel is a key player in a realigned regional system. Israel has peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt that have held during its wars against the PLO and Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Jerusalem enjoys a tacit alliance with Riyadh and the "Gulfies." Putin's Russia coordinates with the IDF in Syria. China and India will not trade high-tech Herzliya for the backwater of Ramallah.
  • Angling for hegemony, Iran is now the deadly enemy of the Sunni Arabs and Israel-Palestine has receded toward the wings. The conflict is a nuisance, and the key Arab players will not soon sacrifice their Israeli ties on the altar of Palestinian self-deception.
  • The Palestinians will have to do better than in Gaza. This author went to Gaza with Yassir Arafat in 1994 and assumed that the coastal strip would gestate into a Palestinian proto-state, blessed with democracy and the rule of law. Today, Gaza is a corrupt Hamas fiefdom, a threat to itself and the neighborhood - a failed state.
  • Would that the post-Abbas leadership might exchange self-deception for sobriety. Alas, the mismeasure of reality has been the hallmark of Palestinian policy for 80 years.

    The writer is publisher-editor of the German weekly Die Zeit and a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford.