January 17, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Israel Strikes Hizbullah Weapons Depot near Damascus - Dov Lieber (Times of Israel)
    Israel carried out airstrikes at the Mezzeh military airport southwest of Damascus Tuesday night, possibly hitting a Hizbullah weapons depot, according to Syrian opposition reports.

Germany Searching for 10 Iranian Spies (AP)
    Authorities searched private homes and offices across Germany for 10 suspected Iranian spies following extensive investigations by the country's domestic intelligence service, Stefan Biehl, a spokesman for the Federal Prosecutors Office, said Tuesday.
    "We believe the suspects spied on institutions and persons in Germany at the behest of an intelligence unit associated with Iran."
    He declined to comment on a report by the weekly magazine Focus that the suspects were spying on Israelis in Germany.

Saudi Arabia Shoots Down Yemeni Missile (Reuters)
    A ballistic missile fired by Yemen's Houthis toward Saudi Arabia was shot down by Saudi forces on Tuesday, Saudi state TV Ekhbariya reported.

U.S. Support for UNRWA Has Gone On Long Enough - Michael Rubin (Washington Examiner)
    UNRWA has become the poster child for UN bureaucratic bloat, mission creep, and twisted morality.
    When the UN created UNRWA in 1949, it was meant to be a temporary agency to address a temporary problem. But Arab states like Egypt, Syria, and Iraq used UNRWA to undercut normalization with Israel and transformed an aid agency into a weapon against Israel.
    If UNRWA promises to take care of housing, education, and support for many Palestinians, this allows the PA and Hamas to spend their money on terror pensions, terror tunnels, and an arsenal of rockets.
    It's long past time to cut off UNRWA and ask the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to take over.
    The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Just Explained Why Israel Takes a Hard Line on Iran - Tom Rogan (Washington Examiner)
    On Tuesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted: "Palestine is from the river to the sea and #AlQuds is undoubtedly its capital."
    Khamenei is actually saying that all of Jerusalem and all Israeli territory from the West Bank to the Mediterranean Sea is actually Palestinian territory and highlighting his regime's determination to see Israel eradicated.
    Eradicating Israel is also an existential demand of the theocracy. Iran believes that Israel's existence is incompatible with its warped notion of Islamic emancipation and the purity of Islamic holy sites in Israel.

Israel Air Force Appoints First Female Squadron Commander - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Major T., 35, has been appointed the first female commander of a flight squadron in the Israel Air Force.
    A mother of 2, she has been promoted to lieutenant colonel.
    In addition, Maj. M, a female flight supervisor, has been appointed chief of a command and control unit at the air force operations headquarters and will be promoted to lieutenant colonel.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. to Hold Back Half of Expected Aid to UNRWA - Josh Rogin
    The State Department on Tuesday sent a letter to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, notifying it that the U.S. will deliver $60 million of assistance for its programs supporting Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank. That's almost half of the $125 million the U.S. had been expected to deliver to UNRWA on Jan. 1. The decision over UNRWA funding represents a middle ground between cutting all funding and business as usual.
        A State Department spokesperson told me the department believes there is a need to undertake a fundamental review of the way UNRWA operates and the way it is funded. UNRWA was established as a temporary relief program in 1950 and now supports 5 million registered refugees. "The United States should not be asked to bear a disproportionate share of these costs. It is time other countries, some of them quite wealthy, step in and do their part....It is time for a change."  (Washington Post)
        See also State Department: Aid Cut to UNRWA "Not Aimed at Punishing Anyone"
    State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday: "We committed a voluntary contribution of $60 million [to UNRWA] for 2018 so far....That money is going to sustain schools and health services to ensure that teachers and also health care providers can be paid their salaries."
        "This is not aimed at punishing anyone. The United States Government and the Trump administration believe that there should be more so-called burden sharing to go around....We don't believe that taking care of other nations and other people has to solely be the United States' responsibility....I would argue we're the most generous nation on the globe, but we will ask other countries to do more."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also UN Palestinian Refugee Agency Launches "Crowdfunding" Campaign following U.S. Aid Cut
    The UN relief agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, said Wednesday it has launched an international "crowdfunding" campaign after the U.S. cut aid to the agency by over 50%. Sami Mshasha, spokesperson of UNRWA, said, "We've contacted all donors from the international community to help us."  (Xinhua-China)
  • Behind the Fiery Rhetoric, the Palestinian Leadership Is Cornered and Flailing - Loveday Morris
    On Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hurled insults at the Trump administration and on Monday, the Palestinian Central Council recommended a raft of measures that included reversing Palestinian recognition of Israel. However, Abbas' Palestinian Authority relies for its survival on his relationship with Israel, analysts say, making any bolder measures unlikely.
        Past threats to end security cooperation with Israel have not been carried out, while the Palestinians have little to show for efforts to promote their cause internationally. That leaves them flailing as the Trump administration accuses them of turning their back on negotiations.
        The PA relies on Israeli security cooperation, while Palestinians depend on the Israeli economy, with tens of thousands working in Israel, said Kobi Michael, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies and former deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Backs U.S. Aid Cut to UNRWA - Daniel J. Roth
    Responding to the U.S. announcement that it would enact cuts in aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon said Tuesday: "UNRWA has proven time and again to be an agency that misuses the humanitarian aid of the international community and instead supports anti-Israel propaganda, perpetuates the plight of Palestinian refugees and encourages hate. Just over the last year alone, UNRWA officials were elected to the leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA schools denied the existence of Israel, and terror tunnels were dug under UNRWA facilities. It is time for this absurdity to end."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: U.S. Peace Plan Triggered Abbas Speech - Gil Hoffman
    Ben Caspit reported in Maariv last week that PA President Mahmoud Abbas was angered by the preliminary reports of President Trump's peace plan that the Saudis had given him. According to the report and another on Hadashot (formerly Channel 2) news on Tuesday, the U.S. plan would create a Palestinian entity that is less than a state, and it would not be based on the pre-1967 lines. Israel would control its borders and the Jordan Valley, Jerusalem would be an issue for negotiations, settlements might not have to be removed, and the Palestinian refugee issue would not be addressed.
        Caspit quoted senior officials close to Abbas saying last week, "We understood that Trump's declaration [on Jerusalem] did not really matter and had no impact on what is happening on the ground. We just used the declaration as a preemptive strike to torpedo the negotiations before the Americans finished drafting their peace plan, so we wouldn't have to reject it publicly later on."
        A senior White House official told the Post, "It is unfortunate that the Palestinian leadership is seeking to prejudice people against our unfinished plan, which they have not seen....In the meantime, we will remain hard at work on a draft plan that benefits both sides."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Pro-Israel Groups Slam Abbas for "Anti-Semitic" Speech - Allison Kaplan Sommer
    After Sunday's speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said: "The intemperate and extreme language used by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not better the situation of Palestinians or promote meaningful negotiations. Quite the contrary, with Abbas alleging that the Trump administration committed 'the crime of the century' for recognizing the simple fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel....The true 'crime of the past century' has been the refusal by Arab and Palestinian leaders to engage in serious negotiations that could have brought about a permanent resolution and meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people."
        The Israel Policy Forum said the speech contained "vitriolic rhetoric" and expressed "disgust over President Abbas' remarks before the Fatah council delegitimizing Zionism, denying the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, and peddling conspiracy theories about the plight of European Jewry." It was "impossible to view Abbas as a viable negotiating partner when he continues to deny the right of the Jewish people to their own national movement and when he continues to insist that the basic recognition of a Jewish homeland is the original sin of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
        The Anti-Defamation League said Abbas' "anti-Israel diatribe was a sober reminder that the core of the conflict was the Palestinian leadership's long-standing refusal to recognize the historic Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. Abbas' argument that Israel was founded as 'a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism' is rooted in an anti-Semitic rejection of the undeniable Jewish connection to Israel."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Reform Movement Condemns Abbas' Speech - Amir Tibon
    The Movement for Reform Judaism in the U.S. condemned on Tuesday Palestinian President Abbas' recent speech in which he attacked the U.S. and claimed that Israel was created by colonial powers. "Such statements and actions undercut possibilities for a peace process that alone holds the path to a viable and independent Palestinian state."  (Ha'aretz)

Abbas Believes His Own Lies about Jews - David Horovitz (Times of Israel)
  • On Sep. 16, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered PA President Mahmoud Abbas pretty much everything the Palestinians ostensibly seek from Israel in a bid to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all. For years afterwards, Olmert would say he was still waiting to hear back from Abbas.
  • Abbas chose not to accept Olmert's unbeatable offer of statehood because it would have required the Palestinians to acknowledge the legitimacy of an Israel which - in Abbas' own words to the PLO leadership on Sunday - is just a "colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism."
  • The man whose doctoral thesis blamed Zionist agitation for the Holocaust, detailed a narrative that allowed no historic Jewish connection to this land - no Biblical history, no Temples, no ancient sovereignty. He airbrushed the Jewish nation out of its own past. Obviously, no leader so determinedly blinded to his enemy's legitimacy could ever have agreed to reconciliation.
  • The tragedy is that first Arafat's and then Abbas' dead-end leadership affects us all. However inconvenient, the fact is that there are millions of Israelis and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and we somehow have to find a way to live here together.
  • The solution lies not in some attempted quick diplomatic fix - trying to strong-arm the two sides into an accord on terms they do not want, against an artificial timetable they will not honor. The Palestinians have convinced themselves that Israel is a transient, shallow presence that can ultimately be ousted, despite the spectacular evidence of our strong, resilient, thriving nation.
  • Abbas' speech dismally underlined that the false narrative of Jewish history is not only cynically disseminated by Palestinian leaders to their people, but also is thoroughly accepted by the leaders themselves.
  • The UN can vote itself blue in the face against Israel. Foolish nations can unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood - to the detriment of the Palestinians, since such "support" merely deepens their obduracy. But the only route to Palestinian independence runs via a negotiated settlement with Israel.

    The writer, a British-born Israeli journalist, is a former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post and the Jerusalem Report, and is founding editor of the Times of Israel.

        See also The Pillars of Palestinian National Identity - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)