January 24, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

New Chemical Attacks Reported in Syria - Louisa Loveluck and Carol Morello (Washington Post)
    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Russia on Tuesday for failing to rein in poison gas attacks on Syrian civilians.
    Doctors inside Syria have reported four such attacks since the start of the year, including two on Monday.
    Rescue workers said pro-government forces fired nine shells carrying chlorine gas on a densely populated residential area in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta.
    A separate chlorine attack was reported in the northern province of Idlib.

Senior Qaeda Leader Calls for Killing Jews, Americans over Jerusalem (AFP)
    In a video released Monday, senior al-Qaeda leader Khalid Batarfi called on Muslims to "rise and attack the Jews and the Americans everywhere," the SITE intelligence monitoring group reported.
    "The Muslims inside the occupied land must kill every Jew, by running him over, or stabbing him, or by using against him any weapon, or by burning their homes."
    See also Al-Qaeda Leader Who Urged Attacks on Jews and Americans Put on U.S. Terror List (State Department)

Support the Daily Alert Israel News Digest

Number of Israeli Arabs in Higher Education Jumped 79 Percent in Seven Years - Lior Dattel (Ha'aretz)
    The number of Israeli Arabs studying at Israeli universities and colleges climbed 78.5% in the past seven years, the Israel Council for Higher Education reported.
    At the University of Haifa, 41% of students are Israeli Arab, followed by 22% at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology.

Dead Sea Scroll Deciphered in Israel (BBC)
    Researchers in Israel pieced together 60 tiny fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls over a year to decipher one of the last remaining undeciphered texts.
    The 900 scrolls, dating to at least the 4th century BCE, were first discovered in a cave in Qumran in 1947, and contain the oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible ever found.

U.S. Surveys Rank Israel among Most Powerful, Innovative Countries - Daniel J. Roth (Jerusalem Post)
    US News and World Report named Israel as the 8th most powerful nation in the world.
    Bloomberg News listed Israel as the 10th most innovative country.

China Is Israel's Fastest Growing Source of Tourists (Xinhua-China)
    Over 113,000 Chinese travelled to Israel in 2017, up 41% over 2016, said Bora Shnitman, China director of the Israel Government Tourism Office.
    He attributed the surge to more targeted promotion campaigns, streamlined visa applications, and more direct flights.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pence Visits Western Wall and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem - Ken Thomas
    Vice President Mike Pence visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Wearing a skullcap, Pence approached the wall and placed a note of prayer in its cracks. He then held his right hand on the wall momentarily, his eyes closed. Pence aides called it a "personal visit."
        At a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Pence said, "President Trump truly believes that the decision the United States has made to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, we believe, will set the table for the opportunity to move forward in meaningful negotiations to achieve a lasting peace." Rivlin praised Pence for his role in pushing for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. "You are a mensch," he told Pence.
        Pence also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and their spouses. Pence wrote an inscription in the guest book and participated in a ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance. (AP)
        See also Pence: Timing of U.S. Peace Plan's Release Depends on Palestinians - Jeff Mason
    Vice President Mike Pence said in Jerusalem on Tuesday, "The White House has been working with our partners in the region to see if we can develop a framework for peace. It all just depends now on when the Palestinians are going to come back to the table."
        A White House official said, "It'll come out both when it's ready and when both sides are actually willing to engage on it."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • White House: Europe Knows It Can't Be Lead Peace Broker - Eric Cortellessa
    "There isn't a single European country or other country we've spoken to since the December 6 announcement [on recognizing Jerusalem] that in any way, shape or form believes a U.S.-led process could be replaced," a senior White House official said Tuesday. "They all want to work with the U.S., despite the Palestinian reaction."
        "In our view, it's not our job to impose a deal on either side. It's our job to present a plan that we think is appropriate, reasonable, fair for both sides, in particular for the Palestinians to have a brighter future, and it's going to be up to the parties to make their decisions if they can come to terms on a deal."
        "One of the tragic things that I have noticed since December 6 is there are so many Palestinians who are reaching out. They all want to continue to talk, but they're all afraid to talk....They're under a lot of pressure not to talk. It doesn't bode well for what we're trying to create if there's no freedom of speech among the Palestinians."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Border Police Thwart Palestinian Stabbing Attack - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israeli Border Police thwarted an attempted stabbing attack at Tapuach junction in the West Bank on Tuesday. As two Palestinians advanced toward the police and one drew a knife, a Border Police officer shot and wounded the two. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Pence Visits Israel's Capital - Rabbi Meir Soloveichik
    Vice President Mike Pence's address was one of the most Zionist speeches ever given by a non-Jew in the Knesset. The vice president is a devout evangelical Christian and threaded his remarks with references to Scripture. His speech was a window into the heart of many American Christians who observe Israel's emergence with wonder and reverence. "The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world," Pence concluded.
        For many centuries the Jewish people received little love and much hate from the nations of the world. Today, tens of millions of non-Jewish Americans share Mr. Pence's sincere affection for Israel. The writer is director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought of Yeshiva University. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Pence's Shining Speech in Jerusalem - Boaz Bismuth
    At the Knesset on Monday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reiterated for anyone who may have forgotten that Israel is right when it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians, Iran, and the world. And perhaps most importantly, that Israel is on the right side of history. I sat in the Knesset and saw a modest American vice president with a clear message for the Middle East: The rules have changed. The U.S. will operate based on the values it shares with Israel and will not grant veto power to destabilizing players that issue threats. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Pence Visit Reveals a Good Deal about U.S. Standing in the Mideast - Zev Chafets
    The Arab countries that matter aren't even pretending to be outraged by the Trump administration's tilt to Israel. The Palestinian Authority, having boycotted an American vice president, has had a chance to measure the efficacy of that approach. Mahmoud Abbas came home understanding that salvation is not going to come from Brussels. (Bloomberg)
  • Palestinians in Race Against Time - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    The Palestinians have steadfastly held to the belief that the passing of time without a peace agreement works against Israel, and that it was to their advantage to avoid making tough decisions and painful concessions for the sake of peace in the hopes that Israel would collapse or that the international community would force Israel to accept the Palestinian position. But the majority of Arab states have come to understand that time is actually on Israel's side and that every day that passes without peace ultimately inches them, not Israel, closer to social and economic ruin.
        President Trump's efforts to think outside the box and try to dismantle some of the landmines blocking the path to peace - such as the Jerusalem question - have thrown PA President Mahmoud Abbas off balance. Abbas' response was to declare diplomatic war on the U.S. In doing so, however, he is squandering an opportunity to entrust the diplomatic process to the only player who can move it forward. The writer, vice rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)

Palestinian Manipulation of the International Criminal Court - Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • In January, Israel's National Security Council warned that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will likely open a formal investigation against Israeli officials and officers in response to Palestinian complaints regarding Israel's 2014 operation in Gaza and its building of settlements in the West Bank.
  • The Statute of the ICC clearly establishes that it is open to states only. The Palestinians consider themselves to be a sovereign state, relying on UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19 of December 4, 2012, which accorded "to Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations."
  • However, this resolution was a political, non-binding General Assembly resolution. The UN General Assembly does not have the legal capacity, pursuant to the UN Charter, to establish states, but only to accept existing states pursuant to a recommendation of the Security Council.
  • Despite the lack of any valid legal foundation, the international community has, in general, accepted the resolution as granting statehood to the Palestinians. On January 6, 2015, the UN Secretary-General announced his acceptance of the "State of Palestine" as a fully-fledged state party to the ICC Statute.
  • The decision to accept "Palestine" as a party to the ICC Statute, and to accept Palestinian complaints against Israel, was rejected as illegal by the U.S. Administration, and the U.S. Congress adopted a resolution to the same effect on May 18, 2015.
  • A further legal question is how is it possible to impart to the ICC legal jurisdiction over disputed territory, the sovereign status of which has yet to be agreed upon? The Palestinian leadership and Israel agreed in the 1993-5 Oslo Accords that the permanent status of the territories would be resolved by negotiation between them and not through unilateral action or imposition by international bodies.
  • It remains to be seen whether the ICC will allow itself to be politically manipulated by the Palestinians and by prevailing political pressures, or whether it will assert its legal authority as the responsible international juridical institution it was intended to be and, based on clear, objective legal reasoning, will reject the Palestinian manipulation.

    Amb. Alan Baker, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.