February 1, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Warns Iran Against Missile Proliferation - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran will not escape punishment if it continues to proliferate technology for the production of sophisticated missiles in the region, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield said Wednesday at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
    "We are concerned about Iran's willingness to proliferate destabilizing missile technology to regional proxies, to arm militias," Satterfield said.
    "We do not want to see any future proliferation of this technology, these sophisticated systems, anywhere; not in Yemen, and certainly not to Hizbullah."
    "We are looking to every means we have to contain, restrain and ultimately roll back Iran's influence throughout the region. Iran's support for Assad's regime and Hizbullah is a profound threat of course to Israel, to the U.S. and all our common interests."

Lebanon Issues Gas Exploration Tender for Israeli Territory - Lisa Barrington and Dan Williams (Reuters)
    Lebanon has issued a tender for offshore oil and gas exploration in an area claimed by Israel.
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday, "When they issue a tender on a gas field, including Block 9, which by any standard is ours...this is very, very challenging and provocative conduct."
    "Respectable firms" bidding on the tender "are, to my mind, making a grave error - because this is contrary to all of the rules and all protocol in cases like this."

IDF Constructs Replicas of Hamas Tunnels to Train Soldiers - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Since the 2014 Gaza war, the Israeli military has constructed multiple replicas of Hamas tunnels with hiding spots, offshoots and storage depots, at military training bases across the country.
    Every IDF infantry soldier learns how to fight in them, said Lt.-Col. Liron Aroch, commander of the Southern Command Training Base, which also contains a mock Palestinian city used for urban combat training.
    "Our goal is not to fight in a tunnel, but to deal with it from above. To seal the tunnel, to blow it up, to destroy it, from aboveground," Aroch said.
    "But there will be cases where the IDF has to go into tunnels, to gather intelligence or take out senior commanders. So we have to prepare the soldiers for this challenge."

Unemployment in Israel Drops to Lowest Level since '70s - Tzahi Sadeh (Ynet News)
    The unemployment rate in Israel dropped to 4% in December 2017, the lowest rate since the end of the 1970s.
    Unemployment in 2017 stood at 4.2%, compared to 4.8% in 2016.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Designates Hamas Political Leader as "Global Terrorist" - Jeff Seldin
    The State Department announced it has placed Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, on its terrorist list as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). The U.S. already lists Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. also designated the Iranian-backed terrorist group Harakat al-Sabireen that operates in Gaza and the West Bank. (VOA News)
        See also U.S. Announces New Terrorist Designations
    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson emphasized Wednesday that "these designations target key terrorist groups and leaders - including two sponsored and directed by Iran - who are threatening the stability of the Middle East, undermining the peace process, and attacking our allies Egypt and Israel."  (State Department)
        See also U.S. Ups Pressure on Tehran and Muslim Brotherhood's Violent Progeny in Gaza and Egypt - Matthew Levitt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel Rejects UN Report on Companies Linked to Settlements - Stephanie Nebehay
    The UN human rights office said on Wednesday it had identified 206 companies doing business linked to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israel's ambassador, Aviva Raz Shechter, rejected the concept as "fundamentally illegitimate." "It is outside the competence and the authority of the Human Rights Council to deal with blacklisting." Israel did not want to see the UN human rights office at the "forefront of a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction)" movement, she said.
        U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Wednesday, "the fact that the report was issued at all is yet another reminder of the Council's anti-Israel obsession."  (Reuters)
        See also UN Omits "Blacklist" from Report on Firms Doing Business in Settlements - Joshua Davidovich
    The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report on Wednesday regarding companies accused of doing business in territories captured by Israel in 1967, but didn't list them, delaying the publication of a controversial "blacklist."  (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel to Retain Security Control over West Bank in any Peace Deal
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said Israel will retain security control over the West Bank as part of any future peace deal. At a meeting Wednesday with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Netanyahu said a condition for a two-state solution would be Israeli control of security west of the Jordan River. (Ynet News)
  • Greenblatt to EU Envoys: Settlements Are Not the Obstacle - Herb Keinon
    Settlements are not the issue preventing an Israeli-Palestinian deal, U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt told EU ambassadors in Israel on Tuesday. Greenblatt said it is necessary to look at what construction has actually taken place, rather than at various announcements in the media. He said there is not that much actual building taking place; that where it is taking place is contiguous to existing settlements; and that Israel has taken a sensible approach on the matter. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran Is Threatening Stability in the Middle East - Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan
    Like many others, the United Arab Emirates was skeptical of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, but hoped that the deal would encourage Iran to moderate its behavior in the region. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Instead, Tehran has pursued a narrow sectarian agenda that is threatening the fragile regional social fabric.
        To fix this problem, we urgently need a concerted international effort to contain Iran's brazen regional aggression and curtail its dangerous ballistic missile program. Without greater progress on these issues, the nuclear agreement is doomed to fail.
        We need a new accord that cuts back Tehran's ability to support extremist groups and sectarian militias across the region; diminishes the ability of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to bring conflict and destruction to other countries; and limits Tehran's burgeoning ballistic missile program, while preventing it from targeting innocent civilians in neighboring states. The writer is Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for the United Arab Emirates. (Financial Times-UK)
  • The Fictitious Arab Narrative - Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    As U.S. Vice President Mike Pence began his speech at the Knesset on Jan. 22, some Arab Knesset members raised signs declaring "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine." They didn't say "east Jerusalem." There has never been a state with the name of Palestine. Jerusalem was never a capital for the Palestinians, who are a recently established nation that never took advantage of the right to self-determination they are claiming, even though it was offered to them several times.
        In the view of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, the most effective way to advance Palestinian goals is by combining political struggles in the international community with a popular uprising, meaning violence without the use of firearms. Despite this, whoever has weapons and is ready to use them against Israel will earn praise and assistance.
        In Abbas' narrative, the Palestinians should be compensated for their victimhood and should struggle to liberate all of Palestine. The refugees must return to their homes and the State of Israel must be a state for all its citizens, until it turns into a Palestinian state. The writer is former head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Israel Hayom)
  • Jerusalem Belongs to the Jews: An Islamic Truth - Qanta Ahmed
    As a believing Muslim observing Islam, I am compelled by the Quran to support Israel's sole claim to the Holy Land; the Quran says it is so. The Quran states: "Moses said to his people: O my people! Remember the bounty of God upon you when He bestowed prophets upon you, and made you kings and gave you that which had not been given to anyone before you amongst the nations. O my people! Enter the Holy Land which God has written for you."
        Nowhere does the Quran make mention of the Muslims' claim to the Holy Land. Instead, God reveals in the Quran that the Holy Land is designated for the followers of Moses. It is this Islamic truth that political Islamists vehemently deny. Dr. Qanta A. Ahmed, MD, a British-American Muslim and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is Associate Professor of Medicine at the State University of New York (Stony Brook). (Times of Israel)

UK Defence Secretary Hails "Amazing Relationship" with Israel - British Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson (Conservative Friends of Israel)

Britain's Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson addressed the Conservative Friends of Israel's Annual Parliamentary Reception on Tuesday.
  • Williamson praised Israel as a "beacon of light and hope, in a region where there is so much hatred and hurt. We shouldn't underestimate how difficult it is to keep that light bright and burning."
  • Speaking of his visit to the country as a teenager, Williamson said: "I didn't quite know what to expect of Israel. What I found was a liberal, free, exciting country that was so at ease with itself, a country that absorbed and welcomed so many people. That made an enormous impression upon me."
  • Williamson condemned the often "completely unreasonable...sheer simple hatred" channeled towards Israel. "If we are not there to stand up for a country, whose views and ideals are so close, or are simply our own, what are we as a nation? What are we in politics, if we cannot accept and celebrate the wonderful blooming of democracy that is Israel."
  • "Britain and Israel have an amazing relationship....It's a relationship of partners. We learn a lot from Israel and I hope that Israeli forces also [learn] a little from us. It's a partnership of equals. A partnership of friends."
  • "Britain will always be there to work with you, support you, and be one of your closest and best friends. Our relationship with [Israel] is the cornerstone of so much of what we do in the Middle East."