February 6, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Hizbullah to Store Weapons in Druze Areas of Lebanon to Prevent Israeli Attacks - Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
    Hizbullah recently purchased over 100 acres of land in Druze areas near Lebanon's Chouf Mountains for the purpose of storing missiles there, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Sunday.
    Hizbullah believes Israel would be wary of attacking Druze areas.

Germany Sold Technology to Iran for Use in Syrian Chemical Attacks - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    Germany's Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control approved a license for the Krempel company to sell electronic press boards to Iranian companies that were used in the production of rockets, the German publication Bild reported on Monday.
    Photographs of debris from the rockets with the Krempel company logo and the signature "Made in Germany" were found after two poisonous gas attacks conducted by the Assad regime.

Germany to Compensate 25,000 Algerian Jewish Holocaust Survivors - Stuart Winer (Times of Israel)
    Some 25,000 Jews who lived in Algeria between July 1940 and November 1942 when it was under the control of Nazi Germany and the Vichy government in France, and who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, will be eligible for a one-time payment of $3,183, the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany, an international Jewish group that distributes Holocaust compensation funds on behalf of the German government, announced Monday.
    "The Vichy government subjected these people to restrictions on education, political life, participation in civil society and employment, abolishing French citizenship and singling them out only because they were Jews," said Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference.
    While most of the Algerian survivors live in France, 3,900 live in Israel.

New Film Follows the Stories of Three Injured Israeli Soldiers (JTA)
    "When the Smoke Clears: A Story of Brotherhood, Resilience and Hope" focuses on the daily struggles of three seriously injured Israeli soldiers.
    "When you read in the paper about a soldier that got injured, you say, 'phew, at least he is not dead.' You don't even think about what it means," says Ofer, one of the film's subjects, who was wounded in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
    "I don't think going to war is heroic. I think what is heroic is when I see people who chose to live after what they've gone through." 
    See also Video Trailer: When the Smoke Clears (YouTube)

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. "Gravely Alarmed" after Fresh Syria Chemical Weapons Attack
    State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Monday: "The United States is gravely alarmed by continued allegations of the use of chlorine gas by the Syrian regime to terrorize innocent civilians, this time in Idlib Province near Saraqib. This attack is the sixth such reported instance in the past 30 days in Syria. We implore the international community to speak with one voice, taking every opportunity to publicly pressure the Assad regime, and its supporters, to cease its use of chemical weapons and hold those responsible accountable for these brutal attacks."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Iran Says Trump's Hostility to Nuclear Deal Scares Off Investors
    Iran's oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, lashed out at the U.S. on Sunday, saying that hostile comments by President Donald Trump had torpedoed new oil and gas contracts for the Islamic republic. Zanganeh revealed that Tehran was currently negotiating with "more than 20 foreign companies" to develop its oil and gas fields, but Trump's regular denunciations of the nuclear deal with Iran has cooled their interest. "I dare not name the projects that are near to being agreed. If I do so, from tomorrow there will be pressure for them not to sign contracts with us," he said. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Kills Murderer of Israeli Rabbi - Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury
    Ahmed Nasser Jarrer, responsible for the Jan. 9 murder of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, was killed by Israeli security forces early Tuesday in the West Bank village of Yamun near Jenin when he emerged from a building with an M-16 rifle. (Ha'aretz)
  • Video: Israeli Arab Stabs to Death Jewish Israeli in West Bank - Tovah Lazaroff
    Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal, 29, was standing on the sidewalk near a bus stop outside of Ariel in the West Bank on Monday when Israeli-Arab Abed al-Karim Adel Asi, 19, got out of a van on the other side of the road, crossed the highway, and stabbed Ben-Gal in the chest. The assailant fled the scene in a passing vehicle. A security camera captured the moment of the attack. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Hamas Spends Millions on Rockets and Tunnels, Nothing on Clean Water or Electricity - Lahav Harkov
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday, "In 2017, Hamas spent $260 million to manufacture rockets and dig tunnels, $100 million of which came from Iran, and the rest from tax collection and other donations. Hamas invested $260 million in military strength and wouldn't divert even one shekel toward water, electricity, health or education....They're willing to sacrifice all the residents of Gaza."
        Asked if there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, he said, "There is a very complex economic situation that must be taken care of, but no humanitarian crisis." The problems in Gaza have to do with disagreements between Fatah and Hamas, he said. "We're not part of it. Whoever suggests we take Israeli taxpayers' money and give it to Gaza is mistaken...and talking about rehabilitation today, before there's any progress on the issue of our captives - that's simply immoral."
        Asked about a report in Al-Hayat claiming that Israel is going to attack Gaza during an upcoming military exercise, Lieberman said, "I want to make it clear, we have no intention to initiate any military action in Gaza, but I'm glad that Hamas' leadership is panicking, which says a bit about their courage."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Helped Thwart Irish Effort to Boycott Israel - Adam Kredo
    The Irish Parliament was poised last week to pass legislation that would make it a crime for Irish citizens to purchase products made in contested areas of Israel, in a move seen as part of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. State Department officials are said to have warned Irish leaders that the bill would subject them to inclusion on a list of countries supporting boycotts of Israel. The bill was ultimately tabled until the summer.
        A senior official at a major pro-Israel organization said, "This law was a done deal in Ireland. It was going to pass, and there would have been this insane situation where the Irish would be sending people to jail for buying souvenirs in the Old City."
        Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University, noted, "The Irish bill will pose a grave threat for U.S. companies with headquarters in Ireland, or U.S. subsidiaries of Irish companies. All will be forced to effectively boycott Israeli companies, putting them in violation of U.S. anti-boycott laws passed in the 1970s."  (Washington Free Beacon)
  • The Travelers: American Jihadists in Syria and Iraq
    Hundreds of Americans have been drawn to jihadist organizations fighting in Syria and Iraq. Of the 64 individuals in this study who reached their destinations, 12 returned to the U.S., 9 of whom were arrested and charged with terrorism-related offenses.
        No returned travelers have successfully committed a terrorist attack in the U.S. following their re-entry, while only one returned with the intent to carry out an attack. At the same time, there have been 22 jihadist attacks from 2011 to 2017 committed by "homegrown" extremists.
        Yet returnees do pose a threat. They can augment jihadist networks in the U.S., provide others with knowledge about how to travel and conduct attacks, and serve as nodes in future jihadist recruitment. (George Washington University Program on Extremism)
        See also Study: American ISIS Recruits Struggle with Inexperience, Culture Clash
    A study by the George Washington University Program on Extremism found that U.S. recruits to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq struggled more than their European counterparts. "For many of the returnees, life in jihadist-held territory did not live up to their expectations. Living conditions were much harsher than they saw in the online magazines and videos, and the promises of companionship and camaraderie were rarely fulfilled. Instead, cultural clashes, bitter infighting, and suspicion among recruits and leadership abounded. Many of the Americans had little to no combat experience and were assigned duties such as cleaning safe houses, cooking, and caring for the sick and injured."
        The study examines the experience of 64 of the estimated 300 Americans who made their way to the Islamic State. That is a fraction of the 5,000-6,000 who traveled from Europe to join the fight. (AFP)

  • Iran and Hizbullah have taken advantage of the cover of war in Syria to try to smuggle advanced weapons through Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Yet Israeli attacks against Iranian and Hizbullah targets in Syria must take into account the military presence of Russian forces in the country.
  • Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said that Russian air defenses based in Syria cover most of Israeli territory, severely impeding the Israeli Air Force's freedom of operation. Russia is in a much better position to collect military intelligence on Israel, and the Russian presence in Syria makes the Levant safe for Iran, which presents a strategic and existential threat to the Jewish state.
  • "All this puts Russia in a position of a strategic adjudicator vis-a-vis Jerusalem - allowing it to decide, to a degree, the extent of Israel's freedom to maneuver in the region."
  • "For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow is almost on par with Washington in terms of dictating its political [and] military agendas in the Eastern Mediterranean region."
  • Anna Borshchevskaya, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an expert on Russia's Middle East policy, said, "It's doubtful that Putin wants a bilateral crisis with Israel; to the contrary, good relations with Israel are important to him, but it's also unclear how long he can keep the balancing act he's maintained so far in terms of good relations with both Iran and Israel."
  • Yuri Teper, until recently a postdoctoral fellow at the Kennan Institute at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, noted, "By allowing Israel to attack Hizbullah's strategic capabilities and infrastructure, Russia is in a way putting a check on Iran's influence and makes the Syrian regime more dependent on Russian air-force capabilities."