February 23, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

UNIFIL Peacekeepers Accuse Lebanese Army of Hindering Their Work - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The UN force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has accused Hizbullah and the Lebanese Army of hampering their work, the French Le Journal du Dimanche reported Friday.
    A chief warrant officer for the French contingent said, "We are caught in the aggressor's grip. Doing the bare minimum has become a political choice."
    A former UNIFIL liaison officer said, "When we would detect military activities in our area, especially near the Blue Line [border with Israel], the Lebanese Army would prevent us from posting observers. It is as if those decisions did not come from them. Everyone knows that Hizbullah is using the area for the next war."
    Israel has repeatedly warned that the Lebanese Army has lost its independence and has become an integral part of Hizbullah's network.
    A Finnish commander noted that "Indonesian peacekeepers are constantly reporting Israeli movements to various Lebanese actors," and that some of UNIFIL's civilian employees "do not hide their Hizbullah membership."

IDF Trains for War in Lebanon - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The IDF Galilee Division on Thursday completed a series of large-scale exercises.
    "Conscripted soldiers, along with reservists, took part in the exercise. They practiced a rapid call-up of reservists, as well as operational capabilities and readiness to fight in Lebanese terrain," the Israel Defense Forces said.
    Since the 2006 Second Lebanon War against Hizbullah, the IDF has built special facilities that mimic southern Lebanese terrain and has invested considerably more resources in training reservists.

ISIS Isn't Defeated, Neither Is Al-Qaeda - Thomas Joscelyn (Weekly Standard)
    ISIS and al-Qaeda have tied up security services throughout the West for years.
    Thousands of terror suspects across Europe require monitoring.
    The FBI has been swamped by hundreds of U.S. cases involving potential terrorists.
    The CIA and allied intelligence agencies continue to hunt down professional terrorists who plot mass destruction in the West.
    ISIS and al-Qaeda operatives still threaten aviation with smartly concealed bombs.
    And while ISIS has lost its territorial caliphate, the fight is far from over. The group still retains the resources to wage guerrilla warfare indefinitely.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

60 European Parliament Members Call to Classify Hizbullah as Terrorist Entity - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    60 members of the EU parliament sent a letter on Thursday to EU High Representative Federica Mogherini, urging her to classify all of Hizbullah as a terrorist entity.
    MEP Anders Vistisen (Denmark) said: "It's outrageous that the European Union still has not denounced Hizbullah in its entirety as a terrorist organization. Hizbullah's growing arsenal and entanglement in regional conflicts severely destabilizes certain countries and the wider Middle East."
    "It is high time to acknowledge that Islamist-inspired terrorism is not only a threat to the Middle East, but is also the top threat to Europe's security."
    MEP Lars Adaktusson (Sweden) said: "In order to stop Hizbullah's extensive terrorist activities, the EU approach has to change."
    "Hizbullah is one united organization, and the EU policy cannot be based on a pretend division of this terrorist organization into a civilian and a military wing."

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2,500 U.S. Troops Gear Up for Missile Defense Exercises in Israel (Stars and Stripes)
    More than 2,500 troops from the U.S. European Command will take up positions in Israel on March 4-15 for a missile defense exercise together with a similar number of Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
    The purpose of the Juniper Cobra exercises, conducted every two years, is "to bolster interoperability and develop seamless integration with our Israeli partners," said U.S. Third Air Force Commander Lt.-Gen. Richard Clark.

How U.S. Can Stop Palestinian Authority from Abusing Interpol - Ted Bromund (Washington Times)
    Interpol is supposed to help the world's police agencies communicate with each other, not to play politics.
    But when Interpol's member nations voted to admit the Palestinian Authority, they brought a supporter of terrorism into the organization.
    The PA has no interest in using Interpol's channels to bring common criminals to trial - which, under Interpol's constitution, is all it is allowed to do.
    It wanted to join Interpol, first and foremost, as part of its political war against Israel.
    To keep the Palestinians from capitalizing on their victory, we will have to put Interpol on notice that it will suffer if it enables Palestinian abuse that targets American friends of Israel.
    If we don't, we're likely one day to find Americans being harassed by Interpol on the charge of being friends of Israel and telling the truth about the Palestinian Authority.
    The writer is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Israel Aerospace Industries Earned $2 Billion in Iron Dome Radar Sales - Michael Bachner (Times of Israel)
    Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has sold 100 units of the Iron Dome radar to nine countries, including Canada and India, for a total of $2 billion, the Calcalist news website reported Thursday.
    More radar units are to be purchased soon by the Czech Republic.

Ohio Israel Bond Purchases Reach $200 Million (Cleveland Jewish News-JNS)
    The Ohio Treasurer's Office purchased $52.8 million in Israel bonds on Feb. 15 to increase the state's holding to $200 million - the highest figure for a state in U.S. history, according to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel's office.
    "First and foremost, we're making this investment because it's a good investment for the taxpayers of Ohio," he said.

Israeli Scientists Develop Early Test for Pregnancy Complication - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    Tel Aviv University researchers have discovered molecular biomarkers in the blood for preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that is a leading cause of maternal deaths.
    Dr. Noam Shomron said, "Our findings form the basis for a simple blood test that would predict preeclampsia and, in turn, allow doctors to provide treatment that would prevent the very onset of the disease."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Blocked by Russia, UN Fails to Pass Syria Cease-Fire Resolution - Michael Schwirtz and Nada Homsi
    The UN Security Council, facing staunch opposition from Russia, failed to pass a resolution on Thursday to impose a 30-day cease-fire in Syria to allow humanitarian aid to reached the besieged Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, where the death toll this week rose to more than 300. Some 42 people, mostly women and children, were killed when a rocket hit their shelter in the village of Beit Sawa. Only seven people who were in the shelter survived. (New York Times)
  • Russia Resists Western Bid to Condemn Iran at UN over Yemen Arms - Michelle Nichols
    Russia is resisting a Western bid to condemn Iran at the UN Security Council for violating an arms embargo on Yemen's Houthis. "We don't like condemnations at all, in general," said Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. UN experts reported to the Security Council in January they had "identified missile remnants, related military equipment and military unmanned aerial vehicles that are of Iranian origin and were brought into Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo."  (Reuters)
  • Iran May Withdraw from Nuclear Deal If Banks Continue to Stay Away - Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
    Iran will withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal if there is no economic benefit and major banks continue to shun the Islamic Republic, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told the Chatham House think tank in London on Thursday. Big banks have continued to stay away for fear of falling foul of remaining U.S. sanctions. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Attack U.S. Delegation in West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A U.S. delegation visiting Ramallah in the West Bank, that included New York City Council members and civil society groups, had to be rescued by PA policemen on Thursday after being attacked with eggs by Palestinian protesters. "America is the head of the snake" and "Americans are not welcome in Palestine," the protesters chanted. PA anti-riot policemen escorted the U.S. guests to a police van that took them to a secure location.
        The U.S. State Department said: "This type of action is unmistakably counterproductive to Palestinian interests; it serves only to ensure that Americans are unable to hear or consider Palestinian perspectives."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel to Issue 20,000 More Work Permits to Palestinians - Dan Zaken
    Israel has increased the number of work permits for West Bank Palestinians by 20,000, bringing the number to 100,000. The new agreement was unveiled at a meeting on Wednesday between Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
        The meeting signifies a direct political channel between the Israeli government and the PA. Most of the discussions on this channel are economic, but the parties are also able to deliver messages on other matters. Many Palestinian journalists reported on the meeting, and some featured it on the front pages.
        Israel agreed in the talks to help the Palestinians prepare for an audit by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and meet its criteria for receiving economic aid. The IMF is demanding far-reaching economic reforms and full transparency from the PA as a condition for receiving aid. (Globes)
  • Snubbed by EU, Israeli Cartoons Slamming Iran Go on Display - Michael Bachner
    An Israeli exhibition of cartoons criticizing human rights conditions in Iran will be displayed next to the European Parliament in Brussels starting Wednesday, after the parliament refused to display them inside the building. The exhibition, initiated by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and The Israeli Cartoon Project (TICP), is an Israeli response to an annual anti-Israel cartoon contest in Iran.
        "As Israelis, we are proud to stand with the oppressed Iranian people, whose rights are being brutally trampled by the Ayatollah regime," said Yossi Klar and Asaf Finkelstein, directors of TICP. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • In Syria, a Moment to Turn Back Iranian Aggression - Joshua S. Block
    Iran has been directly implicated in mass-murder in Syria, where the mullahs have propped up the repressive regime of Bashar Assad with the help of their proxy, Hizbullah, as part of their campaign to export the Islamic revolution and increase their influence in the region. By 2016, an estimated 6,500-9,200 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) troops and Iranian paramilitary personnel were stationed in Syria.
        Pro-Assad regime forces entered the Kurdish enclave of Afrin this week to end Turkey's incursion into northern Syria, the one area immune to the growing Iranian presence in the country. U.S.-backed Kurdish forces kept northern Syria "Iran-free." Kurdish forces feel uneasy about the support of pro-regime troops, but they are left with the choice of risking slaughter at the hands of the Turkish military or accepting a deal with the devil.
        Meanwhile, the regime in Tehran has instructed Iranian-backed Shia militia forces to march on Afrin together with other pro-regime forces. Iran now has a golden opportunity, for the first time, to penetrate the Kurdish-operated "no-go-zone" in the north. The Kurdish minority has so far been a reliable counter-force to Iranian influence.
        The conflict has morphed from a local confrontation between Turkish and Kurdish forces into a crisis spearheaded by Assad and Iran. If the U.S. is serious about confronting Iranian aggression, Afrin would be a good place to start. The writer is CEO and president of The Israel Project. (New York Daily News)
  • Iran's Intensifying War with Israel - James Phillips
    Having tightened its grip on strategic areas of Syria, Iran now is willing and able to use these locations as staging areas for operations against Israel. The Trump administration should publicly warn Russia and Iran that the U.S. will respond forcefully to future threats in Syria and strongly support Israeli military efforts to blunt threats emanating from Syria. If Moscow is not willing or able to restrain Iran in Syria, it must share the responsibility - and bear consequences - for Iran's destabilizing actions in Syria. The writer is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation. (National Interest)

  • Palestinians

  • Hopeless in Gaza - Clifford D. May
    In the New York Times this month, Jerusalem bureau chief David M. Halbfinger concludes that Hamas has "few options." He adds: "The one it has resorted to three times - going to war with Israel in hopes of generating international sympathy and relief in the aftermath - suddenly seems least attractive."
        Did you get that? The New York Times sees nothing alarming, certainly nothing to criticize, about Palestinians contemplating "going to war" against Israelis to improve their economic situation. Would the newspaper take the same attitude toward any other peoples anywhere else in the world?
        One option was not mentioned: that Hamas might contemplate giving up its goal of destroying Israel. That option also apparently did not occur to the "Gaza experts" to whom Mr. Halbfinger turned. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)
  • Palestinian Children Learn "Resistance" and Jihad - Marcus Sheff
    In the new Palestinian Authority school curriculum, completed by the PA Education Ministry in August 2017, radicalization is pervasive, even more so than its predecessor. Young Palestinians are taught that martyrdom for boys and girls is a life goal, that dying is better than living, and that jihad is the pinnacle of ambition. Those who risk their lives by taking up arms are praised and those who choose the path of non-violence are denigrated as cowards. In science lessons, gravity is taught through the image of a boy with a slingshot targeting soldiers. Math exercises instruct students to calculate number of martyrs in Palestinian uprisings.
        The new PA curriculum is packed with wording, imagery and ideology likely to create prejudices, misconceptions, stereotypes, misunderstandings, mistrust, racial and national hatred, and religious bigotry. As for gender equality, women are not equal in life, only in their value as martyrs in death.
        The PA curriculum rejects negotiations with Israel to achieve Palestinian statehood. According to the textbooks, the only solution is victory via resistance and defeating Israel once and for all. The writer is CEO of IMPACT-se, which monitors compliance with international standards on peace and tolerance in education. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jewish-Arab Coexistence in Jerusalem and Local Elections - Nadav Shragai
    A new survey by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion shows that 60% of east Jerusalem's Arab residents believe they should participate in Jerusalem municipal elections, which will be held next in October 2018, after many years of boycotting the elections. The survey's results show a growing trend toward "Israelization" among many east Jerusalem Arabs as a consequence of living in a unified city for the past 50 years.
        At the same time, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas consider any cooperation with Israel as a "betrayal" of the goal of establishing the capital of a Palestinian state in east Jerusalem and have announced that they are opposed to participation in municipal elections. In past years, Arabs wanting to run for the city council have been threatened and physically harmed by Hamas or Fatah operatives.
        Most of Jerusalem's population don't remember a divided city. Some 85% of Jerusalem's Arabs and 75% of its Jews were born into a unified city. This has been translated into a fabric of normal coexistence that is a blend of different lifestyles. Jewish and Arab doctors and nurses work together to serve both populations in the city's hospitals and health clinics. Arab and Jewish drivers drive the city's taxis and buses, and the light railway serves both communities. Jews and Arabs mix at Jerusalem's restaurants, cafes, and shopping malls, both as consumers and employees. A growing number of families in east Jerusalem are currently choosing to send their children to schools where they follow the Israeli curriculum.
        Seven years ago, a survey of east Jerusalem Arabs found that 35% preferred to live as citizens with equal rights under Israeli sovereignty. In the latest survey, that figure had reached 52%. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a journalist and commentator who has documented the dispute over Jerusalem for 30 years. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Visiting Ramallah - Lilia Gaufberg
    This past July I visited Ramallah, the primary Palestinian-Arab city in the West Bank. I saw gorgeous apartment buildings, schools, and towering mosques contrasted with littered streets. I witnessed girls in tank tops and shorts drinking iced coffees in front of mosques during the call to prayer.
        In Ramallah, everywhere you turn, a vehement hatred of Israel and a denial of Jewish history in the Land of Israel pulses throughout the city. Streets and squares are named after internationally recognized terrorists. The main museum, Yasser Arafat Museum, contains exhibits which praise the intifadas, the terror wars inflicted upon Jews.
        People on the streets are warm and welcoming, but the city speaks of a consensus towards the complete destruction of Israel and, ultimately, the Jewish people. Mothers and their children walk down streets with images of murderers pasted on the walls of shops and cafes. The advocating of violence masked under the noble guise of "resistance" is rampant. A hatred of Israel and a narrative of injustice towards the Palestinian people is woven into the societal fabric. (Times of Israel)
  • Do Palestinian Elites Want Peace? - Ben-Dror Yemini
    The Palestinian refusal to accept any peace proposal is not only due to historical reasons or a sense of injustice. It stems from the fact that the Palestinian elites only benefit from the continuation of the conflict. The Palestinians have become the ultimate global symbol of a "victim" and an "oppressed people," who are supposedly fighting against colonialism and occupation. They have become global celebrities.
        According to any objective measure of life expectancy, infant mortality, natural increase, and education, the Palestinians are not in the worst shape among the world's needy populations. Just the opposite. Most people in the world live in much worse circumstances. But they are not in the headlines. No one is demonstrating for them.
        It is not only the Palestinian leadership that enjoys ideological and moral support. Dozens of Palestinian or pro-Palestinian organizations receive extensive financial support from dozens of celebrated foundations and political structures: the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundation (George Soros), the EU, individual European countries, and church funds. Then there is UNRWA and other UN funding entities.
        With all the big bucks flowing in, with no strings attached, what are the chances that Palestinian activists will give up this abundance of status, honor, prestige, and jobs? A peace agreement would undermine this special status. (Times of Israel)

  • Other Issues

  • The Current Map of Syria - Jonathan Spyer
    In Syria, the regime and its allies control the main cities and the coastal area, amounting to 55-60% of the territory, along with the majority of the population. The Sunni Arab rebels retain control of the al-Tanaf area in the east, Der'aa and Quneitra in the southwest, Eastern Ghouta in the center, Rastan in the north and Idlib in the northwest, but they are in retreat. IS controls a few rapidly eroding desert areas.
        But it is important to remember that IS first emerged as the al-Qaeda branch of Iraq and only later morphed from an insurgency into a quasi-state. It is now in the process of morphing back. We should bear in mind the large extent of support IS still enjoys, particularly in the western provinces of Iraq and around Mosul.
        Syrian Kurds control an area in the northeast making up 27% of Syria, in alliance with the U.S. This area contains the greater part of Syria's oil and gas resources, as well as some of its best agricultural land. The writer is a fellow at the Middle East Forum. (Fathom-BICOM)
  • In Long-Secular Turkey, Sharia Is Gradually Taking Over - Soner Cagaptay
    During the first two days of Turkey's military deployment in Syria, which began on Jan. 20, the government's Directorate of Religious Affairs ordered all of Turkey's nearly 90,000 mosques to broadcast the "prayer of conquest" from the Koran through the loudspeakers on their minarets.
        Turkey was established as a secular republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk at the end of World War I. But in recent years, the Erdogan government has been limiting individual freedoms, as well as sanctioning individuals who "insult Islam" or neglect Islamic practices.
        Since November 2017, the national police has been monitoring online commentary on religion and suppressing freedom of expression when they find commentary "offensive to Islam." The Ministry of Education has been pressuring citizens to conform to conservative Islamic practices in public schools. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • Why School Shootings Are So Rare in Israel, Where Guns Are a Common Sight - Ruth Eglash
    Israeli security experts say that gun violence is rare in Israel because privately-held guns are so rare. According to Israel's Ministry of Internal Security, which registers all gun owners, about 260,000 Israelis, 3.5% of the population, have permits to carry firearms. Half work for security firms. Israel ranks 81st in the world for per-capita firearm ownership.
        Civilians must be over 27 years old to obtain a gun license, though those who completed military service are also eligible. Gun license applicants must justify their need to be armed. Residents of Tel Aviv are unlikely to receive gun licenses, compared with Israelis living in border areas or in the West Bank. In addition, retired army officers, former police officers, firefighters, ambulance technicians, special forces veterans, and licensed public transportation drivers can also qualify for permits. (Washington Post)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Massacre of Jews in Jedwabne, Poland, in 1941 - James McAuley
    On July 10, 1941, villagers in Jedwabne, Poland, turned against their neighbors. The Jews who survived the axes were burned alive in a barn on the outskirts of town. The Germans had just recaptured the area, but it was not the Germans who bolted the doors, poured the gasoline and lit the fire. What happened at Jedwabne, where more than 300 Jews perished, profoundly challenges a national narrative that portrays Poland as a victim. (Washington Post)
  • Remembering the German Anti-Nazi White Rose - Richard Hurowitz
    75 years ago Thursday, a group of young German idealists who had dared to speak out against the Nazis were executed by the regime they had defied. Its members called themselves the White Rose. The group's founder, Hans Scholl, a student at the University of Munich, was joined by his sister Sophie, Alexander Schmorell, Christoph Probst, and Willi Graf. Their intellectual mentor was Kurt Huber, a professor of philosophy and ardent believer in liberal democracy.
        In the summer of 1942, Hans and his friends began to distribute typewritten leaflets denouncing the regime and imploring all citizens to engage in "passive resistance" to the Nazi state. They also addressed the atrocities against Jews. The group's second leaflet said: "Here we see the most frightful crime against human dignity, a crime that is unparalleled in the whole of history. For Jews, too, are human beings." They added: "Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie." The leaflets appeared in mailboxes and phone booths and spread to sympathetic students in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin and Vienna.
        On Feb. 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie were distributing leaflets at the university when they were caught by the Gestapo. They were interrogated for several days, together with Probst, but refused to implicate others. All three were found of guilty of high treason and sentenced to death. Within hours, they were executed by guillotine. Within weeks, the other core members of the White Rose were apprehended and executed. (New York Times)
  • The Kindness of Strangers: How Thousands of Danes - and One Brave German - Defied the Nazis to Rescue Denmark's Jews - Duane Schultz
    On Sep. 28, 1943, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a high-level staff member of the German embassy in Copenhagen and a member of the Nazi Party, betrayed his country and risked execution to try to save the lives of nearly 8,000 Danish Jews. He knew that in two days' time Denmark's Jews were to be rounded up and shipped off to internment camps. Eight days earlier, he had traveled secretly to Sweden and persuaded the neutral Swedish government to take in all the Danish Jews who could get out of Denmark in time.
        While Duckwitz's warning sparked the rescue operation, it was the Danish people themselves who then rapidly and selflessly carried it out - hiding and caring for their Jewish compatriots, transporting them to boats on the coast, and then ensuring the vast majority made it safely to Sweden. Estimates of the number of non-Jewish Danes who helped in the massive escape to the coast range as high as 10,000.
        When the Jews returned to Denmark from Sweden in the summer of 1945, they were greeted by cheering crowds and garlands of flowers. Most of the Jews returned to find their homes, jobs, and businesses intact, ready for them to resume the lives that had been interrupted. In 1971, Duckwitz was honored by Israel as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. (World War II Magazine)

  • Establishing and maintaining deterrence is an uncertain art, but it is the best strategy for avoiding costly wars. For Israel, deterrence has always been the core of national security strategy, and this is still the case in the escalating conflict with the Iranian regime.
  • An overconfident leadership in Tehran, firmly ensconced in Syria in alliance with the Hizbullah forces based in Lebanon, will continue to probe and challenge the IDF, looking for weakness. By defining red lines and credibly threatening to impose high costs on the Iranian leadership, Israel seeks to prevent a catastrophic outcome.
  • But Iran and Israel have no direct means of communication. Misunderstandings filtered through a prism of distrust makes deterrence management far more precarious. The potential for miscommunications and exaggerated threat perceptions is compounded by the overheated rhetoric from Tehran, proclaiming the imminent eradication of Israel.
  • Israelis remember the late Iranian president Rafsanjani's declaration that Israel could be destroyed with a single nuclear weapon, and pay close attention to Iran's oft-stated Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic cartoon contests.
  • Iran's leaders continue to expand their power, whether in Syria, Yemen or other venues, through brinksmanship, and where they see weakness, via more aggressive means. This expansionist strategy makes deterrence towards Iran both vital and difficult to achieve.
  • Given these factors, what might seem to be a disproportionate Israeli response is rational and necessary in order to send an unambiguous warning as the best means of reinforcing deterrence.
  • The alternative is preventive attack - a less than optimal solution, but one which Israel has contemplated and prepared more than once.

    The writer is professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, where he founded the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation.
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