February 27, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Lebanese Law Allows Hizbullah to Circumvent U.S. Sanctions - Nazeer Rida (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    A clause in Lebanon's new electoral law allowed Hizbullah to circumvent U.S. financial sanctions.
    While U.S. financial sanctions prohibit Lebanese banks from opening accounts for people linked to Hizbullah, the law enables the party's deputies in Parliament to have accounts in Lebanese pounds, to which their salaries are transferred.

Saudi Military Leaders Replaced Amid Stalemated War in Yemen - Jon Gambrell (AP-U.S. News)
    Saudi Arabia replaced its military chief of staff and other defense officials on Tuesday in a shake-up aimed at overhauling its Defense Ministry during the stalemated war in Yemen.
    In the war, Saudi-led forces back Yemen's internationally recognized government against Shiite rebels and their allies who are holding the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and much of the north of the country.
    Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, said, "It seems the Saudi shake-up is more about moving forward with Mohammed bin Salman's attempt to put in place a new generation of leadership."

Canada's Conservative Party Vows to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's Capital - Stephanie Levitz (Canadian Press-Toronto Star)
    Canada's Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says if his party forms a government in 2019, it will follow President Trump's lead and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
    A pledge posted on the party's website said, "Canada's Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located."

Poll: 65 Percent of West Bank Palestinians Optimistic about the Future (Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre)
    In an opinion poll conducted in the West Bank and Gaza on Jan. 27-Feb. 2 and released on Feb. 24, 61% of Palestinians said they were optimistic regarding the future in general (65% in the West Bank and 54% in Gaza).
    However, 63% are pessimistic about reaching a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    Asked about the best method to achieve a Palestinian state, 36% said armed resistance (27% in West Bank and 50% in Gaza), 31% said non-violent resistance (intifada) (36% in West Bank and 22% in Gaza), and 25% said peaceful negotiations (26% in West Bank and 24% in Gaza).
    When asked which political or religious faction do you trust the most? - the responses were Fatah 22%, Hamas 10%, other Islamic factions 6%, and "Don't trust anyone" 54%.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia Vetoes UN Resolution to Pressure Iran over Yemen Missiles - Rick Gladstone
    Russia blocked a resolution at the UN Security Council on Monday that would have pressured Iran over the illegal use of Iranian-made missiles by Houthi insurgents in Yemen. The Trump administration says the presence of Iranian weapons in Yemen is proof that Iran does not respect international agreements. (New York Times)
  • UN Links North Korea to Syria's Chemical Weapon Program - Michael Schwirtz
    North Korea has been shipping supplies to the Syrian government that could be used in the production of chemical weapons, including acid-resistant tiles, valves and thermometers, a report by UN investigators contends. North Korean missile technicians have also been spotted working at known chemical weapons and missile facilities inside Syria.
        The possible chemical weapons components were part of at least 40 previously unreported shipments by North Korea to Syria between 2012 and 2017 of prohibited ballistic missile parts and materials that could be used for both military and civilian purposes. (New York Times)
  • ADL: Anti-Semitic Incidents Surged 57 Percent in 2017 - Maggie Astor
    The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged 57% in 2017, according to an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League. There were 1,986 such incidents in 2017, compared with 1,267 in 2016. Types of incidents included harassment (1,015 incidents in 2017, up 41% from 2016), vandalism (952 incidents, up 86%), and assault (19 incidents, down 47%). ADL chief executive Jonathan A. Greenblatt attributed the trend to the increasingly divisive state of American politics, the emboldening of extremists, and the effects of social media. (New York Times)
        See also 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents (ADL)
  • University of Virginia Condemns Disruption of Jewish Student Meeting - Joe Heim
    Protesters chanting anti-Israel slogans disrupted a discussion with Israel Defense Forces reservists held Thursday at the University of Virginia, organized by the Brody Jewish Center-Hillel. The Brody Center said it invited the protesters to take part in the discussion, but the "protesters refused to engage in conversation and instead continued to shout intimidating and hostile slurs."
        Dean Allen W. Groves reviewed video of the incident and emailed the student body, saying the incident "runs counter to our important shared values of respect and intellectual inquiry, and should be firmly rejected....Our students...reject the 'heckler's veto' of shouting down those with whom we may disagree."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Foils ISIS-Inspired Attack on Temple Mount - Anna Ahronheim
    Three Arab-Israelis from Um el-Fahm were indicted on Monday for plotting a terrorist attack on the Temple Mount in the name of Islamic State, the Israel Security Agency announced. The cell planned to carry out a shooting attack at the al-Aksa Mosque compound similar to the attack on July 14, in which two Israeli police officers were murdered by three Arab-Israelis from Umm el-Fahm. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Public Employees Strike in Gaza over Unpaid Salaries
    Public sector employees in Gaza went on strike Monday over unpaid salaries. The union of public employees said staff have only received 40% of their salaries for five months. Hamas and the PA have traded blame over responsibility. (AFP-Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Jerusalem Embassy Move Strengthens U.S. Credibility - Israel Kasnett
    The U.S. announced on Feb. 23 that it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May. While some claim that the Arab world will react negatively, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said, "Arab governments and the Arab public have other items higher on their agenda....Many Arab governments see Israel as a strategic partner, and many of these Arab states seek a positive relationship with President Trump. I'm not surprised there hasn't been a strong reaction in the Arab world, and I don't think there will be one in May either."
        Longtime Israeli diplomat Dore Gold, who served as director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, believes Trump's decision shows he can keep his word. He explained that for Arab states that rely on "the wings of the American eagle for security," seeing a U.S. president stand strong, even if it is for Israel, means that he will stand strong for them as well.
        Asked if other countries would follow suit in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, Gold noted: "Keep in mind that the U.S. was the first country to recognize Israel - within minutes - after it announced independence in 1948. After the U.S. recognized Israel, other countries followed. So I think it's likely, yes."  (JNS)
  • The Munich Security Conference: Main Points and Implications for Israel - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Assaf Orion
    At the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 15-18, the Palestinian issue was marginalized. Indeed, the Middle East is a secondary focus of attention for the international community, currently occupied with the urgent crisis in the Korean peninsula and the potential for nuclear war.
        Prime Minister Netanyahu called for giving peace and a Trump plan a chance, and presented his own outline for a settlement: less than a Palestinian state, with maximal self-rule but with no compromises on Israeli control over security. Netanyahu responded to Palestinian attempts to shift the negotiations setting to a new international forum by insisting on the vital role of the U.S. in the process.
        Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is director of the Institute for National Security Studies. Assaf Orion served as head of the Strategic Division in the Planning Directorate of the IDF General Staff (2010-2015). (INSS-Tel Aviv University)
  • For Palestinians, Israel Is One Big Settlement - Bassam Tawil
    Senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan last week made it clear that the conflict with Israel is not about Jews living in settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinians see all of Israel as one big settlement that needs to be uprooted. All the Jews, they say, are "settlers" who need to "go back to where they came from." Anyone who follows the news on Palestinian media outlets will see how all Jews, whether they are living in a West Bank settlement or in Tel Aviv, are referred to as "settlers."
        It is time to listen carefully to what the Palestinians are saying - in Arabic - to understand that the conflict is not about Jerusalem and not about settlements. (Gatestone Institute)

  • On Friday, the Trump administration said the ceremony converting a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem into an embassy would coincide with Israel's 70th birthday celebrations in May. Unlike Trump's initial announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the reaction to this latest one turned out to be substantially low-key.
  • By creating a fact on the ground that does nothing to impede a theoretical peace agreement, the U.S. has exposed the hollow nature of the anti-Israel consensus that holds that any Western recognition of reality that forces the Palestinians to give up their illusions is inadmissible. If peace is ever to come, it will be built on realism, not on the appeasement of Palestinian fantasies.
  • The world held off on recognizing western Jerusalem as Israel's capital in part because of the expectation that a peace treaty was inevitable. The problem with waiting was that holding off only served to reinforce Palestinian rejectionism.
  • To this day, the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority continues to deny Jewish ties to the city, or that the Temple Mount and the Western Wall are ancient Jewish holy places. In that sense, they are little better than their Hamas rivals.
  • By holding off recognition of Israel's capital, the world ensured that the Palestinians were not forced to rethink their rejectionist political culture. Yet it has been the willingness of everyone else to indulge Palestinian fantasies that has been the problem.
  • Nothing Trump is doing precludes the possibility of a two-state solution. But peace will have to await a sea change in Palestinian culture that will make it possible for their leaders to choose peace, rather than, as Abbas has consistently done, to pander to religious and nationalist fantasies that preclude it.