February 28, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Satellite Photos Show Iran Establishing New Base in Syria - Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson (Fox News)
    Satellite images from Israel's ImageSat show Iran has built another permanent military base operated by its Quds Force eight miles northwest of Damascus, complete with hangers used to store short- and medium-range missiles capable of hitting all of Israel, Western intelligence sources say.
    A similar base built last year south of Damascus was destroyed in December by Israeli surface-to-surface missiles.

Turkish President Erdogan Tells Six-Year-Old Girl She'd Receive Honors If Martyred (New York Times)
    At a rally on Saturday exhorting Turks to support their soldiers in Syria, Turkish President Erdogan called to the stage Amine Tiras, 6, who was dressed in a military-style uniform.
    "Her Turkish flag is in her pocket," Erdogan proclaimed. "If she becomes a martyr, God willing, she will be wrapped with it."

Syrians Support Israel over Iran - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    After the Syrian-Israel clash earlier this month, Faisal al-Qassem, who hosts a debate program on Al Jazeera, asked his Twitter followers on Feb. 10 who they support: Iran and its militias or Israel.
    56% of respondents, 12,800 people, said they supported Israel.
    One Syrian commented, "There is no Syrian in his right mind who would line up with Israel against his native Syria, but you will find millions of Syrians queuing up with the blue devils [Israel] against the fascist sectarian regime that has surpassed all the monsters on earth in killing Syrians."

The Road to Protective Edge: The 2014 Israel-Hamas Confrontation in Gaza - IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Sami Turjeman (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Both sides have continued to build their forces exactly as before: on the Hamas side, rockets, tunnels, and raiding forces; on the Israeli side, defense technology to counter the offensive tunnels, strengthening the active-defense system against rockets, intelligence enhancement, airstrikes, and bolstering advanced maneuver and conquering capabilities.
    Given the maintenance of existing military concepts on both sides, one has every reason to believe the next confrontation will largely mirror the last - only it will be stronger, more advanced, and potentially more violent.
    The writer was chief of IDF Southern Command during the 2014 Gaza war.

Why Is Israel Scattering Millions of Flies around Gaza? - Lidar Grave-Lazi (Jerusalem Post)
    Every week, 33 million flies are scattered from airplanes onto orchards and agricultural farmland surrounding Gaza by Israel's Agriculture Ministry in order to combat the Mediterranean fruit fly.
    The sterile male flies mate with female flies infesting the crops, thus preventing the creation of the next generation of fruit flies.
    The technique is an environmentally friendly and chemical-free pest control method.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Threatens Action Against Iran after Russia UN Veto - Michelle Nichols
    After Russia vetoed a Western bid for the UN Security Council to call out Tehran for sending weapons to Yemen's Houthis, U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday, "If Russia is going to continue to cover for Iran, then the U.S. and our partners need to take action on our own....This vote...just validated a lot of what we already thought, which is Iran gets a pass for its dangerous and illegal behavior."
        A senior Western diplomat said, "We don't have any illusions with regard to Iran's policy towards Israel, Iran's role in the region...and also what they do in terms of constructing ballistic missiles. What we're trying, and have to do...is to actually make these points even clearer than in the past."  (Reuters)
  • Iran to Hold International "Israel Hourglass" Festival
    The First International Hourglass Festival, dedicated to anti-Israel art and media, will be held in Tehran in April, it was announced Tuesday. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, secretary-general of the International Conference on Supporting the Palestinian Intifada, said the "Hourglass Festival" is a symbol of the imminent collapse of the Zionist regime of Israel, as predicted by the Leader of Iran's Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
        Amir-Abdollahian said he cannot publicize the Islamic Republic's plan to realize the Leader's prediction that the Israeli regime will collapse within 25 years, but it will definitely happen. He further rejected any negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, stressing that those who believed the conflict could be resolved peacefully are now sure the only way is resistance.
        The organizers will work with 2,400 anti-Israel NGOs in Europe, North America, Latin America, and Eastern Asia to promote the festival across the world, said Mahdi Qomi, executive secretary of the festival. (IFP News-Iran)
        See also International Israel Hourglass Festival Website (israelhourglass.com)
  • Senate Urges Homeland Security to Expand Global Entry to Israel - Bart Jansen
    Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced Monday that they drafted a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that was signed by all 100 senators urging the expansion of Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry screening program to Israel. Global Entry is an expedited program for customs and immigration screening for travelers entering the U.S. from abroad. About 410,000 Israelis visited the U.S. in 2016 and spent $1.7 billion, according to the Department of Commerce. The program is already available in more than a dozen countries including Argentina, India, Mexico, Panama, and South Korea. (USA Today)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Defense Minister: Israel Foils 20-30 Terror Attacks Each Week
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that the IDF has been carrying out massive operations in the West Bank to thwart planned terrorist attacks, particularly in and around Hebron. "We are thwarting 20 to 30 terrorist attacks each week, facing ever-increasing terrorist efforts," he said. He attributed the successful anti-terror operations to "quality intelligence and a combination of smart deployment of forces and advanced technology," and emphasized that the IDF had prevented "the vast majority of terrorist activity."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Jordan Foils ISIS Plot to Attack Israeli Businessmen, U.S. Embassy - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A terror cell affiliated with Islamic State planned to attack Israeli businessmen, the U.S. embassy in Jordan, and other Western and Jordanian targets in Amman, Jordan's Al Rai revealed on Tuesday. Jordan's security forces uncovered the plot last November and arrested 17 members of the terror cell. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Iranian Threat and the Eternal Meaning of Purim - Eliora Katz
    On Thursday Jews celebrate Purim, the tale of the Jews' narrow escape from extermination in Persia's Achaemenid Empire in the fifth century BCE, a millennium before the rise of Islam. The Book of Esther tells how King Xerxes selects Esther as his new queen, who conceals her Jewishness. The king's advisor, Haman, persuades the king to exterminate all the Jews of Persia. Esther audaciously reveals her identity and everything turns upside down. Xerxes orders Haman hanged, and the Jews defeat their enemies in a two-day war across the Persian provinces.
        Last year Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russia's President Vladimir Putin: "Today there is an attempt by Persia's heir, Iran, to destroy the state of the Jews. They say this as clearly as possible and inscribe it on their ballistic missiles."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • How Egypt Will Gain from the Gas Deal with Israel - Abdellatif El-Menawy
    Egypt is the only country in the eastern Mediterranean that has the infrastructure for liquefying natural gas, with two of the world's largest liquefaction plants: SEGAS and Egyptian LNG, which were established 15 years ago at a cost of $3.2 billion but are now lying idle. The Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings is to purchase $15 billion of Israeli gas over 10 years, to be delivered to the liquefaction stations in Damietta and Edco. The Egyptian company will then export the liquefied Israeli gas to Europe.
        What will happen with the Israeli gas will also happen with Cypriot, Greek and Lebanese gas. Consequently, Egypt will be the main center for the export of gas to Europe. In addition to the expected profit from the deal, the gas will allow Egypt to establish new projects in the field of petrochemicals. It is now incumbent on Egypt to deal with this agreement as a direct Egyptian interest that constitutes a purely non-political trade agreement. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
        See also Exporting Israeli Gas to Egypt Is Beneficial to Both - Zvi Mazel
    Selling gas to neighboring countries enables Israel to make the most of short distances and lower transportation costs. Egypt needs Israeli gas to palliate insufficient production until the mammoth Zor offshore field starts supplying enough gas for home consumption and export. Production started a few weeks ago, but it won't run at full capacity until the end of 2019, and it will take another three years for Egypt to be self-sufficient.
        Some of the gas from Israel will be exported to meet Cairo's contractual obligations to British Gas and Fenosa from Spain that it has been unable to fulfill. The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. (JNS)

  • In the 14 months since President Trump's inauguration, U.S. policy toward Israel has undergone a pronounced shift. He announced that the U.S. accepts Jerusalem as Israel's capital and has declared his intention to build a new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, first mandated by U.S. law in 1996.
  • America's ambassador to the UN has not only spoken out on Israel's behalf forcefully and repeatedly; Nikki Haley has also led the way in cutting the U.S. stipend to the refugee relief agency that is an effective front for the Palestinian terror state in Gaza. Vice President Pence traveled to Israel in January and delivered the most pro-Zionist speech any major American politician has ever given.
  • Part of this shift can also be seen in what the president has not done. He has not signaled that the U.S. views Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank as injurious to a future peace. And his administration has not complained about Israeli actions taken in self-defense in Lebanon and Syria, but has, instead, supported Israel's right to defend itself.
  • The things the president both has and has not done should constitute the baseline of what we ought to expect one ally would say and not say about the behavior of another ally. Yet so-called realists have spent the past seven decades whispering in the ears of America's leaders that they have the right to expect Israel to do things we would not expect of another ally and to demand it behave in ways we would not demand of any other friendly country.
  • The administration is seeing how the government of Egypt under President Sisi is making common cause with Israel against the Hamas entity in Gaza and against ISIS forces in Sinai. It is witness to the effort at radical reformation in Saudi Arabia under Muhammad bin-Salman - and how that seems to be going hand-in-hand with an astonishing new concord with Israel over the common threat from Iran.
  • Mostly, the U.S. is seeing that an ally is an ally. Israel's intelligence agencies are providing the kind of information America cannot get on its own about Syria and Iran and the threat from ISIS. Moreover, Israel is a technological powerhouse whose innovations are already helping to revolutionize American military know-how.