March 8, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Hizbullah Has Chemical Weapons - Gideon Kouts (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
    Iran is building short- to medium-range missiles in Syria with chemical warheads, and chemical weapons are already in Hizbullah's possession, former Syrian general Zuhair al-Saqit, who heads the Center for the Detection and Monitoring of the Use of Chemical Weapons in Belgium, told Maariv.
    He said Iran continues to be a major supplier of chemical weapons to the Assad regime and continues to develop chemical weapons in Syrian territory.
    A large part of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles hidden from international inspection bodies were transferred to Hizbullah, he added.

Saudi Arabia Grants Air India Airspace Approval for Flights to Israel (Al Jazeera)
    Air India has secured permission for direct flights between New Delhi and Tel Aviv that will pass through Saudi airspace, beginning on March 22.
    The new route will shorten the flight time by two and a half hours.

Egypt's Cyber-ops Against ISIS Jams Israeli Cellular Networks - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Cellular blackouts that have affected Israel's south in recent weeks are caused by electronic warfare waged by the Egyptian military in its campaign against ISIS, the Israeli army confirmed on Wednesday.
    The IDF is working with the Egyptian army to solve the problem.

PA Succession Battle Heats Up - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The leaders of Fatah's military wing, the Tanzim, are arming themselves and mustering their forces within their individual areas in the battle to succeed Mahmoud Abbas.
    Jibril Rajoub is mobilizing the Hebron region, Mahmoud al-Aloul, Abbas' official deputy, is organizing the Nablus region, and the Tanzim in Jenin have lost interest in the leadership in Ramallah and are effectively creating their own autonomy.
    The candidacy of senior security official Majid Faraj, who is responsible for security cooperation with Israel, has aroused international support, but internally he is seen as a collaborator.
    The writer is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent for Israel Radio.

Iranian Woman Who Removed Headscarf Jailed for Two Years (Guardian-UK)
    An Iranian woman who publicly removed her hijab in protest against Iran's compulsory headscarf law has been sentenced to two years in prison, Tehran's chief prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, said Wednesday.
    "We must act with force against people who deliberately question the rules on the Islamic veil," he said.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Russian S-300 Anti-Aircraft Missile System Now Operational, U.S. Says - Anthony Capaccio
    Iran tested and deployed a Russian-made anti-aircraft missile system last year that has long worried U.S. and Israeli military officials because it gives Iran a "generational improvement in capabilities," Lt.-Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Russia delivered the S-300, also known as the SA-20c SAM system, to Iran in 2016. The deployment of the S-300 underscores the value of Israel's purchase of the stealthy F-35. (Bloomberg)
  • Iran Enhancing Espionage, Cyber Attacks on America - Daniel R. Coats
    A report by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence released Tuesday reviews the "Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community." The report states: "We assess that Iran will continue working to penetrate U.S. and Allied networks for espionage and to position itself for potential future cyber attacks."
        In addition, "Iran remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, providing financial aid, advanced weapons and tactics, and direction to militant and terrorist groups across the Middle East and cultivating a network of operatives across the globe as a contingency to enable potential terrorist attacks."
        "Iran continues to develop and improve a range of new military capabilities to target U.S. and allied military assets in the region, including armed UAVs, ballistic missiles, advanced naval mines, unmanned explosive boats, submarines and advanced torpedoes, and anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles. Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East and can strike targets up to 2,000 km. from Iran’s borders."  (Director of National Intelligence)
  • Israel Notes Advances in Anti-Tunnel Technology - Missy Ryan
    Advances in anti-tunnel technology have provided the Israeli military with new means of heading off attacks from Palestinian militants based in Gaza, an Israeli military official who heads the underground-warfare section of the IDF's technological unit said Tuesday. He noted that the new technology had resulted in the elimination of at least three tunnels since October. "We know what we're doing now....We have a good plan," he said.
        The official suggested that the technology was based on techniques used by the oil and gas industries, which sometimes employ seismic or sound waves to prospect for minerals or fossil fuels. Detection technology needed to distinguish between concrete or open space associated with tunnels, and naturally occurring clay or sand. Looking for tunnels is basically a task of finding "the right anomaly," he said.
        He also described advances in technologies used to destroy tunnels once they have been detected. The IDF is now able to detonate tunnels in certain instances with minimal damage to surface structures. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Saudi Crown Prince Meets Senior Israeli Officials in Egypt
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with senior Israeli officials during his visit to Egypt this week to discuss the normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Wednesday. Included in the discussions was Israel's participation in a new mega-city and economic zone to be built on Saudi territory on the eastern shore of the Red Sea near the border with Jordan. (Israel Hayom)
  • Netanyahu: Palestinians Want Their State to Replace Israel - Herb Keinon
    In an interview in Washington on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the Palestinian issue. "I want a solution when they have all the powers they need to govern themselves, but none of the powers that would threaten us," and that the overriding security responsibility west of the Jordan River must remain in Israel's hands.
        He said that most Israelis would agree to two states "if they thought that the Palestinians wanted a state next to Israel. But they're convinced more and more that they want a state instead of Israel. And that's not a real peace. People would go for a real peace, not a fake one."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jerusalem Arabs Eye Participation in Municipal Elections - Nir Hasson
    Ramadan Dabash, a social activist from east Jerusalem, announced this week he will run in Jerusalem's municipal elections in October, which Arabs have largely boycotted since 1967. Dabash, chairman of the community administration of the Tzur Baher neighborhood, said, "I think people are ripe to vote. Some people object, saying this is Israelization and normalization, but I tell them this is everyone's municipality and everyone's country."
        In the past, several Arabs wanted to run in the local election, but stepped down after they were threatened or their cars set on fire. A recent survey found that nearly 60% of east Jerusalem residents believe Arabs should take part in the municipal elections. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Jewish-Arab Coexistence in Jerusalem and Local Elections - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Saudi Crown Prince Sees Turkey as Part of a "Triangle of Evil" in the Middle East - Ishaan Tharoor
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned Egyptian newspaper editors this week of a "triangle of evil" in the Middle East made up of Iran, Islamist extremist groups, and Turkey. There is no love lost between Turkish President Erdogan and leaders in the region, especially Egyptian President al-Sissi, who brutally suppressed Islamist factions favored by Erdogan after taking power in a 2013 military coup. Today, numerous political Islamists from Egypt and other Arab states are in exile in Turkey, and Erdogan cuts an increasingly isolated figure, raging at both the West and his Arab rivals. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Called Strategic Partner of Azerbaijan
    Israel is a strategic partner of Azerbaijan and both cooperate in military-technical matters, in the latest technologies, and in healthcare, Ali Hasanov, the Azerbaijani President's Assistant for Public and Political Affairs, told the Israel-Azerbaijan International Association (AzIz).
        "Israeli specialists have been working in Azerbaijan for several years in various fields of our economy, and in particular, in agriculture...where they introduce the latest technologies and equipment. Our countries are also united by our people. There is a big community of Azerbaijanis in Israel, who have already integrated into Israeli society and represent our republic with dignity," Hasanov said. He also noted that in recent years, Azerbaijan is engaged in building a "bridge" between Israel and the Muslim world. (Trend-Azerbaijan)
        See also Top Azerbaijani Diplomat in U.S. Praises Growing Ties between Israel and Muslim World - Barney Breen-Portnoy (Algemeiner)

Obstacles to Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi (Ynet News)
  • Israel does not deal with a single, unified Palestinian system. Rather, a Hamas state has risen in Gaza which has its own policies and which is not subordinate in any way to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Thus, the PA, for its part, does not represent roughly half of the Palestinian nation located in Gaza.
  • Even in the West Bank itself, there are many Palestinian elements who do not view themselves as subordinate to the PA, but rather, they are affiliated with groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or with other hardline Islamist entities.
  • Unfortunately, there is a tendency to utterly ignore this reality, and to try and negotiate with the PA in a way that fails to take into account the fact that it does not represent all of the Palestinians. This means that the Israeli desire to receive guarantees of security and peace in exchange for concessions cannot be met. There is no one on the Palestinian side who can supply the goods.
  • Moreover, all of the major Israeli political parties agree that Israel should continue its control of the Jordan Valley, seeing such control as an existential security need for the State of Israel.
  • There is also an across-the-board understanding within the Israeli political system that in light of the severity of the terrorism threat in the West Bank, the IDF will need near full freedom of operation there in any future scenario.
  • The PA, for its part, is quietly in favor of the IDF's many actions against Hamas in the West Bank, as this helps it survive and prevent a Hamas revolution. Thus, the PA has a basic interest for the IDF to continue its activities.