March 14, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Americans Remain Staunchly in Israel's Corner - Lydia Saad (Gallup)
    Americans' stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as strongly pro-Israel as at any time in Gallup's three-decade trend.
    In a poll taken Feb. 1-10, 64% say their sympathies in the dispute lie more with the Israelis, tying the high previously recorded in 2013 and 1991.
    Just 19% of Americans sympathize more with the Palestinians, slightly higher than the 15% in Gallup's initial 1988 measurement.
    Currently, 74% of U.S. adults view Israel favorably and 23% view it unfavorably, whereas 21% view the Palestinian Authority favorably and 71% unfavorably.
    This results in a strong tendency for Americans to sympathize with Israel in the conflict and to call for greater diplomatic pressure on the Palestinians.

Israel in Touch with Russia on Removal of Shiite Forces from Southern Syria (Sputnik-Russia)
    Israel is in touch with Russia to achieve the withdrawal of Shia forces from the southern de-escalation zone in Syria, Israeli Ambassador to Russia Harry Koren told Sputnik.
    "Any cooperation with the international community including Russia and the United States, which could lead to withdrawal of Shia and Iranian forces from Syria, is important for us," he said.
    Koren added that Iran's attempts to deploy units of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to the Israel-Syria border "can lead to a dangerous strategic escalation."

Israel to Broadcast 2018 Soccer World Cup to Arab States for Free (i24News)
    One of the most watched events in the world, the FIFA World Cup, will be broadcast via satellite in Arabic for free by the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
    The Israel Foreign Ministry called the move "a historic step that confirms the status of the Arabic language and Israel's respect for it."
    The IBA paid $7.8 million to purchase the rights to broadcast the 2018 World Cup.
    For millions of soccer fans in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, to watch the World Cup costs $45 per household through Qatar's beIN Sports channel.

Israel Donates 40 Generators to Papua after Earthquake - Abigail Klein Leichman (Israel21c)
    Following a devastating earthquake that struck Papua New Guinea's highlands region on Feb. 26, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) delivered 40 generators to affected communities on March 8.
    With 150,000 people in desperate need of emergency supplies, Israel was one of the first countries to send aid.
    Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O'Neill said his "government and the people of Papua New Guinea appreciate the support and friendship of Israel during these challenging times."

IDF Blocks Uniforms Being Smuggled into Gaza (Times of Israel)
    A shipment of IDF uniforms headed into Gaza was stopped at the Kerem Shalom border crossing Tuesday.
    Officials suspect the uniforms were meant to be used in an attack against Israel by Gazan terror groups.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House Hosts Meeting on Gaza without Palestinians - James Oliphant
    The White House on Tuesday hosted 19 nations, including Israel and Arab Gulf states, to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but the Palestinian Authority boycotted the meeting. "Fixing Gaza is necessary to achieve a peace agreement," a senior administration official said.
        Presidential advisor Jared Kushner gave a two-hour presentation to the attending countries, which included Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the UAE, as well as several European nations. Potential electricity, water, sewage, and health projects were discussed. (Reuters)
        See also Greenblatt: Hamas Bears Responsibility for Gaza's Suffering
    Jason Greenblatt, the President's Special Representative for International Negotiations, told a conference at the White House on Gaza on Tuesday: "We regret that the Palestinian Authority is not here with us today. This is not about politics. This is about the health, safety and happiness of the people of Gaza."
        "Everything we do must be done in a way that ensures we do not put the security of Israelis and Egyptians at risk - and that we do not inadvertently empower Hamas, which bears responsibility for Gaza's suffering....I have...seen the terror attack tunnels built by Hamas, and the remnants of the rockets used to murder Israelis - all built using money belonging to the international community, the Palestinian Authority and the people of Gaza."  (State Department)
  • U.S., Israeli Troops Train Together in Mock Mideast Village - Amir Cohen
    The Israeli military hosted U.S. Marines this week for an urban combat drill in a mock-up of a generic Middle East village, sharing know-how and signaling the allies' shared interests as their leaders close ranks on a host of regional issues. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit joined Israeli special forces to practice battle formation, helicopter deployment and medical evacuations. The maneuvers were part of a wider, biennial joint air defense exercise known as Juniper Cobra. (Reuters)
        See also IDF Helps Prepare U.S. Troops for Tunnel Combat - Shai Ben-Ari
    The U.S. Marine Corps is learning the finer points of bitter tunnel combat from the Israeli military during a joint infantry drill currently underway. The exercise kicked off with beach landings at Palmachim on the southern Israeli coast, executed by American hovercraft vehicles, and later featured training for urban and desert warfare. (i24News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • The Real Casualties of the Bomb Attack in Gaza - Pinhas Inbari
    On March 13, 2018, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's convoy entered Gaza to inaugurate a water purification plant and an explosive device was detonated against the convoy. Also in the procession was senior Palestinian security official Majid Faraj, considered by some to be Mahmoud Abbas' successor. It is obvious why Faraj was targeted. He just returned from a prolonged medical visit to the U.S., but his trip has clear political implications. Hamas is concerned that Faraj is planning with the Americans to push them out of Gaza.
        Now he will understand that both Fatah and Hamas are opposed to his candidacy to become Abbas' heir, and the succession struggle has moved onto violent lines. It's very possible that the next attack on him will occur in Ramallah rather than in Gaza.
        With regard to internal Palestinian "reconciliation," it never existed, nor will it. It's fake news from start to finish. The writer is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent for Israel Radio. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Hamas and PA Say Israel to Blame for Attack on Palestinian PM in Gaza - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Bombing Dealt a Mortal Blow to Palestinian Reconciliation - Amos Harel
    Even though PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, and the head of the PA intelligence services, Gen. Majid Faraj, escaped Tuesday's blast in Gaza without injury, the efforts led by Egypt to effect a reconciliation between the Fatah-led PA and Hamas have suffered a mortal blow. It is unlikely that Hamdallah will come to Gaza for another visit anytime soon. And the Hamas leadership have now earned an even more determined rival in Faraj, who is arguably the most powerful person in the West Bank today. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Lessons from the Fight Against the Islamic State - Michael P. Dempsey
    There are several lessons the U.S. and its allies can discern from the Islamic State's meteoric rise in 2015 and the loss of its physical caliphate last year. Absent its control of territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS is now focusing primarily on trying to grow its eight overseas branches and inspire lone wolf operations abroad. Denying it control of physical terrain anywhere in the world should be job number one for those who want to see this group defeated decisively.
        In light of recent setbacks, ISIS fighters are increasingly focusing on suicide attacks and hit-and-run operations. Yet its reliance on extreme violence continues to alienate virtually the entire Muslim community. Moreover, its practice of entrusting only high-level foreign fighters with key leadership positions continues to alienate local communities.
        While ISIS is clearly on its heels, it remains a wily and determined foe capable of inflicting grievous harm if given the chance, and of reconstituting itself if the underlying conditions that fueled its rise are not addressed. What is required now is to maintain steady military pressure on ISIS remnants in both Iraq and Syria; prioritize the fight against its most important nodes, especially in the Sinai and Libya; and increase financial investment and loans to help rebuild shattered communities (especially vulnerable Sunni ones) in Iraq and Syria. The writer, former acting director of national intelligence, is the national intelligence fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (War on the Rocks)
  • Is Favoring Israel an American National Security Interest? - Eric R. Mandel
    The State Department, over the years, has been reluctant to "take sides" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, this has magnified Palestinian intransigence, while draining American taxpayer dollars, propping up a corrupt Palestinian Authority without demanding anything substantial of it.
        For the U.S., there is no better source of reliable information in the Middle East than Israel. The Israelis live in this bad neighborhood and understand the realities better than those on the outside. It was Israel that discovered the North Korean-built Syrian nuclear reactor and destroyed it. Can you imagine if there were loose nukes in today's Syria?
        Today the U.S. has a reliable naval port in Haifa, joint military exercises preparing its soldiers, American troops manning the X-band anti-missile system in Israel to protect Europe, Israeli security technology for U.S. homeland security, and Israel's advances in drone technology to benefit our military.
        You need only to look at Erdogan's Turkey, the eastern flank of NATO, to know how important Israel has become to American long-term security interests in the region. Favoring Israel is an American national security interest. The writer is director of the Middle East Political and Information Network. (The Hill)

"National Security Leaders" Adopt the Palestinian Narrative - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • On March 2, seventeen "National Security Leaders" published an ad in the New York Times about Israel-Palestinian peace and U.S. policy that offers a fairly radical departure from what has been U.S. policy for decades. The statement is radical in embracing the Palestinian view that only Israel is to blame for the failure of peace negotiations.
  • Nowhere does it note that for nine years running now, the PLO has refused to come to the table and negotiate. If, as it states, Abbas is committed to the path of negotiations, why did he not take it - especially in the years when Secretary of State Kerry was energetically trying to make that happen.
  • As Martin Indyk, who was part of the American team under Obama, noted: while PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas "checked out of the negotiations," Israeli prime minister Netanyahu "moved into the zone of a possible agreement."
  • I suggest the signers travel in the Arab world, where the main topic is Iran. There they will find, as I have, that the sense of emerging calamity because Israel and the PLO have not made peace is missing.
  • No one is demanding vast conferences or is seeking to exclude the U.S. They will find no sense that America's relationship with Israel requires that the "International Community" push us aside and take over, nor any belief that America is to blame for "prolonging" the Palestinians' problems.
  • Their statement, like so many of its intellectual predecessors, infantilizes the Palestinians: they are victims and little else. But the past suggests, to me at least, that only when Palestinians take responsibility for their politics, their civic culture, their society, and their future can peace really be possible.

    The writer, a senior fellow at the CFR, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.