March 20, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Turkey Threatens to Attack Syrian Town Held by U.S. Troops - Richard Sisk (Military.com)
    Turkish President Erdogan said Monday that his forces would press on with attacks against Manbij and several other northeastern Syrian towns held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, after his troops captured the border town of Afrin.
    Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said that U.S. troops are in Manbij and would not leave the city or abandon support for the SDF.
    Monitoring groups charged that hundreds of civilians were killed and tens of thousands of refugees fled in the taking of Afrin.

Trump Blasts Iranian Regime in Persian New Year Message - Toluse Olorunnipa (Bloomberg)
    President Trump used the annual presidential statement marking the Persian New Year to criticize Iran's government.
    "Today, the Iranian people face another challenge: rulers who serve themselves instead of serving the people."
    "Twenty-five centuries ago, Darius the Great asked God to protect Iran from three dangers: hostile armies, drought, and falsehood. Today, the Iranian regime's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) represents all three."
    See also Statement by President Trump on Iranian New Year (White House)

Iran's Role in the Boycott Israel Campaign - Benjamin Weinthal and Asaf Romirowsky (National Interest)
    The Islamic Republic of Iran has increasingly become a key factor in stoking the BDS movement for economic warfare against Israel.
     At Al-Quds Day rallies in European cities such as Berlin, London and Vienna, originally initiated in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini, individuals are urged to support the BDS movement and the destruction of Israel.

Lebanese Shiite Scholar Calls to Revoke Hizbullah Leader Nasrallah's Citizenship (MEMRI-TV)
    On March 13, Lebanese Shiite cleric Muhammad Ali Al-Husseini called on Lebanon to revoke the citizenship of Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
    Nasrallah's statement that the rule of Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei was above the Lebanese constitution constituted "clear collaboration of a Lebanese with a foreign country."
    Al-Husseini, who heads the Arab Islamic Council in Lebanon and is known for his opposition to Hizbullah, accused Iran of founding Hizbullah as a movement of "guns for hire."

Inside the IDF's Special Forces - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    The Israeli military includes four elite units: Sayeret Matkal, its top special forces unit; Shaldag, the Israeli Air Force commando unit; the Shayetet 13 naval commandos; and Unit 669, which carries out search, rescue and extraction missions.
    Sayeret Matkal is akin to the U.S. Army's Delta Force and the British Army's SAS Force, after which it was modeled.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • War of Words Heats Up between Trump Administration, Palestinian Leadership - Noga Tarnopolsky
    Speaking at an Israel Foreign Ministry "Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism" on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said, "Three young Israelis were murdered over the weekend, in cold blood, by Palestinian terrorists, and the reaction from the Palestinian Authority was deafening. No condemnation. I saw his [Abbas'] response on my iPhone. His response was to refer to me as 'son of a dog.' Is that anti-Semitism or political discourse? I leave that up to you."
        Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also reacted to Abbas' remarks. "[Abbas'] attack on the U.S. ambassador, David Friedman, says it all. For the first time in decades, the American administration has stopped pampering the Palestinian leaders and tells them, 'That's it.' Apparently the shock of the truth has caused them to lose their cool."  (Los Angeles Times)
  • Greenblatt: Abbas Must Choose between "Hateful Rhetoric" and Peace
    After Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman as the "son of a dog," American Middle East peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt said Monday, "The time has come for President Abbas to choose between hateful rhetoric and concrete and practical efforts to improve the quality of life of his people and lead them to peace and prosperity."
        "Notwithstanding his highly inappropriate insults against members of the Trump administration, the latest iteration being his insult of my good friend and colleague Ambassador Friedman, we are committed to the Palestinian people and to the changes that must be implemented for peaceful coexistence."  (JTA)
        See also State Department: Abbas' Comments "Outrageous and Unhelpful"
    State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday on Twitter, "We echo Jason Greenblatt's statement. President Abbas' comments were outrageous & unhelpful. We urge the Palestinian Authority to focus on improving the lives of the Palestinian people & advancing the cause of peace."  (State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Minister: Iran Deal Should Be Extended, Strengthened - Gil Hoffman
    Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview on Monday: "The Iran deal is bad for us and the world for many reasons, especially its 10-year limit, which leaves only seven years left. Therefore, it must be fixed and extended to an unlimited agreement or at least one that can last decades, and increased inspections must be added to prevent Iran cheating."
        Steinitz said the international community should no longer tolerate issues that are not in the deal, such as Iran's aggressive takeover of countries in the region and its support for terrorism. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Pays Terrorists to Murder Jews - Tovah Lazaroff
    Micah Lakin Avni's father, Israeli-American Richard Lakin, was killed in a terror attack on a bus in Jerusalem in October 2015. On Monday he told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that those who killed his father and their families will be given $3 million over the course of their lives by the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas. "The Palestinian Authority actually has a pay-to-slay law. Palestinians systematically pay terrorists to murder Jews."
        "Your failure to report or condemn these crimes makes you an accessory to the murder of my father, and to the murder of many other Jewish fathers, mothers and children who the Palestinians pay to slay. I call upon this council, and upon all UN members, to stop funding the Palestinian Authority until the Palestinians stop the murderous practice of rewarding terrorists for killing Jews."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Abbas Burning All Bridges, Shooting in All Directions - Khaled Abu Toameh
    In a speech before Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Monday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas set himself on a collision course with the U.S. and everyone else. Abbas is also said to be concerned about reports that the U.S. has been searching for "alternative" Palestinian officials who would accept President Trump's yet-to-be-announced peace plan. Abbas feels that some Arab countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are in collusion with the U.S. to "impose" the peace plan on the Palestinians.
        Abbas believes the U.S. "conspiracy" against the Palestinians began long before Trump entered the White House. According to the PA president, the Americans facilitated the Hamas "coup" against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza in 2007 and even orchestrated the 2010 Arab Spring across the Middle East. In other words, Abbas sees the U.S. as being in cahoots with Islamists.
        Abbas also lashed out on Monday at the Americans and Egyptians for "inventing" the "reconciliation" deal between Fatah and Hamas. His harsh rhetoric may be interpreted by some Palestinians as a "green light" for a new uprising. (Times of Israel)
  • Academic Boycotts Are Bad for the Academy - Jared Samilow
    Last week, Brown's Middle East Studies program held a "critical conversation" on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and promoted a newly-published collection of essays supporting the boycott of Israeli universities. What makes academic boycotts so pernicious is that they establish one standard of pedagogy for teaching Israel, and another standard for teaching all other countries.
        Those who would join the boycott indulge in a rather dangerous solipsism, where the task of education is sacrificed for the moral gratification of the educator. There are those who would say that the circumstances justify the selective treatment, but that's an argument about politics, not pedagogy. Academic boycotts philosophically undermine a liberal education and deprive students of the opportunity to consider all views equally and decide which they prefer.
        Four of nine "critical conversations" hosted by the Middle East Studies program have been about Israel. At one of the conversations, a student expressed concern that the panel was so lopsided. The director of the program replied that because his approach to the conflict is perhaps the academic consensus, he did not feel obliged to include views that diverged from it.
        When an entire program routinely puts on activities with people who advocate boycotts of Israel - and almost never sees fit to present a contrary view - the pro-boycott position effectively ossifies into an unofficial policy. And that's when "critical conversations" become critical only in the sense that they criticize Israel. The writer is a member of Brown Students for Israel and a fellow at CAMERA. (Brown University Daily Herald)

  • The Washington Post's Fact Checker column by Glenn Kessler casts doubt on the veracity of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and his government pay $350 million a year to terrorists, in addition to their dependents and survivors.
  • Kessler doesn't try to deny the plain facts about the Palestinian budget, which pours vast sums into payment to those jailed for terrorism and to their families, as well as to the survivors of those who died while attempting to commit terrorism. But he does split hairs about the totals allocated, claiming that the PA probably spends much less than Netanyahu says they do.
  • The problem with Kessler's math is that it is rooted in his acceptance of Palestinian arguments that profess that most of those imprisoned for security offenses aren't really terrorists or that much of the money doled out is for welfare, as opposed to a bounty paid for mayhem. Kessler tries to sell us on the notion that Palestinian security prisoners are not really terrorists; therefore, not all payments to them and their families should be counted towards the $350 million.
  • Many of those he says are "non-terrorists" or "merely children" were caught throwing rocks. That may sound harmless. But the actions of an American teen, for example, caught throwing rocks at passing vehicles in such a manner as to cause accidents that result in serious injuries or fatalities wouldn't be classified as harmless fun or an expression of a political opinion. It would be treated as a serious crime, and those responsible would likely be tried as adults. That's why the total number of terrorists Israel claims get salaries from the PA is genuine.
  • While Kessler is willing to accept that a mass murderer involved in slaughtering a family or blowing up a bus or a cafe shouldn't get a pension, the thousands of others who have sought to kill, maim and injure Israelis in less spectacular ways are just as guilty of terrorism.
  • The Taylor Force Act is an important piece of leverage that can help remind the Palestinians that the world is tired of their rejectionism and violence.