March 30, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Peace Envoy Blasts "Hostile March" on Gaza Border (Twitter)
    U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt tweeted on Thursday:
    "Hamas is encouraging a hostile march on the Israel-Gaza border. Hamas should focus on desperately needed improvements to the lives of Palestinians in Gaza instead of inciting violence against Israel that only increases hardship & undermines chances for peace."

Israeli Army Cites Saudi Fatwa to Stop Palestinian Protests - Mohammad Ayesh (Pakistan Defence)
    Maj. Avichay Adraee, head of the Arab media division of the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, on Wednesday released a video in which he used a Saudi fatwa to argue that Palestinians should not take part in upcoming protests.
    "The Saudi scholar, Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan, has decreed for banning demonstrations and sit-ins, saying that this behavior has nothing to do with the Muslims' ethics, and that it is a characteristic of infidels and a sense of anarchy and chaos that is not tolerated by Islam."

Friday Gaza March a Dress Rehearsal for the Main Event on May 15 - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Friday's march in Gaza is a dress rehearsal for the main event planned for six weeks from now, when mass protests are planned for Nakba Day, when Palestinians mark the "catastrophe" of the creation of Israel and the ensuing war.
    The day is also when the U.S. will inaugurate its new embassy in Jerusalem.

Why Did Hamas Conduct a Wide-Scale Military Exercise in Gaza? - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On March 25, 2018, Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades conducted a wide-scale military exercise. Elaborate models of Israeli tanks were built and "captured."
    A Hamas video showed the Brigades attacking IDF positions, kidnapping IDF soldiers and dragging them into tunnels, firing at airplanes (with anti-aircraft missiles and heavy machine guns), and landing a naval commando force to attack Israeli targets.
    The al-Qassam Brigades has grown into a regular army with the ability to attack deep inside enemy territory through rockets and naval and subterranean infiltration.
    In the present situation, Hamas has the right of veto over any political agreement with Israel, which is reinforced by its military might, the support of many Palestinians, and the backing of Muslim Brotherhood supporters such as Turkey.
    The writer is a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center.

How Iran Used the Hizbullah Model to Dominate Iraq and Syria - Ranj Alaaldin (New York Times)
    Iran has increased its influence in the Middle East since the eruption of the Syrian civil war, mobilizing tens of thousands of Hizbullah fighters and other Shiite militias from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight alongside the forces of Syrian President Assad.
    Over the past two years, these Iranian proxies led the fight to take back cities like Homs and areas around Damascus.
    But these Iranian proxies do not just turn up for battle, fight and return home.
    As in Iraq, Iran's proxies in Syria have, in the areas they control, forced out populations that are not Shiite or do not support Iran.
    The transformation of wartime militias into prominent political actors is exemplified by the evolution of Shiite militias in Iraq into versions of Lebanon's Hizbullah.
    Hizbullah's "state within a state" status in Lebanon is a model that is being replicated by other militia groups with devastating impact.
    Iran will almost certainly transform its proxies in Syria into fully entrenched components of whatever political system emerges from the ruins of conflict.
    The U.S. can alter the course of events if it nurtures long-term partnerships to ensure that the fate of Syria and the region is not left to Iran and its proxies.
    The writer is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center.

Qatar Has Stopped Supporting Infrastructure Projects in Gaza (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Qatar has stopped supporting infrastructure projects carried out by municipalities in Gaza, according to an official report by the Gaza Municipality published on Monday.

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Hizbullah in Its Entirety Must Be Banned by the UK Government - James Mendelsohn (The Conversation-Australia)
    In the UK, the annual al-Quds Day rally regularly features the parading of the Hizbullah flag.
    Hizbullah is an Iranian-backed Shiite militia group whose bombing of French and American bases in Beirut in 1983 claimed 299 lives.
    Hizbullah's emblem features a stylized assault rifle and its forces have adopted the "Hitler salute."
    In 2002, Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said that if all the world's Jews were to gather in Israel, this would make it easier to kill them.
    Under current UK law, the government has banned the "military wing" of Hizbullah only, but not the "political wing," since it holds positions in the Lebanese government.
    Yet such distinctions are unpersuasive. The entire organization is banned in the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands and Israel.
    In 2013, Hizbullah's political affairs official, Ammar Moussawi, said: "Everyone is aware of the fact that Hizbullah is one body....Its military and political wings are unified."
    It makes no sense to maintain this distinction when Hizbullah's own representatives insist that there is no real division.
    The writer is a senior lecturer in law at the University of Huddersfield in the UK.

Israeli Researchers Claim Breakthrough to Make Computers Run 100 Times Faster (Xinhua-China)
    Israeli researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have reportedly discovered technologies that would enable computers to run 100 times faster through the use of terahertz microchips.
    Physicist Uriel Levy and his team have come up with a new integrated circuit that uses flash memory technology in microchips.
    "This discovery could...create new and more powerful wireless devices that could transmit data at significantly higher speed than currently possible," Levy said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • European Powers Face EU Resistance to Iran Sanctions to Save Nuclear Deal - Robin Emmott and John Irish
    At a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday, France, Britain and Germany sought EU support for new sanctions on Iran to preserve the nuclear deal, with the U.S. threatening to pull out in May.
        But Italy, with support from Spain and Austria, resisted plans to impose travel bans and asset freezes on 15 Iranians, companies and groups linked to Iran's ballistic missile program and role in Syria's war. Rome said they would not be enough to persuade President Trump not to withdraw from the deal and would endanger burgeoning business ties with Iran. Under EU rules, economic sanctions need unanimous support. (Reuters)
  • Saudi Prince Calls for Stepped-Up Pressure on Iran - Margherita Stancati
    Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called on the international community to squeeze Iran economically and politically. Sanctions "will create more pressure on the regime," he told the Wall Street Journal this week. "If we don't succeed in what we are trying to do, we will likely have war with Iran in 10-15 years."
        Prince Mohammed added, "The Muslim Brotherhood is an incubator for terrorists. We have to get rid of extremism. Without extremism, no one can become a terrorist."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Saudi Crown Prince Meets New York Rabbis in Rare Interfaith Gesture - Vivian Nereim
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman met a group of religious leaders in New York on Wednesday, including Rabbi Richard Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; and Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. The meeting was a rare interfaith gesture for the de facto ruler of the Islamic kingdom that allows negligible religious freedoms. (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Riot along Israel Border on Friday
    The IDF Spokesperson reported on Friday: "17,000 Palestinians are rioting in 5 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence. The rioters are rolling burning tires and hurling firebombs & rocks at the security fence & IDF troops, who are responding with riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators."  (Twitter)
        See also Palestinians Begin Violent Riots at Gaza Border Fence on Thursday - Judah Ari Gross
    Israeli troops opened fire at Palestinian rioters who tried to damage the security fence around Gaza on Thursday. 200 Palestinians took part in violent protests at four locations, lighting fires and throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers on the other side. The soldiers targeted five of the "main instigators" who were trying to pull down portions of the fence. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Prepares for Mass Gaza Protests - Yoav Zitun
    Thousands of IDF soldiers have been deployed along the Gaza border ahead of the Palestinian "Great March of Return" on Friday. Massive earthworks have been built and additional barbed wire has been placed.
        The IDF wishes to prevent a "photo of victory" from Hamas - either of Palestinian rioters crossing the border fence and planting a Palestinian flag on the Israel side, or of rioters shot by the IDF. To that end, troops have been equipped with crowd dispersal measures in an effort to avoid the use of live fire as much as possible.
        The troops have also prepared for Hamas fighters infiltrating Israel under the cover of the demonstrations - either through tunnels or above ground - or for sniper fire from Gaza from within the crowds. (Ynet News)
        See also Israel: We Will Defend Our Border with Gaza - Anna Ahronheim
    Israel has prepared itself for the Palestinian demonstrations expected on Friday at the Gaza border, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday. "The directive is not to allow any harm to Israeli sovereignty, and we will make this clear during the day tomorrow. We will try to keep them in the buffer strip and will not let them approach the fence."
        Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, former director of policy and political-military affairs in the Defense Ministry, said, "We are determined not to allow any entrance to Israel by Gazans." This will be done "with minimum force and fire and with maximum determination and wisdom. We don't want to kill anyone but we don't want to let them enter Israel and Israeli communities."
        Lieberman added: "We expect the Gazans to remove Hamas from power, but we do not intend to do their job for them. If they want to take care of the future of their children, if they want jobs, if they want to fly freely around the world, they have to change the government."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also below Observations: Hamas Launches Confrontation Campaign on Israel's Border (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • The Palestinian "Return March" - A Futile Publicity Stunt - Yoni Ben Menachem
    The march of a mass of Palestinians toward the border with Israel is not a Palestinian invention. It was first tried by Hizbullah on Israel's northern border on Nakba Day, May 15, 2011, when several hundred Palestinians tried to cross the Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel. The IDF soldiers at the border were taken by surprise and were compelled to open fire. Ten demonstrators were killed and another 100 injured. No country in the world would agree to tens of thousands of demonstrators infiltrating their borders and trying to get into their territory.
        Fatah sources in Gaza report that Hamas activists have even promised payment for those participating in these activities. According to these sources, Hamas is interested in provoking an escalation that will lead to many casualties on the Palestinian side in order to place the Palestinian issue firmly on the top of the world agenda.
        Even if Hamas succeeds in attracting media attention, this move will have no political benefit. The State of Israel will not destroy its own national identity by absorbing seven million Palestinians within its boundaries as they demand. If anything, seeing tens of thousands of Palestinians marching to the Gaza border will only frighten the Israeli public and discourage any attempt to resolve the refugee issue.
        In the end, the Palestinians will understand that this is a pointless exercise. Even if Hamas makes a huge media impact with its "return march," within a few weeks it will disappear into oblivion. The writer is a veteran Arab affairs commentator for Israel Radio and Television. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Why Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation Will Never Happen - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas has no intention of allowing Abbas' security forces to be stationed in Gaza. The "reconciliation" deal that Abbas signed with Hamas in Cairo in October will never happen. Hamas wants to retain its weapons and security control of Gaza for two reasons: first, it wants the weapons so that it can continue the "armed struggle" against Israel; second, Hamas knows that the moment it hands over security control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA), many of its leaders and members will either be killed or imprisoned by Abbas' security forces.
        Hamas has spent the last decade arming itself to the teeth. With the help of Iran and other Islamic and Arab terror groups, Hamas smuggled large amounts of weapons into Gaza from Egypt. According to some reports, many missiles and rockets were smuggled during the period when Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was in power between June 2012 and July 2013. Some of these were later used to attack Israel.
        Fortunately for the Palestinians, Israel is sitting between the West Bank and Gaza. Otherwise, Hamas and Abbas loyalists would be dispatching rockets and suicide bombers against each other. Abbas and Hamas have brought their people a new model of the "two-state solution": a Hamas-run emirate in Gaza and a mini-PLO state in the West Bank. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Palestinian Teen Tamimi Is No Victim - Gareth Narunsky
    Sen. David Bushby, a member of the Australian Senate from Tasmania, told the chamber on March 19 that those promoting the cause of Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi "would have us believe that Ms. Tamimi is the poor victim of Israeli brutality. The reality is very different. For the last five years Ahed Tamimi, and, to a lesser extent, her siblings, have become notorious for their constant efforts to provoke Israeli soldiers.... The typical and often repeated modus operandi is for a Tamimi child to approach Israeli soldiers and slap, hit, kick, spit at and insult them, while the Tamimi family adults wait with camera in hand for the provoked soldiers to retaliate."
        "This poster girl for Palestinian innocence called for stabbing attacks, suicide bombings and the throwing of rocks. Sadly, it would appear likely that Ahed has been raised to seek and glorify violence. Her parents, Bassem and Nariman, are also well-known for their anti-Semitic social media posts glorifying terror attacks. Other members of the family are convicted terrorists, including the mastermind of the Sbarro pizzeria bombing in 2001, which killed 15 people including [Australian] Malki Roth."  (Australian Jewish News)
  • UNRWA's Shameful Apartheid System - Evelyn Gordon
    UNRWA's budget shortfall won't cause a humanitarian crisis. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spends $128 per capita to help non-Palestinian refugees while UNRWA spends a third more - $170. If UNHCR's budget can provide for its refugees' basic needs, UNRWA's far more generous one can surely do the same.
        UNRWA should stop financing Jordan's outrageous apartheid system, under which 2 million Palestinians registered with the agency receive no services from the Jordanian government, even though most are Jordanian citizens. Instead of using Jordan's health and education systems, they attend special UNRWA schools and health clinics. Clearly, people with citizenship in another country shouldn't be considered refugees at all. Under UNHCR's definition, which applies to everyone except Palestinians, anyone who obtains citizenship in another country automatically loses his or her refugee status.
        UNRWA should also stop financing the outrageous apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza imposed on Palestinian refugees by the Palestinian Authority. The PA refuses to provide services to either the 800,000 registered refugees in the West Bank or the 1.3 million in Gaza - 43% of the residents of its putative state. It's ridiculous that 2.1 million Palestinians living under Palestinian government should still be considered refugees.
        By denying Palestinians the ability to assimilate into Jordan and the PA, UNRWA effectively tells them that "returning" to Israel is their only hope of escaping refugee status. Nurturing such fantasies merely perpetuates the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. (JNS)
  • UN Must Recognize, and Stop Assisting, Palestinian Acts of Terror - Micah Lakin Avni
    My father, Richard Lakin, was murdered in 2015 by Palestinians at age 76. He was riding a public bus in Jerusalem when two terrorists boarded and began shooting and stabbing the passengers. The Palestinian Authority will reward his killers with nearly a combined $3 million over their lifetimes according to PA law. The amount paid by Palestinians to terrorists or their families amounts to more than 25% of the total foreign aid that Palestinians receive.
        My father was a teacher and human rights activist who founded a school where Muslim, Christian and Jewish children studied together. He educated thousands of children on the values of love, respect and peaceful coexistence, in the U.S. and in Israel. Dad was paving a road to peace, one brick at a time. The PA is doing everything it can to demolish this road. (The Hill)
  • How Will the Palestinian Leadership Respond to the Taylor Force Act? - Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
    The enactment by the U.S. of the Taylor Force Act confronts the Palestinian leadership with some difficult choices. It could require the State Department to withhold $350 million of its annual American aid to the Palestinians if they continue using these funds to pay monthly stipends to the families of imprisoned terrorists and suicide bombers. The law provides actual teeth against the Palestinians' deeply ingrained culture of brazen anti-Israel hate and official glorification of those who perpetrate terrorism against innocent Jews.
        The Palestinians do not accept our legitimacy as a people and view us solely as occupiers of their land who need to be resisted by any means possible. The exalting and veneration of those they claim engaged in "armed resistance against the occupation" goes to the very core of their culture, it's how they see themselves, how they want the world to perceive them, and how in the end, they view us. This view must finally be confronted and dismantled. The writer is president of the Shurat Hadin Law Center and is legal counsel to the family of Taylor Force. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • In Its Cold Peace with Israel, Egypt Prohibits Full Normalization - Haisam Hassanein
    Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty on March 26, 1979, but the bilateral relationship has been characterized as a "cold peace." For the nearly four decades since, the two countries have exchanged ambassadors and coordinated on security and borders, but full "normalization" never occurred.
        One of the biggest obstacles to full normalization is the Egyptian government, which still engages in anti-Israel rhetoric. This past Ramadan, when TV viewing is at its yearly peak, in a TV show sponsored by the Egyptian intelligence services, Jews and Israelis continued to be portrayed negatively - as spies, thieves, killers and socially immoral individuals. The indoctrination of hate unfortunately gets passed down from generation to generation, hindering opportunities for true peace. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (The Hill)
        See also Steps toward Warmer Egypt-Israel Relations - Haisam Hassanein (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Everyone Loves Israel Now - Shai Feldman and Tamara Cofman Wittes
    Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Arab world today is how relatively uncontroversial Israel has become. First, there is a new security agenda that unifies Israel and key Arab states against threats from Iran and Islamist extremism.
        Second, a regional energy revolution has transformed Israel not only into an energy independent state but into an energy exporter. The recent $15 billon agreement signed between Israeli and Egyptian companies for the sale of natural gas is a game-changer that will allow Egypt to profit from liquefying and re-exporting the purchased gas to Europe and Africa, boosting its prospects as a regional energy hub and creating economic interdependence between the two countries.
        There has also been a parallel decline in Arab governments' interest in the Palestinian issue as they show growing signs of fatigue regarding all matters Palestinian. Arab governments are showing increasing impatience with ineffective and divided Palestinian leadership. Many Sunni Arab governments increasingly viewing themselves as better off with Israel's presence in the region. Yet Arab publics continue to care about the Palestinians, of whose plight they are reminded by the regional media on a weekly if not daily basis.
        Shai Feldman is director of Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies. Tamara Cofman Wittes is a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. (Foreign Policy)

  • Weekend Features

  • Videos: Israel Readies for 70th Independence Day Celebrations with Song - Amy Spiro
    As Israel gears up for its 70th Independence Day in April 19 (according to the Hebrew calendar), two new videos were released on Sunday. The Culture and Sports Ministry released an updated version of the song "Hallelujah," which landed Israel first place in the 1979 Eurovision competition. Gali Atari, who originally performed it at Eurovision, will perform together with pop star Eden Ben-Zaken at the official celebrations in Jerusalem.
        President Reuven Rivlin also released a video announcing that he had partnered with the social music initiative Koolulam to have 12,000 citizens join him in singing Naomi Shemer's "Al Kol Eleh" in Tel Aviv. In the promo clip, Rivlin breaks into song and gathers the rest of his office staff to join him. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Mass Event Brings Israelis Together to Sing - Renee Ghert-Zand
    Koolulam's popularity has soared since it kicked off in Tel Aviv in April 2017, with Israelis jumping at the opportunity to come together with thousands of strangers - to sing. In under an hour, participants learn a three-part arrangement of a Hebrew or English song, and then perform it for a video to be shared on social media. Views have reached millions. On March 13, there were simultaneous Koolulam gatherings in five different cities: Jerusalem, Dimona, Ashkelon, Rishon Lezion, and Kiryat Motzkin, with 7,500 people singing.
        Co-founder Michal Shahaf Shneiderman said, "The impetus was to bring Israelis of all backgrounds together, regardless of their political views or affiliations." She chalks up Koolulam's breakout success to a desire by people to feel part of an inclusive group or community - even if only for a couple of hours. (Times of Israel)
  • The Arab Israeli Who Buys All of Israel's Bread and Cereal during Passover - Luke Tress
    Each year ahead of Passover, Israel must dispose of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of leavened goods - mostly wheat and barley products. Jews cannot possess such products, called hametz, during the festival, according to Jewish law.
        On Thursday, as he has done for 20 years, Hussein Jabar, 57, an Arab Israeli hotelier from Abu Ghosh, outside Jerusalem, met with Israel's chief rabbis to buy all of the hametz, whose ownership will revert back after the holiday. (Times of Israel)
  • To Appreciate Freedom, Remember Slavery - Ruth R. Wisse
    Re-enacting slavery is not everyone's idea of a good time, but this is how Jews celebrate Passover. Jews gather at the ceremonial Seder to recall their enslavement under Pharaoh in ancient Egypt. The prescribed rhythm of the Seder passes from slavery through stages of gratitude to the Almighty to songs of liberation. Jews tell the hard truth about their past because they might otherwise take freedom for granted. Jews rehearse the Exodus to practice overcoming slavery.
        The assurance that slavery could be overcome inspired Jews to recover sovereignty in their homeland. The Seder ends with the vow, "Next year in Jerusalem!" The reclamation of Israel - which began well before Hitler - records the accomplishment of a people against all odds. The writer, a senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund, is a former professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations have begun mobilizing the Palestinian public to participate in a series of ongoing events that will take place over the course of six weeks - starting on March 30.
  • Hamas has called for thousands of Gaza residents, particularly women and children, to set up tent camps as close as they can to Israel's southern border. It is from these camps that the march towards the Israeli border fence will be launched.
  • While the campaign is being presented to the world as a peaceful enterprise, there is no doubt that this latest Hamas ploy is aimed at igniting a violent confrontation with Israel.
  • While Israel hopes and aims to avoid violence, it will take all necessary steps to prevent any violation of its sovereignty or any threat to its citizens.
  • Israel has the full right to defend its borders, protect its citizens, and prevent illegal infiltration into its territory. Responsibility for any clashes that may arise will lie solely with Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations who have manufactured this entire campaign.
  • Israel has no territorial claims on Gaza. Israel left Gaza in 2005. There is no occupation of Gaza.
  • Nor is there any siege on Gaza. Tons of essential goods enter Gaza from Israel on a daily basis, while Israel also continues to provide for electric power and water. Restrictions are only placed on materials used for the military build-up of Hamas and other terror groups.
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