April 3, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

100,000 Take Part in Priestly Blessing at Western Wall on Passover - Hagay Hacohen (Jerusalem Post)
    Around 100,000 people took part in the Passover priestly blessing of the kohanim (members of the priestly line) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday.
    The blessing is recited by Jewish people who are said to be descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses, and is one of the most ancient blessings in the Jewish faith.
    The ceremony was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

23 Palestinians Killed in Syrian Civil War in March - Khaled Abu Toameh (Times of Israel)
    23 Palestinians were killed in Syria during March, the London-based Action Group for Palestinians of Syria said Sunday.
    According to the group, 3,685 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the civil war seven years ago.
    Another 1,673 Palestinians remain in government-controlled prisons.
    Human rights groups say tens of thousands of Palestinians have fled Syria since the beginning of the war.

Palestinians' New "Human Swarm" Technique Isn't Generating Much Global Support - Zev Chafets (Bloomberg)
    Friday's Gaza march unveiled a new Palestinian tactic, mass swarming, designed to force Israeli troops at the border to commit mass killings or flee.
    But the IDF forces used snipers to pick off individual leaders in the putatively civilian crowd (at least 11 of the dead were later identified as Hamas or other terrorists).
    The Netanyahu government got nearly wall-to-wall support from its opposition. Avi Gabbay, leader of the Zionist Union (aka Labor Party) praised the IDF for its restraint. Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid pronounced himself "proud."

Hamas Fails to Breach Israeli Border - Liel Leibovitz (Tablet)
    Is "protests" really the right word for attempts by masses of people organized and incited by a terrorist organization to breach the border of a sovereign country using plastic explosives? No.
    Hamas again used innocent civilians in its cynical quest to score propaganda points against Israel.
    Israel no longer occupies even one inch of Gaza. Every Israeli settlement in Gaza was uprooted in 2005. Israel no longer has any territorial claims on Gaza; but Gaza still has territorial claims on Israel.
    Hamas' singular goal is the utter and absolute destruction of the Jewish state. It wants all of the land, not peace or coexistence.
    Until the Palestinians abandon the futility of their ongoing and senseless violence, and come to terms with Israel's right to exist, we're likely to see more mindless bloodshed, all of it the fault of their leadership.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump Says U.S. Will Withdraw from Syria "Very Soon" - Ryan Browne and Barbara Starr
    President Trump said last week, "We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now."  (CNN)
        See also If U.S. Withdraws from Syria, the Oil Fields Will Go to Iran - Josh Rogin
    In Syria, the U.S. and its partners control almost all of the oil. If the U.S. leaves, that oil will likely fall into the hands of Iran. "We have this 30% slice of Syria, which is probably where 90% of the pre-war oil production took place," said David Adesnik, director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "This is leverage."
        The actual people holding the land with the oil are mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces that were trained and armed by Washington. If the U.S. troops leave, the Kurds are likely to cut a deal with the regime. Then the Iranians will move into the area, completing their land bridge of control from Tehran to Beirut. Melissa Dalton, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Iran now has more than 250,000 proxy forces directly or indirectly under its influence around the region. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Supreme Court Won't Make PLO Pay $656 Million Terror Award - Greg Stohr
    The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization escaped a $656 million damage award as the U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal by American victims of six bombing and shooting attacks in Israel. The justices left intact a lower court decision that said the Palestinian entities didn't have enough of a connection to the U.S. to let them be sued under a federal anti-terrorism law.
        The PA and PLO were accused of supporting Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade by providing money, explosives, training and personnel. Both groups are designated as terrorist groups by the U.S. government. (Bloomberg)
        See also U.S. Supreme Court Deals "Terrible Blow" to Families Suing the PLO - Ron Kampeas
    Mark Sokolow, his wife and two of his daughters were injured in a Jerusalem suicide bombing in 2002. His fellow plaintiffs are families of victims of terrorist attacks in Israel that killed 33, including several Americans, and wounded over 450. Their suit argued that the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had paid attackers and their families, and that they had standing to sue his organization under the 1992 Anti-Terrorism Act. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • West Bank Palestinians Apathetic to Gaza's "March of Return" - Ilanit Chernick
    It was business as usual in Kalandiya, north of Jerusalem, on Monday. Two Palestinian women told the Jerusalem Post they were more concerned about "putting food on the table" and "looking after their families," than taking part in or showing solidarity for what organizers dubbed the "March of Return" in Gaza. "Causing riots on the border and in our universities is pointless."
        The older of the two added that it was a "bad move" on Hamas' part to organize the march. "Yes, it's brought attention to the plight of the Palestinians, but look, Hamas couldn't even keep it going....They promised it would carry on until Nakba Day [on May 15] but they're cleaning up the border area now. Everyone has stopped taking part, the momentum is gone....16 or 17 youngsters died and for what? By tomorrow, people won't care anymore. The world cared for a minute. I don't know if you can call such actions martyrdom like Hamas is saying."
        Asked if other residents in her neighborhood felt the same, the woman said: "Yes, everyone wants to get on with their lives here, do what they need to day-to-day. If you protest here on the main road [Ramallah Road], you stop people from going to work, from making a living."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Poll: Palestinians Reject State on '67 Lines with Land Swaps
    71% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza reject the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines with some land exchange as a final solution for the Palestinian cause, according to a poll conducted on 22-24 March 2018 in the West Bank and Gaza by the Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah University. At the same time, 77% reject the creation of a binational state for both Arabs and Jews as a final solution for the Palestinian cause.
        55% support and 41% reject an unarmed peaceful intifada in the Palestinian territories, while 38% support and 56% reject an armed intifada.
        When asked "Which political party do you support?," responses were: Fatah 35%, Hamas 11%, Popular Front 2%, Islamic Jihad 1%, None of the above 36%. (An-Najah University-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Saudi Crown Prince Recognizes Jewish Peoples' Right to "Their Own Land" - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told me he recognizes the right of the Jewish people to have a nation-state of their own next to a Palestinian state. "I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land." No Arab leader has ever acknowledged such a right.
        "Our country doesn't have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend - he married her. Our prophet, his neighbors were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia, coming from America, coming from Europe."
        "Israel is a big economy compared to their size and it's a growing economy, and of course there are a lot of interests we share with Israel." If Prince Mohammed actually achieves what he says he wants to achieve, the Middle East will be a changed place. (Atlantic)
  • Arab Leaders Abandon the Palestinians - Walter Russell Mead
    Hamas bussed thousands of Gaza residents to the border with Israel to begin a six-week protest campaign ahead of the 70th anniversary of Israel's independence. This protest would mark "the beginning of the Palestinians' return to all of Palestine," according to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. It didn't.
        Tectonic plates are shifting in the Middle East as the Sunni Arab world counts the cost of the failed Arab Spring and the defeat of Sunni Arabs by Iranian-backed forces in Syria. Today, Arab states seek protection from Israel and the U.S. against an ascendant Iran and a restless, neo-Ottoman Turkey.
        It is against this backdrop that the old Palestinian alliance with the Arab nations has frayed. Most Arab rulers now see Palestinian demands as an inconvenient obstacle to a necessary strategic alliance with Israel. Prioritizing Palestine is a luxury many Arabs feel they can no longer afford. The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College. (Wall Street Journal)

Gaza and International Opinion - Jonathan S. Tobin (JNS)
  • It is by no means clear that the Palestinian border riots turned out to be the great propaganda triumph Israel's enemies were hoping for. Most of the Arab world is responding with the same perfunctory protest as they put forward after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
  • Egypt is not lifting the Gaza blockade. While European governments demand Israeli restraint, they won't be applying any real pressure on Israel to strengthen the terrorist regime in Gaza.
  • The purpose of the march was not - as claimed by those who have accepted Hamas' propaganda - a march for "a better future." It was explicitly a march to demand a "right of return" for descendants of the 1948 Palestinian refugees into Israel.
  • As such, it is a call for war without end, since no Israeli government of any political stripe could ever concede this claim, which would effectively end the Jewish state.
  • The purpose of the protest was to produce Palestinian corpses, not to highlight any grievances. Given the numbers of those assaulting the border, the IDF showed its commitment to a limited use of force.
  • If you call for open borders for Gaza, you're not so much advancing a humanitarian cause as you are advocating the arming of an Islamist terror group.