April 17, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Chemical Weapons Team Kept from Reaching Syria Attack Site (France 24)
    Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were prevented by Syrian and Russian authorities Monday from reaching the scene of an April 7 chemical attack in Douma near the Syrian capital, OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said.
    See also Russia May Have Tampered with Chemical Attack Site, U.S. Envoy Says - Anthony Deutsch (Reuters)

The Attack on the Chemical Weapons Targets in Syria: Doing the Minimum - Udi Dekel and Carmit Valensi (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
    The enforcement of American red lines on the use of chemical weapons in Syria by way of a coalition attack together with Britain and France is a clear political achievement for the U.S.
    However, the U.S. is threatening neither the Assad regime, nor the growing Iranian presence or Russian dominance in Syria.
    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel is managing director of INSS, where Dr. Carmit Valensi is a research fellow.

Arab Ire at U.S. Jerusalem Move Unlikely to Spark Action (AFP)
    Arab leaders at a summit in Saudi Arabia on Sunday slammed Washington's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy there, but analysts say their words are unlikely to lead to action.
    It seemed clear at the Arab League summit that regional rulers are unwilling to jeopardize close ties with Trump as they seek to counter Iran.
    Shortly before the summit, the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh published an editorial arguing that "the Arabs must realize that Iran is more dangerous to them than Israel."
    "The Arabs have no other option than reconciliation with Israel, signing a comprehensive peace agreement and freeing themselves up to tackle the Iranian project in the region." 

PA TV Features Child in Combat Gear Joining Gaza "Return March" (MEMRI)
    On April 9, official Palestinian Authority TV featured a boy, Abd Al-Hamid Qadouha, preparing to join the Gaza "Return March."
    The boy, dressed in combat gear, wore a picture of President Mahmoud Abbas on his chest.
    His father, Sayf Al-Din Qadouha, said: "We support President Abu Mazen [Abbas], and we are all prepared to sacrifice ourselves for him, until the liberation of Palestine down to the very last inch."

Israel Brings Solar Energy to Poverty-Stricken African Villagers - Stephen Oryszczuk (Jewish News-UK)
    Sivan Yaari of Innovation Africa was speaking in Manchester about how her charity installs solar, water and irrigation systems in poor villages in Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Senegal and Cameroon.
    "Africa is still in poverty because of the lack of energy," Yaari says.
    Satellite images of the world at night show Africa is not lit but for the northern and southern tips.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Seeks Arab Force and Funding for Syria - Michael R. Gordon
    The Trump administration is seeking to assemble an Arab force to replace the U.S. military contingent in Syria and help stabilize the northeastern part of the country after the defeat of Islamic State, U.S. officials said. John Bolton, President Donald Trump's new national security adviser, recently called Abbas Kamel, Egypt's acting intelligence chief, to see if Cairo would contribute to the effort.
        The administration has asked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE to contribute billions of dollars to help restore northern Syria. It wants Arab nations to send troops as well. The new initiative is aimed at avoiding a security vacuum in Syria that would allow Islamic State to return or ceding hard-won gains to Iranian-backed forces. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hamas Sees Gaza Protests as a Deadly Weapon - David M. Halbfinger
    The Palestinian Great Return March, a campaign now in its third week, demands the right to return to lands in Israel. While organizers promised peaceful disobedience, participants have thrown Molotov cocktails and other explosives, even attaching one to a kite.
        A month or two ago, Hamas was cornered, isolated regionally, and riven by internal disputes. After a decade running Gaza, Hamas was growing deeply unpopular. "A lot of Palestinians would just do away with all of Hamas to have a better life," said Tareq Baconi, author of Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance. By embracing the protests, Hamas cannily aligned itself with a popular movement. Instantly, the Palestinian cause and the crisis in Gaza were back in the news. (New York Times)
  • A Chance to Sing Old Songs with 12,000 of Your Closest Friends - Alan D. Abbey
    Koolulam is a year-old social phenomenon that has gathered thousands of Israelis to sing together. Last week, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin joined Koolulam at a mass singing of Naomi Shemer's "Al Kol Eleh" to honor Israel's upcoming 70th anniversary. It's the kumsitz updated for the 21st century, with Israeli tech, glitz, media savvy and the positive vibes we need.
        We were divided into two groups, one to sing the melody, and the other the harmonies. Once we were primed, the Jerusalem Street Orchestra took the stage, as did popular Mizrahi singer Shlomi Shabat. We did five takes. The emotion, passion and joy created was authentic, honest and deeply felt. The writer is media director of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (JTA)
        See also Video: Israelis Sing Together for Israel Independence Day (Koolulam)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Hosts 40 UN Ambassadors - Herb Keinon
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon is acting as a guide for 40 fellow UN ambassadors currently visiting Israel. After visiting the City of David on Monday, Ethiopia's Ambassador Tekeda Alemu said: "This has been a very fantastic experience. One lesson that was very clear is that there is a clear connection between the Old City of Jerusalem and the Jewish people. This cannot be ignored."
        Danon said he has seen a change in voting patterns at the UN by countries whose ambassadors have come on these trips in the past. In 2016, Danon brought 9 ambassadors to Israel and 14 came in 2017. (Jerusalem Post)
  • East Jerusalem Community Center Tied to Terrorism - Anna Ahronheim
    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday labeled the Iliya Institute, a community center operating in east Jerusalem, as a terror establishment, following recommendations by the Israel Security Agency. The institute was acting on behalf of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). "We will not accept an institution that acts as an outpost of terror in the capital of Israel," Lieberman stated. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran Would Destroy Syria to Get Vengeance on Israel - Karim Sadjadpour
    Tehran's steadfast support for Syria's Assad is not driven by the geopolitical or financial interests of the Iranian nation, nor the religious convictions of the Islamic Republic, but by a visceral and seemingly inextinguishable hatred for the State of Israel. As senior Iranian officials like Ali Akbar Velayati, a close adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have said, "The chain of Resistance against Israel by Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, the new Iraqi government and Hamas passes through the Syrian highway."
        Though Israel has virtually no direct impact on the daily lives of Iranians, opposition to the Jewish state has been the most enduring pillar of Iranian revolutionary ideology. Whether Khamenei is giving a speech about agriculture or education, he invariably returns to the evils of Zionism.
        The number of Syrian deaths since 2011 is many times greater than the number of Palestinians killed in the last 70 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while many more Syrians than Palestinians have been displaced. Indeed, since 2011 far more Palestinians have been killed by Assad (nearly 3,700) than by Israel.
        "Syria is occupied by the Iranian regime," said former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab. "The person who runs the country is not Bashar al-Assad but [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander] Qassem Suleimani."  The writer is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment. (Atlantic)
  • The Importance of Striking Syria's Chemical Weapons Facilities - Claudia Rosett
    With air strikes on Syria's chemical weapons facilities, carried out jointly with Britain and France, America has done the right thing and the world will be safer for it. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley charged on Friday that by U.S. estimates, "Assad has used chemical weapons in the Syrian war at least 50 times."
        Whatever your views on protecting children in a far-off land from the hideous effects of chemical weapons, there is a larger, strategic reason for trying to stop Assad. Syria, with its liberal use of chemical weapons, has been setting a horrific precedent, eroding the longstanding international taboo against chemical warfare.
        This is dangerous way beyond Syria. As Haley told the UN Security Council: "All nations and all people will be harmed if we allow Assad to normalize the use of chemical weapons." If the U.S. does not stop Assad's use of chemical weapons, then nobody will. (PJ Media)
        See also Airstrikes in Syria Show We Stand Up for Principle and Civilized Values - UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson (Telegraph-UK)

Hamas' Dirty War Against Israel - Prof. Eytan Gilboa (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Throughout all the military confrontations Hamas initiated against Israel in 2008-09, 2012, and 2014, as well as in the recent "March of Return," it has systematically disseminated outright fabrications and distortions and manipulated Western and social media. Hamas presented the march as a peaceful demonstration initiated by suffering citizens to protest their awful economic and social conditions. Hamas also accused Israel of committing war crimes by intentionally shooting and killing demonstrators. The truth is exactly the opposite.
  • The march was initiated and organized by Hamas, not by oppressed citizens. Hamas invested millions of dollars in building an infrastructure for the demonstrators, and called for breaking the border fence and infiltration into Israeli territory. If Hamas had been permitted to accomplish this goal, the life and property of Israeli citizens living a few meters from the fence would have been in danger. These were not peaceful demonstrations.
  • Hamas deployed operatives among the demonstrators and ordered them to throw firebombs, shoot at Israeli soldiers, put explosives on the fence, cross into Israel's territory, and, if possible, kill or kidnap soldiers and citizens. They also wanted as many Palestinians as possible to be killed, including women and children, in order to obtain favorable media coverage.
  • Hamas is lying and cheating about the reasons for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It annually spends hundreds of millions of dollars on operatives, rockets, attack tunnels, and violence. If Hamas had spent that money on economic and social development, Gazans would now live in a better economic environment. The recent deterioration in the Gazan economy resulted from a bitter feud between Hamas and the PA, not from any Israeli action.
  • The media in the U.S. and Europe, including the elite press of the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, CNN, and BBC, largely accepted the manipulations, lies, and fabrications of Hamas without much questioning or reservation. They conveniently removed any reference to Hamas' motivation, aggression, war crimes, and manipulations.
  • Critics of Israel's handling of the demonstrators in Gaza missed, or willfully ignored, the march's slogan: "the March of Return." In practice, "Return" means the destruction of Israel as an independent Jewish state.
  • In 2005, Israel dismantled all its settlements in Gaza and evacuated all the Jews who lived there and its entire military, giving the Palestinians an opportunity in Gaza to show how they can live in peace with Israel. They failed. This failure suggests that territory and settlements have never been the main obstacles to peace. The Palestinians are not prepared to accept Israel as a Jewish state within any territory or borders.

    The writer is director of the Center for International Communication and a senior research associate at the BESA Center.