April 18, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Commemorates Memorial Day (Ynet News)
    Israel is honoring the memories of 23,646 fallen soldiers, security forces members, and terror victims on Wednesday, Memorial Day.
    At 11 a.m., a two-minute siren was heard across Israel.
    Over the past few days, family and friends have visited cemeteries across the country, cleaned the graves of their loved ones and laid flowers.
    See also Photos: Israel Pays Tribute to Fallen on Memorial Day (Jerusalem Post)
    See also Veteran Recounts the Six-Day War Battle of Ammunition Hill - Hadar Gil-Ad (Ynet News)
    36 members of IDF paratrooper Yossi Sidkoni's company lost their lives in the assault on a fortified Jordanian military post in east Jerusalem.
    See also "Tell Danny that He Had a Mother" - Meir Turgeman (Ynet News)
    Col. (res.) Danny Ben Ari was 2 in 1948 when his mother, Mira, a wireless operator, sent him away from Kibbutz Nitzanim before the Egyptian army arrived.
    See also It's Good to Live for Our Country - Racheli Frenkel (Ynet News)
    Our memorial days have never been a veneration of the dead. This isn't a culture of martyrs. We will always celebrate life over death.
    We mention our loved ones, the joy and the smiles, so they will keep living among us. Our mission is to make life here better, to turn the memory into life.
    The writer is the mother of Naftali Frenkel, one of the three teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinians on June 12, 2014.

Israel's F-15 Jets, on Alert, Skip Drill in Alaska (Times of Israel)
    With tensions high after air attacks on Iranian bases in Syria, Israel has decided to keep its fleet of F-15 jet fighters at home rather than take part in the Red Flag military drill in Alaska next month.
    An IDF spokesman said other aircraft would take part in the drill.

At 70, Israel's Population is 8.842 Million (Times of Israel)
    On the eve of Israel's 70th Independence Day, its population stands at 8,842,000, of whom 74.5% are Jewish, according to figures released Monday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
    There are 6.589 million Jews, 1.849 million Arabs (20.9%), and 404,000 (4.6%) non-Arab Christians or others.

Video - Eyewitness 1948: The American Contribution (Toldot Yisrael)
    Five short videos focus on the unique contribution that Americans made to Israel's founding.

Video: The Pigeons that Helped Israel Win the War of Independence (Reuters)
    A secluded dovecote in an Israeli kibbutz was once part of a top-secret Israeli communications project, helping Israel in its 1948 war of independence.
    Shaul Sapir, a pigeon trainer during the war, explains: "It was the only way to communicate, to receive news of what was going on with the troops....It was all done through the pigeons."
    There was a clandestine network of 68 dovecotes. Soldiers flew them from the heart of the battle. They carried coded messages.
    Now an educational center, the dovecote houses 60 pigeons, some of them descendants of those used during the war.

Who Are the Israelis? Israel's Cultural Mix - Amir Cohen (Reuters)
    The cantor's grandson came from Tajikistan. The baker, who survived Auschwitz, came from Czechoslovakia. The emergency responder is a sixth-generation Jerusalemite.
    Together in one land, they celebrate Israel's 70th anniversary on Wednesday evening.

Israel at 70: Test Your Knowledge - Quiz #1 (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Test your knowledge of Israeli politics, security, geography, and culture on the first of 10 quizzes created by the Jerusalem Center in honor of Israel's 70th year of independence.

Israeli Flag Sales Are Up for 70th Independence Day - Almog Ben Zikri (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli flag manufacturers, importers and retail chains are reporting that their stocks have run out, with flags selling at a dizzying pace for the 70th Independence Day celebrations.

Birthright Participants Help Save Lives - Michele Chabin (New York Jewish Week)
    205 Birthright Israel participants have donated either bone marrow or stem cells to help save cancer patients.

We wish our readers a
Happy Israel Independence Day!
Daily Alert will not appear on Thursday, April 19
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Reveals Images of Iranian Air Force Bases in Syria - Yonat Friling
    Satellite images released Tuesday by the Israel Defense Forces show several Syrian military bases that are used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Guard's air force presence is located in five airports in Syria: T-4, Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, Damascus International Airport and an additional airfield southeast of Damascus.
        One of the photos shows Ilyushin planes transporting weapons from Iran to the military base in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria. The photos show how Tehran delivers surface-to-surface missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles to Syria, Israeli military sources said. "Israel will react strongly to any Iranian action from inside Syria," a senior IDF source said. (Fox News)
  • Israel and U.S. Working Together to Blunt Iran's Expansion in Syria - Dion Nissenbaum and Rory Jones
    With tacit American support, the Israeli military targeted an advanced Iranian Tor air-defense system at a Syrian base last week, intelligence officials in Washington said, the latest sign the Trump administration is working with Israel to blunt Tehran's expanding influence in the Middle East. After conferring with President Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered a strike on the newly arrived antiaircraft battery to prevent Iranian forces from using it against Israeli planes in Syria.
        Iran is flying weapons into Khmeimim Air Base, a well-defended Russian base on the Mediterranean coast, according to intelligence officials. Iran also has rebuilt a presence at Damascus International Airport after a 2015 airstrike. It now serves as a base for Iran's Quds Force, which has built underground storage tunnels to safeguard weaponry. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Saudi Arabia Prepared to Sending Troops to Syria under Wider Coalition
    Saudi Arabia would be prepared to send troops into Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition if a decision was taken to widen it, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday. "We are in discussion with the U.S. and have been since the beginning of the Syrian crisis about sending forces into Syria."  (Reuters)
        See also U.S. Dealing to Build an Arab Military Force in Syria - Zachary Cohen
    A source close to the White House told CNN on Tuesday that despite initial concerns that Trump would withdraw from Syria in the very near term, discussions have shifted toward developing a transition plan and that the administration is continuing its push to enlist the help of several Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. (CNN)
  • False Alarm, Not Outside Attack, Sets Off Syria Air Defenses
    Syrian air defense systems fired a number of missiles early Tuesday because of a "false alarm." The Syrian military denied earlier reports of "outside aggression" and incoming airstrikes. (AP-Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Responds to Gunfire at Soldiers near Gaza Border - Jack Khoury and Yaniv Kubovich
    IDF tanks attacked a Hamas outpost Tuesday in response to shots fired at soldiers near the Gaza border fence. The shots were fired from an area near where protests take place every Friday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Set Fires in Israel Using Kites - Judah Ari Gross
    For the past five days, Palestinians in Gaza have attempted to fly kites carrying burning cans of fuel into Israeli territory. On Tuesday, a kite started a fire outside Kibbutz Be'eri. This month marks the beginning of Israel's dry season, an IDF spokesperson noted. The Eshkol Regional Council bordering Gaza warned local residents to be on alert for these airborne arson attacks. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Intelligence: "Assad Has Not Been Deterred from Using Chemical Weapons Again" - Ronen Bergman
    The U.S.-led attack on Syria's chemical weapons facilities will not deter President Assad, according to Israeli intelligence assessments. Israeli defense officials estimate that Assad kept 5-10% of his chemical weapons stockpiles after the signing of an agreement to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons in September 2013, and he has been making attempts to hide what's left. After President Trump began making threats last week of an imminent strike, the Syrians made additional efforts to scatter and hide planes, launch vehicles and munitions.
        Israel estimates that since the signing of the 2013 agreement, Syria has used chemical weapons in about 100 instances, with 100 additional inconclusive cases. Assad has reportedly used sarin and mustard gas in these attacks. He is believed to be saving VX, the most lethal chemical weapon in his possession, as a "doomsday weapon." He also makes frequent use of chlorine, which was not included in the 2013 agreement.
        Only some of the chemical weapons facilities known to Israel were destroyed in the U.S.-led attack. The fact that there were no reports of chemicals leaking following the strikes serves to bolster assessments that the major stockpiles haven't been hit, and Syria's ability to drop these chemical weapons on their targets has hardly been compromised. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Imagine If Washington and Jerusalem Were to Develop a Joint Plan to Degrade Iranian Forces in Syria - Michael Doran
    The Israeli attack on an Iranian base in the Syrian desert is striking not just for the military and intelligence capabilities it demonstrated, but also for the defiance of Mr. Putin. Boldness and ability of this magnitude in an ally is a four-star asset that Mr. Trump's Mideast policy has so far failed to exploit. Imagine if Washington and Jerusalem were to develop a joint military plan designed to contain and degrade Iranian forces in Syria.
        Even a limited American military commitment to a coordinated U.S.-Israeli strategy would immediately change the balance of power on the ground. It would most likely engender more diplomatic cooperation from Mr. Putin while sending a powerful message to Tehran about the necessity of respecting American demands regarding its nuclear program. The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, was a senior director at the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. (New York Times)
  • Will Iran Respond to Israel's Operations Against Its Military Expansion in Syria, which Could Lead to an Iran-Israel War? - Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon
    In light of Israel's recent military operations against Iran's military expansion in Syria, Iran now faces a strategic question: whether to respond to these attacks, when doing so could lead to all-out conflict with Israel.
        Iran's long-term goal in Syria is to expand militarily and economically, gaining control of the country, which will enable it, when the time comes, to act effectively against Israel. It is in Iran's interest to face all-out war with Israel only after it has finished doing so.
        Other reasons for Iran to postpone responding to Israel's operations include Iran's shaky economic situation and the devaluation of its rial in recent weeks; President Trump's upcoming May 12 decision regarding the future of the nuclear deal; the fragility of the Assad regime; and Tehran's inability to ensure that Russia will stand alongside it militarily against Israel. Iranian spokesmen now talk of postponing the Iranian response to "an appropriate time and place in the future."
        Israel has, with its operations, made it clear to Iran and Russia that it is ready for war now. The next war has already begun, and it can be stopped only if Iran is deterred from carrying out its threats to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. IDF Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon, former counter-terrorism advisor to two Israeli prime ministers, is President of MEMRI, where A. Savyon directs the Iran Media Project. (MEMRI)
  • U.S. Considered Launching Syria Strikes Three Times Bigger - Gordon Lubold and Dion Nissenbaum
    In response to the deadly gas attack on civilians in Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented the White House with three military options, according to people familiar with the decision-making. The most conservative option would have hit a narrow set of targets related to Syria's chemical-weapons capabilities. The second option proposed strikes on a broader set of Syrian regime targets, including suspected chemical-weapons research facilities and military command centers.
        The most expansive proposal, which might have included strikes on Russian air defenses in Syria, was designed to cripple the regime's military capabilities. It was three times the size of the one eventually carried out by U.S., British and French forces. Mr. Trump approved a hybrid plan that reflected a melding of the first two options. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Israel Independence Day Features

  • As Westerners Grow Unsure of Their Identities, Israelis Are Confident of Theirs - Evelyn Gordon
    90% of Israelis define themselves as Zionist. Zionism is simply the belief that the Jewish people has a right to its own state, and that a Jewish state therefore ought to exist.
        This has enabled Israel to escape one of the modern West's besetting ills. In a world where elite opinion scorns both religion and the nation-state as anachronistic but has failed to provide any compelling source of identity to replace them, many Westerners have grown increasingly unsure of their identities.
        Israelis, in contrast, are very confident of their identity: They are Jews living in the world's only Jewish state. This is the state created precisely so that all Jews, anywhere, will always have a home.
        While a January 2017 poll headlined "Six in ten around the world think their society is 'broken,'" it's difficult for most Israelis to feel that way when, against all odds, Israel has not only successfully maintained the first Jewish state in two millennia, but also turned it, in 70 short years, into one of the world's most thriving countries.
        Thus, despite arguing bitterly over what policies their country should pursue and complaining endlessly about its many shortcomings, Israelis are overwhelmingly glad that a Jewish state exists, and committed to both preserving and improving it. And that's why most will be celebrating on Israeli Independence Day. (JNS)
  • Some of the 70 Reasons I Love Israel - Barbara Sofer
    Israel helped 30 countries foil terrorist attacks in 2017. Israeli technology helped identify the terrorists on the overwhelming output of the surveillance cameras at the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
        90% of our wastewater is recycled. Spain is No. 2 with 20%. 93% of Israeli homes use solar energy for water heating, the highest percentage in the world. Israel has the largest percentage of vegans per capita in the world - 5% of the population.
        Over 500 million birds migrate through the skies of Israel twice a year, but a researcher, using radar, a motorized glider, drones and a network of birdwatchers, planned alternate commercial air routes, reducing bird-plane collisions by 76%.
        Israelis have more children than any other Western democracy. Of Israeli moms with four or more children, 62.5% work full-time. Actually, double time.
        According to Startup Genome, Tel Aviv has more start-ups per capita than anywhere else, and it has 61 companies on NASDAQ. That's more than Europe, Japan, Korea and China combined. Israel has the highest percentage of start-ups in the world and is second only to the U.S. in absolute terms. (Jerusalem Post)

Video - Israel at 70: Flourishing against All Odds - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The rebirth of Israel is nothing short of a miracle. It involved dedication and commitment of a national movement that began with the establishment of Zionism, which is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. That movement brought the energies of a people back together and allowed for the Declaration of Independence by David Ben-Gurion in 1948.
  • At its birth, Israel was attacked by multiple Arab armies around it. Territorially, Israel is a country with little or no strategic depth. It takes only four minutes for a jet fighter to cross from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, giving Israel very little early warning time. Ten thousand square miles. You could drop Israel into the Great Lakes, and you wouldn't even hear the splash. Our Arab neighbors have 650 times the amount of territory. That gives them a distinct strategic advantage.
  • That's the miracle that Israelis will think about when they consider what the meaning is of the country being 70 years old. There was this extraordinary commitment to innovation. Every time our adversaries threw at us another strategic challenge, we had an answer.
  • Recently, we've been facing this threat of rocket fire from Lebanon and Gaza. So Israel develops the first really working rocket defense system. To replace the rockets, our adversaries develop tunnels to allow terrorists to come in their hundreds into Israeli territory and kill innocent civilians. So Israel makes the first anti-tunnel system in the world.
  • Israel also developed a formula for integrating diverse immigrants into our society - people from backgrounds like the Soviet Union, Ethiopia, Germany, the United States, India, Great Britain - and despite many flavors of Israeli society we became one. That determination, that commitment to making the Zionist experiment work, gave us enormous strength for facing every challenge that was hurled against us.
  • People like to ask, is Israel closer to being a Sparta, a military powerhouse, or an Athens, a country with art, poetry, and excellent universities? Frankly, Israel has to be both. You can't have an Athens in a dangerous Middle East unless you have some qualities of being a Sparta, which is able to defend itself. Since the days of its founding in 1948, Israel developed a doctrine that it must defend itself by itself.

    Amb. Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center, served in 2015-16 as Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously he served as Israel's Ambassador to the UN.