April 20, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Celebrates 70 Years of Independence - Chaya Eisenberg (Jerusalem Post)
    As a bereaved father read the Yizkor prayer and the Israeli flag was returned to full mast on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Israel's Memorial Day segued into Independence Day.
    The ceremony opened with the song "Names and Faces," accompanied by a display of the names and faces of all 23,546 soldiers that have died in service to Israel since 1948.
    Israel's Eurovision-winning song "Hallelujah" was performed simultaneously at the event and 20 other locations around the globe.
    Torches were lit by 12 prominent members of Israeli society, including Druse spiritual leader in Israel Shaykh Mowafaq Tarif and Margalit Zinati from the Galilee village of Peki'in. The Zinati family has lived in Peki'in since the days of the Second Temple.
    See also Photos: Israelis Celebrate the Country's 70th Birthday - Jonathan Weber Rosen (Jerusalem Post)

Video: Watch 300 Drones Swarm over Jerusalem on Independence Day (Ha'aretz)
    300 drones lit up the sky over Jerusalem Wednesday night as Israel celebrated 70 years of independence.
    A modern take on the annual fireworks show, the drones created gorgeous blue and white images against the backdrop of the dark night sky.
    See also Video: A Pilot's View of the Independence Day Flyover (Times of Israel)
    Marking Israel's Independence Day, the Israel Air Force released a video recorded from inside the cockpit of a plane in the IAF's aerobatics team during the annual flyover performance.

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Poll: 82 Percent of Israelis Proud of the Country - Arik Bender (Jerusalem Post)
    On Israel's Independence Day, 82% of the country's citizens are proud to be Israeli, 56% of whom are very proud, according to a poll conducted this week for Maariv.
    Among those under the age of 29, 75% say that Israel is a good place to live, compared to 95% of those over the age of 60.

The West's Only Reliable Ally in the Middle East - Dominic Green (Spectator-UK)
    On Wednesday, Israel marked 70 years of statehood, reflecting the "Ingathering of the Exiles" as promised in the Book of Deuteronomy.
    Nothing like this has happened in recorded history. No other post-colonial state has remained a democracy while granting its people a developed-world standard of living.
    In the IMF's 2018 forecasts for GDP per capita, Israel is 23rd out of 193 states - just behind France and New Zealand, and just ahead of Japan and the UK.
    Due to the Arab boycott of Israel, most of which is still in place, the Israelis had to invent an economy and orient it to the West. The result is a knowledge-based society.
    Another factor was the windfall of highly trained engineers from the post-Soviet states, coupled with a fertile environment for private initiative.
    Israel has got so good at its defense that it has the most powerful military between the Atlantic and the Himalayas.
    Not bad for a tiny country that is also the West's only reliable ally in the Middle East.
    The whole country is an advanced listening post, and a constant source of intelligence to Western states.

EPA, Israeli Company Partner on "Water from Air" Technology - Jeff Kart (Forbes)
    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with an Israeli company called Water-Gen, which has developed a generator that pulls water vapor from the air to harvest drinking water.
    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the deal is "to advance atmospheric water generators as a viable technology for dramatically improving access to potable water during shortages or contamination events, like natural disasters," such as last year's hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Texas.
    Water-Gen says its technology is the most energy-efficient of its kind. It can reportedly generate a gallon of water for about 8 cents.

NASA to Test Israeli-Developed Radiation-Protection Suit - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    A suit developed by the Israeli company StemRad to protect astronauts from radiation will be launched into space as part of a feasibility study for NASA's Mars mission in 2021.
    The suit is designed to protect organs that are particularly sensitive to the development of cancer due to exposure to radiation.

Israel Firm to Print Parts for NASA's Orion Spacecraft (Globes)
    Israeli 3D printing technology developer Stratasys is teaming with Lockheed Martin Space to deliver next-generation 3D-printed parts for NASA's Orion deep-space spacecraft.
    Stratasys' advanced materials include a thermoplastic that can perform in the extremes of deep space.
    NASA's EM-2 mission will go near the moon, with astronauts on board, for the first time since 1972.

32 Breathtaking Photos of Jerusalem - Noam Chen (Times of Israel)

New Israeli "Snake" Robot Is Lightweight, Small and Inexpensive - Brian Blum (Israel21c)
    David Zarrouk, head of Ben-Gurion University's Bio-Inspired and Medical Robotics Lab, has developed a robot that moves like a snake that he says would be ideal for agriculture (picking fruit), industry, search-and-rescue and even fixing, docking or refueling satellites in outer space.
    Zarrouk's next project is a robotic pill that moves through the intestines like a worm and can be remote controlled.

Tourism to Israel Keeps Smashing Records - Sarah Moosazadeh (Atlanta Jewish Times)
    February was a record month for tourism in Israel and 2017 was a record year, with more than 3.6 million visitors, says Dana Shemesh, the Southeast U.S. director of public relations for the Israel Ministry of Tourism.
    Israel welcomed 949,000 tourists in the first three months of 2018, up 29% from the same quarter in 2017.
    The biggest increases in March came from Poland, Sweden, Spain, Germany and France.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Moves in Syria Raise Risk of Conflict with Israel - Yaroslav Trofimov
    Israel faces a harsh new world as Syria's civil war winds down: the Iranian threat now is next door, with Iranian military forces already entrenching themselves in Syrian bases within striking distance of Israeli towns. In Israeli assessments, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria has now switched its primary mission from preventing a collapse of Assad's regime to preparing for a future confrontation with Israel.
        "Their first priority has changed and Israel is the target," said former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror. "They want to prevent Israel from reacting in any way to the next stage, in which Iran is building its nuclear capability. For us it is essential to stop Iran and for that we are ready to take the risk of a war....Israel may find itself having to do the critical job of containing Iran in the Levant by itself."
        Letting Tehran solidify its military presence in Syria would be "agreeing to the Iranians placing a noose around our necks," Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned last week. For Iran, seeking to wipe out the Israeli state has become a central tenet of the Islamic Republic's ideology.
        "Iran is the cancer in the Middle East. We will not give it a chance to sit next to our border," said Akram Hasson, a Druze member of Israel's parliament. "If it doesn't work in a diplomatic way, then we will use every other solution. If it will have to be a war to defend our cities and our citizens, then we will have to go to war." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Pentagon: Syria Still Has Capability for Chemical Attacks - Ellen Mitchell
    Lt.-Gen. Kenneth McKenzie said Thursday the Syrian government retains "a residual capability" to conduct a chemical weapons attack, "probably spread throughout the country at a variety of sites. They will have the ability to conduct limited attacks in the future. I would not rule that out. However, as they contemplate the dynamics of conducting those attacks, they've got to look over their shoulder and be worried that we're looking at them and we'll have the ability to strike them again should it be necessary."  (The Hill)
  • Romania to Move Israel Embassy to Jerusalem
    Romania has begun efforts to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) leader Liviu Dragnea announced on Thursday. Dragnea told Antena 3 TV that the government had agreed on "the start of procedures with a view to the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem. The decision has been taken....I think the decision will produce major benefits for Romania. This is also a pragmatic approach. Like all of us, Israel has the right to establish its capital where it wants."
        Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday six countries were in serious discussions to move their embassies to Jerusalem. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Prepares for Renewed Rioting by Palestinians at Gaza Border - Juliane Helmhold
    The IDF deployed troops on Friday near the border with Gaza, in preparation for renewed rioting along the fence as has been the case on every Friday in recent weeks. The IDF dropped leaflets over Gaza warning residents against approaching the border fence and attempts to breach it and carry out terror attacks. "Hamas exploits you to carry out terrorist attacks....Hamas is using you to advance their own interests. Don't listen to Hamas' instructions as this will endanger your life - your future is in your hands."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Police Find Bomb in Palestinian Truck on Independence Day - Yoav Zitun and Moran Azulay
    The Israel Defense Ministry said Wednesday that guards found a powerful explosive device hidden in the roof of a Palestinian truck seeking to cross into Israel at the Reihan checkpoint in the northern West Bank. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, "The alertness and professionalism of the Land Crossing Authority's people has led to the explosive charge's discovery and the foiling of a large attack planned for our 70th Independence Day."  (Ynet News)
  • EU Parliament Passes Law Against Palestinian Incitement - Itamar Eichner
    The European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday adopted legislation preventing the transfer of funds from the EU's PEGASE aid mechanism to the Palestinian Authority if those funds are to be used for education to hatred. Classes and instruction programs funded using EU funds must reflect shared values such as peace, liberty, tolerance and non-discrimination. (Ynet News)
        See also European Parliament Condemns Hamas for Terror, Use of Human Shields - Raphael Ahren
    The European Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution that denounces Hamas as a terrorist group that uses human shields, calls for Israel's destruction and "seems to aim at escalating tensions" at the Gaza-Israel border. The motion also calls for the release of Israeli citizens and the bodies of fallen soldiers held by Hamas in Gaza. The carefully balanced text also backs calls for probes into Israel's use of live ammunition to fend off protesters at the border. (Times of Israel)
  • Abbas Warmly Welcomes Terrorist Released from Jail
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Rajaei Haddad, who spent two decades in prison for his role in the November 1997 murder of yeshiva student Gabriel Hirschberg in the Old City of Jerusalem. The meeting was broadcast on PA TV immediately upon his release. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Israel and Iran Are Headed for a Collision in Syria - Avi Issacharoff
    The routing of ISIS and the reestablishment of Assad's rule across much of Syria, alongside the lack of American interest in the country except after major chemical attacks, is facilitating the expansion of Iran's de facto takeover in much of Syria. With each passing day the sensation in Israel of standing alone against the Iranian gambit to turn Syria into an Iranian forward base grows more intense.
        While Israel has stated clearly that it will not allow an Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, the Iranians are not showing any signs of curtailing their actions; on the contrary, they are exhibiting signs of escalation. Iran's Revolutionary Guards are establishing permanent bases in Syria, intended for Shiite militias that Iran funds, along with airbases and seaports. Tehran is meanwhile buying swaths of the Syrian economy (phosphates, mobile network operators, etc.). (Atlantic)
  • State Sponsors of Terrorism: An Examination of Iran's Global Terrorism Network - Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi
    Since its establishment, the Islamic Republic of Iran has viewed Latin America as a fertile ground for the export of its revolution. Tehran wants the Western Hemisphere to become a hotbed of anti-Americanism and a forward operating base for Iran. To this end, over nearly four decades, Tehran has built a network of mosques and cultural centers across the region. It aggressively expanded its base of supporters and sympathizers by dispatching itinerant preachers, who have successfully converted and radicalized thousands of Latin Americans to Iran's version of Shi'a Islam.
        Iran has also helped Hizbullah establish itself as the dominant force among expatriate Shi'a Lebanese communities in the region. From testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee on April 17, 2018. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • Examining Iran's Global Terrorism Network - Nader Uskowi
    The U.S. State Department considers Iran the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism. Iran's direct mechanism for supporting and directing terrorist organizations like Lebanese Hizbullah, the Taliban, and countless anti-American Iraqi militias is the shadowy Qods Force. Its army of 200,000 organized, trained, armed, and motivated youth poses a significant threat to the American homeland and especially to U.S. forces stationed abroad. Furthermore, this threat is enduring and ideological, designed to outlast the Islamic Republic itself. From testimony before the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on April 17, 2018. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Palestinians

  • Why Gaza's "March of Return" Isn't Dominating Arab Headlines - Marc Lynch
    In previous years, popular Arab media outlets would have typically broadcast wall-to-wall coverage of the Gaza clashes accompanied by furious talk shows and mobilizational programming, drowning out all other issues. Yet this time the events erupted in the middle of a crowded regional political agenda. The crisis faced competition for attention from wars in Yemen and Syria, and the drama surrounding the Trump administration and the potential end of the Iran nuclear agreement.
        Two of the most popular Arabic television stations are Saudi Arabia's al-Arabiya and Qatar's Al Jazeera. Their official Twitter feeds represent the choices of the station's management over what content to feature. While 18% of Al Jazeera's tweets between March 30 and April 8 were about Gaza, only 2% of al-Arabiya tweets were, mirroring Saudi priorities. Even 18% of tweets on Al Jazeera is a far cry from full time, round-the-clock attention, while Syria topics outweighed Gaza by 6 to 1 over the past two weeks on the station's nightly "Behind the News" talk show program. The writer is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. (Washington Post)
  • Global Community Must Recognize Hamas Tactics in Gaza - Shimon Koffler Fogel
    As in any democracy, countless non-violent demonstrations take place in Israel in which no one is harmed. However, far from holding peaceful protests on the Gaza border, Hamas orchestrated violent clashes. Hamas published pictures of its slain "martyrs" dressed in combat gear.
        Hamas' "great march of return" is a clear statement that the group maintains its claim to the entire land. To insist that Palestinian rights can only be realized by denying the rights of Israelis is to destroy any hope for peace. The international community often voices its desire for a negotiated two-state solution. Yet, these declarations ring hollow when the UN indulges the Palestinian leadership in its zero-sum mentality, as the Security Council did in its response to the clashes.
        The global community must recognize Hamas' tactics for what they are: a cynical provocation designed to cause bloodshed and make peace even more elusive. The writer is CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federations of Canada. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
  • The March of Return Negates a Two-State Solution - Yossi Klein Halevi
    In the recent clashes on the Gaza-Israel border, what has been missed by most observers is the rare clarifying moment that this confrontation has offered: The March of Return is an explicit negation of a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza coexisting beside Israel.
        If Palestinians living in Gaza under Hamas rule still see themselves as refugees intent on "returning" to the Jewish state, then the only concession that can satisfy their aspirations is Israel's national suicide. The real message of the protests is that the conflict is not about undoing the consequences of 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza came under Israeli rule in the Six-Day War, but about overturning 1948 - when Israel was born.
        As Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh put it, the attempt to breach the border is the beginning of the return to "all of Palestine." The goal is the creation of a Palestinian state erasing Israel. The writer is a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Syria

  • Why France Attacked Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities - Amb. Freddy Eytan
    To justify France's participation in the April 14 attack on chemical weapons installations in Syria, French President Emmanuel Macron released an official intelligence report that provides reasons for the attack. The report reveals that Assad's regime did not supply details of all the chemical reserves under its authority as required by the 2013 Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons. The report stressed that there is no shadow of a doubt that on April 7, the Assad regime used chemical weapons in eastern Ghouta against the local civilian population.
        In the attack on Syria, France fired 12 cruise missiles, participated in all of the operative planning, and coordinated its political positions with the U.S. and UK at the Security Council. The writer, a former Foreign Ministry senior advisor who was Israel's first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, heads the Israel-Europe Project at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Logic of the Chemical Attack in Syria - Hassan Mneimneh
    Even though the battle for the suburbs of Damascus was nearing its end, the Assad regime did indeed undertake the chemical attack, not for any military purpose, but in an effort to restore the only formula within which the regime can survive: "We will kill you, we will maim you, we will inflict horrible suffering on your children, and you have no recourse; submit and suffer less; resist and be viciously exterminated."
        The Damascus regime's one consistent message to its population since the onset of the uprising in 2011 is: the world does not care about you; and even if it did, it lacks the resources to act; promises of support from the U.S. are meaningless; Europe is impotent; backing from the regimes in the Gulf and the aspiring neo-Ottoman Sultanate in Turkey is ephemeral and futile. You will be defeated, you will be punished, and, if we spare your miserable life, you will proclaim your absolute allegiance to the President from under the boots of our soldiers.
        For example, thirsty residents of Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus, having suffered a devastating siege and bombardment, were ushered on Syrian television to chant their readiness to sacrifice soul and blood for the leader, as a prerequisite to receiving a few precious bottles of water. The writer is a contributing editor with the Washington Institute's Fikra Forum and a principal at Middle East Alternatives in Washington. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Other Issues

  • Jewish-Arab Demography Defies Conventional Wisdom - Yoram Ettinger
    In 2016, there were 3.16 births per Jewish woman in Israel compared with 3.11 per Arab woman. Almost all Arab girls in Israel and the West Bank now complete high school, and increasingly enroll in colleges and universities, a process that has delayed the wedding age. According to the Population Reference Bureau, women in the Palestinian Authority rank second (72%) - following Morocco (78%) and together with Jordan (70%) - among Muslim users of contraceptives and general avoidance of pregnancy.
        Furthermore, an intense urbanization process has transformed Arabs in the West Bank from a 70% rural society in 1967 to a 75% urban society - from a society which provided a convenient environment for a multitude of children who were considered an essential labor force, to a society which does not require many children. Indeed, a dramatic decline in Islamic fertility rate has taken place throughout the Muslim world. Moreover, there has been an Arab net-emigration from the West Bank of around 20,000 annually in recent years.
        In 2017, the share of Jewish births in Israel was 76.5%. The rise of Israel's Jewish fertility rate is due to the secular Jewish sector, including the yuppies of Tel Aviv - a derivative of the high level of optimism and patriotism, the attachment to national roots, and a sense of collective-communal responsibility.
        In 2018, notwithstanding official Palestinian numbers which are regurgitated without due diligence, there are 6.6 million Jews in Israel, next to 1.85 million Israeli Arabs and 1.85 million Arabs in the West Bank. The writer is a member of the American-Israel Demographic Research Group. (Jewish Policy Center)

  • Weekend Features

  • The Red Mailbox - Jonathan Davis
    In 1971 I was a young, lone soldier who had immigrated to Israel from California. I lived in Jerusalem in a building where I did not know my neighbors at all since I was in the army most of the time. They were all much older, from the FSU and especially from Georgia, and they spoke little to no Hebrew.
        When I came back from the 1973 Yom Kippur War after not being home for two months, I noticed that my mailbox was painted red. I turned to an elderly gentleman who usually sat at the entrance of the building. He seemed to be some kind of leader who took care of the building's affairs, and he wore a beautifully knit skullcap. I asked what the residents had against me personally so as to single out my mailbox.
        He said that my return alive and healthy may well have been because of them. They knew I was away fighting for the State of Israel and the Jewish people and so they painted my mailbox red so that the Angel of Death would skip over my threshold - just like in the Passover story when our ancestors painted their doorposts red so that the Angel of Death would skip over the Jews.
        It was at that moment that I realized that the blood flowing in the veins of these new immigrants, whose mentality I could not understand, was the same Jewish blood that flowed through mine. The simple fact was that we were all Jews in our Jewish homeland. I understood their love of their fellow Jew, their love of the Land of Israel and their love of the IDF. This is my Israel. The writer is vice president for External Relations at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya. (Times of Israel)
  • The African Holiday Village Run by Israeli Agents - Raffi Berg
    A soon-to-be released Hollywood film called "Red Sea Diving Resort" tells the story of Arous Village, an idyllic holiday resort in Sudan on the banks of the Red Sea. It was set up and run for more than four years in the early 1980s by operatives from the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, as a cover for an extraordinary humanitarian mission - to rescue thousands of Ethiopian Jews stranded in refugee camps in Sudan. Sudan was an enemy Arab country, and it had to be done without anyone finding out.
        When Mossad agents went to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches, they stumbled across the deserted village on the coast that had been built in 1972 by Italian entrepreneurs. With no electricity, water supply or even a road, the Italians found the project impossible and the resort never opened. The agents, posing as employees of a Swiss company, rented the village for three years.
        Arous Village became so successful that it became financially self-sustaining, hosting an Egyptian army unit, a group of British SAS soldiers, foreign diplomats from Khartoum and Sudanese officials - all unaware of their hosts' true identity. Every so often at night a squad from the staff would leave under cover of darkness, pick up groups of Ethiopian Jews, and bring them to the beach where Israeli navy teams would collect them and bring them to Israel. (BBC News)

How Other Countries Can Help Israel Celebrate Independence Day - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the diplomatic corps on Wednesday at a reception at the President's Residence in Jerusalem marking Israel's Independence Day:
  • There are two things that you can do to help Israel celebrate this great Independence Day. The first thing is - speak out against Iran. Iran is the enemy of us all - of Israel, the Arab world, civilization. In 2018, the 21st century, it openly speaks about liquidating Israel.
  • It encircles the whole Middle East which it wants to conquer, it fires rockets into Riyadh and Saudi Arabia, it is occupying Lebanon effectively, it's trying to inflame Gaza again, it is in Iraq, and it is trying to establish a military base in Syria.
  • All peace-loving nations should resist, speak out against Iran. If history has taught us anything, it is that a murderous tyranny must be opposed in the beginning.
  • The second thing you can do to advance peace is to move your embassy here. We are delighted with President Trump's decision to move the embassy here. It says a simple thing: Peace must be based on truth. Recognizing reality is the way you build peace.
  • That the Jewish people have had a capital for 3,000 years and that it's called Jerusalem - is uncontestable. It's time to recognize that fact.
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