April 26, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

New York Times Corrects Calling Palestinian Payments to Terrorists "Far-Right Conspiracy" - Ira Stoll (Algemeiner)
    The New York Times has issued a correction backing down from a claim that reporting about Palestinian payments to families of terrorists is "far-right conspiracy programming."
    In the correction, the Times wrote that its original article "erroneously included a reference to Palestinian actions as an example of the sort of far-right conspiracy stories that have plagued Facebook."
    "In fact, Palestinian officials have acknowledged providing payments to the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis or convicted of terrorist acts and imprisoned in Israel; that is not a conspiracy theory."
    See also Checking the Washington Post's Fact Checker - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser and Sander Gerber (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    See also Palestinian Payments to Incarcerated Terrorists and Martyrs' Families Rise in 2017 - Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Israel Earmarks $5.6 Million for Technology Parks in Arab Towns - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    The Knesset committee for Arab affairs this week approved $5.6 million for the creation of technology parks within Arab towns in Israel.
    "The plan is expected to create conditions for the creation of thousands of new jobs" for Arabs in the high-tech sphere, the Prime Minister's Office said.
    In 2015, the government earmarked NIS 15 billion for the economic development of the Israeli Arab sector.
    "Within just two years we have already witnessed a significant increase of many growth indicators in Arab society," said Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel.
    These include more Arab students taking high school matriculation exams, more Arab students enrolled in higher education programs, and higher employment rates.

Anti-Semitic Incidents Reach Record Level in Canada (JTA)
    There were 1,752 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and violence in Canada in 2017, B'nai Brith Canada reported Tuesday.

Israeli Scientists Identify Early Breast Cancer More Accurately - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    A screening method that detects breast cancer more accurately and earlier has been developed Ben-Gurion University and Soroka-University Medical Center researchers, the journal Computers in Biology and Medicine reported.
    Researchers detected breast cancer with more than 95% accuracy using two different commercial electronic noses that identify unique breath patterns in women with breast cancer. In addition, revamped analyses of urine samples yielded 85% accuracy.
    "Our new approach utilizing urine and exhaled breath samples - analyzed with inexpensive, commercially available systems - is noninvasive," said Prof. Yehuda Zeiri, a member of Ben-Gurion University's department of biomedical engineering.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Seeking to Add to Iran Nuclear Deal, Not Eliminate It - Steve Inskeep
    Brian Hook, the State Department's policy planning director, told NPR that the Trump administration seeks to add to the nuclear deal with Iran, rather than eliminate it. Hook said the U.S. does not contemplate negotiating with Iran and that Western diplomats instead are discussing new measures they might jointly impose on Iran.
        "We're trying to address the deficiencies of the Iran nuclear deal" and achieve "a supplemental agreement that the president has requested that would address a lot of the problems that we have with the existing deal." New measures would include extending restrictions on Iranian nuclear development, parts of which begin to expire in 2025. "We also want to address Iran's intercontinental ballistic missile program and we need to deter Iran from its adventurism in the Middle East, which has destabilized the region."
        Hook noted that the Iran deal "is not a treaty, it's not an executive agreement. It has no signatures. It has no legal status. It is a political commitment by an administration that's no longer in office."  (NPR)
        See also below Observations: Strengthening the Iran Nuclear Deal - Ephraim Asculai, Emily B. Landau, Daniel Shapiro, and Moshe Ya'alon (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Yemen's Rebels Step Up Attacks on Saudi Aramco Oil Facilities - Asa Fitch and Summer Said
    Yemen's Houthi rebels say they have attacked Saudi Arabian Oil Co. installations using missiles and drones at least eight times since the beginning of March. On Monday they fired missiles at a Saudi oil port near the Yemen border. On April 3, the Houthis put a hole in the side of a Saudi-owned oil tanker traveling up the Red Sea. Other Houthi attacks have targeted a refinery and storage tanks in Jizan, near the Saudi-Yemen border, and a distribution facility in nearby Najran.
        The barrage of attacks has edged uncomfortably close to the core of the Saudi economy. Saudi Arabia sees the Houthis as proxies of their regional rival, Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Yemen's Houthis Are Ramping Up Their Weapons Capability - Asa Fitch
    In three years of war between Yemen's Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led military coalition, the rebels have fired more than 100 missiles at Saudi territory. Many Soviet and North Korean missiles fell into the hands of the Houthis when they took over parts of Yemen in 2014. In 2016, longer-range missiles began to appear. The Saudis say the missiles come from Iran in pieces through the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, and are welded back together by the Houthis. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: "If Iran Hits Tel Aviv, We'll Hit Tehran" - Liad Osmo
    Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Thursday that if Iran attacks Tel Aviv, Israel will attack Tehran "and destroy every Iranian military outpost in Syria threatening Israel," adding that the Islamic republic regime's days are numbered. In an interview with the London-based Elaf Saudi news site, Lieberman said that while Israel did not seek war with anyone, it will not tolerate an Iranian presence in Syria - "whatever the cost may be."
        "Iran is trying to establish bases in Syria and arm them with advanced weapons. From there it wants to attack us. I cannot sit idly by while I watch Iran do that close to the Golan Heights....The Russians know that we will not allow Iran to build bases in Syria and to transfer advanced weapons in order to attack us."  (Ynet News)
  • Russian Envoy Plays Down Tensions with Israel over Syria Strikes - Itamar Eichner
    On Wednesday, outgoing Russian Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein expressed concern at recent actions in Syria that have been attributed to Israel, while voicing his sympathy for Israel's own concerns. "Russia constantly takes into account Israel's concerns and interests vis-a-vis preserving its national security. We are, of course, concerned with the state of bilateral relations between Israel and Iran....We must also be concerned with Iran's presence in Syria now. It may lead to a worsening of the situation and a conflagration in the entire Middle East."
        Asked whether Israel could feel safe operating in Syria airspace, Shein said, "We are disinterested in such actions...[although] we do understand the reasons Israel feels obligated to carry out such actions in the first place." He added that Russia and Israel "have coordination and mutual updates regarding Syria. The two countries' defense ministries are cooperating."  (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Preparing for Its "Victory Picture" at Gaza Border - Alex Fishman
    In recent days, the Palestinians have advanced their jumping-off points towards the Israeli border and set up tents 100-200 meters from the fence. According to the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam, "teams for breaking through the fence" have been training to throw hooks at the fence and pull it down. The main goal of the riots, orchestrated by Hamas, remains to break through the fence, allowing thousands of Palestinians to run into Israeli territory. That's the "victory picture" Hamas is looking for on May 15. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Hamas Can't Mask Its Intent - Aviv Ezra
    "Israeli defense forces protect civilians as thousands riot in Gaza." This is a headline you probably have not seen following the violent riots orchestrated by Hamas, an internationally recognized terror organization, at the Gaza-Israel border. Hamas is marketing its campaign as "peaceful protests." When Hamas called for tens of thousands of Gazans to camp near the border of Israel, it was counting on things turning violent. It seeded the crowds with its militiamen. Hamas activists posted illustrated instructions on social media showing how to prepare firebombs. The writer is Israel's Consul General to nine Midwestern states. (Journal-Gazette-Fort Wayne, IN)
  • Changing Views of Israel in Syria - Elizabeth Tsurkov
    On April 17, 2018, Palestinian Prisoner's Day, a popular Syrian opposition website posted an infographic comparing Israeli prisons to those of the Assad regime. It showed that while 7,000 Palestinians are incarcerated in Israel, 220,000 Syrians are held in regime detention facilities. It also notes that 65,000 Syrians have died in regime detention over the past seven years.
        Shadi Martini serves as the director of humanitarian relief and regional relations for the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, an organization providing much of the aid passing through Israel. "People are really seeing Israel in a different way," he says. "People are not even afraid to talk about working with Israel, because their friends and families support them; otherwise, they would have stayed silent."
       The shift in views regarding Israel is coupled with an increasingly negative view of Palestinians among Syrian opposition supporters. Inside Syria, all but one Palestinian armed group have fought on the side of the regime. Palestinian organizations such as Fatah, the PLO and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine have either sided with the regime or remained silent about its crimes. (Forward)

Strengthening the Iran Nuclear Deal - Ephraim Asculai, Emily B. Landau, Daniel Shapiro, and Moshe Ya'alon (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • To strengthen the Iran nuclear deal without opening it to renegotiation, there are five main areas of concern: missiles, inspections, transparency, sanctions, and the sunset provisions.
  • Iran's insistence on not including its missiles as part of the nuclear negotiation effectively left the field open to the U.S. and Europeans to introduce whatever new understandings they see fit. However, a source of concern is the tendency to relate only to "long-range missiles." It is imperative to drop this misguided emphasis on range, as medium-range missiles already cover Israel, the Gulf states, and Turkey. Discussion must encompass all missiles that can carry a nuclear warhead. We urge reintegrating the standard for dangerous missiles set by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 1987: any missile with a range over 300 km. that can carry a payload of over 500 kg.
  • The demand for anytime/anyplace inspection rights was downgraded to convoluted provisions that enable Iran to delay an inspection and play for time. This ambiguity must be resolved and regular inspections must be conducted at military facilities.
  • The lack of transparency regarding Iran's nuclear activities and plans has become the norm since the deal was implemented. The quarterly IAEA reports on Iran now lack essential data that had been included in pre-JCPOA reports, and there are side-deals concluded between Iran and the IAEA that have been kept confidential.
  • Increasing pressure on Iran - including in response to missile tests, support for terror, action in Syria, and human rights violations - is essential as part of a broad effort to accumulate leverage over Iran. Absent such leverage, there will be no possibility of strengthening the deal through renewed negotiations with the Iranians.
  • The Trump administration is trying to achieve with the Europeans a supplementary accord that would cover the pressing issues of Iran's missile development and need for strengthened inspections, with no time limits. The administration also wants to significantly extend the limitations on Iran's work on the fuel cycle. Everything turns on political will - if it exists, agreeing to these steps should not entail a lengthy process.