May 14, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Russia Balks at Arming Syria with Missiles after Netanyahu Talks - Henry Meyer (Bloomberg)
    Russia has no plans currently to deliver advanced S-300 air-defense systems to Syria, President Vladimir Putin's aide on military cooperation said, an apparent reversal following talks between the Russian leader and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    "We're not discussing any deliveries of advanced new systems" to Syria, Vladimir Kozhin told Izvestia on Friday.

Report: Russia Warned Iran Ahead of Israeli Strikes in Syria - Adil Al-Salmi (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    An informed source told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that a Russian "warning" was issued ahead of the recent clashes between Israel and Iran in Syria.
    The Israeli strikes came a few hours after a surprise visit by Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Tehran. Ryabkov carried a message from Moscow in the wake of a meeting held between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    Last week, Netanyahu showed Putin evidence that Iran was establishing missile plants in Syria and was preparing for a missile attack on Israel.
    According to the source, when Ryabkov informed concerned Iranian parties about the discussions between Netanyahu and Putin, a war of words emerged between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Bagheri concerning the intentions of the Revolutionary Guards to launch a missile attack.

Islamic Terrorist Kills 1, Wounds 4 in Paris Knife Attack - Elian Peltier and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times)
    A man armed with a knife and shouting "Allahu akbar" killed one person and wounded four, two of them seriously, in an attack near the Paris Opera, according to French police.
    Islamic State claimed the attacker as its "soldier," while President Emmanuel Macron called the assailant, who was killed by police, a "terrorist."
    See also Paris Knife Attacker Was French Citizen Born in Chechnya - Emmanuel Jarry (Reuters)

The Real Target of the T-4 Attack in Syria: An Advanced Iranian Aerial Defense System - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    On April 9, Israel bombed the T-4 airbase in Syria. Seven Iranians were killed in the attack, but they were not the target. The target was the "3rd Khordad" aerial defense system, an Iranian copy of the Russian S-300 system.
    Once the system was unloaded off of an Iranian transport plane at the T-4 base, it was destroyed before even being unpacked.

Israel Wins Eurovision Song Contest - Andrei Khalip (Reuters)
    Israel's Netta Barzilai won the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon on Saturday, bringing Israel its fourth victory in the pageant and the right to host the event next year.
    See also Video: Israel Wins Eurovision after Dramatic Public Vote (BBC)

Israeli Drone Racers Knock Down "Kite Bombs" from Gaza - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Israel has begun enlisting amateur drone racers to deal with the onslaught of burning kites being flown from Gaza into Israel, where they start fires.
    The racer drones, first deployed on Friday, either fly through the kites to shred them or down them with the help of fishhooks.
    On Saturday, Israeli security forces arrived at a site where a kite landed and discovered an explosive device hidden inside, with a remote detonator which could be operated from a mobile phone.
    See also IDF Deploys Drones to Counter Incendiary Kites - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF is using small remote-controlled aircraft with knives on their wings to counter incendiary kites launched from Gaza.
    The IDF has downed more than 40 kites, according to Walla.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Jerusalem Gears Up to Welcome the New U.S. Embassy - Ruth Eglash
    The road to Jerusalem was decorated with American and Israeli flags on Monday for the official opening of the U.S. Embassy. President Trump will address the crowd via live video linkup. Traveling with the official delegation, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, "In a fractured Middle East, now is the time for America to have Israel's back."  (Washington Post)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Welcomes U.S. Delegation for Opening of U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem at "Thank You America" Event (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Dozens of Countries Participate in Israel's Celebrations of U.S. Embassy Move - Noa Landau
    An event Sunday hosted by Israel's Foreign Ministry for the U.S. delegation in Israel for the U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem was attended by representatives from Albania, Angola, Austria, Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Kenya, Macedonia, Burma, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Serbia, South Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine, Vietnam, Paraguay, Tanzania and Zambia. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israeli President Rivlin: Diplomatic "Blockade" on Jerusalem Has Been Broken (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Ended Palestinian Veto over Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's Capital
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Friday that the decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Monday "creates an opportunity and a platform to proceed with a peace process on the basis of realities rather than fantasies, and we're fairly optimistic that this decision will ultimately create greater stability rather than less."
        "The United States makes its decisions on the basis of what's in the best interests of the United States, and whether it's the Jerusalem decision or the decision on Iran or - I could name 10 more - the analysis is what is in the best interests of the United States."
        "What the President saw was that the Palestinians essentially had a veto over the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, meaning that if you say we're only going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital when the Palestinians say it's okay, you're empowering the leverage in a way that's not helpful. And frankly, that card has been misplayed over many years....There's also a recognition that circumstances are changing, that the world is moving ahead and people have to kind of get on board before events overtake them."  (U.S. State Department)
  • U.S. Embassy Move to Jerusalem Seen as Israeli Triumph - Mehul Srivastava
    Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner will join hundreds of luminaries in Jerusalem to applaud the long-delayed opening of an American embassy in Israel's capital. With the symbolic move from Tel Aviv, U.S. President Donald Trump will reverse seven decades of U.S. policy, defying a longstanding international consensus. But for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the embassy inauguration will be a diplomatic triumph. On Monday, he will oversee the fulfilment of a cherished national goal - the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital by its most powerful ally. (Financial Times-UK)
  • White House Calls on Qatar to Stop Funding Pro-Iranian Militias - Con Coughlin
    The Trump administration has called on Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militias following the disclosure of emails from senior Qatari officials to leading members of Hizbullah as well as senior commanders in Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The emails show that senior members of the Qatari government are on friendly terms with Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, and Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbullah.
        A senior U.S. security official said, "At a time when the U.S. government is trying to persuade Iran to end its support for terror groups in the Middle East, we do not believe it is helpful that Qatar continues to have ties with such organizations." In one of the emails, a senior Qatari official reports that 50 million pounds was paid to Soleimani in April 2017, while another 25 million pounds was paid to an Iraqi Shia terror organization that is accused of killing scores of American troops in southern Iraq. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • 28 Palestinians Said Killed at Gaza Border, Including Terror Operatives - Yoav Zitun
    Some 50,000 Palestinians gathered at the Gaza border fence on Monday and clashed with IDF forces. 25 were reportedly killed and hundreds were wounded. The IDF killed three terrorists who tried to plant an explosive device in the Rafah area. (Ynet News)
        See also Hoping to Break Through Border Fence, Hamas Posts Maps to Show Gazans Shortest Routes to Israeli Communities
    On Sunday, Hamas posted pictures and maps on social media showing the shortest routes from the border fence to nearby Israeli communities in case Palestinian rioters manage to breach the security fence. (i24News)
        See also Israel Drops Leaflets Warning Palestinians to Avoid Gaza Border
    Israeli planes dropped leaflets in Gaza on Monday ahead of expected protests along the border with Israel, warning Palestinians not to approach the security fence. "You are taking part in violent riots which jeopardize your lives. Hamas is taking advantage of you in order to hide its failures," they read. With the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday followed by Nakba Day and the beginning of Ramadan on Tuesday, the IDF is gearing up for several days of violence. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Hamas Plans to Carry Out a Massacre in Israel
    On Monday, May 14, Hamas plans to send armed terrorists among 250,000 violent rioters to swarm and breach Israel's border with Gaza and enter Israeli communities. Hamas plans to carry out a massacre in Israel. The Israel Defense Forces will not let them. (IDF Spokesperson)
  • Israel Closes Gaza Crossing to Repair Damage by Palestinian Rioters
    Israel on Saturday announced the closure of the Kerem Shalom border crossing into Gaza, a day after Palestinian rioters caused immense damage to key infrastructure. Hundreds of cargo-bearing trucks pass through the checkpoint into Gaza each day, the only entry point for outside goods. The IDF said the crossing would remain closed until gas lines, electricity infrastructure, and a conveyor belt used to transfer goods can be repaired. The cost of repairing the damage is estimated at $9 million. (Times of Israel)
        See also UN Warns of Collapse of Services in Gaza unless Fuel Gets In
    Two days after hundreds of Palestinians destroyed the fuel terminal at the main cargo crossing with Israel, the UN warned Sunday of dwindling fuel supplies needed to run hospitals, pick up garbage, pump water and treat sewage. Officials say it could take months to repair the damage. Israel has held Gaza's Hamas rulers responsible. (AP)
  • Israel Strikes Gaza Attack Tunnel - Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury
    The Israel Air Force struck an attack tunnel in Gaza on Saturday headed toward the Israeli community of Kibbutz Erez. (Ha'aretz)
  • Tens of Thousands Parade through Old City during Jerusalem Day Flag March - Stuart Winer and Jacob Magid
    Some 45,000 people paraded through the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday in the annual Flag March, this year marking the 51st anniversary of the reunification of the city during the 1967 Six-Day War. The march began in downtown Jerusalem and moved toward the Western Wall in the Old City (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Don't Think the U.S. Embassy Belongs in Jerusalem? Get Over It. - Naftali Bennett
    The inauguration of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem is the start of a new era, one in which the international community's relationship is based on reality and fact, not fantasy and fiction. At the most basic level, it states what has been obvious to Jews for thousands of years: Jerusalem is, has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people. Israel named Jerusalem its capital in December 1949.
        By moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the United States is making a statement: Israel is no longer a second-class country whose capital isn't recognized by the world. By acknowledging Jerusalem as our capital, President Trump has given us the respect and dignity all other nations have enjoyed for a long time.
        There is no other country whose capital is questioned by the world, and Israel should not suffer from such discrimination. Even though Israel has long made clear that Jerusalem is its capital, we have been disrespected and our decision ignored. Today, that starts to change. The writer, Israel's minister of education and minister of diaspora affairs, has been a member of the security cabinet since 2013. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. and Israel Aligned Against Iran - Felicia Schwartz
    U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu share the view that confronting and checking Iran is more important to regional stability than solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advisers to both men say. On Monday, the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem will present another demonstration of how aligned the Trump administration is with Israel. "Whether it's the Jerusalem decision or the decision on Iran or I could name 10 more, the analysis is what is in the best interest of the United States," said U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
        "I think that it's important not just with respect to Israel but with respect to [other Arab states] that there not be an impression that the U.S. is pulling back," said Dore Gold, former director general of Israel's foreign ministry and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Israel No Longer Alone Facing Iran - Moshe Arens (Ha'aretz)

Gaza: A Failed Experiment by Hamas - U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt (Jerusalem Post)
  • As Hamas continues to exploit protests to foment violence against Israel, finding a way to help the people of Gaza in any meaningful way becomes more and more challenging. All parties interested in bringing change to Gaza need to face the reality that Hamas has failed its own people.
  • In the op-ed "Why I March in Gaza" (New York Times, April 27), Abu Shammalah describes the protestors at the Gaza border as unarmed, when many are actually armed. And his characterization of protests as nonviolent does not capture the protestors who are quite violent. An inspiring description of how "kites flew" towards the fence must be balanced by pointing out that petrol bombs and swastikas were attached to some of those kites.
  • Let's get real about this - Hamas, and its enablers, such as Iran, are squarely to blame for the desperate situation in Gaza. Hamas has consistently put its own destructive priorities above those of Gaza's weary and increasingly desperate population.
  • Deep and pervasive donor fatigue has set in. Donors understand that none of us can significantly change the situation in Gaza in the current environment. No one wants to spend money building and rebuilding, only to find what they built is damaged or destroyed in yet another conflict.
  • I have met many people from Gaza - impressive, resilient people. But there will be a limit to what we can do for them while Hamas is in charge. Hamas has managed to bring the people of Gaza, a people with a proud history and great potential, nearly back to the Stone Age.
  • I believe that, given a real choice, the people of Gaza would reject this failed Hamas experiment. The fact is, Palestinians in Gaza need to be re-united with their West Bank counterparts under a single, responsible Palestinian Authority leadership.

    The writer serves as Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations.

        See also Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel Is a Necessary Condition for a Lasting Peace Deal - U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt (Twitter)