May 23, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Embassy: Image of Jewish Temple "Thrust in Front" of Envoy Friedman for Photo - Michael Bachner (Times of Israel)
    The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Tuesday said a doctored aerial image in which the Muslim Dome of the Rock was replaced by a depiction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was unknowingly "thrust in front of" U.S. Ambassador David Friedman for a photo, during a visit to a non-profit that works to integrate children with learning disabilities.
    "Ambassador Friedman was not aware of the image thrust in front of him when the photo was taken....U.S. policy is absolutely clear: we support the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount," the embassy said.
    The non-profit apologized "from the bottom of our heart" for the "cheap political act" of an employee.

Watch Israeli Drone Intercepting Burning Kites from Gaza - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Israel has knocked 150 incendiary kites out of the skies in the last week alone using special drones.
    The drone is equipped with a camera that offers a close-up view of the moment when it tears into the incoming kites, chopping them down in their path.

Lava Threatens Israeli-Owned Geothermal Plant in Hawaii - Jae C. Hong and Sophia Yan (AP-Times of Israel)
    Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.
    The Puna Geothermal Venture plant, owned by Israel's Ormat Technologies, produces 1/4 of Big Island's energy, harnessing heat and steam from the earth's core to spin turbines to generate power.

In Bid to Buy Influence, Turkey Hands Out Money in East Jerusalem - Yori Yalon (Israel Hayom)
    The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), an agency of the Turkish government, handed out $420,000 in $500 checks to east Jerusalem merchants and residents in recent days as a gift for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israel Hayom discovered Monday.
    TIKA also handed out Turkish flags, which some east Jerusalem store owners hung at the entrances to their businesses.
    It appears that the money handouts are to drum up support for Turkey's positions among the city's Muslim population.
    See also Turkey Supports Palestinian Bid to Try Israel at International Court (Hurriyet-Turkey)

Louisiana Governor Issues Executive Order Prohibiting Business with Companies that Boycott Israel - Julia O'Donoghue (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
    Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order Tuesday prohibiting the Louisiana state government from doing business with companies that boycott Israel and terminating existing state contracts with companies that do so.
    "The United States, and by affiliation Louisiana, have benefited in innumerable ways from our deep friendship with Israel. Any effort to boycott Israel is an affront to this longstanding relationship," Edwards said.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Rejects Russia's Call for All Foreign Troops to Leave Syria - Tom O'Connor
    Iran has rejected Russia's call for all foreign troops to leave Syria. Russian President Putin met with Syrian President Assad on Friday in Sochi and said that all foreign forces should eventually leave Syria. On Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi responded: "No one can force Iran to do anything, Iran is an independent country that determines its own policies. The presence of Iran is at the invitation of the Syrian government."  (Newsweek)
  • Palestinians Ask International Criminal Court for "Immediate" Probe Against Israel - Mike Corder
    Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki on Tuesday asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague to open an "immediate investigation" into alleged Israeli crimes committed against the Palestinian people. Malki said he submitted the "referral" during a meeting with ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. (AP)
        See also Israel: Palestinian Referral to ICC Is Legally Invalid
    The purported Palestinian referral to the International Criminal Court is a cynical step without legal validity. The ICC lacks jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian issue, since Israel is not a member of the Court and because the Palestinian Authority is not a state.
        The Palestinians continue to exploit the Court for political purposes, rather than work towards resuming the peace process with Israel. Israel expects the ICC to stand firm against continued Palestinian efforts to politicize the Court. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also U.S.: Bringing Israel before ICC Is Counterproductive
    State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Tuesday: "We oppose the actions taking place against Israel at the International Criminal Court because we see that simply as counterproductive....It doesn't help the cause for peace."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also White House Mulling Move Against Palestinian Mission over ICC Push - Eric Cortellessa
    The White House is considering action against Palestinian diplomats in Washington after the PA asked the International Criminal Court on Tuesday to investigate alleged Israeli crimes. According to a 2015 U.S. law, the PA is subject to penalties if it pursues the prosecution of Israelis at the ICC, including the closure of their diplomatic mission to the U.S. run by the Palestine Liberation Organization. (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Keeps Disrupting Iranian Activity in Syria - Yoav Zitun
    Israel has remained active in Syria after the May 10 strike in response to rockets fired by Iranians at IDF posts in the Golan Heights, a senior Israel Air Force officer said Tuesday. "We can assume that operations have been carried out since the latest strike in Syria, and we are maintaining our freedom of action," he said. (Ynet News)
  • Defense Minister Lieberman: The Hamas Military Project Is a Failure - Juliane Helmhold
    "Tonight, the IDF destroyed another tunnel of the Hamas terrorist organization. Attempts to attack the State of Israel from the air, the ground or underground will be blocked by an iron wall that is the IDF forces," Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Twitter Wednesday. "It would be good for Hamas leaders to internalize that their military project is a failure and invest resources in improving the lives of Gaza residents."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Strikes Tunnel, Seaport in Gaza
    In addition to targeting underground terror infrastructure in Gaza early Wednesday, the Israel Air Force attacked two Hamas naval targets. Local residents said the strikes destroyed a boat due to sail to meet a flotilla of boats hoping to reach Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • An Aggressive Plan to Defang Iran - Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz
    On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out an aggressive plan for defanging Iran's theocratic regime. He identified the problem: a regime that is bent on extending its imperial frontiers, developing nuclear arms, and abusing its citizens. The guardians of the theocracy believe that their revolution succeeds only if it is relentlessly exported.
        To negate Iran's challenge, Pompeo outlined steps to deplete Iran's treasury, bolster local alliances, and assist the Iranian people in their quest to emancipate themselves from the clutches of tyranny. The U.S. should not implore its allies to share the Middle East with Iran, but partner with them in defeating the imperialists.
        Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mark Dubowitz is chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Pompeo Raises the Price for Iran to Rejoin International Community - Eli Lake (Bloomberg)
  • The Media's Misplaced Sympathy for the Hamas Lynch Mob - Alan Dershowitz
    As evidence mounts that Hamas intended to murder Israeli children, women and men after breaching the border fence to Israel, Hamas apologists must ask themselves why they are on the wrong side of morality. It was a lynch mob. The goal of the lynchers, according to Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas political leader, was to "take down the border" and "tear their hearts from their bodies." According to the Wall Street Journal, "Hamas posted maps for their operatives showing the quickest routes from the border to Israeli homes, schools and day care centers."
        Thankfully, the Israeli military, who are the good guys in this encounter, were there to protect innocent civilians from being lynched. Only Hamas can stop the bloodshed. But it won't as long as the media gives it public relations victories every time Israel kills in self-defense. The media incentivizes this Hamas tactic by its gruesome focus on the body count. The writer is Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School. (Fox News)
  • Erdogan's Turkey: A Caliphate in the Making? - Zvi Mazel
    The new crisis with Israel initiated by Turkish President Erdogan following U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Gaza demonstrations should be regarded as an integral part of his bid for regional hegemony. His vision is a major departure from the policy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, who not only abolished the caliphate and separated religion from the state, but also turned his back on the Arab world, which he saw as a burden hampering his country's progress toward parity with the developed West.
        Erdogan's new course has embroiled the country in conflicts with many of its neighbors (Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria). He is the same leader who once pledged to pursue a "zero-problems" policy with Turkey's neighbors.
        Meanwhile, Erdogan has worked to whip up nationalist and anti-American sentiment. Students are encouraged to join uniformed paramilitary units and parade in the streets to demonstrate their fealty to the leader. The Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate is issuing directives explaining to young people the importance of martyrdom to defend a new and Islamic Turkey. The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden. (JNS)

Tehran's Overreach Is an Opportunity to Arrest U.S. Decline - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)
  • America's withdrawal from the Iran deal and relocation of its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem send an unmistakable signal. The administration wants to enlarge American power rather than adjust to decline.
  • The Trump administration believes that Iranian arrogance and overreach in the Middle East have created a golden opportunity for the assertion of American power.
  • It hopes the emerging alliance of Arabs and Israelis will give America local partners who are ready to bear many of the risks and costs of an anti-Iran policy in exchange for American backing.
    See also Blocking Iran's Drive for Regional Primacy - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)
  • Preventing a single power from dominating the oil resources and transportation routes around the Persian Gulf has been a central objective of American policy since the Truman administration. Iran is currently the only significant threat to these vital interests.
  • The maintenance of the U.S. power upon which America's European allies rely, the administration believes, depends on blocking Iran's drive for regional primacy.
  • From this perspective, it seems ridiculous of Europe to demand a veto power over actions the American government believes are necessary to the preservation of the global system.

    The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College.