May 24, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Weighs Funding Cuts after Palestinians Join UN Agencies (AFP)
    The U.S. is considering whether to cut funding to UN agencies after the Palestinians joined three UN organizations last week, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.
    The PA joined the trade development organization UNCTAD, the industrial development agency UNIDO, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
    U.S. legislation bars funding for UN agencies or affiliates that grant membership to the PA. "It has been the consistent position of the United States that efforts by the Palestinians to join international organizations are premature and counterproductive," a U.S. official said.
    The U.S. withdrew some funding for UNESCO when the Palestinians joined in 2011.

Erdogan's Siege Mentality Pushes Turkish Lira to Record Low - Laura Pitel (Financial Times-UK)
    As the Turkish lira plummeted to record lows day after day, President Erdogan's son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, said the lira was the victim of an "operation" of "overseas origins" aimed at bringing down the government.
    See also Turkey's Currency Meltdown - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

Hamas Gaza Leader Yahya Sinwar: We Are Coordinating with Hizbullah, Iran (MEMRI)
    Hamas Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar told Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV on May 21: "Our resistance in Gaza has greatly developed its capabilities...with the help of...first and foremost, the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has provided the Al-Qassam Brigades and the other factions of the resistance a lot of money, equipment, and expertise."
    "It has provided us a lot of resources, which allowed for great development of our capabilities."
    "We have excellent relations with our brothers in Hizbullah. Our relations with them are extremely developed. We work together and coordinate and are in touch on an almost daily basis."
    "Similarly, our ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, with brother Qasem Soleimani and the other brothers in the IRGC leadership, are very strong, powerful, and warm. Our relations with the Islamic Republic are excellent."

Revelation of Israel's Intelligence Coup in Iran Bolsters Deterrence, Helps Avert War - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Oded Tira (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's exposure of Iran's nuclear archive serves as an important deterrent. Our enemies now understand our strategic strength in the intelligence sector.
    This deters Iran and may prevent a war. Iran woke up the day after the revelations feeling exposed and weak. Hamas and Hizbullah were also shocked.

Together and Apart: Israeli Jews' Views on their Relationship to American Jews and Religious Pluralism - Steven M. Cohen (UJA-Federation of New York)
    A new survey looks at the perspectives of Israeli Jews on a range of issues important to American Jewry.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Ayatollah Khamenei Lists Conditions for Europe to Save Nuclear Deal
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set out a series of conditions on Wednesday for European powers if they want Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal. Khamenei said, "Europe should fully guarantee Iran's oil sales. In case Americans can damage our oil sales...Europeans should make up for that and buy Iranian oil." He also said that European powers must promise they would not seek new negotiations on Iran's ballistic missile program and regional Middle East activities. (Reuters)
  • Deep in the Desert, Iran Quietly Advances Missile Technology - Max Fisher
    Iran is operating a secret long-range missile research facility in the remote Iranian desert. A team of weapons researchers at the nonpartisan Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif., picked through satellite photos of the facility. They found, they say, that work on the site now appears to focus on advanced rocket engines and rocket fuel, and is often conducted under cover of night.
        Five outside experts who independently reviewed the findings agreed that there was compelling evidence that Iran is developing long-range missile technology. Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies who reviewed the material, said the evidence was circumstantial, but it could show preliminary steps "for developing an ICBM five to 10 years down the road, should Tehran wish to do so."  (New York Times)
  • Morocco's Foreign Minister Warns Iran Is Seeking Foothold in North Africa - Ben Evansky
    Nasser Bourita, Morocco's minister for foreign affairs, told Fox News that last year his country arrested a Hizbullah financier who was "at the heart of the financing system of Hizbullah in Africa in laundering money." Hizbullah threatened Morocco to release him, but, he said, "we gave him to the United States and from that date there was a change" that "now threatens our own security."
        "In April this year a new level was reached - which is providing military equipment" to the Polisario Front rebel group in the Western Sahara, including the SAM-11, SAM-9 and Strela surface-to-air missile system. "I think it is clear that the interference of Iran in the internal affairs of the Arab and Muslim countries won't stop in (the) Middle East and in the Gulf countries."  (Fox News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • "We Are an Honest Broker," Says U.S. Ambassador to Israel
    Although the U.S. is "incredibly close" to Israel, it is nonetheless "an honest broker" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Israel's Hadashot news in an interview in his new office at the embassy in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Friedman said he believed the Palestinian leadership "will have no choice but to pursue" the Trump peace plan if the proposal can offer a "more optimistic, more promising future to the Palestinian people."
        He made plain that the U.S. would not impose terms on the sides, but said that if the Palestinians refused to even sit down and discuss peace terms, "I can’t imagine that would be well received in the White House."  (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Soldier Critically Hurt during Arrest Raid in West Bank - Yoav Zitun
    An IDF soldier was critically wounded Thursday after a concrete block struck him in the head during an arrest raid on the outskirts of Ramallah in the West Bank. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Opens Fire on Israeli Security Forces near Jerusalem Thursday
    A Palestinian terrorist opened fire at Israeli security forces manning a checkpoint near Al-Khader, south of Bethlehem, at 2:30 a.m. Thursday, before being arrested. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Nabs Two Palestinians Who Shot at Israeli Car Tuesday
    Israeli security forces on Wednesday arrested two Palestinians who shot at an Israeli vehicle west of Ramallah in the West Bank on Tuesday. The Israel Security Agency said the Palestinians "implicated themselves in the incident" during their initial investigation. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Real Palestinian Catastrophe - Elliott Abrams
    The main achievement of the Gaza border attacks is to remind Israelis that Hamas considers all of Israel's borders illegitimate. The dispute with Hamas isn't over settlements or the "occupation" or Gaza itself. It is over Israel's existence.
        Yasser Arafat's Fatah party rules in the West Bank and controls both the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. On April 30, PA president and PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas called a meeting of the Palestine National Council (PNC), the PLO's legislative body. After he delivered a three-hour speech replete with explanations that the Jews have no real historical tie to the Middle East and that European anti-Semitism was caused by the Jews, Abbas had himself reelected by acclamation. The entire scene was a throwback to Castro or Ceausescu.
        In 2003, Abbas looked like an alternative to Arafat and a potential Israeli peace partner. Fifteen years later those hopes are long gone, which helps explain why the Trump administration has not yet released its peace plan: Abbas would reject it instantly.
        Whatever the criticism, Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. The mishandling of Palestinian affairs by their leaders has been the true Palestinian catastrophe. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Weekly Standard)
  • The Iraqi Elections: A Slap in the Face to Iran - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
    The results of the Iraqi legislative elections have taken both Iran and the U.S. by surprise. The party of Muqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American and anti-Iranian Shiite cleric, succeeded in winning 54 out of the 329 seats to become the biggest parliamentary faction.
        The Iranians dispatched Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, to Iraq before election day to coordinate the pro-Iranian factions running for parliament. In the aftermath of the elections, Soleimani was busy devising ways to counter al-Sadr's success. If al-Sadr succeeds in forming the next government, it seems likely that Iran would probably use its proxies in Iraq to undermine the regime.
        Iran finds itself on the defensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in mid-May the need for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria (which means also Iranian and proxy forces). The writer is a former Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also U.S. in Contact with Ex-Foe Sadr after Shock Win in Iraq Poll - Michael Georgy (Reuters)

Why the UN Should Condemn Hamas - Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon (CNN)
  • In recent weeks, Israel has faced violence at the security fence separating our country from Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinians, incited by Hamas - some armed with guns, improvised explosive devices and Molotov cocktails - have approached the fence to tear down any obstacle in their way and infiltrate Israel.
  • Instead of directing their condemnations at this internationally recognized terrorist organization for their war crimes against both Palestinians and Israelis, some countries and UN bodies have not only embraced Hamas' propaganda but have even criticized Israel's right to self-defense.
  • Such baseless charges against Israel are morally unjust. Those who criticize Israel's legitimate actions are either unaware, or are willfully ignorant, of the clearly violent nature of what's happening at the Gaza border. Israel is defending itself from terrorists committing orchestrated attacks, not from activists leading an innocent protest.
  • The real tragedy is that this situation was - and remains - completely avoidable. Israel removed all Jewish communities and military facilities from Gaza in 2005. In the years following, we have facilitated the transfer of billions of dollars of aid for Gaza's local population.
  • Countries that criticize Israel must ask themselves how they would expect their security forces to react if terrorists armed with rifles and explosives marched on their borders.
  • The UN must use its power and resources to improve the situation on the ground in Gaza and enforce change. To do so it must start by condemning Hamas for attacking Israel and for holding the people of Gaza hostage.