May 28, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Leader Abbas Leaves Ramallah Hospital after 9 Days - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was released from a hospital in Ramallah on Monday where he had been for treated over a week, ending rumors about his medical condition.
    Leaving the hospital flanked by his two sons and Palestinian officials, Abbas, 83, said he was well and would be returning to work on Tuesday. He was walking without assistance.

Iran Can Create Highly Enriched Uranium "in 2-3 Days" - Sue Surkes (Times of Israel)
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran,repeated a warning from earlier this year that his country is able to create highly enriched uranium in "two to three days."
    In March, Kamalvandi told Iranian al-Alam TV, "If we want to enrich uranium to the 20-percent level, we can do it in less than 48 hours."
    Uranium enriched above the level of 20 percent is considered highly enriched and could theoretically be used in an atomic weapon.

Video: Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Caught Chanting "Death to U.S., UK, Israel" - Daniel Salami (Reuters/Ynet)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, considered a moderate by many, was caught on tape Thursday joining a crowd in a chant calling for the destruction of Iran's enemies - among them the U.S., UK and Israel. The chant broke out after a speech delivered by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held in Tehran.

Report: Syrian Air Force Bars Iran from Using its Bases - Yami Roth (Jerusalem Post)
The commander of the Syrian Air Force has decided Syria will no longer allow Iranian-backed Shiite factions to use its bases to store ammunition and host fighters, the Syrian opposition newspaper Zaman al-Wasl reported on Monday. The report claims that the decision was made "following recent Israeli attacks."
    Citing a source in the Syrian army, the report stated that this is the first step in a process leading to a Syrian demand that Iranian backed-forces leave Syria.
    The London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported on May 26 that Israel delivered to Russia a list of "Red Lines" it would not tolerate and warned that it would act to prevent Iran from building up its forces in the whole of Syria, not only in the southern part near Israel.

Saudi Arabia to Exclude German Firms from Government Tenders (Reuters)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered that no more government contracts be awarded to German companies, in a sign of continued irritation over Berlin's foreign policy in the Middle East, according to Der Spiegel. The move was likely to hit major companies such as Siemens, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Daimler.

Iran-South Korea Steel Deal Halted by Saudi Influence (Construction Week)
Pressure from Saudi Arabia has led to the blocking of an investment deal by South Korea in Iran's steel industry.
    South Korea's POSCO Engineering & Construction had signed a $1.6bn memorandum of agreement with the Iranian steelmaker, Pars Kohan Diar Parsian Steel (PKP), in May 2016, to build a steel mill in the country's Chabahar Free Trade-Industrial Zone.

News Resources - North America and Europe:
  • U.S. Warns Syria of "Firm" Measures for Ceasefire Violations
        The United States warned Syria on Friday it would take "firm and appropriate measures" in response to ceasefire violations, saying it was concerned about reports of an impending military operation in a de-escalation zone in the country's southwest.
        Washington also cautioned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against broadening the conflict. "As a guarantor of this de-escalation area with Russia and Jordan, the United States will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Assad regime violations," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late on Friday. (Reuters)
        See also State Department Statement (U.S. State Department)
  • U.S. Treasury Targets Iranian Individuals Providing Ballistic Missile Support to Yemen's Houthis
        The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five Iranian individuals who have provided ballistic missile-related technical expertise to Yemen's Houthis, and who have transferred weapons not seen in Yemen prior to the current conflict, on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). These sanctions follow the United Nations Panel of Experts' affirmation in late January that missiles and other military equipment employed by the Houthis against Saudi Arabia were Iranian-origin. The Houthis launched missiles at Riyadh as recently as May 9, while previous targets have included Saudi Arabia's King Khalid International Airport and a U.S. Navy ship operating in international waters. (U.S. Treasury)
  • World's Top Oil Trader Says No One Will Avoid Iran Sanctions - Jack Farchy and Dina Khrennikova
        The world's top oil trader said it will be near impossible to avoid U.S. sanctions on Iran, suggesting Donald Trump's attack on OPEC's third-largest producer may have a bigger impact on the global crude market than many anticipate.
        "For us it's a real challenge," Vitol Group Chairman Ian Taylor said on Friday at the St. Petersburg Economic forum, adding there are unanswered questions about Europe's response, and whether the European Central Bank will "stand up" to Trump's measures. "I personally think none of us will be able to get around it."
        Total SA CEO Patrick Pouyanne said nobody can have "any illusions" about European companies being exempt from U.S. sanctions. (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:
  • Elite IDF Soldier Killed by Marble Stone in West Bank, Buried in Jerusalem
        Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky who died Saturday, two days after he was critically injured during an arrest raid, was laid to rest early Sunday morning at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery. He was wounded when a marble slab was dropped on his head during an IDF operation to arrest suspected terrorists in the West Bank. (Times of Israel)
  • Drone From Gaza Carrying Explosive Infiltrated Israeli Territory, IDF Says - Yaniv Kubovich
        A drone carrying an explosive flew from the northern Gaza Strip, infiltrated Israeli territory several days ago and landed in the Sha'har Hanegev Regional Council, the Israeli military revealed Sunday night.
        After the army checked the drone, it found an explosive attached to it. The military is currently examining why the drone was flown into Israel and whether it was supposed to target soldiers stationed nearby. (Haaretz)
  • Over 300 Incendiary Kites Flown into Israel since April 13 - Matan Tzuri
        Since April 13, the "aerial terror offensive" against the Gaza border communities has continued with vigor, with some 300 incendiary kites flown into Israel's territory resulting in 100 fires and more than 3,000 acres of wheat destroyed, causing millions of shekels worth of damage to the farmers of the area. The Gaza border communities' farmers are dealing on a daily basis with putting out fires instead of taking care of their harvest. Recently, they decided to harvest earlier than planned so the wheat wouldn't be destroyed by fires caused by the kites. (YNet)
  • Report: Syrian Rebels Searched for IDF Soldiers' Bodies in Yarmouk Camp
        An official of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed that after Assad's forces captured the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp from rebels associated with Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, it was discovered that the rebels had dug out old graves with the intent of locating the bodies of three Israeli soldiers who went missing during the 1982 battle of Sultan Yacoub and are presumed dead: Zachary Baumel, Yehuda Katz, and Zvi Feldman. The claim was made in an interview Saturday with Hizbullah's al-Mayadeen news network. (Maariv/Jerusalem Post)
  • 21 People, Including Iranians, Reported Killed in IAF Strike in Syria - Tamar Ben-Ozer, Yasser Okbi
        Twenty-one people were killed, including nine Iranians, in Thursday night's attack on the Dabaa military airport in central Syria, Sky News reported on Saturday.
        The strike was reportedly aimed at Hizbullah members and militias supporting the Assad regime. According to reports, six strong explosions, allegedly caused by missile strikes, were heard in the Homs region, near the Lebanese border. The Syrian Al-Marsad human rights organization said that the missile attack was carried out by Israel. (Maariv/Jerusalem Post)
        See also Four Russian Military Personnel Killed in Syria's Deir al-Zor
    Four Russian military personnel were killed in fighting in eastern Syria's Deir al-Zor province, Sunday, May 27, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Two Russian military advisers who directed the fire of the Syrian artillery battery were killed on the spot. Five other personnel were injured and taken to a Russian military hospital. Two of them died from their wounds. (Reuters)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Media's Palestine Narrative Reads Like Fan Fiction - Matthew R.J. Brodsky
        During the recent events in Gaza, the prevailing narrative was that strong-armed Israelis were shooting and killing unarmed peaceful Palestinian protesters, when in fact there were a series of violent riots planned by Hamas as cover while they attempted to breach the security fence, pour into Israel, and kidnap or kill Israelis.
        News outlets simply rationalize facts away. The Palestinians waving machetes in Gaza don't really want to kill Israelis; they're just props. Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas Political Bureau chairman who runs Gaza didn't mean it when he led chants at the May 11 riots: "Khaybar, Khaybar, oh, Jews! The Army of Mohammed has begun to return!" Sure, it may refer to the wholesale Muslim slaughter of Jews near Medina in the year 628, but it's probably just a figure of speech.
        After 70 years of a failed strategy to secure their statehood in place of Israel, Palestinian leadership would still rather use its population as cannon fodder for a media stunt and its reconstruction aid for building terror tunnels than devote resources to building the institutions necessary to run a state and provide for its people. (Weekly Standard)
  • In 1948, Palestinians Lost Land. But Not to Israel - Michael Berenhaus
        In the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, the Palestinians did in fact lose what was offered to them with the loss of the West Bank; the Palestinians did in fact lose what was offered to them with the loss of Gaza. But the dark little secret left out was that the Palestinians lost the West Bank, not to Israel, but to their land-grabbing brethren Jordan. And they lost Gaza, not to Israel, but to their land-grabbing brethren Egypt. This set of facts is critical to assess what happened to the Palestinians and who is culpable.
        The war was started by the local Arabs and neighboring Arab countries. If the Palestinians had accepted the two-state solution of 1947, there would be no conflict today, and the two-state solution would be going on its 71st year. (Washington Post - Letter)
  • How to Apply the Reagan Endgame with the Soviets to the Iranians - Shoshana Bryen
        It was inevitable that when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed 12 objectives that would make Iran a positive actor on the international stage - objectives the United States plans to pursue - the pundits cried, "They'll never agree to that." Wendy Sherman, the architect of the JCPOA, warned, "It was a diplomatic overreach, to say the least." The prospect of Iran acceding to all 12 demands "is virtually zero."
        It is not the obligation of any country to pursue its adversary's endgame rather than its own. It is not the goal of the United States to appease dictators. (American Thinker)
  • Malcolm Hoenlein's 50-Year Career Helping the Jewish People Survive - Steve Linde
        Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations since 1986, always sought to unite and strengthen the American Jewish community and Israel, while forging close ties with world leaders and helping Diaspora Jews in distress.
        Bar-Ilan University recently bestowed "an honorary doctorate on Malcolm Isaac Hoenlein, who for over three decades has served at the helm of one of the most influential American Jewish organizations," a university statement reads. "Ensuring that the voice and the agenda of organized American Jewry resonates in key diplomatic and political circles, and acting as defender and guardian of world Jewry, Hoenlein is a masterful interlocutor between political and communal leaders in Israel, the United States and the world."
        Hoenlein, 74, denies reports that he is retiring. "I am not stepping down; I think I'm stepping up.I am not leaving without having a successor in place. I want to make sure that there will be an orderly transition." (Jerusalem Post)

Did Israel Use "Disproportionate Force" to Protect the Gaza Fence? - Amb. Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Gaza border clash was not a situation of armed conflict, nor had it anything to do with the laws of armed conflict and occupation of territory. It was routine border protection by a sovereign state, from within its sovereign territory, facing a blatant threat of border violation by violent elements on the other side of the line.
  • Accusing Israel of committing war crimes, massacres, and violations of international humanitarian law, as well as invoking criteria and norms - including the customary international law rule of proportionality - characteristic of situations of armed conflict, has no relevance vis-a-vis the situation along the delimiting fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
  • The highly publicized visit by the Palestinian Foreign Minister to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), armed with a new set of complaints of war crimes and violations of the Geneva Conventions along the fence, cannot be considered to be anything other than a flawed and cynical manipulation of the Court.