June 1, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Parade in New York - The Simple Joy of Celebrating Israel - Liel Leibovitz (Tablet)
    This Sunday, I'll have a chance to express my uncomplicated love for my complicated country by marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City. We deserve a reminder that we quibble because we care, and we can do no better than showing just how much by being together in public, united by our pride.

Intel to Invest $5 Billion in Israel Semiconductor Processing Facility - Peter Clarke (EENews)
    Intel Corp. has decided to invest about NIS18 billion (about $5 billion) in an expansion of its wafer semiconductor processing facility at Kiryat Gat according to a statement issued by Israel's Ministry of Finance. "I have now received a happy message from Intel CEO [for Israel] Yaniv Gerti, who informed me that after two years of intensive work, the management of the global company accepted our proposal to invest another NIS 18 billion in expanding the company's activity in Israel," said Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon.

U.S. Sanctions Threaten Iran's High Hopes for Tourism - Maziar Motamedi (Al-Monitor)
    With the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its pledge to reimpose stringent sanctions on Iran, a long shadow has been cast on the country's tourism sector. Even as 4.9 million foreign tourists visited Iran in the Iranian year ending March 20, 2017, the country's tourism balance is still heavily in the red since more than 9 million Iranians spent their money abroad during the same period.
    Nasrin Tahernejad, a millennial tour leader, said the prospect of U.S. sanctions will in general have a negative impact on Iran's image abroad. "Sanctions will make people think that even basic safety and security are scarce in Iran because they will just have a general view that things are bad in the country," she said.
    Travel consultant Nooshin Hashemi said reimposed U.S. sanctions will most likely translate into lesser prospects of Iran re-establishing direct banking channels with other countries, meaning that inbound tourists will have to continue carrying cash with them. She also said the number of foreign tourists will decrease.
    Hashemi noted the negative image of Iran that goes hand in hand with the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, saying that foreign tourists may wonder why Iran is sanctioned, and that the answer to such a question may misguidedly be "because they're terrorists or because of their nuclear power."

U.S. Navy: China Out, Vietnam and Israel in for "Rim of the Pacific" Naval Exercise in Hawaii - Wyatt Olson (Stars and Stripes)
    The U.S. Navy announced on Wednesday that 26 nations, 47 surface ships, five submarines, 18 national land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the biennial RIMPAC being held June 27 to Aug. 2.
    This would mark the first time Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Israel have joined the drills, the Navy said.

International Teamsters Union Support Strike by Iranian Truck Drivers - James P. Hoffa (Twitter)
    Iranian truck drivers in 25 provinces and 160 cities have been on strike over low pay, rising operating costs, increased tolls, and other regulatory fees. Teamsters stand in solidarity with our Iranian brother and sisters!
    Representing 1.4 million transportation workers in the United States and Canada, we urge the government of Iran to listen to the grievances of striking Iranian truck drivers, address their just demands, and recognize their internationally recognized rights to assembly, speech, freedom of association, and collective bargaining.
    /signed/ James P. Hoffa, General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
    See also ITF Statement in Solidarity with Truck Drivers in Iran (International Transport Workers' Federation)
    Truckers in Iran are taking mass action over low wages and rising expenses, as well as for workers' rights and road safety. Their action has been strongly supported by the ITF's road transport affiliate the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, also known as the Vahed Syndicate. The strike first affected the Qazvin, Lorestan, East Azerbaijan and Mazandaran areas and has now been reported to have spread to all provinces and more than 250 cities.
    The International Transport Workers' Federation, on behalf of the 20 million transport workers worldwide that our organization represents, stands in full solidarity with the truck drivers of Iran as they enter a tenth day of strikes.

German Intelligence Agency Deems BDS Anti-Semitic - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    The intelligence agency for the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg referred to the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement as a "new variation of anti-Semitism" in its newly released May intelligence report. In its report, the intelligence agency specifically targeted an anti-Israel group that supports BDS. The intelligence agency for the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg referred to the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement as a "new variation of anti-Semitism" in its newly released May intelligence report.
    The agency specifically targeted an anti-Israel group that supports BDS. The neo-Nazi party Der Dritte Weg (The Third Way) to boycott Israeli products "roughly recalls similar measures against German Jews by the National Socialists, for example, on April 1 1933 (the slogan: 'Germans! Defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews!')."

University of Oregon Student Leaders Blacklist Hummus with Anti-Israel Resolution - Diamond Braxton (The College Fix)
    University of Oregon students WHO want to eat certain brands of hummus won't find them at any event connected to their student government. Last week, the Associated Students of the University of Oregon Senate voted two-thirds in favor of an anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions resolution, in a meeting attended by more than 200 students.
    The resolution bars the student government from buying products made by companies that are "complicit in Israeli settler colonialism and the Israeli occupation of Palestine," including hummus makers Sabra and Tribe, home carbonation maker Sodastream, and heavy equipment maker Caterpillar.
    It says the university "has historically been a proponent in funding the business of state-sanctioned violence," and asks it to divest from companies including General Electric and water cooler maker Eden Springs.

News Resources - North America and Europe:
  • After Embassy Move, Trump Weighs Jerusalem Consulate Changes - Josh Lederman and Matthew Lee
    President Trump is considering giving U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman more authority over the U.S. outpost that handles Palestinian affairs, five U.S. officials said, a shift that could further dampen Palestinian hopes for an independent state.
        Any move to downgrade the autonomy of the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem - responsible for relations with the Palestinians - could have potent symbolic resonance, suggesting American recognition of Israeli control over east Jerusalem and the West Bank. And while the change might be technical and bureaucratic, it could have potentially significant policy implications.
        For decades, the Jerusalem consulate has operated differently than almost every other consulate around the world. Rather than reporting to the U.S. Embassy in Israel, it reported directly to the State Department in Washington, giving the Palestinians an unfiltered channel to engage with the U.S. government.
        "Consulate General Jerusalem continues to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate from its historic Agron Road location," the State Department said in a statement. (AP)
  • U.S. Will Veto Kuwaiti UN Resolution on Gaza - Amb. Nikki Haley
    Amb. Nikki Haley on a draft UN Security Council resolution on Gaza: "The United States will unquestionably veto Kuwait's draft resolution. It is a grossly one-sided approach that is morally bankrupt and would only serve to undermine ongoing efforts toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
        "The text criticizes 'excessive' and 'indiscriminate' use of force by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, when in fact, it is Hamas that fired 70 rockets indiscriminately into Israeli towns this week. The resolution calls on Israel to immediately cease its actions in self-defense, but makes no mention of Hamas' aggressive actions against Israeli security forces and civilians.
        "The resolution calls for immediate steps toward ending Israeli restrictions on access into Gaza, while making no mention of Egypt's restrictions and no mention of Hamas' deliberate attacks against Israel's determined efforts to provide humanitarian access into Gaza at the Kerem Shalom crossing. Those who choose to vote in favor of this resolution will clarify their own lack of fitness to take part in any credible negotiations between the two parties." (United States Mission to the United Nations)
  • Hamas Faces a Crisis - Erin Cunningham
    The Islamist Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, is facing its worst crisis in years as it confronts a severe cash shortage, a loss of regional allies, and no obvious way to ease a blockade that is crippling local living conditions and stoking popular discontent. As it wrestles with this predicament, Hamas is trying to turn up the pressure on Israel by encouraging weekly mass protests along the Gaza border fence.
        But as the Palestinian death toll in the protests has mounted with each passing week, so has public dismay with the militant group. Some Gazans have complained bitterly that the Hamas-backed protests have produced so many deaths and that living conditions ultimately have not improved. The decline of Hamas's power has marked a stunning turn of fortunes for a movement once seen as an irresistible force in Gaza. (Washington Post)
  • Russia's Shoigu, Israel's Lieberman Discuss Syrian De-escalation Zone
    Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Thursday discussed a de-escalation zone in southern Syria with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, TASS news agency said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces from Syria's southern border with Israel should happen as soon as possible. (Reuters)
  • Turkey Blames "Jewish Lobby" for Economic Crisis - Hannah Lucinda Smith, Adam Sage, David Charter
    Turkish media have blamed the "Jewish lobby" for the sudden drop in the value of the country's currency, based on a tweet from an Israeli academic.
        The Turkish lira has fallen by 20 per cent against the dollar this year and President Erdogan has repeatedly blamed an unspecified "interest-rate lobby" for manipulating the currency.
        Turkey's press is almost exclusively controlled by the state or pro-Erdogan businessmen after a crackdown on critical media. It seized upon a tweet by Edy Cohen that the crisis in the Turkish currency began shortly after the Israeli ambassador to Turkey was ordered to temporarily leave.
        "Don't you know that half of the world's wealth belongs to only one Jewish family, which is Israel's primary supporter?" Dr. Cohen said, in a tweet directly addressing President Erdogan and including the hashtag "Support the Turkish lira." It was intended to be ironic, but was quickly picked up by Turkish media. (Times - UK)
  • Italians Trained to Fight Israel in Palestinian Refugee Camps, Former Arafat Adviser Aays - Maria Elena Spagnolo
    During the Seventies, thousands of Italians went to Palestinian refugee camps to give their help, according to a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Bassam Abu Sharif, a member of PFLP who later became advisor of Yasser Arafat, spoke to the parliamentary inquiry committee into the death of Aldo Moro, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, who was kidnapped and killed by the Red Brigades in 1978. Bassam Abu Sharif also said to the committee that there was a non-aggression pact between the Italian secret services and the Palestinian fedayeen.
        "The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had special relations with some of the revolutionary groups emerging in Europe after 1968. These forces did not know how to oppose capitalism, and we taught them how to do it. It was part of the fight against the imperialism that supported Israel. Thousands of Italian young women and men came to Palestinian refugee camps in order to help in different ways, in the schools, in the clinics, or in combat," Bassam Abu Sharif said to the committee. This is the first time explicit mention is made of the presence of Italians in the Palestinian refugee camps forty years ago.
        He underlined the good relations between PFLP and the Italian government to demonstrate the non-involvement of his organization in the kidnapping of Aldo Moro. (La Stampa)
News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:
  • Palestinian Authority Threatens to Cut Security Ties with Israel if Gaza Blockade Lifted
    The Palestinian Authority (PA) has threatened to sever security cooperation with Israel if the blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted, according to the Palestine Information Center. The news site reported that the PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj sent a letter to his Israeli counterpart Nadav Argaman warning him against any action that would help alleviate the suffering of the population in Gaza.
        The warning allegedly came after reports surfaced that Egypt and Qatar would help mediate a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas that would relax the blockade, now in its eleventh year.
        Such a plan is thought to be detrimental to the interests of the PA, which seeks to pressure Hamas into handing over control of the Strip. (Middle East Monitor)
  • Assad's New Housing Law Is a Veiled Attempt to Displace Tens of Thousands of Syrians - Robert Fisk
    Even before it's won back all of Syria, the Assad regime is doing a little redrawing. Not of its national frontiers. But within its cities. For the new Law No 10 calls for what looks like mass property expulsion in those areas of the country which rebelled against the Syrian government after 2011. Even inside their borders, many Syrians claim that it will strip tens of thousands of citizens of their homes - especially in those pulverized districts of the country's big cities.
        Destroyed areas of Syria are to be reorganized, developed, and reconstructed. To prove your claim to property - damaged or destroyed - you must appear in person with your real estate documents within 30 days. Clearly, nobody outside Syria who opposes the government can do this - nor can those tens of thousands who live outside Syria's frontiers to evade the military draft who, in theory and probably in practice, face arrest warrants if they go home.
        Assad's opponents say the regime is trying to dispossess its largely Sunni Muslim opponents, rebuild the devastated areas in which they lived and then sell them off at vast profit. This, they say, is a form of sectarian ethnic cleansing since the government will inevitably allow its Shia Muslim allies, including the Alawite minority, to live in the newly reconstructed areas. (Independent - UK)
  • Assad: No Iranian Military Force in Syria
    "We do not have Iranian troops," said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in reaction to the Israeli claim about attacking Iranian bases in Syria.
        "We do not have Iranian troops. We never had, and you cannot hide it. We were not ashamed to say that we have. Like we invited the Russians, we could have invited the Iranians," Assad told on Wednesday. "We have Iranian officers who work with the Syrian Army as help."
        Assad also said that the Zionist regime said that they had attacked Iranian bases and camps but there were Syrians that were wounded or martyred, "not a single Iranian." (Islamic Republic News Agency)
        See also Seven Iranians Were Killed in Strike on Syrian Airbase - Tasnim
    Seven Iranian military personnel were killed in an [April, 2018] air strike on a Syrian air base, Tasnim news agency in Iran said, almost double the number originally reported. The bodies of the Iranians, described as military advisers, had been flown back to Iran and funerals.
        More than 1,000 Iranians have been killed in Syria's civil war, including senior members of the Revolutionary Guards. (Reuters)
  • Yemeni Forces Advance to within 20 km of Houthi-Held Strategic Port, Hodeidah
    After days of heavy fighting, Yemeni forces say they have advanced within 20 km of the Houthi rebel-held port city of Hodeidah, a vital lifeline where millions of Yemenis get their food and medicine.
        The fighting in Hodeidah - the country's third-largest city and the main gateway for imports of relief supplies and commercial goods - escalated earlier this year following a flurry of missile attacks against Saudi Arabia.
        Riyadh sees Hodeidah port as the entry point of weaponry for the Houthis and has accused its regional rival Iran of sending missiles to the rebels, a charge Tehran has denied. (AlJazeera)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Is Israel Driving a Wedge between Russia and Iran? - Jonathan Marcus
    The potential battle in the south-west Syrian area, which includes the Quneitra governorate that borders Israeli positions, could be a new crucible, raising tensions between the three outside actors with the most significant strategic interests in the country - namely Iran, Israel, and Russia.
        Russia and Iran have been the key military backers of the Assad regime in Syria. Without them he might well have been swept from office. But Moscow has close ties with Israel too. Russia - nominally an ally of Iran - has its own air base in Syria with powerful radars and surface-to-air missiles that could significantly hamper Israeli air operations if they wanted to. But so far they have done nothing.
        They have, in effect, left the skies over Syria and Lebanon open for Israeli air operations to unfold.
        Moscow clearly wants to stabilize the situation in Syria enabling the Assad regime to "declare victory."
        Iran is an essential ally on the ground in achieving this goal. But the regional struggle between Israel and Iran looms large. Having decided that it will apparently give Israel a free hand in the skies, Russia may well find a less-than-receptive audience back on terra firma in Tehran. (BBC)
  • Russia Censures Iran, Expects Israel to Help Restore Ties with U.S. - M.K. Bhadrakumar
    Vladimir Putin surprised many at the event known as Russia's Davos with his comments on the Iran nuclear deal and Russia's relations with the United States. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on May 25, which traditionally promotes foreign investment in the Russian economy, ended this time around as a major political event signaling a renewed bid by President Vladimir Putin for detente with the West.
        The really intriguing part was that Putin also brought into the matrix the "good, trust-based relations between us (Russia and Israel)." Significantly, the interpolation occurred while Putin was arguing that the preservation of the Iran nuclear deal was also in Israel's interests.
        Three days after Putin spoke at St. Petersburg, an influential Moscow think tank came up with a commentary regarding the emergent trends in the Syrian situation. The commentary stressed that Russian policy was switching tack and giving primacy to the search for political settlement and reconstruction of Syria. But it went on to discuss the rising tensions between Iran and Israel in Syria and blamed Iran for using Syria for the "export" of its policy of Resistance against Israel.
        Hinting at growing resentment within the Sunni majority in Syria against Iran's activities, the commentary contextualized Putin's recent call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syrian soil. It openly rapped the Iranians on the knuckle: "Iran's operations in Syria go far beyond fighting terrorists and are hardly welcomed by anyone within the region and beyond. This heightens tensions in Israel's relations with its bitter rivals ... Serving as a platform for fighting the 'Zionist' enemy is something Syria needs the least."
        The bottom line is that the close ties between Russia and Israel are sailing into full view. Interestingly, Israel just obliged a famous Russian oligarch who is perceived as close to Putin, by granting him citizenship, which would enable him to visit Britain - although London refuses to renew his residence permit. The influential Kremlin-linked Russian oligarch now de facto becomes the wealthiest Israeli citizen, too.
        Suffice to say, it all does seem a cozy condominium between Putin and Netanyahu. The big question will be how far Netanyahu can help Putin to bring about a Russian-American "thaw" under this complex set of circumstances. (Asia Times)
  • Where Will Turkey-Israel Relations Go after Turkey's Elections? - Barcin Yinanc
    If Erdogan wins the snap election then Turkey will find itself at a crossroads in its ties with Israel, especially considering the leadership he has assumed on the issue in mobilizing the international community and setting an example to the Arab/Islamic world. The choices will be as follows: Turkey's relations with Israel could continue as before, continuing to confront it on the Palestinian issue while keeping the economic dimension separate; or it could take a more radical course supported by hardliners who argue for the complete severing of all relations with Israel. Erdogan may well endorse the second course on a "lighter" scale, taking measures that do not have a drastic effect on trade ties.
        While it can be argued that Israel has given a measured response to recent incidents, simply asking the Turkish consul general in Jerusalem to leave, the possible role of pro-Israel lobbies in Washington in efforts to delay the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey should not be disregarded. Israel's possible behind the scenes lobbying will certainly factor in future decisions. (Hurriyet - Turkey)
  • Tension Mounts between Iran and Mauritania - Amb. Freddy Eitan
    Relations between Iran and Mauritania are deteriorating every day due to heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia on Mauritania to cut off diplomatic ties with Iran. Iran's ambassador in Nouakchott, Mauritania's capital city, was summoned by the Mauritanian foreign minister to explain increased Shiite activity at the al-Mujina mosque in Nouakchott. Since the Mauritanian president's 2010 visit to Tehran, 50,000 Mauritanians have converted from Sunni Islam to Shia.
        Mauritania is deeply mired in poverty. When Israel still had diplomatic ties with it, the president of Mauritania believed that Jerusalem could provide it with its needs for rebuilding the country. Gradually, under the guise of assisting the needy in the Middle East and Africa, Shiite Iran is infiltrating moderate Sunni strongholds and converting them to Shia Islam.
        The writer was Israel's first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Mauritania Complains of Iran's Meddling
    The Mauritanian crackdown on Iran's interference in its internal affairs came after Morocco broke ties with Tehran over its support for the Polisario through its proxy Hezbollah and with connivance of Algeria. (North Africa Post)
  • Looking Back, the Gaza Pullout Was a Mistake - Sever Plocker
    Gaza isn't controlled by the Palestinian Authority, as the supporters of the disengagement - myself included - expected. Gaza was basically handed over to Hamas, which failed to establish a civilian government there. Instead, it established a wild military regime seeking conflicts and lacking any civilian goals.
        Immediately after Israel pulled out of there, it turned out the strip wouldn't be like Singapore - but rather like Benghazi. The Hamas militias had no interest in an organized transfer of the production and real estate assets Israel had left behind. They preferred to build training camps in greenhouses than grow tomatoes there. And the PA vanished from the area. That sealed the enclave's fate.
        The economic, social, and security situation in Gaza has deteriorated in the years that have passed since the disengagement.
        Looking back, the disengagement was a mistake. Had Israel remained in Gaza, the economic gap between the Palestinians in the strip and the Palestinians in the West Bank would have been narrowed, and a solution would have been found for the transfer of goods and people between Gaza and Hebron. The PA would have maintained its rule - and would have even grown stronger. Tens of thousands of Gazans would be working in Israel, as they did in the past, and the level of violence would have dropped. (Ynet)
  • South Africa Adds to Its Long Record of Israel-Bashing - David May
    South Africa's African National Congress (ANC), which has won every national election since the fall of apartheid, has long been incapable of recognizing that Israel is often the victim of hate-fueled violence. Instead, the party and its leaders misuse their anti-racist credentials to accuse Israel of apartheid - a characterization that is wildly off the mark because Israel's policies reflect an imperative to protect its citizens from persistent terrorist violence, not a drive to implement racial segregation.
        In its recent statement on Gaza, the ANC condemned Israel's "massacre of peaceful Palestinian protestors," adding it could hardly believe that a people who suffered under Hitler's anti-Semitism now "exhibit the same cruelty less than a century later."
        While Israel works to build strong relationships on the African continent, South Africa has undermined those efforts. In 2017, Israel announced plans to open a new embassy in Rwanda, joined a U.S. effort to provide electricity to tens of millions of Africans, and held meetings in Kenya with 11 African leaders who seek to benefit from Israeli technology, innovation, and investment. However, South African pressure led to the cancelation of an Israel-Africa summit that year.
        South Africa is also a leading proponent of the BDS campaign.
        When a U.S. ambassador to South Africa is appointed, and when U.S. leaders meet with their South African counterparts, they should press for an end to Pretoria's relations with Hamas and an end to the ANC's defamatory statements about Israel. (Weekly Standard)

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman 's Wide-Ranging Interview in his Jerusalem Office (Times of Israel)
  • Can the Israel-Palestinian "ultimate peace deal" be reached?
  • The question is whether or not we're able to put something on the table that captures the imagination and the hopes of the Palestinian people, without jeopardizing Israel or its security, its own objectives.
  • I'm optimistic that such a proposal can be put on the table. And I am also optimistic that ultimately people are smart enough and of sufficiently good will that they will choose something more attractive, more opportunistic, more hopeful, if given the opportunity.
  • The jury is certainly out on the Palestinian Authority and its ability to deliver. I can't speak for them. I can speak for the leadership in Gaza and say they're absolutely the wrong leadership to accomplish anything productive.
  • Do millions of Palestinians have a "right of return" to what is today Israel?
  • Every war creates refugees. The War of Independence [in 1948] created hundreds of thousands of refugees that left Israel for other lands. It also created a roughly equal number of Jewish refugees who were unceremoniously booted out of countries from Morocco all the way to Egypt, many of whom lived middle class or upper middle class or even wealthy existences and were kind of thrown out without shirts on their backs.
  • As to every refugee, the goal ought to be to enable them to acclimate and to enter society in wherever they landed. Tthe definition of refugees that is adopted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees is a far more appropriate definition than the definition that's used by UNRWA. I'd be very surprised if anybody in the administration had a different view.
  • Bipartisan U.S. support for Israel.
  • Israel should never be a partisan issue. Everybody, on both sides, says that Israel should be a bipartisan issue. I am going to continue to work as hard as I can to keep it bipartisan.
  • But bipartisan does not mean finding the lowest common denominator and pursuing that just in a blind effort to find consensus. The argument that I hear from some Democrats that Republicans are seizing the pro-Israel mantle is true, to a certain extent. There's no question Republicans support Israel more than Democrats.
  • Just because you want to make something bipartisan doesn't mean that it becomes bipartisan... Democrats can say, 'We want to be bipartisan on Israel,' and I wish them every success in doing so. But there is a large Democratic constituency right now that is not pro-Israel. They have to acknowledge it, and they have to fix it, or try to fix it.