June 5, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Beyond Kites: Palestinians Using "Fire Balloons" to Set Israel Ablaze - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    After weeks of setting fires in Israel using "incendiary kites," Palestinians are now using a new arson tactic: helium balloons.
    In total, 4,300 acres, or nearly seven square miles of land, have been burned in more than 250 fires over the past two months, more than half of it in nature reserves.
    The blazes have wreaked havoc on local wildlife, ecologists say. And there are more fires every day.
    A pilot program using drones to take down incoming kites and balloons did not succeed in blocking the attacks, Israel's Kan TV reported Saturday.

Doubt Rattles Tehran over Putin's Intentions in Syria - Adil Al-Sahni (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Sharp anti-Russia criticism has been circulated in Iran media over the past few days about Russia closing the curtain on Iranian presence in Syria.
    Iranian media accused Russia of "betraying Iran and the axis of resistance" by rapprochement with Israel and the U.S.
    The Qanon newspaper published on its front page a picture of Putin under the title "Deception."

Hamas Will Go for Broke in Gaza - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Hamas is trying to impose new combat rules upon Israel based on the assumption that Israel's hands are tied and that Israel is not interested in an all-out war, toppling the Hamas regime.
    The main reason for the embargo on Gaza is the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to fight Israel and is trying to bring in weaponry for this purpose by sea and land.
    Hamas is living amid an internal conflict. It wants to turn Gaza into an army base from which "the liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river" will come. But it does not have the military power for this.
    While Hamas is in power there will be no solution, and Israel and the international community will not assist an armed terrorist movement that calls for and tries to bring about the destruction of Israel.

Israeli Minister: Gaza Casualties Don't Tell the Story - Aron Heller (AP)
    A senior Israeli Cabinet minister on Monday rejected international criticism of Israel's open-fire policies along the Gaza border, saying the disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties does not reflect the true story.
    Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Gallant, who once commanded the Gaza region, urged the world not to "calculate who is right and who is wrong by the numbers of the casualties."
    "In the Second World War, 7.5 million Germans were killed and only 500,000 British. So who was the aggressor, the Germans or the British? The issue is not the numbers. The issue is who is doing what."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Secret Files Prove Iran Is Trying to Build Bomb, Israel Says - David Charter and Roger Boyes
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on the IAEA, the nuclear monitoring body, to investigate his claims to have discovered proof of Iran's efforts to build a nuclear weapon. In meetings with the leaders of Britain, France and Germany this week, Netanyahu will make the case that the Iran nuclear accord was essentially invalid since it was based on a falsehood: Iran's contention that it had never pursued a nuclear weapons program.
        "What Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency about its capacities was almost comical compared to what we have here" in the Iranian nuclear archive snatched by Israeli agents in January, said a senior Israeli intelligence officer. "Iran said there had only been feasibility and scientific studies, but what we see is that Iran ran a fully fledged nuclear weapons program and that it followed directions from the political levels."
        A memorandum shown to The Times - from the Iranian atomic energy authority to the defense ministry - authorizes the military to take over the task of enriching uranium by centrifuges from 3% to more than 90%, a level of enrichment that suggests an intention to create a weapon.
        David Albright, a former nuclear inspector in Iraq, told The Times that the Israelis were right to criticize the failings of Tehran to acknowledge its past nuclear weapons work and to permit inspectors to monitor facilities. "The IAEA has done that in both South Africa and Taiwan, after they ended their nuclear weapons programs," he said.
        After talks in Berlin with Angela Merkel on Monday, Netanyahu also warned: "Iran, which is Shia, wants to conduct a military campaign in Syria which is largely Sunni....This will inflame another religious war and the consequences would be many, many more refugees and you know exactly where they will come."  (The Times-UK)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Meets German Chancellor Merkel (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Iran to Boost Uranium Enrichment Capacity - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran will inform the UN nuclear watchdog in Vienna on Tuesday that it will start to increase the country's uranium enrichment capacity, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told the ISNA news agency. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday he had ordered preparations to increase uranium enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal with world powers falls apart. (Reuters)
  • France's Peugeot to Suspend Iran Joint Ventures - David Keohane
    PSA, owner of the French carmaker Peugeot, said it had begun to suspend its joint ventures in Iran "in order to comply with U.S. law by August 6, 2018." The carmaker signed a joint venture in 2016 to invest 400 million euros in Iran by 2020. (Financial Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Uncovers Terrorist Cell that Planned to Target Netanyahu - Yoav Zitun
    The Israel Security Agency announced Tuesday it had uncovered and thwarted a terrorist cell guided by a terror operative from Syria, which had planned to target senior Israeli officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were arrested. Terror attacks were also planned against the American Consulate and a Canadian delegation in Jerusalem. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Finds Grenades, Bomb near Gaza Border Fence - Yoav Zitun
    An IDF force located several grenades, firebombs, and a pipe bomb thrown by terrorists near the Gaza border fence, the army said Monday. The IDF Spokesman's Office said this was further evidence "of the violent nature of the rioting led by Hamas in order to carry out attacks against IDF forces and Israeli civilians."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Dore Gold: Why Would We Expect NATO to Help Us in an Iran War? - Herb Keinon
    NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg's remark that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would not come to Israel's aid in a war with Iran is "strange" considering that Israel has never requested or expected this type of assistance, former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold said on Sunday. "I think this just proves the wisdom of Israel's security doctrine for all these years: that Israel will defend itself by itself and not rely on any kind of external security umbrella," Gold said.
        Gold, the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said that Stoltenberg's comments were "unhelpful" since they "feed into Israel's suspicion that you cannot rely on the outside world in any way. In any event, we never thought that we could, which is why we always thought that we have to have the ability to defend ourselves by ourselves."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Sees Shift in Relations with Britain - Noa Landau
    Over the past several years, relations between Israel and the UK have grown much closer. In three weeks, a senior member of the royal family, Prince William, is to make an official visit to Israel, initiated by the UK. On numerous occasions in the past, the Foreign Office had blocked such moves.
        Experts point to rising trade figures, increasingly transparent military cooperation, and even the hope of a creeping shift in Britain's voting patterns in international institutions. In November, the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy, docked in Haifa. A few months earlier, joint exercises between the Israel Air Force and a Royal Air Force squadron based in Cyprus were made public.
        Israeli officials regularly cite the situation in Syria as an engine of change regarding Britain. More generally, they note the shift in the international community's focus in the region away from the Palestinians and toward the global war on terror, in which Israel is an important partner.
        Moreover, in expectation of Brexit, the UK included Israel as one of 10 countries with which it seeks to sign new bilateral free trade agreements. Israel has been tagged as one of the preferred countries in the first phase. (Ha'aretz)
        See also British Universities Oppose Boycotting Israeli Academia - Adir Yanko
    British universities oppose an academic boycott of Israel, Sir Steve Smith, the head of the international arm of the University Association of Britain and the President of Exeter University, said last week. Smith emphasized the "commitment of the British Universities Union against any academic boycott with an emphasis on Israel."  (Ynet News)

Is Economic Rehabilitation the Answer to Palestinian Violence in Gaza? - Efraim Karsh (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • The perception of Palestinian violence as a corollary of Gaza's dire economic condition has dominated the discourse on the situation there. Yet this is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth. It is not Gaza's economic malaise that has precipitated Palestinian violence; rather, it is the endemic violence that has caused its humanitarian crisis.
  • Countless nations and groups in today's world endure far harsher socioeconomic or political conditions than the Palestinians, yet none has embraced violence and terrorism against their neighbors with such alacrity and on such a massive scale.
  • There is no causal relationship between economic hardship and mass violence. In the modern world, it is not the poor who have carried out the worst acts of terrorism and violence, but rather the militant vanguards from among the better educated and more moneyed circles of society.
  • The 9/11 terrorists were not impoverished peasants or workers driven by hopelessness and desperation, but educated fanatics motivated by hatred and extreme religious and political ideals.
  • In short, it is not socioeconomic despair but the total rejection of Israel's right to exist which underlies the relentless anti-Israel violence emanating from Gaza and its attendant economic stagnation and decline.
  • Only when the population sweeps its oppressive rulers from power, eradicates endemic violence from political and social life, and teaches the virtues of coexistence with Israel can Gazans look forward to a better future.

    The writer, director of the Begin-Sadat Center, is emeritus professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London.