June 11, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Low Turnout for Al-Quds Day Demonstrations in Iran (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Radio Zamaneh, an Amsterdam-based Persian language station, posted a number of clips showing the low, embarrassing turnout of people who were brought to Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day demonstrations in Tehran on June 8.
    In one link, a young cleric can be seen carrying a sign saying: "Will the day come when we demonstrate for our homeland Iran and our nation, which is suffering, and not for others?"

Iranian President Rouhani: "Israel Can Never Feel Safe" (Fars-Iran)
    "Israel can never feel that it is in a safe place," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday as Iranians gathered for International Quds (Jerusalem) Day.
    "God willing, this year, Quds Day rallies will be held more massively than previous years and, God willing, the Palestinian people will return to their territories one day."

IDF Destroys Hamas Underwater Terror Tunnel - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    In an air strike on June 3, Israel destroyed a tunnel in Gaza that allowed Hamas "naval commando forces" to enter the sea from a military post, unnoticed, 3 km. from the border with Israel, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said Sunday.
    "We estimate that there may be more such naval tunnels," a senior officer said. Hamas' naval commando unit has "civilian diving equipment that allows undetected movement underwater without creating bubbles."
    Hamas also has civilian, underwater motorized scooters which can bring the frogmen out several kilometers to sea.
    Israel's Defense Ministry has started construction of an underwater barrier which will stretch into the Mediterranean to stave off Hamas infiltration by sea. The barrier is expected to be completed by 2019.
    In 2014, five Hamas frogmen tried to infiltrate the Israeli community of Zikim armed with automatic weapons, fragmentation grenades and explosives.
    Hamas has significantly expanded its naval commando unit in the four years since the last conflict, with a reported 1,500 frogmen.

Report: Hizbullah Training Hamas Operatives in Lebanon - Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
    Lebanese media reported over the weekend that Israel has provided the UN with evidence that Hamas operatives have been training in Hizbullah bases in southern Lebanon.
    The reports also said that Israel has told Lebanon that it will be held responsible for hosting groups that are hostile toward Israel or pose a threat to Israel's security.

Israeli Team Using Special Enzyme to Treat Volcano Burns in Guatemala - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    An Israeli medical team dispatched to Guatemala last week to treat victims of a devastating volcano are using a special enzyme developed at the Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba to facilitate the speedy recovery of burns and reduce the need for surgery, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Saturday.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinian Protests Turn Violent Again But Gatherings Smaller - Felicia Schwartz and Abu Bakr Bashir
    Israel's military said about 10,000 Palestinians gathered in five locations along the border fence on Friday, throwing pipe bombs and rocks at Israeli forces. They also launched a flaming kite with a device attached that exploded in the air. Israeli forces responded with riot-dispersal means. Gaza's health ministry said four people were killed and 117 were injured by live fire. The gatherings were much smaller than the last big protest on May 14, which drew 40,000 people. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Report from the Gaza Riots - David M. Halbfinger
    On Friday, IDF soldiers were fired upon at least once from northern Gaza. In Nahal Oz, east of Gaza City, the commander of a company of snipers said that four bombs or grenades had been hurled at his men. The commander said his men were "trying to hurt as few people as we can."  (New York Times)
  • Iran-Backed Fighters Switch to Syrian Uniforms to Avoid Israeli Strikes - Raja Abdulrahim
    The Syrian regime is disguising Iran-allied militias as its own fighters, according to rebels, in order to try to avoid further Israeli air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria. Military convoys of Lebanese Hizbullah fighters and other Iran-backed militias are advancing in both Daraa and Quneitra provinces in southwestern Syria near Israel's border, dressed in Syrian military uniforms and under Syrian flags. Israel sees an Iranian presence on its border as a potential existential threat. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Report: U.S. to Provide Israel with Modern Weapons to "Face Possible War with Iran"
    Security sources in Tel Aviv revealed the approval by President Trump of a broad plan to strengthen the capabilities of the Israeli army to meet the "threat of a possible war with Iran." In addition, Trump reversed a decision by the previous administration and agreed to supply the Israel Air Force with additional Boeing KC 46 refueling aircraft, which would enable the Israeli army to operate longer and more flexibly against targets far from Israel. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Hizbullah Flags Fly at Al-Quds Day Rally in London
    Hizbullah flags, adorned with a gun, flew in central London on Sunday, carried by pro-Palestinian protesters in the annual Al-Quds Day rally. Just yards away stood an equally loud counter-demonstration, including speakers who led that crowd in a shouted chorus of "terrorist flags off of our streets" and "we want peace, they want war." The counter-demonstrators stood behind a blue and white banner which said "free Gaza from Hamas."  (ITV-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: European Leaders Agree Iran Must Quit Syria
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday that during his visit to Europe last week, "The leaders agreed with the main goal that I set, and this is formulating a broad international agreement that Iran needs to leave Syria, from all of Syria....Even though Iran's departure from Syria is a long process, I believe that if you set a goal, if you know where you are going, you have a greater chance of getting there."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Europe Resolve on Iran Deal Weakening, Israel Says - Jamie Dettmer
    Aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say they believe he has made progress in persuading Western powers that they need to do more to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East and contain Tehran's military ambitions in the region. Last week Netanyahu met with national leaders in Berlin, Paris and London.
        "We didn't expect to change minds totally," said an Israeli diplomat. "But we are chipping away and when it came to the issues of Iran's ballistic missile development and Tehran's meddling in the region and military entrenchment in Syria and the threat to Israel, we got sympathetic hearings from Merkel, Macron and May."  (VOA News)
  • Video: Netanyahu Offers to "Save Countless Iranian Lives" with Israeli Water Tech
    On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Iranians solutions to their growing water problems in a two-minute YouTube video. "Israel stands with the people of Iran and that is why I want to save countless Iranian lives. Iran's meteorological organization says that nearly 96% of Iran suffers from some levels of drought."
        "Israel also has water challenges. We've developed cutting-edge technologies to address them. Israel recycles nearly 90% of its waste-water....Israel has the knowhow to prevent environmental catastrophe in Iran. I want to share this information with the people of Iran. Sadly, Iran bans Israelis from visiting, so we'll have to get creative. We will launch a Farsi website with detailed plans on how Iranians can recycle their waste-water. We will show how Iranian farmers can save their crops and feed their families."
        "The Iranian regime shouts: 'Death to Israel.' In response, Israel shouts: 'Life to the Iranian people.'...We are with you. We will help so that millions of Iranians don't have to suffer."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait Agree on $2.5 Billion Aid Package for Jordan - Suha Maayeh
    The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have agreed on a five-year aid package for development projects in Jordan. Saudi Arabia hosted a meeting of Gulf Arab states to discuss ways to help Jordan after protests against IMF-backed tax reforms. (The National-Abu Dhabi)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Motivation in Gaza Riots Seen Waning - Ron Ben Yishai
    At 2 p.m. on Friday, as if they received a signal, Palestinians who had gathered near the Karni crossing began rioting. On the Palestinian side, with the volume turned up to the maximum, an announcer thundered a mix of slogans calling for return to the Palestinian homeland and praising the "shahid (martyr) heroes." His shouting was replaced by war songs as the first of the incendiary kites went up into the air. On the Israeli side, a drone went up into the air, blew up two kites within a second, and landed back down.
        Buses brought 2,000 people, mostly youths. There were hardly any kids this time. In the hours I was there - until 6:30 p.m. when the Palestinian rioters started dispersing - I didn't notice much motivation. The thousands that ran to the fence in spearhead formation two weeks ago, with Hamas men leading the charge, were nowhere to be seen. Their entire conduct this week was sluggish, as if done just to fulfill an obligation.
        This time IDF forces were out in large numbers, clearly seen on the other side. There's no doubt this had a deterring effect. There were also more kites shot down using drones than before. The fields around us on the Israeli side were filled with dozens, if not hundreds, of kites. (Ynet News)
        See also Gaza Incendiary Kites Cause 45 Fires in Israel on Friday, 10 on Saturday - Matan Tzuri and Liad Osmo (Ynet News)
  • IDF Soldier Describes the Gaza Border Riots - Matan Barad
    Have you ever seen 4,000 people running towards you full of hate and yelling "Allah Akhbar"? We have been shot at, we saw a bomb explode that was meant for us, we saw people run towards us with knives and axes meant to kill us. We know that if they pass us, they are going for our people, family, and friends.
        Our last resort is to shoot. We send smelly bombs to keep them away. But they keep coming, so we shoot. Every shot you take needs to get approved by 2 different people. Every shot is written down and checked by officials. We don't regret a shot we took. Every shot we took was to protect the people we love. The writer is an IDF soldier from Boston. (JNS)

  • I write regarding Dr. Saeb Erekat's outburst set forth in his op-ed in which he criticized the move of the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While I understand that Dr. Erekat is angry about President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, I thought it would be more helpful to discuss some of the issues demanding Palestinian leaders' immediate attention, first and foremost of which is contributing to an atmosphere conducive to peace.
  • Unfortunately, Dr. Erekat's rhetoric and his claims were in many respects simply inaccurate. We must all join together to reject such unhelpful rhetoric and false claims if we hope to achieve peace. For far too long, the United States has turned a deaf ear to such words, but ignoring hateful and false words has not brought peace and it will never bring peace.
  • This is the case when discussing the Gaza marches, as we can clearly see from the evidence: While some protesters were peaceful, many were quite violent. In fact, by Hamas' own admission, more than 80% of those killed were Hamas operatives.
  • When Dr. Erekat and the Palestinian Authority are finally ready to reject Hamas' violence and lies and work with us to bring relief to Gaza, we believe real progress could be made that would lay the foundation for a more hopeful future.
  • It is time to stop indulging in overwrought rhetoric and give the Palestinian people something beyond words. Palestinian leadership must create better lives, not sacrifice those lives for Hamas' grim agenda of terror.
  • The Palestinian people want real action, and they need honest, realistic and decisive solutions. The notion that Israel is going away - or that Jerusalem is not its capital - is a mirage. The notion that the United States is not the critical interlocutor for the peace process is a mirage.
  • The reality is that there is an opportunity for peace at hand, and that President Trump and his administration are working to help facilitate a peace that will open up the future of the Palestinian people, if they and their leadership have the courage to seize it.

    The writer is Assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump and Special Representative for International Negotiations.