June 12, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Moves Closer to Iran - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    A special iftar feast was held in Gaza City last Thursday at the end of the day's Ramadan fast for families of killed and injured Gazans, paid for by the Tehran regime.
    Every Palestinian wounded near the border fence gets $250 from Iran.
    Senior Iranian official Ali Akbar Velayati addressed the gathering via Internet. Those present included Ismail Haniyeh - the leader of Hamas in Gaza - as well as a senior leader of Islamic Jihad.

Egypt, Ethiopia Agree to Settle Differences over Nile Mega-Dam (Reuters)
    Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed on Sunday in Cairo to iron out their differences over Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam on the Nile River that Egypt fears threatens its water supplies.
    Ahmed said, "We will take care of the Nile and we will preserve your share and we will work to increase this quota." "I swear to God, we will never harm you," Ahmed told Sisi.

Israeli Jets Train for Long-Range Missions in Greece - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Forty Israeli planes participated in an aerial exercise in Greece's skies last week without landing, the IDF said Monday.
    "We traveled far from home to unfamiliar terrain in order to carry out a rigidly defined and precise mission, under very challenging conditions," an F-16 squadron commander said.
    "This capability that we have, to take all of our vehicles and travel far in order to carry out a mission and then return, is something that we...are prepared to use any time it's needed."

Is Tahrir Square Coming to Ramallah? - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On June 10, in the center of Ramallah, there was a large demonstration against PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, calling on him to remove the embargo from Gaza that left thousands of Gazan workers unpaid and electricity cut off.
    The PA was clearly concerned. Security officers in civilian clothing mingled with the crowd of demonstrators, photographed the leaders, and arrests are expected.
    Behind these demonstrations were the leaders of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Terror groups such as the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, and elements from the Fatah-Tanzim are involved with this network.
    There is a feeling of deep frustration among the Palestinians' younger generation. Therefore, it's easy to recruit them to these kinds of demonstrations.

Tourism to Israel Keeps Rising (Globes)
    Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics said Monday that 395,900 tourists came to Israel in May 2018, 14% more than in May 2017 and 33% more than in May 2016.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Sanctions on Iran Block Delivery of Korean Container Ships, Oil Tankers - Jhoo Dong-chan
    In December 2016, Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) signed a deal with Iran's state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) to build four container ships and six oil tankers for $700 million. Yet the world's largest shipyard has not delivered a single vessel. "It is impossible for us to deliver the ships with U.S. sanctions back in position," said an HHI official. (Korea Times)
        See also Sanctions Hit Korean Refinery Projects in Iran Worth $5.6 Billion - David Rogers
    Korean contractor Daelim has cancelled a $2 billion contract to modernize a refinery in the Iranian city of Esfahan. After the U.S. decided to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran, Daelim was unable to secure the necessary funds to finance the project.
        Sanctions are also expected to hit a $3.6 billion deal involving Iran, Hyundai and Japan's Chiyoda Corporation to construct the Siraf Refining Park in Bushehr province in southeastern Iran. The project was to have involved building eight refineries, increasing the capacity of Iran's refining industry by 22% and expanding its petrochemical feedstock production by 57%. (Global Construction Review)
        See also Indian Refiner Nayara Energy Cuts Iran Oil Imports - Nidhi Verma (Reuters)
        See also Israeli Intelligence: U.S. Pressure on Iran Working Better than Expected - Amos Harel
    According to Israeli intelligence assessments, the chain reaction to the American decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal has been more severe than originally forecast. (Ha'aretz)
  • Indonesian Muslim Leader Visits Israel
    Yahya Staquf, secretary general of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, the 60-million-member Nahdlatul Ulama, is in Israel as a guest of the American Jewish Committee for a conference in Jerusalem. Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and his visit triggered angry protests at home. Staquf says there needs to be "a new discourse" to recognize that Muslims and non-Muslims are equal and should be able to coexist peacefully. (AP-New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Hamas Must Return Missing Israelis before Receiving Humanitarian Aid Package - Michael Bachner
    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday called for an end to the "illusions and delusions that improving the [Gaza] economy will end terror." "There are three reasons for the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza," Lieberman told Israel Army Radio.
        The first, he said, was PA President Mahmoud Abbas, "who one day decided to stop transferring funds to Gaza. Just last week he transferred half of the April salaries." The second reason was Hamas, "which invests millions of dollars on [attack] tunnels, and isn't willing to funnel a single shekel to the education or healthcare systems in the Strip."
        But the primary obstacle was Hamas' objection to returning the Israeli captives in Gaza - civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed, who crossed into Gaza of their own accord - and the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul which were snatched in the 2014 war. Hamas "can get a generous humanitarian package if it returns the missing Israelis," Lieberman said. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Woman Stabbed by Palestinian in Afula - Ahiya Raved
    Shuva Malka, 18, was stabbed on Monday at a bus stop in the northern Israeli city of Afula by Nur Shinawi, 20, of Jenin in the West Bank, who was arrested by police. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Palestinians Who Murder Israelis Get a Lifetime Salary from the PA - Avi Dichter
    One way to find employment with the PA is to carry out a terror attack against Israelis. If you kill at least one Israeli, then the moment you are sentenced, the PA will issue your employee card and pay you a salary. Under the 2018 PA budget, $340 million will go to terrorists convicted by Israeli courts and their families.
        On Sunday, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved legislation to deduct the funds Ramallah pays imprisoned terrorists and their relatives from tax revenues Israel transfers to the PA. The writer, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is a former Minister of Internal Security and Israel Security Agency director. (Israel Hayom)
  • Expert: Palestine Fails International Law Test for Statehood at ICC - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Experts need to continue to press back on the International Criminal Court's recognition of Palestine as a state, because "there is still time and room to counter this," international law scholar Andrew Tucker told the Jerusalem Post. While Tucker would argue numerous points for why Palestine fails the test of international law for statehood, he emphasized the Palestinian Authority's inability to effectively govern the West Bank and Gaza as a single state. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Manipulation of the International Criminal Court - Amb. Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • On the Frontlines of the Gaza Riot War - Nikki Guttman
    The Israel-Gaza border fence has been the site of riots for 11 consecutive weekends. The closer you get to the fence, the blacker the smoke appears. The Israeli soldiers tell us, "We can barely see anything. Everything's black." When the enraged mob armed with axes and knives reaches the fence, the criticism aimed at the IDF suddenly seems incomprehensible and baseless.
        The troops are not trying to kill; they are protecting the residents of nearby communities. A throng of protesters approaches the fence, shouting jubilantly - a sign that the fence is on the verge of being breached. Seven soldiers run toward them, using tear gas. There are about 3,000 protesters at this flashpoint, and the number of soldiers facing them appears minuscule. (Israel Hayom)

Scenarios Facing Israel as U.S. Withdraws from Iran Deal - Amos Yadlin and Ari Heistein (The Atlantic)
  • The Iran nuclear deal made some progress on delaying Iran's nuclear-weapons program and preventing war from breaking out in the near term, but fortified the regime and gave it a free hand to build and use its conventional forces.
  • Using the time bought by the agreement, Tehran has expanded its conventional capabilities to the point that its advanced missiles and militias have become nearly as dangerous as its, momentarily halted, nuclear threat. And the post-deal influx of funds did not moderate Iran's regional policies as some of the agreement's architects had hoped, but instead allowed it to better fund them.
  • In Syria, for example, Iran sought to prepare for the deal's sunset by building up a conventional threat that could hold Tel Aviv hostage, just as North Korea has done with Seoul. Iran acted with a sense of impunity because, it reasoned, no U.S. president would risk a nuclear arms-control agreement in order to push back on conventional activities.
  • In the worst-case scenario, Iran may adopt an extreme response to the change in U.S. policy, leaving the JCPOA and NPT and then breaking out to a bomb. Israel would be well-advised to note that Trump's explicit promise to reduce U.S. involvement in the Middle East makes him less likely to order U.S. forces to strike. In this case, Israel would probably find itself acting alone, albeit with a "green light" and support from Washington.
  • Israel would have to consider exercising the Begin Doctrine, which calls for preventing any regime that seeks to wipe it off the map from acquiring nuclear weapons. One of us - Amos Yadlin - participated in two strikes on nuclear reactors, as a pilot in the 1981 attack on the Osirak site in Iraq, and as chief of military intelligence during the 2007 strike on the Al Kibar site in Syria. Israel might now be forced to contemplate a third.
  • The key for Israel, in such a scenario, would be finding ways to avoid further escalation. Fear that a strike could spiral into a wider war is what prompted the Obama administration to warn Israel not to strike. But a surgical strike could actually provide a middle ground between inaction and escalation to full-scale war. And if Israel can obtain full-fledged and public support from Washington and endorsements in private from the Sunni Arab leadership, it may be able to deter Iran from retaliating and escalating the conflict.
  • Israel's primary objectives are keeping nuclear weapons out of the regime's hands, halting Tehran's aggressive actions in the region, preventing war, and changing the hostile orientation of the regime toward the West, the Arabs, and Israel.

    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin is director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, where Ari Heistein is special assistant to the director.