June 25, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

IDF Reveals Hamas Arson Terror Cells (Israel Defense Forces)
    The launching of arson and explosive device-laden kites and balloons is now a deliberate activity, planned and executed by Hamas, targeting Israeli territory from Gaza.
    A Hamas commander in charge of launching arson kites and balloons directs subordinates to prepare them in large quantities and in an organized manner.
    See also Video: See Arson Balloons Prepared for Launch at Hamas Border Lookout Post (Israel Defense Forces)

Erdogan's Re-election Win Gives Him Vastly Expanded Powers in Turkey - Carlotta Gall (New York Times)
    Turkish voters gave President Erdogan a decisive victory in national elections on Sunday, lengthening his 15-year grip on power and granting him vastly expanded authority over the legislature and judiciary.
    Results showed Erdogan with 53% of the vote, enough to spare him a runoff against his leading challenger, Muharrem Ince, who won 31%.
    His conservative party and its allies also won 53% of the vote in the legislative elections.
    See also In Turkish Elections, Erdogan Could Be Israel's Best Bet - Davide Lerner (Ha'aretz)
    Turkish President Erdogan may have attacked Israel with harsh rhetoric, but opposition leaders have slammed him for leaving economic ties untouched.
    "Have you boycotted Israeli products? No. Have you nixed deals with Israel? No," said Erdogan's main challenger, Muharrem Ince.
    In May, Erdogan's AKP party voted down a bill in Parliament that proposed canceling all previous agreements with the Jewish state and severing economic ties.
    See also Gazans Celebrate Erdogan's Win in Turkish Election - Mohamed Majid (Anadolu-Turkey)

Iranian Rial Plunges as U.S. Sanctions Loom (Reuters)
    The Iranian rial plunged to a record low on Sunday, amid fears of returning U.S. sanctions.
    The dollar was being offered for as much as 87,000 rials, compared to 75,500 on Thursday, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com, which tracks the unofficial market.
    Just before Trump's announcement of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in early May, the rial had weakened to 65,000 rials from 42,890 at the end of last year.

Israeli Ties with Jordan Kept Quiet - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    On June 18, King Abdullah of Jordan hosted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman.
    While the Jordan royal house did not publicize the event, they discussed Syrian President Assad's likely return to the Syrian Golan Heights, a development that could send another wave of refugees into Jordan and the Golan into the hands of Iranian militias.
    With Palestinians comprising 2/3 of the inhabitants of the kingdom, the Palestinian issue is a bigger threat to the Jordanians than it is to Israel.
    Publicly, Israel is kept at arm's length, but the two countries are drawing closer privately.
    Israel sees the potential collapse of the Hashemite kingdom as a nightmare. So it agrees to keep bilateral ties quiet and give the king all the help it can. Pragmatism trumps honor.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Close to Releasing Mideast Peace Proposal - Anne Gearan
    The Trump administration is close to releasing a peace proposal that officials said would present U.S. goals for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, despite the Palestinian position that President Trump cannot be an honest broker. "If he [Abbas] doesn't give it a read, if he just sticks with the language which he's been saying publicly, such as the U.S. is out [as a peacemaker] and that he won't even look at it, that type of language, well shame on him," a senior Trump administration official said.
        "How does that help the Palestinian people?" The decision to release the plan with no indication that Abbas will entertain it is one sign that the Trump administration is looking past the 82-year-old leader. (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations - U.S. Peace Team Head: "The Global Community Is Getting Frustrated with Palestinian Leadership" - Interview with Jared Kushner (Al-Quds-PA)
  • Russian Airstrikes in Southwest Syria Breaking Cease-Fire Deal - Raja Abdulrahim and Michael R. Gordon
    Russia carried out airstrikes Sunday in southwest Syria, defying a cease-fire pact with the U.S. and Jordan, as forces aligned with President Assad pushed to capture one of the last opposition strongholds. "This is once again an example of Russia flouting arrangements it has entered into with no regard for civilian lives," a State Department official said.
        On Saturday, U.S.-allied rebels were told by the Americans not to expect a military intervention on their behalf. One Western diplomat said there is consensus that the regime taking control of the southwest was a foregone conclusion. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Syrian Regime Launches Anti-Rebel Offensive 20 Km. from Israel's Golan Border - Seth J. Frantzman
    Artillery and bombs rained down on Syrian rebel-held areas in southern Syria as the Assad regime ramped up its offensive against the rebels after years of relative quiet. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Pro-Assad Troops Take Over Golan UN Post in Demilitarized Area on Israeli Border
    Forces loyal to the Assad regime took control of an abandoned UN post in the no-man's land between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights, Israel's Kan TV reported Sunday. The IDF said it views the takeover of the site and "the infrastructure work at the post as a serious and flagrant violation of the separation-of-forces agreement" that followed the 1973 Yom Kippur War. UN troops left the demilitarized zone for Israel in 2014 due to fighting in the Syrian civil war. (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Peace Team in Israel Discusses Helping Gaza, Weakening Hamas - Inbar Tvizer
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he had spoken Friday to President Trump's senior advisor Jared Kushner and special Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt about how to solve Gaza's humanitarian crisis "without strengthening Hamas." He told the Israeli Cabinet, "I have to say that there was absolute support for our positions and activities to ensure the security of the State of Israel and its citizens and all the residents of the Gaza region."  (Ynet News)
  • Israel to Promote Railway Linking Europe with Persian Gulf States
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Transportation Minister Israel Katz have agreed to promote their "Tracks for Regional Peace" initiative to create a trade route connecting Europe with the Persian Gulf and Israel, Hadashot reported Saturday. The planned extension of railway tracks would link Haifa’s seaport to Jordan’s rail network, which in turn will be linked with that of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states.
        The eastward extension of the Haifa-Beit She’an rail line to the Jordanian border will also include a stop in Jenin in the West bank, connecting the Palestinians to the broader plan. Goods would be shipped from Europe to Haifa, allowing them to bypass civil war-torn Syria. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Netanyahu: Charles Krauthammer Was "among the Greatest Supporters of Israel"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "Charles Krauthammer was among the greatest commentators and writers, and among the greatest supporters that State of Israel has ever had....He defended Israel in a way that I find difficult to describe - methodically, with great creativity and with very great daring....He simply wrote the truth, the deepest truth....He had a great sharpness, a completeness that was without peer and deep Jewish sources that he was always very proud of and which he drew on."
        "I read the letter that he published two weeks before his death [and] I sent him one. His son, Daniel, read my letter to him and he managed to listen to it and respond before he lost consciousness. He had two words: 'Goodbye brother.' Remember Charles Krauthammer. I will never forget him. The State of Israel and the Jewish people owe him extraordinary gratitude."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Netanyahu's Letter to Charles Krauthammer on June 10 (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Charles Krauthammer Columns in Daily Alert - 2002-2017 (Daily Alert)
  • Natan Sharansky Discusses Putin and Trump - Noa Amouyal
    As far as Natan Sharansky is concerned, walking away from heading the Jewish Agency for Israel after nine years is not an end. "I'm not stepping down from anything. I'm changing one title to another. After all, from 1982, for 36 years, I've being doing the same thing, strengthening the connection between Jews and the State of Israel," he said.
        "If there's a place where the warmness of Russian-Israeli relations is proved, it is Syria," Sharansky noted. "Putin gave a green light to [Israel to] have the broadest operations in Syrian skies in 45 years. The fact that we have the relative freedom to act against Hizbullah and Iran is extremely important."
        "I was an activist of two movements; of human rights in the Soviet Union and of the Jewish movement. As a Jewish activist, I can say a lot of good things about Putin. As an activist of the human rights movement, I can say nothing good about Putin. But it is unique that in a thousand years of Russian history, the leader of Russia is not anti-Semitic. On the other hand, he's not a democrat, and yet the attitude toward Israel is good, but he sees it as a Russian-speaking Jewish country."
        Regarding U.S. President Trump, Sharansky said, "Now there is a president who made it very clear, and said to the Palestinians, 'If you are not going to negotiate peace, we are not going to support you.' After he said that, I though, my God, it's so elementary, it's so obvious. Why should anyone in the world be prepared to pay (them) large sums of money if they're not prepared to negotiate peace? He said it and he's absolutely right."  (Jerusalem Post)

President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the head of the White House Middle East peace team, gave an interview on Friday to Al-Quds, the most popular Palestinian daily newspaper.
  • Q: What are the points in the U.S. peace plan that are most important to the Arab leaders?
    Kushner: "They conveyed they want to see a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem....They want to see a deal that respects the dignity of the Palestinians and brings about a realistic solution to the issues that have been debated for decades."
  • "At the end of the day, I believe that Palestinian people are less invested in the politicians' talking points than they are in seeing how a deal will give them and their future generations new opportunities, more and better paying jobs and prospects for a better life....Without the people pushing the politicians to focus on their needs and giving them the courage to take a chance, this will never be solved."
  • "I do question how much President Abbas has the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal. He has his talking points which have not changed in the last 25 years. There has been no peace deal achieved in that time. To make a deal both sides will have to take a leap and meet somewhere between their stated positions. I am not sure President Abbas has the ability to do that."
  • "I don't think the Palestinian people feel like their lives are getting better and there is only so long you can blame that on everyone other than Palestinian leadership. The global community is getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership and not seeing many actions that are constructive towards achieving peace."
  • "Think about the prospects for the Palestinian people over a 5-20-year horizon if they get massive investments in modern infrastructure, job training and economic stimulus....The Palestinian people are industrious, well-educated, and adjacent to the Silicon Valley of the Middle East - Israel. Israel's prosperity would spill over very quickly to the Palestinians if there is peace."
  • Q: If you could deliver a message directly to the Palestinian people, what would it be?
    Kushner: "Don't allow your grandfather's conflict to determine your children's future. My dream is for the Israeli and Palestinian people to be the closest of allies in combatting terror, economic achievement, advancements in science and technology, and in sharing a lifestyle of brotherhood, peace and prosperity."