June 26, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Video: A Drone's View of the Fires near Gaza - Almog Ben Zikri (Ha'aretz)
    The good news: No one was killed. The bad news is everything else: Huge swaths of charred land, millions in damages, dead wildlife, environmental damage, and health problems.

Report: Israel Targets Hizbullah Arms Depot near Damascus Airport - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Two Israeli missiles struck a Hizbullah arms depot near Damascus International Airport, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday.

Syrian, Palestinian Asylum Seekers Jailed for Synagogue Firebombing in Sweden (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
    A court on Monday sentenced three asylum seekers in Sweden to prison for an attempted arson attack on a synagogue in Gothenburg in December 2017.
    They included a Syrian national, a Palestinian resident in Syria, and a Palestinian from Gaza.

Egyptian Campaign Against ISIS Succeeding in Sinai - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    The Egyptian army is now succeeding in curbing and reducing ISIS activity in northern Sinai.
    The quality of the intelligence the Egyptian forces on the ground receive has improved significantly, and they are now better capable of quickly stopping attacks from the air.
    In addition to the F-16s they operate in Sinai, the Egyptian army recently purchased armed drones from China, and they are now capable of destroying targets from the air shortly after identifying them.

Iran Donates $15 Million to Palestinians in Gaza - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
    Iran has donated $15 million to Gaza residents since the "March of Return" campaign was launched in March.
    Iran distributed $500 to each family of Palestinians killed in the clashes, and donated 250,000 meals during Ramadan.

IDF Acquires New U.S. Rifles to Intercept Hostile Quadcopters - Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
    The IDF has recently acquired several new U.S.-manufactured rifles that can intercept explosive quadcopters flying from Gaza into Israel.
    Two weeks ago, two quadcopters with flammable materials were successfully intercepted.

Israel Receives 3 More F-35s - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel received three more F-35 Adir stealth fighter jets on Sunday, bringing the current total to 12. Israel expects to receive a total of 50 planes by 2024.
    The jets are purchased as part of the military aid agreement between the U.S. and Israel.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Protesters Confront Police at Parliament
    Protesters angered by Iran's cratering economy confronted police in front of Parliament in Tehran on Monday after demonstrators earlier closed the city's Grand Bazaar. (AP-NBC News)
        See also Iranian Protestors Chant "Death to Palestine" - Adam Kredo
    At protests this week in Tehran, protesters chanted "Death to Palestine" and "Leave Syria, think of us," according to videos of the protests. "Iranians are fed up with the regime," said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "Over the last year, the dollar appreciated 140% against the rial. The regime is selling oil to fund terrorist groups and its military adventures in the region while Iranians become poorer and poorer every day."  (Washington Free Beacon)
  • Foreign Banks Pull Out of Iran - Benoit Faucon
    Foreign banks that kept Iran trading oil through previous sanctions are pulling out under pressure from the latest round of U.S. restrictions. Even banks with no direct U.S. exposure are refusing to deal with Tehran, fearing that they will be cut out of the dollar-based global financial system. With no international banks to fund trade and handle payments, Iranian businesses will struggle to buy and sell with the outside world. Almost all trade in oil, Iran's main export, is in dollars. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Britain's Prince William Lands in Israel in Historic Royal Visit - Hannah Furness
    Prince William set foot on Israeli soil Monday for the first official visit in 70 years from the British Royal family on the request of the UK government. While in Jerusalem, William will pay tribute at the tomb of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who has been honored by Israel for sheltering Jews during World War II. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Moderate Arab Nations May Back U.S. Peace Plan Despite PA Opposition - Daniel Siryoti
    Top officials in the moderate Arab nations have reportedly informed U.S. Middle East envoys that they would back an American peace plan for the region regardless of whether the Palestinian Authority agrees to discuss it. Senior officials in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE told White House adviser Jared Kushner and U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt that they will not stand in the way of the U.S. Middle East peace plan. However, officials in all four nations made it clear that they would not be party to any deal that compromises Palestinian interests.
        A senior Jordanian official said Sunday that the "Arab states will not be the ones to throw a wrench in the wheels of the peace process, and that Abbas' continued refusal to work with the Americans will lead to a regional peace plan being launched without him."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also PA Officials Deny Pressure from Arab Countries to Accept U.S. Peace Plan - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: U.S. Freezes Palestinian Aid Budget - Eylon Aslan-Levy
    The U.S. has quietly frozen its aid to the Palestinian Authority, two months after Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, i24News has learned. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee aide said, "Our understanding is that U.S. funding to the West Bank and Gaza is on hold pending an administration review."  (i24News)
        See also White House Warns Palestinians of Aid Cut without End to "Martyr" Payments - Michael Wilner
    U.S. officials are warning the Palestinian Authority to end its policy of compensating the families of Palestinians convicted of murder and terrorism in Israel. A National Security Council spokesman noted Monday that the Taylor Force Act, signed into law by the president, requires the administration to freeze aid to the PA unless it halts these payments. "While the Taylor Force Act restricts aid to the Palestinian Authority, with very limited exceptions, the Palestinian Authority has the ability to ease those restrictions by ending the abhorrent policy of inciting violence against Americans and Israelis through payments to terrorists and their families."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Palestinians' Child Soldiers Are Their Most Dangerous Threat - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amiram Levin
    Palestinians have been successfully using "child soldiers" as a tool since the 1970s to promote anti-Israel propaganda and earn the favor of the West. It is a wicked and cynical modus operandi that works perfectly. We are talking about the cruel use of children in a prolonged, cynical, no-holds-barred campaign of psychological warfare. Through it, the Palestinians cause us to doubt the justice of our path, to fight terror with our hands tied, to explain and to apologize to the world, and to turn our allies into our adversaries.
        They take advantage of our natural compassion, and that of every civilized society, toward children and turn it into power, and we are supposed to apologize for being the only country in the world where every new house or apartment contains a blast-resistant "safe room" and which spends huge sums on the Iron Dome anti-missile system. The time has come to expose the Palestinians' strategy of using children, to document it and to turn this weapon against them. The writer served as head of the IDF Northern Command. (Ha'aretz)
  • The U.S. Arms an Adversary - Bret Stephens
    The Turkish Air Force took delivery of its first F-35A stealth plane last week. Turkey, our former ally, intends to purchase advanced Russian antiaircraft missiles that are incompatible with NATO systems. Republican and Democratic senators tried to block the delivery until Turkey releases an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, who has been held in a Turkish prison for nearly two years, drops its bid to buy Russian missiles, and improves its overall behavior.
        President Erdogan, an Islamist and vitriolic anti-Semite, has steadily consolidated authoritarian power over 15 years in power. The leader of a major opposition party is in prison. A state of emergency, in force since a failed 2016 military coup, has resulted in the estimated detention of nearly 140,000 people, the closure of 189 media outlets, and the arrest of more than 300 journalists.
        If and when Erdogan goes fully anti-American - he's already nine-tenths of the way there - what's to keep him from allowing Russian technicians to take a closer look at the F-35, so they might gain a better idea of how to shoot it down? Or from using it against American allies in the region, including Israel? (New York Times)
        See also Nearly 300 Turkish Diplomats Have Sought Asylum in Germany
    Nearly 300 Turkish diplomats have sought asylum in Germany since a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016, the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported Saturday. (Reuters)

Foreign-Funded NGOs, Political Power, and Democratic Legitimacy - Gerald Steinberg (Lawfare Institute-Brookings)
  • Twenty years ago, when I began to research the political power of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly those active in the realms of human rights and international law, there was essentially no critical analysis of these groups. The academic discussion largely accepted NGOs' self-definition as politically neutral promoters of liberal democratic norms. But the reality of NGO political power is quite different.
  • When local political NGOs get significant funds from foreign governments, they are readily labeled as representing the particular interests and perspectives of outsiders.
  • In the Israeli case, out of over 200 active NGOs with human rights and international humanitarian law agendas, 39 from a very narrow part of the political spectrum have received $150 million over the past five years - 2/3 of it from the EU and Western European governments. All 39 stridently oppose the government's policies regarding the West Bank, and a number promote allegations of "war crimes" and apartheid.
  • In the Israeli case, external government funding empowers a few selected actors playing very visible roles on highly polarized issues to gain a distinct advantage over others in the marketplace of ideas.
  • Special-interest NGOs with large budgets lobby politicians, buy extensive media coverage, hold events, and flood the courts with political cases, generating more media attention for their cause.
  • This imbalance is amplified by the extensive use of foreign government funds in seeking to influence Israeli institutions and public opinion from outside the country.

    The writer is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and founder-president of NGO Monitor.