July 12, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Shoots Down Syrian Drone in Israeli Airspace - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Israel shot down an unarmed Syrian reconnaissance drone over the Sea of Galilee using a Patriot missile after it infiltrated into Israeli territory on Wednesday.
    See also Israel First Confirmed that Drone Was Not Russian - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The IDF delayed shooting down the Syrian drone that entered Israeli airspace on Wednesday to confirm that it was not a Russian UAV.
    The drone infiltration occurred while Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Moscow meeting with President Putin.
    See also Israel Strikes Three Syrian Army Positions in Response to Drone Infiltration (Ha'aretz)

Argentina Asks Russia to Arrest Iranian Official over '94 Jewish Center Bombing (JTA)
    Argentine federal judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral, who is investigating the 1994 Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish center bombing, has asked Russian officials to arrest Ali Akbar Velayati, who was Iran's foreign minister at the time of the attack and has been implicated in ordering the bombing.
    Velayati met with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Moscow.

Israel Court Orders Confiscation of Gaza Flotilla Ships to Pay Terror Victims - Yael Friedson (Ynet News)
    The Jerusalem District Court issued a temporary confiscation order Wednesday for two Norwegian ships set to partake in a solidarity flotilla to Gaza in the coming weeks.
    The court order allows for the ships, worth 75,000 euros, to be used for monetary compensation for victims of Hamas terrorism.
    The Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center submitted the impoundment claim on behalf of terror victims.

Israel Protests to Irish Ambassador over Boycott Vote - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel summoned the Irish ambassador to the foreign ministry on Thursday after the Irish Senate voted 25-20 on Wednesday to advance a bill that would criminalize trade with any part of Israel located over the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.
    See also Israel Condemns Irish Boycott Vote (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    The Irish Senate has given its support to a populist, dangerous and extremist anti-Israel boycott initiative that hurts the chances of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians; it will have a negative impact on the diplomatic process in the Middle East.
    The absurd in the Irish Senate's initiative is that it will harm the livelihoods of many Palestinians who work in the Israeli industrial zones affected by the boycott.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Prepares for Assad's Return to the Border - Ben Caspit
    According to the Israel Defense Forces' assessment, within a number of weeks, the Syrian army will retake most of the border areas on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. A senior Israeli officer told Al-Monitor: "If [Assad] will be a partner to renewing all the existing agreements, we're in favor. But if...he'll try to inject new external agents into the equation, such as Iran and Hizbullah, then he'll find himself facing all the firepower and determination that Israel can muster. We won't let this happen. Syria will not become another Lebanon, Hizbullah won't be replicated, and Iran will not establish long-range rocket launchers on Syrian territory."
        "With regard to the Golan Heights front...we have the 1974 Separation of Forces agreement with Syria, and we will make sure it is implemented to the last comma. This includes geographical strips to delimit Syria's order of battle and includes enforcement of the obligation not to introduce army forces into the buffer zone. Any Syrian military force that enters this area will be destroyed immediately."  (Al-Monitor)
  • Germany Charges Iranian Diplomat Detained in Bomb Plot - Kirsten Grieshaber
    Assadollah Assadi, a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat, was charged in Germany on Wednesday with activity as a foreign agent and conspiracy to commit murder. He allegedly gave a couple with Iranian roots 500 grams of TATP explosive during a meeting in Luxembourg in June to be used to attack an annual meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group near Paris, German federal prosecutors said.
        Prosecutors said Assadi was a member of the Iranian intelligence service "Ministry of Intelligence and Security," whose tasks "primarily include the intensive observation and combating of opposition groups inside and outside of Iran." U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of using its embassies to plot extremist attacks in Europe. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israel Is Coordinating with U.S. on Syria - Herb Keinon
    Israel is completely coordinated with the U.S. regarding the situation in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. While Israel demands that Iran leave Syria, Netanyahu said that there were three immediate priorities: that Iranian and Hizbullah forces be distanced from the border with Israel, that Iranian long-range missiles in Syria be removed, and that Syrian civilians are not "slaughtered" in the buffer zone next to Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu-Putin Meeting in Moscow Sends a Message to Iran - Herb Keinon
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Russian President Putin in Moscow on Wednesday, their ninth meeting since Russia became active militarily in Syria in September 2015. Russia is militarily camped out in Israel's backyard, and it is important for the two countries to understand each other's interests so that they do not clash.
        Perhaps most importantly, Putin standing alongside Netanyahu sends a message to the Iranians. Moscow has let the Iranians know on more than one occasion that it would like them to leave Syria, and the apparent closeness between the two leaders is a subtle hint to the Iranians that Russia may give Israel a freer hand to operate in Syria. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Russia Working to Remove Iran from Syria Border, Israeli Sources Say - Noa Landau
    Russia has been working to push Iran away from Israel's border with Syria, diplomatic sources said Wednesday. Moscow has a clear interest in distancing Iran from Israel's border, the sources said.
        After meeting in Moscow with President Putin, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "We are acting [in Syria] in a very crowded arena and not only are we not opposed to the Russians, we are actually aligned with them....We are acting against Iranian and Hizbullah targets, and there's no resistance from the Russian forces."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Economics Won't Help. The Palestinians Will Continue with Terror Attacks - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    American spokesmen, led by presidential advisor Jared Kushner, emphasize the huge economic benefits awaiting the Palestinians if they adopt the new U.S. peace plan. However, the Palestinians carry out terror attacks out of ideological motives, and most of them see terror as a justified and effective way to act to advance their objectives in the conflict with Israel. The commitment of the Palestinian leadership to the struggle against Zionism is greater than the consideration of economic gain.
        The chance that economic temptations will lead to a change in Palestinian national goals is very slight as long as the Palestinian system is not led by a political movement that gives priority to the welfare of its citizens and recognizes that to provide for their economic needs, it must end its commitment to the struggle against Zionism. The writer, a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence. (Ynet-Hebrew-8July2018)
  • President Carter Originally Opposed Sadat's Visit to Israel - Itamar Rabinovich
    Stuart (Stu) Eizenstat, White House chief advisor on domestic policy during Jimmy Carter's presidency, has written a comprehensive view and record of the Carter presidency in President Carter, The White House Years. In it he describes how Carter, whose skills were indispensable for the ultimate success of the Camp David summit, was upset in 1977 when he received the news of Sadat's decision to go to Jerusalem. Eizenstat offers us a vivid, telling description:
        "As I was heading down the narrow hallway toward the Oval Office, with the president going the other way, he pointedly addressed me: Stu, I think I am going to oppose Sadat's visit. It will be the end of any hope of a comprehensive peace and will result only at best in a bilateral between Israel and Egypt. I was astonished and said Mr. President, you can't do that. Sadat's visit will be historic and it will be catastrophic if you will be seen as opposing the first visit of an Arab combatant to Israel. He grumbled and kept walking." The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., is president of The Israel Institute in Washington. (Times of Israel)

Israel's Active Defense Campaign in Syria - Yaakov Lappin (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Iran injected its Revolutionary Guards forces into Syria, where they proceeded to build drone, missile, and infantry bases. Iran hoped to set up naval and air force bases on Syrian soil as well, in addition to flooding the country with missile launchers and terrorist cells that would assault Israel in the future.
  • In response, Israel relied on advanced intelligence, combined with precision firepower, to destroy Iran's budding military presence in Syria.
  • In an effort to deter Israel from continuing with its campaign against Tehran's military presence in Syria, Iran decided to use its own forces to directly attack Israel, using drones and truck-mounted mobile rocket launchers.
  • This resulted in a resounding defeat for Iran when, on May 10, the Israel Defense Forces destroyed more than 50 Iranian military targets scattered across Syria. Israeli air defenses also successfully dealt with an Iranian rocket barrage over the Golan Heights.
  • Tehran has not given up. It has merely switched tactics, seeking to establish a foothold in Syria while relying more on its militias. But Israel's defensive campaign appears to be responding. In mid-June, according to media reports, Israel conducted a major airstrike on a military base housing an Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militia in eastern Syria, killing dozens of militia members. In July, a blast rocked an arms depot belonging to an Iran-backed militia in Daraa, in southern Syria.
  • Israel takes a calculated risk every time it pursues its "active defense" campaign in Syria. But the risk of not acting, and allowing the Iranian axis to build up its force freely, is far greater. Israel's actions serve to continually remind Iran of Israel's own evolving capabilities, thereby replenishing Israeli deterrence and keeping full-scale war at bay.

    The writer is a research associate at the BESA Center.

        See also Israeli General: Our Strikes Left Iran "Far" from Syria Entrenchment - Michael Lipin (VOA News)