July 13, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Urges UN Environmental Advocate to Condemn Hamas Arson Attacks (Algemeiner)
    Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on Thursday wrote to deputy secretary-general of the UN Amina Mohammed, a top UN official known for her strong advocacy on environmental protection.
    "For over one hundred days, Hamas terrorists...have used arson kites and other aerial delivery means to set almost 700 fires that have torched thousands of acres, including over 1,500 acres of agricultural fields in Israel."
    "This new face of terrorism directly targets the Israeli ecosystem and has caused over $2 million in damage."
    "Hamas is attacking Israel's southern sources of livelihood and their acts of eco-terrorism have not only devastated land that provides food and livelihood to our civilians, but they have also caused irreparable damage to nature preserves and dozens of species of wildlife."

Assad Regime Reasserts Control in Syria's Former Rebel Strongholds - Raja Abdulrahim (Wall Street Journal)
    President Assad's forces are asserting the government's grip over the former rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta. The last of the rebels surrendered and withdrew from Ghouta in April in the wake of a suspected chemical-weapons attack.
    Now, photos of Assad are plastered on walls, while the few open shops have painted the colors of the national flag on their storefronts.
    The regime is arresting some of those who stayed behind, including former members of local town councils who are seen as affiliated with the opposition.
    The arrests run counter to guarantees Russia made when it negotiated the surrender deals.
    Meanwhile, thousands of young men have been detained and forced to join the regime's forces after being told it was the only way they would be allowed to leave camps for internally displaced people.

One Killed in Iran Protest over Water Scarcity (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Police killed a man while dispersing a protest over water scarcity in the province of Fars, Iran's IRNA news agency said Thursday.
    Protests have been held across southern Iran in recent weeks as tap water in some areas has turned muddy or salty.

Photos: Unfinished Palestinian Parliament a Grim Symbol - Dusan Vranic (AP)
    The would-be Palestinian parliament is empty, a glum reminder of what might have been. Pigeons have covered the unused plenum hall with thick layers of droppings.
    Construction began in 1996 in Abu Dis, just outside Jerusalem city limits, as Israel and the Palestinians were negotiating interim agreements that set up the Palestinian autonomy government.
    Construction was halted in 2003 during the Second Intifada.
    After Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, parliament stopped functioning altogether.
    The structure lies in ruins, its entrance overgrown with weeds. Wiring dangles from ceilings.
    But Abu Dis is back in the news, rumored to be part of the peace plan being devised by the Trump administration.

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I Helped the Mossad Smuggle Jews Out of Communist Europe - Frank Shatz (Los Angeles Times)
    In 1953, I was serving as a foreign correspondent for Hungarian newspapers in Communist-ruled Prague, Czechoslovakia.
    When I learned that Erika Fabian, 13, her sister Judith, 16, and their mother had been imprisoned in Bratislava, Slovakia, for trying to escape from Communist Hungary by crossing Czechoslovakia to reach Austria, I explained to officials that the Fabian family were Holocaust survivors, and their aim was to immigrate to Israel, not to the "evil" West.
    To obtain an affidavit confirming that their late father's brother, Ely, who lived in Israel, was ready to take care of the Fabians, I needed the assistance of the Israeli Embassy in Prague.
    After several meetings with a consular official who, I realized eventually, was the Mossad representative in Prague, I was asked if I would help assist Czech Jews to reach Israel and I agreed.
    Eventually the Fabian family were set free, and, after a separation of 65 years, I had a recent reunion with Erika Fabian.

Israel Trains Chefs to Cater to Rising Number of Chinese Tourists - Keren Setton (Xinhua-China)
    The Israel Tourism Ministry has organized several master classes for 400 Israeli chefs at cooking and hotel schools in Israel to meet the demand resulting from the growing influx of Chinese tourists to the Jewish state.
    "Israeli food is very different from what they are used to," said Efrat Meir-Groman, director of vocational training in tourism at the ministry.
    In 2017, 113,600 Chinese tourists visited Israel. Next month, there will be a further increase in direct weekly flights between China and Israel.

Record 2.1 Million Tourists Visit Israel in First Half of 2018 - Michael Bachner (Times of Israel)
    A record 2.1 million tourists visited Israel in the first half of 2018, an increase of 19% over last year, the Tourism Ministry said Monday.

Israeli Start-Up Develops TV Device to Help Elderly Ease Loneliness (Xinhua-China)
    Israeli start-up Uniper Care has developed a TV device that makes it interactive with WhatsApp groups and other social networks.
    It enables elderly people who have difficulties in using smartphones to contact their families by using their TV sets.
    Users can receive updates, photos, videos and make video calls.

Israeli Company Enlight to Build Wind Farm in Spain (Xinhua-China)
    Israeli company Enlight Renewable Energy announced Thursday that it has signed an agreement to build a 350-megawatt wind turbine farm in Spain for $409 million.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia Pushes Iran Away from Israel's Border - But for How Long? - David M. Halbfinger and Ben Hubbard
    Prime Minister Netanyahu left Moscow on Thursday saying Russia had pushed Iranian and allied Shiite forces "tens of kilometers" away from the Israeli border as Syrian forces are laying siege to a rebel-controlled pocket of southwestern Syria. "We are aware of your concerns," Putin told Netanyahu, the Kremlin said.
        Yet there are limits to what Russia can do. Russia could be expected to do little more than "communicating with Iran and asking them politely" to move farther from the Israeli border, and its promises would likely be both short-lived and difficult to enforce, said Ofer Zalzberg, an analyst at International Crisis Group. "I don't see Russia as likely to deploy a sizable contingent of its military police in the southwest with some kind of endless duration," he added.
        Andrei Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, said that even if Putin agreed to try to oust the Iranians from Syria, "Iran also needs to sign up to this too....You can move the Iranian forces by 50 or 80 or even 100 kilometers away from the Golan Heights, but if the infrastructure remains there and if this territory is still controlled by Damascus, then it won't be difficult to bring the Iranian forces back."  (New York Times)
        See also Can Israel Really Trust Russia to Remove Iranian Forces from Syria? - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
  • Trump Says There "Might Be an Escalation" between U.S., Iran - Matthew Lee
    President Donald Trump said in Brussels on Thursday: "I would say there might be an escalation between us and the Iranians. They're treating us with much more respect right now than they did in the past and I know they're having a lot of problems and their economy is collapsing. But I will tell you this, at a certain point, they're going to call me and they're going to say 'Let's make a deal,' and we'll make a deal. But they're feeling a lot of pain right now."  (AP-Washington Post)
  • Pompeo Urges EU to Get Tough on Iran
    Ahead of Thursday's scheduled talks with EU foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter: "We ask our allies and partners to join our economic pressure campaign against Iran's regime. We must cut off all funding the regime uses to fund terrorism & proxy wars. There's no telling when Iran may try to foment terrorism, violence & instability in one of our countries next." Pompeo appended a map showing the locations of 11 Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks in Europe since 1979.
        He added, "Iran continues to send weapons across the Middle East, in blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Iran's regime wants to start trouble wherever it can. It's our responsibility to stop it."  (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Transfers Aid to Syrians Displaced by Fighting - Anna Ahronheim
    The IDF on Tuesday transferred aid donated by Israeli residents of the Golan Heights to Syrians displaced by fighting on the other side of border and living in camps, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit announced Wednesday. The aid included toys, crayons, games, candies, and notes from Israeli children.
        Eli Malka, head of the Golan Regional Council, who initiated the collection, said, "We, the residents of the Golan, look right over the fence and see the people fleeing from the killing fields together with their children, and clinging to the fence with Israel. We feel the moral obligation, in accordance with our values, to send humanitarian aid and, as much as is possible, to build a relationship of humanity with those who have always been our neighbors on the other side of the fence."
        The IDF has recently transferred to Syrians displaced by fighting on the Golan Heights 130 tons of food, 12.5 tons of baby food, 75,700 liters of fuel to operate generators, 20 units of medical equipment, 77 tons of clothing, and 556 tents. Lt.-Col. E., commander of the aid operations, said that in recent years those living on the Syrian Golan Heights "have understood that the only country that has aided them was the same one they feared."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Israelis Are Helping Their Syrian Neighbors in Need (IDF Spokesperson)
        See also An Israeli Aid Worker's Clandestine Effort to Help Syrian Refugees - Bernard Avishai (New Yorker)
  • Palestinian Arson Kites Set 40 New Fires Wednesday - Nikki Guttman
    At least 40 fires raged in Israeli communities bordering Gaza on Wednesday as a result of burning kites and balloons launched from Gaza, bringing the total to over 1,000 fires in the past three months. Israeli children who come across a stray kite or balloon have been taught to back away and tell their parents to call the army.
        Bruria Karni-Hadas, a resident of Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, said Wednesday, "We're talking about enormous areas that have been burned down; about people's livelihood; about ecological damage and harm to our health, because heaven knows what we're inhaling....There's always an odor of burning in the air. Every time I leave the house, I see a layer of smoke hanging over the region."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also Palestinian Arson Kites Set 21 New Fires Thursday - Eli Senyor (Ynet News)
        See also Arson Balloon Lands in Sderot - Matan Tzuri
    An incendiary balloon sent by Palestinians in Gaza landed in the yard of a house in the Israeli city of Sderot on Thursday. (Ynet News)
  • Arab Community Leader Determined to Run in Jerusalem Municipal Election - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Ramadan Dabash, an east Jerusalem community leader who has formed an Arab list to run in the upcoming Jerusalem Municipality election, said Wednesday he is determined to proceed despite PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat's recent call to boycott the election. "Who is this Saeb Erekat, and who does he represent?" Dabash said. "He does not live in Jerusalem, and he does not represent the people living here."
        "Our goal is to improve the living conditions of our people in the city and provide them with badly needed municipal services....We live in Jerusalem, we carry Israeli ID cards, we work with Israelis. If all that is fine, why can't we have our own representatives in the municipal council?"  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Neutralizing the Gaza Powder Keg - Michael Herzog and Ghaith al-Omari
    No realistic policy toward Gaza should be based on the assumption or hope that Hamas will be toppled or replaced any time soon. In any case, the alternatives to Hamas inside Gaza are not assured to be better. While all efforts should be made to maintain Hamas' diplomatic isolation and to minimize its empowerment in a future international approach to the territory, the group should be regarded as the responsible address in Gaza, for better or worse.
        International actors can and should seek to tame its malign, destabilizing activities, but they must recognize that such moves are unlikely to change the group's fundamental character or force its disarmament.
        The international community should focus first on bringing Gaza's ailing infrastructure and economy to basic functionality, while striving to minimize direct economic and political benefits to Hamas. Improvements to water and electricity grid infrastructure should be based on Hamas' commitment to an enduring, stable ceasefire, including a buffer zone along the border and a halt to firing rockets and digging cross-border tunnels. Hamas should be convinced that projects can only be implemented once hostilities have quieted.
        Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog, former chief of staff to four Israeli ministers of defense, is a fellow of The Washington Institute, where Ghaith al-Omari is a senior fellow. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Egypt to Press Hamas on Reconciliation with Abbas - Shlomi Eldar
    The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been open for almost two months now and the Hamas leadership has clearly felt the difference. Israel's closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing was greeted with indifference because Gaza now has a supply alternative, albeit a conditional one. Egypt uses the border crossing as a pressure point on Hamas, just as Israel does with its border crossing. Egypt can open its border for the supply of goods and raw materials that Israel consistently bans, and close it if Hamas does not behave as Egypt expects.
        Egypt has pledged a series of measures beneficial to Gaza if Hamas displays flexibility and reaches understandings with Abbas about resolving the intra-Palestinian conflict. These include establishing an industrial zone in northern Sinai that would provide jobs for Gazans, increasing power supplies to Gaza, and building a fuel pipeline for regular supply. (Al-Monitor)
  • The Gaza-Egypt Smuggling Tunnels Are Still Operating - Hana Salah
    The tunnels used for smuggling goods between Gaza and Egypt are still operating despite the dangers posed by the Egyptian army's campaign to destroy them. "Border tunnels are still needed to get certain materials that Israel does not allow through the Kerem Shalom crossing," said a Palestinian who works in a commercial tunnel on the Gazan-Egyptian border. "After the Egyptian army heavily mobilized on the border, we extended the tunnel by an average of 3 km. [nearly 2 miles] so it goes behind the Egyptian army's focal points."
        "In the past, many more tunnels were operating, smuggling was booming and there was no buffer zone to expose our movements. However, today the [Hamas] Ministry of Interior has erected tents all around the border. Each tent has a committee responsible for searching the goods entering the tunnels, allowing workers through and collecting taxes. In order to avoid paying taxes to Hamas, which have reached 100% on a pack of cigarettes, we have to dig tunnels inward toward the Palestinian city of Rafah to avoid inspection points. But other traders have extended tunnels inside the city to smuggle more prohibited goods."
        The tunnel worker noted that some individuals from Gaza have passed through the tunnels to join ISIS in Sinai. Recently, 15 people headed toward Sinai during Ramadan through the tunnel, he said. (Al-Monitor)
  • Palestinian Membership in UN Agencies: Mandatory Defunding under U.S. Law - Eugene Kontorovich
    U.S. law prohibits funding UN "affiliated organizations" that accept the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a member state. In the past two years, the PA has been accepted into four such organizations, two of them in the past months. Yet thus far, none of these organizations have had their funding stopped.
        The PA has a strategy of seeking statehood through international recognition rather than as the result of negotiations with Israel. Such international recognition only hardens Palestinian positions and encourages the Palestinians to make maximalist and unrealistic demands in the peace process, while politicizing the technical agencies involved.
        Any Middle East peace plan will require U.S. assurances to Israel in the event the Palestinians take certain hostile measures. If the U.S. will not abide by its own statutes when doing so might be uncomfortable, it can hardly be expected to do so with mere diplomatic assurances. Moreover, a failure to implement the funding restrictions will only encourage the PA to step up its "internationalization" campaign.
        If cutting funding impedes the functioning of these organizations, the solution consistent with U.S. law is not to continue funding, but rather defunding to pressure the PA to quit the organizations it has already joined. The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law and head of the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem. (Kohelet Policy Forum)
  • The Peace Process: Is There Anything Really to Talk About? - Jonathan S. Tobin
    It's not terribly surprising that the attempts by both the U.S. and Israel to pass laws forcing the Palestinian Authority to stop paying subsidies to terrorists and pensions to their families hasn't persuaded Abbas' Fatah and Hamas to reverse their thinking. They see those who get the money as carrying out the national will of the Palestinian people. They believe these "heroes and martyrs" have every right to "resist" the presence of Jews on any part of the land on which the two peoples live.
        If you think Israel shouldn't exist and that Zionism is a racist crime, then all Palestinian acts of "resistance" - up to and including the most bestial acts of terrorism and mass murder - are both understandable and justified. If "occupation" means all of Israel, which is how most Palestinians consider any land over which Jews have sovereignty, then there's nothing really to talk about.
        As long as Palestinians see terror and the war on Zionism as an inextricable part of their national identity, then most Israelis understand that Palestinians believe that Tel Aviv is just as much of an "illegal settlement" as the most remote hilltop outpost. (JNS)
  • Why the Concern for UNRWA? - Caroline B. Glick
    Since UNRWA was established in 1949, the U.S. has given nearly $5 billion to the agency tasked with perpetuating refugee status among descendants of Arabs who left Israel in the 1948-1949 pan-Arab invasion. UNRWA deliberately perpetuates the misery of innocent people. It indoctrinates them from the cradle to the grave to support terrorism and genocide against the Jewish state and its people. It exists as a tool of political warfare in the never-ending war to annihilate the Jewish state.
        UNRWA targets its services to people of Palestinian descent it calls "refugees" for political reasons; fewer than 1% of the UNRWA refugees would actually meet the Refugee Convention definition. Over the past 70 years, while the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has permanently resettled tens of millions of refugees, UNRWA has resettled no refugees. It is now responsible for the fifth generation of descendants of the Arabs who left Israel in 1948-49. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • Lawyers Vow to Fight Ireland's Discriminatory Anti-Israel Legislation
    The U.S.-based Lawfare Project, together with UK Lawyers for Israel, is responding to an aggressive boycott measure targeting Israel that passed the Irish Senate on Wednesday. The bill seeks to outlaw the supply of any goods or services produced even only partially by any Israeli when he is present, even temporarily, beyond the pre-1967 lines.
        When the bill was debated earlier this year, the Lawfare Project's Spanish counsel, Ignacio Palacios, filed a complaint, arguing that the Irish bill, if enacted, would violate foreign trade competences that belong exclusively to the EU. "The Irish bill would enact an official, highly aggressive anti-Israel boycott policy within a national government that targets individuals not based on their conduct, but on their national origin and place of residence," Palacios said.
        Lawfare Project executive director Brooke Goldstein said, "We are determined to expose the illegality of the Irish boycott bill under European law, as well as the unnecessary damage that it will inflict on U.S. companies operating in Ireland....We will do everything in our power to prevent this unprecedented, state-sanctioned discrimination from becoming law."  (Lawfare Project)
  • The Roots of BDS and the Campaign to Delegitimize Israel - Ehud Rosen
    While the delegitimization campaign against Israel is presented as originating from grassroots, civil society organizations, in reality, those initiating the battle are usually part of various NGO networks - comprising a relatively small number of activists who come together on the basis of a joint ideology and end goals, personal ties, and sources of funding.
        Certain NGOs serve as fronts for political organizations and forces, sometimes serving to "absolve" those with problematic reputations and violent backgrounds. Thus, former members of terrorist-designated groups, like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), are able to cooperate with Western "civil society" bodies. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, teaches at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Spacecraft Aims for Moon Landing within Months - Stuart Winer and Shoshanna Solomon
    On Feb. 13, 2019, an Israeli-built unmanned spacecraft is expected to land on the moon, having blasted off from Earth two months earlier, project managers said Tuesday. If all goes well, the SpaceIL craft will join Russia, the U.S., and China in achieving a soft landing on the moon's surface. The probe will be launched in December from Cape Canaveral aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
        The project, begun seven years ago as part of the Google Lunar XPRIZE contest to put a craft on the moon, was conducted together with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). While none of the teams launched probes before the deadline, the SpaceIL group kept going after the contest. "We will put the Israeli flag on the moon," said Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL. IAI director Yossi Weiss noted, "This is going to be the first privately run mission to the moon."  (Times of Israel)
  • NASA Chief Visits Israel to Expand Cooperation in Space - Asaf Ronel
    The head of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Jim Bridenstine, arrived in Israel on Thursday to discuss future joint space plans with officials from the Israel Space Agency. Issues for expanded cooperation include the International Space Station, space exploration, and science education.
        Israel has expressed interest in sending another Israeli astronaut into space and NASA has promised to consider this request. Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, died together with six other astronauts when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart during reentry on Feb. 1, 2003. (Ha'aretz)

  • A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer said recently, "If Iran's oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz."
  • The U.S. Central Command spokesman Navy Captain Bill Urban responded, "We stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows."
  • The capabilities the U.S. Navy needs are mostly in the Persian Gulf. They include mine warfare; maritime escort and ship defense; maritime reconnaissance; maritime airspace control; and air targeting and special forces operations to degrade or destroy key Iranian assets.
  • They include the U.S. Air Force, and Marines and special operations units (i.e., SEALs), with a full slate of our best equipment, including those in the USS Lewis B. Puller, the expeditionary mobile base stationed in the Gulf.
  • Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, when he was commanding CENTCOM between 2010 and 2013, developed the plan to prevent Iranian mine-laying and systematically clear any mines already deployed.

    The writer is a retired U.S. Naval Intelligence officer.
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