July 19, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Saudi Journalist: We Must Advance Peace with Israel (MEMRI)
    Writing in the Saudi government daily Al-Yawm on July 15, 2018, Saudi journalist Sukina Meshekhis called on the Arab countries to take bold steps, including certain concessions, in order to advance peace with Israel.
    She wrote that the Arabs have missed too many opportunities to make peace with Israel, and this is stopping them from developing and advancing.
    The collective interest of the Arabs today "requires rapprochement and understandings with Israel," and therefore they must be more pragmatic.
    In several recent reports, MEMRI has noted an increasing number of Saudi intellectuals, journalists, and commentators expressing public support for Israel and calling for peace and normalization with it.

Egypt's Nubian Minority Revives Dream of Return to Homeland - Hamza Hendawi (AP)
    Siham Othman, 30, was born decades after her grandparents were forced to evacuate from their homes on the banks of the Nile River along with tens of thousands of their fellow Nubians.
    Osman and a young generation of Nubian activists have revived the cause of their people. They are trying to preserve Nubians' unique culture and identity and are campaigning for a return to their traditional lands.
    Yet the government of President Sissi has shown little tolerance for dissent and Osman is among 50 Nubian activists on trial for participating in protests.
    Nubians are an ancient ethnic group that, since Pharaonic times, lived along the Nile in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Darker skinned than most Egyptians, they have a distinct culture and a language unrelated to Arabic.
    Some 3.5 to 5 million of Egypt's 90 million people are estimated to be Nubians. When Egypt built the Aswan High Dam, the government moved 55,000 out of their homes in 1963-4 as the creation of Lake Nasser flooded the Nubians' homeland.

Israeli Earthquake Prediction System Put into Use Worldwide (Xinhua-China)
    An earthquake prediction system invented by Israeli start-up SeismicAI will be put into use in several Asian and European countries, Israeli technology website Geektime reported Sunday.
    The system uses artificial intelligence which collects data from frequent small earthquakes to predict stronger ones.

IAI's TaxiBot to Be Deployed at Indian Airports (Globes)
    Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has entered an agreement with KSU of India for operating TaxiBot vehicles at New Delhi and Mumbai airports.
    TaxiBot is a semi-robotic vehicle which is controlled by the pilot to taxi the airplane from the terminal to the runway with no use of the aircraft's main engines.
    TaxiBot saves 85% of the fuel consumed during standard taxiing and reduces noise levels and pollution.
    Moreover, it reduces foreign object damage by 50%, as foreign objects can't be sucked into the aircraft engines if they are not running.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Nuclear Chief Says Uranium Stockpile Reaches 950 Tons - Nasser Karimi
    Iran's uranium stockpile has nearly doubled in the last few years and Iran is close to finishing a factory where it can build more centrifuges to enrich it, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said Wednesday. Iran has imported 400 tons of yellowcake uranium from Kazakhstan and Russia since 2015, bringing its stockpile to between 900 and 950 tons, up from 500 tons, Salehi said. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Iran's Businesses Begin to Buckle under Sanctions Threat - Aresu Eqbali and Asa Fitch
    New U.S. sanctions are sending an economic shock through Iran even before they take effect. Iran's manufacturers, Persian-rug exporters and shopkeepers have increasingly struggled to make transactions in dollars for imports of needed supplies. Foreign companies are winding down contracts and the threat of sanctions has scared away big foreign banks, many of which paid billions of dollars in fines to U.S. regulators for sanctions violations in the past five years. The weakness of Iran's rial - down 50% this year - has made imports so expensive that Iranian companies are cutting production and canceling contracts. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Haley: Human Rights Council Is UN's "Greatest Failure" - Margaret Besheer
    U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley defended the Trump administration's June 19 decision to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council, saying Wednesday that the body is the UN's "greatest failure." "More often, the Human Rights Council has provided cover, not condemnation, for the world's most inhumane regimes."
        She spoke of the council's singling out of Israel for criticism through "Agenda Item 7." "No other country - not Iran, not Syria, not North Korea - has an agenda item devoted only to it. Agenda Item 7 is not directed at anything Israel does, it is directed at the very existence of Israel." She said it is a "blazing red siren" signaling the council's "political corruption and moral bankruptcy."  (VOA News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Visits Israel - Herb Keinon
    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrived in Israel on Wednesday for a two-day official visit. He noted that anti-Semitism is on the rise in western Europe, while it is declining in eastern Europe. "I want to tell you that in Hungary there is no tolerance for anti-Semitism, and all Jews in Hungary are protected by the government," he emphasized. Netanyahu thanked Orban for his country's support in international forums, something the Hungarian premier said will continue. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Documents List Hungary PM's Pro-Israel Actions - Ariel Kahana
    Israel Hayom has obtained documents that detail numerous actions Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his government have taken in support of Israel since he entered office in 2010. They include Hungary's refusal in April 2015 to sign a letter demanding special labeling for goods produced in the West Bank, Hungary's refusal in December 2017 to join in condemning President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and Hungarian (and Czech) opposition in May 2018 to an official condemnation by the European Council on the status of Jerusalem, which caused the council to drop the initiative. (Israel Hayom)
  • U.S. Report Finds Only 20,000 Palestinian Refugees - Ariel Kahana
    Sources who have seen a State Department report compiled during the Obama administration on Palestinians who became refugees during the 1948 War of Independence say the report indicates that only 20,000 of the 700,000 Arab refugees are still alive and displaced from their homes. Members of Congress are demanding the State Department make the report public. UNRWA, the UN agency which provides assistance to Palestinian refugees and their descendants, asserts that there are 5.1 million Palestinian refugees worldwide. (Israel Hayom)
  • European Monitor Filmed Puncturing Tires of Israeli Vehicle in Hebron - Yotam Berger
    A European activist with the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was caught on a security camera video puncturing the tires of a car belonging to a Jewish resident of Hebron. The police report states: "The video clearly shows a TIPH vehicle arriving at the site and three men from TIPH getting out. One, wearing a red and blue vest with the words TIPH on it, went to the vehicle." The report says the suspect "can clearly be seen approaching the Citroen and standing next to the left back tire" before bending down and doing something to the tire. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Cannot Rely on Russian Promises regarding Iranian Deployment in Syria - Eldad Shavit, Zvi Magen, Vera Michlin-Shapir, and Udi Dekel
    In spite of Russian interest in principle in the removal of Iranian forces from Syria, it is hard at the moment to identify a substantive Russian desire or ability to prevent the deployment of Iran and its proxies in southern Syria. Agreements regarding southern Syria do not, in any event, provide a sufficient response to Iran's ongoing efforts to deploy forces deep inside Syria and position advanced weapon systems there.
        The likelihood that the Trump-Putin summit will succeed in promoting meaningful change in the balance of developments in Syria is not great. Israel must continue to maneuver with Russia, and perhaps also with the U.S., particularly with respect to delaying the rapid withdrawal of American forces from Syria without guarantees for the removal of the Iranians. Time after time, Russia has failed to honor its commitments in Syria, and it would therefore be a mistake for the U.S. to evacuate its forces and rely on Russia before there is clear evidence that Iranian forces and proxies have left the country and dismantled their military infrastructures as well as their rocket and air defense systems. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • 200 Rockets and Mortars Fired on Israel in One Day - Where Is the Outrage? - Vladimir Sloutsker
    In the space of 24 hours, starting last Friday evening, Hamas terrorists in Gaza rained down over 200 rockets and mortars on communities in southern Israel, causing thousands of families to spend their day running in and out of bomb shelters. It was the heaviest day of rocket fire since the end of the 2014 Gaza war.
        Imagine if even one rocket was fired on London, Paris, Brussels or Berlin? There would be universal outrage, condemnation, and an immediate, forceful response. Yet when hundreds of rockets and mortars were fired on Israel, the response from the international community was silence. By refusing to hold Hamas to account, the international community is only emboldening, empowering and encouraging the terror group to commit further attacks.
        Where is the outage that Iran, which continues to call for the destruction of the State of Israel, is the primary funder and supplier of weapons to Hamas? And is it "peaceful protestors" in Gaza who fire rockets and mortars at Israel's civilian population? The writer is president and co-founder of the Israeli Jewish Congress (IJC). (Newsweek)

  • The Syrian regime has regained control over nearly 2/3 of the country. The regime's assault in the south essentially put an end to the 2017 de-escalation agreement in the southwest provinces.
  • In principle, Israel is not opposed to Syrian moves to recapture these areas as long as certain conditions are met. They include the immediate withdrawal of Iran's military presence and other Shia proxies such as Hizbullah that are present in the south. It appears that Russia is willing to accept this Israeli demand. However, it remains to be seen to what extent the Russians can actually deliver on this pledge.
  • Israel has argued that it is not enough to distance Iranian forces from the south, and seeks to have them excluded from all of Syria. According to Israeli Intelligence, Iran is working toward turning the whole of Syria into another military front with Israel, including military air and naval elements, proxy Shiite "legions," and a huge arsenal of rockets to complement Hizbullah's 120,000 rockets in Lebanon. Accordingly, Israel has been targeting Iranian military capabilities that have been introduced into Syria.
  • On this issue, while Russia has publicly agreed that in the long-term, Iranian forces should be excluded from Syria, it believes that this is unrealistic at present. With the war not yet over, Russia still needs Iranian forces.
  • At the same time, Russia has turned a blind eye to Israeli initiatives targeting Iran and its proxies in Syria, as long as Israeli actions do not endanger Russian troops or assets or target the Assad regime.
  • An additional Israeli condition is the full implementation of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement, which was reached following the 1973 Yom Kippur war. This established a buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli military forces (about 80 km. long and between 0.5 and 10 km. wide), as well as additional areas with limitations on troops and weapons on both sides. At the July 16 Helsinki summit, Putin noted that he and Trump agreed on the need to fully implement the 1974 agreement so as to ensure Israel's security.

    The writer is a former chief of staff to four Israeli ministers of defense.