July 20, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Mossad Helped Foil Iranian Terror Attack in France - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    The Mossad, Israel's Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, helped thwart a major Iranian terrorist attack in France last month, Israel's Channel 2 reports.
    Mossad agents uncovered intelligence about an Iranian plan to bomb the annual National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) rally in Villepinte, a suburb of Paris, on June 30.
    The attack was thwarted thanks to cooperation between Israel and Germany, France and Belgium, where members of the Iranian cell were arrested.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "even as Iran planned a terrorist attack on French soil in Europe, it was no coincidence that this attack was thwarted. The commander of this terror cell was an Iranian diplomat in Austria."
    "I call on the leaders of Europe: Stop financing the terrorist regime that is financing terrorism against you on your soil. Enough with the policy of appeasement and weakness regarding Iran." 

Jihadists Are Trying to Take Over the Sahel (Economist-UK)
    As the American and other allied troops who helped crush IS are quietly heading home, a form of IS' brutal ideology is taking root in and around the Sahel, the arid, sparsely populated belt of land that runs along the southern fringe of the Sahara desert.
    Last year the jihadists in Africa killed some 10,000 people, mostly civilians. That compares with about 2,000 civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria.
    Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a Nigerian jihadist group, has 3,500 fighters and is trying to build a "caliphate."
    Jihadists connected to al-Qaeda and IS have attacked Western embassies, hotels and oil facilities in the Sahel.
    A suicide-bombing in 2017 that claimed 23 lives in Manchester has been linked to Libya. So too was an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin in 2016 that killed 12 people.
    The risks of more such attacks will grow if jihadists are allowed to hold territory and establish camps.
    France already has 4,500 troops in Africa; America has 6,000. Yet they are having an outsize effect by training, supporting and providing crucial intelligence to the African armies that are doing almost all the fighting.
    See also Boko Haram Overruns Nigeria Military Base (AFP)

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Israel Cuts Industrial Air Pollution by Half in a Decade (Xinhua-China)
    Israel invested billions of dollars to reduce industrial exhaust gas emissions by more than half, thanks to the Clean Air Law passed a decade ago, the Israel Ministry of Environment said.
    The law included strict regulations to reduce pollution from companies, industrial plants and power stations, with 145 polluters undergoing continuous inspections.

Israel Begins Supplying Upgraded Anti-Tank Missile - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Israel's Rafael Systems has recently begun providing the IDF and other armies, mainly from Europe, with the new version of the Gil 2 anti-tank missile.
    In recent field tests, the improved missile penetrated through 20 cm. of concrete walls and bunkers, and has a range of 5.5-6 km.
    The system is able to receive target coordinates from a drone and launch a missile without requiring the force operating the missile to expose itself.

Sharp Rise in Indian Tourist Arrivals to Israel - Neha Madaan (Times of India)
    More than 40,000 Indian tourists visited Israel from January to June 2018, the Israel Ministry of Tourism said, with 17,800 Indian arrivals in May alone.

Bengal Farmers Adopt Israeli Greenhouse Technique (WION-India)
    Indian farmers in West Bengal have adopted Israeli greenhouse technology to grow tomatoes during the rainy season.

A Visit to the 2,000-Year-Old Mountaintop Fortress of Masada - Ben Gilbert (Business Insider)
    Visiting an ancient mountaintop fortress that overlooks the Dead Sea doesn't feel real.
    Because of its isolation and the arid desert climate, the fortress once occupied by King Herod is a remarkably well-preserved relic of humanity's ancient past, one you can climb to on the same paths used by visiting dignitaries and invading Roman troops.
    Masada dates to King Herod, an influential ruler of ancient Judea, a mountainous region of modern-day Israel. The fortress doubled as a palace for Herod during his lifetime, around 100 BCE. Masada is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.
    When you visit Masada, it's impossible not to see the vast scope of human history. It's there in front of you.
    In a two-week trip full of life-changing memories, climbing to Masada just in time for sunrise topped them all.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Rebels Surrender in Quneitra as Assad Continues Advance in South
    Syrian rebels have agreed to surrender Quneitra - a sensitive area bordering the Israeli Golan Heights - to government forces, Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Thursday. "The deal provides for a ceasefire, the handover of heavy and medium weapons, and the return of government institutions to the area." A member of the rebel delegation to the talks told AFP that Syrian government forces accompanied by Russian military police would enter the buffer zone with the Golan. (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S., Allies to Evacuate Aid Workers from Southwest Syria - Matthew Lee and Sarah El Deeb
    The U.S. is finalizing plans to evacuate several hundred Syrian civil defense workers and their families from southwest Syria as Russian-backed government forces close in on the area, officials said Thursday. The U.S., Britain and Canada will transport members of the White Helmets group to transit camps in neighboring countries. The White Helmets, who have enjoyed backing from the U.S. and other Western nations for years, are likely to be targeted by Syrian forces as they retake control of the southwest. "I hope they rescue us before it is too late," said a White Helmets volunteer in Quneitra. (AP-Chicago Tribune)
  • With Rivers Dry and Fields Dust, Iranian Farmers Turn to Protest - Nasser Karimi and Mohammed Nasiri
    As water shortages caused by a years-long drought were worsened, experts say, by government mismanagement, protests in Iran have gotten larger, with bursts of violence. In farming towns like Varzaneh south of Tehran, the Zayandeh Roud river dried up years ago. The fields around Varzaneh are now stretches of salt-laced dirt. The cattle are gone. Around 90% of the farming activities in the district have faded away. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Egypt President Faces Dissent over Rising Prices - Sudarsan Raghavan and Heba Farouk Mahfouz
    Rising prices linked to economic austerity measures are taking a toll on Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi's core middle-class supporters. While the economy is growing, steep subsidy cuts have driven up prices for fuel, cooking gas and electricity. In exchange for a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, Sissi agreed in 2016 to put austerity measures in place. Last week, the IMF praised Egypt's efforts, projecting that economic growth will reach 5.2% this year. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel vs. Gaza Airborne Firebombs - Amos Harel
    Of the current threats facing Israel's Gaza Division, the kite and balloon arson ranks third. IDF forces deployed around Gaza are first of all on the lookout for attempts to infiltrate Israeli border communities by tunnel, parachute or a breach in the security fence. Next is addressing the firing of rockets and mortar shells. The army is putting tremendous energy into extinguishing the fires and developing more effective solutions to the problem.
        Observation and firefighting teams spread out along the border have shortened the response time. Every week, scientists, inventors and industry representatives gather near the border to test out new ideas for intercepting the kites and balloons. The army is keen to find more interception solutions. Terrorist groups are increasingly using drones, a developing threat that requires an answer.
        Since the air force began shooting deterrent fire at cells launching the incendiary devices, the Palestinians have switched to operating from within densely populated areas. At this point, the helium balloons are doing more damage than the kites. Many are intercepted, with gunfire or by drones, but they are being launched in such volume that they ignite new fires daily. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Flaming Kites and Balloons from Gaza Cause 11 Fires Thursday - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
  • Life Sentences for Palestinians Who Murdered Their Israeli Boss in Terror Attack
    Yousef Kamil and Mohammed Abu al-Rub stabbed and beat Reuven Schmerling to death after he hired them to work in his coal warehouse in the Arab Israeli city of Kafr Kassem last October. The Lod District Court on Thursday sentenced the two West Bank Palestinians to life in prison for the murder. The indictment said the pair decided to "carry out an attack for nationalistic reasons and cause the death of Jews."  (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians Force U.S. Officials to Cancel West Bank Visit - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinians boasted on Thursday that they forced the U.S. consulate-general in Jerusalem to cancel a visit by a U.S. delegation to the Palestinian Securities Exchange offices in Nablus and the nearby town of Sebastiya in the West Bank. The ruling Fatah faction said, "Receiving any representative of the U.S. administration is rejected and is a deviation from the national will." Fatah also warned that it would take "legal and popular action" against any Palestinian institution that defies the boycott of U.S. officials. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Help Is at Hand for Palestinians. It's All Up to Hamas - Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman
    The nightmare of Hamas' leadership is needlessly prolonging the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza. Despite the billions of dollars invested for the benefit of Palestinians in Gaza over the past 70 years, 53% live below poverty level and unemployment is 49%.
        In the past, investments in badly needed infrastructure have been diverted for weapons and other malign uses, and even the projects that are built are often destroyed as a consequence of Hamas aggression. Until governance changes or Hamas recognizes the State of Israel, abides by previous diplomatic agreements and renounces violence, there is no good option.
        Peace will be achieved only by embracing reality and dismissing a flawed ideology. Life could significantly improve in short order for the Palestinian people if Hamas allowed it. If Hamas demonstrates clear, peaceful intentions, then all manner of new opportunities becomes possible.
        Hamas must immediately cease provoking or coordinating attacks on Israelis and Egyptians. Rockets, mortars, terror tunnels, kite bombs and other weapons of aggression lead only to stricter constraints that have only produced misery for the people of Gaza. The world is moving forward, but bad choices are causing Palestinians to fall further and further behind. Hamas leadership is holding the Palestinians of Gaza captive. (Washington Post)
  • Why Iran Supports Palestinian Terror Groups - Khaled Abu Toameh
    While the UN, Israel and the U.S. are proposing plans to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza, Iran is pledging to continue its financial and military aid to Palestinian terror groups. The Iranians have long been providing Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad with money and weapons. Were it not for Iran's support, the two groups, which do not recognize Israel's right to exist, would not have been able to remain in power.
        Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards General Gholamhossein Gheybparvar this week addressed terror groups in Gaza via video conference, pledging to support them in their fight against Israel and the U.S. The Iranian general did not offer to build the Palestinians a hospital or a school. Nor did he offer to provide financial aid to create projects that would give jobs to unemployed Palestinians. His message was: Iran will give you as much money and weapons as you need, as long as you are committed to the jihad against Israel and the U.S.
        Iran wants to retain control over its Palestinian proxies to prevent any peace and stability between Arabs and Israel. Iran is not helping the terror groups out of love for the Palestinians, but in order to advance its goal of eliminating the "Zionist regime."  (Gatestone Institute)
  • Get Over It - Israel Is the Jewish State - Eugene Kontorovich
    On Thursday Israel finally expressed in constitutional law the basic achievement of Zionism: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. In the seven years since the new provision was first proposed, it has attracted a barrage of criticism from the U.S. and Europe. Foreign politicians have demanded Israel not pass the law, and they have not been mollified by the removal of most of its disputed provisions.
        In reality, Israel's Basic Law would not be out of place among the liberal democratic constitutions of Europe - which include similar provisions that have not aroused controversy. The law does not infringe on the individual rights of any Israeli citizen, including Arabs; nor does it create individual privileges. The illiberalism here lies with the law's critics, who would deny the Jewish state the freedom to legislate like a normal country. 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. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Text - Basic Law: Israel - The Nation State of the Jewish People (Jerusalem Post)
  • Are the Saudis Playing a Double Game with Israel? - Dr. Edy Cohen
    Saudi Arabia's National Cyber Security Authority's Twitter account tweets daily, mostly against Qatar and Iran. It refers to Qatar as "Qatariel," a combination of Qatar and Israel, and claims Qatar's Al-Jazeera network "belongs to the Israeli Mossad." One tweet says the Qataris are scheming to divide the Arab states to fulfill the dreams of the "Zionist entity" and Iran. Another alleges that Qatar is "trying to destroy the Arab world to serve the enemies of the Muslim world: Israel and Iran."
        The Saudis are playing a double game. Behind the scenes, they send the Israelis the message that Tehran is a common enemy and goad it to fight Iran and Hizbullah. At home, they say the enemy is first and foremost the State of Israel, followed by Iran. These statements penetrate deep into the Arab consciousness and increase their existing hatred towards Jews and Israel. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Time to Rethink Our Attitudes toward Middle East Refugees - Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander Joffe
    There are currently 655,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, another 1.1 million in Lebanon and 3.5 million in Turkey. In addition, there are over 6 million internally displaced persons. This does not begin to count other Middle Eastern refugees, in Yemen, Sudan, and elsewhere.
        UNRWA, a permanent welfare organization dedicated to Palestinian refugees, has spent tens of billions since its creation in 1950. Wages, salaries and employee benefits for UNRWA's 30,000 employees comprise over $700 million in annual expenditures. UNRWA is a vast internationally funded jobs program.
        There are far more pressing crises in the world than the Palestinian issue and it is an obstacle to providing for real refugees. It is time for the international community to realize, at long last, that Palestinians are not refugees; they are residents and citizens of various countries. Countries like Lebanon, which have discriminated against Palestinians in housing and employment, must accept reality and integrate the populations they have hosted for decades.
        For decades, Western states were convinced they were buying regional stability with massive payoffs to Palestinians and disproportionate political attention to their cause. But the immensity of contemporary refugee crises, the strident demands of Palestinians to remain at the front of the welfare line, and the collapse of the old Arab state system have created a new mindset in the Arab world. The stark disparity of real needs versus Palestinian claims (and threats) should disabuse the West about the putative centrality of the cause.
        UNRWA and the PA are perpetuating an ideology that Palestinians are entitled to permanent international support pending a magical return to a mythical status quo that predates the creation of Israel. Asaf Romirowsky is Executive Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. Alexander Joffe is a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow of the Middle East Forum. (Tablet)
  • Israel's as Secure as It's Ever Been But That Can Change Quickly - Chuck Freilich interviewed by Judah Ari Gross
    Chuck Freilich, 62, a former deputy national security adviser of Israel and current senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center, has written Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change, published in March by Oxford University Press. The book draws on his decades of experience in the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry and his stretch as deputy national security adviser under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
        "One of my sub-recommendations is put more money into defense. We have to have overwhelmingly effective capabilities," Freilich said. "We need a national rocket shield....We've got about 10 batteries today. According to the experts, if you want the kind of national shield that I'm talking about, you need between 13 and 20 Iron Dome batteries. A battery today costs about $60-80 million. An interceptor is $30,000-$50,000. If we want 20, and we want, let's say, 100,000 interceptors, this comes out to $5-7 billion."
        Q: You include a chapter about Israel's policies regarding its own alleged, reported, purported nuclear capabilities, according to foreign media. Isn't this getting a bit silly?
    Freilich: "It's the best foreign policy decision Israel has ever developed. We enjoy all the benefits of having a declared nuclear capability, without having done so. Everyone in the world is convinced that Israel isn't only a nuclear power, but has a fairly large arsenal. Everyone's convinced we've got a triad (the ability to launch nuclear weapons from the air, sea and land)....And what are the costs? The costs are severe. According to U.S. law, the United States must impose a complete end to relations...no military aid and no diplomatic support."  (Times of Israel)

  • Iranian President Rouhani now threatens to close the Strait of Hormuz and endorses Ayatollah Khamenei's call for the elimination of Israel, exposing as a lie the claim that there is a moderate faction in the Iranian regime.
  • Under Rouhani's presidency, Iran continued its drive for regional hegemony and continued to increase the number of areas under its influence in Africa and South America, while exporting the Islamic Revolution throughout the Middle East.
  • If Iran was moving in the direction of moderation, as was asserted back in 2015, you would have seen Iran pull back from all its foreign commitments. What we have seen is that Iran has doubled down with its Shiite militias.
  • Iran is not leaving Syria. Iran is digging in to Syria and expects international support for remaining there, seeking to consolidate what it has won in the Syrian civil war.
  • The Iranians want to establish a crescent of influence from the Iran-Iraq border across to the Mediterranean Sea, and have a supply line for the massive military operation that it is planning.
  • Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has laid out a plan to combine the various militias in Syria into a 150,000-man army to achieve Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.

    The writer, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center.
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