July 26, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

ISIS in Syria Fires Two Rockets at Israel - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Two BM-21 rockets launched by ISIS in Syria landed in the Sea of Galilee on Wednesday.
    In response, Israeli jets struck a rocket launcher and shelled the area from which the rockets were launched.

UN Body Rejects Call to Hamas to Release Israeli Captives in Gaza - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    The UN Economic and Social Council voted 45-2 on Tuesday to condemn Israel for actions against the Palestinians.
    The body rejected an amendment offered by Israel that called "for the immediate release of the civilians and soldiers being held in Gaza by Hamas."
    Only five countries voted in favor of the Israeli amendment on Hamas: The U.S., Canada, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay. Another 18 countries opposed the call to free Israeli captives, while 23 countries abstained.

U.S. Unfreezes $195 Million in Military Aid to Egypt - Ryan Browne (CNN)
    The U.S. has released $195 million in military aid to Egypt, funds that had been withheld in FY 2016 due to concerns over the country's human rights record.
    Egypt has sought U.S. support as it battles a violent ISIS affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula.

Female IDF Officer Downed Syrian Jet and Drone - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Cpt. Or Na'aman commanded the Patriot battery which shot down a Syrian fighter jet over Israel's Golan Heights on Tuesday, the IDF confirmed.
    She was also in charge of the interception of a Syrian drone over Israel two weeks earlier.

Israeli Startup Uses Army Night-Vision Tech to Help Prevent Car Accidents - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    Driving at night is four times more dangerous than driving during the day; 50% of deaths in road accidents occur at night.
    Israeli startup BrightWay Vision is using night-vision technology initially developed for the army to extend the vision range of drivers in all weather and lighting conditions.
    The system includes a camera with a chip that is placed on the windshield, behind the rear-view mirror, while at the front of the car an infra-red wave that constantly scans the surroundings interacts with the camera.
    While the average range of headlight vision is 50-120 meters, a screen within the car shows the driver images 250 meters ahead that the human eye otherwise would not be able to see, and automatically flags potential dangers.

Moody's Raises Economic Rating Outlook for Israel - Amiram Barkat (Globes)
    International rating agency Moody's Investors Service has joined Standard & Poor's in raising its rating outlook for Israel from "stable" to "positive."
    Moody's noted "continued healthy growth and current account surpluses in the face of persistent geopolitical tensions" as well as "continued progress developing the Leviathan gas fields."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Islamic State Kills 246 in Druze Area of Southern Syria
    246 people were killed, including 135 civilians, in coordinated ISIS suicide bombings and shootings on Wednesday in the Druze-majority province of Sweida in southwestern Syria. The onslaught began with a triple suicide bombing in the city of Sweida, followed by attacks with guns and explosives on villages to its north and east. At least 45 ISIS militants died in the attacks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Saudi Arabia Halts Red Sea Oil Shipments after Houthi Attacks - Javier Blas
    Saudi Arabia temporarily halted oil shipments via the Bab el-Mandeb Strait at the southern tip of the Red Sea after two of its tankers were attacked by the Iranian-backed Yemeni Houthi militia. One vessel suffered minor damage, but there were no injuries or spills. The waterway allows for exports to Europe via the Suez Canal. (Bloomberg)
  • Iranians under Pressure in Flailing Economy - Sune Engel Rasmussen and Aresu Eqbali
    A deepening economic crisis is slashing the buying power of Iranians even before the bite of looming U.S. sanctions. President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday replaced the head of the country's central bank, while 90 members of parliament called to impeach the economy minister. Inflation is running at 12%, Iran's oil exports have dropped 8% in the past two months, and youth unemployment stands at 30%. The unofficial value of the Iranian rial has roughly halved since the start of the year, to 95,000 to the dollar. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • How the U.S. Can Respond to Iranian Threats - Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis
    Some 35% of the world's seaborne oil travels via the Strait of Hormuz. When Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani talk about shutting down the strait, they mean it. We know that Iran has detailed plans to close the strait. It would use widespread mining; swarms of small, ultrafast patrol boats; shore-based cruise missiles; manned aircraft; and diesel submarines.
        Just as Iran has detailed plans to close the strait, the U.S. has contingency plans to respond and reopen it. Our Navy would attack Iranian ships attempting to lay mines; strike land-based air and cruise missile sites within range of the strait; sink Iranian diesel subs at their piers; and potentially launch punishing strikes against broader targets inside Iran.
        An aggressive overall strategy toward Iran would include enhanced surveillance and intelligence-gathering (especially in concert with Israel); stronger missile defenses for key U.S. bases in the region; encouraging the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council and Israel to cooperate more intensely on intelligence-sharing and missile defense; more use of offensive cyber to preempt Iranian options; and getting our European allies "on side" in the tougher sanctions regime.
        The writer is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former military commander of NATO, and dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. (Bloomberg)
  • EU Appeasers Continue to Feed the Iranian Tiger - Struan Stevenson
    Despite clear evidence that Iranian embassies in Europe are now used as terrorist bomb factories, EU lawmakers on July 5 approved plans for the European Investment Bank to do business with the regime in Iran in a bid to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive. The EU appeasers seem to think that if you keep throwing steaks to the tiger it will become a vegetarian. Iran is trying to bully and cajole the EU into making up any shortfall caused by renewed sanctions and Europe seems happy to comply.
        The foiled Iranian bomb attack planned for the Iranian opposition rally near Paris on June 30, which would have killed and maimed EU citizens, should send shock waves across the EU. Iranian embassies should immediately be closed across the EU and their diplomatic staff expelled. Europe must show that we support the Iranian people in their ongoing uprising and their bid to end the tyranny that they have suffered for four decades. The writer, coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change, served as a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). (UPI)
  • How the UK Media Downplay and Trivialize Hamas Terror - Udi Avivi
    Hamas has been engaged in an ongoing terror campaign against Israel: continuously striving to infiltrate into Israel, launching incendiary devices over the border, and last weekend firing more than 200 rockets and mortar shells. The UK media has largely minimized these attacks. Headline-writers have described these activities as "protests," belittling the fact that many of the "protesters" have been carrying pipe bombs and machetes.
        Palestinian arsonists have attached explosives and firebombs to kites and balloons. These devices may be "homemade" and "improvised," but the attacks have caused more than 850 fires, destroying more than 6,500 acres of natural habitat and farmland. If terrorists seeking to destroy the UK were to set vast swathes of British farmland ablaze, then every newspaper in this country would devote their front pages to the attacks. The writer is press attache at the Israeli Embassy in London. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

  • Critics went ballistic over Israel's new Nation State Law, which passed last week with the aim of affirming the country's Jewish character. The New York Times published four different pieces, each more critical than the last. But the truth is, the Nation State bill reaffirms some of the key ideas that always lay at the heart of the Zionist project, bringing about the correct balance of "Jewish" and "democratic" that makes Israel work.
  • Critics have said that in the new bill, Arabic has been "demoted." Yet the law is careful to clarify that the Arabic language will not only be granted "special status," but also that "this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect."
  • Similarly offensive to critics was the clause according to which "The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people." This clause is not a violation of democratic principles, much less "racist," so long as individual rights continue to be guaranteed. And they are, through the other Basic Laws that make up Israel's constitutional reality.
  • Similarly baffling were objections to the law's determination that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel." There is nothing at all new in it. Eastern Jerusalem was effectively annexed in 1980. Israel declared Jerusalem its capital within two years of its independence, and has insisted on it ever since. At the same time, the law does not define Jerusalem's municipal boundaries.
  • Finally, critics were angered by the bill's declaration that "Jewish settlement" be "a national value" that the state will continue to promote. The word being translated as "settlement" is hityashvut, which to any Israeli ear refers more to the Galilee and the Negev and the history of building new Jewish communities a century ago across the country. There is nothing in the phrasing that even hints at the West Bank.
  • Building a Jewish homeland - through sovereignty, culture, and settlement - has always been the core purpose of the country. Should it really not appear in its Basic Laws?
  • Nor does anything in the law make Israel unusual for a European-style democracy. France has a single national language. The United Kingdom has an established church, as well as a hereditary monarchy. Even democracies have a right to enshrine in law the things that make them unique. To suggest that Israel alone shouldn't be allowed to is self-evidently absurd.

    The writer is executive director of the Israel Innovation Fund.