August 3, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Starts Naval Exercise near Strait of Hormuz - Gordon Lubold and Nancy A. Youssef (Wall Street Journal)
    Iran began a major naval exercise near the Strait of Hormuz Thursday with more than 100 boats and ships participating, mostly smaller craft, U.S. defense officials said. UAVs are also participating in the exercise.

Hizbullah Reveals Its (Iranian-Made) "Air Force" - Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Hizbullah's "Resistance" Museum at Mleeta in southern Lebanon has a new exhibit - a squadron of drones from Hizbullah's "Air Force."
    Drones are being used throughout the Middle East for surveillance, combat, targeting, platforms for bombs and missiles, and as "suicide" drones.
    Iranian-made drones are now flying in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Over the last decade, they have attempted to enter Israeli airspace from Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza.
    The Hizbullah drones on display are all of Iranian origin. Some of the drones' twins also appear in the Houthi and Hamas orders of battle.

U.S. Releases Millions in Frozen Aid to PA Security Forces - Michael Wilner (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. has released security aid to the Palestinian Authority previously withheld due to a comprehensive State Department review of U.S. assistance to the Palestinians.
    "This assistance underpins Palestinian Authority security cooperation with Israel, which remains in force despite recent tensions," a State Department official said. "It is simply the first decision to emerge from the review, which is ongoing."

The Coming Battle for Idlib in Syria - Mona Alami (Al-Monitor)
    Russian officials warned Free Syrian Army negotiators on July 10 that the northwestern province of Idlib would be next, after the fall of southern Syria to President Assad's forces.
    The province is the last insurgency holdout and home to several jihadist organizations.
    Ibrahim Idilbi, a Syrian activist, said the various rebel formations in the province totaled 18,000 fighters.
    "One has to take into account that it is the rebels' last stronghold, which means there is nowhere else to go, and they will fight until the end."

Peace Index: Israelis Favor Peace Talks But Don't Believe They Will Succeed - Profs. Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann (Tel Aviv University and Israel Democracy Institute)
    While most Israelis favor peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, 80% of Israeli Jews and 52% of Israeli Arabs do not believe negotiations will lead to peace, according to the Peace Index survey of Israeli opinion taken on July 24-26, 2018.

Ceremony Marks 75 Years since Treblinka Death Camp Revolt (AP-Washington Post)
    Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari joined Polish officials and relatives of former inmates in a ceremony marking 75 years since the revolt of prisoners at the Nazi German death camp of Treblinka.
    900,000 Jews, chiefly from Poland, were killed from 1941 to 1944 at Treblinka in occupied Poland.
    300 inmates escaped during the Aug. 2, 1943, revolt. Only a few dozen survived.

Follow the Jerusalem Center on:

Tunisia to Allow Israeli 7-Year-Old Girl to Compete in World Championship - Eliana Schreiber (Jerusalem Post)
    The Tunisian Chess Federation issued a letter Tuesday stating players from all countries are invited, "without exception," to an international chess championship it will host next year.
    The World Chess Federation threatened to revoke Tunisia's hosting privileges if the country did not issue visas to Liel Levitan, 7, and other Israelis. Tunisia's current policy bars entry to Israelis.

Palestinian's Interview on Israeli Program Sparks Backlash - Rasha Abou Jalal (Al-Monitor)
    On July 25, Ibrahim al-Madhoun, director of the Youth Media Center, Hamas' media wing, appeared on Israeli i24News in a Skype interview.
    His appearance elicited a wave of negative reactions among activists who saw it as normalization - establishing a dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis through the media.
    The day after his interview Madhoun wrote on Facebook: "I formally apologize to Palestine's youth, media and every citizen for my misjudgment of the situation."

The IDF's Emergency Medical Services Unit in the West Bank - Charles Bybelezer (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    Lt.-Col. Dr. Ido Dachtman's job is to provide emergency medical treatment to both Israelis and Palestinians alike in the West Bank.
    "We are on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If there is a civilian with a heart attack, if there's a terror attack, we are always in a state of readiness."
    Dachtman oversees 100 personnel spread over six regional brigades, each one located in the vicinity of a major Palestinian city.
    So far this year, some 2,000 people - half of them Palestinian - have been treated by the Israeli army.

United to Launch Tel Aviv-Washington Flights (Globes)
    United Airlines announced Thursday that it would launch a new direct flight between Tel Aviv and Dulles Airport in Washington starting on May 24, 2019.

UK Data Security Company Buys Israeli Company - Yasmin Yablonko (Globes)
    UK data security company Mimecast announced Tuesday that it has acquired the Israeli cybersecurity company Solebit for $88 million.
    Solebit provides a fast, accurate and efficient approach for the identification and isolation of zero-day malware and unknown threats in data files as well as links to external resources.
    Mimecast says that Solebit provides powerful threat protection in today's broad threat landscape with evasion-aware, signature-less technology.
    Solebit was founded in 2014 by graduates of elite technology units in the Israel Defense Forces and the company will become Mimecast's Israel development center.

Royal Bank of Canada Invests $2M in Israeli Cybersecurity Research - Rebecca Stadlen Amir (israel21c)
    The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has invested $2 million in the cybersecurity research center at Ben-Gurion University.
    The funding will support the development of adversarial artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning-based cyber mitigation techniques.

Search the Recent History of Israel and the Middle East

Send the Daily Alert to a Friend
    If you are viewing the email version of the Daily Alert and want to share it with friends, please click Forward in your email program and enter their address.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House Mideast Team Staffing Up for Peace Plan Rollout - Matthew Lee and Zeke Miller
    U.S. officials say the Trump administration is staffing up a Middle East policy team at the White House in anticipation of unveiling its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. The National Security Council last week asked the State Department, Pentagon, intelligence agencies and Congress to detail personnel to the team for six months to a year to work on political and security details, economic matters, and strategic communications. The creation of a White House team is evidence that a plan is advancing. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Russian Forces Join UN Peacekeepers on Golan Heights Frontier - Maria Danilova
    UN peacekeepers returned on Thursday to patrol the frontier between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights, Russia's Defense Ministry announced. For the first time, Russian forces joined the peacekeepers. Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian General Staff said in Moscow that Russian military police accompanied the UN peacekeepers on patrol. He said Russia's military police would establish eight of its own monitoring posts at the edge of the UN disengagement zone at the frontier.
        On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Syrian side of the border had returned to its pre-2011 state. He said Israel will have "no cause to intervene or operate in Syrian territory" if Damascus respects a 1974 disengagement agreement between the two sides - and as long as Syria doesn't become a staging ground for Iranian forces to attack Israel or transfer arms to Hizbullah in Lebanon. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Firefighters Tackle 13 Arson Blazes in Gaza Border Region Thursday
    Firefighters worked throughout Thursday to extinguish 13 blazes caused by incendiary balloons landing in Israeli communities near Gaza, the Israeli Fire and Rescue Authority said.
        On Sunday, Israel's security cabinet will reportedly discuss a truce proposal with Hamas being brokered by UN envoy for Middle East peace Nickolay Mladenov that would include the cessation of airborne arson attacks, according to Egyptian media reports. Mladenov's proposal for calming tensions has reportedly been worked out in cooperation with Egypt and other Arab states. (Times of Israel)
  • Defense Minister: Israel Will Target Those Behind Arson Attacks from Gaza - Michael Bachner
    Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that Israel would adopt a new policy in dealing with the flaming balloons and kites that have been sent flying over the border in recent months, burning large swaths of land in Israel. "We need to target those who send the balloon launchers, not the pawns," he said.
        "There was an Egyptian request and we accepted it; we made half a step and enabled gas and fuel shipments [last week]. But there was a commitment by Egypt that there wouldn't be any tensions on the border fence. Since these things are continuing, I decided to also close the Strip to gas and fuel. Until the kite terrorism and the tensions at the fence completely stop, that is what will be left - food and medicine. I hope the public will pressure the Hamas leadership to understand that there are far better alternatives to only having electricity four hours a day. Rehabilitation will only happen in exchange for demilitarization."  (Times of Israel)
  • Intensive Negotiations to Reduce Gaza Violence - Amos Harel
    Intensive negotiations to reduce the level of violence from Gaza are continuing. Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled a scheduled trip to Colombia, saying that he had to monitor the situation in Gaza; cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz predicted that "we are on the way to a long-term arrangement with Hamas"; Israel took the unusual step of permitting Salah Arouri, a Hamas official who lives abroad and is suspected of involvement in terrorist activity in the West Bank, to enter Gaza to participate in consultations there. Israel also allowed the entry of equipment for a big water desalination plant in Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
        See also New Gaza Solar Facility Will Provide Electricity for Water Desalination Plant - Priyanka Shrestha
    The EU has completed the biggest solar energy project in Gaza. It will provide 500KW of electricity per day to fuel the Southern Gaza Desalination Plant. (Energy Live News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • The Ongoing Israel-Iran Confrontation in Syria - Amb. Frederic C. Hof and Mona Alami
    Frederic C. Hof: In my view, reliance on Russian assurances will be non-productive. Yes, Russian President Putin is well-disposed toward Israel and its prime minister. But he lacks the intent and the capability to remove Iran from Syria entirely or keep it permanently away from the Golan Heights. Putin argues that an Assad-led Syrian state supported by Russia is the best guarantee against a continued prominent Iranian role in Syria. But the ground combat power deployed by Iran in Syria is essential to Assad's continued rule.
        Mona Alami: Israel wants to maintain direct military and diplomatic channels with Russia to contain Iran in Syria. Israel is gathering significant intelligence on Iran's presence in Syria. In May, Israel struck over 70 Iranian positions in Syria - intelligence installations, rocket depots, army bases, and logistic warehouses used by Iran. Israel has struck Iranian targets in Syria over 150 times in the last few years.
        FH: Moscow regards Israeli strikes of this nature as a cost of doing business; a way to increase its own credibility in the eyes of Israeli leaders by remaining passive so long as the targets are Iranian and not regime in nature.
        Neither Iran nor Hizbullah wishes to provoke an Israeli response on the order of 2006. Although they strongly desire to have a presence along the eastern base of the Golan Heights, they will be cautious in the level of harassment they try to inflict on Israel.
        MA: For now, Iran is prioritizing the reclaiming of Syrian regime territory, namely in the north. Any confrontation with Israel appears to be thus postponed. The writers are nonresident senior fellows of the Atlantic Council. (Atlantic Council)
  • How Popular Is Iran in Lebanon? - Hillel Frisch
    In Lebanon, Iran has the Hizbullah militia at its disposal and probably the Lebanese army as well. But does Iran wield soft power there as well? Hizbullah possesses two major media sites in Lebanon - al-Manar and al-Mayadeen. Yet a 2014 study by a leading Lebanese bank of the 20 largest websites includes neither.
        Iranian singers are not aired on Lebanese media, primarily because there is little appetite for music sung in Farsi. (The overwhelming majority of songs aired are in Arabic, followed by English and French.) In the Lebanese movie scene, the U.S. seems to have a near monopoly. Iranian television serials have zero visibility. The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • Palestinians

  • The Arsonists Claim to Love the Land They Are Destroying - Renee Garfinkel
    The arsonists attacking Israel are not loners. They are adults and children, recruited and organized by terrorist leaders, Hamas and others, to set fire to fields, forests and farms in Israel.
        The arsonists' disregard, even contempt for land contrasts sharply with Israel's culture of nurturing its land. Israeli children are brought up with stories of heroes who drained the swamps, planted orchards and invented creative ways to irrigate them; heroes who made the desert bloom, and continue to maintain it today. The land itself is revered. The land is an active character in Israeli mythology, in its history, religion and culture.
        Oddly, Palestinian leadership who back the arsonists claims to love the land they are destroying. They're loving it to death. Their drama, playing out daily on a fragile ecology, is simple: "If I can't have it, then no one will have it."  (Times of Israel)
  • Legislation Aims to Make U.S. Aid to Palestinian Refugee Agency Contingent on Reform - Sean Savage
    New legislation introduced in Congress is seeking to make American aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) - an agency solely dedicated to Palestinian refugees - contingent on reform. The UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), "would return UNRWA to its original framework and address this false narrative of an inflated refugee population." U.S. funding would go to resettling those refugees that meet the standards of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which is how American law defines refugees.
        "UNRWA's twisted definition of refugee has made a mockery of both those who are true refugees in various conflicts around the world and those who are truly living in horrible conditions throughout the region, such as Syria," Lamborn said. (JNS)
  • Economic Peace in the West Bank - Daphna Krause
    In 1997, the Achva Halva factory moved from Tel Aviv to the Ariel Industrial Zone in the West Bank. It employs 240 people, 60% of whom are Palestinians. "We keep the politics and all the other issues outside the factory," said Yoav Mallach, the factory's operations manager. "Here everyone is equal: there is no religion, no history. Keep everything, all the conflict outside. Here everyone works in complete harmony." Mallach says the average monthly salary for Palestinians who work in similar Palestinian factories is around 2,000 shekels. At Achva, the base salary is 8,000 shekels.
        Mujahed Ahmed, who lives in a village 20 minutes from the factory, said, "I enjoy working here. There are no Palestinians, no Israelis; everyone is working together. You don't find the conditions everywhere that you do in this factory." Ahmed is manager of the packaging department, where he works with two of his brothers and 10 cousins. "Every day I get around 20 phone calls" from people asking to work there.
        65 Palestinians and 35 Israelis work at Lipski Plastics in Barkan's industrial area. CEO Yehuda Cohen came here 11 years ago. "I found that if you give a Palestinian employee a fair salary, conditions and respect, you get wonderful people. It's a win-win situation: I need workers and the workers need work."  (Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • China Supplies Weapons to Israel's Enemies - Doron Ella
    China's technological and qualitative military progress enables it to expand its exports of weapons and military equipment to its allies in the Middle East, such as Iran and Syria. In 2000-2015, Chinese weapons exports increased by a factor of 6.5. As of 2017, China became the world's third largest weapons exporter, after the U.S. and Russia. Israel must therefore closely follow the volume and types of Chinese weapons sold to countries considered to be enemies. Israel must also consider the possibility that China will emerge as a significant strategic competitor in this sphere.
        If China decides to invest in Syrian reconstruction, Israel will have to try to reach understandings with Beijing about the investments in order to preserve Israel's freedom of action in the country. The writer is a research associate at INSS. (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies)
  • Israel's Alleged Nuclear Weapons in Perspective - Daniel R. DePetris
    Everyone believes that the Israelis possess a sizable nuclear arsenal. The founder of the State of Israel and the country's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, made it his mission to ensure that the one homeland for the Jewish people would be protected from an ever-present threat of Arab attack. Ben-Gurion was concerned that his people would eventually fail to keep up in a conventional arms race with their Arab enemies. Israel, he argued, needed an insurance policy in order to survive in a neighborhood filled with adversaries.
        Israel has long argued that its nuclear weapons program (which it neither confirms nor denies) is not nearly the biggest threat to the Middle East's security. Israel is ultimately correct: the problems that are killing tens of thousands of people in the Middle East every year and driving millions from their homes have nothing to do with Israel.
        Instead, they are spurned on by the Arab world's incredible dysfunction: sectarian conflict, incompetent and brutal dictatorial governance (see the Assad regime) and terrorism - all of which feed off of one another and create a cycle of violence. Israel's nuclear program is not where energy should be expended. (National Interest)
  • Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism - Melanie Phillips
    Anti-Israelism has exactly the same characteristics that make traditional anti-Semitism a unique derangement. Both are based entirely on falsehoods and malicious distortions; both single out Israel and the Jews for double standards and treatment afforded to no other nation, people, or cause; both accuse Israel or the Jews of crimes of which they are not only innocent but are in fact the victims; both dehumanize Israel or the Jewish people; both impute to Israel or the Jewish people demonic global conspiratorial power; both are utterly beyond reason.
        The treatment of Israel is described as mere "criticism" of its behavior. But it isn't criticism at all. Criticism is rational. This is irrational and malicious demonization and delegitimization of Israel and of Zionism. Zionism is merely the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. This anti-Zionism singles out the Jews alone for the destruction of their nationhood.
        Jews are in fact the most persecuted people on earth, who even now have to sacrifice their children in Israel to defend themselves year in, year out against genocidal fanatics bent on their extermination. How can this not be recognized? (Commentary)

  • Weekend Features

  • IDF Female Surveillance Operators Fight Terrorist Attackers - Yaakov Lappin
    Cpl. Shani Davidyan, an Israel Defense Forces video surveillance operator, was sitting in her operations room, monitoring the Gush Etzion sector south of Jerusalem, when she suddenly received a radio report that shots were fired in her sector. "I started scanning the area and identified a person in my sector walking between two roads, near the Border Police checkpoint. He was walking towards an Arab village." Davidyan directed the Border Police in the man's direction. "Within two minutes, they reached the person. I saw him produce a firearm and open fire at them."
        As this severe incident unfolded, Davidyan declared a "hot hammer" incident - an armed attack taking place on security forces. Security forces began rushing towards the area. Thirty minutes later, the suspect was in custody, together with his gun and a knife.
        "It was an incredible feeling," said Davidyan. "Here I felt the sensation of helping to capture a suspect who carried out a shooting attack....I safeguard the whole of Gush Etzion. We protect human lives, which is the most important thing in the world."
        Capt. Ariel Bitton, a company commander, said that when a surveillance operator spots something, she "has to accurately describe what is occurring and mobilize the forces to the right spot. Her goal is the capture of the attacker." Female operators suit this kind of role, added Bitton, with its need for long concentration spans and multi-tasking. Ultimately, it's about keeping their cool while completing their mission.  (JNS)
  • IDF Designs Tank for Urban Warfare - Michael Peck
    Israel is developing a new, artificial intelligence-equipped version of its Merkava tank that is also designed to fight in cities. The "Barak," scheduled for deployment by 2021, "will be the first tank to have a smart mission computer that will manage the tanks' tasks," the IDF said. "This advanced artificial intelligence will reduce the team members' workload and help them more accurately locate and strike targets."
        The Barak will have a virtual reality system embedded into the tank, which the crew can access via special helmets, which "will allow the combat soldiers to see the outside environment from inside the combat vehicle," said a senior Armored Corps officer. It will have systems to warn the driver of obstacles, similar to those found on luxury automobiles, as well as an active protection system against missiles. Improved logistics will enable the tank to carry out missions that are 30% longer than current operations. (National Interest)
  • Visually Impaired Get Israeli High-Tech Assistance - Keren Setton
    Moshe Fischer, 68, was born in Israel with visual impairment for which there was no cure. That changed in 2013 when Fischer tested Orcam MyEye, a flash drive-size device mounted on an eyeglass arm that helps him see and do things he could not do for decades. Whoever uses the device can simply point to an object and it will tell them what is in front of them, using artificial intelligence. It can scan a page in a book and read it to the user. It does the same for money notes, grocery products and bus signs. It also tells time.
        The user can take a picture of the person in front of him, record their name, and every time that person appears in front of them, the device will announce it. "I started devouring books...using a smartphone. It's amazing," Fischer said. The unit works offline, without using any cloud services. It helps the user in real time, with virtually no delay.
        The founders of Jerusalem-based Orcam, Ziv Aviram and Amnon Shashua, are also the founders of Mobileye, a world leader in autonomous driving software. "To see the customer that's exposed to the system and usually the first reaction is that they start to cry - it's so moving," said Aviram. (Xinhua-China)
  • The Concentration Camp Choir - Bryony Clarke
    On June 23, 1944, a delegation of Nazi officials, including Adolf Eichmann, hosted representatives from the International Red Cross at an elaborately staged tour of Terezin concentration camp. The visit culminated with a performance by Terezin's inmate choir. Conductor Rafael Schachter chose to perform Giuseppe Verdi's "Requiem." "Schachter had his reasons" for performing Verdi, recalls Zdenka Fantlova, 96, a survivor of Terezin. It features a fearsome evocation of fire and fury, promises of posthumous punishment, and dire warnings of God's wrath.
        "Rafael said we would sing to the Nazis what we couldn't say to them," says Marianka May, 95, a Terezin survivor who sang in the choir. "The Latin words remind them that there is a judge, and one day they will answer to that judge."
        Schachter, a Czech conductor who led the camp's choir, faced many challenges. A transport to Auschwitz in September 1943 wiped out nearly all 150 members. Schachter had to start from scratch with new singers. May said, "Being in the choir gave us the wonderful ability to think about the next rehearsal, the next performance - it reminded us we come from a normal world. It was soul-saving....Those in the choir had a reason to stay alive."
        On Oct. 17, 1944, a transport took almost the entire choir, and its conductor, to Auschwitz. Schachter perished on a death march in the spring of 1945. Of the more than 150,000 Jews sent to Terezin, only 17,000 survived the war. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Much of the criticism of Israel's new nation-state law stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of Israel's constitutional system. The new law isn't meant to be read in isolation, but in concert with other Basic Laws enshrining Israel's democratic system.
  • Israel doesn't have a constitution. What it has is a series of Basic Laws to which the Supreme Court accorded constitutional status. Each Basic Law is merely one article in Israel's constitution or constitution-to-be. They cannot be read in isolation, but only as part of a greater whole.
  • Consequently, it's ridiculous to claim that the nation-state law undermines democracy, equality or minority rights merely because those terms don't appear in it, given that several other Basic Laws already address these issues. The new law doesn't supersede the earlier ones; it's meant to be read in concert with them.
  • Arguing that the nation-state law is undemocratic because it doesn't mention equality or minority rights is like arguing that the U.S. Constitution is undemocratic because Articles I and II confer broad powers on the legislature and executive without mentioning the protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
  • The provision of the law stating that "The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people" doesn't deprive Arabs of individual rights within Israel, nor does it bar the possibility of Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The only thing it prohibits is an Arab state within Israel's borders, which is problematic only if you favor replacing Israel with another Arab state.

        See also The Constitution of the State of Israel (1993) - Daniel J. Elazar
    Prof. Daniel J. Elazar (1934-1999), a leading political scientist, founded the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Support Daily Alert
Daily Alert is the work of a team of expert analysts who find the most important and timely articles from around the world on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. policy. No wonder it is read by heads of government, leading journalists, and thousands of people who want to stay on top of the news. To continue to provide this service, Daily Alert requires your support. Please take a moment to click here and make your contribution through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.