August 16, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

IDF Closes Investigation of Response to Soldier's Kidnapping in 2014 Gaza War - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    On August 1, 2014, Hamas violated a ceasefire by attacking three IDF soldiers near Rafah in Gaza. One of them, Hadar Goldin, was kidnapped but was believed to be still alive.
    In response, the IDF unleashed massive firepower to try to cut off Hamas forces from escaping with the kidnapped soldier.
    The IDF legal division found that the actions of the IDF soldiers in the field did not go beyond the bounds of the laws of war.
    See also Decisions of the IDF Military Advocate General regarding Incidents during the 2014 Gaza War (Israel Defense Forces)

The Financial Viability of the Assad Regime in Syria - Matthew Brodsky (Security Studies Group)
    The Syrian civil war destroyed 3/4 of the national economy. Syria's foreign exchange reserves declined from $21 billion in 2010 to less than $1 billion by 2015.
    Assad benefited from Iran's financial windfall as a result of the implementation of the Iran deal, which translated into a marked increase in Iranian defense spending and the funding of its foreign military campaigns.
    Iran's military spending ballooned to $23 billion in 2017, representing 22% of government spending compared to 17% in 2014.
    Iran spends $15-$16 billion per year to maintain the Assad regime and has extended a credit line of $6.6-9 billion from the state-run Export Development Bank of Iran.
    Since Assad lacks the financial means to directly pay for the support he receives from Iran and Russia, he has turned to offering them business and resource development contracts and lucrative land leasing opportunities.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the SSG.

Iraqi ISIS Member Arrested in Sacramento - Matt Stevens and Gabe Cohn (New York Times)
    Omar Ameen, 45, an Iraqi national and longtime member of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State who settled in Sacramento as a purported refugee, has been arrested, federal authorities said Wednesday.
    He is to be extradited and will face trial on a murder charge in his home country, prosecutors said.

Police Thwarted Terror Attack in Jerusalem's Old City Last Week - Michael Bachner (Times of Israel)
    Security forces in Jerusalem's Old City arrested a Palestinian man, 26, from the West Bank city of Hebron, who was planning to carry out a stabbing attack, police said on Wednesday.
    The man was detained by officers on August 8 after they deemed his behavior suspicious. A body search revealed a knife and a can of tear gas.
    The suspect was said to have admitted he had traveled from the West Bank illegally to carry out a stabbing attack against Israeli civilians or security forces.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Is Throwing a Tantrum but Wants a Deal - Dennis Ross
    On Monday, Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, declared: "I ban holding any talks with America." But history and basic political dynamics suggest Iran's defiant attitude about negotiations will soften before long, and it's entirely possible to imagine the two sides reaching an agreement.
        European banks and companies are pulling out of Iran. Big energy, automobile, and shipping corporations such as Total, Peugeot, and Maersk, as well as banks such as Germany's Deutsche Bank, have pulled out. Banks and multinational corporations will do what their bottom lines tell them to do. The writer is a former American envoy to the Middle East and counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Foreign Policy)
  • The Rise and Fall of the Voice of America's Persian Service - S. Rob Sobhani
    From 2004 until 2010 I was in charge of overseeing the VOA Persian language programming into Iran. When I took over, few people inside Iran watched our live broadcasts. By 2008, we had a weekly viewership of 22 million.
        We expanded hard-hitting anti-regime programming, showing the Iranian people the cost of the Islamic regime to their economic well-being and national pride. We also spoke about the persecution of religious minorities, including members of the Baha'i faith.
        Not surprisingly, the regime fought back. A few of our high-profile presenters and I were labeled as "agents of the Zionist regime." In addition, agents of the Islamic regime who posed as "lobbyists," claiming to represent the interests of the Iranian-American community, solicited the support of members of Congress to put an end to our anti-regime content.
        Sadly, when President Obama took office, the VOA's senior leadership told us to tone down our anti-regime programs and even stop inviting certain guests. Our four-year investment in building a large following inside Iran was dismantled. (Washington Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Details of Israel-Hamas Deal Emerge - Noa Landau
    A deal negotiated between Israel and Hamas via Egyptian mediation, whose first stage went into effect on Wednesday, entails a commitment to rebuild Gaza's infrastructure and a prisoner swap to secure the release of Israeli civilians and soldiers' remains held by Hamas. The terms are essentially identical to those established after the 2014 war in Gaza. Israeli defense officials and the Prime Minister's Office refer to it as a return to the status quo before the escalation in tensions that began several months ago at the Gaza-Israel border. (Ha'aretz)
  • PA Official: Israel Must Pay a Price for Return of Dead Soldiers from 2014 War
    Sufyan Abu Zaida, a Palestinian Authority minister and senior Fatah member living in Gaza, gave an interview to the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation Kan on Wednesday. Commenting on Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, whose bodies are being kept hostage by Hamas, Abu Zaida said, "As a Palestinian, we are at war. There is a war, soldiers are captured, their situation is unknown, and then there is a prisoner exchange."
        "Everyone tried not paying a price at first. As time goes on, it becomes more of a problem....You should know, and the Israeli public should be prepared, that in order to return the soldiers a price must be paid. There are no free prisoner exchanges. Hamas wouldn't do it even if Gaza thrives. [Yahya] Sinwar, the head of the Hamas who was released in the [Gilad] Shalit [prisoner exchange] deal, cannot permit himself to give the soldiers for some hudnah [ceasefire] or another. He would rather receive a missile to the head than allow that to happen."  (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: No "Real Arrangement" with Hamas until Bodies of Slain Soldiers Returned
    An Israeli diplomatic source said at the end of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday: "There will be no real arrangement with Hamas without the return of our sons and citizens and the promise of quiet over time....As long as this commitment (calm) is maintained, humanitarian issues and the return of our sons and citizens can be addressed."
        "The current calm is the result of aggressive IDF action that will continue as necessary, and the quiet was achieved following the understandings advanced by the Egyptians and the United Nations."  (i24News)
  • Fatah Official Says Truce Agreement between Hamas and Israel a National Betrayal
    "The truce reached between Hamas and Israel a few days ago is a betrayal of the Palestinian people and its national cause," said Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and the PLO Executive Committee. (WAFA-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Is Proud of Who We Are - Naftali Bennett
    We Israelis are proud of who we are. We are proud of our Jewish traditions and identity, and we are proud of the equality and freedoms for all our people. Last month our government passed the Nation State Law, which reaffirms the centrality of the Jewish identity and nature of the State of Israel. Our self-identification as a Jewish homeland will never change. It is a central tenet of Zionism.
        Some critics argue that somehow the addition of such a law to Israel's robust judicial system, and political checks and balances, poses a threat to the future of the Jewish people and to Jews the world over. This is preposterous.
        Keeping Israel as the Jewish nation-state does not threaten the future of the Jewish people; it safeguards it. Protecting Jewish traditions, just as they safeguarded our people through two millenniums of exile, is the only way to be sure that Israel can continue to be a strong and vibrant democracy in a very difficult region. The writer is Israel's Minister of Education and Minister of Diaspora Affairs. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Sanctions on Iran Deserve Britain's Support - Roger Boyes
    Britain should support President Trump's imposition of sanctions on Iran instead of clutching the European idea that the flawed nuclear deal was a unique piece of statecraft that has to be saved at all cost. Pursuing the philosophy that was tried with communist states during the Cold War of change through trade merely places European signatories of the Iran deal on the same side as China and Russia at the expense of the wider interests of the Western alliance.
        In Iran, the Revolutionary Guard functions like the Mob, cynical, self-enriching, and anti-modern. Western sanctions policy has to take this mafia-state dimension into account. For sanctions to work, their chief purpose has to be clear: for restrictions to be lifted the regime has to give up its idea of building a Shia corridor to the Mediterranean and stop bankrolling proxy armies. Count on the pragmatism of those who want to stay in power and retain privilege. The Revolutionary Guard mobsters are not for the most part suicidal zealots.
        Changing Iran's behavior abroad will eventually create the conditions for regime change at home. The Guards, the corrupt heart of a clerical dictatorship, will end up at each other's throats. (The Times-UK)

Israel vs. BDS - Nathan Thrall (Guardian-UK)
  • Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser led the Israeli government's efforts against the BDS movement until 2014. He now works for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He headed the research division of IDF military intelligence during the Second Intifada, has good Arabic, and was appointed director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs in 2009.
  • Kuperwasser says the threat BDS poses to Israel is very real. "The core issue is not whether they are going to boycott us or not boycott us. The core issue is whether they are going to be successful in implanting in the international discourse that Israel is illegitimate as a Jewish state."
  • "The Palestinians are taking a very big risk," he said. "Because, in my mind, there is a good chance that the world will deny their conceptual framework. People will say: 'This is what the Palestinians want?! We are totally against it. They are crazy; they want Israel to disappear.'" In Kuperwasser's view, the BDS movement and the Palestinian leadership share the same goals; the differences between them are merely a matter of tactics.
  • "Abu Mazen [Abbas] understands more than the BDS movement that you have to be subtle." The PLO's acceptance of a two-state solution was merely a subterfuge designed to obtain a West Bank-Gaza state, which would then serve as a launching pad for continued struggle. "The Palestinian idea of struggle is so deeply embedded in their mind that they cannot actually think about the possibility of giving up the struggle in order to make peace."
  • "We are saying there is no difference between a settlement boycott and a boycott of Israel. If you want to promote the boycotting of Israel, any part of Israel, you are not a friend of Israel. You are actually an enemy of Israel."
  • Kuperwasser was confident that Israel was taking the right approach and would succeed, as it had against past assaults: "We won the war on the conventional battlefield. To start with, our chances were very slim. We won the war on terror. Again, it wasn't easy."
  • "I remember when we went to the big battle - the Second Intifada - and many generals around the world were telling me, 'Listen, Kuper, you're wasting your time: nobody ever won a war against terrorism,' citing Vietnam and other cases. And I said: 'No, we shall win this war as well. We are innovative and determined enough. And unlike many other battles, we don't have a second option, an alternative. We have to win.' The same goes here. We shall win."