August 23, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Islamic State Leader Baghdadi Issues New Call for Attacks in the West - Liz Sly (Washington Post)
    Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on Tuesday called for continued attacks in the West in a message marking the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.
    References in the audiotape to recent developments indicate that he was still alive, despite rumors that he had been killed in airstrikes.
    Baghdadi urged Islamic State supporters in the West to carry out more lone-wolf attacks.
    "Carry out an attack that breaks their heart, and rip them apart, either with gunfire, or a stab to their bodies, or a bombing in their countries. Do not forget about running people over on the roads," he said.

Palestinian Arson Attacks Burn Trees Providing Security Screen for Israeli Communities - KKL-JNF (Jerusalem Post)
    Hundreds of acres of security tree plantings carried out since the 1950s around 11 Israeli communities in the Western Negev, to provide a natural protective screen between them and Gaza, have now gone up in smoke due to incessant Palestinian incendiary kite and balloon attacks.
    KKL-JNF Western Negev Recreation Area Coordinator Itzik Lugasi explains: "The trees conceal local communities and roads and make it hard for the terrorists to hit them directly."
    "The camouflage they provide protects farmers from sharpshooters, and the army uses them for cover when necessary, too. What's more, a missile fired at the area has a very good chance of hitting the trees first."

Palestinian Prisoners of PFLP Express Solidarity with U.S. Prison Strike (teleSUR-Venezuela)
    Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine held in Israeli jails have released a statement in solidarity with the national U.S. prisoners strike, which began on Tuesday.

Fatah Leaders Arm Themselves Ahead of Abbas' Departure (Ynet News)
    Senior Fatah leaders have started to align themselves with various armed groups in the West Bank in preparation for a possible violent struggle following the eventual departure of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
    Fatah officials who have already attained the support of armed gangs from the group's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades include Jibril Rajoub, former head of the PA Preventive Security Force in the West Bank; Majed Faraj, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service; Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of Fatah; and Tawfik Tirawi, former head of the Palestinian General Intelligence in the West Bank.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Vows to Grant Few Waivers on Iran Sanctions - Felicia Schwartz
    The Trump administration is looking to ratchet up pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear program, going beyond previous international sanctions, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Wednesday. "We're not just going to stop at where the sanctions were in 2015. Our goal, our objective really is essentially we'd like to say no waivers to the sanctions," Bolton said after two days of meetings with Israeli officials.
        Bolton said the first wind-down period has ended, with the U.S. only granting two "very limited" sanctions waivers. He added that the U.S. sanctions put in place so far have affected Iran's ability to operate in the Middle East. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Egypt, Saudi Arabia Less Optimistic over Trump's Middle East Peace Plan - Jacob Wirtschafter and Mina Nader
    Arab enthusiasm to partner with President Trump on a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement is faltering. After a year of multiple meetings with Arab leaders, American envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have failed to convince Egypt or other key Arab states that the U.S. can broker a fair solution. Arab leaders have reportedly asked the Trump administration to withhold announcing the plan.
        "Most of the Arab world - including Egypt and Saudi Arabia - have rejected the U.S.-proposed 'deal of the century'," said Saad El Gammal, head of the Egyptian parliament's Arab Affairs Committee. (USA Today)
        See also Timing of U.S. Peace Plan Rollout Remains Unclear - Kylie Atwood
    The date for the rollout of the U.S. peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians remains unclear. There have been reports that the Trump administration would push for a rollout at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) next month. But experts say that would serve as a dead end for the plan.
        "The UNGA strategy I think would be a difficult one, if only for the fact that the Arab diplomats are not happy with the overall approach. Taking it to UNGA, which is the Palestinians' home turf, could hurt the chances of this plan being rolled out in any successful fashion," explains Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
        "The Trump administration is recognizing Israeli power, that they are holding the cards at this point," says Schanzer, comparing the approach to past administrations who sought to put Palestinians and Israelis on an equal footing. "They are definitely coming to the table with a different approach. There is no way they can fail any worse than others have failed before."  (CBS News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Security Adviser Bolton Defends Israeli Strikes in Syria as "Self-Defense" - Herb Keinon
    Israel has struck in Syria in recent months "every time Iran has brought missiles or other threatening weapons" into the country, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Wednesday during a visit to Israel. He added that he viewed those strikes as "a legitimate act of self-defense."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Reject Trump's Claim that Jerusalem Is "Off the Table" in Negotiations - Elior Levy
    Palestinian leaders on Wednesday rejected President Trump's statement on Tuesday that U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital had removed the issue from the table in any future peace negotiations. The PLO said Trump's comments point to "the continued illusion of the American administration that it is possible to achieve the 'deal of the century' without Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state." Hamas called Trump's comments "audacious and dangerous."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Get Serious about Human Shields - Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie
    Terrorists' use of human shields is a remarkably effective tactic against countries like the U.S. and Israel, whose ethical and military codes require avoiding civilian casualties. Terrorists hide among civilians to shelter themselves from lawful attack or deliberately cause civilian casualties. The use of human shields is proscribed by the Geneva Conventions. In August 2016, Islamic State fighters fleeing Manbij, Syria, escaped destruction by placing civilians in each of 500 vehicles in their retreating convoy. U.S. forces didn't fire on the cars.
        Yahya Sinwar, Hamas' leader in Gaza, admitted that the Hamas-organized "March of Return" campaign at the Gaza border was designed to generate civilian casualties - to sacrifice "that which is most dear to us - the bodies of our women and children."
        Terrorists and their sponsoring regimes must be held accountable for their brutal practice of using civilians as human shields. Sanctions for using human shields could lead to prosecution in European courts and counter false claims that Western democracies are to blame for harm to these civilians. Mark Dubowitz is chief executive at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Orde Kittrie, a law professor at Arizona State University, is a senior fellow at FDD. (Wall Street Journal)
  • PA Leaders Have Lost Interest in Institution-Building - Nathan J. Brown
    The centrality of institution-building to the Palestinian leadership's approach toward Palestinian state-building has declined, aggravating serious political decay in the West Bank and Gaza.
        The Oslo process led to the founding of the Palestinian Authority that built structures to administer Palestinian affairs. The PA ran everything from education, healthcare, and traffic, to the licensing of NGOs, even as it created the institutions of an eventual state, from police forces to a parliament. After Hamas took over control of Gaza in 2007, PA institution-building in the West Bank became the centerpiece of efforts by Palestinian leaders and their international backers to achieve statehood.
        However, today, a quarter of a century since the first Oslo agreement made the PA possible, PA leaders no longer behave as if domestic institution-building is a critical part of the search for statehood. This is reflected in the greater emphasis on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas personally, with his photo prominently displayed throughout the PA. Official rhetoric stresses the PLO, the Palestinian National Council, Fatah, and the Palestinian "revolution" more than the PA.
        PA structures actually serve as administrative afterthoughts that are no longer viewed as kernels of a statehood effort. Leading Palestinian institutions are sometimes bent to serve the interests of senior officials and repress opposition. Creeping authoritarianism, the personalization of authority, and disregard for legal and professional norms are all unmistakable signs of a leadership that has lost interest in good governance. The writer is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. (Carnegie Middle East Center)

Palestinian Leaders Threaten Jerusalem's Arabs on Eve of City's Municipal Elections - Nadav Shragai (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Prior to the local elections in Jerusalem on October 30, 2018, terrorist organizations are increasing the pressure on east Jerusalem's Arab residents to maintain the boycott of Jerusalem's municipal elections.
  • Surveys reflect a desire to participate in the elections in order to wield influence and channel budgets into services and infrastructure for the Arab neighborhoods.
  • A public letter in Arab media from "the Islamic nationalist forces in Al-Quds (Jerusalem)" calling on Arab Jerusalemites to boycott the elections asserted: "Whoever takes part in the elections is a traitor who harms all the Palestinian values."
  • This call echoed a religious ruling by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, which stated: "Whoever among the Jerusalem residents takes part in the local elections will be defined as someone who has left the fold of nationhood, the homeland, and the religion." The PLO Executive Committee took the same stance.
  • 31% of Jerusalemites eligible to vote are Arabs. (Arabs constitute 41% of the population, but many are too young to vote.) In the 2013 municipal elections, only 1% of the city's Arabs voted.
  • Dr. David Koren, Arab-affairs adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, thinks there will be greater voting turnout in neighborhoods such as Wadi Joz, Beit Safafa, and Sur Baher, but he is not convinced that there will be enough for an Arab list to pass the minimum threshold. "The Palestinian Authority's ability to stick labels on [east Jerusalem residents] as 'Zionist agents and collaborators' still exists. And it has a deterrent effect."

    The writer is a journalist and commentator who has documented Jerusalem for 30 years.