September 3, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Japan to Halt Importing Iranian Oil in October (Japan Times)
    Japan's major oil distributors, taking heed of U.S. demands, are expected to suspend crude imports from Iran in October, sources said Saturday.
    The move comes as major Japanese banks prepare to halt transactions related to Iran, which will make it difficult for distributors to process payments even if they continue buying Iranian oil.
    Saudi Arabia provided Japan with 39% of its crude oil in 2017, while Iran supplied 5%.

Two Americans Stabbed in Terrorist Attack in Amsterdam (BBC News)
    Two American tourists were stabbed at Amsterdam's central railway station on Friday.
    The attacker, an Afghan man named in Dutch media as Jawed S., was shot and wounded by police.
    Authorities said: "Following an initial statement it has emerged the man had a terrorist motive."

Israel Sees Slowdown in Iranian Deployment in Syria (Reuters)
    "The Iranians have reduced the scale of their activity in Syria," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Yediot Ahronot on Friday.
    While "they are continuing to negotiate with the Assad government on the creation of garrison outposts in Syria, the main reason for why this has stopped is the result of our daily, hard work in Syria."

Assad Rejects Saudi Offer to Help Rebuild Syria - Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The Iranian media reported recently that Syrian President Assad had rejected a generous Saudi proposal for financial aid to rebuild his country in return for cutting ties with Iran and Hizbullah.
    See also Long Reach of U.S. Sanctions Hits Syria Reconstruction - Angus McDowal (Reuters)

PA Delegation in D.C. for Talks with CIA - Barak Ravid (Axios)
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli members of the Knesset during a meeting in his office in Ramallah Sunday that - despite the PA's official boycott of the Trump administration - a Palestinian delegation of security and intelligence officials is in Washington for talks with the CIA.
    Despite cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority, the Trump administration has maintained the funding it gives to the Palestinian security services.
    Abbas said at the meeting that he wants to maintain security coordination and intelligence sharing with the U.S.

Palestinians Riot at Gaza Border on Friday - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Thousands of Palestinians rioted along the Gaza border fence in five different locations on Friday, hurling stones, burning tires, and throwing a grenade.
    IDF forces responded with crowd dispersal measures and precise shooting at the main instigators.
    Palestinians in Gaza continued to launch incendiary balloons and kites over Israel.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Ends Assistance to UNRWA
    State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said Friday: "The Administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA....The fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years - tied to UNRWA's endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries - is simply unsustainable....The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation....Palestinians, wherever they live, deserve better than an endlessly crisis-driven service provision model. They deserve to be able to plan for the future."
        "Accordingly, the United States will intensify dialogue with the United Nations, host governments, and international stakeholders about new models and new approaches, which may include direct bilateral assistance from the United States and other partners, that can provide today's Palestinian children with a more durable and dependable path towards a brighter tomorrow." (U.S. State Department)
        See also After Defunding UNRWA, U.S. Said Seeking to Limit Aid from Others
    Israeli officials said the Trump Administration has made clear to them that it intends to see UNRWA closed down altogether and all its functions taken over by other agencies. The U.S. will not prevent the Gulf states, Arab nations, and others from providing emergency funding to keep UNRWA functioning this year, Israel's Hadashot TV reported on Saturday. But it will condition its consent to further funding by U.S. allies in the Arab world on a reevaluation of UNRWA's role and a redefinition of who the agency defines as a Palestinian refugee. (Times of Israel)
  • Philippines' Duterte Visit Sparks Debate over Israel's Diplomacy - Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber
    Philippines populist strongman President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Israel Sunday night, setting off a debate over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's outreach. The prime minister's allies say there is nothing unusual about opening new markets for Israeli exports and making new friends who can help defend Israel at the UN.
        "If you take a few steps back, you realize that many countries that seem to be controversial are also countries that have good ties with Britain, France, all the European states," said Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "Somehow when Israel tries to diversify its foreign-policy portfolio it stands out, but it's really not that exceptional." The Philippines abstained from voting on a resolution in December 2017 criticizing the U.S. decision to declare Jerusalem Israel's capital. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: U.S. Funding Halt to UNRWA an Important Step toward Finally Resolving the Refugee Problem
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, "The U.S. has done a very important thing by halting the financing for the refugee perpetuation agency known as UNRWA. It is finally beginning to resolve the problem. The funds must be taken and used to genuinely help rehabilitate the refugees, the true number of which is much smaller than the number reported by UNRWA. This is a welcome and important change and we support it."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Netanyahu Asked U.S. to Cut Funding for UNRWA - Barak Ravid
    Two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu privately conveyed to the White House that Israel's position regarding UNRWA has changed - and that it now supports a complete and immediate cut of all U.S. funding to the agency, Israeli officials told me. Previous Israeli policy had been that any cut in American funding of UNRWA should be gradual and without any aid cuts to Gaza. (Axios)
  • Israeli Farmers File War Crimes Complaint Against Hamas - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Israeli farmers traveled to The Hague on Monday to file a war crimes complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against top Hamas officials for fire kite terror from Gaza. The complaint, drafted by Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, called on ICC prosecutors to investigate orders by Hamas leaders Khaled Mashal, Saleh Arouri, and Zaher Jabarin to use fire kites and other terror to breach Israel's border and murder civilians, as well as torching thousands of acres of agricultural fields.
        Shurat Hadin said an ICC probe would find "blatant violation of the Rome Statute (Articles 8 (2) (c) (viii) and 28), which prohibits the murder of non-combatants, the destruction of civilian property for unlawful purposes, and the use of civilians as human shields."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Former Labour PM Gordon Brown Calls for Urgent Action Against Party's Anti-Semites - Lee Harpin
    Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown (2007-10) told a Jewish Labour Movement conference on Sunday that his party must adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism to remove a "stain" caused by the party adopting a watered-down version in July.
        Brown said the decision was "not just a procedural issue but about the soul of the party. It is time to say that this wrong must and can be righted, this injustice has got to be remedied....The hurt it has caused has got to be undone....We must never allow ourselves to be in a position where we are the problem."
        Brown received a standing ovation when he called for urgent action to be taken against Labour's anti-Semites. "It cannot be hesitant, it cannot be grudging. We can't just move on."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • The Welcome Disruption in Palestinian Aid - Jonathan Greenberg
    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in desperate need of disruption. The Peace Process Cartel - that has spent the last quarter century being flamboyantly wrong about negotiated peace - believes that political disruption can work only one way: Israel makes tangible concessions such as giving up terrorist prisoners or land in exchange for intangible Palestinian promises and rescindable recognitions.
        The Trump administration has decided to try a different tactic: the U.S. will support our ally and sister democracy in the conflict and will pressure the terror organization that nominally governs the "West Bank" to implement changes whose necessity are in dispute by exactly no one. Instead of continuing to fork over millions of dollars in exchange for policy outcomes that everyone agrees fly in the face of our national interests, we'll put pressure on the side that deserves it.
        Will Palestinian civilians suffer because of these cuts? Regrettably, that's a real possibility. U.S. taxpayers should take note, though, that the donors appear more concerned about Palestinian suffering than do the recipients who are tasked with actually governing Palestinians. Change was needed and this change is a welcome one. The writer, a Reform rabbi, is senior vice president of the Haym Salomon Center. (The Hill)
  • Moving Iranian Ballistic Missiles into Iraq Is Extremely Destabilizing - J.E. Dyer
    Iran has transferred short-range ballistic missiles to its Shi'ite proxies in Iraq, Reuters reported Friday. This move is about Iran's geostrategic intentions. Moving a conventional, tactical strike capability forward would form a deep-strike element for the advance of a ground force. Putting the capability in Iraq portends dragging Iraq into any future conflict. Iran is building up assets in Iraq to improve the forces surging to make an Iranian "land bridge" across Iraq and Syria a reality.
        The current stock of missiles, if they are tolerated, will simply lead to Iran stockpiling more prepositioned assets in Iraq such as air defense batteries and assault helicopters. It will also mean that troops in the U.S. coalition, along with Saudis, Jordanians, and Israelis, will be held at risk by the forward-deployed missiles. It's destabilizing in the extreme. The writer is a retired U.S. Naval Intelligence officer. (Liberty Unyielding)

Israel Welcomes U.S. Defunding of UNRWA as Step for Peace - Tovah Lazaroff and Michael Wilner (Jerusalem Post)
  • "Israel supports the American move" to cut its funding to UNRWA as a positive step forward in the peace process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Saturday night. It said UNRWA's determination of who is a Palestinian refugee is "one of the main problems perpetuating the conflict."
  • "It is worth giving the money to other parties that will make good use of it for the welfare of the population and not for the perpetuation of the refugees."
  • Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said: "The U.S. government's decision to end its aid to the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA is crucial for any future peace agreement."
  • "UNRWA eternalizes the Israeli-Arab conflict by artificially inflating the number of refugees, teaching young Palestinians to deny Israel's right to exist and demand the right of return, while providing shelter to terrorists and concealing their weapons."
  • "UNRWA is not essential to peace but rather a roadblock on the path to peace. UNRWA's support of schools can be picked up by other charitable organizations as well as the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees."
  • "The Palestinians must recognize that the U.S. decision to rescind its support of UNRWA is a result of the administration's efforts to revive the peace process and to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. From now on, any side that leaves the negotiation table is expected to pay a price."