September 13, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

UN Report: Assad Used Chemical Weapons in 3 Attacks This Year - Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters)
    UN investigators said Wednesday they had documented three further uses of banned chlorine weapons by Syrian government forces that constituted war crimes.
    Chlorine was dropped by government helicopters in Saraqeb in Idlib province on Feb. 4, injuring at least 11 men, while women and children were injured in the Jan. 22 and Feb. 1 attacks on Douma near Damascus.

Dramatic Dip in Successful ISIS Attacks, But Attempts Continue - Rukmini Callimachi (New York Times)
    Islamic State carried out 14 successful attacks in Europe and North America in 2015, 22 in 2016 and 27 in 2017, but in the first eight months of this year, it only carried out four, George Washington University's Program on Extremism reports.
    But the number of attempted attacks in Europe has remained unchanged, according to the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism in Paris, suggesting that while ISIS' capacity may have diminished, its effort has not.
    The difference, analysts say, is that law enforcement is increasingly foiling the plots. Most of the attacks in 2016 and 2017 were carried out by people who were introduced to the Islamic State online.
    Law enforcement agencies have increasingly been able to infiltrate this online universe.

Poll: Palestinians Oppose PA Takeover of Hamas Weapons - Dr. Khalil Shikaki (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    62% of Palestinians oppose PA President Abbas' position that Hamas must fully hand control over Gaza to a reconciliation government, including the security sector and weapons, according to a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Sept. 5-8, 2018.
    62% of Palestinians want President Abbas to resign. 59% say people cannot criticize the PA without fear, while 77% perceive corruption in PA institutions.
    Half of the public in Gaza and 22% in the West Bank want to emigrate.

Israeli Gas Is Almost Ashore, But Challenges Remain - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Israel's Tamar offshore gas field contains 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas. It provides 60% of Israel's electricity and will do so for many years.
    The new Leviathan gas field contains more than 22 tcf and will enable Israel to become a gas exporter.
    Engineers are working on a line that will cross into Jordan and generate most of the kingdom's electricity from 2020.
    It will use the right of way established by the old oil pipeline from Kirkuk, Iraq, to Haifa, which exported Iraqi oil between 1935 and 1948. It is the reason why a refinery, now Israel's biggest, was built in Haifa.
    Once in Jordan, the gas could connect with the old Arab Gas Pipeline to reach Egypt through the Sinai Peninsula.
    The writer is director of the Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Amb. Nikki Haley: Iran Is "Feeling the Pain" from Revived Sanctions - Gregg Re
    Iran is "feeling the pain" from the sweeping sanctions revived by President Trump in August, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told Fox News on Wednesday. "They feel weak and we are suffocating them to the point that they have to address ballistic missiles; they have to address their support on terrorism....At the end of the day, we can't allow them to have any nuclear programs."  (Fox News)
        See also Haley: All the Palestinians Have Ever Done Is Ask for Money and Badmouth the U.S.
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told Fox News on Wednesday that Washington is still waiting for the Palestinians to come to the negotiating table. "All they've done is have their hand out asking for money, badmouth the United States, not come to the table on the peace deal. Why would we have a PLO office [in Washington]? Why would we continue to fund the Palestinians?"
        "This isn't going to stop our work on the peace deal. We are moving forward, we're going to continue to push it. We're going to continue to hope that they see the error of what they've done and come back to the table, and we will welcome them when they do."  (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Department of Education Adopts New Definition of Anti-Semitism in Schools - Michael Stratford
    The U.S. Department of Education is changing how it investigates allegations of discrimination against Jewish students. Kenneth Marcus, who leads the department's Office for Civil Rights, outlined the policy change in a letter last month in which he re-opened a 2011 investigation into Rutgers University in connection with alleged discrimination against Jewish students.
        Marcus wrote that the Education Department would adopt the "working definition" of anti-Semitism that is "widely used by governmental agencies" including the State Department. That definition includes examples in which demonizing or delegitimizing Israel, or holding it to a double standard not expected of other democratic nations, are deemed anti-Semitic.
        In 2016, the Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation that would have forced the department to use the State Department definition in evaluating discrimination complaints. (Politico)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Large Bomb Found at Gaza Security Fence - Judah Ari Gross
    The IDF on Thursday detonated a large bomb that had been placed along the Gaza security fence by Palestinians during a recent riot. "The planting of the explosive device by the terrorist cell under the cover of a violent demonstration is further evidence that the Hamas terror group is working to maintain the conflict in the fence area and to injure IDF soldiers, while using residents of Gaza as human shields and as cover for terrorist activities," the army said. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Protesters Break Up Jerusalem Conference on Oslo Accords - Sue Surkes
    Ten to 12 Palestinian activists on Wednesday broke up a meeting of Palestinians and Israelis at the American Colony Hotel in east Jerusalem to mark the 25th anniversary of the Oslo peace accords. They seized the microphone, swept papers, name cards and glasses off the speakers' table, shattering the glasses, and chanted in Arabic, "No normalization," "Jerusalem is Arab" and "No security cooperation." Then, in English, they told everyone to leave the room. The conference was sponsored by the Palestine-Israel Journal and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel among Big Exporters Enforcing Global Anti-Bribery Pact
    Israel for the first time is among a handful of major global exporters that are strictly enforcing a worldwide pact against foreign bribery, a report published Wednesday by watchdog Transparency International found. Just seven countries - the U.S., Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland, Norway and Israel - were classed as "active" enforcers of the agreement, the highest rating. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Has Helped the U.S. Eliminate Threats on American Soil - Amb. David Friedman interviewed by Ariel Kahana
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Israel Hayom in an interview published Friday: "Israel is a tremendous friend to the United States. It provides the United States with assistance that, in some respects, no other country can provide. Look what it did with Iran, what it discovered with the Iran warehouse. Nobody else was able to accomplish that. There are things that I can't talk about specifically, but things where Israel has identified threats and helped us to eliminate those threats, that would have struck on our own soil. On American soil."
        "We don't tell Israel what to do and what not to do. It's a sovereign country....I think anything that Israel would present to the United States as being in their interest, in the interest of regional stability, in the interest of peace, of making the relationship between our two countries stronger, we owe it to them to listen. And then I think we would express our views, if we had views, and then the Israelis would have to make a decision. It's Israel's decision. It's always Israel's decision."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Palestinian Refugee Status Preserved by UNRWA Is Unnecessary and Inequitable - Alex Brummer
    UNRWA's existence could be construed by some as an enterprise that places Palestinian refugees in a different category to all others. These would include deserving refugees such as those fleeing the conflict in Syria and the Rohingya Muslims escaping oppression in Myanmar. In 70 years UNRWA grew into one the best-funded UN agencies, employing tens of thousands of people. It has become a highly politicized agency seeking to preserve the status of second- and third-generation Palestinians as refugees.
        These Palestinians do not live in the vast tent cities to be seen on Syria's borders with Jordan and Turkey. They inhabit well-maintained apartment blocks and the children are educated in well-appointed schools.
        Palestinian envoy Saeb Erekat says the decision to reduce or even close down funding "aims at closing schools, clinics, hospitals and starving people." No one wants to see any of that happen and there is no reason why, if UNRWA was to uprooted, other UN and global agencies could not take up the baton.
        The Palestinians are the only group in the world which has a specific agency which aims to preserve a refugee status which is unnecessary and inequitable. The real hope for the Palestinians are programs such as those run by the World Bank which seek to unleash enterprise and economic development, not to preserve a dependence culture. The writer is city editor of the Daily Mail. (Jewish News-UK)

The Thinking Behind the U.S. Mideast Peace Plan - Special envoy Jason Greenblatt interviewed by Josh Hasten (JNS)

Jason Greenblatt, assistant to the president and special representative for international negotiations, has been the face of the Trump administration's efforts to roll out a comprehensive plan for Mideast peace.
  • Greenblatt: "Our plan begins with reality....[Other plans] were always relying on tired notions of what it should be. Instead, it focuses on what it could be....It's an extensive document that we've developed that explains how we think the conflict can be resolved. It lays out each issue and proposed solutions very clearly...a deal which we think is realistic, fair, and, equally important, implementable."
  • "Earlier this year, the president directed a review of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority, as well as to the West Bank and Gaza, to ensure that the funds were being spent in accordance with U.S. national interests, and also providing value to the U.S. taxpayer. Per that review...we're going to be...redirecting more than $200 million of fiscal year 2017 economic support funds...to higher priority projects elsewhere."
  • "It's been clear for years that UNRWA's model of operations is completely unsustainable....It's tied to an endlessly and exponentially expanding community of beneficiaries....We also made it clear back in January, when we made our $60 million contribution, that the U.S. is no longer willing to shoulder a disproportionate share of UNRWA's costs while other donors lag behind....At the end of the day, the international community did not prove itself willing to fix this problem....We're ready to engage with other governments in the region and elsewhere to see if we can transition UNRWA's services to other governments or international organizations."
  • "If we don't resolve the situation in Gaza, it will be an obstacle on the road to peace....It's not a secret that the Palestinians of Gaza are hostage to Hamas, and they have suffered terribly under Hamas' iron-fist rule....There are Palestinians in Gaza who would rather seek peace, instead of watching violent protests and rockets and burning kites with swastikas adorned on them. And we're just going to have to work very hard to reach that population."
  • "Israel is going to have to be comfortable that what we put forth in the plan does not put Israel at risk. And we think we've devised a plan that takes all of Israel's security issues - and they are many...into account....We will not put forth a plan or endorse a plan that doesn't meet all of Israel's security issues because they are of extreme importance to us."