October 23, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Cabinet Ministers: Malfunction Caused Gaza Rocket Fire - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Israeli intelligence has determined, with a very high degree of certainty, that the two rockets fired from Gaza at Beersheba and central Israel last week were the result of a malfunction caused by a lightning storm, Security Cabinet ministers told Ynet on Monday.

What Khashoggi's Murder Tells Us about the Saudi Power Structure - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Muhammad bin Salman (MbS), 33, Saudi crown prince and heir apparent since 2017, is the kingdom's de facto day-to-day leader who has been transforming the country's economy, society, and religion.
    King Salman, 82 and in declining health, is increasingly a mere figurehead, albeit a diplomatically convenient one for Riyadh during the Jamal Khashoggi crisis.
    The royal orders sacking a key media advisor to MbS and four intelligence officials were issued in the king's name, though it is unclear how involved he was in the decision.
    The few princes who have managed to retain their prominence are either too old or too young to rival MbS, who has methodically sidelined a swath of royals in their 50s and 60s who likely once regarded themselves as future contenders for the throne.
    The Khashoggi affair has sparked speculation that the royal family may want to sideline or remove MbS because of his authoritarian style and perceived excesses.
    However, there is no visible evidence of this. MbS remains the kingdom's future.
    The writer is director of the Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute.

Israel to Boost Finland's Naval Defense Systems (JNS)
    The Finnish navy awarded contracts worth $185.76 million in July to Israel Aerospace Industries to equip its missile boats with the Israeli Gabriel missile system between 2019 and 2025.

Senior Hamas Official: Hamas and Fatah Have Failed Their People - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The leaders of Hamas and Fatah have failed their people and have turned them into "beggars and street vendors who can hardly earn a living," senior Hamas official Ahmed Yousef wrote on the Palestinian Donia Al-Watan website on Monday.
    "We have all made mistakes - Hamas and Fatah alike. Hamas and Fatah have failed to reach agreement on a unified national vision. We have failed in the management of good governance."
    "Hamas and Fatah failed the day they showed the world - with ignorance and political idiocy - that the factions are more important than the homeland. We failed when we showed the world that the position of the leader has become the goal of everyone."
    "Fatah is a par excellence partner in the state of failure and degradation."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • New Report: Arbitrary Arrest and Torture Under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas
    In the 25 years since Palestinians gained a degree of self-rule over the West Bank and Gaza, their authorities have established machineries of repression to crush dissent, including through the use of torture. Both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have in recent years carried out scores of arbitrary arrests for peaceful criticism of the authorities.
        This report draws on 86 cases which show that Palestinian authorities routinely arrest people whose peaceful speech displeases them and torture those in their custody. The arrests for nonviolent speech constitute serious violations of international human rights law. The torture as practiced by both the PA and Hamas may amount to a crime against humanity, given its systematic practice over many years. (Human Rights Watch)
  • U.S. Base in Syria Counters Iran's Expansion - Missy Ryan
    The tiny U.S. military base at Tanf in southern Syria was established to roll back the Islamic State's once-vast domain. But its strategic position along a highway linking Damascus to Tehran has made the base an unintended bulwark against Iranian influence in Syria and, now, a potential locus in White House plans to confront Iran's reach across the region. Officials now say the U.S. will remain in Syria until Iranian forces depart.
        Gen. Joseph Votel, who leads U.S. Central Command, speaking during a visit to the base Monday, said the U.S. presence there makes it harder for Tehran to build up its military presence in Syria. As U.S. officials launch a newly intensified bid, led by the State Department, to hammer out a political end to the war in Syria, "We are trying to provide leverage for our diplomats as they pursue their objectives," Votel said. The garrison is manned by several hundred foreign troops and a similarly sized force of Syrian fighters.
        The ongoing U.S. presence at Tanf "demonstrates that the United States is not about leaving the Middle East in general or Syria in particular until we have a security situation that meets our needs and the needs of our allies - Jordan, Israel, Turkey and Iraq," a U.S. official said. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Welcomes Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan
    As he welcomed Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan in Jerusalem on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted: "This is the most important visit by a Chinese leader in the last 18 years" and called his visit "a tremendous compliment to Israel."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Chinese Vice President Arrives in Israel - Alexander B. Pevzner
    Vice President Wang Qishan of China is visiting Israel this week and together with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will co-host the fourth meeting of the Israel-China Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation (JCIC), established in 2014. Wang's visit is important because China decided to upgrade the ranking of its representative co-chairing the JCIC. Wang is ranked No. 8 in the Communist Party hierarchy, above the vice-premier who previously chaired the body. Wang also enjoys the trust of Chinese President and Party Secretary Xi Jinping.
        The writer is the founding director of the Chinese Media Center (CMC) at the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion, Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also below Observations: Israel-China Ties Are a Very Good Thing - Gilad Cohen (Ha'aretz)
  • Photos: IDF Uncovers Another Hizbullah Observation Post on Lebanese Border - Yoav Zitun
    The IDF recently uncovered another Hizbullah observation post along the Israel-Lebanon border, the sixth revealed in recent years, a senior Northern Command officer said Monday. Hizbullah members operate along the fence under the guise of a fictitious environmental organization called Green Without Borders.
        "This is a blatant, daily violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which prohibits any armed military presence south of the Litani River except for the Lebanese army and...UNIFIL....[Hizbullah] continues to deploy forces near the border," the IDF Spokesperson said. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Jordan's Move on Leased Border Land Spells Internal Weakness - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    King Abdullah II of Jordan announced that he would not renew one of the annexes his father signed 24 years ago, leasing agricultural borderlands to Israel. These are Jordanian lands and it stands to reason that Jordan would have reimposed its sovereignty over them at some point. The problem is in the manner and timing in which the Jordanians chose to declare they were essentially disavowing the spirit of the 1994 peace agreement.
        Regrettably, the Jordanian regime does not even try to deal with domestic hostility toward Israel, preferring to allow public opinion to lash out at Israel and hoping this will soften the criticism leveled at the government. At the same time, no Arab country is as dependent on Israel as Jordan in terms of energy, water resources, and on questions of national security.
        Moreover, no Arab state maintains such tight - albeit clandestine - strategic cooperation with Israel. The importance of this cooperation is immeasurably greater than the acres of agricultural land over which Jordan now seeks to regain control. The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • President Truman Thought He Solved the Arab Refugee Problem in the 1950s - Eldad Beck
    At the start of the 1950s, in addition to pouring money into the Marshall Plan to rehabilitate Europe after World War II, the U.S. provided money to Arab states and Israel to solve the refugee problem created by the 1948 War of Independence. The American aid was supposed to have been split evenly between Israel and the Arab states, with each side receiving $50 million to build infrastructure to absorb refugees. The money to take in the Arab refugees was handed over to the UN agency founded to address the issue, and the Americans gave Arab countries another $53 million for "technical cooperation."
        In effect, the Arab side received double the money given to Israel, even though Israel took in more refugees, including Jews from Arab nations who had been displaced by the upheavals in their countries of residence. The amount Congress allocated for Middle East refugees - Jewish and Arab - at the request of then-President Harry Truman was equal to $1.5 billion today.
        Historian Kobby Barda said noted that President Truman told Congress that the aid would help Israel and the Arab countries by eliminating the refugee problem - which he said presented a "serious threat" to peace in the region - once and for all. "In hindsight, the Americans have already paid to have the Palestinian refugees accommodated, but they are still defined as refugees and still living in refugee camps."  (Israel Hayom)

  • The upgrading of the China-Israel innovation partnership means that the huge Chinese economy, the second largest in the world, and Chinese government ministries, are getting a loud and clear message from the leadership in Beijing: Go and do business and invest in the advanced and innovative Israeli economy.
  • Recently there have been increasing warnings against allowing China to participate in projects and investments in Israel as a threat to our interests and a danger to our economic independence. These statements are damaging to relations between the countries.
  • There is no question that every country has to safeguard its security and strategic infrastructure. But the Israeli economy is strong enough, and it is our clear interest to invite many countries to invest here and to purchase high-tech products manufactured by Israeli firms and startups.
  • Israel must therefore find the right balance: We must convey to the world and to the East in particular that we are a country with confidence in its capabilities, unafraid of exposure to new markets, while we safeguard our security and strategic interests.

    The writer is the deputy director general for Asia and the Pacific in the Israel Foreign Ministry.