November 6, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Thwarted 480 Palestinian Terror Attacks in Past Year - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel Security Agency Director Nadav Argaman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that ISA has thwarted 480 Palestinian terror attacks in the last year.
    He also referred to 590 potential lone wolf attacks that were prevented.

Israel-Arab Ties Warm Up - Yolande Knell (BBC)
    Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met the Sultan of Oman on a surprise visit - the first of its kind in over two decades.
    "These visits are extremely important because they're really melting the ice," says former Israeli diplomat Dore Gold, who sees that "symbolism is the key element."
    "Gulf Arabs and Israeli officials have had meetings for years - they know each other - but there was a reluctance to take this another step. Now that is changing."

Farrakhan in Iran Leads Chants of "Death to Israel" - Mikhael Smits (Washington Free Beacon)
    Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan spoke in Tehran on Sunday, leading chants of "death to Israel" and "death to America," according to Iranian news agencies.

The Bribes and Checkpoints from Gaza through Egypt - Kaamil Ahmed (Middle East Eye)
    The Rafah crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border is the major portal between Gaza and the outside world.
    To leave Gaza, Palestinians spend almost a day in Rafah before buses carry them through the Sinai desert, then cross the Suez Canal by ferry and onwards to hospitals in Egypt, while some use Cairo as their gateway to healthcare or studies or work further afield.
    Bribes to the Egyptians to cross the border have become increasingly common over the past six months.
    Since May the border has mostly remained open - a total of 133 days compared to 36 during the whole of 2017.
    The number of people crossing both ways has increased with every month, from 1,500 in March to more than 14,000 in August.
    An October report by the UN noted that after months of increased access at Rafah, the number of people on the waiting list to exit had remained at 23,000.

October Was Record Month for Israeli Tourism - Uri Bollag (Jerusalem Post)
    486,000 tourists visited Israel in October. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said, "The month of October broke a historic record with unprecedented numbers of almost half a million tourists that visited Israel in just one month."
    Compared to the previous year, 65% more Hungarians and 50% more Italians visited Israel in October, and the country saw a 40% increase of visitors from Poland, the Netherlands and Romania.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • SWIFT to Comply with U.S. Sanctions on Iran in Blow to EU - Michael Peel
    SWIFT, the international financial messaging system, said Monday it will comply with restored U.S. sanctions on Iran, in a blow to EU efforts to defy Washington's action. Belgian-based SWIFT said: "In keeping with our mission of supporting the resilience and integrity of the global financial system as a global and neutral service provider, SWIFT is suspending certain Iranian banks' access to the messaging system. This step, while regrettable, has been taken in the interest of the stability and integrity of the wider global financial system."  (Financial Times-UK)
        See also U.S.: Iran Lost $2 Billion in Oil Revenue since May
    U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said Monday that since May, "We have taken 1 million barrels (of oil) off the market and that alone will reduce the Iranian regime's oil revenues by $2 billion."  (Reuters)
  • Fight Against Last Vestige of ISIS in Syria Stalls - Eric Schmitt
    An American-backed military offensive has stalled against the Islamic State's last vestige in eastern Syria. Booby traps, land mines and a militant counterstrike during a fierce sandstorm that grounded American planes have knocked the coalition back on its heels. And last week, the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led militia that is fighting the Islamic State with American help, suspended operations after Kurdish positions farther north were shelled by Turkey. The SDF has lost 327 fighters since September, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
        Islamic State still attracts about 100 new foreign fighters to the region each month, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in October. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: The Reinstatement of Iranian Sanctions Is a Great Day for Israel
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday at the Knesset: "This day is a historic day. This is the day on which the United States...imposed the most severe sanctions on Iran since the beginning of the effort to stop its aggression. We see the impact of these sanctions on the ground right now. And the second wave of sanctions, especially the sanctions imposed on SWIFT, the banking clearing system used by the Iranian regime, will add a very severe blow to Iran's terrorist regime."
        "Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, the Middle East and to world peace....[So] this is a great day for the State of Israel."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israel to Help U.S. Enforce Iran Sanctions - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israeli intelligence services will help the U.S. impose sanctions against Iran, Israel's Minister of Internal Security and Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan said on Monday. "The State of Israel will continue to assist the U.S. in enforcing the sanctions in the most comprehensive manner, and also to help it expose through our intelligence capabilities all attempts by the regime and the Revolutionary Guards to deceive and circumvent the sanctions."
        "As you know, we will also continue with determination to act to thwart Iran's attempts to establish itself in Syria, its attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hizbullah, and, of course, as recently revealed, Iran's attempts to carry out attacks in Western Europe."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • UN and Europe Warn Israel Against Deducting "Martyr Payments" from PA Tax Revenues - Ariel Kahana
    UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov and European officials have warned Israel that the Palestinian Authority could collapse if Israel implements a law to deduct stipends paid to terrorists. The terrorist payments law enacted six months ago stipulates that Israel's defense minister must report to the cabinet the total amount paid by the PA to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and their families, after which the minister must withhold that amount from the tax revenues Israel collects for the PA.
        The funds are to be deposited in a trust until the Palestinians stop using them to encourage terrorism. Payments made by the Israeli government to communities near the Gaza border to cover damage caused by Palestinian arson terrorism are also to be deducted from PA tax revenues. The PA pays $270 million in terrorist stipends every year. (Israel Hayom)
  • IDF Thwarts Palestinian Stabbing Attack in West Bank
    On Monday, a Palestinian attempted to stab civilians at the Elias Junction adjacent to Kiryat Arba, east of Hebron in the West Bank. In response, an IDF officer fired towards the terrorist and neutralized him, the IDF said. (i24News)
        See also Palestinian Woman Attempts to Stab Border Policemen in West Bank
    A Palestinian woman was shot after she attempted to stab Israeli border police officers at a gas station on Tuesday near Kfar Adumim in the West Bank. (i24News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Opportunities Abound If Israel and Gulf Nations Cooperate - Dr. Ellen R. Wald
    Gulf countries who choose to work with Israel could gain an advantage over those who do not. After all, Israel has the Middle East's most dynamic economy, best higher education system and a cultural experience that aligns easily with the rest of the region. As Egypt, Jordan and other groups have benefited from relationships with Israel, Gulf countries could find even more opportunities.
        In the last seven years the number of Arab students at Israeli universities has grown by 78.5%, according to Israel's Council for Higher Education. Today, 16.1% of students at Israeli universities are Arab. The writer teaches Middle East history and policy at Jacksonville University. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Israeli-Moroccan Business Is Growing - Sebastian Shehadi
    "Secret" Israeli-Moroccan business is increasingly visible, though Morocco has no official relations with Israel. Data released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics shows $37 million worth of commerce with Morocco in 2017. Israeli agricultural technology giant Netafim set up a $2.9 million subsidiary in Morocco last year.
        Much business is done indirectly, through companies in France, said Adel Abdel Ghafar, a fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. The French-Israeli Chamber of Commerce noted last year that "many Moroccan and Israeli companies are resorting to increasingly complex commercial channels." Commercial links in agriculture, the military and technology have existed for decades, Ghafar noted, as have cultural and people-to-people ties. "Morocco is one of the most progressive Arab countries with regards to its Jewish population."
        Moroccans are frequent participants at Israeli agricultural high-tech fairs, and thousands of Israeli tourists visit Morocco every year, said Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, an expert on Moroccan-Israeli relations at Tel Aviv University. (Middle East Eye)

  • Shortly after Jair Bolsonaro's victory in the Brazilian presidential election last week, he said he would follow through on his campaign promise to move Brazil's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
  • Bolsonaro - himself a Catholic but married to an evangelical Protestant pastor - owes his political success in large part to support from evangelical voters.
  • As recently as the 1970s, Brazil was almost uniformly Catholic. But the largest country in Latin America is today nearly as evangelical as the U.S.: 25% of Brazilians identify as evangelical Christians, compared with 26% of Americans, according to the Joshua Project. As in the U.S., many evangelical and Pentecostal Christians instinctively support Israel.
  • The rise of evangelical and Pentecostal Christian support for Judaism and Israel in much of the world is a heartening sign.
  • Based on a literal approach to the Bible and a covenantal theology that attributes a continuing religious significance to the Jewish people and their state, these two rapidly spreading forms of Protestant Christianity tend to promote a climate of respect for individual Jews as well as support for Zionism.
  • Guatemala, which is now about 40% Protestant, opened an embassy in Jerusalem two days after the U.S. did.

    The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College.