December 4, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Prime Minister, U.S. Secretary of State Meet in Brussels (U.S. State Department)
    State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert announced that Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Brussels.
    The Secretary emphasized the U.S. commitment to Israel's security and absolute right to self-defense and to fighting anti-Israeli bias at the UN.
    Secretary Pompeo reiterated America's resolve in confronting the totality of the Iranian regime's threats through maximum pressure.

Iran Using Hit Squads to Silence Critics in Iraq - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
    Iran is using teams of hit squads in Iraq to silence critics of Iranian attempts to meddle in Iraq's new government, according to British security officials who are providing military support and training for the Iraqi armed forces.
    The hit squads were deployed after the Iraqi general election in May, when Iranian attempts to establish a controlling influence over the new Iraqi government were stymied by the failure of Tehran-backed candidates to win sufficient votes.
    "Iran is intensifying its campaign of intimidation against the Iraqi government by using assassination squads to silence critics of Tehran," a senior British security official said.
    In addition, using established Shia militias such as Kataib Hizbollah, the Iranians are smuggling weapons into Iraq for use against U.S. and other Western targets.
    In September the militia was accused of launching two attacks against U.S. targets - the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. consulate in Basra.

Qatar to Withdraw from OPEC in January 2019 (Al Jazeera)
    Qatar will withdraw from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi announced.
    Al-Kaabi said Qatar "plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tons per year to 110 million tons in the coming years."
    Qatar is the world's biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), producing almost 30% of the world total.

Israel's Elbit Gets $112 Million Asia-Pacific Intelligence Systems Deal (Reuters)
    Israeli defense electronics firm Elbit Systems said on Monday it won a $112 million contract from an Asia-Pacific country to supply advanced airborne intelligence systems.

Paid Protesters Rally Against Australian Israeli Embassy Move - James Massola and Karuni Rompies (WAtoday-Australia)
    Perhaps half of the 250 Indonesian "protesters" who attended a rally on Friday in Jakarta opposing any move by the Australian government of its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem were paid to be there. It was the fourth rally in the last five days.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Destroys Hizbullah Attack Tunnels at Lebanese Border - David M. Halbfinger
    The IDF has begun a military operation to expose and thwart offensive tunnels Hizbullah has been building across the Lebanese border in the area of Metula, Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus said Tuesday. (New York Times)
        See also Israel Destroys Hizbullah Cross-Border Tunnels - Yaniv Kubovich and Noa Shpigel
    The IDF has been aware since 2006 that Hizbullah was trying to construct attack tunnels into Israel at several points along the Lebanese border. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah has spoken of a plan to take over parts of the Galilee in northern Israel in a future conflict.
        IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis told Army Radio Tuesday: "We hold the Lebanese government accountable. We have indisputable proof that the Lebanese government is not in control of their border. Iranian money is behind these tunnels. We are in full control of the situation and are determined to remove the underground Hizbullah threat from the northern border. The tunnels do cross into Israeli territory, but the work on them was not complete."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also below Commentary: Hizbullah's Operational Plan to Invade the Galilee through Underground Tunnels - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • U.S. Urges Europe to Impose Sanctions on Iran over Missiles
    The Trump administration is urging Europe to impose tough new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program after the U.S. and others condemned an Iranian missile launch over the weekend. U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook said Monday that Iran's continued missile development and testing is a threat to the region and beyond and in defiance of UN Security Council demands. He added that U.S. discussions with the Europeans about missile sanctions are gaining traction. (AP-New York Times)
        See also Iran Missile Tests May Breach UN Resolution, France and UK Warn - Patrick Wintour
    France and the UK have echoed U.S. warnings that Iran may be in breach of UN obligations by testing medium-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying multiple warheads. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Saturday he was "deeply concerned by Iran's test firing of a medium-range ballistic missile. Provocative, threatening and inconsistent with UNSCR 2231." On Monday the French president's office said the tests were "provocative and destabilizing." It urged Iran to stop all testing of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. (Guardian-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Ambassador Friedman: UN Cannot Vote Away Jerusalem's Status as Israel's Capital
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, responding to UN votes on Jerusalem, tweeted on Monday: "More than 2,000 years ago, Jewish patriots (Maccabees) captured Jerusalem, purified the Holy Temple and rededicated it as a house of Jewish worship. The UN can't vote away the facts: Jerusalem is the ancient and modern capital of Israel."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also Irish Foreign Minister Scolds U.S. Ambassador Friedman for Calling Jerusalem Israel's Capital - Raphael Ahren
    Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney rebuked U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman for calling Jerusalem Israel's "ancient and modern capital" on Monday, saying, "Comments like this will be seen as provocative and biased. Not helpful in creating the necessary environment of compromise." Ireland has long been one of Israel's staunchest critics in Europe. (Times of Israel)
  • German Chancellor Merkel Urged EU Countries Not to Move Embassies to Jerusalem - Benjamin Weinthal
    The director of the European Coalition for Israel in Brussels, Tomas Sandell, announced Thursday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel waged a campaign to prevent central and eastern European countries from moving their capitals to Jerusalem. Sandell said that Merkel called Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to convince him to not relocate his country's embassy to Jerusalem.
        Sandell said, "What we have found out...from central and eastern European countries that would have an inclination to move their embassy to Jerusalem...is that they have received phone calls from Berlin, from Angela Merkel, the chancellor." Sandell said many of Merkel's telephone calls to European leaders took place in April when "many of the nations were seriously considering moving their embassies."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Hizbullah's Operational Plan to Invade the Galilee through Underground Tunnels - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    After the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizbullah set as its goal in the next war with Israel to develop methods of attack that would allow Hizbullah to fight the war within Israeli territory. Hizbullah's military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, led this process, asserting that Hizbullah would invade the northern Israeli Galilee region and conquer it.
        Hizbullah special forces trained to take control of isolated Israeli communities along the northern border. Tunnels were to be constructed infiltrating into Israeli territory, close to Israeli communities, to enable the movement of several hundred fighters. The model envisioned was that of invasion tunnels from North Korea into South Korea, which Mughniyah's Iranian guides had studied intensively.
        The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, served as Military Secretary to the Prime Minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Hamas: Iranian Support Is the Basis for the "Steadfastness of the Resistance in Gaza"; Hizbullah "Wants to Enter the Galilee...to Take Part in the Liberation of Palestine"
    Hamas' representative in Lebanon Ali Baraka told Iraqi Al-Nujaba TV on Nov. 23: "The resistance forces stand by Palestine....The Islamic Republic of Iran provides financial and military aid. Hizbullah provides logistical and political aid and helps with expertise....The resistance has managed to imitate the Fajr-5 missiles. It received the Fajr-5 missiles from Iran."
        "The Islamic Republic of Iran was the only country that provided financial support for the resistance so that it could manufacture more missiles and obtain weapons and equipment. It compensated the resistance for its losses in the 2014 war. The resistance is now advancing its military industry, using the Iranian financial support....Iranian support is the basis for the steadfastness of the resistance in Gaza."
        "When Hizbullah says that it wants to enter the Galilee, it means that it has a plan to take part in the liberation of Palestine...and that the liberation of Palestine is not the responsibility of the Palestinian people alone....[Hizbullah] prepares for the day of the great war of liberation to have the honor of Jihad in Palestine and the liberation of Jerusalem."  (MEMRI)

  • Over the past 22 months, we have focused on a comprehensive peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, irrespective of the plan, Palestinians deserve better lives than they currently have.
  • We know that the Palestinians are not interested in mere economic peace. Their leaders believe that if Palestinians get too comfortable economically, they would lose interest in the Palestinian cause.
  • Palestinians are living next door to one of the most technologically successful societies on the planet, yet the Palestinian leadership refuses to engage with Israel for the benefit of ordinary Palestinians. But the Palestinians need economic help now - with or without a peace agreement.
  • Months ago, in co-ordination with Palestinian, Israeli and American businesspersons, we developed a concept to bring hundreds of high-paying jobs to the West Bank. But the Palestinian leadership blocked the initiative - it's normalization, they say.
  • This damaging Palestinian policy clouds all economic interaction between Palestinians and Israelis. It directly contradicts what Palestinians agreed to in Oslo. This anti-normalization policy has got Palestinians nowhere and continues to leave them further behind. Palestinians deserve better than calcified positions that have failed to bring peace and failed to bring jobs and opportunity.
  • Let's be real - 136,000 Palestinians commute to work with Israelis every day because the opportunity is there. Anti-normalization is a failed policy that only hurts the Palestinians.

    The writer is an assistant to the U.S. president and special representative for international negotiations.