December 12, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Strasbourg Christmas Market Shooting: Gunman at Large after Three Killed - Helen Regan and Saskya Vandoorne (CNN)
    A gunman opened fire near a popular Christmas market in the French city of Strasbourg Tuesday, killing three people and injuring 13 others, 8 seriously.
    The suspect was known to security services as a possible threat, French police said.

German Exports to Iran Soar ahead of U.S. Sanctions - Rene Wagner and Joseph Nasr (Reuters)
    German exports to Iran soared in October by 85% over the previous year, a month before the U.S. re-instated sanctions on the Islamic Republic to choke its oil and shipping industries, data seen by Reuters showed on Tuesday.
    The surge signals willingness among Germany's small to medium-sized firms to continue doing business with Iran despite the risk of being blacklisted by the U.S. for defying its sanctions.
    Around 1,000 German companies of this size have business ties to Iran and 130 have set up branches in the country.
    Chemicals made up about half the German goods; machines and plant equipment accounted for a third.

New York Times Writes Jerusalem Out of Jewish Wedding Ceremony - Ira Stoll (Algemeiner)
    The New York Times style section has published a number of recent articles about Jewish weddings.
    On Dec. 2, the Times wrote: "another modified Jewish tradition: stomping on a glass (typically wrapped in cloth)...symbolizes the finality of the marital covenant."
    The prayer book of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, with new translation and commentary by former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, includes the marriage service and the following commentary on breaking the glass:
    "An ancient custom, reminding us that while the Temple remains unbuilt, our joy cannot be complete. It has become a custom to preface this by reciting the verse from Psalm 137, 'If I forget you, O Jerusalem,' said by the exiles in Babylon after the destruction of the First Temple."
    In other words, the glass-breaking has to do with the 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple.

PA Tree-Planting Campaign Aims to Lay Claim to Land (JNS)
    According to the Agriculture Department of the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is attempting to lay claim to 241,000 acres of land by planting millions of olive trees.
    More than a million trees were planted in a recent effort.

Israeli-Sponsored Community Center Opens in South Africa - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    A community center renovated by the Israeli Embassy in South Africa was inaugurated last week in the town of Soweto - considered the symbol of the struggle against apartheid - on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
    The facility lacked a roof and Israel's ambassador to South Africa offered to help.
    Local BDS activists attempted to halt the renovation plans, but local residents decided to cooperate with Israel.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Peacekeepers Confirm Second Tunnel at Lebanon-Israel Border
    UN peacekeepers said on Tuesday they had confirmed the existence of a second tunnel close to the border separating Lebanon and Israel. (Reuters)
        See also UN Confirms Hidden Tunnels along Lebanon-Israel Border (UN News)
        See also IDF Uncovers Third Attack Tunnel Dug from Lebanon into Israel - Judah Ari Gross
    The IDF said Tuesday it uncovered a third Hizbullah cross-border attack tunnel that penetrated into Israeli territory from southern Lebanon. The army planted explosives inside it to ensure it cannot be used.
        The first tunnel was found south of the town of Metulla. The second tunnel was located north of the first but in the same general area. Fox News reported that the third tunnel was found outside the Israeli community of Yiftah, across the border from the Lebanese village of Meiss al-Jabal. (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. House Passes Bipartisan Bill Against Use of Human Shields - Jackson Richman
    The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill on Monday that would enact sanctions on those who use human shields in war. The Senate unanimously passed its version in October. The STOP Using Human Shields Act officially condemns U.S.-designated terrorist group Hizbullah's use of human shields "as a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights."
        The bill mandates that the president impose sanctions on any entity that "knowingly and materially supports, orders, controls, directs or otherwise engages in" the exercise of human shields by Hizbullah and Hamas. (JNS)
        See also Text of STOP Using Human Shields Act (U.S. Congress)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF: Iran Downgrading Presence in Syria - Lahav Harkov
    Iran is reducing its activities in Syria, IDF Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Tamir Heiman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday. Israel is "determined to keep Iran and Syria away from the Golan Heights," he said.
        Heiman noted that "IDF intelligence is successfully monitoring attempts to circumvent the [economic] sanctions [on Iran], and is acting with the relevant factors in the international community." He added that the chances for war with Hizbullah are low because it is not in the interest of Israel's enemies at the moment. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also below Commentary: Iran's Precision Missile Project Moves to Lebanon - Katherine Bauer, Hanin Ghaddar and Assaf Orion (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel Clears Landmines from Seven Monasteries by Jesus' Baptismal Site - Tovah Lazaroff
    During the War of Attrition in the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, when there were cross-border raids between Israel and Jordan, Israel shut down seven abandoned monasteries along the road that leads to Jesus' baptismal site on the Israeli side of the Jordan River, known as Qasr al-Yahud. It declared the area a military zone and planted thousands of land mines there to stop infiltrations from terrorists and the Jordanian Army.
        Now, the Israel National Mines Action Authority, together with the IDF and the international NGO HALO Trust, are in the midst of deactivating 5,000 land mines opposite the Jordanian border. On Sunday, the IDF and the INMAA gave journalists a rare glimpse of the Franciscan chapel and the Ethiopian monastery that are part of the Land of the Monasteries project. Given the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan and the fact that land mines are no longer part of Israel's defensive strategy, there is no need for such explosives along the Jordanian border. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Georgians Work to Clear Mines in West Bank - Amy Jones
    16 de-mining experts, headed by Georgian Lasha Bluashvili, are clearing the mines at the churches in Qasr al-Yahud in the West Bank. Bluashvili was originally trained to clear mines in Georgia following the 2008 conflict with Russia. (Georgia Today)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Weaken Iran by Targeting Hizbullah - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland
    Lebanon has been under Iran's control for years through its Shiite proxy Hizbullah. It is time for the U.S. to present Beirut with an ultimatum: if it wants to continue being seen as an independent country, it must demand that Hizbullah demilitarize and renounce its heavy weapons. If Lebanon refuses, the U.S. should boycott it along with any organization that would agree to do business with it.
        Even though Shiite Muslims are the biggest sect in Lebanon, they are not the majority. Lebanon's silent majority opposes Hizbullah and is justifiably concerned about the destruction that would be inflicted on them if Hizbullah drags them into a military campaign against Israel.
        Despite Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's hawkish statements, the terror organization is facing a severe financial crisis. It must treat thousands of wounded in Syria's civil war and pay the families that lost their relatives in that war, as well as pay the pensions of militants who joined the organization 30 years ago and are now retiring. The writer is a former head of Israel's National Security Council. (Ynet News)
  • Iran's Precision Missile Project Moves to Lebanon - Katherine Bauer, Hanin Ghaddar and Assaf Orion
    Recent Israeli strikes in Syria have forced Tehran to move Hizbullah's precision missile project into Lebanon. The prospect of Hizbullah converting its 130,000 rockets into precision weapons is Israel's main redline.
        The Lebanese government has repeatedly covered up matters relating to Hizbullah's domestic weapons production. The Lebanese Armed Forces are establishing increasingly close connections with Hizbullah. The head of the General Security Directorate, which supervises Beirut's airport, has reportedly praised Hizbullah.
        Russia aims to stabilize Syria and reap the rewards, which likely contributed to Tehran's decision to move the "precision project" to Lebanon. Due to current tensions surrounding Israel and Russia, Israel is hesitant to antagonize the Russians. This allows Iran to increase its threat buildup while constraining Israel's countermeasures.
        Katherine Bauer is a former U.S. Treasury official. Hanin Ghaddar is managing editor of Lebanon's NOW news website. IDF Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Assaf Orion is a defense strategist. All are fellows at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Will Hamas Challenge Fatah in the West Bank? - Pinhas Inbari
    Fundamentally, Hamas is first and foremost a Gaza organization. Hamas in Gaza invested considerable resources to distance non-Gazan elements from power. Most of the well-known characters considered to be West Bank Hamas leaders have fallen into oblivion.
        Yet while Hamas is avoiding the political game in the West Bank, it is deeply involved in launching terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank. But in doing so, Hamas is careful not to let the military echelons in the West Bank establish a separate local command. Hamas insists that all the cadres in the West Bank get their orders from Gaza or Saleh al-Arouri, now based in Lebanon. The writer, a Middle East analyst at the Jerusalem Center, is a leading expert on the Arab world and Islam. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

The Iranian Modus Operandi - Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • On Oct. 27, 2018, while intensive contacts were being led by Egypt and the UN to reach an arrangement between Israel and Hamas, IDF Spokesperson Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus said that Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) had delivered heavy barrages of dozens of rockets on Israel from Gaza while working "under guidance, instructions, and incentives from Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force, based in Damascus."
  • In other words, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards directly ordered Islamic Jihad and orchestrated the rocket fire. IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis pointed out that "Islamic Jihad did not wait to get a green light from Hamas" to fire the rockets. Its activator was Iran, which precluded the necessity for Hamas approval.
  • Last year, Hizbullah, together with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), formed the Golan Liberation Brigade in Syria, an umbrella organization of Shiite militias who can be activated on the Israeli-Syrian border.
  • In addition, in 2012, Tehran created the Shiite terrorist faction Sabireen in Gaza. Sabireen and Hizbullah have very similar logos, and the founding document of Sabireen starts with the same words Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah uses at the beginning of his speeches.
  • Iran has significantly strengthened its position in Gaza to the point that it is now a critical factor. Tehran's chief goal is to obstruct the broad efforts of Egypt and the UN to stabilize the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. Without Iranian interference, the situation in Gaza - indeed, in much of the Middle East - would be a great deal more promising.

    The writer, a former senior intelligence analyst in the IDF, is a senior research associate at the BESA Center.