December 17, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

IDF Finds Fourth Hizbullah Attack Tunnel on Israel-Lebanon Border - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    The Israel Defense Forces located a fourth attack tunnel dug by Hizbullah from Lebanon into Israeli territory, the army said Sunday.
    See also Video: Inside Hizbullah's Secret Tunnels into Israel (CNN)
    A CNN camera goes inside a tunnel built by Hizbullah from Lebanon to Israel.

Hizbullah Evades Israeli Bombs in Syria by Flying Russian Flag - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Moscow is allowing fighters from Hizbullah and other pro-Iranian groups in Syria to carry Russian flags in order to protect them from Israeli airstrikes, Russia's Kommersant reported Wednesday.
    Israel has complained to Russia that its flags were spotted atop compounds and military convoys belonging to Iran and its allies.

Iraqi Fighters Pledge Support for Hizbullah in War with Israel (Press TV-Iran)
    "In the event of any war against Hizbullah, the movement is not going to be alone," Hashim al-Mousawi, spokesman for the Iraqi Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba paramilitary group, told Iran's Tasnim news agency on Friday.
    "All, including Nujaba, will be standing by its side."

Report: IDF Chief Visited United Arab Emirates - Neta Bar (Israel Hayom)
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot visited Abu Dhabi twice over the past month, with the meetings focusing on potential Israeli arms sales, Lebanon's Al-Akhbar newspaper reported Friday.

Former Hamas Leader Mashaal Calls for Guerrilla Warfare to "Liberate West Bank" and "All Palestine" (Times of Israel)
    Former Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, speaking on Al-Jazeera TV on Dec. 2, told West Bank Palestinians to prepare for "guerrilla warfare" and ongoing "resistance."
    "Today we are being called and preparing to force Israel to retreat from Jerusalem and from the West Bank. Allah willing, this is on the way to its retreat from all of Palestine." 
    See also Fatah Tells Palestinians to Reject Calls for New Armed Uprising in West Bank - Adam Rasgon (Times of Israel)
    Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasma called on Palestinians to ignore calls for a new armed uprising against Israel in the West Bank.
    "We need to be smart...and not listen to the talk of the demagogues about the necessity of going to an armed confrontation," he told the PA's Palestine TV on Thursday.
    Instead, "we must escalate popular resistance in the Palestinian lands."

Britain's Labour Party Suspends Official Who Blamed "All Wars in the World" on Jews - Andrew Gilligan (Times-UK)
    The British Labour Party's West Midlands regional organizer, Mohammed Yasin, has been suspended for sharing anti-Semitic material blaming Jews for "all the wars in the world."
    Yasin had been sharing anti-Semitic posts and 9/11 conspiracy theories for more than two years.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Australian Government Recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel's Capital But Keeps Embassy in Tel Aviv - Jade Macmillan
    "Australia now recognizes West Jerusalem...is the capital of Israel," Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday. Morrison delayed moving Australia's embassy from Tel Aviv but said a trade and defense office would be established in West Jerusalem. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said a Labor government would reverse the decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (ABC News-Australia)
        See also Bahrain Defends Australia's Decision on Jerusalem
    Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa has defended Australia's decision to recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying the move would not affect the establishment of a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. (Al Jazeera)
  • Israel Ex-General Denies Arming South Sudan War
    Retired Israeli army general Israel Ziv, accused by the U.S. Treasury on Friday of using an agricultural consultancy as cover for weapons sales in South Sudan, denied the charges on Sunday, saying they were based on false information and that he was available for investigation by the U.S. administration. Ziv told Israel's Army Radio that the charges were "ludicrous, baseless, completely divorced from reality."
        "We have an amazing agriculture project there...that many communities depend on. Tens of thousands of people are employed through this project and it feeds the South Sudan market. So anyone who claims this project is a cover should come see it....I want to believe in the decency of the [U.S.] administration. And they are welcome to come, to check, to investigate. We will open up everything for them."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • 500,000 Palestinians Gather in Gaza for Hamas Anniversary Rally
    Nearly half a million Palestinians gathered on Saturday near Khan Yunis in Gaza for a rally commemorating the 31st anniversary of the founding of Hamas. All schools suspended classes for the day. Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' political chief, told the rally: "I will also respond to the Zionists who are saying what is happening in the West Bank is based on directives and arrangements from Gaza. This is an accusation that we do not deny... because it is a source of pride."  (i24News)
        See also Hamas Displays Truck-Mounted Rockets at Parade
    Hamas on Saturday marked its 31st anniversary with a military-style parade. The group showcased what appeared to be rockets mounted on trucks, as well as elite unit members and snipers. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Government Reviewing Israel-China Port Deal - Michael Wilner
    Israel's national security cabinet is reviewing the 2015 decision to allow a Chinese firm to take over Haifa port in 2021 for 25 years in return for a $2 billion commitment to expand the port. The Israeli government launched "a review of the agreement at a high level" due to concerns that U.S. defense officials have privately shared with their Israeli counterparts. "You don't want a decision that was made ostensibly for business reasons to have an impact on Israel's relationship with the American navy," a source said.
        IDF Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Assaf Orion, an expert on Israel-China relations now based at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, "The bottom line here is that Israel will make a fatal mistake by doing either or both of the following: disregarding China's potential to advance Israel's economy, and doing it with our eyes shut. We must keep our eyes open, fully aware of the risk management requirements and its possible impact on the U.S.-Israel relationship."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Demolishes Home of Palestinian Who Murdered Israeli Soldier with Marble Slab - Yasser Okbi
    The IDF on Friday demolished a building in al-Amari, east of Ramallah in the West Bank, belonging to Islam Abu Hmaid, who in May killed IDF Staff Sergeant Ronen Lubarsky with a marble slab he threw from the roof. (Jerusalem Post-Maariv)
        See also PA President Abbas Orders Reconstruction of House Demolished by IDF - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has issued instructions to rebuild the house of the Abu Hmaid family that was demolished by the IDF, Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, announced on Saturday.
        The mother of Islam Abu Hmaid, Um Nasser, 73, said she had six sons in Israeli prison. A seventh son was killed by the IDF. All were convicted of terror attacks against Israelis. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Top U.S. Jewish Group Calls for Global Condemnation of Palestinian Violence
    Last week, three Israelis - including a three-day-old infant - died and more than a dozen were wounded as a result of Palestinian attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Chairman Arthur Stark and Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein said on Friday, "We await the international community's forceful condemnation of these terrorist outrages against innocent citizens, but we know from past history that it will be, at best, slow in coming, except from the United States."
        The previous week, "the members of the United Nations were unable to summon the necessary conviction, decency, and moral clarity to condemn Hamas, an organization which has claimed responsibility for a number of these attacks, which has...planned and undertaken thousands of terrorist acts targeting civilians over the last 30 years. We support the Israeli government's decision to take all necessary and proper steps to safeguard the lives of its citizens and to keep them from harm."  (Algemeiner)
  • Sisi Restores Jewish Heritage in Egypt But Faces Challenges - Haisam Hassanein
    On Dec. 10, Egyptian Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani announced that President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi had ordered the government to devote $72 million to restoring Jewish heritage in the country. On Dec. 6, editor-in-chief Khaled Salah of al-Youm al-Sabaa - a news outlet with close ties to Egypt's security services - tweeted praise for the Jewish holiday of Hannukah, calling it a victory for monotheism against "paganism."
        Yet even those Egyptians who agree with Sisi's attitude toward Jews would still have trouble accepting the idea of a neighboring Zionist state. Most traditional Muslims in Egypt have trouble accepting the idea of a Jewish state, Jewish army, or Jewish political community. Moreover, a central tenet of the fundamentalist Islam practiced widely across Egypt is that Israel and the wider West are huge threats to Islamic territory and culture. Accepting Israel's ideological foundations as a Jewish state is beyond everything Egyptians have been brought up to believe. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

The Palestinian Claim to Statehood: An Open Letter to PLO Negotiator Saeb Erekat - Amb. Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • PLO Negotiator Saeb Erekat denounced Australia's recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel's capital, stating that "East Jerusalem, under international law, is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory."
  • Since we had worked together on the 1995 Oslo Interim Agreement, I responded on Twitter: Saeb - you're not a lawyer. There's no violation of international law in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. You seem to confuse international law with UN resolutions which are not international law.
  • Permit me to remind you and your colleagues of some basic facts and truths: A Palestinian state does not exist because it cannot fulfill the accepted international law criteria for statehood.
  • The fact that the PLO is committed by the Oslo Accords to negotiate with Israel on the issue of the permanent status of the territories is indicative of the fact that permanent status has not yet been agreed upon, and thus there can be no Palestinian state.
  • Basing their claim to statehood on a 2012 non-binding General Assembly resolution is totally flawed, manipulative, and misleading. The General Assembly is not empowered to establish states.
  • Since the PLO is not a state, it therefore cannot be party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is specifically open only to states. The fact that the Palestinians politically manipulated the UN and ICC into viewing them as a state is legally flawed and has yet to be reviewed juridically.
  • Rather than going to such great efforts to manipulate and abuse the international community, and trying to bypass the negotiating process, the Palestinians need to restore their credibility as a viable negotiating partner and return to that process immediately.

    The writer participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to Canada.