December 19, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Says Hizbullah Closed Precision Missile Plants in Lebanon after Israel Exposed Them (Reuters)
    Hizbullah shut down plants to develop precision-guided missiles after Israel exposed them, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.
    In a Sept. 7 speech to the UN, Netanyahu named three locations where Hizbullah was turning "inaccurate projectiles" into precision-guided missiles.
    "Those sites near the Beirut airport, the underground sites for precision conversion of missiles, which (Israeli) military intelligence gave me to expose, those sites were closed," he said.
    "They are trying to open other sites, but through these measures we are denying them precision arms."
    Hizbullah had hoped to obtain "thousands of precision-guided missiles (but) they have, at most, a few dozen."

Islamic State Kills 700 Prisoners in Syria (Reuters)
    Islamic State militants executed nearly 700 prisoners in the past two months in eastern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday.
    The prisoners were among 1,350 civilians and fighters that Islamic State had been holding near the Iraqi border.

Poll: 68 Percent of Palestinians Want a State Armed with Tanks and an Air Force - Dr. Khalil Shikaki (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    64% of the Palestinian public (55% in the West Bank, 77% in Gaza) want President Abbas to resign, according to a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Dec. 12-16, 2018.
    If new legislative elections were held today, 34% say they would vote for Hamas and 35% would vote for Fatah.
    55% oppose and 43% support the concept of the two-state solution.
    44% think that armed struggle is the most effective means of establishing a Palestinian state.
    If a Palestinian state is established, 68% want it to be armed with heavy weapons, such as tanks and an air force.

Israel Air Force Expands Use of UAVs - Arie Egozi (BulgarianMilitary.com)
    More than 50% of Israel Air Force flight hours are performed by UAVs as the IAF transfers additional missions to different types of unmanned aerial vehicles.
    The IAF plans to introduce more dedicated flight simulators to meet training demands.

The First Ethiopian-Israeli Air Force Pilot - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Lt. "Y" will become the Israeli Air Force's first pilot of Ethiopian heritage upon completing the military's pilots course later this week, the army said Tuesday.

Jewish Studies Conference Celebrates 50 Years of Growth - Penny Schwartz (JTA)
    1,200 Jewish studies scholars gathered in Boston on Sunday for the 50th annual convention of the Association of Jewish Studies.
    The AJS website lists more than 200 Jewish studies programs or departments and 230 endowed positions at North American colleges and universities.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Covert Saudi Outreach to Israel Sputters after Journalist's Murder - Felicia Schwartz, Margherita Stancati and Summer Said
    A secretive U.S.-backed initiative to forge closer ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel faces setbacks after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who spearheaded the effort, was implicated, along with two of his aides, in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The international uproar that followed the murder and the fallout within the royal court also curbed the prince's room to maneuver and dampened appetite for risky foreign policy endeavors such as outreach to Israel, say people familiar with the situation. "Things have definitely cooled off right after Khashoggi's murder," said a senior Saudi government official.
        The two aides, former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri, played important roles in the clandestine outreach to Israel. Qahtani, as media adviser, issued directives to the Saudi press to help soften Israel's image in the kingdom. Maj.-Gen. Assiri secretly traveled to Israel on several occasions. On Israel's side, Mossad Director Yossi Cohen met Saudi officials several times over the past year.
        Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates now regularly share intelligence on shared threats, mostly on transit through the Red Sea but also on other matters related to Iran. "The level of direct security, military and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states, with America as a partner, is light-years ahead of what it was," said Robert Wexler, a former Democratic congressman and president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Haley Urges Palestinians to Accept a Peace Deal with Israel - Margaret Besheer
    Outgoing U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley is urging the Palestinians to accept a peace deal, saying they have more to gain than Israel. "It is time we faced a hard truth: both sides would benefit greatly from a peace agreement, but the Palestinians would benefit more, and the Israelis would risk more."  (VOA News)
        See also below Observations: It Would Be Foolish for Israel to Make a Deal that Weakened Its Security - Amb. Nikki Haley (U.S. Mission to the UN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • After Suspending Ban on Settlements, Airbnb VP Tours West Bank - Noa Landau
    A day after Airbnb announced that it has suspended the implementation of its prior decision to remove listings in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, company Vice President Chris Lehane was hosted in the West Bank by Samaria Council head Yossi Dagan. Dagan said Lehane was "very impressed by the coexistence between Jews and Palestinians at the Barkan Industrial Park," the site of a deadly attack that claimed the lives of two Israeli workers shot to death by a Palestinian worker in October.
        After Lehane met with Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Monday, Airbnb announced: "Our policy will not be implemented. The company will continue its dialogue with the Israeli government."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Video: The Palestinian Authority Will Spend $350 Million on Incentivizing Terrorism in 2018 - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    5,000 terrorists in Israeli jails are getting salaries from the Palestinian Authority. On top of that, 5,500 convicted terrorists that were released from jail are also getting salaries. About 1,200 arrested terrorists that are going to be released during this year are going to get a "release grant." The Palestinian Authority will spend $350 million on incentivizing terrorism in 2018.
        This is about actually soliciting terror, because this money is promised to the terrorists in advance. They know they're going to get it if they are caught and put in jail. Palestinians say these payments are welfare given to the families left without a breadwinner. But families that need welfare get NIS 750-1,800 a month, whereas the terrorists in jail get much more than that. Those who really committed terrible acts and spend a lot of time in jail get NIS 12,000 a month. They become millionaires. That's the difference between welfare and incentivizing terror.
        The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division, is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Everyone Is Misreporting the Texas BDS Lawsuit: A Texas School District Did Not Require a Speech Pathologist to Sign a "Pro-Israel Pledge" - David E. Bernstein
    Speech pathologist Bahia Amawi, who works as a contractor for the Pflugerville Independent School District in Texas, has filed a lawsuit claiming that an anti-boycott-of-Israel pledge she was asked to sign violates her First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
        Texas has a law banning state entities from contracting with businesses, including sole proprietorships, that boycott Israel. As a result, just like local governments require contractors to certify that they adhere to many other state laws, such as anti-discrimination laws and financial propriety laws, they also must certify that their business does not boycott Israel. It's no different analytically than requiring a contractor to pledge that the business does not refuse to hire Muslims, Jews, blacks, or veterans.
        This story is being widely misreported. The hysterical claims that Amawi is being forced to sign a pro-Israel pledge or personally do or not do anything in particular regarding Israel outside the context of her business are false. The writer is a professor at the George Mason University School of Law. (Volokh Conspiracy)
  • A Democratic Iran Would Behave Far Differently - Reza Pahlavi
    Since its inception in 1979, the Islamic Republic has suppressed ancient traditions, persecuted women and religious minorities through institutionalized discrimination, and funneled the national wealth to a class of kleptocrats who are out of touch with the hopes and dreams of the people. For decades, it has viewed the mission of exporting the Islamic Revolution as central to its survival. Accordingly, it has invested heavily in paramilitary and proxy forces, and sponsored terrorist attacks around the world.
        Yet despite severe repression, Iranians have embarked on a new chapter in their struggle against the regime, confronting their oppressors through a sustained and widespread civil disobedience campaign. A democratic Iran would behave far differently in the region. If the international community is committed to countering the regime's regional behavior, it will find a natural ally in the Iranian people.
        Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran from 1941 to 1979, addressed The Washington Institute on Dec. 14. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council on Tuesday:
  • The problems of the Middle East are numerous, and yet we spend a vastly disproportionate amount of time on just one of them. And the UN has shown itself to be hopelessly biased, as we witnessed again just two weeks ago when the General Assembly failed to condemn Hamas' terrorist activity against Israel.
  • Most of the region's problems have absolutely nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The UN's obsession with this issue has been counterproductive. It has sent a loud and false message to the Palestinians that they just might be able to achieve their goals by relying on the UN, rather than through direct negotiations. And it has sent a loud and accurate message to the Israelis that they can never trust the UN.
  • Here's how I see it. Israel is a thriving, strong, prosperous country. It has always wanted peace with its neighbors. It has clearly demonstrated its willingness to make big sacrifices for peace, including giving up large areas of land. But Israel will not make a peace agreement at just any price, and it shouldn't. Throughout its existence, Israel has been surrounded by threats to its security. It would be foolish for it to make a deal that weakened its security.
  • The Palestinian people are suffering terribly while their leadership clings to 50-year-old demands that have only become less and less realistic. What awaits the Palestinian people with a peace agreement are the prospects of a massive improvement in the quality of their lives and far greater control over their political future.
  • The Trump Administration has crafted a plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I have read it. It recognizes the realities on the ground in the Middle East have changed in very powerful and important ways. It embraces the reality that things can be done today that were previously unthinkable.
  • Every country or party can focus on the parts of the plan they dislike. Then we would return back to the failed status quo of the last 50 years with no prospects for change. Israel would continue to grow and prosper. The Palestinian people would continue to suffer. And innocent people on both sides would continue to be killed.
  • The other choice is to focus on the parts of the plan that you do like and encourage negotiations to move forward. And I assure you there is a lot for both sides to like. The choice is between a hopeful future that sheds the tired, old, and unrealistic demands of the past or a darker future that sticks with the proven, failed, talking points of the past.