December 20, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Tunnels Info We Gave UNIFIL Ended Up in Hizbullah Hands (Ynet News)
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Wednesday that information Israel provided to UNIFIL, the UN's peacekeepers in Lebanon, had been passed to the Lebanese Army, which then passed it to Hizbullah, which then attempted to conceal the tunnels on the Lebanese side.
    Danon said Hizbullah planned to use the tunnels to carry out a five-point attack on Israeli civilians at five different locations in the Galilee.
    Britain, France and the U.S. all called the tunnels a violation of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Bolstered by Iran, Hizbullah "Capable of Destruction on a Whole New Scale" - Tom Wheeldon (France 24)
    The cross-border tunnel network is merely one manifestation of the threat Hizbullah poses to Israel.
    "Hizbullah is now way better equipped, so it has the capabilities to create destruction on a completely different scale from what we saw in 2006," Yossi Mekelberg, a Middle East specialist at Chatham House think-tank, told France 24.
    The Israel Defense Ministry estimates that Hizbullah more than doubled its number of fighters from 20,000 to 45,000 over the past dozen years.
    Its arsenal of missiles and rockets has grown more than tenfold, from 13,000 in 2006 to more than 120,000 in 2018.
    "In 2006 Hizbullah fired 3,500 rockets at Israel, whereas now it's estimated that it can fire 1,200 rockets a day," said Ehud Eilam, a former private contractor for the ministry. "So it can now fire the same quantity of rockets in 3 days as it did in that entire 34-day war."
    "Hizbullah's leadership is totally subject to the authority of the Iranian state, specifically of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei," said Ely Karmon, a defense analyst at the International Center for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.
    "It says a lot that Hassan Nasrallah's first title is that of personal representative of Khamenei in Lebanon, not that of Hizbullah Secretary General."

Albania Expels 2 Iranian Diplomats over Terror Plot Against Israelis (Sputnik-Russia)
    Albania has expelled two Iranian diplomats over their involvement in an attempted terror attack against a visiting Israeli soccer team in 2016, local media reported.

Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV to Close - Adam Rasgon (Times of Israel)
    Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV, whose studios were destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in November, said Wednesday it would go off the air indefinitely on Thursday due to a lack of funds.
    In 2010, the U.S. government designated Al-Aqsa TV as a terror group.

Israeli Police Welcome Arrival of 28 Czech Police Dogs - Hagay Hacohen (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli police welcomed on Wednesday the arrival of 28 Czech police dogs meant to begin their service after being trained according to the Israeli system.
    The new dogs will join the 260 working dogs now in police service.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Preparing to Withdraw Its Forces from Syria - Dion Nissenbaum and Nancy A. Youssef
    U.S. officials began informing partners in northeastern Syria of their plans to begin an immediate pullout of American forces from the region where they have been trying to wrap up the campaign against Islamic State. "The Pentagon has an order to move troops out of Syria as quickly as possible," a U.S. official said.
        The U.S. withdrawal will affect U.S. attempts to keep eyes on growing Iranian influence in Syria. Among the places U.S. troops were deployed was near the city of al-Tanf, close to where Iranian-backed forces also operated. The largely Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, the most effective ground force in Syria in the war against ISIS, is among the most immediately impacted by the U.S. decision, as they likely will be targeted by Turkey in the absence of their American backers. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Netanyahu: Israel Able to Defend Itself despite U.S. Withdrawal from Syria
    Prime Minister Netanyahu responded on Wednesday to the U.S. intention to withdraw its forces from Syria: "I spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and with American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday. The American administration...made it clear that they have other ways of expressing their influence in the area. This is, of course, an American decision....In any case, we will take care to maintain the security of Israel and to defend ourselves in this area."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel Urges UN to Condemn Hizbullah over Tunnels - Josef Federman
    Israel on Wednesday urged a special session of the UN Security Council to condemn Hizbullah and designate it a terrorist organization following the discovery of cross-border tunnels stretching into Israel. Following a stormy session, the council took no action on the Israeli request, though several members sided with Israel. Sweden said Hizbullah's military capabilities pose a "clear risk" to regional stability. The Netherlands strongly condemned the tunnel activities as a "flagrant violation" of Israeli sovereignty and international law. (AP-ABC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Hizbullah's Terror Tunnels Are an Act of War
    Ahead of the UN Security Council's meeting Wednesday on Hizbullah's terror tunnels, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: Since Dec. 4, "we've uncovered, so far, four tunnels that cut into our territory. Their goal has been to penetrate our territory, to kidnap our people, including civilians, murder civilians and conquer the northern piece of the Galilee. This is not merely an act of aggression; it's an act of war....UNIFIL has confirmed the existence of these tunnels and they have said that they represent a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701."
        "The fact that the Lebanese army is doing nothing means that they are either unable or unwilling or both to do anything about this. But it doesn't absolve Lebanon's culpability. Their territory is being used to attack our territory. Their territory is being used to dig terror tunnels, to terrorize, kidnap and murder our citizens. Therefore, we hold Lebanon accountable."
        "I call on all the members of the Security Council to condemn Hizbullah's wonton acts of aggression; to designate Hizbullah, in its entirety, as a terrorist organization; to press for heightened sanctions against Hizbullah; to demand that Lebanon stop allowing its territory to be used as an act of aggression and its citizens to be used as pawns; to support Israel's right to defend itself against Iranian-inspired and Iranian-conducted aggression."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Answers Questions on Hizbullah's Terror Tunnels (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Why Did Israel Go to the UN over the Hizbullah Tunnels? - Herb Keinon
    Israel knows it will not get the UN Security Council to condemn Hizbullah's aggression for its cross-border attack tunnels. So why go through the motions? Because Israel is using the Security Council as a forum to explain to the world why it might need to take strong action inside Lebanon in the near future.
        The presence of U.S. troops in eastern Syria kept Iran from being able to convey state-of-the art weapons overland to Hizbullah in Lebanon. If, as a result of the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Syria, Iran is able to transfer precision-guided missiles more easily to Hizbullah, then the likelihood of an Israeli action inside Lebanon becomes less remote. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Syria - No Reason to Panic - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin
    The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria is a significant step, but there's no reason to panic. 2,000 U.S. troops came to Syria to fight against ISIS and had no authority to act against Iran. Israel remains the only actor enforcing red lines on the Iranians. Israel has always defended itself, and seeks no foreign forces for its defense - not even from our greatest friend and ally, the U.S. The important role of America is to push Iran diplomatically (Pompeo's 12 demands) and with sanctions.
        Driving the U.S. withdrawal from Syria is probably the President's drive to decrease U.S. presence and casualties, the American people's fatigue from the nation's long wars, and perhaps what looks like a "grand deal" with Turkey. That deal may include withdrawing U.S. protection from the Kurdish areas in northeast Syria, opening the door to Turkish military action there; blocking Turkey's acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system and replacing it with the $3.5 billion U.S. Patriot system; and allowing the F-35 aircraft deal to move forward.
        Trump's decision emboldens America's rivals which are committed to the region in the long term: Russia, Iran, Assad and ISIS. The writer, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Twitter)
        See also U.S. Reversal on Syria Means Big Gains for Iran - Tony Badran (USA Today)
  • Iranian Regime Faces Most Serious Threat in 40 Years - Iran Desk
    On Dec. 12, 2018, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that enemies are hoping to overthrow the Iranian regime in 2019. On Dec. 18, Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi told the Iranian Parliament that countries bordering Iran are working directly against the Iranian regime.
        One of the leading political activists against the regime is Prince Reza Pahlavi, 57, son of the late Shah of Iran, who is attracting unprecedented attention in the American press. Another leading critic of the regime is former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called on President Rouhani to resign.
        Mohsen Qhara'ati, a senior religious figure who has supported the regime for nearly 40 years, recently stated that the government needs to accept the fact that the nation has changed and no longer supports it. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

U.S. Companies Need Relief from BDS Pressure - Stuart E. Eizenstat (The Hill)
  • The 1977 Export Administration Act, which I helped author at President Jimmy Carter's direction, prohibits American companies and individuals from participating in unsanctioned boycotts against U.S. allies, including Israel. For four decades, the law has been upheld by the courts.
  • Recently, U.S. companies have been facing the aggressive politics of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is working against Israel through international governmental organizations (IGOs).
  • For three years, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), operating under a mandate from the UN Human Rights Council, has been working to create a database of companies that conduct business beyond the "green line," including east Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Companies that appear on such a list may be subject to new, unsanctioned boycotts.
  • In response, bipartisan legislation is pending to address this new challenge, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (IABA). The IABA is carefully crafted to update the 1977 legislation by extending the prohibition against complying with boycotts to cover boycott-related activities by IGOs like the UN or the EU.
  • Some have raised free speech objections to the new legislation. However, like the 1977 legislation, the IABA exclusively targets commercial conduct only, not political speech or activities. U.S. courts have consistently ruled that regulating these commercial activities does not violate the First Amendment.
  • All the IABA does is follow the constitutional authority that underpinned the 1977 legislation by prohibiting U.S. individuals and companies from providing requested information to an IGO to assist in its efforts to further a boycott against a country friendly to the U.S. The IABA protects American companies from being pressured by IGOs.

    The writer, chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter, co-chairs the Jewish People's Policy Institute in Jerusalem.