January 1, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Three Wounded in Terror Attack in Manchester, England - Nazia Parveen (Guardian-UK)
    A man stabbed three people at Victoria Station in Manchester on New Year's Eve with a 12-inch kitchen knife.
    The perpetrator, a man in his 30s who was arrested, was heard shouting Islamist slogans.
    Sam Clack, a BBC producer who was at the station, said he heard the man shouting, "As long as you keep bombing other countries, this sort of s**t is going to keep happening."

Palestinian Man Jailed after Killing British Woman in Jerusalem - Oliver Holmes (Guardian-UK)
    A court in Israel has sentenced a Palestinian man, Jamil Tamimi, 59, to 18 years in jail for fatally stabbing British student Hannah Bladon in Jerusalem.
    Tamimi killed the 20-year-old University of Birmingham exchange student on a tram in April 2017.

Islamic State Remains Highly Active in Syria - Owen Holdaway (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    "ISIS has hundreds of fighters around Hajin and along the Euphrates...and these are the most dedicated, the most experienced of the ISIS fighters in Syria," said Havel Ronnie, a top local commander in Deir-ez-Zor province.
    "Among the local tribes and villages, ISIS also has many more active supporters as well."
    "They have had five years to prepare, so they have dug many tunnels and planted many IEDs."
    "This battle will continue for years, if not decades. And even if it is defeated here [in Hajin], it is not the end. ISIS is an ideology and can recruit more supporters."

Israel's Population 8.972 Million on Eve of 2019 (Globes)
    On Dec. 31, the population of Israel was 8.972 million, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported.
    This number includes 6.668 million Jews (74.3%), 1.878 million Arabs (20.9%) and 426,000 "others" (4.8%).
    185,000 babies were born during the year (74.4% Jews, 22.8% Arabs, and 2.8% others).

Anti-Semitic Cleveland Doctor Fired for Saying She'll Give Jews Wrong Medicine (Jerusalem Post)
    Lara Kollab, a medical resident who published anti-Semitic statements including, "I'll purposely give all the yahood [Jews] the wrong meds," has been dismissed from her position at Cleveland Clinic hospital, it was reported on Monday.

Israeli Exports at Record $110 Billion in 2018 - Eran Bar-Tal (Israel Hayom)
    Israeli exports hit a record high of $110 billion in 2018, up 8% from $103 billion in 2017.
    The export of high tech services reached $51 billion, a 14% increase.
    Exports to Asia grew by 20% in 2018, reaching $10 billion.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Sees Possible Threat from Iraq as Iran's Clout Grows
    "Iraq is under growing influence of the (covert Iranian foreign operations unit) Qods Force and Iran," IDF military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman said Monday. The Iranians may "see Iraq as a convenient theater for entrenchment, similar to what they did in Syria, and to use it as a platform for a force build-up that could also threaten the State of Israel."  (Reuters)
  • Assad Authorizes Iraqi Forces to Strike ISIS in Syria - Albert Aji
    Syrian President Assad authorized Iraqi forces on Sunday to attack the Islamic State inside Syria without waiting for permission from authorities in Damascus, the state news agency SANA said. Iraqi warplanes and artillery have in the past pounded ISIS positions inside Syria after getting the green light from Syrian authorities. ISIS still holds a small area in Syria close to the Iraqi border. (AP-Military Times)
  • U.S. Withdrawal from Syria to Take Four Months - Eric Schmitt and Maggie Haberman
    President Trump has agreed to give the military four months to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, administration officials said Monday. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian-American Sentenced to Life in Prison by PA for Selling Property to Jews - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A Palestinian court in Ramallah sentenced a Palestinian-American to life in prison with hard labor on Monday, after finding him guilty of selling a house in the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish Israeli organization. Issam Akel, 53, was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces in October. As a resident of east Jerusalem, he holds an Israeli ID card that gives him immunity against being arrested or prosecuted in a PA court.
        In November, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman wrote on Twitter that Akel's incarceration was "antithetical to the values of the U.S. and all those who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence." He called on the PA to immediately release Akel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Formally Leaves UNESCO - Raphael Ahren
    Israel officially left the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on Jan. 1. "UNESCO is a body that continually rewrites history, including by erasing the Jewish connection to Jerusalem," Israel's Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Monday. "It is corrupted and manipulated by Israel's enemies, and continually singles out the only Jewish state for condemnation. We are not going to be a member of an organization that deliberately acts against us."  (Times of Israel)
        See also U.S., Israel Pull Out of UNESCO over Bias (AP-VOA News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Video: The U.S. Withdrawal from Syria: Implications for Israel - Dore Gold
    Iran is not standing still with the defeat of the ISIS caliphate, but rather it seeks to fill the vacuum that has been created. Iran has strong territorial interests in Syria. When most of the Arab world backed Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War, Syria stood out as Iran's major regional ally. The Iranians are not going to let Syria go.
        IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot disclosed that Iran's ultimate goal is to establish a force of 100,000 fighters on Syrian soil. For Israel, there is no question but that this force could be deployed against Israel on the Golan Heights.
        After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the U.S. could have pulled out all its troops from the European continent. But the Truman administration realized that the Red Army was not demobilizing and, though the American presence was originally deployed to roll back the Germans, a premature withdrawal would only assure Soviet domination of Europe.
        America then established NATO and defended the security of the West along with its allies. A similar initiative is now needed in order to guarantee that Iran's dreams of regional hegemony will never be realized.
        Amb. Dore Gold, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Russia Is Unwilling to Allow Iran to Seize Syria as It Seized Lebanon - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland
    Israel's Syria strike last week targeted arms depots for Hizbullah and Iranian forces. Iran indeed aspires to entrench an anti-Israel presence in Syria, but is still far from reaching that goal. On the other hand, Iran has met all of its objectives as far as Lebanon is concerned.
        It may appear that Lebanon is an independent country, but reality paints a different picture. Iranian-backed Hizbullah is the sole military force in the country, telling the Lebanese army where to deploy its troops. Lebanon is effectively controlled by Iran.
        Russia, like Israel, is not interested in strengthening Iran in Syria. Moscow is unwilling to allow Iran to seize Syria as it seized Lebanon. Therefore, Russia will continue to display patience with Israeli strikes in Syria, as long as Israel hits Iranian targets. Russian rhetoric might be aggressive, but its reaction will be mild.
        Israel must inform the world that if Iran decides to activate Hizbullah against it, this would not only lead to another war with the terror organization, but also to an all-out conflagration between Israel and Lebanon. The writer is a former head of Israel's National Security Council. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Has Not Disenfranchised the Arabs - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Peter Lerner
    Anti-Israel activists have claimed that as Israel once again heads for elections, millions of Palestinians are disenfranchised. That claim is false.
        Ever since the Oslo Accords, 98% of the Palestinian population in the territories enjoys self-governance. They have a Palestinian Legislative Council with 132 elected officials. This is the body the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza are supposed to vote for, not for the Knesset. The last election took place in 2006, with Hamas winning the election, resulting in an unbridgeable internal Palestinian deadlock.
        Israel's Arab population is a vibrant, vocal element of Israeli society and is expected to have the third largest party in the next Knesset. The writer is a former IDF spokesman. (Jerusalem Post)

The U.S. Withdrawal from Syria: A Blessing in Disguise? - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Russia has reemerged as a major global force through direct military interventions. The U.S., by contrast, has substantially reduced its global involvement and has lost its hegemonic position in the Middle East. President Trump's recent decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria is the continuation of the disengagement policy begun by his immediate predecessor.
  • The widespread belief in Washington's ostensible ability to guarantee any Arab-Israeli peace agreement has placed Jerusalem under constant pressure to take the risks associated with withdrawal from areas vital to its national security. Thus, the Obama administration proposed a complex security package that substituted the deployment of U.S. forces in the Jordan Valley for Israel's longstanding demand for defensible borders.
  • But to what extent can foreign military forces operating in a wholly alien environment provide an adequate substitute for the IDF in enforcing the West Bank's demilitarization? UNIFIL, for example, has miserably failed to prevent the transformation of southern Lebanon into an unreconstructed terrorist entity. Nor does the West's experience in Afghanistan and Iraq inspire much confidence in the ability of external powers to cope effectively with sustained jihadist insurgencies.
  • The U.S. withdrawal has left Israel alone in the battle against Iran's military entrenchment in Syria. But this can potentially entail an important silver lining.
  • For the sooner Israel recognizes the precariousness of a regional "Pax Americana," the sooner it will grasp the futility of "painful territorial concessions" in the West Bank, let alone on the Golan Heights.

    The writer served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battle on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts.