January 7, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Three-Time Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens Dies at 93 - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post-Ha'aretz)
    Former defense and foreign minister Moshe Arens died on Monday at age 93.
    Arens served as Israel's defense minister three times, as foreign minister, and as ambassador to the U.S.
    Arens was born in Lithuania in 1925 and moved with his family to the U.S. in 1939. He served in the U.S. Army Engineering Corps in 1944-1946.
    In 1948, before he immigrated to Israel, the Irgun underground sent him to assist the Jews of North Africa and provide self-defense training to Betar activists in Tunis.
    He returned to the U.S. to study at MIT and Caltech, then became a professor at the Technion in Haifa and Deputy CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries.

Israeli Bus Attacked by Gunfire in West Bank, Driver Lightly Hurt - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    An Israeli bus came under fire shortly after midnight on Sunday near Beit El in the West Bank. The bus driver was lightly hurt from glass shards from the windshield.
    This is the fourth attack in the area over the past month.
    Some of the members of the terror cell behind the previous attacks have already been eliminated or captured.

Iron Dome Intercepts Palestinian Rocket Fired at Ashkelon from Gaza - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired a rocket at the Israeli city of Ashkelon at 3 a.m. early Monday, which was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the army said.

Report: Three Iraqi Delegations Visited Israel in Recent Months (i24News)
    Israel hosted three delegations of local leaders from Iraq in recent months, Hadashot TV reported on Sunday.
    15 Iraqi leaders met with Israeli government officials, academics and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

U.S. Intensifies Bombing in Syria after Announced Withdrawal - Ali Younes and Trevor Aaronson (Al Jazeera)
    After President Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Syria last month, the U.S. military ramped up its bombing campaign against territory still held by the Islamic State in eastern Syria, according to sources on the ground.
    During the final days of 2018, the U.S. campaign bombed villages up and down the Euphrates, focusing primarily on Al Kashmah.
    U.S. Department of Defense spokesperson Danielle Covington said, "The increase in strikes in late December were selected specifically to degrade ISIS capabilities."

Israeli Sale of F16s to Croatia Cancelled after U.S. Objections - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    Israel will not be able to complete the deal to sell 30-year-old F16s to Croatia, which was signed last March, following Washington's restrictions on the sale.
    Israel Ministry of Defense officials will visit Croatia this week and inform them that the deal is cancelled.

Malaysia Denies Entry to Israeli Swimmers for World Championship - Oren Aharoni (Ynet News)
    Malaysia will not allow Israel's paralympics swimming team enter the country to participate in the World Para Swimming Championships in July.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Kills al-Qaeda Figure Accused of Leading 2000 Attack on USS Cole - Nancy A. Youssef and Rebecca Ballhaus
    The U.S. killed Jamal al-Badawi, a Yemeni al-Qaeda operative accused of leading the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, in a strike on Jan. 1 near the Yemeni capital, San'a, a U.S. defense official said. On Oct. 12, 2000, the ship was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden when a small boat carrying C4 explosives and two suicide bombers rammed the side of the destroyer, creating a huge gash and detonating explosives that killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured 40 others. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Bolsonaro: Brazil to Move Embassy to Jerusalem - Jordi Miro
    Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro has confirmed he will move his country's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and said the main nation objecting to that is Iran, not Arab countries. Bolsonaro told SBT TV on Thursday: "The decision is taken, it's only a matter of when it will be implemented."
        "A large part of the Arab world is aligned or aligning itself with the United States. The Palestinian issue is already overloading people in the Arab world for the most part." Bolsonaro said he did not think that most Arab countries would take reprisals against Brazil. (AFP)
        See also Brazil Finds More than a Friend in Israel - Allison Fedirka (RealClearWorld)
  • Palestinian Authority Withdraws from Gaza-Egypt Crossing - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    The Palestinian Authority said on Sunday it had ordered its employees to pull out from the Gaza-Egypt border crossing, effectively closing the main exit point from Gaza. The dispute stems from the rift between the PA and Hamas. Re-opening the Rafeh crossing will require Egypt to agree on a new operator. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Asks U.S. to Recognize Israeli Sovereignty in Golan Heights - Raphael Ahren
    At a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Jerusalem on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the administration to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights. In light of the civil war in Syria, Israel has in recent years stepped up its calls on friendly governments to recognize that Israel will never return the strategically important territory to the Assad regime.
        Bolton reassured Israel of Washington's abiding support for Israel's security, seeking to allay fears of increasing Iranian aggression after U.S. troops are pulled out from Syria. He said the U.S. will withdraw its forces from Syria "in a way that makes sure that ISIS is defeated and is not able to revive itself and to become a threat again; and to make sure that the defense of Israel and our other friends in the region is absolutely assured; and to take care of those who fought with us against ISIS and other terrorist groups."
        Bolton added, "We have little doubt that Iran's leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons. "The U.S. and Israel are strategically committed to making sure that doesn't happen."  (Times of Israel)
        See also U.S. National Security Adviser Bolton Visits Western Wall in Jerusalem, Stoking Palestinian Fury - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli UN Ambassador Danon: PA Drops Plan for UN Membership Approval by Security Council - Herb Keinon
    The Palestinians have ditched a plan to apply for full UN membership through the UN Security Council, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said on Sunday. PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said last week he planned to submit a request to the Security Council for full UN membership in January.
        Danon led a diplomatic effort to thwart the membership campaign, arguing among friendly countries on the Security Council that the PA does not meet the fundamental conditions of permanent membership in the UN because of its clear policy of paying salaries to terrorists and the public incitement campaign it leads against Israel in textbooks and social networks. One condition for UN membership is that a candidate state must be "peace loving."
        A Palestinian move for full UN acceptance failed in 2011 when the PA was unable to get the necessary support of nine states on the Security Council. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Blocks PA Effort at UN for Recognition as a State (Israel Mission to the United Nations)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Muslim Brotherhood Debate and Mubarak's 2018 Court Testimony in Egypt - Amb. Dore Gold
    The Muslim Brotherhood, which began in Egypt in 1928, has evolved to become a global network with branches in 70 countries. Since 9/11, a global debate has raged over whether the Muslim Brotherhood was a dangerous Islamist terror organization or a real alternative to the jihadist militancy witnessed with al-Qaeda.
        There is no ambiguity about the purpose of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its regular periodical, Risalat al-Ikhwan, carries a masthead proclaiming: "Our Mission: World Domination." It also carries the motto: "jihad is our path; martyrdom is our aspiration."
        The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, wrote that the flag of Islam must be raised again in territories it once ruled, like Andalusia (Spain), Sicily, the Balkans, the coast of Italy, as well as the islands of the Mediterranean. Mustafa Mashour, who became the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, included on the list of occupied Muslim lands to be liberated: Palestine, India, and Chechnya. He went on to say, "As the Soviet Union has fallen, so will America and the West succumb."
        On December 26, 2018, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak testified in court that in 2011, 800 armed operatives infiltrated into Egyptian Sinai through the Hamas tunnels with the aid of the Muslim Brotherhood. They helped 20,000 inmates escape Egyptian prisons including members of Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood. His testimony belied the notion that the Brotherhood had somehow evolved into a peaceful group renouncing violence.
        The writer, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Amnesty International Singling Out Jews in 2019
    Documents seen by NGO Monitor indicate that Amnesty International will conduct a series of intense campaigns singling out Israel in early 2019. One new Amnesty campaign involves a "blacklist" targeting businesses "operating in the illegal Israeli settlements." In addition, Amnesty documents show that it specifically seeks to censure companies that educate the public about Jewish history and historical ties to Jerusalem.
        Amnesty has also supported legislation in Ireland that, if enacted, will criminalize visiting Jewish historical and holy sites, including Jerusalem's Old City, and purchasing goods and services from Jews located in Jerusalem over the 1949 Armistice lines. (NGO Monitor)

  • The American presence in Syria had formed the primary obstacle in the way of Iran's completing an unbroken corridor of political influence from Tehran to Beirut on the Mediterranean shore. With only 2,000 soldiers, the U.S. was controlling, indirectly, about a third of the country, yet this small force was still large enough to overwhelm any potential combination of adversaries, as it proved last February when it annihilated some 200 Russian mercenaries in a matter of hours, with no losses on the American side. No question, the American withdrawal will create a vacuum in the region that Iran and Russia will inevitably seek to fill.
  • As America withdraws from the Middle East, the choice is between, on the one hand, a withdrawal of American power based on the conviction not just that the situation has become hopeless but that over the decades the U.S. choice of allies, including Israel, has made it worse - the Obama position - and, on the other hand, a withdrawal of direct American military engagement while ensuring that the U.S. will continue reliably to support those same historic allies and others drawn to its and their side, thereby enhancing the possibility of a stabilized Middle East in the next decade.
  • In the Trump administration's conception, three key obstacles stand in the way of American interests in the Middle East. The first is jihadistans, zones of chaos defined by failed states like Syria and Yemen. The jihadistans are problems that must be managed. The second is the problem posed by Sunni terror groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State, which take root and prosper in the jihadistans. The third is the rise of Iran, which, abetted by Russia, is training and equipping Shiite militias based on the Hizbullah model; these it deploys to project its power into Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
  • If the Israelis have any hope of preventing Syria from becoming a permanent Iranian military base, they must act alone. Only independent military action can solve their problem. Israel is more powerful militarily than at any time in its history, and it is not at all isolated. The U.S. fervently desires to see Israel succeed in curtailing Iranian power. Trump and his foreign-policy advisers, led by Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, will likely be eager to provide Israel with any weapons and intelligence it may lack to do the job.

    The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the U.S. National Security Council.