January 16, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Atomic Chief: Iran Can Enrich Uranium to 20 Percent within Four Days (Reuters)
    Iran can enrich uranium up to 20% within four days, Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Tuesday.
    Iran's 2015 accord caps the level to which it is able to enrich uranium at 3.67%.

Netanyahu Asked Trump for Support Ahead of Mossad Operation in Iran (Times of Israel)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump in January before a major Israeli intelligence operation in Iran in order to secure American support if the mission were to go awry, Israeli Hadashot TV reported Tuesday.
    Netanyahu was seeking U.S. assistance in case the Israeli operatives had to be rescued during the mission.
    In April, Netanyahu revealed a trove of documents from Iran's atomic archives that the Mossad had spirited out of a warehouse in Tehran.
    It was also reported that the extraction of the Mossad agents was far more complicated than previously reported.

Do Hizbullah's Gains from Syria War Equal Its Losses? - Paula Astih (Asharq al-Awsat-UK)
    According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, around 122,000 members of the Syrian regime and its pro-Syrian and non-Syrian armed forces were killed in the Syrian civil war, including 63,820 Syrian soldiers and 1,630 members of Lebanese Hizbullah.
    The number of Hizbullah fighters in Syria has recently dropped significantly, in conjunction with the decline of fighting intensity.
    All agree that Hizbullah acquired great combat experience. Military experts said that Hizbullah has probably acquired large quantities of weapons over the past years, both from Syria and Iran.
    However, Hizbullah lost popularity both inside Lebanon and in the Arab arena.

Chinese Trade Offices Open in Israel - Sam Chester (Times of Israel)
    More than a dozen Chinese investment promotion offices have opened in Israel over the last eighteen months, representing cities and provinces across China, to actively support commercial activities between their localities and Israel.
    They include Dongguan, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Qingdao, Zhuhai, and Xiamen.
    Major U.S. states, Canadian provinces, and European cities all operate commercial representative offices in Israel.

IDF Troops to Get Advanced Gunsight - Udi Etzion (Ynet News)
    Israel Defense Forces infantry troops are to get the advanced "Dagger" gunsight.
    It gives them the ability to hit moving targets precisely, allows soldiers to hit a target on the first shot, and reduces the chances of innocent civilians being hit.
    The Dagger has an electro-optic system and a processor that calculates the distance of a target and its movement, the movement of the shooter and the ballistics of the ammunition and the rifle used.
    It then processes all the information in order to select the optimum moment to shoot.
    The sights follow the target and, with the aid of an algorithm and an advanced image processing system, "know" the right moment to pull the trigger.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Somali Islamists Kill 14 in Attack on Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
    Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Wednesday in a televised address to the nation that all the Islamists who had stormed a hotel complex in Nairobi had been "eliminated" after a 20-hour siege that left at least 14 dead. CCTV footage broadcast on local media showed four black-clad, heavily armed men entering the complex on Tuesday. One of them blew himself up at the start of the attack. (Economic Times-India)
        See also British Man and U.S. Woman among Killed in Islamist Attack in Kenya - Rory Tingle (Daily Mail-UK)
  • Talks Underway to Build Gas Pipeline to Egypt, Israel Says - Mirette Magdy
    Talks are in progress to build an underwater natural gas pipeline from Israel's offshore Leviathan and Tamar fields to Egypt's existing liquefied natural gas plants for processing and re-export, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Tuesday in Cairo at the first East Mediterranean Gas Forum.
        The new line would allow Israel to export much more to Egypt than the maximum 7 billion cubic meters per year that can flow through the existing EMG pipeline connecting Israel to Egypt's Sinai. Steinitz said Egypt would begin to receive significant quantities of Israeli gas through the EMG pipeline in October. (Bloomberg)
  • Israeli UN Envoy to Abbas: "Stop Spending 7 Percent of Your Budget on Terrorist Salaries" - Ben Cohen
    After Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday told the UN in New York that Israel was an "obstruction" to the "cohesive development of all peoples" in the Middle East, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told Algemeiner: "As the United Nations very well knows from all of the development work Israel does, Israel is not what undermines development but actually helps it."
        "Instead, it is the Palestinian Authority that undermines its own capacity and development. The PA should stop spending 7% of its annual budget on inciting and paying terrorist salaries, and instead use it to develop its infrastructure and help its people." The PA spent $355 million of international donors' money in 2017 on paying salaries and other benefits to convicted or "martyred" terrorists and their families. (Algemeiner)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Army Eyes Purchase of Israel's Iron Dome Missile Defense System
    The U.S. army has asked Congress to approve $373 million to purchase two of Israel's Iron Dome missile interception batteries, the American defense website Inside Defense reported Wednesday. The army is seeking to acquire the two batteries with 240 interception missiles by 2020 to provide U.S. ground forces interim protection against unmanned air vehicles, mortars, rockets, artillery and cruise missiles in conflict zones around the world.
        While the U.S. has attempted to develop interceptor systems of its own, only Iron Dome could meet the mandated goal of implementing an interim cruise missile defense capability by 2020. A U.S. Army document submitted to Congress on Oct. 26, 2018, said that based on cost analysis and recent simulation results, the Iron Dome system was the best option to fulfill immediate needs and requirements. "The Iron Dome system provides the best value to the Army based on its schedule, cost per kill, magazine depth, and capability against specified threats," the document said. (i24News)
  • New Threat from Gaza: Landfills and Sewage Build Up along Israeli Border - Matan Tzuri
    The residents of Israeli communities bordering Gaza are now battling polluted sewage being pumped from Gaza into the Israeli side of the border after the local wastewater treatment plant serving Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia in Gaza collapsed. Palestinians are draining sewage into Nahal Hanun, which crosses Israel and empties into the sea, polluting the groundwater in the process. In order to stop wastewater flow and reduce the environmental damage, the Israel Water Authority has recently set up a pumping station near the Erez border crossing.
        In addition, massive piles of trash have accumulated in three giant landfills along the border fence, leaving Israelis to cope with a putrid and toxic smell being carried by the wind across the border. Insects and rodents that breed in the landfills then make their way across the border, infesting Israeli communities. Disease-ridden cats and dogs that feed off the landfill constantly breach the fence. (Ynet News)
        See also The Many Ways Palestinians Violate International Law: Environmental Pollution, Ecological, and Humanitarian Crimes - Amb. Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Iran Deal, Three Years Later - Emily B. Landau and Ephraim Asculai
    Three years after the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) in mid-January 2016, supporters insist that "the deal is working" - but what does this mean? If the intention is that Iran is prevented from becoming a nuclear weapons state, clearly this is not the case; not least because the deal has an expiration date in the form of its sunset provisions, and thus at best only delays the time whereby Iran is able, technically, to continue developing a nuclear weapon.
        If the deal is dangerously flawed, compliance with its terms would not confirm that it has prevented Iran from carrying on its nuclear development program or that there is room for complacency regarding the prospects of Iran going nuclear in the future.
        Two major problems related to the Iran deal that arose over the course of 2018 demand immediate attention. The first relates to inspections at undeclared nuclear-related facilities in Iran. The second is Iran's missile program, in particular the recent Iranian test of a medium-range missile that can reach the entire Middle East and parts of Europe, and can carry a nuclear warhead.
        Dr. Emily B. Landau heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at INSS at Tel Aviv University. Dr. Ephraim Asculai, a senior research associate at INSS, worked at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for over 40 years. (Institute for National Security Studies)
  • Is U.S. Concern over China-Israel Haifa Port Reasonable? - Jin Liangxiang
    On Jan. 6, while visiting Israel, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a deal with China on a new port at Haifa, raising concerns that the U.S. Sixth Fleet will change its longstanding operations in Haifa.
        U.S. fleets in the Asia-Pacific area have long regarded China's Hong Kong as a site of logistical support. Despite tensions, China is always ready to approve docking of U.S. fleets at Hong Kong, the latest being the [nuclear-powered supercarrier] USS Ronald Reagan in November 2018. The U.S. has chosen to dock there, never expressing a concern that China would collect intelligence as a result.
        In addition, the U.S. military base in Djibouti and China's logistic support base were established in the same area, yet the U.S. never expressed unease about China's military presence. The writer is Senior Research Fellow with the Center for West Asian and African Studies at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. (China.org)
  • Another PR "Victory" for Abbas at the UN - Khaled Abu Toameh
    On Tuesday, Palestinian Authority officials celebrated what one called a "major public relations victory for President Abbas and Palestine" - assuming the presidency of the Group 77 (G77) and China, a bloc that represents 134 nations. Radio and television stations in Ramallah broadcasted news and interviews related to the event all day, with their main message being: Abbas is a hero; he has done it again; he has scored another historic victory for the Palestinians. One Abbas loyalist interviewed by the PA's Voice of Palestine radio boasted: the Palestinian state is now only a stone's throw away.
        But Abbas will soon return to Ramallah to realize that his latest "victory" has not changed the reality on the ground. As he was speaking at the UN, Hamas and other Palestinian factions were pointing out that Abbas was no longer a legitimate and rightful president since his term in office expired 10 years ago. (Jerusalem Post)

There Is No "Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" - Matti Friedman (New York Times)
  • To someone here in Israel, there isn't an Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the way that many outsiders seem to think. In the Israeli view, no peacemaker can bring the two sides together because there aren't just two sides. There are many, many sides.
  • Most of Israel's wars haven't been fought against Palestinians. Since the invasion of five Arab armies at the declaration of the State of Israel in May 1948, the Palestinians have made up a small number of the combatants facing the country.
  • Today Israel's most potent enemy is the Shiite theocracy in Iran, which is more than 1,000 miles away and isn't Palestinian or Arab. The gravest threat to Israel at close range is Hizbullah on our northern border, an army of Lebanese Shiites founded and funded by the Iranians.
  • A threat of a lesser order is posed by Hamas, which is Palestinian - but was founded as the local incarnation of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and is kept afloat with Qatari cash and backed by Iran. There are also Islamic State-affiliated insurgents on our border with Egypt's Sinai.
  • By framing it as only an "Israeli-Palestinian" conflict, Israelis seem stronger, more prosperous and more numerous.
  • But many in Israel believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won't end the conflict, because it will wind up creating a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos or Iranian proxies. That's exactly what has happened around us in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.