January 29, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Chief Tries to Hide Recent Failures - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah may have threatened Israel in his interview Saturday on his home TV channel, Al-Mayadeen, but a clear-headed examination of Nasrallah's "achievements" in recent years shows the magnitude of Hizbullah's failures.
    The Syrian civil war was decided by the Russians, not Hizbullah, and until Moscow intervened, Hizbullah couldn't stand up to Islamic State.
    Hizbullah lost almost 2,000 combatants, and thousands were injured in battle in Syria.
    It may have gained experience in fighting in similar fashion to an army, but if it tries to confront the Israel Defense Forces that way, its failure will be even more pronounced.

Prominent Democrats Form Pro-Israel Group - Jonathan Martin (New York Times)
    Several prominent veteran Democrats, alarmed by the party's drift from its longstanding alignment with Israel, are starting a new political group - the Democratic Majority for Israel - that will support candidates in 2020 who stand unwaveringly with the country.
    "Most Democrats are strongly pro-Israel and we want to keep it that way," said Mark Mellman, the group's president and a longtime Democratic pollster.

Countering UAVs with Drone Guard - Seth J. Frantzman (Defense News)
    Last month, a drone sighting disrupted flights at Britain's Gatwick Airport for more than 24 hours. Elta Systems, a division of Israel Aerospace Industries, has sold hundreds of its Drone Guard units to more than 10 countries.
    "We have means to also take over the drone, to capture it. And there are situations where it is threatening and one can activate hard-kill solutions," said Igo Licht, Elta's director of marketing.
    According to Elta, the radar "can detect more than 200 targets," which allows for countering a drone swarm.

Intel to Invest $11 Billion in New Manufacturing Facility in Israel - Ora Coren (Ha'aretz)
    Tech giant Intel is to invest $11 billion to build a new manufacturing facility alongside its present semiconductor manufacturing facility in Kiryat Gat in Israel, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced on Monday.

Samsung Buys Israel's Corephotonics for $155 Million - Omri Zerachovitz (Globes)
    Korean tech-giant Samsung has agreed to acquire Israeli company Corephotonics for $155 million.
    Corephotonics has developed a camera with dual lens technology for smartphones, which is designed to improve the quality of smartphone images.
    See also Samsung to Acquire Company with 25x Telephoto Camera Module for Smartphones (GSMArena.com)

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Angela Merkel: Israel Has "Right" to Defend Itself Against Iran in Syria - Alex Pearson
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Israeli public radio that it was "important and right" that Israel defends itself from Iranian forces in Syria. "Iran has policies that are threatening to Israel....Israel must secure its existence." Germany was also working to ensure that Iranian forces do not approach the Golan Heights near the Israeli border, she added. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
  • EU: Iran Likely to Step Up Cyber Espionage
    Iran is likely to expand its cyber espionage activities as its relations with Western powers worsen, the EU digital security agency said on Monday. Iranian hackers are behind several cyber attacks and online disinformation campaigns in recent years. In November the U.S. indicted two Iranians for launching a major cyber attack using ransomware known as "SamSam."  (Reuters)
  • Arab League Discusses Israel's Africa Charm Offensive
    The Arab League's Committee for Confronting Israeli Schemes in Africa met on Monday in Cairo to discuss how to confront recent Israeli "expansion" in Africa after Chad's decision earlier this month to resume ties with Israel after a 46-year hiatus. Israel currently maintains embassies in 10 out of 54 African countries: Senegal, Egypt, Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Cameroon. (Anadolu-Turkey)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel to Expel Foreign Observers from Hebron after 22 Years - Tovah Lazaroff
    Prime Minister Netanyahu decided on Tuesday to oust the international observers of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) after 22 years. The 64 international civilian observers are from Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
        A recent report by Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan found that TIPH members had interfered with the work of IDF soldiers and the police, created friction with Israeli residents, and cooperated with organizations that promote the delegitimization of Israel. In incidents caught on video, TIPH's legal counsel can be seen slapping a 10-year-old Jewish child across the face, and a staff member is seen slashing a tire of a car belonging to a Jewish resident in Hebron. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Alerts UN to More Hizbullah Tunnels in Lebanon Heading toward Israel
    Israel has notified the UN about "underground infrastructure" dug by Hizbullah in Lebanon, including tunnels that have not yet crossed the border into Israeli territory, the Times of Israel reported on Monday. Israel recently destroyed six cross-border tunnels dug by Hizbullah. (i24News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Rocky Marriage of Convenience between Russia and Iran in Syria - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    The latest round of attacks by the Israeli Air Force on Iranian targets in Syria revealed growing tensions in relations between Iran and Russia in Syria as Iranian leaders criticized Russia for failing to protect their forces from Israeli attacks. Der Spiegel recently reported on battles between Syrian units, with some loyal to Russia and some loyal to Iran. Scores of combatants were reportedly killed.
        The official Islamic Republic News Agency - IRNA has emphasized that the Russian-Iranian relationship is more a "marriage of convenience" than a "strategic alliance." IRNA contended that Russia was not at ease in its relations with Iran in Syria, stemming from Moscow's desire to maintain good relations with Israel. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Ireland's Misguided Boycott Bill Ignores Israel's Security Concerns - Alan Shatter
    During debates on the bill in the Irish Parliament to criminalize the importation into Ireland of goods or services produced in "occupied territory," none of its proponents referenced the rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, Hamas' rejection of the Oslo Accords and a two-state solution, or its role and that of Islamic Jihad as Iranian surrogates. Also carefully ignored was the martyrdom culture cultivated by those groups and the Palestinian Authority; murderous attacks on Israeli men, woman and children; PA President Mahmoud Abbas' obsessive international campaign to demonize and delegitimize the Israeli state; and his recent initiative to reinstate the discredited UN motion labeling Zionism as racism.
        The bill, sponsored by Fianna Fail, the largest opposition party, is consistent with its history. It was the Fianna Fail party in government in "neutral" Ireland in the 1930s that denied residential visas to many German Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany and, postwar, to Holocaust survivors. It was its leader, Eamon de Valera, who as prime minister in 1945, upon learning of Hitler's death, visited the German Embassy in Dublin to express his condolences. The writer is a former Irish minister for justice and defense, and former chairman of the Irish parliament's foreign affairs committee. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Preparing for Peace - The Palestinian Way - Khaled Abu Toameh
    While the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to arrest and intimidate Palestinian journalists in the West Bank, its loyalists are also waging a campaign against Arab journalists who dare to visit Israel. This month alone, PA security forces have arrested nine Palestinian journalists, while Hamas detained three more. Palestinian leaders seem emboldened by the fact that the international community and media are oblivious to the plight of Palestinian journalists.
        When a group of Arab journalists from Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria and Morocco recently visited Israel, the PA Ministry of Information said normalization with Israel is "an unacceptable crime under all circumstances." The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, dominated by Abbas loyalists, said it is preparing a blacklist of Arab journalists suspected of engaging in normalization with Israel.
        If, in the eyes of the PA leadership, normalization with Israel is an act of "treason" and a "big political and national sin," the Trump administration may be wasting its time on a peace plan at this time. To achieve peace with Israel, Palestinian leaders need to prepare their people - and all Arabs and Muslims - for peace and compromise with Israel, and not the exact opposite, as they are now doing. (Gatestone Institute)

No, Israel and America Aren't Breaking Up - Aaron David Miller (Ha'aretz)
  • In comparison with the behavior of its neighbors, Israel still looks pretty good. Between Syria's Assad, Lebanon's Hizbullah, the mullahcracy in Iran, Hamas in Gaza, and even aspects of Abbas' Palestinian Authority, particularly its pay-for-slay and the martyrs' fund, there aren't a lot of democrats or human rights champions.
  • Getting points for not being Assad isn't such a compliment. But let's be clear. In the wake of the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamic State, the Syrian civil war and Assad's use of chemical weapons, the gap between Israeli behavior and that of key actors in the Arab world on the violence/terror scale is only growing.
  • From the standpoint of the vast majority of U.S. politicians and officials, the case for a strong relationship with Israel is still pretty easy to make. With all its imperfections, Israel remains the only country in a violent and dysfunctional region where there is any evidence of a shared alignment of both values and interests with the U.S.
  • I can't tell you how many memos I wrote in the 1980s arguing that the Palestinian issue was central to regional stability and the protection of U.S. interests. But today, a rising Iran, the dangers of nuclear proliferation, the emergence of the jihadis, the melting down of at least three Arab states (Yemen, Libya, Syria), and internal challenges to others have not only pushed the Palestinians off center stage, but created increasing exhaustion and frustration with the Palestinians themselves.
  • The factors supporting a continued U.S.-Israeli relationship are strong: the influence of traditionally pro-Israel organizations; support for Israel among large numbers of Evangelical Christians; the enduring power, still, of a Democratic party that sees little profit in blasting Israel; the reality that the vast majority of elected representatives in the House and Senate aren't sent to Washington to deal with the Israel issue; and there's still a political price to be paid for criticizing Israel.
  • Until I see a genuine debate in the House and Senate on Israel with large numbers of members taking positions that would have been unthinkable in previous eras, count me as yet to be persuaded.

    The writer, vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, served as an advisor to Secretaries of State on U.S. Middle East policy.