February 15, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Undefeated, ISIS Is Back in Iraq - Aziz Ahmad (New York Review of Books)
    Iraq has declared the Islamic State defeated, but the signs of the ISIS resurgence are troubling.
    According to the Kurdistan Region Security Council, over the past 15 months, hundreds of attacks linked to the group took place in areas that were supposed to have been freed from ISIS.
    Pushed out of Mosul, Islamic State fighters have regrouped in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin, and Anbar. These guerrillas are mounting ambushes against Iraqi security forces on a scale not seen in years.
    Even in parts of Mosul itself, reconquered in 2017, the black-and-white ISIS flag has flown again in recent months.
    Throughout 2018, dozens of village chiefs have been killed across northern Iraq in assassinations, bombings, and kidnappings. At least 13 have been killed since December, including four in Mosul.
    Improvised bomb attacks are back as a daily feature across the north, with hundreds recorded last year.
    Major roads have already become "no go" zones for many international organizations.

$1 Billion in Gold Imports from Venezuela to Turkey in 2018 (Ahval-Turkey)
    Gold imports from Venezuela to Turkey surged to almost $1 billion in 2018.
    The gold was allegedly to be refined in Turkey and returned to Venezuela, but there is no record of re-exportation.
    There was growing suspicion that the gold was ending up in Iran, Western diplomatic sources said.
    The U.S. is ready to take action against Turkey if its trade with Venezuela violates sanctions, a senior U.S. official told Reuters in early February.

Israel Wants Dutch Case Against Ex-Army Chief Dropped - Josef Federman (AP-Washington Post)
    The Israeli Justice Ministry on Monday said the government has asked a Dutch court to dismiss war crimes allegations against Benny Gantz, an ex-military chief who is challenging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April elections.
    A Dutch-Palestinian man originally from Gaza is suing Gantz and Israel's former air force chief, Amir Eshel, for their roles in an airstrike on his family's home during the 2014 war.
    An internal Israeli military investigation determined the airstrike had killed four militants, including three family members, hiding in the house.
    It said the attack was permissible under international law, and argued the Dutch court does not have jurisdiction.
    "Israel has several mechanisms in place and a robust legal system available to address allegations such as those raised by the plaintiff," the ministry said.

U.S.-Israel Military Drill Concludes - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    300 American troops from the U.S. European Command joined 400 IDF troops in Israel for the week-long Juniper Falcon drill, which tested coordination in the event of a ballistic missile threat against Israel.
    Brig.-Gen. Erez Maisel, head of the IDF's Foreign Relations Division, said the drill focused on the "three Cs: common language, confidence and capabilities" of troops to enable the maximum protection of Israel.
    Washington and Jerusalem have signed an agreement that would see the U.S. assist Israel with missile defense in times of war.
    See also Video: Juniper Falcon 2019 - U.S. and Israeli Forces Training Together (Israel Defense Forces)

Follow the Jerusalem Center on:

U.S. Delivers Laser-Guided Rockets to Lebanese Army (AP-Washington Post)
    The American Embassy in Lebanon says the U.S. has delivered laser-guided rockets valued at $16 million to the Lebanese army for its fleet of A-29 attack aircraft previously delivered.

Germany Sees Rise in Anti-Semitic Offenses in 2018 (BBC News)
    German media on Wednesday said 1,646 crimes were linked to a hatred of Jews in 2018 - a yearly increase of 10%.
    There was a 60% rise in physical attacks with 62 violent incidents recorded, up from 37 in 2017.

BBC News Ignores Fatal Terror Attack in Jerusalem (BBC Watch-CAMERA)
    BBC correspondents based in Jerusalem could not fail to be aware of the brutal murder of 19-year-old Israeli woman Ori Ansbacher in a terror attack, which was widely reported in local media.
    So it's puzzling that BBC audiences have seen no reporting whatsoever on the terror attack. 

The Hypocrisy of Eurovision Israel Boycotters - Toby Young (Spectator-UK)
    The Guardian last week published a letter from 50 "artists of conscience" urging the BBC to boycott this year's Eurovision Song Contest because it's taking place in Israel.
    Why didn't any of them object when the Eurovision Song Contest was hosted by Russia in 2009?
    Why is Israel held to a higher moral standard than every other country in the Middle East, including the terrorist-backing Iran?
    When trouble flares in Gaza, there is always a renewed call for BDS, but no one would be injured if Hamas fighters weren't intent on breaking through the border fence.
    The signatories of the Guardian letter are just having their strings pulled by an Islamist terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel.

Israeli Startup Sight Diagnostics Gets $27.8 Million to Speed Up Blood Tests - Natasha Lomas (Techcrunch)
    Sight Diagnostics, an Israeli medical devices startup that's using AI technology to speed up blood testing, has closed a $27.8 million funding round.
    The company has built a desktop machine, called OLO, that offers a "lab-grade" point-of-care blood diagnostics system.
    OLO currently offers a complete blood count (CBC) from a finger prick's worth of the patient's blood, and will use new funding to expand the menu of diagnostic tests.
    The idea is to offer an alternative to having venous blood drawn and sent away to a lab - with OLO taking minutes to perform the test, which a non-professional can carry out.

The Founder of Universal Studios Rescued 300 Jewish Families from Nazi Germany - Rich Tenorio (Times of Israel)
    A new documentary looks at the life of Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Pictures, who rescued over 300 Jewish families from Hitler in the 1930s.

Search the Recent History of Israel and the Middle East

Send the Daily Alert to a Friend
    If you are viewing the email version of the Daily Alert and want to share it with friends, please click Forward in your email program and enter their address.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Vice President Pence: Time to Hold the Iranian Regime Accountable for the Evil and Violence It's Inflicted
    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the Mideast conference in Warsaw on Thursday: "At the outset of this historic conference, leaders from across the region agreed that the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic of Iran....The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. They have bombed American embassies, murdered hundreds of American troops, and even to this day, they hold hostage citizens of the United States and other Western nations. Iran has brazenly defied United Nations sanctions, violated resolutions, and plotted terrorist attacks on European soil."
        "The authoritarian regime in Tehran represses the freedom of speech and assembly, it persecutes religious minorities, brutalizes women, executes gay people, and openly advocates the destruction of the State of Israel. The Ayatollah Khamenei himself has said, 'It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map.'...The Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it."
        "The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security, and freedom they deserve....Freedom-loving nations must stand together to hold the Iranian regime accountable for the evil and violence it's inflicted on its people, on the region, and the wider world."  (White House)
  • Israel, Gulf States Commend Kushner's Peace Effort - Jessica Donati and Sune Engel Rasmussen
    President Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner, in a closed-door presentation in Warsaw on Thursday, focused his appeal for support of his peace efforts on Israel and the Gulf Arab countries. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the "normalization" of relations with the Arab world would help, adding, "I am happy to say there is progress on that."
        Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, said, "We strongly believe it's time to find a solution to this long-running conflict."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Peace Process Veterans See Growing Israeli-Arab Alignment in Warsaw - Laura Rozen
    Veteran U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross moderated a panel of three Arab foreign ministers at a closed-door dinner in Warsaw on Wednesday. Ross wrote on Twitter, "The PA may not like it, but Arab states will pursue their interests even when the Palestinian leadership opposes. Case in point: the Warsaw Conference. Arab states had more of an interest in arguing for unity of effort against Iran than boycotting a conference the PA opposed."
        "At the Warsaw Conference, I conducted back-to-back discussions first with three Arab ministers and then with Israeli PM Netanyahu. Same room, same views of Iran's aggressive, threatening posture in the Middle East, and unmistakable convergence of what should be done to counter it."
        U.S. Middle East peace hand Aaron David Miller said: "Look, the prime minister of Israel had dinner in a private session with...a number of Arab foreign ministers....What is so stunning, so preternaturally amazing, is that at a time when there is no peace process and no prospect of one...Israel's stock in the region and in the international community is higher now than at any point since the state was created."  (Al-Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Warsaw Conference Helps Prepare Arab Public to Accept Normalization of Ties with Israel - Noa Landau
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that statements by Arab leaders at the Warsaw conference on the Middle East have laid the groundwork for the Arab public to accept normalization of ties with Israel. Arab foreign ministers speaking together with Israel about a common enemy is a "process of legitimization" for Arab public opinion. Netanyahu said that Arab foreign ministers "spoke blatantly against Iran and about Israel's right to defend itself," which he called a "momentous event."
        Netanyahu said he had never talked about reaching peace with Arab countries "before solving the Palestinian issue....But I did say we would continue with normalization and flights [over Arab countries], diplomatic steps or changes in public opinion, slowly and gradually."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Video: Arab Leaders Speak in Warsaw about the Iranian Threat (YouTube)
  • Bahrain: Iran's "Toxic Money" Helps Block Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Tovah Lazaroff
    Iran's funding of violence in the region has prevented the resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said at a closed-door session of the Warsaw summit on Wednesday. "When we come to Palestine-Israel, there was a Camp David agreement. There was Madrid. There were many other ways of solving it, and had we stayed on the same path, and if it wasn't for the toxic money, guns and foot soldiers of the Islamic Republic, I think we would have been much closer today in solving this issue with Israel. But this is a serious challenge that is preventing us from moving forward anywhere, be it Syria, be it Yemen, be it Iraq, be it anywhere. My country is under threat."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    Why America Supports Israel

  • Why Do So Many American Politicians Support Israel? - Sam Goldman
    American attitudes toward Israel have been shaped far more by debates among non-Jews than by the influence of Jewish organizations. The most important reason public officials support Israel is that the public does. In fact, approval is at a 17-year high, with 74% of adults reporting a favorable opinion.
        Public support for Israel is not a new phenomenon. Surveys conducted between 1947 and 1949 showed that nearly three times as many Americans sympathized with Jews over Arabs in the conflict in former Mandatory Palestine.
        American approval for Israel has deep historical roots in the Christian understanding of America. Leaders of Puritan New England predicted the demographic return and political revival of the Jewish people in the biblical promised land. In 1845, John Price Durbin, a Methodist who served as chaplain of the Senate and president of Dickinson College, insisted on "the undoubted fact of the restoration of a Jewish state in Palestine."
        In 1891, the evangelist William E. Blackstone presented a petition to President Benjamin Harrison calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Ottoman Palestine. Americans who signed included Supreme Court Chief Justice Melville Fuller, future president William McKinley, titans of industry and finance like John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, and the editors of dozens of major newspapers.
        The writer is assistant professor of political science and executive director at the Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom at George Washington University. (Washington Post)
  • America Chooses Morality over Money to Support Israel - David French
    America's long support for Israel represents an enduring, bipartisan commitment to moral clarity in the Middle East. Even today, Israelis live under a terror-threat level experienced by few other nations, and it exists in the midst of a region full of people who express feelings of outright hatred for its right to exist.
        Generations of American politicians - from both parties - have seen these realities and have made the moral decision to support an embattled minority in the face of an avalanche of outright hate. It is to our nation's enduring credit that we've stood against that hate since Israel's founding.
        A hostile Arab world has far more money and resources than the small Jewish state that it all too often seeks to eradicate. If cash is truly king, we would have thrown Israel under the bus in generations past. It is to our country's credit that we've chosen morality over money since 1948. (National Review)

  • Iran

  • Iran's 40 Years of Darkness - Bret Stephens
    From its beginning 40 years ago, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enjoyed the generous benefit of the doubt from credulous observers in the West. History hasn't been kind to their sympathy. As goodwill flowed toward Iran, malice flowed out. Tehran matches conciliation with contempt.
        America's withdrawal from the nuclear deal has not led Iran to resume its nuclear program. A tougher U.S. tone is likely behind the sharp drop in Iranian harassment of U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. The resumption of sanctions has put Iran under acute economic stress.
        Most importantly, ordinary Iranians know where to pin the blame. Last summer, social media captured Iranian protesters chanting "Death to Palestine," "No to Gaza, no to Lebanon," and "Leave Syria and think of us." These are people sick of going hungry and unpaid while singing the "Death to America" theme song.
        The overarching goal of Western policy cannot be to appease Iran into making partial and temporary concessions on its nuclear program, purchased at the cost of financing its other malignant aims. The goal must be to put an end, finally, to 40 years of Persian night. (New York Times)
  • 40 Years of Revolution Economics Have Failed Iran - Nadereh Chamlou
    After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, massive nationalization and expropriations essentially removed Iran's emerging entrepreneurial and industrial class that had risen in the 1960s and 1970s. Contrary to a belief that they benefited from the Shah's crony capitalism, most early industrialists came from humble beginnings and were self-made businessmen. Nearly all industrialists emigrated and built successful businesses abroad while grooming their next generation into leaders in cutting-edge global corporations.
        The expropriated companies in Iran were handed over to trusted ideological insiders. Cronyism combined with corruption, vested interests, policy unpredictability, and a cumbersome business environment stymie would-be entrepreneurs. The writer is former senior advisor to the Chief Economist of the Middle East and North Africa Region at the World Bank. (Atlantic Council)

  • Palestinians

  • Mutual Recognition Never Happened, Palestinian Leaders Are Stuck in 1948 - Gerald Steinberg
    With Knesset elections on April 9, for most Israeli political parties, the two-state formula has run its course without yielding any results. Proposed in 2002 by then-U.S. President George W. Bush and accepted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009, the hope was that the Palestinians would finally accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state in exchange for their own sovereign nation. But this never happened.
        Palestinian leaders are stuck in 1948, still hoping to reverse the creation of Israel altogether. Hamas and Fatah are also busy fighting each other. At the same time, terror and incitement continue, and Israelis are not convinced that the two-state approach will improve the situation (most think it will make things worse). The "international consensus" that presses Israel to take all the risks, while exempting the "powerless" Palestinians from any responsibility, has no traction in Israel. The writer, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, is president of the Institute for NGO Research. (Canadian Jewish News)
  • The Key to Middle East Peace Is Getting Palestinians to Say "Yes" - Ahron Shapiro
    The necessity for the Palestinians to make peace with Israel as a prerequisite for the establishment of a Palestinian state isn't arbitrary or the result of inherently "unfair" imbalances of power. It is a reflection of the reality that the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan of November 29, 1947, establishing two states, in favor of open-ended war. This rejectionism continues to this day.
        The Palestinians have been given multiple opportunities to reverse their historic own-goal and accept statehood many times since then but have always broken off talks at the moment of truth, refusing the very independence they claim to pine for if the price is to end their conflict with Israel. Martin Indyk, President Obama's special envoy on the Middle East, told Al Jazeera in 2016: "We have [Israeli Prime Ministers] Barak and Olmert offering the Palestinians 95-97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and they didn't take it." Since 2014 the Palestinian leadership has refused to negotiate at all.
        Israel cannot make peace on its own, nor can it be expected to accept the creation of a hostile, armed state on the doorstep of its major cities without a viable peace agreement. Unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood would be rewarding the Palestinians for continuing to say "no." The writer is a senior policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
  • Gaza's Self-Inflicted Health Crisis - Evelyn Gordon
    An international aid agency reported that Gaza hospitals are severely short of doctors and lack 60% of necessary medications, including basics like painkillers and antibiotics. The Palestinian Authority receives international aid for humanitarian needs in both Gaza and the West Bank. It ostensibly budgets $41.3 million a year for medical supplies for Gaza, but it hasn't paid this money in months.
        The same PA has no trouble finding $330 million a year to pay salaries to jailed terrorists. Nor will Hamas divert any of the hundreds of millions of dollars a year it spends on its own military to ease Gazans' humanitarian plight. What motivates both Palestinian governments and many ordinary Palestinians isn't the desire to have their own state, but the desire to eradicate the Jewish one. (JNS)
  • Palestinians Have No Confidence in the Palestinian President - Yasmin Zaher
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas recently suspended a new social security law after months of protests and strikes. One protest slogan was: "Who will secure our social security?" The Palestinian street doesn't believe that the Palestinian Authority possesses either the political legitimacy or the economic knowhow and integrity to manage a multi-billion dollar fund.
        The Palestinian Authority operates in a model in which structures and laws can be overridden by informal politics and networks of wasta ("who you know"). To entrust it with the people's social security fund would be, in popular opinion, a dangerous gamble. People are not willing for their savings to pay for the PA's deficits and its untransparent financial systems. (Ha'aretz)

  • Other Issues

  • It Is Anti-Semitic to Oppose Israel's Right to Exist - Rob Berg
    Israel should be challenged and scrutinized in the same way as any other country. Yet other countries, no matter how they came into being or how they behave, do not have their legitimacy or right to exist questioned or their outright destruction called for. Anti-Zionism should not be conflated with mere criticism of Israeli policy. Anti-Zionism rejects the very idea of a Jewish state.
        Zionism is the belief in the right to self-determination of the Jewish people (a right guaranteed to them by international law) in their historical and spiritual homeland, Israel. It acknowledges the Jewish people as indigenous to the land and Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, although all citizens, including Israel's 20% Arab population, have equal civil rights. For most Jews, Zionism is core to their identity.
        Had a Jewish homeland been set up anywhere else, for example in Uganda, then the accusation of colonialism would have legitimacy. But in the Land of Israel, where Jewish people are the Tangata Whenua - a Maori term that means "people of the land" - accusations of colonialism are made to delegitimize the Jewish presence in their ancestral homeland.
        Anti-Zionism has become the new form of anti-Semitism. The state of the Jews has become the Jew of the states. Yet Zionism is not just an idea but a reality whose elimination would mean 6.5 million Jews facing the prospect of ethnic cleansing and a return to homelessness. The writer is president of the Zionist Federation of New Zealand and the Jewish National Fund NZ. (New Zealand Herald)
  • Canadian Parliament Approves New Israel Free Trade Deal - Ron Csillag
    The Canadian Parliament on Feb. 8 approved an updated free trade agreement between Canada and Israel. Two-way trade between Canada and Israel has tripled since the original 1997 deal, reaching $1.7 billion last year, Liberal MP Bardish Chagger told the House of Commons, speaking on behalf of Trade Minister Jim Carr.
        Canada's "strong friendship and partnership with Israel spans more than 70 years and stretches back even further to the arrival of the earliest Jewish settlers in Canada more than 250 years ago," she said, noting that there are more than 350,000 Jews in Canada "who are an important source of information and support in the political and commercial spheres for both Canada and Israel," and 20,000 Canadians currently living and working in Israel.
        Ontario Conservative MP David Sweet said we need to ensure that Israeli businesses continue to be able to hire Palestinians from the West Bank "without the crazy pressure from this boycott, divestment, sanctions movement that does not understand that they actually employ and allow Palestinians to prosper, to have jobs that are not in the Palestinian Authority." He said he feels "very bad for the innocent Palestinian people who suffer every day under tyrannical regimes like Hamas and for those people who suffer under the corruption of the Palestinian Authority."  (Canadian Jewish News)
  • Book Review: Why Have Arab Armies Performed So Poorly? - Dov S. Zakheim
    Kenneth Pollack, a respected veteran observer of Middle East political and military affairs, attempts to identify the underlying reasons for the general failure of Arab forces to achieve their military objectives in Armies of Sand: The Past, Present and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness.
        Pollack argues that "the greatest, most consistent and most persistent problem of Arab armed forces in battle since 1945 has been the poor performance of their junior officers....Arab tactical commanders regularly failed to demonstrate initiative, flexibility, creativity, independence of thought, an understanding of combined arms integration, or an appreciation for the benefits of maneuver in battle." The writer is a former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense. (National Interest)

  • Yoram Cohen, 58, who headed the Israel Security Agency from 2011 to 2016, said in an interview that his experience taught him that the Palestinians' capability to take over counter-terrorism efforts is very weak, even if Israel gives them land.
  • Cohen states that PA counter-terrorism forces "do not have anything remotely similar to Israel in professionalism, technology and motivation" for protecting Israel from Palestinian terrorism. He asks how PA security forces can be trusted when the PA pays salaries to Hamas terrorists in Israeli prisons. Moreover, "No one can be sure that Hamas will not take over the West Bank by force or by election."
  • For this reason, he is opposed to full Palestinian statehood and would only support Palestinian "autonomy plus in Judea and Samaria or a state-minus," noting Yitzhak Rabin had endorsed a state-minus (where the PA would govern nearly all internal issues but would lack formal sovereignty, since the IDF would still provide external security).
  • He says, "It is in Israel's national interest to get to a final agreement with the Palestinians and its representative the PA. In the near future, we cannot get to a final agreement between us and the Palestinians" due to unbridgeable gaps in positions about what that deal should look like, chronic instability and religious extremism in the Middle East.
  • "No external force has an interest in conquering Gaza and freeing the residents there from the burden of the murderous terrorist organizations, led by Hamas, that want to destroy Israel." Israel is not interested in conquering Gaza because of the inevitable cost in Israeli soldiers' and Palestinian civilians' lives as well as the absence of someone else to hand over control to.
  • He opposes any kind of sea or naval port in Gaza or an artificial port off the Gaza coast, viewing this as "a big open door to bring in a much higher quantity and quality of weapons and military equipment and hostile actors."
Support Daily Alert
Daily Alert is the work of a team of expert analysts who find the most important and timely articles from around the world on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. policy. No wonder it is read by heads of government, leading journalists, and thousands of people who want to stay on top of the news. To continue to provide this service, Daily Alert requires your support. Please take a moment to click here and make your contribution through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.