February 20, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Thousands Decry Anti-Semitism in France after Spike in Attacks - Vincent Kessel and Noemie Olive (Reuters)
    Thousands of people rallied across France on Tuesday after a surge of anti-Semitic attacks.
    Political leaders from all parties, including former Presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, gathered in Paris, filling the Place de la Republique, to decry anti-Semitic acts with one common slogan: "Enough!"
    People also lined the streets in Lille, Toulouse and Marseille.
    See also 80 French Jewish Gravestones Vandalized with Swastikas - Marcy Oster (JTA)

Eighth MP Quit British Labour Party over Anti-Semitism (Jewish News-UK)
    Former minister Joan Ryan, who chairs Labour Friends of Israel, is the eighth Labour MP to quit the party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.
    She said the party had become "infected with the scourge of anti-Semitism" under Corbyn.

Israeli Satellite Firm: Syria's S-300 Air Defense System "Probably Operational" (i24News)
    Syria's new S-300 air defense system is "probably operational," Israeli satellite imagery analysis firm ImageSat International said Tuesday.
    The delivery of the Russian S-300 to Syria marks a major change in its defense capabilities, since the system tracks aircraft and missiles over a range of 300 km.

Iranians Protest Involvement in Syrian Civil War - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    Videos published on Twitter Tuesday showed Iranians in the city of Andimeshk tearing down a large billboard portraying Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces who were killed in Syria. Iranians are seen cheering and celebrating as the billboard falls to the ground.
    The action was seen as a protest against Iran's involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Mother of Palestinian Knife Attacker Praises Son: He Was a Butcher, Knew How to Slaughter (MEMRI)
    In a Feb. 14, 2019, broadcast on Hamas Al-Aqsa TV, the mother of Muhammad Said Muhammad Ali, a 19-year-old Palestinian who was killed when he attacked Israeli policemen with a knife at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, praised her son.
    She said, "You could see in the video of the attack how practiced he was in wielding a knife, because he was a butcher. Muhammad was a butcher and knew how to slaughter....You are the pride of Islam."

Palestinians in Gaza Demonstrate in Support of Venezuelan President Maduro - Pam Bailey and Mahmoud Alnaouq (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
    Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza City in solidarity with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
    "There is a similarity between the Palestinian people and the Venezuelan people," observed Nisreen Abu Amra, a member of Gaza's Central Committee for the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
    "We are in the same trench, facing a reactionary, imperialist conspiracy led by the United States of America and Israel."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Palestinian Mission to Merge with Israel Embassy in March
    The U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem, which serves Palestinians, will be absorbed into the new U.S. Embassy to Israel in March, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. "The merger of the consulate and the embassy will take place on March 4th or 5th, at which point the position of the consul-general will end, said the official. The decision to create a single diplomatic mission was announced last October by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Blocks Transfer of F-35 Fighter Jets to Turkey - Ilhan Tanir
    President Donald Trump on Friday signed a spending bill that blocks the transfer of the country's F-35 new generation fighter jets to Turkey until the U.S. Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense submit an update to the report regarding the purchase by Turkey of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. (Ahval-Turkey)
        See also Erdogan Recommits to Buying Russian Missiles Despite U.S. Warnings - Dorian Jones
    Turkish President Erdogan has reaffirmed his commitment to buy the Russian S-400 missile defense system in the face of renewed warnings from the U.S.  Turkey's NATO allies warn that the S-400 compromises their defense systems. Analyst Sinan Ulgen of the Istanbul-based Edam research organization warned that if the S-400 purchase goes through, "it could also lead to the [U.S.] suspending the delivery of the F-35 fighter. But also other projects like the purchase of F-16s and military helicopters would be affected."  (VOA News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Fresh Clashes near Golden Gate on Temple Mount in Jerusalem
    Palestinians clashed with Israeli police on Jerusalem's Temple Mount on Tuesday, trying to force their way into an area that has been closed for years. The incident follows a similar confrontation on Monday. The area near the Gate of Mercy, or Golden Gate, was sealed by Israeli authorities in 2003 and it has been kept closed to stop illegal construction work there by the Waqf, which Israeli officials believe has led to the destruction of antiquities from periods of Jewish presence in the area. (Times of Israel)
        See also Temple Mount Flashpoint: Jerusalem's Golden Gate in Jewish Tradition - Lenny Ben-David
    The Golden Gate of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has been walled up since medieval times. Its Hebrew name is Sha'ar HaRachamim (Gate of Mercy). Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police recently took place around the Bab al-Rahma - a large structure inside the Golden Gate that police closed off in 2003 and that the Islamic Waqf wants reopened.
        According to Jewish tradition, Sha'ar HaRachamim is the gate through which the Messiah will come. The gate was sealed and a Muslim cemetery placed there allegedly to prevent this. A rare photo from 1900 from the Library of Congress, captioned "Interior of Golden Gate," shows a room with massive columns. The gate dates back to the 7th-8th century CE and was built over an earlier gate. A photo shows the top of the arch of the earlier gate. The writer, a former Israel diplomat in Washington, is publisher of IsraelDailyPicture.com. (Twitter)
  • Hungary to Open Trade Office in Jerusalem - Raphael Ahren
    Hungary will open a trade office in Jerusalem that will have official "diplomatic status," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced Tuesday during a visit to Israel. Also Tuesday, Slovakia's Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini announced the opening of cultural and trade office in Jerusalem. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • At Warsaw, European Ministers Embraced the Need to Counter Unacceptable Iranian Behaviors - Dennis Ross
    I moderated a panel last week at the Peace and Security conference in Warsaw. The event was marked by a variety of convergences that should make Iran take notice. European ministers reemphasized that they would not walk away from the nuclear deal, yet they also embraced the need to counter unacceptable Iranian behaviors, including ballistic missile tests and threatening military actions in the Middle East.
        The Europeans were alarmed by the similar stories they heard from Arab ministers and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in describing Iran's efforts to destabilize the region, whether by smuggling arms into Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; using Shia militias to coerce governments; providing missiles to Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Houthis; encouraging terrorism and subversion; deploying missiles on bases in Syria and western Iraq; or developing factories to build precision guidance capabilities for thousands of rockets in Lebanon and Syria.
        In essence, those on the frontlines told their European friends that Iran will not stop fomenting trouble abroad unless its costs for doing so become far more acute. Unless Iran's decision-makers begin to see the costs - and not just the benefits - of foreign interference by the Qods Force and other organs, there is little prospect of the regime altering its behavior. The writer is a former U.S. envoy to the Middle East and counselor at the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Poll Shows No Weakening of American Jewish Support for Israel - Elliott Abrams
    Articles regularly tell us that American Jews are becoming increasingly distant from and disenchanted with Israel. But it seems that what everyone knows is simply wrong, as we learn from J Street, who did a post-election survey of American Jews in 2018.
        The survey asked: "Compared to 5-10 years ago, do you feel more positive, more negative, or about the same toward Israel?" The result: 55% said about the same, 26% said more positive, and 19% said more negative. More people said they felt more positive about Israel now than said the opposite - with most saying their views had not changed.
        Respondents were also asked: "Does the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank make you feel positive about Israel, negative about Israel, or have no impact on how you feel about Israel?" The result: 48% said it had no impact at all, 32% said a negative impact, and 19% said a positive impact.
        The J Street survey suggests that there is no great crisis in relations between the American Jewish community and Israel and that the relationship is stronger than the prophets of doom constantly suggest. The writer, a senior fellow at CFR, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Council on Foreign Relations)

Video: The Iranians and the Russians Are Not Natural Allies - Amb. Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • One of the things that we miss in discussions about Iran, Russia, and Israel is the fact that the Iranians and the Russians are not natural allies. One of the underlying assumptions of the permission the Russians give to the Iranians to be in Syria is that the Russian conflict is with the Sunni Muslims. It's the Sunni Muslims in the Sunni states that have supported the Mujahideen in the Caucasus, and that's the Russians' number-one national security concern.
  • I think they're making a huge mistake because the Shia extremists in Iran have been supporting Sunni extremists for years. So the policy of going after Sunni states and supporting the Shia intervention in Syria can boomerang against Russia. In my communications with the Russians, we would often go into these details. It was an argument that they could understand. They didn't speak about Iran as a country with similar values or as a country that they are so firmly allied with.
  • Why are the Russians in Syria? Do they want to show the world, and the Arab world as well, that, unlike the United States with Mubarak, they don't abandon their allies? It could be that they have other motivations to reestablish their global position vis-a-vis the United States. A third goal is because the Chechens and other Mujahideen from the Transcaucasus have been involved in Syria, and so a victory of jihadi Islam in Syria, from their perspective, will affect their security directly.
  • I think something is going to happen that will shift the Russian policy at some point, but I can't say when. I can say these are not allies that are locked together for cooperation for the long term. I think something is going to separate them from one another.
  • Russia is more of a status quo power, meaning it achieved what it hoped to achieve, and it wants to preserve what it achieved in Syria. The Iranians are still a revolutionary power, and they're not only just employing their own forces. The big story in Syria are the Shia militias, which come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, and they are there to upset the applecart, which is not the Russian interest. If Russia's achievements will be put at risk because of Iranian policy, I see a serious conflict.

    Dore Gold, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center. This is from his presentation at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya on Feb. 12, 2019.