March 13, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Did Iran Ever Stop Funding Hamas? - Ahmad Abu Amer (Al-Monitor)
    Iranian-Hamas relations have been growing warmer, especially after the new Hamas leadership was elected in May 2017, which resolved all differences that resulted from Hamas' neutral stance on the conflict in Syria in 2012.
    A senior Hamas official told Al-Monitor that Iranian financial and military support did not stop, while saying that support has not been consistent in recent years.
    The U.S. envoy to the Middle East peace process, Jason Greenblatt, tweeted on Feb. 4, 2018, that Iran is giving $100 million a year to Hamas to buy weapons and build tunnels to attack Israel.

Gazan Anger at Qatari Plans to Build Envoy's House on National Monument for Yasser Arafat - Muhammad Shehada (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    In 2017, Qatar announced its intention to build a new headquarters in Gaza for its "Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza" along with a villa residence for its ambassador, Dr. Mohammed Al Emadi.
    The only problem was that the location was the Al Ansar Military Compound, which housed the Gaza office and helipad of historic leader Yasser Arafat.
    The location had been turned into a training site for security forces and a national monument, with the helicopter that he used at its center, decorated with a Palestinian flag.
    The initial Qatari announcement of the project stirred enormous controversy and several leading political figures asked Qatar to terminate the project.
    However, on Tuesday Qatar's ambassador restarted the project and signed construction orders for the first phase of building.

The Most Anti-Semitic Region Is the Middle East - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
    A 2014 ADL survey of global anti-Semitism found that the most ferociously anti-Semitic region is the Muslim nations of the Middle East.
    The Palestinians were far ahead, with 93% holding anti-Semitic opinions. Not far behind was Iraq with 92%; Egypt, 75%; and Saudi Arabia, 74%.
    As a whole, 74% of Middle Easterners hold anti-Semitic beliefs - 200 million out of 275 million.
    Few other countries on the globe managed to crack 50%.

Israel's Netafim to Connect 60,000 Indian Farmers to Irrigation Technology - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli irrigation technology developer Netafim has been selected to construct four large community irrigation projects in India, connecting almost 60,000 farmers in over 100 towns to advanced agricultural technology.
    The project, worth over $100 million, will improve infrastructure in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.-Backed Syria Forces Say ISIS Suicide Bombers Thwarted in Last-Stand Battle
    The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces said it thwarted an attempted Islamic State suicide bomb attack on Wednesday during a last-stand battle for the jihadist group's final enclave of Baghouz. Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the SDF, said a group of suicide bombers "tried to blow themselves up amidst our forces. Our forces targeted and killed them before they reached our positions."  (Reuters-New York Times)
        See also As ISIS Fight Nears End, Violence Flares on Other Syrian Front
    Violence is escalating in Syria's northwest, pitting al-Qaeda-linked militants against Syrian regime forces in Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria. Earlier this year, al-Qaeda-linked militants took over the province, squeezing out most other factions. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Jordan's King Abdullah Meets with U.S. Peace Team in Washington
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner met in Washington on Monday with Jordan's King Abdullah II at the Jordanian ambassador's residence. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Video: Hizbullah Terrorist Mastermind Operating New Cell in Syria
    The IDF has cleared for publication the intelligence that Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior Hizbullah operative, has been operating a new terror cell on the Syrian Golan Heights aimed at striking Israel. Daqduq was responsible for the abduction and execution of 5 American servicemen in Iraq in 2007.
        The IDF is not going to allow Hizbullah to establish a terror infrastructure on the Golan capable of striking Israeli civilians. We hold the Syrian regime responsible for anything that happens inside Syria aimed at Israel. (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also Hizbullah Commander Captured by UK Special Forces in Iraq Resurfaces in Southern Syria - Raf Sanchez
    Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese Hizbullah operative who conducted a number of bloody operations against Western forces in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, has resurfaced in southern Syria. He was captured by the SAS in Basra in March 2007 and spent five years in prison before Iraq's government released him in 2012, despite strong protests from the Obama White House. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Palestinians Hurl Firebomb at Police Post on Temple Mount, Sparking Riot - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinians attacked an Israeli police station on the Temple Mount with a firebomb on Tuesday, sparking an afternoon riot. The al-Aqsa compound was closed for the remainder of the day but reopened on Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Tries to Stab Soldiers in West Bank - Judah Ari Gross
    IDF soldiers spotted a Palestinian man armed with a knife as he ran toward them in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday. The terrorist was shot dead as he tried to stab them, the Israel Defense Forces said. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Hizbullah's Operational Infrastructure Discovered on Golan Heights - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    Hizbullah's operational infrastructure recently discovered in the Syrian Golan Heights is an expression of leader Hassan Nasrallah's determination to build another front in the war against Israel. In recent months, senior Hizbullah commander Ali Musa Daqduq has headed these operations.
        Daqduq belongs to the generation of Hizbullah's operational founders. In 2006, he was sent by Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh to Iraq to organize and train Shiite militias in jihad (holy war) against the U.S.-led coalition, including preparing explosives and carrying out kidnappings following the model used by Hizbullah against Israel in Lebanon.
        Apparently, the revelation of Daqduq's infrastructure in the Golan by Israel is meant as a warning to Hizbullah and Syria that its continued operation will lead to its destruction. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, served as military secretary to the prime minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Former Israeli Defense Minister: Israeli-Arab Conflict Is Over - Herb Keinon
    "Today...there is not an Israeli-Arab conflict: There is an Israeli-Palestinian conflict," former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon told a conference Monday at the Hebrew University's Truman Institute marking the 40th anniversary of the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. "When we look back at the agreement, there has not been a threat of conventional war against Israel since it was signed. No Arab leader or Arab army dared to challenge Israel as army-against-army, and the Yom Kippur War was the last war the Arab leaders initiated against us."
        He said that while the peace agreement essentially put an end to the nationalist pan-Arabist threat to Israel, a month before the agreement was signed in 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in Iran. And that revolution gave support to all the variations of Islamic radicalism that the region has witnessed since: from an increase in the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood to the rise of Hamas and al-Qaeda.
        But this also created opportunities for Israel as relations have developed with the Sunni Arab world. The situation is not one of normalization, "but they are no longer telling stories about the extremist Zionist empire that wants to reign from the Euphrates to the Nile."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty at 40 - Dr. Yoav J. Tenembaum (Jerusalem Post)
  • What about "the Benjamins" Coming from the Gulf States? - Barbara Boland
    Do foreign nations and their money influence U.S. policy? Pro-Israel groups spent roughly $5 million on lobbying in 2018. That might sound like a lot of money, until you realize that in 2013, Norway spent $5 million to push U.S. officials to double spending on foreign aid.
        If Rep. Ilhan Omar wants to deal with the "problematic role" of "Benjamins" in our foreign policy, she should take a hard look at contributions from the Gulf states. The United Arab Emirates secretly contributed $20 million to the Middle East Institute, a leading Washington think tank, between 2016 and 2017. In 2014, the UAE's rival, Qatar, gave a $14.8 million four-year donation to the Brookings Institution. From 2015 to 2017, Saudi Arabia multiplied its number of foreign agents from 25 to 145, and poured $18 million into D.C.-based lobbying. (Spectator)

The Failure of Palestinian Nationalism - Dr. Alex Joffe (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • The February 2019 Warsaw Summit, which saw the Israeli PM take his seat beside Arab leaders, was a turning point that signaled the ebbing fortunes of the Palestinian cause.
  • The continuing inability of the Palestinian Authority to build a functioning state has generated frustration among once-reliable supporters, as has the ever-looming presidential succession crisis.
  • The steady cutoff of American aid, including to UNRWA, has not prompted a fundamental rethinking of Palestinian goals, but rather a retrenchment.
  • Why has Palestinian nationalism failed to construct a state? On the one hand, it relies on romantic visions of an imaginary past, the myth of ancestors sitting beneath their lemon trees.
  • This is at odds with the hardscrabble reality of pre-modern Palestine, which was controlled by the Ottoman Empire, dominated by its leading families, and beset by endemic poverty and disease.
  • On the other hand, Palestinian nationalism is resolutely negative. The essential symbols of Palestine - a fighter holding a rifle and a map that erases Israel completely - is a nationalism based in large part on negation of the Other, preferably through violence.

    The writer, an archaeologist and historian, is a senior non-resident fellow at the BESA Center.