April 4, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

With Turkish Loss of F-35, Israel Keeps Its Aerial Superiority - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The Pentagon's decision to stop the delivery of F-35 stealth fighter jet equipment to Turkey due to Ankara's decision to purchase the Russian-made S-400 air defense system will allow Israel to keep its aerial superiority in the Middle East.
    Israel currently has 14 F-35 jets and is expected to have 50 planes by 2024.
    A senior Israeli defense official was quoted by Ha'aretz in August as saying that Israel would like to be the only country in the Middle East with the F-35 in order to keep its qualitative military edge and out of fears that the jet's capabilities would be leaked to enemy countries.
    As a partner in the F-35 program, Turkey invested over $1 billion on the jet, with several local companies producing fuselages and cockpit screens.
    Turkish defense companies also produce high-end SOM-J missiles for the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and Turkey is Europe's maintenance and repair center for the F-35.

Palestinian Electricity Bills to Israel Are Piling Up - Hagai Amit (Ha'aretz)
    An agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that aimed to settle old Palestinian debts has unraveled, leaving the Israel Electric Corporation with $222 million of additional Palestinian debt. The growing debt is paid for by Israeli consumers.

5 German Firms Each Give $1.1 Million to Israel's Holocaust Memorial (AP-Miami Herald)
    Five German companies are donating 1 million euros ($1.1 million) each to Israel's Yad Vashem memorial for the development of the "Shoah Heritage Collections Campus," to preserve, catalog and store Holocaust-related artifacts.
    They include soccer club Borussia Dortmund, Daimler automotive corp., railway operator Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Bank and Volkswagen.
    The memorial has collected more than 210 million documents, 500,000 photographs, 131,000 survivor testimonies, 32,400 artifacts, and 11,500 works of art.

Archeologists Unearth Second Temple Era Beersheba Town - Yvette J. Deane (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have discovered archeological evidence of a Jewish town in Beersheba from the Second Temple period, the Authority announced on Thursday.
    During the excavation, archeologists found a fragment of a candle which was decorated with a picture of a 9-branched candelabra, the earliest known appearance of a menorah in art.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Russian Military and the Syrians Found Body of Missing Israeli Soldier, Putin Says - Noa Landau
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russian soldiers, together with the Syrians, found the remains of the missing Israeli soldier who was returned to Israel Wednesday. Putin made the remarks alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who arrived in Moscow on Thursday. Netanyahu thanked Russia on behalf of the people of Israel, adding that Russian soldiers endangered themselves in the quest to locate Baumel's body. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Photos: Ceremony at Russian Ministry of Defense Honoring Zachary Baumel - Anna Ahronheim (Twitter)
        See also Russia's Role in Return of Fallen Soldier - Yossi Yehoshua
    The remains of Zachary Baumel, repatriated Wednesday, were among 20 sets of remains that arrived in Israel. According to Lebanon's Al Mayadeen, Baumel's remains were identified in the Yarmuq refugee camp near Damascus, following the withdrawal of ISIS from the area. (Ynet News)
  • Searching for Israel's Missing Soldiers for 37 Years - Yoav Limor
    The operation to return Zachary Baumel's remains to Israel was one of the most impressive in the country's history. In a series of intelligence operations, the Military Intelligence Directorate and Mossad pinpointed Baumel's exact resting place. Israeli officials stressed that nothing was given in exchange for Baumel's return.
        There are very few countries in the world that after 37 years would continue searching for their missing soldiers, let alone jeopardize intelligence assets in the process. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Video: Rabin Aide Jacques Neriah Describes Receiving Baumel's Identification Tag from Arafat in 1993 (i24News)
        See also Behind the Retrieval of the Israeli Soldier's Body - Amos Harel
    Israel invested millions of shekels and an inconceivable number of work hours for the mission of returning the remains of missing Israelis to their families. Success was achieved after many disappointments.
        Col. (res.) Lior Lotan, who once served as head of the prisoners and missing soldiers' department in the Intelligence Corps, said, "Our intelligence...efforts continued all the time, gradually, and it was also possible to gather more and more testimony from people who participated in that battle on the enemy side....Gradually an intelligence picture emerged that permitted us to make progress."  (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Thwarts Three Gazans Sneaking into Israel with Knives
    Israeli forces wounded three Palestinians who entered Israel from Gaza carrying knives, the army said Wednesday. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israeli Drone Fires at Gazans Launching Arson Balloons - Judah Ari Gross
    An Israeli drone fired twice at a group of Palestinians launching arson balloons into Israel from Gaza on Tuesday. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Cultural Barriers to Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Lawrence J. Haas
    Cultural obstacles prevent progress toward peace. When activists in Gaza protested rising prices, high unemployment, and new taxes imposed by Hamas in March, Hamas cracked down harshly. The Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank in similar dictatorial fashion, brooking no opposition. Palestinian leaders will need to respect the rights of their own people before we can hope that, at some point, they'll respect the rights of Israelis to live in peace.
        As Hamas and Fatah fight one another, the weapon at their disposal to assure their popularity among Palestinians is their continuing efforts to kill Jews. Palestinian factions that compete over who's more committed to killing Israelis won't be making peace with Israel any time soon.
        The Palestinian Authority continues to pay prisoners and the families of "martyrs" who tried to kill Israelis. A Palestinian leadership that turns killers into martyrs won't be making peace with the country of those they want to kill. The writer is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. (The Hill)
  • "The Arabs Have Realized Israel Cannot Be Destroyed" - Eldad Beck
    Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, former dean of Islamic Law at Qatar University, told Israel Hayom in Doha, the Qatari capital: "The Arab regimes are today demonstrating more flexibility [on] normalization [with Israel] and political and economic cooperation with it, in particular in the Gulf region. We see this also in the media."
        "In the past, contact with Israel was considered treason, and today there is no mass opposition to it. And the Arabs have been convinced that Israel exists, that it cannot be destroyed by force and that it is preferable to negotiate with it. For 70 years, the Arabs tried every means of violence against Israel and saw that it only grows more powerful as they grow weaker."
        "The Arabs discovered that the Palestinians themselves are divided and conflicted between the [Palestinian] Authority and Hamas. If the owners of the problem themselves are fighting one another, others have no problem looking for justification for reconciliation with Israel."  (Israel Hayom)

The Survival of Assad's Regime and the Challenges to Syria's Stabilization - Dr. Carmit Valensi (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • On March 10, 2019, hundreds of residents of Daraa in southern Syria protested against the restoration of a statue of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, which had been toppled when the civil war began. The protests, alongside the fact that President Bashar al-Assad controls only about 60% of Syrian territory, indicate that the situation in Syria is far from stable.
  • Today, the stabilization and rebuilding of Syria seems more a utopian vision rather than reality in the making. Syria of 2019 has become a country with multiple power centers that compete with each other for long term influence and control.
  • These include Assad's formal state-framework, foreign political actors (Russia, Israel, Iran, Turkey), and non-state actors (armed rebel forces, political opposition, Shiite militias, and Kurdish forces). This multi-actor reality will make it difficult to establish an effective central regime, especially a legitimate one.
  • The massive physical damage caused by the war is joined by the challenge of the refugees, particularly the many middle and upper class families that will not return to Syria. This will make it difficult to find appropriate human resources to operate the reconstructed services.
  • The defeated Sunni majority has been left more repressed than it was before the civil war.

    The writer is a research fellow at INSS.