April 9, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

39 Parties Compete in Israeli Knesset Elections - Marissa Newman (Times of Israel)
    On Tuesday, Israelis head to the ballot box to choose between 39 political parties.
    Pre-election polls have proven inaccurate in the past and are at best a general gauge of public moods.

SpaceIL Will Broadcast Beresheet Moon Landing Thursday - Amanda Kooser (Cnet)
    Israel's Beresheet spacecraft is currently orbiting the moon and will attempt a soft landing on Thursday.
    SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries will broadcast live from the mission control room.
    Contact Global Broadcasting Services is hosting the landing page for the video feed.

Man Charged in Islamic State Van Attack Plot on D.C. Waterfront - Heather Murphy (New York Times)
    Federal prosecutors said Monday they had filed a criminal charge against Rondell Henry, 28, who planned to run down pedestrians on the National Harbor waterfront along the Potomac River near Washington in an attack inspired by ISIS.
    Henry stole a U-Haul van from a parking garage in Alexandria, Va., on March 26 and drove to the National Harbor in Maryland the next day.
    According to prosecutors, Henry sought an ideal spot to mimic a 2016 Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, in which a truck barreled through a crowd of spectators, killing more than 80.

U.S. Bars 16 Saudis in Response to Khashoggi Killing - David E. Sanger (New York Times)
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that 16 Saudis, including Saud al-Qahtani, one of the closest aides to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were being barred from entry to the U.S. in the aftermath of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi's brutal killing.

Picketing Cape Town's Jewish Groups in the Name of Palestinians - Armin Rosen (Tablet)
    The Council of South African Trade Unions picketed the Cape Town offices of the Jewish Board of Deputies as part of the country's annual Israel Apartheid Week festivities.
    Why target the board, whose mission is to "promote the safety and welfare of South African Jewry"?
    Malvern De Bruyn, a COSATU activist, explained: "There's no embassy in Cape Town. That's why we came to the board of deputies."
    In the absence of an Israeli target, COSATU chose the most visible and convenient Jewish one.

Germany to End Funding of Extreme Pro-Iran Group - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    After a series of exposes in Germany's Bild, the German government will end public funding for the radical pro-Iranian Islamic Community of Shi'ite Communities of Germany, that is packed with anti-Semitic representatives who urge the destruction of Israel.
    Germany's intelligence agency classifies the Islamic Center in Hamburg - a member of the Shiite organization - as an "instrument" of Ayatollah Khamenei.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pompeo Announces Designation of Islamic Revolutionary Guards as Terrorist Group
    Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo announced Monday that the U.S. in one week will "designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including its Qods Force, as a foreign terrorist organization."
        "This historic step will deprive the world's leading state sponsor of terror the financial means to spread misery and death around the world. Businesses and banks around the world now have a clear duty to ensure that companies with which they conduct financial transactions are not connected to the IRGC in any material way....This designation is a direct response to an outlaw regime and [should] surprise no one, and it builds on the more than 970 Iranian individuals and entities that the Trump administration has already sanctioned."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also Fact Sheet - Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (U.S. State Department)
  • Leading Jewish, Pro-Israel Groups Praise U.S. Designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guards as Terrorist Organization - Benjamin Kerstein
    "The IRGC has provided support and assistance to terrorist organizations and has fostered instability in the region," said Arthur Stark, Chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "Clearly, U.S. sanctions on Iran are having an impact, and this additional measure will place added pressure on the regime."
        American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris said, "Recognition of the IRGC as a key arm of Iran's global terrorism strategy is vitally important to the U.S., which first designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984." AIPAC called the IRGC "the principal instrument of the Iranian regime's policy of international terrorism and regional aggression" and noted that it was "responsible for the death of hundreds of American troops in Iraq."  (Algemeiner)
  • Iran Declares U.S. a "State Sponsor of Terrorism"
    After the U.S. designated Iran's IRGC a "terrorist organization," Iran's Supreme National Security Council "declares that it considers the regime of the USA a 'state sponsor of terrorism' and 'the Central Command of America, known as CENTCOM' and all forces related to it 'terrorist groups'."  (AFP)
        See also Iranian Lawmakers Convene with Chants of "Death to America"
    Iranian lawmakers convened in parliament with chants of "Death to America" following the White House's decision to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards a foreign terrorist organization. Fars news agency said many of the lawmakers wore the uniform of the guard. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Prisoners Launch Hunger Strike over Cellphone Jamming - Josh Breiner and Jack Khoury
    Palestinian security prisoners from Hamas and Islamic Jihad began a hunger strike on Monday despite previous agreements to postpone it. They have demanded that Israel remove new equipment jamming the prisoners' contraband cell phones.
        Sources said Dr. Yuval Bitton, head of the Israel Prison Service's intelligence division, told prisoners that Israel would agree to place public telephones in the prison wards, but the arrangement was refused. A senior figure linked to Hamas' prison network said last week that the hunger strike's ultimate goal is to pressure Israel to advance a prisoner exchange with Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Fishermen Sentenced for Smuggling Explosives - Yasser Okbi
    Hamis Araishi and Mamdouh Bachar, two fishermen in Gaza, were sentenced to 8 and 13 years in prison, respectively, following their conviction for smuggling explosives from Egypt to Gaza. (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Arab Who Joined ISIS Stripped of Citizenship
    At the recommendation of the Israel Security Agency, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri on Friday moved to strip Israeli Arab Abdallah Hajleh of his citizenship for traveling to Syria to join Islamic State six years ago. The Central District Court was asked to bar Hajleh from ever returning to Israel. Deri said, "This person poses a danger to the Israeli public. This is a person who is disloyal to Israel, who worked to undermine its existence, and spent years trying to damage its security."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran Should Reconcile with America - Brian H. Hook
    These days, Iran's ruling theocracy is best known for oppression, corruption and mismanagement at home, and ghastly sectarian warfare abroad. On Monday, in an effort to further raise the pressures on Iran's regime from outside, we designated its Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization.
        Within Iran's own borders, the '79 revolution is largely a spent force. Mosque attendance has collapsed. The country's brain drain and capital flight is constant. Iran has a vibrant society that wants to be integrated with, not isolated from, other nations.
        Before the revolution, America was Iran's second-largest trading partner. It should be again. With open relations between the U.S. and Iran, together we could reduce Tehran's severe air pollution, build homes that withstand earthquakes in Kermanshah, deliver new medical treatments to veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, and restore water to Lake Urmia and the Zayandeh River. But in order to make this possible, the regime must first decide that it wants to be a normal country and not a revolutionary cause.
        It is time for nations to restore basic demands on Iran to behave like a normal, peaceful nation: end the pursuit of nuclear weapons, stop testing ballistic missiles, stop sponsoring terrorist proxies and halt the arbitrary detention of dual citizens. If nations choose not to hold this regime to the same standard as all other nations, we must expect more of the same violence abroad and oppression at home.
        The writer is the U.S. Special Representative for Iran and a senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (New York Times)
  • More Reality Recognition on Iran - Editorial
    The designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization is a welcome recognition of reality. The IRGC is a branch of the Iranian military with some 125,000 personnel loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The IRGC's Quds Force trains terrorists and exports weapons throughout the Middle East, spending $1 billion a year backing militias in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
        The designation should deepen Iran's international isolation, another step in the maximum pressure campaign against the regime for its nuclear program. Anyone who provides material support to the group can now be prosecuted more easily and IRGC members are blocked from entering the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also U.S. to Designate IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization - Thomas Joscelyn (Long War Journal-Foundation for Defense of Democracies )

What Should Be Israel's Response to the U.S. Peace Plan? - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Fathom Journal-BICOM-UK)
  • Israel's response to the expected U.S. peace plan will reflect its commitment to seek a peace that guarantees its security and so will probably be "Yes, but."
  • At the same time, Israel will have to:
    1. Clarify its red lines, namely, that no lasting peace can be reached without: Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people; a security plan that leaves the Jordan Valley under Israeli responsibility and allows the IDF to deal with threats from the West Bank; and ending the hate indoctrination and incitement that inculcate support for terror and commitment to a Palestinian state "from the river to the sea" in Palestinian minds.
    2. If the Palestinians reject the plan, Israel together with the U.S. should continue conveying the message that there is a price for Palestinian intransigence. They should seek to convince the Palestinians of the need to accept the existence of a Jewish people that has a sovereign history in this disputed holy land as well as accepting the need to share this land with them.
    3. Continue with the current policies vis-a-vis Gaza and the West Bank. These are solid and reasonable policies in light of the complexities of the situation. If the threat from Gaza rises, Israel will have to be prepared to take harsher measures to protect its citizens, including forcing Hamas to give up its control of the Strip.
    4. Refrain from moving towards unilateral concessions disguised as "separation" from the Palestinians. This is a dangerous idea as it ignores the Palestinian narrative and may lead to greater Palestinian terror while simultaneously causing higher tensions within Israeli society. The probability that any new government will support such a policy is very low.
  • Moreover, Israel should try to convince the pragmatic Arab states to use the expected Palestinian rejection of the American peace plan as a justification for having closer ties with Israel. This may eventually help in pushing the Palestinians to adopt a more realistic approach towards the peace plan.

    The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division, is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.