April 10, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Israel's Beresheet Space Probe Prepares for Moon Landing Thursday - Denise Chow (NBC News)
    Israel's Beresheet space probe is scheduled to touch down on the lunar surface between 3 and 4 p.m. Eastern Time (10-11 p.m. Israel time) on Thursday.
    The landing will be livestreamed here.
    On Tuesday, the lander fired its engines for 78 seconds to tighten its orbit around the moon.
    "Beresheet entered a circular orbit of 200 km. above the moon and will circle it once every two hours," SpaceIL officials tweeted.

Airbnb Reverses Policy Banning Listings in Israeli Settlements in West Bank - Julia Jacobs (New York Times)
    Airbnb said Tuesday that it had reversed its November decision to remove listings of properties located in Israeli settlements in the West Bank after it settled four lawsuits filed against it in the U.S. and Israel.

IMF Sees Iran Plunging Deeper into Recession as U.S. Sanctions Bite (AFP)
    The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday worsened its forecast for Iran's recession as U.S. sanctions bite.
    The global lender's World Economic Outlook projected Iran's economy will shrink by 6% this year. The report estimated that Iran's economy shrunk by 3.9% in 2018.

Saudi Aramco Is World's Most Profitable Company - Rory Jones and Summer Said (Wall Street Journal)
    Saudi Arabia's national oil company Aramco is the world's most profitable business. With $111 billion in net income in 2018, Saudi Aramco had bigger returns last year than Apple and Exxon Mobil combined.
    The financial information was disclosed on Monday in a prospectus for a planned bond sale.
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's day-to-day ruler, wants to raise tens of billions of dollars to build new futuristic cities, diversify the kingdom's oil-dependent economy and fund non-oil industries like technology, entertainment and mining.

Police Raids across Germany Target Hamas-Linked Charities (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
    Police in Germany raided 90 properties in ten states on Wednesday, targeting charities WWR Help and Ansaar International suspected of providing "financial and propaganda" support to Hamas.
    "Whoever supports Hamas under the mantle of providing humanitarian aid disregards the fundamental values of our constitution," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.

First Druze Woman to Enter Knesset (Jerusalem Post)
    Gadeer Mreeh, 34, a former news anchor, will become the first female Druze member of Israel's Knesset for the Blue and White party.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel's Netanyahu Wins Reelection with Parliamentary Majority - Jeffrey Heller
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a clear path to reelection on Wednesday, with previous coalition parties set to hand him a parliamentary majority, a vote tally showed. With more than 97% of votes counted, Netanyahu's Likud party looked likely to muster enough support to control 65 of the Knesset's 120 seats. (Reuters)
        See also below News Resources-Israel: Knesset Election Results - 2019
  • As U.S. Peace Plan Rollout Approaches, Palestinians Voice Rejection - Daoud Kuttab
    As the rollout for the U.S.' long-expected Middle East vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace approaches, Ghassan Khatib, who participated in peace talks in the 1990s, said the best way to respond to the U.S. plan is to reject it. "If a plan is made, it should be totally rejected. No one should discuss it or negotiate about it because the United States is unqualified to play the role of arbitrator."
        Fatah's spokesman for international affairs Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad said, "Since the beginning of talk about the plan, the Palestinian leadership has rejected the deal of the century and continues to say no to the U.S. administration."  (Al-Monitor)
        See also Poll: Palestinians Reject U.S. Peace Plan
    65% of Palestinians said they believe the Palestinian leadership should reject the U.S. peace plan, while 6% said they should accept it and 21% said they preferred that the Palestinian leadership negotiates over it, according to a poll of 1,200 adults by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center conducted on March 19-23, 2019, and released on Monday. 59% supported the continued boycott of the U.S. administration by the Palestinian leadership.
        78% said they would not accept any future peace agreement that included land swaps between Israel and the State of Palestine. 84% said they would not accept any agreement that includes continued Israeli security control over parts of the Palestinian state. 72% said they would not accept a customs union with Israel. 61% said they opposed the continuation of security coordination between the PA and Israel.
        28% said they trusted Fatah most, followed by Hamas at 10%; 41% said they did not trust any political or religious faction. (JMCC-PA)
  • International Union of Muslim Scholars Urges Armed Jihad Against Israel, Claims Israeli Leaders Want to Conquer Saudi Arabia
    The International Union of Muslim Clerics (IUMS) posted a sermon it advised preachers to deliver on April 5 which calls for armed jihad against Israel. The IUMS claimed Israel presented a threat to Saudi Arabia, accusing Israel's founding leader David Ben-Gurion of saying: "We have conquered Jerusalem and [now] we are on our way to Yathrib [the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia]." It accused former prime minister Gold Meir of saying: "I smell the fragrance of my forefathers in Medina and Hejaz, which is our land, and we will return to it."  (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Knesset Election Results - 2019
    # of Knesset Seats (compared to 2015):
    Likud (Netanyahu) - 35 (30)
    Kahol Lavan (Gantz-Lapid) - 35 (-)
    Shas (Religious-Sephardi) - 8 (7)
    United Torah Judaism (Religious) - 8 (6)
    Labor - 6 (19)
    Hadash-Ta'al (Arab) - 6 (7)
    Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman) - 5 (6)
    Rightist Union - 5 (6)
    Balad-UAL (Arab) - 4 (6)
    Kulanu (Kahlon) - 4 (10)
    Meretz - 4 (5)
    New Right (Bennett-Shaked) - 0 (3)
    Zehut (Feiglin) - 0 (-)
    Gesher (Orli Levy) - 0 (1)
    (Times of Israel)
  • Police Find Two M-16s in Palestinian Car - Tzvi Joffre
    A Palestinian family with young children in the car was stopped at the A'Zaim checkpoint near Jerusalem on Tuesday. A suitcase in the trunk was found to contain two M-16 rifles and 15 magazines with hundreds of bullets. The weapons were intended for terrorists within Israel, according to the Israel Police. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israeli Expert: Iran "a Significant Threat to Middle East Peace" - Ciaran McGrath
    IDF Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Assaf Orion, of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), says "Iran's obsession to 'wipe Israel from the map' needs little introduction. Iran is perceived as a threat as it both vowed to destroy Israel and is consistently devoting efforts to promote this goal. Its dual strategy combines the quest for nuclear weapons and a protracted and indirect proxy war against Israel, in which the IRGC Quds Force plays a central role."
        "The most serious conventional threat on Israel today is from Lebanese Hizbullah, Iranian-equipped, armed, trained, funded and inspired by Tehran, brandishing a rocket and missile arsenal larger than many nation states. The last years saw Iran trying to establish a similar capability in Syria and Israel countering its attempts."
        "With missiles falling on Riyadh it is no coincidence that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states see Iran as their worst enemy. In a region ridden with many perils, Iran is indeed the most significant single player of instability, terror, subversion and arms proliferation."  (Daily Express-UK)
  • Can the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive as the IAEA Investigates Israeli Allegations? - Emma Scott and Ian J. Stewart
    Israel has shared some or all of the secret Iranian nuclear files it seized with officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In order for the IAEA to develop a "broader conclusion" that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities, officials are investigating Israel's materials and conducting the necessary site visits.
        Given the skepticism with which many view the nature of Iran's nuclear objectives, it looks increasingly untenable that the IAEA could reach a broader conclusion seen as credible by all. This has profound implications for the future of the nuclear accord with Iran. Absent a credible broader conclusion, it's hard to imagine that in four years the parties to the accord would allow its automatic easing of nuclear restrictions to proceed. (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

A U.S. Return to the Iran Deal Would Be a Dangerous Choice - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin (The Hill)
  • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), achieved in 2015 between Iran and the world powers, had some immediate benefits, mainly in the rollback of the Iranian nuclear program and the 10-year slowdown, but also dangerous drawbacks. It enables Iran to continue developing its enrichment technology, and in the longer term, the "sunset" clause grants full legitimacy to Iran's unlimited nuclear program and places a nuclear weapon within Iran's immediate access from the moment Tehran decides to breakout to the bomb.
  • Other significant shortcomings of the agreement include the limited supervision of undeclared sites and military sites, disregard for Iran's activity on the possible military dimensions of the program, lack of reference to the development of ballistic missiles, and Iran's malign activity in the region.
  • The four years that have elapsed since the JCPOA was implemented have shown that key assumptions made by supporters of the agreement were wrong. Iran has not only failed to moderate its hostile conduct but has even intensified it.
  • The call to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement in its current form is a dangerous suggestion. In 2021, we will be approaching the possibility that a murderous regime that seeks to destroy Israel and establish regional hegemony in the Middle East will receive international approval to reach the nuclear threshold - a nightmare scenario that must be prevented.
  • As someone who, in 1981 and in 2007, helped terminate two nuclear programs in the Middle East without precipitating war, I know that the "deal or war" framing is a false dichotomy and, therefore, the prediction that leaving the JCPOA will lead to war was detached from the strategic and military reality of the Middle East.
  • Iran does not rule the roost; it is a very vulnerable country that is rushing toward a direct clash with Israel and the United States. Paradoxically, a clear unwillingness to use force actually encourages Iranian aggression, while clear-eyed willingness to use it will cause the danger of war to recede.

    The writer was chief of Israeli military intelligence from 2006 to 2010 and is now the director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.