April 11, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Beresheet Spacecraft Prepares to Land - Melanie Lidman (Times of Israel)
    After 47 days and 6.5 million km., Israel's Beresheet spacecraft is set to land on the moon's surface on Thursday. If successful, Israel will become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon.
    Engineers activated Beresheet's engines on Wednesday night for the final maneuver, putting the spacecraft into an orbit only 13-17 km. above the moon's surface at its closest point.
    If all goes as planned, the spacecraft will gently set down and spend two to three days carrying out science experiments studying the moon's magnetic field before the sun's rays become too strong and disable the spacecraft's computers.

Watch Israel's Moon Landing on Thursday
    3:25 p.m. Eastern Time (10:25 p.m. Israel time). Live streaming: Facebook, YouTube.

Gaza Hackers Target 39 Countries (Israel Hayom)
    Kaspersky Lab published its findings on a cyber espionage operation by the Arabic-speaking Gaza Cybergang, which targeted individuals and organizations with Middle-Eastern political interests in 39 countries.
    The operation, known as SneakyPastes, was at its most active between April and Nov. 2018, targeting diplomatic and government entities, nongovernmental organizations and media outlets.
    Some 240 high-profile individuals and organizations fell victim to the operation, with the majority situated in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon.

Palestinian Police Arrest Hundreds of People Every Week at West Bank-Jordan Checkpoint - Elder of Ziyon (Algemeiner)
    The Palestinian Authority (PA) arrests hundreds of people every week at the border checkpoint between the West Bank and Jordan - far more than Israel does.
    Last week, 184 Palestinians were detained by the PA. The week before, 223 were arrested by the PA, and 252 in the preceding week.
    Are those arrested criminals? Political dissidents? No one seems to care. Because only Israeli arrests of Palestinians are worth reporting by the media.

Israel's Megalim Solar Thermal Power Plant Starts Operations (Reuters)
    Officials at the $839 million Megalim solar thermal power plant said on Wednesday that it has begun commercial operation in Israel's Negev desert.
    The technology uses 50,600 mirrors spread over a 3-sq.-km. site.
    The thermo-solar station will provide electricity to 50,000 households at peak capacity.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egypt's Mubarak: Golan Could Have Been Syria's If It Recognized Israel - Anna Ahronheim
    Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told al-Hayat that Syria rejected an Israeli offer to return the Golan Heights in 1998 in exchange for the normalization of relations and the opening of embassies in the two countries. The offer was rejected by former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.
        Uzi Arad, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israel's Army Radio that Netanyahu held two rounds of "serious" negotiations over the past decade with Damascus over relinquishing the Israeli Golan Heights to Syria. The talks that began in 2010 were halted in 2011 due to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.
        But, as former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told the Jerusalem Post, "It was a fool's errand. The Syrians were never prepared to end their relations with Iran and their support for Hizbullah. That was far more important for the Assad regime than recovering the Golan Heights."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Explosive Device Thrown at Bus in West Bank
    An explosive device was thrown at a bus near the Palestinian village of Jinsafut in the northern West Bank on Wednesday night, the IDF reported. The device did not explode but damaged the bus. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Police Car Hit by Firebomb in Jerusalem
    An Israeli police car was hit by a firebomb near the Arab Shuafat neighborhood in Jerusalem on Wednesday night. No injuries were reported but the car was damaged. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Woman Arrested after Attempting to Stab Soldier at Checkpoint - Aaron Rabinowitz
    A Palestinian woman was arrested after attempting to stab a member of the security forces during a routine security check of bus passengers at the Al-Zaima checkpoint east of Jerusalem, the Israel Police reported Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Global Positioning Helps Israel's Netanyahu in Election and Beyond - Yaroslav Trofimov
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to establish a network of bonds, if not outright alliances - including with America and its rivals Russia and China - helped him win Tuesday's election. "Netanyahu is a very strong politician and now he is not just a regional politician but a global one - even though Israel is very small," said former Mossad chief Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Danny Yatom. Netanyahu's approach will be tested this year by the Mideast peace plan that President Trump's administration is preparing. For now, the ties between Israeli and American leaders are the best they have been in more than two decades.
        President Trump, who moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year, gifted Netanyahu with American recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights just two weeks before Tuesday's election. Then Russian President Vladimir Putin presented Netanyahu with the remains of an Israeli sergeant who went missing in Lebanon in 1982. "To many Israeli voters, Netanyahu appeared as some kind of a magician: in the same week he got a present not just from Washington but also from Moscow," said Yedidia Stern, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute.
        Other recent images that would seem unthinkable in the absence of any peace progress with the Palestinians included a handshake with the sultan of Oman, who welcomed Netanyahu on a state visit in October, and a hug with the president of Chad, a Muslim nation where Netanyahu flew to establish diplomatic relations in January. (Wall Street Journal)
  • What Is Behind the Opposition to Peace with Israel? - Bassam Tawil
    A massive campaign is being waged by Palestinians and other Arabs in preparation for the announcement of the U.S. plan for peace in the Middle East. Its theme is that peace with Israel is purportedly a form of surrender and submission that will harm the dignity of Arabs and Muslims. The campaign is designed to terrorize Arabs and Muslims who may wish to accept the U.S. peace plan.
        Many Arabs and Muslims have been educated to see Israel as an alien body and a "colonial project" planted in the Middle East by Western powers. They therefore cannot accept the presence of Jews on lands they believe belong solely to Muslims. PA President Mahmoud Abbas shares that view. In a speech last year, Abbas quoted Egyptian intellectual Abdel-Wahab El-Messiri, saying that Israel "constitutes a colonialist enterprise that has nothing to do with Judaism."  (Gatestone Institute)
        See also The Myth of Israel as a Colonialist Entity - Dore Gold (Jewish Political Studies Review)

Netanyahu's Israel - David M. Halbfinger (New York Times)
  • Israelis prize stability, as well as the military and economic security that Benjamin Netanyahu has delivered. Though in many ways they have never been safer, they remain afraid - especially of Iran and its influence over their neighbors, against which Netanyahu has relentlessly crusaded.
  • They credit Netanyahu, whose strategic vision values power and fortitude above all, with piloting Israel to unprecedented diplomatic heights. And they are loath to let anyone less experienced take the controls.
  • Israelis have grown accustomed to Netanyahu's assessments of the country's condition: 10 years of uninterrupted economic growth, its best-ever credit rating, and diplomatic openings and new trading partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • "Let's be honest with ourselves," said Michael B. Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. "Our economy is excellent, our foreign relations were never better, and we're secure."
  • Netanyahu proved once again that his talents, stamina and willingness to do what it takes to win are all unmatched in Israeli politics. This summer he will surpass David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding leader, as its longest-serving prime minister.

        See also A Photographic Journey: Netanyahu's Road through Israel's History - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)

        See also Gen. Benny Gantz Eyes a Long Siege of Netanyahu - David M. Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner
    In his first-ever run for office, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz's Blue and White party earned more than a million votes and around 35 seats in Israel's Knesset. (New York Times)