April 12, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Sudan Military Coup Topples Ruler after Protests (BBC News)
    Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted and arrested by the military after nearly 30 years in power, Defense Minister Awad Ibn Ouf announced on state TV.

Iran-Backed Militias Keeping Christians from Returning Home - Carl Anderson (Wall Street Journal)
    Christian towns in Iraq increasingly look neither Christian nor Iraqi - but Iranian.
    The religious minorities persecuted under the ISIS caliphate remain in peril, thanks to the Iraqi government's tolerance of Iranian influence.
    With their towns liberated, displaced Christians hoped to return, rebuild and work for a better future.
    But as ISIS fell, Iranian-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces quickly took root in the devastated, previously Christian towns and have made life nearly unbearable for Christians attempting to return.
    Iranian proxies now are conducting a program of colonization in the Iraqi sector - building homes and centers for Iraq's Shiite majority in historically Christian towns.
    The writer is CEO of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic service organization helping Christians in Iraq.

Decades after the Jews Went into Exile, Some Arabs Want Them Back (Economist-UK)
    From Iraq to Libya, a swathe of politicians, film-makers and academics have been re-examining the past, including the post-1948 eviction of Jews from Arab countries.
    Last year a popular Arabic Facebook site ran a poll on whether to restore Iraqi citizenship and the right of return to Jews exiled 70 years ago. Over 3/4 of the 62,000 participants voted yes.
    Today 13 Egyptian universities teach Hebrew and 3,000 Egyptian students will finish their Hebrew studies this year, double the number five years ago.

U. of California, Santa Barbara Student Government Rejects Anti-Israel BDS Resolution (JNS)
    After more than nine hours of debate, the student government at the University of California, Santa Barbara, voted 14 to 10 early Thursday to reject a resolution calling on the UC system to divest from companies doing business in Israel.

Follow the Jerusalem Center on:

Druze Officer Appointed Military Secretary to President Rivlin - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Col. Ala Abu Rukon, 47, who is currently serving as the IDF military attache to China, has been appointed military secretary to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, the IDF announced Thursday.
    A Druze resident of Usfiya, Abu Rukon holds a PhD in Middle East Studies from Bar-Ilan University and has served in the IDF for the past 25 years in the paratroopers brigade and the intelligence branch.

Spanish Judge Rules City's Cancellation of Israeli Festival Is Unconstitutional (JNS)
    A Spanish judge has ruled that the city council of Cadiz's cancellation of an Israeli film festival due to its support of the BDS movement violates the country's constitution.
    Judge Carmen Beardo of the No. 1 Administrative-Contentious Court of Cadiz ruled that the council violated "the free development of freedom of expression and teaching," in addition to "the right not to be discriminated against for their opinion," El Mundo reported.

Record Tourism in Israel Continues in Q1 2019 - Simon Griver (Globes)
    A record 1.14 million overseas visitors came to Israel in the first quarter of 2019, up 14% from the corresponding period in 2018, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports.
    See also Israel's Tourism Triumph - Edwin Black (Jerusalem Post)
    Tourism to Israel has dramatically changed. Traditional Jewish-American travelers now compete with Silicon Valley techies, Chinese students, Indian tourists, East European Christian pilgrims and businessmen from across the planet.
    In 2009, only 20,000 Indians visited Israel; this year, Israel expects more than 80,000.
    In 2015, only 30,000 tourists visited Israel from China. After direct flights from numerous Chinese cities were added, the number reached 100,000-plus.

Passenger Traffic between China, Israel Jumps 30 Percent in Q1 (Xinhua-China)
    The number of passengers passing through Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport on flights to and from China rose in the first quarter of 2019 by 30.3% compared to the first quarter of 2018, the Israel Airports Authority reported on Monday.

Israeli Firm to Upgrade Caribbean Maritime Coastal Surveillance Systems - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    ELTA Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), has been contracted by the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to provide a full system upgrade to its national Coastal Surveillance System. The system also covers the islands of St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Grenada.
    ELTA was awarded a separate contract to upgrade a similar system in Barbados.
    ELTA will also supply surveillance radar to protect Mexican off-shore energy platforms.

Sri Lanka Uses Israeli Technology to Locate Smuggled Narcotics (Asian Tribune-Sweden)
    Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has sought help from Israeli technology to locate narcotics and other illegal substances that include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and morphine, official sources said.

U.S. Firm Buys Israeli Startup Samanage for $350 Million - Yasmin Yablonko (Globes)
    U.S. software company SolarWinds announced Thursday that it was acquiring Israel company Samanage for $350 million.
    Samanage provides a platform for managing information systems on the cloud.

Foreign Investment in Israel Up 30 Percent in Two Years (Jerusalem Post)
    Foreign investment in Israel was up by 30% between 2015 and 2017, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported.
    Total foreign investment for 2017 hit $129.1 billion.

Search the Recent History of Israel and the Middle East

Send the Daily Alert to a Friend
    If you are viewing the email version of the Daily Alert and want to share it with friends, please click Forward in your email program and enter their address.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Spacecraft Reaches the Moon, Crashes during Landing Attempt - Kenneth Chang
    A small spacecraft that captured the imagination and excitement of people in Israel and around the world crashed into the moon on Thursday. "We unfortunately have not managed to land successfully," said Opher Doron, general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries' space division. "We didn't make it, but we definitely tried," said Morris Kahn, president of SpaceIL, the nonprofit that undertook the mission. "And I think the achievement of getting to where we got is really tremendous. I think we can be proud." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was present at the mission's command center, said, "If at first you don't succeed, you try again."  (New York Times)
        See also Israel's Spacecraft Captured Breathtaking Image of Lunar Surface - Jackson Ryan
    Before its untimely demise, Beresheet snapped a stunning image of the lunar surface. Although the lander did not achieve its core mission of a soft moon landing, Beresheet was the first private spacecraft to insert itself into lunar orbit. It made Israel the seventh nation to achieve such a feat and the fourth to reach the moon's surface. (Cnet-SlashGear)
  • An Israeli Flag on the Moon - Colm Gorey
    SpaceIL, the non-profit established to jointly run the lunar mission with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), tweeted: "Let's make things clear: Israel arrived on the moon. This is a phenomenal achievement." Only the USSR, U.S. and China "succeeded to perform a soft landing...usually, by the way, not at their first attempt."
        Morris Kahn, president of SpaceIL, said: "Israel arrived on the moon and there's an Israeli flag on the moon. Beresheet's journey hasn't ended here. I expect the next generation of Israelis to accomplish this journey for us."  (Silicon Republic)
        See also NASA Head Congratulates Israel
    NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Thursday: "While NASA regrets the end of the SpaceIL mission without a successful lunar landing of the Beresheet lander, we congratulate SpaceIL, the Israel Aerospace Industries and the State of Israel on the incredible accomplishment of sending the first privately funded mission into lunar orbit....I look forward to celebrating their future achievements."  (NASA)
        See also U.S. Ambassador Friedman: I Saw Resiliance at Israel's Mission Control
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted on Friday: "Israel, it is said, has no fear of failure. I saw that in real time last night as Beresheet crash-landed on the moon. No tears or hand-wringing. Just resilience, efforts to determine what went wrong and a commitment to try again....Congrats on an amazing journey!"  (Twitter)
  • U.S. Denies Entry to Leader of Movement to Boycott Israel - Hannah Allam
    The U.S. government has denied entry to Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, which urges boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel. Barghouti was at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel on Wednesday when airline staff informed him that he wouldn't be flying despite holding valid travel documents, according to the Arab American Institute in Washington that arranged the trip. He was told that U.S. immigration officials had ordered the U.S. consul in Tel Aviv to deny him permission to enter the U.S. (NPR)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • We Dared to Dream and Aimed for the Moon - Yariv Bash
    Reaching the moon was the apex of a dream, which began with a seemingly crazy idea. But it was the daring, willpower and hutzpah, together with all the generous volunteers, that inspired hundreds of thousands and ultimately an entire nation. By Thursday we had overcome so many hurdles: the launch, circling the earth, the survival in space, and trapping the moon's orbit.
        It is incomprehensible that China, a global power with vast government funding, just a few years ago accomplished what we did within the framework of our private mission, with a team of 50 people, and a far smaller budget.
        Our hope for Israel is that this is just the first in a long line of missions into deep space. If we can do tremendous things, like reaching a specific point on the moon, following a lunar voyage of 6.5 million km. (4 million miles), we can achieve even more impossible dreams. The writer is one of the three founders of Space IL's mission to the moon. (Israel Hayom)
  • Final Israel Knesset Election Results - 2019
    Likud (Netanyahu) - 1,138,772 votes - 36 seats
    Blue-White (Gantz-Lapid) - 1,123,929 - 35
    Shas (Religious-Sephardi) - 257,869 - 8
    United Torah Judaism (Religious) - 248,490 - 7
    Hadash-Ta'al (Arab) - 193,267 - 6
    Labor - 191,323 - 6
    Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman) - 172,933 - 5
    Rightist Union - 159,303 - 5
    Meretz - 156,217 - 4
    Kulanu (Kahlon) - 152,568 - 4
    Balad-UAL (Arab) - 143,844 - 4
    New Right (Bennett-Shaked) - 138,437 - 0
    Zehut (Feiglin) - 117,587 - 0
    Gesher (Orli Levy) - 74,564 - 0
    (Central Election Committee-Hebrew)
        See also Full List of Israeli Knesset Members - 2019 (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    Israel Knesset Elections - 2019

  • Netanyahu Heads for Record Fifth Term - Tom Gross
    In the outgoing Knesset the Likud has 30 seats. In the 2019 elections Netanyahu has increased his vote significantly. Why did he do so well?
        The Israeli economy is thriving; the security situation is generally good (despite ever present concerns) and very few Israelis have died from terrorism compared to past years; and Netanyahu's diplomatic achievements are considerable (he has formed close working relations with the leaders of the U.S., Russia, India, China, Japan and Brazil, among others - including, crucially, several Arab leaders).
        Israel is the 13th Happiest country in the world, according to the UN World Happiness Report 2019. (By contrast the UK is 15th and the U.S. 19th.) Last month Israel was ranked 10th in the Healthiest Country Index (America is No. 35). Last week the Lancet medical journal found Israelis now enjoy the healthiest diet in the world. (Spectator-UK)
  • A Watershed Israeli Election - Jon B. Alterman
    Netanyahu's approach is partially based on the idea that trading land for peace is a chimera, tempting Israelis to surrender something tangible in exchange for an ephemeral feeling of satisfaction.
        According to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, 65% of Israeli Jews 18-24 favored Netanyahu, and only 17% favored Benny Gantz, who led the opposition bloc. In fact, Netanyahu led strongly among all younger Jews, tied with Gantz in the 45-54 demographic, and then trailed with older Israelis.
        The Israel to which many Americans have grown accustomed is definitively aging. It is being replaced by a young and dynamic Israel premised on the idea that many problems are insoluble, that Israel must reconcile itself to periodic wars and military strikes, and that Israel will always be surrounded by enemies.
        Israel should neither be riddled by guilt nor be consumed with second thoughts. Israel needs no validation, and its robust economic, technological and military strength will sustain the nation well into the future. Surely part of that equation is a confidence that Israel will not face pressure from the Trump administration. Israel's calculus embraces the here and now rather than a gauzy aspirational future.
        The writer is a senior vice president and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (The Hill)
  • Israeli Millennials Helped Re-Elect Netanyahu - Felicia Schwartz and Dov Lieber
    Israel's young people supported Netanyahu's Likud and smaller parties that help him form governing majorities. Born close to or after the 1993 Oslo peace accords between Israelis and Palestinians, and coming of age during a wave of violence known as the second Palestinian intifada, Israel's millennials take a harder line on security and peace than older generations. Netanyahu's pollster, John McLaughlin, said, "They like his policies on security and the economy."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Netanyahu Keeps Winning - Aaron Kliegman
    Western analysts and commentators are lamenting Netanyahu's victory. "Some of us don't understand why [the Israeli people] would keep reelecting Netanyahu. I certainly don't," said MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. He then asked what Israelis see in Netanyahu that the rest of the world does not.
        In Israel, the most important issue is always security. For Israelis, their vote could mean the difference between life and death in a way that most people in the West cannot understand. The world's only Jewish state is located in a region where most governments do not recognize its right to exist and have no qualms about killing Jews, or about watching others kill them.
        Directly to the east, Israelis see the Palestinian Authority, which rewards terrorists who try to murder them. To the south, they see Hamas, a terrorist group that seeks Israel's destruction. To the north, they see Hizbullah, which has 130,000 rockets pointed at them, and Syria, where the savage, anti-Israel beast who runs the country has spent the last eight years slaughtering his own people. And looming above, like a storm cloud, is Iran, whose anti-Semitic regime is always working to drive Israel into the sea.
        Netanyahu's views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are mainstream because Israelis see how the Palestinian leadership repeatedly spit on, if not try to cut off or blow up, their government's outstretched hand. (Washington Free Beacon)

  • Palestinians

  • What Happens to Palestinians Who Demand a Better Life? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Mohammed Safi, 27, lost his eyesight while being held in a Hamas prison. His crime: participation in demonstrations calling for an end to the economic crisis in Gaza and protesting new taxes imposed by the Hamas rulers. Safi's family says he lost his eyesight under torture by Hamas security forces.
        Safi's case serves as a reminder how Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza suffer from repression, corruption and bad government. The PA and Hamas tolerate no criticism and arrest political opponents almost on a daily basis.
        Had Safi headed towards the border to hurl bombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers, he would have been hailed as a hero by his Hamas leaders. Safi simply chose to speak truth to power and place the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza squarely at the feet of Hamas. He paid dearly for that choice. (Gatestone Institute)
  • How Palestinians Could Become "Collateral Damage" of Iranian Extremism - Dr. David L. Charney
    Recently, Maj.-Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, commander of the Iranian Army, stated that Iranian forces were working to "annihilate Israel" and "raze Tel Aviv...to the ground." Iran's drive to develop nuclear weapons poses a number of problems.
        There is abundant research and evidence that the after-effects of a nuclear detonation, depending on how many kilotons, will produce total devastation within a radius of 10 miles. Added to that are lesser but also extreme destructive effects that will widen the radius of impact to 25-50 miles. Because Palestinian population centers are so close to Israeli population centers, even with perfectly accurate targeting, a nuclear bomb is highly likely to annihilate nearby Palestinian civilian populations, too.
        Virtually all Palestinians, whether living in the West Bank or in Gaza, or even in Jordan, would become "collateral damage" of Iran's master plan to put an end to Israel's existence. Aiming at Tel Aviv but actually hitting the West Bank would represent only a 3% targeting error. How much confidence should Palestinians place in Iranian science to feel safe and that they would be spared? Not to mention the risk that Islam's third holiest site, the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, would also likely cease to exist. And since Gaza is only 45 miles away from Tel Aviv, similar concerns would apply.
        Adopting stern policies removing Iran's option of deploying a nuclear bomb against Israel simultaneously saves the entire Palestinian population from becoming collateral damage of Iranian extremism. The writer is a practicing psychiatrist in Washington. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Iran

  • Clarity on Iran's Terrorist Aims - Eli Lake
    For more than 30 years, successive U.S. administrations have called Iran a state sponsor of terrorism. Until now, however, the main organization responsible for founding, funding and training many of these groups has not been placed in the same category as its clients like Hizbullah. On Monday, President Trump upended that precedent and designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.
        This is a dramatic escalation with real consequences. The designation will make the IRGC even more financially toxic than it already is, says Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The threshold is now lower for proving that someone is providing material support to the IRGC. The designation also makes non-Iranians who do business with the IRGC vulnerable to having their U.S. visas revoked. Any future administration that sought to go back into the Iran deal will have to make a determination that the IRGC was out of the terrorism business. (Bloomberg)
  • A Wise, Necessary Strike Against Iran's International Islamist Terrorism - Sean Durns
    The U.S. decision to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization is wise and necessary. The U.S. - under both Republican and Democratic administrations - has long considered the Islamic Republic to be the chief state sponsor of terrorism. If terror is Iran's top export, the IRGC is often the means of delivery.
        Previous administrations have refrained from designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, in part because of fears of reprisals from the IRGC and its terrorist proxies. But U.S. foreign policy should not be susceptible to blackmail. (Ha'aretz)

  • Other Issues

  • How Russia Views the Return of Israeli MIA Zachariah Baumel's Body - Michael Zubovskiy
    On April 3, 2019, Russia handed over to Israel the remains of Sgt. Zachariah Baumel who died in 1982 in Lebanon. The soldier's remains were found on the territory of the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus. "I must say that for the Russian Special Forces group that was engaged in this, it was not easy. But I ask you to convey the warmest words to the relatives of this soldier," Putin stressed.
        In Moscow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in a ceremony at the Russian Ministry of Defense. A coffin wrapped in an Israeli flag was carried by soldiers of the Kremlin's Presidential Regiment, and Russian Chief of Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov accompanied Netanyahu at the ceremony which rendered the highest military honors to the fallen IDF soldier. These events confirmed that Russia has moved quite far from its anti-Israel and anti-Semitic history. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also From Russia with Love, But with a Few Political Strings Attached - Israel Kasnett
    Micky Aharonson, former head of the foreign-relations directorate of the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office and an expert on Russia, noted that the Russians "demanded credit for bringing back Baumel's body," with Putin emphasizing Russia's central role in making it possible. "We will be requested to pay," she said. "The Russians believe there are no free lunches."
        Anna Borshchevskaya, an expert on Russia's Middle East policies with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, agreed. "Putin always expects something in return, though it's not always tangible. I think in this case, it's about political capital for Putin....Putin is going to Israel in May for the unveiling of a Red Army memorial."  (JNS)
  • A Poorly Attended Arab League Summit - Zvi Mazel
    Of the 22 members of the Arab League, only 13 came to its yearly meeting in Tunis on March 30. The Arab League was created in 1945 by the British with a view to perpetuating their control of these states, but the union never coalesced and the yearly heads of states summits became less and less relevant.
        The traditional final declaration of the meeting started with a lengthy condemnation of Israel's many crimes as well as a rebuke to the U.S. for recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan. Recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by America was roundly denounced. One is left wondering how to interpret the harsh condemnations of Israel in view of the fact that Israel has relations at various levels with most Arab countries. The writer is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden and a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Weekend Feature

  • Book Review: Jews in France Living Under Occupation, 1940-44 - Ronald C. Rosbottom
    The goal of Jacques Semelin's careful study, The Survival of the Jews in France, 1940-44, is to show that France as a nation deserves more credit for helping save the majority of its Jewish population from death during the German occupation. There were 320,000 Jews living in France in 1940, including 135,000 immigrants. Of this total, a quarter were deported and murdered by the Nazi killing machine. But 75% survived - a stark contrast with countries such as Poland and the Netherlands, where the percentages were substantially reversed. Semelin's thesis is that innumerable acts of "micro-resistance" and "civil resistance" created a "supportive web of social relationships" that benefited most Jews.
        Semelin, professor emeritus of history at Paris' Institut d'Etudes Politiques, holds that the Vichy government was either too inefficient or too "French" to substantially aid the Germans in their deportation of Jews, despite the fact that most Jews were arrested by the French police, not the Germans. Many Jews were spared because they had money to buy protection or freedom, but even casual anti-Semites helped individual Jews, especially children, out of hatred for the Germans or the Vichy collaborators.
        But we must counter with stubborn questions. How did the authorities - German and French - still manage to murder 80,000 Jews, including 11,000 children? (Wall Street Journal)

A Dose of Reality on the Peace Process - Alan Mendoza (City A.M.-UK)
  • There is no longer a peace process worthy of the name that an Israeli leader can endorse with any credibility.
  • The story of the negotiations of the past quarter-century has been one of constant and increasing Israeli concessions in an attempt to get the Palestinians over the line of peace, and Palestinian rejectionism in response.
  • The last time a major deal was presented - in 2008 when Ehud Olmert offered up the keys to Jerusalem - the Palestinians did not even deign to provide a formal reply.
  • It is not hard to understand why. The pattern of negotiations has shown a ratchet effect, with each new round starting from where the previous failed negotiation ended. For a Palestinian, waiting it out to the next deal therefore becomes a very tempting proposition.
  • At the same time, the Palestinians have been unable to negotiate national unity themselves, so the idea that they could reach agreement with Israel - even if they wanted to - is remote.

    The writer is executive director of the Henry Jackson Society.
Support Daily Alert
Daily Alert is the work of a team of expert analysts who find the most important and timely articles from around the world on Israel, the Middle East and U.S. policy. No wonder it is read by heads of government, leading journalists, and thousands of people who want to stay on top of the news. To continue to provide this service, Daily Alert requires your support. Please take a moment to click here and make your contribution through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.