April 15, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Raids Iranian Missile Development Center in Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israeli airstrikes on Saturday targeted a mid-range missile development center in Masyaf near Hama in Syria, killing a number of Iranian fighters and injuring 17 members of the Syrian regime forces and militiamen.
    See also Israel Gave Russia Prior Notice of Strike in Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The target of an Israeli strike near Syria's Hama city over the weekend was a base that held Russian S-300 air defense batteries that had not been activated, military circles in Tel Aviv revealed.
    Sources revealed that during their latest meeting in Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin finalized a written agreement in which Israel pledges to give Russia a 10-15-minute notice before striking positions in Syria.
    Moscow did not object to or criticize the weekend attack despite the presence of a base that holds S-300 batteries in the vicinity.

Acceptance of Israeli Action in Syria - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    The attack attributed to Israel's air force on Saturday indicates that Israeli policy in Syria continues: No to Iranian entrenchment, and no to precision missiles in the hands of Hizbullah.
    Russia appears to have come to terms, for now, with this activity by Israel, as long as it doesn't endanger Russian forces stationed in Syria.
    The sense in Israel is that a window of opportunity now exists for pushing Iran out of Syria or at least significantly minimizing its activities there.
    This window, beyond Russian reservations over Iranian activity (not to mention the Syrian regime's own reservations, although these aren't voiced publicly), is open because of American support.

Israel Sends Firefighters to Assist in Ethiopian Mountain Blaze - Ilanit Chernick (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel has sent firefighters to help extinguish the large fires raging in Ethiopia's Simien Mountains, the Foreign Ministry announced on Sunday.

Energean Makes Significant Gas Find Offshore Israel (Alliance News-UK)
    Energean Oil & Gas said Monday it has made a "significant" gas discovery at its Karish North exploration well, offshore Israel.

Israeli Gymnast Linoy Ashram Wins Five Medals at World Cup - Itamar Katzir (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli gymnast Linoy Ashram, 19, won two gold medals, two silver, and a bronze at the World Cup rhythmic gymnastics competition in Sofia on Saturday and Sunday.

Israeli Delegation Cancels Visit to Bahrain over Security Concerns (Reuters)
    An Israeli delegation of businessmen and government officials planning to take part in a business conference in Bahrain has canceled its visit over security concerns, the organizers said on Sunday.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • International Criminal Court Rejects Request to Investigate U.S. War Crimes in Afghanistan - Carol Morello
    The International Criminal Court decided Friday not to proceed with an investigation into war crimes by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. President Trump called the decision "a major international victory...for the rule of law," adding, "Any attempt to target American, Israeli or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response."  (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations - Netanyahu: ICC Decision Not to Probe U.S. Troops Bodes Well for Israel (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Netanyahu Eyes Grand Alliance to Tame Iran - Anshel Pfeffer
    When Netanyahu speaks of Israel's relations with the Sunni Arab nations with which it currently has no diplomatic ties, he means a more beneath-the-radar alliance, against a common enemy, says Dore Gold, a long-time diplomatic adviser to Netanyahu and, until 2016, director-general of Israel's foreign ministry. "The dynamic occurring today in the region, as Iran mobilizes its Shi'ite militia in Syria, creates allies," says Gold. "Iran poses a threat to Israel and the Sunni Arab world and it's a historical moment when they have a common cause."
        Netanyahu is not focused on opening an Israeli embassy in Riyadh. What he is after is cementing a trilateral alliance between Washington and the Gulf, confronting Iran. This alliance, he believes, will have a secondary purpose, backing up the peace plan President Trump is soon expected to present. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • U.S. Envoy: Peace Plan Won't "Sell Out" Palestinians - Barak Ravid
    President Trump's special envoy for Middle East peace Jason Greenblatt tweeted Sunday: "To the [Palestinian Authority]: Our plan will greatly improve Palestinian lives & create something very different than what exists. It's a realistic plan to thrive/prosper even if it means compromises. It's not a 'sell out' - if the plan isn't realistic, no one can deliver it. The Palestinian future is in your hands - we hope you use your power wisely and in a way that helps Palestinians live happier and better lives. It's time for them to thrive."  (Axios)
        See also U.S. Mideast Plan Is Not Just "Economic Peace" - Anne Gearan and Souad Mekhennet
    "We believe we have a plan that is fair, realistic and implementable that will enable people to live better lives," a senior White House official said Friday. "We looked at past efforts and solicited ideas from both sides and partners in the region with the recognition that what has been tried in the past has not worked. Thus, we have taken an unconventional approach founded on not hiding from reality, but instead speaking truth."
        "This is not a so-called economic peace. We are taking very seriously both aspects of this, the political, which deals with all the core issues, and the economic," the senior U.S. official said. "We understand that if the political aspect of it is not solid, the economic aspect is meaningless."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Why the Downfall of Sudan's Dictator Is Bad News for Hamas - Muhammad Shehada
    Hamas leaders, who wholeheartedly supported Sudan's deposed President Omar al-Bashir, hope his successors won't undermine the crucial weapons supply route from Libya and Iran through Sudan to Gaza. Sudan has kept its doors wide open for Hamas militants to operate small training posts, including training bomb-making "engineers," and granted scholarships to Hamas members to join Sudanese colleges to study medicine and law and even trained Hamas operatives in the police academies in Khartoum. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Loses Sight after Being Tortured by Hamas
    Mohammed Deeb Salim Safi, 28, lost sight in both eyes after being tortured in a Hamas Internal Security detention center in Gaza after he participated in popular demonstrations in March. Safi told a fieldworker from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights: "On 19 March 2019, I went to the Internal Security office after being summoned by them....I was then detained in a 3x2-meter 'Square Toilet,' which smelled very bad and was full of insects." He was then beaten and interrogated. "On Thursday, 21 March, I felt pain in my eyes and told them so, but they ignored my complaint. One of them then hit me on the face and back of my head several times and said, 'So that you will not see at all.'"  (IMEMC-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel to Begin New Moon Lander Project
    Following the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet's failure to land safely on the moon this week, SpaceIL chairman Morris Kahn on Saturday announced he was launching project Beresheet 2, effective immediately, adding: "We started something and we need to finish it. We'll put our flag on the moon."
        Opher Doron, general manager of the Israel Aerospace Industries' space division, said engineers believe there had been a failure with one of the telemetry (altitude) measurement units, which caused a chain of events that ended up cutting the main engine about 10 km. (6 miles) above the moon's surface. Without the main engine, the spacecraft could not properly brake in time to make a gentle landing.
        SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Winetraub said after the crash: "Engineering and science are hard. Sometimes it doesn't work the first time, sometimes it doesn't work the second or third time. But it will work."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Photos of the Moon by Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft - Jonathan Corum (New York Times)
  • Lunar Landings Are Difficult - Neel V. Patel
    Even after we landed humans on the moon almost half a century ago, lunar landings are still an incredible challenge. "The basic thing about a lunar landing is to set down on the level surface with zero velocity," says H. Jay Melosh, a geophysicist currently based at Purdue University. "That's not so easy on the moon." When you consider all the energy and speed it takes to send a spacecraft up there, it's not hard to see how many things can go wrong when you force it to slow down to a zero velocity.
        Even if Beresheet's engine hadn't cut out, there's no guarantee it would have touched down gracefully. The moon's surface is incredibly rough, riddled with craters and boulders and shaky geological features. These hazards make it difficult to find a flat piece of ground to make touchdown. Neil Armstrong almost ran out of fuel looking for a new landing spot during Apollo 11, since he felt the original had too many craters and boulders. "The moon is more challenging to land on than Mars," says Melosh. (Popular Science)
  • Why Israel's Lunar Mission Was a Success - Asaf Ronel
    The failure of Israeli lunar spacecraft Beresheet to land safely on the moon and its crash in the final moments of its landing should not blunt the technological and engineering achievement of SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries. The fact that a craft built at a cost of $100 million met most challenges of the journey and maneuvers along the way is extraordinary.
        Making it through liftoff, the extreme conditions of space, maneuvers to leave earth's orbit, the longest route a manmade object has ever taken to the moon and the complex "trapping" of the moon's orbit, SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries showed that it is possible to (almost) reach the moon at one-tenth of the cost of previous journeys. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Jews Make It to the Moon, But Not Without Misfortunes - Armin Rosen
    One of the most audacious private space ventures ever attempted had been, at worst, a 95% success. (Tablet)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday:
  • "Over the weekend, there was a very important development for the State of Israel and the international community. The court in The Hague rejected the petition by the prosecutor of the international court to investigate U.S. soldiers."
  • "This blocked a move that would have upended the original goal of establishing the international court. It was mainly established after the outrages of the pogroms, genocide and other problems that arose over the years in order to deal with countries and regions that have no true legal system."
  • "They harass the U.S. and Israel, democracies, which by the way are not members of the international court. But, without doubt, we have one of the best legal systems in the world."
  • "To come and put on trial U.S. or Israeli soldiers, or the State of Israel or the U.S., is absurd. It is the opposite of the original goal of the international court."
  • "Therefore, this corrects an injustice and will have far-reaching implications for the functioning of the international system regarding the State of Israel."