April 23, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Muslim Group Blamed for Sri Lanka Horror (IANS-Sentinel-India)
    Sri Lanka on Monday blamed a local Muslim group for the horrific Easter Sunday suicide bombings which killed 290 people.
    The government said that the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), a Sri Lankan Muslim group, carried out the attacks.
    President Maithripala Sirisena announced that "intelligence reports (indicate) that foreign terrorist organizations are behind the local terrorists."

UK Labour MP Claims Video of Guatemalan Troops Shows IDF "Beating Up Palestinian Children" - Joel Adams (Daily Mail-UK)
    The Israeli army has demanded an apology from Labour MP Grahame Morris who tweeted that a video of military brutality showed Israeli soldiers attacking Palestinian children "for the fun of it."
    In fact, the clip shows Guatemalan soldiers beating and kicking two teenagers in 2015.
    Morris is outgoing chairman of Labour Friends of Palestine.

Video: Mass "Priestly Blessing" at Jerusalem's Western Wall (Reuters)
    Thousands gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday to attend a special "Priestly Blessing" prayer during the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Iran Appoints New IRGC Commander Who Aims to "Annihilate" Israel - Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon)
    Iran announced that Maj.-Gen. Hossein Salami would be promoted as the next head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), replacing Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari.
    Salami was the architect of a massive buildup in Iran's advanced ballistic missiles that he bragged are capable of "annihilating" Israel.
    Salami also implemented policies that enabled Iran to camouflage its nuclear weapons work from international inspectors.
    In 2016, Salami warned: "In Lebanon alone, over 100,000 missiles are ready to be launched....These missiles will pierce through space, and will strike at the heart of the Zionist regime. They will prepare the ground for its great collapse."

DePaul Students Demand Professor Apologize after Pro-Israel Op-Ed - Jenni Fink (Newsweek)
    A student coalition called for DePaul University in Chicago to censure philosophy professor Jason D. Hill and for him to issue a public apology for an op-ed he wrote and attend racial sensitivity training.
    Jamaican-born Hill told Newsweek that he anticipated the op-ed would receive criticism after the positive treatment he gave Jewish and American civilizations in his 2018 book, We Have Overcome: An Immigrant's Letter to the American People.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Decision on Imports of Iranian Oil - Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo
    Secretary of State Pompeo said Monday: "Today we are announcing the United States will not issue any additional Significant Reduction Exceptions to existing importers of Iranian oil....We are dramatically accelerating our pressure campaign in a calibrated way that meets our national security objectives while maintaining well-supplied global oil markets."
        "We will continue to apply maximum pressure on the Iranian regime until its leaders change their destructive behavior, respect the rights of the Iranian people, and return to the negotiating table."  (State Department)
        See also Iran Says Ready for U.S. Waivers End, as Guards Threaten to Shut Hormuz Straits
    Tehran is prepared for a U.S. decision to end waivers granted to buyers of Iranian crude, an Iranian oil ministry source said on Monday, as the Revolutionary Guards repeated their threat to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Iranian media reported. (Reuters)
        See also Netanyahu: U.S. Move the Right Way to Stop Iranian Aggression
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the U.S. announcement: "The decision of President Trump and the American administration is of great importance in increasing the pressure on the Iranian terrorist regime. We stand alongside the determination of the U.S. against the Iranian aggression and this is the right way to stop it."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • U.S. Offers $10 Million for Info to Disrupt Hizbullah Finances
    The U.S. is offering rewards of up to $10 million for information to disrupt Hizbullah's finances. The State and Treasury Departments will pay the money to people who provide the names of Hizbullah donors and financiers, bank records, customs receipts or evidence of real estate transactions.
        The payments will be made by the State Department's "Rewards for Justice" program which, since 1984, has paid more than $150 million to more than 100 people who provided information about terrorists or prevented terrorism attacks. (AP-New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA Uncovers Hamas Spy Ring - Elior Levy
    A plot by Hamas in Gaza and the Hamas leadership abroad to infiltrate PA security services in the West Bank was uncovered two months ago by PA military intelligence and the Hamas agents are under arrest, senior Palestinian officials said. The agents were asked to relay information about planned operations against Hamas and to spread false information within the security branches to disrupt intelligence-gathering. (Ynet News)
  • Israel to Facilitate Travel for West Bank Palestinians for Ramadan - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    IDF Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said he has advised senior officials in the Palestinian Authority and representatives of the international community regarding a number of holiday gestures Israel is making to the Palestinian community for the month of Ramadan, which begins on May 6.
        Palestinians living in the West Bank will be permitted to visit family in Israel between Sunday and Thursday and on Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan. Operating hours at the crossings will be extended. Entry for Friday prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount will be permitted, as will travel abroad through Ben-Gurion Airport. Relatives living in Arab countries should likewise be able to coordinate visiting family members in the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Will the U.S. Impose Sanctions on China over Iranian Oil? - Edward Wong and Clifford Krauss
    U.S. moves on Monday to isolate Tehran economically and undercut its power across the Middle East has complicated relations with China at a particularly sensitive moment. Of Tehran's one million barrels of oil exports daily, half go to China. By retracting its oil exemptions, the U.S. is encroaching on China's energy security even as Washington is trying to strike a trade deal with Beijing.
        "China consistently opposes U.S. unilateral sanctions," said Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. Yet any move by Beijing to keep buying Iranian oil - which analysts predicted China almost certainly will find some way to do - would force the U.S. to decide whether to impose sanctions on Chinese financial institutions. (New York Times)
  • The ICC's Decision Not to Investigate the U.S. in Afghanistan - Alan Baker
    On April 12, 2019, a pretrial chamber of the International Criminal Court rejected a request by the ICC prosecutor to proceed with an investigation of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes by American military and intelligence professionals who served in Afghanistan.
        Clearly, this decision has important implications regarding the general functioning of the ICC and of its prosecutor in their handling of requests to open investigations against Israel. Many requests and complaints are regularly submitted by the Palestinian leadership to the prosecutor, alleging crimes by Israeli military personnel and political leaders.
        The court is being abused or manipulated by the Palestinians as part of a political campaign of delegitimization of Israel, and, in fact, the Palestinian leadership appears to have adopted the ICC and its prosecutor as its own "backyard" tribunal for harassing Israel, its leaders and military.
        In light of the important jurisdictional and substantive issues set out in the decision by the pretrial chamber regarding the Afghanistan case, the ICC will need to review a number of significant points regarding the Palestinian referrals regarding Israel.
        Since the ICC's Statute is open to "states parties" only, the assumption that there exists a Palestinian state is wrong and legally flawed, and thus cannot constitute grounds for accepting referrals of Palestinian complaints. Moreover, the ICC cannot agree to the Palestinian demands that it establish its jurisdiction over territory that is the subject of an ongoing peace negotiation process based on the Oslo Accords.
        The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)

Care about Gaza? Blame Hamas - Jason Greenblatt (New York Times)
  • Hamas has left Gaza in shambles. Life there is difficult, sad and abnormal. The shoreline is covered in raw sewage and debris from successive wars. If you ask why such hardships exist in Gaza, the answer will almost always be the same: the Israelis.
  • Really? The Arabs in Israel generally live normal lives and, in many cases, thrive. The Palestinians in the West Bank are largely progressing in stable cities and communities, where electricity is available 24 hours a day.
  • Others are moving forward while Gaza sinks further into despair and disrepair because Hamas has made choices. Hamas professes violence and the destruction of Israel as a method of gaining a better life for Palestinians. This has led to a decimated economy, hundreds killed in violence each year, and one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Hamas is to blame for Gaza's situation.
  • Hamas has instigated three wars with Israel since 2007, each time leaving its infrastructure in greater disarray. In these wars, Hamas and other terrorist groups launched thousands of rockets on Israeli communities.
  • The world is waiting to help again in Gaza but has been prevented from doing so by the choices made by Hamas.
  • Whether or not we achieve a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the future of Gaza cannot be addressed and the people of Gaza cannot be helped in any meaningful way until Hamas is no longer in the picture or makes the necessary choices for stability and, eventually, peace.

    The writer is an assistant to the U.S. president and special representative for international negotiations.