May 13, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Saudi Arabia Says Two Oil Tankers Damaged in Sabotage Attacks (AP-New York Times)
    Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy Khalid al-Falih said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the UAE on Sunday in attacks that caused "significant damage" to the vessels.
    The U.S. has warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region.
    Al-Falih said: "Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels." 
    See also UAE Says Four Vessels Subjected to "Sabotage" near Fujairah Port (Reuters)

Anti-Zionist Imam Delivers Opening Prayer at U.S. House of Representatives (JTA)
    Omar Suleiman, an imam who has wished for the end of Zionism, called for a third Intifada, and likened Israel to Nazi-era Germany, delivered the opening prayer at the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday.
    Suleiman has a long record of incendiary social media statements about Israel.
    He has called Zionists "the enemies of God" and is a backer of the boycott-Israel movement.
    Suleiman's congresswoman, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), invited him to deliver the prayer.
    The office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it is looking into how and why Johnson invited Suleiman.
    Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) said that inviting Suleiman was a "terribly bad call." 
    See also Israel-Hating, Gay-Bashing, Sexist Imam Gives Invocation to U.S. House - Steven Emerson (Algemeiner)

Muslim World League Invites Jewish Delegation to Saudi Arabia (i24News)
    Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, has invited a Jewish delegation to visit Saudi Arabia in January 2020, Israel's Foreign Ministry announced on its Arabic Twitter account on Friday.
    The announcement did not specify the Jewish delegation's country of origin.
    On Tuesday, Al-Issa and American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris signed a memorandum stating that Al-Issa will visit Auschwitz in January on the 75th anniversary of its liberation.
    "I believe that by paying my respects to the victims of Auschwitz, I will encourage Muslims and non-Muslims to embrace mutual respect, understanding and diversity," Al-Issa said.

The Muslim Scramble for Jerusalem - Dr. Adnan Abu Amer (Al Jazeera)
    Currently, King Abdullah II of Jordan is the custodian of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, but there is growing speculation that the U.S. "deal of the century" might usher in the transfer of guardianship to the House of Saud.
    Then in April, King Mohammed VI of Morocco announced a grant for the restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and its compound.
    Turkey is also vying for influence in Jerusalem.
    The writer is head of the political science department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Bolsters Its Gulf Defenses to Counter Iran - Nancy A. Youssef
    The U.S. military plans to deploy a Patriot antimissile system to the Persian Gulf area and will beef up its naval presence in response to growing threats from Iran, the Pentagon said Friday. The U.S. also is sending the amphibious assault ship USS Arlington to the Middle East, carrying U.S. Marines, amphibious vehicles and helicopters.
        The U.S. said on Sunday it was sending the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and its strike group to the region in response to intelligence reports suggesting Iran posed a growing threat to U.S. troops and equipment in the region. The U.S. also sent an Air Force bomber task force to the Middle East. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Jewish Leaders Note Silence of Presidential Candidates on Gaza Rocket Fire - Jackson Richman
    "It is disappointing and troubling that only a few of the candidates [running for president in 2020] spoke out in response to 700 rockets launched by terrorists against the civilian population of our close ally," Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JNS. "This is not an 'even-handed' situation, but Palestinian terrorism and violence across an international border that every candidate and elected official should be able to condemn unequivocally."
        Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote on Twitter: "We deeply appreciate the long-time support for Israel of both the Republican and Democratic parties. We continue to urge all leaders of those parties, including those Democratic and Republican presidential candidates who haven't yet spoken to the recent rocket attacks from Gaza, to stand by Israel at this time of need."  (JNS)
  • German Foreign Minister Condemns UN's Treatment of Israel - Jane Mcintosh
    Marking the 70th anniversary of Israel's admission to the UN, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote on Saturday: "Germany stands, also in the UN, shoulder to shoulder with Israel, whose security and right to exist must never be called into question by anyone anywhere. Nevertheless, Israel is still being denounced, treated in a biased manner and marginalized inappropriately in UN bodies to this day. This state of affairs is painful and unsatisfactory."  (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel TV: U.S. Won't Oppose Extension of Israeli Law to All West Bank Settlements
    The U.S. peace proposal will provide for all Israeli settlements to remain under Israeli rule in any permanent peace accord, Israel's Channel 12 TV reported Sunday. The plan will recognize that all those Israeli-settled areas "will remain in Israeli hands under a permanent accord."
        While the U.S. will not explicitly back the formal "extension of Israeli sovereignty" to the settlements, or their "annexation," the report said, it will not object to the "extension of Israeli law" to the settlements. Were Israel to extend Israeli law to all the settlements, the U.S. "won't oppose, or will be okay with, or won't make a fuss about" such a move. Israel in 1981 extended Israeli law to the Golan Heights. (Times of Israel)
  • Two East Jerusalem Residents Charged with Planning Tel Aviv Beach Shooting for Hamas
    Adam Muslemani, 23, and Mahmoud Abed al-Latif, 27, both residents of east Jerusalem, were charged on Sunday with planning to carry out a shooting attack in Tel Aviv on behalf of Hamas. They met in prison and, following their release in February 2019, traveled to Istanbul to meet with a Hamas operative. The man suggested they instead target a public figure and named former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, ex-police chief Roni Alsheich, and then-Likud MK Yehudah Glick as possible victims. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Inside Syria's Secret Torture Prisons: How Bashar al-Assad Crushed Dissent - Anne Barnard
    As Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, closes in on victory over an eight-year revolt, a secret, industrial-scale system of arbitrary arrests and torture prisons has been pivotal to his success. The Syrian government waged a ruthless war on civilians, throwing hundreds of thousands into filthy dungeons where thousands were tortured and killed. Nearly 128,000 have never emerged, and are presumed to be either dead or still in custody, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. Nearly 14,000 were "killed under torture."
        Now, as the war winds down and countries start to normalize relations with Syria, the pace of new arrests, torture and execution is increasing. Last year the Syrian Network recorded 5,607 new arrests that it classifies as arbitrary - more than 100 per week. Hundreds are being sent to an execution site, Saydnaya Prison, and newly released prisoners report that killings there are accelerating. Newly discovered government memos show that Syrian officials who report directly to Assad ordered mass detentions and knew of atrocities. (New York Times)
  • America Must Not Back Down Against Iran - Dr. Emily B. Landau
    The effects of America's maximum pressure campaign are being felt acutely in Iran, and it is desperately trying to find a way to push back. Iran is issuing military threats against U.S. interests and threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. This is not the first time Iran has issued threats. It is the language Iran always uses to try to pressure and intimidate the other side - a sign of desperate posturing.
        These events are just the latest episode in the ongoing saga of confronting Iran's illicit nuclear weapons aspirations, confirmed beyond doubt by the nuclear archives extracted from Tehran in January 2018. Iran blatantly violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by working on a nuclear weapons program, and deceived the IAEA for years. The U.S. is responding to Iran's threats, and aggressive regional and bad-faith behavior.
        The U.S. and Europe should be firm and not allow Iran to dictate terms to the international community. Firm U.S. counter threats, including a demonstration of force by bringing military force to the Gulf, are necessary in order to deter Iran from any thoughts of initiating military action. The writer is a senior research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and head of its Arms Control and Regional Security Program. (Ha'aretz)
  • How Should We Respond to the Terror Rockets from Gaza? - David Suissa
    Firing rockets at civilians with the intent to maim and kill is not an act of resistance. It is a vile, evil, cowardly act. After Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired 700 rockets at Israel last week, the fact that four Israelis were killed instead of hundreds or even thousands is not a function of enemy restraint, but of Israelis' brilliance at protecting and defending themselves. For those of us in America who are not used to running into bomb shelters, what is an appropriate response?
        I understand the Jewish instinct to appear even-handed. But because Israel is so good at defending itself and Hamas couldn't care less about protecting its people, casualty figures will always be higher on the Palestinian side. Activists who bash Israel because of those figures ignore the fact that they're a direct result of Israel being attacked and forced to defend itself.
        When I saw the unrelenting firing of rockets from Gaza, I had only one narrative in mind: If terrorists fire rockets to murder people, they deserve no even-handedness. When a neo-Nazi commits mass murder in America, we don't try to be even-handed or nuanced. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)

  • On May 14, 2018, the United States finally opened its embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem. This historic step fulfilled a 23-year-old mandate from the U.S. Congress and recognized a 3,000-year-old truth that Israel's enemies sought to erase.
  • America has long been fascinated by Jerusalem. In 1844, Warder Cresson, the first consul general, announced that the U.S. was extending its protection to the Jews of Jerusalem. The first permanent consular presence opened just inside the Jaffa Gate in 1857, and diplomatic presence has remained constant in and around the Old City ever since.
  • President Abraham Lincoln told his wife how he longed to visit Jerusalem. And President Ulysses Grant and Mark Twain both visited Jerusalem in the mid-19th century and wrote extensively about their experiences.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has now been open a full year. More than 100 American diplomats come to work every day, working hand-in-hand with Israelis and Palestinians. The Jerusalem embassy has been advancing peaceful coexistence, bilateral cooperation, and cultural exchange between and among Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.
  • Most of all, the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem stands for the truth - the bedrock of all successful policies. Moving our embassy places the United States firmly on the right side of history.

    The writer is the U.S. ambassador to Israel.