May 16, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Believes Iran Encouraged Tanker Attacks - Mark Hosenball (Reuters)
    U.S. officials believe Iran encouraged Houthi militants or Iraq-based Shi'ite militias to carry out Sunday's attacks on four tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, two U.S. government sources said on Wednesday.
    One source said U.S. government experts believe Iran gave its "blessing" to the operation.
    See also Saudi Arabia Blames Iran for Ordering Pipeline Attack (Al Arabiya)
    Saudi Arabia's Vice Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman wrote Thursday on Twitter that the recent attack on two Aramco pumping stations on the country's main East-West oil pipeline were ordered by Tehran.
    He said the attacks proved that the Houthi militias in Yemen "are merely a tool that Iran's regime uses to implement its expansionist agenda."

Israel to Share F-35 Operational Experience with UK and U.S. - George Allison (UK Defence Journal)
    The operational experience acquired by the Israeli Air Force in recent months is of great interest to the U.S. and other countries that operate the F-35, Israeli media have reported.
    Israel plans to share its experience operating the F-35 with the U.S. and UK in an upcoming exercise.

Photo: NASA Spots Site of Israel's Moon Lander Crash - Amanda Kooser (Cnet)
    NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has photographed the spot where the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft crash-landed on the Moon.

U.S. Anti-Semitism Envoy Calls Europe's Kosher Meat Bans "Forced Expulsion" for Jews - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    Elan Carr, the U.S. envoy against anti-Semitism, on Monday in Antwerp called legislation in some European countries limiting the ritual slaughter of animals and circumcision of boys a "disgraceful forced expulsion" of Jews.
    Ritual slaughter was banned in January in the Flemish Region, the Belgian state whose largest city is Antwerp. Belgium's Walloon region is set to implement a similar ban this year.
    Muslim communities have similar requirements for making halal meat.

Plot to Smuggle Military and Electronic Equipment into Gaza Foiled (Jerusalem Post)
    An attempt to smuggle military, scuba diving, and communications equipment into Gaza by mail was foiled on Wednesday, Maariv reported on Thursday.

Video: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Adds Middle Eastern Twist to Eurovision Theme Song (YouTube)
    The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra took a Middle Eastern twist on the Eurovision theme song on Sunday.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Threatens to Enrich Uranium to Weapons-Grade Level - Jon Gambrell and Nasser Karimi
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tuesday it wouldn't be difficult for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, the state-run Iran newspaper reported Wednesday. Tehran is threatening to resume higher enrichment in 60 days if no new nuclear deal is in place. Iranian officials have said they could reach 20% enrichment within four days. Scientists say the time needed to reach the 90% threshold for weapons-grade uranium is halved once uranium is enriched to 20%. "Achieving 20% enrichment is the most difficult part," Khamenei said. "The next steps are easier than this step."  (AP-TIME)
  • U.S. Seeks Diplomatic Solution for Iran Tension - John Hudson
    President Trump "wants to talk to the Iranians; he wants a deal" and is open to negotiation with the Iranian government to resolve tensions, a senior administration official said. Trump is not inclined to respond forcefully unless there is a "big move" from the Iranians, a senior White House official said. Still, the president is willing to respond forcefully if there are American deaths or a dramatic escalation, the official said.
        Pentagon and intelligence officials said that three distinct Iranian actions have triggered alarms: information suggesting an Iranian threat against U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Irbil; U.S. concerns that Iran may be preparing to mount rocket launchers on small ships in the Persian Gulf; and a directive from Ayatollah Khamenei to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and regular Iranian military units that some U.S. officials have interpreted as a potential threat to U.S. military and diplomatic personnel. (Washington Post)
  • EU to Probe Palestinian Textbooks for Incitement to Hatred, Violence - Michael Bachner
    EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament on April 24: "It can be confirmed that an academic study on Palestinian school text books is planned. Necessary funds have been reserved in the 2019 budget. The study shall be carried out by an independent and internationally recognized research institute. Terms of reference for the study are currently being prepared with a view to identifying possible incitement to hatred and violence and any possible lack of compliance with UNESCO standards of peace and tolerance in education."  (European Parliament)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad Vow to "Liberate Palestine" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Marking the 71st anniversary of Nakba ("Catastrophe") Day on Wednesday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders said that the Palestinian struggle against Israel will continue until the "liberation of all Palestine." Senior Hamas official Fathi Hammad told thousands of Palestinians at a rally near the Israeli border that the Palestinians were headed toward "victory and uprooting the Zionist enemy." He warned Israeli leaders: "The day of your slaughter and elimination is nearing."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Incendiary Balloons from Gaza Cause Nine Fires in Israel Wednesday - Matan Tzuri
    Israeli firefighters dealt with nine fires caused by incendiary balloons launched from Gaza on Wednesday as Palestinians mark Nakba Day, the "catastrophe" that followed the 1948 Arab defeat. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Apologizes for Spitting at Polish Envoy, Says Embassy Security Guard Cursed Him
    Arik Lederman, 65, who was arrested for shouting and spitting on Ambassador Marek Magierowski's car outside the Polish embassy in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, apologized Wednesday over the incident. Lederman told the court: "I want to express my apology for the event that happened last night. My family suffered the hardships of the Holocaust in Poland and I came to the embassy on the issue of restitution. During that I was subjected to derogatory treatment by one of the embassy employees who called me a 'Zhid' in Polish."
        He said he then left the embassy and was walking on the road because the sidewalks were in bad shape when "a vehicle came from behind me and honked at me loudly, frightening me. I expressed my anger in a way that I regret." He said he did not know that the man in the car was the Polish ambassador. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Says Israel Is Not Required to Withdraw to the Pre-1967 Lines - Tovah Lazaroff and Yvette J. Deane
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that UN Security Council Resolution 242 bolsters the international legitimacy of the U.S. decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, since it allows for Israel to retain territory acquired in the 1967 war for security reasons.
        Israel's former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold said a security rationale for retaining territory "is even stronger in the West Bank" than it is on the Golan. The previous claimant to sovereignty in the West Bank was Jordan, which acquired the territory during the 1948 War of Independence, Gold explained. The claim was recognized only by Pakistan and Great Britain. In contrast, many countries recognized Syria's previous standing on the Golan, even though Syria was an aggressor in the 1967 war.
        Gold pointed to the letter former U.S. President George Bush wrote to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 in which Bush stated that, for security reasons, Israel is not required to fully withdraw to the pre-1967 lines. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The U.S. Plan May Make Peace More Possible - Faisal J. Abbas
    The U.S. peace plan may make peace more possible and less remote. It is all very well for veteran politicians and diplomats to carp about the plan, but what exactly have they achieved in more than 70 years of trying to resolve this conflict? That is why there is a strong counter argument that it is time to think outside the box.
        It is the definition of insanity to repeatedly do the same thing and expect a different result; for 70 years, every time the Arabs have said "no," the Palestinians have lost more land, more rights and more opportunities. The Palestinians should negotiate hard, and then take what they can to secure a nation state for future generations; everyone would salute their courage and sacrifice if they did, while there is nothing to be gained from a refusal to come to the negotiating table.
        Another Palestinian "no" would allow the Israelis to claim that they had done everything possible to secure a deal and been rejected, and it would encourage the already generous Trump administration to cut them yet more slack. Bottom line: Let us give peace a chance. The writer is editor-in-chief of Arab News. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)

  • Iran unquestionably presents a grave threat to Israel because of the combination of dangerous rhetoric - such as Ayatollah Khamenei's call for Israel to be "eradicated" - with the possibility that it will possibly one day have nuclear weapons and the means to act on what it openly says it wants to do.
  • When the Iranian government signaled last week that it will halt compliance with some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, it ratcheted up its threat to Israel's existence. It appears increasingly probable that Iran will speed up its race to build a nuclear weapon, forcing Israel to return to the same strategy and tactics it used to eliminate Syrian nuclear power in 2007.
  • Israel's defense establishment has long believed that to avoid the necessity of striking Iran's reactors, and for diplomacy to have a chance to work, a genuine military deterrent must first be on the table to make the Iranian regime reconsider its nuclear ambitions.
  • Dan Meridor, Israel's former minister of intelligence, told me that for Israel to consider preemptive action against another country's nuclear program, two criteria must be met: the country must be one of Israel's enemies and must have demonstrated the potential to one day consider using a nuclear weapon against Israel. Syria and Iraq both fit those criteria. So does Iran.
  • Iran's main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz was built deep underground. Despite this, Israeli military planners have been confident for some time that its air force can cause enough damage to Iran's nuclear facilities to stall its nuclear program by a few years.

    The writer is editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post.