May 21, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Nearly 400 Members of Congress Call to Help Israel Face Threats from Syria (House Foreign Affairs Committee)
    Nearly 400 members of Congress signed a bipartisan letter to President Trump on Monday calling to assist "our ally, Israel, in defending itself in the face of growing threats."
    "In order to... strengthen Israel's security, we urge you to...ensure that Israel has access to the resources and material it needs to defend itself against the threats it faces on its northern border."
    "America must continue economic and diplomatic efforts to counter Iran's support for Hizbullah and other terrorist groups."

Russia Repels Attack on Its Main Syrian Air Base (Reuters)
    Russia's Ministry of Defense said Monday it had repelled a drone and missile attack on its main air base in Syria over the weekend, the RIA news agency reported.
    The ministry said it had shot down six missiles fired at the Hmeymim air base in Latakia Province.

Report: Iranian Revolutionary Guards Training Forces in Syria - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Jorf News, a Syrian news site, reported that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps began a naval combat training course in Latakia province in northern Syria.
    A source said 100 men from the Afghan Fatemiyoun were involved in the training along with members of the Shi'ite Imam Muhammed al-Baqir brigade.

Syrian Man Gets Jail for Planning Terror Attacks in Denmark (AP-New York Times)
    Moyed Al Zoebi, 32, a Syrian asylum seeker in Sweden acting on behalf of the Islamic State, on Monday received a 12-year prison sentence for planning to explode bombs in the Danish capital of Copenhagen and stabbing random people with kitchen knives.

Hamas Thanks Jeremy Corbyn for Message to Pro-Palestinian Rally in London - Raf Sanchez (Telegraph-UK)
    Hamas has thanked Jeremy Corbyn for his message of solidarity to a pro-Palestinian rally in London on May 11.
    Corbyn did not speak at the event but sent a message calling on the UK government to freeze arms sales to Israel.
    He also promised that if he becomes prime minister he would recognize Palestine as a state.
    Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by the UK, U.S., and EU.
    Yair Lapid, a leader in Israel's main opposition party, said: "Jeremy Corbyn, here is a free piece of advice: if Hamas is thanking you then you're on the side of terrorism."

Israel's Economy Booms at Fastest Pace since 2016 - Ivan Levingston (Bloomberg)
    Israel's economy expanded at its fastest pace in three years as its gross domestic product rose 5.2% in the 1st quarter of 2019, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Thursday.
    This is a jump from a 3.9% gain in the 4th quarter of 2018.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Crude Shipments Slump as U.S. Oil Sanctions Bite Deeper - Julian Lee
    Since the U.S. ended sanctions waivers that allowed eight governments to buy Iranian oil until May 2, not a single ship has been seen leaving Iran's oil terminals for foreign ports in tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg for the first nine days of May. (Bloomberg)
  • Sanctions on Iran Are Hitting Hizbullah and It Hurts - Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous
    Hizbullah has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, spending lavishly on benefits for its fighters, funding social services and accumulating a formidable arsenal. But since President Trump introduced sweeping new restrictions on trade with Iran last year, Hizbullah has seen a sharp fall in its revenue and is being forced to make draconian cuts to its spending.
        Fighters are being furloughed or assigned to the reserves, where they receive lower salaries or no pay at all. Hizbullah officials and full-time fighters who are still on the payroll are receiving their salaries, but benefits for expenses such as meals, gas and transportation have been canceled. Spending programs have been slashed, including the supply of free medicines and even groceries to fighters, employees and their families. (Washington Post)
  • UK Tells Iran to Pull Back from "Destabilizing Activities" in Mideast - Rob Virtue
    Jeremy Hunt, the British Foreign Secretary, sent a warning to Tehran on Monday: "Do not underestimate the resolve on the U.S. side. They don't want a war with Iran. But if American interests are attacked, they will retaliate." Hunt also said the long-term solution for the Middle East region is for Iran to pull back from "destabilizing activities."  (Daily Express-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Greenblatt: History Will Judge PA Harshly for Passing Up Opportunity - Omri Nahmias
    Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations, expressed his frustration Monday over the Palestinian reaction to the economic workshop in Bahrain next month. "It's difficult to understand why the Palestinian Authority would reject a workshop designed to discuss a vision with the potential to radically transform lives and put people on a path toward a brighter future," he told the Jerusalem Post.
        "By encouraging Palestinians to reject the workshop, the PA is shamefully trying to block their path toward a better future. History will judge the Palestinian Authority harshly for passing up any opportunity that could give the Palestinians something so very different, and something so very positive, compared to what they have today."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Rescue Teams Dig for Remains of Jewish Holocaust Victims in Belarus Building Site
    A delegation from an Israeli coalition of rescue organizations was participating in the search and identification of bodies in a mass grave at a former Jewish ghetto in the city of Brest on the Belarus border with Poland. The grave was expected to yield at least 1,100 bodies, many of them women and children, most of whom were shot in the head. (i24News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why Palestinians Oppose Economic Prosperity - Bassam Tawil
    Hebron businessman Ashraf Jabari recently announced the establishment of the new Reform and Development Party that calls for focusing on economic prosperity for Palestinians. In response, Palestinians have waged a massive smear campaign against him, with many denouncing him as a "traitor" and "collaborator" with Israel and Jews. Some have even called for his arrest or execution. In the face of the widespread protests, Jabari's clan was forced publicly to denounce and disown him. The Ramallah-based Palestinian news website Wattan called for bringing Jabari to trial for treason.
        In the eyes of many Palestinians, the struggle against Israel should be paramount, even if they have to eat and drink that struggle instead of the food they could buy through engaging in economic initiatives such as those proposed by Jabari. In light of the uproar, it is safe to assume that his new party will never succeed in winning the hearts and minds of Palestinians.
        The upcoming peace plan talks about giving the Palestinians billions of dollars and raising money for them from wealthy Arab countries. Yet, as Jabari's case makes clear, the Palestinians are less invested in gaining economic stability than they are in hating Israel. (Gatestone Institute)
        See also Defeating Denormalization: Shared Palestinian and Israeli Perspectives on a New Path to Peace - Dan Diker, ed. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Separate and Unequal for Jewish Groups at Williams College - K.C. Johnson
    In April, the Williams College student government, which previously had recognized a branch of Students for Justice in Palestine, rejected a request to recognize a group called Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI). In the previous decade, the College Council had not rejected any otherwise-qualified group. In short, the student government at one of the nation's finest liberal arts colleges utilized two sets of criteria - one for a proposed pro-Israel group composed mostly of Jewish students, another for every other current and potential student group on campus.
        During the April 16 debate on the issue, multiple anti-recognition students said they would experience unspecified forms of emotional or physical harm unless the council refused to recognize WIFI. Multiple Williams students deemed nondebatable the proposition that Israel has perpetrated a genocide against Palestinians. One student claimed that Palestinians currently were experiencing worse conditions than the Jewish people experienced during the Holocaust. The writer is professor of history at Brooklyn College. (Tablet)
        See also Holocaust Revisionism at Williams College - David Bernstein
    In the Williams College episode, the "genocide against Palestinians" trope, regarding a population which has had among the highest population growth rates in the world, whose standard of living improved dramatically during the Israeli occupation but before Oslo gave them (limited) self-rule, is a great example of people believing something because they want to believe it, regardless of the facts. This particular trope can only really be explained by a pathological hostility to Israel that often has a strong anti-Semitic component. The writer is the University Professor and the Executive Director of the Liberty & Law Center at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University. (Reason)

Palestinians Need to Get Real about Israel - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)
  • Diplomatically, economically, militarily, Israel has never been stronger than it is today. By contrast, neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority can find a viable policy either to defeat the Israelis or to make peace with them.
  • One result - as I saw on a recent visit - is that Palestinians, especially young people, are increasingly giving up on having a state of their own. Yet in meetings with senior Palestinian Authority officials and political observers, it was clear that this is more a cry of despair than a serious political program. The Palestinians are no more able to impose a one-state solution on the Israelis than they are able to colonize the moon.
  • A well-connected Palestinian I spoke to in Ramallah explained that the one-state option is popular among younger Palestinians in part because they think the Israeli state is better-governed than the West Bank under the PA - with better administration, less corruption and more responsiveness to public opinion. They would like some of that good governance for themselves.
  • If true, this is a sign that at least some Palestinians are beginning to think in more realistic terms. If the Palestinians were ready to promote reconciliation and close economic links with the Jewish state, there is no limit to the prosperity that the Palestinians could achieve. There are also concessions to Palestinian aspirations that no Israeli leader will make under threat, but that many would accept in conditions of true peace.
  • Palestinians today need a Konrad Adenauer: a leader who can accept military defeat and painful territorial losses while building a prosperous future through reconciliation with the victors. A new generation, instead of following its elders down the rabbit hole of eternally futile resistance, could instead work toward competent governance, and ultimately reconciliation and renewal.
  • Like the Arab states threatened by Iran, some Palestinians may be slowly beginning to realize that everything that makes Israel a formidable foe can also make it a valuable friend.

    The writer is Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard College.