May 23, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

New Jersey Man Aided Hamas, Threatened to Kill Israel Supporters (AP-U.S. News)
    Federal authorities say Jonathan Xie, 20, of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, sought to aid Hamas and threatened to "shoot everybody" at a pro-Israel march.
    Authorities say he also posted on Instagram that he wanted to bomb the Israeli embassy and Trump Tower in New York.
    See also Man Arrested for Supporting Hamas, Threatening Pro-Israel Supporters (U.S. Department of Justice)

Turkey Stopped Purchasing Iranian Oil in May - Humeyra Pamuk (Reuters)
    Turkey stopped purchasing Iranian oil in May as a U.S. waiver granted last November expired, a senior Turkish official said Wednesday.
    Analysts said Turkey was replacing Iranian oil with supplies from Iraq, Russia and Kazakhstan.
    Iranian crude oil exports have fallen in May to 500,000 barrels per day, industry sources said last week.

Hamas vs. Israel's Intelligence Services - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Fatah sources in Gaza say that following the most recent round of hostilities, Hamas is very worried that precise intelligence information in the hands of the IDF led to strikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets.
    Israel is managing to run agents in Gaza in spite of heavy punishments imposed by Hamas upon anyone who collaborates with Israel.
    The Hamas website Al-Risalah published a report on May 19, 2019, detailing the methods used by Israeli intelligence to recruit Gaza residents.
    The Palestinians often believe they are working with a TV channel or news site, a research institute, or a humanitarian aid organization.
    When unmasked, they are shocked to learn that they had been working as an agent for Israel.

Israeli Scientists Extract Yeast from Ancient Pottery, Recreate 5,000-Year-Old Beer - Brooks Hays (UPI)
    When researchers in Israel examined fragments of clay jars used to house beer and mead several thousand years ago, they discovered colonies of yeast hiding in the shards' nano-sized pores.
    In total, six strains of viable yeast were isolated from pottery pieces and used to brew a handful of beer varieties.
    "The greatest wonder here is that the yeast colonies survived within the vessel for thousands of years," said Hebrew University researcher Ronen Hazan.
    Researchers in Israel claim this is the first time ancient yeast has been used to brew ancient beers.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Greenblatt Tells UN: Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Are to Blame for Gaza Suffering
    U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt told the UN Security Council on Wednesday: "It is simply unacceptable that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to target Israeli communities, including hospitals and schools, in a cynical attempt to extract concessions from Israel. It is simply unacceptable that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to use civilians in Gaza, including children, as human shields. It is simply unacceptable that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to siphon the scarce resources of the people of Gaza to build their terror arsenal, while preventing donor aid from reaching the people."
        "There will be no end to this suffering until all of us, together, say in public...Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are to blame for the suffering of the people of Gaza. Nothing can be meaningfully fixed until they renounce terror and cease their acts of violence and their vow to destroy Israel."  (U.S. Mission to the UN)
  • Five New Countries Vote Against Anti-Israel UN Resolution
    The UN World Health Organization voted 96 to 11 on Wednesday for a resolution co-sponsored by the Arab bloc and the Palestinian delegation that singled out Israel over health conditions in the territories. Countries that changed their votes to "no" this year included Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany, Honduras and Hungary.
        Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, noted: "There was no agenda item or resolution on any other country, including Syria, where hospitals and medical infrastructure have suffered devastating bombings by Syrian and Russian forces....In reality, Israeli hospitals provide life-saving treatment to Syrians fleeing to the Golan from the Assad regime's barbaric attacks....Anyone who has ever walked into an Israeli hospital or clinic knows that they are providing world-class health care to thousands of Palestinian Arabs."  (UN Watch)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Restricts Gaza Fishing Zone after Wave of Arson Balloons
    The IDF announced on Wednesday that it had limited the Gaza fishing zone to 10 nautical miles, one day after it had expanded it to 15 miles, following a wave of incendiary balloons launched from Gaza that caused 11 fires in Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Bahrain Economic Confab Is a Big Step Forward - Raphael Ahren
    It's true that the U.S.-Bahraini economic "workshop" on June 25-26, billed as the first step in rolling out the U.S. peace plan, is unlikely to lead to a breakthrough in the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But the mere fact that the peace proposal's rollout will take place in an Arab capital is nothing less than a sensation.
        Moreover, it is worth highlighting that this first major parley on the planned U.S. path to Israeli-Palestinian peace is to be focused solely on the interests of one side. The meeting is devoted to the Palestinians' economic well-being.
        Kushner and Greenblatt promised to publish a blueprint for what they think is a fair and feasible solution to the problem. It's quite likely that they themselves have never believed that ending a century-old conflict in an instant is possible.
        Regardless of how the Palestinians will react to the peace plan (they will reject it), Bahrain's willingness to host the "Peace to Prosperity" summit strongly indicates that the Arab world is more inclined to normalize ties with Israel than some may think. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Pompeo: We Are Bolstering Israel's Security and Fighting Anti-Semitism
    Speaking at an Israeli Embassy reception in Washington on Wednesday to mark that country's 71st Independence Day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "We've bolstered Israel's security...by applying maximum pressure against the single greatest threat to stability and security in the Middle East, and indeed, stability and security in Israel - the Islamic Republic of Iran."
        "We've pushed back hard too against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, and will continue to oppose it wherever it raises its ugly head. We are unleashing a fight against anti-Semitism, a growing problem across much of the world, including sadly right here in the United States."
        "These actions by this administration...are instinctive, they are reflexive, and they are right. And we do them because of that, because they are in the best interest of both of our peoples."
        At the same event, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer noted: "With each passing decade Israel is giving more and more support to America....With America in need of democratic allies that have powerful militaries, first-rate intelligence services, and advanced cyber capabilities, there are few, if any, security partners better than Israel. And with America in need of democratic allies that can help it maintain its technological supremacy for decades to come, there are no technology partners better than Israel."  (U.S. State Department)
  • One Year Later, the U.S. Embassy Move Has Produced Lasting Gains - Evelyn Gordon
    It is true that only Guatemala has followed America's lead in moving its embassy to Jerusalem, but this misses the point and thereby obscures the real and lasting gains of the embassy move. If it took America more than two decades to move its embassy despite a bipartisan consensus that was codified in legislation, it will clearly take time for countries that have only just started considering the issue to reach the point of being ready to actually make the move.
        What the U.S. decision did accomplish was to break the global taboo on thinking and talking about this idea. Never again will recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital be an inconceivable option. In the space of just one year, in many countries, it has already become a hotly debated one. And the more the idea is discussed, the more realistic the possibility becomes.
        The embassy decision also slayed the myth that recognizing Jerusalem would spark massive violence in the Arab world. The move sparked no violence anywhere except among Palestinians, and even that was short-lived. Consequently, no country contemplating such a move will be deterred by fear of a bloody reaction. (JNS-Israel Hayom)

The U.S. Is Outplaying Iran in a Regional Chess Match - Seth J. Frantzman (National Review)
  • In the complex game of wits being played between the Trump administration and the Iranian regime, it appears that the U.S. temporarily checked Iran's usual behavior.
  • Tehran knows that any real battle with U.S. forces will result in Iranian defeat. Tehran can't risk massive retaliation against its allies or the regime at home for fear that it will lead to the destruction of all it has carefully built up in the last years.
  • In the past, Iran benefited from its ability to threaten Western powers and attack U.S. forces with proxies, even seizing U.S. sailors, without fear of reprisal. It learned in the past that the U.S. preferred diplomacy, but the current administration appears to have put Tehran on notice.
  • If Iran thinks Washington isn't serious, or if it senses that domestic opposition to Washington's saber-rattling is building, Iran may call America's bluff. But if Iran thinks the U.S. really will retaliate, it will tread carefully.
  • Iran now wants to assure its own people that war isn't likely through media stories about how the U.S. isn't serious. This is in contrast to the usual Tehran bluster and threats, even harassment of ships in the Persian Gulf. Iran's sudden quiet could, of course, be the calm before the storm, but it is more likely a reflection of the regime's sudden confusion about U.S. policy.
  • This is a good thing for American interests. Iran needs to be kept guessing about U.S. intentions. It needs to tell its proxies to stop threatening U.S. forces in Iraq.
  • The U.S. gained the upper hand in its recent escalation against Iran by playing Iran's game of bluster and support for allies on the ground. If Washington wants to continue to keep Iran in check, it needs to keep up the pressure.

    The writer is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.