June 3, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Pays Gaza Families of Palestinians Killed in Clashes with Israel (Xinhua-China)
    Iran paid $651,000 to families of Palestinians in Gaza who were killed in the conflict with Israel.
    The Iranian payment was delivered during a conference attended by senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza City on Thursday.
    "We will continue supporting resistance," Ali Shamkhani, secretary general of the Iranian National Security Council, told the audience via video conference.
    Hamas chief in Gaza Yehya Sinwar said, "Without the Iranian support, we wouldn't have been able to keep standing so powerfully. Iran stands by our side, when the Arabs neglect us."

U.S. Experts Study Hizbullah's Underground Tunnels - Nazir Majali (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    A high-level delegation from the U.S. Army on Thursday toured inside the longest cross-border Hizbullah attack tunnel that was discovered running into Israeli territory from Lebanon.
    IDF Col. Roi Levi explained how Hizbullah planned to send thousands of fighters in an infiltration attack on northern Israel as a surprise, opening maneuver in a future war.
    The U.S. team wants to study the Israeli technology used in uncovering those tunnels and benefit from such techniques in fighting the tunnels now being discovered at the U.S.-Mexican border.
    See also Video: Inside Hizbullah's Longest Attack Tunnel - Trey Yingst (Fox News)

40,000 March in New York to Celebrate Israel - Haley Cohen (Jerusalem Post)
    Around 40,000 Israel supporters gathered in Manhattan on Sunday for the 55th annual Celebrate Israel Parade.
    "The best way to combat anti-Semitism is by showing pride. Supporting the magic of Israel is the best way to fight for it," said fashion blogger Elizabeth Savetsky.
    See also Video: Watch the Celebrate Israel Parade 2019 (JCRC-NY)

Tens of Thousands of Israeli Youth Join Flag March through Jerusalem - Marcy Oster (JTA)
    Tens of thousands of Israeli youth gathered in the Old City of Jerusalem on Sunday for the annual Flag March celebrating Jerusalem Day. The march ended at the Western Wall with live music, singing and dancing.
    Jerusalem Day marks the reunification of Jerusalem under Israeli control in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Pro-Palestinian Group in UK Supported by Corbyn Forced Jewish-Owned Shops to Close - Jake Wallis Simons (Daily Mail-UK)
    The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), of which Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a patron, targeted shops selling Israeli products in Brighton, London and Manchester, forcing two businesses to fold.
    A new video, Hounded, was released Friday by anti-racism campaigners to draw attention to the harassment of Jews who sell goods from Israel, highlighting a "campaign of intimidation" that has been going on for years.
    See also Video: Hounded (Jewish HR Watch)

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia Rejects Iran's Request for S-400 Missile Defense System - Zainab Fattah and Ilya Arkhipov
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected an Iranian request to buy S-400 missile defense systems, according to a senior Russian official. There have been signs that Moscow is seeking to gradually reduce Iran's footprint in the Middle East as it seeks to protect its relations with other regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. (Bloomberg)
  • Pompeo Offers Unfiltered View of U.S. Middle East Peace Plan's Prospects - John Hudson and Loveday Morris
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a sobering assessment of the prospects of the long-awaited U.S. Middle East peace plan on Tuesday in a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. An audio recording of the meeting was obtained by the Washington Post.
        "This has taken us longer to roll out our plan than I had originally thought it might - to put it lightly," Pompeo said. "We're under no illusions [that] we're going to show up with this thing and everyone's going to say, 'Tell me where to go for the signing ceremony.' It doesn't work that way."  (Washington Post)
        See also Trump: Pompeo "May Be Right" in Casting Doubt on Middle East Plan - Chris Mills Rodrigo (The Hill)
  • U.S. Tells Russia It Backs Israeli Airstrikes in Syria as Long as Iran Stays - Barak Ravid
    The U.S. has made it clear to the Kremlin that the U.S. fully supports Israeli airstrikes in Syria while Iranian forces, Hizbullah and pro-Iranian militias are still operating in the country, a senior U.S. official told me. The official said the State Department and White House have conveyed the message to the Russians several times in the last few months. The broader message to the Russians was that withdrawal of Iranian and Iranian-backed forces from Syria isn't just an Israeli demand, but an American one, too. (Axios)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Responds to Rocket Fire from Syria - Jack Khoury
    The Israeli army confirmed Sunday that it had struck military targets in Syria on Saturday night after two rockets were fired toward the Golan Heights. Syrian state media reported that three Syrian soldiers were killed, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that seven Iranian and Hizbullah militants were killed. The IDF said the rockets were not fired toward Israel by mistake and were not errant fire spilling over from internal fighting in Syria since there are no longer any massive exchanges of fire close to the Israeli border. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Targets Iranian Weapons at Syria's T-4 Airbase
    Syrian state media reported that Israel attacked the T-4 airbase near the northern city of Homs just after midnight Sunday. Military officials told SANA that the attack destroyed a weapons storage facility and several other buildings at the base. Israel has attacked the T-4 air base on multiple occasions. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel Is Chasing Iranians in Syria - Amos Harel
    The attack on the T-4 airbase in northern Syria targeted Iranian interests. On the backdrop of persistent Israeli attacks, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had moved its main activity from Damascus International Airport to the T-4 base next to Homs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iranian Proxy Strength Growing in Southern Syria - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Tehran has not shied away from using militia proxies in Syria, despite regular Israeli raids on Iran-associated forces and Israeli co-ordination with Russia to try to curb Iranian reach. The two rockets fired from Syria at Israel on Sunday was "another message the Iranians are sending. Tehran is saying 'we are capable of wreaking havoc with the security and stability of the whole region'," said Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Nizar Abdel Kader, a veteran Lebanese military analyst.
        By mid-April this year Iran had formed at least 36 local militias in southern Syria with a strength of more than 2,000 fighters. Recruitment has focused especially on areas directly bordering the Golan in Quneitra province. Militia commanders are believed to receive a $1,500 monthly salary while regular members receive about $250.
        There are low-intensity clashes in southern Syria between pro-Assad forces and elements of the local population. Many in the area are opposed to the infiltration and proselytization efforts by Iran, supported by cash, to get new Shiite converts. (The National-Abu Dhabi)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran Might Not Be Able to Wait Trump Out - John Hannah
    The U.S. intelligence community detected a spike in Iranian preparations to target American interests, resulting in the decision to augment U.S. forces in the region as well as a flurry of public warnings meant to deter any challenge.
        It's rapidly dawning on Iran's leaders that their preferred strategy of waiting out the Trump administration may not be viable. The risks of sitting back and absorbing ever more powerful blows from a relentless U.S. sanctions machine for another 18 to 20 months, or even longer, have grown unacceptably high.
        The U.S. announcement in late April that it would no longer extend sanctions waivers to countries that had continued importing Iranian oil was aimed to drive Iran's oil exports to zero, shutting down completely the regime's most important source of revenue and hard currency. Japan and South Korea ceased imports immediately. India and Turkey followed suit. By early May, evidence indicated that even major Chinese energy firms had suspended purchases from Iran. Overnight, Iran's economic prospects went from dire to disastrous.
        The risks of a broader conflagration must of course be taken seriously. But war is far from inevitable should the U.S. need to respond militarily to Iranian provocations. Israel has attacked hundreds of Iranian targets in Syria over the past two years, probably killing scores of Iranian troops in the process - all without triggering a wider war. It's clear that Iran's regime has no interest in getting into a major conflict with Israel, much less with the U.S.
        The writer, senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is former national security advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • The Most Powerful Arab Ruler Is from the UAE, Not Saudi Arabia - David D. Kirkpatrick
    Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates, 58, a British-trained helicopter pilot who is crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the UAE, is arguably the most powerful leader in the Arab world. His tiny country has fewer citizens than Rhode Island. But he controls sovereign wealth funds worth $1.3 trillion.
        His military is the Arab world's most potent, equipped to conduct surveillance and combat operations far beyond its borders. His air force includes 80 F-16 fighters, 30 Apache combat helicopters, and 62 French Mirage jets. His special forces are active in Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Egypt's North Sinai.
        Prince Mohammed has often told American officials that he saw Israel as an ally against Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel trusted him enough to sell him upgrades for his F-16s, as well as advanced mobile phone spyware. By 2015, American diplomats say, Prince Mohammed was suggesting that the UAE and a new Saudi leadership could be crucial in bringing the Palestinians around to some new peace agreement - the so-called "outside-in" approach to a deal. (New York Times)
        See also The PA and the UAE Have a Long-Standing Estrangement - Adnan Abu Amer (Middle East Monitor-UK)

Israel Celebrates Jerusalem Day - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday:
  • "We are marking 52 years since Jerusalem was unified in the Six-Day War. The war changed the fate of Israel. It removed us from a chokehold and danger of destruction, turned us into a strong regional power and - in effect - began the process of reconciliation, the continuing fruits of which we see developing today."
  • "It brought one more thing: The unification of the capital of Israel. We returned, I remember personally, I returned, to Jerusalem, the cradle of our people, our culture and our faith, between the walls, and this moved the entire nation, all of its parts."
  • "Of course, from then until today, Jerusalem has changed, it is almost unrecognizable. We are building it up. We are strengthening it. We are concerned for its future and are developing it into a prosperous city that can also be a focus of not only spirituality and a renewal of Israel's tradition and heritage, but also a city that is being renewed with global technology."
  • "Jerusalem is ranked as one of the more quickly developing cities. This is the right combination of heritage and science - and this is our strength. On this we built the State of Israel. This is the guiding idea of Zionism."