June 5, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Cannot Transport Precision Weapons, So It Builds Them in Lebanon - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Iran and Hizbullah have taken a strategic decision to build infrastructure in Lebanon for upgrading precision missiles.
    At the basis of this decision stands Israel's determination to attack the construction of such infrastructure in Syria, and to attack components discovered being moved from Syria to Lebanon.

Russia Expels Pro-Iranian Militias from Tartus Port in Syria - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Russian forces in Syria, aided by Syrian regime forces, have in recent weeks expelled pro-Iranian militias that had taken over a civilian dock at the Tartus naval facility.
    A year ago, Syria authorized Iran to acquire a multi-year contract to manage one of the docks at Tartus. Russia, however, vetoed the deal.
    The recent dispute over Tartus is the latest in a series of clashes between Russia and Iran over control of strategic, economic and political assets in Syria.

Report: IDF Strike on Syrian Base Targeted Iranian Drones (Times of Israel)
    An Israeli satellite imagery analysis firm, ImageSat International, on Tuesday determined that the target of an airstrike on a Syrian air base on Sunday, attributed to Israel, appeared to be an Iranian drone facility.
    A comparison of satellite images determined that the strike hit a small crop of buildings on the base. A number of cargo planes from Iran had recently landed at the base prior to the strike.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack also destroyed a rocket warehouse.

IDF Intelligence: Iran May Not Get a Bomb Even If It Leaves Nuke Deal - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Even if Iran leaves the 2015 nuclear deal, it may fail to obtain a nuclear bomb, IDF intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Tamir Heiman said on Wednesday.
    He added that the recent visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Beirut, where he delivered threats related to Hizbullah, could be a game-changer after years of ignoring the group's negative impact in Lebanon.
    Heiman said that Israeli intelligence knows about all of Hizbullah's capabilities "maybe even better than Nasrallah," and added that some of its threatening weapons are not operational.

Hamas Claims It Targeted Israel's Iron Dome Batteries during May Fighting - Shachar Klein (Israel Hayom)
    Hamas attempted to fire rockets at Israel's Iron Dome missile defense batteries during the escalation of tension in May, Abu Maaz, a commander in the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, told Hamas' Al Qassam website on Tuesday.
    He said the rockets Hamas fired in May were locally-made versions of the Sejjil missile produced in Iran.

Tel Aviv U., Technion among World Leaders in Producing Patents - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    Tel Aviv University and Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are among the 100 leading universities worldwide to be granted U.S. patents for invention in 2018.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Sanctions Drive Iranian Oil Exports to Historic Lows - David Adesnik
    Iranian crude oil exports plunged rapidly in May to a historic low of less than 500,000 barrels per day and possibly as low as 250,000 barrels. In January 2013, at the height of sanctions prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, Iranian exports reached their previous low point of 600,000 barrels per day. By April 2018, exports had reached 2.8 million barrels.
        China sharply criticized the U.S. for ending the 6-month sanction waivers, yet the country's top state-owned refiners, Sinopec and CNPC, bought no Iranian oil for loading in May. While there are no acknowledged buyers of Iranian oil at the moment, vessel monitoring services have documented the departure of several tankers from Iran in May. Two of them delivered their cargo to Syria.
        The price of Brent crude has fallen by $12 per barrel, or 20%, since May 1, indicating that markets are adjusting well to the loss of the Iranian supply. The writer is director of research at FDD. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • A Secret Pay Raise by Cabinet Angers Palestinian Public - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    In 2017, the Palestinian Cabinet secretly gave itself a series of lavish payouts and perks, highlighted by a 67% salary hike. The payments and perks were kept quiet for the past two years, but news of the Cabinet decision leaked this week, rocking the West Bank, where the cash-strapped government has been forced to slash the salaries of its employees. The report renewed outrage among Palestinians who have long seen their leadership as rife with corruption.
        Two senior officials said the pay raise was made retroactive to 2014, giving the ministers an extra bonus of tens of thousands of dollars. A new report by the anti-corruption watchdog group Aman found that the government has improperly filled senior government jobs without advertising them, appointed officials' relatives to senior posts, and refused to disclose budgets of the presidential office and security forces. (AP-Miami Herald)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • After Ceasefire, Hamas Arson and IED Balloon Attacks Increase
    Since the ceasefire with Hamas on May 6, the launching of incendiary and IED balloons from Gaza at Israeli communities near the border has become systematic and intensive, causing scores of fires. The balloons are launched by a designated unit called the Sons of al-Zawari. Hamas' objective is to preserve and regulate the level of violence in order to exert pressure on Israel to extract concessions. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Israel's Supreme Court Upholds Suspension of Family Visits for Hamas Prisoners - Alex Winston
    Israel's High Court of Justice rejected a petition by Hamas members from Gaza against Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan's decision to prevent visits by families of incarcerated prisoners in Israel. Erdan ordered the suspension in 2017 in order to exert pressure Hamas to return Israeli citizens and the bodies of IDF soldiers it holds in Gaza. "I welcome the High Court of Justice's ruling," Erdan said. "It is unreasonable and immoral to allow despicable terrorists to have family visits as long as Hamas holds the bodies of our soldiers and Israeli citizens."
        Supreme Court Justice Neal Hendel wrote in the decision: "The return of prisoners and missing persons in and of itself is a goal and an interest that is included within the framework of national security....Just as the protection of the lives of the residents of the state and its soldiers is a primary security interest, so too must be the return of our soldiers after they have fallen into enemy hands." The family of Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body is still being held by Hamas in Gaza, welcomed the ruling. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Stops Islamist Group from Performing Holiday Prayers in Hebron Mosque - Adam Rasgon
    Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank prevented supporters of the Islamist group Hizb al-Tahrir from performing Eid al-Fitr prayers at the Al-Abrar Mosque in Hebron on Tuesday, employing force against some of them. Hizb al-Tahrir, which supports the establishment of a caliphate ruled by Islamic law, declared on Monday that Eid al-Fitr, marking the conclusion of Ramadan, would start that evening, contradicting Mohammed Hussein, the PA-appointed grand mufti of Jerusalem, who had announced that the festival would commence Tuesday night.
        A senior official at PA headquarters in Hebron said, "They do not have the right to use a mosque to revolt against the official Palestinian position on when Eid al-Fitr starts." Clerics in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar also declared the start of Eid al-Fitr on Monday evening. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Jared Kushner Challenges the Palestinians - Yoni Ben Menachem
    Asked in an interview whether he believes the Palestinians are capable of governing themselves, U.S. senior presidential advisor Jared Kushner said, "That's a very good question....The hope is, is that over time, they can become capable of governing." In response, senior PLO official Saeb Erekat called on the Arab countries to boycott Kushner.
        Kushner elaborated on what many Arab leaders believe but do not dare say. They, too, are familiar with Mahmoud Abbas' corrupt government that operates like the Sicilian mafia. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Interview with Jared Kushner - Jonathan Swan (Axios on HBO)
  • How Are Iran Sanctions Impacting on Hizbullah? - Chloe Cornish and Asser Khattab
    Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran, said Iran has slashed its defense budget by 28% this year, although official Iranian figures do not corroborate that claim. Several Western diplomats and regional analysts said they were skeptical of U.S. claims to have curbed Iran's funding of Hizbullah.
        The militant group has been armed and trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps for nearly 40 years, giving Tehran a presence on Israel's border and the Mediterranean. Since 2015 it has deployed fighters to support Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime. Hizbullah has long been Iran's most successful and important foreign asset.
        A central goal of U.S. sanctions is to force Iran into reining in its regional policy. But analysts report no meaningful change. One Western diplomat said Iran was unlikely to restrict support to its overseas allies because the relatively small investments pay off so handsomely for Tehran in terms of regional influence. Amal Saad, an academic at the Lebanese University in Beirut, said, "No one is pretending [sanctions] don't have an impact. [But] nobody's been laid off."  (Financial Times-UK)

  • When I started to work together with Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin on ways to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in the early 1980s, the first thing we did was to speak to Palestinian leaders, businessmen, and journalists. One of our first questions was whether Israel should simply withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. The answer we got was devastating. "We Palestinians will first kill each other, and then we will start to kill you."
  • Israel has repeatedly offered ways and means to establish a prosperous State of Palestine, living in good neighborly relations beside Israel. Alas, internal Palestinian divisions, conflicting external influences, and the conviction that Israel is not here to stay have prevented the establishment of a state of their own.
  • In Shimon Peres' memoir, Battling for Peace, he expressed Israeli fears, writing: "In our view, a Palestinian state, though demilitarized at first, would over time inevitably strive to build up a military strength of its own, and the international community, depending upon massive Second and Third World support at the United Nations, would do nothing to stop it. That army, eventually, would be deployed at the very gates of Jerusalem and down the entire, narrow length of Israel. It would pose a constant threat to our security and to the peace and stability of the region."
  • In October 1993, Yassir Arafat's brother, Dr. Fathi Arafat, suggested the building of working committees for "people-to-people" activities, aiming to lay the foundations of good neighborly relations. Joint teams worked for 14 months on a wide range of programs. Then the PLO decided on an "anti-normalization" strategy that meant that any Palestinian who cooperated with Israelis would be castigated. The major message understood by Israeli society was that good neighborly relations were not part of the deal, even if this would undermine Palestinian well-being and prosperity.
  • In October 1995, a small group of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators prepared what is known as the Beilin-Abu Mazen Understanding, which was a blueprint for a Permanent Status Agreement. In the summer of 2000, Abu Mazen (Mohammad Abbas) publicly withdrew his consent. When we phoned him, he answered in his own voice, telling us that he was not at home.

    The writer was one of the two original architects of the Oslo accords.