June 12, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Sanctions Syrian Businessman with Ties to Assad (Reuters)
    The U.S. on Tuesday sanctioned Syrian businessman Samer Foz and his family, who have close ties to President Bashar al-Assad and who have made millions by developing properties on land seized from those who have fled the Syrian war.
    "Samer Foz, his relatives, and his business empire have leveraged the atrocities of the Syrian conflict into a profit-generating enterprise," said Sigal Mandelker, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
    See also U.S. Sanctions on Assad Ally Seen as Message to Syria and Iran - Joyce Karam (National-Abu Dhabi)
    The U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Syrian mogul Samer Foz is a warning to others considering doing business with the Assad regime or Iran, U.S. officials say.

Far-Right Cell Planned to Target Annual Jewish Event in Paris - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    French television channel BFMTV reported Tuesday that a five-member far-right cell planned to target the annual dinner of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities.
    They also targeted a "house of worship," a police source told AFP. Muslim groups also were among the potential targets.
    See also France Smashes Neo-Nazi Cell over Plot Against Jews, Muslims (AFP-Al Arabiya)

Arab Wearing Kippa and Carrying Knives Stopped at Antwerp Synagogue - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    An Arab Iraqi man, 34, wearing a kippa and carrying several concealed knives, was intercepted by guards attempting to enter the Romi Goldmuntz synagogue in Antwerp on Monday during the holiday of Shavuot, the Joodse Actueel newspaper reported Tuesday.
    The guards approached the man with suspicion because they saw him arrive on a bicycle, a means of transportation that few observant Jews in Antwerp use on Jewish holidays.

German Jews Say Jewish Museum in Berlin Is "Out of Control" for BDS Support - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    "The Jewish Museum Berlin seems to be completely out of control" and the museum's management "has lost the trust of the Jewish community in Germany," the Central Council of Jews in Germany tweeted Tuesday after the museum endorsed an article in favor of reversing an anti-BDS resolution passed by the German parliament last month.
    On Sunday, Uwe Becker, commissioner of the Hessian federal state government for Jewish life and the fight against anti-Semitism, said, "This is not a Jewish but an anti-Jewish Museum." The museum has been viewed by critics over the years as a hotbed of anti-Israel activity.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Egypt, Jordan and Morocco to Attend U.S. Peace Plan Conference in Bahrain - Barak Ravid
    Egypt and Morocco have informed the White House they will attend the conference in Bahrain on June 25-26 at which the U.S. will launch the economic portion of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, officials tells me, after King Abdullah II announced Jordan would also attend. The Palestinians are boycotting the conference.
        King Abdullah said Tuesday that Jordan must attend every international meeting on the Palestinian issue. "We have to be in the room," he stressed. At the same time, he said he doesn't expect anything to happen this summer with the political part of the U.S. peace plan. (Axios)
  • Assad Survives Thanks to Iranian Oil - and Egyptian Consent - David Adesnik
    Aggressive U.S. sanctions have taken two million barrels a day of Iranian oil off the market without driving global prices upward. Tehran is also contending with a deep recession and 50% inflation. Sanctions have driven away paying customers for Iranian oil, so Tehran is employing part of its oil surplus to mitigate Syria's dire shortages. Five tankers of Iranian crude have arrived at the port of Baniyas since early May.
        All five tankers that reached Syria in May could be seen sailing north through the Suez Canal. The White House should press Cairo to stop any Syria-bound tankers from transiting the canal as a matter of sanctions compliance. The writer is director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hizbullah Positions Hit in Israeli Missile Strike on Syria
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Israel targeted Hizbullah positions in two locations in southern Syria on Wednesday. Missiles targeted Tel al-Hara, a hill near the Golan Heights border, where Hizbullah has radars and the Syrian regime has air defense batteries. Also targeted were barracks for the Lebanese Hizbullah fighters in the abandoned Syrian town of Quneitra. (AFP-Naharnet-Lebanon)
        See also Strike on Syria Observation Post Was a Long Time Coming - Ron Ben Yishai
    Tel al-Hara, which Syria claimed was attacked by Israel, is a 1.1 km.-high extinct volcano that towers over the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. It is the highest point in the region, permitting visual and electronic observation reaching far into Israeli territory. For decades, Tel al-Hara has served as an intelligence base for the Syrian army and other elements such as Iran and Russia, which operate there under Syria's patronage. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Arson Balloons Spark Seven Fires near Gaza Border - Judah Ari Gross
    On Tuesday, there were seven fires in Israel sparked by balloon-borne incendiary devices from Gaza. In response, Israel reduced the Gaza fishing zone from 10 nautical miles to 6. The permitted fishing zone had been extended to 15 miles last Tuesday as part of a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Difference between "Retaining" and "Annexing" Territory - Herb Keinon
    In his interview on Saturday with the New York Times, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was quoted as saying, "Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank." Friedman never uttered the word "annex," though the Times online headline read: "U.S. Ambassador Says Israel Has Right to Annex Parts of West Bank."
        According to Alan Baker - former legal adviser at the Israel Foreign Ministry who today serves as director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs - there is a difference between retaining territories and annexing territories. "You can retain territory without annexing it," Baker said. "That is what we did in the [Oslo Accords] interim agreement. We retained Area C [in the West Bank where Israeli has full civilian and security control], but we haven't annexed it, and we have not expanded Israeli law there."
        Retaining territory "can be done in agreement between the parties, or even in a unilateral way, until there is some positive outcome to negotiations over the permanent status of the territories. Israel has every right to retain whatever territories it feels it needs for its security."
        Between retaining territory and annexing it, there is another category: extending the country's law, jurisdiction and administration over territory. Israel took this path in 1981 when it enacted the Golan Heights Law. That law did not formally annex the strategic plateau, but it did extend Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration there.
        Baker said that Prime Minister Menachem Begin instructed Israel's Ambassador to the UN Yehuda Blum to write to the UN secretary-general saying that this move was being done "without prejudice to negotiations with Syria when Syria will decide they want to come negotiate on the location of a mutual bilateral border." Extending Israeli law, jurisdiction and administration over the Golan Heights in 1981 did not mean applying sovereignty or annexing it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The U.S. Accepts Israel's Territorial Rights - Amnon Lord
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman's remarks are not as dramatic as they seem. Friedman essentially said that the U.S. administration would no longer try to negotiate a settlement based on the 1967 lines and will recognize Israel's sovereignty in the settlement blocs or even its sovereignty on all settlements in Judea and Samaria, which comprise less than 5% of the territory.
        The entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River had been designated for Jewish settlement by international law as early as the 1920s through several international bodies, including the League of Nations. This right did not expire with the 1947 partition plan, and not with the founding of the State of Israel in 1948. (Israel Hayom)

What Did David Friedman Say that Was New? - Amb. Dore Gold (Ha'aretz)
  • It is hard to understand the outrage in Ha'aretz in response to U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, who voiced support for Israel retaining a portion of the West Bank. After all, historically, U.S. policy always left open this very possibility.
  • This was the heart of the debate between American President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Prime Minister Alexei Kosygin in 1967 over whether the draft resolution that was to become UN Security Council Resolution 242 should include the definitive article in the withdrawal clause requiring a withdrawal from "the territories," as Moscow required, or just a withdrawal "from territories," as Washington suggested.
  • The way Washington kept the door of territorial modifications open expressed itself in different ways. With the opening of the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, President George H.W. Bush spoke about there needing to be a "territorial compromise," but not a full withdrawal. In his 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon, President George W. Bush spoke about a full and complete return to the 1967 lines as being "unrealistic." Like President Clinton's Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, Bush declared that Israel had a right to "defensible borders."
  • The author of Ha'aretz's critique of Friedman tells readers that Israel has no legal rights to any of the territories it captured in 1967. The most important legal analysis of this question was written in 1970 by Stephen Schwebel, who would become the Legal Adviser to the Department of State and subsequently President of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Looking purely at the legal side, Schwebel wrote, "Israel has better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem, than do Jordan and Egypt."
  • By suggesting Israel had legal rights to retain some West Bank land, Friedman was not very far away from a traditional American view that appeared in previous public statements.
  • Israel's roots as our people's historical homeland are recognized in a chain of international documents, beginning with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and in the 1922 document instating the British Mandate - a legally binding treaty - which recognized the Jewish people's historical connection with their land. This documented recognition culminated in 1948, when the very opening sentence of Israel's Declaration of Independence duly noted the Land of Israel as the historical and spiritual birthplace of the Jewish people.

    The writer, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.