June 17, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. to Hold Off on Political Part of Peace Plan until November - Kylie Atwood (CNN)
    The U.S. is planning to hold off releasing the political portion of its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan until after the Israeli elections and after Israel forms a new government, according to two sources familiar with administration thinking.

Tehran Billboard Depicts U.S. and Israeli Ships Being Destroyed - Terri-Ann Williams (Daily Mail-UK)
    A billboard displayed in Tehran broadcast a video of U.S. and Israeli ships being destroyed, just days before an attack took place on Gulf tankers.

Hamas Huddles with Iran in Damascus (Hamodia)
    Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Aruri, its Lebanon representative Ahmed Abdul Hadi, and its foreign relations chief Osama Hamdan met with Iran's Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi at Tehran's Embassy in Damascus on Friday, Asharq Al-Awsat and Iranian media reported.

Bipartisan Congressional Letter Urges Germany's Merkel to Designate Hizbullah as Terrorist Group - Ron Kampeas (JTA)
    Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, calling on Germany to designate Hizbullah as a terrorist group.
    They expressed concern over the failure earlier this month by the German Bundestag to extend a ban on Hizbullah's military wing to its civilian arm.
    "We believe that taking the step to designate the political wing of Hizbullah will have a significant impact on Hizbullah's activity in Europe and around the globe," the letter said.

Stolen Torah Scrolls Found in Palestinian Sheep Pen (Jewish Voice)
    Four Torah scrolls stolen from a synagogue in Bnei Brak last week were found inside a sheep pen in the Palestinian village of Akraba in the West Bank. Five suspects were arrested.

Israel Air Force to Welcome First Druze Pilot - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Later this month, G., a resident of the Galilee, is expected to receive his helicopter pilot wings and become the first Druze pilot in the Israel Air Force.
    G. said he preferred flying helicopters to fighter jets because they fly closer to the ground.
    Three other Druze airmen already serve as navigators.

Palestinian Engineers Poised for Riches from Israeli Tech Firm's Takeover - Rami Ayyub and Tova Cohen (Reuters)
    Palestinian engineers working for Israeli chip designer Mellanox Technologies are poised to share a $3.5 million payout when the company's takeover by U.S. chip supplier Nvidia Corp. is completed.
    Mellanox offered stock options to more than 100 Palestinian engineers in the West Bank and Gaza when it hired them as contractors.
    The Palestinian designers and coders will now be able to exercise those options after the takeover - worth an estimated $30-40,000 per employee.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Says It Will Break Uranium Stockpile Limit in 10 Days - Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell
    Iran will break the uranium stockpile limit set by Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Monday. He acknowledged that the country already quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium. (NBC News)
  • Egypt in $500 Million Settlement with Israel Electric Corp.
    Egypt has signed a $500 million settlement with the Israel Electric Corp. over a defunct natural gas deal, Egyptian energy companies said Sunday. Egypt will pay the amount over 8 1/2 years in exchange for the Israeli company dropping all other claims resulting from a 2015 arbitration decision. The International Chamber of Commerce ordered Egypt to pay Israel Electric $1.8 billion in compensation after a deal to export gas to Israel via pipeline collapsed in 2012 after attacks by insurgents in the Sinai peninsula.
        Israel's Delek Drilling and its partner Noble Energy signed a $15 billion deal last year to export natural gas from Israeli offshore fields to Egypt and hope to begin commercial sales of natural gas to Egypt by the end of this month. (Reuters)
  • Berlin Jewish Museum Director Resigns over Tweet Supporting Israel Boycott
    Berlin's Jewish Museum said its director, Peter Schafer, had resigned Friday. The museum was denounced last week when its Twitter account linked to a news article about Israeli academics who condemned a German parliament resolution that called the pro-Palestinian BDS movement "anti-Semitic." The museum was also criticized for the exhibition "Welcome to Jerusalem," which some said was biased in favor of the Palestinian point of view. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Gazans Launch Dozens of Arson Balloons into Israel on Friday as Thousands Riot at Border
    Palestinians launched dozens of arson balloons into Israel on Friday, causing at least 7 fires near Israeli border communities. Palestinian rioters along the border threw explosive devices at troops and briefly breached the fence in one spot before returning to Gaza. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Lays New Water Pipeline to Gaza, the Largest Yet
    Israel's national water company Mekorot has begun work on an upgraded pipeline to increase the flow of drinkable water to Gaza. There are three pipelines currently carrying fresh water from Israel into Gaza. In agreements with the Palestinians, Israel committed to transferring 10 million cubic meters of water each year to Gaza, but in practice transfers a bit more, 11.5 million cubic meters. The new pipeline will be the largest yet, and will run alongside one of the old pipes. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Establishes Golan Heights Town of "Trump Heights" - Herb Keinon
    Less than three months after President Donald Trump recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved the initiation of work on a new community in the northern Golan Heights called Ramat Trump (Trump Heights) near the existing community of Kela. A special cabinet meeting was held at the site, attended by U.S. Ambassador David Friedman.
        Friedman noted this has been done in Israel in the past when Kfar Truman, a moshav near Ben-Gurion Airport, was named after President Harry Truman in 1949. President Trump responded to the gesture on Twitter: "Thank you PM @Netanyahu and the State of Israel for this great honor!"  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Approves New Golan Heights Community of "Trump Heights" (Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Upsurge in Iranian Terrorism Anticipated - A. Savyon and Yigal Carmon
    In the past month, Iran has escalated its violent activity against Saudi Arabia and the UAE with the aim of bringing the U.S. into negotiations with it on Iran's terms, aimed at lifting U.S. sanctions. For the U.S., the aim of negotiations is completely different; it is demanding changes to the nuclear deal, a halt to Iran's subversive activity in the region, as well as limitations on Iran's development of its ballistic missile capability.
        The head of the Iranian judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, stated on June 3, 2019: "We see how America is begging to negotiate with Iran. This is further proof of the correct and clear-sighted position of [Supreme] Leader [Khamenei], who has said time and again: 'In the face of the excessive demands of the enemy, resistance is the only way for the Iranian nation to achieve victory.' Today America needs negotiations, and if we insist on our principled positions, the enemy will retreat."
        In light of the impasse, Iran is expected to escalate its violent activity. In a May 22, 2019, editorial, the regime-affiliated Kayhan daily called for destroying the Saudi regime. Indeed, the Houthi militia is continuing to attack Saudi targets. The policy of employing terror, directly or via proxies, in varying degrees of intensity in order to achieve diplomatic aims, is Iran's regular strategy. Yigal Carmon is president and founder of MEMRI, where A. Savyon is director of the Iran Media Project. (MEMRI)
  • Iran Faces Critical Problems in any Serious Military Conflict - Anthony Cordesman
    Iran faces critical problems in any serious conflict with the U.S., the Arab Gulf states, and Israel. Iran is a major military power by regional standards in terms of sheer numbers of men and weapons. However, the bulk of its forces are poorly equipped with major weapons systems that date back to the 1970s.
        Its air forces are a bit of a military museum. It is just beginning to modernize its surface-to-air defenses, and its long-range ballistic and cruise missile forces are just beginning to develop the levels of precision that can make them accurate enough to be lethal against high value targets. Its land forces are defensive and have limited ability to support long-range maneuver, while its major ships and submarines cannot survive a major clash with the U.S. Navy.
        Iran is also highly vulnerable. It cannot launch major attacks on the petroleum exports of its Arab neighbors without ending its own. Its neighbors may have vulnerable civil and military targets, but its own military forces, critical economic facilities, electricity grid, water supply, oil refineries, industrial facilities, and key food distribution systems are highly vulnerable. Iran will find it far harder to ride out any serious conflict than its neighbors.
        The writer, a former policy adviser to the U.S. Defense and State Departments, holds the Arleigh Burke chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. (The Hill)
  • Are the Palestinians Capable of Governing Themselves? - Matthew Brodsky
    When presidential adviser Jared Kushner was asked whether Palestinians are capable of governing themselves, he responded: "The hope is that over time they can become capable of governing." Kushner was right to express skepticism about the problem-plagued government operated by the Palestinian Authority. According to the latest poll by Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, 82% of Palestinians believe the PA is corrupt, and 60% want PA President Mahmoud Abbas to resign. Abbas is currently serving in the 15th year of a four-year-term. All this shows that good governance and institution-building have proven elusive to the Palestinian leadership.
        A December 2018 study released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that Palestinian leaders and institutions "do little policymaking, pursue no coherent ideology, express no compelling moral vision, are subject to no oversight, and inspire no collective enthusiasm." Nevertheless, the PA is one of the largest recipients of international aid in the world, with the donations reinforcing bad governance. The writer is a senior fellow at the Security Studies Group in Washington. (Fox News)

The Pirates of Tehran - Bret Stephens (New York Times)
  • On April 14, 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, a frigate, hit an Iranian naval mine while sailing in the Persian Gulf. The explosion injured 10 of her crew and nearly sank the ship. Four days later, the U.S. Navy destroyed half the Iranian fleet in a matter of hours. Iran did not molest the Navy or international shipping for many years thereafter. Now Iran's piratical regime is back yet again.
  • While Iran categorically denied responsibility for Thursday's attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the evidence against Iran is compelling. The U.S. Central Command noted that "a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan-class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft...in the vicinity of the M/T Altair," one of the damaged tankers.
  • Staging deniable attacks that fall just below the threshold of open warfare on the U.S. is an Iranian specialty. But it would require a large dose of self-deception to pretend that Iran isn't the likely culprit, or that its actions don't represent a major escalation. Firing on unarmed ships in international waters is a direct assault on the international order. To allow it to go unpunished isn't an option.
  • The U.S. should declare new rules of engagement to allow the Navy to engage and destroy Iranian ships or fast boats that harass or threaten any ship, military or commercial, operating in international waters. The world cannot tolerate freelance Somali pirates. Much less should it tolerate a pirate state seeking to hold the global economy hostage through multiplying acts of economic terrorism.
  • Nobody wants a war with Iran. But not wanting a war does not mean remaining supine in the face of its outrages. We sank Iran's navy before. Tehran should be put on notice that we are prepared and able to do it again.