June 25, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Giving Orders to Syria's Army - and Using It to Spy on Israel - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Syrian President Assad's conquest of the border area with Israel last summer provided Hizbullah with an opportunity to once again attempt to establish infrastructure there to threaten Israel.
    Syrian army forces are now taking orders from Hizbullah and helping it spy on Israel.
    A "Southern Headquarters" operated by Hizbullah is currently operating in secret in Syrian territory.
    Some 20 lookout positions have been set up on the Syrian Golan Heights facing Israeli territory. Each outpost is manned by Syrian soldiers, often accompanied by Hizbullah forces.
    In addition, Hizbullah uses technology to listen in to communications on the Israeli side.
    Intelligence about Israel is sent to Hizbullah headquarters in Lebanon and/or to the Iranians.

Tehran Sets Up Terror Cells in Africa - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
    Iran is setting up a network of terror cells in Africa to attack U.S. and other Western targets, according to Western security officials.
    The new terror network has been established on the orders of Qassem Suleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, which is responsible for overseas operations.
    The Iranian cells are said to be active in Sudan, Chad, Ghana, Niger, Gambia and the Central African Republic.
    Some 300 militants have undergone rigorous training at Iranian-run camps in Syria and Iraq.

Illinois Woman Sentenced for Supporting Jihadists in Syria (ABC News-Chicago)
    An Illinois woman, Mediha Medy Salkicevic, 39, was sentenced last Tuesday to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for supporting terrorist fighters in Syria.
    Salkicevic was part of a group of Bosnian nationals who bought tactical gear and sent it overseas to ISIS fighters along with field supplies and cash.
    The Bosnian-Muslim jihadists operated a secret network aimed at underwriting terrorist militias - first aligned with al-Qaeda and later with ISIS.
    Salkicevic espoused the ISIS philosophy that infidels should be killed and once said that unbelievers should be buried alive.
    At first Salkicevic planned to fight the federal charges, claiming she was a lawful combatant involved in a legitimate war.

PA Stops Paying Its Electric Bill - Ahmad Melhem (Al-Monitor)
    Israel says the Palestinian government has stopped making payments to the Israel Electric Corp. for the electricity it receives.
    Israel is threatening to deduct the money from tax clearance funds it collects for the Palestinian Authority.
    Over the years the PA has accumulated a debt of $554 million to the IEC.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • New U.S. Sanctions Target Iran's Leadership - Nicole Gaouette
    President Donald Trump announced new sanctions against Iran on Monday, targeting Iran's Supreme Leader, military officials and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. "The supreme leader of Iran is the one who ultimately is responsible of the hostile conduct of the regime....His office oversees the regime's most brutal instruments including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," Trump said. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the new sanctions would "lock up literally billions of dollars of assets."  (CNN)
  • Erdogan's Ruling Party Loses Again in Istanbul Mayoral Re-run
    Turkey's ruling party has lost control of Istanbul after a re-run of the city's mayoral election on Sunday, as opposition party candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won 54% of the vote. President Erdogan congratulated the winner. The result shows that Erdogan made a miscalculation by calling for the election to be re-run. (BBC News)
        See also Consequences of Erdogan's Loss of Istanbul - Pinar Tremblay
    Turkish President Erdogan did not just lose Istanbul for the second time on June 23, he lost his image as undefeated. Istanbul's mayoral seat is where Erdogan started his political life. "Losing Istanbul means losing Turkey" is a slogan Erdogan repeated frequently. He is right. Erdogan lost two crucial groups: Islamist voters and Kurds. The writer is a visiting scholar of political science at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S., Russian and Israeli National Security Advisers Meet in Jerusalem
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a meeting in Jerusalem on Tuesday with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, the Secretary of the Russian National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, and Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat. The discussions are focusing on Iran and Syria. (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also The Trilateral Israel-U.S.-Russia Meeting: Motives and Ramifications - Zvi Magen
    Tuesday's meeting in Jerusalem of the national security advisers of the U.S., Russia, and Israel is an achievement for Israel's policy, which has succeeded in being a party to the superpowers' dialogue on the future of Syria and on Iranian intervention in that country. The very fact of the event upgrades Israel's status and the chance that it will be able to wield influence over a future accommodation in Syria.
        Lt.-Col. (ret.) Zvi Magen, a Senior Research Fellow at INSS who served in IDF Military Intelligence, is a former Israeli ambassador to Russia and Ukraine. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Israel Shuts Off Fuel Supplies to Gaza after Spate of Arson Attacks - Gadi Golan
    On Monday afternoon, explosives-laden balloons floated over the Israel-Gaza border and sparked eight wildfires in the space of an hour. In response, Israel announced Tuesday it was halting the transfer of fuel to Gaza's only power plant until further notice.
        A security coordinator for one of the Israeli communities said Sunday: "The balloon terrorism has become a major issue in the day-to-day lives of the residents of [these] communities. The ones who pay the heaviest price are the farmers, who see months of labor go up in flames in moments. Massive damage is also being caused to the fields and the crops, as well as to agricultural equipment."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Saudi Diplomat: Palestinians Must Shed Image of Victim - Dan Zaken
    A Saudi diplomat discussed the U.S. economic plan for the Palestinians in an interview with Globes: "We and other countries are willing to make enormous investments in this - amounts that the Palestinians never dreamed of getting. If this framework gets going, they will get real independence, good education, employment, a healthy economy, and won't be dependent on charity. It may be hard for them to relinquish the image of the eternal victim. Maybe they don't believe that they'll be able to get along without it."
        At the end of the conversation, the diplomat asked to send a message to Israelis: "This blood conflict has lasted too long. It's clear to us - the Saudi Arabians, all of the Persian Gulf countries, Egypt, and Jordan - that the era of warfare with Israel has ended, and that the advantages of normal relations are very great."  (Globes)
  • U.S. Middle East Plan Is a Refreshing Change - Jon Lerner
    Administration critics adopt the odd view that, although all past efforts have failed, we must never deviate from them. They are offended by alterations to old formulas, when the old formulas achieved no peace. The current administration does not feel tied down by the unsuccessful formulas of the past and is willing to openly challenge that conventional thinking.
        The Jerusalem decision is a prime example. The historic move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital was not a "free gift" to Prime Minister Netanyahu as critics claim. It brought to fruition longstanding U.S. policy as expressed by large, bipartisan congressional majorities, and it recognized reality. There has never been a peace agreement scenario under which Jerusalem would cease to be Israel's capital. So why go on with a charade that only served to encourage unrealistic Palestinian goals and was therefore harmful to peace prospects?
        The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, served as deputy to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley in 2017-18. (CNN)
  • No, Trump Doesn't Call Mideast Plan the "Deal of the Century"
    There is no record of President Trump calling his proposed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan the "deal of the century." On April 3, 2017, Trump met Egyptian President Sisi, who said he was fully supportive of Trump's attempts to find a "solution to the issue of the century with the deal of the century." In November 2017, the official Palestinian news agency labeled it the "Deal of the century," a phrase commonly used by Palestinian officials to attack the proposals.
        The phrase then started to seep into English-language reporting on the issue, with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, AFP and Reuters attributing the phrase to Trump. Yet there is no record of the president or any of his senior officials working on the issue publicly using the phrase. U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said, "It's not a label we prefer to use. It has been used in a derogatory way by some media outlets and others."  (AFP)

  • When the New York Times gave the Democratic presidential candidates a chance to answer 18 policy questions, the only one that touched on the Middle East was: "Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?" That question summed up the anti-Israel bias of the newspaper.
  • Considering the scores of nations with egregious human-rights records and Israel's immediate proximity to many of them, it speaks volumes about the obsessive nature of the paper's prejudice that the only query it would ask about was the one country in the region that is a democracy and respects human rights.
  • Some of Israel's critics seem to see Israel's legitimacy as linked to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside it. Such a state is something that many Israelis would welcome, provided that it came in the context of a true peace that would end the conflict. But the overwhelming majority of Israelis - as evidenced by the way they have voted in the last several elections - understand that they have no credible partner for peace. And they reject repeating the colossal disaster in which their country withdrew from Gaza in 2005, which resulted in the creation of a terrorist state.
  • That's something that these critics don't acknowledge or understand. Instead, they think that the U.S. has the right to pressure Israel into making concessions to create a Palestinian state, regardless of the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly rejected peace offers that would have given them one long ago. At its core, their conception of the U.S.-Israel relationship is that of a great power and a client state that must do as it's told.
  • There is a vast imbalance in the relative power of the two countries, and Israel needs the support of its superpower ally. But the current president has no burning desire to "save Israel from itself." Nor is he convinced that he understands their security dilemmas better than they do.
  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has become the object of mainstream media scorn because he conceives of his position as one in which he is tasked with promoting better relations between the two countries, rather than acting as an imperial proconsul who is there to give orders to the Israelis.