July 18, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. to Send 500 Troops to Saudi Arabia - Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen (CNN)
    Amid increasing tensions with Iran, the U.S. is preparing to send 500 troops to the Prince Sultan Air Base east of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, according to two U.S. defense officials.
    A small number of troops and support personnel are already on site. The U.S. hopes to be able to fly stealth F-22 jets from the base, according to officials.

U.S. House Votes to Block Arms Sales to Gulf Nations - Catie Edmondson (New York Times)
    The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to block the sale of billions of dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
    However, the measures, which already passed the Senate, are likely to face a presidential veto which is unlikely to be overridden by Congress.

Islamic Militants Behead Four People in Egypt's Sinai - Ashraf Sweilam (AP-Washington Post)
    Egyptian security officials say Islamic State militants attacked a group of people in Bir al-Abd in northern Sinai on Wednesday, beheading four and kidnapping a fifth.

Israel's Watergen Brings Clean Water to Flint, Michigan, Neighborhood - David Dimolfetta (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Watergen, which uses a dehumidification process to create water out of thin air, has placed a unit in the Greater Flint [Michigan] Holy Temple.
    In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency found dangerous levels of lead in the water at Flint residents' homes.

Israeli Electronic Migraine Relief Band Gains European Approval - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    The Relivion migraine system, an Israeli headband that transmits electrical signals and stops migraine pain, has been approved by the European Commission for pharmaceuticals.
    The brain neuromodulation device is geared toward helping individuals who suffer from a range of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, including migraine headaches.
    The band is connected to a cellphone application directed by the patient. It sends signals to the brain, creating "neuromodulation," which blocks the nerve signals that cause the pain.
    Over time, the system "learns" the optimal treatment for each specific patient.
    It is the first device of its kind considered safe for outpatient use.

Israeli High-Tech Companies Raise Record Amount in First Half of 2019 - Alan Rosenbaum (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli high-tech companies raised $3.9 billion in the first half of 2019, an all-time record.

Over Four Million Tourists Spent Nearly $6 Billion in Israel in 2018 (Calcalist)
    More than 4 million tourists visited Israel in 2018, spending $5.8 billion, the Israel Ministry of Tourism reported Sunday.
    77.5% of all tourists visited Jerusalem. 54.9% were Christian, 27.5% were Jewish, and 2.4% were Muslim.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Removes Turkey from F-35 Jet Fighter Program - Katie Rogers and Thomas Gibbons-Neff
    The White House informed Turkey on Wednesday that the U.S. would not sell it F-35 stealth fighter jets in retaliation for Turkey's purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. Turkey's order for more than 100 American-made jets would be canceled. "The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities," the White House said.
        Ellen M. Lord, the Defense Department's undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, said the decision would cost the U.S. $500-600 million. Some 900 mechanical parts for the aircraft - originally intended to be supplied by Turkey - will now be manufactured in the U.S. and other allied nations. (New York Times)
  • Arrest of French Academic in Iran Complicates Efforts to Save Nuclear Deal - Sune Engel Rasmussen
    Iran's judiciary confirmed Tuesday the arrest of French-Iranian scholar Fariba Adelkhah, one of France's leading experts on Iran. Her arrest complicates French President Emmanuel Macron's efforts to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal. Adelkhah, a researcher at Sciences Po political institute in Paris, joins a roster of American and European dual nationals arrested in Iran. Iran doesn't recognize dual citizenship and considers them Iranians. In the past it has used them as bargaining chips. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Syrian Rebels Say Russian Special Forces Deployed in Assault on Rebel Bastion - Suleiman Al-Khalidi
    Russia has sent special forces to fight alongside Syrian army troops in their two-month assault on the last opposition bastion in Idlib province in northwestern Syria, senior rebel commanders said. While Russian officers have been directing the operations from behind the front lines, this was the first time Moscow had sent ground troops onto the battlefield.
        Rebels said guided anti-tank missiles supplied by Turkey had made the Idlib battle costly for the Russians and their allies. They also said Iranian-backed Shi'ite forces were now entering the battlefield. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Foils Hamas Terror Funding Scheme
    Israeli security forces arrested three Hamas activists overnight Tuesday to thwart a terror financing scheme. Money was transferred by senior Hamas officials in Gaza to operatives in the West Bank through the Al-Haramain travel agency using independent money changers unconnected to official banking systems. The funds were used for terrorist activity in the West Bank and to pay the salaries of Hamas operatives. (i24News)
  • A New Palestinian Intifada in Lebanon - Pinhas Inbari
    Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have erupted in a new intifada: demanding integration in Lebanon. The trigger was Lebanese Ministry of Labor action against foreign laborers, including Palestinians, who, even after decades in Lebanon, are still considered guests and cannot receive work permits.
        The Lebanese don't want the one million Sunni Syrians, as well as many Palestinians from the Syrian camps, who flooded the country during the Syrian crisis. The Palestinians are signaling that they don't believe the PLO slogans of the right of return to Palestine and want to be absorbed into Lebanon. No refugee from Syria wants to go to Palestine; they all want to go to Turkey and beyond to Europe. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs correspondent, is an analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The West Bank Is Disputed Territory - Jason Greenblatt interviewed by Judy Woodruff
    U.S. Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt spoke with PBS in an interview broadcast Wednesday:
    Greenblatt: "I meet countless Palestinians here in the region....No matter how great the meeting goes...they always plead with me when I leave: 'Please do not tweet about our meeting. Please do not tell who you met with.' And I have to respect that. When they go home, they are afraid, and that's unfortunate."
    Q: What responsibility do the Israelis bear for the current state of affairs in the Middle East?
    Greenblatt: "I think that Israel is actually more the victim than the party that's responsible. From the moment of its formation, they were attacked multiple times. They continue to be attacked with terrorism. So I'm not sure I understand the premise of the question....I think Israel is doing the best that it possibly can under very challenging circumstances."
        "People speak about the West Bank - Judea and Samaria - as being occupied. I would argue that the land is disputed. It needs to be resolved in the context of direct negotiations between the parties. Calling it occupied territory does not help resolve the conflict."  (PBS)
  • Israel and the Gulf: Cautious Optimism - Dr. Nirit Ofir
    For the past two decades, Israel has not been considered totally off-limits by the Arab world. It started with a trickle of businesspeople who held dual citizenship going to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the early 2000s, Israeli experts teaching courses in Qatar, and Prof. Ron Rubin setting up a satellite campus of New York University in Abu Dhabi. Now Israel is openly heading toward formal relations with the Gulf.
        The upheavals of the past decade caused the ruling powers in many Muslim and Arab states to become aware that Israel is no longer the Zionist enemy that threatens to destroy the Arab world, but rather an oasis of calm in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are losing status, mostly because of the split in the PLO and the fact that the vast sums of money Gulf states have sent the Palestinian people are being wasted on illicit gifts for PA officials and terrorism. The writer is a research fellow at the University of Haifa's Ezri Center for Iran and the Gulf Studies. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Op-ed on Normalization with Israel Reprinted in Three Prominent Arab Newspapers - Neta Bar
    An op-ed by Middle East researcher Dr. Nirit Ofir, titled "Israel and the Gulf: Cautious Optimism," was translated from Hebrew into Arabic by the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Saudi Arabia's Al Arabiya, and Bahrain-based Al Ayam. (Israel Hayom)

The Strategic Clash between the U.S. and China, and Implications for Israel - Assaf Orion (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The U.S. has in recent years awoken to find itself surprised and angered by a "lost decade" in Middle East wars, during which it abandoned the stage to China and even assisted its rise. The past decade has also seen rapid growth in China-Israel ties, which have focused on promoting economic and trade relations, while sidestepping differences in political, security, and strategic spheres.
  • While for Israel, China poses a certain security risk, for the U.S., China is the primary threat to its national security: militarily, economically, technologically, strategically and ideologically. It is clear to all parties that defense exports from Israel to China, and even dual use items, are off limits.
  • According to media reports, official U.S. messages to Israel have focused on supervision of foreign investments, Chinese involvement in Haifa port, and bans on China's engagement in future communications infrastructure in Israel.
  • The Israeli government is busy formulating a response, seeking the right balance between economic and security considerations. Israeli policy sees the U.S. as its strategic ally, whereas China is an important trading partner. This means siding with the U.S. in every field necessary, while continuing development of relations with China in all fields possible.
  • Regarding Haifa port, it appears that the administration does not see the threat level as severe as that posed by the other issues, and that possible risks can be managed responsibly and mitigated without canceling the deal.

    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Assaf Orion served as head of the Strategic Division in the Planning Directorate in the IDF General Staff (2010-2015). He is currently directing the INSS research program on Israel-China.
          See also Israel's China Challenge - Dale Aluf (Times of Israel)
  • Until recently, Chinese investment in Israel's infrastructure and high technologies was viewed strictly through an economic lens. In 2015, Shanghai International Ports Group won a tender to operate the newly constructed container terminal at Haifa port for 25 years. Then in 2018, Americans started to ask questions about the potential implications of this move since Haifa is a port of call for the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
  • Understanding China is important, especially if Israel wishes to continue the benefits it enjoys from the relationship while at the same time mitigating the potential risks associated with dealing with Beijing.
  • Even the Philippines and Japan, both of which face tremendous strategic risks from China, do not take a hardline stance rejecting all Chinese involvement to preserve their sovereignty. Instead, they recognize that they can benefit from shared investment and resource exploitation agreements, while boundary delimitations are negotiated over a longer timeframe.
  • They understand that China is a global force that cannot be ignored or ostracized without unacceptably high economic cost, and that engagement with China must walk a middle road that includes security concerns.

    The writer is director of research and strategy at SIGNAL, Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership.