July 26, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Growing Hizbullah Presence near Israel's Border Leads to Uptick in Israeli Responses - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The past week saw two attacks against Iranian proxies in southern Syria attributed to Israel. Israel has made it clear that it won't accept Hizbullah's growing presence in the Syrian Golan.
    Senior intelligence officers in the IDF Northern Command said that Hizbullah's Golan presence began last summer following the reconquering of the Syrian Golan by regime troops.
    The uptick in Israeli strikes is because "there has been increased Hizbullah presence," said David Daoud, a research analyst at United Against Nuclear Iran.
    "Hizbullah knows that Israel is watching," so they are using more local forces rather than sending brigades of Lebanese fighters to the area, said Phillip Smyth, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
    The retaking of the Syrian Golan by Assad also forced Israel to end its medical and humanitarian aid to thousands of Syrians living near the border.
    "Times have changed," said Smyth. "Not everyone has switched over, but if you're stuck in Syria and you have no options...and you can't run into Israel...you have to back the strongest horse." And that's Hizbullah.

Report: Six Iranians Killed in Syria in Airstrikes Attributed to Israel (AFP-i24News)
    Six Iranians and three pro-regime Syrian fighters were killed in reported Israeli missile strikes in southern Syria on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday.
    Israeli missiles targeted "military positions and intelligence facilities belonging to Iran and (pro-Iranian) militias" in the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.

Israeli Embassy in Finland Attacked for 15th Time in Past 18 Months - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    The Israeli embassy in Helsinki, Finland, has been targeted by far-right extremists and neo-Nazis on at least 15 occasions over the past year and a half, yet stopping the harassment doesn't seem to be a priority for the local authorities.
    The latest attack last weekend saw the glass in the embassy's front door shattered and swastikas and Hitler images plastered all over the building's entrance.
    The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "The Israeli Embassy in Helsinki expressed its disgust over the events to the Finnish authorities and demanded they act in full force to locate the culprits, bring them to justice and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future."

Israeli Energy Minister Meets Top Egyptian Officials in Cairo (Israel Hayom)
    Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz took part in a forum on natural gas in Cairo on Thursday, during which he met with regional counterparts and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
    Israel is to begin exporting gas to Egypt later this year.
    Steinitz told el-Sissi that the entire world needed to appreciate the Egyptian leader's contribution to stability in his country, which was vital to the region.

Why Oil Prices Are Unfazed by the Iranian Military Threat - Ellen R. Wald (Investing.com)
    Oil markets have essentially ignored threats in the Persian Gulf. Several factors are involved.
    Signs that the demand for oil will weaken in the future are mounting and are playing a crucial role in keeping oil prices depressed.
    Iran hasn't actually done anything (yet) that has impeded or threatened crude oil exports. None of the sabotaged tankers in June were carrying crude oil and the tanker seized by Iran this week was empty.
    U.S. oil production is a significant force and it is now exporting growing amounts of oil to customers to replace some Middle East oil.
    This is having a much more significant effect on prices than any event in the Persian Gulf.

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Hamas Dissolves Its Foreign Ministry in Gaza - Entsar Abu Jahal (Al Monitor)
    As part of a major governmental overhaul, Hamas in Gaza dissolved its Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 21.
    Yahya Moussa, a Palestinian Legislative Council member from Hamas, said that the ministry in Gaza has no representative or embassy in any country.
    "It was only natural to dissolve it as it has no tasks," he said.

Gaza Media Feel Economic Squeeze - Sarah Algherbawi (Electronic Intifada)
    Gaza's Al-Quds TV announced in February that it was shutting its doors, unable to service a $7 million debt. Its 50 employees, who didn't receive full salaries during 2018, became unemployed.
    The Al-Kitab TV channel closed in 2017. Both it and Al-Quds were affiliated with Hamas.
    Ma'an News - seen as close to Fatah - shuttered its offices in Gaza [and froze its English website] in May.
    Npaa Press, affiliated with Islamic Jihad, closed in January.
    The Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center has closed its physical office and slashed salaries for remaining employees by 50%.

Orthodox Jewish Woman to Head U.S. National Security Agency's Cybersecurity Directorate - Marcy Oster (JTA)
    Anne Neuberger of Baltimore, an assistant deputy director at the National Security Agency who has worked there for the past decade and helped establish the U.S. Cyber Command, has been tapped to head the NSA's new Cybersecurity Directorate.
    Neuberger, 43, also known as Chani, is an Orthodox Jewish woman originally from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park.

The IDF's Counter-Terror School - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF Counter-Terror School is divided into different sections according to specialization, including underground warfare, high-altitude warfare where troops known as "monkeys" rappel from rooftops or helicopters in order to neutralize threats and rescue hostages, sniping, robotics, and climbing, rappelling and rescue.

Israel Youth Basketball Team Wins European Title for Second Year (Times of Israel)
    Israel's national under-20 basketball team won the FIBA European Championships for a second year in a row on Sunday.

Israel Startup UVeye Raises $31 Million for Vehicle Scanning Platform - Ingrid Lunden (TechCrunch)
    Tel Aviv-based UVeye, which has raised $31 million in funding, has built a drive-through external scanner for vehicles to detect for anomalies.
    UVeye is already assessing the state of rental and used cars, and inspecting vehicles to diagnose mechanical or other problems.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iran Has Long History of Malign Behavior - Secretary of State Michael Pompeo interviewed by Kevin Cirilli
    Asked about Iran, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Thursday: "This seems like escalation because there's been stories in the news, but this is 40 years, 40 years of malign behavior. So whether it was seizing a British tanker that was in international waters or shooting down an American UAV that was also in international airspace, or assassination campaigns in Europe or trying to kill an ambassador here in the United States, Iran has this long history of malign behavior."
        Foreign Minister Zarif "gets to come here...and he speaks to the media, he talks to the American public, gets to put Iranian propaganda out into the American airwaves. I'd like a chance to go [to Iran] not to do propaganda, but speak the truth to the Iranian people about what it is their leadership has done and how it has harmed Iran."  (Bloomberg TV-U.S. State Department)
  • Nikki Haley Blasts UN Council for Condemning Israel's Record on Women's Rights - Benjamin Kerstein
    Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blasted the UN Economic and Social Council on Thursday for singling out Israel for alleged violations of women's rights in a 40-2 vote with 9 abstentions. Among the countries voting yes were some that are notorious for denying basic rights to women. "It is a total mockery of human rights to allow Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and Yemen to name Israel as the world's only violator of women's rights," Haley tweeted. (Algemeiner)
  • Instead of Thanks, Syrian Kurdish Militia, a U.S. Ally, Faces More Threats - David Ignatius
    The Syrian Kurdish militia has been a great partner for the U.S. and one of the extraordinary survival stories of the Middle East. Its commander, Gen. Mazloum Abdi, enumerates the sacrifices made by his group, the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the obliteration of the Islamic State in Syria: 11,000 of his fighters were killed, 24,000 were wounded, and many thousands of civilians perished or were driven from their homes. "That was the price we gave to defeat ISIS," Mazloum told me this week in Kobani. "The people here desire to have the fruit of the sacrifices they made."
        Turkish President Erdogan threatened this month to invade the Kurdish area, to crush what he claims is the Kurdish terrorist threat. Mazloum said he's ready to support a U.S. proposal for joint U.S.-Turkish patrols in northeast Syria - if it will forestall the Turkish attack. Mazloum warned that if Turkey does invade, "we will not keep the battle just in areas Turkey wants," but wage counterstrikes all along the 600-km. border between Turkey and Kurdish areas.
        Mazloum's forces have detained 12,000 Islamic State fighters who were captured when the caliphate was crushed. They include 2,500 foreign fighters, including about 1,000 Europeans, in addition to 3,000 Iraqis. If Turkey invades, he said, his fighters won't be able to guard the prisons - which means that thousands of potential terrorists could be loosed on the world. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian President Again Declares He Will End Security Coordination with Israel
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday, "We declare a cessation of all agreements signed with Israel, including security coordination." He has made similar statements in the past and not implemented them. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Will Abbas Preserve Security Coordination with Israel? - Shlomi Eldar
    In October 2018, the PLO Central Committee recommended that security coordination with Israel be severed. President Abbas was selected to head a committee tasked with ceasing security coordination, but cooperation never ended. Abbas hosted Israel Security Agency Director Nadav Argaman at his home in Ramallah and told him explicitly that if Israel implemented the law withholding funds to offset payments to terrorists, the PA would immediately sever all security coordination. But after Israel began implementing the law in February 2019, Abbas never made good on his threat.
        An Israeli security source discussed the "network of security coordination" with the PA. "The main thrust of the Israeli effort is to maintain the stability of the PA and to assist it in overcoming internal and external threats from Hamas and cells associated with the Islamic State. In return, they do everything they can to prevent attacks by individuals or groups that could get the Palestinian Authority into trouble with Israel." Even if Abbas announces that he is halting security coordination, past experience shows that there are words and then there are (different) actions. (Al-Monitor)
  • Attack on Saudi Blogger in Jerusalem Linked to Jordanian and Palestinian Incitement - Yoni Ben Menachem
    The attack Monday on Saudi blogger Mohammad Saud in the Old City of Jerusalem can be directly traced to Jordanian and Palestinian incitement against Saudi Arabia. The Muslim Waqf guards, who receive their salaries from Jordan, did nothing to prevent the attack. Make no mistake. The Saudi leadership is vindictive but patient. It will find the right time to settle its score with Jordan and the PA.
        Since talk of the U.S. peace plan began, Jordan has initiated a strong campaign of incitement on social media against the Saudi royal family - encouraged by bodies affiliated with the Jordanian monarchy. The Saudis are accused of seeking to undermine Jordan's special custodial status for Jerusalem's holy sites, as accorded in its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. Rumors were spread that under the U.S. plan, Saudi Arabia will be responsible for the entire Temple Mount.
        Saudi Arabia has suspended its financial support of Jordan. King Abdullah ordered Jordan to form closer ties with Qatar, Saudi Arabia's enemy. Only last week, Jordan and Qatar exchanged ambassadors after a two-year break. The writer is a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Iran across the Border: Israel's Pushback in Syria - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog
    Iran has embarked on a long-term strategic project to establish itself as the dominant power in the Middle East. Granted legitimacy and room to act by the 2015 nuclear deal, and emboldened by its success in helping turn the tide of war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Iran has since labored relentlessly to create a contiguous zone of direct influence and power projection toward the Mediterranean.
        These Iranian efforts have been based primarily on an active on-the-ground presence, influence over weakened and dependent governments in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, military infrastructure and sizable "legions" of armed sectarian proxies serving as its muscle in regional wars, and initiatives to expand its economic leverage and extract economic benefits.
        An important part of the Iranian strategy has been upgrading Hizbullah's capabilities by implementing an ambitious "precision project" designed to convert significant numbers of rockets into high-precision ones equipped with guidance systems. In the assessment of Israeli intelligence, the goal is to provide Hizbullah with an arsenal of at least 1,000 medium- and longer-range precise rockets with an error probability of up to ten meters.
        Since mid-2017, on three occasions, Iran has itself demonstrated its capabilities in this field by firing salvos of accurate rockets over several hundred kilometers at specific Islamic State and Iranian-Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq. While some of the missiles landed far afield, others hit their targets with relatively high accuracy. In addition, Iran has provided long-range accurate attack drone capabilities to Hizbullah.
        Israeli officials believe strongly that Israel's assertive military campaign played the major role in thwarting Iranian plans to turn Syria into a strong anti-Israel military front. The campaign, moreover, is believed to have effectively rolled back much of Iran's deployment in the Syrian theater. Yet Iran has by no means given up on its ambitions or decided to withdraw militarily from Syria, and it still commands considerable forces and capabilities in the country.
        The writer, a fellow of the Washington Institute, served as head of the IDF Strategic Planning Division and as senior military advisor and chief of staff to four Israeli ministers of defense. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iran Seeks to Win Over Shia Muslims in Indian-Controlled Kashmir - Abhinav Pandya
    Tehran is targeting the hearts and minds of 1.4 million Shia Muslims who make up 15% of the population in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Despite a history of Shia-Sunni friction, the Sunnis in Kashmir mostly followed a locally-rooted Sufi form of Islam, known as Kashmiriyat, that was particularly amenable to coexistence with diverse faiths and sects within Islam. Traditionally, Kashmir's Shias have been pro-India, but this has begun to change as the younger generation of Shias are far more vulnerable to Iranian indoctrination.
        It's easy to observe the rapid rise in Iranian influence over Shias in Kashmir. In a series of recent visits, I saw plenty of billboards celebrating Ayatollah Khomeini and there is a burgeoning following that venerates him. Mohsen Hojaji, the iconic Iranian Revolutionary Guards officer beheaded by ISIS, also drew a huge following among Kashmir's Shias. Streets in Shia areas are named after the Shia martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war.
        Every year a significant number of Kashmiri Shia scholars visit seminaries in Iran and Iraq to study Shia Islam in its heartland. Shia congregational halls, religious processions, demonstrations, conventions and rallies feature posters of Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hizbullah. A progressive scholar from the Shia community told me that an overwhelming majority of the community has adopted Khamenei's geopolitical outlook, which classifies the world into the oppressors, that traditionally included the U.S., UK, Israel and the West in general, and the oppressed, also known as the "axis of resistance."  (Ha'aretz)

  • Palestinians

  • The Myth of Hebron's Shuhada Street - Steve Frank
    Shuhada Street in Hebron in the West Bank, once the thriving market center of the city, was largely shut down for security reasons and in the Palestinian narrative has become a symbol of alleged Israeli apartheid. Visitors are not told of the long history of violence by Arabs against Jews in Hebron which resulted in the closure of the street.
        They are also not told that the commercial center of Hebron has moved less than a mile from Shuhada Street to Ein Sarah Street and has become a thriving market district, complete with an ultra-modern indoor nine-story mall and American fast-food franchises.
        It is a place where Jews (not just Israelis, but Jews from any country) are banned. I know because on my recent tour of the area our group was asked whether there were any Jews before we were allowed to continue into the area.
        While very few visitors are allowed to see more than Shuhada Street, Hebron is the most prosperous city in the PA, with 17,000 factories and workshops, four hospitals, three universities, and an indoor 4,000-seat basketball stadium.
        The real shame of Shuhada Street is not that a small number of Palestinians are prevented from going there but that the Israeli army is needed to prevent the 85 Jewish families who live nearby from being massacred. The real problem in Hebron from a Palestinian point of view is that it is the only city under Palestinian control that allows even a small number of Jews to reside there.
        The real apartheid in the West Bank lies with the Palestinians, who insist that any independent Palestinian state be judenrein (Jew-free), in sharp contrast to Israel where two million Arabs reside as full citizens and constitute 20% of the Israeli population. The writer, an attorney, retired after 30 years with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington. (JNS-Israel Hayom)
  • PA Prefers Financing Terrorists over Economic Prosperity - Sander Gerber and Dan Diker
    The PA has defiantly declared that it is more committed to financing terrorists and their families than to paving a path to economic prosperity for the Palestinian people, let alone signing a peace deal with Israel. The PA assigns 7% of its annual budget to fund terrorists and their families. By comparison, China allocates only 5.5% of its budget for all its military spending. The U.S. Congress, in passing the Taylor Force Act in 2018, determined that these Palestinian payments reward and incentivize terrorism.
        The PA has succeeded in devastating the Palestinian economy while enriching itself. One Palestinian businessman who defied death threats to attend the Bahrain economic conference said of the PA, "They don't want anyone to speak about their theft, their misdeeds, the money that they stole from the Palestinian people."
        Meanwhile, 30,000 Palestinians work in 14 Israeli industrial zones in Area C of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and earn three times what they would earn in the PA. That does not include bonuses, insurance, and benefits, and it's all protected and guaranteed by Israeli labor laws. The writers are fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • Anti-Semitism in Labour Disfigures British Politics - Editorial
    When Theresa May used one of her last prime ministerial appearances in the House of Commons to highlight the anti-Semitism that has gripped Jeremy Corbyn's opposition Labour party, she was echoing the views of 67 Labour peers who had just published an open letter accusing Corbyn of failing properly to act against this vile strain of racism. The letter, signed by nine former cabinet ministers, was just the latest in a series of protests.
        In spite of his protestations that he wants to stamp out anti-Semitism, former party officials have testified that the leader's own office has been instrumental in slowing and diluting the effort. The anti-Semitism that Mr. Corbyn treats as a minor blemish does not simply disfigure Labour, it feeds a dangerous upsurge in xenophobia. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Jews Remain Most Targeted Minority Group in Canada - David Lazarus
    Canadian Jews were the most targeted minority group for hate crimes in the country for the third straight year, Statistics Canada reported Monday, though the number of incidents dropped to 345 in 2018 from 360 in 2017. Hate crimes against blacks (283) and Muslims (174) saw more significant declines. (JTA)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Technology Promises to Revolutionize Bone Healing - Eytan Halon
    Israeli biotechnology company Bonus BioGroup has developed a unique technology to revolutionize bone healing. It has the world's first viable human bone graft manufacturing facility, where bone grafts are constructed outside the body from the patient's own live tissue. A new bone is grown in a laboratory bioreactor and then implanted back into the patient.
        "Because every patient gets his own tissue and own cells back, the safety profile of this kind of therapy is very high," said Dr. Shai Meretzki, president of Bonus BioGroup. "There is no immune reaction to the implant, never mind rejection....We see a very nice recovery and complete healing of the bone gap."
        For those with osteoporosis which involves large bone cavities instead of gaps, "to overcome this, we grow the bone in thousands of tiny particles and then we can just inject those particles into the cavity. The bone is filled with tens of millions of cells that keep growing, and become bigger and solid within 24 hours. Filling the cavity with injectable bone reduces a painful operation of 15 hours into a treatment of 10 minutes, and within two months, the bone is healthy, alive, viable and active again."
        "We take the hardest cases where people have already given up on them. They are all back on their feet or have full use of their hands. One patient, 13 months after he had a bone implant in his leg, completed the Ironman Triathlon."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Magen David Adom Conducts Emergency-Response Training in Milwaukee - Adam Hochron
    Following recent armed attacks against religious and public institutions in the U.S., Magen David Adom, Israel's national EMS service, conducted three days of terrorism- and emergency-response training for civilians sponsored by the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. The "First 7 Minutes" training course taught participants how to remain safe during a violent incident and how, in the immediate aftermath, to render critical first aid in the seven minutes it typically takes first responders to arrive. Much of the training is also applicable to other emergency situations, such as building collapses, fires and natural disasters.
        Because of the sheer number of terrorist incidents that Magen David Adom has seen in Israel, it has emerged as the most experienced mass-casualty-response organization in the world. While MDA has conducted terrorism-response seminars to first-responder professionals in the U.S., this is the first time it has offered training for civilians. The program will be rolled out across America to any community where institutions fear being targeted for attack.
        "Our decision to conduct this training...is about empowering people and providing them with the skills they need to better handle an attack, keep themselves and their loved ones safe, and help save lives should an attack occur. And we can think of few things more in keeping with the values of our community," said Moshe Katz, board chair of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. (JNS)
  • The Mufti's War Against the Jews - Sean Durns
    Amin al-Husseini, the one-time Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi collaborator, during World War II raised SS regiments in the Balkans, promoted the Reich's propaganda in the Arab world, toured death camps, and plotted the genocide of Middle Eastern Jewry. In a Nov. 28, 1941, meeting with Adolf Hitler, al-Husseini asked for "a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world."
        U.S. intelligence would later conclude that the 1936-39 Arab Revolt, in which Palestinians led by al-Husseini murdered rivals, Jews and British officials, "was able to continue only because of Nazi funding."
        At war's end, al-Husseini was considered a war criminal by Yugoslavia and implicated for his role in committing war crimes. Nonetheless, the French government, which briefly captured him, allowed him to network and regroup. After the Mufti fled to Egypt, he helped raise forces to attack the fledgling Jewish state during its War of Independence and plotted against Jordan's King Abdullah, whom he viewed as too willing to compromise with the Israeli government. His henchmen murdered the king in 1951. The writer is a senior research analyst for CAMERA. (JNS)
        See also Heinrich Himmler's Telegram to the Mufti of Jerusalem - Dr. Joel Fishman (Jewish Political Studies Review)
        See also Amin al-Husseini, the Nazis and the Holocaust - Prof. Jeffrey Herf (Jewish Political Studies Review)

  • The Palestinians have been systematically violating the Oslo II Accords with respect to Area C of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), where it was agreed that Israel would exercise full civil and security control. The Palestinians have been employing diverse tactics and strategies in an effort to take over parts of Area C and have established a designated government ministry to oversee these efforts. They employ a wide range of incentives to encourage Palestinians to settle in Area C, including tax exemptions, discounts for vehicle registration, and jobs for those who settle.
  • They engage in large-scale road building and paving projects, launch agricultural projects with the aim of taking over state land, initiate construction projects aimed at occupying lands, and have undertaken a public diplomacy campaign aimed at cementing the idea that Israeli control over Area C is illegitimate.
  • The process is simple: First, they build illegal structures in an area in which they have a particular interest. This is followed by extensive use of legal means to prevent or delay demolition, as they employ the media and public opinion to portray the demolition efforts as a violation of human rights.
  • International entities are intensively involved in "regional planning" for the Palestinians in Area C, including the EU, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Community Resilience and Development Program (CRDP), the British Department for International Development (DFID), the government of France, as well as many other governments and organizations.
  • The creeping takeover of Area C poses a danger to Israeli freedom of movement, including the free movement of Israeli security forces. Additionally, it threatens Israel's hold on the Jordan Valley as a buffer zone between it and Jordan.
  • The Oslo Accords determine that the fate of Area C will be decided exclusively in direct negotiations between the parties, the results of which cannot be foreseen in advance. Accordingly, Israel must thwart any Palestinian attempt to establish facts on the ground that would undermine the status granted these areas in the Oslo Accords.

    The writer served as adviser on settlement affairs under three Israeli defense ministers.
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