July 30, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Redeploying in Syria, Transferring Soldiers to Lebanese Border (MEMRI)
    In recent weeks, Lebanese news websites that oppose Hizbullah have reported that the organization is redeploying its forces in Syria and moving them to the Syria-Lebanon border.
    The websites claim that among the reasons are instructions from Russia to withdraw from certain areas to avoid an Israeli attack; the fact that a Hizbullah presence is no longer necessary in view of the stronger Syrian army and the defeat of the rebels; and the need to reduce the expenses incurred by its presence in Syria, in view of the American intensification of sanctions against Hizbullah during the past year.
    See also Report: Blast at Hizbullah Command Center near Damascus - Netta Bar (Israel Hayom)
    Media outlets affiliated with rebel groups in Syria on Monday published photos showing smoke rising from an attacked Hizbullah command center in Yabrud, north of Damascus.

In Iran, Billions of Dollars Keep Vanishing - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    The Iranian minister of health and medical education, Saeed Namaki, claims that more than $1.3 billion earmarked for the import of medical equipment has "disappeared."
    He alleges that there is an entire network engaged in the theft of government funds and the price of corruption in the medical sector is about $2.3 billion.
    Another affair involves the disappearance of $3.5 billion from an Education Ministry employee pension fund, which led to a major cut in monthly pension payments.

PA Tax Money Used to Pay Palestinian Authority's Electric Bill (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Palestinians buy 90% of their electricity from Israel's Electric Company.
    To pay back debts accumulated by the Palestinian Authority, the Israel Finance Ministry has approved the payment of $141 million to the Electric Company from Palestinian tax money collected by Israel, the Hebrew economic newspaper The Marker reported on Sunday.
    Two weeks ago, the Israeli Supreme Court banned the Israel Electric Company from cutting off electricity to the Palestinian areas it supplies for lack of payment. The Israel Finance Ministry acted in light of this decision.

Canadian Court Rules that West Bank Wines Are Not "Product of Israel" - Sean Fine (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    Canadian Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish ruled on Monday that wines made in Jewish communities in the West Bank should not be labeled "Product of Israel."
    The ruling contradicted the Canadian government position that consumer-protection laws were not intended to provide information on sensitive geopolitical issues.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Report: Israel Strikes Iranian Targets in Iraq
    Israeli planes have struck Iranian-linked targets in Iraq twice in ten days, Western diplomatic sources said. An Israeli F-35 struck a rocket depot at a Shiite militia base on July 19. Iraq's military said at the time that the strike was carried out by a drone.
        The sources also said that Israel on Sunday struck a ballistic missile shipment that had recently arrived from Iran at a base 40 km. northeast of Baghdad and only 80 km. from the Iranian border. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • New Palestinian Poll Reveals "Wait And See" View of Trump Peace Plan - David Pollock
    A new poll by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion, taken June 27-July 19, shows that the majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza oppose their leaderships' preemptive rejection of the U.S. peace plan. Only 1/3 of Palestinians agree that "the PA should reject the plan now."
        The survey also found that 61% of West Bankers and 86% of Gazans agree that "Arab states should take a more active role in Palestinian-Israeli peacemaking." Last year, only about half of Palestinians agreed with that idea. 56% of West Bankers, but only 40% of Gazans support the PA's official boycott of the Trump Administration. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Senate Fails to Block Saudi Arms Sales - Catie Edmondson
    The Senate on Monday failed to override President Trump's veto of three measures that would have blocked arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Six Republican senators joined Democrats to try to block the arms deal resolution, the first of which was defeated by a vote of 45 to 40, the second by a vote of 45 to 39 and the third by a vote of 46 to 41. A 2/3 vote - 67 votes - is needed to override a veto. (Washington Post)
  • Hamas, Israel Agree on Gaza Hospital, Despite PA Opposition - Ahmed el-Komi
    As part of understandings reached in Egyptian-mediated talks between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza, a field hospital is to be set up near the Erez border crossing, using giant tents and equipment from the field hospital operating on the Syria-Israel border until Assad's forces retook the area.
        On July 8, the PA denounced the move, saying: "The hospital that Israel and the U.S. are seeking to establish on the northern border of the Gaza Strip is part of ongoing attempts to separate the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under humanitarian pretexts."  (Al-Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Envoy Urges Investigation of UNRWA after Internal Report Alleges Corruption
    U.S. Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt called for a full UN investigation into UNRWA, its agency for Palestinian refugees, after a report leaked Monday alleged widespread corruption. Greenblatt said in a tweet, "UNRWA's model is broken/unsustainable & based on an endless expanding # of beneficiaries. Palestinians residing in refugee camps deserve much better." Former UN envoy Nikki Haley added, "This is exactly why we stopped their funding."
        The report paints a picture of a small number of mostly foreign senior leaders centralizing power and influence while disregarding UN checks and balances. UNRWA's top official, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, is alleged to have been romantically involved with a colleague who was appointed in 2015 to a newly created role of senior adviser to the commissioner-general after an "extreme fast-track" process, the report says. (Times of Israel)
  • Iran's Media Spreads Anti-Baha'i, Anti-Israel Conspiracy - Seth J. Frantzman
    Iran's Fars news agency reported Monday that Baha'is are spying on Iran directed from "the main center of the sect in Israel." Iran's regime has a long record of suppressing Baha'is, including the execution or hanging of up to 200 members of the community since 1979. The Baha'i international community says that 710 Baha'is have been arrested in Iran since 2005.
        The founder of the Baha'i faith was exiled to Acre in the 19th century during Ottoman times and predates the foundation of Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Saudi Twitter Users Respond to Attack on Saudi Blogger at Al-Aqsa Mosque
    On July 22, Muhammad Sa'ud, a Saudi blogger, was attacked during a visit to Jerusalem. Many Saudis condemned the attackers on social media, while some expressed reservations about his visit to Israel. Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh, a columnist for Saudi Arabia's Al-Jazirah, tweeted: "Oh foolish and stupid Palestinians, if you allow yourselves to normalize relations with our despicable Persian enemy [Iran], why do you deny us the right to normalize [relations] with Israel, which has not fired a single shot at us?"
        'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Harbi tweeted: "Over 120,000 Palestinians work inside Israel....On Friday they...burn pictures of [Saudi] King Salman, and then...they go to work in Israel!" (MEMRI)
  • Dissatisfaction with Assad's Rule in Syria's Alawi Sect - Elizabeth Tsurkov
    "There is a small percentage of Alawis who benefited from the war, but the vast majority are poor and hungry," Loubna, 59, a teacher, told me. Loubna is an Alawi, the Syrian sect that dominates the top echelons of Syria's civilian and military leadership, including the ruling Assad dynasty.
        The Alawis are most commonly labeled as "loyalists" of the Assad regime, but interviews I have conducted remotely over the past several months reveal their deep dissatisfaction with the rule of the Assad government.
        The regime's heavy reliance on Alawis on the front-lines, coupled with the community's 10% share of Syria's pre-war population (numbering two million people), have resulted in disproportionate losses of the sect's young men. Loubna said: "The Alawi community is all widows and spinsters. There are no men anymore, and if there is, they're all broken and maimed. Everywhere you go you see graves, pictures of martyrs, and people dressed in black." Thousands of Alawi men emigrated to Lebanon and Europe to avoid serving in the army. (New York Review of Books)

What Unites Palestinians other than Hatred of Israel? - Aaron Kliegman (Washington Free Beacon)
  • PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has said numerous times that the Palestinians will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state. In other words, the Palestinian president explicitly rejects the foundation of a two-state solution: two states for two peoples, one Arab and one Jewish. Perhaps that is why the Palestinians have, for decades, repeatedly rejected offers of statehood. They seem to care more about hurting Israel than helping themselves.
  • Palestinian hatred toward Israel and Jews is at the core of the Palestinians' collective identity. Try to think of anything unique that defines a positive Palestinian nationality and distinguishes the Palestinians from the rest of the Arabs of the Middle East beyond opposition to Israel. Indeed, Palestinian national identity is based on seeking Israel's demise, rather than positive attributes of the Palestinian people.
  • Before 1948, Jewish residents in British Mandatory Palestine were called "Palestinians." The Arabs living in Palestine were called Arabs. No one called the Arabs living in Palestine at the time the Palestinian people, including the residents themselves. In fact, many were migrants, or descendants of migrants, who came from the surrounding Arab countries from the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century.
  • Between 1949 and 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank and Egypt occupied Gaza, the Palestinian Arabs did not seriously seek to create a Palestinian state and no one tried to do so because Palestinian nationalism did not really exist. Indeed, UN Resolution 242 after the 1967 Six-Day War did not mention "Palestine" or "Palestinians."
  • Later, a Palestinian people with a distinct nationality emerged, but as an opposition movement against Israel, offering no vision other than destroying Israel and replacing it. Palestinians need to question what Palestinian nationality really entails. They have created a national identity whose only clear pillar is blindly opposing Israel.
  • Yes, there are countless Palestinians who are kind, wonderful, talented, and deserve to live in dignity. And yes, the Palestinians should one day have their own, independent state, existing next to Israel in peace. But that will never happen if the collective identity that defines the Palestinians is only about the "evils" of Israel and not about the Palestinians themselves.