August 9, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

House Majority Leader Hoyer: 90 Percent of Congress Stands with Israel - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    "90% of the U.S. Congress stands with Israel. And I think that should be taken by Israel, and Israel's supporters, as good news," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
    Hoyer is leading a delegation to Israel of over 40 Democratic congresspeople including 32 freshmen on a trip sponsored by an AIPAC-affiliated charity.
    He noted that an anti-BDS measure passed the House recently by a vote of 398-17. Only 16 of 239 House Democrats voted against it.
    A group of 30 Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), will arrive on a similar trip on Friday.
    The two delegations - over 15% of the House of Representatives - will hold a joint press conference on Sunday in Jerusalem.

Jewish Agency Brings Jews to Israel from Enemy States - Dan Lavie (Israel Hayom)
    Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog told Israel Hayom in an interview that his organization operates clandestinely, in potentially dangerous ways, in order to make sure Jews reach the Land of Israel.
    "Some of the olim (Jewish immigrants) we bring come from states that are considered enemies, and we cannot disclose their origin even after they arrive because we worry about their families," he said. "In some parts of the world, Jews are at a constant threat of being killed."
    Herzog said about 60 Jews arrived from enemy states over the past six months, saying that the covert methods the agency used to bring them to Israel would "send chills down your spine."

Hizbullah Financier Sentenced to Prison in U.S., Fined $50 Million (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Kassim Tajideen, 63, a Lebanese businessman designated by U.S. authorities as an important financial supporter of Hizbullah, has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to forfeit $50 million, the Justice Department said.
    Tajideen, 63, pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to launder money.
    He ran a vast business empire in Lebanon and Africa, and was extradited to the U.S. in March 2017 after his arrest in Morocco.

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Former SS Guard of Nazi Camp Goes on Trial in Germany - David Rising (AP)
    Bruno Dey, 92, a former SS private, will go on trial this fall in Germany on 5,230 counts of being an accessory to murder, accused of helping the Nazis' Stutthof concentration camp function and preventing prisoners from escaping, a Hamburg court said Thursday.
    When he was charged in April, prosecutors called him "a small wheel in the machinery of murder."
    More than 60,000 people were killed at the German Nazi camp built east of Danzig. Prisoners were killed by being given lethal injections of gasoline or phenol directly to their hearts, shot or starved.
    Others were forced outside in winter without clothes until they died of exposure, or put to death in a gas chamber.
    German authorities have been pursuing cases against former camp guards and others suspected of Nazi-era war crimes more vigorously in recent years, but have been finding prosecutions increasingly difficult due to the defendants' age.

Poland's Top Rabbi Slams Honors for Nazi Collaborators (AFP)
    Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich on Wednesday criticized plans by the government to honor a group of ultra-nationalist underground fighters accused of collaborating with the Nazis during World War II.
    He said he felt "insulted" by an invitation from the Polish veterans' affairs office to a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Swietokrzyska Brigade, to be held under the auspices of President Andrzej Duda.
    The Swietokrzyska Brigade was part of the National Armed Forces (NSZ) underground group. The brigade refused to join the Home Army (AK), the main Polish underground resistance that was allied with Poland's government in exile in London.
    "These (NSZ) anti-communists, they killed Germans, Russians and they killed Jews" who were Polish citizens, Schudrich told AFP.
    "There are so many other Polish heroes, we don't need to choose the ones who actually killed other Poles, and in this case, many of them of the Jewish religion," Schudrich said, dubbing the ceremonies "dangerous" historical revisionism.

Percentage of Israelis with College Degrees Soars - Diana Bletter (Jerusalem Post)
    In addition to Israel's well-established universities, there are more than 60 colleges offering more than 300 academic courses.
    Since 1975, the percentage of Israelis with college degrees has soared. According to an OECD study, Israel has the third-most college graduates per capita in the world. Almost half of Israel's adult population now has a bachelor's degree.
    Tuition in publicly-funded institutions is about $2,800 per year, while tuition at private colleges could run three times higher.

Israeli Researchers Find Flaw in Highly-Secure Industrial Computers - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    Cybersecurity researchers at Tel Aviv University and Haifa's Technion have discovered "critical vulnerabilities" in the Siemens S7, one of the world's most secure programmable logic controllers (PLCs), an industrial digital computer used to run manufacturing processes.
    The research was shared with Siemens, enabling the company to fix the vulnerabilities.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • China Might Escort Ships in Gulf under U.S. Coalition - Alexander Cornwell
    China might escort Chinese commercial vessels in Gulf waters under a U.S. proposal for a maritime coalition to secure oil shipping lanes following attacks on tankers, its envoy to the UAE Ni Jian said in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. "If there happens to be a very unsafe situation, we will consider having our navy escort our commercial vessels." "We are studying the U.S. proposal on Gulf escort arrangements," China's embassy later said.
        China, which has a military base in Djibouti, has participated in regional escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast as part of a UN anti-piracy mandate. (Reuters)
        See also U.S. Tells Commercial Vessels to Send Gulf Transit Plans in Advance - Sylvia Westall
    The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) on Wednesday told U.S.-flagged commercial vessels they should send transit plans in advance to American and British naval authorities if they intend to sail in Gulf waters. It warned they could face interference to their global positioning systems (GPS). MARAD advised crews to decline Iranian forces permission to board if the safety of the ship and crew would not be at risk. (Reuters)
  • Designated Chief of Iran Payments Channel Pulls Out at Last Moment - Tobias Buck and Michael Peel
    European efforts to launch a payments channel to facilitate trade with Iran suffered a setback on Thursday when the German former diplomat who was set to take over as the new chief of Instex was forced to pull out. The move by Bernd Erbel, 72, a former ambassador to Tehran, followed revelations in the German daily Bild of a recent YouTube interview in which he called Israel "more than ever an alien body" in the Middle East. He also described the fall of Saddam Hussein as the "greatest tragedy of the early 21st century."
        The sudden reversal of Erbel's appointment will do little to dispel skepticism that Instex is unlikely to have a big economic impact for Iran and is little more than a symbol of European resistance to the U.S. policy of "maximum pressure" on Tehran. Trade between the EU and Iran has fallen off dramatically as European companies shun the Islamic Republic for fear of provoking retaliation from the U.S. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Indirect Security Coordination between Israel and Hamas - Shlomi Eldar
    The Hamas unit dubbed the Restraining Force numbers several hundred armed men who serve as a type of border patrol. The unit is tasked with thwarting rocket attacks or terror attacks against Israeli targets by rogue organizations in Gaza that could embroil Hamas in a war it does not want.
        On Aug. 1, a Restraining Force member, Hani Abu-Salah, attacked IDF troops after infiltrating the border fence near the Kissufim crossing armed with a Kalashnikov and hand grenades. He wounded three Israeli soldiers before the troops shot him dead. The IDF issued a statement saying, "This was an independent action by a terrorist acting on his own" and it did not involve Hamas.
        An Israeli security source said Hamas told the Egyptians it would carry out an internal inspection of the Restraining Force to root out members with hidden agendas against Israel. Hamas has also conducted lectures for members of the Restraining Force to hone their instructions so that IDF snipers could not misidentify them as armed terrorists. Hamas also promised Egypt it would expand the unit to strengthen its capacity to ensure that the Gaza border protests do not veer out of control. (Al-Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Thousands Attend Funeral for Terror Victim Dvir Sorek
    Thousands of Israelis on Thursday evening attended the funeral for yeshiva student Dvir Sorek, 18, who was stabbed to death in a terror attack outside Migdal Oz in the West Bank where he studied. Yoav Sorek, Dvir's father, described his son as a "gift" that his family was privileged to enjoy for nearly 19 years. Sorek's grandfather, Rabbi Binyamin Herling, an educator and Holocaust survivor, was also killed in a terrorist attack in the West Bank in October 2000. (Times of Israel)
        See also Hamas and Islamic Jihad Praise "Heroic" Slaying of Israeli Student in West Bank - Adam Rasgon
    Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad heaped praise on the fatal knifing of Dvir Sorek, whose body was found in the West Bank Thursday. Hamas praised "our people's heroic fighters who carried out the heroic operation that killed a soldier in the occupation's army."  (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas Seeks to Orchestrate West Bank Terror Attacks, But Palestinians Are No Longer Standing in Line to Volunteer - Amos Harel
    Arik Brabbing, formerly head of the Jerusalem and West Bank district and also head of cyber operations in the Israel Security Agency, told Ha'aretz that the "traditional threat of organized terror remains. A large number of these attacks are planned and funded from Gaza, mostly by people who were deported in the Shalit deal, who are acting there through a body called the West Bank Command."
        "The West Bank Command people have integrated in recent years into the military wing of Hamas in Gaza and have learned from its people new, more military methods of action....Iran is also involved in inculcating professional knowledge."
        However, "the activists in Gaza have difficulty recruiting many people in the West Bank who are willing to endanger themselves by planning major terror attacks or committing suicide attacks themselves. A change has taken place on the ground since the end of the intifada. People are no longer standing in line to volunteer."
        The only time in recent years in which a Hamas terror attack plan was relatively successful was in April 2016 when the operative who was riding the number 14 bus in Jerusalem with a bomb was killed, and a number of Israeli civilians were wounded. In retrospect, it turns out that the operative was fiddling with the detonator and had not intended to commit suicide. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Israel Wants to Stop Iranian Militias from Getting Too Close - Richard Spencer
    It is now almost certain that Israeli jets bombed Iraq twice last month, for the first time since its air force destroyed Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. The strikes targeted bases occupied by Iran-backed Shia militias and were said to be storing medium-range missiles in refrigeration trucks. The Iranian medium-range missiles said to have been moved into Iraq have ranges that can reach Tel Aviv.
        A former director of strategic planning in the Israel Defense Forces, Brig.-Gen. Assaf Orion, wrote in May that his former colleagues believed Iranian rockets were going to Iraqi militias. "It is accepted that militias have developed a line of communication and control to Iran...allowing them to import missiles and equipment without [Iraqi] government approval or knowledge," he wrote. He told The Times that he had no confirmation that Israel was behind the attacks, but added: "If Iran is trying to build it, then Israel is probably trying to nip it."
        U.S. officials have indicated they knew of the attack in advance, which would in any case be necessary since the U.S. controls the airspace. (The Times-UK)
  • Israel's Strategic Goal in Syria - Yaakov Lappin
    Long before the U.S. began its policy of maximum economic pressure on Iran, Israel had been applying its own policy of maximum prevention in Syria. Media reports describe a widespread wave of Israeli strikes on Iranian axis targets across Syria, hitting Iranian and Hizbullah weapons sites as well as development, storage, and transfer facilities, some embedded in Syrian regime military bases. Using advanced intelligence coupled with precision firepower, Israel has prioritized the objective of disrupting the construction of an Iranian war machine in Syria.
        Israel has also acted to prevent Iran from using Syria as a transit and production zone for advanced weapons, such as guided missiles, for the benefit of Hizbullah in Lebanon. This effort involves tracking flights, weapons factories, suspicious ground convoys, and an array of Iranian weapons production and smuggling activities throughout the Middle East.
        The reports of Israeli strikes represent the tip of a very large iceberg. For every reported preventive action by Israel, there are many more that go unreported. Israel is determined not to allow Iran to build offensive drone bases, missile factories, and proxy terror networks in Syria. The writer is a research associate at the BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • In Gulf Tanker Crisis, Iran Tries to Avoid Alienating Allies - Benoit Faucon
    Iran's disruptions of Persian Gulf oil shipments risk irritating their few remaining allies. Tehran captured two UK-connected vessels in the Persian Gulf on July 19, but dozens of crew members aboard the seized ships have been Indian and one of the ships seized was chartered by China.
        When Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boarded the Liberian-flagged Mesdar on July 19 as it headed to Saudi Arabia to load crude, Iranian state media identified the vessel as British because it is managed by Glasgow-based operator Norbulk Shipping UK. But as Iranian forces began forcing the vessel into its waters, Iran received urgent calls from the vessel's real owner: Algeria - which obtained the ship's release within just over an hour. Even more awkward for Iran was that the tanker had been contracted to carry oil for China.
        Most oil-laden tankers in the Persian Gulf are ultimately bound for ports in Asian nations - countries that have trade ties with Iran - and it is largely the citizens of those nations who staff vessels. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Palestinians

  • How a Top Palestinian Lawyer Became a Terrorist - Ravit Hecht and Josh Breiner
    Tarek Barghout, 44, was one of the best known lawyers who represent Palestinians on trial in Israel. Judges knew him, military prosecutors joked with him. But what his colleagues and acquaintances didn't know is that for the past two years Barghout has perpetrated terrorist acts in the West Bank. At one point he found himself representing Palestinians who were charged with carrying out an act of terrorism that he himself had perpetrated.
        Lt.-Col. (res.) Morris Hirsch, former chief military prosecutor in the West Bank, who knows Barghout well, said, "The feeling was that Tarek was not only defending his clients but that he identified totally with their acts of terrorism. I saw in him passion and genuine support for terrorism. It was expressed in conversations in the corridor, in meetings we held, in the hearings. He absolutely gave backing to actions against Israel."
        According to his indictment, in October 2016 he received an M-16 rifle with a tripod and scopes. A month later, after scouting two checkpoints, he set out at 2 a.m. with the rifle and fired 13 shots at two police jeeps. Subsequently, he carried out three more attacks on his own, two of which the security authorities didn't know about until his confession.
        In 2018, he decided to involve his old friend Zakaria Zubeidi, former head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in Jenin. From November to January 2019 they opened fire at least three times on Israeli buses. In the last shooting, two bullets struck the bus windshield and it crashed into an electricity pole, wounding the Palestinian driver, Mustafa Abu Elohah.
        The two were arrested on February 26. They at first denied the suspicions against them, but, according to sources knowledgeable about the interrogation, Zubeidi, presented with a range of evidence, confessed. On March 23, Barghout was taken to a hill above the Israeli community of Beit El, from which he could watch as Zubeidi reenacted their activities for the interrogators. This is when Barghout broke. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Has Held Hostage the Bodies of 2 Israeli Soldiers for 5 Years. Enough Is Enough. - Arsen Ostrovsky
    On Aug. 1, 2014, hours after a humanitarian cease-fire went into effect, Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel in Gaza, ambushed an Israel Defense Forces unit, and killed Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23. Hamas took his body and has been holding it hostage in Gaza, treating it as a bargaining chip. Hamas is also keeping the remains of another Israeli soldier killed in the 2014 Gaza war, Oron Shaul, 20. To this day, Hamas refuses to grant the International Committee of the Red Cross access to their remains.
        Holding the bodies of soldiers killed in action and refusing their return to their next of kin for burial is a flagrant and indisputable violation of the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law. The bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul must be returned to Israel for proper burial immediately, unconditionally and without reservation.
        Last week, the parents of Hadar Goldin met in Berlin with the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, who called for the immediate repatriation of Goldin's body while urging those who fund UN Palestinian programs to "demand action." In April 2018, the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Hamas to return to Israel the remains of Goldin and Shaul (as well as the civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed). (JTA)

  • Weekend Features

  • Photos - The Forgotten Discovery: A First Temple-Era Water Reservoir near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Nadav Shragai
    In 2012, during the cleaning of the Herodian drainage channels (under the Herodian Pilgrims' Road) which stretch from the Shiloah Pool to the southern wall of the Temple Mount, an underground reservoir dating back to the First Temple was discovered. One of the workers noticed that one of the floor panels of the drainage channel was wobbling. A closer examination revealed a large empty void underneath.
        When the archaeologists descended with a ladder, they found themselves inside a large public reservoir chiseled into the rock, which was much larger than any regular water cistern. The reservoir was sealed with brown-yellow plaster characteristic of the First Temple period. Many reservoirs in Jerusalem were discovered from the Second Temple period, but none from First Temple days had previously been found.
        I visited the reservoir recently. It is 4.5 meters high, 5.5 meters wide, and 12 meters in length, with a capacity of about 250 cubic meters. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center and a veteran journalist, has documented Jerusalem for thirty years. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • IDF Drills for Quicker Battlefield Evacuations - Anna Ahronheim
    Last week, the IDF completed a four-day drill with scenarios including maritime attacks by terrorist groups from Gaza, the evacuation of wounded soldiers, and attacks on civilian border communities. As part of the drill, medical officers and troops practiced the evacuation of wounded soldiers from the battlefield deep inside enemy territory. With 83% of soldiers dying within an hour of being wounded due to blood loss, the IDF is trying to improve the medical evacuation procedure of injured soldiers during war.
        A new company called Palmar will be responsible for the evacuation of the wounded. It includes eight ambulances, each with three or four paramedics who will treat and evacuate wounded soldiers from inside enemy territory, allowing the front-line medical team to stay with the remaining troops fighting the enemy. The IDF has also begun training nurses to join doctors and paramedics providing medical care behind enemy lines. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Israel and the U.S. maintain that there won't be any significant progress in the peace negotiations unless we make a major effort to change the Palestinian narrative, since it is the main obstacle to a final status agreement.
  • According to this narrative, there is no Jewish nation and there was no Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, and therefore there is no justification for the existence of a Jewish nation-state in the region where the only native people are the Palestinians.
  • Absent the possibility of advancing a peace process, moves may be expected to apply Israeli law on the Jewish communities in the West Bank. (The Americans are not making any effort to counter the impression that they would accept such a move.)
  • While some have called such a move "annexation," this is misleading. There is a significant legal difference between applying laws and annexation. Applying Israeli law won't change the situation on the ground and will grant the Jewish communities the status enjoyed by Israeli communities within the 1967 lines and in Jerusalem. It does not change the basic idea embodied in the Oslo Accords that this is disputed territory awaiting negotiations to determine its final status.
  • The vast majority of the Israeli public does not support annexation and Israel has no intention of annexing areas densely populated by Palestinians or applying Israeli law on them.

    The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division and director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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