August 30, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

The Target in Beirut: Machinery for High-Grade Rocket Propellant (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The target of a drone strike in Beirut was a very special, eight-ton piece of machinery used for the production of solid fuel propellant for precision-guided missiles.
    The machine was manufactured in Iran and is used for its ballistic missile industry.
    Iran may also have succeeded in delivering similar equipment to the Houthis in Yemen, given the dramatic improvement in their capabilities to launch missiles at Saudi Arabia.
    Solid propellants improve missile range and payload capability. Iran has an interest to provide longer-range and sophisticated missiles to its allies in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon.
    Even within its own arsenal, Iran is making the switch from liquid fuel to solid-fueled weapons.

Israeli Strikes to Intensify Against Iranian Targets across Mideast - Arie Egozi (Breaking Defense)
    Israeli intelligence has been following missile shipments from Iran, watching Iranian operatives from the time they crossed the border and, at the right moment, attacked them.
    Cargo unloaded from Iranian planes that landed in Damascus, Syria, has been destroyed only minutes after leaving the airport.

Iranian Rocket Explodes on Launch Pad - Barbara Starr (CNN)
    An Iranian rocket exploded Thursday on the launch pad at the Khomeini Space Center in Iran, a U.S. official said.

U.S. Sanctions Lebanese Bank for Ties to Hizbullah (VOA News)
    The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned Lebanese Jammal Trust Bank for "brazenly enabling" the financial activities of Hizbullah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon.
    The bank is no longer allowed to deal with any U.S. citizen or institution.
    Treasury also targeted individuals in Oman who funnel cash from Iran's Quds Force to Hamas in Gaza.

UN Extends Lebanon Border Peacekeeping Mission (United Nations)
    The Security Council on Thursday extended the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) until 31 August 2020.
    The Council urged all parties to ensure that the freedom of movement of UNIFIL and the Force's access to the Blue Line in all its parts is fully respected and unimpeded, calling on the Government of Lebanon to facilitate the mission's access in line with Resolution 1701 (2006).

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Egypt Criticizes Its Judoka Who Refused to Shake Hands with Israeli Opponent - Itamar Katzir (Ha'aretz)
    The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has criticized an Egyptian judoka, Mohamed Abdelaal, for refusing to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent, Sagi Muki, who defeated the Egyptian in the semifinals of the World Judo Championships.
    The ministry issued a statement that "sports needs to be kept separate from politics."

Kentucky Governor Signs Bill to Block BDS Movement - Melissa Ratliff (LEX18-Lexington, Ky.)
    Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law Tuesday Senate Bill 143, which will allow Kentucky to refuse to do business with companies that boycott other countries with which Kentucky has open trade.
    The bill was supported by local Jewish leaders who say it will prevent openly anti-Semitic businesses from operating in the state.
    25 other states have passed similar legislation.

Israel Inaugurates Vast Negev Thermo-Solar Power Plant - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    The largest renewable energy project in Israel - a vast $1.13 billion thermo-solar power plant near Ashalim in the Negev - was inaugurated on Thursday.
    The 121-megawatt solar power facility will supply electricity to 70,000 households in Israel.
    The facility sits alongside two photovoltaic solar energy plants.
    Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said, "In the near future, we will terminate the use of coal and other polluting fuels in Israel altogether, and close the coal turbines in Hadera and later on in Ashkelon. It will be only natural gas and renewables, mainly solar systems."
    "When our parents arrived in Israel there was no milk and honey, there was just desert and swampland," said Naty Saidoff, controlling stakeholder of Shikun & Binui, one of the new plant's owners.
    "We dried the swamps, and now we took something that was arid and dry and turned it into a resource. Israel turned the saltwater into water, and the curse of the sun into a blessing."

Israeli Swim-Tech Company Aims to Make a Data Revolution - Brandi West (Swimming World)
    Israeli swim-tech company SenSwim applies AI and computer vision to enable coaches and swimmers to measure all important metrics.
    The Israeli national team will use the innovative technology in their daily workouts.
    SenSwim is the only system that offers a "video-only" approach that requires no wearable devices on the swimmers.
    It measures time, strokes, underwater dive and more, and displays results to the swimmers on a screen and to the coach on his/her phone or tablet.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Unveils Details of Iranian-Backed Missile Operation in Lebanon - James McAuley and Liz Sly
    Israel on Thursday accused Iran and Hizbullah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon, of pushing forward with an operation to produce precision-guided missiles on Lebanese soil. IDF Spokesman Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus said that Hizbullah "does not yet have an industrial capacity" to manufacture precision-guided missiles on a mass scale.
        "What we're doing is trying to...convey to the Iranians and perhaps most importantly, the Lebanese government, that it's time for them to understand their responsibility and the fact that what they're letting Hizbullah and Iran do on Lebanese soil is endangering Lebanese civilians."
        Israel named three members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and one Hizbullah operative as the key masterminds of the operation. The Hizbullah operative was identified as Fuad Shukr, wanted by the U.S. State Department for planning and carrying out a 1983 attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut that killed 241 service personnel. (Washington Post)
        See also Netanyahu to Iran and Hizbullah: "Watch Out" - Judah Ari Gross
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said exposing the details of the Iranian program to manufacture precision-guided missiles for Hizbullah was meant to send a signal to Israel's enemies. "We will not stand to the side and allow our enemies to acquire deadly weapons to use against us. This week, I already told our enemies to be careful with their actions. Now I am telling them: Dir balak." Netanyahu used an Arabic phrase meaning, "Watch out."
        Israeli officials have threatened a harsh response to any attacks by Hizbullah, both against the group and against the state of Lebanon, which Jerusalem sees as complicit in the terrorist militia's activities. "The Israeli response to an attack will be disproportionate," a senior officer told Israel's Channel 12. (Times of Israel)
        See also below Observations - U.S. Officials: We Fully Support Israel's Right to Self-Defense Against Iran's Regional Campaign of Violence (White House)
  • U.S. May Finally Recognize "Jerusalem, Israel" on U.S. Passports - Jackson Richman
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that the Trump administration is considering allowing U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list "Jerusalem, Israel" on their U.S. passports. "It's something that's actively being looked at," he told JNS.
        "It is long overdue that this is corrected," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "It is unfair to the Americans born in Jerusalem that their passports do not recognize the state [of Israel]. It does not prejudge or compromise the U.S. position; it compliments U.S. law that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel."  (JNS)
  • Syrian Army Makes Gains on Last Rebel Stronghold as Russia Brings Reinforcements - Suleiman Al-Khalidi
    Russia and the Syrian army stepped up aerial raids on northwest Syria as they bolster a major offensive against the last big rebel stronghold, opposition sources, army defectors and residents said on Friday. The Russian-led alliance took three towns in southern Idlib, pushing closer into densely populated parts of Idlib province where millions of people who fled fighting elsewhere in Syria have taken refuge.
        "There are daily reinforcements coming from the Iranian militias, elite [Syrian] Republican Guards units and Fourth Armored Division," Colonel Mustafa Bakour, a commander in the Jaish al Izza rebel group, told Reuters.
        Russian jets flying at high altitudes dropped bombs on the outskirts of Idlib city, the capital of the province. A relentless aerial campaign against civilian areas since April has knocked down dozens of hospitals, schools and civil defense centers and has paralyzed life in rebel-held areas. Over half a million civilians have been uprooted in the course of the offensive and the UN say hundreds have been killed. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Arrests Nine Islamic Jihad Members Connected to Gaza Bombings
    Hamas security personnel on Thursday apprehended nine people linked to the two suicide bombings in Gaza City on Tuesday that killed three policemen. Palestinian sources in Gaza told i24News Arabic that "all of them are from the Islamic Jihad from Shuja'iya." They include "a senior operator of the missile unit." A source said most of them subscribe to the ideology of the Islamic State and that "three other explosive belts were seized." Palestinian sources said Wednesday that the son of a leader of Islamic Jihad is believed to be behind the Gaza City attacks. (i24News)
  • Islamic Fatwa in Gaza Calls to End Independent Actions Against Israel - Amos Harel
    A fatwa issued by the Supreme Sharia Council in Gaza in mid-August, reflecting Hamas policy, prohibits individual armed operations in the name of Islam. Sharia law experts argue that the operations are not coordinated with Hamas and therefore expose them to Israeli retaliatory actions.
        The council ruled that a person who acts without authorization will not be accorded the status of shahid (martyr) after his death. Hence, the Hamas government will not provide economic aid for the families of those killed in such incidents. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • In Iran's Hierarchy, Talks with Trump Are Now Seen as Inevitable - Farnaz Fassihi
    In the power circles of Tehran, where "Death to America" is regularly chanted, the idea has taken hold that Iran must eventually negotiate with President Trump, according to several people with knowledge of the shift. They said Iran's leadership had concluded that Trump could be re-elected and that the country cannot withstand six more years of the onerous sanctions he has imposed. It is a remarkable turnabout for the political establishment in Tehran, which for the past 40 years has staked its legitimacy on defiance of the U.S.
        The Iranians intend to escalate tensions even more in the next few months to strengthen their hand in potential negotiations, people with knowledge of Iranian strategy said. "Iranians are in a deep economic crisis and there is only one way out," said Nader Hashemi, director of the Middle East Center at Denver University. "They are going to try to push for making the deal as sweet as possible."
        United Against Nuclear Iran warned, "The momentum created by maximum pressure could quickly evaporate should talks between the United States and Iran take place prematurely." While Ayatollah Khamenei has always railed against the U.S., he has in the past shown flexibility when all options were exhausted, if a compromise could be achieved with face-saving for Iran. (New York Times)
  • Israel's Campaign Against Iran and Its Proxies - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin and Assaf Orion
    The Iranian and Hizbullah precision-guided missile project is perceived by Israel as a grave threat to its security. After the prime minister presented pictures of the project sites at the UN General Assembly in September 2018, Hizbullah relocated them but continued trying to produce its own capability for launching broad strikes against sensitive sites in Israel. Efforts to improve precision were also apparently underway in Iraq.
        As thwarting the activity through diplomatic and other means fell short, Israel apparently decided to take offensive action, with the gravity of the threat justifying the increased risks of escalation. It is reasonable to assume that Israel does not perceive a high risk of war in the wake of the attacks because Hizbullah and Iran currently still prefer to avoid broad escalation.
        The timing of the strike in Syria apparently stemmed from the rate of progress in enemy operations. The strike in Beirut was apparently carried out within a limited window of opportunity, with the target being in a vulnerable temporary storage location prior to transfer to a protected site. It is possible that the close proximity in time and the similarity of tools (explosive drones) used in the strikes in Syria and Lebanon were mere coincidence.
        Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is director of the Institute for National Security Studies. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Assaf Orion served as head of the Strategic Division in the Planning Directorate in the IDF General Staff (2010-2015) and is currently a fellow at the INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • Other Issues

  • Palestinian Attacks Have Clear Religious Overtones - Nadav Shragai
    The stabbers at the Chain Gate to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the car-rammers near Elazar, the strangler on the Allenby Bridge, and the bombers at the Talmon spring all feed off the same religious source - the modern-day blood libel that "Al-Aqsa is in danger." This false story describes Israel as working to take down the Temple Mount mosques, a story preached at mosques, in media, in cartoons, and in speeches of both Hamas and PA leaders.
        Hundreds of attackers have taken action "to protect Al-Aqsa." The Palestinian public has been drinking it in for years. This is part of an ongoing "festival" of glorifying terrorism, jihad, and bloodshed against Jews, and its roots are religious. The battle against Israel and over Jerusalem is repeatedly described as "ribat" - a holy war to defend Islamic territory. That is how they truly see the conflict
        Israel is doing everything it can to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It even made an enormous, inconceivable concession by giving up the basic Jewish right of allowing Jews to pray on the Mount at Judaism's holiest site. (Israel Hayom)
        See also The "Al-Aqsa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • I Embrace My Israeli Arab Identity - Ali Adi
    The Arab citizens of Israel will admit that they prefer the Israeli government to an Arab one, even if from their comfortable positions at Israeli universities they prefer to call it "the occupation." My "Arabness," the language, the music, and the tradition, are an inseparable part of my identity, and I would like to be proud of and feel connected to them. But governments in the Arab world are tainted by corruption and tribal alliances.
        So I embrace my Israeli identity: I am an Israeli Arab because it's important to me to distinguish myself from the wider Arab culture. It's important to me to turn my back on what is happening in Syria and what happened in Lebanon and the story of Egypt's tragic fall. Because when I'm Israeli, I can feel proud sometimes.
        Recently, I have seen archived material about the First Lebanon War. Despite the fact that stories about a war don't exactly warm the heart, I am filled with pride to hear and see Lebanese residents, including Palestinian refugees, express faith in Israeli soldiers and ask them for protection from other actors in the civil war. The truth, which the entire Arab world already acknowledges, that the Israeli army is more humane and considerate than the Arab armies, fills me with pride.
        I am Israeli and these are my values. Valuing human life, liberty, dignity, and people's ability to support themselves are values that I would want to see expressed in my name, from Israel to the rest of the Middle East, and beyond it. We have an opportunity to build shared values with the Jews, ones that will make us stand out from the rest of the Arab world. We owe that to ourselves and should do so proudly, standing straight, with our heads held high. (Israel Hayom)
  • How to Visit Israel as a Muslim Woman - Raheel Raza
    Maybe U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib never really wanted to go to Israel but just wanted to create hysteria and garner attention. Omar and Tlaib made it a point in their press conference to point out that they were "Muslim." They also said they were going to work at "peace." Yet they have no qualms about slamming the entire country and therefore the entire people - all the time.
        As a Muslim woman who has been to Israel a dozen times, let me tell them how it's done. I fully support Israel's right to exist with Jerusalem as its capital and the right of the Jewish people to be free from orchestrated anti-Semitic attacks.
        In my travels to Israel, I go with an open mind and no pre-conceived notions. I'm well aware of the problems, and I've met and spoken to people from both sides of the equation. It always amazes me how critical Israelis can sometimes be about their own government, but this is what a democracy is all about. The writer is president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. (Jerusalem Post)
  • An Indian Perspective on the Prospects of Coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians - Sunil Kumar
    Coexistence is well-nigh impossible when the efforts undertaken to achieve it remain one-sided: coexistence cannot be a unilateral affair. The refusal on the part of Palestinians to condemn violence and cold-blooded murder of Jews attests to the fact that the call for coexistence is just a means of masking hatred of Israel and facilitating the process of gaining statehood.
        In addition, continued refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state by Islamic nations in general and the Palestinian Authority in particular solidify one's suspicion about the real motive of Palestinians. The writer is a research scholar at Central University of South Bihar, Gaya, India. (Jewish Political Studies Review)

  • Weekend Feature

  • 130 Israeli Children Battling Cancer Experience a Week in London - Brian Schrauger
    130 Israeli children fighting cancer along with 110 volunteer facilitators flew to London for a week's vacation, all expenses paid, by the Israeli nonprofit Zichron Menachem, which supports kids with cancer. Zichron Menachem also offers support groups for parents, an educational day center in Jerusalem, its own blood bank, custom wigs for kids who lose their hair during treatment, a hair donation service, psychological and social support, big brothers and sisters, weekly parties, and three annual adventure camps.
        Against the backdrop of the Thames, Parliament and Big Ben, every tourist's eye turned toward the Israeli kids with cancer wearing bright green T-shirts, chanting and chatting in Hebrew as they waited in the queue.
        Because many kids are still in treatment, Zichron Menachem brings along a hospital-quality portable clinic, including sophisticated technology tools and a team of oncology experts, including specialty physicians and nurses.
        As the week came to a close, Sira, 14, was exuberant. "I've had so much fun, I don't want to go home," she enthused. I asked her if, as an Arab Israeli who is Muslim, did she ever feel uncomfortable on the trip? Her first response was a perplexed look, then, answering with a grin, she said, "Of course not! None of that matters."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Happiness Heals: Bringing Joy and Support to Children with Cancer and Their Families in Israel (Zichron Menachem)

Senior administration officials told reporters via teleconference on Thursday:
  • "For the last 40 years, the [Iranian] regime has prioritized developing proxy militias that have their own long and bloody legacies to violence against civilians. Hamas has utterly ruined Gaza, isolating and impoverishing the Palestinian people living there, while Hamas uses the funds from Iran to support an endless cycle of violence against Israel."
  • "Hizbullah has systematically infiltrated Lebanese institutions. And the designation of the Jammal Trust Bank illustrates how they are trying to exploit the Lebanese financial system....All legitimate institutions should be extremely wary of any interactions with Hizbullah or its affiliates."
  • "The United States neither encourages nor discourages the Israeli attacks. The United States believes that the government of Israel has a right to defend itself from threatening activities throughout the region, wherever they may be."
  • "It's our position that Israel is only acting because of Iran's actions. If Iran was not pouring heavy weapons and fighters into Israel's neighbors with the express purpose of threatening Israel, I don't think Israel would be needing to take any of these actions. And we fully support Israel's right to self-defense, and denounce Iran's regional campaign of violence."
  • Q: "If Israel attacks targets in Iraq, what does the United States do when Israel's right to defend tramples over Iraq's sovereignty?"
    A: "I think that's actually an excellent question for the Iranians. Where is their respect for Iraqi sovereignty when they are putting this material into Iraq? That seems, to me, a pretty gross violation of sovereignty."
  • "It's our position that if neighbors of Israel allow a malign third country that does not share a border with Israel to use their sovereign territory as a holding ground for increasingly sophisticated dangerous weapons, the only purpose of which is to attack Israel, I think those governments, if they cannot curb or control those elements, are going to have to be prepared to be responsible for them. So, be it Lebanon, be it Syria, be it Iraq, I think that has to be our very clear message to those governments."
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