September 6, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Mideast Peace Envoy Jason Greenblatt to Step Down - Barak Ravid (Axios)
    U.S. special envoy for the Middle East peace process Jason Greenblatt will be leaving the White House in the next several weeks to return to the private sector.
    A senior U.S. official said Greenblatt will stay at the White House until the launch of the political side of the U.S. peace plan, which is expected after the Israeli elections on Sept. 17.
    Greenblatt's decision was mainly for personal and family reasons. He was supposed to serve for 2 years at the White House but ended up serving almost 3.
    After Greenblatt leaves, most of his assignments and authorities will be transferred to Avi Berkowitz, who was a main player in drafting the White House peace plan.
    Some of Greenblatt's assignments will be transferred to the U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

UK and Israeli Leaders Agree on Need to Stop Iran Getting Nuclear Weapon (Reuters)
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed during a meeting in London on the need to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, Downing Street said on Thursday.
    "Both Prime Ministers agreed on the need to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon and stop wider destabilizing Iranian behavior," a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
    Johnson also said he looked forward to seeing the U.S. proposals for a viable Israel-Palestinian peace agreement.

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Nova Scotia Priest Fired for Honoring Judaism and Israel - Joel Jacobson (Canadian Jewish News)
    The head priest of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Church in Halifax, Father Vladimir Tobin, 77, received a letter from Orthodox Church in America Archbishop Irenee, the archbishop of Ottawa and Canada, on Aug. 12, informing him that he is being forcibly retired for delivering a sermon that honored Judaism and Israel.
    The sermon mentioned Israel and Judaism in favorable terms, asked congregants to pray for Israel, and reminded the congregation that Jesus was a Jew.
    Father Tobin said that when studying the early Christian period at Dalhousie University in Halifax, he realized that early Christians were Jewish and their scripture was the Old Testament.
    Father Tobin responded to the archbishop: "It is true that I regularly pray for both Israel and the United States, its armies and its president, and for 'the land of Israel and the armies which protect her.'...The U.S. and Israel are our allies and need our support for peace in the Middle East."

Palestinian Children Stage Mock Kidnapping of Israeli Boy at Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony - Chris Pleasance (Daily Mail-UK)
    Video has emerged showing Palestinian children staging a mock terrorist raid on an Israeli house as part of a kindergarten graduation ceremony.
    The footage, filmed at the Dar al Huda school in Gaza City last year, shows five youngsters wearing uniforms of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.
    The children can be seen carrying assault weapons as they perform sophisticated military maneuvers to "capture" the two children inside the building - one dressed as an Israeli civilian and another as an Israeli soldier.

Global Jewish Population in 2019: 14.6 Million - Aiden Pink (Forward)
    The global Jewish population in 2019 is 14.6 million, according to research by Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor Sergio Della Pergola, released by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
    84% of global Jewry lives either in Israel or the U.S., while there are 175 countries where the Jewish population is 100 or more.
    Here are the top 10 countries compared with 2012:
    Israel: 6,153,500 (+10.2%), U.S.: 5,700,000 (+5.1%), France: 453,000 (-5.6%), Canada: 395,000 (+5.3%), UK: 290,000 (-0.3%).
    Argentina: 180,300 (-0.8%), Russia: 172,000 (-11.3%), Germany: 116,000 (-2.5%), Australia: 113,400 (+1.3%), Brazil: 93,200 (-2.2%).

Gaza Cat, Parrot Get Life-Saving Treatment in Israel - Zachary Keyser (Jerusalem Post)
    A cat injured in a traffic accident last week in Gaza received life-saving treatment in Israel through the efforts of the Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA) in Gaza and the IDF Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
    The head of the CLA in Gaza, Col. Lyad Sarhan, said, "We work together with the veterinary organizations in order to interface with the Palestinian side in Gaza for the humanitarian transfer of the animals."
    In March, COGAT and CLA saved the life of an African grey parrot from Gaza who was improperly fed by its owners and was found with a hole in its throat.
    In April, COGAT and CLA combined efforts with the animal rights organization "Four Paws" to arrange the safe passage of 50 animals from Gaza to Israel.
    The animals were later distributed to shelters around the world that could provide them with "better living conditions and for better administration of the care they required."
    Among those animals were lions, foxes, hyenas, monkeys, an ostrich, and gazelles.

August Tourism to Israel Hits New Peak - Michal Raz-Chaimovich (Globes)
    305,000 tourists came to Israel in August, the Central Bureau of Statistics reports, up 9% from August 2018.
    22% of tourists visiting Israel come from the U.S., with large numbers from France, Russia, Germany and the UK.
    Israel looks set to break 2018's record when 4.1 million tourists visited Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pompeo Asks Lebanon to Dismantle Hizbullah's Missile Factory
    Israeli sources revealed on Thursday that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent a warning letter to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, urging him to dismantle a factory set up by Hizbullah in the Bekaa Valley to develop and modernize its missiles before Israel attacks it. The U.S. message was transferred directly to Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who is known for his close ties to Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Pompeo told Bassil that the U.S. would support the Israeli attack in Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also U.S. Blocks UN Security Council Statement that Fails to Condemn Hizbullah
    The U.S. has blocked a UN Security Council statement on tensions between Israel and Hizbullah, rejecting any criticism of Israel and forcing the draft drawn up by France to be scrapped, according to diplomatic sources Thursday.
        The U.S. called for Hizbullah to be specifically condemned in the text. The U.S. said it was impossible for it to back any statement putting Israel's right to self-defense on an equal footing with Hizbullah, a "terrorist organization." Several other members of the Security Council objected to the U.S. stance, and the text was eventually abandoned. Any statement by the council must be backed by all 15 members. (AFP)
  • Trump Tells Macron Sanctions on Iran Not to Be Lifted at this Time
    U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated on Thursday that "dropping sanctions against Iran is not going to happen at this time," during a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron. White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said the two presidents agreed it was imperative "to curb Iran's actions threatening freedom of navigation and commerce in the Persian Gulf."  (Radio Farda)
  • U.S. Accuses Russia of Blocking Iran Nuclear Probe - James Rosen
    Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative for Iran, told Sinclair on Wednesday that the Kremlin has worked behind the scenes in Vienna to prevent IAEA personnel from learning whether the Iranian regime has used a site at Turquz Abad near Tehran to hide undeclared nuclear material - a charge which, if true, would place Iran in violation of its "safeguards agreements" under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, an accord Iran signed in 1970.
        "We call on the IAEA to fully implement its mandate to ensure that there is no undeclared nuclear material that Iran is hiding," Hook said. He noted that the IAEA has to deal with "other countries like Russia that don't always want to get to the bottom of things."  (Sinclair Broadcast Group)
        See also below Observations: What Was Iran Hiding in Turquz Abad? - Bret Stephens (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA Threatens "Religious War" over Netanyahu Hebron Visit - Nan Jacques Zilberdik and Itamar Marcus
    The PA Ministry of Religious Affairs threatened "religious war" in anticipation of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs on Wednesday as part of an official Israeli ceremony to commemorate the murder of 65 Jews by Arabs in 1929. According to the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the PA ministry "called on the international community to help and stop the Israeli actions, out of fear that the entire area will go up in flames." (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Israel Helps Teach NATO Lawyers How to Combat Lawfare - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The Jerusalem Post has learned that in March 2018, NATO started to ask Israeli lawyers from the Justice Ministry and the IDF's international law division to assist it with dealing with lawfare challenges arising from asymmetric warfare situations. Israel has unique experience in fighting asymmetrical warfare in foreign courts.
        The Justice Ministry said, "The dialogue, which is part of Israel's broader cooperation with NATO, has involved in-depth discussions regarding how the law can be used to promote a military and political campaign and what measures democratic states can take when these strategies are used against them or their officials by terrorist actors and enemy states promoting a political agenda."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Iran Attempts to Stand Firm in the Face of U.S. Pressure - Sima Shine
    The Iranian regime is waging a campaign on the diplomatic, economic, and nuclear fronts as it confronts the U.S. "maximum pressure" policy. The top Iranian echelon has repeatedly made clear that it will not negotiate under duress, and there is no debate regarding the need to continue measures in the nuclear realm.
        The Iranians believe that Iran now holds valuable cards: the American president is interested in a high-profile meeting, and European countries are prepared to go a long way in order to prevent escalation in tensions over the nuclear file and spur an American-Iranian dialogue. The writer, formerly responsible for the Iranian file at Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs (2009-2015), was also head of research at the Mossad. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • If the U.S. Wants to Make a Deal with the Regime in Tehran, It Should Talk to Khamenei, Not Rouhani - Amir Taheri
    Like most revolutionary regimes, the Khomeinist outfit has no mechanism for reform in the direction desired by the Western powers. In the Islamic Republic, the number of executions and political prisoners has always risen under "reformist" presidents.
        Whether we like it or not, it is Khamenei, and not Rafsanjani, Khatami or Rouhani, who set the tone in the Islamic Republic. In fact, each time Western powers made a deal with the Islamic Republic it was ultimately with Khomeini and, after him, Khamenei. Thus, if Trump, or anyone else, wishes to make a deal with the present regime in Tehran, the man they should talk to is Khamenei, not Rouhani, an actor playing the president. The writer was executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

  • Other Issues

  • Mideast Peace Deal Doesn't Depend on Departing Envoy - Eli Lake
    U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt is leaving his post before negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have even started. One reason peace is not around the corner is that there is no Palestinian leader at the moment with the democratic credibility to negotiate it even if he were so inclined. Mahmoud Abbas, 83, is currently serving the 14th year of a four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, Gaza remains under the sovereignty of Hamas, which rejects any Jewish state.
        Even if Abbas negotiated a deal, there is little reason to believe most Palestinians would accept it. A recent poll by the Aman Coalition for Accountability and Integrity found that 91% of Palestinians said they do not trust the PA. Given that, noted Ghaith al-Omari, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, it's difficult to see how its leaders will have the legitimacy to make any concessions.
        Privately, U.S. officials understand that there will have to be governance and anti-corruption reform for a future Palestinian state to be viable. (Bloomberg)
  • Hizbullah's Media Empire
    Hizbullah has constructed a Shiite "mini-state" in Lebanon with massive Iranian support to create a "resistance society" which supports Hizbullah in its struggle against Israel. The social institutions established by Hizbullah in the spheres of education, culture, health, welfare, finance, sports, construction, and agriculture are of the sort usually provided by the state. This reflects the weakness of the Lebanese central government and years of neglect of the Shiite community.
        Hizbullah's media empire plays an important role in disseminating the ideology and political messages of Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon, the Middle East and throughout the world. Such an extensive media empire in the possession of a terrorist organization is unprecedented.
        Its two main media outlets, Al-Manar TV and Al-Ahed newspaper, also operate in English, French and Spanish. Al-Manar TV, believed financed by Iran, involves an annual expense of tens of millions of dollars. The channel broadcasts via four satellites: three Russian and one Indonesian. The channel focuses on "the resistance" and broadcasts Iranian content (the Islamic Revolution, tourist sites in Iran, Iranian films dubbed in Arabic or with Arabic subtitles) and Shiite content (prayers and ceremonies).
        In January 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury added Al-Manar and Hizbullah's Radio Nour to its list of sanctioned institutions. In 2004, France, Egypt and Saudi Arabia stopped providing satellite services to Al-Manar, and several countries (including Germany) banned the channel's broadcasts on their territory. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • What the HBO Series "Our Boys" Doesn't Want Us to Know - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The brutal murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir by three extremist Jews is a story that deserves to be told. The same can be said for the account of the swift and efficient manner in which his murderers were tracked down by Israel's security services, and ultimately convicted and given harsh sentences. Yet the kidnapping and murder of the Palestinian Arab resident of Jerusalem in June 2014 is the exclusive focus of the HBO series "Our Boys."
        Documenting the transgressions of a few Jews, as well as the diligent efforts of their compatriots to catch and punish them, is no insult to the Jewish people. But many who usually take special pride in seeing Israeli TV shows get such wide exposure aren't cheering "Our Boys."
        In June 2014, a Hamas terror cell operating in the West Bank kidnapped three Israeli teenage boys and murdered them in cold blood. The discovery of their bodies after an 18-day search was a shocking reminder of the brutality of Israel's enemies. In response, three Jews violated not merely the laws of Israel, but of their faith. They kidnapped a random Arab boy and killed him in a manner that provoked outrage and shame.
        Hamas then escalated the conflict with 50 days of war that forced much of Israel's population to spend their days dashing in and out of air-raid shelters, including in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. So Israelis can be forgiven for thinking that there is something wrong with the fact that the sole focus of the only international television show that seeks to depict these events rests on the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
        The point of each episode is to depict the two sides of the conflict as morally equivalent. "Our Boys" doesn't mention that while Khdeir's killers are reviled by almost all Israelis and locked away (two received life terms), Palestinians treat those who murder Jews as heroes. They even get generous pensions from the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority as a reward for their evil deeds. That is truly outrageous. (JNS)
  • Make Egyptian-Israeli Cooperation Overt - Dr. Lofty Basta
    The recent cooperation between Israeli and Egyptian intelligence forces in Sinai attests to the fact that partnership between the two countries is beneficial to both. Such cooperation, however, has been covert and has barely spread to nonmilitary projects. This cautiousness is understandable given the conspiracy theories involving Israel (and the U.S.) that are rampant in Egypt's media and among its people.
        Israel has spectacularly flourished in a deeply unfriendly neighborhood. Marrying Israel's know-how, experience, and innovation with Egypt's abundant cheap manpower (Egypt's per capita gross domestic product is about 6% of Israel's) and its hunger to excel after generations of decline and a looming water crisis, promises to bear fruit for both countries.
        Unfortunately, an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace seems far off. But ultimately, the time will come when a new Palestinian leadership realizes that Israel is a mature, respected country and a potential ally to them. The writer, an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian, is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. (Israel Hayom)
  • "We Will Never Accept the Jewish State" - Will Alexander
    So much of the picture being painted by Israel's critics is either one-sided, distorted or outright fiction. It's as if they suddenly walked in on a fight and saw a big guy beating up a little guy and took sides with the little guy because, well - he's little.
        But you get a different picture when you find out that the little guy picked the fight, then threatened to kill the big guy and take his land. No matter what the big guy does, the threats come year after year, with no end in sight. Eventually, the big guy has no choice; he has to protect himself from this crazy little man. That's what Israel was doing when the critics of the world walked in and saw the little guy getting beat up.
        Israel's been protecting itself from Arab belligerency for decades. Because of the constant attacks, Arabs who want to see Israel thrown off the map have no more a right to disputed territories than Mexico does to Arizona. They pick the fights, lose the wars, and expect tiny Israel to give up captured territories that provide a buffer of security from certain death.
        Palestinians have an ingrained hatred for the Jewish state. If it were just about independence, they could've formed a state in '48 and worked the kinks out over time. (Townhall)

  • Weekend Features

  • Video: An Arab Muslim in the Israel Defense Forces - Hananya Naftali
    Mohammad Kabiya is a Bedouin Muslim Israeli. "I'm an Israeli citizen, it's my country and I must support it....I get all the services from Israel. Israel protects me as a minority and as a citizen, so I will support my country. I will love it and defend it."
        Q: "You served in the Israeli Air Force. Why did you choose to take part in the Israel Defense Forces?"
    A: "Here, you said it: 'Israel Defense Forces.' I see myself as an Israeli. I'm part of the State of Israel, so it's an army that defends me, my family, my community, and also my country. The same rocket that is fired by Hamas or Hizbullah and all the terror organizations doesn't distinguish between a Jew or an Arab or me and you."
        "Whoever is a terrorist and engages in terrorism...is not my brother....Terrorism is hate, it's destruction, it's cruelty. I'm Muslim - yes. I'm proud of my Islam - yes....I'm an Arab who is proud of his identity....Look at the Arab world. Muslims are killing one another just because one is Shiite and the other is Sunni. In the State of Israel I think that Islam and other religions and other minorities are more protected than in the Arab world."
        "We serve together in the IDF shoulder to shoulder, we work together, we walk in the street together...we live together. In a place where you die together you can live together."
        Q: "Aren't you scared to express your support for Israel, that someone will kill you?"
    A: "No, I'm not scared....My source of strength and bravery to continue and move forward is my family. I'm a member of the Kabiya family, most of whose men served in the IDF. They are officers in elite units. Therefore, it's the opposite. They support the path that I've chosen."  (YouTube)
  • Video: 8,000 Celebrate Israel's Valentine's Day with Mass Singing
    Koolulam is an Israeli social-musical initiative begun two years ago, meant to bring together people from all walks of life, to simply stop everything for a few hours and just sing - together.
        On August 15, 2019, 8,000 people came together at the Latrun amphitheater on Tu B'Av, a minor Jewish holiday similar to Valentine's Day. The event took place thanks to one newlywed couple, Yariv and Elinore, who after participating in other Koolulam events, decided to fund a mass singing event instead of a traditional wedding celebration. (Koolulam-YouTube)
  • Israel to Help Nigeria Become a Food Superpower - Chris Ochayi
    Israeli authorities Monday announced that they will partner with the Federal Government of Nigeria to address numerous insecurity challenges currently confronting the country, especially to end the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East zone. Professor Joseph Shevel of the Galilee International Management Institute disclosed the institute was drawing up a framework towards engaging the Boko Haram insurgency with dialogue.
        The institute agreed to offer post-graduate degrees and short certificate courses in agriculture, water management, health management, computer science, education and national security to students of Michael and Cecilia Ibru University. "This is the first Nigeria-Israeli university," said Prof. Shevel. "Nigeria can be a superpower in providing food for the rest of West Africa." He added, "We have been working with Nigerian organizations for the last 30 years and we have about 2,300 alumni and a lot of them are senior people."  (Vanguard-Nigeria)

What Was Iran Hiding in Turquz Abad? - Bret Stephens (New York Times)
  • Buried in a recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency is: "Iran's implementation of its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol require[s] full and timely cooperation by Iran. The Agency continues to pursue this objective with Iran." That's an exquisite way of saying that Iran is stonewalling the agency.
  • Last September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that Iran had a "secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran's secret nuclear weapons program" on the outskirts of Tehran in a village called Turquz Abad. He urged IAEA chief Yukiya Amano to "inspect this atomic warehouse immediately."
  • The IAEA only got around to inspecting the site earlier this year, long after the suspicious materials had vanished. But nuclear inspectors were nonetheless able to detect radioactive particles, corroborating Israeli claims about the purpose of the warehouse.
  • The agency's unwillingness to follow up promptly and effectively on Israel's allegations, along with its reluctance to disclose what it found, inspire little confidence in the quality of its inspections and even less in its willingness to call out cheating.
  • Moreover, Iran's hiding of nuclear materials is further evidence that Tehran was in violation of the nuclear deal from the moment it was signed. "If Iranians aren't cooperating, it tells you that potentially they are hiding more," notes David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.
  • If those who fear an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites are serious about averting it, they could play a helpful part by demanding more credible inspections and honest reporting from the IAEA, starting with a thorough accounting for what went mysteriously missing from Turquz Abad.
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