September 11, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Fire Rockets at Israeli Cities on Tuesday - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Palestinians in Gaza on Tuesday fired two rockets at the Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was holding an election rally and was forced to seek shelter.
    "Leave quietly," Netanyahu told the crowd before calmly walking off the stage. He returned minutes later to resume his speech.
    The IDF responded, hitting 15 targets in Gaza "including a number of targets in a military base producing arms, a number of targets in a compound belonging to the naval forces, and a terror tunnel belonging to Hamas."

Why the Arab World Isn't Outraged by Netanyahu's West Bank Vow - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
    Netanyahu's vow to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley comes after strategic shifts in the Middle East have pushed the Palestinian cause down the priority list of many Arab leaders.
    Across the region, Arab states like Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Iraq are still reeling from the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings and the fight against the Islamic State, leaving them more focused on internal issues.
    Persian Gulf monarchies like Saudi Arabia now worry more about Iran's regional influence, a concern they share with Israel.

New U.S. Sanctions Target Terrorists Affiliated with Hamas, ISIS, Iran's Qods Force (U.S. Treasury Department)
    The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday designated 15 terrorist leaders, facilitators, and entities affiliated with Hamas, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods-Force (IRGC-QF).

More than 30 Killed in Stampede at Iraqi Shia Shrine (Al Jazeera)
    A walkway collapsed and set off a mass stampede in the Iraqi city of Karbala on Tuesday during Ashoura commemorations.
    At least 31 people were killed and about 100 were injured, officials said.

Israel Chemicals to Expand Dead Sea Bromine Plant on Higher Asia Demand (Reuters)
    Israel Chemicals said Tuesday it was increasing its bromine compounds capacity at its plant near the Dead Sea.
    It will increase production capacity of TBBA, a bromine compound used primarily in the manufacturing of printed circuit boards for the electronics industry, following a decrease in bromine production in China.

Israel Retains A+ Credit Rating with Fitch - Zeev Klein (Israel Hayom)
    Fitch Ratings this week confirmed Israel's A+ credit rating, noting that Israel has had an annual surplus every year since 2003.

Israeli Exports Up 3 Percent in First Half of 2019 - Gilad Zwick and Zeev Klein (Israel Hayom)
    Israeli exports increased by 3% in the first half of 2019 to $55.5 billion.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Calls for Sovereignty in Jordan Valley as Israel's Security Border - Ben Sales
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, "Today I'm announcing my intention, with the establishment of the next government, to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea. This is our essential safety belt in the east." The Jordan Valley is in the part of the West Bank that is fully controlled by Israel, with the exception of the Palestinian city of Jericho. While sparsely populated, it is home to dozens of Israeli communities and has been controlled by Israel for more than 50 years.
        Successive Israeli governments have viewed control of the Jordan Valley as a strategic asset for Israel. It essentially creates a buffer between Israel and the Arab states farther to its east. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who launched the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said in 1995 that "The security border, for the defense of the State of Israel, will be in the Jordan Valley - broadly defined."  (JTA)
        See also Netanyahu: Jordan Valley Is Israel's "Eastern Defensive Wall" - Karen Zraick
    Israel considers the Jordan Valley "an essential strategic asset" to ensure its security and prevent weapons smuggling by Palestinian militants into the West Bank. "This is the eastern defensive wall that guarantees that we will never again be a mere few miles wide," Prime Minister Netanyahu said Tuesday. (New York Times)
  • U.S. to IAEA: "What Else Is Iran Hiding?"
    U.S. Ambassador Jackie Wolcott told the International Atomic Energy Agency board on Tuesday: "Iran has a history of deception, and we must ensure that Iran's actions do not distract from the IAEA's vital verification efforts....Nuclear escalation of the kind Iran is attempting will only deepen the pressure Iran is facing and exacerbate the crisis Iran continues to make for itself. Such brinkmanship and extortion tactics will neither resolve the current impasse nor bring Iran sanctions relief."
        "The United States is open to negotiation with Iran without preconditions, when the time is right, to resolve the issues that divide it from the international community, and we are offering Iran a possibility of a full normalization of relations and the lifting of sanctions."
        "Our goal remains the conclusion of a comprehensive deal with Iran that addresses our concerns, ends Iran's destabilizing behaviors, and fully reintegrates Iran into the international community. To achieve relief from sanctions pressure, however, Iran must be willing to end its malign behavior and take lasting steps that deny it any pathway to nuclear weapons."
        "Iran must finally address why it secretly retained an immense archive of materials from its past nuclear weapons program that could easily facilitate a resumption of nuclear weapons work. And...in light of new concerns...we should all be asking ourselves what else is the Iranian regime continuing to hide?"  (U.S. Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Keeping the Jordan Valley Aligns with U.S. Peace Plan - Gil Hoffman
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that steps to apply sovereignty over all Jewish communities in the West Bank, starting with the Jordan Valley, would be taken in coordination with the U.S. Netanyahu said, "There is a unique and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something with broad consensus and bring safe permanent borders to the State of Israel. This will ensure that Judea and Samaria do not become Gaza, and that Kfar Saba, Netanya and Tel Aviv will not become like communities along the border of Gaza."
        He said Israel could carry out the plan without annexing a single Palestinian, and ensuring that Palestinians maintain complete freedom of movement throughout the West Bank. He hinted that the plan had been coordinated with the U.S. "Over the past few days the diplomatic conditions have become ready," he said. Sources close to Netanyahu said that Israel keeping the Jordan Valley is in the U.S. peace plan. The White House peace team did not consider his statement as one that would prevent a future agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
        Netanyahu's main rivals, Blue and White party leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, have said in the past that they too envision Israel keeping the Jordan Valley forever. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also How Does a State Apply Sovereignty? - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
        See also Video: Why Israel Opposes International Forces in the Jordan Valley (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Extending Israeli Sovereignty over the Jordan Valley Does Not Mean "Annexation" - Sean Savage
    The Jordan Valley lies in Area C of the West Bank where, under the Oslo Accords, Israel retains full civilian and military control. According to the Israel Democracy Institute, 48% of Jewish Israelis support extending sovereignty over the Jordan Valley with U.S. support, with 28% opposed.
        Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said, "The Prime Minister's announcement is fully in line with Israel's international legal rights. Because these territories were part of the British Mandate, Israel has as much legal right to them as to Tel Aviv." Kontorovich said such a move should not be seen as annexation because the territory currently does not belong to a foreign country and annexation means the taking of the territory of a foreign country.
        "Israel waited for more than 50 years to regularize the status of these territories, giving the Palestinians opportunity after opportunity to make a peace deal that would have given them a sovereign state. The Palestinians refused time after time, rejecting initiatives under presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump. Israel has now decided that the people in these areas cannot be held in limbo forever; Israelis should not pay the price for Palestinian intransigence."  (JNS)
  • Hamas Reshuffling Its Security Apparatus in Gaza - Rasha Abou Jalal
    Operations against Israel by individuals operating independently have led Hamas to make major changes in the ranks of its security forces in Gaza, beginning with the replacement of the chief of police on Aug. 29. Other personnel changes have involved internal security, border protection, political guidance, and military police. The shuffle followed rocket launches from Gaza at Israel despite Hamas and Israel having agreed to a cease-fire.
        Talal Awkal, a political analyst at Al-Ayyam, said: "These changes... are a message to Egypt and Israel indicating that Hamas is actually dealing with securing the border and stopping the launch of rockets into Israel" and attempted infiltrations into Israel by Palestinians operating on their own. Their actions served to make Hamas look weak in its ability to control Gaza's border with Israel.
        Ibrahim Habib, former vice dean at the Gaza Police Academy, said that Hamas "does not want to guard Israel, but it wants to stop random operations against Israel since they frustrate its maintaining the cease-fire."  (Al-Monitor)

On 9/11, Recalling the Ties between Iran and Al-Qaeda (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The 9/11 Commission report in 2004 found that "senior managers in al-Qaeda maintained contacts with Iran and the Iranian-supported worldwide terrorist organization Hizbullah....Al-Qaeda members received advice and training from Hizbullah." A large percentage of the 14 Saudi "muscle" operatives "traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001."
  • In his 2011 book, The Secret War with Iran: The 30-Year Clandestine Struggle against the World's Most Dangerous Terrorist Power, journalist Ronen Bergman exposed the ties between the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorists and the government of Iran.
  • "Starting in the 1990s, Iran and Hizbullah helped Osama Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri create a new terror organization from scratch. Iran trained group members, equipped them with advanced technological means, enabled them to move freely and provided them with plenty of terror-related expertise and experience accumulated by Hizbullah in its operations against Israel and the United States."
  • "Many of the terrorists headed from Afghanistan to Iran, with Iranian officials ordering border control officers not to stamp these passports. Following the attacks, many senior al-Qaeda men found shelter in Iran. Tehran denied their presence for some time and later admitted that hundreds of al-Qaeda members are in the country and are under 'house arrest.'"
  • In December 2011, Federal Judge George Daniels signed a default judgment finding Iran, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda liable for the 9/11 attacks. He found that the 2001 attacks were caused by the support provided to al-Qaeda by the defendants. The judge also found that "Iran continues to provide material support and resources to al-Qaeda by providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda leadership and rank-and-file al-Qaeda members."
  • In 2017, the CIA released a 19-page al-Qaeda report written in Arabic on the history of al-Qaeda relations with Iran, seized in the U.S. Special Forces raid in 2011 that killed Bin Laden. The report, written in 2007, revealed that Iran offered al-Qaeda fighters "money and arms and everything they need, and offered them training in Hizbullah camps in Lebanon, in return for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia."