September 27, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

IAEA: Iran Using Advanced Centrifuges in Violation of Nuclear Deal - Francois Murphy (Reuters)
    Iran is violating the nuclear deal by enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog, reported Thursday.

U.S. Accuses Syrian Government of Chemical Weapon Attack in May in Idlib (Reuters)
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that "the United States has concluded that the Assad regime used chlorine as a chemical weapon on May 19" in an attack on insurgents in Syria.
    "The Assad regime is responsible for innumerable atrocities, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity," he said.

Are Air Defense Systems Ready to Confront Drone Swarms? - Seth J. Frantzman (Defense News)
    According to the Saudi Defense Ministry, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles were fired at Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities on Sept. 14.
    Impeded by radar ranges as well as the speed and angle of the drones and missiles, Saudi air defenses did not engage the drones.
    "If U.S.-supplied air defenses were not oriented to defend against an attack from Iran, that's incomprehensible. If they were, but they were not engaged, that's incompetent. If they simply weren't up to the task of preventing such precision attacks, that's concerning," said former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, a visiting fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies.
    "And it would seem to validate Israeli concerns that even effective air and missile defense systems, as Israel has, could be overwhelmed by a sufficient quantity of precision-guidance missiles."
    IDF Brig.-Gen. Pini Yungman, former air defense commander with the Israel Air Force, noted, "Drones, even drone swarms, are not a strategic threat, even if you take dozens to attack. They carry a very low weight of bomb or ammunition."
    Uzi Rubin, former director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, doesn't think what happened in Saudi Arabia could happen in Israel. "We have a smaller area, and that has an advantage in many respects because it is an advantage in controlling our airspace."
    "When it comes to guarding, the issue is things that can sneak in near the ground," Rubin explained.
    He said shooting down drone swarms can be accomplished with anti-aircraft guns, noting that Iraq downed several Tomahawk cruise missiles in 1991 after discovering their flight path.

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The Missile War in Southern Arabia: Lessons for Israel - Dr. Uzi Rubin (Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security)
    The flag of the Houthi movement in Yemen sports a slogan in bold, colorful letters: "God is Great; Death to America; Death to Israel; A Curse on the Jews; Victory for Islam."
    The Houthi missile offensive against Saudi Arabia began in 2015. The total number of missiles fired by the Houthis against targets in Yemen and Saudi Arabia is 200-300, killing more than 110 civilians.
    Targets included Saudi Air Force bases, missile defense batteries, airports, seaports, oil refineries, oil pumping stations, and state symbols such as royal palaces.
    Targeted population centers included major Saudi cities such as Jeddah and the capital, Riyadh.
    Houthi forces announced in December 2017 that they had attacked the Barakah nuclear reactor currently being constructed in the UAE.
    They released a video clip of the takeoff of the missile used for this attack, which showed the spitting image of Iran's "Soumar" land attack cruise missile. The UAE claimed that no missile ever arrived at their nuclear reactor.
    The current war in Yemen resembles the Spanish civil war of the 1930s inasmuch as they are exploited by outside powers to test new doctrines, weapons and tactics in realistic battle conditions.
    The weapons and tactics in use in Yemen today will be employed against Israel tomorrow.
    The writer is founding director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization which managed the Arrow missile defense program.

Israel Shares Best Practices with Indian Farmers - Syed Saad Ahmed (Outlook-India)
    Dan Alluf is an agricultural counsellor in India for Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV). Centers of Excellence (CoE) are being set up across the country to share best practices and train Indian farmers. There are 28 centers in 12 states.
    Alluf said, "We try to figure out the farmers' and markets' needs and develop solutions accordingly....[For example,] in Israel, we have developed a special kind of packaging which extends the shelf life of pomegranates by three months. This is a game-changer - it gives a three-month window to the farmer to sell when prices are at their highest."
    "We try to protect and promote the bugs that pollinate flowers. To fight pests, we try to introduce insects that control their population rather than spraying insecticides. It is a win-win - farmers reduce their costs and customers get produce with less pesticide residues."
    "In Israel, we are using the bombus bee, which is like a bumble bee. We have 'domesticated' it by putting up special hives for it in greenhouses. It pollinates all kinds of flowers and does not sting, so farmers can work peacefully."
    In Bhuj, Gujarat, farmer Ishwar Pindoria "diligently implemented the lessons learned in the training and after one year, not only did he have premium quality dates, but for the first time, he also exported his produce to Germany."
    "In 2018, we trained 147,000 farmers in India."

Endangered Turtles Bred in Captivity in Israel to Help Save Species - Amir Cohen (Reuters)
    Green turtles are endangered worldwide, the World Wildlife Fund says. According to the Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center, about 20 female green turtles nest along the Israeli Mediterranean coast during the breeding season.
    To help the turtle population, Israeli nature authorities have declared some beaches nature reserves and with the rescue center have been relocating threatened turtle nests to safe hatcheries since the 1980s.
    In 2002, the rescue center began recruiting turtles for a special breeding stock that would help populate the sea with their offspring, in one of the world's only such conservation programs.
    "We expect that in the coming years we will be able to spawn 1,000 hatchlings a year," said Yaniv Levi, the center's manager.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Reaches Out to Arab Gulf States at UN, Citing Iran Threat - Morgan Phillips
    Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz reached out to the Arab Gulf states at the UN General Assembly Thursday, saying they all face a common threat from Iran. He accused Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khameni of ordering a recent attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities. He also called on the international community to support the U.S. "maximum pressure policy" against Iran. "They promote terror in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and all over the world, and the world must stop them," Katz said.
        Katz also called on all countries to follow the U.S. and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. "No one can separate the Jewish people from our historical homeland, and no one can separate us from Jerusalem, our eternal capital," Katz said. (Fox News)
        See also At UN, Israel's Foreign Minister Calls on Palestinians to "Come Back to Direct Negotiations" - Noa Landau
    Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on Palestinians Thursday to "come back to direct negotiations without any preconditions," and urged the international community to take steps to "stop Iran today, in order to prevent war tomorrow." He also called on countries to freeze all aid to Gaza until Hamas returns the two Israeli civilians and bodies of two Israeli soldiers it holds. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Deploys Air Defense Systems, Troops to Saudi Arabia - Lolita C. Baldor
    The U.S. is sending one Patriot missile battery and four ground-based Sentinel radar systems to Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom protect itself against Iranian attacks, the Pentagon said Thursday. Two more Patriot batteries and a THAAD missile defense system will be prepared to go later if needed, and the deployment will involve 200 troops. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Population Reaches 9 Million - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    Today, there are 9.1 million citizens of Israel, of which 6.7 million (74%) are Jewish, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported. There are 1.9 million Arabs (21%) and 0.4% "others," including Christians. 28,000 people immigrated to Israel in 2018.
        Israel's current fertility rate is 3.09 kids per woman. In most OECD countries, the fertility rate is 1.4-1.9. 89% of Israelis are satisfied with their quality of life and 88% are satisfied with their jobs.
        The Jewish Agency for Israel reported Thursday there are 14.8 million Jews worldwide, including 5.7 million in the U.S. and 2.4 million in additional countries. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Authority Opposes Construction of New Hospital in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority said on Thursday that it strongly opposes building a new hospital in Hamas-ruled Gaza. On Tuesday, equipment for building the hospital entered Gaza from Israel. The 10-acre hospital in northern Gaza was donated by the U.S. nonprofit Friendship and is partially funded by Qatar.
        The PA Ministry of Health said it was "categorically opposed to any project that affects Palestinian sovereignty" and noted that the construction of the hospital wasn't coordinated with the PA government. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Rouhani's Uncompromising Comments at UN Make Prospect of Curbing Iran's Aggression More Remote - Con Coughlin
    Iranian President Rouhani's UN address provided a fresh insight into how Tehran really views the world. Rather than acknowledging the destabilizing influence Iran's confrontational approach has on the Middle East, as well as the wider world, Rouhani sought to portray Iran as the victim, the innocent target of American aggression that aimed to destroy the country. The biggest challenge to regional security, he contended, was not Iran but the U.S. and its allies.
        Rouhani declared that the conflict in Yemen could only be resolved when Saudi Arabia terminated its "aggression" in the country, a somewhat ludicrous claim given that it was Iran's support for the Houthi rebels in their bid to remove the country's democratically elected government that provoked the conflict in the first place.
        Rouhani said the U.S. was engaged in "merciless economic terrorism" against his country, and defended his support for Hizbullah and Hamas, widely regarded as terrorist organizations. He defended the continued financial support Tehran gives to these groups by arguing that they were freedom fighters, not terrorists.
        Rouhani's comments might appear delusional but they underline the enormity of the challenge Western powers and their allies face in trying to curb further acts of Iranian-sponsored aggression. The writer is defense and foreign affairs editor of the British Telegraph. (The National-Abu Dhabi)
  • Who Killed Musa Sadr? - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    Musa Sadr transformed the Lebanese Shi'a from an oppressed, marginal group into an influential community that gave rise to the Shi'a protest movement Harakat al-Mahroumin (Movement of the Dispossessed) and its Amal militia. Sadr mysteriously disappeared in Libya in 1978, after which the Islamic Republic of Iran, using the roots of the movement Sadr started in Lebanon, would eventually form Hizbullah. Questions remain to this day: Who killed Musa Sadr and to what end?
        After Israel's Litani Operation in southern Lebanon in March 1978, Sadr gave a Friday sermon in Tyre in which he implied that the reason for the Israeli attack was the presence of the Palestinians and the bases they had set up in the area. And if the Palestinians leave and therefore do not attack Israel, it will not attack southern Lebanon. Moreover, Sadr failed to recognize both Ayatollah Khomeini's supreme religious authority and the doctrine of rule of the state by clerics. This heresy aggravated the enmity between Sadr, who supported the Shah of Iran, and the radical Iranian faction.
        The writer, a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as military-secretary to the Prime Minister and as chief of staff to the Foreign Minister. (American Interest)
  • Iran Props Up Economy with Bartering, Secret Deals - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran remains defiant in the face of U.S. efforts to compel it to accept tougher restrictions on its nuclear program and scale back support for proxy wars across the Middle East. In the face of U.S. sanctions, Iranian officials, business people and analysts say the country is resorting to bartering, smuggling and back-room deals through a network of traders, companies, exchange offices, and money collectors in different countries.
        "We are a rich country with long borders with so many countries," said an Iranian official. "If you sell anything below its market price, you can find dozens of buyers...and transfer the cash by land, sea or even through a third country." Iran is still exporting petrochemical products and liquefied petroleum gas to Asia, including to China and Malaysia. (Reuters)

  • Palestinians

  • World Must Demand More from Palestinian Leaders - Jason Greenblatt
    Palestinians are among the largest recipients of donor assistance per capita in the world today. Yet despite decades of work and billions of dollars, euros, shekels, and dinars donated, life continues to get worse in Gaza and in what some call the West Bank and others call Judea and Samaria.
        Hamas has driven Gaza to a state of utter desperation. With unemployment at nearly 50%, Hamas' decade-long experiment in governance is an utter failure. The West Bank has fared better, but efforts there are frustrated by the Palestinian Authority's self-made budget crisis, its continued diversion of funding to reward terrorists, and an anti-normalization movement that delegitimizes Palestinians who do business with Israel.
        Donor countries must ask themselves why they should keep struggling to raise money when everyone can plainly see the Hamas regime and the Palestinian Authority are squandering the opportunities that donor money provides. It is time to demand more of the Palestinian leaders. The many Palestinians I meet want the opportunities we are seeking for them, none of which will be accomplished through maintaining the status quo of donations. The writer is an assistant to the president and special representative for international negotiations. (Fox News)
  • U.S. Priorities in the Middle East - Tony Badran
    Progress on a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians is as low a priority for America in the Middle East as you can get. The real interest for the U.S. lies elsewhere. In the 1990s, U.S. policymakers convinced themselves the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was the central dynamic preoccupying and driving the behavior of regional states. It became a self-evident truth that everything depended on resolving this conflict and on giving the Palestinians their own state.
        This linkage grossly inflated the importance not just of the Palestinians, but also of the fractured Levant. Moreover, linkage made U.S. policy hostage to the maximalist demands of the most radical elements of the region.
        The path forward for the U.S. is to continue to strengthen Israel's position as a security pillar in the region while shoring up the U.S.-allied Arab states and fostering closer cooperation between them and the Israelis against Iran. What matters for the U.S. in the region is to consolidate its state alliance system to contain Iran and its assets. Progress in peace talks with the Palestinians is a matter of far less concern. The writer is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Hoover Institution)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel: Outwardly Turbulent But Internally Stable - Zev Chafets
    Political hatred in Israel is no longer as decisive as it was back in the early days of the state, when Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion refused even to mention the name of opposition leader Menachem Begin, much less invite him to join a coalition government. The fighting in the recent campaign was more pro wrestling than blood sport.
        Partly this is a function of intimacy. Today's political Israel (including journalists and commentators as well as candidates and office holders) is a small circle of players, many of whom grew up together, served in the same military units, attended the same universities, and worked with one another on the way up the ladder.
        To outsiders, Jewish Israel may seem to be in a perpetual state of civil war, but beneath the turmoil there is surprising solidarity, based on shared national insecurity. There's very little space between Netanyahu and Gantz on the fight against Iran and Islamic terrorism (including in Gaza), the need to hold strategic land and major settlements in the West Bank, or the crucial nature of the U.S.-Israel alliance. The writer served for five years as director of the Israel Government Press Office. (Bloomberg)
  • How Arab Israelis Humiliated the BDS Movement - Mark Horowitz
    Arab Israeli politician Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab bloc in the Knesset, announced that he would recommend Gen. Benny Gantz as prime minister. With his announcement, Odeh just poked the BDS movement in the eye. The first rule of BDS is never talk to Zionists. There can be no conversation because co-existence is forbidden. To co-exist is to normalize.
        Odeh doesn't seem to have any difficulties in demanding normalization. In this month's election, an overwhelming number of the country's Arab voters responded to his call for engagement, which was in essence a call for co-existence.
        BDS organizers have claimed since the beginning that Israel is an illegitimate state and the problem of the Palestinians can only be solved by undoing Israel's founding in 1948 and establishing a single Arab-majority state from the river to the sea. To American supporters of BDS, Odeh's gambit should be a wake-up call. It should tell them that there's a profound disconnect between the BDS movement and those actually working to promote Palestinian rights. On a day-to-day basis, Palestinians want more normalization, not less. (Forward)
  • Russia's Eastern Mediterranean Strategy - Douglas J. Feith and Shaul Chorev
    Russia is taking advantage of the power vacuum created by America's desire to disengage from the Middle East and is emerging as a dominant military and political force in the region. For its decisive military support to Assad, Russia has been rewarded with military facilities in Syria - the Tartus naval facility and the Khmeimim Air Base - from which it can project power into the Middle East, the Balkans and farther west.
        Russia's military decisively affected the civil war in Syria, and also tested and demonstrated capabilities that included the first combat use of various types of Russian precision-guided munitions. Russia is also using Syria as a testing ground for its electronic warfare capabilities. Russia has attacked Syrian rebel targets with submarine- and surface-ship-launched cruise missiles.
        The Russian presence creates new "rules of the game" throughout the Middle East, affecting the U.S. and Israel's ability to operate freely. Israeli officials say they are not in a position to treat Russia as an enemy. A major dispute with Russia would make it harder, if not impossible, for Israel to strike Iranian forces in Syria - and that is Israel's main interest there, an interest that the U.S. shares.
        The Israelis do not want Russia defending Iranian forces in Syria. They do not want Israeli forces fighting Russian forces, nor do they want Russia deploying its most advanced air defenses in Syria.
        Douglas J. Feith, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, served as U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy. Adm. Shaul Chorev, head of the Research Center for Maritime Policy and Strategy at the University of Haifa, served as deputy chief of the Israeli Navy and as head of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • Labour's Anti-Semitic Followers Aren't Welcome in Brighton - Warren Morgan
    When Labour last came to Brighton for its annual conference, I heard statements recorded at a fringe event suggesting it was fine to question whether the Holocaust had ever happened. As leader of the city's council, I wrote a letter saying Labour would not be welcome back in Brighton if it failed to sort out its issues with anti-Semitism. Two years on, I have been forced out of the party I loved.
        The backlash against my message took me by surprise. I had been a member of the party for a quarter of a century. Jeremy Corbyn's vow to root out racism made me feel I was helping. Yet few of my fellow Labour members seemed to agree. For all my good intentions in speaking up for Jewish people who were afraid, months of emails, motions and unpleasant messages followed. Many of these messages came from the local party. They depicted councillors - including me and one whose husband is Jewish - as dancing rabbis and called for people to march on the local synagogue. Finally, a motion calling for me to resign passed by 40 votes to 2.
        Since Labour's 2017 conference, hundreds of examples of awful anti-Semitism have emerged. Some of those disciplined have been quietly readmitted. Those like me who have spoken out on anti-Semitism, however, have been pushed to the point of resignation or deselected. Perhaps the most damning indictment came when Labour Friends of Israel pulled out of this year's conference, saying their staff could no longer be subjected to the anti-Semitic abuse faced in previous years.
        It is clear that for some Labour members, the perceived role of Jewish people in the global economy and the actions of the Netanyahu government are things that every Jewish person should be held accountable for. Make no mistake: that is racism. You don't get to pick and choose the racism you stand up against; and being a member of a political party gives you a greater responsibility to challenge it, not a free pass to stay silent.
        The writer was Labour leader of the Brighton and Hove City Council from 2015 to 2018. He resigned from the party in February. (Spectator-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Researchers Identify Biblical Kingdom of Edom - Aaron Reich
    Research has uncovered the story of the wealthy biblical kingdom of Edom, in parts of Israel and Jordan in the Arava Desert, that existed during the 12th-11th centuries BCE. "We were able to identify and characterize the emergence of the biblical kingdom of Edom," said Tel Aviv University Prof. Erez Ben-Yosef, who led the study with Prof. Tom Levy of the University of California, San Diego. "Our results prove it happened earlier than previously thought and in accordance with the biblical description."
        According to their study, published on Wednesday by the scientific journal PLOS ONE, the kingdom's wealth appears to have been built on a "hi-tech network" of copper, the most valuable resource in the region at the time. Copper was used in ancient times to craft weapons and tools, and "copper smelting was essentially the hi-tech of ancient times," said Ben-Yosef. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Detecting the Emergence of the Edomite Kingdom (PLOS ONE)
  • Dealing with Palestinian Rocket Attacks: The Sderot Crisis and Family Intervention Center - Tami Beck
    Living in southern Israel, Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza have become part of our daily lives. As director of Emunah's Crisis and Family Intervention Center, we've seen a sharp increase in the number of people needing support services compared to recent years. We therapists may have a bit more mental resilience due to our training, but we share the same nervousness as everyone else. I manage a team of 29 therapists who work with hundreds of clients in and around Sderot, a town literally on the Gaza border.
        Immediately after a warning siren, our therapists will telephone those people who are the most vulnerable and in need of support. We treat individuals, couples, and families for the effects of post-traumatic stress and extreme anxiety. More than 80% of our clients are under 18. We have also set up a support group for therapists. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

Prospects for Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Dennis Ross (Hoover Institution)
  • The Middle East today is not the Middle East of 2000. In 2000, Iran was still weakened by its war with Iraq, ISIS did not even exist, the Iranians had not provided over 100,000 rockets to Hizbullah, Hamas was controlled in Gaza and not the ruling party there, and Turkey was an ally of Israel, not a partner of the Muslim Brotherhood and a place of refuge for Hamas figures.
  • As a result, the security arrangements in any contemporary peace agreement would have to be different. The fear that a Palestinian state might become a failed state or dominated by Islamists is real.
  • At the same time, the mood of Palestinians is so negative that there is little or no inclination to look for possible compromises and creative solutions.
  • Having socialized their publics for so long to believe they should not have to make concessions, Palestinian leaders now fear any concession would produce a backlash.
  • With succession to Mahmoud Abbas looming in the West Bank, all those around him are positioning themselves for the future - and they know that purity, not accommodation, is the political coin of the realm.
  • Formal agreements with Israel now are seen as surrender and are not in the cards.

    The writer, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served in senior national security positions during the Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations.
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