October 31, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Israel on Alert Amid Threat of Attack by Iran - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin on Wednesday said IDF air defense systems were "on alert" amid a general threat of attack by Iran.
    "The challenge of air defense has become more complicated. Joining the threat of missiles and rockets are now attack drones and cruise missiles," Norkin told a graduation ceremony for air defense officers.

Is Hizbullah Facing a Shiite Uprising? - Joe Macaron (Al-Monitor)
    Hizbullah leader Nasrallah appears to be losing control of a significant part of the Shiite constituency and the Lebanese public as the protests in Lebanon continue.
    Yet it is a mistake to assume that the protests in Lebanon are a revolt against Hizbullah.
    Traditional Shiite supporters are defying the armed group's backdoor deals within the political system, but they remain supportive of what they describe as "the resistance project" against Israel.

Iraqis Protest Iran's Involvement in Their Country - Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    In the latest round of protests in Iraq, hundreds of protesters surrounded the Iranian consulate in Karbala with cries of "Iran, Get Out, Get Out from Iraq....Baghdad Will Remain Free." They burned Iranian flags and caused heavy damage to the consulate building.
    The protesters also trampled on pictures of Iranian Al-Quds force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
    The Iranian consulate in Basra was also set ablaze with cries of "Stop the Persian Occupation of Arab Iraq," despite attempts by Shiite militias to protect it.
    Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has warned several times of the harm of Iran's escalating involvement in Iraq through pro-Iranian Shiite militias and its plans to convert Iraq to a front in Iran's regional efforts.
    He said Iraq has become a target for retaliatory action by Iran's rivals and it pays with "the blood of its citizens" because of Iranian activities.

Tehran Is Sinking at Alarming Rate (Radio Farda)
    As years of drought and water mismanagement have depleted underground water reservoirs, Tehran is sinking by 8-10 inches a year.
    On Oct. 30, Yahya Jamour, the technical deputy of the Mapping Organization, told ISNA that some electricity towers have tilted as a result of the land subsidence.
    Jamour estimated the rate of subsidence in Tehran at 18 cm. or 8 inches a year, while areas around Tehran are sinking at a rate of 26 cm. or 10 inches.

Israeli Hi-Tech Firms Raised $2.24 Billion in 3Q of 2019 - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli hi-tech companies raised $2.24 billion in the third quarter of 2019, the highest quarterly sum since 2013.
    According to a report by IVC Research Center and international law firm ZAG-S&W, hi-tech companies secured 142 deals in the quarter, including 13 large deals exceeding $50 million.
    The software sector raised almost $1.4 billion in 52 deals, while life science companies raised $350 million.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S., Gulf Countries Impose Joint Iran-Related Sanctions on 25 Targets - Doina Chiacu
    The U.S. and six Gulf countries agreed to jointly impose sanctions on 25 corporations, banks and individuals linked to Iran's support for militant networks including Hizbullah, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday. All 25 targets were previously under financial sanctions imposed by the U.S. (Reuters)
  • Israel Asked U.S. to Condition Lebanon Aid on Hizbullah Missile Factory Shutdown - Barak Ravid
    Israel asked the U.S. and other Western countries to condition aid to Lebanon on its government's action against Hizbullah's precision missile project, Israeli officials told me. Last year, U.S. military aid to Lebanon topped $100 million. Israel is concerned by the funding of Lebanon's army, claiming it is infiltrated by Hizbullah. (Axios)
  • Informant Who Led U.S. to ISIS Leader Likely to Receive up to $25 Million - Joby Warrick
    U.S. commandos zeroed in on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's hideout with the help of a well-placed informant, an Islamic State operative who facilitated the terrorist leader's movements around Syria and helped oversee construction work on his Syrian safe house. The informant and his family were removed from the region two days after the U.S. raid, and the man is expected to receive some or all of the $25 million U.S. bounty that had been placed on Baghdadi. One official said he was a Sunni Arab who turned against Islamic State because one of his relatives had been killed by the group.
        After Baghdadi triggered his suicide vest, his head was apparently intact after the explosion, and U.S. operators were convinced of his identity even before a field DNA test was conducted for confirmation, a U.S. official said. One of the commandos radioed, "Looking at him. This is Baghdadi."  (Washington Post)
        See also Video: Pentagon Reveals Video of al-Baghdadi Raid (NBC News)
        See also Briefing by U.S. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. on al-Baghdadi Raid (U.S. Defense Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel to Form Committee to Monitor Chinese Investments Following U.S. Pressure - Herb Keinon
    After three years of deliberations and intensive pressure from Washington about the scope of Chinese investments in Israel, Israel's Security Cabinet decided Tuesday to establish an advisory committee to vet foreign investments. The new body will be headed by the Finance Ministry and will "examine national security aspects in the process of approving foreign investments," with input from the Defense Ministry, National Security Council, Foreign Ministry, and Economics Ministry. Transactions that do not necessitate government approval - believed to include most investment in high-tech firms - will not come before the committee.
        With this decision, "Israel joins many countries - including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and others - which have also formulated processes for improving the oversight of foreign investment for national security reasons," the Prime Minister's Office said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jordan Recalls Ambassador to Protest Israel's Detention of Two Jordanians - Adam Rasgon
    Jordan has recalled its ambassador to Israel in protest of Israel's ongoing detention of two of its citizens, Ayman Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, announced Tuesday. Israel detained Heba al-Labadi, 32, and Abdul Rahman Miri, 29, at the Allenby border crossing on Aug. 20 and Sep. 2, respectively.
        The Israel Security Agency said that Labadi, who is of Palestinian descent, is being held "because of suspicion of her involvement in serious security violations." An Israeli military court on Tuesday refused an appeal to release Miri. (Times of Israel)
        See also Jordan Has Recalled Its Ambassador in the Past
    Prof. Hillel Frisch of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University contends that while the Jordanian government uses anti-Israel rhetoric to appease segments of its population, it does not want an independent Palestinian state which "would be a threat to the Jordanian monarchy." Frisch said that Jordan's recall of its ambassador this week was not "unique," as Jordan had also done so in the past. (Media Line-Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Presidential Candidates and Military Aid to Israel - Prof. Eytan Gilboa
    Three leading Democratic presidential candidates recently said they would consider cuts in U.S. military aid as a means to pressure Jerusalem into changing its policy in the West Bank. These statements are completely out of touch with the realities of Palestinian-Israeli relations and developments in the Middle East.
        The candidates deliberately distort the nature of U.S. military aid to Israel. They ignore the Palestinians' repeated rejection of peace negotiations and peace proposals. They also ignore the unrelenting Palestinian campaign of delegitimization against Israel and the monthly payments to terrorists convicted of murdering thousands of Israeli civilians.
        The term "aid" in the context of U.S.-Israeli defense relations is itself misleading. The more accurate term is "investment," as most of the funds are reinvested back into the U.S. economy as it goes to American defense manufacturers. In return for aid, Israel provides the U.S. military and defense industries with information about weapons effectiveness, develops innovative military technology like missile defense systems and border surveillance technology, and shares intelligence and battle-proven military doctrines.
        Despite serious disagreements between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, in September 2016 they signed a memorandum of understanding committing $3.8 billion annually for military aid for the next 10 years, as Obama recognized the value of a long-term investment in U.S.-Israeli defense collaboration.
        The writer is director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Tensions Ease on Gaza-Israel Border - Adnan Abu Amer
    Over six weeks have passed since Israel last bombed Hamas positions in response to rocket fire from Gaza. Khalil Shaheen, director of research at the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies - Masarat, said the "calm factors...mainly revolve around Hamas' desire to implement understandings with Israel by distributing Qatari funds to the poor, establishing a field hospital in northern Gaza, introducing Egyptian goods into Gaza, and reducing participation in the marches of return."
        The Hamas leadership has been preoccupied with internal Palestinian issues, and believes maintaining calm in Gaza is an urgent priority, in preparation for a solution to the economic crisis that will not be resolved if a military escalation with Israel breaks out.
        Hussam al-Dujni, political science professor at Umma University in Gaza, said, "Hamas' allies in the region are preoccupied...Iran with Saudi Arabia, Turkey with the Kurds, and Qatar with the Gulf...which makes Hamas focus on calming its front, waiting for the regional situation to stabilize." The writer heads the Political Science and Media Department of Umma University in Gaza. (Al-Monitor)

Greenblatt's Legacy: The Administration's Peace Vision - Erez Linn and Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
  • U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason D. Greenblatt will leave his post at the end of October.
  • Greenblatt repeatedly took the Palestinian Authority to task over its duplicity, such as over its "pay-to-slay" policy of paying Palestinian terrorists and their families.
  • He asked the UN Security Council, "How is it that we can't find an international consensus that the Palestinian Authority rewarding terrorism and the murder of Israelis using public funds, some donated by countries in this very room, is abhorrent and must be stopped?"
  • "There is no easy answer as to how to balance the absolute imperative of protecting Israel's security - a principle on which the United States will never compromise - with Palestinian aspirations," he said in June. "Yesterday's peace plans have been unable to create a path to a brighter and more prosperous future while addressing the many challenges to overcome."
  • One of his legacies is a semantic shift in the vocabulary of U.S. negotiators. Greenblatt has refused to use the word "settlements" for Israeli communities beyond the Green Line, and has instead called them "cities" and "neighborhoods."
  • Greenblatt told the UN Security Council, "It is true that the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority continue to assert that east Jerusalem must be a capital for the Palestinians. But let's remember: An aspiration is not a right....Aspirations belong at the negotiating table. And only direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians can resolve the issue of Jerusalem if it can be resolved."