November 20, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Protests in Iran Appear to Be Spreading - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    The most important regional development in recent days isn't happening in Israel or Syria, but in Iran, where the impression is that the protests against the government are spreading.
    Iranian-American journalist Farnaz Fassihi, who writes for the New York Times, tweeted on Monday:
    "I've covered Iran for 25+ years. Never seen protests this brazen, this angry, this widespread. This is serious. That's why there is a total Internet blackout. Regime is scared."

Dutch Parliament Votes Against Discriminatory Labeling of Settlement Products (Times of Israel)
    The Dutch parliament on Tuesday voted 82-68 to call on the government to object to a European Court of Justice decision that ordered the labeling of Israeli goods made in West Bank settlements unless similar standards are applied to all disputed territories around the world.
    It deems the singling out of Israel in such regard as unfair and discriminatory.
    Israel has noted that there are more than 200 territorial disputes in the world, but that the European court had never ruled on any of them.

Hungary Blocks EU Statement Condemning U.S. Shift on Settlements - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
    An effort to get all 28 EU states to issue a joint statement condemning the U.S. decision to no longer consider Israeli settlements as illegal is being blocked by Hungary, according to a diplomatic source.
    Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto instructed his diplomats to oppose any statement on the legality of settlements, even if it was formulated in general terms and avoided direct criticism of Washington, the source said.
    Hungary had also blocked a joint EU statement condemning the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Behind the Scenes of the U.S. Shift on Israeli Settlements - Barak Ravid (Axios)
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman pushed for a change to the U.S. position on the legality of Israeli settlements. The discussions inside the State Department lasted a year.
    A month ago, the State Department's legal team presented Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with a 40-page legal position, which he approved.

UK BDS Supporters Disrupt Talks by IDF Officer Who Helped Thousands of Syrians (Jewish News-UK)
    Lt.-Col. Eyal Dror set up the Israel Defense Forces humanitarian mission on the Golan Heights that brought injured Syrians for treatment in Israeli hospitals.
    He was met with noisy protests during a talk at Kings College London on Tuesday.
    Dror said: "My message to the UK is one of cooperation across people of all faiths for the benefit of people in need - Christians, Muslims and Jews working side by side to deliver hope to a generation of Syrian civilians who were victims of a tragic, bloody war."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Amnesty: At Least 106 Killed in Iran Protests - Jon Gambrell
    Amnesty International said Tuesday it believes at least 106 people have been killed during protests in Iran. It "believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed." The protests began Friday and quickly spread across at least 100 cities and towns in Iran. (AP-ABC News)
  • U.S. Believes Iran Will Seek New Fighter Jets, Tanks as 2020 Arms Embargo Lifts
    Iran will likely buy new advanced fighter jets and tanks from Russia and China next year when a UN Security Council arms embargo is scheduled to be lifted, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Tuesday as the Defense Intelligence Agency released a new assessment of Iran's military capabilities. The DIA report concludes Tehran is committed to becoming the dominant power in the Middle East, and it warns that the Islamic Republic is making rapid progress developing attack drones and other missile systems. Under the 2015 nuclear deal, the UN-imposed arms embargo on Iran is slated to be lifted in October 2020. (AP-New York Times)
        See also Pentagon Says Iran's Missiles Unrivaled in Middle East
    "Iran has an extensive missile development program, and the size and sophistication of its missile force continues to grow despite decades of counterproliferation efforts aimed at curbing its advancement," the Defense Intelligence Agency said Tuesday. Iran has "the largest missile force in the Middle East." The report said Iran had developed missiles capable of reaching Israel or Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Strikes Dozens of Iranian and Syrian Targets Following Rocket Barrage - Yaniv Kubovich
    The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday it attacked dozens of targets in Syria belonging to Iran's Quds Force and Bashar Assad's army. "The attack was carried out in response to the launching of rockets by an Iranian force from Syria's territory into Israel, intending to strike Israeli territory" on Tuesday. "We showed the Iranians we have the capabilities to react forcefully," said a senior Israeli defense official on Wednesday.
        About 20 targets were hit, more than half being Iranian headquarters and camps. A strike targeted the National Defense Building at Damascus Airport, which houses the Iranian Quds Force headquarters. (Ha'aretz)
        See also 11 Reported Killed in Israeli Strikes on "Iranian Targets" in Syria
    In retaliation for rockets fired on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Israel has struck Iranian targets in Syria. 11 "fighters" were reported killed in the air strikes, including seven non-Syrians, most likely Iranians. (Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty)
        See also Israel: Iran Sends Its Tentacles to Wrap Around Us - Judah Ari Gross
    Referring to Israel's reprisal airstrike on Iranian and Syrian military sites in Syria, a senior defense official said: "Iran is an octopus with its head in Tehran that sends its tentacles to wrap around us. We have not yet threatened Tehran, but we are beginning to get close to the head of the octopus. We struck a building staffed by Iranians at the Damascus airport." The official said that Israel destroyed six Syrian air defense batteries, as well as multiple buildings on Syrian military bases that are controlled by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force.
        Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who heads the Blue and White party, said: "The Israel Defense Forces exacted a toll tonight from the Iranian cancerous cells in Syria. We must preserve and strengthen our deterrence on all fronts....We will back any responsible act by the government that strengthens the security of Israel's citizens."
        Video footage from Syria appeared to show a Syrian air defense missile crashing to the ground in a heavily populated area shortly after launching, which could account for some of the casualties. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel Strike Against Iran Sends a Message: We Are No Saudi Arabia - Amos Harel
    The Israeli attacks Wednesday on Iranian targets in Syria send the message, first of all, that Israel is not Saudi Arabia and will not shrug off aggression against it. Secondly, Iranian General Soleimani should reconsider his project to build up and establish a presence on the Israel-Syria border because Israel sees that as crossing a line in the sand and will continue to react strongly against it. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why the U.S. Is Right to Recognize West Bank "Settlements" as Legal - David Harsanyi
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that U.S. would no longer take the position that Israeli civilian "settlements" in the West Bank are "inconsistent with international law." Many of those "settlements" - cities, really, some of them in existence for decades - are never going to be bulldozed. That's reality.
        It has always been a mistake for the U.S. to treat Jews who returned to their ancient homeland as occupiers. For one thing, it was impossible for Israel to "occupy" Palestinian territories because no such nation has ever existed. UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 established Israel's legal right to negotiate a peace with defensible borders with existing states. Resolution 242 doesn't mention the word "Palestinian" anywhere. Nowhere does the resolution call on Israel to withdraw to the pre-Six-Day War lines. Nowhere does it stipulate that Judea and Samaria should be free of Jews.
        None of the recent U.S. moves undermine peace. They simply clarify the contours of a realistic deal. Israel has done everything it can to allow responsible Arab self-governance. As Pompeo clearly states, final-status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be predicated no longer on a fantasy of "occupation" but rather on the reality of disputed land. (National Review)
  • Israelis Welcome U.S. Shift on Settlements - Jonathan S. Tobin
    When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced this week that the U.S. no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be in violation of international law, most Israelis were clearly pleased. All the major Israeli political parties greeted the announcement with support. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his leading rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, agreed that America was right to scrap its old insistence that Jews had no right to live outside the 1949 armistice lines.
        Labeling these Jewish communities as illegal renders negotiations over the territories effectively moot. As long as the world considers the territories to be stolen property that must be returned to the Arabs - rather than disputed land whose fate must be arrived at by give and take by both sides - there's nothing to negotiate.
        Like Netanyahu, Gantz understands that Israel must maintain control of the Jordan River Valley and most of the settlements even in the theoretical event that the Palestinians eventually choose to make peace as opposed to continue holding onto their century-old war on Zionism.
        What the U.S. has done is to put the Palestinians on notice that if they want an end to the status quo, then they will have to talk to the Israelis. They cannot sit back and wait for the international community to hand them Israeli concessions on a silver platter. (JNS)
        See also Israel's Knesset Supports U.S. Shift on Settlements
    Jerusalem Post Knesset reporter Lahav Harkov says the vast majority of the Knesset is in favor of Pompeo's announcement that the U.S. no longer considers settlements illegal. Party leaders representing 96 of 120 MKs are in favor. (Twitter)

Pompeo Busts the "Occupation" Myth - Eugene Kontorovich (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israeli settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law. That is now America's official view, repudiating the conclusions of a 1978 State Department memorandum. The four-page 1978 memo written by legal adviser Herbert Hansell was hardly a thorough study and cited no precedent for its key conclusions. Hansell concluded that Jews who had moved past the Green Line into disputed territory had somehow been "deported or transferred" there by the State of Israel.
  • A country cannot occupy territory to which it has sovereign title, and Israel has the strongest claim to the land. International law holds that a new country inherits the borders of the prior geopolitical unit in that territory. Israel was preceded by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, whose borders included the West Bank. Hansell's memo fails to discuss this.
  • Moreover, Hansell wrote that the state of occupation would end if Israel entered into a peace treaty with Jordan, which it did in 1994, but the State Department neglected to update the memo.
  • Almost every prolonged occupation since 1949 - from the Allies' 40-year administration of West Berlin to Turkey's 2016 occupation of northern Syria - has seen population movement into the occupied territory. In none of these cases has the U.S. or the UN ever claimed this was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • Pompeo's action shows the U.S. understands that we can't have one international law for one country and another for the rest of the world.

    The writer is a professor at George Mason University Law School.

        See also Hansell's 1978 Legal Opinion - Ricki Hollander
    The 1978 legal opinion of Herbert J. Hansell, the State Department's legal advisor, was reversed by President Reagan less than three years later. Hansell's opinion was based, at least in part, on an arguably faulty interpretation of an earlier "finding" by Julius Stone. To support his opinion on settlements, Hansell cited Stone's 1959 analysis, Legal Controls of International Conflict.
        Yet the same Professor Stone - considered one of the premier legal theorists - subsequently wrote a book, Israel and Palestine: An Assault on the Law of Nations, that dealt with the specific legal aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In it, he maintained that the effort to designate Israeli settlements as illegal was a "subversion...of basic international law principles."  (CAMERA)