November 28, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Navy Announces Enhanced Presence in Red Sea (Mehr-Iran)
    Iranian naval vessels "have a permanent and constant presence in the Red Sea all the way to the Suez Canal," the Commander of the Iranian Navy, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, said on Nov. 20.

Israel Search and Rescue Team in Albania after Earthquake - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
    An Israeli search and rescue team continued their search for survivors Wednesday in the Albanian city of Durres following the strongest earthquake to hit Albania in decades on Monday.

UN Chief Calls on Lebanon to Disarm Hizbullah - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said, "The Lebanese government must take the necessary steps to disarm Hizbullah and other groups in southern Lebanon."
    Hizbullah has clashed with UNIFIL troops several times over the years and has restricted their movements across southern Lebanon, a move that undermines UNIFIL's mandate.
    On Tuesday, Guterres issued a new report confirming Israeli claims that UNIFIL forces are unable to carry out their mission in Hizbullah-controlled areas.

Jordanian Kickboxer Refuses to Compete Against Israeli Arab (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Jordanian kickboxer Mohammed Eid refused to compete against Israeli Arab Amir Assad, 22, at the International Turkish Open Kickboxing European Cup held in Turkey.
    Assad, a student of physical education at Wingate College, won the gold medal in the European Kickboxing Championship in Slovakia in 2018.

Berkeley Students "Passionate" about "Israeli Occupation," Can't Find Palestinian Territories on Map - Prof. Ron E. Hassner (Times of Israel)
    I recently surveyed 230 Berkeley undergraduates to find out which conflicts in the Middle East they were most interested in and how much they knew about the region.
    43% expressed an intense interest in the Palestinian territories, but 75% cannot locate those territories on a map.
    The writer is professor of political science at U.C. Berkeley.

Israel's Zebra Medical Gets FDA Nod for Device that Detects Water in Lungs - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    Zebra Medical Vision, that uses artificial intelligence to read medical scans, said Wednesday it got its fourth FDA clearance for a device to help identify water in the lungs.
    The firm has also received FDA nods for a product that detects coronary calcium, an AI chest X-ray product, and software to detect brain bleeds.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iraqi Protesters Burn Down Iranian Consulate in Najaf - Alissa J. Rubin
    Iraqi protesters in the southern city of Najaf burned down the Iranian Consulate there on Wednesday night in an outburst of anger at Iran. Video showed sizable crowds outside the consulate shouting "Out, out Iran!" as the building burned. The attack "sends a clear message that a segment of the Iraqi society rejects the Iranian political presence in the country and holds it accountable for bringing this government," said Sheikh Fadhil al-Budayri, a senior cleric in Najaf. The demonstrators in Najaf are almost all Shiites, and Shiite religious authorities there have encouraged the protests.
        Iran has deep ties to Najaf. Millions of Iranian pilgrims worship at its Shiite shrines, and Iran has invested heavily in projects to refurbish and renovate the religious sites. Iran has also begun to send more of its own clerics to Najaf, pushing its branch of Shiism in which the chief religious leader is also the supreme political leader. Iraq has rejected that form of theocracy and has increasingly chafed against Iran's interference in Iraq's political life. (New York Times)
  • Ayatollah Khamenei Claims Iran Protests Part of U.S.-Backed Conspiracy
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday claimed that recent protests in his country were part of a conspiracy involving the U.S.  Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, a member of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, said more than 7,000 people had been arrested. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said Tuesday that 200,000 people took part in the demonstrations, which damaged 50 police stations, 731 banks and 70 gas stations. (AP-Los Angeles Times)
  • France Considering Restoration of Iran Nuclear Sanctions
    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday raised the possibility of triggering a mechanism in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that could lead to the reimposition of UN sanctions. "Every two months there is another notch (from Iran) to the extent that we are wondering today, and I say very clearly, about the implementation of the dispute resolution mechanism in the treaty. Given the succession of actions taken by the Iranian authorities, who are progressively at odds with the contents of the JCPOA (the nuclear deal), the question comes up," he said.
        Iran's detention in June of two French researchers, anthropologists Fariba Adelkah and Roland Marchal, had not helped matters, he added. Nor had Iran's activities in the region. (AFP-France 24)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Pompeo: New Policy on Settlements Will Help Resolve Conflict - Ariel Kahana
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Israel Hayom in an interview on Wednesday: "We think the decision that was made that permits the possibility of legal settlements, that they are not illegal per se, is both the correct one and the one that is in the best interest of the security situation in Israel as well as the situation between Israel and the Palestinian people....What is inconsistent is those who believe that international law requires that every settlement is illegal just by the nature of it being a settlement."
        "We think this will create space for a political resolution for the challenges that have vexed the region for so long. We think there is not going to be some court ruling, some international court decision, some legal analysis to get this result, but rather a political resolution of the situation."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Sigd Holiday Brings Thousands to Jerusalem to Celebrate - Jeremy Sharon
    Thousands of people from the Ethiopian Jewish community and beyond travelled to the Armon Hanatziv Promenade facing the Old City of Jerusalem on Wednesday to celebrate the Sigd holiday together with the community's elders. Sigd, whose roots are found in the biblical book of Nehemiah, is marked 50 days after Yom Kippur, and encompasses prayers for a return to the Land of Israel.
        Chief Rabbi of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel Rabbi Reuven Wabshat said that after the mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel, the community decided to continue celebrating the holiday. Spiritual leader Kes Mentasnut Govze explained how in Ethiopia the Jewish community would travel to and ascend a mountain on Sigd to pray to God "that we would reach Jerusalem the next year."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Ethiopian Jews Mark Festival with Prayers in Jerusalem (Reuters)
  • Hamas Cancels Friday Gaza Border Protests for Third Week - Elior Levy
    Hamas announced Wednesday that it was canceling Friday's "march of return" demonstration at the Gaza border for the third week. Following Hamas' cancelation of the demonstration last week, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu-Rukun, said Israel was adhering to the understandings reached with Egypt to promote a long-term agreement for the benefit of the civilian population in Gaza. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Consequences of Iranian Proliferation Are Serious and Real - Peter Huessy and Bradley A. Thayer
    The U.S. State Department reported on Nov. 1 that Iran is not only the deadliest terror-sponsoring state in the world but is expanding the scope and nature of its deadly attacks. Iran is the most prolific builder of ballistic missiles in the Middle East and its space launch vehicles are a precursor for the development of intercontinental-range ballistic missiles.
        Whatever hope the world had that the nuclear deal would moderate Iran's aggressive behavior evaporated when Iran embarked on an acceleration of its terrorist rampage, increasing its support of Hizbullah, Hamas, the Houthis and Islamic Jihad.
        Iran poses a serious threat to the U.S. because of its nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation efforts and its willingness to attack U.S. allies. Keeping maximum pressure on the Iranian regime is a justifiable consequence of its actions. Peter Huessy is president of Geo-Strategic Analysis. Bradley A. Thayer is professor of political science at the University of Texas, San Antonio. (The Hill)
  • Holland's Moral Clarity on Payments to Palestinian Terrorists - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch
    In a demonstration of moral clarity, Holland has become the first European country to discontinue aid to the Palestinian Authority because of its "pay-to-slay" terror reward policy. The salaries and allowances paid to terrorists and their families are irrespective of any needs-based criteria. Rather they are paid solely as a reward for terrorism. The Dutch reasoning was clear: Why should the Dutch taxpayer subsidize the PA's legal system if the PA has hundreds of millions of shekels to squander on paying substantial financial rewards to terrorists? The writer served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps, including as Director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria. (Times of Israel)

Aid to Israel Keeps America Safer - James Sinkinson (JNS)
  • The $3.8 billion provided annually to Israel by the U.S. is actually an investment in America's own security - one that delivers an incomparably high return. The U.S. currently spends $75 billion on military operations in and aid for Afghanistan, $65 billion for Iraq, and $3.25 billion for Pakistan. Few Americans complain about this $143.25 billion.
  • U.S. funds do not support day-to-day operations of the Israel Defense Forces, but rather are largely used by Israel to purchase armaments from the U.S., such as the F-35 stealth fighter, and to develop together with the U.S. new, advanced weapon systems, such as the Iron Dome, Arrow 3 and David's Sling missile defense systems. This spending on U.S. military equipment supports U.S. high-tech defense jobs and our industrial base.
  • The nations and forces that threaten Israel are also those that threaten U.S. interests - Iran, Syria, U.S.-designated terrorist groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, and actors like al-Qaeda and Islamic State.
  • Israel destroyed a nuclear weapons factory in Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1981 and a Syrian nuclear facility under construction in 2007. Israel assists Egypt in destroying al-Qaeda cells in Sinai.
  • Israel is a world leader in cyber security and intelligence, providing the U.S. with a continuous feed of priceless intelligence on Iran, Syria, al-Qaeda, Hizbullah, and Hamas.
  • As U.S. Representative Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) put it, "For about two percent of what the U.S. spends in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan this year, Americans can take pride in the return on our investment in aid to Israel."

    The writer is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME).