December 17, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Opposition Muslim Brotherhood Has Little Support in Jordan - David Pollock and Shaina Katz (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Despite continued popular concern over economic hardships, the main Muslim Brotherhood opposition movement in Jordan garners support from just 19%, according to a November poll.
    86% say it is "not important" for Jordan to maintain good ties with Iran.
    96% express a negative opinion of both Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei and his Lebanese ally, Hizbullah.

Royal Navy Head: Iran Still Poses Threat to Gulf Shipping - Jonathan Beale (BBC News)
    Iran's threat to British shipping in the Gulf "hasn't gone away," Adm. Tony Radakin, head of the Royal Navy, has told the BBC.
    On a visit to the region, he said: "We have to react when a nation is as aggressive as Iran was."

Iran's Non-Oil Exports Decline by $4.5 Billion (Radio Farda)
    The Tehran Chamber of Commerce (TCC) reported that Iran's non-oil exports declined 11% from March to November compared with same period last year.
    At the same time, the decline in the oil sector is close to 90%.

Report: The New Anti-Semites (StopAntisemitism.org)
    This new report documents how contemporary hate, as disseminated by the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Movement, is negatively influencing large segments of the U.S. population and creating a dangerous environment that normalizes vilification of Jews.

Sudan Pledges to Close Down Hamas and Hizbullah Offices - Mohammed Amin (Middle East Eye-UK)
    "The [Sudanese] government will close the offices of Hamas and Hizbullah and any other Islamic group designated as terrorist groups that has a presence in Sudan," a reliable Sudanese source has disclosed.
    Earlier this month, Sudan's Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok visited Washington in a bid to have his country removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Intel Buys Israeli AI Startup Habana Labs for $2 Billion - Steven Scheer (Reuters)
    Intel Corp. has bought Israel-based artificial intelligence (AI) firm Habana Labs for $2 billion, the chipmaker said Monday.
    Navin Shenoy, who oversees Intel's data center group, said Habana's chips are aimed at deep learning, a subset of machine learning, being done in data centers.

Red Army Veterans in Israel to Receive Special Stipend from Russia - Amir Alon (Ynet News)
    Russia has announced it will pay Red Army veterans who live outside the country a special stipend of $100 a month, starting with the 4,500 veterans living in Israel.

Israeli Team Wins Admiral's Cup Sailing Regatta in India (Times of India)
    Israel won the 10th edition of the Admiral's Cup Sailing Regatta at the Indian Naval Academy on Friday.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pro-Iran Militia Kills Scores in Baghdad - Richard Spencer
    Masked men in pick-up trucks poured into the Baghdad protest camp after darkness fell on Dec. 6, wildly spraying Kalashnikov fire at random. At least two dozen were shot dead. Then, the militia, believed to be formed of pro-Iran groups, held scores of protesters captive for hours in a multi-storey car park. The young men were beaten, stabbed and slashed with knives. In some cases they were murdered in cold blood, survivors told The Times. Medical staff treating the wounded at the scene said they believed as many as 80 to 85 died.
        At least 450 people have been killed in Iraq since October and the protesters say many more. Scores more activists have been kidnapped, sometimes for weeks at a time. Many are still missing. (The Times-UK)
        See also Iraqi Militia Kidnapped 300 Baghdad Protesters, Holds Them in Secret Prisons - Joyce Karam (The National-Abu Dhabi)
  • Israel Eyes Dubai Expo as Portal to Arab World
    With the Dubai Expo 2020 trade fair opening next year, the Israeli pavilion will present a unique opportunity to speed up the "normalization" of relations and reach out to Arab peoples, officials say.
        Dore Gold, former director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said the "quasi-diplomatic presence" of the pavilion is one of several developments with "a cumulative effect." He cited sporting competitions and the 2015 opening in Abu Dhabi of an Israeli mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency, which is based there. "It's not normalization, but it's an enhanced presence," he said.
        While the Gulf Arab states have not lost interest in the Palestinian issue, "these countries are looking after themselves," including enhancing security cooperation with Israel against Iran. Gold, who heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think-tank, said, "The name of the game is how to find joint interests that don't create a big stir. In any case, if you did public opinion surveys, you'd find that throughout most of the Gulf there's a kind of understanding that Israel's part of the region."  (AFP-France 24)
  • Turkey to Send UAVs to Northern Cyprus Base, Expanding Mediterranean Operations
    The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) will allow the Turkish Air Force (TAF) to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Gecitkale airport, Turkish Cypriot officials announced on Friday. In recent years, Greece, Cyprus and Israel have discovered offshore gas fields in their exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in the Eastern Mediterranean and agreed in 2019 to pursue a common pipeline project to deliver Israeli and Cypriote natural gas to the EU via Greece.
        Turkey, which hasn't found any hydrocarbons in Turkish waters, sees the project as a threat to its status and to the TRNC's maritime rights. Turkey does not recognize Cyprus, and is not a signatory of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Ankara claims parts of the Cypriot offshore hydrocarbons or demands that the Cyprus government in Nicosia share its exclusive resources with the TRNC.
        The Turkish government ignored international criticism and authorized Turkish Petroleum to conduct drillings off Cyprus' east and west coasts. Two Turkish drilling vessels alongside seismic vessels have been searching for oil and gas for the past five months, escorted by Turkish Navy and Coast Guard vessels. (T-Intelligence)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF: Terror Tunnels under Northern Border Pose Major Threat - Hanan Greenwood
    Terror tunnels will play a major part in the next armed conflict on Israel's northern and southern borders, IDF Maj.-Gen. Mickey Edelstein, who heads counter-tunnel warfare development efforts, said Sunday. He was speaking at a symposium on "Subterranean Challenges in War and Peace," hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in collaboration with the U.S. Military Academy of West Point and the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
        "There is a 100% chance that we will face the challenge of the tunnels in Gaza and in Lebanon," he said. In the northern sector, "Every village has tunnels....We don't have the intelligence capability to discern the location of each and every tunnel."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also IDF: Hizbullah Still Has Tunnels on Lebanese Side of the Border - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    IDF Engineering Corps Lt.-Col. Aviv Amir said Monday that in 2018 the IDF found a Hizbullah tunnel near the Israeli town of Misgav Am that came up to Israel's border but did not cross it, so the military left it alone. Hizbullah is believed to have additional similar tunnels. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Must Set Conditions for Hamas in Palestinian Elections - Yossi Beilin
    Fatah and Hamas finally agreed on Dec. 10 to hold new elections - first for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), and then, three months later, for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. With all due respect to internal Palestinian agreements, Israel must insist that no Palestinian individual or group that expects to achieve its goals through undemocratic means is allowed to participate in these elections, as stated in the Oslo interim agreement of September 1995. The fact that Hamas already participated in previous Palestinian elections cannot be used to justify repeating that terrible mistake.
        The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Annex 2, Article 3.2: Nominations) states, "The nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions will be refused, and such nomination or registration will be canceled, if such candidates, parties or coalitions: (1) commit or advocate racism, or (2) pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or non-democratic means."
        When I asked Prime Minister Sharon about this at the time, Sharon told me that he saw no difference between Hamas and Fatah. As far as he was concerned, they both want to destroy Israel. According to him, the only difference between the other parties and Hamas is that Hamas says what it plans to do, while the other parties engage in wordplay. The writer, a former Israeli government minister, was involved in initiating the Oslo process. (Al-Monitor)
  • Poorly Attended "Day of Rage" Reveals Palestinians' Loss of Trust in PA - Dr. Adnan Abu Amer
    The Palestinian Authority called for Nov. 26 to be a "Day of Rage" against America's claim that Israeli settlements do not violate international law. Senior officials from Fatah, which President Mahmoud Abbas heads, said that the protests would leading to an uprising against Israel. However, the demonstrations were few and poorly attended, a catastrophic failure for the PA, with only around 1,000 demonstrators. This suggests that the main concerns of the Palestinian people are the economy and living standards rather than action in support of the PA.
        Moreover, Abbas ordered his forces to disperse a protest by former prisoners in Ramallah because the PA has cut their stipends. In Nablus, the largest city in the northern West Bank, there was not a single meaningful demonstration. The gap between the Palestinian leadership and the people is getting wider by the day. The writer is head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza. (Middle East Monitor-UK)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday responded to a Congressional letter that criticized the administration's position on the legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
  • "The State Department's determination did not reverse any policy with regard to Israeli settlements. Rather, the State Department reversed a legal determination by Secretary Kerry...allowing UNSCR 2334, whose foundation was the purported illegality of the settlements...to pass the Security Council on December 23, 2016."
  • "Secretary Kerry's determination did not enjoy bipartisan consensus. Rather, it received bipartisan condemnation, including from leading Democrats in both chambers of Congress. Indeed, an overwhelming number of Senators and House Members, on both sides of the aisle, supported resolutions objecting to the passage of UNSCR 2334."
  • "While you are free to fixate on settlements as a barrier to peace, you are simply wrong in referring to that view as being subject to bipartisan agreement. No less a Democratic spokesman than the Senate Minority Leader publicly stated at his AIPAC address on March 5, 2018, that 'it's sure not the settlements that are the blockage to peace.'"
  • "You assert that we have 'blatantly disregarded' the Fourth Geneva Convention....I commend to you the writings of Eugene Rostow, who left his position as Dean of the Yale Law School to become Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration....Rostow stated in 1983 that 'Israel has an unassailable legal right to establish settlements in the West Bank.'"
  • "U.S. policy with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict largely has been consistent for decades and remains so: we support and seek to facilitate direct negotiations between the parties towards the goal of a just and lasting peace agreement."
  • "Regrettably, as many experts concur, UNSCR 2334 and the related self-justifying remarks by Secretary Kerry have saddled the Trump Administration with a significant handicap in advancing the cause of peace by erroneously injecting into the conflict an incorrect and largely irrelevant legal component. This in turn has led to the hardening of positions, especially on the Palestinian side."