December 25, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Iran Moving Advanced Weaponry into Iraq Monthly - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Iran's Quds Force is moving advanced weaponry into Iraq monthly, Israeli army Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Wednesday. "We cannot allow this to pass."
    He said that the IDF is undertaking enormous efforts, "in the open and undercover, not to allow the enemy to equip itself with high-accuracy weapons, even at the price of confrontation."
    Kochavi also noted that Iran is continuing "to build missiles that can reach our territory and to double its enriched uranium."
    See also IDF Chief: Israel Alone in the Fight Against Iran in Syria, Iraq - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi noted Wednesday that Israel is alone in the fight against Iran and its proxies in the Middle East. "It would be better if we weren't the only ones responding to them," Kochavi said.
    "In recent years, Iran has changed its policies and is much more active, and there's no response, there's no retaliation, there are no reprisals."

The Only Place in the Middle East Where Christians Are Thriving Is the Jewish State - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
    There are 177,000 Christians in Israel, up 1.5% from last year. 78% are Arabs.
    A British report in July found that the number of Christians in the Middle East has dwindled from 20% of the population a century ago to just 5%. In the Palestinian territories the Christian population has dropped below 1.5%.
    See also Israel's Christian Population Shines in Education (JNS)
    70.9% of Christian high school students in Israel achieve college-entry matriculation exam grades, a rate slightly higher than Israeli Jews (70.6%).
    21,900 Christians live in Nazareth, 16,100 in Haifa, 12,700 in Jerusalem, and 10,300 in Shfaram.

Egyptian Court Upholds Sentence of Publisher Who Translated Israeli Book (Mada Masr-Egypt)
    Egypt's Supreme Military Appeals Court on Tuesday upheld a 5-year prison sentence against publisher Khaled Lotfy on charges of publishing false news and divulging military secrets for distributing an Arabic translation of a book by an Israeli author.
    The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, by Israeli author Uri Bar-Joseph, profiles Ashraf Marwan - former President Nasser's son-in-law and a close advisor to former President Sadat - and alleges that he spied on Egypt for Israel.

Air Pollution in Iran Sends 2,400 People to Hospitals (Radio Farda)
    On Dec. 23, 2,426 people visited hospital emergency rooms in the previous 24 hours due to air pollution.
    The Air Quality Index in Tehran on Monday reached 174. Anything above 150 is considered unhealthy for all humans, while a number under 50 is considered healthy air.
    Tehran had only 25 healthy days since March.
    See also Rain Saved Tehran from Evacuation Due to Air Pollution, Tehran Mayor Says (Radio Farda)
    On Dec. 16, the average concentration of hazardous airborne particles hit 200 micrograms per cubic meter.
    The Mayor of Tehran said the following day that the capital would have had to be evacuated if it had not rained.
    A member of the Tehran City Council said at least 15 residents lose their lives every day due to air pollution.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran: Israel Air Raids Against Syria Will Not Go Unanswered
    "Israeli airstrikes against Syria will not go unanswered," Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, told Russia Today's Arabic channel on Tuesday. "Sooner or later, Israel will receive a response for its aerial attacks."  (Press TV-Ahlolbayt News-Iran)
        See also Adviser to Supreme Leader: Iran Ready to Help with Withdrawal of U.S. Forces from Syria
    Iran is "ready to help with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria if the Syrian authorities ask and to the best of our abilities," Ali Akbar Velayati, an adviser to Iran's supreme leader, told RT Arabic. (Sputnik-Russia)
  • Iranian President's Chief of Staff Warns of Impact of FATF Blacklist
    As the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) deadline of February nears, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's Chief of Staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, warned that being blacklisted by the FATF will "deal a heavy blow" to Iran's economy. The FATF has given Iran until February to finalize laws against funding terrorism and money laundering.
        International banking, trade and foreign investments, all of which require compliance with FATF rules, can come to a standstill if Iran is put on the FATF's list of "Non-Cooperative Countries." Even Russia has officially warned Iran that it will cut economic ties if the country is blacklisted by the FATF. (Radio Farda)
  • Federal Lawsuit Filed Against Weekly Anti-Israel Demonstrations in Front of Michigan Synagogue - Marcy Oster
    Marvin Gerber, a member of Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed an 85-page complaint last week in U.S. District Court against anti-Israel protesters who have held weekly demonstrations since 2003. The lawsuit, which claims the demonstrations amount to anti-Semitic hate speech, asks the court for an injunction to stop the protesters, calling the demonstrations "harassing conduct."
        The protesters show up between 9:30 and 11:30 during Saturday morning services with signs that read "Resist Jewish Power," "Jewish Power Corrupts," "No More Holocaust Movies," "Boycott Israel," and "Stop U.S. Aid to Israel." City officials have said they cannot intervene, citing free speech rights. A protest leader said in 2013 that his group was holding the congregation accountable for supporting the State of Israel. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Blocks PA Payments to Arab-Israeli Terrorists
    Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has signed an order to prevent convicted terrorists with Israeli citizenship, and their families, from receiving payments from the Palestinian Authority. The PA guarantees financial support to Palestinians who carry out attacks against Israeli citizens.
        The order targets eight people serving sentences in Israeli prisons for attacks that killed dozens of Israelis. "This is another step in the campaign against terrorists. We are working so that Jewish blood will no longer be financially lucrative," Bennett said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • No Sign of Christmas in Gaza - Lela Gilbert
    Out of 3,000 Christians who lived in Gaza in 2007 when Hamas seized power, no more than 700-800 remain, among 1.8 million Muslims. Gazan Christian Khalil Sayegh told me, "The Christians are suffering from the current situation in Hamas-controlled Gaza....They cannot hold government jobs. But, in addition...Christians in Gaza have to tolerate being harassed in the streets just for being Christians."
        "While Hamas claims to protect Christians, its presence in Gaza has empowered Islamist radicals who harass Christians and even physically attack them....There have been several attempts to bomb Gazan churches."
        I asked Khalil if there are any Christmas decorations in Gaza. He explained that a YMCA facility is decorated, but only inside the building. Otherwise there's no sign of holiday festivity in the streets. The authorities "reject any indication of Christian celebration." The writer is an adjunct fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Australian Prime Minister: ICC Has No Authority to Discuss Palestinian Issue - Itamar Eichner
    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a letter on Tuesday that his country does not recognize the "State of Palestine" or its status as a member state of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and therefore believes that the tribunal has no authority on the matter. He added that the questions of borders and territory can only be determined in negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • We Know What the Results of the International Criminal Court "Investigation" Will Be - Prof. Avi Bell
    Fatou Bensouda, the ICC's chief prosecutor, has already adopted doubtful legal arguments made by the Palestinians that: The PLO comprises a state; all parts of Israel that were under illegal occupation by Jordan and Egypt from 1948-1967 - including the Old City of Jerusalem - belong to the state of Palestine; Jewish settlements are an international crime; and IDF soldiers are war criminals. Therefore, we already know what the results of the "investigation" will be.
        Meanwhile, the many crimes by the Palestinians, from torture to acts of terrorism and the intent to commit genocide, are not considered enough of a basis for the ICC prosecution to launch an investigation.
        As long as Israel continues to treat the ICC as a legal entity under the assumption that their intentions are good, and as long as Israel continues to make legal arguments as if anyone in the ICC is listening, it will continue to lose the battle. We must take more stringent political steps, like the U.S. already has, before the nightmare of indictments against IDF soldiers becomes a reality. The writer is a lecturer at the University of San Diego School of Law and at Bar-Ilan University's Faculty of Law. (JNS-Israel Hayom)
        See also A Plan to Fight the ICC - Caroline B. Glick
    International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's decision to prosecute Israel for imaginary war crimes proves beyond all doubt that the ICC is not engaged in anything resembling international law. The Americans are under no such delusions. To deal with the ICC threat, in 2002 Congress passed the American Service Members' Protection Act (ASPA) "to protect United States military personnel and other elected and appointed officials of the United States government against criminal prosecution by an international criminal court to which the United States is not party." The ASPA bars all U.S. government bodies from assisting the ICC in any way.  (Israel Hayom)
  • Hamas Lowers the Flames of the Border Riots
    After almost two years of Gaza border marches, Hamas has concluded that the marches and their inherent violence have exhausted themselves. Hamas is interested in achieving a short-term arrangement with Israel. Moreover, the Gazans are showing signs of becoming tired of the marches, as there has been a consistent decline in the number of participants.
        ITIC assesses that Hamas has no interest in stopping the marches and would prefer instead to hold them less frequently and with a lower level of violence. Hamas wants to keep them as a means for exerting pressure on Israel. Moreover, Hamas wants to mitigate internal Palestinian criticism from both the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and from the Palestinian Authority. Yet Hamas has no interest in a long-term lull agreement that would mean giving up its fundamental principles. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)

The International Criminal Court and Israel - Col. (ret.) Pnina Sharvit Baruch (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • On Dec. 20, 2019, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced her decision to launch an investigation into the "situation in Palestine." The decision relates to all actions taken in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Gaza since June 13, 2014.
  • In her legal opinion, the Prosecutor presents the reasons she believes Palestine can be viewed as a state for the purpose of Court jurisdiction. First, she asserts that the UN General Assembly's acceptance of Palestine as an observer state suffices to that end.
  • The Prosecutor argues that even though Palestine does not exercise full control over all of the territory of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which is under Israeli control, and Gaza, which is under Hamas rule, it should still be recognized as a state in the entirety of the territory, given the fact that 138 states have recognized a state of Palestine.
  • From the Prosecutor's analysis it is clear she is convinced that Israel's policy in the territories is illegal. She clearly lends great weight to the decisions of UN bodies, including the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, which are well-known for their decided anti-Israel bias.
  • The Prosecutor attributes little weight to the fact that the issues of the settlements and borders are meant to be decided in negotiations between the sides, and pays no heed to the complex security reality - totally ignoring, for example, the wave of terrorism early in the millennium [in which 1,137 Israelis were killed] in her detailed account of the historical background to the conflict.
  • The Court is more than likely to adopt the Prosecutor's position that its jurisdiction covers all of the "Occupied Palestinian Territories." These are the same judges who ruled in November 2018 that the Prosecutor must review her decision not to launch an investigation in the Marmara flotilla affair.
  • The Prosecutor's decision is not surprising, per se, as most expectations were that an investigation would be launched. Her decision was noticeably characterized by a total adoption of the Palestinian narrative on the conflict. Israel can expect a difficult battle, especially when it comes to the "crime" of the settlements.

    The writer, a senior research associate at INSS, served as head of the IDF's International Law Department.