January 22, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

PA Tells Palestinians: Western Wall in Jerusalem Belongs Only to Muslims - Donna Rachel Edmunds (Jerusalem Post)
    The Western Wall belongs only to Muslims and must be defended even to the death, Palestinians were told on official PA TV and in the official PA newspaper.
    PA TV said, "Since Islam's conquest [in the 7th century], the al-Buraq Wall [the Western Wall] has remained an Islamic waqf [an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law]. The Muslims have the absolute right to it and there is not even one rock there that dates back to the period of King Solomon, as the Jews claim."
    The Western Wall, part of Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount, is a remnant of a large retaining wall built by King Herod to support the mount for the Second Temple. No part of Solomon's First Temple remains, although artifacts from that period have been found in the area.

Israeli Aid Organization to Help Civilians at New Gaza Health Center - Deborah Dahan (Jerusalem Post)
    From March 2020, the Israeli humanitarian aid organization Natan will run two clinics in the new Gaza Health Center to provide trauma, medical and dental care to Gaza civilians.
    The health facility is located near the Erez Checkpoint at the Israel-Gaza border and was built and is managed by American NGO FriendShips.
    Natan will recruit volunteers to participate in the project, excluding Israelis due to IDF regulations.
    Natan has provided assistance to victims of disasters from floods, earthquakes and typhoons in Asia and Africa. Natan sent medical care to Syrian civilians on the Syrian side of the Golan border.

British Tank Equipped with Israeli-Made Vision System - Joseph Trevithick (The Drive)
    The British Army recently showed off a Challenger 2 main battle tank optimized for urban operations, dubbed Streetfighter II.
    The vehicle has an Israeli-made IronVision system, which allows the crew to see in all directions while riding inside with all the hatches closed.
    IronVision consists of an array of electro-optical and infrared cameras positioned around the hull of an armored vehicle, which then feed into a helmet-mounted display.
    The system "stitches" the feeds together, giving the individual wearing the helmet the ability to "see" right through the hull of the tank in any direction, day or night.
    See also Video: The IronVision Helmet Can See Through Armor (Defense-Update)

Israeli Electric Company Ends Power Cuts to West Bank after Palestinians Pay Debt (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The Israel Electric Corp. (IEC) said on Wednesday it was ending power cuts to the West Bank after the Palestinians' main power distributor paid off $214 million of its $519 million debt that has accumulated since 2016.
    Palestinians in the West Bank rely on IEC for over 95% of their electricity.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Ayatollah Khamenei Boasts of "the Day of Allah when IRGC Missiles Crushed the American Base"
    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a Friday sermon in Tehran on Jan. 17, 2020: "What is 'the day of Allah'? It is a day when a person can see the powerful hand of God in what is happening....The day when the IRGC missiles crushed the American base constitutes another one of the days of Allah....The day of Allah when the American base was crushed will never leave the minds of these people."  (MEMRI)
        See also below Commentary: The Killing of Soleimani Will Not Stop Iranian Aggression - Col. (ret.) Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Iran Refusing to Hand Over Flight Data Recorders from Ukrainian Airliner - Rory Jones
    Iran is refusing to hand over the flight data recorders of a Ukrainian airliner it shot down, despite Ukraine's demand that the black boxes be sent back home for analysis. A perception that Iran is being obstructionist to an investigation into the causes of the crash could further isolate the country.
        Iranian officials had indicated they would accede to Western requests that the black boxes be sent to Ukraine or France where the data could be downloaded in a credible and neutral laboratory, since Iran didn't have the necessary technology to assess it. But on Tuesday, Iran's aviation regulator said it is asking for equipment from the U.S. and France to download data from the flight-data and cockpit-voice recorders. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • World Holocaust Forum in Israel Is a Major Diplomatic Event - Raphael Ahren
    Delegations from 49 countries, including 41 heads of state, are expected to attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Israeli diplomats said that not even the funerals of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres drew as many foreign dignitaries.  U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain's Prince Charles and French President Emmanuel Macron are the most prominent names.
        The Forum includes a state dinner at Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's official residence on Wednesday night and a memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem on Thursday, where leaders from the four WWII Allied countries and Germany will speak. Putin will also attend a dedication ceremony for a monument in Jerusalem in memory of the heroism of the soldiers and residents killed during the siege of Leningrad. (Times of Israel)
        See also List of World Leaders Attending the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem (Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center)
  • Israel's UN Ambassador, Speaking in Persian, Says Israel "Stands with Iranian People"
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Iranian people in Persian that "Israel is on your side," in remarks at the Security Council on Tuesday. He displayed a photo of Nikta Esfandani, 14, who was killed by Iranian security forces during protests in November.
        Danon added: "Our Persian neighbors have a rich heritage that they should be proud of. The Persian people led the declaration of human rights, aided terminating slavery and granted people the right to choose their religion. The water systems, algebra, animation, chess - all Iranian inventions....It is absurd that the people that invented human rights and acted for freedom of religion is being ruled by a regime that is crushing those two rights."  (i24News)
  • IDF Kills 3 Gazans Who Infiltrated Israel, Attacked Troops - Judah Ari Gross
    Three Palestinians were killed after they crossed the Gaza border into Israel and threw an explosive device at Israeli troops Tuesday night, the IDF said. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinians Who Breached Israeli Border Sent by Islamic Jihad - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Killing of Soleimani Will Not Stop Iranian Aggression - Col. (ret.) Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen
    It is not in dispute that Soleimani's killing was a blow to Iran's regional influence. It is doubtful, however, that his loss created an unfillable vacuum. The Quds Force's command structure, including its link with the IRGC leadership, creates reasonable conditions to maintain hierarchical continuity, including an immediate transfer of authority that does not entail a significant disruption of the chain of command.
        A sober consideration of Iran's strategy in the Middle East indicates that the killing of Soleimani will not affect Tehran's intention to continue to implement its aggressive regional policy, directly or through proxy organizations.
        As the Iranian leadership sees it, Tehran came out of this round of quasi-warfare with the U.S. with the upper hand. The impressive accuracy and substantial damage wrought by Iran's retaliatory missile attack on the Iraqi bases has considerably reinforced Tehran's deterrence. Declarations that the U.S. has "restored its deterrence" vis-a-vis Iran are therefore premature. The writer served as a senior analyst in IDF Military Intelligence. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Iran's Weak Points, and How Israel and U.S. Could Exploit Them - Col. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Kam
    The initial Iranian response to the killing of Qasem Soleimani is not necessarily the final one. We can assume that the Iranian regime wants to gain time in order to examine the alternatives to fulfilling its promise to inflict serious punishment on the U.S. The leadership in Iran is committed to that. The firing of Iranian missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq, with minimal results, has to be perceived by Iran's rivals as a sign of weakness rather than strength.
        Israel is likely to be another target for Iran's retaliation campaign. But the Iranians should recall that Israel hit dozens of Iranian and Shi'ite targets in Syria and Iraq without Tehran daring to respond - with the exception of a few failed attempts - in recognition of Israel's aerial superiority.
        Although Iran has considerable deterrence capability against Israel, based on its huge missile systems and those of Hizbullah and the Shi'ite militias, using those systems against Israel means war. In that case, Iran has to take into account that the U.S. will help Israel, and that Israel will also exploit the confrontation in order to attack Iran's nuclear sites. Iran knows that Israel is looking for justification and a good opportunity to deliver such a blow.
        The writer, who served in the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is Deputy Director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)

What Martin Luther King Thought of Israel - Martin Kramer (Times of Israel)
  • Not a year goes by without an attempt by someone to associate the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Palestinian cause. It's particularly striking, since the late Palestinian academic Edward Said noted in 1993: "I was very soon turned off by Martin Luther King, who revealed himself to be a tremendous Zionist, and who always used to speak very warmly in support of Israel, particularly in '67, after the war."
  • King knew the "plight" of the Palestinians perfectly well, having visited Jordanian-held East Jerusalem in 1959, where he got a tutorial from the leading lights of Arab Palestine. Yet he never left a quote in support of any aspect of the Palestinian Arab cause.
  • King believed that the Palestinian refugee problem, if not the Arab-Israeli conflict as a whole, could best be resolved through "a Marshall Plan for the Middle East, where we lift those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder and bring them into the mainstream of economic security." Today that would be called "economic peace."
  • UCLA historian Robin D.G. Kelley recently claimed that King kept his silence on Israel to win Jewish financial or political support for the civil rights movement. But this notion of a quid pro quo takes no account of the spiritual dimension of King's ties to Zionist Jews. The two who were closest to him were refugee rabbis from Hitler's Europe.
  • Joachim Prinz (1902-1988), who allied himself with King in 1958, spoke just before King at the 1963 March on Washington. Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) marched in the front line with King in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. Both were eloquently committed to Israel. For King, these men were not "supporters," they were fellow visionaries, with whom he shared prophetic values.
  • The attempt to make King into an advocate for Palestine is an offense to history.

    The writer teaches Middle Eastern history and served as founding president at Shalem College in Jerusalem. He is the Koret distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.