January 27, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Cyberattacks Targeted World Leaders' Planes as They Flew into Israel (Times of Israel)
    As Israel hosted dozens of world leaders for the World Holocaust Forum, the country's cyber defense system fended off 800 distinct cyberattacks on Thursday targeting the country's international airport and the planes of the world leaders, Israel's Channel 12 reported Sunday.
    The Airports Authority Cyber Division said all the attacks were successfully beaten back.
    The attacks came from Iran, China, North Korea, Russia, and Poland.
    See also How Iran's Military Outsources Its Cyberwarfare Forces - Dorothy Denning (Navy Times)

Report: Iranian Militias Targeted in Eastern Syria - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    Unidentified aircraft targeted sites belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Shi'ite Fatemiyoun militia near the Syrian-Iraqi border in the Deir Ezzor area of eastern Syria on Saturday, according to Deir Ezzor 24.
    See also Report: Strike on T-4 Base in Syria Destroyed Newly-Transported Iranian Weapons (Zaman al-Wasl-Syria)
    The Jan. 14 Israeli airstrikes on the T-4 airbase in Syria destroyed munitions and weapons transported by an Iranian cargo plane a few hours before the attack.
    A well-informed source provided Zaman al-Wasl with satellite images showing the Iranian cargo and ammunition on the airstrip before and after the Israeli strike.

PA Forces Arrest Cell Targeting Their Intelligence Chief - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested a group of Fatah members suspected of plotting an attack on the head of the PA's General Intelligence Service, Majed Faraj, and his family, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.
    The suspects are thought to be linked to Tawfiq Tirawi, Faraj's predecessor, who has been an outspoken critic of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
    Faraj, an Abbas supporter who took over as head of PA intelligence in 2008, is regarded as a possible successor to the 84-year-old Fatah leader.

Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Increase by 60 Percent in LA in 2019 (JNS)
    Reported anti-Semitic hate crimes in Los Angeles increased by 60% between 2018 and 2019, the Los Angeles Police Department said Wednesday.
    Of 81 hate crimes that targeted religious groups in 2019, 69 were anti-Jewish, compared to 43 anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2018.

Anti-Semitic Acts Increase in France in 2019 (DPA-Ha'aretz)
    There were 687 anti-Semitic acts in France in 2019 compared with 541 in 2018, an increase of 27%.

Israelis Allowed to Visit Saudi Arabia for Hajj, Business - Ivan Levingston (Bloomberg News)
    Israelis will be allowed for the first time to visit Saudi Arabia, either for business reasons or to attend Islamic pilgrimages, Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said on Sunday.
    The move is a further marker of warming ties between Israel and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
    It will still be difficult for Israelis to travel there since no airlines fly directly between the countries and the two sides don't have official relations.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump to Unveil Middle East Peace Plan to Israeli Leaders on Monday - Steve Holland
    U.S. President Donald Trump will hold separate, back-to-back meetings at the White House on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the head of the Blue and White Party who is Netanyahu's rival in the March 2 elections. On Tuesday, Trump will deliver joint remarks with Netanyahu at the White House, where the president may reveal details of his peace proposal to the public. (Reuters)
        See also Palestinians Rebuff White House Attempt to Speak to Abbas - Andrew Carey
    As the White House prepares to unveil its long-awaited peace plan, CNN has learned that the Trump administration has made a renewed attempt to speak to PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. But two senior Palestinian officials close to Abbas indicated the White House overture had been rebuffed. (CNN)
  • 34 U.S. Troops Have Brain Injuries from Iranian Missile Strike, Pentagon Says - Helene Cooper
    The Defense Department said Friday that 34 American service members have traumatic brain injuries from Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. 16 service members treated for traumatic brain injury in Iraq have returned to duty, officials said. (New York Times)
  • How Iran Covered Up the Downing of an Airliner - Farnaz Fassihi
    When the Revolutionary Guards officer spotted what he thought was an unidentified aircraft near Tehran's international airport, he had seconds to decide whether to pull the trigger. Iran had just fired a barrage of missiles at American forces and the Iranian military was warning of incoming cruise missiles. The officer tried to reach the command center for authorization to shoot but couldn't get through. So he fired an antiaircraft missile. Then another, shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner with 176 people on board.
        Within minutes, the top commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards realized what they had done. And at that moment, they began to cover it up. For days, they refused to tell President Hassan Rouhani, whose government was publicly denying that the plane had been shot down. When they finally told him, he gave them an ultimatum: come clean or he would resign. Only then, 72 hours later, did Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei order the government to acknowledge its fatal mistake. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Leaders Condemn Peace Deal while Public Responds with Apathy - Jack Khoury
    The impending release of the U.S. peace plan has drawn condemnation from Palestinian leaders in Ramallah and Gaza. But despite these declarations, veteran Fatah activists in Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem expressed skepticism about the feasibility of a popular protest over the plan. Fatah activists in the West Bank say that the lack of public response indicates people's indifference toward the process and a lack of confidence in the Palestinian leadership. A Fatah activist in Nablus said, "As far as the street is concerned, no one is ready to sacrifice himself for the PA leadership."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinians Calls for Boycott of American Goods - Zalman Ahnsaf
    The National and Islamic Forces in Ramallah declared Tuesday as a day of rage in response to the coming release of the U.S. Mideast peace plan. The group called for tearing down all street signs concerning U.S. funding for various Palestinian projects, and a boycott on American goods. (Hamodia)
        See also IDF Plans for Increased Tensions over U.S. Peace Plan - Rachel Wolf
    The IDF is preparing for increased tensions after the publication of the U.S. Middle East peace plan, which is expected Tuesday. Reinforcements have been sent to the West Bank to prevent Palestinian attacks, Army Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Explosive Balloon Found Hanging from Sderot Tree Sunday
    An explosives-laden balloon flown from Gaza was found hanging from a tree in the city of Sderot on Sunday. (Times of Israel)
        See also Balloons with Explosives Spotted in Nahal Oz (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Explosives Found Tied to Balloons in Kibbutz Be'eri near Gaza Saturday (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Balloons Carrying Gaza Bomb Lands in Israel
    A bunch of balloons tied to a suspected bomb was found Saturday morning near Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev, 40 km. (25 miles) from Gaza. Images showed a device similar to a rocket-propelled grenade. (Times of Israel)
        See also IDF Hits Hamas Sites in Gaza in Response to Balloon Bombs
    Israeli aircraft struck several Hamas outposts in Gaza late Saturday in response to incendiary and explosives-laden balloons launched from the territory. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Ambassador Reveals Contours of Peace Deal - Raphael Ahren
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, one of the key architects of the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, addressed the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem on Jan. 8.
        Friedman said, "And now we come to Judea and Samaria, certainly the most complicated of the issues because of the large indigenous Palestinian population....Two million or more Palestinians reside in Judea and Samaria, and we all wish that they live in dignity, in peace, and with independence, pride and opportunity. We are committed to find a way to make that happen."
        "The Pompeo Doctrine says clearly that Israelis have a right to live in Judea and Samaria. But it doesn't say that Palestinians don't. Rather, it calls for a practical negotiated resolution of the conflict that improves lives on both sides."  (Times of Israel)
  • A Long-Term Understanding with Hamas? - Michael Milstein
    In recent months, what has been transpiring on the ground between Israel and Hamas is far from the hoped-for long-term understanding. In the past few days, Hamas once again became an instigator of violence, launching incendiary balloons across the border to demonstrate its dissatisfaction with the pace of the talks.
        Three key issues must be included in any real agreement: Hamas must agree to end its military actions including those in the West Bank; Hamas must assume complete control of all rogue factions in Gaza; and the bodies of two fallen Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians believed held by Hamas in Gaza must be released.
        The biggest challenge for Hamas will be exerting authority over other factions, but that is the most crucial aspect that must be agreed on before a long-term understanding can be reached. The writer is head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ynet News)
  • The Unique Geographic Features of the Jordan Valley Provide Israel with Defensible Borders - Andrew Lovy
    The Jordan Valley serves as Israel's frontline of defense from any attacks coming from the east. Israel has a width of 9 miles at its narrowest from the Mediterranean to the Green Line. However, Israel's width from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River is 40 miles, which provides greater strategic depth to withstand an attack.
        Likewise, the unique geographical features of the Jordan Valley provide Israel with defensible borders. The Jordan Valley rises from an area that lies 1,300 feet below sea level to the eastern slopes of the West Bank mountain ridge, which at its highest point stands around 3,600 feet above sea level. The Jordan Valley thus creates a 4,000-foot topographical barrier. The Jordan Valley contains only five mountain passages, which makes it easier for Israel to defend against attacks from the east.
        Moreover, Israeli control in the Jordan Valley enables it to prevent terrorist infiltrations and the importation of weapons into the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Why Israel Opposes International Forces in the Jordan Valley (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Britain Should Support the U.S. Peace Plan - Col. Richard Kemp (Jerusalem Post)
  • At a cost of 168,000 casualties, British Empire forces freed the land of Palestine from the malignant rule of the Ottoman Empire in a defensive campaign from 1915 to 1918. Had our troops not secured victory, the Turks would have maintained dominion over that land and there could never have been a Jewish state.
  • Yet the British government published a White Paper in May 1939 slamming the door on Jewish immigration into Palestine. Liberal Party MP James Rothschild observed at the time, "For the majority of the Jews who go to Palestine, it is a question of migration or of physical extinction."
  • We don't know how many Jews perished in the Holocaust who might have escaped to Palestine but it certainly runs into the hundreds of thousands. It is to Britain's eternal shame that our nation played a role in sending Jews to the Nazi ovens.
  • At the same time, had the British Army under General Montgomery not succeeded in halting Rommel at El-Alamein in 1942, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, would have achieved his desire to see Jews herded into gas chambers in Palestine and across the Arab world.
  • A serving British general led the illegal Jordanian invasion of the newly declared State of Israel in 1948. Britain armed the Arab aggressors and denied munitions to Israel, even continuing to hold fighting-age Jews in Cyprus long after British forces had withdrawn from Palestine.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump will announce his proposals for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Predictably, Al-Husseini's successors in the Palestinian leadership have rejected it even before it's been published. Britain, which played such an important part in the re-creation of the Jewish state, yet also made too many disastrous missteps, should get behind the president's proposals, which represent the only realistic hope for long-term peace and stability between the two peoples.

    The writer is a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan.