January 28, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Builds Several New Bases in Iraq near Iran - Arie Egozi (Breaking Defense)
    The U.S is building at least three semi-permanent new bases very close to the Iranian border in northern Iraq, Israeli sources said.
    The U.S. plans to establish one military base near the city of Sulimania, another near the city of Halabja, 14 km. from the Iranian border, and a third south of Erbil province.
    Prof. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, said the U.S. realized "they have to keep a real presence and they are doing it by building bases in the Kurdish areas."

U.S. Central Command: Troop Surge in Middle East May Not End Soon (AP-New York Times)
    Over the past eight months, the U.S. has poured more than 20,000 additional troops into the Middle East to counter the escalating threat from Iran that peaked with the recent missile attack on American forces in Iraq. America's troop presence in the region has grown since May to 83,000.
    Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said Thursday, "Iran continues to pose a very real threat. I do believe that they are deterred right now, at least from state-on-state actions, by our response."
    He added, however, that Iranian proxy forces, who may strike with or without direction from Iranian leaders, still present a threat.
    "The fact that things are quiet for a while does not mean that necessarily things are getting better," McKenzie said.

UK Universities Face Cuts If They Reject Anti-Semitism Definition - Francis Elliott (The Times-UK)
    Universities and councils that refuse to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism are to be named and face having their funding cut, Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said Monday.
    There have been reports of a high level of anti-Semitism or racism at 30 universities in England.
    Councils "should not expect to receive public money if they cannot demonstrate that they are fighting anti-Semitism," Jenrick said.

Turkey Building Its First Aircraft Carrier (T-Intelligence)
    Work is underway on Turkey's first aircraft carrier, the TCG Anadolu, at Sedef Shipyard near Istanbul.
    The project is a joint Turkish-Spanish venture using the design of the SPS Juan Carlos amphibious assault ship operated by the Spanish Navy.
    Photos by the private Israeli firm ImageSat show great progress. The ship is to enter service in 2021.

Israelis Cannot Visit Saudi Arabia "For Now" (Al Jazeera)
    Israeli citizens are not welcome to visit Saudi Arabia, the kingdom's foreign minister said, after Israel gave its citizens the green light to visit.
    Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told CNN Arabic, "We don't have relations with Israel and holders of Israeli passports cannot visit the kingdom for now."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump Hosts Israeli Leaders Who Call His Peace Plan Historic - Aron Heller
    President Donald Trump hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival Benny Gantz separately at the White House on Monday on the eve of unveiling a long-awaited Mideast peace plan. Netanyahu hailed the plan as a chance to "make history" and define Israel's final borders. Gantz called the peace plan "a significant and historic milestone."  (AP)
        See also Trump: "Without the Palestinians, We Don't Do the Deal"
    Referring to the Mideast peace plan, President Donald Trump said Monday that the Palestinians "probably won't want it initially, but I think in the end they will....It's very good for them. In fact, it's overly good to them....Without them, we don't do the deal and that's okay....If we do, it'll be a tremendous tribute to everybody. And if we don't, life goes on."  (White House)
  • ISIS Declares War Against the Jews
    On Jan. 27, the Islamic State released a speech by its spokesman Abu Hamzah Al-Qurashi: "Today we have begun a new stage in our war against you. The eyes of the soldiers of the caliphate everywhere are still turned toward Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem)....Muslims in all countries [must]...wage war against the Jews and regain what they stole from the Muslims...the conquest of Bayt Al-Maqdis."
        "Oh soldiers of the caliphate everywhere, especially in beloved Sinai and blessed Syria, go for the Israeli settlements and marketplaces. Turn them into lands for testing your weapons and chemical rockets....To the Muslims in Palestine and all countries: Be a spearhead in the war against the Jews."  (MEMRI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Fear Some Arab Countries Might Accept U.S. Peace Plan - Khaled Abu Toameh
    "There's growing fear in Ramallah that countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt are not opposed to Trump's plan," a Palestinian official told the Jerusalem Post. Another official said, "I won't be surprised if we see Palestinians chanting slogans against Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Many here are unhappy with the close relations between Trump and some Arab leaders."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Arab World Not Following PA in Rejecting U.S. Peace Plan - Herb Keinon
    Jordan's King Abdullah II told France 24 two weeks ago that after the U.S. peace plan is presented, "Our job then is to look at the glass half full. How do we build on the plan, and how do we build it in such a way we bring the Israelis and Palestinians together." Writing in the Jordan Times, columnist Amer Al Sabaileh noted that the king adopted "a new approach of tackling the issue of the peace process, where there was no rejection of plans that are currently on the table and kept open the option of a solution in the future."
        President Trump told Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, "Many of the Arab nations have agreed to it. They like it. They think it's great. They think it's a big start."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Israeli Citizens Arrested for Spying for Hamas - Anna Ahronheim
    The Israel Security Agency has arrested two Israeli citizens on suspicion of spying for Hamas to gather intelligence for terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. Rami Amudi, 30, was born to an Israeli mother and a Gazan father and lived in Khan Yunis until last November. Rajab Dacha, 34, lived in Gaza until 2017. Both were able to move to Israel since they have Israeli mothers.
        Dacha photographed military bases, police facilities, locations of Iron Dome batteries, information about security forces, as well as the locations of where rockets impacted, and sent the pictures to his Hamas handler in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post-Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Views the U.S. Peace Plan - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin
    As Israel analyzes the U.S. peace plan, a number of valid points must be taken into consideration. Trump's plan is the best it could have hoped for, especially in comparison with past plans offered by the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. The plan aims to preserve Israel's character as a safe Jewish and democratic state and provide Israel with suitable solutions to four main issues - borders, Jerusalem's status, the Palestinian refugee problem and state security. This sends a clear message to the Palestinians that their repeated rejection of peace proposals carries a price and time isn't in their favor.
        We must understand that this plan will not lead to peace. The Palestinians rejected the proposal before it was even published. Moreover, the Palestinians are unable to present an official stance on the matter due to ongoing internal struggles between Hamas and Fatah. The writer, former head of IDF Military Intelligence, is director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ynet News)
  • Nikki Haley: No. 1 Priority of U.S. Peace Plan Is Israel's Security - Tamar Beeri
    Former U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Monday in Tel Aviv that "the number one priority" of the U.S. peace plan is "the national security of Israel." "The reason why I have hope is: Yes, the Palestinians have said they are not going to come to the table...but if the Arab countries don't run to the Palestinian side, they may see that they don't have the backing that they had before. Watch what the Arab countries do. When the [PA] realizes that they don't have the backing they think they have, I think we might see a shift."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why the U.S. Peace Plan Is Causing Barely a Ripple in Arab World - Taylor Luck
    The Palestinian cause once united peoples from Morocco to the Arabian Peninsula and was a factor in three regional wars. Yet as the U.S. is set to unveil its peace plan, something has happened to Arab support for Palestinian nationalism. A change in calculations and priorities by Arab leaders, coupled with the wariness with which young Arabs view their own governments, has muddled the message on Palestinian statehood.
        Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been silent. So, too, Egypt. Gulf leaders are putting aside a Palestinian cause they have deemed as low-reward. Another factor is their rivalry with Iran, strategically aligning them with Israel and making them ever more dependent on the U.S. "Gulf countries just want to smile and nod for Mr. Trump and walk away, hoping that the administration forgets about the whole peace deal in a couple of days," says one Gulf insider. (Christian Science Monitor)

Why the Palestinian Leadership Should Not Reject the U.S. Peace Plan - Jason Greenblatt and Bishara A. Bahbah (Al Arabiya)
  • Once Palestinian officials have had the chance to review President Trump's peace plan, they can build on the positive elements within it, raise their objections to those provisions they oppose, propose alternative, realistic and implementable suggestions, and with diligence and diplomacy, achieve meaningful progress.
  • Time and avoidance have been among the Palestinians' worst enemies. Israel grows and prospers while Palestinians are left further behind. Palestinians can keep waiting for a better deal, but in all likelihood, it may never come. Palestinians should recognize what is possible and refrain from being driven solely by what they view as just.
  • Both sides can argue for decades over what they think is just. They will never agree. Instead, Palestinians should focus on a realistic and implementable plan that has the potential to bring great things to the Palestinians if the leadership negotiates well.
  • If the Palestinians do not come to the table to negotiate, once again they will miss an opportunity to see what they might achieve. The opportunities could be endless. It is time to seize the dream, not dash it against the rocks.
  • The alternative to the peace plan is the status quo, or continued worsening of conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Is that really what Palestinians want?
  • Palestinians have much to gain from reviewing the plan and working in good faith with President Trump and Israel. Palestinians have much to lose if they reject the proposed peace plan. There is no perfect plan. It's time to stop waiting for one.

    Jason D. Greenblatt is former special representative for international negotiations in the Trump administration. Bishara A. Bahbah is a former member of the Palestinian delegation to the multilateral peace talks.