February 3, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

4 Turkish Troops, 13 Syrian Soldiers Killed in Northern Syria - Suzan Fraser (AP-Washington Post)
    Turkish artillery hit 46 targets in Syria in response to shelling by Syrian government forces that killed at least four Turkish soldiers, Turkish President Erdogan said Monday. A Syrian war monitor said 13 Syrian troops were killed.
    The exchange came hours after a large Turkish military convoy entered the northwestern province of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

Two Stabbed in London Terror Attack (Sky News-UK)
    Two people have been stabbed and a terrorist has been shot dead following an "Islamist-inspired" terror attack in south London.
    Sudesh Amman, 20, was released from prison just days ago after serving half of a three-year sentence for spreading extremist material.
    He wore a fake bomb vest as he stabbed people in Streatham on Sunday afternoon.

Egypt-Israel Gas Line Attacked in Sinai - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post-Ha'aretz)
    A gas line between Israel and Egypt in northern Sinai was attacked Sunday night, Al Jazeera reported.
    The partners that run the Leviathan gas platform said Sunday there had "not been any damage to the EMG pipeline connecting Israel and Egypt. The flow of gas from Leviathan to Egypt is continuing as normal."
    Previous explosions have closed the Egyptian pipeline for weeks.
    At least six masked militants planted explosives under the pipeline in the town of Bir al-Abd, Egyptian security officials said Sunday.
    The explosion sent thick flames shooting into the sky, and authorities stopped the flow of gas to extinguish the fire.

Al-Qaeda Leader Wanted for Murder Arrested in Arizona (AZFamily-Phoenix)
    Federal authorities on Thursday arrested Ali Yousif Ahmed Al-Nouri, 42, believed to be the leader of an al-Qaeda terrorist group in Iraq, for his role in the murder of two Iraqi police officers in 2006.
    It is unclear how long Al-Nouri had lived in Arizona.

Israel Delivers Reconnaissance Drones to Morocco (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Three Israeli Heron reconnaissance drones arrived in Morocco on Jan. 26 as part of $48 million arms deal, the French website Intelligence Online reported.
    The drones will be deployed to counter extremist groups in the Western Sahara.

Israeli Delegations Have Been Quietly Visiting Saudi Arabia - Smadar Perry (Ynet News)
    Saudi Minister of State Adel al-Jubeir insists that "we have no ties of any kind with Israel."
    The truth is that Israeli delegations have been quietly visiting Saudi Arabia for the past two years.
    Some were accompanied by senior members of the security community, some by businessmen.
    Most - although not all - hold passports from other countries, but it is clear to their Saudi hosts who they really are and where they really came from.

Israel Aerospace Wins $240 Million U.S. Air Force Contract (Reuters)
    Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said Sunday it won a $240 million contract to manufacture wings for U.S. Air Force T-38 training aircraft.
    IAI has been producing wings for the T-38s since 2011.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Envoy Warns Palestinians Against Opposing U.S. Peace Plan at UN - Michelle Nichols
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft warned the Palestinians on Friday that bringing their displeasure with the U.S. peace plan to the UN would only "repeat the failed pattern of the last seven decades." The U.S. is certain to veto any resolution on the issue, diplomats said. (Reuters)
        See also Arab League Rejects U.S. Mideast Peace Plan
    The Arab League on Saturday rejected the U.S. Mideast peace plan, saying, "it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people." They insisted on a two-state solution that includes a Palestinian state based on the lines before the 1967 war.
        Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Araba, the UAE, Qatar, Egypt and Morocco all issued statements following the release of the U.S. peace plan calling it a welcoming step. But on Saturday all backed the Arab League rejection, Israel's Channel 13 reported. (Al Jazeera-Times of Israel)
  • Kushner Defends Conditions for Palestinians to Get a State - Nicole Gaouette
    Senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner told CNN that Palestinians must meet certain conditions under the administration's Middle East plan. "If they don't think that they can uphold these standards, then I don't think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognize them as a state, to allow them to take control of themselves, because the only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state."  (CNN)
  • U.S. Technology on Iraqi F-16s Feared Vulnerable to Iranian-Backed Militias - Ellen Ioanes
    U.S. and Iraqi officials say they are increasingly concerned that sensitive U.S. technology on Iraq's F-16 fighter jets at Balad air base, until recently secured and maintained by foreign contractors, is vulnerable to seizure by Iranian-backed militias. Officials say it's only a matter of time before PMF militias can access the air base, and quite possibly the weapons the contractors were there to protect.
        One U.S. official said, "We just have absolutely no way to verify what they are looking at, what they're carrying away. Right now, at Balad, there's nothing. There's no U.S. personnel at all providing security. As far as the technology, once that's compromised, that's compromised." PMF units have previously gotten hold of American-made Iraqi M1 Abrams tanks. (Foreign Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel to Toughen Border Inspections to Block Coronavirus
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said arrival of the coronavirus virus in Israel is "unavoidable" and instructed the Israel Institute for Biological Research to prepare a vaccine to the virus in case it needs to be mass-produced.
        Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman on Sunday called "on those who recently returned from China to make sure to isolate yourselves and stay at home....Everyone must take part in the effort to prevent the spreading of the virus."
        The Israel Foreign Ministry said Friday it recommended that Israelis not travel to China until the emergency is declared over and that those in China consider leaving the country. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global emergency. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel Sends Supplies to Help Chabad in China Prevent Spread of Coronavirus - Rachel Wolf
    Magen David Adom (MDA - Israel's Red Cross) announced on Sunday it will send 2,000 masks and 200 full shielding kits to 14 Chabad branches across China to help them prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The kits, which include masks, goggles, shoes, hats and more, aim to prevent infection if one comes in contact with a sick person. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Islamic Jihad Keeps Firing Rockets at Israel from Gaza
    Over 11 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel in the past week-and-a-half, and dozens of explosive balloons have been launched into Israel from Gaza and the West Bank. Most of the rockets were fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. PIJ leader Khalil Bathani is changing his routine and staying mobile against the possibility that Israel will target him as it did PIJ official Baha Abu al-Ata in November.
        In response, the IDF struck Hamas targets in Gaza including underground complexes used for rocket storage and a building used as a military situation room. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Rockets Fired at Israel from Gaza for 4th Day in a Row - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Seeks Normalization of Ties between Israel, Arab States - Omri Nahmias
    The U.S. is actively pursuing normalization between Israel and numerous Arab countries, a senior White House official told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "We are getting close on our work on normalization," he said. Currently on the agenda are non-belligerency agreements with Israel, direct flights between Israel and Arab countries, and allowing Israeli officials to attend events in Arab countries. "We have been working behind the scenes to get it ready," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Rejects Moving Israeli Arab Towns to Palestinian State
    Senior officials in the Israel Prime Minister's Office said that even if a Palestinian state is established under the U.S. peace plan, Israel's borders will not be redrawn to include Arab towns in the Triangle area in such a state, Channel 12 reported Sunday. The Triangle, an area southeast of Haifa, includes 14 towns and villages where more than 260,000 Arab Israelis live. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel's Security in a Redrawn Middle East - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The new U.S. Mideast peace plan changes nothing on the ground. There is nothing to compromise the capabilities of Israel's security services in the West Bank to gather intelligence, conduct counter-terrorism operations, or contain riots.
        There are elements of the plan that will improve Israel's security situation, namely, the demilitarization of a Palestinian state, including Gaza, and permanent Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. These will help to thwart terrorism and boost Israel's ability to face strategic threats from the east.
        However, the prospect of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley has already incited the Palestinians in Jordan as well as Jordanian Islamists who are threatening the survival of Jordanian King Abdullah's regime. The king may be pleased that he has a border with Israel and not the Palestinian Authority or a Palestinian state, which could pose a threat. But he will not say this publicly. (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Peace Plan Requires Palestinians to Prove Their Commitment to Peace - Caroline Glick
    From 1994 through 1996, during the heyday of the Oslo peace process, I participated in all of the negotiating sessions with the Palestinians as a captain in the Israel Defense Forces, serving as the coordinator of negotiations on civil affairs for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. The same Palestinian leaders who joked with us in fancy meeting rooms in Cairo and Taba breached every commitment they made to Israel the minute the sessions ended.
        Beginning with the PLO's failure to amend its covenant that called for Israel's destruction in nearly every paragraph; through their refusal to abide by the limits they had accepted on the number of weapons and security forces they were permitted to field in the areas under their security control; their continuous breaches of zoning and building laws and regulations; to their constant Nazi-like anti-Semitic propaganda and incitement and solicitation of terrorism against Israel - it was self-evident they were negotiating in bad faith.
        When you read the U.S. plan closely, you realize it is a mirror image of the Oslo deal. Rather than Israel being required to prove its good will, the Palestinians are required to prove their commitment to peace.
        Under Oslo rules, Israel was supposed to release terrorists as a confidence-building measure to facilitate the opening of negotiations. Under the new U.S. plan the order is reversed. Israel is expected to release terrorists only after the Palestinians have returned all of the Israeli prisoners and MIAs and only after a peace deal has been signed. Whereas Israel was required under Oslo to release murderers, the new plan states explicitly that Israel will not release murderers or accessories to murder. (Israel Hayom)

U.S. Peace Plan: Palestinians Should Abandon Posturing - Raghida Dergham (The National-Abu Dhabi)
  • European countries, collectively or individually, will not oppose the proposed U.S. peace plan. Russia will not oppose the U.S. as the erstwhile Soviet Union had done. China will not bring this issue into the calculations of its relationship with the U.S. The Arab countries are divided, with some calling for negotiations to improve the terms and others encouraging the Palestinians to focus on the positives.
  • Iran and Turkey will engage in one-upmanship, but beyond the use of shiny slogans devoid of meaning, neither country is interested in having a direct confrontation with Israel or risking further U.S. sanctions. The Palestinians should realize that Iran will be unable to deliver on any promises of resistance and retaliation against the deal.
  • Given that there would be no way for a Palestinian state to emerge without U.S. approval, its leaders need to take a hard look at their policy of refusing to talk to U.S. or Israeli authorities.
  • President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority must stop engaging in verbal posturing. The posturing, which includes calling for resistance and boycotts, almost always takes place at the expense of Palestinians.
  • The leadership's current bid to oppose the deal will not have much impact on the ground, except garnering applause at the UN. However, Abbas is unlikely to receive as much moral support as before.
  • As one Russian official said, the Palestinians must "not overdo contrariness" and should "adopt a flexible tactic rather than absolute rejection of what has been proposed."

    The writer is the founder and executive chairwoman of the Beirut Institute.