February 10, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Again Fails to Put Satellite into Orbit (AP-New York Times)
    Iran tried but failed to put a satellite into orbit on Sunday, Iranian state TV reported.
    Sunday's failure came after two failed launches of satellites last year, as well as a launchpad rocket explosion in August.
    The three failures in a row raised suspicions of outside interference.

Tunisia Sacks UN Ambassador for Opposing U.S. Peace Plan - Colum Lynch (Foreign Policy)
    On Thursday, Tunisia's UN ambassador, Moncef Baati, was abruptly summoned home after leading diplomatic negotiations on a Palestinian draft Security Council resolution declaring the U.S. Middle East peace plan in breach of international law.
    Two diplomats said they understood Tunisia's newly elected President Kais Saied had fired Baati as part of an effort to head off a major rift in relations with the U.S.
    The Tunisian Foreign Ministry said, "Tunisia's ambassador to the United Nations has been dismissed for purely professional reasons concerning his...lack of coordination with the ministry on important matters under discussion at the UN."

IDF Pens Poem Teaching Kids to Keep Away from Gaza Bomb Balloons - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Defense Forces' Home Front Command on Friday released a poem for children warning them against balloon-borne bombs from Gaza.
    Titled "What does the wind bring with it?," the poem tells children to call an adult and run away if they see a suspicious object.
    On Friday, at least five of these devices landed in southern Israel. Attached to colorful balloons, some of these explosive devices have been disguised as child-friendly objects like books and soccer balls.
    Recent weeks have seen a marked increase in the launching of balloon-borne explosive devices, apparently at the direction of Hamas.
    The past week also saw near-daily rocket and mortar attacks on southern Israel.

Al Jazeera Host Calls Israel Most Successful Project in 120 Years (Times of Israel)
    "For most Arabs, if they want to curse you, they will describe you as a 'Zionist,' even though they know that the most successful project in the current and last century is the Zionist project," Faisal al-Qassem, the host of Al Jazeera's "The Opposite Direction," a well-known debate show, tweeted on Saturday.
    "All of the Arabs' projects, especially that of Arab nationalism, failed. So...before you use the term 'Zionist' as a curse, you must first come somewhat closer to what Zionism has accomplished and then we will talk."
    Qassem hosted Arabic-language IDF spokesman Avichai Adraee on his program in 2018. His Twitter account has 5.5 million followers.

Israeli Government and Security Websites under Constant Cyberattack (Xinhua-China)
    Ten major websites of Israeli security forces have been the target for more than 10,000 cyberattacks each during the past three months, the Hebrew website Ynet reported on Sunday, citing data from the Israeli-U.S. cybersecurity firm Imperva.
    40 other Israeli law and government websites were cyber-attacked more than a thousand times each.
    The Israel National Cyber Directorate said government websites are protected by highly advanced defense systems and the attacks had no impact.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Top Israeli Security Expert Dismisses Russian Claim Israel Air Force Put Civilian Plane at Risk in Syria Strike
    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin - a former Israeli military intelligence chief who now heads the Institute for National Security Studies - dismissed on Friday Russia's claim that the Israel Air Force had endangered a civilian plane during an air strike in Syria on Thursday. "Probably, the Russians were prewarned about the strike over the deconfliction channels. But some in Russia, frustrated with the Syrian air defense failure to deal with the Israeli air force, accuse Israel who fights Iran's continuing entrenchment in Syria."
        "Recall that Syrian air defense downed a Russian plane in Sep. 2018 and Iranian air defense downed a Ukrainian plane over Tehran last month. Advanced and effective Russian air defense systems are recklessly employed by Syrian and Iranian operators, endangering civil aviation. Contrarily, Israel tries to operate in hours with little civilian traffic. The weapons were launched from the west and the Syrian airliner came from the east...and by the way, it is difficult to plan to avoid a civilian flight which has not submitted a flight plan."
        The Cham Wings airliner was flying from Tehran to Damascus. Cham Wings was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2016 for transporting fighters and weapons to Syria. Its flights, which almost always land late at night, do not appear in any airline timetables. (Algemeiner)
  • 600,000 Syrians in Rebel-Held Areas Flee toward Turkish Border after Government Offensive - Liz Sly
    Nearly 600,000 Syrians are surging toward the Turkish border to escape unexpectedly swift Syrian government advances into the country's last opposition-held enclave in the northwestern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. "We're seeing an unparalleled exodus of humanity," said David Swanson, a UN spokesman based in Turkey.
        Syrian troops are now within seven miles of the city of Idlib, home to about 900,000 people who could join the exodus. Relentless Syrian and Russian airstrikes target towns behind the front lines to clear out the civilian population ahead of troop advances. Syrian government forces have been joined in recent weeks by Iranian-backed fighters from Lebanon's Hizbullah and other non-Syrian militias, according to U.S. officials. (Washington Post)
        See also Idlib and Its Environs: Narrowing Prospects for a Rebel Holdout - Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Abbas Plans "Diplomatic Intifada" Against U.S. Peace Plan
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas is planning a "diplomatic intifada" against the U.S. in response to its peace plan, Israel's Channel 13 reported on Saturday. A proposed UN Security Council resolution denouncing the plan is expected to be vetoed by the U.S., but then the issue will be taken to the UN General Assembly where any pro-Palestinian text is guaranteed an overwhelming majority. In addition, the Palestinians are planning to file a series of complaints against Israel at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinians: U.S. Peace Plan Includes 300 Violations of International Law
    PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani said Saturday that the U.S. peace plan includes 300 violations of international law. (Xinhua-China)
  • After U.S. Criticism, German President Will Not Honor Iran's Regime - Benjamin Weinthal
    German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will break with diplomatic tradition and not send a congratulatory telegram to the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran this month, it was announced on Saturday.
        This follows intense criticism from U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who said Thursday: "Germany has a moral responsibility to say to Iran very firmly and clearly that it is unacceptable to deny basic human rights to your people, or kill protesters in the streets or push gay people off buildings. Celebrating the regime's ongoing existence sends the opposite message." However, Germany's foreign ministry will celebrate the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran on Feb. 11. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Peace Plan Says to the Palestinians: "Time Is Not on Your Side" - Raoul Wootliff
    Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and new CEO William Daroff spoke with the Times of Israel on Thursday. Hoenlein called the new U.S. peace plan "a thoughtful approach....There are aspects you may not like, but one has to recognize that it's a legitimate proposal that for the first time says the onus isn't just on Israel." According to Daroff, "a great benefit of this plan is that we were talking about a peace process. You have Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu talking about a two-state solution."
        Hoenlein continued: "This is the first time it says to the Palestinians, time is not on your side anymore. No more excuses. You can't keep saying I'm going to appeal to the Europeans, I'm going to appeal to others and avoid the responsibility and deliver us Israel on a silver platter." The Palestinians "say they don't like the deal. Fine. Go to the table and negotiate it out....Everywhere we'd go in the Arab world you'd hear that they're tired of the issue. They want to have relations with Israel. They think this is a big drain on them."  (Times of Israel)
  • Greenblatt: It's Time for the Palestinians to Wake Up - Sara Lehmann
    Jason Greenblatt, one of the chief architects of the U.S. peace plan, told Hamodia in an interview that "there are extraordinary benefits that can come to Palestinians from this plan. It's not what Palestinians have been falsely promised over the decades. Those promises are never going to come to fruition. President Abbas' speech [condemning the plan]...will lead to nothing. Israel will continue to thrive and prosper and Palestinians will fall further and further behind. At some point perhaps they will recognize the serious mistakes they have made over the decades, which have only driven the Palestinians into a ditch with no real hope for the future. It's time for them to wake up."  (Hamodia)
  • An Israeli Arab Voice - Shakib Ali
    I am positive that there is not one Arab citizen of Israel who wants to live under the control of any Arab ruler in any Arab state, including the "State of Palestine." In Arab society, there is even a saying that "Israeli Jewish hell is better than the paradise of the Arab states."
        In the Arab states you will not find liberty or freedom of speech. There is neither human dignity nor a high court of justice. An Israeli Arab who is used to demonstrating and yelling in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv against the policy of the government and those who lead it would not be able to do that - and survive – in Damascus or any of the Gulf states. The reign of eternal tyrants in Arab nations is as far removed from the experiences of Israeli Arabs as we are from the Stone Age. (Ynet News)

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman spoke at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Sunday:
  • U.S. Undersecretary of Homeland Security David Glawe spoke at the most recent 9/11 memorial in Jerusalem and said, "Israel keeps America safe." That's very true. It's hard to really go into detail or to advertise it, but it's true. For generations, the American support for Israel very much came from the heart and it still does. It comes from the hearts of millions and millions of Americans. But over the last five to ten years I would say it also comes from the head. We are without question better off when Israel is strong, secure, stable, and prosperous, so it is very much an American interest to support Israel.
  • When we came into office, we couldn't help but notice that 52 years after the Six-Day War, many of the issues were still out there. So we tackled them one by one. Jerusalem was perhaps the easiest because there'd been a law in the books for the past 25 years that compelled the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
  • With regard to the Golan Heights, given the enormous threats that Syria represented, if you look into the competing claims of the democratic State of Israel, an important American ally, and the brutal regime of Bashar Assad, it didn't seem like a close call in terms of the competing rights.
  • The media would say, "Well, the whole world recognizes that settlements are illegal, they violate international law." I was skeptical about that proposition. I thought it really would matter what the United States said as a body, as the State Department, the representative of American foreign policy. After a very thorough analysis, Secretary of State Pompeo concluded that settlements were not in violation of international law.
  • The Palestinians in 52 years have done nothing to create any type of a political movement that provides Israel with any sense of certainty or calm or assurances that the Palestinians won't be a threat to Israel if they were to achieve statehood. So the question is: Is it possible to design a resolution to the Palestinian conflict that protects Israel's security first and foremost?
  • Who's going to provide security if there's a future Palestinian state?
    • Choice number one, which had been advocated by many of our predecessors, was an international force. But we see what happened in Lebanon. International forces don't work.
    • The second choice is that that American troops will somehow take responsibility for the security of this new Palestinian state. The simple answer is that the U.S. is not prepared to do that. The longer answer is that Israel doesn't want it either because I think the best way to jeopardize the relationship of the United States and Israel is to have American soldiers dying on Israeli soil.
    • The third choice is that the Palestinians could take care of their own internal and external security. I think even they don't believe that they can.
    • So if you eliminate all those choices, you are left with one choice, which is that the State of Israel will defend this region. They are by far the best equipped to do it, the best incentivized to do it, and security is simply not a game. It's real. It's life and death.

    See also U.S. Ambassador to Israel: "Peace Plan Is a Gift to Israel and the Palestinians. Let's Just Give It Time" - Israel Kasnett (JNS)