February 12, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Palestinians Favor Return to Armed Struggle in Response to U.S. Peace Plan - Joseph Krauss (AP)
    64% of Palestinians favor a return to armed struggle in response to the U.S. Mideast initiative, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.
    Overall, 94% of Palestinians reject the U.S. plan.
    39% of Palestinians support and 59% oppose the idea of a two-state solution with Israel.

Syrian Opposition Media Reveals Information on Missiles of Iranian Militias in Syria (MEMRI)
    On Jan. 15, 2020, the Facebook account of the Syrian opposition Ain Al-Furat network posted information on the missiles in possession of the Iran-backed Shi'ite militias in the Deir Al-Zor district.
    It noted that in the town of Mahkan in December 2019, five militia members were killed because they did not know how to operate this sophisticated weaponry.

Iran-Backed Hizbullah to Guide Iraqi Militias in Soleimani's Wake (Reuters)
    Hizbullah has stepped in to help guide Iraqi militias after the killing of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, sources said.
    One pro-Iran regional official said Hizbullah's guidance of the militias would continue until the new leadership in the Quds Force - a unit of the Revolutionary Guards led by Soleimani since 1998 - gets a handle on the political crisis in Iraq.

Hamas Steals Israeli Tech to Bolster Gaza Terror Infrastructure - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Hamas last week stole state-of-the-art communications equipment provided by Israel to the Palestinian Authority for non-military use in Gaza.
    Hamas seized the equipment to improve its military communications system, including in the tunnels it has been digging from Gaza.
    The equipment was stolen from the Gaza warehouses of the Palestinian media giant Paltel, which provides cellular, wired and internet services to the Palestinians.
    It included optical fiber, advanced systems that allow frequency hopping (changing frequency to avoid interception), and copper cables.
    IDF Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said that until Hamas returns the stolen equipment, no companies in Gaza will be able to receive any further communications equipment.
    In the past month, Israel also permitted the entry of heavy mechanical equipment to deal with flood damage, which Hamas is now using to build fortifications.

Egypt's Population Hits 100 Million - Declan Walsh (New York Times)
    Egypt's 100 millionth citizen was born on Tuesday, according to a giant counter outside the country's national statistics agency in Cairo.
    This comes at a moment when the country is gripped by worries that its exploding population will exacerbate poverty and unemployment, and contribute to the scarcity of basic resources like land and water.
    President el-Sisi has described population growth as a threat to national security on a par with terrorism, but a public health campaign called "Two Is Enough" to persuade parents to have fewer children has failed.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Issues Fatwa Against U.S. Peace Plan
    The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, issued a fatwa on Tuesday prohibiting dealing with the U.S. peace plan, Ma'an News reported. He said that whoever negotiates on the deal is a traitor to God and His Messenger, and to the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and Palestine. "Whoever plans or supports this brute aggression, or is silent about it, deserves the curse of God, his angels and all people."  (Middle East Monitor-UK)
        See also Fatah: All of Israel Is Forever "Palestine" - Nan Jacques Zilberdik and Itamar Marcus
    Fatah is the political party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. On Feb. 2, Fatah Commissioner and Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi posted on Facebook: "Who said that we are for a state [on the lines of] 1967? Who said this? In Fatah, this does not exist in our constitution and our charter!...We say that Nazareth, Haifa, and Acre (i.e., Israeli cities) are Palestinian, and they will remain Palestinian! Our Palestinian land is from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea."
        "I dare any Palestinian, any senior Palestinian official, or any Palestinian leader to reduce the Palestinian map to the West Bank and Gaza! He would not be able to walk one meter in the streets of our Palestinian cities....The [Palestinian] people lives on land that is all holy and that is all waqf land (i.e., land that is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, and therefore it is forbidden to accept non-Muslim rule over it)."  (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • White Supremacist Pleads Guilty to Las Vegas Synagogue, ADL Office Bomb Plot
    Conor Climo, 24, a self-described white supremacist, pleaded guilty Monday in Las Vegas to collecting bomb-making materials and planning to bomb a synagogue or office of the Anti-Defamation League. U.S. District Judge James Mahan questioned him about his membership in Feuerkrieg Division, an offshoot of a U.S.-based neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division. He was interviewed wearing military-style battle gear in September 2016 by a local television news crew as he patrolled his neighborhood carrying an assault rifle, survival knife, and extended-capacity ammunition magazines.
        After the FBI's Las Vegas-area Joint Terrorism Task Force began investigating Climo last April, he spent several months telling an informant of detailed plans to firebomb a synagogue near his home, according to court documents. He said he wanted other people to join him to shoot people fleeing the flames. (AP-New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Celebrates Withdrawal of UN Security Council Resolution Against Peace Plan - Eric Cortellessa
    The White House celebrated the withdrawal on Tuesday of a UN Security Council resolution rejecting its peace plan. The administration reportedly put heavy pressure on critics to drop the measure. "By not putting forward a polarizing resolution, the United Nations Security Council demonstrated that the old way of doing things is over," said a senior official. "For the first time on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Council was willing to think outside the conventional box, and not reflexively fall back on the calcified Palestinian position, which has only allowed the failed status quo to continue."
        "The Palestinians' inability to put forward a vote tonight shows the change that the international community has gone through in recent years," Ron Prosor, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, said Tuesday. "It shows that countries have different priorities now and they put their own interests first."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli UN Ambassador: PA Leader Abbas Is Not Committed to Peace - Lahav Harkov
    "If Abbas was truly interested in peace, he wouldn't be here, he would be in Jerusalem," Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the UN Security Council on Tuesday. "Complaining instead of action - that is not leadership. Abbas says he wants sovereignty for the Palestinian people, but he has done everything to avoid it."
        Danon praised the U.S. approach for not "accept[ing] out-of-date concepts...[and] a formula that has failed for over 70 years....Abbas refuses to be pragmatic [and] refuses to negotiate....Only when he steps down can Israel and the Palestinians step forward. He will never be a partner for real peace."
        Earlier, Danon said, "The Palestinian people deserve a leader like Anwar Sadat, like [former Jordanian] King Hussein, a leader that is committed to peace. Mr. Abbas is not that leader." He will come to the UN and say he wants peace, while he "remains committed to incitement at home...encouraging Palestinian violence against Israelis."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • From No-Deal to a Deal - Abdel Moneim Said
    In reaction to the U.S. Middle East peace plan, the call for "armed struggle" declared by Palestinian factions will contribute little to altering the Palestinian reality while adding another arena of violence to a region that has had more than its fill of foreign interventions, civil wars, popular uprisings, terrorist movements, funeral processions, and waves of refugees and displaced persons.
        From an Arab point of view, apart from the questionable pleasure of accumulating more international resolutions in our favor, approaching the U.S. peace plan as a framework for negotiations offers more practical potential than a vote in favor of the Palestinian cause in international forums. Choosing the negotiating path on the basis of the proposed plan offers the Palestinians the opportunity to improve many of that plan's conditions.
        The U.S. plan opens a way that is unavailable under a current situation characterized by a deepening inter-Palestinian rift, dwindling Arab energies and declining international interest. The Palestinian cause does not exist in a historical or geographical vacuum. Current Palestinian anger is totally understandable, but anger does not solve intractable problems. The writer is director of al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • World Less Indulgent of Mahmoud Abbas' Tantrums - Herb Keinon
    While the Palestinians have chosen to play the petulant child with the Americans, boycotting them and calling both Trump and the members of his Mideast team vicious names, serious countries facing serious threats they need the U.S. to help them deal with don't have that luxury.
        In 2017, when the Palestinians led a charge at the UN against America's decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, the U.S. was isolated and had to use its veto for the first time in six years against a resolution against the move. The failure of the Palestinians on Tuesday to ram a resolution against the Trump Plan through the Security Council is just the latest example of a UN that is no longer an arena where the Palestinians can score a slam dunk at will. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why Israeli Control of the Jordan River Border Is Absolutely Vital - Gadi Taub
    The crucial component of any future settlement should be Israeli control of the Jordan Valley. Israel is an island of political stability in an ocean of smoldering political lava. A tiny state like Israel cannot risk the possibility of this violent chaos coming too close to its borders. A Gaza-style or ISIS-style regime a stone's throw away from Israel's heart is not an option. This is why control of the border along the Jordan River is absolutely vital. (Ha'aretz)

The Promise of the Trump Peace Plan - Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy (Wall Street Journal)
  • The conventional wisdom is that the Palestinian leadership didn't show up to receive the U.S. peace plan because Palestinians didn't get a good deal. This assumes these leaders would be interested in making peace, if only Israel made the right concessions. While many in the West wish this to be true, what's really missing is a Palestinian leadership interested in Israel as a peace partner.
  • In the early 1990s, Israeli leaders and their Western counterparts brought Arafat back from exile in Tunis and made him a dictator. They viewed Arafat's authoritarian nature as a plus - to control even more violent Palestinian enemies of peace such as Hamas.
  • But the zeal for peace at any price overlooked the basics of Dictatorship 101. Repressive regimes maintain control over their people by mobilizing them with external foes to fight and internal dissidents to destroy. To hold on to power, Arafat needed Israel as an enemy, not a partner.
  • During Arafat's 10-year reign of terror he brutalized his own people from the start, crushing all opposition. He alternated between talking peace and terrorizing Israel when each was useful to him, while twisting his education system to make sure the next generation of Palestinians would hate Israelis even more. Meanwhile, he kept Western leaders believing that one more Israeli concession, one more agreement, would bring a peace he never intended to deliver.
  • Natan Sharansky served as Israel's minister of industry and trade in the 1990s and was involved during the Oslo period in efforts to bolster the Palestinian economy. This firsthand look was sobering. For Arafat and his henchmen, it was more important to keep job creation and distribution under their control than to promote prosperity for ordinary Palestinians. International investments became opportunities for patronage and racketeering.
  • Four years aren't enough to make a full transition from dictatorship to democracy or from decades of war to peace. But it could be enough for the first seeds of Palestinian civil society to sprout.

    Mr. Sharansky was a political prisoner in the Soviet Union and served in four Israeli cabinets. Mr. Troy is a professor of history at McGill University.