February 14, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Saudi Foreign Minister Lauds U.S. Peace Plan (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
    Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir lauded the U.S. peace plan on Thursday during a visit to Romania.
    "There are positive elements in Trump's peace plan, which can serve as a basis for negotiation," he said.
    Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry said it "appreciates" Trump's efforts and called for the start of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

American Jewish Leaders Visit Saudi Arabia - Ron Kampeas (JTA)
    A delegation of members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations visited Saudi Arabia this week and met with senior Saudi officials.
    The talks focused on countering terrorism and those fomenting instability in the Middle East, including Iran's activity in the region.

Report: Missile Strike Targets Iranian Fighters in Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday that a missile attack launched from Israel on military targets near Damascus airport overnight killed at least three Syrian soldiers and four members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Czech Republic Seeks to Support Israel at International Criminal Court - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
    Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek on Thursday applied to submit a written legal opinion to the International Criminal Court, in which he would argue that The Hague does not have jurisdiction to launch an investigation into possible war crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank.
    See also Germany Says ICC Has No Jurisdiction in Palestinian Territories - Noa Landau (Ha'aretz)
    Germany filed a petition Friday with the International Criminal Court backing Israel's argument that the court's jurisdiction does not extend to the Palestinian territories, as Palestine is not a state that fulfills all the criteria under general international law.
    "Palestine does not possess nor did it ever possess the jurisdiction that it would need" so the court may exercise its jurisdiction.
    The petition added that determination of territorial boundaries can be achieved only through direct negotiations and is not the role of the court.

UAE Wealth Fund Urges Israelis to Invest in Gulf - Nicolas Parasie (Bloomberg)
    Ibrahim Ajami, a top executive at Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment, called on Israeli start-up investors to operate in the Gulf Arab region, in a new sign of warming ties between the countries.

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Iranian Hackers Targeted Western Universities (Reuters-New York Times)
    Government-backed Iranian hackers have targeted universities in Europe, the U.S. and Australia in recent months, consultancy Pricewaterhouse Coopers has found.
    The hackers were attempting to steal academic literature and course material to use in Iranian schools.

NGOs Call to End Use of Palestinian Child Soldiers - Donna Rachel Edmunds (Jerusalem Post)
    On Feb. 18-21, the Coalition to Save Palestinian Child Soldiers is holding a Solidarity Week, urging the public to sign a letter condemning the use of Palestinian children as soldiers.
    The letter states that Palestinian children "have fulfilled the role of combatants, human shields, rioters, laborers, support staff, and even as suicide bombers, and as a result, their childhoods have been shortened by death, severe injury, or imprisonment."
    Unwillingness to address the issue "has emboldened organizations such as Hamas, Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and PFLP in their exploitation of children as war resources."
    "These organizations expose them to inciteful and violent children's shows, and flood social media with calls for jihad and terrorism. When the children are older they're sent out to partake in violent riots and to act as human shields."
    An estimated 10,000 children are trained in Gazan terrorist camps each year, while at least 160 have died digging terror tunnels into Israel.
    See also Video: Glorifying Palestinian Child Soldiers (Israel Advocacy Movement-UK)

University of Illinois Student Government Passes BDS Resolution - Jackson Richman (JNS)
    The student government at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Thursday passed an anti-Israel BDS resolution co-authored by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
    The vote was 20 in favor, 9 against and 7 abstentions. An amendment to take out all references to Israel failed by a vote of 11 in favor, 22 against and 6 abstentions.
    See also Students for Justice in Palestine Unmasked - Dan Diker and Jamie Berk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Does the EU Hear the Israeli Public? - Liora Henig Cohen (Jerusalem Post)
    Last October, the EU Delegation to Israel published a tender, worth 285,000 euros, soliciting the assistance of local public relations companies to "change the negative image" of Europe in Israel.
    The proposal cites an EU-commissioned survey of the Israeli public that found that 55% see the EU as Israel's "enemy," while only 18% identify it as a "friend."
    The EU is seen as tone deaf, at best, in appreciating the Israeli perspective.
    The public sees how Europe flirts with BDS with product labeling and treats the anti-Israel movement as merely free speech.
    Israelis hear the repeated condemnations of Israeli policy concerning Area C of the West Bank, as if this is the major issue on the EU's agenda.
    Then there is EU and European funding for organizations that delegitimize Israel, including those with ties to groups which the EU itself designates as terrorist entities.
    Recently, the EU and a handful of countries instituted safeguards meant to prevent funds from reaching terrorist groups, including the introduction of an anti-terrorist clause in EU grant contracts.
    These measures have been met by strident protests from the Palestinians. We will see whether the new policies will be vigorously implemented.
    The writer is a senior researcher at NGO Monitor.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Navy Seizes Illegal Iranian Weapons in Arabian Sea
    On Feb. 9, 2020, the USS Normandy boarded a dhow in accordance with international law and discovered a large cache of weapons. The weapons seized include 150 'Dehlavieh' anti-tank guided missiles, which are Iranian copies of the Russian Kornet. Other weapons included three Iranian surface-to-air missiles, Iranian thermal imaging weapon scopes, and Iranian components for unmanned aerial and surface vessels, as well as other advanced weapons parts.
        Many of these weapons are identical to the advanced weapon components seized by the USS Forrest Sherman in the Arabian Sea on Nov. 25, 2019. Those weapons were of Iranian origin and assessed to be destined for the Houthis in Yemen, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that prohibits the transfer of weapons to the Houthis. (U.S. Central Command)
  • Pompeo Says List of Firms Doing Business in Settlements Shows UN's "Unrelenting Anti-Israel Bias"
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday: "I am outraged that High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet published a database of companies operating in Israeli-controlled territories. The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database, which was mandated by the discredited UN Human Rights Council in 2016. Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations."
        "We call upon all UN member states to join us in rejecting this effort, which facilitates the discriminatory boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) campaign and delegitimizes Israel. Attempts to isolate Israel run counter to all of our efforts to build conditions conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to a comprehensive and enduring peace."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also The Netherlands Criticizes UN Council's "One-Sided, Anti-Israel" Attitude - Janene Pieters
    The Netherlands criticized a report published by the UN Human Rights Council naming companies with activities relating to Israeli settlements. The Netherlands believes that the UN should keep out of this, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The Netherlands also considers the list a prime example of a one-sided focus on Israel. The Netherlands does not agree with this "disproportionate," one-sided focus, the spokesperson said. (NL Times-Netherlands)
  • Israel Planning Massive Drone Acquisition to Counter Iran Threat
    "We are going to acquire a quite massive amount (of drones) - acquire and develop and adjust and refurbish...in order to have the ability to deliver...very precise fire power against an enemy that is entrenched or embedded in urban terrain," said Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus, an army spokesman, during a teleconference Thursday to discuss the IDF's 2020-2024 work plan. "We want to create a greater gap between our capabilities and those of our enemies," both in terms of anti-drone defense systems and also the development of drones capable of precision offensive strikes in "urban environments."
        The plan views Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran's Quds Force as Israel's most pressing threats. "We have before us organizations which have the capacity and structure of an army" and are preparing for a "massive and unprecedented barrage of rockets and missiles against the civilian population of Israel and its infrastructure," said Conricus. (AFP-Al Arabiya)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Strives to Shorten Future Wars - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israel Defense Forces this week rolled out its five-year plan to restructure and refocus the military for the threats it believes it will face in the near future. The guiding principle of the plan is to take full advantage of the areas in which the IDF has superiority - air power, intelligence and technology - in order to ensure that Israel maintains a significant edge over its foes.
        The IDF plans to use this superiority to win any future war as quickly as possible. To do so, the IDF must significantly improve its ability to identify enemy targets and strike as many as possible as quickly as possible. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi said the plan is based on "the highly increased ability to discover the enemy, on the highly increased ability to destroy the enemy, on integration that allows us to be very, very effective."  (Times of Israel)
  • Greenblatt: Palestinians' Aspirations Are Not Rights - Lahav Harkov
    Jason Greenblatt, one of the chief architects of the U.S. peace plan, told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday he was not surprised by the Palestinians' automatic rejection of the plan, because that was the reaction he expected. "That's why we give them four years. It's different from what they promised their people and different from their aspirations. They talk about their rights, but aspirations are not rights," Greenblatt said.
        Greenblatt also came out against the use of the term "settlers" and "settlements," saying those who use it mean it pejoratively. "They're towns. Call them what they are. It holds back peace to describe them with words that have political overtones. You can say West Bank or Judea and Samaria. But they're not settlers; they're Israelis. It's not occupied territory - that's a false term."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Explosive Balloon from Gaza Detonates over Israeli School
    An explosive balloon launched from Gaza detonated over a school in the Israeli city of Sderot on Thursday, Israel's Channel 12 reported. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    The UN Blacklist

  • The UN Blacklist, U.S. Laws, and U.S. Policy - Orde Kittrie
    The "database" of companies doing business with Israeli settlements published on Wednesday by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is inconsistent with U.S. law and policy. U.S. law, at 19 U.S.C. 4452(b)(4), states that Congress "opposes politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, such as boycotts of, divestment from, or sanctions against Israel." In addition, compliance with the blacklist could be inconsistent with the U.S. anti-boycott statute (50 U.S.C. 4842), which has long been used to punish compliance with boycotts (and blacklists) fostered by the Arab League.
        The blacklist also lacks a basis in international law. Indeed, international law does not prohibit business in disputed territories. Finally, the legitimacy of the database is also thrown into doubt by the very makeup of the UNHRC, which includes many of the world's worst human rights violators. Current UNHRC members sitting in judgment of Israel include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, and Venezuela.
        There are more than 100 territorial disputes in the world today, yet only the West Bank and east Jerusalem were singled out for such a database. The writer is a senior fellow at FDD. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • UNHRC's Game Is Rigged, So Israel Isn't Playing - Lahav Harkov
    The U.S. left the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018 due to its anti-Israel slant, with then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley calling it a "cesspool of political bias." Israel cut ties with the body immediately after. The UNHRC has a permanent agenda item against Israel at its annual sessions. The item calls on Israel to "immediately end its occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory," without any mention of Palestinian terrorism, and expresses concern at "the suffering of Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan" without any mention of Syrian President Assad massacring his own citizens.
        The UNHRC has never released a similar blacklist for companies in disputed territories in any other conflict, though there are plenty of others. The council did a slapdash job, apparently mixing lists from organizations critical of Israel and not consulting any of the companies or Israeli officials. Many companies on the list provide services to both Palestinians and Israelis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The UN Once Again Proves Its Anti-Semitism - David Harsanyi
    Those who run the UN recently set up a new "database" to help anti-Semites target Jewish businesses in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria - businesses that offer economic opportunities for Palestinians that pay higher than most other jobs in the West Bank. In no other international dispute does the UN target peaceful civilians or institutions. In no place do they work to destroy the businesses of noncombatants based on their ethnicity or religion.
        The "boycott, divestment, and sanctions" (BDS) campaign, now supported by the UN, is a coordinated international effort committed to the elimination of the Jewish state, targeting Jews under the guise of anti-Zionism. No other country that oversees a minority population is afforded even a slither of the attention of the world.
        The UN deputy executive director for advocacy, Bruno Stagno Ugarte, says: "The long awaited release of the UN settlement business database should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes." War crimes? Hiring talented Palestinians for software-engineer jobs at tech startups is aiding in the commission of war crimes? (National Review)
  • BDS Wins But Palestinians Lose - Ben Dror Yemini
    The UN Human Rights Council, which on Wednesday published a blacklist of companies operating in the West Bank, voted to accept 18 resolutions condemning Israel in 2019; in contrast, just seven resolutions were passed condemning the entire ills of the rest of the world. According to guidelines adopted by the EU in 2016, the anti-Israel obsession of the UNHRC is indeed a manifestation of anti-Semitism.
        The industrial areas of the West Bank employ close to 20,000 Palestinian workers. They are not taken advantage of, nor are they abused by a colonialist system. Many Palestinians hold senior positions and earn up to three times the salaries paid in the Palestinian Authority. Their income is a vital part of the Palestinian economy and its removal would have long term implications. (Ynet News)
        See also Defeating Denormalization: Shared Palestinian and Israeli Perspectives on a New Path to Peace - Dan Diker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Iran

  • Ending Iran's Fictions - Jonathan Schanzer
    After decades of the U.S. letting the Islamic Republic get away with murder, the Trump administration targeted Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force, making it clear that America would no longer allow the regime to hide behind its militias. The U.S. Army's comprehensive study The U.S. Army in the Iraq War concluded that the "Qods Force and its Iraqi surrogates were the primary instruments employed by the Iranian regime to wage a proxy war against the United States."
        On Jan. 9, the commander of the IRGC's aerospace command, Amir Hajizadeh, held a press conference in front of the flags of the IRGC, Hizbullah, the Houthis from Yemen, and the Fatemiyoun and Zaynabiyoun militias. The message was clear: Iran commands all of them, and they all form an axis pitted against America. The writer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Commentary)
  • Diplomacy Alone Won't End the Iranian Threat - Seth J. Frantzman
    When dealing with adversaries, diplomacy has to be part of a more-holistic approach to work. Iran's leaders have had great success employing such an approach because they understand that the West is afraid of war and that it has largely abandoned the idea of using force as a means to its strategic ends.
        Iran is happy to play the diplomacy game when that is to its advantage, but it also deploys military advisors through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to countries such as Syria, where some 800 IRGC troops are now located. It funds Hizbullah and arms it with precision-guided munitions. It transfers missile and drone technology to Yemen, and its intelligence officials have infiltrated Iraq. It has fired rockets at Israel, attacked Saudi Arabia with cruise missiles, used drones against Israel, fired ballistic missiles at U.S. forces and used its militias to attack them in Iraq, and mined ships in the Gulf of Oman.
        All of this demands a response from the West that combines diplomacy with military force. One has to confront Iran on its own terms. If it fields diplomats and paramilitary proxies and sanctions missile attacks on U.S. troops, then the U.S. must field diplomats, rally its own allies on the ground, and invest in missile-defense capabilities.
        Iran sees itself involved in a total war with the U.S., a fact made clear by the constant statements from the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, calling the U.S. "satanic" and "evil." For Tehran's leaders, this is a religious-ideological struggle to the death. (National Review)

  • Other Issues

  • Lebanon Poses an Acute Threat to Israel - Israel Kasnett
    Lebanon formed a new government in January under Prime Minister Hassan Diab, a 60-year-old technocrat. Diab received little support from his own Sunni community, who traditionally aligned with the West and Saudi Arabia, and instead, he was backed by the Hizbullah-allied March 8 parliamentary bloc of Shi'ite Muslims and pro-Syrians. This means that Iran - Hizbullah's chief sponsor - now holds a tighter grip on Lebanon.
        According to Matthew Levitt, director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the new government under Diab does not include any Western-backed political parties, leading to concern that the government will be unable to secure international help to ease the financial crisis.
        Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the fact that Hizbullah has grown stronger in Lebanon "is something that has been happening for years, and the international community has stood by idly and failed to intervene....The basics of the equation...is that Lebanon is controlled, at least 40%, by an Iranian proxy terrorist organization." With Hizbullah controlling Lebanon's government (and military), Israel must contend with a full-fledged terror state on its northern border serving as a proxy to Iran. (JNS-Israel Hayom)
  • Will Britain Stand with Israel Against the Forces of Darkness? - Melanie Phillips
    The British government still parrots the falsehood it has promoted for years that Israel is in illegal occupation of the "Palestinian territories." But legally and historically, there is no such thing as "Palestinian territories" and never has been. Moreover, Israel is legally entitled several times over to retain and to build in these territories; indeed, the Jews are the only people to whom in the 1920s the international community gave the right to settle in them.
        If the British government were a real friend to Israel, it would state that the UK will withdraw from the International Criminal Court if it agrees to the preposterous attempt to recognize the non-existent state of Palestine in investigating Palestinian claims of Israeli "war crimes." It would also end all aid to the Palestinian Authority while the PA continues to reward the families of those who have murdered Israelis, and while it pumps out anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement.
        Instead of mainly abstaining at the UN on its disproportionate resolutions against Israel, a truly friendly British government would vote them down. And instead of condemning America's decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem, Britain would follow suit. The writer is a columnist for The Times (UK). (JNS)
  • Ariel Mayor Describes Coexistence in Samaria - Steve Postal
    Eliyahu Shaviro is the mayor of Ariel, a city in Samaria with about 20,000 people. He said in an interview: "At a municipal level, Ariel strives to create steps for true coexistence between Jews and Arabs....Ariel University, which has 16,000 students, will have a new medical center that once finished will serve both Israelis and Palestinians. The Ariel Industrial Park employs about 6,000 Palestinians along with 2,000 Israelis. There, Palestinians have real jobs, including managerial and engineering jobs. Israelis and Palestinians work side-by-side, and Palestinians make the same wages as Israelis."
        "The Trump administration's plan is the first time in history when the United States recognizes Jewish sovereignty in communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley as coming from an inalienable right of Jews to live in their homeland. It is the first peace plan in which the United States recognizes an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is also the first plan that sufficiently takes into account Israel's security concerns."  (American Spectator)

  • Weekend Features

  • The People Behind Israel's Air Defense Success - Yoav Limor
    Brig.-Gen. Ran Kochav, commander of the IDF's air defense program, said Israel's "air defenses have racked up some 2,000 interceptions. Imagine what would have happened if those missiles had fallen and each one of them had killed someone. We would have been at war long ago." The interception rate in 2019 was an unprecedented 94%. "The other side...should decide whether, given these rates of interception, it's worthwhile for him to start a war, knowing that most of the rockets he fires won't hit their targets."
        Kochav gives credit to the personnel first, and then to the systems. "My mom is sure that the Color Red siren is automatic, and so is Iron Dome....I go nuts when I hear on the radio that Iron Dome intercepted something. What is Iron Dome? There are soldiers behind it. It's not automatic."
        "I need intelligence, most of which we collect ourselves, but the Americans help with some. Air defense is the only field in which there is a signed operational directive with the Americans. Nothing else like it exists." That means "that there is intelligence and operational cooperation in the field of defense."
        Kochav notes that over 50% of the recent recruits to the program have been women. "Everything here is 50-50. I have the most integrated battalions....A woman can serve in any air defense position."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Ben Ferencz - a Hero of the Jewish People - Evan Nierman
    Ben Ferencz, 100, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, made his mark on history when he was 27 when he successfully secured courtroom convictions against 22 Nazi perpetrators of crimes against humanity. He was chief prosecutor for the U.S. in the Einsatzgruppen case.
        Years after the war, he partnered with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide to establish the Ferencz International Justice Initiative. He also donated his personal archives to the Holocaust Museum. Ben's story is captured in a documentary titled "Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Man Who Won History's Biggest Murder Trial at Nuremberg - Karen Heller (Washington Post-31Aug2016)

Why Non-Arab States Dominate Today's Middle East - Amb. Zvi Magen (Valdai Club-Russia)
  • If in the past, the Middle East was dominated by Arab national states, today, the non-Arab states, mainly Iran, Turkey and Israel, became the prominent actors, dictating the regional agenda. Alongside them, Islamism became an additional, significant regional actor.
  • The general reason for the decline of the Arab states is that they had not modernized successfully. Most of them suffer from a critical imbalance between population and resources, with consistently poor economic performance.
  • In those circumstances, the Arab societies broke down into their components, highlighted by sectarian division between Sunnis and Shiites.
  • Moreover, when Arab nationalism was defeated decades ago, failing to unite all Arabs into one nation, it left a huge ideological vacuum that was filled by Islamic politics.
  • If the Arab-Israeli conflict was once the core of regional politics, when Israel was isolated, facing just about all of the Arab states as actively hostile enemies, this is no longer true. It has made peace with some key Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, and it has common interests with others.
  • All Arab states share profound concerns about possible American withdrawal and Iranian hegemonic designs, while Israel is currently Iran's main challenger in the region.

    The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to Russia and the Ukraine, is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
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