February 17, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Builds a Wall on Border with Gaza - Rasha Abou Jalal (Al-Monitor)
    Tribal sources in northern Sinai told Al-Monitor that on Jan. 27, Egyptian armed forces began building a 2-km.-long barrier on the border with Gaza from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Rafah border crossing.
    The 6-meter-high barrier is made of reinforced concrete and goes 5 meters under the ground.
    It is designed to block the entry of gunmen from Gaza into Sinai and shut down remaining Palestinian cross-border tunnels.
    Sources said the last phase involves building the barrier along segments of the border that Egyptian armed forces appraise as vulnerable or where underground tunnels are suspected.
    On Feb. 3, Egypt announced having found a nearly 3-km.-long tunnel from Gaza to the heart of the Egyptian border city of Rafah, Maan News reported.

Scout Movement in Lebanon, the Youth Wing of Hizbullah, Is Grooming Children to Become Islamic Terrorists - Abul Tahar (Mail on Sunday-UK)
    The World Scouting Movement is investigating whether a branch in Lebanon - the 45,000-member Imam Al-Mahdi Scouts - is training young people to become Islamic terrorists.
    Al-Mahdi is actually the youth wing of Hizbullah, one of the world's most feared terrorist groups. Last year, the British government added Hizbullah "in its entirety" to its list of proscribed terrorist organizations.
    The Mail on Sunday found that young recruits to the Al-Mahdi Scouts are groomed from the age of four to become supporters and fighters for Hizbullah, which is backed by Iran.
    The Scouts have provided "honor guards" at the funerals of Hizbullah terrorists, while other members have been pictured posing with armed fighters, wearing military uniforms and headbands with anti-Israel slogans such as "Jerusalem - We Are Coming!"

Palestinian Mayor Forced to Quit for Meeting Israelis Who Opposed U.S. Peace Plan (Times of Israel)
    Hamdallah Hamdallah, mayor of the West Bank town of Anabta, was one of 20 PA officials who attended a conference with Israeli ex-politicians and Arab Israeli public figures in Tel Aviv on Friday opposing the U.S. peace plan unveiled last month.
    Following reports about the conference, many Palestinians opposed to "normalization" with Israel protested against Hamdallah on social media and he was forced to resign on Saturday.
    Hamdallah and other officials said they had participated at the invitation of PA President Abbas' Fatah party.

Israel's Economy Grew 4.6 Percent in Fourth Quarter - Amiram Barkat (Globes)
    Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics has revised its previous estimate for growth in 2019 to 3.5%, after including growth of 4.6% for the fourth quarter of the year.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Aims to Strengthen United Jerusalem with Better City Services - Ruth Eglash
    A recent effort by Israel seeks to improve living conditions in eastern Jerusalem and better integrate the Arab population. In the past three years, the Israeli government has designated nearly $50 million to upgrade waste and sewage systems as well as enhancing transportation and adding classrooms. There has also been a push for more Arab schools to adopt the Israeli curriculum, including Hebrew instruction.
        Meanwhile, there has been an increase in eastern Jerusalem residents obtaining Israeli citizenship, including 1,200 last year, the most ever, according to Israel's Interior Ministry. A Hebrew study program for Arab adults opened its first class in 2018 and has expanded to 10 more classes for 200 people. (Washington Post)
  • Britain Criticizes UN Move to List Companies Operating in West Bank - Michael Daventry
    Britain has joined the U.S. in publicly opposing the creation of a UN database of companies operating in the West Bank. A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: "The UK, along with a number of other European countries, opposed the creation of this database."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
        See also Israel Asks UK to Include Judea, Samaria in Future Free Trade Agreement - Ariel Kahana
    Prime Minister Netanyahu has appealed to the British government to include Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights, and Jerusalem in the free trade agreement between the two countries, which will come into effect with the completion of Britain's withdrawal from the EU in 2021.
        The draft trade deal states that the new bilateral agreement would include the same terms as the free trade agreement between Israel and the EU, but that agreement excludes Judea and Samaria and the Golan. Israel's Economy Minister Eli Cohen asked the British to "adopt the wording that applies to most of Israel's trade agreements, rather than the wording of the agreement with the EU."  (Israel Hayom)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Two Rockets from Gaza Strike Israel on Saturday
    Two rockets fired from Gaza landed in Israel on Saturday evening. In response, Israeli planes struck Hamas targets in Gaza early Sunday. (Israel Hayom)
        See also IDF Cancels New Measures for Gaza after Rocket Fire
    Measures to ease conditions in Gaza have been cancelled following the continuation of rocket fire, according to Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). The measures had included expanding the fishing zone for Gazan fisherman and the transfer of cement into Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S.-Israel Sovereignty Committee Members Appointed - Ariel Kahana
    The members of the joint U.S.-Israel committee tasked with mapping the areas in the West Bank in which Israel would apply its sovereignty has been appointed. The U.S. members of the committee are Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Friedman's senior adviser Aryeh Lightstone, and Scott Leith, director of Israeli and Palestinian affairs at the National Security Council. Israeli members are Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, and the Prime Minister's Office Acting Director General Ronen Peretz. (Israel Hayom)
  • Dozens Ask ICC to Join Alleged Israel War Crimes Case - Noa Landau
    Numerous states, organizations and world-renowned jurists have applied to the International Criminal Court for amicus curiae ("friend of the court") status in deliberations to determine whether the court in The Hague has jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem. Australia, Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary support Israel's position that the court has no jurisdiction in these territories. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Debunk the UNHRC "Blacklist" - Nadav Shragai
    The UN Human Rights Council's "database" of companies conducting business in the West Bank infringes on the human rights of tens of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians who work together daily. This is the true incubator of peace and coexistence. It is the most successful instrument for defeating terrorism, violence, prejudice, and hatred. Does the UNHRC really have nothing better to do than target the myriad of businesses that serve both the Jewish and Palestinian communities? (Israel Hayom)
        See also Palestinians May Be Hurt Most by UN Blacklist - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    According to Palestinian sources, Palestinians enjoy better working conditions and prefer working for Israeli employers - including in Israeli communities in the West Bank. Wages are four times higher with Israeli employers, and Palestinian workers receive health benefits, sick leave, and vacation time to the same degree as Israelis do. By trying to harm Israeli companies that have "activities" in the West Bank, the UN is also harming many Palestinians who work in these businesses. (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Arab Official Rules Out Aid for Lebanon under Hizbullah's Sway - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Arab Gulf states are unlikely to come to Lebanon's financial rescue unless the new government in Beirut shows it can act independently of Hizbullah, a senior Arab official said on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. New Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who took office last month, is supported by Hizbullah. "You cannot come and expect money from the Arab Gulf, then Hizbullah the next day completely targets the Gulf," the official said, referring to tirades by Hizbullah officials against countries in the region. (The National-Abu Dhabi)
        See also Is Lebanon's Prime Minister a Hizbullah Puppet? - Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
    Prime Minister Hassan Diab is unknown to the majority of the Lebanese people and stands accused of being named by Hizbullah. Will he refrain from dealing with institutions and individuals from Lebanon and Iran that are on Washington's list of sanctions targeting Iran? These requirements are accepted by governments of much greater stature and power than that of Diab's, including China and European nations.
        One individual involved in Lebanese affairs said that, at an international level, $9 billion is available to assist Lebanon. To get it, all Diab needs to do is implement government reforms that would free customs, airports and ports from Hizbullah's control, in addition to the dozens of ministries and public services that have become a source of financing for militias rather than the government. Can he do that? Probably not. The writer is former general manager of Al-Arabiya and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

  • During a briefing last week on the U.S. peace plan at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman expressed his thanks to former diplomat and Jerusalem Center president Dore Gold "for the three years of terrific collaboration and advice. Dore and I have spoken countless times about these issues....He played a very important and significant role in this process and one that I would say was irreplaceable."
  • Gold would occasionally brief Netanyahu on the content of the talks he was holding with the U.S. administration and got a green light from the prime minister to continue. "Most of the meetings were held in Israel, but quite a few were held at the White House," he said.
  • "We presented the Americans with what most Israelis believe in," Gold said. "For example, they read the book Jerusalem: Delusions of Division by Israel Hayom columnist Nadav Shragai, which detailed the many dangers that the partition of the city would entail. It's not that they actually wanted to divide the city, but the book gave them the ammunition they needed and the rationale for why it would be problematic."
  • "I felt like the librarian who had to find the Americans the relevant material so that they could make decisions. But I also felt that I was carrying out an important job and fulfilling my duty to my country and people."
  • Gold makes it clear that not all of Israel's requests were met. He would have preferred that the plan gave the Palestinians less territory and he is less than thrilled about the prospect of establishing a Palestinian capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem.
  • "This plan comes with costs, but we look at the cost-benefit analysis. Would anyone have imagined such a plan being rolled out by an American administration several years ago? And a plan that endorses Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley?"