February 18, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Threatens to Destroy Ancient Jewish Site and Build Palestinian Consulate - Hanan Greenwood (Israel Hayom)
    Iranian authorities are threatening to destroy the historic tomb of Esther and Mordechai in the city of Hamedan and construct "a consular office for Palestine," ARAM, the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities in Iran, tweeted Sunday.
    It said members of Iran's Basij paramilitary force attempted to raid the site in "an act of revenge against the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan by President Trump."
    "Esther and Mordechai were biblical Jewish heroes who saved their people from a massacre in a story known as Purim," ARAM said.

Anti-Israel Protesters at Berkeley Disrupt Talk by Holocaust Scholar Deborah Lipstadt - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
    A talk by renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt was disrupted by anti-Israel activists at the University of California, Berkeley last Thursday.
    Lipstadt tweeted Sunday that her lecture was on present-day anti-Semitism and had nothing to do with Israel.

Anti-Semitic Incidents Spike in Netherlands (JTA)
    The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI), Dutch Jewry's watchdog for anti-Semitism, reported 182 incidents in 2019, up 35% from 2018.
    There were 61 cases of threats, insults and assaults on the street or in the workplace, up from 27 cases in 2018.

Israel-Assisted Tanzania Trauma Center Has Saved 2,000 Lives since 2018 (Tanzania Daily News)
    The Trauma and Intensive Care Unit at Benjamin Mkapa Hospital in Tanzania has saved the lives of more than 2,000 people since it opened in 2018, assisted by the government of Israel.
    Deputy Ambassador of Israel to Tanzania Eyal David said doctors from Israel would continue offering training to their counterparts at the Trauma Unit.

An Israeli Combat Medic Risks His Life to Save Lives - Itay Ilnai (Ynet News)
    Guy M., 24, served for five years as a combat soldier and paramedic in IDF Unit 669, the Combat Rescue and Evacuation Unit of the Israel Air Force, and carefully documented his experiences.
    The result was the Hebrew best-seller From Zero to One Hundred, describing "the ability of the unit to go from zero to one hundred in minutes."
    Guy, today a medical student at Tel Aviv University, said, "The most active branch of the IDF is the Air Force. For every Air Force mission across Israel's border, no matter where it is, the IDF will not send a pilot out without the ability to bring him or her back home in an emergency. This is our mission."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: U.S. Peace Plan Says Israel Is Here to Stay - Alex Traiman
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the "new approach for Israel" in its relations throughout the Middle East when meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Sunday. Calling the U.S. peace plan a "breakthrough," Netanyahu noted that the U.S. is set to "recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and all the communities, the Jewish communities, large and small, in Judea and Samaria" upon the completion of a "mapping process" and regardless of Palestinian acceptance of the plan. "We're working together to finish this as fast as possible," said Netanyahu.
        "In order to enter the negotiations, [Palestinians] have to fulfill certain conditions. This is a historic change. In all the previous plans submitted by previous American administrations, it was Israel that had to make concrete concessions in order to enter the negotiations and the Palestinians were required to do nothing." Now, as a prerequisite, Palestinians will need to "stop paying terrorists and to withdraw all their claims against Israel and at the ICC in The Hague."
        "This is a plan that says to the Palestinians and to the world, this is it, Israel is here to stay. We recognize Israel's sovereignty over its ancestral homeland....The change that we're witnessing today is part of the reemergence of Israel as a power among the nations."  (JNS)
  • International Watchdog to Review Iran's Status on Anti-Terror, Money Laundering Laws
    A Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting this week in Paris will review Iran's commitment to international regulations against money laundering and financing terrorism. In October 2019, FATF gave Iran four months "for the sixth and last time" to ratify new legislation relating to these issues.
        In recent months Iranian hardliners have been pushing to reject the Palermo international convention against funding transnational organized crimes and the convention against financing terrorism. They are concerned that FATF commitments will prevent Iran from sending money to its regional allies such as Hizbullah and Hamas, who are designated as international terrorist groups by the U.S.
        The FATF warned in October that "If before February 2020, Iran does not enact the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions in line with the FATF standards, then the FATF will fully lift the suspension of counter-measures and call on its members and urge all jurisdictions to apply effective counter-measures." Iranian President Rouhani warned on Sunday that his administration was no longer able to have this legislation ratified. (Radio Farda)
        See also Iran FATF-Related Legislation Rejected by Expediency Council (Radio Farda)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Photos: Airstrikes Destroy Iran Quds Force HQ, Warehouse at Damascus Airport - Seth J. Frantzman
    ImageSat International reported Monday that heavy damage was inflicted upon Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) sites at Damascus International Airport on Feb. 13 when airstrikes hit warehouses, a headquarters, and infrastructure after a cargo plane had landed. Seven people were reported killed, including four Iranian officers. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Balloon Carrying RPG Warhead Flown into Israel from Gaza - Judah Ari Gross
    A rocket-propelled grenade was found in Israel on Tuesday, flown across the border from Gaza attached to a large plastic bag filled with helium. (Times of Israel)
  • Coronavirus: Israel Bars Entry to Foreign Citizens Who Visited Asia Recently - Anna Barsky
    At the recommendation of Israel's Ministry of Health, Israel announced Monday that it would prohibit entrance to the country by anyone who has recently stayed in Thailand, Macau, Singapore or Hong Kong and does not hold Israeli citizenship. Restrictions were imposed on foreign nationals entering from China earlier this month. (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Is the EU Done with the Palestinian Scam? - Dr. Shai Har-Zvi
    The EU has provided millions of euros in economic support to Palestinian civilian organizations based on a standard stipulation applied to NGOs worldwide: To receive financial aid, they must have no affiliations with terrorist elements. Lately the EU has introduced an additional, legitimate stipulation: The beneficiaries of EU grants must make sure that third-party elements (such as subcontractors or workshop participants) aren't on the EU sanctions list. The Palestinians have refused to agree. They completely reject the European decision that groups such as Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are terrorist organizations.
        The EU must stand strong and condition any provision of aid on the complete renunciation of terrorist affiliations - direct or indirect. This is the correct, appropriate and moral thing to do. The writer heads the intelligence branch in the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs. (Israel Hayom)
  • Nonaggression Pacts in Islam - Dr. Harold Rhode
    Media reports say that countries in the Persian Gulf might be prepared to sign a nonaggression pact with Israel. Yet in the Middle East, with the possible exception of Turkey, agreements are made between leaders and only last as long as those leaders are still in power. If a leader dies or is overthrown, all bets are off.
        In Islam, peace as we know it in the West, meaning letting bygones be bygones, cannot exist between Muslims and non-Muslims. According to both the Koran and the Shari'a, there can, however, be a temporary agreement, modeled after the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, a 628 CE treaty between Mohammad and the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, who Mohammad was unable to defeat. The agreement was to last 10 years, but after only two - when Mohammad had managed to rearm himself sufficiently - he reneged on the agreement, attacked his enemies, and defeated them.
        This is the type of non-aggression pact the Saudis and other Arab Muslim nations seem to be willing to sign with Israel. These are not peace agreements; they remain in force only as long as the leaders of these Arab countries believe it in their interest. If the Iranian regime collapsed and the new government no longer threatened the Sunni Arab regimes, would Israel and these Arab countries still share common interests? The writer served for 28 years as an advisor on the Islamic world in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. (JNS-Israel Hayom)

A Plan for Israel's Security - Zalman Shoval (Jerusalem Post)
  • The U.S. peace plan is arguably the most important statement pertaining to Israel's political position since the UN partition plan of 1947 and the Declaration of Independence in 1948, provided that its major elements are implemented.
  • Its primary significance is that the principle of secure borders, noted in UN Security Council Resolution 242, has become a concrete political precept initiated and supported by the world's major power, the U.S. (and apparently not objected to by major parts of the Arab world).
  • The security-based essence of the plan - Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and security control in the West Bank - has been one of the fundamentals of Israel's security doctrine since repelling aggression in the Six-Day War. As Henry Kissinger told me in 1991, "Peace is secondary; security is vital." The U.S. plan is the first time Israel has been accorded the right to set its own security borders.
  • One important implication of the plan is the creation of a new paradigm, an up-to-date reference point for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the future, the general outline for any arrangement will have to take account of the template of the Trump plan, which even a future Democratic administration would find hard to reverse completely.
  • The underlying guideline of the plan is the eventual two-state principle. The plan projects a minimum four-year transition period plus a string of clear conditions to the Palestinians on terrorism, incitement, renunciation of the "right of return," and an end to anti-Israel activities at international forums. While a Palestinian state is the final goal, in practice the present chaotic situation makes it clear that Palestinian statehood any time soon won't be an option.
  • The plan has been castigated as one-sided. It is not. It is a pragmatic approach, taking into account realities as they are and not as some want them to be. It looks after Israel's security concerns and provides extensive economic and political advantages, including future self-governance, to the Palestinians, while setting a mutually beneficial framework for Jewish-Arab coexistence in the land shared by both.

    The writer served twice as Israel's ambassador to the U.S.