May 12, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

American Public Opinion and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Prof. Eytan Gilboa (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
    Surveys of American public opinion reveal that from 2000 to 2020, between 2/3 and 3/4 of Americans have consistently viewed Israel favorably and the Palestinian Authority unfavorably.
    During the first decade of this century, the average favorable-to-Israel percentage was 64%; in the second it climbed to 71%.
    The PA's scores were exactly the opposite. This sentiment is probably related to the fact that Israel is a liberal democracy, while the PA is a corrupt, ineffective, and failed dictatorship.
    In recent years, there has been some increase in sympathy with the Palestinians, but this didn't necessarily come at the expense of sympathy with Israel.
    At the same time, according to the Gallup poll, in 2020, 55% of Americans supported a Palestinian state, with 34% opposed. This could reflect Trump's inclusion of a prospective Palestinian state in his peace plan.
    The writer is a senior research associate at the BESA Center.

Ancient Coin from Bar Kochba Revolt Found near Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Antiquities Authority on Monday revealed a coin minted during the Bar Kochba revolt, an uprising against Roman rule in Judea in 132-135 CE.
    The coin was unearthed near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City. It includes the words "Year Two of the Freedom of Israel" and "Jerusalem."

Fatah Gunmen Threaten Banks in PA - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Masked gunmen took to the streets of some Palestinian cities in the past few days to protest a decision by a number of banks to close the accounts of Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli prisons.
    New legislation went into effect on May 9 making it "an offense punishable with 10 years in prison and a substantial fine" for bank personnel to conduct transactions involving such accounts.
    In the areas of Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah, masked gunmen fired shots in the air and threatened bank managers to reverse their decision.
    Palestinian sources said the gunmen belonged to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah, the faction headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
    "The Fatah gunmen are affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, and some of them even work as officers in its security forces," said Ibrahim al-Masri, a merchant from Nablus.

Photos: Lag B'Omer Marks the End of a Plague - Lenny Ben-David (Times of Israel)
    Lag B'Omer, which started in Jewish communities on Monday night and continues through Tuesday, marks the end of a plague which took the lives of 24,000 students of the great Talmud scholar Rabbi Akiva (c. 130 CE).
    Until this year, Lag B'Omer was marked in Israel by mass pilgrimages to the graves of High Priest Shimon HaTzadik (Simon the Just) in Jerusalem or Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meron in the Galilee, as bonfires were lit across the country.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Global Pandemic Strikes Iran's Oil Exports - Benoit Faucon
    Long before the coronavirus crisis, Iran's energy sector had been shattered by years of sanctions. More recently, the Covid-19 crisis has led to a sharp global decline in demand for oil and crude oil prices. In March, deliveries of Iranian crude to China - Iran's biggest customer - collapsed by 60%, according to Chinese customs data. Within weeks, Iran's onshore tanks were virtually full, according to satellite data analyzed by consulting firm Kayrros.
        According to TankerTrackers.com, Iran shipped 7.9 million barrels to Syria in March. Tehran has historically delivered oil to Syria under a credit line it doesn't expect to be repaid, Western officials have said. "Iran can't sell this oil, so they may as well give it to Syria," said Fabrice Balanche, a Syria-focused research director at Lyon 2 University, France. "It will give them leverage on the regime." Iran was recently granted oil exploration contracts in eastern Syria. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Anti-Semitic Incidents in U.S. Hit Record High in 2019
    The American Jewish community experienced the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 since tracking began in 1979, with 2,107 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment reported across the U.S., according to new data from ADL. The 2019 ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, issued Tuesday, found that the total number of incidents in 2019 increased 12% over the previous year, with a 56% increase in assaults. Five fatalities were directly linked to anti-Semitic violence and another 91 individuals were targeted in physical assaults. (Anti-Defamation League)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Soldier Killed during West Bank Arrest Raid - Judah Ari Gross
    Sgt. First Class Amit Ben-Yigal, 21, was killed in the West Bank village of Yabed early Tuesday after being struck in the head by a large rock during an arrest raid, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman said. The rock had been thrown from the roof of one of the homes on the outskirts of the village. The soldier was wearing a helmet. Ben-Yigal was the first IDF soldier to be killed in action in 2020. (Times of Israel)
        See also Father Mourns Only Son Who Insisted on Combat Unit - Anna Ahronheim
    Sgt. Amit Ben-Yigal's father, Baruch, told Israel Radio that his son asked to join a combat unit after visiting death camps in Poland. He needed parental consent to do so. "I said to him, Amit you are my only son, you have to understand what this means. He responded that we have no other country, and I went with him to Tel Hashomer [induction base] to sign and I told him how proud I was of him."
        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the family and "like what has happened in all cases in recent years, Israel's long arm will find the terrorist."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 258
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 258 (up from 254 on Monday), the Israeli Health Ministry said Tuesday morning. Hospitals are treating 203 patients, 67 of whom are in serious condition (down from 73 on Monday), of which 57 are on ventilators (down from 64 on Monday). 4,312 people are currently ill with the virus (compared with 4,690 on Monday) and 11,956 people have recovered. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Charged for Stabbing Israeli Woman on Memorial Day - Hagar Shezaf
    Mohammed Reisha, 20, a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Tulkarm, was indicted on Monday for the attempted murder of a 62-year-old Israeli woman in Kfar Sava on April 28, Israel's Memorial Day. An indictment filed in the Central District Court in Lod stated that he decided in advance that he wanted to murder a Jewish Israeli and left his home armed with a knife. He got off a bus near a shopping center and saw a woman approaching the same bus stop. Reisha spoke to her to make sure she was a Jewish Israeli and then took out the knife and stabbed her numerous times when her back was turned to him. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Protecting Itself from Covid-19, Israel Shows Cohesion - David Horovitz
    Israel's battle against the Covid-19 pandemic has not been perfect, but its overall strategy and leadership has been strikingly effective - as is borne out by the current death toll which compares extraordinarily well to much of the rest of the world. Israeli society is supposed to be perpetually tense and permanently riven - a country hopelessly divided between left and right, Jewish and Arab, religious and secular. You name it, we fight about it. Except, facing down Covid-19, we don't.
        Several Israeli Arab communities, realizing they had high infection rates, closed off their own entries and exits to thwart a further spread. IDF Homefront Command officers have described the high degree of cooperation and appreciation they've encountered when helping Bedouin communities in the south deal with their Covid-19 cases.
        It's only when you talk to relatives and friends abroad, and realize how unnerved some of them are by the way their leaders, authorities and citizenries have been dealing, or failing to deal with Covid-19, that you realize the relative common sense demonstrated here is not necessarily the norm elsewhere. (Times of Israel)
  • Can Palestinians Stop Israel from Declaring Sovereignty over Parts of West Bank? - Jonathan Ferziger
    As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks a green light from the White House to declare sovereignty over 30% of the West Bank, Palestinians are scrambling to galvanize international opposition to the plan while battling skepticism that they can do anything to stop it. Israel's expected assertion of sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and most of the West Bank settlements is a key part of the U.S. "Peace to Prosperity" vision.
        While the Arab League formally condemned the plan on April 30, as did 11 European ambassadors, neither Israel nor the U.S. has blinked. Looking at how the world has acceded to Israel's 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights, which was captured in the 1967 war, the current international opposition is unlikely to block similar action in the West Bank.
        Riad Al Khouri, an Amman-based economist and political risk consultant at GeoEconomica, said, "Abbas is going to foam at the mouth, he's going to chew the carpet, he's going to spend a whole day screaming his head off about the Palestinian holocaust and how this is the end, because he has to, because his public posture demands it. Behind the scenes, he's going to be looking for a quid pro quo."  (Atlantic Council)
  • Envisioning Peace between Israel and Its Arab Allies - Ed Husain
    I am a Muslim who wants to see long-lasting, real peace between Israel and its Arab allies. In my book, The House of Islam: A Global History (2018), I explain how across a millennium, Muslims and Jews lived together, generally, in peace and harmony.  When the prophet Mohamed declared his ummah or community in Medina in 622, Jews were explicitly part of that ummah. The second caliph, Omar, invited Jews to return to Jerusalem in 636 after five centuries of Roman expulsion. Why? Because early Muslims, trained by Mohamed, recognized that Jews were from Judea and Jerusalem was their city.
        Muslims and Jews, together as brothers of the same father, Abraham, suffered at the hands of the medieval Crusades and then again when the Spanish Inquisition sought blood of Jews and Muslims. The medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides, known as the Rambam, wrote in Arabic and was a physician to Saladin.
        The writer is a senior fellow at Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society in Westminster and a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

  • Over the last five decades, successive Israeli governments have invested in the development of cities and towns in the West Bank as well as the infrastructure necessary to link them to cities and towns in Israel.
  • It defies logic to believe that Israel would ever give up on this long-term project. Yet that is exactly what folks inside the Beltway, including long-term Israel watchers, former officials, and opinion writers, have been doing for years.
  • The Second Intifada should have laid bare the bankruptcy of the peace process. The dirty war that ensued was a searing experience for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israel's national zeitgeist went from Prime Minister Shimon Peres' "New Middle East" to Netanyahu's "there is no partner [for peace]" and has never shifted back.
  • The view that the U.S. can pressure Israel into giving up annexation also does not make sense against the backdrop of the West Bank's historical weight. It is, after all, the cradle of Judaism.
  • It has also become the holy of holies in terms of Israeli security, all the more so since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza resulted in years of rocket fire on adjacent Israeli towns. The lesson Israelis learned from that experience is clear: hold on to territory, international condemnation be damned.
  • Under these circumstances, regardless of whatever incentives or threats the U.S. can bring to bear, they are unlikely to work, given the way Israelis have defined the stakes - life or death.

    The writer is a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Daily Alert was prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations from May 3, 2002, to April 30, 2020.
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