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October 21, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

The Middle East Is Becoming More Dangerous for the U.S. Navy - J. Matthew McInnis (American Enterprise Institute)
    Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) naval ships' frequent, aggressive behavior towards the U.S. Navy has hit new levels in the past few months, triggering several risky encounters in the Persian Gulf. Why have the waters in the Middle East become more dangerous recently?
    The IRGC wants everyone to know nothing changed after the nuclear deal. For the IRGC, our presence in the Persian Gulf is illegitimate and fundamentally not deserving of respect.
    Iranian naval forces are making large strides in weapons and surveillance, investing in increasingly accurate cruise missiles, sophisticated mines, midget submarines, and even a new high-speed, helicopter-carrying catamaran.
    The writer, a resident fellow at AEI, served as a senior analyst and in other leadership positions for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Iran's For-Profit Imprisonment of U.S. Citizens - Editorial (Washington Post)
    Tehran announced Tuesday that two American citizens and a permanent U.S. resident had been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of "cooperating with the hostile U.S. government."
    The government of Hassan Rouhani, which negotiated the nuclear deal with the Obama administration, is often portrayed as opposed to this de facto hostage-taking, but appears powerless to prevent it.

Argentina Asks Iraq to Extradite Ex-Iranian Minister (AFP-Al Arabiya)
    Argentina issued another extradition warrant Thursday for an Iranian ex-foreign minister over the deadly bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994.
    Investigating Judge Rodolfo Canicoba asked Baghdad to extradite Ali Akbar Velayati, who is on the Interpol wanted list and is currently in Iraq.
    In July Argentina issued a similar warrant to Singapore and Malaysia after learning Velayati was on a lecture tour to those countries.
    Argentine investigators accuse Velayati and four other Iranian former officials, including ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, of orchestrating the July 18, 1994, car bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association in Buenos Aires. The Iranians ordered Hizbullah to carry out the bombing.

U.S. Sanctions Hizbullah Operatives, Fundraisers (Reuters)
  The U.S. Treasury on Thursday imposed sanctions on four Hizbullah operatives and a firm that has assisted the organization.

Video: Thousands March in Jerusalem in Support of Israel on Sukkot (AFP-Times of Israel)
    Thousands of supporters of Israel from across the globe marched during the annual Jerusalem March on Thursday, traditionally held during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
    Groups carried flags from dozens of countries, including the U.S., China, Britain, Brazil and Thailand, with many visiting as part of Christian delegations. Israelis from across the country also took part.

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Israel Sells Heron UAVs to India (Defense Industry Daily)
    The Indian government has approved the purchase of ten armed UAVs from Israel Aerospace Industries for $400 million following a fast-tracking of the program by the Modi administration.
    Israeli-made Heron-1 drones played a crucial part in search and rescue operations following the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004.
    IAI Searcher tactical UAVs and and their Heron counterparts were used to locate trapped survivors and missing bodies near the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
    As of 2011, leased Herons or Heron variants are operating in Afghanistan on behalf of the Australian, Canadian, French, and German armed forces.
    Subsequent years have also seen confirmed or reported export sales to Brazil's federal police, Ecuador's navy, Singapore's armed forces, and Turkey.

Israel's Damascus-Born Intelligence Assets - Yair Altman (Israel Hayom)
    Chief Warrant Officer A., 46, serves in the Israel Defense Forces' 8200 intelligence unit with his brother, Warrant Officer M., 42, and his son. They were smuggled into Israel in 1985 and speak native Syrian Arabic.
    "We lived in what was once the Jewish quarter of Damascus," A. reminisces. "In terms of security and finances, the Jews lived better than the locals. There were police officers at the entrance to the Jewish quarter and the synagogues, but we were also constantly under tabs, lest we collaborate with the enemy or, worst of all, go to Israel."
    "We always felt that we were living in an Arab country, and the threat was in the air. We didn't feel it was our home. We were raised with the dream of making aliyah to Israel, a place where we would belong. Zionism was in our blood."

Israel Shares Know-How with Developing World - Sharon Udasin (Jerusalem Post)
    Surrounded by barren desert and malaria-ridden swampland, the fledgling State of Israel had little food to sustain its inhabitants.
    Fast forward six-and-a-half decades, and the Little Country that Could is not only nourishing its own eight million citizens, but is also helping countries around the world do the same.
    "We are the only country in the world that has come to such a high development stage in such a short period of time," said Yakov Poleg, head of the Agriculture Ministry's Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation (CINADCO).
    "The beauty is that Israel is willing to share all its development achievements with other nations."
    Then-Foreign Minister Golda Meir created Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) in 1957 after a trip to Africa.
    Since then, MASHAV has trained 270,000 participants from 132 countries, of which 70% involved agriculture.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Turkey Escalates Offensive Against Kurdish Militia in Syria - Sarah El Deeb and Suzan Fraser
    Turkey pounded Kurdish fighters in northern Syria with airstrikes and artillery on Thursday, complicating the battle against the Islamic State. "We are fighting Daesh [IS]. Why are they striking at us?" senior Kurdish commander Mahmoud Barkhadan asked. The U.S. considers the Kurdish YPG militia to be the most effective force against IS in Syria. The Kurds who were targeted are affiliated with U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters. (AP-ABC News)
  • Jewish Settlers Invited Palestinians Over for the Holidays - William Booth and Sufian Taha
    Efrat is a bedroom community of 10,000 Jews, including many Americans, a few miles south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Efrat's mayor, Oded Revivi, invited Palestinians from surrounding villages to come to his house and celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, when the faithful gather in palm-roofed huts. A couple of dozen Palestinians accepted the mayor's invitation this week.
        Ahmad Mousa, 58, a contractor from the neighboring Palestinian village of Wadi Al Nis, said, "Seventy percent of our village works in Efrat. They treat us very well and we are very good to them, too." The mayor said more than 1,000 Palestinians work daily in Efrat: at shops, maintaining infrastructure, fixing solar panels, building new houses, and remodeling older ones.
        Mayor Revivi hailed the men who came to his home as "true men, courageous men. I know there were men I invited and they did not come." Palestinians may work in Jewish settlements without social censure, but Palestinian society discourages collaboration and "normalization." Efrat is just a few miles down the road from the Gush Etzion Junction, scene of more than a dozen Palestinian attacks in the past year. (Washington Post)
        See also PA Intelligence Grills Palestinians Who Visited Settler Leader's Sukkah - Sue Serkes
    Three Palestinians who accepted an invitation to the mayor of Efrat's sukkah were summoned by Palestinian Authority intelligence on Thursday to explain why they had visited "murderers of babies." Mayor Oded Revivi told Channel 2 News that instead of working for peace, the Palestinian Authority preferred to summon for investigation Palestinians who drink coffee with their neighbors. (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Islamic Jihad Plotted to Blow Up Israeli Wedding Hall, Kidnap IDF Soldier
    The Israel Security Agency announced Thursday it had thwarted an Islamic Jihad plot to carry out a terror attack at a wedding hall and to kidnap and kill an IDF soldier for the purposes of bargaining with Israel. Mahmoud Yousef Hassin abu-Taha, of Khan Yunis in Gaza, was arrested last month while entering Israel through the Erez Crossing. Abu-Taha was enlisted by Wael Sufian abu-Taha, a senior Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, to form a cell to carry out the terror attacks. The three men whom Abu-Taha enlisted were also arrested. "This grave affair yet again exhibits the efforts of terrorist elements in Gaza to carry out murderous terror attacks in Israel," the ISA stated. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Thwarts Terror Attacks in Beersheba - Ilana Curiel and Yoav Zitun
    Four Palestinians planned to throw grenades into a crowd celebrating at the Narnia events hall in Beersheba and to use weapons they would hide in trash cans ahead of the attack. Two of the Palestinians worked at the events hall. They also considered detonating pipe bombs concealed under the dining tables. Moreover, they planned the abduction of an IDF soldier from the city's central bus station. (Ynet News)
  • U.S., Egypt Warn Palestinians Not to Push Security Council Resolution Before U.S. Elections - Jack Khoury
    Both Egypt and the U.S. have warned the Palestinian leadership that Washington will veto any UN Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, including a denunciation of the settlements, before the U.S. presidential election next month, a senior Palestinian official told Ha'aretz on Thursday. "We have no illusions and no expectations that the Americans won't veto or otherwise torpedo any resolution submitted to the Security Council," the official said. "We also aren't aware of any plan being cooked up or of any proposal whatsoever."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Promised Not to Change UN Resolution 242 - Tovah Lazaroff
    U.S. support for a UN Security Council resolution to replace 242 would conflict with commitments given to Israel by Washington going back to 1973, former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Resolution 242 is the backbone on which the entire Israeli-Palestinian peace process is structured. "After the '73 war the United States gave Israel commitments that it would not allow for a change in UNSC Resolution 242," he said, adding that those commitments were "in writing."
        The Palestinians have long pushed for a revision of 242 to explicitly state that Israel must return to the pre-1967 lines. Israel has maintained that a UNSC resolution replacing 242 that imposes the terms of a peace deal discourages the Palestinians from pursuing a negotiated agreement. "What is clear, given the chaos in the region that exists today, is that Israel has every right to resist calls to withdraw to the 1967 lines," Gold said.
        He added that a UNSC resolution against West Bank settlement activity "would violate a core commitment in the Oslo agreements that all permanent status issues must be negotiated," and that under the 1993 Oslo Accords Israel was not prohibited from engaging in settlement activity. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • In Gaza, Support for Hamas Is Waning - Graham Jamison
    Visiting Gaza in early September, one sees and hears the sounds of construction everywhere. In the area that was once the Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Katif are a dozen brand-new residential towers built with Qatari funding. I had the impression, mostly from the media, that Gaza was more or less destroyed and was surprised at how difficult it was to see evidence of the 2014 war. As I entered the outskirts of Gaza City, I wondered where are all the destroyed buildings? On my first two days in Gaza, I didn't see a single one.
        Longing to dismantle the Jewish state is baked into seemingly every aspect of Gazan life. Massive rockets are on display at traffic circles. In barber shops, restaurants and residents' living rooms, Hamas TV runs endless loops of Israeli crimes against Palestinians; in the corner of the screen is an animated graphic that flashes thousands of portraits of Palestinian "martyrs." A Palestinian woman who works for UNRWA corrected me when I referred to Israel as "Israel." "It's Palestine," she said.
        Hamas once enjoyed broad popular support in Gaza, but these days support is waning. In formal interviews and casual conversations with dozens of Palestinians over the course of seven days, I rarely heard someone say they supported Hamas. One gripe is the recent wars with Israel. "The wars created big problems here, and that's Hamas' fault," said Leila, 23, a university student. "I want to send a message to Hamas: You need to be quiet and stop shooting rockets." "Fatah was corrupt, but at least we had jobs, at least we had electricity," she added.
        Many Gazans spoke about the Islamist party's inability to fix the economy. Eissa, 56, from Gaza City, told me he had six sons with university degrees, but not one had a job. He spoke longingly of the days when he could earn relatively high wages working construction jobs in Israel. There's also a perception that Hamas has become more corrupt in recent years. Just outside the al-Shati refugee camp stand the giant, garish seaside villas of top Hamas officials. (Jerusalem Report)
  • The Palestinian Issue in the New Middle East - Zalman Shoval
    A long-held view among Middle East "experts" was that the West's problematic relationship with the Arab world would have been long resolved were it not for the Palestinian issue. But it took the dramatic unraveling of the entire region and the ensuing turmoil created by the Arab Spring, the rise of al-Qaeda, ISIS and other Islamic terrorists, on the one hand, and Iran's terror promoting and destabilizing activities, on the other, to open the eyes of most of the world as to the real causes of the Middle East situation.
        Moreover, most Palestinian Arabs do not see the creation of a Palestinian state in parts of "Palestine" as their real aim, but rather the total disappearance of the State of Israel. Israel must never forget David Ben-Gurion's and Ze'ev Jabotinsky's dictum that only the Jewish state's own capability to defend itself would assure its security and eventually bring about peace. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Asking Israel to Take Risks for Peace - Clifford D. May
    Over and over, the Israelis are asked to make concessions, to "take risks for peace." Under pressure, they sometimes do. Reciprocal concessions are not demanded of Palestinian leaders because what would be the point of asking for what they can't or won't do? Hamas, which rules Gaza, rejects the very idea of peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state. Hamas' openly stated goal is Israel's annihilation. As for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he can't set foot in Gaza and, in the West Bank, his support has grown so thin he couldn't sign a peace agreement with Israel even if he wanted to - and it's by no means clear he does.
        In 2000, at Camp David, President Bill Clinton presented Israeli and Palestinian leaders with his "parameters" for a "two-state solution." The Israelis accepted the deal. Then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat did not. Instead, he ignited a wave of terrorist violence against Israelis that became known as the Second Intifada.
        Five years later, another "land for peace" experiment was run; Israelis withdrew from Gaza. Hamas began launching missiles into Israel and, more recently, digging terrorist tunnels under Israeli villages and farms. Today, Hamas collaborates with the Islamic State which is waging jihad against Egypt in Sinai. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)

  • Egypt

  • Egypt Endures a Sugar Crisis - Diaa Hadid and Nour Youssef
    Egyptians pile sugar into mugs of tea by the spoonful - or three or five. It is a staple long subsidized by the government for most of the population. It is also a prime reason that nearly a fifth of Egyptians have diabetes. Now a week-long sugar shortage has plunged people into a panic.
        Egypt's economy is in free fall. Its pound is now worth 6 cents on the black market, about half its value a year ago. Tourism has collapsed, remittances from Egyptian workers in the Persian Gulf have dropped, and revenue from the Suez Canal has fallen. Inflation reached 15.5% in August. Saudi Arabia delayed a shipment of discount petroleum products this month.
        Today, 88% of Egyptians - about 80 million people - can buy subsidized food through government-issued electronic cash cards. The government also subsidizes water, electricity and gas for all. President Sisi, under pressure to overhaul the economy, reduced the subsidies' share of the budget this year by 14%, to about $8.7 billion. (New York Times)
  • In Egypt, The High Cost of Romance Is Crippling Hopes of Marriage - Jane Arraf
    Rising prices in Egypt have made marriage unaffordable for tens of thousands of young Egyptians. In Egypt, the prospective groom is responsible for the apartment and furniture, while the bride provides the kitchen appliances. The engagement is sealed with a gift of gold jewelry from the groom to the bride.
        In Cairo's middle-class neighborhood of Heliopolis, Karim Mohammed, 20, an accounting student, says he recently broke up with the young woman he had hoped to marry because he couldn't afford to propose. To get engaged he needed to buy his fiancee at least a 21-karat gold necklace and earrings as well as an elaborate ring. Mohammed says the gold jewelry and even a simple engagement party would have cost more than $3,000. (NPR)

  • Other Issues

  • Maintaining Deterrence on Israel's Northern and Southern Fronts - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin
    To Israel's north and south, the IDF faces terror organizations that have institutionalized and taken on characteristics of states. On both fronts, Israel has achieved strong deterrence from previous rounds of fighting against Hizbullah and Hamas, which are currently not interested in fighting with Israel.
        In the south, Hamas suffers from significant erosion in public legitimacy, and is a target for severe public criticism for the extensive harm incurred by the population during the last conflict with Israel and poor achievements by Hamas in that campaign. Egypt has severely damaged the tunnel smuggling system from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza, which makes it more difficult for Hamas to restore its military might.
        Hizbullah and Hamas have not given up on the cause of destroying Israel, and both organizations regard military conflict as a central path to achieve this goal. Stopping them requires strong deterrence and damaging their respective military buildups. The writer, former head of Israeli military intelligence, is executive director of INSS in Tel Aviv. (Institute for National Security Studies)
  • Israel Seen as a "Villa in the Jungle" - Sever Plocker
    During my last visit to Washington, I met with one of the most prominent media personalities in the U.S., who has not spared his criticism of Israel's governments. The reality in the Arab arena, he said to me, has slapped many people in the face. It has exposed trends of violence and cruelty at volumes which we have not witnessed for decades.
        You can't ignore half a million dead in Syria, he added, while focusing on the behavior of border guard officers at a roadblock in the West Bank. The international preoccupation with Israel's conduct in the West Bank is nothing but an attempt to evade responsibility for the mass murder taking place in Syria.
        Quietly, in closed conversations, many public opinion leaders in the U.S. are voicing agreement with the official Israeli approach that "there is no one to talk to," or are at least saying that they understand the despair regarding any Arab leadership as a partner for an agreement. Now we see, they told me, that those who described Israel as "a villa in the jungle" were right. But the jungle is more dangerous than we thought, and the villa is more exposed than we thought. (Ynet News)

  • Weekend Features

  • India Speaking Up for Israel Is a Refreshing Change in Its Foreign Policy - Aravindan Neelakandan
    As 24 nations voted in UNESCO to support a resolution on Jerusalem that insulted the collective intelligence of all humanity, outgoing Israel Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold noted that the majority of nations either abstained or voted in favor of Israel. He specifically noted that India has changed its stand from its traditional position.
        One can go to any tea shop in any part of India, except perhaps those zones where radicalized Islamists stalk, and start a conversation about the topic of terrorism. Five minutes into the conversation you will find Indians, irrespective of their religion or language, appreciate and admire Israel's bold stands on terrorism. Israeli commando operations like the one in Entebbe have set the standards for the expected state response to terrorism.
        In reality, decades of Indian support to Palestinians never once resulted in unqualified support for India on the Kashmir issue from Palestinian organizations. We would be living in a fool's paradise if we continue to believe that by supporting the Palestinians we could gather Arab support for Kashmir. Worse, Palestinian jihadists have used Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) for terrorist training against Israel. (Swarajya-India)
  • Israel Was Not Born from 19th Century Colonialism - Jeff Robbins
    Israeli author and essayist Daniel Gordis has a new book, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn. Gordis marvels at the penchant for caricature and context-avoidance that makes otherwise intelligent Americans lose perspective about what Israel has managed to remain in a neighborhood rife with barbarity and social values outdated by decades, if not centuries.
        "It's very important to me that young people know that the idea of the Jewish state was not born in 19th century colonialism," he says. "I would like people to see Israel as an extraordinarily noble experiment in the aftermath of a catastrophe." Much of the story is one of resilience and personal sacrifice, endurance and passion, on the part of a people who had little reason to believe that their efforts would result in what Gordis describes as "an unbelievably successful state." The writer served as a U.S. Delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission. (Observer)
        See also We Need to Talk about Israel - Daniel Gordis
    Why did the Jewish people seek sovereignty in the first place? Zionism was a product not of nineteenth century nationalism but of a carefully crafted soulful yearning that was essentially synonymous with Judaism for almost two millennia. The writer is senior vice president at Shalem College in Jerusalem. (Tablet)

UNESCO Vote Hurts Palestinian Cause - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

  • Palestinians are celebrating the latest vote by UNESCO to treat Jerusalem's Temple Mount and Western Wall as solely Muslim holy sites, a key element of their ongoing diplomatic campaign to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state. But the pyrrhic nature of this victory is becoming more obvious with each passing day. More and more nations are refusing to go along with the usual Third World demonization of Israel.
  • That any international group, even an agency of a UN that has become immersed in a culture of anti-Semitism and hate for Israel, would deny that the site of the biblical temple of ancient Israel has anything to do with Judaism and the Jews is shocking.
  • That's especially true when the evidence of the existence of the Second Temple is staring right at the world in the form of the Western Wall and the network of ruins that run along the Temple Mount plateau, where mosques were planted to assert Islamic pre-eminence during the period of Muslim conquest.
  • What the Palestinians have done by changing the topic to denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem is, in effect, a dropping of the veil from their purported desire only to return to the situation of June 4, 1967, when an embattled Israel prepared to be attacked despite not being in possession of the West Bank, Gaza, or the parts of Jerusalem held by the Jordanians.
  • When PA incitement views the Jewish presence anywhere in the country - even at the most sacred sites in Judaism - as an illegal incursion, the true Palestinian goal of eliminating Israel moves out of the shadows and into plain sight.
  • The more the Palestinians deny Jewish history, the more they undermine faith in the possibility of a two-state solution among Israelis and the rest of the world. The more they reveal the anti-Semitic nature of their refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders may be drawn, the more they doom their cause to continued futility.
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