March 16, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Donor Conference on UNRWA Funding Gets $100 Million in Aid Pledges - Nicole Winfield (AP-ABC News)
    The UN received pledges Thursday of nearly $100 million in new funding for the UN relief agency for Palestinians after the U.S. slashed its aid.
    Stepping up were Qatar, Canada, Switzerland, Turkey, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Mexico, Slovakia, India and France.

Someone in Hamas Must Have Known prior to Gaza Bombing of Visiting PA Leaders - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    This week, someone attempted to murder PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj as they visited Gaza.
    According to Hamas Deputy Interior Minister Tawfik Abu Naim, there were two 15-kg. bombs placed 37 meters from each other. One bomb exploded but the second failed to detonate.
    The devices were placed on the main north-south route through Gaza only a few hundred meters away from the Erez border crossing to Israel - and under the nose of Hamas security forces.
    "There is no chance that someone in Hamas didn't know that these bombs were placed there," a senior PA official said.
    "From a security point of view, someone there closed their eyes or gave it their blessing. It is impossible that everything was done there without anyone in Hamas knowing about it."

U.S. Could Finish Off ISIS If Turkey Would Stop Fighting the Kurds, Pentagon Says - Jamie McIntyre (Washington Examiner)
    The battle between U.S.-backed forces and Islamic State fighters is still raging in Syria's Middle Euphrates River Valley.
    Just as the forces, which include Kurdish fighters, are poised to finish off the last remnants of ISIS, Turkey torpedoed the final push with its own offensive against Syrian Kurds in the northwest border region, drawing more than 1,000 Kurdish fighters and their leaders away from the battle against ISIS.

U.S.-Iranian Man Gets 25 Years in Prison for Trying to Buy Missiles for Iran - Brendan Pierson (Reuters)
    Reza Olangian, 57, a dual Iranian-U.S. citizen, was sentenced on Wednesday to 25 years in prison after he was found guilty in 2016 of trying to buy surface-to-air missiles and aircraft components for the government of Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Greece's Energean Raises $500 Million for Israeli Gas Project - Ron Bousso and Shadia Nasralla (Reuters)
    Greece's Energean Oil & Gas listed on the London Stock Exchange on Friday, raising nearly $500 million to develop two Israeli offshore gas fields.
    The Karish and Tanin fields have potential reserves of up to 2.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 32.8 million barrels of light oil and condensate.
    Energean expects first gas from Karish in 2021.

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OECD: Israel One of World's Leading Economies - Ariel Whitman (Israel Hayom)
    A new report by the 35-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has found that the Israeli economy is one of the strongest in the world.
    Israel's economy grew by 3.3% in 2017, helped by strong population growth and a robust high-tech sector, and the OECD forecasts 3.5% growth in 2018.
    "The Israeli economy has grown faster and more consistently than nearly any other in the OECD for the past 15 years," said OECD acting Chief Economist Alvaro Pereira.

Israel Has Highest Fertility Rate in the West - Amir Alon (Ynet News)
    The average number of children per mother in Israel - 3.11 in 2016 - is the highest in the West, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data published Tuesday.
    In most OECD countries, fertility rates in recent years were less than 2.1.
    73.9% of babies born in Israel in 2016 were born to Jewish women, 20.7% to Muslims, 1.4% to Christians, 1.3% to Druze, and 2.6% not classified.

Israeli Company Discovers There's No Longevity Gene (Mako-Hebrew-7Mar2018)
    MyHeritage, an Israeli-owned company that deals in the construction of family trees and DNA testing, has discovered there is no such thing as a "longevity gene."
    The company has composed the world's largest family tree, with around 13 million members.
    Prof. Yaniv Ehrlich explained, "We can learn a lot of things from data from the past....We discovered that genes have less of an influence on longevity than we thought. It's not a hereditary trait, as previously believed."
    "Genetics may determine on average about five years of our lives, but cigarettes, from example, take off on average ten years.... We can't rely on our parents' life expectancy."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Demands Assad, Russia, Iran Be Held to Account for Syrian Atrocities - Jeff Seldin
    The U.S. is demanding the world hold Syria's government, Russia and Iran responsible for "some of the worst atrocities known to man," U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday at an event at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington marking the 7th anniversary of the Syrian conflict. "The Assad regime has killed indiscriminately, tortured, starved, raped and used chemical weapons on its own people. It has attacked hospitals and schools, and countless Syrians have been arrested, abducted or simply disappeared....Assad should not have impunity from his crimes and neither should his sponsors."  (VOA News)
        See also McMaster: All Responsible Nations Must Counter Iran's Destabilizing Activities in Syria
    U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday: "The United States is taking action to protect innocent Syrians, defeat ISIS, and hold the Assad regime, and its sponsors, accountable for their crimes....All civilized nations must hold Iran and Russia accountable for their role in enabling atrocities and perpetuating human suffering in Syria."
        "Across the greater Middle East, Iran is proliferating dangerous weapons, fueling sectarian violence, and supporting terrorist proxies and militias, such as Hizbullah. This regime proudly chants 'Death to America' and 'Death to Israel.' It further offends the conscience of every human being by denying the Holocaust."
        "Since 2012, Iran has provided over $16 billion to the Assad regime and to other proxies in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen....Iran's goal is to secure a permanent military foothold in Syria, which would threaten Israel, undermine U.S. interests, and strengthen the terrorist and proxy forces that Iran uses to weaken Arab states and foment violence. We cannot let this happen. All responsible nations must take action to counter Iran's destabilizing activities in Syria and across the region."  (White House)
  • Crown Prince: Saudi Arabia to Acquire Nuclear Weapons If Iran Does
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview to be aired Sunday on "60 Minutes": "Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible."
        He said, "Ayatollah Khamenei...wants to expand. He wants to create his own project in the Middle East very much like Hitler who wanted to expand at the time. Many countries around the world and in Europe did not realize how dangerous Hitler was until what happened, happened. I don't want to see the same events happening in the Middle East."  (CBS News)
  • Israel Is the Star at a National Security Conference in Mississippi - Ben Sales
    The International Homeland Defense and Security Summit, organized by the Mississippi state government, was held Tuesday in Biloxi. Representatives of 16 Israeli companies attended, along with a delegation from the Israel Defense Ministry. Gov. Phil Bryant told the conference, "If there's anyone that knows about homeland security, it's the Israelis. They have a tough neighborhood they live in."
        Companies specializing in security technology included Smart Shooter, which promises to make guns more accurate. Magal Security Systems is a border security sensor system that's used on Israel's northern and southern frontiers. Its technology helps secure the perimeters of prisons, power plants and Secret Service sites in the U.S.
        Beeper is a surveillance system - already deployed by the Israeli military and police departments in Baltimore and Houston - that can pinpoint where a gun is fired and instantly take video of who fired the weapon. Israel Aerospace Industries has two facilities in Mississippi. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Official Palestinian Policy Is Now Resolute Rejection - Daniel Siryoti and Lior Yaakobi
    Palestinian officials said Wednesday that Ramallah's position is now based on three resolute "refusals." First, the Palestinian Authority will refuse to resume diplomatic relations with Washington, and President Abbas will not meet with U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt or any other White House envoy.
        Second, the PA refuses to accept the Trump administration's Middle East peace plan. Third, the Palestinians will reject any U.S. or European pressure to shelve their "diplomatic intifada" against Israel. (Israel Hayom)
        See also Palestinians Call for "Day of Rage" Friday to Mark U.S. Jerusalem Recognition - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces coalition in the West Bank and Gaza is urging renewed mass protests Friday to mark 100 days since President Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. There were also calls to terminate all relations with Israel and revoke Palestinian recognition of Israel.
        On Thursday, Hamas issued a separate appeal to Palestinians to initiate clashes with IDF soldiers and settlers, saying the rage should continue until Trump's decision is thwarted. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Neutralized Bomb on Gaza Border Last Year Using Lasers - Yoav Zitun
    On Dec. 20, 2017, IDF soldiers spotted a powerful bomb being planted by Palestinian rioters near the Gaza border fence. Sappers neutralized the bomb without incident using lasers that caused it to heat up and explode from 100 meters away. A tour of the area afterward found that hundreds of pieces of shrapnel had penetrated the fence and landed on the Israeli side. (Ynet News)
        See also Video: The IDF Anti-Explosives Laser System - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Abbas Has Made Himself Irrelevant - Oded Granot
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas has dug himself and his people a trench and put a wall up to stop them from negotiating with Israel. He has even refused to allow Palestinian representatives to meet delegates sent by President Trump. On Tuesday, Abbas refused to send delegates to an important meeting in Washington wholly devoted to the deteriorating economic situation in Gaza.
        Ostensibly, all this is because the U.S. has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. One might think from all this that had Trump not recognized Jerusalem, the Palestinians were planning to sprint to the negotiating table and sit down seriously to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once and for all.
        There is no escaping the conclusion that Abbas, at 83 and in deteriorating health, would prefer to leave peacemaking and its headaches to his successor. This way, he will be written into history as one who did not surrender an inch of "Palestine." The writer headed the Middle East desk and was senior commentator at Israel Televison - Channel 1 (2001-2017). (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Sends a Message to Iran - Zaki Shalom and Jonathan Mintzer
    Last month, Israeli helicopters shot down an Iranian drone after it entered Israeli airspace from Syria and then targeted the site from which it was launched. Israel has rarely responded with such aggression after intercepting a foreign drone in its airspace, but Israel's disproportionate military and rhetorical response was intended to send two messages.
        First, Israel made it clear that Syria and Iran must refrain from engaging in future military actions against Israel, and any such actions will come at a heavy price. Second, Israel showed that it is increasingly determined to stop Iran's regional aggression. Prof. Zaki Shalom is a member of the research staff at the Institute for National Security Studies, where Jonathan Mintzer, an attorney, is a research intern. (Times of Israel)
  • NBC Joins the Tamimi Propaganda Campaign - Tamar Sternthal
    Last week, NBC's F. Brinley Bruton and Lawahez Jabari lionized Palestinian Ahed Tamimi, 17, "the teen with long blond curly hair [who] swiftly became a global symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation," whitewashing the Palestinian struggle as one "against the occupation," as opposed to against Israel in any borders.
        After a video of her slapping and punching Israeli soldiers went viral, her mother posted on Facebook Ahed's message to the Palestinian public: "Trump made his declaration and they need to take responsibility for any response that comes from us, whether it is stabbings or martyrdom operations [suicide bombings] or throwing stones." The NBC reporters concealed Ahed Tamimi's words that clearly incite to violence. (CAMERA)
  • Australian Labor Party at Odds with Voters - Gareth Narunsky
    The Australian Labor Party may be set to endorse unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state at its conference in July, but a new poll has revealed that only a fraction of its voters are in favor. In the YouGov Galaxy poll conducted in February, commissioned by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), only 13% of respondents favored recognizing a Palestinian state without a peace deal. Among Labor voters, the figure was 14%. 25% of Labor voters favored recognition after the conclusion of a peace deal, while 14% said recognition should only come after all Palestinian groups renounced violence.
        ECAJ co-CEO Peter Wertheim said, "Those who simplistically advocate immediate and unconditional recognition of a Palestinian state are recklessly disregarding whether this would help end the conflict or make it worse." Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said, "The vast majority understand that it would be counterproductive to recognize such a state until there is a peace agreement."  (Australian Jewish News)
  • Palestinian Education and the Future of Peace - Lior Akerman
    A look at the textbooks used in Palestinian classrooms makes it practically impossible to remain optimistic about reaching any sort of peace arrangement in the near future. A 2017 study found that these textbooks consistently delegitimize Israel, encourage a violent struggle against Israel, and portray Israelis and Jews as the evil enemy. They claim that the occupation began not in 1967, but in 1856 - the year Moses Montefiore bought land to build Yemin Moshe, the first Jewish neighborhood outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City.
        The textbooks claim that the Palestinians are the only ones who have rights to all the land and that the Jews have no place in the Middle East. They fail to mention the Jewish people's connection to the land as described in the Old Testament, upon which the Koran is based. The books encourage young children to fight against the Jews and yearn for the complete destruction of the State of Israel.
        These textbooks, which are paid for by UNRWA, are used to teach more than half a million Palestinian schoolchildren. Complaints have been filed by Israeli organizations and the Israeli government for years now, but the situation remains unchanged. The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Israel Security Agency. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Media Experts Sharpen Tools to Promote Israel - Alex Traiman
    Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy brought together more than 60 social-media experts in Jerusalem this week to hear about strategies and insights towards becoming better Israel activists online. David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign-media spokesman, suggested focusing on empathy when communicating. "Anytime you can take an abstract idea and boil it down into a story, you can have fantastic results." He added that the ability of the Prime Minister's Office to tell the story of Israel is not as powerful as the collective "fusion of people with organic followings."  (JNS)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Fighter Pilot Became a Miami Teacher after Being Marked for Assassination - Howard Cohen
    Gideon Lichtman, who died Wednesday at 94, was the first fighter pilot in the Israeli air force to shoot down an enemy fighter in aerial combat. On June 8, 1948, he shot down one of the Egyptian Spitfires that were shooting up Tel Aviv. Lichtman would end up flying 90 missions, crashing at least once.
        His son Bruce said, "He was told by Ezer Weizman, president of Israel and former minister of defense, that Israel had intercepted Arab intelligence that they were intent on targeting foreign pilots who served in Israel." Weizman, Lichtman's roommate in 1948, told his pal, "Your life is in danger." So for over 30 years, his students at Southwest Miami Senior High knew him as Mr. Rimon.
        Lichtman told the Miami Herald in 1998, "Every guy we flew with in Israel has the same feeling I have, that this was the highlight of their lives. I'm a Jew and I love that country. There was a real need to establish a state in Israel, because Jews were being persecuted around the world and needed a place to live."  (Miami Herald)
  • Israeli Researchers Develop Infrared Sensors for Night-Vision Glasses, Smartphones, Self-Driving Cars - Shoshanna Solomon
    Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have developed low-cost infrared sensors that can be used for night-vision glasses, smartphones, and self-driving cars. Prof. Gabby Sarusi has developed a film half a micron in thickness which transforms infrared images into visible images. The technology could help replace heavy night-vision goggles used by soldiers with lightweight, low-power consumption glasses. Such a device could be used on sensors for autonomous cars to improve vision in fog and darkness.
        Researchers at the university's Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology have also developed small, pollinating drones to make up for a lack of bees; wall-climbing, spiderlike robots for search and rescue operations; and fruit-picking robots. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's HemoScreen Performs a Complete Blood Count in 5 Minutes
    Israeli blood analysis startup PixCell has been awarded a 2.5 million euro grant by the European Commission to accelerate commercialization of its HemoScreen. The product is a portable, easy-to-use, blood analyzer that can be operated by anyone. It performs the most common blood test - a complete blood count - within 5 minutes, enabling physicians to diagnose and treat their patients during a single visit.
        HemoScreen's performance has been comprehensively validated in 3 clinical studies in the U.S. in which operators without any training have tested thousands of blood samples, showing excellent correlation to high-end lab analyzers. The product has EU CE approval and is expected to be FDA cleared during 2018. (Globes)

  • This week, Gallup released its annual poll on American attitudes towards Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As it has for decades, the survey showed overwhelming American support for Israel.
  • What is remarkable about the polling on Israel is how consistent it has been. Notably, despite endless talk about the Democratic party "turning against Israel" under Obama, Democratic support for Israel is essentially the same in 2018 (49%) as it was when Obama took office in 2008 (48%).
  • Israel is viewed even more positively than head-to-head polling about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would indicate. When asked simply whether they viewed Israel favorably (rather than to choose a side in the conflict), "83% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 64% of Democrats view Israel favorably."
  • Support for Israel is higher among older brackets, but still robust among the young. As Gallup puts it, "Israel also receives higher favorable ratings from adults 55 and older (80% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (72%) or 18 to 34 (65%)."
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