Prepared for the Conference of Presidents
April 19, 2019
We wish our readers a Happy Passover holiday!
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
It is time for a paradigm shift in how we think about the Middle East because the current paradigm between Israel and its neighbors that has prevailed for more than a half-century is increasingly at odds with reality.
After the June 1967 Six-Day War, the "normal" diplomatic model (enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 242) has assumed that Israel would trade territory in exchange for security and peace. Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt, allowing the two countries to sign a peace treaty that has endured to this day. But it is no longer possible to imagine peace talks, much less agreements, between Syrian President Assad's government and that of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Diplomatic progress between Israel and the Palestinians is equally difficult to imagine. Negotiations came close several times to establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but at the last minute, Palestinian leaders balked. This was a historic error. What was on offer in the past is no longer. Much of the world has grown weary of the conflict. Quite a few Arab governments, worried about Iran or internal threats more than Israel, are prepared to work with Israel quietly, and in some cases openly.
The writer, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department (2001-2003). (Project Syndicate)
Ahmad Al-Tawwab wrote in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram on March 25: "We must reassess the bizarre belief that has prevailed for many years among many Arab politicians and intellectuals, especially Palestinian ones, that time necessarily works in our favor...and that Israel's demise is a forgone conclusion....This outlook is one of the reasons that the Palestinians have repeatedly missed opportunities [to resolve the conflict]." (MEMRI)
The Indian Army has approved the import of 240 Israeli-made Spike medium-range anti-tank guided missiles and 12 launchers as part of an "emergency purchase" to meet immediate operational requirements. (The Diplomat)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
There is growing concern in the Palestinian Authority that some Arab countries may not support its position of vehement opposition to the U.S. peace plan. Worse, PA officials are worried that the U.S. may be seeking to establish an alternative Palestinian leadership that would accept the deal. That's why the PA is now focusing on ensuring that no Arab country or Palestinian personality take a stance contradicting its official position of opposition to the plan.
Ramallah-based officials are particularly worried that key Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, have thus far failed to endorse the Palestinians' fierce opposition to what they call the "biggest conspiracy to liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights." The officials have made it clear that any Palestinian who agrees to work with the Trump administration will be considered a traitor. (Jerusalem Post)
Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East negotiations, has been engaged in a Twitter debate for the last two days with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh over the direction of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. When Shtayyeh accused the U.S. of declaring "financial war" on the Palestinians after the Trump administration slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, Greenblatt responded, "This is U.S. taxpayer money - it goes to our allies & those that will work with us for positive change. Palestinian leaders chose to end that relationship - we hope they will work with us in the coming months for a better future for all."
After Shtayyeh tweeted back restating Palestinian demands, Greenblatt responded: "Basically, you're saying: give us the deal we demand, or no deal. That's consistent with Palestinian prior attempts. How has that worked out for Palestinians? Do you want to lead your people to opportunity & prosperity or just keep saying the same tired lines over & over again?" (Jerusalem Post)
Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick, the new commander of the IDF's Ground Forces, said Thursday that Hizbullah was still planning to carry out a surprise invasion of northern Israel, despite the recent Israeli operation to uncover and destroy a network of cross-border attack tunnels dug by the Iran-backed militia. (Times of Israel)
Iran paid the leader of the central African Seneka militia, Michel Djotodia, $150,000 for terror recruitment with the aim to destabilize any African country with diplomatic relations with Israel. The terror cell was uncovered and dismantled in Chad, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited earlier this year. Iran targeted countries engaged in diplomatic talks with Israel such as Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Chad, Niger, Gambia, and the Central African Republic. (i24News)
U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller's report on foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. election does not feature Israel. Israel is mentioned in the report 14 times, but none have anything to do with the 2016 election. Most involve December 2016 contacts between President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian government, ahead of a UN Security Council vote on Israel's settlements in the West Bank. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
The PA and its leadership are responsible for their dire financial situation. Had the PA chosen to reject terrorism and abolish its "Pay for Slay" policy, then the financial crises could have been avoided. It is the PA that rejected all U.S. aid after the U.S. passed the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA). The Act provides that any state or body which receives U.S. aid inherently agrees to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts to consider claims against those aid recipient states for terror involvement.
ATCA was passed after the PA was found to be responsible for a number of terror acts and ordered to pay over $600 million in damages to the victims and their families. The PA is responsible for the four years of terror from 2000-2004 in which 1,200 Israelis were murdered, and ongoing terror since then.
In addition, the Taylor Force Act made much of the U.S. aid to the PA conditional on it abolishing its policy of paying financial incentives and rewards to Palestinian terrorists and their families. If the PA has hundreds of millions of dollars a year to squander paying incentives and rewards to terrorists, it obviously does not need U.S. aid.
The writer is the Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch. He served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps, including as Director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria. (Times of Israel)
While the hurdles a Trump peace plan faces are well known, the plan would also start with several advantages. The corollary of the administration's pro-Israel tilt is that no elected government in Israel can afford to ignore Trump's peace plan.
In the Arab world, this tilt has not led to a straightforwardly negative response. As has been widely reported, ties between Israel and the dominant powers of the Sunni Arab world, especially with Saudi Arabia, have never been better. Several outlets have reported that Arab rulers have privately applied heavy pressure on Palestinian President Abbas to accept a peace agreement on terms to which he has not previously agreed.
Security and prosperity demand a peace between people. The U.S. should accordingly push for a broader effort at cultural reform with the potential to generate the popular support necessary to sustain a peace process. Doing so means urging and equipping Arab allies to roll back generations of rejectionist messaging in Arab establishment-owned media, mosques and schools. It means supporting grassroots Arab voices that have been calling for relations between Arabs and Israel.
The writer, a Moroccan publisher, is on the board directors of the Atlantic Council and an international counselor of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. (The Hill)
Very few Israelis hold Prime Minister Netanyahu accountable for the failure to achieve peace with the Palestinians. In this year's election, not a single party included peace in their campaign slogans or promises. In Israel's 2019 election, peace was simply not on the agenda. Many Israelis still hope for peace, but few imagine that there is any chance for it in the coming years. The Palestinians have already declared the coming U.S. peace plan "born dead."
There is no "deal" now or in the foreseeable future primarily because the Palestinians have still not made peace with the idea that a Jewish state is here to stay. When Hamas, which controls Gaza, started its "March of Return" last year, it promised that the march would mark the beginning of the "liberation of all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River." The march, in other words, was simply the latest chapter in Hamas' drive to destroy the Jewish state. Israelis take Hamas seriously.
Similarly, when Palestinian President Abbas warned U.S. President Trump that any peace plan that does not establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 border would be unacceptable, Israelis took him seriously, too. Those borders, they know, are essentially indefensible; what Abbas is thus seeking is not a state, they believe, but the gradual destruction of Israel. To Israeli ears, peace has long been dead.
The writer is senior vice president and Koret distinguished fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. (Bloomberg)
The lingering frustration of the residents of the border areas near Gaza and that of many other Israelis with Hamas provocations is understandable and justified. Still, a systemic and persistent engagement in managing the conflict, without a "decisive outcome," is probably the pattern best suited for Israeli needs in the foreseeable future.
In this context, a unique role is played by the Egyptian intelligence services. Much in the same way as Israel uses Russian good offices in Syria, Egypt's contribution makes it possible to deliver unambiguous messages to the Hamas leadership. These messages, in turn, rest upon Israel's proven ability to exact a heavy price from Hamas by military means. Today, the Egyptian regime has developed a sophisticated and effective approach combining rewards for the Hamas leadership with significant leverages.
For Israel, it is of primary importance to broaden cooperation with Egypt. The bilateral relationship has shown remarkable resilience over 40 years. Today, the relationship has reached new heights, due to the common stand against terror in Sinai and against Turkish subversion in the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel has an interest in furthering the Egyptians' influence on Gaza in the context of better "conflict management."
JISS Vice President Eran Lerman held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for over 20 years. (Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security)
Avi Dichter, former director of the Israel Security Agency, said that during the Second Intifada, the ISA and IDF arrested 8,000 terrorists. The intelligence that Israel was able to extract from them is what enabled the country to win. "With dead terrorists, you get no information. With terrorists captured alive, you can extract tremendous amounts of information and turn them into action items. This gives the ability to foil more and more terrorists, plots and cells."
In Gaza, destroying the terrorist military infrastructure can happen in one of two ways, according to Dichter. Either Saudi Arabia and Egypt lead a diplomatic initiative that completely rids Gaza of its terrorist military infrastructure, or Israel will need to launch a major and long-lasting operation to root it out.
He says the chances of the first option are low - and believes that Israel needs to prepare itself for a major campaign that would consist of ground troops and air power. Otherwise, within a decade, Hamas will have much more sophisticated weapons that will endanger Israel to a significantly higher degree. (Jerusalem Post)
On April 8, 2019, Iranian airline Mahan Air launched direct commercial flights between Tehran and the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Since October 2011, the Iranian company has been subject to U.S. sanctions for its deep involvement in ferrying military and logistical aid to the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. This year, Germany and France barred the airline from their territory.
Iran is using its ties with Venezuela to expand its activity and influence in Latin America (among other things, by means of Hizbullah) and to entrench its military, intelligence, narcoterrorist, diplomatic, economic, and religious presence and influence in the region. Iran's activity in America's "backyard" is intended to pose a challenge to Washington's intensifying efforts against Iran in the regional (missile program, subversion, terror) and international (nuclear program) arenas. The writer, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The decision by the State Department to designate the Revolutionary Guards as a Foreign Terrorist Organization is an action heavy on messaging with few practical advantages. The Treasury Department had already designated the IRGC as a terrorist group (as well as for proliferation and human rights violations), and Iran has long been on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. These already subjected the IRGC to powerful sanctions authorities.
The listing adds two substantive tools: first, additional immigration restrictions which could be applied to anyone that engages with IRGC entities. And second, criminal liability for knowingly providing material support to the group. These new tools add yet another layer of sanctions threat, which could sharpen the costs of doing business with Iran. This could prove particularly difficult for Iraq, which is dependent on Iranian energy and whose officials could now be exposed to sanctions and criminal liability.
The writer is director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
IDF Col. Shai Siman-Tov was deputy commander of the Golani Brigade's 12th battalion during the 2014 Gaza war and was critically injured when a tunnel collapsed. A concrete beam hit his helmet and broke five vertebrae. He was airlifted in critical condition to Soroka-University Medical Center and has since been wheelchair-bound. He returned to the military in 2015 and currently serves as a team leader at the IDF Tactical Command College. He will light the IDF's torch at the coming 71st Israel Independence Day celebrations.
The chairman of the ministerial committee for ceremonies, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Miri Regev, said that Siman-Tov "symbolizes the determination of the spirit and the strength of the soul to overcome the body's ailments. The process of his recovery from his severe injury during Operation Protective Edge and his return to serve as an IDF commander is a story of the heroism of the spirit and the growing desire to overcome all obstacles....Col. Siman-Tov, I'm proud of you and salute you."
"I am grateful for the privilege of lighting a torch as an IDF representative and excited about the opportunity," Siman-Tov said, adding, "I appreciate and cherish the opportunity given to me by my commanders to continue to serve in the Israel Defense Forces."
Other torch lighters include the mothers of the three teenagers - Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach - who were kidnapped from a hitchhiking post south of Jerusalem and killed by Hamas terrorists. (Jerusalem Post)
The Israeli Army has pressed into service some 200 IDF chaplains, including reservists, to make hundreds of kitchens and mess halls kosher for the holiday. In Jerusalem before the holiday, yeshiva students wielding blowtorches preside over huge vats of boiling water stationed every few blocks to allow residents to cleanse cutlery and dishes.
The day before Passover, families burn the remainder of their bread in empty lots. Mailboxes are full of Passover appeals from the myriad of organizations helping the poor celebrate the holiday. Hundreds of Israelis volunteer before the holiday to collect, package and distribute Passover supplies to the needy.
Just before the holiday, Israel's chief rabbis sell the nation's food products made from wheat, barley, rye, or oats (chametz) to Hussein Jabar, a Muslim Arab resident of the Israeli town of Abu Ghosh. He will sell it back after the holiday. (JNS)
See also Passover: Surrounded by Charity - Aaron Katsman
One of my favorite parts of the Passover holiday is the role that charity plays in it. On the radio you hear appeals to donate to provide food packages for the needy. In Jerusalem you see trucks unloading fruit, vegetables, chickens and meat for families who can't afford the costs of the holiday. It's not the government that is running this tremendous amount of kindness - it's the private sector. While we always have an obligation to give, on Passover it gets amped up. (Jerusalem Post)
About 80,000 pounds of beef is shipped per week from Nebraska to Israel. Last fall, 10 Israeli companies that develop innovative agricultural technology products traveled to Nebraska to explore collaborative opportunities. The University of Nebraska already offers Israel study-abroad programs for students to learn about water security and innovation. The writer is the consul general of Israel to the Midwest. (Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star)
Israel-based Electreon Wireless has been chosen by the Swedish Transport Administration to build a dynamic electric road that charges vehicles as they drive along it. The road on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland will charge electric trucks and buses while in motion. Sweden plans to implement 2,000 km. of electric highway to enable the dynamic charging of electric vehicles. (Jerusalem Post)
Konstanty Rokicki, the Polish vice consul in Switzerland during World War II, supplied false passports of South American countries to hundreds of Jews who were about to be deported. Yad Vashem on Tuesday declared the Polish diplomat a member of the Righteous Among the Nations.
The rescue operation became fully known through extensive archival research in recent months, including by Poland's ambassador to Switzerland. A key figure was Abraham Silberschein, the representative of the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland, who collected the personal information of Jews who were in danger and sent it to the Polish Consulate in Bern.
In his own hand, Rokicki filled in the names of the Jews on empty passport forms that he had received from the honorary consul of Paraguay in Bern, Rudolf Hugli, in 1942 and 1943. It later came to the attention of German officials, including Adolf Eichmann, who ordered an investigation into the affair. (Ha'aretz)
Video: America and the International Criminal Court - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Amb. Dore Gold, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center.