Prepared for the Conference of Presidents
June 21, 2018
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The UN said Wednesday that the Syrian army and rebel forces both committed war crimes as they fought over the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. Investigators from the UN Commission of Inquiry said the Syrian military campaign to seize Eastern Ghouta after five years of rebel control involved indiscriminate attacks on civilian homes, markets and hospitals. "It is completely abhorrent that besieged civilians were indiscriminately attacked, and systematically denied food and medicine," said Paulo Pinheiro, who leads the commission.
Relief organizations said bombing by Syrian and allied forces killed more than a thousand people and wounded almost five times as many. The rebels' April 8 surrender was precipitated by a chemical attack by government forces that killed scores.
The UN panel also said rebel forces had arbitrarily arrested and tortured civilians in areas under its control. They also conducted indiscriminate reprisal attacks on densely populated areas controlled by the government, killing and wounding hundreds. (Washington Post)
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley wrote to nongovernmental organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on Wednesday, blaming them for urging defeat of a U.S. draft resolution in the UN General Assembly proposing reforms to the UN Human Rights Council. "You put yourself on the side of Russia and China, and opposite the United States, on a key human rights issue," Haley wrote.
"You should know that your efforts to block negotiations and thwart reform were a contributing factor in the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Council. Going forward, we encourage you to play a constructive role on behalf of human rights, rather than the deconstructive one you played in this instance." (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday: "Israel thanks President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador Haley for their courageous decision against the hypocrisy and the lies of the so-called UN Human Rights Council. For years, the UNHRC has proven to be a biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights. Instead of dealing with regimes that systematically violate human rights, the UNHRC obsessively focuses on Israel, the one genuine democracy in the Middle East."
"The U.S. decision to leave this prejudiced body is an unequivocal statement that enough is enough. Israel welcomes the American announcement." (Prime Minister's Office)
U.S. Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt responded Thursday on Twitter to Palestinian criticism of American efforts to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza. "Hamas & the PA, who have been fighting one another for over a decade, are each cynically claiming that the U.S. is trying to divide Gaza and the West Bank, instead of acknowledging that we are trying to help the Palestinians in Gaza. What hypocrisy."
"Hamas continues to fail the Palestinians of Gaza - arson kites & balloons & many mortar & rocket attacks directed against Israelis. How can the international community help when murderous Hamas leaders continue to squander the resources of Gaza? The people deserve better." (Times of Israel)
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar paid a Gazan family NIS 8,000 ($2,200) to lie about eight-month-old Leila al-Ghandour dying from tear gas inhalation rather than from a pre-existing medical condition during the border riots on May 14, according to an indictment filed with the Beersheba District Court on Thursday. The baby's brother, Salim al-Ghandour, died in 2017 of a similar disease when he was only a few months old. (Ynet News)
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the EU has ruled that Hamas is violating international humanitarian law by holding the body of IDF Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed in the 2014 Gaza war. At a special session attended by the Goldin family, representatives of Romania, Hungary and the Netherlands insisted that all humanitarian assistance to Gaza be conditioned on the return of captured IDF soldiers and civilians held by Hamas. (Ynet News)
The phenomenon of "arson terrorism" from Gaza using kites and balloons with flammable substances and IEDs attached has destroyed more than 6,100 acres of crops, agricultural fields and natural forests. More than 800 incendiary kites and balloons have been launched at Israel, causing 1,000 fires.
The "success," in Hamas' eyes, of arson terrorism gave Hamas an operational response to its failure to cause masses of Gazans to penetrate Israeli territory or harm IDF soldiers during the "return marches." (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
See also Photo: Booby-Trapped Gaza Balloons Land on Backyard Trampoline in Israel - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
South African model Shashi Naidoo wrote on social media that international aid money in Gaza was being used for rockets instead of housing, schools and better infrastructure. Following her comments, Naidoo said Sunday that she received 10 death threats and was dropped by several brands she represented. She then issued a public apology for her comments at a press conference organized by BDS South Africa.
South African Jewish Board of Deputies national director Wendy Kahn said, "Because she expressed her opinion [about Israel], they tried to destroy her career and threatened to kill her - she was beaten into submission. She has become a puppet [for BDS]." (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
The almost 73-year-old United Nations is finally feeling the winds of change, thanks to the United States. Real change will mean resetting the UN's moral compass. A watershed moment occurred recently at the Security Council when states tried to pass a resolution denying Israel's right to defend itself. The U.S. tabled its own resolution, rightfully naming Hamas as responsible for the almost 200 rockets fired at Israeli communities over the past few weeks.
Last week at the General Assembly, when Turkey and Algeria proposed a biased resolution criticizing Israel for the violence in Gaza, the U.S. countered with an amendment calling for Hamas' condemnation. The result sent shockwaves throughout the GA hall as the amendment passed 62-58 with 42 abstentions. The automatic majority against Israel at the UN had been cracked. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the UN. (New York Post)
The mayor of Frankfurt, Germany, Uwe Becker, defended Israel's air strikes in response to rockets fired from Gaza on Wednesday, praising it on Facebook. "Imagine for a short moment that your country would be attacked by rockets day by day. Imagine that terrorists would send self-made firebombs attached to kites and gas-balloons towards your home, your garden or your kid's kindergarten. Imagine terrorists would dig tunnels to infiltrate your country or break the borders to your country in violent riots with the aim to attack and kidnap you and your family."
"How many years, months or weeks would you give your government while sleeping in a shelter? Not years, not months, not weeks but minutes or hours, right? While other national governments would not hesitate to enter the region from where their own country is attacked, Israel is focusing on pinpoint accurate reactions against Hamas and other terrorist groups. So Israel and its military forces concentrate on eliminating the sources of violence while Hamas is attacking Israeli families....Israel is not the aggressor; Israel is defending its people." (Jerusalem Post)
The uncertainty accompanying the fate of the Iran nuclear deal has created wariness on the part of foreign investors. Only a marginal number of deals and investments have materialized. Moreover, non-nuclear sanctions have only grown since the agreement was implemented, and have been combined with financial restrictions, especially imposed by the U.S. and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
The hope that the JCPOA would strengthen pragmatists within the regime and lead to more moderate Iranian regional behavior has failed to materialize. This study surveys the risks and opportunities for foreign investors considering whether to enter the Iranian market. The writer is CEO of Strategic Intelligentia, a consultancy specializing in the Middle East and the Gulf. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Decreasing Effectiveness of Hamas Terrorism - Hillel Frisch (Jerusalem Post)
The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center for Strategic Studies.