Prepared for the Conference of Presidents
of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

DAILY ALERT
Friday,
February 21, 2020
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Aggressively Monitoring Potential Iranian Attacks - Adam Kredo
    The U.S is aggressively monitoring Iranian missile threats across the Middle East in close coordination with its Saudi Arabian allies, according to U.S. military officials who briefed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Thursday at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, where 2,500 American troops arrived in January. In addition to a fleet of F-15 tactical fighters to help the Saudis defend their country, the U.S. installed Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to fend off potential Iranian strikes.
        Pompeo said, "You need only look at the ayatollah's Twitter feed to know that these are people who have a deep disdain for the very fundamental ideas that we hold so dear in the United States of America, and their desire to wipe the State of Israel off the map and to do harm to the United States of America remains, and our aim is to change that behavior from the regime."  (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also Saudi Arabia Intercepts Missiles Fired from Yemen
    Saudi Arabia said on Friday it had intercepted several ballistic missiles launched by the Houthi militia toward Saudi cities and civilians. (Reuters-New York Times)
  • Russia Accuses Turkey of Shelling Syrian Army to Help Militants
    Russia accused Turkey on Thursday of providing artillery support to militants fighting the Syrian army, Russian news agencies reported. Russia's air force carried out strikes on pro-Turkish militants who burst through Syrian government positions in two areas of Idlib province, allowing the Syrian army to repel the attacks, the Russian defense ministry said. (Reuters-New York Times)
  • U.S. Sanctions Iranian Officials for Denying Fair Election
    On the eve of Iran's parliamentary elections, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned five members of Iran's Guardian Council, including its chairman, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, for their role in barring candidates from running. The Guardian Council, whose voting members are appointed by the Supreme Leader, is empowered to vet candidates in all elections and block those that do not mirror the Leader's radical views.
        "This action exposes those senior regime officials responsible for preventing the Iranian people from freely choosing their leaders," Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said. (Radio Farda)
        See also Briefing with Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook (U.S. State Department)
  • UK Publisher Pulls School Textbook which Asks Children to "Reflect" on How Israel Caused 9/11 - Camilla Turner
    Hachette UK, which owns the brand Hodder Education, published Understanding History: Britain in the Wider World, Roman Times Present for secondary school students aged 11-14. The publisher said it has now removed the book from sale following accusations that it was "peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories" that Israel and the Jews are to blame for the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in 2011.
        In a section of the book titled "What caused the 9/11 attacks?" there is a passage of text which explains about the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Students are then asked to "reflect" on "how it could be argued that the creation of Israel was a long-term cause of the 9/11 attacks."
        A spokesman for Hachette UK said: "We plan to review and revise the content before reissuing the textbook. We have engaged with a number of groups, charities and academics to work with us to review the material in preparation for a new edition."  (Telegraph-UK)

  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Iran, Hizbullah, and Unidentified Insurgency All Operate in Syria near Israel's Border - Jonathan Spyer
    The Syrian regime is currently seeking to consolidate its presence in Deraa and Quneitra provinces in Syria's southwest, opposite Israel. Assad's army completed its reconquest of these areas in 2018. The current situation on the ground is characterized by extensive Iranian and Hizbullah activity. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported this week that Iran-backed militia commanders have begun to offer financial incentives to the mukhtars of villages in the Syrian part of the Golan, in return for their cooperation in recruiting village youth to the militias.
        At the same time, there has been ongoing, armed resistance to the government and the tempo of attacks on regime positions and facilities is increasing. Since June 2019, according to the Observatory, more than 300 attacks have taken place on regime and allied forces in the Deraa area. These have included shootings, and detonations of IEDs and mines. 192 people have been killed in these attacks, including 36 civilians and 100 members of the regime forces and its loyalists. Yet the perpetrators remain shrouded in mystery. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Backlash Against Meetings with Israelis Will Deter Future Attempts to Promote Dialogue - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian leaders' vicious attacks on Israel and the U.S. after the publication of the U.S. peace plan have further emboldened the anti-normalization camp among Palestinians. A meeting last week in Tel Aviv involving Palestinians affiliated with the PLO's Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society drew sharp criticism from many Palestinians. "I don't blame those who are now denouncing us as traitors for promoting normalization with Israel," said a veteran PLO official. "We are the ones who are telling our people that normalization is a form of treason."
        Even if the current controversy over normalization with Israel subsides, it's clear that the smear campaign against those Palestinians who still believe in promoting dialogue with Israelis has succeeded in deterring others from engaging in future encounters. Under the current circumstances, it's also hard to imagine how any Palestinian leader would be able to return to the negotiating table with Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Slam Israel's West Bank Power Project - Hagar Shezaf
    The Palestinian Authority's Energy Authority has condemned an Israeli master plan for the development of an electricity grid in the West Bank. The plan seeks for the first time to provide a blueprint for the electricity market in the West Bank through 2040 and to develop infrastructure for Israeli and Palestinian communities there. The portion of the plan devoted to Israeli communities is to be funded and executed by Israel. If the PA refuses to carry out its portion of the plan, that portion won't be implemented.
        The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) supplies 99% of the electricity in the West Bank, according to the World Bank. The IEC will build a network of high-tension transmission lines, the most expensive component of the plan, that will serve both Israeli and Palestinian communities. Professionals in the Israeli electricity market say the need for long-term planning was recognized years ago, primarily after the Palestinian electricity market grew substantially.
        Palestinian residents of the West Bank have been experiencing extended electricity shortages in recent months, which the IEC has said are the result of inadequate Palestinian infrastructure. Apart from the Israeli master plan, four electricity substations are currently being established in Palestinian areas of the West Bank with funding from the European Investment Bank. (Ha'aretz)
  • Jordan Declares State of Emergency to Combat Locust Swarms
    Jordan's Ministry of Agriculture announced on Tuesday the "utmost state of emergency," as desert locust swarms have descended on Saudi Arabia, especially Hail, 500 km. from the Jordan-Saudi border. Minister of Agriculture Ibrahim Shahadeh said the ministry has set up an emergency room to fight locust swarms that may enter Jordan. (Roya News-Jordan)
        See also Locusts Plague Middle East, Africa - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Surgeons Help Burn Victims in Haiti Using Latest Laser Tech - Renee Ghert-Zand
    A team of burn and plastic surgery specialists from Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Israel, traveled to Haiti in January, where they delivered and operated the country's first medical laser. The laser, donated by the New Jersey-based Burn Advocates Network, is primarily used to treat pediatric patients suffering from catastrophic burns. Sheba National Burn Center director Prof. Josef Haik and two Israeli colleagues mentored 30 surgeons, nurses, and therapists from six hospitals in Haiti and the Dominican Republic on how to use the laser to reduce and alleviate scarring. (Times of Israel)

  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

  • The Palestinian Case at the ICC Took a Big Hit This Week - Raphael Ahren
    The notion that "Palestine" is a full-fledged state that can grant jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court was dealt a serious blow over the past week. Seven countries and many scholars of international law submitted written documents to The Hague positing that the Palestinians cannot transfer criminal jurisdiction over its territory to the ICC. The countries included Germany, Australia, Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Uganda.
        "I have spoken with several leaders from these countries and, along with international organizations and leading experts in the world, they have expressed a clear stand that the international court has no authority to discuss the conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinians," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday. (Times of Israel)
  • How Hamas Is Spending Qatari Money - Prof. Hillel Frisch
    Muhammad Hamada, a senior official in the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Development and Social Affairs, said recently that $78 million of Qatari money has so far been disbursed in Gaza to 70,000 families. He went on to itemize, in considerable detail, how the money was spent.
        The problem is that when one adds up all the specific funds to all the targeted populations of Gaza's poor that Hamada claims were distributed, nearly 80% are unaccounted for. The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arab-Israel Conflict Lessons - Abdel Moneim Said
    The U.S. Middle East peace plan invites us to look back and try to learn the lessons of the 120 years of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Jews built political, economic and social edifices in the land, while the Palestinians did not do much in the way of building the nucleus of a Palestinian state. By the time of the 1947 Partition Resolution, the Jews had everything in place to administer a state and they were ready to fight for it, whether by building universities or building modern armies.
        Nothing has ever been able to stimulate a major change in the geopolitical context of the conflict except direct dialogue between the Arabs and the Jews and between Arab states and Israel. It was Camp David that brought the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Another set of face-to-face meetings led to the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty. In between came the Oslo Accords which established the first Palestinian national authority, creating an unprecedented Palestinian reality on the ground. The writer is director of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • Why Arabs in Israel Do Not Want to Live in "Palestine" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Thousands of Arab citizens of Israel have been demonstrating to express their rejection of the idea in the U.S. peace plan of placing them under the sovereignty of a Palestinian state. The main reason Arabs in Israel are afraid of becoming Palestinian citizens is because they know that the Palestinian state will be anything but democratic. They see how Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza are subject to human rights violations on a daily basis.
        In Israel, Arab citizens participate in the general elections and have their own representatives in the Knesset. In the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians haven't held elections since January 2006. Palestinians have not had a functioning parliament since 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of Gaza after overthrowing Abbas' PA regime.
        Hardly a day passes without the Arab citizens of Israel hearing about the harsh conditions the Palestinians face under the PA and Hamas. Palestinian journalists, human rights activists, political activists and university students are targeted by the PA and Hamas on a regular basis. The Arab Israelis' protests are seen as a message to the world that they prefer to continue living in Israel and not under another Arab dictatorship. (Gatestone Institute)


  • Weekend Features

  • The Lehi Underground Almost Targeted British Foreign Minister Bevin in London - Jonathan Spyer
    Ya'acov Heruti, 93, lives today in a retirement home in Tel Aviv. A little over 70 years ago, he stood at the cusp of an act that, if carried out, would have earned him a prominent place in the history books - the planned assassination of then-British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin by the Lehi (Israel Freedom Fighters). Bevin had made himself hated by the Jewish Yishuv in then-Mandatory Palestine for his pro-Arab actions, his opposition to Israel's establishment, and the frequency of his anti-Semitic rhetoric.
        Heruti, a Lehi member who became an explosives expert, had been dispatched to London where he registered as a law student at the University of London. At the same time, he built the covert structure that lay behind the planned killing of Bevin, which by early 1948 was poised and ready for action. Heruti was also tasked with the assassination of former commander of British forces in Palestine Gen. Evelyn Barker, and Maj. Roy Farran, who had tortured and killed a young Lehi member, Alexander Rubowitz, in Jerusalem. Letter bombs were sent to both men.
        A conference of foreign ministers in central London was chosen as the site for the attack on Bevin. Surveillance was carried out and an escape route was identified. Then Heruti received a message from Lehi headquarters in Israel. "A message came from Nathan Friedman-Yellin (the Lehi operational commander), calling it off. As to why - I had no idea," Heruti recalls. Then the 1948 war was beginning and Heruti was called back to Israel. The Lehi cell in London was shut down and ceased operations.
        Historian David Caesarani suggests that the Lehi leadership called the assassination off because with British forces withdrawing from Palestine, Bevin's role was no longer of primary importance. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Deportation of Jews from Libya to French North Africa during World War II - Maurice M. Roumani
    On July 15, 1942, French and Tunisian nationals in Libya began to be rounded up and evacuated to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. I was deported in a truck together with my parents from Benghazi to Tunisia, and I was a witness to the bombing of La Marsa, a suburb of Tunis, on March 10, 1943.
        Two German air squadrons were stationed in El Aouina and near La Marsa. As a consequence, both sites were repeatedly bombed by the Allies. A massive raid was carried out by American airplanes on March 10 against both cities. However, the 4,392 fragmentation bombs that were dropped on La Marsa did not hit the airfield but fell in the city itself, killing 200 people, including 50 Libyan Jews. Thirteen members of my family were killed there, among them my grandmother, aunts and uncles, and other relatives.
        The writer is emeritus professor of political science and the Middle East at Ben-Gurion University and founder of the J.R. Elyachar Center for Studies in Sephardi Heritage. (Ha'aretz)
  • Philippines' WWII Rescue of Jews Was Limited by U.S. - Rich Tenorio
    In the late 1930s, Philippines President Manuel Quezon welcomed over 1,200 Jews from Germany and Austria. Philippine ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial told the Times of Israel that while Quezon had wanted to bring tens of thousands of Jews to the Philippines to settle, his efforts were stymied by the U.S. government (which ruled the Philippines until 1946), which limited him to accept 1,000 Jews a year, over a 10-year period. Imperial said that the Japanese invasion of the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941, brought the program to "an abrupt end." (Times of Israel)

  • Observations:

    As U.S. Leaves Mideast, Backing Israel Becomes More Critical to Keep America Secure - Lt.-Gen. (ret.) William J. Bender and Ari Cicurel (Jerusalem Post)

  • The U.S.' most capable regional partner in countering Iranian aggression continues to be the State of Israel. Since the American people seem determined to decrease America's military presence in the Middle East, the U.S. should bolster its support for Israel's campaign to degrade the capabilities of Iran and its proxy Hizbullah. This is the surest way of safeguarding America's national security interests against Iranian aggression, while simultaneously allowing Israel to defend itself by itself.
  • Israel has firm red lines against any Iranian efforts to increase its operational capabilities to strike from Lebanon or Syria. By interdicting Iranian weapons transfers across Syria, Israel is both delaying a future war and creating optimal conditions should war erupt.
  • The strike on Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was a strong statement of American resolve, and time will tell whether the U.S. will continue to use military force when warranted.
  • The U.S. and Israel should also continue jointly innovating and developing new unmanned air, ground, subsurface and undersea vehicles. These technologies are ideal for countering Iran's tactics because they allow either the U.S. or Israel to launch asymmetric attacks and reconnaissance missions.
  • The U.S. should work with Israel to help uphold UN arms embargoes by interdicting Iran's offshore weapons shipments. The U.S. has previously interdicted weapons bound for Yemen.
  • As the U.S. decreases its military presence in the Middle East, Israel will become even more critical to preventing the spread of Iranian influence throughout the region. Helping Israel to wage its campaign will thus help keep America secure and may even significantly push off the next war.

    Lt.-Gen. William J. Bender, USAF (ret.), is a former Air Force chief information officer. Ari Cicurel is a senior policy analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).