Prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Updated: 45 min 10 sec ago
(Reuters-Los Angeles Times)
The U.S. government has agreed to let eight countries, including close allies South Korea and Japan, as well as India, keep buying Iranian oil after it reimposes sanctions on Tehran next week, Bloomberg cited a U.S. official as saying. "Our goal remains to get to zero oil purchases from Iran as quickly as possible," said Robert Palladino, a State Department spokesman. "But we are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis."
(Wall Street Journal) Sune Engel Rasmussen and Suha Ma'ayeh -
Iran's ally Hizbullah is paying former U.S.-backed rebels to switch sides and join a growing force in southern Syria near Israel's border. The Iran-backed militia has recruited up to 2,000 fighters, most of them from rebel groups that lost U.S. funding last year, according to a former rebel commander who tracks recruitment in villages in southern Syria. For former rebels, joining Hizbullah provides a guarantee against arrest by the Syrian government. It also pays a $250 monthly salary, more than the Syrian army gives and compensation for lost income from U.S. support.
Hizbullah's recruitment of fighters in southern Syria is "a highly destabilizing prospect," said U.S. Syria envoy Joel Rayburn. "The idea that Hizbullah would be expanding its presence down there on the Jordanian frontier, near the Golan Heights, near the Israeli frontier - this would increase the chance for conflict."
In a sign of further efforts to deepen its presence in the area, Iran in late October established a branch of a Shiite religious organization, al-Zahra, in the southern province of Daraa, following a visit to the area by a representative of Iran's supreme leader.
(JNS) Yaakov Lappin -
Efforts by Egypt to crack down on the Islamic State-affiliated terror group in Sinai appear to be making significant progress, says Dr. Shaul Shay, a former deputy head of Israel's National Security Council and currently director of research at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
An Israeli defense source estimated last year that the ISIS-linked Sinai Province had between 500 and 1,000 members. Egypt's campaign has successfully repressed Sinai Province's attacks, and terrorism has discernably decreased, though not vanished, stated Shay. "The Egyptian military is activating very high pressure in northern Sinai, which is the main arena of this operation, as well as the central arena."
Egypt's government is accompanying the massive military effort with a civilian component, communicating with local Bedouin chiefs and creating long-term infrastructure and economic assistance programs. Shay said signs have already appeared showing increased cooperation between the Egyptian state and the Sinai Bedouin community.
Air, ground, naval and special forces from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan have begun arriving in Egypt for military maneuvers called "The Shield of the Arabs 1," to be held from Nov. 3-16. Observers from Lebanon and Morocco will also attend, the Egyptian military said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the International Telecommunication Union Conference in Dubai on Tuesday, Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara said: "Peace and security in every state...with economic and scientific progress is what guarantees a future for the coming generations."
(Israel Hayom) Boaz Bismuth -
Jair Bolsonaro, the president-elect of Brazil, told Israel Hayom in an interview that his support for Israel was not just an election gimmick. "I was in Israel two years ago and I intend to return....I love the Israeli people and Israel. You can depend on the fact that I will promote closeness and fruitful cooperation between us starting in 2019....Rest assured that you can depend on our vote in the UN on almost all the issues having to do with Israel."
"Israel is a sovereign state. If you decide on your capital city, we will act in accordance. When I was asked during the campaign if I'll do it [relocate the embassy] when I was president, I said yes, and that you're the ones who decide on the capital of Israel, not other people."
"As for the Palestinian Embassy...Palestine first needs to be a state to have the right to an embassy."
(Times of Israel)
Israel has sent a message to the Lebanese government via Paris demanding that it act against Hizbullah's rocket factories in the country, saying if Lebanon refused to do so, Israel could take military action, Israel's Channel 10 reported. Israel's deputy national security adviser Eitan Ben-David said Israel would be patient, and was willing to wait to see if Lebanon took steps against the factories, but said it would not allow their construction to continue undisturbed.
Lebanon "is becoming a factory for precision-guided missiles that threaten Israel. These missiles pose a grave threat to Israel, and we cannot accept this threat," Prime Minister Netanyahu said in January.
(Times of Israel)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched the head of the Israel Security Agency, Nadav Argaman, to Ramallah to renew political ties with the Palestinian Authority and offer PA President Mahmoud Abbas an economic incentive package, Hadashot TV reported Thursday. Israel offered to set up a joint industrial area and open up gas production off the Gaza coast, but Abbas rebuffed both offers.
Egyptian General Intelligence Services officers will monitor the implementation of the new Egypt-brokered agreement to de-escalate conflict near the Gaza-Israel border, sources close to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine told Mada Masr on Thursday. Earlier on Thursday, several Palestinian factions met and agreed to downscale protests.
(Prime Minister's Office)
During a visit to Bulgaria on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov: "This friendship goes back centuries. During your most recent visit to Israel, we unveiled a monument in Tel Aviv honoring the heroic rescue of Bulgarian Jews during the Holocaust. We'll never forget it. The people of Israel remember and appreciate the Bulgarian citizens who laid themselves down on the train tracks to prevent the deportation of Bulgarian Jews from Sofia."
"We are part of the same civilization, a civilization that values liberty, peace and progress, and today this civilization is under attack, most notably by the forces of militant Islam. Militant Islam attacks all of us. It attacks Arabs. It attacks Europeans. It attacks Israelis. It attacks everyone. The most potent force of militant Islam is the Iranian regime. It's devouring one nation after the other - in Syria, in Lebanon, in Iraq and elsewhere. And it's killing civilians around the world. We uncovered recently several Iranian attempts to launch terrorist attacks on the soil of Europe."
(National Post-Canada) Vivian Bercovici -
On Oct. 23, Human Rights Watch issued a blistering 145-page indictment of extreme institutionalized abuse and repression in PA- and Hamas-controlled territory. Tom Porteous, deputy program director at HRW, lamented the fact that where Palestinian authorities do have autonomy, "they have developed parallel police states."
In the West Bank, the PA controls the press, as does Hamas in Gaza. The slightest, most innocuous criticism of the ruling party may well land an individual in jail, for years. Or worse. PA President Mahmoud Abbas may scrub up well in a suit and tie but the media he controls disseminates an unceasing torrent of Jew-hating bile.
Palestinian society is bereft of the most basic institutions that promote civil society and nationhood: a democratically elected government; an independent judiciary; and a free press. This is not due to Israeli occupation or a lack of international support, including financial. The writer is Canada's former ambassador to Israel.
(Washington Times) Clifford D. May -
The Palestinians have been offered a state of their own on several occasions. But, in exchange, they'd have to agree to end their conflict with Israel, negotiate borders and security issues, and embrace peaceful coexistence with their Jewish neighbors. Hamas, which rules Gaza, has said clearly that it will never pay that price. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who governs the West Bank, has never been willing to accept these three conditions. Nor has he ever seriously attempted to prepare Palestinians for peace. Were he to sign a peace treaty, it is doubtful Palestinians would accept it, or that he would be able to implement it.
Imagine what it would mean if the next generation of Palestinian leaders did not oppose "normalizing" relations with Israelis. Imagine if jihadist terrorists were no longer glorified as martyrs in Palestinian mosques and media. Imagine if Palestinians willing to work with Israelis for the benefit of both peoples were no longer condemned as apostates and traitors. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Fort Wayne [IN] Journal Gazette) Aviv Ezra -
For more than a decade, Hamas has launched rockets from Gaza at Israel's southern communities. The Israeli government does everything in its power to protect its citizens' lives. Every home, school, playground and public space in Israel's south has been equipped with a bomb shelter or safe room, which prove invaluable in saving lives when they are under attack.
There is a fundamental asymmetry in the ongoing conflict: Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians, while Israel's response is aimed at Hamas' military infrastructure. Hamas uses its own population as human shields, while Israel does its utmost to avoid harming civilians on the other side.
Hamas aggression has grown in intensity in the past six months, with Hamas orchestrating violent mass riots at the border between Gaza and Israel, which include hurling explosive devices, shooting and arson terror. Think about it. What would America do? The writer is consul general of Israel to the Midwest.
Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah told the International Institute for Strategic Studies' 2018 Manama Dialogue on Oct. 27, 2018: "Let me tell you something I am saying for the first time. Israel is one of the countries in the region, and all of us understand and know this. The world understands and knows this."
"These are the facts - history tells us that the Torah emerged in the Middle East, and that the prophets of the Israelites were from the Middle East. In Islamic history, there were Jews - even in Medina. We live in a changing world. Israel is capable of benefiting others and of benefiting from others."
"When Jews visit areas in the Middle East, they come with American or European passports. They [get by], but this is not how it should be. Therefore, in light of the general atmosphere of the recent days, we believe that these things can be accomplished and that it will greatly serve the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and that it will also bring stability to the Middle East."
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Patrick Clawson -
Since spring, Iran's economy has experienced an unexpected recession, exacerbated by government policy. The Statistical Center of Iran showed that inflation in September was 5.4%, which translates into an 88% annual rate. By some accounts, a third of men and half of women under thirty with college degrees are unemployed.
The price of gasoline in rials has not been adjusted since May 2015 even though the rial has lost 75% of its value. This means gas has become incredibly cheap - 24 cents per liter, compared to $1.20 in Turkey. The Central Bank has been flooding the economy with liquidity, allowing banks to lend money to failing companies and the government so that they can pay workers and therefore forestall protests.
The IRGC's penchant for building dams - 600 in the last 30 years, compared to 14 in the shah's last 20 years - has been a leading cause of environmental problems. The writer is director of research at the Washington Institute.
(Foundation for Defense of Democracies) Tzvi Kahn -
While President Hassan Rouhani has attempted to portray a new "moderate" Iran, this report exposes the ongoing violations, which have intensified under his watch. The widespread and systematic character of Iranian injustice includes the criminalization of fundamental freedoms of expression, belief, opinion, assembly and association; illegal and arbitrary arrests; incommunicado detention; false charges; torture in detention; denial of the right to counsel, a fair hearing, and an independent judiciary; show trials devoid of any due process; and denial or withdrawal of medical care in prison.
Iran, a country that already had the most executions per capita, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of executions during Rouhani's tenure, including the execution of juvenile offenders, frequently on public display. Further, as the reports by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the former UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, demonstrated, there has been widespread and systematic physical, sexual, and psychological torture, often used to extract forced confessions.
Moreover, the regime continues to persecute women, the LGBT community, and ethnic and religious minorities, engaging in persistent and pervasive discrimination targeting these minorities while inciting hate and violence against them. Any expression of dissent or deviation from the ideology of the regime is effectively silenced.
This report offers U.S. policymakers an opportunity to continue its leadership in this area by implementing sanctions against major human rights violators in Iran, in concert with the international community.
(Atlantic) Aaron David Miller and Hillel Zand -
The most significant period of Israeli-Arab de facto cooperation since the last real peace process, in the 1990s, is now taking place without one. The Netanyahu government is reversing the notion that only peace with the Palestinians can ensure Israel's acceptance in the Arab world. The Arab street may still oppose Israel, but Arab leaders clearly don't.
The extent of Israeli contacts both above and below the table are impressive. On Sunday, Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev became the first senior Israeli official to visit Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The same day, the Israeli national anthem played when the Israeli judo team won a gold medal at the International Judo Federation's Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi. Next week, Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz will visit Oman and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara will visit Abu Dhabi. An Israeli gymnastics team is also currently competing in Qatar.
The Arab world's new openness to Israel is driven in part by increasing impatience and annoyance with the Palestinians. The Saudis and Egyptians are frustrated with a weak Mahmoud Abbas and worried about Hamas. Add to this the Arab states' fear of Iran and Sunni jihadists, and a desire to please the U.S. - and suddenly it's obvious that Israel and its neighbors are bound by common interests.
Aaron David Miller is a Distinguished Fellow at the Wilson Center and a former State Department Middle East analyst, adviser and negotiator. Hillel Zand is an intern at the Wilson Center.
(Express & Star-UK) Pete Madeley -
Israel's ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, told the Express & Star: "I believe there are genuine reasons for hope that things can get better in terms of a path to a more peaceful set of relationships between us and our neighbors. We have seen a substantial improvement in our relationships with our Arab neighbors over the last half a decade. We have had peace with Egypt for 40 years and with Jordan for 25 years. We have now got talks with a whole series of other Arab countries."
"Common threats have brought us and the Arabs together. We all feel threatened by the forces of extremism - whether it is the Sunni variety with groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, and I would include in that the Muslim Brotherhood, or it's the Shia extremism of countries like Iran, and Hizbullah."
"This position is new, and it is very exciting for Israelis, because countries that have for years seen us as the enemy are more and more seeing us as a partner and even as an ally."
(Jerusalem Post) Daniel Gordis -
Almost all of Israel's wars have been about Israel's right to be. Battles with Hamas, which remains sworn on Israel's destruction, are no different.
In recent weeks, IfNotNow released a manifesto titled "Five Ways the American Jewish Establishment Supports the Occupation." Though the lengthy document assails Israel's violation of Palestinian rights and the American Jewish establishment's ostensible support of those violations, nowhere does the report detail decades of Palestinian violence against Israel, the thousands of rockets Hamas has fired - and continues to fire - at Israeli towns, the fact that playgrounds in Israel around Gaza are constructed with bomb shelters under seesaws and slides. In other words, nothing about the Israeli reality that Hamas has created.
I know more than a few of the members of this group, and I believe that they believe that they are well-intentioned. But telling a narrative that omits the question of how it started or the fact that Palestinians are still sworn on Israel's destruction is to spin a narrative which can only utterly delegitimize Israel. There's no other possible outcome. Why would they do that?
Most progressive Israelis are Zionists. Most progressive Israelis have daughters and sons who serve in the military. Most Israelis would also like to end the conflict, but have no idea how to do that.
No Jewish group that refuses to endorse the principle of Jewish sovereignty is going to get the attention of many Israelis. In failing to express any sympathy for Israelis or their predicament, IfNotNow members have made themselves not merely marginal to the Jewish story but hostile to their own people. The writer is the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Jerusalem's Shalem College.
Seth J. Frantzman -
Bardelas is the most recent of four coed combat battalions in the Israel Defense Forces that have formed in the last decade and a half. Lt.-Col. Shachar Nahmani, the Bardelas commander and a former paratrooper, speaks with glowing admiration of the coed combat battalions. "I love these units. The soldiers do really good work and activity every day. The best." The unit's current deployment is guarding the Egyptian border from smugglers and ISIS.
Nahmani says that his unit, made up of roughly equal numbers of men and women, can do any of the activities of other combat units and stresses that the soldiers are qualified in diverse positions, such as having their own snipers.