Weekend long read

1) Einat Wilf gives her view of “The Fatal Flaw That Doomed the Oslo Accords” at The Atlantic.

“Ultimately, sooner or later, all wars and all conflicts end, with a bang or with a whimper. There is no reason to assume that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more intractable than others. But if we have learnt anything over the past 25 years, it is that being ambiguous about the simple fact that neither side is going to have the entirety of the land does no one any favors. Israelis will have to accept the fact that they cannot build settlements all over the West Bank, and Palestinians will have to accept the fact that they cannot settle inside Israel in the name of return. The sooner both sides hear and internalize these simple, cold, hard truths, the sooner we will be able to speak of hope again.”

2) At the Jerusalem Post Khaled Abu Toameh brings some views of Ahed Tamimi who in recent months has repeatedly been described by the BBC as “an icon”.

“During a visit to France last weekend, Tamimi appeared in a photo with Salah Eddin Medan, a member of Polisario, the rebel national liberation movement fighting since 1975 to end Morocco’s presence in the Western Sahara.

The photo enraged many Moroccans, who are now saying they regret having backed the campaign to support Tamimi after she was arrested and brought to trial for slapping an IDF soldier in her village last year. […]

“Many Palestinians are asking how come Ahed Tamimi is receiving all this attention from the international media,” said a Palestinian journalist in Ramallah. “There’s a feeling that someone is trying to turn this girl into a big hero and an icon. There are thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prison and no one seems to care. The large-scale attention she’s receiving raises many doubts. The Western media seems to be more interested in her than the Palestinian and Arab media. The Western media is trying to create a Palestinian hero.””

3) At the JNS Yaakov Lappin discusses how “Iran’s activities could ignite a dangerous fire“.

“Traditionally, Iran’s program was to traffic sophisticated weapons to its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. But this has run into major trouble in the form of an Israeli counter-program to disrupt this arms flow.

So Iran is trying new tricks, including giving Hezbollah the ability to domestically produce its own guided, heavy rockets.

That would give Hezbollah the ability to threaten Israel with massive projectiles, like the Iranian-designed Fateh 110 rocket, which can carry a half-ton warhead, and to do so with firepower that is accurate. The difference between accurate and inaccurate firepower is major. If Hezbollah can precisely hit the most sensitive Israeli targets—be they civilian or military—its ability to strategically threaten Israel grows significantly.”

4) The JCPA’s Yoni Ben Menachem reports on a new Hamas unit linked to the ‘Great Return March agitprop.

“Over the past two weeks, Hamas has created a new unit called, “The Night-time Deployment Unit.”

The purpose of the unit is to strike against IDF soldiers deployed on the Gaza border during the night and to break the routine of incidents on the border ending in the evening hours or on only one day of the week. […]

The establishment of the new unit is part of Hamas’ strategic decision to ramp up again the incidents on the border following the failure to secure a calm through the Egyptian-sponsored negotiations. The tactic is part of the strategy to pressure Israel to remove the blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

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Yom Kippur

Gmar Hatima Tova to all our readers marking the Day of Atonement.

 

Weekend long read

1) The JCPA has a report on part of the background to a story covered by the BBC last week.

“Deadly riots in Iraq’s southern city of Basra erupted following protests waged by the local population that have been going on since early July 2018. The turmoil worsened after the governor of Basra ordered troops to use live bullets against the protesters. Rioters stormed the provincial government building on September 4, 2018, and set it ablaze.

The cause of discontent is the crumbling and obsolete state of the local infrastructures. Today, the blame is directed mainly against the failing water infrastructure, which is causing plague-like conditions in the local population: according to the news from Basra between 500 to 600 individuals are admitted to emergency rooms daily because of water poisoning accompanied by skin diseases. Some 17,000 intestinal infection cases due to water contamination were recorded, according to Basra health authorities. Hospitals are unable to cope with the flow of the sick, nor do the authorities know how to deal with the spreading diseases and the threat of cholera.”

2) At the INSS Oded Eran takes a look at “The Idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation, Revisited“.

“In the quest for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation/confederation, which has been raised from time to time, has recently resurfaced. In a September 2, 2018 meeting between Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen and a group of Israelis, the Palestinian leader said that the idea was raised by the US team engaged in the effort to renew the negotiations between the parties and formulate a proposal for a settlement. Beyond the major question regarding the Palestinians’ political and legal status in the American proposal, a confederation model, particularly one involving Jordan, the Palestinians, and Israel, creates a possibility for “creative solutions” to issues related to economies, energy, and water. A trilateral framework of this nature may also facilitate solutions that include relinquishing elements of sovereignty for the sake of the confederation.”

3) Jonathan Spyer discusses the situation in northern Syria.

“Before the civil war, Syria’s Kurds were among the most severely oppressed, and among the most invisible minorities, of the Middle East. Numbering between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the pre-war Syrian population, they were prevented from educating or even naming their children in their native language. A section of the Kurdish population was deprived of travel and passport rights. Some, the so-called maktoumeen (unrecorded), lacked even citizenship and access to education.

The emergence of a de facto Kurdish enclave following the withdrawal by the Assad regime from a swath of the county’s north in 2012 changed all this. The enclave successfully defended itself against an early attempt by the rebels to destroy it. In 2014 the Kurds formed a de facto alliance with the US and the West in the war against Islamic State. This war, along with the regime’s (and Russia and Iran’s) war against the rebels, now is in its closing stages.”

4) The ITIC reports on recent violent power struggles in eastern Syria.

“In August 2018, several cities in the Euphrates Valley witnessed violent clashes between the Syrian army and Syrian militias affiliated with it on the one hand, and Shiite militias handled by Iran on the other. The clashes took place in the region between Albukamal and Deir ezZor, and both sides sustained dozens of casualties. In the background, there were violent power struggles and conflicts on the extortion of money from local residents, mainly by collecting “crossing fees” in return for the use of crossings between the two banks of the Euphrates River. During the clashes, attempts were made to find local solutions to defuse the situation: the militias were supposed to stop running the crossings and the Russian Military Police was supposed to take their place. However, since late August 2018, the clashes stopped and a reconciliation committee was convened in the city of Albukamal, to resolve the conflicts.”

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Dr Denis MacEoin chronicles the UK Labour Party antisemitism story at the Gatestone Institute.

“Mainstream, moderate political parties are normally sensitive to accusations in the media or from the public that threaten to put citizens off voting for them. Labour’s anti-Semitic reputation has been on the front pages of newspapers, has led to a plethora of articles in leading magazines, and has been a deep cause of concern for some two years now. The current British government is in a state of crisis – a crisis that could result before long in a fresh general election in which Labour might hope to win or further increase its vote, as it did in 2017. One might have thought that they might do anything to win voters back by abandoning any policies that might make the public think them too extreme to take on the responsibilities of government in a country facing confusion over its plan to exit the European Union. But this July, they did the opposite by turning their backs on moderation, presumably in the hope that this is where the voters are.”

2) At Tablet Magazine Tony Badran discusses “The Myth of an Independent Lebanon“.

“The reason Hezbollah continues to be able to fly in Iranian planes loaded with weapons straight into Beirut airport has nothing to do with absence of state authority, or lack of LAF capacity. Rather, the theory undergirding U.S. policy, which posits a dichotomy between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah, simply has no relation to the reality of Lebanon. The LAF will never take action to prevent Hezbollah’s arms smuggling, because it will never be asked to by the Lebanese government, regardless of how much we “professionalize” it or build up its capacity.”

3) Dr Jonathan Spyer takes a look at Turkish interests in Syria.

“Idlib is set to form the final chapter in a Russian-led strategy that commenced nearly three years ago.   According to this approach, rebel-controlled areas were first bombed and shelled into submission and then offered the chance to ‘reconcile’, ie surrender to the regime. As part of this process, those fighters who did not wish to surrender were given the option of being transported with their weapons to rebel-held Idlib.

This approach was useful for the regime side.  It allowed the avoidance of costly last-stand battles by the rebels.  It also contained within it the expectation that a final battle against the most determined elements of the insurgency would need to take place, once there was nowhere for these fighters to be redirected. That time is now near.  There are around 70,000 rebel fighters inside Idlib.  The dominant factions among them are Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, (the renamed Jabhat al-Nusra, ie the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria), and the newly formed, Turkish-supported Jaish al-Watani (National Army), which brings together a number of smaller rebel groups.”

4) At the INSS Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky and Kobi Michael discuss “The End to US Funding to UNRWA: Opportunity or Threat?

“The US decision to cease funding UNRWA is no less than historic. Although the Palestinians view such a step as a serious blow, if it is presented as a necessary step on the path to Palestinian statehood, it has the potential to harbor long term, positive implications. While Israel should certainly prepare for negative scenarios that such a policy move may generate in the near term, it is unwise to cling to the current paradigm that distances the Palestinian leadership’s pragmatic and ethical responsibility for rehabilitating and resettling Palestinian refugees within the Palestinian territories. With staunch Israeli, American, and international incentives and policy initiatives, the US decision to cease funding UNRWA can serve as a wake-up call to the Palestinian leadership and potentially inject new life into the Israeli-Palestinian process.”

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the JCPA Nadav Shragai discusses the threats against Arab residents of Jerusalem ahead of upcoming municipal elections.

“Ten weeks before the local elections in Jerusalem on October 30, 2018, terrorist organizations are increasing the pressure on east Jerusalem residents to stay away from the voting booths and maintain the boycott of Jerusalem’s municipal elections as in the past. While the pressure grows, this time surveys and some new, different voices reflect a desire among many Arab east Jerusalemites to participate in the elections. They seek to become part of the municipal establishment so that they can wield influence and channel budgets into services and infrastructure for the Arab neighborhoods.”

2) At the INSS Yohanan Tzoreff analyses the recent PLO Central Council meeting.

“The Central Council meeting took place in the shadow of a threat to the PLO’s status as the exclusive representative of the Palestinian people, and the possibility of a solution imposed on the Palestinians that would sever the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. In addition, there is evidence of some desire to isolate Abu Mazen himself given his opposition to any measure that might promote the Trump administration’s policy in the region, especially any measure that Abu Mazen regards as liable to cause a split among the Palestinians. The rhetoric at this conference therefore featured threats and warnings against any action harmful to Palestinian national interests and liable to play into the hands of the United States and Israel, which ostensibly aim to perpetuate the split among the Palestinians, prevent formation of a Palestinian state according to the framework outlined in 1988, and promote the “deal of the century” that President Trump’s emissaries have drafted over the past 18 months. The conference was marked by the absence of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) from the discussions, in protest at having its representatives excluded from PLO offices and what was described as a takeover by Fatah of the PLO and general Palestinian national decision making.”

3) At the FDD Benjamin Weinthal and Julie Lenarz take a look at “Iran’s forgotten persecuted Christian minority“.

“Christianity, of course, is not alien to Iran where it arrived in Persia not long after the death of Christ. There are believed to be an estimated 350,000 Christians in Iran, with a growing trend toward converting to Christianity. Iran’s Statistical Center reports 117,700 Christians in a country of just over 82 million people.

The real number of Iranian Christians probably exceeds 350,000 because of the anti-Christian conditions they face in the country. Turning inward not to expose oneself to the dangers of practicing Christianity has become a survival strategy in Iran.

The law heavily discriminates against non-Muslims, who have been barred from all influential positions in central state organs since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Blasphemy and apostasy remain capital offences.”

4) As the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Agreement approaches, Joel Singer gives his view at the Fathom Journal.

“It then became clear that Arafat was prepared to make bold choices only with regard to less important issues. When the parties reached the important issues, Arafat constantly sought internal Palestinian consensus. Such a consensus necessarily required that Arafat’s positions on permanent status agreement issues be acceptable to the PLO’s arch enemy Hamas, an organisation that rejected the Oslo Agreement and whose main objective continued to be the destruction of the State of Israel. In other words, rather than De Gaulle, Nixon or even Anwar Sadat, Arafat ultimately proved himself to be unwilling and incapable.

Arafat’s heir, the non-charismatic Mahmoud Abbas (known as Abu Mazen), while perhaps a bit more willing, especially with regard to maintaining security cooperation with Israel, is even less capable of making the kind of historic decisions that are required to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No wonder, therefore, that the Oslo-based peace process has all but come to a standstill.”

Weekend long read

1) At the Jerusalem Post Adam Milstein writes about “The Grave Danger of Media Bias“.

“We must hold the media accountable for honest reporting. We must reject and condemn stories that spread inaccurate information and newspapers that fail to broadcast corrections as dramatically as they broadcast untruths. If journalists fail to understand that antisemitism is a deeply embedded bigotry that persistently impacts their understanding of the world – and a hatred that is central to Hamas’ political actions – they cannot accurately report on actions at the Gaza-Israel border. A story pinning the death of an innocent Palestinian baby on Israeli soldiers should raise a red flag. Journalists must present facts and a careful understanding of the nuances that shade coverage of complex situations. A headline taken out of context should not be tolerated.”

2) Writing at ‘Foreign Policy’, James Bloodworth explains how “Labour’s New Anti-Semitism Has Disturbingly Old Roots“.

“The conspiratorial beliefs of the new cranks have combined with an older form of anti-Semitism emanating from the most unreconstructed reaches of the old left. Labour’s current leadership drips with nostalgia for the days of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev. Corbyn has never been a full-throated apologist for the Soviet Union, but two of his most influential confidants—trade unionist and former Stop the War chair Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s spin doctor—certainly are.

Their influence sets the foreign-policy tone in the leader’s office. Israel is viewed through the old Soviet lens. Zionism equals racism, my enemy’s enemy is my friend, and indiscriminate violence by an oppressed nation should be supported, because the ends justify the means. Those beliefs have blurred into conspiratorialism in the past. During the 1970s, Soviet authorities, steeped in the old-fashioned Russian anti-Semitism, published “anti-Zionist” books that promoted the claims of a “Zionist-controlled” media and described Zionism as a variant of fascism, arguments still popular among some of Corbyn’s supporters today.”

3) The JCPA’s Yoni Ben Menachem discusses terrorism in Jordan.

“It now appears that the terrorists of radical jihadist Islam are again cropping up in Jordan for a new wave of attacks on the security establishment and that the aim is to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom. On August 11, 2018, an explosive device was planted in a Jordanian police vehicle in the town of Fuheis. The blast killed a policeman and wounded six others.

A quick investigation led to the terror gang’s hideout in a building in the city of Salt. The siege on the building lasted several hours. When the security forces tried to break into the building, the terrorists set off explosive devices they had planted in advance; the building collapsed on the terrorists and security forces.”

4) Also from the JCPA comes a collection of essays titled “Defeating Denormalization – Shared Palestinian and Israeli Perspectives on a New Path to Peace“.

“The Palestinian leadership’s strategy of “denormalization of relations” with Israel is one of the central, if lesser understood, components of the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Denormalization may be an unfamiliar term to Western observers of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Conceptually, it is modeled after the international anti-normalization campaign that brought about the collapse of the former South African apartheid regime in 1994. […]

While the PA leadership has positioned BDS and its denormalization corollary as a grassroots campaign to pressure Israel to concede to Palestinian political demands, this campaign does not represent the attitudes or interests of the average Palestinian. In fact, some 150,000 Palestinians who are employed either in the Palestinian-Israeli West Bank industrial zones or in Israel are generally unaware of and uninterested in the international BDS and denormalization campaign.

The articles in this collection reveal the demand among a growing number of Palestinians for engagement and opportunity together with their Israeli neighbors.”

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer reports on a recent visit to a region in Syria.

“The situation reflects a sea change in the Syrian dynamic. The Assad regime is no longer under threat. Thanks to Iranian and Russian assistance, its survival is now assured. It remains, however, in possession of only 60% of the territory of Syria. The largest area now outside of regime control is the 30% of the country under the control of the US-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SPD). The Syrian situation is now dependent on the decisions and the rivalries of outside powers, not primarily on the wishes of Syrians on all sides. In the case of the 30% of Syria controlled by the SDF, its future is dependent on the US.”

2) Also at the Jerusalem Post, Peter Lerner discusses “The Question of Proportionality”. 

“Proportionality in warfare is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. One Israeli for one Palestinian is not proportionate warfare. Proportionality weighs on the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. The level of Israel’s intelligence, combined with its operational delivery systems, proved once again that Israel does everything professionally possible in order to limit the deaths of non-combatants.” 

3) At the INSS Udi Dekel and Kim Lavi examine “The Fine Line between Arrangement and Escalation in the Gaza Strip“.

“The recent escalation between Israel and Hamas took place in the context of the efforts to reach an arrangement on Gaza: what amounts to negotiations concomitant with fire, with Hamas demonstrating that it does not fear large scale escalation and is not under pressure to reach an arrangement with Israel at any price. For its part, Israel continues to convey that it does not seek escalation, but cannot exercise restraint in the face of Hamas’s aggression. The deep distrust between Israel and Hamas and the absence of a mechanism for preventing miscalculation, together with the readiness to use force, lessen the chances of an arrangement and increase the risk of escalation. It is difficult to believe that Hamas will achieve what it seeks – an ease of the closure on Gaza and economic and infrastructure projects in the area – without making the key concessions demanded of it: returning the Israeli prisoners and soldiers’ bodies that it holds, and implementing a mechanism that will prevent it from continuing its military buildup. At the same time, success by Hamas will strengthen its standing in the Palestinian arena, consolidate its sovereignty in the Gaza Strip, weaken the Palestinian Authority, and deepen the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”

4) The ITIC notes another case of Palestinians posing as journalists.

“The video shows one of the participants standing near the border fence wearing a Press vest. The ITIC did not identify him, but he seemed to be a young man with no equipment for documenting the event or performing media functions. He apparently belonged to the group of young Gazans who carried out the infiltration mission. In ITIC assessment he had no media affiliation and was not an authentic media employee. It is more likely that he wore the vest to keep himself from being shot at by IDF soldiers.”

 

An upcoming event in London

Readers based in the UK may be interested in attending an event organised by UK Lawyers for Israel which is to be held in London on September 26th.

“Lord Trimble will reflect on the continuing relevance of the Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010.  The Commission was set up by the Israeli Government to investigate the arrest of the Gaza flotilla and the controls imposed by Israel on the transfer of goods to Gaza. It was led by retired Israeli Supreme Court Judge Jacob Turkel and Lord Trimble was one of the two international observers.

Lord Trimble is former first Minister of Northern Ireland, one of UKLFI’s patrons, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Turkel Commission investigated whether Israel’s actions in preventing the arrival of ships in Gaza were in accordance with international law.   It examined the security considerations for imposing naval restrictions on the Gaza Strip and the actions taken by the organisers and participants in the flotilla.  The first part of the findings, released in January 2011, concluded that both Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza and its actions when it intercepted the flotilla were in accordance with international law.

This will be an opportunity to hear a fascinating perspective on International Law concerning the restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza, and how far Israel can go to protect its borders.”

Details and tickets here.

 

Weekend long read

1) Palestinian Media Watch examines the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the perpetrators of the Sbarro terror attack which took place 17 years ago this week.

“The suicide bomber was Izz al-Din Al-Masri. His family has received $50,124 as a reward for his suicide bombing.

The terrorist who planned the attack and brought the bomber to Sbarro was Ahlam Tamimi. Tamimi was arrested in September 2001 and received 16 life sentences. In 2011, Tamimi was released as part of the deal to free Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his Hamas captors. For her time in prison she has been rewarded by the PA with salary payments of at least $52,681.

The suicide belt was built by Hamas bomb- builder Abdallah Barghouti. Barghouti was arrested in May 2003, and received 67 life sentences – 15 of them for building the bomb used to murder the people in Sbarro. He has received salary payments from the PA of at least $191,526.”

2) At Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz takes a look at the recent experiences of another member of the Tamimi clan.

“Last December, a 17-year-old Palestinian woman named Ahed Tamimi assaulted an IDF soldier and was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison. She became an inspiration to many critics of Israel, and helped inspire several Democrats to write a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ask that he take up the cause. “We encourage the State Department to stress the importance of ensuring proper treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention,” read the letter, “and address this matter in the Department’s next report on global human rights.”

How, then, are young Palestinians detained by Israel treated? Tamimi herself addressed this issue with an interview on Al-Jazeera celebrating her release.”

3) David Daoud reviews the background to the recent assassination of a Syrian scientist.

“A car bomb killed high-ranking Syrian regime scientist Dr. Aziz Esber on Saturday as he was leaving his home in Masyaf, in the countryside of Syria’s Hama Governorate. The explosion also claimed the life of Esber’s driver. In a statement broadcast on its Telegram channel, the “Abu Amara Special Operations Detachment” – a group affiliated with the Organization for the Liberation of al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front – claimed credit for the attack. The group alleged that, after a “surveillance operation,” it had succeeded “planting explosive device” on Esber’s car, and then detonating it and killing him. […]

A Syrian regime source described Esber as one of the regime’s “most import resources for Syrian military power,” and said he was “capable of developing various kinds of weapons, primarily missiles.” The source claimed that, at the time of his death, Esber had been working on upgrading the Syrian Army’s capabilities to help it achieve “parity with the [Israeli] enemy,” and restoring the capabilities it possessed prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. This dovetails with information t from Syrian opposition sources claiming that Sector IV was working on a project dubbed “Project 99,” focused on developing SCUD missiles in cooperation with North Korean scientists.” 

4) Matthew Levitt documents the history of Iranian terror and assassinations abroad.

“With the July arrest of an Iranian diplomat in Germany for his role in an alleged plot to bomb a rally of Iranian dissidents in Paris, U.S. officials have warned allies to be vigilant of Iranian terrorist plotting elsewhere. Indeed, there is ample precedent for such concern. For decades, Tehran has been dispatching operatives to Europe to carry out assassinations and other acts of terrorism. […]

Immediately following the founding of the Islamic Republic, the Iranian leadership embarked on an assassination campaign targeting individuals deemed to be working against the regime’s interests. Between 1979 and 1994, the CIA reported that Iran “murdered Iranian defectors and dissidents in West Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Turkey.” Overall, more than 60 individuals were targeted in assassination attempts. In many cases, Hezbollah members functioned as the logistics experts or gunmen in these plots.”