IsraelSeen Daily Alert on Israel and the Middle East
Prepared by Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Turkish ground troops accompanied by pro-Turkey rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have crossed into northern Syria as part of a major offensive that has included dozens of air strikes aimed to push out the Kurdish YPG militia from the Afrin region.
The YPG forms a crucial part of a U.S.-backed alliance battling Islamic State jihadists in Syria.
The militia denies any terrorist links – a claim backed by the U.S. government.
Iranian exiles are outraged over an EU decision to invite Alaeddin Boroujerdi, a senior Iranian official, to address the EU Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.
According to Iranian exiles in Europe, Boroujerdi has ties to Iran’s former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who is on Interpol’s wanted list for his role in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed more than 80 people.
“Boroujerdi is one of Velayati’s closest aides, and since he is fluent in Arabic, there is no doubt that he was in contact with people who were involved in the terrorist attack,” an Iranian national told Israel Hayom.
Sources at the European Parliament say his appearance represents the EU’s efforts to show its unwavering commitment to preserving the nuclear agreement with Iran.
After Pakistan issued what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called “a very bellicose statement” on his visit to India, the Israeli PM stated in an interview: “We (Israel) are not enemies of Pakistan and Pakistan should not be our enemy either.”
A Palestinian family in Gaza said on Friday it had executed one of its relatives, Ahmad Barhoum, after a Palestinian armed faction told them that he had shared information with Israel.
The Barhoums are one of Rafah’s largest families and are well known for their closeness to Palestinian armed groups.
Israel delivered a second advanced reconnaissance jet to the Italian Air Force on Sunday, completing a reciprocal trade deal signed in 2012 that saw the Israel Air Force acquire 30 Leonardo M-346 Lavi jets to train its pilots.
Italy purchased an equivalent value of Israeli aerospace technology, including satellites and two G550 surveillance planes.
The G550 early-warning and air-control system developed by Israel Aerospace Industries provides aerial and maritime situational awareness at all altitudes, over any terrain, and in any weather condition and can operate at long range with extended flight time.
News Resources – North America, Europe, and Asia:
- Tillerson Seeks UK, French Support for New Penalties Against Iran
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, beginning a trip to Europe, is seeking British and French support for tough new penalties against Iran. President Donald Trump has warned he will walk away from the Iran nuclear deal unless fixes are made. A U.S. official said Tillerson’s intent is “to close the gaps” in the accord and to explore more ways to counter Iranian behavior in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. (AP-New York Times)
- See also Germany Weighs New Sanctions Against Iran
Germany is lobbying among European allies to agree to new sanctions against Iran in an attempt to prevent the U.S. from terminating the nuclear deal, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday. Diplomats in Brussels said Germany was pushing for new sanctions together with Britain and France to show the U.S. that European allies were taking Trump’s criticism of Iran seriously. Germany wants to punish Iran for its missile program and its meddling in conflicts in other Middle East countries, the report said. (Reuters)
- French President Sent Adviser to Lobby Palestinians over U.S. Peace Plan
French President Emanuel Macron sent his deputy national security adviser Aurelien Lechevallier for a secret visit in Ramallah last week to tell Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to give a chance to the U.S. peace plan which could be unveiled in the coming months.
According to officials, Lechevallier told the Palestinians, “You might be right and the plan might turn out to be bad but don’t blow it up right now. The plan might have things you don’t like but maybe it will also contain interesting and positive things for you. It will be a shame if you throw the plan to the trash even before you received it. Read it first and then decide if you want to say no.” (Axios)
News Resources – Israel and the Mideast:
- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence Arrives in Israel – Udi Shaham
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Israel Sunday evening after having met with Egyptian President Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the vice president in a statement in which he included a message for PA President Mahmoud Abbas. “There is no substitute for American leadership in the peace process. Those who are not willing to discuss peace with the Americans do not want peace,” Netanyahu said. (Jerusalem Post)
- See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Greets Vice President Pence in Jerusalem – Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
- Hamas Trying to Open New Front Against Israel from Lebanon – Yaniv Kubovich
- Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week that Hamas is “opening new fronts, mostly in southern Lebanon. Their attempts to establish a terror infrastructure in southern Lebanon and to threaten Israel from there are very worrisome….All this sudden friendship between the senior Hamas representative in Lebanon, Saleh al-Arouri, and Hizbullah leader Nasrallah is something we’re watching carefully.” (Ha’aretz)
- Gaza Businesses Hold Mass Strike to Protest Economic Crisis – Sue Surkes
Gaza’s private sector was due Monday to mount the biggest strike in years to protest a worsening economic crisis. On Sunday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned, “The time is coming near when the infrastructure in Gaza will collapse, leaving many civilians in distress, with no sanitary conditions, exposed to pollution, impure water, and epidemics. The people who are preventing the rehabilitation of Gaza are the people of Hamas.”
Gaza comedian Adel al-Mashuchi said, “Once we thought about returning to Haifa and Jaffa and liberating Jerusalem. Today we dream that there will be electricity and water and medical treatment; we dream there will be food on the table.” (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
- To Promote Middle East Peace, Cut Aid to Palestinians – Sander Gerber and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
What has the Palestinian Authority done with the more than $5 billion the U.S. has provided since the mid-1990s? Why is Palestinian state-building nonexistent? Why are UN agencies acting as the de facto government of the West Bank and Gaza?
Palestinians who have carried out terror attacks or helped terrorists are rewarded with monetary benefits, job placement, job training and health care. Palestinian Authority laws define those who carry out terrorist attacks as “the fighting sector of society” and specifically designate the payments to them as “salaries” or “compensation” for services rendered.
Unlike welfare programs, there is no means test for “pay to slay” recipients. The statutory purpose is to ensure that purveyors of violence and their families are rewarded with a good life as a gesture of appreciation for their willingness to carry out terrorist attacks. Today, foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority is part of the problem and a significant reason why peace is elusive.
Sander Gerber is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former vice chairman of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is former chief of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence and former director general of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs. (The Hill)
- Prominent Supporters of Peace Process Say Abbas Disqualified as Negotiating Partner – Rafael Medoff
After PA President Abbas’ speech on Jan. 14 in which he called Israel “a colonialist enterprise that has nothing to do with Judaism,” the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), established by Israel’s Labor party, declared that Abbas’ “unhinged screed” makes it “impossible to view Abbas as a viable negotiating partner, when he continues to deny the right of the Jewish people to their own national movement and when he continues to insist that the basic recognition of a Jewish homeland is the original sin of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Abbas’ statements “were outrageous, ignorant and insulting to Jews and civilized people everywhere,” and demonstrate “that progress on the peace front is not possible at the moment.” (JNS.org)
- EU Appeasement of Iran – Joshua S. Block
After Iranian security forces killed 25 people and jailed more than 3,000, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini said, “We expect all concerned to refrain from violence,” echoing earlier ambiguous messages from the British, German, French and Swedish governments.
The EU’s cowardly reaction contrasts with the strong response from U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum who responded to the call for freedom in Iran. Compromised by the prospect of lucrative business deals with Iran and the delusion that President Rouhani is an agent of change, Europe has lost its way.
Congress should cut off the financial bloodlines that the regime uses to fund its human-rights violations. It’s true that many of Europe’s businesses want a piece of Iran’s economy. But European business giants will not risk their stake in America’s $19 trillion economy for Iran’s $400 billion economy. The writer is CEO and president of The Israel Project.(Jerusalem Post)
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to India is symbolic of Israel’s growing ties with more countries, further integration into the global political and economic communities, and emergent economic clout and prosperity.
- Meanwhile, in Ramallah, PA President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, rejected the reported proposal for the Jerusalem Arab suburb of Abu Dis as the capital of a Palestinian state, threatened to withdraw Palestinian recognition of Israel and to charge Israel for war crimes at the International Criminal Court, and revived efforts to push for international recognition of a Palestinian state.
- His remarks sounded like a desperate and pathetic attempt to breathe new life into tired, shopworn words of a bygone period when the world actually listened. It’s questionable whether even Palestinians bothered to listen. His cause and that of the Palestinian people is slowly slipping away.
- One need only look at the apathetic response in the Arab world to the U.S. action. They are losing interest in a Palestinian leadership that seems stuck in a time warp and has failed to construct sustainable institutions for a state.
- The Palestinians need a major overhaul in their leadership, and then a new approach to negotiations. In elections for a new PA leadership, all candidates should be required to subscribe to the Quartet’s principles: recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of all previous agreements, and renunciation of violence. Hamas would not be eligible to participate unless it formally accepted the same principles.
- A new Palestinian leadership should commit itself to building genuine institutions of democracy and to raising the economic well-being of the Palestinian people, regardless of the progress of negotiations with Israel.The writer served as U.S. Ambassador to Oman and Deputy Chief of Mission in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.