News Digest — 10/13/20

New Middle East Trade Routes Cemented As Cargo Ship From Dubai Docks In Haifa

On Monday (12th), the ship-to-shore crane paused above the cargo ship just arrived from Dubai, then set its load down on the pier in Israel.  One after another, eight containers filled with electronics, cleaning supplies, iron and firefighting equipment were unloaded off the MSC Paris, one of the first cargo ships to make the journey between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

Just a few months ago such a journey from Dubai’s Jebel Ali port to Haifa would have been unthinkable.

The countries announced a normalization deal in August which laid the groundwork for a potentially profitable new trade route.

The diplomatic breakthrough stemmed from a strategic realignment of Middle East nations, in particular Israel and Gulf Arab nations’ Sunni rulers, who face what they perceive as a shared threat from Iran.  

But it is also grounded in economics and potential collaboration in the fields of business, investment and technology.

Israeli officials have estimated bilateral trade could reach as much as $4 billion a year – and nearly all goods will have to travel by sea.

“This is very exciting,” said Eshel Armony, chairman of the board at Haifa Port.  This is a new era in the Middle East, and I’m sure this will bring more and more trade,” he said.

“We’re going to see this line once a week by MSC and, who knows, later on maybe we’ll have even more … I hope that will happen quickly,” Armony said.

An MSC spokesman said the MSC Paris was part of its Indus Express service, which originates in the UAE and calls at Indian ports, the Mediterranean and the United States.



Israel-Lebanon Maritime Boundary Negotiations – Some Unique Aspects – Amb. Alan Baker

→ After a rift of over 30 years since any meaningful negotiations took place between Lebanon and Israel, the two countries have now agreed to conduct negotiations on their mutual maritime border, with the US as mediator and facilitator.

→ The most important factor in pushing both states towards negotiating is the potential economic benefits to Lebanon and Israel of cooperation in the extraction and marketing of natural gas.  According to an estimate of the US Geological Survey in 2010, unexplored potential reserves in the Levant Basin amount to 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas – the world’s largest gas find in decades.

→ However, unlike routine border negotiations between neighboring states at peace with each other, a prevailing atmosphere of hostility, suspicion, lack of trust, and a long time history of armed conflict and terror, renders this particular dispute as unique.

→ Lebanon’s political leadership have, up to the present, represented the two countries as being in an ongoing state of armed conflict.  Yet on May 17, 1983, the two countries agreed to formally end the state of war between them and grant mutual recognition of each country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Moreover, in the context of the 1991 Madrid Conference, more than a dozen rounds of bilateral talks were held between Israel and Lebanon in 1991-1993.

→ As Amb. Freddy Eytan noted in the Times of Israel (in French) on October 4: “Of course, this is not a peace agreement with the country of the Cedar because Hezbollah refuses any direct contact or compromise with the ‘Zionist enemy.’  Yet, for the first time, Lebanese leaders such as the Shiite President of the National Assembly, Nabih Berry, no longer use the term ‘enemy’ when referring to the State of Israel.”

→ “The new negotiations, although limited in time and space, present a de facto “recognition” of the existence of the neighboring Israeli state.”

(The writer directs the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)



Statement By Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland On Israeli Talks With Lebanon

“The negotiations between Israel and Lebanon are a clear loss for Hezbollah, which has so far prevented them.  As long as the dispute over the maritime border stands, Hezbollah can claim that Israel is stealing Lebanon’s natural resources and that this is a reason to go to war.  But, if the negotiations bear fruit, it will pull the rug from under Nasrallah’s feet.  Moreover, negotiations set a precedent.  Direct talks on one subject could lead to more on other matters.”

(Maj.Gen. Giora Eiland is former head of Israel’s National Security Council)



‘Without Real Change, Jews Won’t Have A Future Here’

A year after an anti-Semite tried to carry out a massacre at a synagogue in Halle, Germany, the country marked Friday, October 9 as the national day of solidarity with its Jewish community.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned the rising anti-Semitism in the official state ceremony for the two people who died in the Halle attack and warned that this development was a danger to democracy.

A senior security official in Germany also warned this week that there is an alarming spike in anti-Jewish incidents and said the community is justifiably worried.

Just last week, a young Jewish man was assaulted in Germany near a synagogue in Hamburg.  Local police had to intervene.

The Jewish entertainer Ben Salomo recently released a protest song to highlight the dire situation of Jews in Germany.  It is dedicated to the grandparents of the current generation living in the country, who had an illusion of a “new” Germany and settled there following the Holocaust.

“If things don’t change, there is little chance that Jewish life will survive over the coming years,” Salomo told Israel Hayom.  “Without real change, Jews won’t have a future here; the Germans have to stop using us as a means of confronting their past and start treating us seriously, seeing our needs and respecting our opinions.”

“The German government uses Jews to bolster the country’s image rather than as a group that really needs to be listened to and understood, and this includes our relationship as Jews with Israel.  Rather, the German Foreign Ministry has been funding groups allegedly linked to terrorism and anti-Semitism.  Jewish blood is once again tainting German money, and this angers me, very much.”

According to Salomo, “Germany has become a recycling bin for anti-Semitism and the German media is carrying out a key role in this phenomenon, with the German government sending millions to anti-Semitic organizations.”



Lifting The Embargo On Arms Sales To Iran – Dr. Ephraim Kam

The embargo imposed by the UN Security Council on the sale of weapons to Iran will expire on October 18, 2020.  Its shopping list will probably include Russian Sukhoi S-30 aircraft and S-400 advanced air defense systems.  Yet Russia is no longer prepared as it once was to supply its clients with arms on long-term credit.

Over the last two decades, Iran has had to abandon or postpone many of its purchasing plans because it was unable to pay for new systems.  Today Iran’s economic position is even worse, due to US sanctions, its investments in consolidating its intervention in Syria, and the severe damage caused to its economy by the coronavirus pandemic.

Iran also recognizes that the US will exert financial pressure to prevent the supply of strategic arms to Iran, including threats of imposing sanctions on countries and companies that do so.  This pressure could deter Russia, China and European countries from supplying problematic weapons to Iran.

(The writer is Deputy Director of the Institute for National Security Studies – Tel Aviv University)



Facebook To Ban Holocaust Denial, Distortion Posts

Facebook is banning posts that deny or distort the Holocaust and will start directing people to authoritative sources if they search for information about the Nazi genocide, reports the Associated Press.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Monday (12th) announced the new policy, in another attempt by the company to suppress disinformation before the US Presidential election.

Facebook is responding to a campaign by Holocaust survivors urging Zuckerberg to take action to remove Holocaust denial posts from the social media site.

Coordinated by the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the campaign used Facebook itself to make the survivors’ entreaties to Zuckerberg heard, posting one video per day urging him to remove Holocaust-denying groups, pages, and posts of hate speech.