News Digest — 12/6/19

Netanyahu Calls For Direct Elections

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for legislation allowing the public to directly elect the prime minister to prevent a third round of Knesset elections from being held in under a year.

“If you claim that the public knows me and that they are tired of me, let’s go to direct selection.  I think the issue of direct elections is starting to become interesting,” Netanyahu said.

He explained why he insisted on serving in the first six months of a unity government and only afterwards to vacate the position for Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz.  “They claimed they did not want to sit under a prime minister with an indictment. We said it would be for six months, but it was not accepted. This was to advance the defense alliance with the United States before we would enter the twilight period of the U.S. elections, I said it was important that I stay six months.”

The prime minister said he discussed the possibility of a defense alliance with the United States extensively during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Lisbon, Portugal on Wednesday (4th).

“The issue that we agreed to promote is the issue of the defense alliance that I think is of great importance.  We will make an agreement with full cooperation from the IDF and the security forces, which will preserve the freedom of operation of the State of Israel.”



IDF Tests New Rocket Propulsion System

Israel conducted an experimental test of its rocket propulsion system from a military base located in the center of Israel on Friday (6th), the Defense Ministry said.

Images shared on social media showed a projectile streaking through the sky.

The launching conducted in the early morning hours, was ordered in advance and carried out as planned.

 According to Channel 13, Ben Gurion International Airport diverted air traffic during the test to allow for the system to fire safely.

There was no comment on whether or not the test was successful or what system was tested, but some speculated that it may be the surface-to-surface Jericho system, an intercontinental ballistic missile which according to foreign reports can support a nuclear payload.

According to those reports, Israel has had the Jericho in its arsenal for decades with the most recent Jericho-3 entering service in 2011.  Israel is reportedly working on Jericho-4.

With a multi-layered aerial defense, which includes the Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling, missile system tests such as this are not uncommon.

Rocket propulsion systems are designed to launch large systems such as satellites, ballistic missiles and large ground-to-air missiles.

The advanced systems provide Israel with a comprehensive protective umbrella able to counter threats posed by both short and mid-range missiles used by terror groups in Gaza and Hezbollah in the north, as well as the threat posed by more sophisticated long-range Iranian ballistic missiles.

The test comes as tensions remain high over concerns that Iran is continuing to entrench itself across the Middle East and has breached a number of commitments in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  

On Thursday (5th), several European countries accused Iran of developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons such as the Shahab-3 in violation of the JCPOA, and the United States is reported to be considering sending thousands more troops to the Middle East.



Report: Iran Stashing Missiles In Iraq That Can Reach Israel

Iran is stockpiling short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq that can reach Israel, according to a New York Times report that cited American intelligence and military officials.

The hidden rockets are part of a larger effort by Iran to intimidate countries in the region and assert its power, the Times reported.  Short-range missiles generally have a range of just over 600 miles, so one fired from just outside of Baghdad could reach Jerusalem.

Iran’s effort to build up its arsenal comes as the United States has sent thousands of troops to the region with plans to send more.  The arms in Iraq are reportedly intended to dissuade the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia from attacking Iran.

American intelligence officials first warned about Iranian missiles in Iraq last year, according to the report.  In August, Israel launched an airstrike aimed at destroying a weapons storage facility in Iraq that was reportedly used as part of an Iranian plan to move weapons into Syria.  Israel neither confirmed nor denied the airstrike at the time.

American officials say the new ballistic missiles “have been secretly moved in,” according to the report.



Palestinian State Up For Vote In U.S. House Resolution

The U.S. House of Representatives is slated to vote Friday (6th) on a resolution reaffirming a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It was introduced by Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Gerry Connolly (D.-Va.) , and Karen Bass (D.-Calif.).  It emphasizes the U.S.-Israel relationship on issues from national security to shared values such as “democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

At the same time, it also states, “The United States has long sought a just and stable future for Palestinians, and an end to the occupation, including opposing settlement activity and moves toward unilateral annexation in Palestinian territory.”

The resolution currently has 192 co-sponsors – all Democratic.

“The Palestinian Arabs have rejected any peace talks with Israel and refuse to discuss peace with the United States,” said the Zionist Organization of America in a statement, rejecting the proposed resolution.

“After two inconclusive Israeli elections and the prospects growing for a third, it is completely inappropriate for the U.S. House of Representatives to try to interfere with Israeli policy as Israel tries to form a new government,” the organization argued.

However the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) supports the resolution.

“JDCA strongly supports the passage of H. Res. 326, which is co-sponsored by nearly 200 Democrats and reaffirms decades-old, bipartisan U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Halie Soifer, the group’s executive director, told JNS.

“This resolution is especially important in light of the possibility of unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank, which would significantly impede prospects for a two-state solution and may call into question Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state,” added Soifer.

Therefore, she said, “We call on Republicans and Democrats who support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship to vote for this resolution when it comes to the House floor for a vote on Friday (6th).”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) told JNS it does not have a stance on the measure.



Erdogan Has Remade Turkey – Michael Rubin

→ Since his party came to dominate Turkish politics in 2002, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has transformed Turkey from a reliable Western partner to a regional adversary.  U.S. officials comfort themselves in the belief that Turkey will revert to its previous character after Erdogan dies or is defeated, but this is a dangerous self-delusion.

→ Over the past 16 years, the Turkish curriculum and broader education system have changed to promote Erdogan’s religious and foreign policy agendas.  He privileged graduates of Imam Hatip schools – Turkey’s system of madrasas – as they sought to enter the state bureaucracy.  Within ordinary schools, he forced Sunni theological studies upon non-Sunnis.

→ Erdogan has likewise transformed the Turkish military, using a series of coup conspiracies to purge top brass and those deemed too connected with NATO and the West.  Whereas the Turkish army once stood as the constitutional guardian of secularism, today it is a driver for Islamism.

→ Erdogan’s assault on the free press completed his strategy for national indoctrination.  Punitive and politicized audits led most television and newspaper owners either to amplify Erdogan’s positions or to sell their media outlets to him or his immediate family members.  Those who did not take the hint found themselves bankrupt, imprisoned, exiled or dead.

→ Erdogan has diverted tremendous resources to promote not only Islam generally, but also a Muslim Brotherhood worldview., which sees only its own strict version of Sunni Islam as legitimate, treating all other forms as deviant.  At least 20% of Turks are Alevi, an offshoot of Shia Islam to which Erdogan has long been hostile. He has forced Sunni religious education upon Alevi students in public schools and torn down Alevi prayer halls. According to the Pew Global Attitudes surveys, Turkey is among the most anti-American countries on earth.  This is a result of more than a decade of anti-American incitement in Turkey’s state-controlled media. Turkey’s recent turn toward Russia is a reflection of Erdogan’s animosity toward America.

→ Not only should the U.S. remove its nuclear weapons from Turkish soil at Incirlik air base, it should also consider evacuating Incirlik altogether.  It should also quarantine Turkey within NATO, excluding it from meetings and preventing Turkish officers from accessing classified documents. The U.S. should also provide Cyprus with the means to prevent Turkish theft of its maritime resources.

The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.