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Week in Review: Raining Rockets; Mullah’s Missiles; Trade Tech

Israel’s Borders Heat Up

Towns on Israel’s northern and southern borders came under attack this week.

On Monday, three rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, leading the Israel Defense Forces to strike three Hamas targets in in response, including a naval base. It still isn’t clear who fired the rockets into Israel, but the Jewish state holds the Iran-backed terror group, which has ruled Gaza since it took over in a 2007 coup, responsible for any attacks on Israeli soil.

Two days later, an apparently errant Syria tank shell landed on Israel’s Golan Heights, prompting an Israeli attack on a Syrian army position.

That same day, Sinai Province, the ISIS-aligned terror group based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, fired four rockets at the Israeli city of Eilat (the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted three, while a fourth landed in an open field). Sinai Province released a statement the following day threatening more rockets, adding, “the future will be more calamitous with Allah’s permission.”

It isn’t yet clear whether these attacks are the beginning of an escalation of hostilities. Nonetheless, Israel remains wary of threats emanating from both north and south. The IDF now has joint ground and naval forces defending Israel’s northern coast against an expected attempt by Hezbollah to infiltrate Israeli territory, and recently assessed that Hamas has completely rebuilt its military capabilities, including its rocket arsenal and network of tunnels, that it had prior to its war against Israel in 2014. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, formerly the head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence and later the director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters last May that the tunnels were a sign that Hamas is preparing for another war against Israel.

Iran Ignores White House Warning, Launches More Missiles

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn announced last week that the White House was officially “putting Iran on notice” after the Islamic Republic test-launched another ballistic missile. The Treasury Department followed up two days later by sanctioning over two dozen individuals and business for their involvement in Iran’s terrorism activities and ballistic missile program.

Despite these actions, Iran continued testing missiles, including yet another ballistic missile and (according to German intelligence) a nuclear-capable cruise missile. Iran also stepped up its military drills. Majtaba Zonour, a senior member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) official, stated that Iran would fire a missile at Tel Aviv if it was attacked. “Only seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv,” he noted.

With Iran appearing to be increasingly emboldened, Mark Dubowitz and Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explained that the sanctions imposed last week are likely an attempt to build political support to oppose Iran’s threatening activities:

The designations merely represent an attempt to catch up with Iranian ballistic missile launches and to target the IRGC and Quds Force. Whereas the previous administration dragged its feet on responding to Iran’s provocations, the Trump administration appears to be building on a bipartisan consensus in the U.S. Congress in favor of targeting Tehran for its missile activities and other malign activities.

Commerce Beats BDS

An op-ed published on Tuesday urging President Donald Trump to upgrade Israel’s free trade agreement with the United States came from a surprising source: Daniel Shapiro, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under Barack Obama. Shapiro and co-author Scott Lasensky described a strengthened trade deal as one of “the strongest weapon we have to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and efforts to isolate the Jewish state.”

While strengthening business-to-business and government-to-government ties are always welcome for any country, Israel has already positioned itself well by developing indispensable and cutting-edge technology sought all around the world.

In an interview this week, Steven Schoenfeld, founder of Blue Star Indexes, noted that Israeli companies are “leading the world in some of the most transformative technologies,” even though they are not always recognized. Schoenfeld cited Mobileye, an Israeli company that creates automobile accident avoidance systems, among other things. Mobileye’s technology is being utilized by many companies, including BMW and Volkswagen, as they develop autonomous or driverless cars. (Mobileye also has also formed a partnership with Delphi, an automotive parts manufacturer, to develop a driverless car by 2019.)

Israel also has a strong presence in medical technology, as demonstrated by MarginProbe, a device made by Dune Medical Devices. MarginProbe can detect the presence of cancerous cells in breast tissue, allowing surgeons to remove extra tissue while the patient is still in the operating room, thereby avoiding the cost and trauma of additional surgery later on.

Not for nothing did a 2016 study find that foreign investment in Israel has nearly tripled since the BDS movement began.

This shouldn’t be surprising: A study released on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that Israel devotes a larger percentage of its Gross Domestic Product to research and development than any other country.

Feature: We Are Still Living With Eisenhower’s Biggest Mistake

Toward the end of his review of Michael Doran’s new book Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East, Michael Totten observed that President Dwight Eisenhower’s strategy of diplomatic pivoting—in this case, growing closer to Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser a means of deterring Soviet influence in the Middle East—has persisted to this day.

“Two of Eisenhower’s wrongheaded ideas are as hard to kill as the Terminator—that the Arab world is a homogenous monolith and the related notion that an American alliance with Israel harms our relationships with Arabs everywhere,” Totten wrote. But as it turns out, neither assumption is true.

Eisenhower eventually acknowledged his error, but only after learning that rather than appreciating his effort to pressure the UK, France, and Israel to abandon its attack on Egypt in 1956, Nasser turned to the Soviet Union anyway, and proceeded to whip up anti-American sentiment across the Arab world.

Doran has observed parallels to modern diplomacy elsewhere in his writing. Doran observed in Mosaic magazine two years ago that then-President Obama “based his policy of outreach to Tehran on two key assumptions of the grand-bargain myth: that Tehran and Washington were natural allies, and that Washington itself was the primary cause of the enmity between the two. If only the United States were to adopt a less belligerent posture, so the thinking went, Iran would reciprocate.”

The rationales for Obama’s outreach to Iran are not identical to Eisenhower’s reasons for his outreach to Egypt, but Obama’s assessment of his interlocutor was flawed as Eisenhower’s. As Totten noted, following Nasser’s victory, the Egyptian leader “strode the Arab world like a colossus after his American-made victory in the Suez Crisis, and he became more brazenly anti-American as he gathered strength.”

Doran described Iran’s leadership in the wake of the Obama administration’s nuclear diplomacy similarly: “the seasoned thugs in Tehran whom the president has appointed as his strategic partners in a new world order grow stronger and bolder: ever closer to nuclear breakout capacity, ever more confident in their hegemonic objectives.”

This Week’s Top Posts

Video of Jewish and Arab Kids in Israel Asks: “Can You Tell the Difference?”
Report: UNRWA Employees Praise Hitler, Promote Anti-Semitism on Social Media
• Amnesty: 13,000 Syrians Killed in Assad’s “Human Slaughterhouse” Since 2011

Three Big Questions

A Palestinian author this week had his novel banned for “indecency”; his editor was arrested and he was summoned for questioning. When will the Palestinian Authority’s autocratic behavior get the attention it deserves?

A report by the watchdog group UN Watch documented 40 cases of employees of the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA praising Hitler or otherwise promoting anti-Semitic themes on their social media accounts. When will donor nations recognize that by perpetuating false hopes and excusing racist behavior, UNRWA is part of the problem and not part of any peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians?

Amnesty International released a report this week charging that 13,000 people had been hanged in the prisons of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began in 2011. What will it take for the world to take action against Assad’s slaughter, instead of engaging in never-ending, ultimately useless talks?

[Photo: Rahim Khatib / Flash90 ]