A project of the
November 26, 2020
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
A State Department spokesman told Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington continues to support Israel's right to defend itself amid the threat Iran poses to it from Syria. He revealed that bilateral cooperation is underway to detect threats in border regions with Syria.
Echoing repeated demands by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the official stressed the need for the Iranian regime to withdraw its Revolutionary Guard Corps forces, Hizbullah fighters and other Tehran-backed groups from Syria in order for peace and stability to be restored.
The spokesman said that the U.S. was well aware that the Assad regime still possesses chemical weapons and was ready to use them. The regime has used such weapons against its own people over 50 times since 2011, he revealed. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Fox News on Tuesday:
Q: Do you expect more normalization announcements from other countries with Israel?
Pompeo: "I expect more normalization announcements....The direction of travel is very clear, and the rationale for that has a little bit to do with American policy. We got it right. We took away the excuse of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. We took away the excuse that the United States was going to appease Iran."
"Everybody who joined the Abraham Accords will see the benefits for their own people. So I am highly confident that many, many more nations will ultimately choose to do the right thing and recognize Israel as the rightful homeland of the Jewish people."
Regarding Iran, "Appeasing terrorists, appeasing those who have hegemonic desires, appeasing those who are underwriting militias all throughout the region and destabilizing the Middle East, cannot possibly be the right course of action." (U.S. State Department)
See also U.S. Official: Arab States Discuss Normalization with Israel All the Time
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper told Israeli reporters on Monday, "There are discussions in more Arab states about normalizing relations with Israel all the time," Israel's Channel 11 reported. "The will to normalize with Israel is something that many countries have." (i24News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Dore Gold, who served as an adviser and director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and previously advised premier Ariel Sharon, recalled that in 2016 he led a delegation to Washington for talks with Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Joe Biden's choice for Secretary of State.
Despite the fact that Blinken served at the time in an administration that had forceful disagreements with Israel, Gold says he found Blinken "to be open, not confrontational or ideological in any way, but someone who would get work done. So when I heard he could become Biden's secretary of state, I personally found it - as an Israeli - reassuring." (Ha'aretz)
Israel's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday defended a prominent Egyptian singer and actor who is facing legal charges after posing for photos with Israeli celebrities. Lior Ben Dor of the Foreign Ministry's North Africa desk posted on Israel's official Arabic Twitter account:
"Do you seriously believe that the criticism against him serves the Palestinians?...Don't you see the positive changes happening around you, the dialogue and the cooperation?...Wake up! We're in 2020. Israel lives in peace with four Arab countries and has contact with most Arab states." (Times of Israel)
The Israel Health Ministry reported Thursday that 1,069 people tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, bringing the number of active patients to 9,422. Cities most affected include Jerusalem, Nazareth, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Umm al-Fahm, Rahat, and Bnei Brak. 510 patients are being treated in hospitals, with 282 in serious condition, of whom 122 are ventilated. (Ynet News)
See also Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza Face Record Surge in Corona Cases - Aaron Boxerman
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 7,843 active coronavirus infections among Palestinians in the West Bank and 6,499 in Gaza. (Times of Israel)
Israeli Border Police shot and killed a Palestinian resident of eastern Jerusalem after he drove his car quickly toward a policeman, hitting and injuring him, at the A'zaim checkpoint east of Jerusalem on Wednesday. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
In the run-up to the Iranian presidential elections in June 2021, conservatives in Iran will try to frustrate any dialogue with the incoming U.S. administration. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has minimized the significance of the U.S. elections, saying, "It does not matter who will be the next president in the United States....No matter which one will be elected, there is one obvious point, which is the political, civil, and moral decline of the American regime."
The conservative camp in Iran emphasizes that there is no real difference between Biden and Trump. They state that only if the U.S. fulfills a long list of conditions that Iran will impose on it would they agree to return to the negotiating table with Washington regarding the nuclear deal. However, they would by no means enter into a dialogue on other issues, including ballistic missiles, human rights, or regional issues. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Any attempt by a new U.S. administration to start fresh negotiations on the nuclear deal will face significant obstacles. Tehran's current political climate is not as amenable to a deal like the JCPOA as it once was. After incidents like the assassination of Qassem Souleimani, Iranian officials' already limited trust in the U.S. has significantly eroded. Moreover, conservative-moderate political forces like President Rouhani that made the deal possible have waned in power.
Israel's presence, at least behind the scenes, is necessary to make sure that any future agreement is in some accordance with its requirements and needs. Israel must insist on a number of fundamental and realistic principles, primarily a significant extension of the nuclear agreement conditions, the continued existence of an intrusive inspection regime, and especially a dramatic limitation of Iran's research and development (R&D) capabilities in the nuclear field, to block the development of advanced centrifuges that will greatly facilitate Iran's ability to conceal enrichment from international supervision in the future.
If Israel works with the future Biden administration, it may be able to avoid a worst-case scenario in which its greatest ally forms a deal with one of its greatest enemies that harms Israeli interests severely. The writer, a senior research fellow at the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at IDC Herzliya in Israel, served for 25 years in Israeli defense intelligence. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
See also How Israel Should Prepare for Biden's New Approach to Iran - Col. (res.) Eldad Shavit and Ari Heistein
Col. (res.) Eldad Shavit is a senior researcher at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies and previously served in senior roles in Israeli defense intelligence and the Mossad. Ari Heistein is a Research Fellow at INSS. (Foreign Policy)
Col. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Kam, a former deputy director of Israel's Institute for National Security Studies who served in the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, says that U.S. sanctions on Iran have been "effective in weakening" the government in Tehran. "Although America's 'maximum pressure policy' didn't speak of collapsing the regime, it did want to apply increasing pressure on that country [to weaken it]. The government in Tehran is sensitive to what's happening on the ground. For them, the concern is not only their economy but also the civil unrest that they are trying to prevent." (Sputnik-Russia)
Despite Biden's promises to return the U.S. to the nuclear deal with Iran, the likelihood that the administration will quickly lift all sanctions to rejoin the deal and turn back the clock to the last days of the Obama administration is extremely low. Both countries cannot ignore the developments that have taken place since the JCPOA was signed in 2015.
The new U.S. administration must be prepared for a long and complicated process in which Tehran will demand compensation every step of the way - from renewing talks, to returning to the JCPOA, to expanding the agreement. In anticipation of this, the U.S. should retain as many "cards" as possible for the future, in particular for negotiating a new and improved agreement which more comprehensively covers the challenges Iran poses to the international community.
An improved agreement ought to require at least a partial closure of the loopholes of the JCPOA through the extension of the sunset clauses, prohibition of R&D on advanced centrifuges, and expanding IAEA supervision over suspected military components of Iran's nuclear program. In addition, an improved agreement should seek to extend restrictions on Iran's missile program.
Col. (res.) Eldad Shavit, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, served as head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence. Dr. Raz Zimmt, a research fellow at INSS, is also a veteran Iran-watcher in the Israeli Defense Forces. (Cipher Brief)
In a Pew Research poll in 2015, just 21% of Americans supported the Iran nuclear deal and were confident that Iran would live up to the deal's terms. Sanctions relief encouraged Tehran to redouble its belligerence. It entered Syria's civil war in support of Bashar Assad, helping to murder tens of thousands of civilians. It armed Houthi rebels in Yemen and subsidized Hizbullah terror in Lebanon and Europe. It violated UN bans on arms trafficking and ballistic missile activity. It repeatedly called for Israel's annihilation.
And from the start, Iran breached its commitments under the nuclear deal. It amassed stockpiles of enriched uranium beyond the permitted limits, deceived and stonewalled international inspectors, and illicitly transferred advanced centrifuges to underground bunkers.
For more than 40 years, the theocrats who rule Iran have broken diplomatic agreements, Security Council mandates, and international law. It was folly to imagine that the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism would become a responsible member of the world community if only America would agree to shower it with billions of dollars in cash and relieve the pressure of sanctions.
Abandoning the nuclear deal and reimposing sanctions starved Tehran of resources that might otherwise have fueled its terror and ballistic missile operations. It incubated a strategic coalition uniting Israel and the Sunni Arab states in the Gulf, for whom resisting Iranian aggression is an existential priority. Jettisoning the deal didn't lead to more war. It led to more peace. (Boston Globe)
Calls to Prime Minister Netanyahu's office to confirm reports that he, Secretary of State Pompeo, and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had met in Saudi Arabia on Sunday were not rebuffed with denials. Equally surprising was the lack of action by Israel's military censors, who in the past had quickly quashed similar reports of Israeli-Saudi cooperation. Saudi officials have also confirmed the meeting, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Both Israel and the Saudis seem happy enough that the news has leaked out because of two key messages it sends. The first is as a warning to Iran as it steps up its nuclear activities. The second is to the incoming American administration.
Israel and the Saudis seem to have put the president-elect on notice that they intend to pool their considerable diplomatic and political capital in Washington to oppose major changes in America's Middle East policy. That is something of an achievement for a meeting that, officially at least, never took place. (Economist-UK)
According to Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior intelligence and security expert, and a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "It is clear that the Biden administration is keen to resume aid to the Palestinian Authority." However, the Taylor Force Act demands that the Palestinians stop paying salaries to terrorists, which "will be difficult for the Palestinians to do."
"All kinds of sympathizers in the Democratic Party are trying to convince the Palestinians to make changes in their law so the salaries will be based on some sort of economic conditions and not just on the issue of terrorism." What worries Kuperwasser is that the Palestinians are "going to play all sorts of tricks. They are not really going to change anything significant. They will keep paying salaries to terrorists and pretend it is based on economic characteristics. But they will not change anything. Terrorists will continue receiving salaries from the Palestinian Authority." (JNS)
A New York Times report on Nov. 22 evinces a nostalgia for the old U.S. foreign policy consensus on Israel and the Palestinians that is startling for those of us who watched the ineffectiveness of that consensus in real time.
What the Times characterizes as President Trump's "lavish" treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a break from 40 years of U.S. policy that had tried to bring the Palestinian leadership to the negotiating table and keep it there productively. A result of these efforts was four peace offers the Palestinians rejected, as well as a revivified Hamas in Gaza, attacks in southern Lebanon, two intifadas and unending Palestinian insistence on the right of refugees' descendants to return to Israel, a policy that would use demographics to destroy the Jewish state.
In the face of this history, President Trump's insistence on holding the Palestinians to account for decades of intransigence and on looking beyond the Palestinian issue to the region writ large was not a "present" for Mr. Netanyahu. It was a nod to reality, a necessary booster shot for the economies of Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, and a signal that Palestinian intransigence cannot set the terms for an entire region. The writer was the editor in chief of The New Republic for 38 years. (New York Times)
Maj.-Gen. Hatem Bashat, a member of the Egyptian parliamentary Committee for African Affairs, said Nov. 16 that Egypt is well aware of the "malicious" Turkish moves in Somalia to control the Red Sea. On Nov. 14, units of Egypt's elite Saiqa Force and air force arrived at Marwa air base in Sudan to participate in joint Egyptian-Sudanese combat exercises for the first time ever.
Amani al-Tawil, an expert on African affairs at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor that in January Egypt inaugurated the major Berenice naval and air base near its southern border, the largest in the Red Sea, to counter Turkish threats and ambitions in the region. On Sept. 30, 2017, Turkey inaugurated a military base south of Mogadishu, and announced on Jan. 20 the start of oil exploration in Somali waters. (Al-Monitor)
A new study by KONDA, a leading Turkish pollster, revealed that 38% of Turks feel like "strangers in their own country." 74% of Turkish Kurds feel they do not belong in Turkey, as do 51% of "modern Turks." SODEV, another pollster, found that 60.5% of youths who support Erdogan said they would prefer to live in Christian Switzerland. It also found that 70% think a talented young person would never be able to get ahead professionally in Turkey without political connections or nepotism. In 2019, 330,289 people left Turkey to live abroad. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
Turkish President Erdogan seems determined to reinvent the secular Muslim country he inherited as draconian, Islamist, and with vaunting regional ambitions. For Western powers, the urgent question is how to deal with the mutation of a NATO ally into a "neo-Ottoman" threat.
A hundred years ago, the Turkish Republic was founded on secularism. Ataturk banned religion from the public realm, prohibited the Arabic call to prayer, and encouraged men and women to mix. But for years, Erdogan has done all he can to reverse the Turkish liberal consensus.
Erdogan now controls 5,500 miles of northern Syria. In Libya, Turkish muscle enabled the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord to crush the rebel Khalifa Haftar. Turkey controls Europe's gas supply and migrant flows. Moreover, Turkish soft power - its films, television and fiction - have long been winning hearts and minds across the Muslim world. (Spectator-UK)
Lord Trimble, the former first minister of Northern Ireland and the only living British Nobel Peace Prize winner, has nominated the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed ("MBZ"), for next year's prize, following the recent signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
Trimble won the award for his part in achieving the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. As he noted, "I know from my own experience how dangerous, damaging and corrosive are decades of violent ill will between close neighbors." He thinks the accords can break the logjam.
In the Northern Ireland conflict, the Ulster Unionists, whom Trimble led, were mistakenly regarded by most of the diplomatic and media movers and shakers as the main problem. Netanyahu and his Likud Party are the Trimble/Unionist equivalents in the Middle East - widely reviled for intransigence, yet actually far more moderate than the other side, parts of which are deeply compromised by terrorism.
The readiness of the Crown Prince and his allies to move came from his recognition that Israel's tough talk is not a way of refusing peace, but of achieving it on tolerable terms. They were also fed up with the way the Palestinian grievance is artificially kept center-stage in all discussions of the region's future. Might not other things matter more, such as the spread of prosperity and the defeat of Iran's nuclear ambitions? (Telegraph-UK)
Belgium is providing financial and political support and sponsorship to illegal Palestinian construction projects in Area C of the West Bank and is demanding compensation after Israel dismantled these illegally constructed buildings. The Oslo Accords provide that Area C is under the sole administration and control of Israel. Belgium is openly supporting endeavors by the Palestinian leadership and hostile organizations aimed at undermining and obstructing Israel's legal and security control in Area C.
The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, heads the International Law Program at the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates underscores the imperative of maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge (QME) and of ensuring that problematic regional actors do not get access to such advanced technologies. The QME doctrine is a cornerstone of Israel's national security philosophy. The Jewish state, home to nine million people, is surrounded by hundreds of millions of Arab neighbors - too many of whom remain unfortunately hostile to its existence.
There are creative ways to protect Israel's QME while allowing the UAE to obtain the jets. For instance, some of the F-35's software systems can be reserved for Israeli use. The U.S. could also elevate Israel's information-sharing clearance to overcome classification barriers that impede cooperation; pursue joint R&D ventures, akin to the development of the Arrow and David's Sling missile defense systems; and frontload defense assistance that has already been agreed to under the 10-year memorandum of understanding signed in 2016.
The writer was the national security adviser to the prime minister of Israel and head of the National Security Council. (Defense Post)
BBC World Service Director Jamie Angus has apologized for a "lapse of standards" after the broadcast on BBC Arabic TV of an uncritical interview with Palestinian terrorist Ahlam Al-Tamimi, who masterminded the Sbarro pizza restaurant attack in Jerusalem in 2001 in which 15 Israelis were killed. Tamimi had previously said she felt disappointed as she had "hoped for a larger toll." She was released from an Israeli prison as part of a prisoner exchange in 2011. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
A Nov. 19 article in Deutsche Welle erroneously stated that under UN Resolution 194, Palestinian refugees are guaranteed a "right to return." CAMERA's Israel office prompted a correction after noting that a General Assembly resolution does not have the authority to "guarantee" anything. Its language - "should be permitted" - denotes a suggestion, not a guarantee.
Moreover, the resolution conditions the return of refugees on their willingness to "live at peace with their neighbors." In addition, the main part of the resolution called for the establishment of a Conciliation Commission, which the Arab states and leadership rejected. (CAMERA)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent declaration on "identifying organizations that engage in, or otherwise support" boycott campaigns singling out Israel is an important acknowledgement of an unfortunate reality. There is ample evidence that the agendas of such groups and their impacts go far beyond straightforward criticism of policies, and venture into anti-Semitism.
This problem has persisted at least since the 2001 NGO Forum of the infamous UN Durban Conference ostensibly on racism, at which anti-Semitism was very visible. I have devoted the past 20 years to researching and documenting the activities of these non-governmental organizations, particularly as they relate to Israel. Singling out Israel as the NGO forum did, referring to it as inherently racist, and denying Jews the right to self-determination are among the examples listed in the consensus definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Hyperactive NGO campaigns are filled with examples of modern blood libels and whitewashing of terror. Organizations which purport to promote human rights have repeatedly and obsessively singled out Israel for attack on social media, while systematically erasing the history of terror it has faced.
The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is president of NGO Monitor and professor emeritus of political studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Newsweek)
For the past five years, Jewish students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been silenced and virtually outcast for their support of the State of Israel. There is surely something deeply amiss when, in order to feel safe, they have to conceal their Jewish identity. No student - be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim - should be made to feel marginalized.
No one is disputing the right to criticize the governmental policies of the State of Israel. The question is at what point does this turn into, and serve as a fig leaf for, anti-Semitism. Universities properly condemn all forms of injustice and they need to begin to condemn anti-Semitism, especially when it denies the right of self-determination, a right of all peoples. No Jewish student should feel that they should conceal their identity because they feel a connection to the State of Israel (or out of fear abandon that connection). The writer is consul general of Israel to the Midwest. (Chicago Sun-Times)
Anti-Semitic incidents accounted for 22% of hate crimes recorded in 2019 in Europe, though Jews comprise less than 1% of the population, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported last week. (JTA)
On Nov. 17, 2020, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs held a webinar with leading experts on the American Jewish community.
Amb. Dore Gold - President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
If we can get a sense of where America is going, it will help us in Israel operate intelligently in the period ahead. Being cognizant of the debates in different communities and geographic parts of America will help Israel understand its most important ally.
MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh - Member of Knesset (Blue and White party)
It is an imperative for the State of Israel to rise from the docket of the accused by reaffirming international law and utilizing the language of rights, the lingua franca of the rest of the world, and making accessible the case and cause of the State of Israel. Two deceased soldiers and two Israeli civilians are being held by Hamas in Gaza in standing violation of international law and morality, under a ceasefire which the U.S. brokered.
Prof. Steven Windmueller - Jerusalem Center Fellow and Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Studies at the HUC-JIR, Los Angeles
In the 2020 election, American Jews did not place Israel as a central theme in much of their thinking. As long as Israel is not in crisis, American Jewish voters will not bring that issue forward. The core issue for American Jews is anti-Semitism.
Dr. Irwin Mansdorf - Jerusalem Center Fellow specializing in political psychology
In our polling, when we took people's primary and secondary issues together, over 70% of Biden voters felt that character and trust was the most important issue, and 60% of Trump voters said the most important issue was left progressive extremism.
William Daroff, J.D. - CEO, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
President-elect Biden has been a friend of the Jewish state throughout his long political career and the vast majority of the incoming Congress will be comprised of members who are steadfastly pro-Israel. His administration will likely be very accessible and responsive to our community.
Dr. Liel Leibovitz - Senior Writer, Tablet Magazine
Donald Trump improved his performance over 2016 in every single category except for white men, which teaches us a lot about how fervently Americans rejected the narrative of racial divisions and a perspective of looking at the world through the small, narrow lens of identity politics. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Israeli scientists have used new technology to destroy cancerous cells in mice that targets only affected cells, while leaving everything around them intact. "This is the first study in the world to prove that the CRISPR genome editing system, which works by cutting DNA, can effectively be used to treat cancer in an animal," said Prof. Dan Peer, a cancer expert from Tel Aviv University, after his peer-reviewed research was published in the Science Advances journal.
"There are no side effects, and we believe that a cancer cell treated in this way will never become active again....Within three treatments we can destroy a tumor. This technology can physically cut the DNA in cancerous cells, and those cells will not survive." Peer called it "a more elegant chemotherapy" and said he dreams that it will replace that treatment. (Times of Israel)
See also Video: CRISPR Genome Editing Destroys Cancer Cells - Prof. Dan Peer (Tel Aviv University)
Why the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Can't Be Solved - Michael Mandelbaum (American Purpose)
The writer is Professor Emeritus of American Foreign Policy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
See also The Palestinian Refugee Myth - Jonathan Schanzer and Richard Goldberg (New York Post)