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October 2, 2023
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Saudi journalist and economic analyst Ali Al-Mazyad published an article in Asharq Al-Awsat on Sept. 24, 2023, writing: "A quick review of the situation with Israel reveals that we Arabs have missed numerous opportunities to achieve a just peace with it. First there was the 1965 initiative of then Tunisian President Bourguiba....Then there were the Camp David Accords, which the Arabs boycotted, only to discover that they were the ones hurt. This eventually prompted them to agree to the Oslo Accords."
"Today we face a historic opportunity because circumstances have emerged that allow its realization. The Arabs should thoroughly examine all the opportunities for peace they have missed, and examine their position on peace based on what they can do to attain better lives for the Palestinians and for the peoples of the region - instead of rejecting initiatives without justification and later agreeing to other, inferior initiatives." (MEMRI)
Iran on Wednesday passed a draconian new law - "Support for the Culture of Hijab and Chastity" - that will jail women who refuse to wear the hijab for up to 10 years, in what the UN has labelled "gender apartheid." The previous maximum penalty for refusing a hijab was two months' imprisonment. The maximum fine for the same offense is being raised from 1 pound to 2,500 pounds under the new law.
The use of CCTV, including cameras which use facial recognition, has been significantly increased to catch women flouting the rule, including those traveling by car. Checkpoints were set up around Iranian cities to check if women were following the dress code. (Telegraph-UK)
The Israel Defense Forces carried out airstrikes near Damascus on Saturday night, targeting an Iranian weapons shipment en route to Lebanon. (Iran International)
Two Israeli doctors have arrived in Armenia to provide emergency medical assistance to those injured in a fuel depot blast near Stepanakert, Israel's Ambassador to Armenia Joel Lion said. The explosion on Sept. 25 left many killed and hundreds injured. (Public Radio of Armenia)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who heads the open-ended Commission of Inquiry (COI) targeting Israel, is to receive an "Outstanding Achievement Award" from the International Law Association on Oct. 20 in New York. The U.S. State Department has criticized the work of the COI, saying it "represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace." (Jewish Insider)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
There is growing frustration among Israeli and Saudi officials over what is perceived as an over-emphasis by Washington on having Israel make concessions to the Palestinians as a means of moving forward in the normalization process. Sources familiar with the ongoing talks have told Israel Hayom that the Biden administration's focus on this matter is hampering momentum and has impeded breakthroughs. One source noted that the American emphasis on the Palestinian aspect is perceived as over the top and is thus undermining the entire process.
The officials stress that Riyadh is not part of the pressure on Israel to make major diplomatic concessions to the Palestinians. Nevertheless, Biden administration officials have floated a series of demands from Israel, including the reopening of a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem to serve as a diplomatic mission to the Palestinians. (Israel Hayom)
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday, "Peace with Saudi Arabia is a blessing for Israel, but alongside that, we are making every effort to assess the risks and ensure that we are moving in the right and responsible direction." Galant said he had established teams to address any security concerns.
Gallant spoke during his official visit to Germany, where he signed a new security cooperation agreement which includes the sale of the Israeli Arrow 3 missile defense system to Germany. (Ynet News)
IDF soldiers at a military checkpoint near the community of Psagot came under attack Friday night by two Palestinian men throwing firebombs at the forces. Both were shot and one later died. Hamas claimed Muhammad Jibril Romana as a member of the organization. (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinians engaged in rioting with the approval of the Hamas leadership near the Gaza border with Israel for the past two weeks announced they were freezing the violent demonstrations on Thursday, following intervention by mediators. (Ha'aretz)
The number of countries purchasing Israeli weapons and security-related cyber systems has skyrocketed in recent years, due to an increase in arms deals with signatories of the Abraham Accords, as well as the war in Ukraine, which led to increased security expenditures in Europe and NATO countries. Data provided by the Israel Defense Ministry reveals that 56 countries received ministry approval to purchase drones in 2022. Munitions were exported to 61 countries; training programs are currently being supplied to 17; and 83 countries have purchased cyber and intelligence systems. (Ha'aretz)
Israeli startups raised over $950 million in September 2023, the highest monthly figure since August 2022. (Globes)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
Normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia is inevitable. It is already well underway and has been for some years. Many commentators believe that official diplomatic recognition might founder on the Palestinian issue, with the Saudis demanding compromises that Israel cannot meet. That is not so. The 2020 Abraham Accords were established without any Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, and with complete Saudi backing behind the scenes.
If the Saudis genuinely felt that normalization was dependent on substantive Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, they would not continue to pursue negotiations towards an unachievable goal. While the Kingdom is obliged to show public support for its Palestinian brothers, in reality, it will probably settle for Israeli gestures such as statements of intent, while restoring significant Saudi funding to the Palestinian Authority. The PA leadership know they can do nothing to prevent normalization if Riyadh decides on it and might as well cash in.
The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK's national crisis management committee, COBRA. (Ynet News)
See also Saudis Putting Aside Arab Peace Initiative amid Israel Normalization Talks - Jacob Magid
Saudi Arabia is quietly setting aside the Arab Peace Initiative that it sponsored more than 20 years ago, and is readying for the possibility of normalizing relations with Israel without first securing the establishment of a Palestinian state, three officials familiar with the matter have told the Times of Israel. (Times of Israel)
A possible normalization agreement between the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel includes controversial nuclear components which will potentially endanger Israel's security in the future. Israel is not opposed in principle to nuclear power plants, as seen by the UAE plan to build four reactors, but without control over the fuel cycle.
Israel's position regarding the reliability of signing treaties and agreements in the nuclear field by countries in the Middle East has always been skeptical and supported by historical facts. Four treaties violated by countries in the Middle East include Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi's Libya, Bashar Assad's Syria, and the ayatollahs' Iran. Saudi Arabia, despite the far-reaching transformations that have taken place, is not a democratic country, and its leadership may suddenly change and become hostile to Israel - as happened in 1979 in Iran.
The writer, a professor of political science at the University of Haifa, is the former head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission. (Ynet News)
Sir John Jenkins, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2012 to 2015, said if Riyadh acquired a bomb, "the Egyptians would do the same. I'm absolutely sure. And what about Turkey? The ramifications for nuclear proliferation in the Middle East are huge....The Saudis are saying: 'If you want normalization, this is the price,' and the price is extremely high. So how much do you want it?"
Saudi Arabia last week agreed to tougher checks by the International Atomic Energy Agency. "It shows that it's moving and moving fast," said Yoel Guzansky, a former member of Israel's National Security Council. Defenders of the proposals say Washington will maintain tough checks to prevent a Saudi nuclear program from being used for military purposes. But Guzansky said: "We learned in Iran that these things don't work." (Telegraph-UK)
Despite having no official ties, Saudi Arabia and Israel have forged relations across a number of areas over the past decade. Representatives from the two countries have held meetings and cooperated on defense, technology, trade routes and airspace. In 2020, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the new Saudi megacity Neom.
Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at King's College in London's defense studies department, said that Saudi Arabia's crown prince is "trying to see how the reaction is among the Saudi population, [and] Muslims and Arabs more widely. What we're seeing at the moment is the normalization of normalization." (Middle East Eye-UK)
The Cause of the Death of the Two-State Solution - Benny Morris (Tablet)
The writer is professor emeritus of Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University.