February 13, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Report: 2 Iranians Killed and 6 Wounded while Preparing to Fire at Israeli Golan Heights - Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
    Two Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers were killed and another six wounded by Israeli tank fire near Quneitra in southern Syria on Monday evening, news outlets identified with Syrian rebel groups reported Tuesday.
    The reports said the Revolutionary Guards had been preparing to fire at the Israeli Golan Heights.

Jeremy Corbyn Proposed Motion Praising Anti-Zionists' Attack on Jewish National Fund - Lee Harpin (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn proposed a motion in March 2011 which welcomed the launch by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network of the "Stop the Jewish National Fund" campaign - which accused the JNF of being a global fundraiser for "ethnic cleansing, occupation and apartheid."
    The JNF, founded in 1901, has planted 250 million trees in Israel. Its current projects focus on relieving poverty, bringing hi-tech industries to remote desert towns and promoting community development.

Israeli Airports Fend Off 3 Million Attempted Cyber Attacks a Day - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    Israel's Airports Authority, in charge of the nation's international and domestic airports and its land border crossings, has to block three million attempts to breach its systems a day, mostly by bots, the head of cyber and information security at the authority, Roee Laufer, said last month.

Breakthrough in Diagnosing Heart Disease at Israel's Weizmann Institute - Sara Rubenstein (Jerusalem Post)
    A recent breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence at Weizmann Institute guides ultrasound technicians performing echo-cardiograms to interpret the results in real time with improved accuracy.
    The new technique eliminates reliance on human interpretation of the results by enabling the echo-cardiogram machine to rapidly absorb huge amounts of data.

Symantec Buys Israeli Cybersecurity Company Luminate for $200 Million - Yasmin Yablonko (Globes)
    U.S. cybersecurity company Symantec announced Tuesday the acquisition of Israeli security platform developer Laminate Security for about $200 million.
    The Israeli company has pioneered software defined perimeter technology, which will enhance Symantec's cyber defense platform.

The Houthi War Machine - Michael Knights (Combating Terrorism Center at West Point)
    After 2010, the Houthi rebels metamorphosed into the most powerful military entity in Yemen.
    As they fielded advanced weapons of Iranian origin, they captured the country's three largest cities.
    Their story provides a case study of how an ambitious militant group can benefit from Iran's support.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Poland Hosts Middle East Summit on Iran Spearheaded by U.S.
    60 nations are expected to attend a two-day conference opening Wednesday in Warsaw that will focus on Iran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz are the official hosts of the conference. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
        See also Netanyahu: Warsaw Conference to Focus on Iran
    Before departing for the Warsaw Conference, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday: "Iran threatens us on the 40th anniversary of the revolution. They threatened to destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa....We operate very many means...against their attempt to arm themselves with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Time and again we have exposed their terrorist actions in Europe. Time and again we have blocked their attempts to entrench in Syria."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israel, Arab States Come Together at Conference Against Iran - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
  • Israel Rejects Iran Using "Reconstruction" to Cover Up for Entrenchment in Syria
    Discussing the Iranian military position in Syria, a senior Israeli security official said, "If reconstruction is a cover for Iranian military activity, we will treat it as a military action by all standards. We will fight it in every possible way."
        "Russia is not interested in full Iranian control over Assad, a key Tehran goal. Moscow also is not concerned with war breaking out with Israel over the Iranian ambitions to settle inside Syria - neither is it satisfied with Iranian efforts to expand influence in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. The Iranians know it well," the Israeli official said.
        The Israeli official also shed light on the potential of a Syrian-Iranian conflict breaking out, especially with many reports of misconduct and aggressive behavior by Iranian forces led by Quds Force Chief Qassem Soleimani against Syrian recruits. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Rabbi of the Western Wall Reaffirms "the Jewish Nation's Heritage in Its Land"
    In an open letter sent to Amnesty International on Monday, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, wrote: "As long as you continue to treat the Jewish nation's heritage in its land as a political issue, and to [consider] holy sites as conquered lands, not only will you not put out the flames, but you will be fanning them by your actions." Rabinowitz cited the "cynical use of religious values to justify blatantly trampling on the Jewish nation's past and heritage."
        He also accused the Muslim Waqf, the trust that controls the Temple Mount, of enjoying "unprecedented status and sovereignty - including the freedom to cause unfathomable archeological damage during construction work on the Temple Mount."
        "I call upon you to...join me and many others like me, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, who live side by side, respecting each other's heritage, and wishing to live with true tolerance in this land that is holy to us all."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Get 20,000 Permits for Medical Treatment in Israel in 2018 - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    More than 20,000 permits were granted to Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria to enter Israel and receive treatment or support a patient who was receiving treatment, according to the Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) - an increase of nearly 3,000 from the year before.
        Medical coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been ongoing since 1995. Palestinian doctors are paired with professionals from Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem for training to help improve treatment in the West Bank.
        Some 1,200 Palestinian cancer patients were treated in Israel in 2018, and more than 200 Palestinians - including 112 children - received bone marrow transplants. The program has also built invaluable ties between Israelis and Palestinians that are often not reported by the media. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Leading Pollsters Review the Current Israeli-Palestinian Climate - Nader Said and Tamar Hermann
    Nader Said is president of the Palestinian firm Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD):
        62% of Palestinians approved of the recent attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank: 51% among West Bank residents and 78% among Gazans. Only 42% favored the Gaza "marches of return": 50% in West Bank, 29% in Gaza. 56% would like to see a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, a view much more prevalent among Gazans than West Bankers. 66% believe Palestinian society is going in the wrong direction, while 55% say their families are doing worse financially than last year.
    Tamar Hermann is academic director of the Israel Democracy Institute's Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research:
        Overall, Israeli poll respondents are rather pleased with their country's situation. From 2003 to 2018, the percentage who described this situation as "good or very good" rose from 10% to 53%, while the percentage who answered "bad or very bad" plummeted from over 60% to 16%. Only 6% of Jewish respondents state that reaching a peace agreement should be the government's main focus.
        Support for the two-state solution among the Jewish public is only 46.8%, the lowest it has been since 1998. 63% of Jews believe that the majority of Palestinians have not yet come to terms with Israel's existence and would destroy the country if they could. From a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute on Feb. 7. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Turning Up Financial Pressure on Bashar Assad - David Adesnik
    The Senate voted 77-23 last week to approve the Caesar Act, a sanctions bill named for the Syrian military photographer who risked his life to expose the horrors of Bashar Assad's torture chambers. The bill passed the House last month and the White House signaled its support last November. Its passage sends a clear message to regional allies, especially in the Gulf, that even if U.S. troops withdraw from Syria, no one has a green light to bankroll Assad's reconstruction plans.
        The Assad regime could not survive without Iran's support. In turn, it serves as a conduit for the transfer of Iranian weapons to Hizbullah. It has also begun serving as a base for direct Iranian attacks on Israel. Turning up the pressure on Assad is both a strategic necessity and a moral imperative. The writer is director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (The Hill)

The American Intelligence Threat Assessment on Iran's Nuclear Program - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • On Jan. 29, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence: "We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device."
  • However, experience helps us realize that the American intelligence community has a very problematic track record in revealing, on time, the nuclear weaponization efforts of many countries (e.g., North Korea, India, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq) including Iran itself, so one has to be very humble about this kind of assessment.
  • Moreover, the IAEA inspection system approved by the Americans as part of the JCPOA provides the inspectors with zero ability to track and monitor the activities of the Iranian experts who are supposed to conduct the key activities, most of which can be performed in well-hidden facilities in Iran or - for example - in Syria. The ability to say that the activities do not happen requires much better access than simply not knowing about their existence.
  • The assumption is that for now, Iran abides by the JCPOA. Of course they do, because this agreement is the best thing that ever happened to the Mullahs' regime. The JCPOA secures Iran's path to a large arsenal of nuclear weapons in 12 years - a path that was blocked before the agreement.
  • The Iranians are working hard on all the elements that are not part of the development of the device itself - processing raw uranium to yellow cake (U3O8) and converting the yellow cake to uranium hexafluoride (UF6), as well as developing advanced IR-8 centrifuges. The period required for building a bomb is definitely much less than the one year the American report wrongly claims.
  • Are we supposed to believe that the Iranians are not working on key activities regarding the development of a nuclear device? The DNI report refrains from presenting the inevitable conclusion that Iran continues to develop the capabilities to produce a nuclear weapons arsenal.

    The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division, is Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center.