January 20, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

PA Daily Calls for Attack on Holocaust Ceremony in Jerusalem - Itamar Marcus (Palestinian Media Watch)
    As world leaders gather in Jerusalem this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the official Palestinian Authority daily, published an op-ed on Saturday by columnist Yahya Rabah who wrote: "One shot will disrupt the ceremony and one dead body will cancel the ceremony."
    Rabah warned: "It can be assumed that they [Palestinians] will resist the ceremony being held in Jerusalem itself, as Jerusalem is theirs."

U.S.: Threats Against West Will Only Isolate Iran (Radio Farda)
    After Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Friday that the Revolutionary Guards could take their fight beyond Iran's borders, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said, "As long as the regime threatens the world, it will become more isolated."
    "Until Iran behaves like a normal nation its isolation will only deepen."

UK Expands Hizbullah Asset Freeze (Reuters)
    Britain expanded the scope of its asset-freezing measures against Hizbullah on Thursday to cover the entire organization as well as its military wing.
  The finance ministry move follows Britain's decision last year to classify the whole group a terrorist organization.

Poll: Israelis Rate National Security Threats - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    31% of the Israeli public believes the northern sector, including Lebanon and Syria, poses the greatest threat to national security; while 26% think Iran's nuclear program is the central threat, a new study by the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University has found.
    14% view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the most serious security problem, while 14% view Hamas in Gaza as a primary threat.
    82% agree with the statement that "Israel can rely only on itself" in a war.

Israel to Build Anti-Tunnel Sensor Network along Lebanon Border (Reuters-New York Times)
    Israel's military announced on Sunday the start of construction of an underground network of seismic and acoustic sensors along the Lebanese frontier to detect cross-border tunnels.
    IDF Lt.-Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel had informed UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon about the work "to make sure everybody knows what we are doing and that we are operating on the Israeli side" of the border.
    "This is a precautionary measure. Our current assessment is that there are no cross-border attack tunnels."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Secret Document Proves Iran was Building a Nuclear Weapon in 2002 - Jack Elsom
    A never-seen-before secret Iranian government document dated Nov. 28, 2002, proves the Iranian regime was trying to build a nuclear weapon. It shows scientists outlining their proposals for a "warhead fitted on a missile." A handwritten comment from Moshen Fakhrizadeh, Iran's nuclear science chief, is visible on the document. The document was seized as part of a raid by Israeli intelligence agents on a compound in Tehran in 2018. (Daily Mail-UK)
  • U.S. Sanctions Iranian General Accused in Protest Crackdown - Courtney McBride
    U.S. sanctions were imposed Friday against Brig.-Gen. Hassan Shahvarpour of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who the State Department said commanded units in the Mahshahr region in Iran in November when troops opened fire on demonstrators, killing 148 people. The State Department barred Shahvarpour and his family from entering the U.S. under human-rights laws. (Wall Street Journal)
  • In Lebanon, Peaceful Protests Turn Violent - Liz Sly
    More than 400 people were treated for injuries after weekend riots in Beirut in the worst violence since Lebanese took to the streets in October to demand a new government. "Lebanon is being pushed to the brink of chaos and anarchy," said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
        The protesters said they had decided on a more forceful approach because three months of peaceful demonstrations had failed. The value of the Lebanese currency plunged by half in three months, and ordinary people are prevented from accessing their savings. Employers have stopped paying salaries, hospitals are running out of medicines, and people are going hungry as the economy skids to a halt. (Washington Post)
  • Dozens of Iraqi Protesters Wounded as Anti-Government Unrest Resumes
    Dozens of Iraqi protesters were wounded in Baghdad and other cities on Monday in clashes with security forces as anti-government unrest resumed after a lull of several weeks. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Preparing to Ramp Up Airborne Firebomb Attacks Against Israel - Jack Khoury
    Palestinians involved in firing incendiary balloons from Gaza to Israel are preparing to increase attacks in the coming days. Militants told Ha'aretz they are protesting the lack of progress on the ground, despite talks between Israel and Hamas to advance long-term understandings. At least four explosives reached Israel from Gaza via helium balloons in recent days. A militant in the incendiary bomb unit noted that the unit could not boost its operations without Hamas turning a blind eye. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Man Stabbed in West Bank - Hagar Shezaf
    A 22-year-old Israeli civilian was stabbed in the shoulder on Saturday on the road designated for worshippers between Kiryat Arba and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron in the West Bank. The Palestinian attacker was detained. (Ha'aretz)
  • Italy Adopts IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism - Lahav Harkov
    The Italian government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism on Friday. The IHRA definition, adopted by the European Parliament in 2017, lists a number of examples of anti-Semitism, such as targeting Israel as a Jewish collective, denying Jewish people the right to self-determination, or comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Iranian Regime Is Experiencing Its Greatest Existential Crisis - Con Coughlin
    With the Iranian regime's woeful attempts to conceal the full extent of its involvement in the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet as it left Tehran, the rulers responsible for the brutal repression Iran has suffered since its 1979 revolution have revealed themselves to be little more than a bunch of incompetent and corrupt liars.
        When confronted with incontrovertible evidence of their catastrophic handling of the economy which has brought oil-rich Iran to the brink of Venezuelan-style penury, their response is to blame the U.S. for imposing punitive economic sanctions. No mention is ever made of why the sanctions were imposed in the first place, such as the regime's funding of terror groups and its efforts to deepen its interference in countries like Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
        Consequently, the Islamic Republic is experiencing its greatest existential crisis. Key figures within the regime are said to be deeply unhappy with the country's current predicament. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Jordanian Singer Who Performed in Israel Faces BDS Backlash - Ofir Hovav
    Jordanian singer Aziz Maraka, 37, performed last month in the Israeli Arab town of Kafr Yasif before an audience of 5,000 people. Right after the show there were calls from the BDS movement to boycott the singer because of his "support for the occupation."
        Maraka responded to the critics on Facebook: "I'm not willing to be dictated to about what to believe....I will go out and sing before any audience that's willing to hear me, and it doesn't matter at all where this audience lives. Now I can say that BDS will think twice before they touch an Arab singer....BDS people, as well as politicians and activists, have an interest in keeping me - and us, the artists - paralyzed and intimidated. I'm not willing to play into their hands."
        Local Arab fans commented that they appreciated that he had come to perform, and that from their point of view, the connection to the greater Arab world is more important than BDS, which leads to separation and isolation. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque: We Will Soon Establish the Caliphate, Liberate Jerusalem and Conquer Rome
    On Jan. 17, 2020, a video was uploaded to the Internet of an event at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on the anniversary of the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453. Palestinian preacher Nidhal Siam said the anniversary of the fall of Constantinople brings tidings that Rome will be conquered in the near future.
        He said that three prophecies will soon be fulfilled: that a Caliphate will be established, that Jerusalem will be liberated and established as the capital of the Caliphate, and that Islam "will throw its neighbors to the ground" and its reach will span across the world. He told the crowd that their real task is to wage Jihad for the sake of Allah and to seek martyrdom for Allah. (MEMRI-TV)

Assessing Israel's Tactical Laser Breakthrough - Jacob Nagel, Bradley Bowman, and Maj. Liane Zivitski (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • Israel's Ministry of Defense announced on Jan. 8 a "breakthrough" in its development of laser technology to intercept aerial threats. In 2006, the same Israeli committee that recommended the development of Iron Dome for short-range missile defense also recommended that Israel continue R&D to develop a solid-state laser for the same purpose.
  • Israeli government scientists and industry partners have now developed a solid-state laser source capable of producing a coherent beam strong enough to intercept lower-tier rockets and missiles.
  • Israel is now developing three laser programs: a ground-based laser working as a supplement to Iron Dome, a maneuverable vehicle-mounted laser capable of protecting mobile forces, and an airborne version that could protect larger areas.
  • While the development and production of the optics, mechanics and laser source for a single beam are admittedly expensive, the cost of a single laser shot is negligible.
  • However, current technical realities present some limitations. While the laser beam would indeed reach the target at the speed of light, it would need to remain on the target for several seconds before destroying it.
  • Moreover, while Iron Dome can launch a number of interceptors simultaneously, sending each one to a different target, a single laser could focus on only one target at a time. Consequently, this technology is currently ill-suited for countering salvos of aerial threats.

        Jacob Nagel is a former head of Israel's National Security Council and former national security adviser to the Israeli prime minister.
        Bradley Bowman is senior director for the Center on Military and Political Power at FDD.
        Maj. Liane Zivitski is an active duty U.S. Air Force intelligence officer.