March 9, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Most Palestinians Still Seek to Rule All of Historical Palestine, including Israel - David Pollock (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    66% of West Bank Palestinians and 56% of Gazans say the top Palestinian priority in the coming five years should be regaining all of historical Palestine for the Palestinians, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, according to a Palestinian public opinion poll conducted between Jan. 23-Feb. 11, 2020.
    Achieving a two-state solution was supported by 14% of West Bankers and 31% of Gazans. 11% of West Bankers and 9% of Gazans supported a one-state solution for Arabs and Jews.
    Among non-Arab regional actors, Turkish President Erdogan received 64% approval in the West Bank and 74% in Gaza.
    Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei received a "somewhat" positive view from just 12% of West Bankers and 33% of Gazans.
    Hizbullah earned positive reviews from 35% of West Bankers and 59% of Gazans.

Senior Member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Killed in Syria (Reuters)
    A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Farhad Dabirian, was "martyred" in Syria on Friday, Fars news agency reported.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said he was assassinated south of Damascus.

U.S.: Soleimani's Killing Dealt Big Setback to Iranian Terrorism - Matthew Cox (Military.com)
    Two months after a U.S. drone strike killed preeminent Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that "taking him off the battlefield has set back the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the Iranian government with regard to spreading their malign activity through the region."
    "I think at the same action, we have restored deterrence to a degree. And so, for all those things, I still believe it was the right call."
    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said, "I believe that I, Secretary Esper, the president and many others would have been culpably negligent had we not taken the action we did...because I think many Americans would have died as a result."
    "I believe it was the right thing to do then, and I still believe that. And I believe we contributed to reestablishing deterrence of aggressive action from Iran."

Israeli Officials in U.S. for Talks on ICC War Crimes Threat - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. and Israel are coordinating their responses to the threat both countries face against the possibility of war crimes suits before the International Criminal Court, Israel's Channel 13 reported.
    An Israeli delegation led by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz was in Washington on Thursday and Friday for talks about the ICC with U.S. officials.
    The U.S. and Israel are not members of the ICC, and the U.S. has backed Israel in its battle against the court.
    American soldiers could be in danger of war crimes suits at the ICC for their actions in Afghanistan.
    See also Showdown Brews as UN Court Targets U.S. GIs - Benny Avni (New York Sun)

PA Legislative Council Member Arrested for Questioning Abbas' Mental Health - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hussam Khader, 59, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), was arrested by the PA's Protective Security Service at his home in Nablus on Friday after he posted a comment on Facebook criticizing PA President Abbas' handling of a recent strike by Palestinian physicians who are demanding a salary increase.

Queen Esther, a Hero for Our Time - Meir Soloveichik (New York Times)
    Purim marks the fragility of Jewish security, but also the possibility of heroism in the face of this vulnerability. It is therefore a holiday for our time.
    The writer, the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, is director of the Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Military Confronts a New Reality across the Middle East - Missy Ryan
    In the weeks since an American drone strike killed Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, U.S. military leaders have been sprinting to confront a dangerous new reality in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, troops are setting up the first U.S. presence in more than a decade; in Syria, small teams of Americans operate near Iranian-linked forces; in Afghanistan, officials have detected an increase in Iranian aid to the Taliban.
        The top U.S. commander for the region, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., has cautioned American troops that the missile strike Iran launched days after Soleimani's death was unlikely to be Iran's final salvo. Officials say Iran and its proxies have used rockets and mortars in a resumption of smaller-scale attacks on U.S. and allied targets since Soleimani's death.
        A possible acceleration of Iran's long effort to end the U.S. presence in the Middle East is one reason military leaders are racing to put new protections in place for American troops. Iran has already officially designated U.S. Central Command (Centcom) as a terrorist organization. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Has Far More Coronavirus Cases than It Is Letting On - Graeme Wood
    According to Johns Hopkins University's Coronavirus Resource Center, Iran has reported 6,566 COVID-19 cases. But the official Iranian number is almost certainly an undercount, probably due to the Iranian government's attempt to hide a desperate situation for which it is partially responsible. (Atlantic)
        See also Iran and Corona - Virus Keeps Protesters Off the Streets - Zvi Bar'el
    Iran's government has officially confirmed 124 deaths and an additional 4,747 infected with coronavirus so far. However, the Iranian opposition group Mujahideen-e-Khalq reported much higher numbers Saturday, claiming over 1,800 Iranian deaths, while tens of thousands have contracted it.
        Iran is having difficulty dealing with the spread of the virus, which has become a threatening political issue. Ordinary citizens and experts have accused the regime of concealing information, allowing a shortage of beds and medications, and failing to prevent the spread of the virus in the first days after the contagion became known. At the same time, the regime can thank the virus for preventing the masses from taking to the streets. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Iran Official Says 200 Dead of Coronavirus in One Province Alone (Radio Farda)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Takes Steps to Protect Against the Coronavirus
    As of Monday, 39 Israelis are known to be infected with the coronavirus, including one in serious condition. 80,000 Israelis are now in self-quarantine, and large events such as concerts and sporting matches have been canceled. Israelis have been advised against all non-vital international travel. (Times of Israel)
        See also "Israel Is the Best Place to Be in an Emergency" - Nathan Jeffay
    Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Sunday that the slow spread of the coronavirus in Israel compared to some other countries vindicates the measures the government has put in place.
        Political scientist Yonatan Freeman, an expert in emergency preparedness at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said, "Israel is one of the best places, or the best place, to be in an emergency, including coronavirus."
        Freeman said there is "broad consensus that the government is doing what needs to be done. One major fact is that when it comes to the well-being of people, we trust the government and trust that if something happens, the government will help the people."
        He said national service gives Israelis "the mindset" to cope with crises. "Compare it to America where few people have served in uniform. Here we pay attention to instructions. Yes, in everyday life we cut in line, but in an emergency, we really follow instructions."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Netanyahu Holds Assessment on Coronavirus (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also So You Think You Have Coronavirus. Here's What to Do Next. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's Aggressive Response to the Coronavirus Will Save a Lot of Lives - Dr. Yair Schindel
    We are likely nowhere near the peak of the coronavirus crisis, doctors believe. Like almost everything else in Israel, the strict policy requiring a two-week self-quarantine for Israeli citizens who have visited certain countries has become a matter of spirited debate. Is it really necessary?
        It is without question the right policy - and will end up saving a lot of lives, as well as a lot of money. It is a shining example of how to do health policy right. The greatest danger to the population - and the economies - of countries affected by coronavirus is not the mortality rate but the transmission rate.
        Until a vaccine is developed, the only treatment for coronavirus is helping patients weather the disease, which involves, in the more difficult cases, hooking them up to a ventilator and isolating them in a hospital quarantine zone. Imagine if half the population was exposed, 10% became infected and 10% of those became acutely ill. Could any healthcare infrastructure provide the tens of thousands of hospital beds - and ventilators - to treat these patients?
        Keeping potential carriers of coronavirus under quarantine will slow the spread of the disease in Israel, allowing the healthcare system to cope with the few dozen cases that might appear each week, instead of a massive influx of thousands or tens of thousands at once. The writer served in the IDF for five years and was Chief Medical Officer for the Israeli Navy commandos. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Columbia University President Condemns Anti-Semitism and Opposes Divestment from Israel
    Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger said Friday in a statement: "Over the past year, I have increasingly become concerned about anti-Semitism, and I feel it is important for me to say something now. There is an upcoming vote among undergraduate students on a proposal to recommend that the University divest from companies doing business with Israel involving the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza."
        "I do not support the proposal for divestment. That is for two reasons. One is the longstanding understanding that the University should not change its investment policies on the basis of a political position unless there is a broad consensus within the institution that to do so is morally and ethically compelled....I do not believe that consensus exists with respect to this proposal."
        "But I disagree on the merits, too. I believe this imposes a standard on this particular political issue that is not right when one considers similar issues in other countries and in other contexts around the world. To my mind that is unwise, analytically flawed, and violates my sense of fairness and proportionality."
        "My concern...is not just with this proposal, but with the broader atmosphere in which this and other related issues are being debated....What must be avoided at all costs, and what I fear is happening today, is a...mentality that goes from hard-fought debates about very real and vital issues to hostility and even hatred toward all members of groups of people simply by virtue of a religious, racial, national, or ethnic relationship. This must not happen."  (Columbia University)
  • The End of Building Freezes in the Jerusalem Area - Nadav Shragai
    There are two strategic building plans for Jerusalem. Givat Hamatos, only 300 meters from the Green Line, will prevent the possibility of a wedge dividing Jerusalem from the south. E-1, between Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem, will strengthen Israel's east-west contiguity to the Dead Sea and perhaps stymie north-south Palestinian territorial contiguity.
        In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended the construction freeze on these two neighborhoods. Construction in Givat Hamatos has been frozen for seven years, while E-1 has been frozen for 15 years. Givat Hamatos is one of the last land reserves available for construction in Jerusalem. Increased construction in the nearby Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa was also approved.
        E-1 will connect Maaleh Adumim - a city of 48,000 residents east of Jerusalem established 45 years ago - with the Mount Scopus neighborhood of Jerusalem. All Israeli governments, from the time of Yitzhak Rabin to today, have supported this plan. Israel is very concerned about Palestinian attempts to impose a separation between Maaleh Adumim and Jerusalem. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, has documented Jerusalem for Ha'aretz and Israel Hayom over thirty years. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Israel Advances Plans for Palestinian Road to Bypass E-1 Area in West Bank - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israel's Defense Ministry has green-lighted planning for a road that would allow Palestinian traffic to bypass the E-1 area of the West Bank and allow continuous travel between Palestinian communities, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday. The road would link the Palestinian village of Azzim outside of Jerusalem with the neighboring villages of Anata, Hizme and A-Ram. (Jerusalem Post)

The Iran Deal Funded Iran's Aggression - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Prof. Jacob Nagel, and Dr. Jonathan Schachter (Jerusalem Post)
  • American nuclear negotiations with Iran began in secret, behind Israel's back. None of the countries that Iran threatened most was told that talks were taking place. We were aghast to learn from intelligence that our greatest ally was secretly bargaining with our greatest enemy about the gravest threat facing the Jewish state. When asked directly about the meetings, our American colleagues did not reply truthfully.
  • Five years ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of Congress about the nuclear deal then taking shape with Iran (the JCPOA), and warned of three dangers:
    • First, he argued that "Israel's neighbors, Iran's neighbors, know that Iran will become even more aggressive and sponsor even more terrorism when its economy is unshackled."
    • Second, leaving Iran with an expansive and expanding nuclear infrastructure unnecessary for a peaceful energy program, as its advanced centrifuge research and development went untouched, would put Tehran "weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons" when the deal's restrictions were lifted after 10 to 15 years.
    • Third, the deal would be "a farewell to arms control" because Iran's neighbors would insist on having the same capabilities for themselves, potentially leading to a regional nuclear arms race.
  • Deal advocates bet that an engaged, enriched Iran would moderate before the deal's restrictions would expire. Today, we know that an increase in Iran's aggression throughout the region accompanied the implementation of the deal. A financially flush Qasem Soleimani led Iran's stepped-up efforts to sow discord, terror and bloodshed in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and in the region's waterways.
  • After the deal went into effect, Iran's defense budget increased by 30-40%. The funds Iran gave to Hizbullah, Hamas and other terrorist groups climbed to nearly $1 billion annually. The Revolutionary Guards began trying to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, from which they launched drone and missile attacks on Israel. Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, using Iranian missiles, accelerated.
  • By the time the U.S. withdrew from the deal in May 2018, it was abundantly clear that rather than buying Iran's moderation, the JCPOA had funded Iran's aggression.

    Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror was the national security adviser to the prime minister of Israel and head of the National Security Council.
    Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Prof. Jacob Nagel was the national security adviser (acting) to the prime minister of Israel and head of the National Security Council.
    Dr. Jonathan Schachter, foreign policy adviser to the prime minister of Israel from 2015 to 2018, worked on exposing the Iranian nuclear archive.