March 11, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Senior Hizbullah Officials Test Positive for Coronavirus (Jerusalem Post)
    Senior Hizbullah officials have been placed under quarantine after being infected with coronavirus, Israel's Channel 13 reported. They may have been in contact with Iranian officials.
    The report added that Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is under quarantine to prevent him from contracting the coronavirus.

Lebanese Man Pleads Guilty in U.S. to Buying Drone Parts for Hizbullah (AP)
    Issam Hamade, a Lebanese national, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Minneapolis to conspiring to export drone parts and technology from the U.S. to Hizbullah in Lebanon in violation of U.S. export laws.

Saudi Arabia Puts Hamas Activists on Trial for Supporting Terrorism - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Saudi Arabia began a public trial of 68 Hamas members arrested in April 2019. Most were Palestinians who had immigrated to Saudi Arabia.
    Among those are Mohammed al-Khodari, an 81-year-old doctor, who has been Hamas' official representative in Saudi Arabia since 1988.
    Saudi Arabia declared Hamas a "terrorist organization" in 2017.
    The trial is enraging Hamas activists and supporters throughout the Arab world.

The Joint Arab List in Israel's Knesset - Jonathan S. Tobin (Israel Hayom-JNS)
    Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East. That means all of its citizens - both Jews and non-Jews - have full rights under the law, including voting and serving in the Knesset.
    In the recent Knesset elections, the Joint Arab List, a coalition of four different anti-Zionist Arab parties, won 15 Knesset seats.
    Its largest faction is Hadash - the Israeli Communist Party. Its goals include not merely imposing a Stalinist economic system on Israel, but also the end of a Jewish state.
    The United Arab List is an Islamist party that wants to replace Israel with an Islamic state along the lines of Hamas-run Gaza.
    Ta'al, a secular party, wants to replace Israel with a secular Arab state.
    Balad, also secular, wants to eliminate Israel and merge it with other neighboring countries in a pan-Arab mega-state.

IDF Focuses on Speed and Lethality for Future Battlefield - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    Israel's adversaries are increasingly arming themselves with precision strike weaponry. Additionally, adversaries can today purchase off-the-shelf quadcopters and arm them with grenades and RPGs.
    The IDF is formulating a new concept to deal with these challenges. It calls for the rapid destruction of enemy capabilities, rather than merely seizing enemy territory, and for doing this in less time with fewer casualties than ever before.
    This is based on the understanding that an Israeli home front under heavy enemy rocket fire would mean that the national economy would be paralyzed. Every day that a conflict is shortened is therefore critical.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Issues Indictment of Iran's Human Rights Violations - Lisa Schlein
    UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council on Monday documenting the harsh treatment and abusive conditions of detention facing activists and opponents of the Iranian government. People who have peacefully protested for better economic conditions have been arbitrarily imprisoned. Others detained include Iranian women who have protested against wearing the veil, human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists.
        Rehman says he is deeply concerned about what he considers to be sub-human conditions of detention. He says the frequent use of solitary confinement and the use of torture to extract forced confessions are alarming. He noted "a high risk to prisoners' health from malnutrition and disease. Recent reports indicate that the COVID-19 virus has spread inside Iranian prisons."  (VOA News)
  • U.S. Sanctions Have Idled a Quarter of Iranian Oil Rigs - Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
    At least 40 of 160 oil rigs in Iran are out of action as U.S. sanctions strangle the Islamic Republic's oil industry, according to a Reuters review of financial documents and industry sources. The lack of rig activity could damage Iran's capacity to produce oil from older fields, which require continuous pumping to maintain pressure and output. The sharp fall in oil prices so far in 2020 - due to the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on global demand - will also exacerbate the pain for Iran's economy.
        Some of Iran's oil rigs are out of action because they can't be repaired, as sanctions have made it more difficult for Iran to buy and import spare parts. Iran bought dozens of new and second-hand Chinese rigs in the last decade, but the core parts of those were still American. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Early and Vigorous Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak - Haviv Rettig Gur
    Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, 43, director-general of Israel's Health Ministry, is the nation's point man in the fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Israel's early and vigorous response to the coronavirus outbreak was deemed extreme by many observers. Israel did more to limit travel from more countries, and did it faster, than any other nation.
        Bar Siman-Tov led an aggressive effort to slow the virus' penetration into Israel - not because he thought he could stop it, but because slowing its spread would prevent overtaxing Israel's hospitals and health infrastructures. Israel only has so many respirators and lung specialists. If the number of ill at any given time could be kept at levels that Israel's health infrastructure could accommodate, far more would survive infection.
        At the same time, several industries that depend on international travel and large gatherings of people - hotels, tour companies, private bus companies, event halls, airlines, conference organizers, caterers - are being devastated by the sudden disappearance of most of their business for the immediately foreseeable future. (Times of Israel)
        See also IDF Calls Up Reservists to Help with Coronavirus - Anna Ahronheim
    The IDF has called up dozens of reservists to help the Home Front Command deal with coronavirus. In addition, the military has called up another 100 medical reservists to assist with the call center set up by Magen David Adom to deal with those who are concerned they might have contracted the virus. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Border Police Foil Palestinian Stabber in Jerusalem
    Border Police officers arrested an east Jerusalem Palestinian man who attempted to stab them outside Jerusalem's Old City, the Israel Police said Tuesday. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Thwarts Firebomb Attack in West Bank
    IDF soldiers identified two Palestinians preparing to throw firebombs at passing vehicles near Highway 465 in the West Bank on Wednesday. The soldiers fired at and injured the two, who were arrested. (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Big Iran Threat Is Nukes, Not Coronavirus - Michael Rubin interviewed by Tobin Harshaw
    Michael Rubin: "I do not foresee a [nuclear] breakout attempt in the near term. Rather, Iranian leaders would try to develop as much of a bomb program as they could without crossing that line....Even if Iran does develop a nuclear weapon down the road, I don't think they are suicidal. Rather, the nightmare scenario is that the regime might become terminally ill."
        "If there is a spark in Iran that leads to mass protests such as those of 1999, 2001, 2009 and in recent years, but the security forces join in and turn on the regime, the situation could become very dangerous. Custody of any nuclear weapon would likely be with a specially-vetted unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps....It is conceivable that they could use their nuclear weapon against enemies near or far."
        "Regime change is coming to Iran and it won't have anything to do with the U.S.  Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is 80 years old, has acknowledged having had cancer, and is partially paralyzed from a 1981 assassination attempt. A lot of the old guard have died....The key to any positive change in Iran is to fracture and temper the Revolutionary Guards."
        Michael Rubin, an adviser to the Pentagon on Iran and Iraq during the George W. Bush administration, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Bloomberg)
  • Palestinians Revive Blood Libels as Israel Saves Their Lives - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Israel is making a massive effort to help the Palestinians contain a coronavirus outbreak after several Palestinians in Bethlehem tested positive for the disease. Israel has transferred hundreds of coronavirus test kits to the Palestinians and conducted joint training sessions for Israeli and Palestinian medical personnel.
        "We will continue working to help the Palestinian authorities curb the spread of the virus, both as an Israeli interest and for humanitarian reasons," said Israeli Civil Administration Health Coordinator Dalia Basa. "We will expand medical training to Palestinian personnel as much as possible, as well as the transfer of medical equipment to the Palestinian healthcare system."
        In return, the Palestinians are continuing to spread blood libels against Israel and the Jews. On March 7, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds claimed that Israel had been releasing wild boars in the West Bank to destroy Palestinian crops.
        It is hard to find one Palestinian who does not carry a smartphone. Palestinians regularly document the actions of Israeli soldiers and settlers. Why has no one snapped even one photo of an Israeli truck carrying the animals into Palestinian villages? How come the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in the West Bank have not been attacked by wild boars? And how are the boars able to distinguish between Arabs and Jews? (Gatestone Institute)

  • Immediately following President Trump's presentation of the American "Peace to Prosperity" plan on Jan. 28, Mahmoud Abbas stated: "We say a thousand times: 'No, no, no, to the 'Deal of the Century.'...Our people will send [it] to the garbage bin of history, where all the conspiratorial plans to eliminate our cause have gone."
  • The American move represents a concrete withdrawal from some major components of proposals made by the U.S. and Israel over the last 20 years in attempts to attain a peace agreement between the parties. But the fact is that none of these proposals brought about the hoped-for accord.
  • As a reality check, it is worth revisiting the PLO's reaction to the last Israeli proposal, presented by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Mahmoud Abbas on September 16, 2008, a proposal that went even further than the compromise proposed by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 2000.
  • Abbas rejected this proposal, as Ehud Olmert wrote a year later in a Washington Post op-ed: "To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them."
  • Before a February 11, 2020, joint press conference in New York, Olmert once again urged Abbas to agree to his plan, in order to thwart Trump's peace plan, an official close to Abbas divulged. But Abbas refused, signaling the PLO leadership's unwillingness to accept even Olmert's far-reaching proposal, and thus, realistically, any conceivable proposal for a permanent agreement with Israel.
  • We must not close our eyes to the simple fact that, for the PLO, the core issue is the hundred-year-old "injustice" embedded in the very existence of Jewish sovereignty in any part of Palestine. This gap cannot be bridged, and no plan that any Israeli government can accept can also satisfy the PLO.

    The writer was elected to the Knesset five times and served as Minister of Science. He is the son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin.