March 26, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Most Palestinians Want to Work with Israel Against Coronavirus, though Nearly Half Think It Is Deliberately Spread - David Pollock (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    A reliable Palestinian public opinion poll taken last week shows that 68% in the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem support - while 30% oppose - "cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians to prevent the spread of coronavirus."
    At the same time, 47% of Palestinians "believe a foreign power or other force is deliberately causing the spread of coronavirus."

Palestinian Militants in Gaza Enlist in Fight Against Coronavirus - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    The battle against the coronavirus is as important as the struggle against Israel, an online poster put up by the Palestinian Mujahideen Brigades in Gaza said on Wednesday.
    Hamas has put out videos of their fighters holding hoses rather than rockets and spraying disinfectant.
    Palestinian Islamic Jihad posted an image copied from Iran that shows a man who is half soldier, half doctor.

"Coronavirus Ceasefire" between Israel, Hamas and Hizbullah Won't Last - Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay (JNS)
    In the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel, Hizbullah, Hamas and the other terrorist groups in Gaza are in agreement that controlling the spread of the virus is the highest priority.
    However, the current lull in violence is temporary, and will last only until the virus is defeated.
    The writer, a former deputy head of Israel's National Security Council, is a senior research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

German Court Sentences Iranian Regime Agent to Prison for Treason - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    A court in Koblenz, Germany, on Monday sentenced German-Afghani military translator Abdul Hamid S. to prison for treason for handing over state secrets to Iran's intelligence agency in return for payment.
    Abdul met with agents of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence between 2013 and 2017 in various European cities. He delivered site plans of the German armed forces, as well as analysis material from the German defense department.
    Between 2007 and 2017, German authorities conducted criminal investigations into Iran for 22 cases of espionage.

El Al Brings Israelis Home from Colombia - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
    A chartered El Al flight from Bogota evacuated nearly 70 Israelis from Colombia on Thursday.
    Flight attendants checked the passengers' temperatures at the entrance to the plane.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Hostage in Iranian Custody Robert Levinson Believed Dead - Carol Morello
    Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran 13 years ago, has died in Iranian custody, his family said Wednesday. Levinson disappeared in March 2007 while on Kish Island, a tourist spot off the coast of Iran, during an unauthorized trip for the CIA to gather intelligence on Iran's nuclear program. Levinson was last viewed alive in a 2010 hostage video in which he wore a prison-style orange jumpsuit.
        Robert C. O'Brien, who was the State Department's hostage envoy before becoming national security adviser, said U.S. officials believe Levinson may have died "some time ago." "The United States calls upon Iran to release all Americans who remain wrongfully detained in that country," O'Brien added. (Washington Post)
  • Danes Charge Man in Plot to Kill Iranian Opposition Member
    A 40-year-old Norwegian citizen of Iranian descent has been charged with helping Iranian intelligence to carry out a plot on Danish soil to kill an Iranian opposition activist, Prosecutor Lise-Lotte Nilas said Wednesday. Nilas said it was "completely unacceptable that foreign intelligence services plan killings on Danish soil, and it is unacceptable that people help foreign intelligence services operate in Denmark."  (AP-ABC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Coronavirus Count Reaches 2,666, Death Toll Is 8
    As of Thursday, 2,666 people had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, with 39 in serious condition and 68 in moderate condition. Eight people have died from complications related to COVID-19. Israel has increased the number of people it is testing, which is directly tied to the increase in cases. "The next two weeks are critical for our success against the disease," said Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman Tov. (Ynet News-Jerusalem Post-Times of Israel)
        See also Jerusalem Hospital Chief Voices Cautious Optimism over Virus Statistics - Nathan Jeffay
    Although there is a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus deaths and diagnoses in Israel, the statistics actually give rise to cautious optimism, Dr. Ofer Merin, Director General of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, has suggested. In Israel, "the number of patients is doubling every three days, around the same as Europe. But the number of critically ill patients, especially those dying, is quite low at this time."  (Times of Israel)
  • Seven New Cases of Coronavirus in Gaza - Adam Rasgon
    The Hamas Health Ministry announced on Wednesday seven new cases of coronavirus in Gaza. The newly infected persons were all Hamas security men who had come into contact with the two Palestinians who had returned from Pakistan and tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.
        The ministry emphasized that all the new cases have been in a quarantine facility at the Egypt-Gaza border and had not come into contact with the general population. "The Health Ministry unequivocally affirms that no cases have been recorded inside the Strip and what was uncovered was in one of the isolation centers," it said. (Times of Israel)
  • PA Announces 13 New Coronavirus Cases in West Bank Village
    The Palestinian Authority announced 13 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total in the West Bank to 77. PA spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said all of the new cases are in the Jerusalem-area village of Biddu, where a woman died Wednesday from COVID-19. A number of the new cases had been exposed to that woman. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Delivers 3,000 Coronavirus Test Kits, 50,000 Masks to PA
    The IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reported on Wednesday that over 3,000 coronavirus test-kits and 50,000 masks were delivered to the Palestinian Authority to aid in the fight against the coronavirus. The medical gear was donated by the World Health Organization. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • No Time to End Iran Sanctions - Editorial
    Iranian proxy forces in Iraq continue to lob rockets into U.S. bases with deadly results. But amid the coronavirus, Iranian leaders want the U.S. to ease sanctions on the country in the name of compassion. No one doubts everyday Iranians - along with Western hostages held by the government - are suffering immensely from the pandemic. If American sanctions were the culprit, it might be reasonable to consider lifting them. But the regime's incompetence and self-interest are to blame.
        Easing sanctions would provide more funds for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, not the public. Easing sanctions would shore up the regime's shaky position without providing relief to the Iranian people. Tehran has money for medicine if it cuts spending on missiles, nuclear-weapons development and military adventurism. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Rockets Target U.S. Embassy in Baghdad
    Two rockets slammed into Baghdad's Green Zone early on Thursday. An Iraqi security source told AFP the intended target appeared to be the U.S. embassy, a few hundred meters south of where the rockets hit. It is the 26th such attack targeting installations in Iraq where foreign troops or diplomats are based since late October. (AFP)
  • The Coronavirus Pandemic: Israel Is America's Friend in Deed - Dr. Frank Musmar
    The Israeli drug giant Teva has announced that 6 million doses of hydroxychloroquine will be delivered to U.S. hospitals by March 31. Teva indicated that it will do everything possible to accelerate production of hydroxychloroquine and also conduct research to see if, in its vast catalog of 3,500 drugs, others can be used to fight coronavirus. Another Israeli drug cited as possibly helpful is remdesivir, an experimental antiviral from Gilead Sciences. The writer is a financial and performance management specialist and a non-resident associate at the BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Has the Coronavirus Infected Israelophobes? - Dan Diker
    Anti-Semites, Israelophobes, and BDS crusaders have wasted little time exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to spread corona conspiracy theories against the Jewish state.
        Even the Jewish anti-Zionist group If Not Now felt a need to respond to the recent spate of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, tweeting on March 22: "This is outrageous. While Jews around the world are struggling like everyone else to cope with the #coronavirus, we are also being bombarded by this anti-Semitic filth. Where are our interfaith allies? We're here for you. And we need you here for us."  The writer is Director of the Program to Counter Political Warfare at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Why Iran Won't Make Another Nuclear Deal - Ray Takeyh (National Review)
  • The Trump administration will not be able to negotiate a new nuclear agreement with Iran. And should the Democrats reclaim the White House, they will not be able to revive the old one.
  • This is the result of the ascendance of Islamist hardliners and scientists who are more interested in the bomb than in another accord with America.
  • Two key factors made the Iran nuclear deal possible. The first was an Iranian president who believed that the key to his country's economic fortunes was an agreement that would pave the way for foreign investments.
  • The second was the willingness of folks at the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization to accept restrictions on the program. Neither factor is present today or likely to recur.
  • In today's Iran, neither the political class nor the scientific establishment wants a new nuclear agreement.
  • Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization, is on the verge of modernizing a nuclear infrastructure that can produce bombs quickly and, he hopes, without getting detected. This means he will not yield to any proposed restrictions.

    The Iranian-born writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.