April 23, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Spares Hizbullah Fighters to Avert a War - Ben Hubbard and Ronen Bergman (New York Times)
    When the missile exploded near their vehicle, three Hizbullah operatives leapt out and ran for cover.
    The attack was caught on closed-circuit video and shows that a moment later, appearing to know they had time, the men returned to get their bags, and strolled away before a second missile obliterated the SUV.
    No one was killed or wounded in the attack, but that was the point.
    According to several current and former Israeli and Middle Eastern officials, Israel has adopted a policy of warning Hizbullah operatives in Syria before bombing their convoys to avoid killing them and risking war.
    Hizbullah operatives in Syria have received surprise phone calls from Israeli officials warning them to evacuate their bases before they are bombed, according to an official from the pro-Iran regional alliance.
    The idea, a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said, is to tell Hizbullah, "We can see you, even if we don't kill you."

Hizbullah Suffers Blow to Funding from Iran amid Pandemic - Thomas Harding (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    Hizbullah is set to lose 40% of its income from Iran after the dramatic fall in oil prices, Dr. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told the Royal United Services Institute on Wednesday.
    Levitt said that on three previous occasions Tehran has "very suddenly cut back its financing for Hizbullah" by 40%, according to Israeli intelligence. "I should imagine it's happening again."
    But the group's financing has become so sophisticated that it can rely on significant income from activities in Europe through fundraising that includes fake orphanages.
    "The group's independent fundraising, conducted alongside its generous subsidies from Iran, are also intended to guarantee the group's future independence through diversified funding no matter what happens to Iran."

Witnessing the Bravery of Israel's Coronavirus First Responders - Trey Yingst (Fox News)
    Preparing to enter the Covid-19 ward at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center was a meticulous process. There is no room for error. A single mistake can be deadly. Shoe covers, smock, gloves, mask, hair net, visor, sanitize hands.
    Once inside, the bravery of the nurses and doctors is almost indescribable. They dive right in, knowing all of the risks.
    Earlier, Prof. Haim Mayan, head of the coronavirus unit at Sheba Medical Center, told me about losing his colleague to the virus.
    The medical staff I met this week had many things in common: They are brave. They are resilient. And they are willing to die to save others.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump Instructs U.S. Navy to Destroy Iranian Gunboats that Harass U.S. Ships - Anne Gearan
    President Trump tweeted Wednesday, "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea." U.S. officials said the threat was meant to warn Iran not to repeat the provocative encounter last week in the Persian Gulf when 11 Iranian vessels conducted "dangerous and harassing approaches" toward a fleet of American ships. "I said, 'we're not going to stand for it,'" Trump said at a White House briefing. If Iran endangers U.S. ships, "we'll shoot them out of the water."  (Washington Post)
        See also Iran's History of Naval Provocations (U.S. State Department)
  • Pompeo Says Annexation of Parts of West Bank Is Israeli Decision to Make
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday it was an Israeli decision whether to annex parts of the West Bank "and we will work closely with them to share with them our views of this in (a) private setting."  (Reuters)
  • U.S.: Iran Military Satellite Launch a Cover for ICBM Development - Adam Kredo
    After Iran launched a military satellite on Wednesday to conduct "intelligence warfare" against the U.S., Brian Hook, the administration's special representative for Iran, said, "Iran's space program is clearly a cover for its intercontinental ballistic missile aspirations. Any claims that Iran's space program is peaceful are pure propaganda." The U.S. says Iran is using its space program as a front to continue its development of a ballistic missile which could carry a nuclear payload great distances. (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also Iran's Revolutionary Guard Reveals Secret Space Program in Satellite Launch - Amir Vahdat
    Using a mobile launcher at a new launch site, Iran's Revolutionary Guard put the "Noor" (Light) satellite into a low orbit circling the Earth on Wednesday, marking the 41st anniversary of the founding of the Guard by Iran's late leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. "Achieving this superior technology that takes us into space and expands the realm of our abilities is a strategic achievement," said Gen. Hossein Salami, the head of the Guard. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Cell Planned to Bomb Jerusalem Soccer Stadium - Judah Ari Gross
    Three Palestinian men were arrested last month who planned to bomb Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium, the Israel Security Agency said Wednesday. Ahmad Sajdaya, 27, Muhammad Hammad, 26, and Umar Eid, 24, performed reconnaissance operations and realized that such an attack would be too difficult due to the arena's tight security. Instead, they planned bombing attacks on IDF troops in the West Bank and attempted a number of attacks last month around the city of Ramallah.
        The three had all belonged to the Hamas-affiliated Kutla Islamiya student group at Birzeit University in the West Bank. "This thwarted attack shows the danger and high motivation of the terrorist infrastructures operating in the West Bank to carry out significant terror attacks," the ISA said. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 191
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 191, up from 187 on Wednesday, the Israeli Health Ministry said Thursday morning. 136 are in serious condition (down from 148 on Wednesday), and 107 are on ventilator support (down from 111). There are 455 receiving treatment in hospitals (down from 483). 2,384 people are in specially designated hotels (up from 2,210). 5,334 Israelis have recovered (up from 4,961). (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Does Israel's Coalition Deal Means the U.S. Peace Plan Is Back on Track? - Stephen Daisley
    Israel finally has a government. Incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz signed a pact on Monday which will see them take turns at being premier. The U.S. peace plan assigns 30% of Judea and Samaria to Israel and the other 70% to a demilitarized Palestinian state. The U.S. intends to recognize Israeli sovereignty in areas of the West Bank provided Jerusalem agrees to map out a Palestinian state with its opposite numbers in Ramallah.
        The Palestinians and their forerunner representatives have refused every offer of statehood made to them. One of the reasons for Palestinian rejectionism is that such behavior is rewarded by the international community. Israel makes concessions, the Palestinians spurn the concessions, the world demands Israel make more, Israel makes more, the Palestinians again rebuff them, and the world shakes its collective head at those hard-line Israelis who just refuse to give any ground.
        Encouraging Palestinian intransigence keeps them stateless and their national fate in the hands of others. Indulging their rejectionism, their payments to terrorists who kill Israelis, and their kindergarten plays where children dress up as suicide bombers makes it all the harder to achieve a Palestinian state.
        In preparation for likely changes to Israel's map, the UK should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, commit to moving the UK's embassy there once the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided, and affirm, as the U.S. has, that civilian settlements are not per se inconsistent with international law.
        Any country that considers itself a friend to the Palestinians should beg them to take the deal and end the conflict. Britain should affirm a promise it made a century ago and never again treat an ally like an "illegal occupier" in their own land. (Spectator-UK)
  • 100 Years Since the San Remo Conference - Amb. Dore Gold
    In April 2020, the Jewish people will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Conference of 1920, which in the aftermath of the First World War created the geographic basis of the modern Middle East. San Remo dealt with the disposition of territories that were a part of the Ottoman Empire, which had been defeated in the war. The postwar treaties enabled the emergence of the system of Arab states, on the one hand, and the emergence of a "national home for the Jewish people," on the other hand.
        San Remo converted Britain's 1917 Balfour Declaration into a binding international treaty, setting the stage for the League of Nations Mandate, which was approved in 1922. At San Remo, Jewish historic rights became Jewish legal rights.
        The writer, former director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israel's Ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Israel has gone to great lengths and donated generously to protect Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza from the coronavirus pandemic, but our lifesaving assistance has been greeted by Palestinians spreading lies and inciting hatred against Israel and the Jewish people.
  • The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been happy to accept professional medical training for Palestinians, thousands of coronavirus testing kits and protective gear, and over 200 tons of medical supplies, 50 tons of building materials, and a dozen tons of food to help Palestinians living in Gaza.
  • Under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority is fabricating a false narrative about Israel that has taken on anti-Semitic undertones. The authority falsely accuses Israel of deliberately obstructing Palestinian efforts to combat the virus - but the exact opposite is true.
  • The Palestinian Authority is far more interested in escalating its diplomatic warfare against Israel than in saving Palestinian lives.
  • Goodwill should be a two-way street. Yet, while Israel extends an open hand of assistance to the Palestinians, our aid is accepted but greeted with clenched fists of rage and hatred.
  • During a global pandemic, it is truly disgusting that Abbas and his corrupt leadership are focused on scoring cheap political points. It is clear that Israel is more concerned with the health and welfare of the Palestinian people than their supposed representative government, the Palestinian Authority.