May 8, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Iranian Cyberattack Targeted Israeli Water Infrastructure via U.S. Servers (Times of Israel)
    Iran attempted a cyberattack on numerous Israeli water and sewage facilities on April 24-25, with hackers using American servers, Fox News reported on Thursday.
    At the time, the Water Authority and Israel National Cyber Directorate confirmed the "attempted cyber breach on water command and control systems. The attempted attack was dealt with by the Water Authority and National Cyber Directorate. It should be emphasized that there was no harm to the water supply."

How Does Israel Keep Getting Past Syria's Air Defenses? - Will Christou (Syria Direct)
    There is deep frustration in Damascus at what seems to be a never-ending string of Israeli airstrikes.
    It appears the Syrian government has decided that Russia's air-defense systems, rather than its Syrian operators, are to blame for the failure to stop these strikes.
    In October 2018, Moscow gifted Damascus the S-300 air defense system in spite of vocal protests from numerous Western countries.
    However, the S-300 has an inherent limitation, said Sitki Egeli, former Director of International Affairs for Turkey's Undersecretariat for Defense Industries.
    "The S-300 suffers from the problem of radar horizon, meaning targets cannot be detected if they're lying low due to the curvature of the earth. Strike aircraft, such as F-16s, fly relatively close to the surface of the earth, and by the time they're detected, they have already launched their munitions, so it's too late."
    Typically, this blind spot is compensated by other components of an integrated air defense system, such as airborne early warning aircraft and passive ground-based sensors.
    In the case of Syria, however, equipment is either too dilapidated to detect more advanced Israeli technology in time, or personnel is too thinly-stretched and poorly-trained to operate the necessary equipment.
    "There is little doubt that [Israel] is using cyber attacks and electronic countermeasures in parallel with its airstrikes," Egeli added.

Foreigners on the Frontlines of Pandemic in Arab Gulf States (AP-VOA News)
    Where Amnah Ibraheem was treated for Covid-19 in a hospital isolation ward in Kuwait City, the nurses were all South Asian, the radiologist was African, and one of her doctors was Egyptian.
    Across the Gulf countries, the workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are almost entirely foreigners.
    Foreigners also make up the vast majority of the 78,000 confirmed coronavirus cases overall in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
    Most hail from India, Pakistan, Nepal, the Philippines and Egypt.

Canada Sees 27 Percent Rise in Violent Anti-Semitic Incidents in 2019 - David Lazarus (JTA)
    Canada experienced a record number of anti-Semitic incidents for the fourth straight year in 2019, according to the annual audit by B'nai Brith Canada.
    The 2,206 reported incidents were up by 8%, while violent incidents rose by 27%.

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Why Has Israel Done Well in Combating the Coronavirus? - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel mourns the loss of every life snuffed out by the pandemic, but when compared with other Western democracies with advanced economies and health systems, Israel has a lot to be thankful for regarding the number of deaths.
    One reason involves the mentality of Israelis and the unique culture that exists in this country: Israelis are a people used to states of emergency, unlike any other Western democracy.
    Tell Israelis to enter bomb shelters, they know how. Tell them to stop their car on the side of the road when an air raid siren goes off and to duck into a ditch, they can do it.
    Tell them to keep their eyes open on buses, to report suspicious bags on street corners, or to just be hyper vigilant, Israelis come through.

World Needs New Perspective on Israel - Stefan Oberman (Patch-Chicago)
    On a recent Zoom call with Jewish National Fund-USA in Chicago, New York Times contributor Matti Friedman lamented the immense gap in perceptions between how the world and Israelis see Israel.
    "The uninformed perceive Israel as a conflict zone or a place that's unsafe to visit," said Friedman. "This is because whenever there's any instance of violence, it automatically receives saturated press coverage."
    He noted that in Jerusalem, seven people died in violent circumstances in 2019, while in a U.S. city of similar size such as Indianapolis, 179 homicides took place.

Microsoft to Buy Israel's CyberX for $165 Million - Omri Zerachovitz (Globes)
    Microsoft Corp. is set to acquire Israeli cybersecurity company CyberX for $165 million, according to sources close to the talks.
    CyberX, founded in 2013 by veterans of Israel's elite cyber security unit, is headquartered in Boston.
    The company is engaged in Internet of Things (IoT) cybersecurity for command and control systems for industry.

Israeli Startups Raised Nearly $1 Billion in April (Globes)
    Despite the global coronavirus pandemic economic crisis, Israeli startups raised nearly $1 billion in April, after raising a record $8.3 billion in 2019.

Israel's Foreign Exchange Reserves Rebound to Record Levels (Globes)
    After falling $5 billion in March at the start of the coronavirus crisis, Israel's foreign exchange reserves rose $7.594 billion in April to stand at a record $133.539 billion, the Bank of Israel reports.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Eyes Troop Drawdown in Egypt's Restive Sinai - Jared Malsin and Nancy A. Youssef
    U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is leading a push to withdraw over 400 troops from the 13-country Multinational Force & Observers the U.S. heads in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where Egyptian security forces are battling Islamic State militants on Israel's doorstep. The 1,100-person force has two main bases in Sinai, a heavily fortified post in the north, where troops are largely confined to base due to the insurgency, and another in the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh.
        Defense officials said Esper feels the U.S. military effort in northern Sinai isn't the best use of department resources - or worth the risk to troops stationed there. Egypt and Israel have maintained a durable peace for four decades.
        U.S. officials say the push to remove troops from Sinai is opposed by Israel, which views the peacekeepers as an important check on Egyptian military activity, and the State Department, which regards the force as a symbol of American leadership in the region that helps solidify the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Supports U.S. Call to Renew UN Arms Embargo on Iran - Shiryn Ghermezian
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Israel supports the call of the U.S. to renew the UN arms embargo on Iran, during a virtual briefing on Wednesday. Danon called on European countries to support an extension of the embargo, since the lack of an embargo will "create instability not only for us in the Middle East, but it can also get to the shores of Europe. Any involvement to stop Iran from spreading terrorism in the region is welcome, not only by the U.S.  I call on other countries as well to take a leadership position on this issue and speak out against the aggression of Iran."  (JNS)
  • Coronavirus Cases Surge Afresh in Iran - Sune Engel Rasmussen and Aresu Eqbali
    New infections from the coronavirus have surged in Iran two weeks after it began easing restrictions. The spread of the virus slowed for several weeks, but the health ministry reported 1,485 new cases on Thursday, up from 800 on Saturday. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel to Loan Palestinian Authority $228 Million - Ariel Kahana
    Israel intends to transfer $228 million (800 million shekels) on Sunday to the Palestinian Authority, which is struggling with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, as an advance payment on taxes Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians, which average $100 million a month. (Israel Hayom)
  • Under Israeli Pressure, Palestinian Bank Closes Accounts of Released Prisoners - Jack Khoury and Hagar Shezaf
    A bank in the West Bank recently told Palestinians released from Israeli prisons that it would have to close the accounts where the Palestinian Authority deposits their monthly stipends. A new Israeli regulation states that anyone "dealing in assets" for the purpose of abetting, promoting, funding or rewarding acts of terror can be sentenced to up to seven years in jail. Under the new rule, liability falls not just on the recipients, but on the banks that receive the funds and their employees. It also allows Israel to confiscate the stipends deposited into these accounts.
        Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said, "According to our records, there are 11,000 stipend recipients who get several thousand shekels a month."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 245
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 245 (up from 239 on Thursday), the Israeli Health Ministry said Friday morning. 77 people were in serious condition (down from 83 on Thursday), 64 of whom were on ventilators (down from 69 on Thursday). However, the ministry reported an uptick of 63 new infections over the previous 24 hours. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Extend the Arms Embargo on Iran - Richard Goldberg and Mark Dubowitz
    In line with a request issued Monday by 387 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is preparing a diplomatic campaign to block one of the most damaging concessions enshrined by the Iran nuclear deal - the lifting of the international arms embargo on Iran this October. It makes little sense to lift an arms embargo on a regime that has steadily increased its violent behavior over the past year, ranging from cruise missile strikes on Saudi oil infrastructure to mine attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf and rocket attacks on American and British forces in Iraq.
        The first phase of Pompeo's plan is to propose a new UN Security Council resolution to extend the arms embargo on Tehran indefinitely. Russia and China are expected to block the proposal. The Pentagon reports that Beijing and Moscow are planning to sell Iran fighter jets, main battle tanks, attack helicopters and modern naval capabilities. Tehran is likely to proliferate some of this advanced weaponry to Hizbullah, Shiite militias in Iraq, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and the Houthis in Yemen.
        In phase two, Pompeo intends to use the self-destruct - or "snapback" - mechanism of the nuclear deal to block the sunset of the arms embargo, removing the need for an extension. This mechanism gave all original parties to the nuclear deal - including the U.S. - the right to snap all UN sanctions and embargoes back into place if the Iranian regime ever breached its nuclear commitments. Such breaches are now indisputable.
        Richard Goldberg, who served at the U.S. National Security Council, is a senior advisor at the FDD, where Mark Dubowitz is chief executive officer. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
        See also Iran Military Power: Ensuring Regime Survival and Securing Regional Dominance (U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency)
  • IRGC-Affiliated Mahan Air Is to Blame for Spreading the Coronavirus in the Middle East - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Mahan Air's involvement helping to promote the regional and international activity of the Quds Force - the special-operations, terrorism, and subversion arm of the IRGC - is well known. Mahan Air was blacklisted several times by the U.S. Treasury Department for helping the Quds Force ferry IRGC fighters and advisers, foreign fighters, weapons, and logistical assistance to the different arenas in which Iran meddles, particularly Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, while also helping to further Iran's plans to develop weapons of mass destruction.
        Mahan Air's close ties to the IRGC are what enabled it to keep flying around the world so extensively despite the flight ban, to keep promoting the IRGC's economic and "security" ties, and particularly to continue the aid to Hizbullah in Lebanon; to the pro-Iran Shiite militias in Iraq, which was politically unstable and needed Iranian involvement so as to elect a prime minister "to its taste"; to Syria; and to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
        On May 4, a BBC investigation revealed that a large number of the airline's cabin-crew showed Covid-19 symptoms, but when they tried to inform the company's management and obtain protective equipment, they were silenced and told to keep flying. This conduct was among the main causes of the spread of the virus. The writer, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, is a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Is Israel's Strategy Against Iran in Syria Working? - Jonathan Spyer
    The long Israeli campaign against Iranian attempts to consolidate in Syria has been partially successful. Israel has prevented Iran from constructing in Syria a situation analogous to that of Hizbullah's missile infrastructure in Lebanon. Moreover, the Iranian regional project is today in considerable difficulty. U.S. sanctions have sharply reduced the amount of money available for Iran's regional goals. In addition, the assassination of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani has clearly left a large void which has not yet been filled.
        At the same time, claims that Iran is now reducing its presence are not accurate, since the Iranian conventional presence on the ground in Syria has been in a process of reduction since 2018 after most major combat operations had concluded.
        The Iranian presence in Syria is deep and multifaceted. There are Iranian IRGC and Quds Force personnel. There are IRGC/Hizbullah positions located within official Syrian Arab Army facilities. There are homegrown, locally-recruited, "Syrian Hizbullah"-type formations. There are non-Syrian proxy militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. All this together has resulted in a contiguous area of Iranian control in Syria stretching from the Albukamal border crossing with Iraq to just east of Quneitra, near the Israeli border.
        From the Iranian point of view, this infrastructure, and Syria generally, constitute a central interest. Without it, Iran would lose a vital access route to its franchise in Lebanon, to the Mediterranean Sea, and to the borders of Israel. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Rule or Ruse of Law in the International Criminal Court? - Prof. Gregory Rose and Maurice Hirsch
    The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute the most heinous international crimes where there is no national court that can do so. With convictions in only four cases in 18 years, it is doubtful that potential offenders are deterred. Its convictions have all been for crimes in Africa where national courts were unable to prosecute.
        In actual practice, the ICC brand is tarnished: it is political in essence, defective in execution, and undermining the very tenets of law it was set up to protect. Most UN Security Council permanent members and the emerging global powers declined to sign the Rome Statute establishing the ICC. Israel also never joined the court.
        Gregory Rose is a professor of law at the University of Wollongong in Australia. Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, served in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. (Australian Outlook-Australian Institute of International Affairs)
        See also The Failure of the International Criminal Court (ICC) - Amb. Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Why Does the World Health Organization Target Israel? - Mitchell Bard
    The World Health Organization (WHO) has been spreading lies and hatred about Israel for years and has operated like a propaganda agency for the enemies of Israel - the only democracy in the Middle East. A year ago, WHO member countries voted 96 to 11 - with the U.S. in opposition - for an annual resolution blaming Israel for "health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syria Golan." Out of 21 items on the WHO agenda, the only one focused on a specific country applied to Israel. This targeting of Israel has been going on since at least 2000.
        As UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer has noted, "Anyone who has ever walked into an Israeli hospital or clinic knows that they are providing world-class health care to thousands of Palestinian Arabs." During five years of the Syrian civil war until 2018, the Israel Defense Forces brought more than 4,900 Syrians - including 1,300 children - to Israeli hospitals for medical assistance. Even Palestinian leaders send their family members to Israeli hospitals. Moreover, Israel is doing a great deal to help the Palestinians contain the coronavirus outbreak. (Fox News)
  • Time for the EU to Put All of Hizbullah on Its Terror List - Ksenia Svetlova
    Not only Germany, but also Argentina, Colombia and Brazil have recently decided to designate Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. When Hizbullah traffics drugs, illicit tobacco, weapons or diamonds through Hamburg port or through porous borders in Latin America or East Africa, this dirty money will be later used to send rockets on the civilian population in Israel, kill more Syrians, and perform terror attacks in Europe or Arab states.
        That's why the EU and countries around the world should follow the example of Germany and put the entire Hizbullah on its terror list, in an effort to eradicate Hizbullah's power and global presence. The writer, a former Israeli Knesset member, is director of the program on Israel-Middle East relations at the Mitvim Institute and is a senior research analyst at the Institute for Policy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya. (Al-Arabiya)

  • Weekend Features

  • In Midst of Pandemic, an Israeli Defense Company Quietly Changed the Face of Hospitals - Yaakov Lappin
    "Part of the Israeli DNA is to face up to missions together," said Irit Idan, executive vice president and head of research and development at Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. "This is our nature as a nation. From the moment that this [coronavirus] incident began rolling, Rafael started floating many ideas on how we can assist the health-care system."
        The company sought to upgrade the medical establishment's capabilities and Idan led the company's assistance program for hospitals. She said the first step involved getting a good understanding of what medical personnel on the new frontlines needed most. Rafael's first conclusion was that the principal problem faced by hospitals was the entry of medical teams into hazardous, virus-filled environments during their day-to-day work. This led to a series of groundbreaking solutions.
        Rafael made a robotic assistance tool, currently roaming hospital corona wards, that comes into close contact with Covid-19 patients in place of nurses. The robot, which conducts tasks such as food distribution and logistics, can navigate its own way around the hospital and bring trays directly to beds. The robots are also used to enable patients to communicate with family and friends through audio and video links.
        A second problem identified by Idan and her team was the need to remotely transmit medical readings of patients back to nurses and doctors to reduce their risk of infection. Critically ill patients hooked up to life-support machines have readings of vital signs that must be constantly monitored.
        Rafael fitted ventilators and nourishment machines with communication cables to transmit the readings back to a separate room, or installed a computer card to the back of the machines that sent them to a nurses' room via WiFi. "Now, they can always monitor the patients' readings without needing to go in," said Idan. (JNS)
        See also Israeli Army's Idea Lab Battles the Coronavirus - David M. Halbfinger (New York Times)
  • Remembering Jewish Heroism on V-E Day - Michael Freund
    On May 8, 1945, 75 years ago, the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied forces brought the European conflict in World War II to a decisive end. America and many European countries declared May 8 as V-E (Victory in Europe) Day. V-E Day deserves far more attention, if only to serve as a reminder of the largely untold chapter of the Jewish contribution to the war against Hitler.
        According to Yad Vashem, 1.5 million Jews fought on behalf of the Allied forces in World War II, with 500,000 serving in the Soviet Red Army, 550,000 in the U.S. Armed Forces, and 30,000 in the British Armed Forces, including units such as the Jewish Brigade, which consisted of volunteers from pre-state Israel. Another 100,000 Jews fought in the Polish army against the German invasion in September 1939.
        An estimated 250,000 Jewish soldiers gave their lives in the war. 120,000 Jewish servicemen in the Red Army were killed in the line of duty and another 80,000 were captured and murdered by the Germans as prisoners of war. 10,000 American Jewish soldiers died fighting Hitler, and 30,000 Polish Jews either "fell in battle, were taken captive by the Germans or declared missing during the battles defending Poland," said Yad Vashem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Unsung Jewish Heroes Who Helped UK in Battle of Britain - Robert Philpot
    As the UK prepares to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain this summer - when the air force successfully repelled a planned German invasion - London's RAF Museum's new Jewish "Hidden Heroes" project aims to raise awareness about the role played by Jewish personnel in the RAF during WWII. More than 50 surviving Jewish RAF veterans, together with their families and friends, have submitted their stories.
        Michael Oser Weizmann, son of Chaim Weizmann, Israel's first president, was an RAF pilot. He worked for the Coastal Command Development Unit, tasked with developing new technologies and tactics for coastal command aircraft in the Battle of the Atlantic. Weizmann, who flew Whitley bombers, was killed at the age of 25 in February 1942, when his plane ditched in the Bay of Biscay near France. His body was never recovered.
        The museum has calculated that 20,000 Jews - 6% of the UK Jewish population at the time - served in the RAF during the war. Of these, 900 lost their lives. Moreover, the proportion of Jews who participated in the Battle of Britain is believed to have been more than double their 0.5% of the UK population.
        "Jews fought back - and nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the actions of the Jewish men and women of the wartime Royal Air Force," the project's historian, Joshua Levine, wrote in the RAF Association magazine this month. (Times of Israel)

  • Unequivocally, Israel can apply sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and in its communities in Judea and Samaria, and attempts to stoke fears in this regard are unbecoming and misleading.
  • The Palestinian Authority will continue to exist, similar to the Hamas regime in Gaza. The Americans don't view this as a problem and don't believe that a demilitarized PA is a problem in terms of international law.
  • The diplomatic world is flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of solutions. Just to illustrate - the Vatican is a state for all intents and purposes, it issues passports and operates diplomatic embassies, and is even a member of the UN.
  • The world of defense and security, on the other hand, is rigid. Israel's security cannot be played with. In order to exist and prosper, Israel needs the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria, not including areas under PA control.
  • Questions regarding the stability of the PA and Jordan are completely irrelevant to the issue of applying sovereignty. The PA can collapse the moment Mahmoud Abbas resigns, and Jordan is a country whose future is shrouded in fog.
  • In the Jordanian context, the long-term solution is to install security mechanisms similar to Israel's other borders where it only relies on itself for protection. As for the possibility of the PA's collapse, Israel will have to consider transferring control to the powerful clans inside the Palestinian cities.

    The writer has more than 30 years of military and national defense experience, concluding his service as Head of the Auditing and Consulting Department of the Israeli Defense Establishment (including the Israel Defense Forces, the Ministry of Defense and Israeli Military Industries).
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