May 11, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

1,300 French Jews Have Died of Covid-19 - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    At least 1,300 members of France's Jewish community have died of Covid-19, the French Chevra Kadisha burial service said. Hundreds have been flown to be buried in Israel.
    Jews make up about 5% of the Covid-19 fatalities recorded in France, a death toll six times larger than their share of the population.

Report: PA Is Eradicating a Hasmonean-Era Fortress in Samaria (JNS)
    The Palestinian Authority, taking advantage of the absence of Civil Administration inspectors during the coronavirus shutdown, is consolidating its takeover of Tel Aroma, a Hasmonean fortress in Samaria, according to Israeli NGO Regavim.
    On Sunday, a fleet of heavy engineering tools from the PA arrived at the site and paved a road leading toward the remains of the fortress.
    Situated on a commanding ridge controlling the passage between the Jordan Valley and the heart of Samaria, Tel Aroma is the northernmost of eight fortresses established by the Hasmonean Kingdom to protect Israel's eastern border. The Hasmoneans were the descendants of the Maccabees.
    Senior PA officials recently held a ceremony to declare the fortress a "Palestinian Heritage Site," though their installations at the site have caused the destruction of the fortress wall and reservoirs.

Iran Continues Entrenchment Efforts in Syria - Col. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Kam (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
    The Iranians have invested great efforts to build a stronghold of influence in the Syrian theater that will fortify the Shiite axis from Iran to Lebanon and provide Iran with access to the Mediterranean Sea.
    From the perspective of the Iranian regime, Syria serves as a forward defensive line. It is important to Iran to maintain military forces there - most are Shiite militias under Iranian command.
    No less important, the stronghold is meant to help create an additional front against Israel from the direction of the Golan Heights and to strengthen Hizbullah by improving its large missile arsenal.
    The continued Israeli air strikes in Syria against Iranian/Shiite targets show that Iran is continuing its military entrenchment efforts there.
    Iran's determination can also be seen in the increased activity of the Revolutionary Guard and the Shiite militias in the fighting in the Idlib region since early 2020, and the ongoing attacks by Iraqi Shiite militias associated with Iran against American bases in Iraq.
    The writer, who served in the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is Deputy Director of INSS.

Israeli Drone Equipped with Inflatable Life-Rafts for Maritime Rescue (DefenseWorld.net)
    Elbit's Hermes 900 maritime patrol drone has been equipped with inflatable life-rafts to improve its search and rescue capabilities.
    The Israeli company delivered such a drone to a Southeast Asian customer recently.
    The Hermes 900, capable of more than 24 hours of continuous flight in adverse weather conditions, can carry up to four, six-person life-rafts integrated on its wings and dispatch them from a low altitude of 600 feet.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Naval Vessel Sinks Another during Exercise, at Least 19 Killed - Farnaz Fassihi
    During a military exercise in the Sea of Oman on Sunday, the Iranian missile boat Konarak was hit and sunk by a missile from the frigate Jamaran by mistake, leaving at least 19 people dead and 20 other crewmembers missing. The Konarak had guided a target out to sea to help the Jamaran testfire a missile. The Konarak had not sufficiently distanced itself from the target when the missile was fired and the missile slammed into the ship.
        Together with the downing of the Ukrainian airliner, the incident undermines an effort by Iran to present its military as a force capable of countering the U.S. and its regional allies. (New York Times)
  • Iran-Linked Hackers Target U.S. Coronavirus Drugmaker Gilead - Jack Stubbs and Christopher Bing
    Hackers linked to Iran have targeted staff at U.S. drugmaker Gilead Sciences Inc. in recent weeks, as the company races to deploy a treatment for the Covid-19 virus. Ohad Zaidenberg, lead intelligence researcher at Israeli cybersecurity firm ClearSky, said the attempt was part of an effort by an Iranian group to compromise email accounts of staff at the company using messages that impersonated journalists. Reuters has reported in recent weeks that hackers with links to Iran have also attempted to break into the World Health Organization. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Internal Hamas Tensions May Prevent a Prisoner Release Deal with Israel - Pinhas Inbari
    While there are talks about a possible prisoner exchange deal with Israel, there is no single, strong Hamas leader in Gaza who is free to make such decisions. According to Palestinian sources in Ramallah, not everyone in Hamas' decision-making Shura council is on the same page.
        Competing leaders include council head Yahya Sinwar; Fathi Hamad, who represents the northern part of Gaza; Mahmoud al-Zahar, who represents Iranian interests; Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas Politburo; former Politburo head Khaled Mashal; and Saleh al-Arouri, based in Turkey.
        Egypt, through Sinwar, wants to collect the political rewards of a prisoner deal, while Qatar, together with Turkey, wants to spoil such a deal, as does Iran. As long as Sinwar cannot convince his colleagues, who are influenced by distant powers, he cannot cut a deal that Israel could accept. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs correspondent, is an analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 254
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 254 (up from 245 on Friday), the Israeli Health Ministry said Monday morning. 73 people were in serious condition (down from 77 on Friday), 64 of whom were on ventilators (no change from Friday). 4,690 people are currently infected, while 11,548 patients have recovered. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Ambassador Slams New York Times for Slandering IDF - Yoni Hersch
    Israel's Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, has criticized the New York Times over an article pointing out that the IDF's research and development efforts, which have proven crucial in Israel's battle against the coronavirus, are predominately dedicated to devising ways to counter Israel's enemies. The article, published on Thursday, noted, "The Israeli Defense Ministry's research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to kill people and blow things up."
        Dermer responded: "The New York Times, which buried the Holocaust, is best known for pioneering ways to libel and demonize the Jewish State." American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called the phrasing "vile," saying it "should read: Israeli Defense Ministry's research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to defend #Israel since 1948 from annihilation."  (Israel Hayom)
        See also ADL Protests New York Times Description of Israeli Defense (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Real Victims of the International Criminal Court's Obsession with Israel - Brandon Silver and Elyakim Rubinstein
    The founding of the International Criminal Court crystallized the notion that mass atrocity necessitates a collective response, and that no perpetrator, no matter how powerful, can enjoy impunity. But the court has abdicated these responsibilities by prioritizing the most politically expedient cases, absolving those responsible for the gravest of crimes.
        The sad reality is that the court appears to have no time, resources or inclination to investigate atrocities suffered by Syrian civilians, Iranian dissidents, the Uigurs in China, or the Venezuelan people - but boundless patience in engineering a tendentious judicial framework in order to target Israel.
        The court launched an "Inquiry into the Situation in Palestine," to cover alleged crimes committed in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, despite the fact that Israel is not a member state of the court, and based on a referral by Palestine, which is not yet a state. The Pre-Trial Chamber prejudicially pre-empted the entire process by issuing an unprecedented order for the establishment of "outreach activities among...the victims of the situation in Palestine" with the goal of "facilitating [their] participation," before the Prosecutor had decided whether to pursue the case, the first time such a move had been made in the court's history.
        Moreover, in this case, the Prosecutor engaged those with ties to terrorism, misrepresented legal scholarship in her submission, and heavily relied on non-legally binding political resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council, which is run by the very human rights violators the court is supposed to hold accountable and is notorious for singling out Israel for discriminatory and disproportionate opprobrium.
        No one should be above the law - including Israelis - but everyone should be entitled to equality under the law. The current direction of the court is prejudicial to the interests of justice.
        Brandon Silver is the Director of Policy and Projects at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. Justice Professor Elyakim Rubinstein is the former Deputy President of the Supreme Court of Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Australian Government Tells ICC: Palestine Is "Not a State" - Ben Doherty
    The Australian government has told the International Criminal Court it should not investigate alleged war crimes in Palestine because Palestine is "not a state." Australia's submission at The Hague, filed by Australia's ambassador to the Netherlands, Matthew Neuhaus, states: "Australia's position is clear: Australia does not recognize the 'State of Palestine.' As such, Australia does not recognize the right of the Palestinians to accede to the Rome Statute (the treaty which established the ICC)."
        Australia argues Palestine's accession to the Rome Statute in 2015 did not make it a state, and that the UN secretary-general's acceptance of that accession is an "administrative act that does not confer a particular status, including statehood." Australia's position is that the question of Palestinian statehood cannot be resolved before a negotiated peace settlement. (Guardian-UK)

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in an interview last week:
  • "There are three categories of territory in Area C [of the West Bank]: There's the area that is populated by Jewish communities and sovereignty allows these communities to grow significantly. That's the majority - let's call that 97% of the population - and in those areas, there's no restriction on growth. For example, Ariel will be the same as Tel Aviv."
  • "Category No. 2 is the half of Area C that will be reserved for the Palestinians [for four years], and there will be no building there - from either side - Israelis or Palestinians."
  • "Then there's a third category, called the 'enclaves' or the 'bubbles.' This is 3%, the Jewish communities that are remote. And so, what happens to them is, Israel declares sovereignty over those communities, but they don't expand - they can expand up but they can't expand out. So as to the vast majority of settlements, the rules would be the same as in the Green Line."
  • "The primary task belongs to the Israeli side because they're the ones that have to come up with what's best for the State of Israel. The overriding requirement [is] that the Israeli portion of Area C will not exceed 50% of Area C [which is] 30% of the West Bank....People on the Israeli side want to be ready to go July 1."
  • "[Some] say they can't agree to a Palestinian state, because the Palestinian state will be a terrorist state that will continue to threaten Israel, will continue to incite, pay terrorists, [and] we can't live with them. I understand them, but [we are saying] you don't have to live with that Palestinian state, you have to live with the Palestinian state when the Palestinians become Canadians. And when the Palestinians become Canadians, all your issues should go away."
  • "We are not going for the approach...[like] administrations in the past [that] were willing to overlook the risks of living side-by-side with the Palestinians....If they can't achieve those milestones in the plan, we...have no interest in recognizing any state...that's going to be a terrorist state or a theocracy or one that glorifies terrorism. We don't want it for us, let alone Israel."

Daily Alert was prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations from May 3, 2002, to April 30, 2020.
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