May 20, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Doubt Abbas' Latest Threats to Renounce All Agreements with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas threatened on Tuesday to renounce all agreements with Israel but stopped short of cancelling the agreements, Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.
    An official pointed out that Abbas' previous threats had failed to stop the U.S. from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving its embassy there.
    A senior PA security official said on Wednesday that he was unaware of any instruction from the Palestinian leadership to halt security coordination with Israel.
    A Fatah official said, "Since 2015, President Abbas has been reading from the same paper. How many times can you repeat the same threat? How can you renounce the same agreements you said you renounced five years ago? That's why Israel and many in the international community no longer take these threats seriously."
    A Ramallah-based veteran Palestinian journalist remarked, "Everyone knows that these threats are meaningless because, without the agreements with Israel, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority won't be able to survive for another day."

Iran's Khamenei Accuses UAE of "Treachery" after Humanitarian Aid Flight to Israel (AFP-i24News)
    Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of committing "treachery" and "betrayal" after its Etihad Airways cargo plane flew direct to Israel to deliver coronavirus aid to Palestinians.

2,000-Year-Old, 3-Room Complex Uncovered near Western Wall in Jerusalem - Amanda Borschel-Dan (Times of Israel)
    A two-millennia-old subterranean system of three rooms was recently uncovered near the Western Wall, chiseled by hand out of bedrock prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Tuesday.
    The complex was hidden for centuries under a 1,400-year-old Byzantine structure's mosaic floor.
    Inside the rooms are what looks to be niches for shelves and storage, as well as doorjambs and lantern niches, chiseled into the bedrock.
    "We found clay cooking vessels, cores of oil lamps used for light, a stone mug unique to Second Temple Period Jewish sites, and a fragment of a qalal - a large stone basin used to hold water, thought to be linked to Jewish practices of ritual purity," IAA archaeologists said.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • FBI Finds Links between Pensacola Gunman and Al-Qaeda - Katie Benner and Adam Goldman
    The Saudi Air Force cadet who killed three sailors in December at the Pensacola Naval Air Station was regularly in touch with al-Qaeda for years, including the night before the attack, the FBI said Monday. 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani had joined the Saudi military to carry out a "special operation," Attorney General William P. Barr said. The Pensacola attack was "the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation," said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. (New York Times)
  • Iran Cancels Anti-Israeli Rallies over Pandemic Fears
    Iran has cancelled nationwide anti-Israeli rallies scheduled for May 22 over worries about fresh spreading of the coronavirus. International Quds Day has been held in Iran since 1979 after Ayatollah Khomeini declared the last Friday of Ramadan as a day for all Muslims to express their rage at Israel and solidarity with Palestinians. This year, authorities are simply promoting a televised speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The decision to abandon such politically significant rallies signaled the extent to which the coronavirus is impacting on Iran. (Al-Monitor)
        See also Iran's Judiciary Spokesman: Israel's Annihilation Closer Every Year (Fars-Iran)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Six Facilities Hit in Iran's Cyberattack on Israel's Water System in April
    Six facilities were hit in an Iranian cyberattack in April on Israel's water infrastructure, Ynet News reported on Tuesday. At one facility, an "irregularity due to an unplanned change in data" was recorded. At another, a pump went into continuous operation, prompting operators to shut off its automatic mode. Hackers also succeeded in taking over the operating system at one site, while at another, changes were made to operating systems.
        At one facility, operators detected the cyberattack and immediately disconnected the site's systems, reset parameters and changed all the passwords. The hackers did succeed in wiping out information at one site, though it was later restored. In the wake of the attack, the Water Authority ordered that all passwords be changed at its installations. The Water Authority's cybersecurity chief said none of the incidents caused damage or affected water supplies or wastewater management. The Iranian attack was viewed as crossing a red line because it targeted civilian infrastructure. (Times of Israel)
        See also Damage to Israel from Iran's April Cyberattack Could Have Been Great - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The Iranian cyberattack on Israeli water and sewage facilities on April 24 could have paralyzed Israel's sewage systems, disrupting the water supply for farming and aggravating sanitation problems at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The potential damage to Israel by this attack could have been great. Therefore, Israel decided to respond severely and disproportionately. (Ynet News)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 278
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 278 (up from 277 on Tuesday), the Israeli Health Ministry said Wednesday morning. 38 people are on ventilators. 2,946 people are currently ill with the virus (compared with 3,074 on Tuesday). (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jordanian Caught Smuggling Weapons at Israeli Border - Ahiye Raved
    A Jordanian man, 49, was seen by Israeli security forces approaching the border from Jordan with a large sack just south of the Sea of Galilee. He ignored calls to stop and was shot in the leg. The forces found a host of weapons in the man's bag, including AK-47 rifles. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Can Jordan Revoke Its Peace Treaty with Israel? - Amb. Alan Baker
    Following warnings to Israel by King Abdullah of Jordan of a "massive conflict" if Israel proceeds with plans to apply Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria, some commentators raise the possibility that Jordan might revoke its Treaty of Peace with Israel.
        A peace treaty, by its very nature, is not limited by any specific time limit, and is not given to cancellation or revocation, unless by declaration of war or by an act of aggression by one of the parties. It is highly unlikely that Jordan would want to take such a step. A unilateral act by Israel of applying law or sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, even if not favored by Jordan, would not constitute an act of aggression against Jordan's sovereignty or territorial integrity and as such would not be grounds for revoking the treaty.
        Some of the central components of the peace relationship represent interests that are vital to Jordan such as water allocations, economic relations, Jordan's special historic role in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem, freedom of navigation and access to ports, and civil aviation and rights of overflight, including Jordanian overflight of Israeli territory to reach points in Europe. To cancel or revoke such vital components would not serve the interests of Jordan and would undermine its very stability.
        The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, as well as the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Twilight of the Iranian Revolution - Dexter Filkins
    In February, I paid a clandestine visit to a reformist leader in Tehran, who spent several years in prison but remains connected with like-minded officials in the regime. My host told me that public confidence in the theocratic system - installed after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 - has collapsed. Iran's ruling clerics have left the country economically hobbled and largely cut off from the rest of the world. "I would say 85% of the population hates the current system. But the system is incapable of reforming itself," my host said.
        This February 11, the 41st anniversary of the revolution, a celebration was scheduled for downtown Tehran. I was at a restaurant in the city when a waitress overheard me discussing plans to attend. "You're going?" she asked with a sneer. "They force people to be there - they blackmail them. They tell people that if they don't go they will lose their jobs." The sense of unreality accompanied me throughout my time in Iran.
        During my visit, President Rouhani held a press conference, and I asked him how many civilians the government had killed. He gave a rambling response. When I returned to my seat, an Iranian reporter, her face surrounded by a chador, turned to me and spoke loudly enough for much of the room to hear. "I noticed the President didn't answer your question," she said, in flawless English. "We hate him."  (New Yorker)

  • After decades of failed Palestinian-Israeli "peace processes," the Trump administration has indicated that it would not object if Israelis were to extend sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.
  • As international legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich has noted, "annexation" means taking over "territory that is under the sovereignty of another country." The West Bank is not that.
  • Under the White House peace plan, a future Palestinian state would rule more territory than the Palestinian Authority does now. However, that future state would have less land than Israeli leaders offered to Palestinian leaders in 2000, 2001 and 2008.
  • Where is it written that rejecting Israeli concessions will always lead to more concessions, even absent reciprocal concessions? Would it not be helpful to disabuse Palestinians of the belief that time is on the side of the rejectionists?
  • American friends may advise, but it is for Israelis to decide how best to defend themselves and their children from enemies who regard the "Palestinian cause" as the extermination of a small nation attempting to live peaceably in a corner of its ancestral homeland.

    The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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