May 21, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Saudi Arabia, Gulf States See Coronavirus Cases Spike during Ramadan - Sarah Dadouch (Washington Post)
    Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab countries are seeing a sharp spike in coronavirus cases, prompting governments to reimpose some restrictions that had been lifted.
    In less than a month since Ramadan began, the number of cases in Saudi Arabia has quadrupled to nearly 60,000 as of Wednesday.
    Confirmed infections in Kuwait are up nearly sevenfold since the first day of Ramadan to 16,800 on Tuesday. In Qatar, the number of cases has quadrupled to 37,000.
    Infections have also surged in the UAE, Oman and Bahrain. Many of the new cases are in the large communities of foreign workers in these countries.

Iran Says 10,000 Health Workers Infected with Coronavirus (Reuters)
    "Around 10,000 health workers have been infected with the deadly [Covid-19] disease in Iran and some of them have died," Qassem Janbabai, Iran's deputy health minister, said Thursday.

Hamas Leader: Iran Is Our Top Financial and Military Supporter - Ismaeel Naar (Al Arabiya)
    Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas' political bureau, saluted the Islamic Republic of Iran for being its top financial and military supporter, in a video speech broadcast Wednesday.
    "I am particularly specifying the Islamic Republic of Iran which has not faltered in supporting and funding the resistance financially, militarily, and technically," Haniyeh said.

Pandemic Slows, But Not Stops, Hamas' Terrorism Industry - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    Hamas leaders "haven't stopped trying to conduct terror attacks in the West Bank, and Israel hasn't stopped foiling them," said Reuven Erlich, director of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
    In 2019, the Israel Security Agency, together with the IDF, foiled more than 500 significant terror attacks, including bombings, shootings and kidnappings, many of them planned by Hamas and many targeting Israeli cities.

Coronavirus Triggers Extremist Anti-Israel Rhetoric (Anti-Defamation League)
    Criticism leveled at Israel in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has veered into extremism and anti-Semitism, especially accusations that Israel or Zionists created and spread the coronavirus or are taking advantage of the pandemic for personal gain.

Iraq Arrests ISIS Leader al-Baghdadi's Successor - Ismaeel Naar (Al Arabiya)
    Iraqi intelligence has arrested Abdulnasser al-Qirdash, the ISIS leader said to be a favored candidate to succeed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was killed by U.S. forces in a raid in the Syrian city of Idlib last October, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service said.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • By Design, Cyberattack on Iran Port Was Limited - Ronen Bergman and David M. Halbfinger
    According to high-ranking intelligence officials and experts in the Middle East who are kept informed of covert Israeli actions in the region, the attack on the computer systems at Iran's Shahid Rajaee port in the Strait of Hormuz was limited in scope, creating traffic jams of delivery trucks and some delays in shipments, but causing no substantial or lasting damage.
        The purpose of Israel's relatively small-scale effort was to retaliate for the Iranian attack on Israel's water system. Israeli officials identified the malware as coming from an offensive cyber-unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The site in Iran was specifically chosen as a non-central target, with an intent to send a warning. (New York Times)
        See also Expert: Cyberattack on Iran Port Showed only Fraction of Israel's Capabilities - Benjamin Kerstein
    Lotem Finkelstein, the Threat Intelligence Group manager at Check Point Software and an expert on cyberdefense, told Israeli news site N12 that in the cyberattack on Iran's Shahid Rajaee port, Israel "didn't use the strongest tools." He noted that Iran was at the top of Israel's security priorities and that Israel possessed substantial information on Iran's cybersecurity weaknesses and could "darken Iranian cities."  (Algemeiner)
  • U.S. Sanctions Former Iranian Intelligence Chief behind Deadly Bombings of Jewish Targets
    The State Department on Wednesday announced financial sanctions and visa restrictions on 12 Iranian individuals and entities under human rights-related authorities. The individuals include Ali Fallahian, who served as the head of Iran's intelligence service (MOIS) from 1989 to 1997. He was involved in multiple attacks across the globe, including the 1995 killing of Alisa Flatow, 20, a U.S. exchange student who was killed in a suicide bombing in Gaza. He also bears responsibility for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 individuals. (U.S. State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • The Knesset Marks Jerusalem Day
    Jerusalem Day, celebrated from Thursday evening until Friday evening, is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War. During a special Knesset session on Wednesday marking Jerusalem Day, Speaker of the Knesset MK Yariv Levin addressed the criticism at the time of the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.
        Levin denounced the "experts at instilling fear, the 'it won't work' professors and the members of the 'sorry we won' choir, who explain to us that we shouldn't make the effort, that it is dangerous to dare; who convince us that if we aspire for more, we will lose what we have. They tell us that it is better to remain on the step we are standing on. That we should wait for other times, when the 'world' will agree. But Jerusalem despises these experts."  (The Knesset)
  • Iranian Hackers Launch Cyberattack on Israeli Websites - Uri Berkovitz
    Iranian hackers launched an orchestrated cyberattack on Israeli websites on Thursday. Users reaching certain websites were greeted by statements such as, "The countdown of Israel destruction has begun since a long time ago." Users reaching such websites are advised to immediately exit and, as an extra precaution, turn off their screen camera. (Globes)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Must Israeli Steps Depend on Regional Consent? - Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen
    Warnings from King Abdullah of Jordan and PA President Mahmoud Abbas against Israel's planned application of sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria seek to make such Israeli steps conditional upon regional consent. A dynamic has developed in which the behavior of its neighbors toward Israel is reminiscent of demanding protection money to be left alone.
        The Hashemite Kingdom plays an important and welcome role in keeping the peace along the Israeli-Jordanian border, but some experts are recommending that because of that, Israel should refrain from taking action on behalf of its own interests in the Jordan Valley.
        The writer, a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, served in the IDF for 42 years, commanding troops in battle on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. (Israel Hayom)
  • Does Israel Have U.S. Support to Apply Sovereignty to Parts of Judea and Samaria? - Israel Kasnett
    The U.S. Mideast peace plan includes applying Israeli law to the Jordan Valley, and parts of Judea and Samaria. Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S. politics and foreign policy, and a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told JNS that it's possible that the entire idea of applying Israeli law to these areas will not materialize due to conflicts within the White House. Israel must have the full-fledged support of the U.S., and, according to Gilboa, that remains uncertain. "There are all kinds of mixed messages."  (JNS)

Applying Israeli Sovereignty to Parts of Judea and Samaria according to the U.S. Peace Plan - Implications - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Until Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Jerusalem on May 13, the Americans said that the decision to apply Israeli sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, including the timing and details, was in Israel's hands. However, in the wake of the visit, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told Israeli journalists, "We really think this should be part of a peace process where Palestinians should have a say."
  • For Israel this would mean a very significant change, since an important component of the U.S. peace plan was the removal of the Palestinians' veto over altering the reality on the ground. It seems there are differing approaches on the issue within the U.S. government.
  • While the Israeli sovereignty move will incense the Palestinians, it is likely that the Palestinian Authority, which the Palestinians consider the most important achievement of their national movement, will continue to exist and will maintain a certain level of security cooperation with Israel in order to prevent the strengthening of its political enemies, particularly Hamas.
  • In any case, Israel does not intend to rule the Palestinians or apply its sovereignty to the Palestinian-populated parts of Judea and Samaria, nor, of course, to Gaza. So any alleged threat to Israel's Jewish and democratic identity is completely baseless.
  • The U.S. peace plan offers a realistic approach and understands that the false Palestinian narrative is the main obstacle to peace. This narrative asserts that there is no Jewish people, the Jews had no history of sovereignty in the Land of Israel, the Zionists are intolerable creatures, Zionism is the handiwork of colonialism, and until the injustice of the Jewish state's existence is fully rectified, the Palestinians must fight Zionism and refuse to come to terms with the Jewish nation-state's existence.
  • The application of Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria is not an obstacle to a two-state solution but an opportunity. Making that move requires the Israeli prime minister to accept the U.S. peace plan - which includes a future Palestinian state - as a basis for negotiations. Precisely because the plan is comfortable for Israel, and because of Israel's trust in the Trump administration, Israel will be prepared to accept the principle of a Palestinian state, under certain conditions, as an aspect of a settlement.
  • Extending Israel's sovereignty to the Jordan Valley will not have immediate security benefit compared with the prevailing status quo. It may even have some negative impact, but in the long run it will send a clear message that Israel is determined to have this area, which is critical for its security, as its eastern border.
  • If the U.S. supports Israel's unilateral implementation of sovereignty under the peace plan, according to the conditions it laid down for Israel, and if Israel does not exploit the current set of circumstances to apply its law/sovereignty in keeping with the plan, it could be regretted for generations.

    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center, was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

        See also Video: Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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