May 28, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Cyber Czar Warns of More Attacks from Iran - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD) chief Yigal Unna said Wednesday that in April 2020 Israel faced a "synchronized and organized attack" targeting civilian water infrastructure.
    He noted that when various chemicals are mixed with water in the wrong proportions - which could happen due to a hack - it "can be harmful and disastrous."
    The attack was "very directly aiming to cause damage in real life in the real arena through...ICS [Industrial Control Systems] controllers, something that could have caused a lot of damage."
    "This is the first time we can see something like that aiming to cause damage to real life...not to data."
    "It wasn't one or two controllers. It was a... wide spectrum of attacks aiming specifically at energy and water, and the only reason it failed was...our efforts, the INCD preparedness."
    "We managed to mitigate it and overcome it, but I'm afraid it's only the sign of the first major attack of a new era, on humanitarian targets.... The level of attacks will probably get more sophisticated and deadlier."

Israeli Doctors Flew to Sudan to Try to Save Diplomat behind Secret Ties (Times of Israel)
    Israel sent doctors to Sudan in an attempt to save the life of diplomat Najwa Gadaheldam who was sick with Covid-19, who managed the clandestine ties between Jerusalem and Khartoum, but 24 hours after their arrival she passed away, Channel 13 reported Wednesday.

Russia Deploys MiG-29s Against Turkey in Libya - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Russia has deployed MiG-29s and Su-24 jets to Libya after ten Russian Pantsir air defense systems there were reportedly destroyed by Turkish drones.
    Turkey has poured Syrian mercenaries and its Bayraktar drones into Tripoli to support the government of western Libya in a civil war with the eastern Libyan government of Khalifa Haftar.

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Saudi Writer: "The Interest of the Arab Homeland Lies with Israel" (MEMRI)
    On May 21, Saudi writer Khalid Turki Aal Turki wrote on the Arabic website Elaph.com:
    "Israel is a peace-loving country by any yardstick. From the day of its establishment until today, we have never heard, read or seen Israel working to spread any ideology or belief in other countries, or to support militias, as Iran and Turkey are doing."
    "Israel dispatches doctors to treat the sick in impoverished African countries and elsewhere without recompense. It also treats many Palestinians, even some who tried to commit terror attacks to murder innocent Israelis!"
    "In fact, it has become the preferred location for medical treatment for many, to the point that senior Palestinian officials do not find a better place than Israel for receiving good medical treatment and care."
    "I believe that, by any logic and in view of reality, the interest of the Arab homeland lies with Israel."

Cameraman Who Criticized Palestinian Authority Fired from Associated Press - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Eyad Hamad, 63, a veteran Palestinian cameraman from Bethlehem, said on Wednesday that he was fired from the Associated Press (AP) after the Palestinian Authority filed a "complaint" against him.
    Hamad, who has worked for AP for 20 years, said he had criticized the Palestinian security forces for arresting and beating Palestinian journalist Anas Hawwari.
    The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate condemned the "arbitrary dismissal" of the cameraman.

One-Minute Electro-Optical Coronavirus Test Developed at Ben-Gurion University (Ben-Gurion University)
    Ben-Gurion University's Prof. Gabby Sarusi has developed a one-minute electro-optical test of nose, throat or breath samples that will identify both asymptomatic and affected carriers of Covid-19 virus in under one minute with greater than 90% accuracy.
    It does not require a lab environment so it can be deployed at critical locations such as airports, border crossings, and healthcare facilities.
    Initial clinical trials completed with the Israel Defense Ministry on more than 150 Israelis had a better than 90% success rate.

More than 2,000 Anti-Semitic Crimes in Germany, Highest Rate since 2001 - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    Anti-Semitic crime in Germany reached its highest rate since 2001, authorities announced on Wednesday, with more than 2,000 crimes targeting Jews in 2019, 13% higher than in 2018.
    The Berlin paper Tagesspiegel reported, "most offenses against Jews are assigned to right-wing offenders."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Ends Sanction Waivers Allowing Foreign Companies to Work on Iran's Civilian Nuclear Projects - Nicole Gaouette
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday the end of waivers that allowed companies from Europe, Russia and China to cooperate with Iran on civil nuclear projects under the 2015 nuclear deal. (CNN)
        See also Keeping the World Safe from Iran's Nuclear Program - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
    "A regime that just days ago invoked "The Final Solution" and which regularly threatens to wipe Israel off the map must never obtain a nuclear weapon. The United States welcomes the international community's widespread condemnation of the regime's recent anti-Semitic statements. The regime's vile rhetoric only strengthens the international community's resolve to counter its threats."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also Background Briefing: U.S. to Deny Iran All Paths to a Nuclear Weapon (U.S. State Department)
  • Former Peace Envoy Greenblatt: "Door to Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Remains Open" - Ray Hanania
    Jason Greenblatt, the architect of the U.S. Middle East peace vision, says peace is still possible if Palestinians abandon their rejection of the plan and negotiate with Israel. Greenblatt said, "The door to the White House to negotiate a peace agreement will remain open." But if the Palestinians wait too long "and annexation happens, then it happens."
        "How sad that the Palestinian leadership won't even engage and see if there is something in this plan that they can help shape differently....But to refuse to engage and see if you can make it better, to simply say these are my deal points and these are the only deal points that I will accept, no deal is going to happen that way and Israel will thrive and prosper and unfortunately the Palestinians will fall further and further behind. And that is a tragedy."
        "We can no longer let the Palestinian Authority have a veto on Israel's progress. I wish we could no longer let the Palestinian Authority have veto on Palestinian progress, but that is out of our hands....What they are asking for is not achievable and what they are asking for, in our view, is not grounded in rights."  (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Mossad Reports on Protective Gear and Medical Devices It Brought to Israel - Itamar Eichner
    An internal Mossad intelligence agency report obtained by Ynet on Tuesday describes the lifesaving gear the agency obtained to combat the coronavirus. The medical gear obtained since the start of the outbreak includes: 2.5 million protective goggles, with 5.5 million still to arrive; 80 million surgical face masks, with 142 million still to arrive; 1.3 million of N-95 type face masks, with 14 million still to arrive; 180 million elastic gloves; over 30 tons of disinfectants; and 1,300 ventilators, with another 4,700 expected to arrive between June and October.
        A further 3,500 Israeli-made ventilators will be provided to the Health Ministry by July - making a total of 9,500 ventilators by October. The report mentions four million protective vests and over two million coronavirus test kits, as well as 47 different medications. (Ynet News)
  • Coronavirus in Israel
    The number of active Covid-19 cases in Israel dropped to 1,942 on Wednesday evening (compared to 2,146 on Monday). However, 38 patients were on ventilators (up from 29 on Monday). 281 people have died. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Coronavirus and the Middle East - Col. (res.) Dr. Dan Gottlieb and Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar
    The collateral damage of the pandemic will be extremely meaningful for the Middle East beyond the direct medical implications. The sharp fall in oil prices resulting from reduced demand has badly hit the economies of oil-producing Arab countries. Countries that rely heavily on tourism (Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and, to a lesser extent, Israel) have suffered severely from the total halt in visitors.
        Government credibility all over the region has been challenged because of suspiciously low official figures on coronavirus victims. In Lebanon, unemployment has passed 40%, and there is a general expectation of a Hizbullah takeover. The Turkish lira has fallen again, and President Erdogan's popularity is in sharp decline. It is almost certain that Turkey's economic problems will have a significant influence on its intervention in Syria and Libya.
        The Palestinian issue has been pushed to the sidelines. One sees more and more people - mainly on social media - saying openly that they no longer care about the "Palestinian cause." The Arabic hashtag "Palestine is not my problem" has spread all over social media, though many oppose it.
        Every state in the region stands alone in its struggle against the virus and its ramifications. No one speaks of an Arab - let alone an Islamic - fraternity or solidarity, ideas that have been revealed once again as hollow rhetorical slogans.
        Col. (res.) Dr. Dan Gottlieb served four rounds of service in different parts of Africa. Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior research associate at the BESA Center, served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • PA Could Face Existential Threat If It Cuts Security Ties with Israel - Yaakov Lappin
    Palestinian Authority security forces have ceased taking calls from the IDF and are not conducting security coordination with Israel, Israel's Channel 11 reported on Monday, citing a senior Israeli defense source. "But the Palestinians know well, like we do, that they can't live without us," said the source.
        Col. (res.) Moshe Elad, one of the founders of the security coordination between the IDF and the PA, said Monday that the PA benefits greatly from Israel's operations and intelligence capabilities used to prevent Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from building an armed infrastructure in the West Bank. "The PA has a strategic need for coordination with Israel." As long as the cut in contacts remains in place, this would risk "an armed coup against them. Hamas has a presence in the West Bank. Without Israel, it would grow stronger," said Elad. (Israel Hayom-JNS)
  • How Israel and the Arab World Are Making Peace Without a Peace Deal - Aaron David Miller
    For the past five years, contacts between Israel and the Gulf states - especially Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain - have been booming. Trade between Israel and the Gulf states is now estimated at $1 billion a year. Much more on the intelligence and security side is reportedly happening below the waterline.
        Contrary to the warnings from diplomats, analysts and peaceniks who predicted Israel would become a pariah if it didn't settle up with the Palestinians, Israel seems to be making more progress toward normalization with Arab regimes without a credible peace process than with one.
        One of the reasons the Israeli-Arab state detente has gained traction is because it's homegrown - emerging from the perception of common threat. The rise of Iran and Sunni jihadists spewing terror across the region has created a narrow but important coincidence of interests between Israel and the Arab world. Increasing exhaustion and frustration with the never-ending Palestinian cause has opened up more space for Arab states to follow their own interests.
        Will the Israel-Arab state honeymoon last? The answer is probably yes, anchored as it is in self-interest. The writer is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment and a former State Department Middle East analyst and negotiator. (Politico)
  • Abbas' Gift to Hamas and Iran - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Saleh Arouri, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, has welcomed PA President Mahmoud Abbas' latest threat to renounce all agreements and understandings with Israel and the U.S., including security cooperation, adding that the return of "armed resistance" to the West Bank was now possible. "Since day one, we have rejected the Oslo Accords. We have also strongly opposed all security agreements [with Israel]." Abbas' threat is undoubtedly a precious gift not only to his Palestinian political rivals but also to Iran, whose leaders continue to talk about the need for "eliminating the Zionist regime."
        If Abbas goes through with his threat, that would mean an end to his efforts to prevent Iran's Palestinian proxies, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, from extending their control to the West Bank. Abbas could be paving the way for terrorists to kill him and his associates in the West Bank, as they already began to do in 2007 in Gaza and possibly again in a coup in 2014. Israel has been helping Abbas by routinely arresting Hamas members who pose a threat to his government. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Reduced Demand Has Complicated Plans for Eastern Mediterranean Gas - Simon Henderson
    Gas from Israel's new offshore Leviathan field began pumping into the Israeli grid this January. The Tamar field already meets domestic demand, so supplies from the newer field are sent on to Egypt and Jordan. At the moment, Egypt is using Leviathan gas strictly for its domestic market, but hopes to export to foreign markets via liquefied natural gas tankers. Those plans are on hold because that form is not viable under current international prices. The writer is director of the Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Questioning the Legitimacy of Israel's Existence Is Anti-Semitic - Zohar Levy
    Does the U.S. have a right to exist? Is the U.S. military a terrorist organization? Most Americans would reject these questions as unreasonable and unfair. Yet the Stanford community widely accepts these questions as justified when "U.S." is replaced with "Israel."
        As an Israeli-American student, I'm constantly asked to defend my nationality. Mentioning Israel, or even Hebrew, on campus immediately eliminates any of the social norms that empower us to respectfully engage in conversation. But questioning the legitimacy of Israel's very existence is anti-Semitic. Jews have a right to self-determination and national aspirations, just like all other people.
        Jewish nationalism stems from the constant marginalization and forced migration Jews have faced. I am a Zionist because my grandfather deserved a safe home after he was forced to flee Iraq in 1936, because my grandmother needed security after escaping Nazi-controlled Austria, and because my other grandmother has the right to continue her ninth-generation lineage of living in Jerusalem.
        The increasingly common belief that Zionism fundamentally denies Palestinians humanity or a homeland is both inaccurate and anti-Semitic. If the slander or abhorrent language were directed toward any other nationality, it would never be tolerated. Denying me, an Israeli citizen, protection from harassment and ignorance at Stanford is a tremendous oversight on the part of a community that prides itself on diversity, tolerance and open scholarly discourse. (Stanford Daily)
  • How to Solve the Palestinian Refugee Issue - Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf
    The Palestinian refugee issue is not just one more issue in the conflict; it is probably the issue. The Palestinian conception of themselves as "refugees from Palestine," and their demand to exercise a so-called right of return, reflect the Palestinians' most profound beliefs about their relationship with the land and their lack of willingness to share any part of it with Jews.
        The UN structural support and Western financial support for these Palestinian beliefs has led to the creation of a permanent and ever-growing population of Palestinian refugees, and what is by now a nearly insurmountable obstacle to peace. The Palestinian demand to "return" to what became the sovereign state of Israel in 1948 stands as a testament to the Palestinian rejection of the legitimacy of a state for the Jews in any part of their ancestral homeland.
        The UN agency (UNRWA) charged with caring for the original Palestinian refugees in the immediate aftermath of the war, and that has been sustained for decades by Western funding with billions of dollars, has instead become a major obstacle to peace and a vehicle for perpetuating the conflict. Since UNRWA is part of the problem, and not part of the solution, we call on the international community to dismantle and replace the agency.
        UNRWA's operations should be merged into those of the Palestinian Authority. From a practical perspective, nothing would change but the sign on the door. UNRWA schools would become PA schools, but the pupils, teachers, and curricula would remain the same. The same goes for hospitals. The writers are the co-authors of The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace. (Spectator-USA)

If Abbas Can Revoke Solemn Obligations over a Knesset Speech, of What Value Are Any Palestinian Commitments? - Amb. Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • On May 18, 2020, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority and Chair of the PLO, declared that "[t]he Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved from all agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and from all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones."
  • This raises several interesting legal and political questions regarding the veracity and credibility of all and any Palestinian commitments.
  • If the Palestinian leadership feels that it can glibly and freely revoke solemn obligations in signed agreements - witnessed and guaranteed by international leaders - merely at the whim of Mahmoud Abbas because he disapproves of speeches or Israeli policy statements, then one may ask what value or reliability do any Palestinian commitments - past, present or future - hold?
  • Abbas' declaration and actions are not in response to any specific Israeli action that might be interpreted as violating those agreements. The Palestinian actions are merely in response to a speech by Israel's prime minister expressing possible intentions to apply Israeli law or sovereignty to parts of the territories at a later date, but without such actions having been actually taken.
  • In light of Abbas' declaration, the question arises whether such abrogation, as well as the actual, unilateral violation by the Palestinian leadership of its commitments in the Oslo Accords, through actively obstructing and preventing security and other forms of bilateral cooperation, does not represent a material breach of those accords, rendering them impossible to implement, and thereby enabling Israel to declare them void.
  • One may even ask the international community what value exists in the continued Palestinian fixation of acceding to international conventions in violation of their Oslo commitments, when they demonstrate so assertively that they can freely violate any commitments in such conventions and agreements, for no good reason.

    The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
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