June 25, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Coronavirus Cases in Israel Continue to Rise - Yaron Druckman (Ynet News)
    Israel's Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 473 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours.
    5,796 Israelis currently have the virus, with 46 in serious condition and 28 on ventilators. 189 patients are hospitalized. 16,990 tests were conducted on Wednesday.
    See also Israel Security Agency to Resume Mobile Phone Tracking to Monitor Covid-19 Patients (Calcalist)

Secret Iranian Facility Makes Solid Fuel for Missiles - Bozorgmehr Sharafedin (Reuters)
    At a site near Jajarm in northeast Iran, a secret facility set up by Iran's Revolutionary Guards is producing aluminum powder for use in its missile program, according to Amir Moghadam, a former Iranian official, and documents he shared with Reuters.
    Aluminum powder, derived from bauxite, is a key ingredient in solid-fuel propellants used to launch missiles.
    Moghadam, who left Iran in 2018 and now lives in France, said he wanted to expose the program because he believed Iran's missile ambitions were not in the interests of the Iranian people.

Suicide Bombing Targets Major Turkish Military Base in Somalia - Hussein Mohamed (New York Times)
    Two people were killed after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside Turkey's largest overseas military base in Mogadishu on Tuesday, Somali officials said.
    The attack was carried out as Somali recruits lined up for enlistment at Camp Turksom. The bomber posed as a potential recruit.
    A website linked to the Shabab said the group took responsibility for the attack.

Jordanian Ammunition Stash from Six-Day War Discovered near Jerusalem's Western Wall - James Rogers (Fox News)
    Archaeologists excavating beneath the entrance lobby of the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem found 10 full magazines for Bren light machine guns, along with two bayonets for British Lee Enfield rifles, the Israel Antiquities Authority reported.
    The ammunition stash was found hidden in a cistern from the British Mandate period, which ended in 1948.

Greece, Israel to Co-Produce Next-Generation Navy Corvette - Tasos Kokkinidis (Greek Reporter)
    Greece's ONEX Neorion Shipyards and Israel Shipyards Ltd. have signed an agreement on the co-production of the Themistocles corvette ship, the Greek shipyard announced Tuesday.
    The Themistocles combines the knowhow of the Greek, Israeli and U.S. shipbuilding industries and brings next-generation operational capabilities to future naval warfare.
    It can provide space for a medium-size marine helicopter, support the deployment of special forces units, and operate state-of-the-art weapons and electronic systems.
    Themistocles was the originator of Athenian sea power and was the chief savior of Greece from subjection by the Persian Empire at the Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pompeo: Extending Sovereignty Is Up to Israel
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday: "We unveiled a Middle East peace vision some number of months ago now, and we're continuing to work down that path. Decisions about Israel and extending sovereignty in other places are decisions for the Israelis to make and we are talking to all of the countries in the region about how we can manage this process for our end state objective. It's the objective that the [Israeli] prime minister has certainly acknowledged he wants. He wants our Middle East peace vision to be successful. The Gulf states have all indicated that they are hopeful that we can put that in place."
        "I regret only that the Palestinian Authority has refused to participate in that. They simply have rejected this out of hand. We simply asked that they come to the negotiating table based on what's outlined in the Vision for Peace, and they have chosen not to. They have chosen to threaten, to bluster, to assert that they're going to deny the ability to do security - that's not good for the Palestinian people. It's dangerous for the people that live in those places too."  (U.S. State Department)
  • U.S. Report Highlights Iran's Support for Terrorism
    In 2019, Iran supported terrorist organizations across the Middle East, including Hizbullah in Lebanon, Shiite groups in Iraq, and Palestinian groups in Gaza, the State Department said in the annual report on terrorism released on Wednesday. The report also accused Tehran of helping the Assad regime crush the opposition in Syria, plotting to assassinate Iranian dissidents in Europe, and harboring al-Qaeda operatives in Iran. (U.S. Institute of Peace)
        See also Text: Country Reports on Terrorism 2019 (U.S. State Department)
  • Writing in Saudi Paper, Israeli Intelligence Minister Calls for Normalization
    Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen, speaking with the Saudi online daily Elaph, called on Arab states to normalize relations with Israel and not wait for the Palestinian issue to be resolved. He stressed that any potential reconciliation with the Palestinians could take more than ten years.
        Cohen said he had met with Palestinian leaders many times to reach a reconciliation, "but the Palestinians have only one thing in mind: opposition to peace....We completely withdrew from Gaza, what did the Palestinians do with the money paid by the Gulf States? They built tunnels and arms factories that we destroyed over their heads."  (Middle East Monitor-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Police Release Video of Palestinian Car-Ramming Attack - Alexander Fulbright
    Israeli Border Police on Wednesday released security footage from a car-ramming attack at a West Bank checkpoint near Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem, on Tuesday, seeking to push back against accusations that Israeli forces killed the assailant without reason.
        In the video, a car driven by Ahmad Moustafa Erekat can be seen approaching the checkpoint before abruptly accelerating and turning toward a group of police. The car then rams into a female officer - who is knocked into the air - before colliding with a booth and coming to a stop.
        "He waited for a good moment, turned from the middle of the lane to the side to get a better angle to hurt the officer, and then accelerated," a Border Police statement said. "Unfortunately, in recent hours various elements have chosen to portray the event in a completely distorted way and not as a ramming attack, while besmirching the officers' conduct and covering up the terrorist's grave actions," a Border Police source said. (Times of Israel)
        See also Video: See Palestinian Attacker Ramming Car into Border Police Checkpoint - Elisha Ben Kimon (Ynet News)
        See also Injured Israeli Border Police Officer Describes Ramming Attack
    Shani Orr Hama Kadosh, the Border Police officer injured in the Palestinian ramming attack on Wednesday, stressed that the incident was deliberate. "I signaled to him to halt, the car started to slow down, and I moved in his direction," Kadosh told Channel 13. "He saw that I took a step, he looked me in the eye, turned the steering wheel and rammed into me, and I flew to the other side" of the median. "Only when I went flying, I understood that this was an attack."  (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Terrorist Given Four Life Sentences - Gilad Cohen
    Asem Barghouti, who murdered two IDF soldiers and a newborn baby in 2018, was sentenced Wednesday to four consecutive life sentences. Barghouti carried out a shooting attack at the entrance to Ofra in the West Bank in December 2018, wounding Shira Ish-Ran and her unborn child. The baby was delivered in hospital but died after three days. Four days later, Barghouti carried out another shooting attack near Givat Asaf, killing the two IDF soldiers. He was preparing more attacks when he was caught by Israeli security forces. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Video: Undercover Israeli Reporter Probes Palestinian Opinion
    Israeli reporter Zvi Yechezkeli went undercover to probe Palestinian opinion in the West Bank. He found that PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas says one thing and the people want something else and are not afraid to say so. When the Palestinian Authority wanted to start riots, the people wanted permits to work in Israel. Now, as the extension of Israeli sovereignty in parts of the West Bank draws closer, this abyss is greater than ever before.
        One Palestinian noted: "The Israelis are a million times more compassionate than the PA....The Israelis treat us like friends." Another said, "The PA has plundered and destroyed us....They just steal money. A Palestinian police officer said, "In Israel, there's law and order, there's governance. Life is good. Here, there's no law and order. Aid money comes from Israel and Europe. They [the PA] steal it."
        Another Palestinian policeman said, "The people understand that PA officials destroyed the land, they devoured the people, they're thieves and traitors." The Arab world has changed and some of the Palestinians have too. (Kohelet Policy Forum)
  • Why Israel Doesn't Use the Word "Annexation" - Amb. Mark Regev interviewed by Justin Cohen
    Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev, who is completing his four-year appointment, said that the application of Israeli law in parts of the West Bank is an issue of Israeli sovereignty.
        "We don't use the word 'annexation' - annexation is taking something that's not yours. We believe we have a legitimate claim to territories in the West Bank from a legal, historical and security point of view. We don't deny that other people have a claim, but rival claims have to be sorted out."
        "I recognize that just as Jewish Israelis will have a variety of views, you'll get a variety of views in the UK Jewish community. I'm just asking for anyone who has alternative policy suggestions that they should respect the outcome of what was ultimately a democratic election [in Israel]."
        "If you paint this as a train wreck leading to the end of peace with our neighbors, of course you're against it. It's more complicated. You're presuming the Israeli government is going to act in an irresponsible way and there's no basis for that. Give us more credit. We will pursue this in a way that looks at the opportunities and at the same time we'll need to minimize the challenges and potential negative blowback."  (Jewish News-UK)

Nepotism in the Palestinian Authority Angers the Public - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • A new scandal of nepotism has been revealed in the Palestinian Authority. According to Fatah sources, Health Minister Dr. Mai al-Kaila has in recent days appointed several relatives of senior officials in the PA to senior positions in the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
  • Wa'el al-Sheikh, the nephew of Palestinian Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, was appointed Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Health. Moatasem Mohsin, son of Fatah leadership member Jamal Mohsin, was appointed Director of the Health Department in Ramallah and Al-Bireh. Dr. Maha Awad, the sister of the previous Health Minister, Jawad Awad, was appointed Director of the Women's Health Unit.
  • As news of the appointments was leaked to social networks, rage grew on the Palestinian street, especially since the PA has withheld salaries for tens of thousands of their own workers because of the coronavirus crisis. At the same time, the PA leadership is given generous benefits and large salaries.
  • According to Fatah sources, Mahmoud al-Habash, advisor to the PA Chairman, ranks first in the PA's nepotism practice. His son was appointed Director-General of the Prosecutor's Office. His daughter was appointed Director-General of Religious Affairs. His brother was appointed to handle the Hajj pilgrimage at the Palestinian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, while another daughter was appointed as Second Secretary of the Palestinian Embassy in Turkey, after working with him in his office.
  • Nepotism is rife throughout Arab regimes in the Middle East, so the Palestinian public has accepted it as part of the custom of Arab rulers in the region. However, when the economic situation in the West Bank is so grave, it becomes a source of hostility toward Abbas' government.

    The writer, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center.