August 13, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Israel, U.S. Successfully Test Arrow-2 Missile Interceptor (Reuters)
    Israel successfully tested its long-range Arrow-2 ballistic missile interceptor on Wednesday over the Mediterranean Sea, destroying the target, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.

Israel Fends Off North Korean Hack Attempt Against Defense Industries (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Defense Ministry on Wednesday said hackers from the Lazarus Group linked to the North Korean government targeted Israeli defense industries with attempted cyber-attacks.
    "Members of the group used various hacking techniques, including 'social engineering' and impersonation," and built fake profiles on LinkedIn, the ministry said.
    The attempt was caught in real time and no sensitive information was compromised.

Congress Has Blocked U.S. Arms Sales to Turkey for Two Years - Valerie Insinna (Defense News)
    The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee have quietly frozen all major U.S. arms sales to Turkey for nearly two years in response to Ankara's purchase of the Russian-built S-400 air defense system.
    Turkey has already been expelled from the F-35 joint strike fighter program.

Iran's Oil Exports Much Higher than Estimated - Dalga Khatinoglu (Radio Farda)
    TankerTrackers.com, which tracks crude oil shipments, says Iran probably exports twice as much oil as estimated by transferring oil shipments to other tankers in the middle of the ocean.

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EU Study Examines Wrong Textbooks, Concludes Palestinian Authority Promotes Peace with Israel - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    An EU-sponsored study to examine whether textbooks used by schools in the Palestinian Authority incite against Israel actually examined textbooks in Arabic used in the Israeli school system. These textbooks promote coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis.
    IMPACT-se, a research and policy institute with a proven track record of examining PA textbooks, found that the European researchers quoted from textbooks that had been edited by Israel's Education Ministry and do not appear anywhere in the PA's education system.
    IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said, "The study was a comedy of errors from start to finish. The researchers 'researched' the wrong textbooks."

Hizbullah Worldwide Activities Interactive Map and Timeline - Matthew Levitt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    The Hizbullah Worldwide Activity Map is the largest database of open-source information about the group's illicit activities to date, searchable by category, location, timeline, and keywords.
    It includes a thousand entries, each supplemented by photographs, videos, incident summaries, linkages, and primary source documents.

Italian Court Declares: "Jerusalem Is Not the Capital of Israel" (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    On August 5, the Rome Court ruled in favor of two Italian pro-Palestinian organizations against Italian national public broadcasting company RAI, which had said Jerusalem was the capital of Israel.
    On May 21, a TV game show contestant was asked about the capital of Israel. The answer "Tel Aviv" was deemed wrong and the contestant was told the answer was "Jerusalem."
    Judge Cecilia Pratesi ruled that "The Italian State does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital."

Israeli Startup Launches At-Home Ultrasound Device - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    Clalit Health Services, Israel's largest HMO, has signed an agreement with local startup PulseNmore to provide its pregnant members with a handheld device that docks with a smartphone to perform at-home ultrasound scans, limiting the need for doctor visits.
    Physicians review the scans remotely using telemedicine platforms and can reassure parents that all is well, or instruct them on appropriate next steps, if necessary.
    The device can measure fetal heartbeat, the amount of amniotic fluid, and fetal movements in a process that takes three minutes.

Jerusalem Facilitating Outdoor Venues for Weddings - Marcy Oster (JTA)
    As the coronavirus pandemic has closed event halls, Jerusalem has begun a program for couples seeking a scenic spot for wedding ceremonies.
    The program offers a free venue and basic infrastructure for a 20-person wedding at popular locations in the city.

IDF's New Elite "Ghost Unit" - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
    The IDF's newest elite unit - the "Ghost Unit" - brings many branches together, including intelligence, air force, cyber-defense and telecommunications. The unit specializes in locating and destroying the enemy.
    During a recent exercise, the unit demonstrated newly-developed tactics in which ground forces direct air strikes in real time, particularly in an urban setting.

Dozens of Jewish Headstones Discovered under Polish Town's Market Square - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    Dozens of Jewish headstones have been discovered under the asphalt of a local market in Lezajsk, Poland, 120 miles south of Warsaw.
    The headstones, uncovered during construction work that began in June, have been removed by the municipality.
    In 1939, the town's population of 5,000 was 90% Jewish.

D.C. Area Families Gift Fire Trucks to Israel through JNF-USA - Daniel Peri (Patch)
    Two Washington, D.C., area families have gifted fire trucks to the people of Israel through Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA).
    "My father was a volunteer firefighter in Baltimore, and I wanted to gift a fire truck to Israel in memory of my parents," said Harvey Goodman of Potomac, Md.
    Andrew Quartner of Bethesda, Md., said, "We have only one Israel....A fire truck was an important way for us to continue to keep Israel safe and strong."
    American donors, synagogues, temples, and Jewish community groups have gifted over 170 fire trucks to serve Israeli communities.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Security Council at Odds over Peacekeeping Operation in Lebanon - Edith M. Lederer
    The U.S. is backing Israel's demands for major changes in the way the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon operates on the ground. At a closed Security Council meeting Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft stressed the need for a new mandate for the mission known as UNIFIL. "The U.S. has long reiterated publicly and privately that the status quo in Lebanon is unacceptable. Now is the time to empower UNIFIL."
        Israel insists that peacekeepers have access to all sites, that they have freedom of movement, and that any time they are being blocked the Security Council must be immediately informed. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Sources Shine Light on Hizbullah Link to Beirut Explosion - Mona Alami
    Two sources told Al Arabiya that the ammonium nitrate at Beirut port was being slowly siphoned off by Hizbullah for military purposes. A source close to Hizbullah commanders specified that the product was being used for missile and rocket warheads, which were sent by Iran to Lebanon and assembled locally in the Hermel Region by Hizbullah.
        According to former CIA officer Robert Baer, accidents involving ammonium nitrate are rare, as the ingredient in its pure form is generally quite stable. "There's never been an incident of ammonium nitrate stored in the open spontaneously detonating. It will burn vigorously but not detonate." It would take an extraordinary set of circumstances to cork it off, added Baer. Weapons stored in the vicinity of the ammonium nitrate could explain the explosion, he said, as it would have acted as a booster to the blast. (Al Arabiya)
  • U.S. Prepares Sanctions Against Hizbullah's Allies in Lebanon - Dion Nissenbaum
    The Trump administration is preparing to impose anticorruption sanctions against prominent Lebanese politicians and businessmen aligned with Hizbullah. U.S. officials said they want to send a message that Lebanon has to change course as it seeks billions of dollars in international aid to rebuild Beirut. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Death Toll Reaches 643
    Israel's coronavirus death toll has reached 643, the Israeli Health Ministry reported on Thursday. 17 deaths occurred between Tuesday and Wednesday evening, a new record. 386 patients are in serious condition, including 114 who are intubated. 1,612 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last day. (Jerusalem Post-Times of Israel)
  • Covid-19 Surges in Arab Neighborhoods of Jerusalem - Nir Hasson
    In recent weeks, most of the people infected with Covid-19 in Jerusalem live mainly in Arab neighborhoods. The IDF Home Front Command says links between these Jerusalem neighborhoods and the West Bank are contributing to the spiking infection rates. Local Arab families have recently held weddings in the West Bank to bypass the prohibition on large gatherings in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Municipality says mass prayers on Fridays on the Temple Mount are also contributing to the growing number of infections. (Ha'aretz)
  • Netanyahu Calls for Removing Hizbullah Arms from Civilian Areas
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone with French President Emanuel Macron on Tuesday regarding Lebanon and expressed Israel's willingness to render humanitarian assistance. Netanyahu pointed out that in order to prevent disasters like the one that occurred at Beirut port, the explosives and missiles that Hizbullah has hidden must be removed from all concentrations of civilian population in Lebanon. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Incendiary and Explosive Balloons from Gaza Spark 68 Fires in Israel on Tuesday - Tzvi Joffre
    In recent days there have been a number of severe incidents involving incendiary and explosive balloons from Gaza. In Arad, an explosive landed in the industrial zone. Another explosive detonated in Netivot and shrapnel hit homes and cars. Another device was found near the entrance to a kibbutz. Over 68 fires were sparked by incendiary balloons in Israel on Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Closes Gaza Border Crossing after Spike in Palestinian Arson Balloon Attacks - Aaron Boxerman
    After dozens of blazes were reported from incendiary balloon attacks in and around Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza, Israel shut the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing "until further notice." The entry of humanitarian aid, including food, will continue. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel Halts Flow of Fuel into Gaza over Hamas Violence - Tovah Lazaroff
    The IDF has halted the transfer of fuel into Gaza "in light of the continued launching of incendiary balloons from the Strip toward the territory of the State of Israel," the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Egypt Demands End to Balloon Attacks on Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Senior Egyptian intelligence officials have warned leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to stop the incendiary balloon attacks on Israel, Palestinian sources said on Wednesday. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Deploys Laser-Defense System on Gaza Border Amid Surge of Incendiary Balloon Attacks - Itsik Saban
    Israel's Border Police on Tuesday deployed the new Light Blade laser system designed to intercept incendiary and explosives-laden balloons and kites launched from Gaza. The laser has an effective range of 2 km. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Reprimands Belgium for Supporting NGOs Aiming to Silence Pro-Israel Voices - Lahav Harkov
    Israel Foreign Ministry deputy director-general for Europe Anna Azari summoned Belgium's Ambassador to Israel Jean-Luc Bodson for a reprimand on Monday after it was learned that the Belgian government is giving aid to a group of NGOs whose goals include "mitigating the influence of pro-Israel voices" - taking issue with the fact that the goal was explicitly anti-Israel, as opposed to pro-Palestinian. A Foreign Ministry source said that "the Belgians would never fund an organization that supports white supremacists or Catalonian separatists under the claim of free speech."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Belgian NGOs "Mitigate Pro-Israel Voices" with Government Support (NGO Monitor)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Inside the Struggle between Israel and Hizbullah - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    Hizbullah, with Iran's help, is working to build long-range capabilities that will allow it to strike precise targets in the Israeli home front. Israel is resolved to prevent Hizbullah from gaining that capability. Hizbullah has at least 28 missile-launch sites in populated areas of Beirut that are under its control. These include private homes, medical centers, industrial zones, and offices.
        Hizbullah is also building a capability to use special forces to seize lands in the Galilee. According to a source close to Hizbullah, five battalions of Radwan special forces were set up and sent for commando training in Iran. Each battalion has a thousand fighters, and each battalion was assigned a specific territory to take over in northern Israel.
        Each battalion studied and became familiar with the special topographical conditions of the area it was responsible for and trained to conquer it. While the war in Syria interrupted this plan, it also enabled the Radwan forces to accumulate highly valuable battle experience for the future. This marks a basic change in Hizbullah's approach to war, which had primarily built deterrent and defensive capabilities and now is also dealing intensively with offense and with taking the next war to Israeli territory.
        The writer, a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as Military Secretary to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Tablet)
  • UNIFIL Is Not Fulfilling Its Mandate to Disarm Hizbullah - Prof. Eugene Kontorovich
    UNIFIL, the temporary UN presence in Lebanon, serves as Hizbullah's de facto human shield, limiting the IDF's freedom to maneuver in a potential conflict. Like other UN entities, it is biased against Israel. Over the years, UNIFIL has proven itself to lack the motivation and ability to prevent violations of UN Security Council resolutions concerning Hizbullah. Over the past decade, Hizbullah has dug a series of attack tunnels into Israeli territory right under UNIFIL peacekeepers' noses, with the intention of sending thousands of Hizbullah militants to seize control of Israeli villages and perpetrate spectacular atrocities.
        The writer, a professor and director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East at George Mason University Law School, is also a scholar at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem. (Kohelet)
  • Hizbullah Will Maintain Control of Lebanon - Prof. Hillel Frisch
    While some see French President Macron's visit to Lebanon and the demonstrations against its Hizbullah-dominated government as heralding a new era, such a happy outcome is unlikely. After the massive explosion at the port of Beirut, bearded goons in matching T-shirts appeared on motorcycles to inspect the scene - and the many soldiers from the Lebanese army who were in the area dared not chase them away. The goons were members of Hizbullah, and it is understood by all parties that they would decimate the protesters if the army did not keep them in check. Hizbullah will gun down any attempt to create a Lebanon that is truly a state of all its citizens.
        The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • Other Issues

  • Video: Chevron and the Centrality of Energy Diplomacy in the Middle East - Amb. Dore Gold
    In July 2020, the U.S. energy giant Chevron announced it was acquiring Noble Energy, which operates Israel's Leviathan and Tamar gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean. Chevron's entry into the Israeli gas market is revolutionary. Until now, the largest multinational oil companies have refrained from investing in Israeli oil and gas.
        Today there is a growing concern regarding America's possible pullback from the Middle East, including its naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Chevron's recent move paves the way to an invigorated U.S.-Israel alliance in the fields of energy and security in the region.
        The writer, former Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Turkish Threat in the Eastern Mediterranean - Abdel Moneim Said
    The Eastern Mediterranean region borders on Turkey, which has begun to threaten the entire region. Turkish warships harass Egypt, Greece and others in the Mediterranean, while its drill ships dig for gas and oil in others' economic waters. In the meantime, Turkey continues to make war in Iraq and Syria and to transfer its mercenaries to Libya.
        Unfortunately, Turkey has a leadership that sees itself as a latter-day Ottoman conqueror. In order to confront the Turkish threat to the Middle East, the Arabs will need to reverse the balance of powers between them and Turkey, and they will need to devise a vision for managing strategic alliances opposed to Ankara's dangerous ambitions. The writer is CEO of the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies in Cairo. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • The UN "Blacklist" of Commercial Enterprises: Should It Be Taken Seriously? - Amb. Alan Baker
    The UN blacklist of commercial enterprises involved in business activities in the West Bank territories of Judea and Samaria emanates from the highly politicized and discredited UN Human Rights Council as an overtly and politically hostile attempt to harm such enterprises, and through them, to harm Israel.
        In publishing the blacklist, the UN Human Rights Council has undermined the authority of the UN Security Council, which is the only international body authorized to impose commercial sanctions on states. The blacklist is not legally binding on states or companies. Moreover, the blacklist runs against prevailing legal viewpoints that see nothing illegal in the involvement of private commercial enterprises in such territories.
        The writer served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iran's Shadow War with Israel - Yaakov Lappin
    The Iranian strategy for dominating Lebanon, Iraq and Syria - Arab countries that it counts as part of its Shi'ite axis - has made major progress in recent years, said Prof. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. "If you enter Iraq or Lebanon, you can see the depth of control that Iranian-backed militias have on the economy, military and politics. In Iraq, this is how the Iranians circumvent U.S. sanctions." Hizbullah in Lebanon is an Iranian satellite that owes its entire life to Iran's "motivation and desire to be in friction with Israel."
        "We are already in a war made up of small wars. This is a 21st-century war...it is happening all of the time. It's a different kind of conflict - a shadow war....This war is happening every day in every place." The Iranians wish to gradually surround Israel with bases of attack. Moreover, in Iran's strategic view, once it turns nuclear, "the Arab states stop being players, and Iran becomes an equal player to Israel."  (JNS)
  • PA Calls Installation of Elevator for Disabled People at Holy Site a War Crime - Bassam Tawil
    Palestinian leaders have condemned an Israeli plan to install an elevator for disabled people at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in the West Bank city of Hebron. The 2,000-year-old structure built by King Herod to house the Cave of Machpela, burial site of the biblical founding fathers and mothers, has only steep staircases for entrances. The decision to build the elevator came in response to the Israeli Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law that requires every public structure to be fully accessible to the disabled.
        PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki condemned the elevator plan as an Israeli "war crime" and a "violation of international law." PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi denounced the elevator project on July 25 and accused Israel of "stealing Palestinian history, holy sites and identity and provoking the feelings of Muslims." Palestinian leaders have demanded that the International Criminal Court launch a "war crimes" probe against Israel for planning to facilitate access for Jews to pray at a site that is holy for Jews. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Today, the Real Rebels Defend Israel - David Suissa
    These days, many feel it's cool to go against Israel and take the side of the Palestinians. In fact, it may be more conformist than cool. On college campuses especially, piling on the attacks on the Jewish state is the safe choice. To show real courage, one must stand up for the country that is singled out for animosity beyond all reason.
        Anger at Israel has become the world's default position. You can never get in trouble today for bashing Israel. Because Israel is no longer seen as David versus Goliath, it's an easy target. Israel is strong and successful - it can handle all the bashing.
        While fighting for Palestinians may be the popular choice, fighting for Israel is the courageous choice. None of this means that Jews should not care about the Palestinian cause. It's a question of proportion: Since most of the world is already taking the side of the Palestinians, shouldn't Jews feel obligated by fairness to somehow balance that out? The college students who choose to support Israel these days are courageous rebels fighting the good fight against an often-hostile world. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • Rethinking Pakistan's Rejection of Israel - Sumeera Asghar Roy and Hassan F. Virk
    What has Pakistan achieved from its policy of a perpetual boycott of Israel? Doesn't logic demand a reassessment, if there's nothing to show after all these decades?
        Currently, the International Monetary Fund ranks Pakistan third among countries facing an acute water shortage. Israel, located in the relatively arid Middle East, has developed technology in agriculture based on the rigorous utilization of every drop of available water. It recycles 86% of its water, by far the highest rate in the world. Israel exports its water expertise to more than 150 countries, including some in the Arab world. It is high time for Pakistan and Israel to extend an olive branch to each other.
        If Egypt and Jordan, neighboring Muslim-majority states who've been directly affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, can make politico-economic deals with Israel for the good of their peoples, why can't Pakistan, which is far removed from the conflict?
        Sumeera Asghar Roy is a PhD candidate at the China Agricultural University in Beijing. Hassan F. Virk is a research associate at the Center for Security, Strategy, and Policy Research at the University of Lahore. (Ha'aretz)

  • Weekend Features

  • The IDF Observation Unit on Israel's Northern Border - Anna Ahronheim
    Two recent infiltration attempts along Israel's northern border were spotted by the IDF's electronic observation unit made up solely of women who spend their days glued to computer screens. On the Lebanese front, they watched for hours as the cell slowly crawled through dense foliage before they crossed into Israeli territory.
        On the Syrian border, troops first identified suspicious movement of two shepherds around 8 p.m., and around 11 p.m. saw the four-man cell approach the same area and place explosives along the fence. Able to see the whole picture with a wide-angle lens, the troops are in contact with the forces in the field, providing them with the location of the suspects.
        Maj. Noam Boymayster, who has served in the observer unit since 2011, says, "The moment...you understand how close the Israeli communities are, you understand the importance of keeping them safe." She said the troops "become experts in their field, they understand and know their area. They have to know their territory in detail and be able to differentiate between day-to-day occurrences and something suspicious."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Britain Imprisoned 1,580 Jewish Holocaust Refugees in Palestine for Five Years in Mauritius - Robert Philpot
    On Dec. 5, 1940, 1,580 Jewish refugee men, women and children were taken from the Atlit detention center near Haifa and deported to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Just a year before, the British government's White Paper had set strict limits on the number of Jewish migrants who would be allowed into Palestine. The refugees - who had fled Nazi-occupied Europe three months prior - were taken to the Beau Bassin central prison where they were held behind bars for nearly five years.
        In 2014 the Beau Bassin Jewish Detainees Memorial and Information Center opened its doors. The 75th anniversary of the refugees' release was marked in a virtual commemoration event on Aug. 12. (Times of Israel)

  • An explosion at the Natanz nuclear complex on July 2 laid waste to the Iran Centrifuge Assembly Center (ICAC), designed to mass produce advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium.
  • "A Middle Eastern intelligence official," widely suspected to be Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, told the New York Times that Israel was responsible.
  • If true, it's a potent reminder of Israel's enormous value as a strategic partner of the U.S., one that combines the will, capabilities, and tactical skill to confront the region's most dangerous threats in ways that are largely unrivaled by any other American ally.
  • The destruction of the ICAC was a significant blow to Iran's nuclear program. Once deployed, the advanced centrifuges would have dramatically reduced the time required to produce enough highly-enriched uranium for a small nuclear arsenal.
  • The ability to place an agent inside one of the crown jewels of the Iranian nuclear program, much less smuggle in a powerful bomb and detonate it at the point of maximum damage, is an absolutely stunning intelligence accomplishment.

    The writer, senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, served as national security advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
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