August 24, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Video Shows New Israeli Laser System Intercepting Gaza Arson Balloons (Times of Israel)
    Israel's Border Police released video of the new "Lahav Or" laser system intercepting balloon-borne incendiary objects launched toward Israel from Gaza.
    Last week the system shot down 32 balloons carrying incendiary and explosive objects, with a 90% interception rate in its sector.

Russian General Killed by Roadside Bomb in Syria - Jared Szuba (Al-Monitor)
    Russian Maj.-Gen. Vyacheslav Gladkikh died Tuesday after a roadside bomb detonated under a convoy of Russian soldiers and Syrian pro-regime militiamen near the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

Corruption Threatens Beirut Revival - Lisa Schlein (VOA News)
    A special report by the UN Development Program warns that widespread, systematic corruption and lack of accountability in Lebanon will impede Beirut's efforts to recover from the Aug. 4 blast.
    Arkan El Seblani, chief of UNDP's Anti-Corruption and Integrity Unit for Arab States, says corruption permeates the whole society.
    "According to some estimates, the cost of corruption in Lebanon is equal to $5 billion a year...9% of the country's GDP."
    "Leakage and embezzlement of money and goods, bribes and kickbacks in construction projects...are all real and present in the context of Lebanon."

Video: Iranian Media Air Video Depicting Destruction of U.S. Capitol Building, Washington Monument (MEMRI-TV)
    On June 30, 2020, a video titled "People Everywhere Are Chanting 'Death to America'" was uploaded to the Islamic Pulse YouTube channel based in Qom, Iran.
    The narrator says: "Death to America...was a statement of warning to the people of America that this capitalistic, militarized, racist, barbaric, satanic system called America was dangerous."
    "The solution to our problems and the solution to your problems lies in the removal of this entire institution called America."
    Animation then depicts the Washington Monument crumbling down and the Capitol Building being destroyed in an explosion.

Leadership of Britain's Biggest Muslim Charity Quits after Learning Its New Chairman Praised Hamas - Andrew Norfolk (The Times-UK)
    The leadership of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), Britain's biggest Muslim charity, resigned Saturday after The Times discovered that its new chairman, Almoutaz Tayara, described the leaders of Hamas as "great men" who responded to the "divine and holy call of the Muslim Brotherhood."
    Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, has been designated by the UK and the EU as a proscribed terrorist organization since 2001.

Video: Hundreds of Ancient Gold Coins Found in Israeli Dig (Jerusalem Post)
    424 gold coins dating from 1,100 years ago were found during an archaeological dig in central Israel.
    The coins, buried in the ground inside a clay jug, were made of 846 grams of solid 24-karat gold and dated to the early Islamic period and the Abbasid dynasty.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Ambassador to U.S.: Another Israel-Arab Deal Expected in Coming Weeks - Emily Judd
    Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told Al Arabiya in an interview on Friday: "There are several countries where there are possibilities [for peace]....We hope that we see another breakthrough very, very, soon - in the weeks and months ahead."
        "Turkey is condemning the Emirates for moving towards the relations that Turkey has with Israel - and has had for decades. We have an embassy in Ankara and Turkey has an embassy in Israel....Unfortunately, the Turkish leader in recent years has not been a constructive force...and he perhaps sees himself as leading the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East....And I think it's very, very unfortunate."
        "Unfortunately, the rejectionists among the Palestinians towards peace are the ascendant forces. We have had a century of conflict with the Palestinians and, unfortunately, we have not had a Palestinian Anwar Sadat, a Palestinian King Hussain, or a Palestinian like Sheikh Mohammed [of the UAE] that was willing to...make peace."  (Al Arabiya)
  • Judge Allows Anti-Israel Protests Outside Ann Arbor Synagogue - Ryan Stanton
    U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts on Aug. 19 dismissed a lawsuit over anti-Israel protests outside Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor, ruling that "Peaceful protest speech such as this - on sidewalks and streets - is entitled to the highest level of constitutional protection, even if it disturbs, is offensive, and causes emotional distress." Anti-Israel protesters have demonstrated on Saturday mornings outside the synagogue for more than 16 years. Protest signs have carried messages such as "Resist Jewish Power," "Jewish Power Corrupts," "No More Holocaust Movies," "Boycott Israel," "Stop U.S. Aid to Israel" and "End the Palestinian holocaust."  (MLive-Michigan)
        See also Ann Arbor Rabbi Responds to Court Ruling - Ryan Stanton
    Rabbi Nadav Caine of Beth Israel Congregation in Ann Arbor argues that while a federal judge has concluded that protests outside his synagogue amount to free speech, it's still hate speech. "They fill our sidewalks with hate speech to harass our worshippers." And their hate fails to alarm those "who would be rightfully shouting from the rooftops if this were a mosque."
        The leader of the protest group said, "We're not there because they're Jews. We're there because they're Jewish Zionists," complaining the synagogue displays the Israeli flag and prays for Israel. (MLive-Michigan)
  • U.S. Imposes Visa Restrictions on 14 Iranians over Human-Rights Violations - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
    On Aug. 21, the U.S. Department of State announced visa restrictions on 14 Iranian individuals for their involvement in gross violations of human rights on behalf of the Iranian regime. This action makes ineligible for entry into the U.S. officials of foreign governments and their immediate family members about whom the Secretary of State has credible information of involvement in a gross violation of human rights.
        We are also publicly designating Hojatollah Khodaei Souri who, as director of Iran's notorious Evin Prison, oversaw an institution synonymous with torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. (U.S. State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo Arrives in Israel - Noa Landau
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Israel on Monday for a trip that will seek to enlist additional Muslim countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, in the wake of the normalization deal with the UAE. After Israel, Pompeo is to visit Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE.
        State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Pompeo would meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem "to discuss regional security issues related to Iran's malicious influence, establishing and deepening Israel's relationships in the region, as well as cooperation in protecting the U.S. and Israeli economies from malign investors."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Incendiary Balloons from Gaza Spark 28 Fires on Sunday, Israel Retaliates - Aaron Boxerman
    Israeli planes, tanks and drones attacked Hamas targets in Gaza early on Monday after at least 28 fires were caused by arson balloon attacks launched into Israel, the IDF said. Rockets have also been fired on multiple occasions at Israeli towns, including more than 12 overnight Thursday. (Times of Israel)
        See also Incendiary Balloons from Gaza Spark 42 Fires in Israel on Thursday (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus in Israel
    The Israeli Health Ministry announced on Sunday evening that the national death toll from Covid-19 had risen to 839. Over 500 Israelis have died of Covid-19 since July 1, compared with 320 from March to June. There were 411 people in serious condition, including 116 on ventilators. There are 21,914 active cases. (Times of Israel-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Shalom, Salaam and Welcome - UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba
    Welcome to the neighborhood. Last week, the United Arab Emirates and Israel announced an agreement to normalize relations. It is an important win for diplomacy and for people of the region. Near-term plans include talks on air travel, telecommunications and shipping; collaboration on health, water and food security, climate change, technology and energy; cultural and educational exchanges; and ministerial-level visits. An exchange of ambassadors and diplomatic missions will follow.
        The intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the many others in our neighborhood will not be solved in a moment. But it will never be solved by endless violence or going down the same dead-end paths. (Ynet News)
  • Israel in Contact with Sudan - Tovah Lazaroff
    In the past, Dore Gold, who served as director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had opposed the idea of peace with Sudan because of former president Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir's genocidal actions in the Darfur region of his country. "Since the State of Israel was born in the shadow of the Holocaust, that is not the kind of issue you can be cavalier about," he said. Once Bashir was removed from power in 2019, that created a new situation for Israel, said Gold, who is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gulf Arab "Exasperation" Led to UAE-Israel Normalization - Yoel Guzansky and Yohanan Tzoreff
    There is a growing frustration among Saudi and Emirati leaders with what they define as Palestinian "unresponsiveness" to their calls for greater flexibility in the negotiations with Israel. The new narrative within certain Gulf states was typified earlier this year in the comedic television series "Makhraj 7," a Ramadan feature on the Saudi MBC network.
        In one scene, a character states: "The real enemy, more so than the Israelis, is the one who does not appreciate your standing by his side, and instead curses you night and day. We fought wars for Palestine, we embargoed our oil for the sake of Palestine, we pay the salaries and expenses of the Palestinian Authority when we ourselves now need that money....And yet in the end, they look for every opportunity to attack Saudi Arabia."
        The show accurately represents more than a few voices who have accused the Palestinians of "ingratitude" in the face of the large amounts of financial and political support Gulf states have extended to them over the years.
        Dr. Yoel Guzansky is a Senior Research Fellow and Yohanan Tzoreff is a Senior Researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Israel's Military Supremacy Is Non-Negotiable - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad (Ynet News)
  • Abu Dhabi, the leader of the UAE, has impressive military capabilities based on a strong army and air force that have already proven themselves in operations beyond their borders. The Emirates already possess advanced American-made defense systems and jet fighters which they successfully deploy in a large operational radius. It is no secret that if Tehran could, it would have conquered the Gulf states if it were not fearful of the consequences.
  • The Arab nations, which tried time and time again to annihilate Israel militarily, have reached the conclusion that it is better to cooperate with it. But Israel must not forget that this stability could vanish at any point.
  • The U.S. refrains, as its policy is required by law, from selling advanced and sophisticated weapons systems to Arab countries, even those among them that are associated with Israel in peace relations. An example of this commitment is the F-35 fighter jets Israel acquired. These planes grant Israel total military supremacy in the region.
  • Intentions are fluid and prone to rapid change. Turkey, once a close friend of Israel, has now become a strategic foe. The same goes for Iran, which before the 1979 Revolution was a soulmate with deep ties to Jerusalem, but is today its number one enemy. In the 2011 Arab Spring, the Muslim Brotherhood took over Egypt and nearly created an additional threat against Israel, until Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power.
  • As long as Israel maintains its qualitative military advantage, stability and peace will endure. The only way to maintain peace and long-term stability is for Israel to prevent the sale of American-made F-35 fighter jets to any other Middle Eastern state, regardless of current or future relations.

    The writer is former Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at the Israel Ministry of Defense.

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