September 3, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Netanyahu Secretly Visited UAE in 2018 - Yossi Yehoshua (Ynet News)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently made a secret visit to the United Arab Emirates in 2018, accompanied by Mossad intelligence agency director Yossi Cohen, and met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Yediot Ahronot has learned.

Iran's Khamenei Singles Out Jared Kushner as "Jewish Member of Trump's Family" in Tweet Decrying "Filthy Zionist Agents" - Marcy Oster (JTA)
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted in English on Tuesday: "The UAE acts in agreement with the Israelis & filthy Zionist agents of the U.S. - such as the Jewish member of Trump's family."
    See also Twitter under Fire for Allowing Iran Leader's Extreme Rhetoric - Emily Judd (Al Arabiya)
    Ayatollah Khamenei's latest tweet denouncing the U.S. and the UAE have prompted calls for Twitter to take down the post in adherence with its guidelines.
    "This anti-Semitism from a world leader would seem to violate the Twitter guidelines," tweeted CNN anchor Jake Tapper.

Video: U.S.-Israeli Delegation Visits Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Gulf Today-UAE)
    Jared Kushner, senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, and Meir Ben-Shabbat, head of Israel's National Security Council, toured the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and the Louvre Abu Dhabi during an official visit to the UAE.
    See also Israeli Journalists Go Sightseeing in Abu Dhabi - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
    We were Israelis in the capital of a Gulf state with whom normal relations were not conducted until this trip.

Egypt Captures Muslim Brotherhood Commander in Cairo - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On August 28, after a seven-year manhunt, Egyptian security officials arrested Mahmoud Ezzat, the current head of the Muslim Brotherhood and commander of the military wing responsible for a series of terrorist attacks in Egypt.
    Ezzat was accused of assassinating Attorney General Hisham Barakat in 2015, and was charged with the deaths of Brig.-Gen. Wael Tahoun and Maj.-Gen. Adel Rajai.

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Israel Sends Covid-19 Supplies to Liberia (Front Page Africa)
    Israel's Agency for International Development (MASHAV) has given the Liberian Ministry of Health 8,000 N-95 face masks, 15,000 other face masks, 80 thermometers, and hundreds of medical gowns.

Ruins from First Temple-Period Palace Found in Jerusalem - Ruth Schuster (Ha'aretz)
    Elaborately decorated capitals from the top of 2,700-year-old columns bearing the symbol of the monarchy of Judea were discovered in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority revealed on Thursday.
    The finds from the early seventh century BCE in King Hezekiah's time were made in the neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv, on a hill located south of Jerusalem's Old City.

Jordan Dismantles the Muslim Brotherhood - Sami Moubayed (Center for Global Policy)
    Jordan's top court decided on July 15 to officially dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood after it operated legally in the kingdom for 75 years. The Brotherhood, based in the Qatari capital of Doha, has thrived in Jordan.
    The group is popular at a grassroots level and is capable of triggering public unrest. Before the court decision, the Muslim Brotherhood had been eyeing Amman as an alternative base of operations.
    The Brotherhood stood by King Hussein when army generals tried to stage a coup against him in 1957, and then again during his 1970 showdown with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
    When members of the Syrian and Egyptian Brotherhood fled their countries in the 1960s and 1980s, many were given asylum in Amman. Jordanian members of the group secured the speakership of parliament in the 1990s.
    Relations began to deteriorate with the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2011. In January 2013, their leader, Hammam Said, described Jordan as a "state in the Muslim caliphate." That raised the ire of King Abdullah, who three months later described the Muslim Brotherhood as "wolves in sheep's clothing."
    In November 2014, Jordanian intelligence broke up a secret cell of the Brotherhood that had been smuggling arms to the West Bank.
    Jordan, which is firmly allied with Saudi Arabia and the UAE and has relied on them to settle its bills, could simply not afford to continue tolerating the Brotherhood's activities in Jordan.
    The writer is a Syrian analyst and historian.

Israel Launches Medical Laboratory into Space - Sarah Chemla (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel and Italy launched a nano-satellite, Dido 3, into space on Wednesday manufactured by the Israel's Space Pharma.
    The satellite carries a tiny laboratory with four medical scientific experiments to test drug resistance under conditions of micro-gravity.
    The director of the Israeli Space Agency, Avi Blasberger, said, "Space Pharma is currently the only commercial company, except for NASA, with a space research laboratory."

Israeli Startups Raised $650 Million in August (Globes)
    Israeli startups raised nearly $650 million in August, bringing the total for the first eight months of 2020 to over $6.5 billion, according to Start-Up Nation Central.
    At this rate, Israel is well on course to surpass last year's record amount of $8.3 billion, despite the Covid-19 crisis.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UAE's Warm Welcome to Israelis Reflects Changing Region - Aron Heller
    Israel's first-of-its-kind delegation to the United Arab Emirates received a warm welcome that would have been nearly unthinkable just a few weeks ago. Dozens of Israeli officials and their accompanying press corps got a dizzying taste of Abu Dhabi's glamorous hotels and historic landmarks. The Emirati charm offensive was on full display as they sought to convey a new spirit of friendship between the two countries. Emirati diplomats and their Israeli counterparts hammered out the initial details of agreements on diplomacy, trade, science, technology and cooperation in countering the coronavirus pandemic. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Saudi Arabia Approves UAE Request to Use Airspace for All Routes - Dana Khraiche
    Saudi Arabia approved a request from the United Arab Emirates to use the kingdom's airspace for all flights, including those to and from Israel. Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said on Tuesday it started selling tickets to Israeli passengers in the lead-up to normal commercial flights.
        Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday any airline, including Israeli ones, could now fly directly to the UAE through Saudi airspace, and that it would shave off hours on routes to Asian destinations. (Bloomberg)
  • Amnesty Accuses Iran of Widespread Torture during 2019 Protests
    Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Iran of using torture to extract confessions, saying hundreds of people have been jailed since a crackdown against protests last year. Amnesty gathered dozens of testimonies from the 7,000 people it estimated were arrested, which included children as young as 10. The accounts reveal "a catalogue of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment."  (Al Jazeera)
  • U.S. Sanctions International Criminal Court Prosecutor Bensouda
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday: "The United States is taking action to protect Americans from unjust and illegitimate investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which threatens our sovereignty and poses a danger to the United States and our allies."
        "The United States...is not a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, nor have we ever accepted its jurisdiction over our personnel. The ICC's recklessness has forced us to this point, and the ICC cannot be allowed to follow through with its politically-driven targeting of U.S. personnel....The United States is designating ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda for having directly engaged in an effort to investigate U.S. personnel."
        "From the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials after World War II to the more recent Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Rwanda tribunals, the United States has consistently sought to uphold good and punish evil under international law. We will continue to do so. Americans are proud to stand for truth and justice. We have no intention of letting the ICC's illegitimate activities become a barrier to that pursuit."  (U.S. State Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas, Israel Reach De-escalation Agreement - Eyal Arbid
    Hamas announced on Monday that it has reached an agreement with Israel to de-escalate cross-border violence. Israeli officials said the agreement will see the transfer of Qatari financial aid into Gaza, the reopening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing, and Gaza's fishing zone expanded to its pre-escalation area. Israeli officials said Hamas will stop the launching of balloon-borne incendiary and explosive devices from Gaza. (Ynet News)
        See also IDF Bombed 100 Hamas Targets in Response to Fire-Balloon Attacks - Judah Ari Gross
    Israeli tanks and aircraft carried out strikes on 100 Hamas targets in Gaza over the past three weeks in response to rocket launches and airborne arson attacks, the Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday. Targets included 20 observation posts, 30 tunnel openings and tunnel construction facilities, 35 munitions caches and weapon-manufacturing sites, 10 locations connected to Hamas drones and anti-aircraft weaponry, and several sites used by its naval commando unit. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Soldier, Policeman Wounded in Car-Ramming Attack in West Bank - Elisha Ben Kimon
    An IDF soldier and a policeman were wounded in a car-ramming attack at Tapuach Junction in the northern West Bank, Israeli police said Wednesday. A Palestinian driver rammed his car into a police checkpoint, then exited the vehicle and continued to advance with a knife until he was neutralized. (Ynet News)
  • 3,074 New Coronavirus Cases in Israel - Yaron Drukman
    A new high of 3,074 Covid-19 cases was recorded on Wednesday. 834 people are hospitalized, with 418 in serious condition including 118 on ventilators. 969 Israelis have died from the virus. (Ynet News)
  • Coronavirus Cases Rise in the Palestinian Authority
    As of August 31, the number of new Covid-19 cases in the Palestinian Authority had risen to 2,843 for the week, up from 2,324 in the previous week. The Hebron district remained the epicenter of active cases, with 46% of the total. The number of cases in Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods also continued trending upward. The number of new cases in Gaza has risen dramatically as well. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    After the UAE-Israel Agreement

  • Israeli and Arab Interests "Have Begun to Coalesce" - Dore Gold interviewed by Jenni Frazer
    In 2015, Dr. Dore Gold, a former director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, opened a small Israeli economic office in the UAE and is better placed than most to judge the pace of Israel's outreach to the Arab world. He told the Jewish Chronicle this week that other Arab countries are quietly falling into line behind the UAE, driven not only by fear of Iran, but also by concern at the machinations of Turkey, where President Erdogan is trying to revive the status of the Ottoman Empire.
        As far back as 1996, when he first came into government as foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, "I visited a number of countries, including Qatar and Oman," Gold said. He also went to Paris that year for a meeting with a senior Saudi diplomat.
        When he served as Israel's ambassador to the UN between 1997 and 1999, "there was an African country with a Muslim majority, whose ambassador was head of the committee for the inalienable rights of the Palestinians." After a fire-and-brimstone speech to the General Assembly, "he came up to me and asked, 'Dore, maybe you could take me for lunch at one of your kosher restaurants?'" Today, Israel and the country have full diplomatic relations.
        "The point here is that countries are driven by a keen understanding of their interests. If their interests lead them to closer ties with Israel, they will pursue them. First perhaps in a hidden way, but later in an overt way....Our vital interests and those of the Arab world have begun to really coalesce. And that makes great opportunity for dramatic breakthroughs. I am optimistic with respect to what can be done."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • The Israel-UAE Agreement's Greatest Achievement: Little Arab Protest - Prof. Hillel Frisch
    As an El Al plane flew over Saudi Arabia carrying a bevy of Israeli officials to the Emirates, there were no demonstrations of consequence in the Arab world. Amman, Beirut, Tunis, Algiers, and Rabat, where demonstrations against Israel and the "desecration" of al-Aqsa mosque are generally well-attended, were silent.
        There was a din of voices castigating the UAE for normalizing ties with Israel, but they emanated mostly from dinosaur institutions linked with the Arab League, professional unions, and political movements whose common characteristic is a fossilized leadership that has been in place for more than 25 years. In photos taken in both the PA and Hamas-dominated Gaza, only a dozen or so demonstrators are shown, mostly members of the older generation.
        The lack of demonstrations was most assuredly noticed by state leaders in the Middle East. It is one more sign of long-term processes of political maturation in the Arabic-speaking public. The Arabs taking to the streets today do not believe the Palestinian nationalist vision is more deserving of their efforts and attention than their own struggle for a better future at home. 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)
  • Palestinians Prefer to Cling to Hopeless Dreams - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    What's bothering the Palestinians isn't the declaration of peace between Israel and the UAE, or the fact that most Arab countries welcome and support it, a few evening signaling that they would soon join the journey toward peace. It's that the Palestinians have been left on their own, and the Arab world, which was supposed to fight their battles for them, is now lining up to make peace with Israel.
        Basically, only Iran and Turkey took a stand against the Israel-UAE peace deal, and even they didn't do so for the sake of the Palestinians, but because they see the deal as hurting their own status in the region.
        The Palestinians prefer to cling to dreams that will never come true and anger, disappointment, and frustration that will lead them nowhere. The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • Palestinians Are No Longer a Priority - Dr. Adnan Abu Amer
    The Arab League refused to hold an urgent meeting at the request of the Palestinian Authority to discuss the UAE-Israel normalization agreement. This suggests that the Arab world is more or less satisfied with the deal. In the deal with the Emirates, Israel is taking a big step toward its long-term strategic goal of integration into the region. Saudi Arabia's permission for the first Israel-to-UAE flight this week to use Saudi airspace is partial normalization.
        The Arab world in general still cares about the Palestinians. However, the Palestinian issue has been transformed from a pan-Arab cause and is no longer a priority for the UAE and other Arab states. The writer heads the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza. (Middle East Monitor-UK)
  • Arafat's Widow Backs UAE Peace with Israel
    Suha Arafat, widow of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, told Israel's Channel 11 TV that she is under attack by the Palestinian Authority after she apologized for Palestinians' burning of UAE flags in the wake of its peace deal with Israel. "There are instructions to turn me into a traitor and these instructions come from the head of the president's office," she said. "Enough with the slogans. We collaborate with Israel, with the Israel Security Agency and the Mossad. Who are you kidding?"  (Times of Israel)

  • Gaza Ceasefire

  • Gaza Pandemic Fears Force Calm - Amos Harel
    Yahya Sinwar, Hamas' leader in Gaza, is the one who deliberately heated up the arena. A month ago, Sinwar thought he detected Israeli weakness, stemming from a combination of the growing number of Covid-19 infections and Israeli domestic unrest. This led him to start applying pressure.
        Hamas military squads launched hundreds of explosive balloons, while most of the rockets were fired by other factions. Israel says the harsh IDF response induced Hamas to halt their fire. Hamas attributes the deal to its steadfast resistance. Another explanation is that over the last two weeks there has been a sharp rise in coronavirus infections in Gaza, which is now dealing with 300 Covid-19 patients, despite determined steps taken to quarantine anyone returning to Gaza from abroad. Under these circumstances, Hamas has lost its zest for battle. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Moves Seek to Shore Up Domestic Support - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    Hamas used recent attacks on Israel "as a way to shore up their own power opposite their own people - to coalesce people," said Dan Diker, project director for the Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
        Former Israel Security Agency chief Ami Ayalon agreed. He said, "Hamas has a huge problem with the people in Gaza. They are far from being happy with Hamas....Hamas needs the support of the street to stay in power for the long run and Hamas is losing the support of the street day-by-day."  (Jerusalem Post)

  • Weekend Features

  • 1947 Escape from Acre Prison in British Palestine Exposed as Inside Job - Oliver Holmes
    A decorated British civil servant who built Acre prison for the empire in Palestine - engineer and architect Peres Etkes, a Russian Jew and American citizen - leaked the building plans to the Zionist paramilitary Irgun, helping them to launch a legendary prison break in 1947. About 250 prisoners, Jews and Arabs, fled the jail. Etkes received the King's Medal for Service in the Cause of Freedom for building a deep water port in the city of Haifa and for constructing a vast network of roads.
        Fifty years after his death, his great-nephew, Gil Margulis, found Etkes' half-written memoir while researching his life. In it, Etkes said he had also used his British connections in 1921 to transfer weapons from the British-run Jaffa armory, which he then "lent" to Jewish forces in Tel Aviv during Arab riots.
        Etkes told Margulis' mother, Aliza, in the 1950s that he had shared the plans of Acre prison "because the prison was like a fortress, and unless they had the map, there was no way to get out." The prison break has long been seen as a dramatic symbol of London's declining ability to maintain control in Mandatory Palestine, which ended a year later. (Guardian-UK)
  • Unsealed Vatican Archives Give Fresh Clues to Pope's Response to Holocaust - Elisabetta Povoledo
    When the Vatican opened its sealed archives from the World War II-era pontificate of Pius XII in March, Brown University historian David I. Kertzer was among the first in line.
        In an article published in the Atlantic last week, Dr. Kertzer revealed a memorandum advising Pius against making a formal protest when the Gestapo rounded up 1,000 of Rome's Jews on Oct. 16, 1943, for deportation to Auschwitz. He also found a trail of documents revealing that Vatican officials directed clerics in France to resist turning over two Jewish boys who had been put in the care of local Catholics - despite rulings by French courts ordering that the boys be given to their aunt.
        Kertzer's book The Pope and Mussolini, about Pius' predecessor, Pius XI, won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 2015. (New York Times)
        See also The Pope, the Jews, and the Secrets in the Archives - David I. Kertzer (Atlantic)
  • The Contribution of the Jewish Resistance in the Rescue of the Jews of France - Dr. Tsilla Hershco
    Hundreds of members of the Jewish Resistance in France operated during the Nazi occupation in an autonomous and separate framework from the French Resistance and contributed greatly to the rescue of 230,000 Jews - 3/4 of French Jewry.
        Members of the Jewish Resistance issued good-quality forged certificates and food stamps without which it would have been impossible to obtain groceries. They maintained regular contact with hidden children to boost their morale and prevent their loss to the Jewish people.
        They assisted detainees in the camps and smuggled them away; they moved convoys of children and adults to hiding places in France, Switzerland and Spain; and they set up guerrilla groups and transferred funds for the struggle against the Nazi occupier.
        The writer, a senior researcher at the BESA Center, is the author of Those Who Walk in the Dark Will See the Light: The Jewish Resistance in France, Holocaust and Resurrection: 1940-1949 (Hebrew). (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

Why F-35s Should Not Be Released to the UAE and Saudi Arabia - Col. (ret.) Shimon Arad (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • President Trump has publicly indicated that he is giving serious consideration to the release of the F-35 stealth fighter jet to the UAE. However, such a move will have significant adverse consequences for Israel that need to be considered.
  • First, such a decision would represent a significant digression from America's historical commitment to preserving Israel's qualitative military edge (QME). In the volatile Middle East, circumstances and intentions change rapidly.
  • Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan are susceptible to public hostility. Given this innate vulnerability, the U.S. has refrained to date from providing Egypt and Jordan with its most advanced military capabilities, thereby safeguarding Israel's military superiority vis-a-vis its existing peace partners.
  • Second, the decision to release the F-35 to the UAE would be a precedent that it would be impossible not to extend to other Gulf states - especially Saudi Arabia. In consequence, Israel's aerial superiority will be undermined. Once this threshold is crossed, it will be harder for Washington to deny other highly advanced weapons systems to Egypt or Jordan.
  • Even if the Gulf version of the F-35 were downgraded, it would still provide game-changing stealth and network capabilities that would make the hundreds of already existing advanced fighters in the Arab air forces even more lethal.
  • Third, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have no real military need for the F-35. Their existing F-16s and F-15s are more than a match for Iran's outdated air force. The attack last September on Saudi Arabia's oil processing facilities by Iran illustrates the Gulf States' need for improved defensive capabilities rather than for the means to carry out surprise stealth attacks.
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