October 8, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Revealed the Weapons that Sit beneath Lebanon's Civilians - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed on September 29, 2020, in an address broadcast to the UN General Assembly, the locations of Hizbullah's production and storage facilities for missiles adjacent to a gas storage site and civilian residences in the Janh neighborhood of Beirut.
    Netanyahu accused Hizbullah of endangering the civilian population, tying the massive August 2020 explosion in Beirut Port to Hizbullah weapons depots.
    A reporter from the Beirut-based Al Mayadeen satellite news channel was permitted into part of a closed area at one site and photographed an advanced hydraulic CNC machine from Turkey, used for cutting and shaping metal tubes.

Iran Imposes Lockdown in Tehran as Corona Cases Surge - Aresu Eqbali (Wall Street Journal)
    The Iranian government has imposed a shutdown in Tehran to prevent the new spread of the coronavirus.
    "The transmission of this virus is getting out of control," said Payam Tabarsi, head of the infection ward at Tehran's Masih Daneshvari hospital for respiratory diseases. Some 80% of health workers at the hospital have been infected with the virus.

Egyptian TV Airs Israeli Foreign Minister's Speech on Yom Kippur War Anniversary (Times of Israel)
    Egyptian television channel Extra News on Tuesday, the anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, aired Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi's remarks on regional peace, as he met in Berlin with his Emirati counterpart.
    Egyptian media are generally known to be hostile toward the Jewish state.

Released Terrorists Are Paid by PA for Doing Nothing - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch (Palestinian Media Watch)
    Qadri Abu Bakr, Director of the PA-funded Commission of Prisoners and Released Prisoners' Affairs, told Ma'an News in an interview:
    "A prisoner is released from prison and receives a released prisoner's salary, without working and without doing anything....We have 7,000-8,000 released prisoners who are receiving a salary like this."
    According to an official pay scale, all terrorists released after 5 years in prison receive a starting salary equivalent to that of an officer. Someone released after 10 years is paid as a lieutenant colonel and after 20 years is paid as a brigadier-general.
    The writer served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps, including as Director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.

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Reusable Hi-Tech Israeli Mask Eliminates Coronavirus - Bernard Brode (Times of Israel)
    Researchers and tech experts at Sonovia Tech, based at Bar-Ilan University, used revolutionary sound wave technology to construct the SonoMask.
    Constructed with a reusable fabric that maintains its efficiency after over 50 washes, tests show the mask prevents coronavirus at efficiency levels of up to 98%. The masks are now available for online purchase.
    The Sonovia technology uses ultrasonic energy to coat their fabrics with anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-odor, and anti-microbial features.
    It applies a safe zinc-oxide formula that destroys the virus.
    See also SonoMask FAQ (Sonovia Tech)

Israel Develops New High-Tech Cannon to Prevent Sea Infiltrations from Gaza - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
    Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has developed a new type of Typhoon cannon which uses state-of-the-art optical technology and is aimed by radar, giving it pinpoint accuracy, even in complete darkness, Israeli news site N12 reported.
    The IDF thinks Hamas is turning to sea infiltrations because its tunnel system has been blocked by Israeli defensive measures.

Cisco to Buy Israeli Cybersecurity Firm Portshift for $100 Million - Ofir Dor (Globes)
    Cisco has announced that it is to buy Israeli cybersecurity company Portshift for an estimated $100 million.
    Cisco's Liz Centoni said, "The Portshift team is building capabilities that span a large portion of the lifecycle of the cloud-native application. They bring cloud native application security capabilities...which will allow us to move toward the delivery of security for all phases of the application development lifecycle."

Israel Film Archive Moves Online (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Film Archive at the Jerusalem Cinematheque has launched its website featuring 120 years and thousands of hours of Israeli filmmaking. Some of the titles are free, while others require payment.
    Visit the Israel Film Archive (Jerusalem Cinematheque)

Six Israeli Tech Companies Surpass $2 Billion Valuation This Year - Omri Zerachovitz (Globes)
    In Israel in the past few months, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, six companies have crossed the $2 billion valuation threshold.
    Monday has developed a platform for managing work teams in organizational projects. Snyk finds and fixes vulnerabilities in code. Via has developed a dynamic smart transportation platform.
    Gong improves sales performance using artificial intelligence. Next Insurance is a digital insurance company. Tipalti automates management of payments to suppliers.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Qatar Asks U.S. to Buy F-35 Jets - Mike Stone
    Qatar has submitted a formal request to the U.S. to buy stealthy F-35 fighter jets, three people familiar with the deal said. In Washington, a person familiar with the matter said concern about Qatar's links to Hamas have frequently surfaced over arms sales to the Gulf state. (Reuters)
        See also Qatar F-35 Request Raises Questions - Seth J. Frantzman
    Any sales of the F-35 to Qatar raises eyebrows, especially because Qatar has been accused of being too close to Iran and to an increasingly belligerent Turkey. It has also hosted and supported religious extremists in the region, often linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Proposed F-35 Sale to UAE Hits Snag - Eric Shawn
    Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has raised concerns about the proposed sale of the F-35, the world's most advanced stealth warplane, to the UAE. "Any potential arms sales must continue congressional consultations on meeting our obligation to retain Israel's Qualitative Military Edge," the senator recently told the committee.
        Ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) said, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if Israel's the only country in the Middle East that has F-35s, that selling it to someone else no longer produces that qualitative military edge in the air."
        Joel Rubin, president of the Washington Strategy Group and former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration, noted, "There is a long history of military cooperation between the UAE and both Russia and China, as well as significant trade with Iran, as the UAE is Iran's largest gulf state trading partner. These relationships create vulnerabilities that, if the F-35 technology falls into their hands, would render the superiority of our technology for us and our allies, like Israel, meaningless."  (Fox News)
  • Syria Is Still Trying to Use Chemical Weapons - Jack Detsch
    "Despite having completed destruction of Syria's declared [chemical weapons] production facilities and stockpile of [chemical weapons] agent, the Assad regime continues to pursue chemical weapons and has used both chlorine and sarin on a number of occasions over the course of the conflict," the State Department reported to Congress this year. "We believe the Assad regime is seeking to reestablish strategic weapons production capabilities it lost in the course of the conflict and we continue to see Syrian procurement activity in support of its chemical weapons and missile programs."
        At the Security Council on Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft accused Syria of breaching its obligation under the Chemical Weapons Convention and UN resolutions to dismantle its chemical weapons program. The U.S. attributes more than 50 instances of chemical weapons use to the Assad regime, mostly launched from aircraft and targeting civilians in residential neighborhoods, markets, and hospitals.
        The State Department further warned that Iran was exploiting the Syrian war to build up a coterie of multinational militia forces along border crossing routes and to fly armed drones into nearby Israel. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Three NGOs File Criminal Complaint in German Court over Sarin Gas Attacks in Syria - Bethan McKernan (Guardian-UK)
  • Two ISIS Militants Charged in Deaths of American Hostages in Syria - Rachel Weiner and Ellen Nakashima
    Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh have been charged in U.S. federal court for involvement in the Islamic State beheading of American journalists and aid workers on camera. The two were flown Wednesday to the U.S. from Iraq. Kotey was born in London; Elsheikh moved there from Sudan as a child. Both became radicalized in Britain, and were arrested on 9/11 after taking part in a demonstration cheering the attacks in the U.S.
        The defendants fought for a prosecution in Britain rather than the U.S., where criminal punishment is harsher. But Britain stripped Kotey and Elsheikh of their British citizenship. (Washington Post)
        See also ISIS Militants Charged with Deaths of Americans in Syria - Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers (U.S. Department of Justice)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Lockdown Brings Drop in Infection Rate
    The Israel Health Ministry said Thursday morning that on Wednesday 4,117 people tested positive for Covid-19 in 48,000 tests, bringing the contagion rate to 8.5% - the lowest in three weeks. 1,576 patients are being treated in hospitals (compared with 1,668 on Sunday). 847 patients are in serious condition (compared with 890 on Sunday), and 236 are ventilated (compared with 215 on Sunday). The death toll is 1,824. The number of active patients is 61,049 (compared with 68,811 a week ago). (Ynet News)
  • EU Won't Give PA More Aid while They Refuse Israel-Collected Tax Funds - Lahav Harkov
    The EU turned down requests from the PA for additional aid, as long as the Palestinians refuse to accept their own import tax funds collected by Israel. "No stopgap extra funding should be expected...if they do not accept their own money," an EU diplomat said on Wednesday. The PA will, however, continue to get the aid it usually receives from the EU.
        Israel has amassed over NIS 2.5 billion that the PA refuses to take. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Security Official: Moderate Arab States View Abbas as Irrelevant - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Moderate Sunni Arab states which are on track to normalize relations with Israel view PA President Mahmoud Abbas as irrelevant, former top Israel Security Agency official Harris Barbing told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "The Palestinian issue is not a focus of the Arab states."
        Though Abbas has reduced security coordination with Israel more than expected, Barbing said the PA has been meticulous to stop or warn Israel about any terror operations. He said this is a core PA interest so that Israel does not accuse it of being connected to terror. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Saudi Prince Accuses Palestinian Leaders of Failing Palestinians - Isabel Kershner and Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
  • Palestinians Throw Firebombs at IDF Soldiers
    IDF soldiers on Monday evening opened fire at three terrorists who threw firebombs at them near the town of Einav in the West Bank. One of the terrorists was killed. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Is the UN Still Relevant? - Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan
    I was determined to begin my tour of duty as Israel's permanent representative to the UN with an open mind. One of the first issues that arose upon my arrival in New York was the U.S. effort to reinstate international sanctions on the world's number-one state sponsor of terrorism, Iran. As the global organization dedicated to safeguarding peace and security, one would think the UN would be eager to apply maximum pressure to roll back Iran's terrorist network and nuclear ambitions.
        Regrettably, however, Security Council members spent most of the past month parsing the Iran nuclear deal's fine print in order to find excuses why not to reinstate sanctions, the majority working diligently to shield Tehran from censure. I could receive no clearer lesson on the perverse disconnect between the high ideals of the UN Charter and the cold reality of its implementation today.
        I would have expected the U.S.-brokered Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain to be a central theme at the UN General Assembly since it was the very embodiment of the lofty ideals touted in the charter. But when the secretary-general recognized progress made toward peace in Sudan, Afghanistan and elsewhere, he did not even mention this historic event.
        If the UN is unable to acknowledge and embrace peace, recognize Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, or even halt the malign actions of the most dangerous regime on the planet today, how can we expect it to be capable of any bold action tomorrow? (Jerusalem Post)
  • How the Arab World Turned Against Hizbullah - Lizzie Porter
    For many people across the Middle East, Hizbullah fighting on the side of the Assad regime has disrupted its cultivated image as a "resistance" force defying Israel. In the 19 interviews conducted for this article, Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians described growing feelings of unease towards the group.
        In Lebanon, Hizbullah's traditional Shia support base is suffering as a result of the country's ongoing financial crisis. While Hizbullah members and fighters receive salaries in U.S. dollars, everyone else is paid in Lebanese currency, which has lost more than 3/4 of its value since October 2019. The party's access to dollars - from where remains unclear - pits the Hizbullah haves against the have-nots.
        Husayn, a Hizbullah unit commander who served in Syria, spoke with disdain about the Assad regime's army. "There are traitors among them. Some of them have killed many of us. They shot us from the back several times while we were attacking. A number of our fighters were martyred because of them."  (Prospect-UK)
  • Hizbullah Is Losing Its Ability to Intimidate Anyone - Michael Young
    Lebanon is going through a terrible economic crisis, exacerbated by the resistance of the country's politicians to introducing reforms that would unlock financial aid from the International Monetary Fund. Such reforms would threaten their networks of corruption and patronage.
        Over 50% of Lebanese live under the poverty line, and many of them believe Hizbullah to be part of the corrupt political elite. Hizbullah's disregard for the discontent in Lebanon, along with its refusal to help revive the country through economic reform, has meant that it has poisoned its own environment, limiting its margin of maneuver on Iran's behalf. The writer is a senior editor at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. (The National-UAE)
  • Palestinians Skeptical about Fatah-Hamas Election Deal - Khaled Abu Toameh
    In Turkey two weeks ago, Fatah and Hamas reportedly agreed to hold elections for the Palestinian Authority presidency and parliament, but a meeting that was supposed to take place on Saturday to discuss new elections was postponed indefinitely.
        "It seems that neither Abbas nor Hamas are really interested in holding new elections," a Palestinian political analyst told the Jerusalem Post. "The Palestinian public, in addition, does not seem to care much about elections these days, particularly in wake of the growing number of coronavirus infections and the bad economy. The European Union appears to be more interested in the elections than the Palestinian public. Apparently, Abbas is facing pressure from the Europeans to hold new elections while the Palestinians are almost completely indifferent to the subject."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Deciphering the Azerbaijan-Armenia War - Harold Rhode
    Azerbaijanis ("Azeris") are Turks who speak a language that is almost completely intelligible to Turks in Turkey. But, unlike the rest of the Turkish/Turkic world, which is Sunni, Iranian Azeris are Shi'ite. 3/4 of the total Azeri population in the world live in northwest Iran, just across the border from the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. 80% of Tehran's population either speaks Azeri or is of Azeri origin.
        Most Soviet Azeri intellectuals believed that when they created their own country, Azeris living in Iran would clamor to join them. But Iranian Azaris wanted to remain part of Iran and suggested that the former Soviet Azeris should also join Iran, possibly giving the Azaris greater political leverage in that country.
        Many international actors have a stake in the outcome of the Armenian-Azeri conflict. Russia supports Armenia. India also supports Armenia, in part because Turkey is training radical Indian Muslim clerics and sending them to fan the flames of Hindi-Muslim tensions. Sunni Pakistan supports Shi'ite Azerbaijan, in part because of its historically close ties with Turkey - since Pakistan's upper class is largely of Central Asian Turkic origin.
        The writer served for 28 years as an advisor on the Islamic world in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. (JNS-Israel Hayom)
  • How Azerbaijan Juggles Israel and Iran - David Pollock
    In the current conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Israel and Iran are both tilting toward Azerbaijan. Israel buys Azerbaijan's oil and sells it advanced weapons, now being used to deadly effect; while Iran proclaims its support for Azerbaijan's "territorial integrity" - code words for its claim to Nagorno-Karabakh and adjoining bits of territory held by Armenian separatists.
        Azerbaijan's government and elite, nominally Shia Muslim but almost uniformly secular in practice, generally despise Iran's oppressive theocracy, but they also fear Iranian agents and Hizbullah proxies on their soil, who have periodically attempted to hit Israeli or American targets there.
        Azerbaijani people care about their millions of ethnic kinsmen across the border who constitute Iran's largest minority and are double the number of Azeris in Azerbaijan itself. Thus, both governments take good care to maintain healthy diplomatic and commercial relations in order to protect both themselves and their distant relatives. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Syrian Writer: Time to Abandon Self-Destructive Ideology of Resistance
    Syrian writer Dr. Kamal Al-Labwani told Al-Jazeera on Sep. 22: "For seventy years, we lived according to the ideology of resistance. This ideology has culminated with the destruction of the Arab countries. Today, some [Arab] countries have begun to sober up from this ideology, which was used to justify the state of emergency, as well as the oppression and the tyranny....This ideology is self-destructive, and we must abandon it."
        "War crimes have been committed in the name of resistance and liberation. Anyone demanding freedom was accused of being an Israeli collaborator or whatever. Iran came and occupied Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The Syrian people have been driven out and slaughtered. The Lebanese people have been slaughtered. All this was done in the name of the resistance, while Israel has been living in peace and security. So it is time that we do away with this lie."  (MEMRI-TV)
  • The End of the Age of Islamist Insurgency? - Jonathan Spyer
    20 years ago, the Second Intifada witnessed bus and cafe bombings perpetrated by organizations wrapped in the banners of insurgent political Islam, most importantly Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). It was the first eruption of political Islam in its insurgent form against a Western democracy. One year later, as Israel was still in the middle of its assault of suicide bombings, al-Qaeda destroyed the twin towers in New York. That attack - together with subsequent ones in Madrid, London, and Paris - ushered in a global focus on insurgent political Islam.
        For a distinct period, insurgent political Islamism was the most vital political ideology in the Middle East, capturing the energy that was once invested in pan-Arab nationalism. The high point of Islamist popular mobilization and insurgency was evident from 2010 to 2014 with the takeover of the Syrian rebellion by Sunni Islamist militias, the Muslim Brotherhood's brief triumph in Egypt, and the Islamic State's caliphate. Today, where does one find an insurgency led from below - a jihad, a popular revolt?
        There is certainly disorder. The end result of ten years of political chaos triggered by Islamist insurgencies is that large swaths of the Arabic-speaking world are smoking ruins, with semi-functioning governments in Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The writer is a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies. (Foreign Policy)

  • Weekend Feature

  • Israel's Military Inclusion Program Inspires New U.S. Corps of Honor - Abigail Klein Leichman
    Chris Neeley, whose son has Down Syndrome, is starting an American version of Israel's military inclusion program, Special in Uniform, so that young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities can serve their country. Neeley, a major in the U.S. Army National Guard, is a special-education administrator and chair of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. "When I saw what the Israeli Defense Forces did to include them among their ranks, I realized this innovative approach could be a model for the United States," he said.
        Neeley has visited some of the 28 bases where about 450 Special in Uniform soldiers are stationed. "I was blown away. I talked to the commanders about how the integration has helped relieve some of the garrison responsibilities like logistics, food services, medical services, transportation and administrative jobs so you can move soldiers without disabilities to the frontline. I saw how the IDF trains young people with autism to read satellite imagery and see things you and I can't see."  (Israel21c)

The Palestinian Leadership Has Lost Support in the Arab and Muslim World - Dan Diker interviewed by Israel Kasnett (JNS)
  • Dan Diker, director of the Political Warfare Project at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS, "20 years after the deadly 'Al-Aqsa intifada,' the Palestinians find themselves cornered or 'checked' with limited possible moves on the Arab Muslim majority Middle East chessboard."
  • He noted that the Second Intifada was Arafat's "Hail Mary pass" using violence and terror "to try and bury Israel, and drive it into submission. It represented the end of Arafat's acceptance of the Oslo presupposition of staging peace with Israel and was a return to the 1968 charter which called for the liberation of Palestine. It was all framed in an Islamic context. It was called the 'Al-Aqsa Intifada.' Arafat's goal was to mobilize the Muslim world against Israel."
  • Diker said a former member of the Tanzim, a militant faction of the Fatah movement, told him Arafat ignited the Second Intifada in order to try to overcome the popularity of Hamas "and that internal Palestinian story is the story that many people do not know. The Palestinian war with Hamas got played out in an intifada against Israel."
  • Having been mostly defeated in their effort to terrorize Israel into submission, the Palestinians "moved from violence and physical terror to ideological warfare. Abbas and the PA actively supported the delegitimization and dehumanization of Israel as an alternative to all-out suicide-bombing warfare. The Palestinians now aimed to internationalize the conflict and move towards ideological warfare through complete delegitimization and defamation of Israel as a recognized Jewish nation-state."
  • But "they overplayed their cards and lost three main audiences they had won over in the early '90s: the Palestinian public, the Israeli public and the Arab world."
  • "The recognition of and normalization with Israel is the key. It is highly unlikely for there to be any progress unless the Palestinians do what the UAE did, which is to recognize that there is a Jewish people and Jewish civilization. That's why the agreement was called the 'Abraham Accords.' The Abraham Accords uprooted the Palestinian ideological narrative and strategy."
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