October 12, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Will Oppose U.S. F-35 Sale to Qatar (Reuters)
    Israel will oppose any U.S. sale of F-35 planes to Qatar, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said on Sunday, citing a need to maintain Israeli military superiority in the region.
    "Our region has still not turned into Switzerland," he said.

Turkey Reopens Abandoned Cyprus Resort (BBC News)
    Varosha was Cyprus' own Riviera until the Turkish invasion split the island in two in 1974 and the resort's Greek-Cypriot community fled.
    But on Thursday Turkey's military took down the fencing and reopened the beachfront.
    Streams of Turkish Cypriots went through the fences to have a look at the deserted suburb of Famagusta.
    See also Video: Northern Cyprus Reopens Varosha Beach after 46 Years (Guardian-UK)

Israel's Turkish Dilemma - Dr. Norman Bailey (Globes)
    There has been a dangerous increase in Turkish regional aggression, which has reached such dimensions that Turkey is arguably now a greater threat to Middle Eastern peace and stability than Iran. The Turkish regime of President Erdogan is openly anti-Semitic.
    At the same time, exports to Turkey are still an important element in Israel's international trade.
    The writer was chief economist of the U.S. National Security Council during the Reagan administration and on the senior staff of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the George W. Bush administration.

Israeli Official: Arab Eastern Jerusalem Can Become Regional Tech Hub - Alex Abraham (Gulf News-Dubai)
    Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, co-founder of the UAE Israel Business Council, said she wanted Arab eastern Jerusalem to become the R&D back-office of the Middle East "because we have young Arabic-speaking men and women engineers who can provide amazing services because they have been raised in the atmosphere of innovation in Israel."

IDF Opens Two Coronavirus Wards in Haifa's Rambam Hospital - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Defense Forces opened two coronavirus wards in Haifa's Rambam Medical Center on Sunday, marking the first time the military has provided medical care to Israeli civilians.
    100 army doctors, nurses, and medics will take part as hospitals struggle to provide care for the growing number of moderate and severe coronavirus cases.
    The head of Rambam Hospital, Dr. Michael Halbertal, said bringing in the military was a "force multiplier."
    Soldiers taking part have been training for the operation, learning how to treat the coronavirus and work in the full-body protective gear needed to avoid infection.
    See also IDF Contact Tracing Unit Nears Full Operations - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)

Israel to Help Upgrade Emergency Services in Yangzhou, China - Hagay Hacohen (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israeli LR Group last week closed a deal with the Chinese city of Yangzhou to improve its readiness for large-scale emergency situations, such as earthquakes.
    It includes the creation of a unified city command center, building a medical simulation center, training medical teams in both countries and selling IT products.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Iran's Financial Sector - Pranshu Verma
    The U.S. on Thursday imposed a new round of economic sanctions against Iran's financial sector, imposing penalties against 18 Iranian banks. The action could effectively lock Iran out of the global financial system.
        "Our maximum economic pressure campaign will continue until Iran is willing to conclude a comprehensive negotiation that addresses the regime's malign behavior," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "Our sanctions are directed at the regime and its corrupt officials that have used the wealth of the Iranian people to fuel a radical, revolutionary cause that has brought untold suffering across the Middle East and beyond." Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions would "continue to allow for humanitarian transactions to support the Iranian people."  (New York Times)
  • Australia Halves UNRWA Funding - Naomi Levin
    The Australian Government has quietly halved its contribution to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). According to the 2020-21 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade budget, Australia will contribute $10 million to UNRWA, down from $20 million in 2019-20. (Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Cabinet Endorses Israel-UAE Peace Treaty - Lahav Harkov
    The Israeli Cabinet voted unanimously in favor of the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Monday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UAE Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed spoke by phone over the weekend. Netanyahu said, "Arab states...see that Israel is not only not a burden and not an enemy, it is a necessary ally."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jordan and Israel Sign Deal for Reciprocal Overflights
    Israel and Jordan have signed a new aviation agreement that will allow overflights through the airspace of the two countries, thereby considerably shortening flying time to many destinations. Negotiations that started several years ago were accelerated and completed only after the signing of the peace agreement with the UAE and the permit for Israeli flights over Saudi Arabia. (Globes)
        See also Flights from Iraq, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to Use Israeli Airspace - Itay Blumenthal (Ynet News)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Transmission Rates Decline
    The Israel Health Ministry said Monday morning that Israel is continuing to see Covid-19 transmission rates decline amid a nationwide lockdown. 1,553 people are hospitalized with the virus, 823 of them in serious condition and 224 on ventilators. The death toll is 1,983. 8 municipalities account for 40% of confirmed cases: Jerusalem, Bnei Brak, Modiin Illit, Ashdod, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Petah Tikva and Beit Shemesh. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Hizbullah's Secrets Explode - and Are Covered Up - Again - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Assaf Orion
    On Sep. 29, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly by video, revealing the existence of a "secret arms depot" in Beirut's Janah neighborhood. The IDF published details about two other Hizbullah manufacturing sites for precision-guided missiles in the Laylaki and Choueifat neighborhoods, both sheltered beneath residential buildings.
        In addition to recalling the Aug. 4 blast in Beirut port, Netanyahu recalled the Sep. 22 explosion in Ain Qana. The UN also reported on explosions in Khirbet Selim in July 2009, Tayr Filsay in October 2009, Shahabia in September 2010, and Tayr Harfa in December 2012. Seven weeks before the Ain Qana incident, a Norway-based journalist tweeted in Arabic that the village was home to Hizbullah's engineering unit, and that the group had been using several residences to manufacture explosive charges and store tons of explosive material since 2008, using a dairy as cover.
        Lebanon and the international community must still reckon with the fact that Hizbullah maintains its own military arsenal and foreign policy outside the government's control; embeds its forces and weapons in populated areas, thereby exposing civilians to safety hazards and turning them into human shields; and persists in developing precision missiles and other advanced threats that risk provoking Israel to take preventive action.
        The writer served as head of the Strategic Division in the Planning Directorate of the IDF General Staff (2010-2015). (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Lifting the Embargo on Arms Sales to Iran - Col. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Kam
    The embargo imposed by the UN Security Council on the sale of weapons to Iran will expire on October 18, 2020. Its shopping list will probably include Russian Sukhoi S-30 aircraft and S-400 advanced air defense systems. Yet Russia is no longer prepared as it once was to supply its clients with arms on long-term credit.
        Over the last two decades, Iran has had to abandon or postpone many of its purchasing plans because it was unable to pay for new systems. Today Iran's economic position is even worse, due to U.S. sanctions, its investments in consolidating its intervention in Syria, and the severe damage caused to its economy by the coronavirus pandemic.
        Iran also recognizes that the U.S. will exert financial pressure to prevent the supply of strategic arms to Iran, including threats of imposing sanctions on countries and companies that do so. This pressure could deter Russia, China and European countries from supplying problematic weapons to Iran.
        The writer, who served in the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is Deputy Director of INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Gulf Arabs Criticize Palestinians - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Several Gulf Arabs have launched unprecedented attacks on the Palestinian leadership, accusing them of "trafficking" in the Palestinian cause; depriving their people of international aid; financial corruption; and acting against the interests of their own people. The Palestinian people are accused of being "ungrateful" toward Arab countries that made many sacrifices on their behalf, gave them hundreds of millions of dollars and jobs. Popular hashtags trending on social media declare that "the Palestinian cause is not my cause."
        Gulf Arabs have also been voicing support for Israel by posting pictures of Israeli flags and video clips of Arabs praising the peace agreements with Israel and greeting Israelis on Jewish holidays.
        A Palestinian official told the Jerusalem Post: "Once, it was a taboo for Arabs to criticize the Palestinians or the Palestinian cause. Now the Arab media is filled with articles denouncing Palestinian leaders as traitors and liars and calling on Arabs to stop supporting the Palestinians."
        Hussam Arafat, a senior PLO official, said that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz's criticism of Palestinian leaders last week on Al-Arabiya was a "firm message to the Palestinian leadership, a strong indication of the Saudi leadership's willingness and preparation for immediate and rapid steps towards normalization with Israel. This interview constitutes a dramatic and dangerous development in the traditional Saudi position toward the Palestinian issue, and it is a strong indication of significant upcoming Saudi political steps towards normalization with Israel."  (Jerusalem Post)

Israel-Lebanon Maritime Boundary Negotiations - Some Unique Aspects - Amb. Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • After a rift of over 30 years since any meaningful negotiations took place between Lebanon and Israel, the two countries have now agreed to conduct negotiations on their mutual maritime border, with the U.S. as mediator and facilitator.
  • The most important factor in pushing both states towards negotiating is the potential economic benefits to Lebanon and Israel of cooperation in the extraction and marketing of natural gas. According to an estimate of the U.S. Geological Survey in 2010, unexplored potential reserves in the Levant Basin amount to 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas - the world's largest gas finds in decades.
  • However, unlike routine border negotiations between neighboring states at peace with each other, a prevailing atmosphere of hostility, suspicion, lack of trust, and a long history of armed conflict and terror, renders this particular dispute as unique.
  • Lebanon's political leadership have, up to the present, represented the two countries as being in an ongoing state of armed conflict. Yet on May 17, 1983, the two countries agreed to formally end the state of war between them and grant mutual recognition of each country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Moreover, in the context of the 1991 Madrid Conference, more than a dozen rounds of bilateral talks were held between Israel and Lebanon in 1991-1993. 
  • As Amb. Freddy Eytan noted in the Times of Israel (in French) on October 4: "Of course, this is not a peace agreement with the country of the Cedar because Hizbullah refuses any direct contact or compromise with the 'Zionist enemy.' [Yet] for the first time, Lebanese leaders such as the Shiite President of the National Assembly, Nabih Berry, no longer use the term 'enemy' when referring to the State of Israel."
  • "The new negotiations, although limited in time and space, present a de facto "recognition" of the existence of the neighboring Israeli state."

    The writer directs the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Center's international law program.
        In his capacity as legal adviser of Israel's Foreign Ministry, he participated in the international negotiations on the drafting of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as in the bilateral negotiations between Israel and Lebanon in 1982-3 and 1991-3.

        See also Direct Talks with Lebanon a Clear Loss for Hizbullah - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland
    The negotiations between Israel and Lebanon are a clear loss for Hizbullah, which has so far prevented negotiations. As long as the dispute over the maritime border stands, Hizbullah can claim that Israel is stealing Lebanon's natural resources and that this is a reason to go to war. If the negotiations bear fruit, it will pull the rug from under Nasrallah's feet. Moreover, negotiations set a precedent. Direct talks on one subject could lead to more on other matters. The writer is a former head of Israel's National Security Council. (Ynet News)

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