November 9, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Unveils New Ballistic Missile System (Radio Farda)
    Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Chief-Commander Maj.-Gen. Hossein Salami on Wednesday unveiled a new "automated and smart system, used for launching multiple long-range ballistic missiles, manufactured by the IRGC Aerospace Force."
    The state-run Seda va Sima television network broadcast images of the new system, which appeared to be underground.
    Salami urged IRGC Aerospace commanders to hold their fingers on the trigger and be ready round the clock.

Facebook Uncovers Iranian Operation Supporting Anti-Netanyahu Protests in Israel (AP-ABC News)
    Facebook said Thursday it has taken down fake accounts based in Iran that had voiced support for protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
    One such case involved 12 Facebook accounts, two pages and 307 Instagram accounts traced to a Tehran-based IT company.

Former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Dies (Jewish News-UK)
    Lord Jonathan Sacks, who served as Britain's Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013, died on Saturday of cancer at age 72.
    Jonathan Goldstein, Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, called Sacks "one of the greatest Jewish and religious thinkers of our time."
    See also Interview with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks - David Horovitz (Times of Israel-2013)

Laser Weapons to Play Major Role in Future Israeli Missile Defense - Aaron Mehta (Defense News)
    Moshe Patel, who heads Israel's Missile Defense Organization, said in an interview that laser weapons (directed energy) "is playing a major role for the future in Israel."
    We are in the "fairly advanced stages in terms of directed-energy capabilities....I can see the light at the end of the tunnel....I'm much more optimistic than I used to be five years ago."

Saudi Prince Turki: Biden Likely to Keep Trump's Pro-Israel Decisions - Emily Judd (Al Arabiya)
    Former Saudi Arabian intelligence chief and ambassador to the U.S. Prince Turki Al-Faisal said Wednesday:
    "I think Mr. Biden as president is not going to draw back from where Mr. Trump has driven America - whether it is on Jerusalem, on the Golan Heights, or on the so-called Abrahamic Accords."
    "My concern about some Arab quarters, particularly my Palestinian friends and brothers, is if they expect that a President Biden is going to be different from Mr. Trump, I think they will be sorely disappointed."

PA Employs Former Prisoners to Bypass Israeli Sanctions on Payments to Terrorists - Dima Abumaria (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    To circumvent Israeli sanctions on the Palestinian banking system, the Palestinian Authority decided last week to cease paying monthly stipends to 7,000 former prisoners and instead pay them salaries as government employees.
    In addition, PLO spokesperson Hasan Abd Rabbo said many banks in the West Bank closed accounts of relatives of "prisoners and martyrs" after the banks were accused of serving terrorists. "But the PA has made a decision to establish a national bank to serve the prisoners and the families of martyrs," he said.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Says It Will Not Reopen Iran Deal Discussions
    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh stated that there is no room for new negotiations regarding the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with the next U.S. administration. Responding to President-elect Joe Biden's conditions regarding the JCPOA, Khatibzadeh said: "We have no regard for what Biden's advisors say....No one can talk about the JCPOA and open what has been signed....Iran has repeatedly stated that the JCPOA is something of the past and cannot be reopened by anyone."  (Iran Press News Agency)
        See also Tehran Says Biden Must Compensate for U.S. Wrongdoings (Tehran Times-Iran)
  • Israeli Entrepreneurs Welcomed in Dubai - Isabel Kershner
    More than two dozen Israeli high-tech executives turned up in Dubai recently, six weeks after the Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to normalize relations with Israel and open up embassies. The rancor of more than seven decades of Arab-Israeli conflict seemed to melt away in a matter of days.
        Emirati investor Mohamed Mandeel, CEO of Abu Dhabi's Royal Strategic Partners group, said he felt a sense of kinship with the Israelis. He recounted how he had taken a DNA test and found a match for his rare Babylonian gene in Tel Aviv. "If we set aside the religious ideologies and 70 years fueled by conflict, wars and the media, we end up with human beings," he said. "We share the same food, the same DNA, the same look," and he described the Israelis as "cousins."
        The Israelis said the encounter felt like a dream come true, unlike any they had experienced in the Arab world before, and different from Israel's decades-old "cold peace" with Egypt and Jordan. (New York Times)
        See also First Tourist Flight from Israel Arrives in Dubai on Sunday - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
  • Islamist Militants Shifting Tactics in Egypt's North Sinai
    Large-scale assaults by Islamist militants on Egyptian military and government positions in northern Sinai have subsided, but militants have shifted tactics, staging more individual attacks, deploying snipers and planting explosives, security sources say. Their ability to temporarily overrun villages near Bir al-Abd in northwest Sinai this summer shows security remains fragile. At least 15 people have been killed by explosive devices around Bir al-Abd since Oct. 10.
        Oded Berkowitz, a security analyst, said militant attacks had fallen to 15 a month from 40 in late 2017 as Egypt improved security on its borders with Gaza and Libya. Militant sniper operations, which have shifted west from the Gaza border to the outskirts of el-Arish, rose to at least 18 between January and September 2020, Egyptian security sources said. Militants have also kidnapped and killed those they accuse of collaborating with the state. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Congratulates Biden, Thanks Trump
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his projected victory in the U.S. presidential elections. Netanyahu tweeted: "Joe, we've had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with...you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel."
        Netanyahu also thanked President Donald Trump "for the friendship you have shown the State of Israel and me personally, for recognizing Jerusalem and the Golan, for standing up to Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Abbas Wants Biden to Revoke American Recognition of Jerusalem, Move Embassy Back to Tel Aviv - Daniel Siryoti
    Palestinian Authority senior adviser Nabil Shaath told Israel Hayom that PA President Abbas would ask Biden to revoke American recognition of Jerusalem's status and move the embassy back to Tel Aviv. He said the PA is willing to resume U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel from the point at which they broke off in 2016 under the Obama administration.
        Another senior advisor to Abbas recalled that "Biden was also Obama's vice president when Abbas didn't bother to respond to the proposal that Obama sent to both sides for new negotiations before the end of his second term, and Biden was the one who tried to reconcile between Abbas and Obama, who was very offended when Abbas ignored him."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Coronavirus Cases in Israel Continue to Decline - Yaron Drukman
    549 people are being treated for Covid-19 in hospital, the Israel Health Ministry said Monday. 322 are in serious condition (compared to 353 on Thursday) with 138 on ventilators (154 on Thursday). There are 8,000 confirmed active cases (9,406 on Thursday). 2,674 people have died out of nearly 320,000 cases. (Ynet News-Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Biden Wants to Reenter Iran Nuclear Deal
    Amos Hochstein, former U.S. Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs in the Obama administration, who oversaw energy sanctions on Iran and worked closely with Vice President Biden, told Israel's Channel 12 that rejoining the Iran nuclear deal remains high on Biden's agenda. "I believe that in the first months, we'll either see him rejoin the deal fully, or what I would call 'JCPOA-minus,' meaning lifting sanctions in exchange for suspending some of the Iranian nuclear programs [developed] in the past three years."
        Hochstein says Biden wants "some changes" to the pact, including its expiration date. He also said a Biden administration will "bring back the Palestinian issue to the heart of the discourse."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Israeli Minister Urges Dialogue So Biden Won't Rejoin Iran Deal without Changes
    Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio on Sunday that a "dialogue with the new administration" was needed to ensure Biden does not reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear pact under its previous terms. He said Israel's goal should be to see Iran's nuclear program "dismantled" and not "frozen" in place.
        On Saturday night, Israeli media reported that the Prime Minister's Office was seeking to convey that Israel can work well with Biden, and that they hope Biden will continue to push Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel and to stand up to Iran. (Times of Israel)
  • New Congressional Makeup Bodes Well for Bipartisan Support for Israel - Matthew Kassel
    Pro-Israel advocates expressed optimism at the results of last week's House and Senate elections. "It is clear from the outcome of the races so far that the elected and reelected senators and representatives from both parties will be joining an overwhelmingly pro-Israel Congress," AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann said Thursday. "There remains a resolute bipartisan commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance."
        Jeff Mendelsohn, executive director of Pro-Israel America, noted victories by "emerging pro-Israel champions" like Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), committee leaders such as Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), and "long-time champions" including Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
        Mark Mellman, president and CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel, said, "We're going to have a Democratic caucus that's very supportive of Israel, and we're going to continue to have Republicans who are very supportive of Israel. So in that respect, we'll see bipartisanship continue."  (Jewish Insider)
  • Guardian Story on Evicted Bedouins Omits Key Info - Adam Levick
    A Nov. 5 article by the Guardian on Israeli forces demolishing a tent-dwelling Bedouin shepherding community in the Jordan Valley omitted important context that would have provided readers with a much clearer understanding of the story. It failed to note that the encampment was in Area C, the part of the West Bank under full Israeli civil and military control per the Oslo Accords.
        The IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said authorities had carried out an "enforcement activity... against seven tents and eight pens which were illegally constructed in a firing range. Israel's Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the residents have no property rights in the location (i.e., the land does not belong to them). Moreover, previous Israeli court cases on the same issue were heard in 2011 and 2014, and the petitioners lost in both cases.
        The Guardian also failed to note that at least some of the structures in the illegal encampment were built via foreign funding - including from the EU and UK. (CAMERA-UK)

  • The American team to be tasked with restarting talks with Iran includes Antony Blinken, former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security advisor under President Obama; Jack Sullivan, Biden's national security advisor during his tenure as vice president; and former undersecretary of defense for policy Michele Flournoy.
  • The Americans estimate that until the presidential elections in Iran in June 2021, no substantial agreement can be achieved.
  • The main objective during this initial phase is to reach an understanding with Tehran to freeze its ballistic missile development, end interventionist actions in the Middle East and halt its nuclear military activity. In return and once a new agreement is signed, Washington will lift the latest sanctions put in place in 2018 by President Trump.
  • After the Iranian elections, the U.S. will begin talks focusing on nuclear and regional issues with the intention of correcting weaknesses in the 2015 agreement. During this phase, sanctions will remain in place.
  • Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stresses that any updated outline must not only include an end to Iranian nuclear development, but also an effective ban on its distribution of ballistic missiles to the region - including the rocket workshops in Lebanon - as well as an end to Iranian intervention against Israel in Lebanon and Syria and its activities in Yemen.

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