November 23, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Mike Pompeo Becomes First Top U.S. Diplomat to Visit an Israeli Settlement in West Bank - Joseph Krauss (AP-Chicago Tribune)
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday became the first top American diplomat to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
    See also U.S.: Israel Is Country of Origin for Products Made in Area C of West Bank (U.S. State Department)
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday:
    "The Department of State is initiating new guidelines to ensure that country of origin markings for Israeli and Palestinian goods are consistent with our reality-based foreign policy approach."
    "All producers within areas where Israel exercises the relevant authorities - most notably Area C under the Oslo Accords - will be required to mark goods as "Israel," "Product of Israel," or "Made in Israel" when exporting to the United States."
    "This approach recognizes that Area C producers operate within the economic and administrative framework of Israel."
    "We will continue to oppose those countries and international institutions which delegitimize or penalize Israel and Israeli producers in the West Bank through malicious measures that fail to recognize the reality on the ground."

Biden to Nominate Antony Blinken as Secretary of State - Annie Linskey (Washington Post)
    President-elect Joe Biden has selected Antony Blinken to be his secretary of state.
    Blinken, 58, who is Jewish, was President Bill Clinton's chief foreign policy speechwriter and was deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration.
    See also Interview with Tony Blinken - Jacob Kornbluh (Jewish Insider-October 28, 2020)

Israel Accuses Lebanon of Changing Stance on Maritime Border (AFP-France 24)
    After Israel and Lebanon opened negotiations on their disputed maritime border to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration, "Lebanon has changed its stance on its maritime border with Israel seven times," Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Thursday.
    Lebanon is now demanding an additional 1,430 square km. of sea further south, which includes part of Israel's Karish gas field, said Lebanese energy expert Laury Haytayan.
    See also Israel Asks Lebanese President for Direct Maritime Talks to Break Stalemate - Aaron Boxerman (Times of Israel)

What Did Jordan's Parliamentary Elections Show? - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Parliamentary elections were held in Jordan on November 10, 2020.
    Turnout was low in major cities such as Amman, with a large Palestinian population, while there was a relatively large vote in the Bedouin periphery communities.
    Polling by the Jordanian press found that the economic situation was the major issue.
    For the Palestinians, stability that brings them personal security is preferable over democracy.
    They also prefer to avoid challenging the Bedouins, who see Jordan as their home and the Palestinians as guests.

Israel Shipyards Delivers 4th Patrol Ship to Senegal - Eyal Boguslavsky (Israel Defense)
    This month Israel Shipyards delivered the last of four patrol ships for the Senegalese Navy, fulfilling an agreement signed in November 2019.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Visits Saudi Arabia, Meets with Crown Prince and Pompeo - Steve Hendrix
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret trip to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, accompanied by Mossad head Yossi Cohen, Israel's Channel 12 News reported. According to Ynet, Netanyahu spent four hours in the Saudi coastal city of Neom, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Washington Post)
        See also Israeli Cabinet Minister Confirms Netanyahu's Saudi Meeting
    Israeli Education Minister Yoav Gallant told Army Radio on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting in Saudi Arabia on Sunday was an "amazing achievement." "The very fact the meeting happened, and was outed publicly, even if half-officially right now, is a matter of great importance."  (Reuters)
  • Secretary of State Pompeo Visits the Golan Heights
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday: "35 years ago as a young [West Point] cadet, I studied about this very place - this amazing and important piece of real estate. You can't stand here and stare out at what's across the border and deny [that] this is a part of Israel and a central part of Israel....Imagine with Assad in control of this place, the risk, the harm to the West and to Israel and to the people of Israel."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also Secretary of State Pompeo Tours Golan Heights (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Pompeo Was Not First U.S. Secretary of State to Visit Golan - Ira Stoll
    Warren Christopher, who served as secretary of state during the first term of the Clinton administration, visited the Golan Heights in 1993, the New York Times reported at the time. The Times reported in 1991 that then-Secretary of State James Baker toured the Golan by air. (Algemeiner)
  • Jonathan Pollard Is Free after Completing Parole - Jorge Fitz-Gibbon
    Jonathan Pollard, 66, a former U.S. Navy analyst who was jailed for 30 years for passing thousands of confidential documents to an Israeli official until his arrest in 1985, has completed an additional 5-year restrictive parole period and is now free. According to CIA documents released in 2012, intelligence provided by Pollard was used to plan an October 1985 Israeli raid on the Tunis headquarters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
        After his arrest, Pollard pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors who agreed to seek a years-long sentence. But the judge sentenced him to life in prison. Pollard ultimately served the longest stretch in prison for an American who illegally gave material to an allied government. (New York Post-New York Times)
        See also Israel Welcomes End to Pollard's Travel Ban
    Israeli leaders on Saturday welcomed the U.S. decision to end parole restrictions on Jonathan Pollard. Pollard has sought to move to Israel, which granted him citizenship while in prison and had long pushed for his release. "Now we will be able to welcome him and his family home," tweeted Israeli President Ruvi Rivlin. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Preparing List of Demands for Biden - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian officials said on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority has prepared a list of demands that will be presented to President-elect Joe Biden after he is sworn in on Jan. 20. The list includes rescinding President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Palestinians will also demand to cancel the recent decision that allows U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their place of birth, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement allowing for settlement products to be labeled as "Made in Israel."
        The PA, which has been boycotting the Trump administration since December 2017, will resume its contacts with Washington after Biden assumes office, the officials said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus in Israel
    745 new cases of the coronavirus were reported in Israel on Sunday, the Health Ministry said Monday morning. Of the 8,456 active cases, 298 were in serious condition and 130 were on ventilators. The death toll is 2,806. (Times of Israel)
        See also 47 Percent of New Corona Cases Are in Arab Israeli Sector - Elizabeth Blade
    Nazareth, Israel's largest Arab city, has been on lockdown since Saturday as the number of Covid-19 cases there continues to climb. Official Israeli data suggests that 46.7% of patients in recent weeks had come from Arab communities, which comprise 21% of Israel's population. Israeli coronavirus chief Nahman Ash said on Saturday that "weddings and returning from abroad" were the two main factors contributing to the spread of the pandemic. (Sputnik-Russia)
  • Corona Cases Soaring in Gaza - Elior Levy
    Over the weekend, 1,600 new coronavirus patients were diagnosed in Gaza. This is a higher daily number than in Israel, which has a population five times larger. The percentage of positive tests in Gaza stood at 30%. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Plant Bombs near Jerusalem
    Palestinians placed explosives by the Qalandiya Crossing north of Jerusalem and by Rachel's Tomb south of the capital on Friday night, the Israel Border Police reported. Two Palestinians who placed explosives next to the crossing were arrested, as was the Palestinian who placed the explosive near Rachel's Tomb. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Bombs Planted outside West Bank Village to Target Israeli Soldiers - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday thwarted an attempt to attack troops with bombs planted outside the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank. The explosives were covered with dirt and rigged to blow if a soldier stepped on them. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Pompeo on Recognition of the Golan as Part of Israel and Lawful Settlements
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday during his visit to Israel: "Today I'll get a chance to visit the Golan Heights. The simple recognition of this as part of Israel too was a decision President Trump made that is historically important and simply a recognition of the reality."
        "For a long time, the State Department took the wrong view of [Israeli] settlements. It took a view that didn't recognize the history of this special place. And instead, now, today the United States Department of State stands strongly for the recognition that settlements can be done in a way that are lawful and appropriate and proper."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Pompeo: "The Palestinians Have Rejected Reasonable Offers to Negotiate Time and Time Again" - Alex Traiman
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told JNS in an interview on Friday: "With respect to the vision for peace that we've laid out, the central requirement is a set of leaders of the Palestinian people who are prepared to engage in an important conversation with Israel to come to a reasonable and amicable solution. We laid out our vision for peace. It had a two-state solution. It granted enormous capacity for the lives of the Palestinians to be better....We want them to sit down with Israelis and begin to resolve this."
        "It's something that the world is demanding. You can see nations all across the world coming to understand that the Palestinians have rejected reasonable offers to negotiate time and time again. And the leadership has simply failed its own people."  (JNS)

What Is Going to Change in the Middle East under Biden? - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • President-elect Joe Biden and his entourage have announced that they are interested in lifting sanctions on Iran and returning to the nuclear agreement. They also expressed the view that the new administration intends to renew U.S. ties and assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
  • At the same time, Biden and his advisers have asserted that their strategic objectives are no different from those of previous administrations, i.e., preventing Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons; restraining Tehran's dangerous activities in the region and the domestic arena; fortifying Israel's security, in part by continuing security assistance and preserving Israel's qualitative military edge (QME); opposing Israel's delegitimization; and promoting an agreement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Significant parts of the changing reality in the Middle East appear irreversible, notably, the normalization of relations between Israel and the pragmatic Sunni states. For instance, in the agreement with the UAE, the Emirates recognized the existence of a Jewish People for the first time a clear contradiction of the central principle underlying the Palestinian narrative that rules out the existence of such a people.
  • It is unlikely that the new U.S. administration will ignore the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits financial aid to the PA if it insists on continuing to pay salaries to terrorists who murdered Israelis (and Americans). The Palestinians are considering changes in the system of payments, but it is doubtful that they really mean to stop this practice or change it in any significant way.
  • In the Iranian context, it will be difficult for the Biden administration to turn the wheel back quickly. Some sanctions were deliberately imposed through mechanisms that cannot be readily repealed (such as those set under anti-terrorism legislation). Moreover, the Iranians are unwilling to agree to changes or additions to the original nuclear agreement, such as limitations on intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • Ultimately, Biden will have to take into account that relations with Israel are crucial to protecting American interests in the region and that the pragmatic Arabs are close allies of the United States.

    The writer, former head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Center.

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