December 14, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Israeli Strikes in Syria Have Led to Decrease in Iranian Activity - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    "The Iranian entrenchment in Syria is in a clear slowdown as a result of IDF activity," IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi announced Thursday.
    "We have struck over 500 targets this year, on all fronts, in addition to multiple clandestine missions."
    The strikes in Syria have destroyed an immeasurable amount of advanced weaponry, and in recent months Iran has significantly reduced the number of cargo flights into Syria which are used to smuggle weapons.
    Iranian bases have been moved from the area around Damascus toward the northern and eastern parts of Syria, and the number of Iranian troops and militia members has also shrunk considerably.

Iran's Execution of Dissident Journalist Threatens Push for Diplomacy with Europe - Sune Engel Rasmussen (Wall Street Journal)
    Iran's execution on Saturday of dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam has strained Tehran's relationship with Europe.
    The rift is a setback to diplomacy between Iran and Europe ahead of an expected rethink of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
    The execution showed the willingness of Iranian authorities to defy international opposition in its suppression of media and opposition activists.
    Zam, who had been living in France since 2011, was lured in 2019 to Iraq, where he was captured by Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

Turkey Says Iranian Intelligence Kidnapped Dissident in Istanbul - Kareem Fahim (Washington Post)
    Exiled Iranian opposition figure Habib Chaab traveled from his home in Sweden to Turkey in October. Soon after he arrived in Istanbul, Chaab disappeared.
    Two days later, Iran's state media reported he had been arrested, but provided no details about how he had been taken into custody.
    A Turkish official now says Chaab was drugged and kidnapped, then smuggled across the border into Iran. Turkey has arrested several people in connection with the abduction.
    Chaab's disappearance was the third high-profile operation in Turkey in as many years blamed on Iran's government.

Hizbullah Member Sentenced in Absentia over Killing of Ex-Premier in Lebanon - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
    A UN-backed tribunal in The Hague on Friday sentenced Hizbullah member Salim Ayyash to life in prison after convicting him in absentia of conspiring in the 2005 car-bomb attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon and 21 others.
    After millions of dollars spent on investigating and trying suspected perpetrators, not a single person has been punished.

U.S. to Sanction Turkey over Russian Air Defense System - Humeyra Pamuk (Reuters)
    The U.S. is poised to impose sanctions on Turkey over its acquisition last year of Russian S-400 air defense systems, three U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday.
    The sanctions would target Turkey's Presidency of Defense Industries and its head, Ismail Demir.
    The decision sends a warning to U.S. partners that might consider buying Russian military equipment.
    The annual U.S. defense authorization bill, currently under Congressional consideration, would force Washington to impose sanctions within 30 days.

Norway Again Cuts PA Funding over Palestinian Hate Education - Donna Rachel Edmunds (Jerusalem Post)
    Norway's legislature has backed cuts of $3.4 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to the PA's failure to reduce incitement to violence against Jewish Israelis in its school curriculum.
    European leaders have grown increasingly concerned that their aid money is being used to fund a curriculum which routinely teaches Palestinian children to hate Jews, reject Israel and aspire to martyrdom.

Israeli Gymnast Wins Gold at European Championships (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli gymnast Artem Dolgopyat won the gold medal for the floor exercise at the European Championships on Sunday. He also won the bronze medal for vault, while Alexander Myakinin won bronze on the high bar.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Morocco and Israel to Establish Diplomatic Relations with U.S. Backing - Anne Gearan
    Morocco and Israel agreed Thursday to establish diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by the U.S., the fourth Arab-majority country in recent months to say it would normalize ties with Israel. The agreement came after the U.S. ended its official neutrality and recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region.
        President Trump spoke by phone Thursday with Morocco's King Mohammed VI to secure the agreement. Trump noted that U.S.-Moroccan ties date to 1777. Middle East negotiator Jared Kushner said, "This is something that's been talked about for a long time but something that seemed inevitable at this point and something that we think advances the region and helps bring more clarity to where things are going."
        Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump and Mohammed for a "historic peace." "Everybody knows the tremendous friendship shown by the kings of Morocco and the people of Morocco to the Jewish community there," Netanyahu said. "This will be a very warm peace."  (Washington Post)
        See also Spotlight on the Disputed Western Sahara
    The territory of Western Sahara, roughly the size of Colorado, along Africa's Atlantic coast south of Morocco, has a population of 600,000 people. The area was colonized by Spain in the 19th century and Morocco annexed it in 1975. The pro-independence Polisario Front, representing the local Sahrawi population and backed by Algeria, fought Moroccan forces for years for control of the territory. UN peace-keeping forces have been in place since 1991. Morocco has proposed wide-ranging autonomy for Western Sahara. (AP)
        See also U.S. Proposes $1 Billion Arms Sale to Morocco after Israel Deal - Anthony Capaccio
    The U.S. State Department notified Congress on Friday of the proposed sale of $1 billion in weapons including Reaper drones to Morocco. (Bloomberg)
  • Normalization of Relations between Morocco and Israel - Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the President
    "Morocco will establish full diplomatic relations and resume official contacts with Israel. They will grant overflights and direct flights to and from Israel for all Israelis. They'll reopen the liaison offices in Rabat and Tel Aviv immediately, with the intention to open the embassies in the near future. They'll be promoting economic cooperation between Israeli and Moroccan companies."
        "We're seeing that a lot of countries want to keep this progress going. This has been held back for so long by old thinking and by a stalled process, and we finally had a breakthrough four months ago....The more people can have interaction with each other, the less the extremists and the jihadists have to justify the terrible things they do in the name and the perversion of the Islamic faith."
        "We've done a different kind of diplomacy than had been done in the decades before. But through this effort, we're achieving different results and ones that are being universally appreciated by all the parties, both in the region and throughout the world."  (U.S. Embassy in Israel)
        See also U.S. Brokers Peace between Israel and Morocco (White House)
  • U.S. Takes Sudan Off Terror Blacklist
    The U.S. has formally removed Sudan from its state sponsor of terrorism blacklist, its Khartoum embassy said Monday, less than two months after the nation pledged to normalize ties with Israel. The move opens the way for aid, debt relief and investment. (AFP-France 24)
  • Israelis Bask in Peace Deal's Glow on Beaches of Dubai - Louise Callaghan
    On the second day of Hanukkah, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem - a British-Israeli former barrister - was on holiday with her family in Dubai. As direct travel between the United Arab Emirates and Israel became possible, Israeli tourists are flocking to these formerly forbidden beaches in the Muslim emirate alongside holidaymakers from Europe. Tens of thousands of Israeli tourists are expected to visit the UAE this month. "People are super-excited for peace with an Arab country," said Nahoum, 47. (Sunday Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Biden May Stay Out of JCPOA for Now, Use Sanctions as Leverage - Ariel Kahana
    According to new information obtained by Israel Hayom, several advisers to U.S. President-elect Joe Biden have been pushing for a new approach to the Iran nuclear deal that favors embracing some "maximum pressure" components. They further believe that adopting a conciliatory tone toward Iran would be counterproductive. Instead, they call for using the tough U.S. sanctions that have been imposed over the past several years as leverage against Iran so that it agrees to amend the nuclear deal.
        According to a person close to the transition team, the "new administration would like to engage in dialogue with Israel on the necessary changes that need to be introduced in the deal, but this discussion has to be held behind closed doors."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Moroccan Israelis Welcome Normalization Agreement
    Israelis of Moroccan descent celebrated Thursday's decision by Morocco to normalize relations with Israel. "We who were born in Morocco, we and the people of Morocco all over the world, have been waiting so long for this day," said Moroccan-born Aryeh Deri, Israel's interior minister.
        Transportation Minister Miri Regev said: "Generations of Moroccan Jews have dreamed of peace with the country where they were born and where our culture is so deeply rooted. May the blessing of Allah come upon us and upon them."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Morocco Is a Trove of Jewish History If You Know Where to Go - Leanne Italie (Times of Israel)
  • Moroccan Schools Begin to Teach Jewish History - Jonathan Shamir
    The primary-school syllabus for the current academic year in Morocco includes Moroccan Jewish history and culture, the first time any Arab country has taken such a step. Abdou Ladino, the General Secretary of the Mimouna Association, a Moroccan NGO founded in 2007 by Muslim students looking to promote Jewish heritage and interfaith dialogue, told Ha'aretz, "Judaism is part of our history and culture, and so many things in our day-to-day life - the food we eat, the music we listen to, the expressions we use - come from Moroccan Jews." Moroccan Arabic uses the Hebrew term of endearment, kapara, and mazal, luck. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Normalizes Ties with Bhutan - Lahav Harkov
    Israel established full diplomatic relations with Bhutan on Saturday night. A Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas with 800,000 residents, Bhutan has formal diplomatic relations with only 53 other countries - a list that does not include the U.S., UK, France or Russia. Bhutan's government "thinks of Israel as a leading country in technology and innovation that can help them progress and use more advanced technology and train their youth," said Israel's Ambassador to India Ron Malka. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Cases on the Rise as Vaccine Arrives
    There were 1,707 new coronavirus cases confirmed on Sunday, the Israel Health Ministry said Monday morning. There were 17,373 active cases, a number that has been steadily rising over the past few weeks. 353 people were in serious condition, including 122 on ventilators. There have been 2,999 deaths. Israel is readying to begin a mass inoculation program next week, with the first vaccinations to be administered on Dec. 20. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel-Morocco Deal Follows History of Cooperation - Ronen Bergman
    Behind the announcement Thursday that Israel and Morocco will establish formal diplomatic ties lies almost six decades of close, secret cooperation on intelligence and military matters. Israel has helped Morocco obtain weapons and intelligence-gathering gear and learn how to use them. One million Israelis are from Morocco or descended from those who were.
        In 1965, when Arab leaders and military commanders met in Casablanca, Morocco allowed Israel's Mossad to bug their meeting rooms and private suites. The eavesdropping gave Israel unprecedented insight into Arab thinking, capabilities and plans, which was vital to Israel in preparing for the 1967 war. A decade later, Morocco became the site of secret meetings between Israel and Egypt ahead of the 1978 Camp David accords. (New York Times)
  • Experts: What the Morocco-Israel Deal Means for the Middle East
    "Peace between Morocco and Israel is a welcome addition to the Abraham Accords," said Carmiel Arbit, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's Middle East programs. "There is already more than $30 million in annual trade between the two countries, tens of thousands of Israelis travel to Morocco annually, and Israelis from Morocco can already retain Moroccan citizenship."
        President Trump has employed "the leverage of American largesse - e.g., sophisticated weaponry to Abu Dhabi, removal from the State Department's list of terrorist sponsors for Khartoum, and now, recognition of Rabat's claim to Western Sahara - to incentivize Arab leaders into accepting Israel as their diplomatic partner," said Shalom Lipner, a nonresident fellow in the Atlantic Council's Middle East programs. (Atlantic Council)
  • Iran Is Unlikely to Rush Back into Compliance with the Nuclear Deal - Frederick Kempe
    The Iran nuclear deal, which never was blessed by congressional vote, didn't address Iran's regional misbehavior or its ballistic missile and advanced weapons delivery development. Yet precisely such Iranian advances were on display in the September 2019 Iranian cruise missile and drone strikes on Saudi oil fields and then its ballistic missile attacks on U.S. military positions in Iraq on January 8, 2020.
        Moreover, today's Iran is unlikely to rush back into compliance with its earlier agreement in the run-up to its June elections, where the hardliners are determined to further marginalize so-called moderates. Having accumulated more enriched uranium and installed more advanced centrifuges than the JCPOA allows, Iran's leaders won't abandon those gains easily. The writer is president and CEO of the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. (CNBC)
  • Britain Is Right to Pursue Closer Military Ties to Israel - Jake Wallis Simons
    Most people appreciate that it is in Britain's national interest to have a close relationship with Israel. Both Britain and Israel face threats from Islamist terrorists, and intelligence sharing has saved lives in both countries. In 2015, Mossad helped British police uncover a bomb factory in northwest London, where officers recovered three tons of ammonium nitrate.
        Mossad's former deputy director, Ram Ben-Barak, disclosed to me recently that an Israeli air strike on Syria's secret nuclear reactor in 2007 came after a tip-off from British spies.
        Based on Elbit's Hermes 450 drone, London's Watchkeeper surveillance UAVs have saved countless British lives in Afghanistan. Elbit has long shared its expertise with British forces in the provision of battle management systems - software that allows combat information to be instantly shared across a fighting force.
        As the British Army seeks to modernize, there are many lessons to be learned from the IDF, a democratic military machine that relies heavily on technology to engage enemies on various fronts and in diverse contexts. (Spectator-UK)

  • The Palestinian Authority recently decided to renew security and civil relations with Israel - five months after PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced he was walking away from all agreements and understandings with Israel and the U.S. He also agreed to accept the tax revenues collected by Israel for the PA.
  • "President Abbas wanted to punish Israel but ended up punishing his own people," said Samer Abdeen, a businessman from Ramallah. "By refusing to accept our tax revenues from Israel, President Abbas was actually punishing tens of thousands of civil servants, who since June received only half of their salaries."
  • In addition to public employees, Abbas faced increased pressure from shopkeepers, restaurant owners and many small businesses hit hard by coronavirus restrictions. The suspension of civil coordination also had a negative impact on Palestinians in need of medical treatment in Israel.
  • "Those who initially applauded President Abbas' decision to sever all relations were later complaining that it was a very bad and uncalculated move," said a veteran journalist from Ramallah.
  • Similarly, the same Palestinians who praised Abbas for suspending security coordination with Israel later complained about the absence of law enforcement and security in the 440 Palestinian villages in Area B of the West Bank, where PA security forces had stopped operating.
  • "We thought that the suspension of the security coordination would hurt Israel," said Jamal Alawi, of Abbas' Fatah faction in Eizariya. "But...when you pull out the police forces from Palestinian villages, the only ones who suffer are the Palestinians."

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