December 21, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Holds Initial Talks with Biden's Team on Iran Deal - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    Initial talks have recently taken place between Israel and President-elect Joe Biden's team regarding the U.S. intention to return to the nuclear deal with Iran.
    Israel will not publicly oppose the U.S., but will recommend that the new administration not return to the old agreement from which President Trump withdrew in 2018, but rather seek a new agreement.

Former Lebanon Justice Minister Blames Hizbullah for Beirut Port Explosion - Tobias Siegal (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
    Maj.-Gen. Ashraf Rifi, a former justice minister and retired commander of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, said on Thursday that Iran's Revolutionary Guards were behind the shipment of ammonium nitrate sent to Hizbullah that caused the explosion at Beirut port on Aug. 4 that led to hundreds of casualties.
    "My message to Hizbullah is to not think that it has succeeded in sabotaging the investigation of the crime of the century," Rifi said.
    "Large quantities of ammonium nitrate were designated for the Syrian regime, while other large shipments were sent by Hizbullah to its affiliated terrorist groups in Cyprus, Kuwait, Germany and other foreign countries."
    He added that "the security forces know that Hizbullah controls the Beirut port for smuggling and exporting explosives."

Canadian Court Takes Stand Against PA's "Pay-to-Slay" Policy - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    The Canadian Federal Court on Thursday denied the refugee application of Khitam Khudeish, a Palestinian woman who worked for the Palestinian Martyrs' Families Foundation, an organization that pays stipends to Palestinian terrorists and their families, B'nai Brith Canada reported.
    The court confirmed that the foundation was established by the PLO "to fulfill the criminal purpose of incentivizing acts of terrorism against Israelis" and that Khudeish "made a significant contribution to the PLO's criminal purpose by issuing the sums of payments and facilitating payments to family members of terrorists."

Israel Donates Rice to Displaced People in Myanmar - Tint Zaw Tun (Myanmar Times)
    The Embassy of Israel in Yangon donated 320 50-kg. bags of rice to support for a month over 1,000 people in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the Paletwa district of Chin State, who fled their villages earlier this year amid fighting between government forces and the Arakan Army of the ethnic Rahine minority.

The Temple Mount Has Turned into a Covid-19 Time Bomb - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
    18,000 people crowd into the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem every Friday, many without masks.
    In Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, 14% of Covid tests are positive. Of the 23 neighborhoods in Jerusalem coded red by the Israel Health Ministry, 12 are Arab - home to 320,000 people.
    In regular times, 35,000 of Jerusalem's Arabs work in Jewish neighborhoods. The chain of infection kills Jews and Arabs alike.
    Public health laws are not enforced on the Temple Mount because of its well-known volatility in terms of both politics and security.
    The writer has documented Jerusalem for Ha'aretz and Israel Hayom for over thirty years.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Foreign Minister: U.S. Does Not Have Option of Adding New Issues to Nuclear Deal - A. Savyon, Yigal Carmon, and Ze'ev B. Begin
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif said on Dec. 9: "The subjects that do not appear in the JCPOA are not absent by accident, but rather by decision....America is in no position to set conditions for its return [to the JCPOA]....If the [missiles and regional intervention] do not appear in the JCPOA, it's because they compromised on these issues. They failed to put them in the JCPOA. They do not have that option."
        Yet for the U.S. to lift the sanctions on Iran while disregarding Iran's regional aggression and missile development would be dangerously reckless. (MEMRI)
        See also IAEA: New Agreement Needed to Revive Iran Nuclear Deal - Francois Murphy
    Reviving Iran's nuclear deal would require striking a new agreement setting out how Iran's breaches should be reversed, Rafael Grossi, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday. Grossi said there had been too many breaches for the agreement to simply fall back into place. (Reuters)
  • EU Parliament Seeks Sanctions on Iran for Killing Dissidents
    The European Parliament voted 614-12 on Thursday to condemn the recent executions in Iran of France-based journalist Ruhollah Zam, editor of the Amad News Telegram channel, and champion wrestler Navid Afkari, while urging Iran to immediately halt the imminent execution of Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali.
        The resolution demands targeted EU measures against Iranian officials who have committed serious human rights violations, including the recent executions, as well as against those involved in gross human rights abuses, such as judges who have handed the death sentence to journalists, human rights defenders, political dissidents and activists. (European Parliament)
        See also Iranian Regime Destroyed Grave of Executed Dissident Wrestler - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU Court Upholds Belgian Ban on Kosher Ritual Slaughter - Cnaan Liphshiz
    The EU Court of Justice on Thursday upheld Belgium's bans on slaughtering animals without first stunning them, a ruling that confirms the prohibition on the production of kosher and halal meat in parts of Belgium and clears a path for additional bans across Europe. Israel's ambassador to Belgium, Emmanuel Nachson, called the ruling "a blow to Jewish life in Europe."  (JTA)
        See also EU Decision to Prohibit Kosher Slaughter Must Be Reversed - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Woman Jogger Murdered in West Bank Terror Attack - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Esther Horgan, 52, a mother of six, was murdered on Sunday while jogging near her home in Tal Menashe in the northern West Bank. Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, said the woman was brutally murdered in an act of terror. "What kind of barbarians would do this? This is like medieval times," he said. (Ynet News)
  • Poll: Most Palestinians Oppose the Two-State Solution - Dr. Khalil Shikaki
    By 59% to 40%, Palestinians oppose the two-state solution for Israeli-Palestinian peace, according to a poll conducted in the West Bank and Gaza by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Dec. 8-11, 2020. 62% believe that the two-state solution is no longer practical or feasible, while 75% believe that the chances for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel in the next five years are slim or nonexistent. 29% prefer waging "an armed struggle" against Israel, down from 35% three months ago.
        3/4 demand the holding of general legislative and presidential elections, but only 32% expect such elections to be held soon. 66% want President Abbas to resign, while 30% want him to remain. 76% think that if Hamas wins the elections, Fatah will not accept the results. 58% think if Fatah wins the elections, Hamas will not accept the results. (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Vaccinations Begin amidst Rising Infection Rates - Tzvi Joffre
    2,821 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday, with 456 people in serious condition including 117 on ventilators, the Israel Health Ministry said Monday. The death toll is 3,101. Meanwhile, over 210,000 people have made appointments for vaccinations, which began Monday for those over 60. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also 10,000 Israeli Medical Professionals Vaccinated Against Coronavirus on Sunday (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians: We Didn't Ask Israel for Covid-19 Vaccine - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinians have not approached Israel for help in obtaining Covid-19 vaccines and are planning to purchase them on their own with the help of the international community, Palestinian and Israeli officials said on Sunday. A senior PA health official said the Palestinians will soon receive nearly four million doses of Russian-made vaccine against Covid-19. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA Announces West Bank Closure as Virus Surges - Aaron Boxerman (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • AP Falsely Casts Israel as Responsible for Providing Palestinians with Vaccines - Tamar Sternthal
    A Dec. 17 Associated Press headline, "Palestinians left waiting as Israel is set to deploy vaccine," captures the false notion that Palestinians are a party with no agency, while it is Israel that holds responsibility for the Palestinians' access to vaccines, or lack thereof.
        According to the Oslo Accords, Palestinian authorities - not Israel - are responsible for the health care, including vaccines, of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, a key fact completely concealed by the story. The vast majority of West Bank Palestinians live under the civilian and security control of the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians in Gaza live under a Palestinian government ruled by Hamas.
        The Times of Israel reported on Dec. 9 that efforts to coordinate Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on procuring vaccines for Palestinians was stymied by the Palestinian decision to cut off all coordination with Israel. The writer is director of CAMERA's Israel Office. (CAMERA)
  • The Beginnings of the Israel-Morocco Peace Deal - Yossi Verter
    In early 2018, a Jewish billionaire born in Morocco who was close to the Moroccan government asked his friend Ram Ben Barak, former deputy chief of Israel's Mossad, if he could use his contacts in the U.S. to have the Trump administration recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara region. In return, Morocco would agree to reopen the Israeli liaison office in Rabat and establish full diplomatic relations.
        In April 2018, Ben Barak, accompanied by his friend from Morocco, went to Jerusalem where they met with Dore Gold, the former director general of the Foreign Ministry and someone close to Netanyahu - and today the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs - and presented the "framework" to him. Gold checked and came back with a yes. A month later the three met in a European capital with the Moroccan prime minister, followed by another meeting with the same participants and Moroccan ministers in London.
        On July 26, another meeting was held at the White House with the same participants as well as Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and senior U.S. officials, followed by a clandestine meeting between Netanyahu and Bourita two months later on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Yet more than two years would pass before Trump's Dec. 10 announcement of the new diplomatic relations. (Ha'aretz)
  • A Double Standard on the West Bank versus Western Sahara - Prof. Eugene Kontorovich
    The U.S. has recognized Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara as part of a U.S.-brokered peace deal between Jerusalem and Rabat. The territory had been a Spanish colony, but when Madrid abandoned it in 1975, Mauritania and Morocco invaded. Hundreds of thousands of Moroccan settlers followed. The Polisario Front, a Saharawi rebel movement, also claims the territory.
        Traditionally, the law of occupation applies only to sovereign territory of foreign states. This does not cover some post-colonial transitions where there is a gap in sovereign control. When Israel took the West Bank in 1967, it wasn't the territory of a foreign country. The West Bank had itself been occupied by Jordan in 1948, at the end of British administration. The UN and much of the international community use the term "occupation" to describe Israel's presence. Yet Israel's territorial claim on the West Bank is stronger than Morocco's claim on Western Sahara.
        Only a few countries have recognized the purported Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic of the Polisario. Yet self-determination in international law doesn't typically mean the right of a people to have its own country. It can be satisfied by some degree of self-governance, and autonomy in internal matters. The Palestinians today have vastly more autonomy than the Saharawi would have in the Moroccan plan. The PA and Hamas, for better or worse, govern the daily lives of their people.
        The writer is director of George Mason University Law School's Center for the Middle East and International Law and a scholar at the Kohelet Policy Forum. (Wall Street Journal)

Netanyahu's Iran Speech to Congress Increased Arab Respect for Israel - Amb. Ron Dermer interviewed by Gedalia Guttentag (Mishpacha)
  • As the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran was emerging in 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a protocol-defying speech to a joint session of Congress to sound the alarm. Amb. Ron Dermer says, "Without that speech, I doubt that we'd have the peace deals with the Arab states today."
  • The speech changed the perception of Israel in the Arab world. "If the prime minister of Israel is willing to stand up for what he believes in, then we [Israel] can be an independent force to rely on. And I can tell you as a fact that the speech dramatically accelerated contacts beneath the surface between Israel and many Arab states."
  • "If you think about it from the Arab states' point of view, what you see is an Iranian tiger or an ISIS leopard, and you have an 800-pound American gorilla that is leaving the building, and they look around and see a 250-pound gorilla with a kippah on, and they say, well, you know, we'd like to have a strong partnership with you."
  • "I've met Joe Biden many times. He's an extremely warm and friendly person. He's somebody I think has a deep emotional commitment to Israel - he passes the 'kishke test' with flying colors. He's been involved in politics for 50 years, and I think his bond with Israel is extremely strong."
  • "We hope that a new administration works toward trying to find a common position where they will not go back to the mistakes of the past."

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