January 7, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Sudan Signs Pact Setting Stage for Normalization with Israel - Mohammed Alamin (Bloomberg)
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Sudanese Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari signed the Abraham Accords on Wednesday in Khartoum, setting the stage for normalizing ties with Israel.
    The pact "emphasizes the necessity to consolidate tolerance, dialogue and coexistence between different peoples and religions in the Middle East and the world to promote a culture of peace," Sudan's cabinet said.

Moroccan Islamists Support Decision to Normalize Relations with Israel (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    The General Secretariat of Morocco's Islamist Justice and Development Party on Sunday decided to support King Mohammed VI's decision to normalize relations with Israel.
    The party said that the Western Sahara issue comes before the Palestinian cause.
    See also Understanding Moroccan Normalization with Israel - Dr. Mohamed Chtatou (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

New House Foreign Affairs Chief Eyes Resuming U.S. Aid to Palestinians (AFP-France 24)
    Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tuesday he would look to resume humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.
    He also supported the return of a diplomatic presence in Washington by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
    The Trump administration in 2018 cut off more than $200 million in aid to the Palestinians and earlier stopped aid channeled through the UN.

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Israel's Iron Dome to Be Integrated with American Command Networks - Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr. (Breaking Defense)
    With the second battery of the Iron Dome missile defense system en route from Israel to the U.S. Army, manufacturer Rafael's Pini Yungman told me:
    "We have a very detailed plan" to integrate the batteries into the Army's new missile defense network (IBCS) "and to conduct a demonstration [at] White Sands" in early 2021.
    Rafael and its U.S. partner, Raytheon, want to sell the Pentagon a lot more than two batteries.
    Raytheon has already integrated Iron Dome with Marine Corps command systems, complete with a live-fire test in 2019.
    "This year we will conduct another test with the Marines," Yungman said, with a more extensive integration into American systems.

Israel Completes Delivery of Trophy Tank Protection Systems to U.S. Army (Israel Defense)
    Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and U.S. defense contractor Leonardo DRS announced Wednesday that they have completed delivery of Trophy Active Protection Systems (APS) ordered by the U.S. Army for installation on Abrams main battle tanks.
    The Trophy APS provides combat-proven protection against rockets while simultaneously locating the origin of the hostile fire for immediate response.
    "The threat of anti-armor weapons is growing and we were grateful to bring this life-saving technology to the U.S. to meet an urgent need," said Michael Lurie, head of Rafael's Land Survivability and Maneuverability directorate.

India, Israel Successfully Test Missile Defense System - Harinder Mishra (Press Trust of India)
    India and Israel successfully tested a jointly developed Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) defense system last week in India.
    Defense experts say it can shoot down enemy aircraft at a range of 50-70 kms.
    Boaz Levy, president of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), said the "cutting edge, innovative system... once again has proven its advanced capabilities against a variety of threats."

Netherlands Orders Israeli-Made Vehicle Tactical Computers (Globes)
    Israel's Elbit Systems announced Wednesday that it has been awarded a $24 million contract from the Dutch Ministry of Defense to supply the Royal Netherlands Army with new vehicle tactical computers, upgrading the equipment provided by the company over a decade ago.

IDF Deploys Female Combat Intelligence Unit to Northern Border - Hanan Greenwood (Israel Hayom)
    For the first time, female combat intelligence soldiers have been deployed to the Lebanon border to collect precision intelligence via drones.
    "No one in the area knows how to use drones...at our level, so we are considered forces in high demand," explains Lt. Nurit Rokach.
    An official in the IDF Northern Command added, "The female soldiers are able to operate the new technologies in an outstanding manner."

Israeli Firm Invents Breathable "Skin Substitute" to Treat Burns - Oliver Holmes (Guardian-UK)
    Israeli company Nanomedic has designed the SpinCare system, a medical gun that spins out a protective web to cover burns and wounds.
    The device employs electrospinning to create nano-fibers.
    The breathable "skin substitute" will help patients recover without the need for painful bandage changes.
    It gives patients increased mobility - essential for burn rehabilitation - and even the ability to shower.
    Moreover, the translucent layer allows medics to examine the wound without touching it.
    See also Video: SpinCare Portable Wound Care System (Nanomedic)

Israeli Consulate in South India Donates Tablets to Pupils (Times of India)
    The consulate-general of Israel to South India, based in Bengaluru, donated tablets to 100 children on Monday.
    The tablets came pre-installed with instructional material to help underprivileged children in rural Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • France, Germany, UK Call on Iran to Stop 20 Percent Uranium Enrichment - Geir Moulson
    France, Germany and Britain pressed Iran on Wednesday to reverse a decision to start enriching uranium to levels beyond the limits of a 2015 nuclear agreement, a move which they said "risks compromising" chances of diplomacy with the incoming U.S. administration. The foreign ministers said the Iranian activity to increase enrichment to 20% "has no credible civil justification."  (AP)
        See also Iran to Install 1,000 More Centrifuges (Fars-Iran)
  • Iran Seizes South Korean Oil Tanker in Persian Gulf - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps seized a South Korean-flagged tanker in the Persian Gulf and detained its crew, Iranian media said on Monday, amid tensions between Tehran and Seoul over $7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks due to U.S. sanctions.
        The U.S. State Department called for Iran to release the tanker immediately, saying, "The regime continues to threaten navigational rights and freedoms in the Persian Gulf as part of a clear attempt to extort the international community into relieving the pressure of sanctions."  (Reuters)
  • Iran Tries to Increase Leverage in Future Negotiations with U.S. - Dan De Luce
    Iran's decision to dramatically increase uranium enrichment is designed to strengthen its hand in future negotiations. Richard Goldberg, who served on President Trump's National Security Council, said Iran's expanded enrichment work and other actions are designed to create "an atmosphere of crisis" with the aim of prompting a response from Washington.
        "It's notable that the steps they take are almost always modulated to go far enough to create a media frenzy but not go too far as to provoke an American or Israeli strike," said Goldberg, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
        Jake Sullivan, President-elect Biden's national security adviser, told CNN on Sunday that once Iran returns to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal there would be a "follow-on negotiation" over its missile capabilities. "In that broader negotiation, we can ultimately secure limits on Iran's ballistic missile technology." Iran, however, has ruled out any negotiations over its ballistic missiles. (NBC News)
  • Qatar, Saudi Arabia Set to End Feud that Hampered U.S. Interests - Dion Nissenbaum
    Saudi Arabia moved to end a three-year-old dispute with Qatar that has hampered U.S. efforts to isolate Iran. In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt began a blockade of Qatar after accusing it of supporting terrorism and aligning with Iran. White House senior adviser Jared Kushner helped broker an end to the standoff.
        Saudi Arabia and its allies had demanded that Qatar shut down the Al Jazeera satellite news network, sever ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and end its military cooperation with Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Government Collects $7 Million in Iranian Assets for Victims of Terrorism Fund
    The Justice Department announced Tuesday that the U.S. has collected $7 million of Iranian funds that will be allocated to provide compensation to American victims of state-sponsored terrorism. "The funds...had been destined to benefit criminal actors who engaged in an elaborate scheme to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran, one of the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism," said Acting Assistant Attorney General David Burns. (U.S. Department of Justice)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Condemns Violence at U.S. Capitol
    At a meeting on Thursday with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "American democracy has inspired millions around the world and in Israel.... Lawlessness and violence are the opposite of the values we know Americans and Israelis cherish. The rampage at the Capitol yesterday was a disgraceful act that must be vigorously condemned. I have no doubt that American democracy will prevail - it always has."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Severe Cases Approach New Highs
    The Israeli Health Ministry reported Thursday morning that 1,460 Israelis are hospitalized with Covid-19, including 873 in serious condition. 7,820 new cases were diagnosed on Wednesday. 3,527 people have died. In response, Israel will begin a tightened lockdown for at least two weeks beginning Thursday night. At the same time, 1.53 million people have received the first of two shots of the Pfizer vaccine. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Deny Reports about Receiving Vaccine from Israel
    The Palestinian Ministry of Health dismissed reports by Israeli media on Thursday that it had received Covid-19 vaccine from Israel. The ministry said it had rejected such offers and was actively seeking to purchase vaccines elsewhere, adding that the vaccines will become available in February. (WAFA-PA)
  • Palestinian Terror Attack Foiled in West Bank - Alexander Fulbright
    A Palestinian man, Ahed Abd al-Rahman Qawqas, 25, from Beit Ummar, approached the Gush Etzion junction south of Bethlehem on Tuesday with a meat cleaver when he was spotted by an Israeli community security coordinator and IDF soldiers. They ordered him to stop and fired warning shots in the air. Then "the suspect threw a knife at the security coordinator, who responded with fire and neutralized the terrorist," the IDF said. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Will the U.S. Now Give Up Its Significant Leverage on Iran for Nothing? - Editorial
    Iran is now enriching uranium to 20% purity, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Monday. Tehran has been a regional menace for 40 years. President-elect Joe Biden's National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, who helped negotiate the original Iran nuclear deal, said in an interview over the weekend: "We did believe that if you had the Iranian nuclear program in a box, you could then begin to chip away at some of these other issues. Obviously, that did not come to pass."
        Simply rejoining the deal means giving up significant leverage for nothing. Iran is escalating its nuclear enrichment to put pressure on the new U.S. Administration to rush back into the 2015 deal. It sees the same negotiators and figures it can outfox them again. But if the U.S. keeps the sanctions, and persuades Europe to join them, the pressure will be back on Tehran to make concessions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A Silent Majority in the Middle East Has No Clear Affinity for Iranian General Soleimani - Seth J. Frantzman
    Billboards commemorating the death of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani have mushroomed around the Middle East on the one-year anniversary of his death as a sign of Iran's influence in the region. This is an attempt by Iran to project influence by using a "martyr" to showcase its role in confronting America as part of Iran's "resistance." It is timed to coincide with a new U.S. administration about to take power in Washington.
        The U.S. and its partners have an uphill battle confronting this Iranian octopus astride the region. However, there is a silent majority in the region who have no clear affinity for the Iranian general - whether it is Kurds in Kirkuk, or average Gazans who havetorn down Soleimani posters. Iran may have overplayed its hand. The writer is executive director of theMiddle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Newsweek)
        See also In Beirut, Bronze Bust of Iran General Soleimani Sparks Criticism of Hizbullah - Sarah El Deeb
    The unveiling on Tuesday of a 3-meter-high bronze statue in Beirut of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has sparked indignation. Many Lebanese took to social media to lambast the celebration of a foreign military leader in Lebanon's capital. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Lebanese Bristle over Iran Commander's Comments - Dale Gavlak
    Lebanese Sunni Muslims, Christians, and others are condemning recent remarks by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Air Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who claimed that Lebanon was in the front line in Iran's fight against Israel. Hussein al-Wajeh, media adviser to Lebanon's Sunni Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, said, "The Lebanese will not pay any price on behalf of the Iranian regime. Despite this, some Iranian officials insist on considering Lebanon an Iranian province."
        Christian politician Sami Gemayel said, "Lebanon and the Lebanese are a hostage in Iran's hands through Hizbullah. They are using us as human shields." Walid Joumblatt, leader of the Druze community, warned against pushing Lebanon into a new military conflict on Tehran's behalf. (VOA News)

  • Coronavirus and Israel

  • The Covid Vaccine Blood Libel Against Israel - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The headline of the Guardian on Jan. 3 proclaimed: "Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout." But it's a lie. Arab citizens of Israel are being vaccinated just like Jewish citizens. Arabs who live in united Jerusalem but who have chosen not to become Israeli citizens are also getting the vaccine.
        Israel doesn't administer the daily lives or the health-care system of Palestinians who live in the West Bank, run by the Palestinian Authority, or in Gaza, ruled by Hamas. Moreover, Palestinians don't want Israel to take over their local government and health care.
        This is not just another example of inaccurate Mideast reporting by journalists who don't know any better. Claiming that Israel is deliberately depriving Palestinians of a life-saving vaccine pumps new life into old anti-Semitic canards that amount to blood libels against Jews. Allegations about the vaccine are just the latest entry in a long list of untruths about Israel intended to make it seem uniquely evil. Casting the Jews in the role of murderer of non-Jews stands at the heart of classic anti-Semitic tropes.
        Those responsible for this particular libel not only ought to apologize, but recognize that what they have done is not advocacy for Palestinians or human rights. It is a hate crime for which they ought to be held accountable. (JNS)
  • Is Israel Discriminating Against Palestinians with Vaccine? - Seth J. Frantzman
    Israel is not "excluding" Palestinians from its vaccination program or discriminating between its own Jewish and Arab citizens. The Palestinian Authority administers health care to its own citizens and has not asked Israel to vaccinate its public; nor has Hamas, which runs Gaza.
        Israel has given vaccinations to more Palestinians than neighboring countries where Palestinians reside. It appears that Palestinian-governed areas of the West Bank will receive vaccines around the same time as neighboring Jordan, where many millions of Palestinians also live. The 139 countries that recognize the state of Palestine cannot also demand that Israel vaccinates citizens of a foreign state. Should Austria be blamed for not vaccinating the population of Slovakia? The writer is a fellow at the Middle East Forum. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • Rapid Vaccine Rollout Makes Israel a Global Research Lab for Covid - Ronny Linder
    With its rapid rate of Covid-19 vaccinations, Israel is becoming a laboratory for studying the vaccine's effectiveness and side effects. In recent decades, Israel has carefully preserved medical data on its citizens in the health care system's databases. Israel is the only country in the world where every vaccine recipient has a complete medical file going back years. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Roots of the Covid-19 Pandemic - Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham
    There has been a notable shift in thinking on the origin and direct source of the virus that sparked the Covid-19 pandemic. The probability of human intervention is higher than naturally occurring, spontaneous evolutionary adaptation.
        Several Western countries, as well as Russia, India, Japan, and Australia, have formed intelligence estimates but kept their conclusions quiet. The persistence of their silence implies that they judge the initial contagion to have been unnatural. Had they concluded that the pandemic resulted from a natural contagion, they would probably have made that conclusion public.
        The likelihood that the exceptionally amplified pathogenic affinities of the virus toward humans took place inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), rather than naturally, is high in view of the type of experiments on coronaviruses conducted there for years.
        The writer, a microbiologist and an expert on chemical and biological warfare, is a senior research associate at the BESA Center and a former senior intelligence analyst in the IDF. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
        See also Israeli Intelligence Expert: Coronairus Likely "Unnatural" - Bill Gertz (Washington Times)

  • Other Issues

  • Exposing the Lie about Israel's Siege on Gaza - Prof. Hillel Frisch
    The massive political divide between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas might be transforming into a mutual economic siege. The Economic Ministry in Gaza has announced a ban on the importation of milk products from the West Bank, ostensibly to protect the local industry.
        The announcement also exposes the lie about Israel's presumed siege on Gaza. If Israel has imposed an economic siege on Gaza, how can there be importation of dairy products from the West Bank into Gaza - let alone over 400 other items? If there are Israeli restrictions on imports into Gaza, they are limited to products and materials used by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist organizations against Israel.
        Israel enjoys cooperation in science, industry, and commerce with scores of states. It would be more than willing to include the Palestinians as well. The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • The Arab-Israeli Conflict May Finally Be Over - Jake Wallis Simons
    In the Middle East, for the first time, people are daring to believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict is over. Arab rulers have become more open about the fact that it wasn't Israel that was keeping them awake at night. Instead, it was the meddling of Iran and its proxies, the rise of a neo-Ottoman Turkey, the spread of ultra-Islamism and myriad economic woes. By normalizing relations with the Jewish state, not only would they gain a powerful military and intelligence ally against a common enemy, but there would be significant economic advantages - Israeli tourists for Dubai, Israeli agricultural experts for Sudan - and enhanced ties with the U.S.
        The most stunning development has been the change on the Arab street. In a remarkable and rapid cultural shift, recent polls report that about 80% of Saudis are now in favor of normalization, and 40% of citizens across a range of Arab countries want their leaders to take an active role in encouraging peace. (Spectator-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel-Developed Facial Authentication Will Secure Financial Transactions - James Spiro
    Intel on Wednesday introduced RealSense, a facial recognition tool developed in Israel that provides secure and accurate facial authentication for point-of-sale and ATMs. RealSense adapts over time, meaning that users could grow facial hair or adopt glasses and the system would still authenticate the right person. It also works in complete darkness and strong sunlight. (Calcalist)
  • Israeli Firm Develops Drone Jamming Technology - Yaakov Lappin
    In Germany, Holland and the UK, drones are delivering smuggled goods like drugs, weapons and cell phones to prison inmates, said Ido Bar Oz, chief marking officer of the MCTECH RF Technologies Israeli anti-drone company. MCTECH specializes in radio frequency (RF) jammers. Its MC-HORIZON D360 jams a variety of drones and quadcopters to protect facilities and audiences at high-risk events.
        In 2019, during 21 musical performances in Italy attended by millions of spectators, the company neutralized 16 drones. "We created a roadblock around the protected area against drones. Once our systems detect them, it uses their same frequencies...to jam them." "Our military systems can identify over 200 targets simultaneously and classify 200 different types of drones."  (JNS)
  • In Poland, New Sobibor Museum Memorializes Victims through Unearthed Belongings - Matt Lebovic
    After more than a decade of planning and construction, a new museum was recently inaugurated at Sobibor, the former German Nazi death camp in Poland where 180,000 Jews were murdered. The heart of the museum is a display of 700 items - the personal belongings of Sobibor's victims - which were unearthed since 2000. (Times of Israel)

Iran Is Not Interested in Closing the Loopholes in the Nuclear Deal - Col. (res.) Eldad Shavit and Ari Heistein (National Interest)
  • One of Israel's key concerns with the Biden administration's approach to the Iranian nuclear question is that if the incoming administration follows through on its promise to return to the JCPOA once Iran returns to compliance, then the U.S. may find itself with limited incentives to induce Iran into making further concessions.
  • In addition, Washington may discover that Iran is not interested in a more expansive deal than the one signed in 2015 and that Tehran does not intend to barter away the loopholes which it painstakingly negotiated in the previous agreement.
  • Jerusalem should encourage Washington to withhold concessions that Iran views as vital during phase one so as to incentivize Tehran to commit to the second phase of negotiations. In addition, Israel should press the U.S. to maintain maximal economic leverage for phase two in order to create the conditions that allow for an agreement that restricts Iran's nuclear program to the greatest extent possible.
  • Israel should push for an extension of the nuclear restrictions' "sunsets" by thirty years, a more intrusive "anytime anywhere" inspections regime, and greater restrictions on Iran's nuclear R&D.
  • In light of the Abraham Accords, Israel should also seek to leverage its newfound partners in the region by developing a coordinated approach to U.S. policy on Iran based on a shared interest of reining in the Iranian threat. Iran's subversive activities throughout the Middle East cannot realistically be regulated by any document and must be countered on the ground by a U.S.-led coalition of regional allies both before and after a new nuclear deal has been reached.
  • It is in America's interest to bring its Middle Eastern allies on board with its Iran policy. Failing to take the interests of regional partners into account may result in states taking independent steps to protect their vital interests.

    Eldad Shavit is a senior researcher at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies and previously served in senior roles in Israeli Defense Intelligence and the Mossad. Ari Heistein is a Research Fellow at INSS.
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