January 11, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

New Israeli Intelligence May Convince Biden Officials to Take a Harder Stance on Iran - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Certain Israeli intelligence and defense sources believe that Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dead set on a deal with the Biden administration to improve the country's standing.
    If true, this would mean that the obsessive debate in the U.S. over the need for speedy negotiations with Iran is irrelevant and that the Biden administration need not rush into negotiating a weak deal.
    The Mossad views its challenge as presenting the new administration with the evidence and have it internalize the new intelligence Israel seized from Iran in January 2018, which Obama-era officials never got to see.
    Will incoming Biden officials' views change once they see all of the raw intelligence about the five nuclear weapons and the already-prepared underground nuclear test sites?

Israel's Intelligence Minister: Keeping Current U.S. Policy on Iran Vital for More Peace Treaties (i24News)
    Israel's Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen has urged President-elect Joe Biden to maintain the current U.S. policy on Iran.
    He said Jerusalem is "in touch with 6 or 7 additional countries, in Africa, in the Gulf and in East Asia - Arab and Muslim countries."
    "They understand that the State of Israel is their partner, their partner in regional stability, a partner in a strong and significant security coalition."
    "If the U.S. policy continues, without a doubt we will see more peace agreements."

Leading Iranian Dissident Urges Twitter to Suspend Khamenei's Accounts - Benhamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    Iranian journalist and dissident Masih Alinejad urged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Friday to permanently ban all accounts associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
    Alinejad told the Jerusalem Post: "A close review of these accounts in multiple languages, which include Persian, English, Spanish, and Arabic, shows that Khamenei has repeatedly violated Twitter rules."
    Alinejad asked Twitter's CEO: "You've suspended the account of @realDonaldTrump, but you've not suspended the account of @khamenei_ir, who used the @Twitter platform to issue death threats."

Hamas Forcibly Expels Residents from their Homes near Gaza-Egypt Border - Rasha Abou Jalal (Al-Monitor)
    Hamas bulldozers began demolishing the homes and farms of 23 Palestinian families east of Rafah on Jan. 3.
    On Dec. 15, the Palestinian Land Authority decided to expropriate these lands to expand the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt for commercial purposes.
    Local residents hurled stones at Hamas security forces as they started destroying their homes and uprooting their trees. Local sources said Hamas security forces arrested nine citizens and assaulted dozens of others.
    The Mayor of Rafah, Anwar al-Shaer, issued a statement on Facebook on Jan. 4 denouncing the decision.

Israeli Sings in Moroccan Arabic to Win Arab Fans - Danny Zaken (Al-Monitor)
    Israeli performer Ron Peretz, 27, spoke Moroccan Arabic with her grandmothers at home and started performing Moroccan music with a unique twist, infusing it with hip hop.
    Peretz has a huge fan base in Arab states who follow her work on YouTube.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Demands Removal of Hizbullah and Iranian Militias from Syria - Nazir Majli
    Israeli planes dropped leaflets in southern Syria warning regime forces against collaboration with Hizbullah and Iranian militias. Addressing the commander of the Syrian army's 112th Brigade, Basil Abu Eid, in Quneitra, the leaflet said that despite prior warnings, he was still allowing Hizbullah forces to operate in the area under his command. "Hizbullah has brought destruction and instability to the region. You personally and the army, in general, will pay the price. Now is the time for Hizbullah to leave Syria." Israel wants not just the removal of Iran and its militias from Syria, but also it wants Hizbullah out of the country. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also Media Say Israel Ramps Up Strikes in Syria - Amos Harel
    Arab media have reported three separate air strikes attributed to Israel across Syria over the past two weeks, targeting weapons production facilities, Hizbullah weapons arsenals, Syria's aerial defense system, and positions jointly run by the Syrian army and Hizbullah. Iran's effort to deepen its military entrenchment in Syria has run into trouble, especially since the American assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iran's Khamenei Bans Import of U.S. and UK Coronavirus Vaccines - Erin Cunningham
    Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday he had banned the import of U.S. and British-made coronavirus vaccines, calling them "forbidden." Khamenei suggested that the U.S. and Britain could use vaccines to "contaminate" Iran. In December, the director of Iran's Red Crescent said unnamed U.S. philanthropists had arranged for the distribution of 150,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in Iran, a move that was cancelled following Khamenei's announcement. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. to Declare Yemen's Houthis a Terrorist Group - John Hudson
    The U.S. will designate Yemen's Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced his intention to blacklist the group, including leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi. Pompeo said the designations are intended to hold the group "accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Attack IDF Soldiers in West Bank
    A Palestinian vehicle rammed into an IDF soldier at a military checkpoint near the town of Yabad in the northern West Bank on Saturday. The soldier struck by the car did not require medical care. One of the people in the car tried to fire on troops but he dropped his Carlo submachine gun. (Times of Israel)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Over 1,000 Serious Cases - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    The Israel Health Ministry reported Monday morning on 6,706 new Covid-19 cases Sunday. There were 1,044 people in serious condition, with 251 intubated. At the same time, 1,870,652 Israelis have received the first of two vaccination shots thus far, including 72% of those over 60. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Says Anti-Israel Sentiment Is Fading - Tal Schneider
    After becoming Israel's ambassador to Egypt in September, diplomatic corps veteran and fluent Arabic speaker Amira Oron, 54, tells the Times of Israel that relations with Egypt are looking up and that anti-Israel sentiment in the country is fading. She previously served as a junior diplomat in Egypt and knows the place well.
        "The Arab world is shifting their approach to Israel and they realize that Turkey and Iran are the ones challenging the Arab world," she says. "In Egypt as well, they are rethinking how they relate to Israel. I see this change in social media and not just from the regime. I see more statements about Jewish history, and gratitude over the fact that Jews were part of the historical and cultural fabric of Egypt. Egyptian President Sissi resolved to repair the thousand-year-old Jewish cemetery" in Cairo. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran Is Actually in Distress, and That Needs to Be Exploited - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    The Iranian situation is entirely different from the image its leaders are trying to create. The economic pressure and regional developments - the Abraham Accords and the reconciliation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia - worry Tehran.
        The appropriate response to the Iranian moves to enrich uranium to 20% is to make clear that any attempt to acquire enough enriched uranium for the production of nuclear weapons will be met harshly.
        At the same time, the economic pressure must be continued in order to compel Iran to accept a new agreement that would scrupulously prevent any possibility of its stockpiling nuclear weapons, which includes full oversight everywhere and at all times, the lifting of restrictions on the duration of the agreement, the demolition of the enrichment facility in Fordo, and the inclusion of ballistic missiles in the deal.
        The writer, former head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Kissinger: Return to Iran Deal Could Spark Middle East Nuclear Arms Race - Lahav Harkov
    Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger criticized the 2015 Iran deal at an online conference of the Jewish People Policy Institute on Monday. "We should not fool ourselves. I don't believe that the [Iran deal], with a time limit and so many escape clauses, will do anything other than bring nuclear weapons all over the Middle East." The current regime in Iran "don't seem to find it possible to give up this combination of Islamist imperialism and threat."
        Regarding the Abraham Accords, in which four Arab states normalized ties with Israel, Kissinger said, "We should not give up on what has recently been achieved in these agreements between the Arab world and the Israeli world." The accords "have opened a window of opportunity for a new Middle East. Arab countries understood that they could not survive in constant tension with parts of the West and with Israel, so they decided they had to take care of themselves." Kissinger said the Palestinians need to give up on their "ultimate aims" and look for possible interim achievements. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Correcting the New York Times Interview with U.S. Ambassador David Friedman - Ira Stoll
    New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger's interview with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was inaccurate and tendentious. Halbfinger writes, "The Trump administration said it wanted to achieve peace. It will leave office this month as far away from that goal as ever." Actually, it's closer than ever to that goal: it succeeded, with the Abraham Accords, in advancing normal relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan.
        He writes that Friedman dreamed up "the seemingly endless list of political giveaways that President Trump bestowed upon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." Rather than characterizing American actions as "political giveaways," the Times might have more accurately described policies such as moving the American embassy to Israel's capital as fulfilling long-made promises and adhering to laws like the Jerusalem Embassy Act, adopted in 1995 by the Senate (93-5) and the House (374-37). (Algemeiner)
  • What Amnesty International Gets Wrong about Israel's Vaccine Program - Jake Wallis Simons
    With Israel's remarkable vaccine rollout, human rights groups have queued up to accuse the Jewish state of "excluding" the Palestinians from getting the vaccine. "Denying Covid-19 vaccines to Palestinians exposes Israel's institutionalized discrimination," Amnesty International has claimed. But this narrative fails to account for a simple fact: the Palestinian leaders themselves haven't complained.
        Under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for its own health services. This is part of its long-held intention to function as an independent state. The Palestinians find it deeply embarrassing to ask Israel for vaccine assistance, even viewing it as collaboration with the enemy. In December, PA officials insisted they were going to procure the lifesaving drugs themselves, in cooperation with the World Health Organization.
        Palestinians appear to be seen by some as an infantilized people in need of Western intervention. But this is certainly not how they see themselves. (Spectator-UK)

Is J Street Misrepresenting Its Real Mission? - Amb. Alan Baker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • In its founding aims and principles, J Street declares its overriding aim as "reshaping political perceptions of what it means to be pro-Israel." On the one hand, J Street presents itself and is perceived by many as a genuine lobbying organization with the veneer of supporting Israel and expressing concern for its welfare. But, on the other hand, one can nevertheless see that J Street's substantive political viewpoint is openly radical and partisan, identifying itself clearly with the Palestinian narrative.
  • J Street has failed to welcome and promote the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, apparently because they downgrade the urgency J Street feels for a Palestinian state. The organization has actively lobbied against military aid to those Arab states that normalized relations. As such, J Street is clearly undercutting any genuine concern for Israel's security and is, in fact, undermining Israel's right to defend itself.
  • Undermining the internationally-accepted and agreed peace negotiation process called for in UN Security Council resolutions and implemented through the Oslo Accords, J Street advocates setting aside bilateral, direct negotiation, preferring to recommend a "multilateral approach to resolving the conflict." Such an approach echoes ongoing Palestinian attempts to bypass direct negotiations with Israel and transfer the issue to an international conference that would impose a solution on Israel.
  • Finally, how does J Street equate its supposed concern for Israel's security while at the same time deliberately ignoring Iran's direct existential threats against Israel and advocating a policy of appeasement vis-a-vis Iran? While logical and substantive criticism of any particular action or policy by Israel may well be legitimate, J Street, by its actions and policies, has redefined itself as an anti-Israel organization.

    The writer, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and former deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

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