January 18, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Countering Iran's Missile Program - Michael Elleman (U.S. Institute of Peace)
    Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East.
    It is able to produce its own missiles and has demonstrated that it can significantly expand the range of acquired missiles, as it has done with Nodong missiles from North Korea.
    Iran's missiles can already hit any part of the Middle East, including Israel.
    However, it is significant to note that the satellite navigation units, such as Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers, employed by Iran's precision-guided missiles can be rendered less-effective by jamming or spoofing GPS signals, a capability that Tehran's technologically superior adversaries possess.
    The writer, Director of Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is a former UN weapons inspector.

Israeli Company Says Instant Covid-19 Breath Test as Precise as Swab Test (Times of Israel)
    Israel's Scentech Medical says its instant coronavirus breath test obtained an accuracy level of 98% in a recent trial, similar to that of the standard PCR swab test.
    784 individuals participated in the trial at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, breathing into the device for 10 seconds. The results are available within a few seconds.
    The breath technology can differentiate with high accuracy between positive, negative, and those with Covid-19 antibodies. It will also help identify those infected even before symptoms are present.
    Scentech is preparing to submit an approval request to the FDA, which requires at least 91% accuracy for Covid-19 tests.

U.S.: There Are Less than 200,000 Actual Palestinian Refugees - Jimmy Quinn (National Review)
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Jan. 14:
    "We suspended funding to UNRWA, which is riddled with waste, fraud & concerns of support to terrorism. UNRWA is not a refugee agency; it's estimated <200,000 Arabs displaced in 1948 are still alive and most others are not refugees by any rational criteria."
    UNRWA says it serves 5.8 million Palestinian refugees.
    Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted that "most people served by UNRWA...are either citizens of other countries or live within Palestinian territories. Most were not displaced by conflict."

UNRWA Admits Educational Materials Rife with Anti-Israel Racism and Incitement (UNRWA)
    The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) curriculum emphasizes the UN values of neutrality, human rights, tolerance, equality and non-discrimination with regard to race, gender, language and religion.
    Some material the Agency had previously identified as not in line with UN values was mistakenly included in printed educational materials distributed to students at home after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
    As soon as the issue was identified, the Agency conducted a thorough review of the self-learning material and took steps to address it.

Indonesia Could Get Billions in U.S. Funding for Ties with Israel - Ivan Levingston (Bloomberg)
    The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, a government agency that invests overseas, could more than double its current $1 billion portfolio if Indonesia develops ties with Israel, DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler said in an interview last month in Jerusalem.
    "We're talking to them about it," Boehler said. "If they're ready...then we'll be happy to even support more financially than what we do."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • "Grave Military Implications": Iran Making Uranium Metal Alarms Europe
    The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany warned Saturday that Iran's plans to produce uranium metal has "no credible civilian use" and "has potentially grave military implications. We strongly urge Iran to halt this activity, and return to compliance with its JCPOA commitments without further delay if it is serious about preserving the deal."  (AFP-Guardian-UK)
        See also Iran Producing Half a Kilo of 20 Percent Enriched Uranium per Day
    Ali Akbar Salehi, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Monday that Iranian scientists at nuclear installations "are producing 20 grams (of 20% enriched uranium) every hour; meaning that practically, we are producing half a kilo every day."  (Fars-Iran)
  • Iranian Forces in Eastern Syria Redeploy after Airstrikes - Khaled al-Khateb
    Iranian forces and affiliated militias in eastern Syria carried out new redeployment and repositioning after their military sites and barracks were subjected to airstrikes on Jan. 13. A local journalist said, "The Iranian militias transferred the bulk of their members and military equipment to residential neighborhoods."
        "The new deployments included transferring rockets and heavy weapons and hiding them inside the tunnels that Iranian forces had previously dug....They have also lowered flags from the roofs of the buildings where they are stationed. They removed all signs indicating their presence to avoid being targeted."  (Al-Monitor)
        See also Iranian Revolutionary Guard Deployed in 125 Locations in Syria - Kamal Sheikho
    Iranian militias in eastern Syria have replaced their flags with Syrian flags amid fears of new Israeli attacks, according to local sources. The IRGC transported ammunition and heavy weapons, including missiles, in trucks with Syrian license plates. According to the Jusoor Center for Studies and Development, a Libyan think tank, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is deployed in 125 locations throughout Syria. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • U.S. Central Command in Middle East to Include Israel - Howard Altman
    In a bid to solidify Arab-Israeli efforts against Iran, President Trump has ordered that responsibility for matters involving Israel in the Defense Department be moved from the U.S. European Command to Central Command. Israel will become the 21st nation under CENTCOM's purview, joining as it is increasingly cooperating with the Sunni-led Gulf States in an alliance against Shia-led Iran. (Military Times)
        See also Military Shift to Spur Israeli-Arab Cooperation Against Iran - Michael R. Gordon
    After the announcement that Israel will be moved from the U.S. European Command to Central Command, Anthony Zinni, a retired Marine general and former head of the Central Command, said Thursday, "We could see more Arab countries recognize Israel, so it makes sense to bring them all in under one unified American command. It will make security cooperation better."
        Dennis Ross, a former U.S. peace negotiator, said that the change was overdue. "I don't think the Biden people will have a problem with it, and I think the Israelis will welcome it as a reflection of the new realities in the region."  (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coronavirus in Israel: 5,616 New Cases, Vaccinations Expanding
    5,616 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Sunday, the Israel Health Ministry said Monday. 1,130 people were in serious condition and 273 were on ventilators. The death toll has reached 4,005. 2,116,257 Israelis have been vaccinated, with 309,065 receiving the second dose. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel to Vaccinate Palestinian Prison Inmates
    The Israel Prison Service said Sunday it began vaccinating all incarcerated people against Covid-19, including Palestinians. (AFP)
  • Two Rockets Fired from Gaza toward Israeli City of Ashdod - Judah Ari Gross
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two rockets toward the Israeli city of Ashdod before dawn on Monday. They landed in the sea just off the coast. In response, the Israel Defense Forces bombed multiple sites where Hamas is digging underground tunnels in southern Gaza. (Times of Israel)
  • Female Police Officer Disarms Palestinian with Knife
    A 17-year-old Palestinian man from the West Bank was arrested on Thursday after pulling a knife on a female Israel Police officer in Kafr Kassem. At the end of her shift, the officer was walking to her car when the man approached and pulled out a knife. She then knocked him to the ground, kicked the knife out of his hands, and called for backup. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Return to Iran Nuclear Deal Would Be Unwise - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel
    The deeply flawed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran never blocked the world's most prolific state sponsor of terrorism from a direct path to a nuclear arsenal in a short time. The Iranians have made progress in the nuclear realm since 2015.
        The U.S. ignored the concerns of Israel and its new regional partners during last round. It will be harder to ignore them now, especially if they speak with one voice. Israel and its Gulf allies must join hands to oppose up-front concessions to Iran. It is important to convince banks and businesses worldwide that re-entering Iran would be risky. Iran is still engaged in a wide range of illicit conduct, and no political agreement can erase that.
        Israel must work with the U.S. to retain a credible military threat against Iran's nuclear program. Iran simply will not negotiate a new reasonable deal unless Tehran is certain its nuclear facilities are under threat of destruction.
        Israel and its regional allies are not opposed to a new agreement. However, the next deal must permanently block Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. The last one failed to do that. The next deal must fully prevent Iran from maintaining a "civilian nuclear program" in underground facilities. It should also address all three elements of Iran's illicit nuclear program: fissile materials, weaponization, and means of delivery.
        Those that seek a rapid new deal with Iran posit that such tough demands will only lead to conflict with the Islamic Republic. This is the wrong mindset for starting a negotiation with Iran. The new administration should not rush to the negotiating table.
        The writer served as head of Israel's National Security Council and as the prime minister's acting national security advisor. (RealClearWorld)
  • Refuting the Israel Apartheid Analogy - Prof. Eugene Kontorovich
    The Apartheid accusation in Btselem's recent report is classic anti-Semitic rhetoric: it accuses Jews, uniquely among the peoples of the world, of one of the most heinous crimes, while also judging the Jewish state by a metric not applied to any other country.
        There are no racial or ethnic distinctions in Israeli law. In Israel and all territories under its jurisdiction, Palestinians patronize the same shops and restaurants as Jews do. Indeed, it is Jews who are excluded from Palestinian-controlled territory.
        The Palestinian government was created by the Palestinians themselves and is recognized internationally as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by almost every country in the world. The Palestinian Authority governs 90% of the Palestinian population, as provided in the Oslo Accords. Israeli Arabs have full voting rights for the Knesset, while Palestinians in the territories have voting rights for the Palestinian Legislative Council.
        The writer is director of George Mason University Law School's Center for the Middle East and International Law and a scholar at Kohelet. (Kohelet Policy Forum)
  • What Apartheid? - Yoseph Haddad
    How dare B'Tselem say that I, an Arab Israeli who served along with Jewish soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces and managed hundreds of Jewish employees, live under an apartheid regime? How can anyone say this when among us you will find doctors, judges, and even lawmakers? Samer Haj-Yehia is the head of the biggest bank in Israel (Bank Leumi).
        I am not here to claim that everything in Israel is perfect. But show me a country where everything is perfect. I look around at our neighbors in the region and thank God I was born in Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. While minorities across the Middle East - Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Yazidi, Kurds, and Christians - are persecuted, Israel is the only country that grants minorities equal rights and the ability to influence their future.
        The writer is CEO of Together - Vouch for Each Other, an NGO which aims to bridge between the Arab and Jewish sectors of Israeli society. (Israel Hayom)

Please Don't Mess Up the Abraham Accords - Bret Stephens (Commentary)
  • Beginning with the peace deals known as the Abraham Accords, the prospect that the Arab-Israeli conflict might be brought to an end much sooner than anyone dreamed possible offers powerful lessons on how to conduct a successful Mideast peace policy. This came about as Arab leaders struggled to come to grips with their vulnerabilities in the wake of the U.S. decision to negotiate a nuclear deal with Tehran guaranteed to strengthen its regional hand.
  • Would the U.S. continue to guarantee their security and halt Iran's seemingly unstoppable rise? If Arabs wanted a determined and capable ally, they would have to look elsewhere. In 2014, senior Israeli and Saudi figures, led by Israeli diplomat Dore Gold and retired Saudi general Anwar Majed Eshki, began holding a series of secret talks.
  • The U.S. continues to have vital interests in the Middle East. The U.S. cannot allow a hostile power to dominate a region that accounts for close to 40% of global oil production (oil that is much cheaper to produce than by fracking). We cannot allow the world's most fanatical regimes to acquire nuclear capabilities, setting off an arms race in the world's most combustible region. We cannot accept the permanent establishment of jihad incubators.
  • Where does the creation of a Palestinian state rank on the list of American priorities? Not high, in the final analysis. The infatuation so many U.S. policymakers have with Palestinian statehood has disserved American interests in myriad ways. Moreover, it plays into the propaganda of America's radical enemies, led by Iran, that Israel's behavior, rather than their own, is the chief source of turmoil and injustice in the region.
  • It asks that Israel weaken its defenses and take the proverbial "risks for peace," when what America most needs from Israel is a strong country that can defend itself, come to the aid of its neighbors, provide the U.S. with critical intelligence and tactical know-how, and serve as a bulwark against the region's radicals.
  • Instead of the usual view that a Palestinian state is the precondition to full Arab-Israeli normalization, the Abraham Accords suggest that a Palestinian state will happen only as a result of that normalization. If Israel does not have to fear a hostile neighborhood, it has less to fear from a Palestinian state. And if Palestinians observe that good relations between Israel and other Arab states are the norm, there's less of a reason for them to stand out as the violent exception.

        See also Build on the Abraham Accords - Jay Solomon
    The writer is an adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Newsweek)

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