February 4, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Diplomat Convicted in Belgium over 2018 Bomb Plot in France (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
    Iranian diplomat Assadolah Assadi was convicted of attempted terrorism Thursday by a court in Belgium for his role in a 2018 bomb plot targeting an Iranian opposition group in France. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
    Assadi transported the explosives for the plot on a commercial flight from Iran to Austria.
    Belgian prosecution lawyer Georges-Henri Beauthier said, "The ruling shows two things: A diplomat doesn't have immunity for criminal acts...and the responsibility of the Iranian state in what could have been carnage."

Resumption of U.S. Aid to the PA Will Be Tricky - Jonathan S. Tobin (JNS)
    Resumption of aid to the PA will be tricky for President Biden since U.S. law prohibits aid to the PA as long as it pays salaries and pensions to terrorists and their families.
    So what we will see is some sleight of hand move by Abbas that will claim the money spent on terror is for welfare payments or from some other budget line. Either way, it will be a lie.
    The problem is not just the idea of the administration flouting the law or its willingness to appease Abbas, who has vowed never to give up the payments.
    It's that the Palestinians will never give up their support for terror as long as the international community tolerates it.

Assad Is Scaling Down Military Readiness across Syria - Khaled al-Khateb (Al-Monitor)
    On Jan. 10, Syrian President Assad ordered a rollback of army mobilization to the level maintained nine years ago before the start of the civil war.
    Mohammed Adeeb, a Syrian political science researcher, said, "Iranian funding for the regime's army has stopped due to the economic conditions and international sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime."
    Hisham Eskif, deputy head of the political bureau of the opposition Al-Salam Brigade, said, "The direct reason behind the Syrian regime's decision to scale down the readiness of its forces is its inability to bear the high costs that the permanent state of alert requires due to the deteriorating economic situation in Syria."

Israel Builds Houses for Families that Lost Homes in Guatemala Volcano Blast - Lazar Berman (Times of Israel)
    Israel's embassy in Guatemala on Sunday completed a housing project in Escuintla for 39 families that lost homes in the 2018 Fuego volcano eruption.

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Israeli Drone Helps Protect U.S. Air Force Base - Oriana Pawlyk (Military.com)
    Security forces at Travis Air Force Base in California received their first drone in December made by Israel's Easy Aerial to conduct perimeter security for the 6,000-acre facility.
    The drone is signaled by a security trigger, such as a fence alarm, fire alarm or other distress call. It can deploy automatically, scour the area, relay a potential threat to base security, and then head back to recharge.

U.S. and Israel Begin Joint Military Exercise (DVIDS-U.S. Defense Department)
    U.S. European Command and the IDF have begun Exercise Juniper Falcon 2021 at various locations in Israel and Germany.
    The exercise is designed to enhance interoperability between both nations' militaries and ensure a response to any contingency, particularly those involving ballistic missile defense.

Will the Palestinian Election Decree Produce Actual Elections? - Ghaith al-Omari (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    On Jan. 15, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree calling for legislative elections on May 22 and presidential elections on July 31. This is not the first time that such calls have been floated.
    An election that brings Hamas back inside or atop the PA system could jeopardize Abbas' objective to reestablish relations with the U.S.
    Jordan and Egypt also regard Hamas with great suspicion and have expressed their misgivings about elections.
    Poor governance and nearly universal perceptions of corruption have dramatically undermined the PA's domestic legitimacy.
    Washington should therefore look into leveraging aid in a manner that fosters PA institutional reform.
    The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute.

Anti-Israel Bias at UN Human Rights Council (Jerusalem Post)
    UN Watch on Monday published a report detailing and refuting 23 anti-Israel claims made at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) under Agenda Item 7 concerning the human rights situation in Israeli-administered territories.
    See also Report - Agenda Item 7: Country Claims & UN Watch Responses (UN Watch)

Elbit Systems Wins $172 Million Tank Deal for Asian Country - Danny Zaken (Globes)
    Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems announced Tuesday it has been awarded a contract to supply Sabrah light tanks to the army of an Asia-Pacific country.

The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz - Francine Wolfisz (Jewish News-UK)
    Thomas Geve was 13 when he entered Auschwitz and began making sketches of what he witnessed.
    75 years later, more than 80 of his sketches are presented alongside his narrative of events in the just published The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz.
    Speaking over Zoom from his home in Israel, where he emigrated in 1950, the now 91-year-old survivor tells me the drawings serve as a continuous reminder of his story and why he feels it is imperative to continue to educate people about the Holocaust.
    "I still think about it and know about it. It was my life," he explains.

Austrian Man Leaves Fortune to French Village that Saved His Family from Nazis - Eoin McSweeney and Arnaud Siad (CNN)
    Erich Schwam, a Jewish refugee who arrived in the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon with his mother and father in 1943, has bequeathed a significant sum to the village to thank residents for hiding his family from Nazis during World War II.
    Schwam, who died without children at the age of 90, asked for the money to be used to fund scholarships and schools in the village.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's New Space Rocket Could Double as a Nuclear Missile - David Axe
    The Iranian regime on Monday announced it had test-launched, for the first time, its Zuljanah space launch vehicle. Zuljanah is a three-stage rocket that can loft a 500-pound payload as high as 310 miles, according to the Iranian government. For Iran, it's a big step forward for its effort to develop delivery vehicles for possible future nuclear warheads.
        If you bent the Zuljanah's trajectory, aiming for distance rather than height, you could carry a one-ton warhead as far as 3,100 miles, estimated Jeffrey Lewis, an arms-control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California. (Forbes)
        See also Recent Mega-Missile Launch Was Iran Signaling Its Missile Program Is Off the Table for Discussions - Seth J. Frantzman
    Tal Inbar, former head of the UAV research center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, said Iran's recent test of the Zuljanah space launch vehicle "is not only a genuine test flight of a satellite vehicle, but a signal to the U.S., Europe and Israel that missile technology is off the table."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran Installing Second Batch of Advanced Centrifuges at Natanz Underground Site - Francois Murphy
    Last year Iran began enriching uranium at an underground plant at Natanz using more efficient IR-2m machines and in December said it would install three more. "Iran has completed the installation of one of these three cascades, containing 174 IR-2m centrifuges, and, on 30 January 2021, Iran began feeding the cascade with UF6" uranium hexafluoride feedstock, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report on Tuesday. Of the remaining two cascades of IR-2m machines, installation of one had begun while the other's installation was "nearing completion."
        Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said Tehran had also started installing IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow, a site dug into a mountain. (Reuters)
  • Israel Sees 6-Month Iran Nuclear Breakout, Longer than U.S. Projection
    Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Tuesday it would take Iran six months to produce enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon, a timeline longer than that anticipated by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. "In terms of enrichment, they (Iranians) are in a situation of breaking out in around half a year if they do everything required. As for nuclear weaponry, the range is around one or two years," Steinitz told Israel's Channel 11. (Reuters)
  • U.S. "Embraces and Champions" IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism - Ron Kampeas
    Kara McDonald, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said Monday, "As prior U.S. administrations of both political stripes have done, the Biden administration embraces and champions...the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of anti-Semitism, with its real-world examples," calling it "an invaluable tool....We applaud the growing number of countries and international bodies that apply it. We urge all that haven't done so to do likewise."  (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iranian Terror Attack on Israeli Embassy in Africa Foiled
    An Iranian attack targeting an Israeli embassy in east Africa was thwarted in January, Israel's Channel 11 reported on Monday, citing Western intelligence sources. Tehran sent agents to the country to gather information about the Israeli, American and Emirati embassies in order to carry out an attack on one of them, the report said. Some Iranian agents were arrested. (i24News)
  • 14 of 16 Severe Covid Patients Recover with Experimental Israeli Drug - Luke Tress
    Israeli immunotherapy company Enlivex Therapeutics said Wednesday that 16 severe and critical Covid-19 patients who received its experimental treatment had survived a 28-day Phase II clinical trial. 14 patients recovered and were discharged from the hospital an average of 5.3 days after receiving Allocetra. Allocetra treats the over-response of the immune system called a cytokine storm which attacks the body's own organs. (Times of Israel)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: New Cases Remain High as Vaccinations Continue - Rossella Tercatin
    7,385 new cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed on Wednesday, the Israel Ministry of Health said Thursday. There are 76,896 active cases with 1,768 patients hospitalized. 1,103 are in serious condition, 315 of whom are intubated. The death toll has reached 4,947. 3,298,233 individuals have received the first dose of the vaccine, while 1,906,942 have received the second dose. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Iran Seeks to Encircle Israel with Rocket-Launching Platforms - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Ephraim Sneh
    Israel's acceptance of a renegotiated Iran deal should be conditioned on the Biden administration legitimizing Israelis' fears, rather than ignoring them. Our concerns are based on our distant and recent history; in living memory, our grandparents and parents experienced unimaginable calamity. More than half a century later, in 2006, thousands of rockets were launched from Lebanon at Israel's towns and villages, and dozens of Israelis were killed. This was done at Iran's behest. And the thousands of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza since the Islamist takeover in 2007 were also supplied by Iran, directly or indirectly.
        In his book Palestine, Ali Khamenei, the Iranian spiritual leader, explains how Israel will be wiped out. It will be encircled by territories that will serve as mega-launching pads of rockets aimed at civilian population centers. In Lebanon, Hizbullah has 150,000 rockets ready to fire. From Gaza, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have more than 10,000. Many can reach Tel Aviv. And Iran is now seriously at work cultivating its third launching platform in Syria. To understand our fears, Americans should imagine that four million rockets are aimed at New York and Los Angeles from bases in Canada and Mexico.
        We Israelis don't want a single American soldier to risk his or her life for us. Instead, we require U.S. diplomatic backing for the measures any responsible Israeli government will be forced to take, on its own, to remove the threat in order to defend ourselves by ourselves.
        The writer, a former Israeli deputy defense minister, is chairman of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at Netanya Academic College. (Newsweek)
  • Iran's "Supreme Guide" Sets Conditions for Election Candidates - Amir Taheri
    Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ayatollah Khamenei has set strident new conditions for those who wish to stand for election in June. Female Iranians are excluded, as well as non-Muslim Iranians and non-Shiite Muslims. Among Shiite Muslims, you have to be a Twelver Shiite, which means that dozens of sects are excluded. You must also believe that Islam is incomplete without imams and that the rule of the "Supreme Guide" is the only legitimate form of government.
        The new conditions also stipulate the necessity of university-level degrees. A Majlis (parliament) report in 2018 claimed that there were thousands of fake PhDs in the Islamic Republic, including many in the high echelons of government. One fake university with an address on an island in the Caribbean has sold over 500 doctorates to Iranian officials for $25,000 apiece.
        Those with foreign-born or foreign-resident parents, offspring or any other close relatives are also barred. In 2018 the Majlis reported that over 1,500 senior officials had dual nationality, mostly U.S. or Canadian, or had children attending school in Western Europe or North America.
        Even if you fulfill all those conditions, the "Supreme Guide" may veto your candidacy and, as you believe in his infallibility, you will not be able to challenge his decision.
        The writer was executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Palestinians

  • The Return of the Peace Processors - Shany Mor
    The establishment conversation on Israel and its neighbors has been dominated for more than 30 years by members of a guild referred to as the peace processors. The foundational premises that animate the guild's work in the Middle East have been shown, repeatedly and consistently, to be simply wrong. The reaction of the peace processors to the repeated failures of the real world to live up to their expectations speaks to an intellectual community that is blind to the realities of Middle East politics.
        Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, we were told, was going to lead to an explosion of violence across the Muslim world, but nothing of the sort happened. A fence separating Israel from the West Bank was said to be doomed to fail because it didn't address the real motivations of suicide bombers, yet after the fence was built, suicide bombing dwindled. By achieving autonomy for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the Oslo Accords were supposed to lead to a reduction in violence. Instead they led almost instantly to a massive increase in violence.
        Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank is said to be killing the peace process and that "time is running out" for a two-state solution. Yet the number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank remained largely unchanged and the amount of West Bank land built up remained between 1.5 and 2%. Moreover, the demographic balance between Israelis and Palestinians didn't change. Just as the number of Jews in the West Bank grew, so too did the number of Arabs.
        The writer is a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute and a research fellow at the University of Haifa. (Mosaic)
  • A Pragmatic Peace for Israelis and Palestinians - Gerald M. Steinberg
    For more than 70 years, peace between Palestinians and Israelis has eluded the most dedicated and experienced negotiators. Grand plans that focus exclusively on Palestinian perspectives, and downplay deeply embedded Israeli insecurity, including the growing Iranian threat, have no chance of success. And there is no value in presenting proposals that fail to consider the deep conflict between Hamas and Fatah, or the lack of a Palestinian leadership capable of reaching a historic compromise.
        The Palestinians and their supporters claim that the establishment of a sovereign state in which the Jewish people are the majority, with Jewish symbols, violates their rights. For Israelis, the injustices began with the Arab rejection of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, followed by an invasion aimed at "throwing the Jews into the sea," denying 4,000 years of Jewish history in this land, including Jerusalem.
        Palestinians have the potential for realizing the benefits of peace and cooperation, but this will require a willingness to let go of the goal of reversing the establishment of Israel. New leadership focused on improving the lives of Palestinians is necessary. To avoid doing harm, and to make lasting contributions, peacemakers should focus on steps that promote cooperation, rather than adding to the conflict.
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is emeritus professor of political studies and conflict management at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. (Religion News Service)
  • The UN Refugee Agency with Few Actual Refugees - Richard Goldberg and Jonathan Schanzer
    On Jan. 14, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that of the 5.6 million people identified as "Palestinian refugees" by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), fewer than 200,000 meet the criteria for refugee status - less than 4%. From 1950 to 2018, American taxpayers contributed more than $6 billion to UNRWA, whose employees moonlighted as terrorists and whose schools were used to promote hatred and incitement, and to store weapons and launch rockets against Israel.
        There were 800,000 refugees in 1948. Pompeo said: "Most Palestinians under UNRWA's jurisdiction aren't refugees, and UNRWA is a hurdle to peace....It's time to end UNRWA's mandate." Most people registered with UNRWA are citizens or permanent residents of another country - such as Jordan - or currently reside within the borders of a future Palestinian state.
        Richard Goldberg is a senior adviser and Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Other Issues

  • U.S. Needs to Understand that the Middle East Has Changed - Amjad Taha
    The Biden administration should understand that the situation is no longer the same as it was during Obama's presidency. The perceptions of power have changed. The Gulf states are no longer weak. The Kingdom of Bahrain, despite its small size, has played a major role in supporting Egypt's army to combat the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism and participated in the war against Iran's militia in Yemen.
        America will not stand against its interests in the Gulf in order to favor Iran. Iran has murdered millions of Arabs by supporting multiple wars within Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, and they've supported every terrorist attack in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
        The writer is the Bahrain-based Regional Director of the British Middle East Centre for Studies and Research. (Jewish News-UK)
  • Stop the Hate from the BDS Campaign - Bassem Eid
    Israeli "apartheid" is nothing more than a political slogan that has nothing to do with reality. Conditions between Israel and the Palestinians are not perfect, but demonizing our Jewish neighbors is not the answer. Far from having any measurable impact on Israeli policies, the most frequent outcome of BDS campaigns is to spark anti-Semitism and create hostile environments for Jews. They do nothing to improve conditions for Palestinians and often have the opposite effect.
        Attempting to punish Israelis for their supposed sins against Palestinians with divestment and sanctions actually harms Palestinians, tens of thousands of whom are employed in Israel and work for Israel-based companies. By boycotting Israeli-owned businesses, BDS is actually jeopardizing the livelihoods of all Palestinians who rely on Israel for work. BDS exploits Palestinians, using us like a prop to demonize Israel and the Jewish people for the benefit of a political agenda that has nothing to do with us.
        The writer is a Palestinian human-rights activist, political analyst and journalist. (JNS)
        See also Defeating Denormalization: Shared Palestinian and Israeli Perspectives on a New Path to Peace - Dan Diker, ed. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Normalization of Anti-Semitism - Gadi Taub
    "Progressive" organizations in the U.S. have called on the U.S. government not to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, saying it would "suppress legitimate free speech, criticism of Israeli government actions, and advocacy for Palestinian rights." They object to citing as an example of anti-Semitism the assertion that "the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor." In other words, they wish to legitimize the UN Security Council's 1975 resolution that "Zionism is racism," though the UN decided to rescind it in 1991.
        The writer is a senior lecturer in communications and public policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Company with Military-Grade Surveillance Aims to Defend Jewish Communities Abroad - Yaakov Lappin
    Concerned by the threat of anti-Semitism, IDF Col. (res.) Oded Halevy, CEO of the Israeli company Gotrack HLS, is seeking to make military-grade video surveillance services available for Jewish communities abroad. His approach to surveillance is playing an increasingly growing role in securing multiple sectors in Israel, from city councils to factories. It may now keep a watchful, remote eye over synagogues and Jewish community centers around the world as they face rising threats.
        Halevy pioneered the concept of centralized control centers that receive camera and radar feeds from multiple locations. "We replicated the Gaza border-control centers for civilian needs," he said. Gotrack HLS formulated an activation concept called "Hunter," designed to create prevention. That means proactively and systematically scanning environments for suspicious activities, knowing how to identify unusual movements and finding activity that does not belong.
        While almost all Jewish community centers or synagogues employ CCTV cameras, the familiar problem of not using them in real-time to prevent attacks arises. The anti-Semitic shooting attack at Halle, Germany, in 2019 was caught on video, "but no one was looking at the site in real time," said Halevy. The remote control room also employs video analytics that automatically detects firearms and alerts operators to their presence.
        In 2018, Gotrack set up an initiative called SEEU, which provides outsourcing of camera control-room services. Halevy is currently in touch with Jewish communities in North America and Europe, offering to take over the video feeds of their surveillance cameras to provide active protection. (JNS)
  • Israel Launches Social Media Effort to Reach Arab Youth in Wake of Peace Accords - James Rothwell
    Israel is deploying a social media unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to introduce Arabs to Israeli perspectives on key security issues, such as the threat posed by the Iranian regime and its proxy groups in the region. Yonatan Gonen, 34, head of the unit's Arabic team, said, "Without social media we would not have been able to reach such a large audience in the Arab world because...most Arab media is very hostile to us."
        The unit's Israel Arabic page on Facebook has 2.8 million fans. One recent post, which received more than 6,000 "likes," shows a beaming group of Arabs, one wearing a veil, sitting in a restaurant in Dubai with Israeli tourists. Another Facebook post juxtaposes glamorous photographs from Saudi Arabia and the UAE with the ruins of countries where Iran's proxies wield influence, such as Syria and Iraq. "We want to show the Arab world that we have a shared challenge, not just with the Iranian regime but also on regional development," said Gonen.
        The unit also runs Persian social media channels which reach one million users in Iran. In addition, up to a third of the unit's 400,000 Twitter followers are in Saudi Arabia. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • Israeli Has 409,000 Arab Twitter Followers - Eyal Levi
    Dr. Edi Cohen, a journalist and researcher on Arab Affairs, has 409,000 Twitter followers, almost all from the Arab world. Cohen grew up in Lebanon, where his father, Haim, was murdered by Hizbullah in the mid-80s, and he arrived in Israel in 1995.
        "My friends and I developed a dialogue to show there is a lot in common religiously and politically," he said. "I prove that Israel has Arab judges in court and Israeli-Arabs have the same rights by law; they didn't believe that there were Muslims in the IDF."  (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)

Video - "Occupation": The Search for an Alternative Term - Amb. Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel captured the territory of Judea and Samaria, which is also called the West Bank, as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War, when it battled a coalition of five Arab armies in a war of self-defense.
  • Former Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court Meir Shamgar wrote in the 1970s that "territory conquered does not always become occupied territory to which the rule of the Fourth [Geneva] Convention applies." The convention "is based on the assumption that there had been a sovereign, who was ousted, and that he had been a legitimate sovereign."
  • But the previous Jordanian presence in the territories was the result of its illegal invasion of the West Bank in 1948 in defiance of the UN Security Council. Jordan's 1950 annexation of the West Bank was only recognized by Britain, Pakistan, and Iraq, but not by the rest of the international community, including the Arab states.
  • For many, "occupation" was a loaded term. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has special responsibility for the Fourth Geneva Convention's implementation, decided to hold an expert meeting on the subject in 2008. A majority of the experts noted the "pejorative connotation of 'occupation'," and thought alternative language was needed.
  • In the territories Israel captured in 1967, a new reality has emerged. Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and it agreed to the establishment of a self-governing Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, in line with the Oslo Accords, in 1993. Was this a Palestinian state? No. But it wasn't an occupation either, making the term completely irrelevant for describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Talking about the "occupation" has become a means of branding Israel unfairly and is often used to wage political warfare against the Jewish state. In light of this background, it would be far more accurate to call the territories "disputed territories," as is done in similar circumstances elsewhere.

    The writer, former Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, is President of the Jerusalem Center.
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