February 11, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Iran Could Develop a Nuclear Bomb within Two Years - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
    Iran could develop a nuclear bomb within two years, IDF Military Intelligence said Tuesday.
    It is estimated that Iran can enrich enough uranium required to make one bomb within four months.
    It also said the Iranians have not pressed on with the nuclear project since the death of key nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who has not been replaced.
    See also IDF: Hizbullah Looking to Spark Escalation - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Hizbullah is looking to initiate a "limited offensive" against Israel for the first time since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, said an IDF intelligence report published Tuesday.
    The group has a trained "shock" unit for a limited offensive lasting two to three days, without being dragged into an all-out war.

Damascus Raid Yields Info on Iranian Operations in Syria Against Israel - Hanan Greenwood (Israel Hayom)
    Four months ago, a Western intelligence organization conducted a clandestine operation in the heart of Damascus against Unit 840 of Iran's Quds Force, Israeli intelligence website Intelli Times reported several days ago.
    During the nighttime operation, operatives raided an apartment in the Sousa neighborhood in northern Damascus, just 500 yards from the Iranian embassy and 3 km. from Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace, and seized information and documents about the activities of the Quds Force in Syria and plans against Israeli targets.

UAE Halts Funding to UN Palestinian Refugee Agency (Reuters)
    The United Arab Emirates does not plan to resume funding to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, which was halted last year, until steps are taken to manage funds more efficiently, a UAE government official said this week.
    The UAE, current chair of the UNRWA advisory committee, provided the agency with $50 million in 2019 and $20 million in 2018, but made no contributions in 2020.

Hamas Envoy to Libya Attempted to Smuggle Missiles into Gaza - Samer al-Atrush (The Times-UK)
    Hamas used the chaos of Libya's civil war to set up an arms-smuggling group that tried to funnel anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to Gaza, documents shown to The Times reveal.
    The group, set up by Marwan al-Ashqar, the Hamas envoy to Libya, was to divert Libyan arms through Egypt and used middlemen and Hamas militants in Turkey and Qatar.
    Ashqar was arrested along with three other Palestinians in 2017 in Tripoli and sentenced to ten years in prison.

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Biden Hasn't Called Netanyahu Due to Upcoming Israeli Elections - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Why hasn't President Biden called Prime Minister Netanyahu since being sworn into office?
    Because the new president does not wish to do anything that could be interpreted as interfering in the current Israeli election campaign. Elections will be held on March 23.
    At the same time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan's third call in office was to his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has spoken with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
    Moreover, Biden spoke with Netanyahu on Nov. 20, after the U.S. elections but before the Israeli elections were announced.

Strategic Construction Plans in Jerusalem: Will the Biden Administration Weigh In? - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The question of the construction of two new neighborhoods in Jerusalem - Givat Hamatos, in the south of the city, and Atarot, in the north - is now on the table as part of contacts with the new U.S. administration.
    The Israel Land Authority recently awarded tenders to contractors to build the first 1,200 housing units in Givat Hamatos. Officials in Jerusalem stated that "there is no going back" on the decision, which was delayed for seven years due to political pressure.
    Plans call for 2,610 housing units for the Jewish population and more than 700 housing units for Arab residents.
    In Atarot, the Ministry of Housing plans for 8,000 housing units for Jews and 1,000 for Arabs on Jewish-owned land at the site of the British-built Jerusalem airport, which was shuttered during the Second Intifada as a result of Palestinian gunfire.
    The construction plan there was prepared over 20 years ago and was also delayed due to U.S. and EU political pressure.

Israeli Researchers Develop Revolutionary Diagnostic Blood Test (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    A new and extremely accurate blood test developed by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has the potential to diagnose a wide array of diseases including cancers, liver diseases, immune disorders and more.
    The new approach advanced by Prof. Nir Friedman and Dr. Ronen Sadeh of the Life Sciences Institute and School of Computer Engineering is able to precisely read information from DNA in the blood and use it to determine the nature of the disease or tumor, exactly where in the body it's found, and even how far developed it is.

University of Toronto Grad Student Wins Fight Against Anti-Israel Committee - Sue-Ann Levy (Toronto Sun-Canada)
    After fighting for five years against the University of Toronto Graduate Students Union (UTGSU) for endorsing the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, graduate student Chaim Katz was informed that the university's Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies had decided that the union's support of a dedicated BDS committee violated its own anti-discrimination policy by encouraging boycotts of just one nation, Israel.
    In what B'nai Brith characterized as a "landmark" ruling, the union was ordered to quit using student fees to promote the anti-Israel BDS movement.
    Michael Mostyn, CEO of B'nai Brith Canada, noted that the UTGSU is the only student union in Canada that forces all members - even Jewish students - to fund a BDS committee through their student fees.

Pre-Communist Chinese Leader Supported Zionism - Jessica Steinberg (Times of Israel)
    A century-old letter from pre-communist Chinese leader Dr. Sun Yat-sen recently surfaced at the National Library of Israel.
    Known as the father of the Chinese nation, Sun called Zionism "one of the greatest movements of the present time" in a 1920 letter to N.E.B. Ezra, a prominent Shanghai Zionist publisher and author.
    Sun was the first provisional president of the Republic of China, established in 1912 following the fall of the last imperial dynasty.
    Sun wrote: "All lovers of Democracy cannot help but support whole-heartedly and welcome with enthusiasm the movement to restore your wonderful and historic nation."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Has Started Producing Uranium Metal in Violation of 2015 Accords, IAEA Says - Laurence Norman
    Iran started producing uranium metal on Feb. 6 at a nuclear facility in Isfahan, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported. The material can be used to form the core of a nuclear weapon. Robert Einhorn, a former senior State Department official on proliferation issues, saw the Iranian move as an attempt "to force the Biden administration to make a conciliatory move."
        Iran has warned it will start to restrict the access of IAEA inspectors on Feb. 21 unless the U.S. moves to lift sanctions. However, it looks increasingly unlikely that Washington will make any quick move that would persuade Iran to push back its deadline. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Discusses Iran Nuclear Agreement, Golan Heights
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Monday: "If Iran returns to compliance with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, we would do the same thing, and then we would work with our allies and partners to try to build a longer and stronger agreement, and also bring in some of these other issues, like Iran's missile program, like its destabilizing actions in the region that need to be addressed as well."
        "As long as Assad is in power in Syria, as long as Iran is present in Syria, militia groups backed by Iran, the Assad regime itself - all of these pose a significant security threat to Israel, and as a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation I think remains of real importance to Israel's security. Legal questions are something else."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Israeli Ambassador: Palestinians Stand to Benefit from UAE Peace Deal - Melanie Swan
    Palestinians stand to reap major benefits from Israel's peace agreements with the Arab world, Eitan Na'eh, the new Israeli ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, told the Sunday Telegraph. The accords could lead to major investments in Arab towns in Israel and in eastern Jerusalem.
        "People are calling, telling me, 'Ambassador, I am from Nablus, can we be in touch, I've got some business propositions,'" he said. "This peace is not just between leaders [but] a peace between people. The spectrum of that is evident. We are discussing dozens of areas of cooperation in various fields at a pace not known before."
        The veteran diplomat says he wants Arab critics of Israel to realize that he has the Palestinians' best interests at heart. "I'm also pro-Palestinian. I wish them to live in peace, security and prosperity, so winning their hearts and minds is through cooperation and building bridges of peace, which is my mission here in Abu Dhabi."  (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Daily Corona Infections Dropping - Stuart Winer
    The number of new daily coronavirus cases fell for the third day in a row on Wednesday to 5,540 as the volume of seriously ill patients also declined to 1,027. There are currently 67,808 active cases and the death toll has reached 5,265. 40% of Israelis have received the first dose of the corona vaccine and 25% have received both shots. (Times of Israel-Ynet News)
        See also Israeli Data Shows Pfizer Vaccine Protects Against Coronavirus - Maayan Lubell
    According to the Israeli HMO Maccabi, one week after receiving the second Pfizer dose, 254 people out of 416,900 were infected with Covid-19 and showed mild symptoms - less than 0.06%. By 22 days after full vaccination, no infections were reported. (Reuters)
        See also Palestinians Who Work in Israel Begin Receiving Israeli Vaccinations
    Israel on Wednesday began to vaccinate Palestinian workers who are allowed to work in Israel. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Khamenei Plans to Delay Nuclear Negotiations - Mehdi Khalaji
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been an outspoken critic of the nuclear deal since day one, heaping blame on its American and Iranian authors alike. He apparently plans to prevent President Rouhani from playing a meaningful political role for the remainder of his term. This stance suggests that Tehran will not engage in serious negotiations with the U.S. until Rouhani's successor takes office in August and forms a new nuclear team. Accordingly, U.S. officials should not put much stock in statements by Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif.
        Khamenei likely hopes that delaying negotiations or JCPOA compliance will increase Tehran's leverage, make the West more anxious about Iran's nuclear progress, and dissuade U.S. officials from trying to add other issues to the agenda. He seems to be patiently waiting for Rouhani's eventual successor to install a tougher negotiating team, while keeping U.S. negotiators on edge until they become less demanding and more willing to make hasty concessions. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Saudi Arabia and Israel See Iran as Existential Threat - Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis
    I was in Saudi Arabia in September 2019 when drone strikes, almost certainly instigated by Iran, hit major Saudi oil facilities. The U.S. ambassador at the time, Gen. (ret.) John Abizaid, and I agreed that the Saudis were facing an existential threat from Tehran. Gen. (ret.) John Allen, a former commander of U.S. Central Command, tells me, "Iran remains the top threat in the region." Iran has no interest in arriving at an accommodation with the Saudis and other Gulf Arab states, as seen in last month's missile attacks on the Kingdom's capital of Riyadh by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
        The Israelis take a similar view of Iran as an existential threat, and fear its gradually increasing military capability (notably in cyber warfare, unmanned vehicles and ballistic missiles). During all of my visits to Israel, the Iranian threat hovered over all other concerns, and justifiably so. The mutual loathing and distrust of Iran by America's two most militarily capable allies in the region has increased quiet cooperation between them.
        Senior Israelis I talk to reiterate their belief that Iran will eventually successfully build a nuclear arsenal unless it is stopped by direct military intervention. They point to how the world treats North Korea.
        The writer, former supreme allied commander of NATO, is dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. (Bloomberg)
  • Pro-Iran Militias Surged after Nuclear Deal Lifted Sanctions
    For over four decades, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has used a network of loyalist militias to advance the Islamic Republic's strategic and ideological objectives, which include exporting the Islamic Revolution, supporting Muslim and anti-U.S. movements, and eradicating the State of Israel. In pursuit of these goals, the IRGC has manufactured its own ideologically compliant militias - such as Hizbullah in Lebanon - and supported groups with shared interests, from Hamas to the Taliban.
        The premise that Iran would moderate its commitment to creating and sponsoring militias after the 2015 nuclear deal and sanctions relief for Tehran was false. The number of militias created by the IRGC surged after this period, and the Guard's Quds Force expanded its operations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. (Tony Blair Institute for Global Change)
  • Iran's Satellite Program Is All about Missiles - Michael Rubin
    American diplomats and their European counterparts seek a new round of talks to address Iran's growing ballistic missile program. Iranian authorities have repeatedly sought to launch satellites into orbit. On Feb. 2, 2021, Iran's Defense Ministry announced the successful development of a new satellite launch vehicle - the Zuljanah - which is capable of carrying a 200-kg. payload.
        The Iranian Defense Ministry noted that the Zuljanah "does not need a fixed base for launching and it can be launched from a mobile launch pad from anywhere in the country." Satellite launches occur from fixed locations. Militaries often mount ballistic missiles - especially nuclear ones - on mobile launchers to frustrate those who might seek to destroy them before launch. If the Iranian satellite launch program is as innocent as they say, why did they design the Zuljanah to launch from a mobile pad? The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (19fortyfive)
  • Senior Taliban Delegation Visits Iran - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    A delegation of the terrorist organization Taliban, headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, its political bureau chief in Qatar, visited Iran in January 2021. Iran continues to see the American military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf states as its backyard and calls for expulsion of the U.S. from the area, while terrorist organizations operating under its auspices and funding are attacking American forces stationed in the area.
        The U.S. Institute of Peace reports that 50,000 Afghans were deployed to Syria over a four-year period, and warns that the returning Fatemiyoun forces presented a danger. "The existence of the Fatemiyoun, whose numbers rival some estimates of Afghan Taliban strength, has raised concerns over the emergence of a generation of Shia Afghan youth motivated by their sectarian identity and armed with military experience in the Middle East."  (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • International Criminal Court

  • The ICC Is Playing Politics by Targeting Israel - Stephen Daisley
    The UK should loudly oppose the International Criminal Court's ruling that it enjoys the jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes in eastern Jerusalem, Gaza, and Judea and Samaria. The Rome Statute which created the ICC does not empower that court to prosecute non-party states, except where such states "accept the exercise of jurisdiction by the court." Israel has not ratified the statute.
        The ICC is a political body and its decision to prosecute is shaded by such concerns. Hence the ICC has not put Syria in the dock, because Russia would veto any attempt by the UN Security Council to refer the atrocities committed by the Assad regime to the panel. Israel is a much easier target, loathed as it is by those who resent the notion of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland. It cannot hope to receive a fair trial.
        The immovable obstacle to a Palestinian state remains the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership holds the self-harming delusion that they need only hold out a little longer and the Zionist entity would be gone. No one can end Palestinian suffering, only they can. It is for the Palestinians to claim their own sovereignty at the negotiating table. An ICC vendetta against Israel will not achieve dignity, prosperity and self-determination for the Palestinians. (Spectator-UK)
  • Germany, Hungary, Australia Back Israel in Opposing ICC Ruling on War Crimes Probe - Lahav Harkov
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Tuesday: "Our legal view on jurisdiction of the ICC regarding alleged crimes committed in the Palestine territories remains unchanged. The court has no jurisdiction, because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law."
        Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on Facebook that "Hungary does not agree with this [ICC] decision....We have always supported Israel's right to defend itself and we believe that peace in the region can only be achieved through negotiations based on mutual respect. The decision of the ICC does not take us closer to this."
        Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Saturday expressed "deep concerns" about the ICC ruling and called for the court not to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Australia does not recognize a 'State of Palestine,' noting that matters relating to territory and borders can only be resolved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Attorney General: ICC Has No Authority over Israel - Ariel Kahana
    Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said Tuesday that the International Criminal Court has no authority to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes. "As according to international law there is no such thing as the 'state of Palestine,' this [decision] poses no immediate threat to any Israelis," he said. He added that the ICC decision was "regrettable, especially since the president of the partial chamber, who was in the minority opinion, sees things as we do - according to international law there is no state of Palestine. Eight other countries that support our position had said the same."
        "The International Criminal Court was formed to fight atrocities worldwide. The State of Israel does not commit atrocities. We have rules of war, and our exemplary judiciary is world renowned. Issuing this ruling in regards to Israel of all countries - it's very odd."  (Israel Hayom)

  • Other Issues

  • Some Western Leaders "Divorced from Reality" on Palestinians, Iran - Israel Kasnett
    Victoria Coates, a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and former U.S. deputy national security adviser for Middle Eastern and North African Affairs, said she believes there is a "disconnect" within European and the U.S. governments. "They think they can have some kind of diplomatic relationship with this terrorist rogue regime. It's completely divorced from reality," she said.
        Coates said the previous administration "initiated a fundamental shift," seeing Israel as "the key positive in the U.S. engagement with the Middle East, rather than an irritant. That's what changed the game. And it changed it in terms of our Arab allies because it clarified for them what our position was. That's what created an opportunity to reach the Abraham Accords."
        "You can't turn the clock back. The Arabs have moved on. They aren't giving the Palestinians a veto over their policy towards the region. If we try to force the Arabs to try to prioritize the Palestinian issue over their economic recovery from the pandemic, for example, we aren't going to get very far."  (JNS-Israel Hayom)
  • We Know Who Killed Lokman Slim in Lebanon - Clifford D. May
    Lokman Slim, a prominent Lebanese Shia filmmaker, publisher, and activist who had the temerity to criticize Hizbullah for the incalculable harm it has done to his country, was found dead in his car on Thursday, shot three times in the head. In response to the assassination of Mr. Slim, Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement that did not mention Hizbullah but said instead: "We join the international community in calling for his killers to be brought to swift justice." Fat chance.
        I understand that President Biden has no good options. But he does have bad options that he might want to avoid. Among the worst would be to reward Hizbullah and Iran's rulers who have the habit of murdering dissidents, at home and abroad. That means no economic rescue for Lebanon - currently sinking in debt - so long as Hizbullah is calling the shots.
        And it is now more obvious than ever how foolhardy it would be to lift sanctions on Tehran and return to the 2015 nuclear deal. That deal did not end the regime's nuclear weapons program. At most, it delayed progress in some areas while implicitly licensing the regime's terrorism and other malign activities.
        When dealing with despots, there are no talking cures. Enriching, empowering, and accommodating those who despise us and murder with impunity does not transform them into friendly neighbors. That approach has been tried. It consistently disappoints.
        The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). (Washington Times)
  • The New Alliance Shaping the Middle East Is Against a Tiny Bug - Matti Friedman
    Dates in the Middle East are like corn for the Maya - the "bread of the desert," a symbol of life itself. With their long shelf life, dates were beloved by Arabian nomads and caravan traders, and are still eaten to break the Ramadan fast.
        The United Arab Emirates has an estimated 40 million date trees. Red palm weevils are burrowing holes in the date palms. At a date farm in Dubai, a sensor made by the Israeli company Agrint is used to detect red palm weevils. The Agrint sensors are the first practical early-warning system for the weevil to go on the market anywhere.
        At Agrint's offices near Tel Aviv, the chief executive opened the sensor app on his cellphone and showed me an orchard in a Gulf country that doesn't have open ties with Israel. A farmer there has a weevil infestation in four trees in a corner of his orchard. In a nearby Arab power that also has no official relations with Israel, 100 sensors show a nine-tree infestation just a few miles from one of Islam's holiest sites. Thousands more sensors are going into trees in Morocco.
        Jews have always been around this region, farming and trading like everyone else, and it's not the past few months of renewed contact that are the anomaly, but the past seven decades of isolation. (New York Times)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • ADL: Iranian Textbooks More Anti-Semitic than Ever - Dan Lavie
    Iranian students are exposed to anti-Semitism, hate and incitement to violence against the U.S., Israel, and the Jewish people, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League. Schools teach students to chant "Death to Israel," claiming that the Jews have plotted against Islam since its inception. "From demonizing Jews in lessons about ancient history to glorifying anti-Semitic terrorists as recently as 2020, Tehran's current curriculum is brimming with state-sponsored bigotry," said Dr. David Weinberg, the ADL's Washington Director for International Affairs. (Israel Hayom)
  • How Anti-Semitism Is Dangerously Ignored - Robert Shrimsley
    Why are Jews excluded from diversity or ethnic minority monitoring? How, with the Holocaust still a living memory, do so many feel content to dismiss the fears of one of the most persecuted peoples in history, to regard anti-Semitism as something that matters less than other prejudice? Anti-Semitism is on the rise and yet people who ought to be allies and who normally stress the need to listen to the experience of other minorities, seem to suspend those rules when those voices are Jewish.
        The question is less about why anti-Semitism exists than why good people care less about it. The key is that Jews are not seen as underprivileged or marginalized. They are also "too white" for campaigners. This means they are beyond the interest of social justice activists. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Why Jews Don't Count to the "Anti-Racists" - Nick Cohen
    A portion of progressive opinion has decided the best way to show it is on the right side of history is to repeat anti-Semitic ideas and accuse anyone who tries to reason with them of being engaged in a plot to further Israel's interests or divert attention from the real suffering of less privileged ethnic minorities. (Spectator-UK)
  • Polish Journalist Quizzed by Police for Article on Polish Complicity with Nazi Persecution - Ofer Aderet
    Polish journalist Katarzyna Markusz, 39, was questioned by police in Warsaw last week on suspicion of "slandering the good name of the Polish nation," following an article she wrote last October that said Poles were involved in the Holocaust. The article, published on the Polish website Krytyka Polityczna, states: "Will the day come when the Polish authorities admit there was widespread hostility to the Jews among Poles, and that Polish participation in the Holocaust is a historical fact?"
        Markusz told Ha'aretz on Sunday that she "wrote the truth. There were Polish people involved in the Holocaust - they betrayed their Jewish neighbors and sometimes killed them. That's a fact. It's silly I have to even discuss it with the police and that someone is offended. How can you be offended by the truth?"  (Ha'aretz)

Israel Must Fight Back Against the ICC and Not Be Intimidated by Its Charges - Amb. Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • People forget that when the International Criminal Court (ICC) was created in 1998, the Clinton administration ordered the U.S. delegation to vote against its formation. Neither President Clinton nor President Bush sought Senate ratification of the Rome Statute setting up the court.
  • During its two decades, the ICC has repeatedly failed to fulfill its mission to protect human rights. For example, in April 2015, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a statement that there was nothing she could do about ISIS crimes in Syria and Iraq, despite all the reports of mass executions, torture, and the wanton destruction of religious properties.
  • Nor has the ICC ordered an investigation of the assault on the Uighur minority in China, including their forcible mass transfer.
  • The ICC has demonstrated striking determination to pursue legal actions against the State of Israel. Yet Bensouda's predecessor, Louis Morano Ocampo, stressed in an interview this week that when he was the ICC Prosecutor, his organization did not agree to recognize the Palestinians' territorial jurisdiction to bring a complaint against Israel because no Palestinian state existed and still doesn't exist.
  • Israel must resist these efforts to turn the ICC into a political weapon against it. An ICC indictment might have the aura of international law. But Israel must not allow these moves at the ICC - which are essentially political - to undercut its own self-assurance about the fundamental justice underpinning its cause.

    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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