February 15, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Commander Says Hamas Has Amassed Vast Arsenal - Josef Federman (AP)
    Hamas in Gaza has replenished its arsenal since the 2014 war with Israel and now has 7,000 rockets, 300 anti-tank and 100 anti-aircraft missiles, a senior Israeli military commander said Thursday.
    It also has acquired dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles and has an army of 30,000, including 400 naval commandos who have received sophisticated training and equipment.
    In addition, Islamic Jihad has 6,000 rockets, dozens of drones and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and 400 naval forces.
    The commander said an underground barrier equipped with sensors to detect tunnels is 99% complete and will cover the entire 60-km. border.

Military Exercise with U.S. Simulates Barrage of Missile Fire on Israel - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
    The current Israel-U.S. Juniper Falcon military exercise is training for scenarios in which Israel faces missile attacks from Gaza, Lebanon, and even Syria and Iran.
    The exercise is also preparing for the use of cruise missiles and suicide drones from western Iraq and Yemen, Israeli news site N12 reported Sunday.
    Iron Dome batteries and other missile defense systems will be permanently deployed across the country, rather than moved from front to front, to provide blanket protection for civilian areas and vital infrastructure.
    A new detection grid on land, sea, and air will also allow aerial attacks to be identified as quickly as possible.
    The Iron Dome system has undergone a major upgrade to deal with low-flying drones and precision-guided missiles.
    Its range has been enhanced, meaning cities that once required three batteries will now require only one.

Former IAEA Official: Israeli Airstrike in Iran Can Buy Time, Not Eliminate the Problem - Damian Pachter (Israel Hayom)
    An Israeli airstrike against Iranian nuclear facilities is technically feasible and can help Israel buy some time, but it cannot completely resolve the problem, Dr. Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general at the International Atomic Energy Agency, told Israel Hayom on Wednesday.
    Heinonen has monitored Tehran's sprint toward a nuclear bomb since the 1980s.
    "Iran is not Syria or Iraq: It always has a backup plan. The Iranians don't put all their eggs in one basket, and I'm positive they have taken steps to ensure that parts of their nuclear program will continue functioning even in the case of an attack."
    Regarding a new nuclear deal with Iran, Heinonen said, "Don't be hasty. Build a regional and international coalition."

Germany, Turkey to Finance Industrial Zone in West Bank (Anadolu-Turkey)
    Palestinian Economy Minister Khaled Al-Osaily said an industrial zone will be established in the West Bank city of Jenin.
    The first phase is financed by Germany at a cost of 24 million euros, and includes all external infrastructure.
    The second phase, which targets the internal infrastructure, is financed by Turkey and will cost $10 million.
    "There is a plan for Turkish factories to operate in the zone," Al-Osaily said.

Israeli Startups Raise Record $1.44 Billion in January - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)
    Investments in Israeli startups surged to a record $1.44 billion in January, compared to $956 million in January 2020, Start-Up Nation Central (SNC) said Thursday.
    Six startups raised more than $100 million each, including: Rapyd Financial Network (fintech) - $300 million, Drivenets (network infrastructure) - $208 million, OwnBackup (enterprise solutions) - $167.5 million, K Health (digital health) - $132 million, Resident Home (ecommerce) - $130 million, and Melio (fintech) - $110 million.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Vows to Limit Nuclear Inspections If Nuclear Deal Terms Not Met - Parisa Hafezi
    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday that Iran will block snap inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog if other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal fail to fulfil their obligations by Feb. 21. (Reuters)
  • Iran Eyes New Targets in Africa - Declan Walsh
    Ethiopia recently uncovered a cell of 15 people it said were casing the embassy of the United Arab Emirates, along with a cache of weapons and explosives. American and Israeli officials say the operation was the work of Iran, whose intelligence service activated a sleeper cell in Addis Ababa last fall with orders to gather intelligence also on the embassies of the U.S. and Israel. They say the Ethiopian operation was part of a wider drive to seek soft targets in African countries.
        Ethiopia's National Intelligence and Security Service said a second group of plotters had been preparing to hit the Emirati Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan. A senior U.S. defense official linked the arrests in Ethiopia to a failed Iranian plan to kill the U.S. ambassador to South Africa, which was reported by Politico in September. (New York Times)
  • British Lawyer Karim Khan Elected Next ICC Prosecutor - Edith M. Lederer
    British lawyer Karim Khan was elected on Friday as the next prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, replacing Fatou Bensouda, whose 9-year term expires in June. Khan currently leads a UN team set up to investigate allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Islamic State in Iraq. He has also worked as a prosecutor at the tribunal prosecuting war crimes in former Yugoslavia and crimes against humanity and genocide in Rwanda. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Downward Trend Continues
    The Israel Health Ministry reported Monday morning that 3,446 new coronavirus cases were diagnosed on Sunday. There are currently 990 Covid-19 patients in serious condition, including 284 connected to ventilators. The death toll has reached 5,403. 3,907,274 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 2,535,064 having received two shots. (i24News)
        See also 94 Percent Drop in Symptomatic Corona Cases among Israel's Vaccinated - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    A new study released Sunday by Israel's Clalit Health Services of 600,000 people who received the corona vaccine and 600,000 who did not, showed 94% fewer symptomatic coronavirus cases and 92% fewer cases of serious illness among those who were vaccinated. The study also found that the Pfizer vaccine is most effective one week after the second dose, mirroring the company's own clinical studies. After 14 days following the second dose, the vaccines were found to have even higher efficacy for the prevention of symptomatic and severe disease. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also 3/4 of New Covid-19 Cases Are Below Age 39
    75% of new Covid-19 cases in Israel are under the age of 39, Israel's Coronavirus Information Center said Sunday. 38% are age 19 or younger, while 37% are 20-39. (Ha'aretz)
  • Qatar: Deal Reached to Supply Israeli Natural Gas to Gaza Power Plant - Jack Khoury
    Qatar's envoy to Gaza, Mohammad al-Emadi, announced Sunday that an agreement has been reached between the Palestinian Authority, Israel's Delek gas company, and representatives of the Quartet on the Middle East to deliver natural gas from Israel to the Gaza power station.
        European powers will fund a $5 million gas pipe from the station to Gaza's maritime border, and the Qatari government will pay for the pipeline from the border to the offshore oil platform. Construction of the pipeline will take 2.5 years. The power station will have to convert from diesel to natural gas. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Road Construction in West Bank Damages Important Archaeological Site - Nir Hasson
    In recent weeks, Palestinian road construction has caused damage to an important archaeological site on Mount Ebal, near Nablus (biblical Shechem). Israeli excavations there in the 1980s revealed a large stone structure that has been dated to the 13th and 12th centuries BCE. Archaeologist Adam Zertal identified the structure as the altar that, according to the Bible, Joshua built at the beginning of the period of Israelite settlement there. Drone footage shows bulldozers destroying portions of the perimeter wall, while photos show stones from the site being ground into gravel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Palestinian Legacy of Destruction of Jewish Heritage Sites - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • A Return to the 2015 Iran Deal Is Impossible - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel
    The Iranian regime's nuclear advancements since the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal, coupled with Tehran's refusal to fully account for its previous nuclear activity, mean a return to the deal is mission impossible. In the end, the deal failed and cannot accomplish what its original architects intended.
        Iran is quickly moving toward industrial-scale production of second-generation (IR-2m and IR-4) and third-generation (IR-6, IR-8 and IR-9) centrifuges. These centrifuges are installed in Iran's Natanz underground facility, allowing the Iranians to dramatically accelerate enrichment. Regime scientists have learned to operate cascade configurations and, with this technology, can now enrich uranium three times faster and to all levels of enrichment.
        According to Iranian reports, the regime is installing IR-6s and perhaps other, more advanced, models at Iran's underground Fordow facility, which can enrich uranium 6 to 10 times faster. That know-how is there, no matter what's written in any nuclear accord. Long gone are the days when "breakout" would take Iran as much as a year. Moreover, the time it took Iran to reestablish enrichment facilities was much faster than calculated by the deal's negotiators.
        In the meantime, new revelations from the secret nuclear archive that Israel's Mossad spirited out of Iran in 2018 have made clear that the International Atomic Energy Agency's 2015 decision to close its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program was a big mistake. The archive demonstrated that the Iranians are much closer to weaponization than previously assessed.
        Indeed, the IAEA's failures underscore how the nuclear deal is untenable in its current form. The agency's strict inspections were touted as the deal's most effective tool. Yet the agency proved reluctant to address violations and was unable to secure site visits in a timely manner.
        The writer served as head of Israel's National Security Council and as the prime minister's acting national security advisor. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The International Criminal Court Threatens Middle East Peace - Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp
    The International Criminal Court (ICC) has long had its sights on Israel, the U.S. and Britain. These are the three Western democracies most active in using legitimate military force to defend their interests. Yet by its charter, dealing with countries that lack the will or capability to bring their own to justice is the sole purpose of the ICC. This demonstrably does not apply to Israel, the U.S. or Britain, each of which have long-established and globally respected legal systems.
        The effects of the ICC's decision will be profound. Unless halted, investigations into spurious allegations of war crimes will go on for years, perhaps decades, creating a global bonanza for all who hate Israel. Although determining jurisdiction does not imply guilt, it will be widely portrayed as just that and utilized to stir up hatred and violence against Israelis and Jews everywhere.
        But the most detrimental effect of the ICC's decision will be felt by Palestinian Arab people who, for decades, have been abused as political pawns by their leaders and who would be the greatest beneficiaries of any peace agreement with Israel. The ICC's ruling makes such a deal even more remote today.
        The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK's national crisis management committee, COBRA. (Gatestone Institute)

What Is Driving Abbas and Hamas to Hold Palestinian Elections? - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has announced parliamentary elections to be held on May 22, 2021, followed by elections for the presidency on July 31, 2021.
  • Abbas and the Fatah movement he heads believe that the elections and an apparent reconciliation with Hamas will strengthen their ability to prevent further erosion of the PA's status caused by the normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries, which have pushed the Palestinian issue into a secondary place on the Middle East agenda.
  • They also expect that the election process, together with other cosmetic changes in their behavior (such as changing the method of paying salaries to incarcerated terrorists), will justify the new U.S. administration's intention to recommence economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
  • Moreover, the elections are intended to satisfy the Palestinian public and the international system by creating a false facade of Palestinian unity, while ensuring the continuation of the status quo on the ground and Abbas' unchallenged rule in the territories.
  • Hamas is eager to hold the elections for its own reasons, as it seeks to keep Gaza under its control and secure international legitimacy. There are elements in the new U.S. government, such as Hadi Amr and Robert Malley, who have previously argued for granting legitimacy to Hamas.
  • However, this would mean recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political body and not a terrorist organization without its meeting the three conditions previously set forth by the International Quartet: recognition of the State of Israel, the cessation of terrorism, and the acceptance and implementation of the agreements between Israel and the PLO in the Oslo Accords.

    The writer, former head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Center.

        See also Mahmoud Abbas Asks Jailed Fatah Leader Marwan Barghouti to Withdraw from PA Presidential Race
    Fatah Central Committee member Hussein Al-Sheikh met with Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving five life sentences for murder in Israel's Hadarim Prison. Israel's Channel 12 reported that Al-Sheikh transmitted Palestinian President Abbas' request that Barghouti withdraw his candidacy in the presidential election.
        Palestinian sources told the Israeli channel: "Al-Sheikh informed Barghouti of a direct offer from Abbas, demanding that he withdraw his candidacy in the presidency, in exchange for obtaining the first position in the list of Fatah for the legislative elections, reserving ten seats on the list for the candidates he chooses, and granting his family economic assistance." The offer came as a reaction to the widespread support and popularity that Barghouti enjoys in the West Bank, which far exceeds the support for Abbas. (Middle East Monitor-UK)
        See also Palestinians Anticipate Barghouti's Decision to Run for President - Kifah Zboun
    Marwan al-Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences for leading Fatah's military wing and killing Israelis during the Second Intifada that erupted in 2000. Member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council Hatem Abdel Qader said on Saturday that Barghouti will run in the presidential elections. No one else in Fatah could pose a challenge to Abbas, except for Barghouti. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

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