February 18, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Air Force Simulates War with Hizbullah, Hits 3,000 Targets a Day - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
    This week the Israel Air Force undertook a massive exercise simulating a full-scale war with Hizbullah.
    One of its main objectives was to destroy all threats to IAF aircraft, especially Russian and Iranian surface-to-air missiles.
    A senior IAF officer said more than 3,000 targets a day were hit. By comparison, during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the IAF hit an average of 100 targets a day.
    Veteran Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari described the exercise as a warning to Hizbullah, "demonstrating how a massive first strike may affect Hizbullah's missile arsenal all over Lebanon in a single day."
    See also Hizbullah Opposes a Limited War with Israel, and Issues Threats - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Iran Could Deploy 200 Missiles in Iraq to Attack Israel (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is concerned that Iran could deploy up to 200 long-range missiles in Iraq to attack the Jewish state.

Iran's Intelligence Minister: If Pushed, Iran May Build an Atomic Bomb - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall and Iran Desk (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Mahmoud Alavi, Iran's Minister of Intelligence, said on Feb. 10 that Iran might be drawn into a military nuclear program.
    His remarks, and the strong internal criticism they received, reflect ongoing internal power struggles within the Iranian security and intelligence apparatuses after a series of assassinations of Iranian scientists and the sabotage of sensitive nuclear facilities in Iran.

New York Times Makes Up Stories about Israeli Checkpoints in Jerusalem - Tamar Sternthal (CAMERA)
    "Palestinian children often tell emotional stories of crossing the checkpoint on the bus ride in from East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem," manned by Israeli soldiers that the Palestinian children perceive as "threatening and scary," wrote Ruth Ebenstein in the New York Times on Feb. 14.
    But it's not true. There are no checkpoints separating eastern and western Jerusalem.

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Iranian Gen. Soleimani Monitored Iran's Jewish Community (MEMRI-TV)
    Iranian Islamic scholar Ahmed Abedi detailed some of the activities of IRGC Qods Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Noor TV on Feb. 6.
    "Regarding the Jews in this country who spy for Israel, [Soleimani] established centers for monitoring the Zionist spies. He established many such centers."

Assad Controls 2/3 of Syria - Fabrice Balanche (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    The situation on Syria's borders has hardly changed over the past couple of years. Assad's forces now control 2/3 of Syria's territory, including its main cities, as well as 12 million people out of an estimated resident population of 17 million (another 7 million Syrians are living abroad as refugees).
    In spring 2013, Assad's forces controlled only a fifth of the country.
    Yet the Syrian army controls only 15% of the country's international land borders; the rest are divided between foreign actors. Hizbullah and other Iranian-backed Shia militias currently control 20% of the country's borders.
    The Lebanese border is occupied by Hizbullah, which has established bases on the Syrian side. Similarly, Iraqi Shia militias manage both sides of their border.
    In addition, several Syrian military airports serve as receptacles for Iranian weapons destined for Hizbullah and the Golan Heights frontline with Israel.
    In Deraa province in the south, to quickly tamp down growing resistance in the area, the regime was forced to sign reconciliation agreements brokered by Russia, leaving local rebel factions with temporary autonomy and the right to keep light weapons.
    The writer, an associate professor at the University of Lyon 2, is an adjunct fellow with The Washington Institute.

How UK Gives Annual Nod to Hate-Filled Palestinian Education - Jenni Frazer (Jewish News-UK)
    In the past five years, British taxpayers have spent 105 million pounds on a Palestinian education system in which pupils are routinely taught incitement, hatred of Israel and glorification of terrorism.
    The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) reviewed the Palestinian Authority's 2020-21 school textbooks and identified 152 modifications. "Almost 90% reflect adjustments that keep problematic material intact or made it worse."
    Math "is still taught by adding numbers of 'martyrs' who died in each intifada....This number includes the bombers of buses and shopping malls."
    "Jews and Israel are vilified to a greater extent than in previous curricula and anti-Semitism is more prevalent throughout."

Study Finds Increase in Anti-Zionism at U.S. Universities - Prof. Miriam F. Elman (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
    Most U.S. campuses are not awash in anti-Semitism, nor are they hotbeds of anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism. Yet on hundreds of campuses, a new set of realities has emerged for Jewish students.
    Far-left anti-Semitism that expresses a view of Israel that traffics in anti-Jewish conspiracies has increasingly become normalized on U.S. campuses, where Jewish students are being demoralized as imperialists, racists, and even Nazis and white supremacists.
    Students have increasingly reported that they are afraid to express their Jewish identity, including their support for Israel, lest they be excluded from campus life and the causes that they care deeply about.
    Hillel International reported that anti-Semitic incidents reached an all-time high during the 2019-2020 academic year.
    The writer is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University.

Israel's Economy Shrank 2.4 Percent in 2020 during Pandemic - Guy Ben Simon (Globes)
    Israel's gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 2.4% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported, while in the Euro-bloc, the economy shrank 5%.
    In the fourth quarter of 2020, the Israeli economy grew 6.3%.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Biden, Netanyahu Affirm Continued Strategic Cooperation
    President Joseph Biden spoke on Wednesday by phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. "The President affirmed his personal history of steadfast commitment to Israel's security and conveyed his intent to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israel partnership, including our strong defense cooperation. Together, the leaders discussed the importance of continued close consultation on regional security issues, including Iran."
        "The President emphasized U.S. support for the recent normalization of relations between Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim world. He underscored the importance of working to advance peace throughout the region, including between Israelis and Palestinians. Together, they affirmed their shared interest in continued strategic cooperation to confront the many challenges facing the region."  (White House)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Speaks with President Biden (Prime Minister's Office)
  • U.S. Seeks Agreement with Iran that's "Longer and Stronger than the Original One" - Mary Louise Kelly
    Secretary of State Tony Blinken told NPR on Tuesday: "Time has passed. And so if we're to get back into the [nuclear] deal, if Iran returns to compliance and we do the same, we need to work on an agreement that's longer and stronger than the original one. And we also need to engage other issues that were not part of the original negotiation that are deeply problematic for us and for other countries around the world: Iran's ballistic missile program, its destabilizing actions in country after country. All of that needs to be engaged."
        "But the first step would be Iran returning to compliance. And President Biden has been clear that if they do, we would do the same. The path to diplomacy is open right now. Iran is still a ways away from being in compliance. So we'll have to see what it does."  (NPR)
  • U.S. Calls on Iran to Refrain from Steps Harming IAEA Pledges
    The U.S. has called for Iran to reverse and refrain from any steps that would impact its assurances to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday, as Tehran said it will start banning short-notice inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Middle East Quartet Pushes to Renew Involvement in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Tovah Lazaroff
    On Monday, envoys from the Middle East Quartet - the UN, the EU, the U.S. and Russia - held their first virtual conversation since President Biden entered the White House. The Quartet had played a role in the peace process since its inception in 2002 but met rarely in the last few years. "The Envoys agreed to meet on a regular basis to continue their engagement," UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland tweeted. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: New Cases Decline
    The Israel Health Ministry said Thursday there were 4,076 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. The number of serious patients on Thursday dropped to 928, from 975 on Wednesday. The death toll stands at 5,486. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Study: 1/1,000 Chance of Contracting Covid-19 If Vaccinated - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    A person who is vaccinated has only a one in 1,000 chance of contracting Covid-19, according to new data released by Maccabi Health Services on Wednesday. In a study of 602,000 people who had been vaccinated with their second dose for at least seven days, only 608 people became infected. Only 21 people required hospitalization, of whom 7 were defined as in serious condition. In contrast, 20,621 out of 528,000 unvaccinated people in a control group contracted the virus. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Only 5.5 Percent of New Corona Cases Are Over 60 - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    Only 5.5% of new coronavirus cases in Israel were over age 60, the Coronavirus Knowledge and Information Center reported Wednesday. More than 80% of people over 60 have been vaccinated. 78% of new cases are under age 40. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • "The Yemeni Maneuver" - Biden Administration Gives a Free Pass to Iran - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    On February 16, 2021, the Biden administration removed the Houthi rebels in Yemen from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. Barely mentioned was Iran's involvement and direct responsibility for continuing the conflict in Yemen and its longstanding support for the Houthi rebels.
        Iran has transferred a variety of weapons to the Houthis, as well as manufacturing know-how and instructors. These include GPS-guided armed drones, remote controlled Water-borne Improvised Explosive Devices (RC-WBIED), cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and rockets, which it has fired at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iran's Missiles: Military Strategy - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Assaf Orion
    Ballistic missiles are an aspect of Iran's indirect warfare strategy. Iran fires over another country's protective forces and strikes directly at the rear. When a country like Iran lacks an air force and needs range, it needs ballistic missiles. An Iranian missile with a medium range of 2,000 km. (or 1,242 miles) could strike Israel and any of the Gulf states.
        Hizbullah has hundreds of rockets that can be fired several hundred kilometers. Hizbullah has modified its longer-range rockets to convert them into precision missiles. Kits add a section to the rocket that includes a navigational unit and rotating fins that corrects a weapon's course and allows it to maneuver.
        The writer is a senior research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. (U.S. Institute of Peace)
        See also Iran's Missiles: Infographics and Photos (U.S. Institute of Peace)
        See also Iran's Missiles: Transfers to Proxies - Andrew Hanna
    Since the early 2000s, Iran has supplied cruise and ballistic missiles to its proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. (U.S. Institute of Peace)

  • Palestinians

  • The Truth about Financial Aid to the Palestinian Authority - Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar
    Muhammad Aref Massad, a former terrorist who is now a candidate in the upcoming PA presidential elections, recently wrote about the PA's misuse of international aid: "I was recruited to the terror organizations when I was 13, and I fought boldly against the Israeli side, but to my sorrow I discovered that the Palestinian leaders do not want freedom and do not want peace because they profit from the war and destruction in which we are engulfed."
        "The greater the number of fatalities among our people, the more attention they get from the free and good people in the world, and the world gives them large quantities of aid each time the pictures of destruction in our land are published worldwide."
        "If you really want the killing, the destruction, and the siege of the Palestinian people to stop, if you really want the injustice and the poverty of the Palestinian people to come to an end, please terminate your support for the Palestinian Authority, which is run by a corrupt and unelected dictator."
        In the past, donor states have at times sought to circumvent the PA, opting instead to finance specific projects. This idea failed because of the mahsubiya method practiced in the PA: a contractor who gets foreign funding for projects transfers part of the money to the "right people" in the PA.
        The writer, a senior research associate at the BESA Center, served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Will Restoring U.S. Aid to the Palestinians Bring Peace? - Bassam Tawil
    Ignoring rampant corruption in the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. says it is preparing to resume unconditional financial aid to the Palestinians. Yet the assumption that renewed financial aid would lead the Palestinian leadership to make "concessions" has proven to be completely baseless over the past three decades. Anyone who thinks that the Palestinian leadership would make real "concessions" to Israel in return for hundreds of millions of dollars is living under an illusion.
        Since the signing of the Oslo Accord between Israel and the PLO in 1993, the Palestinians have received billions of dollars in international aid. Did the money change the Palestinians' position on crucial issues? No. Last year, the Palestinians rejected President Trump's $50 billion Middle East economic plan that would create a global investment fund to improve the Palestinian and Arab state economies. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Will New Palestinian Elections Strengthen the Radical Camp? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The last Palestinian parliamentary election, held in 2006, resulted in a victory for Hamas. Hamas promised to "make Islamic law [sharia] the main source of legislation in Palestine," and to "use all methods, including armed resistance" against Israel. Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. It remains opposed to the Oslo Accords because it does not believe in any peace process with Israel. Because of these positions, Hamas won 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council.
        Given current anti-Israel sentiments, one wonders whether it is a good idea to proceed with new elections that are certain to strengthen the radical camp among Palestinians even further. (Gatestone Institute)
  • The PA Is Winning in Area C - Prof. Hillel Frisch
    The PA is consolidating its control over Area C of the West Bank. According to the Oslo Accords, Area C was to remain under exclusive Israeli jurisdiction until a final-status agreement. A report by Regavim documents illegal encroachment on state land by the PA over the past decade. In 2009, the majority of built-up space in Area C was populated by Jews (47,000 dunams compared to 46,000 for the Palestinians). By 2019, after a 10-year settlement push directed by the PA, most of the built-up space is Palestinian (79,000 dunams compared to 57,000 inhabited by Jews).
        Behind the PA's successful settlement drive stands an array of EU and UN institutions that both finance the project and provide much of the planning.
        The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
        See also The Palestinian Authority's Program for Establishing an Arab State in Area C (Regavim)

  • Other Issues

  • EU Living in "Alternate Universe" over Construction in Jerusalem - Josh Hasten
    The Israel Lands Authority last month awarded contracts to several building companies to begin marketing 1,257 new housing units in Jerusalem's southern neighborhood of Givat Hamatos. It's the first stage of a 2,600-unit subsidized housing project targeting young families to encourage them to remain in the Israeli capital, where there is a housing shortage and high prices. At the same time, the master plan calls for the construction of 700 units for the nearby Arab area of Beit Safafa.
        Givat Hamatos is bordered by several of Jerusalem's largest neighborhoods, including Gilo to the south and Har Homa to the east. The EU has dubbed the project an "illegal settlement." Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum responded, "Givat Hamatos doesn't change anything; it simply supplies demands of building and growth. The fact that the EU doesn't accept the reality that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel shows that they are living in an alternative universe."  (JNS)
  • Castles in the Air? The American Return to the UN Human Rights Council - Gerald M. Steinberg
    The Biden Administration has decided to bring the U.S. back into the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), first as an observer until the end of the year, and presumably as a member beginning in 2022. Secretary of State Blinken explained: "The best way to improve the Council, so it can achieve its potential, is through robust and principled U.S. leadership."
        Yet the evidence provides little ground for optimism. In 2009, President Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, expressed similar hopes, which were quickly and decisively proven to be unfounded. As a Council member, the U.S. was unable to steer the UN framework into confronting, or even addressing, the horrendous human rights abuses in Syria, Venezuela, China and elsewhere.
        In parallel, the anti-Israel demonization exceeded even the previously absurd levels. When the U.S. voted against the latest anti-Israel resolution, it made no difference in the outcome. And when U.S. raised objections after anti-Semitic slurs or the use of the term "Zionist entity" from an Iranian or Syrian official, nothing happened. The structure of the UNHRC is largely impervious to change, reflecting the built-in majority for autocrats and dictatorships.
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is emeritus professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and heads the Institute for NGO Research. (Fathom-BICOM)
        See also American Engagement Alone Cannot Fix UN Agencies - Clifford D. May
    The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). (Washington Times)
  • The International Criminal Court Violates International Law - Jonathan Tobin
    The International Criminal Court decision that it has the right to investigate alleged war crimes in the 2014 fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, as well as the question of Jewish settlement in the West Bank, is a flagrant violation of the international law the Court is supposed to uphold. It has no jurisdiction over either matter and attempts to criminalize both the Jewish presence in parts of the country and Israel's legitimate right to self-defense against a terrorist organization are about politics, not law.
        Israel is not a member state of the ICC and though the Palestinian Authority joined it in 2015, its admission lacks legitimacy since it is not a sovereign state by any known legal definition and therefore had no right to invite the Court's interference.
        There is a basic absurdity in the ICC treating Israel and Hamas as morally equivalent, with Hamas firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilian areas while Israel sought to suppress the rocket fire and repel the Islamist group's other blatant acts of terrorism.
        The attempt to portray Israeli settlement activity in Jerusalem and the West Bank as a war crime is equally outrageous, given that the previous U.S. administration rightly accepted Israel's arguments that international agreements dating back to the 1922 San Remo Conference guaranteed the right of Jews to settle throughout the territory of their ancient homeland.
        Israel is clearly being judged by a double standard not applied to any other nation - let alone a democracy defending itself against terrorist groups. (Newsweek)

  • Weekend Features

  • Amazing Detective Work Reunites Best Friends Thought Murdered in the Holocaust - Matt Lebovic
    In 1939, two nine-year-old Jewish girls from Berlin promised to keep in touch. One family fled to Chile, while the other made its way to the U.S. via Shanghai. For the first time after 82 years, Ana Maria Wahrenberg and Betty Grebenschikoff connected with each other again on Zoom, facilitated by Holocaust testimony indexer Ita Gordon, whose sharp memory linked the women.
        "In her [USC Shoah Foundation] testimony, Betty said she had been actively searching for her long-lost friend for her entire life; she even specifically mentions Ana Maria's name," said Rachael Cerrotti, a creative producer at the foundation. After hearing Wahrenberg speak at a virtual Kristallnacht event, Gordon made the connection between Grebenschikoff's testimony - given to the foundation 24 years ago - and Wahrenberg.
        After more than 80 years of believing the other had perished in the Holocaust, the women connected virtually in November. Lucas Kirschman, one of Grebenschikoff's grandchildren, said, "It was so natural for them. They picked back up...like no big deal....I've never heard my grandmother speak German before, ever." Founded by Steven Spielberg, the foundation's archive has 55,000 video testimonies from survivors and witnesses of genocide. (Times of Israel)
  • The "Holocaust by Bullets" - Matt Lebovic
    At the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009, historian Wendy Lower was shown a disturbing image of a Jewish mother and child being executed by several men. In The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed, Lower meticulously probes the background of the photo, which was taken October 13, 1941, in Miropol, Ukraine.
        Lower compiled the names of 450 Jews murdered that day in Miropol. From eye-witness testimony, Lower learned how Jewish homes were immediately plundered by neighbors, many of whom taunted Jews by name as they were herded to the massacre. The historian came across harrowing testimony about babies bashed against trees. The photo confirms what Nazi leaders in Berlin ordered: Do not waste bullets on children.
        The perpetrators of the massacre were not German SS but Ukrainians. During the "Holocaust by bullets," 1.5 million Jews were murdered close to their homes. (Times of Israel)

Time for a Palestinian Reckoning - Hussein Agha and Ahmad Samih Khalidi (Foreign Affairs)
  • The one-time pan-Arab call for a united front against Israel has given way to normalization. Palestinian diplomacy has failed massively. It takes exceptional talent to transform an almost complete consensus among Arabs and Muslims on the future of Palestine and Jerusalem into just another matter on a packed Arab agenda.
  • The PLO's one-time virtue was that it gave the Palestinians a voice. Yet it has not adjusted its form and mission to meet the goal of statehood. In both construction and function, it is beyond reform. To move forward, a substantial recalibration of Palestinian aspirations is essential.
  • In the last two decades, Palestinian leaders developed a culture of dependency, an expectation of external salvation rather than self-reliance. This sapped their will to build their society and stymied their willingness to explore new thinking. Foreign supporters have become exasperated with Palestinian conduct, which has been marked by nagging, complaining, sulking, and a sense of entitlement.
  • The PLO's default position is to appeal to international law, one of the more enduring delusions of the Palestinian leadership. In reality, international law has not been a dependable friend to the Palestinians (from the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to the UN Partition Plan in 1947 to UN Security Council Resolution 242 in 1967). International law has not helped solve conflicts in Crimea, Cyprus, Kashmir, Kosovo, or Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • The prospects of securing "hard" Palestinian sovereignty, based on 19th-century notions of the nation-state, with full and complete control over land, borders, and resources, are remote. Harsh as this conclusion may seem, the Palestinians' choice may be between clinging to the self-defeating chimera of hard sovereignty and adopting softer versions, as in the case of member states of the European Union. The Palestinians need a new approach - one founded on recalibrated aspirations.

    Hussein Agha is a Senior Associate at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford, and has been involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for more than three decades. Ahmad Samih Khalidi is a Senior Associate at St. Antony's College and was involved in post-Oslo Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
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