March 22, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Americans Still Favor Israel, Warming to Palestinians - Lydia Saad (Gallup)
    Gallup's Feb. 3-18, 2021, poll of Americans' views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict shows that 75% of Americans rate Israel favorably (74% in 2020), while 30% rate the Palestinian Authority favorably (23% in 2020).
    Asked about where their sympathies lie, 58% said more with the Israelis, while 25% said more with the Palestinians.

Israel's Technion Launches Three Satellites into Space - Aaron Reich (Jerusalem Post)
    Three Israeli satellites were launched simultaneously into space on Monday from Kazakhstan and will be used to calculate the location of planes, ships and people.
    Each satellite, known as CubeSats, weighs 8 kg. and carries sensors, control systems and navigation tools.
    They use an innovative propulsion system and have three solar panels to gather energy and, if necessary, control the flight of the satellites without fuel.

Israel Vaccinates over 100,000 Palestinian Workers in Two Weeks (Jerusalem Post)
    Over the last two weeks, Israel has vaccinated over 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel at 13 stations throughout the West Bank, the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) reported Thursday.

Iran Has Not Yet Recovered from Natanz Explosion - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Sources revealed that Iran is still far from a full recovery following the July 2 explosion at the main site for assembling advanced centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility.
    The sources emphasized that there is no site in Iran which is safe.
    Institute for Science and International Security President David Albright said the destroyed facility had taken six years to build.
    He said the new IR-4 centrifuges at Natanz reported by the IAEA last week reflected existing or possibly very limited additional production, but that Iran still lacked the capacity to mass produce advanced centrifuges.

Israel and Morocco Have Had Military Ties for Years - Jonathan Hempel (Ha'aretz)
    While Israel and Morocco signed a normalization agreement last December, they have had close economic, diplomatic and military ties for many years.
    In the 1970s, Israel shipped tanks to Morocco. According to a British report, Israel sold Morocco military communications systems and radar systems for fighter jets.
    In 2013, the Moroccan air force purchased three Heron drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, delivered via France.

Jihadi Movements 2021: ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hayat Tahrir al Sham - Aaron Y. Zelin (Wilson Center)
    As of early 2021, al-Qaeda had six core branches stretching from the Sahel to the Indian Subcontinent.
    The Pentagon estimated that ISIS still had at least 10,000 fighters. In 2020, in Iraq, ISIS carried out operations throughout the country.
    In Syria, ISIS attacks were more concentrated in the eastern side of the Euphrates River Valley. The ISIS province in West Africa also ramped up attacks.
    Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) is focused on consolidating political and physical control in northwest Syria.
    The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Report: Iran Discussed Terror Attacks on Army Base in Washington - James Laporta
    Communications intercepted by the U.S. National Security Agency in January showed that Iran's Revolutionary Guard discussed mounting "USS Cole-style attacks" against Fort McNair, an Army post on the Potomac River in Washington. The Iranians were referring to the October 2000 suicide attack in which a small boat pulled up alongside the Navy destroyer in the Yemeni port of Aden and exploded, killing 17 sailors.
        Members of the Quds Force discussed potential military options to avenge the U.S. killing of the former Quds leader Gen. Qassem Soleimani. They said Tehran's military commanders are unsatisfied with their counterattacks so far.
        Fort McNair is home to the National War College, and the base sits alongside Washington's newly-developed Waterfront District, which includes three marinas and hundreds of boat slips. (AP)
  • Iran to Test Redesigned Arak Nuclear Reactor
    Iran will cold test its redesigned Arak nuclear reactor as prelude to fully commissioning it later in the year, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said on Friday. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Targets Maritime Oil Smuggling from Iran to Syria - Amos Harel
    The Wall Street Journal reported on March 11 that for the past 2 1/2 years Israel has been targeting maritime oil smuggling from Iran to Syria, striking at least 12 ships. An investigation by Ha'aretz reveals that several dozen attacks were carried out, which caused the Iranians cumulative damage of billions of dollars, amid a high rate of success in disrupting its shipping. The Israeli intelligence community found that the money from the oil shipments was used to finance arms for Hizbullah.
        In a large number of incidents, quiet acts of sabotage were carried out that damaged critical functions of the ships without the detonation of a bomb or the firing of a missile. In some cases ships were destroyed beyond repair, and the Iranians had to tow them back to the home port. The attacks did not harm those on the ships or entail sinking the ships and did not cause environmental damage. (Ha'aretz)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Positive Tests Fall to 4-Month Low - Assaf Golan
    1.5% of 46,024 Covid tests processed on Sunday were positive, the lowest number since the end of November 2020, the Israel Health Ministry reported Monday. There were 15,765 symptomatic patients, 816 of them hospitalized. The Covid death toll is 6,098. 56% of Israelis have received the first dose of the vaccine, and 49% have received both doses. (Israel Hayom)
  • IDF Chief of Staff Criticizes ICC War Crimes Probe of Israel
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi on Sunday criticized the decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israel, N12 reported. "The decision by the lead prosecutor of the ICC to open an investigation of the IDF and Israel is the crossing of a red line," he said.
        "Our enemies are those who chose to position themselves in populated areas and to store thousands of missiles and rockets that, by definition, harm civilians." Kohavi noted that the IDF carries out its operations professionally and morally, while maintaining international law. He blamed the ICC for being "disconnected from the complexities of wars in this day and age."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards Publication: Young People in Iran Pose a Security Threat to the Regime - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall and Iran Desk
    The weekly Sobh-e Eghtesad, the official newspaper of the Revolutionary Guards' Political Bureau, in an editorial on March 7, 2021, called young Iranians born in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century a "serious threat" to the regime, stressing that it was difficult to impose power on them compared to previous generations and they "may well be exploited by Western enemies against the regime."
        The Tehran-based newspaper Jomhouri-e Eslami, in an editorial on March 14, wrote that in the Islamic Republic, like during the Shah's regime, power is once again in the hands of 1,000 influential families, and the "monopoly on political activity held by famous, influential, and wealthy families of the regime keeps talented people away from the service of the state and the people." The editor called on the regime's systems to "wake up before it is too late, allow the integration of all forces and let society monitor the regime." Jomhouri-e Eslami is the oldest newspaper in the Islamic Republic, published by the esteemed cleric Masih Mohajeri.
        On U.S.-Iran discussions, Hossein Dehghan, former defense minister and military advisor to the Supreme Leader, told the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar that the U.S. must lift the full sanctions on Iran and there is no plan for lifting the sanctions in phases. Dehghan has announced his candidacy for president in the June 18 elections. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • America's Middle East Allies Should Have a Voice in any New Iran Deal - Jason Greenblatt interviewed by Ariel Ben Solomon
    Former White House Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt told JNS: "The Biden administration has put a great deal of emphasis on the Europeans being the relevant parties at the Iranian table. While some of these European countries are relevant in the sense that they were involved in the disastrous JCPOA...the European outlook often is not aligned with ours or our important allies in the Middle East."
        "It is our allies in the Middle East who are in the most danger from the Iranian threats, including nuclear, missiles, drones, proxies, terrorism and other malign activity. These countries should have a seat at the front of the table at all these meetings to ensure their voices are heard loud and clear."
        "Israel should continue to do what it is doing by being a force for good in the world and security in the region and elsewhere. Israel should walk tall and proud, and over time, more and more countries will realize that being Israel's ally is a big benefit for so many reasons. I think Saudi Arabia will get there, but we have to be patient and give Saudi Arabia the space it needs. Pressure from any party, including the U.S., will not yield a peace deal that is worth much or long-lasting. Peace will come when everyone is ready for it, for the right reasons."  (JNS)
  • Peace Dividend: Widening the Economic Growth and Development Benefits of the Abraham Accords - Daniel Egel, Shira Efron, and Linda Robinson
    From August to December 2020, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco initiated diplomatic processes to normalize bilateral ties with Israel. These accords represent a major political breakthrough: away from conflict and toward a shared vision of economic prosperity. The benefits of normalization are widely acknowledged, but many observers have not recognized the magnitude of the potential economic benefits.
        We estimate that the economic benefits for Israel's partners could be particularly significant, creating tens of thousands of new jobs. The Abraham Accords could provide a pathway for lasting peace, much like the peace that the architects of Europe's postwar recovery secured. A visionary U.S. policy would build on the accords to incentivize their implementation. (RAND Corporation)
  • Foreign Interference in the Palestinian Elections - Dr. Adnan Abu Amer
    As Palestinians begin the countdown to their elections in May and July, there seems to be growing interest among foreign actors in shaping their outcome. Bassam al-Salhi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said: "Many countries will pump huge sums of money because they want to have influence in the Legislative Council. We are facing interference from many countries, Arab and foreign." It seems they are particularly worried about pressure from Egypt, Jordan and the UAE, as well as Turkey and Qatar.
        It is no secret that President Mahmoud Abbas' call for elections came as a result of American and European pressure. The EU even threatened to end the financial support it provides to Ramallah if the elections get cancelled. Cairo and Amman both fear a repeat of the 2006 elections, when Hamas won decisively. Egypt sees Hamas as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a Hamas victory could reinvigorate the Brotherhood in Egypt.
        The writer heads the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza. (Al Jazeera)

  • Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told the Tikvah Fund's Jewish Leadership Conference last week that at the start of his term four years ago, the world was giving the Palestinians "a pass on egregious human-rights violations, a pass on the inability of Hamas and the PA to ever coalesce on anything, a pass on terrorism, a pass on pay-to-slay, a pass on not creating any of the institutions necessary for an economy...and yet people were talking about a Palestinian state. This was putting the cart before the horse."
  • Friedman said, "The most wrong was the indulgence of the Palestinian cause to the point where it negated the notion of accountability. There would be this equivalence between building settlements and acts of terrorism. You can be pro or against settlements, but you cannot possibly equate the two."
  • The approach by other administrations was "leading to creating a dysfunctional terrorist state between Israel and Jordan. That was the path we inherited and we needed to reverse it quickly."
  • "The important aspects of our plan were how to protect Israel's security and protect it from a terrorist Palestinian state. What we did...to depart from our predecessors is we created a means for Israel to protect itself under any scenario....Our predecessors came up with all sorts of gimmicks and gadgets and sensors along the Jordan River and things that were supposed to make Israel feel comfortable - and they didn't."
  • "In this part of the world...it's all about strength. Strength keeps people safe and [keeps] the peace here....The weak find themselves at great peril. Our policy for four years was to project American strength within the region and support the exercise of strength by our allies."
  • The message was clear that if Israel is attacked by its enemies, there would be "no restrictions whatsoever" on Israel to defend itself.

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