March 25, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Election Produces No Clear Winner - Yaron Drukman (Ynet News)
    With 92% of the vote tallied from Tuesday's Knesset elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu's bloc lacks enough seats in the 120-member Knesset to form a coalition government.
    13 parties won Knesset seats. As of Thursday, the results were: Likud (Netanyahu) 30 seats, Yesh Atid (Lapid) 17, Shas (Sephardi religious) 9, Blue & White (Gantz) 8, United Torah Judaism (Ashkenazi religious) 7, Labor (Michaeli) 7, Yamina (Bennett) 7, Yisrael Beiteinu (Lieberman) 7, Religious Zionism (Smotrich) 6, Joint List (Arab) 6, New Hope (Saar) 6, Meretz (Horowitz) 6, and Ra'am (Arab) 4.

Report: Iran Hiding Equipment to Build a Nuclear Bomb (Times of Israel)
    Western intelligence officials say Iran is hiding essential parts and pumps for centrifuges to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level (90%), Britain's Telegraph reported Monday.

Suez Canal Blocked by Container Ship - Tim Elfrink (Washington Post)
    On Tuesday, the Ever Given - one of the largest ships in the world, more than twice the height of the Washington Monument - was blown aground by heavy winds as it sailed through the Suez Canal, creating a huge marine traffic jam in the crucial shipping lane.

Iran's Religious and Socioeconomic Activities in Syria - Oula A. Alrifai (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Tehran's relationship with Damascus can be described as one of strategic dominance.
    This report lays bare the extent of Iranian infiltration of Syrian religious and socioeconomic life.
    It details the spread of Twelver Shia ideology through seminaries and academic institutions, while demonstrating Iran's massive economic clout in Syria.

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IAI Completes Test of Extended-Range Air Defense Missile - Luke Tress (Times of Israel)
    Israel Aerospace Industries announced Monday it had successfully completed live fire trials of a new 150-km.-range missile to defend against aircraft, cruise missiles, drones, helicopters and gliding bombs.

Israel Aerospace Industries to Set Up Aircraft Maintenance Center in Lithuania - Michal Raz-Chaimovitz (Globes)
    Israel Aerospace Industries will establish an aircraft maintenance center at Lithuania's Siauliai Airport.
    The new site will provide aircraft maintenance and overhaul services, the conversion of passenger airplanes into cargo configuration, and the training, certification, and licensing of personnel.

Israeli Company Turns South Africa's Water from Toxic to Drinkable - Tali Feinberg (South African Jewish Report)
    Israel's BlueGreen Water Technologies, a world leader in eradicating toxic algae from water sources, is assisting local government authorities in South Africa to transform toxic water into healthy drinking water.

Israeli Researchers Develop Weather-Resistant Wheat (Xinhua-China)
    Israeli researchers have created an improved wheat variety by adding a gene segment of wild wheat, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said last week.
    In this way, the researchers restored modern wheat to essential traits that were lost in the domestication process thousands of years ago, thus making it more resistant to climate changes and extremely dry conditions.

Israel to Set Up Irrigation Model Farm in Kenya - Muriithi Mwaniki (The Standard-Kenya)
    The Israeli government will establish an eight-acre model farm in Embu County to teach farmers how to harness advanced irrigation technology to produce food.

Israel's Kibbutzim Experience a Revival - Linda Gradstein (JTA)
    Tens of thousands of Israelis have applied for membership in one of Israel's 279 kibbutzim over the past year, a rural way of life that was once seen as a relic of Israel's socialist past.
    While in 2000, 117,000 people lived on kibbutzim, they currently have a population of 182,000.
    "The paths used to be full of motorized carts for older people. Now they are full of baby carriages," said Yossi Levy, the absorption coordinator of Ein Hashlosha, a kibbutz one mile from Gaza.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Palestinians Funneled Hundreds of Millions to Terrorists, State Department Report Reveals - Adam Kredo
    The Biden administration has privately confirmed to Congress that the Palestinian Authority has continued to use international aid money to reward terrorists but said the finding won't impact its plans to restart funding. A State Department report on March 18 said the Palestinians spent $151 million in 2019 on its "pay-to-slay" program, in which international aid dollars are spent to support imprisoned terrorists and their families. Financial statements further indicate that $191 million was spent on "deceased Palestinians referred to as 'martyrs.'"
        This practice violates U.S. law and prompted the Trump administration to freeze aid to the Palestinians. A 2018 bipartisan law - the Taylor Force Act - prohibits the U.S. government from resuming Palestinian aid until the payments to terrorists are stopped.
        The State Department admitted it was "unable to certify" to Congress that the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization are complying with the Taylor Force Act, primarily because they have "not terminated payments for acts of terrorism to any individual, after being fairly tried, who has been imprisoned for such acts of terrorism and to any individual who died committing such acts of terrorism, including to a family member of such individuals."
        In addition, the State Department determined the Palestinian government has "not taken proactive steps to counter incitement to violence against Israel." Thus, the U.S. government also could not certify for Congress that the PA has made good on repeated promises to end incitement. "Incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism occur in public statements and social media posts by PA officials and politicians, in official media broadcasts and social media outlets, and in school textbooks."  (Washington Free Beacon)
  • Syrian Opposition Figure: Bashar al-Assad Opened Syria to Iranian Domination - Rawad Taha
    "Hama airport is the main transport hub for Iranian weaponry to Hizbullah in Lebanon and southern Syria," Syrian opposition figure Firas Tlass told Al Arabiya. Iran "established an intelligence base for the Revolutionary Guard that is now as strong as the Syrian intelligence in the Damascus airport." Tlass is the son of former Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass.
        Tlass said that during the era of Hafez al-Assad, the Iranians were a Syrian ally, but the Syrian regime had the upper hand in that relationship. "Hafez al-Assad used to draw the red line. Hafez had the idea that Lebanon is his and that he gives space to Hizbullah to maneuver." After his death, "This is when Iran started having the upper hand in Syria because Bashar [al-Assad] was so influenced by [Hizbullah leader Hassan] Nasrallah. Because of that relation between Hizbullah and Bashar, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad started having their major influence especially after 2007."
        According to Tlass, Bashar al-Assad does not want to give in to 10% of the Syrians' reform demands. However, he is always "willing to give 99%" of Syria to the Iranians or Russians if he can stay in power. (Al Arabiya)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • UNHRC, with European Support, Calls for Arms Embargo Against Israel - Tovah Lazaroff
    The UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday approved a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Israel in a 32-6 vote with 8 abstentions. European countries approving the text included Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. The UK abstained. Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Malawi and Togo opposed the resolution. Bahrain, which typically approves such texts, was absent.
        Israel's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Meirav Shachar said, "I am amazed that members of the Council could ever consider this a fair and balanced resolution. It does not reflect the reality on the ground." The text makes no mention of Hamas, "only mentions terrorism and incitement when condemning Israel, and does not attribute any responsibility to Palestinian actors....Any member state who votes in favor of this resolution, and backs its narrative, cannot be an honest broker when it comes to peace in the Middle East."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: New Cases, Serious Cases Continue to Decline - Rossella Tercatin
    Only 470 people tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, the Israel Health Ministry reported Thursday morning. There are 12,906 active cases, with 482 people seriously ill. 6,157 Israelis have died from Covid-19. Over half of Israel's population is fully vaccinated, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Rocket Fired from Gaza at Beersheba during Netanyahu Visit
    A rocket was launched on Tuesday at the city of Beersheba while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting there on election day. The rocket landed in an open area outside city. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel's Daily Battle to Block Iranian Aggression - Yaakov Lappin
    Iran's scheme for hegemony in the Middle East includes surrounding Israel with missile bases and heavily armed proxies, as well as earmarking territories further away, such as Iraq and Yemen, as future bases of attack. Hizbullah, Iran's flagship in Lebanon, is armed with more surface-to-surface firepower than most NATO armies.
        Reports have emerged over the past two years of Iran moving missiles to Iraq, from where it can target Israel. In January, the IDF moved an Iron Dome air defense battery to Eilat amid threats that Houthis in Yemen could target the city with long-range cruise missiles or drones on Iranian orders. Newsweek reported in January that Iran deployed Shahed-136 suicide drones to Yemen. They have a range of 2,200 km. (1,370 miles), placing Israel in range.
        It is clear that Iran intends to gain the ability to strike sensitive strategic targets in Sunni Arab states and Israel, and to do so from as many areas in the Middle East as possible. Iran would like to one day extend a nuclear umbrella over its proxies, a development that would likely set off a nuclear arms race with Sunni powers threatened by Iran.
        Israel is engaged in a long-standing shadow war against Iranian weapons smuggling and attempts to build military attack bases in the region, with a special focus on Syria. This campaign includes action in multiple arenas and is part of Israel's daily effort to defend its vital security interests without crossing the threshold of war.
        The writer is a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Investigative Project on Terrorism)
  • The Oslo Accords Directly Address the Vaccine Issue - Prof. Eugene Kontorovich
    Claims that Israel has an obligation under international law to provide free vaccines for all Palestinians in the Palestinian Authority are baseless. The central source of international law is treaties, and the Oslo Accords is an international agreement that directly addresses the vaccine issue. It established a highly detailed division of authority between Israel and the Palestinians for numerous issues including public health. According to the agreement, vaccination is solely a Palestinian governmental concern.
        Not only are Palestinians capable of securing vaccines from abroad, they have in fact done so - though, according to media reports, they have misallocated early doses to ruling party officials and even re-exported many to Jordanian royals. In fact, the PA is receiving vaccines at roughly the same speed as are comparable governments.
        According to a State Department report, the PA spends hundreds of millions of dollars on its "pay to slay" program that incentivizes terror against Israeli Jews. The funding for that program would be more than enough to buy vaccines for its entire population. But the PA has put killing Jews ahead of protecting its own people.
        The writer is director of George Mason University Law School's Center for the Middle East and International Law. (Newsweek)
  • The Planned Palestinian Election Is Really a Battle within Fatah - Pinhas Inbari
    When Palestinian elections were first discussed, the spotlight immediately turned to the struggle between Fatah and Hamas. But the story is really about Fatah against Fatah. The "first Fatah" consists of the PLO leadership who moved to the Palestinian territories from Tunisia and set up headquarters in Ramallah after Israel's withdrawals following the 1994 Oslo Accords. The "second Fatah" are long-term Palestinian residents of the West Bank, including those in Nablus, Bethlehem, and Hebron, who want stability in their lives.
        A year ago, I visited Jenin and met with members of the Tanzim grassroots offshoot of Fatah. I was surprised to hear that they wanted one state with Israel. The reason: they do not believe the "Tunisians" because they are "foreigners," and they prefer Israel to "Ramallah." Indeed, the desire for one state is an opinion heard in broad circles in the West Bank. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that Palestinian support for the two-state solution had declined to 39% in 2020. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Ethiopia's Dam over the Nile Risks War with Egypt - Dr. Jacques Neriah
    Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have been holding periodic negotiations regarding the waters of the Blue Nile in the wake of the planned 2022 inauguration of the mammoth Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the biggest hydroelectric power facility in Africa. The Blue Nile provides 85% of Egypt's water and Egypt sees the dam as an existential threat.
        Egypt has asked the Ethiopians to slow the pace of filling the mammoth reservoir behind the dam so that the impact on Egypt would be minimal. However, the Ethiopians plan a three-year reservoir-filling process, which would deprive Egypt of 33 billion cubic meters out of the 55.5 it is allowed each year. This would mean that each Egyptian would receive 600 cubic meters annually instead of 2,500, transforming the country.
        Egypt has already reduced the cultivation of water-intensive crops such as rice and started building water desalination plants in 2014. The most plausible course of action would be to secure international support and try to convince the Ethiopians to accept a compromise. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • Modified Definition of Anti-Semitism Sets a Dangerous Precedent - Lea Speyer
    A new working definition of anti-Semitism unveiled last week by the Nexus Task Force is meant to challenge the 2016 International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition as it relates to criticism of Israel. Nexus concludes that treating Israel differently than other countries is not in itself an act of anti-Semitism.
        Before IHRA and before Nexus, the U.S. State Department's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism released in 2010 its own working definition of anti-Semitism. What was conceptualized in 2003 by famed Israeli refusenik Natan Sharansky - demonizing, delegitimizing and holding Israel to a double standard - is defined as anti-Semitic.
        Holding Israel - and only Israel - to a higher moral, behavioral and political standard not required by any other nation is plain wrong. Why is it OK for the only Jewish country to be disproportionally singled out and vilified for its actions? How is it not anti-Semitic to tell Jews to act differently than any other peoples because the world is watching their every move? History has taught us that giving others the authority to tell Jews how to think and behave has never ended well. The Nexus definition sets a dangerous precedent. (JNS)

  • Weekend Feature

  • The Nazi-Fighting Women of the Jewish Resistance - Judy Batalion
    In 1943, Niuta Teitelbaum strolled into a Gestapo apartment in central Warsaw, likely dressed as a Polish farm girl with a kerchief tied around her braided blond hair. She pulled out a gun and shot three Nazis, killing two and wounding one. She later entered the hospital where the injured man was being treated and killed him. On every Gestapo most-wanted list she was known as "Little Wanda with the Braids."
        While searching in the British Library for books about Hannah Senesh, a Hungarian-born World War II resistance fighter who parachuted into Europe, I found a book in Yiddish from 1946 titled Women in the Ghettos which relayed tales of dozens of other young Jewish women who defied the Nazis. It told the stories of Polish-Jewish "ghetto girls" who paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in teddy bears, flirted with Nazis and then killed them. They distributed underground bulletins, flung Molotov cocktails, bombed train lines, and organized soup kitchens.
        More than 90 European ghettos had armed Jewish resistance units. 30,000 European Jews joined the partisans. Rescue networks supported 12,000 Jews in hiding in Warsaw alone.
        The writer is the author of the forthcoming The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos. (New York Times)

Securing Peace in the Middle East - Dennis Ross and Shany Mor (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • The Abraham Accords reversed the order of the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002: then, ending occupation came first and in return Israel got diplomatic recognition. Now, normalization comes first. Arab states have always put their interests first before the Palestinians, even if they elevated the Palestinian cause rhetorically.
  • What is different now is there is a loss of fear about the Palestinian ability to mobilize a threatening reaction against those Arab leaders who make the decision to normalize with Israel because it serves their interests. Israel offers not just security benefits but can help when it comes to health, water, and agriculture.
  • Building on the Abraham Accords won't just happen, it will require some active brokering by the Biden Administration. Passive support won't add to the accords.
  • What has stood in the way of Palestinian self-rule is not the fervor of Palestinian claims for which they had no realistic capacity of achieving, but rather the conceptual unwillingness to agree to anything that might involve genuine reconciliation with the existence of Israel.
  • A struggle for liberation wouldn't have this problem, and indeed others haven't. But a struggle for elimination of another people does.
  • The Palestinians have had to bear the burden of the Arab struggle against a cosmically evil Israel whose very existence was seen as a monumental crime that needed to somehow be reversed. The widening circle of normalization with Israel reduces the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a cosmic one to a territorial one, where the difference in the competing territorial claims is actually quite minimal.

    Amb. Dennis Ross is counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Dr. Shany Mor is an Adjunct Fellow at FDD.
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