April 14, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Expert: Natanz Explosion Could Mean Years of Work Down the Drain - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall interviewed by Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, an expert on Iran and a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said Monday:
    "This isn't the first time that centrifuges in Natanz have crashed in one way or another. I'm not sure how many cascades [of uranium enrichment centrifuges] were destroyed there...but when a cascade breaks, this represents years of work that goes down the drain."
    "The IR-9 centrifuges...reduce what takes days to do into hours. A power cut without back-up power can cause serious damage if the cascades leave their position."
    Segall said social-media messages by Iranians have begun mocking the regime for being unable to defend its most critical assets. "The regime has been exposed," he said. "As it continues to absorb attacks, there is a growing erosion in its perception by the Iranian people."
    Segall said he remains disturbed by the unknown aspects of Iran's nuclear program. "They have proven in the past that the nuclear program is spread out in hidden sites."

Report: Blast at Natanz Caused by Bomb near Main Electric Line (Times of Israel)
    The blast at Iran's Natanz nuclear enrichment facility on Sunday was caused by a bomb planted near the main electricity line and the entire facility has stopped functioning, Israel's Channel 13 reported Monday.
    "All the signs point to this being the worst attack that Iran's nuclear program has suffered...at the most important Iranian nuclear facility," said military analyst Alon Ben-David.
    Iran may now try to expand its operation at the underground Fordo plant, where it has over 1,000 centrifuges. There were 6,000 centrifuges at Natanz.
    Separately, Israel's Channel 11 reported that advanced centrifuges were damaged in the blast at Natanz.

U.S. Vows to Prevent a Nuclear-Armed Iran (White House)
    National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan led U.S. participation in a virtual meeting of the U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group on April 13.
    Sullivan reaffirmed the Biden-Harris administration's unwavering commitment to Israel's security and to ensuring that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon.

EU Sanctions Iran Commander, Seven Others over 2019 Protests - Robin Emmott (Reuters)
    The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on eight Iranian militia commanders and police chiefs, including Hossein Salami, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, over a deadly crackdown in November 2019.
    The travel bans and asset freezes are the first EU sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses since 2013.
    1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15, 2019.
    The EU sanctions list for human rights abuses in Iran now numbers 89 people.

Britain: ICC Has No Jurisdiction to Investigate Israel - Justin Cohen (Jewish News-UK)
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote in a letter to Conservative Friends of Israel:
    "We oppose the ICC's investigation into war crimes in Palestine. We do not accept that the ICC has jurisdiction in this instance, given that Israel is not a party to the Statute of Rome and Palestine is not a sovereign state."
    "This investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK's."

Lebanon Expands Maritime Claims at Israel Border (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Lebanon on Monday expanded the country's claims in a dispute with Israel over their maritime border, adding 1,400 sq. km. (540 square miles) to the exclusive economic zone it claims in the Mediterranean Sea.
    Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said Lebanon's latest move would derail the talks launched in October under U.S. supervision to resolve the dispute.
    "Unilateral Lebanese measures will, of course, be answered with parallel measures by Israel," he said.

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U.S. Approves F-35 Sales to UAE - Patricia Zengerle (Reuters)
    The Biden administration has told Congress it is proceeding with $23 billion in weapons sales to the UAE, including F-35 aircraft and armed drones, congressional aides said Tuesday.
    The Trump administration had approved the sale as a side deal to the Abraham Accords, in which the UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel.

On Independence Day, Israel's Population Is 9.3 Million (Times of Israel)
    The population of Israel is 9,327,000, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced Monday - 6.9 million Jews (73.9%), 1.96 million Arabs (21.1%), and 467,000 from other groups (5%).

NASA Names Two Asteroids after Arab Israeli Student Who Discovered Them (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)
    Two new asteroids discovered by Technion student Aseel Nama of the Faculty of Biomedical Engineering will be named after her.
    She was the only Israeli among 116 teams worldwide that participated in NASA's asteroid-hunting campaign.
    "I got a set of photos and videos from NASA to search for new asteroids. I called my "team" ANI (Aseel Nama Israel) and the asteroids I discovered will be called ANI1801 and ANI2001," she said.

Archaeologists Unearth Ancient Egyptian City (Reuters-New York Times)
    Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass said Thursday that his team had uncovered a large, ancient city built more than 3,400 years ago during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III that had lain unseen for centuries.
    The city near Luxor had almost complete walls and rooms filled with tools of daily life along with rings, scarabs, colored pottery vessels and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Natanz Nuclear Site Suffered Major Damage, Official Says
    Alireza Zakani, head of the Iranian parliament's Research Center, said that in the attack at the Natanz nuclear site on Sunday, "several thousand centrifuges [were] damaged and destroyed in one instant... eliminating the main part of our enrichment capacities."  (BBC News)
        See also Experts: If Emergency Power Supply at Natanz Failed, Centrifuges Slow Down Too Rapidly and Break - Sune Engel Rasmussen
    At Natanz, an emergency power supply is located separate from the main power supply and is meant to kick in if the main power supply is interrupted to ensure that the centrifuges shut down slowly and safely, according to experts. The destruction of the centrifuges on Sunday suggests that the emergency power might not have kicked in, causing the centrifuges to slow down too rapidly so that some or even many centrifuges broke. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran Says It Will Enrich Uranium to Level Far Beyond Civilian Needs - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran said on Tuesday it will start enriching uranium to 60% purity, closer to levels suitable for a bomb. The level required to run civilian nuclear power plants is 35%. White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Iran's announcement "provocative" and that it called into question Tehran's seriousness on nuclear talks. (Reuters)
  • Iran Reports Israeli Ship Targeted by Missile off UAE Coast - Sofia Chegodaeva
    The Hyperion Ray, a vehicle carrier owned by the Israeli Ray Shipping company, was attacked by a missile near Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, Iran's Tasnim news agency reported on Tuesday. The owners said the "Hyperion Ray incurred no damage and is continuing at full speed on its original voyage." Another vessel from the same company, the Helios Ray, was attacked by Iran on Feb. 28. (Sputnik-Russia-Jerusalem Post)
        See also Sources Deny Iran Media Claims of Attack on Israelis in Iraq - Seth J. Frantzman
    Four knowledgeable sources in northern Iraq have denied claims by Iranian Press TV that there was an attack on "Mossad agents" in Iraq. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Honors Its Fallen on Remembrance Day - Udi Shaham
    A one-minute siren at 8 p.m. on Tuesday marked the beginning of Israel's Remembrance Day to honor the 23,928 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of wars and terrorism. Israel Independence Day, which immediately follows Remembrance Day, begins on Wednesday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also With Sirens and Songs, Israel Remembers Its Fallen - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
  • Hundreds Riot in Eastern Jerusalem after Ramadan Prayer
    Hundreds of Muslim worshipers rioted Tuesday night near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City after returning from prayers on the first night of Ramadan, Israeli police said Wednesday. The crowd hurled rocks, glass bottles and firecrackers at officers and buses, injuring a cop, two bus drivers and three passengers. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Approves Extra Water for Jordan - Amos Harel
    Israel has approved a Jordanian request for extra water from the Jordan River due to water shortages in the kingdom. Israel regularly transfers water from the Jordan River to its eastern neighbor. Jordan often requests additional amounts when the kingdom experiences dry spells. The flight of Syrian refugees into northern Jordan over the past 10 years led to a 40% increase in demand for water in the area. (Ha'aretz)
  • Iranian Plot to Kidnap Israelis Foiled
    Iranian intelligence used fictitious social-media profiles of attractive women on Instagram to lure Israelis abroad to harm or abduct them, the Israel Security Agency reported Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Israel Is Showing that There Are Better Ways to Prevent Iran from Producing Nuclear Weapons - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    The Biden administration's attitude toward Iran is based on false assumptions and is both counterproductive and self-defeating. The false assumptions are that the JCPOA was a good deal with some flaws that can be fixed through bona fide negotiations with Iran; that Iran can be convinced to adopt a different attitude towards its opponents in the region; that the U.S. can promote a more pragmatic camp inside the Iranian regime; that the "maximum pressure" policy failed; and that the progress Iran has made in its nuclear program by violating its JCPOA commitments may enable it to have the capability to produce its first nuclear weapon within a short period of time.
        The reality is quite the opposite. The "maximum pressure" policy caused the Iranian economy and regime enormous difficulties and provides Biden with a golden opportunity to force Iran to accept a much better deal than the JCPOA, if he keeps the policy in place as leverage. It would be possible to craft a new agreement that will deal with the huge deficiencies of the JCPOA, rather than simply bring Iran back to the 2015 deal, which is exactly where Iran wants to be, since the agreement paves the way for Iran to have the capability to produce a big arsenal of nuclear weapons after the limits on its nuclear activities are lifted in 2030.
        If Iran makes any gesture now regarding the sanctions and the sequence of returning to the JCPOA, it is going to be seen as flexible and worthy of praise for doing exactly what it wants and the option of a better agreement is going to be lost. Meanwhile, Israel is showing that there are better ways to prevent Iran from having the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
        The writer, Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence. (Fathom-BICOM-UK)
  • Does Natanz Blackout Mean New Leverage for U.S.? - Gabby Deutch
    Some policy experts have suggested that Sunday's blackout at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in Iran gives the U.S. more solid leverage in negotiations with Iran that should keep the Biden administration from rushing into a new agreement. Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said, "I would hope it's a message to...the folks in the Biden administration that they don't need to be so desperate for a deal, that they don't need to be rushing for a return to the JCPOA, and they don't need to be giving out massive concessions to Iran in terms of economic relief, that time is actually on their side."  (Jewish Insider)
  • Explosion at Iran Plant Gives Biden Time - Editorial
    With Iranian officials having stated publicly that "wiping Israel off the map" is an "achievable goal," its adversaries justifiably worry that Iran's nuclear program is an effort to obtain atomic weapons. After Sunday's attack on Iran's Natanz nuclear plant, U.S. President Joe Biden, who is the ultimate shepherd of the Western approach to Iran, must proceed in a manner that avoids the region feeling as if it has to defend itself alone. With Iran's program delayed by months, he can take time to consolidate and not rush into a hasty settlement. (The National-Abu Dhabi)
  • Gen. McMaster: Iran Sanctions Are Starting to Come Apart - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Tehran will not make any major moves until after the Iranian presidential elections in June, former U.S. national security advisor Lt.-Gen. H.R. McMaster told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. Whoever controls the presidency will also have an upper-hand in the decision over who will succeed supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Iran's true leader.
        McMaster noted that the sanctions on Iran were starting to come apart even before formal removal, simply by virtue of Biden's intention to reach a deal. There has been a huge increase in China's purchases of Iranian oil and India is also moving to restore ties with Iran.
        McMaster called returning to the 2015 Iran deal with its current sunset clauses "ludicrous," noting that 2025 is now only a few years away. He also criticized the 2015 nuclear negotiations for leading to an inspection regime in which, "before the ink was dry, Iran was announcing which inspections it would not allow." He added that it was a mistake to "underestimate the ideology of the revolution, of Iran's forward defense strategy and desire to restore Iran as an empire."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Can Never Move Iran to the Back Burner - Bobby Ghosh
    An attack on what must be Iran's most carefully guarded site would have taken months, even years, of planning and patience, its execution dependent not on the diplomatic docket but on opportunity. This was on the diary long before the delegations booked hotel rooms in Vienna for the resumption of talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.
        The nuclear program is a giant target on Iran's back, coming less than six months after the assassination of Tehran's top nuclear-weapons expert. Iran's nuclear program exists for the sole purpose of menacing its neighbors. The bigger the program gets, the more threatening it becomes - and the greater the motivation for those it threatens to prevent its completion. (Bloomberg-Stars and Stripes)

  • Palestinians

  • Restoring U.S. Funding to UNRWA - A Great Obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian Peace - Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz
    By resuming U.S. funding for UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, the Biden administration is choosing to fund an agency that is institutionally committed to ensuring that peace will never be possible. UNRWA, under the cover of providing social services to Palestinians, is giving political cover to the dream of undoing Israel by nurturing and legitimizing the demand to settle millions of Palestinians inside Israel.
        UNRWA is one of the greatest obstacles to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The vast majority of UNRWA refugees, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original refugees, are also citizens of other countries or living within territories governed by Palestinians, and so are not actually refugees and in no need of resettlement. UNRWA sustains many of them in perpetual limbo, in the elusive promise that they will one day be able to "return" to Israel.
        There are perfectly rational, humane and effective ways to provide public healthcare and education services to Palestinians without fueling the conflict with Israel. As long as Palestinians are indulged by the West in their belief that the war of 1948 remains an open case, there is zero possibility that peace will be achieved. It is hard to imagine a more anti-peace U.S. policy choice.
        Dr. Einat Wilf, a former Labor member of the Israeli Knesset, and Adi Schwartz, a former senior editor at Ha'aretz, are the co-authors of The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream has Obstructed the Path to Peace. (Newsweek)
  • Is the U.S. Supporting Palestinian Dictatorship? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A recent decree issued by PA President Mahmoud Abbas effectively turns Palestinian NGOs into government-controlled institutions. The organizations are now required to present to the PA government an "annual action plan and estimated budget." This means that the organizations will be working for the PA.
        "This [decree] undermines the professionalism, independence and freedom of civic activity, including its monitoring role over the performance of the executive authority and its objective to hold this authority accountable for its violations," several Palestinian civil society organizations said in a joint statement.
        Abbas is worried that Palestinian civil society organizations would criticize him or his government on the eve of the planned elections and hurt his (and his ruling Fatah faction's) chances of winning. The U.S. is about to pump millions of dollars into Abbas' coffers to help him cut off the emergence of new and young leaders and to help him maintain his authoritarian rule over the Palestinians. (Gatestone Institute)
        See also Improved Vetting Is Key to U.S. Reengagement with Palestinian NGOs - Yona Schiffmiller (JNS)
  • Can Biden Fund the Palestinians without Breaking the Law? - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The 2018 Taylor Force Act - named for a non-Jewish American veteran who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel - mandates that no American funds can be transferred to the Palestinian Authority as long as it is paying pensions and salaries for convicted terrorists. The only exceptions are money allocated for hospitals, vaccines and water-treatment projects. The PA has not halted its terrorist subsidies, but the administration has announced a $235 million aid package for the Palestinians.
        $150 million will go to UNRWA, the UN refugee agency devoted solely to the Palestinians, which operates a vast number of institutions to support the millions who claim descent from the original 1948 refugees, including schools and food assistance. Another $75 million will go to economic development programs in the West Bank and Gaza, while yet another $10 million will go to "peace building" initiatives.
        The administration says these allocations won’t violate the Taylor Force Act since none of the money will go directly to the PA but to partner agencies that are supposedly independent of either the corrupt Fatah government in the West Bank or Hamas who rules Gaza. But as is well known, Palestinian NGOs have no real independence from their government.
        Moreover, the package clearly violates the intent of the Taylor Force Act since the money is fungible and allows the PA to spend other funds on supporting terrorists. Congressional intent was clear. No more American money was to go to the PA - let alone Hamas - so long as it was in the business of backing terrorism.
        The same reasoning was behind the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 by a Democratic-controlled Congress, which similarly banned any U.S. assistance to the PA if it had initiated an investigation into bogus charges of war crimes by Israel by the International Criminal Court. (JNS)

  • Other Issues

  • The False Comparison of Zionism and Colonialism - Jordana Schiff
    A 2019 article in the McGill Daily defines Zionism as "a modern political movement advocating for the colonial establishment of a Jewish state." It is demeaning to accuse Zionists of establishing "control over an indigenous people" because Jews themselves are indigenous to the Land of Israel. The Jewish people's ancestral homeland has always been Israel, and ample historical evidence exists to prove such claims.
        There was no Jewish "conquest" of Palestine. Jews have resided in the land for thousands of years, and when many began returning in the 19th century at a time when many Arabs also arrived, the Jews legally purchased property from landlords. Following the overwhelming Arab rejection of the UN Partition Plan in November 1947, the Arabs started their nationalist war against the Jews, with five surrounding Arab armies invading the nascent state.
        Zionism is strikingly different from colonization in another crucial respect: The motivation of Zionism was (and is) to develop the land and create a thriving society for all of its people, not to control the area and exploit its resources on behalf of a foreign power.
        The writer is president of the Israel on Campus club at McGill University in Montreal. (JNS)

  • Weekend Features

  • Nazi Germany Considered Bombing Jews in Mandatory Palestine - Nir Hasson
    Israeli historians Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar and Daniel Uziel recently published aerial photographs of Palestine taken by the Luftwaffe during World War II in the Hebrew-language journal Cathedra, in a study titled "Hitler's Pilots Photograph Eretz Israel." Some 286 photographs from 50 sorties were found in the U.S. National Archives after being seized by the Allies.
        Twice during the war, the Nazis considered using the information gathered in the aerial sorties to bomb cities in Palestine. In both cases, it was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who was living in Germany and had close ties with the SS, who pushed for the bombing. In the summer of 1943, Husseini proposed bombing Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in reprisal for the British and American bombardments of German cities. The Luftwaffe prepared a detailed plan for a heavy bombardment of Tel Aviv, but it was rejected by German air force commander Hermann Goering.
        A few months later, the Mufti proposed that the Luftwaffe bomb a building where a gathering of leaders of the Jewish Yishuv was due to be held on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. German air force headquarters rejected the idea and suggested a symbolic bombing of the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem instead, but this proposal was rejected by the air force's intelligence branch. (Ha'aretz)
  • How the IDF Reduced Corona Deaths - Udi Shaham
    The Alon Command Center in Ramle, which became fully active in November 2020, is the main IDF headquarters in the war against corona. It includes the investigations and contact chain-breaking division, in charge of reaching out to all contacts of those who became infected; the tests division, in charge of the entire tests apparatus; the isolation division, in charge of hotels used for quarantining, and for getting people from the airport to these hotels; and the laboratories division, in which the tests are decrypted and sent to the health funds.
        The center also created special mission teams including the group in charge of locating and mapping mass outbreaks in order to quickly break the infection chain. "We also established special teams that dealt with passageways such as airports, seaports and land borders, so we could monitor possible entrances of the virus from abroad, and contain it," said Command Center Head Brig.-Gen. Reli Margalit. There are also "education and community teams, which monitor outbreaks in the education system," and the variant team, to locate and map potential sources of spreading variants. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Five years ago when I served as Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, I stood in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany on Yom Hashoah. Jews from all over the Nazi Empire in Europe and North Africa were forced into Bergen-Belsen, where thousands died. What has the modern state of Israel learned from the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, and the Holocaust?
  • Chaim Herzog served as an officer in the British forces that entered Bergen-Belsen in 1945. In April 1987 he went back, as Israel's sixth president, and declared that the victims bequeathed a responsibility to later generations to ensure that the Jewish people would never again be helpless. That meant, first, that we will never allow anyone to do this to us again.
  • In modern times, there is a real physical threat to the Jewish people that emanates from a regime in the Middle East that parades missiles in its capital nearly every year and fastens to its launchers the words, "Israel must be wiped off the map." You cannot wipe a country off the map without posing an existential threat to the people who live there.
  • Israel will deter and defend against any state or political movement which poses a threat to the Jewish people. This is not an obsession, but a sacred trust handed to us by the people buried under the rubble of the Second World War.

    Amb. Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center, addressed a Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration in Bahrain (via Zoom) on April 7, 2021.
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