April 26, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Natanz Blast "Likely Took 5,000 Centrifuges Offline" - Blaise Misztal and Jonathan Ruhe (Jewish Institute for the National Security of America - JINSA)
    The April 11 explosions at Natanz apparently took 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges offline.
    Although some reports say it might take Iran up to nine months to recover from the explosion, that is the amount of time to rebuild the Natanz facility.
    However, Iran could still break out using centrifuges at other plants, chiefly Fordo.
    Tehran's decision to proceed with 60% enrichment is not necessarily a "major jump."
    Reaching 20% enrichment represents roughly 90% of the effort required to reach weapons-grade uranium. Going from 20 to 60% requires only 5% of the total enrichment work.
    Blaise Misztal is Vice President for Policy at JINSA, where Jonathan Ruhe is Director of Foreign Policy.

Watchdog Group Votes to Punish Syria for Chemical Weapons Use - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons voted Wednesday to strip Syria of its membership rights for repeatedly using poison gas against its own citizens, in a move vigorously opposed by Russia.
    The largely symbolic vote was approved by 87 to 14, with 34 abstentions.
    The vote followed OPCW forensic investigations that officially linked the Syrian government to chemical attacks in 2017 and 2018. Those reports identified the specific military units responsible.

Argentina Arrests Two for Planning Attack on Jewish Community (MercoPress-Uruguay)
    Two people were arrested Friday by the Federal Police Antiterrorist Investigation Unit in the Argentine province of Tucuman for planning to attack the local Jewish community, the local La Gaceta newspaper reported.
    "It was confirmed that the suspects used the messaging services Whatsapp and Telegram to plan acts of aggression and intimidation against people and institutions of the Jewish community of Tucuman," the prosecution said.
    A dozen firearms were seized together with numerous blades, as well as Nazi literature.

U.S. Expert: Israel Tested Solid Fuel Missile Engine (Ha'aretz)
    A powerful blast in central Israel on April 20 was not an explosion, but the test of a solid-fuel rocket motor used in ballistic missiles, U.S. arms control and nonproliferation expert Dr. Jeffrey Lewis said Saturday, basing his assessment on satellite photos.
    "There is no explosion, just an intense fire that seems to go out by itself," Lewis tweeted.
    The Tomer advanced arms manufacturer, which develops rocket engines for satellite launchers and the Arrow missile interception system, said, "This was a controlled test with no exceptional circumstances."

Israel to Dispatch Medical Team to Aid in Ethiopia's Covid Battle (TPS-Ynet News)
    A medical aid team from Assuta University Hospital in Ashdod, headed by Dr. Assaf Peretz who managed the hospital's coronavirus ward, will embark on a 14-day mission to the African nation.
    "Israel has a moral and ethical duty to act wherever it can to share its knowledge and experience in dealing with the virus. Taking part in such a delegation is a great privilege and enormous source of pride for Israel," said Dr. Peretz.

Video: Locust Swarm Reaches Southern Israel - Aaron Reich (Jerusalem Post)
    Yellow locusts have swarmed the area surrounding Eilat and Israel's Arava region.
    While they devour crops, the locusts pose no danger to humans or animals.
    The swarm comes as huge numbers of migratory birds that eat locusts are flocking to Israel as they head from their winter homes in Africa to their breeding grounds in Europe.

Photos: 1,600-Year-Old Mosaic Floor Uncovered in Yavne (Times of Israel)
    A 1,600-year-old, multicolored mosaic floor dating to the Byzantine era (4th-5th century CE) was unearthed during excavations in Yavne, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

Zoom Conference: The Growing Iranian Threat to Regional and Western Security
Monday, April 26, 5 p.m. (Israel), 10 a.m. (U.S. Eastern)
Presented by
The Jerusalem Center and the Emirates Policy Center, Abu Dhabi
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House Official Tells Jewish Leaders: "We Will Not Provide Iran with Sanctions Relief Upfront" - Jacob Kornbluh
    Brett McGurk, the National Security Council's coordinator for the Middle East, told Jewish American leaders during a White House Zoom call on Friday, "Until we get somewhere and until we have a firm commitment, and it's very clear that Iran's nuclear program is going to be capped, the problematic aspects reversed and back in a box, we are not going to take any of the pressure off." He said the administration is "not going to pay anything upfront just to get a process going. We have to see from the Iranians a fundamental commitment and agreement to put their nuclear program back in a box that we can fully inspect and observe."
        McGurk added: "We have worked with the Israelis every day in the security realm, in terms of their freedom of action - protecting themselves - as something fundamental to us....There is no disagreement on where we want to go - Iran can never get a nuclear weapon, period. There's some disagreement about the kind of tactics you might use to get there. But we agree on a lot more than we disagree."  (Forward)
  • Iran's Foreign Minister, in Leaked Tape, Says Revolutionary Guards Set Policies - Farnaz Fassihi
    In a leaked audiotape, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif said in March 2021 that decisions in Iran are dictated by the supreme leader or the Revolutionary Guards Corps. The three-hour tape was part of an oral history project and was not meant for publication.
        Zarif said supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei had recently "forcefully rebuked" him for saying Iran was willing to work with the U.S. to choreograph steps toward returning to the nuclear deal. (New York Times)
  • Protests in France as Man Who Killed Jewish Woman Avoids Trial - Kim Willsher
    Thousands of protesters have rallied in Paris and across France after the killer of a Jewish woman was declared unfit to stand trial because he was judged to have suffered a psychotic episode caused by cannabis use. Kobili Traore is accused of beating Sarah Halimi, 65, a retired French doctor, while crying "Allahu Akbar" and reciting Quranic verses on April 4, 2017. He then threw her from the balcony of her Paris apartment where she had lived for 30 years.
        The decision by France's highest court prompted anger among Halimi's family and the wider community. Demonstrations were also organized in Rome, Tel Aviv, London, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a change of law. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Sarah Halimi's Law - Bernard-Henri Levy
    We live in a country, France, where a man who throws his dog from his fourth floor is sentenced to a year in prison, whereas if he murders an old Jewish woman, he may face no consequences whatsoever. What of a jihadist who takes an amphetamine to summon up the courage to carry out a terrorist act? The writer is a French philosopher and author of more than 30 books. (Tablet)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Attacks by Arabs on Jews Spike in Jerusalem - Nir Hasson
    There were several attacks on Jews in Jerusalem over the weekend. On Saturday, a man was attacked by two suspects in the Train Track Park in Jerusalem. Another Jewish man in eastern Jerusalem was beaten by a group of Arab youths on Friday. A number of Jews reported being attacked on their way to prayers at the Western Wall. Other attackers threw stones and confronted Jewish pedestrians in the French Hill neighborhood.
        In the Silwan neighborhood, Jewish residents reported having firebombs and stones thrown at them. A number of cars belonging to Jews were pelted with stones while driving through Arab neighborhoods. On Friday evening, following Ramadan prayers at the Temple Mount, Arabs threw stones and set off fireworks directed at Israeli police forces. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Arab Youths Attack Jews in Jerusalem in New TikTok Craze - Nir Cohen
    A new trend appears to be gaining momentum among Arab youths in Jerusalem, who videotape themselves harassing Jews as a "challenge," which they then upload to the social media platform TikTok. "There is a competition for likes and views," said Yedidia Epstein, 15, who was beaten and slapped in the middle of a busy street in Jerusalem. "A video of an Arab slapping a Jew will get you both, so now everyone is trying to get more likes and views."  (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Behind Rocket Fire from Gaza - Amos Harel
    On Friday night and Saturday, 38 rockets and mortar shells were fired from Gaza at Israeli border communities in the most serious assault in a year and a half. Seven rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome antimissile system, while some fell on the Palestinian side of the fence. Israel responded with airstrikes and tank fire on Hamas targets. Hamas spokesmen linked the rocket fire to Arab riots in Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Rocket Fire from Gaza Continues - Judah Ari Gross
    Palestinians in Gaza launched five rockets toward Israel on Sunday night. Two rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, two landed inside Gaza, and one struck an open field. In response, Israel closed the Gaza fishing zone on Monday morning. (Times of Israel)
  • What Triggered the Uptick in Palestinian Violence? - Herb Keinon
    Ramadan, which began on April 12 and will end on May 12, has historically been a time of increased violence and terror in Jerusalem. In addition, as Khaled Abu Toameh pointed out, the latest violence in Jerusalem began on the first day of Ramadan when activists affiliated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas' ruling Fatah faction attacked policemen near the Old City with fireworks, rocks and petrol bombs. What better way to win votes in the upcoming Palestinian elections than to come across as the defender of Jerusalem?
        Moreover, Abu Toameh said this was part of a campaign to pressure Israel to allow the Palestinian elections to take place in Jerusalem. Once a fire was lit in Jerusalem, terrorist groups in Gaza could not sit quietly, and Hamas could not be seen as preventing them from shooting rockets at Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • What Does the Return of the "Two-State Solution" Mean? - Amb. Alan Baker
    With the advent of the new Biden administration, the phrase "two-state solution" appears to have returned to the forefront regarding the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. However, the phrase is again being bandied about as a form of collective and generalized "wishful thinking," as the only panacea to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, but without a full awareness of its history, its practical implications, and the feasibility of its implementation amidst the realities of that dispute.
        The "two-state solution" has never been accepted by the parties to the dispute as the agreed solution. As agreed in the Oslo Accords, the permanent status of the territories remains an open negotiating issue between the parties. As such, repetition of the call for a "two-state solution" would appear to be an attempt to prejudge the outcome of that negotiating process.
        Clearly, any "two-state solution" could only emanate from direct negotiations between Israel and a unified Palestinian leadership. Any such outcome must include the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people by a Palestinian state, in the same manner in which Israel would recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people.
        The writer, former legal counsel to Israel's foreign ministry and former ambassador to Canada, heads the international law program at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • If the Iran Nuclear Negotiations Succeed, the World's Leading Sponsor of Terrorism Will Receive a Windfall of Tens of Billions of Dollars for Its War Machine - Eli Lake
    Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said on April 21 that it's time to "realize that the U.S. cannot negotiate an honest agreement with Iran because they are a fanatical, anti-American regime. No amount of negotiating or 'indirect discussions' can change that." The problem with Iran, she says, is the regime itself. It will never agree to stronger conditions for a nuclear agreement - such as a ban on missile development, the abolition of sunsets on uranium enrichment levels or an end to Iran's support for regional aggression.
        If the Biden administration succeeds in the nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Iran will receive a windfall of tens of billions of dollars for its war machine that are currently locked in overseas bank accounts because of U.S. sanctions. So a deal that seeks to prevent the world's leading sponsor of terrorism from obtaining a nuclear weapon will provide Iran with money to sponsor more terrorism. (Bloomberg)
  • How Iran Made Itself a Haven for Israeli Spies - Baria Alamuddin
    Iranian officials fear that a substantive clandestine Israeli sabotage network is operating throughout the Islamic Republic, staging assassinations and attacks against strategically sensitive sites, and making Iran's sprawling intelligence services look ridiculous. This Mossad network apparently has recruited significant numbers of competent Iranians willing to attack state installations - not a big surprise, given that Iran's brightest graduates have little to look forward to beyond unemployment, poverty and theological repression.
        There is such a sense of national impotence and failure in the face of these attacks that state media has resorted to reporting fake or massively exaggerated retaliatory operations avenging these deaths, along with dubious reports identifying those allegedly associated with the attacks. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)

Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan addressed the UN Security Council during the council's quarterly debate on "The situation in the Middle East" on Thursday.
  • "Iran's relentless attempts to acquire military nuclear capabilities, its terrorist proxies that continue to destabilize the region, and its grave human rights violations remain the most substantial threat to peace and security in the Middle East."
  • "This council does not take the steps necessary to stop Iran. It continues to ignore the most pressing matter in the Middle East and, instead, wastes these debates recycling useless discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the fact that the Abraham Accords have clearly proven this is not the issue - Iran is."
  • "Just like in 2015, the fanatical ayatollahs will use sanction relief to fund their terrorist activities and continue to secretly develop their military nuclear program. All they will have to do is wait for the agreement to expire by 2030. Then, they will have international legitimacy to have thousands of advanced centrifuges enriching uranium and their breakout time will be almost down to zero."
  • "For Israel, Iran poses an existential threat. That is why we will not see ourselves bound by any agreement that does not fully address the threat against the existence of the State of Israel. And every one of you would do the same if you were in our shoes, particularly in light of the Holocaust."
    See also Israel to UN: Terrorists Running in Palestinian Elections - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
  • Candidates from Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which support violence against Israel and have not recognized its right to exist, are running in the Palestinian legislative elections set for May 22.
  • Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan told the UN Security Council on Thursday: "Terrorists who deny Israel's right to exist are being allowed to participate in the elections. Hamas' list of candidates includes names such as Jamal Abu al-Hayja, who carried out numerous terrorist attacks; Nael Barghouti, one of the longest-serving inmates in Israeli prison; and Tawfiq Naim, another convicted terrorist."
  • As President "Biden mentioned in his remarks on the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act in 2006, the political rise of Hamas presents a challenge. Hamas does not even come close to meeting the Quartet's three requirements of acknowledging Israel's right to exist, renouncing violence, and accepting all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians."

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