May 3, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Tells Morocco It Will Not Reverse Recognition of Moroccan Sovereignty over Western Sahara - Barak Ravid (Axios)
    U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in a phone call on Friday that the Biden administration would not reverse President Trump's recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara, two sources familiar with the call said.
    U.S. recognition of the Western Sahara as part of Morocco last December was part of a broader deal that included the renewal of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel.
    Senior White House and State Department officials have held multiple discussions on this issue over the last few weeks.

The Sealing of Iran's Plutonium Reactor Was a Photoshopped Ruse - Lenny Ben-David (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The New York Times editorial board repeated on April 23 that, "under the Iran nuclear deal struck in 2015, Iran took steps to assure the world that it would not develop weapons, including pouring cement into the core of a heavy-water reactor" at Arak.
    Yet in January 2019, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi told Iranian Mojahedin TV that the core was not filled with cement.
    He explained with amusement that a photoshopped picture had been presented to the West.

Ukrainian Nationalists Mark Creation of SS Division (Sputnik-Russia)
    On Wednesday, Ukrainian nationalists held a march in Kiev to commemorate the anniversary of the foundation of the SS Galicia Division during the Second World War.
    The division, numbering 80,000 volunteers from the Ukrainian region of Galicia, committed numerous atrocities in the territory of the Soviet Union and Poland.
    On Thursday, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concerns about the event.
    "The SS Waffen units were involved in some of the worst crimes that took place during the Holocaust," ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said on Twitter.
    "We condemn the continued glorification of Nazi collaborators and expect the Ukrainian government to unequivocally condemn all such phenomena and prevent them from being repeated."

Iran's Judo Team's Suspension from International Matches Extended for Refusing to Face Israeli Opponents - Ben Sales (JTA)
    The Iranian national judo team was suspended from international competition by the International Judo Federation until September 2023 for forfeiting matches against Israeli opponents, extending the suspension that began in 2019.

Intel to Invest $600 Million to Expand Chip, Mobileye R&D in Israel - Steven Scheer (Reuters)
    Intel Corp said on Sunday it will invest another $600 million in Israel to expand its research and development, and confirmed it was spending $10 billion on a new chip plant.
    Intel is investing $400 million to turn its Mobileye unit headquartered in Jerusalem into an R&D campus for self-driving car technologies.
    Another $200 million will be invested in building a "mega chip design" facility in Haifa next to its current development center.
    Intel Israel's exports grew to a record $8 billion in 2020 - 14% of Israel's total high-tech exports and 2% of its GDP.

Israeli Sensor Uses Bioluminescent Bacteria to Track Down Buried Explosives - Nick Gallagher (Academic Times)
    Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, led by Aharon J. Agranat, a professor of applied physics, have developed a sensor that can rapidly locate buried explosives from a safe distance with the help of genetically engineered, bioluminescent E. coli bacteria.
    The sensor was described in Biosensors and Bioelectronics on April 15.
    The bacteria were engineered to detect trace amounts of dinitrotoluene, a derivative of trinitrotoluene, which is found in 80% of buried mines.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Biden Told Mossad Director U.S. Isn't Close to Returning to Iran Deal - Barak Ravid
    President Biden told the director of Israel's Mossad intelligence service, Yossi Cohen, on Friday that the U.S. has a long way to go in talks with Iran before it agrees to a return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, said a senior Israeli official briefed on the talks. Cohen laid out Israel's position, telling Biden it would be a mistake for the U.S. to return to the deal without improving it first.
        While a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council said Biden "dropped by to express condolences for the tragedy at Mount Meron," a senior Israeli official said the meeting wasn't "a drop in," but was a pre-scheduled, hour-long meeting with the president, national security advisor Jake Sullivan, and CIA director Bill Burns to discuss Iran. (Axios)
        See also Israel: U.S. Respects Our Need for "Freedom of Action" on Iran
    Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan said Thursday that although the Biden administration is seeking to reenter the 2015 Iran deal, Israeli defense officials visiting Washington told their U.S. counterparts that "the freedom of action of Israel to prevent Iran from becoming an existential threat is a freedom of action that will be preserved." Erdan said this is a demand that "the current government respects." "We agreed on the principle of transparency and not to surprise each other and I think we are both keeping to it," he added. (Times of Israel)
  • Mahmoud Abbas Delays Palestinian Elections - Nidal Al-Mughrabi
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday postponed planned parliamentary elections amid a dispute over voting in eastern Jerusalem and splits in his Fatah party. The decision came three months after he announced the first national elections for 15 years. Many Palestinians regard the Jerusalem issue as an excuse to avoid elections that a divided Fatah might well lose to Hamas.
        The election campaign was supposed to begin on Friday and preparations were well underway, with thousands of new voters and three dozen party lists registered. Protesters in Gaza and the West Bank called for the elections to proceed as scheduled. Abbas has ruled by decree for over a decade. (Reuters)
        See also Hamas Denounces "Coup" after Abbas Delays Palestinian Elections - Joseph Krauss (AP)
        See also below Observations: Implications of Postponing the Palestinian Elections - Ghaith al-Omari (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    The Meron Disaster

  • A Paramedic Describes the Meron Disaster
    Magen David Adom paramedic Omri Gorga told 103 FM radio: "It took me a minute or two from the moment I arrived at the scene, and realized that there was CPR being done on four people, to understand that I have 20 more unconscious people....I got there to help a teammate and was horrified to find that it was with CPR on a 12-year-old."
        When asked how you decide who to treat first with so many casualties, Gorga said, "Whoever is showing signs of life, we fight for their lives. If someone is not showing signs of life, we need to invest our strength in other patients who will survive."
        "Within minutes, there was an amazing gathering of staff," Gorga said. "In my wildest dreams I didn't think that I could gather that much manpower in a matter of seconds in such a crowded place....We split up the area into sections and started working."
        Asked what his hardest moment was, Gorga said, "I was knocked to the ground [by the crowd], and I found myself lying next to a 12-year-old boy who was killed. When I tried to get up, the crowd was just running over me, and I was lying next to him."  (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Emergency-Service Workers in Meron - Josh Hasten
    300 United Hatzalah volunteers were on duty in Meron for the Lag B'Omer festival, as well as first-responders from ZAKA, Rescuers Without Borders Israel and Magen David Adom. Itzik Itach, a senior volunteer paramedic with Rescuers Without Borders Israel, described what he saw: "There were bodies piled up on top of each other - some of the people were alive, and some of them were already dead. I have never seen anything like this before. We had to decide who to treat first. We're talking about hundreds of people injured in the midst of thousands of people in the crowd."
        Dov Maisel of United Hatzalah said, "Our paramedics and EMTs were performing CPR on 20 people at a time, and it was so crowded we couldn't evacuate those who were injured....I've been in this field for more than 30 years. It brought me back to the scenes of the Jerusalem bombings 20 years ago." ZAKA volunteer Haim Spielberg said, "It was so distressing to hear the constant ringing of the cellphones of the deceased. Tears flowed from my eyes when I saw the words Dad or Mom on the phone screen."  (JNS)
  • Meron: A Time of National Mourning - Herb Keinon
    After the disaster at Meron, one reflex we witnessed was that of a country coming together in a time of pain and calamity. Flags were flown at half-mast for the victims, a day of national mourning was declared, somber music was played on the radio. The voice of a seasoned radio presenter cracked when she read the names, ages and place of residence of the victims.
        These deaths were not mourned only by the haredi "tribe," but by the whole nation. People from each of Israel's "tribes" donated blood and shed tears when they heard the heartbreaking stories and saw the gut-wrenching images. Brothers may quarrel incessantly, yet when tragedy hits the family they will rally together.
        Grief and sadness enveloped the whole of Israel on Sunday as so many people mourned. And this spoke very well of the country. Despite the super-charged rhetoric, despite the deep divisions, mystic bonds of brotherhood still bind people here. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • A Dangerous Attempt to Threaten U.S. Military Aid to Israel - Eric H. Yoffie
    Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) has proposed "The Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act." This is a terrible bill. Rep. McCollum, a veteran BDS supporter, is perhaps the leading anti-Israel voice in the House.
        Furthermore, the bill is 19 pages of pure demonization, presenting Israel as an unrelenting torturer of Palestinian children. It omits any reference to a two-state solution as a possible means to resolve the conflict. It calls on Israel to change its policies but asks nothing of the Palestinians. It suggests that Israel has misused American aid, without any evidence that such misuse has occurred.
        And its real purpose is to prepare the way for reducing U.S. military aid to Israel, calling for various certifications and reports by the State Department that are clearly intended to serve as the basis for cutting aid. In response, AIPAC organized a letter opposing conditions on military aid to Israel and backing a two-state solution. The letter was signed by 331 House members, Republicans and Democrats, who were not prepared to jeopardize the military aid that is self-evidently necessary for Israel to defend itself against Iranian threats, Hizbullah rockets, and turmoil and terror in Syria and Iraq.
        The writer is a former president of the Union for Reform Judaism. (Ha'aretz)
  • Key Critic of Israel Nominated to Be Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Sarah Margon has been nominated for the post of assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor. She has been a "conflict policy adviser" for Oxfam, a bitter critic of Israel, a major funder of Palestinian groups and a promoter of boycotts of Israeli settlements. She was also a foreign-policy adviser for the Open Society Foundations. As NGO Monitor has documented, Open Society's funding fuels the conflict in myriad ways and does its best to undermine and attack Israel.
        But far worse is the fact that Margon has served for several years as head of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch. Of all the non-governmental organizations that have devoted themselves to the cause of demonizing Israel, Human Rights Watch is arguably the worst and the most vicious. Just last week, it issued yet another report falsely branding Israel as an "apartheid state."
        The upshot of her advocacy is to treat American forces fighting Islamists as villains and to attack friends of America and Israel. A pro-Israel administration simply doesn't put someone with Margon's beliefs in a position to wreck the alliance and give aid and comfort to the Jewish state's enemies. (JNS)

Implications of Postponing the Palestinian Elections - Ghaith al-Omari (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' ill-advised election gambit has exposed deep dysfunctions within the Palestinian political system, turning what Abbas may have considered to be a risk-free way for him to renew his legitimacy into something that may threaten his grip on power.
  • However, failure to hold elections highlights structural challenges facing the PA and Fatah, as well as the chimerical nature of trying to achieve Palestinian unity under the current circumstances.
  • Abbas seems to have underestimated the depth of the legal and political obstacles to U.S. engagement with the PA if Hamas is brought back into its structures. The decision by Hamas to nominate candidates who were directly involved in deadly acts of terror made it difficult for countries to support the elections. And Jordan and Egypt, while refraining from directly opposing the elections, made their concerns privately known.
  • The severe legitimacy crisis facing the Palestinian political system will continue to challenge any prospects for more ambitious U.S. and international initiatives to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
  • As the U.S. continues to reengage the PA, the issue of reform needs to be added to the agenda, to stave off the constant leakage of the PA's domestic legitimacy.

    The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute.

        See also Most Palestinians Want New Elections - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas enraged many Palestinians, including senior members of Fatah, when he indefinitely postponed the legislative elections scheduled for May 22. Abbas is now facing intense criticism from Palestinians who consider his argument laughable that he had to call off the elections because of a controversy surrounding the vote in Jerusalem.
        The decision has also drawn sharp criticism from EU and UN officials. Yet Abbas is expected to survive the current crisis. Hamas does not have the means to stage a coup, and Abbas' political rivals in Fatah do not have sufficient backing for launching mass protests. (Jerusalem Post)

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