May 26, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Bernie Sanders Drops Effort to Stop Weapons Sales to Israel - Eliza Collins (Wall Street Journal)
    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will no longer try to force a Senate vote aimed at stopping a $735 million weapons sale to Israel.
    An aide to Sanders said the senator found out Friday that the State Department had already finalized the sale.

Iran Announces Presidential Candidates, Dominated by Conservatives - Kareem Fahim (Washington Post)
    Iran's Guardian Council on Tuesday announced a list of seven mostly conservative or hard-line candidates vying to replace President Hassan Rouhani in the June 18 presidential election, after several moderate politicians were barred from running.
    Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric who heads Iran's judiciary, is widely viewed as the front-runner.
    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, was excluded from the final list.

Hizbullah Head Nasrallah Coughs through Speech (Ynet News)
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech Tuesday on the anniversary of the IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon 21 years ago, during which he looked ill and weak, coughing throughout the 90-minute event.
    His son Jawad tweeted that his father was suffering from allergies.

Following Backlash, UNRWA Director Apologizes for Saying Israeli Army Rarely Attacked Civilians - Amira Hass (Ha'aretz)
    Matthias Schmale, director of UNRWA's operations in Gaza, told Israel's Channel 12 on Sunday:
    "I also have the impression that there is a huge sophistication in the way that the Israeli army struck [Gaza] over the past 11 days....Yes, they did not hit, with some exceptions, civilian targets."
    On Tuesday he apologized for those remarks after being harshly criticized by Hamas and Palestinian groups.

Israel Targeted Hamas' Precision Rocket Development Team - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas displayed a marked improvement in the number of rockets and mortars fired into Israel, although the projectiles caused relatively few Israeli casualties.
    200 rockets were long or medium range, of which 120 were fired at the Tel Aviv region. The rest were launched toward Jerusalem or other areas including the Arava, south of the Dead Sea, 250 km. from Gaza.
    Hamas has 60% of its original 15,000 rockets left, including hundreds capable of hitting the center of the country.
    Hamas attempted to flood the Iron Dome missile defense system by firing more than a hundred rockets at Ashkelon in less than half an hour, or barrages of dozens of rockets at the Tel Aviv region.
    Yet Iron Dome was a great operational success, saving the lives of dozens of Israeli residents.
    Like Hizbullah, Hamas seeks to improve the precision of its rockets. That's why a substantial number of Israeli airstrikes were aimed at sites linked to the development of precision weapons.
    More than 10 central figures in Hamas' development team were killed, including the two project leaders, Jamal Zbeida and Jumaa Tahala.

Jewish Victim of Arab Mob Thanks Arab Nurse Who Saved Him - Nathan Jeffay (Times of Israel)
    Fadi Kasem, 28, a nurse at the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, went to a riot scene in Acre two weeks ago and saw a Jewish man, Mor Janashvili, 29, lying on the ground after he had been attacked by a mob wielding stones, sticks and knives.
    Kasem administered first aid to the victim. He recalled, "I was scared he was going to die. There was lots of blood and a head injury."
    Janashvili told the Times of Israel on Tuesday, "I had lost consciousness when he got to me, but remember waking up and hearing him comforting me and caring for me."
    Just before he was discharged from the hospital, Janashvili told Kasem, "You saved my life," to which Kasem replied, "I did what had to be done."
    Janashvili concluded, "In a place where people weren't showing humanity, he showed such great humanity."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • IAEA Chief Sounds Alarm over Iran's Nuclear Program - Andrew England
    Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has warned that Iran is enriching uranium at purity levels that "only countries making bombs are reaching." He told the Financial Times, "A country enriching at 60% is a very serious thing - only countries making bombs are reaching this level. 60% is almost weapons grade." A purity level of 60%, announced last month by Tehran, far exceeds the 3.67% purity agreed in the 2015 nuclear agreement.
        Iran told the IAEA that its increased enrichment of uranium was for medical purposes and research. But Grossi said, "We don't seem to find much need for that at the current level of industrial, medical activity in Iran." Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium was now more than 10 times the 300-kg. limit agreed in the accord, he said.
        "You cannot put the genie back into the bottle - once you know how to do stuff, you know, and the only way to check this is through verification. The Iranian program has grown, become more sophisticated, so the linear return to 2015 is no longer possible. What you can do is keep their activities below the parameters of 2015....It's obvious that with a program with the degree of ambition, sophistication that Iran has, you need a very robust, very strong verification system."  (Financial Times-UK)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Blinken Meets Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday: "President Biden asked me to come here today, really, for four reasons: First, to demonstrate the commitment of the United States to Israel's security, to start to work toward greater stability and reduce tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem, to support urgent humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for Gaza, to benefit the Palestinian people, and to continue to rebuild our relationship with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority."
        "We'll continue to strengthen all aspects of our longstanding partnership. And that includes consulting closely with Israel, as we did today, on the ongoing negotiations in Vienna around a potential return to the Iran nuclear agreement, at the same time as we continue to work together to counter Iran's destabilizing actions in the region."  (U.S. State Department)
  • U.S. to Reopen Jerusalem Consulate, Upgrading Palestinian Ties - Joseph Krauss
    Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Tuesday that the U.S. would reopen its consulate in Jerusalem - a move that restores ties with Palestinians that had been downgraded by the Trump administration. The consulate long served as an autonomous office in charge of diplomatic relations with the Palestinians.
        He later announced $40 million in aid to the Palestinians, including $5.5 million in emergency assistance for Gaza. That brings total U.S. assistance to the Palestinians under the Biden administration to over $360 million. (AP)
        See also Israel Opposed to Reopening Palestinian Consulate within Israel
    Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Gilad Erdan said Wednesday that Israel is opposed to reopening a Palestinian Consulate within sovereign Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinians Protest Against Blinken's Visit to Ramallah - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Scores of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah on Tuesday in protest at U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit, in a demonstration organized by the National and Islamic Forces, an alliance of Palestinian factions. The protesters chanted, "America is the head of the snake," "Our people want the RPG (rocket-propelled grenade)," and "The Olso Accords are gone." Some carried placards reading: "Blinken, you are not welcome!"  (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu Thanks U.S. for Supporting Israel's Right of Self-Defense
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told Secretary of State Blinken on Tuesday: "First, a vote of thanks to President Biden and to you for firmly supporting Israel's right of self-defense....With replenishments of Iron Dome interceptors that save civilian lives on both sides, we're grateful for that too."
        "We discussed many regional issues, but none is greater than Iran and I can tell you that I hope that the United States will not go back to the old JCPOA, because we believe that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy. Whatever happens, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction."
        "As for peace itself with the Palestinians, a formal peace, I think President Biden was absolutely correct when he said you're not going to get peace until Israel is recognized as an independent Jewish state, and that is the key."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israeli President Rivlin to U.S.: "The Real War Criminals Are Hiding in Gaza behind Civilian Populations" - Greer Fay Cashman
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday that he found it inconceivable that Hamas is not designated as a war criminal worldwide. It is vitally important to apply this designation, he insisted, when IDF soldiers are facing charges in the International Criminal Court. "The world should understand that the real war criminals are hiding in Gaza behind civilian populations."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Seizes Chemicals, Communications Equipment Headed to Gaza, and Gold for the West Bank
    Shortly before the fighting in Gaza, the IDF seized shipments of chemicals and communications equipment likely to be used by Hamas. The IDF also blocked a clandestine shipment of gold worth $300,000 from Gaza to the West Bank, melted into the shape of nails, and hidden in wooden pallets. (i24News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Who Won the Gaza War? - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror interviewed by Eliezer Shulman
    Former Israeli national security advisor Yaakov Amidror says talk of winning the war with Hamas in Gaza is misplaced. "The purpose of all the Gaza operations over the past 15 years has been to hurt Hamas and restore quiet to people living in the south - not to topple the terror groups or conquer the Strip. Israel didn't embark on Operation Guardian of the Walls with the goal of winning. The goal was to inflict maximum damage on Hamas' military capabilities in hopes of establishing deterrence."
        "The Six-Day War is considered Israel's most successful war. But just a year later, there was the War of Attrition, and six years later, Israel found itself in the Yom Kippur War. So where was the deterrence? From a military perspective, the [2006] Second Lebanon War was a catastrophe, but the north has been quiet ever since."
        "In the current round...Hamas didn't catch Israel unprepared in any area. It failed to inflict significant damage...and Hamas proved unable able to land any blows by sea, air, or through the terror tunnels....In summary, they notched zero successes and suffered a severe mauling."  (Mishpacha)
  • Who's Guilty of What in the Hamas-Israel Conflict? - Charles Lane
    Shooting more than 4,000 unguided explosives toward civilian populations in Israel violates all the norms of warfare. That's more than 4,000 war crimes. Hamas stored rockets, and launched them, in or near civilians or civilian structures, just as it did during the 2014 war with Israel. This, too, is a violation of the laws of armed conflict.
        Israeli wrongdoing, if any, occurred in the context of a generally professional military operation that was carried out in response to Hamas rocket attacks. Hamas' campaign against Israel and its civilian population, by contrast, consisted of nothing but war crimes, from beginning to end. (Washington Post)
  • The U.S. Needs a Plan for Gaza - Jennifer Rubin
    The Biden administration has not yet spelled out how it will rebuild Gaza without re-empowering Hamas. President Biden suggested the Palestinian Authority could oversee the effort. That's an obvious nonstarter: The authority does not control Gaza, and it's also more corrupt, less effective and less respected (by all sides) than ever before. Moreover, how can the international community invest billions in Gaza while it remains under the thumb of Hamas?
        If Hamas is left in power with war-fighting capacity, in the not-so-distant future it certainly will build more rockets, fire them indiscriminately and prompt a furious Israeli response that will destroy whatever was built. Hamas is a brutal terrorist regime that desires an endless war. If Hamas were motivated by concern for the Palestinian people, would it have launched rockets into Jerusalem, where eastern Jerusalem Arabs were as likely to be killed as Jewish residents? (Washington Post)
  • The Arab World Must Demand the Disarmament of Hamas - Qanta Ahmed
    By painting itself as a plucky victim, Hamas is trying to convince the Arab world - and Muslims in the West, like me - that we should be on its side. But the reality is that the terror group's ever escalating appetite for conflict does nothing to serve the Palestinian cause.
        Hamas has evolved into a much more formidable and aggressive force. The enormous numbers and range of Hamas' missiles confirm this. Funding from Iran has allowed Hamas' structure and ranks to start resembling the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' combat units.
        It is time for the Arab world to stand in defense of human values by repudiating Hamas' shameful use of Palestinian people as human shields. The moment Hamas, hiding in its tunnels, elected to bombard a civilian population in a sovereign state, they abandoned any semblance of ethics, any remnant of Geneva conventions, and any right to decry Israel's actions. Hamas violates all of Islam's codes of just war which expressly forbid the targeting of unarmed civilians, women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
        If the conflict is ever to end, Hamas must not only be muzzled, but fully defanged. Israel deserves support from the Arab world in its legitimate efforts to safeguard all peoples in its sovereign territory. It is time the Arab world demanded the disarmament and neutering of Hamas.
        The writer, a British-American physician, is Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU Langone Health. (Spectator-UK)
  • For Israelis, One More Battle in a Forever War for Survival - Clifford D. May
    Today, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah and the Islamic Republic of Iran declare: "The Jewish state does not deserve to live!"
        Those who claim to care about Gazans ought to say to Hamas and Islamic Jihad: "Look, guys, there is no military solution to this conflict! So, you'll just have to tolerate - among the more than 20 states that identify as Arab, and the more than 50 that identify as Muslim - one tiny state in which the Jewish people exercises self-determination on part of its ancient homeland."
        For Israelis, "Never again" means defending themselves in battle after battle in a "forever war," ignoring those who insist that fairness requires more Jewish funerals. For the rest of us it should mean, at a minimum, not aligning with Jew-haters attempting to precipitate another Holocaust.
        The writer is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). (Washington Times)

The Palestinian Voices Blinken Needs to Hear - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
  • In the past few weeks, thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been demonstrating in support of Hamas. These Palestinians are telling U.S. Secretary of State Blinken that he is wasting his time if he thinks that they would accept "so-called peaceful solutions" or "renounce any part of Palestine."
  • They are also sending a warning to PA President Abbas that recognition of Israel's right to exist and acceptance of the "two-state solution" is tantamount to treason, a crime punishable by death.
  • It is not clear how the Biden administration expects Abbas to work toward establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel when the Palestinian leader is being besieged by his people because of his supposed belief in peace with Israel.
  • Hamas leaders have in the past warned that if Abbas sets foot in Gaza, he will be executed by hanging in a public square for betraying the Palestinian people and collaborating with Israel.
  • It is only Israel's presence in the West Bank that is keeping Abbas in power and preventing Hamas from extending its control beyond Gaza.
  • A recent public opinion poll showed that 57% of Palestinians are opposed to the two-state solution. Another 57% said they support the "armed struggle" and "popular resistance" against Israel.
  • These are the voices that Blinken needs to hear during his visit to Ramallah. Then he would get a good grasp of the Palestinians' profound anti-Israel sentiments and their deep support for Iran's proxies and others who wish to wipe Israel off the map.