June 21, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. to Withdraw Hundreds of Troops, Aircraft, Antimissile Batteries from Middle East - Gordon Lubold (Wall Street Journal)
    The Biden administration is pulling eight Patriot antimissile batteries from Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, according to U.S. officials.
    The Thaad antimissile system is being withdrawn from Saudi Arabia, and jet fighter squadrons in the region are being reduced.
    Most of the military hardware being removed is coming from Saudi Arabia, officials said, as the kingdom has improved its defensive capabilities, intercepting most rocket attacks on its own.

Hamas Leader: The Palestinian People Are Close to Liberating Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem (Press TV-Iran)
    Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, said Sunday that the Palestinian people are close to liberating al-Aqsa Mosque, the Palestinian Shehab news agency reported.
    "I am sure many of you who have reached old age will have a youthful spirit on the day of the great uprising and will vie with the youth to take the Kalashnikov."

Report: Israel Destroys Outpost Used by Iranian Proxies on Syrian Border - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Israeli tanks on Thursday destroyed an observation post used by Iran and Hizbullah located 150 meters from the border in the Quneitra region of the Syrian Golan Heights, Syria's Enab Baladi reported.

Israel to Allow Transfer of Qatari Funds to Gaza via UN - Said Amouri (Anadolu-Turkey)
    Israel will allow the transfer of "Qatari and other funds to Gaza through the United Nations, and not through suitcases, as was the case in the past," Israel's Channel 12 reported Thursday.

Jordan Scraps Proposed Canal Linking Red Sea to Dead Sea (i24News)
    Jordan has decided not to participate in a proposed joint project with Israel to dig a canal connecting the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, Israel's Channel 11 reported Thursday.

Iran Is Draining Its Aquifers Dry (Nature)
    Iran is using more groundwater than can be naturally recharged, according to an analysis of Iran's groundwater-monitoring system from 2002 to 2015 by Roohollah Noori at the University of Oulu in Finland.
    During that period, the number of wells nearly doubled, yet the amount of groundwater extracted declined by 18%.
    Nationwide, the groundwater table dropped by an average of almost half a meter per year.
    In many wells, the water has become significantly saltier, so that only salt-tolerant plants could thrive.
    Water scarcity threatens the livelihoods of people across Iran as the land becomes drier.

Israeli Container Ship Docks in Canada after Being Blocked by BDS Picketers - Dion J. Pierre (Algemeiner)
    The Israeli container ship Volans unloaded its cargo at Port of Prince Rupert in British Columbia, Canada, on Wednesday, two days after it was prevented from docking by a group of protesters boycotting Israel.

Israel to Deliver Tactical Mobile Radar Systems to Germany - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel Aerospace Industries, along with ESG Elektroniksystem-und Logistik-GmbH, will manufacture and deliver 69 WatchGuard tactical mobile radar systems to the German Land Forces in a deal worth 36 million euros, IAI announced Thursday.
    The radar enables very high probability of target detection and tracking, and can be used day and night in all weather conditions.
    See also Israel's Elbit to Supply Radios to Sweden and Night Vision Systems to the U.S. in Deals Worth $52 Million - Dan Zaken (Globes)

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi Wins Iran's Presidential Election
    Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's top judge, has won Iran's presidential election in a race that was widely seen as being designed to favor him. Raisi is under U.S. sanctions and has been linked to past executions of political prisoners. Official figures showed voter turnout at 49%, the lowest rate ever for a presidential election, compared to more than 70% in 2017. (BBC News-UK)
  • Palestinians Call Off Deal to Get 1 Million Vaccines from Israel - Patrick Kingsley
    After Israel vaccinated 130,000 Palestinians who work in Israel, on Friday the Israeli government announced a deal to supply one million vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority. In return, the authority was to give Israel the same number of doses once its own supply arrived in the fall from Pfizer-BioNTech. But just hours later, the authority ripped up the agreement, after Israel had delivered 100,000 doses, claiming the vaccines were too close to their expiration date.
        An Israeli official said the initial batch of doses would expire in July, but that was enough time for Palestinian health workers to administer them. The official added that the authority had been aware of the vaccines' expiry date before agreeing to their delivery. Negotiations over the deal began in secret several months ago. (New York Times)
        See also Israel Says Covid-19 Vaccines Rejected by Palestinians Were Safe - Maayan Lubell
    "The vaccines delivered to the Palestinians are identical in every way to the vaccines currently being administered to Israel's citizens," the Israeli Health Ministry said. (Reuters)
        See also Three Countries Ask Israel for Covid Vaccines If Palestinians Nix Deal - Jonathan Lis
    "Three countries have reached out to Israel over the past 24 hours to strike a similar deal to the one Israel had reached with the Palestinian Authority, in case the deal with the Palestinians isn't renewed," an Israeli political source told Ha'aretz on Sunday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Anti-Israel Politics Prevent Covid-19 Vaccinations - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman
    The Palestinian Authority shot itself in the foot with its decision to reject up to 1.4 million Israeli vaccine doses that could have enabled it to inoculate its citizens months earlier than planned. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Prime Minister Calls on World to "Wake Up" on Iran Nuclear Deal
    At the meeting of the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in English for the world media: "This weekend, Iran chose a new president - Ebrahim Raisi. Of all the people that Khamenei could have chosen, he chose the 'Hangman of Tehran,' the man infamous among Iranians and across the world for leading the Death Committees, which executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens throughout the years."
        "Raisi's election is...the last chance for the world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement, and to understand who they are doing business with. These guys are murderers, mass murderers. A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction that will enable it to not kill thousands, but millions."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israel Working with U.S. to Step Up Iran Nuclear Oversight - Judah Ari Gross
    Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Thursday, "We are working closely with our American allies, in order to both increase oversight [of Tehran's nuclear program] at this time and to clarify to Iran that all options are on the table, always."  (Times of Israel)
  • Former Israeli Defense Officials Warn that Emerging Iran Deal Is Worse than 2015 Version
    Ha'aretz reported a warning Friday by three former top defense officials that the emerging Iran nuclear deal could be worse than the 2015 version. Former IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Zeevi-Farkash and former top officials in the Israel Atomic Energy Commission say they have received "reliable and worrying information" that the U.S. is "willing to accept a reduced accord that will see most of the sanctions set by the Trump administration since 2018 removed. In return, Iran will roll back only some of the steps it has taken since 2019 to promote its nuclear program."
        They say Washington is willing to accept only partial limitations on Iran's increased enrichment capacity and reduced UN inspections. "Iran will be able to advance covertly and significantly reduce the time required to reach a nuclear arsenal," they argue. (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Approves Replenishment of Israel's Iron Dome Missile Interceptors
    U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday that the Pentagon will request more interceptor missiles for Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile batteries. The air defense batteries saw heavy use during 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza terror groups in May. Asked if the Pentagon supported restocking Israel, Austin answered, "Absolutely." (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Strikes Hamas Targets in Gaza as Incendiary Balloon Attacks on Israel Continue - Matan Tzuri
    Israeli planes attacked Hamas positions in Gaza Thursday night in response to more incendiary balloons launched into Israel that caused at least eight fires. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran's Next President and the Nuclear Deal - Jason Rezaian
    Ebrahim Raisi will be Iran's next president. A cleric who was predicted to win, he was declared the winner on Saturday in large part because the scales were so obviously tipped in his favor that millions of ordinary Iranians decided to skip the exercise. Though it might be hard to imagine, his presidency is likely to usher in even more repressive tactics by the state and less accountability for those who abuse power.
        Raisi has pledged to adhere to a new nuclear deal that Iranian negotiators and the Biden administration are now under pressure to conclude by August when Raisi will be inaugurated. The incoming administration will do little to address the actual grievances of Iranians - or even feign that they're trying.
        More discontent is on the horizon and likely to spill into the streets. The Biden administration should make clear that any repeat of Raisi's history of violent suppression will be met with new and strong consequences, whether or not there is a deal in place.
        The writer, Washington Post correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016, spent 544 days imprisoned by Iranian authorities. (Washington Post)
  • Iran's New Hard-Line President Poised for Pivotal Role in Nuclear Talks - Sune Engel Rasmussen
    Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's president-elect, was sanctioned two years ago by the U.S., accused of overseeing violent crackdowns on protesters in 2009 and 2019 and the arrests of activists, lawyers and journalists.
        Raisi is seen as a more confrontational adversary to the West than his predecessor, current President Hassan Rouhani. Analysts anticipate Raisi will be even more resistant to American efforts to curtail Iran's military activities in the Middle East. "In terms of a broader posture towards the West, Raisi is not going to make the same kind of commitment that Rouhani made in terms of cooperation and engagement," said Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, senior research fellow at the UK's Royal United Services Institute.
        In talks to revive the nuclear deal, Western officials say Iran continues to make demands that the Biden administration can't accept. Those include reparations from the U.S. for pulling out of the deal as well as help reviving the kind of international investment and business deals that fell apart or never materialized after the U.S. reimposed sanctions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hizbullah: The World's Most Dangerous Terrorists - David Patrikarakos
    Hizbullah has fought Israel for almost 40 years. As Thanassis Cambanis has observed: Hizbullah has "convinced legions of common men and women that Israel can be defeated and destroyed - and not just in the distant future, but soon."
        Few know more about Hizbullah than IDF Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shimon Shapira, former military secretary to ex-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and now a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Shapira told me that the architect of Hizbullah was Iranian cleric Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur, who died on June 7 from Covid-19. "Mohtashamipur was a real revolutionary, and a close associate of the founder of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah] Khomeini."
        While it is believed that the Lebanese Shia became radicalized after Israeli forces moved into Lebanon in 1982, Hizbullah was founded by Iran "in summer 1981 - before Israel even entered Lebanon." Tehran dispatched soldiers from its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to Lebanon, where they set up training camps. "Hizbullah is essentially an Iranian brigade in Lebanon," Shapira concludes. (Unherd)
  • There Is No Moral Equivalency between Israel and Hamas - Avi Weiss
    5-year-old Ido was killed instantly when shrapnel from a Hamas rocket pierced his family's metal safe room in the Israeli town of Sderot, on the Gaza border. The loss of any child, Arab or Jewish, is devastating. Still, I know that there is no moral equivalency. Not one of the children killed in Gaza was premeditated. In contrast, every person killed in Israel by Hamas was premeditated. Ido was not killed, he was murdered.
        The writer is founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. (New York Daily News)

Jews Must Fight Back Against Their Demonization - Amb. Ron Dermer interviewed by Ellie Cohanim (JNS)
  • International media coverage of the conflict in May between Hamas and Israel "played right into the hands of Hamas," whose strategy "is to essentially not only target our civilians, but embed their own civilians and essentially turn them into human shields."
  • "And the media went for it. Unfortunately, I think it's not gullibility. I think it's more malicious. I think it's an attempt to cast Israel as the evil actor in this equation, as a force for evil."
  • "The demonization of Jews is a very old problem. And many people believe that if we just educate people about the facts that the Jew-hatred will end. I don't believe that."
  • "People thought that those decades after the Holocaust were a new normal, but it wasn't....What we have is the demonization of Israel, a return to the norm of anti-Semitism."
  • "The difference now is that the Jewish people have a state, the Jewish people have sovereign power. We have a shield, we have a refuge, we have a voice and we're going to use it."
  • "Jews have to begin to fight back against their own demonization. If we don't stand up for ourselves...no one's going to stand up for us."

    Ron Dermer is former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (2013 to 2021).
    Ellie Cohanim is former U.S. deputy special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism.

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