June 28, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Sends IDF Team to Florida to Assist with Building Collapse Rescue Efforts - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command sent a search and rescue team to Florida to assist with rescue efforts following the Surfside residential building collapse, the Defense Ministry said Saturday night.
    "The mission of the delegation is to assist in the life-saving efforts by mapping the challenges at the site of the destruction, assisting the Jewish community, and supporting the local rescue forces."
    Israel's United Hatzalah volunteer emergency service sent six psychological assistance professionals to assist the affected families and community.
    "In such difficult moments, we stand with our American friends and the Jewish community in Florida," said Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.

U.S. Says Not Changing Recognition of Israeli Sovereignty over Golan Heights - Elie Youssef (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    In response to a news report Thursday that Washington was planning to annul its recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the U.S. State Department said: "U.S. policy regarding the Golan has not changed, and reports to the contrary are false."

Honduras Opens Embassy in Jerusalem - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
    Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez dedicated the new Embassy of Honduras in Jerusalem on Thursday, the fourth country to do so.
    In addition, Hungary and the Czech Republic have diplomatic offices in Jerusalem, and several countries have trade offices in the capital.

Coronavirus in Israel: Mild Cases Rising Again - Rossella Tercatin (Jerusalem Post-Israel Ministry of Health-Hebrew)
    In the past ten days, the number of new daily Covid cases climbed from less than 20 to over 220 a day, while the numbers of hospitalized and serious patients have remained stable.
    As of Monday morning, there were 1,254 active cases in Israel with 145 people diagnosed over the previous day.
    The number of those hospitalized, however, dropped from 47 on Saturday to 41, while the number in serious condition dropped from 26 to 22.

4 Kashmiri Students Arrested in Israel Embassy Blast in India (Bangalore Mirror-Outlook-India)
    The Special Cell of the Delhi Police on Thursday arrested four students from Jammu and Kashmir in connection with a blast near the Israel Embassy on Jan. 29.
    They have been identified as Nazir Hussain (26), Zulfikar Ali Wazir (25), Aiaz Hussain (28) and Muzammil Hussain (25).

Report: Senior Advisor to Pakistani PM Secretly Visited Israel (ANI-India)
    Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, senior advisor to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, secretly visited Israel and met with then-Chief of the Mossad Yossi Cohen last November, a source in Islamabad said.
    See also Pakistani Advisor Denies Report He Visited Israel (Ha'aretz)
    Sayed Zulfi Bukhari tweeted Monday denying having secretly visited Israel for meetings with senior government officials: "DID NOT go to Israel."
    If confirmed, this would not be the first contact between the two countries. In 2018, an Israeli business jet flew to Islamabad, staying on the ground for ten hours before returning.

Hope of Victory, Not Despair, Drives the Palestinians - Dan Schueftan (Israel Hayom)
    If no one holds Hamas responsible for waging a constant war, and any military damage is easily repaired with aid from the U.S. and Israel, why would it stop killing Jews?
    Some tell themselves that the Palestinian people have turned to violence out of despair brought about by economic hardship.
    In reality, it is the Palestinian addiction to violence and their deliberate avoidance of creating a state that brought about the hardship in the first place.
    It is hope, rather than desperation, that drives the Palestinian people: the hope that their violent instincts could be gratified, that they could punish the Jews for building prosperous lives and finally put an end to their existence in the Middle East.
    The writer heads the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Conducts Airstrikes in Syria and Iraq Against Iranian-Backed Militias - Michael R. Gordon
    The U.S. on Sunday conducted airstrikes in Syria and Iraq against two Iranian-backed militias that the Pentagon said were mounting drone attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. Operational and weapons-storage facilities were struck at three locations near the Syria-Iraq border that were used by Kata'ib Hezbollah and Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada. Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said there have been at least eight drone attacks directed at U.S. forces in Iraq since April 14. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Defensive Precision Airstrikes in Response to Drone Strikes on U.S. Personnel and Facilities in Iraq (U.S. Defense Department)
  • In Meeting with U.S., Israel Expresses Serious Reservations on Iran Nuclear Deal - Humeyra Pamuk
    Israel has serious reservations about the Iran nuclear deal being put together in Vienna, new Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in their first face-to-face meeting in Rome on Sunday. (Reuters)
        See also New Officials Reaffirm U.S., Israel Ties
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Sunday before meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken: "We want the same things. We sometimes disagree about how to achieve them. Israel has some serious reservations about the Iran nuclear deal that is being put together in Vienna. We believe the way to discuss those disagreements is through direct and professional conversation."
        Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "As the closest of friends do, we will have occasional differences. We have the same objectives; sometimes we differ on the tactics....But the foundation is a deep, enduring, abiding commitment on the part of the United States to Israel's security and a commitment that President Biden brought with him to office."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Iran to Stop Giving Nuclear Site Images to UN Nuclear Watchdog - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran's parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said Sunday that Tehran will no longer hand over images from inside its nuclear sites to the International Atomic Energy Agency since the monitoring agreement with the agency had expired, Iranian state media reported. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Prime Minister Bennett: Israel Consulting Allies on Iran, but We Will Protect Ourselves - Lahav Harkov
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Thursday that Israel "will continue to consult with our allies" on countering Tehran's nuclear program, "to convince, to talk, to share information and understandings, through deep mutual respect. But, in the end, we will retain responsibility for our fate in our own hands, and not in anyone else's hands. We will behave responsibly and seriously to protect the great legacy of which we are custodians."
        "The other side's level of sophistication and determination has advanced, but our enemies know - not from declarations, but from actions - that we are many times more determined, many times more sophisticated, and do not hesitate to act when necessary," Bennett said.
        Bennett has responded to the likely scenario of an American return to the Iran nuclear deal by trying to cooperate with the Americans to reduce the possible damage to Israel's security. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: Israel, Hamas Reach Basic Ceasefire Deal through Egyptian Mediators - Ariel Kahana
    Israel and Hamas have reached a basic ceasefire agreement through Egyptian mediators, Arab and Palestinian news outlets reported on Sunday. According to the agreement, Qatari aid money will be transferred to Gaza and shipments of Qatari-funded fuel will resume for Gaza's power plant. The IDF said the deliveries were "conditional on the continued maintenance of security stability." (Israel Hayom)
        See also Israel: Gaza Reconstruction Depends on Progress on Missing Israelis - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Reconstruction of Gaza after last month's fighting between Israel and Hamas is being held up by a dispute over the fate of Israelis long held by the Islamist group, officials say. Israel says reconstruction can proceed only if there is progress in efforts to recover the bodies of two IDF soldiers who fell in the 2014 Gaza war as well as two civilians who slipped separately into the Strip. "It's reconstruction in exchange for progress on the missing," a senior Israeli official said.
        Hamas says talks about the Israelis must be based on a swap for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, not aid. (Reuters)
  • Confident of Support from the West, the Palestinian Authority Suppresses Protests - Amira Hass
    Palestinian security force members in civilian clothes and Fatah members charged at protesters in Ramallah on Saturday night who were protesting over political activist Nizar Banat, who was beaten to death by Palestinian security personnel last Thursday. The Fatah movement announced it would strike with an iron fist at anyone who dares to defame the personnel of the PA security institutions. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Why Are Palestinians Protesting Against Abbas? - Joseph Krauss
    Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets in recent days to protest against President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas' popularity plunged after he called off the first elections in 15 years in April.
        The increasingly authoritarian PA is dominated by Abbas' Fatah party, led by a small circle of men in their 60s and 70s. Abbas is 85. The PA leadership is widely seen by the Palestinians as corrupt and self-serving. Yet Israel, the U.S. and the EU all prefer the unelected PA to Hamas - which they consider a terrorist group - or to the chaos that could ensue from the PA's collapse. (AP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Pompeo: Nuclear Deal Didn't Really Restrict Iran's Capabilities - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Former U.S. secretary of state and CIA director Mike Pompeo told the Jerusalem Post that the fact that Iran was quickly able to jump to 60% uranium enrichment "doesn't prove the decision to withdraw from the JCPOA [the Iran deal] was a mistake. A commitment not to enrich when you have the capacity to do research on advanced, more capable centrifuges is folly. If I have the capacity to do centrifuges, I can turn up the pressure. You can enrich anytime you choose."
        "It is foolish to think that for anything which you can do in a matter of months, you should sacrifice: 1) billions of dollars, 2) allow assassinations throughout Europe, 3) allow the missile program to develop and 4) allow terror in the Middle East."
        "The entire basis of the deal was fundamentally flawed....The Iranians have no intention of ceasing to seek a nuclear weapon....There is no reason to give billions of dollars to fortify those programs."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • In Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's Clerics Have Promoted Their Ruthless Enforcer - Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh
    The Iranian presidential election was really about who will succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 82, as the overlord of Iran's theocracy. Khamenei has long eyed Raisi as his successor, and his promotion to the presidency presages his ultimate ascension. Raisi isn't a clever, well-read mullah, but rather is a brutal enforcer, sustaining a creed that ever-smaller numbers of Iranians embrace.
        Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini would often summon Raisi when he needed special missions completed with efficiency and cruelty. This led to his service on the so-called death commission in 1988, responsible for the execution of thousands of political prisoners on charges of apostasy and the denigration of Islam.
        In the 2021 election, Iran's Guardian Council disqualified a high number of presidential candidates - not only "moderates" but even hard-liners. As a result, Raisi ran nearly uncontested, with no real competitors, and half the electorate stayed home. Thus, the once-popular reformist notion that the theocracy could liberalize itself has died - except perhaps abroad among certain Westerners. The gap between state and society in Iran has never been wider.
        In the coming months, many in Washington will assure themselves that a restored nuclear accord will impose some limits on the regime's ambitions. Iran's nuclear program, we will be assured, is back in the box even as Iran's atomic infrastructure grows in sophistication and size.
        Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Iranian-targets officer at the CIA, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Washington Post)
        See also Raisi Did Not Win, Reformers Lost - Patrick Clawson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Conciliation and Delusion: The Case For Maximum Pressure on Iran - Lt.-Gen. (ret.) H.R. McMaster
    Conciliatory approaches toward Iran across multiple U.S. administrations have suffered from a tendency to assume that U.S. actions were the principal determinants of Iranian attitudes and behaviors, and lacked an appreciation for the revolutionary ideology that drives Iran's theocratic dictatorship. A strategy of maximum pressure that aims to force Iranian leaders to make a choice between either acting as a terrorist state or suffering the consequences of economic and diplomatic isolation is the best approach.
        The regime's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps gets away with murder due, in part, to the belief that the Iranian regime would respond positively to a conciliatory approach. But when Iran has moderated its behavior, it did so only in response to intense political, economic, and military pressure.
        From 2008 to 2018, Iran spent nearly $140 billion on its military and combat operations abroad. As American money flowed into Iran after the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA), funding for terrorist organizations and IRGC operations across the region soared. Hizbullah received an additional $700 million per year; another $100 million went to Palestinian terrorist groups, including Hamas, which fired 4,000 rockets into Israel in May 2021.
        The writer, a former U.S. national security adviser, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. (Hoover Institution)
  • "Block the Boat" Would Hurt Seattle, Not Israel - Editorial
    Over six days this month, activists with the "Block the Boat" campaign, part of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, targeted the ZIM San Diego, owned by an Israeli-based shipping company. Thanks to outstanding Seattle leadership, however, Port of Seattle officials were able to accommodate protesters while allowing the ship to unload its cargo on Friday without incident.
        Clearly, protesters have a First Amendment right to make their voices heard. But our region's maritime economy, the jobs it sustains, and the complex web of domestic and international customers should not be a casualty of politics a world away. Surrendering to protesters would have caused irreparable damage in a highly competitive environment, said Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. "Looking as though we're turning cargo away, that we're inefficient, that we're not welcoming, is not the message we want to be sending."
        Three Seattle City Council members signed on to a statement calling for the ZIM San Diego to leave the port, ignoring that workers and Seattleites who benefit from the port are also members of the community, just as much as those who protest. (Seattle Times)

Iran and Hizbullah View the 2021 Gaza War - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, and Jerusalem Center-Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza were in contact with Iran's top brass, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the heads of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, during the 2021 Gaza War. Sources close to Hizbullah revealed that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hamas, and Hizbullah coordinated the military confrontation in Gaza from a military operations center in Beirut. The commander of the IRGC's Quds Force, General Esmail Qaani, visited Lebanon twice to attend meetings at the joint command center.
  • Iranian aid to Hamas and Islamic Jihad is constant and flows all the time through various channels, regardless of the economic situation in Iran and Lebanon. Iranian influence could be seen in Hamas' efforts to attack Israel's strategic and energy infrastructures, including efforts to damage Israeli gas rigs in the Mediterranean. This copies the efforts of the Houthis in Yemen to attack similar targets in Saudi Arabia.
  • These efforts involve long-range attack drones, GPS-guided unmanned suicide vessels, underwater guided weapons, and long-range missiles. The Houthis in Yemen are using these capabilities against oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and against civilian infrastructure such as airports, power plants, and desalination facilities. Iran seeks to develop these capabilities and test them against Israeli civilian and military targets.
  • From their perspective, Iran's leaders see a string of successes, including confronting sanctions, surviving the Trump administration and ex-Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, maintaining an active military nuclear program, overthrowing Saddam Hussein, the Shia revival in Iraq, and the "victories" of the Palestinians in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon against Israel with Iran's support.
  • They believe that the prophecy of the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, regarding the destruction of Israel will eventually be fulfilled, and that Iran has the power to bring it about.
  • For Iran, "Palestine" is only one part of a complex strategy of building the Axis of Resistance from the Persian Gulf to Lebanon, aimed at Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon; each arena has its own blueprint, a toolbox of hostile insurgency actions, and the guidance of Hizbullah, the Quds Force, and well-trained militias.

    Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, served as Military Secretary to the Prime Minister and as chief of staff to the Foreign Minister.
        Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center.

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