July 26, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Attacks on Iranian Nuclear Targets Cause a Change in Perspectives - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Attacks on Natanz (twice), Karaj and Fakhrizadeh fundamentally change Iranian and American perspectives on returning to the Iran nuclear deal.
    Washington's premise had been that there was no way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon besides the diplomatic solution of the 2015 deal.
    But the four (known) attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and officials have hobbled the Islamic Republic's nuclear program far more than most realize, and they have succeeded without a major cost to either Israel or the U.S.
    Indeed, the series of attacks has shown how deeply vulnerable Iran is to sabotage and targeted killing.
    The U.S., Iran and Israel all know this. Biden administration officials are starting to consider whether it might be possible to keep Iran's nuclear program "in a box" for a very extended period even without the JCPOA.

Hizbullah's Unit for Terrorism in Israel Is Expanding - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    Hizbullah's Unit 133 is dedicated to orchestrating terror attacks inside Israel and the West Bank, according to Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri, a former IDF intelligence officer who is director of research at the Alma research center.
    Unit 133's "expertise is forging connections with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, and setting up terrorist infrastructure," Beeri said.
    The unit also seeks to activate terror cells in Jordan and Egypt in order to act against Israeli interests there.
    Unit 133 cooperates closely with five central Southern Lebanese crime families who act as "bridging platforms from the crime world to elements inside of the State of Israel," Beeri said.
    The families have experience in trafficking drugs and weapons into Israel, and Hizbullah has hitched a ride on their abilities in order to build terror infrastructure.
    The result is a recent uptick in cross-border smuggling efforts in recent months.

NY Pension Fund Puts Unilever on Notice over Ben and Jerry's Sales Ban - Will Feuer (New York Post)
    The $255 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund informed Unilever on Friday that it might restrict its investments in the company because of Ben & Jerry's announcement.
    Liz Gordon, the fund's executive director of corporate governance, noted that the fund has a policy of restricting investments in companies involved in the anti-Israel BDS movement, and reports suggest that "Ben & Jerry's, a Unilever wholly-owned subsidiary, is involved in BDS activities.... Companies that engage in BDS activities may face legal, reputational and financial risks."
    According to the fund's most recent annual report, it has $73 million invested in Unilever.
    Florida state CFO Jimmy Patronis, who controls public pension funds for the state, sent his own letter to Ben & Jerry's CEO Matthew McCarthy on Thursday.
    He notified the company that its announcement "may result in your business being placed on Florida's Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List pursuant to Florida Statutes."

Politics Foil Replacing Hazardous Bridge to Jerusalem Site - Ilan Ben Zion (AP)
    The rickety Mughrabi Bridge to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the sole access point for non-Muslims, is at risk of collapse, according to experts, but religious sensitivities and diplomatic deadlock have prevented its repair for more than a decade.
    A municipal engineer who inspected the bridge in May urged its immediate replacement and authorized its use only until September. The bridge's wooden beams were "in a state of extreme dryness" and severely cracked.

Abraham Accords: UAE Patient to Get Kidney from Israeli Woman - Michal Michelle Divon (Khaleej Times-UAE)
    On Wednesday, an Israeli woman is slated to donate a kidney to a patient in the UAE as part of a wider organ donation program between the two countries.
    "We are now able to do things that weren’t possible before, thanks to the Abraham Accords, and helping citizens in the Gulf is a top priority for us," said Steve Walz, spokesperson for Sheba Medical Center in Israel.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Jordan Has Been Attacked by Iranian-Made Drones, Rockets - Sarah Glubb
    King Abdullah II of Jordan told CNN on Sunday that Jordan has witnessed attacks on "Israel from Syria and Lebanon to an extent, and what misses Israel, sometimes lands in Jordan...and unfortunately, Jordan has been attacked by drones that have come out, that are Iranian signature that we have had to deal with in the past year or so and escalated."
        On the Iranian nuclear talks in Vienna, he said: "I have a feeling that where the American position is and where the Iranian position is, is somewhat far apart." King Abdullah is currently in the U.S. on a two-week visit where he met with President Biden last week. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
        See also Jordan's King Abdullah II Confirms He Met with Israeli Leaders
    Jordan's King Abdullah II revealed on Sunday in an interview with CNN that he had secretly met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Attains Long-Sought Observer Status at African Union
    Israel has been granted official observer status at the African Union after seeking this for nearly two decades, officials said Thursday. Israeli Ambassador Aleli Admasu presented his credentials Thursday to Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. "This is a day of celebration for Israel-Africa relations," said Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
        Israel previously held observer status at the Organization of African Unity (OAU), but was long thwarted in its attempts to get it back after the OAU was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the AU. The Palestinian Authority already has observer status at the AU. (AFP-Al-Ahram-Egypt)
        See also Hamas Condemns Israel's Observer Status at African Union - Ibrahim Mukhtar
    Hamas on Saturday decried a decision by the African Union (AU) to grant Israel observer status. It called on African states to "expel" Israel from the AU and to slap it with sanctions. (Anadolu-Turkey)
  • After 49 Years, Israelis Killed at 1972 Munich Olympics Remembered in Opening Ceremony - Karolos Grohmann
    Israeli Olympic team members killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics were remembered with a moment of silence during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, the first time in 49 years this has happened. The families of the 11 victims had long asked the International Olympic Committee to hold a minute's silence at a Games opening ceremony, but had always been turned down.
        An announcer said: "We remember those who lost their lives during the Olympic Games. One group still holds a strong place in all our memories and stand for all those we have lost at the games - the members of the Israeli delegation at the Olympic Games Munich 1972."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians in Gaza Accuse Hamas of Storing Weapons in Residential Areas - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian factions and human rights organizations have called on Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups to stop storing weapons in residential areas following another explosion, which killed one person and injured 14 others, including six children, on Thursday. A three-story house was partially destroyed, while neighboring houses and shops were damaged.
        Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza said, "There have been repeated incidents of internal explosions in houses in overcrowded residential neighborhoods...which resulted in the killing of a number of civilians and the destruction of homes and public and private properties." Palestinian writer Fadel Al-Manasfeh noted that a similar explosion took place in Nuseirat refugee camp last year, killing more than 10 Palestinians and injuring dozens. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Responds to Incendiary Balloons from Gaza - Aaron Boxerman
    IDF jets struck a series of Hamas targets in Gaza late Sunday after incendiary balloons launched from the Strip sparked several fires in Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Active Cases Rise to 11,606 from 200 Six Weeks Ago
    The Israel Health Ministry reported Monday morning on 1,398 new coronavirus cases identified Sunday. The number of active cases reached 11,606, after declining to around 200 less than six weeks ago. Serious cases rose to 108 after reaching a low of 19 last month. This is still a fraction compared to 1,200 serious cases in January. There are 199 coronavirus patients in Israeli hospitals, including 20 on ventilators. (Times of Israel)
  • Two Israeli Airlines Launch Direct Flights to Morocco
    Israir and El Al launched direct flights between Israel and Marrakesh in Morocco on Sunday, eight months after the two countries reached a normalization deal. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Main Issue Is Not the Boycott of Israel but the Thinking Behind It - Melanie Phillips
    The fury and disgust among Israel-supporters at Ben & Jerry's announcement is more than justified. But suppose the boycott and lawsuits directed at Ben & Jerry's and Unilever force the company to resume ice-cream sales in the disputed territories. What then?
        Throughout the West, innumerable companies, universities, government bodies, professional organizations, the arts and other cultural institutions are stuffed with people who believe that Israel has no right to exist at all. They've swallowed the falsehoods and distortions about Israel that now drive not just the boycott movement but much Western opinion.
        They believe that the Palestinians were the indigenous people of the land of Israel who were displaced by the Jews; that there is such a thing in international law as Palestinian land; that Israel is in illegal occupation of some or all of that land; and that it is only Israel that stands in the way of the obvious "two-state" solution to the Middle East conflict. All these claims are falsehoods and distortions.
        The Jewish world, including the State of Israel, should be constantly hammering home the fact that the indigenous people of the land of Israel are the Jews; that the notion of Palestinian rights to any of that land is a legal and historical fiction; and that Israel liberated the disputed territories from the truly illegal occupation of those lands by Jordan between 1948 and 1967. Moreover, the Palestinians reveal by their words, actions and insignia that their aim remains the obliteration of Israel; the "two-state" solution is a convenient untruth; and it is only Israel that stands for peace, justice and the rule of law.
        The writer is a columnist for The Times-UK. (JNS)
  • To Pray or Not to Pray on the Temple Mount? - Nadav Shragai
    The past four years have seen a series of blatant and significant violations of the status quo by the Muslims: the building and use of three new mosques on the Mount; the curtailment of the places and times of visitation for Jews; the failure to enforce laws on planning, building, and antiquities on the Mount; the closure of the Cotton Merchants' Gate and the Chain Gate to Jews, and more.
        As part of President Trump's proposed peace plan, an item was included intending to ensure future freedom of worship on the Temple Mount for both Jews and Muslims. It stated that: "Jerusalem's holy sites should remain open and available for peaceful worshippers and tourists of all faiths. People of every faith should be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in a manner that is fully respectful to their religion, taking into account the times of each religion's prayers and holidays, as well as other religious factors."
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center, has documented Jerusalem for Ha'aretz and Israel Hayom for over 30 years. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • How Turkey and Iran Infiltrate Young American Minds - Eitan Fischberger and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    Iran, Turkey, and Islamic terrorist organizations have intensified their efforts to infiltrate the minds of susceptible young Americans through the anti-Israel movement. On June 18, the Center for Islam & Global Affairs (CIGA) at Turkey's Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University launched a five-day international conference on Palestine that featured lectures by Western professors and anti-Israel activists.
        The host of the event was Sami Al-Arian, a former professor at the University of South Florida who pled guilty in 2006 to assisting the U.S.-designated terror organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and was subsequently deported to Turkey. Perhaps most worrying is that eleven American professors spoke at the conference, nine of whom teach at public universities.
        Six months earlier, Iran joined 60 anti-Israel groups and a number of U.S.-designated terrorist organizations for two virtual events based out of Gaza and Tehran. Many of the groups promoting the event enlisted American students as dutiful soldiers in their crusade against Israel. These groups serve as an ideological backdoor for radical Middle Eastern extremism into the U.S.
        Eitan Fischberger, a former staff sergeant in the Israel Air Force, is pursuing a master's degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
        Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was former head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
    (National Review)
  • Iran Seeks a Shi'ite Foothold in Sunni Jordan - Ariel Ben Solomon
    Dr. Harold Rhode, a longtime former adviser on Islamic affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense, told JNS that 'Ali - the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad and a central figure in Shi'ite Islam - is thought to have a brother named Ja'afar buried in Karak, 84 miles southwest of the Jordanian capital of Amman.
        "The Iranians have built a beautiful shrine where Ja'afar is thought to have been buried - the architecture and atmosphere are Iranian." Iran and Jordan have agreed that Iran will turn that shrine into a major Shi'ite tourist site, attracting pilgrims, mainly from Iran. "These tourists will, of course, be more than tourists. Iran will carefully choose these pilgrims to propagate the Shi'ite version of Islam throughout Sunni Jordan," predicted Rhode.
        Hillel Frisch, a Middle East expert at the BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University, said Jordan's opening towards Iran "could be attributed primarily to the kingdom's economic plight and internal political problems." But also driving the shift "is the weakness the United States is showing towards Iran in its efforts to reduce its presence in the Middle East."
        "Welcoming Iranian Shi'ite pilgrims might bring in much-needed cash, but it will also exacerbate tensions between the king and many Jordanians, who are overwhelmingly Sunni and worried over Hizbullah's influence in Jordan, Syria and Iraq."  (JNS)

  • With negotiations paused until a new hardline administration takes office in Tehran, the chances of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal anytime soon are not bright. Even successful talks might not stop Iran's leaders from pursuing nuclear weapons.
  • Moreover, the fact that the Biden administration hopes to reach a "longer and stronger" follow-on agreement reflects its recognition that the JCPOA is not sufficient.
  • If the U.S. cannot persuade Iran to temper its nuclear ambitions using carrots, which seems unlikely given Iran's determined pursuit of a large nuclear infrastructure, it must find more effective sticks.
  • To start, the Biden administration should reframe its stated objective and be clear the U.S. is determined to stop Iran not just from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but from being able to produce a bomb quickly. Since Iran is a threat to its neighbors, it must not be in a position where it could effectively present the world with a nuclear weapons fait accompli at a time of its choosing.
  • The U.S. must make the costs of pursuing a threshold capability far clearer. To do so, the Biden administration should consider providing Israel the GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound mountain-buster, as well as leasing the B-2 bomber to deliver it. Such a weapon could be used to destroy Fordow, the underground Iranian enrichment facility, as well as other hardened nuclear sites.
  • This would send a powerful message. The Iranians may doubt whether the U.S. would follow through on its threats; they won't have any trouble believing the Israelis will.

    The writer, who served in senior national security positions for four presidents, is counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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