August 12, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Officials Believe Iran Unlikely to Return to Nuclear Deal - Jonathan Lis (Ha'aretz)
    U.S. officials who visited Israel this week with CIA Director William Burns believe that the chances of Iran returning to the 2015 nuclear deal are slim, Israeli officials said Wednesday.
    Israeli officials have also assessed that it is unlikely that Iran will return to the deal.
    See also below Observations: Iran Nukes the Case for a Biden Deal - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)

Iran's New President Appoints Wanted Terrorist as Interior Minister (AP)
    Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, has appointed Gen. Ahmad Vahidi as his interior minister, state TV reported Wednesday.
    Vahidi is a former defense minister blacklisted by the U.S. in 2010 and wanted by Interpol over his role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds.

UK Spends Millions Funding NGO Waging "Proxy War" Against Israel - Simon Rocker (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    The UK has spent 9 million pounds over the past three years funding the Norwegian Refugee Council, which is waging a "proxy war" against Israel by subsidizing hundreds of court cases brought on behalf of Palestinians to challenge Israeli policy, NGO Monitor reports.

Miami: An IDF Colonel's Search and Rescue Diary - Col. Golan Vach (Israel Hayom)
    On Saturday June 26, 2021, two days after the collapse of the 13-story building in Surfside, Florida, Israel received a request for aid from the U.S., which had never asked for assistance from other countries.
    The writer headed the IDF Home Front Command's search and rescue delegation at Surfside, Florida.

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Israeli Town near Gaza Copes with Scars of Rocket Fire - Josef Federman (AP)
    Three months after the latest war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the border town of Sderot (pop. 27,000) is bustling and the local real-estate market is booming. But underneath the veneer of normalcy, the scars of years of rocket fire run deep.
    No place in Israel has been hit harder by Palestinian rocket fire than Sderot, 1.5 km. (1 mile) from the Gaza border.
    Next to every park and bus stop is a small concrete bomb shelter - often decked out with colorful murals and street art. An Iron Dome rocket defense battery sits on the eastern edge of town.
    Rockets have been landing in the town for two decades. During the 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May, nearly 300 rockets were fired at Sderot.
    Despite the protection of the Iron Dome, 10 rockets scored direct hits on buildings - including a strike that killed a 5-year-old boy.
    Local resident Dvora Biton said, "It's something that you think about 24 hours a day. You can't escape it, even when you are sleeping."

Israeli Machines that Produce Water from Air Placed in UAE Parks, Beaches - Michal Michelle Divon (Khaleej Times-UAE)
    In a pilot program by the Abu Dhabi Municipality, 15 medium-size Watergen water-from-air machines were installed in parks and beaches in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and the Abu Dhabi emirate's Western Region in May.
    700 additional machines have been ordered, of which 500 are the newly released Genny home device.
    Watergen and Abu Dhabi-based Al Dahra Holding signed an agreement in November to establish a permanent center in Abu Dhabi for manufacturing and distribution of equipment to produce drinking and irrigation water for the entire Middle East and Africa.
    "Every household in the UAE will have an air-to-water generating machine within the next two years," said Watergen CEO Michael Mirilashvili.

Jordan Employs 850 at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem - Dr. Edy Cohen (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
    Minister of Religion Dr. Muhammad Khalaila told the Jordanian Senate in May that there are 850 workers at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem who are registered as official employees of the Jordanian Ministry of Religion.
    This is curious. As anyone visiting the mosque can attest, no more than a few dozen Jordanian Waqf security guards are visible - certainly nowhere near 850.
    So who are the others, where are they, and what are they doing?
    The writer served for 15 years in the Israeli intelligence community.

Young Israeli Women Are Joining the Border Police - Itsik Saban (Israel Hayom)
    A record number of female recruits joined Israel's Border Police last week, with 320 women slated to begin training.
    The Border Police began deploying female officers in combat roles 25 years ago, pioneering the move for the rest of the security forces.
    In August 2021, 26% of recruits named joining the Border Police as their first choice, and almost 90% named it as a general preference.
    Yet for every 10 recruits wishing to join the Border Police, there is only one spot available.
    Currently, female officers make up 35% of the Border Police's operational manpower.
    They hold key positions in every unit and also hold professional roles, such as combat medics, dog trainers, detectives, and weapons operators.

Israeli High School Graduates Embark as Emissaries to Jewish Communities Worldwide (Jerusalem Post)
    145 Israeli high school graduates will depart this month for a year of volunteer service in Jewish federations, youth groups and day schools around the globe, prior to their army service.
    They will be posted in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Paraguay, South Africa, England, France, Hungary, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, and Monaco - part of the 2,000 Jewish Agency emissaries who act as a living bridge between Israel and world Jewry.

Beersheba: Capital of the Negev - Matti Friedman (Tablet)
    Beersheba, population 200,000, is the "capital of the Negev" and Israel's sixth-largest city.
    David Ben-Gurion knew the future of Israel was in the Negev, which had most of the country's land and almost none of its people, and he famously called on the pioneer youth to make it flower.
    The turning point for the city came in the early 1990s with the great wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. The Russians needed homes and Beersheba needed people.
    Today a quarter of the people who live here were born in the Soviet Union. Beersheba has more chess masters per capita than anywhere else in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iran's Drone Attack on Commercial Ship Is Part of a Pattern of Attacks
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the UN Security Council on Monday: "On July 29th, the Mercer Street, a commercial ship that was peacefully transiting international waters in the North Arabian Sea, was attacked using explosive unmanned aerial vehicles, resulting in the death of two people. Upon review of the available information, we are confident that Iran conducted this unjustified attack, which is part of a pattern of attacks and other provocative behavior....It is on all of our nations to hold accountable those responsible. Failing to do so will only fuel their sense of impunity."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Russian-Backed Truce in Southern Syria Threatens to Unravel - Jared Malsin
    A new fierce assault by Syrian forces has targeted the rebel-held town of Daraa in southern Syria. In 2018, Russia helped negotiate a cease-fire deal between the regime and rebels in Daraa, the birthplace of the Syrian revolution. But renewed fighting and a rising death toll now threaten to unravel the Russian-backed truce.
        At least 90 people, including 27 children, have been killed in shelling by pro-government forces since they laid siege to the Daraa Al-Balad neighborhood of the city at the end of June and cut off food, water, electricity and medical supplies to 50,000 people. Syrian opposition groups are calling on the U.S. to pressure Russia to help stop the Syrian regime offensive. (Wall Street Journal)
  • African Union Commission Chairman Defends Move to Admit Israel as Observer State - Eliud Kibii
    African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki on Friday defended his decision to admit Israel as an African Union observer state. Faki said he made the decision on the basis of recognition of Israel and the restoration of diplomatic relations with more than 2/3 of AU member states and at the express demand of many countries to that end. Israel was admitted as an observer state on July 22 after lobbying for 20 years. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid noted that Israel currently has relations with 46 African countries.
        Faki said the matter will be discussed in the forthcoming session of the Executive Council following reservations by "a few member states."  (The Star-Kenya)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Visits Morocco to Strengthen Ties - Jonathan Lis
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met on Wednesday with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in Rabat, Morocco. He inaugurated Israel's mission in Rabat on Thursday during the first visit by Israel's top diplomat since 2003. Israel and Morocco had low-level diplomatic relations in the 1990s, but Morocco cut them off after the second intifada erupted in 2000. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Lauds Restoration of Ties with Morocco
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on Wednesday: "Jews have lived in Morocco for almost two thousand years....Through most of the periods, the Jews lived here in peace. There was a deep friendship between them and their Moroccan neighbors....Today we are restoring peace, restoring the friendship."
        "Reality is a choice we make. For too many years we have let other people choose for us the way of war. Today we take our destiny into our own hands and choose the path of peace....In the Holy Koran it is written: 'If (they) lean towards peace, you too incline to it.' (Sura 8, verse 61). Hostility and hatred are created by human beings, and human beings can also decide to bring them to an end."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: 5,946 New Cases, 421 in Serious Condition
    The Israel Health Ministry reported 5,946 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, while the number of serious cases reached 421, a six-month high. There are currently 42,203 active cases. (Ha'aretz)
  • China Targets Israel in Massive Cyberattack - Amitai Ziv
    Dozens of Israeli organizations fell victim to a coordinated cyberattack by China's Ministry of State Security, the international cybersecurity company FireEye announced Monday. The attack was part of a broader campaign that targeted other countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Thailand.
        Israeli targets included shipping, high-tech, telecommunications, defense, academia and information technology. They were aimed at stealing know-how, commercial secrets and business intelligence. The hackers mainly took email correspondence and documents. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Chinese Hackers Disguised Themselves as Iran to Target Israel - Patrick Howell O'Neill (MIT Technology Review)
  • Hamas Prevents UN Team from Working near Terror Tunnel next to School
    UN experts arrived at the UNRWA Zaitoun Preparatory Boys' School "A" in Gaza to check for unexploded munitions, but were stopped by Hamas due to proximity to a tunnel, Israel's Channel 11 reported Tuesday.
        Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan on Wednesday shared photos of the tunnel and demanded that the UN secretary-general and director-general of UNRWA investigate the incident. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • How Iran's Deadly Tanker Attack Is Linked to the Nuclear Deal - Robert Satloff
    Washington, together with other maritime powers, is the ultimate guarantor of freedom of navigation in the world's oceans - a vital U.S. interest. It would be unwise to delink Iran's drone attack on the Mercer Street in international waters from the ongoing negotiations over a possible return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The U.S. decision to identify Iran as the culprit and promise, in the words of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, "an appropriate response," reflects an important stage in the debate over how Washington should act.
        Far from derailing a possible deal, a U.S. response to the attack would remove one of the main reasons the talks are stuck. Tehran and its proxies have been aggressively testing the White House and are likely to continue ratcheting up attacks. An effective U.S. response would affect Iran's calculus. Such a response might include targeting Revolutionary Guard naval bases, factories assembling or producing parts for military drones, or facilities supporting the export of weaponry to Iranian proxies. This would be a far cry from pinprick action against proxy groups and mere public declarations, both of which only invite further Iranian testing.
        Such a response would signal to U.S. regional allies that shrinking the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East does not mean Washington is shirking its role as a guarantor of international norms, including freedom of maritime navigation.
        The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Foreign Policy)
  • Iran Is Testing All Boundaries - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    Iran is pushing an escalation with Israel to deter it from continuing to attack Iranian targets in Syria. At the same time, Iran is pursuing a similar policy with the U.S. to persuade it to be more flexible on the nuclear deal.
        Israel must continue to act resolutely to thwart the Iranian nuclear project and to undermine the Iranian effort to establish itself in Syria and provide Hizbullah with advanced weapons. Moreover, a joint mechanism must be activated with the Americans that will allow the U.S. Fifth Fleet to intercept Iranian UAVs in flight.
        The writer, Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence. (N12-Hebrew, 5Aug2021)
  • Iran's Proxy War Against Israel and the 2021 Gaza Conflict - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Assaf Orion
    At the strategic level, Iran is building forward proxies, like Hamas and Hizbullah, on the borders of its rivals. Iran finances, arms, trains, and guides them, and then empowers them to make decisions about when to use this force. As is said in Asian philosophy, the regime "allows the situation to come about." Iran creates the potential, and then people say, "Oh, it happened by itself." Forward military proxies allow Iran to try to exhaust its rivals, to divert them and to draw their efforts and attention to the proxies rather than to Iran itself.
        In the May 2021 Gaza War, Iran saw that Israeli munitions penetrated the subterranean tunnel system that Hamas called the City of Jihad - a subterranean fighting city. On all its attack venues, Hamas actually failed. Its naval attacks, including submarine drones, and its aerial attacks of flying drones, failed. On tunnel attacks, Hamas lost a couple of teams that were supposed to assault Israel under our fences, but they were detected and bombed.
        On rocket fire, out of 4,500 rockets launched, 15-20% fell in Gaza, and 1,500 were intercepted, which is about 90% of those heading into populated areas in Israel. All in all, Israel suffered 150 impacts, with 12 civilian fatalities within Israel.
        The writer is a senior research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. (Mosaic)

  • Palestinians

  • Hamas' Advanced Weaponry: Rockets, Artillery, Drones, Cyber - Lenny Ben-David
    During the May 2021 Gaza War, the IDF identified a Hamas naval commando base with a tunnel extending dozens of meters into the sea. An investigation showed that the tunnel was financed with funds siphoned from the UN Development Agency. For many years, weapons for Hamas have been dropped into the sea in sealed capsules miles off the coast of Gaza.
        In the 11 days of the 2021 war, Hamas launched 400 rockets a day, nearly four times the daily average number of launches in 2014. Hamas also launched six suicide drones. All were intercepted by Israel, some by classified means.
        Hamas established electronic warfare units that sought to neutralize Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system and disrupt IDF communications. One of these units was based in the Jalaa building in Gaza City, which also housed the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. Israel struck at least 10 Hamas cyber and electronic warfare targets during the war.
        The writer served 25 years in senior posts in AIPAC in Washington and Jerusalem, and as Israel's Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington. This study is part of the Jerusalem Center research report: The Gaza War 2021: Hamas and Iran Attack Israel. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Deadly Clan Feud Erupts in Hebron - Mohammad Al-Kassim
    Hebron erupted in violence last week after the killing of Basil Fakhri al-Jabari, a man from the Jabari clan, allegedly at the hands of members of the Awiwi family. A feud going back 15 years between two of Hebron's largest families saw tribal rule assert its supremacy in part of the Palestinian Authority. Members of the Jabari family attacked and burned vehicles and shops belonging to members of the Awiwi family last week and appeared in public carrying guns.
        "The only force in Hebron that has the power to stop all this is the tribal elders," said Abdel Ra'ouf Alnatsheh, a family elder. "Historically, loyalty and respect for families and tribes is far more important than the central government." Abu Khaled Ghaith, a well-known tribal elder, explained that in the absence of strong and credible central government that is well respected among the people, tribal law flourishes. (Media Line)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel's "Citizenship and Entry into Israel" Law - Amb. Alan Baker
    Tragically, many acts of terror have been carried out by those possessing Israeli identity cards attained through marriage and family unification with Israeli Arab citizens or residents. A 2018 report by the Israel Security Agency noted that since 2001, 155 individuals involved in terrorist activities had obtained entry to Israel under family reunification laws. Thus, Israel's "Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law" is considered necessary to maintain national security.
        Moreover, Israel's sovereign prerogative to restrict the acquisition of its citizenship and residence in its territory is no different from the practice of other sovereign states and is in accordance with international law.
        The writer, former legal counsel to Israel's foreign ministry, heads the international law program at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Radicalization of Israeli Arabs - Prof. Efraim Karsh
    The May 2021 riots by Israeli Arabs, like their October 2000 precursor, were not an act of social protest but a nationalist/Islamist insurrection in support of an external attack. It was not socioeconomic grievances that drove the Israeli Arabs to wreak wanton violence on their Jewish compatriots but the growing radicalization attending the decades-long betterment of their socioeconomic condition. The more prosperous, affluent, better educated, and politically aware they became, the greater their leadership's incitement against their state of citizenship.
        Of course, many Israeli Arabs would be content to get on with their lives and take advantage of the freedoms and opportunities afforded by Israel, no matter how much they might resent their minority status in a Jewish state. Yet from the onset of the Arab-Israeli conflict a century ago, Palestinian Arab society has always comprised militant segments sufficiently large to allow its perennially extremist leadership to sway the silent majority into repeated disasters. Israel's Arab leaders used their constituents' vast socioeconomic progress over the past decades as a vehicle of radicalization rather than moderation.
        The writer, Professor Emeritus of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London, is Director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Egypt's Nile Water Conspiracies - Haisam Hassanein
    The Israeli embassy in Cairo tweeted a denial on July 18 of accusations circulating in Egyptian media that Jerusalem is threatening Egyptian national security with its involvement in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project. In 2019, Israel had to refute claims that its defense systems were being used to protect the dam. Widely viewed MBC anchor Amr Adib said that if the Israelis swore that they have nothing to do with the Nile water, he would not believe them.
        Historically, Egyptian elite circles have been obsessed with the idea that Israel is trying to "steal" the Nile water. In April, Dostor newspaper published a report by Gen. Hamdy al-Batran stating that in 1903, Theodor Herzl proposed to the British government a plan to transfer water from the Nile into Palestine.
        Many Egyptians see Israel negatively, and narratives that cement these feelings can become quite popular, regardless of veracity. Moreover, the fact that Egyptians believe Israel is looking for other water sources despite the country having water security from desalination plants reflects an ignorance about Israeli priorities. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Hizbullah Has Alienated Many Lebanese - Michael Young
    Since the uprising against the political class in October 2019, Hizbullah has made numerous errors that have only led more Lebanese to oppose its standing in the country. Two weeks ago, Hizbullah members clashed with armed members of a Sunni tribe in Beirut. Days later, when a truck loaded with rockets drove through the Druze village of Shouwayya, villagers stopped it, roughed up the Hizbullah members, and confiscated the truck. They were furious that Hizbullah was firing from near their village, and that Israel might retaliate against them.
        Maronite Patriarch Bishara al-Rai, in his weekly sermon, affirmed that the Lebanese state alone should have the right to declare war, implicitly criticizing Hizbullah's rocket attack against the Israelis.
        Hizbullah is now seen as the prime protector of a corrupt political class. It has only exacerbated the dire economic situation by smuggling subsidized fuel to Syria. Many Lebanese also believe Hizbullah brought in the ammonium nitrate that exploded in Beirut port on August 4, 2020. An increasing number of Lebanese are realizing that the concept of a Lebanese state cannot coexist with a powerful armed militia serving an outside power.
        The writer is a senior editor at the Carnegie Center. (Carnegie Middle East Center-Lebanon)
  • Ben and Jerry: Men of Unjust Deserts - Clifford D. May
    Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, headlined, "We're Ben and Jerry. Men of Ice Cream, Men of Principle." They said, "it's possible to support Israel and oppose some of its policies." Agreed. The policy they most vociferously oppose is the presence of Israelis in the West Bank.
        But consider: If Israelis were to withdraw from the West Bank, as they withdrew from Gaza in 2005, is it not probable (inevitable?) that the West Bank would become what Gaza has become, with repeated wars against Israelis utilizing rockets, terrorist tunnels, and incendiary kites and balloons? If Hamas takes over the West Bank, how long before rockets are fired at Israelis in nearby Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?
        Israelis have tried to work out a two-state solution. Offers were made in 2000, 2001, and 2008, not to mention the 1937 Peel Commission proposal and the 1947 UN plan. Those offers were rejected by Palestinian leaders. It's been years since PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been willing to engage in serious talks with Israelis.
        The writer is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • Anti-Semitism Isn't Merely Another Kind of Hate - Ruth Wisse
    The Arab League launched the original pan-Arab boycott of Israel in 1945, defining any Jewish presence in Palestine as an occupation of Arab territory. The U.S. intervened to thwart the boycott because Israel's destruction was inconsistent with American values. But America has changed. At the end of the 20th century, a home-grown boycott, divestment and sanctions movement became an American arm of the war against Israel, uniting a self-defined progressive coalition on the side of Arab-Muslim rejectionism.
        Anti-Semitism is more than just a form of hatred; people organize against the Jews as part of an ideological struggle. Zionists who thought anti-Semitism was directed against them because of their dispersion were surprised to find it was even easier to blame them in their homeland. Since 1945, the driving force of anti-Jewish politics has been the Arab-Muslim war against the Jewish state, supported by Marxist ideology.
        The writer is professor emerita of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Institutions Abandoning the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism Court Danger - Fiamma Nirenstein
    The Jerusalem Center held a book launch on August 11, 2021, for Double Message, Double Standard: Institutions Abandoning the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism Court Danger, by Fiamma Nirenstein. Other speakers included Amb. Alan Baker, Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, and Dan Diker.
        Read the book online. Download the book (pdf). View the discussion. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Iran Nukes the Case for a Biden Deal - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)
  • The optimistic case for restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal has died. Like so many other innocents, it died at the hands of Ebrahim Raisi, the hanging judge handpicked by Iran's supreme leader to guide the Islamic Republic through the Biden years.
  • For Iran optimists, the goal of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was not only the normalization of U.S.-Iranian relations but the normalization of Iran. A non-nuclear Iran would become a stable, democratic force in the Middle East, optimists believed. But by ruthlessly engineering the election of a hard-liner's hard-liner to the presidency, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has slammed the door on normalization and nailed it shut.
  • On the American side, the deal is looking less attractive within and without the administration. Iran has accelerated its uranium enrichment and other bomb-related activities to the point where the 2015 nuclear deal begins to look meaningless. Sunset provisions built into the original agreement have already begun to kick in, and key restraints on both bomb-making and missile-development programs begin to disappear this presidential term.
  • Likely believing the White House is bent on Middle East withdrawal, Tehran seems to have decided to double down on its confrontational approach to capitalize on perceived U.S. weakness. In the process, Iran is destabilizing the region and increasing the danger of war.
  • Israel and its newfound Arab allies face an existential choice. Will they accept Tehran as a regional hegemon as the U.S. withdraws, or will they resist? If they choose the path of defiance, will America be able to stay out of the ensuing war?
  • A deepening confrontation with a radicalizing Iran is not what the Biden administration expected from its Middle East policy, but that is the reality with which it must cope. Attempting to placate Tehran through patience and restraint will likely only stoke the regime's ambitions. The smell of blood in the water rarely inspires feelings of moderation and restraint among sharks.

    The writer, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, is Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College.
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