September 15, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Guards Physically Harassed Female UN Nuclear Inspectors, Diplomats Say - Laurence Norman (Wall Street Journal)
    Iranian security guards have physically harassed several female UN atomic agency inspectors at the Natanz nuclear facility since June, diplomats say, and the U.S. has demanded that Iran stop the behavior immediately.
    One diplomat said there had been at least four separate incidents of harassment. A second diplomat said there had been five to seven.

Drones Strike Pro-Iran Militants in Syria (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights-UK)
    Several vehicles belonging to Iranian-backed militias were destroyed just after crossing into Syria from Iraq, via unofficial crossings near al-Bokamal, as unidentified drones targeted them with four strikes.

U.S. Releasing Some Military Aid to Egypt (Israel Hayom)
    The Biden administration is releasing $170 million in military aid to Egypt but will hold back $130 million over human rights concerns, the State Department said Tuesday.
    The administration has the authority to waive human rights conditions placed on the assistance by Congress, in order to preserve continued engagement with Egypt as a critical national security interest.
    The withheld amount will be released "if the government of Egypt affirmatively addresses specific human-rights-related conditions," the department said.

Germany Arrests Man for Shipping Equipment for Iran's Nuclear Program (Reuters)
    German police arrested a German-Iranian man suspected of exporting equipment to be used in Iran's nuclear and missile programs in breach of EU sanctions, Germany's federal prosecutor said Tuesday.

Ohio Man Sentenced to 20 Years for Plotting Attack on Toledo Synagogue - Michael Sandlin (WTOL11-Toledo)
    Damon Joseph, also known as Abdullah Ali Yusuf, was convicted in May of supporting the ISIS terrorist organization and plotting an attack on a Toledo-area synagogue.
    On Monday he was sentenced to 20 years in prison and supervised release for life.
    The prosecution noted that Joseph told authorities he had a nine-point plan to commit mass murder on the local Jewish community and made plans with an undercover agent he thought was a fellow ISIS sympathizer.
    See also Man Sentenced for Planning Attack on Synagogue (U.S. Justice Department)

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Iran's Energy Diplomacy - Dr. Rodger Shanahan (Lowy Institute-Australia)
    Iran uses its energy exports to take advantage of regional states' inability to fulfill their own domestic requirements, and exert its influence throughout the Middle East.
    In Iraq, Iranian gas and electricity powers more than a third of the country, particularly in the south.
    Tehran also exports electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Turkey, though there has been a recent drop-off in energy imports from that country.
    In Lebanon, where the price of petrol has risen by 220% in a year, Iran's Lebanese ally Hizbullah claimed that Lebanon would be importing Iranian oil paid for in Lebanese pounds.
    At the same time, this summer saw power blackouts in parts of Iran as increased demand (including from Bitcoin miners) coincided with reduced hydro-electricity output during drought conditions.

New York Times Mangles Jewish History - Tamar Sternthal (CAMERA)
    The New York Times on Sep. 11 discussed "Legend of Destruction," an animated film about the destruction of the Second Temple and the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans.
    Isabel Kershner writes: "The Jews enjoyed two previous periods of sovereignty in the land in ancient times, but both lasted only about 70 or 80 years."
    In fact, the Kingdom of Judah was extant for more than 300 years, from the time of the collapse of the United Kingdom of Israel in 922 BCE until the Babylonian conquest in 586 BCE.
    Prior to that, the United Kingdom lasted for a century, starting around 1020 BCE.
    The northern Kingdom of Israel, the other half of the United Kingdom, lasted for 200 years.
    In addition, there was the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted for 80 years.

Morocco Strengthens Ties with Israel as Internal Opposition Grows - Sami Erchoff (Inside Arabia)
    Morocco's hosting of an Israeli delegation in August, led by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, was the first high-level bilateral meeting between the two countries since 2003.
    Moroccan authorities have endeavored to present the normalization as a reconciliation between two natural allies due to the "Moroccanness" of so many Israelis, with over 800,000 Jews of Moroccan origin in Israel.
    Diplomatic normalization was simply an opportunity for the Kingdom to recognize and strengthen cooperation that has always existed and meets essential needs - primarily in the areas of health, technology, tourism, defense, and cybersecurity.
    Israel intervened with Pfizer so that the Kingdom could receive a shipment of two million Covid-19 vaccination doses.
    Even before the normalization, some 50,000-70,000 Israeli tourists of Moroccan origin visited the Kingdom every year.
    Yet in an opinion poll by The Arab Barometer, 59% of Moroccans say they are hostile to normalization between Morocco and Israel.
    Several political parties have accused the Moroccan state of betraying the Palestinian cause and collaborating with the Zionists.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Down But Not Defeated, Thousands of Islamic State Insurgents Wage Syrian Fight Anew - Louisa Loveluck
    Two and a half years after its caliphate was extinguished by a U.S.-led coalition, Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria are down but not defeated. They have melted back to their insurgent roots, seeding sleeper cells across the region, as well as in neighboring Iraq, and using improvised explosives and small arms to target security forces and government employees.
        This part of Syria is run by a Kurdish-dominated authority and secured by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Some 900 U.S. troops are still in the area, patrolling oil infrastructure and supporting the SDF. The U.S.-led coalition estimates that between 8,000 and 16,000 Islamic State fighters still operate in Syria and Iraq. (Washington Post)
  • New Jersey Moves to Divest Investments in Unilever after Ben and Jerry's Israel Boycott - David Wildstein
    New Jersey plans to divest investments in Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry's, after an internal investigation found the ice cream company sought to boycott Israel, the state Division of Investment said Tuesday. "No pension fund assets may be invested in the company, and DOI shall take appropriate action to sell or divest any existing pension fund investments," said the director of the New Jersey Division of Investment, Shoaib Khan. Uniliver has 90 days to appeal the decision. (New Jersey Globe)
  • Burlington City Council Withdraws Resolution Boycotting Israel - Grace Elletson
    The Burlington City Council on Monday dropped a proposal to boycott the State of Israel. The resolution's lead sponsor, Councilor Ali Dieng, moved to withdraw his own proposal from the agenda. After receiving more than 2,000 emails from people across the country expressing concern about the resolution, he came to the conclusion that it was one-sided.
        Jewish Communities of Vermont, a statewide organization, argued: "That the Council will use its precious resources to debate an extremely complex, contentious, divisive issue of international politics is a tip-off to its real intent: to bring harm to Israel and the Jewish community through opposition to the one and only Jewish state, Israel. BDS is not a constructive movement to bring peace, it is a hateful initiative to target Israel alone."  (VTDigger-Vermont)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli and Egyptian Leaders Discuss Iranian Threat, Hamas - Tovah Lazaroff
    Disarming Hamas, the return of Israeli hostages from Gaza, and halting Iranian aggression were high on the agenda when Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm e-Sheikh on Monday. They also discussed Turkey's activity in Libya, the crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia, and expanding bilateral trade and tourism. The two leaders met privately for three hours, conversing with the help of translators. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PM Bennett Meets with Egyptian President El-Sisi in Sharm El-Sheikh (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Sisi Discusses Middle East Peace Process with Israeli PM Bennett in Sharm El-Sheikh (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
  • EgyptAir to Begin Direct Tel Aviv-Cairo Flights - Tal Schneider
    EgyptAir, the national airline of Egypt, is slated to operate direct flights between Cairo and Tel Aviv beginning in October. Currently, the only flights are operated by Air Sinai, a subsidiary of EgyptAir, which uses unmarked planes without the Egyptian flag. (Times of Israel)
  • New Houthi Attacks on Strategic Targets in Saudi Arabia and Yemen - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Houthi rebels in Yemen have intensified attacks since late August with weaponized drones and ballistic missiles against civilian and military strategic targets in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. On August 29, the Iranian-supported rebels attacked the Saudi airbase of al-Anad, north of Aden, killing more than 30 soldiers and wounding more than 60. Two days later, a bomb-laden drone hit the Saudi airport in Abha, injuring 8.
        At the same time, the U.S. has removed its most advanced missile defense system (THAAD) and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia.
        The writer is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Saudi Defenses Destroy Houthi Drone
    Saudi air defenses on Wednesday destroyed an explosives-laden drone launched by Yemen's Houthi group toward Abha airport in the southwest of the kingdom, the Saudi-owned al-Hadath channel reported. (Reuters)
  • Two Israelis Stabbed by Palestinian near Jerusalem Central Bus Station
    Basil Shawamra, 17, a Palestinian from the Hebron area, stabbed two Israelis outside the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem on Monday before being shot by a police officer. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    Israeli and Egyptian Leaders Meet

  • When Israeli and Egyptian Leaders Meet - Haisam Hassanein
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met on Monday with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm al-Sheikh, the first Israeli leader to openly visit Egypt since 2011. Cairo's trust in Jerusalem has grown significantly in the past ten years, buoyed by high-level military and intelligence cooperation. Unlike other regional actors, Israel has not interfered in Egypt's internal affairs, instead helping the country with border security, economic issues, and political backing in Washington.
        The normalization deals that Israel struck with the UAE, Bahrain, and other partners over the past year have shaken Cairo's longstanding status as the main Arab interlocutor with Jerusalem. The celebratory atmosphere surrounding subsequent people-to-people interactions and rapid economic deals were met with distaste among Egyptian pro-government elites, some of whom engaged in verbal clashes with their Gulf counterparts on social media.
        Cairo has yet to address the proliferation of Egyptian television programming that promotes anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli conspiracies among large Arab audiences at home and abroad. This Ramadan, for example, a show titled "Counterattack" propagated the notion that Israel has been secretly paying Arab nationals in Europe and the U.S. to undermine Egyptian interests. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel-Egypt Relations: Peace between Governments, Not Peoples - Keren Setton
    More than 40 years after Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in March 1979, there "is a peace between regimes, not between people...based largely on mutual security interests," said Dr. Udi Balanga, an expert on Egypt from Bar-Ilan University. "There is a huge gap between security and defense relations, which are excellent, and civilian relations. At the level of the peoples, relations are very poor....There is no Egyptian will to create normalization."
        The Egyptian media and education system still disseminate much anti-Israel content. Leading intellectuals are Israel's staunchest critics, often spreading incitement and conspiracy theories about the Jewish state. "Generation after generation of Egyptians still see Israel as an enemy state," said Balanga. "Israel is seen as a very strong state in the region and this is viewed as a threat."
        At the same time, "in recent years, there are more and more economic ties between the countries," said Dr. Nimrod Goren, head of Mitvim - The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies. "There are also increasing civilian aspects to the relations. It looks like there is a decision on the Egyptian side that the relations can be upgraded and given more visibility."  (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • Will the U.S. Take a Tough Stance Against Increased Houthi Attacks on Saudi Arabia? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Is there a connection between the hasty U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the significant escalation in attacks on Saudi Arabia by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen? Many Arab political analysts and writers are convinced that the flawed handling of the crisis in Afghanistan has emboldened various extremist Islamic groups, including the Houthis, who are now threatening Washington's Arab friends and allies.
        The main concern for the Arabs is that the "humiliating" manner in which the U.S. ended its presence in Afghanistan has sent a message to Iran and its proxies that the Americans are not only weak, but that they cannot be trusted to support or defend their allies. The Houthis appear to be telling themselves: If the U.S. is so weak, perhaps this is the right time to step up the attacks on Saudi Arabia. So far, the U.S. has failed to take a tough stance against the increased Houthi attacks on the Saudi kingdom. (Gatestone Institute)
  • U.S. Pressure for Palestinian Consulate in Jerusalem Is a Step Back - Editorial
    The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking the reopening of a special consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinians, in addition to the U.S. embassy in Israel's capital. This is designed to send a message that Jerusalem is a shared city and could also be the capital of a Palestinian state.
        For Israel, this would be a step back from accomplishments achieved during the previous U.S. administration and would once again give Palestinians false hopes that they will have a hold on the city that was reunified by Israel in 1967.
        It is important that Israel explain to the Biden administration that the opening of the consulate is not a technical matter. It undermines Israel's sovereignty in the city that has served as the Jewish people's capital for 3,000 years. (Jerusalem Post)
  • It Is a Delusion to Believe the Taliban Rebrand - Lt.-Gen. (ret.) H.R. McMaster
    Motivated by the desire to justify the surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban, Western military and political leaders have forgotten who it was we fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan for two decades. Some now talk about "Taliban 2.0," as if it's a different entity, somehow, from the one that harbored al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden as he plotted the mass murder of 2,977 innocents on U.S. soil 20 years ago.
        The Taliban are determined to impose a brutal form of sharia on the Afghan people and are intertwined with terrorists determined to continue their jihad against all who do not conform to their perverted interpretation of Islam. After their defeat in 2001, the Taliban regenerated, with the help of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and al-Qaeda. The new Afghan interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the military commander of the Taliban and the leader of a terrorist organization connected to al-Qaeda that specializes in kidnapping and mass murder attacks.
       The first step in mitigating the calamity in Afghanistan is moral clarity based on an understanding of these enemies of humanity.
        The writer is a former U.S. national security advisor who served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army for 34 years, including service in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The Times-UK)
  • The Foundations of the Failed Lebanese State - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
    Caught in an endless political deadlock, Lebanon has become a failed state, unable to provide governance because of its sectarian-based political system, a state that has declared bankruptcy.
        The Lebanon of today is an artificial creation of the French Mandate, which, at the request of the then-Maronite Patriarch, added in 1920 geographical areas populated with Sunni and Shiite Muslims to a homogenous Maronite Christian territory. The act laid the foundations of the failed state of today; the short-sighted Maronites became the victims of their creation.
        Adding insult to injury, the heads of the Christian and Sunni communities decided in 1943 on a division of national leadership positions that ignored the rights of the Shiite community and left the richest ministries and national institutions in the hands of the Maronites and the Sunnites. The resultant imbalance could not last long. Lebanon, the only Arab state governed by non-Muslims, could not resist the assault of Arab nationalism and later the growing Shiite and Sunni resentment.
        Lebanon's President Michel Aoun followed the examples of Lebanese leaders who preceded him and struck deals with foreign powers to assure their tenure. He decided that aligning with Iran's Shiite Hizbullah movement would assure the continuation of the Christian presence in the country.
        The writer, a Middle East analyst at the Jerusalem Center, was former Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Features

  • Soviet Jewish Activist Ida Nudel Dies at 90 - Steve Linde
    Ida Nudel, a Prisoner of Zion who made aliyah to Israel in 1987 after winning her battle against the Soviet Union, died on Tuesday at the age of 90. Known as the "Guardian Angel" for the campaign she led to provide aid to Prisoners of Zion in Soviet jails, Nudel was the most famous female refusenik.
        In 1972, she organized a hunger strike at Communist Party headquarters to protest the arrest of another refusenik. After placing a protest poster against the KGB in her apartment in 1978 which read, "KGB, Give Me My Visa," she was banished to Siberia for four years. Nudel received a hero's welcome when she arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport, where she was greeted by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, and thousands of others.
        In Israel she established a nonprofit which provided after-school activities for the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. As a human rights activist, in 2005 she petitioned the High Court of Justice to pressure the government to take action on behalf of 15 Palestinian collaborators facing death sentences in Palestinian Authority jails. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Drone Dome Secured G7 UK Summit - Danny Zaken
    Israel's Drone Dome, produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, was deployed to protect the G7 summit in Britain in June. The UK's Ministry of Defense procured several Drone Dome systems three years ago and it is already operational with the UK armed forces.
        The system is able to counter multiple, simultaneous attacks. It is built to tackle smaller, slower, low-flying threats that pose a significant challenge for radar systems built to seek larger, more conventional targets. (Globes)
  • Israel Honors Brave Greeks Who Saved Jewish Girl from the Holocaust - Tasos Kokkinidis
    Israeli Ambassador Yossi Amrani on Thursday presented the Righteous Among the Nations medal from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel to Vasiliki and Dimitrios Kiakidis - posthumously - for rescuing Donna Rodrig, a Greek Jew, during World War II, in Komotini in northern Greece. The couple's grandson, Dimitris Kiakidis, received the award.
        Amrani pointed out that they risked their lives to save their Jewish compatriot. Dimitrios Kiakidis was a doctor with a small private clinic. He met Donna in 1942 and offered her a job and to live with his family, looking after the children. With the beginning of the persecution of the Jews in 1943, Kiakidis obtained a fake Christian identity card for Donna and then sent her to the safety of a mountain village. 83% of the 59,000 Greek Jews were deported and exterminated by the Nazis including all of Donna's relatives."  (Greek Reporter)

Israel Is Becoming America's Most Important Ally - Amb. Ron Dermer interviewed by Ethan Bronner (JTA)
  • Israel's emergence as a regional power has been accelerated by a perception among our Arab neighbors that the U.S. role in the region is being reduced. Therefore, Israel's role in the strategic calculations of countries in the region is becoming more important, and the need to work with Israel, in terms of dealing with common challenges, becomes more important. There is a concern not only from Iran's fanaticism and radical revolutionary policies, but also from Sunni radical movements like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
  • You have a situation where you've got this Iranian tiger, and you've got this ISIS - or whatever comes next - leopard, and then you have an 800-pound American gorilla that's leaving the building. And so they look around and see, "well, there's this 250-pound gorilla wearing a kippah. Maybe we should work with them more closely."
  • In 2014, I said that I believe Israel will be the most important ally of the United States in the 21st century because of security and technology. Israel has a military that can defend itself by itself. Israel has a formidable intelligence capability and the finest intelligence service in the world. Israel is renowned for its cyber capabilities. Great Britain and Israel are the two allies whom the U.S. can partner with on a global level in terms of cyber. Then you have offensive and defensive weapons-making capabilities. There is the Iron Dome system that we jointly developed with the U.S. We have the Trophy system which helps tanks to avoid incoming missiles.
  • Israel, being the startup nation, is an emerging technology power and this affects its relations with other states. We are the second great center of innovation in the world after Silicon Valley. To the extent that leaders in the Arab world want to catapult their countries forward, Israel becomes a very good ally to do that with.
  • I think Israeli and American interests are moving closer together, not further apart. If the U.S. is going to withdraw militarily from the region, then the importance of having a solid, reliable, democratic ally in the heart of this region grows. Israel is bringing a lot more to the table than it did years ago.
  • The recipe for success is to confront Iran, embrace your allies in the region, and leave the door open for the Palestinians if they want to actually engage with us to reach peace. But don't give them veto power. The Palestinian Authority has poisoned an entire generation of Palestinians to hate Israel, to hate Jews, and has shown no willingness whatsoever to reach a historic compromise.
  • If you want to focus on the chances of the Palestinians moving towards peace, don't focus on what diplomats in Europe or the U.S. are saying. Just turn on a television set; look at what the Palestinians are watching; look at what they're reading. And then you understand whether or not you have a force here that is willing to compromise. There are Palestinians who would really like to reach a compromise with Israel, but they are not the ascendant force today.

    Ron Dermer served as Israel's ambassador to the U.S. from 2013 to 2021.

        See also Interview with Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
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