October 18, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

British MP Stabbed to Death in Islamist Terror Attack - Doug Faulkner (BBC News)
    British MP Sir David Amess was stabbed to death on Friday as he met with constituents in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex.
    The Metropolitan Police said, "The early investigation has revealed a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."
    Ali Harbi Ali, 25, a Briton of Somali heritage, is being held by police under the Terrorism Act.
    See also Murdered British MP "a True Friend of the Jewish Community and the State of Israel"  (Jerusalem Post)

Microsoft Says Iran Hackers Targeting Israeli, U.S. Defense Technology Firms (Microsoft)
    The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) has observed the Iran-linked DEV-0343 conducting extensive password spraying to gain unauthorized access to Office 365 accounts, with a focus on U.S. and Israeli defense technology companies, Persian Gulf ports of entry, or global maritime transportation companies with business presence in the Middle East.
    This activity likely supports the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
    Microsoft assesses this targeting supports Iranian government tracking of adversary security services and maritime shipping, as well as gaining access to commercial satellite imagery.
    See also Google Warns Iran behind Cyberattacks - Ajax Bash (Google)
    Google's Threat Analysis Group has disrupted notable attacks this year from APT35, a government-backed Iranian group.
    For years, this group has hijacked accounts, deployed malware, and used novel techniques to conduct espionage aligned with the interests of the Iranian government.
    In May 2020, we discovered that APT35 attempted to upload spyware to the Google Play Store.
    The app was disguised as VPN software that, if installed, could steal sensitive information.

Israel Has a Plan B on Iranian Nukes - Eli Lake (Bloomberg-Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The 2015 deal was a partial and temporary constraint on Iran's nuclear program.
    It erodes U.S. credibility to pretend a return to the 2015 bargain would place Iran's nuclear program in a box.
    The good news is that there is another way to constrain Iran's nuclear ambitions. For several years now, Israel's Mossad has waged a remarkably successful intelligence war against Iran's nuclear program.
    Even though Iran has demonstrated the capability to enrich uranium to a high enough concentration for a weapon, Israel has degraded its ability to place that fuel in a warhead.
    Some of this success is due to the Central Intelligence Agency's close coordination with the Mossad.
    Such intelligence operations are a better option than expecting a regime of fanatics to be cowed by vague talk of new options and nostalgia for a weak nuclear agreement.

Iran's Syria Project Begins to Stutter - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Since Israel started taking action against the Iranian presence in Syria, the Iranians have reduced their presence near Damascus airport, centering much of their activity in the T-4 air force base, east of Homs, much farther from the border with Israel.
    Western intelligence sources estimate that the number of pro-Iranian Shiite militiamen in Syria has been halved, from 20,000 to 10,000.
    Tehran is having difficulty financing its Syrian project.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syria Claims Official Killed in Syrian Golan Heights - Ronen Bergman
    The Syrian government said Saturday that Syrian official Midhat Saleh was shot and killed by a sniper inside the Syrian Golan Heights near the border with Israel. Saleh served 12 years in an Israeli prison on terrorism charges before he was released in 1997 and went to Syria. A senior Israeli defense official said Saleh was working with Iran's Revolutionary Guard to establish the military infrastructure along the border necessary for an attack against Israel. He headed Syria's Golan Office and was an adviser to President Bashar al-Assad. (New York Times)
  • EU: Iran Not Ready to Resume Nuclear Deal Talks - Jan Strupczewski
    Iran is not ready to return to talks with world powers over its nuclear program yet, EU political director Enrique Mora, the chief coordinator for the talks, said Friday after visiting Tehran on Thursday. (Reuters)
        See also Israel Believes Iran Is Delaying Restart of Nuclear Talks to Stockpile Uranium - Amos Harel
    Officials in Israel increasingly suspect that Iran is purposely stalling and has no interest in quickly resuming the talks on signing a new nuclear accord in order to continue enriching uranium. (Ha'aretz)
  • Investigation of Beirut Port Blast Leads to Armed Clashes in Lebanon - Michael Young
    On Oct. 14, fighting broke out in Beirut between Hizbullah and unidentified gunmen believed to be from the Christian Lebanese Forces militia, as protestors were heading toward the Palace of Justice to oppose the ongoing investigation into the Beirut port blast of Aug. 4, 2020. The fighting killed seven people and injured 32. A majority of the victims of the port explosion were Christian, and many Christians believe Hizbullah was responsible for the explosion. (Carnegie Middle East Center)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • A U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinians Extends the Conflict - Yaakov Katz
    The American intention to open a consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinians will likely bring down the current Israeli government. A senior minister said, "This will bring down the government, and we have explained that to the Americans." Prime Minister Bennett told President Biden in August that in the wake of such a U.S. move, other countries would follow suit and also open a consulate in Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians.
        Yet the bigger problem is that it will undermine a historical truth: Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people since King David moved there. Moreover, the opening of a consulate will offer a false narrative that will make the Palestinians even more intransigent in future peace talks with Israel.
        The Biden administration might think that it is "deepening ties with the Palestinians," but what it will really do is give them a false hope that one day they will receive Jerusalem. This will undermine advancing the chance for peace and will only push it farther away.
        Peace talks have failed because the Palestinians always say no. This will not change by providing the Palestinians with dreams that one day Jerusalem will again be divided. Opening a consulate only deepens the conflict, ensuring that it will continue longer than it has to. The U.S. administration should show the Palestinians that there are some facts that are accepted. One is that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Want to open a consulate? Do it in Ramallah or Abu Dis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Killed while Throwing Firebombs at Israeli Vehicles in West Bank
    Israeli soldiers opened fire at two Palestinians who were throwing firebombs at Israeli vehicles near the village of Beit Jala, south of Jerusalem, in the West Bank on Thursday. One was killed and the other was arrested. A Hamas flag was found at the lookout point used by the two. Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, sits above Route 60, a main traffic artery. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Arrests Two Palestinians Who Planted Bomb on Gaza Border
    The IDF arrested two Palestinians on the Gaza border Friday night, after they were seen planting a bomb near the security barrier. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • On Iran, Hope Is Not a Strategy - Josh Rogin
    U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said Wednesday that the Biden team is working on a Plan B, given that the new Iranian leadership has shown no interest in returning to the talks in Vienna. "We have to prepare for a world...where Iran doesn't have constraints on its nuclear program and we have to consider options for dealing with that, even as we hope that we can get back to the deal....We have to deal with all options to address Iran's nuclear program if it's not prepared to come back into the constraints of 2016," Malley said.
        The Biden team must quickly decide - and then announce - what it actually intends to do to prevent Iran from ramping up its nuclear program. The U.S. needs to act before Iran reaches the point where Israel responds. (Washington Post)
  • A New Jerusalem Consulate for the Palestinians Will Again Proclaim: Jerusalem Is Not in Israel - Nathan Lewin and Alyza D. Lewin
    The Biden administration's intent to open a U.S. consulate-general in Jerusalem for the Palestinians is not a minor administrative change. It is nothing less than a devious scheme to reverse U.S. recognition that Jerusalem is in Israel, pressuring Israel to abandon its claim to sovereignty over its own capital city.
        For 70 years, the U.S. refused to formally recognize the City of Jerusalem as being in the State of Israel. It took us 18 years of pro bono litigation, with two appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court, to overturn the State Department's position that treated as stateless thousands of American citizens born in Jerusalem. We represented Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky soon after he was born in Jerusalem when his American-born parents sought for him what most people take for granted - the right to list his country of birth on his American identity papers. His U.S. passport listed "Jerusalem" instead of "Israel" as his country of birth, as if the City of Jerusalem was not actually in any country.
        Congress had overwhelmingly endorsed Israel's assertion of sovereign jurisdiction over Jerusalem in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. In May 2018, the U.S. embassy was relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, rendering the Jerusalem consulate superfluous. In October 2020 the State Department finally changed its passport policy to allow American citizens born in Jerusalem the right to list "Israel" as their country of birth.
        If the Biden administration converts any location in Jerusalem into a de facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority, this is denying Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem, resurrecting a dangerous fabrication that was buried three years ago. (Newsweek)
  • Iran-Saudi Talks: No Easing of Tense Relations Expected - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall and Jerusalem Center-Iran Desk
    In recent weeks, there have been several rounds of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to temper tense relations. However, both countries claim regional Islamic hegemony and are on opposite sides of the historic Shiite-Sunni divide. Iran, which considers itself a defender of the Shiites, is very sensitive to the situation of Shiites in the oil-rich Eastern Province of the Saudi kingdom and assists them in various military and political ways. For its part, Saudi Arabia surreptitiously supports Sunni organizations inside Iran, mostly in Khuzestan province and on Iran's eastern border.
        Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in the Muslim world cannot be bridged, at least not in the coming years. From time to time, Iran and Saudi Arabia try to present a semblance of "business as usual" and attempt to improve relations between them, but beneath the surface, the historical factors intensified by current developments in the Middle East reflect the depth of the gaping religious chasm between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The two countries are on a permanent collision course. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Stop Enabling the Anti-Semites - Ammiel Hirsch (Tablet)
  • The Jewish people is and has always been the perfect scapegoat around which to organize and rally people to extreme political causes. Communists could accuse the Jews of being capitalists. Capitalists could accuse the Jews of being communists. The hard left can accuse the Jews of being white and complicit in racial inequality, and the extreme right can accuse the Jews of being an insidious enemy of the white race.
  • The recent explosion of anti-Semitism awakens in me a dire, depressing, demoralizing dread. If there is one lesson to absorb from the Holocaust, it is when someone proclaims an intention to exterminate the Jews, believe them. Take them seriously. Iran threatens Jewish extermination all the time. Hizbullah threatens Jewish extermination all the time. Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad threaten Jewish extermination all the time. What in the world are progressives doing supporting such people?
  • I am not opposed to legitimate criticism of Jews or the Jewish state. Yet it is undeniable that hatred of Israel foments hatred of Jews. Attacks on Israel lead to attacks on Jews. The extent and manner of the single-minded, blind obsession with Israel often bleeds into hatred of Jews, and normalizes Jew-hatred to an extent not seen since the darkest days of the 20th century.
  • Wild accusations of ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, genocide - against the only actual democracy in the Middle East - are blood libels, different only in form, but not in substance, from Jews poisoning the wells.
  • I am a liberal rabbi leading a Reform synagogue composed of mostly liberal Jews. And in my view, many liberal Jews are misled by the high-sounding rhetoric of anti-Zionist professors, thought leaders, influencers, and media personalities. Pro-Palestinian activity is often led by those who do not seek accommodation with Israel, but its annihilation. That is anti-Semitism.
  • More than half of all Jewish children in the world now live in Israel. Threats to destroy the Jewish state are threats to destroy the Jewish people.

    The writer, senior rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan, is former executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America/World Union for Progressive Judaism.

Daily Alert is published every Monday and Thursday.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert.