November 1, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Has Secret Foreign Investments Worth $500 Million - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas is concealing secret foreign investments worth $500 million in seemingly legitimate businesses, the Jerusalem Post has learned.
    Intelligence information indicates that from the early 2000s until 2018, Hamas controlled some 40 commercial companies in Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Algeria and Sudan, mostly in the real-estate and infrastructure sectors, the Double Cheque website reported.
    Prior to 2015, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan and other Gulf states allowed their business and banking sectors to be used by Hamas to raise funds that could later be used for its terrorist activities.
    But from 2015-2016, the Saudis shifted their position, leading Hamas to move the bulk of its investment operations to Turkey.
    While Algeria continues to be a major source of foreign investment revenue for Hamas, Sudan appears to have cut back its support since the warming of its relations with Jerusalem in 2020.

TV Teaches Turks to Hate Israel - Pazit Ravina (Makor Rishon-Hebrew-31Oct2021)
    The most popular TV show in Turkey, broadcast on the government channel, is the drama series "Teskilat," about agents of the country's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) who work to unearth foreign conspiracies. Among the MIT's chief enemies is the Israeli Mossad agent Ariel.
    Concurrently, the news headlines in Turkey have been about the exposure of a Mossad spy ring in the country.
    In the first season, Ariel, posing as a technician, infiltrated a Turkish oil and gas drilling rig in the Mediterranean in order to steal Turkish secrets.
    In the second season, the head of the MIT decides to eliminate Ariel and sends a team to kill him in Israel.
    Watching the series, it is difficult not to feel the deep hatred for Israel in every frame.

Hamas Prepares for Next Round of Fighting Against Israel - Tal Lev Ram (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas members are training for raids and infiltrations into Israeli territory as well as the use of large explosive vehicles.
    They are digging new defensive and attack tunnels and rehabilitating damaged tunnels.
    Hamas is also investing in cyber warfare, drones, and anti-tank weapons.
    At the same time, the IDF believes that Hamas is not currently interested in a military confrontation due to the need to rehabilitate its military capabilities.
    Its forces have prevented Islamic Jihad operatives from initiating clashes with the IDF.

Jordan Participated in Israel-Hosted Multinational Aerial Exercise - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The multinational Blue Flag aerial exercise hosted in October in Israel was the largest and most advanced ever held. It included 80 fighter jets from the U.S., Germany, Italy and Greece, as well as the UK, France and India, and 1,500 foreign personnel.
    The UAE did not take part, but sent its air force commander, Ibrahim Nasser Muhammed al-Alawi, to observe the exercise.
    On Friday, a German military photographer posted pictures on social media revealing that two Jordanian F-16 fighter jets also took part.

    See also Royal Air Force Fighter Planes Show Britain's Closer Ties with Israel - Anshel Pfeffer (The Sunday Times-UK)
    In October, RAF fighter jets streaked over the Negev desert as part of Israel's Blue Flag exercise.
    Visiting countries practiced flying in a "contested environment," with Russian-built radar and anti-aircraft missiles trying to lock onto aircraft and Israeli UAVs simulating enemy drone attacks.
    RAF Wing Commander John Cockroft led the deployment of 150 personnel and six Typhoon FGR4s to Israel. Such a deployment would have been diplomatically unthinkable only a few years ago.
    In the past few years, RAF fighter jets and aerial tankers taking off from Cyprus have routinely crossed Israeli airspace to carry out missions against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq.
    Britain's acquisitions of Israeli military hardware have multiplied, including guided missiles, drones and training simulators for pilots and submarine crews.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Sanctions Iran's Drone Program - Ian Talley
    The U.S. on Friday levied sanctions against several Iranian companies and their executives linked to the development of armed drones for attacks on U.S. forces and allies. Western officials say Iran's evolving drone and precision-guided missile programs represent a more immediate threat than its nuclear-enrichment program. "Iran's proliferation of UAVs across the region threatens international peace and stability," said Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the Treasury.
        The sanctions target two Iranian companies that procure drone engines and other components for the Revolutionary Guards, designated by Washington as a terror group. Saudi Arabia has been attacked more than 100 times in recent months by ballistic missiles, drones, and cruise missiles fired by Iranian proxies, U.S. officials have said. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also U.S. Sanctions Companies and Individuals Connected to Iran's Drone Program (U.S. Treasury Department)
        See also Israel Passed on Iran Drone Intelligence to U.S. - Jonathan Lis
    Israel recently passed on to the U.S. comprehensive intelligence on the heads of the Iranian drone program, including those sanctioned by the U.S. on Friday. One of the individuals sanctioned is Saeed Ara Jani, head of the UAV Unit in the Revolutionary Guard's air force, who led the attack on the Israeli-operated tanker Mercer Street in the Bay of Oman in July, in which two crew members were killed. (Ha'aretz)
        See also below Commentary: Iran's Drones Menace Saudi Arabia - Ilan Zalayat (Atlantic Council)
  • Israel's Prime Minister Views Iran, Palestinians - Anshel Pfeffer
    "Iran is now at their most advanced point of capability to enrich uranium," said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in an interview. But while promising that he will "do whatever is necessary to neutralize this threat," his model is President Ronald Reagan whose arms programs in the 1980s played a role in bankrupting the Soviet Union and ending the Cold War.
        "Reagan didn't have to bomb Moscow....Iran is a rotten regime, violating human rights and killing homosexuals and women who go around uncovered, while they can't even supply clean water to their citizens, but invest their resources in nuclear development. We will work against them, using all our energy, all our innovation and technology and economy, to get to a point where we are a number of steps ahead."
        Regarding the future of the Palestinian territories, Bennett said, based on his conversations with Arab leaders, "I don't think there's a significant leader in the region who currently thinks there's somewhere to go right now in the diplomatic process [with the Palestinians]. We learned the hard way that transferring territory and creating state-like entities doesn't work."
        In his meetings with leaders in the region, he says, "the main items on the agenda are Covid-19, Iran and regional trade." The Palestinians "come up as just another item" in these discussions. "But like me, [Arab leaders] understand what's achievable and want stability."  (The Sunday Times-UK)
  • New York State Pension Fund to Divest $104 Million Stake in Unilever
    Officials of New York's state pension fund on Thursday said it will divest its holdings valued at $104 million in Unilever in response to sales restrictions imposed by the company's Ben & Jerry's ice cream brand in the West Bank. New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the company and its subsidiary "engaged in BDS activities."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: U.S.-Israel Tensions Expected to Ease over West Bank Construction, Palestinian Consulate - Shalom Yerushalmi
    "Contrary to the impression they're trying to make, the Americans don't care that much about the Ministry of Construction and Housing's decision [on West Bank construction], and they have no problem tolerating it," a source close to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Friday. "This construction is not part of the conversation we are having with the Americans. We noticed that. The Americans understand the political situation here very well, and they do not want to see us go down over this."
        The source also said the Bennett government believes the Biden administration will hold off from reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. "This is our perception and these are the messages we are transmitting and receiving, and it does not matter what is being published on the matter."  (Times of Israel)
  • Hizbullah Arms Shipment Targeted outside Damascus - Yoav Zitun
    An attack attributed to Israel by the Syrian military targeted a shipment of advanced weapons intended for Hizbullah, Syrian media reported Saturday. The attack was carried out near the town of Al-Dimass, west of Damascus, on the way to Beirut in Lebanon. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the area houses arms depots belonging to Hizbullah and other Iranian proxies. (Ynet News)
        Sources confirmed that a weapons shipment had arrived in Syrian territory from Tehran via Damascus International Airport. The weapons were then transferred to a warehouse just hours before the rocket attack, which destroyed the building. (Syrian Observer)
  • Hamas Sentences Six Gazans to Death for Spying for Israel
    Hamas announced Thursday that its military court had issued sentences "against a number of informants, including six death sentences [and] other sentences varying between life terms and temporary hard labor, and one acquittal" for "spying for Israel."  (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Poll: Majority Oppose Two-State Solution, Negotiations with Israel - Dr. Khalil Shikaki
    71% of West Bank Palestinians believe that people cannot criticize the PA without fear, while in Gaza, 62% say people cannot criticize Hamas without fear, according to a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and Gaza on 14-23 October 2021. Satisfaction with the performance of President Abbas stands at 27% and dissatisfaction at 71%. 74% want Abbas to resign.
        53% of Palestinians oppose and 46% support the concept of a two-state solution. 64% oppose and 33% support a return to negotiations with Israel under U.S. leadership. 50% in Gaza and 40% in the West Bank support an armed struggle against Israel, including 74% among Hamas supporters. (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • "Nongovernmental" Organizations in the Palestinian Territories Toe the Authorities' Line - Benny Avni
    Israel's designation of six Arab "nongovernmental" organizations operating in areas under the Palestinian Authority's jurisdiction as terrorist groups has been widely criticized. But if the agenda of the groups is all but identical to that of a body they consider their government, are they really "nongovernmental"? From detailing real and imagined evils of the occupation to supplying the International Criminal Court with materials for prosecuting Israeli officials, there's almost no daylight between Palestinian NGOs and the PA.
        The Israelis say the six groups are a front for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the EU. But the PFLP is also a member in good standing of the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, is also president of the Palestinian Authority. The organizations' fundraising finances PFLP terrorism.
        A healthy civil society needs watchdog groups to expose malfeasance in its own government, not in the one it considers an enemy. Must America so cavalierly join a false designation of six highly suspect groups as "nongovernmental" organizations? (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Jerusalem Consulate for the Palestinians: A Nail in the Coffin of Peace - Col. Richard Kemp
    President Biden's plan to open a de facto U.S. embassy to the Palestinians on Israeli territory will undermine Israeli sovereignty in its own capital city. The new consulate is designed to give hope that one day Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state. Israel can and rightly should never allow that.
        As well as betraying Israel, Biden's diplomatic signaling is a betrayal of the Palestinian people. They have suffered too long under a leadership which has consistently refused to entertain all proposals for peace with Israel that could lead to the establishment of their own state.
        The intended consulate in Israel's capital will motivate PA leaders to double down on their hostility towards Israel, inspiring further violence against Israelis. The Palestinians understand that a U.S. consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem is tantamount to a reversal of U.S. recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the city.
        The writer, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, was chairman of the UK's national crisis management committee, COBRA. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Iran's Drones Menace Saudi Arabia - Ilan Zalayat
    Iranian-made armed drones have undercut the security balance in the Gulf region and the Arabian Peninsula over the past few years. Ever since the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen began in 2015 against the Shia Houthi rebels on Saudi Arabia's doorstep, the Saudi kingdom has increasingly become a target for airborne attacks by the Houthis using missiles provided by Tehran. Since 2017, the Houthis have employed explosive-laden drones that are assembled with components shipped from Iran. They are nearly identical to the Ababil-T drones used by Iran and Hizbullah.
        In recent years, the Houthis have used Iranian-made Sammad-2 and Sammad-3 drones, whose range exceeded hundreds of miles. In January, satellite images suggested the deployment in Yemen of Iranian Shahed-136 loitering suicide drones (with a range of 1,200 miles), having the ability to cover the entire Arabian Peninsula.
        In September 2019, Iran launched at least twenty drones and fired dozens of cruise missiles at the Aramco oil refineries in Abqaiq and Khurais. The U.S. confirmed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps launched them from Iran. In February, three drones from Shia militias in Iraq crashed inside the complex of King Salman's palace in Riyadh. In March, the world's largest oil terminal in Ras Tanura port on Saudi Arabia's eastern coast was pounded by multiple drones.
        The writer is a PhD student in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University. (Atlantic Council)

  • Like a military plan that seems to work until it encounters the enemy, the Biden administration's approach to Iran required the Iranians to go along - and they have shown they will not be a partner to the White House's plans. Instead, they have made their nuclear program far more threatening and in the process have raised questions about whether there is a diplomatic answer to it.
  • They have been taking steps that have no justifiable civilian purpose: the enrichment of uranium to the 60% level and the production of uranium metal - actions that have no relationship whatsoever to the peaceful use of nuclear power.
  • The loss of Iranian fear about what they can get away with on their nuclear ambitions is dangerous. It may produce a miscalculation on Iran's part about whether the U.S. might ever respond militarily and for sure makes a diplomatic outcome less likely. Unless the Iranians understand that the pathway they are on is dangerous for them, the probability of the use of force will go up. Certainly, the Israelis, believing the Iranian nuclear threat is existential, are more inclined to act.
  • China needs a stable Middle East, not one disrupted by war, and an Iran on its current nuclear pathway toward a threshold weapons status risks precisely that. In 2009, during my time in the Obama administration, I was sent to Beijing, where I made the argument that neither country wanted to see a major conflict in the Middle East, yet Iran's nuclear program, if not contained, would produce that. To avoid that, China needed to be part of the effort to isolate Iran politically and economically - and it subsequently was. Moreover, neither the Russians nor the Europeans want to see Iran acquire or develop nuclear weapons.
  • The Biden administration, while emphasizing its commitment to diplomacy, should say that if Iran makes a diplomatic outcome impossible, it risks its entire nuclear infrastructure. Beyond this, Biden needs to disabuse Iran of the notion that Washington will not act militarily and will stop Israel from doing so.
  • If Washington wants to make the use of force against the Iranian nuclear program less likely, it is essential to restore deterrence. For that, Iran's leaders must believe either the U.S. or Israel will act militarily to destroy their massive investment in the nuclear program if they stay on the current path.

    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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