December 6, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Details Emerge of Hamas Terror Attack Plans - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    In October, a Hamas terror cell in the West Bank laid the groundwork for a massive terror attack aimed at IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians.
    Hamas intended to activate hidden sniper nests around the country in order to kill as many Israelis as possible.
    In addition, the terrorist group intended to detonate at least four explosives in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel.
    Members of the terror cell were arrested on the eve of the plan's execution. The operation was organized mainly by Hamas officials in Istanbul.
    The foiled terrorist plan is a clear indication of intent by Hamas.

New U.S. Ambassador Visits Western Wall in Jerusalem - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    On Saturday night, the Biden administration's new ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem during Hanukkah, giving a nod to U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the site.
    He is only the second U.S. ambassador to Israel to visit Judaism's holy site, following his predecessor, David Friedman, in 2017.
    Until then, U.S. officials did not move across the pre-1967 lines, including the Old City of Jerusalem. Dan Shapiro, Obama's ambassador to Israel, did not make an official visit to the Western Wall.

Syria: the World’s Newest Narcostate - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
    In Syria, an illegal drug industry run by powerful associates and relatives of President Bashar al-Assad has grown into a multibillion-dollar operation, turning the country into the world's newest narcostate.
    Its flagship product is captagon, an illegal, addictive amphetamine, but the Syrian smuggling network has also begun to move more dangerous drugs, like crystal meth.
    Much of the production and distribution is overseen by the Fourth Armored Division of the Syrian Army, commanded by Maher al-Assad, the president's younger brother. Major players also include Hizbullah.
    "It is literally the Syrian government that is exporting the drugs....They are the drug cartel," said Joel Rayburn, former U.S. special envoy for Syria.

Gazans Prepare More Protests of Hamas Policies - Rasha Abou Jalal (Al-Monitor)
    After the drowning deaths of Gazan migrants off the Greek coast on Nov. 6, the "We Want to Live" movement, that began in 2019, has resurfaced to demand a decent life for Gazans.
    On Nov. 21, the movement announced it would continue to protest. "The increase in prices is emptying our pockets amid illegal and inhumane taxes and tolls that the de facto government is taking by force."
    Twitter user "Uncle Hassan" tweeted on Nov. 25, "We Gazans want an open country like in the old days to be able to work in the West Bank and Israel. Our youth have become fish food during their emigration from Gaza in search of a decent life."
    Protest coordinator Azmi al-Shuyukhi told Al-Monitor, "We tell the lords of palaces and hotels and the ruling sultans in Gaza that the revolution of the hungry in Gaza may explode at any moment....This government has starved, humiliated and robbed people of their ability to provide for their children."

Italian Firm Buys 25 Percent of Israel-Egypt Gas Pipeline (Reuters)
    Italy's Snam, Europe's biggest gas pipeline group, said Thursday it had completed the acquisition of a 25% stake in the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which owns a pipeline between Israel and Egypt.
    See also Egypt's LNG Exports at Full Capacity after Gas Price Surge - Ahmed Ismail (Reuters)
    Egypt's natural gas exports are at full capacity of 1.6 billion cubic feet per day from its two natural gas liquefaction terminals as it benefits from a surge in international gas prices, Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla said on Thursday.
    Egypt currently imports 450 million cubic feet per day from Israel for re-export, a figure that Molla said it seeks to raise to 600-650 million by the first quarter of 2022.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iran Does Not Seem Serious about Return to Compliance with Nuclear Deal
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said, "Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what's necessary to return to compliance [with the 2015 nuclear deal], which is why we ended this round of talks in Vienna. " Blinken said that the U.S. would not let Iran drag out the process while continuing to advance its nuclear program and that Washington will pursue other options if diplomacy fails. (Reuters)
        See also Iran Withdraws from Nearly All Previous Understandings in Nuclear Talks - Jonathan Lis
    An Israeli official said that American officials were caught off guard by Iran's positions at the nuclear talks in Vienna last week. The draft agreements submitted by Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani include a withdrawal from nearly all the understandings reached in the previous round of talks in June.
        An American official said the U.S. would not continue its efforts to renew the agreement "forever" and that the U.S. was prepared for the possibility that agreement cannot be reached with Tehran. He added that if Washington reaches the conclusion that Iran killed the agreement, additional sanctions can be expected. (Ha'aretz)
        See also French President: Difficult to Reach Nuclear Deal If Gulf, Israel Not Involved
    French President Emmanuel Macron, commenting on the nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna, said Friday it is important to "involve regional powers as well. It is difficult to reach an agreement if the Gulf states, Israel and all those whose security is directly affected are not involved."  (AFP-France 24)
  • Partnership between America and Israel Deepens as Cyber Threats Proliferate - Yaakov Lappin
    Cooperation between the U.S. and Israel in the cyber arena is growing more intense, said Lt.-Col. O., a senior officer at the IDF Joint Cyber Defense Division. The cooperation is quiet, in the shadows and is highly significant to the defense establishments of both countries.
        In recent months, both the U.S. and Israel have experienced unprecedented cyberattacks, including ransomware attacks on the Colonial Pipeline company, an American oil pipeline that originates in Houston, and on Israel's Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera. (JNS)
        See also Israel's Cyber Defense Chief: We Know Who Is Attacking Us and We Know How to Get Even - Hadas Gold
    Israel's National Cyber Directorate head Yigal Unna told CNN that during the coronavirus pandemic, he and his team have seen a sharp increase in attempted cyberattacks. "Most come from criminal elements." Other assaults on Israeli civilian life may originate from state-backed entities. "Of course we know who is behind it...and we can get even with those who are behind any of these attacks."  (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Iran Has Shown It Intends to Develop Nuclear Weapons
    The head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, said Thursday: "It's clear that there's no need for uranium enriched to 60% for civilian purposes. There's no need for three enrichment sites. There's no need for thousands of active centrifuges - unless, that is, there is an intention [by Iran] to develop nuclear weapons."
        "Our eyes are open, we are prepared, and we will do with our partners in the security establishment everything that is necessary to alleviate the threat against Israel and thwart it by any means," Barnea said. "Iran will not have nuclear weapons - not in the coming years, not ever." Israel has charged that Iran is using the negotiations in Vienna to buy time to advance its nuclear work. (Times of Israel)
        See also President Herzog: Israel Will Protect Itself Against Iran If World Won't - Lazar Berman
    Israeli President Isaac Herzog told incoming U.S. Ambassador Thomas Nides on Sunday in Jerusalem: "Israel will welcome a comprehensive, diplomatic solution which permanently solves the Iranian nuclear threat. In the case of a failure to achieve such a solution, Israel is keeping all options on the table and it must be said that if the international community does not take a vigorous stance on this issue, Israel will do so. Israel will protect itself."  (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Stabs Israeli in Jerusalem - Nir Hasson
    Avraham Elmaliah, 21, was returning home from prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Saturday when he was stabbed in the back and the neck by a Palestinian near Damascus Gate. The assailant then ran toward an Israeli Border Policeman before being shot by him and another officer. The attacker, Mohammed Shawkat Salameh, 23, was in Israel illegally.
        Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the officers "operated as expected of Israeli officers," while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the shooting "a war crime."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Yes, Border Police Should Shoot When Necessary - Editorial
    The incident on Saturday in which two Border Police officers shot and killed a terrorist as he made a move while he was lying on the ground has caused an uproar. Let's be clear: the victim is not the dead terrorist - who had served time as a security prisoner for incitement, and had boasted on social media of his intention to become a martyr. He had intended to carry out an attack, stabbed Avraham Elmaliah, an innocent man whose only "crime" was being a Jew, and then tried to attack security forces. The Border Police officers shot the terrorist within seconds of the initial attack.
        It is worth remembering the fatal stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood in 1990 when a Palestinian terrorist went on a murderous spree, killing three. Off-duty police officer Charley Chelouche shot at the terrorist's legs, but he was not fully neutralized and sprung back and killed Chelouche. This is what can happen when security forces do not shoot to kill. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Security Guard Wounded in Palestinian Car-Ramming Attack - Elisha Ben Kimon
    An Israeli security guard was wounded on Monday in a car-ramming attack at the Te'enim checkpoint near Netanya in the West Bank. A Palestinian, Muhammad Nadal Yunis, 16, from Nablus, drove at high speed into a checkpoint guard post. Guards then opened fire and killed the terrorist. Defense Minister Benny Gantz commended the security guards for their quick response. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Militant Dies in Tunnel Collapse in Gaza - Tzvi Joffre
    A member of Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades died in a tunnel collapse east of Gaza City on Monday, the Brigades announced. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Mossad Recruited Top Iranian Scientists to Blow Up Key Nuclear Facility - Jake Wallis Simons
    Israel's Mossad intelligence agency recruited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to carry out a covert operation which blew up the underground A1000 centrifuge hall at Natanz in April 2021, though they believed that they were working for international dissident groups. After the explosion, the scientists responsible were spirited away to a safe location.
        Some of the explosives used were dropped into the compound by a drone, while others were smuggled into the facility hidden in boxes of food on a catering truck. The explosion demolished 90% of the centrifuges, putting the complex out of action for up to nine months.
        In an earlier Mossad operation targeting the Iran Center for Advanced Centrifuges (ICAC) warehouse at Natanz, explosives were hidden in 2019 in building materials to be used in the centrifuge hall, then triggered on July 2, 2020. The warehouse had been used to precisely calibrate centrifuges and the blast destroyed a significant quantity of hardware.
        On June 23, 2021, an armed quadcopter, smuggled into Iran piece by piece, was used by a joint Iranian and Israeli team to launch missiles at the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) in Karaj where advanced centrifuges were built. The drone was then piloted back to the team on the ground, who spirited it away to be used again.
        The three operations involved scores of agents on the ground. The revelations underline Israel's capacity for striking at the Iranian regime's most secret and strongly fortified sites. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • Time for Talking with Iran Is Running Out - Editorial
    After five days of fruitless talks between Iran and the U.S.' European allies in Vienna last week, reviving the 2015 deal seems more quixotic than ever. President Biden must prepare in deadly earnest for what comes next.
        It appears increasingly likely that Iran is treating the Vienna sessions as an opportunity to air grievances against the U.S., and make demands it knows the Biden administration cannot meet, as a prelude to definitive repudiation of the deal.
        If diplomacy fails at Vienna, the U.S. will have to forge a common approach among its European and Middle Eastern allies, one that simultaneously deters Iran, punishes aggression and dangles rewards for peaceful behavior. Russia and China - which endorsed the original 2015 deal due to their own concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran - will be in a position either to spoil U.S. strategy or, quietly, enable it. (Washington Post)
  • To Keep Iran from Going Nuclear - and Prevent War - America Must Work with Israel - Michael Makovsky
    While some still hope that America will step in to prevent a nuclear Iran, senior Israeli defense officials harbor no such illusions and accept that it will be Israel's burden alone. The U.S. should lighten that burden by accelerating delivery of needed materiel, including KC-46 aerial refueling tankers and precision-guided missiles.
        Washington is fortunate it can turn to Israel, which does not lack the will, but could use more means, to prevent a nuclear Iran, thereby advancing U.S. interests as Jerusalem advances its own.
        The writer, a former Pentagon official, is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. (New York Post)

  • On Nov. 2, the New York Times Magazine published an article that focused on rabbinical and cantorial students enrolled in non-Orthodox American seminaries who harshly criticized Israeli policies and actions during the May hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Since the issue is no longer one of internal debate but a matter of public record, we have a responsibility, even an obligation, to respond.
  • For the record, the Reform movement is a Zionist movement. Every single branch of our movement - the synagogue arm (Union for Reform Judaism), the rabbinic union (Central Conference of American Rabbis), and our seminary, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) - are Zionist and committed ideologically and theologically to Israel. We are committed to the centrality of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. We have said so repeatedly.
  • We are commanded to love fellow Jews - and to support them, especially in times of war, hardship and struggle. Jewish leaders have an obligation to speak about Jewish peoplehood and our struggle to survive. Jews want to live. Why is it so hard to speak about the war crimes inflicted on our people, and the blood-curdling threats to commit another genocide?
  • How is it possible for future Jewish leaders to write an open letter to the public in the middle of a war, missiles raining down on our people, without ever mentioning Hamas, the instigator of the war? The strategy of Israel's opponents is to delegitimize Israel's response to defend its people - to deprive Israel of the right to self-defense. Some, wittingly or not, provide cover to forces that seek not coexistence with Israel, but Israel's destruction.
  • The issue is not criticism of Israel. The issue is that the Reform movement does not speak enough about our people's enemies or their threats against us - enemies who seek to destroy us, three generations after the Holocaust. That is the root cause of the unresolved conflict: The inability or unwillingness of Israel's enemies to accept a Jewish state within any borders.
  • It is preposterous to imply that Israel fought Hamas because Israelis are white and Gazans are people of color, and Hamas is simply a civil rights organization. First, most Israeli Jews are not of European descent. And second, can anyone seriously argue that Hamas launched 4,000 missiles, every one of which was a war crime, because indigenous people of color rebelled against white colonial Jews?

    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.

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