December 13, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Rejects Israeli Request to Speed Up Delivery of Refueling Jets - Yossi Yehushua (Ynet News)
    The Biden administration has rejected Israel's request to expedite delivery of two KC-46 refueling jets out of four purchased, which would be able to keep dozens of fighter aircraft airborne for 12 hours.
    This capability is critical to any operation against Iran.
    The Boeing jets are due to be delivered in four years and replace the Israel Air Force's 50-year-old planes.

Are the Iranians Weaponizing Their Nuclear Program? - Victoria Coates (Mosaic)
    Former U.S. deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates said in a recent podcast:
    "After the revelation of the Iranian nuclear archive by the Israelis in 2018, we know they have had at least the intent to gain the capability to design a nuclear weapon, and that they went to a great deal of trouble to preserve that capability, and they didn't give it up during the 2015 negotiations. They kept it secret."

Hamas Is Preparing to Attack Israel from Southern Lebanon - Yoni Ben Menachem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On Dec. 10, an explosion at a weapons and ammunition depot located under the Hamas-affiliated Obei al-Kaab Mosque in the Burj al-Shamali refugee camp in Tyre, Lebanon, wounded 12 people and killed Hamas "martyr" Hamza Shaheen.
    During his funeral, four more people were killed in a gun battle between Hamas and Fatah supporters.
    The arms depot is part of the military infrastructure built by Hamas in southern Lebanon in recent years.
    The new infrastructure was used against Israel during the Gaza war in May 2021 when Hamas operatives fired several rockets at northern Israel.
    Israel has been monitoring Hamas activities in southern Lebanon and has even tried to attack it with clandestine Mossad activities.
    Hamas' infrastructure in Lebanon, including several hundred Palestinian operatives, was established with the approval of Hizbullah and Iran and with the blind eye of the Lebanese government.
    Iran is instructing Hamas operatives in Lebanon on how to manufacture rockets and drones.

U.S. Announces End to Combat Mission in Iraq, 2,500 Support Troops to Remain - Jane Arraf (New York Times)
    The U.S. military on Thursday said it had completed its transition from a combat mission in Iraq to one meant to "advise, assist and enable" Iraqi forces battling the remnants of the Islamic State.
    The U.S. will keep 2,500 soldiers on the ground in support roles. Iraqi forces still rely on the U.S.-led coalition for intelligence help, operational planning and air support.
    The remaining U.S. presence is opposed by Iranian-backed militia groups who have called for the complete withdrawal of American forces.

Seven U.S. State Treasurers Urge Unilever to Reverse Ben and Jerry's West Bank Boycott - Shiryn Ghermezian (Algemeiner)
    State treasurers from Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma, Nebraska, West Virginia, Louisiana and Mississippi wrote to Unilever CEO Alan Jope on Thursday, asking why the company has not yet acted to override Ben and Jerry's boycott of Israeli territories.
    They included a statement arguing that "A review by legal experts of the acquisition agreement indicates that the Ben and Jerry's Board has exceeded its contractual powers and that Unilever thus has the right to reverse the Board's decision."

Photos: Israel Hands Ancient Relics to Egypt (BBC News)
    Israel has handed over to Egypt 95 relics which had been smuggled into the country or found for sale in Jerusalem.
    It said it was returning the items "at the request of Egyptian authorities and as a gesture of goodwill" during a visit by Israel's foreign minister to Cairo.
    They included an assortment of figurines and inscriptions on stone in hieroglyphic writing.

Miss India Wins Miss Universe 2021 in Israel - Joelle Goldstein (People)
    Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu was officially named Miss Universe 2021 on Sunday in Eilat, Israel, beating out 79 other contestants.
    Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira was named runner-up, with Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane as second runner-up.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.-Israel Talks in Washington Highlight Disagreements over Iran's Nuclear Program - Julian E. Barnes, Ronen Bergman and David E. Sanger
    Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Mossad head David Barnea were in Washington last week, armed with new intelligence about Iranian uranium enrichment and the work of their weapons group. The Israelis are concerned that the Americans' commitment to restoring the 2015 nuclear deal will lead to a flawed agreement allowing Tehran to speed ahead with its nuclear enrichment program. Israeli officials say in private that the Iranians are advancing their nuclear program while betting that the U.S., eager to diminish American commitments in the Middle East, will not abandon the Vienna talks for more forceful action.
        Israel and the U.S. also disagree about the wisdom of Israeli sabotage of Iranian facilities, which the Israeli government believes has set back the program. Some in the U.S. argue that it only encourages the Iranians to build back the nuclear enrichment facilities with more efficient, up-to-date equipment. The Israelis consulted with the Americans before launching two covert strikes against Iran, one in September against a missile base and one in June against an Iranian factory building nuclear centrifuges, according to people briefed on the actions.
        Israeli officials are increasingly concerned that the U.S. will eventually reach a deal with Tehran and then seek to block Israel from carrying out covert sabotage attacks. Israeli leaders want a guarantee from the Biden administration that Washington will not seek to restrain their sabotage campaign, even if a renewed nuclear deal is reached.
        Disagreements over the meaning of intelligence assessments are wide. American officials believe that so long as Iran has not moved to develop a bomb, it does not have a nuclear military program. Israeli officials believe that Iran has continued a clandestine effort to build a bomb.
        A senior Israeli intelligence official said the sabotage campaign had created crippling paranoia at the top of the Iranian government and had caused Tehran to rethink whether it should accelerate the nuclear project. But Israeli officials say they fear the U.S. is conducting secret back-channel communication with Iran that will eventually lead to a deal. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Moves to Tighten Iran Sanctions Enforcement - Laurence Norman
    The Biden administration is moving to tighten enforcement of sanctions against Iran, according to senior U.S. officials. The U.S. is sending a top-level delegation to the UAE, a top U.S. ally but also Iran's second-largest trade partner and a conduit for Iran's trade and financial transactions with other countries. The U.S. officials will warn petrochemical companies and banks in the UAE that the U.S. has "visibility on transactions that are not compliant with sanctions" and "those banks and firms face extreme risk if this continues."
        U.S. officials say if there is no progress in the nuclear talks, there could be additional efforts to tighten sanctions compliance by firms in Malaysia, Turkey and China. The U.S. is also working closely with financial firms in Japan and South Korea to track illicit Iranian trade, the officials said. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Britain Could Impose New Sanctions on Iran as Nuclear Talks Teeter - Edward Malnick
    Britain could impose new sanctions on Iran if the regime fails to row back from demands that have led to an impasse in talks over its nuclear program, the Telegraph understands. The UK is understood to be considering a range of options, including a snapback to severe economic restrictions on Tehran. The disclosure comes after Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, warned on Saturday that the talks are close to collapsing and that "time is running out."  (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • Iran Top Priority for U.S., Israel - C. Todd Lopez
    U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met Thursday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Pentagon. Austin said, "We share Israel's deep concerns about the Iranian government's destabilizing actions, including its support for terrorism and its missile program, and its alarming nuclear advances. We are completely aligned in our commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is a national security interest of the United States and Israel and the world."
        "The president has made clear that if the policy [of diplomacy] fails, we are prepared to turn to other options. The Department of Defense will continue to work closely with all of our partners throughout the region, including Israel, first and foremost, to ensure that we're working together to address Iranian threats."  (U.S. Defense Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: West Must "Convince Iran to Stop Its Fantasies about a Nuclear Program" - Jacob Magid
    Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Friday that the U.S. and European countries "are losing patience" and are realizing that Iran is trying to drag out the nuclear negotiations. "There is room for international pressure - political, economic and also military - in order to convince Iran to stop its fantasies about a nuclear program," he said.
        Gantz emphasized that Iran is first and foremost a global problem before it is an Israeli one, but that he told U.S. officials that he had instructed the IDF to prepare to operate against Iran. In addition, he said, "There are many steps we discussed that will affect Israel's ability to be the strongest state in the region for many years to come."  (Times of Israel)
  • Senior IDF Official: Israel Will Act if Iran Reaches Nuclear Breakout Status - Yoav Limor
    Former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir told the Israeli American Council on Saturday that Israel will act if Iran reaches nuclear breakout status. He said the world could not trust the Iranians, and Iran would only stop its efforts to acquire a nuclear bomb if it were faced with a clear, deterrent threat. Israeli officials would have preferred the U.S. lead such an effort, but if Washington does not act, Israel will. "I am familiar with the plans. We have the ability to do it," he said. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Makes First Visit to UAE - Lahav Harkov
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night for the first-ever visit to the United Arab Emirates by an Israeli leader. Bennett told Emirati state media, "Mutual partnership and friendship are natural. We are neighbors and cousins. We are the grandchildren of Prophet Abraham."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also UAE and Israel Relations, a Pivotal Step towards Achieving Prosperity, Stability (Emirates News Agency-UAE)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Documents Show Italy Ignored Warnings of 1982 Attack on Rome Synagogue
    Italian media on Friday published documents confirming accusations that Italy had agreed on a deal not to interfere with Palestinian terror attacks on Jewish targets and had failed to prevent a 1982 assault on a Rome synagogue in which a 2-year-old boy was killed and over 30 were wounded. The documents showed that Italian intelligence had clear information on the planned attack on the synagogue but did not stop it. Moreover, on the day of the attack, the usual police vehicle outside the synagogue on holidays was absent.
        In 2008, former Italian prime minister and president Francesco Cossiga told Yediot Aharonot that Italy had "sold out its Jews" in a deal that allowed Palestinian terror groups a "free hand" to operate against Jewish and Israeli targets in Italy in exchange for not attacking other Italian interests. At the time, the allegations were strenuously denied in Italy.
        According to the documents, Italian internal intelligence (SISDE) sent several warnings to the government that Palestinians "intended" to attack Jewish targets in Rome. At the top of the list of possible targets was the synagogue. (Times of Israel)
        See also Italy Enabled Palestinian Terrorists to Target Jews in Rome - Fiamma Nirenstein
    According to a front-page story last week in the left-leaning Italian daily Il Riformista, Italian authorities had been warned prior to the Oct. 9, 1982, Palestinian terrorist attack on the Great Synagogue of Rome, in which two-year-old Stefano Gaj Tache was killed and 37 others were wounded. The implication is that there had been a political agreement between former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and Palestinian organizations that vowed not to assault "innocent" Italians (i.e. non-Jews).
        Such a promise meant nothing, as Palestinian terrorists attacked Rome's Fiumicino airport in 1973 (killing 34); hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985, and attacked the Rome and Vienna airports in twin attacks in 1985 (killing 19).
        Allowing, acquiescing to and negotiating over the aggression against and killing of Jews is a classic aspect of anti-Semitism. The agreement exposed the secret belief that Jewish lives are not worth as much as those of others. Jewish lives matter.
        The writer, former vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Israel Hayom-JNS)
  • Abraham Accords Herald a New Normal for Israel, Arab Allies - Ahmed Charai
    In November, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrived in Rabat to sign unprecedented security and intelligence agreements with Morocco, an event that would have been unthinkable two years ago. Since the Abraham Accords, trade between Israel and Morocco has surged by 50% in the first six months of 2021 alone. Arab investment in both Israel and the Palestinian territories is growing rapidly.
        Many Arabs in Iraq, Syria and Libya, courageously, without fear or hesitation, now say that they favor normal relations with Israel. The momentum for peace across the Arab world is real and growing. More than 60% of Arabs are too young to remember the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel, and many more consider them to be ancient history. As a result, young Arabs widely accept Israel's existence as a given and generally view trade with its thriving economy as essential to their own personal prosperity.
        We need a new regional order where Israel is a stakeholder and no longer a foreigner in its own region. This new regional order should not be seen as against anyone, but, rather, as beneficial to all. Security and prosperity demand peace between people. The U.S. should be urging and equipping Arab allies to roll back generations of rejectionist messaging in Arab media, mosques and schools.
        The writer, a Moroccan publisher, is on the board of the Atlantic Council and is an international counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Moroccan King Orders Restoration of Hundreds of Jewish Sites - Shahar Klaiman
    King Mohammed VI of Morocco recently introduced an initiative to restore hundreds of synagogues, cemeteries and Jewish heritage sites in several cities in Morocco. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Purpose of Zionism Was to End Millennia of Jews Living in Fear - Daniel Gordis
    The primary purpose of Zionism was to restore dignity to the Jewish people, to end millennia of Jews living in fear. Jewish life in Israel is as vibrant as it is because Jews do not live in fear. In the 2021 World Happiness Report, it's #11, while the U.S. is #14, and Israel's birthrate is the highest of any developed country in the world.
        With stress high, compulsory military service, armed conflagrations regular, and challenges aplenty, why are Israelis happier than most and having more kids than the rest of the developed world? Because they feel safe, and they have a sense of purpose, being part of one of the greatest stories of human rebirth in all of history. For its enemies, underestimating the grit and determination at the heart of Israel would be a very foolish mistake.
        The writer is a fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem and author of 12 books. (Substack)

Should Israel Worry about Warming UAE-Iran Ties? - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
  • UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan met on Dec. 6 with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran.
  • Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs President Dore Gold said the Emiratis are probably trying to place themselves in a position of greater neutrality so they won't be targeted by Iran. However, he said that effort is misguided. "If anyone thinks that by giving in to Iran, it will make them suddenly behave better, they're sorely mistaken. That will only invite greater Iranian intervention in the Middle East," Gold warned.
  • Gold, who was in Bahrain for the recent Global Think Tank Summit, saw the meeting in terms of the UAE bracing itself for a Middle East with less support and intervention from the U.S. After the recent U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Emiratis "perceive some kind of American weakness," Gold said. "The buzz is all about what is going on with the UAE and the U.S. Their perception is that America is leaving the Middle East - something that Iran talks about all the time, including [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, and is a strategic goal."
  • "Iran has had a long-term interest in undermining the Abraham Accords....When the UAE sends a senior minister from the royal family to Tehran, it's the strongest indication that that strategy is starting to work. It's one thing to have a meeting at the UN or a European capital, but it's another to go to Tehran and invite the president of Iran to come to your capital. In terms of gradation, they're moving very fast, very hard."
  • "It may be close to too late" to head off the warming of UAE-Iran ties, "but it's important that we try," Gold said. "In a period in which Israeli-Iranian relations are more problematic than ever, Israel needs a strong strategic partner in the Middle East, and the UAE is certainly that kind of a partner."

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