December 30, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Did Iran Mistakenly Admit that a Sought-After Revolutionary Guard Commander Was Disguised as a Diplomat? - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall and Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    In 2020, the U.S. offered a $15 million reward for information leading to the capture of Brig.-Gen. Abdul Raza Shala'i, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) in Yemen.
    On Dec. 22, 2021, the official Iranian news agency IRNA profiled Hassan Irlou, Iran's Ambassador to the Houthi forces in Yemen, who had supposedly died from the coronavirus, and noted that the diplomat was also known as Brig.-Gen. Abdul Reza Shahla'i, "a comrade in arms of Qasem Soleimani."
    Irlou played a leading role in formulating the Houthis' political and military strategy in their war against Saudi Arabia.
    After Irlou's death, rumors circulated on social media and in Iranian media that he had been wounded in a Saudi airstrike in Sanaa and died of his wounds after being transferred to Iran.
    Video footage showed that Irlou's funeral took none of the precautionary measures required at funerals of corona patients. Photos of Irlou in the hospital showed the attendants with no protective gear.

Hizbullah Deploys Air Defense Systems in Syria and Lebanon - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Hizbullah is deploying air defense systems in the Qalmoun Mountains region northwest of Damascus, Israel's Alma Research Center has reported.
    The group is believed to have SA8 low-altitude, short-range tactical surface-to-air missile systems, as well as SA17 and SA22 man-portable air defense systems.
    Maj. (ret.) Tal Beeri, head of the research department at the Alma Center, said Hizbullah has also deployed SA8 batteries in south Lebanon.
    Hizbullah has sent 74 drones into Israeli airspace over the past year, compared to 94 drones in 2020.

IDF Struck Dozens of Hizbullah Targets in Syria in Past 3 Years - Amir Bohbot (Walla-Jerusalem Post)
    Over the past three years, the IDF has attacked dozens of Hizbullah targets in Syria, a senior Israeli security official said on Saturday.
    The attacks severely hampered Hizbullah's efforts to establish outposts and transfer weapons, ammunition and infrastructure to the southern Golan Heights and the border triangle with Jordan.

Israel to Reinforce Northern Communities Against Hizbullah Rockets - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Defense Ministry on Monday announced that it was reinforcing defenses in Israeli communities closest to the Lebanese border which could be hit by Hizbullah rocket fire in a future conflict.
    The ministry has started installing new bomb shelters in private homes in 21 communities closest to the northern border.

The Hizbullah Drug Trade - Aatish Parashar (Firstpost-India)
    Hizbullah is behind the brazen drug trafficking in the Middle East.
    There have been attempts to smuggle more than 600 million pills from Lebanon in the past six years - hidden in shipments of pomegranates, pasta, cocoa, and mechanical equipment.
    In 2006, when the war with Israel drained Hizbullah financially, Iran equipped it with labs for drug manufacturing.
    Captagon, heroin, crystal meth, and hashish come from Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon and Syria.
    The writer is Dean and Head of the Central University of South Bihar in India.

French-Syrian Man Arrested in France over Chemical Weapons Parts in Syria (AFP-France24)
    A French-Syrian man was detained by French police on Saturday on suspicion of supplying components for the manufacture of chemical weapons in Syria.

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Vietnam to Trial Israeli Oral Covid Vaccine - Thuc Linh (VnExpress-Vietnam)
    The OraVax vaccine, produced by Israel's Oramed Pharmaceuticals, will undergo clinical trials in Vietnam. It is already undergoing first phase clinical trials in South Africa.

Arabs Attack Israeli Buses near Jerusalem (Algemeiner)
    Two Israeli buses were attacked by stone throwers in the Jerusalem area on Tuesday and Wednesday, N12 reported.
    Israeli bus driver Abed al-Aziz Sonokrot, who was attacked on Tuesday night near the Hizma Junction north of Jerusalem, said, "All of the glass flew over my body and face, even inside my mouth....A similar incident happened to me last week."
    On Wednesday morning in the same area, bus driver Pini Moyel said that he saw "some young Arabs sitting on the side of the road." One of them hurled "a very large rock" at the bus and "shattered my entire forward windshield."
    More than 60 stone-throwing and terrorist incidents were recorded in the last month and a half in the area, with seven people injured.

Led by High-Tech, Israel Exports Reach Record $140 Billion in 2021 (Reuters)
    Israel's exports will hit a record high of $140 billion in 2021, up 18% from last year and up from $117.5 billion in 2019, with the high-tech sector leading the way, the Economy and Industry Ministry said on Monday.
    39% of exports go to Europe, 33% to America, and 25% to Asia.

The Circassians in Israel: From the Caucasus Mountains to the Galilee - Shir Aharon Bram (National Library of Israel)
    The vast majority of the 5,000 Circassians in Israel live in the Galilee villages of Kfar Kama and Rehaniya.
    When the Russian Empire conquered the Caucasus in the 1860s, a million Circassians found refuge in the Ottoman Empire, including in the Land of Israel.
    In the 1948 war, the Circassians, who are Sunni Muslims, chose to fight alongside the Jews, and ever since they have fulfilled their compulsory service in the IDF.
    Every Circassian child learns Hebrew, English, Adyghe (the Circassian language) and Arabic, and some also study Russian and Turkish.
    Their schools mark the Circassian Day of Mourning on May 21, which commemorates the Circassian genocide and the exile of the Circassian people from their homeland.
    Most Circassians prefer to marry among themselves but have integrated into Israeli society and work in all sectors of the economy.
    Bibars Natkho, the captain of Israel's national soccer team, is a Circassian from Kfar Kama.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Air Raid on Syrian Port Followed Arrival of Iranian Container Ship - Thomas Newdick
    Satellite imagery from Planet Labs shows the aftermath of Tuesday's Israeli airstrike on the Syrian port of Latakia. Multiple shipping containers were damaged as the result of four separate weapons impacts, although no apparent harm was done to the area immediately surrounding the port. The attack appears astonishingly precise, striking only individual or small groups of containers.
        The attack may be connected to the arrival of the Iranian-flagged container vessel Shiba, which unloaded a consignment of containers at Latakia two days earlier. The ship is owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. for transporting military cargoes on behalf of Tehran.
        Russian Deputy Admiral Oleg Zhuravlyov said Russian-operated air defense systems did not react because the attack coincided with the arrival of a Russian transport aircraft that landed at the main Russian airbase in Syria at Khmeimim, less than 10 miles away. However, it is known that Russia is notified by Israel in advance of Syrian airstrikes and there exists an agreement under which its air defenses do not engage the Israeli Air Force.
        The attack is the second on Latakia port this month. It serves as a reminder that Israel is willing to take direct action to stop Iran from establishing a larger military foothold in Syria and to degrade its ability to bolster Hizbullah's arms stockpiles in Lebanon. (The War Zone)
        See also IDF: Increase in Syria Operations Has Led to Decrease in Iran Weapons Smuggling - Anna Ahronheim
    "The increase in the scope of operations over the past year has led to a significant disruption of all smuggling routes into various arenas by our enemies," IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi has said, referring to a decrease in weapons smuggling by Iran into Syria. Israel has admitted to hundreds of airstrikes as part of its "war-between-wars" campaign to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizbullah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of its forces in Syria. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA President Abbas Meets with Israeli Defense Minister Gantz in Israel - Aaron Boxerman
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at Gantz's home on Tuesday, the first such meeting between Abbas and a senior Israeli official inside Israel in over a decade.
        Gantz announced a series of measures intended to prop up the PA and ease Palestinian daily life. Israel will provide the PA with a NIS100 million loan ($32.2 million) and will legalize the status of 9,500 undocumented Palestinians and foreigners living in the West Bank and Gaza. Dozens of senior Palestinian officials will receive VIP permits to cross through Israeli checkpoints and 1,100 Palestinian businessmen will receive commercial passes. (Times of Israel)
        See also U.S. "Very Pleased" with Gantz-Abbas Meeting
    U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price tweeted on Wednesday: "The U.S. is very pleased Defense Minister Gantz hosted PA President Abbas at his home in Israel. We hope confidence-building measures discussed will accelerate momentum to further advance freedom, security, and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike in 2022."  (Twitter)
        See also Palestinian Factions Decry Abbas-Gantz Meeting - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Several Palestinian factions, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), condemned Tuesday's meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Gantz and PA President Abbas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Injured by Gunfire from Gaza; IDF Shells Hamas Posts in Response
    An Israeli civilian working to maintain the border fence was injured by gunfire from Gaza on Wednesday. In response, Israeli tanks targeted several Hamas outposts. (Times of Israel)
  • Two Palestinians Sentenced to Life in Prison for 2019 Murder of Israeli Soldier - Hagar Shezaf
    Two Hamas-affiliated Palestinians, Kassem Asafra and Nseir Asafra, were sentenced last Thursday by a military court to life in prison for the premeditated stabbing to death of Israeli soldier Dvir Sorek on August 7, 2019. Their home was demolished by Israel in November 2019. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Iran's Missiles Have Become a More Immediate Threat than Its Nuclear Program - Robin Wright
    On Jan. 8, 2020, Iran fired eleven ballistic missiles - each carrying at least a thousand-pound warhead - at U.S. troops stationed at Al Asad Airbase in Iraq. It was the largest ballistic-missile attack ever by any nation on American troops. 110 Americans suffered traumatic brain injuries. Two years later, many are still experiencing profound memory, vision, and hearing losses; 80 have been awarded Purple Hearts.
        Iran's missile arsenal is the largest and most diverse in the Middle East, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported. Iran can fire more missiles than its adversaries can shoot down or destroy. Iran's missiles have become a more immediate threat than its nuclear program, Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told me. "Iran's strategic capacity is now enormous. They've got overmatch in the theatre - the ability to overwhelm."
        Underground complexes house Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Most of Iran's "missile cities" are in the west, facing Israel, or on the southern coast, across from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf sheikhdoms.
        Iran now has enormous reach in several directions from afar. Iran is gambling that it can harass the U.S. into eventually withdrawing from the entire Middle East. Seven American Presidents have failed to contain Iran's political influence and military leverage. (New Yorker)
        See also Iran Says It Launched Rocket into Space Carrying Satellites - Nasser Karimi (AP-ABC News)

  • Palestinians

  • Why Hamas Is a Threat to Israel, the World and the Palestinians - Naor Gilon
    Soumya Santosh, 32, from Kerala state, was on a video call with her husband in India on May 10, 2021, when a Hamas rocket hit the house she had been working in as a caregiver in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. She was killed immediately, while the elderly woman in her charge was hospitalized in serious condition. Many people like her, some foreigners, others Israelis, would be alive today were it not for indiscriminate terror attacks by Hamas.
        We all believe in peace. We believe that even in the midst of the bitter animosities, conflicts can and should be resolved peacefully. Hamas is a radical Islamist terrorist organization, the Palestinian equivalent of the Islamic State. Its stated goal is the destruction of Israel. Hamas has fired over 27,000 rockets and mortar bombs at Israeli civilians since 2001, including over 4,300 in May 2021.
        The writer is the Israeli ambassador to India. (Asian Age-India)
  • Defiant in War and Isolation, Hamas Plays Long Game in Gaza - Joseph Krauss and Fares Akram
    Some 2,000 truckloads of fuel, cement and other goods entered Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah crossing in September, nearly twice the monthly average in 2019 and 2020. Hamas collects tens of millions a month in taxes and customs at the Rafah crossing to pay its 50,000 civil servants and support its powerful armed wing, while international aid covers most of the basic needs of Gaza's 2 million residents.
        UN agencies have spent more than $4.5 billion in Gaza since 2014, including $600 million in 2020. Qatar has sent $1.3 billion to Gaza since 2012 and its largesse can be seen in Gaza City, where Qatari funds were used to build a seaside promenade and expand a main road that runs past a Qatari-funded housing complex and the Qatari diplomatic mission. It all looks very prosperous, with families strolling past beach cafes, amusement parks and even luxury hotels. But the average Gazan only has 13 hours of electricity a day and tap water is undrinkable.
        There has been almost no public opposition to Hamas within Gaza because Palestinians see no viable alternative. The Palestinian Authority is seen by many as corrupt and authoritarian. A poll this month found that 47% of Gazans would vote for Hamas if parliamentary elections were held, compared to 29% who would vote for PA President Abbas' Fatah. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Book Review: An Apology for the Elimination of Israel - Dr. Joel Fishman
    The goal of Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics by Marc Lamont Hill and Mitchell Plitnick is to make a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel stance part of the agenda of "progressive" American politics. The authors automatically deny the fact that the sovereign State of Israel has some just claims and ascribe moral superiority to the Palestinian cause.
        The authors advocate "justice" for Palestinians as if this expression has a commonly agreed-upon meaning. Former Israeli chief of military intelligence Yehoshafat Harkabi described the real meaning of terms such as "peace on the basis of justice" as "the opposite pole to a peace or solution founded on...the fact of Israel's existence. The just solution, according to this view, is the annulment of the wrong involved in the very existence of Israel and the restoration of Israel to its legal owners. Justice is a denial of Israel's existence."
        Upon hearing the term "just peace," a native English speaker would probably think of a reasonable compromise, whereas the commonly accepted meaning on the "Arab Street" would be the destruction of Israel. Thus, the slogan "Justice for Palestine" becomes a truly outstanding example of "doublespeak." Therefore, Hill and Plitnick's manifesto really is not a plea for justice for the Palestinians, as it would normally be understood.
        The writer is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs)

  • Other Issues

  • The UN Creates a Permanent Commission to Attack the Jewish State - Editorial
    Last week the UN General Assembly signed off on a multimillion dollar sinecure for a permanent "Commission of Inquiry" into the Jewish State in the wake of the 11-day Gaza war in May between Israel and Hamas. The cause of the conflict was a rocket barrage on Israel by the Iran-backed terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israel's defense of its civilians was lawful, targeted and restrained, but the UN wants to use the war as a pretext to indict Israel for "crimes." The commission staff, led by figures with records of anti-Israel rhetoric, are charged with delivering biannual UN reports indefinitely into the future.
        Israel is already an irrational fixation of the UN, which issued 17 resolutions condemning it in 2020. But, as the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs notes, the new commission will have 24 permanent staff, compared to 20 permanent staff for the UN Human Rights Council branch covering all of Asia. With an annual budget greater than $5 million, it will fund "790 days of travel for experts and staff every year."
        The commission has issued a public "call for submissions" and will recommend "criminal and command responsibility" for anything Israeli officials have ever done or may do in the future - an extraordinary attack on the sovereignty of a democratic member state. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Once Again, the UN Treats Israel Like the Most Evil Country on Earth - David Suissa
    While tens of millions of poor souls are dying and starving under brutal regimes in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, Congo and Somalia, among others, the UN decided last Thursday that only one country merits an open-ended investigation - Israel. What did the world's only Jewish state do this time? Last May, Israel decided it didn't want to see thousands of its citizens - Jews and non-Jews alike - perish at the hands of Hamas terror rockets. Israel's defense of its people triggered the UN's Human Rights Council, which voted to investigate Israel for possible "war crimes."
        The way the UN treats Israel significantly worse than the most murderous and evil regimes on earth is itself a crime. Not only does it undermine the UN's credibility, it adds fuel to Jew-haters everywhere. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • For 10 Years Now Hamas Has Used Turkey as a Base to Operate Against Israel - Nadav Shragai
    Turkey collaborates with terror organizations on both the ideological and operational levels. Hamas' Istanbul headquarters has directed hundreds of terror attacks against Israelis and laundered millions of dollars. Some senior Hamas officials operating from Turkey have even been granted Turkish citizenship.
        Before agreeing to any reconciliation with Turkey, Israel should demand that the Turks first act against the Hamas operatives on their soil and prove that they are preventing them from continuing to act against Israel. Only then will it be worth upgrading relations.
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center, is a veteran Israeli journalist. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Beginning of the End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict? - Dr. Dan Schueftan
    In its familiar format, the Arab-Israeli conflict is fading away and we are now witnessing the beginning of the end. This is not the dream of peace that was promised by the Oslo process. It is possible that the threats to Israel have actually increased because of the actions of Iran. It certainly does not signal the end of the conflict with the Palestinians.
        What is new is Israel's success in breaking the pan-Arab front against it, and in convincing the majority of the Arab countries to effectively acknowledge in their policy that a strong Israel is an essential condition for their survival. Violence and instability in the region remain as they were, but the axis of struggle is not between Israel and "the Arabs"; it is between an Arab-Israeli coalition, on the one hand, and Iran's Islamic Revolution and Erdogan's Turkey, on the other.
        Most of the Arab states are unwilling to go to war against Israel, contribute concrete and significant national assets to the struggle against it, or refrain from cooperation with Israel on matters of importance to them. These positive trends depend predominantly on the image of Israel's power in the Arab environment.
        The writer is head of the International Graduate Program in National Security at the University of Haifa. (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies)
  • Ireland: Not a Welcoming Environment for Jews - Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin
    In May 2021, the lower house of the Irish Parliament voted unanimously to discuss a motion to support BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) legislation to try to strangle Israel economically. The motion was fully supported by at least two of Ireland's leading NGOs sponsored by the Irish Catholic Church: Sadaka and Trocaire. Fully a third of Irish members of parliament voted to expel Israeli diplomats from Ireland. Sein Fein, a democratic socialist party that won the most votes in Ireland's 2020 parliamentary elections, has been spearheading the increasingly anti-Israel orientation of Ireland's foreign policy. According to Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, Ireland is perceived as the most anti-Israel state in the EU.
        In Ireland, Jew-hatred does not well up from the general public but seems clearly driven from the top down. Sinn Fein MP Martin Browne claims that Israel created ISIS. Matt Carthy has stated that Israel is the worst human rights offender on earth - presumably dwarfing China, North Korea, Venezuela and Iran. Pro-Palestinian activism on Ireland's college campuses is spearheaded by Palestinian students who have been granted scholarships to study in Ireland. (Gatestone Institute)
  • British-Israeli Relations Have Entered a Golden Era - Jake Wallis Simons
    This is a golden age of Anglo-Israeli relations. In November, Parliament voted to proscribe Hamas in its entirety, rather than just its military wing, something for which Israeli governments have been lobbying for decades. With the latest round of nuclear negotiations with Iran in Vienna, Britain is leaning towards Israel in this fight. It seems unbelievable, but when it comes to Iran, this country is now more sympathetic to Israel than the U.S.
        This profound sea change started with the Abraham Accords, the set of peace deals between Israel and several Arab states. Until that point, the Foreign Office had to balance closeness with Israel against valuable relations with important Arab states.
        The benefits are obvious. Israel has been a world leader in terms of the fight against Covid. In terms of high-tech, Israel is now, relative to population, the most successful country in the world. It hosts 10% of the world's "unicorns," a new private company with a valuation of a billion dollars or more; not bad for a country smaller than Wales that is beset by enemies.
        The writer is editor of the Jewish Chronicle (UK). (Telegraph-UK)
  • India-Israel Ties: How India's Approach Has Changed - Alvite Ningthoujam
    Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar's visit to Israel in October 2021 highlighted the upward trajectory of relations between the two countries, with military-security cooperation only one of many items on the agenda. Israel seeks to boost bilateral cooperation with India in areas including health care, big data, economics, and technology. Simultaneously, Indian, Israeli, and Emirati leaders are signaling their willingness to forge trilateral partnerships, as well as with the involvement of the U.S., to focus on trade, maritime security, and joint infrastructural development projects.
        The political breakthrough of the Abraham Accords is a positive development for India, ushering in a new era of partnerships driven by shared national and strategic interests.
        The writer is an assistant professor at the Symbiosis School of International Studies (SSIS) in Pune, India. (The Diplomat)

European Funding for Palestinian NGOs as Political Subcontracting - Gerald Steinberg (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies)
  • The European Union and the individual states of Western Europe together provide 35 million euros annually to Palestinian NGOs. From an Israeli perspective, the recipient organizations are significant political and economic actors in the Palestinian context, and serve as important intermediaries for European government officials.
  • These NGOs are among the leaders of intense soft power conflict, voicing repeated allegations of fundamental Israeli wrongdoing and encouraging anti-Israel campaigns. The decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to open "war crimes" investigations and the publication of a blacklist of mostly Israeli firms by the UN Human Rights Council are products of this activity.
  • In most other cases, the processes by which European governments provide NGO grants are based on periodic calls for proposals (CfPs) and usually the recipient organizations change. In contrast, much of the funding for Palestinian NGO partners is done behind closed doors and without CfPs, and there is very little variation in the choice of recipients. To the degree that the outcomes are evaluated after each grant cycle, this process usually relies on NGO self-reporting.
  • An examination of European budgetary support over the past 20 years reveals a pattern whereby Palestinian NGOs emerge as policy subcontractors and influence-multipliers on behalf of the EU and the individual European governments, acting through means that European officials and diplomats are unable to pursue themselves.
  • Another exceptional dimension is the degree to which many of Europe's Palestinian NGO grantees were created by or are linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is designated as a terror organization by the EU, as well as the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
  • Instead of advancing the formal objectives of promoting peace, economic development, Palestinian democracy, and rapprochement, the hundreds of millions of euros provided by European governments to Palestinian NGOs during a 20-year period have sustained the conflict through campaigns alleging Israeli violations of "international law" and "apartheid," as well as active participation in lawfare and boycott campaigns.

    The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is Emeritus Professor of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and heads the Institute for NGO Research in Jerusalem.
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