January 31, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Russia Signals Presence on Israel's Northern Border - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    A Russian Defense Ministry announcement on Jan. 24 regarding joint Russian and Syrian air force patrol missions along the Golan Heights in southern Syria near Israel represents significant messaging from Moscow.
    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS that assuming the joint flights occurred, they represent a beefing up of Russian support to the Syrian regime.
    "Russia's message is that it is good to rely on it - that it is a serious country that supports its friends and which does not hesitate to activate for that purpose."
    "I don't think the flights in the Golan Heights caused Israeli air defenses to stir. This is more of a political statement, which does not influence Israel's ability to stop Iran and Hizbullah from consolidating their presence in the northern arena."
    See also Israeli Airstrikes Hit Warehouses, Hizbullah Posts near Damascus on Monday (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights-UK)
    At least six explosions were heard in Al-Qoutifa city in the northeastern part of the Syrian capital, Damascus, followed by fires in Hizbullah military posts and warehouses.
    The area hosts weapons and ammunition warehouses belonging to Hizbullah and Iranian-backed militias.

EU to Fund Israel-Cyprus-Greece Power Cable Link - Menelaos Hadjicostis (AP-ABC News)
    The EU has earmarked $736 million for the construction of a 2,000-megawatt undersea electricity cable that will link the power grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece, Cypriot Energy Minister Natasa Pilides said Thursday.

Morocco Claims Iran Threatening "Africa's Spiritual Security" - Basma El Atti (Al-Araby al-Jadeed-UK)
    Morocco's Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita warned a parliamentary committee last week of Iranian attempts to infiltrate Africa. "Iran plans to enter West Africa and to spread the Shia doctrine in the region."
    Bourita vowed to protect "the spiritual security of Africa" from Iranian attempts to spread its influence.
    Morocco severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 2018, when it accused Tehran-backed Hizbullah of training Polisario Front separatist fighters against Morocco in Western Sahara.

French Imam: Since My Call to Respect the Memory of the Holocaust, I Wear a Bulletproof Vest to the Mosque (MEMRI)
    Tunisian-born Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the Drancy mosque near Paris, told France 2 TV on Jan. 13, 2022, that ever since he advocated respect for Holocaust commemoration in 2005, he and his family have been living under constant threat from Islamists.
    He said he receives death threats, his wife and daughter have been assaulted, his house has been ransacked, his car has been torched, he often wears a bulletproof vest when he goes to the mosque, for fear of being stabbed, and the Islamic State, Hizbullah, and Hamas have all issued fatwas against him.

Online Protest Against Hamas in Gaza (Asia News-Italy)
    Hundreds of Palestinian activists took part in an online protest against Hamas.
    The "kidnapped Gaza" protest kicked off on Thursday with an audio chat on Twitter, organized by five Gazans who left the Palestinian territories after taking part in the "We want to live" protest of 2019.
    The people behind the protest accuse Hamas of stashing billions of dollars abroad, while Gazans are starving or forced to emigrate.
    See also Palestinian Online Campaign Blames Hamas for Gaza Misery - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)

Israel to Supply Belgian Army with Anti-Tank Weapons - Eyal Boguslavsky (Israel Defense)
    German company Dynamit Nobel Defence (DND), a subsidiary of Israel's Rafael, has announced a 19 million euro contract to supply RGW90 man-portable, anti-tank weapons to the Belgian Army.

1,700 Athletes Race in Israel's Ironman Triathlon near Eilat (Xinhua-China)
    1,700 athletes from 12 countries participated in the annual Israman iron triathlon events on Friday near Eilat.
    The competition included a 3.8-km. swim, a 180-km. bike ride, and a full marathon 42.2 km. run.
    The men's victory went to Israel's Dan Alterman at 9 hours and 52 minutes. Limor Hagani took the women's title in 11:48.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UAE Intercepts Missile Fired by Houthis during Israeli President's Visit - Tamara Qiblawi
    The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday intercepted a missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen in the third such incident this month, as Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited the country. (CNN)
        See also Israeli President Makes First Visit to UAE
    Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received President of Israel Isaac Herzog, who is on an official visit to the UAE. The national anthems of the two countries were played, while 21 rounds of artillery were fired to welcome his visit. (Khaleej Times-UAE)
        See also Israeli President's UAE Visit Underlines Common Vision toward Iranian Threat (Arab Weekly-UK)
  • Iran Is Putting Down Roots in Eastern Syria - Sarah Dadouch
    When the Syrian military opened offices in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour last month to enlist former rebels and repentant army defectors, almost no one showed up because Iranian-linked militias have been offering a more attractive alternative. Iran has been playing the long game in Deir al-Zour, successfully recruiting local Syrians to allied militias, providing services the government cannot deliver, and putting down roots.
        Iran has been building schools and distributing food baskets. It has tried to convert Sunni mosques to Shiite Islam. Many young Syrians join the militias to escape the army, and the militias offer more than double the pay. A militia ID card also entitles the fighters to a monthly food basket. (Washington Post)
  • Palestinians Reject U.S. Proposal to Transfer Prisoners' Salaries to "Social Welfare" - Kifah Zboun
    Hassan Abd Rabbo, an official in the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the PA rejected a U.S. proposal to transfer the salaries of Palestinian prisoners to the Ministry of Social Affairs. "They want to insult the struggle of the Palestinians through their suggestions," he said, adding that the detainees are fighters, not social cases. Israeli Channel N12 reported that the U.S. asked the PA to stop paying the salaries of detainees or ex-detainees and transfer the payments to social care within three years. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • U.S. to Deny $130 Million in Military Aid to Egypt - Humeyra Pamuk
    The Biden administration is set to deny $130 million of military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns, U.S. State Department officials said on Friday. The aid withheld accounts for 10% of the $1.3 billion allocated for Egypt for fiscal year 2020. Earlier this week the administration approved the potential sale of air defense radars and C-130 Super Hercules planes to Egypt at a combined value of $2.5 billion. (Reuters)
  • Jewish Organizations Condemn Inflammatory Amnesty International-UK Report on Israel
    The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, ADL, AIPAC, AJC, B'nai B'rith International, and the Jewish Federations of North America said Sunday: "We vehemently reject the biased and one-sided report on Israel scheduled to be released February 1 by Amnesty International-UK....This libelous document resorts to baseless "apartheid" accusations against Israel, among other distortions....It fuels those anti-Semites around the world who seek to undermine the only Jewish country on earth."
        It portrays the State of Israel "as illegitimate, starting 'at its creation in May 1948.'...At the very time when many Arab countries are forging new agreements and accords with Israel, and relations between Arabs and Jews are flourishing in numerous corners of the Middle East, Amnesty-UK's misguided and backward-looking effort to vilify Israel seems to be trying to turn back the peace clock, inflame existing tensions and incite violence."  (Conference of Presidents)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Cyber Tech CEO Rejects Criticism of Pegasus Spyware Program
    NSO Group CEO Shalev Hulio told Israel's Channel 12 on Jan. 29 that its Pegasus spyware had been created to battle terrorism and serious crime. "It's a cyber weapon. Our first rule was that we would only sell these tools to governments," Hulio said. "Our second decision was that we wouldn't sell to every government - that there were governments that on day one we could see that we must not sell to them....We refused to sell to 90 countries."
        "There is not one country we've sold to, not one...that the U.S. does not sell to, or that Israel doesn't sell to. So it's a bit hypocritical to say it's okay to sell F-35s and tanks and drones, but it's not okay to sell a tool that collects intelligence....If we see that [Pegasus] is being misused, or even suspect it is being misused, we disconnect the system."
        "Our technology has over the years helped the interests and national security of the United States quite a bit. I think the fact that a company like NSO is on [a U.S. blacklist] is an outrage....I'm sure we'll be taken off that list. I have no doubt....As long as there is no other solution to crime and terror, these technologies will have no expiration date."  (Times of Israel)
  • PA Reneges on Promise to Change Textbooks
    The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) has uncovered thousands of pages of new teaching material produced by the Palestinian Authority, some of which directly calls for violence and promotes anti-Semitism. This material was written despite an EU "roadmap" created with the PA to ensure new textbooks produced in 2021 would be free of hate. The new material contains content that is worse than current or previous Palestinian textbooks, with a greater number of lessons that directly incite violence and propagate overt anti-Semitism.
        The material includes teaching about the "characteristics" of Jews who are devious and treacherous and Israelis who are described as "Satan's aide." The material demands that students die as martyrs to liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque and that those who do so will be greatly rewarded. (IMPACT-se)
        Read the report: Palestinian Ministry of Education Study Cards 202122 - Grades 1-11 (IMPACT-se)
  • Omicron Wave Begins Receding in Israel, but Hospitals Still Overloaded - Ido Efrati
    Serious cases of coronavirus are at an 11-month high, according to Israel Health Ministry figures released on Monday, as the omicron wave shows signs of tapering off. The total number of serious cases stands at 1,099, the highest figure since the peak of the pandemic's third wave, when there were more than 1,100 serious cases.
        Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday, "Right now, hospitals are overloaded and we're still seeing high infection figures. If we all act responsibly, we can overcome this wave, too." There are currently 2,683 Israelis hospitalized with Covid, with 332 in critical condition and 241 on respirators. There are 421,490 active cases. (Ha'aretz-Israel Ministry of Health)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Ingratitude of the Palestinians: Let the Foolish Fend for Themselves - Ahmed Al-Jarallah
    Why are we the ones being insulted by the Palestinians? We, the Gulf nationals, overlook all that by sending them aid. Despite their support of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and their participation in acts of intimidation, abuse and killing against Kuwaiti citizens, the Gulf nationals, especially Kuwaitis, continued to support the Palestinians and their resistance factions.
        The Palestinians stood with the Iranian Houthi aggressor against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. They slandered and cursed the leaders and governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries because they did not mourn the assassination of the head of the terrorist snake Qasem Soleimani.
        It is time to put an end to all this by starting with cutting support from them. Let them rebuild what they destroy by their own acts. Enough is enough! The camel's back has been broken from the burden of grief we endure due to the ingratitude of the Palestinians. They have been encouraging terrorism against us, issuing calls to kill us, and raising slogans such as "The path of liberation passes through Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Manama, Riyadh and Doha."
        All the Gulf states should normalize relations with Israel due to the fact that peace with this most advanced country is the right thing to do. Let the foolish fend for themselves.
        The writer is editor-in-chief of the Arab Times. (Arab Times-Kuwait)
  • Why Russia and China Build Up Iran - Bryan Clark and Michael Doran
    Mahmoud Abbaszadeh-Meshkini, a spokesman for the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said this month: "In the new world order, a triangle consisting of three powers - Iran, Russia, and China - has formed. This new arrangement heralds the end of the inequitable hegemony of the United States and the West." Russia is holding joint naval drills with China and Iran in the Indian Ocean, while President Vladimir Putin hosted Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow.
        Putin may agree that Iran should never possess nuclear weapons. Cooperating closely with the U.S. to achieve that goal, however, interferes with his more urgent priority, which is to undermine the American-led order. Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a similar set of calculations. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently announced that the 25-year strategic accord between Iran and China, forged last year, has entered into force. At the heart of the accord is oil for security assistance.
        The writers are senior fellows at the Hudson Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day at Camp Where Grandfather Was Killed
    Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid on Thursday addressed the International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. On March 19, 1944, "my grandfather was sent to Auschwitz, and after that, he was sent here, to Mauthausen....He never wronged anyone. He wasn't an important man. He didn't hate anyone. He was simply...Jewish. So they took him in the middle of the night....When he arrived here, the Nazis already knew that they had lost the war...yet they continued to kill Jews up until the very last moment.... My grandfather died in April 1945."
        "Grandpa Bela...sent me here today to say on his behalf that the Jews have not surrendered. They've established a strong, free, and proud Jewish state, and they sent his grandson to represent them here today. The Nazis thought they were the future, and that Jews would be something you only find in a museum. Instead, the Jewish state is the future and Mauthausen is a museum. Rest in peace, grandfather, you won."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

  • There has been a steady deterioration in Israeli-Turkish relations since Hamas rocket fire triggered the 2008 Israel-Gaza war. In 2009, Turkish President Erdogan stormed off the stage at Davos amid an exchange of shouting with Israeli President Peres.
  • Months later, a Turkish government-backed foundation, the IHH, dispatched a flotilla to break the naval blockade of Gaza. Israeli naval commandos boarded the ships including the lead boat, the Mavi Marmara. A UN report concluded that Israel's blockade of Gaza was legal. Israel tried to reverse this trend through reconciliation talks with Turkey and negotiations over Israeli compensation for Turkish citizens who died in the Israeli raid. In 2016, both states signed a reconciliation deal.
  • The hardest issue they faced was the insistence of Turkey to leave open the Hamas office in Istanbul, though Turkey committed itself to not allow from its territory any terror attack on Israel. (In 2014, the head of the Hamas office, Saleh al-Arouri, admitted that a Hamas attack, in which three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed, was ordered by him when he was on Turkish soil.)
  • The Turks evicted Arouri, but other Hamas members remained. Hamas may be defined as an illegal organization in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but not in Turkey.
  • The U.S. recently decided to remove its support for an undersea pipeline connecting Israeli and Cypriot gas in the Mediterranean to Europe through Greece and Italy. With the project sidelined, Turkey stands to emerge as a new gas hub for the Middle East.
  • The normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations is important, but it will not be smooth.

    The writer, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at which time he was intimately involved in Israeli negotiations with Turkey.

        See also No Real Basis to Turkey-Israel "Reconciliation" Narrative - Seth J. Frantzman
    With its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood and support for Hamas, the AKP, led by President Erdogan, is a reactionary far-right religious party. Turkey burned down the relationship with Israel due entirely to the ideology of the current regime in Ankara.
        Some argue that Turkey is a natural rival of Iran because it is a "Sunni" country and thus destined to fight the "Shia" in Iran; also that the Ottomans are historic rivals of the "Persians." Yet there is no evidence of Turkey and Iran clashing. Over the last decade, Turkey's leadership often hosted its Iranian friends.
        If Ankara wanted to work with Israel against Iran, it would have done this over the last decade. Instead, Turkey uses drones to attack Kurds and Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, encouraged war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and threatens Greece. Turkey basically fights everyone, except Iran. (Jerusalem Post)

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