February 21, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Escalates Its Drone Activity and Upgrades Its Precision-Guided Missiles - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On Feb. 16, 2022, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah claimed that his group had managed to convert thousands of missiles in its possession into precision-guided missiles.
    On Feb. 20, Hizbullah said it had launched a drone that hovered over Israeli territory for 40 minutes over a distance of 70 km. before returning to Lebanon.
    The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, served as military secretary to the prime minister.
    See also Hizbullah Slammed by Lebanese Officials after It Flies Drone over Israel (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

A Change in Turkey's Relations with Iran? - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    On the face of it, Turkey and Iran are partners and allies. In actual fact, the two have deep disagreements.
    Iran and Turkey are competing for influence in Caucasus states, which Turkey sees as "traditional Turkish space."
    Turkey maintains close military and trade ties with Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, to Iran's chagrin.
    In Syria, Iran and Turkey are on opposite sides of the fence. Turkey still wants to topple Assad, while Iran sees him as a vital strategic asset to preserve its status and influence in Lebanon.
    Recently, Iran cut off the gas supply to Turkey due to a technical hitch that closed down Turkish production plants for two weeks. But even after it was fixed, Iran didn't resume the full gas flow.
    Exposing an Iranian spy network and foiling an attempt to abduct an Israeli businessman, which Turkey attributed to Iranian agents, led to denunciations in Iranian media.
    Iran is also eyeing suspiciously the rapprochement between Ankara and Riyadh, Turkey's new pact with Abu Dhabi, and its public overtures to Israel.

Israel Ranks above Spain, Italy and U.S. for Democracy in New Global Index - David Rose (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    The latest annual Democracy Index from the Economist Intelligence Unit puts Israel in 23rd place in the world out of 167 - above Italy, Spain and the U.S., and just behind France and Britain.
    Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said the report amounts to a "stunning rebuttal" of Amnesty International's recent claim that Israel is an "apartheid state" and has been since its founding in 1948.

Amnesty's Israel Chief Criticizes Group's Report Accusing Israel of Apartheid - Tani Goldstein (Times of Israel)
    Executive director of Amnesty International Israel Molly Malekar told the Hebrew news site Zman Yisrael that the group's report earlier this month that accused Israel of apartheid is not helping the situation and may even be making things worse.

Israel Seizes Dozens of Weapons Smuggled in from Jordan - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    Israeli security forces seized 50 weapons smuggled in over the Israeli-Jordanian border on Thursday night.
    Soldiers operating surveillance cameras located two bags with dozens of pistols estimated to be worth $625,000.

Palestinians' West Bank Hunting Practices Leading to Animal Extinction - Ilana Kuriel (Ynet News)
    The Israel Nature and Parks Authority says hundreds of Palestinian hunters in the West Bank routinely kill wildlife including ibex and deer, porcupines, partridges, and falcons, and many rare animal species that are facing the threat of extinction.
    These hunting practices have become more visible recently thanks to social media, as many Palestinians upload images of the dead animals they had killed.
    "In many areas there's almost no wildlife left," said Erez Bruhi, enforcement officer of the Nature and Parks Authority.
    "We know, for example, that there is competition between the villages regarding who can hunt more porcupines. They send each other pictures and videos to show proof of who's better. Deer hunting is the hardest. They go out wearing camouflage."
    "We have already found 19 live deer in different houses. They keep them for fun. They use them as pets, until they start to get wild. They're very dangerous animals with sharp horns...in the end they make kebabs out of them."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Nuclear Deal Draft Puts Prisoners, Enrichment, Cash First - Francois Murphy
    Diplomats negotiating the renewal of the Iran nuclear deal say much of the text of the draft accord is settled. It stipulates Iran suspending enrichment above 5% purity, the unfreezing of $7 billion in Iranian funds stuck in South Korean banks under U.S. sanctions, and the release of Western prisoners held in Iran. Once that initial wave of measures has been confirmed, the main phase of sanctions-lifting will begin. (Reuters)
  • Iran Demanding Revolutionary Guards Be Taken Off Terror List in Nuclear Talks - Barak Ravid
    Iran is demanding during the nuclear talks in Vienna that the U.S. remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from a blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations as a condition for a nuclear deal, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told representatives of U.S. Jewish organizations in Jerusalem on Sunday. Bennett added that the U.S. and the Europeans had agreed to allow Iran to keep its advanced centrifuges in storage inside Iran rather than destroy them. (Axios)
  • Israel Won't Cooperate with Biased UN Commission of Inquiry - Jamey Keaten
    Israel on Thursday announced it would not cooperate with a Commission of Inquiry formed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. "It is obvious to my country, as it should be to any fair-minded observer, that there is simply no reason to believe that Israel will receive reasonable, equitable and non-discriminatory treatment from the Council, or from this Commission of Inquiry," Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, wrote in a letter to the commission's head, Navi Pillay. "This COI is sure to be yet another sorry chapter in the efforts to demonize the State of Israel," Eilon Shahar said.
        The letter noted that Pillay has endorsed "the shameful libel" branding Israel an apartheid nation and backed the boycott movement against Israel. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: A New Iran Agreement Will Buy 2 1/2 Years at a Price of Tens of Billions
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "The talks between Iran and the major powers on a return to a nuclear agreement are advancing quickly. We may see an agreement shortly. The new apparent agreement is shorter and weaker than the previous one."
        "Restrictions on Iran's nuclear program are expected to expire in 2025....If the world signs the agreement again - without extending the expiration date - then we are talking about an agreement that buys a total of two and a half years, after which Iran can and may develop and install advanced centrifuges, without restrictions....In return, the Iranians will currently receive tens of billions of dollars and the lifting of sanctions."
        "This money will eventually go to terrorism in the area. This terrorism endangers us, endangers other countries in the region...and it will also endanger American forces in the region. In any case, we are organizing and preparing for the day after, in all dimensions, so that we can maintain the security of the citizens of Israel by ourselves."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Prime Minister Addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israeli Defense Minister Sees a "Two-Entity Solution" - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday: "Eventually we will find ourselves in a two-entity solution, in which we respect Palestinian sovereignty and governance, but we will be respected for our security needs." "Did you say a two-state solution is possible?" the moderator asked. Gantz replied: "A two-state solution takes us to a former framework. It's a phrase that gives the illusion of [a return to] 1967 with the border lines, etc.; things that cannot happen. This is why I said a two-entity solution."
        "We cannot ignore the existence of the Palestinians and the Palestinians cannot ignore the existence of us Israelis in the area and we must find ways of living with one another....I hope that one day we can create a new reality...to take the realities on the ground [into account]."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gazan Used Medical Entry Permit to Scout for Hamas Recruits in Israel - Judah Ari Gross
    Hamas member Ahmad Abu al-Nour, 27, was arrested on Jan. 24 after he entered Israel from Gaza for medical treatment last year but never returned home. He used his access to scout for recruits for Hamas, the Israel Security Agency said Thursday. Al-Nour joined Hamas in 2009, trained to operate anti-tank missiles, and "operated under the organization's secret service." In his interrogation, "a large amount of intelligence was revealed about the Hamas organization, including locations of tunnels, weapons caches and military positions," the ISA said. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Revival of 2015 Nuclear Deal Will Be Windfall for Iran - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    The new nuclear agreement is dangerous because it paves the way for Iran - in nine years - to secure the ability to produce a large arsenal of nuclear weapons without fear, and without the prospect of crippling economic sanctions. The agreement does not guarantee IAEA supervision anywhere and anytime; it has sunset clauses; it fails to deal with ballistic missiles - the means by which nuclear bombs are launched; and the restrictions it details are to be gradually lifted.
        Reviving the nuclear deal at this time takes place after Iran has already marked significant achievements in the field of enrichment technology and in its weapons program. Moreover, a significant portion of the restrictions placed on Iran are slated be removed in early 2024 and early 2026. Worse - all of this is taking place when it is clear that any hope for a change in Iran's subversive policies is baseless; and all while Iran still refuses to provide details on four facilities exposed in the nuclear archives by Israel.
        It is clear that the tens of billions of dollars that will be made available to Iran will be used to continue arming Iran's proxies and paying for Tehran's efforts to expand its influence in the region - as well as increase its ability to threaten Israel. The U.S. is aware of all these dangers and yet it is determined to advance the agreement, simply to delay the end and avoid the need for a confrontation with Iran.
        The U.S. is Israel's most important ally. While efforts should be made to prevent negative repercussions on the Abraham Accords and to prepare for independently taking action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state, such an undertaking will be much more difficult without American support.
        The writer, who headed the Research and Assessment Division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a Senior Project Director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Israel Hayom)
  • The West Is on the Verge of Signing a Surrender Pact with Iran - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Prof. Jacob Nagel
    It appears that the American delegation at the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna has swayed global powers to consent to an exceedingly problematic deal that will pave a certain path for Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb in the coming years. The emerging deal lacks any mechanisms that will force the Iranians to engage in additional negotiations over a "longer-term, stronger" deal before the new deal expires.
        The deal does not block all the avenues that can lead to a nuclear weapon, doesn't address the holes that were identified in the previous agreement, and doesn't even give global powers any actual ability to activate the snapback mechanism that allowed them at the time to reimpose sanctions.
        Reinstating the original deal will "whitewash" all of Iran's violations and the progress it has made with its nuclear program, and at the same time grant it hundreds of billions of dollars, allow it to rehabilitate its economy, and continue funding its terrorist proxies. Instead of re-imposing maximum economic pressure and building a credible military threat, the Americans are about to sign a "deal of surrender."
        The writer, former head of Israel's National Security Council, is a senior fellow at FDD. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • A New Iran Deal Means Old Chaos - Steven A. Cook
    To leaders in Jerusalem, the 2015 nuclear deal gave Iran official license to proliferate. The fact that the agreement left Iranian nuclear facilities at military sites off limits to inspection only heightened these concerns.
        The Arab states in the Persian Gulf were equally unhappy over sanctions relief. Leaders in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other countries were convinced Iran's new access to money would be used to fund proxies around the region, further destabilizing the Middle East. After the 2015 deal, Iran's proxies stepped up their operations.
        Iran's Houthi allies in Yemen have been firing missiles at Saudi and Emirati cities. Saudi and Emirati leaders are skeptical that the money from sanctions relief will be used for anything other than intimidating them in the service of Iran's interests on the Arabian Peninsula.
        For Israel's leaders, Iran remains an existential threat. They do not believe the new deal is well crafted and believe it will be consummated with people who are not to be trusted. Given Iran's long-term drive to develop nuclear technology, one has to wonder whether getting back into the nuclear deal is worth it.
        The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Foreign Policy)
  • A "Major Non-NATO Ally"?: For Decades, Qatar Has Supported Every Anti-American Islamic Terrorist Organization - Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon interviewed by Ariel Ben Solomon
    The U.S. is to designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally, despite concerns over its backing of Islamist groups throughout the region, including Hamas. Yigal Carmon, founder and president of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), told JNS that "The relationship between Qatar and the United States is bizarre, and makes no strategic sense. For decades, Qatar has provided financial and political support, directly and indirectly, to virtually every anti-American Islamic terrorist organization," including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, and even organizations affiliated with ISIS.
        Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, known for his vicious anti-Semitism and justification of the Holocaust, has been operating for years from Qatar under its protection, said Carmon. "In addition, Qatar has provided shelter to several other jihadi leaders. If it weren't for Qatar, the September 11 attacks might not have taken place. In 1996, terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad had been under Qatari protection in Doha."
        The official Qatari-owned TV channel, Al Jazeera, functions as a mouthpiece for jihadi terror organizations. "It has praised Osama bin Laden and broadcasted his speeches and allowed a sheikh to pledge allegiance to ISIS on the air. The Qatari-based channel has also aired calls for terror attacks against American oil installations....Qatar funded the Taliban throughout America's presence in Afghanistan."  (JNS)

Israel Has Worked since 1948 to Make Peace with the Palestinians - Amb. Dore Gold interviewed by Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
  • In February, Amnesty International alleged that Israel has been guilty of the crime of apartheid since its inception in 1948. For Dore Gold, Israel's ambassador to the UN from 1997 to 1999, the Amnesty report and others have little to do with matters of law and much more to do with anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.
  • "What Amnesty has done is to advance their narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by using a loaded term like 'apartheid' and then insisting that it is a legal term," said Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
  • "This method of slandering Israel by coating phony narratives with legality is something which Israel's adversaries do all the time," Gold said, adding that this "is a case of 'fake law.'"
  • It is standard practice for anti-Semites to "seek accusations which they know will ignite hatred against the Jewish people....Today the most effective instrument in the hands of anti-Semites is to say that Israel is an apartheid regime."
  • Article 7 of the Rome Statute, that is a common reference point for the ICC, refers to an apartheid regime as a "permanent arrangement." That is hardly the case, even if Israel adopted South African practices, which it did not.
  • The narrative relies on a false claim that Israel, from the start, intended to continuously oppress the Palestinian people, Gold said. In reality Israel has worked from the start to make peace with the Palestinians. Israel negotiated with the PLO for the creation of the Palestinian Authority as a self-governing body over territory in the West Bank, effectively not disempowering the Palestinians.
  • "It may not be ideal," but the arrangement is not one of "an apartheid regime" and, "most of all, it is not a permanent arrangement. Israeli governments have been trying to negotiate with legitimate representatives of the Palestinians for a way out. The only reason the PA lacks additional autonomy is because of the hard line taken by Abbas and his supporters."

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