February 28, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Russian Mercenaries Ordered to Kill Ukraine's President - Manveen Rana (The Times-UK)
    More than 400 Russian mercenaries are operating in Kyiv with orders from the Kremlin to assassinate President Zelensky [who is Jewish] and other figures, including the prime minister, the cabinet, and the mayor of Kyiv, and prepare the ground for Moscow to take control, The Times has learned.
    The Wagner Group, a private militia, flew in mercenaries from Africa five weeks ago, offering a handsome financial bonus.
    A source confirmed that 2,000-4,000 mercenaries had arrived in Ukraine in January, preparing the ground for an invasion and helping to guide Russian columns to Kyiv.
    Sources said the Wagner Group appears to be more trusted by the Kremlin than regular Russian forces, and they had been briefed about the planned invasion of Ukraine in December, long before the Russian army was told.

Israel Helps Evacuate Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian Citizens from Ukraine - Sam Sokol (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli diplomats have been assisting Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian citizens to evacuate from Ukraine, transporting them alongside Israelis, the Israel Foreign Ministry confirmed on Sunday.
    Israeli Ambassador Michael Brodsky said there were no conditions on Israeli aid to residents of Arab states, and that any assistance rendered was "purely humanitarian."
    "If there are requests from other nationals, including Arabs, we try to help."
    Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said, "We'll help anyone who we can help to get to the border. We can't help him cross the border."

How Many Missiles and Rockets Does Hizbullah Have? - Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri (Alma Research and Education Center)
    Hizbullah is having a difficult time converting missiles to become precision-guided.
    Hizbullah possesses precision missiles - mostly medium-range Fatah 110 - received directly from Iran or assembled on Syrian soil and transferred to Lebanon.
    It is estimated that Hizbullah possesses several dozen precision missiles, possibly over 100.
    Hizbullah also has Iranian cruise missiles, advanced coastal missiles (Yakhont and C-802), and anti-aircraft missiles (SA-17, SA-22).
    Moreover, Hizbullah can independently manufacture UAVs in Lebanon and has at least 2,000 UAVs.
    In addition, Hizbullah has "regular" missiles and mortars including: 5,000 long- and medium-range missiles (200 km. or more), 65,000 short-range rockets/missiles (rockets up to 45 km., missiles up to 200 km.), and 145,000 mortars (up to 20 km.).
    The writer, director of research at the Alma Center, served for 20 years in IDF Military Intelligence.

Trends in Iranian External Assassination, Surveillance, and Abduction Plots - Dr. Matthew Levitt (Combating Terrorism Center at West Point)
    Over the past 40-plus years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has targeted dissidents, Western opponents, Israelis, and Jews in assassination plots, abduction plots, and surveillance operations.
    This study, based on data from 98 Iranian plots from 1979 through 2021, maps out key trends in Iranian external operations plotting.
    Iran continues to engage in such activities because it can. Western states should ensure that Iran faces consequences, including diplomatic isolation, for abusing diplomatic privilege and sending its representatives abroad to participate in attacks and assassinations on foreign soil.
    The writer, a former counterterrorism official with the FBI and Treasury Department, is director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israelis Support Ukraine But Are Wary of Provoking Russia - Shira Rubin
    On the ground, Israel stands with Ukraine. Israeli medics are offering services to refugees across the Ukrainian border, Israeli phone companies are providing free credits to Ukrainian citizens to get in touch with their family, and Israeli tech companies are assisting with evacuating Ukrainian employees. On Saturday night, thousands of Israelis marched through Tel Aviv calling for the end to the Russian assault, as City Hall was lit with the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag.
        "The heart of the Israelis is with Ukraine, no question," said Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser. But "we need freedom to act in Syria, to contain the Iranians. We cannot ignore the fact that they [the Russians] are there."  (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Israel Must Take a Clear Moral Stand Against Putin over Ukraine - Natan Sharansky interviewed by David Horovitz (Times of Israel)
  • Russia Sees Military Coordination with Israel on Syria Continuing - Dan Williams
    Russia sees its military coordination with Israel over Syria continuing, the Russian embassy in Israel said on Saturday. "Our military officials discuss the practical issues of this substantively on a daily basis. This mechanism has proven to be useful and will continue to work," the embassy said in a statement.
        After Israel condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday as "a serious violation of international order," Russia's UN mission restated opposition to Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights. (Reuters)
  • French Prime Minister Denounces "Apartheid" Labeling of Israel
    French Prime Minister Jean Castex told the French Jewish organization CRIF on Thursday: "How dare anyone speak of apartheid in a state [Israel] where Arab citizens are represented in the government, in the parliament, in leadership positions and in positions of responsibility, where all citizens, regardless of their religion, have understood that their only hope is peace together." He also called for "a general mobilization of society" to defeat the "filthy monster" of anti-Semitism in France. (Algemeiner)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Sending Humanitarian and Medical Aid to Ukraine
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "We are praying for the wellbeing of the citizens of Ukraine and hope that additional bloodshed will be avoided....In the next two days a plane will arrive in Ukraine with 100 tons of Israeli humanitarian equipment for civilians in the combat zones and those who are trying to leave. It will have water purification kits, medical equipment, as well as drugs, tents, blankets, sleeping bags and additional equipment for civilians who are not in their homes in the cold winter weather."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Jewish Groups Donate Millions to Assist Ukrainian Jews in Need - Zvika Klein
    Jewish organizations worldwide have transferred tens of millions of dollars towards emergency assistance to Jewish communities in Ukraine. The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has launched a $20 million emergency campaign to provide humanitarian assistance.
        In Israel, Diaspora Affairs Minister Dr. Nachman Shai called on Friday to immediately transfer NIS 10 million in emergency aid to assist Ukraine's Jewish community. The Orthodox Union (OU) established the "Ukraine Crisis Fund" to support and assist Jewish communities in the region. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is operating a $1 million emergency program to assist the Jewish community in Ukraine. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Throws Bomb at Israeli Troops in West Bank
    IDF soldiers opened fire at a Palestinian who threw an explosive device at troops from a vehicle at the Jalameh crossing near Jenin in the West Bank early Friday. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Seizes Rifles from Smugglers in Jordan Valley - Emanuel Fabian
    Israeli security forces arrested three Israel Bedouin and Palestinian men suspected of smuggling guns into Israel from Jordan on Friday and confiscated 10 AK-47 rifles, magazines and ammunition inside two vehicles near the main highway running along Israel's long border with Jordan. Soldiers operating surveillance cameras spotted the two suspicious vehicles near the border fence.
        Separately on Thursday, police seized two M-16 rifles and two hunting rifles in the West Bank towns of Hebron and Beit Sahur. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Seizes Cryptocurrency Intended for Hamas
    Israel's Defense Ministry has seized 30 cryptocurrency wallets belonging to 12 accounts owned by an exchange company based in Gaza. The military says Almatahdon, owned by the Shamlah family, "assists the Hamas terror group, and especially its military wing, by transferring funds amounting to tens of millions of dollars a year."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • In Ukraine Crisis, Israel Seeks to Avoid Straining Relations with Russia and U.S. - Danny Zaken
    In the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an Israeli diplomatic source told Globes that Israel would try as much as possible to avoid straining its relations with Russia, and that messages are being exchanged all the time between Jerusalem and Moscow. He said the frequency of communications with Washington also had increased, amid what he described as "mutual understanding." After Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid condemned the Russian attack on Thursday, Israel's ambassador in Moscow Alex Ben Zvi was summoned for clarifications at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
        Israel assigns decisive importance to the freedom of action that the Russians give to Israel in Syria. The Russian army maintains advanced air defense systems in Syria that could seriously disturb Israeli planes attacking Iranian targets and Hizbullah bases and arms dumps in the country. In the economic realm, half of Israel's imported wheat comes from Russia (another 30% comes from Ukraine). Russia is a very big export destination for Israeli agricultural produce, while Israeli technology companies are cooperating with Russian companies and investors. All this will be put in danger when Israel has to join Western sanctions against Russia. (Globes)
  • Israel's Relations with Russia - Andrew N. Koss
    Moscow has generally taken Iran's side in the nuclear deal negotiations, while showing itself especially eager to sell arms to Iran - arms that the latter will use against America and Israel. Russia doesn't see Israel's destruction as a primary policy goal, or even an especially good outcome. It doesn't mind the occasional Israeli airstrike against Iranian forces, which remind Iran that it's the junior partner in the Moscow-Tehran alliance. And the Kremlin would rather avoid friction with the IDF, the region's most effective military.
        But this shouldn't be mistaken for actual good relations. Putin supports Israel's enemies with diplomatic cover, weapons, and boots on the ground. His soldiers fight side-by-side with Hizbullah and Iran's Quds Force. Moscow's relationship with Hamas is a cozy one. And Putin's overarching goal is to upend the American-led international order and hurt the U.S. wherever he can.
        At the same time, Russia, an ex-superpower with a vast military machine, has a sizable military presence on Israel's northern border, where it controls the airspace. It could give Israel's adversaries even more dangerous weapons. So Israel's leaders are being careful. They must mind what they do, as well as what they say. (Mosaic)
  • What Israel Must Learn from the War in Ukraine - Gerald M. Steinberg
    The first lesson to be learned (or relearned) from Russia's invasion of Ukraine is that the absence of deterrence can be fatal for any nation. Good intentions and strong words of support notwithstanding, the lack of a credible deterrent to dissuade Putin was clearly evident.
        For Israel, the events in Ukraine are an important reality check. Israelis recognize that no outside power, not even the U.S., can be relied on to guarantee survival in the face of a powerful threat. Having America as an ally added to Israeli security, but did not replace the centrality of self-reliance.
        The best means of preventing an attack is by convincing enemies that the response will be swift and intolerable, and in threatening Israel's survival, their own existence would be at stake.
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is emeritus professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and heads the Institute for NGO Research in Jerusalem. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • Russia's Invasion of Ukraine: Lessons for Israel - David Horovitz
    Putin's pursuit of his expansionist goals in Ukraine, in open defiance of American warnings and threats, resonates deeply in Israel. It is a reminder - one that Israel did not need - to take with the utmost seriousness threats issued by rapacious adversaries, first and foremost Iran. And it is disturbing confirmation that America's hegemony is no longer assured.
        The U.S. has been Israel's key ally for decades, and remains so. But crucial to that alliance for Israel has been the knowledge that America provided stability for little Israel, helping to deter regional aggressors. That deterrence is fading. (Times of Israel)

Israel Must Take a Clear Moral Stand Against Putin over Ukraine - Natan Sharansky interviewed by David Horovitz (Times of Israel)
  • Natan Sharansky, the former prisoner of Zion, human rights activist, Israeli government minister and Jewish Agency chief, urged Israel to take "a clear moral stand" against Russian President Putin's assault on Ukraine.
  • Sharansky, who was born in what is now Donetsk, Ukraine, called Putin's attack a challenge to "all the basic principles of the free world."
  • "It's not cowardice for Israel to seek to avoid irritating Putin. We are in a situation where, because of the weakness of the West, Putin holds the keys to the skies in our area. To protect ourselves from Iran, from the military bases Iran would establish [directly across Israel's borders], we need good ties with Russia."
  • Putin "is seeking to change the entire post-World War II order in which your stronger neighbor cannot take away your freedom. To challenge the entire free world. He believes that he is the only one in the world ready to use force, and that he will restore historic Russian dominance."
  • The only thing that can stop him "is the absolute solidarity of the free world."
  • "There are genuine considerations of realpolitik. Israel has very serious arguments about why it needs to be careful. I hope it takes a clear position in spite of that."

        For a contrasting view, see also Israel Doesn't Have to Join the West Against Russia - Amnon Lord (Israel Hayom)

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