March 21, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Drones Shot Down over Iraq in February Were Headed to Attack Israel - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Two Iranian drones shot down over Iraq last month by American fighter jets were set to explode in Israeli territory, Israel's defense establishment confirmed on Monday.
    The Shahed-136 drones were downed close to Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Report: Russia Withdrawing Air Crews from Syria for Ukraine War - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    Unconfirmed reports point to a drastic drawing-down of part of the air crew and technical teams at Russia's airbase near Latakia in Syria.
    These experienced pilots and mechanics who have been helping the Assad regime bomb civilians since 2015 are now needed for the war against Ukraine.
    The popularity of Israel, even admiration, among ordinary Ukrainians is hard to exaggerate. It crops up in every interview and chance encounter.
    Israel is seen as an independent country that has prospered in a hostile environment, just as the Ukrainians aspire to do.

Israel Sends Ukraine Bulletproof Ambulances (i24News)
    Israel's Magen David Adom (MDA) emergency service announced on Thursday that it is donating four bulletproof ambulances to assist medical teams and wounded civilians in Ukraine, in response to a request from the Ukrainian government.
    See also Israeli Medical Clowns Bring Smiles to Ukraine Refugees in Moldova - Sue Surkes (Times of Israel)
    Among the staggering number of Israelis who have dropped everything to go volunteer with refugees fleeing Ukraine to Moldova are a clutch of funny-looking people with odd costumes and big red noses who blow bubbles, use squeaky hammers and hug a lot.
    These are professional medical clowns from the Dream Doctors project, who in normal times work in 30 hospitals across Israel.

Clandestine Finance System Helped Iran Withstand Sanctions - Ian Talley (Wall Street Journal)
    Iran established a clandestine banking and finance system to handle tens of billions of dollars in annual trade banned under U.S.-led sanctions, enabling Tehran to endure the economic siege and giving it leverage in multilateral nuclear talks, according to Western diplomats, intelligence officials and documents.
    The system involves Iranian proxy companies dealing with foreign banks in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Turkey and the UAE.
    Iran's success at circumventing trade and finance bans shows the limits of global financial sanctions.
    "This is an unprecedented governmental money-laundering operation," said one Western official.

Erdogan Is Courting Israel While Embracing Hamas - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
    Hamas operatives who have directed attacks from their offices in Istanbul continue to receive VIP treatment by Turkish President Erdogan even as he intensively courts Israel.
    Some of the movement's senior leaders have even been granted Turkish citizenship.
    Hamas operatives and financiers in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem have been Erdogan's welcome guests for many years.
    He has only pretended to keep them out of his orbit.

Israel Ranked 9th Happiest Country in the World - Aaron Reich (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is ranked the world's 9th happiest country in the annual World Happiness Report, coming just one point under Norway and beating out New Zealand. Israel was 11th in 2021 and 14th in 2020.
    See also Why Is Israel the World's 9th-Happiest Country? - Andres Oppenheimer (Miami Herald)
    Israel was ranked the 9th-happiest country in the world this year, despite its political polarization and constant fears of wars or terrorist attacks.
    Israeli psychology professor Tal Ben-Shahar explained why. First, Israel is a country with a very strong social network. "The No. 1 distinguishing characteristic in happy countries is a very strong social network where there is support from family and friends."
    Second, being a country that often has been attacked by its neighbors, and a people who have been victims of persecution for thousands of years gives many Israelis a sense of mutual reliance.
    Third, the Israeli army, in which service is mandatory for young men and women, helps unite Israelis and gives many a sense of purpose.
    See also The 2022 World Happiness Report (Sustainable Development Solutions Network)

Colorado Pension Fund to Divest Unilever Shares over Ben and Jerry's Israel Boycott - Vincent Del Giudice (Bloomberg)
    Colorado's state pension fund will divest a $42 million investment in Unilever, as required by state law, after its Ben and Jerry's subsidiary took economic action against Israel, the Denver Post reported Friday.

Israeli Wins Gold at Gymnastics World Cup in Cairo (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli gymnast Artem Dolgopyat won the gold medal in the floor exercise at the Gymnastics World Cup in Cairo on Saturday.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Warns Billions Unlocked by New Nuclear Deal Will Be Channeled to Iranian-Backed Militias - Edward Malnick
    Billions of pounds due to be unlocked by the proposed Iran nuclear deal will be channeled to Iranian-backed militias wreaking havoc across the region, Israel has warned. Joshua Zarka, the Israeli foreign ministry's deputy director general, said the country was "extremely troubled" by the likely prospect of Tehran spending currently frozen funds on arming and financing its proxies. He warned that tensions between Israel and Iran would "grow significantly" if sanctions were lifted. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S. Sends Patriot Missiles to Saudi Arabia, Fulfilling Urgent Request - David S. Cloud
    The U.S. has transferred a significant number of Patriot antimissile interceptors to Saudi Arabia within the past month, fulfilling Riyadh's urgent request for a resupply, senior officials said. Saudi Arabia needs the defensive munitions to fend off drone and missile attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. On Saturday and Sunday, Houthi forces in Yemen fired missiles and drones at five energy and water-desalination facilities run by Aramco, the Saudi state oil company.
        U.S. officials said the decision to send the interceptors had taken months because of the high demand for the weapons by other U.S. allies, not because the White House was deliberately delaying the resupply. The interceptors and other munitions sent to Saudi Arabia were taken from U.S. stockpiles elsewhere in the Middle East. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Zelensky: Grateful for Israel's Efforts to Arrange Ukraine-Russia Peace Talks
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking to Ukrainians on Sunday after addressing Israel's parliament, said, "The prime minister of Israel, Mr. Bennett is trying to find a way of holding talks. And we are grateful for this. We are grateful for his efforts, so that sooner or later we will begin to have talks with Russia." He added, "Of course, Israel has its interests, strategy to protect its citizens. We understand all of it."
        "Russian propagandists have a tough job on their hands today. For the first time, a Ukrainian president spoke to the parliament of Israel and, by video recording, to the people of Israel, a Ukrainian accused of Nazism by Moscow. This very fact already proves that things are not as Moscow says."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Prime Minister: Israel Is Being Generous and Sensitive to Ukraine - Lahav Harkov
    "Israel has been stretching out its hand to aid in the crisis in Ukraine for several weeks, from the first minute in different, varied channels," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday. "We are managing this unfortunate crisis sensitively, generously, and responsibly while balancing the different considerations."
        "The Israeli public can be proud of the aid and contributions to the citizens of Ukraine....There are not many countries who have done as much," he stated at a ceremony sending off the staff of an Israeli field hospital to be opened Tuesday in Mostyska, the first such facility any country has built in Ukraine. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Over 12,000 Ukrainians Have Fled to Israel
    Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, over 12,600 Ukrainians have arrived in Israel, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Friday. Of those, 3,650 are eligible to immigrate under Israel's Law of Return. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel: Don't Remove Iran's Revolutionary Guards from Terrorist List
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid said Sunday: "The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of people, including Americans. We refuse to believe that the United States would remove its designation as a terrorist organization...in exchange for a promise not to harm Americans."
        "The IRGC are responsible for attacks on American civilians and American forces throughout the Middle East, including in the past year. The IRGC were behind plans to assassinate senior American government officials. The IRGC were involved in the murder of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians, they destroyed Lebanon and they are brutally oppressing Iranian civilians. They kill Jews because they are Jews, Christians because they are Christians, and Muslims because they refuse to surrender to them."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Israel Can't Afford to Ease Up on IRGC - Yoav Limor
    An American decision to remove Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps from its foreign terrorist organization blacklist is a disturbing mix of naivety, narrow vision, lack of understanding of the region, and trusting those who should not be trusted. It is even more disturbing that this move is pursued contrary to the position of the professional echelon in the U.S., the military, and all intelligence agencies, which are well versed in Iranian actions and plans, and consider it to be the source of all evil in the region. (Israel Hayom)
  • Two Israelis Stabbed by Palestinians in Jerusalem - Nir Hasson
    An Israeli police officer was wounded in a stabbing attack in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud on Sunday. The assailant fled the scene. On Saturday, an Israeli jogger was wounded in a stabbing attack on Hebron Road in Jerusalem. The Palestinian assailant was shot by officers at the scene. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hizbullah Recruited Israeli Arabs for Iran Missions - Yoav Zitun
    Israeli authorities arrested four Israeli Arabs who were recruited by Hizbullah for the benefit of Iranian intelligence, the Israel Security Agency revealed Sunday. Two of them met several times in Turkey with Lebanese arms and drug smugglers operating on behalf of Hizbullah, and were asked to smuggle weapons into Israel to establish a cell of Hizbullah operatives. They were asked to assist in abducting Israelis, provide information about targets for missile attacks, and locate points for crossing the Israeli-Lebanese border. (Ynet News)
  • 4 Jerusalem Arabs Charged with Hamas Ties, Planning Attacks during Ramadan - Emanuel Fabian
    Four Arab residents of Jerusalem were indicted Friday over ties to Hamas. Some were charged with planning attacks in the coming month after conducting weapons training and meetings with terror group officials in Turkey. One of the accused, Khaled Sabah, was appointed in 2019 by Hamas as its treasurer in Jerusalem. He assisted in transferring Hamas funds from Turkey to Jerusalem and distributing them to Hamas operatives under the guise of a charity, Lajnat Zakat al-Quds. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Zelensky Strikes the Wrong Note to Bring Knesset to His Side - Lahav Harkov
    When he addressed the Knesset on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dedicating the lion's share of his speech to comparisons to the Holocaust. Rather than stir Israel's legislators to solidarity, saying Moscow is planning a "final solution for the Ukrainian question" and that Israel should save Ukrainians like Ukrainian Righteous Among the Nations saved Jews drew criticism for its inappropriateness. Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel tweeted, "The war is terrible, but the comparison to the horrors of the Holocaust and the Final Solution is outrageous."
        Former cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said, "Every comparison between a regular war, as difficult as it may be, and the extermination of millions of Jews in gas chambers in the framework of the Final Solution is a total distortion of history. The same is true for the claim that Ukrainians helped Jews in the Holocaust....The historic truth is that the Ukrainian people cannot be proud of its behavior in the Holocaust of the Jews. None of that changes the fact that...we must continue humanitarian aid to the citizens of Ukraine suffering from the war and pray for its end to come soon."
        Israelis know the history of the Holocaust very well. The Ukrainian Auxiliary Police rounded up Jews to be massacred in Babyn Yar, Lviv and Zhytomyr. About 80,000 Ukrainians volunteered for the SS, compared with 2,600 Ukrainians documented as having saved Jews. And before that, some of the worst pogroms in Jewish history were perpetrated in what is now Ukraine. Yet Israeli public opinion is strongly in favor of Ukraine in this war despite its bloody, violent history with Jews.
        But when it comes to actually sending weapons or defensive systems like the Iron Dome - which Zelensky asked for despite Israel not being able to send it for technical reasons, and it being unlikely to help Ukraine much, anyway - there is consensus in the cabinet that Israel should not get involved in that way, a cabinet minister said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Addresses the Israeli Parliament (i24News)
        See also Text: President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky Addresses Israel's Knesset (President of Ukraine)
        See also Israel Responds to Ukrainian President Zelensky's Speech
    Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid responded to Ukrainian President Zelensky's speech, saying: "We will continue to assist the Ukrainian people as much as we can and will never turn our backs to the plight of people who know the horrors of war."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Zelensky's Knesset Speech Completely Missed the Mark - Ariel Bulshtein
    There was no reason to evoke the Jewish people's tragic history in the Holocaust to explain that Putin's tyrannical regime is currently perpetrating a terrible crime against a sovereign country. If the Ukrainian president really wanted to appeal to the sensitivities of Israelis and point to the similarities to his people, who are doggedly and courageously fighting for their independence against a diabolical enemy, then the obvious and correct comparison was right in front of him: Ukraine's fight against Putin's merciless onslaught is similar to Israel's fight against Arab aggression.
        The gallant defense of Ukraine by citizens of all nationalities (Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, and others) against the cruel invader is reminiscent of the Jewish stance against the combined invading Arab armies in the War of Independence and the wars that followed. The Russian proclamation that the country of Ukraine doesn't have the right to exist is analogous to the Arab insistence that the Jewish state doesn't have the right to exist. And the means being employed by the Russians are similar, primarily predicated on intentionally targeting the civilian population. (Israel Hayom)
  • Netanyahu: Iran Could "Take the Entire World Hostage" after New Nuke Deal - Charles Creitz
    Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday against empowering the terrorist-supporting regime in Tehran by approving a new nuclear deal. He said that when the Iranian regime is armed with nuclear weapons, they can threaten anyone they want while having the boosted defense capabilities that nukes provide.
        "First of all, they can take the entire world hostage. Once you have a predatory, and especially in a rogue theocratic regime like this, have nuclear weapons, they can use them in two ways: One, they can threaten you directly with atomic bombs. Secondly, they have a nuclear umbrella, which is...to threaten you with conventional weapons like regular missiles or terrorists or anything else."
        "If you want to understand how bad this deal is, it not only gives Iran the freedom with an international legitimacy to enrich uranium and an unlimited quantity with much more sophisticated centrifuges in just a few years, it also gives them an enormous amount of money."
        "Those people who are firing these missiles, those people who have murdered Americans left and right, those people who are responsible for more terrorism around the world than anyone else - those people are going to be lifted off sanctions....This is the kowtowing of the democratic world - unfortunately, of the rest of the world - to this rogue regime."  (Fox News)
  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel Is Out of Touch with Reality - Jonathan S. Tobin
    During an astonishing webinar last week, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, laid bare his hostility to the views of the overwhelming majority of Israelis, including many in the current government. He appears determined to stick with the foreign-policy establishment's failed Middle East policies of the past to try to force Israel to do things that voters of that democratic nation have repeatedly rejected.
        Nides vented his spleen about Israelis building homes in Jerusalem or those parts of the West Bank that he knows the Jewish state will never relinquish, even in a theoretical peace deal. In addition, his devotion to restoring the pre-1967 "Green Line" extends to the point of refusing to visit the tunnels under the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a stand that validates the Arab claim that efforts to restore and reaffirm the sacred site's Jewish history are somehow a provocation.
        Instead of working to widen the circle of peace between Israel and the neighboring Arab states, Nides indicated that his main agenda was focused on the idea that granting the brutally tyrannical and corrupt Palestinian Authority formal sovereignty was the only thing that mattered. Moreover, he tellingly referred to the PA's notorious "pay to slay" policies as "martyr payments."
        Unlike U.S. ambassadors sent to virtually every other country on the planet, ambassadors to Israel often act as imperial proconsuls whose task is to treat its democratically elected governments as wayward children who don't know what's best for them and to impose harmful policies on them regardless of the will of the Israeli people. People like Nides are living in the past, as if the events of the last quarter-century in which the PA has repeatedly sabotaged and rejected efforts for peace and fostered terrorism never happened. (JNS)
            See also U.S. Diplomat's Statements Are Highly Undiplomatic - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

The U.S. Is Determined to Return to the Dangerous Iran Deal at Any Cost: The Implications for Israel - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • If Iran decides to enrich its current stock of uranium to a military grade, within four months it could have enough for four nuclear devices.
  • In the current round of nuclear negotiations, the U.S. could have pressured Iran to renounce the dangerous advances it has made to produce nuclear weapons and demanded a much better agreement through a combination of sanctions and a credible threat to use force. However, recent reports indicated that the U.S. surrendered to Iranian demands on sanctions.
  • The Americans are focused on conflicts with Russia and China. The consolidation of Iran's position is not seen as a threat significant enough for the administration to mobilize to thwart it.
  • Even if American leaders declare their commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and they are convinced that a return to the agreement will contribute to this, in practice, the pact paves a safe path for Iran to becoming a nuclear power.
  • If the agreement does go into effect, Israel will have to advance a covert campaign to thwart Iran's nuclear program. If, in the immediate term, Iran will slightly back away from the nuclear threshold, Israel must use this additional time to develop the ability to thwart Iran's nuclear program.
  • At the same time, Israel must continue to tighten its ties with the pragmatic Arab states, which are deeply troubled by Iran's consolidation of forces and the U.S.'s apparent weakness.

    The writer, Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

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