March 28, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

U.S.: We Appreciate Israel's Implementation of Sanctions on Russia - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. appreciates Israel's effort to implement sanctions on Russia in light of its invasion of Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said following a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on Sunday.
    Israel has no laws for the kind of sanctions the West has placed on Russia, but the government has taken steps to ensure that the country does not become a haven for those seeking to circumvent the measures.
    Foreign Ministry sources noted that Russian oligarchs who have landed their planes in Israel have had to leave within 48 hours, and Israelis have been unable to access their funds in Russian banks.
    See also Israel Votes for UN Resolution Demanding Russia End Ukraine War - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel was among 140 countries supporting a UN General Assembly resolution on Thursday demanding an end to Russia's war against Ukraine.
    Five countries voted against - Russia, Syria, North Korea, Eritrea and Belarus - and 38 countries abstained, including China, India, South Africa, Iran and Cuba.

Israeli Ex-Commandos Secretly Train Ukrainians (Times of Israel)
    Israeli ex-commandos have been training Ukrainians at a secret facility in western Ukraine, Yediot Ahronot reported Friday.
    An Israeli official said the political echelon is aware of the covert program but has chosen to look away.
    "We are all united in our support and solidarity toward the Ukrainian nation...which has been exposed to the worst kind of Russian aggression," he said.
    The official added, "The truth is, we're pretty sick of the Russian story in Syria and how they keep screwing us over. Yes, we are fully coordinated with them, but we were never deceived - they are not on our side."
    "They talk to us right after coordinating with the Syrians, Iranians and with Hizbullah in Syria. They are on their side and are making our life extremely difficult. We shouldn't forget that."

Morocco, Israel Discuss Cooperation on Military Intelligence - Jihane Rahhou (Morocco World News)
    Senior military officials from Morocco held a series of meetings in Rabat with their Israeli counterparts last week to discuss military cooperation between the two countries.
    The officials expressed interest in launching a joint military drill as well as collaborating in the field of military intelligence.

Poll: 73% of Palestinians Want Abbas to Step Down - Dr. Khalil Shikaki (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    A poll conducted in the West Bank and Gaza between March16-20, 2022, found a rise in Fatah's popularity.
    However, President Abbas' popularity has not risen and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would defeat Abbas in a presidential election by 54% to 38%. 73% want Abbas to resign.
    60% of West Bankers say they cannot criticize the PA without fear. 56% in Gaza say they cannot criticize Hamas authorities without fear.
    58% oppose a two-state solution for Palestinian-Israeli relations. 52% supported a return to armed confrontations and intifada. 70% oppose an unconditional resumption of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
    73% believe the Qur'an contains a prophecy on the demise of the State of Israel. Only 13% believe that the most vital Palestinian goal should be to establish a democratic political system that respects freedoms and rights of Palestinians.

U.S. Still Views Golan as Israeli Territory - Ali Harb (Al Jazeera)
    Three years after former U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Israeli claims to the Golan Heights, the Biden administration has not reversed the decision.
    Since coming into office, President Joe Biden has avoided publicly endorsing U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but has quietly kept the policy in place.
    Israel captured the Golan in the 1967 war and formally annexed the territory in 1981.
    After a media report claimed in June that the Biden administration was undoing Trump's decision, the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs explicitly said, "U.S. policy regarding the Golan has not changed, and reports to the contrary are false."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Summit Shows Ties with Arabs Moving from Ceremony to Substance - Patrick Kingsley
    Israel's meeting with top diplomats from the U.S. and four Arab countries - Egypt, the UAE, Morocco and Bahrain - on Sunday is one of the strongest signs yet that the country is beginning to reap the dividends of normalization deals, confirming a profound realignment of Middle Eastern powers. The deals have also prompted Egypt, a longtime peace partner, to engage more meaningfully with Israel as Cairo tries to revive its role as Israel's bridge to the Arab world.
        Polls suggest that many people in the Arab world do not support normalizing ties with Israel. But to Gulf leaders, the cost is outweighed by the benefits of sending a strong message to both the U.S. and their shared enemy, Iran. For Gulf countries, "the optics of sending a message about a new security alliance, pushing the relationship with Israel out in the open and then sending a message to Iran, and in a way to the U.S. - that is the main priority," said Elham Fakhro, a Bahraini political analyst. In any case, she said, "They've found that there isn't much of a price to pay domestically."
        Israel and other countries in the region are also working to formalize a communication system that will allow each partner to warn one another in real time about incoming drones from Iran and its proxies, according to a senior Israeli defense official. As American attention diverts elsewhere, Arab leaders have realized that Israel is a long-term partner, said Yoel Guzansky, an expert at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies.
        The meeting is being held in the Negev desert town of Sde Boker on Sunday and Monday. The decision to hold the meeting in the Negev, rather than in Jerusalem, reflects how that city is still a highly delicate issue for Arab leaders. To attend a summit in Jerusalem was considered a bridge too far for Arab ministers. (New York Times)
        See also A Middle East Geopolitical Realignment Accelerates to Confront and Contain Iran - David S. Cloud
    The coalescing of a new Arab-Israeli alliance indicates the waning of a long-held notion that Israel would first need to end its conflict with Palestinians before being welcomed in the region. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid Hosts U.S. Secretary of State Blinken in Jerusalem (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Israeli Prime Minister Bennett Hosts U.S. Secretary of State Blinken (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Houthis Attack Saudi Aramco Facility in Jeddah - Ben Hubbard
    A drone and missile attack on a fuel distribution station belonging to Saudi Aramco in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, by Houthi rebels in Yemen on Friday set two storage tanks on fire. (New York Times)
  • Video: Israel Sets Up Field Hospital in Western Ukraine - Andrea Mitchell
    Last week, Israel set up a field hospital in Ukraine near the Polish border. Dr. Michael Segal and Dr. Adam Goldstein share their experiences treating trauma cases. "Our goal here is to help the refugee population, the local population, to take stress off the local hospital," says Dr. Goldstein. "Whatever is needed, we're doing." Dr. Segal, born and raised in Kyiv before emigrating to Israel, said he returned to Ukraine to volunteer "because of how much it means to me. I want to come help the country I grew up in."  (MSNBC)
        See also Ukrainian Foreign Minister Thanks Israel for Opening Field Hospital
    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba thanked Israel on Friday for opening a field hospital in the country. "Grateful to the State of Israel for setting up the #ShiningStar field hospital in Lviv region," he tweeted. "I thank its team of Israeli physicians and paramedics for their important humanitarian mission and tireless work to help Ukrainian men, women, and children at this difficult time." The field hospital has 150 beds across its emergency, pediatric, and obstetrics and gynecology wards. (Times of Israel)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Two Israeli Border Police Officers Killed in Firefight with Arab Terrorists in Central Israel - Josh Breiner
    Two Israeli Arab gunmen from Umm al-Fahm opened fire at people at a bus stop in the central Israeli city of Hadera on Sunday. Two Israeli Border Police officers ran toward the site after hearing the gunshots and were killed in the exchange of fire, as were the assailants. "Our officers managed to neutralize the assailants and prevent a bigger terrorist attack," Israel Police spokesman Eli Levy told Channel 11.
        The Israeli officers were Yazan Falah, 19, and Shirel Abukarat, 19. Four others were wounded, two seriously. Some are members of the security forces. Police found three guns, three knives and about a thousand bullets while searching the assailants. The two terrorists are Ibrahim Agbaria and Ayman Agbaria. Ibrahim was indicted in 2016 for attempting to join ISIS in Syria. (Ha'aretz-Ynet News)
  • Israel Seizes 61 Guns Smuggled from Lebanon - Emanuel Fabian
    Israel Police found 58 handguns and 3 assault rifles in a vehicle driven by Israeli Arab smugglers near the Lebanese border on March 23. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Increases Work Permit Quotas for Gazans - Aaron Boxerman
    The Israeli government on Sunday raised the number of permits for Gazans to work in Israel by an additional 8,000 - to 20,000. The quota was raised to 12,000 just two weeks ago. Qatari envoy to Gaza Mohammad al-Emadi told Gaza media on Thursday that Israel had pledged to eventually raise the quota to 30,000.
        UN envoy to the region Tor Wennesland recently noted that in January, Gaza exports - which mostly leave through Israeli crossings - rose to their highest levels since 2007. (Times of Israel)
  • UN Wants References to Jerusalem as Capital Removed from Exhibit on Knesset
    Israel's Channel 12 reported Thursday that the Israeli delegation to the UN asked to display an exhibit about the Knesset at UN headquarters, but was told a number of objectionable items would have to be removed. These included an item about a Basic Law passed in 1980 that recognized Jerusalem as Israel's "united" capital. The UN also instructed Israel to remove text accompanying a photo of the Knesset that describes Jerusalem as "the eternal capital of the Jewish people and their holy city."
        Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, protested to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, saying, "The impertinent demand of the UN to censor the exhibit and remove pictures that reflect our national history is in fact a request to rewrite Israel's history and we will not agree to that in any way."  (Times of Israel)
  • 7,000 Ukrainian Jews Awaiting Flights to Israel - Zvika Klein
    Yaakov Hagoel, acting chairman of the Jewish Agency, told the Jerusalem Post last week, "We have about 7,000 candidates for aliyah staying at the moment in hotels and other facilities in Moldova, Hungary, Romania and Poland."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Mental Health Professionals Establish Hotline to Give Psychological First Aid to Ukrainians - Nathan Jeffay
    More than 200 Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking Israeli psychologists and social workers have established a hotline that has already helped hundreds of Ukrainians still in the warzone as well as refugees. "Those close to fighting are trying hard to deal with fears and stress, worry for their loved ones, and losing those close to them," said psychotherapist Dr. Zina Levitan from Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, who is helping to supervise the hotline. She said the hotline is providing "psychological first aid."
        Dr. Liat Ariel, director of the psychological service at Rambam, said, "We hear awful things from callers. They are in distress, sometimes extreme, and need help to continue to function and survive physically and mentally, to take care of themselves, their children and their parents. These are people who have lost confidence and stability."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Answering Israel's Ukraine Critics - Evelyn Gordon
    Criticism of how Israel has responded to Russia's invasion of Ukraine has intensified, while becoming progressively more untethered from the facts. Regarding Israel's refusal to give Ukraine its Iron Dome defensive anti-missile system, beyond the practical issues there's a moral one. Numerous countries have anti-missile systems. Israel is one of very few that regularly uses its system to defend itself from neighbors that periodically launch missiles at it. Its supply of Iron Dome interceptors is already badly depleted due to last May's rocket barrages by Hamas, which is why Congress recently approved a special allocation to help it purchase more.
        Consequently, giving Ukraine some of its limited stock of Iron Dome batteries and missiles would leave Israel's own population vulnerable. And no government has a moral right, let alone a duty, to protect another country at the expense of protecting its own citizens. By contrast, less immediately threatened countries could give their anti-missile systems to Ukraine without endangering their own populations. None of them have. Yet there has been no public outcry over their refusal to provide missile defense systems to Ukraine.
        There's one sanction on Russia that Israel genuinely does flout: the aviation boycott. That's because Russia has a large Jewish population and thousands have expressed interest in moving to Israel due to the war. Israel cannot and should not ban flights from a country with which it's not at war as long as there are Jews who need to leave. (Mosaic)
  • The Palestinians and the Crisis in Ukraine - Noa Shusterman
    While 144 countries condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the UN, the Palestinian Authority remained silent. The Palestinians regard the Ukrainian struggle as competing with them for international attention. They are frustrated that their struggle is cast by many as terrorism, while the struggle in Ukraine is treated as a just war for freedom.
        The Palestinian leadership is careful to avoid damage to their relations with Russia, which they consider an ally. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who earned his doctorate in Russia, does not want to harm his relations with an actor that is likely to challenge U.S. dominance in the region.
        Nor has any broad-based popular support among the Palestinians for Ukraine been visible. The Palestinian leadership understands that after the war in Ukraine, international attention and monetary donations will be invested in the rehabilitation of that country, in part at the expense of the Middle East.
        The writer is Israel-Palestinian Research Program Coordinator at INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The Changing Status of Israel's Closest Strategic Ally - Dr. Michael Milstein
    This past year has been a reflection of America's diminishing standing in the eyes of many Arab nations after a series of disastrous policy moves, beginning with the hurried withdrawal from Afghanistan, removal of the Houthi rebels in Yemen from the list of terror organizations, and the rushed efforts to renew a nuclear deal with Tehran.
        There is a perceived indifference in Washington toward attacks targeting Sunni states in the Gulf by Iran and its proxies. Iran has also repeatedly struck American forces in Syria and Iraq. And now, the administration is seeking to elevate Qatar's status as a key regional ally despite its animosity towards neighboring Gulf states and support of terror organizations in the region.
        The war in Ukraine has increased the distrust of America. The Arab world appears to be unimpressed by Western sanctions imposed on Russia, and is watching NATO's refusal to join the fight. The Sunni Arabs know they have no alternative strategic power to rely on, but recent White House policies make them wonder whether Washington would be willing to offer any assistance to them in times of trouble.
        The writer, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, is a senior analyst at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Reichman University, Herzliya. (Ynet News)

  • When the UN drafted resolutions covering Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they required that ballistic missiles beyond the range of 150 km. had to be removed or destroyed under international supervision. Missiles of this range were prohibited outright; they could not be manufactured or transferred to surrogates like Hizbullah.
  • A decade later, no such provisions were created for Iran under the JCPOA. Consequently, Iran's ballistic missile capacity grew, both in numbers and quality, including the range and accuracy of its missile force.
  • Iran is already altering the balance of power in the region, as demonstrated by the January 2020 Iranian attack against U.S. troops at the Ayn al-Assad Airbase in western Iraq that left 110 American servicemen with brain injuries.
  • Iranian proxy forces, such as Yemen's Houthis, have unleashed repeated strikes in the last three years at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, using ballistic missiles and drones.
  • Commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, said this month that Iran now had 3,000 ballistic missiles, which had become the greatest threat to Middle Eastern security.
  • Without some major change in Iranian intentions towards Western states, European countries could soon become the very real targets of Iran's increasingly robust missile forces.

    The writer, former Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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