April 11, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Astronaut Eytan Stibbe Arrives at International Space Station (Times of Israel)
    A space capsule carrying four astronauts, including Israeli businessman Eytan Stibbe, docked at the International Space Station on Saturday.
    Stibbe, a former fighter pilot, is the second Israeli ever to go into space. He is carrying 35 experiments for companies and research institutions.
    The first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was killed in 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry, killing all seven crew members on board.
    Stibbe is carrying surviving pages from Ramon's space diary, as well as mementos from his children.

Israel Backs Russia's Expulsion from UN Rights Council over Ukraine War - Jonathan Lis (Ha'aretz)
    The UN General Assembly voted in favor of suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council over its invasion of Ukraine by 93 to 24 with 58 abstentions.
    Israel voted in favor of the resolution.
    Israel's Foreign Ministry said Russia's "unjustified invasion" of Ukraine and the "killing of innocent civilians" were the reason for Israel supporting the motion.

Report: Israel Targets Iranian Weapons Centers in Syria (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights-UK)
    Several missiles hit targets near Masyaf in Syria's western Hama province on Saturday evening in an area where Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah are based.
    The location contains warehouses and research centers for upgrading missiles and drones.
    The attack was the eighth by Israel on targets inside Syria so far this year.
    The Iranian presence on its northern frontier is a red line for Israel, justifying its attacks on targets inside Syria.
    See also Why Is Israel Targeting Scientific Research Centers in Syria? (Syrian Observer)
    Wael Alwan, a researcher at Jusoor Center for Studies in Istanbul, Turkey, said the scientific research centers in Jamraya, Masyaf, and Aleppo in Syria, targeted by Israel, are entirely Iranian and concerned with developing missiles and chemical materials.

Bnei Brak Names Street after Arab Policeman Killed in Terror Attack - Aaron Rabinowitz (Ha'aretz)
    The Orthodox city of Bnei Brak decided Sunday to name a street after Sgt.-Maj. Amir Khoury, the Christian Arab police officer who was killed in March while apprehending a terrorist in the Tel Aviv suburb.
    All parties represented in the city council supported the decision.
    Khoury's father, Jeries, said, "The decision to name a street after our son warms our hearts."

The PA and Fatah Are Behind the Current Terror Wave - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch (JNS)
    The current terror wave in Israel was initiated and is being fueled by the Palestinian Authority and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.
    In the run-up to Ramadan, the PA intensified its false rhetoric that Israel was seeking to escalate violence and destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Those calls were then used to incite hatred and spark terror attacks.
    Speaking on official PA TV on the first day of Ramadan, Supreme Shari'a Judge Mahmoud al-Habbash explained: In the same way as the Prophet Muhammad engaged in war during Ramadan, so too should Palestinians engage in jihad.
    Ramadan is "not a month of laziness but rather...a month of jihad, conquest, and victory."
    The writer, director of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps and was director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.

Israeli Medical Team Heads to Haiti to Help Burn Victims (National News-Barbados, West Indies)
    The director of Israel's National Burn Center at Sheba Medical Center, Prof. Josef Haik, has arrived in Haiti to help patients who were badly injured on Dec. 14 when a fuel tank truck crashed and exploded, killing 65 people and burning dozens of others.
    Haik is leading the mission in cooperation with the U.S. Burn Advocates Network (BAN) to hospitals in Haiti that are still overwhelmed with the wounded.
    Haik said, "We're going to do as many surgeries as we can to try and help their wounds. We will bring equipment they are lacking and teach them how to use it and leave it there so they can continue rehabilitating Haiti."

Tourist Arrivals in Israel Nearly Double in Q1 of 2022 (Xinhua-China)
    In early March, Israel permitted entry of all tourists, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, leading to the recent jump in tourist arrivals.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Biden Won't Remove Iran's Revolutionary Guard from Terror List - David Ignatius
    The Biden administration plans to reject an Iranian demand that the U.S. lift its designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization as a condition for renewing the 2015 nuclear agreement, a senior administration official told me. The president is said to view the IRGC question as separate from the nuclear talks. Biden and other U.S. officials are adamant that the IRGC's activities directly affect the safety of U.S. personnel and its partners in the region.
        The latest example of suspected Iranian-backed activity was an artillery attack Thursday on a base in eastern Syria that injured four U.S. service members. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, "I believe the IRGC Quds Force to be a terrorist organization, and I do not support them being de-listed."  (Washington Post)
  • Israel's Expanding "War between Wars" with Iran - Dion Nissenbaum
    The Israeli military says it has carried out more than 400 airstrikes in Syria and other parts of the Middle East since 2017 as part of a wide-ranging campaign targeting Iran and its allies. Israeli leaders refer to the campaign as the "war between wars," aimed at deterring Iran and weakening Tehran's ability to hit Israel in the event of an open war. "It's not 100% success," said Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, who retired last week as head of Israel's air force, where he served as architect of the campaign. "But without our activity, the situation here might be much more negative."
        Among the targets hit are Russian-supplied air-defense systems, drone bases operated by Iranian military advisers, and precision-guided missiles bound for Hizbullah in Lebanon. The strikes have also killed more than 300 people, including Iranian military commanders, Syrian soldiers, and militants backed by Tehran, according to Stephane Cohen of NorthStar Security Analysis, an Israel-based consulting firm.
        The campaign has resulted in Iran's forces largely retreating from positions near the Israeli border to safer spots in eastern Syria, said Carmit Valensi, a research fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies. Israel has also used small quadcopter drones to carry out strikes inside Iran, according to people familiar with the covert campaign. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Palestinians Vandalize Joseph's Tomb in West Bank
    Palestinians set fire to Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus on Saturday night. Military spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ran Kochav told Israeli Army Radio that 100 Palestinians marched toward the site and set it ablaze before they were dispersed by Palestinian security forces. Images on social media showed parts of the tomb inside the shrine smashed and charred.
        Under the Oslo Accords, Jewish worshippers are allowed to visit the site several times a year, in coordination with Palestinian security forces. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, "The vandalism of Joseph's Tomb is a grave event and a serious violation of freedom of worship in one of the holiest places for every Jew."  (AP-Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Gunman Kills 3 in Tel Aviv - Ido Efrati
    Three people were killed after a Palestinian gunman opened fire in central Tel Aviv on Thursday evening. The shooter, Raad Fathi Zidan Hazzam, 28, from the Jenin area in the West Bank, was killed in an exchange of fire with security forces on Friday morning. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah said Hazzam was affiliated with their group. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Tel Aviv Terror Victims
    The three victims of the terrorist shooting attack in Tel Aviv were laid to rest on Sunday. Eytam Magini, 27, recently got engaged. His friend, Tomer Morad, 27, is a recent university graduate in mechanical engineering. Barak Lufan, 35, a married father of three, served as head coach of the Israeli national kayaking team. (Times of Israel-National Post-Canada)
  • Palestinian Woman Stabs Israeli Border Police Officer in Hebron - Emanuel Fabian
    Maha Kazim al-Zaatry, 24, a resident of Hebron, stabbed an Israeli Border Police officer on Sunday near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The wounded officer shot and killed the assailant. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinian Throwing Firebomb at Israel Soldiers Killed in Hebron - Aaron Boxerman
    A Palestinian man, Ahmad al-Atrash, 29, "threw a firebomb at [Israeli] troops, endangering their lives," before he was killed in Hebron on Friday, the IDF reported. He formerly served prison time in Israeli jails for security offenses, Palestinian media reported. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinian Throwing Firebomb at Israeli Vehicle Killed near Bethlehem
    Mohammad Ali Ghneim, 21, who was throwing firebombs at an Israeli vehicle near al-Khader in the West Bank on Sunday, was shot and killed by IDF forces. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Supreme Court Says Israelis Can Sue the Palestinian Authority over Terror Attacks
    Israel's Supreme Court on Sunday ruled that the Palestinian Authority can be held liable for terrorist acts, due to its policy of paying stipends to security prisoners in Israeli jails and the families of those killed during attacks on Israelis.
        Justice Yitzhak Amit, setting out the majority ruling, found that the decision to pay convicted Palestinian terrorists and those killed as part of the "struggle against Israel" makes the PA liable for their actions. "[The PA] expresses its consent to their actions, in a manner that takes responsibility for the acts. This justifies that [the PA] will be assigned personal and direct responsibility," Amit wrote. The court also ruled that the PA can only be sued for compensation, rather than punitive damages. (Times of Israel)
  • Ukraine War Has Caused a Surge in Aliyah to Israel - from Russia - Judy Maltz
    The number of immigrants and potential immigrants to Israel from Russia in the past two months far exceeds the number of immigrants and potential immigrants from Ukraine, Israel's National Security Council reported. From the start of the war on Feb. 24 to the first week in April, 8,371 immigrants and potential immigrants from Ukraine have landed in Israel. At the same time, 12,593 immigrants and potential immigrants from Russia have landed in Israel. In all of 2021, only 7,700 Russians made aliyah.
        Israeli officials based in Russia have also reported a huge increase in aliyah files being opened there. The officials are reluctant to speak publicly for fear that Russian authorities might try to stop the large number of Jews fleeing the country. The exodus has been attributed to fears of economic hardship arising from the sanctions imposed on Russia.
        At the same time, there has been a dramatic slowdown in the pace of aliyah from Ukraine, attributed to the fact that those Jews who wanted to leave Ukraine had already gotten out. Moreover, many of the refugees from Ukraine hope to return there as soon as possible, which makes Europe a better place to wait out the war. The number of Ukrainians who identify as Jewish is estimated at 43,000, with 200,000 eligible for aliyah under the Law of Return. The core Jewish population of Russia is estimated at 200,000, with 600,000 eligible. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Removing Sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guards Is Pure Strategic Folly - Elliott Abrams and Behnam Ben Taleblu
    Negotiations with Iran over a nuclear deal are stalled over Tehran's insistence that its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list maintained by the U.S. State Department and that terrorism sanctions against the entity be dropped. Removing terrorism sanctions on the engine of the Islamic Republic's terror-sponsoring apparatus would be pure strategic folly.
        The IRGC has engaged in or supported acts of terrorism, kidnapping, or regional destabilization throughout its existence and has been at the forefront of the Islamic Republic's efforts to "export" its revolution. During the Iraq War (2003-2011), Iran, through the IRGC and its proxies, was assessed as being complicit in over 600 U.S. fatalities and thousands of injuries. The IRGC Aerospace Force (IRGC-AF) is responsible for the biggest ballistic missile strike against American troops: a January 2020 barrage against U.S. positions in Iraq.
        Iran is unlikely to jeopardize a nuclear deal that stands to free an estimated $130 billion of frozen assets over the revocation of the FTO designation for the IRGC. Deal or no deal with Iran, retaining and enforcing America's most significant counterterrorism authority against the long arm of the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism remains in the national security interest of the U.S.
        Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as Special Representative for Iran at the U.S. State Department. Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Interest)
  • Violence Poses a Threat to Boosting Palestinian Quality of Life - Dov Lieber
    Terrorist attacks on civilians are testing Israel's U.S.-backed policy of trying to improve Palestinian quality of life. Four attacks against civilians in different cities in central and southern Israel have left 14 victims dead. While Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been moribund for almost a decade, Israel is seeking to manage the century-old conflict with the Palestinians through trust-building and economic measures.
        Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has warned Palestinians that the attacks threaten Israel's efforts to improve their quality of life, especially over Ramadan. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Al-Aqsa Worshippers Enjoy Peaceful Friday Prayer - Mohammed Najib
    About 50,000 Palestinians peacefully performed the first Friday prayer of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem following Thursday's attack in Tel Aviv that left three Israelis killed. Four of the 15 people injured in the attack are in serious condition.
        A high-ranking Palestinian security officer told Arab News that the recent attacks in Israel constituted a "pivotal shift," with attackers switching from knives to guns. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • What Set Off the Palestinian Terror Wave in Israel - Benjamin Kerstein
    The current wave of Palestinian violence may have been caused, ironically, by peace - the Abraham Accords and the growing acceptance of Israel by many Arab states. The Palestinians desire to somehow deal themselves back into the game, to avoid becoming irrelevant.
        A great deal of their situation is the Palestinians' own fault. Had they accepted Ehud Barak's peace offer in 2000, they would have already had a state for 22 years. Instead, they chose a campaign of terrorist atrocities that mortally wounded the peace process.
        After two decades of low-intensity conflict, missile fire and periodic mayhem by the Palestinians, Israelis today are even less likely to give up on what little strategic depth they have in hopes of peace with an enemy they do not trust. (New York Post)
  • Palestinian Terror Is Not "Senseless" - David Suissa
    After a Palestinian terrorist murdered three Israelis in Tel Aviv last week, Secretary of State Tony Blinken said the U.S. "stands resolutely in the face of senseless terrorism and violence." But is the violence really senseless?
        The terrorists think their terror has a purpose. If you despise Jews and think they don't belong in the Middle East, killing them gives you purpose. And if you fall for the propaganda from your corrupt leaders that Jews will soon take over your holy Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, killing Jews is anything but senseless. Since the birth of Israel, virtually every act of violence against the Jewish state has been connected to an overarching belief among Palestinians that Jews don't belong in this region, regardless of any legitimate claims of a Jewish connection to the land.
        Palestinian terror against Israelis is intentional violence rooted in deep hatred. Until Western leaders connect Palestinian terror to the anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist propaganda that emanates from Palestinian society, peace and reconciliation will remain delusional pipe dreams. It is treating intentional terror as senseless that is really senseless. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)

Iran Threatens: We Won't Hesitate to Fire Missiles at Bahrain - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Since Bahrain's announcement on forging ties with Israel, demands within Iran to restore Bahrain to Iranian rule have returned at greater intensity. Iran has repeatedly warned recently that it sees Israeli activity in Bahrain as endangering its own security interests and declares that it will not hesitate to attack targets in the kingdom, whether by itself or through its proxies.
  • Bahrain is of particular historical, religious, and political importance to Iran. Bahrain was once under Persian rule (1602-1783), and as Iranian's "14th province," it sent representatives to the Iranian Majlis (parliament). A recent documentary film, "The 14th Province," has won prizes in Iranian film festivals organized by revolutionary elements.
  • A Sunni minority rules Bahrain's Shiite majority, and part of the population is Persian in origin. Increased Iranian subversion in the kingdom through local Shiite terrorist groups and Shiite opposition parties operated by Iran is highly likely. Leading Iranian media, such as Kayhan, which reflects the opinions of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, are already inciting Bahrainis to pick up arms.
  • Terrorist cells in Bahrain operate with Iranian supervision and funding. Although most of these cells have been thwarted by Bahrain, those still active are capable of destabilizing the country if Iran turns up the flames.
  • Another question is whether Iran will try to invade Bahrain in a manner reminiscent of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Tehran supports. Bahrain is becoming more susceptible to an Iranian strike involving ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones on strategic targets in the kingdom, despite the fact that it hosts the U.S. Navy's main naval base for the Fifth Fleet in the Gulf region.

    The writer is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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