June 6, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

EU in Talks with Egypt and Israel on Gas - Vassilis Nedos (Kathimerini-Greece)
    Intensive consultations are underway between Israel, Egypt and the European Commission to export Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe.
    EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson is pushing for a memorandum of understanding to export Israeli and Egyptian natural gas to Europe, ahead of the forthcoming meeting of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) in Cairo on June 16-17.

After Israeli Warning, Thailand on High Alert for Iranian Terrorists (Times of Israel)
    Thai police are on high alert over the potential presence of Iranian operatives in the country, the Bangkok Post reported, as Israel warns that Tehran could be targeting its citizens abroad.
    Thai security agencies are closely monitoring the movement of Iranian nationals in Thailand, a popular tourist destination for Israeli travelers.

Microsoft Disrupts Iranian-Linked Hackers Targeting Israel - Carly Page (TechCrunch)
    Microsoft said Thursday it has successfully "identified and disabled" a Lebanon-based hacking group it believes is working with Iranian intelligence.
    The "Polonium" group targeted or compromised more than 20 organizations based in Israel over the past three months, with a focus on critical manufacturing, IT and Israel's defense industry.

Iran's Anti-Semitic "Jewish Studies Center" - Behnam Gholipour (Iran Wire)
    Since 2016, Iran's Jewish Studies Center has published more than 1,000 anti-Semitic articles, reports, comment pieces, books and videos arranged in categories with such titles as "Jewish Corruption."
    In many of its texts, Jews are presented as "blood-thirsty" and "deviant," who are guilty of "infanticide."
    An entire segment of its website is entitled "Jewish Plots," accusing Jews in the early days of Islam of "massacring Muslims."
    One article alleges that Jews play a central role in promoting Satanism around the world.

Hamas as Tehran's Agent - Jonathan Schanzer (Middle East Quarterly)
    Since the late 1980s, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been plying the Hamas terrorist group with cash and weapons while also teaching it how to be self-sufficient.
    With hundreds of millions of dollars from Tehran pouring into its coffers, Hamas has evolved into the foremost Palestinian terror organization, capable of hitting Israel's main population centers and strategic infrastructure.
    As of March 2022, according to a senior Israeli intelligence official, Hamas received $80 million annually from Iran.
    Hamas engineers are also studying precision guided munition technology in Iran to learn how to target Israel more accurately in future wars.
    The writer is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Israeli Firms and Tourists Are Piling into Morocco (Economist-UK)
    For decades Israel was Morocco's shadowy secret. Business between the two went through intermediaries, often Jewish-Moroccan exiles in Paris and intelligence agents.
    Syrian tanks captured by Israel ended up in Morocco. Israelis helped fortify the wall that Morocco built to keep guerrillas out of Western Sahara.
    Now, Israeli tourists are flocking in. Morocco expects 200,000 this year, up fourfold since the accord, with ten direct flights a week.
    Some Israelis come to rediscover family roots, since 700,000 Israelis are of Moroccan origin.
    Trade delegations are piling in, too. "There's such high interest, it's crazy," says an Israeli diplomat.
    Israel Aerospace Industries is building two plants to manufacture drones and may even install a missile-defense system.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Senior Iranian Officer Dies - Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman
    A senior Iranian military officer, Col. Ali Esmaelzadeh, died at his home a week after another high-ranking officer in the same unit, Col. Sayad Khodayari, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Tehran. Both officers were members of a secret detachment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Unit 840, which Israeli officials say is tasked with killing foreigners abroad. Two senior Israeli defense officials said Friday that Israel did not kill Esmaelzadeh. (New York Times)
  • General Mills Says Departing Israel Was a Business Decision, Not a Boycott - Marc Rod
    General Mills has emphasized that its decision to sell its stake in a joint operation in Israel that operated a plant in Jerusalem was unconnected to a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement campaign that has targeted its operations for several years. "We have made clear the global business strategy that drove this decision. Any claims by others taking credit for this decision are false. We continue to sell our products in Israel and look forward to continuing to serve Israeli consumers," the company said. (Jewish Insider)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Tells IAEA Chief It "Reserves the Right to Self-Defense Against Iran"
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met on Friday with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Dr. Rafael Grossi in Jerusalem. Bennett expressed Israel's deep concern regarding Iran's continued progress toward achieving nuclear weapons while deceiving the international community by using false information and lies. Bennett emphasized the urgent need in mobilizing the international community to take action against Iran, using all means, in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons.
        Bennett made it clear that while Israel prefers diplomacy in order to deny Iran the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, it reserves the right to self-defense and to action against Iran in order to block its nuclear program should the international community not succeed in the relevant time frame. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel Preparing to Defend New Offshore Gas Rig from Hizbullah Attack
    The IDF is preparing for the possibility that Hizbullah may attack the new Karish gas rig off Israel's Mediterranean coast, Channel 11 reported Sunday. A naval version of the Iron Dome missile defense system will help protect the platform. Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Sunday claimed the site was in a disputed area. A senior Israeli said Sunday that Beirut's claims to the site "contradict the positions that Lebanon itself presented in the past."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Singapore-Built Gas Rig Crosses Suez Canal on Way to Israel - Nermina Kulovic (Offshore Energy)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Latest U.S. Intelligence Leak: Is America Trying to Curtail Israel's Freedom of Operation? - Amb. Ron Dermer and Dr. Michael Makovsky
    A U.S. intelligence official told the New York Times that Israel was behind the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari in Tehran, who was responsible for executing cross-border attacks on Israelis and Jews. Israel has denied involvement in the killing. But why did the leak occur?
        This wouldn't be the first leak that came from U.S. intelligence officials. They are trying to distance themselves from Israel, to put the blame on Israel and keep the U.S. out of it. For the U.S. to think that they are going to stabilize the situation by distancing themselves from Israel not only endangers Israeli citizens and officials but it also actually makes the chance of an attack much higher.
        This is also a message to Israel that the U.S. disagrees with the action that was taken. Essentially, what that means is they are trying to curtail Israel's freedom of operation. This was one of the concerns of the past, that should a nuclear deal be signed, the U.S. would immediately try to restrict Israel's freedom of operation. If they did a deal with Iran, and everybody starts applauding, then Israel will find itself as the skunk at the post-Iran-deal garden party.
        Israel will continue to do these operations which we have to do against Iran in Syria or other places, but the U.S. may try to handcuff Israel through leaks like this or in other ways to prevent us from acting. This happened in the past.
        After the deal in 2015, rather than stand with Israel and fight Iran in different areas around the region as was promised at the time - to push back against Iranian aggression - that didn't happen. There was almost no pushback. You remember the humiliation of the captured U.S. sailors. Everything was done to avoid confrontation.
        Ron Dermer is a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.  Michael Makovsky is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). (Spotify)
        See also U.S. Intelligence Leak Is a Serious Breach of Trust with a Close Ally - Con Coughlin
    Whether or not the report that Israel was behind the killing of a senior Quds force official is true is almost academic. The real crime, one that represents a serious breach of the long-standing intelligence-sharing arrangements between the U.S. and Israel, is that one of President Biden's senior officials has been willing to betray the trust of such a close ally.
        It is unclear if the leak was deliberate, to harm Israel, or from not fully appreciating the jeopardy it could potentially cause Israel, an act which would reflect the Biden administration's profound lack of understanding as to what is at stake with the entire Iran issue.
        The writer is the defense and foreign affairs editor at Britain's Telegraph. (Gatestone Institute)
  • America Continues to Appease the Palestinians - Melanie Phillips
    What the Palestinians have been doing recently hardly justifies their description by State Department spokesman Ned Price as America's "partners," for the PA repeatedly incites violence against Israeli Jews. The official PA daily ran a column attacking Israel's Jerusalem Day parade while ludicrously claiming that a Palestinian nation had existed for 5,000 years with Jerusalem as its capital. It also claimed that the Western Wall of the Temple Mount belonged "only to believers of the religion of Islam," and called on them "to expel from it the Zionist hordes."
        Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah, which runs the PA, has named as "heroic martyrs" the two Palestinian murderers who killed eight people in two separate terror attacks in Tel Aviv and Bnei Brak this year. A Fatah official declared that "we love martyrdom-death as we love life," while Palestinians chanted: "How sweet it is to kill Jews." The PA routinely instructs its children that their highest calling is to kill Israelis and continues to pay terrorists' families a reward for murdering Israeli Jews.
        In any sane and morally functioning universe, such people would be treated as social and political pariahs and held to account for their murderous agenda. So why is the Biden administration so determined to elevate them?
        There is a fundamental misconception that the war of extermination waged against Israel is instead a conflict between two rival claims to the same area of land. But all such attempts at compromise serve instead to legitimize, incentivize and reward Palestinian aggression. By insisting on equivalence between victim and aggressor, it always ends up favoring the aggressor and placing the victim in even greater jeopardy.
        The writer is a columnist for The Times-UK. (Substack)
  • U.S. Needs a Strategy for a Realigned Middle East - Lawrence J. Haas
    Gone are the days when the Middle East was bifurcated between Israel and everyone else - and when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was considered the main obstacle to wider Arab-Israeli peace. As recent events make clear, the region is increasingly bifurcated with Israel and its growing Sunni Arab allies on one side, and Iran and its state and terror-group allies on the other.
        The talks in Vienna on reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran seem to exist in a "never-never land" with little connection to today's new reality: Iran's nuclear program and related ballistic missile program are both far more advanced than they were in 2015, Tehran refuses to come clean about its past nuclear activities, and the regime is growing more brazen in its regional aggressiveness. Washington needs a new strategy for Iran that is not centered on reviving a nuclear agreement that - in its time-limited restrictions on Iranian nuclear work and loophole-filled inspection regime - was too weak to begin with.
        The writer is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. (The Hill)

"Iran's Strategic Goal in Lebanon Has Been Achieved" - Interview with Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira by Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
  • The generally accepted view holds that Hizbullah arose as an authentic Lebanese response to the Israeli invasion in 1982, which had actually targeted the Palestinians. A different view is held by Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, who tells Ha'aretz that the decision to establish Hizbullah was in fact made in Tehran, three years before the outbreak of the Lebanon War.
  • As a young officer in Military Intelligence, Shapira visited Lebanon half a year before the 1982 war, during secret talks held by the Mossad and the Phalangists. A year after the war's outbreak, he was assigned to coordinate the Shi'ite desk in the Lebanon branch of the MI research division. In 1989, he established the Iranian branch in MI. Shapira, 70, is currently a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
  • "In 1979, in Iran after the revolution, a decision was made by the leadership of the Revolutionary Council under Ayatollah Khomeini," he explains, "to export the revolution to the Arab and Muslim realms. The Iranian conception was: 'We will establish Islamic movements around the world that will recognize the principle of loyalty to the spiritual leader in Iran.' To get things going, Iran needed a country where there was a large Shi'ite community and where Iranian activity could be undertaken. Lebanon fit the bill....The Israeli invasion of Lebanon did not trigger [Hizbullah's] establishment."
  • "Iran forged a new Shi'ite-Islamic society in Lebanon, whose loyalty is to the supreme leader in Tehran. It also built a military arm that has caused Israel to be apprehensive....Around 2013-2014...they began talking about conquering the Galilee."
  • "In 2018, it turned out that some of their plans entailed a surprise attack that would take place in the future via six offensive tunnels the organization had dug in the course of years under the Lebanese border, and which were only then detected by the IDF....We must ask ourselves whether there are more tunnels. Their military force is a kind of Iranian corps that is stationed in Lebanon."
  • "An enthusiastic attempt is being made by the Americans to find moderate Shi'ites and even to inject funds to organize them in Lebanon. At the same time, they are trying to strengthen the Lebanese army. But it won't be a pro-American army. That's naive. The army in Lebanon understands that power lies with Hizbullah and they will not act against it."
  • "Lebanon has become a failed state, in which the state institutions have ceased to function....Iran's strategic goal was achieved: Hizbullah has taken control of the Lebanese state through its legal institutions."

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This issue of Daily Alert was produced in Israel on Isru Hag Shavuot.
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