July 4, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Authorities Are Systematically Torturing their Palestinian Critics (Human Rights Watch)
    Palestinian authorities are systematically mistreating and torturing Palestinians in detention, including critics and opponents, Human Rights Watch said Thursday in a report submitted to the UN Committee Against Torture.
    Torture, both by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas authorities in Gaza, may amount to crimes against humanity, given its systematic nature over many years.

The Escalating Iran-Hizbullah Drone Threat - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran has rapidly expanded its drone program and encouraged its proxies in the region to develop their own drone technology.
    These drones are often kamikaze ones, meaning they have a warhead and are designed to fly into their target.
    By 2018, Hizbullah and Iran - along with the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen, Iranian-backed militias in Syria and militias linked to Iran in Iraq - all had drone capabilities.
    The Alma Research and Education Center said in December 2021 that Hizbullah has 2,000 drones.
    Last year it is believed that Iran moved Shahed 136 drones to Yemen. These may have a range that enables them to strike Eilat.

Greece Is Deploying Israeli Systems to Counter Turkish Drones - Paul Iddon (Forbes)
    Greece has secretly implemented a "veritable umbrella against enemy unmanned aerial vehicles" over islands and other important sites across the country during the past two months, Vassilis Nedos wrote in the Greek daily Kathimerini.
    The system uses Israeli technology to blind drones and disrupt their flight plans.
    Built by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Drone Dome specializes in countering enemy drones by jamming their communications and GPS.
    For fully autonomous drones, it uses an invisible 10-kw. laser that can down drones up to two miles away.

Thailand to Buy More Israeli Drones (The Nation-Thailand)
    The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) will buy seven Hermes 900 drones from Israeli company Elbit Systems for $112 million, Vice Admiral Pokkrong Monthatphalin announced on Friday.
    The Royal Thai Army already has four Hermes 400 drones.

Israeli Journalist Visits Saudi Arabia, Sees Profound Change - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    Saudi Arabia was a pleasant surprise. Friendly. Happy. Not even mentioning Israel brought anyone down.
    I tested this on several cab drivers and market vendors. Some smiled and shook their head in disbelief or worry, others were curious and struck up a conversation.
    No one made us feel unwelcome, not even for a moment.

PA Expects President Biden to Ignore U.S. Law - Lt.-Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch (Palestinian Media Watch)
    Two of the fundamental demands of the Palestinian leadership is that President Biden renew U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority and re-open the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington.
    The problem is that the PA is knowingly and openly flouting at least two fundamental provisions of U.S. law that prohibit providing the bulk of U.S. funding to the PA and also prohibit re-opening the PLO offices.
    The writer is Director of Legal Strategies at Palestinian Media Watch.

Israel to Invest $497 Million to Build Hospitals in Morocco - Oumaima Latrech (Morocco World News)
    Morocco's Ministry of Health and Israel's IMS Ovadia Group signed on Thursday a memorandum of understanding for the construction of five hospitals with a capacity of 1,000 beds in various regions of Morocco.
    The IMS group is set to invest $497 million on the design, construction, and equipment.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Official: Chances for Iran Nuclear Deal Worse after Qatar Talks - Arshad Mohammed
    The chances of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are worse after indirect U.S.-Iranian talks in Doha, Qatar, "than they were before Doha and they will be getting worse by the day," a senior U.S. official said Thursday. "You could describe Doha at best as treading water, at worst as moving backwards."
        "Their vague demands, reopening of settled issues, and requests clearly unrelated to the JCPOA all suggests to us...that the real discussion that has to take place...is between Iran and Iran, to resolve the fundamental question about whether they are interested in a mutual return to the JCPOA," the official said. "Most of what they raised they either knew - or should have known - was outside the scope of the JCPOA and thus completely unsellable to us and to the Europeans, or were issues that had been thoroughly debated and resolved in Vienna and that we were clearly not going to reopen."
        Speaking at the UN Security Council, U.S., British and French diplomats all placed the onus on Iran for the failure to revive the agreement after more than a year of negotiations. (Reuters)
  • 30 Governments Discuss Hizbullah's Ongoing Global Terrorist Plotting
    More than 30 governments in the Law Enforcement Coordination Group (LECG) met in Europe on June 29-30 to focus on countering Hizbullah's ongoing global terrorist plotting, weapons procurement, and financial schemes. LECG members discussed how law enforcement or financial tools can be used to disrupt Hizbullah's terrorist and criminal activities. (U.S. State Department)
  • 20 Men Convicted in November 2015 Paris Terrorist Attack - Constant Meheut
    Twenty men were convicted on Wednesday for their roles in a coordinated spree of Islamist shootings and bombings in November 2015 that killed 130 people in and near Paris and injured more than 500. The assailants were mostly French citizens who, in a carefully orchestrated plot, had traveled to Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria for military training.
        Prosecutors were unable to determine where most of the weapons used in the attack had been acquired, or whether the Islamic State had planned other attacks in Paris or at the Amsterdam airport, as suggested by documents later found by investigators. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Downs Three Hizbullah Drones Flying toward Mediterranean Gas Rig - Anna Ahronheim
    The IDF shot down three unmanned aerial vehicles launched by Hizbullah toward an Israeli gas rig in the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday. One was shot down by an F-16 and two others were downed by a Barak 8 surface-to-air missile from the INS Eilat. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel's Naval Missile Defense System Proves Itself - Vice Adm. (ret.) Eliezer Marom
    The interception of Hizbullah drones by the Israeli Navy's Barak 8 missile system was historic - the first time the naval missile defense system proved its effectiveness. The writer served as commander of the Israeli Navy. (Israel Hayom)
        See also IDF Had Advance Intelligence on Hizbullah Drone Launch - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
        See also Hizbullah Fakes Drone Video of Israeli Gas Rig
    Hizbullah on Sunday published a video it claimed was Hizbullah drone footage of Israel's Karish gas rig in the Mediterranean. However, i24News correspondent Matthias Inbar found the footage to be identical to that provided in a YouTube video from Energean, the owner of the gas rig. (i24 News)
  • Israeli Strike in Syria Targeted "Game Changing" Iranian Air Defenses
    In an airstrike Saturday near the Syrian port city of Tartus, Israel targeted Iranian attempts to bring "game-changing" air defense systems into the country, Israel's Channel 12 reported. The strike targeted "a weapon transported by sea, possibly using Iranian ships that docked at the port." The report said Iran's Revolutionary Guards were seeking to operate their own air defense systems in Syria. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Weighs Options for Confronting Iran in Event of Nuclear Deal - Ben Caspit
    Israel's Channel 12 aired a video last week said to document the results of a June 27 cyberattack that set fire to parts of a plant operated by Iran's state-owned Khuzestan Steel Company and caused heavy damage. Israel and Iran are waging an escalating cyberwar that has inflicted far more damage on Iran than on Israel.
        Meanwhile, Israel's Mossad intelligence agency sees a new nuclear agreement with Iran as a done deal and discounts reports of poor prospects for a breakthrough. "We are clearly identifying a burning desire to reach an agreement, compromises that the sides have agreed on, and an ongoing striving for this goal," a top Israeli security source said.
        "It should also be stressed once again that a nuclear agreement is a bad option for Israel to the extent of posing an existential threat. It will hand Iran a 'license to kill' within a few years and turn it into a nuclear threshold state verging on a nuclear state. Israel must make clear that it will not be bound by such an agreement."
        Meanwhile, Israel is compiling a list of diplomatic measures to be presented to President Biden during his upcoming visit on July 13-14, designed to increase pressure on Iran and create leverage that would force it to abandon its nuclear program. "So far, the West and the United States have not used all the diplomatic and economic tools at their disposal. On the contrary, far from it," said the senior Israeli security source. "We intend to...present him [Biden] with a clear alternative."  (Al-Monitor)
  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Slams Talks to Renew Iran Nuclear Deal - Andrew Roberts
    Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, 99, said in an interview: "I was extremely doubtful about the original nuclear agreement. I thought Iran's promises would be very difficult to verify, and that the talks really created a pattern in which the nuclear build-up might have been slowed down a little but made more inevitable. As a result, countries in the region, particularly Israel - Iran's chief enemy - but also Egypt and Saudi Arabia - whom they see as principal competitors - were going to be driven into reactions which might make the situation much more explosive."
        "Now, the trouble with the existing nuclear talks is that it is very dangerous to go back to an agreement that was inadequate to begin with - to modify it in a direction that makes it apparently more tolerable to the adversary. So all the concerns I had with the original agreement, I'm going to have now."
        "There is really no alternative to the elimination of an Iranian nuclear force. There is no way you can have peace in the Middle East with nuclear weapons in Iran, because before that happens, there is a high danger of pre-emption by Israel, because Israel cannot wait for deterrents."  (Spectator-UK)
  • Saudi Academic Calls for Islamic Religious Sanction for Normalization with Israel - Y. Yehoshua
    It appears that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman regards Israel not as an enemy but as a potential ally, and believes that forming ties with it can serve the kingdom's economic, political and security interests. The informal contacts that have taken place between the countries in recent years, and the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel and several Arab countries, chief of them the UAE, have somewhat eroded Israel's demonic image in the eyes of the Saudi people, especially among the younger generation.
        Intellectuals, journalists and social media activists in the kingdom have begun to openly express a tolerant and even positive attitude towards Israel, seeing peace with it as inevitable. Many also direct harsh criticism at the Palestinians, who, they say, are not adopting a realistic policy conducive to resolving the conflict.
        Yet Saudi Arabia - which is essentially a religious state and regards itself as the leader of the Islamic world - will find it difficult to form official relations with Israel without first establishing the legitimacy of this move from the perspective of the shari'a (Islamic law). Clerics opposed to the Abraham Accords have stated that normalization with Israel is an act of treason against Allah and against the Prophet Muhammad who fought the Jews.
        However, religious rulings sanctioning ties with Israel were already issued in the 1990s by Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz ibn Baz, who served as Saudi mufti from 1993 until his death in 1999. Issued against the backdrop of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, the rulings stated that a country may sign a peace agreement with the Jews, i.e., with Israel, if such an agreement is deemed to be in the interest of its Muslim citizens. Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman told Saudi TV in 2021 that it is always possible to employ independent judgement and interpret the shari'a according to the spirit of the time and the place.
        Writing in the Saudi state daily Al-Jazirah on June 20, 2022, Dr. Khalid bin Muhammad Al-Yousuf, a senior lecturer on international law at the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh and the secretary-general of the university's Supreme Council, argues that Israel is an existing reality just like any other world country. Therefore, it must be treated according to the accepted norms of the international community.
        Al-Yousuf calls on Saudi clerics to formulate a new religious perception of international relations compatible with these new norms, which will enable the ruler of an Islamic state to employ independent judgement and form ties with Israel if he deems this to be in the interest of his country.
        The writer is Vice President for Research and Director of MEMRI Israel. (MEMRI)

Israel Hoping for Shift in U.S. Policy on Iran - Zohar Palti (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Over the past year and a half, Iran has dragged its feet on diplomacy, refusing even to meet face-to-face with the Americans, while quietly advancing its nuclear program. Iran has violated commitment after commitment on its nuclear program: on enrichment, centrifuge development and production of uranium metals, without any repercussions from the international community.
  • At the same time, Gulf states have suffered drone and cruise missile attacks on civilian targets, including airports and oil installations, while Iran itself suffered no direct cost for its unprovoked attacks.
  • Iran today is no longer under the pressure that it felt when it agreed to the original nuclear deal in 2015. Without pressure, the Iranians agree to nothing. Today, with energy prices sky-high, Iran has found buyers for its sanctioned oil that has produced a windfall. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has held off on penalizing recipients of Iran's illegal exports for fear of worsening the energy crunch that has already driven gas prices to unprecedented levels.
  • In light of all this, most Israeli security professionals have concluded that only the application of massive additional pressure on Iran will convince the mullahs to compromise. Now is the time to return to a policy of pressure. Only if Iran's leaders truly believe that the very stability of the regime is at risk will they be open to compromise.
  • This requires American contingency planning and military training operations to convince Iran that the U.S. commitment to act militarily to prevent its nuclear progress is real. At the same time, a policy of pressure would include reinvigorated sanctions, especially in the fields of energy and finance, including a willingness to target Chinese purchases of Iranian oil.
  • Letting Iran proceed on its current path is bound to be worse for U.S. interests. If America doesn't get its hands dirty now with restoring deterrence to its relationship with Iran, Iran will become a nuclear threshold state. Without American action before then, Israel will feel isolated, alone and compelled to consider measures to prevent what it would view as a strategic catastrophe.

    The writer formerly served as head of the Political-Military Bureau in Israel's Defense Ministry and director of intelligence for the Mossad.

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