December 26, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Former Mossad Official: Iran Close to Enriching Uranium to Military-Grade - Tal Schneider (Times of Israel)
    Zohar Palti, former head of the Political-Military Bureau at Israel's Ministry of Defense and former intelligence director in the Mossad, says Iran is days to weeks away from enriching uranium to 90% military-grade.
    Palti says Israel has the military capabilities to attack Iran's nuclear plants: "I am not implying that Israel is capable, I am saying it is," and that Israel will have to make "serious decisions" in the near future.

Mossad: Iran Intends to Broaden Weapons Transfers to Russia - Jonathan Lis (Ha'aretz)
    Iran intends to "expand and deepen its supply of advanced weaponry to Russia," Mossad chief David Barnea warned on Thursday.
    Barnea also warned of Iranian attacks on Muslim countries that have forged relations with Israel.
    He added that over the past few months, Iran has "intensified and increased its attempts to carry out terror attacks, which we thwart on a daily basis, the world over."
    See also Israeli Officials Concerned that Russia Could Supply Iran with Hypersonic Missiles - Yoav Limor (Israel Hayom)
    With Russia set to sign a deal with Iran in the coming days for another several hundred unmanned attack drones, Israeli officials worry this could lead to deliveries to Iran of Russian hypersonic missiles.

Report: Israeli Airstrikes Target Hizbullah Drone Unit in Syria (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli airstrikes targeted a site belonging to Hizbullah's drone development unit at al-Qusayr airport in Syria near the border with Lebanon on Sunday, the Saudi Al-Arabiya channel reported on Thursday.
    Sources said al-Qusayr Airport has been turned into a research and development center for Iranian drones used by Hizbullah's Unit 127.
    Last month, Al-Arabiya reported that Hizbullah was storing hundreds of missiles carrying a toxic chemical payload at a warehouse in al-Qusayr. The missiles include 110 Fajr missiles and over 300 Fateh missiles and are all carrying thionyl chloride.
    The missiles are only being temporarily stored in al-Qusayr and will be moved to the Bint Jbeil area in Lebanon near a base belonging to UNIFIL.

Victims of Palestinian Terror Sue U.S. Government for Funding "Pay for Slay" - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    American victims of Palestinian terror attacks filed a lawsuit against President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken Tuesday for financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, stressing that these funds end up in "Pay for Slay" rewards given to terrorists and violate the Taylor Force Act.
    The act prohibits the Executive Branch from providing certain types of foreign assistance to the PA unless the PA takes "credible steps" to end acts of violence against Israeli and American citizens and ends "Pay for Slay" payments.
    The lawsuit pointed to the transfer by the Biden administration of $75 million in economic support in 2021 to programs that directly benefit the PA and do not fall within the Taylor Force Act's exemptions, as well of hundreds of millions provided to programs benefiting the PA.
    The plaintiffs include Stuart and Robbi Force, the parents of Taylor Force, a West Point graduate murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in Tel Aviv.

Iranian Flamingos Land in Israel - Naama Barak (Israel21c)
    200 pink flamingos originally from Iran are resting at the Hula Lake Park in northern Israel. Another few hundred flamingos are in Eilat.
    Inbar Shlomit Rubin, the field guide manager at the park, said that over the past few years, flamingos have started coming in larger numbers and staying for longer time periods.
    "They still only arrive during migration season in fall and in spring, but they're suddenly staying for a week or two."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • In Bethlehem, the Christian Population Is Shrinking and Afraid of the Muslim Majority - Melanie Swan
    In the modern West Bank city of Bethlehem, the centuries-old Christian population is dwindling and afraid. The city's Christian population has dropped from 84% of the total a century ago to 20% today, and is falling further in the face of discrimination and threats from elements of the Muslim majority.
        "There is a campaign to buy Christian homes and businesses and on Friday you will hear the sheikh on the loudspeakers from the mosques speaking against Jews and Christians...it's hatred you hear in their prayers," one Christian leader told The Times. "They are pushing us out. You live among a people who doesn't want you. Christians are afraid and if they have the chance to leave, they do."
        Khalil Sayegh, a senior research fellow at the Philos Project, a Christian advocacy group which conducted a recent poll of 1,000 Palestinian Christians, said the survey "reveals a very high degree of concerns over sectarian discrimination targeting Christians by their Palestinian Muslim neighbors."  (The Times-UK)
        See also Senior Hamas Official Denounces "Treacherous Christianity"
    Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Al-Masirah TV (Houthis-Yemen) on Dec. 12, 2022: "When we speak about the Army of Jerusalem...we are not talking about liberating our land alone....The entire 510 million square kilometers of Planet Earth will come under [a system] where there is...no Zionism, no treacherous Christianity."  (MEMRI)
        See also Israel's Christian Population Is Thriving
    The Israel Central Bureau of Statistics has released data regarding Christians living in Israel, updated to the end of 2021. The Christian population in Israel numbered 183,000, 1.9% of the population. During 2021, the Christian population increased by 3,600.
        75.8% of Christians in Israel are Arab - numbering 138,000. Arab Christians are 6.9% of the total Arab population in Israel. 24.2% are non-Arab Christians - 44,400 people - most of them immigrants who came to Israel with Jewish family members under the Law of Return since the 1990s. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Steps Up Raids Against Islamic State Militants in Syria - Gordon Lubold
    The Pentagon said it has stepped up raids against Islamic State in Syria, conducting at least 10 helicopter and ground operations in December to kill or capture top militants. The raids are removing from the battlefield regional or local leaders who military officials believe play roles in planning and conducting attacks, mostly in rural areas.
        The U.S. is "doing more strikes because they have to," said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former White House and State Department official. "The reason why the threat is growing is the economic problems and the lack of a [political] settlement." Islamic State has maintained the ability to conduct terrorism operations in Syria and Iraq with as many as 1,800 fighters in Syria and more than 8,000 in Iraq, according to military officials.
        "While ISIS is significantly degraded in Iraq and Syria, the group does maintain the capability to conduct operations in the region," Army Gen. Erik Kurilla, who heads U.S. Central Command, said Thursday. "And we know the group has the desire to strike outside the region." The U.S. maintains about 1,000 service members at different locations inside Syria. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Security Agency Thwarts Suicide Bombing Attack - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The Israel Security Agency on Monday announced that it had prevented a major suicide bombing attack in Israel. Beginning on Dec. 14, there were several rounds of arrests of Palestinians, including uncovering operatives and their handlers, and confiscation of explosive materials designated for the bombing. Terrorists in Gaza were involved in directing West Bank terror operatives in the plot. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Police Officers Wounded in Car-Ramming in Israeli-Arab Town - Jack Khoury
    Two police officers were wounded in a car-ramming attack in Kafr Qasem early Friday. The driver, who also opened fire at the officers, was shot and killed. (Ha'aretz)
  • Islamic Jihad Gunmen Fire at Israeli Community - Emanuel Fabian
    Palestinian gunmen fired a hail of bullets Friday evening at the Israeli community of Shaked in the northern West Bank, damaging one home. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinian Gunmen Fire at Israeli Car in West Bank
    Palestinian gunmen opened fire at an Israeli vehicle near Havat Gilad in Samaria on Sunday night. There were no casualties. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Death of Christianity in Bethlehem - Raymond Ibrahim
    In January, a large group of masked men carrying sticks and iron bars attacked Christian brothers Daoud and Daher Nassar on their farm near Bethlehem. The Palestinian courts have been working to confiscate the farm that has been owned by the family since the Ottoman Empire. In April, Palestinian evangelical pastor Johnny Shahwan was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces on charges of "promoting normalization" with Israel.
        According to Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, Director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, "Christians have been under attack in Bethlehem for many, many years. There have been bombings. There are near-constant physical attacks against Christians. They're going on a regular basis, ever since the Palestinian Authority took over."
        Kamal Tarazi, a Christian man who fled from Hamas-controlled Gaza in 2007, said, "The moment they [Hamas] took control, they started persecuting us, ruining our churches and forcing Christians to convert to Islam."
        "The attacks by Muslims on Christians are often ignored by the international community and media, who seem to speak out only when they can find a way to blame Israel," wrote Muslim journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. "Another disturbing situation is that the leaders of the Christian community in the West Bank are reluctant to hold the Palestinian Authority and their Muslim neighbors responsible for the attacks. They are afraid of retribution and prefer to toe the official line of holding Israel solely responsible for the misery of the Christian minority." (Gatestone Institute)
  • Will European Countries Vote to Deny Christianity's Roots in the Holy Land? - Amb. Dror Eydar
    One of the 15-20 anti-Israel resolutions voted on at the UN every year states that Israel violates the human rights of the Palestinians on al-Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary, which is the Muslim term for the Temple Mount. Incredibly, the English term "Temple Mount" does not appear. The Palestinians insist on this in order not to affiliate the Mount with the presence of the Jewish Temple.
        Every year, Israeli ambassadors debate with the foreign ministries of European countries to get the English name included in the resolution. As Israel's Ambassador to Italy, I asked my Italian interlocutor, "If there are no Jewish roots on the Temple Mount, where did Jesus preach? On the moon?"
        By not insisting on the inclusion of the term "Temple Mount," the Europeans for all intents and purposes are voting to deny the Christian world's roots in the Holy Land. That is not the way a civilization that wishes to live behaves.
        Both the U.S. and Europe constantly repeat their belief in the two-state solution. But the Palestinians have erased the second part of the phrase, which is "Two States for Two Peoples." To this day, the Palestinian Authority (and Hamas) do not recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. (Israel Hayom)
  • The European Union's Subversion of Israel - Melanie Phillips
    Last week, Israel's Channel 13 revealed a document drafted by the European Commission which proposed helping the Palestinian Authority secretly take control of land in Area C of the disputed territories - which is supposed to be under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords.
        As Gush Etzion Council Head Shlomo Ne'eman has said: "Every week the State of Israel loses large areas, every day dozens of illegal homes are erected, roads are bulldozed and paved at significant points as part of an organized strategic plan. European governments are actively working to revise the borders of our country."
        As international law Professor Eugene Kontorovich has observed, the Palestinian Authority and the EU are rapidly annexing areas surrounding Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. "The proposed policies of the [new Israeli government] coalition in Area C are not about changing the status quo - they are the bare minimum to preserve it," he said.
        Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry, wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that an EU directive to mobilize and activate "national and international stakeholders through ad-hoc influencing actions on land rights to challenge the Israeli planning and permit regime in Area C" was deliberately encouraging the Palestinians to defy and undermine Israel's authority there, which runs counter to the Oslo Accords. "The EU cannot maintain the status of 'witness' to the Oslo Accords while at the same time systematically undermining those Accords and encouraging the Palestinians to violate them," Baker wrote.
        The writer is a columnist for The Times-UK. (JNS)

  • Some of Israel's closest friends have felt uncomfortable with its perceived impartiality regarding the ongoing Ukraine war. Yet this presumption, though widespread, is erroneous. Since Russia's February 2022 invasion, Israel's position has been far from even-handed.
  • At the outbreak of the conflict, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid stated: "The Russian attack on Ukraine is a serious violation of the international order. Israel condemns this attack and is ready and willing to offer humanitarian aid to Ukrainian citizens." From the outset, Israel's representatives at the UN emphasized its support for Ukraine's "territorial integrity and sovereignty."
  • In parallel, Israel has given tangible humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people: establishing a field hospital in the western Ukrainian city of Mostyska; shipping 100 tons of relief materials to Ukraine, including medical supplies, water purification equipment, tents and blankets; welcoming some 15,000 refugees from the conflict; sending 25,000 ration packs to the city of Kharkiv; and accepting Ukrainian war wounded, military and non-military alike, in Israeli hospitals for specialist medical treatment.
  • Israel has also provided Kyiv with protective equipment such as helmets, body armor, gas masks and mine protection suits.
  • Israel's policy is nuanced, but it cannot be labeled as neutral. Jerusalem aims to support Kyiv within parameters that avert shattering avenues of communication with the Kremlin. This strategy seeks to protect Israel's national security interests, and it also serves the larger global good.
  • While an Israeli decision to supply offensive capabilities to Kyiv would likely have a marginal impact on the Ukrainian battlefield, it could simultaneously undermine Jerusalem's ability to help advance a negotiated agreement when the time is right.

    The writer, formerly an adviser to the prime minister and former Israeli Ambassador to the UK, is chair of the Abba Eban Institute for Diplomacy at Reichman University.

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