January 2, 2023

In-Depth Issues:

New Israeli Satellite Enters Orbit (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israeli EROS-C3 observation satellite was successfully launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in the U.S. on Dec. 30, Israel Aerospace Industries announced. The satellite, owned by ImageSat International, used the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
    It employs a space camera capable of providing extremely high-resolution imagery for both governmental and business applications.

U.S. Air Force Deploys Six F-15s to Israeli Airbase for Joint Drills - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    The U.S. Air Force on Monday deployed six F-15 fighter jets to Israel's Nevatim Airbase ahead of joint drills with Israeli F-35 stealth fighters and intelligence-gathering Gulfstream G550 planes.
    The drills this week will simulate strikes deep in enemy territory, the IAF said.

Exiled Chief Rabbi Says Jews Should Leave Russia While They Can - Stephen Burgen (Guardian-UK)
    Moscow's exiled chief rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who left Russia in July after refusing to back the Russian invasion of Ukraine, told the Guardian:
    "When we look back over Russian history, whenever the political system was in danger you saw the government trying to redirect the anger and discontent of the masses towards the Jewish community."
    "We saw this in tsarist times and at the end of the Stalinist regime. We're seeing rising antisemitism while Russia is going back to a new kind of Soviet Union, and, step-by-step, the Iron Curtain is coming down again. This is why I believe the best option for Russian Jews is to leave."
    Today about 165,000 Jews remain in the Russian Federation out of a total population of 145 million.

U.S. Killed nearly 700 Islamic State Suspects in 2022 - Dan Lamothe (Washington Post)
    American military personnel, together with local forces in Iraq and Syria, killed nearly 700 suspected members of the Islamic State in 2022, officials said Thursday, highlighting an aggressive counterterrorism campaign that quietly endures five years after a U.S.-led coalition destroyed the group's caliphate.

Iran's Currency In Freefall (Iran International)
    The Iranian rial has hit yet another low, surpassing 430,000 rials to the dollar. In response, President Ebrahim Raisi replaced the chief of the Central Bank of Iran.
    Since the protests began in Iran in mid-September, the rial has lost more than a third of its value against the dollar, fueling inflation of well over 50%. The rial has now lost 80% of its value compared to mid-2021.

Iran's "Death Trap" Cars - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    Iran's automotive market is controlled by two manufacturing monopolies, Iran Khodro and Saipa, which together produce 1.5 million vehicles a year.
    The basis for building these cars is old infrastructure designed for Citroen and Peugeot.
    These cars do not meet any safety standards and their computerized components are minimal. They emit smoke and poisonous gases and are responsible for the high numbers of traffic accidents in the country, constituting over 5% of all deaths in Iran.
    Saipa's Pride model has earned the name "Death Trap" because of the large number of accidents it is involved in.
    In November, Tehran and Moscow signed a memorandum of understanding for Russia to buy 30,000 cars from Iran for $300 million.

Israel's Year-End Population Is 9,656,000 (Times of Israel)
    Israel has 9,656,000 residents, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Thursday. 7,106,000 (73.6%) are Jewish, 2,037,000 (21.1%) are Arab, and 513,000 (5.3%) include non-Arab Christians, members of other faiths, and those not belonging to any religion.
    2022 saw the population grow by 2.2%, greater than the 1.8% in 2021 - 62% from natural growth and 38% from immigration.
    178,000 babies were born in 2022, 74.8% to Jewish mothers and 23.8% to Arab mothers.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • President Biden: "I Look Forward to Working with Prime Minister Netanyahu"
    President Joe Biden said Thursday: "Today, Israel's Knesset voted to ratify a new Israeli government under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been my friend for decades, to jointly address the many challenges and opportunities facing Israel and the Middle East region, including threats from Iran."  (White House)
        See also Secretary of State Welcomes New Israeli Government (U.S. State Department)
        See also American Jewish Leadership Welcomes New Israeli Government
    Dianne Lob, Chair, and William Daroff, CEO, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Thursday: "The Conference of Presidents congratulates Israel's incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he was sworn in today for an unprecedented sixth time as Israel's leader. Prime Minister Netanyahu, a longtime friend with whom the Conference has worked since the 1980s, is deeply committed to the strength of the relationship between Israel and diaspora communities."
        "We look forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu to deepen the unbreakable bond between America and Israel, to counter the growing threat posed by Iran and its terrorist proxies, to advance the Abraham Accords and other normalization agreements, and to combat the scourge of global antisemitism."  (Conference of Presidents)
        See also On Eve of Israel's New Government, Coalition Partners Offer Reassurances - Maayan Lubell
    As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's government was sworn in Thursday, his coalition partners offered reassurances that they would serve all Israelis and not radically shift strategy in the conflict with the Palestinians. Religious Zionist party head Bezalel Smotrich said he would "strengthen every citizen's freedoms and the country's democratic institutions." He said his plan for Jewish communities in the West Bank "doesn't entail changing (their) political or legal status."  (Reuters)
  • UN Asks World Court to Give Opinion on Israel's "Occupation" - Michelle Nichols
    The UN General Assembly on Friday asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to give an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. 87 countries voted in favor, 26 voted against, while 53 abstained. Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said, "No international body can decide that the Jewish people are 'occupiers' in their own homeland. Any decision from a judicial body which receives its mandate from the morally bankrupt and politicized UN is completely illegitimate."  (Reuters)
        See also Netanyahu: "Disgraceful" Palestinian-Led UN Vote on ICJ "Does Not Bind Israel" - Jonathan Lis
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday called the UN proposal to seek an advisory opinion on the Israeli occupation in the West Bank "disgraceful" and said that it won't bind Israel. "The Jewish people is not an occupier on its own land and is not an occupier of its eternal capital of Jerusalem. No UN resolution will distort this historical truth."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Iranian Regime Has Lost Control of the Universities - Tom Brown
    The Iranian regime has "lost control of the universities," according to leaked documents that show paramilitary guards sharing fears the Islamic theocracy can no longer quash dissent among its educated young people.
        Akef, a student from Tehran, described how his resistance unit started out small in scale, tearing down posters of the Supreme Leader or leaving anti-government graffiti scattered in back alleys. With more students joining every day, the units are taking on bigger targets, using firebombs or fireworks to harass Iranian forces. "Our only goal is to liberate our country and overthrow the regime. Work and life are not really worth it for us now. Our whole goal is to continue this uprising," said Akef. (MailOnline-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Analyzing the UN Vote Against Israel - Herb Keinon
    45% of the UN General Assembly's 193 members voted in favor of the Palestinians on Friday. 55% either voted against, voted to abstain, or did not show up to vote. Of the 87 countries that voted for the Palestinians, 43% are classified in the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual democracy index as being authoritarian regimes. Only a quarter of the states that voted for the Palestinians were democracies. By contrast, 62% of the countries who voted for Israel were democracies.
        Seven EU countries voted against Israel: Poland, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Malta, Luxembourg and Slovenia. Cyprus and Greece, which could always be counted on to vote against Israel two decades ago, abstained, as did India and Brazil. In Africa, 10 countries abstained and 14 countries did not vote. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Who Voted with Israel at the UN?
    Countries voting with Israel at the UN on Friday to oppose the International Court of Justice resolution included Albania, Australia, Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czechia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Estonia, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Italy, Kenya, Liberia, Lithuania, Romania, UK, and U.S. (Times of Israel)
  • Iranian Author Sentenced to Death after Urging Peace in Israel TV Interview
    Iranian writer Mehdi Bahman was sentenced to death in Iran on Thursday for "espionage" after he gave an interview to Israel's Channel 13 television in April 2022. In the interview, Bahman criticized the regime in Tehran and the imposition of Islamic law and called for normalization between Israel and Iran.
        Bahman had told Channel 13, "I can say with full confidence that there are a lot of people whom I personally know and meet on the street, and when I speak to them, they say they have no hostility or enmity against the people in Israel or against Jews anywhere."  (Times of Israel-Ha'aretz)
  • Two Palestinian Gunmen Killed near Jenin - Yoav Zitun
    Two Palestinian gunmen - Muhammad Houshiyeh, 22, and Fouad Abed, 25 - were killed in clashes with Israeli troops near the northern West Bank city of Jenin early Monday. Israeli forces entered the village of Kafr Dan to raze the homes of two Palestinian terrorists who killed Major Bar Falah, 30, in September. During the operation, the forces came under heavy Palestinian fire and returned fire. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The PA Must Pay a Price for Pressuring Israel in the International Arena - Yoni Ben Menachem
    At the request of the Palestinian Authority, the UN General Assembly voted on Dec. 30, 2022, to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for an opinion on the legality of the "Israeli occupation" in the West Bank. The UN decision is a political blow to Israel, even though Israel managed to mobilize more countries in the UN to oppose the decision since the preliminary vote on the issue a month earlier.
        In recent months, PA Chairman Abbas has returned to his old strategy of internationalizing the conflict with Israel. If Israel fails to react, the PA will interpret this as weakness and increase the pressure on Israel in the international arena. Israel must, at the very least, take symbolic action to warn the Palestinian Authority against similar political moves in the future. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • In a World Where Iran, Russia, Turkey and Others Violate International Law, the Focus on Israel Appears Misplaced - Seth J. Frantzman
    The UN's request that the International Court of Justice examine the issue of Israel's "occupation, settlement and annexation" follows in the footsteps of countless other condemnations of Israel. Yet in a world in which Russia has annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine, and Turkey is illegally occupying Afrin in Syria, it is worth considering why and how Israel alone seems to be at the center of international law disputes.
        Israel's role in the West Bank is not unique and involves processes that have happened elsewhere. Turkey, a NATO member, has invaded parts of Syria and caused ethnic cleansing of Kurds and resettled other people in these areas. When Jordan ran eastern Jerusalem between 1948 and 1967 and Jews were ethnically cleansed from areas of the Old City, this was not called "occupation."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Propaganda at the New York Times - Ricki Hollander
    On Dec. 29, the New York Times published a guest essay by Yara Asi, who introduces the Palestinian terrorist organization Lions' Den, that has attacked both Israeli civilians and the soldiers protecting them, as an "armed resistance group," while labeling Israel's counter-terrorist operations as "military violence." She says that at least 150 Palestinians were killed in 2022, but fails to mention how many among those killed were combatants killed in gunfights or while attempting to attack Israelis, or were innocent bystanders among whom Palestinian gunmen positioned themselves while firing at Israeli troops.
        There have been numerous news reports of Palestinian terrorists belonging to foreign-designated terrorist organizations being killed while engaged in firefights with Israeli Defense Forces or while in the process of attacking Israelis, but such context is entirely missing from Asi's analysis. There is nothing about the spike in terrorist attacks by Palestinians this year that prompted the operations of Israel's Defense Forces.
        In Asi's telling, there is no such thing as Palestinian terrorism, Israeli victims, or the need for Israeli security and, therefore, Palestinians bear no responsibility for their situation. (CAMERA)
  • World Media Should Wait to Criticize New Israeli Government - Gil Hoffman
    The world media has not held back its criticism of what has been called "the most extreme, right-wing government in Israel's history." But the truth is the government has not done anything yet, and until it does, criticism is premature and based on speculation. Statements of politicians in any country are typically for domestic consumption. Signed coalition agreements are statements of intent, not decisions set to be implemented.
        To its credit, the Biden administration has been careful to give the incoming Israeli government the benefit of the doubt until it takes steps it deems problematic and unacceptable. The international media should consider following America's lead. (HonestReporting)

Washington Will Not Turn on Israel's New Government - Amb. Zalman Shoval (Jerusalem Post)
  • Relations between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have a long and on the whole positive history.
  • In tune with Biden's long-established positions, at the J Street conference in Washington last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Israel's democratic elections and congratulated Netanyahu on his victory, stressing the importance of relations between the U.S. and Israel regardless of the political hue of its government.
  • Blinken specifically reiterated the importance of American security-related support for Israel, emphasizing that "no peace is possible or sustainable without a strong, secure Israel," specifying that "our assistance to Israel is sacrosanct" and that "the United States' ironclad commitment to Israel's security assistance has never been stronger than it is today."
  • However, even if the administration makes do with conflict management, it does not mean that its definition of "management" is the same as Israel's. The upgraded status of the American envoy to the Palestinians, Hady Amr, among other things, shows that this is not the case. Israel's experienced and pragmatic prime minister can be expected to recognize this.
  • For the next few years, the extreme polarization in American politics and society may mean that Israel's diplomacy will have to be guided by the rule set by the late Moshe Dayan: namely, risk confrontations only on truly vital matters.

    The writer, a former MK, served as Israel's ambassador to the U.S. in 1990-1993 and 1998-2000.

Daily Alert is published every Monday and Thursday.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert.