February 20, 2023
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy
Dan Diker, President - Yechiel Leiter, Director General

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Strike Hits Heart of Syria's Security Elite (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    An Israeli missile strike early Sunday destroyed a building in a Damascus neighborhood home to much of Syria's security apparatus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
    See also Seven Syrian Military Figures Killed in Israeli Attack on Damascus (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)

Israel to Give Ukraine $200 Million in Loan Guarantees for Healthcare, Civilian Infrastructure (Interfax-Ukraine)
    Israel intends to provide loan guarantees of up to $200 million for the implementation of healthcare and civil infrastructure projects in Ukraine, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Thursday during a visit to Kyiv.
    He also announced that Israel would help Ukraine to develop a smart early warning system.
    "I am proud to support Ukraine during these difficult times," Cohen said.
    See also Russian State TV Denounces Israeli Foreign Minister's Visit to Ukrainian "Nazi State" - Sam Sokol (Ha'aretz)

Israel Stepping Up Talks with Saudi Arabia over Ties to Combat Iran - Sam Dagher (Bloomberg)
    Israel has stepped up U.S.-backed talks with Saudi Arabia on developing closer military and intelligence ties in light of growing concerns about Iran.
    "We think that other regions integrating and beginning to sit at the same table with Israel is in the interest of stability and security in the region," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Dana Stroul said in Riyadh on Monday.
    "They have contacts all the time, accelerated to an extent, though I would not overplay it," said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of The Washington Institute.
    The two sides have "fairly convenient lines of communication on intelligence and air defense."

Four U.S. Troops Wounded in Raid that Killed Islamic State Official in Syria (Reuters)
    Four U.S. troops were wounded during a helicopter raid that killed Islamic State leader Hamza al-Homsi, who oversaw the group's network in eastern Syria, U.S. officials said on Friday.

Palestinian Terrorism-Linked Group Pocketed Massive Amounts of Covid-19 Cash - Gabe Kaminsky (Washington Examiner)
    The nonprofit Alliance for Global Justice was hit with an IRS complaint in January because it fundraised for a French group called Collectif Palestine Vaincra that partners with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S.-designated terror organization.
    The federal government handed this group $254,000 in May 2020 as part of the Paycheck Protection Program and forgave the loan in November 2021.
    See also Credit Card Donations Blocked for Group Linked to Palestinian Terrorism - Gabe Kaminsky (Washington Examiner)

Hizbullah: If Nasrallah Says the Word, We Will Liberate the Galilee (MEMRI-TV)
    A Hizbullah officer told Al-Manar TV (Hizbullah-Lebanon) on Feb. 15, 2023, "The liberation of the Galilee requires only one word from Sec.-Gen. [Nasrallah]. Once he declares he has made the decision, we will liberate the Galilee the next day."
    "We [detected] many gaps in the enemy's defenses, through which our mujahideen can pass and appear at the [Israelis'] homes, at their doorsteps."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Nuclear Inspectors Find Uranium Enriched to 84 Percent Purity - Jonathan Tirone
    International atomic monitors in Iran last week detected uranium enriched to 84% purity - a concentration just 6% below that needed for a nuclear weapon, according to two senior diplomats. Iran had previously told the IAEA that its centrifuges were configured to enrich uranium to a 60% level of purity. Inspectors need to determine whether Iran intentionally produced the material, or whether the concentration was an unintended accumulation within the pipes connecting hundreds of centrifuges. (Bloomberg)
  • PA Suspends Push for UN Security Council Vote after U.S. Pressure - Barak Ravid
    The Palestinian Authority agreed to suspend its efforts to push for a UN Security Council vote on Israeli settlements in the West Bank after U.S. pressure and mediation, Israeli and U.S. officials said. Instead, the U.S. will support a symbolic presidential statement by the Security Council that denounces settlements. The Biden administration was trying to avoid using its veto to support Israel. (Axios)
        See also Israel: U.S. Planned to Veto UNSC Resolution on Settlements, PA Knew This - Tovah Lazaroff
    The U.S. planned to veto the UN Security Council resolution against settlements and as a result, the Palestinian Authority pulled the text, Israel's National Security Advisor Tzahi HaNegbi said on Monday. "The Palestinians understood from the discussion with the [U.S.] administration that they are not going to gain anything from this effort because it will be vetoed."   (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Says Iranian Drone Hit Israeli-Owned Tanker in Arabian Sea - Jared Szuba
    At least one Iranian drone targeted an Israeli-linked commercial shipping tanker in the Arabian Sea on Feb. 10, causing minor damage, a U.S. military official confirmed on Friday. The U.S. believes Iran was behind the attack due to the drone's point of origin and tracking data. (Al-Monitor)
  • Israel Slams Ejection of Envoy from African Union Summit
    Israel on Saturday condemned the expulsion of Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General for Africa Sharon Bar-li from the African Union summit, accusing Iran of orchestrating the move with help from Algeria and South Africa. A ministry spokesman described the incident as "severe," noting Bar-li was "an accredited observer with an entry tag." Israel attained observer status at the AU in 2021 and maintains diplomatic relations with 46 of Africa's 55 countries. (AFP-Barron's-Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu to Nasrallah: Don't Count on a Civil War in Israel
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "I heard the remarks by Hizbullah [leader Nasrallah]...when he...said with satisfaction that a civil war in Israel is approaching. Therefore, I say to Nasrallah: Don't count on a civil war. It will not happen."
        "It will not happen because we are indeed brothers. It will not happen because what Nasrallah does not understand is that we are a living democracy. In a democracy, there are differences of opinion and debates....There will be no civil war because we always remember that we have fought shoulder-to-shoulder to defend our state and build our land."
        "At this opportunity, I am pleased to disappoint our enemies and also reassure our friends: Israel is, and will remain, a strong, vibrant and independent democracy."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Iran Looking to Sell Weapons to Dozens of Countries despite Embargo - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the Munich Security Conference on Friday that it was crucial that the West extend the existing arms embargo on Iranian weapons sales past late 2023 when it is due to expire. He said, "Iran has become a global exporter of deadly weapons and has contacts for weapons sales in not less than 50 countries across the globe."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Will Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nuclear Weapons Capability, Envoy Says - Michael Lipin
    Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog told VOA on Tuesday, "There is a broad consensus in Israel. Mr. Netanyahu and previous prime ministers made it clear that Israel is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities or nuclear weapons....For Israel, this is a threat of existential dimension, a strategic threat....The U.S. administration has indicated, and we agree, the timeline is such that Iran within weeks could acquire one bomb's worth of military grade fissile material."
        "We are looking at a holistic strategy, which encompasses all dimensions of Iranian activities, including in the nuclear field, in the regional field, the cooperation between Iran and Russia, and the internal situation in Iran....A critical element is to enhance deterrence vis-a-vis Iran, so that Iranians understand that there are consequences if they move ahead with their program or, to that extent, with their regional activities."  (VOA News)
  • Israel, U.S. Signal Unprecedented Cooperation in Military Preparations Against Iran - Yaakov Lappin
    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, an ex-Military Intelligence Research Division head for the IDF, said the scenario of a joint operation against Iran's nuclear sites "is certainly reasonable. What has recently occurred is a convergence of U.S. and Israeli approaches," said Kuperwasser, currently the director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
        "While the United States understands the difficulties in renewing the nuclear agreement [with Iran], the Israelis abandoned the idea of enforcing a red line on Iran's nuclear program that was based on enriching 250 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium, which Netanyahu had formerly marked out during a United Nations speech in 2012." They appeared to have settled on the idea of needing to act "one minute before Iran starts enriching uranium to the military-grade, 90% [U-235]."
        The unprecedented joint Israeli-American Juniper Oak military exercise in January "was designed to send a message to Iran: You are the target. The entire concept is about discouraging them from reaching 90% enrichment. The Iranians need to take it seriously."
        Today, Iran has enriched sufficient levels of uranium to the 20% and 60% levels to produce five nuclear warheads, if enriched further. "It is unclear how long it would take them to reach launchable bombs. The consensus is two years, but I believe it is less because I think that the Iranians are conducting simulations [of nuclear breakthrough]," said Kuperwasser. "We also know that in the past, they conducted secret activity."  (JNS)
  • How the Palestinians Lost their Way - Dr. Alon Ben-Meir
    The misguided policies of Palestinian leaders over the years have tragically subjected four generations to a life of misery and hopelessness in pursuit of a delusional goal of destroying Israel. The shortsighted, misguided policies of Palestinian leaders have only compounded their youth's despondency and despair, giving rise to militancy and violence against a country with which they must coexist.
        The misinformation and the selected truth about the conflict with Israel passes from one generation to the next, and today Palestinian youths view Israel the way their parents have, as an irreconcilable enemy to be resisted at all costs. The day-to-day public denunciation of Israel further resonates in the minds of the young and they become increasingly in tune to resistance, rather than reconciliation. As they continue to revel in the illusion that they can destroy Israel, they in fact are sowing the seeds of their own destruction.
        The writer is a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. (Eurasia Review)

Iran Mapping Jews in Diaspora for Kill Squads - David Rose (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • Iran has been mapping the Jewish diaspora for an assassination campaign that will be triggered if Israel attacks its nuclear facilities, Catherine Perez-Shakdam, a Jewish woman who met Ayatollah Khamenei, has told the JC.
  • Khamenei only seemed scared of one thing - an Israeli attack, she said, adding: "He believes Netanyahu's threats and he knows that, for now, Israel is militarily superior."
  • A research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, she said she was told of the plan "to identify all the prominent NGOs run by Jews, who was doing what in each business sector, the important rabbis. They wanted to figure out their influence and where they lived with their families in order to target them."
  • A spokesperson for the UK's Community Security Trust said: "We have known for many years that Iran is involved in plotting terrorism against Jewish communities, but it is utterly chilling to have it spelled out in such clear detail."
See also How I Infiltrated the Tehran Regime and Met the Ayatollah - David Rose (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • Describing her meeting with Ayatollah Khamenei, Catherine Perez-Shakdam said, "He began talking about the End of Days, how he would be the one who would usher in the return of the Mahdi [the mythical leader who will herald the apocalypse]."
  • "He talked about this great war that would take place, and how al-Aqsa had to be liberated for the Mahdi to return to save humanity. He talked about the wars Iran was fighting in Yemen and Syria and how he had a divine mission."
  • "He was basically...saying you had to harm the enemies of God, who shouldn't be seen as human beings. He said killing the innocent was OK, because they weren't really innocents. A mistake we make is to assume he cares about his country. He doesn't. He will literally see it burn if it means Islam will triumph."
  • "We know now that Churchill was right and taking on the Nazis much earlier would have saved many lives." 

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