March 13, 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:

Report: Russia Sending U.S. Weapons Captured in Ukraine to Iran - Natasha Bertrand (CNN)
    Russia has captured U.S. and NATO-provided weapons and equipment in Ukraine and flown them to Iran, where the U.S. believes Tehran will try to reverse-engineer the systems and make their own version of the weapons, sources say.
    These include Javelin anti-tank and Stinger anti-aircraft systems.

Iran to Buy Sukhoi-35 Fighter Jets from Russia (Reuters)
    Iran has reached a deal to buy advanced Sukhoi-35 fighter planes from Russia, Iranian state media said on Saturday.

Airstrikes Destroy Iranian Militia Weapons Store in Western Syria (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights-UK)
    A weapons store of Iranian militias in western Syria was destroyed by Israeli aerial strikes on Sunday.

Israeli Jets Escort U.S. Bomber over Israel in Signal to Iran - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    Israeli F-16s escorted an American B-52 bomber through Israeli airspace toward the Persian Gulf on Sunday in an apparent show of force to Iran.
    Israeli jets escorting American bombers have become a regular fixture in the skies of the Middle East in the past year.

Israeli, U.S. Air Forces Begin "Red Flag" Exercises in Nevada (i24News)
    The U.S. Air Force on Sunday began a two-week "Red Flag" exercise with the participation of 7 Israel Air Force F-35 planes.
    The exercise includes "strategic attack in depth, achieving aerial superiority in space, joint attack aircraft, defense of field cells, interception of enemy aircraft, low-altitude flight, and attack in unfamiliar terrain rich in anti-aircraft defenses."

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Backs Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's Capital - Francesca Piscioneri (Reuters)
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday during a visit to Italy, "The time has come for Rome to recognize Jerusalem as the ancestral capital of the Jewish people for three thousand years."
    Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted, "I firmly say yes to Jerusalem capital of Israel, in the name of peace, history and truth."

Inside Israel's Armed Drone Squadron - Arie Egozi (Breaking Defense)
    Israel Air Force (IAF) Squadron 161 operates the Hermes-450 "Zik" armed drone, primarily in counter-terror missions over the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon.
    Some 80% of IAF flight hours are performed by UAVs. "UAVs replace manned aircraft in more and more missions. The number goes up all the time," said Maj. M., deputy commander of the squadron.
    She noted that all missions are controlled by a mission commander and an operator seated side-by-side, watching the data transmitted by the UAV. We "can launch a number of armed UAVs in minutes."
    Some operations provide persistent overwatch of an area identified as a hub of terrorist activity, to spot a crew heading out to launch a rocket into Israel.
    "There is a person in the loop all the time so that the mission can be aborted if there is a danger of hitting" innocents, she stressed.

Saudi Arabia Launches New Airline - Bryan Pietsch (Washington Post)
    Saudi Arabia will launch another state-owned airline, Riyadh Air, which aims to fly to 100 destinations by 2030.
    The carrier faces steep competition, including from the other state-owned airline, Saudia, formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines - as well as from the UAE's Emirates airline and Etihad Airways, and state-owned Qatar Airways.

Hewlett Packard Acquires Israeli Company for $500 Million (Globes)
    Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has acquired Israeli cloud security company Axis Security for $500 million.
    Axis Security CEO Dor Knafo said, "We developed Axis Security to enable a world where connectivity to every business resource, from anywhere, could always be simple, safe and reliable."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Saudi Arabia and Iran Agree to Restore Ties, in Talks Hosted by China - Vivian Nereim
    After years of open hostility and proxy conflicts, Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties, they announced on Friday. China hosted the talks that led to the breakthrough. Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016, when protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran after Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.
        The two countries agreed to reactivate a lapsed security cooperation pact, after years of Iranian-backed militias in Yemen targeting Saudi Arabia with missile and drone attacks. Iran's president, Ebrahim Raisi, visited Beijing last month, and China's top leader, Xi Jinping, visited Riyadh in December. Saudi officials often complain that their American allies are too critical and are no longer reliable security partners.
        Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, described the renewed Iran-Saudi ties as "a lose, lose, lose for American interests." "It demonstrates that the Saudis don't trust Washington to have their back, that Iran sees an opportunity to peel away American allies to end its international isolation, and that China is becoming the major-domo of Middle Eastern power politics."  (New York Times)
        See also Israeli Official: Iran-Saudi Ties Won't Hurt Israeli Normalization Bid
    Israel's bid to normalize ties with Saudi Arabia will not be hurt by Riyadh's rapprochement with Iran, a senior Israeli official traveling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday. (Reuters)
        See also Israel Knew about Iran-Saudi Talks (Iran International)
  • Saudi Arabia Offers Its Price to Normalize Relations with Israel - Michael Crowley
    Saudi Arabia is seeking security guarantees from the U.S., help with developing a civilian nuclear program, and fewer restrictions on U.S. arms sales as its price for normalizing relations with Israel, people familiar with the exchanges say. If sealed, the deal could set up a major political realignment of the Middle East.
        Riyadh's request offers President Biden the chance to broker a dramatic agreement that would reshape Israel's relationship with the most powerful Arab state. However, such an agreement would likely encounter firm resistance in Congress, where many Democrats have recently pressed to downgrade relations with the Saudi kingdom. "Our relationship with Saudi Arabia...should not run through Israel," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT).
        Saudi researcher Abdulaziz Alghashian noted, "The Saudi ruling elite do not want Biden to be the American president to take credit for Saudi-Israeli normalization, but they don't mind Biden taking the blame for its absence." Still, the fact that discussions are happening at all highlights the way Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman has emerged as more of a pragmatist than an ideologue. (New York Times)
        See also Saudi Arabia Seeks U.S. Security Pledges, Nuclear Help for Peace with Israel - Dion Nissenbaum (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Will Not Tolerate a "Threshold Iran"
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Iran International on Wednesday, "I came back into government precisely to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state," vowing to do "everything possible to prevent it." He said Israel will not tolerate a "nuclear threshold" Iran.
        "For such a regime to have nuclear weapons when it is committed openly to the destruction of not merely my own country but to the subjugation of the world...and chants death to Israel, death to America and everyone else in between," is a dangerous proposition, Netanyahu said.
        He praised the "courage of the Iranian people" who through their recent protests showed "the true nature" of the regime. "There is a moral imperative and a security imperative" to stand up to the regime and take action, including "crippling" sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and a "credible" military option to send a clear message to Tehran.
        Netanyahu's message for Iranians was, "We stand with you, I stand with you, most of the world stands with you...don't lose heart, be strong." He also praised Iran's civilization and the talents and abilities of its people to achieve successes once the Islamic regime is gone. He voiced certainty that Israel and a free Iran can have solid relations. (Iran International)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Terrorist Shoots Three Israelis in Tel Aviv
    Or Asher, 32, was critically wounded; Rotem Mansano, 34, was seriously injured; and Michael Osdon, 36, suffered moderate wounds when a Palestinian attacker, Mutaz Salah al-Khawaja, 23, opened fire at them on Thursday night on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. The shooter, a Hamas operative who had been imprisoned twice, was killed by police. (Times of Israel)
        See also Video: The Tel Aviv Shooting (Anadolu-Turkey)
        See also Two Israeli Arabs Who Drove Tel Aviv Terrorist Turn Themselves In - Josh Breiner
    Two Israeli Arabs suspected of driving the Palestinian gunman who injured three people in Tel Aviv on Thursday turned themselves in to police. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian with Knives and Bombs Breaks into Israeli Farm - Emanuel Fabian
    A Palestinian man, Abd al-Karim Badi al-Sheikh, 21, broke into the Havat Dorot Illit farm near the Israeli community of Karnei Shomron early Friday to carry out an attack, armed with knives and bombs, the IDF said. He hurled two bombs, one of which exploded, before the owner of the farm shot him dead. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Gunmen Attack IDF Soldiers - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Palestinian gunmen opened fire on Israeli troops on Sunday near Jit, west of Nablus. The IDF solders returned fire, killing three Palestinian gunmen and arresting a fourth. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Hurls Firebomb at IDF Post - Emanuel Fabian
    Amir Mamoun Odeh, a Palestinian who threw a firebomb "from close range" at an IDF position at the security barrier near Qalqilya, was shot and killed on Friday evening. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Forces Find Bomb on Bus near Beitar Illit - Emanuel Fabian
    Israeli forces on Thursday night searched for terrorists who had infiltrated the Israeli community of Beitar Illit and planted a bomb on a bus. Surveillance camera footage from the bus showed a person leaving the vehicle, before smoke was seen rising from one of the seats. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel Arrests Palestinian Who Planted Bomb on Bus - Josh Breiner
    Israeli security forces on Friday arrested a Palestinian who planted a bomb on a bus in Beitar Illit on Thursday. Four others suspected of helping him were also arrested. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Saudis Are Looking Not to Shift Camps but to Diversify Sources of Security - Robert Satloff
    The resumption of Saudi-Iran relations has triggered what I believe to be an exaggerated reaction about China's emergence as a Middle East powerbroker and a strategic shift of Riyadh away from its traditional partners. U.S. restrictions on arms sales, strong-arming on Yemen, and inaction on Iran nuclear progress have combined to chip away at Saudi confidence that the U.S. is willing to counter immediate dangers and provide an effective umbrella against strategic threats. Resuming ties with Iran is a dramatic expression of this lack of confidence in the U.S.
        The Saudis, it seems, are looking not to shift camps but to diversify sources of security. Successive U.S. administrations had no serious plan to stop Iran's nuclear progress or do much to prevent expansion of Iran's regional influence, all the while signaling a desire to escape from Middle East security responsibilities. The Saudis read the tea leaves and acted. But this is a tactical shift, not a strategic change. From ideology to strategy, the Saudis and Iran are bitter rivals and committed adversaries.
        The writer is Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Twitter)
  • Israel and Biden Shouldn't Panic over Iran-Saudi Deal - Amb. Daniel B. Shapiro
    The images of Iranian and Saudi officials signing a deal in Beijing to resume diplomatic relations hinted dramatically at the beginning of a new phase of Chinese involvement in the Middle East. Immediately, questions were raised about an erosion of the Israeli-Arab front against Iran and about a Chinese challenge to U.S. leadership in the region. But upon closer inspection, the agreement, and China's role in it is nothing to jump off a bridge over.
        The full half of the glass sees reducing Iranian-Saudi tensions as a goal the U.S. has endorsed. If implemented, it could help bring an end to the war in Yemen and end, for now, the threat of Houthi missile and drone attacks against Saudi targets.
        Both China and the Saudis are taking the risky bet of Iranian good intentions. While Iran has at various times chosen to de-escalate tensions, driven by short-term considerations, there is zero indication of a change in the strategic goals of the regime in Tehran.
        Those goals include regional dominance, and the sustained intimidation of all other parties in the region to accept it. That goal is buttressed by Iran's nuclear program, which continues to expand, to the point where Iran has effectively achieved the status of a nuclear threshold state. Will the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement survive the first reversion to form by Iran to carry out its unchanged strategic vision?
        The writer, a fellow at the Atlantic Council, served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2017. (Ha'aretz)
  • Saudi-Iran Agreement Is Less than Meets the Eye - Bobby Ghosh
    With Chinese encouragement, Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume diplomatic relations. But on closer examination, the mediator's role is overstated, as is the substance of the agreement. The Iranians and Saudis had been working toward a detente for two years, aided by several intermediaries - notably Iraq and Oman.
        China entered the picture late, after the terms had been agreed. But it suits Tehran and Riyadh to allow Beijing to hog the credit. After all, China is the world's biggest buyer of what Saudi Arabia and Iran have to sell.
        The two sides have agreed to reopen embassies. But the presence of ambassadors in Tehran and Riyadh did little to ameliorate antagonism in the past. Given the hard realities, the agreement is unlikely to greatly alter the risks of conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. (Bloomberg-Washington Post)

  • Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said in an interview on March 10 that the demonstrations in Israel indicate "that those people, almost all of them, deeply care about Israel. They're entitled to their voices and thoughts and concerns, and their voices are heard back home."
  • "I have no idea how the debate over judicial reform will end. I know that there are behind-the-scenes efforts to bring about a solution."
  • "Voices from America or from world Jewry are heard in Israel and people understand that....We are in the middle of that debate. We are in the middle of that process. And don't inject yourself into the internal Israeli debate with a judgmental point of view before we have an outcome."
  • "You want to raise concerns, questions or some warning, all is well, but be careful [in] the way you air it and don't be judgmental before we reach a certain outcome that you can judge."
  • Israel is "still surrounded by enemies and we are still subjected to a campaign of BDS, and our enemies do not distinguish between those who support judicial reform and those who oppose judicial reform, left and right, they just don't want us to be there, and we have to be aware of [that]."
  • "I say to those who criticize the State of Israel, that criticism is legitimate if you want to criticize certain policies, but do not cross the line of joining the hands of providing a tailwind to those who want to delegitimize us [and] cast a question mark over our very right to exist as a nation-state of the Jewish people."

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