March 27, 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:

Historic Israel-Africa-Arab Conference in Jerusalem (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On March 27, the Jerusalem Center hosted a path-breaking international conference on "Trusted Regional Partnerships at a Time of Shifting Alliances," bringing together think tank and policy center representatives from 12 Arab and 11 African states, as well as from Turkey, the U.S., the UK, Kurdistan and Kosovo, with Israeli experts.
    Panelists and participants discussed prospects for enlarging and enhancing the Abraham Accords and the potential areas for Gulf-Africa-Israel partnerships in the fields of counter-terrorism and national security, food and water security, and environmental concerns.
    Members of Knesset and American Jewish leaders also attended, as did the international press.
    View the conference on YouTube and Facebook. See also Twitter coverage.

State Department Report Attacks Israel for Denying Prison Furloughs to Palestinian Terrorists - Caroline Glick (Newsweek)
    On March 20, the State Department published its 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices.
    Its section on Israel includes allegations by anti-Israel NGOs, funded almost exclusively by foreign governments and foreign foundations.
    The State Department report attacks Israel for denying prison furloughs to Palestinian terrorists, for fighting terrorism, and for preventing unrestricted illegal immigration.

Iraqi Islamic Council Issues Fatwa Against Hamas for Brutality - Etgar Lefkovits (JNS)
    The Islamic Fatwa Council - a body of senior Sunni and Shi'ite clerics headquartered in Najaf, Iraq - recently issued a groundbreaking fatwa - a legal ruling on a point of Islamic law - against Hamas for oppressing the Palestinians in Gaza.
    "It is the view of the Islamic Fatwa Council that Hamas has been promoting and engaging in ISIS-like behavior against Muslims and Palestinians alike, under the guise of 'resistance,'" states the 35-page document explaining the ruling.

FIFA Postpones U-20 World Cup amid Indonesia's Rejection of Israel's Participation (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    FIFA on Sunday canceled the draw for the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in soccer that was to take place in Indonesia next week, due to Jakarta's refusal to host Israel's team.
    The decision may lead to the withdrawal of Indonesia's right to host the tournament.

Should the PA Pay Monthly Salaries to Teachers or Terrorists? - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The teachers in the Palestinian Authority are striking because the PA is not paying their full wages. Instead of paying teachers, the PA prioritizes paying hundreds of millions of shekels to terrorists.
    While the PA is peddling its "financial crisis" narrative, an examination of the financial reports published by the PA Ministry of Finance demonstrates that in 2018-2022, the overall income of the PA grew by 3.5 billion shekels.
    The vast majority of that growth - 2.5 billion shekels - actually came from taxes Israel collected and transferred to the PA.
    In 2022 the PA spent 865 million shekels rewarding terrorists and their families.
    In response to these terror payments, during 2011-2021, the international community reduced its foreign aid to the PA by more than 90%.
    The writer served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps and was director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria.

Israeli Company to Launch Aquaculture Project in Western Sahara - Oussama Aamari (Morocco World News)
    "An Israeli company recently launched an aquaculture water project in the Moroccan Sahara," Israeli Minister of Innovation, Science, and Technology Ofir Akunis announced during the 2023 UN Water Conference.
    "This and other areas of cooperation have been made possible by the Abraham Accords."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Hits Iran-Linked Targets in Syria after Drone Strike Kills American Contractor, Wounds 5 Soldiers
    The U.S. carried out multiple air strikes in Syria on Thursday against Iran-aligned groups blamed for a drone attack that killed an American contractor, wounded another, and hurt five U.S. troops at a base near Hasakah in northeast Syria, the Pentagon said. U.S. intelligence assessed that the attack drone was Iranian in origin.
        U.S. troops have come under attack by Iranian-backed groups 78 times since the beginning of 2021, Army Gen. Erik Kurilla told the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. "The Iranian regime now holds the largest and most capable unmanned aerial vehicle force in the region," he said. (Reuters)
        See also Death Toll from U.S. Strikes on Pro-Iran Targets in Syria Rises to 19
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air raids killed three Syrian troops, 11 Syrian fighters in pro-government militias and five non-Syrian fighters who were aligned with the government. (Reuters)
  • Gen. Mark Milley: Iran Could Produce Nuclear Weapon in Several Months - Laurence Norman
    Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Thursday, "Iran could produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks, and would only take several more months to produce an actual nuclear weapon." His assessment provides a significantly shorter estimate for how quickly Tehran could become a nuclear power than other public estimates by Western officials.
        "We, the United States military, have developed multiple options for our national leadership to consider if or when Iran ever decides to develop an actual nuclear weapon," Gen. Milley said. Iran is the only nonnuclear-weapons country producing 60% highly enriched uranium. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Palestinian Journalists Syndicate Denounces Hamas' Arrest, Assault of Colleague
    The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate strongly condemned the arrest and assault of Hani Abu Rizk, a correspondent of Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda newspaper, by Hamas police during his filming of people marking Ramadan in Gaza City. The Syndicate said police were aware that Abu Rizk was a journalist when they assaulted him.
        Abu Rizk was attacked for covering the story of a cancer patient living in a residential complex who refused to sell his home to a local businessman because of his medical condition. A Hamas court ruled in favor of the businessman and police demolished the home, forcibly evicting the owner. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Two Israeli Soldiers Wounded in Huwara Shooting on Saturday - Emanuel Fabian
    Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in a drive-by shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara on Saturday, the third shooting attack in Huwara in recent weeks. (Times of Israel)
  • Senior Israeli Official: Repealing Disengagement Law Did Not Violate Deal with U.S. - Amy Spiro
    A senior Israeli official on Friday rejected a U.S. assertion made last week that Israel violated commitments it made to the U.S. by voting to repeal parts of the 2005 Disengagement Law that had ordered the evacuation of four northern West Bank communities. "There was no violation of any commitment," the official told reporters who accompanied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his diplomatic visit to London.
        "If anything, there was a violation" on the U.S. side of an agreement made between then-president George W. Bush and then-prime minister Ariel Sharon regarding construction in settlement blocs. "They can't come and force us to stay committed after they essentially abandoned the policy that Bush said...in exchange for the disengagement, they were supposed to accept unrestricted building in the settlement blocs."
        Asked if the U.S. is interfering too much in Israel's current domestic policies, the official said, "no more than usual....There has been blatant interference in the past."  (Times of Israel)
        See also below Observations: Obama Administration Disavowed Agreement that Biden Administration Claims Israel Violated - Elliott Abrams (National Review)
  • PA Rejects Offer of Full Security Responsibility for Palestinian City
    Israel and Jordan recently offered the Palestinian Authority a pilot program that would see Palestinian security forces given sole responsibility for conducting arrests of terror operatives and maintaining law and order in either Tulkarem or Qalqilya, avoiding the need for the IDF to enter to conduct arrests, Israel's Channel 12 reported Thursday. If the pilot was successful, it could then be expanded to other cities. However, the PA was uninterested in the offer. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Protecting American Soldiers from Iran's Militias - Editorial
    Militias backed by Iran carried out a drone attack on a U.S. base in northeast Syria on Thursday, killing an American contractor and wounding five service members and another contractor. The U.S. retaliated by bombing sites used by groups affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. But the discrete reprisal didn't seem to deter the militias. Hours later they fired 10 rockets at a second U.S. base in eastern Syria.
        The big picture here is that Iran and other adversaries are concluding that the U.S. wants out of the Middle East, and they are willing to spur the exit by inflicting casualties. The U.S. has 900 men and women in Syria and another 2,500 or so in Iraq. They're fulfilling a vital role in preventing Islamic State rebels from reviving their caliphate in Syria.
        Iran, which wants to run Syria as a protectorate, would love to push the U.S. out of both countries. Its militias would then challenge the Iraqi army for domination in Iraq, and its client government in Damascus would consolidate control and threaten Israel.
        Protecting America's soldiers and citizens means putting fear in the minds of our enemies that if they attack Americans, they will be met with a withering and deadly response. (Wall Street Journal)
  • UN Commission Resumes "Kangaroo Court" Hearings on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Mike Wagenheim
    The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, created by the UN Human Rights Council, is holding hearings. The commission has a never-expiring mandate, unlimited scope, and an oversized budget and staffing. All three commission members have been credibly accused of antisemitism and rabid anti-Israel bias. "The hearings held by the commission of inquiry are yet another kangaroo court, where witnesses are preselected to fit a predetermined narrative against Israel," said Nathan Chicheportiche, a spokesman for the Israeli mission to the UN in Geneva.
        Last Monday's opening speaker was French Palestinian lawyer Salah Hamouri, who was deported to France in December. His Jerusalem residency was revoked on charges that he was active in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, classified by Israel and the U.S. as a terror group. "The commission of inquiry chose as its guest of honor for its hearings a convicted terrorist, who has been a senior member of the PFLP terror organization, been personally engaged in planning attacks against civilians, and conspired to murder Israel's former chief rabbi," the Israeli mission said. "Whitewashing Palestinian terrorism and defaming Israel are the only objectives of this commission of inquiry. They bring shame to the United Nations."  (JNS)
  • The System Is Blinking Red over Iran - Jonathan Schachter
    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that its inspectors in Iran had discovered uranium particles enriched to 84% purity. This is just shy of the 90% considered to be "weapons grade." Uranium enriched to 80% fueled the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Iran has no civilian need to enrich uranium in the first place.
        Uranium enrichment remains part and parcel of the regime's effort to develop and maintain the ability to produce and deliver nuclear weapons on demand. Rather than dismantling Iran's illegally-built military enrichment program, the 2015 Iran deal decriminalized it.
        The materials Israeli intelligence spirited out of a Tehran warehouse (the "Atomic Archive") in 2018, which Israel shared with the U.S., showed that the regime did not stop or suspend its weaponization program in 2003, but, in the Iranians' own words, modified it from a sprint to a marathon, though both have a nuclear weapons finish line. More broadly, the archive showed that the Iranian nuclear weapons program was more advanced and comprehensive than previously understood.
        The writer, a former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, served on the team tasked with exposing materials from Iran's nuclear archive in 2018. He is a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute's Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East. (Hudson Institute)
  • Iran's Reeling Economy - Benoit Faucon
    Iran's currency, the rial, lost a fifth of its value over the last two weeks of February to hit a record low. Inflation hit 59% late last year, with the cost of meat rising by 90%. The Americans also began cracking down on flows of hard currency from neighboring Iraq, removing an important pressure valve. Even with the new Saudi deal, Iran has few prospects for a turnaround unless it can escape sanctions over its nuclear program or build closer economic ties with China and Russia.
        With Nowruz, the two-week Persian New Year holiday that began Monday, middle-class Iranians found themselves with much diminished purchasing power for the holiday's feasts, and retired teachers, social security officials and military personnel were protesting economic conditions across the country. Crucially, the government is now finding it harder to maintain subsidies for food and energy and can't afford to increase wages for civil servants. (Wall Street Journal)

  • On March 21, the Biden administration denounced a recent move in the Israeli Knesset as "a clear contradiction of undertakings the Israeli government made to the United States." This statement is astonishing and Americans should understand why.
  • Between 2002 and early 2004, the George W. Bush administration found that all progress on Israeli-Palestinian issues was stopped dead by Yasser Arafat's corruption and his support of terrorism. I was serving at the time as the National Security Council's senior director for the Near East.
  • In an exchange of letters on April 14, 2004, President Bush gave Prime Minister Sharon the support he needed to complete the Gaza withdrawal. Bush's letter made several important statements: that the U.S. would impose no new peace plan on Israel beyond what was already agreed; that the U.S. would "preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats"; and that the Palestinian refugee problem would not be solved by moving Palestinians to Israel.
  • Bush also said that "in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." In other words, Israeli settlements were realities, and the U.S. understood that in any final status agreement, Israeli borders would reflect their location.
  • This formal exchange of letters was endorsed by the Senate by a vote of 95-3 and by the House by 407-9.
  • Yet in 2009, the U.S., under the Obama-Biden administration, claimed that the 2004 exchange of letters and commitments was absolutely of no consequence and not binding. For the Biden administration to denounce Israeli action on the ground that it violates a commitment made by Israel to the U.S. is remarkably hypocritical. The Obama administration had already torn up any such commitment and turned the Bush-Sharon exchange into a pair of dead letters.
  • The Biden administration should not be free to bash Israel for breaking commitments that the U.S. itself dismissed years ago.

    The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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