May 1, 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:

In Lebanon, Iranian Foreign Minister Visits Israeli Border, Extols Hizbullah - Bassem Mroue (AP-Washington Post)
    Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian visited Lebanon's border with Israel on Friday, where he expressed support for Hizbullah.
    See also Video: Iranian Foreign Minister Looks into Israel (Mehr News-Iran)

Additional Efforts Taken toward Israeli-Saudi Normalization - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    Despite the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the prospect of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia is progressing.
    According to a U.S. official, Washington is examining demands put forth by Riyadh as conditions for normalization with Jerusalem.
    Saudi Arabia is said to have demanded a defense alliance, a civilian nuclear program, increased trade, and an end to criticism over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
    According to the U.S. source, the process of analyzing the demands will take several months.
    The source said that for Israel, the most worrisome demand is for civilian nuclear power.
    Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer has said a policy change by the Biden administration with regard to Saudi Arabia could lead to peace between Riyadh and Jerusalem and a Nobel Prize for Biden.

Israel Destroys Ammunition Warehouse and Weapons Shipment for Hizbullah near Homs in Syria (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights-UK)
    Early Saturday, Israeli missiles targeted a Hizbullah ammunition warehouse in Al-Dab'ah military airport near Homs in Syria, which resulted in its complete destruction and the destruction of weapons trucks as well.

Culture War in Iran - Amir Taheri (Gatestone Institute)
    In April, as Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke before an audience of young recruits for the Basij militia, some in the audience started to cackle and boo him.
    As the booing continued, he hastily headed for the exit. The scene, broadcast live, was later removed from official websites.
    Today, official TV is watched by less than 2% of Iranians while foreign-based satellite TV stations, beaming from Britain and the U.S., have secured audiences topping a million.
    Popular musicians attract much larger audiences than official reciters of the holy text.
    With every day that passes, the number of women discarding the hijab grows.
    Opinion polls over the past three decades show that the American "Great Satan" is more popular in Iran than in France and Germany.
    The writer was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979.

Hamas Announces Suspension of Bitcoin Fundraising - Nidal Al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
    Hamas' Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades said Thursday it would stop fundraising via bitcoin.
    "This comes out of concern about the safety of donors and to spare them any harm," the group said, after seeing increased efforts to prevent people and groups sending it bitcoin funds.
    Developments in technology that track the movement of crypto currency have made it easier for authorities to identify those behind crypto transfers.

As Russia's Shadow Grows, Europe Is Increasingly Turning to Israeli Defense Tech - Yaakov Lappin (JNS)
    As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its second year, European states are scrambling to modernize their armed forces and air defenses. That, in turn, has translated into growing acquisitions of Israeli defense technology.
    In Ukraine, the government is planning to soon test an Israeli-made early warning system for civilians.
    Germany is keen on acquiring Israel's Arrow 3 air-defense system capable of intercepting ballistic missiles above the Earth's atmosphere, to protect itself against Russian missile threats.
    The Finnish Defense Ministry has decided to purchase the Israeli-made David's Sling air-defense system - its first international sale. David's Sling is designed to intercept ballistic missiles, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Executed Former Senior Official Who Provided Britain with Intelligence on Iranian Nuclear Programs - Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman
    Britain had a mole in Iran with high-level access to the country's nuclear and defense secrets who provided valuable information for over a decade - intelligence that would prove critical in eliminating any doubt in Western capitals that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons. On Jan. 11, 2023, former deputy defense minister Alireza Akbari, 62, was executed in Iran.
        Akbari lived a double life. To the public, he was a religious zealot and political hawk, a senior military commander of the Revolutionary Guards. But in 2004, he began sharing Iran's nuclear secrets with British intelligence until 2019, when Iran discovered with the assistance of Russian intelligence officials that he had revealed the existence of a clandestine Iranian nuclear weapons program called Fordo, deep in the mountains near Tehran. Iran has also said he disclosed the identity and activities of over 100 officials. (New York Times)
  • Netanyahu: The Only Way to Stop a Nuclear Iran Is with a Credible Military Threat - Fareed Zakaria
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN on Sunday: "We're doing everything to make sure that the forces that are basically financed and equipped and pushed by Iran, that are trying to foment this violence around our borders and within our borders, do not succeed."
        "Our Arab neighbors...have no illusions about the danger of Iran and Iran-sponsored terrorism and aggression in the region and they also have no illusion about the fact that Israel is a force for stability, for peace and for security."
        "Peace with the major Arab countries is not only possible, I think it's likely and I'm doing everything that I can - not everything is above the surface - to advance it because I think it will change history. It will be a pivot of history. It will end the Arab-Israeli conflict and will advance the solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."
        "The alliance between the United States and Israel is strong. It has strong bipartisan support....I don't know of many countries that have within a few days, the Democratic and Republican leaders of both [houses of Congress] coming to Jerusalem and supporting Israel. And 400 and more congressmen and congresswomen [voted for] legislation strongly supporting the Jewish state on its 75th anniversary. So I'm confident about the strength of our alliance."
        "If you want to stop Iran from becoming a military nuclear power, the only way that you can stop them is with a credible military threat. This is what worked against Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapon program in Iraq. That was done by us. This is what worked against Bashar al-Assad's nuclear military plans in Syria. That was done by us. This is what worked against Gaddafi's Libya's military nuclear plan. It was stopped by a credible military threat on your part."
        "The onus is on all of us - Israel, the United States, the free world and many of our Arab neighbors - to do everything in our power to prevent Iran from becoming a military nuclear power."  (CNN)
  • EU Commission Chief's Israel Comments Provoke Palestinian Ire - Suzane Lynch
    Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has come under attack from Palestinians after praising Israel in comments to mark the 75th anniversary of Israel's foundation. In a video message posted by the EU embassy in Israel, she paid tribute to Israel as "a vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East." She added, "You have literally made the desert bloom," a comment that was denounced by the Palestinian foreign ministry as an "anti-Palestinian racist trope."
        Von der Leyen continued, "We have more in common than geography would suggest, our shared culture, our values and hundreds of thousands of dual Israeli-EU citizens have created a deep connection. Your freedom is our freedom."  (Politico-EU)
        The EU is the Palestinian Authority's main donor. A spokesperson for the European Commission told the BBC: "The EU is unpleasantly surprised by the inappropriate statement of the Palestinian foreign ministry accusing the president of the European Commission of racism."  (The National-UAE)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Foils Palestinian Ramming, Stabbing Attack
    Ahmad Taha, 39, who worked for the Palestinian Authority's security forces, attempted to ram into people on Thursday near Ariel and drove into the opposite lane, but lost control of his car and crashed. He then got out of the car holding a knife and attempted to stab a police officer, before he was shot by a nearby IDF soldier. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Video: Knesset Speaker Plays "Hotel California" on Electric Guitar for Visiting U.S. House Speaker
    Israeli Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana treated his visiting U.S. counterpart, House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), on Sunday to an electrifying performance of The Eagles' "Hotel California." McCarthy, who arrived at the head of a bipartisan delegation of House members, addressed the Knesset on Monday. (Ynet News)
        See also House Minority Leader: Democrats Will "Lean In on Our Strong Support" for Israel - Marc Rod
    U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) told Jewish Insider that House Democrats "are going to continue to lean in to our strong support for a Jewish and democratic state," after leading a delegation of Democratic leaders to Israel in late April. (Jewish Insider)
  • String of Armed Robberies in the Palestinian Authority - Mohammed Najib
    There has been a string of armed robberies at banks, gold stores, supermarkets, and ATMs in the West Bank. On Wednesday, a four-strong Palestinian gang armed with pistols and a homemade Carlo gun targeted the Palestine National Bank's Aqraba branch, south of Nablus, getting away with $17,500. Following a spate of recent raids, the bank director said his branch had received instructions not to hold more than $20,000 in cash and to transfer any extra cash to a safe which takes 30 minutes to open.
        The bank official noted that, until a year ago, the bank's guard had been armed with a pistol, but management had decided to withdraw light weapons from all 20 branch guards and gift the guns to the Palestinian police. He pointed out that the crime may not have happened had the robbers known the guard was armed. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Saudi Normalization with Israel Has Begun - Robert Satloff
    Will Saudi Arabia normalize relations with Israel soon? The mere fact that this is a reasonable question - discussed by diplomats, journalists, and experts - underscores the profound change in Arab receptivity to Israel in recent years. Saudi Arabia's all-powerful crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, has personally raised the prospect of ties with Israel, a country he has termed a "potential ally."
        Around two-fifths of Saudis tell pollsters they approve of open ties with Israel in business and sports, even without official relations. This is essentially on par with the share of Emiratis who support such connections. In recent months, Saudi receptivity to people-to-people contact has been tested by the hosting inside the kingdom of a wide variety of Israelis.
        "Will Saudi Arabia normalize with Israel soon?" is actually the wrong question to pose. That is because it considers normalization with Israel as a binary issue - yes, no; now, not now; soon, not soon. In practice, normalization is not an act, it is a process, part of a larger set of policy choices defined by a government's assessment of its strategic priorities.
        Saudi Arabia has begun this process by issuing visas to allow nonofficial Israelis to enter the country for public purposes, such as speaking at conferences and competing in sporting events. Other aspects of this early phase of normalization include permitting former Saudi national security officials to appear alongside their Israeli counterparts in public events and raising no objection to having a major Saudi investment firm take large stakes in Israeli companies.
        The writer is Executive Director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • U.S.-Israel Bond Runs Deeper than any Disagreement, U.S. Diplomats Say - Keren Setton
    "We are the most important friend of Israel and Israel is the most important friend of the United States," U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said Thursday at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. "On the fundamental issues, which are security, that's where we agree."
        His predecessor, Ambassador David Friedman, said, "There is a deep intelligence and military connection, which is rock solid. There is a deep affection, respect, and trust between our two countries in terms of keeping each other safe." He added that knowing about the strong security ties between the two countries "would make everyone feel better....There is nothing in the friction that arises from time to time that presents any real jeopardy to the relationship."  (Medialine)
  • Israel at 75 Is a Modern Wonder - Josh Glancy
    The other day I had my first journey on the sleek new Tel Aviv-Jerusalem railway, which shuttled me from Ben-Gurion airport to the Holy City in about the time it took to skip the ads on a podcast. It embodies the best of modern Israel: fast, efficient, impressive.
        Israel turned 75 on Wednesday. It is one of the most astonishing achievements of the modern age. Every time I visit Tel Aviv, I still feel a shudder of awe over the sheer improbability of its existence, a thrilling modern metropolis built on little more than ancestral longing and borrowed guns.
        Israel at 75 has a GDP per capita notably higher than Britain's. It is 11 times richer than its neighbor Egypt. It has won more Nobel prizes per person than America or France. This country is a towering monument to the power of ideas. It is literally a dream come true.
        Who to blame for the predicament of the Palestinians? The Palestinians were let down repeatedly over the years by their Arab allies in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, who generally treated them as political pawns, not a sovereign people. They have been let down by their own leaders, who "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity." Their propensity for violent terrorism has also done them no favors, all but destroying the peace movement in Israel. Most Israelis see peace as a fantasy. (The Sunday Times-UK)

  • There is an absolute prohibition on targeted killing of civilians, no matter what ethnic, religious, social, sexual and national group they belong to. The right to life is protected in every general human rights treaty and under customary law. Despite this, there are far too many people that are unashamed to support or legitimize a deliberate attack and killing of Israeli Jewish civilians.
  • There are no excuses. Either one is for or against the deliberate killing of civilians. There must be zero legitimacy for adding "but," or "the context of the occupation cannot be ignored," or "the Palestinians have no other option," or "I can't judge how the Palestinians chose to fight for freedom." Unfortunately, there are too many claims that there are no Israeli Jews who are true civilians, they are all settlers and colonialists, or all are former soldiers or potential soldiers or reserve soldiers, and because of that should be a legitimate target.
  • The same people who legitimize the deliberate killing of Israeli Jews do not claim in parallel that it is also tolerable to deliberately kill Russian civilians because of the wars in Ukraine and Syria; kill British civilians because of the conflict in Northern Ireland; or kill American, British, and Australian civilians because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Most of the people who make Palestinians who hijacked planes with civilians into celebrities would probably refrain from celebrating the hijackers of the 9/11 airplanes, or those who were responsible for the Lockerbie bombing in which a plane with hundreds of passengers exploded in the sky over Scotland.
  • The European political parties, academia, labor unions, human rights organizations and solidarity organizations for the Palestinians must take serious steps regarding those who express support for, or legitimize, the deliberate attack and killing of civilians - Jews, Palestinians, or others.

    The writer is a human rights lawyer and activist.

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