May 25, 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:

Israel's Top Military Officers Warn of Conflict with Hizbullah - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On May 21, 2023, Hizbullah conducted live-fire military exercises along Israel's border.
    On May 22, Maj.-Gen. Aharon Haliva, head of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Directorate, warned, "The use of force in the north, from both Lebanon and Syria, could lead to escalation and clashes on a very significant scale with Hizbullah and Lebanon."
    On May 23, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, warned, "Iran has made more progress in enriching uranium than ever before....There are possible negative developments on the horizon that could prompt action."
    "We have the ability to hit Iran. We are not indifferent to what Iran is trying to build around us."

Motivation to Enlist in IDF Remains High - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    On Sunday, the IDF's Manpower Directorate released its annual figures on army enlistment.
    What emerges is a country where motivation to serve remains high.
    Localities with the highest enlistment rate include Modi'in, Ra'anana, Kfar Saba, Herzliya, and Rishon Lezion, all cities in the higher socio-economic bracket in the center of the country.
    Moreover, the figures showed that the higher a person's socio-economic level, the greater their presence in combat units.
    That puts to rest the myth that the poorer segments of society send their sons and daughters to fight, while the rich and elite - if they go into the army at all - are going into the high-tech units.

Iran Unveils 2,000-Km.-Range Ballistic Missile (Reuters)
    Iran unveiled the fourth generation of its Khorramshahr ballistic missile - Khaibar - with a range of 2,000 km. (1,243 miles) and a 1,500 kg. (3,300 lb.) warhead, the official IRNA news agency reported Thursday.

"Ghost Tankers" Bring Iranian Oil Worth $1 Billion to Syria - Avi Scharf (Ha'aretz)
    Defying Iran sanctions with dangerous ship-to-ship transfers and transceivers turned off, eight tankers made 17 deliveries of Iranian oil to Syria in the last six months, bringing in 16.4 million barrels of oil.
    The "ghost tankers" docked at Syria's Baniyas port south of Latakia, violating U.S. sanctions on the Iranian petroleum industry and the Assad government.

Hizbullah Sleeper Agent Who Photographed U.S. Landmarks for Possible Attacks Gets 12 Years in Prison - Larry Neumeister (AP-Washington Post)
    Alexei Saab, 46, who photographed landmarks in New York, Boston and Washington for possible terrorist attacks by Hizbullah, was sentenced Tuesday to 12 years in prison by Federal Judge Paul G. Gardephe.
    Saab researched weak points in U.S. landmarks and provided the information to "one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world," Gardephe said.
    Prosecutors said the Empire State Building, the World Trade Center, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, and airports, bridges and tunnels were among over 40 locations that Saab surveilled in New York alone.
    The judge noted that Saab did not stop his affiliation with Hizbullah after he came to the U.S. from Lebanon in 2000.

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The Happy, Smiling Soldiers of the IDF - Victoria Prever (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Menachem Geisinsky, 23, is on his own special mission to show another face to Israel's military forces - via his Instagram account @officialmgphotos, also known as Smiling Soldiers. He now has close to 14,500 followers.
    "There was a picture that I took that was used as the cover of a Saudi magazine for a positive article about the IDF," he notes.
    "When you see a smile, you connect with someone. Those smiles are contagious and when you read the story behind this soldier, he's just like anyone else."
    Long Island-born Geisinsky said, "In the States, I always express gratitude to veterans when I meet them, and to show them the appreciation we have for their service."
    "Here in Israel, when I thank soldiers for their service, they're confused. Why thank me? This is my duty. We all do this."

Hamas Sentences Three Men to Death for "Collaboration" with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Three Palestinians from Gaza were sentenced to death by a Hamas court on charges of collaboration with Israel. A fourth man received life in prison.
    The sentences were confirmed on Tuesday when the court turned down appeals by the defendants.
    Two will be executed by hanging, while the third will face a firing squad.

Hamas Wins Student Council Election at Bir Zeit University - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas on Wednesday won the elections for the Bir Zeit University student council for the second year in a row.
    The Hamas-affiliated Islamic Bloc won 25 of the 51 seats, with 20 for Fatah. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and other factions won 6 seats.

The Real Threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque Is from Muslims, Not Jews - Bassam Tawil (Gatestone Institute)
    On May 18, as Jews, were preparing to celebrate the reunification of Jerusalem by holding a flag parade in the city, the hashtag "al-Aqsa Mosque is in Danger" was trending on various Arab social media platforms.
    Yet participants in the Jerusalem flag parade - which is held every year - never enter the premises of al-Aqsa Mosque or the Temple Mount compound.
    Like other non-Muslims, Jews do visit the Temple Mount on other days of the year. There is no ban on such visits.
    For the past century, Palestinian leaders have used the lie that "al-Aqsa is in danger" to incite their people to attack Jews.
    If anyone has been desecrating al-Aqsa Mosque, it is Muslims who have been rioting and using rocks and fireworks to attack police officers and Jewish visitors.
    Muslim rioters - not peaceful Jewish visitors - are the real threat to the sanctity of the mosque.
    See also The "Al-Aqsa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Abbas' UN Remarks Are Deeply Offensive to the American People
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council on Wednesday: Palestinian "President Abbas' statement [to the UN] on May 15, equating Israel with the lies of infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels...are a gross affront to Holocaust victims and survivors. Making this kind of statement about the world's only Jewish state is entirely unacceptable....Similarly, President Abbas' claim that the United States 'wanted to get rid of the Jews and benefit from their presence in Palestine,' is totally without basis and it is deeply offensive to the American people."  (U.S. Mission to the UN)
  • U.S. Navy Steps Up Efforts to Curb Iran's Ship Seizures in Strait of Hormuz - Eric Lipton
    U.S. Navy ships stationed in the Persian Gulf region have increased their patrols through the Strait of Hormuz in response to recent moves by Iran to seize two oil tankers. "Iran's actions are unacceptable," Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. naval forces in the region, said Monday in Bahrain. Iran has harassed, attacked or interfered with 15 internationally-flagged merchant ships since 2021, Pentagon officials said. (New York Times)
  • Iran Suspected in Cyberattack Targeting Israeli Shipping, Financial Firms
    Tel Aviv-based ClearSky Cyber Security said on Tuesday that at least eight Israeli websites sustained a cyberattack that was likely orchestrated by Iran. A variety of financial services, shipping, and logistics companies were targeted. Israel's National Cyber Directorate said in February that Iranian cyberattacks on Israeli entities had doubled in the past year. (Al-Monitor)
  • Obstacles Seen to Saudi-Israel Normalization - Ben Caspit
    While U.S.-mediated talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia on normalization are ongoing, a senior U.S. official said Sunday that talks on such a move are in the initial stages. While prospects exist of a breakthrough, they are not high and it is too soon to celebrate.
        A historic Israeli-Saudi agreement will require concessions. The U.S. will have to provide the Saudis with the items on their shopping list, which include technology for nuclear power reactors, upgraded weapons and a defense alliance.
        Israel will have to concede to such an upgrade of Saudi military capabilities and make significant concessions toward the Palestinians. A senior Israeli diplomatic source said, "They will not settle for symbolic gestures, only real moves, such as...maybe even freezing settlements, real commitments on [Muslim control of] the Temple Mount, and more." It is not certain that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu could accept the Saudi demands. (Al-Monitor)
        See also Normalization with Saudi Arabia Will Come Incrementally - Nicole Jansezian
    Is a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel imminent? Yechiel M. Leiter, director-general of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said, "There is an awful lot of normalization that can go on that does not include [a signing] ceremony." He noted that ongoing unofficial cooperation on security, permission for Israel to use Saudi airspace, and possible direct flights from Israel for Israeli Muslims for the Haj don't need formal relations. "The fact that they have a rapprochement with Iran has a lot more to do with the United States stepping back," Leiter added.
        "The substantial aspect of normalization is going to come incrementally. It's [Saudi crown prince] MBS' pattern even within Saudi Arabia's domestic affairs. There's no reason to assume that normalization with Israel is not going to be incremental. Saudi Arabia is the titular head of the Arab and Muslim worlds and any agreement with Israel has to be understood in those epic proportions and not just a simple technical, logistical peace-signing."  (Media Line)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Foils Hamas Bus Bombing - Emanuel Fabian
    On April 2, Muhammed Nadir Mahajneh, 20, a resident of the Israeli Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, was detained for his involvement in a Hamas plot to carry out a bombing against civilians on a bus in Hadera, the Israel Security Agency announced Wednesday. Mahajneh scouted out a number of locations in Israel for the bombing attack, "with an emphasis on security sites and crowded places, and sent the information he gathered to Hamas in Gaza."
        A Hamas operative who was in contact with Mahajneh sought at one point to convince him to carry out the attack at mass demonstrations against the government's judicial overhaul plans, the indictment said. Ultimately, according to instructions he received from Hamas, he chose as his target a bus line from Haifa to Petah Tikva that passes Hadera. Two Arab Israeli men arrested in January for a similar bombing plot were likely recruited by the same Hamas infrastructure. (Times of Israel)
  • Shots Fired at Israeli Family Driving in Samaria - Elisha Ben Kimon
    Shots were fired on Monday evening at an Israeli vehicle traveling in Samaria with a woman and her four daughters inside. The IDF identified two hits on the vehicle, which was driving between Tapuah Junction and Migdalim. (Ynet News)
        See also Mom Who Survived Shooting Attack Calls It a "Miracle" - Elisha Ben-Kimon (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Iran Converting Civilian Ships into "Floating Terror Bases" - Nina Fox
    Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant revealed Monday that Iran is converting civilian merchant ships into "floating terror bases." "These vessels are of considerable size...[and] are intended to carry various types of combat capabilities, including aircraft, missiles, offensive systems and advanced intelligence, in order to serve as forward terror bases in areas located far from the Iranian border."
        "Recently, one of these ships was observed when it sailed to the Gulf of Aden. This is a direct continuation of Iran's maritime terrorism, which it controls in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. It aims to expand its operations to the Indian Ocean, followed by the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. It is a well-coordinated and planned policy: to threaten maritime routes, both military and civilian, and to create a constant threat in the maritime domain. This is a troubling policy of maritime terrorism. Iran conducts itself in this context more like a collection of pirates than a civilized nation."
        Gallant added, "Since I took office, the number of Israeli attacks against Iranians in Syria has doubled. As part of this campaign, we systematically work to target Iranian intelligence capabilities in Syria, and these attacks cause significant damage to the consolidation efforts of the Revolutionary Guards, just a few kilometers from the Israeli border."  (Ynet News)
  • Iran Building Nuclear Facility So Deep Underground that U.S. Airstrikes Couldn't Reach It - Jon Gambrell
    Iran has been digging tunnels in the mountain near the Natanz nuclear site to build a nuclear facility so deep in the earth that it is likely beyond the range of U.S. bunker buster bombs designed to destroy such sites, according to experts and satellite imagery analyzed by the Associated Press. Completion of such a facility "would be a nightmare scenario," warned Kelsey Davenport, director of nonproliferation policy at the Washington-based Arms Control Association.
        Experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies said Iran is likely building a facility at a depth of between 80 and 100 meters. The Institute for Science and International Security suggested last year the tunnels could go even deeper. The U.S. created the GBU-57 bomb, which can plow through at least 60 meters of earth before detonating. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Israeli National Security Chief: New Iranian Nuclear Facility Not Immune from Attack - Lazar Berman
    Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi discussed reports on a new underground Iranian nuclear facility that is likely impervious to U.S. bunker-buster bombs. He told the 2023 Herzliya Conference that "of course, it limits the ability to attack," but "there is no place that can't be reached." If we reach the conclusion "that there is no avoiding military action against the nuclear facilities in Iran, I think that any Israeli leader will have full backing from Israel's society and the state to do what Menachem Begin did in 1981, what Olmert did in 2007 - to act when all the other options aren't effective anymore."
        "We are sending the message, so is the U.S., that if you cross the red line, the price you will pay as a regime and as a country is one you wouldn't want to pay, so be careful." The "red line" is when Israel determines that Iran is "coming close to the moment of no return."  (Times of Israel)
  • Dealing with the Threat from Iran's New Underground Nuclear Facilities - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Reports that Iran is building a new nuclear facility deep underground near Natanz are not new and were first reported in 2020. If there have been debates about whether Israel could successfully strike Tehran's underground nuclear facility at Fordow, placed under a 960-meter mountain, the concerns jump significantly with the new facility, which is under a 1,608-meter mountain.
        The IDF's capabilities for hitting underground facilities are often creative. To stop these underground nuclear facilities from being used, they do not need to be destroyed - just caused to cave in. They might be able to be destroyed by several rounds of 5,000-pound bombs dropped one after another in the same spot. In a crisis moment, this facility is still not an Iranian checkmate against the Jewish state. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • PA Brags Fatah Gave Active Support to Islamic Jihad in Recent Gaza War - Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement did not participate in the recent fighting in Gaza. However, Fatah needs to profile itself as leading the Palestinians. Official PA TV in Gaza glorified Fatah and its military wing - the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades - "considered the spearhead in the war room." It claimed that Fatah and Islamic Jihad "acted together" as "partners in blood" against Israel. (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Hizbullah Is Much Weaker than It Seems - Michael Young
    With thousands of men under arms, a missile arsenal, Iranian backing and much of the Shiite religious community behind the party, Hizbullah remains a potent force in Lebanese society. Yet its ability to act as Iran's deterrent has been severely compromised by Lebanon's domestic situation. Hizbullah's plan is to turn the country into a "resistance state" that acts as an outpost for Iranian influence, and another counterweight to Israel and the U.S.
        Hizbullah has lost two of the essential prerequisites needed to conduct a war against Israel, were Iran to demand it. The first is Lebanon's ability to absorb Israeli retaliation and rebuild, as happened in 2006. Lebanon's bankruptcy means that after a war against Israel, the country would be unable to bounce back from the destruction.
        The second is a minimum level of consensus nationally behind Hizbullah's "resistance" agenda. The rifts in the political class as a result of the popular protest movement mean that there is no discernible consensus to back Hizbullah in going to war. When Ziad Aswad, a prominent member of the Hizbullah-allied Christian Aounist faction, declares that Lebanon "cannot continue to hold a rifle when its people are hungry," he expresses a widespread view.
        Hizbullah would be blamed for sacrificing Lebanon for Iran. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Shiites would have to find refuge in areas hostile to the party, which could result in a civil conflict that it could not hope to win, nullifying its usefulness to Iran. As Iran looks at Lebanon, it sees its local ally presiding over a state in ruin whose population is angry and refuses to suffer for Tehran.
        The writer is editor of Diwan, the blog of the Carnegie Middle East program in Beirut. (The National-Abu Dhabi)

  • Antisemitism

  • The White House Intends to Fight Antisemitism; That Starts with a Sensible Definition - William Daroff
    In the coming days, the White House is expected to release what President Joe Biden has called "the first-ever U.S. national strategy to counter antisemitism." Adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, known as IHRA, is an essential tool to combat anti-Jewish hate. 41 nations, as well as hundreds of local governments, academic institutions, NGOs and other entities, have formally adopted it, as have 31 American states.
        51 of the 53 member organizations of the Conference of Presidents adopted the definition - a clear recognition that we are unified when it comes to the comprehensive approach it provides for labeling and addressing antisemitism.
        One particular aspect of the IHRA definition that draws attention is its treatment of the relationship between anti-Israel bias and antisemitism. Anti-Zionism often serves as a cover for antisemitism. Forms of antisemitism that are masked as "anti-Zionism" and that deny the right of the Jewish people to self-determination are among those most frequently encountered by many Jews today.
        The writer is CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. (JTA)
  • New Parliamentary Report Reveals UK Jewish Students "Fear Being Targeted" - Lee Harpin
    Jewish students in Britain "repeatedly" spoke of an "underlying fear of being targeted" over their backgrounds and of being "expected to answer questions about Israel," a report by the parliamentary Taskforce on Antisemitism in Higher Education has confirmed. It is "commonplace" for students not to wear "certain clothing or jewelry around campus because it would make them visibly identifiable as Jewish."
        Students were also reluctant to attend seminars or lectures around issues such as Israel "for fear of personal interrogation." Moreover, some staff kept their Jewish identity secret to avoid "negativity" from other colleagues at work.
        The Taskforce's key recommendations included implementing and embedding the IHRA definition of antisemitism into all processes, which was "essential for building trust between Jewish students and staff and their institutions."  (Jewish News-UK)
  • 38 Percent of Jews in Europe Are Considering Leaving because They Feel Unsafe
    European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, who is in charge of the EU's fight against antisemitism, told the European Jewish Association that "38% of the Jews in Europe are considering leaving Europe because they feel unsafe. This is a shame and it's the responsibility of every government in the EU to protect its Jewish citizens."  (EU Reporter-Belgium)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel Is Humane, Diverse, Democratic - David J. Michaels
    As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, I know how blessed I am to call America home - but also the importance of Jews' restored ancestral homeland. The birth of Israel represented the fulfillment of a yearning for Jews to be able to return to the center of their religious and historical saga - but also of their right to independence, defense and equality. Israel's aspirations are our aspirations.
        As a critical partner in the fight against terrorism, a foremost center of technological innovation and a bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa, Israel is an indispensable ally to the United States. It is also the rare Middle Eastern country where minorities, including Christians, enjoy fundamental civil liberties and have grown continually.
        Israel is one of the world's only parties in a conflict whose adversaries seek a country's complete destruction. This is the explicit doctrine of Iran, which has sought nuclear capabilities and supports groups with the same goal. By contrast, Americans, Irish and Indians sought independence from Britain - not its eradication.
        Israel has made incomparable overtures and sacrifices for peace. It has established peace and partnership with every willing Arab interlocutor, including Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. But Palestinian extremists have answered every Israeli peace proposal with rejection and relentless violence.
        Some allege that Israel is guilty of "ethnic cleansing." Yet since 1948, the Arab population in Israeli-controlled land has increased by millions. Israel's values are our values. Its quest for acceptance is vital to the interests of America and our world.
        The writer is director of UN and Intercommunal Affairs at B'nai B'rith International. (La Crosse [Wis.] Tribune)
  • Holocaust Researcher Who Outraged Poland Has No Regrets - Ofer Aderet
    Prof. Barbara Engelking, 61, non-Jewish founder and director of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research in Warsaw, was awarded an honorary doctorate from Tel Aviv University on May 18. While the Polish government marked the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April, presenting a narrative of brotherhood between the Jews and the Poles during the Holocaust and the assistance that the Jewish resistance fighters received from their Polish counterparts, Engelking provided a different view in an April television interview.
        She said, "The Poles had the potential to become allies of the Jews....People who decided to help Jews really were heroes, but there were very few of them....There was no atmosphere conducive to hiding Jews." Immediately after the interview, Engelking was met with a torrent of criticism from the prime minister and the Polish press.
        She told Ha'aretz: "I didn't say anything controversial or inaccurate in that interview. All of these things have been known and written about for a long time. I myself wrote on this disappointment that Jews felt toward the Poles in my 1993 doctoral thesis....We need to know and understand our past in order to participate as a mature nation in the life of modern Europe."
        Her honorary doctorate was awarded for "her courageous determination to counter Holocaust distortion and expose the complexities of Polish-Jewish relations during World War II, regardless of personal cost."  (Ha'aretz)

  • Today's Palestinian leadership never misses an opportunity to defame the Jewish people or lie or pervert the history of Jews in a land that is holy and of monumental significance to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
  • Last week, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas marked the 75th anniversary of the birth of the modern State of Israel not with words of possible conciliation or the hope for peace and a better life for Palestinians. Instead, he traveled to the UN to attend the first-ever commemoration of what they call the "Nakba."
  • Abbas invoked Joseph Goebbels, the master propagandist for the Nazis, by saying Israelis and Zionists "continue to lie, like Goebbels."
  • He mourned the creation of the State of Israel as a "catastrophe" of history, and castigated the U.S. and Great Britain, countries that have given billions of their taxpayers' dollars and pounds sterling to help the Palestinians. He accused them of planting, for their own colonialist purposes, a "foreign entity" in what he pretends was then an Arab state of Palestine.
  • Abbas, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) continue to stand on the wrong side of history. They continue to drag Palestinian society backwards.
  • At 75, Israel continues to thrive and prosper and has made peace with numerous Arab neighbors. while continuing to seek peace with others. It desires peace with the Palestinians, a peace that keeps Israel safe and both populations secure and thriving, one that is based on reality and truth.
  • The road to peace requires an understanding of reality. Denying the Jewish people historical rights within their ancestral homeland will never lead to peace. It is a fool's errand, fraught with continued defeat for those who pursue it.

    The writer is a former White House Middle East envoy and serves as director of Arab-Israeli Diplomacy for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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