September 18, 2023
A project of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Israel's Global Embassy for National Security and Applied Diplomacy

In-Depth Issues:

Can a Saudi Nuclear Program Be Secretly Managed? - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    The Saudis have requested that Washington provide it with a civilian nuclear program.
    One question raised involves what kind of insurance policy Israel would have against a Saudi ruler going rogue to try to transform the civilian program into a military one.
    Israeli sources say there are secret technological "backdoor" ways to ensure that if the Saudis started to misuse the program for military purposes, it could be shut down or otherwise sabotaged.
    However, former Israel Security Agency cyber official Harel Menashri said, "You can sell and craft a system with backdoors, but... the Saudis are not fools. They will figure it out - even if it takes two years or 10 years, and once they neutralize the backdoor, you have a big problem."
    Menashri also cautioned that "if the U.S. gives the Saudis [nuclear capabilities], it opens the entire Middle East to the problem of a nuclear race."
    He noted that originally, Russia only gave Iran a nuclear power plant. But eventually, Iran developed an independent local enrichment capability.

British Foreign Secretary Stresses: "Israel's Security Is Our Security" - Lee Harpin (Jewish News-UK)
    UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly appears in a new government social media video released by the Foreign Office, stressing: "The UK understands the threat posed by Iran... Israel's security is our security."
    The video begins with Cleverly being shown Israel's Iran Dome anti-missile system during a recent visit. He says: "Behind me is part of the Iron Dome. Its purpose is to destroy rockets that threaten Israel from groups like Hamas and Hizbullah."
    He adds: "A strong Israel is vital to the security of the region, which is in everybody's interests."

Israel Air Force in Greece Practices Potential Long-Range Strike on Iran - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Air Force (IAF) staged a major long-range strike drill in Greece last week, the latest in a series of drills preparing for a potential strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
    The joint two-day drill with the Hellenic Air Force included long-range flights, aerial refueling, low-altitude flights, and the use of live fire.
    During the drill, dozens of IAF fighter jets, as well as spy planes and refueling aircraft, flew thousands of kilometers to Greece and back.

Does Armenia Function as a Transit Point for the Iranian Air Corridor Route to Syria and Lebanon? - Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri (Alma Research Center)
    Currently, Iran supports Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan over the Karabakh region, and the IRGC's Quds Force operates in this area.
    It is possible that Iran exploits Armenia not only to subvert Azerbaijan, but also to support the Iranian effort in Syria and Lebanon, and that some of the weapons and equipment sent to Armenia "continue" to Syria and then to Lebanon.
    The Iranian airline Mahan Air is involved in arms transfers from Iran to Syria and Lebanon in the service of the Quds Force, including using passenger aircraft.
    Flight Travel LLC, an Armenian airline created in 2018 that has been sanctioned by the U.S., acts as a front for Mahan Air's Armenian headquarters.

Jewish Coalition Sues California School Board over Anti-Israel Curriculum - Kate Anderson (Daily Caller)
    A coalition of Jewish advocate groups sued the Santa Ana, California, school district Monday, alleging that the school board passed an anti-Israel ethnic studies curriculum without due transparency.
    The school district approved new courses in April on ethnic studies that accused Israel of being an apartheid state and committing war crimes against Palestinians.
    The coalition includes the ADL, StandWithUs, and the American Jewish Committee.
    Rachel Lerman, senior counsel for the Brandeis Center, said, "everyone agrees that no matter how much you favor ethnic studies, it's not a place for antisemitism, and there's really some very strong anti-Israel propaganda in these curricula....You don't want to raise a whole generation of kids to think that way."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Britain, France, Germany to Retain Ballistic, Nuclear Sanctions on Iran - John Irish
    "In direct response to Iran's consistent and severe non-compliance with its JCPoA (nuclear deal) commitments since 2019, the governments of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom intend to maintain nuclear proliferation-related measures on Iran, as well as arms and missile embargoes, after...18 October 2023," a spokesperson for the three countries said Thursday.
        European sources cited Russia's use of Iranian drones against Ukraine; the possibility Iran might transfer ballistic missiles to Russia; and depriving Iran of the nuclear deal's benefits given Tehran has violated the accord. (Reuters)
  • UN Nuclear Agency Slams Iran for Barring Inspectors - Emily Schultheis
    Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Saturday that "Iran has effectively removed about one-third of the core group of the agency's most experienced inspectors designated for Iran" from monitoring the country's atomic program. Grossi went on to "strongly condemn this disproportionate and unprecedented unilateral measure," saying it "constitutes an unnecessary blow to an already strained relationship between the IAEA and Iran."
        Without these inspectors, he said, the agency will not be able to effectively "provide credible assurances that nuclear material and activities in Iran are for peaceful purposes."  (AP-Washington Post)
  • UN Votes to List Ruins near Ancient Jericho as Palestinian World Heritage Site
    The UN World Heritage Committee, meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under the auspices of UNESCO, voted Sunday to list prehistoric ruins near the ancient West Bank city of Jericho as a World Heritage Site in Palestine. Tell es-Sultan, a Bronze-Age town dating back to 2600 BCE, is 2 km. from the remains of the first city of Jericho, which contains ruins of importance to Jewish history, including a synagogue dating back to the first century BCE.
        UNESCO's assistant director general, Ernesto Ottone, took pains to clarify that the two sites are distinct. "The property proposed for nomination is the prehistoric archaeological site of Tell es-Sultan located outside the antique site of Jericho. Later historical developments, which span over millennia and are demonstrated by material remains beyond the boundaries of Tell as-Sultan, constitute a rich cultural context, worthy of historical interest and preservation, covering among others, Jewish and Christian heritage. However, this is not the focus of the proposed nomination."  (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Israel Criticizes UNESCO Decision
    In response to the UNESCO decision, the Israel Foreign Ministry said: "Despite the message of the Secretary-General of the UNESCO Heritage Committee, which separates the registration of the prehistoric site from Jewish and Christian sites in the region...the Foreign Affairs Ministry considers the decision made today as another sign of the Palestinians' cynical use of UNESCO and the politicization of the organization. Israel will continue to work with its many friends in the organization in order to change the distorted decisions that were made."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. to Withhold Millions in Military Aid from Egypt over Human Rights - Vivian Salama
    The Biden administration has notified Congress that it would withhold $85 million in aid conditioned on the release of political prisoners, officials said, and some lawmakers are pushing to withhold another $235 million amid growing calls to penalize Cairo for its human-rights record. The conditional aid tied to Egypt's human-rights record represents a fraction of the overall $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid each year.
        Last year, the Biden administration withheld $130 million of foreign military aid to Egypt over human rights, while allowing some funds to go through because of a determination that Cairo had made progress on political detentions. Egypt has continued to work with the U.S. on issues related to security in Gaza and ensuring safe passage of U.S. ships through the Suez Canal, despite the decision to withhold some aid in recent years. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Border Police Thwart Palestinian Stabber at Jerusalem Checkpoint - Emanuel Fabian
    A Palestinian man, 47, approached the Mazmuria checkpoint in southeastern Jerusalem on Monday. He was walking between cars as he approached the checkpoint with one hand behind his back. He then drew a knife from behind his back and ran toward the Israeli security forces. A Border Police officer shot him in response. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians Riot on Gaza Border for Second Time in Days - Emanuel Fabian
    Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza rioted on the border with Israel on Sunday after similar rioting on Friday, burning tires and detonating explosives on the security barrier. On Wednesday, six Palestinian rioters were killed near the border by their own bomb. There were weekly riots at the border from March 2018 to the end of 2019. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel's UN Ambassador: "We Don't Have a Partner" for Peace - Zvika Klein
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said in an interview, "At the UN, we can see very clearly that we don't have a partner [for peace]. The Palestinians just want to bring an end to the idea of the Jewish state through delegitimization....In a situation where there is a complete refusal to recognize us, and there is pure antisemitism among these leaders, decisions are promoted in UNESCO to erase the aspect of Jewish history from places like Tel Jericho [an archaeological site with Jewish roots]."
        "It's not just a security issue that Hamas controls Gaza. It's the fact that the PA behaves like an enemy authority. I hope that the American administration will also internalize this and think twice about who it pressures incorrectly and who it should be pressuring."
        Last year the Palestinians "took advantage of the General Assembly to pass a decision taking the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague....We asked states to urge the tribunal not to intervene. But if they move ahead anyway, their decisions will eliminate any chance that the next Palestinian leader will be able to be more conciliatory than what the court in The Hague [has] decided."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli-Arab Normalization Remains a Fount of Hope - Ed Husain
    The Abraham Accords, signed on September 15, 2020, have changed the lives of millions. The Accords helped establish direct flights between Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE, some above Saudi airspace. In the airport lounges of Dubai, I watch ordinary Iranians and Israelis talking about their families and businesses. Trade volumes are increasing annually between Arab nations and Israel from $590 million in 2019 to $3.4 billion in 2022.
        Since 1947, Israelis have lived behind an iron curtain with little contact with their Arab and Muslim neighbors. Now, as one Israeli general explained to me, "We Israelis are wearing new glasses and seeing Arabs and Muslims as partners in peace." What the Accords have started will, in the long run, increase the popularity of peace in Arab countries. Now there is a serious and sustained negotiation led by the U.S. to make peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Islam and Judaism.
        The writer, Director of the Atlantic Council's N7 Initiative to broaden regional integration between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries, is a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. (National Interest)
  • Don't Give More Money to the UN's Failed Palestinian Refugee Agency - Richard Goldberg and David May
    With heavy fighting continuing inside the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is asking for an emergency bailout to establish alternative schooling options while militants occupy the schools that American taxpayers already funded. Instead of throwing good money after bad, U.S. lawmakers should put an end to UNRWA's safe havens for terrorism, whether in Lebanon, Gaza or the West Bank.
        The Palestinians are the only people for whom the UN operates a separate refugee agency. This agency has a uniquely expansive definition of who constitutes a refugee, allowing the status to be passed automatically to male descendants of actual refugees. Patrilineal-inherited refugee status has led UNRWA's refugee numbers to swell from 750,000 to 5.9 million. Yet in Lebanon, the number of Palestinian refugees has plummeted from 500,000 to fewer than 250,000 in recent years.
        Notably, UNRWA does not offer resettlement as an option, which aligns with the Lebanese dispossession of its Palestinian guests. Rather, the UN body promotes a fictitious Palestinian right to live in Israel, which would force the Jewish state to cease to be Jewish. Yet by perpetuating the Palestinian refugee debacle, UNRWA's approach only increases Palestinian suffering.
        One day, the UN will need to dissolve UNRWA, turning over its responsibilities to host governments and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Until that day comes, Congress should prevent taxpayer dollars provided to UNRWA from facilitating terror, hatred and human rights abuses.
        Richard Goldberg is a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where David May is a research manager. (The Hill)

No Matter Our Religion, We All Want Peace - Jason D. Greenblatt (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Over the past seven years, I have been privileged and humbled to have had a front-row seat to a dramatically changing Middle East. On a recent trip to Riyadh, a post of me and my daughter in a Riyadh mall on social media garnered more than 1.8 million views. Most of the comments were welcoming. The only real controversy was from commenters who chided the person who posted the photo for doing so without my permission.
  • I have been fortunate to have had countless powerful experiences with Arabs, Christians and Muslims throughout the Middle East. In all conversations, even when we disagree on Israel (a not uncommon occurrence), the conversations have been respectful and typically end with a polite goodbye, perhaps a handshake, and sometimes even a hug.
  • I am deeply inspired by the changes that I see in the tone and tenor of the conversations. Reactions to my op-eds in the Arab press are often quite positive, pragmatic and hopeful, even if my views are contrary to the beliefs of many.
  • A very pro-Palestinian friend of mine in one of the Gulf countries wrote: "The thoughts you express are becoming more and more common in the region. I believe the major Gulf states and a lot of the Arab states have recognized that the Palestinian question will not be resolved given the current status quo and while the internal divisions within the Palestinians themselves are not resolved." I hear these sentiments more and more these days.
  • I firmly believe that, while most of the region would love to see an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they also know that, for the time being and for so many reasons, that is not achievable. But more and more they are recognizing that we cannot get so caught up in making things perfect and, as a result, never get anything done.
  • In more and more conversations, people tell me that Israel must be integrated into the region, all while not giving up hope that, one day, a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will present itself.
  • During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews all over the world will pray for many things. To my dear cousins in Arab lands, I hope you will join us in our prayers for peace. Let us walk down the path of Abraham together, as descendants of Abraham, and work together to build a beautiful, prosperous and peaceful future for the next generation.

    The writer was White House Middle East envoy.

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