Prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Updated: 13 min 43 sec ago
(Bloomberg) Fiona MacDonald -
A deal to open up Saudi airspace to all flights into and out of Israel is being discussed ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's upcoming trip to the Middle East, according to people familiar with the matter. Israeli airlines are permitted to use Saudi airspace for routes to the UAE and Bahrain, but Israel is restricted from using Saudi airspace for any other commercial flights, such as to India and China.
(New York Times) Patrick Kingsley and Ronen Bergman -
The Israeli government confirmed on Monday that it is part of a regional military partnership to combat threats from Iran. Members of the new initiative, called the Middle East Air Defense Alliance, are working together with the U.S. against Iranian missiles, rockets and drones, said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. "This program is already operative and has already enabled the successful interception of Iranian attempts to attack Israel and other countries," Gantz said.
Members of the alliance are developing a communication system that allows each partner to warn one another in real time about incoming drones from Iran and its proxies.
(Wall Street Journal) Dion Nissenbaum -
Israel is intensifying its campaign to thwart Iran's nuclear, missile and drone programs with a series of covert operations targeting a broader range of key targets, said people familiar with the effort. The new moves are part of a strategy to bring the battle against Iran onto Iranian territory after years of targeting Iranian agents and proxies outside the country in places such as Syria.
Recognizing that Iran has made considerable progress in producing weapons-grade uranium, Israel is expanding its campaign to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear warhead and missile that could carry it. "The gloves are off," said one person familiar with the Israeli campaign. "There is a recognition that, while Iran may have mastered the fuel cycle, they haven't mastered warhead development."
Iran has responded to the stepped-up attacks inside its country with a new push to target Israelis around the world.
(Daily Sabah-Turkey) Turkish media reported Thursday that eight suspects working for Iranian intelligence, including Iranian nationals, who were plotting attacks on Israeli citizens in Turkey, were captured by police and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT). Security forces raided three residences and a hotel in Istanbul, apprehending the suspects and seizing weapons. The Ihlas News Agency (IHA) reported that the suspects had been monitoring Israelis in the city for a while, posing as businesspeople, tourists and students.
(Reuters) Francois Murphy -
Iran is preparing to use advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its underground Fordow site, according to a confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency seen Monday. IAEA inspectors verified on Saturday that Iran was ready to feed uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas into the second of two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges at Fordow.
(AP-Washington Post) Andrew Demillo -
The full 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld Arkansas' law requiring state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel, finding the restriction is not an unconstitutional violation of free speech. The law "only prohibits economic decisions that discriminate against Israel," Judge Jonathan Kobes wrote. "Because those commercial decisions are invisible to observers unless explained, they are not inherently expressive and do not implicate the First Amendment."
(Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security) Prof. Hillel Frisch -
In response to the recent wave of indiscriminate Palestinian terrorism, Israeli actions targeting terrorists and their supporters has seen a significant reduction in terror attacks. In the "Break the Wave" campaign, the IDF and undercover security forces have launched multiple raids to stop the violence, especially in the Jenin region of northern Samaria, which has led to a 90% decrease in terrorism.
Israel's security forces again learned that they could not rely on PA security forces, especially in the Jenin area, to stop Palestinian violence. In April, after the new campaign began, Israel made 1,128 arrests, compared with 448 in February.
The writer is professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University.
(Globes) Danny Zaken -
In the dispute between Israel and Lebanon over the border of their economic waters, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun has presented U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein with a compromise that would remove any claims on the Karish field. Globes has been informed by U.S. sources that Lebanon would be ready to reach an agreement based on Line 23 originally presented to the UN and retreat from Line 29, which it has been demanding in negotiations since December 2020. Hochstein had made his return to Beirut to continue mediation contingent on the Lebanese accepting the original Line 23.
(Medialine) Adi Koplewitz -
Moroccan construction workers and caregivers will work in Israel by 2023 as part of a pilot project, Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked announced on Tuesday in Rabat. Yitzhak Moyal, chairman of the Construction and Wood Workers Union within Israel's Histadrut labor federation, said, "We're hoping to receive about 15,000 Moroccan construction workers, in a few batches. This could really improve the pace of construction in Israel."
(Ynet News) Meir Turgeman -
The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday ruled the Palestinian Authority must pay $37 million (NIS130 million) in compensation to 34 families of Israeli terror victims, after 20 years of litigation. In a landmark ruling three years ago, the court ruled that the PA was liable for terror acts committed by Palestinian factions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and therefore can be sued for compensation.
The ruling said the PA was providing financial assistance and weapons to terror groups and was supporting families of terrorists who were killed or jailed for their actions.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall and Iran Desk -
In the year since the electoral triumph of President Ebrahim Raisi, Iran has been awash with protests by teachers, factory workers, pensioners, bazaar merchants, drivers, and professional unions. The average monthly income of a senior government official or a veteran high school teacher, which stood several months ago at $250, has fallen to less than $170.
The regime is performing an economic "emergency operation," removing subsidies for basic commodities. This has led to price rises for all essential and nonessential services. Tens of millions of middle-class families are now under the poverty line. Since June 16, protests have been held in at least 40 cities.
Based on several unconfirmed reports, in the recent demonstrations, the security and law-enforcement arms apparently defied their commanders' orders and did not crack down very hard on demonstrators. Their families, too, are suffering from the economic woes, and the regime has stopped granting them special economic privileges.
With no improvement in sight, President Raisi finds himself under fire including from among his own conservative camp, which currently dominates all the governmental institutions and the regime's power centers. At the same time, the opposition to the regime is weak, divided, and disorganized.
The writers are senior analysts at the Jerusalem Center.
(Wall Street Journal) Ian Talley -
Chinese, Middle Eastern and Western banks have provided banking services to Iran's sanctioned energy and industrial sectors, corporate documents show. Through a network of proxy companies, foreign exchange houses and intermediaries, Iran holds bank accounts that collectively transact tens of billions of dollars a year in trade that is otherwise banned under U.S. sanctions.
The network was designed and implemented by Iran's political leadership. HSBC Holdings PLC and Standard Chartered PLC, two of the largest banks in the world, were among a slew of institutions that provided services to companies that handled banned trade on behalf of major Iranian exporters. The international banks have provided a critical release valve from U.S. financial pressure and have bought Iran time to advance its nuclear program.
While Western intelligence officials have no evidence that the banks are complicit in permitting the sanctioned Iranian transactions, companies registered outside of Iran that secretly maintain bank accounts for Iranian companies could escape controls meant to catch money laundering. Iran's ability to circumvent the West's blockade on its financial system shows the limits of global financial sanctions.
(TRENDS Research & Advisory-Abu Dhabi) Dr. Matthew Levitt -
On May 22, gunmen killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei outside his home in Tehran. Khodaei was reportedly the deputy commander of Qods Force Unit 840, responsible for planning external Iranian operations such as kidnappings, abductions, and assassinations. While Iran has carried out such operations for over four decades, they have become more frequent and aggressive in recent years.
After the July 2018 plot to bomb a National Council of Resistance of Iran rally in Paris, I started collecting data on Iran's external assassination, surveillance, and abduction plots. My research assistants and I found 98 cases of Iranian external operations from December 1979 through December 2021. At least 26 well-documented plots have taken place in the three years following the Paris plot: in Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Kenya, the Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, the UAE, the UK, and the U.S.
So long as Iran continues to pursue external operations such as assassinations and kidnappings, the countries targeted by such operations will act to thwart them.
The writer is director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(JNS) Charles Bybelezer -
While new elections are being planned in Israel, the former head of Israel's National Security Council, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, said, "There will be no change in Israeli policy vis-a-vis Iran." "Contrary to the image politicians craft, even if they appear to be making decisions, the strategies they are based on are almost always formed from the bottom up - by the various agencies in the security establishment. So it does not necessarily matter who is at the top at any given time."
Moreover, Eiland said, "Israel's policy on Iran is widely supported by almost everyone here, including those in the defense apparatus as well as analysts such as former generals like myself. There is no pressure being applied on the political echelon to make any modifications."
(Israel Hayom) Dana Ben-Shimon -
The announcement of new elections in Israel has triggered a wave of criticism against the Palestinian Authority, as social media users lambasted PA President Mahmoud Abbas, 86, for clinging to power. No presidential elections have taken place for 17 years, as Abbas repeatedly finds excuses for canceling them.
Gazan commentator Faiz Abu Shamala said that the Israeli government is "disbanding in a process that is taking place with consent....I wish the Palestinians would have a fraction of what the enemy has. They topple the government, replace the prime minister and enjoy democracy. Allah gave us a president who butchered democracy, buried our dreams, and swore not to leave until he dies."
(Hoover Institution) Dennis Ross -
As the lead U.S. negotiator on the Oslo and Arab-Israeli processes, I set up a number of discreet meetings between Israeli officials and their Gulf state counterparts in the 1990s. Most of the bilateral meetings involved security cooperation and built on intelligence contacts that Israel's Mossad had established. Security was the basis of these talks.
In 2007, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided to launch an ambitious initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and presented the initiative to the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, fully expecting them to embrace and endorse her effort. To her surprise, the Saudi, Emirati, Bahraini, Qatari, Kuwaiti, and Omani leaders showed little interest in her initiative and instead made it clear that, in her words, they had three priorities: "Iran, Iran, and Iran." Israel shared the same priority and the reality of a strong converging strategic threat perception fostered deeper security cooperation.
The fundamental point is that Arab leaders increasingly came to view cooperation with Israel as in their interests. As Arab officials told me, "Israel, unlike the U.S., isn't going anywhere" and "Israel actually acts and doesn't talk about it."
Moreover, among the Gulf states, frustration with the Palestinians, especially their leadership, has become commonplace. In my trips to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, prominent officials assert their unwillingness to deny their country what is in its best interests for the sake of the Palestinians.
The writer, who served in senior national security positions in four U.S. administrations, is the Counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(Conference of Presidents) The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last Thursday applauded the joint statement led by the U.S. and joined by 21 countries, which condemns the discriminatory UN Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry (COI).
"Israel remains the only member state in the history of the UN that has been singled out for taking a defensive military action to protect its civilian population from indiscriminate violence. The COI report makes no mention of the existential threats facing Israel, particularly the terrorist group Hamas, nor does it mention Israel's right to defend itself in accordance with the UN Charter, while framing Israel as the root cause of regional conflict."
(National Interest) Orde Kittrie -
The first report of the new UN Commission of Inquiry into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a sad reminder of how much time and money has been wasted on obsessively and unfairly bashing Israel. The COI report blames the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entirely on Israel. It whitewashes Palestinian terrorism, disregards Israel's need and right to protect its citizens, omits Israel's diligent compliance with the law of armed conflict, and ignores Hamas and Iran's continued genocidal threats. It is Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism, not Israel's exercise of its right of self-defense, that is the root cause of the conflict.
With the UN budget in crisis, stretched by coronavirus and by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it is even more irresponsible than usual to waste precious UN resources on the COI or any other Israel-bashing exercise.
The writer, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and law professor at Arizona State University, is a former U.S. State Department attorney.
(National Post-Canada) Barbara Kay -
After the labeling of the wines of Psagot Winery, produced in a Jewish town in the West Bank, was challenged at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) by an anti-Israel activist who argued their label should not say "Israel," on Thursday lawyers filed a complaint with CFIA over olive oils labeled "Product of Palestine." The complaint was filed by Prof. Eugene Kontorovich of George Mason University Law School and Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the New York-based Lawfare Project.
The complaint notes that the "State of Palestine" is a nonexistent entity unrecognized by Canada. Moreover, Canada's labeling regulations require that the Country of Origin be either a country or a World Trade Organization member. "Palestine" is neither.
(Spiegel-Germany) Jorg Diehl -
In April 2020, Romanian customs officials found 2.1 million Captagon pills with amphetamine content of 11.5% and a street value of 43.5 million euros inside a cargo container loaded with refrigeration units. In July 2020, 84 million pills were confiscated in the port of Salerno, Italy, with a street value of a billion euros.
Syria has transformed into a Mediterranean narco-state, generating a significant portion of its revenues through international sales of Captagon, which is especially popular in Arab countries. It's not like the Syrian regime merely stands aside to allow the ongoing production and export of the drugs, says Joel Rayburn, a former U.S. special envoy for Syria. "They are the cartel."
German investigators have found proof that the Fourth Army Division, under the leadership of the president's brother, Maher Assad, earns money from the drug shipments. They believe the unit is paid $300,000 for every container shipped out of Latakia. The New Lines Institute in Washington holds that the total value of the shipments amounted to at least $5.7 billion in 2021, several times higher than Syria's legal exports.