February 26, 2024
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February 26, 2024
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Strange Things Are Happening in Iran

Al-Monitor—With its military options on the table, Israeli defense officials have privately acknowledged that Iran is undergoing a “historic” change. Mohammad Javad Zarif astounded them when, in an interview on German TV, he said: ”Once the Palestinian problem is solved, the conditions for an Iranian recognition of Israel will be possible.” According to Al-Monitor, this did not shock the decision makers, who said there were “dramatic” even “historic” developments taking place that are “inspiring great hope.” “Something real is going on there,” they say, adding that “this is no act.” Netanyahu, however, will continue to issue warnings until Iran and the world powers reach a final agreement on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran, they note, is absolutely not conceding its nuclear vision—in the eyes of the Iranian regime, acquiring nuclear capability is crucial to keeping the regime in place and warding off external intervention. The bomb serves as the ayatollahs’ insurance policy. What has changed is the pace and strategy of its development. The Iranians now understand they could not continue on the trajectory of in-your-face attitudes along with an aggressive nuclear program, and are exploring other alternatives and options. It is said they got the heads up in 2009 from the Green Movement and the Arab Spring. The games are just beginning, say the Israelis, and the goods have yet to be delivered.

Drone Strikes in Pakistan Curtailed

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that drone strikes in Pakistan were cut back at the request of the Pakistani government, because they are in the midst of peace talks with the Taliban. “That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” said one U.S. official. Strikes against senior al-Qaeda targets will continue and the U.S. will work to stop any direct, imminent threats to Americans.

Terror as an Internal PA Problem

TIP— Yoram Cohen, chief of Shin Bet, downplayed predictions that stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks lead to an escalation of terrorism against Israeli civilians, and told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “the amount of terror attacks is also a result of internal problems in the Palestinian street.” This was in response to an uptick in Palestinian violence, and some diplomats and analysts suggest a third Intifada may break out if the talks collapse. Cohen’s testimony rejecting such assessments aligns with Israeli analysis linking the surge in attacks to internal Palestinian political dynamics.

Israeli High Court Freezes Yeshiva Funding

Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org—Israel’s High Court issued an interim injunction suspending funding to yeshivot for students who are deferring enlistment in the IDF. Widespread deferrals were issued beginning in August 2013 after the Tal Law was struck down a year earlier. The law, which allowed the haredi public to defer military service, was deemed unconstitutional. The injunction applies to men ages 18-20 who were supposed to enlist after the Tal Law was nixed—and will only affect those who failed to show up at a recruitment office on the assigned dates, before they were granted deferrals. Shas leaders said the High Court judges “have joined in the persecution of the religious community, crudely intervening in a sensitive process that we will discuss in the coming days in the legislature.” But Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said, “The High Court will be first to defend minority rights, including those of the haredim, but it will also be first to prevent distortion that allows for evading the law and inequality in the burden of service.” The injunction will result in the immediate halt of funding to some 10,000 yeshiva students, adding up to about $7 million per year.

Russia Planning to Annex Ukraine?

The Daily Beast reports that the Russians are making noises that prove they have begun a push to annex Ukraine. The site reports that there is discussion about a solution to the ‘Ukrainian Question’ and to advocate controlling parts of the country in a version of USSR 2.0. According to The Beast, Russia’s relationship with Yanukovych and its perceived meddling in the Ukraine are at the very heart of the protests—for it was the president’s decision to snub the EU in favor of closer ties and a $15 billion loan from Moscow that set off angry demonstrations last November. Former advisor to Russian president Vladimir Putin, political scientist Andrey Illarionov, said Moscow’s propaganda machine is running at top speed in order to prepare for such an outcome. He quoted Kremlin sources as saying, “we should wait ‘til the Sochi 2014 Olympics start and then set about finding the solution to the Ukrainian Question.” Said the source, “Illarionov is definitely hinting at the notorious Nazi ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question” (Endlösung der Judenfrage) in his speech. World War II-era allusions are widespread among Ukrainian political experts, as well—when local analysts talk about the Russian line of action against Ukraine, they use the word ‘Anschluss.’”

Israeli Youth Groups Help Syrians, Natalie Portman Onboard

Jerusalem—The youth group Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, the social and education organization Dror-Israel, and Israeli Flying Aid, a global humanitarian organization, came together to collect winter supplies for those displaced by the civil war in Syria. Natalie Portman, the Academy Award winning actress, and now director, has donated money and clothing to Syrian refugees via Operation Human Warmth. Portman is in Israel working on an adaptation of Amos Oz’s novel “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” her directorial debut. “When I heard about Operation Human Warmth I felt deeply moved and compelled to get involved… in the middle of a brutal winter, these children have no shelter and their lives are in serious jeopardy from the cold. I am proud to take part in an operation where Israeli youth of all backgrounds are taking action to help out those whom need it most.”

RNC Starts Parabellum Lab, a No-No

WASHINGTON—The Republican National Committee (RNC) announced the launch of a new startup lab called “Para Bellum Labs, America!” The phrase “parabellum” was used by a German arms manufacturer as a name for its signature guns-first, the light machine gun used by the Kaiser’s best during World War I, and then its most iconic gun: the Parabellum Pistole, or the Luger pistol. Upon learning of new RNC venture, NJDC Executive Director Rabbi Jack Moline made the following statement: “The RNC should immediately repudiate the name of this venture, denounce the approach it suggests, and apologize to all the people this names offends — those of the Greatest Generation, those who have ever been victims of gun violence, and those in the Jewish community and beyond who were victims of the Nazi genocide.”

Obama Prepares to Meet the Saudis

The Wall Street Journal reports that President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah will meet in Saudi Arabia in March to “smooth over tensions” over U.S. policy in Iran and Syria. A senior Arab official told the paper that “This is about a deteriorating relationship” and declining trust. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment. The Saudi ruling family threatened to break ties with the U.S. over “perceived inaction” in the Syrian civil war and U.S. outreach to Iran. Saudi Arabia is supporting many of the groups, including terrorist groups who support Sunni Muslims, while Iran is funding and supporting Shi’ites.

Morocco Debates Ties with Israel

Al-Monitor—Two Moroccan civil rights activists, Sion Assidon, head of Transparency Maroc, and El-Habib Belkouch, president of the Center of Human Rights and Democracy debated normalization of relations with Israel. Assidon is fiercely opposed to any relations with the Jewish state, while Belkouch warns against the political and economic consequences that the absence of such relations could cause. In October 2013, two law proposals criminalizing any attempt at normalization with Israel were submitted and have caused controversy. Assidon argues that the Israeli treatment of Palestinians and isolation from Israel reflects the views of a majority of Morrocans and that Israel, a violator of international law, should be brought to its knees. Belkouch agrees that Israeli policy toward the Palestinians is condemnable and that Morrocans disapprove, he rejects the idea that violators be imprisoned and deprived of their citizenship. Belkouch warns that such actions, in addition to criminalizing the Jewish community living in Morocco, will lead to Morocco’s isolation and not Israel’s. He added that “Morocco has always played a positive role in the peace process in the Middle East… Morocco must continue to play this very important role. It must do so while expressing its opposition, as it does today, by refusing to maintain official diplomatic relations with Israel. It would be highly unusual to adopt the empty chair policy, while many Palestinians do not do so.”

SodaStream Tanking?

Bloomberg—Despite ScarJo’s standing up for SodaStream, the Monday after the Super Bowl the company stock dropped to $35.34 in New York, the lowest since Nov. 20, 2012. The stock plunged 26 percent on Jan. 13 after SodaStream reported lower than expected earnings in 2013. The news service reported that John Kerry cautioned Israel at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 1 about an “increasing delegitimization campaign” that includes “talks of boycotts.” According to Barclays’ analysts in Israel, “The stock will be down until they figure out a way to restore confidence.”

Neturei Karta Holocaust Survivors Meet with Germans

Ynet reports that the Neturei Karta met recently with a high-ranking official in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ministries. The Hasidic sect is rabidly anti-Zionist and has met with the likes of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad. They met with the Germans on International Holocaust Day to protest the existence of Israel and to accuse the Israelis of exploiting the Holocaust for political reasons. Two Holocaust survivors, Moshe Dov and Chezkel Klein, and spokesman Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, told the Germans that the “Holocaust was a divine punishment for Jews because Zionists didn’t want to follow God and wanted to turn into independents.”

CyberSecurity Center Set for Beersheva

ITBusinessnet.com—A number of major multinational companies have announced plans to set up cybersecurity centers in Israel. These include Lockheed Martin and EMC Corporation, who partnered on a joint cyber-security center in Beersheva. IBM is the latest to announce the establishment of a global center of excellence in collaboration with Ben Gurion University. And Cisco Systems has announced plans to make Israel the first true “Digital Nation.” CyberTech 2014 is expected 5,500 people from Israel and abroad to attend—450 represent heads of industry and cybersecurity agencies from around the world, with the U.S. fielding one of the largest delegations including 50 people from the White House and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Panelists from Lockheed Martin, New Enterprise Associates, RSA, Intel, Cisco) disclosed that $60 billion is spent annually on cyber solutions, and this number is expected to increase to $90 billion in 2017. The U.S. government spent $17 billion on cyber in 2013, while the average U.S. Corporation spent an average of $2.5 million in 2013. VCs invested $663 million in 2012, which grew to $935 million in 2013, of which 35% was in seed stage companies. In Israel alone there has been $2 billion of M&A activity in the last three years, and 20 global companies made cyber acquisitions in Israel.

Travel Advisory Issued for Israel and Middle East

The State Department this week issued a travel advisory for Israel, the West Bank, and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The Department’s website explicitly advised American nationals against travel to Gaza and parts of the West Bank, save for Bethlehem and Jericho. The State Department is expressly forbidding employees from using public bus service in Israeli cities, while anyone wishing to conduct business in the West Bank is required to coordinate their steps with the U.S .Consulate General in Jerusalem in order to arrange for appropriate security. U.S. government employees are also required to notify security personnel before traveling to the Kassam-hit western Negev as well as the Golan Heights, where the atmosphere remains tense due to the ongoing bloodshed in neighboring Syria. “In light of the threat of rocket or missile attacks, visitors and US citizens living in Israel should also familiarize themselves with the location of the nearest bomb shelter (often referred to as a secure or protected room),” the State Department said. Warnings to take extra caution when traveling to areas near the Egypt and Lebanon frontiers were also issued.

Kerry Tells Senate Syrian Policy Failed

TIP—Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday told a group of 15 U.S. congressmen that the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria had failed, and that Washington must rush to arm relatively moderate rebel elements as to offset both Al Qaeda-linked radicals and the Iran-backed Bashar al-Assad regime. Daily Beast characterized the remarks as evidence that Kerry “has lost faith in his own administration’s Syria policy” and the latter framing the remarks as calling for “a new, more assertive, Syria policy” that may include “more dramatic arming of moderate Syrian rebel factions.” The Washington Post noted “it is no secret that the Obama administration’s Syria policy, to the extent that one exists, is failing.” The reports that Damascus has turned over less than 5% of its chemical weapons (CW) arsenal and that Assad was—per a Times of London article—stockpiling WMDs as “an insurance policy.” They also came a day after White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough flat out declared on Face the Nation that the deal regarding CWs—which had seen the West forgo attacking the regime after it crossed an Obama administration red line against the use of such weapons—was “not falling apart.”

What would an El-Sisi presidency in Egypt mean for Israel?

JNS.orgEgyptian Defense Minister and Field Marshal General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was recently cleared by the country’s army to run for president. Just three years after Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled, Egypt’s current top-ranked army officer has become the country’s most popular political figure. What would an El-Sisi presidency mean for neighboring Israel? “Abdul Fattah El-Sisi is Egypt’s strong man right now, and has been fighting against radical Islam and against the Muslim Brothers. This is very positive both for Egypt, but also for Israel and the entire Middle East,” said former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel.

U.S. Could Lose Clout in U.N. if Peace Talks Fail:

JNS.org—Though the probability of success of the renewed efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to forge a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still uncertain, experts have expressed concern about a longstanding policy that could force the U.S. to lose much of its multilateral clout within the United Nations should the talks break down. Failed Mideast negotiations could yield a similar situation to what transpired in 2012, when after winning “nonmember state” status in the U.N., the Palestinians received recognition from UNESCO, in turn triggering laws that mandated the U.S. to withdraw its UNESCO funding and membership.

Pew Studying Israeli Jewry

Philanthropist Joseph Neubauer, who funded the The Pew Report on American Jewry, is now funding another Pew Research Center comprehensive survey of Israeli Jewry to be completed in the fall. He made the announcement at the annual conference of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, Neubauer said the new survey will focus on “religious behavior, Jewish attitudes toward the United States, and Middle East peace among Israeli citizens… Lobbying, tradition, and politics perpetuate programs, but almost none has ceased to exist and all [the] new ones ask for more philanthropic money,” Neubauer told the group. Given that “Jewish philanthropy shrank and synagogue rolls shrank,” it is important to be quantify how successful existing programs really are. “Clearly there is much more work to be done,” he said, remarking that the study will “enable many Jewish organizations to determine how they are achieving their stated goals. I hope new study will inform debate and decision making.”

Europeans Rush to Iran for Deals

TIP—European companies are scrambling to rush back into Iran’s newly reopened markets despite Obama administration statements insisting that the Islamic republic “is not open for business,” threatening to undermine confidence in the White House’s management of the diplomatic battlefield as the West and Tehran head into comprehensive nuclear negotiations scheduled for mid-February. The dynamic has been described as one in which Germany’s “European rivals are scrambling to catch up” to the “over 100 German companies… currently doing business in Iran,” with the new capital flooding into Iran worth as much as $20 billion. The Financial Times described ”a delegation of more than 100 French companies” that visited Iran last week for a three-day visit that the outlet described as “the biggest demonstration of western business interest in Iran for more than a decade.” English-language news distributor Al Bawaba today published an assessment focusing on Iran’s energy markets and headlined “Europe muscling for investments with Tehran.” The White House has staked its credibility on predictions that the core sanctions regime against Iran would hold amid the limited relief provided by the JPA, opposite skeptics who predicted the downward spiral that evidence indicates may be occurring. Evidence that the administration had miscalculated the JPA’s effects or misled lawmakers about its likely outcome may heighten already emerging calls for close Congressional scrutiny of a comprehensive deal with Iran.

Israel to Launch First Civilian Satellite Into Orbit in 2015

JNS.org—Israel will launch its first civilian satellite into orbit in December 2015, said Israel Space Agency Chairman Maj. Gen. (res) Yitzhak Ben Israel. The Venus Vegetation and Environment Monitoring New Microsatellite program is a joint project of the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and French space agency Centre national d’études spatiales. The Venus satellite will be launched from the Kourou Islands in French Guiana and was designed for earth observation. The project cost tens of millions of dollars and has an expected lifespan is at least 10 years. The ISA is slated to launch its largest communications satellite, Amos 6, in the second half of 2016. It is designed to stay in orbit for 16 years. According to the agreement signed with the French, Israel will be in charge of the hull of the satellite while the French are responsible for the optics and camera. Israeli company Elbit actually won the international tender for the camera, rendering the French contribution largely financial and the technology almost entirely blue and white.

Canadian Judge Orders Lev Tahor to Surrender 13 Children to Authorities

CBC.ca—An Ontario judge has upheld a Quebec ruling ordering 13 children in the Lev Tahor sect to be surrendered to child welfare authorities. They will surrender in 30-days pending a 30-day appeal period. Child welfare officials are to make spot checks with the families to make sure they haven’t fled, Justice Stephen Fuerth ordered. If no appeal is filed, the children will be removed and placed in foster care. Around 200 members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community fled their homes in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts last November in the middle of the night, amid an investigation by Quebec social services into the well-being of several of their children. Youth protection officials expressed concern about the children’s health, their hygiene and shortcomings in their home-schooling. Social workers testified they were concerned about the age at which some of the girls in the group were allegedly married off and about reports of intimidation by the community’s leaders. They also told the court about some reported incidents involving children being given melatonin, a purported natural sleep aid, to control their behavior. The Ontario judge was critical of the community’s decision to leave in the middle of the night without informing Quebec authorities. The founder of Lev Tahor, Shlomo Helbrans, is a rabid anti-Zionist and was jailed in 1996 for kidnapping a boy from New Milford.

Nazareth Billboard Warns Christians Against Slandering Allah

JNS.org—A large billboard in the center of Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus, warns Christians against slandering Allah and links to a website encouraging them to convert to Islam.

The billboard features an English translation of Quran 4:171 and has an Israeli stop sign on it to warn local Christians. The billboard also has links to two websites on it, including a site called knowingallah.com, which encourages conversion to Islam. “O people of the Scripture (Christians)! Do not exceed the limits of your religion. Say nothing but the truth about Allah (The One True God). The Christ Jesus, Son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God and His word conveyed to Mary and a spirit created by Him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not say: ‘Three gods (trinity).’ Cease! It will be better for you. Indeed, Allah is the One and the Only God. His Holiness is far above having a son,” the billboard reads. Bishara Shlayan, a prominent Christian resident of Nazareth who is attempting to start a new Israeli Christian political party, confirmed the existence of the billboard and called it “shameful.”

Pentagon Study Finds Agencies Ill Equipped to Detect Foreign Nuclear Efforts

According to the New York Times, a three-year study by the Pentagon has concluded that American intelligence agencies are “not yet organized or fully equipped” to detect when foreign powers are developing nuclear weapons or ramping up their existing arsenals. The 100-page report by the Defense Science Board contends that the detection abilities needed in cases like Iran—including finding “undeclared facilities and/or covert operations”—are “either inadequate, or more often, do not exist.” American officials first learned of a reactor in Syria when the Israelis alerted them. North Korea built a uranium enrichment facility that went undetected until the North showed it off to a visiting professor from Stanford. “The lesson from this history is that we found these at the last moment, if we found them at all,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA expert on terrorism and nuclear proliferation now at the Brookings Institution. The report implicitly called into question whether administration officials should be so confident that they would detect if Iran ever violated the recent nuclear accord.

U.S. Department of Defense Loosens Religious Clothing Restriction for Troops

JNS.org—The Pentagon has agreed to allow U.S. troops greater freedom to grow beards or wear religious garments such as head scarfs, turbans, and yarmulkes with their military uniforms. The new policy will mostly affect Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and others with religious traditions pertaining to clothing and facial hair. Men and women in the military, however, still must seek special accommodation from their commanders to be allowed to wear religious garments, and the request can still be denied. “The new policy states that military departments will accommodate religious requests of service members unless a request would have an adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nathan J. Christensen said in a statement released by the U.S. Department of Defense. Jews in Green, an independent organization representing Jews serving across the Department of Defense that is not affiliated with the department itself, applauded the new policy.

Hamas Pulls Back from Border, Giving Green Light to Terrorists

TIP—Last week, Hamas security sources this weekend told Agence France Presse that the Iran-backed terror group was withdrawing roughly 600 fighters from the border between Israel and Gaza, where they had been recently been stationed and tasked with preventing smaller terrorist groups from launching rockets and missiles at Israeli civilians and soldiers. Regular security forces, according to the anonymous source, would remain in place. Escalating rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip had in November 2012 triggered an Israeli offensive that severely degraded Hamas’s command and control infrastructure and its arsenal, and was followed by a near-total cessation in projective fire directed at Israel. A recent uptick in attacks from the Gaza Strip had generated blunt warnings that Israel would act to reestablish its deterrent should the escalation continue. Israeli outlet Walla tersely assessed, per a characterization of Walla’s report in Ma’an, that ‘Hamas’ move gives other Palestinian factions a green light to fire rockets at Israeli targets across the border.’ Hamas is battling to overcome what is inarguably the worst credibility crisis that it has faced since it violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, and analysts fear that it is trying to rebuild its stature by provoking a confrontation with Israel.

Deal Reached With Turks

TIP—Turkish media outlet Hurriyet Daily News described early on Monday the final compensation figure that Israel will provide to Turkey as part of a reconciliation deal between the two countries, years after Ankara largely froze bilateral relations in the aftermath of a U.N. report that confirmed Jerusalem’s legal interpretation of a 2010 commando raid on a Turkish vessel. By 2013 President Barack Obama was able to maneuver Erdogan into accepting a reconciliation deal with Israel largely on Jerusalem’s terms, though Turkish backsliding – driven in part by AKP efforts to placate hardline criticism over having folded on previous red lines – hampered negotiations on the agreement. Turkish reports published early this morning – which come amid renewed analysis describing Ankara’s foreign policy as being in disarray – indicate that a final $20 million figure for compensation has been agreed to.

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