Prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Updated: 44 min 2 sec ago
(New York Times) Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman -
According to a U.S. intelligence official, Israel informed American officials that it was behind the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari in Tehran on Sunday. The U.S. has designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group and has refused an Iranian demand that the designation be removed as a condition for restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Israelis told the Americans the killing was meant as a warning to Iran to halt the operations of a covert group within the IRGC Quds Force known as Unit 840, which is tasked with abductions and assassinations of foreigners around the world, including Israeli civilians and officials. A Telegram channel affiliated with the Quds Force said the colonel was known in the field by the alias "Colonel Shekar," Persian for hunter.
(Ynet News) Ron Ben-Yishai -
IRGC Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari was a senior commander of a secret Iranian unit charged with planning and carrying out assassinations and attacks internationally.
Among operations Khodayari and his men were responsible for in the past three years were the murders of Israelis in Tanzania, Ghana, and Senegal, as well as an attack on an Israeli institution in Bogota, Colombia. There were also attempts to kill businessmen in Cyprus, a murder attempt in Georgia, an attempt to murder the Israeli consul in Istanbul, Turkey, and an attack on the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan. Therefore, it is no longer possible to not preemptively defuse this ticking bomb.
(Jerusalem Post) Iran's Revolutionary Guards Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari, who was killed in Tehran on Sunday, was reportedly in charge of the 2012 Bangkok bombings, in which five people were injured in an attempt by the IRGC to kill Israeli diplomats in Thailand. He was also in charge of an operation targeting Tal Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of an Israeli diplomat based in New Delhi, India.
(Al-Monitor) Ben Caspit -
Iranian websites list Col. Hassan Sayad Khodayari as deputy director of the Quds Force's technological and weapons development, whose purview likely includes the flagship Iranian project to alter Hizbullah's rocket arsenal into precision missiles capable of striking Israeli targets. According to Israeli and Western intelligence assessments, Khodayari is actually a brigadier general and was very close to Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani.
According to informed intelligence sources, Khodayari was in the advanced stages of carrying out three attacks on Israeli targets in several locations around the world. "These attempts will no longer be executed," said a senior Israeli security source. Israel will no longer ignore attempted attacks and intends to exact a price from those who dispatch them, even in the heart of their capital. Israel's counterterrorism campaign has spread from hitting Iranian facilities in Syria into Iran itself.
(Wall Street Journal) Laurence Norman -
Iran secured access to secret UN atomic agency reports almost two decades ago and circulated the documents among top officials who prepared cover stories and falsified a record to conceal suspected past work on nuclear weapons, according to Middle East intelligence officials. Persian-language Iranian records reveal some of the tactics Tehran used with the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring compliance with nuclear nonproliferation treaties and the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran's acquisition of sensitive IAEA documents "represents a serious breach of IAEA internal security," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former UN weapons inspector. "Iran could design answers that admit to what the IAEA already knows, give away information that it will likely discover on its own, and at the same time better hide what the IAEA does not yet know."
The IAEA records accessed by Iran were among more than 100,000 documents and files seized by Israeli intelligence in January 2018 from a Tehran archive. Israel has passed the nuclear archive over to the U.S. intelligence community.
(Jewish Insider) Marc Rod -
44 U.S. Senators, including 34 Democrats and 10 Republicans, signed a letter on Friday in support of full funding - $500 million - to Israel in 2023 for the Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow 3 missile-defense programs. "This vital funding will help Israel save lives and defend itself, while also strengthening U.S. national security, and furthering research and development," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) added, "We have had a great deal of success in improving our missile defense systems working with Israel. The advancements we have been able to make in this cooperative effort will benefit our defense capabilities as well as those of our ally Israel."
(Washington Free Beacon) Adam Kredo
The State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announced in March it will pay nonprofit groups up to $987,654 to "strengthen accountability and human rights in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza." Groups angling for the grant money are instructed to investigate alleged crimes inside and outside of Israel.
12 Republican lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to cancel the grant program. "It is wholly unacceptable for the State Department to fund NGOs to delegitimize and isolate Israel," the senators wrote. The State Department is using taxpayer dollars to help feed a network of "anti-Israel nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)" that see it as their mission to topple Western support for the Jewish state.
"For decades these NGOs and campaigns have been significantly funded by European governments and the European Union. The United States has traditionally condemned such campaigns."
(U.S. Treasury Department) The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Tuesday designated a Hamas finance official as well as an expansive network of three Hamas financial facilitators and six companies that have generated revenue for the terrorist group through an international investment portfolio. Hamas' Investment Office held assets worth $500 million.
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes Elizabeth Rosenberg said, "Hamas has generated vast sums of revenue through its secret investment portfolio....Hamas maintains a violent agenda that harms both Israelis and Palestinians. The United States is committed to denying Hamas the ability to generate and move funds and to holding Hamas accountable for its role in promoting and carrying out violence."
(Axios) Barak Ravid -
The Biden administration has been quietly mediating the transfer of two strategic islands in the Red Sea from Egyptian to Saudi sovereignty. The White House wants an agreement to be reached before President Biden's upcoming trip to the Middle East at the end of June.
Tiran and Sanafir islands control the Straits of Tiran - a strategic sea passage to the ports of Aqaba in Jordan and Eilat in Israel. Saudi Arabia gave Egypt control of the islands in 1950. They were later demilitarized as part of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
Israel asked that Saudi Arabia allow Israeli airlines to cross more Saudi airspace, which would dramatically shorten flights to India, Thailand and China. After the Abraham Accords were announced, Saudi Arabia began to allow Israeli airlines to cross some of their eastern airspace for flights to the UAE and Bahrain. Israelis also want the Saudis to allow direct flights from Israel to Saudi Arabia for Muslims in Israel who want to go on pilgrimage to Mecca.
(Times of Israel) Lazar Berman -
Israeli officials were infuriated Thursday by a leak to the New York Times about Israel's role in the killing of a senior member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. "It mainly harms trust," MK Ram Ben Barak, a former deputy chief of the Mossad who heads the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said Thursday. "And when it is violated in some way, then it damages future cooperation."
Ben Barak denied that Israeli officials told their American counterparts that they were responsible for the killing. "As far as I know, we did not inform anyone or take responsibility, and that is for the best," he said. Israeli officials told Ynet that they were demanding answers from their American counterparts and expressed concern that the report might lead to a spike in Iranian attacks against Israeli targets.
(Ynet News) Itamar Eichner -
The IDF on Tuesday rejected the findings of a CNN investigative report that claimed Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was deliberately shot by Israeli troops in the Jenin refugee camp earlier this month. The IDF said there can be no conclusive findings as to the origin of the shot that killed Abu Akleh without examining the bullet removed from her body.
"The IDF has been operating in the Jenin area to apprehend terror suspects after 11 Israeli civilians were killed in attacks perpetrated by residents of Jenin and its surrounding villages and to prevent further attacks. Palestinian gunmen indiscriminately fired hundreds of rounds at troops, turning the Jenin camp into an active warzone," the IDF said. "Without a serious and professional investigation, it is impossible to conclude where the fire originated and such a probe must be done meticulously and based on evidence."
(Times of Israel) The Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday ruled against four Jewish teens who prayed on the Temple Mount, reversing a lower court's decision. Judge Einat Avman-Muller wrote that a right to freedom of Jewish worship on the Temple Mount "is not absolute, and it should be superseded by other interests, among them the safeguarding of public order."
(Israel Hayom) Lilach Shoval -
The Israel Security Agency in April arrested an active, five-man Hamas terrorist cell in eastern Jerusalem that was planning to bomb the Jerusalem light rail using a drone. They were also planning to abduct Israeli civilians and soldiers, and had planned to assassinate MK Itamar Ben-Gvir.
(Al-Monitor) Amb. James F. Jeffrey -
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal's restraints on Iran's enrichment capabilities begin eroding in 2026 and are totally lifted by the end of 2030. Thus, in the next presidential term Iran will again be within a few months of a nuclear device capability. Buying relatively minimal time with a JCPOA return comes with costs: lifting the heavy American sanctions and giving international approval to whatever Iran does within an agreement increasingly less restraining.
In negotiating the initial agreement, many saw it as transformational, that working with moderate Iranian leaders could change that nation's foreign policy. But few still see the JCPOA that way. A return to the JCPOA at best has time-limited technical advantages, but certainly not sufficient to base a whole regional policy on. With or without the JCPOA, an aggressive Iran on the cusp of nuclear weapons is becoming part of the region's security environment.
The writer, Chair of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center, served as U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Turkey.
(JNS) Jonathan S. Tobin -
Last week the so-called "Squad" in Congress proposed House Resolution 1123, "Recognizing the Nakba and Palestinian Refugee Rights." Through the funhouse mirror of nakba rhetoric, the resolution demands recognition of the Palestinian "right of return" in which 7 million descendants of the 1948 refugees would have the right to reclaim the homes of those who left and essentially eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. The purpose of the resolution is to place on record, congressional support for the elimination of Israel.
The Arabs rejected the compromise offered by the 1947 UN Partition Resolution that called for the creation of two states - one Jewish and one Arab. The Arabs were not prepared to accept any Jewish state, even one far smaller than the one that emerged from the 1948 War of Independence. That rejection led to a war that was certainly a disaster for the Palestinian Arabs who started it. Despite suffering 1% of their population being killed in the fighting, the Jews triumphed.
Any discussion of the nakba ought to be on the way the Palestinian leadership and the political culture they created are the reason for the original disaster that befell their people and their current plight. Any sympathy for the nakba narrative is not merely built on ignoring the truth about the Palestinians and their wars. It's also inherently anti-Semitic since it is built on a foundation of denial of Jewish rights and the Jewish victims that were created by the Arabs' anti-Zionist hate.
(Sapir) Bret Stephens -
Most of the new states established since World War II were born from the twin processes of decolonization and national-liberation struggles. Among the first was Israel. Israel is a decolonized nation, liberated from imperialism just as surely as Kenya or Indonesia was.
The allegation that Israel is a white, racist, illegitimate, colonialist regime is unserious. Jews are not "white" to start with, a plurality of Israel's Jewish population is of Middle Eastern descent. A state whose right to exist was affirmed in one of the UN's first resolutions may be many things, but it is not illegitimate. A nation whose ties to a land are millennia-old and continuous is not colonialist, particularly when the territories it is supposedly colonizing were acquired in wars it did not seek and include land it has repeatedly tried to give back.
As for the argument that Palestinians experience apartheid because they don't get a say in Israeli politics, the entire point of the 1993 Oslo Accords was to provide Palestinians with a separate polity in the form of the Palestinian Authority. The principal reason that Palestinians don't live in a state of their own is that Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected one.
Israel cannot be expected to agree to the immediate creation of a Palestinian state if Israelis have good reasons to fear that ending the occupation is a prelude to ending Israel itself. The Jewish state is expected to conduct its battles with greater regard for the safety of its enemies than for that of its own people. It is expected to make diplomatic concessions that put the lives of its own citizens at serious risk. It is expected, when struck, to turn the other cheek.
The writer, a New York Times columnist, is editor-in-chief of Sapir: A Journal of Jewish Conversations.
(CAMERA-UK) Adam Levick -
Israel's Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the IDF could evict 1,300 Palestinians living in an IDF training zone adjacent to the Judean Desert in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, after a legal battle lasting 20 years. A one-sided and extremely tendentious piece by the Guardian's Jerusalem correspondent on the court ruling appeared to promote the "voice of Palestine," rather than provide readers with an accurate and impartial account of the relevant facts.
The court determined that the Palestinian petitioners hadn't proved that they lived in the area of Masafer Yatta as permanent residents before the army declared the area a training zone in the early 1980s, but that they only occasionally entered the area during the seasonal migration of their goat herds. The court found that, prior to 1980, there were no permanent residents in the area, and that the Palestinians had not lived there, as was reported, "since the days of the Ottoman empire."
The court found that some of the complainants have permanent homes in the nearby village of Yatta, and that the petitioners did not provide any documentation of ownership of the land. Before the court ruling, Palestinians turned down an Israeli compromise offer that would allow them to cultivate the land and herd livestock there on the weekends and Jewish holidays, when the army doesn't conduct drills.
(B'nai B'rith International) Prof. Eugene Kontorovich -
The coordinated reports by European government-funded NGOs accusing Israel of the crime of apartheid are an example of a "Big Lie." The Amnesty International apartheid report claimed that Israel since its founding was an apartheid state. Thus, it is not any policies of Israel's but the idea of a Jewish state that is apartheid.
The reports treat the Palestinians as silent objects, rather than political actors who have shaped their own destiny. In particular, the reports ignore the reality of Palestinian self-government and systematic Palestinian efforts to murder Israeli Jews. Since 1993 the Palestinians have had their own government, which regulates almost every aspect of their lives. Unlike South African Bantustans, the PA government is recognized by most countries of the world and functions outside of Israeli control.
Under the Oslo Agreements, the PA government and Israel agreed on a framework for dividing authority and jurisdiction in areas where their governments and populations are intertwined. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report cites those very features as evidence of apartheid - in effect saying that the internationally-backed Oslo Accords, for which several Nobel Peace Prizes were awarded, is equivalent to apartheid.
All of the movement restrictions and the separation wall were established not as part of a policy of racial separation, but only in response to the murderous wave of terror unleashed by the PA in 2000, which killed over 1,000 Israelis. HRW tries to paint self-defense as subjugation, and thus makes no mention of the mass-murder of Israeli civilians.
"Israel apartheid" is not just a lie, it is an inversion of the truth. In all areas controlled by Israel, Jews and Arabs mix freely and openly. Yet all the areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority are Jew-free. The Palestinian constitution defines "Palestine" as an exclusively "Arab nation," makes Islam the official religion and Arabic the sole official language.
The writer is a professor at George Mason University Law School and a scholar at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem.
(Foreign Policy) Steven A. Cook -
Those who seek to bring Israel to its knees by rendering it an international pariah through the movement known as BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) have already failed. If one only paid attention to what is being reported from U.S. college campuses, one might believe BDS is thriving. But where it counts - in the halls of government and boardrooms - BDS does not even register. Indeed, 35 U.S. states have enacted anti-BDS legislation.
Of the nearly 200 countries in the world, over 160 have relations with Israel, including six members of the Arab League. Sure, Israel endures endless criticism at the UN, but since when does what happens in the General Assembly or Human Rights Council have a bearing on the conduct of global affairs? Almost never.
BDS activists have clearly failed to force global firms to unwind their operations in Israel. Israeli firms are too well integrated into global business for international companies to walk away from the country. Campus BDS resolutions have done little to alter the way the world sees Israel, which is too important a geopolitical and economic player to be isolated.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
(Ha'aretz) Hamza Azhar Salam -
The contention that Israel and/or Jews are obsessively engaged in a long-term plot to destabilize Pakistan, and that Pakistan has a sanctified duty to dismantle Israel, is practically an iron rule of Pakistani grassroots and political discourse.
Yet recently, a 15-member delegation visited Israel, organized by the American Muslim and Multifaith Women's Empowerment Council and by Sharaka, an NGO founded in the wake of the Abraham Accords to embed people-to-people normalization between Israel and Muslim-majority states. The delegation included American Pakistanis, a British Pakistani, and prominent Pakistani journalist Ahmed Qureshi, who works for Pakistan's state broadcaster, Pakistan Television (PTV).
Qureshi told me: "All Israelis we met went the extra mile to show us that...they respect Muslims from other countries in the world. They would like to make the experience of local Palestinians and visitors from outside who want to visit [Jerusalem's] Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock and other holy sites as smooth as possible." The fact that a Pakistani journalist working for the state broadcaster could make this trip reflects that the Pakistani state is increasingly open to normalization.
The writer is a Pakistani journalist based in London.