Monday, November 30, 2020

From Ian:

Lee Smith: Why Iran Is Getting the Bomb
Barack Obama will never forgive Benjamin Netanyahu for being right about the Iran nuclear deal. In his new memoir, Promised Land, Obama writes that the Israeli prime minister’s “vision of himself as the chief defender of the Jewish people against calamity allowed him to justify almost anything that would keep him in power.”

In fact, Netanyahu put his job on the line by doing something few Israeli voters support—he challenged an American president and potentially endangered the U.S.-Israel relationship. In March 2015, he went over Obama’s head to make his case to the representatives of the American people and told Congress that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would give Iran a clear path to the bomb. Since many restrictions were due to expire by 2025—the so-called “sunset clauses”—Iran would have an industrial-scale nuclear weapons program in about a decade.

“We’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war,” Netanyahu told Congress. “That’s just not true.”

Netanyahu was right. Donald Trump pulled out of the JCPOA in May 2017 and there was no war. Trump sanctioned the Tehran regime into penury and instead of war, Iranian demonstrators took to the streets to protest against those who’d squandered the country’s wealth by funding international terror.

In January, the president ordered the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. Middle East experts warned that he’d woken a sleeping giant and the region would shortly go up in flames—but again, there was no war. In fact, the Trump White House’s clear stance against the world’s leading sponsor of terror made room for peace in the Middle East. In the summer, the Abraham Accords gave Israel new regional partners, with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan all agreeing to normalize relations.

Obama’s Iran deal was the costliest mistake of his presidency for the peoples of the Middle East. The premises on which it was based were proved false. And yet Joe Biden can’t wait to reenter the JCPOA, with Secretary of State-apparent Antony Blinken pledging to keep “non-nuclear sanctions” intact, signaling his clear intention to lift nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.

The only thing that could interfere with such wonderful plans, the press warns, is an impending Trump strike on Iran, which might come any day now. According to The New York Times, Trump asked his cabinet for military options after the U.N. reported that Iran had exceeded its limit of enriched uranium.

Does that mean Trump or Bibi is actually on the verge of attacking Iran? Of course not. On both the American and the Israeli fronts, Trump administration policy was to get American troops out of global hot spots as fast as possible—not start wars. What the war drums means is that the phony communications infrastructure that marketed the Iran deal from 2013-2016 is up and running again.
Richard Kemp: The Killing of a Nuclear Scientist May Save Countless Lives
Under the slogan "Death to America", Iran has been at war with the US, Israel and their Western allies since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, using proxy groups to kill hundreds of Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and other places; and to launch terror attacks across the Middle East, Europe, the US and Latin America.

Mr Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier general in the IRGC and therefore not only a senior military commander in a country at war with the US and its allies but also a proscribed international terrorist.

Iran will never abandon what it considers its absolute right to become a nuclear-armed state, not under the current regime nor any future regime.... It has lied to the IAEA and the archive even sets out in detail the ways in which it has deceived the inspectors.

Despite claims to the contrary, the JCPOA was never going to prevent a nuclear armed Iran... Its sunset clauses meant that at best the deal might have delayed Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons for a few years.... Any return to the JCPOA by a Biden White House, as is being pushed by Mr Brennan and other prospective administration officials, will not see a strengthened deal but more likely an even weaker one.

Mr Brennan and the European supporters of his argument seem to believe that Iran can be contained by appeasement and negotiation rather than military strength and political will. The path advocated by the proponents of appeasement can only lead to infinitely greater bloodshed, violence and suffering than the death of a proscribed terrorist on the streets of Iran.
WSJ($): Another Bold Strike Against Iran
If Tehran's most prized personnel can be killed and its guarded facilities damaged, and it can do little in response, then the clerical regime's haybat, its unchallengeable awe, is degraded for all to see.

For a regime that knows the extent of popular anger against it, that is a perilous situation.

America's will to intervene in the Middle East is declining rapidly, and Israel's position is significantly stronger than it was in 2012, when President Obama began secret negotiations with Tehran in Oman.

Seth Frantzman: A generation of fighters who died by the sword
There was a time when Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, his No. 2, Imad Mughniyeh, and IRGC Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani would sit together and feel safe. They were leading the “resistance” against Israel, and the Jewish state would soon be defeated, or so they believed. These men had come through the fire of the 1980s, the civil war in Lebanon or the Iran-Iraq War, and they knew the privations of the past. In some ways, it is a tragedy that they turned their fire and anger against Israel. These men, like nuclear scientist and general Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed over the weekend, possessed qualities that surpassed others of their generation. They had legitimate grievances as well, coming from a time when Shi’ites were a suppressed minority and suffering the slaughter that Saddam Hussein’s regime and others had imposed.

However, they channeled their energy from those grievances to set their sights on the US, Israel and their partners in the region. Arrogance led them to confront Israel and the US. This was born of the years in which terrorists could do as they pleased, bombing Jewish centers like the AMIA in Argentina, killing Jews at synagogues in Europe and being freed quickly by local authorities with a wink and a nod. After all, the Israeli Olympic team had been seen as a legitimate target by Palestinians, and most European countries and coffee-sipping Western diplomats had barely shed a tear.

Surely Hezbollah could stockpile rockets and threaten and kill as it pleased. Hezbollah’s narrative was that it was resisting Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Then when Israel left, the organization didn’t put down its arms with any kind of Good Friday Agreement; it planned more killings instead.

That was their mistake. In 2000 when the Second Intifada broke out, these men could have channeled their resources elsewhere.

THEY BELONGED to the same generation. Mughniyeh was born in 1962 and died in 2008. A car bomb killed him in Damascus. The CIA and the Mossad were behind it, The Washington Post reported. Hezbollah vowed revenge.
List of Iran's Assassinations and Plots
Iran has assassinated dozens of its enemies across four continents — in Asia, Europe, North America and South America — over the four decades since the 1979 revolution. As of September 2020, the Islamic Republic had reportedly assassinated at least 21 opponents abroad and killed hundreds in bombings of foreign military, diplomatic and cultural facilities. It targeted Americans, Europeans, Latin Americans, Israelis and Arabs as well as Iranian opposition members living abroad, according to U.S., U.N., Israeli and other government reports. They included 59 attacks or plots:

20 targeted Iranian dissidents
19 targeted Israelis or Jews
20 incidents were solely against Western or Arab targets.

“Terrorism is an important instrument of Iranian foreign policy, used both to promote national interests and to export the regime’s revolutionary ideals,” a declassified CIA report from 1987 said. Some assassinations suggested methodical planning.

Marine Barracks BombingsThe Qods Force, the elite wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that operates outside Iran, has been linked to most of the attacks or plots, the reports concluded. It has coordinated with or used local proxies, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, in many attacks. They were linked in the 1983 bombing of U.S. peacekeepers in Lebanon, which killed 241 Marines.

The Foreign Ministry’s Department 210 reportedly also facilitated the operations or coordinated with Iranian intelligence services. In August 1991, Shapour Bakhtiar, Iran's last prime minister during the monarchy, was killed by two men who were allegedly Iranian intelligence agents. The Foreign Ministry reportedly issued the two men passports with false names so they could pose as businessmen and then helped them acquire visas to France.

But many alleged plots failed due to poor planning or amateur operatives. One of the most bizarre attempts was a plan in 2011 to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a restaurant in Washington. A used car salesman from Corpus Christi, Texas allegedly tried to hire a Mexican drug gang to carry out the hit. Earlier that year, an alleged Iranian operative in Thailand accidentally blew his legs off with a bomb that detonated while he was trying to escape from the police.
Seth Frantzman: Fakhrizadeh: Hit squads, car bombs and remote-controlled guns - analysis
Remote-controlled weapons killed Iranian nuclear scientist and key nuclear program chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, according to Iranian accounts. But, another account has it differently: a handful of assassins did it. Yet a third explanation has it that 12 men came with several vehicles, using one of them to blow up and block the security convoy that was protecting the high-value target.

The competing narratives over the killing of the man who was at the pinnacle of Iran’s nuclear industrial complex are befitting one who was anyway known to be in the spotlight. Since the 2000s, he was known to the US, and sanctioned and then highlighted by a UN nuclear watchdog in 2011, before being named in a speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

You don’t get better known in Iran than that. The UN, the US and the Israelis have all mentioned you. You can retire, or travel with security, but you’re on the wanted list.

So Mr. Fakhrizadeh knew that and those around him knew that. They knew that colleagues such as Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani had a deadly meeting with an American missile after traveling to Baghdad in January 2020. On the other hand, Iran also knew that plans to attempt assassinations had been called off in the past for high-value targets.

They had something else. Just days before, on November 14, the world had learned that al-Qaeda’s number two had been killed in Tehran. How many assassin teams can possibly be operating in Tehran? That killing got international attention. It was carried out in August. Foreign reports claimed Israel did it in cooperation with the US.

Thus the Fars News story of the exact details of how Fakhrizadeh was killed is a bit too much information. He was driving home with his wife; it was a nice Friday afternoon. His convoy had three cars. They were driving near Absard to a nice house for the weekend. The cars slowed for some reason, maybe a security check. One kept going.

Killing of nuke chief was done entirely by remote control — Iranian report
The attack that killed the alleged architect of Iran’s nuclear weapons program on Friday was carried out from afar using a remote-controlled machine gun attached to a car, a leading Iranian news site reported Sunday.

According to the semi-officials Fars news site, the entire operation was conducted with no human agents whatsoever, a significantly different description of the attack than has been presented until now. The account was not attributed to official sources and was not immediately confirmed by Iran.

According to the outlet, the assault took place over the course of three minutes as Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — a brigadier general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and a key figure in the country’s military research-and-development program long regarded by Israel and the US as the head of its rogue nuclear weapons program — traveled with his wife toward the resort town of Absard, east of Tehran.
Iran accuses exiled dissident group of helping Israel kill nuclear researcher
Iran said Israel and an exiled opposition group used new and “complex” methods to assassinate its leading nuclear scientist, as it buried him Monday in a funeral befitting a top “martyr.”

As it laid Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — seen by Israel as the “father” of Iran’s nuclear weapons program — to rest, the Islamic Republic also vowed to redouble his work.

Fakhrizadeh died Friday after his car and bodyguards were targeted in a bomb and gun attack on a major road outside the capital, heightening tensions once more between Tehran and its foes.

Iran’s top security official, Rear-Admiral Ali Shamkhani of the Supreme National Security Council, said the “operation was very complex, using electronic equipment, and no one was present at the scene.”

The People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) were “certainly” involved, along with “the Zionist regime and the Mossad,” he said, referring to the Israeli government and its spy agency.
Nuke chief killed with Israeli weapons controlled by satellite – Iranian report
The attack that killed the alleged architect of Iran’s nuclear weapons program on Friday was carried out using an Israeli-manufactured weapon controlled by satellite, Iranian news sites reported on Monday.

Just after the burial of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, state TV’s English-language Press TV reported a weapon recovered from the scene of the attack bore “the logo and specifications of the Israeli military industry.” There were no images published of the alleged weapon in the report, which was attributed to “informed sources.”

Additionally, a report on the Arabic-language Al Alam news site, which is operated by the state-owned media corporation Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, said there was proof of Israel’s involvement in the killing. The report, which was attributed to a single anonymous source, offered no evidence for its claim.
MEMRI: Reactions In Qatar To Assassination Of Iran's Top Nuclear Scientist: This Despicable Operation Harms Efforts At Dialogue With Iran; Saudi Arabia, UAE May Have Helped Israel Carry It Out
Qatari media published many reactions to the November 27, 2020 assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran's top nuclear scientist and the father of the Iranian nuclear program. The Qatari foreign minister condemned the assassination and extended his condolences to the Iranian government and people, and condemnation was also expressed in editorials in Qatari dailies. Qatari media figures likewise condemned it and also pointed an accusing finger at Israel, even raising the possibility that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had been involved in the operation.

It should be noted that recently Qatar and Iran have been emphasizing the close relations among these three countries. A November 24 Qatar-Iran economic cooperation conference in Isfahan, Iran discussed the subject at length. The following day, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, in a phone conversation, invited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to visit the Qatari capital Doha, telling him that Qatar-Iran relations were "strategic" and that Qatar would make a great effort to implement the agreements signed between the two countries and to promote Qatar-Iran cooperation in all areas. He added that Iran must be part of any dialogue aimed at reaching an agreement assuring the security of the region, and expressed hope that the talks between Iran and the Gulf states would be renewed now that Joe Biden had won the U.S. presidential election.[1]

The following is a review of reactions in the Qatari government and media to Mohsen Fakhrizadeh's assassination.

Qatari Foreign Minister: Qatar Harshly Condemns The Assassination Of Fakhrizadeh And Sends Condolences To Iran
Qatari Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the telephone, saying: "Qatar harshly condemns the explosion which took place in Teheran and the assassination of the scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who established the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research at the Iranian Defense Ministry and was its president, during an armed attack," and adding that the incident was a clear violation of human rights. He extended Qatar's condolences to the government and the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran and stressed that "such actions only add fuel to the fire at a time when the region and the international community are seeking ways to reduce the tension and return to the negotiating table and to diplomacy." He also urged "restraint and the investment of efforts to find deep-rooted solutions to the unsolved problems." For his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif expressed appreciation for Qatar's stand and emphasized the close ties between the two countries.[2]

Joining EU, Tehran, J Street Condemns Fakhrizadeh’s Assassination
Adding his condemnation of the assassination of senior Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh to similar attacks by the Ayatollahs in Tehran and the European Union in Brussels, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami on Sunday issued a statement saying “the assassination of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist appears to be an attempt to sabotage the ability of the incoming Biden administration to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as well as the chances of further diplomacy, either by limiting the political leeway of Iranian officials who want to restore the deal, or by triggering an escalation leading to military confrontation.”

I’m the first to agree that making analogies to the Holocaust is something one should weigh carefully, since mentioning the years 1933-1945 in reference to current events often smacks of hysteria and a lack of appreciation of just how terrible those 12 years were. Having said that, my first reaction to Ben-Ami’s condemnation of the killing of the father of the Iranian nuclear weapons program brought to mind May 27, 1942 assassination of Schutzstaffel (SS)-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office, RSHA), the combined security services of Nazi Germany, and acting Reichsprotektor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

Heydrich was one of the most powerful men in Nazi Germany. He was given supreme charge of the “Final Solution to the Jewish question.” His assassination was carried out by soldiers of the Czechoslovak army-in-exile, in Prague, after preparation and training by the British Special Operations Executive and with the approval of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile. Heydrich was wounded in the attack and died of his injuries on June 4, 1942. His death led to a wave of reprisals by SS troops, including the destruction of villages and the mass killing of civilians, most memorably the Lidice massacre, where 199 men were killed, 195 women were deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp and 95 children taken prisoner, 81 of whom were later killed in gas vans at the Chełmno extermination camp.

In terms of the two men’s ambitions, there is no daylight between Reinhard Heydrich and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. They both aimed to annihilate roughly 9 million Jews, and they both ruled and operated a state-run industrial effort to carry out their terrifying designs. In that context, there is also no difference between Ben-Ari’s condemnation of Fakhrizadeh’s assassination and the elimination of Heydrich.

As far as Ben-Ami is concerned, it’s all politics, and therefore he points his fingers at “those who oppose the JCPOA” who “will stop at nothing to kill the agreement once and for all, despite repeatedly being proven wrong about the deal’s success in blocking Iran’s paths to a nuclear weapon and the disastrous consequences of Donald Trump’s violation of the pact.”

Honest Reporting: CNN, NYT Sympathize With Iranian Scientist Who Wanted to Nuke Israel
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, killed on Friday, was not just some civilian scientist. Fakhrizadeh was a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel off the map, and Fakhrizadeh ran a nuclear program designed to give Tehran the weapon to carry out its threat.

Those facts are what media reports about Fakhrizadeh's death should have focused on - not the suspicions that Israel was involved, and certainly not portraying Iran as the victim.

BBC's 'Independent Expert' is Iranian Regime Advocate
The BBC was very keen to emphasise the supposed “non-partisan” nature of of Trita Parsi – who presented himself as an independent analyst in an interview about the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. In fact Parsi is a well known advocate for the Iranian regime. Parsi left his former organisation after being found by the US courts to be advocating for the Iranian regime, when he attempted to sue a blogger for saying his organisation was lobbying for Iran in America. The court found in 2012 that the work of Tritra Parsi was “not inconsistent with the idea that he was first and foremost an advocate for the [Iranian] regime.” He masquerades as a non-partisan analyst when in reality he is anti-Israel and pro-Iran…

A quick google by BBC researchers would have found this front page Washington Times article which says that analysis of “e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif – and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act – offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.” While BBC are always keen to call out the ideological leanings of those on the right, they appear happy to introduce an apparent long-standing Iranian regime advocate as an independent analyst…

Iranians face trial over suspected bomb plot, in European first
An Iranian diplomat and three other Iranians went on trial in Belgium on Friday accused of planning to bomb a meeting of an exiled opposition group in France in 2018, the first time an EU country has put an Iranian official on trial for terrorism.

Belgian prosecutors charged Vienna-based diplomat Assadolah Assadi and the three others with plotting an attack on a rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The rally's keynote address was given by US President Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Assadi, who was arrested while on holiday in Germany and handed over to Belgium, is refusing to appear in court and did not attend the first day of the trial in Antwerp; he has not commented on the charges.

"My client asked me to represent him today, he let me know he has the fullest respect for these judges but as he considers that he should benefit from immunity, they are not allowed to judge him," his lawyer Dimitri de Beco told Reuters.

Assadi was the third counselor at Iran's embassy in Vienna. French officials have said he was in charge of intelligence in southern Europe and was acting on orders from Tehran.

The Islamic Republic has repeatedly dismissed the charges, calling the attack allegations a "false flag" stunt by the NCRI, which it considers a terrorist group.

The trial is expected to continue next week, with a possible verdict later this month or in early January, lawyers said.

Trump Senior Aide Kushner and Team Heading to Saudi Arabia, Qatar
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and his team are headed to Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week for talks in a region simmering with tension after the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

A senior administration official said on Sunday that Kushner is to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Neom, and the emir of Qatar in that country in the coming days. Kushner will be joined by Middle East envoys Avi Berkowitz and Brian Hook and Adam Boehler, chief executive of the US International Development Finance Corporation.

Kushner and his team helped negotiate normalization deals between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan since August. The official said they would like to advance more such agreements before President Donald Trump hands power to President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

US officials believe enticing Saudi Arabia into a deal with Israel would prompt other Arab nations to follow suit. But the Saudis do not appear to be on the brink of reaching such a landmark deal and officials in recent weeks have been focusing on other countries, with concern about Iran’s regional influence a uniting factor.

Kushner’s trip comes after the killing on Friday of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran by unidentified assailants. Western and Israeli governments believe Fakhrizadeh was the architect of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Saudi Arabia officially approves Israeli flights over its airspace
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday evening that it has officially given approval for Israeli airlines to fly over the country's airspace, dramatically shortening flying times to the east and finally allowing Israeli airlines to offer direct flights to Dubai, Israeli media reported.

Saudi Arabia's announcement means that an Israir flight between Tel Aviv and Dubai planned for tomorrow, Tuesday, will depart Ben-Gurion Airport as originally planned.

Earlier on Monday, Emirati officials clarified on Monday to Israel's Transportation Ministry that as long as Saudi Arabia doesn't issue Israeli airline companies a permit to fly over its airspace, the UAE won't allow any Israeli flight to land in Dubai, KAN reported. The issue was reportedly examined by the Foreign Ministry, which opened a dialogue with Saudi Arabia in an attempt to speed up the approval process.

In September, Saudi Arabia declared that it will be allowing all foreign civilian flights to fly over its airspace, following a request by the UAE, "in order to allow passage over the kingdom's airspace for flights reaching the UAE and departing from it." However, the message didn't specifically mention Israel, which raised concerns with Israeli aviation officials in recent weeks.

With flights already full, Israeli airline companies Israir, Arkia and El Al are prepared to fly thousands of Israelis to Dubai during the month of December. They can now be calm and know that the flights will be carried out as planned.
Knesset committee ‘meets’ with UAE Jewish community
In a unique meeting the Knesset Aliyah, Absorption and Diaspora Committee formally met via video conference on Monday with leading members of the Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates.

The signing of the Abraham Accords normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE in August paved the way for the Jewish community to openly build a relationship with the Jewish state. During the committee hearing MKs and other officials discussed how this could be advanced. Some 1,000 Jews from around the world currently live in the country. Most reside in Dubai, while a small number live in Abu Dhabi.

Committee chairman MK David Bitan of Likud noted that there are 200 children in the community and that Israel, along with other donors, is helping to establish the first Jewish school in Dubai.

Jewish Agency director Amira Aharonovitz noted that its emissary, expected this week in the UAE, will work with the local Jewish community, to learn its needs and how best the Jewish Agency can assist it.

“We are proudly and humbly working to have a role and shape the Jewish presence in the Gulf and its relationship with Israel,” said Aharonovitz. “We will work to prioritize the needs of the Jewish community and provide it with programming and assistance.”
After denial, Sudan reportedly confirms visit by Israeli delegation last week
The military council that rules Sudan reportedly confirmed Sunday that an Israeli military delegation “recently” visited the country, after the country’s civilian government last week denied that such a visit had taken place.

“It was a delegation of a military character and nothing more,” said Mohammad Feki Suleiman, a spokesperson for the Sudanese Transitional Sovereignty Council, in statements widely carried in Arabic-language media.

Last Monday, a senior Israeli official told Hebrew-language media that the Jewish state had sent a delegation to Sudan — the first such visit since last month’s announcement of an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries.

The Sudanese civilian government had initially denied the report, with a government spokesperson telling AFP that “the cabinet is not aware of an Israeli delegation and we have no confirmation that this visit took place.”

The cabinet, which is run by Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, is distinct from the military-run Sovereignty Council. Since the downfall of former dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, the Sovereignty Council, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has been Sudan’s de facto ruling authority.

Israel Weighing COVID-19 Restrictions for Hanukkah, Says Health Ministry Chief
Israeli Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy on Sunday called the latest COVID-19 data “worrisome.”

In an interview with Army Radio, Levy explained: “There is an increase in the reproduction rate, which is 1.16 [percent]. There is an increase in the number of verified cases every day, although their rate has remained constant.”

According to Levy, if the reproduction rate continues to climb, the government will need to restore restrictions put in place to curtail the spread of the virus.

Levy appeared to support the decision to allow students, including high-schoolers, to return to in-person learning, saying, “The government made an ethical decision, and there is great importance in sending students to school, including in the higher grades.”

However, he said, he is worried about the opening of the economy, which he said was “too fast for my liking. It can endanger us even when everyone understands the significance—financial, social and psychological—of shutting down the economy.”

“We’ll have to think about it,” he said. “There are some tools for dealing with morbidity that don’t necessarily include a lockdown [such as imposing] various restrictions … an eight-week lockdown would be very difficult for the economy and people. We need to do everything we can to limit gatherings and the increase in morbidity. It wouldn’t be a cliché to say that a lot depends on us and our behavior.”
Iran releases Jewish prisoner imprisoned for visiting Israeli family
The Islamic Republic of Iran has freed imprisoned Iranian Jew Mashallah Pesar Kohan, who was detained in 2017 for visiting his family members in Israel.

George Haroonian, a prominent Iranian Jewish American, announced Sunday on social media that “Mashallah Pesar Kohan, a Jewish citizen, was released from prison in greater Tehran.”

Karmel Melamed, an Iranian-American journalist and activist for religious minorities in Iran, told The Jerusalem Post that the case of Kohan shows that the “Jews of Iran do not live in peace. They fear for their lives.

“He was imprisoned for visiting his elderly parents in Israel,” he continued. “What kind of crime is that? What kind of ‘love’ and ‘tolerance’ is that for the Jews of Iran?”

Iran’s regime sentenced Kohan to three years in prison for visiting Israel, though he was issued a conditional release in September. According to the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities (ARAM), Kohan "has been denied legal representation and medical care since his arrest.”
Israel Authorizes Tax Transfer to PA, Minus Pay-to-Slay Funds
The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet approved the transfer of tax funds Israel collects for the Palestinians on Sunday, after the Palestinian Authority ended its suspension of cooperation with Israel.

The cabinet also deducted about NIS 600 million ($200 m.) from the full amount of taxes and tariffs collected, in accordance with the law requiring Israel to freeze the amount the PA pays to terrorists and their families.

The “Pay for Slay Law,” passed in 2018, requires the government to deduct the amount the PA pays terrorists and their families from the taxes collected, and for the Defense Ministry to present an annual report on the PA’s terrorist salaries, which amounted to NIS 517.4 m. ($156 m.) in 2019.

The taxes and tariffs to be transferred to the PA amount to NIS 2.5 bn. ($700 m.)

All imports to the PA go through Israeli checkpoints, and Israel collects VAT and tariffs for the PA, as per the Oslo Accords. Those funds are the largest source of income for the PA. Israel also collects income tax and health-insurance funds for Palestinians who work for Israelis.

PMW: PA uses music to promote violence: “No force… can remove the weapon from my hand”
Ignoring its commitments under the Oslo Accords, the Road Map, Annapolis, and many additional verbal commitments internationally, the PA has never renounced violence and terror against Israel to its own people. On the contrary, they have repeatedly announced their adherence to it: in speeches by PA officials, at official events, on PA TV programs, on posters and in cartoons, or in songs and music videos. They continue to honor and reward terrorists who have committed gruesome murders, even in recent years. The PA uses all available means to communicate to Palestinians that violence and terror are always an option in the “struggle” for “Palestine” and the eradication of Israel.

One such means is songs. One song in particular stresses the fact that the Palestinians have and will never abandon violence: My Weapon Has Emerged. The repeating refrain declares: “There is no force in the world that can remove the weapon from my hand.”

In a quiz on Palestinian musical history, the PA currently presents this song as one of the Palestinian national songs that “express our national identity,“ and “fascinate us with values and meanings.” Significantly, not only the words celebrate the use of violence, so do the visuals PA TV added. While the song is playing, footage is shown of masked Palestinians carrying weapons, attacking, and shooting. To leave no doubt who this violence is aimed at and that murderous terror is the goal, an image from an Israeli funeral has been inserted, showing soldiers carrying a coffin draped in an Israeli flag:

Israel-Lebanon Maritime Border Talks Postponed, Officials Say
Maritime border talks between Israel and Lebanon scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed, and US mediators will now contact the two old foes separately, Israeli and Lebanese officials said on Monday.

The negotiations were launched in October, with delegations convening at a UN base to try to resolve a dispute about their maritime border that has held up hydrocarbon exploration in the potentially gas-rich area.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said it had been agreed with the Americans that talks would be postponed for a few weeks.

“In the interim, they will do some shuttling in order to better prepare the next round of talks,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

The talks are the culmination of three years of diplomacy by Washington.

Disagreement over the sea border has discouraged oil and gas exploration near the disputed line.

The sides presented contrasting maps for proposed borders in October, sources said at the time.
JCPA: Hizbullah Opposed Israeli Plans for Limited “Battle Days,” Views Them as War
As the IDF’s “Lethal Arrow” exercise began in the Northern Command (October 18-25, 2020), Hizbullah declared a heightened alert of all its regular and reserve units in Lebanon and Syria. Al-Akhbar’s editor, Ibrahim al-Amin, who serves as the mouthpiece of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, noted that Hizbollah’s heightened alert included the deployment of combat troops, the operational deployment of strategic (missile and rocket) units, as well as support units.

Hizbullah’s state of emergency was kept quiet; Israel followed it closely, and as far as Hizbullah was concerned, Israel received the message that Hizbullah was ready for a military confrontation. Hizbullah made it clear that the new term, “Battle Days,” which the IDF uses to define limited military action as a large conflict – but as less than an all-out war – no longer exists. The term came to replace the concept of the “campaign between the wars” in which Israel permitted itself to bomb, assassinate, and hit Hizbullah targets. Hizbullah made it clear that it would not allow Israel to change the existing “power equation” and hit its strategic assets within the framework of the “Battle Days” concept, including the enhancement activities of its missile force, particularly its missile-precision project.

Hizbullah has made it clear that it will not allow a state of limited “Battle Days,” which by their scale, they perceive as an all-out war, and, therefore, à la guerre comme à la guerre, Hizbullah will achieve its goals by all means at its disposal. As reported in Israel, Hizbullah’s means include 150,000 missiles and rockets of various types, including precision-guided munitions (PGM) with a 10-meter accuracy radius (CEP), which can cover the entire area of Israel. In the event of war, Hizbullah will not use them to decorate Lebanon; it will not store them as before, but will use them against the central Israel Dan region – whatever is needed.

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