News Digest — 1/14/21

IDF Crafting New Options To Counter Iranian Threat

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi has instructed the military to outline a new plan to counter the Iranian threat.  The move was prompted by recent action by Tehran, indicating it plans to accelerate work in its nuclear program.

The IDF’s Strategy and Third Circle Directorate, more commonly known as the Iran Directorate, has been tasked with forming three alternatives for Israel to undermine Iran’s nuclear efforts or, if need be, counter Iranian aggression, which will soon be presented to the government.  The effort entails adding billions of shekels to the defense budget.

While Iran has indicated it would like to negotiate a nuclear deal with the incoming US administration, it has recently made several moves that could allow it to significantly cut the time it would take to develop a nuclear weapon, should the ayatollahs decide to make a dash for it.

Israeli military intelligence believes that once Tehran gives the order, it could form a fully functioning military nuclear site within one year.

“Iran has made progress in recent years in terms of research and development, both on enriched material and offensive capabilities, and has a regime that really wants to have nuclear weapons,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Israel Hayom.

“It is clear that Israel needs to have a military option on the table.  It requires resources and investment, and I am working to make that happen.”

Iran’s recent moves, including amassing low-grade enriched uranium, installing advanced centrifuges, expanding several nuclear facilities, pursuing enriching uranium to a level of 20%, and, most recently announcing plans to produce uranium metal for reactor fuel, means the Islamic republic’s array of nuclear assets is growing.

Israel believes the ayatollahs plan to use these assets as a leverage when negotiating with the new US administration, and has warned that resuming the conditions detailed in the 2015 nuclear accord would be a calamity.

Israel wants a future agreement with Iran to include a longer period of oversight of its nuclear programs, as well as restrictions on nuclear research and development and production of missiles, including curbing its terrorist activities in the region.

Jerusalem officials said Israel plans to spare no effort with the US to ensure a better deal is crafted.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to name a special point-person to head these efforts.  He is likely to tap outgoing Mossad Intelligence Agency Director Yossi Cohen, who is slated to retire in June.



IDF Engineering Vehicles Fired Upon Along Gaza Strip

Shots were fired twice on Wednesday (13th) at separate engineering IDF bulldozers adjacent to the security fence in the Gaza Strip.

One vehicle was damaged but no one was hurt.  In response to the shooting, an IDF tank targeted a Hamas military post in the southern part of the Strip.

Shortly after the first firing, another shot was fired at the other engineering vehicle on the western side of the perimeter fence in the southern Gaza Strip.  In response to the shooting, an IDF tank attacked two more Hamas positions near the firing point.  There were no casualties.

Palestinian sources said that IDF bulldozers were operating in the morning east of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip and on the Palestinian side of the fence.  It was also reported that leaflets were being distributed to farmers telling them to move 300 feet away from the fence.

Since Hamas took over control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel has borne the brunt of ongoing terror attacks from the coastal enclave.

In 2016, Israel began constructing a massive underground wall to prevent Hamas from building terror tunnels into Israel, which the group planned to use to carry out attacks and kidnap Israeli civilians and soldiers.



UNSC Must Combat State-Sponsored Iranian Terror, Erdan Says

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) must do more to combat state-sponsored terrorism such as that executed by Tehran, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan arote in a memo he submitted to that body.

Action must be taken “against states who arm, train and sponsor terrorists and acts of terrorism.  It is not enough to sanction merely the terrorist groups themselves,” Erdan wrote.

The Security Council has taken steps to stop the financing and material support of terrorist groups, but “more must be done,” he stated.

“The Iranian Ayatollah regime advances its malign geopolitical goal of regional and political hegemony by supporting its terrorist proxies, wreaking havoc and spreading violence throughout the Middle East and beyond,” he added.

Erdan’s words on Iran were part of a five-point plan to combat terrorism he submitted to the UNSC Tuesday (12th), which his office publicized a day later.

On Tuesday (12th), the UNSC met virtually to mark 20 years since the passage of UNSC Resolution 1373 to combat international terrorism in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attack on the twin towers in New York.

Erdan’s plan urged the UNSC to take steps against terror groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

The UNSC “has failed to address the threat imposed by other non-state, major terrorist groups, especially Hamas and Hezbollah,” Erdan wrote.

He asked the UNSC to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward terrorism and to prevent its spread on social media, particularly through incitement and hate speech.

“We must create public-private global partnerships to curb this disturbing trend.  Countries must take responsibility for their role in this and take immediate action to prevent their platforms from becoming breeding grounds for extremism,” Erdan wrote.

The UN should stop embracing states and entities that glorify terrorism, Erdan continued.  He mentioned in particular the Palestinian Authority “pay for slay” policy, which provides financial grants to those jailed by Israel for terror activity, with the larger payment going to those involved in serious attacks.  Family members of those incarcerated also receive grants.

“There should be a clear and unambiguous condemnation of the Palestinian Authority’s ‘pay for slay’ policies.  Staying silent as terrorists and their families are rewarded for murderous violence, with higher sums for more violent and bloody acts is no less than complicity,” Erdan said.

Israel’s experience combating terror places it in the position to help the international community, he said.

“An uncompromising approach is needed,” Erdan concluded,  “Unfortunately, the United Nations is still a long way from really demonstrating the resolve required in this effort and continues its hypocrisy,” he added.



Jerusalem Approves Expanded US Embassy

The Jerusalem Municipality’s Building and Planning committee approved plans for a new US Embassy Building in Jerusalem on Wednesday (13th).

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion called it a “historic and exciting moment,” and said he thinks it will inspire other countries to move to the capital.

“After two years, we’re thrilled the local planning committee finally approved it,” Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said.  “We’ve been waiting for a very, very long time and we’re happy it finally passed.”

The approved plans include expanding the current embassy site in Arnona, as well as the construction of a new embassy at Derech Hebron.  It will need additional approval from a district council, but it’s expected to pass easily.

US President Donald Trump announced the embassy would be moved in 2017, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman moved his primary office to the existing US consulate in Arnona the following year.

A branch office remains in operation at the embassy’s previous Tel Aviv site.  



United Nations Textbooks In Gaza, PA, Filled With Israel Hatred, Praise Of Jihadists

A report published Wednesday (13th) shows that textbooks distributed by the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency includes incitement against Israel and glorification of terrorists who committed atrocious acts of violence.

The report published by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) found that textbooks produced by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) include inciting material, across all subjects and grades.

UNRWA was left severely crippled in 2018 after US funding was canceled to the organization, citing anti-Israel bias and misuse of funds.

The report shows that UNRWA’s study material frequently references and sometimes directly reproduces, texts and phrases from the Palestinian Authority’s textbooks, which include glorification of violence and sacrificing one’s life in order to defend the “motherland.”

Examples include Arabic grammar exercises that use the language of jihad and passages that celebrate known Palestinian terrorists, such as Dalal Mughrabi, who participated in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre in Israel which resulted in the death of 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children.

According to the report, the UNRWA-produced material fails to mention possible peace with Israel, while the term “peace” is also never mentioned, neither as an ideal nor as a concrete goal.

The UNRWA study material also references discredited conspiracy theories against Israel and Zionism, which perpetuate hostility and hatred towards the Jewish state and its population.

Examples of this include accusations that Israel was involved in the 1969 Al-Aqsa Mosque fire, deliberately dumped radioactive and toxic waste in the West Bank, and was systematically stealing Palestinian antiquities.

The study also found the UNRWA-produced material often refers to Israel as “the Enemy,” creating an “us versus them” dichotomy,  

The material seldom refers to Israel by name, but calls it  “the Occupation,” “the Zionist Occupation,” “the Zionists,” or simply , “the Enemy.”

According to the study, UNRWA has also adopted the Pan-Arab narrative found in the PA curriculum.  This includes terminology such as “the Arab Homeland,” “Zionist Aggressions.” the “Racist Expansion and Annexation Fence” in describing military engagements between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.