The New Chapter is the Old Story

by Anne Gearan

President Biden welcomed new Israeli Prime minister Naftali Bennett at the White House on Friday - a symbolic reset for an alliance whose leaders are poles apart politically but united in a desire to turn the page after the frictions under ousted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden pledged “unwavering” support for Israel and continued backing for its Iron Dome missile defense system, along with diplomatic support for the normalization agreements Israel struck with help from President Donald Trump. (Israel can trust those agreements as much as US citizens in Afghanistan can trust the US will help them.)

“The US will always be there for Israel. It’s an unshakable partnership between our two nations,” Biden said.

Both leaders seemed eager to push aside their underlying disagreements for now. Bennett remains firmly opposed to the international nuclear deal with Iran that Biden has pledged to try to re-join. The right-wing Israeli politician has also dismissed as folly Biden’s goal of an independent Palestinian state.

Those divisions went unmentioned in brief remarks in front of reporters, as did the charged partisan debate about US support for Israel.

“I bring with me a new spirit - a spirit of goodwill, a spirit of hope, a spirit of decency and honesty. We’re putting diplomacy first and see where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options.” Bennett said.

Bennett’s approach on Iran differs from Netanyahu’s more in style than in substance. His government has assured US officials that he will not go around the White House or publicly criticize the US position. (Unfortunately, it would give the US veto power against Israel stopping the Iranian nuclear program.)

Although he supports Palestinian statehood, Biden has shown no appetite for brokering a sweeping Middle East peace deal - an aim that has eluded past presidents. Instead, he has charted more-modest goals, such as minimizing conflicts between Israel and Palestinians.

“We trust in your support, Mr. President,” Bennett said, “and Israel knows that we have no better or more reliable ally in the world than the United States of America.” Boarding a plane back to Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that both leaders agreed on a joint strategic work plan to impede Iran's attempts to obtain nuclear arms - "We have achieved all the goals we have set out for ourselves and beyond." (President Reagan said: "Trust, but verify". Israel can only rely on the consistency of the enemies’ actions – behaviour and support of so-called friends has always been problematic.)

Food for Thought. by Steven Shamrak

The first encounter between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett focused too much on 'sweet diplomacy' but produced no substance. This time, just a usual, often meaningless, statement of friendship is not enough. Israel cannot afford a nuclear-armed Iran and must be ready to prevent it with or without Biden's approval!

Likud Leadership Challenge

Former Shin Bet chief MK Avi Dichter announced that he will run against Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud leadership as soon as primaries are announced in the party – "even against Netanyahu". Dichter also said that "Israel must not be a guinea pig. There is no reason for Israel to be coordinated with the United States - surprises are part of the game."

Israel Strikes Hamas Again

Israeli planes bombed a Hamas terrorist facility in the Gaza Strip in response to the launching of incendiary balloons into southern Israel and violent protests staged for a second consecutive week. On Saturday, hundreds of Hamas-backed activists staged a night-time protest along the Israeli border, throwing explosives toward Israeli forces. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, “We will operate in Gaza according to our interests“. Hamas claims that the protests are meant to increase pressure on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. (Striking empty buildings in Gaza does not work. Israel needs to remove enemies from Gaza and end occupation of the Jewish land.)

IDF Prepares for War with Iran and in Gaza

The progress of the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to accelerate its operational plans. "The IDF is preparing, with a concerted effort, for the possibility of another operation in Gaza," IDF Chief of Staff Lt. General Aviv Kochavi said. "We do not accept and will not accept a violation of our sovereignty, no matter who is behind it, and Hamas is responsible for everything that happens in the Gaza Strip." Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for a Plan B to stop Iran in its tracks towards a nuclear weapon.” And army chief Gen. Aviv Kochavi reported that the IDF is deep in plans for a military strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities in light of its march towards a weapon and the stalled negotiation between the US and Iran.

US Sanctions Lax Enforcement

Iran is taking advantage of lax enforcement of US sanctions to export fuel. An Iranian fuel was shipment arranged by Hezbollah. Nasrallah, whose organisation is designated as a terrorist group by the United States, said further Iranian shipments would follow to help the people of Lebanon. US sanctions on Iran, reimposed in 2018 when then-President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, aimed to cut its oil sales to zero.

Is Military Option Back on Table?

The US is not holding out hope for an Iranian return to the 2015 nuclear deal, and the Biden administration is open to listening to Israel’s proposals on managing Iran’s nuclear program, in a stark departure from Obama-era policies which saw Israel left outside of negotiations as the American administration entered into a deal.

Jewish Prayers Discreetly at Jerusalem Shrine

As police protected them, three Jewish men stepped forward, placed their hands out at chest level and began reciting prayers in low tones in the shadow of Jerusalem’s golden Dome of the Rock. Jewish prayers at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount were once unthinkable. But they have quietly become the new norm in recent years. (Why must Jews pray ‘discreetly’ at the holiest Jewish site on the Jewish land?)

Quote of the Week:

“Some of us imagined that a misunderstanding had occurred, that because the Arabs did not understand our intentions, they opposed us, but, if we were to make clear to them how modest and limited our aspirations are, they would then stretch out their arms in peace. This too is a fallacy that has been proved so time and again... But an agreement with Arabs outside the Land of Israel is also a delusion...  Thus, we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question...” - Vladimir Jabotinsky, "The Iron Wall" – He came to this conclusion in spite of his deep desire to live in peace with ArabsWhen will Israel have the government that will realize it too and be willing to rectify the problem?

Must Israel Wait for Iranian Attack?

by Eric Mack

The bill introduced to the Iranian parliament lists the goal of eliminating Israel by 2041 and the four main goals of the legislation, per the report, include:

1.   Exact "decisive act of revenge" on the U.S. for the killing of Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani; and to evict the U.S. from the Middle East.

2.   Continue Soleimani's mission of destroying Israel.

3.   Counter alleged economic sanctions, which is deemed "terrorism."

4.   Install a defiant foreign policy.

The bill, which the think tank predicts will be passed in weeks, brands Israel an "aggressor Zionist regime" as threat to Iran, vowing to ramp up military operations against Israel and the U.S.

The bill lists Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and groups in the Gaza Strip as potential allies in the above stated goals.

"The new bill is a good example of Iran's continued terrorist, anti-American, and anti-Israeli intentions," according to The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). "The regime needs to be held accountable for the bill's contents if it becomes law."