Cleaner at house of Israel Defense Minister tried to provide info to Iran's Black Shadow

November 18, 2021

Above: Attendees walk past Israel's stand at the Dubai Airshow yesterday. Today it was announced at the show that the United Arab Emirates and Israel would jointly develop advanced unmanned service vessels capable of carrying out anti-submarine warfare, presumably as a counterweight against the growing threat of Iranian submarines (which Iran may aim to fit with nuclear devices). The deal comes after the UAE and Israel last year established diplomatic ties under the "Abraham Accords" -- Tom Gross

 

AMATEUR HOUR

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach several articles, some of which you may find interesting.

The first piece concerns a cleaner for Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who this morning was charged with attempted espionage. He is accused of attempting to install a virus on Gantz's personal computer on behalf of the Iranian-linked hacker group Black Shadow.

Serious questions should be asked in Israel:

The cleaner has a criminal record, including 14 arrests, five convictions and four separate stints in jail. This besides trying to sell secrets to Iran.

Who hired him? And who did the security check?

As a friend of mine with knowledge about such matters said to me this morning "It's amateur hour."

(Benny Gantz, who I have met on a number of occasions, was for several years a subscriber to this email list.)

The last piece below is in many ways the most important.

 

CONTENTS

1. "Cleaner at Gantz's house attempted to provide info to Black Shadow" (Jerusalem Post, Nov. 18, 2021)
2. "Israeli defense minister says left-wing threats force him to change his phone every two months" (JNS)
3. "UAE, Israel to develop" (Reuters, Nov. 18, 2021)
4. "Israel, Jordan, UAE to sign solar power, desalinization deal" (Haaretz, Nov. 18, 2021)
5. "Palestinian sues over Ben & Jerry's boycott, saying it promotes 'hatred'" (NY Post, Nov. 17, 2021
6. "US dollar hits 25-year low against Israeli shekel" (Israel Hayom, Nov. 17, 2021)
7. Israel puts 8-year term limits on Prime Ministers (Nov. 15, 2021)
8. "Iran Resumes Production of Advanced Nuclear-Program Parts" (Wall St Journal, Nov. 16, 2021)

 

ARTICLES

CLEANER AT GANTZ'S HOUSE ATTEMPTED TO PROVIDE INFO TO BLACK SHADOW

Cleaner at Gantz's house attempted to provide info to Black Shadow
A cleaner at Defense Minister Benny Gantz's house reached out to hacker group Black Shadow, suspected to be affiliated with Iran.
By Eliav Breuer, Yonah Jeremy Bob
Jerusalem Post
November 18, 2021

A cleaning worker for Benny Gantz who allegedly contacted the hacker group Black Shadow and offered to them to spy on the Defense Minister had an indictment filed against him with the Lod District Court by the Central District Attorney's Office on Thursday.

The attempt was thwarted by the Shin Bet. The man, a 37-year-old named Omri Goren from Lod, and his partner have been employed as domestic workers for a few years.
Goren has a criminal record, including 14 arrests, five convictions and four separate stints in jail.

Goren proposed to Black Shadow that he install a virus into Gantz's personal computer. Goren contacted the group after reports last month revealed Black Shadow and its hacking attempts on Israeli targets.

Goren contacted the group via Telegram under a false identity and said he worked for the Defense Minister. He told the group that he could assist them in exchange for payment. Goren sent the Black Shadow representative photographs of a number of items in Gantz's house in order to prove his intentions.

Items photographed included a desk, computers, a tablet, a box with an IDF label, a locked safe and shredding machine, IP numbers, a package with a label listing the souvenirs that Gantz received as Chief of Staff, framed photos of Gantz and his family, municipal tax bills and more. He then erased the Telegram chat and the pictures from his cellphone.

Goren participated with Shin Bet and police interrogators. He explained his motive and described in detail his chat with the Black Shadow representative. The investigation was conducted by the Shin Bet and Lahav 433's Unit of International Crime Investigations and was carried out with Gantz's knowledge.

This is not the first time Gantz has been the target of hostile intelligence operations. In March 2019, Gantz's cellphone was hacked, likely linked to Iran.

The Shin Bet told Gantz that he would need to assume that any information on his phone was compromised by groups hostile to Israel, but no classified information was believed to be on the phone at the time.

***

Among related items, please see my dispatch of June 18, 2018:

"The highest ranking Israeli spy for Iran"

 

ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS LEFT-WING THREATS FORCE HIM TO CHANGE HIS PHONE EVERY TWO MONTHS

Israeli defense minister says left-wing threats force him to change his phone every two months
JNS
November 10, 2021

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed on Tuesday that he regularly replaces his phone due to threats against his life by left-wing activists.

"It pains me to say it, but I replace my phone every two months due to threats from the left, not the right," he said.

Speaking at a democracy conference organized by left-wing Israeli daily Haaretz, Gantz blamed the "toxic atmosphere" in Israel on "non-acceptance of the democratic rules of the game," Channel 12 reported.

While emphasizing that most Israelis, whether left or right, are not violent, incitement, he warned, was spreading.

"My main concern is for the lives of citizens in the street, for my colleagues in the Knesset who do not have security details," he said. "We all must internalize that hitting a key can be halfway to pulling a trigger," he added.

 

UAE, ISRAEL TO DEVELOP UNMANNED MILITARY, COMMERCIAL VESSELS

UAE, Israel to develop unmanned military, commercial vessels
Reuters
Nov. 18, 2021

Emirati and Israeli state-owned weapons makers on Thursday signed a strategic agreement in Dubai to jointly design unmanned vessels capable of carrying out anti-submarine warfare.

United Arab Emirates defense conglomerate EDGE and Israel Aerospace Industries announced the partnership on the final day of the biennial Dubai Airshow.

In a joint statement, the firms said they would design the "170 M" advanced modular unmanned service vessels that would be able to be used for both military and commercial purposes.

The deal comes after the UAE and Israel last year established diplomatic ties under a deal where the United States also agreed to sell F-35 warplanes to Abu Dhabi.

The firms' partnership will also extend to the development of an advanced drone defense system, IAI announced in March.

The Emirati-Israeli unmanned vessels would be able to operate semi- and fully autonomously and carry out missions including submarine detection and anti-submarine warfare.

Commercially, they would be able to be customized for oil and gas exploration.

"These developments will open many doors for us in local and global markets, military and commercial alike," EDGE Chief Executive Faisal Al Bannai said in the statement.

The statement did not say how much capital had been committed to the project, or when it would enter production.

 

ISRAEL, JORDAN, UAE TO SIGN SOLAR POWER, DESALINIZATION DEAL

Israel, Jordan, UAE to sign solar power, desalinization deal
By Israel Fisher
Haaretz
Nov. 18, 2021

Israel is expected to sign a deal with Jordan that will include solar energy production in Jordan for the Israeli market, which would reciprocate by desalinating Mediterranean water for supply to Jordan.

The deal is brokered by the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Israel's Energy Ministry said that the countries would sign a joint declaration next week.

The scope of the deal is unknown, but a source said it would be "very significant" and emphasized that it would be mutually beneficial, not a gift to Jordan.

The solar power will be generated at a solar farm providing service only to Israel, without being connected to Jordan's power grid, the source said.

The signing is set to take place in the United Arab Emirates on Monday with the participation of Energy Minister Karine Elharrar, Jordanian Water Minister Mohammed Al-Najjar, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry, and Emirati climate envoy Sultan Al Jaber.

Thus far, Israel has not met its goal for 2020 of having 10 percent of the country's electricity come from renewable energies. Last year, less than six percent of power generated in Israel was from renewable energies, with the number expected to approach nine percent this year. A central challenge in increasing renewable energy production is a lack of open spaces that be used as solar farms, as the Israel Lands Authority opposes the use of large areas for this purpose.

Jordan is experiencing a severe water crisis, as climate change has contributed to the depletion of the country's water reserves. According to official Jordanian figures, the average resident uses 61 liters of water a day. In comparison, the average amount of water used by each resident is 350 liters.

In July, Jordan and Israel announced a plan to purchase an additional 50 million cubic meters of water from Israel and increase its exports to the West Bank from $160 million a year to around $700 million.

The agreements, concluded during a meeting between the countries' foreign ministers at the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and the West Bank, signaled improved relations between Jordan and Israel's new government following years of strained ties under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Jordan's Ayman Safadi's agreement to increase Jordanian exports to the West Bank was in line with the Paris Protocol, an economic agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

 

PALESTINIAN SUES OVER BEN & JERRY'S BOYCOTT, SAYING IT PROMOTES 'HATRED'

Palestinian sues over Ben & Jerry's boycott, saying it promotes 'hatred'
By Isabel Vincent
New York Post
November 17, 2021

A prominent Palestinian human rights activist recently filed a complaint in New York state, charging that a Ben & Jerry's boycott in the West Bank and occupied territories is contributing to "more hatred" in the strife-prone region.

Bassem Eid, 63, filed a complaint with New York state's Division of Human Rights last month against Conopco Inc., the US division of Unilever that owns the popular ice cream brand.

Eid, a longtime activist who has been critical of abuses by both Israeli armed forces and the Palestinian Authority in the past, claimed the restriction on sales of ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories is "counterproductive to peace and creates only more hatred, enmity and polarization," according to the complaint.

An award-winning human rights activist who was born in East Jerusalem and grew up in a United Nations-run refugee camp, Eid said the boycott will have an adverse effect on the people it is trying to help.

"I, as a Palestinian, as well as many of my friends, family and other Palestinians, are regular shoppers at Gush Etzion commercial center ? where we also frequent to eat ice cream," said Eid in the complaint. Eid is a resident of Jericho in the West Bank.

"This shopping area is the true realization of coexistence, as both Jews and Muslims from both Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories ? work and shop here," he said.

Eid likened the boycott to the controversial Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which many Jews have criticized as anti-Semitic. The complaint was filed under New York state's Lisa Law that prevents New York businesses from engaging in anti-Israel boycott activity, said David Abrams, the New York-based attorney who filed the complaint on Eid's behalf.

"The gangsters behind the BDS are causing a lot of damage to the Palestinians," said Eid in a telephone interview from his home in Jericho. "I want to raise awareness among the US judicial system about how much damage they are causing. If they poured all of the money they are spending on boycotts into building factories and creating jobs in the West Bank and Gaza, it would go a long way to truly helping Palestinians."

Ben & Jerry's six-member independent board of directors voted in July to boycott sales of its ice cream in the Palestinian territory to protest Jewish settlements in the region. There are more than 600,000 Jews scattered in about 140 settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Opponents of Israeli policy consider the settlements illegal and want to grant land rights to Palestinians.

Unilever has said it does not support BDS, but Eid said the company has "aided and abetted" Ben & Jerry's actions by "its refusal to overturn the boycott."

Eid's complaint comes on the heels of the New York state comptroller's announcement last month that the state was pulling its pension fund investments from Unilever, which is based in London. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli yanked $111 million in equity investments from Unilever to protest the boycott.

"After a thorough review, the New York State Common Retirement Fund will divest its equity holdings in Unilever PLC," DiNapoli said in a statement to The Post last month. "Our review of the activities of the company, and its subsidiary Ben & Jerry's, found they engaged in BDS activities under our pension fund's policy."

New Jersey has also pledged to divest $182 million in Unilever stock and bonds held by its pension funds over the boycott in Israeli-occupied territories. Other states, including Texas and Florida, have taken similar action.

A spokesman for Ben & Jerry's refused comment, and referred a reporter to a page on the company's website where it addresses the boycott. "Speaking and acting on our values is neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic," the website says.

Emails and calls to Unilever were not returned this week.

 

US DOLLAR HITS 25-YEAR LOW AGAINST ISRAELI SHEKEL

US dollar hits 25-year low against Israeli shekel
Despite the development, the Bank of Israel has avoided interfering in the market, and its governor has remained ambiguous about possible future intervention.
By Eran Bar-Tal
Israel Hayom
November 17, 2021

The U.S. dollar hit a 25-year low against the shekel on Tuesday, officially dropping below the benchmark that the Bank of Israel had hoped to avoid crossing. The euro also dropped sharply against the shekel and was traded on Tuesday at an exchange rate of 3.511 shekels to 1 euro.

At the end of official trading, the Bank of Israel (BOI) set the dollar-to-shekel exchange rate at $1 to 3.09 shekels. The dollar lost -0.387 percent of its value in total against the shekel on Tuesday.

Despite the development, the BOI has avoided interfering in the market, and BOI Gov. Amir Yaron has remained ambiguous about possible future intervention.

A strong shekel is good for Israeli consumers and tourists. It makes traveling abroad cheaper because it increases in value in relation to local currencies. And since airfares and hotel rates are set in either dollars or euros, for the most part, when the shekel rises, Israelis pay less for the same services or items. This also makes foreign imports less expensive for the Israeli consumer.

There is a downside to this for Israel's economy, however. The strong shekel means that foreign investors in Israeli startups get less value for their money. It also means less spending by foreign tourists, since their dollars and euros do not go as far. And it makes Israeli exports more expensive to foreign buyers.

This is not just a problem of a weak US dollar, due to America's fiscal and financial policies vis-?-vis debt and government spending as a percentage of GDP. All of the world's major convertible currencies were down against the shekel.

The British pound fell -0.247 percent on Tuesday and finished trading at a rate of 4.1564 shekels to the pound.

As was reported by Israel Hayom on Tuesday, in the coming days, Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman is expected to declare a series of steps to encourage exporters and compensate them for the strengthening shekel. Over the past year, the shekel has strengthened by more than 10 percent against the U.S. dollar.

Yaron, who for the time being appears to want to allow the shekel to get stronger, and views the rising inflation in the world as temporary, said: "The market picture is completely different now, and the strengthening shekel could somewhat curb global inflation."

 

ISRAEL PUTS 8-YEAR TERM LIMITS ON PRIME MINISTERS

Israeli Government Ministers Approve Legislation to Put Term Limits on Prime Ministers
The Media Line
November 15, 2021

A committee of government ministers unanimously approved legislation that would set term limits of eight years on an Israeli prime minister. The legislation approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, which is an amendment to one of Israel's Basic Laws -- the country's quasi constitution, must still pass three readings in the Knesset plenum, which are expected to be held in the coming month.

The legislation would not be retroactive, meaning that Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has served three terms as prime minister for a total of 15 years, would be allowed to serve for eight more years if he is selected again as prime minister in the future.

The term limits legislation was introduced by Justice Minister Gideon Saar, who spent a dozen years in Knesset as a member of the Likud Part, before forming his own New Hope Party after losing a party election to head Likud.

Saar is also sponsoring a bill that would prevent anyone under a serious indictment from forming a government; this legislation would apply to Netanyahu, who is currently under indictment for corruption in three different cases. The former prime minister denies the charges.

 

IRAN RESUMES PRODUCTION OF ADVANCED NUCLEAR-PROGRAM PARTS, DIPLOMATS SAY

Iran Resumes Production of Advanced Nuclear-Program Parts, Diplomats Say

Manufacturing of centrifuge equipment has begun without monitoring from the U.N.'s atomic-power watchdog

By Laurence Norman
Wall Street Journal
Nov. 16, 2021

Iran has resumed production of equipment for advanced centrifuges at a site the United Nations' atomic energy agency has been unable to monitor or gain access to for months, said diplomats familiar with the activities, presenting a new challenge for the Biden administration as it prepares for nuclear talks.

The renewed work has raised fresh concerns among Western diplomats who say it could allow Iran to start secretly diverting centrifuge parts if Tehran chose to build a covert nuclear-weapons program, although they say there is no evidence at this point that it has done so.

Iran resumed work on a limited scale in late August at an assembly plant in Karaj, a city west of Tehran, and has since accelerated its production, allowing it to manufacture an unknown number of rotors and bellows for more advanced centrifuges, diplomats said. Iran had stopped work at Karaj in June after a sabotage attack that Tehran blamed on Israel, which hasn't acknowledged responsibility.

According to the diplomats, Iran has now produced significant amounts of centrifuge parts since late August, with one of the diplomats saying it has produced parts for at least 170 advanced centrifuges. Centrifuges are used to spin enriched uranium into higher levels of purity either for civilian use or, at 90% purity, for nuclear weapons.

Iran has withdrawn from most commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal since the Trump administration reimposed sweeping sanctions in November 2018. In February, Iran scaled back International Atomic Energy Agency oversight of many of its nuclear-related sites, including Karaj, but agreed to keep agency cameras and recording devices in place at Karaj and a series of other sights.

All of the recent work at Karaj has taken place without any official IAEA monitoring, the diplomats said. Iran significantly tightened security at Karaj after the June alleged sabotage, the latest in a series of explosions at its nuclear facilities over the past two years.

Iran's production of centrifuges is a critical issue in talks beginning Nov. 29 to revive the nuclear deal, which the Biden administration is hoping to restore after former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from it in May 2018.

The original deal was built around the idea that Iran should be kept at least one year away from being able to produce enough nuclear fuel for one bomb?its so-called breakout time. Since the U.S. exited the deal, Iran has installed more than 1,000 more advanced centrifuges, which are able to enrich uranium more quickly. That has helped reduce Iran's current breakout time to as little as a month.

The IAEA has echoed Western concerns in recent weeks that Iran's nuclear activities are no longer being fully tracked, saying in September that Iran's failure to restore cameras to Karaj is "seriously compromising" the agency's ability to ensure continuous knowledge about the nuclear program.

According to one of the diplomats familiar with Iran's program, Iran has installed the centrifuges whose key parts were produced at Karaj at Iran's underground, heavily fortified, Fordow site. The diplomat said there is no evidence the centrifuges parts have been diverted elsewhere but "as the number of unmonitored centrifuges increases, the likelihood for this scenario increases."

There is no evidence Iran has a covert nuclear program, the diplomats said, and Iran's core nuclear facilities, including Fordow and Natanz, which produce enriched uranium, remain under IAEA oversight. Iran says its nuclear activities are purely peaceful.

The IAEA didn't respond to a request for comment. The agency is expected to issue its latest report on Iran's nuclear program this week. There was no immediate response from Iran's IAEA mission.

Iran's work at Karaj creates a new complication for nuclear talks, which are already shaping up to be extremely tough due to major differences between the U.S. and Iran's new hard-line government under President Ebrahim Raisi on restoring the deal.

Western diplomats have warned that without a clear understanding of what material and equipment Iran has now, it is harder to reach an agreement that ensures effective but temporary restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of most international sanctions.

Tensions over monitoring have been growing for months between the agency and Iran.

Iran in February suspended oversight of its uranium mines, yellowcake facilities and centrifuge assembly plants, including Karaj, which were supposed to be kept under IAEA cameras and other supervision under the 2015 nuclear deal.

However, Iran made a side deal at the time that the IAEA could keep cameras and other recording equipment going at the sites and that Tehran would store and hand over the footage in future to the agency if a deal was struck on reviving the 2015 accord.

In September, after a last-minute visit to Tehran, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi won Iran's agreement for inspectors to access these facilities to reset cameras and other monitoring equipment.

However, in late September, the IAEA said Iran had reneged on its commitment to allow inspectors into Karaj to replace four cameras that had been removed from the site after the June sabotage. Iran claimed it had never agreed to allow access to Karaj.

In its quarterly report on Iran in September, the IAEA reported that it asked for access to Karaj in late August?a request that wasn't granted?and was seeking the whereabouts of missing footage from one of those cameras.

On Friday, Mr. Grossi confirmed at a news conference the IAEA still had been given no access to Karaj, saying it would be "very problematic" if the issue wasn't resolved.

However, even as the agency was first seeking access to Karaj in late August, Iran had started work again at the assembly plant, which satellite imagery showed was badly damaged in the June sabotage. Work started initially on only a few machines before expanding.

 

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