August 15, 2022

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01/03 Links Pt1: Betraying the memory of Lieutenant Taylor Force; Abbas meets Gantz one day and bashes Israel the next; 2021 Saw Lowest Israeli Fatalities in West Bank in Years

From Ian:

Abbas meets Gantz one day and bashes Israel the next

Abbas has been around quite a while and obviously knew that his meeting with Gantz would trigger furious responses on the Palestinian street. Then why make the meeting public? Why not meet in secret? A secret meeting would likely have yielded the same results, and he would probably have received the same gestures from Gantz.

The reason is that while the Gantz meeting might not have aided Abbas’s sinking popularity among Palestinians, it helped him with the world. The US, EU, UN and various countries praised the meeting, signaling that they hoped this would build momentum for something bigger. Being seen as constructive could help Abbas build support for his never-ending effort to convene an international peace conference.

For Abbas, therefore, the Gantz meeting served a purpose in giving the world what it wanted to see. He also surely realized that while the Gantz meeting would grab headlines, a speech in which he slammed Israel a couple of days later on New Year’s Eve wouldn’t garner much international attention.

And while that assumption might be correct, Abbas again mistakenly chose to treat Israeli opinion as if it doesn’t count, that it doesn’t matter, something he has done repeatedly in the past. Abbas has never seemed to realize that any diplomatic process with Israel will need the backing of the Israeli people and that words like the ones he uttered Friday drive them away.

While Abbas has met in the past with left-wing Israeli politicians and activists as a way of outreach to Israeli society, that is not going to convince mainstream Israel that he is a man who can be trusted to make peace.

If Abbas really ever wants to reach any accommodation with Israel, he – or whoever follows him – will eventually need to win over the Israeli center. And one way not to do that is to accuse Israel of “organized terrorism” and “ethnic cleansing” just two days after meeting Gantz and walking away with a few confidence-building measures.

Gantz, ‘disappointed’ by criticism of Abbas meeting, vows to meet PA chief again

Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday pushed back against criticism of his recent meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, vowing to continue meeting with the PA leader.

“I heard the criticism and again say, it’s the one who sends soldiers into battle who’s responsible for doing everything to prevent it,” Gantz said during a faction meeting of his Blue and White party.

Gantz hosted Abbas at his home in Rosh Ha’ayin last week, the first time the PA leader met with a senior Israeli official inside Israel since 2010. It was also their second meeting since the new Israeli government was formed in June, with the first sit-down held in Ramallah.

The meeting was strongly criticized by right-wing opposition parties and some hawkish members of the ruling coalition, which includes factions spanning the political spectrum and has clashed over various policy matters, including those pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I was disappointed by cabinet ministers who preferred to speak from a political position at the expense of security needs. Behind closed doors, they sound different,” Gantz said. “For me, whenever the political interest runs into the security interest, security must always prevail.”

Gantz said “the need to maintain Israel’s security” was the main focus of his meeting with Abbas, along with countering the Hamas terror group.

“And this is the reason I will continue to meet with him and other elements in the region with whom discourse helps our stability, security and interests,” he said.

PMW: Betraying the memory of Lieutenant Taylor Force

Taylor Force was a West Point graduate and veteran of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist while walking along the promenade in Tel Aviv, visiting Israel as part of a Vanderbilt University MBA study group trip examining global entrepreneurship. The terrorist was killed at the scene, before he could murder other innocent people. To this day, the Palestinian Authority pays a monthly allowance for life to the family of Taylor’s murderer, simply because the terrorist was killed during his murderous terror attack.

In order to prevent US money going to the PA as long at it pays millions of dollars every month to terrorist prisoners, released terrorists, wounded terrorists, and the families of dead terrorists – collectively known as the PA’s “Pay-for-Slay” payments – US Congress passed the Taylor Force Act (TFA) in 2018. Focusing on Economic Support Fund (ESF) aid – the largest section of US aid to the PA – TFA conditioned the ESF aid on the PA’s ending its “Pay-for-slay” payments.

Ignoring the clear call of Congress, since 2018, the PA has spent an estimated one billion dollars, paying monthly terror rewards, including over $32,434 dollars to the family of Taylor’s murderer.

While the US administration is prevented from providing direct aid to the PA, according to PA Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara’s Advisor Stephan Salameh, for 2022 the US has promised at least $225 million worth of financial aid to the Palestinians.

PA Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara’s Advisor Stephan Salameh: “The promises [from the US] are: There are promises that next year [2022] $225 million will be allocated to development projects. Also $50 million will be transferred for joint projects.”

Official PA TV host: “From institutions, not from the American administration?”

Stephan Salameh: “From the American administration, $225 million for development projects, not through the Palestinian [PA] government but rather projects by other bodies, but for developmental needs.”

TV host: “That’s a good sign.”

Salameh: “Of course. $50 million for joint economic projects and support for the private sector. Also, from this $225 million there is a project to support the private sector. In addition to this, there will be between $150-200 million to support UNRWA, and additional support for other issues.”

[Official PA TV, Personal Encounter, Dec. 16, 2021]

In order to bypass the letter of US law but openly violating the spirit of the TFA, the US administration is providing the aid through its own aid organization (USAID) and is not giving the money “directly” to the PA, thereby circumventing and undermining TFA.

‘Top Story,’ Ep. 19: Michael Doran: ‘Biden Doesn’t Like the Abraham Accords’

Strategic analyst and former Bush administration senior figure Michael Doran and JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan S. Tobin discuss the reason behind the Biden administration’s appeasement of Iran.

The two talk about American foreign policy in the aftermath of the Afghanistan debacle, how Iran has been strengthened and its threats to neighboring countries, as well as the challenge to the United States from China and the legacy of the Bush administration.

Israel & Indonesia in contact on normalization

Israel and Indonesia have no formal diplomatic ties but hold steady trade, tourism, and security contracts

A high-ranking Israeli Foreign Ministry official confirmed to i24NEWS that Israel and Indonesia are working behind the scenes towards normalizing relations.

The United States is acting as a mediator between the two states, according to i24NEWS correspondent Jonathan Serero who was at a Foreign Ministry briefing Monday morning.

2021 Saw Lowest Israeli Fatalities in West Bank in Years

As 2021 is drawing to a close, the Israeli military earlier this week released its end-of-year review where it gave an unusually optimistic assessment on Israel’s security situation for the upcoming year.

According to the annual report, the number of Israeli fatalities in terror attacks in the West Bank over the past year has been relatively low, while the nationalist crime committed by extremist Jews has seen an increase.

The report also praised the normalization agreements signed with a number of Arab of states, saying it has likely contributed to the relatively stable security situation over the past year. The report added that deepening crises experienced by neighboring countries, such as Lebanon and Syria, along with the continued cooperation between Israel and other Arab states in the wake of the Iranian nuclear threat, has also played a part in bettering the security issue.

On Monday night, the IDF attacked for the second time in the past month, targets in the port of Latakia in Syria, and according to foreign publications, the target was another advanced arms shipment, possibly from Iran to its Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah.

According to the IDF data, for 70% of the past year, the routes that are used by Israel’s enemies to transfer weapons by land, air, or sea were closed off in light of the increased IDF activity in the area.

The army’s data also indicate that the IDF has attacked thousands of terrorist targets in the Middle East this year, including during operation “Guardian of the Walls”. The attacks didn’t include special and covert operations, and the military used hundreds of different ammunition during the CDC (the campaign between the wars).

IDF issues demolition order for home of Jerusalem terrorist

Less than two months after an Israeli civilian was killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israel’s military issued a demolition order for the home of the Palestinian terrorist who carried out the attack.

The order was signed by Head of the Homefront Command Maj.-Gen. Ori Gordin for the home of Fadi Abu Shkhaydam who lived in east Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. His family had appealed the decision but the requests were rejected.

Abu Shkhaydam opened fire at a number of Israeli men near the entrance to the Western Wall on November 22, killing 26-year-old Eli Kay and injuring four others. Border Police officers opened fire, killing the attacker.

Gordin is the officer authorized to command over Israeli territory, including in east Jerusalem where Abu Shkhaydam lived in the Shuafat refugee camp.

Maj.-Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, head of the IDF’s Central Command, is authorized to issue demolition orders.

Abu Shkhaydam was a known Hamas member and the terror group quickly took responsibility for the attack.

Hamas called it a “heroic operation” and warned “the criminal enemy and its government to stop the attacks on our land and our holy sites. [Israel] will pay a price for the iniquities it commits against Al-Aqsa Mosque, Silwan, Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere.”

Improving Gaza’s Economy Will Not De-radicalize Hamas

Israel is working on improving the economy in Hamas-controlled Gaza to make life better, since Israeli officials believe it will give incentive to the local population to stand up against the Jihadist principles promoted by Hamas. Hamas, however, is using the ceasefire reached following the May war to rehabilitate its military power ahead of a future conflict.

It is necessary to recognize the limitations of the Western belief that good economics can overcome radical ideologies. This model has failed many times over the past decades in the Middle East. The Hamas rocket attacks on Israel in May occurred at a time when the civilian situation in Gaza had been improving rapidly.

Hamas is driven to take action against Israel in order to fulfill its long-term ideological objectives. Hamas occasionally agrees to a ceasefire when that serves its interests, but a good, peaceful life for the Palestinians is not one of its objectives. For Hamas, the wellbeing of Gaza’s residents is not a constraint, and Israelis have a hard time understanding that Hamas is driven by a different set of values.

Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad is former Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at the Israel Ministry of Defense. Col. (res.) Dr. Michael Milshtein is former head of the Department for Palestinian Affairs in IDF Military Intelligence.

Israel’s Mossad bombed German, Swiss firms to stop Pakistan nukes – report

The Mossad is suspected of detonating bombs and issuing threats to German and Swiss companies in the 1980s that energetically worked to aid the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in its nascent nuclear weapons program.

The prominent Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) first reported on the findings on Sunday. According to the paper, “The suspicion that the Mossad might be behind the attacks and threats soon arose. For Israel, the prospect that Pakistan, for the first time, could become an Islamic state with an atomic bomb posed an existential threat.”

The paper reported that Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran worked closely together in the 1980s on the construction of nuclear weapons devices. According to the NZZ, the intensive work of companies from Germany and Switzerland in aiding Iran’s nuclear program “has been relatively well researched.”

However, “New, previously unknown documents from archives in Bern and Washington sharpen this picture.”

The paper quoted the Swiss historian Adrian Hänni who said the Mossad was likely involved in the bomb attacks of Swiss and German companies, adding, however, there was no “smoking gun” to prove the Mossad carried out the attacks.

The Organization for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in South Asia, a previously unknown entity, claimed credit for the explosions in Switzerland and Germany.

Syrian official slams Russia for ‘silence’ over alleged Israeli strikes

The recent strikes on Syria in recent weeks, which have been attributed to Israel by Syrian officials, have led to friction between the country’s military and their Russian counterparts, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported on Monday.

A senior Syrian official who spoke the paper, which is affiliated with the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, slammed Russia for essentially ignoring the alleged Israeli attacks and tacitly giving Jerusalem a green light to carry on such strikes as long as no Russian troops are hurt.

“The Israelis target sites that are inside Russian-controlled areas and they [the Russian troops] don’t even fire interceptors at the missiles,” the official lamented. The official continued, adding, “The blood boils over Russia’s silence when it comes to Israel taking advantage of airborne Russian cargo and reconnaissance planes when they carry out attacks [by supposedly hiding behind their radar signal], and this prevents the Syrian air defense from engaging the attackers.”

The unusual comments come amid reported tension between Iran and Syria. The latter, according to an Al-Arabiya report, wants Iran’s influence in the country scaled down as it is a potential destabilizing factor. According to sources who spoke with the network, Syria is considering actions that would severely curtail Iran’s activity, mainly along the coast.

MEMRI: Iranian Ambassador to Syria: We Fought in Syria for a Sacred Ideal, Not for Economic Benefits

Iran’s Ambassador to Syria, Mehdi Sobhani, was interviewed on Ofogh TV (Iran) on December 12, 2021. The interviewer asked Sobhani about the fact that only eight percent of Syria’s imports are from Iran even though Iran had played a major role in supporting the Syrian government during the civil war. Sobhani responded that to look at Iran’s actions in Syria in terms of data and trade figures is “unfair” towards the people who sacrificed their lives for the “lofty goal” and “sacred ideal” that Iran was pursuing in Syria. He said that Iran’s campaign in Syria is not over yet, and he emphasized that Iran was not involved in Syria in order to get a larger share of the Syrian market. In addition, Sobhani pointed out that Turkey and Syria have no official trade relations, so any discussion about Syrian-Turkish trade is only speculative. Later in the interview, Sobhani said that once American forces leave Iraq, the U.S. forces in Syria will lose their logistical support and will have no choice but to leave Syria in disgrace.

Tehran Never Intended to Comply with Meaningful Restrictions to Its Nuclear Aspirations

The 2015 Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) has always represented a significant threat to the Jewish state’s security. The decision to enter the JCPOA in the first place, not the decision to withdraw from it, put Israeli security at risk. The agreement provided the Iranian regime with a safe path to achieving nuclear-weapons capability, using the cover of international diplomacy.

The Iranians breached the spirit and language of the deal by keeping at their disposal the plans and knowhow that they accumulated on the weaponization of nuclear material. By concealing from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) critical information regarding the military dimensions of their program, they effectively breached the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Iran has also failed to this day to provide a meaningful explanation for the unaccounted-for uranium found by Israeli intelligence in the Turquzabad warehouse and the Abadeh facility.

The JCPOA was only to become operative upon the IAEA director’s assertion that the potential military dimensions of the program were sufficiently explored with Iran. We know today, based on the archives, that they were not, and therefore the JCPOA was based on an Iranian lie. The consistent and clear violations of the NPT through nuclear enrichment in facilities undisclosed to the international community, and Iran’s refusal to allow timely access to international inspectors, verified that Tehran never intended to comply with meaningful restrictions to its nuclear aspirations.

The JCPOA in any case has become obsolete once the Iranians mastered the production and use of advanced centrifuges, achieved 60% enrichment, produced uranium metal and more. This knowhow cannot simply be walked back.

Iran nuclear talks won’t end in good result for Israel – Lapid

The negotiations for Iran to return to compliance with its nuclear deal with world powers will not come to a good result for Israel, but Jerusalem is trying to mitigate the damage, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Monday, as talks were set to continue in Vienna. “The prime minister, defense minister and I said that we are not against any agreement; a good deal is a good thing,” Lapid said at a press briefing. “There is an intense discussion of what a good deal entails. In that discussion, we are at the table. The world, including the involved parties, is listening – including this morning.”

Lapid said the Vienna talks “won’t reach an optimal result as far as we’re concerned, but we are always working with the people involved to improve the result for Israel.”

Those discussions will bring “a lot of small achievements, not a big one” for Israel, he predicted.

Lapid said Israel has successfully gotten the world to pay attention to the Iranian nuclear threat and negotiations.

“At the beginning, [the Americans acted] like ‘let’s get this over with and move to the really important thing, China,’” Lapid said. “That’s not what’s happening now. It’s a central issue.”

Lapid was confident that the other parties to the talks – the UK, France, and Germany, as well as Russia and China more than in the past – are taking Israel’s position seriously.

Iranian news agency launches Hebrew site to mark anniversary of Soleimani killing

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency announced on Monday the launch of a Hebrew-language website to mark the second anniversary of the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani by the United States in a drone strike.

The CEO of Tasnim, a semi-official news agency, said in a statement that the Hebrew site was needed to highlight the Palestinian issue for speakers of the language.

“Although the number of people speaking Hebrew in the world is not so large, the Tasnim News Agency decided to set up a website in Hebrew language considering the strategic importance that the issue of Palestine has for the Islamic Republic of Iran and for Muslims across the world, and to release reports relating to the issue in that site,” said Majid Qolizadeh in a statement, reported by the site.

Qolizadeh said he hoped the site would allow people in Israel to “get informed about the shaky and dark future of usurpation and occupation of the land of a nation and about the crimes against them, and receive more accurate and genuine arguments and capabilities of the Zionist regime’s enemies.”

In the announcement, the news agency said the launch was in honor of Soleimani, “who devoted his life to the efforts for the stability and calm of the nations and to the fight against cruelty and crimes in the West Asia region.”

JPost targeted by pro-Iranian hackers on Soleimani assassination anniversary

The Jerusalem Post website was hacked by pro-Iranian hackers in the early hours of Monday morning, with a photo of a model Dimona nuclear facility being blown up and the text “we are close to you where you do not think about it” in English and Hebrew placed on the Twitter and website.

The photo also showed a ballistic missile falling from what appears to be a representation of the hand of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Sunday night marked the second anniversary of the US assassination of Soleimani in Baghdad in 2020.

The tweet with the photo on Maariv’s Twitter account has since been removed, as well as a retweet of an account with the handle @ShiaEagle including an illustration of Soleimani and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (who was assassinated alongside Soleimani). The @ShiaEagle account, created in the summer of 2021, has since been suspended as well.

From the inspect tool on Google Chrome, it appears the hackers managed to edit the SEO keywords of the Jerusalem Post site to be “Israel, JPost, maariv, il, attack, hack [and] ransomware,” during the attack.

It is unclear if the hackers were from Iran or supporters from outside the country or if they were state-sponsored.

This isn’t the first time The Post has been targeted by pro-Iranian hackers.

In May 2020, pro-Iranian hackers replaced the site’s homepage with an illustration of Tel Aviv burning as then prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu swam for a life preserver with the words “Be ready for a big surprise.” A number of additional Israeli websites were targeted in the attack then as well.

Iran vows revenge for Soleimani killing if Trump not put on trial

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, speaking on the second anniversary of the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani by the United States, said that former US President Donald Trump must face trial for the killing or Tehran would take revenge.

Iran and groups allied with it in Iraq have been holding events to honor Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the elite Revolutionary Guards. He was killed in Iraq in a drone strike on Jan. 3, 2020, ordered by then-President Trump.

“If Trump and (former secretary of state Mike) Pompeo are not tried in a fair court for the criminal act of assassinating General Soleimani, Muslims will take our martyr’s revenge,” Raisi said in a speech on Monday.

“The aggressor, murderer and main culprit – the then president of the United States – must be tried and judged under the (Islamic) law of retribution, and God’s ruling must be carried out against him,” Raisi added.

Under Iran’s Islamic laws, a convicted murderer can be executed unless the family of the victim agrees to take “blood money” through a reconciliation.

Iranian judicial officials have communicated with authorities in nine countries after identifying 127 suspects in the case, including 74 US nationals, Prosecutor-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri told state television.

“The criminal former president (Trump) is at the top of the list,” he said.

Armed drones targeting Baghdad compound shot down on anniversary of Soleimani death

The US-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq on Monday shot down two armed drones targeting a compound at Baghdad airport hosting its personnel, a coalition official said.

The incident, which was not claimed by any group, came two years after a US drone strike near the airport killed Iran’s revered General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant.

“Two fixed-wing suicide drones, or improvised cruise missiles, attempted to attack Baghdad Airport this morning at approximately 4:30 a.m.” (0130 GMT), the official told AFP.

A counter-rocket, artillery and mortar, or C-RAM, system “at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center engaged them and they were shot down without incident,” added the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The BDSC compound houses “a very small number of coalition troops who are not in a combat role,” the source said, describing them as logistical troops, contractors and civilian personnel.

The January 3, 2020, US strike killed Soleimani — who headed the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards — and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy leader of the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of armed groups.

Photos obtained by AFP from the coalition official show remains of one of the projectiles from Monday’s attempted strike, with the message “Commanders’ revenge operations” written on it.

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