May 29, 2020

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01/03 Links Pt1: Goodbye UNESCO; Elbit rejects HSBC’s BDS disclaimer stating: ‘We don’t produce cluster bombs’; Europe’s New "Munich": Iran

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: Goodbye UNESCO
Israel’s decision – along with the US – to leave the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on January 1 is extraordinary. It represents a loss for UNESCO as well as a global tragedy, demonstrating how world heritage has been manipulated by politics.

According to Israeli officials explaining the decision to leave the global organization, UNESCO is a deeply biased organization that sought to rewrite the history of the Land of Israel. “Israel will not be a member of an organization whose goal is to deliberately act against us, and that has become a tool manipulated by Israel’s enemies,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said.

Michael Oren, former ambassador to the US and outgoing Knesset member, applauded the move. “Today is the first day that the State of Israel is outside of UNESCO,” he said. It had joined a list of enemies of Israel, alongside the Assyrians, the Roman Empire and the ayatollahs in Iran, who deny the connection between Jews and Israel’s capital in Jerusalem, he added.

Across the sea, former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted on January 1 that “UNESCO is among the most corrupt and politically biased UN agencies. Today the US withdrawal from this cesspool became official.”

The process has been more than a year in the making. The administration of US President Donald Trump made the decision to leave in October 2017 and Israel supported the US move. Since UNESCO granted Palestinians membership as a state in 2011, the organization has become increasingly hostile to Israel. The US and Israel wanted reform, but like too many things at the UN, instead of reforming, the organization has remained stuck in its ways.

Elbit rejects HSBC’s BDS disclaimer stating: ‘We don’t produce cluster bombs’

Elbit Systems Ltd. does not produce cluster bombs, the Israeli arms company said as it rejected attempts by the international bank HSBC to separate its decision to divest from the company from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that had been waged against the global banking power house.

HSBC’s decision to divest from Elbit last month was first made public in a private email correspondence with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a British-based non-governmental organization.

The group, which had waged a stiff campaign against HSBC in hopes of persuading it to divest from Israeli arms company, published news of the divestment decision as a BDS victory.

HSBC’s divestment came in the aftermath of its November acquisition of the Israeli arms company IMI Systems Ltd., formerly known as Israel Military Industries or Ta’as. IMI has a history of producing cluster bombs.

Elbit’s vice president David Vaknin said that the bank had not contacted his company prior to making its decision nor had it been in touch with the company since it divested.

“We have not received any notification in this regard from HSBC nor any inquiry as to the facts concerning the nature of our activity or our policies in this area,” Vaknin said.

“As part of the Elbit Systems organization, IMI Systems will not be continuing its prior activities with respect to cluster munitions. All of Elbit Systems activities relating to munitions, including those activities to be continued by IMI Systems, will be conducted in accordance with applicable international conventions or US law,” Vaknin said.

In addition, he said, “Elbit Systems [itself] is not engaged in the production of cluster munitions.”

Trump Gives No Timetable for Syria Exit; Wants to ‘Protect the Kurds’

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States would get out of Syria slowly “over a period of time” and would protect the US-backed Kurdish fighters in the country as Washington draws down troops.

Trump did not provide a timetable for the planned military exit from Syria, which he announced last month against the advice of top national security aides and without consulting lawmakers or US allies participating in anti-Islamic State operations.

The decision prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign. Trump said on Wednesday he had essentially fired Mattis, whose letter of resignation was seen as a sharp rebuke to the Republican president.

During a Cabinet meeting at the White House in front of reporters, Trump said he had never set a reported four-month timetable for the withdrawal of 2,000 American troops stationed in Syria amid a battle against Islamic State militants.

“We’re getting out and we’re getting out smart,” Trump said. “I never said I’m getting out tomorrow.” He declined to be specific about how long troops would remain in Syria.

In recent days, Trump appeared to back off from any hasty pullout and stressed that the operation would be slow. “We’re slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting Isis [Islamic State] remnants,” he said on Twitter on Monday.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he came out of a recent lunch with Trump feeling reassured about the Syria policy.

Seth J. Frantzman: Trump’s Iran, Kurdish and Afghanistan comments leave Middle East perplexed

Trump shocked some commentators by noting that Russia was right to have fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s. His overall point was to ask why regional actors are not doing more when the US, which he said was 6,000 miles away, was doing the work. He noted the irony that ISIS and the Taliban were fighting each other in Afghanistan. “They are fighting each other, I said why don’t you let them fight, why are we getting in the middle of it.” He called US military policy “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” yet another indication that Trump is unhappy with his generals.

Discussing Syria the US President said that the four month timeline was invented by someone else. He said that the US was leaving Syria, but the timeline was flexible. He accused the Obama administration of failing in Syria. In some unclear comments he said the Kurds were selling oil to Iran. “We want to protect the Kurds, nevertheless. I don’t want to be in Syria forever,” he said. He said Syria was mostly sand and death and he said that ISIS was threatening Russia and Iran. He claimed the US was doing the job for Russia and Assad and Iran in a roundabout way. “Iran is a much different country than when I became president.” He says that he had been briefed on how Iran threatened large parts of the Middle East. “How do you stop these people, they are all over the place,” Trump says he asked. He now says that Iran is pulling people out of Syria. He murmured “they can do what they want there frankly, but they are pulling people out.” He said that Iran was on the verge of taking over the whole Middle East and seeking to destroy Israel. But now they are threatened with internal unrest. “We were supposed to be out of Syria many years ago…I don’t want to be in Syria,” he said, referencing wounded US soldiers.

The reaction in the region was relatively calm, largely because two weeks of uncertainty have led many to see the US policy as wavering and lacking clarity. Trump’s initial decision was greeted with surprise in Russia, Iran, Syria and elsewhere in the region. When he went to Iraq on December 26 the visit hammered home his decision to leave Syria and angered pro-Iranian elements in Iraq. Later Trump seemed to backtrack, amid concerns from Israel and other countries. Now he says the timetable is open ended. This comes as Iran says it will hold another round of talks with Turkey and Russia in Astana about Syria. “Iran’s power is undeniable,” the regime said, according to local press in Tehran.

Trump’s latest policy move appears to confirm what he has said in the past about bringing troops home. It also retains his doctrine of trying to get other countries to step in as the US reduces its footprint. In the Middle East his comments leave many perplexed and this may feed views that the US is vulnerable. However regimes are also concerned over alienating Trump because he appears prone to rapid changes in policy. That would mean if he feels that he is being taken advantage of or if US troops are threatened, the US will respond with overwhelming force. This has made Russia, Turkey, Iran and others cautious over direct challenges to US policy. They are waiting to see if the US really will leave Syria. That process now looks to take many months.

Republican Jewish Coalition: House Should Censure Hank Johnson for Comparing Trump to Hitler

The Republican Jewish Coalition slammed Democratic congressman Hank Johnson (Ga.) for comparing President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler during a speech in his home state of Georgia on Tuesday.

Johnson, who the Washington Free Beacon caught comparing Jewish people to termites during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, made numerous comparisons between Trump and the Nazi leader.

“Much like how Hitler took over the Nazi party, Trump has taken over the Republican Party,” Johnson said in remarks posted online by the NAACP.

“Hitler was accepting of violence towards the achievement of political objectives,” Johnson added. “Trump encouraged violence against protesters at his rallies.”

“Americans, particularly black Americans, can’t afford to make that same mistake about the harm that could be done by a man named Hitler or a man named Trump,” he also said.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC, said Johnson should be censured by his colleagues in the House for the Hitler comparison, which he called “unconscionable.”

Germany Wants UN Security Council Seat for the EU

Berlin will be lobbying the United Nations to secure a permanent seat at the Security Council for the European Union, German state media said.

“Over the next two years, Germany’s main concern will be to try and ensure that the European Union as a whole is given a permanent seat,” public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported Tuesday. This year, Germany takes up the non-permanent seat at the Council for a two year term.

The move comes after the Macron administration rejected German request to turn France’s permanent seat at the council into a joint EU one. Germany’s Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Paris to share its seat with Brussels. “In exchange, France will get to permanently choose the EU representative to the UN,” he proposed.

The Council consists of five permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and ten temporary members elected by the General Assembly. The coveted permanent membership comes with the veto power, which gives a country the ability to block resolutions and influence decisions at global level.

German official likens Palestinians’ plight to persecution of Jesus

The German Foreign Ministry official recently posted an anti-Semitic ‎tweet in apparent defense of the U.N.’s aid agency for Palestinian refugees, of which Germany is a top sponsor. ‎

On Christmas Eve, Christian Buck, director for Near and Middle East ‎and North Africa tweeted, “A couple are expelled from their ‎homeland in the Middle East and are on the run. They find shelter ‎in a tent [UNRWA]. They do not lose hope, nor the support of wise ‎kings. Sounds familiar? Merry Christmas from the Foreign Ministry’s Middle East team.”

The comparison between the persecution of Jesus and his family, ‎first by King Herod and then by the Romans, and the situation of ‎the Palestinians in the Middle East is common in anti-Semitic circles. ‎In recent years, with the encouragement of the Palestinian ‎Authority, anti-Israel circles have been increasingly portraying ‎Jesus as a Palestinian, even though he was a Jew and was ‎persecuted as one.‎

Buck’s tweet is riddled with historical inaccuracies: Jesus’ parents, ‎Mary and Joseph – both Jews – were not expelled from their ‎homeland but rather left their home in Nazareth to hide the birth of ‎their son following a decree by Herod to execute all firstborn ‎sons. The order followed a prophecy predicting his reign would end ‎with such a birth. Also, Mary and Joseph did not find shelter in the ‎tent, but rather in a manger in Bethlehem.‎

Comparing Herod’s actions to Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians ‎borders on accusing Israel of genocide. ‎

Austrian Jews slam foreign minister for hosting top PLO official

The Austrian Jewish community on Wednesday criticized the country’s foreign minister for inviting prominent Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi to Vienna’s prestigious New Year’s concert.

On January 1, Karin Kneissl said it was her “sincere pleasure to welcome the Palestinians’ voice of reason” and her husband, Emile Ashrawi, to the concert, which is annually performed by the Vienna Philharmonic.

This year’s concert was broadcast to 40 million viewers in 90 countries across the globe, according to the organizers.

During her stay in the Austrian capital, Ashrawi, a Christian and a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, gave an interview in which she called Israel a “rogue state” that “enslaves” Palestinians. She also criticized the Austrian government for its pro-Israel stance.

“Why does one have to give such a platform to a hater of Israel? Hanan Ashrawi used her invitation to Vienna to once again demonize Israel,” said Oskar Deutsch, who has headed Austria’s Jewish community since 2012.

Ex-ADL Chief Foxman: Appointment of Far-Right Leader as Minister of Digital Affairs a ‘New Low for Poland’

A far-right Polish MP and former leader of the antisemitic Młodzieży Wszechpolskiej (MW-“All Polish Youth”) movement has been appointed to Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s cabinet, earning a sharp rebuke from a prominent US Jewish leader who survived the Nazi Holocaust in Poland.

“Poland seems to have reached a new low appointing a neo-Nazi antisemite in charge of internet and social media,” Abraham Foxman, the national director emeritus of the Anti-Defamation League and the head of an antisemitism study program at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City, told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

Adam Andruszkiewicz, first elected to the Polish parliament four years ago as part of the right-wing populist Kukiz 15 party, was announced before the turn of the year as Poland’s new minister of digital affairs. The ministry was created in 2015 with a mission “to develop broadband infrastructure, support the creation of web content and e-services and promote digital competences among citizens.”

Andruszkiewicz, 28, is known for expressing strident right-wing views on social media, regularly dismissing opponents with terms such as “parasites,” “traitors” and “enemies of Poland.” As news of his ministerial appointment spread, video emerged of Andruszkiewicz — who is openly hostile to Poland’s LGBT+ community — chanting homophobic slogans at a 2009 demonstration against a Gay Pride parade in Warsaw.

Non-Jewish Brazilian governor asks rabbi to blow shofar at inauguration

The non-Jewish governor of a Brazilian state was inaugurated Wednesday with the sounds of a shofar blown by a rabbi.

The shofar “represent(s) the call for freedom, to bring good vibes and positive energies to the new government,” according to organizers of the inauguration in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Wilson Witzel, a non-Jewish ardent supporter of Israel, took office surrounded by several members of the local Jewish community at a ceremony at Rio’s Legislative Assembly.

On Sunday, Witzel and his wife escorted Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Sugarloaf Mountain during his five-day visit to Brazil, the first-ever by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

“One of the most touching moments during my campaign was when I heard the shofar at the Beit Lubavitch synagogue. It gave me the strength I needed to carry on,” Witzel told reporters.

Witzel, 50, is a right-wing politician who is affiliated with the Social Christian Party. Elected in October for a four-year term, he has pledged to fight against corruption and to clean up politics, language that is aligned with President Jair Bolsonaro, his political godfather.

Yediot writer calls U.S. expats in Israel stupid following Glick’s entry into politics

Americans move to Israel because they are too incompetent to get decent jobs otherwise, Yediot Aharonot columnist and Blazer magazine editor Raanan Shaked implied after former Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick announced her entry into politics on the Hayemin Hehadash list.

“Caroline Glick? Really Naftali [Bennett] and Ayelet [Shaked]?” the journalist asked in a tweet directed to Hayamin Hehadash’s leaders. “You really think that there is some electoral force to the always-amusing sub-stream of scattered Isramericans that came here from their homeland – where there is a doubt if they would have gotten a job that doesn’t includes the question ‘do you want fries with that?’ – in order to be Daniella Weiss with an accent? Nu, good luck to you.”

Glick was born in the US and has degrees from Columbia University and Harvard University. She was also an officer in the IDF who worked on the Oslo negotiations team, as well as being a deputy foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Weiss is the former mayor of Kedumim and a longtime settler leader – who is from Ramat Gan, not the US. Bennett, however, is the son of two American parents who moved to Israel from San Francisco.

Over 400 Twitter accounts liked Shaked’s tweet, including Yediot political reporter Yuval Karni and Globes columnist Moti Kristal, among other prominent figures.

Meretz activist Uri Zaki responded that “in the current American administration, Glick could be a leading candidate for ambassador to the UN or human rights commissioner.”

But many of the responses accused Shaked of bigotry.

New Arab party seeks to bridge gaps between Israelis, Palestinians

A new Arab party has registered ahead of the April 9 election, saying it seeks to bridge the be a moderate alternative to the radical Joint Arab List.

According to reports in Israeli media, New Horizon has registered with the Justice Ministry in mid-December as a “centrist Arab party,” whose mission is to bridge the ideological gaps between moderates in both sectors, as well as “improve the status of Israel’s Arab citizens” and “promote a national master plan as a basis to solve the housing shortage in the Arab sector.”

The party’s founder, Nazareth resident Salman Abu Ahmad, 62, said that New Horizon’s Knesset list will include Arab Israelis from around the country.

According to The Times of Israel, the party’s registration documents further state it aims include “upgrading the education system; putting together an uncompromising plan to uproot crime and violence in Arab society; forming a plan to promote the status of women in Arab society and serving as a bridge to a historical reconciliation between the two [Israeli and Palestinian] peoples and peace with Arab states.”

Arab citizens comprise some 20% of Israel’s population.

Israel Forms New Battalion to Fight Hezbollah In Lebanon

A new Israeli military battalion will be charged with providing the first line of defense for citizens in Israel’s north, who face the threat of the Hezbollah terror group operating from Lebanon.

The new battalion, named Shaarei Ha’esh (“Gates of Fire”), will specialize in fighting the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terror group in the Galilee, and protecting local residents and military posts close to Lebanon, as well as attacking Hezbollah inside of Lebanon.

It will serve under the Israel Defense Forces’ regional Baram Brigade and be comprised of reservists from the Golani Infantry Brigade’s Reconnaissance Battalion. The group has already performed its first major training exercise.

Israel has recently emphasized its efforts to ward off attacks by Hezbollah, including “Operation Northern Shield,” which was aimed at finding and destroying large terror tunnels that were believed to be dug by the group from Lebanon to Israel as a means of enabling hundreds of Hezbollah fighters to infiltrate the Jewish State in a future war.

Officials believe that Hezbollah possesses an arsenal of some 100,000 to 150,000 rockets and missiles.

Riot breaks out during Amona eviction, at least 23 policemen hurt

At least 23 police officers and one youth were moderately injured Thursday morning when clashes broke out at during the evacuation of two caravans in the Samaria outpost of Amona.

Two families and dozens of youths had been staying in the caravans since mid-December.

According to police, forces arriving in Amona early Thursday morning were met with 300 rioters who burned tires at the entrance to the outpost, poured oil on the access road and threw rocks at police forces. Police used riot control tactics, not including rubber bullets, to control the demonstrators, police said.

Dozens of youths remain holed up inside the caravans.

In mid-December, former Amona residents who were forcibly evacuated in February 2017, announced they had purchased roughly 9 acres of land in the outpost.

Right-wing leaders slam PM for evacuating Amona but not Palestinian hamlet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government faced criticism from across the political spectrum Thursday after security forces violently clashed with roughly 300 young settlers on the West Bank hilltop where the Amona outpost once stood. While right-wing leaders slammed the premier for failing to evacuate an unrelated illegal Palestinian outpost, left-wing leaders accused the government of encouraging the rioters.

Officers who arrived at the scene to carry out a Jerusalem District Court order to remove two illegally installed caravans encountered “very severe violence from dozens of rioters who threw stones, burned tires and threw irons bars” at the forces, a Border Police spokesman said early on Thursday morning.

By the completion of the three-hour evacuation of the settlers who had gathered overnight inside a pair of mobile homes at Amona, 23 officers had been injured, primarily from stones hurled by the far-right activists, and at least four teenagers were hurt in the clashes, according to police.

One officer was stabbed in the hand by a sharp object brandished by one of the teenage protesters. A young demonstrator was injured by a stone hurled by one of his peers. The wounded were all taken to a nearby hospital.

Following the incident, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s newly formed New Right party issued a statement criticizing Netanyahu for “selective enforcement” and urging him to immediately demolish the Palestinian hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar.

PA said seeking to deport Palestinian-American jailed for selling land to Jews

The Palestinian Authority is planning to extradite a Palestinian-American resident of East Jerusalem to the United States after sentencing him to life in prison for attempting to sell land to Jews, Israeli television reported Wednesday.

A PA court in Ramallah sentenced Issam Akel, a resident of Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood who holds a blue Israeli identification card, on Monday, according to an official in the PA judiciary’s media office. The PA arrested him in October and he has since remained in its custody, the official, who asked to remain nameless, said.

The US has been heavily pressuring the PA to release Akel and American officials visited him in jail, the Kan public broadcaster reported Wednesday.

The US and the PA agreed Akel would be sent to the US after the end of legal proceedings, as his lawyer is expected to file an appeal, an unnamed senior Palestinian official told the TV station.

Though many details of his extradition have yet to be finalized, the Palestinian official said the PA was eager to get Akel off its hands.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Hamas, Fatah tensions rise; accuse each other of collaborating with Israel

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah have intensified in the past few days as the two Palestinian rival parties continue to exchange allegations and insults.

Now, Hamas and Fatah are accusing each other of being “spies” for Israel.

The tensions reached their peak earlier this week, when Fatah accused Hamas of detaining 500 of its men in the Gaza Strip. The detentions, according to Fatah, were aimed at thwarting plans to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the launching of Fatah’s first attacks against Israel. Fatah was planning to mark the occasion by holding several rallies throughout the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

According to Fatah, dozens of the men who were detained by Hamas were subjected to various forms of physical torture. Hamas security officers also raided the homes of scores of Fatah officials and activists, confiscating material and equipment that was supposed to be used during the Fatah rallies.

The Hamas crackdown has enraged Fatah leaders in Ramallah. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as chairman of Fatah, launched a scathing attack on Hamas. In a speech, Abbas strongly denounced the Hamas measures against his supporters in the Gaza Strip. He even went as far as hinting that Hamas was working for Israel. “Those who prevent us from marking this occasion are spies,” he said, referring to Hamas. “We have been suffering from the spies here and there, and they will end up in the dustbin of history.”

Abbas used the Arabic word jasous when he talked about the “spies.” Palestinians often use the word to label those who collaborate with or serve as informants of Israel.

Europe’s New “Munich”: Iran

Europe, it seems, has chosen Iran over its values and the transatlantic alliance. Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of German Jews, denounced Germany’s hypocrisy:

“It seems paradoxical that Germany — as a country that is said to have learned from its horrendous past and which has a strong commitment to fight anti-Semitism — is one of the strongest economic partners of a regime that is blatantly denying the Holocaust and abusing human rights on a daily basis”.

A Europe where anti-Semitism is rampant again, according to a new CNN poll, sees no trouble in appeasing a country such as Iran, which routinely calls for destroying the Israeli Jews and denying the Holocaust.

EU greed can sometimes become embarrassing, as when the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, wearing a hijab, posed for selfies in Iran’s parliament. Or when Sweden’s Trade Minister, Ann Linde, led a delegation from her country to Iran and all the women wore headscarves. When Iranians took to the streets to protest their regime, according to Bloomberg’s Eli Lake, Mogherini “was mute on the popular uprising in Iran.”

“She waited six days to say anything about the demonstrations there. When she finally did, it was a mixture of ingratiation and neutrality. ‘In the spirit of openness and respect that is at the root of our relationship,” she said, ‘we expect all concerned to refrain from violence and to guarantee freedom of expression'”.

It was an exquisite example of moral myopia.

In 1938, the leaders of France and Britain signed the Munich Agreement with Hitler and Mussolini. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain hailed the agreement as bringing “peace for our time.” The weak and blind European governments trusted the Nazi leadership, who were already planning not only the invasion of their neighbors, but also the Holocaust. Europe’s appeasement, instead of leading to peace, led to world war and Hitler’s takeover of most of Europe. In 2018, Europe’s leaders are again gambling with the security of their own citizens as well as that of their Middle East allies, especially Israel. Today’s short-sighted effort by Europe to appease Tehran for profit is simply a replica of its 1938 surrender.

What is Being Taught at the “Islamic University of Europe” in the Netherlands?

Many Muslims living in Europe — including Turks who support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — would, perhaps not surprisingly, choose Andalusia over a modern Europe founded on Judeo-Christian values and the Enlightenment.

Appearing in the YouTube video promoting the “Islamic University,” Bahçekapılı, describes “the importance Islam attaches to education” by referencing caliph Umar, who “conquered Iraq in the seventh century and built madrassas (Islamic theological schools) there.” He continues:

“The Muslim presence in Europe is now a reality. Our people who came here first might have thought that they would stay here temporarily, but today our fourth generation is being raised in Europe. It is unthinkable that we would have no educational centers in a geographical area, country and region where there are so many of our people.”

The school’s former rector, professor Ahmet Akgündüz, has been equally open. In 2013, it was reported that he called Erdogan’s opponents “enemies of Islam” and stated that stoning people to death is “one of the prescribed punishments within Islam.”

Recently Akgündüz was in the Dutch news once again. On December 16, on the Islamist Akit TV, the former rector said that the Koran “considers it permissible to kill those who rebel against the state.”

According to the news website Haberdar, what Akgündüz meant was that the members of the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of organizing the coup attempt in 2016, may be killed.

Israel ready to build billion-dollar project with Jordan to pump water from Red Sea to Dead Sea

Israel’s regional cooperation minister said Israel is ready to move ahead with a multibillion dollar project with Jordan to pipe water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, an idea that’s been on the drawing board for years.

Tzachi Hanegbi said he expects the Israeli Cabinet to approve the Red Sea-Dead Sea project, which will bring water from the Red Sea to a desalination centre in the Jordanian port of Aqaba. The brine byproduct will be piped 200 kilometres north to the Dead Sea, a salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west, whose severe shrinkage has created a slew of environmental problems.

Each country will pledge $40 million per year to the project for 25 years, Hanegbi said, which would bring the total to at least $2 billion. Jordan’s Ministry of Water didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The project could help to relieve a dire water shortage in Jordan, and Palestinians will be able to buy the desalinated water at cost, Hanegbi said. It’s also meant to alleviate the evaporation of the Dead Sea, where Jordan and Israel harvest potash and do a brisk tourism business. A hydroelectric plant will provide power to both countries.

The neighbours agreed to work together on the project in 2013, but implementation has been delayed by political tensions including stalled Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and the 2017 killing of two Jordanians by an Israeli security guard at the embassy in Amman.

Jordan is expected to exhaust its underground freshwater sources in the next 40 years, according to Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organization. Israel sees the collaboration as a way to improve ties with Jordan, which have remained frosty despite their 1994 peace agreement.

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