May 27, 2020

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01/11 Links Pt1: Blood money, not benevolence: The PLO’s Justification of ‘pay for slay’; PLO calls for UN to restore ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution; The New Palestinian ‘Catastrophe’: A Shopping Mall Hiring Palestinians

From Ian:

Blood money, not benevolence: The PLO’s Justification of ‘pay for slay’
In the Palestinian Athority’s 2018 budget, funding levels for “pay-for-slay” programs and the Palestinian Athority’s social welfare programs are disclosed. Terror payment programs include salaries to prisoners set at nearly $150 million. Allocations to those killed or injured in “wars” with Israel is budgeted at over $180 million, together more than $330 million overall — consuming over 7 percent of the annual Palestinian budget. These payments go to approximately 10,500 imprisoned and released prisoners and some 37,500 families of martyrs and injured. In contrast, the entire 2018 budget for the Palestinian Athority’s social welfare system is about $214 million dollars, and supports 118,000 households: a much larger group subsisting on a much smaller budget.

Enshrined in Palestinian law, imprisoned terrorist payments are almost entirely dependent on length of incarceration, and not on personal financial circumstances. Prisoners receive 1,400-12,000 shekels, paid monthly, regardless of any need-based qualifications. Families of those killed perpetuating terror attacks receive 6,000 shekels immediately, then a minimum of 1,400 shekels monthly, for life.

True social welfare recipients, in contrast, are only eligible based on need, and they do not get automatic payments. Once approved, they receive benefits of only 250-600 shekels per month, paid quarterly. The maximum welfare payment is 57 percent less than the minimum pay-for-slay salary.

As defined by Palestinian law, payments to prisoners are restricted to the “fighting sector” (“alsharicha almunadila” in Arabic) who are involved in “the struggle against the occupation.” Common incarcerated criminals are not eligible even if they are destitute. Payments to prisoners are labelled as “ratib,” or salary in Arabic. Prisoners are eligible for payments even if they are young and unmarried, with no dependents. Furthermore, released prisoners continue to receive salaries, regardless of need.

Terrorists and their families have no need for the Palestinian social welfare system, and they would be foolish to use it. Palestinian terrorists have access to a far superior system that pays better than the miserly public assistance system. And Palestinians, aware of this gap, capitalize on it. If one’s family is in a tough economic situation, terror becomes a solution, with hero status as a bonus. What do the Palestinians see as their government’s priority? Helping the destitute, or promoting terror? Follow the money and it’s clear — terror is more attractive, quantitatively and qualitatively.

So when a Palestinian official conflates payment for terrorism with social welfare, remember that in reality, there are two distinct systems operating here. Do not be deceived by blood money masquerading as legitimate social welfare. By intent and by design, the “pay-for-slay” program is simply money for murder.

Evelyn Gordon: Peace: The Missing Israeli Election Issue

Israel’s election campaign has only just begun, but one key issue is already notable by its absence: peace with the Palestinians. To many Americans—especially American Jews, who overwhelmingly consider this the most important issue facing Israel—the fact that almost none of the candidates are talking about the peace process may seem surprising. But several recent incidents help explain why it’s a very low priority for most Israeli voters.

Not so long ago, of course, the peace process was Israel’s top voting issue, almost its only one. But in a poll published last month, self-identified centrists and rightists both ranked the peace process dead last among six suggested issues of concern. Even self-identified leftists ranked it only third, below corruption and closing socioeconomic gaps.

There are many well-known reasons why Israelis have stopped believing peace is possible anytime soon. They range from the failure of every previous round of negotiations, to Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate at all for most of the last decade, to the fact that every bit of land Israel has so far turned over to the Palestinians—both in Gaza and the West Bank—has become a hotbed of anti-Israel terror. Yet the root cause of all the above receives far too little attention overseas: Israel’s ostensible peace partner, the Palestinian Authority, educates its people to an almost pathological hatred of Israel.

I’ve discussed the way this plays out in Palestinian textbooks and the Palestinian media many times. But nothing better illustrates the problem than three incidents over the past two months.

The most shocking occurred in November when a Palestinian accused of selling real estate to Jews in eastern Jerusalem was denied a Muslim burial by order of the imams of Jerusalem’s Muslim cemetery, religious officials at Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem’s PA-appointed grand mufti. He was finally buried, with approval from Jerusalem’s chief rabbi, in the non-Jewish section of a Jewish cemetery.

Yisrael Medad: On the East Side of the Jordan

Found here:

In “historic Palestine”.

And you thought Jabotinsky was, well, extreme.

The New Palestinian ‘Catastrophe’: A Shopping Mall Hiring Palestinians

“Rami Levy does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, gender, or religion when hiring and promoting employees. All employees, Palestinians and Israelis, are treated equally and receive equal benefits. Salaries are based solely on one’s position and performance. My goal for all Rami Levy employees is to have the same opportunity to succeed.” — Rami Levy, owner of Israel’s third-largest supermarket chain, half of whose 4,000 workers, he says, are Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

Palestinian investors, according to Fatah official Hatem Abdel Qader Eid, could have prevented Rami Levy from building his new mall had they invested in the construction of a Palestinian shopping center. “It’s true that there are wealthy Palestinian businessmen…”

Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall.

If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel. If he is lucky, he will have a close encounter with a firebomb. If he is not lucky, he will be hanged in a public square.

Melanie Phillips: Two national leaders two TV addresses to fire up their base

Some of us have been warning for years of the dangers of political alienation. Mass immigration, Islamization and the erosion of national identity, democratic sovereignty and the rule of law have produced a revolt against the entire political establishment in Britain, Europe and America. Now we’re further seeing a no-holds-barred attempt to squash that revolt, which will surely increase that alienation to dangerous levels.

In Israel, the dysfunctional nature of the Israeli political system, in which tiny parties can hold governments hostage, plus the intellectual collapse of the left and Netanyahu’s towering achievements through his superior strategic understanding have created the unhealthy situation where he is virtually unchallengeable. Hence his shocking stunt.

But since the Israeli public believes that there is no other national leader who could deal so effectively with the immense perils facing the country, they have been prepared to park any concerns they have about his character.

The same process is at work with Trump. Indeed, every time the Democrats scream about impeaching him, they fire up his base for him.

Similarly in Britain, the unprecedented attempt by MPs to reverse Brexit is causing such revulsion and outrage that even some of those who voted to remain in the E.U. now support coming out with no deal because they are so appalled by the attempted hijack of democracy.

The damage all this is doing to the Western compact between leaders and led is simply incalculable.

Lee Smith: An Improvised Explosive Device

News of the News: How operatives used the Khashoggi murder and the American press for political ends

The Khashoggi affair underscored the existential, and most likely unbridgeable, divide within Republican ranks. Iran hawks like Graham and Rubio fear that Trump’s withdrawal from Syria is likely to strengthen Tehran. Nonetheless, their sympathy for the anti-MBS campaign augmented the case for withdrawing support from Riyadh in its war against the Houthis—an Iranian proxy.

Which is it? Those lamenting the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the deaths of thousands of Yemeni children appear to have few qualms about sticking American boys and girls in the middle of the Syrian desert as a tripwire, and with no coherent policy to confront Iranian aggression.

This glaring contradiction exists in plain sight because much of the Republican establishment is still sucking on the fumes of George W. Bush’s Freedom Agenda, a Middle East strategy that privileged the ostensible aspirations of foreigners at the expense of American lives and resources.

That strategy failed in nearly every way possible. Moreover, it’s not at all clear what political or philosophical principles America is now supposed to be exporting to a region that Obama torched after Bush smashed it. If America is an exceptional nation, what’s the logic in squandering American power in the effort to remake foreigners in our own image?

While we were engaged in this Alice-in-Wonderland adventure, it seems likely that we imported the wrong things from the countries that we decided we could somehow Americanize.

Narratives like the Khashoggi operation are not part of any rational debate about American foreign policy. Nor are they attempts to explore any kind of human truth. Nor are they politics as usual. They are a new kind of weapon, like an improvised explosive device, stuffed with rat poison, loose screws, broken glass, whatever is at hand and seems likely to kill or maim. No one cares what they’re made of.

And it’s not Trump who’s being targeted anymore, either. It’s us.

Holding Obama Accountable for Syria

All of this is what McGurk helped design under Obama and Mattis acquiesced to under Trump, and the results are both tragic and frightening. Five hundred thousand Syrians have been killed, 5 million made refugees within the country and 6 million outside it. Beirut remains a party town but is governed by a Shia militia. A threatened Saudi Arabia wages a costly war in Yemen against Iran’s proxies there that has put 8 million people at risk of starvation. Iran is not only a murderous tyranny on the cusp of nuclear weapons but now also the key regional mover. And Iran’s and Syria’s patron Russia, our avowed enemy, has extended its influence. These are not consequences that 2,000 to 4,000 American troops had any hope of ameliorating—which is to say, they’re not consequences that Trump’s withdrawal decision had any effect on at all. They’re the consequences of 10 years of missteps, which turn on a single origin point: Obama’s post-Bush foreign policy fantasy that we could right all wrongs in a region that turns on fierce interstate competition by pacifying Iran, its most ruthless state competitor.

But none of this is being talked about—and it probably won’t be. The partisan charade will only intensify, as Trump’s clumsy withdrawal gives his enemies an excuse to pounce. Left and center Democrats will forget their own histories of inaction and rush to speak up for the interventionist vagaries they opposed. Saudi Arabia’s overreach, personified by the bumbling if oversignified Khashoggi killing, will continue to be inflamed for political purposes, obscuring the real regional action: the Russian-Iran-Syria solidification. Some hawkish internationalists will attack Trump as “worse than Obama”: a legitimate expression of horror at the president’s humanitarian deafness that still obscures the underlying problem by personalizing it. Others, like Lindsey Graham, will haggle over the withdrawal timing—another distinction without a real difference. And Mattis and McGurk will be treated in the media histories of the moment as “grownups in the room,” figures in the “resistance,” fodder for a thousand patriotic tweets and maybe even a book or two.

We need to push back against all this obscuring. For, as we argue around each other, Iran maneuvers with ever more impunity. ISIS cells plot their regrowth. Assad, to whom we have given a complete victory, persists in his despotic vocation: maybe the first genocidal killer in half a century that America has chosen to forget committed genocide. And Russia, a threat at home and abroad, gains proxies up to the Mediterranean. We won’t fix this situation, one we created, by railing against the finger-pointer in the White House. We’ll only fix it by looking at what we did wrong in the first place and, from that lesson, taking a wholly different approach: treating the ayatollah, Assad, and Putin as our main regional adversaries—a bloc of hostile actors that we need, calmly and firmly, to maneuver against.

Pretend refugees

The new campaign by former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor tackles the absurdity of the Palestinian refugee narrative by displaying the successful lives of nine descendants of Arabs who left Israel in 1948 but who still identify as refugees.

Prosor underscores that Double Identity aims to move the debate over UNRWA from the macro to the micro and show who the Palestinians – who represent themselves or are portrayed by others as refugees deserving of UNRWA assistance –really are.

“If the grandfathers and grandmothers of these people and people like them were refugees from anywhere else in the world, they would already have settled permanently and not be entitled to transfer refugee status to their children,” Prosor says.

“Because of the crooked way in which the U.N. and UNRWA keep defining Palestinian refugeehood, these young people can live regular, successful lives but keep calling themselves or are being called ‘refugees.'”

The Abba Eban Institute has discovered that UNRWA spends an average of $250 per year on each of the 5.3 million Palestinian refugees, compared to the average $60 dollars the U.N. Refugee Agency on each of the 68 million other refugees worldwide.

UNRWA’s employment rolls also point to bloat. Some 10,000 people work for the U.N. Refugee Agency, while UNRWA – which handles a number equivalent to 8% of the number of refugees in the charge of the U.N. Refugee Agency – employs three times as many, some 30,000.

“The U.N. won’t merge UNRWA and the U.N. Refugee Agency without heavy pressure on it to do so. The Double Identity campaign and other public diplomacy on the issue of UNRWA and the refugees … will help coalesce public opinion in support of the pressure the U.S. and Israel are putting on the U.N. The goal is to end this [UNRWA] scandal, which even now maintains refugee camps that have turned into breeding grounds for hatred and terrorism against Israel,” Prosor says.

PLO calls for UN to restore ‘Zionism is racism’ resolution

The United Nations must restore the defunct resolution declaring that “Zionism is racism,” the Palestinian Authority said on Thursday, in response to Israel’s opening of an “apartheid road” in the West Bank outside of Jerusalem.

“To all those who are defending the state of occupation, it’s time to drop the claim that its the only democracy in the Middle East now that it has opened the apartheid road, which separates Israeli and Palestinian drivers,” PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani said.

He spoke just one day after Israel formally opened the first section of the Eastern Ring Road in the Ma’aleh Adumim bloc.

The road was designed to help improve Israeli and Palestinian traffic. Once it’s completed, it will facilitate traffic between the settlements in the Binyamin region and Jerusalem, and will allow for easy Palestinian travel between the major West Bank cities of Bethlehem and Ramallah.

But a security barrier set up in the middle of the road separates vehicles traveling along the two traffic routes. The visual of the separate routes has caused the road’s opponents to dub it as the “apartheid road.”

Majdalani said the time had come to restore the infamous UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 that was adopted in 1975, which determined that Zionism is a form of racism and of racial discrimination.

The resolution was revoked in 1991 by the General Assembly.

IsraellyCool: Saeb Erekat: “Do You Think that Arabs Have a Neon Saying Stupid in Their Foreheads ?

Chief Palestinian Propagandist Saeb “Massacre” Erekat has ripped in to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, after the latter’s speech in Cairo.

Well, since you ask, Saeb, yes, I think that. At least when it comes to your terrorists, as well as leaders who still fund terrorism and make unreasonable demands of Israel.

And that includes you.

‘Financial Times’ Oslo Obituary Omits Palestinian Rejection of Peace Offers

In the Times‘ telling, the history of the region since the 1970s is primarily defined by Israel’s refusal to allow the creation of a Palestinian state. But nowhere does the more than 1,000-word review even note the fact that Israel — on multiple occasions — offered the Palestinians a state, and that these offers were rejected by Palestinian leaders.

Ehud Barak’s offers in 2000 and 2001, and Ehud Olmert’s offer in 2008 — which would have created, for the first time ever, a sovereign and contiguous Palestinian state in well over 90% of the West Bank (with east Jerusalem as their capital) — are literally erased from history by the Financial Times.

Such omissions, regarding the role played in the ongoing conflict by the actions and decisions of Palestinians and their leaders, represent a major component of the British and world media’s biased coverage of the region.

Former Associated Press Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman summed it up well:
If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters.

Contrary to the Times‘ claim, it was Palestinian leaders who, acting of their own free will, “denied Palestinians a country to call their own” — an indisputable historical fact that’s continually obfuscated in media reports about the conflict.

US launches initiative to stop flow of Iranian funds to Hezbollah

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is initiating a global initiative to fight illegal Iranian economic activity around the world, which will focus primarily on the transfer of funds to terrorist organizations, Israel Hayom has learned.

The United States also intends to intensify pressure on Iran in international bodies, chief among them the Financial Action Task Force. The FATF is an intergovernmental organization founded by G7 countries to combat money laundering.

The American initiative will focus on compelling Iran to meet international rules for the prevention of money laundering and, as stated, stem the flow of funds to terrorist groups. Iran, it has been well documented, gives vast sums of money to the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah, and to Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The White House intends to expose Iran’s illicit behavior and bring to bear legal and public pressure to force the Islamic republic to change its ways.

Aside from its own direct measures, the U.S. has also asked various European governments to help target Iran’s economic activities on the continent. American officials have told their European counterparts that the administration was prepared to invest considerable resources to expose Iran’s financial operations, and would share its information with European authorities to help them indict the perpetrators. The administration is still waiting for the European response.

IDF chief: Hezbollah had grandiose attack plan to ‘shake Israel’

Israel’s top general said Lebanese terror group Hezbollah planned to use its array of underground attack tunnels to carry out a surprise invasion of Israel that would “throw Israel off balance and cause an earthquake in Israeli society.”

Gadi Eisenkot’s comments came a month after the IDF launched an ongoing operation to locate and destroy the cross-border attack tunnels dug from Lebanon.

In an interview aired just days before he is set to leave his post on January 15, Eisenkot told Hadashot TV news that Hezbollah “had grandiose notions. They were looking many years ahead, to a war or wide escalation, where they [believed they] would have a surprise, an ace in their deck.”

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, he said, “now knows that Israel has known for years about his most secret plan: to carry out a secret, surprise attack on Israel in the future” via the tunnels.

Eisenkot once quipped that if Nasrallah “knew what we know about him, he’d be the most worried man in the Middle East.” On Thursday he said this was even more accurate: “I know much more today.”

Lebanon to file complaint at UN over Israel’s building of border wall

Lebanon will issue a complaint at the UN Security Council over Israel’s building of a wall along their shared border, Lebanese state media reported Friday.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency quoted Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil as calling the Israeli move a violation of a UN Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and the Hezbollah terror group.

The report said the complaint was about a part of the wall that was being built on the edge of the Lebanese border village of Kfar Kela.

Tension has been rising recently on the border between the two countries that are technically still at war.

Israel last month announced the discovery of border attack tunnels, which it says were part of a Hezbollah plot to sneak into Israel and launch a surprise attack as part of an opening salvo in a future war.

Israel’s Elbit Systems sells Azerbaijan SkyStriker suicide drone

Israel’s Elbit Systems has sold Azerbaijan its latest unmanned aerial vehicle which is capable of long-range precise tactical kamikaze strikes, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Called the SkyStriker, it has been described by Elbit Systems “as a silent, invisible, and surprise attacker,” which “delivers the utmost in precision and reliability, providing a critical advantage in the modern battlefield.”

The fully autonomous loitering munitions system can carry a warhead of up to 10 kilograms and has a maximum loitering time of two hours. With a maximum speed of 100 knots the SkyStriker can reach a distance of 20 km within 6.5 minutes.

The drone is also easy to deploy in the field, and with a quiet electric engine it allows operators to observe and identify enemy targets.Operators of the platform can program the drone to hover above an area before it dives towards a target at a speed of up to 300 knots, destroying the target on impact.

Palestinian woman said killed as 13,000 riot on Gaza border; IAF hits Hamas post

A Palestinian woman was shot dead by IDF troops during a mass riot along the Gaza border with Israel on Friday, the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry said, as the Hamas terror group threatened renewed violence over fresh quarrels with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The air force attacked two Hamas posts in northern Gaza in response to violence, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The army said some 13,000 Palestinians participated in the riots along the fence, throwing rocks, fire bombs and hand-grenades at Israeli troops, burning tires and trying to breach the security fence. Israeli soldiers responded with tear gas and, in some cases, live fire, the army said.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry identified the dead woman as Amal Tramsi, 43, saying she was the third woman to die in months of clashes.

At least 15 other Palestinians were injured by Israeli fire during the border riots, the ministry said.One of them was reportedly a journalist hurt when an ambulance was hit.

The army said it identified several incidents where Palestinians tried to breach the fence and in one instance opened fire on them.

“IDF troops monitored the suspects in each incident and all the suspects returned to the Gaza Strip soon after crossing,” the army said. “In response to the violent events along the security fence, an IDF aircraft targeted a Hamas military post.”

Aircraft later hit a second post.

Suspected Palestinian attacker shot during stabbing attempt near Hebron

A Palestinian man tried to carry out a stabbing attack near the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday and was shot by troops, the army said.

The Israel Defense Forces said the attacker was “neutralized” after attempting to stab soldiers at an army post near the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba and taken in for medical treatment.

However, Channel 10 news released video footage appearing to show the body of the attacker on the ground covered by a blanket and a knife on the sidewalk nearby.

There were no other injuries.

In addition to the soldiers, the IDF said an Israeli civilian also fired at the assailant.

The army said additional troops were dispatched to the Givat Avot neighborhood, where the incident took place.

IDF nabs Palestinian cell suspected of shooting at West Bank settlement

The Israeli military this week arrested a number of Palestinian men suspected of carrying out a shooting attack on a West Bank settlement, the army said Friday.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, late last Saturday night the cell opened fire from a rooftop in the Palestinian village of Beit Fajjar at the Israeli settlement of Migdal Oz next door.

The gunshots did not hit anyone in the settlement or cause damage, but a soldier in the area had spotted the incident, the army said.

“The suspects were identified by the soldier monitoring surveillance cameras in the regional brigade’s command center. She notified the troops, who hopped over to the village and started searching,” the IDF said.

“In addition, an investigation into the incident was launched and, in the end, the arrests were carried out in order to thwart the cell,” the army said in a statement.

Canadians Targeted in Thwarted 2018 Terror Plot in Israel

A Canadian delegation was among a group of high-profile targets that a man now convicted of terrorism planned to attack in Jerusalem last year, according to the Israel Security Agency.

Muhammad Jamal Rashdeh was sentenced to 11 years in prison in connection with the plot, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.

Israel’s internal security service, known as Shin Bet, said in a statement issued in June, 2018, that Mr. Rashdeh had also been planning to assassinate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and attack buildings belonging to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem (which has now been converted into the new U.S. embassy). The statement said Mr. Rashdeh, a resident of a Palestinian refugee camp in eastern Jerusalem, received orders from a Syria-based terrorist group.

The Shin Bet said Mr. Rashdeh, 31, was planning to target senior Canadian officials who were in Jerusalem last year training Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank. The statement was released to announce that Shin Bet had thwarted the attack. The information was not picked up by Canadian media at the time.

PA Extends to Israeli Arabs the Prohibition on Selling Land to Jews

On Tuesday, the official PA news agency Wafa cited an order of the Ramallah government that “Palestinians with Israeli citizenship need to have permission before they can rent in the West Bank,” adding that “this procedure is intended for organizational purposes only and it should not take more than two weeks to give an answer after an application is submitted.”

Wafa also noted that the cabinet did not offer any more details, other than promise that “it is intended to protect the public interest.” The cabinet announcement also said: “Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem who have Israeli residency but not citizenship since Israel has annexed the city after its occupation in 1967 are exempt from this procedure.”

On Thursday, Regavim exposed the actual document, signed by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, which stipulates that permits for rental or purchase of property will be issued contingent on the approval of the Palestinian Security Service.

Obviously, this new regulation is intended to prevent the purchase of buildings and other real estate properties in eastern Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria by Jews. As you probably already know, the sale of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria real estate to Jews is punishable by death in the Palestinian Authority, and so these transactions are often carried out through third parties.

Palestinians in West Bank on verge of revolt against social security law

For nearly 100 hundred days Palestinians have been staging protests against a widely-detested social security law, raising the pressure on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ government. The law, passed by decree, established the Social Security Corporation, an entity that administers retirement benefits on behalf of Palestinian West Bank residents.

On Wednesday, despite difficult weather conditions, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the city center of Ramallah to voice their dismay over the measure. To date, smaller rallies have taken place in other towns such as Nablus, Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin.

“The PA claims that the number of Palestinian protesters against the law is less than the number that supports it,” Amer Hamdan, a spokesman for the National Social Security Movement (NSSM), a grassroots organization that opposes the move, told The Media Line. “This has led to the majority being subjected to the will of the minority.

“The PA maintains that a social security fund is a national demand everywhere,” he elaborated, “but given the ongoing political and economic instability, social security is the last thing the Palestinian people need.”

Numerous Palestinians expressed similar sentiments to The Media Line, questioning the legitimacy of the initiative which they described as “biased.” That the unilateral move was implemented outside the framework of a proper legislative process adds to the concerns of a citizenry already distressed by intermittent tensions with Israel as well as the longstanding division between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Abbas’ Fatah faction.

Egyptian officials meet Hamas’ Haniyeh in effort to defuse Gaza crisis

Egypt has resumed its diplomatic efforts to ease tensions in the Gaza Strip ahead of the weekly Hamas-sponsored demonstrations near the border with Israel, which were expected to continue on Friday.

The Egyptians are also hoping to persuade Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to end their ongoing dispute, which reached its peak earlier this week when the PA ordered its employees to abandon the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt – a move that has resulted in the closure of the terminal.

As part of the diplomatic drive, Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip on Thursday and immediately met with Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar.

The delegation, headed by General Intelligence Service officials Ayman Badi and Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing with Israel. It was not clear how long the Egyptian officials were planning to stay in the coastal enclave.

Sources in the Gaza Strip said that the high-ranking Egyptian intelligence officials were also expected to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Israeli and PA officials.

Egypt deports German citizen over alleged terror suspicions

Egypt deported a German citizen of Egyptian origin early Friday who it detained in Cairo airport last month on suspicion of plotting terrorism, authorities said.

Twenty-three-year-old Goettingen resident Mahmoud Abdel Aziz was repatriated on an early morning flight to Frankfurt in coordination with the German Embassy after being questioned by police, Cairo airport officials said. He had been detained on December 27.

Security officials say interrogations revealed he believed in the extremist ideology of the Islamic State group.

Another detained German, 18-year-old Isa El Sabbagh, from Giessen, is still in custody. He was stopped at Luxor airport on December 17 and authorities also accuse him of supporting IS ideology that advocates terrorism.

Christofer Burger, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters in Berlin that Egyptian authorities have confirmed El Sabbagh is in their custody, but that the German embassy had not yet been granted consular access to him.

US to convene global summit on Iran next month, Pompeo says

The United States is organizing an international summit in Poland next month, focusing on Iran’s Middle Eastern influence, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

Pompeo made the announcement in an interview with the network during a regional tour aimed at reassuring US allies after President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw all American troops from Syria, which sparked concerns that Iran’s influence could grow.

“We’ll bring together dozens of countries from all around the world,” Pompeo told Fox News.

They will “focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence,” the top US diplomat said.

The event will take place on February 13 and 14.

Pompeo brought the Trump administration’s anti-Iran message to Gulf Arab states on Friday as he continued his nine-nation tour of the Middle East.

France Tells Iran to Stop Ballistic Missile Work Designed for Nuclear Weapons

France on Friday called on Iran to immediately stop all activities linked to ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons after Tehran said it could put two satellites into orbit in the coming weeks.

“France recalls that the Iranian missile program is not conform with UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing.

“It calls on Iran to immediately cease all ballistic missile-related activities designed to carry nuclear weapons, including tests using ballistic missile technology.”

Von der Muhll was responding to comments by President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday, who said two satellites would be sent into space using Iran-made missiles.

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