February 20, 2019

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02/02 Links Pt1: Caroline Glick: Time for Greenblatt to walk away; U.S. Shows Beginning of a Response to Muslim Brotherhood; The Burgas Obama nexus


From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Time for Greenblatt to walk away
On Tuesday in Bethlehem, the Palestinians demonstrated the choice the Americans now face in their dealings with Fatah – the supposedly moderate PLO faction that controls the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. President Donald Trump and his advisers can play by Fatah’s rules or they can walk away.

On Tuesday a delegation of diplomats from the US Consulate in Jerusalem came to Bethlehem to participate in a meeting of the local chamber of commerce. When they arrived in the city, Fatah members attacked them. Their vehicles with diplomatic license plates were pelted with tomatoes and eggs by a mob of protesters calling out anti-American slogans.

After the Americans entered the hall where the meeting was scheduled to take place, some of the rioters barged in. They held placards condemning America and they shouted, “Americans Out!”

Some of the demonstrators cursed the Palestinians present, accusing them of treason for participating in a meeting with Americans. According to the news reports, the scene became tense and violent. The American officials beat a speedy retreat. As they departed the city, the Fatah rioters continued attacking their cars, kicking them and throwing eggs at them, until they were gone.

The attack on Tuesday was a natural progression.

On Saturday, Fatah members in Bethlehem-area UN camps convened to carry out a very public “people’s tribunal.” Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were tried for “racism” and “bias” against the Palestinians.

The “tribunal” found them guilty and sentenced the president and vice president to death by hanging. Their bodies, the “judges” decided, were to be burned.

In the event, the crowd burned effigies of Trump and Pence.
The implication of the “trial” was clear. Americans like Israelis should be killed.

Bennett-Erekat debate with Christian Amanpour on CNN

Eli Lake: U.S. Shows Beginning of a Response to Muslim Brotherhood

A year ago it looked like Donald Trump was going to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Some of his closest advisers pushed for it. U.S. allies like Egypt quietly made the case too. Many Republicans in Congress also believed the movement that created political Islam should be treated like al Qaeda.

It didn’t happen. Trump administration officials tell me the initial proposal last year to designate the entire Muslim Brotherhood, which includes chapters and offshoots in countries all over the world, stalled out. By the time the White House approved its national security strategy in December, it didn’t even mention the Muslim Brotherhood by name.

Instead the Trump administration has settled on a more refined approach, seeking to designate violent chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, but not going after the entire organization. As the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told reporters in December: “We will be evaluating each organization on its own terms. The organization is not monolithic or homogenous.”

In some ways this approach is not new. The Obama administration managed to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the Arab Spring in 2011, and nonetheless treat its Palestinian wing, Hamas, as terrorists. There are no plans for the Trump administration to attempt to find common ground with the Muslim Brotherhood, U.S. officials tell me. But the administration is getting more aggressive against the Brotherhood’s violent affiliates.

The Burgas Obama nexus

The evidence linking Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah to the 2012 bomb attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, is undeniable.

Yet, astoundingly, the Bulgarian state prosecution does not even mention the word “Hezbollah” in its indictment of the two living men allegedly involved in the attack. Nor does the indictment mention that the bombing, which left five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver dead and 32 Israelis wounded, was an act of terrorism.

Why would Bulgaria’s prosecutor leave out the terrorist dimension of the attack and omit the involvement of Hezbollah?

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Bulgaria’s interior minister at the time of the attack, announced in 2012, “We have established that the two [accused] were members of the militant wing of the Hezbollah.” He added, “There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects.” Tsvetanov’s successor made similar comments.

In 2013, then-foreign minister of Bulgaria Nikolay Mladenov said the government would not have issued a statement linking Hezbollah to the Burgas bombing if it did not have evidence.

Europol, which coordinates policing across the 27 European Union states, has linked Hezbollah to the attack. So has the US.
Three Hezbollah terrorists were involved: the bomber, Lebanese-French national Muhammad Hassan El-Husseini, who died in the explosion, and two additional suspects: Lebanese-Australian Meliad Farah and Lebanese-Canadian Hassan El Hajj Hassan, who fled to Lebanon where the country’s political leaders have ignored Bulgaria’s extradition requests.

The Bulgarian prosecutor’s strange unwillingness to implicate Hezbollah in the bombing is reminiscent of a recent Politico report on the Obama administration’s purported intentional obstruction of investigations by the US’s Drug Enforcement Administration into drug trafficking and money laundering by Hezbollah.

According to the Politico report, in its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran and out of a realization that going after Hezbollah at a time when the US was negotiating with its patron might kill the deal, the Obama administration purposely stymied the investigations, which were code-named Project Cassandra.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: Arbitrary Arrests, Administrative Detentions and World Silence

For many years, Palestinians and their supporters around the world have been condemning Israel for arresting suspected terrorists without trial.

It turns out, however, that the Palestinian Authority (PA) also has a similar policy that permits one of its senior officials to order the arrest of any Palestinian, regardless of the nature of the offense he or she commits.

Israel holds suspected terrorists in “administrative detention” on the basis of laws such as: Israeli Military Order regarding no. 1651 Security Provisions, Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law and Defense (Emergency) Regulations, a law that replaces the emergency laws from the period of the British Mandate of Palestine (1920-1948).

It is worth noting that Israeli citizens, and not only Palestinians, have also been held in “administrative detention” over the past few decades. This means that Israel does not distinguish between a Palestinian and an Israeli when it comes to combatting terrorism.

While the campaign against Israel’s “administrative detentions” has been going on, the Palestinian Authority has been, according to Palestinian human rights activists and lawyers, conducting unlawful and arbitrary arrests against its own constituents.

Once again, the double standards of the Palestinians and their international supporters have been exposed.

Caroline Glick: Israel Built a ‘Wall’ and Is Deporting Illegal Aliens. America Can Learn

A decade ago, Israelis gave little thought to the issue of illegal immigration.

In 2006, there were 2,766 illegal migrants in Israel, nearly all of them from Eritrea and Sudan, who had entered Israel through its then-open, 150-mile border with Egypt.

In 2007, the dam of illegal immigration burst.

According to Israel’s Immigration and Population Authority, 5,179 African migrants – predominantly from Eritrea and Sudan — entered Israel from Egypt in 2007. The illegal migration reached its peak in 2011, when 17,281 arrived.

When you consider that in 2011, Israel’s total population stood at 7.7 million, that means that as a portion of its total population, Israel absorbed 95 times more illegal aliens that year than Spain did.

The illegal aliens settled overwhelmingly in poor neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. Violent crime in the areas skyrocketed with their arrival. Sexual offenses in neighborhoods with high percentages of African migrants were 3.5 times higher than in their rates in the general population. Violent crime was 2.5 times higher. Robberies occurred six times more often.

A survey of area residents taken by the Israeli police in 2015 showed that only 38 percent felt secure outside their homes after dark. Only 43 percent felt safe in their homes after dark.


Ron Jager, an IDF veteran and former Commander of Israel’s Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers, has written an insightful piece comparing the unhinged and slanderous attempts to oust President Donald Trump with the unhinged and slanderous attempts to oust Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jager notes:

“The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has lead Israel to become a world leader of innovation, a nation at peace with the majority of the Muslim Sunni nations, a country where the life expectancy is one of the world’s longest, and affordable healthcare and education for average citizens. In America, after the first year of a totally unexpected Trump Presidency; domestically, the passage of the tax reform bill is already resulting in increased economic activity and the repatriation of companies, reserves and jobs, just as promised during the election… As far as foreign policies: rather than attacking friends and allies and supporting enemies, the reverse is now the situation.”

Yet both are the victims of “deep primal hatred that has permeated the public discourse trampling every accepted norm and the basic concept of fairness and the democratic idea of innocent until proven guilty… This rage, this hatred of President Trump or Prime Minister Netanyahu permits us to keep alive the idea that everything is really much more simple, if only these leaders would go way either voluntarily or if necessary by force.”

Daniel Pipes: ‘Arabs and Muslims will never accept Israel’

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a distinguished specialist in the Middle East, recently published an article arguing that Israel can never win its neighbors’ acceptance. This conclusion flies directly in the face of the Israel Victory Project I have proposed, which is about gaining precisely that acceptance. Kedar’s analysis calls for a reply.

Kedar makes two arguments, religious and nationalist, to support his conclusion: “The religious reason is rooted in Islam’s conception of itself as a faith whose mission is to bring both Judaism and Christianity to an end and inherit all that was once Jewish or Christian: land, places of worship, and people. … [That] Jews now attempt to pray on the Temple Mount, suggest[s] that Judaism has returned to being an active, living, and even dynamic religion. This brings the very raison d’être of Islam into question. … Muslims loyal to their religion and aware of this danger cannot possibly accept the existence of a Jewish state, not even a tiny one on the Tel Aviv coast.”

The nationalist motive involves the Palestinian national movement being “wholly based on the negation of the Jewish people’s right to its land and state.” Therefore, it seeks “an Arab state on Israel’s ruins, not alongside it.”

Combining these two motivations, he concludes that “Arabs and Muslims are incapable of accepting Israel as the Jewish state.”

In response – and this is the key point – Kedar says Israel should “tell them in no uncertain terms that Jerusalem belongs to the Jews and they are going to have to learn to live with it.” Extrapolated out, he is advising that Israel should assert itself as the Jewish state to Arabs and Muslims.

America’s good cop/bad cop strategy to get the Palestinians to negotiate

Last week, US President Donald Trump acknowledged that the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal he hoped to facilitate might not actually come to pass.

Due to Ramallah’s anger over his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, negotiations prerequisite to such an agreement may never actually get off the ground, he admitted at a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“I don’t know that it ever will take place,” Trump said.

His trusted Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, however, continues to soldier on, traveling the world promoting the president’s stated quest — which some would call quixotic — for the ultimate deal.

Greenblatt loyally and firmly defends the administration’s Jerusalem move, but his work with the parties on the ground appears to take a different tack than Trump.

While the president says Jerusalem is “off the table,” his envoy this week stressed once more that the administration is not taking a position on borders and that the status quo at the holy sites should remain untouched.

Trump last week threatened to dramatically cut financial aid to the uncooperative Palestinian Authority, arguing that those who castigate US policy should not expect generous handouts.

Palestinian reconciliation deal dying slow death

The two leading Palestinian factions missed another deadline Thursday to implement a reconciliation deal, potentially burying the accord aimed at ending their decade-long split.

The Hamas terror group was to hand over power in the Gaza Strip by December to the Palestinian Authority, led by the Fatah movement.

But the handover was missed and a February 1 deadline for solving the issue of two movements’ rival civil services passed Thursday with no progress in sight.

While small changes have occurred since the deal was signed in October — notably the handing over of Gaza’s borders to the PA — Hamas remains firmly in charge in Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah traded blame for what could turn out to be a gradual abandoning of the accord.

Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim said the Fatah-led PA had backed away from the deal “without clear reasons,” while Fayez Abu Eita, a Fatah official in Gaza, called for Hamas to respect the deal.

Michael Oren: How to restore US credibility in the Middle East

As Israel’s ambassador to Washington and, later, as a member of its government, I held many conversations with Arab diplomats, ministers, journalists and businessmen from Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf States. All candidly offered their views on the Middle East and, without exception, all believed that America was secretly allied with Iran.

These leaders had a long list of evidence. Fighting Iran’s enemies such as Saddam Hussein, ISIS and the Taliban, while refusing to stop Iranian conquests in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, was presented as proof of Washington’s collusion with Tehran.

Further confirmation was seen in America’s failure to support the June 2009 Green Revolution in Iran, to meaningfully punish the ayatollahs for supporting terror (beyond sanctions) and to prevent them from developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the West. From leading mass chants of “Death to America” to killing many hundreds of US soldiers, Iranian aggression — so my Arab interlocutors held — would never elicit a strong American response.

Yet no evidence was more damning than the Iranian nuclear deal. Instead of presenting Iran’s regime with the choice between retaining the nuclear infrastructure unnecessary for a civilian energy program and survival, international negotiators, led by the United States, guaranteed both. By lifting sanctions and reopening Iran to international business, the deal enabled the regime to overcome financial crises and more brutally suppress its domestic opponents.

And rather than dismantling Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, the deal preserved it intact and even permitted research and development of far more advanced centrifuges. Under the deal’s “sunset clauses,” the restrictions on enrichment will expire in eight to 10 years, at which time Iran will be able to produce enough uranium for dozens of nuclear weapons in a very short time.

The US calls a spade a spade

If there is anyone who still needed proof of the shift in White House policies, the U.S. State Department announced Wednesday that it was designating Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh a terrorist. The move proved that there really is a new sheriff in town, one who means what he says, who will not be disrespected, and who shoots first and talks second.

The American move against Haniyeh is largely symbolic, as it is safe to assume that he has no assets in the U.S. for the administration to seize.
One may wonder why someone like Haniyeh was not placed on the global terror watch list sooner, but the message from Washington is loud and clear: Haniyeh and Hamas are part of the problem, not the solution. The Trump administration has no intention of “embracing” Hamas and fostering dialogue in hopes that someday the Islamist terrorist group would change its tune and become moderate.

The Trump administration sees Hamas for what it is – a terrorist organization that targets civilians and seeks to undermine Washington’s attempts to advance the Middle East peace process.

There seems to be a direct link between the decision to cut American aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which only perpetuates the Palestinian refugees’ issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Haniyeh’s designation.

Trump Is Echoing Talleyrand In His Middle East Diplomacy. That’s Right. Talleyrand

President Trump’s public diplomacy, from his first days in office to his State of the Union speech earlier this week, often appears inspired by the immortal words of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand at the Congress of Vienna in 1814: “If it goes without saying, it would go better by saying it.”

It goes without saying that Arab governments should unite against Iran, whose armed proxies are wreaking havoc on Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. So President Trump went to Saudi Arabia last May and said it. Led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Arab governments are today beginning to do just that (notably turning against Qatar because of its Iran ties) and stepping up covert cooperation with Israel.

It goes without saying that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, so President Trump said it on December 6, announcing the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Last week, Vice President Pence announced that the relocation will take place before the end of next year, while a permanent embassy is being built. Dashing Palestinian dreams of a united Jerusalem under Arab rule has removed a key hurdle to serious negotiations.

It goes without saying that the United States shouldn’t give aid to an entity seeking the destruction of the Jewish state. So, on January 25 in Davos, President Trump threatened to cut off financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) unless its leaders “sit down and negotiate peace.” This is the fourth attempt in the last eight weeks to pressure PA President Mahmoud Abbas merely to sit down at the table with Israel.

Israel Slams UN Security Council Invite to ‘Antisemitic’ PA President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will address the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 20 during its monthly meeting on the Middle East amid continuing Palestinian rejection of direct talks with Israel, as well as the US role in brokering future negotiations.

In the weeks since US President Donald Trump announced American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital on Dec. 6, Abbas has said he will ask the Security Council to grant full UN membership to a Palestinian state. In addresses to Arab and African leaders over the last month, the PA president said he will only accept an internationally-backed panel to broker any peace talks with Israel.

Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, condemned the invitation to Abbas. “After disseminating antisemitic messages in recent speeches, Mahmoud Abbas is now seeking to put an end to any possibility of negotiations with Israel,” Danon said. “By continuing to act against the United States and seeking unilateral action against Israel, Abbas is completely misreading today’s reality and harming the prospects for a better future for his people.”

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council last week that Abbas lacked “the courage and the will to seek peace.”

But Kuwait – a non-permanent member currently serving as the President of the Security Council – defended the invitation to Abbas.

Kuwait challenges U.S. over Palestinians, invites Jimmy Carter to speak at UNSC

Kuwait has challenged the US at the United Nations over its stance on Palestinian statehood and its declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.

It has invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to address the UN Security Council at a February 20 meeting and former US president Jimmy Carter to address an informal UNSC gathering known as an Arria Formula meeting on February 22.

Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi, who holds the rotating position of UNSC president this month, announced these steps at a press conference on Thursday afternoon in New York.

Abbas has confirmed his attendance but Carter has yet to accept the invitation.

UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland and former UNRWA chief Karen AbuZayd are also expected to speak at the Arria Formula meeting, the third such gathering on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the last three years.

Of Carter, al-Otaibi said that his position against Israeli settlements and its presence in the West Bank was well known and that he had an important role to play in the peace process.

Danon slams Abbas plan to address UN Security Council

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said Thursday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is crippling prospects for Middle East peace after announcing that he intends to speak before the UN Security Council later this month.

“After disseminating antisemitic messages in recent speeches, Mahmoud Abbas is now seeking to put an end to any possibility of negotiations with Israel,” said Danon.

“By continuing to act against the United States and seeking unilateral action against Israel, Abbas is completely misreading today’s reality and harming the prospects for a better future for his people,” he continued.

Danon’s comments come after the Palestinian leader announced Thursday that he would seek an audience with the Security Council on February 20, during the UN body’s monthly meeting on the situation in the Middle East, amid strained relations with the US administration.

US diplomat: blacklisting Hamas head intended to prevent the next war

The US’ decision to put the head of the Hamas terrorist organization Ismail Haniyeh on its terror blacklist is an essential step towards “drying up” Hamas’ recourses, US Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales explained in an interview with Ynet on Thursday.

The blacklisting, announced on Wednesday, targeted Haniyeh alongside Harakat al-Sabireen—a small Gazan terror group that splintered away from the Islamic Jihad and, like Hamas, is backed by Iran—and two other terror groups active in Egypt: Liwa al-Thawra and HASM.

“As a result of these designations, these individuals and groups will be frozen out of the international financial system, their assets will be frozen,” Sales noted.

“In addition, it is a crime under US law for people to engage in transactions with these designated terrorists, and finally, these individuals will not be permitted to enter the United States.”

Iran, publically being Hamas’ biggest financial supporter, will thusly be declared in violation of US law. Sales noted this was in no way unintentional.

“The United States is under no illusions about Iran’s malign intentions in the region, nor are we under any illusions about its ability to project its power and to shed blood around the world,” he stated, adding Iran’ actions and ambitions of regional hegemony can, and must, be thwarted.

“Iran can be stopped. Iran is not invincible,” he said, explaining that Iran is actually “vulnerable … because it has chosen to use an illegitimate tool, like terrorism, to spread blood and disorder around the world,” clearly leaving their fingerprints, such as with their support of the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Houthi insurgency in the war in Yemen.

‘Moderate’ Palestinian ‘Peace Negotiator’ Outraged Over U.S. Designation of Hamas Terrorist

On Jan. 31, 2018 the United States State Department announced that top Hamas operative Ismail Haniyeh was now listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). Less than twenty-four hours later, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) chief “peace negotiator,” Saeb Erekat, decried the United States’ decision. Hamas is a U.S.-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip and calls for the destruction of Israel.

In a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) press statement, Erekat said that the “PLO rejects and condemns the U.S. finance department’s decision to add Islamic Hamas movement chief Ismail Haniyeh to the terrorist list.” Both the PLO and the PA, which rules the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), are dominated by the Fatah movement and led by Mahmoud Abbas. All three entities, as well as Abbas, are frequently labeled “moderate” by the press.

The State Department noted that Haniyeh “has been involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens” and “Hamas has been responsible for an estimated 17 American lives killed in terrorist attacks.” Haniyeh is the head of the terror group’s so-called “political bureau.” As Matthew Levitt, a former U.S. Treasury Department terror analyst, noted in his 2006 book Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad, all factions of Hamas are closely intertwined; claims that the political branch does not coordinate with the so-called “military bureau” that carries out attacks are false.

As CAMERA has highlighted, Haniyeh has repeatedly called for a “holy war by the Palestinian people” against Israel. He has rejected claims—often pushed by the media and others—that “despair” is the motive for Palestinian anti-Jewish violence (“Hamas: ‘Despair’ Is Not the Reason for Palestinian Violence,” Jan. 26, 2016). More recently, following the United States’ Dec. 6, 2017 announcement that it would implement the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, Haniyeh called for a third intifada (violent uprising). The second intifada (2000-05) resulted in the murder of more than 1,000 Israelis.

Turkey blasts Trump admin’s sanctions on Hamas terrorist
Turkish gov’t backs Hamas, denounces US over sanctions targeting senior Gaza terrorist.

The Turkish government denounced the Trump administration’s blacklisting of a senior Hamas terrorist in the Gaza Strip this week, warning that the move could “undermine” the peace process and interfere with Turkish activities in Gaza.

Earlier this week, the US State Department and Treasury Department placed Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on their terror watch lists – effectively sanctioning the Hamas leader by freezing his assets and barring US citizens or companies operating in the US from doing business with him. The Hamas organization has been on America’s terror blacklist since 1997.

Haniyeh replaced the exiled former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in May of 2017.

On Thursday, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction blasted the Trump administration’s decision to sanction Haniyeh, and called for “national unity” between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Gaza-based Hamas terror group.

Former MK says blueprints for Israeli subs were hacked

A former member of the Knesset claimed Wednesday that computers belonging to the German Thyssenkrupp company were breached by a hacker who managed “to steal secrets and blueprints of the submarines that were developed in Germany for Israeli use.”

Erel Margalit, also a high-tech and social entrepreneur who served as an MK for the Labor Party between 2015 and 2017, presented the charges during a cybertech conference held in Tel Aviv where he warned that the world’s exposure to cyber attacks can drastically harm Israel’s security.

According to Margalit, a hacker broke into the Thyssenkrupp computers in 2016 when Israel was ordering its strategic submarines from Germany.

“So as much as Israel can protect itself and as much as any country can protect itself, when it’s dealing with other countries that has to deal with it, it needs to be sure that the protection works and that’s why we need a higher level of cooperation,” he told his audience at the conference.

Margalit, founder and chairman of JVP, also suggested that details about the corvettes purchased by Israel to protect its waters may have fallen into Iranian hands.

UN agency asks Arab nations for funds after US aid cut

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees is asking Arab nations for funds in the wake of the Trump administration’s cut of tens of millions of dollars of aid money.

UNRWA Commissioner Pierre Krahenbuhl spoke to an Arab League meeting of foreign ministers in Cairo on Thursday and said the U.S. cut “is the most severe crisis” in the agency’s history.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which serves 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, had a budget of over $1 billion last year. The agency is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from U.N. member states, with aid from the U.S., its largest donor, accounting for a third of its total budget. The Trump administration withheld half of the first installment of payments this year, demanding financial reforms as a condition for future aid.

Last week, Krahenbuhl suggested that politics, notably the U.S.’s December decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, were at play.

Also at Thursday’s Arab League meeting, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the cut in U.S. funding for UNRWA will put the stability and security of the region at risk.

Dore Gold: The Brewing Conflict along the Red Sea

There is a crisis brewing to Israel’s south in the Red Sea area where at least a half a dozen countries are scrambling for influence, seeking bases and positioning themselves in the event of a future conflict. Iran is seeking positions of strength along the entire Red Sea, from the Suez Canal in the north down to Bab-el-Mandeb, the outlet of the Red Sea into the Indian Ocean. In the 1990s, the Iranians deployed their Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Port Sudan and Sudan became a conduit for moving Iranian weapons into Egypt, to the Sinai Peninsula, and ultimately to Gaza where they were used by Hamas and other pro-Iranian organizations.

In the critical Bab-el-Mandeb straights, the naval choke point at the bottom of the Red Sea, Iran has been using the Houthi militias, which are its proxies in the Yemen war. And it may get to a point where the Iranians will seek to block the flow of naval traffic through this sensitive point.

Of all the nations that are positioning themselves in the Horn of Africa, like Iran, the U.S., Turkey, France, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia, careful attention should be given to the presence of China in Djibouti where China has constructed one of its first naval bases at the gateway to the Middle East. Given the interests of all the actors appearing now in the Red Sea, the whole region has become far more combustible than it was in the past.

Jerusalem to start collecting taxes from churches, UN facilities

The Jerusalem Municipality recently informed the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance, Foreign and Interior ministries that it plans to begin collecting about 650 million shekels ($190 million) in unpaid property taxes from 887 church and U.N.-owned properties across the city.

The move will not apply to actual houses of worship, which are exempt from municipal property taxes, but to assets owned by the churches that are used for purposes other than prayer, some of them commercial.

To date, the state has demanded that the municipality refrain from collecting these debts, in light of previous agreements with the churches.

However, the city has obtained the legal opinion of international law expert Professor Gabriel Halevi, who examined in depth the legal aspects of church institutions and the U.N.’s obligation toward the Jerusalem Municipality. Halevi found unequivocally that there is no grounding for the state’s position, that the agreements between the state and the churches do not apply to the Jerusalem Municipality, and that the municipality is required by law to collect the debts.

Israel strikes Hamas position after rocket fired from Gaza

Israeli Air Force aircraft attacked a Hamas position in the northern Gaza Strip early Friday morning in response to a rocket attack several hours earlier, the army said.

“The IDF sees the Hamas terror group as the sole party responsible for what takes place in the Gaza Strip and for what emanates from it,” an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in the strike.

It wasn’t clear whether the rocket fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel Thursday night had landed in Israeli territory, the army said earlier.

No rocket sirens were triggered, indicating the projectile was not headed for a populated area in Israel.

No impact site was immediately identified, and the Israeli military said it was investigating.

On Monday, sirens sounded near the Gaza border, but no rocket impact site was found, and the IDF said it was possible the sirens had been a false alarm.

Soldiers nab Gazans sneaking into Israel with grenade, knives

Israeli soldiers arrested four Palestinian suspects, one of them armed, who entered Israel from the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, the army said.

According to the military, one of the suspects was carrying a grenade and two knives when he was arrested.

While it has not been uncommon for Palestinians to illegally cross into Israel from Gaza in recent years, it is generally done by individuals or in pairs, rarely in groups as large as on Thursday.

An army spokesperson said the suspects were under IDF surveillance from before they crossed the security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip.

They were arrested a short time after they entered Israeli territory, he said.

The suspects’ intentions were not immediately clear. There have been cases of Gazans entering Israel with weapons not to carry out attacks, but in order to be arrested and sent to prison, rather than remain in the beleaguered coastal enclave, which is run by the Hamas terrorist group.

“The suspects were apprehended and transferred to security forces for further questioning,” the Israel Defense Forces said.

According to figures revealed to the Hebrew Walla news site, in both 2016 and 2017 approximately 60 Palestinians entered Israel from Gaza.

Reports: Israel bombed Islamic State positions in southern Syria

Syrian media reported that Israel targeted several positions belonging to an Islamic State group affiliate in southern Syrian on Thursday.

The alleged airstrikes were said to have taken place during an offensive by rebel groups against the Islamic State-affiliated group, known as the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, in the area around the city of Daraa.

Zaman Al Wasl, a pro-rebel outlet, quoted local activists as saying the “Israeli Air Force has been pounding [Islamic State] bastions” during the attack.

Additional Syrian opposition outlets specified that four surface-to-surface missiles were launched at Khalid ibn al-Walid Army positions.

This could not be immediately verified.

The Israeli military does not comment on reports of its alleged activities in Syria.

Israel has maintained a public policy of limited intervention in the Syrian civil war.

Play depicting IDF soldiers as war criminals nixed from culture basket

Education Minister Naftali Bennett has ordered that his ministry stop paying for high school students preparing for their military service to see a play that ministry officials say portrays IDF soldiers as war criminals.

The play “The Admission” was added to the basket of cultural activities the Education Ministry provides 11th- and 12th-grade students last May. Its plot centers on a young Jewish professor who is confronted with an Arab family’s accusations that his father was involved in the killing of their relatives and the expulsion of some of their village’s residents during the 1948 War of Independence.

According to the website of the Arab-Hebrew Theater, where the play is now being performed, the script was inspired by the 1948 conquest of the Arab village of Tantura by IDF forces and by “the dispute among a number of Israeli historians as to the possibility that during the conquest IDF soldiers carried out a massacre of village residents.”

The play has been harshly criticized by bereaved families and external organizations, who say it depicts IDF soldiers as murderers. Critics say the play is based upon events that never took place and warn that students may believe this false misrepresentation of what transpired.

JCPA: East Jerusalem Palestinians Reject Ramallah’s Directives

At the meeting of the PLO Central Committee on January 14, 2018, in Ramallah, followers of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas removed from the dais a very senior Fatah official from east Jerusalem after he began to criticize the PA for its behavior toward east Jerusalem. When he started to say that the PLO “proclaims its devotion to Jerusalem,” but ignores the city’s needs and has not given its activists a suitable place in the leadership, Abbas’ ushers mounted the stage and removed the senior PLO figure. Sources say that, while there was an altercation between top PLO officials, none of those present protested or opposed the action.

Although confirmation of this incident could not be obtained, more than one source reported the story, and it has had an impact on east Jerusalem’s relations with Ramallah.

In previous cases, when senior officials from the West Bank came to the protesters at Lion’s Gate during the metal-detector crisis, these same West Bank officials were driven away with shouts. When senior officials from Ramallah came to the Al-Aqsa compound without a security escort, the worshippers ejected them amid threats. The Muqata headquarters refused to give the Fatah Tanzim in Jerusalem special budgets for waging the struggle against the “Judaization of the city.”

East Jerusalem, for its part, did not join the large-scale strike that Ramallah declared in protest of Vice-President Pence’s visit.

Iran arrests 29 women as headscarf protests intensify

Tehran police have arrested 29 women for appearing in public without a headscarf as protests against the dress code in force since the Islamic revolution of 1979 intensify, Iranian media reported Friday.

Those arrested were accused of public order offenses and referred to the state prosecutor’s office, the Fars, ILNA and Tasnim news agencies reported without elaborating.

Chief prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri had played down the escalating protests on Wednesday, saying they were “trivial” and “childish” moves possibly incited by foreigners.

He had been asked about a woman detained earlier this week for standing on a pillar box in a busy street without the mandatory headscarf.

Unprecedented images of at least 11 women protesting the same way had been widely shared on social media.

Saudi Arabia orders ‘urgent investigation’ and calls for prosecutions after two people are seen dancing in the street

The authorities in Saudi Arabia have ordered the arrest of a couple filmed dancing in the street.

In the footage, a man and woman can be seen performing on the street pavement, while by-standers who are gathered around them film them on their phones.

The conservative desert kingdom has strict rules about gender segregation though moves have begun to liberalise laws, including allowing women to drive.

But the videos prompted the governor of Asir province, Prince Faisal bin Khaled, to order a investigation into the video that captured a couple dancing in a street in the city of Abha, in the south-west of the country,Okaz newspaper reported.

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