March 19, 2018

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02/20 Links Pt1: Hamas and Fatah – United against Trump; Salon: Netanyahu the ‘Most Dangerous Man in the Middle East’; Nasrallah’s dilemma

From Ian:

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: Hamas and Fatah – United against Trump
The two rival parties, Fatah and Hamas, are prepared to lay aside their differences and work together to foil US President Donald Trump’s plan for peace in the Middle East, the details of which remain unknown. Thwarting Trump’s peace plan has become a top priority.

Although the details of the Trump plan still have not been made public, Palestinians across the political spectrum say they will never accept any peace initiative presented by the Trump administration.

The Palestinians know that no US peace plan would comply with their demands. Abbas’s Fatah is demanding 100% of the territories Israel secured in 1967, namely the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Hamas, for its part, is demanding 100% of everything, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. As Hamas leaders repeatedly affirm, the goal is to “liberate all of Palestine,” meaning all of Israel.

INSS: The Palestinian Refugees: Facts, Figures, and Significance

The decision by US President Donald Trump to freeze a third of the United States’ contribution to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, has brought renewed attention to an organization whose very existence and activity arouses harsh criticism in Israel. UNRWA was established in 1949 after the War of Independence to deal solely with Palestinian refugees. As with the question of Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugee issue has been seen for some seventy years as a principal obstacle to a resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. For the Palestinians who have been raised on the Nakba heritage, any compromise on this issue is an attack on Palestinian national identity.

The number of individuals forced to leave their homes during the War of Independence is estimated at 720,000. Most of them settled in refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. According to UNRWA, all the descendants of Palestinian refugees are considered refugees, and therefore today they number over five and a half million. Citizenship of another country, for example, Jordan, does not cancel their refugee status. In other words, only the return of the refugees and their descendants to their homes can cancel this status.

For Israeli governments, the Palestinian demand for the “right of return” of refugees was and remains a red line. This position is supported by an absolute majority of Israeli citizens from all parts of the political spectrum, because the return of such large numbers of Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel would have far reaching consequences for the character of the state. However, all the attempts by the State of Israel over the years to change UNRWA’s definition of refugees have failed. Israel’s efforts to change UNRWA’s status as an independent entity and subject it to the UNHCR, which handles all other refugees worldwide, has failed as well. This is largely because the Arab countries believe that such a change would make it impossible to pass on refugee status to the descendants of Palestinian refugees and thus weaken the Palestinian position in negotiations.

The social and political shockwaves in the Middle East since 2011 make it imperative to reexamine the refugee issue. First, the expanding numbers of refugees from the Middle East and Africa challenge the uniqueness of the Palestinian situation. Today there are some 60 million displaced people, including 17 million refugees, half of them under the age of 18. These refugees are the responsibility of the UNHCR (High Commissioner for Refugees), and some make their way to Europe. Their movement has enormous economic, security, political, and national consequences for most of the countries of the continent.

Salon: Netanyahu the ‘Most Dangerous Man in the Middle East’

Yes you read that correctly: according to Salon, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is “the most dangerous man in the Middle East.”

But lest you think that this headline is simply click-bait, the author of the piece, Patrick Lawrence actually believes it.

With the Israeli police report recommending criminal charges against the prime minister, issued last Tuesday, the most dangerous man in the Middle East, as I have long called Bibi, may finally be forced from office.

Let’s get some perspective. There are plenty of dangerous men in the Middle East but labeling the leader of the region’s only functioning democracy is simply laughable particularly when one considers some alternative candidates.

For example, Bashar al-Assad, responsible for gassing and bombing his own people, costing the lives of hundreds of thousands in the Syrian conflict.

What about the Iranians? Take your pick from Ayatollah Khamenei at the top, oppressing ordinary Iranians protesting for freedom, to Major General Qasem Soleimani, the senior member of the Revolutionary Guards responsible for coordinating Iranian proxies, both on the ground in Syria and further afield with the promotion of terrorism across the Middle East and beyond.

And don’t forget Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, the terrorist organization armed to the teeth and in possession of thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilian targets.

PMW: Palestinian UN diplomat caught on tape glorifying children’s rock throwing

A recording surfaced last week of a Palestinian diplomat, Abdallah Abushawesh, member of the Palestinian Authority delegation to the UN, telling a group of students from Canada: “We are very clever and very expert at throwing the stones,” as well as: “We are very proud that we are stone throwers. I’m one of them.” Following is a transcript of the recording:

“We are very clever and very expert at throwing the stones. We are very proud to do that. We will not stop to learn our kids. We are very proud to say that every catching a Palestinian throwing a stone we go to the jail. We are very proud that we are stone throwers. I’m one of them. Now I became a little bit older, but I still resist in the name of my kids.”

[Ynet, Feb. 13, 2018]

It does not come as a surprise that a Palestinian UN diplomat openly praises rock throwing. Palestinian Media Watch has documented that the PA and Fatah openly encourage rock throwing. For example, a poem in a Palestinian youth magazine partially funded by the PA teaches children that throwing rocks at Jews is something mandated by Muhammad, Islam’s Prophet.

Elliott Abrams: How to Ensure the Future of the U.S.-Israel Relationship

The title of Charles Freilich’s essay in Mosaic, “Has Israel Grown Too Dependent on the United States?,” raises a very important question to which Freilich offers a number of answers and recommendations. Before considering his overall approach, I would like to take exception to three separate points he makes in passing.

First: Freilich claims that in 2005, “it was the American position that led to [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon’s decision to withdraw from Gaza in its entirety, to dismantle all of the Israeli settlements there, and [also]to remove four settlements in the West Bank.” He’s not alone in this claim; it has been widely argued that Washington bent Sharon’s arm to force him to move out of Gaza. But the claim is false. I was closely involved in these matters while working in the George W. Bush White House, and I believe Freilich is correct only as to the last point: the removal of the four settlements in the West Bank.

As for the major decision—namely, to withdraw and remove Israeli settlements from Gaza—that was not the result of White House pressure. It was Sharon’s own decision, and it came as a surprise to us. We did counsel him to cut cleanly if he was cutting at all, on the ground that half-measures would reap neither political nor military benefit; he and many other Israeli generals agreed. And we also urged him to make some simultaneous move, however small, in the West Bank. The four removed settlements were, in fact, tiny.

Second: Freilich describes the 2006 war in Lebanon as “the first military confrontation . . . in which Israel did not face limits on the time it had to achieve its military objectives before the great powers would intervene to end the fighting.” Not so. In fact, Israel was subjected to heavy American pressure, brought to bear by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to bring the fighting to an end. When the United States began to negotiate the terms of the UN Security Council resolution ending the war, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was still asking for more time to achieve Israel’s objectives.

Instead of Another Failed Peace Process, Washington Should Focus on Palestinian Reform

The Trump administration has stated its intention to restart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Ghaith al-Omari, testifying before the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, argues that the time is anything but ripe for such a sweeping initiative. Instead, he urges the U.S. to focus on more immediate and achievable goals, such as making the Palestinian Authority (PA) less corrupt and more democratic:

Although a U.S.-brokered plan to prompt negotiations and bridge differences ultimately has value, in practice any plan presented in the short term is likely to fail due to the domestic politics of both Israel and the PA. Prime Minister Netanyahu presides over a coalition that gives him an extremely narrow margin in which to maneuver. . . . On the Palestinian side, Abbas’s margin for maneuvering is also extremely limited. Failure of the peace process, corruption, and poor governance combined have severely eroded the PA’s legitimacy among its public. . . . Add to that the split between the West Bank and Gaza, and the hardening of positions in the wake of the Jerusalem decision, [and the result is that] Abbas currently lacks the political credit needed to be able to engage with a peace plan that requires significant compromise. . . .

Among both the Palestinian and Israeli publics, belief in peace is eroding, and another failed peace initiative will only solidify such skepticism. Among the Palestinians, given the tension and volatility on the ground and the weakness of the PA, another failed peace initiative could lead to an array of concrete negative results ranging from a sharp deterioration in the security situation to a potential collapse of the PA. Needless to say, severe disruption on the ground is not in the interest of the Palestinians, Israel, the region, or the United States. . . .

[Above all], the United States should refocus on promoting Palestinian reform. Besides the desirability, in its own right, of creating clean, effective governance in the PA, the widespread perception of corruption in the PA and general dissatisfaction with its performance has implications for the peace process. It erodes the legitimacy of Palestinian leaders, reducing their ability to reengage in negotiations, let alone make the necessary compromises for peace.

Qatar Courts American Jews While Surreptitiously Infiltrating Pro-Israel Advocacy Groups

In November and December, a number of prominent American Jewish figures traveled to Qatar—including Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the head of the Zionist Organization of America Morton Klein, and the lawyer Alan Dershowitz. The visits seemed part of a charm offensive by Doha to win sympathy in the American Jewish community. On February 2, however, Al Jazeera—which is owned and operated by the emirate—sent letters to several pro-Israel groups in the U.S. letting them know that one of the network’s agents had infiltrated their organizations under false pretenses and secretly recorded conversations that will form the basis of a soon-to-be-released documentary. Armin Rosen tries to make sense of the coincidence of these two efforts:

Over a year ago, news broke that the universe of pro-Israel advocacy groups in Washington had been infiltrated by an undercover activist—who is almost certainly Tony Kleinfeld, a twenty-five-year-old British citizen, Oxford graduate, and Palestine-solidarity advocate. . . . [D]uring the summer and early autumn of 2016, Kleinfeld constructed a false pro-Israel persona, presented himself under a modified version of his first name, and enrolled in Georgetown University’s summer school with the hidden purpose of insinuating himself in pro-Israel groups in Washington. . . .

So, what did Kleinfeld actually find? According to the letters [from Al Jazeera], an operative with the network recorded a young, low-level AIPAC development staffer discussing “under-the-table” relations between Israel and the Arab Gulf states during an event the group held in Florida. . . . If Al Jazeera is sitting on [evidence of some violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act] or some other bombshell about the inner workings of pro-Israel organizations, it wasn’t in evidence. . . . What’s [most] striking about Kleinfeld’s efforts isn’t that he uncovered evidence of serious wrongdoing. Instead, after spending considerable resources and man-hours, . . . Al Jazeera may have documented nothing more wicked than Americans participating in their political system in normative (even, one might say, boring and uninspired) ways.

Because of the . . . . close connections between Al Jazeera and the regime, the extensive resources needed to carry out the undercover sting, and Kleinfeld’s alleged misrepresentation of both his identity and his reasons for being in the United States, many of the letters’ recipients now perceive themselves as victims of state-sponsored espionage. . . .

Abbas to UN Security Council: ‘International community must hold Mideast peace conference’

Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community Tuesday to hold a Middle East peace conference as an alternative to a US-led renewal of final status talks between Israel and the PA.

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council, the 82-year-old PA leader appeared to abandon the traditional bilateral formula for final status talks, saying that a “multilateral international” approach was necessary to restart peace talks.

“To solve the Palestine question, it is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference,” Abbas said at the UN Security Council.

The PA chief also accused Israel of abandoning the two-state solution.

“Israel has closed the door on the two-state solution and is harming it.”

“Netanyahu avoided the Moscow Summit, and the government foiled the efforts of [former] US Secretary of State John Kerry. We never refused peace talks.”

Abbas to tell UN: The goal is Jerusalem

PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina revealed details of the expected speech by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday.

In a conversation with reporters in Ramallah, Abu Rudeina said that Abbas’ speech would focus on the city of “Al-Quds” (Jerusalem) and on the “Palestinian basic principles” from which there would be no withdrawal.

“A new phase has begun in the struggle to preserve the overall goal of our Palestinian people, the Arab nation and the world as a whole, and this is the issue of Al-Quds, with its holy sites to Islam and Christianity, its heritage and history, which some are trying to counterfeit by contradicting all international laws which have always established that Al-Quds is Palestinian and Arab,” Abu Rudeina said.

According to him, Abbas’ speech will serve as a message to the entire world that “Justice, peace and the Land are the only way to create a secure and stable Middle East and a prosperous world free of all expressions of terrorism.”

Israel needs Trump to contain Iran. He’s off to a good start.

The latest episode of Iran flexing its regional hegemonic muscles in the Middle East came with a direct and unprecedented military challenge to Israel. Last week, Iran used a technologically advanced drone to penetrate Israel’s airspace.

Israel took the drone down, and proceeded to strike Iranian and Syrian military targets deep in Syria, demonstrating Israel’s willingness to respond quickly and decisively.

The core issue is Iran’s ongoing presence in Syria: Its goal is to assert itself there, and to call the shots, including vis-a-vis Israel.

Iran strives to establish permanent Shiite militias in Syria that will fulfill its hegemonic designs for the Middle East, similar to the role played by its proxy, Hizbullah, in Lebanon.

Russia and the U.S. have a strong interest in denying Iran freedom of action for military moves in Syria that go beyond the bounds of the civil war, and they are the main parties that should be working to ensure Iranian restraint, and its ultimate departure from Syria.

Pence to headline AIPAC conference in March

US Vice President Mike Pence has been confirmed as the keynote speaker for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual policy conference.

Pence’s participation was confirmed on Monday. Last week, AIPAC announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would speak in person — as opposed to satellite link, as in some previous years — at the March 4 – 6 policy conference in Washington. Also scheduled to speak is Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Pence is the highest ranking Trump administration official to address the conference, which he also addressed last year.

Pence visited Israel in January as part of a five-day visit to the region that included stops in Egypt and Jordan. He spoke at the Knesset and visited the Western Wall.

Perspectives on i24: Daniel Pomerantz talks UNRWA Jan 31 2018

Narendra Modi’s Visit to Ramallah

During his discussions with Modi, Abbas acknowledged that India has always supported peace in “Palestine.” For his part, Modi “reassured President Abbas that India is committed to upholding the interests of the Palestinian people. India hopes for an early realization of a sovereign, independent state of Palestine.” But significantly, Modi did not mention a “united” Palestine. He also omitted any mention of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. When Abbas visited New Delhi in May last year, Modi used different language, and said, “We hope to see the realization of a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestine.”

While a “sovereign and independent” Palestine remains India’s position, the notion of a “united” Palestine has been held hostage to internal differences within the Palestinian leadership. By dropping any mention of a “united” Palestine, Modi seems to have responded to the facts on the ground. This change will be favorably noticed in Jerusalem.

To sum up, Modi’s Ramallah visit reveals India’s pragmatic approach towards Israel and the Palestinians. Modi now deals with them separately, thereby discarding the remnants of India’s commitment to utopian notions of pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism, which no longer shape the politics of the Middle East. While emphasizing “de-hyphenation” and the consequent scaling up of ties with Israel, the Modi government is also keen to dispel the perception that India has dumped the Palestinian cause.

Jordan, Turkey reiterate commitment to 2-state solution

Jordan and Turkey on Monday reiterated support and commitment to the two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

At a joint press conference in Amman, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Palestinian issue tops the regional issues and that the realization of the two-state solution that leads to the creation of an independent Palestinian state was key for attaining Mideast peace.

Safadi said Jordan and Turkey see eye to eye on Jerusalem and that the two countries consider the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as null and void.

On Syria, Safadi said the two sides agree on the need for a political solution to solve the crisis and allow for the return of Syrian refugees to their country.

The Turkish minister stressed support to Jordan and its regional role, adding that Turkey supports Jordan’s historic role as the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

On Syria, the Turkish minister said Turkey has no hidden agendas when it comes to Syria and that Turkey wants peace.

Soldier injured in Highway 6 car accident dies

Sgt. Shiloh Siman Tov, 23, an IDF soldier from the elite commando Sayeret Golani unit seriously injured in a vehicular accident last Tuesday on Highway 6 heading south near the Nitzanei Oz junction in the vicinity of Netanya, has died of his injuries.

In the accident, two IDF soldiers, Staff Sergeant Bar Yakubian and Sgt. Eshto Tepso were killed, and 10 other soldiers were injured, among them the soldier who died today, with others injured moderately and lightly.

The accident occurred when a truck collided with three vehicles. Police detained the truck driver for questioning.

The head of the Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strik, announced that he had established a team of experts headed by Colonel Yair Natans to examine the circumstances of the incident.

At the same time, an investigation was opened by military police into the circumstances of the accident.

Netanyahu puts Gaza terror groups on notice after bomb attack

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said Israel will not accept any violation of its sovereignty by terror groups in the Gaza Strip, following a weekend bomb attack along the border on an IDF patrol and an uptick in rocket fire on southern Israel.

“Every act of aggression by terrorist elements will be met met with a firm and powerful response from our side,” Netanyahu said at a dedication ceremony for a new emergency room in a reinforced building at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center.

“We are reinforcing the hospital because it is our basic obligation to guarantee the safety of our citizens,” Netanyahu said. “That is the primary obligation of any government. But defensive actions do not make offensive actions… unnecessary.”

Four IDF soldiers were injured on Saturday when the improvised explosive device, disguised as a flag, detonated as they were removing it from the Gaza security fence near the city of Khan Younis. It had apparently been placed there during a recent violent demonstration.

In response to that attack, and to a rocket fired from Gaza that hit a home in southern Israel late Saturday night, the IDF conducted a large series of strikes against targets in the Strip, including on an tunnel near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in the Knesset on Monday.

Palestinians slam Facebook for removing pages glorifying attacks on Israelis

Palestinian activists and journalists on Monday launched a campaign to protest against Facebook after the social media giant removed dozens of pages in recent weeks, saying they incited and glorified terrorism.

“Facebook is waging war on the Palestinians,” the activists and journalists complained in a statement as they launched a Twitter hashtag entitled “#FBfightsPalestine” to protest the Facebook measures.

According to the Palestinians, the Facebook crackdown intensified after the killing of Ahmed Jarrar, the Hamas terrorist who was part of a cell that killed Rabbi Raziel Shevach in the northern West Bank last month.

Israeli security forces killed Jarrar in a shootout on February 6 in the village of al Yamoun, near Jenin.

Since then, the Palestinians said, Facebook has temporarily suspended or permanently removed more than 50 private and public pages and posts, most of which were dedicated to glorifying Jarrar. One of the deleted pages belonged to the Jarrar clan in Jenin.

During 2017, Facebook took action against 200 Palestinian accounts, the statement said. The measures also included the removal of posts and photos deemed inflammatory and supportive of terrorism.

Earlier this week, Facebook removed the Hamas-affiliated “” page, which had more than 180,000 likes.

Abbas refuses reconciliation until Hamas cedes control of Gaza — PA ex-minister

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed not to lift the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip last year and until Hamas completely cedes control over the coastal enclave, including over its weapons, a former PA minister revealed on Thursday.

Frieh Abu Medien, a former PA minister of justice from the Gaza Strip, said Abbas made his remarks during a meeting he held with him recently.

“I had a chance to meet with President Abbas for the first time in many years to explore the possibility of ending the division (between the West Bank and Gaza Strip),” Abu Medien wrote in an article published in the London-based Rai al-Youm online newspaper.

“It was a frank and clear dialogue,” said Abu Medien referring to the ongoing dispute between Hamas and Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction. Hamas took over Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah in a bloody uprising in 2007. Several attempts to reconcile between the parties have failed and the current attempt has passed a deadline with no action.

“Abbas had the feeling that a storm was brewing,” Abu Medien said.

“He told me: ‘You are from the Gaza Strip and Hamas needs to understand that if it wants reconciliation, it must completely relinquish its rule over the Gaza Strip and allow the Palestinian government to govern and control.’”

The former PA minister quoted Abbas as saying that Hamas should permit the Palestinian government to “control everything, including money and weapons.”

State-building vs. Violent Resistance

Palestinians Angered over Ban Imposed on Launch of Women’s TV Channel by Hamas

Hamas, the Islamist terror group which is in complete political and military control of the Gaza Strip, on Sunday banned the launching of a new television station specializing in Palestinian women’s affairs, the BBC reported.

The new station, designed to “shed light on Palestinian women as an integral part of the social fabric, and the role of women in building society,” was due to air for the first time Sunday night with a special opening ceremony.

However, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Information said Taif TV had not obtained the necessary licenses from the relevant authorities. “The management of the channel was asked to settle their legal status, to obtain licenses to start work and were notified of another licensed media organization of the same name,” the ministry said.

The channel denied the charge and said it had met all the legal obligations. In a statement, the management observed that the channel was part of a program belonging to the Haifa Institute for Media and Communication, which already obtained a license from the Hamas ministry.

“Therefore, they are legal to do their media production work and use social media platforms,” it said in a statement. “That does not violate Palestinian law and is part of the basics of free media activity.”

Gazans denounce visit by Qatari envoy

Palestinians on Monday protested against Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi during his visit to the Gaza Strip.

The crowd closed in on the Qatari envoy as the envoy concluded a press conference at the Dar Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, where he announced that Doha would donate $9 million in aid to address fuel and medicine shortages in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Emadi was whisked away in his vehicle under Hamas police escort. No one was injured during the protests.

Angry crowds heckled the Qatar emissary criticizing his country and its empty promises and expressed disappointment with the envoy because he refused to address their plight during his statements.

Al-Emadi told the striking workers, most of them hospital staff, that the Palestinian Authority was the only party authorized to discuss the issue of their unpaid salaries.

Other Palestinians tore off the aid banners carrying the photo of the amir of Qatar as well as bringing down the Qatari flag.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Palestinians Threaten Protests Over Having Protests Ignored

Cumulative frustration at seeing their demonstrations and violence exert minimal effect on regional and global affairs, Palestinians have declared they will hold demonstrations and engage in violence to remedy the situation.

Decades of having their cause headline every major gathering of Arab officials led to an assumption by Palestinian leaders that opposition to Israel remained the top priority for the region, and resulting in confusion when recent developments all but removed Palestine from the policy agenda in the Arab world. Whereas Palestinian protests and terrorism once commanded attention in the international arena, the same phenomena now get overshadowed by developments in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Europe, and elsewhere. However, Palestinians have yet to develop techniques for expressing their displeasure that do not fall into the category of violent demonstrations or terrorism, leaving them few options for behaviors that might attract the attention they crave. That injustice has prompted many Palestinians to threaten violence and call for protests unless the international community again focuses on their violence and protests.

“Palestine represents the ultimate cause,” argued Saeb Erekat, a Fatah official. “If the world will not give due attention to the demonstrations of our displeasure and our acts of resistance, we will be forced to engage in demonstrations of our displeasure and acts of resistance. That way, the Zionist-controlled media will perhaps acknowledge the justice and central status of our aspirations.”

Nasrallah’s dilemma

Hezbollah was founded by Iran in Lebanon in 1982, as its proxy in the war against Israel. Iran has spent billions of dollars to prepare Hezbollah for its role as the first line of defense against any threat to Iranian interests in the region, as well as on “exporting” the Islamic revolution outside its own borders.

But for years, Nasrallah and his predecessor, Abbas al-Musawi, tried to blur the fact that they were receiving orders from Tehran and presented themselves as Lebanese patriots, concerned only with what is best for Lebanon.

This is where Nasrallah’s dilemma ostensibly lies: He knows that involving Hezbollah in any future conflict between Iran and Israel will have devastating results not only for his organization but for Lebanon as well. Sitting on the fence will serve him best, but that is not really an option for him. Nasrallah’s religious loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran supersedes any loyalty to Lebanon, no matter how heavy the price it exacts.

The events of recent years are a good example for that. Hezbollah stepped into the Syrian civil war over Khamenei’s desire to save the regime of his longtime ally, President Bashar Assad. As a result, Assad was spared, but Hezbollah, the “spearhead of the revolution,” paid twice the price of its Iranian patrons: Some 1,200 to 1,800 Hezbollah operatives were killed in the Syrian civil war, including at least 75 senior commanders, compared to 535 Iranian fighters.

This appears to be the main reason why Nasrallah has so far refrained from weighing in on a potential clash between Iran and Israel. This is also why Sarraf is worried: He understands that Hezbollah would be unable to defend Lebanon, let alone its army, which at best allows Hezbollah a free hand in southern Lebanon, and at worse is colluding with the Shiite terrorist group.

UN chief warns against ‘nightmare’ of Israel-Hezbollah clash

Lebanon’s army will use every available means to confront any potential “Israeli aggression” no matter the cost, the military’s commander said on Monday.

“I affirm again our categorical rejection of the Israeli enemy infringing on Lebanon’s sovereignty and its sacred right to exploit all its economic resources,” the Lebanese army quoted Gen. Joseph Aoun as saying on Twitter. “The army will not spare any method available to confront any Israeli aggression, whatever the cost.”

U.S. diplomats have mediated recently between the two countries after a surge in tensions over a border wall which Israel is building and over Lebanon’s decision to explore possible offshore energy reserves near disputed waters.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said Monday he was worried about the possibility of a direct confrontation between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group.

Hezbollah said last week it could act against Israeli oil facilities if necessary in a Lebanon-Israel offshore energy dispute.

Amid Heightened Tensions, Lebanese Army Chief Vows to Confront Any Potential ‘Israeli Aggression’

Lebanon’s army will use use every available means to confront any potential “Israeli aggression” no matter the cost, its commander said on Monday.

“I affirm again our categorical rejection of the Israeli enemy infringing on Lebanon’s sovereignty and its sacred right to exploit all its economic resources,” the Lebanese army quoted General Joseph Aoun as saying on Twitter. “The army will not spare any method available to confront anyIsraeli aggression, whatever that costs.”

US diplomats have mediated recently between the two countries after a surge in tensions over a border wall which Israel is building and over Lebanon’s decision to explore for offshore energy near disputed waters.

Amb. Nikki Haley: The UN’s Uncomfortable Truths about Iran

Last week, the United Nations published a report with news a lot of people don’t want to hear. A panel of experts found that Iran is violating a United Nations weapons embargo — specifically, that missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.

The mullahs in Iran don’t want to hear this news, because it proves Iran is violating its international agreement. Die-hard defenders of the Iran nuclear deal don’t want to hear it because it proves, once again, that the Iranian regime can’t be trusted. And some members of the United Nations don’t want to hear it because it is further proof that Iran is defying Security Council resolutions, and the pressure will be on the U.N. to do something about it.

Yemen is the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis today. After three years of brutal civil war, 75 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The government has virtually ceased to exist. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are exploiting that lawlessness to pursue their barbaric agendas.

The U.N. report reveals much more than just the Iranian sanctions violation. It charges the anti-government Houthi rebels with not only launching ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia but also using the people of Yemen as human shields and kidnapping Yemeni children to fight in the war.

‘We will level Tel Aviv to the ground’ senior Iranian official warns Israel

Any attacks carried out against Iran will result in the destruction of Tel Aviv, Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, warned Israel on Monday, according to the Fars News Agency.

Quoted by Iran’s semi-official government news site, Rezaei, in response to Netanyahu’s comments at the Munich Security Conference, asserted that “If they [Israel] carry out the slightest unwise move against Iran, we will level Tel Aviv to the ground and will not give any opportunity to Netanyahu to flee.”

“The US and Israeli leaders don’t know Iran and don’t understand the power of resistance and therefore, they continuously face defeat,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar News.

“Today, the situation of the US and Israel indicate their fear of the Zionist regime’s collapse and the US decline,” he added in the interview.

Iran insists it has ‘no military bases in Syria’

Zarif said that while Iran does send military advisers to Syria, it has not deployed Iranian soldiers for combat there.

His statement contradicts Israeli political and military assessments that Tehran, which has shored up President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, has been working to create air and naval bases in Syria from which it can arm the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah and other Shiite groups, as well as carry out attacks of its own against the Jewish state.

In November, Israeli satellite photos appeared to strengthen a BBC report that Iran was building a permanent military base in Syria, just 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Israel’s northern border.

The ImageSat International pictures, published by Hadashot News, showed that renovations and alterations had been recently undertaken at the site at al-Kiswah, some 13 kilometers (8 miles) south of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

Earlier in February, an Iranian drone piloted by an Iranian operator entered northern Israeli airspace near the Jordanian border, prompting a series of Israeli airstrikes including, for the first time, against Iranian military sites inside Syria, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Iran has 10 military bases in Syria, two near Israel border — analyst

Iran operates 10 military bases in Syria and is training militias loyal to President Bashar Assad’s regime for a possible battle with Israel, with two key facilities located near the border with Israel, an analyst for an American think tank said in an article published Monday.

Up to 20,000 fighters from various militias throughout the war-torn country have been trained by Iranian military personnel, giving Tehran its “true muscle” in Syria, according to the Monday report in The New York Times.

Israel has been warning for years that Iran is seeking to entrench itself militarily in Syria. According to Israeli political and military assessments, Tehran, which has shored up Assad in the Syrian civil war, has been working to create air and naval bases in Syria, from which it can arm the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah and other Shiite groups, as well as carry out attacks of its own against the Jewish state.

In November, Israeli satellite photos appeared to strengthen a BBC report that Iran was building a permanent military base in Syria, just 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Israel’s northern border.

The ImageSat International pictures, published by Hadashot News, showed that renovations and alterations had been recently undertaken at the site at al-Kiswah, some 13 kilometers (8 miles) south of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

Iran slams Sweden for naturalizing ‘Mossad spy’ sentenced to death

Iran has formally criticized Sweden over its decision to grant nationality to an Iranian professor sentenced to death on charges of spying for Israel, the country’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Sweden granted citizenship last week to Ahmadreza Djalali, a Stockholm-based specialist in emergency medicine.

He was arrested during a brief visit to Iran in April 2016 and found guilty in October of passing information about two Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency that led to their assassinations.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the decision to grant a convict citizenship was “very strange, unprincipled and questionable” and that the Swedish ambassador was summoned on Monday.

“Iran’s strong protest was conveyed to the Swedish ambassador with regards to the move by the Swedish government to grant nationality to a person who has confessed to spying for Mossad and the Zionist regime and participating in killing Iranian scientists,” Ghasemi said in a statement on the ministry website.

Snubbed by EU, Israeli cartoons slamming Iran to be displayed in Brussels

An Israeli exhibition of cartoons criticizing human rights conditions in Iran will be displayed next to the European Parliament in Brussels starting Wednesday, after the parliament refused to display them inside the building.

The exhibition, initiated by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and The Israeli Cartoon Project (TICP), is an Israeli response to an annual anti-Israel cartoon contest in Iran often slammed as anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying.

Along with Yesh Atid party leader MK Yair Lapid, the organizations requested 10 months ago that the exhibition be featured at the European Parliament, but received a negative answer several days ago, the Ynet news site reported Tuesday.

The parliament explained its decision by saying that “the exhibition is too controversial,” after which the organizations decided to display it in an adjacent building.

Some 20 drawings by leading Israeli caricaturists will be featured in the display, with the goal of raising the issue of Iran’s human rights violations and Holocaust denial with European Union members, according to a statement by AJC and TICP.

The cartoons vary in content from Tehran’s stifling of freedom of expression and arrest of opposition figures, to the regime’s public assassinations and persecution of women, minorities and LGBT people, among others.

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