January 21, 2021

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04/05 Links P1: New Reports: 80% of Gaza Casualties are Terrorists; Hamas reveals payouts to injured protesters; Jewish visitation to Temple Mount during Passover nearly doubles from 2017


From Ian:

Eli Lake: Palestinian Casualties Are No Accident for Hamas
Leave it to Hamas to make nonviolence violent.

This is what happened over the weekend as thousands of Gazans swarmed the Israeli border crossing on what they called a “march of return.” It’s not just that the Israeli Defense Force claims to have video showing peaceful marchers interspersed with militants wielding Molotov cocktails and burning tires. The organizers of this civil disobedience, Hamas, are themselves devoted to bloodshed.

As the Qassem Brigades helpfully announced on Sunday, five of the 16 marchers killed during the march were members of this Hamas militia — which shares a name with the short-range rockets its members launch at Israeli towns and cities. You may remember them. In 2014, their kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers sparked the last major war between Israel and Hamas.

In case the point was missed this time around, the statement from the Brigades promises: “The blood of the pure martyrs will not go to waste. The enemy will pay a price at a time and place and in a way that the resistance decides.”

None of this is to say that Gazans do not have legitimate grievances. They face a triple blockade from Israel to its north, Egypt to its south and the Palestinian Authority, that last year sought to choke off the strip from the electric grid in Israel. The fact that at least 16 Palestinians were killed in the march compounds this suffering.

And that suffering demands attention from people of conscience. But this attention should not treat the arsonist like the fire victim. The arsonist is the march’s organizer, Hamas. For this group, any Palestinian casualties in the march were a feature and not a bug. Like its tactics in previous Gaza wars, where it launched rockets from apartment buildings and schools, Hamas seeks Palestinian casualties to earn legitimacy for its armed struggle.

Honest Reporting: Exposed: More Palestinian ‘Victims’ Identified as Terror Org Members

Total of 15 persons with actual military identification. Another 4 whose connection to military activity has not been proven.

Note: Failure to find any connection publicly in the Palestinian media does not mean that they are not military activists.

Another important factor to consider when examining the identity of the dead and their affiliation is the fact that out of the 19 killed, it is possible to clearly identify 15 military activists, i.e. around 80% of those killed at a minimum.

The entire Gaza Strip has fewer than 70,000 military operatives, including from all the various organizations. Gaza has a population of 2 million today. That is, the percentage of military activists out of the total population is lower than 3.5%.

Thus, the dry facts show that although the share of military activists in the population is only 3.5%, in practice, 80% of those killed are military activists. That is 23 times the rate of their percentage in the population. This high rate among those killed is even more amazing given the fact that they were dressed in civilian clothes and could not be identified in advance as military activists.

New Reports: 80% of Gaza Casualties are Terrorists

Ahead of fresh standoff, Hamas reveals payouts to injured protesters

Hamas has distributed payments to Palestinians injured in protests in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel and to the families of those killed, according to a report on the Islamist movement’s official website.

Palestinians critically and moderately wounded in the protests respectively received $500 and $200, while families of Palestinians killed were given $3000, Hamas spokesman Hazim Qassim is quoted as saying.

Since the start of the six week-long, Hamas-backed protests in the border region last Friday, which has been dubbed the “The Great March of Return,” the IDF has killed 21 Gazans, including 12 individuals whom Israeli authorities identified as militants.

The IDF has described the protests as “violent riots,” asserting that many protesters have thrown Molotov cocktails and rocks at its soldiers, opened fire on them, attempted to infiltrate Israel’s borders and set tires on fire. Videos shared on Facebook and Twitter appear to show some protesters participating in violent actions, while several others did not.

However, several human rights organizations have said that the IDF has targeted “unarmed civilians.” Adalah — the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said in a statement last Friday that Israel opened fire on “unarmed civilians” and violated international legal obligations to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Videos shared on Twitter and Facebook appear to show Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinians who do not seem to present any imminent threat to their lives.

Qassim said the payments were made as a part of Hamas’s “social and national responsibility to strengthen the steadfastness of our people in its struggle for return, freedom and breaking the siege.”

UN agency singles out Israel for harming Palestinian economy

A United Nations agency accused Israel on Wednesday of impeding Palestinian economic development amid a half-century of military rule over the West Bank and a decade-long joint Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development published a report that tries to estimate the cost of Israeli military rule on Palestinian industries such as agriculture, fisheries, quarry mining, tourism and manufacturing.

“Ample evidence has accumulated to show that occupation has resulted in the destruction of Palestinian productive assets and the appropriation of land and natural resources,” the report states, mentioning Israel’s natural gas projects off Gaza’s coast and its use of the West Bank water aquifer.

The UNCTD says that the division of the West Bank into Area A, B and C – with Israeli control over Area C, comprising 60% of the territory – prevents the Palestinians from developing that land. That imposes a projected cost on the Palestinian economy of about 35% of its GDP and close to $1 billion in lost tax revenue.

Yet it is unclear how the numbers are tabulated, with macroeconomic projections not necessarily offering black and white conclusions.

“The report is an exercise in complete speculation and a non-scientific ‘what-if’ logic,” said Northwestern University law Prof. Eugene Kontorovich.

Caroline Glick: Our fair weathered Saudi friend

The problem is that Muhammad’s regime is built on shaky foundations. Muhammad instigated a blood feud with powerful forces within his family when he carried out a string of arrests last year. Among those arrested were several prominent princes.

Rhode explains that the Saudi ruling clan divvied up the organs of government among branches of the family. For instance, one branch controls the Defense Ministry, another controls the Education Ministry, and so on down the line.

“In the Islamic world, humiliation is worse than death,” Rhode notes.

“When Muhammad arrested the other princes, he humiliated them,” Rhode says.

“And they will never forgive him. They will wait for the day they can exact revenge for their humiliation even if it only comes when their great-grandchildren have succeeded them.”

Under these conditions, there is a significant danger that Muhammad will sabotaged by forces within his own extended family. Israel must take this danger into consideration with every step it takes in Muhammad’s direction. Even if Muhammad acts in good faith, there is reason to suspect those around him will use his cooperation with Israel to harm him – and Israel.

Does this man that Israel should keep Muhammad at arm’s length? Of course it doesn’t. But it does mean that Israel mustn’t assume that since he holds absolute power, his power is unchallenged.

As to the great promise Muhammad embodies (or doesn’t embody), here the situation is cut and dry.

Prince Muhammad is obviously a partner in everything relating to fighting Iran and the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas. But given the tactical nature of his commitment to Israel, and the absence of any indication that he intends to reform Islam in any significant way, Israel has no interest in making any concessions to him in exchange for its relations with him. The Saudis will not take their tactical alliance with Israel out of the (admittedly see-through, proverbial) closet.

For now, we have a Saudi ally in the young crown prince. So long as no one in Israel loses his head, and no one in Saudi Arabia exploits the alliance to chop off Muhammad’s head, we will be able to work together to achieve common goals. That is a glad tiding, even if it doesn’t include signing ceremonies with doves and balloons.

Caroline Glick: Israel Turns the Corner on Protecting Its Sovereignty

This, then brings us to the fourth partner in the coalition against Israeli sovereignty: the EU.

According to Im Tirtzu, the governments of Europe and the EU have donated $16.2 million to the Israeli NGOs that ran the campaign against deporting the illegal aliens. And according to Netanyahu, the EU played a central role in forcing Rwanda to renege on its agreement to accept the deportees.

Working together, over the past three years, the four sides of the anti-Israeli sovereignty coalition overturned all three laws the Knesset had passed mandating the expulsion of the illegal migrants, and they ran a worldwide campaign to demonize Israel for its efforts to deport them.

But this week, the Rubicon was crossed. The public outcry against the deal was so immediate and so overwhelming that it forced two things to happen.

First, Netanyahu cancelled the deal with the UN. Second, and far more significantly, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon announced he will support a new law that bars the Supreme Court from overturning Knesset legislation on illegal immigration.

Since Netanyahu formed his current government in 2015, Kahlon’s soft-right Kulanu party has blocked every effort to reform the judiciary. His announcement signals that the Court has lost its immunity from Knesset oversight for the first time.

Following Monday’s events, many Israeli commentators have noted that the day’s drama made clear what the critical issue will be in next year’s general elections. The vote will not be about the Palestinians or the economy. The power of the court will be the decisive issue.

And the party that convinces the public it will restore the balance of power between the three branches of government by checking the power of Israel’s Supreme Court will win.

Danny Danon: The Israeli Point of View

To the Editor: “A Test for Israel in Gaza” (editorial, April 4) doesn’t mention, or minimizes, basic facts that led to the situation in Gaza.

First, we withdrew entirely from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, removing every Israeli resident, home, factory and synagogue. We are not responsible for the well-being of the people of Gaza.

In the years after our disengagement, billions of dollars in aid poured into the Gaza Strip. Instead of improving the lives of Palestinians, Hamas, internationally recognized as a terrorist group, misappropriated these funds, using them to build rockets and to dig terror tunnels with the intent of harming Israeli civilians.

Second, the restrictions that exist on Gaza are not the cause of the situation there but rather a result of Hamas’s refusal to renounce violence. This is not Israel’s condition, but rather that put forward by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations as part of the Quartet framework. If there were no terror, there would be no restrictions.

Finally, the fence that was attacked over the last week separates a sovereign, democratic state and a murderous terrorist entity. Our security forces acted judiciously, and a vast majority of those killed were terrorists who have been identified as members of Hamas.

These were not “peaceful protests.” As we warned the Security Council last week, armed terrorists were dispersed among the protesters, and numerous efforts were made to breach the fence. Every critic of Israel must ask himself how he would expect the security forces of his own country to react if terrorists armed with rifles and Molotov cocktails began to march on his country’s border.

Hamas has announced that it will continue to hide behind women and children and will plan further attacks on our sovereignty. It is the peak of hypocrisy for the international community to criticize Israel while ignoring the real factors causing pain and suffering to the innocent people of Gaza.

IDF: Israeli aircraft targets armed Palestinian approaching Gaza fence

An Israeli aircraft targeted an armed Palestinian approaching the Gaza security fence early Thursday morning, the army said, as border tensions persisted after at least 18 Palestinians were reported killed in clashes over the past week.

The Israel Defense Forces said the man was inside the northern Gaza Strip, but was getting close to the border when its aircraft fired at him.

“The IDF will not allow any harm to the security of Israeli civilians and will continue to operate against terrorists who are involved in acts of terror,” the army said in a statement.

Night-vision footage later released by the IDF showed the man holding what appears to be an assault rifle. The army said he was also armed with hand grenades and a suicide belt. These are not visible in the footage.

Armed Palestinian killed in Gaza border airstrike

Health officials in the Gaza Strip say a Palestinian man was killed in an Israeli airstrike near the Gaza-Israel border on Thursday.

The Israeli military said its aircraft targeted an armed terrorist near the security fence in the northern part of the coastal territory. The Gaza Health Ministry confirmed the man’s death but did not immediately release his identity.

“The Israel Defense Forces will not allow Israelis’ security to be compromised and will act against terrorists,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement Thursday.

The incident was the latest in a string of recent Palestinian attempts to breach the border fence between Israel and Gaza and infiltrate Israeli territory. A number of those attempting the breaches in recent weeks have been armed.

Meanwhile, after some 30,000 Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli forces along the border in a Hamas-orchestrated mass march last Friday, Israeli authorities are bracing for another round of clashes this coming Friday.

Hamas has said the border protests will continue every Friday until May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s establishment. Palestinians mourn the date “Nakba” (“Catastrophe”) Day.

UN expresses concern as Israel, Gaza gird for fresh Friday violence

The UN envoy for the Middle East expressed concern Thursday of the “preparations and rhetoric” for the second Palestinian March of Return to be held along the Gaza border Friday, a week after protests morphed into deadly violence.

“Israeli forces should exercise maximum restraint and Palestinians should avoid friction at the Gaza fence,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement Thursday, as both sides girded for what isesxpected to be a repeat of last weekend’s protests.

Last Friday, over 30,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border, in what Israel describes as a riot orchestrated by the Hamas terrorist group, which rules Gaza, and what Palestinians say was supposed to be a peaceful protest.

At least 16 Palestinians were killed and over 1,400 injured by live fire, rubber bullets, and tear gas from the Israeli forces directed at Palestinian rioters, including some who attempted to breach the border fence, according to varying accounts from both sides. Israel claimed terror groups used the demonstrations as a cover to carry out terror activity, and many of those killed were members of the group’s armed wing.

Mladenov called for demonstrations and protests to be “allowed to proceed in a peaceful manner.”

MEMRI: Hamas Supporters Deeply Divided Over Movement’s Links With Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)

On December 11, 2017, Iranian media and media affiliated with the resistance axis reported that Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods (Jerusalem) Force, had spoken on the phone with commanders of the military wings of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, telling them that all the resistance movements in the region were ready to defend Al-Aqsa mosque.[1] Two days later, the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida newspaper, which is known for its anti-Iran positions, reported that in the conversation Soleimani had asked the Hamas and Islamic Jihad military leaders to recruit activists in the West Bank, and had promised to provide the organizations with weapons so that they could launch armed activity against Israel from there. According to the report, Soleimani said that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was giving top priority to this struggle, and that U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel had prepared the ground for the resistance struggle against Israel.[2]

In a December 25, 2017 speech in Gaza, Hamas Gaza political bureau head Yahya Al-Sinwar said that Soleimani had “contacted [Hamas’s ‘Izz Al-Din] Al-Qassam [Brigades] and [Islamic Jihad’s] Al-Quds Brigades” and stressed that “Iran, the IRGC, and [its] Qods Force stand, with all their capabilities, alongside our people, in defense of Jerusalem, and in order to keep Jerusalem the capital of the State of Palestine.” Al-Sinwar added that Soleimani had “said clearly: We place all our capabilities at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem. He did not ask, set conditions, or encourage us to employ any specific type of resistance.”

Israel warns of dire pollution as Gazans amass tires to torch at protest

As Gazans assemble thousands of tires to burn during Friday’s planned protest on the coastal enclave’s border with the Jewish state, Israel’s liaison to the Palestinians penned a letter Wednesday to the head of the World Health Organization calling on him to prevent the “ecological catastrophe.”

“This is a serious environmental issue that will harm the health of the residents and will cause unprecedented air pollution,” wrote Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom.

“I call upon you, as the head of an international organization whose goal is to promote health and protect natural and environmental resources, to do everything in your power to publicly warn against this ecological catastrophe and to protest Hamas’ irresponsible behavior,” he added, referring to the terror group that rules the Gaza Strip and has been supporting the protests.

The hashtag “day of the tire” has been trending on social media and organizers of the demonstrations from various Palestinian factions have called on Gazans to help them collect 10,000 tires.

Key Question to Ask With Latest Palestinian Propaganda Ploy

The palestinians sure work overtime with their propaganda campaigns. One of their latest? Manufacturing keys for “March of Return” protesters (hat tip: Anarcho-Zionist).

Given the protesters are from Gaza, I assume this blacksmith shop is also located there. Which begs the question: how much electricity is being used on this propaganda ploy while Gazans complain of an electricity shortage (and then takes photos of themselves by candle light, in another propaganda ploy)?

Yet that is not the key question which is: If these protesters are really refugees, then why do they need fake keys manufactured? Surely they have the keys to their homes!

Arab League wants international court to probe Gaza protest deaths

The head of the Arab League says his organization wants the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate the deaths of 17 Palestinians during protests near the Gaza Strip-Israel border last weekend.

During an official visit to Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said the Arab League also supports a call by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres for an independent investigation into the deaths. The 17 protesters – including 10 known terrorists – were killed after a mass march on the border turned violent and clashes erupted between demonstrators and Israeli security forces.

Palestinian Ambassador to Egypt Diab al-Louhfor, who also serves as the Palestinian Authority’s permanent representative in the Arab League, said, “We Palestinians are calling for urgent international protection. The Arab League has supported this demand at this meeting. Everyone has followed the Israeli massacre against our people and the … use of excessive force against civilians.”

Aboul-Gheit stressed that Palestinians are demanding their rights “and they will not be forgotten or diminished.”

Canadian Journalists Group Accuses Israel of Committing “Massacres” of Protestors and Media

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) describes itself as a “Canadian organization founded in 1981 that works to defend and protect the right to free expression in Canada and around the world.”

On April 2, CJFE put out an “alert” which expressed “grave concern” and accused Israel of committing “massacres” in Gaza of civilians and journalists during the mass protests/riots along the Gaza border last week. CJFE claimed that the Israel Defense Forces carried out “extrajudicial killings,” “repression,” and that the IDF engaged in “brutality” and committed “targeted attacks” against purportedly innocent demonstrators and journalists.

CJFE’s alert said: “The Government of Canada must condemn the one-sided use of military force against civilian demonstrators and media in Gaza, must immediately call for a cessation of these brutal practices, and must use all available diplomatic, political and economic channels to pressure Israel to initiate a fulsome and transparent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the massacre, which left 15 dead, and more than 1000 wounded.”

CJFE sent copies of this letter to the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada and to the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

On its website, CJFE lists the following past sponsors of its efforts: Scotiabank, CBC, BMO Financial Group, CTV News, Google, TD Bank, the Toronto Star, Sun Life Financial, the Law Society of Upper Canada, etc.

BBC Radio 4 dusts off the ‘expert’ hats and ‘disproportionate’ meme

The impression of events that Justin Webb was trying to communicate to BBC Radio 4 listeners is blatantly obvious. Webb’s portrayal includes only ‘peaceful protesters’ and “kids… running around next to the fence” and his quoted – but unverified – casualty figures are sourced (as has been the case all too often in the past) from a terror organisation that is party to the violence.

Equally unsurprising is the opportunistic dusting off of the ‘disproportionate’ charge and the miraculous but entirely predictable transformation of a breakfast news show presenter into a self-appointed expert on military strategy and the laws of armed combat.

That, after all, is a pattern that has regularly been seen at the BBC in the past when the terror faction that rules the Gaza Strip has initiated violence.

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part one

Coomarasamy ended that five-minute long interview at that point and went on to speak to former IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovich about the day’s events. However, the item closed without listeners being informed that UN GA resolution 194 is non-binding, that it does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) and – contrary to often heard assertions – neither does it grant any unconditional ‘right of return’.

Neither did Coomarasamy bother to clarify to listeners that the vast majority of the people his interviewee termed ‘refugees’ are in fact descendants of refugees condemned to that status by the fact that the UN agency responsible for their care does not have an active program for “local integration” of refugees where they now reside (even if that is under Palestinian rule) nor resettlement in third countries.

Once again we see that while the BBC provides a platform for exactly the type of media coverage that this publicity stunt was intended to garner, it fails to provide its audiences with the background information necessary for full understanding of this latest Hamas campaign to delegitimise Israel.

BBC radio portrayal of the ‘right of return’ – part two

Listeners would of course have benefitted at that point had they been informed that UN GA resolution 194 is a non-binding resolution dating from December 1948 that was opposed at the time by Arab states and which (despite long-standing BBC claims to that effect) does not specifically relate to Palestinian refugees and – contrary to often heard assertions – does not grant any unconditional ‘right of return’.

However Marshall instead provided Yousef with a platform from which to downplay Hamas involvement in the organisation of the ‘Great Return March’ before closing the interview.

Yousef: “But you know most of the people who been actually organise this Great March are youth. They don’t rely on political factions.”

As we have seen in the two examples in this post, the BBC has provided Hamas and some of the publicity stunt’s other organisers with exactly the type of unchallenging media platform that they counted on being given. Concurrently however, the BBC has refrained from providing its audiences with the background information on the Palestinian maximalist demand for the ‘right of return’ that is essential for proper understanding of this latest Hamas agitprop.

US officials: Trump-Netanyahu call grew tense over plans to leave Syria

A phone call Wednesday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump grew tense over Israeli objections to US plans to leave Syria, US administration officials said Wednesday, adding that Trump wants to pull out all troops within six months to the dismay of the country’s main security agencies and allies.

A short statement from the White House early Wednesday said Netanyahu and Trump had discussed “recent developments in the Middle East” during their phone conversation, without clarifying what developments were addressed or what was said.

It said that “President Trump reiterated the commitment of the United States to Israel’s security,” and added that “the two leaders agreed to continue their close coordination on countering Iran’s malign influence and destabilizing activities.”

Netanyahu later tweeted that he “thanked President Trump for his commitment to Israel’s security and America’s support for Israel at the United Nations.”

But two US officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday the talks grew tense because of Israeli concerns that the United States will withdraw from Syria in the near future and allow its enemies — primarily Iran — to gain a further foothold in a neighboring country through its various proxies.

Officials also said Trump is dramatically scaling back the country’s goals in Syria as he pushes for a quick military withdrawal, abandoning plans to stay long-term to stabilize the country and prevent the Islamic State terror group from re-emerging.

Mossad chief ‘100 percent certain’ Iran still seeks nuclear bomb

The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is “100 percent certain” that Iran remains committed to developing a nuclear bomb and believes the international community must change or scrap its nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.

Yossi Cohen, who leads the shadowy spy agency, has been holding discussions about the Iranian nuclear program and delivered his assessment in a recent closed meeting with senior officials, according to a person who attended the meeting.

Cohen called the nuclear deal a “terrible mistake,” saying it allows Iran to keep key elements of its nuclear program intact and will remove other restraints in a few years.

“Then Iran will be able to enrich enough uranium for an arsenal of nuclear bombs,” Cohen said, according to the meeting participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a classified security matter.

Cohen also criticized the decision to lift sanctions on Iran, saying it has resulted in “significantly increased” aggression by Iran, and noted Iran’s continued development of long-range ballistic missiles.

An Emerging Arab-Israeli Thaw

Much credit goes to MbS for moving toward a more public affirmation of the new regional dynamic. It is part of the crown prince’s vision for a more progressive kingdom, with an increasingly western orientation, a more liberal view of women’s rights (such as doing away with the requirement to wear the black, full-body covering abaya) and zero tolerance for teaching or preaching Islamic radicalism. MbS is looking to move Saudi Arabia to a new level of development, and that future will include Israel.

The stakes are important for the United States. The Obama administration’s attempted outreach to Iran was more alienating to Sunni-Arab countries than President Trump’s Jerusalem embassy move. The fatally flawed 2015 nuclear agreement not only emboldened Tehran to expand its regional insurgent network, but it also pushed Arab countries to plan for their own nuclear weapons programs as a means of self-defense. So what was sold as a means of creating nuclear-free stability resulted in increased instability and the potential for regional nuclear proliferation.

In the new model, the United States and Israel provide credible nuclear deterrence while also pushing back on Iran’s military adventurism. The Arab states can focus on building new economic and social models for development while combating extremism at home and facing Iranian-backed insurgencies abroad. The Palestinian issue will persist, but only as a sideshow, until President Abbas or his successor makes substantial moves toward a peace deal. And it may not be long before we see a Saudi embassy in Jerusalem as well.

Ben Shapiro: KUSHNER’S BIG WIN: Saudi Prince Recognizes Israel’s Right To Exist

Saudi Arabia has spent the last 60 years refusing to recognize the existence of the state of Israel. But on Tuesday, all of that changed: new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated openly that Israel had a right to exist, and talked about the possibility of future ties between the two countries. Speaking with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Prince Mohammed explained, “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.” He added, for clarification, “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.” He also admitted, “there are a lot of interests we share with Israel.”

This is the first time in Saudi history that such a statement has been made.

It follows hard on the Saudi decision to allow Air India to fly to Tel Aviv through Saudi airspace, as well as a November meeting between Palestinian Authority dictator Mahmoud Abbas and the Saudi regime that ended with Salman proposing a peace plan that would give Palestinians a state “but only noncontiguous parts of the West Bank and only limited sovereignty over their own territory. The vast majority of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which most of the world considers illegal, would remain. The Palestinians would not be given East Jerusalem as their capital and there would be no right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants,” according to The New York Times.

Clearly a thaw is taking place between Israel and the Saudis. Part of that is undoubtedly their common interest in stopping the rise of the Iranian empire that now stretches from Iran through Syria and to Lebanon, and which could soon encompass Yemen. But part of it is also savvy diplomacy from President Trump’s special advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. According to CNN, Kushner and Salman “have fostered a close relationship for months.” Kushner’s efforts on that front may have helped undercut the possibility of serious Arab violence in the wake of the Trump Administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in Israel. Kushner reportedly brokered that outcome by working around Rex Tillerson’s State Department.

Palestinian terror groups seethe over Saudi crown prince’s pro-Israel comments

Palestinian terror groups on Wednesday accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of paving the way for “normalization” between the Arab countries and Israel.

Salman, in an interview published Monday, recognized Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospect of future diplomatic relations between his kingdom and the Jewish state.

His remarks, which have enraged many Palestinians and Arabs, were made during an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

Asked whether he believes “the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland,” he replied: “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”

The Palestinian Authority chose to ignore Salman’s remarks in an apparent attempt to avoid triggering a crisis between Ramallah and Riyadh.

SPECIAL REPORT: The Letter NIF Affiliates Sent to Rwanda Asking to Kill Israel’s Migrant Deal

The New Israel Fund (NIF) this week denied PM Netanyahu’s accusation that it sent a letter to the Rwandan government asking it to reject a deal to absorb illegal migrants from Israel. We found the letter.

On November 28, 2017, an Israeli website affiliated with the New Israel Fund (NIF) boasted a letter that was sent from “seven leading human rights organizations” to President Kagame of Rwanda, on the eve of his Nov. 28 meeting with PM Netanyahu, asking him to reject “an agreement for the transfer of thousands of African refugees from Israel to Rwanda.” The website, which belongs to the NIF-funded Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), copied and pasted an article that had been run the day before in The Rwandan.

According to NGO Monitor, in 2008-2014, the New Israel Fund (NIF) authorized grants worth $7,518,223 to ACRI.

On Tuesday this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the NIF for torpedoing his government’s deal with Rwanda, saying that the Fund had persuaded the African nation to refuse to take in the African migrants deported from Israel. In a post on his Facebook page, Netanyahu insisted that “the Fund endangers the security and future of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.”

Founded in 1979 and headquartered in New York, the NIF has provided more than $300 million to more than 900 Israeli organizations. Through its Israeli proxy, Shatil, the NIF creates and nurtures coalitions of NGOs, labors to influence Israeli legislation, and holds workshops for staffers of NIF-funded NGOs.

Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s foreign minister on Wednesday denied Netanyahu’s claim about the NIF’s role in getting his country to reject the resettlement deal. He went as far as to declare that he has no idea who the NIF is, and that the whole story was “preposterous.”

Jewish visitation to Temple Mount during Passover nearly doubles from 2017

According to statistics released by Temple Mount activists on Thursday, the number of Jewish visitors to the compound during Passover nearly doubled from last year’s count.

Some 2,593 Jewish worshippers are said to have visited the site during Passover, while 1,373 visited in during Passover of 2017 – a raise of 89%. In a broader perspective, it can be noted that the current figure is almost four times bigger than the number in 2015 when only 650 Jews visited the site.

The Temple Mount compound was open for Jewish visitors only on chol hamoed (days that are not a holiday, or the Sabbath), and on these days, only for four and a half hours.

Another new record was set when 714 Jewish worshippers entered Temple Mount on Wednesday – the highest number of visitors in one day.

The activists have also noted that no arrests were made by police during the holiday. Arrests are common among the worshippers that are forbidden from praying or carrying out any religious activities on the site.

“This indicates the end of a years-long tough policy that posed a fear of a sudden arrest among the visitors,” the statement said. However, 19 visitors were shortly detained after bowing or loudly praying.

This low figure of arrests – in comparison to previous years (four were arrested in 2017 and 40 in 2016) – and the high number of visitors, may point to warming ties between the Israel Police and the Temple Mount activists, complacency on behalf of the police, and the increasing trend in visitation to the site with a concurrent decrease in the stigma in Israeli society of doing so.

Palestinian carrying a knife arrested outside Hebron holy site

Security forces arrested a Palestinian man who tried to enter a holy site in the West Bank city of Hebron with a knife concealed on his person, police said on Thursday.

The suspect was detained by Border Police officers guarding the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a holy site revered by both Jews and Muslims.

He was taken for questioning to determine his motives, the police statement added.

Police also released a photo of the box-cutter.

The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a frequent target for attempted stabbing attacks.

In February, two similar arrests were made within 24 hours after a 23-year-old Palestinian man and a 15-year-old teenager were separately found to be holding knives while attempting to enter the site

In January Border Police officers made similar arrests of a Palestinian man and woman in two separate incidents at the site, after finding knives on their persons.

Explosives hurled at IDF troops guarding Jewish worshipers in Nablus

A Palestinian hurled explosives at Israeli soldiers protecting a crowd of Jewish worshipers in the West Bank city of Nablus overnight Wednesday-Thursday, causing no injuries or damage, the army said.

A thousand Jewish worshipers flocked in the early hours of Thursday to Joseph’s Tomb for Passover prayers under military escort.

In a statement, the military said that before the worshipers entered the site, observations indicated “suspicious activity” in addition to the explosives that were hurled. Soldiers arrested three suspects and found weapons, including rifle magazines, bullets and a knife on a nearby roof.

The worshipers, who included the head of the Shomron Regional Council Yossi Dagan, prayed, sang and danced at Joseph’s Tomb, believed to be the burial site of the biblical figure.

The Shomron Regional Council said in a statement that the new head of the IDF Central Command, Nadav Padan, also came and toured the site.

After the festive prayer was over, Palestinian residents began a “violent riot” at the exit from the city, the army said, adding that troops employed riot control methods to disperse the crowd. Two Palestinians were said to have been injured.

Fatah ‘martyrs’ conference broken up in Jerusalem

Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevi signed an order Thursday forbidding a conference of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party in honor of terrorists.

The conference was to be held in the Issawiya neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem to honor the mothers of shaheeds (martyrs) and those wounded while attacking Israelis.

Following the issuance of the order and the instructions of the district commander, police forces arrived at the scene and prevented the event from being held.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan stated that “my policy is clear: to prevent any occurrence of incitement and support of terrorism in any way possible.

“I commend the Jerusalem police for the alertness that in many cases prevents the despicable manifestations of support for murder and terrorism among some of the Arabs of East Jerusalem,” Erdan added.

The summit of hypocrisy

The warm smiles and handshakes exchanged by the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Ankara on Wednesday could be misleading. The points of division among them outnumber their points of agreement. Their interests are contradictory.

To camouflage their differences, the triumvirate shed crocodile tears for the many civilians killed throughout the seven years of civil war in Syria. They paid lip service to the urgent need for humanitarian aid for the wounded and needy, and said the millions of people forced from their homes should be allowed to return.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went even further, lamenting the fates of the people of eastern Ghouta – the Damascus suburb that has been ruthlessly bombarded from the air in recent months – while momentarily “forgetting” that his two summit partners are behind the slaughter.

This is the same Erdogan who this week attacked Israel for having the audacity to defend itself against the Gaza border rioters. He conveniently “forgot” that the Turkish army had just entered and occupied an area in northern Syria, simply to keep the Kurds there away from the Turkish border and stop them from establishing autonomous territorial contiguity.

Haley Slams U.N. Inaction on Syrian Chemical Weapons Use: ‘We Are Rapidly Sliding Backward’

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley ripped inaction by the Security Council on Syrian chemical weapons use during a speech Wednesday, saying “we are rapidly sliding backward, crossing back into a world that we thought we left.”

Haley discussed the “horror” of chemical weapons use throughout history, beginning with World War I, and how the globe appeared to unifiy in its opposition to their usage over time.

“We dared to believe that chemical weapons would one day be something that we would only read about in the history books,” she said. “We dared to believe that we could banish the threat forever. Then came Syria.”

Haley recounted the 2013 sarin attack by Bashar al-Assad’s regime against its own people and how “our shared disgust” led to U.N. action mandating destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. However, the Assad regime has continued to use chemical weapons since then.

Haley noted “one member of this council shielded the Assad regime from any consequences,” referring to Russia, and she said there were credible reports of chlorine gas attacks in recent weeks as Assad seized eastern Ghouta.

“It’s a sad fact just a few years ago, a single chemical weapons attack would have united us in shock and anger,” Haley said. “It would have been enough for us to take immediate action. Now we have a regime that uses chemical weapons practically every other week.

Iranians under regime censorship perplexed by YouTube shooter’s gripes

The Iranian-American woman who opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters this week appears to have lashed out after she felt the company had censored her often bizarre videos— a motive that many found perplexing in Iran, where YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are blocked.

Nasim Aghdam, who posted videos under the online name Nasime Sabz, opened fire at YouTube on Tuesday, wounding three people before killing herself. Her father said she was angry at the video-sharing website because it had stopped paying for her videos, which promoted exercise, animal rights, and a vegan diet.

People who post on YouTube can receive money from advertisements that accompany their videos, but the company “de-monetizes” some channels for reasons including inappropriate material or having fewer than 1,000 subscribers.

Whatever obstacles she faced were dwarfed by those in Iran, where the government blocks YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, and where online content critical of authorities or Islam can land people in jail.

MEMRI: All the World’s Wars, Corruption, Moral Disintegration Are Planned by the Jews

Lebanese cleric Sheikh Muhammad Abu Al-Qat’ delivered a Friday sermon in which he claimed that “all the wars and strife around the world are planned by the Jews,” as well as “all the corruption suffered by humanity.” Sheikh Abu Al-Qat’ also said that “all the films about crime, killing, and abduction are produced by the Jews” and that they “are behind all the films of prostitution and abomination.” He also said that “the Jews use women” to ensnare people, and that for this purpose, “most of the [Arab] presidents and leaders were filmed having sex with [former Israeli FM Tzipi] Livni.” The sermon was delivered on December 22, 2017 at the Mosque of the Naqshbandi Order and was posted on YouTube.

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