June 20, 2019

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04/18 Links Pt1: The False ‘Nakba’ Narrative; The UN and Israel in the Nikki Haley Era; PLO Position Paper Confirms There’s No Partner for Peace

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2019/04/0418-links-pt1-false-nakba-narrative-un.html

From Ian:


The False ‘Nakba’ Narrative
The term “Nakba,” originally coined to describe the magnitude of the self-inflicted Palestinian and Arab defeat in the 1948 war for Israel’s survival, has now become a synonym for Palestinian victimhood — with failed aggressors transformed into hapless victims and vice versa. Israel should do its utmost to uproot this false image by exposing its patently false historical basis.

Nowadays, the failed Palestinian Arab attempt to destroy the state of Israel at birth, and the attendant flight of some 600,000 Palestinian Arabs, has come to be known internationally as the Nakba.

This, ironically, was the opposite of the original meaning of the term, when it was first applied to the Arab-Israeli conflict by the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq. In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state, rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs:

When the battle broke out, our public diplomacy began to speak of our imaginary victories, to put the Arab public to sleep and talk of the ability to overcome and win easily — until the Nakba happened … We must admit our mistakes … and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.

Zureiq subscribed to this critical view for decades. In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew (Ma‘na al-Nakbah Mujaddadan), published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba” rather than a “Naksa” (or setback), as it came to be known in Arab discourse.

In 1948, the term “Nakba” was glaringly absent from Arab and/or Palestinian discourse. Its first mention — in George Antonius’s influential 1938 book The Arab Awakening — had nothing to do with the (as yet non-existent) Arab-Israeli conflict, but rather with the post-World War I creation of the modern Middle East (“The year 1920 has an evil name in Arab annals: it is referred to as the Year of the Catastrophe or, in Arabic, Aam al-Nakba”).

The UN and Israel in the Nikki Haley Era

For decades, U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries.

In international relations, challenging longstanding beliefs often frightens those who embrace conventional wisdom. This embrace makes such beliefs conventional, but it does not always make them wise.

In her speeches, votes, and actions at the UN and in Washington, Nikki Haley helped usher in a new era in U.S. policy toward the Arab–Israeli conflict. She upheld the prediction she made after her first UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East: “I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”

It’s a new era because Haley challenged and disproved some important basic assumptions about Middle East policy. It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests such as opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows such as UNRWA. Even if future U.S. administrations revert back to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproven. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

Ruthie Blum: Don’t worry about what the neighbors might think

In addition, the letter went on, “[Annexation] will create intense divisions in the United States and make unwavering support for Israel and its security far more difficult to maintain.”

This plea, dripping with nauseating false piety, would be laughable if it weren’t so vile.

In the first place, the only “undermining” and “eradicating” going on in Israel are being done by the PA. Secondly, the BDS movement uses any excuse to engage in “efforts to isolate and delegitimize” the Jewish state. That’s its whole purpose, of course.

Third, it is a complete lie that annexation would divide the United States and make its support for Israel “more difficult to maintain.”

America is already divided, as is Israel, between those who favor appeasing enemies while reprimanding friends, and those who espouse the opposite view. Jewish liberals and Israeli leftists who fear offending murderous Palestinians and hateful boycotters belong in the former category.

To be fair, Jews have a long-standing tradition of identifying with their captors. Many Israelites rescued from Egyptian bondage complained to Moses that conditions under slavery were better than their trek through the desert to arrive at the Promised Land. If those whiners had had their way, we would not be celebrating the Passover holiday that begins this Friday.

The other tendency of Diaspora liberals – to flinch whenever Israel asserts its heritage and power – stems from “mar’it ayin,” a concept in Halachah (Jewish law) according to which even legitimate actions are prohibited when they could be misconstrued by other people as impermissible. In other words, it’s the Jewish legalization of worrying about what the neighbors might think, and changing one’s behavior to stave off possible disapproval.

Thankfully, Netanyahu disregards mar’it ayin when making decisions for the country, whether Jews across the ocean like it or not.

Seth Mandel: How Bibi Did It

The best way to understand Netanyahu’s impact is as the final triumph of Revisionist Zionism, with Bibi crossing the finish line holding the baton handed to him by Menachem Begin, who had picked up where the Zionist theorist and practical politician Vladimir Jabotinsky left off nearly four decades earlier, at the time of his death in 1940. When Western leftists say their problem is only with Netanyahu, not the Israeli people, it rings false: Israelis may not identify with (or even like) Bibi personally, but their country’s political identity is deeply intertwined with their prime minister of 10 years. Left-wing author Dorit Rabinyan told the New York Times that a post-Netanyahu Israel might make many feel “orphaned,” and that she shared the feeling to some extent: “I’m anxious about it at the very same time that I’m hopeful about it.” Rabinyan is no closet rightist: Bennett, as Netanyahu’s education minister in 2017, excluded Rabinyan’s novel of an Israeli-Palestinian love story from school curricula. (This was silly; the book is nuanced about the conflict and does not include intermarriage in the plot.) Yet even Rabinyan admits trepidation about a post-Bibi future.

She is not alone. In the months leading up to the election, voters were polled dozens of times on whom they would prefer as prime minister. Aside from a couple of outliers, Netanyahu was always the first choice, often by a wide margin, even though his party was neck and neck with Blue and White.

Why? Simple. He has been in office long enough to find vindication for his policies. “The prime minister began his current stint in office in 2009 and some economists call the years since a golden decade,” read a pre-election piece in the Financial Times. “Unemployment has plunged to a record low, incomes have soared to a record high, the deficit has largely been tamed, and Israel’s tech scene has produced salacious tales of multibillion-dollar deals and lured tens of billions of dollars of foreign investment into the high-wage sector. … Compared with the 1980s, when Israel struggled with hyperinflation and had to issue a new currency, Israelis live in an era that the OECD recently described as ‘remarkable.’”

Netanyahu has maintained Israel’s security while avoiding major wars and keeping the economy humming along. On his watch, the United States has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the country’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, while pulling out of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which had legitimized Iranian hegemony over territory on Israel’s borders. For all the cries of Israel’s supposedly endangered democracy, the country “has actually been moving in a democratic direction,” wrote Zev Chafets, a former aide to Menachem Begin, on the Bloomberg website in February. He pointed to the most recent Israel Democracy Institute report, prepared by Tamar Hermann: Hermann “consulted 13 international democracy indexes and found that Israel held up quite well against other liberal democracies. ‘Compared to 2010, we have starkly improved on LGBT rights, and also on rights for women,’ she points out. Since Netanyahu took office, Israel has moved up seven places in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ranking of democracies.”

What about the other complaint, that Netanyahu’s Israel is “isolated” on the global stage? There were hints of this during the Obama administration, which was trying to bring about that isolation. Netanyahu did not help himself in this regard: His decision to accept an invitation to address a joint session of Congress to denounce the sitting president’s own signature foreign-policy goal was a tactical mistake. But such flops are the exceptions. In October, Netanyahu accepted an invitation to visit Oman; in February, he met with Oman’s foreign minister in Warsaw. Netanyahu has also reportedly secretly met with Morocco’s foreign minister. His bromance with Indian Premier Narendra Modi, his deepening ties with China, and his more controversial alliances with nationalist leaders in Hungary, Poland, and Brazil—to say nothing of his relationship-of-necessity with Vladimir Putin—have all served to debunk the idea that he is isolating his country. And in the long run, the secret Israeli-Saudi cooperation spilling into the public sphere might be the most significant of these achievements.

Isi Leibler: Netanyahu’s brilliant victory and the challenges ahead

While Netanyahu has a powerful case regarding the major blocs, the U.S. is unlikely to allow annexation of the isolated settlements and he would not necessarily have the support of most Israelis for such a move, either.

All this will require sensitive negotiations within his coalition. Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party has already threatened to oppose the government if the haredi bloc prevent the passage of the draft conscription bill. If this happens, Netanyahu will lose his majority and we could face new elections.

The haredim polled exceedingly well and have proved to be masters of extortion in the past. Aside from additional diversion of funds toward their yeshivot and the aggrandizement of the chief rabbinate, we can expect efforts to impose even greater stringencies regarding conscription, conversion, marriage, gender separation and kashrut. This will widen Israel-Diaspora rifts.

Netanyahu may brazen out the confrontations and reach an accommodation. That would be his first choice – leading a right-wing government and satisfying haredi demands.

But given the external as well as internal pressures, despite his spectacular victory, he may be obliged to consider alternatives. Despite confrontationist approaches by both the incoming Likud government and Blue and White-led opposition, the dominant policies in the two parties are almost indistinguishable.

For now, it looks like a right-wing government will prevail. But if Netanyahu finds that the demands from his satellite parties are too extreme or they block what he considers a reasonable American peace plan, he may well reach an accommodation with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz over his legal problems and form a unity government in the months ahead – which would be applauded by the vast majority of Israelis.

Jared Kushner: ‘Deal of the century’ will not be released before June

Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser, told foreign diplomats on Wednesday that the “deal of the century” will not be released before the end of Ramadan, in June, a source familiar with the remarks told The Jerusalem Post.

Kushner spoke in front of 100 foreign diplomats and ambassadors at Blair House and asked them to keep an open mind regarding the plan, adding it would require both sides to compromise.

He said the plan will not jeopardize Israel’s security, according to the report. He also said the plan has a “very detailed” political component, and will also have an economic component.

Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, tweeted on Tuesday that the peace team will not release any details ahead of time.

PLO Position Paper Confirms There’s No Partner for Peace

The “PLO Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society” recently published a detailed, 37-page position paper in Hebrew explaining its positions regarding relations with Israel. The writers are careful not to use the term “the Jewish people” – a term that is tantamount to heresy in the Palestinian narrative that continues to deny the existence of a Jewish people or nation.

The paper completely ignores Palestinian terrorism as the main factor preventing the implementation of the Oslo Accords. It also makes no mention of the Palestinian obstinacy and intransigence that led to the rejection of all American and Israeli initiatives. Nowhere does it use the phrase “two states for two peoples” because this phrase implies a recognition of the Jewish nation.

The Palestinian narrative is the primary obstacle to peace and is the source of ongoing terrorism. It proclaims that there is no Jewish people and states that the Jews do not have a history of sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Therefore, the ongoing struggle against Zionism is legitimate.

The paper states that the allowances paid by the Palestinian Authority to the families of Palestinian casualties and prisoners are not support for terrorism. It claims that these casualties and prisoners did not commit acts of terror, but rather they are “freedom fighters.”

Thus, they admit that these payments are not “welfare support,” but rather an expression of esteem for the attacks that these people carried out. It promises these payments to any terrorist in advance and thereby encourages terrorism.
The Palestinian position paper once again details the reasons for there being no Palestinian partner for peace. It displays that there is no chance of making progress in the peace process, even within the framework of the American plan.

Palestinians ‘definitely’ going to reject Trump’s Mideast peace plan

The Mideast peace plan soon to be presented by the U.S. administration is likely not going to get very far upon its initial presentation, but it could provide Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump with an opportunity to alter the dynamics of the conflict.

Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, told JNS in an exclusive interview that the Palestinian Authority “will definitely reject” the upcoming U.S. backed peace plan, and that past Palestinian behavior does not lend support to any chance of compromise. The plan offered by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was, according to PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, extremely generous by offering P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas 100 percent of the land area he demanded, the division of Jerusalem and the acceptance into Israel of 150,000 “refugees,” yet Abbas rejected it.
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The Trump plan is bound to offer the Palestinians much less, so rejection is certain.

PMW monitors and reports on the activities and statements of the Palestinian leadership daily. It continues to warn about the P.A.’s ongoing hate and terror incitement, especially in the education of Palestinian youth, and the P.A.’s continued denial of Israel’s right to exist and anticipation of its destruction.

“The root of the conflict is not merely territorial. A poll by ADL in 2014 found that Palestinians ‘showed the highest levels of anti-Semitism in the world,’ and PMW was not at all surprised by this finding. The anti-Semitism taught through official P.A. structures promote the worst hatred imaginable, including the message that the Jews are the fundamental evil force in the world and therefore need to be eliminated for the benefit of all humanity,” said Marcus.

For example, a P.A. preacher on official P.A. TV said in December that Jews pass on evil in their genes: “Humanity will never be able to live with them … count them and kill them one by one.”

Palestinian Authority: We don’t want any gifts from Kushner

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday scoffed at US presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s announcement that the administration’s plan for peace in the Middle East – also known as the “Deal of the Century” – would be published after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ends in June.

The PA noted that the timing of the announcement of the plan will coincide with Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan.

“We don’t want Kushner’s Eid al-Fitr gift because it does not offer the Palestinians an independent and sovereign state,” said a PA official in Ramallah.

He said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas was facing pressure from several Palestinian officials to carry out previous decisions to suspend all relations with Israel to protest the policies of the Israeli government and US administration.

“Kushner has said that he’s busy preparing a gift for the Palestinian people on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr,” the PA Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “[US President Donald] Trump’s team is racing to make statements about the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ so as to create suspense and make noises.”

The PA expressed doubt that the US plan would be announced in June and said that everyone “remembers the conflicting dates announced by the US administration to launch the ‘Deal of the Century.’”

Trump envoy pans new Palestinian prime minister for prejudging peace plan

US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process Jason Greenblatt chided the new Palestinian Authority prime minister on Wednesday after the latter asserted that the yet-to-be announced American “deal of the century” will be “born dead.”

“Why does the new PA Prime Minister hope for our plan to be ‘born dead’ & for peace to fail? By working with us, perhaps something wonderful can happen for Palestinians. We’ve repeatedly said this won’t just be an economic plan,” Greenblatt tweeted, referencing growing speculation that the initiative will be short on political incentives for the Palestinians.

“PM (Mohammad) Shtayyeh, starting a new job by condemning a plan you haven’t seen is unfair to Palestinians. You have an obligation to first look at an opportunity before you dismiss it. The PA can continue to push us away, but that will do nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinians,” Greenblatt added.

On Thursday, Shtayyeh responded directly to Greenblatt’s Twitter thread, asserting that “any political initiative that does not call for ending Israeli occupation and establishing an independent and sovereign Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital on the borders of 1967 with settling the refugees cause is not acceptable to the Palestinians.”

PreOccupiedTerritory: Palestinians To Reject Any Peace Plan That Ends War (satire)

Anticipation of US President Donald Trump’s long-awaited peace plan for the Middle East has prompted various interested parties to make pronouncements staking out positions that they hope will enhance or maintain their diplomatic leverage when it finally comes to light, with Palestinian leaders insisting any peace proposal that does not guarantee them the legitimacy and wherewithal to continue making war against Israel will be dead on arrival.

Former chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, a close confidant of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, declared Thursday that Palestinians will only agree to consider Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” if it includes provisions allowing the prosecution of war against the Zionists until the latter are cleared from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

“President Trump long ago abandoned the pretense that the US serves as an impartial broker,” Erekat stated. “The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the embassy move, the cutting of funding to UNRWA, and the Taylor Force Act all place him firmly on the side of the Israelis. Nevertheless, we remain open to good faith proposals from all parties, and if the Deal of the Century lives up to the hype and adequately addresses our demands for justice and victory over the Zionist usurper, we will of course weigh it as we would anyone else’s ideas.” Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner disclosed yesterday that the deal will be released in June.

Congress Directs Trump Admin to Alter Federal Info to Recognize Israeli Control of Golan Heights

Congress has instructed the Trump administration to alter all federal documents, communications, and maps to reflect its recent recognition of Israeli control over the Golan Heights region on the Jewish state’s northern border, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The formal request comes just a day after the State Department raised questions about the policy’s enactment due to its failure to change official manuals that still list the Golan Heights as Syrian territory.

A delegation of leading Republican senators who helped spearhead the Golan recognition petitioned the White House on Wednesday to move forward with the alteration of all federal information to reflect the new policy.

The senators thank President Donald Trump for enacting the new policy, writing that the recognition will help ensure that Iranian-backed terror groups operating in the Golan and other northern areas will not be able to use the territory as a launchpad for attacks on Israel.

“With threats from Iran, the Assad regime, and their terrorist proxies building to Israel’s north, it is imperative that the United States do everything in its power to ensure Israel’s security,” write the delegation of 10 senators, including Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), among others.

“We applaud your leadership in taking this long-overdue step in support of our ally,” the letter states. “We now urge you to take the following steps to implement your historic decision.”

Lebanon vs. Israel on land and by sea

Israel is refusing to report details about the Pompeo talks. But the secretary of state’s idea was to treat the two disputes separately, which would make them easier to solve. He suggested, first of all, focusing on the matter of the land border to find an answer that would satisfy Lebanon, whereas the maritime border would be handled separately by agreed-upon mediators. Until the mediation is completed, international companies would be responsible for extracting gas, and the profits would be split between Israel and Lebanon. After the mediation process, both nations would abide by the decision of the mediator.

But the American proposal caused tension between Lebanese Prime Minister Said Hariri, who supports the two issues being handled separately, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is backed by Hezbollah. Hariri argues that the Lebanese economy is in crisis and the revenue from natural gas could help things.

Berri and Hezbollah, on the other hand, claim that if Israel agreed to Lebanon’s demands regarding the land border, it would scupper Hezbollah’s claims that Israel is “occupying” Lebanese territory and the organization would no longer have any use for its large stockpile of weapons. Moreover, the opponents of the U.S. proposal say, a move like that would spark a debate within Lebanon about the need to demilitarize Hezbollah.

The U.S. wants to separate the two matters, because doing so would allow it to move Qatari gas to Europe via Israel and Cyprus, without it being exposed to the military threat Hezbollah poses. That would allow the U.S. to strike a blow against Russia, Europe’s largest gas supplier. Israel is keeping mum, but we can assume that these issues were raised in the recent talks with Pompeo, and that the continued production of natural gas in accordance with the U.S. proposal is seen as more important than minuscule adjustments to the border line.

Lebanese FM meets with senior Israeli officials in Moscow – report

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has reportedly met with a senior official in Moscow and “discussed borders,” Saudi Arabian newspaper Elaph reported.

The source told Elaph that the meeting lasted about two hours under the auspices of Russia. The two sides discussed issues of mutual interest, including the Syrian issue, the Assad regime and the issue of Iranian weapons factories in Lebanon.

The Israeli official reportedly told Bassil that Israel does not see Lebanon as an enemy, but will not hesitate to strike Iranian and Hezbollah interests in Lebanon.

The report also claimed that the Lebanese minister had asked the Israeli’s “to stop threatening Lebanon because of Hezbollah, saying that Hezbollah is part of the components of Lebanon and the Lebanese state will know how to accommodate all parties and groups under its sovereign.”

Despite denials, official says Israeli delegation attended Bahrain conference

An Israeli delegation attended a business conference in Bahrain this week, a senior official in Jerusalem told Israeli television on Wednesday, contradicting statements by organizers and the economy minister’s office that the visit had been scrapped amid security fears.

A 30-strong Israeli delegation, including Economy Minister Eli Cohen, was scheduled to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress that opened in Manama on Monday,

At least three Israelis, including the Israel Innovation Authority’s deputy chief, Anya Eldan, were scheduled to speak at the conference.

But organizers said the Israelis backed out “due to security concerns.”

“While we advised the Israeli delegation they would be welcome, they decided this morning not to come due to security concerns and a wish not to cause disruption for the other 180 nations participating,” the organization’s president, Jonathan Ortmans, told Reuters earlier this week.

How the party that founded the state wound up on life support

On Nov. 22, 1965, members of the sixth Knesset met for the first historic meeting in the new Knesset building, which was nearly complete. 120 members of the newly elected Knesset took their places on the new chairs, and 45 of them were members of the socialist Alignment. Another 10 would wind up joining the list during their next term, thus bringing the successor of the historic Mapai party to an all-time high of 55 seats.

A few weeks from now, when the 21st Knesset holds its first meeting, it will include only six Labor members, an almost pitiful remnant of the party that founded the nation. The big question facing the crumbling institution isn’t how to retake the reins of power, but whether it should turn out the light and step off the stage of history.

The ongoing crisis engulfing the Labor party didn’t begin when Avi Gabbay was elected chairman, and its roots lie in the trauma that the entire left-wing camp experienced when the Oslo Accords collapsed and the Second Intifada erupted. Still, it seems that the election of Gabbay turned a party in crisis into a dying political entity. It’s hard to find senior party officials today who disagree with the opinion that the choice of Gabbay for party leader was a “work accident.”

Gabbay, who describes himself as having grown up in a home of Likud supporters and whom many doubt has ever actually voted Labor, took control of the party as a result of personal interest and circumstances. After he resigned from his position as environmental protection minister, he looked for a political platform that would put him back on center stage. At the same time, Labor members were searching desperately for a new messiah, someone who didn’t represent the party’s aging, corrupt image and who could shake things up and attract new voters.

‘The Palestinians led to the downfall of the Left’

“Last week, we received more proof that there is strong movement toward the extreme Right, and legitimization of [Rabbi Meir] Kahane’s ideas. That’s a disaster that will worsen if those who voice and support Kahanism are given important portfolios like education or justice,” legal scholar and former Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein tells Israel Hayom.

Rubinstein says that for him, the possibility of National Union MK Bezalel Smotrich being named education minister “a catastrophe.”

“Even now, the Education Ministry is a religious ministry. Public education is discriminated against, primarily when it comes to budgeting. There isn’t one minister or one MK in the coalition who took action to defend public education. The Education Ministry’s curriculum is completely Orthodox Judaism. High school students complete their schooling without knowing that there are other, more important streams,” he says.

Rubinstein argues that while the secular are the majority in Israel, “politically, the secular the minority. They have nearly no influence, and there is no one who defends their lifestyle. I don’t remember the last law, or bill, that was designed to benefit the secular population.”

Discussing the results of last week’s Knesset election, Rubinstein says he finds it difficult to believe that the Labor party will ever rebound from such a severe beating.

“The Palestinians contributed to the downfall of the Left. The practical basis – which I support – of territory for peace has failed,” he says.

Report: US Submits Request to Lease Land for Permanent Embassy in Jerusalem

The United States recently submitted a request to Israeli authorities to “begin preparing” the Allenby compound in Jerusalem for the construction of the US permanent embassy in the country, reported Israel’s Channel 12.

The outlet reported, citing anonymous sources, on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump seeks to relocate the embassy to its permanent location if he wins re-election in 2020 and could travel to lay the cornerstone during the election campaign.

“We have started the process of site selection for a permanent US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem,” an embassy spokesperson told The Times of Israel on Wednesday. “We are looking at all sites we currently lease or own, including the Arnona property.”

The United States relocated its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018, five months after recognizing the latter as the capital of the Jewish state.

The current embassy is located in the former US consulate on Jerusalem’s Agron Street.

Australia Joins Others in Increasing Jerusalem Presence

Australia has opened a small arms and diplomacy mission in Jerusalem, months after Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that the western half of the city is Israel’s capital. He joins a slowly growing list of nations building their presence in the disputed capital. Our Alec Pollard has the story.

New U.S. act could protect Mideast Jewish cemeteries, historical property

The United States may now be able to prevent the destruction of Jewish heritage sites in the Middle East and North Africa.

Last week, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R, NY-1) introduced the Protecting US Heritage Abroad Act. The bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R, TX-10) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D, FL-23) would extend the current mandate of the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad to include the Middle East and North Africa, and would provide access to protected cemeteries, monuments and buildings. The commission is led by Paul Packer.

“There are many countries beyond the current jurisdiction of the commission where Jews and other [members of other] religions are facing a hostile government and other adverse realities where their heritage is at risk, from cemeteries to synagogues and churches and more,” Zeldin told The Jerusalem Post in a phone interview. “There are issues where the foreign heritage of US citizens needs to be better protected.”

Implementation of the act would have to be negotiated individually with each nation.

Russia denies recovering remains of spy Eli Cohen from Syria

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday strongly rejected Israeli media reports claiming that Russian officials have taken the remains of legendary Israeli spy Eli Cohen out of Syria, where he was executed more than five decades ago.

Cohen infiltrated the top echelons of Syria’s leadership in the early 1960s and obtained top-secret intelligence before he was caught and publicly executed in 1965.

Hebrew media reported earlier this week that a Russian delegation took Cohen’s remains out of Syria. Israel had previously appealed to Russia for help finding Cohen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement “resolutely refuting” the claim, which it described as a “provocation.”

It urged the Israeli media to show a more “accurate, professional and honest approach to coverage of such sensitive issues.”

Israeli officials had been silent after the unconfirmed reports by Syrian opposition groups emerged last weekend that a Russian team had exhumed the remains of the Mossad spy.

Female Muslim IDF soldier braves threats to serve in infantry battalion

When Cpl. N., who serves in the mixed-gender IDF infantry battalion Lions of the Jordan Valley, heads out on arrest operations in nearby Palestinian villages, she usually talks to the locals in Arabic.

N. is a 19-year-old pepper pot. She’s opinionated and knows what she wants to achieve. She is an observant Muslim who prays five times a day and during the Ramadan fast mostly takes night shifts. She is a combat infantry soldier in the Lions of the Jordan Valley Battalion, which executes operations in Judea and Samaria and nearly every day clashes with the Palestinians in the area.

“I don’t stop to think that these people are Arabs like me,” she says in fluent Hebrew.

“I always tell myself that they brought this situation – in which they are facing Israeli soldiers – on themselves, and I perform my mission as I need to. It doesn’t matter when I come from and who I pray to every day, or what I wear when I go home on leave. When I’m on a mission, I need to fulfill it in order to protect my friends, my country. That’s why I enlisted,” she says.

Before she heads out on leave to the hostile Muslim village in northern Israel she calls home, she takes off her uniform, puts on civilian clothes, and affixes her hijab – the traditional headscarf that covers her hair and neck. She cannot return home for the weekend in uniform or carrying her military-issue weapon.

Did Israel use the supersonic Rampage to strike Iranian targets in Syria?

Israel’s Air Force reportedly used the supersonic Rampage stand-off air-to-surface missiles for the first time during a strike on Iranian positions in Syria last week, foreign media has reported.

Israel allegedly struck a possible Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in a Syrian base in Masyaf on Saturday. Satellite images released by Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) showed the complete destruction of the factory.

“The main industrial structures were completely destroyed, including the main hangar and the adjacent three production hangers and buildings. The rest of the structures were affected and damaged by the blast,” ISI said, adding that they “assess that all the elements and/or equipment which were inside were completely destroyed as well.”

According to Syria’s SANA news agency, Israeli jets fired the missiles from Lebanese airspace at about 2:30 Saturday morning.

The factory, ISI said, is located in the vicinity of other facilities likely linked to Iran’s surface-to-surface missile project in Syria , which had previously been struck in alleged Israeli strikes carried out over the past two years.

Dubbed “The Rampage,” after a popular video-game, the missile is a supersonic, long-range, accurate air-to-ground assault missile with a warhead, rocket engine and advanced navigation suit which allow for precision targeting.

IDF general: Hezbollah still planning Galilee invasion, despite anti-tunnel op

The new commander of the IDF’s Ground Forces said Thursday the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah was still planning to carry out a surprise invasion of northern Israel, despite the recent Israeli operation to uncover and destroy an extensive network of cross-border attack tunnels dug by the Iran-backed militia.

Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick was tapped to lead the military’s Ground Forces in February, amid increased criticism charging that Israeli troops were not prepared for war. His comments came less than four months months after the IDF concluded its anti-tunnel operation along the Lebanese border.

“Hezbollah still has plans to invade the Galilee,” he told the Ynet news site in an interview, referring to entering Israeli territory through a cross-border tunnel network. “Of course we won’t allow that to happen, we will thwart these plans.”

In December, Israel accused Hezbollah of digging cross-border tunnels into its territory from southern Lebanon and launched an operation to destroy them.

According to the army, Hezbollah had planned to use the tunnels to kidnap or kill civilians or soldiers, and to seize a slice of Israeli territory in the event of any hostilities.

The IDF did not given a total figure for the tunnels found, though it announced in January that six were destroyed during the course of the operation.

Strick also voiced support for declaring war on Lebanon.

Hamas: Israel agreed to lift Gaza import restrictions on many ‘dual-use’ goods

Israel has agreed to lift restrictions on importing into the Gaza Strip many “dual-use” goods as a part of ceasefire understandings with terror groups there, senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said.

For the past several years, Israel has heavily restricted the entry into Gaza of products that it labels “dual-use,” meaning that they can be utilized for both civilian and military purposes. Palestinians in Gaza have long been required to receive special permits to import goods that Israel categorizes as dual-use.

“We extracted from the occupation the lifting of the restrictions and the ban…on 30 percent of these materials,” Hayya told the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV in a long interview late Wednesday.

Hamas spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou said in a Facebook post on March 31 that the terror group was expecting Israel to permit dual-use goods to enter Gaza. However, he did not detail at the time how many such products Hamas was anticipating the Jewish state would allow into the coastal enclave.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a Defense Ministry body responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, declined to confirm or deny Hayya’s comments.

“We do not respond to foreign reports,” COGAT said in an email.

MEMRI: Saudi Journalist: Qatar’s Claim That It Does Not Support The Muslim Brotherhood And Hamas Is A Lie

In a March 26, 2019 interview with the American website Al-Monitor, Lowlah Al-Khater, spokeswoman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, denied claims that the Qatari regime supports the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Hamas. She stated that Qatar’s contacts with Hamas began only after the administration of former U.S. president George W. Bush asked it to mediate between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and that the current U.S. administration does not object to these ties either, and in fact approves of Qatar’s role in extending aid to Gaza. As for the MB, Al-Khater said that “the United States does not consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, [and] neither does the European Union. And that’s the stance of Qatar, just like all Arab countries with the exception of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.” She added that, despite this, “there is a huge spectrum between not considering [the Muslim Brotherhood] a terrorist organization and supporting it… We definitely don’t support the Muslim Brotherhood… We don’t antagonize them, but we don’t support them.”[1]

In response to Al-Khater’s statements in this interview, Saudi journalist ‘Abdallah bin Bjad Al-‘Otaibi wrote in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad that her claims bore no relation to reality. Qatar’s ties with political Islam organizations such as the MB, he wrote, as well as with terror organizations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nursa, are close and long standing, and on various occasions Qatar even paid these organizations millions of dollars. Al-‘Otaibi also noted Qatar’s support for the Arab Spring revolutions, during which, he said, Qatar provided funds, arms and military personnel to political Islam organizations. He concluded by stating that, as long as Qatar maintains these ties and refrains from reassessing its policies, it will remain weak and isolated.

The following are excerpts from his article.[2]

“In the 20 years since the coup carried out by [the former Qatari emir], Hamad bin Khalifa, against his father [Khalifa bin Hamad Aal Al-Thani] in the mid-1990s,[3] Qatar has earned many apt epithets, including ‘Qatar of the Conspiracies,’ ‘Treasonous Qatar,’ and ‘Contradictory Qatar,’ and, following the boycott [imposed on it in June 2017] by four Arab countries [Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain], also ‘Qatar of the Strategic Obstinacy,’ ‘Qatar the Sanctuary State,’ and many other [epithets].[4]

Palestinians hold rallies in solidarity with prisoners

Palestinians on Wednesday marked Palestinian Prisoners’ Day with calls for the release of all prisoners held by Israel.

The rallies in several parts of the West Bank came days after an agreement was reached between Palestinian prisoners and Israeli authorities to end a hunger strike by scores of inmates in some prisons. Palestinians see the agreement as a “victory” and say they will continue to protest harsh Israeli measures imposed on the prisoners.

The measures were imposed by the Israel Prison Service (IPS) after Hamas prisoners stabbed and wounded two guards in Ketziot Prison in the Negev. The attack came in the context of the prisoners’ protest against the installation of signal-jamming devices to stop them from using smuggled cellular phones.

The latest agreement calls for the installation of public phones for the use of the security prisoners without the removal of the jamming devices.

“[PA] President Mahmoud Abbas has always stood with the prisoners,” said Kadri Abu Baker, head of the Palestinian Commission for Prisoners and Ex-Detainees. “The freedom of the prisoners is part of the freedom of our people, who support them and stand behind them.”

Abu Baker and other Palestinian officials were speaking during a rally in Ramallah marking Palestinian Prisoner’s Day.

USAID to lay off 85% of local staff as aid to Palestinians is cut – report

The US Agency for International Development, responsible for civilian foreign aid, is reportedly preparing to lay off the majority of its local staff as the last of American aid for Palestinian civilians is terminated.

USAID intends to fire 85 percent of its local staff from its missions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, whittling its 100 or so employees down to 14, according to a Thursday report in NPR that cited internal agency communications.

The vast majority of the workers were Palestinian or Arab Israelis, though a small number were Jewish Israelis, the report said.

Last month, USAID held mandatory termination hearings for its staff in preparation for the layoffs that agency employees are expecting sometime in July.

A number of current employees told NPR they were recently notified about the impending layoffs, and an agency official confirmed to the radio station that USAID was taking measures to reduce its “staffing footprint.”

JCPA: The United States Seeks to Cut Air Link between Iran and Venezuela

On April 8, 2019, Iranian airline Mahan Air launched direct commercial flights between Tehran and the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.1 Since October 2011, the privately-owned Iranian company has been subject to U.S. sanctions for its deep involvement in ferrying military and logistical aid to the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC-QF), to Middle Eastern flashpoints, and for supporting terrorist activity in general and Hizbullah’s activity in particular. Mahan Air has also engaged in the secret transfer of unregistered operatives while flouting security regulations.2 The flights even included transporting Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, who is under sanctions. This year, Germany and France barred the airline from their territory.

Reports emerged in 2010 that a regularly scheduled direct flight from Caracas to Syria and Iran flew Iranian Revolutionary Guards personnel to South America and Venezuelan uranium to Iran. Iran was assisting the South American country in prospecting for the radiation-producing ore. After the revelations, the flights stopped.3

In January 2019, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Fars Air Qeshm, which has ties to Mahan Air and provides similar services to the Quds Force and to pro-Iranian militias (such as the Afghani Fatemiyoun Division and the Zaynabiyoun Brigade) that operate in Syria under its aegis.4 Fars Air Qeshm also flies the remains of fallen militiamen back to Iran. Below are “selfies” taken by Fatemiyoun militiamen flying on Iran’s national carrier civilian aircraft to Syria. Note the Iranian logos on the headrests.

Iran flaunts domestically made fighter jets to mark Army Day

Iran showcased its domestically made fighter jets by flying the aircraft over Tehran during a military parade Thursday marking National Army Day as the country grapples with US sanctions and the Trump administration’s recent terrorism designation of Iran’s powerful paramilitary force.

TV footage showed the aircraft performing during the parade, including the latest all-Iranian fighter jet dubbed Kowsar, which in Islamic meaning refers to a river in paradise and is also the title of a chapter in the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

The Islamic Republic often announces military achievements that cannot be independently verified to boost patriotism. The United States re-imposed sanctions on Iran, including on its energy sector, last November, after President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

The twin-seated Kowsar — modeled after American F-5 fighter jet — was inaugurated in 2018, when the TV aired images of President Hassan Rouhani briefly sitting in the plane’s cockpit inside a hangar before the ceremony.

Report: Iranian Oil Exports Hit a New Low in 2019 Amid Concern Over US Crackdown

Amid renewed US sanctions on Iran, the country’s oil exports hit a new low in 2019, reported Reuters.

The report, citing tanker data and industry sources, said that “buyers are curbing purchases before Washington clamps down further on Iranian shipments as expected next month.”

In November, the United States reimposed sanctions lifted under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but gave several countries waivers over importing Iranian oil, which are set to expire next month.

“Shipments are averaging below 1 million barrels per day (bpd) so far this month, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and two other companies that track such exports and declined to be identified,” the report said. “That’s lower than at least 1.1 million bpd as estimated for March.”

Whether the waivers will be extended is currently unknown, though US special representative for Iran Brian Hook said in February they will not be renewed.

Zarif slams US policy as ‘Netanyahu firsters,’ blames Israel for Yemen war

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has a new term for US policy in the Middle East: “Netanyahu Firsters,” he writes on Twitter. In his latest claim he alleges that even though the US Congress wants to stop blaming Israel for the US support of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, this charge represents a new stretch, even for the Iranian regime. “US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, the “petrofinanced #NetanyahuFirsters and their enabler in the White House will continue – with American lives and against US interests – to push for forever wars.”

Zarif coined the hashtag in order to play into recent controversial antisemitic innuendos in the US that attempt to blame Israel for US policies. For instance, on April 13 he wrote: “it’s not about the money: [US President] Donald Trump confessed US has spent $7 trillion here, only to worsen the situation, it’s Netanyahu Firsters always making the wrong choice in his service.” The “not about the money” quote is supposed to conjure up memories of US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s controversial “it’s about the Benjamins” tweet.

Iran increasingly wants to take advantage of discussions in the US in which Netanyahu has been condemned for his policies by Democratic presidential candidates. With discussions about “foreign allegiance” and “dual loyalty” already percolating, Iran hopes to present the US administration as having a “Netanyahu First” policy, which is supposed to be in contrast to an “America first” policy that Trump had once promised.

In a April 8 tweet, Zarif blamed the US decision to label Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group on “Netanyahu Firsters who have long agitated for FTO [Foreign Terrorist Organization] designation of the IRGC.” Zarif showed a photo of Trump with Sheldon Adelson, a well-known pro-Israel philanthropist.

Iranian Majlis Designates U.S. CENTCOM as Terrorist Organization

IRINN TV reported on April 16, 2019 that the Iranian Majlis ratified with an overwhelming majority a bill that would designate the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organization. Iranian Defense Minister General Amir Hatami said: “American’s deception and sanctions have become ineffective.” He added that 26 rounds of U.S. sanctions, the U.S. pulling out of the JCPOA, and designating the IRGC a terrorist organization “prove that the U.S. sanctions weapon is no longer capable of shooting at the target.” Hossein Naghavi-Hosseini, of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee told IRINN TV: “All the U.S. forces deployed in the region, all their facilities, their bases, and the entire logistic apparatus at their disposal are considered terrorist entities.” He added that all U.S. bases and the personnel in them “should be treated as terror bases.” Mohammad Ali Vakili, a Majlis member, told IRINN TV that this is only the first bill of a group of bills “aimed at confronting the hostile measures of the American government against the Iranian people” and the U.S. should be warned against further steps in the future.



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