May 20, 2019

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05/08 Links Pt1: Glick: With Hezbollah Calling Shots, Will U.S. Stop Arming Lebanon?; Mahmoud Abbas and the Art of Getting Away With Murder; Paraguay becomes third country to move embassy to Jerusalem

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: With Hezbollah Calling Shots, Will U.S. Stop Arming Lebanon?
Lebanon held elections for its parliament on Sunday for the first time since 2009. Not unexpectedly, Hezbollah was the big winner.

Hezbollah’s representatives and allies now control a majority of the seats in Lebanon’s parliament. Sunni candidates allied with – or rather controlled by – Hezbollah won seats that had been controlled by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s party lost several seats, making Aoun more beholden than ever to Hezbollah dictates.

Foreign policy experts will no doubt argue that the election results change nothing on the ground in Lebanon. The Lebanese constitution’s division of power along confessional lines, which reserves the premiership to a Sunni, the presidency to a Christian, and the speakership of Parliament to a Shiite, will force Hezbollah to cooperate with Hariri and Aoun, who are expected to remain in their positions.

This “business as usual” argument bears consideration.

The assumption behind it is that Hezbollah is just a domestic political force. True, it has a relationship with Iran. True, it has its own army. But, the thinking goes, Lebanon is full of sectarian militias, so it makes sense that the Shiites would have one — even one that has an arsenal of 150,000 rockets missiles and constitutes one of the largest, best armed, most powerful, and battle-hardened armies in the region.

Mahmoud Abbas and the Art of Getting Away With Murder

Let’s have fun here: Imagine, for example, that the same liberal-minded cats had raised a righteous racket in September of 2015, when Abbas waxed poetic, saying that the Temple Mount and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—both in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital—are exclusively the property of the Palestinians, warned Jews not to desecrate these holy sites “with their filthy feet,” and promised his listeners that “Every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem is pure, every shahid [martyr] will reach paradise, and every injured person will be rewarded by God.” Imagine a Times editorial huffing that religious intolerance coupled with clear and direct incitement to violence is reprehensible. Imagine the United Nations calling a meeting to consider a rebuke. Instead, Abbas’s delegates were allowed to fly their flag on Second Avenue a few days later, and the Times editorial board remained silent.

Similar anecdotes abound. There was little outrage when Abbas continued to swear by his pay-for-slay program, which richly rewards the murderers of Jews and makes massacre a far more remunerative career path than, say, civil engineering. (Just last month, a Times reporter alleged that the program, which drove Congress to pass a bipartisan piece of legislation barring payments to Abbas’s Palestinian Authority so long as it continues to support terrorists, was no more than a far-right conspiracy theory.) There was no anger when Abbas, speaking in Istanbul in December of last year, said that the Jews had no real connection to history, adding that “they [Jews] would like to fake this history, they are really masters in this and it is mentioned in the holy Quran they fabricate truth and they try to do that, and they believe in that — but we have been there in this location for thousands of years.” There was hardly a whimper when Abbas, addressing the EU Parliament in the summer of 2016, said that senior rabbis had plotted to poison the Palestinian drinking water, a blood libel favored by the vilest anti-Semites from time immemorial. No European official condemned that statement, and no mainstream American press outlet called for Abbas’s resignation.

Those of us who’ve been reporting on the Palestinian president’s inexcusable bigotry for a while now have abandoned all hope that our deep-seated concerns will be shared by anyone in any position of prominence in the press, the UN, or other bastions of influence favored by progressives. Which is why the current consternation in the Times and elsewhere feels a little bit like a sad joke. Watching Abbas apologize so quickly makes one wonder what might’ve happened had the self-proclaimed champions of peace and human rights bothered to speak up against the petty tyrant from Ramallah much sooner. Abbas’s vile words last week were hardly his first or his vilest, and the time for him to step down as Palestinian leader was long ago. An unbiased press, an international community committed to real reconciliation, a Jewish left less furiously hateful of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and more mistrustful of a long-time, unreconstructed Holocaust denier and champion of violence and terrorism might’ve done a lot of good for Israelis and Palestinians alike. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

Meet Palestine’s Million-Dollar Killers

On October 1, 2015, Eitan Henkin, a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University who also held American citizenship, and Na’ama Henkin, a graphic designer, were traveling in their car with their four young children when four Palestinian terrorists attacked their vehicle, murdering both parents. The Henkins’ killers were arrested by Israel, each sentenced to two life sentences plus an additional 30 years in prison.And thanks to the Palestinian Authority’s pay-for-slay program, the four terrorists, all members of Hamas, are slated to become millionaires.

According to figures released by Israel’s Ministry of Defense earlier this week, the gunman, Karem Lufti Fatahi Razek, will have been paid NIS 11,232,000 ($3.1 million) by the time he turns 80; Zir Ziad Jamal Amar, another leader of the attack, will enjoy NIS 10,056,000 ($2.8 million), while Yahia Muhammad Naif Abdullah Hajj Hamad, another gunman, will receive in NIS 10,080,080 ($2.77 million). No numbers were given for the car’s driver, Samir Zahir Ibrahim Kusah.

The numbers were released ahead of a vote in the Knesset proposing Israel cut some of its payments to the PA until the latter ends its pay-for-slay program. The ministry gave other examples of convicted terrorists who are slated to earn a windfall as a result of murdering Jews. Another example is Omar al-Abed: In July of 2017, al-Abed knocked on the door of the Salomon family, which was busy celebrating the birth of a new grandson. Entering their home with a knife, he murdered Elad, Yosef, and Chaya Salomon, as their spouses and children hid upstairs, terrified. Al-Abed has already been paid NIS 12,200 ($3,370) from the PA, the Defense Ministry claimed, a sum much higher than what average Palestinians earn, and is expected to receive at least NIS 12,604,000 ($3.5 million) by the time he turns 80.

Trump likely to reimpose Iran sanctions, give companies 6 months’ grace

While US President Donald Trump has kept his decision on whether to leave the Iran nuclear deal secret from even most White House staff, officials say he is most likely to pull out and reimpose sanctions on Tehran, while giving companies that are currently doing business with the Islamic Republic a six-month grace period to gradually scale it down.

Trump is preparing to tell the world whether he plans to follow through on his threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran and almost certainly ensure its collapse. There are no signs that European allies enlisted to “fix” the deal have persuaded him to preserve it.

In a burst of last-minute diplomacy, punctuated by a visit by Britain’s top diplomat, the deal’s European members gave in to many of Trump’s demands, according to officials, diplomats, and others briefed on the negotiations. Yet they still left convinced he is likely to reimpose sanctions and walk away from the deal he has lambasted since his days as a presidential candidate.

Hanging in the balance Tuesday was the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal struck by the United States, Iran, and world powers that lifted most US and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.

Iran’s Currency Crisis Is an Opportunity for the U.S.

Since the beginning of 2018, the Iranian rial has been in a state of near free-fall, prompting the government to ban nearly all currency exchanges, limiting the number of euros that can be acquired by those wishing to leave the country, and capping how many euros a citizen can possess at any given time. Saeed Ghasseminejad and Richard Goldberg argue that, whether or not President Trump decides to leave the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.S. should take advantage of the crisis by imposing sanctions on Iran’s central bank.

These decrees [limiting currency trading] are not only signs of a regime in severe crisis. They are direct assaults on the livelihoods and lifestyles of President Hassan Rouhani’s last remaining supporters: Iran’s upper-middle class. The measures target those seeking to protect their wealth by hedging against the rial and those seeking to have enough money to travel abroad. Long-distance travel with less than 1,000 euros in spending money makes leaving the country a significant challenge for the average upper-middle-class Iranian family.

Back in 2009, these wealthier and more educated citizens of Tehran—those who have traditionally backed the so-called reformist movement—took to the streets to protest then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s stolen election. In 2013, these same people helped elect Rouhani, believing he was a reformist capable of moderating the regime and moving it into the 21st century. . . . Once these people abandon Rouhani, they have nowhere else to go but in the direction of pro-democracy activists, . . . writing off the potential for the regime to change from within and instead favoring a change of political system entirely.

More significantly, this is a different segment of the Iranian public from the one that began pouring into the streets in late December 2017. Those more recent protests [involved] blue-collar Iranians who live in traditional hardline strongholds. Now the mullahs run the risk of seeing a coalition of opposition to the regime emerge, combining the working class and the upper-middle class—the former asking where their paychecks went, the latter asking why their money is being taken away and their travel restricted.

‘Pessimistic’ Europeans scramble to prepare for US exit from Iran deal

The European Union is “aggressively” preparing for US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal Tuesday, removing key sanctions relief for Tehran and casting the accord’s future into serious doubt.

EU officials expect the US leader to ignore last-ditch European pleas and withdraw US support for what he has repeatedly slammed as a “very badly negotiated” agreement.

One EU official told the Reuters news agency it was “quite clear” in Washington that Trump “is heading to a negative decision so we have been preparing more aggressively the hypotheses of a partial or total pullout.”

Two other European officials also told Reuters they expected Trump to pull out of the accord.

A British diplomat told the agency London was “deeply pessimistic ahead of President Trump’s announcement later today.”

Iran confirms report of Kerry-Zarif meeting to salvage nuke deal

Iran on Monday confirmed a recent meeting in New York between former US secretary of state John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss ways of salvaging the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that US President Trump is expected to walk away from on Tuesday.

But the semi-official Fars news agency said Zarif had not discussed the issue with any current US administration officials.

“We don’t see the US just as Mr. Trump; the United States is not just the current ruling administration and there are many figures who have different views on international and regional issues,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, adding that Kerry was knowledgeable about the issues and, while no longer in government, was an influential figure.

The Boston Globe reported Friday that the meeting had taken place at the United Nations on April 22 and was the second meeting between the two on the matter in the span of two months.

What Was New about the Iranian Nuclear Archive?

The Iranian nuclear archive proved that Iran’s nuclear program definitely existed. This is no longer just a claim that can be disputed. The unveiling also discredited the claim that Iran’s ballistic missile program was not intended to carry nuclear warheads. The Iranians themselves admit they planned to build nuclear warheads and install them on missiles.

Thanks to the secret files, it is now clear that there is a massive gap between what the Iranians declared they had done and what they actually did in reality. Even those who believed Iran was lying were not aware of the extent. No inspection mechanism matched the reality revealed in the secret documents.

Had the signatories of the 2015 nuclear accord known what we know now, the details of the agreement would certainly have been different, especially the procedures governing monitoring and inspection, because the starting point regarding Iran’s capability would have been different.

The most basic new discovery is that Iran safeguarded all its nuclear documents so that once the deal expires, it could pick up where it left off with research and production aimed at building nuclear weapons.

This raises questions about other features of the nuclear program that we did not know to ask about. No one knew the archive existed before Israeli intelligence agents located it. What else is Iran hiding? After this unveiling, it is no longer an option to ignore Israel’s warnings about Iran.

Iran in the US Backyard

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif went on a tour of six Latin American nations in 2016. Iran’s diplomatic efforts resulted in, among other things, access to the use of Venezuelan territory to advance Iran’s solid rocket-fuel production.

Culturally, Iran has helped Hezbollah establish itself as the dominant force among Shia Muslim communities throughout Latin America, and has taken control of their mosques, schools and cultural institutions.

In 2012, there were 32 Iranian cultural centers across Latin America, to facilitate the spread of the Iranian Islamic revolution; today, less than a decade later, the number of centers has grown to more than 100.

Jpost Editorial: Syria-Iran Conundrum

Meetings between the leaders of Israel and Russia are always significant, but this week’s visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin will have a heightened sense of urgency surrounding it.

As the main protector of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his cruel regime, Putin is in essence calling the shots in that war-torn country which borders Israel on the north. In their previous meetings, which are taking place more frequently than at any time in the up-and-down Israel-Russian relationship, Netanyahu and Putin seem to have reached an understanding regarding each other’s interest in the region.

Putin’s interest is to keep Assad in power and wield influence on Syria. Israel’s interest is what makes the Wednesday meeting between Netanyahu and Putin so vital. In one word, it’s Iran.

A convergence of events is making Syrian territory increasingly dangerous to Israel, as Netanyahu outlined at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. Iran is increasing efforts to establish military bases in Syria to be used against Israel. And in recent months, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has transferred advanced weaponry – including attack drones, ground-to-ground missiles and anti-aircraft systems – that would threaten both IAF aircraft and the home front.

Although, according to foreign reports, Israel has been repeatedly successful in hitting Iranian positions in Syria, there have been worrisome indications that Moscow intends to supply Syria with advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems that could restrict Israel’s freedom of action in Syrian skies.

The saber rattling on both sides is reaching a boiling point, and the Israeli public wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that the country is being prepared for an impending conflict. Israeli media quoted IDF sources on Sunday as saying that Iran has plans to fire missiles from Syria at Israeli army bases in the North in retaliation for an alleged Israeli strike on the Iranian T4 base in Syria last month that killed seven IRGC soldiers.

Special report: Israel’s border communities vulnerable to infiltration

Israel’s border communities are a risk for infiltration due to the Defense Ministry and the IDF’s failure to properly fund, coordinate and plan a proper security system, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira wrote in a special report published on Tuesday.

“For many years, communities under fire have not fully received the full security support they are entitled to based on their classification,” the report said.

“In addition they received less than what was operationally necessary to upgrade and maintain their security apparatus,” the report said.

It focused on the 900,000 Israelis who live in 407 communities in conflict areas along Israel’s borders with Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza as well as all West Bank settlements.

Shapira issued the report as Israel prepares for a possible Iranian attack from Syria and continued infiltration attempts along the Gaza border as part of the Great March of Return.

The Defense Ministry and the IDF have said they are working on addressing the issues raised in the report, which focused on the period from November 2016 until July 2017. In some cases, the study period was extended until January 2018.

According to Shapira, the IDF published a 2013 report to correct deficiencies in security to those communities highlighted in comptrollers report from 2012.

The full 2103 plan was never implemented or fully funded. Nor were all the necessary security adjustments made for the threat of terror tunnels to the Gaza border or for the impact of the knife intifada on the West Bank communities.

Northern exposure: Israel’s homeland on the front line

BEZALEL LEV-TOV, a longtime member of Kibbutz Misgav Am, which sits on the border between Israel and Lebanon, looks northward over the green hills of south Lebanon.

“See that black car over there,” he says.

“That’s a Hezbollah car. We see them all the time.”

Misgav Am is the site of one of the most famous terrorist attacks in Israeli history.

In 1980, a group of five Palestinian gunmen belonging to the Arab Liberation Front backed by Iraq, snuck into the kibbutz from south Lebanon. At that time, children slept in a special “children’s house,” and the gunmen took the toddlers hostage until Israeli special forces stormed the area the next day.

A kibbutz member, as well as a toddler and an Israeli soldier, were killed in the attack, along with the five gunmen.

Yet Lev-Tov insists he is not afraid of a Hezbollah attack on his kibbutz of 350 members, and has turned the bomb shelter in his home into an art studio.

“I’m much more afraid of my second exwife,” he says, tossing his gray ponytail and laughing.

WATCH: Exclusive footage from inside Gaza reveals true face of protests

The short movie Behind the Smoke Screen by filmmaker Pierre Rehov shows exclusive images from inside the Gaza Strip, aimed at changing the international perception of the ongoing six-week protests dubbed the “Great March of Return” by Hamas.

“I shot the video because I observed many times first hand how Palestinians build their propaganda and I strongly believe that no peace will be possible as long as international media believe their narrative instead of seeing the facts,” the French filmmaker told The Jerusalem Post.

“Hamas knows that it can count on the international community when it launches initiatives such as those ‘peaceful protests’ which have claimed too many lives already, while Israel has no choice but to defend its borders.”

Rehov, who also writes regularly for the French daily Le Figaro, has been producing documentaries about the Arab-Israeli conflict for 18 years, many of which have aired on Israeli media outlets, including The Road to Jenin, debunking Mohammad Bakri’s claim of a massacre in Jenin, War Crimes in Gaza, demonstrating Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields and Beyond Deception Strategy, exploring the plight of minorities inside Israel and how BDS is hurting Palestinians.

Stop applauding Mahmoud Abbas

Well, this is awkward.

The European institutions are trying – quite creatively as it happens, given the difficult structures of their budget rules – to find ways of pulling the “illiberal democracies” of certain Eastern European member states into line by threatening reductions in their budget.

The logic goes a little like this: want to tinker with your judiciary, or stymie the national debate by curtailing the media in your country? Go ahead, but we will cut your structural funding and leave you with a massive budget black hole for all those infrastructure projects that we pay for, and that to endear you to your electorate.

In other words, the EU is sending out a simple message: our money is conditional.

You respect the rules or you pay the price. So what’s awkward about that? Seems perfectly fair and reasonable, right? “The Holocaust wasn’t caused by antisemitism,” but by the “social behavior” of the Jews, including “money-lending, [charging] interest, and financial matters.”

Read that again. It’s disgusting isn’t it? If Mein Kampf had a part two, you could imagine those words being in there. If you were funding an organization or charity, or paid a subscription to a newspaper that used those words (without being ironic or satirical), you would most likely stop the direct debit or cancel the subscription, wouldn’t you?

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY President Mahmoud Abbas said those words last week at a general meeting of the PA. But he didn’t stop there.

Amb. Alan Baker: Abbas’ Threat to Revoke Palestinian Recognition of Israel

Revocation Undermines the Peace Process

Clearly, the element of Palestinian recognition of Israel emanating from the various agreements and declarations, however vaguely and indirectly expressed, constitutes a basic component of the very foundations of the Oslo peace process and the various agreements adopted between 1993-1999 within that process, all of which are still legally binding, despite having been violated.

To expressly revoke such recognition or suspend it and subject it to recognition by Israel of a Palestinian state, which does not exist, could be interpreted as a factor undermining the very basis of the peace process.

The issue of whether there will be a Palestinian state and whether Israel would recognize such a state is a central, agreed-upon subject for the permanent status negotiations. This issue has not yet been addressed, and Abbas cannot flippantly violate this by prejudging the issue.

By any accepted standard of treaty law or the law of contracts, this could be interpreted as a material violation by the Palestinian leadership, entitling Israel to regard the agreements as frustrated and un-implementable. The significance of this could be to release Israel from its own obligations pursuant to the agreements, including, inter alia the transfer of funds, granting VIP rights of passage to Palestinian leaders, security cooperation, transfer of goods and the like.

While it remains questionable whether Israel or anyone else should take Abbas’s threats seriously, the Israeli leadership might nevertheless find it appropriate to declare that it reserves its right, in light of the PNC resolution to revoke recognition and the concomitant undermining of the agreements by Abbas, to view the agreements as void. Israel could take whatever appropriate unilateral measures – security and economic – it considers appropriate to protect Israel’s interests.

Why Russia Recognizes Hamas, and Other Contradictions of Its Israel Policy

Surveying the entire history of the Jewish state’s relations with the Soviet Union and then Russia from 1948 to the present, Micky Aharonson investigates some of its many paradoxes. Most recently and notably, these include the two countries’ close military contacts and maintenance of at least a façade of friendship despite the fact that their strategic interests in Syria are diametrically opposed. Also, there is Moscow’s persistently expressed opposition to Sunni Muslim terrorist groups coupled with its diplomatic recognition of Hamas’s Sunni terrorist regime in Gaza:

Russian policy on the Palestinian issue and relations with the various Palestinian organizations are directly related to its interests in the Middle East and its desire to achieve the status of a superpower that mediates in regional negotiations. In recent years, Russia has . . . proposed an international conference in Moscow to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the participation of all the involved parties. . . .

Russia was [also] the first country to recognize the Hamas government in Gaza and received Hamas representatives for an official visit to Moscow. . . . The Russians have continued over the years to maintain open dialogue with Hamas. According to the Russians, their goal is to [integrate Hamas into the peace process] and to [garner its] support for the PLO and an Arab peace initiative. . . . In contrast to the [U.S. and even the EU], it did not . . . define [Hamas] as a terror organization. . . . This attitude is not the result of any particular sympathy for the organization but rather the Russian fear of a change in leadership by external intervention. The Russians are consistent in adopting [this] line . . . out of fear that such events will become legitimate in other [countries as well], including Russia itself.

Anti-Israel protesters try to disrupt Giro d’Italia cycling race in Sicily

After an unsuccessful attempt to persuade riders and cycling teams to pull out of the first three stages of the Giro d’Italia race held in Israel, activists on Tuesday took their protest to the fourth stage of the 21-day road race, which started at Catania in Sicily.

Activists demonstrated against the Israeli team at the starting line, then ran onto the route, attempting to block it, before local police armed with batons removed them, according to the Israel Cycling Academy.

The boycott-Israel movement has been battling Israeli competitive cyclists for some months, trying to encourage European competitions to shun them.

In its 101-year history, the Giro has previously opened a dozen times outside Italy but never outside Europe.

Its arrival in Israel was the result of lobbying efforts by Sylvan Adams, an amateur cyclist and real estate mogul from Canada who moved to Israel two years ago.

Paraguay becomes third country to plan embassy move to Jerusalem

Paraguay is set to become the third country, after the US and Guatemala, to transfer its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel said Monday.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said Paraguay President Horacio Cartes will travel to Israel later this month to open the country’s new embassy in the capital.

Cartes’s trip was scheduled for May 21 or May 22, a Paraguay government spokesman told the Reuters news agency.

Nahshon hailed the “wonderful news as the international recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital gathers momentum.”

Foreign embassies are currently located in Tel Aviv and its environs, as the international community has balked at recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, until the status of the city is set via a peace deal with the Palestinians. (h/t Elder of Lobby)

White House Announces Delegation to Attend Embassy Opening in Jerusalem

The White House announced on Monday the official delegation to attend the Jerusalem opening of the United States Embassy in Israel.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will lead the delegation to Jerusalem for the May 14 events.

Joining Sullivan will be Ambassador David Friedman, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt.

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not attend.

The facility in Jerusalem that will become the U.S. Embassy has operated as a consulate but will be upgraded to a full embassy upon the grand opening. The U.S. embassy in Israel as for years been located in Tel Aviv, with the current embassy building having opened in 1966. Despite the embassy being located in Tel Aviv, the location has been controversial since Israel has identified Jerusalem as its capital. Last December, Trump also recognized Jerusalem as the county’s capital, announcing plans for the U.S. to move its embassy there.

Recently, signs have gone up in Jerusalem directing people to the facility that will officially be the U.S. embassy.

Jerusalem traffic circle to be named for US and Trump

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced Tuesday that a traffic circle adjacent to the capital’s soon-to-open US embassy will named “US Square — in honor of President Donald Trump.”

The municipality plans to formally unveil the square in the presence of US officials after the opening on Monday of the embassy, which is currently a US consular building.

The square is located on David Flusser Street in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona.

Trump announced on December 6 that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

“President Trump has decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people, to stand on the side of the truth, and to do the right thing,” the mayor said in a statement.

“Naming this square in honor of the president is our way of showing our love and respect for the president and the American people, who always stand by the side of Israel.”

Abbas urges Latin America not to follow US example on embassy

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged Latin American countries Monday night not to emulate the controversial US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

The United States is pushing ahead with plans to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv on May 14, a move welcomed by Israel that has sparked major protests by Palestinians, who seek East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

“We hope that some countries across Latin America won’t go moving their embassies to Jerusalem, because that is against international law,” Abbas said during a meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas.

The Palestinian leader thanked ally Maduro for rejecting Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocate its embassy, reversing decades of US policy in the region.

Guatemala has already announced it will relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, two days after the United States shifts its mission. And Israel on Monday said Paraguay will be next, doing so later this month.

Foreign embassies are currently located in Tel Aviv and its environs, as the international community has balked at recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, until the status of the city is set via a peace deal with the Palestinians.

On December 6, US President Donald Trump announced that the US would move its embassy to Jerusalem. Israel has expressed hopes that other countries will follow suit, though the move was widely condemned in the international community.

Hebron shooter gets hero’s welcome after serving term

An Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter for shooting dead an incapacitated Palestinian assailant was freed from prison on Tuesday and greeted by supporters as a hero after serving nine months behind bars, half his original sentence.

Elor Azaria was lifted onto the shoulders of a man who was part of a small group of supporters outside his home following his release and he later was paraded through the streets in celebration in a small convoy of cars and motorcycles.

“We’ve been through a very difficult period, very difficult,” Azaria’s father Charlie told supporters.

“Today we’re celebrating. We’ll continue to rejoice. There will be a time and place to say what we have to say.”

Azaria did not speak to supporters but smiled broadly as he was lifted in celebration. Some family members wore T-shirts with Azaria’s photo on it.

The former soldier was initially sentenced to 18 months in prison for the 2016 killing of Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in the West Bank city of Hebron. Azaria, the so-called “Hebron shooter,” was found guilty last year of killing Sharif, who several minutes earlier had attacked two IDF soldiers with a knife.

IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot later reduced the term by four months and in March a parole board ordered a further cut, to a total of nine months.

JCPA: Hizbullah’s Victory in the Lebanese Parliamentary Elections Completes Iran’s Takeover of the Lebanese State

The necessity for forming a national unity government will apparently obligate all sides to maintain the present formula of power, according to which President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and Parliamentary Chairman Nabih Berri will continue in their current positions. However, the main significance of a Hizbullah victory is that it strengthens the veto power that the Shiite organization possesses with regard to any Lebanese government decision. Therefore, Hizbullah will continue to lay the foundations of Lebanese policy in the spheres of foreign and internal policy. The most important of these are:
  • Protecting and maintaining the military power of Hizbullah, which is directly subject to Hassan Nasrallah and through him, to Iranian leader Khamenei.
  • Using force against Israel – subject to Iran’s decision; dispatching military forces to Syria; and supporting Iran domination in Syria.
  • Building institutions that are parallel to state institutions to provide civilian services in all aspects of life for Hizbullah and army militia.

Beyond all of the above, Hizbullah’s victory completes Iran’s takeover of the country of Lebanon. Any decisions regarding war and peace in Lebanon will be made in Tehran, not Beirut.

Apparently, the cannon fodder that Hizbullah supplied to Iran in Syria over the past seven years has not harmed Hizbullah’s position in Lebanon. Nasrallah campaigned daily via television, and mobilized all his abilities for the success of his representatives in the parliamentary elections. He has succeeded in presenting Hizbullah as the ultimate protector of the Shiites in Lebanon and the country itself.

For this reason, there must be an impact on any decisions regarding military aid from the Western countries, and primarily the United States, offered to the Lebanese army. Now, more than ever, it must be clear that giving any aid to the Lebanese Army is essentially giving military aid to Hizbullah.

JCPA: Syrian Defense Capabilities Improve

Following the American-British-French air raids on April 13, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he will be providing more military aid to Syria. The Russian defense ministry announced that new aerial defense systems will arrive in Syria soon.

In an interview with Kan Radio’s Ayala Hasson, (in Hebrew) Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the research department of IDF intelligence, stated:

“The Russians are worried about the harm done to their prestige after the western attack on Syria. This joint attack by the European countries with the United States proved that Syria is an exclusive area of aerial operation for the West, and the West is strong enough to fight in the region, while Russian efforts to prevent the attack seriously failed.”

“At the same time, Israel announced that in time of necessity, it will act in Syria in accordance with its defense needs. All of this shows the Russians as being weak and unable to provide protection for its allies. Its way of salvaging the situation is to provide Syria with aerial defenses under its protection.”

Kuperwasser added: “The new defense systems that Russia has provided to Syria are a higher level of defense capability for the Syrians that will be added to the existing defense systems in the region. If Israel wants to act in Syria, this raises the question of whether these defense systems would foil an attack. On the other hand, if the West decides to attack Syria a second time and succeeds, this says something about the strength of Russia’s defenses.”

Netanyahu: Iran seeking to deploy advanced arms in Syria to wipe out Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tuesday that Iran is striving to deploy advanced weapons in Syria to destroy the Jewish state, and that it could threaten the entire region with a Mediterranean base.

Iran “has a terror network that is spread throughout the world,” Netanyahu said. “It is now seeking to implant very dangerous weapons in Syria to be used against Israel for the specific purpose of our destruction.”

Netanyahu spoke at a trilateral summit in Cyprus where he met with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

His comments came amid escalating tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran as the Islamic Republic has sought to expand its foothold in neighboring Syria, raising fears it could use bases for attacking Israel.

“Iran openly calls daily for our destruction, the elimination of Israel from the face of the earth, and it practices unmitigated aggression against us and against anyone else in the region,” he said.

“It is in the interest of everyone to prevent this Iranian aggression,” Netanyahu said. “If they reach the Mediterranean, they wish to establish military naval bases in the Mediterranean for Iranian ships and Iranian submarines. This is a palpable threat against all of us.”

JCPA: Turkey’s Role in Hamas Terror

What Does the Future Hold?

The continued activities of the Hamas office in Istanbul, which directs terror activities against Israel, are a clear breach of the understandings between Israel and Turkey, reached before the reconciliation agreement between both countries was signed. Israel recognizes the strategic importance of relations with Turkey and has not cut its ties with it, even though the activities of Hamas are authorized by President Erdogan, who considers himself to be the most important leader of the Muslim Brotherhood world organization and has taken Hamas and its leaders under his wing.

Nonetheless, the time has come for Israel to start working intensively on the diplomatic front to bring about the closure of the office of the Hamas military wing in Istanbul because it is becoming a significant factor endangering Israel’s security and is laying a terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank.

Israel must put international pressure on Turkey. Any country opening its doors to the military wing of Hamas, such as Turkey and Malaysia, should be declared a country that supports terror by the United States and Europe.

President Erdogan is very sensitive to international criticism of the activities of terror organizations in his country. The time has come for Israel to reveal the operations of the Hamas office in Istanbul to the international community and the media so that this pressure will work.

Turkish Media Blackout of Opposition Party’s Rally Stokes Backlash

Turkey’s primary news channels all ignored the first election rally of Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) last week.

NTV, Habertürk, and CNN Türk have all drifted toward the government and have given the bulk of their coverage to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported. Ince and others in Turkey have decried how these outlets promote AKP by not giving much airtime to others, and the decision not to broadcast Ince’s rally caused a stir.

News outlet Ahval reported that CNN Türk, the largest private media organization in the country, came under the control of strongly pro-government owners last month, leading to personnel changes. Ince criticized public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) for ignoring the rally as well.

“We had a rally in Yalova. I have not seen such a thing in Yalova in the last 40 years. But TRT didn’t broadcast it. This is my final warning. I will not repeat it. TRT is not your father’s farm. TRT belongs to 80 million people,” Ince said during a rally in Balıkesir Saturday.

Ince said TRT should not use tax money from his party’s supporters if they will not offer fair coverage

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