September 18, 2020

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08/01 Links Pt1: Was the peace process doomed to failure from the start?; Kontorovich: Not $1 of US funding for UN organizations which accept PA membership

From Ian:

Comment: Was the peace process doomed to failure from the start?
Finally, in terms of forging a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace, it can only be viewed as a pipe-dream considering the above-mentioned, less complicated issues—which, for that matter, are integral components of a potential wider deal—remain unsettled.

Notably, that the PA continues to boycott the US administration has conveniently been swept under the rug.

The present reality is a direct consequence of the mental stasis that has permeated Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking since the 2000 Camp David Summit blew up in the faces of then-US president Bill Clinton and former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak—and then in Tel Aviv cafes and Jerusalem buses following Yassir Arafat’s launch of the Second Intifada.

Ever since, no tangible progress has been made towards achieving anything resembling lasting peace; this, because the same failed ideas have been recycled time after time, as evidenced by present goings-on.

The faith-like devotion to repeating the same thing over and over again stems from a misguided confidence that the sides in 2000 were close to completing a deal, a fabrication that was categorically disproven eight years later when Abbas rejected then-Israeli leader Ehud Olmert’s more generous offer.

Nevertheless, the near-sacrosanct mantra that “everyone knows what a solution to the conflict looks like” has become the de facto starting point for every fruitless negotiating process.

It should, by contrast, be clear that the basic assumptions that have driven the peace process backwards were never correct to begin with. Accordingly, there are two ways to proceed.

Either the current reality must be accepted and allowed to unfold, until such time that Israel, the PA or Hamas, or all three, takes decisive action to fundamentally alter the playing field. Or, a dramatically reconfigured diplomatic formula can be introduced into the mix, one in which existing variables are swapped out for new ones so that the Israeli-Palestinian equation may finally spit out a different result.

‘Law: Not $1 of US funding for UN organizations which accept PA’

Professor Eugene Kontorovich spoke on Monday night at a conference hosted by Arutz Sheva and organized by Dr. Joseph Frager.

Dr. Kontorovich addressed the controversy surrounding the recently-passed Nationality Law and the balance of power between the Supreme Court and the other branches of government in Israel.

He called on the American government to enforce laws banning US government funding to international organizations which admit the ‘State of Palestine’ as a member.

“In 1994, Congress passed a law that says any UN-affiliated agency that accepts the PLO as a member is not eligible for US funding. This law – unlike many such laws – is non-waivable, is not optional, it is completely mandatory.

“In the last years of the Obama Administration, the Palestinians went ahead and they did join such a UN organization. And the Obama State Department came up with a fairly convoluted excuse to not cut off funding.

“Of course, that sets a very bad precedent. And since then, especially in the wake of the moving of the US embassy, the Palestinians have retaliated by joining three more US agencies, and the United States continues to fund [those agencies]. The law says not one dollar of taxpayer funding.”

JCPA: Ahed Tamimi: What’s in a Name

Every person has a name given by his/her parents, and the very name that Ahed Tamimi’s parents gave her expresses the commitment to destroy Israel.

What is the meaning of this strange name, “Ahed”?

Ahed means “obligation, commitment.” It is part of the fundamental oath of terror organizations, and primarily Fatah. Anyone who joins the organization swears and pledges himself to the liberation of the whole of Palestine from the Israeli sword. This is called: al-Qassam and al-Ahed: the oath and the obligation. It is recited at a secret ceremony for each participant. After the signing of the Oslo accords, the leader of the PLO Yasser Arafat went to the grave of his deputy in Tunis, Abu Iyad (Salah Khalaf), and said that despite all of the agreements, he would remain obliged to al-Qasam and al-Ahed.

The release of Ahed Tamimi on July 30, 2018, created a wave of speculation over a renewed intifada. The spokesman for the Palestinian Authority hurried to crown her as an “icon” for the Palestinians’ “popular struggle.”

But Ahed Tamimi did not actually say a word about “popular struggle.” The opposite was the case – she praised the terrorists sitting in Israeli jails – those who chose the “armed struggle” – and used the term “muqawama.”

These are not the only problems facing Ahed Tamimi in her glory days: her image is in contradiction to the image of the traditional woman that the relatively conservative society in the West Bank expects. This young woman with wild blonde hair challenges the image of the modest woman covered in a hijab. In one West Bank village, I saw this graffiti on a wall: “Your beauty is in your hijab. (Jamalek behijabek)”. Ahed’s images painted on walls could be seen as a provocation against the traditional values that Palestinian society follows.

PMW: Belgian funded PA school still named after terrorist mass murderer

The Palestinian school built with Belgian funding is still named after terrorist mass murderer, Dalal Mughrabi, who led the 1978 bus hijacking and murder of 37 Israelis including 12 children.

On Sept. 27, 2017, Palestinian Media Watch released a report documenting 31 Palestinian Authority schools named after terrorists, one of which PMW is certain was built by the Belgium government.

Text on plaque: “Through a fund from the Government of the Kingdom of Belgium
and through the Belgian Development Agency BTC,
constructed and furnished, Beit Awaa Basic Girls School”
[Facebook page of Dalal Mughrabi Elementary School,
(accessed Sept. 18, 2017)]

Shortly after PMW’s original report was published, Belgian authorities condemned the naming of the school built with its funding after the terrorist and announced it “will not allow itself to be associated with the names of terrorists in any way.” [The Algemeiner, Oct. 7, 2017]

PMW has now discovered that the PA has defied Belgium, and the school continues to be named Martyr Dalal Mughrabi Elementary School.

PMW: PMW submission to US Dept. of the Treasury to blacklist Issa Karake

On Apr. 16, 2018, Palestinian Media Watch submitted a report to the US Department of the Treasury documenting the connection between Issa Karake, the Director of the PLO Commission of Prisoner’s Affairs, to terror, terrorists and terror financing.

The report focused on Karake’s responsibility for the payment of salaries to terrorist prisoners, his glorification of terrorists and their actions and his incitement of terrorism. The report further demonstrated how these actions breached Executive Order 13224 and provided the evidentiary basis for his designation as a sponsor of terrorism.

PMW’s report was submitted soon after the passage of the Taylor Force Act, which provided that, “The Palestinian Authority’s practice ofpaying salaries to terrorists serving in Israeli prisons,as well as to the families of deceased terrorists, is an incentive to commit acts of terror.”

In the report, PMW included official PA documents detailing the PA salary payments to a number of terrorist prisoners. While PMW has been in possession of these documents for some time, the report to the US Department of the Treasury was the first time they were publicly exposed. The documents are additional proof that the PA’s 2004 Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners is enforced by the PA and that imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, including but not limited to members of organizations already designated as terrorist organizations by E.O. 13224, do in fact receive a salary. The report also included sections of an affidavit, submitted to the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of the PA, which provided details and confirmed the PA’s payment of salaries to terrorist prisoners since 1995.

29 fires erupt as arson terrorism continues to scorch western Negev

Twenty-nine fires erupted in Israeli communities ‎near the Gaza Strip border Tuesday, as Palestinian ‎arson terrorism continued to wreak havoc near the ‎volatile frontier. ‎

One incendiary balloon sent over the Gaza border ‎landed on a parked vehicle in the Eshkol Regional ‎Council, damaging its roof. No injuries were ‎reported in the incident.‎

Sdot Negev Regional Council head Tamir Idan leveled ‎harsh criticism at the government over what he ‎called its tolerance of the situation. ‎

‎”Frankly, I’m very concerned by the government’s ‎inaction. Especially given the promises made to us ‎during their [ministers’] recent meetings with the ‎local council heads. ‎

‎”This type of prolonged inaction is perceived by the ‎other side as a serious weakness. Hamas continues to ‎dictate reality on the ground and we keep being ‎dragged behind it,” he said.‎

Various ministers visited the Gaza-vicinity ‎communities over the past few weeks, each saying ‎that Israel will not tolerate arson terrorism as the ‎norm near the border. ‎

US envoy visits American, Israeli firefighters battling arson attacks from Gaza

The US ambassador to Israel visited the Gaza border area on Wednesday to meet with Israeli and American firefighters jointly battling the daily blazes in the region caused by incendiary kites and balloons launched from the Gaza Strip.

The visit came as local firefighters battled four fires started by incendiary balloons near Israeli communities in the area.

Ten American firefighters are volunteering with the rescue services in the south through the Emergency Volunteers Project, a group that sends American volunteers to train and help Israeli rescue services.

The firefighters “demonstrated an amazing solidarity between the American people and the Israeli people,” Ambassador David Friedman said in a statement after the visit.

“It’s an act of true friendship and true love and I think the people here know that if the United States would need help, the Israelis would come to the United States to help.”

He added: “I don’t think there is a better way to demonstrate solidarity, love, and cooperation between the United States and Israel.”

Most Israeli Jews back large-scale Gaza offensive if ceasefire fails

Nearly two-thirds of Jewish Israelis think Israel should launch a large-scale military offensive in the Gaza Strip if its Hamas rulers do not abide by the latest ceasefire agreement, a poll released Tuesday found.

The results, published by the Israel Democracy Institute as part of its monthly Peace Index, also found that Arab and Jewish Israelis were divided on whether the Syrian regime’s recent military advances were a positive development for the Jewish state.

According to the poll, 61 percent of Jewish Israelis think the IDF should launch a military operation in Gaza if the cross-border arson attacks from the Hamas-run coastal enclave continue.

Support for an extensive military offensive was higher among respondents who identified as right-wing, with 75% supporting the move.

In contrast, 69% of Arab Israelis opposed a large-scale Israeli military response to the recent flare-up in violence in the coastal enclave, with only 16% indicating support for it.

70 House Democrats urge Trump administration to restore Gaza aid funding

Seventy House Democrats on Monday urged the Trump administration to reinstate its humanitarian aid funding in Gaza, saying that it was necessary toward alleviating the crisis there.

The missive — supported by the left-wing Middle East advocacy group J Street — argued that the White House’s cuts to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) was exacerbating an already-deteriorating situation that poses long-term security risks to Israel.

“We urge you to immediately restore funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza because it plays a critical role in the larger US strategy to secure peace and stability in the region,” the lawmakers said.

In January, Washington announced it would withhold $65 million in assistance to the UN relief agency for Palestinians. The move came after Palestinians protested US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.

UN Exhibit in New York Shows Fire Damage in Israel From Incendiary Kites and Balloons

An exhibition featured at the UN headquarters in New York this week will show viewers the damage that Gazan terror kites and flammable balloons have caused inside Israel.

An initiative of Yesh Atid Party Knesset member Haim Jelin, the former head of the Eshkol Regional Council, the exhibit contains photos of nature reserves, fields and agricultural lands before and after being attacked by Gazans, who have launched hundreds of flying arson weapons into Israel.

The collection was curated by photographer Udi Israel, and displayed for ambassadors and diplomats from around the world.

“The destructive fire terrorism not only threatens the lives of Israeli citizens, but destroys the entire ecological system in the south and causes irrevocable environmental damage,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon. “Hamas’s cruelty and cynicism, turning playthings into deadly weapons, knows no bounds.”

VOX [!]: Israel’s hugely controversial “nation-state” law, explained

Israel passed a controversial new “nation-state law” last week that’s sparking both celebration and fierce debate over the very nature of Israel itself.

The law does three big things:
– It states that “the right to exercise national self-determination” in Israel is “unique to the Jewish people.”
– It establishes Hebrew as Israel’s official language, and downgrades Arabic — a language widely spoken by Arab Israelis — to a “special status.”
– It establishes “Jewish settlement as a national value” and mandates that the state “will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.”

Each of these statements would be contentious on its own, but taken together, they’re a clear, unequivocal statement of how the Jewish state’s current leaders see both the country and the diverse people who call it home.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government backed the legislation and was overjoyed at the law’s passing. Netanyahu lauded the law as “a defining moment in the history of the state” — a phrase that was splashed across the front pages of Israel Hayom, the country’s most-read newspaper, which is often described as Netanyahu’s Fox News for its favorable coverage of his government.

But for Israeli Arabs, who make up one-fifth of Israel’s 9 million citizens, the new law was a slap in the face. When the law passed, Arab parliamentary members ripped up copies of the bill and shouted, “Apartheid,” on the floor of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).

Ayman Odeh, the leader of a coalition of primarily Arab parties currently in the opposition, said in a statement that Israel had “passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”

Palestinians, liberal American Jews, and many Israelis on the left also denounced the law as racist and undemocratic. Yohanan Plesner, the head of the nonpartisan Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute, called the new law “jingoistic and divisive” and an “unnecessary embarrassment to Israel.”

But at the core of the new law is a deep, existential debate that Israelis have grappled with almost since the country’s founding: Can Israel be both a “Jewish state” that protects and celebrates Jewish identity, and a liberal democracy that protects the rights of all minorities, including non-Jews?

The Left turned settlement into a dirty word

On Nov. 10, 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 3379, which said that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” In response, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin held a special cabinet session and announced a proper Zionist countermeasure: Four more Jewish communities would be built in the Golan Heights.

This cabinet resolution was a natural reaction by a Labor-led government because Jewish settlement had always been the lifeblood of the party and its precursors. Rabin’s message was that even as the U.N. condemns Zionism, we are going to move head with realizing its vision. How? By building new Jewish settlements in the land of Israel.

But now Labor is attacking the nation-state law and zeroing in on the section stating that “the State of Israel views the development of Jewish settlements as a national value and priority and will act to encourage and promote the establishment and consolidation of such settlements.” This makes it clear that Labor is ideologically bankrupt.

Having Labor say the provisions on Jews settlement are “racist” and “nationalist” is akin to having ultra-Orthodox parties lambaste Torah study and claim that the five books of Moses are a travesty.

In July 1919, the Poale Zion movement decided to send a delegation to Palestine with a goal: Come back with a plan on how to establish a socialist entity there. At the time, the movement was the largest and strongest socialist party in the Jewish world.

Khaled Abu Toameh: PA slams American ambassador’s ‘provocative’ visits to settlements

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday condemned US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s “recurring visits” to Jewish settlements, dubbing them a “provocation.”

The PA accused the US administration and its “Zionist staff” of working towards imposing their policies on the international community.

The PA’s condemnation came after Friedman paid a condolence visit Monday to the family of Yotam Ovadia who was stabbed to death Thursday in a terrorist attack in Adam.

“My heart was broken upon seeing the tragic consequence of the killing of Yotam Ovadia,” Friedman said during the visit. “A young woman left alone to care for two toddlers, parents mourning their only son. There are no words that can describe the evil and barbarity of this act of terror.”

The PA Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “condemns with the strongest words the provocative visits by the ambassador of the [US President Donald] Trump administration to Tel Aviv to settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

The ministry said that the positions of the US administration were “illegal and illegitimate, and a blatant violation of the international law.”

Trump confidant to participate in settler building ceremony

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, whose daughter, Sarah Sanders, is the White House press secretary, plans to symbolically participate in the construction of a home in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, located just outside of Jerusalem.

Former White House director of communications Anthony Scaramucci, who was traveling with him, had planned to attend the event as well, but will have already returned to New York.

The vocal supporters of US President Donald Trump are in Israel on a trip sponsored by Joseph Frager of the National Council of Young Israel.

They visited the Samaria region of the West Bank on Monday and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on Tuesday.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said Huckabee and Scaramucci were part of a group of people with influence in Washington, Dagan said.

He wanted to underscore for them the importance of the settlements both to Israel and the United States.

Switzerland to hold reception in no-man’s land between Israel, West Bank

The Swiss embassy was set to host its annual National Day event Wednesday in Neve Shalom, an Israeli-Palestinian peace village located in what much of the international community considers an illegal West Bank settlement.

Located south of Latrun, Neve Shalom is situated in a sliver of land considered “no-man’s land” because neither Jordan nor Israel controlled it between 1948 and the 1967 Six Day War, during which Israel captured the West Bank.

The Swiss embassy in Tel Aviv selected Neve Shalom partly because it is located “equidistant from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv-Jaffa,” but mainly because of its dedication to Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, according to the invitation sent out by Ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch.

“It is a model of equality, mutual respect and partnership that challenges existing patterns of racism and discrimination as well as the continued conflict,” the invitation stated. “The community has established educational institutions based on its ideals and conducts activities focused on social and political change. Many of the village members work in peace, justice and reconciliation projects.”

But the choice of location is curious, as Switzerland, like most other countries, does not recognize Israel beyond the 1967 lines.

Israel is under massive Chinese, Russian cyber espionage attack

A few months ago, “Ophir,” a senior official with a rich intelligence background turned private cyber security expert, was called back to duty.

The mission: Ophir and a team of experts were asked to examine the security of some of Israel’s main computer systems. A few systems were defined as “strategic,” others of lesser importance. But since less time and energy is spent on protecting these secondary systems, it can make them even more vulnerable to infiltration. The investigation team was put together by one of Israel’s governmental intelligence and information protection agencies.

The idea was to have someone from the outside—a fresh pair of eyes—look at these systems and identify “holes” and problems that may have gone unnoticed by the regular cyber security team.

“The Shin Bet’s counter-espionage unit has never been busier,” Ophir was told.

“We believe Israel is under a multi-frontal attack, a significant threat to our national security. Some of the spying is classic, like it used to be: living agents recruited for personal gain or ideology. We know how to deal with those. But some attacks are being carried out by other means, less visible and clear.”

Family protests UN’s inaction on return of Hadar Goldin’s remains

During a protest on Wednesday morning outside of the United Nations complex in Armon Hanatziv, the family of captured IDF Soldier Hadar Goldin delivered a letter meant for UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov, calling for him to ensure that the return of Goldin’s body is a key part of any potential deal with Hamas.

The protest was arranged by Misdar Hadar (The Order of Hadar), which is a group of volunteers advocating for the return of Hadar’s body.

Goldin’s family and supporters gathered outside of the complex, holding protest signs in English that included “United Nations is unHumanitarian” [sic] and “Hadar Goldin, Victim of UN ceasefire.” Goldin was killed and his body taken by Hamas on August 1, 2014 at around nine o’clock, even though a UN-brokered ceasefire had already taken effect between Israel and Hamas.

At nine o’clock, the family and supporters held a moment of silence to mark the moments when Hadar Goldin was captured almost precisely four years earlier.

Dr. Leah Goldin, Hadar’s mother, read to the assembly in English her letter to Mladenov, which called on him and the UN to act in the spirit of their stated roles as custodians of international humanitarian law, and to combat the “culture of impunity” Hamas benefits from by not being held accountable for holding his body.

Norway demands answers over seizure of blockade-busting boat

Norway called on Israel Tuesday to explain the seizure of a Norwegian-flagged ship on Sunday that was attempting to break the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“We have asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention,” Reuters quoted a Norwegian foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy seized the “Freedom,” and arrested the 22 passengers who were attempting to breach the blockade on Gaza.

Israel says the naval siege is necessary to prevent weapons and equipment from entering the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave that can be used in attacks.

The flotilla was organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, an umbrella of organizations aiming to end the closure of Gaza, and set sail from the Danish port of Copenhagen.

Oslo said it was providing consular help to the five Norwegians who were among the 22 passengers aboard the ship.

Arab MK sparks fury with map of Israel drawn as Palestinian flag

Joint Arab List MK Jamal Zahalka drew ire on Tuesday for a Facebook post in which he called for the “entire Palestinian nation” to stage a general strike in the coming days in response to the enactment of the nation-state law.

“Our message is one of rejection and struggle against the Jewish nation-state law. We renounce it and the humiliation of Palestine, the homeland of the Palestinian people,” he wrote.

“The strike is a message to the entire world. The Palestinian people is one nation … a living people that protects its fate and seeks to amend the historical injustice.”

Zahalka also posted a map of Israel covered in the Palestinian flag.

Maor Zemach, head of the Lach Yerushalayim (“For You, Jerusalem”) advocacy group that seeks to safeguard Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, blasted Zahalka for the post, which he said was “definitive proof that the nation-state law is one of the of the most important laws the Knesset has enacted.”

IDF says it caught cell that fired at settlement last month

The IDF said Wednesday it had captured the terror squad responsible for a shooting at the Beit El settlement last month.

The army did not offer many details about the arrests, including the number of suspects nabbed in the operation, but said they hailed from the Jalazoun refugee camp in Ramallah, which is not far from Beit El.

“The Jalazoun refugee camp is a focal point for terror from which a number of cells have originated,” the IDF said in a statement.

The July 10 attack attributed to the terror cell ended without casualties. At the time, the army said spent bullet casings were found outside the settlement.

Palestinian sentenced to prison for doing Kiki challenge

A Palestinian man will be shimmying his way to the big house after being sentenced by a Ramallah court for dancing outside his vehicle while it was moving, as part of the Kiki challenge trend sweeping the world.

The man, whose name was not released by officials, was sentenced to two months in prison, the official Palestinian Authority news site Wafa reported.

The “Kiki Challenge” entails hopping out of a vehicle in motion and dancing beside it to the musical artist Drake’s new song “In My Feelings.”

People across the globe have uploaded videos of themselves performing the challenge and police in several locations have warned the public of the dangers involved.

On Monday, Israel’s Road Safety Authority chided Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon for a campaign spot in which he also did the challenge, walking alongside his car as it was driven by a chauffeur.

JCPA: Five Years of Abd el Fattah el Sisi – and Egypt Is at a Crossroads

Five years have elapsed since Abd el Fattah el Sisi assumed the presidency, and Egypt has undergone a radical transformation and has become, in the view of many in the West, a repressive regime with zero tolerance for its critics and even less for its opponents.

Battling against a formidable domestic enemy, an undeclared coalition of radical Islamic organizations represented by the iconic Muslim Brotherhood and other small Islamic Salafist extremist groups, Sisi has found no time to concentrate on Egypt’s chronic economic sickness.

Now that Sisi has been re-established in his position for the next four years, his missions remain the same: quelling ISIS in Sinai, consolidating the regime mainly by muzzling the media and keeping the pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies, and trying to improve the economy, which is the Achilles’ heel of the regime.

Five years after his takeover, Sisi has radically transformed the Egyptian political landscape. In his course of action, Sisi has given the Egyptian armed forces an unprecedented status, illustrating what was already a blatant truth: Egypt is and will remain a military society.

MEMRI: Pakistan’s Next Prime Minister Imran Khan Says Pakistanis ‘Think The U.S. Is Not Fighting A War Against Terror; It’s A War Against Islam’; ‘Jewish Lobby… Controls The Global Media’

Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned Pakistani politician, is set to become Pakistan’s next prime minister. In the Islamic world, you rarely find female Sufi mystics. Bushra Maneka, a 39-year-old divorcee, is a rare mystic and faith healer whom, among other such mystics, Imran Khan would often consult during his political career. In January 2018, it emerged that Bushra predicted a miracle remedy: Khan would become Pakistan’s prime minister if he married her.[1] Her prediction has come true in less than seven months.

Khan, who had previously divorced British heiress Jemima Goldsmith as well as British-Pakistani journalist Reham Khan, married Bushra Maneka. Days before the July 25, 2018 elections in Pakistan, Khan also told a British newspaper that he had not seen his bride’s face until after the wedding was solemnized.[2] Khan’s image as a playboy who is accused of fathering out of wedlock a daughter from U.S. citizen Sita White and who strode the stage of international cricket in the 1980s has been transformed into the image of an orthodox person who did not feel the need to see his bride’s face, even though Islam permits it.

Pakistan was created as a homeland for Indian Muslims. Its leaders have been caught in a bind: Should the state of Pakistan be transformed on the path of Islam or as a democratic country for Muslims? In this ongoing struggle, Pakistani politicians and religious groups have often been successful in shaping Pakistan’s identity along religious lines.

On July 26, 2018, after it became clear that he would form the next government in Pakistan, Imran Khan announced: “I want to share the kind of Pakistan I envision – the type of state that was established in Medina, where widows and the poor were taken care of.”[3] Religious groups describe Pakistan as Medina-e-Sani (“the second Medina”), after the Saudi city which became the first Islamic state founded by Prophet Muhammad.

Russian envoy: Israel agrees to removal of Iranian troops 85km from Golan

Russia and Israel have reached an agreement on the removal of Iranian forces at least 85 kilometers from Israel’s Golan Heights, Russia’s special envoy for Syria told the Sputnik news agency on Wednesday.

“As we took into account the Israeli concerns, we managed to attain the pullout of Iranian units 85 kilometers from the Israeli[-Syrian] border,” Russian Presidential Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev said.

According to Lavrentyev, Russia is “certain” that Israeli concerns over the presence of pro-Iranian forces near its border with Syria are decreasing.

Jerusalem has repeatedly said it would not allow Iran to establish a permanent presence in Syria. Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, have met with their Russian counterparts numerous times in recent weeks to stress the importance of preventing such a presence.

Last month, Israel refused a Russian offer to keep Iranian troops in Syria 100 km. from Israel’s border, with officials stating that Israel wanted Iranian troops to fully withdraw from Syria, something Russia warned would be unrealistic.

IDF: Hezbollah likely to replace ISIS on Israel’s northern border

The Syrian army is expected to complete its takeover of the country’s southwest, near the border with Israel, in the next day or two. This will allegedly restore a familiar situation, in which Syria’s regime is once again stable, even if under the auspices of Russia.

This would seem to be an ideal situation, especially if reality on the ground reverts to the one that existed before the civil war began in 2011, when Syria and Israel both adhered to the 1974 cease-fire agreement in full. This would restore peace and quiet to the Golan Heights, which could once again become Israel’s most tranquil frontier.

The key word here is “if.” Unfortunately, the chances of this becoming reality are slim. The Syrian army may regain control on the ground, but it will not be the only armed presence near the border. Russia will be there too, and its presence is both a blessing and a curse.

The Russian presence, ostensibly meant to inspire restraint on all sides, will only be effective if Russia agrees to act on Israeli intelligence and thwart anti-Israeli incidents. But if the Russians prove to be a modern version of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil, Israel will find itself in a predicament, as Russia’s presence will make it difficult for Israel to act independently.

Russia, however, is the easy part. The bigger problems are Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.

Iran’s parliament summons Rouhani as economy falters under U.S. pressures

Iranian lawmakers have given President Hassan Rouhani one month to appear before parliament to answer questions on his government’s handling of Iran’s economic struggles, state media reported on Wednesday.

It is the first time parliament has summoned Rouhani, who is under pressure from hardline rivals to change his cabinet following a deterioration in relations with the United States and Iran’s growing economic difficulties.

Lawmakers want to question Rouhani on topics including the rial’s decline, which has lost more than half its value since April, weak economic growth and rising unemployment, according to semi-official ISNA news agency.

Rouhani, a pragmatist who reduced tensions with the West by striking a nuclear deal in 2015, is facing a growing backlash since US President Donald Trump pulled out from the pact in May and said he will reimpose sanctions that seek to throttle Iran’s economy, including its lifeblood oil exports.

ISNA said lawmakers also want Rouhani to explain why, more than two years after the landmark deal, Iranian banks still have only limited access to global financial services.

The nuclear accord curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions.

Washington assures Jerusalem there is no change in its Iran policy

Washington has assured Israel that there has been “no change” in its “aggressive policies” toward Iran, a diplomatic official said Tuesday following US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement that he would be willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without any preconditions.

According to the official, Israel is “in continuous contact” with the American administration.

Nevertheless, neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Foreign Ministry issued any public comment on the suggestion, made by Trump in an answer to a journalist’s question during a press conference following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Trump, when asked if he would meet Rouhani following his recent meetings with the leaders of North Korea and Russia, said: “I’ll meet with anybody. I believe in meeting… There’s nothing wrong with meeting.”

Trump added that he did not know if the Iranians were “ready yet” for a meeting, adding that “they’re having a hard time right now.”

Erdogan accuses US of ‘Zionist mentality’ in pastor’s case

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed his country would not give into threats from the US over the case of an American pastor being tried on terror charges, accusing Washington of showing an “evangelist, Zionist mentality.”

Andrew Brunson, who led a protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, is at the center of one of the most bitter diplomatic spats between the NATO allies in years that risks escalating further.

Brunson was last week put under house arrest after nearly two years in jail. But the crisis has since escalated rather than being defused, with US officials furious he has not been allowed to leave Turkey.

US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have threatened Turkey with painful sanctions if the pastor was not freed.

“We will not give any credit to this type of threatening language,” Erdogan told reporters in Ankara.

Pence said last week that Brunson was “a victim of religious persecution” but Erdogan insisted that Turkey did not have the “slightest problem with religious minorities.”

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