May 27, 2020

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08/06 Links P1: Stabilizing Israel-Hamas Relations in Gaza: Can It Be Achieved?; UNIFIL has another chance to do its job; Poll Shows Israelis Support Negotiations, but Pals Don’t

From Ian:

JCPA: Stabilizing Israel-Hamas Relations in Gaza: Can It Be Achieved?
Israel and Hamas are seriously engaged in “regularizing” the situation in Gaza that will end the arson kites and the assaults on the border fence, and, in return, Israel will permit the rehabilitation of Gaza to alleviate the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Under discussion is a long-term ceasefire and the reconstruction of Gaza.

Both Israel and Hamas are interested in the positive conclusion of the efforts. That is why this time the chances of an agreement are fair. However, there are too many spoilers ready and willing to prevent its fulfillment.
Who Are the Spoilers and What Motivates Them?

First among the deal opponents is the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Sources in Ramallah insist that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas strongly objects to any engagement with Hamas. He wants Hamas to accept Ramallah’s rule in Gaza under Ramallah’s terms. There will be no return to “reconciliation talks” after today.

Also, when it comes to the governing structures that were central to the talks in the past – elections for president and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) – Abbas is not interested in their revival. He is now basing his legitimacy on the established institutes of the Palestine Liberation Organization that are not democratic.

The reluctance to return to futile reconciliation talks goes together with Abbas’ concern over the separate contacts between Israel and Hamas. According to sources in Ramallah, the chances of an agreement between Israel and Hamas are much better than the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. If negotiations with Gaza leads to Gaza’s detachment from the West Bank, some Palestinians believe it will be the first step of the Trump deal and remove the refugee issue and Jerusalem off the negotiating table.

As far as Ramallah is concerned, there will be no blessing for the deal. It will also present a regional and international dilemma whether to grant the terror organization, Hamas, legitimacy.

Ron Prosor: UNIFIL has another chance to do its job

Good riddance. These words are the proper sendoff for Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, the commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, who is about to complete his four-year term.

Beary had one job: to prevent Hezbollah from spreading south of the Litani River. He consistently refused to enforce this prohibition, insisting that the terrorists moving south of the river were actually shepherds and hunters. Even during his farewell interviews, he could not utter the word Hezbollah.

U.S. envoy to the U.N. Nikki Haley has lambasted Beary for shirking his duty, calling him a disgrace to the organization and “blind.” His conduct is also the reason why for the past year I led an international campaign to have him replaced. The U.N. has appointed Maj. Gen. Stefano Del Col in his stead. He is to enter the job on Tuesday.

I hope that when the outgoing and incoming commanders sat down to discuss the transition, the word Hezbollah came up. But since there is no way to trust Beary to do this most basic task, I would like to suggest several ways in which he could effectively do his job.

Maj. Gen. Del Col, I am not so naive as to think UNIFIL can single-handedly remove Hezbollah from southern Lebanon, and no one expects you to actively take on the organization. But here is what you can and should do:

Haaretz: Why Younger Saudis Won’t Fund, Facilitate or Fight for a Palestinian State

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are experiencing tremendous socio-political change that has accelerated a generation gap. The younger generations are characterized and led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and his close ally Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ), the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and primary driver of the UAE’s foreign policy.

The younger Gulf generations are now unconvinced that moderation would follow the establishment of a Palestinian state. They believe it is more likely that a fully independent Palestinian state would itself be hostage to radical forces, and would in fact become an extreme source of instability in the region. MBS and MBZ believe that establishing a Palestinian state would mean handing Iran and Sunni political Islamists another Arab capital to control and influence.

Many Western policymakers still fantasize about the idea that the Gulf countries could provide money to birth and develop a Palestinian state – indeed, this is reportedly one of the founding principles of the Trump-Kushner peace plan. That is never going to happen, despite what they may promise publicly. Those who actively dictate policy in the Gulf are convinced that every dollar the Saudis give to the Palestinians means handing it to Iran.

IDF aircraft fires at Gazans as Hamas said to meet on battle plans

The Israeli military fired at a group of Gazans launching flaming balloons into southern Israel on Tuesday, as Hamas reportedly prepared for a possible military confrontation should ceasefire talks fail.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed in a statement that an aircraft fired at the group in the northern Gaza Strip.

Two Palestinians were injured in the strike, which took place near the border fence with Israel east of Gaza City, the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center reported.

Incendiary balloons and flaming kites launched by Gazans have wreaked havoc in the Israeli communities surrounding Gaza since April, sparking fires that have scorched thousands of acres of farmlands and countryside.

The airstrike occurred amid reports that Israel and Hamas could be nearing a truce that would see a halt in the cross-border attacks and the reopening of Gaza’s sole cargo terminal with Israel.

Highlighting skepticism over a long-term ceasefire, Hamas’s political leadership met on Monday with top officials in its military to discuss its preparedness for battle with Israel, according to a report in Israeli news site Ynet.

Jerusalem Mayor Warns Europe over Escalating Terrorist Violence

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat has called on European countries to join Israel and fight Hamas terrorism before it reaches their shores.

In a special video released on Facebook and YouTube, Barkat warned that Hamas’ terrorists and their acts against the Jewish state will not always remain local and that they [European countries] could be the next targets.

“There is only one way to deal with terror… fight it. Defeat it, together,” he said.

A key message in the video adds that too often donor nation charity funds being sent to West Bank Palestinian communities is used to fund attacks and terrorism, and not to improve life and the situation in Gaza as intended.

Barkat’s warning to European leaders not to remain complacent, but to pressure Hamas into halting attacks, is based on experience.

Thousands sign petition urging UN to condemn Hamas ecoterrorism

An international petition urging the United Nations to condemn ‎Hamas, the terrorist group that rules the Gaza ‎Strip, for conducting an environmental terrorism ‎campaign against Israel in recent months has gained ‎over 12,000 signatures so far, Israel Hayom learned Sunday.

The terrorist arson campaign of launching incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza, which began ‎in ‎‎‎‎April, has decimated some 10,000 ‎acres of ‎‎‎forest ‎and farmland in southern Israel and has ‎caused ‎‎‎millions of dollars in damage. Environmental experts ‎‎say it ‎‎‎will take at least 15 years to rehabilitate ‎‎the ‎‎‎wildlife and vegetation that have been ‎destroyed.‎

The petition, issued by the World Jewish Congress, ‎states that the terrorists “have burned ‎thousands of tires and launched hundreds of ‎incendiary devices into Israeli territory. The ‎combined effect of these heinous acts has not only ‎led to the release of toxic materials into the ‎fragile ecosystem, but has resulted in the ‎destruction of more than 7,400 acres of land, ‎hundreds of acres of wheat fields, and 2,700 acres ‎of protected nature reserves.”‎

It urges U.N. Environment Program Executive Director Erik Solheim “to condemn ‎Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza for causing ‎serious environmental damage in the southern part of ‎Israel.”‎

Report: Hamas political leadership supports agreement with Israel

Hamas has decided to endorse a “staggered” ceasefire with Israel, which would begin with an end to the launching of incendiary kites and balloons and, in exchange, Israel’s lifting of the latest sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip, according to a report in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Hamas sources said that the Palestinian factions were informed of the decision by the ruling organization’s political office that in exchange for the cessation of all attacks against the border fence, Israel would open the Kerem Shalom crossing to the transfer of goods and the fishing zone would be expanded.

The two sides would then proceed to the second stage that would include a prisoner exchange and, in parallel, the beginning of large infrastructure projects in Gaza and preparations for the complete lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Husam Badran, a senior Hamas official, announced that the whole agreement with Israel must be approved by all the Palestinian factions.

In response, the Fatah party leadership has accused the organization of “suspicious agreements” with Israel.

Poll Shows Israelis Support Negotiations, but Don’t Believe They’ll Bring Peace

A new poll shows that Israelis overwhelmingly support peace talks with the Palestinians, but also strongly believe they will not bear fruit.

Conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, the poll showed that 61.5% of Israelis strongly or moderately support negotiations. However, 75.3% strongly or moderately believe that talks will not result in a peace agreement.

The poll also asked whether Israel should undertake a military operation in Gaza if Hamas violated the current ceasefire. Some 53.9% strongly or moderately favor such an operation. The results showed a significant divide between Israeli Jews and Arabs, however. A total of 61.4% of Jews felt a military operation would be a good move, while only 16.1% of Arabs agreed with that view.

Majority of Palestinians oppose Trump’s peace plan, Oslo Accords

More than 60% of Palestinians support the Palestinian Authority’s position not to accept the US as a sole mediator in the peace process, according to a Palestinian public poll published last Tuesday.

The poll, conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center, showed that more than 80% of Palestinians don’t believe that US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East, which is also known as the “Deal of the Century,” would produce anything acceptable to the Palestinians. It also found that the percentage of Palestinians opposed to the Oslo Accords was on the rise.

The survey, which was conducted between June 26 and July 7, interviewed 1,200 Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and has a margin of error of 3%.

The poll’s results showed that Palestinians were divided over the idea of returning to peace negotiations with Israel – 49.1% were in favor of renewed negotiations and 45.6% opposed them.

PM rebukes Norway’s FM over funding of anti-Israel groups

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuked Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide when the two met in his office on Sunday, accusing Norway of overtly funding anti-Israeli activity, Israel Hayom has learned.

Netanyahu and Soreide met in his office for 50 minutes, and according to sources who were briefed on the meeting, Netanyahu expressed his outrage over Norway’s funding of anti-Israel groups such as the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Israel Hayom recently revealed that the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the largest and best-known nonprofit humanitarian organizations in the world, was behind a slew of petitions to Israel’s High Court of Justice against the Israeli government. The group operates in 31 countries but seems to focus disproportionately on Israel.

According to NGO Monitor, a watchdog group that promotes greater transparency for foreign-funded Israeli nongovernmental organizations, one of NRC’s main projects in Israel works under the guise of providing “information, counseling, and legal assistance,” but exploits judicial frameworks to manipulate Israeli policy and bypass democratic frameworks.

Iraqi national soccer team visits Temple Mount

The Iraqi national soccer team is currently visiting the region as the guest of the Palestinian Authority. The Iraqi team played a game against the PA team and conducted tours of various sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

The visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque was held by the visiting team on Monday morning. Afterwards they took photographs on the steps of the compound, and held comprehensive tour of the Old City. The visit was reported by Maor Zemach, chairman of the Lech Yerushalayim movement, which is following the events in the eastern part of the capital.

The Iraqi team stayed at a hotel in eastern Jerusalem, where it was greeted by senior Palestinian Authority officials, including Jibril Rajoub, chairman of the PA Football (soccer) Association, members of the PA Olympic Committee and other dignitaries.

Tzemach noted that the soccer game itself took place in Ahram, north of Jerusalem last Friday, in which the visiting team won 3-1. In addition, Tzemach noted that during the game itself, the viewers waved banners bearing the picture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

During the Gulf War the PLO encouraged the firing of missiles from Iraq on Israel. In those days, the Palestinians carried out the call, “Ya-Sadam Ya Habib Odarov Oderov Tel Aviv” (the beloved Saddam, hit Tel Aviv), a call that also caused outrage among Israeli leftist circles.

Why Hamas jails people who can’t pay their debts

ZIAD AL-ZAYYAN traded his home for his freedom. For years he ran a profitable business importing ceramic tiles to Gaza. In 2016 he took out a loan to pay for an order worth 80,000 shekels ($20,830). But in a besieged territory with 43% unemployment, fewer and fewer people can afford to fix up their homes. Mr Zayyan could not find any customers for his last order. Desperate to pay off his creditors, he sold his flat in Nuseirat, a refugee camp south of Gaza City. He got $17,000 for it, 23% less than what he paid three years earlier. “All of that money went to cover the loan,” he says.

His alternative was jail. Most countries have abolished debtors’ prisons. Palestine should have, too. It signed a UN treaty that forbids them. But they still exist in Gaza, which has been ruled since 2007 by Hamas, a militant Islamist group. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the territory after it took power. Last year the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs the West Bank, added its own sanctions to press Hamas into ceding control. The PA has cut public-sector pay in Gaza by over 40% and forced thousands of civil servants into retirement.

The economy, stagnant for a decade, has gone into freefall. Last year Gazans bounced cheques worth more than 400m shekels, an 80% increase over 2016. More than 42,000 people were arrested for falling behind on their debts. Issa Habash, a grocer in Nuseirat, estimates that two-thirds of his customers owe him money. Hoping to cut back on the practice, he no longer sells full-sized containers of many staples. Instead he offers tiny bottles of vegetable oil and sachets of coffee. “They cost only one shekel, and people still put them in the book,” Mr Habash says, gesturing to his ledger.

Will Imran Khan change Pakistan’s relations with Israel?

The election of former cricket star Imran Khan as Pakistan’s new prime minister has raised eyebrows across the globe. He has promised a “new Pakistan,” running on a light-on-policy nationalistic anti-corruption platform.

Khan, 65, “is known for running a team of one, making impulsive decisions, contradicting himself and then using his enormous reserves of self-confidence and charisma to dig himself out,” Jeffrey Gettleman wrote in The New York Times.

Critics have questioned the legitimacy of his victory, as “the election was widely considered tainted” due to allegations of rigging and military interference. Some observers believe he could forge more functional relations with the United States and India — despite the US-India-Israel nexus being reviled domestically – while others are concerned he could further isolate the country from relations with the West.

Khan has also faced long faced antisemitic conspiracy theories — his first wife had Jewish roots — and since becoming a more devout Muslim in recent years has talked of making Pakistan a welfare state according to Islamic tradition.

Pakistan, the world’s sixth-most populous country, has nuclear weapons and is located strategically next to India, China, Iran and Afghanistan. So what is there to make of the country’s new leader?

U.S. reimposes sanctions on Iran

The Trump administration has reimposed sanctions on Iran previously lifted under a landmark 2015 international nuclear deal, threatening the survival of the accord, further deteriorating relations with Europe and destabilizing Tehran’s fragile economy.

The move was welcomed in Israel and by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Ninety days after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement, which was premised on trading caps on Iran’s nuclear work in exchange for international sanctions relief, President Donald Trump snapped back into place restrictions on Iran’s access to US dollar notes as well as gold and other precious metals. The sanctions also target financial institutions that deal in or hold Iran’s currency, the rial, which already had spiraled this week to its lowest value in history.

While additional sanctions on Iran’s sale of rugs and pistachios and its automotive sector are expected to bite, the harshest sanctions will return in November, when Washington will target Iran’s oil exports, its shipping and port sector and those transacting with the Central Bank of Iran.

“The United States is fully committed to enforcing all of our sanctions, and we will work closely with nations conducting business with Iran to ensure complete compliance. Individuals or entities that fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences,” Trump said, signing an executive order that brought the old sanctions back into effect.

Israel welcomes new US sanctions on Iran as ‘major milestone’

New U.S. sanctions on Iran set to take effect on Monday are an important milestone in the effort to put Iran on a path to become a normative country, Israeli officials said on Sunday.

On May 8, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that his country was pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and that U.S. sanctions lifted as part of that agreement would be restored.

The first batch of sanctions was set to come into force on Monday, and the second will take effect on Nov. 4. The reimposition of sanctions is aimed at making Iran renegotiate the nuclear deal.

Israeli officials said that the reimposition of sanctions during a time of civil unrest in Iran means that the sanctions are effective, particularly because the protesters are outraged over the ayatollah regime squandering resources on foreign entanglements in Syria and Yemen.

The officials said that after the second wave of sanctions takes effect in November, the pressure will reach a critical mass that will force Iran to abandon its aggressive behavior in the region. One official said the new sanctions taking effect this week are “a very important step.”

Israeli policymakers hope the pressure will result in Iran agreeing to halt the development of ballistic missiles, freeze its nuclear program indefinitely and allow unfettered inspections.

Wary of repercussions, EU unlikely to defy US sanctions on Iran

Germany’s central bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, has announced measures aimed at preventing the transfer of 300 million euros ($350 million) to Iran in yet another blow to Iran’s efforts to bypass U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May and announced the reimposition of U.S. sanctions that had been lifted under the deal. The new sanctions were set to take effect on Monday, with American officials warning they would hurt anyone who does business with Iran.

In recent weeks, U.S. and European intelligence agencies flagged a European-Iranian Trade Bank request to withdraw 300 million euros from the Deutsche Bundesbank. Iran claimed the cash is necessary so that Iranian citizens can use foreign currency when they travel, but Western governments warned that the cash would be used to fund Iran’s terrorist proxies.

Fearing repercussions from the U.S. Treasury, the German bank decided last week to introduce the new rules to prevent the withdrawal. This move was likely coordinated with the German government.

European Union ‘deeply’ regrets return of US sanctions on Iran

The EU said Monday it deeply regretted the US reimposition of sanctions on Iran after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear pact, and vowed immediate steps to protect European companies.

The statement by EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany said it would also work to keep “effective financial channels” open with Iran.

“We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the US, due to the latter’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the statement issued in Brussels said.

The EU said it would now swiftly bring in legal cover for firms in the 28-nation bloc to work with Iran, after the Trump administration rejected European calls for an exemption.

“We are determined to protect European economic operators engaged in legitimate business with Iran,” the statement added.

“This is why the European Union’s updated Blocking Statute enters into force on 7 August to protect EU companies doing legitimate business with Iran from the impact of US extra-territorial sanctions.”

Iran – Preventing a world nuclear nightmare

Does anyone want a world nuclear nightmare? We sure don’t. Recently Iran’s real nuclear program was revealed. Documents from Iran’s archives show that Iran is a great threat to world peace and security. It had an active military program to develop nuclear weapons. How to prevent this nightmare? Here are 3 steps:

Iran FM Zarif: Trump, Netanyahu, Bin Salman are ‘symbols of mistrust’

US President Donald Trump and his allies in the Middle East have become isolated by their hostile policies towards Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday, according to a report in Iran’s semi-official Iranian Students news agency.

Zarif focused the brunt of his aggressive speech against Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, and Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Today, Trump, Bin Salman and Netanyahu have become the symbols of mistrust in the world,” Zarif was quoted as saying.

“Their oppressive policies and violent measures have made them isolated… The world has distanced itself from their hostile policies against Iran.”

Zarif also attacked Netanyahu separately, decrying the Israeli leader’s “slights of hand” and his “daily Twitter messages and crying crocodile tears.” Zarif was referring to Netanyahu’s multiple social media messages addressed to the Iranian population that the Israeli government has released over the past several months.

Protests in Iran Hit Boiling Point, Amplifying Calls for Regime Change

Protests against Iran’s hardline ruling regime hit a boiling point over the weekend, as demonstrators took to the streets for the sixth consecutive day in the face of efforts by the regime to beat and arrest those seeking regime change in the Islamic Republic, according to multiple reports from the region.

Curfews have been imposed in parts of the country amid nightly demonstrations by Iranian dissidents who have been heard chanting, “death to the dictator” and “Mullahs should go away.”

At least one protester was shot and killed by Iranian security forces over the weekend, but that does not appear to have quelled opposition to the Iranian ruling regime, which was smacked Monday with the first portion of harsh new sanctions by the Trump administration following the president’s decision to abandon the landmark nuclear deal that provided Iran’s leaders with millions in cash windfalls.

The ongoing protests have been percolating for weeks as dissidents take to the streets across Iran to protest the hardline ruling regime and its massive military spending, which has crippled an already weak Iranian economy.

MEMRI: Turkish Public, Government Officials React To U.S. Sanctions: ‘Turkey Will Respond In Kind To America’

On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control placed sanctions on Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül. This was done to pressure Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government to release from house arrest in Turkey American pastor Andrew Brunson,[1] who is accused by the Turkish government of membership in the organization of Fethullah Gülen and who has been detained there since October 2016. Gülen resides in the U.S. and the Turkish government has been demanding his extradition to Turkey since July 2016. The Turkish government is also accusing Brunson of working with the Partiya Karkeren Kurdistane (PKK), a Kurdish group considered a terrorist organization by both the U.S. State Department[2] and the Turkish government.[3] In the days following the announcement, Turkish government officials across party lines and members of the Turkish public condemned the sanctions.

Following are reactions from Turkish social media and government officials.

“The Weapon That The West Fears Most Is The Unity Of The Ummah”
On August 1-2, 2018, the hashtag “#WeWillNotSubmitToAmerica” was trending on Twitter in Turkey. One Twitter user tweeted the hashtag and a cartoon showing a boxing glove bearing the Turkish flag knocking out Uncle Sam. The tweet was accompanied by a note in English: “Hey Yankee Come To Real Ring.”[4]

On August 2, 2018, a cartoon by Mikail Çiftçi was shared widely on social media. The cartoon showed a hand made up of the flags of countries with large Muslim populations holding a large club with “unity” written on it, as U.S. President Donald Trump opens his jacket to show a small club with “sanctions” written on it. The cartoon was originally tweeted with a note: “The weapon that the West fears most is the unity of the ummah.”[5]

Osama bin Laden’s son married daughter of 9/11 lead hijacker — family

The son of Osama bin Laden, the notorious planner of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York, has married the daughter of the lead hijacker of the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, according to the bin Laden family.

Speaking to the press for the first time, Osama bin Laden’s siblings told the Guardian that Hamza bin Laden, who is believed to now hold a senior position in Al-Qaeda, had married Mohammad Atta’s daughter.

“We have heard he has married the daughter of Mohammed Atta,” said half-brother Ahmad al-Attas. “We’re not sure where he is, but it could be Afghanistan.”

Atta was one of the ringleaders of the 9/11 attacks and flew the plane into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Hamza bin Laden, 29, was declared a “global terrorist” by the US last year after joining up with current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

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