Seth J. Frantzman: Help Lebanon: Remove Hezbollah’s Stranglehold — and Its Dangerous Missile Stockpiles
The results of Hezbollah’s machinations are clear: constant tensions with Israel, and the lurching of once lush and prosperous Beirut from one failure to the next, from brownouts to lack of basic services for citizens. Lebanon is in the midst of a financial crisis and requires some $93 billion for a bailout. Hezbollah has suggested Lebanon turn to China for help, as part of its goal to replace U.S. influence in Lebanon with China, Iran, and other U.S. adversaries. It may try to leverage the devastation to deepen its tentacles over the country using its network of social services and volunteers.
What can be done to address Lebanon’s mounting problems, now compounded by this tragic explosion, while reducing Hezbollah’s corrosive influence? First, Hezbollah needs to be isolated from the financial system and from the flow of weapons coming from Iran. In recent years, Hezbollah sought to acquire precision-guided munitions and to establish factories for them in Lebanon. It has also threatened Israeli infrastructure. In a 2016 speech, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah even threatened to target ammonium-nitrate storage in Israel to cause the kind of explosion that just levelled Beirut. This leaves no doubt that the terrorist group knows exactly the level of devastation it wanted to cause in Israel and the threat it still poses. The Alma Research Center in Israel recently revealed that Hezbollah has 28 rocket-launch sites around Beirut. The recent explosion makes it clear that Hezbollah’s use of civilian areas for weapons storage must be stopped in Lebanon.
Yet many countries looking to provide support for Lebanon will likely do so without seeking to disentangle Hezbollah. Russia, Iran, and China may be amenable to working with Nasrallah while Turkey, Qatar, and France could turn a blind eye to the group’s role. Saudi Arabia, once a major backer of Lebanon and broker of the 1989 accords that ended the country’s civil war, opposes Hezbollah’s role. As do other Gulf states, such as the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. can help Lebanon, monitor reconstruction, and advise on implementing financial and port-inspection standards, sidelining Hezbollah in the process.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, aid will be concentrated on finding missing people and avoiding an economic collapse or a health crisis amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Once this period has passed, it is essential that the dust not merely settle with Hezbollah more entrenched and powerful, its system of illicit weapons and warehouses full of munitions still dotting the civilian landscape. If Hezbollah does capitalize on this disaster, it will only accelerate Lebanon’s economic collapse, and hold the country hostage in a future war with Israel.
Seth J. Frantzman: How will Hezbollah react to this week’s massive blast in Beirut?
THIS WEEK, the massive explosion represents another possibility for Hezbollah. While it may initially get some criticism and heat for the explosion, because it also maintains dangerous stockpiles of weapons all over Lebanon, it will find a way to leverage this to its benefit. Hezbollah wants China, Russia and Iran to help rebuild Lebanon. Turkey and Qatar are also rebuilding the country, but Hezbollah has amicable relations with Doha.
Now Hezbollah may have to wait some time before making its moves clear. This is because it can’t raise its head too much and appear to gloat over the destruction. It will instead try to send volunteers to help and portray itself as the responsible party. It will try to shift blame to Israel and the US. While others are distracted with solidarity for Beirut, Hezbollah will increase its stranglehold elsewhere. This has always been the Hezbollah model. It may increase trafficking in weapons from Syria and construct new bases.
Israel would be reticent to carry out any actions in Lebanon amid tensions with Hezbollah, because Israel will not want to be seen as harming Lebanon more. This means the explosion becomes a perfect smokescreen and solidarity shield for Hezbollah. For average Lebanese, it is yet another disaster in a long series of disasters.
While Hezbollah will pretend to be patriotic, it will work behind the scenes to corrupt everything that comes into Lebanon in the next year.
Overview: From the start of the Trump Administration, the U.S. has sought to reform the bloated United Nations. Peace-keeping missions were to be a central part of this reform, as they are the most expensive aspect of the UN’s operations, but commonly fail to deliver tangible results while being plagued with scandal, corruption, and criminality.
To date, the U.S. has not succeeded in reigning in any peacekeeping missions. Aug. 31st offers a final opportunity to do so, while strengthening Israel’s security at a time when it faces imminent threats on the northern border from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
UNIFIL, the temporary U.N. presence in Lebanon, is not fulfilling its mandate to disarm Hezbollah. Instead, it serves as Hezbollah’s de facto human shield, limiting the IDF’s freedom to maneuver in a potential conflict. The organization is expensive and bloated compared to other peacekeeping missions around the world, has had significant mission creep, and like other U.N. entities, it is biased against Israel. This month, there will be a golden opportunity to fix UNIFIL’s structural problems, from an Israeli standpoint. This special opportunity might not return for a long time.
For the sake of Israeli and American strategic interests, it would be best if the United States demanded that the Security Council let UNIFIL’s mandate expire, without a further extension, or alternatively scale it back significantly.
Frimet Roth: Longing for my daughter
My husband and I are astounded. Why is it that she is still free? Why does this not disturb people more than it appears to?
The US has demanded her extradition from Jordan. It has an extradition treaty with Jordan that was signed and ratified by both countries and has been valid since 1995. Yet Jordan’s King Abdullah II – the totalitarian ruler of his kingdom – refuses to accede to that demand.
Nonetheless, the U.S. State Department, the White House and U.S. Congressmen from both sides of the aisle persist in praising “His Majesty” as they are wont to call him. The reverential tone they adopt when addressing him or referring to him is utterly cringe-worthy.
It is impossible to relate this outrage and omit our own leader, Binyamin Netanyahu. While he is now a footnote in the sequence of events, it cannot be overlooked that Tamimi is free in Jordan because he chose to send her there. The several pleas that my husband and I published, circulated and delivered to Netanyahu to remove Tamimi from the list of freed murderers included in the infamous Shalit Deal, were all in vain. He never responded to us at any stage or in any form.
What he did do was tell the press that he sent letters of apology to all victims after the Shalit Deal. His staff personally told me when I called his bureau in the weeks after the Shalit Deal that hundreds of such letters were mailed out.
None were mailed out.
And so the travesty endures. I would note that a faint glimmer of light at the tunnel’s end now uplifts us. Several U.S. politicians, global celebrities and major Jewish organizations have joined us in demanding that the U.S. pressure Jordan to extradite Tamimi by withholding the generous annual financial aid it receives from the U.S. A new law empowering such a sanction was passed in December 2019.
Prior legislation entitles the U.S. Department of Justice to arrest and try suspects for offenses committed against U.S. citizens overseas. Malki was, as I am, a U.S. citizen. That U.S. law specifies that a suspect can and must be pursued by U.S. law enforcement and brought to trial in the United States. Jordan has raised a single objection which American authorities have told us is spurious. But the fact is she is still in Amman with her family and not in a Washington courtroom.
Malki left behind a detailed diary recording the events of the last year of her life. It makes for a painful read, not to mention an eye-straining one since she wrote it in microscopic script. She clearly wanted to pack in the maximum.
Each year as her yahrzeit approaches, I read a few more entries and publicize one or two of them.
“February 4, 2001: There was a mortar firing in Netzarim [Gaza Strip] and truly miraculously nobody was hurt. There was a one year old baby lying at the site where it fell! A miracle! A person from Karmei Tzur was was killed on his way home, a father of small children… We had a talk about Kever Rachel … then communal singing. I cried a bit and it was hard for me to start singing so Shira and I just hugged and that really helped me. At the end we had a talk by Rav Elisha Aviner. He was simply amazing! He encouraged us so much about the situation in Israel.”
I wish Malki were here to encourage me.
The head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Friday urged Jordan’s King Abdullah to personally intervene in the ongoing battle to extradite to the United States the terrorist responsible for the devastating bombing of a downtown Jerusalem restaurant in 2001.
In a personal letter to the king, the ADL’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, described the effort to bring Ahlam al-Tamimi — the Hamas terrorist behind the August 9, 2001 attack at the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem that took the lives of 15 people, including two American citizens, and wounded more than 100 — for trial in the US as a “matter of humanity and justice.”
Noting the upcoming nineteenth anniversary of the attack on Sunday, Greenblatt reminded King Abdullah that the US had issued a March 2017 warrant for the arrest of Tamimi, “who openly acknowledges her complicity in arranging this attack and has been enjoying legal immunity in Jordan.”
Tamimi was released along with more than 1,000 other convicted Palestinian terrorists in the 2011 deal between Israel and Hamas that secured the freedom of Gilad Shalit, an IDF soldier held captive in the Gaza Strip.
After the prisoner exchange, Tamimi set herself up in the Jordanian capital of Amman as a media personality, hosting her own show on satellite television and frequently celebrating her participation in the Sbarro bombing.
Jordan’s response to the 2017 US arrest warrant for Tamimi was to block her deportation. The country’s highest court ruled that Jordan’s parliament had not ratified a 1995 extradition treaty with the US; however, the American government position is that the treaty is valid.
Ahlam al-Tamimi is an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist for killing 2 Americans & 13 other innocent people in the 2001 bombing of a Sbarro in Jerusalem. As we approach the anniversary of that crime, I wrote to #Jordan‘s king asking him to end her legal impunity in his country. pic.twitter.com/Du9RJPZ48i
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) August 7, 2020
Nationals of Australia, Brazil, Netherlands, France, Israel and the US perished in the #Sbarro pizzeria massacre whose anniversary is Aug 9. Appallingly their governments and news media say/do nothing about Jordan’s unapologetic grooming of the bomber @FBIMostWanted #AhlamTamimi. https://t.co/Z4ZuY9Jkrl pic.twitter.com/FVnIMG4vYh
— Arnold Roth (@arnoldroth) August 7, 2020
16 Dutch organizations, and several Members of Parliament, call on FM @MinisterBlok to press Jordan to extradite Sbarro terrorist Ahlam Tamimi to the US. This Sunday, it’s 19 years since the attack that also killed five members of a Dutch-Israeli family. https://t.co/l5IDb8ffYT pic.twitter.com/HtxuQylDd7
— CIDI (@CIDI_nieuws) August 7, 2020
The disaster in Beirut opens a window of opportunity for the international community to re-engage and condition economic aid to Lebanon on Hizbullah demilitarizing and removing the weapons depots that it concealed among the civilian population. This is the opportunity to limit Hizbullah’s maneuverability in Lebanon, because the civilian population is unable to resist Hizbullah’s vast military power.
The massive explosion left about 300,000 civilians homeless, and they now enter a daily struggle for their lives and livelihood. If the Lebanese Government does not find a quick solution for them, it is liable to find itself in the face of huge demonstrations. Lebanon is also facing a severe food crisis following the disaster that destroyed the state’s central grain towers containing as much as 85 percent of Lebanon’s grain reserves.
It is vital to see the preliminary results of the investigation that is supposed to be delivered to the Lebanese Government within 48 hours. If the Lebanese public feels that this is a cover-up and a failure to reach the required conclusions, it may go to the streets and renew the intifada that began last October.
Senior security officials in Israel estimate that Iran will try to take advantage of the worsening crisis in Lebanon in the wake of the catastrophe to increase its involvement in the country. It is therefore vital that the international community work wisely: on the one hand to prevent Iran from assisting the residents of Lebanon economically by toughening the economic sanctions on Iran, and on the other hand, supervise the flow of money to the Lebanese economy in a way that is conditional on Hizbullah disarming.
Israeli intelligence officials estimate that Iran will attempt to take advantage of the transfer of humanitarian aid to Lebanon in order to smuggle in the aid shipments precision guidance systems for Hizbullah’s missiles. It is imperative to find the way to monitor Iranian aid shipments that will reach Lebanon through the air and the sea.
Israel will have to act against the transfer of shipments from Iran to Lebanon as soon as it has reliable and accurate intelligence information that the Iranians are sending materiel for Hizbullah precision-guided missile project.
The international community should not allow Lebanon’s corrupt government, which is supported by Hizbullah, to easily exit the economic crisis without demanding the necessary price for the wellbeing of Lebanon’s residents – that is the removal of Hizbullah’s weapons.
First, the facts. Israel did not only make bombastic announcements; it genuinely made an offer. Ben-Shabbat and others gave serious proposals to UN representatives in the region, who passed Israel’s message on to Lebanese officials. There has been no response, and as these words are being written, it remains unclear if Lebanon will actually accept the aid.
Israel offered equipment and to treat victims in Israeli hospitals. Because Israel and Lebanon are enemy states, and Lebanon likely would not send any of its citizens over the border, Israel offered to help foreign nationals. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on Thursday morning said most of its injured soldiers, who are Bangladeshi, were in stable condition and would not need to be moved to Israel.
Israel, as a world leader in search-and-rescue missions and disaster response, has a lot to offer Lebanon in its time of great need. Israel has sent humanitarian-aid missions around the world since the 1953 earthquake in Greece’s Ionian Islands. In 2016-2018, it treated victims of the Syrian Civil War in Operation Good Neighbor.
Plus, there are Israeli NGOs, such as IsrAID and Israel Flying Aid, which go to war and disaster zones to help people in need of medical care, food, clothes and other supplies, or Save a Child’s Heart, which brings children from around the world to Israel for treatment.
ABC News in the US once dedicated an entire segment to the field hospitals IDF doctors set up after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, with Diane Sawyer calling the effort “legendary” and the program’s medical expert Dr. Richard Besser pointing out that Israel had gotten its tents up and running overnight, days before the US team arrived on the island.
Then and now, there are people perpetuating the idea that any positive action from Israel must have an ulterior motive.
While many Lebanese rejected Israeli gestures of solidarity and dismissed offers of Israeli aid after this week’s deadly blast at Beirut port, thousands of citizens from the disaster-stricken country actually welcomed Israel’s outreach, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Friday.
The blast, which was apparently caused by the ignition of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, has claimed at least 150 lives and left over 5,000 injured and 300,000 homeless.
Jerusalem received thousands of positive responses to Israel’s overtures, according to Yonatan Gonen, who heads the ministry’s Arabic-language new media department.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the mighty and humanitarian Israeli people. We love you from Lebanon, and all of Lebanon is with you,” one person from Lebanon wrote, he said.
“Thank you very much to the Israeli people for these blessed and humanitarian initiatives. God bless you,” wrote another.
A third user called Israel “our sister state,” Gonen said.
The U.S. military is sending several planeloads of humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Lebanon following a massive explosion at a port in Beirut that killed and wounded more than 5,000 people.
Three shipment planes are en route to Lebanon to deliver food, water, and medical supplies to help the country recover from the explosion, the cause of which is still unclear. While President Donald Trump indicated that it may have been a military strike, U.S. military officials have said they do not currently see evidence for the theory.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, which operates in the Middle East, recently spoke with Lebanese Armed Forces commander Gen. Joseph Aoun “to express condolences for the loss of life and devastation caused by the explosion,” according to information provided by CENTCOM.
McKenzie further “expressed U.S. willingness to continue to work with the Lebanese Armed Forces to help provide aid and assistance to meet the needs of the Lebanese people during this terrible tragedy,” according to a readout of his call with his Lebanese counterpart.
Israel also offered humanitarian assistance and displayed Lebanon’s flag on government buildings to express solidarity with its northern neighbor, which has traditionally been a foe of the Jewish state due to the Iranian-funded terror group Hezbollah’s near-total control of the country’s government and military.
Lebanon’s government has given an investigative committee four days to discover who was responsible for the explosion in Beirut on Tuesday that killed at least 145 and injured thousands, Lebanese Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe told Europe 1 Radio on Thursday.
Dozens were still missing after the explosion, which is also feared to have left as many as 300,000 people homeless in a nation already staggering from economic meltdown and a surge in coronavirus cases.
“This morning, a decision was taken to create an investigative committee which in four days maximum must provide a detailed report on responsibility — how, who, what, where? There will be judicial decisions,” Wehbe said.
“It is an accident… preliminary reports indicate it is mismanagement of explosive products. This is very serious neglect that continued for six years. Those responsible for this horrible crime of negligence will be punished by a committee of judges,” Wehbe vowed. “It is serious, and we take it seriously.”
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Friday that the probe into this week’s devastating blast in Beirut was investigating the option of foreign involvement, despite many commentators saying the possibility was unlikely.
“The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act,” local media quoted Aoun as saying, according to the Reuters news agency.
He added that the investigation was being conducted on three levels, according to the report. “First, how the explosive material entered and was stored … second whether the explosion was a result of negligence or an accident … and third the possibility that there was external interference.”
There has been no evidence presented to suggest foreign interference behind the blast, which occurred when ammonium nitrate stored at the port ignited under unclear circumstances. Both Hezbollah and Israeli officials quickly ruled out the notion of any Israeli involvement; Israel has sent condolences and offers of assistance.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave his first speech on Friday since the Beirut blast that killed nearly 200 people and injured more than 5,000 others.
During the speech he stressed that Hezbollah was not responsible for the events that transpired.
“We have no rockets or explosives there, nor has there been in the past,” he said of the terror organization’s presence at the Beirut port. “We have nothing there: no missiles, no ammunition, no weapons, no ammonium nitrate, not even a rifle.”
He added that “any claims that Hezbollah runs Beirut Port are lies.”
Nasrallah mentioned Israel right at the start of his speech.
“I will not talk today about the Israeli enemy,” he said, “only about the disaster that befell Lebanon.”
Israel Advocacy Movement: Were Hezbollah behind the Beirut blast?
Israeli troops brought down a small drone that entered Israeli airspace from Lebanon on Thursday night, the military said.
The Israel Defense Forces said the aircraft crossed the border near Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights and was under surveillance by soldiers while it was over Israeli territory.
The military said troops brought down the drone, without specifying the method. Soldiers were searching the area for the remains of the device.
“The IDF is on high alert in the northern arena and will not allow violations of the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” the military said in a statement.
The downing of the drone on Thursday night was not directly connected to a false alarm on Friday morning, in which sirens sounded in Israeli communities throughout the western Galilee region sending residents rushing to bomb shelters.
However, it appeared to indicate the reason why the military was on high alert on Friday morning, incorrectly identifying an IDF aircraft as an enemy drone infiltrating Israeli airspace.
Over the past two and a half weeks, the IDF has been in a state of heightened readiness along the Lebanese border, girding for a potential attack by Hezbollah in retaliation for the death of one of its fighters in an airstrike in Syria that was widely attributed to Israel.
That the #EU letter makes no reference to Hezbollah, which has only wreaked damage upon #Lebanon, is telling. But then again, @eu_eeas still refuses to outlaw the group in its entirety! https://t.co/35ra7l8YIh
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) August 6, 2020
Paris and Washington DC are among the last few places on earth where you can talk about “Lebanese state institutions,” as if those are things that meaningfully exist let alone should be funded, without people thinking you’re sort of incoherently rambling. https://t.co/dU7gwJCwAM
— Omri Ceren (@omriceren) August 7, 2020
— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) August 6, 2020
Over 58,000 people have signed an online petition to “place Lebanon under a French mandate for the next 10 years” as of Friday morning. As reported by DW News, the petition is addressed to French president Emanuel Macron, who visited Beirut after a massive blast destroyed the Hezbollah-controlled port, killing hundreds and making 300,000 homeless. The Lebanese seemed to have started a trend: An Adeni, Bilal Hussein, wants the British to re-establish control of Aden. He got 246 likes on his Facebook page and as many comments approving his initiative (with thanks: Sarah):
“Lebanon’s officials have clearly shown a total inability to secure and manage the country,” the petition reads. “With a failing system, corruption, terrorism and militia the country has just reached its last breath.”
“We believe Lebanon should go back under the French mandate in order to establish a clean and durable governance.” Dima Tarhini, from DW’s Arabic department, said the petition had been circulating widely on Lebanese social media.
“That’s how desperate some Lebanese are,” she said. “So much has been lost from where there was already so little.
They lost their homes, they lost their properties, they cannot save their children. They don’t know what to do.” France controlled the Middle Eastern country from 1920 to 1945 under a mandate set up after World War I.
The Germans banned Hezbollah this year but the French have refused to do it.
And the French have stopped the EU from doing it.
I’ve had multiple meetings begging the French to take this action. https://t.co/nJ9vO5iEW7
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) August 6, 2020
PLO Political Bureau Chief Anwar Abdul Hadi: Israel May Be Behind the Beirut Explosion; Israelis Have a “Fake Biblical” Mentality That They Are the Chosen People and So Are Capable of Any Crime pic.twitter.com/X9fMnMwXiu
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) August 7, 2020
Iraqi Political Analyst Sabah Al-Oqaily: I Believe America Caused the Beirut Port Explosion; It Is a Precursor to a Zio-American Aggression against Lebanon, Hizbullah pic.twitter.com/h7bb6jboMC
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) August 7, 2020
This is why Waleed Aly is an absolute disgrace
The Project last night opened with the horrific Beirut blast that has so far killed over 135 people and injured thousands, its decimated the city.
Waleed Aly began by swiping at Trump for calling it an attack.
The only problem is Trump never said that he said it looked like an attack, which it did.
A few minutes later, Waleed put the question to their guest, not a politician, security or geopolitical expert––a photographer.
Their photographer guest blamed Israel.
When Trump said it looked like an attack, he was wrong, but when a photographer claims it was an attack and more specifically by Israel, that’s okay. No need to question the Jew-hating narrative.
That is Waleed and The Project for you.
This is classic Yousef Munayyer: he pushes the antisemitic conspiracy theory that the #BeirutBlast might be Israel’s fault — but he does so in a way that he can say ‘oh, but I only pointed out that Israeli denials are not always trustworthy’… pic.twitter.com/EMXgeh3W6G
— Dr. Petra Marquardt-Bigman (@WarpedMirrorPMB) August 6, 2020
Vowing to rebuild what the country had lost, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah delivered a heartfelt speech Thursday marking the tragic loss of thousands of tons of explosive material during the August 4 explosion at the Port of Beirut.
“Believe me when I say that nobody feels this tragedy more than me and my fellow Hezbollah members,” Nasrallah said in a recorded video. “Like anyone else, all I could think about as I watched the horrifying video of the explosion was how many millions of kilograms of explosive material had been destroyed, and how many bombs could have been made with that material.”
Nasrallah ended his video on a message of hope, promising to either rebuild the port or find another gateway to illegally smuggle weapons into the country.
“We will not rest until every ounce of explosive material that was destroyed has been replaced and is once again stored haphazardly near a dense population center filled with innocent civilians,” Nasrallah promised. “And we will fight with every fiber of our being those who try to use this tragedy as an excuse to replace our country’s political leadership with competent and accountable governance.”
From his home in New York City, the American pundit Peter Beinart has recently called to dismantle the Jewish state of Israel, advocating instead for a “one-state solution” – a binational Jewish-Palestinian Arab state. Beinart’s proposal was hailed as “a monumental, agenda-setting piece” by Washington Post foreign affairs columnist Ishaan Tharoor, among other analysts, many of whom live far from Israel. But it is nothing of the sort. Indeed, arguments for a binational “solution” are a century old – and they collapsed under the weight of Jewish blood and Arab intransigence.
Ninety-five years ago this past May, a group of philosophers, academics and theologians announced the formation of Brit Shalom (the Covenant of Peace) in British-ruled Mandate Palestine. Brit Shalom “sought to promote peace between Jews and Arabs, primarily by arguing that Jews should give up their quest for statehood,” historian Daniel Gordis noted in his 2016 Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn.
The movement, Gordis documented, “never had more than a hundred members, but its influence far outstripped its members.” This was largely due to its composition. Brit Shalom members would, over time, include prominent and well-known Jewish figures like Judah Magnes, an American Reform rabbi and the future president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Arthur Ruppin, a famous economist and high-ranking Jewish Agency official, as well as well-known philosophers like Gershom Scholem and Martin Buber. Other future members would include then attorney general of Mandate Palestine, Norman Bentwich, and Edwin Samuel, the son of the first High Commissioner to Palestine Herbert Samuel. Brit Shalom even counted Albert Einstein as a supporter. The movement was, in every sense, confined to a small number of the elite and intelligentsia.
Initially, Brit Shalom conceived of itself less as a political party than as a “study circle” which hoped to influence debates about the future of Jewish self-determination. Brit Shalom’s foundational charter articulated the movement’s objective: “to arrive at an understanding between Jews and Arabs as to the form of their mutual social relations in Palestine on the basis of absolute political equality of two culturally autonomous peoples, and to determine the lines of their cooperation for the development of the country.”
The group founded a newspaper, She’ifoteinu (Our Aspirations), authored editorials and made public speeches advocating for the adoption of a binational state. But problems soon arose.
Brit Shalom’s platform rested on the hope that many Muslim Arabs would support political, social and religious equality with Jews. Yet, under the Mandate – when many ruling British officials were opposed to Zionism and the Zionist project was far from assured – Arab anti-Jewish violence undermined both Brit Shalom’s premise and standing.
In a long season of other crises, it may be tempting to look away from the simmering conflict in the Middle East that pits Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt against Qatar. But that would be a mistake, as tensions among Washington’s key Arab partners remain high with no apparent resolution within sight.
The conflict first erupted in June 2017 when the self-declared anti-Qatar quartet imposed a blockade on Qatar over its alleged support for Hamas and terrorism. Most of what happened next is well known. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped in on Qatar’s side by engaging leaders from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and urging them not to be drawn into the crisis by going along with the quartet’s plans. Erdogan also dispatched Turkish troops to Qatar as part of a deterrence strategy against Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Iran likewise prevented Qatar’s economy from collapsing by opening up its airspace for goods and services, including food and vegetable deliveries, during the early stages of the blockade.
But what is less understood, however, is that Israel also played a decisive role in stabilizing the conflict as well. Even though the two countries had not had any diplomatic contact since 2012, it quietly extended Doha a diplomatic lifeline by accelerating plans to work together on reconstructing Gaza, which changed the narrative in Washington away from Qatar supporting Hamas to one that focused on its leveraging its relationship with Hamas to get all the parties to cooperate in support of the Trump-administration’s peace plan.
All this worked well with the Trump administration’s initial diplomatic strategy for the regional conflict, which was to provide the feuding parties with a face-saving mechanism for de-escalation. During a June 6, 2017, call with Saudi King Salman, U.S. President Donald Trump firmly rejected a Saudi proposal to invade Qatar. Soon after, the United States requested Kuwaiti mediation with the goal of resolving the conflict within the confines of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Israel, in the meantime, spoke out against legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress that would have effectively designated Qatar as a state sponsor of terrorism because of its links to Hamas. The legislation had been introduced by then-Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce, a Republican from California, and Israel’s de facto opposition to it became clear when neither the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or other mainstream pro-Israel groups lobbied for its passage.
At the same time, Israel strengthened its de facto strategic partnership with the UAE, Qatar’s regional nemesis, which included publicizing a positive meeting in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the ambassadors of the UAE and Bahrain that came shortly after Trump began moves to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement that the Israeli leader had vigorously opposed. Israel’s relationship with the UAE has since moved out of the shadows and into the open. By strengthening its relationship with Abu Dhabi while at the same time extending Doha a hand in peace, Israel skillfully established itself in the process as an unlikely peacemaker.
Observers might assume that Israeli intervention has been unwelcome, but, in fact, it was the quartet that entangled Israel in their inter-Arab struggle by nearly exclusively focusing on the Qatar-Hamas linkage as the primary argument for soliciting Trump’s support for their blockade of Doha. In turn, Israel has evolved into an acceptable partner on this issue to the UAE, Qatar, and Oman because of its influence in Washington and ability to preserve the balance of power in the Gulf. (h/t Zvi)
While Ethiopia has threatened to mobilize its 105 million citizens in the event that Egypt puts up obstacles to the building of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD, or the Renaissance Dam), the recent hostilities that broke out were between Ethiopia and Sudan, not Ethiopia and Egypt.
The concept of the Renaissance Dam, which would revolutionize energy and water delivery in Ethiopia, goes back decades, but despite the involvement of multiple Egyptian administrations, it has not moved forward. Egypt, which is heavily dependent on the Nile for its agriculture-based economy, cannot afford severe water shortages. Should the GERD be constructed, as much as 17% of Egypt’s arable land could be damaged. Over time, that figure could potentially rise to 51%, which would destroy the Egyptian economy and displace as many as 30 million Egyptians (just under a third of its total population).
Ethiopia insists on starting construction in July 2020 with a completion target in three years. Cairo is willing to accept a compromise in which Ethiopia pushes off the starting date and slows down construction to seven years, which would give the Egyptian economy time to adjust (though it will still suffer water shortages and other challenges). US-brokered talks failed to break this impasse; in fact, at one point, Ethiopia walked out of the negotiations.
The backstory of this conflict is complex. Ethiopia has been committed to the decision to construct the “Nahda” Dam since approximately 2000. Attempts were made several times to break ground, but Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak interfered with the process and it went nowhere. In fact, as Wikileaks eventually revealed, the Egyptian government went so far as to bomb the dam’s site before construction began. When the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in 2012, however, President Muhammad Morsi was open to the project and proceeded with negotiations.
The StandWithUs Center for Combating Antisemitism (CCA) was encouraged to learn that the United Nations has decided to appoint an envoy for the specific purpose of monitoring antisemitism. We were deeply disturbed, however, that the individual appointed to the position is Spanish diplomat Miguel Moratinos, a man with a clear history of antagonism and contempt toward Israel and a failure to rightly understand the many forms antisemitism can take.
The person holding this position should be someone who is unbiased and objective, especially when it comes to the treatment of Jews and the Jewish State. Moratinos’ record demonstrates he is not such a man. In a farewell message to the European Union in July 2003, addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an obviously complex situation, Moratinos advised Israelis to “wake up and shake off their die hard prejudice which sometimes prevents them from perceiving reality.” With such overly-simplistic and one-sided perspectives as this, which demonstrate his own ignorance of reality, it is difficult to understand how Moratinos was identified as an appropriate choice for the new position of antisemitism monitor.
His failure to acknowledge Israeli efforts at peace is coupled with a blindness toward the threats facing the Jewish state. Moratinos saw Yasser Arafat as the hope for peace in the region, even while the Palestinian Authority leader supported murderers, promoted suicide bombing and other terrorism as virtuous, stole money intended for the Palestinian people, and actively thwarted efforts to make peace with Israel. In his myopic view, Moratinos apparently failed to perceive the daily doses of hate-filled indoctrination from Palestinian media that served to poison both the possibilities of peace and the possibility of a prosperous future for the Palestinian people.
The passing years did not make Moratinos any more objective to Israel’s position. In 2017, he expressed his disappointment in the Oslo Peace Process, lauded Arafat for the fact that “the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) recognized the State of Israel,” but utterly ignored Arafat’s renewed terrorism campaign. Instead, Moratinos faulted Israel for the failure to achieve peace, called direct negotiations between the parties a “mistaken trap,” and urged the EU to recognize the State of Palestine without demands that the Palestinian leadership renounce terrorism.
A gunman who took six hostages in a bank in the northern French port city of Le Havre gave himself up to police, officials said late Thursday.
“The hostages have been freed, safe and sound,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said, hours after an elite RAID police unit was deployed to the scene.
According to French broadcaster RTL, the suspect demanded that Israel free “unjustly imprisoned Palestinian children” and allow Palestinians free access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The man had a history of psychiatric problems and had been in trouble previously for kidnapping and firearms offenses, a source close to the case said. Quoting police sources, Reuters said the man is believed to have Islamist ties.
The official did not confirm French media reports that he had put forth confused demands. The official could not be identified by name, in keeping with French custom.
The gunman, aged 34, had entered the premises at 4:45 p.m., a police official told AFP. The man took five or six people hostage, but eventually released all but two of them, according to reports.
In 2010, Aman founded the Gaza Youth Committee, a forum for Gazans to connect with Israeli counterparts through regular video calls and social media. Aman, who journeyed to India to meet with the Dalai Lama, teaches Palestinians that people-to-people contact, not violence, is the solution to peace with their Israeli neighbors.
Ideas of coexistence are what inspire Aman, not the deep-seated identity politics that have long sowed division between Israelis and Palestinians. “Zionist, left, right, I don’t care about the labels. I just care about meeting the people,” said Aman in a 2019 interview.
Not surprisingly, Palestinian opponents of peace call him a traitor. Despite grave risks, however, Aman perseveres for peace at the cost of his freedom. In April 2019, he was held for three days after criticizing Hamas torture on social media. A month later, Aman was detained for two weeks after organizing a solidarity bike ride in which Israelis and Palestinians bicycled together along the Gaza border.
For most people, getting thrown into Hamas prison twice in one month would be enough to stand down. Not Rami Aman.
On Monday, April 6, 2020, Aman’s team organized a Zoom video call with Israeli and Gaza peace activists. The Gaza Youth Committee drew one of its biggest crowds ever, more than 200 participants.
Two days later, Aman was denounced to Hamas in a series of vituperative Facebook posts by Hind Khoudary, a former research consultant with Amnesty International. Hours later, Hamas arrested him for the crime of pursuing “normalization” with Israelis.
How has the world reacted?
Initially in April, Aman’s arrest was widely reported, including by The New York Times and The Guardian. But ever since, the media has ignored Aman’s fate.
Pro-Palestinian activist groups have not fared much better. Despite the ignominious role played by one of its former colleagues, Amnesty International—the organization founded to defend prisoners of conscience who do not advocate violence—remained silent.
Israeli aircraft bombed a Hamas site in the northern Gaza Strip late Thursday night after terrorists in the enclave allegedly launched a number of balloons carrying suspected explosives and incendiary devices into Israel, the military said.
The Israel Defense Forces said the retaliatory strike targeted “underground infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip.”
The Hamas-linked al-Resalah news site identified the site as the group’s “Palestine base” outside Beit Lahiya.
“The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary balloons from the territory of the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory throughout the day,” the IDF said in a statement.
Following the strikes, Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned Gaza-based terror groups against attacking Israel.
“The State of Israel won’t accept any violation of its sovereignty or harm to residents of the south,” Gantz wrote on Twitter. “If the terror organizations still don’t understand, whoever tests Israel will be hit hard.”
At least three brush fires were ignited in southern Israel on Thursday by balloons carrying incendiary devices that were launched from the Gaza Strip, the fire department said, sparking concern over a possible return of the phenomenon.
The new IDF Coronavirus Task Force is taking the lead in Israel’s effort to stop the spread of #COVID19.
Here’s how: pic.twitter.com/6xka4B4qWT
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) August 6, 2020
Palestinian officials said a 23-year-old woman was shot and killed during clashes Friday between hundreds of demonstrators and Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Jenin.
The Palestinian health ministry identified the woman as Dalia Ahmad Suleiman Samudi and said she had been hit “by live Israeli bullets.” The ministry said that she was taken to a local hospital, where she died of bullet wounds.
The IDF, which entered the al-Jabiriyat neighborhood in Jenin to arrest a local Palestinian before dawn on suspicion of terror activities, denied using live fire in the incident and said there had been gunfire from the Palestinian side.
“During normal army activity tonight in Jenin, violent riots erupted in which hundreds of Palestinians participated,” an IDF spokesperson told The Times of Israel. They added that IDF troops used “normal methods of crowd dispersion which did not include live fire.” Such riot dispersion methods often include rubber-tipped bullets and tear gas.
According to the IDF, Palestinians had used live fire and thrown stones and explosive devices while clashing with soldiers.
According to a local correspondent for official Palestine TV, Samudi did not participate in the clashes. Rather, she was attempting to close the window of her apartment to protect her child from tear gas when she was shot by a stray bullet.
The Hamas terror group spokesperson Hazim Qasem called Samudi’s death “an execution” by Israel and vowed revenge.
Does the world want an Iran that promotes terror with or without a nuclear weapon, asked former US defense secretary William Perry in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. He was arguing that the United States should rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
He said that although the hope was that the Islamic Republic’s behavior would normalize through JCPOA, “none of that was on paper,” Perry said. “Would you rather have an Iran promoting terror in the Middle East with a nuclear weapon or without?”
The interview took place shortly after Perry and Ploughshares Fund Policy Director Tom Collina co-authored the book, The Button, which mostly discusses US-Russia nuclear dilemmas, but briefly confronts Iranian nuclear dilemmas.
Perry told the Post, “Rejoining the deal is better than not rejoining the deal. We had restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programs and now we don’t. If someone had a third alternative, it would be nice to hear about it.”
He said the decision should be pretty simple: “Some think they can get a better deal. Maybe they can, but I don’t see the evidence” that they can.
Furthermore, Collina said that when the US was in the deal, the deal was working according to international inspectors.
“Now that the US has withdrawn, Iran is closer to a bomb than before,” he said. “Clearly, Iran won’t enter a different agreement” nor “a better agreement until the US comes back to the original deal.”
Perry said in the last year of the Obama administration, many things about Iran’s behavior concerned him, but he was “reasonably relaxed” about its nuclear program.
American Jewish and pro-Israel groups reacted to the news on Thursday that Elliott Abrams has replaced Brian Hook as US Special Representative for Iran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement that Hook was resigning after being the main point person for the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Iranian regime.
Abrams has been serving as the US State Department’s special representative for Venezuela, a post he will continue to retain.
President of the American Jewish Congress Jack Rosen told JNS that Abrams “will have little time to settle in,” citing the upcoming deadline to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran. He expressed faith that the new appointee, like his predecessor, will “work determinedly towards countering Iran’s malignant activities in the Middle East.”
The United States will present a resolution at the UN Security Council next week to extend the UN arms embargo on Iran, announced Pompeo on Wednesday.
The 2010 arms embargo is set to be lifted on Oct. 18, in accordance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The Trump administration withdrew from that agreement in May 2018, reimposing sanctions lifted under it, along with enacted new financial penalties against the regime.
B’nai B’rith CEO Daniel Mariaschin told JNS that his organization welcomes the appointment of Abrams, whose “deep experience and longtime knowledge of the region and its players, and his long record of calling out those who engage in malign behavior and incessant support for terrorism, especially Iran, make him eminently qualified for this post.”
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