July 11, 2020

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08/14 Links Pt1: The Palestinian Problem Is Dying of Natural Causes; UNRWA Is Even Worse Than You Think It Is; Team Obama in exile


From Ian:

The Palestinian Problem Is Dying of Natural Causes
By 2040, the stone-throwing kids of the First Intifada will be close to retirement age, and the gun-toting young men who dominate today’s Palestinian employment picture (or those who still are alive) will have families. If they missed out on high-tech jobs, the spillover from the West Bank’s economic growth—driven in turn by Israel’s economic miracle—will keep them employed in service industries. Absent additional violence, the West Bank will flourish while Egypt and Syria descend into penury and chaos.

There is no urgency to make peace, except in the minds of the Palestinians’ present leaders. The world has allowed them to rule a little fiefdom as warlords of private armies, with little accounting for billions in foreign aid, and the opportunity to indulge in a grand ideological tantrum on the tab of Western donors.

The window is closing for radical Islam. That makes the present an exceptionally dangerous period, because the radicals know that it is closing. Contrary to what Obama said on May 22, the radicals understand better than anyone else that time and demographics are against them. The Palestinians of the West Bank are better off than any other Arabs in the region by any tangible measure—health, literacy, higher education, per capital income. They have the good luck to reside next to one of the world’s most dynamic economies. In a generation the world may have moved beyond the likes of Mahmoud Abbas. That gives Abbas an incentive to gamble while he still has chips on the table. If the radicals can be contained through the present generation, though, they can be extirpated in the next.

The UN Agency for Palestinians Is Even Worse Than You Think It Is

Last month, news broke that the Swiss head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA)—the organization that caters to Palestinian refugees and their descendants—promoted his mistress so that she could join him on his frequent and expensive travels, which his subordinates complain have kept him away from his duties. His deputy, meanwhile, used her influence to have her husband promoted. While these revelations have been greeted with outrage by some of the European governments that fund UNRWA, Alex Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky argue that these abuses are the natural consequence of what has long been known about the organization:

In the past, UNRWA has . . . employ[ed] Hamas members and us[ed] anti-Semitic textbooks [in its schools]. Rockets have also been found hidden at UNRWA schools on several occasions. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that an organization so corrupt at the bottom is even more corrupt at the top. . . .

One lesson to be learned from this scandal is that funders must demand internal controls, external audits, and public access to information. . . . Scrutiny is also needed on the Palestinian Authority, which uses foreign aid to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in pensions to terrorists and their families.

A second lesson concerns the danger of devoting an international organization to a single population. UNRWA was effectively taken over by Palestinians decades ago. Politicization began at the bottom with school curricula, but crept upward. . . .

This latest scandal is an opportunity for the U.S., together with other angry donors, to demand a phase-out plan for the entire organization. UNRWA’s 30,000 employees could join the Palestinian Authority, which would take over its health, education, and welfare responsibilities like the state it claims to be. UNRWA’s expensive international cadre, including lobbyists in Washington and Geneva, should be disbanded. And Palestinian residents of Arab states . . . should become citizens of those states, as they are in Jordan, or of the Palestinian Authority. If Palestinians truly desire a state, they should join the call for UNRWA’s abolition.

PMW: The PA initiated clashes on the Temple Mount

A guide to the Temple Mount published in 1925 by the Supreme Moslem Council of Mandate Palestine declares that its “identity with Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute.” This senior Muslim authority repeated this confirmation of Jewish and Christian traditions in 1950 in a new guide, when Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were then under Jordanian rule. Despite these repeated affirmations by the top Muslim authority of the land, the Palestinian Authority is constantly attempting to rewrite even Muslim tradition, by denying the Jewish nature of the Temple Mount. Accordingly, it refers to visits by Jews to this holy site as “invasions” and calls on Palestinians and the International community to defend the site and prevent its “Judaization.” The PA deceptively refers to the entire Temple Mount as the “Al Aqsa Mosque”, even though the actual mosque sits on a relatively small area in the south-western corner of the mount.

On Sunday, Israel marked the 9th day of the Jewish month of Av. According to Jewish tradition, on that day both the first and second Temples were destroyed. The same day marked the start of the Moslem Eid Al-Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice]

While some sources have blamed the Sunday clashes on the Jordanians, Palestinian Media Watch can show that it was the PA who was most instrumental in instigating the clashes and ensuing violence.

In an attempt to disrupt Jews’ right to access the Mount on Sunday, the PA took a number of steps, including changing the times of the Moslem prayers on the Mount and calling for mosques around Jerusalem to remain closed in order to “recruit” as many people as possible to defend the site against the “invasions.”

While the published time schedule for the 5 daily Moslem prayers, set the first prayer time for 04.29, the second (last morning prayer) for 05.56, and the third (first afternoon prayer) for 12.44 on Aug. 9, 2019 the PA appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories decided to delay the second morning prayer to 07.30. The goal was to ensure that as many people would be present on the Temple Mount when the Jews were scheduled to start arriving.

‘The world understands – Israel isn’t the problem’

Israel is often under the gun, at home and abroad, for its public diplomacy failures – for not marketing itself, explaining its actions, thwarting hostile schemes based on incorrect or twisted information, while at the same time not playing up its successes. This was true in the past, when most of the world was against us, and to a large extent it’s still true in the age of social media and the endless flood of information.

Israel has racked up a long list of public diplomacy failures in its 71 years of existence. After one of them – the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which was characterized by chaos not only on the battlefield but also in the battle for public opinion – a decision was made to do something about it and establish the National Information Directorate for public diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office. The directorate would decide strategy, coordinate between various players, and act as the national leadership’s professional arm in the effort to sway opinions in Israel and throughout the world.

The person chosen to head the office was Yarden Vatikay. Vatikay had served in the Prime Minister’s Office under Yitzhak Rabin, as IDF Spokesperson, as media adviser to the defense minister and COGAT, and as spokesman for the Jewish Agency. He took up the position when Ehud Olmert was still prime minister, and he stayed when Benjamin Netanyahu was elected, becoming one the professional staffers who was closest to the prime minister. He is a classic civil servant – careful, non-critical of managers and colleagues, and very loyal to Israel and its goals. This week, he resigned after 11 and a half years in the role.

“The messages Israel sends out are complicated: on one hand, we project that we’re strong, that it’s worthwhile to do business with us and make aliyah. On the other, we broadcast that we’re under attack, a jungle clearing that needs help. That’s complicated to explain,” Vatikay says.

“The Palestinians’ message is much simpler. They say, ‘We’re wretched, save us,’ and that’s it. Our lives are much more complex, and that makes public diplomacy work difficult,” he says.

Noah Rothman: Team Obama in exile

Animating these critiques of the president is a straw-man argument over the nature of the Iran deal itself. Its proponents insist that the accords were working as designed until Trump violated them. But the deal’s opponents agree that the deal was working as designed. That’s why Iran could hide a voluminous cache of documents related to its nuclear weapons program without surrendering it to international inspectors, without consequences. That’s why Iran could breach the nuclear deal’s caps on uranium enrichment levels with little forewarning because the deal left intact the technology that it needs to race toward a bomb.

“Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon today, let’s be clear, than when Trump came into office,” said Obama-era National Security Council adviser Samantha Vinograd upon Iran’s warning that it would begin re-enriching uranium. She could say this despite the U.N.’s repeated assurances that Iran was abiding by the terms of the nuclear accords. She appeared to see her assessment as an attack on the Iran deal’s critics, not as vindication of their core argument. Team Obama seems to believe that the abrogation of the deal left Tehran with no option but to engage in brinkmanship to bring the U.S. and Europe back to the negotiating table. But that would come as news to the U.S. sailors who were captured in 2016 on Obama’s watch by the Revolutionary Guards and paraded before cameras, in violation of Geneva Convention protocols.

So many of the Obama administration’s dubious legacy achievements are attributable to its desire to cement a deal, any deal, with Iran. That objective led the administration to look the other way as Iranian forces streamed into Syria as early as 2012. It compelled them to soft pedal Russian and Iranian complicity in grotesque crimes against Syrian civilians, and to mute their response to Iranian provocations on American soil. “Sadly,” State Department veteran and former Obama adviser Frederic Hof confessed, “the Obama administration sacrificed Syrian civilians and American credibility for the mistaken notion that Iran required appeasement in Syria as the price for a nuclear agreement.”

As New York Times reporters David Sanger and David Kirkpatrick observed, Obama “regarded Iran as potentially a more natural ally” of the U.S. than the region’s Sunni states. The regularization of contacts between Tehran and Washington, the rise of Iranian influence in Iraq, and a fig leaf of a nuclear deal forced U.S. allies in Cairo, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh to rethink their positions. So, too, did the Obama administration’s ideological hostility toward Israel, which culminated in a strategically purblind decision to abstain from a U.N. vote declaring Israeli construction in the eastern side of the united city of Jerusalem “ illegal.” The Sunni states and Israel’s new anxiety over America’s shifting alliances catalyzed a previously unthinkable détente between these old adversaries, all but neutralizing the Palestinian question that had once weighed so heavily on the region. This unintended consequence of the Obama administration’s policy would be cause for unqualified celebration if it hadn’t come at such a high, if temporary, cost to U.S. influence over its traditional allies.

David Singer: Trump Reaffirms Bush’s Recognition of Jewish claims in West Bank

This commitment was overwhelmingly endorsed by the House of Representatives 407:9 on 23 June 2004 and the Senate 95:3 the next day.

Bush’s letter welcomed the disengagement plan Sharon had prepared:
“under which Israel would withdraw certain military installations and all settlements from Gaza, and withdraw certain military installations and settlements in the West Bank. These steps described in the plan will mark real progress toward realizing my June 24, 2002 vision, and make a real contribution towards peace”

Israel honoured its commitment – at great personal loss of life, injury and property damage to both its civilian population and military forces. Israel continues to pay a heavy price for that disengagement as Hamas remains in control of Gaza with the avowed aim of wiping Israel off the face of the map.

Trump has already recognized – and will continue to recognize – Jewish rights in the West Bank as sacrosanct.

The PLO is shouting loads of codswallop from its Ramallah-Headquarters rooftop – as the ceiling slowly collapses under its feet.

UN Committee grills PA on incitement

An unusual hearing was held in the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva. Tuesday evening.

The participants dealt with the incitement, racism and anti-Semitism that exists within the Palestinian Authority.

“Several NGO reports pointed out antisemitic and anti-Israel prejudice and incitement to hatred, especially in the [PA] media and speeches of state officials. Can the state party [the PA] provide any explanation in this regard?” asked Chinsung Chung, the South Korean representative on the committee.

Committee member Silva Albuquerque said that he had been presented with concrete examples of racism in PA publications, including school textbooks.

“Our convention obliges state parties to adopt immediate and effective measures, particularly in education, to combat racial discrimination and prejudice between different racial and ethnic groups, over jurisprudence,”Albuquerque said.

PA representative Ammar Hijazi denied that the PA engaged in any form of racism or anti-Semitism. “We do not discriminate against any of our citizens based on ethnicity and religion or sex. We are a state that is trying to find its path and still formulating its law.”

Hijazi further accused the committee members who questioned him of unquestionably accepting the statements of NGOs which he said were “founded and funded to deny Palestinians their rights, their narrative and to spread untruths about them.”

Palestinians revive charge Zionism is racism at UN hearing

The Palestinian Authority revived the charge that “Zionism is racism” and warned that the Israelis were “weaponizing” antisemitism to prevent the Palestinians from creating a state, when its representatives testified Wednesday at a UN panel on racism.

“What we face is the Zionist movement,” PLO Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Ibrahim Khraishi said. “I would like to remind you that in 1975, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 3379, indicating that Zionism is a form of racism. That is the root of the problem that we face.”

He did not mention that the UN had revoked that resolution in 1991.

He spoke at the end of the first ever review of the PA’s record on discrimination and racism that was held on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [CERD].

“It was the Zionist movement that was behind the creation of the state of Israel,” Khraishi said as he explained that his people are the victims of that Zionism.

Before election, PM aims for Trump backing for Israel sovereignty at settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a public declaration from US President Donald Trump ahead of the September elections backing an Israeli move to extend its sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language site, on Sunday.

While Netanyahu cannot himself take the far-reaching diplomatic step of extending Israeli sovereignty to the settlements while he is leading the current caretaker government, the Prime Minister’s Office is lobbying for public support from Trump for such a move. This would enable Netanyahu to credibly assure right-wing voters that he can and will move quickly to apply sovereignty to the settlements if he is again elected premier.

If issued, such a declaration by Trump would mark the third far-reaching diplomatic shift by the White House in under two years, after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moved its embassy there, and recognized Israeli control over the Golan Heights earlier this year, shortly before the previous elections.

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday told The Times of Israel that the claim that Netanyahu had asked for an US affirmation of Israel’s right to sovereignty in the West Bank is “incorrect.” The White House declined to comment on the story.

Buttigieg Calls US Recognition of Golan ‘Interference’ in Israeli Politics

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, denounced on Tuesday US President Donald Trump’s official recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights as an “interference” in the State of Israel and its politics.

“There are very legitimate Israeli security concerns,” said the 37-year-old in response to a question from JNS following his speech at the annual Iowa State Fair on “The Des Moines Register Soapbox,” where candidates for president and other offices give an allotted 20-minute speech. “That being said, I would have, in that situation, had this be part of a negotiated discussion. The really upsetting thing about what was done with the Golan Heights was that it was an intervention in Israeli domestic politics.”

“In other words, the president used US foreign policy to put a thumb on the scale for right-wing allies within Israeli domestic politics. This is totally the wrong basis for our policy. So we can talk about the future of any of the hot-button issues in the Middle East,” continued Buttigieg. “The bottom line is when I am president we will do it not based on US politics and not based on Israeli politics but based on what is best for the security of the Israeli-Palestinian [future].”

Regarding whether, if elected, he would undo the president’s move, Buttigieg responded, “I’m not going to make any declarations now about the future of that status other than to say that on my watch it would not have come about as part of the intervention of Israeli [politics].”

The Republican Jewish Coalition immediately challenged the mayor for his response.

“Top tier 2020 Democrat contender apparently wants Syria to have the Golan Heights, supports a foreign policy strategy that denies reality,” tweeted the organization.

Abbas expresses hope Netanyahu will be defeated in election

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas expressed hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be defeated in the election and replaced by a leader willing to speak to him, in a meeting with Democratic Union candidates Essawi Frej and Noa Rothman in Ramallah.

Frej told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting on Tuesday that he found Abbas to be healthy, encouraging and seeking a peace process.

“He is eagerly waiting for the Israeli election,” Frej said. “He complained that Netanyahu has barely spoken to him over the past decade and that he hopes the next government begins a new peace process.”

Frej said that the purpose of the meeting was to restore the diplomatic issue to the national agenda ahead of the election, after it has been neglected by Blue and White and Labor.

“We came there to return hope,” he explained. “We in the Democratic Union believe the Palestinian issue needs to be a top priority.”

Netanyahu posted the Post’s article with Abbas’s comments, saying: “If anyone needed another reason to vote for Likud…”

Democratic Camp candidates, including Rabin’s granddaughter, meet Abbas

Two members of the left-wing Democratic Camp electoral alliance, including a granddaughter of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday in Ramallah.

MK Issawi Frej and Noa Rothman said they met with Abbas to draw attention to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate ahead of general elections in September, amid growing calls for annexation of West Bank settlements by right-wing figures.

Rothman, whose grandfather signed the Oslo Accords that created the PA, tweeted after the meeting that she was “furious and disappointed” that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t done more to advance the peace process over the past decade.

“The inaction of Netanyahu and his disregard for the Palestinian issue proves time and time again that he himself is not a partner to the creation of hope for future generations,” said the Knesset candidate, who is placed ninth on the Democratic Camp party’s slate.

Abbas vowed to help bring Israeli captive in Gaza back home, MK says

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas promised Democratic Camp members on Tuesday that he would make an effort to secure the release of an Israeli man being held captive in Gaza, MK Issawi Frej said on Wednesday.

Avera Mengistu is widely believed to be held by Hamas, a rival to Abbas’s Fatah party, since last being seen entering the Palestinian enclave almost five years ago.

Frej said Abbas made the pledge when he and fellow Democratic Camp candidate Noa Rothman met the PA president on Tuesday at his office in Ramallah.

“We raised the case of Avera Mengistu with him and he vowed that he would make great efforts to secure his release,” Frej told The Times of Israel in a phone call. “We will be following up with Abbas’s office on this issue and we already heard this morning from the PA that they have started to work on it.”

In September 2014, Mengistu, whose family has said he suffers from a mental illness, crossed into northern Gaza from the beach at Zikim. After he entered the coastal enclave, the Hamas terror group was thought to have arrested him.

In addition to Mengistu, Hamas is also believed to be holding captive two other Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war.

Abbas ‘aggressive’ in talks with Dems, rejects US overtures

Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), told Jewish News Syndicate that she “didn’t walk away from the meeting with Abbas feeling particularly optimistic about an openness” to working with the White House and legislators in support of a two-state solution.

“I don’t know that I think that Abbas recognizes that there is, or should be, a Jewish state – that was my impression,” she said. “I think somebody asked him that question point-blank, but I don’t remember the exact answer. But I know that we all walked away with a sense that he wasn’t really interested in working with the Trump administration.”

Relations between the Trump administration and the PA have been largely nonexistent since late 2017 when US President Donald Trump broke with long-standing American policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced that he was moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that infuriated the Palestinian leadership. Since then, the PA has officially boycotted the Trump administration and its efforts to restart the Middle East peace process. In turn, Trump has cut foreign aid to the PA as a result of its “pay to slay” policy that funds terrorists and their families, as well as the Palestinian refugee agency long spearheaded by the United Nations, UNRWA.

During the Abbas meeting with US congressional members last week, the parties also discussed Rep. Ted Deutch’s (D-Fla.) bill H.R.1837 that in part works to restore US funding to humanitarian projects benefiting Palestinians and joint Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. This type of funding was rejected by the PA in February with the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act. Continuing to receive funding, the PA interpreted, would have opened them up to US courts in lawsuits brought by families of victims of terrorism.

Wild said Abbas appeared belligerent during discussions about Deutch’s bill, which passed the House in July.

“Abbas was fairly aggressive is all I can say. I would not go so far as to say that he expressed gratitude for it, let’s put it that way,” said the Pennsylvania legislator. “His response was something on the order of, you know, we [the United States] have given back what we had already taken away, or something like that.”

Abbas said to snub visiting Republican Congress members

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly snubbed a visiting delegation of Republican Congress members on Tuesday, sending other senior officials to meet them in his place.

Abbas had been due to meet with the 31-member GOP delegation led by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA,) a week after he met with a similar Democratic delegation, but backed out at the last minute, a participant told the Jewish Insider.

“He cancelled on the Republicans,” Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) said, adding that he opted not to go to Ramallah once he found out that Abbas would not be attending.

“I think it’s because the administration has been awfully hard on Palestinians and very supportive of Israel — which is the right thing to do — and I think he saw the Republicans as maybe not worth his time,” Gonzalez said.

The Palestinians have been boycotting the Trump administration since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It has also cut almost all aid to the Palestinians.

U.S.-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation Tightens

Israel’s new Arrow 3 interceptor, recently tested in Alaska, provides Israel with the ability to defend against long-range, advanced Iranian missiles like the Shahab 3, with interception deep in space. American and Israeli coordination on missile defense has been important for both sides.

The U.S. Army recently signed an agreement to acquire two Iron Dome batteries for defense against short-range threats. David’s Sling, jointly developed by Rafael and Raytheon for middle-range threats and against cruise missiles, may ultimately serve the needs of the U.S. and its allies in Poland, Japan, and South Korea, particularly if it is paired with the Patriot system.

Lasers are likely to be an important part of the next frontier in missile defense. In recent years, the technology of solid state lasers has made strides. But even when it is ready for deployment, it won’t be applicable for upper layers of defense. Lasers are expected to be particularly effective at short range as part of an existing system, like Iron Dome.

US Inks Deal to Buy Israel’s Iron Dome

The US has inked a deal to buy the Israeli Iron Dome, a weapons system capable of stopping missile mid-air. What does this mean for the Israel-U.S. military partnership? Our Daniel Tsemach has the story.

‘US and Israel are attacking Iranian targets in Iraq’

Arab media outlets on Wednesday reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi toured southern Baghdad after an ammunition warehouse exploded, ordering authorities to create new protocols for safely storing weapons and ammunition, Israel Hayom reported.

A spokesman for Iraq’s Interior Minister said that an examination of the warehouse showed that the explosion was not caused by an internal failure but by a third party which attacked the warehouse and caused a fire, Israel Hayom added.

The media also quoted the Iraqi officials as saying that the warehouse belonged to the Iraqi police and security forces.

However, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister and Baghdad security sources said the warehouse belonged to militias and armed forces operating in Iraq, which are identified with a “neighboring country.”

According to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, a senior security official said: “It’s clear that we’re facing a battle which is taking place on Iraqi soil, between the US and Israel and Iran and its allies. We have every indication that Israel is doing in Iraq what it did in Syria, when it attacked Iranian military targets time and again. The US is also helping Israel attack pro-Iranian targets in Iraq.”

Venezuelan opposition leader appoints rabbi as envoy to Israel

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido announced Tuesday he would appoint a Caracas rabbi as ambassador to Israel.

Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in January, arguing Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro’s inauguration for a second term was illegitimate, as the elections he won the previous year were widely rejected internationally for irregularities.

The United States, European Union and most Latin American countries subsequently recognized Guaido as Venezeula’s president, as did Israel, but his attempt to take control of the impoverished country has mostly fizzled.

At a National Assembly session in Caracas Tuesday, Guaido proposed Rabbi Pynchas Brener as his envoy to Israel, according to the Spanish-language Aurora weekly.

Brener, who is now rabbi emeritus of the Unión Israelita de Caracas, is a former chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Venezuela.

After their Israeli friend was killed, Palestinian teens mourn anonymously

Some of Sorek’s Palestinian friends issued a public letter expressing shock over his killing on Tuesday, recalling his participation in the interfaith forum which is aimed at fostering dialogue between Islam and Judaism.

“Over the past two years, he would regularly attend our meetings,” the letter read. “During each meeting, we talked about our daily lives and the future we wanted to build together. We would meet every other week, we were young Palestinians and Israelis.”

The Palestinian friends chose not to reveal their full identity because of the potential backlash from terrorist sympathizers.

“We send our condolences to his family and to our friends in his yeshiva,” they wrote. “As a group, we condemn such brutal actions; such violence hurts all of us. We build bridges between the peoples on this land and we hope that this tragedy will be the last.”

Jordan protests after Israeli minister suggests changing Temple Mount status quo

Jordan on Tuesday slammed Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan for saying Israel should work to change the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

As part of an arrangement in place since the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the Old City and East Jerusalem from Jordan, non-Muslims are barred from praying at the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam.

The compound was the site of clashes between Muslim worshipers and police on Sunday over the entry of Jews during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which this year coincided with the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av.

Erdan, whose ministry oversees police responsible for security at the Temple Mount, voiced support in an interview Tuesday for changing the existing arrangements there.

Disengagement harmed Israel’s security

Supporters of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in northern Samaria have claimed for years that despite the heavy price of the action, it bolstered national security. That is a major point, one that lies at the heart of the current debate about whether Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria vital to the security of the country? Do withdrawals have a positive or a negative effect on Israel’s strategic situation? And what, actually, is the criterion by which we measure security?

Those who justify the disengagement usually rest their arguments on two assumptions: 1) Since disengagement, there has been a sharp decrease in the number of terrorism casualties in Gaza; and 2) withdrawal to a “recognized state border” improved Israel’s diplomatic standing.

So let’s look at the figures. A report from Molad – The Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy notes that from 2000 to 2005, 162 people were killed in terrorist incidents that originated from the Gaza Strip, whereas in the decade after 2005 “only” 140 people were killed by terrorism from Gaza. The figures are used to prove that the withdrawal was a success, since when it comes to the basic test of the number of human beings alive, it supposedly led to a significant drop in casualties.

But that is a biased, deceptive use of the data. The choice of the year 2000 as a starting point is problematic: that was the year the Second Intifada erupted, leading to a peak in the number of outbreaks of terrorism that were the direct result of the Oslo process. There is no data available about the number of victims of terrorism originating from Gaza prior to the Second Intifada, but nationwide figures indicate that the pre-intifada period was much less deadly. Throughout the 1990s, 344 Israelis were killed nationwide in terrorist attacks, compared to 1,178 in the decade that followed, the vast majority of whom were killed between 2000-2005, the period Molad uses as a comparison.

Hamas leader vows to shower Israel with missiles if IDF invades Gaza

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar vowed on Tuesday that the terror group would prevail over the IDF should Israel send troops into the coastal enclave in any future conflict.

“We will defeat the occupation army, if it crosses into Gaza, if God, the ruler of the universe, wills,” Sinwar said in a short speech delivered to Palestinian families in his hometown Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

“We will beat that defeated army,” he vowed, adding that if there is another conflict with Israel, “we will shower their cities with hundreds of missiles in a single barrage.”

Sinwar, second only to Hamas politburo head Ismail Haniyeh in the terror group’s hierarchy, is known to use bellicose rhetoric when referring to the possibility of conflict with Israel.

PA official: Iran helping Hamas rebuild West Bank terror network

Behind the appalling terrorist attack in Gush Etzion last week that claimed the life of Dvir Sorek, the riots on the Temple Mount during the Tisha B’Av day of fasting, and the infiltration attempts from Gaza that could have ended tragically had they not been foiled at the last moment, is a guiding hand originating in Tehran – senior Palestinian Authority security officials told Israel Hayom.

According to the PA officials, the Iranian regime wants to support Hamas’ efforts to rehabilitate the organization’s terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, to carry out additional attacks against Israeli military and civilian targets in the territory and even across the Green Line.

Hamas officials know, of course, that nothing comes free – certainly not from the Iranians, who are currently straining under economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and are on a collision course with the United States and Great Britain amid heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf. According to one senior PA security official, while Hamas’ leadership is cautious not to disrespect Egyptian mediators working to preserve understandings with Israel, and is insistent that the attempted infiltrations at the Gaza border were perpetrated by independent cells – the directive to escalate recent events on the Temple Mount came directly from Tehran.

Hamas claims they won’t stop individuals from attacking Israel

Hamas officials stated before the Eid al-Adha holiday which began on Sunday that they would not prevent attacks by individual Gazans on Israel, after multiple infiltration attempts occurred in the past week, according to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.

The terror movement laid responsibility for the recent infiltrations on Israel, citing the harsh living conditions in the Gaza Strip

Hamas sources said that an internal investigation showed that the “last three operations were carried out by members of the military wing of the movement who planned the attacks themselves on the spot and without instructions from the military and political leadership of the movement.”

The investigation also found that the terrorists used weapons owned by the terror movement.

When Egyptian mediators requested clarification about the attack attempts, Hamas responded that the actions were done by individuals and that the “occupation bears responsibility because of the continuing difficult humanitarian and economic reality.” The terror movement warned that these difficulties could lead “to the loss of control of the border and the repetition of such operations intensively in the future.”

According to Al-Akhbar, Hamas rejected a request by the mediators to prevent such attacks, stressing that they don’t assume responsibility for individual operations and that they “cannot face them in light of the reality faced by the residents of the Gaza Strip.”

Give Iran Sanctions Time to Work

The U.S. has made impressive progress in its sanctions campaign against Iran. While further oil and banking sanctions might lead to a rift between the U.S. and its global partners, a better approach would be to focus on closing sanction-bypassing channels (especially through Turkey and Qatar) and on further devaluating Iran’s currency reserves. At the same time, the Iranian people should be shown a vision of the opportunities for prosperity if Tehran changes direction or the regime is replaced.

In the continued debate over the effectiveness of economic sanctions against Iran, the example is cited of North Korea, which had been a target of U.S. sanctions for 50 years and yet did not collapse. Why should Iran be expected to crumble under economic sanctions?

The answer is that Iranian society is different and far more susceptible to sanctions that North Korean society. Iran faces a growing gap between the public and the government/religious establishment, alongside growing secularization, modernization, and the adoption of Western lifestyles. These deep-rooted trends lead to waning public support for government institutions and revolutionary values. Economic sanctions against Iran exacerbate these internal tensions and increase the demand for change.

There have been changes in the international banking system since 9/11. Corporate fears of unprecedented collective and individual penalties and lawsuits filed by victims of terror have created a new situation, one in which the banks have become their own regulators – and have established restrictions in order to avoid confrontations with the U.S. regulatory or legal systems.

European efforts to provide Iran with an alternative trading channel to circumvent U.S. sanctions encountered formidable obstacles posed by the European and global banking system. The banks are much more concerned over a possible disconnect from the U.S. banking system and are not easily placated by European government guarantees. The EU is Iran’s third largest trading partner, after the UAE and China, with $30 billion in trade in 2018. EU trading with the U.S. that year was $720 billion.

Iranian commander: Hezbollah honed its skills in Syria, can destroy Israel

Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander Hossein Salami declared on Wednesday that Lebanese terrorist group “Hezbollah has acquired capabilities in Syria that allow it to destroy Israel alone.”

The warring comments seem to affirm Israel’s concerns over Iranian-backed activity in war-torn Syria, where the Jewish state has admitted to conducting “hundreds of strikes” on Iranian-linked targets.

The comments come after a Lebanese lawmaker affiliated with Hezbollah warned at the beginning of the week that Israel was preparing to wage war against the Iran-backed group and was ready to “confront it.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that the Israeli military was responsible for carrying out a missile strike on Hezbollah targets in Syria earlier this month.

Salami also addressed the escalating tensions with the United States that were following the seizures of tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and the further breach of the nuclear deal’s terms.

MEMRI: Egyptian Journalist Al-Azab Al-Tayyeb: Holocaust – Zionist Propaganda; ‘To Obtain More Money, Israel Invented Stories About Nazis Using Gas Chambers’ For ‘Mass Murder Of Jews’ – But They’re Too Small To Be Used For Genocide

In a March 7, 2019 episode of Blue Line that aired on Channel 2 (Egypt), Al-Azab Al-Tayyeb, an Egyptian journalist working for the Al-Ahram newspaper, said that the “Zionist entity” has influential lobby groups throughout the world – particularly in the United States – that employ financial, media, and political control over decision-making centers such as the U.S. Congress, the President, the State Department, and think tanks. Al-Tayyeb said that the number of six million Jews burned in the Holocaust is heavily exaggerated and that no more than a few hundred thousand Jews had been killed. He also said that the gas chambers that the Nazis allegedly used were too small to burn millions of Jews; rather, he claimed that they had been used to cremate the bodies of prisoners who died of typhoid fever due to lack of medical services during the war. Al-Tayyeb then said that what the Zionists do to the Palestinians should be described in the same way that the Zionists describe the Holocaust because it is much worse. During the show, a brief documentary-style clip claimed that the Zionist propaganda used antisemitism and the lie of the Holocaust as a profitable business and in order to extort the West. The documentary’s narrator also claimed that the Jews inflated the number of Jews killed at the time and that they made up stories about gas chambers being used for mass murder in order to obtain more money.

“The Number Of Jews In Europe At The Time Did Not Exceed 6.5 Million”

Al-Azab Al-Tayyeb: “The Zionist lobby exists not only in the Zionist entity. It is present in Europe, in America, and in other regions in the world, such as Canada, and in some regions of South Africa.
“This lobby has managed to peddle the notion [of the Holocaust] in a very efficient way, objectively speaking.”

Host: “They have the media and the right connections at their disposal…”
Al-Azab Al-Tayyeb: “The most important thing that the Zionist entity has is influence, through the huge lobbying groups, all over the world, especially in America. These lobbies, or pressure groups, have financial, media, and political control over the centers of decision-making: Congress, the President, as well as the State Department. It has strong ties to think tanks, some of which completely reflect the Zionist view.

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