April 7, 2020

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09/12 Links Pt1: Jordan Valley Needed to Protect Israel from Threats to the East; Evelyn Gordon: Palestinians Are Tired of Being the Only Refugees Denied the Right to Resettlement


From Ian:

Evelyn Gordon: Palestinians Are Tired of Being the Only Refugees Denied the Right to Resettlement
Hundreds of Palestinian refugees demonstrated outside the Canadian Embassy in Beirut on Sept. 5 to request asylum in Canada or the European Union, the second such protest in the last month. The most surprising aspect of these demonstrations is that they have been so long in coming. Only now, after more than 70 years, are Palestinians publicly protesting the fact that they alone, of all the world’s refugees, are denied the most basic of refugee rights—the right to seek resettlement in a safe third country.

All other refugees worldwide are handled by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which resettles tens of thousands of refugees in third countries every year. But Palestinian refugees aren’t allowed to apply to UNHCR; they are handled by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, an agency created exclusively for them. And UNRWA hasn’t resettled a single refugee in its 70 years of existence.

The only option it offers the refugees and their descendants is eternal limbo: awaiting a “return” to Israel that will never happen. Thus it’s unsurprising that the protesters also assailed UNRWA for depriving them of “their most basic rights.”

Moreover, this refusal to grant Palestinians a right of resettlement enjoys the full support of so-called human-rights organizations and self-proclaimed advocates of human rights like the European Union. Thus it’s equally unsurprising that groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch completely ignored the demonstration.

PMW: Abbas dictates content of PA media: Promote terrorists

Palestinian Authority media is controlled by PA Chairman Abbas himself. A statement by the General Supervisor of the Official PA Media Ahmad Assaf who has the rank of minister and was appointed by Abbas demonstrates that Abbas actively involves himself in determining the content of the official PA media:

“Assaf expressed his pride that the official media is representing the cause of the Martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners under the instructions of [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas, who is constantly reemphasizing that this is our people’s most important cause.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 26, 2019]

Assaf made this statement in July at a tribute ceremony held at the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation headquarters in Ramallah for “journalists who are members of the official media.”

Abbas’ control over the content of the media is effective. Earlier this month, a Palestinian Martyrs’ association honored the head of PA media Ahmad Assaf for doing precisely what Abbas had instructed: “To serve the Martyrs and their families and the prisoners and their families”:

“Secretary-General of the National Association of the Families of the Martyrs of Palestine Muhammad Sbeihat honored General Supervisor of the Official [PA] Media [with the rank of] Minister Ahmad Assaf for the role that the official media plays in serving the Martyrs and their families and the prisoners and their families.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 3, 2019]

PMW: “Lies, damn lies and statistics” – the PA version

Announcing the Palestinian Authority’s intention to begin international arbitration proceedings regarding the tax revenues Israel collects and transfers to the PA, the PA Minister of Finance Shukri Bishara chose to obfuscate reality presenting a financial picture that has little to do with real facts, but rather simply reinforces the PA narrative.

In the announcement, Bishara claimed that the payment for services Israel provides to the PA and an agreed handling fee are unrightfully “withheld” by Israel:
“The total amount of what Israel has withheld from the clearance revenues, which are the Palestinian taxes on imports from Israel and abroad collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has exceeded $3.5 billion in the last five years alone, of which $400 million was taken as 3% commission on the collection and over $3 billion for services, electricity, water, medical transfers and sanitation.”
[WAFA, English edition, Official PA news agency, Sept. 4, 2019]

Comprehensive statistics obtained by Palestinian Media Watch from Israel’s Ministry of Finance under the Freedom of Information Law, show that Bishara’s claims are outrageous.

First, it should be noted that when Bishara refers to the amounts “Israel has withheld,” he is, in reality, referring to the PA’s payments for services provided by Israel to the Palestinians, such as “electricity, water, medical transfers, and sanitation.” Distorting this simple fact – in order to create the impression that Israel arbitrarily deducted these sums – becomes an additional element of the PA’s “Palestinian victimhood” narrative. Clearly, however, if Israel provides services to the PA, Israel is entitled to be paid for those services.

Jordan Valley Needed to Protect Israel from Threats to the East

The Arab countries roundly – if rather perfunctorily – condemned Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announced intent to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. Dore Gold, the head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former director-general of the Israel Foreign Ministry, said that the muted response has to do with “understanding very well…the Iranian threat to the eastern portion of the Arab world.”

He said that there is a degree of understanding about the context of the move, and how it has “strategic military significance” in checking malign Iranian intentions in the region.

Gold noted that one of the significant aspects of Netanyahu’s announcement was that he presented a map where he defined the area that he feels is necessary for Israel’s security, and that the map he used is very close to the one that Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon proposed soon after the 1967 war.

Gold said that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin also adhered to the Allon Plan to retain the Jordan Valley, saying in his final address to the Knesset in 1995 that in any future agreement, “the Jordan Valley in the widest sense of that term would be the security border of the State of Israel.”

At the time, Gold said, “Israeli planners were largely preoccupied with the future threat of an Iraq expeditionary force that could cross Jordan in 35 hours.”

While Saddam Hussein has been eliminated, he said, the threat to Israel from the east did not disappear, since Iran “is very actively trying to project its military power westward toward the Mediterranean.”

PM’s Jordan Valley map was error-strewn, but is his vow worth taking seriously?

While Peace Now’s Ofran recognized the political timing of the announcement, she argued that it deserved to be taken seriously given the specifics provided by Netanyahu.

“I know he said no Palestinian will be annexed, that Jericho, Al-Auja and a few other villages would remain under PA control, and that they would even be given access roads to the [rest of the] West Bank and Jordan — but this is exactly what apartheid is,” she said.

“In South Africa they called them Bantustans. Blacks had autonomous towns, access roads and even had parliaments to vote for. In our case, it will be [a separation] not based on race or color but on nationality,” Ofran charged.

But George Mason law professor Eugene Kontorovich called that conclusion “absolutely ridiculous,” pointing out that in South Africa, Bantustans were controlled by the government, whereas in Netanyahu’s plan, the territory surrounded by the land slated for annexation would remain under the control of the PA.

Where the director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East at George Mason University appeared to agree with the Peace Now analyst was regarding the seriousness of Netanyahu’s announcement — flawed map notwithstanding.

“He presented the plan with a degree of specificity, detail and drama that will make it difficult to not implement it if in fact he wins,” Kontrovich said. Those elements, he added, would also make it harder for the more right-wing Yamina party to remain in a Netanyahu government if he did not in fact move forward with applying sovereignty.

Israel’s Sovereignty Claims over the Jordan Valley Are Legitimate

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement on Tuesday regarding his plan to formalize Israeli sovereignty in Jordan Valley has sent shockwaves across the world. However, much of the outrage has stemmed from a misunderstanding about Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria and historical claims over the region. Even the standard newspaper accounts of Netanyahu’s plans as envisioning the “annexation” of territory is inaccurate.

Netanyahu never said “annexation.” Instead, he spoke of “applying sovereignty” to refer to Israel’s territorial claims over the Jordan Valley. International outlets, particularly left-leaning ones, have referred to Netanyahu’s campaign promise as a promise to annex land. But there is a reason for the PM’s careful choice of wording, and for its mistranslation and misrepresentation abroad.

A nation cannot annex land over which it already has sovereign claims. Netanyahu purposefully referred to the process as an application of Israeli sovereignty, abstaining from using the Hebrew word for annexation, sipuach. As Eugene Kontorovich, director of the International Law Department at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, noted, Netanyahu’s proclamation is about “translating long-standing Israeli consensus into action.”

Foreign media is doing its best to portray the potential application of sovereignty in this scenario as far-flung or illegitimate. This interpretation is incorrect. Indeed, after Netanyahu’s announcement, the center-left Blue and White Party, which leads the opposition, sarcastically commented that they were pleased to see Netanyahu “adopting Blue and White’s plan for recognizing the Jordan Valley.”

JPost Editorial: Netanyahu’s election stunt

To his credit, Israel has achieved awesome results under his leadership, from the economy to security. He has not dragged Israel into more wars in Gaza, and has navigated the Iranian challenge in Syria – which is one of the most complex challenges Israel has faced historically – avoiding war there while keeping back the Iranians and neutralizing their threats. Netanyahu and his team have threaded the needle.

Netanyahu’s terms as prime minister have generally been empty of bold decisions regarding the Palestinian issue. He believes Israel can reach out to Gulf states and other regional states without a two-state solution. He used his first period as prime minister in the 1990s to work against the Oslo Accords, correctly understanding that they could lead to renewed Palestinian terrorist attacks. Netanyahu prefers to manage the conflict.

But this tinkering with the conflict has been thrown out the window now that Trump is in Washington. It was fine when it came to Jerusalem and the Golan, which Israel had already annexed. But Netanyahu’s vow to annex the Jordan Valley would be the first major change in Israel’s policy since disengagement and the momentous decision like Oslo or the peace accords with Egypt, steering Israel in a new direction.

This has led to concern abroad and among Israel’s friends. Is Israel about to bury Oslo and set a new course? If that is happening, then Israel needs to explain what the full strategy and plan are, not just to its friends but to Israeli citizens. What comes after the annexation? What happens to the Palestinians who live in the Jordan Valley? What happens to the rest of the West Bank? We don’t know the plan, probably because there is no plan. Instead, Netanyahu is pushing a massive policy change just for votes.

This cheapens Israel, cheapens the image of the prime minister, and erodes trust abroad. It is essential that Israel have that trust to receive support, and it is important that foreign leaders don’t think Israeli politicians make bold decisions just for votes.

Ben-Dror Yemini: Netanyahu’s annexation pledge proves he puts his own welfare above Israel’s

On Tuesday, Netanyahu took a much more dangerous step, showing a willingness to hurt Israel’s national interests in the hopes of mustering a small political advantage – something he is actually unlikely to achieve.

After all, no one from the left or the center will think about switching to the Orthodox, right-bloc in the wake of Netanyahu’s statement.

So, what’s left for Netanyahu? Just a hope of syphoning more votes from other right-wing parties.

For last few days before the elections, the Likud leader going to move more and more to the right, aiming to take votes from Ayelet Shaked’s “Yamina” party.

Throughout most of Netanyahu’s rule, he has shown national responsibility, that the national interest was more important to him than personal interest.

But now, that is not the case. Something terrible has happened to him in recent years.

For example, he knew proposed legislation to retroactively legalize all West Bank settlements was bad for Israel, but he persisted with it anyway, because that’s what far-right MK and minister Bezalel Smotrich wanted, so that’s what Netanyahu delivered.

Now, the specter of the proposal is being revisited, because that’s what Smotrich wants, and that’s what Netanyahu delivers.

At the end of the day, it’s not clear if Tuesday’s announcement will benefit Netanyahu. What is clear though, is that it will hurt Israel.

Russia raps Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley plan before Putin meeting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu batted off criticism from Russia of his pledge to annex the Jordan Valley, speaking on Thursday to reporters just before taking off to Sochi to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

“What did you think they were going to say?” Netanyahu replied to a question on the matter. “We received condemnations from Arab countries, it wasn’t a tsunami of condemnations, but they have to say it and they will always say it.”

“The Americans said that the annexation plan presented by the prime minister does not contradict [US President Donald] Trump’s ‘deal of the century,’” added Netanyahu. “Which is a remarkable statement. I am working to establish secure borders for us, which is a historical turn of events.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry warned on Wednesday that such a move by Israel “could sharply escalate tensions in the region, undermine hope for establishing a long-awaited peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.”

But Netanyahu said the main focus of his trip to Russia would be to discuss matters concerning Iran. “The common goal we agree on, which is still far from being fulfilled, is extracting all of the Iranian forces from Syria,” Netanyahu said.

Palestinians vow to never give up Jordan Valley

Palestinians in the Jordan Valley said on Wednesday they vowed to never give up the West Bank territory that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to annex.

“We tell Netanyahu, and whoever follows him, you will not break the Palestinians’ will. You will never break our will. Never, never,” said Hassan Al-Abedi, a 55-year-old farmer who lives in the village of Jiftlik.

“It’s our parents’ and grandparents’ land. We will hold onto it no matter what it costs.”

Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that he plans to “apply Israeli sovereignty” to the Jordan Valley and the adjacent northern Dead Sea area if he prevails in what is shaping up as a tough battle for re-election on Sept. 17.

The plan drew condemnation from Arab leaders and Palestinians, who seek to establish a state in all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Netanyahu’s plans to annex the Jordan Valley and his frequent accusations against Tehran were ploys to win re-election, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.

Erekat: “Annexation of Occupied Territories is a War Crime”

Netanyahu’s plans to annex the Jordan Valley and northern part of the Dead Sea is facing criticism. Jonathan Regev has the details.

Hezbollah blames Gulf states for Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley sovereignty plan

Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah terror group on Wednesday blamed Gulf countries for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley.

The Shi’ite organization, which earlier this month exchanged cross-border fire with the Israeli army, argued that steps towards closer Gulf-Israeli ties were emboldening Netanyahu against the Palestinians.

“Measures toward normalization and Gulf attempts to foster alliances with the enemy have created an opportunity to chip away at more Arab lands,” Hezbollah said in a statement.

Netanyahu, who is campaigning for September 17 elections, said on Tuesday that if re-elected, he would annex the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area in the West Bank.

Gulf countries condemned Netanyahu’s pledge, but Hezbollah argued that recent contacts between Israel and some of the US-allied, oil-rich monarchies had encouraged Netanyahu to take a more aggressive stance.

Survey Shows Palestinian Reconciliation with Israel Still a Distant Dream

Among the many surprises in this poll, conducted in June-July by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion, is the relatively high consistency of views among younger and older Palestinians regarding a wide range of political matters. On most of the survey’s forty questions, only a few statistically insignificant percentage points separate the two generations, apart from some of the current issues described above.

Overall, then, this younger generation of Palestinians appears to be neither more moderate nor more radical than their elders, and neither more secular nor more religious. For example, the overwhelming majority of all respondents (nearly 90%) said that religion is important in their lives.

One modest variation in this realm concerns Gazan attitudes toward the Muslim Brotherhood. In that territory, 54% of respondents over 30 expressed support for the Islamist group, compared to 41% among younger adults. Similarly, 62% of older respondents in Gaza said that Hamas should be allowed to operate freely in the West Bank, compared to around half among the younger generation.

Also mostly consistent across generations, though by a much narrower majority, was rejection of permanent peace with Israel. Asked if a two-state solution should be “the end of conflict with Israel,” just 34% of young West Bank respondents answered yes; the proportion was even lower among older residents (25%).

In Gaza, overall opinions on this and many related issues were somewhat more moderate, but the generational difference was reversed there: 38% of young Gazan respondents said that a two-state solution should end the conflict, while 46% of their elders agreed with that ideal. Similarly, while 41% of young Gazans would recognize Israel as “the state for the Jewish people” if that would help Palestinians obtain their own state, this figure unexpectedly rose to 56% among older Gazans.

Congressional Report Reveals Exactly How Much Israel Receives from the US

The Congressional Research Service on August 7 issued a report titled US Foreign Aid to Israel, which includes a review of past aid programs, data on annual assistance, and analysis of current issues. According to the report, “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $142.3 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all US bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although from 1971 to 2007 Israel also received significant economic assistance.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), known as Congress’s think tank, is a public policy research arm of the United States Congress. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS works primarily and directly for Members of Congress, their Committees and staff on a confidential, nonpartisan basis.

According to the report’s executive summary, authored by Jeremy M. Sharp Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, in 2016, the US and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid, covering the budget years 2019 to 2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in foreign military financing grants, plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaced a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which ran through 2018.

Top Arab official has been unknowingly spying for Israel for 5 years — report

It sounds like a screenplay for a movie: According to the Israel Defense Forces, the Jewish state is operating a spy in a very senior position in an Arab state — without his even knowing he is providing invaluable intelligence to Israel.

The case was reported Thursday by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, which released an excerpt of a longer piece that will be published over the weekend, after receiving approval for publication by the military censor.

According to the report, the high-level source in an unnamed Arab country, nicknamed “Torpedo,” works for what he thinks is a non-military body. He was recruited in a complex operation five years ago, and continues to unknowingly provide Israel with immensely important information to this day.

The report cited officials in Israeli Military Intelligence’s Unit 504, which employs agents beyond Israel’s borders, adding that it was at the initiative of that unit that the story was published.

Report says US thinks Israel planted spy devices near White House; Israel: Lies

The Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service played a role in the investigation, which may also have involved the NSA and CIA, Politico reported.

“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” a former US senior intelligence official said.

A former official said such investigations are typically spearheaded by the FBI’s counterintelligence division. The devices would be examined to “tell you a little about their history, where the parts and pieces come from, how old are they, who had access to them, and that will help get you to what the origins are,” the official said.

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement on the report, calling the accusation “a blatant lie.”

“There is a longstanding commitment, and a directive from the Israeli government not to engage in any intelligence operations in the US. This directive is strictly enforced without exception,” the statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office read.

Netanyahu himself later dismissed the report. Landing in Sochi ahead of talks with Russian leaders, he called it “a complete lie. There’s not a scintilla of truth to it. Nothing.”

Swiss revoke citizenship from dual-national Islamic State recruiter

Switzerland has revoked the citizenship of a man convicted of helping recruit jihadist fighters, invoking a law allowing dual nationals to be stripped of their Swiss passports for conduct detrimental to national interests or reputation.

Though the Swiss federal immigration office said this was the first time it had made such a move under the 66-year-old law, other Western nations have also stripped citizenship of people linked to extremist violence in the Middle East.

Last year, Australia revoked the nationality of an Islamic State (IS) recruiter, despite some concerns the move would leave him stateless, while Britain in February stripped a 19-year-old teenager of citizenship on security grounds.

The Swiss office did not release the other nationality of the man, who is in prison after receiving a multiple-year sentence for crimes including membership in a terrorist organization, spreading IS propaganda and seeking to convince fighters to participate in jihadist violence in the Middle East.

The man, likely to be expelled from Switzerland after his eventual release from prison, still has the opportunity to appeal, the immigration office said, without identifying him.

Netanyahu: War in Gaza to topple Hamas likely inevitable

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said Israel would likely be forced to go to war in Gaza in the near future following spiraling tensions on the southern front in recent weeks.

“There probably won’t be a choice but to launch an operation, a war with the terror forces in Gaza,” the prime minister said in a radio interview with the Kan public broadcaster, kicking off a media blitz five days before the national elections. “There probably won’t be a choice but to topple the Hamas regime. Hamas doesn’t exert its sovereignty in the Strip and doesn’t prevent attacks.”

“We have a situation in which a terror group that launches rockets has taken over, and doesn’t rein in rogue factions even when it wants to,” Netanyahu said of the Hamas terror group, which has ruled the Strip since it took over in a bloody coup in 2007, and which openly seeks Israel’s destruction. It has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

Rockets have been fired at Israeli cities and communities multiple times over the past week — with most intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system or landing in open areas — drawing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. On Tuesday night, two rockets were launched at Ashdod during a campaign rally in the city by Netanyahu, forcing the premier to be briefly shepherded off the stage by bodyguards to take shelter.

“Israel’s citizens know very well that I act responsibly and reasonably, and we will start an operation at the right time, which I will determine,” said Netanyahu, who is also defense minister.

Hamas lauds rocket attack as spooking Netanyahu, shaking Israel’s image

The Hamas terror group on Wednesday gloated over a rocket attack the night before which forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to interrupt a live broadcast of a campaign speech while he took cover, saying the missiles had struck at the heart of Israel and shaken its image.

“Everyone saw Netanyahu fleeing because of the resistance’s strikes,” Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar told the Gaza-based Dunya al-Watan news site. “This incident is significant because the resistance has made it all the way to the heart of the Israeli occupation and Netanyahu. This is something that has shaken Israel’s image.”

Two rockets were fired at Ashdod and nearby Ashkelon from Gaza on Tuesday evening. Both were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Israeli jets targeted 15 sites in the Gaza Strip in retaliation overnight.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has not taken responsibility for the attack. Though other Gaza terror groups possess rockets, Israel holds Hamas responsible for such attacks.

For many of his domestic political rivals, the scenes of Netanyahu being whisked away by a group of bodyguards provided a counterpoint to the image he has attempted to cultivate as Mr. Security, highlighting what critics say is his government’s failure to deal with attacks from Gaza terror groups.

Israeli Home Damaged from Impact of Rocket from Gaza Strip

Hours before the recent false alarm, rockets were launched from the #Gaza Strip into southern Israel — one of the rockets damaging the property of a family home, Pierre Klochendler shows us the impact.

Father of missing Israeli meets Abbas in West Bank to secure son’s return from Gaza

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met Wednesday night with the father of an Israeli believed to be held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, reportedly vowing to speak to parties that maintain influence with the terror group to secure his release.

Ethiopian Israeli Avera Mengistu has been missing since September 2014 after he was apparently seen crossing into the northern part of the Palestinian enclave from the beach.

“Abbas said that he sees Avera’s case as a humanitarian one and that he does not believe in taking civilians captive,” former Israeli MK Shlomo Molla told The Times of Israel, accompanying Haili Mengistu in his meeting at the PA office in the West Bank’s Ramallah.

“He said he will do everything, directly and indirectly, to obtain information on his whereabouts and bring him back to his family including working with parties that hold influence with Hamas,” added Mollah.

According to the Mengistu family, a deterioration in Avera’s mental state following the death of his brother had caused him to cross the border into Gaza, captured by IDF cameras.

Bethlehem Prosecutor: Israa Gharib Was Not Killed in Honor Murder – She Was a Witch

The Prosecutor General’s Office in Ramallah on Thursday revealed the full details of the investigation into the death of Israa Gharib, 21, from the village of Beit Sahour in the Bethlehem area, who was reportedly murdered in late August at the hands of her three brothers after she had posted her picture with her fiancé on Facebook. According to Attorney General Akram al-Khatib, the deceased fell from the balcony of her family’s home, but died as a result of excessive beatings.

But the prosecutor insisted that according to his investigation, the killing was not an honor murder. Instead, he claimed, Gharib had been subjected to pressures from her family regarding her engagement in witchcraft and sorcery. Gharib’s family denied any wrongdoing and told Al Jazeera that Israa, a successful makeup artist, had been possessed by an evil spirit which caused her a heart attack.

AG al-Khatib reported that three individuals are being charged with murder in the case of Israa Gharib, who dies as a result of “acute respiratory failure … as a result of multiple injuries to the young woman.”

On Sept. 5, thousands of Arab women across the Palestinian Authority as well as abroad protested Gharib’s murder, blaming the young woman’s brothers of beating her so hard that, attempting to escape, she fell off a balcony and sustained severe spinal injuries. She was then assaulted again in the hospital, where she was heard screaming and calling for the police.

Top U.S. official to Post: No Iran regime change, but keeping max pressure

The Trump administration is not seeking regime change, but rather to maintain its “maximum pressure campaign to get Iran back to the table” for a “better deal than the JCPOA,” a top US state department counter-terror official told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

Speaking to the Post on the sidelines of the ICT-IDC Herzliya counter-terror conference and only days after US National Security Adviser John Bolton exited the scene and Trump himself hinted to a lighter hand with Iran, Nathan Sales tried to clear the air.

In a speech at the conference, Sales said that Iran is currently offering al-Qaeda operatives refuge on its soil and allowing them to move funds to other parts of the region.

When asked if the Trump administration’s standards of what would be an acceptable improved deal would be lower now that Trump seems more intent on talks with Iran, Sales said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 principles remained the standard and that an improved deal would be a major change, not merely cosmetic.

Israel’s Military Campaign Makes Iran More, Not Less, Likely to Negotiate with the U.S.

During a single week in August, Jerusalem attacked military installations belonging to Iran and its proxies in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq. It seems to have struck Iraq again since then. Rejecting the explanation that these strikes are a cynical attempt by Benjamin Netanyahu to rally support in the weeks before an election, as well as the claim that they somehow make the Islamic Republic more combative, Steven A. Cook argues that such effective military operations increase Tehran’s willingness to compromise—perhaps far more than American economic pressure.

Earlier in the summer—before the Israelis stepped up their operations—the Iranians were busy sabotaging shipping in the Persian Gulf, shooting down an American drone, and seizing a number of tankers transiting the Strait of Hormuz. Now they are believed to be inching toward talks with the United States.

Of course, there are several reasons why the Iranians may be showing some new flexibility—the Iranian economy’s continuing struggle under sanctions being chief among them. That is certainly pressure, and perhaps they fear the consequences for internal stability [and thus] they are looking for some relief in the way of negotiations. It is certainly plausible; crippling sanctions brought the Iranians to the table before, producing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Still, it seems it is the combination of sanctions and Israeli military prowess that may . . . cow the Iranians into talks.

JCPA: Iran responds to John Bolton’s departure: “The Policy of Maximum Pressure on Iran Has Failed”

Iran was quick to “celebrate” the dismissal on September 10, 2019, of John Bolton, President Trump’s hawkish national security advisor. Due to his harsh and uncompromising policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran, senior officials in Tehran view his removal as a kind of victory that includes the possibility of change in U.S. policy toward the Islamic regime.

From Iran’s point of view, the timing of Bolton’s dismissal could not have been better. It occurred on the Shiite religious holiday, Ashura, which fell on September 10-11 and is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of the prophet Mohammed, at the Battle of Karbala in 680. This occurrence is the guiding tradition behind Shiite Islam, and it is cited to justify the concept of self-sacrifice and martyrdom. Some opinions in Iran perceive this to be a “divine sign” and an indication of divine intervention in the history of Iran and its success in overcoming the obstacles in its way. This is how they perceive the struggles of Hamas and Hizbullah against Israel, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and more. In any case, from Iran’s perspective, this is another sign of the success of its policies and its firm stand against the pressures imposed upon it by the United States.

On September 11, 2019, President Hassan Rouhani indirectly alluded to Bolton’s dismissal at a government meeting, saying (without mentioning names) that, “other sources inciting war should also be removed.” He added that the United States must internalize that incitement to war, and the inclusion within the U.S. government of sources interested in provocation to war will not do it any good, and it should remove (all) the sources calling for war and maximum pressure on Iran.”

Netanyahu Sees US Staying ‘Very, Very Tough’ on Iran Despite Bolton Ouster

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played down the impact of hawkish John Bolton’s exit from the post of US national security adviser, predicting on Wednesday that Washington would hold to a tough line on Iran.

US President Donald Trump fired Bolton on Tuesday, citing policy disagreements. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said immediately after that Trump might meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the UN general assembly this month.

Netanyahu was among the most vocal champions of Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers and has voiced misgivings about Western engagement with Tehran unless this leads to sweeping restrictions on sensitive nuclear projects.

But Netanyahu, in an Israeli television interview, sounded unfazed by Bolton’s departure and possible Trump-Rouhani talks.

“Look, the one who formally crafted the American policy was Pompeo … and President Trump of course. But I’m not getting into the personality changes in this administration,” he told Channel 20.

Israeli Ambassador Urges U.S. to “Stay the Course” on Pressuring Iran

Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, urged the United States to “stay the course” and increase pressure on Iran amid reports that the Trump administration is open to diplomatic initiatives with the Islamic Republic.

“What is important now is to stay the course, stand up to Iran’s aggression and continue ratcheting up the pressure until Iran abandons its nuclear ambitions once and for all,” Dermer said Tuesday evening at a pre-Rosh Hashanah reception at the embassy. “Israel looks forward to working with the Trump administration to do just that in the year ahead.”

Dermer otherwise lavishly praised President Donald Trump for his increased sanctions on Iran as well as for other moves, including moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

But his remarks came the day Trump ousted his national security adviser, John Bolton, for among other reasons opposing Trump’s openness to diplomatic engagement with Iran. Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that Bolton forcefully opposed a plan recently to reduce sanctions on Iran as a means of setting up a meeting later this month between Trump and the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.

Muslim group ‘appalled’ as Kupperman tapped as Bolton’s interim replacement

The Council on American Islamic Relations said it was “appalled” that Charles Kupperman, who served on the board of a group that peddled conspiracy theories about Muslims, is serving as interim national security adviser.

“While we welcome the resignation of John Bolton, who has a long track record of promoting anti-Muslim policies and associating with hate groups, we cannot simply replace one Islamophobe with another,” CAIR executive director Nihad Awad said Wednesday, a day after Bolton’s abrupt departure from the post.

Kupperman served for a decade on the board of the Center for Security Policy, which peddles theories that Muslim Americans hope to institute Islamic religious law in the United States and have infiltrated American institutions and the government.

Kupperman, who is Jewish, is not likely to remain long in the job. US President Donald Trump has said he intends to name a new national security adviser, which does not require Senate confirmation, as soon as next week.

“Death to America – Death to Israel” Billboards Appear in Baghdad as Part of a Campaign by Iran

Billboards with the slogans “Death to America — Death to Israel” have appeared in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in recent days. There are at least five of the large signs in central Baghdad, some less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy, the Iraqi presidential palace and the national government’s headquarters.

The signs appear to be part of a campaign by Iran, carried out through proxy groups that directly threaten U.S. troops in Iraq, to demonstrate its strength and reach in the region as tension between Washington and Tehran threatens to explode into conflict.

“The billboards erected in the streets of Baghdad are evidence of the government’s inability to control pro-Iranian groups who want to drag Iraq into an international conflict that endangers the country’s future on behalf of Iran,” Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Iraq’s Nineveh province, said last week.

Iraqi political analyst and former presidential adviser Hiwa Osman told CBS News the signs show how firm a foothold Iran has in Iraq. “There isn’t a difference between Iran and its militias inside Iraq,” Osman said.

Aussies Arrested in Iran Wanted to ‘Break the Stigma’ Around Countries with a ‘Bad Media Rap’

A pair of Australians now being held in a notorious Tehran prison have been identified as travel bloggers who were reportedly arrested for flying a drone without a licence.

Jolie King, a building designer, and Mark Firkin, an Australian construction manager, were named by Persian-language broadcaster Manoto TV.

The pair left Perth, Western Australia, in June 2017 by off road vehicle bound for the UK, planning to travel for two years driving across 36 countries. They have been documenting their travels on Instagram and Youtube with a stated aim of going to countries less likely to fall on the average traveller’s radar due to unsympathetic media coverage.

“Our biggest motivation behind making the vlogs is to hopefully inspire anyone wanting to travel, and also try to break the stigma around travelling to countries which get a bad wrap (sic) in the media,” they said in a post on crowd-funding platform Patreon.

The young British-Australian woman and her Australian partner were arrested 10 weeks ago, as Breitbart News reported.

King and Firkin have frequently used a drone in photos and videos published of their travels through Australia, Asia and the Middle East, with nearly 19,000 people following their adventures on their Instagram page.

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