April 13, 2021

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10/12 Links Pt1: UN Funding Perpetuates Palestinian Rejectionism; New Series Of Fatah Booklets For Children Glorifies Terrorists; Turkish court releases US pastor Andrew Brunson


From Ian:

UN Funding Perpetuates Palestinian Rejectionism
Over decades, UNRWA has exhorted Palestinians to see Jews and Israel through an anti-Semitic lens, and to believe that all Palestinians will one day “return” to the entirety of what is now Israel. Rather than promoting peace and reconciliation, it has cooperated with terrorist organizations, particularly in Gaza, that seek Israel’s destruction.

In New York, the UN has specifically established and funded additional bodies to advance the Palestinian political agenda. The Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People, and the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR) exist for the singular purpose of promoting an anti-Israel message worldwide – in the name of the UN.

CEIRPP sponsors conferences and photo exhibitions worldwide, which demean Israel and promote “the return” of all Palestinians.

The purpose of the DPR, housed within the UN Secretariat (the only people to be so recognized), is to engage in the worldwide dissemination of Palestinian anti-Israel propaganda, using the UN’s Department of Public Information and its 63 information centers around the world to get its anti-Israel message out.

Nothing would strike a more resounding note for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than eliminating these centers of rejectionism and hate.

As long as the Palestinians feel they have the international wind at their back – including the use of the UN system as their private public relations mechanism – all talk of a serious “peace process” will continue to fall on deaf ears among Palestinians and their supporters in the international community.

MEMRI: New Series Of Fatah Booklets For Children Glorifies Terrorists Such As Abu Jihad, Dalal Al-Mughrabi

Fatah’s Ideological Indoctrination Commission in Gaza has announced the publication of a new series of booklets for children titled “Stories of the Homeland,” which glorify Fatah’s armed struggle against Israel in the period before the signing of the Oslo Accords. Among the figures featured in the booklets are senior Fatah commanders such as Abu Jihad, who was head of Fatah’s military arm and Yasser Arafat’s deputy, and was responsible for multiple terrorist attacks in the 1970s and 1980s in which dozens of Israeli civilians were killed, and Dalal Al-Mughrabi, deputy commander of the 1978 Coast Road attack, in which 35 Israelis were killed and 71 were wounded.[1]

Speaking with the e-daily Dunya Al-Watan, Dr. Hussam Abu ‘Ajwa, Ideological Indoctrination Commissioner for the West Gaza district, who initiated and oversaw the publication of the series, stated that “this initiative, the first of its kind, uses stories to document the history of the Palestinian people and of the Fatah movement, the largest faction in the PLO.” He added that stories are an important part of the Palestinian national heritage, “which has managed to place the Palestinians on the political map by perpetuating the memory of their numerous acts of bravery and sacrifice, as a counterweight to the false Zionist narrative that is trying to eliminate and erase the Palestinian identity and essence.”[2]

According to the report on Dunya Al-Watan, the series includes four booklets. The first, titled “The Beginning,” deals with “the tragedy of the Palestinian people, its Nakba and its expulsion to refugee camps in the homeland and abroad, and describes the outbreak of the Palestinian revolution and the heroic ‘Elaboun operation.[3]

The second book, “The Mermaid,” tells of “the martyr Dalal Al-Mughrabi, from Jaffa, the beautiful city by the sea, who grew up in the diaspora and who carried out the quality operation on the Palestinian coast and founded the Palestinian republic by raising its flag.”

The third book, “Loving Fingertips,” tells of “a boy from [Fatah’s] Western District[4] who lost his fingers and Fatah acted to help him. He turns out to be a member of the RPG [unit] that opposed Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. [The story] also tells of the heroic battle of the Beaufort, some of whose heroes are still alive today.”

Caroline Glick: Gaza Fuel Deal Cuts Out the Palestinian Authority

This week, an event occurred that has the potential to diminish permanently the lethal potential of the Palestinian conflict with Israel.

On Tuesday, two tanker trucks each carrying 35,000 liters of diesel fuel were delivered to Gaza through Israel’s Kerem Shalom border crossing. Another seven fuel trucks were expected to enter Gaza on Wednesday. According to the Jerusalem Post, within a month, 15 such fuel trucks will enter Gaza every day.

Why does this matter?

Tuesday’s fuel shipments to Gaza were a game-changer because they marked the first time that fuel was delivered to Gaza which wasn’t paid for and authorized by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) it controls. In fact, the PLO-controlled PA did everything it could to prevent the fuel shipments.

The PA was established in 1994 in the framework of the PLO’s peace process with Israel. Its purpose is to serve as the autonomous Palestinian government in Gaza, and in the Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). The PA ruled both areas with an iron fist until June 2007, when the Hamas terror group wrested control over Gaza from the PLO in a violent coup.

To maintain its claim to Gaza after Hamas took over, the PA continued to fund Gaza. All international bodies and foreign governments that wished to donate to Gaza gave their funds to the PA in Ramallah, and the PA decided what to buy, whom to buy it from, and what to transfer to Gaza.

In April 2017, PA President and PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas decided to use his economic control over Gaza to force Hamas to cede power to his PLO forces.

US Navy returns to Israeli port in sign of ‘deep alliance’

A U.S. Navy warship has docked in the southern Israeli port of Ashdod in the first visit by a U.S. Navy vessel to the port in almost 20 years. Officials from both countries welcomed the visit as a sign of their strong ties in the face of shared adversaries such as Iran.

Foreign navies generally prefer Haifa in the country’s north as their Israeli port of call, so the arrival of the destroyer USS Ross at Ashdod may signal U.S. interest in broadening berthing options for its Mediterranean Sixth Fleet.

“This visit has significance. It symbolizes the deep alliance between Israel and the United States,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said from the ship’s deck, where he stood with his wife, Sara, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Friedman.

“We are determined to defend ourselves against the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria,” Netanyahu said. “President [Donald] Trump gave full support to this policy of ours, and the fact that this destroyer is visiting here today is an expression of that support.”

The Netanyahus toured the ship, shaking hands with officers and sailors, and then took part in a ceremony on board.

U.S. Sixth Fleet spokesman Commander Kyle Raines said in a statement to Reuters that the port visit “reinforces the strong and enduring partnership between our two nations.”

Warmed-over withdrawal syndrome

Given the regional Arab meltdown, the inroads made by radical Islam in the Palestinian national movement, and the decrepit dictatorship that has become the Palestinian Authority – it is hard to believe that anybody still hawks the same old “solutions” for the Palestinian-Israeli arena.

And yet, that is what center-left generals and former government officials did again this week, with the presentation of yet another passé plan for unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin – one of Israel’s most important military men – and a group of colleagues at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies tabled a comprehensive plan of action to separate Israel from the Palestinians. It’s about Israel unilaterally creating a contiguous Palestinian “entity” under the control of the Palestinian Authority comprising approximately 65% of the West Bank and taking steps to starve settlements outside the settlement blocs.

The new “strategic framework” is wrapped up nice and pretty as original, professional and politically neutral research that took a year of intensive discussions to produce, and it is couched in high-soaring language about “taking Zionist initiative.”

But essentially it is the same, sad plan B for unilateral withdrawal in the absence of peace with the Palestinians that Yadlin proposed four years ago, and which he used as a political platform when he stood as Zionist Union candidate for defense minister in 2015.

On the credit side of the ledger, the plan acknowledges a series of realities that are long overdue, beginning with the fact that there is no comprehensive peace deal to be had with the Palestinians any time soon, and it would be a mistake to attempt another frantic John Kerry-style effort to secure such a deal.

Trump Stands Firm Against Bias and Abuses at International Organizations

President Donald Trump believes his controversial standing at home and assertive policies abroad lie behind the pattern of countries daring to challenge American interests in international organizations. He has responded with an aggressive new strategy against widespread abuses and anti-Americanism at the UN and a host of other international fora. Trump’s strategy serves Jerusalem’s interests because Israel has been a consistent victim of obsession, hostility, hypocrisy, and double standards on the floors of many of these organizations.

Critics of President Donald Trump often accuse him of being erratic and inconsistent on foreign policy. In one particular area, however, he has been clear and consistent: the UN, international organizations, and international law.

As in other areas of foreign policy and national security, Trump has completely reversed the policies of his predecessor Barack Obama. From the beginning of his tenure in the White House, Trump has shown little respect for the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and several other UN and international agencies. He views them as highly politicized, corrupt, ineffective, and anti-American.

Trump appointed Nikki Haley, a highly popular and very sharp politician, to the position of US Ambassador to the UN. Haley, of Indian-Sikh origin, was the first female governor of South Carolina and was considered for vice president. She regularly and defiantly holds up a mirror to the delegates at the UN to expose the body’s hypocrisy, falseness, and double standards. (On October 9, Haley resigned her position, to be effective at the end of calendar 2018.) John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN who became Trump’s National Security Advisor in April 2018, is another key player in the new American approach to the UN and other international organizations.

In his speech to the 2018 UN General Assembly (his second to the body), Trump clarified a doctrine he often repeated during the 2016 presidential campaign and has continued to emphasize since becoming president: The US is a sovereign state and will determine its functions in world affairs solely on the basis of its national interests. “America is governed by Americans,” he said. “We reject the ideology of globalism and accept the doctrine of patriotism.”

TIP Spokesman: Palestinian Refusal to Negotiate with Israel Prompted Closing of PLO Mission

The Trump administration in September ordered the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., citing the refusal of Palestinian leaders to enter into peace talks with Israel. In an interview with J.J. Green of Target USA: the National Security Podcast, Kenneth Bricker, a spokesman for The Israel Project, said on Wednesday that the Palestinian leadership provoked the action.

Bricker explained to the host that the closure of the Palestinian mission “is part of a series of measures” taken by the Trump administration “to push back against” the Palestinian leadership’s boycott of peace negotiations with the United States, Israel and Arab allies.

Not only have they taken “themselves out of the peace process,” Bricker observed, they also “used foreign bodies and international institutions like the UN to attack Israel,” cultivating unilateralism at the expense of direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

If the international community allows that to continue, Bricker said, it’s “an incentive” for the PA to boycott peace negotiations. The Palestinians believe this tactic will allow them to get whatever they want “without sacrifices.” Of course, he said, that’s never going to happen with both parties expected to make painful concessions and compromises.

Bricker also reminded the audience that the PLO office in the U.S. was only accredited in the first place as part of the 1992 Oslo process based on the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to participate in peace negotiations. “That status,” he said, “the Palestinians have walked away from.”

Palestinians to UN Mideast Peace Envoy: Go ‘On Vacation With Israeli Friends’

The Palestinian leadership has rejected any future cooperation with UN special coordinator for Middle East peace Nickolay Mladenov, informing the international body that he is “no longer acceptable” because he has “gone beyond his role” in attempting to broker agreements between Israel and Hamas.

PLO executive Ahmad Majdalani said his organization informed the United Nations that Mladenov’s actions harmed “Palestinian national security and the unity of our people.”

Mladenov has been coordinating with Egypt to attempt to produce a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel, but has not included the Palestinian Authority in the negotiations process.

The PA, controlled by the Fatah Party, is engaged in a long-standing rivalry with the Hamas, which controls Gaza and has slashed salaries to public servants in Gaza by as much as 30 percent. In recent months, the PA has limited the number of resources it provides to the region, and blasted Qatar for providing $450,000 in fuel to Gaza this week, accusing Qatar of harming Palestinian unity. Prior to the delivery, the PA’s refusal to allow fuel into Gaza resulted in as few as four hours per day of electricity.

The PA has demanded an accord between Hamas and Fatah prior to any ceasefire agreement, and said that it is the only Palestinian body that can engage in negotiations.

UNESCO to Danon: Israel approved compromise on Jerusalem

UNESCO pushed back at Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, after he attacked the organization over the passage of two resolutions green-lighted by his own government’s delegation.

“UNESCO confirmed today that the Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian authorities had given their green light to the full text allowing it to be adopted by consensus at the Board,” the organization said Thursday. “This has been the case since one year for all decisions adopted in UNESCO on this issue.”

When pressed over the matter on Thursday, Danon said his opinions with regard to UNESCO were in line with the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after he boycotted a UNESCO event condemning antisemitism last month.

At the time, Netanyahu spoke of UNESCO’s “persistent and egregious bias against Israel.”

“Despite other opinions, the policy of Israel regarding UNESCO is very clear, as it was stated by Prime Minister Netanyahu from his statement on September 26,” Danon said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister: “Irrational” Not to Recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

It would have been “irrational” for Russia not to have recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also the Middle East envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, told i24NEWS.

In an in-depth interview with i24NEWS at the Dialogue of Civilizations Rhodes Forum, Bogdanov argued that it would be “logical” for other countries that recognise a Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem to recognise Israeli sovereignty in West Jerusalem.

But he explained that Russia would not move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until it could also move its mission in Ramallah to the eastern part of the contested city.

Russia surprised the international community in April 2017 by recognising West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, becoming the first country in the world to recognise Israeli sovereignty over any part of the disputed city. In a laconic statement at the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry did not explain the reasoning for the unusual announcement.

“Sometimes we notice that there are certain elements of irrationality in our approach,” Bogdanov told i24NEWS, speaking through an interpreter. Russia, he noted, had already recognised an independent Palestinian state with a capital in East Jerusalem, in November 1988. “And we asked ourselves a question—what about West Jerusalem? If we say East Jerusalem is the capital of a Palestinian state, then logically, West Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel.”

Bogdanov noted that the Israeli leadership is based in Jerusalem. “Therefore it was logical to come to the conclusion that East Jerusalem, God willing, would be the capital of Palestine, and West Jerusalem would be the capital of Israel. Logically,” he argued.

Ambassadors from Israel, UAE Sit Together at Pro-Israel Group’s Dinner in D.C.

In a sign of warming ties between Israel and Arab states, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States shared a table with his Israeli counterpart at a public pro-Israel event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday evening. The two officials sat next to each other at the annual dinner of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in Washington, The Times of Israel reported.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, was spotted with Emirates envoy Yousef al-Otaiba. The pair were seen talking closely as they listened to a speech by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The Egyptian ambassador to the U.S., Yasser Reda, was also seated at the table.

The Times reported that the fact the envoys sat together publicly at an event covered by dozens of journalists, shows that the two countries are increasingly prepared to acknowledge the growing relationship between them.

Wednesday was not the first time Al-Otaiba had been seen together with senior Israeli officials. Earlier this year, the envoy was dining in Washington with Bahrain’s ambassador, Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, as well as Brian Hook from the U.S. State Department and a group of journalists.

Al-Otaiba reportedly heard that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara were having dinner in the same restaurant and invited them over to his table. According to reports, there were smiles and a few jokes, when the Netanyahus talked to the group. They also discussed Iran and other issues and, when they left, shook hands with the two Gulf ambassadors.

Comparing Egypt army to cheap car, Sissi fetes 1973 win over Israeli ‘Mercedes’

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Thursday compared his country’s army to a cheap Spanish car that still managed to beat Israel’s high powered “Mercedes” in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Sissi told a gathering of Egyptian security leaders marking the 45th anniversary of Egypt’s “victory” in the war that there was a “vast power differential” between Israel and Egypt at the time.

Despite that, he contended the Egyptian army pulled off “a miracle,” all the greater given the scrappiness of the army.

“That is the truth—here is a SEAT and there is a Mercedes,” he said, referring to the cars metaphorically to describe the power relationship between Israel and Egypt during the war.

“Who is going to win?…Who is going to take that SEAT to that race other than men. They were men!…That was a miracle, an honor, a victory,” he added.

Mercedes-Benz produces high-end luxury cars, whereas SEAT vehicles are relatively inexpensive.

Though the IDF managed to repel initial Egyptian and Syrian surprise attacks in October 1973 and push across the Suez Canal and toward Damascus, the war is widely viewed as the catalyst that led Israel to make peace and withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula just a few years later.

Sissi said that the high number of casualties in the war led Israel to sue for peace with Egypt.

Over 2,500 Israeli soldiers died in the war along fronts in the north and south of the country, along with thousands of Egyptian, Syrian and Iraqi troops.

Suspect arrested in stabbing of soldier in the northern West Bank

The suspect in the stabbing of an army reservist outside an Israel Defense Forces base in the northern West Bank has been arrested following a manhunt, the Shin Bet security service announced Thursday night, hours after the attack.

In addition to the soldier, who was moderately hurt, a civilian woman, 26, was lightly injured by a ricochet from shots fired at the assailant.

The Shin Bet identified the stabber as a 19-year-old man from the village of Jamma’in in the northern West Bank. The suspect has not been named.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised “outstanding intelligence and operational work in capturing the terrorist,” in a tweet Thursday night.

He said the forces that had been shifted to the search for the stabber would return to an ongoing manhunt for Palestinian man Ashraf Na’alowa, who has been on the run since killing two people in a terror attack at the Barkan industrial zone Sunday, according to Israeli authorities.

The Shin Bet said the IDF and Israel Police had assisted in the search for the stabber.

According to the IDF, the stabber attacked the Israeli soldier, a 30-year-old reservist, with a knife shortly after 1:30 p.m., outside the Shomron Regional Brigade headquarters near the Itamar settlement.

Condition of IDF reservist stabbed in face during terror attack improves

A 30-year-old reservist soldier who was stabbed by a Palestinian assailant in the northern West Bank on Thursday has seen his condition improve, doctors at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva said Friday.

The soldier is in stable condition after undergoing facial surgery late Thursday. He will remain in hospital for a few more days of observation, the hospital said.

The soldier was one of two people hurt in the stabbing attack outside an army base on Thursday afternoon.

He was moderately hurt, sustaining stab wounds to the face and upper body. A civilian woman, 26, was lightly injured in the leg by shrapnel from shots fired at the assailant who fled the scene.

PM: Israel systematically crippling Hamas’ terror tunnel capabilities

Israel is “systematically crippling Hamas’ terror ‎tunnel capabilities. They have to understand that ‎they really shouldn’t be testing us,” Prime Minister ‎Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, after the IDF ‎revealed it had demolished another cross-border ‎tunnel dug by the terrorist group that rules the ‎Gaza Strip.‎

This was the 15th terror tunnel discovered and ‎destroyed this year.‎

Lauding the IDF, Netanyahu said, “We are sparing no ‎effort and are determined to maintain Israel’s ‎security.”‎

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said Thursday that the ‎tunnel began near the southern Gaza Strip town of ‎‎Khan Younis and extended for about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) to reach across the border ‎about 200 meters (660 feet) into Israeli territory. ‎

Inside Gaza, the tunnel was linked to a vast network ‎‎of underground passageways that are part of Hamas’ ‎terror tunnel grid.

The IDF said the tunnel was discovered ‎several ‎months ago and, once secure, was used to ‎improve Israeli troops’ tunnel warfare capabilities ‎before Engineering Corp troops carried ‎out a series ‎of operations Thursday to render it unusable. ‎

IDF Video Shows Destruction of Hamas-Built Gaza Terror Tunnel

The Israeli military published on Thursday a video showing the detection and destruction of a Hamas-built terror tunnel under the border with the Gaza Strip.

The tunnel, according to the IDF, was the 15th discovered and neutralized in the past year.

It ran 200 meters into Israeli territory.

Hamas is slowly losing assets

The Hamas tunnel threat is becoming a thing of the past. Meanwhile, the militants in Gaza have developed better rocket-based capabilities since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. They have short-range rockets capable of inflicting far more damage than Israel has previously known, which creates a dilemma for Israel over the scope of the next campaign. Some in the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet believe that if we reach that point, the air force should be let loose to wipe out Hamas’ combat infrastructure, including its rockets, in a matter of days. The term “let loose” obscures some basic assumptions that raise objections. What the ministers mean, though, is that there would not be a need for a ground operation.

Just a decade or so ago, Hamas was barely able to hit Sderot with a Qassam rocket, yet when it did, Israel was struck with a deep sense of defeat. Today, Israel has to invest a fortune to neutralize the tunnel threat and Hamas can now hit Gush Dan and its rocket payloads are getting heavier.

Gaza appears headed toward becoming a miniature North Korea. This perhaps sounds like hyperbole, but not if we consider what condition Gaza was in after Israel withdrew in 2005.

At a certain point, regardless of any diplomatic arrangement, Israel will have to ask itself if it can stomach having its citizens living under an increasingly severe threat. Can Gaza be demilitarized? Can the various threats be neutralized in exchange for economic rehabilitation?

These options probably aren’t feasible. Not when Iran is investing its own fortune and organizational energies to seize control of Gaza.

Khaled Abu Toameh: PA edict: Selling property to Israelis an act of ‘high treason’

For the second time this year, the Palestinian Islamic religious authorities in Jerusalem reaffirmed a ban on selling property to Israelis, and warned that any Palestinian involved in such transactions would be accused of “high treason.”

The latest decision on Thursday followed news that Jews had purchased a house in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The house, which according to reports in the Palestinian media was purchased by the Ateret Cohanim organization, belonged to the Joudeh family. The organization, along with Ir David Foundation, has been acquiring lands and houses in east Jerusalem for decades.

The Old City transaction has drawn strong condemnations by many Palestinians, who see it in the context of Israel’s effort to “Judaize” Jerusalem.

Earlier this week, the Palestinian Authority government set up a special commission of inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sale of the house, which is located only a few hundred meters from the Temple Mount.

The Joudeh family has vehemently denied selling the house directly to Jews. Two Palestinian solicitors whose names have been linked to the transaction have also denied involvement.

The heads of the Palestinian Fatwa Supreme Council, who met in east Jerusalem, issued a statement in which they renewed the ban on conducting property transactions with Israelis.

The statement reminded Palestinians of previous Islamic religious decrees prohibiting such transactions under the pretext that “the land of Palestine was an inalienable religious endowment [waqf] that can’t be sold” to non-Muslims.

2 Palestinians reported killed in violent riots on Gaza border

Two Palestinians were reportedly killed in clashes with Israeli security forces along the Gaza border Friday afternoon, the Hamas-run health ministry said.

The IDF said around 1,000 protesters were burning tires and hurling firebombs at Israeli forces at various locations along the border, and that troops were responding with riot dispersal means and live fire as needed.

Gaza media outlets said four protesters were injured by Israeli fire east of Khan Younis, and reported heavy clashes east of the al-Bureij refugee camp.

Heavy smoke from burning tires at the Kerem Shalom crossing in the northern Strip prompted authorities in Israel to order residents of the adjacent kibbutz to stay indoors. Ynet said firefighters were putting up large fans throughout the community to help clear the smoke.

Meanwhile, ten fires broke out in southern Israel that were sparked by incendiary balloons launched over the border from Gaza as part of the ongoing protests.

The riots have increased in recent weeks, going from a weekly event to near nightly protests since Hamas halted indirect talks with Israel aimed at a ceasefire. The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has also worsened and reconciliation talks with the Palestinian Authority have broken down.

Egypt condemns 17 to death for jihadist church attacks

An Egyptian military court on Thursday sentenced 17 people to death over a series of suicide bombings of churches claimed by the Islamic State group that left dozens dead.

Seventy-four people were killed in the attacks in 2016 and 2017 targeting Coptic Christians in Cairo, Alexandria, and the Nile Delta city of Tanta.

The court also sentenced 19 people to life in prison and 10 others to between 10 and 15 years, judicial and security officials said.

Christian sites of worship across Egypt have been repeatedly targeted in attacks claimed by IS, prompting the authorities to impose a state of emergency 18 months ago.

A suicide attack on December 11, 2016 on the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church killed 29 in the heart of Cairo.

The following April, 45 people were killed as Christians gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

Khashoggi and the Jewish Question

At first glance one might think that the reason Saudi Arabia losing status in Washington is bad for Israel is because of the increased cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and the hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often alludes to of being able to leverage that into Sunni pressure on the Palestinians to show some flexibility in the diplomatic process. A Washington-Riyadh tiff could compel the Saudis to rethink this cooperation.

But that observation, Lerman maintained, misses a critical point: Israel’s major concern – the number one issue on its agenda – is Iran, and not the Palestinians. And a Saudi Arabia that does not have the same cachet in Washington is bad for Israel because “the Saudis, even more so than us in some ways, have turned around the American position on Iran. This is central and uppermost in our list of priorities, and so to have a Saudi government held in high regard in Washington is very much in our interest,” Lerman said.

True, Netanyahu led the rhetorical charge in Washington to get Trump to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal earlier this year, but the Saudis – and other Persian Gulf states – were equally involved behind closed doors lobbying heavily against it.

But Saudi influence in Washington will now be dimmed if its involvement in the Khashoggi incident is proved beyond doubt.

Lerman envisions a scenario where Jewish political organizations in Washington – such as the American Jewish Committee, which he once worked for as head of its Israel office – may actually go to Capitol Hill, as they have done in the past, and discreetly lobby for the Saudis, something that could paradoxically bring the two countries even closer together. While Saudi Arabia has excellent relations with the Trump administration, its position in Congress – where there is mounting criticism – is much weaker, and they might look to Israel to help press their case.

The one positive fallout from the Khashoggi affair, Lerman said, might be that it will force MBS to be more cautious.

“For all the good that he has been doing from our perspective on the balance of power in the region, there is one after-effect that I hear all too often from people watching – that he is impetuous, reckless, doing too much, too fast and that he is not careful enough about the consequences. So if this ends up adding a dimension of caution,” Lerman said, “it will not be a bad thing.”

Turkish court releases US pastor Andrew Brunson

A Turkish court decided Friday to release US pastor Andrew Brunson from house arrest. The court sentenced Brunson to three years in jail but said he would not spend any more time in custody because of time already served.

The court’s decision means that Brunson can leave Turkey and return to the United States.

In the final arguments, the prosecutor asked for Brunson to be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail for membership of a terror group, but also requested that the court lift the house arrest and travel ban imposed on the pastor, who was first detained in October 2016.

The case against Brunson, an evangelical preacher from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, has led to US tariffs and sanctions against Turkey.

The pastor is charged with links to Kurdish militants and supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the cleric blamed by the Turkish government for a failed coup attempt in 2016. He has denied the accusation and Washington has demanded his immediate release.

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