May 25, 2019

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11/02 Links Pt1: Imagining Israeli-Palestinian Peace; Florida Friday Sermon: Palestine Must Be Liberated ‘Even If This Leads To The Martyrdom Of Tens Of Millions Of Muslims’

From Ian:

Cliford D May: Imagining Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Security Council Resolution 2334 sent Palestinians a message that the ethnic and religious “cleansing” of the Jews was not wrong, and that the Hamas narrative was right. Because if Jews don’t belong even in the Jewish Quarter, they don’t belong anywhere in the region, have no history or homeland here, and are not a people.

From that, the delegitimization of Israel and the dehumanization of Israelis ineluctably follow. That’s not the precondition for a two-state solution. It is the precondition for a final solution.

The resolution also told Palestinians there was no need to negotiate or compromise: Appeal instead to the “international community,” which will demand much of Israelis and nothing of you.

I’m willing to believe Obama intended none of that. The fact is, however, that Security Council Resolution 2334 placed an enormous obstacle in the path of any peace process undertaken thereafter.

Repealing a Security Council resolution is virtually impossible, but Trump did the next best thing: He moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, thereby reaffirming and re-emphasizing U.S. support for the legitimacy of Israel and for Jerusalem as its capital.

This does not rule out the possibility of Palestinians also having a capital in Jerusalem or adjacent to it. But such an outcome would have to be the result of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

In addition, Trump last month ordered the closing of the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, the de facto Palestinian embassy. The PLO “has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” the U.S. State Department said, adding that Palestinian leaders also have “condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise.”

Also helpful: In late August, Trump slashed funds to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which provides services to Palestinian refugees – and to millions of their descendants, whom UNRWA also designates as refugees.

Soon afterward, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat announced that he was replacing UNRWA in east Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. Charging that the agency had “failed utterly” to provide adequate sanitation, health care, education and welfare, and that it not only tolerated but incited terrorism, Barkat committed the municipal government to assuming responsibility for Shuafat’s 30,000 residents who, he said, should be treated “like any other residents” of the capital.

If this initiative succeeds, it could constitute a kind of peace process, albeit one carried out by people in the streets rather than diplomats in drawing rooms. Over time, it could shift the views of Palestinians in the West Bank, and perhaps even those in Gaza.

Imagine what it would mean if the next generation of Palestinian leaders did not oppose “normalizing” relations with Israelis. Imagine if jihadist terrorists were no longer glorified as martyrs in Palestinian mosques and media. Imagine if Palestinians willing to work with Israelis for the benefit of both peoples were no longer condemned as apostates and traitors.

I don’t expect any of that to come to pass while Trump is in the White House. But he has fixed what his predecessor had broken. And he has made it clear that the Palestinians can have a state of their own, but only if they recognize that a two-state solution implies two states for two peoples, both willing to coexist peacefully. That may not amount to the “deal of the century,” but it is more than any past peace process achieved.

MEMRI: Pompano Beach, Florida Friday Sermon By Imam Hasan Sabri: Palestine Must Be Liberated ‘Even If This Leads To The Martyrdom Of Tens Of Millions Of Muslims’

In an October 12, 2018 sermon, Imam Hasan Sabri, of the Islamic Center of South Florida (ICOSF) in Pompano Beach, Florida, stated that a “believing Muslim’s” position is that Palestine is “Islamic waqf land that was occupied by force” – and that it should be liberated “even if this leads to the martyrdom of tens of millions of Muslims.” Sabri also said “Allah wants each and every one of you to be a man with a cause… for which he lives and dies,” noting that the Palestinian cause “is being plotted against” with “the Deal of the Century.” The sermon was posted on the ICOSF YouTube channel.

According to Pompano Beach elected officials, Sabri has recited invocations annually at Pompano Beach city meetings since 2005, and the ICOSF has had a peaceful, 25-year presence in the city, even serving as a polling station.[1] In September 2017, Imam Sabri was a panelist at “Interfaith and Race Relations Peace and Acceptance Conference” at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Florida. The invitation described the event as “promoting peace and acceptance for building a just community,” adding that it would “highlight the importance of interfaith relations, education, and community involvement in combating racial discrimination” and that it was “a joint effort by the clergy and the education community to combat hate and bigotry across religious and racial lines.”[2]

The ICOSF Facebook page lists the Islamic Center of Boca Raton (ICBR) as a related page. In June 2003, Bassem Alhalabim, an ICBR president,[3] was charged by the U.S. Commerce Department with illegally shipping a $13,000 military-grade thermal imaging device to Syria.[4]

A building that is listed as the address of the ICOSF, 507 NE 6th Street in Pompano,[5] is owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT).[6] In 2007, NAIT was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorist financing case in America history, U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation, which resulted in convictions and imprisonment of several U.S.-based Hamas leaders. Then-NAIT chairman Gaddoor Saidi, now on the NAIT Board of Trustees,[7] also appeared on the government’s co-conspirator list.[8]

Strong Security, Social Change, and Ideological Warfare: A Three-Pronged Strategy for Defeating Islamist Totalitarianism

To defeat the forces of jihadism, writes Eran Lerman, a three-pronged approach is necessary: using military and economic might to destroy the armies of Islamic State and al-Qaeda and to prevent Iran and other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons; helping to improve the socioeconomic and political conditions in countries that are recruiting grounds for terrorist groups; and working to delegitimize the religious and political ideas that motivate Islamist terrorism. Concerning the last prong, Lerman writes:

Clearly [much of this ideological warfare] must take place within the world of Islam. . . . Nevertheless, the call for internal reform . . . within Islam must be backed by a very firm message from Western leaders across the board: “Islam is not the enemy, Islamism is our common enemy.” Rejecting [the late scholar Samuel] Huntington’s thesis of a “clash of civilizations”—as both George W. Bush and Barack Obama did, each in his own way—is an important component of the ideological war. It can be used to isolate the radicals, while reassuring truly moderate forces—as distinct from [pseudo-moderates] such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who have never abandoned their basic totalitarian creed—that they have a role to play once the Islamists are defeated.

Israel can make its own discreet contributions to the global effort, and it is in its strategic interest to do so. . . . It is, [however], important that Israel, as a state, and prominent figures in its public domain, resist the temptation to pose as a frontier outpost of Western civilization against Islam as such. Such imagery might invite some Western, and specifically American, sympathy, but at the cost of playing into the Islamists’ hands.

With Israel now closely and strategically associated with several like-minded Muslim nations, most of whom are Sunni (though not all: the Azeris are Shiite), it is in Israel’s interest to draw a clear distinction between Islam as a religious civilization and the modern totalitarian perversion that presumes to speak in Islam’s name. In recent years Israel has taken symbolic measures that constitute a step in the right direction. One such example is the holding of iftar dinners by Israeli ambassadors, President Rivlin, and more recently Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Ben-Dror Yemini: The arrangement with Hamas will never happen

We’ve been told for a long time that the ceasefire is on the way. It had many names in the past, such as tahdiah, hudna, and most recently—”an arrangement.” On Friday, once again, reports started emerging that an agreement has been reached. Several hours later, southern Israel was hit with a barrage of rockets. What happened?

For years the Gaza Strip has been a pressure cooker bound to explode. The residents are groaning: a few hours of electricity per day, 60 percent unemployment, filthy water. The conclusion, according to politicians and commentators, is unequivocal: Hamas needs an achievement, quiet, hudna, arrangement, in order to lift the blockade and improve the situation.

There is only one problem with this theory. It is based on rational thinking. The logic of Hamas is different. Hamas does not want improvement. Hamas is putting in all the effort into preserving Gaza as the pressure cooker it currently is.

It is worth mentioning that for more than a decade, Hamas has been offered opportunities to improve the situation in the strip. In 2006, immediately after Hamas’ elections victory, the international community, through Middle East Quartet, established the three conditions for continuation of the Western aid: recognition of Israel, cessation of terror and recognition of previous agreements. The very next day, Khaled Mashal announced the terror group rejects all of them.

The international community remained undeterred, but Hamas has rejected the conditions every single time. There were more proposals and initiatives, and all of them had been dismissed.

We should listen closely to what Yahya Sinwar said in a Yedioth Ahronoth interview a few weeks ago. There was no recognition of the Quartet’s conditions, no acceptance of the EU proposal, and certainly no agreement regarding Mahmoud Abbas’s demand to restore Palestinian Authority’s security control over the Gaza Strip.

Balloons of Terror

For the past few months, terror group Hamas has been sending incendiary balloon from Gaza to southern Israel. These balloons of terror cause unimaginable damage. Now, Hamas has escalated it’s method, and is targeting specifically – children. How? By attaching toys to these balloons. Share this video so the world will know what entire communities in south Israel go through every single day.

France to offer its own Israeli-Palestinian peace plan if U.S. fails

French President Emmanuel Macron intends to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a peace plan of his own if the United States fails to do so after the November 6 midterm elections. France relayed its intention to intervene in the process to members of the Israeli parliament last week.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in late September, US President Donald Trump announced that his administration would unveil a comprehensive peace plan within two to four months. Israeli leaders and the Palestinian Authority have been anxiously awaiting the plan, which as Trump has indicated, will entail ‘tough’ concessions from both sides.

Judy Dempsey, a Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor of its Strategic Europe Blog, told The Media Line that “the international community has been watching nervously as the peace process in the Middle East stagnates. If nothing else, Macron’s decision to step into the process raises the pressure to get things going.

“However, Macron’s announcement shows that the European Union hasn’t gotten anywhere with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. EU leaders believed America had to lead the negotiations. They stuck to the two-state solution without trying to implement it and they had no clout over the settlements or the PA,” Dempsey continued.

The EU has not taken a balanced position on the peace process, he explained. “By maintaining such strong support for the PA, while largely ignoring its violations, it has alienated Israel.”

James Moran, a senior Research Fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies and a former European ambassador to Egypt, told The Media Line that while the French “announcement adds political clout to the languishing issue, the substance of any peace plan coming from Macron would be very close to the classical frame of the two-state solution, without much innovation.

Elliott Abrams: Trump Policy in the Middle East

What has been the effect of two years of Trump policy in the Middle East? In the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz (and behind their pay wall), I argue that:

When Donald Trump arrived in office U.S. influence in the Middle East was in broad decline. In the previous eight years, Iran and Russia had established vast influence and an on-the-ground presence in Syria, Iran was seen to be the rising power throughout the region, and U.S. relations with both Israel and the major Sunni Arab states were strained. In two years Trump has turned that around.

The article concludes that:
What Trump has achieved already is a reassertion of the American presence, diplomatic in some cases (think of Jim Jeffrey’s efforts now as the new Syria envoy) and military in others. He has reasserted that the U.S. knows who its friends are and who they are not, a simple, old-fashioned yet absolutely indispensable stance for a world power. Ask Israeli officials about that – and then ask the ayatollahs.

How Would America Deal with Rockets Fired Across Its Border?

For more than a decade, Hamas has launched rockets from Gaza at Israel’s southern communities. The Israeli government does everything in its power to protect its citizens’ lives. Every home, school, playground and public space in Israel’s south has been equipped with a bomb shelter or safe room, which prove invaluable in saving lives when they are under attack.

There is a fundamental asymmetry in the ongoing conflict: Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians, while Israel’s response is aimed at Hamas’ military infrastructure. Hamas uses its own population as human shields, while Israel does its utmost to avoid harming civilians on the other side.

Hamas aggression has grown in intensity in the past six months, with Hamas orchestrating violent mass riots at the border between Gaza and Israel, which include hurling explosive devices, shooting and arson terror. Think about it. What would America do?

Aaron David Miller: Progress Without Peace in the Middle East

The most significant period of Israeli-Arab de facto cooperation since the last real peace process, in the 1990s, is now taking place without one. The Netanyahu government is reversing the notion that only peace with the Palestinians can ensure Israel’s acceptance in the Arab world. The Arab street may still oppose Israel, but Arab leaders clearly don’t.

The extent of Israeli contacts both above and below the table are impressive. On Sunday, Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev became the first senior Israeli official to visit Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The same day, the Israeli national anthem played when the Israeli judo team won a gold medal at the International Judo Federation’s Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi. Next week, Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz will visit Oman and Communications Minister Ayoub Kara will visit Abu Dhabi. An Israeli gymnastics team is also currently competing in Qatar.

The Arab world’s new openness to Israel is driven in part by increasing impatience and annoyance with the Palestinians. The Saudis and Egyptians are frustrated with a weak Mahmoud Abbas and worried about Hamas. Add to this the Arab states’ fear of Iran and Sunni jihadists, and a desire to please the U.S. – and suddenly it’s obvious that Israel and its neighbors are bound by common interests.

Israel’s Ambassador to Britain: Peace Is Getting Closer

Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, told the Express & Star: “I believe there are genuine reasons for hope that things can get better in terms of a path to a more peaceful set of relationships between us and our neighbors. We have seen a substantial improvement in our relationships with our Arab neighbors over the last half a decade. We have had peace with Egypt for 40 years and with Jordan for 25 years. We have now got talks with a whole series of other Arab countries.”

“Common threats have brought us and the Arabs together. We all feel threatened by the forces of extremism – whether it is the Sunni variety with groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, and I would include in that the Muslim Brotherhood, or it’s the Shia extremism of countries like Iran, and Hizbullah.”

“This position is new, and it is very exciting for Israelis, because countries that have for years seen us as the enemy are more and more seeing us as a partner and even as an ally.”

Brazil’s Bolsonaro confirms embassy move to Jerusalem

Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro confirmed on Twitter Thursday that he intends to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“As previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem,” Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter. “Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that.”

Bolsonaro’s public statement confirmed his comments to Hebrew newspaper Israel Hayom on Thursday. “When I was asked during the campaign if I’d do it when I became president, I said, ‘Yes, the one who decides on the capital of Israel is you, not other nations,’” he told the paper, which is a firm backer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu enthusiastically welcomed the announcement on Thursday, saying in a statement, “I congratulate my friend, the president-elect of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, for his intention to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem. This is a historic, correct and moving step.”

Israel considers the entire city its capital, while the Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, with much of the international community viewing the status of the city as a subject for negotiations between the sides.

The embassy move squarely aligns Bolsonaro with US President Donald Trump, and bolsters his image as a “Tropical Trump.”

Palestinians condemn ‘provocative’ Brazil embassy move to Jerusalem

A senior Palestinian official on Friday condemned Brazilian far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s announcement that he would move his country’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem.

“These are provocative and illegal steps that will only destabilize security and stability in the region,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, told AFP.

The United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, sparking fury among Palestinians, who consider the Israeli-annexed eastern part of the city the capital of their future state.

“It is very unfortunate that Brazil has joined this negative alliance against international law,” Ashrawi said.

On Thursday Bolsonaro tweeted that “as previously stated during our campaign, we intend to transfer the Brazilian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

“Israel is a sovereign state and we shall duly respect that,” he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the move as “historic.”

INSS: Challenge to the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty

Closely related issues are Jordan’s honor and authority regarding its border with Israel. Demonstrators in Amman demanded that the lands in both enclaves be returned to Jordan. In August, Marwan al-Muasher, the former Jordanian ambassador to Israel and to the United States, former foreign minister, and deputy prime minister, published a lengthy article against the Trump initiative in the daily al-Rad, and called for Jordan to institute a series of measures, including “the adoption of a resolution by the Jordanian government and parliament not to renew the lease agreement for al-Baqura lands [Naharayim]. No one in the international community will be able to claim that this constitutes a breach of the peace treaty, since Jordan is vested with the full right not to renew this agreement.”

The more vehement the demonstrations became – which were not solely about economic issues – the more intense public pressure targeted King Abdullah to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel altogether, with particular focus on the lands used by Israel. Of the 130 members of the Jordanian parliament, 87 signed a petition to terminate the special regime in these areas and restore Jordan’s full sovereignty over them.

The current crisis could likely have been prevented, had Israel instituted a wise and forward-looking policy and thereby avoided this surprise political move that jeopardizes the future of Israeli farmers. Now that it has materialized, this crisis will hopefully not constitute a watershed in the bilateral relations. Israel and Jordan have proven in the past that they are capable of overcoming complex developments and resolving disagreements. The profound mutual interests between the countries are numerous – relating to economy, homeland security, water supply, agriculture, and of course regional security.

The peace treaty itself contains a mechanism for consultations, and these should begin immediately, at the outset of this one-year notification period, rather than once again sitting by idly. Both sides are interested in maintaining the peace treaty. Consequently, the threats made by Israeli government ministers to punish Jordan for the step that it took are both illogical and irresponsible. However, as the King will likely not retract his decision, Israel must focus on negotiations and preparations to end Israeli use of these areas – by negotiating an extension of the transition period, accommodating alternative solutions for the Israeli farmers, and determining the rate of compensation to be paid to Israel. This is a serious problem that must be handled through judicious dialogue that is independent of domestic political considerations and – most importantly – takes place far from the spotlight.

In historic first, Saudi Crown Prince meets Israeli Evangelical Christian

In a new sign of growing ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman hosted a delegation of Evangelical Christians on Thursday in Riyadh led by a prominent pro-Israel advocate who also lives in the Jewish state.

It was Bin Salman’s first meeting with a delegation of Evangelical Christian leaders. The group arrived in Saudi Arabia after holding similar talks in Abu Dhabi with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed.

The group was led by Joel C. Rosenberg, an author and Evangelical activist who lives in Israel. Other participants included Mike Evans, founder of the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem. The timing of the meeting came as the Washington Post reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked senior members of the Trump administration to continue supporting Bin Salman despite the controversy surrounding his involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

According to the report, Netanyahu and other Middle East leaders like Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi argued that Bin Salman is “an important strategic partner in the region”.

The delegation spoke to Bin Salman about Israel, the Palestinians as well as Saudi relations with the United States.

Netanyahu: Khashoggi’s murder is terrible but we need Saudia Arabia stable

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke his public silence on Jamal Khashoggi’s murder on Friday.

Speaking at the Craiova summit, a conference of Balkan states, Netanyahu said “what happened in the Istanbul consulate was horrendous and it should be duly dealt with. Yet the same time I say it, it is very important for the stability of the world, for the region and for the world, that Saudi Arabia remain stable.”

The Khashoggi case has roiled world politics and media for the past month, since the journalist first disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. As it became apparent that Khashoggi was murdered inside the consulate, Saudi officials have scrambled to explain the disappearance before eventually admitting that he was killed.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday dismissed attempts by Riyadh to blame Khashoggi’s “savage” killing on rogue operatives, saying the person who ordered the death of the prominent Saudi journalist must “be brought to account.”

Balancing Israel’s warming relations with Saudi Arabia against the international outcry about the murder, Netanyahu shifted the focus back on Iran: “I think that a way must be found to achieve both goals,” he said. “Because the larger problem is Iran and we have to make sure that Iran does not continue the malign activities that it has been doing over the last few weeks in Europe. We have helped uncover two terrorist attacks – one in Paris, and the other one in Copenhagen, organized by the Iranian secret service.”

Netanyahu flies to Bulgaria to chip away at EU ‘hostility’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Bulgaria on Thursday to meet with the heads of four Balkan countries and further his policy of forging sub-alliances inside the EU to counteract what he views as hostile treatment of Israel from Brussels.

Before departing for Varna, where he is scheduled to meet Friday with the prime minister of Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and the president of Serbia – known as the Craiova Group after the Romanian city where the leaders of the four countries held their first summit in 2015 – Netanyahu said that he wants to work with these countries “to change the hypocritical and hostile approach off the EU” toward Israel.

“This is a process that will take time, but I believe in setting a goal, and systematically setting out to achieve it – and I believe this is something we will achieve with time,” he said.

This policy of seeking sub-alliances inside the EU led him to Vilnius in August, where he took part in a meeting of the leaders of the three Baltic states, and to Hungary in 2017, where he took part in a meeting of the Visegrad countries made up of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

He has also forged an alliance with Greece and Cyprus.

These efforts have borne fruit, as the countries that comprise these different groupings often stand up for Israel in various EU forums. For instance, in May, some of these countries prevented the EU from adopting a resolution that would have condemned the US for moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel Renews Efforts to End International Observer Mission in Hebron

Israel has renewed its efforts to bring the ‎international observer mission in Hebron to its end, ‎a Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.‎

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or ‎TIPH, is a civilian observer mission that was formed ‎in the wake of the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs ‎massacre, in which Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein ‎killed 29 Muslim worshippers and wounded 125 others ‎as they gathered for a prayer service inside the ‎holy site. ‎

The TIPH mission – which comprises of personnel from ‎Italy, Norway, ‎Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey – was ‎originally formed at the invitation of the Israeli ‎government and the Palestinian Authority, with aim ‎of monitoring and recording any violation of ‎international humanitarian law.‎

Recently, however, there has been a growing number ‎of complaints alleging its members are ‎systematically and violently targeting the Jewish ‎community in Hebron. ‎

This recent development has prompted Israel’s Deputy Foreign ‎Minister Tzipi Hotovely to explore ending the ‎mission’s mandate, and a Foreign Ministry official ‎said that a preliminary review has ‎concluded the mission has outlived its usefulness. ‎

Hotovely ‎has brought the issue to the attention of ‎Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said he would ‎review the matter.‎

Israel said looking to push Dead Sea canal project to repair Jordan ties

Israel is seeking to advance work on the long-stalled Red Sea-Dead Sea project as a means of improving its relations with Jordan, Haaretz reported Friday.

The report said Israeli officials believe the repeated delays in implementing the project are a central factor in ongoing tensions between Jerusalem and its neighbor, which suffers from severe water shortages that could be alleviated by the canal.

According to the plan, a desalination plant in Jordan will provide much-needed drinking water to the region while its brine (very salty water left over from the desalination process) will be pumped north to the Dead Sea to replenish the fast-shrinking lake, while also producing green energy through use of water turbines.

The project has long been delayed by bureaucratic hurdles, financing difficulties and environmentalist objections, as well as diplomatic tensions between the countries. The delays have elicited anger from Amman, which has reportedly demanded answers on whether Israel is still committed to its implementation.

Officials are now looking at the possibility of redefining the project as one with security implications, in order to help bypass red tape, open up new funding possibilities and make it easier to win against expected environmentalist petitions.

Israel breaks up PA-led conference in East Jerusalem, arrests local governor

Police on Thursday night broke up an East Jerusalem conference it said was organized by the Palestinian Authority and detained several people involved, with Israeli officials accusing organizers of seeking to erode Israeli sovereignty in the city.

Police said two people suspected of assaulting officers were arrested, and PA Jerusalem Governor Adnan Ghaith was detained for questioning.

According to a statement by the Public Security Ministry, the meeting at the Ras al-Amud neighborhood was intended to advance efforts for “the Palestinian takeover of East Jerusalem.”

It noted that the PA was forbidden by Israeli law to “act in Israeli territory.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said, “The Palestinian Authority has recently intensified efforts to gnaw at our sovereignty in Jerusalem and is acting to create facts on the ground. I will continue to act with determination to prevent any violation of Israeli sovereignty in all parts of our capital Jerusalem.”

Block the PA’s hostile takeover

The Khan al-Ahmar affair has outraged many Israelis for different reasons. It illustrates the discrimination between Palestinian squatters and the settlers at Migron, Givat HaUlpana, Amona and Netiv Haavot – in whose cases the state has followed the absolute letter of the law as stipulated by the High Court of Justice. It’s a testament to the government’s weakness in the face of leftist organizations, the current media climate and diplomatic pressure. It sends a message of feebleness and inability to govern over criminality and unlawful activity in strategic areas and points to the state’s unwillingness to implement its own decisions.

But most disconcerting is the lack of decisive response to the phenomenon, which poses a significant threat to Israel. The Bedouin outpost of Khan al-Ahmar is not an unusual case of illegal Palestinian construction. It is a comprehensive system which the Palestinian Authority has orchestrated against the State of Israel for the past decade, to seize control of strategic parts of Area C – which is under Israeli civil and military control – in contravention of the Oslo Accords. This strategic initiative was devised and spearheaded by former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In 2008, Fayyad opened an official bureau to coordinate activities on the ground – the Union of Agricultural Work Committees – which receives tens of millions of euros from the European Union.

This sprawling takeover is implemented, first and foremost, by methodical and organized settlement of Palestinians in select strategic areas. Those willing to squat in abandoned structures and areas receive economic incentives from the PA. Likewise, these settled areas benefit from investment in infrastructure – from paved roads to the development of water reservoirs, pipelines and irrigation systems. Ultimately, this settlement endeavor is expedited through agriculture. The settled areas are systematically developed with terraces and fields for grazing and crop growing – in large part encouraged by the governments of Holland, Denmark and Norway.

Khan al-Ahmar, situated in the E1 area and adjacent to Highway 1 (Israel’s main east-west artery), is just one example among many of the PA’s efforts to take control of strategic areas by squatting them. Aside from Khan al-Ahmar, there are dozens of other similar illegal outposts in the area, home to tens of thousands of Palestinians.

Egypt Making Progress in War on ISIS in Sinai

With security threats to Israel from Iran and Hezbollah along the northern borders, and Hamas and other terror elements in the Gaza Strip to the south often receiving the lion’s share of public attention, the activities of the Islamic State-affiliated terror group state in the large Sinai Peninsula are often overlooked.

However, efforts by Egypt, along with quiet reported Israeli support, to crack down on the group appear to be making significant progress. Although a large-scale counter-terrorism operation has not eliminated the threat, it has greatly reduced it, a senior Israeli defense analyst told JNS.

The Sinai Province terrorist group, which is identified with ISIS, continues to launch attacks, such as the deadly roadside bombing on Oct. 25 that claimed the lives of contract workers who were building a security wall in the city of El-Arish in northern Sinai.

In recent days, a senior Sinai Province group leader, named by Arab media reports as “Abu Hamza al-Maqdisi,” was killed in an Egyptian airstrike in the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.

The high-profile assassination is part of a series of firm military steps taken by Egypt, which launched a massive nationwide counter-terrorism operation in February.

‘The right modus operandi’

Dr. Shaul Shay, a former deputy head of the National Security Council of Israel, told JNS that this campaign was helping Egypt make real gains against terrorists.

Gunmen kill 7 in attack on bus carrying Christian pilgrims in Egypt

Islamic terrorists on Friday ambushed a bus carrying Christian pilgrims on their way to a remote desert monastery south of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, killing at least seven and wounding 12, the Interior Ministry said.

Church spokesman Bouls Halim said the death toll in Friday’s attack was likely to rise. Local church officials in Minya province where the attack took place, put the death toll at 10, but the higher figure could not be confirmed.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State, who have for years been fighting security forces in the Sinai Peninsula and along Egypt’s porous desert border with Libya.

Friday’s attack is the second to target pilgrims heading to the St. Samuel the Confessor monastery in as many years. The previous attack in May 2017 left nearly 30 people dead.

The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, said the attackers used secondary dirt roads to reach the bus carrying the pilgrims, who were near the monastery at the time of the attack.

Understanding the Threats from Iran

Following the U.S. decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and to restore sanctions on Iran, senior Iranian officials have been making an unusual series of distinct threats, accompanied by a media campaign on state-run channels.

The exaggerated Iranian response to U.S. moves is also intended for domestic consumption, part of efforts by the regime to place responsibility for the country’s domestic situation upon “a foreign conspiracy” in order to unite the people around the flag, while deflecting criticism of the regime.

After the U.S. announced that it would ask Iran’s oil consumers to completely halt purchases of Iranian crude oil, starting in November, Tehran threatened to stop the traffic of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz. However, Tehran would be the party most seriously damaged by such a move since it is almost completely dependent upon the Strait of Hormuz for exporting its oil.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have alternative pipelines and ports on the Red Sea (Yanbu) and in Fujairah, which bypass the Strait, through which they can continue to export large quantities of oil, even when traffic in Hormuz is interrupted.

The case of the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb is different. There, the Houthis can act on Iran’s behalf, as demonstrated by their attack on Saudi oil tankers in July. Iran also has the capability of instigating various proxies to act (with an emphasis on Shiite militias), with a high level of denial, in various areas of the Middle East where U.S. military forces are present.

The probability of Iran promoting proxy Shiite militia attacks against vessels in the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb or U.S. forces and interests in the region is expected to increase as American pressures intensify.

Sohrab Ahmari: Europe Should Think Twice About Salvaging the Iran Deal

It finances Iranian terror on the continent.

This is why President Trump was right to walk away from his predecessor’s disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, and why he is right to ramp up pressure on the Tehran regime. The evidence linking the mullahs to preparations for a terror attack in Denmark vindicates the Trump administration.

Acting on a tip from the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Swedish security forces earlier this month arrested an Iranian-Norwegian citizen, who was allegedly plotting to bomb the Danish home of an Iranian-Arab separatist leader. The arrest followed last month’s decision by Danish authorities to temporarily shut down bridge traffic between Denmark and Sweden and halt ferry service between Denmark and Germany, all to forestall a potential attack.

In July, European authorities foiled another Iranian plot in Paris, against a gathering of the Marxist-Islamic opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, formerly allies of the Khomeinist regime. Had that attack succeeded, it would almost certainly have resulted in hundreds of casualties in the densely populated French capital.

Denmark is calling on the European Union to impose fresh sanctions on Tehran, and let’s hope Brussels listens. Recall, however, that EU mandarins have planned a “special-payment channel” to Iran to bypass new American sanctions and salvage the nuke deal. This, even though Iran has long been one of the global epicenters of money laundering and terrorism financing. Money is fungible, which means that at least some of the euros that make it to Tehran will end up underwriting the regime’s terror apparatus.

PodCast: U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Iran Sanctions Snapback, U.S. Energy Competition with Russia in the EU, Chancellor Merkel

Richard Grenell is the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, and the longest serving UN spokesman and political appointee in American history, where he served from 2001 to 2008.

Amb Grenell occupies one of the most critical positions in American diplomacy in Berlin, not only because Germany represents the EU’s largest economy and has disproportionate influence on the continent, but because of its pivotal role with respect to both Iran’s efforts to evade U.S. snapback sanctions, and Russia’s efforts to provide energy to and thus leverage over European nations.

During our discussion we touched on the ambassador’s efforts to persuade the Germans to cease trade with Iran and comply with the U.S. sanctions regime – and how those who resist can justify their stated intolerance of Jew-haters while seeking to do business with a regime dedicated to Israel’s destruction — Germany’s place in an America First foreign policy, energy, Nord Stream 2 and America’s efforts to counter Russia through selling liquefied natural gas to Germany, Chancellor Merkel and German politics and Amb Grenell’s dogged efforts to deport a Nazi officer who had been living in the United States for decades.

E.U. Stands with Iran as Sweeping New Trump Sanctions Hit Oil, Banks

Iran’s oil export industry and financial institutions are bracing for turmoil while applauding European Union support ahead of new U.S. trade sanctions that begin Monday.

The restrictions come six months after President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise and ended an Obama-era nuclear agreement with the Middle East state.

While the European Union (E.U.) has sought to preserve the flawed trade agreement with Iran by negotiating backdoor methods of trade, most major companies have chosen to exit the country. These include French energy giant Total and carmakers Peugeot and Renault as well as Germany’s Siemens and Daimler.

Iran and the E.U. announced their defiance towards U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration after high-level talks at the United Nations in September. E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini delivered her plan for continued bi-lateral trade while standing alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The coaliton forming between the E.U. and Iran was met with disbelief and anger from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

PM: Iran ‘most potent force of militant Islam’; threatens Israel, Europe alike

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday night called Iran the “most potent force of militant Islam” in the world and warned Europe of possible Iranian attacks on its soil.

Speaking to reporters after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart, Boyko Borissov, Netanyahu said radical Islam is a threat to the world, and that Israel has recently revealed a number of Iranian plots to carry out attacks on European soil.

He said Israel and Europe “stand together” in the face of such attacks.

Israeli officials said Wednesday that the Mossad intelligence service had provided its Danish counterpart with information concerning an alleged Iranian plot to assassinate opposition activists in its territory.

“We are part of the same civilization, a civilization that values liberty, peace and progress, and today this civilization is under attack, most notably by the forces of militant Islam. Militant Islam attacks all of us. It attacks Arabs. It attacks Europeans. It attacks Israelis. It attacks everyone,” he said.

Netanyahu arrived in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna for Friday’s meeting of the Craiova Forum, which includes the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania, as well as the president of Serbia.

Ahead of his trip, Netanyahu said he wants to strengthen ties with these countries and “change the hostile and hypocritical approach of the European Union” toward Israel.

Israel said to warn Beirut it will strike Hezbollah rocket factories

Israel has reportedly sent a message to the Lebanese government via Paris demanding that it act against the Hezbollah terror group’s rocket factories in the country, saying if Lebanon refused to do so, Israel could take military action.

The message was delivered by Israel’s deputy national security adviser Eitan Ben-David to Orléan la-Chevalier, a top adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron, during the latter’s visit in Jerusalem on Monday, according to Israel’s Channel 10 news.

“The Lebanese government must be careful when it comes to Hezbollah’s rocket factories. If the issue isn’t dealt with through diplomatic means by the Lebanese government, Israel will act on its own,” the message read, according to the report, which cited unnamed “Western diplomatic sources.”

Ben-David asked that la-Chevalier deliver the message to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

France has close longstanding ties with Lebanon, and is considered close to Hariri.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment Thursday on the report.

Iranian FM Promotes Conspiracy Theory, Dismisses European Terror Attacks as “False Flags”

Iran’s foreign minister charged that the recently thwarted terror attack targeting an Iranian opposition figure in Denmark was one in a series of “false flag” operations carried out by Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency with the aim of undermining the 2015 nuclear deal, The Times of Israel reported Thursday.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who helped negotiate the nuclear deal, promoted the conspiracy theory in a Twitter post, headlined with “Incredible series of coincidences. Or, a simple chronology of a MOSSAD program to kill the JCPOA?” The nuclear deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The four coincidences that Zarif highlighted were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelation that Iran kept a hidden nuclear archive and the United States’s withdrawal from the JCPOA; the revelation of an attempted Iranian terror attack in Paris the same time that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was making a state visit to Europe; Netanyahu’s revelation about a nuclear warehouse in Tehran at the United Nations General Assembly, which coincided with a special session led by the U.S. on Iran at the Security Council; and the announcement of the foiled terror attack in Denmark at the same that the European Union was set to announce an accommodation to facilitate trade between the EU and Iran ahead of more severe U.S. sanctions to be imposed this month.

These events, however, are not simply manufactured charges by the Mossad, rather they have been validated by subsequent events and investigations.

TV report: Israel silent as Iran hit by computer virus more violent than Stuxnet

Iranian infrastructure and strategic networks have come under attack in the last few days by a computer virus similar to Stuxnet but “more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated,” and Israeli officials are refusing to discuss what role, if any, they may have had in the operation, an Israeli TV report said Wednesday.

The report came hours after Israel said its Mossad intelligence agency had thwarted an Iranian murder plot in Denmark, and two days after Iran acknowledged that President Hassan Rouhani’s mobile phone had been bugged. It also follows a string of Israeli intelligence coups against Iran, including the extraction from Tehran in January by the Mossad of the contents of a vast archive documenting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and the detailing by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the UN in September of other alleged Iranian nuclear and missile assets inside Iran, in Syria and in Lebanon.

“Remember Stuxnet, the virus that penetrated the computers of the Iranian nuclear industry?” the report on Israel’s Hadashot news asked. Iran “has admitted in the past few days that it is again facing a similar attack, from a more violent, more advanced and more sophisticated virus than before, that has hit infrastructure and strategic networks.”

The Iranians, the TV report went on, are “not admitting, of course, how much damage has been caused.”

On Sunday, Gholamreza Jalali, the head of Iran’s civil defense agency, said Tehran had neutralized a new version of Stuxnet, Reuters reported. “Recently we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems,” Jalali said.

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