January 25, 2022

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11/27 Links Pt1: Evelyn Gordon: The one option Israel doesn’t have in Gaza; AG: ICC can’t rule on conflict as there is no Palestinian state; Ten Years After Mumbai


From Ian:

Evelyn Gordon: The one option Israel doesn’t have in Gaza
By the time the second intifada began in 2001, Hamas and Fatah had built up a powerful terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank; only by reoccupying the territory did Israel succeed in putting an end to Palestinian attacks. Likewise, argues Evelyn Gordon, the only way to end Hamas’s rocket fire and other attacks would be to reoccupy the Gaza Strip—at a price that few Israelis today are willing to pay:

[Reoccupying] Gaza would have very high costs—in soldiers’ lives, in international opprobrium, and possibly in saddling Israel with responsibility for Gaza’s civilian problems. . . . No democracy could undertake such a costly plan without widespread public support, but especially not Israel, because any major military operation requires a massive call-up of reservists, and Israeli reservists tend to vote with their feet. They’ll show up in droves for an operation with broad support, but an operation widely considered unjustified will spark major protests. . . .

But with the option of reoccupying Gaza unavailable, the two main options left are both short-term fixes. One is a smaller-scale military operation. The last such operation, in 2014, bought Israel’s south three-and-a-half years of almost total quiet, but at a price (for Israel) of 72 dead and massive international opprobrium. Another such operation might buy a similar period of calm, but at a similar or even higher cost. And it would have to be repeated again in another few years, by which time Hamas may be better armed and capable of exacting an even higher price.

The second option, which [Prime Minister] Netanyahu evidently favors, is to negotiate a long-term ceasefire. This might buy a similar period of quiet, though since it hasn’t been tried before, there’s no guarantee. And it has several obvious advantages: no deaths, no international opprobrium, and most likely, greater support within Israel (though, judging by past experience, not abroad) for a more forceful response once the ceasefire collapses, as it will at some point.

But this option also has some obvious downsides. First, it’s devastating to Israeli deterrence, since it shows that firing rockets is a good way to get Israel to capitulate to your demands. Second, it ensures that when the inevitable next round arrives, Hamas will be able to inflict much more damage than it could today. . . . Either of these options would only postpone the inevitable: barring a miracle, Hamas will eventually become overconfident and cause Israel enough anguish to provoke it to reoccupy Gaza.

The Palestinians No One Talks About

The 3,903 Palestinians killed in Syria in the past seven years are of no interest to the Western correspondents and their editors.

The Western media’s obsession with Israel has created the impression that the only Palestinians living on this planet are those who are residing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This impression does injustice to the Palestinians who are facing horrendous conditions, torture, and death in the Arab countries, especially Syria.

Who cares about the suffering of these Palestinians? No one. Every week, scores of foreign journalists travel to the Israel-Gaza border to report on clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian rioters. Have any of these journalists thought of travelling to Syria or Lebanon to report about the atrocities that are being committed against the Palestinians there? Of course not. Why should they do so when the story lacks an anti-Israel angle?

The number of Palestinians killed in Syria will soon reach 4,000. Perhaps then, with that gruesome milestone reached, will Western correspondents in the Middle East wake up to the enormity of the crimes that are really being perpetrated against Palestinians?

Ten Years After Mumbai

Today marks 10 years since the brutal murder of Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg, their four Jewish guests, and 158 other victims of the Mumbai terror attack

Peaceman and her partner spent 10 days in Israel, witnessing a mass outpouring of grief and love, before returning to Mumbai. They both went to the continuing Chabad Friday night meals, hosted in a rented apartment and run by rotating shifts of yeshivah students. The boys were nice, Peaceman says, they worked hard, but it wasn’t Gabi and Rivky.

She never went back to the devastated Chabad House. “I couldn’t. I saw pictures and that was really rough. I was never ready to go back.”

Ten years later Peaceman says the Holtzbergs are still on her mind. She recalls their patience, their kindness. “I think of them and ask: What am I contributing to this world? What are my values?” she says. “I learned you can’t take anything for granted.”

Looking back a decade on, Kantor says much has changed. Security is a top priority for him now and the centers he oversees. There is a wider recognition in the Jewish world of the role played by Chabad emissaries around the globe, and the risks they take in the course of their work.

For Kantor, it’s a feeling not unlike the Rebbe’s passing in 1994, the 25th anniversary of which will be marked this summer. A newly minted emissary at the time, Kantor had traveled to New York for the funeral. On the plane back home to Bangkok he felt broken, before turning his focus to the task at hand.

“Now you gotta do more,” he told himself then. Today, “that message stays the same.”

Israel calls on Pakistan to bring terrorists behind Mumbai attack to justice

A senior Israeli diplomat on Monday called on Pakistan to hold accountable the terrorists responsible for the deadly attacks in Mumbai exactly 10 years ago.

At a commemoration held at the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv, Michael Ronen, who directs the Foreign Ministry’s South and South East Asia Division, urged “all governments, including the government of Pakistan, to ensure that perpetrators and facilitators of the attack are brought to justice.”

Ronen said it was “important to provide full justice to the victims and their families,” according to a press release issued by the Indian embassy.

The attacks started on November 26, 2008, when 10 Islamic terrorists, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and hand grenades, killed 166 people and injured hundreds more in a three-day rampage through India’s financial capital.

Played out on TV news channels around the world, the bloody events — widely known as 26/11 — have been compared in India to New York’s suffering on September 11, 2001. They were marked Monday by solemn commemorations throughout India.

US Secretary of State: Lack of Arrests Decade After Deadly Mumbai Terror Attacks an ‘Affront’ to Victims’ Families

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday marked the tenth anniversary of the deadly series of terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai with a pledge to bring its authors to justice.

“The United States is committed to seeing that those responsible for this attack face justice,” Pompeo said in a statement.

During four days of terror in Mumbai in the final week of November 2008, Islamist terrorists belonging to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across four days, murdering 166 people and wounding more than 300. Among their targets was Nariman House — the Jewish community center operated by the Chabad movement in Mumbai. Other targets included a Catholic college as well as hotels, restaurants and a cinema.

The murders at the Chabad center occurred one day after residents were taken hostage inside the building. Six people were killed during the siege at Nariman House, including Rabbi Gavriel Holzberg and his wife Rivka, who was six months pregnant at the time.

Commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Mumbai atrocities, Pompeo said it was “an affront to the families of the victims that, after ten years, those who planned the Mumbai attack have still not been convicted for their involvement.”

Tipping Point: Israel And The ‘Community Of Nations’

The Jewish state is on the precipice of major diplomatic breakthroughs across the globe

News of the surprise two-years-in-the-making visit to Israel by the president of Muslim-majority Chad broke on the same day that the Czech head of state announced in Jerusalem the intention to move Prague’s embassy to the holy city. This came on the backdrop of reports that the Jewish state is seeking to establish full diplomatic ties with Mali, Niger and even Sudan. Jerusalem is also purportedly eyeing Bahrain and Oman, the latter of which just reiterated that “the Arab states need to come to terms with the reality that Israel is a fact of life in the region.”

For its entire history, the state of Israel has been widely viewed as a pariah, a status quo many proffered would persist for as long as its conflict with the Palestinians—and perhaps thereafter. According to conventional wisdom, it would languish forever in a sort of diplomatic purgatory with only the Americans in its corner.

Yet, a simple glance at the world map reveals a growing landscape dotted with countries clamoring for Israeli expertise in fields ranging from defense and counter-terrorism to agriculture and medicine. It seems that the Jewish state is on the precipice of a major, over-arching and perhaps redefining diplomatic breakthrough.

After seventy years, Israel may be on the verge of joining the so-called “community of nations.”

News and non-news in the Middle East

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was a heinous crime, but Israel’s rapprochement with the Gulf states is far more significant.

Two events have taken place within the last few weeks. One is potentially of immense significance and the other is not.

The first consists of the many indications that several of the Gulf states are preparing to recognize Israel’s right to exist and their own multiple benefits from recognizing that right. A visit by the prime minister to Oman where he met with the Sultan; visits by two other government ministers to the UAE, where the Israeli anthem was played and the Israeli flag displayed; a former Kuwaiti minister publicly stating that the time has come for recognition of Israel, and a similar statement by the Omani foreign minister. The mild response to 500 rockets sent from Gaza into Israel as well as the refusal of Netanyahu to dissolve his government after the departure of Liberman is a sure indication that he expects these startling events to result in concrete action in a relatively short time frame, which would, if it happens, be the crowning glory of his many years in government.

Another indication is the absolute silence observed by the Israeli government concerning the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, apparently as the result of a botched attempt to kidnap him and send him to Riyadh. The media and the international community, of course, made a huge outcry over this event while relatively little attention is paid to a potential seismic shift in the geo-political configuration of the entire region.

Netanyahu to fly to Chad ‘soon’ to reestablish diplomatic ties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Chad “soon” to formally announce the establishment of diplomatic ties, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Tuesday.

The announcement came after Netanyahu met for the third time in two days with visiting Chad President Idriss Déby, before the latter ended his two-day visit, the first ever by a Chadian president.

According to the statement, the two leaders discussed “common threats” and the war against terrorism.

Chad is on the front lines in Africa in the battle against radical Islamic terrorism, be it in the form of Boko Haram or organizations affiliated with the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. The desire for Israel expertise in fighting terror is believed to be one of the main reasons Déby decided to renew ties with Israel, 46 years after Chad severed formal diplomatic ties.

The PMO statement said the two leaders also discussed cooperation in the fields of agriculture, border protection, technology, solar energy, water and health.

PA reportedly pushes for Arab League meeting as Israel warms ties with Arab states

In light of the recent burgeoning relations between Israel and Arab majority countries, the Palestinian Authority is pushing for an urgent meeting of the Arab League.

“There are a series of Arab and Islamic resolutions and declarations that explicitly state that there will be no normalization with Israel without a solution for the Palestinian issue based on the Arab Peace Initiative and the decisions of the international community,” Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian official, told Haaretz.

According to the report, the PA views Israel’s potential ties with Sudan and Bahrain as normalization and as building a relationship with Israel while the Palestinian issue has yet to be resolved.

“What we see in recent weeks – from Netanyahu’s visit to Oman and the visit of the president of Chad to Israel, and now we talk about Bahrain, Sudan and about ties with Saudi Arabia. It raises question marks! Therefore the Arab and Islamic position needs to be clarified,” Shaath continued.

“Both Israel and the US are exploiting the Palestinian schism in order to get closer to Arab and Islamic countries,” he said.

Sudan denies it will follow Chad in establishing ties with Israel

As Chad president Idriss Déby visited Yad Vashem and centers of Israeli agricultural expertise in the south on Monday during the second day of his unprecedented visit, a senior Sudanese official denied reports that his country will be the next African state to renew ties with Israel.

Abdel-Sakhi Abbas, the leader of the ruling National Congress Party in Sudan, was quoted by the Turkish Anadolu Agency service as saying that Sudan’s position on normalization of ties with Israel is clear “and is fundamentally linked to the Palestinian cause.”

According to Abbas, Israel occupies “a Muslim Arab state” and “prevents Muslims from practicing their religious rites. When Israel ceases its hostile practices toward Palestine, Sudan can establish a relationship with it.”

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday standing alongside Déby in Jerusalem that he will soon be visiting additional Arab countries, Abbas said Sudan would not be among the destinations. Netanyahu paid a public visit to Oman last month.

“[Netanyahu] cannot visit Sudan,” Abbas was quoted as saying. “There has been no discussion about this visit among official Sudanese circles.”

Israeli Attorney General: ICC Can’t Rule on Conflict since “There Is No Palestinian State”

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said Monday he is drafting a legal opinion that refutes the International Criminal Court’s legitimacy to discuss matters pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because “there is no Palestinian state.”

Jerusalem has long argued that the court has no jurisdiction over matters relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since it has no jurisdiction over Israel (which is not a member state) or the West Bank and Gaza — as Palestine is not a state.

In January 2015 ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary examination into the “situation in Palestine,” after the Palestinian Authority signed the Rome Statute and formally accepted the court’s jurisdiction over its territory.

However, the legal validity of the move remains a subject of contention.

Bensouda has yet to rule on whether there is a basis to investigate Palestinian claims of war crimes.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has called on the ICC to probe and prosecute Israeli officials over settlement activity.

Furthermore, the Hague-based court will not investigate alleged Israeli violations if it finds the Israeli legal system can be relied upon to investigate any “grave crimes” committed by Israelis.

NGO Monitor: Submission to the UN Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 Gaza Protests

NGO Monitor, a project of the Institute for NGO Research,1 an organization in Special Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC since 2013, presents this submission to the Commission of Inquiry on the 2018 protests in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory” (Commission or COI). Since our founding in 2002, our organization has systematically analyzed various UN commissions of inquiry (COIs), identifying both best practices for fact finding as well as fundamental flaws that often undermine the credibility of their conclusions and recommendations.2 We have also published numerous books and articles on the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law, arms proliferation, terror financing, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In contrast to the disinformation advanced by UN officials and NGOs, characterizing the events as “peaceful protests,” the “Gaza marches” represent an eight-month long (and continuing) organized military operation to attack and breach the Israeli border. This military campaign is not only intended to attack Israeli military installations and abduct IDF soldiers, but it is intended to terrorize, to cause wanton destruction, and to inflict bodily harm to Israeli civilians. Civilians living in the “Gaza envelope” (communities that abut the border) have been particularly hard hit.

Given the nature of the events on the Gaza border, it is unfortunate that the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) appears to have yet again established a one-sided Commission of Inquiry targeting Israel, aimed at cementing false narratives about the Gaza operation. Under UNHRC auspices, past commissions have had a poor record in providing objective and constructive reports regarding Israel. In our many publications (selections listed in footnote 2), we have highlighted several concerns plaguing UNHRC commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions (FFMs) relating to the Arab-Israeli conflict. These issues include biased mandates; lack of transparency; lack of IHL and military expertise; extensive reliance, without verification or corroboration, on claims made by highly politicized and terror linked- NGOs; faulty legal analysis; omission of relevant facts; and ignoring of Palestinian violations.

UN representative to Israelis: ‘Why do you keep living on Gaza border?’

A member of a UN Human Rights Council commission, which is investigating the events of recent months on the Israel-Gaza border, asked two Israelis living near the strip, “If that is the situation, why do you continue living there?”

Over the weekend, Batia Holin from Kibbutz Kfar Aza and Adele Raemer from Kibbutz Nirim accepted an invitation to speak in front of the UNHRC’s Independent Commission of Inquiry for events on the 2018 Gaza border and tell its members of life under the threat of arson terrorism and rocket fire.

The committee chose them because of their activities on social media: they have been keeping track of the events on the border, posting photos and videos and mostly writing about the fires that broke out over the past eight months because of the kite and balloon terrorism.

The two said that despite being invited to speak in front of the UN commission in Geneva, they lowered their expectations, knowing the United Nations’ pro-Palestinian bias.

They were still surprised, though, when after describing their life under the threat of rockets, tunnels, incendiary balloon and kites and the fires they cause, one of the commission’s members he asked them why they continued living close to the border.

“When I was asked why I was staying in my home and not leaving because of the situation, I realized how disconnected from reality the members of the commissions are,” Holin told Ynet. “They have no idea how we live here and what the Zionist idea is all about.”

Report: Trump Considering John James For U.N. Ambassador

According to Bloomberg, President Trump is considering former Iraq War veteran John James, who lost a close race to Democrat Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in November, to replace U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has said she will step down at the end of 2018.

James, who has two master’s degrees from Penn State University, and a master of business administration from the University of Michigan, currently serves as president of James Group International, a supply-chain management firm. He served as an Army captain in Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying Apache helicopters and leading two platoons.

In October, James articulated some of his foreign policy views in an interview.

On how to stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons:
We must make sure that Iran is never in the position to develop a nuclear weapon or intercontinental ballistic missile. We must make sure that Iran is never able to destabilize the world community or the U.S. through cyber, terror or proxy means. And that means using every single tool in our toolbox to include economic sanctions and the like. And that means leaving every option on the table.

On Israel:
I was always raised to believe that Israel is the rightful home of the Jews and we must stand by God’s chosen people. There must be zero public space between Israel and the United States of America. We must do everything we can to preserve that relationship. That’s not a partisan issue and it blows my mind that it’s become a partisan issue. Our public pronouncement of alignment with Israel is the first and most necessary step — the security funding, the missile defense system, moving the embassy to Jerusalem … These public stances, I believe, are indicating to Tehran that Israel and the United States are in lockstep.

I was always taught that when somebody tells you who they are, you believe them. When Iran says, “death to Israel” or “death to America,” I believe them. Even former Secretary of State John Kerry said the $150 billion the previous administration gave to Iran would find its way into terrorists’ hands. To reverse that, we need to make sure that we stand with Israel and work with the world to contain Iran because we cannot afford to kick the can down the road.

Pro-Israel Groups Expose Rand Paul as Blocking U.S. Aid to Israel

Top pro-Israel groups in America are mobilizing against Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) for blocking the continuation of U.S. aid to Israel, the renewal of which comes at a critical time for the Jewish state as it continues to combat ongoing terror attacks from Hamas loyalists along its border.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the nation’s foremost pro-Israel lobby group, has been purchasing advertisements on Facebook outing Paul as the primary Senate force blocking the reauthorization of the U.S.-Israel security pact, according to sources close to the effort.

Other prominent pro-Israel organizations, such as Christians United for Israel, or CUFI, also have undertaken efforts to expose Paul’s hold on U.S. security assistance to Israel, recently organizing an email blitz aimed at pressuring the isolationist senator to remove his hold on the critical funding bill.

CUFI is said to have invested heavily in ads based in Kentucky to target the senator’s constituents directly on the issue.

Paul, a proponent of ending U.S. aid across the globe, has had multiple confrontations with the pro-Israel community over the years as result of his views. Paul has sought to hold up U.S. aid to Israel multiple times over the years, creating friction between him and top U.S. pro-Israel lobbying shops.

“Sen. Rand Paul is blocking the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act, S.2497,” CUFI wrote in a Monday morning email “action alert” to its millions of supporters across the country, including Paul’s home state of Kentucky. “This bill is the cornerstone of U.S. support for Israel. It ensures Israel has what it needs to fight terrorists like Hamas and Hezbollah, and keeps at bay tyrants like the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Israelis Welcome at Qatar World Cup

Qatar will pave the way for new ties with Israel in the coming years and it will allow Israelis to visit during its hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, reported Israel’s Channel 2.

It said that Qatari officials confirmed that Doha will allow Israeli fans and dignitaries to visit the country during the tournament.

Israelis will have free access to attend matches, said Channel 2.

The Palestinian Hamas movement, meanwhile, called on Friday Arab countries to cease all forms of “normalization” with Israel.

“Some Arab countries’ normalization of ties with the Israeli occupation is a stab in the back against the just Palestinian cause,” said movement spokesman Abdullatif al-Qanou.

“The occupation forces will remain the main enemy of our people and nation,” he declared, slamming visits by Israeli officials to some Arab countries.

The Future of Sino-Israeli Relations: Optimism or Caution?

As the most senior Chinese official to visit Israel since 2000, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan’s visit on October 22, 2018, to the Jewish state marks an important milestone in Sino-Israeli relations. For the past decade, trade, investment, technological cooperation, tourism, and exchanges between the two countries have all expanded rapidly, and there is little doubt that China’s relations with Israel will continue to grow in the foreseeable future.

As Jerusalem embraces its growing friendship with Beijing, both Israel and China will benefit greatly from increasing economic and trade opportunities and growing bilateral political ties. However, both sides will need to exercise caution in the wider context of geopolitics in the region so as not to compromise their national security.

In its bid to make its economy more innovative, China increasingly sees Israel as a valuable and strategic partner. By investing in Israeli companies, especially those specializing in agricultural, food, and medical technologies, not only will China better achieve its aim of becoming an innovation superpower, it will also solve many domestic problems it is currently facing, including drought, lack of arable land, food security, and an aging population.

As part of the Maritime Silk Road in China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative (BRI), Israel will play an important role in connecting China with the Mediterranean through trade due to its strategic location. Through its investments and construction at the ports of Haifa and Ashdod, China will be able to create a new trade route between China and the Mediterranean via Israel.

Although Jerusalem’s growing ties with Beijing will certainly benefit Israel economically and politically, it must also be cautious of Beijing’s close relationships with Tehran and Damascus and ensure that the Sino-Israeli relationship does not jeopardize Israel’s national security.

House of Representatives to Vote on Bipartisan Bill to Stop Use of Human Shields

The US House of Representatives is soon expected to pass a bipartisan bill that would enact sanctions on those who use human shields in war.

The Senate unanimously passed its version in October.

Introduced by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), and co-sponsored by 25 representatives, the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act would officially condemn the US-designated terrorist group Hezbollah’s use of human shields “as a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights.” It also calls for the United States to introduce a resolution at the UN Security Council to clinch backing for a resolution slapping sanctions on Hezbollah for the use of humans as military shield.

The bill mandates the president to impose sanctions on any foreign state government agency that “knowingly and materially supports, orders, controls, directs or otherwise engages in” the exercise of human shields by the terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas.

The president may waive sanctions for up to 120 days if he or she reports to Congress saying that a waiver is crucial to national-security interests.

US President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act last month that expands and strengthen the limits of economic sanctions against Hezbollah.

IDF to demolish home of Palestinian who murdered US-born Ari Fuld

The Israeli army notified the family of a Palestinian terrorist who stabbed to death an American-Israeli man in the West Bank that their apartment will be demolished, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced on Tuesday.

The apartment belonging to the family of 17-year-old Khalil Yusef Ali Jabarin in the West Bank town of Yatta, is located on the top floor of a three-story building. Jabarin’s family has until December 2, 2019 to appeal the demolition order, which if rejected, can then forward the appeal to the Supreme Court.

“The IDF will continue to act determinedly to prevent terror attacks and to deter terrorists,” the army said in the statement.

American-born Ari Fuld, a father of four, was standing between the Gush Etzion junction mall and the Rami Levi supermarket when he was stabbed multiple times in his upper body by 17-year-old Jabarin.

Mortally wounded, Fuld chased his Palestinian attacker, jumping over a short stone wall and shooting him, before collapsing. Evacuated to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, he succumbed there to his wounds.

Jabarin, who was shot by Fuld and another armed civilian, was evacuated in moderate condition and fully conscious to the same hospital as Fuld.

Following the deadly attack, the IDF carried out house-to-house searches in Yatta, questioned his relatives, and confiscated work permits and material from his home.

Jabarin was charged with intentionally causing death and a number of lesser charges by a West Bank military court in October.

Report: Hamas nears reconciliation with PA, calls for elections

Hamas leadership agreed to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s conditions for a reconciliation between the two Palestinian factions during a recent visit to Cairo, according to a report Tuesday by Syrian Hezbollah-linked website Al-Mayadeen.

Sources told Al-Mayadeen that Hamas has agreed to implement the 2017 agreement between the parties, on the condition that the sanctions against the Gaza-based Palestinian terror group be lifted and that its employees receive salaries.

Hamas has asked that a national unity government be formed within 45 days, and that elections be held in no less than six months, the report said.

Palestinian insider Munib al-Masri also told France24 News on Monday that Hamas and the PA are “very close” to a reconciliation.

Shortage of Stones in West Bank Leaves Youth Asking: ‘What Will We Throw Next?’ (satire)

A severe shortage of suitable ‘throwing stones’ in the West Bank has caused a panic in recent weeks. Citing natural erosion – and decades of stone-throwing by teenagers who should have been in school –Palestinian Authority officials have declared a state of emergency in various cities and towns throughout the West Bank, leaving the IDF and the international community asking: what will they throw next?

Speaking to The Mideast Beast, 12-year-old Usman Abu Rahman said, “Without stones to throw, I’m more depressed than ever. Throwing stones at the Jews used to make me happy. Now I have no excuse to skip math class. But we’re tenacious. I know we’ll find something else soon.”

With piles of stones sitting just outside the West Bank in Israeli territory, enterprising teens Khaled and Bilal al-Rayyis have started a web series called Yes, But Will It Throw?, in which they take turns throwing eclectic objects at IDF soldiers, including wooden sticks, piles of wet sand and even Barbie dolls.

UN Watch: NGO Calls on UN to Reject al-Sisi’s Orwellian ‘Human Rights Commission’

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer issued the following comment on Egypt’s establishment of a “High Permanent Commission For Human Rights”:

“This is an Orwellian agency, pretending to be a commission for human rights, when in fact its purpose is to shield Cairo’s repressive regime from legitimate scrutiny of both domestic and international human rights activists, and to hide its gross and systematic rights abuses.”

“The commissioners are not independent monitors but the very opposite: military, intelligence and other regime officials who oversee a police force accused of torture and arbitrary arrests.”

“Because Egypt is a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and therefore legally obliged to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, we urge UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to hold the al-Sisi regime accountable for this worrying move, and to remind Egypt of its international obligations.”

“The UN needs to tell Egypt that at a time of escalating allegations of the regime’s arbitrary detentions and suppression of free speech, Cairo should be investing its energies in combating its own abuses, instead of fighting those who courageously point them out.”

U.S. Secretary of State Calls Iranian President’s Comments “Dangerous and Irresponsible”

Iranian President Rouhani has once again called for the destruction of Israel. He referred to it as a “cancerous tumor” and a “fake regime.” Such statements inflame tensions in the region by seemingly calling for war. At an international conference on Islamic unity, Rouhani also encouraged Muslims worldwide to unite against the United States. This is a dangerous and irresponsible step that will further deepen Iran’s isolation.

The Iranian regime is no friend of America or Israel when they repeatedly call for the death of millions, including Muslims. The Iranian people know better and do not agree with their government, which has badly represented them to the world for 39 years. The people have suffered under this tyranny for far too long.

Iran’s parliament speaker says US peace plan a ‘plot’ to strengthen Israel

Iran is determined to fight against US President Donald Trump’s anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, parliament speaker Ali Larijani said Tuesday, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.

Trump has dubbed his administration’s long-awaited plan the “ultimate deal,” which has already unsettled the Palestinians although no details have yet been disclosed.

Speaking in Tehran, Larijani said the “deal of the century” was a “plot” between Israel and the United States to establish the Jewish state’s domination in the Middle East.

“We will stand against the regime of Israel and won’t let this deal take place in the region,” Larijani said at an annual conference on Islamic unity.

“If Americans are imposing sanctions on Iran today and are putting pressure on Iran, the reason for it is because Iran has stood against Israel,” he added, quoted by ISNA.

Report: Syrian regime grants citizenship to Iranians, Hezbollah fighters

The Syrian regime naturalized thousands or even tens of thousands of Iranians, including members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Iran-backed militias like Hezbollah that are deployed in southern Syria along the border with Israel, according to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

The report explained that “systematic action by the regime to settle [them] throughout Syria” served two purposes: concealing the fighter’s presence and changing the country’s demography.

Concealing the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah fighters in southern Syria could be seen as contravening understandings reached between Israel and Russia to keep such groups away from the Jewish state’s northern border.

In late October, Moscow agreed to expand a buffer zone along the Golan Heights. Russia had refused the Israeli request for a 40-kilometer (25 mile) buffer zone, but expressed willingness to enforce an off-limits zone of 10-15 km.

As the war in Syria seems to be winding down in Assad’s favor, Israel fears that Iran will help Hezbollah produce accurate precision-guided missiles and aid the group and other Shi’ite militias to strengthen their foothold in the Golan Heights.

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