September 24, 2023

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12/22 Links Pt1: UNSC anti-settlement vote postponed; One Ambassador and Two States

From Ian:

WATCH: Israeli PM Netanyahu Delivers Chilling Message During Speech
During his September 22, 2016, speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a powerful story. His official YouTube channel just released a clip from the speech, called “Remember Ali,” and it’s something quite extraordinary.
Netanyahu begins with the following:
“Had the Palestinians said yes to a Jewish state in 1947, there would have been no war, no refugees and no conflict. And when the Palestinians finally say yes to a Jewish state, we will be able to end this conflict once and for all. Now here’s the tragedy, because, see, the Palestinians are not only trapped in the past, their leaders are poisoning the future.
I want you to imagine a day in the life of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy, I’ll call him Ali…”

The prime minister goes on to deliver a chilling message. To simply transcribe the story would rob it of its impact. Instead, take three minutes out of your day to watch this clip:

Remember Ali?

Egypt’s Security Council anti-settlement vote postponed, possibly ‘indefinitely’

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday postponed a vote on an Egyptian-drafted resolution demanding that Israel immediately halt its settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, diplomats said. The vote had been set to take place later in the day.
Egypt requested the delay to allow time for consultations on the measure, but no new time or date was scheduled. One unnamed Western diplomatic source told Reuters that the vote was postponed “potentially indefinitely.”
Egypt sought the postponement at Israel’s request, after “high level” contacts between the two governments, Reuters said.
The delay came as Israel was scrambling to head off a possible surprise move by the United States, with some indications the Obama administration may not have been willing to exercise its veto power.
According to a report in the Israeli news site Walla, an unnamed Israeli official said that outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry told a Palestinian delegation to Washington earlier this month that the US would not veto the resolution; however, the Palestinians later denied this claim.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had convened his security cabinet for an emergency session Thursday evening, just hours before the vote was scheduled.

Eugene Kontorovich: By allowing an anti-Israel Security Council resolution, Obama will hurt the U.N., and not help peace

The Security Council is expected to vote today on a resolution, introduced by Egypt, condemning the presence of settlements — Jewish communities in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. For years, there has been mounting speculation, fueled by the administration itself, that President Obama would use his lame-duck period in office for a major anti-Israel action, probably by not providing the customary U.S. veto to such resolutions.
I expect the United States will veto today’s resolution, but that may be only a prequel to allowing the passage of one of the numerous similar resolutions that have been floated. The other resolutions are substantively similar, but unlike the Egyptian proposal, they may make cosmetic, inconsequential half-criticisms of Palestinian Authority “incitement” (while ignoring the PA’s ongoing solicitation and sponsorship of actual killings of Jews). Then the administration would then say it vetoed “anti-Israel resolutions,” but simply could not hold back the tide against a “balanced” resolution.
Obama’s goal with such a resolution would be to punish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he personally dislikes, and to create diplomatic facts on the ground to box in President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy. The folly of a such resolution has been underscored by both Hillary Clinton and Trump, as well as near-unanimous majorities in both houses of Congress and an array of Democratic foreign policy experts, including former Senate majority leader and Obama administration peace negotiator George Mitchell.
Such a resolution would not cement any positive legacy for Obama. To the contrary, it would vastly magnify the actual obstacles to resolving the Palestinian issue. Moreover, by setting the U.N. against Israel, Obama may provoke a sharp conflict between Washington and the U.N. — one that would harm the latter much more than the former.

JCPA Dore Gold: How Did Israeli Settlements Become a Legally Contentious Issue at the UN?

Right after World War II, the US and its allies wanted to prevent a repetition of the practice of the Axis powers who evicted the populations from the areas that came under their control and forcibly transferred their own populations into those very same territories. For this reason, the Allies drafted the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention in the way that they did. But this is not what is occurring with Israeli settlement activity, as Israel has argued for decades.
There is one place, however, where this scenario is taking place right now – and it is not in the West Bank. It is occurring in Syria, where Sunni Arabs are being systematically replaced by Shiites from Iraq and other countries in order to alter the demographic makeup of the Syrian state, in accordance with the interests of Iran. Tehran wants a Shiite belt from its western border to the Mediterranean in order to establish its hegemony in the Middle East.
And what is the UN doing about this? It is deliberating over a new draft resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, while ignoring the mass transfer of populations transpiring across the entire Levant. As usual, it is obsessed with Israel while ignoring the dangerous actions of Iran.
The Palestinians themselves agreed in the 1995 Interim Agreement that the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank should be addressed as an item for negotiation between the parties. It is not tenable for the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to repeatedly refuse to negotiate with Israel and then expect the UN Security Council to take up his concerns in his place. The US, which signed the Interim Agreement as a witness, should veto the proposed draft resolution on settlements.

Netanyahu confidant: Anti-settlement Security Council resolution will embolden BDS

If the UN Security Council adopts an Egyptian-backed anti-settlement resolution on Thursday Israel will likely be faced with a rejuvenated boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) effort around the world, Dore Gold said on Thursday.
Gold, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry and ambassador to the UN, said that Israel is struggling with hostile NGOs that want to advance the BDS agenda in Europe.
“What this resolution will do is leave in its wake a number of initiatives in the NGO community that will require governments taking legal measures to restrict the actions of NGOs who really want to advance a boycott and divestment agenda,” he said.
Gold, during a conference call organized by The Israel Project, would not venture a guess whether the US would veto the resolution, as it did in 2011 to a similar resolution.
The resolution is expected to be brought Thursday afternoon to the Security Council by Egypt, which is presently one of 10 rotating members on the 15-body forum. Each of the five permanent members — the US, Russia, China, France and Britain — have veto power.

Analysis: Will Obama use veto to protect Israel at UN?

On Tuesday, December 20, precisely one month before leaving office, US President Barack Obama invoked an obscure 1953 law that gave him authority to announce a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling in the US-controlled Arctic and much of the Atlantic seaboard.
That move should have been noted warily by policy makers in Jerusalem. Because by announcing a permanent ban on offshore drilling, just four weeks before leaving office, he was doing something he knows is adamantly opposed by the incoming Trump administration.
Yet he did it anyway, because he wanted to lock in a legacy on environmental policy. He also knew it would be difficult for President-elect Donald Trump to overturn. Difficult, but not impossible.
Sound familiar?
On Thursday afternoon in New York, the UN Security Council is scheduled to debate an Egyptian resolution that posits that the settlements “have no legal validity” and are a flagrant violation of international law and “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”
The resolution, a bit more mild than a draft the Palestinians themselves circulated in recent weeks, calls not only for Israel to stop all building in the territories and east Jerusalem, but also calls upon the nations of the world to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
The big imponderable at this time is what Obama will do. Will he use America’s veto for only the second time in eight years on the Security Council to protect Israel, or will he – in his final days in office – take out in the UN all his pent-up frustrations with Netanyahu and the settlement enterprise? Just hours before the vote, the White House has given no indication of what it will do. But Obama’s move to cap the offshore drilling must give pause to those hoping that he would not support the resolution, since he knows full well that the Trump administration will not like this move.
If Obama stopped the offshore drilling, knowing Trump is opposed, then there is reason to think that he would let this resolution pass.

Will Palestinians get a Security Council motion passed – and will it matter?

In the waning days of the Obama administration, three countries are eager to propose anti-settlement resolutions at the UN. Our diplomatic correspondent looks at the timing, the math, and the potential significance
Even if an anti-settlement resolution passed, what difference would it make?
In the internal Israeli debate over what could happen at the Security Council in Obama’s last days, very little attention has been given to the question of how much impact an approved resolution would actually have. The answer is quite simple: Not much.
“It won’t change anything immediately,” said Aeyal Gross, a professor of international law at Tel Aviv University, even though — as opposed to decisions taken by the General Assembly — countries are obligated to act according to Security Council resolutions. It is possible that a first resolution might pave the way for another one, which at some point could lead to additional resolutions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which deals with “threat[s] to the peace, breach of the peace, or act[s] of aggression.”
Hypothetically, an anti-settlement resolution passed under this chapter could legitimize sanctions against Israel or even military force, “but this is very unlikely at this point,” Gross said. “Currently, it would amount only to a diplomatic embarrassment.”
According to Baker, the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser, any text that could possibly pass would merely serve as “another point that the Palestinians will try to use in their PR fight against Israel.”
Even previous resolutions on the conflict, such as 242 and 338, were “non-mandatory declarations,” he noted. So it is safe to assume that any possible resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “will just be added to the long list of other UN resolutions that nobody but the Israeli public and the Israeli media takes very seriously.”

Trump calls on Obama to veto UN resolution on Israeli settlements

US President-elect Donald Trump called on the Obama administration Thursday to veto an Egyptian-proposed UN Security Council resolution demanding that Israel immediately halt its settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The call came as a report emerged that outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry indicated to the Palestinian Authority that Washington would not use its veto power, and as Israel was scrambling to head off a possible surprise move by the US in the final days of the Obama administration.
An unnamed Israeli official told the Walla news site that Kerry told a Palestinian delegation to Washington earlier this month that the US would not veto the resolution. Senior PA official Saeb Erakat denied the claim, according to the report.
Kerry was expected to deliver a statement on the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on Thursday afternoon, ahead of the vote taking place later Thursday at the UN Security Council.
Israel’s security cabinet was holding an urgent meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday evening ahead of the expected vote later in the day.

One Ambassador and Two States

But the real issue here is policy.
The two-state solution remains the ideal way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But all too many of those who ritualistically endorse the concept and are appalled at the notion of a skeptic being the ambassador to Israel are unwilling to think seriously about why that scheme hasn’t been put into effect yet. Unlike President Obama and other critics of the Netanyahu government, Friedman rightly understands that the Palestinian refusal to accept peace offers involving statehood is not a minor detail to be ignored or rationalized as his critics have done. It is the real obstacle to peace.
It is an article of faith on the Jewish left that those who are sympathetic to Netanyahu’s government or even the settlement movement—as Friedman is—are somehow opponents of peace. But Friedman’s views reflect an understanding of the reality of the conflict and the views of those who voted for Israel’s government that his critics lack. Israel will, as Netanyahu has repeatedly said, embrace a two-state solution, but only in exchange for real peace rather than a truce that would only extend the conflict on terms that will make Israel less secure.
If Friedman’s appointment signals that Trump intends to cease second-guessing Israel’s sensible refusal to make suicidal concessions and that they will discard the idea that it is America’s duty to save Israel from itself, all friends of Israel should welcome it. The same applies to Friedman’s support for the idea of ending the illogical and damaging American policy of refusing to accept that even West Jerusalem is Israeli territory and the location of its capital. Rather than a sign of extremism, Trump’s tapping of his friend for this post may actually be an indication of a new realism in Washington.

Wall Street Journal Backs Trump on Friedman Pick, Says Moving US Embassy to Jerusalem ‘Won’t Hurt Chances for Peace’

Moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “won’t hurt the chances for peace,” the Wall Street Journal said in an editorial published on Tuesday.
Regarding the media backlash to President-elect Donald Trump’s pick of attorney David Friedman to serve as the next American ambassador to Israel, the Wall Street Journal noted that the 57-year-old litigation and bankruptcy expert’s “main offense seems to be that he is unapologetically pro-Israel — a novelty after eight years of an Obama administration that has mistreated traditional US allies in the Middle East and Europe.”
When his nomination was announced last week, Friedman said in a statement, “I intend to work tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries and advance the cause of peace within the region, and look forward to doing this from the US embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem” — a reference to Trump’s campaign promise to relocate the embassy.
In anti-Friedman editorials published in the days that followed, the New York Times claimed that “such a highly charged symbolic gesture would anger Arabs and undermine peace efforts” and the Washington Post warned of “unexpected and dangerous fallout” from such a move.

Palestinians ‘don’t care’ if US Embassy moves to Jerusalem

While much of the world expresses outrage that the US Embassy may relocate to Jerusalem under President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration, a cross-section of Palestinians outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate on Wednesday expressed overwhelming apathy.
Indeed, more than two dozen Arab passersby of all ages entering or exiting the once volatile east Jerusalem entrance either said they were unaware of the proposal or simply did not care.
Asked his reaction to the possible relocation, Hasan, a Palestinian man in his 60s, who requested his last name not be published, responded: “It does not matter to me. Why should I care about where the US Embassy is located? It does not change my life one bit.”
Fadi Kiswane, 18, who sat with several friends on the stone steps outside the historic gate, said he was unaware where the embassy was currently located.
“The US Embassy is in Tel Aviv?” he asked with genuine incredulity. “And they want to move it to Jerusalem? So what?”

Israeli Official: After Trump Enters White House, Jewish State Should Push for Formal US Recognition of Sovereignty Over Golan

After President-elect Donald Trump enters the White House next month, the Jewish state should push for formal US recognition of its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, an Israeli official said in remarks published by Bloomberg on Wednesday.
“If it weren’t for Israel’s presence [in the Golan], the Syria war would be spilling over to Jordan,” Kulanu MK and Deputy Minister for Public Diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren — a former Israeli ambassador to the US — told Bloomberg. “So Israel’s presence in the Golan is indispensable for Mideast stability.”
Furthermore, Oren pointed out, “There are something like 90 ancient synagogues that have been discovered in Israel, 34 of them in the Golan,” he said. “This was always part of the land of Israel. So let us extend our sovereignty in a formal way.”
An unnamed Israeli Foreign Ministry official quoted by Bloomberg said the ministry was looking into the potential consequences of such a move by the US.
The Golan Heights is a strategic plateau that Israel took control of from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in 1981, in a move that was not recognized internationally.
In April — as reported in The Algemeiner — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his country would never give up the Golan. Past peace talks with Syria — none of which have taken place since the outbreak of the war there five years ago — included proposals for Israeli withdrawals from much of the Golan.

UK Resumes Financial Aid Packages to Palestinian Authority

The Times reports: Britain has resumed a controversial £25 million-a-year aid programme to the Palestinian Authority (PA) after freezing payments amid fears that they were indirectly financing terrorism.
Priti Patel, the international development secretary, stopped aid to the PA in October after claims that money meant for civil servants in the occupied territories was instead being diverted to prisoners who had carried out attacks on Israel.
Cash was reportedly passed from the PA, the body that governs the West Bank and Gaza, to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which in turn gave it to hundreds of convicted prisoners locked up in Israeli jails. Following the reports, which stated that prisoners and the families of prisoners who had died typically received £600 a month, Jewish groups called on the PA aid to be stopped.

Israeli Reporter’s Visit to Tunisia Sparks Arab Social Media Conspiracies

There has been controversy in Tunisia after an Israeli TV reporter visited the country in a bid to trace the origins of Muhamad Alzawari, Hamas’ chief drone engineer who was assassinated over the weekend.
The Tunisian Association of Journalists called on the authorities to launch an investigation into how Moav Vardi, Channel 10’s diplomatic correspondent, was allowed into the country, and who assisted him in compiling his report.
The association said in a statement that Israel is an enemy state with which Tunisia should not normalize relations, and it baselessly claimed that Channel 10 helps the Israeli government cover up its “crimes” against the Palestinians.
Without citing evidence, some on social media claimed that Vardi masqueraded as a correspondent for the Al Jazeera network.
Speaking to Breitbart Jerusalem, Vardi denied using Al Jazeera and he said he felt bad about the way some were trying to turn his professional visit into an issue.
He said the Al Jazeera claims were wrongly made by some “because we showed in our report a quote that the brother of Alzawari gave to Al Jazeera so people think that we used Al Jazeera instruments.”

Douglas Murray: The predictable Muslim ‘good news stories’ have arrived

Since my Tuesday piece on the Berlin attack – when, as the BBC is still saying, a lorry ‘went on a rampage’ in the city – a number of readers have asked if I could give them this week’s lottery numbers. It is true that much of what I predicted has already come true. For instance, I anticipated that by Christmas Day at the very latest a group of Muslims from the incredibly small and very persecuted (by other Muslims) Ahmadiyya sect would pop up at a church in Germany and that the media would report it as ‘Muslims’ doing this. This particular ‘Muslim good news story’ actually happened faster than even I had guessed. Within a few hours of my piece going out, the carcass of what used to be the Independent reported that ‘Berlin’s Muslim community sends message of peace and solidarity after Christmas market attack’. The report when on to recount how:
‘Muslims handing out t-shirts reading “love for all, hate for none” at a vigil in Berlin have said they will not allow the city to become more divided following Monday’s attack on a Christmas market.’
‘Love for all, hate for none’ is an Ahmadiyya campaign. Elsewhere, the solidarity protest was populated by Muslim men wearing T-shirts saying ‘Muslime für Frieden’ (‘Muslims for peace’). I swiftly pointed out on social media that this is an Ahmadiyya group and various people asked how I was so certain about this. There are three reasons. One is that ‘Muslims for peace’ is an Ahmadiyya slogan. Second, Ahmadiyya are the only Muslim group in the world sufficiently bothered by their religion’s connections to violence that they print out pleading T-shirts in advance of terrorist attacks. Thirdly, if you look at the back of the T-shirts in question they direct you to an Ahmadiyya website. So it doesn’t require Sherlock Holmes to deduct these things. It just requires anyone willing to do what journalists used to do and report facts, rather than act like a PR firm employed to address Islam’s growing ‘public relations’ problem.

Israeli woman thought missing following Berlin terror attack found dead

An Israeli woman missing since a terror attack in Berlin, Germany earlier in the week, was identified as one of those killed on Thursday morning.
Dalia Elyakim, vacationing with her husband in the German capital, is believed to have been killed after a truck ploughed into a Berlin Christmas market on Monday evening. Local police said that 12 people were killed overall in the incident.
Elyakim’s husband, Rami, was seriously injured in the incident and remains hospitalized after recovering from surgery.
The Foreign Ministry issued a statement early Thursday morning saying that during the night Elyakim was positively identified as among those killed in the Berlin attack on Monday. The embassy is working, in coordination with the family, to bring the body back to Israel for burial.
Elyakim is expected to be flown to Israel late Thursday night and buried on Friday. Authorities said it took time to identify her body since the truck drove over those killed in the attack.

4 said arrested over Berlin truck attack

Four people have been arrested by German authorities in connection with the truck-ramming attack at a Berlin Christmas market this week that killed 12 and left 48 injured, the German daily Bild reported Thursday.
Germany’s chief federal prosecutor confirmed the arrests, the paper said. It was not immediately clear if the chief suspect, a Tunisian man thought to have driven the truck during the attack, was among those detained.
German authorities issued a wanted notice for Anis Amri on Wednesday and offered a reward of up to €100,000 ($104,000) for information leading to the 24-year-old’s arrest, warning that he could be “violent and armed.”
Amri’s family has urged him to turn himself in.
“I ask him to turn himself in to the police. If it is proved that he is involved, we dissociate ourselves from it,” brother Abdelkader Amri told the Associated Press.
He said Amri may have been radicalized in prison in Italy, where he went after leaving Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Palestinian shot dead throwing bomb at soldiers, army says

A Palestinian was shot dead overnight Wednesday by IDF soldiers in East Jerusalem, with the army saying he was targeted as he threw an improvised explosive device at security forces, during an operation to destroy the home of a terrorist.
An IDF spokesperson said Thursday that during a clash, “suspects threw improvised explosive devices at soldiers, who responded by opening fire,” killing the Palestinian, identified by the Palestinian health ministry as Ahmad al-Kharoubi, 19.
Security forces had arrived in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab to demolish the home of terrorist Mesbah Abu Sabih.
As troops moved in, they came under fire and IEDs were thrown at them by rioters, the IDF said. There were no injuries to security forces.
The destruction of the apartment was carried out by smashing down walls and sealing off entrances and windows.
Sabih, 39, a former resident of al-Ram in the West Bank, killed two Israelis and injured six others when he opened fire on pedestrians near the capital’s Ammunition Hill. He was eventually shot dead in a gun battle with police.
Sabih was reportedly known to Israel Police as a suspected terrorist and member of Hamas for several years. He had previously spent a year in jail for incitement and was due, on the day of the shooting, to report to an Israeli prison to serve a four-month sentence for assaulting a police officer in 2013.

‘Hamas suicide bombing plots in Haifa, Jerusalem foiled by Israel’

Israeli security forces in recent months foiled a Hamas plot to carry out a series of suicide bombing attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced Thursday.
A joint Shin Bet, IDF, and police operation conducted in May through August of this year uncovered the plans devised by some 20 Hamas operatives in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The Hamas ring had recruited four suicide bombers among its ranks, who were instructed to carry explosives on their bodies and conduct potentially-lethal attacks in crowded areas in Jerusalem and Haifa, according to the Shin Bet.

Preempting Knesset vote, Arab MK forgoes immunity

Joint (Arab) List MK Basel Ghattas announced Thursday he would waive his parliamentary immunity, hours before a planned Knesset vote on removing it, paving the way for his arrest on suspicion of smuggling cellphones to Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel.
On Wednesday, 15 members of the Knesset House Committee voted in favor of removing his immunity after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said there was sufficient evidence to charge Ghattas for illegally taking the devices to the prisoners earlier this week.
A special plenary session had been called for 4 p.m. on Thursday — a day on which the plenum does not normally sit — for a final vote that would have officially removed Ghattas’s immunity.
Writing to the Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein before the vote, Ghattas said he would instead opt to remove the immunity on his own, according to the Law of Parliamentary Immunity.

With violence at low, Bethlehem booked with Christmas visitors

Preparations for Christmas are in full swing at the site of Jesus’s birthplace, with Bethlehem shops, hotels and church officials bracing for more visitors than 2015, when violence put a damper on celebrations.
At Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was born, the annual giant Christmas tree covered in gold ornaments is in place.
A handful of Palestinians could be seen taking pictures near the tree on Wednesday while a number of tourists were walking around the city, located a short drive from Jerusalem in the West Bank.
Celebrations in Bethlehem culminate with midnight mass on Christmas eve in the Church of the Nativity.
But beyond that, tens of thousands of tourists are expected to visit sites including Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth over the holidays, tourism officials say.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry said some 120,000 visitors were expected in December, half of them Christians.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Palestinian Security Confiscates Gold, Myrrh From Wise Men Visiting Bethlehem (satire)

A group of dignitaries from the East reported today that on their way to pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews, Palestinian police and security personnel accosted them and took away the gifts they had brought from their kingdoms as tribute to the Christ-child.
Balthazar, Caspar, and Melchior, sages from Persia, India, and Arabia, told reporters that they were on the way to a manger in the town south of Jerusalem when a patrol of Palestinian policemen stopped them and began to search their persons and belongings. The commander of the unit, they claim, refused to identify himself, but ordered the men to hand over whatever valuables they had in their possession, since none had declared them upon entering Palestinian-controlled territory.
Corruption and abuse of power have plagued the various organs of Palestinian internal security since their inception in 1993, and international efforts to improve training and discipline have had limited, if any, effect on the paramilitary groups’ performance. Residents of the Palestinian-administered areas frequently suffer from the venality and thuggery of local Palestinian security personnel. Inquiries to the offices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were not answered.

Islamic State: Gazan suicide bomber targeted Turkish troops

The Islamic State group said Thursday that a man from Gaza was responsible for a deadly suicide attack against Turkish soldiers the day before in northern Syria.
An IS press release identified the man only as the Gazan “Abu Osama.”
A total of 14 Turkish soldiers were killed and 33 wounded in the attack.
It came as the military was backing Syrian rebels seeking to take the town of al-Bab from extremists, the Turkish army said.
IS released an image of the alleged suicide bomber through its media.
The Gaza Strip, a Palestinian coastal enclave bordering Israel and Egypt, is controlled by the Hamas terror group.

House Report: Hezbollah Trafficking Drugs ‘Virtually Unopposed’ in Latin America

Shiite Iran’s narco-jihadist proxy Hezbollah is operating a “virtually unopposed drug trafficking operation” in South America with links to the terrorist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), reports the bipartisan House Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing.
Hezbollah is also involved in money laundering and provides its expertise in the illicit practice to other drug trafficking groups in Latin America, including Los Zetas in Mexico.
“Multiple financial actions by the [U.S.] Treasury Department in recent years have highlighted the ability of Hezbollah, a terrorist group with reputedly sophisticated financial expertise, to exploit the international financial system and move and store illicit assets,” notes the House Financial Services Committee Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing in its report.
“In 2011, Lebanese-Colombian national Ayman Joumaa was indicted in the United States for cocaine trafficking with links to the Mexican Los Zetas group and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds across Latin America, West Africa, and Europe—some portion of which he reportedly reserved as profit to Hezbollah,” it adds.

U.S. Denies Lebanese Army M113 APCs Given to Hezbollah

The United States denied Wednesday an Israeli claim that US-supplied armored vehicles seen being operated by Hezbollah in Syria had been given to the Islamist militia by Lebanon’s official army.
Last month, footage emerged of Hezbollah fighters operating M113 armored personnel carriers in Syria, where the militia — blacklisted by Washington as a terrorist organization — is fighting in support of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
On Wednesday, a senior Israeli military official speaking on condition of anonymity said Israel believes these vehicles were drawn from stocks supplied by Washington to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
But, in Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby said US officials have investigated and do not believe that Lebanon has violated its agreement not to transfer on US-supplied equipment.
“When this allegation was raised in November, the Department of Defense did a structural analysis of the armored personnel carriers in question at that time and concluded that these vehicles were not from the Lebanese Armed Forces. Our assessment remains the same now,” Kirby told AFP.
“As we noted when this first came up, the Lebanese Armed Forces stated publicly that the vehicles depicted online were never part of their equipment roster,” he added.

Iran Gives the Lie to Obama’s Boast

At his valedictory press conference last week, President Obama listed the Iran nuclear deal among his proudest accomplishments. But though the president claimed it “ensured that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon,” he failed to neglect some damning details about the agreement, not the least of which is that all of the restrictions on Tehran’s activity will expire after a decade. But just as important as that is what the Iranians are allowed to do while the pact is in effect. That alarming fact came into focus today after the official Iranian news agency FARS announced that the Islamist state would be putting into service their most advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium.
The Iranians say they will soon be injecting gas into their IR-8 centrifuges. That procedure will mark a vital next step toward making the machines operational, a move that flirts with but may not actually violate the deal. According to the terms of the pact, the Iranians are forbidden from putting the IR-8 into service to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel for a period of ten years. But the crucial loophole that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry allowed into the agreement permits Tehran to carry out advanced nuclear research. And it is through this chink in the supposedly airtight document that Iran is bulldozing its way toward nuclear capability. Putting the IR-8 online will give Iran the capacity to enrich uranium 20 times faster than its old centrifuges.
At the time of the agreement, the Obama administration made much of the idea that Iran was being forced to take many of its centrifuges off line. But they downplayed the fact that Iran was able to keep its most advanced machines and continue work toward building even more powerful centrifuges that would ultimately bring them closer to their nuclear goal.

Iran finalizes $18b deal for 100 planes from Airbus

Airbus and Iran Air finalized Thursday a deal for 100 planes worth more than $18 billion at list prices — a contract that’s potentially a big boost for Iran’s post-sanctions economy.
Under the terms of the deal, which was initially announced in January, Airbus said deliveries are expected to begin early next year.
The contract includes single-aisle A320 and A330 jets and wide-body A350 XWB planes.
As well as further modernizing Iran’s aviation fleet, which has been hobbled by years of sanctions, the deal is a boon to Airbus too as Iran’s flag carrier had finalized a deal for 80 jetliners from US plane maker Boeing Co. — Airbus’ key rival — earlier this month. In addition to providing the planes, Airbus is to help Iran Air with pilot training, assist with airport operations and air traffic management.
The Boeing agreement was the biggest Iran has struck with an American company since the 1979 revolution and US Embassy takeover. The Boeing planes are scheduled to start arriving in 2018.
The deals were made possible after the US and other world powers agreed last year to lift the sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.

Kerry Was So Bad At Negotiating In Syria, He Wasn’t Invited To The Latest Talks

Ambassadors from Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Moscow Tuesday to engage in negotiations regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria, intentionally excluding Secretary of State John Kerry.
No U.S. representative attended the talks, nor was the United Nations invited to attend. The lack of any Western representation is yet another sign that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, his Russian and Iranian allies will have their way in Syria, solidifying another failed attempt on Kerry’s part to seek a diplomatic solution to the problem.
The U.S. Department of State maintained a positive view of the negotiations, despite being left out of them.
“[If the talks] lead to a sense of calm enough in Syria that political talks can resume, then that would be great and that’s what we’d like to see,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby told the New York Times Tuesday. He added a skeptical note, saying that “we have seen repeated promises to a appropriately influence the Assad regime in the right way on the cessations of hostilities and seen those fail.”

PreOccupiedTerritory: I Hate Syrian And Iraqi Kids Even More Than I Hate Other Poor Kids by Santa Claus (satire)

Besides, if trends continue in that part of the world, there won’t be many left in a few decades – certainly not a large number of Christian kids, the ones I’m supposed to show preference. The Islamic State is murdering them or forcibly converting them, Assad is slaughtering or displacing them, and all I have to do is sit back on my sleigh and watch them get slayed. Don’t mind me – my reindeer and I are just passing through on our way to deliver presents to the kids we do like. As you were.
It’s not that I harbor real love for impoverished kids. As my inventory and itinerary demonstrate, my greatest generosity goes to the rich. How often do you see some poor kid get an expensive gift for Christmas? But at least I acknowledge them. You can’t say the same for those little brats in Islamic countries. Who told them to go get born to families in that part of the world? You don’t get my sympathy, let alone my affection, for suffering the consequences of your own moronic decisions.
Fine, it wasn’t their decision. So take it up with their parents. I’m not going to reward the children of people who should know better not to reproduce under the circumstances of the Islamic middle East any more than I’m going to reward anyone who has children they can’t afford. In fact I’m going to reward it less. Suck it, children of the Middle East.
And Merry Christmas.

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