Monday, June 05, 2017

From Ian:

Arab states cut ties to Qatar for backing terror
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt all announced they were cutting ties to Qatar and booting the country from an Arab coalition fighting in Yemen early Monday, amid a deepening fissure between Gulf Arab nations.
The move came to weeks after US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia, calling on Arab and Muslim leaders to fight extremism and terrorism, and isolate Iran.
The dispute between Qatar and the Gulf’s Arab countries started over a purported hack of Qatar’s state-run news agency, running a false story quoting a top official touting relations with Israel and Iran. The crisis has spiraled since.
Bahrain blamed Qatar’s “media incitement, its support for acts of terror and financing for armed groups associated with Iran to carry out subversive attacks and spread chaos” for its decision.
Saudi Arabia followed with an announcement that it too was cutting diplomatic ties to Qatar and it had pulled all Qatari troops from the ongoing war in Yemen.
Seth J. Frantzman: Five reasons why Israel should care about the Qatar crisis
Israel's image in the region likely can improve amid the current developments.
1. It hurts Hamas
Qatar has supported Hamas over the last decade and hosted former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal for the last five years in Doha. In 2012 Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani visited Gaza and pledged hundreds of millions for the Strip. Qatar therefore provided Hamas not only a home in Doha but financial support and diplomatic succor. The new pressure on Qatar has encouraged it to expel Hamas members and will reduce its support for the group. This may also isolate Turkey’s relations with Hamas. Qataris are now focused on which airlines will still fly to the country tomorrow, spending money on the Gaza Strip and hosting Hamas may seem like a liability they don’t need now. Hamas will find itself with even fewer allies which could give Israel leverage to encourage the group to change its ways. More likely, Hamas may lash out against Israel to show its relevance.
2. It brings Israel closer to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf
Israel has shared interests with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in opposing Iran. Because Qatar has supported Hamas, the new crises encourages those states that oppose Qatar to see Israel as a partner against Hamas and against Iran. This relationship has already been quietly growing in recent years, but the crises with Qatar allows writers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to speak out more firmly against Hamas. Saudi's Al Arabiya has showcased interviews with Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot.
3. It shows US influence is back in the region
The background of the current crises was a feeling that US President Donald Trump’s speech to “drive out” terror gave a blank check to local states to act. Under Barack Obama Israel sometimes felt isolated, especially as the US pursued the Iran deal. Now Israel feels that the Americans are back in the region and will stand by their allies.
Iran official blames Trump visit for Qatar rift
The head of Iran’s influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy said the differences between Saudi Arabia and Qatar are the result of US President Donald Trump’s recent visit to the region.
The official IRNA news agency on Monday cited Alaeddin Boroujerdi as saying that the move was predicated by the signing of a major arms deal between the Saudis and the US during Trump’s trip.
“It is not unlikely that we would witness more negative incidents in the region,” in the wake of the deal, he said.
Boroujerdi added that Washington has always made it a policy to establish a rift among Muslim countries. He said: “Intervention of foreign countries, especially the United States, cannot be the solution to regional problems.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia are major rivals in the Middle East, with the two countries backing their respective Shiite and Sunni proxies in a number of regional conflicts, namely Syria and Yemen.

Following Qatar affair, 'Israel is willing to cooperate with Arab countries to fight terror'
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman reacted on Monday afternoon to several Middle Eastern countries' shocking decision to sever ties with Qatar, saying that it served as a great opportunity for Israel to join forces with its neighbors in the battle against Islamic terror.
"Even Arab states understand that the risk to this region is not Israel, bur rather terrorism- this is an opportunity to collaborate," he stated.
Speaking at the Knesset, Liberman said that countries that cut ties with Qatar out of fear of radical Islamic terrorism are actually enabling Israel to reach out to them to cooperate in the fight against terror.
"I think Israel is open to cooperation," the defense minister said. "The ball is in the others' court," he continued, implying that Israel would wait for other Arab countries to reach out to it following their abrupt decision Monday.
Tillerson Break with Qatar by KSA, others won't affect counter-terrorism
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday that they did not expect a decision by some Gulf countries to sever ties with Qatar to affect the fight against terrorism but urged them to address their differences.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism, in an unprecedented breach between the most powerful members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The coordinated move dramatically escalates a dispute over Qatar's support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the world's oldest Islamist movement, and adds accusations that Doha even backs the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran.
"I do not expect that this will have any significant impact, if any impact at all, on the unified - the unified - fight against terrorism in the region or globally," Tillerson told reporters in Sydney after meetings between Australian and US foreign and defense ministers.
Qatar denounces ‘unjustified’ cut of Gulf ties
Qatar on Monday slammed the decisions of three Gulf states to sever ties with it, saying they were “unjustified” and aimed to put Doha under political “guardianship.”
“The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims,” the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement, referring to the unprecedented steps taken by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
“The aim is clear, and it is to impose guardianship on the state. This by itself is a violation of its (Qatar’s) sovereignty as a state,” it added.
The host of soccer’s World Cup 2022 said it has been subjected to an “incitement campaign based on fabrications, which reflects an intention to harm Qatar.”
Former Israeli emissary to Qatar: Hamas wouldn't survive without Doha
Israel's former emissary in Qatar, Eli Avidar, said on Monday that the wealthy Gulf nation was an essential lifeline for Hamas and its terrorist operations.
"Hamas would not be able to survive in the Gaza Strip or fund its wars with Israel without Qatari funding," he told local radio station 103 FM.
Avidar's remarks came hours after several Arab and Muslim states decided to sever ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East.
The decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, with Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives joining in later, created a dramatic rift among the Arab nations, many of which are in OPEC.
Hamas commander involved in kidnap of Israeli teens expelled from Qatar
A Palestinian terrorist believed by Israeli intelligence officials to have planned the kidnap and murder of three Jewish teens in the West Bank in the summer of 2014 has been expelled from Qatar.
Palestinian sources confirmed Monday that the kingdom — now embroiled in a boycott by Saudi Arabia and four other Arab states — asked several top Hamas officials to leave for Lebanon, Turkey and Malaysia.
The sources contradicted Hamas’s denial of the expulsion orders, which were first reported over the weekend by the Lebanese-based Al Mayadeen news channel.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt decided to cut ties with Qatar and boot it out of an Arab coalition fighting in Yemen, claiming that it supported Iran and Islamist terrorism. Yemen joined the boycott on Monday.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Smirking Israel Says Qatar Welcome To Use Her Airspace (satire)
As Arab state after Arab state closes its skies to Qatar’s national carrier amid ratcheting political and diplomatic confrontation, the Jewish State offered to let Qatar Airways fly over its territory en route to destinations in Europe, Africa, and the Americas.
Saudi-Qatar relations have suffered severe breakdown in the last two weeks over the latter’s open support for various terrorist groups. While Qatar’s hosting and bankrolling of Hamas has not proved to be an ideological or political problem for Saudi Arabia until now, increasing tension and rivalry with Iran, combined with a push by American President Donald Trump to repair relations with the Arab world after Obama’s empowerment of Iran, have pushed Saudi Arabia to assert its influence in the Persian Gulf and Middle East at large by demanding that the tiny but prosperous emirate to its east toe a new line when it comes to support for militant Islamists. This morning, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and several other Arab and Muslim states announced it would no longer allow Qatar-flagged flights to overfly them, and a number went so far as to cut off diplomatic relations. Israel, which has no formal relations with Qatar, has now invited them to use Israeli airspace.
“We cannot offer a substitute for cutting across the Arabian Peninsula, but it’s the only gesture we can make at the moment,” explained a spokesman for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “For now, Qatar Airways is forced to fly north into Iran, Iraq, and then Jordan or Turkey in order to reach the Mediterranean, Europe, and North Africa. By flying over Israel, the Qatari jets may shorten their trips to parts of the Mediterranean by hundreds of kilometers.”
NY Post Editorial: Trump’s postponed promise on Israel
President Trump has just gotten another lesson in the perils of overpromising during a campaign, disappointing supporters of Israel by declining to move the US embassy there to Jerusalem.
Trump, like the three presidents before him, last week signed a six-month waiver of the 1995 law that requires moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s declared capital.
What made the decision problematic was that Trump had vowed repeatedly to make the move “fairly quickly” — even assuring an Israeli reporter the night before his inauguration: “I am not a person who breaks promises.”
But with Jordan’s King Abdullah II insisting the move would bolster extremists, especially in his country, Trump seems to have changed his mind — for now, anyway.
That would appear to be the clearest reversal yet of a major Trump campaign promise. But the White House quickly declared that his commitment to moving the embassy remains intact: “The question is not if that move happens, but only when.”
That’s good to hear: No other sitting president has made the same pledge, despite what they promised as candidates.
Nikki Haley: Trump sees embassy move as part of the peace process
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said on Sunday that President Donald Trump regards the question of the American Embassy’s location in Israel as constituting part of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
“I think that he knows that it could be very much a part of the peace process,” she told CNN. “What he did want to do was make sure that he wasn’t interrupting the negotiations that are happening with the peace process.”
Last week, Trump formally delayed — at least for now — his campaign pledge to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital.
He signed a waiver on Thursday that defers a Congressional mandate to relocate the embassy. The 1995 law provides the US president with the prerogative to postpone the move on national security grounds. Each of Trump’s three immediate predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — repeatedly exercised that right.
Democrats blast Trump's embassy delay
Several top Democratic lawmakers from New York State slammed US President Donald Trump for his decision to sign the waiver delaying the relocation of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Israel's capital, Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Trumped signed the waiver delaying the embassy move last Thursday, June 1.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said: "As someone who believes that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel, I am deeply disappointed in President Trump’s decision.”
He "Will those who criticized president Obama for not moving the embassy make their voices just as loud and just as strong when it comes to President Trump’s failure to move the embassy?”
Congressman Elliot Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said that Trump's campaign promise to move the embassy was the only issue he had agreed with the president on. "The one campaign promise I hoped President Trump would keep was to move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But like much of what he said during the campaign, that, too, was a lot of bluster and is now another example of the president sending mixed and confusing signals to our friends around the world.”
"It just doesn’t make sense that our embassy in a closely allied country isn’t in the same city as the government with which we need to work so closely,” he added.

David Singer: Trump Should Move Pollard to Jerusalem
Trump's friendship would be confirmed were he to commute Pollard's life sentence and harsh parole conditions to enable Pollard's move to Jerusalem,
Pollard – an intelligence analyst with the US Government – received his life sentence for passing classified information to an American ally – Israel. No other American has received such a crushing sentence.
Pollard – released in 2015 after serving 30 years penal servitude – was placed on harsh parole conditions requiring him to wear an electronic tracking device, obey a curfew and allow his computers to be monitored. He must remain in the United States until November 2020.
Pollard's appeal to relax his parole conditions was recently rejected.
Pollard's treatment can be contrasted to that meted out to Bradley (now known as Chelsea) Manning – who leaked more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks in 2010 whilst serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq,
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January – three days before vacating the White House – from 35 years to just over 7 years, the majority of which Manning had already served. Trump said Manning should never have been released from prison.
Manning was freed from federal custody on May 17th.
Why A Two-State Solution Is Meaningless Until Palestinian Leaders Accept Israel's Right To Exist
The Jewish state has the right to exist; Palestinian leaders believe otherwise. That's why there's no peace. Despite this basic truth, the world consistently condemns Israel as if Netanyahu and the Israeli people are at fault in this conflict.
Let's set this very real situation aside and construct an alternate reality.
It's 1940's Germany, and the Nazis are doing everything they can to exterminate the Jews. The world community puts forward a fix — a two-state solution in which Germany is divided. The Jews and the Nazis would each have their own territory.
Does that sound insane? It should. The Nazis wanted to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth; the leaders and members of Hamas want the same thing. The only difference is that Hamas lacks the might and geopolitical prowess that Nazi Germany had. Were Hamas in a position of power, they wouldn't hesitate to annihilate Israel.
The addendum to their charter means nothing as long as the original chatter stands, and they continue to feed their children hatred and shoot rockets into Israel.
Armed struggle OK alongside diplomacy — Abbas adviser
Armed struggle can be waged in parallel to diplomacy, a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a television interview last week.
Nabil Shaath, a former negotiator for the Palestinians who now serves as the Fatah party’s international relations commissioner, told an interviewer on the Palestinian Awda television channel that he had “never thought that there was any problem with engaging in armed struggle, and at the same time engaging in political and diplomatic efforts in support of your cause,” according to the Middle East Media Research Institute’s TV monitoring project.
He said the Palestinians had an “indisputable” right to take part in armed struggle.
Despite the fact that surveys show widespread support for armed struggle on the Palestinian street, Abbas has made diplomacy the focus of his efforts to achieve Palestinian independence.
'UN has changed since Trump's inauguration'
The United Nations is beginning to change – for the better – says Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.
Ambassador Danon marched at the annual Celebrate Israel Day parade in Manhattan Sunday, joining Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, and tens of thousands of marchers streaming down Fifth Avenue.
Arutz Sheva spoke with Danon during the parade about the UN, its infamous anti-Israel bias, and the prospects for changing that bias with President Trump in the White House.
"We see the winds of change at the UN,” said Danon. “We are very happy to see Ambassador Haley coming to the UN and supporting Israel directly. I'm also very happy to fly tonight to Israel... to accompany her on her first visit to Israel. We will show her everything."
Since President Trump took office in January, Danon claimed, there has been a significant shift at the United Nations, a change that has been clearly to Israel’s benefit.
"We are very happy to see a change at the UN with the new administration."

Will US withdraw from UN rights forum over 'anti-Israel bias'?
The United States is expected to signal on Tuesday that it might withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council unless reforms are ushered in including the removal of what it sees as an "anti-Israel bias," diplomats and activists said.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who holds cabinet rank in President Donald Trump's administration, said last week Washington would decide on whether to withdraw from the Council after its three-week session in Geneva ends this month.
Under Trump, Washington has broken with decades of US foreign policy by turning away from multilateralism. His decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement last week drew criticism from governments around the world.
The Council's critical stance of Israel has been a major sticking point for its ally the United States. Washington boycotted the body for three years under President George W. Bush before rejoining under Barack Obama in 2009.
American UN ambassador to visit Jerusalem’s Old City
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is due to visit the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, this week.
Haley, one of the Trump administration’s most staunchly pro-Israel officials, is scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning at Ben Gurion Airport for her first visit to the Jewish state since taking office in January. During her three-day stay, she is set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin as well as with senior Palestinian dignitaries.
She is also expected to go to Tel Aviv, visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, and take helicopter rides to Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip and the its northern border.
“We’re happy to host in our country a true friend of Israel,” Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, said in a statement. “Haley has been standing with Israel for many years now, and especially since she arrived at the UN. Her important visit is an opportunity to present to her our country and the joint challenges that stand before us.”
According to a press release, Danon will accompany Haley throughout the visit, but her expected visit to various sites in the Old City of Jerusalem is billed as private, which means that no Israeli officials will accompany her.
Pacific Island Nation Vanuatu Is Latest Country to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital
The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has become the latest country to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Israel Hayom reported on Thursday.
Vanuatu’s decision follows UNESCO’s vote last month to deny Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Later in May, the Czech Parliament approved a resolution recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and condemning recent anti-Israel measures passed by UNESCO. In addition to May’s resolution, the United Nations cultural body last year passed two resolutions denying the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount.
During a recent meeting between Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale and the nation’s honorary consul to Israel, the issue of UNESCO came up. Lonsdale, an evangelical Christian with a strong connection to Israel, later signed a document stating Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital and blasting UNESCO’s early-May vote.
Vanuatu is an 83-island archipelago situated between Australia and Fiji, with a population of about 300,000. Tibor Shalev Schlosser serves as Israel’s ambassador to Vanuatu and to other Pacific island nations, and Vanuatu has an honorary consulate in Israel.
In April, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement recognizing western Jerusalem — but not the entire city — as Israel’s capital.
World losing patience but won’t retreat from 2-state deal, ex-US envoy says
The international community of governments is unlikely to ever drop its near-universal support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but opinion on the street may shift toward backing a single Jewish-Palestinian state as the world grows tired of the moribund peace process, Washington’s former ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said this week.
Speaking at panel discussion on the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War Sunday, Shapiro also warned that the Jewish state could miss a historic opportunity to normalize relations with the Arab world if it failed to make progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state. In case of a regime change in Iran, moderate Arab states might no longer feel the need to strategically align with Israel and will be less likely to offer normalized relations, he cautioned.
Shapiro told the conference, co-organized by the Israel Democracy Institute and the Institute for National Security Studies, that support for a two-state solution wouldn’t fade even if the current stalemate lasted decades longer.
“The international community is so accustomed to the pursuit of the goal of two states that that is going to remain the overarching principle,” Shapiro said at. “And that’s going to be true even though more and more doubts are creeping into the international community’s discussions about whether a two-state solution is, or will ever be, possible.”
Bethlehem, the capital of Palestine
The world is myopic in declaring Jerusalem’s Temple Mount site Islamic, and the Western Wall, the retaining wall supporting the Temple Mount, as not a part of Israel.
Palestinians demand that Jerusalem should be their capital. They seem to have support from a hesitant Trump administration.
I have a solution to the impasse.
Let Bethlehem be their capital.
They insist on telling the world how much they care for the birthplace of Jesus, whom they call “a Palestinian messenger.” They claim to care for Christianity, even as Bethlehem’s Christian population shrinks from an overwhelming majority in 1995, when Israel gifted the prosperous town to Yasser Arafat in a peace gesture, to less than 12% today.
They allege that this Christian flight from Bethlehem was caused by Israel’s security barrier. But isn’t it strange that the Muslim population increased during the same period? Their propaganda makes the barrier into an ethnic-cleansing, anti-Christian wall. Nonsense.
According the Israeli statistics, Bethlehem’s population grew from 14,439 in 1967 to over 27,000 today.
It’s only the demographics that have changed. Far less Christians, far more Muslim, and far more radical Hamas influence.
France's Macron lends support to possible first Jewish UNESCO chief
France has stepped up a campaign to promote the candidacy of a former culture minister who may become the first Jewish head of UNESCO, an organization which last month voted to disavow Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Audrey Azoulay is one of nine candidates running for the post of director-general of the United Nations organization, which could make her the second woman and second French citizen to ascend to that post.
French President Emmanuel Macron met with Azoulay this past week to strategize for the October race, when UNESCO’s 58-member executive board chooses the organization’s next leader for a four-year term.
JPost Editorial: Staying in Africa
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Liberia on Sunday to address the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
It was the first time a non-African leader addressed the gathering, a clear sign of warming ties between the Jewish state and the African continent, and Netanyahu’s second trip to Africa in less than a year. Last July, he traveled to four East African countries – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia – for the first visit by a sitting Israeli prime minister to Africa in 29 years.
Much of the news surrounding the one-day trip has focused on the king of Morocco’s cancellation in protest against Netanyahu’s presence. But the very fact that Netanyahu was invited to speak before the representatives of the 13 African countries that make up ECOWAS is nothing short of extraordinary. Apparently, Israel is important enough that organizers were willing to take the risk of inviting Netanyahu despite the possibility that some African countries might protest.
Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo have official ties with Israel. Niger and Mali do not.
Israel expects change in UN voting patterns, Netanyahu says after Africa trip
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned Monday morning from less than 12 hours in Liberia, stating that his appearance at the 15 member ECOWAS summit opened numerous doors for Israel in Africa.
Netanyahu met with 10 African leaders one after the next until his plane left Liberia at 8 p.m. Sunday, meeting each for about 30 minutes.
Netanyahu told reporters on the plane on the way back to Israel that in each of the meetings he told the African leaders that Israel expected a change in their voting patterns in international forums.
He said this would take some time but the trend was "in the right direction."
The prime minister said it was significant that the doors were opening to Israel in countries in Sub-Saharan West Africa, in countries with majority or large Muslim populations.
With $1b Africa deal, Israel’s solar power exports eclipse local usage
An Israeli company will oversee $1 billion worth of solar field projects in Africa, harnessing the power of the sun, even as Israel itself struggles to bring its own plans for large solar fields online.
The massive deal to install the solar panels is part of an agreement that came out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to Liberia to attend the Economic Community of West African States on Sunday.
Jerusalem-based Energiya Global’s deal will start with a $20 million solar field next to Liberia’s main airport producing 10 megawatts of power, and eventually expand to other ECOWAS countries, though further fields are still in the preliminary planning stages.
Energiya Global CEO Yossi Abramowitz, who was in Liberia with Netanyahu and was part of Israel’s negotiating team for the COP21 Paris Climate Accords, said Israel’s legacy of bureaucracy and its struggling infrastructure mean that the deals Energiya Global is inking with African countries will put those countries ahead of Israel in terms of percentage of renewable energy consumption.
Israel extends expanded Gaza fishing zone for two more weeks
Israel on Monday extended for another two weeks the expanded Mediterranean fishing zone granted for Palestinian fisherman living in the Gaza Strip.
Last month, Israel eased restrictions imposed by its naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip by allowing Palestinian fishermen to travel up to nine nautical miles off the coast, instead of the previous six.
Fishing is the second biggest income-earner in the coastal territory, generating NIS 6 million ($1.7 million) each year, and the zone extension is expected to allow fisherman to bump that figure by an additional NIS 1 million ($280,000), the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli government agency that oversees Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, said in a statement.
The fishing season reaches its height in May and June.
Report Palestinian Authority halts payments to 250 Hamas-linked prisoners freed by Israel
Hamas-linked media reported on Monday that the Palestinian Authority had stopped paying salaries to some 250 Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli jails due to their affiliation with the Gaza-based terrorist group.
The report by Hamas organ al-Risalah allegedly cited a PA source who said the former prisoners facing stipend cuts from the Palestinian Authority were residents of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem and all associated with Hamas.
In line with the move, reportedly spurred by the internal Palestinian feud, the PA also stopped providing funds to five Palestinians currently serving time in Israeli prisons.
In response to the reported development, Hamas spokesperson Abd al Rahman Shahid said the Islamist movement's body responsible for overseeing prisoners would review all the suspended salaries.
JCPA: Question of the Day: Did the Palestinian Authority Really Cut Off Payments to Terrorist Prisoners?
It sounds true to me. Today, the PA’s relations with Hamas are strained. The Authority has taken various steps against Hamas and Gaza, such as refusing to pay their electricity bill and the salaries of their employees. In addition, Iran and Qatar have just committed to help Hamas financially, so why should the PA pay too? Above all, the PA can use this to ease the pressure from President Trump. Appeasing Trump is so important that Jibril Rajoub, a senior Palestinian politician and contender to succeed Mahmoud Abbas, said on Israeli Channel 2 that they are ready to permit Jewish sovereignty over the Western Wall.
What do we learn from all of this?
We see that pressure works: the U.S. Congress’ Taylor Force Act and Netanyahu’s insistence forced President Trump to put pressure on Abbas, and the PA reacted positively to it. We should pressure the PA even more to force them to take real steps and make sure that they comply with these minimal steps that they would have taken anyhow.
Hamas Leader Heads to Egypt for Rare Talks
Hamas’s newly chosen leader in the Gaza Strip on Sunday traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian security officials, in the first high-level meeting between the sides in months, a Hamas official said.
The delegation left through the Rafah border crossing, which was opened Sunday for the group to cross. The border is mostly closed for the 2 million residents of Gaza, part of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade. Israel and Egypt have enforced the blockade, citing security reasons, since the Hamas terror group seized control of Gaza a decade ago.
Salah Bardaweel, a Hamas spokesman, said the delegation will discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza under the blockade, Egypt’s role in improving conditions and the need to open Rafah crossing for Palestinian travelers.
Bardaweel said the three-member delegation was led by Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s newly chosen leader in Gaza, the group’s stronghold. Sinwar, a member of the terror group’s military wing, is second in rank only to the new supreme leader, Ismail Haniyeh, who also is based in Gaza.
Hamas and Egypt have had cool relations since Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown by the military in 2013. Morsi came from Hamas’ parent group, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Jordan Intensifies Anti-Israel Rhetoric Despite Security Challenges
Jordan, a country that has had a formal peace treaty with Israel since 1994, has seen an uptick in anti-Israel hostility.
Last month, Jordan condemned the killing of a Jordanian-Palestinian attacker who was filmed stabbing an Israeli policeman multiple times before he was shot, calling it “a heinous crime.” Last September, Israeli police killed a Jordanian tourist who attacked Israelis with a knife. Jordan described this act of self-defense as a premeditated and “barbaric act of the army of the Israeli occupation.”
Israeli analysts currently disagree about whether Jordan’s rhetoric is a cause for concern.
Since the second Palestinian Intifada broke out in 2000, Jordan’s public statements often contradict private behavior, says Elad Ben-Dror, a Bar-Ilan University Middle Eastern Studies senior lecturer. Publicly, “the Jordanian parliament and press are fierce in their denunciation of Israel. … Beneath the surface, however, there is a strong link and security cooperation between the two countries, especially with regard to the war on terrorism.”
Jordanian demographics drive the public vitriol, said Tel Aviv University Contemporary Middle Eastern History Chair Eyal Zisser. Palestinians comprise half the Jordanian population, “and because the population is conservative and very much Islamic, the regime lets the public…express anti-Israeli sentiments as a way to vent and reduce…pressure on the regime.”
So “cheap shots” like condemning the shooting of a terrorist in the act of trying to kill are “aimed at showing the Palestinians in Jordan [that] the Hashemites have not abandoned them,” said Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies. “The King expects the Israeli government” to ignore such statements. And for the most part, Jerusalem does.
Jordan Debating ‘Wonder Woman’ Screening After Lebanon Ban
The Jordanian Censor Mohammad Quteishat, a.k.a. the Jordan Media Commission is yet to permit the screening of “Wonder Woman” film in Jordan, the state-owned news agency Petra reported on Friday.
Quteishat said the commission is reviewing each of the movie’s scenes to see if they comply with local standards. He warned that theaters that screen the film before the commission approves it would be closed. He denied strongly the rumors of rogue screenings in Amman and Irbid.
One key standard the censor is checking has to do with the lead star, Israeli born Gal Gadot, who has shared her IDF service (after graduating high school) with the planetary press.
His Majesty King Abdullah II’s favorite newspaper, The Jordan Times, interviewed nineteen-year-old Ammar Jumaa, who said the movie “should be banned,” seeing as the main character “supports the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
If it does, then this would be the coolest super hero movie ever – but of course she didn’t mean the character, Wonder Woman, but the gorgeous Jewess playing her.
IAEA report: Iran honoring nuclear deal but nearing violation
Iran has stayed within the limits of the nuclear activities imposed by its 2015 deal with world powers but is close to once again breaching a ceiling on its stock of one chemical, a quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency showed Friday.
The report was the second since the January inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has called the pact between six powers and Iran "the worst deal ever negotiated" and branded Tehran an enemy, in contrast with his predecessor Barack Obama.
Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium as of May 27 was 79.8 kilograms (175.5 pounds), well below a 202.8-kilogram (446-pound) limit, and the level of enrichment did not exceed a 3.67% cap, the IAEA said in a confidential report seen by Reuters.
"Everything is running smoothly at this point in time," one senior diplomat said, referring to Iranian compliance with the restrictions of the deal.
Obtaining enough highly enriched uranium or plutonium is the biggest hurdle to producing a nuclear weapon. The 2015 deal aimed to extend the time Iran would need to build an atomic bomb, if it chose to do so, from a few months to a year. Weapons-grade uranium has an enrichment level of around 90%.
Iran Developing Advanced Nuclear Capabilities, Reducing Time to Weapon
Iran is believed to be developing advanced nuclear-related capabilities that could significantly reduce the time it needs to build a deliverable nuclear weapon, according to statements by Iranian officials that have fueled speculation among White House officials and nuclear experts that the landmark accord has heightened rather than reduced the Islamic Regime's nuclear threat.
The head of Iran's nuclear program recently announced the Islamic Republic could mass produce advanced nuclear centrifuges capable of more quickly enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon. Work of this nature appears to violate key clauses of the nuclear agreement that prohibits Iran from engaging in such activity for the next decade or so.
The mass production of this equipment "would greatly expand Iran's ability to sneak-out or breakout to nuclear weapons capability," according to nuclear verification experts who disclosed in a recent report that restrictions imposed by the Iran deal are failing to stop the Islamic Republic's nuclear pursuits.
The latest report has reignited calls for the Trump administration to increase its enforcement of the nuclear deal and pressure international nuclear inspectors to demand greater access to Iran's nuclear sites.
Hezbollah commander's death in Iraq overshadows Mideast, Israel
On Friday, the UK-based website Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported that a source close to Hashd al-Shaabi (PMU), a collection of Shi’ite militias affiliated with the Iraqi government, had said a Hezbollah commander was killed fighting against Islamic State in Iraq.
According to the report, Abdul Hamid Mahmoud Shri was killed alongside four other Shia fighters near Ba’aj by a suicide bomber. Shri’s body was flown via Najaf to Beirut.
“This is the third Hezbollah [member] killed in Iraq battles this year... the Iraqi government continues to deny the participation of Hezbollah elements in battles for Mosul,” the website noted.
The death of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters in Iraq would mark an escalation in Iran’s role in Iraq and its ability to knit together Shi’ite militias aligned with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. It is more evidence that Hezbollah, which is already a major military force in Lebanon and Syria, and has tentacles in Africa and South America, is expanding its influence to Iraq.

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