Monday, March 05, 2018

From Ian:

Jose Maria Aznar and Stephen Harper: The World Must Unite to Stop Iran - WSJ
Google Link: The World Must Unite to Stop Iran
The Israeli military was forced last month to engage an Iranian drone launched into Israeli airspace from Syria. There will be more such incidents if Tehran is permitted to continue projecting force throughout the Middle East. North America and Europe must join Israel in stopping Iran.

Iran is a revolutionary theocratic state committed to spreading religious extremism throughout the Islamic world. It projects political and military power from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and Red Seas. To support its ambition, Iran has illegally pursued nuclear weapons and fought wars using terrorist proxies.

Iran's leaders have threatened Israel time and again with total destruction, and now, Iranian power has arrived at Israel's border.

The first objective must be to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The Friends of Israel Initiative, of which we are members, has always maintained that, rather than preventing Iran's nuclear ambitions, the 2015 nuclear agreement gave the regime a road map to achieving them.

Predictions that the agreement would de-escalate tensions and improve cooperation have proved wrong. Since signing the agreement, Iran's aggression and hostility have increased.

But fixing the agreement and stopping Iran from going nuclear would not eliminate the threat. The U.S. and its allies must also roll back Iran's aggression and influence throughout the Middle East. If left unchecked, Iran's aggression will ultimately threaten Europe and North America as well.

Mr. Aznar is a former prime minister of Spain. Mr. Harper is a former prime minister of Canada.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar: Why do the Arabs hate the Palestinians so?
Today, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are supported by Iran, the country abhorred by many Arabs who remember that airplane hijacking and the ensuing blackmail were invented by the Palestinian Arabs who hijacked an El Al plane to Algiers in 1968, fifty years ago, beginning a period of travail still being endured by the entire world.

Despite the 1989 Taaf agreement that ended the civil war in Lebanon and was supposed to lead to the de-weaponization and dissolution of all the Lebanese militias, Syria allowed Hezbollah to keep its arms and to develop its military power unrestrainedly. The repeated excuse was that the weapons were meant to "liberate Palestine" and would not be aimed at the Lebanese. To anyone with a modicum of brains, it was clear that the Palestine story was a fig leaf covering the sad truth that the weapons were going to be aimed at Hezbollah's Syrian and Lebanese enemies. "Palestine" was simply an excuse for the Shiite takeover of Lebanon.

Worst of all is the Palestinian demand that Arab countries refrain from any relations with Israel until the Palestinian problem is solved to the satisfaction of the PLO and Hamas leaders. However, a good portion of the Arab world cannot find any commonalities that could unite the PLO and Hamas. They have given up on achieving an internal Palestinian reconciliation, watching the endless squabbles ruin any chances of progress regarding Israel. To sum up the situation, the Arab world – that part of it which sees Israel as the only hope in dealing with Iran – is not happy at the expectation that it must mortgage its future and its very existence to the internal fighting between the PLO and Hamas.

And let us not forget that Egypt and Jordan have signed peace agreements with Israel, have moved outside the circle of war for the "liberation of Palestine" and have forsaken their Palestinian Arab "brothers," leaving them to deal with the problem on their own.

Much of the Arab and Muslim world is convinced that the "Palestinians" do not want a state of their own. After all, if that state is established, the world will cease to donate those enormous sums, there will be no more "refugees" and the Palestinian Arabs will have to work like everyone else. How can they do that when they are all addicted to receiving handouts without any strings attacked?

One can say with assurance, that 70 years after the creation of the "Palestinian problem," the Arab world has realized that there is no solution that will satisfy those who have turned "refugee-ism" into a profession, so that the "Palestinian problem" has become an emotional and financial scam that only serves to enrich the corrupt leaders of Ramallah and Gaza.
PMW: Fatah: Murder of 10 was “one of the most famous operations”
In a video posted on Facebook, Abbas' Fatah party takes pride in the murder of 10 Israelis. The video glorifies a terror attack carried out by terrorist Thaer Hammad in 2002, who shot and murdered 3 Israeli civilians and 7 soldiers one by one with a sniper rifle from a hilltop in Wadi Al-Haramiya between Ramallah and Nablus.

The video presents the attack as a successful mission and the terrorist murderer as a heroic agent:


"Date: Monday, March 3, 2002
Location: Wadi Al-Haramiya
The one who carried it out:
Thaer Kayed Hammad, from Silwad near Ramallah, born in 1980
Target: The Israeli army checkpoint in Wadi Al-Haramiya
Weapon used: A World War II M-1 rifle
At 04:30, Thaer set out in the direction of the checkpoint.
At 06:00, he fired the first bullet.
There were 6 soldiers at the checkpoint, and he killed them.
He hit them one after the other.
Thaer killed another 5 at the checkpoint, so the number rose to 11 (sic., he murdered 10 - 3 civilians and 7 soldiers).
After reaping the soldiers and settlers, his rifle blew up.
He fired just 24-26 bullets, and quietly left the place.
The operation lasted 20 minutes.
Thaer was arrested 20 months after he carried out the operation.
Thaer is serving 11 life sentences.
The Wadi Al-Haramiya operation
is one of the most famous operations carried out by the Palestinian resistance in the second Intifada.
Fatah TV production Montage: Ali Fa'our"

[Facebook page of the Fatah Movement - Bethlehem Branch, Feb. 10, 2018]

Hammad is serving 11 life sentences for these murders.



On eve of Netanyahu-Trump talks, AIPAC chief calls for Palestinian statehood
While Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu no longer endorses full statehood for the Palestinians, and the Trump administration has grudgingly said it would support a two-state solution if the two sides agreed to it, the head of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC on Sunday launched an impassioned plea for Palestinian statehood and for holding on to belief in the possibility of peace.

In remarks liable to anger hawkish Israeli politicians and their American supporters, including portions of the AIPAC membership, the lobby’s Executive Director Howard Kohr issued an explicit call for “two states for two peoples” and said it was “tragic” that this scenario currently seems so distant.

He blamed the Palestinian leadership for avoiding direct talks, and also said Israel needed peace with all of its neighbors.

Addressing 18,000 attendees at AIPAC’s annual police conference in Washington, the lobby’s veteran leader highlighted what he said were warming relations between Israel and various Arab countries, and said those emerging relationships were “a force for moderation” and constituted “a message to the Palestinian leadership that a bright future is possible when you finally put aside generations of hatred and choose to live side by side in peace with the Jewish state of Israel.”
Settler leader to AIPAC: Your support for two-states has ‘no basis in fact’
In a combative letter to the leadership of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent in the midst of its policy conference in Washington, a top settler leader blasted Monday the positions of the US’ most powerful Israel lobby as having “no basis in fact.”

Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan took particular issue with AIPAC’s support for the two-state solution, asserting that the group was inaccurately claiming it to be the end-game to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that it had support from both Washington and Jerusalem.

“This assumption has no basis in fact,” Dagan wrote in his letter addressed to AIPAC top brass, including president Lillian Pinkus and executive director Howard Kohr.

“The official government of Israel guidelines… contain not one word or even hint of support for the ‘two-state solution,'” he said of the coalition agreements signed after the 2015 elections that for the first time omitted any reference to the peace process.

The settler leader said that while the US National Security Strategy under former president Barack Obama had expressed support for two states, the platform published by the Trump administration in December made no mention of the proposal.
Echoing settler leader, Likud MKs blast AIPAC’s two-state support
Echoing the message of a top settler leader, Likud lawmakers called on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to drop its support for the two-state solution in a storm of Monday statements.

In remarks liable to anger hawkish Israeli politicians and their American supporters, including portions of the AIPAC membership, the lobby’s Executive Director Howard Kohr on Sunday issued an explicit call for “two states for two peoples” and said it was “tragic” that this scenario currently seems so distant. “We must all work toward that future: two states for two peoples. One Jewish with secure and defensible borders, and one Palestinian with its own flag and its own future,” said Kohr.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely implored the pro-Israel lobby and American Jewry more broadly to “change the record with respect to many basic understandings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Praising the Trump administration’s ability to “think anew” on the issue, Hotovely, speaking to Army Radio interview, called on Jews in the US to do the same.

The deputy foreign minister argued that Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip proved the principles behind the two-state solution to be a failure. “The entire international preoccupation with the Gaza issue stems, among other things, from the fact that there was no understanding there that the two-state solution ultimately leads us to a reality of more and more terrorism, she argued.

Some two-state advocates, however, contend that Israeli withdrawals must be part of a broader agreement with the Palestinians, as opposed to the 2005 Gaza pullout, which was carried out unilaterally.
In AIPAC debut, Gabbay slams settlements, touts demilitarized Palestinian state
The leader of the Zionist Union opposition party, Avi Gabbay, made his debut speech at the pro-Israel US lobby AIPAC’s policy conference in Washington DC Sunday, calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state, disavowing “remote” West Bank settlements, and slamming Palestinian discourse for having “anti-Semitic” traits.

In an apparent attempt to differentiate himself from Prime Minister Netanyahu who has largely avoided talk of peace efforts in recent years, Gabbay expressed support for the two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, stressing that Israel “must separate” from the Palestinians.

“My parents left a Muslim-majority country to be part of a Jewish-majority country,” he said. “And I will honor the difficult path they took, I will honor their dream by working for a safe, secure democratic Israel, alongside a demilitarized state for the Palestinian people.”

To achieve peace, Gabbay said both Israel and the Palestinians must build trust by changing key damaging policies.

“First, the Palestinian incitement must end immediately,” he noted. “Because it has anti-Semitic elements, because it leads to terror attacks, and because it moves the Israeli public away from peace. And part of ending the incitement is ending the incentives — the Palestinian Authority must stop paying their terrorists.”

The Palestinian Authority has drawn fury from Israel and the US for giving monthly stipends to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails — including perpetrators of terror attacks. Israel claims this policy incentivizes further attacks.

Gabbay, however, also criticized the Israeli government over construction of unrecognized outposts in the West Bank, which he described as an obstacle to peace.
WATCH: Pro-Palestinian protesters in DC as AIPAC holds its conference
Pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets of Washington, DC on Sunday as the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) kicks off its annual three day conference in the nation's capital.

AIPAC is a powerful pro-Israel lobby with a stated mission to 'strengthen, protect and promote the US-Israel relationship in ways that enhance the security of the United States and Israel.'

The protesters called for by several human rights and activist groups chanted calling for 'an end to the occupation' and 'freedom for Palestine.'
Guatemala president tells AIPAC he’ll move embassy to Jerusalem in May
Guatemala’s president told the AIPAC Policy Conference on Sunday night that he will move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem in May, and that the relocation will take place two days after the United States moves its embassy to the holy city, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

“In May of this year, we will celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary, and under my instructions two days after the US will move its embassy, Guatemala will return and permanently move its embassy to Jerusalem,” President Jimmy Morales told a crowd of more than 18,000 gathered in the nation’s capital for the annual confab.

“This decision strongly evidences Guatemala’s continued support of Israel,” he went on. “And we are sure that many other countries will follow in our steps.”

In 1959, Guatemala was the first country to open its embassy in Jerusalem, but later moved it to Tel Aviv following international rejection of Israeli claims to East Jerusalem.
Palestinians pan Guatemala’s ‘dangerous and provocative’ embassy move
A top Palestinian official on Monday condemned Guatemala’s “dangerous and provocative” announcement that it would relocate its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales had “partnered with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump in violating international law and undermining the chances of peace.”

She called on the global community to “intervene and hold the Israeli occupation and its partners to account for such flagrant violations and provocative actions that fuel the flames in an already volatile situation.”

Morales told the AIPAC Policy Conference on Sunday night that he would move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, and that the relocation is due to take place two days after the United States moves its own embassy to the holy city, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

“In May of this year, we will celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary, and under my instructions two days after the US will move its embassy, Guatemala will return and permanently move its embassy to Jerusalem,” Morales said in Washington.
Sen. Todd Young: Palestinian Authority-supplied textbooks for UNRWA schools “promote violence and support martyrdom”
On Tuesday February 27 Senator Todd Young (R-IN) expressed outrage over the schoolbooks used by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) to teach free-of-charge basic education to the children of Palestinians designated as refugees across the West Bank, Gaza, east Jerusalem, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Sen. Young’s critical remarks came during a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing for Kevin Edward Moley, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.

This brief 2-minute interchange last week between Sen. Young, who chaired the session, and Kevin Moley is very informative, substantial and well worth watching.

It shows that a new study of the pervasive radicalization in the UNRWA school curriculum, recently released by the Jerusalem-based research and policy organization IMPACT-se (Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education), is beginning to generate a long overdue challenge of UNRWA’s educational work.

In a recent post, we reviewed the IMPACT-se report, New Palestinian Authority textbooks teach “martyrdom as a life goal”.

As we highlighted, the study shows how a new Palestinian Authority (PA) curriculum, completed by its Education Ministry last summer and now being used by all UNRWA-run schools, consistently delegitimizes and demonizes Israel, glorifies terrorism, and basically grooms young Palestinians to believe that “dying is better than living.”

In our post we offered many examples from the IMPACT-se study of this curriculum, which is packed with wording and imagery that rejects negotiations with Israel and promotes prejudices, mistrust, and even religious intolerance and anti-Jewish hatred.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Glorifying Child Martyrdom? How Dare You! That’s- Oh, By Palestinians? Cool. By Ken Roth, Director, Human Rights Watch (satire)
President Erdogan of Turkey crossed all lines of decency and morality when he encouraged a young girl to sacrifice herself in combat for Islam and for Turkey. Children must remain outside the boundaries of warfare, as victims but especially as combatants, and praising the involvement of children as soldiers represents one of the basest, vilest- wait, I’m getting some new information here, hold on… it appears the incident on which I was expected to remark involves Palestinian children confronting Israeli soldiers, even attacking those soldiers, which of course represents a refreshing manifestation of the desire for freedom and pluck. Carry on.

If I were indeed discussing child soldiers in other contexts, such as Sudan, for example, I would now invoke myriad arguments and adduce copious evidence to demonstrate how such exploitation of minors lies beyond the pale of acceptable human behavior. Children must be allowed to have serene childhoods, permitted to develop healthy relationships and a sound grounding in civilized mores. They cannot do so when drafted into military activity at such a tender age, and all governments must make efforts to- excuse me again, I forgot we were discussing Palestinian children. I’m sorry. Palestinian children may be encouraged by whatever means, including invocations of violent “martyrdom,” to resist occupation. Such a noble cause!

Placing children in harm’s way constitutes a cynical, exploitative policy that must be eliminated. There are no exceptions, but for the glorious Palestinian struggle in which all measures will be tolerated, even encouraged. I have denounced the use of human shields, but perhaps should have made clear that such a denunciation applies only outside of Palestinian contexts.
JCPA: New Egyptian Effort to Achieve Palestinian Reconciliation
The Egyptians are concerned that the serious economic situation may cause violent attacks and a new round of warfare with Israel, which could also threaten Egypt’s stability.

For this reason, Egypt informed the Hamas delegation that it intends to reopen the Rafah crossing on an almost permanent basis for the traffic of residents and goods from both sides of the border.

Egypt announced that it would begin to prepare a free trade area in northern Sinai as soon as it has completed its military campaign against ISIS. Egypt is also considering allowing the unlimited passage of goods into the Gaza Strip in order to reduce the dependence of the Gaza Strip upon Israel.

According to Hamas sources, the talks are focused upon the following issues:
  1. Continued dialogue in order to bring about a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah.
  2. Various measures to ease the embargo on the Gaza Strip.
  3. President Trump’s declaration regarding the status of Jerusalem as part of “the deal of the century” that is supposed to be announced in the near future.
  4. “The day after Mahmoud Abbas”- The Hamas leadership demands that due to his current state of health, Mahmoud Abbas should already discuss the issue of presidential elections.
  5. The situation of Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip following the explosion of a booby-trapped flag, which resulted in injuring four IDF soldiers, and what is happening along the Philadelphi Route on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The Hamas leadership promised not to offer any aid to the ISIS enclave in Sinai or to allow any refugees from the conflict with the Egyptian army to enter the Gaza Strip through tunnels to seek shelter and medical treatment.
  6. A new prisoner exchange deal with Israel, in which prisoners in Israeli jails would be exchanged in return for four Israeli captives and bodies held in the Gaza Strip (even though this is officially denied by Hamas).
The Palestinian ‘Game of Thrones’ is on
It’s also possible that Abbas’ three titles — Fatah chief, Palestinian Authority president and PLO chairman — will be divided among three contenders, not held by one person, as they are now.

Or, as Israelis fear most, in lieu of a clear line of succession, a Palestinian bloodbath will determine the winner.

Abbas never named a successor. Yes, he recently crowned a deputy Fatah chairman. But the man, Mahmoud al-Alul, is almost unknown outside Ramallah and so is a weak contender: As in much of the Arab world, would-be Palestinian leaders must be backed by armed men. Gray apparatchiks are at a distinct disadvantage.

Which brings us to Hamas, the uncontested ruler of Gaza. According to the Palestinian constitution, once the current president can no longer function, the speaker of the legislative council becomes interim leader. That position is held by a Hamas politician, Aziz Duwaik. And, as Abbas’s 12 years as president after being elected for four shows, temporary can last forever.

So Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization, may end up taking over West Bank politics, burying any hope of better Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Washington, as yet, has been mostly mum, but if America wants to remain relevant in the Mideast, it must draw some red lines and clarify our interests: Avoid a bloody succession battle; make sure Hamas stays out of power; ensure the next leader continues security coordination with our allies Jordan, Egypt and, most crucially, Israel.
Amid health scare, Abbas vows not to end his life as a ‘traitor’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told members of his ruling Fatah party last week that he does not intend to end his life as a “traitor.”

Abbas’s remark was aimed at expressing his strong opposition to US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Abbas was speaking at the launch of the Fatah Revolutionary Council congress in Ramallah on Thursday night. The council, which has over 100 members, serves as Fatah’s “parliament.”

At Abbas’s request, the PA television and radio stations did not carry live broadcasts of his speech, as has been the case in most of his previous speeches to various Palestinian forums.

No official reason was given as to why the 82-year-old Abbas made the unusual request, which came amid a wave of speculation regarding his health.
'Instead of confronting Iran, UN is targeting Israel'
The United States and Israel will cooperate to confront the Iranian regime, with or without help from the United Nations, a senior Israeli diplomat said Sunday.

Speaking at the 2018 American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington DC Sunday, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon slammed the UN for “wasting” its “time and energy” harassing the Jewish state, while he claimed it ignored the growing threat emanating from Tehran.

“It is vital that the UN focus on the real problems of the world, like Iran,” said Danon.

“We all know just how dangerous this threat is, but the UN is wasting time and energy on votes and reports against Israel.”

Despite the UN’s failure to challenge Iranian efforts to establish military footholds across the region, Danon expressed confidence that, “Israel and the United States will succeed in stopping the Iranians and halt the expansion of their regime from the Gulf to the Mediterranean.”

Danon also slammed the UN Human Rights Council’s “blacklist” of Israeli and international companies operating in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights, and noted Israel’s cooperation with the US against the list. “I only speak for Israel, but if this list is published, I believe that the US will withdraw from the Human Rights Council,” Danon said.
When Nakba Day meets US embassy move day, expect fireworks in Gaza
May 14, 2018, will likely go down in history as one of the most festive days that Israel has ever known. At long last, the United States, the world’s greatest superpower, will move its embassy to Jerusalem. The prime minister will give a speech, joined by his ministers and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, with — just possibly — a guest appearance by US President Donald Trump himself; a real celebration.

But an “alternative party” is already in the works: enormous Palestinian protest events, with the largest of them planned for the Gaza Strip. Preparations are under way for marches that will set out toward the border fence with Israel. Such a massive event, on the scale of the refugees’ march to the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights on Nakba Day in 2011, could become problematic for the State of Israel and for the Israeli army — to put it mildly.

It bears mention that the Palestinians observe Nakba Day (nakba means “catastrophe”) every year on May 15, the day after the Gregorian date on which the establishment of the State of Israel was declared. All the Palestinian organizations, without exception, mark the event that led to the alleged expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their ancestral territories. Nakba Day has long been a hate festival, including explicit calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and the return of all the refugees to Haifa, Jaffa, and so on.

Still, this year it is is a particularly explosive combination: the seventieth anniversary of the “catastrophe” alongside the celebrations that Israel and the US are planning regarding Jerusalem and moving the embassy. Thus, on the Palestinian side there could be a surplus of motivation among the public to go out and take part in these events, including marches toward the border fence in Gaza.
Turkey said to detain 4 Iraqis plotting US embassy attack
Turkish police on Monday detained four Iraqis suspected of planning an attack on the US embassy in Ankara, media reports said.

The group were held during anti-terror raids in the Black Sea province of Samsun, the Hurriyet daily reported, after the US mission in the capital announced it would close Monday because of a “security threat.”

The mission’s website urged Americans to “avoid large crowds” and “keep a low profile.”

Two of the suspects were detained on a bus on the Samsun-Ankara highway while the other two were taken into custody in the Samsun district of Ilkadim, the newspaper reported.

They were being held over alleged links to the Islamic State (IS) group.

As a result of the security alert, 12 foreigners were detained earlier Monday over alleged links to IS after the Ankara prosecutor issued 20 arrest warrants, state news agency Anadolu said.

They were trying to recruit for IS, it reported, adding that the suspects were in contact with associates in “conflict zones.”

The Ankara governor’s office said in a statement that it had taken “extra security measures” after US sources provided Turkish intelligence with information on the possibility of terror attacks against the embassy and American homes.

The mission issued a second statement on its website, saying the embassy would remain closed to the public on Tuesday because of a “security threat” again.
MEMRI: Israel's Self-Destructive Policy Towards Qatar
Since May 2017, Qatar has been waging a multifront battle with the Arab quartet. The camps are clear-cut: In Qatar's corner, there are Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey and Iran. In the other corner are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Israel has an interest in strengthening relations with the latter four, as allies against Iran.

For many years now, Qatar has been pushing an anti-Semitic agenda, be it in its policies or by way of the Al Jazeera network it operates. The Gulf state openly supports Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and encourages terrorism against Israel. The Al Jazeera network has always been, and still very much is, a mouthpiece for Al-Qaeda and its various affiliates.

For years, Qatar has provided a safe haven to Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's religious authority. Qaradhawi has called for a second holocaust against the Jews, this time "with the help of Allah and by the faithful [Muslims]."

Today, Qatar maintains an active military alliance with Turkey, where terrorist plots against Israel are increasingly hatched and whose hostility toward Israel is rapidly growing.

More recently, the lid was blown off Qatar's covert collaboration with Iran.

Qatar also helped rehabilitate southern Lebanon after Hizbullah's war with Israel there in 2006, thereby strengthening Hezbollah's position in any future clash with Israel. It did the same for Hamas in Gaza after the 2014 war.

Under these circumstances, it's only natural that Israel would view Qatar as the enemy it is, and refuse to allow Qatar to exert its influence over Gaza, where such influence could severely hurt Israel in a future clash. However, what would seem natural to anyone who cares about Israel's security, is apparently not so obvious to the Israeli government, as evidenced by the fact that the government is allowing Qatar to shore up Hamas' power among the Palestinian public.
The U.S. Can, and Should, Close Down Iran’s Air Corridor to Syria
In 2011, American forces withdrew from Iraq while civil war broke out in Syria. As a result, Washington could not prevent Baghdad from allowing Iran to use its airspace to transport men and materiel to Bashar al-Assad. The scale of the airlift escalated rapidly in 2015 at the conclusion of the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic. According to one expert’s estimates, Tehran has sent more than 250,000 people, mostly irregular troops, and 60,000 tons of supplies to Syria in the past two years. Emanuele Ottolenghi argues that the U.S. can use its economic power to shut down this air corridor:

Thanks to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [or JCPOA, as the nuclear agreement is formally known], three decades of U.S. sanctions against Iran’s civilian aviation came to an end. Tehran immediately went on a shopping spree to replace its aging commercial air fleet, signing numerous deals with Boeing and Airbus. . . . The United States could block almost all of these deals, which cannot proceed without export licenses from the Treasury Department. The JCPOA, after all, stated clearly that aircraft could be sold to Iran only if it was used exclusively for commercial aviation. Yet the deal contains a fatal flaw: an airline can use its old fleet for nefarious purposes, keep the new planes for commercial routes, and technically comply with the nuclear deal’s civil-aviation provisions. That’s why re-sanctioning Iran Air is a critical step toward blocking the sale of aircraft.

There is good reason to believe that canceling the deals would disrupt the air corridor, even though it has endured despite Iranian reliance on aging aircraft built in the 1980s and 1990s. The economic and political fallout of such a decision could be significant. With the nuclear deal hanging by a thread and the international business community anxiously awaiting President Trump’s May 12 decision about whether to pull out of it, credit lines to Tehran have been slow to materialize. The Airbus and Boeing deals, worth tens of billions of dollars, are the canary in the coal mine for Iran’s economy. If the deals go forward, they will signal to the global financial market that Iran is finally open for business. But if the Trump administration were to cancel them, it would kill Iranian prospects of real economic dividends from the deal, even if the JCPOA survives the May 12 deadline.
What on earth is Iran doing on the Israeli border?
On February 10th, an Iranian UAV entered into Israeli airspace and was shot down by the Israeli air force. The UAV was operated from an Iranian control room based in Syria. This incident exemplifies both Iran's threat on Israel and the destabilizing effect of Iran's growing presence in Syria. The international community must insist that Iran cease its aggressive and destabilizing behavior in Syria and beyond. Meanwhile, Israel will continue to act to prevent Iran from establishing another terror base from which it can attack and threaten Israel.


Iran says it can enrich uranium in under 2 days if US pulls out of nuke deal
An Iranian nuclear energy official on Monday warned that his country is able to create highly enriched uranium in “less than 48 hours,” should the United States drop out of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

“If we want to enrich uranium to the 20-percent level, we can do it in less than 48 hours,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told the Iranian Arabic-language al-Alam TV network.

Uranium enriched above the level of 20% is considered highly enriched and could theoretically be used in an atomic weapon, though most nuclear bombs contain uranium enriched to higher than 80%.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, in an interview with the Iranian Arabic-language al-Alam TV network on March 5, 2018. (Screen capture)

In his interview, Kamalvandi said that Iran has developed highly advanced centrifuges that are 24 times more powerful than the previous models used.

He official said that those machines could be brought back into full service if the 2015 nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — were to collapse.
Iran says its missiles pose no threat to any country, are defensive
Iran's government sees its nuclear program as "defensive" and will push forward with it, a government official told France's foreign minister on Monday.

"Our missile work is... in line with our defensive policy, which poses no threat to any country," the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, told Jean-Yves Le Drian, according to the Students News Agency ISNA.

Earlier, the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted an Iranian armed forces spokesman as saying: "Iran's missile program will continue non-stop and foreign powers have no right to intervene on this issue."

France's foreign minister visited Iran on Monday on a delicate mission to affirm Europe's support for a nuclear deal that opened Iran's economy while echoing U.S. concern about Tehran's missile program and role in regional conflicts.

Le Drian aims to save the 2015 nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump has threatened to quit unless European allies help "fix" it by forcing Iran to change its behavior in other areas.

"We're not going to be Donald Trump's envoys or Iran's defense lawyers," said a French diplomatic source. "We have our own concerns and will talk to the different sensibilities of the Iranian system to get our point across."
Acre car-rammer to remain in custody; family, lawyer deny terrorist motive
The attorney of an Arab Israeli man who drove his car into two soldiers, a border guard and a civilian man in the northern city of Acre on Sunday denied that his client was a terrorist acting under ‘nationalistic motives,’ as police have claimed, ahead of an initial hearing for the case.

On Monday, a Northern District Court accepted a request by police to keep the 26-year-old suspect, whose identity remains under a gag order, in custody until March 14.

The Arab Israeli man, from the town of Shfaram, is suspected of multiple counts of attempted murder. “The motives behind the attack are nationalistic,” police said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Shin Bet security service, which is also investigating the alleged attack, would not yet take a stance on the motives behind the ramming.

“The event is still under investigation,” the Shin Bet said.
Mayadeen TV Features Gaza Attack Tunnels of the Al Mujahideen Brigades


White House directly accuses Russia of killing civilians in Syria
The United States on Sunday made its strongest accusation to date of Moscow's complicity in civilian deaths in Syria, saying Russian aircraft flew bombing missions over the besieged eastern Ghouta region in defiance of a United Nations cease-fire.

The White House said Russian military aircraft took off from the Khmeimim air base in Syria and carried out at least 20 daily bombing missions in Damascus and eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, between Feb. 24 and Feb. 28.

It did not say whether the jets dropped ordnance, which could be harder to determine than simply tracking the flight paths of Russian aircraft on U.S. radar. Nonetheless, the U.S. directly accused Russia of killing civilians.

"Russia has gone on to ignore [the U.N. cease-fire's] terms and to kill innocent civilians under the false auspices of counterterrorism operations," the White House said in a statement.

Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed on Sunday to continue the offensive in eastern Ghouta, one of the deadliest in the long civil war in Syria. A local insurgent group called it a "scorched earth" campaign.

With the war entering its eighth year this month, capturing eastern Ghouta would be a major victory for Assad, who has steadily regained control of rebel areas with Russian and Iranian support.
IsraellyCool: Women in Saudi Arabia Still Running Uphill For Equality
Saudia Arabia has held its first marathon for women:

Mizna Al Nassar, the winner of the first women’s marathon in Saudi Arabia, said she was looking forward to representing her country at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Mizna, a 28-year-old engineer, ran the three-kilometre marathon in 15 minutes, beating challengers from the US and Taiwan who came second and third in the ‘Al Ahsa Runs’ competition in Al Ahsa, eastern Saudi Arabia, on Saturday.

According to Saudi news site Sabq, around 1,500 women took part in the race, while those who signed up were around 2,000, a much higher than expected number that forced organisers to stop accepting participants.

Mizna said that she had the full support of her family and that there were no obstacles to her participation in track competitions.


Here’s a photo from the race



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