Thursday, May 31, 2018

From Ian:

NY Post Editorial: Who’s really behind the latest attacks on Israel
Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad are inspired by and closely coordinate with Tehran. And the mullahs are looking for ways to recover their mojo after President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

This month, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard fired 32 rockets from Syria toward the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. This week, Islamic Jihad launched some 200 mortar shells at communities in southern Israel.

It was by far the largest attack from Gaza since the 2014 war. In retaliation, Israel bombed dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets, including a terrorist supply tunnel, drone facilities, weapons caches and a rocket-making plant.

And rightly so. As UN Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council Wednesday: “Who among us would accept 70 rockets launched into your country? We all know the answer to that: No one would.”

Hamas’ decision to stop the attacks suggests it means to avoid another war, one that might well end its control of Gaza.

But Iran, an Israeli defense official said Wednesday, “doesn’t want stability.” No: It wants to send its own message to “deter people from putting more pressure on them.”

It isn’t working. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows that Israel will continue to pursue Iran and its terrorist proxies and make them “pay dearly.” Which is the most important message of all.

Sohrab Amari: The Zarif Mask Falls
Javad Zarif was recently caught on video chanting “Death to America!” and “Death to Britain!” and “Death to Israel!” at a rally in Tehran. That should come as no surprise to Americans who understand the nature of the Iranian regime, its history, and the anti-Western animus that pulsates at its heart. Yet numerous American political and media figures have spent years promoting Zarif as something other than what he is: a pure product of Khomeini’s hateful revolution.

Here’s the footage in question. Watch it—and re-watch it—as you join me on a guided tour of Zarif hagiography, courtesy of the American prestige press.
Death to America! Death to Britain! Death to Israel!

Fareed Zakaria, speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations, Sept. 23, 2016:
My guest needs no introduction. He has a favorability rating in Iran which has declined now to 75 percent. (Laughter.) I don’t think it’s quite that high in the United States. (Laughter.) But Mohammed Javad Zarif is the foreign minister of Iran. He was ambassador to the U.N. He’s a career diplomat. He is also an academic with a Ph.D. I think fair to say that he is the most distinguished diplomat Iran has had for many decades, and we have all seen him as he spearheaded Iran’s negotiations for the nuclear deal.
Death to America! Death to Britain! Death to Israel!

Robin Wright, writing in Time magazine, Oct. 28, 2016:
Zarif has . . . built a following in Washington. ‘He doesn’t play games,’ says Senate Select Committee on Intelligence chair Dianne Feinstein. . . . [H]e has also been lauded by the likes of Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Chuck Hagel when they were in the Senate. And he earned a University of Denver doctorate under the same professors who taught Condoleezza Rice.
Death to America! Death to Britain! Death to Israel!

I could go on and on. Will this latest footage finally shatter the liberal foreign-policy establishment’s illusion of Javad Zarif the moderate? Don’t count on it.



Jpost Editorial: After another round of violence, it is time for a Gaza plan
As a delicate cease-fire between Israel and Gaza appeared to go into effect on Wednesday after the biggest escalation since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, it was time to play the blame game.

While Egypt was credited with mediating a truce between the parties and Jerusalem officially held Hamas accountable for the dozens of rockets fired at Israel on Tuesday, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz pointed the finger at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

“If there is one person who is responsible for the escalation and stifling of Gaza, it is Abu Mazen,” Steinitz told Kan. “Now is the time for Israel to think out of the box and come up with solutions to the Gaza humanitarian crisis.”

Steinitz said that Israel transferred tax revenues to the PA without knowing exactly where they were going, and suggested that once calm is restored, it should find a way to alleviate the situation in Gaza by bypassing Abbas. He proposed a carrot-and-stick policy.

He confirmed, for example, that the Israel Electric Corporation was holding off repair work on three Gaza electricity lines damaged by rockets that had knocked out power to thousands of Gazans. Because Gaza depends on Israel for the several hours of power it receives a day, Steinitz said, this was a threat that Hamas could be expected to take seriously.
Gaza militants fire heavy cross-border barrage, May 30, 2018 (Reuters)

One positive suggestion Steinitz had was to build a port in Cyprus that would allow exports from and imports to Gaza after being thoroughly checked by Israeli security services. This is not a new idea, but is certainly one worth discussing once the dust settles.

After the IDF struck dozens of targets belonging to Islamic Jihad and Hamas across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that if the two terrorist groups renewed their rocket attacks on Israel, it would respond even more forcefully.

“Israel will exact a heavy price from anyone who tries to harm it, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us,” Netanyahu said.

But Steinitz said it was Abbas, the ailing 83-year-old Palestinian leader who was discharged from a Ramallah hospital on Monday after a weeklong treatment for pneumonia, who should be held ultimately accountable.

Just two months ago, Abbas reissued his longtime demand that Hamas hand over Gaza to the PA.
Hamas taken off guard by intensity of clash with Israel, officials say
Hours after the latest Gaza flare-up drew to a close Wednesday, defense officials were upbeat, saying Israel should be satisfied with the results. The officials said that Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, was taken off guard by the intense nature of the fighting.

Islamic Jihad fired a barrage of some 30 mortars toward Israel on Tuesday morning, which triggered the most aggressive escalation since the 2014 Gaza war. According to defense officials, Hamas signed off on the barrage ahead of time so as to let the Islamic Jihad exact revenge for an incident earlier in the week, in which Israel killed three of its members when they tried to plant an explosive device near the Gaza border fence.

However, despite the initial green light, Hamas was taken aback by the large number of mortar bombs fired toward Israel and was also surprised by the Israeli retaliation, which included some 30 daytime sorties targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets.

Officials believe that Islamic Jihad dragged Hamas into a military confrontation it did not actually want. As a result, Hamas fired rockets toward the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip – a step it has not taken since the conclusion of the 2014 war, not even in cases where Israel successfully destroyed cross-border Hamas tunnels (10 in total) or when more than 100 Palestinians storming the Gaza fence were killed over the course of several weeks in weekly border protests.

This unusual decision to fire at Israel may have been taken in order to shed the notion that Hamas is collaborating with Israel.
IDF reveals 7 terror targets struck in Gaza in detailed video
The IDF released a video Wednesday outlining seven targets struck in the Gaza Strip following a barrage of rockets fired toward Israel by terror groups in Gaza.

The first target shown in the video is a rocket warehouse in the northern Gaza Strip that was operated by Islamic Jihad. A sketch of the rocket is displayed in the video as well. The second location targeted by Israeli airstrikes Tuesday shown in the video is a Hamas-run naval technology site intended to be used to infiltrate Israel by sea.

The IDF also revealed an SA-7 missile factory as one of the targets struck, as well as an explosive-laden drone warehouse, a rocket factory and an abandoned drone shed.

Israel struck more than 65 targets overnight Tuesday after terror groups in Gaza launched rockets and mortars into Israeli cities in Southern Israel.

The rocket and mortar fire from Gaza ceased Wednesday. A senior source in the Israeli defense establishment attributed the quiet along the border to the IDF strikes.




PM Netanyahu: IDF dealt worst blow to Hamas in years
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Wednesday of a stronger military response to any resumption of rocket attacks, after Hamas said it would cease fire if Israel did the same.

Speaking at an IDF memorial ceremony on Wednesday, Netanyahu said, "Those responsible for the escalation, inspired by Iran, are the Hamas regime, the Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist organizations. I am not detailing our plans because I do not want the enemy to know what lies in store for it. But one thing is clear to them: When they test us, they pay immediately and if they continue to test us, they will pay far more."

"Since yesterday, the IDF has strongly retaliated against the firing from the Gaza Strip and has hit dozens of terrorist targets in the severest blow we have landed on them in years."

Netanyahu also voiced his support for IDF fighters and security forces and praised the resilience of residents of Israel's south.

The Israel-Gaza border fell quiet under the de facto cease-fire after the most intense flare-up of hostilities between Palestinian terrorists and Israel since a 2014 war.
Hamas seeks long-lasting cease-fire after 'strongest blow in years'
The Israeli officials said the truce would be for a period of five years. In return, Israel will demand restrictions on Hamas' military activity. Although the terrorist organization is not likely to relinquish security control of Gaza, it is believed it may agree to restrictions on smuggling, production of weapons and work on its terrorist tunnel project that threaten Israeli towns nearby.

Hamas seeks to build a sea port as well as an airport, which Israel categorically refuses to allow unless Hamas demilitarizes Gaza. Israel is demanding that Hamas repatriate the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in a 2014 war, Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, as well as information on three Israeli civilians who crossed into Gaza: Avera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Jumaa Abu Ghanima.

So far, the bid for a more lasting truce has been mired in the "exploration" stages. Israeli officials believe that following the recent cycle of violence, however, the time may be ripe to push further for a lasting truce.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said Egyptian mediators intervened "after the resistance succeeded in warding off the aggression." He said militant groups in Gaza will commit to the cease-fire as long as Israel does.
The full story behind the understandings for a truce in Gaza
The statements issued by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that they have reached a ceasefire with Israel, are false. Their aim is to create an impression that Tuesday’s exchanges of fire led to a tie between the Palestinian organizations and the IDF, and that the Palestinian organizations managed to achieve a situation of mutual deterrence, in which the IDF was forced to change its pattern of action as a result of the barrages fired at the western Negev communities.

The only thing that was achieved Tuesday night was understandings between the two Palestinian organizations and Egyptian intelligence officials. The Palestinians pledged to unilaterally halt the rocket fire, hoping that Israel would follow the “calm will be answered with calm” principle. The story behind these understandings is fascinating and explains the events of the past 24 hours.

This was the chain of events: On Tuesday morning, Islamic Jihad started firing mortar shells at Israel. Concerned about its prestige, Hamas joined the rocket fire after the IDF struck in the Gaza Strip for the first time. In the afternoon, when the exchanges of fire continued, the IDF lowered its level of response by moving to tank shells. The Egyptians spotted the opportunity and suggested that the Hamas and Jihad leaderships, with whom they are in regular contact, halt the rocket fire.

The Egyptian intelligence officers likely told the Gazans in the early hours of Tuesday evening that according to Israel’s regular policy, if the Palestinians avoid firing rockets and trying to infiltrate Israeli territory, Israel won’t initiate any attacks.

After consulting each other, Hamas and Islamic Jihad informed the Egyptians that they wanted an explicit statement about a truce from Israel and the IDF. They need this statement to show their audiences that a new situation had been created—a mutual deterrence between equals. This false impression is aimed at covering up their failures in the past few weeks in the “marches of return” and in terrorist cells’ attacks on the border fence.
PA threatens to cut security ties with Israel if Gaza blockade lifted
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has threatened to severe security cooperation with Israel if the blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted, according to the Palestine Information Centre.

Quoting Hebrew media sources, the news site reported that the PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj sent a letter to his Israeli counterpart Nadav Argaman warning him against any action that would help alleviate the suffering of the population in Gaza.

The warning allegedly came after reports surfaced that Egypt and Qatar would help mediate a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas that would relax the blockade, now in its eleventh year.

Such a plan is thought to be detrimental to the interests of the PA, which seeks to pressure Hamas into handing over control of the Strip, following failed reconciliation talks at the end of last year.

A possible deal, according to Israeli media, would see Tel Aviv demand a complete cessation of rocket fire and tunnel building, in addition to respecting the security perimeter at the Gaza border and a solution regarding the Israeli prisoners of war held in Gaza.
Israel to build new Gaza-adjacent town in response to Hamas attacks
Amid the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas in years, Housing Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday that he plans to propose a plan to build a new Jewish community adjacent to the Gaza border in response to the recent escalation in violence.

"The establishment of a new community is a message of Zionism and strength in the face of terrorism," Gallant said Wednesday of the plan.

The community, whose proposed name is "Hanun," will be located about 4 miles from the border, adjacent to Kibbutz Saad. The town is meant to house 500 families and will be incorporated into the Sdot Negev Regional Council.

The proposal, which Gallant plans to submit to the cabinet at its next meeting Sunday, will require collaboration between the Housing, Interior, Agriculture, and Negev and Galilee Development ministries along with the Israel Land Authority and other authorities to conclude the necessary administrative steps and make the new community a reality.
Flaming kite from Gaza said to spark brush fire in south
Firefighters on Thursday battled a brush fire on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza strip that authorities suspect was caused by firebomb-laden kites flown across the security fence by Palestinians.

The fire broke out between two kibbutzim, Kissufim and Ein Hashlosha.

In recent weeks, Gazans have been flying kites into Israel outfitted with Molotov cocktails and containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of land, including around Kissufim, as drone footage shows.

It has become a widely adopted tactic during the weekly “March of Return” clashes on the Gaza border, which Israel accuses the Hamas terror group of orchestrating as a cover for attacks and attempts to breach the border fence.
Haley Rips Security Council’s ‘Outrageous’ Failure to Condemn Hamas for Rocket Attacks: ‘Height of Hypocrisy’
Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tore into the U.N. Security Council Wednesday for failing to condemn Hamas rocket attacks against Israel, calling it "outrageous" and "the height of hypocrisy."

The U.S. called for an emergency session of the Security Council following Tuesday's rocket attacks against Israel by Hamas, the Islamist terror group governing the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said Hamas fired 70 rockets and mortars into Israel; one mortar hit a kindergarten yard. Israel responded with airstrikes on 35 Gaza targets.

Kuwait, a non-member state, blocked the attempt by the U.S. to have the Security Council condemn Hamas.

"It is outrageous for the Security Council to fail to condemn Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, while the Human Rights Council approves sending a team to investigate Israeli actions taken in self-defense," Haley said. "I urge the members of the Security Council to exercise at least as much scrutiny of the Hamas terrorist group as it does to Israel's legitimate right of self-defense."

To ignore Hamas' actions and expect Israel to sit on its hands while being attacked, Haley said, was "the height of hypocrisy."

"As I have asked my colleagues before, I will ask you again today: Who among us would accept 70 rockets launched into your country?" Haley said. "We all know the answer to that. No one would."
Haley blasts U.N. Security Council for not condemning Hamas rocket attacks on Israel




The Economist thinks the NY Times hasn’t been hard enough on Israel
Only thing is—the Economist thinks the Times hasn’t been hard enough on Israel.

Actually, the article in question from the Economist is about language, in particular, the “weasel voice” of evasion (it’s part of a continuing “Johnson” series about words/grammar in journalism, named after Samuel Johnson).
Here’s the problem with the Times’ coverage, according to the Economist:

On May 14th, as Palestinians massed at the Gaza Strip’s border, Israeli soldiers fired on them, killing around 60 people. Shortly afterwards, the New York Times tweeted: “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the US prepares to open its Jerusalem embassy.” Social media went ballistic. “From old age?” was one incredulous reply. #HaveDied quickly became a hashtag campaign.

The fault was soon laid not only at the door of the Times, but at a feature of English grammar. As Glenn Greenwald, a left-wing journalist, put it, “Most Western media outlets have become quite skilled—through years of practice—at writing headlines and describing Israeli massacres using the passive tense so as to hide the culprit.” His view was retweeted over 5,000 times and echoed by other critics.


Those of you who follow the news on this blog or any other blog that isn’t part of the left will probably be aware of how outrageous this is—and by “this,” I mean the Economist article and the contentions of Greenwald. Now, I have no quarrel with the idea that “have died” is a euphemism and “were killed by Israeli soldiers” would be a better construction to use—I’m all in favor of straight talk. But if we’re into straight talk and actual, unvarnished news rather than propaganda, the Economist critique is highly misleading.

The truth? They weren’t “protests” and these weren’t just random “Palestinians” (see this article by William Jacobson here at Legal Insurrection, just to take one example). And we have no idea how many of them were killed by Israeli soldiers because the only people reporting an actual number were health officials in Gaza, who have a lousy track record for truth.
BBC News continues to sideline Hamas’ ’50 were ours’ announcement
As we see Tom Bateman chose to ignore the fact that over 80% of the people he is happy to quote ‘Palestinians’ describing as “unarmed civilians” have been shown to have links to various terror factions. His faux impartiality concealed the fact that Hamas publicly acknowledged that five of those killed on March 30th were members of its Qassam Brigades, that it claimed 50 of those killed on May 14th and that the PIJ has also claimed several of those killed since the ‘Great Return March’ publicity stunt began.

In addition, while happy to uncritically parrot claims of “peaceful protests”, Bateman placed documented violent incidents such as shooting attacks, IED attacks and border infiltrations in the category of things “Israelis say” happened. He similarly described documented calls by Hamas leaders to infiltrate Israeli territory and attack Israeli citizens as merely things that ‘Israel says’.

Bateman then returned to the May 27th IED incident, telling BBC World Service audiences that it was Israel’s response to that – rather than a terror organisation’s act of planting an explosive device on a border fence – that caused the latest escalation.
BREAKING
UN Defends Hamas, Says Rockets Were Fired on Ambien (satire)

The United Nations has come out in defense of Hamas, saying that the governing militant group cannot be held responsible for rockets striking Israel since the group’s fighters were on Ambien when they fired them.

“While we condemned Israel’s unprovoked attacks against Palestinian protestors earlier this month, Hamas must be excused for shooting rockets into Israeli neighborhoods and kindergartens,” a statement from the UN Human Rights Council declared. “It was Memorial Day Weekend and they were Ambien firing.”

The council also defended the militant group’s founding charter, including passages saying that the day of judgement will only come when Muslims kill all the Jews.

“Clearly, these less conciliatory passages were written while Hamas was on Ambien,” UNHRC Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said. “They were Ambien chartering.”
PreOccupiedTerritory: After Airstrikes Kill 0 Gazans, Hamas Slams Israel For Depriving Them Of Corpses To Display (satire)
Palestinian terrorist factions who had hoped to trigger a bloody Israeli response to more than 100 rockets and mortar shells launched from the Gaza Strip voiced criticism of the Jewish State today for only hitting unmanned positions in retaliation, forcing the militant Islamist groups to accuse Israel of war crimes without the benefit of dead children or grim fatality statistics to parade before the media.

Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders disclosed that they had hoped to induce civilian casualties among Palestinians when Israel struck targets in the Gaza Strip Tuesday after mortar shells and other ordnance hit the country’s communities near the coastal territory, but their plans were thwarted by Israel’s decision to deploy its air power against abandoned positions, isolated supply dumps, and empty military infrastructure. As a result, the leaders claim, the militant groups have no dead bodies of women, the elderly, or children they can pull from the wreckage after inviting the media to film the occasion and paint Israel as barbaric and wanton.

“This monstrous cruelty must cease – the world must intervene,” proclaimed Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar. “Not only do the Zionists blockade us and restrict the flow of anything that can be used as a weapon, they even refrain from providing the essential supplies we need to accomplish the most basic elements of our governance here. We need dead children if we are going to go about undermining Israel’s standing, and they sadistically refused to cooperate today.”

“It’s just like the evil Zionists to engage in such brutality,” added Mustafa Massikr of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. “They know exactly what we need, and pointedly refuse to supply it. When will the world understand what we face in Palestine?”
Why the Palestinians Can’t Say ‘Yes’ to Trump
If the Palestinians were willing to negotiate, he’d probably make the Israelis “pay” for Jerusalem and his appropriately tough stance on Iran. But Netanyahu knows that he can sit back and simply wait for the Palestinians to reject Trump’s efforts, as they have already warned the Saudis — who told Abbas to accept Trump’s offer — that they will do.

Pipes’ warning that no one should be “giddy” about Trump recognizing Jerusalem and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv is sensible. But it is equally sensible for the pro-Israel community to understand that the current administration has rejected the failed Oslo mindset that governed the actions of Trump’s predecessors. Trump’s instinctive distrust of the foreign-policy establishment’s conventional wisdom means that he thinks the Palestinians have to be held accountable in way that Obama, Bush, and Clinton did not.

While a diplomatic ingénue like presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner might actually believe that the peace plan he has helped craft will succeed, Trump’s current foreign-policy team of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton is clearly more realistic. That’s why, although caution is always commendable, predictions that US-Israel relations will inevitably return to the same toxic dynamic that characterized them under the Obama administration are wrongheaded.

With an Iran empowered and enriched by Obama’s nuclear deal — using Syria as a base to attack the Jewish state — and Hamas undaunted by the failure of its latest assault on the Jewish state, Netanyahu has plenty of security challenges to contemplate. But a Trump peace plan with th
The two-state solution that never was
Yasser Arafat, in 1994, clarified PLO intentions toward Israel: days after signing the Oslo Accords, he gave a speech in a South African mosque. Unaware that he was being recorded, he said: “This agreement, I am not considering it more than the agreement which has been signed between our prophet Muhammad and [the] Quraysh.”

This was a peace pact Muhammad made in 628 C.E. with the Quraysh, who held Mecca. Once he garnered sufficient strength, he abrogated the pact, crushed the Quraysh, and took Mecca. Within Islam, this is seen as a model of how to behave with non-Muslims.

Twice we have seen the PLO turn away from solid proposals for a final deal: first in 2000, when Arafat rejected an offer by then-prime minister Ehud Barak, and again in 2008, when Mahmoud Abbas walked away from then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s even more generous offer.

The PLO will never sign a final agreement with Israel. This is in part because it would mean agreeing to end the conflict. PLO leaders are committed to continuing the battle with Israel until its demise. They fear assassination by their own, quite literally, should they renege on this.

Last year, journalist Khaled Abu Toameh recalled Arafat’s explanation of why he rejected Barak’s offer: “...the Jews wanted me to end the conflict ... who am I, Yasser Arafat, to end the conflict ... if I make such concessions, I will end up drinking tea up there with Anwar Sadat.”

The question that must be asked, then, is why? Why is there such dedication to the goal of eliminating Israel? There is the oft-cited Muslim belief that land once possessed by Muslims is Islamic land forever. Palestine was for many centuries occupied by Muslims, most recently the Ottomans.

The time has come to stop pursuing the impossible. Our responsibility is to seek a realistic and humane solution to the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs, a solution that protects Israel’s security and safeguards Israel’s right
InterviewAmbassador David Friedman: Republicans support Israel more than Democrats
Republicans are undoubtedly better friends of Israel than Democrats are, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Wednesday, lambasting the Democratic Party for failing to sufficiently mobilize its constituents to support the Jewish state.

“The argument that I hear from some Democrats that Republicans are seizing the pro-Israel mantle is true, to a certain extent. There’s no question Republicans support Israel more than Democrats,” Friedman told The Times of Israel.

“What the Democrats are not doing is looking at themselves critically and acknowledging the fact that they have not been able to create support within their constituency for Israel at the same levels that the Republicans have,” he went on.

Democrats may claim to be pro-Israel but merely saying so doesn’t make it true, he argued. Indeed, “there is a large Democratic constituency right now that is not pro-Israel,” the US envoy said. “They have to acknowledge it, and they have to fix it, or try to fix it.”

In a wide-ranging interview in his new office at the US embassy in Jerusalem, Friedman, 59, also discussed the administration’s upcoming peace proposal, as well as his thinking on the two-state solution, the legality of West Bank settlements and what he believes should happen to Palestinian refugees seeking to “return” to Israel.
White House 'welcomes' Israeli position on settlements, amid expansion
The Trump administration declined on Wednesday to specifically condemn Israel's approval of over 2,000 new settler homes to be constructed in the West Bank, despite noting of the president's past statements discouraging future settlement growth.

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has characterized Israeli construction in the West Bank as "unhelpful" to the pursuit of peace. In his first month in office, he asked Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to hold back on construction approval.

But since that time, the Netanyahu government has approved over 10,000 new homes for Israeli settlers– an unprecedented pace of activity.

"The president has made his position on new settlement activity clear, and we encourage all parties to continue to work towards peace," a National Security Council spokesperson said. And "the Israeli government has made clear that going forward, its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the president’s concerns into consideration."

"The United States welcomes this," the official added. "As the president has said repeatedly, the Administration is firmly committed to pursuing a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians."
EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Joe Wilson Invited Dems to Jerusalem Embassy Opening– Not One Said Yes
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), who led the official House delegation that attended the U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem, confirmed that he personally invited Democrats to join the official Congressional trip to Israel for the May 14th ceremony.

Speaking to Breitbart News, Wilson stated categorically that there is “no question” that Democratic Congressmen were invited by his office to travel with the delegation for the event. Wilson said he made it a point try to put together a bipartisan delegation to attend the Jerusalem embassy opening.

In the end, not a single currently serving Democratic lawmaker went to the inauguration of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Democrats were also a no-show for an Israeli embassy celebratory event in Washington several hours after the U.S. Embassy opening ceremony in Israel.

A letter from Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was addressed to President Donald Trump’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, complaining that they received “no invitation from the White House to participate in the official delegation to visit Jerusalem for this moment of historic occasion.”
Czech Republic Reopens Honorary Consulate in Jerusalem
The Czech Republic on Tuesday reopened its honorary consulate in Jerusalem, after Czech President Milos Zeman said his country wishes to move the Czech embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, The Times of Israel reported.

Founded in the early 1990s, the Czech honorary consulate in Jerusalem was closed in 2016 due to the death of the honorary consul.

Czech President Milos Zeman made the announcement at an event in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday last month. He said he hoped to see not only the relocation of the embassy but “many, many institutions: Czech Invest, Czech Trade, Czech Tourism, Czech Center,” which he vowed would all “be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

The Czech Foreign Ministry in a statement issued on April 25 confirmed the move. “The Czech Republic has decided to open in May an honorary consulate in West Jerusalem, and before the end of the year a Czech (cultural) center, also in West Jerusalem,” the statement said. The final stage would be the moving of the embassy, for which no timetable was given.
PMW: PA Mufti echoes Hamas: Transferring land to "enemies" is "treason," a sin, and forbidden
The PA Mufti has announced that whoever transfers or sells Palestinian land to "the enemies" - i.e., Israelis - is a traitor and a sinner:

"Palestine, that includes within it Jerusalem, is waqf (i.e., an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law) land [and] it is forbidden by Shari'ah law to relinquish it or ease the transfer of ownership of it to enemies, because it is part of the Islamic public property. Granting ownership over Islamic territory or part of it to enemies is invalid and constitutes treason...
Whoever sells his land to his enemies or takes compensation for it sins, as in doing so he aids in the removal of Muslims from their homes."

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 13, 2018]

Emphasizing that Jerusalem is an "Islamic waqf until Judgment Day" and that "no one has the right to relinquish it" or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, PA Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories and Supreme Fatwa Council Chairman Sheikh Muhammad Hussein closely echoed the charter of the terror organization Hamas:
Palestinians say 500 prisoners in Israeli jails to start hunger strike
Approximately 500 Palestinians held in administrative detention in Israel are expected to go on hunger strike next week.

Palestinian Authority Prisoner Affairs Minister Issa Karaka told "Palestine Voice" radio station on Thursday that the hunger strike will take place in an organized and gradual manner, and will constitute an escalation in the ongoing administrative detainees' protest which has so far involved boycotting Israeli courts.

Karaka said that prisoners are working to pressure Israel to end its policy of administrative detention, with Palestinian prisoners recently warning Israel of possible protests.

Earlier this month, an Israeli guard working at Eshel Prison was hospitalized after a Hamas prisoner poured boiling water from a kettle over him. During an inspection of the prisoner's cell, the perpetrator managed to boil water in an electric kettle and subsequently poured its contents over the guard's face and neck.
MEMRI: Columnist In Jordanian Government Daily Expresses Love And Admiration For Palestinian Terrorist Dalal Al-Mughrabi: I Would Roll In The Dust Of Your Grave
On May 27, 2018, in his column in the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai, 'Abd Al-Hadi Raji Al-Majali wrote in love and praise of Palestinian terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who led the bus hijacking attack on Israel's coastal road on March 11, 1978, in which 35 Israeli citizens were killed, twelve of them children. In his column, in the form of a love letter to Mughrabi, Al-Majali describes how he raises in his children to be brave like her and how he longs to roll in the dust of her grave.

This is not the first time Al-Majali has extoled terrorist attacks against Israelis in his column. For example, on February 7, 2017, he heaped praise on the terrorist Ahmad Nasr Jarrar, who murdered an Israeli citizen in a drive-by shooting attack on January 9, 2018 and was later killed by Israeli security forces. In October 2015, during the wave of stabbing attacks perpetrated during the Al-Quds intifada, he published a column in which he addressed former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, writing: "Oh you who rest in Ramallah, it is now your privilege to smile a bit, because the seeds of the revolution that you sowed in the land of Palestine are now sprouting our sharp knives, and their blades are [stabbing] the head and the vein [of the Israelis]."
Russia tells Iran to immediately remove militias from Syrian-Israel border
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said foreign militias should leave southwestern Syria as soon as possible, state media outlet TASS reported.

Lavrov echoed comments he made earlier in the week when he said that only Syrian troops should be stationed in rebel-held Daraa province, a region adjacent to the Israeli border that has emerged as a flashpoint in a wider standoff between the Jewish state and Iran.

Israel has warned that Iran is trying to establish a presence near the border, and last month accused the Islamic Republic of firing a salvo of rockets at Israel from there. On Wednesday evening, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is scheduled to travel to Moscow for talks expected to focus on Iran and its forces in Syria.

On Monday, Lavrov told reporters that only Syrian troops should be near the country’s southern border with Jordan and Israel, indicating that Russia is receptive to Jerusalem’s demands that Iranian forces should be kept far from its borders.

“Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street,” Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow. “The result of this work which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel.”
Report: Iranian forces, Hezbollah prepare to leave southern Syria
Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah, are preparing to withdraw from southern Syria against the backdrop of regional and international negotiations currently underway between the United States, Russia and Jordan over the war-torn country's future, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday.

Specifically, the London-based organization reported, Iran and Hezbollah are planning to withdraw forces from the Dara and Kuneitra areas near Israel's northern border.

The report comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Monday that the Syrian army should be the only force on the southern border of the country.

"All the forces that are not Syrian should withdraw, and there must be a situation in which only the forces of the Syrian army will be stationed on the Syrian side of the border with Israel," Lavrov said.
Assad denies presence of Iranian forces in Syria, but acknowledges advisers
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday denied the presence in his country of any Iranian troops.

Much of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria has been set up on Syrian military bases, Israel says, and the IDF has frequently hit Syrian air defenses during strikes on Iranian targets.

Earlier this month, the Israeli Air Force carried out its biggest operation in Syria in 40 years when it attacked more than 50 Iranian targets in response to an Iranian rocket barrage at the Golan Heights, amid warnings from Jerusalem that it would not tolerate Tehran’s attempts to entrench itself militarily on Israel’s northern border.

But according to Assad, Iran’s presence in his country is limited to an advisory capacity.

In a wide-ranging interview with Russia’s RT television, Assad said that “not a single Iranian” but rather “tens of Syrian martyrs” had been killed in recent Israeli airstrikes on his country and that claims to the contrary were “a lie.”
Surprise: Watchdog Group Discovers Secret Iranian Missile Site Hidden in Remote Desert Location
This story broke before the long weekend, but because the corresponding news cycle was fraught screaming about NFL anthem kneeling regulations, it largely got lost in the culture war cacophony. One of the fundamental flaws of the Iran nuclear deal -- from which President Trump has withdrawn the United States, correctly, in my view -- is that the regime in Tehran simply is not a reliable partner. Even if they were to technically abide by every one of the West's temporary restrictions (it must be noted that they have not done so scrupulously, and provably lied from the very beginning), the Iranians would emerge from their decade-plus stay in the global penalty box as a cash-flush threshold nuclear-armed power, thanks to the accord's extraordinary and lopsided concessions.

President Obama has effectively admitted as much, just as he's allowed that the regime has almost certainly exploited its new financial windfall to finance terrorism, and has breached the "spirit" of the agreement through its ongoing pursuit of technology to deliver the nuclear weapons they continue to covet. And now we can add even more clandestine treachery to the rap sheet, via the New York Times:

When an explosion nearly razed Iran’s long-range missile research facility in 2011 — and killed the military scientist who ran it — many Western intelligence analysts viewed it as devastating to Tehran’s technological ambitions. Since then, there has been little indication of Iranian work on a missile that could reach significantly beyond the Middle East, and Iranian leaders have said they do not intend to build one. So, this spring, when a team of California-based weapons researchers reviewed new Iranian state TV programs glorifying the military scientist, they expected a history lesson with, at most, new details on a long-dormant program. Instead, they stumbled on a series of clues that led them to a startling conclusion: Shortly before his death, the scientist, Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, oversaw the development of a secret, second facility in the remote Iranian desert that, they say, is operating to this day... (h/t jzaik)
In Iran's Water Crisis, Tehran Sows the Seeds of Its Own Decline
“I have returned” to Iran, tweeted a newly appointed environmental official charged with resolving the country’s water crisis, “with the hope of creating #hope.” Within months, however, that hope evaporated – and he found himself arrested, interrogated, and facing a government-coordinated smear campaign.

Kaveh Madani, a Western-educated Iranian water expert, formally resigned in April in the wake of spurious charges of disloyalty to the Islamist regime. The rise and fall of the deputy head of Iran’s Department of the Environment not only reflects Tehran’s chronic mismanagement of its water resources. Rather, it also mirrors the years-long drought of talent in Iran, which continues to face a spiraling “brain drain” as its citizens flee the regime’s repressive rule.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Born in Tehran in 1981, Madani first left the country after college, obtaining a master’s degree in water resources from Sweden’s Lund University and a doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California. He quickly gained a global reputation for his research and expertise. He won prestigious awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the European Geosciences Union. He conducted a TedX talk about global water scarcity. He appeared in Al Jazeera and BBC documentaries. He received a professorship at Imperial College London.
Journalist who faked death had come to Israel after fleeing Russia
The Ukrainian journalist who faked his own death as part of a bizarre plot to collar those seeking to kill him briefly lived in Israel after fleeing Russia.

Arkady Babchenko, a critic of the Kremlin, was said to have been shot dead in his apartment building in the capital city of Kiev on Tuesday. Ukraine blamed Russia for the “death” of Babchenko, but on Wednesday brought him out, alive, during a press conference, announcing that the ruse had been designed to thwart an assassination plot.

Babchenko, whose maternal grandmother is Jewish, reportedly fled from Russia to the Czech Republic, Israel and finally Ukraine in 2017 after death threats were made against him over reporting and a Facebook post critical of the Russian regime.

Babchenko wrote on Facebook in early 2017 that he came under threat for a post in which he noted following a plane crash that killed members of a Russian military choir on their way to Syria that he was not sorry because Russia was carrying out airstrikes in Aleppo.

He was in the Czech Republic until May 30, but left after apparent visa issues, and Facebook posts throughout June show him in Tel Aviv.



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