Friday, February 15, 2019

From Ian:

Gerald Steinberg: Mutual Recognition Never Happened, Palestinian Leaders Are Stuck in 1948
In the Israeli election free-for-all, the prospects for peace with the Palestinians will get some attention, but without engagement from the other side, there is little to discuss.

At the same time, many Israelis are aware of the need for a change to the “temporary” status quo, which has lasted 51 years. The fundamental question that remains unanswered is: how will Israel continue to be Jewish and democratic if millions of Palestinians are included indefinitely? Although Israelis are wary of the “ultimate peace deal” that U.S. President Donald Trump promises to push after the election, it adds to the momentum for rethinking the issues.

For most Israeli political parties, the two-state formula (very few Israelis think a “solution” is realistic) has run its course, without yielding any results. Proposed in 2002 by then-U.S. president George W. Bush and grudgingly accepted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009, the hope was that the Palestinians would finally accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, in exchange for their own sovereign nation.

But this never happened – Palestinian leaders are stuck in 1948, still hoping to reverse the creation of Israel altogether. Dreams of returning to the 1949 armistice lines, including re-dividing Jerusalem, are obvious non-starters. They are also busy fighting each other, with Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah governing the West Bank. At the same time, terror and incitement continue, and Israelis are not convinced that the two-state approach will improve the situation (most think it will make things worse). The “international consensus” that presses Israel to take all the risks, while exempting the “powerless” Palestinians from any responsibility, has no traction here.

In this political vacuum, a number of civil society institutions are discussing alternatives, in part to pre-empt the Trump plan. After a hiatus of a decade or more, think tanks are publishing maps showing which parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) should be annexed to Israel for pragmatic, security, historic or other reasons, and which areas should be relinquished, and under what conditions.
The Key to Middle East Peace Is Getting Palestinians to Say "Yes"
The necessity for the Palestinians to make peace with Israel as a prerequisite for the establishment of a Palestinian state isn't arbitrary or the result of inherently "unfair" imbalances of power. It is a reflection of the reality that the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan of November 29, 1947, establishing two states, in favor of open-ended war. This rejectionism continues to this day.

The Palestinians have been given multiple opportunities to reverse their historic own-goal and accept statehood many times since then but have always broken off talks at the moment of truth, refusing the very independence they claim to pine for if the price is to end their conflict with Israel. Martin Indyk, President Obama's special envoy on the Middle East, told Al Jazeera in 2016: "We have [Israeli Prime Ministers] Barak and Olmert offering the Palestinians 95-97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and they didn't take it." Since 2014 the Palestinian leadership has refused to negotiate at all.

Israel cannot make peace on its own, nor can it be expected to accept the creation of a hostile, armed state on the doorstep of its major cities without a viable peace agreement. Unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood would be rewarding the Palestinians for continuing to say "no."

Evelyn Gordon: Gaza’s self-inflicted health crisis shows why peace remains a fantasy
Gaza’s health system is on the verge of collapse, Israeli defense officials warned last week. Their report echoed an international aid agency’s findings that Gaza hospitals are severely short of doctors, especially specialists, and lack 60 percent of necessary medications, including basics like painkillers and antibiotics. Entire hospital departments have closed due to the inability to offer treatment, and patients with cancer, diabetes or renal failure are simply being sent home.

You might think this situation would prompt at least one of the Palestinians’ two rival governments to take action. But you’d be wrong.
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The Palestinian Authority, which repeatedly proclaims itself the sole legitimate government of both the West Bank and Gaza and is recognized as such internationally, receives billions in international aid to provide for humanitarian needs in both places. It ostensibly budgets 150 million shekels a year ($41.3 million) for medical supplies for Gaza. But it hasn’t paid this money in months.

Yet this same P.A. has no trouble finding $330 million a year to pay salaries to jailed terrorists. Evidently, paying terrorists is more important to it than its people’s health.
Dr. Martin Sherman: 2019 Intelligence Assessment- implications for Gaza
Last December, I was excoriated by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, for reaching what I consider to be an inescapable, fact-based conclusion that, “Eventually, there will either be Arabs in Gaza or Jews in the Negev. In the long run, there will not be both!”

Accordingly—since there appears little chance of the Palestinian-Arabs in general, and the Gazans in particular, morphing into something they have not been for over hundred years—for anyone who favors the option of Jews remaining in the Negev, there is little option but to reconcile oneself to the lamentable fact that “The solution to the problem of Gaza is its deconstruction—not its reconstruction.”

Indeed, I would be intrigued to hear what my detractors have in mind for Gaza and how they envisage the fate of the hapless enclave in, say, ten to fifteen years from today. For already, its unfortunate inhabitants are in dire straits, with most of their natural water sources polluted, with raw sewage flowing into the streets, and with electrical power available for only a several hours a day.

Significantly, this grave situation has been precipitated despite the fact that Gaza has received one of the world’s highest levels of international aid and massive flows of humanitarian merchandise from Israel, which have, almost invariably, been promptly expropriated by Hamas. Ominously for the people of Gaza, this aid appears to be diminishing, making the future seem even bleaker than the present.



Eli Lake: Netanyahu Accidentally Tells the Truth
Just before a U.S.-sponsored conference that was supposed to be about Iran but isn’t, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu changed the subject back again. At the conference in Warsaw, he said, Israel would be meeting in public with Arab foreign ministers “to advance the common interest of war with Iran,” according to a tweet from his office.

Yikes. Twitter pounced. Headlines blared. The prime minister’s office swiftly erased the tweet and claimed there was a translation error. A new tweet changed “war with Iran” to “combating Iran.”

It’s tempting to think of this as a blunder. A better way to see Netanyahu’s tweet is as a so-called Kinsley gaffe, named for the editor Michael Kinsley: when a politician accidentally tells the truth.

In other words, Netanyahu was right the first time. Israel and America’s Arab allies are indeed at war with Iran. And despite efforts this week to entice war-weary European allies to join the effort, for Arab and Israeli delegations the conference was a chance to further coordinate their campaign against Iran.

Much of this happened behind closed doors. But in his public speech on Thursday here, Vice President Mike Pence hinted at what was going on. Everyone who spoke at the inaugural banquet, he said, talked about the common threat that Iran posed to the region.
The War Between Iran and Israel Moves to Iraq
Israeli officials have made clear that they will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from achieving its goals in Syria, even if that means going to war. But, as I wrote last month, "the real danger is that the conflict spills into Lebanon, triggering another war between the Jewish state and Hezbollah, [which] … has an estimated 130,000 rockets ready to fire at Israel. Because Israel is such a small country with few key strategic targets, it would need to act immediately in a conflict with overwhelming force."

For months, if not years, there have been growing signs that Iraq would be involved in such a war. A commander of Iraq's PMUs warned recently that the militias are ready to respond to Israeli acts of "hostility." Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has also said that a future war with Israel could draw thousands of fighters from Iraq. Iran's decision to redeploy soldiers only makes it more likely that Iraq would be a key belligerent in a future conflict.

This coming storm should be a warning to Washington that its focus in Iraq and Syria should not only be on the Islamic State. If the United States does not want to risk a disastrous, region-wide war erupting in the Middle East—one with its most important regional ally, Israel, right in the middle—then it needs to keep American soldiers in Syria and stay committed to making Iraq a more unified, inclusive state, while maintaining a military presence there as well. Ultimately, that is the best way to reverse Iranian gains in Iraq, where many citizens do not want to live under Tehran's imperial vision.

The conflict between Iran and Israel has remained below the threshold of formal war. But there is no guarantee that will remain the case. So far, however, deterrence has worked; Iran takes Israel's warnings about using force very seriously. That is the main reason why Iran has not really retaliated against Israel's airstrikes: the Iranians know that whatever they do, the Israelis will come back with a much harsher response. Iran has no interest in going to war with Israel, which enjoys a significant military advantage in Syria, especially in the air. In the coming months, Israel will likely try to establish that same level of deterrence further to the east, where Iranian forces will be. The United States needs to be ready to support its ally in this effort.
David Singer: Israel, PLO, Jordan, EU and UN Must Agree on Boundaries of Palestine
Ending the Arab-Jewish conflict over the territory called “historic Palestine” has little chance of success until its territorial boundaries are first agreed between Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Jordan, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN).

Rima Najjar – a retired professor of English literature at Al-Quds University – claims in a recent article that the territory of “historic Palestine” has been subdivided into Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but is effectively controlled by the Jewish State.
The following facts contradict her assertions:
  • Jordan comprises 78% of the territory of Palestine under the League of Nations 1922 Mandate for Palestine – and Jews were denied the right to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in any part of that area of Palestine under article 25 of the Mandate
  • The Old Testament records that two and a half of the twelve tribes of Israel settled in Jordan and cities of refuge were established by the Israelites in Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor – on the eastern side of the Jordan River – and Kedesh, Nablus, and Hebron – on the western side.
  • Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza form one indivisible territorial unit under Article 2 of the PLO Charter.
  • Many leading PLO, Jordanian, Arab and Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Jordan formed part of Palestine and that Jordanians and Palestinians are one people – not two.
  • Under the 1993 Oslo Accords and following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2006 – the PLO effectively controls 40% of the West Bank and Hamas effectively controls all of Gaza.
  • Many leading PLO, Jordanian, Arab and Israeli leaders have acknowledged that Jordan formed part of Palestine and that Jordanians and Palestinians are one people – not two.
Najjar’s intention is clear: to misleadingly and deceptively allege that Israel effectively controls 100 per cent of historic Palestine – when Jordan effectively controls 78 per cent.
In fact:

Jared Kushner says Trump peace plan won’t include Saudi initiative
US special envoy Jared Kushner confirmed Thursday that US President Donald Trump’s peace plan won’t be based on past international understanding such as the 2002 Saudi initiative, which the international community and the Palestinians have long touted as the basis of a two-state solution.

“I think it was a great initiative, in 2002 when it was done, but it hasn’t produced peace, so if that was the framework under which something would be accomplished then I think that would have been accomplished a long time ago, and then I wouldn’t be doing the duty I’m doing right now to try to bring the people together,” Kushner reportedly said behind closed doors at the Warsaw summit. His words were leaked to the Israeli media.

He also confirmed that the Trump peace plan would not be published until after the April 9 election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Kushner had dismissed the Saudi peace plan and spoken of a rollout date after the elections, when he gave a private briefing to Israeli reporters on the sidelines of the Warsaw summit.

He said Kushner had not provided any specific details about the plan and Netanyahu ducked a question about territorial concessions.
Peace Process Veterans See Growing Israeli-Arab Alignment in Warsaw
Veteran U.S. peace negotiator Dennis Ross moderated a panel of three Arab foreign ministers at a closed-door dinner in Warsaw on Wednesday. Ross wrote on Twitter, "The PA may not like it, but Arab states will pursue their interests even when the Palestinian leadership opposes. Case in point: the Warsaw Conference. Arab states had more of an interest in arguing for unity of effort against Iran than boycotting a conference the PA opposed."

"At the Warsaw Conference, I conducted back-to-back discussions first with three Arab ministers and then with Israeli PM Netanyahu. Same room, same views of Iran's aggressive, threatening posture in the Middle East, and unmistakable convergence of what should be done to counter it."

U.S. Middle East peace hand Aaron David Miller said: "Look, the prime minister of Israel had dinner in a private session with...a number of Arab foreign ministers....What is so stunning, so preternaturally amazing, is that at a time when there is no peace process and no prospect of one...Israel's stock in the region and in the international community is higher now than at any point since the state was created."
What Middle Easterners Really Think about the Israel-Palestinian Conflict
Polls conducted in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates indicate that popular opinion has become surprisingly moderate in some of these countries. In most cases, the public’s positions on foreign policy align with those of the government. A full two-thirds of respondents support the two-state solution. Moreover, while each public largely disapproves of American foreign policy and the Trump administration, the percentage who believe it is important to maintain good relations with the United States is much higher.

Respondents in these countries also share their governments’ animosity toward Hezbollah and Iran. In each case, 80 to 90% of the public disapproves of Iran, Iranian proxies, and Hezbollah. The only exception to this trend is Lebanon’s Shia community, which largely support the group and its patrons in Tehran. Yet even this support is dropping, and only 30% of Lebanese Shia believe Hezbollah should confront Israel.

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a small plurality of respondents in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon still see it as a top foreign policy priority, but the issue is low-priority in the Persian Gulf states. Support is high in all countries for giving both sides incentives to adopt more moderate positions. Yet support is generally low for collaborating with Israel on technology and similar issues before a peace agreement is signed with the Palestinians—around 20% in total, albeit a little higher in Egypt and Jordan.

Meanwhile, Hamas retains some popularity, though favorable views are dropping. Support for the organization hovers around 30%-40%, indicating that a sizeable minority still backs a hardline stance against Israel despite significant support for the two-state solution.


In clip leaked by PMO, Arab ministers seen defending Israel, attacking Iran
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on Thursday leaked a video in which the foreign ministers of three Arab countries can be seen harshly attacking Iran and defending Israel, and in one case saying that confronting the Islamic Republic is more pressing than solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The 25-minute YouTube clip, a link that the PMO sent to several Israeli reporters, showed a segment from a panel discussion at the opening gala of the Warsaw Middle East conference, which was closed to the press.

The comments made by the foreign ministers widely confirmed what Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during a briefing earlier in the day, when he described at considerable length the Arab ministers’ positions.

Less than 30 minutes after reporters published the clip, the PMO removed the video from its YouTube channel.

In the clip, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan indicated that Israel was justified in attacking Iranian targets in Syria.

“Every nation has the right to defend itself, when it’s challenged by another nation, yes,” he answered in response to a question by the panel’s moderator, former US Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross, about Israeli strikes intended to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria.
Netanyahu: Israeli-Arab ties advance, but full peace unattainable now
Israel can advance normalized ties with the Arab world without resolving the Israeli-Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but won’t be able to fully make peace with those countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.

He spoke with Israeli reporters on the sidelines of the US-led Warsaw summit, that gathered 60 countries, including from the Arab world, to talk about challenges in the Middle East region, with a focus on Iran.

Netanyahu said the meeting was a historic breakthrough with regard to Israeli-Arab ties and that the taboo against Israeli meeting with Arab leaders had been broken.

“I didn’t say we could make peace” without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “but we can advance normalization,” Netanyahu said.

Places of advancement could include commerce, including direct flight and a change in public opinion in the Arab world toward Israel.

The fear Arab states with regard to Iran, has helped fueled a new horizon for Israel in the Arab world, Netanyahu said.

Four out of the five Arab foreign ministers who spoke behind closed doors at the conference spoke about Iran and “said exactly what I have said,” Netanyahu explained.
Iran's ‘toxic money’ preventing Israeli-Palestinian peace- Bahraini FM
Iran’s “toxic” funding of violence in the region has prevented the resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, including between the Israeli and Palestinian people, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said at a closed-door session of the Warsaw summit.

He spoke on Wednesday, but his words were leaked on Thursday after the closure of the two-day US led summit of 60 countries called the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. The summit was hosted by the Polish government and included several Arab states.

In a private briefing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held with journalists, he said that Arab leaders at closed doors meetings were more concerned with Iran than with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A video of a closed Wednesday night session, placed at the bottom of a WhatsApp message about the US Vice President Mike Pence’s meeting with Netanyahu, showed that his words were correct.
Yemeni FM: Seat next to Netanyahu in Warsaw was ‘protocol error’ by organizers
The foreign minister of Yemen on Thursday addressed Arab criticism for sitting next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a conference in Warsaw, saying “errors pertaining to protocol are the responsibility of the organizing parties.”

At the opening session of a Middle East conference in the Polish capital, Netanyahu was placed next to Khaled Alyemany. The Yemeni top diplomat was already in his seat when Netanyahu arrived, and as the latter sat down, the two men exchanged a brief smile.

Later, during a part of the session that was closed to the press, Netanyahu prepared to address the delegates but found that his microphone wasn’t functioning properly, according to US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt. Alyemany then let him use his.

Greenblatt joked about the incident on Twitter, calling it a “lighthearted moment” and suggesting it may be the unlikely first step in establishing cooperation between the rival countries, which have never had diplomatic relations.

Netanyahu and US leaders have hailed Arab leaders’ willingness to sit alongside Israel at the conference. Netanyahu and Arab officials also shared a stage during a group photo of meeting participants.
Poland moves to end spat with Israel over PM comments, blames media manipulation
Poland on Friday moved to settle a brief diplomatic spat with Israel over comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Polish collaboration with the Nazis, saying it had received clarifications from the Israeli government that had alleviated its concerns.

The presidential office blamed “media manipulation” by the Jerusalem Post for a misunderstanding about Netanyahu’s comments.

And Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement to similar effect: “The Prime Minister’s comments concerning Poland were misquoted by the Jerusalem Post, which quickly issued a correction clarifying that an error had been made in the editing of the article.”

Netanyahu landed back in Israel late Friday and his office then clarified again: “In a briefing, PM Netanyahu spoke of Poles and not the Polish people or the country of Poland,” it said in a statement. “This was misquoted and misrepresented in press reports and was subsequently corrected by the journalist who issued the initial misstatement.”

Nonetheless, Israeli Ambassador Anna Azari was summoned by Poland’s Foreign Ministry for a dressing down over the issue, The Times of Israel confirmed Friday. Israel’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately comment on this development, which was first reported in Polish media.
Venezuela unveils anti-US coalition at United Nations
It was almost a who’s who of America's foes as Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, was surrounded on Thursday by some of the world’s most notorious human rights violators. He was announcing the formation of a group of countries that he said would defend the United Nations Charter.

In an attempt to fight off what the Nicolas Maduro government has claimed to be the threat of a U.S.-led coup, and flanked by more than a dozen ambassadors and diplomats from countries including Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria, China and Russia, Arreaza read off a statement defending the charter and the principles of nonintervention.

Those principles included respect for sovereignty of all states. The principles also called for states to refrain from the use of force against any state, and to respect territorial integrity.

In reference to the sanctions put on his country by the United States, he said all people “have the right to live without the threat of use of force and without the application illegal, coercive, unilateral measures.”

Arreaza said that the new group would be conducting “a series of actions to increase awareness around the dangers that our peoples currently face, particularly the case of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. We call upon all the member states of the U.N. to join us in defending international law as the only guarantor of ... peaceful coexistence.”
Venezuela’s Maduro says rival ‘serves the interests of the US and the Zionists’
The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, called the self-declared interim president and opposition leader Juan Guaido “a CIA agent who serves the interests of the United States and the Zionists” in an interview with the Hezbollah-affiliated Lebanese media outlet, al-Mayadeen.

He added in the interview posted on Tuesday that he feels “love for the noble Palestinian cause,” and sent words of “encouragement to the Palestinian and Arab prisoners confined in Israeli jails.”

Maduro denied that there are Hezbollah operatives acting in Venezuela. And he accused the United States for trying seize the wealth and oil of Venezuela.

Guaido, the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, on January 23 declared himself the country’s interim president and called on Maduro to order new elections.

The United States, European countries and other world leaders maintain that Maduro’s re-election last year was fraudulent and have recognized Guaido as the country’s interim leader, as has Israel. The country’s military remains loyal to Maduro, however.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese terror group, backed Maduro as president after Guaido announced his takeover.
India’s PM Modi Warns Pakistan of Strong Response to Kashmir Attack
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned Pakistan on Friday to expect a strong response to a bomb attack in the disputed region of Kashmir that killed 44 paramilitary policemen, ratcheting up tension between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

The car bomb attack on a security convoy on Thursday was the worst in decades of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state.

“We will give a befitting reply, our neighbor will not be allowed to de-stabilize us,” Modi said in a speech, after meeting security advisers to discuss options.

The attack comes months before an Indian general election.

The Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) claimed responsibility soon after a suicide bomber rammed a explosives-laden car into a bus carrying police personnel.

India has for years accused Muslim Pakistan of backing separatist militants in divided Kashmir, which the neighbors both claim in full but rule in part.

Pakistan denies that, saying it only offers political support to the Himalayan region’s suppressed Muslim people.
Canadian Parliament Approves New Israel Free Trade Deal
The Canadian Parliament on Feb. 8 approved an updated free trade agreement between Canada and Israel. Two-way trade between Canada and Israel has tripled since the original 1997 deal, reaching $1.7 billion last year, Liberal MP Bardish Chagger told the House of Commons, speaking on behalf of Trade Minister Jim Carr.

Canada's "strong friendship and partnership with Israel spans more than 70 years and stretches back even further to the arrival of the earliest Jewish settlers in Canada more than 250 years ago," she said, noting that there are more than 350,000 Jews in Canada "who are an important source of information and support in the political and commercial spheres for both Canada and Israel," and 20,000 Canadians currently living and working in Israel.

Ontario Conservative MP David Sweet said we need to ensure that Israeli businesses continue to be able to hire Palestinians from the West Bank "without the crazy pressure from this boycott, divestment, sanctions movement that does not understand that they actually employ and allow Palestinians to prosper, to have jobs that are not in the Palestinian Authority." He said he feels "very bad for the innocent Palestinian people who suffer every day under tyrannical regimes like Hamas and for those people who suffer under the corruption of the Palestinian Authority."
'No reason why Canada shouldn't move its embassy to Jerusalem'
It's incredibly hard to anger someone from Canada. Try as you might, it will take some time before a Canadian begins to lose their temper or raise their voice – unless of course the topic of discussion is ice hockey. Canada takes pride in being a country where, unlike the American behemoth to its south, everything goes smoothly – and culturalism takes precedence over aggression, to the point where things can get extremely boring.

In the international arena, too, Canada has for years taken care to do the "correct" thing to ensure it is accepted by everyone. That is why Canada has historically taken a central role in peacekeeping forces and has always tried to differentiate itself from U.S. policies in the world.

Canada refused to help out in the Vietnam War or the Iraq War, and it seems as if Ottawa has always wanted to show the world that Canada is most definitely not the United States' younger sibling. That was all true until 2006, when a new sheriff by the name of Stephen Harper came to town. He would serve as the country's prime minister until 2015.

Almost overnight, Harper, the leader of Canada's Conservative Party, shook up the conventions that had guided Canadian policy on the Middle East and Israel over the years. And most importantly, he made it clear that although Canadians may be the friendliest and most peaceful people in the world, they will not blindly toe the line.

When the rest of the world wanted to turn Israel into a scapegoat, Harper would not have Canada play along. In the decade in which he served as prime minister, and even as the head of a minority government, Israel had a loyal ally in the country. Harper closed the Canadian Embassy in Tehran. And in 2011, he ordered the Canadian delegation to walk out in protest when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered his address to the United Nations.

In an interview with Israel Hayom in Jerusalem, Harper spoke with pride of the steps he took while in office.
Former Israel Security Agency Director: PA Will Not Protect Israel from Palestinian Terrorism
Yoram Cohen, 58, who headed the Israel Security Agency from 2011 to 2016, said in an interview that his experience taught him that the Palestinians' capability to take over counter-terrorism efforts is very weak, even if Israel gives them land.

Cohen states that PA counter-terrorism forces "do not have anything remotely similar to Israel in professionalism, technology and motivation" for protecting Israel from Palestinian terrorism. He asks how PA security forces can be trusted when the PA pays salaries to Hamas terrorists in Israeli prisons. Moreover, "No one can be sure that Hamas will not take over the West Bank by force or by election."

For this reason, he is opposed to full Palestinian statehood and would only support Palestinian "autonomy plus in Judea and Samaria or a state-minus," noting Yitzhak Rabin had endorsed a state-minus (where the PA would govern nearly all internal issues but would lack formal sovereignty, since the IDF would still provide external security).

He says, "It is in Israel's national interest to get to a final agreement with the Palestinians and its representative the PA. In the near future, we cannot get to a final agreement between us and the Palestinians" due to unbridgeable gaps in positions about what that deal should look like, chronic instability and religious extremism in the Middle East.

"No external force has an interest in conquering Gaza and freeing the residents there from the burden of the murderous terrorist organizations, led by Hamas, that want to destroy Israel." Israel is not interested in conquering Gaza because of the inevitable cost in Israeli soldiers' and Palestinian civilians' lives as well as the absence of someone else to hand over control to.

He opposes any kind of sea or naval port in Gaza or an artificial port off the Gaza coast, viewing this as "a big open door to bring in a much higher quantity and quality of weapons and military equipment and hostile actors."
In Hebron, Palestinians patrol in place of ousted foreign monitors
Following Israel's expulsion of an international observer force from the West Bank city of Hebron, Palestinian activists are trying to fill the void by launching their own patrols to document alleged Israeli settler violence.

Armed with video cameras and donning blue vests, the activists say they will replace the Temporary International Presence in Hebron. The group has enlisted 18 volunteers and began its work this week.

"By expelling the international monitors, the Israeli government wanted to hide the Israeli settlers' and soldiers' violations, but we will not let them get away with that," Issa Amro, an activist leader, told The Associated Press. "We will document any attack by photos and words, and we will circulate it all over the world."

On January 28, Israel suspended TIPH operations after 25 years, alleging the body is corrupt and routinely violated it mandate by systematically targeting Jewish settlers.

"We will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.
Hezbollah has plans for Israel on the Golan
On Monday, the IDF shelled Iranian-linked targets—most likely held by Hizballah—in the Quneitra province, which lies in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. There can thus be little doubt that the Islamic Republic has positioned its proxies in deadly proximity to Israel’s borders. Yossi Yehoshua comments:

Hizballah is trying to entrench itself in Syria now that Bashar al-Assad has reclaimed the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, precisely as it did in 2014 and 2015, [before Syrian rebels retook the area]. This was when one of the terror organization’s more prominent members, Jihad Mughniyeh, was appointed by Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be in charge of the Golan Heights area and of planning terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Mughniyeh was killed in a 2015 airstrike attributed to Israel. . . .

In addition, an increase in the number of incidents along the Syrian border was noted over the past two months, with the Israeli strikes in Syria . . . meant to signal to the enemy that it is best not cross any red lines. This is similar to the message Jerusalem conveyed to Iran when it [previously] attempted to entrench itself in [this part of] Syria and was pushed out of there after a series of Israeli airstrikes.

Unlike the situation of four years ago, Iran now has a real presence along the Syrian border, while Hizballah is working to resume its confrontations with Israel. And since the organization is up to its neck in domestic problems and thus cannot allow itself to face Israel on the Lebanese front, it finds Syria to be a more comfortable staging ground from which to take on the Jewish state.
IDF conducts massive drill to ‘simulate conditions of war with Hezbollah’
The army conducted a massive drill over the last week which was designed to train soldiers for combat operations in topographical conditions similar to those in Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces said Friday.

The exercise was the largest one carried out by the 401st Brigade of the Armored Corps in recent years, according to Channel 12 news. The soldiers carried out drills in coordination with the Israeli Air Force, as well as the engineering and intelligence corps.

Dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers and helicopters were deployed in the training zone in the Jordan Valley, the IDF said.

The brigade’s commander, Col. Dudu Sonago, said that Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have gained extensive experience and have developed more sophisticated battle techniques after fighting in neighboring Syria’s civil war, at the same time as deepening entrenchment above and below ground in Syria.

“As the situation in Syria stabilizes, Hezbollah is returning its forces to Lebanon,” Sonago said. “They are no longer a guerrilla organization, but a real army. They fought there in regiments of companies and battalions, very similar to the military,” he told Channel 12.

“They operate in civilian areas and are ready with a large quantity of anti-tank missiles,” Sonago added. “This is a challenge the IDF must train for.”
Golan Druze Mark Anniversary of Israeli Annexation
Carrying Syrian flags and pictures of President Bashar al-Assad, hundreds of Arab Druze who live on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights gathered on Thursday to mark the annexation of the territory Israel captured from Syria more than five decades ago.

Dressed in traditional black garb and white hats, the protesters chanted, pledging loyalty to Syria.

“This land is the land of our fathers and grandfathers, the land is ours. No one has the right to it other than the Syrians,” said Qasem Mahmoud al-Safadi from the village of Majdal Shams.

The Golan was part of Syria until Israel took control of it in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel annexed the territory in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.

The Druze are an Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam and whose adherents in Syria have long been loyal to its ruling Assad family.

Around 22,000 Druze live on the Israeli Golan. Israel, seeking to further integrate them, has offered citizenship but most Druze rejected it.

Another 120,000 Druze living in Israel make up about two percent of the population and are one of the country’s most integrated minorities.
Murderer to Martyr: Did Israel turn criminal into 'freedom fighter?'
Israel’s decision to label the murder of Ori Ansbacher as a terrorist attack will enable the family of her murderer, Arafat Irfaiya, to apply for financial aid from the Palestinian Authority or other Palestinian groups, a PA official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the February 7 rape and murder of Ansbacher in Jerusalem. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which often praise terrorist attacks against Israelis, have refrained from commenting on the case of Irfaiya.

The official criticized the Israeli decision and claimed that the PA does not believe that the rape and murder of Ansbacher was “nationalistically motivated.” The PA, he said, believes that this was a criminal murder.

Noting that Irfaiya was not affiliated with any Palestinian group, the official said that by labeling him as a terrorist, Israel has “turned a criminal into a freedom fighter.”

According to the official, Irfaiya’s family will now use the Israeli decision as an excuse to demand that he be added to the list of Palestinian security prisoners who are entitled to a monthly salary from the PA or any other Palestinian group.

“This will not happen,” the official told the Post. “As far as we’re concerned, this was not a nationalistically motivated attack, even if Irfaiya and Israel are trying to make it look like that.”
Denying incitement, Fatah Facebook page chief claims incendiary posts ‘symbolic’
A knife with a Palestinian flag on its handle stabbing a religious Jew. Praise for a Palestinian terrorist partially responsible for the deaths of 38 Israelis, including children. A claim that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party has killed thousands of Israelis. These are among the incendiary posts in recent years on a Facebook page connected to the PA leader’s Fatah faction.

The Israeli government and independent watchdogs have regularly denounced the Facebook page, called “The Palestinian National Liberation Movement ‘Fatah’/ The Official Page,” and international news outlets, including the New York Times and CNN, have critically covered some of its posts.

In a recent hour-long interview, the page’s chief editor Munir al-Jaghoub talked to The Times of Israel about its inner workings and its most controversial posts. In his northern Ramallah office decorated with a collection of photos of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Jaghoub deflected criticism of the page and contended that its opponents have misinterpreted its content.

Jaghoub, who is also the spokesman of Fatah’s Mobilization and Organization Commission (the party body that oversees local branches, activities and recruitment) and previously worked for the PA, claimed critics of the page misunderstand what he called the “symbolism” of some of its most controversial posts. He also contended it has never overtly incited violence.
Why are Israeli food products so popular in Gaza?
Difficulties in the Gaza Strip are being exploited by a number of special interest groups inside Gaza that are doing everything in their power to deceive the vulnerable residents there. The latest scandal deals with food. It began when Gaza’s government food inspectors filed a lawsuit against Badri & Hania Co. The inspectors had seized four tons of coffee, spices and raw materials whose expiration had passed, just before they were to be distributed to stores across the Gaza Strip.

As happens after each new crisis in the food industry in Gaza, consumers began the inevitable comparisons between food items that are produced in Gaza with products brought in from Israel.

Angry responses to the latest swindle soon began appearing on local residents’ Facebook pages. These included calls to buy Israeli-made products as long as Palestinian-made products do not meet the high standards the Palestinian government has committed itself to following.

In fact, just this week, Rola Ravi, 37, strolled into a large supermarket in the center of Gaza, whose shelves hold a large variety of Israeli products. She happily purchased a jar of Israeli Elite coffee. When asked why she bought an Israeli-made product, she responded by saying she prefers Israeli products because of their higher quality, and because she feels secure in knowing they meet certain standards.

“For 10 years I drank my favorite brand of locally produced coffee, Badri & Hania,” explained Ravi. “But recently, there was a problem. The company has been charged with forging production and expiration dates on their products. As a result, I’ve lost all faith in locally produced food items. I prefer to pay a little more for Israeli products. For example, I used to buy the 250-gram jar of the local Palestinian-made coffee for 10 shekels. Now I’m spending eight shekels for a 100-gram jar of Elite coffee. Quality is important to me.”








Week-long Juniper Falcon joint U.S.-Israeli drill comes to an end
US and Israeli troops have finished the week-long Juniper Falcon drill, which tested the level of coordination between the two countries in the event of a ballistic missile threat against Israel.

As part of Juniper Falcon 2019, some 300 Americans from the United States European Command (USEUCOM) flew into Israel last week and joined some 400 IDF troops from various units, including the Air Defense Array, the Operations Directorate, the navy, logistical units and medical forces.

Juniper Falcon focused on scenarios, which would see the deployment of US forces in Israel under fire during conflict and saw troops train in several theaters, including Hatzor Air Force Base and the IDF headquarters and other locations across the country.

As part of the preparation for the exercise, which began 18 months ago, the IDF carried out infrastructural and logistical preparation ahead of the US Forces’ arrival.

According to military officials who spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, the purpose of the exercise is not only to improve the readiness of both countries to defend against ballistic missile threats, but to strengthen the robust and agile partnership and cooperation between the militaries of the two countries.

Brig.-Gen. Erez Maisel, the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Foreign Relations Division, said that the drill focused on the “three Cs: common language, confidence and capabilities” of troops to enable the maximum protection of Israel.




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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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