Thursday, March 14, 2019

From Ian:

The Palestinians Don't Have "a Veto on Progress"
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman interviewed by Washington Examiner

Referring to the Trump administration's peace plan, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman explained, "There ought to be a means to get at least closer to a point where the Palestinians have more control over their lives in a way that doesn't jeopardize Israel's security." The plan "will hopefully, if nothing else, provoke a serious discussion that hasn't taken place in a long time."

Friedman has sought out business leaders and other nonpolitical figures in the West Bank to understand ways to improve Palestinians' quality of life. "I'm happy to meet with Palestinians, even if they don't agree with me or like me. Their thoughts and perspectives make me smarter, thoughtful, and more creative."

He views the U.S. embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem last year as a shift in the U.S. message, that "this is not a conflict where the Palestinians have a veto on progress. At some point...things will move forward with or without them. The U.S. is not going to ignore reality. We are not going to indulge the Palestinians in the fantasy that somehow Jerusalem can be disconnected from Israel or the Jewish people....The idea that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is a fact...a reality, not a negotiation point," though its boundaries are negotiable.

"The idea that one could approach this conflict with a sense of pretty insulting to Israel. The reason Israel holds the territory it holds today, in simple terms, is because it kept getting attacked, wars kept getting fought, and Israel kept winning. The reason Israel hasn't given back all of it, and they gave back a lot, is because to give it away would be an existential risk to the country." Friedman said any other way of looking at the conflict is trying to make peace based on an "alternative reality."

"The biggest danger in this part of the world is to be consumed with wishful thinking. You should see a better future down the road, but you can't wish your way to that. You have to protect yourself along the way."
Why Israel Is Not to Blame for the Lack of Peace
As humans, one of the hardest things to do is give up something we love. When something is held so close to the heart, our strongest instinct tells us to guard it with all of our might.

The State of Israel may be relatively young, but Zionism is not nearly as new. The yearning to live in our ancestral homeland has existed for thousands of years. We’ve known, since the beginning of time, that this land was something we had to protect for eternity.

Today, despite our love for Israel, we understand that others will stop at nothing to cause it harm. This is why, on Israel’s end, there have been countless attempts to ease tensions with the Palestinians through land partitions and peace offers, all of which were rejected by the Palestinian leadership.

In 2005, in an attempt at making peace with the Palestinians, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. This decision divided the country; many believed that this was a huge mistake, while others argued that it was worth the risk.

Gush Katif was a Jewish neighborhood established in the Gaza Strip in 1970. Unfortunately, the situation there intensified during the year 2000, when the Second Intifada broke out. During this time, attacks on Israelis escalated dramatically.

Five years later, residents were notified that Israel would be withdrawing from Gaza in order to achieve peace, and to empower the Palestinian people. If this plan proved to be successful, it would have served as confirmation that the Palestinians were ready for their own state.

As part of the disengagement, the Israeli Army forcibly removed around 8,000 Jewish residents from Gush Katif, displacing hundreds of families. All of the private property within the settlement was completely destroyed, the settlement was dismantled, and the entire Gaza Strip was handed over to the Palestinians.
Ruthie Blum: Israel vs. its Enemies in Europe
What Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas -- both of which glorify terrorism against innocent Israelis and call for international sanctions against the state of Israel -- keep neatly under wraps, however, is the frequency with which they themselves have turned to Israel for medical care, often for cancer treatments.

In 2016, for instance, Abbas' Qatar-based brother, Abu Lawi, was treated for cancer at the Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv, and not for the first time.

In 2015, Abbas' brother-in-law received life-saving heart surgery at that same hospital. Abbas' wife, Amina, underwent surgery there in 2014.

In 2014, as well, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's mother-in-law was treated for cancer at Jerusalem's Augusta Victoria Hospital. That same year, Haniyeh's daughter was treated at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. She was among the more than 1,000 residents of Gaza and the Palestinian Authority treated at Ichilov every year.

Also in 2014, Hamas spokesman Moussa Abu Marzouk's sister was treated for cancer at an Israeli hospital.

In 2013, Haniyeh's baby granddaughter was treated at the Schneider Children's Medical Center in Petah Tikvah.

Most recently, in May 2018, Abbas himself was treated by an Israeli specialist, who joined a foreign team of doctors caring for him in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Ramallah, in the Palestinian Authority.

Israel proudly joined its counterparts around the globe on February 4 to mark World Cancer Day, initiated by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). It is time for the world to cease and desist in its efforts to demonize Israel, and to admit to its use of and reliance on the innovation and technology for healing that Israel -- turning no one away -- always graciously provides. It would be a welcome change if its adversaries were half as ethical.

Colonial origins of sympathy for ‘ISIS brides’
Throughout the entire ISIS period, there has been a tendency to romanticize the ISIS supporters from Europe, portraying them as “one of us,” wayward souls who made a mistake, and to dehumanize and make generalizations about ISIS victims. This is particularly egregious. It is hard to miss the parallels with the Nazi era, when former Nazis were permitted to return home to farms and go back to their normal life. It was only by chance that Eichmann was discovered and brought to Israel for trial. He would not have been tried in Germany or in countries where his crimes took place.

Moreover, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust rarely received much sympathy or support after the war. Like Yazidis, they had to flee to IDP camps, sometimes even forced to be detained next to former perpetrators. Treated as Jews by the Nazis, the US and British also often saw Jewish survivors from Germany as German citizens, not Jewish victims.

Their plight was largely forgotten in 1946 as countries sought to reconstruct after Nazism and put their past behind them. Countries with large numbers of collaborators quietly integrated them while treating Jews like a bad memory. It’s no surprise that in most of these countries, property stolen from Jews was never returned or only returned after the victims died, and that monuments to Jewish suffering arose only 50 years later.

The lessons of the colonial era, Nazism and ISIS have not been learned. Instead, the extremism, racism and genocidal impulses behind each still exist in some European countries. The death of Begum’s baby was called a “stain on the conscience of the UK government,” but the real stain is the deaths of Yazidis at the hands of ISIS, the murder of their children and the missing 3,000 Yazidis. They are a stain on our conscience.

They had as much of a right to life as every one of the European members of ISIS. The only difference is they didn’t have citizenship in an EU state.
The sick stupidity of comparing Nazi-era Jews to ISIS fighters
This shouldn't need to be said, but ISIS fighters are not equivalent in moral plight to German Jews between 1933-1945.

Sadly, it's a relevant point. Because as my colleague Daniel Jativa reports, Germany's Anne Frank Education Center has just made that equivalence. Lamenting that Germany might withdraw citizenship from Germans who have joined the Islamic State, the center sent out a number of idiotic tweets. These included the attempted comparison that "As of November 1941, [Jews] automatically lost their citizenship when they the crossed the borders of the Reich regardless of whether [they had] voluntarily emigrated or [had been] deported." ISIS deserves better, the Center concluded, because "In democracies, deprivation of citizenship is a means of depriving the sovereign, the citizen, of the opportunity to participate."

I'm sorry, this is what Ricky Gervais would refer to as absolute twaddle. Which is to say, it is total bull excrement. Under the Nazis, German Jews were denied basic human rights on the basis of their religious or cultural identity. German ISIS fighters would be denied their citizenship due to their war against their own democratic state. For the comparison to work here, instead of being innocent victims of a xenophobic annihilation campaign, German Jews would have to have waged a terrorist campaign against a peaceful democratic Nazi Germany that treated them fairly. The center's comparison is thus an absurd contradiction in terms.

Yet, the false equivalency also speaks to something else: a failure to grasp ISIS' nature. ISIS isn't just any old terrorist group, it is an incarnation of an idea of post-nation state governance. It represents the idea, put simply, that individual identity and basic allegiance to a nation state is anathema to true moral order. That is why ISIS declared its Caliphate and then established institutions to govern it. And that is why the group used citizens of states such as Germany to project violence into western Europe. And why those citizens proudly serve that infiltration agenda designed for murder. These ISIS fighters aren't simply traitors, they are enemies of statehood itself.
Frankfurt’s mayor blasts Anne Frank NGO for comparing ISIS terrorists to Jews
The ballooning scandal over the Anne Frank center’s comparison between Jews who were stripped of their citizenship by the Nazi regime and the German government’s plan to revoke the citizenship of Islamic State terrorists sparked criticism from Frankfurt’s mayor on Wednesday.

“The comparison with the expatriation into statelessness that was criminally carried out under National Socialism is completely unacceptable. Such comparisons relativize the injustice of National Socialism, “Frankfurt’s mayor Uwe Becker wrote The Jerusalem Post by email on Wednesday.

The Frankfurt-based Anne Frank Education Center has faced waves of criticism on social media and in Israeli, American and British publications after the Post reported exclusively on the Center’s comparison last week.

The Center published a thread of five tweets on March 6 in which parallels were apparently drawn between persecuted German Jews who were forced into statelessness and Islamic State terrorists who could lose their citizenship under a German government plan.

According to the Tweets “A lot of protest has broken out against this – including with reference to the Third Reich. In fact, the Nazis made generous use of the means of expatriation. In several waves, a total of over 39,000 people were expatriated – especially Jews.
Netanyahu: Turkey's Erdoğan a dictator who commits genocide
The latest quarrel between the leaders of Turkey and Israel continued for a second day Wednesday as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan labeled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "thief" and a "tyrant."

Speaking at an election campaign rally, Erdoğan called Netanyahu "the thief who heads Israel" in a reference to corruption allegations against the long-seated prime minister.

Erdoğan also criticized Israel's closure of a Jerusalem holy site Tuesday after Palestinian suspects hurled a firebomb at a police station.

"You are a tyrant," Erdoğan said, addressing Netanyahu at the rally. "You are a tyrant who slaughters 7-year-old Palestinian kids."

Netanyahu fired back on Twitter, describing the Turkish president as a "dictator who sends tens of thousands of political opponents to prison, commits genocide against the Kurds, and occupies Northern Cyprus."

Erdoğan, Netanyahu said, was preaching to him, "to Israel, and to the Israel Defense Forces about democracy and the ethics of war. A joke."

State Dept. no longer using phrase 'occupied territories' for Golan, West Bank, Gaza
ISRAELI POLITICIANS took the linguistic shift as an affirmative nod from the Trump administration on the acceptance of the Golan as part of sovereign Israel and support for the annexation of the West Bank.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said, “The nation has long been with the Golan, now [US President Donald] Trump is also. Thank you, President Trump, for another important step on the path of truth and justice – for the Golan Heights and for Judea and Samaria. The next step: the application of sovereignty [in Judea and Samaria]!” Edelstein said.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) called on Netanyahu to take action, explaining that the State Department shift in language provided a “window of opportunity” for such a step.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) thanked Israel’s “great friend” the United States, which “continues to stand for historical truth.

“The fact that the term ‘occupied territory’ is absent from an official [US] State Department document is an important step for Israel’s foreign relations and the future of the [West Bank] settlements,” Hotovely said.

She credited both Netanyahu and the Foreign Ministry for the State Department’s linguistic shift.

“I welcome the move. I’m confident that in the future, other countries will also stand by Israel,” Hotovely said.

Yesha Council foreign envoy and Efrat Council head Oded Revivi said it was a “welcome and courageous act by the US administration that has consistently resisted the standard international consensus when it diverged with reality, just like the US government’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum said, “This is a massive change in how America relates to the conflict. It is coming to understand that while Israel and the Palestinians have a dispute, international law does not provide the answers to that dispute. The report, also for the first time, expresses skepticism at the claims and submissions of anti-Israel groups, whose poorly documented allegations have previously been accepted as gospel.”
Hezbollah’s Deadly Lies
As much as the U.S. and the Europeans want to pretend that Hezbollah and the “Lebanese state” are not the same thing, reality is the unfailing wet blanket. Such is the total distinction between the Lebanese state and Hezbollah that the Lebanese Embassy in London intervened on Hezbollah’s behalf with a letter to British members of parliament explaining how Hezbollah “enjoys broad popular support, and is represented in parliament, the government and the municipalities, and is difficult to set apart from the general Lebanese public.” Further emphasizing the firewall between Hezbollah and state institutions, the Lebanese foreign minister, a close Hezbollah ally, proclaimed alongside the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini that Hezbollah will “remain embraced by state institutions and all the Lebanese people.”

The Lebanese know they can get away with this. Any nation can now, for example, warn the Lebanese about Hezbollah’s “influence” in the government, or its control over this or that ministry, and still turn around the next day and announce its enduring commitment to supporting this very same government and to pour aid into its institutions. This, sadly, is precisely what the U.S. government is doing. Worse still, our secretary of state, by visiting Lebanon later this month, will only lend American prestige to this Hezbollah-run government.

To be sure, the British decision to proscribe Hezbollah, and the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to target the group’s criminal enterprise and sources of revenue, are laudable. They are, however, undermined by the stubborn attachment to a policy of make-believe.

The U.S. continues to urge European countries like France and Germany to follow Britain’s example and drop the myth of distinct wings in Hezbollah, to no avail, as the myth serves their policies toward Lebanon and Iran. But Washington is wedded to a fable of its own: that by strengthening the “institutions” of a Hezbollah-controlled state, we somehow (and nobody actually bothers to explain how or when) defeat Hezbollah’s “narrative.” As commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, explained to a Senate committee last month, the US policy to strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces—which maintain a synergetic relationship with Hezbollah—helps undercut “Hezbollah’s claim that its armed militia is necessary to protect Lebanon.” Because that’s somehow a real thing, and “narrative” is how a superpower is supposed to conduct policy. The British, too, have invested heavily in the LAF, and “narrative,” and will continue to do so even as they proscribed Hezbollah, which not only operates jointly with the LAF, but which also controls the government to which the LAF answers.

The two fictions, which distinguish between Hezbollah’s wings and between Lebanon and Hezbollah, are not identical, but their function is the same. They are simply a cover for a predetermined policy decision, and a convenient way to bypass a reality we simply don’t want to acknowledge or deal with—namely, that Lebanon is run by a terrorist group tied to Iran. And that by supporting Lebanon’s Hezbollah-dominated “state institutions,” we are supporting Hezbollah’s state.
Israel issues complaint to U.N. over terrorists on Golan border
Israel issued a formal complaint to the United Nations Security Council over Hezbollah's recently revealed "Golan Project," which has positioned operatives along Israel's northern border.

Israel's ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon on Wednesday wrote to council members stating that Israel "will not ignore the conversion of Syria and Lebanon to a military front against us and will act with force against the aggression from Tehran," referring to Hezbollah's Iranian backers.

"Hezbollah is not yet recognized as a terrorist organization by the Security Council," Danon noted, "despite a plethora of evidence of cross-border terrorist activity."

The Lebanese-based Shiite group fought Israel in the First Lebanon War in 1982 and the Second Lebanon War in 2006 when it shot rockets into Israeli civilian population centers, promoting a harsh Israeli response. Recently, it also made deep inroads as a major political party in the Lebanese parliament.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces announced the detection of the Golan Project network led by senior Hezbollah commander Ali Mussa Daqduq, who spent five years in an Iraqi prison for a 2007 attack that killed five American soldiers in the Karbala Governorate. He was released in 2012, returned to Lebanon and was deployed to Syria this past summer to establish the Golan terror network.
UN accuses Israel of "war crimes" at Gaza border; Hillel Neuer responds
The despicable UN Human Rights Council accused Israeli soldiers of “crimes against humanity” for defending the Gaza border. Then UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer took the floor: “Mr. President, let me be the first to state for the record that everything we just heard from the world’s worst dictatorships, and their apologists, is unfounded, unreal and untrue. The accusation that Israeli soldiers are war criminals for defending their citizens from massive attacks on the Gaza border, organized by the Hamas terrorist group, is absurd. The claim that these are civilian protests, and peaceful in nature, is deceitful and dishonest…” The UNHRC’s full assault on Israel will come this Monday, March 18th, in the form of 7 biased reports & 5 one-sided resolutions. UN Watch is leading the counter-attack, with a major protest rally in front of the Council—broadcast live here at 12:30 pm Geneva time—featuring leading international figures: In addition, UN Watch will be speaking in the council debates, organizing expert panels to rebut the absurd report of the Gaza inquiry, submitting a petition with 12,000 signatures, and spreading the truth online and in the international media.

The UN Human Rights Council Remains Allergic to Facts
In May, the UN Human Rights Council voted in favor of establishing, a commission of inquiry (COI) to “Investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018, whether before, during or after”.

The executive summary of that report was recently published. According to the members of the COI, “The commission has reasonable grounds to believe that during the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” and, “Some of those violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, and must be immediately investigated by Israel.”

To begin with, one of the basic premises of the commission’s mandate is fundamentally flawed: Gaza is not “occupied” by Israel, as the mandate of the commission claims. In August 2005, over 13 years ago, Israel withdrew its military from the strip, along with the 8,500 Israeli civilians who had built communities there, a widely-known fact that the UN Human Rights Council chose to distort, making it clear from the outset that the commission of inquiry would put very little premium on facts in its examination. Its conclusions, therefore, should invite even more skeptical scrutiny than usual.

The acclaimed watchdog, NGO Monitor, recently concluded that the report was based on “shoddy researching and reporting”, including relying “heavily on Palestinian sources, including Hamas and terror-linked non-governmental organizations (NGOs)”, using “anonymous and unverifiable ‘testimonies’” and, mixing up, throughout the report, “Concepts of international human rights and humanitarian law and applicable rules and standards”.
Rebutting war crimes allegations, Israel probes Gaza rioters' deaths
Israeli authorities have opened criminal investigations into the deaths of 11 Palestinians who were killed during protests along the Gaza border over the past year, a senior Israeli official said Wednesday.

The Israeli official briefed journalists in Geneva to rebut allegations contained in a U.N. human rights report issued last week.

The United Nations human rights panel said two weeks ago that Israeli troops had killed 189 Palestinians and wounded more than 6,100 at protests from March 30 to December 31. The report alleges Israeli soldiers intentionally fired on civilians and could have committed crimes against humanity at the border.

The senior Israeli official said full-fledged criminal investigations in such cases are opened if "reasonable grounds" of suspicion of criminal misconduct are found.

"If we find somebody violated the law, there will be consequences, but a war crime has to be intentional."

Under Israeli rules of engagement, live fire can be used only if there is a real and imminent threat from individuals or a mob, and only as a last resort, the official said.
NGO Monitor: Episode 17: Col Richard Kemp on Gaza Border Riots
The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp, joins the podcast to discuss the UN's Commission of Inquiry into the 2018 Gaza border riots. He explains how commanders formulate rules of engagement, prepare their forces to take on terrorists embedded among civilians, and incorporate international law into their planning.

Host: NGO Monitor Director of Research Yona Schiffmiller

Guest: Richard Kemp CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire)
Israel’s ambassador shocked over PFLP terrorist speech in Berlin
Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, expressed shock on Wednesday over the scheduled talk of convicted PFLP terrorist Rasmea Odeh.

“We are shocked that a convicted Palestinian terrorist, who is personally responsible for the murder of two students in a supermarket, was invited to speak in Berlin,” Issacharoff was quoted as saying in the daily Berlin-based B.Z. newspaper. “Ironically [this is happening] in Berlin, a city that stands for tolerance and freedom and has now written the fight against antisemitism on the flags.”

Issacharoff reacted following press queries by The Jerusalem Post.

The diplomat, who has stressed that he likes to work behind closed doors, said: “We are certain that German society will draw a redline here and oppose the incitement to hatred.”

Odeh is slated speak at an event in Berlin on Friday, organized by a reportedly antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) alliance organization targeting Israel. Germany’s Interior Ministry run by the Christian Social Union politician Horst Seehofer, the Foreign Ministry and the Berlin State Senate all told the Post on Tuesday that they can’t intervene to stop Odeh’s visit to Berlin.
Brazil’s Bolsonaro to Visit Israel With Embassy Move Still Undecided
Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro will visit Israel at the end of the month but he may not be able to deliver on a promise to move Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem, a move opposed by military officers in his cabinet.

A government official told Reuters on Wednesday that no decision has been taken on the embassy move, which could give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s standing a boost a week before Israel‘s elections.

“Something will have to be said about the embassy during the trip,” said the official with knowledge of the matter but who spoke on condition of anonymity. He added, however, that a formal announcement might not be made during the March 31 to April 2 visit as the Israeli government had hoped for.

Visiting Brazil for the Jan. 1 presidential inauguration, Netanyahu said Bolsonaro told him that moving the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv was a matter of “when, not if.”

But in an interview in February, Vice President Hamilton Mourao, a retired Army general, told Reuters that Bolsonaro’s plan to move the embassy was a bad idea because it would hurt Brazilian exports to Arab nations, including an estimated $5 billion in halal food sales.

The prospect of relocating the embassy — after President Donald Trump moved the US mission — has worried Brazilian exporters who fear losing access to major Arab markets for halal meats, which comply with Muslim dietary rules.
Syrian Scholar Firas Al-Sawwah: Al-Aqsa Mentioned in Quran Is Not in Jerusalem
Syrian scholar Firas Al-Sawwah said in a March 3, 2019 interview on Al-Hurra TV (U.S.) that the Al-Aqsa Mosque that was mentioned in the Quran was not in Jerusalem, and that the caliph Abd Al-Malik Ibn Marwan had decided to build a holy place in Jerusalem and call it Al-Aqsa. He said that a general Arab-Muslim cultural revival that would include a critical review of Arab and Muslim history is necessary. Al-Sawwah also said that the hadiths should be critically examined to determine which ones a true and false, and he recalled having laughed in eighth grade when the teacher taught the class the hadith about the trees and rocks calling Muslims to kill Jews hiding behind them. He explained that the class laughed because they had been “raised on modern thought” and it made no sense to them that trees or rocks would speak.

Likud calls to ban renamed V15 from campaigning against them
Likud plans to petition the Central Elections Committee to issue an injunction against Darkenu, the organization formerly known as V15, to stop campaigning against it, the party said on Thursday.

The party accused Darkenu of not registering as an “active body in the election,” as required by the V15 Law, while launching a social media campaign calling to elect moderates, likely to help Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid's Blue and White Party. Likud said the campaign is worth millions of shekels and that Darkenu manages a database of hundreds of thousands of voters.

V15 campaigned against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015. After the vote, it changed its name to Darkenu and focused on advocating for a two-state solution. During the 2015 election, it was accused of being a form of foreign intervention, in part because one of the organizations backing V15, One Voice, had received support from the US State Department under then-president Barack Obama, and because Obama's 2012 national field director Jeremy Bird was a consultant for V15. The organization denied any connection to the Obama administration.

The V15 Law inspired by the group limits fundraising by non-party political organizations in an election year. Such groups would have to register as an "active elections body." Likud MK Yoav Kisch, who proposed the bill, said it is meant to prevent American-style Super-PACs from influencing elections in Israel.

Likud lawyer Michael Dvorin said that they are drafting the petition “after it became clear that Darkenu plans to be a decisive player in the 2019 elections and act with all its strength to bring down the Likud and its leader.
Wakf says it will start renovating Golden Gate site
In a move signaling the possible end of the crisis, the Wakf Council announced on Wednesday that it will start “immediate renovation and reconstruction work” at the Golden Gate site on the Temple Mount, also known as Bab a-Rahma. The announcement was made after an emergency meeting of the Wakf Council in east Jerusalem.

The council did not say how long the renovation work at the contested site would continue.

A Wakf official told The Jerusalem Post that the announcement came following understandings reached between Israel and Jordan to solve the crisis surrounding Bab a-Rahma. Israeli and Jordanian officials have been holding intensive talks in the past few weeks in an attempt to reach understandings to end the tensions on the Temple Mount.

“The renovation work could last for weeks and months,” the official said. He said he did not know if the site would remain open for prayers during the renovation work.

Last month, Palestinians reopened the Bab a-Rahma site, which was closed by court order 16 years ago because of illegal construction work there by the Islamic Movement in Israel and Hams-affiliated activists.

The Wakf Council said in a statement after its meeting that its “fixed position” remains that the Bab a-Rahma chapel is an integral part of al-Aqsa Mosque and would therefore remain open to Muslim worshipers.
PMW: Muhammad Shtayyeh: Profile of the new Palestinian Prime Minister
Since 2007, the position of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister has been held by a succession of so-called "technocrats" that were not seen as being openly aligned with either Fatah or Hamas.

Potentially signaling a deepening of the rift between Fatah and Hamas, and after his decision to dissolve the Palestinian Parliament (that had not functioned for 12 years), PA Chairman and head of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, has appointed Muhammad Shtayyeh - a member of Fatah's Central Committee - to replace Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, the latest of the "technocrats."

Over the years, Palestinian Media Watch has exposed a number of statements by Shtayyeh, which show that he endorses terrorists as freedom fighters, and encourages the use of "all means" in the struggle against Israel.

Like many others, Shtayyeh believes that Palestinian terrorists, including terrorists and murderers imprisoned in Israel, are not terrorists but rather freedom fighters, or as he terms it - "freedom seekers":

"The homeland is more precious than a human being for us. Our brothers that are in the prisons, the 6,500 prisoners - why did they go to prison? Because they wanted to sacrifice themselves for Palestine. Honestly, [Israel's] false claim and distorted picture that these people are terrorists - these people, to put it very succinctly, [belong to] a people that is under occupation that is fighting the occupying state. When Britain occupied America, in short, the US [was] claiming and saying that it freed its land from the British colonialism. All of the states that were under occupation - international law allows them to fight this occupation. Therefore, these prisoners are 'freedom seekers' and we are with them. These prisoners defended the dignity of their land and human dignity." [Official PA TV, April 29, 2017]
JCPA: The New Palestinian Authority Government
Firstly, Shtayyeh is not a Fatah fighter. According to Palestinian criteria, to be considered a true Fatah fighter, one must spend time in an Israeli prison. With Shtayyeh, this is not the case.

At the very least, Shtayyeh may be expected to give Fatah senior officials leading positions in his new government. However, according to an interview he gave to RT, Shtayyeh does not appear to be thinking in this direction.2 Rather than referring to his new administration as a “Fatah government,” he said that it would be “everybody’s government.”

Fatah’s main concern now is that their senior officials be promoted to key positions that will reflect what will happen the “day after” Mahmoud Abbas.

If no Fatah senior figure is promoted in the government, it may mean that after the demise of Mahmoud Abbas, the “private sector,” meaning the business community, will take the reins of power rather than Fatah.

The reason why Abbas is not interested in promoting any of the “real Fatah” seniors is to avoid inflaming the succession struggle now.

Instead of a “Fatah government” as such, Abbas is more interested in a “PLO government” due to his struggle with Hamas over the legitimacy of the PLO’s authority.

While Hamas derives its legitimacy from the 2006/2007 elections and the Palestinian Legislative Council, the parliament that was elected then, Abbas wants to solidify the legitimacy of the historic PLO and to make it the legitimate source of the proposed new government.
UN to Seek Multi-Billion Dollar Aid Pledges for Syria
The United Nations will seek billions of dollars in additional aid for Syria on Thursday, seeking to overcome fatigue among donors after eight years of civil war and divisions over how to deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

With 11.7 million people needing emergency aid in Syria, many of those children, the United Nations is seeking $3.3 billion for victims there and $5.5 billion for refugees in the region, a similar call to 2018.

“We don’t want the people of Syria to be forgotten at a time when the international community seems to care a little bit less,” said Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief for the European Union, the world’s biggest aid donor, which is hosting the conference with the United Nations. “It’s not over yet.”

Syria has also become the world’s largest refugee crisis, the United Nations says, with more than 5.6 million Syrians fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who recently visited Syria, said around 70 percent of Syrian refugees live a “razor-edge” existence in poverty.
Satellite images show likely military installation in Syria
A military installation near the Lebanese-Syrian border is being utilized to produce precision surface-to-surface missiles, likely with Iranian backing, according to an intelligence report published on Wednesday by ImageSat International.

The firm mentioned that neither warheads nor missile engines are being manufactured at the compound in the northwestern Syrian city of Safita, which is almost five miles from the border with Lebanon.

"According to the company, the type of construction, the location of the compound and evidence of activity at the site and its environs increase the probability that at issue is a missile manufacturing plant," reported Haaretz.

"ISI added, however, that there is no way to confirm this assessment due to suspicions that it's an Iranian site."

The firm added that there has been increased vehicular activity to the compound in recent months, in addition to a new water tower constructed there.
Iran Appointed to U.N. Women’s Rights Committee
Iran, one of the top human rights abusers in the world, has been awarded a seat on a key United Nations committee that oversees complaints about the global abuse of women.

An announcement by the U.N. on Wednesday said that Iran and Nigeria, another country that is no stranger to human rights abuses, would be promoted to the international organization’s Committee on the Status of Women, which oversees abuses committed by oppressive states, such as Iran and Nigeria.

Foreign policy observers on Twitter were quick to condemn the decision and bemoaning the U.S. taxpayer dollars that are used to fund such committees.

UN elects IRAN to judge women's rights complaints, helped by Irish Chair
Irelands's Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Chair of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, oversees the election of Iran's misogynystic regime to the UN women's rights committee that judges complaints of women's rights violations.

Sources: US Aims to Cut Iran Oil Exports to Under 1 Million Bpd From May
The United States aims to cut Iran’s crude exports by about 20 percent to below 1 million barrels per day (bpd) from May by requiring importing countries to reduce purchases to avoid US sanctions, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

US President Donald Trump eventually aims to halt Iranian oil exports and thereby choke off Tehran’s main source of revenue. Washington is pressuring Iran to curtail its nuclear program and stop backing militant proxies across the Middle East.

The United States will likely renew waivers to sanctions for most countries buying Iranian crude, including the biggest buyers China and India, in exchange for pledges to cut combined imports to below 1 million bpd. That would be around 250,000 bpd below Iran’s current exports of 1.25 million bpd.

“The goal right now is to reduce Iranian oil exports to under 1 million barrels per day,” one of the sources said, adding the Trump administration was concerned that pressing for a complete shutdown of Iran’s oil in the short-term would trigger a global oil price spike.

Washington may also deny waivers to some countries that have not bought Iranian crude recently, the sources said.

The US reimposed sanctions in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers. Those sanctions have already halved Iranian oil exports.
50 Iranian drones conduct massive 'way to Jerusalem' exercise - report
Iran’s Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that it had launched a massive exercise involving 50 drones that are based on a US Sentinel drone the Iranians captured in 2011. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it was the strongest exercise of its kind to date.

Named “Beit al-Maqdis,” a reference to Jerusalem, the operation was attended by the commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, and IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh. Fars News and Tasnim News both reported details of the operation, noting that, “for the first time, 50 Iranian drones on the RQ-170 [US Sentinel] model operated with a number of assault and combat drones."

It was the first time, Iran says, that so many drones operated simultaneously in an “offensive operation” at distances of more than 1,000 km away from each other. They trained to strike predetermined targets with “high precision.” IRGC Ground Force commander Maj.-Gen. Golam Ali Rashid boasted that while the US has said Iran is failing 40 years after the Islamic Revolution, in fact “today we are witnessing the strongest maneuvers of the IRGC’s Aerospace Forces.” Enemies would be “humiliated and feel shame,” according to the statement.
Islamic Education Center of Houston Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Islamic Revolution
On February 20, 2019, the Islamic Education Center of Houston, TX uploaded to its YouTube channel a video of a February 17 ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. Morteza Kazemian, a tenth grader, said that the United States continues to sanction Iran because it is scared of it and that America's two goals in the Middle East are to support Israel and Saudi Arabia. The crowd chanted: "Away with the humiliation… Allah Akbar! Khamenei is our Leader!" In addition, young boys wearing scarves and green headbands sang a song for Khamenei: "We are your followers, you are our Leader… We are your soldiers, and together we can all be your power… May Allah always keep your hand upon us… A warrior just like the Battle of Khaybar… May you always be the light to our guidance." Press TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi spoke briefly at the ceremony through a video call. For more about Marzieh Hashemi, who was recently arrested and detained by the FBI during a visit to the United States, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7064.

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