Friday, January 31, 2020

From Ian:

Melanie Phillips: The Palestinians' bluff has been called
Perhaps the Trump plan's most important achievement is to put on record the truth about the Jews' unique rights to the land of Israel. As it states, the areas that Israel is being asked to yield to the Palestinians nevertheless constitute "territory to which Israel has asserted valid legal and historical claims, and which are part of the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people."

As for the loud protests that Israel is being allowed to "annex the West Bank," professor of international law Eugene Kontorovich has tweeted that the United States is not proposing to recognize Israeli annexation of the territory: "It is recognizing that Israel has always had a legitimate claim on this land." In other words, the application of Israeli sovereignty is to be based on its pre-existing rights to the land.

The most intractable element of these pre-existing Jewish rights is Jerusalem, which Israel will never allow to be divided again but to which the Palestinians lay claim as their state's intended capital. The plan audaciously resolves this apparently insoluble conundrum by stating that the Palestine capital should be located "in all areas east and north of the existing security barrier," including Kafr Aqab, the eastern part of Shuafat and Abu Dis, and which could be named Al Quds.

In other words, the Trump team has simply redefined Jerusalem to exclude those Arab areas of the city beyond the security barrier. This would enable the Palestinians to tell themselves their capital is Jerusalem, while Israel will have ceased to regard that area as Jerusalem at all.

Of course, the Palestinians would never agree to this. "Al Quds" to them centers on their illegitimate appropriation of Temple Mount – the most sacred site in Judaism.

But the plan states the all-important historical truth denied by the Palestinians because it vitiates their entire claim to the land – that Jerusalem was the political center of the Jewish people under King David, and has remained their spiritual center and the focus of their religious beliefs for nearly 3,000 years.

The Trump plan won't bring peace; however, it restores the truth and justice that are essential prerequisites of peace. Crushing the lethal and poisonous fantasies about Israel and the Jewish people, as well as taking a hard-headed approach to Palestinian intentions, it replaces illusions by reality.

That's no small achievement. Now it's up to the rest of the world.
Caroline B. Glick: The Oslo blood libel is over
When Israel embarked on the Oslo peace process it accepted Oslo's foundational assumption that Israel is to blame for the Palestinian war against it. From the first Oslo agreement, signed on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, through all its derivative deals, Israel was required to carry out "confidence-building measures," to prove its good faith and peaceful intentions to Arafat and his deputies.

Time after time, Israel was required to release terrorists from prison as a precondition for negotiations with the PLO. The goal of those negotiations in turn was to force Israel to release more terrorists from prison, and give more land, more money, more international legitimacy and still more terrorists to the PLO.

On Tuesday, this state of affairs ended.

On Sunday morning, just before he flew to Washington, US Ambassador David Friedman briefed me on the details of President Donald Trump's peace plan at his home in Herzliya.

Friedman told me that Trump was going to announce that the United States will support an Israeli decision to apply its laws to the Jordan Valley and the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria.

I asked what the boundaries of the settlements would be.

He said that they have a map, it isn't precise, so it can be flexibly interpreted but it was developed in consultation with Israeli government experts.
David Collier: Trumps vision: knocking the Palestinian cause off its perch
Peace or suffering

To those that oppose it – and are living in comfort in the west – they really need to decide what it is they are opposing – they are not the people who suffer from the perpetual conflict.

The problem for the Palestinians is that non-engagement doesn’t work. And I am speaking as someone with historical knowledge who wants genuine peace – and can visualise a time when the walls between Palestinians and Israelis fall down organically.

The only question we face today is how to build a platform upon which a real future partnership can be built. You don’t start as a doctor – you start in pre-school. If you refuse to enter education until you receive your medical licence – you will remain uneducated- even though education still remains a fundamental human right. On statehood – the Palestinians will never be able to start at the end.

Friends of Palestinians should be screaming this loudly. That historically when the Arabs did not co-operate – they lost. They lost when they didn’t co-operate during the early days of the Mandate. They lost when they refused to engage the UN as it formulated the partition plan. The world is moving on – and Israel has continued to grow and prosper. Talking doesn’t hurt. What ruined Oslo wasn’t the talks – it was the bus bombs.

The ‘vision’ does *EXACTLY* what it says on the tin. It is a clear project to improve the lives the Palestinians (and Israelis). It may not be perfect, but it is certainly something that everyone interested in ending the conflict should take seriously and want the Palestinians to discuss.

The vision looks at Palestinian suffering and finds a way to break through the impasse. But there is the catch. It deals with the Palestinians as people – not as a cause. It deals with their human rights, not their anti-Israel desires. And for that it will be instantly rejected by every Palestinian flag waver in the west. Which given the world will carry on moving with or without them – would be a tragedy for the Palestinians more than anyone else.



Twenty-three nations embrace Trump peace plan, 7 in Middle East
Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan links diplomatic and economic policy in a bid to settle the border issue between Israel and Palestine and provide a path to economic wealth for citizens.

The president announced it with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, leading officials in Palestine and Iran to dismiss it, but prompting nations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East to express openness to it.

Australia, for example, said it “welcomes the release of the U.S. ‘Vision for Peace’ by President Trump today. We welcome any initiative that can assist the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for an end to this conflict, and the agreement of a durable and resilient peace settlement.”

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who led the peace project, met with 190 ambassadors to review the plan.

While some in the media have dismissed the plan, others, such as the Wall Street Journal, have given the White House credit for jump-starting the peace process and leveraging support from key players.

The paper wrote: “The Trump administration has wooed officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and other nations in the region in an effort to transcend the political impasse, and to some extent they are responding. The most important regional players—Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.—both urged Palestinian leaders to accept the Trump plan as a basis for new talks with Israel, a move that would force them to make significant concessions, such as Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley.”

And the Moroccan foreign ministry echoed that. It said: “The resolution of the Palestinian question is the key to stability in the Middle East. It is for that reason that the Kingdom of Morocco appreciates the constructive peace efforts of the Trump administration with a view to achieving a just, lasting, and equitable solution to this conflict.”


JPost Editorial: Peace plan is biggest diplomatic gift US ever gave Israel
The "Deal of the Century" is the biggest diplomatic gift an American administration has ever given to the Jewish state since its founding.

Even without reading its contents, one could see during the unveiling at the White House on Tuesday that this plan was orchestrated in tight cooperation with Israel. President Donald Trump’s gestures and comments during the announcement said it all: This is a pro-Israel plan.

And Israelis received the gift with open hands. The Right appreciated the fact that Israel does not have to uproot the settlements. The Left was satisfied that once again peace is on the nation’s agenda, and both sides were satisfied by the response of the Arab world, which by large, called on the Palestinians to consider the plan as a basis for negotiations.

However, after the lights were shut in the East Room, doubts started to flow.

Alongside questions about the definition of the Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem and the tunnel connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, some serious questions also came up on the borders section.

According to the plan, Israel will compensate the Palestinians for every inch in order to keep the West Bank settlements. “Land swaps provided by the State of Israel could include both populated and unpopulated areas,” the plan reads, a reference to Arab towns and cities located in the northern and southern “triangles” and Wadi Ara – three areas stretching from Rosh Ha’ayin to the Lower Galilee.
PMW: PA cartoon: Trump is Balfour the 2nd - "the one with no ownership" who gives Jerusalem to "the one with no right"
Commenting on US President Trump’s Middle East peace plan – “the deal of the century” – the PA has referred to Trump as “Balfour the Second.” They have expressed the view that Trump with his plan is unrightfully giving “Palestine” to the Jews, as Palestinians claim former British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour did when he stated in 1917 that Britain was in favor of “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

The cartoon shows Trump on one knee as if he were proposing marriage, offering Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a bouquet of flowers dripping blood and containing the Dome of the Rock and a church in a representation of Jerusalem. Netanyahu is holding his hands together in excitement with a heart next to his head indicating his emotions. Netanyahu and Trump are wearing blindfolds with eye cutouts and dressed in prison uniforms – apparently referring to them as being thieves who have stolen "Palestine," and also possibly to the fact that they are both facing legal proceedings.

Text on cartoon: "One who has no ownership to one who has no right"
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 30, 2020]


The text is a phrase used by the PA in reference to Lord Balfour and his declaration, and echoes the PA's equation of Trump as "Balfour the Second."

That Trump is “Balfour the Second” was similarly expressed by a columnist for the official PA daily, who titled his op-ed "Trump's plan – new colonialism and a war crime." Writer Muwaffaq Matar, who is also a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council, stated that Trump and his administration’s behavior prior to the announcement of the plan is proof of “a new colonialist plan against the Arab homeland beginning with Jerusalem,” and that the deal is a blueprint for “war and aggression” in which the US “partners” with Israel against the Palestinians:

“Trump is aware of our determined rejection of his plan 'the deal of the century’, which was preceded by a declaration of moral and material terror campaigns, a political and financial siege, and decisions that are at the least a reflection of a new colonialist plan against the Arab homeland beginning with Jerusalem, the historical and natural capital of Palestine (refers to Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital; see note below –Ed.). It is also the second stage in the plan to establish the colonialist presence 100 years after the Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration), which gave the Jews of Europe a homeland in Arab Palestine so that there would be a forward base for Britain in a region rich in resources and natural treasures, and in order to guarantee control over the strategic passages… The deal of the century is the written plan of Balfour the Second, Donald Trump, according to whose clauses the Trump administration will implement a war and aggression as a partner with the senior officials of the Israeli occupation state.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 26, 2020]
CAMERA: The Problem With The Trump Administration’s Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan
The fall of the PLO’s chief sponsor, the Soviet Union, and dwindling Arab financial support due to Arafat’s support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait left the PLO in a bind. At the time, its leaders were residing in Tunis and losing influence. The Oslo Peace Process, however, permitted Arafat and his entourage to return and to receive international aid. Oslo created the PA and allowed for limited self-rule.

In exchange, Palestinian leaders promised to cease terrorist attacks, refrain from inciting anti-Jewish violence and resolve outstanding issues in negotiations. Yet, when it came time to make a final deal, Arafat refused. Under his rule, the PA rejected, while Israel accepted, offers for a two-state solution made by the Clinton Administration in 2000 at Camp David and 2001 in Taba. Similarly, the PA rejected, without counteroffer, a 2008 Israeli offer that would have given Palestinians a state with its capital in eastern Jerusalem and more than 90% of the West Bank with land swaps for remaining territory.

Some commentators have asserted that the Trump administration’s proposal is dead on arrival due to the December 2017 decision to implement the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which recognized the city as Israel’s capital. But this too is false.

The PA also rejected Obama administration attempts to restart negotiations, including proposals in 2014 and 2016 that were based on the 2008 offer. Indeed, a 2009-2010 settlement freeze, initiated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu under U.S. pressure, failed to bring Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, to the table. In an underreported and open violation of Oslo’s terms, the PA’s then-foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said in a Feb. 15, 2016 press conference in Tokyo, “We will never go back and sit again in a direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”

The British, the U.N., the U.S. and Israel have made numerous offers for a Palestinian state. Yet Palestinian leaders rejected them all since statehood meant living in peace with and open recognition of the Jewish state. The problem the Trump administration faces isn’t the plan. The problem is Palestinian rejectionism.
Trump Middle East Plan: Last Chance for the Palestinians?
Israel and the future Palestinian state could sign bilateral agreements and cooperate for their mutual benefit in many areas where Israeli expertise is recognized: agriculture, water, scientific research, technology, medicine. Why should the Palestinians be the only people not benefiting from it? The Trump deal could provide a dazzling future for those Palestinians who prioritize their economic situation over ideology.

It is also highly unlikely that any potential Democrat administration would come up with a more Palestinian-friendly plan that could also be accepted by Israel. And... there is little chance that the Palestinian cause will return to the center of the international agenda and find new allies, except on European and American university campuses.

Instead of openly supporting the Trump Plan, the European Union has already reacted in its usual way: by saying nothing substantial -- which is tantamount to preferring the current impasse and encouraging the Palestinians in their rejection of the Trump Plan and Israel. Cynicism will continue to prevail in European diplomatic circles.

Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority may remain self-righteous and draped in their claims, but it would unmask their real role as corrupt and autocratic leaders, intent on keeping their people as destitute and unempowered as possible.
Palestinians Are the Only Stateless People Who Turned Down Repeated Offers of Statehood
Although the new U.S. peace proposal is unlikely to achieve its purported goal, it is useful because it underscores certain facts. The Palestinians never will accept the existence of a Jewish state in what they consider to be "historic Palestine," which includes present-day Israel. If there was any doubt about that, just listen to the Palestinians' present-day chant for the "liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea" (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, including both the West Bank and all of Israel).

The Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations cites the claims for statehood of over 350 stateless peoples. Many are ancient peoples who have had their own separate identities for centuries, including 45 million Kurds, 6 million Tibetans, 70 million Tamils in southern India, 30 million Igbos in Nigeria, 30 million Sikhs in India, 10 million Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, the Basques, and the Catalans.

The elevation of the Palestinian narrative is especially anomalous given that, unlike other stateless people, the stateless status of the Palestinians is largely self-inflicted. They are the only stateless people who have turned down repeated offers of statehood and independence over the last hundred years.

They are also the only stateless people who have repeatedly and routinely turned to indiscriminate violence and terrorism in pursuit of their goals. The Kurds, Tibetans and other stateless peoples have never turned their call for statehood into an excuse for murder. The writer served for 30 years as an appellate lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington
MEMRI: Saudi Writers To Palestinians: Accept Trump's Peace Plan, Or You'll Regret It Later
The official Saudi position on the Deal of the Century presented by U.S. President Donald Trump this week was one of qualified support for the initiative. A Saudi Foreign Ministry reaction to the release of the initiative stated, inter alia, that "the Kingdom appreciates the efforts made by President Trump's administration to develop a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli peace plan, and it encourages the start of direct peace negotiations between the sides under U.S. sponsorship, in which any dispute regarding details of the plan will be settled. This in order to advance the peace process and arrive at an agreement that will actualize the brother Palestinian people's legitimate rights."[1]

At the same time, the Saudi press reported that King Salman had spoken by phone with Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud 'Abbas, who has rejected the plan out of hand, to "stress to him the Kingdom's steadfast position vis-ร -vis the Palestinian cause and the rights of the Palestinian people." The king reportedly added: "The Kingdom stands alongside the Palestinian people and supports its choices and what[ever] will actualize its hopes and aspirations."[2]

Despite this qualified stance, there has been support for the Trump initiative in the Saudi government media and in tweets by journalists and intellectuals. Some called on the Palestinians not to miss this opportunity for an arrangement and to approach the plan with a positive mindset. The articles and tweets stated that history shows that every plan offered to the Palestinians has been worse than the one before it, and that if they reject the Deal of the Century now, they will long for it in the distant future.
The Trump plan is a win for victory and peace
If we take a look at the context of the plan alongside all other plans, starting with the Peel Commission plan of 1936, each one can be seen in the context of the balance of power that existed at the time. Each peace plan was rejected by the Arab side because they considered themselves powerful enough to reject them and tried to increase their share through war and terrorism.

Each time they lost and were defeated, the next time a plan or map was presented they received less. The latest plan is reflective of where the Palestinians are regarding power, victory and defeat.

Obviously, things can change and the power balance can shift, especially regarding outside support. But judging from the tacit support from the Arab world and the seeming acceptance of the reality by the Europeans and Russians, the Palestinian leadership has few options short of violence, which will just ensure that their people will once again become caught in a cycle of violence of their own making.

The Peace to Prosperity plan is certainly a win for Israel, but the ball is in our leaders’ hands whether they can turn it into a victory.

However, the plan can also become a victory for the Palestinian people. It can free them of violent rejectionism which requires so much resources, funds and energy that can be better directed to building up their national polity, by redirecting funds used to pay terrorists and their families toward social services and education.

In essence, this can become a win-win for both Israelis and Palestinians, and the wider region, if there is a full understanding from Ramallah that the conflict is finally over and they have lost.

The devil may well be in the details, but the context demonstrates that peace, prosperity and a better future for all will arrive when the Palestinians finally accept defeat.
BESA: A Historic Opportunity That Must Be Seized
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Regardless of the ambiguities and open questions attending President Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” Israel clearly stands at a historic juncture and must decide what to make of this one-time opportunity. About such moments it is said: “There are those who gain the world in a single moment and there are those who lose the world in a single moment.”

On May 14, 1948, a few hours before the declaration of Israel’s establishment, Chaim Weizmann, soon to become the Jewish State’s first president, sent an urgent telegram from Geneva: “The decision must be made immediately. The gates of heaven have opened for a moment, and if we enter them our state will be established; if not, who knows if we will see its establishment in our day if at all.” At such moments, leaders and policymakers must make fateful decisions. Those who procrastinate and wait for detailed staff assessments risk squandering the opportunity.

From its inception, the Zionist enterprise has existed in constant tension between two contending visions regarding the overriding goal of the prospective Jewish state: redemption and reconstitution of statehood in the ancestral homeland versus an internationally recognized safe haven for persecuted Jews. And while Israel has largely succeeded at reconciling these two visions and creating a broad common denominator for a unified national endeavor, the yawning gap between the approaches reveals itself all over again at every fateful juncture.

We now see the two visions once more in confrontation: on the one hand, the desire to retain the Jordan Valley for security reasons only; on the other, the aim of applying full sovereignty to this tract of land and settling it accordingly.

The shift President Trump has brought about in the American approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict touches the very heart of the Israeli controversy and presents a unique historic opportunity.
Critics are wrong to scoff at Trump’s Israel-Palestine deal
Trump has been able to advance a new Middle East paradigm that reflects changing geo-political realities. An energy independent America is now less susceptible to Palestinian blackmail, especially since most of the Arab world has placed solidarity with their Palestinian brethren at the bottom of their policy agendas.

Unburdened by liberal guilt, and rejecting the myth that European Jewish colonialists are responsible for the suffering of the indigenous people of Palestine, Trump does not disguise that his sympathies lie with the economically thriving Israeli democracy, which he regards as a major American ally.

Trump is unabashed that his peace plan reflects those sentiments.

But his plan does offer American support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, more than £38bn ($50bn) in economic aid to the new entity, and provides the two sides with the services of Trump the-deal-maker in the next four years. Again, critics can scoff. Do they have a better idea though?

The Palestinians, who had hoped that Jeremy Corbyn would be Britain’s PM, are now fantasising that ‘Bibi’ will be ousted in the Israeli election in March, despite the fact that the head of the Israeli opposition, retired general Benny Gantz has met with Trump in Washington and expressed strong support for his plan. Giving a bad name to wishful thinking, the Palestinians are now left hoping for the election of Bernie Sanders as the next US president.

The Palestinians should instead take Trump at his word and recognise that if they play the game right, they may discover that Trump could help them achieve political independence and economic revival. They don’t have a lot to lose, except more years under Israeli occupation.
Amb. Friedman Compares U.S. Military in Germany to Israel in West Bank
The United States has compared its troop presence in Germany to Israeli security forces patrolling a future Palestinian state.

Briefing reporters around the globe, including in Brussels, over the phone, US ambassador to Israel David Friedman rejected any notion that Israel's security dominance in the envisaged Palestinian state under president Donald Trump's so-called "deal of the century" is tantamount to occupation.

"The United States has military presence all over the world. We have presence in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, I mean...none of those countries consider themselves occupied by the United States and certainly don't consider ourselves to be occupiers," he said on Wednesday (29 January).

The comments follow a plan drafted by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner to create a new Palestinian state almost entirely surrounded by Israel.

Aside from redrawing West Bank borders and handing over most of Jerusalem to the Israelis as a unified capital city, the plan also gives Israel full security-control over an envisaged Palestinian state.

More specifically, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) would control security from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. They will not leave the West Bank.


The U.S. Peace Plan Puts Peace before Giving Up Land
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said: "One of the biggest differences [in the new U.S. peace plan] is [that] President Trump lifted the formula of territories for peace on its head. If in the past Israel was expected to give territory first and then get peace, now Israel gets peace first and then gives up the territory. Here's the difference: The burden of proof of peacefulness falls on the Palestinians. They have to stop educating their children to kill Israeli youth....They have to accept Israel as a legitimate, permanent state. The burden is there and Palestinian statehood is predicated and conditioned on that."

"This is the first agreement that we have seen now in almost 30 years of peacemaking that actually reflects realities on the ground and it is not an expression of a wish....In a real world, Jerusalem is not going to be re-divided. In a real world, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Israeli citizens are not going to be uprooted from their homes. Whereas previous peace agreements assumed the notion of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines - that would involve uprooting thousands and thousands of Israelis and would have given security control to the Palestinians. And that state would have fallen apart in days, if not hours."
The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan Dispels Poisonous Fictions that Have Held Back Negotiations for Decades
It's unlikely that the new U.S. peace plan will succeed. But it is the best of any recent offerings because it doesn't make any false promises. The plan favors reality, laying out the only plausible path to a new Palestinian state. It's been a dangerous waste of time basing negotiations on delusions.

Palestinians are not getting their great-granddad's house in Jaffa back any more than the hundreds of thousands of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from Muslim lands after Israel's 1948 war of independence are reclaiming their property. The difference is that one of these groups accepted reality long ago. The U.S. plan would simply codify these realities while allowing Palestinians to finally have a startup state. Stateless peoples yearning for self-determination around the world would, no doubt, be ecstatic for such an opportunity.

In the past, Palestinian negotiators, who have never once crafted a peace plan of their own - or any deal that wasn't contingent on the complete capitulation of Israel - sat back and rejected one concession after the next. They offered ever-growing lists of grievances while American leaders tried to pacify them. It's about time someone injected a dose of this reality into this situation.
The Majority of Arab States Are Against the Palestinians
Upon the revelation of the U.S. peace plan, the Arab world generally responded with restraint and even deafening silence. After all, the majority of Arab states have far more important and pressing issues than the future of the Palestinians to deal with; and if the Palestinians are incapable of taking responsibility for their future, then no one in the Arab world intends to do it for them.

The Palestinians have chosen to indignantly reject the American peace proposal. Apparently, they would rather "live in a movie" and continue dreaming their dreams about the struggle against Israel and international intervention to force Israel to grant them their every desire. But none of this will happen, and the entire world, except for the Palestinians, has already realized this.

The plan Trump proposed on Tuesday is light-years from the Palestinian dream. But it is a realistic and practical plan, which addresses the gamut of problems that have always stood in the way of a peace deal. Its main advantage is that, contrary to the past, this plan is not hostage to Palestinian weakness or whims.
Palestinians Are Increasingly Isolated
Time and again, the Palestinians have looked to the outside world to uphold their cause. In 1948, and again in 1967 and 1973, they hoped the armies of the Arab states would rescue them and topple Israel. It never happened. After decades of being one of the few issues Arabs across the Middle East could agree on, the Palestinians' plight has lost its emotional appeal. Time has left them trapped stateless while Arab rulers have quietly come to terms with Israel's existence.

The aging Palestinian leadership has been woefully slow to understand the implications of the realpolitik going on around them. Israel made concessions. Most dramatically, in 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza, taking its settlers out against their will. Hamas then used Gaza as a launching pad for repeated missile attacks on Israel.

As the big powers jostle for influence across the Middle East, their eyes are focused on places like Iraq, Syria and Libya, not the West Bank. Saudi Arabia and the UAE used to subsidize the Palestinians generously, but their funding has shrunk. The EU too is not anxious to pick up any slack. Now without powerful friends, with violence a dead end, the Palestinians should swallow their pride. Otherwise they will have chosen to be left with nothing to be proud about.


Trump’s vision for Israel and how far the Jewish people have come
Just this week, we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The difference between the status of the American Jewish community today and 75 years ago cannot be overstated. Then, while Jews were being slaughtered in Europe, the American Jewish community made many well-documented attempts to seek the assistance of and intervention from the United States. In 1944, the United States rejected several appeals to bomb the railroads leading to Auschwitz. The State Department sat on its hands as Jewish refugees sought to come to the land of the free. President Roosevelt was even made aware of the systematic, mass murder of Jews taking place, and took no action for over one year. Of course, and thankfully, the United States later played a vital role in liberating concentration camps, including Buchenwald in Germany in April 1945.

The special relationship between the United States and the State of Israel began immediately after David Ben-Gurion declared its birth, when President Truman recognized the new Jewish state on that same date. The relationship has only expanded over the years. But it hasn’t been without its challenges. In 1982, for instance, the Reagan administration asked Congress to increase its already significant military aid to Israel and Egypt. Later that year, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin visited Capitol Hill for hearings related to the proposed aid package and Israel’s policies.

The hearing was described, in a New York Times article by a U.S. senator, as follows: “I’ve never seen such an angry session with a foreign head of state.” And when then-Senator Joe Biden threatened Begin with cutting off U.S. aid to Israel, Begin responded forcefully: “Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees!” While Begin’s strong, poignant words remain a source of pride for Jews around the world, the exchange reflected the great tension between the nations at that time.

Today things are different. Whether you believe the Trump vision is a positive or not, we must recognize and celebrate how far we have come as a Jewish people, both in America and around the world. This, of course, is something we cannot take for granted. It is beyond dispute that there are certain members of the American political establishment that have taken an aggressive and hostile position vis-ร -vis Israel, but it is also beyond dispute that today, the relationship between the U.S. government and Israel is as strong as it has ever been.

And as we, American Jews, appropriately expend much of our energy in combating the meteoric rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic attacks on our streets and in our synagogues, we must take a moment to recognize that we have made great strides in the United States; that we are welcomed with open arms in the halls of Congress and the White House alike; and that our eternal Jewish homeland, Israel, is respected by the leaders of the most powerful nation in the world.

The feeling in the White House was one of joy and pride about where we are as a Jewish people, and the status which Israel has earned in Washington, D.C. And while Trump’s plan was just unveiled, there is no question that the work has just begun. The Jewish people and Israel must continue to walk with pride and strength, because it is only with these characteristics that we can continue to flourish as a people.
Formulating the Peace Plan: "The U.S. Stood with Israel When It Made Cogent Arguments"
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) President Dore Gold quietly helped the U.S. peace team, but only went public with his involvement when he attended the peace plan's rollout. Gold told the Jerusalem Post that for the past two years he was fielding "dual invitations" from the U.S. and Israel to help hammer out the details of the latest proposal.

Gold, an experienced diplomat and former director-general of the Israel Foreign Ministry, said that Jason Greenblatt was the main player. "He may have come in as a real estate lawyer, but he left as a Middle East expert. You need people who are very pragmatic in this business."
David Friedman brought a "special connection" with Trump to the team. "I've never seen a U.S. ambassador who could reach in to the Oval [Office] like Friedman did. We had the president in the room without him being there." Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer had the same kind of relationship with Netanyahu, "which allowed this to move along." Jared Kushner offered "strong support" to the team.

"Trust was an invaluable component of what made this negotiation work," Gold stated. "The trust between the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government was so great that it became possible to have a discussion...over maps, which was revolutionary."

For Gold, the biggest win for Israel in the peace plan is support for Israel applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley. He pointed out that former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin said in his final speech to the Knesset that Israel cannot give up the Jordan Valley.

In the past, American negotiators doubted Israel's need for a physical presence in the Jordan Valley, and thought about technical solutions instead. Gold explained: "What decides wars is the movement of ground armies. As long as that is the case, then the conditions affecting land warfare, like topography, terrain and strategic depth, are part of the requirements for Israel's national security....Ultimately the U.S. stood with Israel when Israel made cogent arguments."
A Middle Eastern Fairy Tale Unfolds at the White House
When confronted with the myth of Palestinian refugees, for example—Palestinians being the only people in history for whom the condition of statelessness is hereditary and observed rigidly even as new generations strike roots elsewhere—Trump slashed support for UNRWA, the United Nations’ agency devoted to perpetuate this outrage. He moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem, doing in deed what a long line of American politicians promised and failed to deliver. He recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. And now, perhaps most meaningfully, he put to rest the lifeless notion that the 1967 borders—the so-called Green Line—were the sine qua non of any and all future negotiations.

What these decisions have in common isn’t just the ability, not always in ample supply in Washington, to see Israel’s point of view. They also share a refreshing ability to observe reality coolly and without too many preconceived notions. Any intelligent and impartial observer of this conflict—as opposed to the politruks on the Potomac—would’ve long ago realized that insisting on a framework that has been rejected for 20 years straight was folly, and that it was far more constructive to acknowledge that actions have consequences; that decades of declining offers came at a price; and that, given the circumstances, a new deal should begin by affirming conditions on the ground and proceeding from there.

And conditions on the ground, to be sure, are far better than what the quivering chorus of Palestinian apologists would have you believe. Under Trump’s deal, the Palestinians get nowhere near what Clinton had offered them a few weeks before leaving office, but they do get more than double the territory they currently control, complete with a generous payday that should enable them to achieve their lasting dream of declaring independence. It’s why Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Britain all came out in support of the deal. It’s also why the Palestinians, keeping up with tradition, rejected it before hearing it, with Abbas going on to call the American president a dog and a son of a dog.

As Trump understands fully well, name-calling and head-shaking are the acts of petulant toddlers, not serious adults ready to accept responsibility for their own destiny. He also knows that much of what he said today—that Oslo is dead, that Israel must annex the Jordan Valley, that the Jews of Judea and Samaria should never feel like second-class citizens—should’ve been said, long ago and forcefully, by an Israeli prime minister, one mindful of his nation’s needs and unafraid of ephemera like cutting op-eds in the liberal Western press or slaps on the wrist at the U.N. Security Council. And now this new offer, imperfect as it may yet prove to be, is on the table, bolstered by a president who, for the first time in decades, sees the Middle East for what it truly is.
Trump plan, a tunnel and nine miles
But just because a president takes some pro-Israel actions does not mean that everything he does will always be good for Israel. Ronald Reagan was generally pro-Israel—but the Reagan Plan of 1982 proposed such sweeping Israeli territorial concessions that Prime Minister Menachem Begin said it would be “national suicide” for Israel.

Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama maintained high levels of U.S. military and other assistance to Israel. In fact, Obama signed the largest-ever aid package to Israel. But those good and important actions did not change the fact that both Clinton and Obama repeatedly tried to pressure Israel to make dangerous concessions to the Arabs.

There are those who advocate a tactical approach. They say Israel should embrace the Trump Plan, despite its obvious dangers, because the Palestinian Arabs are rejecting it. So, therefore Israel looks good and no damage is caused. But counting on the Arabs to always be rejectionist is risky.

Remember—for years, we all assumed Yasir Arafat would never even pretend to recognize Israel. Then he did. The result: a terrorist Palestinian Authority regime in Judea-Samaria and the creation of a terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza. Perhaps in a few months, or a few years, some new Palestinian leader will pretend to accept Israel again. And then what? More “casualties of the peace” as Israeli government leaders called my daughter Alisa and the others who were viciously murdered in the early, happy days of the Oslo Accords?

In the end, my Israeli friend had this to say, “if we are forced to accept it with some changes, we can manage to stay afloat.”

There’s nothing in the world like an Israeli’s optimism about the future of her, indeed, our, little Jewish country.

Only this time, the reward will be an independent state and an Israeli return to indefensible borders. How can any friend of Israel advocate risking such an outcome?
Jonathan S. Tobin: U.S. Peace Plan Critics Shouldn't Encourage Palestinians to Make Another Mistake
All those denouncing the new U.S. peace plan are advising the Palestinians to stick to their refusal to talk until a new American president takes office. It is the worst possible advice anyone could give. Rather than encouraging the Palestinians to start negotiating, the "experts" are applauding their decision to reject the proposal out of hand. Sadly, they are once again serving as enablers for a Palestinian Arab leadership that has, over the course of the last century, failed their people miserably as they pursued a futile war against Zionism.

Palestinian political culture is one in which any recognition of Israel's legitimacy is not merely a form of treason, but a complete betrayal of Palestinian identity. That's why Abbas was meeting with representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, rather than with Trump and Netanyahu at the White House.

Abbas is saying "no" to Trump for the same reason that the Palestinians have been saying "no" to every compromise that has been mooted to solve the conflict since the 1930s. No Palestinian leader has the courage to make peace with Israel, no matter where its borders are drawn. Palestinians are right to say that Trump is asking them to surrender. But what they must surrender is their dreams of eliminating Israel.

What Trump is offering the Palestinians is the best chance they're going to get to achieve a measure of independence, and eventually even prosperity. Anyone who advises them differently - whether out of disdain for Trump, or because they are fixated on forcing Israel to retreat to the 1967 lines and evicting hundreds of thousands of Israelis from their homes - is merely encouraging them to make the same mistake Palestinians have made every other time they had a chance to end the conflict and move on with their lives.
JCPA: Iran Is Ready to Lead the Fight against Trump’s Peace Plan
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called the deal the “Betrayal of the Century” destined for failure and called on the “free peoples of the region and the world” to fight it. He declared that Iran was ready to take on the task of “fighting the conspiracy against Muslim lands.” He said that the Palestinians have full rights to the occupied lands, and defined the “Zionist entity (Israel) as conquerors and subjugators.” He insisted that the only solution to the Palestinian problem is through holding a national referendum in which some of the residents of Israel (Palestinians, Jews, and Christians) would participate. According to the Iranian perspective, only Israeli citizens who were “alive at the time of the creation of the state (1948) would participate in the referendum.”

Mousavi also addressed the Muslim world: “Unfortunately, although the Jerusalem issue is at the heart of the Muslim world, some Islamic countries (alluding to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, and Sunni states) purposely see or strategically forgot Zionist crimes against humanity and view the [Israeli] enemy as a friend.”

The Opportunity to Form the Axis of Resistance
Iran opposes any attempt to reach a compromise with Israel under any peace plan, including the Arab Initiative. Iran will try to leverage Trump’s peace initiative to represent itself as leading the fight against Israel, in contrast to the weakness of the Sunni Arab states and especially the Gulf States, which are ready to thaw their relations with Israel and even sign peace agreements with it. Iran is expected to take this opportunity to increase military aid to the Palestinian organizations and even to pull together what it calls the “resistance front.” As far as Iran is concerned, this is convenient timing after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, which will enable Iran to demonstrate that Iran is continuing his path of resistance – the man who established and led the resistance camp. Iran can even present the struggle against the peace agreement as part of the Iranian “revenge” for Soleimani’s assassination.

Moreover, Iran’s staunch opposition to the Trump plan is expected to further exacerbate its relations with the United States and Europe and change the atmosphere in the event of renewed dialogue on the nuclear agreement. It could even intensify Iran’s regional and international isolation. Regionally, tensions may arise between Iran and Sunni Arab states who support Trump’s peace plan, albeit tepidly.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: We Say “No, No, No” to Deal of the Century One Thousand Times
On January 28, 2020, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke at a press conference in response to the release of the details of the "Deal of the Century" peace plan. Saying the deal is the "culmination" of the Balfour Declaration, which he claimed the United States had founded, Abbas said that the Palestinians reject the "conspiratorial" deal a thousand times over, that Jerusalem is not for sale, that an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital will be established, that the Palestinians should take to the streets like the Lebanese people, that the Palestinians only accept negotiations based on United Nations resolutions, and that the PA, Hamas, and other Palestinian factions should put aside silly differences and stand united. President Abbas also said that the Palestinians are not a terrorist people, but that they deserve to live.



Advisor to PA President Abbas: Anybody Who Accepts Deal of the Century Will Pay Price for Treason
Mahmoud Habbash, an advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a Friday, January 24, 2020 sermon that aired on Palestine TV that the Palestinians, the Arabs, and the Muslims will never the Deal of the Century, which he referred to as the “Deal of Shame”, the “Deal of Disgrace,” and the “Filth of the Century.” He said that the deal is a path that leads to treason and that anyone who accepts the deal will pay the price for that treason. Habbash told his audience that the Palestinians have an option to disgrace themselves by accepting the deal, or an option to “fight until [their] neck[s] are chopped off” as the Prophet Muhammad had sworn to fight the infidels. He added that the Palestinians welcome death for the sake of Allah and that they would willingly die if that is the price for rejecting the Trump peace plan.


UN official: Palestinians in ‘shock’ over peace plan, warns of rise in violence
Palestinians are in a “state of shock” over a US Middle East peace plan, the head of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees said Friday, voicing fears of a surge in violence.

“We certainly have serious concerns that it will result in an escalation in clashes and in violence,” said Christian Saunders, acting head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

His comments came after US President Donald Trump on Tuesday released the plan, which was seen as heavily biased towards Israel and angrily rejected by Palestinians.

It recognizes Israeli sovereignty over most of its West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, as well as an undivided Jerusalem.
Acting deputy commissioner-general of UNRWA and UN assistant secretary-general for supply chain management Christian Saunders. (Courtesy)

The plan also backs a Palestinian state with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem but says the Palestinian leadership must recognize Israel as a Jewish homeland and agree to a demilitarized state.
Top PA official says Arab response to Trump peace plan disappointing
A senior official in the Palestinian Authority has spoken of Ramallah’s disappointment in Arab nations’ muted and sometimes-supportive response to the contentious US proposal for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the PA had been hoping “for much better.”

Hussein al-Sheikh, PA Civil Affairs Minister, member of the Fatah Central Committee and a close confidant of President Mahmoud Abbas, said there was concern that Arab nations, who the PA had hoped would back their position, may become a “dagger in Palestinian people’s side.”

Trump unveiled his long-awaited peace plan Tuesday. Several Arab counties, including Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia all gave responses that didn’t directly criticize the plan and indicated that it was a basis for negotiations that the Palestinians should seize. The 22-member Arab League has called an emergency session for Saturday to review the matter.

The Palestinians, who even before the release said they would reject the plan, have firmly maintained that position.
On the streets of Ramallah, Palestinians shrug at Trump’s peace plan
Despite the Palestinian leader’s rhetoric, however, Wednesday saw relatively little rioting and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security personnel in the West Bank (it did lead to 33 arrests). A handful of rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday, the Israeli Defense Forces confirmed.

While the peace plan is deeply unpopular among Palestinians in the West Bank, Ramallah’s residents appeared unimpressed by the political storm surrounding them as they went about their business in the Palestinian capital’s bustling shopping district.

Many of them expressed sentiments similar to Maher’s.

“We had hoped they would give us something more than this,” Hussein said. “It’s not fair. This doesn’t give us a good peace.”

Wael, a young man standing nearby, agreed. “To be honest, ask any Palestinian, nobody can be with Trump,” he said. “We own all the land.”

Asked for his take on the plan, one local growled, “I don’t care about Trump. I don’t care about Palestine.”

Many here believe that the plan is intended less to create a pathway to a negotiated solution than to provide Israel with the diplomatic cover necessary to unilaterally annex its contested West Bank settlements.
Erdogan hits out at Arab ‘treason’ over Trump peace proposal
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday blasted several Arab countries for giving general backing to a Middle East peace plan unveiled by the United States, condemning it as “treason.”

“Some Arab countries that support such a plan commit treason against Jerusalem, as well as against their own people, and more importantly against all humanity,” Erdogan told his party’s provincial heads in Ankara.

Erdogan, a strong advocate of Palestinian rights, singled out Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.

“Saudi Arabia in particular, you are silent. When will you break your silence? You look at Oman, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi is the same,” said the Turkish president.

“Shame on you! Shame on you! How will those hands that applaud [the plan] give an account of this treacherous step?”

Turkey’s relations with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi deteriorated after the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Jimmy Carter says Trump plan dooms two-state solution
Jimmy Carter said Thursday that US President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan would violate international law and urged the United Nations to stop Israel from annexing Palestinian land.

“The new US plan undercuts prospects for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” the former US president said in a statement.

“If implemented, the plan will doom the only viable solution to this long-running conflict, the two-state solution,” said Carter, who brokered the landmark 1978 Camp David Accords that brought peace between Israel and Egypt.

He urged UN member-states “to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and to reject any unilateral Israeli implementation of the proposal by grabbing more Palestinian land.”

His office said in a statement that Trump’s plan, unveiled Tuesday, “breaches international law regarding self-determination, the acquisition of land by force, and annexation of occupied territories.”

“By calling Israel ‘the nation-state of the Jewish people,’ the plan also encourages the denial of equal rights to the Palestinian citizens of Israel,” it said.






2nd Gantz aide likens Trump to Hitler; says president 'using' Israel
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz's campaign strategist Joel Benenson, who also served as chief strategist for Hillary Clinton's failed presidential campaign in 2016, has made a number of inflammatory comments against US President Donald Trump on social media, claims that the president is using Israel to cover for his "blatant racism" and drew comparisons between him and Adolf Hitler.

In response to a tweet in July 2019, Benenson implied that Trump's support for Israel is not genuine.

The tweets raise questions about the political advice Gantz is receiving regarding Trump's recently released "Peace to Prosperity."

In response to a claim that Trump was "paraphrasing the Nazi leader in his speeches," Benenson tweeted on Oct. 28, 2018: "It was Hitler's speeches. … It's also where he would have learned Hitler's demonizing term for the press: ‘lugenpresse.' Trump's translation is ‘Fake News."

Benenson, who also served as a campaign strategist for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, joined the Gantz campaign last year as a strategist, with a focus on data analysis.

In September 2018, responding to reports of a resistance group within the US administration, Benenson tweeted: "What's the big deal here? Hasn't there been a secret resistance inside the White House every time in history when we've had a deranged, narcissistic, lying, ignorant, bigot as President?"


Israel, PA on brink of trade war as Jerusalem bans West Bank imports
Israel and the Palestinian Authority appeared to be on the brink of a trade war Friday, after the Jewish state announced it was stopping all agricultural imports from the West Bank and Ramallah threatened to respond.

The root of the conflict is an October decision by the Palestinians to boycott cattle and sheep meat products, with the Palestinian Authority complaining that Israel was forcing it to buy from Israeli farmers and limiting its access to cheaper overseas meat products.

The boycott has led Israeli farmers to incur heavy losses and local growers have protested to the government to end the crisis, even dropping cattle outside Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s yard in Ra’anana earlier this month to drive home their point.

“The minister can take care of them or stop the boycott,” one farmer told the Ynet news site at the time.

In response, Bennett on Friday announced he had ordered a halt to all agricultural produce imported to Israel, starting on Sunday, February 2.

“The minister’s decision was made after months of repeated attempts… to negotiate a solution to the cattle crisis, which has caused severe harm to the cattle-growing sector in Israel and to the collapse of hundreds of farms.”
3 mortar shells launched at Israel from Gaza; IDF tank strikes Hamas post
Three mortar shells were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel Friday afternoon, the Israel Defense Defense Forces said. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one of the projectiles, while the other two struck open areas.

There were no reports of casualties or damage.

In response to the attack, an IDF tank fired a shell at a Hamas observation post near the border in southern Gaza, the military said.

The mortar attack did not trigger sirens inside Israeli communities as it was heading for an unpopulated area, but it did set off alarms on smartphone applications in the area, the military said.

Early Friday, the Israel Air Force carried out strikes in Gaza in response to three rockets fired from the Palestinian enclave at Israel.

The army said among the targets hit was an underground facility used to manufacture weapons. No injuries were reported as a result of the strikes. Widespread power outages were reported in Rafah.
Wife of Late Palestinian Terrorist Can't Collect on Life Insurance Policy, Ontario Court Rules
The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled against the wife of a notorious Palestinian terrorist who attacked an Israeli airliner, in her bid to collect on her late husband's life insurance, because he failed to mention his unsavory past when he took out the policy in 1987.

Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, attacked an El Al aircraft at Athens airport in 1968, killing one person and destroying the plane.

Mohammad was convicted in Greece but released after a hostage negotiation when other front members stormed another plane. He moved to Lebanon and then, under an alias, to Canada.
PreOccupiedTerritory: I’m A Little Disappointed You Used ALL The Balloons As Bombs And Didn’t Even Save ONE For My Birthday, Ahmad by Qusai Qawasmeh, Hamas field operative (satire)
Ahmad, I can’t believe this. You didn’t even leave a single balloon over from making bombs, and you KNEW today’s my birthday?

I’m shocked. And, frankly, offended. That tiny bit of consideration that our friendship implies wasn’t enough to make you stop and think for a moment, “Hey, Qusai would probably appreciate the gesture of my not using all hundred balloons to try to kill Jewish children, and put one aside to mark his twenty-fifth big day?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with the killing children part. I wish it were more effective. Allah knows we could use a success story or two around here. It’s been one letdown after another, what with our rockets hitting nothing, our tunnels neutralized, our infiltrators nabbed within a short distance of the border fence, our border fence riots ineffective, and nothing to show for our efforts – politically, diplomatically, or economically. Our sponsor Iran has the squeeze on it from American sanctions, and only Qatar does any real financial heavy lifting. Even Egypt keeps the crossings closed more than Israel does. But we were given a hundred balloons to fill with helium to attach to devices that we hope will land where Jewish kids in Israel will handle them and die. One balloon wouldn’t have made a difference to our war effort, but it would have made a huge difference to me.

You wouldn’t have had to compromise a single thing for that gesture, either. We were running out of helium – you didn’t even end up inflating the last couple of batches of balloons all the way. I thought you were better than this.
US Renews Waivers on Iran Nuclear Work, but Sanctions Top Tehran Regime Official
The Trump administration on Thursday said it will allow Russian, Chinese and European companies to continue their work at Iranian nuclear sites, arguing that their presence makes it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear weapons.

But the United States also imposed sanctions on Iran‘s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) and its chief, a move the Iranian entity’s spokesman described as a sign of Washington’s “despair.”

The Trump administration, which in 2018 pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran, will let the work go forward by issuing waivers to sanctions that bar non-US firms from dealing with the AEOI.

The waivers’ renewal for 60 days will allow nonproliferation work to continue at the Arak heavy-water research reactor, the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Tehran Research Reactor and other nuclear cooperation initiatives.

Tehran has rejected Western assertions that it has sought to develop nuclear weapons, and on Thursday AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi reaffirmed that Iran‘s civilian nuclear program will continue “full force.”

“Imposing sanctions … is a political game played by Washington. These sanctions have no value and are childish measures,” Kamalvandi told Iran‘s Fars news agency.
Iranian hackers monitor hotels, travel industry to follow targets, expert warns
Iranian intelligence services and other organizations they are backing are monitoring hotels, the travel industry and phone calls to carry out surveillance on individuals through the data they collect, with the aim to possibly cause physical harm to these individuals, a cybersecurity expert warned a gathering of officials and entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

“Iranians are gaining access to data on a lot of individuals,” said John Hultquist, head of the intelligence analysis team at the US-based cybersecurity firm FireEye. “We think they are surveilling individuals through this data so we see targeting of the hospitality industry, targeting the travel industry, the telecom industry — we think they are literally tracking people — and obviously there are some serious physical concerns about potential victims being tracked by the Iranian intelligence services or the organizations that are backing these hackers,”

Talking about the global Iranian threat at the Cybertech 2020 conference held in Tel Aviv, Hultquist said that Iranian hackers or Iranian sponsored hackers are getting better at the game, are “resourceful,” and what they lack in technical prowess they make up with “creativity and some really fantastic social engineering,” he said.

There is no concern that Iranian actors through their actions will be able to bring down whole economies, he said, but there is a definite worry that a cyber attack could cause “major damage” to single players within the economy.
How to Limit Iranian Freedom of Action
Iran's ability to accurately strike targets many miles outside its territory, as demonstrated through recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities and U.S. military bases in Iraq, has greatly increased due to its successful development of precision-guided munitions (PGM). Iran distributes PGMs to its proxies, both the missiles themselves and the technology to produce them. Hizbullah already has a missile manufacturing site in Lebanon.

If successful, Iran's project of spreading PGMs across the Middle East would allow it to deter U.S. action and limit U.S. force projection, even in peacetime. The necessary condition for Iran's PGM effort is its freedom of action in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Open logistical routes over air, land, and sea from Iran to the rest of the region are susceptible to U.S. military capabilities, when it chooses to exercise them. The recently foiled Iranian attempt to transfer arms to Yemen by sea demonstrates how the U.S. can limit the freedom of action Iran enjoys.
Former Guantanamo Detainee Moazzam Begg: Jihad Specifically Refers to Military Conflict
Moazzam Begg, a British Muslim of Pakistani descent who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay between 2002 and 2005, was interviewed in an episode of the Unscripted Podcast that was uploaded to YouTube on January 17, 2020. Begg said that he had joined the mujahideen in Bosnia during the Bosnian War and that this was part of his process of becoming more religiously observant. Podcast host Dr. Salman Butt said that it is refreshing to hear people refer to the conflict in Bosnia as Jihad, and Begg said that the concept of Jihad will remain a sacred and “pristine” Islamic belief until Judgement Day. He emphasized that Jihad is not limited to an internal struggle and that key Islamic scholars have specifically said that Jihad is a military pursuit. He said that Muslims and their scholars need to take control of the narrative and be brave and bold enough to remain true to the Quran and the Sunnah. Furthermore, Begg said that the Muslims will eventually have to rise up against their oppression because Islam is being slowly undermined in the West and the East. He added that future generations need to be raised with the knowledge that they will ultimately be religiously obligated to rise up. Moazzam Begg is currently the Outreach Director at Cage, a London-based advocacy organization that focuses on Muslims who were detained during the War on Terror. For more about Cage, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3836. For more from the Unscripted Podcast, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7703. The Unscripted Podcast is published by Islam21c, a pro-Muslim Brotherhood media organization.




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