Tuesday, February 04, 2020

From Ian:

Einat Wilf: How Trump's peace plan can strengthen Arab-Israeli relations
There is growing evidence of decreased willingness to place the Palestinian cause above domestic Arab interests. Voices that in the past would have never been heard in the Arab world now appear on local Arab television and social media, questioning why their countries continue to hitch their wagons to the Palestinians, who are prone to rejecting compromise. In some cases, these voices even express open support for Israel.

In the past, Palestinians could generally count on the Arab countries — not just to openly fight wars for their cause, as they did in 1948 and 1967, but to stand firmly behind them, accepting what the Palestinians accept and rejecting what the Palestinians reject. This is no longer the case.

So although the Palestinians were still able to rally the Arab League — a group of Arab countries, which is already a shadow of its former powerful self — to join in their rejection of Trump’s plan, their isolation in the Arab world is growing more apparent.

This is the most important aspect, and the greatest news, to come out of the plan’s introduction. Not only does the plan reflect the political preferences of the vast majority of Israel’s Jews — with the Likud, Blue and White and Israel Beiteinu parties endorsing the plan — but it has been cautiously welcomed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as at least a legitimate basis for negotiations.

It also makes vital regional cooperation more likely to continue and strengthen over time.

Israel, for its part, must endorse and adopt the plan in its entirety if it is to serve as a framework that enables the Gulf countries to pursue ever closer cooperation with Israel. It is crucial that even if Israel ultimately annexes the territory designated for Israel in the plan, it does so while making it clear that the remaining territory, assigned in the plan to a Palestinian state, would not be annexed and will be kept for a future Palestinian state.

It is tempting to ridicule the American president’s vision, but the plan does offer the prospect of greater peace and prosperity for Israel — at least in relation to those in the greater Arab world that accepts its presence. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.
Barry Shaw: Basic Middle East facts
The Middle East is characterized by the following 14-century-old intra-Muslim features which can be summed up as:

No intra-Muslim peaceful coexistence, but constant unpredictability, instability, religious and ethnic fragmentation, violent intolerance, terrorism, subversion, and a drive to fulfill Islam-driven goals including the unacceptance of an “infidel” entity in the “abode of Islam.”

Most of the Middle East is not driven by a desire to improve its standard of living, but by religious/ideological visions.

Western imposed concessions, appeasement and gestures actually embolden them to more aggression and terrorism.

The assumption that a Palestinian Arab state could be effectively demilitarized and de-terrorized should be assessed against the track record of the Palestinian Arabs themselves.

The 1993 Oslo Accord and the 2005 Gaza Disengagement were supposed to demilitarize and de-terrorize the Palestinians in return for dramatically enhanced political and economic benefits. Instead, both events intensified terrorism in a dramatic manner.

A direct correlation exists between the degree of Palestinian Arab sovereignty and the level of Palestinian terrorism. For example, in 1968-70, Jordan provided the Palestinian Arabs with an unprecedented platform of operation. Consequently, they triggered a civil war, attempting to topple the pro-US Hashemite regime.

Noah Rothman: You’re Going to Be Hearing a Lot More About Syria Soon
At the end of 2019, just after the Trump administration announced withdrawal from Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve’s commanders estimated that ISIS maintained only about 2,000 fighters in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. But while ISIS-backed attacks on coalition positions continued and anti-ISIS airstrikes were ongoing, this paltry force was “not enough” to make “significant or lasting gains.” The balance has since shifted in this terrorist organization’s favor.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council revealed that ISIS is reconstituting itself under new leadership. The group has again begun mounting “bold insurgent attacks” against both Western and Syrian government positions in Iraq and Syria’s poorly policed border areas. The UN mission’s findings dovetail with the assessment of U.S. Special Representative for Syria Ambassador James Jeffrey, who painted a similarly grim picture on January 30. “[W]e are seeing ISIS come back as an insurgency, as a terrorist operation, with some 14- to 18,000 terrorists between Syria and Iraq,” he told reporters at the State Department. With thousands of new fighters and an estimated $100 million in the bank, ISIS has begun retaking control of territory that once briefly constituted the Islamic State caliphate.

American voters have never been fond of U.S. obligations in Syria, but why would they be? When confronting the threats brooding in that near-lawless state, U.S. lawmakers have routinely led with the reasons why America should not engage in this contest. From Barack Obama’s September 10, 2013, primetime address to Donald Trump’s October 2019 tweets disparaging the American mission, the public is routinely bombarded with the reasons why America, the world’s only superpower, must avoid the Syrian entanglement.

It’s no wonder those voters might be confused as to why those same policymakers have subordinated their objections to the imperative of defending U.S. interests in Syria. America’s political class has never had enough faith in the voting public to level with them about what’s at stake. But Western interests in Syria did not cease to exist. Indeed, those interests seem increasingly imperiled by unabated violence and political chaos in the Levant. If Syria’s trajectory continues along its present course, Americans are going to be hearing a lot more about it. And soon.



PMW: Top PA official threatened: Whoever accepts Trump’s peace plan - "the filth of the century" - "will pay the price of treason"
Upon Trump’s revelation of the deal, Al-Habbash followed up on his statements and called on Islamic scholars and preachers to use their Friday sermons to speak against the deal, which he defined as “a crime”:

“Al-Habbash called on the Islamic nation’s religious scholars and preachers to dedicate the Friday sermon to the topic of Jerusalem, the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the dangers surrounding them as a result of the continuation of the Israeli occupation and the consequences of ‘the deal of the century.’ He called to declare a decisive position against this crime that will satisfy Allah and His Messenger [Muhammad].”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 30, 2020]


After Trump’s revelation of the plan, Abbas’ Fatah called on Palestinians to “defend Palestine with their blood and soul,” as exposed by Palestinian Media Watch. In addition, one of Fatah’s spokesmen, Osama Al-Qawasmi, called for “escalation of the popular struggle” – a term Palestinian Media Watch has documented is used by PA leaders at times to refer to peaceful protest and at times to refer to deadly terror attacks and terror waves.

Al-Qawasmi: “The basic principles of our struggle rely on national unity, escalation of the comprehensive popular struggle, strengthening the boycott, rising up against the Zionist-American colonialist plot at all levels – popular, political, and legal – and fully adhering to our rights.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 31, 2020]


The official PA daily dedicated an entire page to photos of Palestinians protesting “the deal of the century”:

Protesters in the northern Israeli Arab city of Baqa Al-Gharbiya wave Palestinian flags, as a man in sunglasses holds a sign written in English.


Better to fight and die as Martyrs than to accept Trump’s deal – says top PA official
Supreme Shari’ah Judge and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari'ah Justice Mahmoud Al-Habbash: "Might we accept this [the deal of the century]? … We will stand before two choices: Either we will succumb on our own, and humiliate ourselves, and we will receive shame for eternity – or we will say, as our chosen beloved [Prophet Muhammad], said: 'I will fight them… until my head falls and I am dead.' … There is no one among us who can choose the first option… They say that they will declare the “plot of the century” within days… The Palestinian leadership has said clearly and definitely: If they harm our rights in this deal of shame – then the [PA] leadership will take steps... Die – but upright like a tree… Die while you are honorable, die with your head held high… Their goal [in the past] was that the Palestinians would sign on their agreement to the occupation of Palestine… No, this will never happen… We welcome death for the sake of Allah. If death is the price of dignity, sovereignty, and honor, then death is welcome – if it is for Allah and in the way of Allah’s Messenger [Muhammad] who swore to fight the infidels until he died… The Palestinian hand has not yet been created that can sign this deal of shame."
[Official PA TV, Jan. 24, 2020]

Al-Habbash gave this sermon a few days before US President Trump revealed his Middle East peace plan – “the deal of the century” - together with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Jan. 28, 2020.


JCPA: The U.S. Peace Plan: A Return to the Rabin Doctrine of Defensible Borders
The U.S. peace plan offers a return to the security-first approach of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and, specifically, the concept of defensible borders.

On Jan. 29, 2020, Shimon Sheves, former Director-General of Prime Minister Rabin’s office, told Israel Army Radio, “The Trump plan is essentially the Rabin plan” and a “continuation of Rabin’s legacy.” Journalist Ben Caspit, writing in Maariv, called it “a modern incarnation of Rabin’s plan from 25 years ago.”

During the ratification of the Oslo Interim Accords at the Knesset on Oct. 5, 1995, Rabin declared: “The borders of the State of Israel during the permanent solution will be beyond the lines that existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the June 4, 1967 lines.”

Rabin continued: “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley in the broadest sense of that term.” He emphasized that Jerusalem would remain Israel’s united capital. Regarding the Palestinian entity, Rabin told the Knesset, “We would like this to be an entity that is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.”

The defensible borders concept was first formally outlined following the 1967 war by Gen. Yigal Allon, who presented it to Western audiences in Foreign Affairs in 1976. He posited that Israel needed to retain a topographical barrier to defend itself from attacks from the east. Allon insisted on Israel annexing the entire Jordan Rift Valley, including the hilly terrain facing eastwards toward Jordan, as well as the Jordan Valley below.

The U.S. peace plan means Israel is being asked to take unprecedented risks by living next to a sovereign Palestinian state in a Middle East plagued by radical regimes and failed states. That is why defensible borders are critical to guarantee Israel’s security.
David Horovitz: The art of no deal: Who’s subverting Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan?
The Obama administration approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking was fatally misconceived. Focused on dragging the intransigent Palestinians to a deal, the Obama team thoroughly underestimated Israel’s security needs, even though the horrors of the Second Intifada were still fresh. The Trump administration has made no such mistake.

Much of the plan unveiled last week is laudable in its stated intent — from an Israeli and a Palestinian perspective. “It is time to help the Palestinians achieve a hopeful and prosperous future and enable them to join the community of nations,” it states. Who can argue with that?

Other sections sit less well, and prompt questions as to why they are included. Is the clause contemplating the remarcation of Arab towns and villages near the pre-1967 lines in northern Israel, so that they become part of a future Palestine, truly considered a potential element in a negotiated deal? Or was it included at the prime minister’s instigation as an attempt to appease Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who has long advocated such a policy, and whose support in the last two elections would have given Netanyahu a majority? Why risk igniting Muslim fears with a nod toward possible Jewish prayer atop the Temple Mount? Was the provision for a strip of Palestine in what is today’s southern Israel, extending from Gaza far, far south along the Israeli-Egyptian border, thoroughly discussed with the Israeli and Egyptian forces that would need to secure it?

But these and all the other issues of contention could potentially be debated in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation that the document itself seeks to facilitate. It is the question of whether the US is going to allow one side and one side only, Israel, to quickly implement its intended benefits under the proposed deal that overshadows all other aspects of the deal’s credibility.

In short, is Trump genuinely seeking to broker the Deal of the Century, or are we, rather, witnessing the Art of No Deal?

For what it’s worth, I happen to believe the former.

If so, the US president and those who support that admirable goal should be asking: Who is working to subvert it?
Jonathan S. Tobin: The problem with the peace process has been too much empathy, not too little
According to Rudoren (NYT's), a true peace plan would empathize with both sides, rather than being predicated (as she disparagingly notes) on an effort to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. The Trump administration made it clear that they would have to deal with the reality of the conflict, instead of their fantasies about undoing the history of the last century.

The problem with her analysis is not just that it ignores the adamant refusals of the Palestinians to deal with the Trump administration – or to consult about the peace plan and discuss its terms. Like so much of the Times' coverage of the conflict over the years, Rudoren treats the long history of Palestinian refusals to compromise or consider peace offers as unworthy of mention, and not as important as the American obligation to be honest brokers whose empathy for the Palestinians should be unquestioned.

Yet while it's easy to sympathize with any call for people to, in essence, be nicer to each other, the problem with her formula is that the efforts of past administrations to promote peace were rooted in far too much empathy for Palestinian sensibilities, not too little.

What Trump's team figured out was that any peace process that was primarily focused on empathizing with the mindset of the Palestinians was one that inevitably sent the message that their desire to eliminate the one Jewish state on the planet was somehow reasonable or at least negotiable. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and both George Bushes and the diplomats who were tasked with promoting peace were too busy empathizing with Palestinian grudges and making allowances for their promotion of hatred for Jews and Israel to make it clear to them that they first needed to give up their century-old war on Zionism.

Trump's wake-up call for Palestinians to realize that if they truly want an independent state – and after so many refusals of one if it meant recognizing the legitimacy of Israel, no matter where its borders would be drawn, it's arguable that they don't really want one – they must now negotiate may not seem very empathetic. But it is the best advice Palestinians can get. Those who, like Rudoren, have concentrated on empathizing with their hurt feelings about the indignity of having to live with the reality of a Jewish state have actually set back the cause of peace by enabling the Palestinian rejectionism that has perpetuated the conflict.

In the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, empathy of that sort is neither kind nor helpful.
UN Security Council to hear Kushner on Mideast peace plan
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner will present President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan to a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, French news agency AFP reported on Monday.

Kushner, who is one of the architects of the plan, is expected to outline the proposal that Washington unveiled last week and to listen to the positions of the council's other 14 members, diplomatic sources said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to address the Security Council on Feb. 11 to express his opposition to Trump's plan. Abbas is also expected to demand the Security Council admonish the US and demand its adherence to international law.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (File photo: AP)

According to the report, Abbas plans to present the council with a draft resolution through Tunisia, a non-permanent member of the council.

The US will likely veto any Palestinian resolution should it gain the support of nine council members – the minimum required for passage.




Richard Grenell: Palestinians deserve a courageous leadership
The same year Adenauer signed the Petersberg Agreement, another war came to an end. Known in Israel as the War of Independence, and among Palestinians as the Nakba, the war had begun one day after the Palestinian leadership and Arab states rejected UN Resolution 181, the first ever two-state solution of the international community. With Israel victorious over the Arab League and Egyptian and Palestinian forces, the 1949 Armistice Agreement solidified the State of Israel.

Seven decades later, the Palestinian people are still waiting for the kind of leadership that will exchange compromise for sovereignty, and reconciliation for prosperity.

Instead of gaining the economic and security benefits of a final peace, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority offer only the hopelessness of eternal struggle. Rather than gain independence and dignity through a negotiated settlement, Palestinian leaders still reject the outcome of every event since 1949. For the last seven decades, the major factions of Palestinian leadership have cynically justified endless conflict by pretending to advance a cause they know to be futile—the reversal of their neighbor’s existence.

The impact of their leadership is clear. While Israel today is stronger than it’s ever been, Palestinians are governed either by a financially starved terrorist organization in Gaza, or by a corrupt government in the West Bank. Neither government effectively addresses the conflict itself or the daily concerns of ordinary people. With cooperation increasing between Israel and its erstwhile Sunni enemies, and international headlines dominated by Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Libya, the cause of Palestinian statehood is likewise a weaker focus of global concern than it once was.

With the Trump administration’s announcement Tuesday of a new U.S.-led peace plan, the United States is putting the cause of Palestinian statehood back at the fore of international attention.
Daniel Pipes: Israeli Arabs say no to Palestine
No poll has been taken since the Trump plan’s release, but Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List Party, defiantly announced that “no one will deprive us of citizenship in the homeland where we were born.” Mayors of three towns mentioned by name in the plan slammed the idea of being included in a future Palestine, and demonstrations erupted in Arab towns. Israeli Arab media reactions were “without exception” opposed to the idea. Israeli Arab views are as unequivocal as they are paradoxical.

Second, if the prospect of a border move becomes real, Israeli Arabs can and will exercise their right as citizens of Israel to remove themselves from the Triangle and live in a region not slated to be turned over to the tender mercies of Mahmoud Abbas & Co. This has already happened in Jerusalem where, to avoid waking up one morning and finding themselves in Palestine, Arab residents have moved in sizable numbers to such predominantly Jewish areas as French Hill and Pisgat Ze’ev (areas the PA considers illegal Israeli settlements, by the way). The distinguished journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, who lives in a “Jewish settlement,” humorously calls himself an “Arab settler.”

The same movement is happening out of the Triangle: Jalal Bana reports: “almost entirely under the radar we have seen an interesting phenomenon where many Triangle residents have bought property in Jewish cities.... Some have even moved in.... This trend could really take off now: young couples... will prefer to purchase apartments in places like Harish and Netanya and live there.”

So, while transferring the Galilee Triangle from Israeli to Palestinian control looks like an elegant and simple win-win solution, it is sadly infeasible. The Israeli government has apparently rejected it.

Of course, this topic drips with irony. The same Israeli Arabs who bluster contempt for the Jewish state and praise the murderers of Jewish children (note the extremists who serve as their parliamentary representatives) also desperately hope to stay in it rather than become part of Palestine. Perhaps this “near-death” experience will make them just a touch more sober and less nihilist.
Khaled Abu Toameh: The Real Reason Arabs in Israel Do Not Want to Live in 'Palestine'
Why are the 250,000 Arab Israelis living in the Triangle area strongly opposed to the idea of becoming part of a Palestinian state?

Many Arab citizens of Israel see how Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip are subject to human rights violations on a daily basis.

What the Arab citizens of Israel need now is to elect new leaders who will promote coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel, and not engage in anti-Israel rhetoric and actions.

Some of the leaders of the Arab citizens of Israel, particularly a number of Knesset members, have been acting against the interests of their constituents. It is almost as if these purported leaders represent the PA and Hamas instead of the Arab Israelis who voted for them with the hope that they would work to solve problems confronting their communities, such as unemployment.

The Arab citizens of Israel need real leaders who properly represent them in the Knesset and build -- not destroy -- bridges with Jews. Let the protests on the streets of Arab Israeli communities against becoming part of a Palestinian state serve as a fair warning to Israeli Arab leaders: stand by your people, or get out of the way.
Trump's 'take it or leave it' Mideast gambit
Palestinian petulance has run its course. The Trump administration has done them a favor by speaking honestly, "Do you want a state, or do you wish to remain as perpetual refugees and terrorists? Choose. You can't be both."

A people who so quickly gather in "Days of Rage," or to stab Israelis or mow them down in cars is not ready for prime time on the world stage. Your future will depend on whether you want a future. And that can only be demonstrated by building infrastructure, universities and hospitals, rather than rockets and terror tunnels.

Intifadas do not lead to peace with a neighbor who is not planning on leaving the neighborhood.

As real estate industry executives, Trump's deal-of-the-century troika made nation-building a priority. Yes, Israel got more land to ensure its safety, but the Palestinians and Arab states received $50 billion, which is a lot of garbanzo beans for the kind of building that will lead to true Palestinian prosperity.

The Trump administration treated the Palestinians like New Yorkers savvy enough to know when they are being offered the insider's price on a new condominium with free amenities. The problem, however, is that Palestinians have never been swayed by money – or land, for that matter. They didn't seem to mind when Jordan occupied the West Bank and Egypt occupied Gaza. Instead, they were always fixated on dead Israelis in a vanquished Jewish state.

Now after rejecting too many earlier peace deals that would have netted them more land and immediate sovereignty, they are going to have to choose a different road to save yet another generation from stagnation and dependency. After all, a continuous strategy that finds glory only in dead Jews is not a fulfilling national project.
The Palestinian street has lost faith in Abbas
The Arab League's decision to support Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' rejection of US President Donald Trump's peace plan came as a disappointment to Washington, but didn't cause shockwaves across the Middle East – or even in Ramallah for that matter.

Aside from a sparsely attended demonstration at a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, there were no demonstrations in any Arab capital demanding "full rights" for the Palestinians. Even those who signed the Arab League resolution were placid. The United Arab Emirates' foreign minister continued tweeting about the need to examine the American proposal seriously, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi gave senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, the architect of the plan, quality screen time to tell the Egyptian people why the Palestinians were now missing a golden opportunity they will never get back. Anyone who watched Kushner's interview with Egyptian journalist Amr Adeeb could tell he believes that moderate Arab states will continue normalizing ties with Israel regardless of the Palestinian position on the deal of the century.

The streets and squares of Judea and Samaria were also quiet, and in the large Palestinian cities, aside from sporadic disturbances here and there, tempers weren't particularly enflamed in the wake of Abbas' speech. If the PA president expected a massive outpouring of support from the Palestinian street over his threat to sever all ties with the US and Israel – it didn't happen. It's highly doubtful he managed to sway any hearts and minds by positing that "the immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia aren't Jews." It isn't even an original claim. I was reminded how his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, once tried convincing me, over an entire hour, that Israeli Jews of Middle Eastern descent are in fact Arabs, not Jews.

There are at least two reasons for the Palestinian public's apathy toward the plan of the century. One is their belief that the plan, despite what's been said about it, won't be implemented immediately. As long as routine daily life remains undisrupted, as long as over 60,000 work permits are granted each morning and the economic situation hasn't dramatically worsened – there's no reason to go out and clash with IDF soldiers. Unilateral steps on the ground, if they are taken – including annexation – could, of course, change the picture.

The other reason behind the general apathy is the growing alienation between the Palestinian public in the West Bank and the leadership in Ramallah, headed by Abbas. The leader, in the twilight of his rule, is perceived as irrelevant. On the one hand, everyone understands he won't accept any deal pushed across his desk because he wants to go down in history as someone who didn't give an inch, yet they don't believe he intends to completely sever ties with Israel – which would necessarily mean the PA's collapse.
EU warns Israel any West Bank annexation can’t go unchallenged
The European Union on Tuesday rejected US President Donald Trump’s proposal for securing peace in the Middle East and expressed concern about Israel’s plans to annex large swaths of the West Bank that Palestinians seek for their future state.

Trump’s plan, which was unveiled last week, would see the eventual creation of a Palestinian state over some 70 percent of the West Bank, falling far short of minimal Palestinian demands and leaving sizable chunks of the territory in Israeli hands.

In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell underlined the bloc’s commitment to a two-state solution based along the pre-1967 lines, with the possibility of mutually agreed-upon land swaps, made up of the State of Israel and “an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable state of Palestine.”

Borrell said the US initiative “departs from these internationally agreed parameters.”

“To build a just and lasting peace, the unresolved final status issues must be decided through direct negotiations between both parties,” Borrell said. “This includes notably the issues related to borders, the status of Jerusalem, security and the refugee question.”
Watch: Arab Lecturer Tells Jewish Youths Palestinian State Will Result in Bloodshed
Sometimes we don’t have to say a word, let the Arabs speak for us, notes the Hallelu Foundation, whose mission is to foster “collaboration among Jewish organizations worldwide, and the establishment of a centralized information system highlighting the wonder and heroism of Israel.”

On Tuesday, the group posted on Facebook the video of a talk by “an Arab lecturer” who delivered “an amazing monologue before Jewish youths,” saying “it would be a disaster to establish a country for people with a culture of murder and bloodshed, who have been taught for generations that Jews should become food for fish.”

“Under no circumstances is a Palestinian state established,” he says.

I asked the Hallelu website who was this realistic fellow and they promised to get back to me with the answer.

They followed it with a no-reply email: “Thank you for your interest in the Hallelu Foundation and for wanting to take part in the most important project in Israeli at the current time. We wish we could answer each and every one of you as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a large number of emails, and it may take us awhile to reply to all of you. If you haven’t heard from us in a week, please try to contact us again. We hope for your understanding, The Hallelu Foundation.”




Egyptian President Sisi Says No Alternative to Direct Talks between Israel, Palestinians
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said there is no alternative for direct talks between Israel and Palestine, stressing Egypt's steadfast position towards resolving the Palestinian crisis through the establishment of an independent state amid controversy over the recently announced US MidEast plan.

In a statement on Saturday, Egyptian Presidency Spokesman Bassam Rady said El-Sisi received Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo, where he stressed establishing an independent state of sovereignty on occupied Palestinian lands under international legitimacy and accords.

Abbas is in Cairo to garner support from Arab foreign ministers at an Arab League meeting against the controversial Middle East plan announced by US President Donald Trump last week.

El-Sisi stressed the importance of direct negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides towards reaching an agreed settlement under a comprehensive framework that guarantees its sustainability.

Such a settlement would put an end to the sufferings of the Palestinian people through the full restoration of its legitimate rights and preserves the rights of all parties to live in stability, security and peace, El-Sisi said.
Diana Buttu (accidentally) gets one thing right about US peace plan
A Feb 2nd Guardian op-ed on the new US peace proposal by Diana Buttu, former legal advisor for the PA negotiating team, was predictably loaded with anti-Israel vitriol, smears, half-truths and outright lies about Israel and the history of the peace process.

However, she did, quite inadvertently, get one thing right in the headline:

Whilst this headline is inspired by a passage in the op-ed arguing that, for Donald Trump, what Palestinians think doesn’t matter, these words can be taken another way – one that Buttu clearly didn’t intend, but which accurately reflects the truth, at least insofar as media coverage is concerned. What we’re referring to is a dynamic eloquently expressed by former AP Jerusalem correspondent Matti Friedman in his essay at Tablet (“An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth”, Aug. 26, 2014).

A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters.

Freidman’s point resonates in the context of British media coverage of the US proposal, and, of course, Buttu’s op-ed in particular. The question we posed in a previous post, ‘what can Palestinian leaders do now to advance peace, regardless of their disagreement with the Trump plan?’, has not really been asked by media outlets we’ve monitored since the Jan. 28th announcement in Washington. Indeed, we have consistently argued that perhaps the most egregious pattern of media bias demonstrated by journalists covering the region involves their failure to impute agency to Palestinians, framing them as merely victims.
CAMERA Op-Ed: The Washington Post Gets Abu Jihad’s Thoughts On New Peace Plan
The Washington Post has turned to an unlikely commentator for the Trump administration’s prospective peace plan: an unrepentant Palestinian terrorist nicknamed Abu Jihad. Seriously.

The newspaper’s Jan. 23, 2020 dispatch noted that U.S. President Trump “invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his challenger in upcoming elections, Benny Gantz, to Washington” for “a discussion of Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan.” That plan, the Post reports, was finished in 2019, but “kept under wraps amid political turmoil in Israel.” No details were released by the time the newspaper filed the story.

Understandably, the Post sought comments about the plan from Palestinian officials, including Mahmoud al-Aloul, who asserted, “For sure, it’s going to be a complete rejection of the plan.” Less understandably, the newspaper failed to inform readers about Aloul’s background and history.

Mahmoud Aloul, they told readers, is “vice chairman of the ruling Fatah party and a possible successor” to the current Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. But Aloul is also a Palestinian terrorist whose nom de guerre is Abu Jihad.

Aloul was born in 1950 in Nablus. According to a March 2017 profile by Grant Rumley, an analyst of Palestinian politics, Aloul joined the Fatah movement shortly after the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1983, he helped kidnap several Israeli soldiers and worked directly for Khalil al-Wazir, an arch terrorist who was nicknamed Abu Jihad and who murdered 125 people. The Israelis killed Wazir in 1988, and Aloul inherited the nickname.
BBC Radio 4 news implies previous existence of Palestinian state in US plan report
Aleem Maqbool began by repeating BBC framing seen in reports (see ‘related articles’ below) broadcast even before the US proposal had been revealed.

Maqbool: “At a raucous news conference at the White House standing beside the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump launched a plan the like of which, he said, had never been seen before. [recording Trump speaking] But as soon as the details started to be revealed it was very clear the win is really Israel’s alone.”

Listeners then heard a recording of Trump saying “…Jerusalem will remain Israel’s undivided – very important – undivided capital”.

Maqbool: “Something that would have surprised few but would have made Palestinian hearts sink all the same. They have been wanting the return of occupied East Jerusalem to establish their own capital. Under Donald Trump’s plan Israel would not even have to give up any Jewish settlements it illegally built on occupied land. But the knife for Palestinians was twisted further when the US president released a map of his vision for a future Palestinian state. Large swathes of the most fertile West Bank land annexed for Israel. Palestinians no longer having a border with Jordan and relying entirely on Israel for access. The West Bank becoming in effect a cluster of tightly-controlled islands.”

Maqbool’s use of the phrase “the return of occupied East Jerusalem” inaccurately suggests to listeners that that location had previously been under Palestinian control (rather than under Jordanian occupation for 19 years). His partial portrayal of “Jewish settlements…illegally built on occupied land” denies listeners information concerning alternative views of that topic. His reference to “the most fertile…land” dovetails perfectly with PLO descriptions of the Jordan Valley. But it is his reference to “Palestinians no longer having a border with Jordan” which – even taking into account Maqbool’s previously displayed lack of knowledge of the region’s geography – perhaps misleads listeners most. None of the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority since 1994 have a “border with Jordan” and a Palestinian entity with such a border has never existed.
Netanyahu sought deal with US, Morocco to allow normalization of ties — report
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly attempted to arrange a three-way agreement by which the United States would recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara territory, in exchange for Morocco taking steps to normalize relations with Israel.

Netanyahu made several overtures to Washington over the past year to promote such a deal, but former national security adviser John Bolton was strongly opposed, according to a Channel 13 news report Monday.

Following Bolton’s departure in September, Netanyahu reportedly raised the matter again with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but the White House has not agreed to the trade-off.

The report was broadcast on the same day that Netanyahu held a secret meeting with the transitional leader of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, with the two leaders promising to normalize ties between their countries. Officials in Sudan have said the meeting was intended to help Sudan improve ties with the US and get off a terror sanctions list.

An Israeli official told the network that the Moroccans were very unhappy with the gap between Netanyahu’s promises and the results so far, along with his touting of clandestine relations with Rabat for his own political purposes.
Hamas Uses Humanitarian Programs to Support Terrorism
Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, recently exposed a Hamas espionage ring operating in Israel. The ring is part of a wider and more disturbing trend, in which Hamas cynically exploits humanitarian channels to orchestrate terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Hamas is determined to conduct non-stop efforts to pull off mass-casualty attacks against Israelis, and the Israeli defense establishment is constantly thwarting such plots in time, mostly behind the scenes — creating a false impression of security calm.

In actuality, Hamas’s military wing in the Gaza Strip is interested in turning Israel’s streets into scenes of bloodshed and chaos — a dark vision that Israel’s intelligence and security communities work around the clock to prevent.

Hamas’s efforts include bombings, shootings, and kidnappings; the Shin Bet disrupts hundreds of such plots every year.

On Monday, the Shin Bet announced that it had stopped the Hamas spy ring. Two Gazan men, who received Israeli citizenship under a law that reunites families divided between Israel and Palestinian areas, were recruited into the conspiracy. They were ordered to gather information on sensitive targets inside Israel for the purpose of future deadly attacks, according to the Shin Bet investigation.

Yet this pattern of conduct is not isolated. One of the primary tactics chosen by Hamas is to take advantage of humanitarian channels, such as the entry of Gazan medical patients into Israel for hospital treatment.
IDF says navy thwarted weapons smuggling attempt to Hamas commandos from Sinai
Israel some three months ago thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons from Sinai into the Gaza Strip via the sea, the military announced Tuesday.

The army said the navy, aided by the Shin Bet security agency, stopped weapons intended for Hamas as they were being ferried in on a boat.

It did not provide a date for the operation or details on what weaponry was caught.

The military said navy soldiers intercepted the boat and arrested two operatives on board. During their questioning they said the weapons were intended for Hamas naval commandos.

Hamas naval commandos came to prominence during 2014’s war with the terror group, when members of the force swam ashore outside Kibbutz Zikim on Israel’s southern coast.

The frogmen brought with them automatic weapons, fragmentation grenades and explosives, the latter of which they used against an Israeli tank, unsuccessfully. IDF surveillance crews noticed their movements and some 40 minutes after they came in from the surf, the Hamas operatives were killed in a combined attack from the sea, ground and air.


Explosive Balloon Lands in West Bank Palestinian Village
Balloons carrying a grenade landed in the Palestinian village of Majd in the southern area of the Har Hebron Regional Council on Sunday, reported Palestinian sources to Ynet.

The grenade didn't detonate and Palestinian police handled the situation. The village is located 45 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and the balloons are believed to have been launched from Gaza.
Despite threat, Abbas indicates security ties with Israel, US still intact
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to hint Monday that security ties with Israel and the United States were still intact, despite having earlier announced their cessation in response to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

On Saturday, Abbas had said he was cutting all relations — including security ties — with Israel and the US over the initiative, which was released last week and has been angrily rejected by Palestinians.

A cut in security ties could jeopardize the relative calm in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

But on Monday, Abbas appeared to step back from that statement, implying he had not yet severed ties but still could.

“If the Americans continue with this project, the boycott is there (as an option), a full boycott,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Israeli-Palestinian security coordination ranges from information-sharing about terrorist cells in the West Bank to coordination between police forces. Palestinian forces have also received training from the United States and other Western countries.
PA announces partial ban on Israeli imports
Is a sign of growing tensions with Israel over US President Donald Trump Middle East peace plan, the Palestinian Authority on Monday banned the imports of vegetables, fruits, soft drinks, and water from Israel into the Palestinian territories.

The move seems to counter an order issued by the Defense Ministry on Friday, halting agricultural imports from the West Bank – a move which itself sought to respond to a Palestinian boycott of Israeli cattle breeders.

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has instructed Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon to do so after months during which the defense establishment tried to resolve the issue through negotiations.

The Palestinian boycott of Israeli cattle breeders has inflicted significant damage on the industry.
Abbas 'won't be in office for much longer,' Palestinian officials say
The relative indifference in the West Bank to the Palestinian factions calls for "days of rage" following the release of the Trump administration's deal of the century stems from both the Palestinian people and top Ramallah officials understanding that any violent provocation will only undercut their interests, senior Palestinian sources told Israel Hayom on Monday.

The relatively calm routine in the West Bank allows European donors to continue funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into the Palestinian territories, thus allowing the Palestinians there to maintain normalcy despite any tensions with Israel.

Moreover, major Arab countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates, have a clear interest in helping maintain this calm, as does Jordan, which fears any violence will spill over into its territory.

Senior Palestinian officials, especially those who see themselves as potential successors to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, are therefore wary of echoing his call to sever security ties with Israel, as "they know any violence on the ground will eventually affect them, as well," a top Ramallah official said.

Abbas' confused and jumbled address before the Arab League last week seemed to underscore what everyone in the Palestinian Authority already knows – the 84-year-old leader won't be in office for much longer.

But Abbas has deliberately refrained from naming a successor, and concerns are growing that following his departure, regardless of the circumstances, chaos will follow
PreOccupiedTerritory: Abbas Vows To Find Voodoo Doll Behind Lack Of Palestinian Free Will (satire)
The president of the body that governs the vast majority of Palestinians in areas ceded to their control as part of a 1993 interim agreement expressed his commitment today to identifying, locating, and disposing of the enchanted object whose fault it is that the Palestinian leadership has consistently blamed outside forces and actors for the nation’s ongoing misfortune.

Mahmoud Abbas stated his resolve at meeting today of Fatah faction leaders at his headquarters in this de facto Palestinian capital north of Jerusalem, aides to several officials reported. They conveyed the president’s urgent tone, signaling that he believes little time remains to find and neutralize the thing that prevents them from having the free will to assert personal or collective responsibility.

“The Raïs stressed the importance of locating this Voodoo doll immediately,” disclosed Yasser Abd Rabbo, using Mr. Abbas’s formal title. “It appears to be the only explanation for our people and their leadership repeatedly refusing to demonstrate any sense that they possess any political or moral agency.”
Senior Iranian Commander Killed in Syria
A top commander in Iran’s Quds Force who was close to its slain leader, Qassem Soleimani, has died in battle in Syria, according to multiple reports in Iranian and Arab media.

Asghar Pashapour, a senior member of the Revolutionary Guards’ extraterritorial force, was killed Sunday in battle with Syrian opposition forces in Aleppo, the reports said.

He is said to have been at the forefront of the Quds Force’s operations against anti-regime rebels in Syria, where Iran has been a key backer of President Bashar Assad since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Reports of Pashapour’s death came amid a Syrian government offensive into the country’s last rebel stronghold, located in Idlib province and parts of the nearby Aleppo region.

Soleimani, who was killed in Iraq last month in an American airstrike, oversaw Iran’s support for terror groups and militias — including those fighting for Assad in Syria — in his capacity as head of the Quds Force.
Europe Cowers in Front of Iran and Hezbollah
"Hezbollah itself has publicly denied a distinction between its military and political wings. The group in its entirety is assessed to be concerned in terrorism..." — The British Treasury, January 17, 2020.

Britain joins the Netherlands, Canada, the United States, Israel, the 22-member Arab League, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council as well as Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Paraguay in making no distinction between Hezbollah's military and civilian wings. In all, more than 30 countries have banned the group in its entirety.

In Germany, the EU's largest member state, a foreign ministry official, Niels Annen, said that a complete ban of Hezbollah would be counterproductive because "we focus on dialogue." His comment has been understood to mean that the German government does not want to burn bridges with Hezbollah's main patron, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world's leading sponsor of terrorism.

In other EU member states, government officials appear worried that a total ban of Hezbollah could jeopardize the safety of European troops deployed to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL. EU member states contribute more than 3,650 troops to UNIFIL — mostly from France, Italy and Spain.

"Hezbollah is a single large organization, we have no wings that are separate from one another. What's being said in Brussels doesn't exist for us." — Ibrahim Mussawi, Hezbollah spokesman, interview in Der Spiegel, July 22, 2013.
Europe to Avoid Taking Iran Nuclear Dispute to UN, EU’s Top Diplomat Says
The European Union will extend indefinitely the time limit to resolve disputes in the Iran 2015 nuclear accord to avoid having to go to the UN Security Council or triggering new sanctions, the EU’s top diplomat said during a visit to Tehran.

Britain, France and Germany formally accused Iran on Jan. 14 of violating the terms of the 2015 arms control agreement aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program. Violations could lead to the reimposing of UN sanctions lifted under the 2015 deal.

“We are in agreement not to go directly to a strict time limit which would oblige (us) to go to the Security Council,” the EU’s Josep Borrell told reporters during a visit to Tehran on Monday.

In his remarks, broadcast on Tuesday, he said: “The willingness is not to start a process that goes to the end of JCPOA, but to keep it alive,” referring to the Iran deal by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
MEMRI: Hassan Rahimpour Azghadi: We Should Use Blacks In America To Cause The U.S. To Disintegrate; Bloodshed Through Jihad Is A Form Of Mercy To The World
Hassan Rahimpour Azghadi, a member of Iran's Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution, said in a January 23, 2020 lecture aired on Ofogh TV (Iran) that Jihad and violence are a form of mercy to the world. Explaining that mercy for mankind had been the heart of Prophet Muhammad's mission, Azghadi said that bloodshed through Jihad is merciful in the same way that surgery is merciful when compared to execution. He also said that the Quran clearly calls for armed struggle and guerrilla warfare anywhere people are oppressed in the world. In addition, Azghadi said that Iran plans to conquer all the key locations in the world and that Iran should establish a cultural presence among blacks and people of color in the United States in order to exploit their estrangement and cause America to disintegrate. He also argued that Iran should train and send young people to establish a social and cultural presence throughout the world.

"The Heart Of [Prophet Muhammad's] Mission Is Mercy; Even When It Takes The Form Of Jihad And Violence, It Is Mercy"

Hassan Rahimpour Azghadi: "In the Quran, chapter 21, verse 107 reads: 'We have sent you not but as a mercy for Mankind.' In principle, the heart of [Prophet Muhammad's] mission is mercy. Even when it takes the form of Jihad and violence, it is mercy.
[...]
"Why does this bloodshed constitute mercy for Mankind? This bloodshed is more like surgery than execution. What is the difference between a surgeon's blade and the blade of an executioner? Both make one bleed, both cause pain, and both tear the flesh and the skin, but one is used to cure people and the other is used to finish them off. One brings mercy and joy and other brings torment and misery."
[...]
"We Have To Make Our Presence Felt In The Conflict In America That Involve Blacks And People Of Color... There Is Hatred Of Various Kinds There, And We Are Not Taking Proper Advantage Of It"




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