Thursday, July 23, 2020

From Ian:

Israel demolished Hebron car dealership, not 'COVID-19 center'
An unlicensed structure demolished earlier this week by the Israeli authorities near Hebron was not being planned as a center for coronavirus tests, but as a private car dealership business.

A Palestinian car dealer who was planning to open a business at the site, located at the entrance to Hebron, claimed after the demolition that the structure was intended to serve as a “center for conducting coronavirus tests” on Palestinian workers upon their return from Israel.

The structure was being built on a plot of land located in Area C, which is exclusively controlled by Israel.

Civil Administration inspectors, who first noticed the structure on July 12, issued an order banning the continuation of the work. The car dealer, however, ignored the warning.

Palestinians working at the site told the inspectors that they were building a car exhibition for a Palestinian businessman from Hebron. The inspectors also spotted a sign with the name of the new car dealership business.

On July 21, Civil Administration bulldozers arrived at the site and demolished the illegally built structure. (h/t Charlie in NY)
PMW: The birth and spread of a new anti-Israel libel: The claim that Israel destroyed a COVID-19 testing center in Hebron is false!
Whether you attribute the quote to Mark Twain, Winston Churchill or Jonathan Swift, the fact is that “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” This age old adage took on new life when a lie invented by Palestinian sources spread like wild fire around the globe.

In recent days, Israel destroyed a structure (pictured below) erected without a building permit. The structure, according to the original story of its owner, “was built to establish an exhibition hall for cars.”

Manipulating sensitivity to the global pandemic, Palestinian sources, and their eager supporters, spread the libel that Israel had deliberately destroyed a COVID-19 testing center on the outskirts of Hebron, a hotspot for COVID-19 cases. To strengthen the libel, the following computer graphic image was disseminated with the lie that this was the structure that Israel destroyed:

Only after Israeli authorities issued a destruction order for the structure, did the Mayor of Hebron, Tayseer Abu Sneina, a released terrorist convicted for the murder of 6 people (3 Israelis, 2 Americans and a Canadian), suddenly inform the owner, that he was working with the PA Ministry of Health and with the Governor of the Hebron District, to turn the structure in to a COVID-19 testing and isolation center:
“We inform you that the Hebron Municipality is in contact with the Ministry of Health, and with the Honorable Governor of the Hebron District, regarding the use of the building located on the plot of land, numbered (90) No. Plot (34417) as a medical examination and isolation center for those coming to Hebron.”

The Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) responded to the libel, via its Facebook page, in both Arabic and English, making clear that the claim had no validity. Significantly, COGAT added that no request had been submitted to either the Israeli Authorities, the Palestinian Authority or international organizations working in the area to build a COVID-19 testing center.
Dutch officials pictured with terrorist involved in 17-year-old's death
Dutch civil servants took a picture with one of the terrorists charged with killing 17-year-old Rina Schnerb, The Jerusalem Post has learned, despite their government’s denial that they knew of any connection between organizations they fund and terrorist groups.

The photograph from 2017, which can be found on the Netherlands Representative Office in Ramallah’s Facebook page, features Dutch officials, including Head of Cooperation in Ramallah Henny de Vries, and leaders of the Palestinian-run organization Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), to which the Dutch representative in Ramallah pledged nearly $20 million in 2013-2021.

Among the UAWC officials in the photo, though not named in the Facebook post, is Abdul Razeq Farraj, the NGO’s Finance and Administration director and who was indicted in October 2019 on four counts, including aiding an attempt to cause death in the terrorist attack on the Shnerb family that year and holding a position in a terrorist organization. According to the indictment, Farraj recruited for the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and knew about attacks carried out by the cell, as well as details of its weapons and explosives.





Isi Leibler: The world is in chaos while the Israeli gov't is dysfunctional - opinion
The public is confused and has lost confidence, and even members of Netanyahu’s own party are rebelling against him, as reflected by the Knesset Coronavirus Committee overturning government lockdown decisions to curb the pandemic. No longer in control over the decision-making process, Netanyahu is hamstrung by his own government and unable to address the nation freely.

His coalition “partner,” Gantz, does not appear to have any coherent policy other than to oppose Netanyahu’s decisions.

Before the last election, we felt that the political system had reached its lowest level. We were wrong. This “national” government has led to utter disunity.

This is a catastrophic situation for a nation that only a few months ago prided itself as a world leader in dealing effectively with the coronavirus. That position has reversed with Israel now registering among the highest daily infections per capita in the world. All we hear from the various government spokesmen are tentative and conflicting decisions to implement new rules – which are often then reversed. One day, restaurants and beaches are open; the next day, they are closed.

It is unbelievable that I am writing this, but unless this government gets its act together, I would today welcome elections if they were to result in the appointment of a capable leader able to form a disciplined cabinet that would work in unity for the best interest of the nation.
We have among us the best medical professionals in the world.

Public health expert Prof. Gabi Barbash, former Health Ministry director-general, has now been appointed as head of the national campaign to manage the crisis and make the crucial decisions needed. He must be allowed to do so, unimpeded by political motivations or interference.

As for the prime minister, it is sad for me to admit that, despite his outstanding achievements, domestically and internationally, today he is not leading the country effectively. And this is prior to the grueling court cases he is about to face. Unless he can turn the tide rapidly and discipline his partners and achieve a genuine governing arrangement with his coalition, the majority of whom are currently engaging in petty power politics instead of urgently acting to confront the coronavirus, there is no moral justification for this government retaining office.
Israel also needs to have a strong government to handle the possible defeat of Trump and the emergence of a Democratic administration far less supportive to us than its predecessor.

One way or another, we can overcome our challenges on both the international and domestic fronts. But we need a leader supported by a capable and disciplined cabinet. Failure to achieve this will lead to catastrophe.
Panic and Paranoia
Israeli minister of finance and a Likud powerhouse, Yisrael Katz is known neither for his charisma nor clever repartee. But he nailed it last week when he referred to the zigzagging pandemic-related decrees of the government as the era of the “accordion economy.”

What was, until last week, more or less typical Israeli organized chaos morphed into borderline anarchy this week, with Likud bigwigs sniping openly at one another publicly and in Knesset committees. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used to run a very tight ship, but it seems that the sailors are in desperate need of shore leave and the captain is doing his darnedest to distract them with constant “pop-up” crises; all but the real crisis that he prefers to avoid–the public health and economic meltdown.

As I wrote last week, Israel flipped from being an early global leader in managing the Coronavirus outbreak in a flash. For much of July, the numbers of newly infected individuals hovered between 1,500 and 1,700, leading to a panic in government as to how to manage and contain further spread.

In June, bankruptcies shot up 75 percent over the previous year, and things will only deteriorate in the coming months. Until they settled with the government early on Wednesday, social workers were in the second week of a nation-wide strike, leaving the most helpless and needy without any support. Nurses are only now back at work after striking for several days due to extreme burnout and lack of resources. Physicians and public health policy experts warn that the system is on the verge of a breakdown, and hospitals are treating only COVID-19 patients and the most serious of other illnesses and injuries.

After days of threatening the re-imposition of a nation-wide lockdown, the politicians began to understand that the people have had it. They will not follow crazy orders that change daily, sometimes hourly. The latest is the so-called “compromise” the government announced: Restaurants, beaches, swimming pools, and generally anything fun and leisurely will be closed on weekends. Sunday to Thursday, all is open.
If Netanyahu opts for elections, will West Bank annexation be lost?
With every failed Knesset vote and every violent rally outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, one can almost hear an imaginary hammer driving nails into the coffin of Israeli right-wing aspirations to annex West Bank settlements.

The daily chaos sparked by the spiraling COVID-19 pandemic has given the appearance that after 11 years of almost total control over Israel’s government, Netanyahu has lost his grip.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu’s government failed to block legislation that banned gay conversation therapy after the Blue and White party broke with the coalition to join the opposition in blocking the bill.

It’s presumed that if Netanyahu were to move forward now on annexation, it would generate further chaos in the coalition given the opposition from Blue and White. Technically, under the coalition agreement between the two parties, Netanyahu is permitted to move forward without Blue and White. Pragmatically, however, the party could retaliate legislatively, creating an upheaval that could lead to the coalition’s downfall.

For Netanyahu to regain control of the coalition, he cannot afford steps that would generate such controversy within his government.

If he moved forward with annexation, it would be with the likely understanding that it would collapse his government and lead to new elections.
Already on Wednesday night, while Israeli media speculated that Netanyahu now wants to declare elections, annexation was not on anyone’s lips.
JCPA: What If the Palestinian Authority Disbands?
Palestinian officials have recently threatened that if Israel applies sovereignty in parts of the West Bank territories of Judea and Samaria, they will stop the Palestinian Authority from operating. This study examines the significance of this threat, regardless of the very low likelihood of this scenario.

The very existence of the Palestinian Authority has been the most significant achievement of the Palestinian national movement, and the collapse of the PA could lead to a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian political system in the West Bank. In addition, the disintegration of the PA could harm the source of income for its many officials and leaders.

Even if the preferred option for Israel is to continue to maintain a functioning Palestinian Authority, the various alternatives, including one where Israel will retain its responsibility for the territory over time, are not any worse. First, the direct financial burden involved is insignificant, and secondly, the Palestinian Authority will have difficulty continuing the struggle against Israel with the tools at its disposal, compared to if the PA had continued control of the area.
Greenblatt: Peace plan asks Israel to pledge land for Palestinian state
Many on the Right have applauded the sovereignty section of Trump’s plan, but have rejected its recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Greenblatt said he himself did not like to refer to the tried and true phrase of a “two-state solution,” which means different things to different people.

The “phrase we used in the peace efforts is a realistic Palestinian state that complies with 60-80 pages of important criteria,” he said.

This includes the PA stopping terrorist attacks against Israelis and halting the monthly stipends to terrorists who have killed Israelis.

The criteria for Palestinian statehood is part of what “differentiates the peace plan we released from the past efforts,” Greenblatt said.
“There’s a lot of criteria for them to establish a state, as there should be.”

The former envoy said he believed the application of sovereignty should be done in conjunction with the US.

“I’m sure that once the Israeli government decides what it wants to do, it will do it in coordination with the White House, which I think is the right approach,” Greenblatt said.

He explained he did not believe Trump had lost interest in the peace plan. The question itself, he said, was “theoretical... because the Palestinian leadership discarded and rejected the plan before it came out, so there is no actual real movement that could happen on the peace effort, but the release of the plan was an important first step,” Greenblatt said.

“Even if [there is] no traction in the next several months or longer, I think the plan itself has tremendous value,” Greenblatt added.
New DNC platform opposes ‘unilateral actions,’ supports Palestinian rights
The Democratic Party publicly released its draft 2020 platform Wednesday, breaking new ground from 2016 by including language that opposes annexation and supports Palestinian rights, but that also disappointed progressives by not mentioning occupation.

The policy document, which serves as a blueprint for the party’s priorities over the next four years, targeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposal to annex parts of the West Bank. The final document will be released next month.

“Democrats oppose any unilateral steps by either side — including annexation — that undermine prospects for two states,” the text says.

Netanyahu has vowed to annex all settlements and the Jordan Valley — the areas allocated to Israel under US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which conditionally envisions a Palestinian state in the remaining territory with land swaps.

The Democratic Party platform also called for a return to the Iran nuclear deal and for a two-state outcome to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Democrats recognize the worth of every Israeli and every Palestinian. That’s why we will work to help bring to an end a conflict that has brought so much pain to so many,” it says. “We support a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state with recognized borders and upholds the right of Palestinians to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.”

The final language of the platform will continue to be litigated in the weeks leading up to the Democrats’ August convention, when the official platform will be unveiled to the public. The Times of Israel viewed a copy of the draft last week.


DNC draft platform: 'JCPOA remains the best means' to keep Iran from nuke
The Democratic Party released on Wednesday a draft of its platform, ahead of a final vote that is expected next week. The foreign policy chapter is calling to return to “mutual compliance” with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and oppose regime change within the Islamic Republic.

“Democrats will call off the Trump administration’s race to war with Iran and prioritize nuclear diplomacy, de-escalation, and regional dialogue,” the draft reads. “Democrats believe the United States should not impose regime change on other countries and reject that as the goal of US policy toward Iran.”

The draft also mentions that the party believes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remains the best means to verifiably cut off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb. “The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA isolated us from our allies and opened the door for Iran to resume its march toward a nuclear weapons capacity that the JCPOA had stopped,” the document reads.

According to the document, “The nuclear deal was always meant to be the beginning, not the end, of our diplomacy with Iran. Democrats support a comprehensive diplomatic effort to extend constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and address Iran’s other threatening activities, including its regional aggression, ballistic missile program, and domestic repression.”
German Foreign Ministry hires Islamist who defends Israel’s destruction
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Foreign Ministry has been plunged into a devastating new antisemitism scandal for the hiring of a radical Islamist who defends the annual Iranian regime-sponsored rally al-Quds Day calling for the obliteration of Israel.

Andreas Görgen,the director of the Foreign Ministry’s department for culture and communication, welcomed the Islamist Nurhan Soykan on Monday on his Twitter feed, writing that Soykan will be on “our team Religion and Foreign Policy” at the Foreign Ministry.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post that the "German government bemoans antisemitism then appoints secretary-general of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Nurhan Soykan, as a consultant for the Foreign Ministry’s Religion and Foreign Policy team. So she can promote more antisemitic al-Quds marches and justify hatred of Jewish state.”

In her defense of the antisemitic al-Quds rally, Soykan told German radio station Deutschlandfunk in 2014 that opponents of Israeli politics "who want to show their anger sometimes" must be given the opportunity "to clear the air in the way of a demonstration.”

German politicians and Jewish organizations have called for the al-Quds rally to be banned.

The Post first revealed in April that Görgen sent out at least seven tweets in support of an alleged antisemitic academic, Achille Mbembe, who
has trivialized the Holocaust and supported Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activity against Israel.
Gyms, tourist attractions to open as daily coronavirus cases top 2,000
Israel saw another spike in coronavirus cases on Thursday - more than 2,000 in a day - just as the Knesset coronavirus committee made a decision to allow tourist attractions to operate on the weekends and gyms to open beginning next Sunday.

Some 2,032 people were diagnosed with coronavirus on Wednesday, the Health Ministry said Thursday, plus another 322 since midnight.

The number of active patients is up to 32,755, including 295 in serious condition - the highest number to date. Some 433 people have died of the disease.

At the start of the committee meeting, chairwoman MK Yifat Shasha-Biton said that she is not ready to open the gyms if later the same day the government stands to close them. The government’s coronavirus advisory committee is set to meet late Thursday. In that meeting, a lockdown is under discussion.

“The gyms cannot open and close,” Shasha-Biton said, noting that “it really bothers me that the data is vague and cannot be easily put on the table.”
In India, Israel to test tech that can detect virus ‘in minutes’
Israel is planning to bring vital medical equipment to India in the coming weeks, including “groundbreaking technologies” that officials say could help advance the development of means to more effectively fight the coronavirus pandemic.

A plane carrying a delegation of some 20 Israeli officials and scientists and tons of gear — including ventilators and novel devices that are not yet produced on a mass scale — is to depart for Delhi “in the coming weeks,” Israeli officials said Thursday.

The “unprecedented” delivery is a joint project of the health, defense and foreign ministries and the office of India’s chief scientist, and has been weeks in the making, the Defense Ministry said in a press release.

Beside the delivery of conventional aid such as ventilators, the special plane to Delhi will also serve to bring technologies currently in the development stage to India so they can be tested on Indians who contracted the virus.

The ministry’s Directorate of Defense Research and Development has been spearheading the project to “carry out the final stages of research into advanced technologies for the speedy diagnosis of the coronavirus,” according to the press release.

The equipment to be shipped to India will include four “groundbreaking Israeli technologies” donated by the Foreign Ministry and the private sector geared to help the country deal with the pandemic, including one that aims to detect the virus through an analysis of a suspected patient’s voice.

“The four tech systems that will be tested are: voice test, breathalyzer test based on terra-hertz waves, isothermal test, and polyamino acids test,” according to the press release.
Israel to open fast-track coronavirus testing labs at Ben-Gurion Airport
Representatives of the Airports Authority, the National Security Council and the Health and Transportation ministries were expected to meet on Thursday to begin the preliminary work on a tender to hire a private company to establish fast coronavirus testing labs on behalf of Ben-Gurion Airport.

An initial notice about the meeting was published in a Beit Shemesh bulletin, which The Jerusalem Post independently confirmed with the Airports Authority.

“The only way to open the skies for Israel is to establish coronavirus testing labs at the airport,” a spokesperson for the Airports Authority told the Post. Although the plan is not yet approved, he said that the authority is preparing the tender and plans to hire and build the needed infrastructure, so that when permission is granted the airport can be opened instantaneously.

The Beit Shemesh bulletin cited the president of one of the companies interested in bidding to establish the labs, who explained the process for Israeli travelers: 72 hours before their flight, passengers will get screened for coronavirus at one of the drive-thru testing stations, and will receive the results on the mobile phone. If the travelers’ test results come back negative for the virus, the passengers will be able to go to the airport, where a second test will be performed. The results would be received by travelers upon arrival at their destination, so they can present two negative tests.
Foreign students allowed to enter Israel in spite of virus restrictions
Israel said on Thursday that new international students will be allowed to enter the country to start their university studies in the 2020-21 academic year, despite the coronavirus pandemic having practically closed the nation’s borders.

In mid-March the government banned nearly all non-Israelis from entering the country. Since then, the Council for Higher Education in Israel has been working closely with senior officials in the Heath and Foreign ministries and the Population and Immigration Authority to resolve the issue, the Council said in a statement.

“Internationalization is one of the main strategic priorities for the higher education system in Israel and we are committed to integrating top international students in our universities and colleges,” said Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, chairperson of the Planning and Budgeting Committee at the Council for Higher Education.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has hindered international mobility, she said, “international students will still be able to come to Israel.”

All students will be required to complete a 14-day self-isolation period upon arrival in Israel under the supervision of their academic institution, in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines, the statement said.
Police arrest, then release Palestinian cultural leaders in East Jerusalem
Israeli police released two prominent Palestinian cultural leaders on Wednesday hours after arresting them in east Jerusalem, police and one of their lawyers said.

Rania Elias, who heads the Yabous Cultural Center, and her husband, Suhail Khoury, director general of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, were detained in their home in Jerusalem’s Beit Hanina neighborhood.

They were released on Wednesday evening “under conditions,” Elias’s lawyer Nasir Odeh told AFP, without giving further details.

The Yabous center and the conservatory were also raided by police and Israeli tax investigators, with documents confiscated.

The Palestine Liberation Organization condemned the arrests and raids as part of “Israel’s violent and systematic campaign against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem.”

According to Odeh, the couple was “detained on charges of financing terrorist organizations.”

But he stressed that Israel’s broad anti-terrorism laws include a wide range of offenses, including accepting money from organizations that the Jewish state has labeled terrorist.
Palestinians: PA exploiting coronavirus measures to silence critics
Palestinian politicians, academics and human rights advocates on Thursday called on the Palestinian Authority to immediately release several activists who were arrested in the past few days for protesting administrative and financial corruption in Palestinian institutions.

A PA court in Ramallah on Wednesday ordered nine activists remanded into custody for 15 days on charges of holding an illegal gathering and violating the state of emergency announced by PA President Mahmoud Abbas to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the West Bank.

The organizers of the protest accused the PA leadership of using the state of emergency as an excuse to silence its critics and suppress freedom of speech in the West Bank.

The activists were arrested earlier this week after holding an anti-corruption sit-in strike in the center of Ramallah under the slogan “Enough is Enough.”

Some of the activists have reportedly gone on hunger strike to protest their arrest. One of them, Jihad Abdo, was transferred on Wednesday to a hospital in Ramallah after complaining of pain in the chest.




Hamas West Bank leader said freed from detention after 16 months
Israel on Thursday freed a senior leader of Hamas in the West Bank after imprisoning him without trial for 16 months, his son said.

Hassan Yousef, a co-founder of the Gaza-based terror group, was arrested on April 2 last year at his home near Ramallah.

“He is now at home and is in good health,” his son Owais Yousef told AFP.

Following his arrest, Yousef was handed a six-month detention order that was extended for another six months and then for a further four, his son said.

The 65-year-old, who has been arrested multiple times, had been released from a previous 10-month term of imprisonment in October 2018.

Israel’s administrative detention system allows the internment of prisoners for renewable periods of up to six months each, without bringing charges.

Israel says the procedure allows authorities to hold suspects and prevent attacks while continuing to gather evidence, but critics and rights groups say the system is abused.
Despite pandemic, Gaza prepares for special celebration
Gazans are thronging beaches and crowding markets filled with holiday sweets and clothes as they prepare to celebrate Eid al-Adha largely free of the coronavirus restrictions affecting the Muslim festival elsewhere.

No cases have been recorded in the towns and refugee camps where its two million Palestinian population live, although 75 infections and one death have occurred in quarantine centres.

Arrivals spend 21 days in the centres on orders from Hamas, the terrorist group that has controlled Gaza for over a decade, but other coronavirus measures, such as restaurant and school closures and bans on large gatherings, have been lifted.

The result is that Gazans are preparing much as normal ahead of Eid, which begins at the end of July, with few people wearing masks in shopping centers that are packed after sunset.

The scenes contrast with restrictions elsewhere: Saudi Arabia has capped the number of its own citizens attending the upcoming hajj pilgrimage; Oman has implemented a nightly curfew, and Iraq has said its curfew will last through the holiday.

"God protected us from the virus," said Malkeya Abdallah, 62, as she relaxed on the beach near Gaza City.

But medics are alarmed by the risks inherent in Gaza's potentially disastrous combination of poverty, densely packed refugee camps, and limited hospital capacity.


How might Hezbollah retaliate against Israel?
Hezbollah has been prodded to respond to the death of one of its fighters in Syria in what it says was an Israeli airstrike this week.

The terrorist group – which has thousands of fighters, more than 150,000 missiles and controls part of the government of Lebanon – says that Ali Kamel Mohsen was killed on July 20. Other members of the group may also have been harmed.

Over the last several days, Hezbollah supporters have put up hundreds of social media posts vowing revenge. This kinds of rhetoric of “revenge” is similar to Iran’s claims that it will avenge the death of IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani, who the US killed in early January.
What we know about Hezbollah is that it is an organization to be taken seriously. When it paints itself into a corner by saying it will respond to the killing any of its members, it tends to do something.

However, Hezbollah must weigh this against the regional reality. Israel is far stronger today than on the eve of the 2006 war.

The same Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, gambled in 2006 that Israel would not respond to his attack on a patrol in which Israeli soldiers were killed and bodies kidnapped. He had been watching Israel closely since the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, and he had also watched how Israel responded to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit by Hamas in Gaza.


IDF bolsters troops on northern border following Hezbollah threat
The IDF said Thursday it was reinforcing the country's northern border with infantry troops "in accordance with the situational assessment."

The move follows earlier threats by the Hezbollah terrorist group that it will retaliate, "from Lebanese soil," over an alleged Israeli airstrike south of the Syrian capital on Monday. Hezbollah claims that one of its operatives, Ali Kamel Mohsen Jawad, was killed in Monday's strike near Damascus International Airport. The airstrike also killed four other foreign fighters, according to foreign reports.

The army's reinforcements include one battalion as well as additional troops, who were being sent to the IDF Northern Command's Galilee Division, the IDF said.

"Following a recent situation assessment, the IDF has decided to send reinforcement of infantry troops to the Northern Command," an IDF spokesperson said in a statement.

Saudi paper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Thursday morning that Lebanese sources confirmed Hezbollah had decided to respond to the alleged Israeli airstrike near the Damascus airport. With that, experts posited that despite the death of its operative, Hezbollah is facing a tough dilemma. The consequences of retaliating could be severe, but failing to respond to the death of the operative could harm morale within the organization's ranks, the experts said.
UNIFIL’s Yearly Mandate Renewal: Maintain Ends, Change Ways and Means
RECOMMENDATIONS
When the Security Council takes up UNIFIL’s renewal next month, it would do well to implement the secretary-general’s latest recommendations and unfulfilled parts of previous resolutions. Improvements should focus on four areas:

Enhance the Security Council’s oversight. Rather than addressing UNIFIL’s status just once a year under frozen parameters, the council should conduct a thorough review of the force’s mandate, size, operations, and access two to three times annually. This can be achieved by holding deeper discussions when the secretary-general issues his periodical reports on UNIFIL or, preferably, by shortening the force’s mandate to just six months, as done with other missions (e.g., UNDOF). In addition, authorities should regularly present concrete indicators of alleged progress toward an illicit-weapons-free zone south of the Litani River, discuss right-sizing the force each renewal period, and thoroughly review its effectiveness at least once a year.

Decrease UNIFIL’s size and budget. The force should be immediately reduced by 10-20 percent, its maritime component decreased by one vessel, and its maximum authorized number cut from 15,000 to 8,000-10,000. UNIFIL should be reshaped according to the secretary-general’s call for a light, mobile, well-protected mission with advanced monitoring and situational awareness capabilities. These reductions would show Beirut that military support is neither infinite nor unconditional, while prodding it to fulfill its commitments to Resolution 1701, reducing the risk to peacekeepers in case of escalation, and curbing the amount of UN funding to Hezbollah’s support base.

Fine-tune UNIFIL operations. Several changes recommended in the secretary-general’s report should be implemented as soon as possible:
- Grant UNIFIL full access to the entire Blue Line and increase its presence there, at the expense of activity in deeper areas where mobile reserves should be operating
- Grant free access to open areas and roads, including those barred under the “private property” pretext.
- Permit UNIFIL to patrol independent of the LAF and without detailed pre-approval each time
- Allow UNIFIL to enter and search premises for preventive inspection purposes within twenty-four hours of request, later subject to Security Council review of each case
- Require Lebanon to provide a detailed property ownership map and clarify how it will reconcile its commitments to Resolution 1701 with its claims that private properties are constitutionally excluded
- Replace Hezbollah’s “Green Without Borders” observation positions with LAF or UNIFIL posts
- Remove superfluous UN positions and add more relevant ones in coordination with the parties
- Stop illegal immigrants from crossing the Blue Line into Israel
- Strengthen UNIFIL’s liaison staff

In addition, Israel may allow UNIFIL to open its long-desired Tel Aviv liaison office as a measure of goodwill, though without implying any UNIFIL authority in Israel.
Hizbullah Receives Funds from Its Supporters in Germany
A Hezbollah-controlled community center in the northern German city of Bremen funnels money to the Lebanese-based terrorist movement Hezbollah, The Jerusalem Post can report on Friday.

Bremen’s domestic intelligence service wrote in its Thursday released report that the Al-Mustafa community center "is involved in the financial support” of the Shi’ite terrorist organization Hezbollah. Al-Mustafa organized a talk with a radical Germany-based Islamist who agitates against Israel's existence, said the report.

The Bremen intelligence report documents security and terrorism threats to the city-state of Bremen and covers the year 2019.

According to the intelligence authors of the report, “the approximately 50 followers of Hezbollah in Bremen are organized in the association Al-Mustafa Community. This Arab Shiite cultural association acts as a contact point for Shi'ite Muslims in Bremen, especially from Lebanon."

The document did not state the amount of funds that Hezbollah members and supporters in Bremen sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

There are 50 Hezbollah supporters in Bremen, according to the report, and an estimated 1,050 Hezbollah members and supporters across Germany.
Iran's Sprint to the Bomb
It cannot... be a surprise that Iran is still sprinting toward deliverable nuclear weapons with the very uranium enrichment technology permitted by the 2015 agreement. While the U.S. Senate was told the deal would halt Iran's pursuit of nuclear weaponry, the deal only camouflaged the mullahs' ambitions to acquire it.

Worse, when the deal's provisions were to sunset this decade, Iran would have been free to acquire full nuclear capability without pretending it was not.

China is buying time for Iran. Perhaps China believes that its presence in the region will persuade the United States to show "restraint." The United States should not take the bait.

The prospects ahead are possibly dark. A change in US administration may likely see a return to the JCPOA, an end to sanctions and maximum pressure, and an Iranian sense of having won a major struggle with the "Great Satan." That is not a prospect America's allies want to accept. The United States should not risk waiting, either.



Netflix cancels Turkish show If Only in row over gay character
Netflix has cancelled a Turkish drama on the eve of filming, with its writer saying the government blocked it because it included a gay character.

Screenwriter Ece Yorenc said Netflix scrapped If Only after the government refused to grant it a licence.

"Due to a gay character, permission to film the series was not granted and this is very frightening for the future," she told Turkish film website Altyazi Fasikul, according to the FT.

Netflix confirmed the story's details.

If Only was due to tell the story of Reyhan, an unhappily married mother of twins, who is suddenly transported back 30 years to the night her husband proposed.

Yorenc said there were no gay sex scenes or physical contact between the gay man and other characters.

The streaming service did not want to bow to Ankara's demands, and instead decided to cancel the show after talks with Turkey's audiovisual authority RTUK, she added.




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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون



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

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