Friday, October 02, 2020

From Ian:

David Singer: The door is open for Jordan and Egypt to negotiate with Israel
PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has once again publicly repudiated the Trump Peace Plan, this time internationally, telling the United Nations (UN) in his annual address:

"The Palestinian people have placed their hope in the United Nations, the historical witness of their Nakba, to provide support to their legitimate struggle for freedom and independence. And we continue to await the UN to fulfill its responsibility to achieve a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine in accordance with its resolutions.”

The PLO will have a long wait - as Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu told the UN in his annual address:

“I will be ready and I’d be willing to negotiate on the basis of the Trump plan to end our conflict with the Palestinians once and for all.”

In justifying the PLO‘s decision to jettison the Trump Plan - Abbas stated:

"The declaration we are adopting today reflects the belief of the State of Palestine that upholding international law is the guarantee for achieving justice, that the UN Charter remains the basis for a more just, peaceful and prosperous world and that international law is imprescriptible and its respect more pressing.”

The PLO long ago consigned itself to irrelevancy when it became the arbiter of what international law it was prepared to accept or fabricate and which to simply ignore - as exemplified by: - The “State of Palestine” not being a state under article 1 of the Montevideo Convention. - The PLO refusing to accept two foundational pillars of international law under article 18 of its 1964 Charter:

“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate system and all that has been based upon them are considered fraud.” - Article 20 in the revised 1968 Charter seeing the PLO going even further:

“The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void.”

Report: Jordan Expels Nizar Tamimi, Husband of US-Wanted Terrorist
Jordan has reportedly expelled the husband of US-wanted terrorist Ahlam Tamimi.

Nizar Tamimi, 46, arrived in Qatar after the Hashemite Kingdom refused to renew his residency and asked him to leave within 48 hours, reported the pan-Arab publication Al-Quds Al-Arabi on Thursday.

Ahlam Tamimi, 39, has been accused of being the mastermind behind the Sbarro Pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem on Aug. 9, 2001, that killed 15 people, including seven children, and wounded 130 others. Among those killed were two American citizens, 15-year-old Malki Roth and 31-year-old Judith Greenbaum, who was pregnant at the time. A third American, Chana Nachenberg, has remained in a permanent vegetative state ever since.

Nizar Tamimi was sentenced to life imprisonment for being involved in the 1993 murder and subsequent burning of Chaim Mizrahi.

Both Tamimis were released from prison in 2011 in an exchange between Israel and Hamas for captured Israel Defense Forces’ soldier Gilad Shalit. They married after their release.
Joe Truzman: Hezbollah’s Precision Guided Missile project under renewed scrutiny
Recent events in Lebanon have brought about renewed attention to Hezbollah’s Precision Guided Missile (PGM) project after an arms depot belonging to the Iranian-backed proxy exploded in Ayn al-Qana last week and Tuesday’s reveal by Prime Minister Netanyahu of Hezbollah ‘missile factories’ located in three Beirut neighborhoods.

On Sept. 22, a large explosion at a Hezbollah arms depot was reported in the southern Lebanese town of Ayn al-Qana. Shortly after the explosion Hezbollah commented to Al-Jazeera saying the cause of the explosion was a ‘technical error’.

“This explosion was at a house that stored weapons – result of technical error. No one was killed or injured. The building belonged to a Hezbollah affiliated de-mining association,” Hezbollah stated.

However, doubts about Hezbollah’s statement arose when the group announced a week later that one of their militants had recently been killed.

“The Islamic Resistance announces the martyred fighter Ali Najib Marwa, “Haji Abu Hassan Sajid” from the town of Zararia in southern Lebanon, who ascended while performing his jihad duty,” the statement said.

Although Hezbollah never specifically stated how the fighter died, a ‘security source’ stated to Lebanon’s Daily Star the militant had died from ‘wounds sustained in the Ayn al-Qana blast’.

Additionally, the explanation that weapons stored in Ayn al-Qana belonged to a ‘de-mining association’ is doubtful due to previous accusations of Hezbollah concealing its arsenal throughout the Beqaa valley and southern Lebanon.

IDF reveals additional intelligence on Hezbollah sites in Beirut
Days after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Hezbollah is storing precision missiles at three sites in a residential neighborhood in Beirut which led the terror group to show off the site to journalists, the IDF has used footage from the tour to identify machines used to manufacture precision missiles.

On Wednesday the IDF provided details maps and GPS coordinates of the sites which were in the Jnah neighborhood, Laylaki, and Chouaifet neighborhoods under residential apartment buildings and near a mosque, medical center, and gas stations.

Following Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Hezbollah organized a media tour of the site that they claim is a civilian iron workshop. Footage filmed by several media outlets showed crowds of people as well as machines and other tools that are used to manufacture precision missiles.

The machines include a laser, hydraulic, and manual cutting machines-all used to cut metals at angles and dimensions required to create missile stabilization fins them as well as engine casings and missile warheads.

Other tools seen in the footage was a bending machine which is used to shape the metals that make up the engine casings, warheads, and rocket’s navigation component housings as well as a rolling machine which is used to form metal cylinders which can then be used to form engine components, warheads, and navigation component casings.

IDF: Clip from Hezbollah tour of Beirut ‘workshop’ proves it’s a missile factory says is used in the production of missiles on October 2, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)
The Israel Defense Forces on Friday countered a Hezbollah claim that a Beirut factory identified by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the week as a missile production site was a civilian workshop, identifying the machinery in the facility as that which is needed for the production of precision-guided munitions.

Shortly after the premier on Tuesday revealed the location of the alleged Hezbollah site in the al-Janah neighborhood of the Lebanese capital, the Iran-backed terror group led a tour of journalists to the factory, claiming it was a civilian-run affair. No missiles or other weapons were seen by reporters who visited the workshop, though they were not allowed to freely explore the facility.

The military on Friday — using footage filmed by the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen television station — identified the equipment inside the factory and explained how each piece could be used in the manufacture of missiles.

Israel has repeatedly threatened to take action to prevent Hezbollah from completing this so-called precision project, an effort to convert its massive arsenal of simple rockets into highly accurate missiles, which present a far greater challenge to Israel’s air defenses and would potentially be a game-changer in a future conflict with the Shiite militia.

‘Jerusalem is our city,’ Turkey’s Erdogan declares
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday implied that Jerusalem belongs to Turkey, referring to the Ottoman Empire’s control over the city for much of the modern era.

“In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us,” he told Turkish lawmakers during a major policy speech in Ankara. “Our first qibla [direction of prayer in Islam] al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem are the symbolic mosques of our faith. In addition, this city is home to the holy places of Christianity and Judaism.”

The Ottoman Empire ruled over Jerusalem from 1516 to 1917. Modern Turkey, its successor state, has long stressed its enduring connection to the holy city, regularly condemning Israel’s alleged efforts to “judaize” it and the US administration’s December 2017 recognition of it as Israel’s capital.

Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel since the country’s founding, and the Jewish people have thousands of years of history in the city, backed up by extensive archaeological finds.

During a lengthy speech at the opening of the Turkish parliament’s new legislative session, Erdoğan spent several minutes lamenting the fate of Jerusalem and the Palestinians’ plight.

The United Nations: Erdogan's Favorite Platform for Trolling the World
The United Nations General Assembly, which meets every September, offers authoritarian heads of state their favorite platform for trolling the world. For this year's 75th annual session, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his trademark mockery of multilateralism by lecturing members that "the world is bigger than five," his euphemism for reshuffling the UN Security Council to get Turkey a permanent seat. Erdogan's calls to reform the United Nations might have found a sympathetic audience had it not come from a strongman who institutionalized one-man rule at home by destroying democratic governance and the rule of law during his nearly 18 years in office.

Between his annual pitches to redesign the United Nations to his own advantage, Erdogan found time to hurl anti-Semitic remarks. This year, he referred to Israel as "the dirty hand that reaches the privacy of Jerusalem," prompting a walkout from Israeli envoy Gilad Erdan, who accused the Turkish president of continuing "to spout anti-Semitic and false statements against Israel." Last year, Erdogan compared developments in Gaza to the Holocaust, eliciting a similar response from Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz via Twitter: "There is no other way to interpret Erdogan's crude and vile words—it is antisemitism, clear cut."

Rather than represent a genuine desire to fix the United Nations, where authoritarian regimes have secured clout over the last decade to shield themselves from international scrutiny, Erdogan offers a classic example of a strongman bent on exploiting intergovernmental organizations.

The Turkish president's disregard for UN conventions, resolutions and sanctions is well documented. For example, a 376-page report the UN Panel of Experts on Libya issued in December 2019 found that Turkey, among others, violated a 2011 embargo by delivering arms and fighters to the war-torn North African country. The panel stated that the transfers to Libya were "repeated and sometimes blatant, with scant regard paid to compliance with the sanctions measures."
Khaled Abu Toameh: Erdogan's Plan to Take Over the Palestinian Authority
What we are witnessing is an Arab autocrat (Abbas) seeking the help of a Muslim autocrat (Erdogan) in holding "free and fair" elections. Abbas, it seems, is confident that Erdogan's observers would rubber-stamp the results of any Palestinian election to ensure that the PA president emerges victorious

Now he [Erdogan] has a chance to use the Palestinian elections to try to bring his Hamas friends to power after getting rid of Abbas.

"It is terrifying that Abbas speaks as if he lives in another world. Is there a Palestinian interest in attacking the US administration, even if this administration takes unfair positions against the Palestinians? Is there a Palestinian interest in referring negatively to the peace accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain? There is a Palestinian need to return to reality. There is a Palestinian need to come to terms with the truth." — Khairallah Khairallah, Lebanese journalist and political commentator, al-Arabiya, September 29, 2020.
MEMRI: Reports In Syria: Turkey Is Sending Syrian Rebel Fighters To Azerbaijan To Participate In Fight Against Armenia
Since the start of the current round of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, whose Armenian majority seeks to secede from Azerbaijan and join Armenia, many reports in Syrian and Arab media claim that Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan, has been sending Syrian fighters there to participate in the fighting. The fighters are reportedly members of rebel militias loyal to Turkey. This is similar to Turkey's actions in Libya: Since late 2019, it has been recruiting Syrian opposition fighters and sending them to fight in that country on the side of Fayez Al-Sarraj's Government of National Accord, which it supports.

The reports indicate that as in the case of Libya, Turkey has been recruiting fighters mainly from the Syrian National Army (SNA) – a coalition of rebel militias that was formed with Turkey's support in October 2019 – and especially from the Al-Sultan Mourad and Suleiman Shah factions within that coalition. The reports also claim that Turkey has already recruited hundreds and perhaps thousands of Syrian fighters, trained them on its soil, and sent them to Azerbaijan, and that it pays them salaries of close to $2,000 a month.

Azerbaijan itself denies that Turkey has sent it Syrian reinforcements,[1] but several sources in the Syrian opposition have confirmed the reports. An SNA official said that no formal decision was made to send fighters to Azerbaijan, but acknowledged that some fighters may have gone there of their own accord. Another SNA commander stressed that Syrians are prepared to go to Azerbaijan or anywhere they are asked in order to defend Turkey's interests. Conversely, other elements in the Syrian opposition were enraged by the reports and condemned Syrians who had gone to serve as mercenaries. Similar criticism has been voiced by Syrian opposition elements regarding Syrians who are participating in the fighting in Libya.
Seth Frantzman: Israeli drones in Azerbaijan raise questions on use in the battlefield
Drone footage, released by Azerbaijan of a drone strike on an artillery position in the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, appears to show an Israeli drone in the frame.

Social media user AbraxasSpa, who documents defense related issues, posted a still from the video “Orbiter 1k confirmed in use.” Rob Lee, another social media user who posts about defense issues, also noted the same “Orbiter UAV” in the video of an Armenian D-30 howitzer being struck. The footage was apparently taken by one drone of an airstrike on the artillery position and the second drone flew in front of the video as the attack unfolded. That means several drones were being used at the same time over the same target.

While there is no confirmation about the use of this Orbiter drone, it is worth taking the two social media accounts as an example of a larger discussion about Azerbaijan’s use of drones.

The Orbiter 1K is an Israeli drone made by Aeronautics which the Drone Databook in the US asserts was sold to Azerbaijan in 2011. It is what is called a “loitering Munition,” which means it is designed more like a cruise missile to slam into a target and self-destruct on impact. Some media call these “kamikaze drones” or “suicide drones.”

In essence they are not different from cruise missiles, except that they can fly around in circles or return to base, or “loiter” over the target and wait to strike. The Orbiter 1K is a proven munition based on the Orbiter 2B, the company website says, and it has a fragmentation warhead that weighs 3kg. With a wingspan of only 3 meters and a range of 100km., it is not a very large weaponized drone. It is launched from a kind of catapult, like many similar drones.
Armenia withdraws ambassador from Israel over Azerbaijan arms deal
Armenia said on Thursday it had recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations over Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan has acknowledged using Israeli-made weapons in its fighting with ethnic Armenian forces around Nagorno-Karabakh, where heavy clashes this week have drawn international calls for an immediate ceasefire.

Protesting against the Israeli weapons exports, Armenian foreign ministry spokeswoman Anna Naghdalyan said "Israel's workstyle is unacceptable. The ministry has to call back its ambassador in Israel."

Asked for details on weapons sales to Azerbaijan, an Israeli defense ministry spokeswoman declined comment.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a leading conflict and armaments think-tank, Israel provided Azerbaijan with some $825 million in weapons between 2006 and 2019.

Those exports included drones, loitering munitions, anti-tank missiles, and a surface-to-air missile system, information from SIPRI's Arms Transfers Database showed.
Leaders in Israel, around the world, wish Trump a speedy recovery
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday wished Donald Trump a speedy recovery after the US president announced he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Like millions of Israelis, Sara and I are thinking of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump and wish our friends a full and speedy recovery,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

President Reuven Rivlin issued a similar statement on his Twitter account.

“On behalf of the Israeli people, our thoughts and wishes are with President Trump and the First Lady for a refuah shlema, a swift and full recovery,” Rivlin wrote.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein also said he hoped the Trumps make a full recovery.

“At this opportunity I would like to remind everyone no one is immune from infection. Follow the guidelines, this is for our health,” Edelstein tweeted.

News of the infection of the most powerful man in the world with the most notorious disease in the world drew instant reactions of shock, sympathy, undisguised glee and, of course, the ever-present outrage and curiosity that follow much of what Trump does, even from 10,000 miles away.
Europe Key to Middle East Peace Process After Abraham Accords, Pompeo Says
European countries have a fundamental role in supporting the Middle East peace process after the signing of the Abraham Accords by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Friday.

“I believe that European leaders have a strategic role…(also in) stemming and rejecting the Islamic Republic of Iran, which still is the greatest force of destabilization in the entire Middle Eastern region,” Pompeo told Italian daily La Repubblica.

He added, “(The Palestinians) must commit to dialogue.
In Joint Statement, Israel, UAE and US Announce ‘Greater Coordination’ in Energy Sector
Israel, the UAE and the US issued a joint statement on Thursday presenting a “strategic vision for energy partnership,” the Emirati state news agency WAM reported.

The statement — published in the names of the energy ministers of the three nations — said, “The United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, and the State of Israel, acknowledging the benefits of focusing on pragmatic steps that have tangible outcomes, agree to encourage greater coordination in the energy sector, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, oil, natural gas resources and related technologies, and water desalination technologies.”

“Together,” it continued, “our dynamic economies will look to leverage world-leading research and development capacities to meet the needs of current and future generations.”

“We will also seek to find solutions to the energy challenges faced by the Palestinian people through the development of energy resources, technologies, and related infrastructure,” it added.

“To maximize the global benefits of cooperation, the UAE, the US, and Israel are committed to exploring collective activities in multilateral settings in coordination with financial institutions and the private sector to enhance international investment in research and development and the rapid adoption of new energy technologies,” the statement concluded.

In the Middle East, does the road to Washington lead through Jerusalem?
Some eyebrows were raised in Khartoum in the last few weeks as the terms for American aid in the country’s revival after the overthrow of tyrant Omar al-Bashir last year came to light.

Sudan wants to shake off its state sponsor of terrorism designation, which blocks access to foreign funding it needs to keep its new government stable and able to foster democracy, as well as $3 billion in debt relief and investments in its weak economy.

The US would also like Sudan to pay a $335 million settlement for harboring the terrorists who bombed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the USS Cole destroyer in 2000, while Congress would pass a bill giving Khartoum immunity from future legal claims on other past terrorist attacks – including, controversially, 9/11. That legislation is currently tied up in Congress.

And the Trump administration has brought another demand into the mix: for Sudan to fully normalize ties with Israel.

The symbolism would be great for Khartoum – the site at which the Arab League in 1967 announced that there would be “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it” – to be a place where peace is made. And the Trump administration could point to that move as another domino falling in their transformative moves for the Middle East, touting the president as a peacemaker.

Expert Court Witness Challenges Lithuanian Government’s Plan to Construct Convention Center Atop Historic Jewish Cemetery
A court in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius has heard an appeal from over 100 descendants of Jews buried in the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery against a government plan to build a state-of-the-art convention center on top of the burial grounds.

The thousands of deceased interred at the cemetery include successive generations of Jewish scholars whose efforts gave Vilnius — formerly Vilna — the reputation of the “Jerusalem of the North.”

The key witness at Thursday’s hearing was Professor Josif Parasonis — a founding member of the Vilnius Jewish Community — and one of Lithuania’s foremost experts on building science.

Parasonis challenged the Lithuanian government’s claim that the conference center, which is in turn being constructed out of the ruins of a Soviet-era indoor sports hall, lies outside the boundaries of the cemetery.

He pointed to a map of the area drawn up by local experts and approved by government officials in 2005 which showed that the site of the conference center lies in the middle of the cemetery.

The hearing was observed by members of Defending History (DH), an activist group of scholars who are campaigning in Lithuania and internationally to protect the remains of the cemetery.
IDF plans to run 2 coronavirus wards in Haifa hospital as outbreak worsens
The Israel Defense Forces is preparing to open and run two coronavirus wards in Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center amid concerns that the number of patients requiring hospitalization will rise sharply in the coming weeks, a military spokesperson said Thursday.

It would appear to be the first time in the country’s history that the military was formally charged with providing medical treatment to civilians, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters.

Though the military has completed its planning for the measure — collaborating with the Health Ministry and the medical center to work out the details — the plan requires final approval from the government before it goes forward. Zilberman said the military expects to begin opening the wards in the next two to four weeks.

The wards would be run by military medical professionals — doctors, nurses, paramedics and medics — and would treat “many dozens” of patients with moderate symptoms in a converted underground parking garage in the hospital, he said. The precise number of patients and staff had yet to be determined, the spokesperson added.

According to Zilberman, the personnel — likely upwards of 100 people — will come primarily from training bases and special forces units. Some of the troops were meant to be released from the military (likely due to them reaching the end of their service period) but will stay on in a special capacity, he said.
Israel Develops New High-Tech Cannon to Prevent Sea Infiltrations From Gaza
Israel believes the threat of sea infiltrations by Hamas operatives from the Gaza Strip is increasing and is trying to head off such scenarios with a new high-tech cannon.

Israeli news site N12 reported on Thursday that the new type of Typhoon cannon, developed by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, has state-of-the-art optical technology and is aimed by radar, giving it pinpoint accuracy, even in complete darkness.

Testing of the new cannon is set to begin next week.

N12 stated that the IDF thinks Hamas is turning to sea infiltrations because its tunnel system has been badly mauled and Israel’s underground barrier on the Gaza border is nearing completion.

As a result, Hamas is beefing up its naval force, which it views as a potentially significant weapon.

Israel has already constructed a sea barrier to seek to prevent maritime infiltrations, with the new cannon intended to further reinforce its defensive capabilities.
Turkey’s Halkbank Must Face US Indictment Over Iran Sanctions Violations, Judge Rules
A US judge on Thursday refused to dismiss an indictment accusing state-owned Turkish lender Halkbank of helping Iran evade American sanctions.

US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan rejected Halkbank’s claim that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act shielded it from prosecution, saying that law did not appear to grant immunity in criminal proceedings.

He also said an exception for commercial activity “would clearly apply and support the Halkbank prosecution,” citing the bank’s interactions with US Treasury Department officials and its alleged laundering of more than $1 billion through the US financial system.

US-based lawyers for Halkbank did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to similar requests.

Halkbank has pleaded not guilty to bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy charges brought last October.

US prosecutors accused Halkbank of using money servicers and front companies in Iran, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to evade sanctions, enabling oil and gas revenue to be spent on gold and facilitating sham food and medicine purchases.

They also accused Halkbank of helping Iran secretly transfer $20 billion of otherwise restricted funds, including the $1 billion through US accounts.

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