Monday, October 05, 2020

From Ian:

Stephen J. Harper: Why we should celebrate the Abraham Accords
It is, however, the Gulf Arabs, led by the United Arab Emirates, who have taken the boldest step. Their motives go well beyond the interests they share with Israel in opposing Tehran’s hegemonic nationalism and clerical extremism.

For the Emiratis, this moment of leadership traces back to the vision of their founder, Sheikh Zayed al Nahyan. He sought to create a modern country with an advanced economy and an openness to the world. From the founder to his sons and successors, including Sheikh Khalifa, Crown Prince Mohammed, and Foreign Minister Abdullah, the UAE has been relentlessly pursuing social development and economic opportunity, of which the new Israeli connection will only provide more. It has also advanced a tolerant model of Islam and, more recently, a full embrace of religious pluralism.

The establishment of the UAE’s Abrahamic Family House — a major project encompassing a mosque, church and synagogue — is but one testimonial of the Emirati ideal of coexistence. The nation has a wide range of Christian denominations and it welcomed Pope Francis on an official visit last year. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to initiate the construction of an unrivalled Hindu Mandir. And the Aga Khan has built the Middle East’s first Shia Ismaili Centre in Dubai. At a time when some in the region are propagating various versions of extremism, the UAE is building a modern vision of an Arab monarchy that leads by example.

In a world defined today by disruption and disarray, the Abraham Accords signify an historic moment of co-operation and realignment. They are a statement of unity in a time of division and a reminder that leadership still matters. For, at their core, these agreements were delivered by leaders who saw an opportunity and had the convictions and skills to make it happen.

The consequences of this normalization will be profound. The new security architecture between Israel and its Arab allies will become deeper, bolder, and visible. A new economic collaboration will take hold, spanning a spectrum of technologies and infrastructure, from the seas to space. And perhaps most importantly, new and enduring relationships will be formed between young populations on the terms of peace, pluralism and progress.

It is in all of our interests to ensure the success of these Accords, to celebrate the future they promise, and to make permanent this welcome departure from the paradigms of the past.
A New Middle East, This Time for Real
"Before the Trump plan was presented, there was no meaning to the phrase ['two-state solution']. The perception was that a Palestinian state would be a threat to Israel, to Jordan and to the entire world."

"The plan that we published...grants the possibility of a Palestinian state only if they agree to cease terror and incitement, create the infrastructure for advancing human rights and freedom of religion, agree to have no army, accept Israel as a Jewish state, abandon the claim of a right of return for the refugees, and agree to live within borders in which all of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria belong to the State of Israel."

"If all of these conditions are fulfilled, there will be a two-state solution.... We defined the two-state solution in a way that now has meaning."

Regarding the suspension of moves to extend Israeli law in parts of Judea and Samaria, Friedman said: "The U.S. came to the conclusion that a better opportunity for Israel had presented itself....We were all advancing in the direction of extending Israeli sovereignty, that was the direction. That is what the plan says; that is what we thought we were about to do."

"Later we all saw the opportunity for normalization, not just with the Emirates and Bahrain, but with additional nations. We all concluded that this was a unique opportunity with advantages for Israel, the U.S., the Arabs, and the world - and that we would prefer this option."

"I think the correct way to look at this is that we walked on the path to recognizing Israeli sovereignty, at least on parts of Judea and Samaria; there were various discussions on exactly which parts. And then we saw another opportunity, and we said, let's go in the direction that has opened up. That is what happened."
'A Biden victory would be bad for Israel, region,' US envoy cautions
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman cautioned Sunday that Nov. 3 win for Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden would have an adverse effect on the region and would undermine the progress made by the Trump administration to curb the threat Iran poses to the Middle East.

Speaking with the United Arab Emirates-based media outlet Al Ain News, Friedman said that Iran was the "most consequential issue of the election."

"As you know, Joe Biden was part of the Obama administration that negotiated and implemented the Iran deal, something that President Trump – and I share his view – thinks was the worst international deal the US has ever entered into," Friedman said in an excerpt from the interview posted to Twitter.

He further warned that a Biden victory could have serious consequences for America's allies in the Middle East, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.

"If Biden wins we will see a policy shift that, in my personal opinion, will be wrong and will be bad for the region, including for Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait," he told the Emirate daily. .

"President Trump thinks was the worst deal the US have ever entered into. It created a path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon," he explained adding that currently, Washington is "in a very good place in terms of the sanctions we have imposed upon Iran, and we think if we continue down this path, Iran will have no choice but to end its malign activity.

"We worked really hard to get Iran, I think, to a much better place. I would hate to think a new administration would undermine that but, regrettably, if Biden wins, I think they might," Friedman added.

Jonathan Tobin: The intifada changed everything. Will the next administration care?
The important thing to remember about the intifada 20 years later is not so much the trauma Israelis experienced, but that Arafat's answering peace overtures with war showed that there was no partner to peace. This realization destroyed the Israeli left with adherents of Oslo-style policies reduced to only a few outliers in the Knesset and with the opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not materially disagreeing with him on Palestinian issues.

Had the Palestinians wanted a two-state solution that gave them independence alongside Israel, they could have had it in the summer of 2000 or in early 2001, when Barak repeated his offer, or in 2008, when Ehud Olmert delivered an even sweeter proposal for the Palestinians to Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas.

To foreign observers, these memories are just ancient history or inconvenient facts that need to be forgotten in the name of the search for peace. But Israelis, most of whom greeted Oslo as a chance to end the conflict even if it meant painful territorial concessions, understood why it mattered. They were forced to the inescapable conclusion that Arafat had never intended peace. They saw the bloodshed and the necessary construction of a security fence that largely ended the threat of suicide bombings as proving conclusively that the Palestinians – both the so-called moderates of Fatah and the radicals of Hamas – were still committed to Israel's destruction.

One would hope that the events of the last four years – during which Trump administration initiatives about Jerusalem, and brokering peace between Israel and two important Gulf states – would have debunked the pre-intifada mindset. But that may not be the case.

During its eight years in power, the Obama administration sought to convince Israelis to ignore the lessons of the intifada, in spite of the fact that Abbas continued to reject peace or serious negotiations. A Biden administration will likely resume a policy of more "daylight" between the United States and Israel, as well as the notion that more pressure on the Jewish state, rather than the Palestinians, is the only path to peace.

Twenty years later, many Americans are still struggling to understand what the intifada taught Israelis about Palestinian intentions and goals. It would be an outrage if that willful ignorance leads to policy changes that will encourage Palestinians once again to seek to use violence to advance their fantasy of a world without Israel.
A Brave New Dawn in Arab-Israeli Relations
Some of my fellow Arabs, who have no solution as to how to better the lives of Palestinians, instead prefer to hang on to the same old rhetoric and unrealistic scenarios that belong in the mid-20th century. I have been a supporter of the Palestinians all my life, but I'm a realist. I cannot remain stuck in some fantasyland and neither do I wait indefinitely for miracles.

Like it or not, Israel exists as an economic powerhouse under the unwavering protective umbrella of the U.S. To imagine that boycotting Israeli goods will force the collapse of the state is infantile. The Palestinians, who still insist on the right of return for refugees who are in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere, know full well that is never going to happen.

There are 2 million Palestinians who have Israeli nationality. Most take pride in their Arab heritage, yet are content to call themselves Arab Israelis. It is beyond time for the Palestinians to quit blaming everyone else for the situation they find themselves in today.

I would urge all Arab leaderships to bury old hatreds that have consumed their foreign policies for 72 years without bearing fruit. Join us in forging a peaceful Middle East, with new and exciting opportunities for all.
In 1st town hall with Gulf and Saudi reporters, Gantz says Turkey opposes peace
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday held as a first-of-its-kind town hall with Arab journalists, highlighting efforts by Turkey and Iran to destabilize the region and undermine efforts to achieve peace.

Among those taking part were Mohamed Al Hammadi, the editor of the UAE-based Alroeya newspaper, and Ahdeya Ahmed Al-Sayed of Bahrain, who, during a webinar last week, described harassment he faced for taking part in a previous unprecedented online forum that brought together more than a dozen Arab media people and Israeli journalists and government officials.

They were joined by two Saudi journalists and other colleagues in the session with Gantz, which was organized and sponsored by the Arab Council for Regional Integration, according to the council’s general organizer Joseph Braude.

During the call, Gantz focused on efforts by Turkey and Iran to undermine the recently signed normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, and their continued support for conflicts in the region.

He accused the two nations of “denying promotion of peace and supporting regional aggression.”

While Israel frequently slams arch-foe Iran, public criticism of Turkey, which still maintains relations with Israel, is rare.
New Kuwait emir expected to face US pressure to normalize ties with Israel
The new Kuwaiti emir has big shoes to fill and formidable issues to deal with — balancing relations with regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran, steering the economy through crisis, and selecting a new crown prince.

The hot topic of whether to establish ties with Israel, and how to respond to low oil prices amid the coronavirus slump, will also preoccupy the 83-year-old Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

He was sworn in Wednesday after the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, one of the giants of Gulf diplomacy who for decades dominated life in the emirate, located in an unstable region and with its own turbulent politics.

In his inauguration speech on Wednesday, Sheikh Nawaf warned of “serious” challenges and called for national unity to face them.

“The general image is that he is a calm person who, when it calls for it, can take firm decisions,” said Mohammed al-Faily, an expert in constitutional law and professor at Kuwait University.

But experts note that Sheikh Nawaf does not have the stature of the late emir, a political veteran who guided the nation through its worst crises and made Kuwait a respected regional mediator.

“Sheikh Nawaf is also old… and not in perfect health,” said Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who said he would be viewed more as a caretaker than a “watershed new leader.”
Rabbis, worshipers at Western Wall pray for Trump’s recovery from virus
During a traditional Sukkot prayer gathering at the Western Wall on Monday, a special prayer was made for the recovery of US President Donald Trump, who has fallen ill with the coronavirus.

The prayer was made during the so-called Priestly Blessing service, which is held at the holy site in the Old City of Jerusalem on the third day of both the Sukkot and Passover festivals.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s service was greatly reduced in numbers from the tens of thousands who usually attend, although the two chief rabbis of Israel were in attendance, as were Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

As he led the proceedings, Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch announced that a mi sheberach — an invocation of divine blessings — would be said for Trump, who last Friday tested positive for COVID-19 along with First Lady Melania Trump, and who is currently hospitalized for treatment.

Rabinovitch recited the prayer, asking that a “speedy recovery from heaven” be sent for “Donald John, son of Fred.”

Former US diplomat and presidential adviser Richard Schifter dead at 97
Former top US diplomat Richard Schifter has died aged 97, according to American Jewish organizations and Israel’s Foreign Ministry director general.

Schifter fled his native Austria to the US at the age of 15 just after the Nazi takeover of the country. The rest of his family could not obtain visas and were killed by the Nazis.

He served in WWII as an American intelligence officer, part of the US military’s German-speaking “Ritchie Boys” unit.

After his discharge in 1948, he went to Yale Law School, became an attorney, and would go on to represent Native American tribes in disputes with the US government.

He got his first diplomatic posting in 1981 and would spend more than 20 years in the American diplomatic service as, variously, assistant secretary of state for humanitarian affairs in the Reagan and Bush administrations, US envoy to the UN’s Commission on Human Rights and UNESCO Committee on Conventions and Recommendations, and deputy US representative to the UN Security Council.

In 1993, former US president Bill Clinton made him a special adviser to the president and the National Security Council. Since leaving that post in 2001, Schifter headed the American Jewish International Relations Institute, for which he often spoke publicly about the UN and Israel.

He was remembered Sunday as an advocate for Israel.

Sudanese General: "We Need Israel"
Speculation over a possible deal establishing ties between Israel and Sudan have surfaced for months

A senior Sudanese official said on Friday that his country would likely establish ties with Jerusalem in the near future, arguing that Khartoum needs Israel to help advance its domestic and international interests.

"Israel is a developed country. The whole world is working with Israel ... for development, for agriculture - we need Israel," deputy chairman of the Sovereign Council of Sudan, General Mohamed Hamdan Dogolo, reportedly told local outlet Sudan24.

But Dogolo appeared apprehensive in committing his country to a full normalization agreement with Israel out of deference for the Palestinian people and their demand for independence.

"We are not afraid of anyone. But it will be relations, not normalization. Relations, not normalization," Dogolo told the outlet.

The military leader did not offer a timeline on such an agreement nor give a detailed explanation on what "relations" with Israel would look like.

Speculation over a possible deal establishing ties between Israel and Sudan have surfaced for months.

Since last year's ouster of longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, Khartoum has been run by a transitional government made up of military figures and civil administration officials which have been at odds over domestic and international issues.

Sudanese military figures are reportedly eager to sign a US-brokered agreement with Israel in exchange for economic assistance and an easing of financial sanctions, but civilian officials prefer to strike a deal only after the temporary government is replaced with a permanent one.

MEMRI: Russian Middle East Expert Satanovsky: The Old Ottoman Enemy Has Risen; Russia Cannot Allow Erdogan To Take Over Azerbaijan And Put His Pan-Turkic Theory Into Practice Or Else Russia Will Cease To Exist
Yevgeny Satanovsky, a pro-Kremlin Middle East Expert, is harshly critical of Russian forbearance towards Turkish President Recep Erdogan in Nagorno Karabakh and elsewhere.

According to Satanovsky, the issue is not Armenia or Azerbaijan, but Russia itself. If Russia will swallow its pride in Azerbaijan, it will set off a chain reaction throughout Russia. Eliminating Erdogan's influence is an existential issue for Russia.

The following appeared on Satanovsky's “ARMAGEDDONYCH” Telegram channel and was picked up by many newspapers:

On The Karabakh's Political Settlement, Erdogan Gave The Finger To The U.S., France And Russia

"Well, here we have Erdogan's reaction to the statement by the 'so-called' Minsk Group on Karabakh. [He] rejected it from the outset, with considerable contempt. A political settlement there, according to his authoritative opinion, is UNACCEPTABLE [caps original]. And, what is interesting, it was not [Azerbaijan's President] Aliyev who spoke on this issue, but Erdogan, who practically gave the finger to the United States, France and Russia. Do you have any questions on who is the boss in the Azerbaijani house now? It's easy to guess.

"So, what Trump and Macron are going to do is not our business, although it is already clear – they will do nothing. But what is [Karabakh] to them? - It's not their problem at all. They made statements and that's okay. Thanks for even that. Karabakh is far from France, and even further from the States. But what are WE going to do? Are we going to swallow Erdogan's insult? It will be extremely expensive. In general, insolence isn't something that one should get away with, especially something like this... And the issue here is not the Armenians, and not historical considerations. [Armenian Premier Nikol] Pashinyan is not a brother to us, nor an in-law nor an ally. But if anyone can do what he likes near the borders of Russia ...
De-facto freeze broken, IDF to approve new West Bank settler homes
The Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria is set to approve and advance new homes in at least 25 West Bank settlements on October 14, thereby breaking the eight month de facto freeze on such action.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged last week to convene the council, which last met in February, but a date and a schedule for the meeting was only posted on Sunday night.

According to a calculation by the left-wing group Peace Now, the council is expected to debate projects for 4,430 units, of which 1,820 would be advanced and the remaining 2,610 would be approved.

The two day meeting will mark the first advancement of settlement activity since Israel signed normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Officials from both countries have stated that the normalization deals were based on an Israeli agreement to suspend its plans to annex portions of the West Bank.

Settlement activity in the interim was not dealt with. But both opponents and proponents of settlements view them as a form of de facto annexation, in that they strengthen Israel’s hold on the territory.
Border Police officer attacked in attempted stabbing near Hebron
A Border Police officer was attacked when an assailant armed with a serrated knife attempted to stab him near Hebron on Sunday, according to Israeli police.

The assailant is a 19-year-old resident of Hebron.

The officer was manning a checkpoint at HaOkfim Junction when he saw the assailant approaching him with one hand hidden behind his back.

The officer called for him to stop, but the assailant did not heed his instructions. The officer noticed the knife, and again called for him to stop. When his instructions were not followed, the officer drew his weapon and neutralized the assailant who was taken into custody. The event ended with no injuries.
PMW: Female suicide bomber felt “like a bride on her wedding day, preparing to go to her groom”
During the Palestinian Authority’s terror war – the second Intifada – which lasted ‎almost 5 years and during which over 1,100 Israelis were murdered, terrorist Shifa Al-‎Qudsi took on a suicide mission. Planning to pose as a pregnant woman, the female ‎would-be suicide bomber was to carry 33 pounds of explosives hidden under a ‎maternity dress, and detonate it somewhere in the Israeli city of Netanya.‎

Luckily, her attack was thwarted and Al-Qudsi was arrested before she was able to ‎murder anyone.‎

Today she still recalls her thoughts and feelings while getting ready for the attack. In ‎an interview on Israeli TV last month, Al-Qudsi remembered how she felt joyous while ‎preparing to murder Israelis: “Like a bride on her wedding day, who is preparing to go to ‎her groom.”‎

Her attitude and belief that she was on her way to marry a male Martyr in Heaven, and ‎the fact that she still recalls that feeling fondly today, proves the success of the PA’s ‎brainwashing of Palestinians into believing that carrying out a terror attack and dying ‎for “Palestine” will award them a wedding in Paradise. ‎

JPost Editorial: Will rekindled negotiations between Israel and Lebanon weaken Hezbollah?
Without much fanfare, the Middle East registered another recent breakthrough following the normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. For the first time in 30 years, Israel and Lebanon have agreed to begin negotiations to end the long-running dispute over their maritime borders. Officials from both countries and the US made the announcement of the upcoming talks last week. Negotiations are expected to start around October 12.

The talks between the two countries, which have no diplomatic ties and are technically in a state of ongoing war, will be mediated by the US and hosted by the United Nations.

“The United States looks forward to commencement of the maritime boundary discussions soon, to be held in Naqoura, Lebanon, under the UN flag and hosted by the staff from the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL),” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Both Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz thanked the US for facilitating the breakthrough allowing the discussions.

“We look forward to the opening of direct negotiations in the near future,” said Steinitz, who will represent Israel at the talks and deserves a lot of the praise for helping create this important development. “Our objective is to end the dispute over the economic maritime demarcation of the waters between Israel and Lebanon in order to help develop natural resources for the benefit of all peoples in the region.”

Pompeo credited US Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield and Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker for their help during some three years of mediation.

Seth J. Frantzman: The War for the Future of Syria and Iraq Will Be Fought on Smartphones
As Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was on his way to Washington in mid-August to discuss the continued U.S. role in Iraq, a package of smartphones was making the opposite journey to U.S. soldiers in Iraq. They had been ordered by Col. Myles Caggins, the then-spokesperson for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition. “I’m fairly certain this will be the first time iPhone 11 Pro Max are issued to public affairs soldiers—quite a breakthrough,” he told me. The phones are symbolic of a larger challenge facing the international coalition and especially U.S. soldiers: to combat fake news that spreads in Iraq and Syria and also to explain the coalition’s mission.

The United States must confront sophisticated information warfare from pro-Iranian groups, the Syrian regime, and Moscow that is designed to erode trust in the anti-Islamic State mission in Iraq and Syria. For the last six months, there have been increasing rocket and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq by groups that boast of removing Americans from the country. Videos of the attacks are put online to send a message to Washington. Pro-Iranian groups such as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba regularly put out messages accusing the United States of operating its embassy as a military base to justify further attacks. Iranian media prints claims daily alleging U.S. wrongdoing, such as looting Syria’s oil.

In Syria, Russian ground troops harass U.S. patrols, and Russian officials and media seek to portray the confrontations as America’s fault. This combination of military confrontation in Iraq and Syria with messaging on the ground that is put out for local consumption and regional leaders is designed to undermine the U.S. presence. In an unprecedented step in late September, Washington told Baghdad that if attacks on the embassy and U.S. personnel didn’t stop, then the United States would pull out of its massive embassy compound.

When Caggins arrived in Iraq in August 2019, the coalition’s public affairs officers in Baghdad had few connections with their counterparts in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Despite four years of working together, the coalition’s Twitter account didn’t even follow the account of Mustafa Bali, the SDF’s spokesperson in northern Syria. Caggins was the first spokesperson to tweet in Kurdish and reach out to his counterparts in Syria to coordinate messaging.

Reports: Russia Willing to Sell Iran Advanced Air Defense Systems
Russia is willing to sell Iran advanced S-400 air defense systems, Russian envoy to Tehran Levan Dzhagaryan recently said.

As cited by Iran’s Fars News and Tasnim agencies, Dzhagaryan told the Resalat newspaper Saturday that Moscow “does not have any problem with selling S-400” to Iran.

He asserted that Russia already sold several batteries of the previous-generation system, S-300, to Iran in 2015; back then, the sale was made after the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, with Russia earlier freezing an accord to sell the system to Iran to stay in line with international sanctions.

Dzhagaryan stressed that from October 19, when the international embargo on conventional arms trade with Iran had expired, “there will be no problems with arms sales to Iran,” and Russia will be open to deals.

Moscow will not be intimidated by US pressure, he proclaimed, while also taking a jab at the three EU countries — Germany, the UK and France — that rejected the US push for snapback sanctions on Tehran under the 2015 accord.

He said that while those countries stood against the US, they still continued to criticize Iran’s regional activities.

Operational since 2007, S-400 is the most advanced air defense in Russia’s arsenal. It features a range of 400 kilometers and is capable of taking on a broad range of targets.

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