Thursday, November 12, 2020

From Ian:

Arabs states draw closer to Israel to counter non-Arab powers Turkey and Iran
The decision by three Arab states to make peace with Israel can be credited both to efforts by the Trump administration and the recognition by these Sunni states that their security would improve against the ongoing threats they face from Turkey and Iran.

Iran and its proxies interfere with Arab states while promoting their Shi’ite revolutionary ideology; likewise, Turkey pushes its Sunni revolutionary ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region.

Turkey and Iran look to overthrow the Sunni Arab states that do not align with them, such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. The normalization deals between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan have greatly upset Turkey and Iran, which ideologically view Israel as the enemy.

“Iran is a tactical enemy for the Gulf states because the regime is controlled by Shi’ite fanatics who want to destroy the Sunni regimes in the Gulf,” Harold Rhode, a longtime former adviser on Islamic affairs in the U.S. Defense Department of Defense who was in Iran during the early months of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, told JNS.

Israel’s burgeoning alliance with the Gulf Arab states reverses the situation the Jewish state had found itself in during the first few decades of its existence. In its early years during the successive Arab-Israeli conflicts, it relied on an alliance of non-Arab states, such as Turkey and Iran, as its only regional allies. However, this all began to change when the pro-Western Shah of Iran was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and has increased under the Islamist anti-Israeli policies of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip ErdoฤŸan.

Rhode predicts that if the Iranian people successfully toppled the current regime, it would most likely be transformed into a country focused on rebuilding and re-establishing its connections with the world.


JCPA: Arab Normalization and Palestinian Radicalization: The Tug of War over the Middle East Peace Process
The Palestinian leadership has denounced the Abraham Accords signed by its longtime Arab allies and financial donors; they are now pivoting toward the radical, terror-sponsoring Iranian and Turkish regimes. Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem burned UAE flags and pictures of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed.

The Palestinian Authority’s Mufti of Jerusalem even issued a fatwa banning the citizens of Sudan, the UAE, Bahrain, or any Arab country that may normalize relations with Israel from praying at the Al‑Aqsa Mosque in the future.

Turkish President ErdoฤŸan’s hosting of Fatah, Hamas, and other Palestinian factions has ratcheted up longtime tensions with Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states. Istanbul has also served as a headquarters for Hamas leaders to mobilize West Bank terror cells and carry out cyberwarfare and counter-intelligence operations against Israel.

The Arab powers have grown tired of Palestinian intransigence, corruption, and rejectionism. Saudi Arabia has criticized the Palestinian rejection of Israeli peace offers and the Palestinian boycott of any cooperation with Israel.

The Palestinian leadership should honor the Abraham Accords’ call for unconditional mutual recognition and normalization of relations with Israel as the keys to opening a viable political and diplomatic agreement that can provide enormous benefits to the Palestinian people.

A Palestinian realignment with peaceful Arab states will enable the PA to sit at the negotiating table with its Israeli neighbor without pre-conditions, accepting the Abraham Accords’ principle of normalization, mutual acceptance, and goodwill in order to maximize the prospects for a successfully negotiated compromise.
Message to US President-elect Biden: On Israel and the region, first, do no harm
The US under Obama clashed heavily and relentlessly with Israel under Netanyahu in two central areas — the Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

On the Palestinians, the administration criticized any and all Israeli building over the Green Line, including in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem such as Ramat Shlomo, rather than focusing on preventing the expansion of settlements in West Bank areas Israel would ultimately need to relinquish in order to separate from the Palestinians and maintain a Jewish, democratic state.

More significantly still, Obama and his (second) secretary of state John Kerry insistently underestimated the devastating impact on Israel, physically and psychologically, of the Second Intifada — the strategic onslaught of suicide bombings that killed 1,000 Israelis and were launched from the major West Bank cities that Israel had relinquished under the Oslo process.

Everybody recalls Netanyahu going to the US Congress in 2015 to lobby against Obama’s Iran deal; most people have forgotten Obama coming to Jerusalem’s International Conference Center (Binyanei Ha’Uma) in 2013 to lobby against Netanyahu’s ultra-skeptical approach to negotiating with the Palestinians: “Peace is possible,” the US president assured a carefully chosen audience of young Israelis. “I know it doesn’t seem that way. There will always be a reason to avoid risk, and there’s a cost for failure. There will always be extremists who provide an excuse to not act. And there is something exhausting about endless talks about talks; the daily controversies, and grinding status quo.”

On Iran, meanwhile, Obama and Kerry wanted to believe that the promise of international rehabilitation, rejoining the family of nations, would help deter the Islamist regime from pursuing the bomb. They thus negotiated and approved an agreement, many of whose core provisions apply for a limited period only, that neither fully dismantled nor even completely froze the Iranian program. The ayatollahs were allowed to improve their uranium enrichment process and refine their missile delivery systems within the terms of the 2015 deal, which they were also handsomely financially rewarded for signing.

Rapacious ideologically and territorially, the Islamists in Tehran are playing the long game. They don’t want to rejoin the family of nations. They want to sit at the head of the table, set the agenda, and bend the rest of the world to their will. This harsh truth seemed lost on the Obama presidency.
The Palestinian Leadership Keeps Standing in the Way of Peace with Israel
A Washington Post front-page article on Nov. 1 noted a "promised peace" between Israelis and Palestinians "seems further away than ever." But it's not that peace is elusive.

Palestinian leaders have rejected numerous offers for Palestinian statehood in exchange for peace with the Jewish state. They refused U.S. and Israeli proposals for statehood in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference.

The 2008 offer included 93.7% of the West Bank, with land swaps for the remainder, a capital in eastern Jerusalem and a state. Palestinians rejected Obama administration efforts to restart negotiations in 2014 and 2016.

Instead, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has incited anti-Jewish violence and refused to quit paying salaries to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists and their families. This is a violation of the Oslo accords that created the Palestinian Authority more than a quarter of a century ago.

Palestinian leadership could have chosen the path of peace, as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have recently done. They've chosen otherwise.


Mixed reactions to Biden's victory across the Middle East
The reactions across the Middle East to Joe Biden’s victory revealed the strategic calculations of leaders in the region heading into a post-Trump era.

Driving the news: Some leaders quickly congratulated Biden while others hesitated. Some were restrained in their statements, while others couldn’t hide their joy at President Trump’s defeat.

The first Arab leader to congratulate Biden, minutes after CNN called the race, was Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Egypt is one of America's primary allies in the region and is perceived as the leader of the Arab world. Sisi, who also quickly congratulated Trump in 2016, was signaling that he wants to keep it that way.

Trump's lauding of Sisi as "my favorite dictator” was a sharp break from Barack Obama, who responded coolly after Sisi seized power and never invited him to Washington.

The friendly ties between Trump and Sisi date back to December 2016, when Sisi postponed a vote in the UN Security Council following a phone call with the president-elect.

What to watch: Biden signaled during the campaign that, unlike Trump, he will push strongmen like Sisi on human rights.

The second Arab leader to congratulate Biden was Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is anxious to get off to a good start with Biden after a difficult stretch with Trump.

The Trump administration has dialed up the pressure on the Lebanese government over the influence of Hezbollah, and it recently sanctioned Aoun’s son-in-law — former Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil — for alleged corruption.

King Abdullah of Jordan was also quick to congratulate Biden.

Biden is expected to roll back some Trump policies that put Abdullah under massive pressure, including the severing of funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which affected millions of Palestinians in Jordan.

Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed didn't hesitate in congratulating Biden either.

The UAE has been preparing for a potential Biden victory for several months, and it made sure to get a blessing from Biden and other senior Democrats for its normalization deal with Israel.

The Emiratis hope the goodwill they won with that deal will help them navigate Biden world, particularly given their concerns about a possible revival of the Iran nuclear deal.
Europe Must Stand United Against All Extremism: Hamas, Hizbullah and Muslim Brotherhood
Europe has suffered two Islamist militant attacks over the past ten days. France and Austria are responding with vigor, but have made clear that political Islamism is not Islam. Just as targeting Nazis is not anti-German, identifying Islamists and their support for terrorism is not anti-Muslim.

Why are Islamists a danger to Europe today? Because the very foundations of European society and prosperity are under direct assault from an ideology and a narrative that becomes violent because it seeks to end the nation state, remove secular governments, deprive women of their rights, destroy Israel and kill Jews, execute gay people, and force innocent Muslims to live under Islamist rule.

Muslims in the Middle East are not Islamophobic or racist when identifying Islamists as a national security concern. Turning off the Islamist mood music played by the Muslim Brotherhood will stop the dance that is jihadist terrorism. The writer was a senior adviser to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Israel, Bahrain and UAE will join forces to seek Hezbollah's designation as terrorist group: report
Foreign Ministry official says bans limited to Hezbollah military allowed group to raise major funds

Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates will form a joint front to seek Hezbollah's designation as a terrorist group, a senior Israeli official told Israel Hayom.

In an interview published on Thursday, Yehoshua Zarka, Deputy Director for Strategic Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said the end goal was to have the UN mark the Shiite group as such.

"Joint action is planned to this end with certain capitals and international institutions," he said.

Multiple states, including EU members, have designated the military arm of Hezbollah as a terrorist group while viewing its political wing as legitimate -- an approach mocked by the group itself, which views the two components as inseparable.

"As a result, Hezbollah was still able to raise donations in many countries for what it claimed would be humanitarian, welfare and educational endeavors," Zarka said.

"The donations make up 30 percent of the organization's total budget, so this is a significant income," he asserted.

He revealed that Israel's approach to seeking Hezbollah bans has changed over time, with diplomats now asked to identify the appropriate tools for this in each state instead of coming out with a blanket strategy for all nations.


Jonathan Pollard's parole restrictions to expire next week unless extended
Neither Jonathan Pollard nor his lawyers have been told by the US Justice Department whether his strict parole conditions will be relaxed on November 21, when he completes his fifth year of parole, sources close to the Israeli agent said Thursday.

Pollard’s parole conditions since he was released from prison five years ago require him to wear an electronic GPS ankle bracelet at all times, to be subjected to unfettered monitoring and inspection of his computers and prevent him from leaving his New York home before 7 a.m. or returning after 7 p.m.

It is up to the Justice Department to renew the conditions by the time the five years are up, or they are presumed to expire immediately. Such a decision would likely be made in consultation with the US intelligence community.

Pollard has reason for concern that the conditions will be renewed because he still has 10 years left of his life sentence. It was given before life sentences in America were reduced from 45 years to the 30 that he served. Parole conditions lasting five years are considered standard procedure.

“Under normal circumstances – that is, with any other prisoner, including spies for enemy nations, drug dealers, etc. – the five-year marker would have significance,” a source close to the Pollard said. “Provided that there were five years of good conduct, it would be honored immediately. But not for Israel’s agent. Nothing in this case has ever been handled according to normative legal practice.”

The parole conditions have been especially difficult on Pollard since his wife, Esther, began treatments for breast cancer. The lack of knowledge about whether the conditions will be renewed or whether he would be able to leave New York and move to Israel has increased tension.
Scoop: Divisive Pentagon hire may rush troop withdrawals before Trump's exit
President Trump's newly installed acting Pentagon chief is bringing on a senior adviser in a sign the administration wants to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East before the end of his presidency in January, three people familiar with the move told Axios.

Why it matters: A senior administration official says a wave of firings at the Pentagon and the hiring of Ret. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor is in part a settling of Trump's personal scores — but senior White House officials also have made clear "they want them more publicly to talk about getting out of Afghanistan by the end of the year."
- Trump, who ran in 2016 on a promise to bring U.S. troops home, is frustrated with the slow pace of withdrawing troops from the Middle East, another senior administration official said.
- The president has told advisers on numerous occasions he wants troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas.
In a 2019 interview with Fox's Tucker Carlson, Macgregor said he would advise the president to get out of Afghanistan "as soon as possible," including removing the U.S. embassy from Kabul, and that talking to the Taliban was unnecessary.
- Macgregor also said the U.S. needs to pull its troops out of Syria immediately and America had no national interest there.
- He said, "We need to listen very carefully to the Iranians ... find out what their interests are and look for areas where we can cooperate" and that the U.S. needs to "turn the operational control of the [Korean] Peninsula militarily over to President Moon and the Koreans."
Biden’s impact on normalization push with Israel is key for economy, expert says
The potential impact of Joe Biden’s incoming administration on the Israeli economy depends a lot on whether the Jewish state’s normalization of ties with Gulf and other Arab countries expands to include other partners, Nadav Ophir, global markets strategist at Bank Hapoalim Ltd., said in an interview with The Times of Israel.

“Will the peace process [that started] with the UAE and other countries continue or stop?” Ophir asked. “The changes that have happened in the last few months have been a real game changer for the Israeli economy, as it opens up new markets, new clients and imports and exports.”

The normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE, and Israel and Bahrain, in September, spearheaded by the Trump administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has caused a flurry of activity, with businesses, investors and startups working to forge ties between the nations.

Even before the historic peace agreement, there were informal ties between Israel and the UAE. Now, the relationship has come out of the closet, leading to hopes for more intense and advanced business cooperation, especially in the fields of cybersecurity, medical equipment, agricultural technology and desert agriculture, solar energy, water desalination and water quality, and pharmaceuticals.

Israeli business organizations have estimated that trade volume between the two nations could reach billions of dollars per year in the “near future.”
Seth Franzman: UAE official on peace with Israel: Getting to 'yes' was quick, easy
United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba spoke with the Institute for National Security Studies on Wednesday and provided a unique insight into Abu Dhabi’s view of its goals in the Abraham Accords. He has been an outspoken proponent of peace and earlier this year published an opinion piece in the Israeli press that was a precursor to the deal.

“The annexation is what made us reach this decision in the way we did and the time we did [it],” Otaiba told the INSS, which is affiliated with Tel Aviv University. “I believe that annexation was going to have a profoundly negative impact in our part of the world.”

By presenting the deal as a way to achieve a win-win solution, preventing Israel from annexing parts of the West Bank in July and Israel getting normalization in return, it was in the interest of peace, he said.

“Annexation was going to cause a very negative reaction to Israel, put Jordan under pressure and force the US to defend what is a very unpopular decision in the region,” Otaiba said. “It was going to risk all the progress that we have been making in terms of opening up with Israel.”

His conversation with INSS executive director Amos Yadlin was posted on the organization’s Twitter account.

Otaiba indicated that the peace deal’s time frame was an important issue. One of the issues that has faced the Gulf states since the Saudi Arabia-led Arab League initiative in 2002, is that peace was predicated on Israel making some sort of agreement with the Palestinians. That incentivized Palestinians to basically say no to an agreement because they could hold the absence of normalization over Israel.

In the 1990s, many of the Gulf states had moved closer to Israel, sensing that economic and cultural exchange, as business globalization hubs, could benefit both sides. Later, Israel and the Gulf states became islands of stability in the maelstrom of the Middle East.
Bahrain, Israel, UAE Hold Historic Virtual ‘Tourism Meet’
Ministers from three countries discuss new travel and business opportunities following the signing of peace agreement

For the first time since the signing of the Abraham Accords agreements, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain’s top tourism officials came together virtually to discuss new travel and business opportunities between the three countries.

Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Israel’s minister of tourism; Dr. Ahmad bin Abdullah Belhoul Al Falasi, the UAE’s minister of state for entrepreneurship and small and medium enterprises; and H.E. Mr. Zayed R. Alzayani, Bahrain’s minister of industry, commerce and tourism, met online at virtual session titled “Tourism: The Path to Peace in the Middle East.” The panel was part of WTM (World Travel Market) Virtual, the second-largest international tourism fair, which is being held from November 9 to 11.

“People moving between countries is the expression of true peace,” Farkash-Hacohen said at the opening of the session. “I think that governments sign contracts and agreements, but people are the true expression of peace.”

Farkash-Hacohen’s Emirati counterpart, Al Falasi, agreed and also pointed to emerging business opportunities as being a major motivator for newly blossoming ties.

“Israel has been very well-known to be a hub for startups, specifically in hi-tech technologies,” Al Falasi said. “I think the Abraham Accords will really help both the UAE, being a hub for the Middle East and North Africa … and Israel to have a slew of entrepreneurs and investments [that will] enrich the ecosystems of both sides.”


Bangladesh should recognize Israel
Bangladesh’s foreign policy is – “friendship to all, malice to none”. This is the only nation with a Muslim majority that upholds the spirit of secularism. This is why political and diplomatic analysts from around the world are asking – why should Bangladesh and Israel remain strangers to each other.

As we know, silent changes are already taking place in the Middle East with a number of Arab nations already normalizing their relationship with the Jewish State. Amongst the Muslim nations, Israel has established diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1969 and with Jordan in 1994. In recent times, due to the pragmatic efforts of President Donald Trump and his team, Muslim nations in the Middle East already are coming to terms with Israel, which according to diplomatic analysts will continue.

Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world that is most vocal about Palestinian Arab rights and one of the countries in the world that has refrained from having any relations with Israel. The perception of the younger Bangladeshi population is no more intended in maintaining distance from Israel. Instead, they are willing to visit Israel and benefit from its world-class educational system, medical science as well as witness the historic sites in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities. It may be mentioned here that, although many Muslim nations in the world are yet to have diplomatic relations with Israel – none of those countries are having travel restrictions.

For decades, Bangladesh has been maintaining its distance from Israel not only by not recognizing the Jewish State but also barring its citizens from visiting Israel.

It may be mentioned here that, Israel was one of the earliest countries in the world to recognize Bangladesh in 1972. It was reported on 7 February 1972 that the Israeli government offered diplomatic recognition to the newly independent nation. It came on the heels of Bangladesh’s quest for recognition since April 1971. However, Bangladesh did not accept the Israeli offer.
Israeli and Sudanese UN Envoys Meet for First Time Since Countries Normalized Ties
Israel’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, met on Wednesday for the first time with his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Siddig.

The sit-down came in the wake of the normalization agreement reached by Israel and Sudan last month.

“First historic meeting with Sudan’s UN Mission and Ambassador Omer Siddig! To translate peace between our nations into action, we will begin cooperating in agriculture, water, and our common fight against coronavirus. I feel honored to represent Israel during this period,” Erdan tweeted.
Saudi King Urges World to Take ‘Decisive Stance’ Against Iran
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz urged the world on Thursday to take “a decisive stance” to address efforts by Iran to develop nuclear and ballistic missile programs, in an annual address to the top government advisory body.

“The kingdom stresses the dangers of Iran‘s regional project, its interference in other countries, its fostering of terrorism, its fanning the flames of sectarianism and calls for a decisive stance from the international community against Iran that guarantees a drastic handling of its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and develop its ballistic missiles program,” the king said.

They were the 84-year-old ruler’s first public remarks since he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September via videolink, where he also took aim at Iran. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are locked in a decades-long struggle for influence across the region, supporting opposing sides in conflicts from Syria to Yemen.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran to the king’s remarks. Tehran has previously described Saudi statements against it as “baseless allegations” and denies arming groups in the Middle East.

State news agency SPA published a full transcript of the king’s speech after midnight. State TV carried photos of what appeared to be the king virtually addressing council members from his palace in Neom.
Russia’s Lavrov Expects Biden’s Policy on Iran, Climate to Resemble Obama’s
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday he thought US foreign policy under Joe Biden would be similar to that seen under President Barack Obama, especially on Iran and climate change.

The Kremlin said on Monday it would wait for the official results of the US presidential election before commenting on its outcome, and that it had noted incumbent Donald Trump’s announcement of legal challenges related to the vote.


IDF: One Year Since Operation “Black Belt”
Baha Abu al-Ata was the Commander of the Northern Sector and the Gaza City Division Commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Abu al-Ata trained terror squads to infiltrate into Israel, to conduct sniper attacks and drone launches, and to fire rockets. He was also responsible for orchestrating most of the Islamic Jihad’s terror attacks—specifically from Gaza—against Israeli civilians and IDF troops in 2019 and was a ticking time bomb.

In the days leading up to his assassination, Abu al-Ata promoted immediate terror attacks in various ways from Gaza toward Israeli civilians and IDF troops. His elimination was a move by the IDF to bring stability to the region and to save lives.

In the 48 hours after Abu al-Ata’s elimination, Islamic Jihad terrorists incessantly fired over 450 rockets toward Israeli civilians. Their first targets were Israeli homes close to the Gaza Strip, and later they shifted their focus toward the center of Israel, where rockets even reached the city of Tel Aviv.

The IDF responded immediately with a series of strikes on terror targets belonging to the Islamic Jihad organization throughout the Gaza Strip. In addition to eliminating Islamic Jihad rocket launch squads, terror outposts, observation posts, training complexes, underground weapons storage and manufacturing sites, a naval base and terror tunnels belonging to Islamic Jihad were all targeted in the IDF’s strikes.

The Iron Dome, the IDF’s main air defense system, which was responsible for intercepting hundreds of Islamic Jihad rockets during the operation.

In the 48 hours of the operation, the IDF was able to:
- Eliminate 25 terror operatives, including Baha Abu al-Ata who was the key target
- Strike approximately 100 terror targets belonging to the Islamic Jihad organization
- Intercept approximately 90% of Islamic Jihad’s incoming rockets with its air defense systems
Sinai Helicopter Crash Kills Eight Peacekeepers, Including Six Americans
A helicopter with the US-led Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula crashed on Thursday near the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing eight members of the peacekeeper force, the MFO said.

Those killed were six Americans, a French national and a Czech national, all of them military service members, the MFO said in a statement. It added that one American MFO member survived and was medically evacuated.

An official briefed on the incident, and who could not be identified by name or nationality, told Reuters it was an accident caused by mechanical failure.

The MFO was installed to monitor the demilitarization of the Sinai under the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord. It has decreased in size in recent years as the neighboring countries tightened security cooperation against Islamist-led Sinai insurgents.

However both Israel and Egypt have, in the past, opposed proposals by Washington to reduce US participation in the MFO, whose website lists some 452 Americans among the force’s 1,154 military personnel.

Cairo sees the MFO as part of a relationship with Israel that, while unpopular with many Egyptians, has brought it billions of dollars in US defense aid, sweetening the foreign-enforced demilitarization of its sovereign Sinai territory.
Jerusalem municipality okays new homes in neighborhood that chafed Biden in 2010
The Jerusalem municipality has approved the construction of 108 housing units in a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem that has in the past rocked ties with Washington, with a source reportedly saying further building projects may be advanced before US President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in at the beginning of the year.

The housing approved Tuesday is to be built in the ultra-Orthodox Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, an area that became the focus of a diplomatic spat between Israel and the Obama administration, in which Biden served as vice president, over a previous massive construction project there.

During an official visit by Biden in 2010, the Interior Ministry announced that 1,600 housing units would be built in Ramat Shlomo. The declaration embarrassed Biden, as Washington was opposed to Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as the capital of a future state.

Biden fumed at the time, saying in a statement that it “undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.” The construction project, which later gained the epithet “the Biden Plan,” was eventually put on hold, although anti-settlement groups claimed that paperwork for the scheme was continually advanced in the following years.

A municipal source told the Kan public broadcaster that the local planning and construction committee will soon advance further housing in Ramat Shlomo “hopefully before the swearing-in ceremony” for Biden, which will be held January 20.
New daily virus cases continues to climb, death toll reaches 2,700
The number of people diagnosed with the coronavirus on Wednesday reached its highest daily value in over a week with 734 new patients, according to Health Ministry figures.

The last time the figure was that high was on November 4, when 767 people were diagnosed.

A Thursday update showed that the death toll had climbed to 2,700.

There were 8,105 active patients, with 312 of them seriously ill. The Health Ministry said 158 patients were in critical condition and 137 on ventilators.

Out of 38,722 virus test results returned Wednesday, 1.9 percent were positive, slightly up from the 1.6% recorded out of 40,384 test results on Tuesday. The numbers were nonetheless an improvement over levels of over 2% seen earlier in the week.

Since the start of the outbreak earlier this year, 321,684 people in Israel have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told Army Radio that the government is mulling evening curfews as one way to bring virus cases back down and that a decision will be made in the coming days.
As infection rises among Arab Israelis, Defense Ministry bans entry to PA areas
The Defense Ministry has issued an order banning Israelis from visiting West Bank Palestinian areas in an attempt to slow the skyrocketing rate of infection among Arab Israelis.

The order, which takes effect on Thursday morning, is set to last a month. It will apply to areas defined as Area B under the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. According to the 1995 agreement, Israel is responsible for security in Area B while the PA is in charge of civilian administration.

While the order bans all Israelis from entering Area B, it was widely seen as an attempt to curb visits by Arab Israelis to all Palestinian areas. Israelis are nominally banned from entering Area A, which is under Palestinian civilian and security control, but many Arab Israelis routinely enter Area A to attend university or even go shopping.

Senior Israeli health officials have said that visits by Arab Israelis to PA areas — where there is little social distancing or enforcement of health regulations — bear part of the blame for the recent rise in infections in the Arab Israeli community.

“We’re talking about tens of thousands of ِArab Israeli citizens entering PA zones every week,” deputy coronavirus czar Ayman Seif told Hala News in early November.
Israel Rejects Belgian Demand to Compensate for Razing Palestinian Homes
Israel rejected a demand from Belgium to compensate for demolishing four Palestinian homes near Hebron in the West Bank which were built illegally with funding from Brussels. "It is regrettable that European aid money finds its way to the financing of illegal activities," the Foreign Ministry said this week.

"Donor states should use their taxpayers' money toward the funding of legal construction and projects in territories that are controlled by Israel, and make sure those are planned and executed in accordance with the law and in coordination with the relevant Israeli authorities.
Senate Wants Security Guarantees for Israel before U.S. Sale of F-35s to UAE
The Senate is calling on the State Department to certify that a pending sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE does not pose security threats to Israel or weaken American military systems in the face of Russian and Chinese threats. The Senate Appropriations Committee included the certification requirement as part of a fiscal 2021 spending bill for the State Department and foreign operations released Tuesday.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the outgoing chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced legislation last month that would restrict the sale of advanced weapons systems to countries in the Middle East other than Israel unless they meet certain benchmarks, such as normalized relations with Israel; that weapons are modified to be identified and tracked by Israel; that the recipient country will protect the weapons from theft or "diversion of sensitive defense technology" to any other country; and that the recipient country will consult with the U.S. over their use.
Recent Ransomware Wave Targeting Israel Linked to Iran
Two recent ransomware waves that targeted Israeli companies have been traced back to Iranian threat actors, multiple sources say.

Hackers breached corporate networks, stole company data, encrypted files, and asked for huge payouts to deliver a decryption key using the Pay2Key and WannaScream ransomware strains.

The Israeli security firm Profero said it tracked several payments Israeli companies made to Excoino, a cryptocurrency exchange based in Iran.
IDF Unsure Whether Riots A Palestinian ‘Day Of Rage’ Or Just Thursday (satire)
Kibbutz Zikkim, Gaza Envelope, November 12 – Israeli soldiers patrolling the fence between this southern region and the Gaza Strip expressed uncertainty today in response to a reporter’s question as to the nature of disturbances on the other side of the barrier: have Palestinian factions announced a special reason for the violent demonstrations today, or is it just that time of the week?

Officers and enlisted men near the protective barrier between the Hamas-ruled coastal territory and the mostly rural communities of the Gaza Envelope admitted their inability today to determine whether the firebomb-throwing, incendiary-balloon-launching, fence-breach-attempting gathering just beyond said fence represents a Palestinian “Day of Rage” demonstration in response to some development the Palestinian leadership finds objectionable, or simply that today is Thursday. The intensity of the violence provided no clear indication, an officer stated.

“It could be the aftermath of the US presidential election; it could be the death of Saeb Erekat; we’re not sure,” explained Lt. Col. Lemmi Ikhpat of the IDF’s Gaza Division. “It could even be a delayed response to our destroying another terrorism tunnel a couple of weeks ago. Or it could just be because it’s Thursday. These things don’t always have an apparent reason.”
PMW sends complaint to the International Olympic Committee against PA
PA Olympic Committee violates Olympic principles by condemning Arab-Israeli normalization in sports and calling for sports boycott of Israel

Following the recent peace agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the Palestine Olympic Committee has announced its condemnation of Arab normalization with Israel in sports.

Chairman of the Palestine Olympic Committee Jibril Rajoub – who is also the secretary of the Central Committee of Abbas’ Fatah Movement – posted the committee’s condemnation of “the crime of normalization” after the UAE Pro League signed a cooperation agreement with Israel’s Professional Football League, and called instead for “boycotting” and “isolating” Israel :

“A number of our Arab brothers are making light of the crime of normalization with the fascist occupation state in the field of sports, in a blatant violation of all the treaties, commitments, and decisions of the Council of Arab Ministers of Youth and Sports…

The Palestine Olympic Committee… expresses its strong condemnation of these steps, and views them as encouraging the occupation with all its elements so that it will continue the most despicable crimes against our Arab and Muslim people and against the sports system in Palestine, and this is instead of putting it on trial, boycotting it, and isolating it.”

[Facebook page of Chairman of the Palestine Olympic Committee Jibril Rajoub, Nov. 1, 2020]
JPost Editorial: After Erekat's death, it's time for new PA leadership to advance peace
The Book of Proverbs says “Rejoice not when thine enemy falls, and let not thy heart be glad when he stumbles.”

And indeed, as Israelis, we should not rejoice in the death of one of the most prominent Palestinian leaders, Saeb Erekat, who died Tuesday from the novel coronavirus after being treated at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Erekat was a veteran diplomat who symbolized more than anyone the Palestinian negotiating position with Israel for the last three decades, since he joined the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid Conference. He was named the Palestine Authority’s top negotiator in 2015, while also serving as secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

For many, he was a man who fought for peace. While other Palestinians took a more aggressive and violent stance, Erekat was always a voice that supported the continuance of negotiations with Israel, who kept stressing the importance of nonviolent steps.

On the other hand, Erekat was part of an administration that constantly undermined Israel’s legitimacy, and has been one of the most virulent attackers of Israel on the international stage, accusing the country of war crimes and pushing attempts to get Israel probed by the International Criminal Court.

Not exactly the way to advance peace negotiations.


UN watchdog: Iran storing 12 times more enriched uranium than nuke deal allows
Iran continues to increase its stockpile of low-enriched uranium far beyond the limits set in a landmark nuclear deal with world powers and to enrich it to a greater purity than permitted, the UN’s atomic watchdog agency said Wednesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by The Associated Press that Iran as of November 2 had a stockpile of 2,442.9 kilograms (5385.7 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, up from 2,105.4 kilograms (4,641.6 pounds) reported on August 25.

The nuclear deal signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms (447 pounds).

The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5%, higher than the 3.67% allowed under the deal.

Wednesday’s report confirmed that, in line with previous statements by Iranian officials, centrifuges had been installed at an underground part of the Natanz nuclear facility after another part of the site was damaged in an explosion in July which Iran blamed on “sabotage.”
UN rejects Iran’s explanations for nuclear material at site flagged by Israel
The UN’s nuclear watchdog said Wednesday that Iran’s explanations over the presence of nuclear material at an undeclared site in the country were “not credible.”

Despite Iranian authorities providing some information about the site, “the agency informed Iran that it continues to consider Iran’s response to be not technically credible,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report seen by AFP.

“A full and prompt explanation from Iran regarding the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin… at a location in Iran not declared to the Agency, is needed,” the report said.

While the IAEA has not identified the site in question, diplomatic sources have indicated to AFP that it is in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, previously identified by Israel as an alleged site of secret atomic activity.

The report did not provide any new information about two other locations where the IAEA took samples in September and where undeclared nuclear activity may have taken place in the early 2000s.

The analysis of those samples is ongoing.

Iran initially refused to allow inspectors access to the sites, sparking a standoff with the IAEA only resolved in late August during a visit to Tehran by IAEA director Rafael Grossi.
Iran Finishes Moving First Batch of Advanced Centrifuges Underground
Iran has finished moving a first cascade of advanced centrifuges from an above-ground plant at its main uranium enrichment site to an underground one in a fresh breach of its nuclear deal with big powers, a UN atomic watchdog report showed on Wednesday.

The transfer to the underground plant apparently built to withstand aerial bombardment was done in response to the burning down of an above-ground centrifuge-building workshop at Natanz in July, which Tehran has called an act of sabotage. It also slowed Iran‘s output of enriched uranium, the report showed.

The move was the latest of many deliberate breaches by Iran of its 2015 deal with major powers in response to Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from the landmark accord and its reimposition of sanctions against Tehran. The deal says the underground plant at Natanz can only be used for first-generation IR-1 machines.

“They finished installing one of the three cascades and they have started installing a second cascade,” a senior diplomat said, adding that while they were being moved, these more efficient and productive machines were not operating as yet.

A cascade is an interlinked cluster of centrifuge machines.

Iran‘s stock of low-enriched uranium is now far above the deal’s 202.8-kilogram limit at 2.4 tons, but it produced 337.5 kilograms in the quarter, less than the more than 500 kilograms recorded in the previous two quarters by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Biden’s Path Back to Iran Nuclear Deal Won’t Be Easy or Fast
America’s European allies have struggled to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive after President Donald Trump quit the accord more than two years ago. Joe Biden’s election victory won’t provide a quick resuscitation.

Biden said during the presidential campaign that Trump’s Iran policy weakened U.S. national security and left Tehran closer than ever to being able to build a nuclear bomb. He vowed to get on the phone with allies on “day one” to begin rebuilding strained ties and said he’d give Iran a “credible path back to diplomacy.”

But Iran’s mid-2021 presidential election, as well as likely continued Republican control of the U.S. Senate, will put the brakes on quick, substantive action, according to U.S. and Iranian diplomats and analysts. In addition, Biden has signaled that his priorities starting Jan. 20 will be on the economy and getting the coronavirus pandemic under control.

“I am not optimistic at all that in the short term anything significant will happen between Iran and the Americans,” Saeed Laylaz, an economist and former adviser to ex-President Mohammad Khatami, said in an interview. “It’s not impossible, but it will be extremely difficult.”

The Iran Nuclear Deal’s Uncertain Path Under Biden: QuickTake

Nuclear watchdogs and security analysts aren’t the only ones focused on what Biden could accomplish: Oil markets are betting on some easing of tensions by summer 2021 that will free the way for Iranian crude to return to global markets by year-end, Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy Advisors, said on Bloomberg TV last week.

That could still be an optimistic timeline.
US envoy insists pressure on Iran will persist under Biden
The US special representative for Iran insisted Thursday that a pressure campaign of sanctions targeting Iran would persist into the administration of Joe Biden, even as the president-elect has pledged to potentially return America to Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Elliott Abrams, who also serves as the US special representative to Venezuela, said sanctions targeting Iran for human rights violations, its ballistic missile program and its regional influence would go on. That, as well as continued scrutiny by United Nations inspectors and American partners in the Mideast, would maintain that pressure, he said.

Iran now has far more uranium than allowed under the deal since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018. The Mideast also has been roiled by tensions between Tehran and Washington, which pushed the two countries to the brink of war at the beginning of the year.

“Even if you went back to the [deal] and even if the Iranians were willing to return … this newly enriched uranium, you would not have solved these really fundamental questions of whether Iran is going to be permitted to violate long-term commitments it has made to the world community,” Abrams told The Associated Press in an interview at the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

Iran’s politicians have increasingly discussed the possibility of the US returning to the deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
McMaster: It Would Be a Really Big Mistake to Resurrect the Iran Nuclear Deal
President-elect Joe Biden should not rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, former National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said Wednesday. He said the deal failed to consider the "hostile ideology" of the Iranian government and the 40 years of proxy wars Iran has fought against America.

"These big payoffs to Iran when the deal was signed, as well as the relief of sanctions...what did they do with that money?" McMaster asked. "They applied that money to intensify sectarian violence across the region in an effort to put a proxy army on the border of Israel. It would be a really big mistake to turn the clock back to 2016 and resurrect the nuclear deal."
Saudi king calls for 'radical solution' to Iranian aggression in key policy speech
Saudi King Salman took aim at Iran in an address the country's Shura Council, a top government advisory body, on Thursday.

In his address, the first since his speech crtical of Iran at the UN General Assembly in September, the Saudi king called upon the world powers to take a "decisive stance" against Iran's efforts to build up its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.

Speaking to the council members through a video link from his palace in the city of Neom, the 84-year-old ruler condemned the Islamic Republic over its meddling in the affairs of other states, fostering terrorism, and "fanning the flames of sectarianism."

He urged an international approach to Iran "that guarantees a radical solution for dealing with its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and develop its ballistic missile program."

Tehran, which has rejected the charges leveled by the king in his earlier speech at the UN as baseless allegations, has yet to comment on Salman's remarks.

Saudi Arabia, a regional powerhouse and a major US ally in the Middle East, is locked in a confrontation with Iran, facing off with the Islamic Republic in a number of proxy conflicts.

While US-Saudi ties have largely flourished under US President Donald Trump, the presumptive President-elect Joe Biden said he would "re-evaluate" his country's relations with the oil-rich kingdom.


MEMRI: Iraqi TV Debate: Hitler Cannot Be Blamed – The Jews Are The Reason For All Strife; COVID-19 Is A Masonic Tool, The Vaccine Will Be Used To Control People Via Satellite
On September 18, 2020, Al-Ghadir TV [Iraq] aired a debate about Freemasonry and Zionism. TV Host Salam Sakr Al-Khaledi said that he rejects Hitler and Nazism, but that they can't be "blamed" for their actions because it is true that the Jews, Zionists, and Freemasons are behind all the strife [in the world]. Iraqi Legal Expert Abu Yaqeen Al-Musawi, a panelist on the show, said that the COVID-19 pandemic is a Masonic "tool," and that the vaccine will be made mandatory so that a chip can be inserted in people, who can then be controlled via satellites. He argued that there is a conspiracy to reduce the world's population and establish a single regime that would control the entire world.

"Hitler Should Not Be Blamed"

Salam Sakr Al-Khaledi: "I reject Hitler and Nazism, but sometimes I say that Hitler should not be blamed. Describing the Zionists, he said that they are the reason for all the strife.

"Whenever two people are fighting... He said that even if two roosters are fighting, rest assured that there is a Jew, a Freemason, or a Zionist behind them. We do not harbor hatred or animosity towards any nation. We would like all people to live in peace. But it seems as if the others – or rather those who try to instigate all this strife and these problems... It seems that they are sick. One might ask why, since they do not want secularism or something like that. But they want [the religion] of the Zionist country to remain the only religion. [They believe they are] the Chosen People, and that all the other religions are false."

"Coronavirus Is One Of The Tools Of Freemasonry"

Abu Yaqeen Al-Musawi: "Coronavirus is one of the tools of Freemasonry. Now they are talking about a vaccine, and it will be mandatory to take it. This way, people would be controlled via satellites. That's right. They have suggested the idea of planting a chip or a virus in people's bodies in order to control them.

"They want to reduce the world's population, and to create a single unified regime that will rule and control the world."
Bolivia Restores Ties With Iran, Venezuela After Socialists Return to Power
Bolivia’s new president, Luis Arce, has moved swiftly to restore ties with Iran and Venezuela, receiving the credentials of ambassadors from the two countries on Wednesday, just three days after his socialist party retook the reins of power.

Bolivia’s government said in a statement it wanted to “reestablish diplomatic relations damaged by the previous de-facto government” led by a conservative interim president, Jeanine Anez.

Writing on Twitter, Arce said he was restoring bilateral relations with Venezuela “to strengthen strategic ties for the good of our peoples.”

He said the same was being done with Iran and that “they are always welcome in Bolivia. We will continue to strengthen common projects.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, attended Arce’s swearing-in ceremony in La Paz on Sunday as part of a tour of leftist Latin American nations that included Venezuela and Cuba.





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