Tuesday, January 24, 2017

From Ian:

Report: Obama sent $221 million to PA before leaving office
The Obama administration in its waning hours defied Republican opposition and quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority, Washington officials said Monday.
The funds were being held up by Republican members of Congress.
An unnamed State Department official and several congressional aides said U.S. President Barack Obama's outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning, just before Donald Trump became president.
More than $227 million in foreign affairs funding were released at the time, including $4 million for climate change programs and $1.25 million for U.N. organizations.
At least two GOP lawmakers had placed holds on the Palestinian funds. Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch but are not legally binding. (h/t Yenta Press)
Obama Uses Last Hours As President To Funnel Money To Palestinian Authority, Which Incites Murdering Jews
Beyond the corruption of the PA, its involvement in inciting Palestinians to murder Jews has been widely documented, from publications as leftist as Newsweek to the Gatestone Institute to Christians United for Israel.
In September, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senator Dan Coats of Indiana introduced the “Taylor Force Act,” named after the graduate of West Point who was stabbed to death on the Tel Aviv beach promenade by a Palestinian terrorist in March The bill would cut off US funding to the Palestinian Authority if it continued to pay monetary rewards to terrorists and their families.
Graham said bluntly:
We’ve got to go ahead and put sunlight on this problem. The PA incentivizes young Palestinians to commit acts of terror…I hope Congress will understand that this is inconsistent with the two-state solution and that we’ll build support [for the legislation] over time . . . there has to come a point of awakening here within Palestinian society. I want the Palestinians to make a decision as to what kind of people they are going to be. I know they’ve got problems, I’ve met [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas many times. I know Hamas is an out and out terrorist organization and the PA has a fairly good working relationship with the Israelis when it comes to security, but we’ve got to cross this bridge…American dollars are going to a government that literally rewards people for killing their neighbors. And until we get that addressed, I don’t think the peace process will ever move forward.
But Obama, ever desirous of mortally wounding the Jewish state, used his last hours to try to come closer to his goal one last time.
Ex-Israeli Official Reveals Never Before Told Story Highlighting Fraught Obama-Netanyahu Relationship
A former top Israeli diplomatic official revealed a never-before told story that shed further light on the fraught personal relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former US President Barack Obama, in an interview published Friday.
Dore Gold — who was until recently the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry — told the Hebrew newspaper Makor Rishon that after the September funeral of the late Israeli statesman Shimon Peres, someone from Air Force One — on which Obama, then-Secretary of State John Kerry and former President Bill Clinton were aboard — called Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz and told him, “Tell your boss if he wants a funeral like Peres’, he should begin to move, to go forward,” the implication being that Netanyahu should be more flexible when it comes to the peace process with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu, according to Gold, told Horowitz to respond, “Tell him that I give up the honor because I have no intention of participating in the funeral of my country.”
Later in the Makor Rishon interview, Gold accused the Obama administration of having demonstrated a “kind of arrogance” when it came to its Middle East policies.
“They developed a vision, according to which no matter what the Arabs say or what the Israelis say, they know better the needs of both sides,” Gold said. (h/t Elder of Lobby)

Among Jerusalem embassy backers, varying views on when and how
Immediately following President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, chatter has surfaced in Washington and Jerusalem regarding the future of the U.S. Embassy in Israel. White House Spokesman Sean Spicer issued a statement on Sunday saying, “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject.”
Among those who support the idea of moving the Embassy to Jerusalem, some are urging decisive, immediate action. The U.S. Embassy should be relocated “as soon as possible,” Mike Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute told Jewish Insider. “There will be some gnashing of teeth and rending of clothes and then it will be forgotten, but the longer we drag it out the more it becomes an issue,” he added.
Referring to the 1995 Congressional bill calling for the transfer of the Embassy, Professor Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at Northwestern University and Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum told Jewish Insider, “The law has said that the Embassy should be relocated to Jerusalem since 1995. So, 22 years too late is the latest it should be. I see absolutely no reason for delay.”
However, Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice President at Shalem College, advocates for a more “gradual” approach. “If it happens in a month, or six months or a year, I don’t think makes much substantive difference,” he explained to Jewish Insider.
Since 1995, U.S. Presidents have signed a waiver citing National Security every six months delaying the relocation of the Embassy to Jerusalem. Former President Barak Obama last approved a waiver in December 2016. If Trump were to merely not sign such a waiver, which expires June 1, then by law the Embassy would be required to move to Jerusalem. The Orthodox Union’s Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament noted that this would be an appropriate symbolic time since June 2017 is “just in time for the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.”
White House Non-Committal on Timeline for Decision on Potential Move of US Embassy to Jerusalem
A day after announcing the new Trump administration was in the beginning stages of talks on the potential relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a key campaign promise of President Donald Trump — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was non-committal about a timeline for the process.
At his first official White House press briefing Monday, Spicer declined on three occasions to be pinned down on specifics regarding the embassy issue.
“There’s no decision, we’re at the very early stages of that decision-making process,” Spicer said.
Later, he added, “It’s very early in this process…and his [Trump’s] team is going to continue to consult with stakeholders as we get there.”
The third time around, Spicer said, “There is a reason you go through a decision-making process and that’s what we’re in the process of starting right now. So I just don’t want to get ahead of [it]. If there was already a decision, we wouldn’t be going through a process.”
Spicer also noted that Trump could use his executive power to move the embassy.
New York Times’s New Jerusalem Bureau Chief Passes Along Embassy ‘Speculation’
The newly arrived New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem, Ian Fisher, has a dispatch reporting:
The Israeli news media was filled with speculation on Sunday that the Trump administration would immediately announce the embassy move — as a de facto recognition of Israel’s annexation of predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan during the 1967 war.
There’s no hyperlink, so it’s hard to know to what Mr. Fisher is referring. But as a Times reader, my hope is that its journalists will try to help assess whether “speculation” is accurate or not before passing it along.
In this case, the statement’s logic leaves a lot to be desired.
If President Trump moves the American embassy to west Jerusalem — which has been under Israeli control since the establishment of Israel in 1948 and is the location of the Knesset, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israel Museum, the Jewish Agency for Israel and a host of other institutions that have been there since before the 1967 war — how does that say anything about, let alone constitute “de facto recognition” of, Israel’s annexation of “predominantly Arab East Jerusalem”?
The phrase “predominantly Arab East Jerusalem” is itself tendentious. When Israel recaptured it from Jordan in 1967, east Jerusalem was indeed “predominantly Arab” — but only because the Jews who had lived there for the previous thousands of years had been violently expelled or otherwise extinguished by Arabs in the 1948 war. Mr. Fisher might consult his own newspaper on this point.
Palestinian, Jordanian Leaders Meet to Discuss Thwarting Potential Relocation of US Embassy to Jerusalem
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan met Sunday in Amman, the Jordanian capital, to discuss the potential relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the Trump White House.
A joint statement from Abbas and Abdullah said they “have agreed on a series of moves should the new Washington administration decide to go ahead with the [relocation].”
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said that, should Trump decide to move the embassy, it “would effectively close the door on the two-state solution and will destabilize the entire region.”
Last week, Abbas warned that such action could lead to the Palestinians rescinding their recognition of Israel.
Abbas has said a delegation of senior Palestinian officials, joined by Jordan’s king, will travel to Washington and Moscow in the coming days for meetings with high-ranking American and Russian officials to thwart a relocation plan.
Fatah official to PA. leadership: 'Downgrade US ties if embassy moved'
The Palestinian leadership should downgrade its diplomatic ties with the United States if the American embassy is relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a top Fatah official said on Monday.
“If that [the relocation of the embassy] takes place, the Palestinian side would have to sever its ties with the official staff of the illegal US Embassy in Jerusalem. In addition to that, there is the issue of the Palestinian political representative’s office in Washington; it would also be necessary to close [it],” Nasser al-Kidwa, a Fatah central committee member, told Al-Quds, a Palestinian daily newspaper, clarifying that the relocation the of the US Embassy would leave the Palestinians with “no other choice.”
The Palestinian leadership and the US have had a close relationship since the establishment of the PA in the early 1990s, to which the US has sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.
Kidwa, who is considered a contender to succeed PA President Mahmoud Abbas, added that the Palestinian leadership should also declare, in the event that US President Donald Trump follows through with his campaign promise to move the embassy, that the US is no longer a broker in the Middle East peace process and turn to the UN.
The Mideast’s Real Demographic Game
When Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to a captive audience of State Department employees to defend the U.S. abstention on a UN Security Council Resolution that reversed more than two decades of peace process agreements, he cited as his motivation, in part, demography. “There are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” he said, adding, “They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states. But here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic–it cannot be both.”
On the Arab-Israeli conflict, Kerry got demography wrong. He omitted Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza and seemed not to realize that the Palestinian Authority double counts Israeli Arabs in Jerusalem, refuses to acknowledge population attrition through emigration, and sometimes just makes up its numbers.
That’s only half the irony, however, for part of the Kerry legacy may very be his blindness to the deliberate demographic games being played under his nose in the Middle East.
First, consider Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has welcomed millions of Syrian refugees into Turkey, but that’s only half the story. Not every Syrian ends up a registered refugee. In areas that are traditionally Alevi—an offshoot of Shi’ism—Erdogan has offered Turkish citizenship to Sunni Arab refugees. In effect, he seeks to change the demography of provinces like Hatay and Gaziantep to shift permanently the demographic balance in favor of Sunnis over Alevis.
Ex-Israeli Foreign Minister Denies Report She Nixed Belgium Visit Due to Threat of War Crimes Arrest
An ex-Israeli foreign minister denied on Monday she had nixed a planned trip to Belgium due to a threat she would be arrested upon arrival over war crimes allegations.
“The trip was cancelled two weeks ago due to schedule problems,” a spokesperson for Tzipi Livni — currently a Zionist Union MK — told The Algemeiner. “We didn’t know about this concern back then.”
According to a report in the UK’s The Independent newspaper, Livni had been slated to arrive in Brussels on Monday to take part in a conference about fighting antisemitism in Europe.
Last week, according to media reports, the Brussels prosecutor’s office said Livni was named in a 2010 lawsuit filed by anti-Israel activists, and could be detained upon landing in Belgium “to try and advance the investigation.”
Livni has been targeted by anti-Israel “lawfare” activists because of her role as foreign minister during the IDF’s three-week offensive against terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009. Ehud Olmert was prime minister at the time.
Last summer, Livni was granted special diplomatic immunity by the UK after British police attempted to question her in connection with a complaint filed against her there. Livni was visiting London at the time.
Israel okays 2,500 new settlement homes, 2 days after PM talks to Trump
Israel approved the construction of 2,500 homes in the West Bank, most of them in existing settlement blocs, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced on Tuesday.
The decision came two days after a Jerusalem planning committee approved the construction of 566 housing units in East Jerusalem, and on the heels of a phone conversation on Sunday between Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, where the two discussed their plans for the region.
Most of the housing units will be built in the large settlement areas, notably in the city of Ariel and in Givat Ze’ev, outside Jerusalem. But some will also go up in settlements outside the larger blocs, due to prior agreements and court decisions.
“We’re building — and will continue to build,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, following the announcement.
According to Liberman’s office, the decision was made in order to “provide a response to the housing needs.”
Of the 2,500 housing units approved, approximately 900 will be built in the city of Ariel in the northern West Bank. Another 166 will be put up in the nearby Emanuel settlement, along with 100 in Oranit and 18 in Elkana, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
Some 600 housing units were also approved for the Givat Ze’ev settlement, north of Jerusalem.
France condemns new Jewish East Jerusalem homes
France on Monday condemned the planned construction of 566 Jewish homes in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, citing last month’s anti-settlement UN Security Council resolution.
“Settlements constitute a grave threat to the two-state solution, to which the international community reiterated its commitment at the international conference in Paris on January 15,” said a French Foreign Ministry spokesman in a statement.
“UN Security Council Resolution 2334 underscored the illegality of the settlements under international law and demanded an immediately and completely halt to such activity,” statement said.
The homes were set to be approved for construction in December, but the measure was pulled from the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee’s agenda at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fearing further pressure from the Obama administration which did not veto the UN resolution.
Giuliani: Trump likes Netanyahu ‘very much’
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said he will bring a message from US President Donald Trump to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Israel this week.
Appearing Monday morning on “Fox and Friends,” Giuliani was asked whether he will be relaying a message to Netanyahu from Trump during a business trip starting that evening.
“If I do, it’ll be from him,” Giuliani said. “But I can give the general message, which is ‘I like you very much and we’re very good friends.’
“They were friends even before. This is not a new relationship, but now obviously it’s a much more important one.”
Giuliani is traveling to Israel for his law firm, Greenberg Trauring, and while there will meet with Netanyahu — something he said he does every time he visits Israel, since the two men have been friends for 25 years.
Right-Wing Jewish Organization Secures First Meeting With Trump Administration
Media reports indicate that the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is the first Jewish organization to be meeting with President Donald Trump's new administration.
White House aide Anthony Scaramucci, who serves as assistant to the President, will meet in New York with Morton Klein (pictured above), president of the ZOA. ZOA has long been a proponent of a strong Israel and expanded West Bank settlements. Their largest backer is the mega-GOP donor, gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Klein was quoted today as saying he planned to discuss “issues relating to Israel, terrorism and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.” Klein says he was told by Trump officials that, “ZOA is the Jewish organization that most promotes and reflects their views about the Arab-Islamic war against Israel.”
The Jerusalem Post has called the ZOA “one of the most important and influential groups in the U.S. today.” The Wall Street Journal called the ZOA “heroic and the most credible advocate for Israel on the American Jewish scene today.”
Melanie Phillips: Projecting fascism in the new Trump era (h/t Elder of Lobby)
Reaction to Donald Trump's election is like all movements of fanatical believers, religious or secular. It’s totalitarian in its instincts and above all it incites hatred, paranoia and aggression.

Fatah Central Committee Member Jibril Rajoub: Trump a "Lunatic" and a "Fascist"
His Plan to Move Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem - Declaration of War against Whole World
Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub recently called U.S. President Trump's plan to relocate the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem a "declaration of war" against the whole world and said "We want the confrontation to be between this new Fascist in the White House and the whole world – Christians as well as Muslims." Speaking on the official Palestinian Authority TV channel on January 18, Rajoub called Trump a "lunatic" and asked: "Why does he think that he has the right to give them the keys to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher?!"

A bill has already been introduced in Congress to remove the US from the United Nations
A bill introduced by Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers earlier this month calls on the US to “terminate” its membership in the United Nations (UN) and effectively sever all ties with the organisation.
The legislation, titled the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017,” was proposed on January 3. It is co-sponsored by a handful of conservative-leaning lawmakers, including North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, Tennessee Rep. John Duncan, Jr., and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.
The offices of the congressmen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The bill proposes barring the US from committing funds or troops to UN peacekeeping operations worldwide, and stipulates that the UN must vacate property owned by the United States government. It would repeal the 1973 Environment Program Participation Act, strip UN employees of diplomatic immunity in the United States, and repeal the US’ membership and participation in the World Health Organisation.
The bill’s language is strong, and it’s an extreme longshot to garner the necessary support to pass the House and move on to the Senate. Rogers tried, unsuccessfully, to pass a similar bill in 2015.
New Directive Replaces Controversial ‘Hannibal Protocol’ on Abduction of IDF Soldiers
The Israel Defense Forces has replaced its controversial Hannibal Protocol, a military order that grants troops broad permission to do whatever is necessary to prevent the abduction of a fellow soldier, with three new directives, beginning on January 1.
A copy of the new orders provided to The Times of Israel clarifies what actions are permitted to prevent an abduction.
Since the start of 2017, the army has been reviewing the new orders with its soldiers.
The Hannibal Protocol, which could be used in any setting, has been replaced by three distinct orders, depending upon the circumstances of the abduction: in the West Bank during peacetime, elsewhere beyond Israel’s borders during peacetime, or in any location during a war or other emergency situation.
No new order exists that deals with a soldier being abducted within Israel during peacetime.
Netanyahu: We Want Arab Citizens to Integrate into Israeli Society
Amid protest and widespread condemnation of his government’s policies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to reassure the Arab community in Israel that he wants it to be a full part of Israeli society.
“Most Arab citizens of Israel want to integrate into Israeli society,” he posted on Facebook on Monday. “I also want this and therefore my government is investing tremendous resources to achieve this goal.”
His Facebook post came as hundreds of Arab protesters gathered outside the Knesset, demonstrating against a series of home demolitions in the Arab community and the death of a schoolteacher in disputed circumstances last week.
Arab leaders have accused Netanyahu of deliberately stepping up demolitions in Arab communities in an attempt to deflect anger ahead of the expected demolition of the illegal West Bank settlement of Amona.
Using duct-taped gun, Palestinians shoot in air at IDF checkpoint
Israeli troops arrested a pair of Palestinians who are suspected of firing a homemade gun into the air after breaking through a checkpoint in the West Bank on Tuesday, the army said.
Earlier, a car burst through a checkpoint set up outside the Ofra settlement, northeast of Ramallah, while one of its occupants shot into the air.
No one was injured, and no damage was caused, the army said.
“An IDF force gave chase after the car and caught two suspects inside it, who were in possession of a makeshift weapon,” the army said.
A picture of the gun, provided by the military, shows a slapdash device, apparently constructed from water pipes and held together with duct tape.
IDF Updating Tactics to Counter Hizbullah Crossborder Raid
Two major changes are shaping the IDF's preparations for a possible third Lebanon war: First, the army is training designated forces for ground maneuvers to fight entire companies or platoons of Hezbollah fighters that infiltrate Israeli territory. Second, it is training brigades to effectively and proficiently destroy Hezbollah's tunnel strategy.
The first approach entirely changes the outlook of battalion commanders, brigade commanders and thousands of combat soldiers for the next war. The traditional doctrine of rapid mobilization and entry into enemy territory in order to force surrender or defeat has been adopted by Hezbollah's battle plan.
The IDF believes that Hezbollah's Radwan Forces will attempt to infiltrate Israel in the early stages of a future war and attempt to paint a portrait of victory by planting the Hezbollah flag over an Israeli community or an IDF outpost along the border.
IsraellyCool: Palestinian Refugee Accuses UNRWA And PA of Corruption
No surprises here, but it is refreshing to hear it from a palestinian who would know.
I have no space for I am living in a refugee camp. Why I am living here? After 68 years of conflict, it is a shame to be considered a refugee and living this life.”
According to this Palestinian refugee, there is a golden opportunity to turn the UNRWA camp where this person is living into a paradise but that chance is being squandered: “For 69 years, the Palestinian Authority is taking a lot of money because of me. They are using me to get more funds in my name. I don’t see any changes for the better.” According to a report by Israel behind the News, the European Union determined that the Palestinian Authority squandered nearly 2 billion Euros between 2008 and 2012.
“The infrastructure is horrible,” the Palestinian refugee noted. “We have the same infrastructure from 40 years ago. There is an average of 50 students in the same class. When I was a student, we lacked basic things in school. We used to spend the winter without a heater and there was not even a fan in the summer. We barely had pens to write with. I came from a poor family. I had to starve for the entire day for there was no food at school for those without money. They teach English from the 1st to 9th grade but students finish barely being able to combine two sentences together. In my camp, there are no playgrounds. They didn’t teach art or music here. Some private schools encourage it but most of the schools ignore art and music but art and music is the space where you can express yourself and get rid of the negative face that is inside you.”
This Palestinian refugee stresses that corruption is rampant within Palestinian society and UNRWA plays a major role in this corruption: “Due to the amount of funds coming in, the conditions should have been better. I blame the corruption for this reality. According to the financial reports of UNRWA, these things should be available at these schools but they are not. I can understand not having the money but on the ground, we have the chance to have more due to the financial support UNRWA gets but because of the corruption, we are getting cheated.”
Ukraine Seizes Illicit Shipment of Missile Components Destined for Iran
Ukrainian authorities announced on Friday that they seized a shipment of missile system components that were bound for Iran, in violation of an arms embargo against the Islamic Republic.
The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said that the parts were found on an Iran-bound flight at Kiev’s Zulyany airport, Jane’s Defence Weekly reported.
An inspection of the cargo on the flight uncovered 17 boxes with no corresponding documentation. While the flight crew said that the boxes contained aircraft parts, three of the packages held parts believed to be for a Fagot anti-tank guided missile system. On Sunday, the Ukrainian state border guards confirmed that the parts were for the Fagot missile system.
While most United Nations sanctions were lifted from Iran under the 2015 nuclear deal, the country is still subject to an international arms embargo and other restrictions.
British-Iranian aid worker sentenced to jail for 'cooperation with BBC'
The family of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been sentenced to five years in jail in Iran on undisclosed charges, said she has been accused by a Revolutionary Court of acting against national security by cooperating with the BBC.
Iran's judiciary spokesman said on Sunday that Iranian appeals court confirmed the five-year jail sentence for her.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in early April as she tried to leave Iran after a visit with her two-year-old daughter.
Her family said in a statement that the appeal "was held in secret, in the presence of a large number of Revolutionary Guards". Neither Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her lawyer had been allowed to tell the family what happened at her trial.
However, the family said that at the appeal hearing two new accusations have been raised against her: being the head of recruitment for the BBC Persian service, and knowingly being married to a British spy.
Yazidi Girls Sold as Sex Slaves while Women March against Trump
Some Yazidi girls were "sold" for a few packs of cigarettes.
"Some of those women and girls have had to watch 7-, 8-, and 9-year-old children bleed to death before their eyes, after being raped by ISIS militia multiple times a day. ISIS militias have burned many Yezidi girls alive for refusing to convert... Why? Because we are not Muslims..." — Mirza Ismail, chairman of the Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International.
"This is genocide against women." — Zeynep Kaya Cavus, leading Alevi activist.
Sadly, many of the organizers and participants of the "Women's March" in Washington chose to ignore women being tortured and exterminated by Islamic terrorists, and in other parts of the world, not being able to to receive an education or even leave the house without the permission of a male.
If only these women felt as motivated to protest about the enslavement, rape and torture of Yazidi women and children, as about the cost of tampons.

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