Friday, June 16, 2017

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Burying Obama's legacy
The real reason that Trump appears to be burying Obama’s legacy is because unlike the ideologically- driven Obama, Trump is willing to consider evidence and facts when determining his opinions.
In May, Abbas came to the White House and told Trump that he abjured terrorism. Israel then presented Trump with evidence that Abbas publicly incites terrorism and uses the Palestinian Authority budget to support terrorists and their families.
Trump took in the information and upbraided Abbas for lying to him.
True, this week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson falsely told Congress that Abbas had cut off the payments. And true, Tillerson doubled down on his assertion after both the Palestinians and Israel said the payments have not been cut off.
True as well that Trump continues to believe that he can make “the deal” that his predecessors failed to secure.
But the fact is that Trump has given Netanyahu support as he has walked away from the failed policy paradigm of the Obama years.
In other words, Netanyahu’s moves this week, and the fact that the Trump administration has left him alone to make them without being second-guessed or condemned by Washington, indicates that we have finally moved past Obama’s legacy.
Where we are going is still unknown. But what is certain is that by going after the sources of the continued malignancy of the conflict and pushing back against the lies that informed Obama’s policies, both Israel and the US have abandoned them.
Elliott Abrams: How the “New York Times” Divulged Vital Israeli Secrets
Last month, a scandal broke out when it became public knowledge that President Trump shared with the Russian foreign minister highly classified information—provided by Israel—about Islamic State’s plans to get bombs onto airplanes. The president was soon accused of jeopardizing Israeli and American intelligence operations against Islamic State (IS) by providing specifics about intelligence-gathering to an unfriendly nation.
What specifics in particular? Relying on information provided off-the-record by current and former U.S. officials, the New York Times undertook to disclose them. Israel, it reported, had been conducting an extremely sophisticated cyber-intelligence operation against IS that gave it access to detailed information about terror plots.
Now that this information has been published, writes Elliott Abrams, IS will surely be able to identify and guard against the “tool” that Israel is using to spy on its operations. Other countries, too, will likely be able to protect themselves against similar espionage, forcing Jerusalem to cease making use of a piece of software that likely took years to develop and could have otherwise yielded much more vital information.
It’s hard to tell how much damage was done, [by the president’s comments to his Russian guests], because he did not reveal how the information [about IS] was acquired. That task was left to the New York Times and to the American officials who leaked highly classified information to the Times. Those officials committed a crime. . . .
I don’t know whether the president’s disclosure infuriated Israelis, [as the Times reports], but I know that the Times’s unprincipled and irresponsible disclosure damaged not only Israel but our own safety. It helped IS. . . .
Seth J. Frantzman: Hezbollah: Bigger, Stronger, Nastier than Ever
The problem in Lebanon is that both the Christian and Sunni opposition are neutered. They gave up their weapons after the civil war and allowed Hezbollah to keep theirs. The likelihood that Jihadist and Salafi networks will put down roots in Lebanon grows in response to the power of Hezbollah. Whatever fantasies Israel once had for an alliance with Lebanese Christians and the idea that Lebanon, a formerly peaceful country seen as the “Paris” or “Switzerland” of the Levant, could be a good neighbor, is gone forever. Hezbollah will only grow. It is a key Iranian asset, one that is indispensable in the Syrian civil war. Nasrallah has taken to commenting on crises in Yemen and elsewhere, looking beyond Lebanon in hopes of playing a regional role.
Withdrawals always have a price. The U.S. fears it cannot leave Afghanistan without handing it back to the Taliban. The U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam allowed the communists to take over the country. While countries should manage their military withdrawals so chaos does not ensue, they should also be willing to cut their losses when need be. Israel cut its losses in Lebanon and Gaza, and saved lives by doing so. It has regained its deterrence.
The lesson from this is that states should be wary of long-term military control of enemy areas. It is better to increase deterrence through absolute domination and destruction of the enemy, withdraw quickly, and wait for the next round. Long-term combat with terrorist groups allows them to learn and become more effective while sinking roots into the civilian infrastructure and presenting themselves as legitimate military and political entities.
The question Israel has to ask itself is whether Hezbollah has been bloodied enough in Syria that it will remain quiescent, or whether it will think a new war with Israel will bring it more power. In addition, it must be asked whether Iran thinks it can use Hezbollah against Israel to gain leverage. Political power has not made Hezbollah more moderate—the great myth of most policymakers in the West. It is as murderous and extreme as it was before. It now has the burdens of being a more conventional military force. It doesn’t do truck bombings and kidnappings; it has graduated to long range missiles and armored personnel carriers. In other words, it is a terrorist group that has come to control a state, using that state to conduct terror by other means.

Michael J. Totten: The Rapidly Developing Syria War, and the Necessity of Bashar al-Assad's Fall
Like it or not, the United States is getting more involved in the Syrian war despite President Donald Trump’s promise to stay out of it.
First, on April 6, after Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad again massacred civilians with chemical weapons, Trump ordered two American battleships in the Eastern Mediterranean to strike Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase with Tomahawk missiles. According to Defense Secretary James Mattis, the U.S. damaged or destroyed 20 percent of Syria’s air force in ten minutes.
Then, on May 18, American warplanes bombed a vehicle convoy belonging to a pro-government militia that encroached upon a restricted area where American and British soldiers are training local fighters to battle ISIS.
America’s Syria policy is just as incoherent now, though, as it was when Barack Obama was president. In August of 2013, the former president refused to enforce his own “red line” when Assad murdered over 1,400 people and wounded thousands more in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta with chemical weapons. He meekly called for Assad’s removal but did virtually nothing to bring it about, choosing instead to lift sanctions against Assad’s staunchest ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in exchange for a temporary halt to its nuclear program.
The Trump administration hasn’t figured out what to do either. “Our priority,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said in April, “is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said more or less the same thing at the same time. “The longer-term status of President Assad,” he said, “will be decided by the Syrian people.”
Both reversed themselves within a week. “We rededicate ourselves to holding to account any and all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world,” Tillerson later said, followed by Haley who said, “It’s hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad.”
Since then, though, little has happened and less has changed. Like the Obama administration, the Trump foreign policy team recognizes that Assad is bad news but is unwilling to do much more than talk about it. At some point, though, we’re all going to have to come to grips with an unpleasant truth: If the invasion of Iraq proved to the American public how dangerous intervention can be, the Syrian apocalypse should have proven by now to the American public that non-intervention can be equally perilous.
Eventually, one way or another, Assad has to go.
Chuck Schumer Teams with Ted Cruz to Demand Moving Israel Embassy to Jerusalem
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) called on the Trump administration Thursday to resume plans to relocate the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Their demand comes two weeks after President Donald Trump signed an order putting those plans on hold to avoid driving Palestinians away from a peace agreement.
"Fifty years later, now is finally time to recognize Jerusalem as the one eternal and indivisible capital," Cruz said at a luncheon hosted by the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center on Capitol Hill. "I believe it is long past time to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, where it belongs."
Schumer touted the Senate's unanimous passage of a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem's reunification. The measure, passed on June 6, asserted, "Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel" and "reaffirms the Jerusalem Embassy Act," which mandated the relocation of the American embassy in 1995. The law allows the president to postpone the move on national security grounds.
The Senate advanced the resolution just five days after Trump waived for six months a congressional mandate requiring the embassy to be located in Jerusalem. Trump will have to take up the issue again in December and administration officials insisted the decision was just a delay.
Schumer pointed out that former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all said the same, but never took action.
New bill aims to make it harder to divide Jerusalem
A special majority of 80 Knesset members would be required to pass any change in the status of Jerusalem, especially any potential future division of the capital as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, under a proposed bill introduced by Habayit Hayehudi on Thursday.
Party leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett described the bill as a strategic move to protect Jerusalem in the event of any future diplomatic agreements asking Israel to relinquish control of parts of the city to a foreign entity.
The initiative is being proposed as an amendment to the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel. The special majority stipulation is also aimed at protecting the city in the event of any future referendum on its status.
Article 6 of the Basic Law on Jerusalem, titled "Prohibition of the Transfer of Authority," states that "no authority stipulated in the laws of the State of Israel or of the Jerusalem Municipality may be transferred, temporarily or permanently, to a foreign body, whether political, governmental or to any other similar type of foreign body."
Article 7 states that the preceding article "shall not be modified except by a Basic Law passed by a majority of the members of the Knesset," meaning a regular majority of 61 lawmakers. The amendment aims to alter this to 80 MKs.
Why we shouldn't divide Jerusalem
Israel should be reminding everybody unabashedly of the core truth that for past 50 years it has managed the complicated city with sophistication and sensitivity.
These have been good times -- the best of times -- for Jerusalem's Jews, Muslims and Christians, for clergymen, craftsmen, architects, artists, archaeologists, businessmen and tourists alike.
Israel has sagaciously developed the city from a backwater town to a truly radiant international capital city sparkling with energy and creativity and open to all.
Let's be even blunter: Israel has developed Jerusalem as an attractive city because it cares, because Jerusalem is the historic centerpiece of Jewish peoplehood and of the modern State of Israel.
The Arabs and Palestinians, however, do not really care about Jerusalem. They never have. In fact, they would consider it a triumph if Jerusalem were so wracked by conflict and poverty that it would be ruined for 1,000 years -- just as long as it would be lost to the Jews.
Israel must declare clearly and proudly: A united Jerusalem under exclusive Israeli sovereignty is the key, not an obstacle, to peace and security in the city.
The bisecting of Jerusalem would be patently unwise, exceedingly unfair to Jewish history, and an undue insult to Israel's fine stewardship of the city.
The truth about Jerusalem
"They're trying to take your identity," former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Dore Gold says at the beginning of an innovative presentation on Jerusalem launched this month in the United States.
In his lectures, which combine archaeological findings, legal documents and stories from his wealth of experience in the service of the state, he tells the mostly Jewish audience that the UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem in October 2016 and the United Nations Security Council's Resolution 2334 two months later hurt them, the Jews abroad, more than they hurt Israel, because they erase their collective past.
Gold has previously served as a diplomatic adviser to two prime ministers, and as Israel's ambassador to the U.N. he was also involved in talks with the Palestinians and Arab states. His most recent political role was director general of the Foreign Ministry, which he held until last October. Since 2000, he has been serving as the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
As president of the JCPA research institute, he is keeping his diplomatic senses sharp, and he knows that every situation of uncertainty is also an opportunity. This week, when Israel Hayom met with him, it was clear that his calm demeanor concealed a burning desire to strike while the iron is hot. He wants to present the world with the facts about Jerusalem, the most volatile issue in any future negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians, just before the efforts to renew the peace process gather steam.
The Impossible Question of Occupation
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this dilemma, however, is that it is not insoluble. The settlements can be contained, but Israel’s security needs cannot. I do not believe that Palestinians will ever stop hating us, but even people who hate each other can live in peace. Palestinians leaders may, like Egypt and Jordan, eventually stop saying “Never!” and agree to hate us peacefully. Among the Palestinians at this moment, however, this does not appear to be the case. Perhaps it will change, perhaps even soon — but until it does, there is no way out of the occupation. It is less dangerous, less destructive, and, yes, less immoral to maintain the status quo, with the caveat that the settlement enterprise remain controlled and restricted.
Long before the occupation began, future defense minister and hero of the Six-Day War Moshe Dayan gave a eulogy for Roi Rotberg, a young kibbutznik murdered by terrorists from Gaza. “Let us not be deterred,” he said, “from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who live around us. Let us not avert our eyes lest our arms weaken. This is the fate of our generation. This is our life’s choice — to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down.
Today, it still seems that Dayan was sadly correct. Israel must maintain its security by any means necessary in order to retain the most basic of all rights — that of our own lives. And the occupation, equally sadly, seems essential to doing so. And in this sense, there is a terrible morality to its continuation.
Marking 50 years of rule, Rivlin calls on world to recognize Golan as Israel
As Israel marked the fiftieth anniversary of its military victory in the Golan Heights during the Six Day War, President Reuven Rivlin called Thursday for global recognition of Israeli rule there, saying the northern territory is “essential” to the survival of the Jewish State.
“The nations of the world must formally recognize that the Golan is an integral part of the state of Israel, and is essential to our existence as a people,” Rivlin told an event celebrating the Jewish communities in the area.
“The Golan Heights are strategic to the State of Israel’s ability to exist as a people able to safeguard its borders,” he said.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria in the 1967 war. The West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were also captured by Israel during the conflict, which broke out after Egypt, Syria and Jordan mobilized to attack the Jewish state.
Israel never formally annexed the Golan, but in 1981 decided to apply Israeli law there, making it part of the country in every practical sense.
Israeli Defense Minister: We’ve Never Been Closer to Regional Arrangement With Moderate Arab States and Never Farther From Deal of Any Sort With Palestinians
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman offered an optimistic outlook on Thursday regarding his country’s efforts to forge better ties with its neighbors.
“The word ‘peace’ is not relevant in the Middle East,” Lieberman said during a Kol Chai radio interview, according to the Hebrew news site nrg. “I’m talking about regional understandings. I reiterate: We’ve never been closer to a regional arrangement with moderate Arab countries and have never been so far from a deal of any sort with the Palestinians.”
“For the first time,” Lieberman went on to say, “those in the moderate Arab world have realized that the true danger to their rule is not Israel, but rather Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and ISIS.”
When Palestinians Are Hopeless, Terror Declines; When Hopeful, Terrorism Increases
It is a widespread belief that Palestinian hopelessness feeds terrorism and the prospects for peace decrease it. This has always been false. In fact, the opposite is true: when Palestinians feel hopeless, Palestinian terrorism declines; when they are hopeful of gaining the upper hand, Palestinian terrorism increases. An Israeli iron fist is necessary to save both Israeli and Palestinian lives.
The common mantra that Palestinian hopelessness increases terrorism and that the prospects for peace decrease it has always been fake news. Palestinian terrorism invariably rises in tandem with their hopes of gaining the upper hand.
During the first intifada, Palestinians killed 91 Israelis over the course of slightly over five years. Palestinian terror shot up dramatically, however, as the Camp David peace process initiated at the end of 1991 morphed into direct negotiations with the PLO. The Oslo “peace” process was thus accompanied by a precipitous increase in Palestinian terrorism.
The more Israel made concessions to the Palestinians – the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the granting to PLO leadership and major Palestinian terrorists entrance into the West Bank and Gaza and even Israel – the higher the terrorist toll climbed. In 1992, when the Palestinians realized Israel was going to withdraw from Gaza to make way for some kind of Palestinian autonomy, the number of Israelis killed jumped from 11 the previous year to 34. After the signing of the Declaration of Principles and the establishment of the PA in the summer of 1994, that figure nearly doubled (61). When the PA was expanded in 1995 to include the major Arab towns in the West Bank, they killed 65 people, mostly as a result of three suicide bombings. The towns had become terrorist sanctuaries into which the IDF could not enter for fear of international condemnation.
US Signs $12 Billion Deal to Sell F-15 Fighter Jets to Qatar
Qatar’s Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday the signing of a deal with the United States to buy 36 F-15 fighter jets for $12 billion.
The deal was agreed to in spite of US President Donald Trump’s recent censuring of Qatar for being a “high-level” sponsor of terrorism. The sale also occurs against the backdrop of a dispute between Doha and its Gulf neighbors concerning Qatar’s direct support for terrorism.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Qatari representatives met on Wednesday to finalize the weapons deal, reported Reuters. According to Bloomberg News, the deal was signed for 36 of the F-15 fighter planes.
The Pentagon issued a statement Wednesday, saying the deal will bolster security cooperation between the US and Qatar.
In November, the US approved the potential sale of up to 72 F-15QA planes to Qatar for $21.1 billion, with the American defense firm Boeing serving as the primary contractor. Boeing is also finalizing a deal to sell 60 aircraft to Iran’s Aseman Airlines.
Israeli Officials Urge UN Chief Gutteres to Withdraw New ESCWA Report Accusing IDF of ‘Extrajudicial Executions’ of Palestinians
Israeli officials reacted furiously on Thursday to a new UN report issued through the office of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that accused the Jewish state of committing systemic human rights violations against the Palestinians, including “extrajudicial executions.”
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called on Guterres to withdraw the report, charging it was “based on lies.”
“It is all calumny and defamation of Israel,” Hotovely declared.
Prepared by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the report is scheduled for discussion when the Economic and Social Council meets on July 27. ESCWA is an important element of the UN’s institutionally-funded support for the Palestinians, which includes official bodies like the Division for Palestinian Rights, and an established agenda item devoted to alleged Israeli abuses at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Based in Lebanon, ESCWA was behind a now infamous report issued in March that accused Israel of establishing an “apartheid regime” over the Palestinians. That report was quickly withdrawn by Guterres and led to the resignation of ESCWA’s under secretary-general, Rima Khalaf, who blamed Israel for placing “huge pressure on the secretary-general of the UN.”
Palestinians to Claim Tomb of Patriarchs at UNESCO
The World Heritage Committee is set to debate inscribing the Old City of Hebron – including its Tomb of the Patriarchs – to the “State of Palestine” when it meets from July 2 to 12 in Krakow, Poland.
“This is a new front in the war over the holy places that the Palestinians are trying to ignite as part of their propaganda campaign against Israel and the history of the Jewish people,” Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama HaCohen told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
The World Heritage Committee operates under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization.
For the last three years Israel has waged a stiff battle at UNESCO to prevent the Palestinians from linguistically reclassifying Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, solely as the Muslim religious site known as al-Haram al-Sharif.
Conference of Presidents Urges UNESCO to Reject Palestinian Moves on Hebron
A leading American-Jewish organization called on the UN’s cultural body to reject Palestinian attempts to “hijack the agenda” of the upcoming World Heritage Committee meeting by seeking to designate the city of Hebron as a “World Heritage Site in Danger.”
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations released a statement on Thursday urging the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to prevent such an outcome, calling Palestinians claim to the city, located in the West Bank and home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, as “replete with false information and baseless charges.”
The religious site is holy to both Judaism and Islam.
The organization’s chairman, Stephen M. Greenberg, and executive vice chairman/CEO, Malcolm Hoenlein, called on the UN body’s head, Irina Bokova “to assure that this scurrilous effort not be allowed to proceed.”
Arab MK to speak at UN ‘50 Years of Occupation’ conference
An Arab member of Israel’s Knesset will speak at a United Nations conference on “50 Years of Occupation.”
Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint (Arab) List party will participate in the conference at the end of the month at the United Nations in New York. The event is sponsored by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, slammed Touma-Sliman’s participation, saying it is “shameful that a member of Knesset is abusing her position and is working together with the Palestinians to harm Israel at the UN.”
He added: “Her presence at this anti-Israel gathering, with the sole purpose of defaming our country, crosses all red lines.”
Tillerson retreats from pledge to fill anti-Semitism envoy post
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson retreated from his department’s commitment to fill the post of envoy to combat anti-Semitism, saying the effort may be more effective without one.
One of the questions I’ve asked is, if we’re really going to affect these areas, these special areas, don’t we have to affect it through the delivery on mission at every level at every country?” Tillerson said in testimony Wednesday to the foreign operations subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. “And by having a special envoy, one of my experiences is, mission then says, ‘oh, we’ve got somebody else that does,’ and then they stop doing it.”
Since Congress established the position with a 2004 law, the role of the envoy has been to train career State Department officers and diplomats in identifying and combating anti-Semitism and to encourage embassies and bureaus to more closely monitor anti-Semitism. The envoy has not functioned as a stand-alone entity but rather is part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and supervises about five career State Department staffers.
European Jewish community officials have said that having an envoy has delivered a message to their governments that the United States is focused on anti-Semitism.
Report: Palestinians Plan to Cheat Trump, Keep Paying Terrorists’ Families
The Reuters news agency has reported that the Palestinian Authority (PA) intends to continue paying stipends to families of terrorists, despite assurances that PA President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly made to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
According to Reuters, the PA intends to continue the payments, but to hide them under a different appropriation:
Palestinian officials said they were not aware of any change and that it was unlikely a policy that has been a cornerstone of social support for decades would be altered.
There have been talks about making the payments in a different way, but not ending them,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on discussions held with the Americans.

Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday: “They have changed that policy and their intent is to cease the payments to the families of those who have committed murder or violence against others.”
IDF nabs Palestinians suspected of terrorizing West Bank road
Troops from the IDF’s religious Netzah Yehuda battalion busted a group of Palestinian men on Friday morning who are suspected of terrorizing a West Bank roadway with firebombings and rock-throwing attacks over the past three weeks, the unit’s commander said.
Having tracked the group’s activities and understood its modus operandi, the Netzah Yehuda battalion, sometimes known as the Nahal Haredi, laid a trap for the suspected terrorists along Route 458 in the central West Bank in the early hours of Friday morning, Lt. Col. Itamar Deshel told The Times of Israel over the phone.
Every Friday morning since the start of Ramadan in late May, between three and six suspects, traveling in one or two cars, attacked cars on the highway near the Kochav Hashachar settlement with “everything but firearms,” Deshel said. To make the cars easier targets for their rocks, Molotov cocktails and burning tires, the terrorists put large rocks or strips of nails on the road, Deshel said.
These early morning attacks did not result in any physical injuries to people — “thank God,” Deshel added — but they did cause significant damage to cars traveling along the road. Both Israelis and Palestinians travel along the 458 highway and both were therefore affected by the attacks, though the terrorists did apparently target vehicles with Israeli license plates, Deshel said.
500 Israeli soldiers fight mock war in Cyprus mountains
Hundreds of Israeli soldiers trained for combat deep in enemy territory on the island nation of Cyprus over the past week, staging a large-scale war exercise on foreign soil — a first for the IDF’s Commando Brigade, its chief operations officer said.
The week-long drill tested the abilities of the commandos in new and challenging conditions, according to the chief operations officer of the Commando Brigade, who for security reasons can only be referred to as Maj. H.
This was the Commando Brigade’s sixth unit-wide exercise, but the Cyprus drill was the first to be conducted in another country, H. told The Times of Israel over the phone, in a cab en route to the Cyprus airport.
It was exceptional both for its large size and the fact that the IDF acknowledged that commando troops were in a foreign country at all. This “revelation” might, however, be credited to the considerable media attention given to the exercise in Cyprus.
Nearly 500 Israeli soldiers took part in the drill, most of them from the Commando Brigade, also known as the Oz Brigade. Though soldiers from all over the brigade participated, the vast majority of them came from the Egoz unit, which was formerly part of the Golani Brigade and is specifically trained for combat in mountainous areas like those along Israel’s northern border.
Approximately 100 Cypriot commandos took part in the joint exercise.
Israel notified the Palestinian Authority that five Palestinian cities – Ramallah, Hebron, Tulkarem, Jenin and Kalkilya – would be allowed to expand from Area A into Area C, MK Ahmed Tibi (Joint List) told Army Radio on Thursday night.
Tibi spoke prior to the anticipated return of US envoy Jason Greenblatt to the region, who was last here two weeks ago to speak with Israelis and Palestinians about US President Donald Trump’s peace efforts.
The expansion plan fits into the contours of an emerging US effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of a vision of a wider peace deal that would involve some of the Sunni Arab states.
The US wants Israel, the PA and some of the Sunni Arab states to take steps to benefit one of the other sides of this triangle, thereby significantly improving the atmosphere to facilitate the renewal of negotiations.
IsraellyCool: Did Palestinians Reveal Identity Of Anonymous PA Official Who Donated To Israeli Hospital?
A few days ago, I blogged about the senior PA official who donated “tens of thousands of shekels” to the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa to improve treatment of childhood cancers and Israeli-Palestinian medical cooperation after he himself underwent cancer treatment there.
Now the palestinian WAFA News Ageny reports that the PA has denied it is their Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr – even though his identity was never actually revealed in the media!
The government Thursday denied media reports that a senior Palestinian official donated money to a non-Palestinian hospital.
Government spokesman Yousef al-Mahmoud rejected claims that Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr had donated money to any hospital outside Palestine after receiving treatment there, describing the reports as “baseless.”
Al-Mahmoud said Abu Amr was well and working normally, noting that he was not aware that Abu Amr was receiving any kind of treatment at Palestinian or foreign hospitals.
He slammed the media reports as part of false and slanderous rumors.
PA reportedly blocks news sites affiliated with Hamas, Dahlan
The Palestinian Authority’s Attorney General Ahmad Barak on Thursday ordered the blocking of 11 news sites belonging to political rivals, including Hamas — drawing ire from the Gaza-based terrorist organization and from a Palestinian rights group.
The decision, reported by Palestinian media, came amid a series of measures taken by the PA intended to force Hamas to cede control of the Gaza Strip — which it seized in 2007 after a violent conflict with Fatah — including substantially reducing the funding for electricity and medical aid.
The sites affiliated to Hamas that are to be blocked include Pal Info Center and al-Shehab.
Some of the sites are reportedly connected to Mohammad Dahlan, a rival to PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the Fatah party, who was expelled by Abbas from the PA in 2011. These sites include Fatah Voice and Amad.
The PA has not officially commented on the decision to block these sites, nor could a representative of the PA Attorney General’s office be reached for comment.
Strengthening alliances: Deputy Hamas chief meets with Nasrallah
Relations between the Hamas-Hezbollah-Iran alliance are becoming stronger and deeper in light of the Qatar crisis.
Palestinian newspaper Al Quds reported on Thursday that the deputy chairman of Hamas's political bureau, Musa Abu Marzouk, privately met with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.
According to the report, topics discussed included political crises in the region, in particular the recent downgrading of relations between Gulf nations and Qatar and its impact on armed Palestinian factions, especially in Gaza.
Also discussed were ways to support Palestinian groups and Israeli threats facing Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
John Kerry: Middle East Leaders Called on U.S. to Bomb Iran
Former Secretary of State John Kerry lobbied for the Iran nuclear deal on Wednesday by saying it helped the U.S. avoid armed conflict, and that leaders of some Middle East countries wanted the U.S. to attack Iran.
"We were hurtling toward conflict," Kerry said at an annual retreat of "mediators and peace process actors" in Oslo, Norway. "I mean, there's just no other way to describe it."
"Leaders in the region were saying to me personally, and to the president, President Obama, you should bomb these guys," Kerry said. "That's the only way to resolve this issue."
"And we chose a different path," he said. "What we did is to find a mutually acceptable way to guarantee that both sides were able to agree on a path forward that met both sides' needs."
Senate votes 98-2 to strengthen Iran sanctions
The US Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday to strengthen sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile testing and other non-nuclear provocations.
The bill also included fresh sanctions against Russia for its alleged interference in America’s most recent elections and its destabilizing activities around the globe.
Passed by a vote of 98-2, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 would impose new mandatory sanctions against persons and entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
The bill was authored by the Senate Foreign Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) and ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), along with New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat.
The legislation — which advanced through the committee level last month — also mandates the president to block assets of any person or entity involved in the supply, sale or transfer of illegal arms to or from Iran.
“Iran is contributing to regional instability and has not demonstrated any interest in rejoining the community of responsible nations by halting its malign behavior,” Cardin said at the time.
The only two senators to vote against the bill Thursday were Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R).
Unless the World Stops Deluding Itself, Sanctions on Iran Will be Lifted Sooner Rather than Later
In a recent speech on Iranian television, President Hassan Rouhani declared that he hopes non-nuclear sanctions on his country will be lifted in four years’ time, suggesting that he intends to make use of a clause in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the 2015 agreement with Iran is formally known, that allows some restrictions to be removed two years ahead of schedule to reward good behavior. Ollie Heinonen explains:
Under the terms of the . . . JCPOA, key restrictions would expire when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) formally reaches a “broader conclusion” that Tehran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Such a conclusion would result in the lifting of the UN’s remaining non-nuclear sanctions, including the ban on ballistic-missile testing and the conventional-arms embargo. Furthermore, the U.S. and EU would [remove] additional entities from their sanctions lists. Notably, the EU would delist all entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the organization responsible for terrorist activities abroad as well as for key aspects of the nuclear program. . . .
Despite the IAEA’s previous conclusion that Iran had, in fact, carried out a wide range of activities “relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” the IAEA Board of Governors reached a political decision in December 2015 to close the investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, a decision necessary to ensure the implementation of the JCPOA. This decision has amplified the IAEA’s shortcoming in its ability to form a composite picture of, and thereby to monitor fully, proscribed nuclear weapons-development activities in Iran. Such monitoring and verification is essential to determine the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. . . .
Israeli Ambassador to US: Obama Administration Created ‘Alternative Universe’ to Sell Iran Nuclear Deal to American Public
An “alternative universe” was created to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the American people, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said on Wednesday.
“Two years ago, a propaganda campaign conducted by a master of fiction manufactured moderation and filled echo chambers with nonsense,” Dermer noted, in an apparent reference to Ben Rhodes, who served as former President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
“In this alternative universe, Iran’s path to the bomb has been blocked,” Dermer explained. “In the real world, Iran’s path to the bomb has been paved, because the restrictions the nuclear deal puts in place will be automatically removed in a few years, no matter how Iran behaves. So the clock is ticking. The sands are coming out of that glass and time is literally on their side. You see, Iran won’t need to sneak in or break in to the nuclear club in a few years, they can just walk in.”
The Trump administration and the Israeli government, Dermer continued, now have to cope with the consequences of the July 2015 nuclear agreement.
“America and Israel must stop Iran’s clear path to the bomb,” the ambassador emphasized.
Dermer was speaking at the Endowment for Middle East Truth’s 11th annual Rays of Light in the Darkness Dinner at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. Earlier in his remarks, Dermer said, “Every day, we are treated not just alternative facts about Israel, but to an alternative universe about Israel — an alternative universe of real lies with real consequences.”

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