Tuesday, August 29, 2017

From Ian:

Why Palestinian Payments to Convicted Militants Are Likely to Continue, No Matter What Congress Does
When Congress returns to work in early September, pro-Israel activists will seek to put the Taylor Force Act high on the Senate and House agenda.
The legislation, passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August, would cut off all direct economic aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA)—which last year was about $300 million—with the exception of its funding for East Jerusalem hospitals. The reason? To compel the Palestinian Authority to stop handing out stipends to convicted militants who carried out attacks on Israelis and foreigners, like the March 2016 Palestinian stabbing attack that killed Taylor Force, a U.S. Army veteran.
On its face, there is a compelling reason for the bill. Why should American taxpayers give aid to an authority that subsidizes payments to killers and their families? The Senators and pro-Israel activists asking this question say these payments incentivize violence, especially for young Palestinians with personal problems who know that, if they attack Israelis, their families will be taken care of by the Palestinian Authority.
It’s tough to peer deep into every individual attacker’s psyche, and in some cases the payments may help Palestinian militants rationalize their actions. However, lost in that argument is that the main reason Palestinians cite to justify violence is Israel’s punitive occupation. And more importantly, the public debate about the legislation, and the prisoner payment program, has been devoid of crucial context. No lawmaker has shown an iota of interest in exploring why it is that the payments to Palestinian prisoners and their families exist—and why the bill will likely fail in its goal of getting the PA to stop the payments.
'UN money is paving the way for the next murder'
Dozens of bereaved Israeli families whose relatives were murdered by Arab terrorists, have penned an open letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, demanding the UN stop funding organizations which provide terrorists with legal aid.
More than 40 families have signed onto the letter, Channel 2 reported on Tuesday, warning that groups benefiting from UN funding were “paving the way for the next murder”.
The authors of the letter cited two organizations in particular which have been engaged in “legal warfare [lawfare]” against the State of Israel. Both groups – Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, and Adalah – receive significant funding from the UN, despite the legal aid they regularly provide to terrorists and the families of terrorists, challenging counter-terror activities by the government in the Supreme Court.
Between the two of them, Adalah and Hamoked received more than 2 million shekels ($559,143) from the United Nations in 2016, the letter noted.
The UN’s support for groups engaged in lawfare activities against counter-terror efforts is unique to Israel, despite increased anti-terror measures in countries around the world.
“In recent years we have witnessed a significant increase in terrorism around the world,” the letter reads, “countries around the world have been harmed as a result of extremist Islamic terrorism, but we see that only in Israel does the UN take sides and fund the legal defenses of terrorists who murdered innocent people.”
Upcoming UN ‘blacklist’ of companies tied to Israel invokes anti-Semitism, experts say
An upcoming “blacklist” of major international companies with business ties to Israeli communities in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem represents yet another attempt by anti-Israel actors in the United Nations to single out and demonize the world’s only Jewish state, experts say.
The U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) had voted to approve the database of businesses last year, defying objections from the U.S. and Israel. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein submitted a draft of the blacklist to the countries where the businesses are based. He is expected to receive a response from those nations by Sept. 1, and the UNHRC will publish the database by the end of this year.
American firms on the list include Caterpillar, TripAdvisor, Priceline and Airbnb, The Washington Post reported.
“[The blacklist] is the latest incarnation of the decades-long Arab boycott and yet another singling out of Israel by the U.N. Because Israel, the Jewish state, alone is singled out, the intent and impact is anti-Semitic,” Anne Herzberg, a U.N. expert and the legal advisor for the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor watchdog group, told JNS.org.
Similarly, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon described the list as “an expression of modern anti-Semitism reminiscent of dark periods in history.”
While the list will have no legal consequences for Israel or the companies involved, its opponents say it could put pressure on the U.N. Security Council to take action.

Dore Gold: Do the Original Assumptions Underlying the Iran Nuclear Agreement Have Any Basis Today?
The Iranian nuclear agreement (JCPOA) of 2015 was based on several key premises. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Iran was just two months away from having enough fissile material for an atomic bomb. With the agreement, that breakout time could be stretched out to a year or more.Â
Under the JCPOA, Iran is limited to using only its first-generation centrifuge, the IR-1, for the 10-year period following the 2015 agreement. But the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Saheli, has now warned the West that Iran will be able to "mass produce" more advanced centrifuges if "the other side violates its commitment." According to one assessment, Iran's breakout time will drop to four months with the installation of more advanced centrifuges. In short, there are scenarios evolving which completely contradict the timelines presented back in 2015.
Another underlying assumption was that once the JCPOA came into force, Iran would moderate its international behavior. Yet, Iranian force deployments in Syria and elsewhere, weapons transfers to radical elements in the Middle East, and threats against its neighbors all demonstrate that the expected moderation of Iran as a result of the JCPOA never occurred.
A third underlying assumption was that Iran had given up on its quest for nuclear weapons and that the Iranian nuclear program was peaceful. The roots of this observation could be traced to the unclassified summary of the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was later discredited by Britain, France, Germany, and Israel. Even the IAEA concluded that it could not say with certainty that Iran's nuclear weapons program had indeed ended.
Finally, the idea that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program requires a robust inspection system to verify that this change indeed had occurred. Yet Iranian officials have rejected the idea that IAEA inspectors now have access to their military sites. In the meantime, Iran has been condemned for testing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, because it is an act which is inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the legal foundation of the JCPOA.
The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015 lays out in detail what Iran must do to earn presidential certification that Iran was complying with the JCPOA. Yet, as David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, testified before Congress in April 2017: "It is not possible to judge Iran in 'full compliance' with the JCPOA." Indeed, there are multiple indications that Iranian violations of the agreement have occurred, or are being planned and on their way to being committed.
John Bolton: How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal
Although candidate Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement, his administration has twice decided to remain in the deal. It so certified to Congress, most recently in July, as required by law. Before the second certification, Trump asked repeatedly for alternatives to acquiescing yet again in a policy he clearly abhorred. But no such options were forthcoming, despite “a sharp series of exchanges” between the president and his advisers, as the New York Times and similar press reports characterized it.
Many outside the administration wondered how this was possible: Was Trump in control, or were his advisers? Defining a compelling rationale to exit Obama’s failed nuclear deal and elaborating a game plan to do so are quite easy. In fact, Steve Bannon asked me in late July to draw up just such a game plan for the president — the option he didn’t have — which I did.
Here it is. It is only five pages long, but like instant coffee, it can be readily expanded to a comprehensive, hundred-page playbook if the administration were to decide to leave the Iran agreement. There is no need to wait for the next certification deadline in October. Trump can and should free America from this execrable deal at the earliest opportunity.
I offer the Iran nonpaper now as a public service, since staff changes at the White House have made presenting it to President Trump impossible. Although he was once kind enough to tell me “come in and see me any time,” those days are now over.
If the president is never to see this option, so be it. But let it never be said that the option didn’t exist.
MEMRI: Iran In First Year Of Trump Administration, Second Year Of Historic Nuclear Deal: Regional Expansion, Religious War With No Political Boundaries, 'Death To America,' And Show of Readiness To Confront U.S. Militarily As Supra-Regional Power
The Great Reversal: The U.S. vs. Iran – From Might And Deterrence To Weakness And Retreat
Within three months, the U.S.'s position in the Middle East has changed from one of might and deterrence against Iran to one of weakness, retreat, and being deterred by Iran. This situation, of course, in no way reflects the real balance of power between the U.S. and Iran, neither generally nor regionally. It is an image created jointly by President Trump's policies and Iran's offensive approach.
In the first three months of Trump's term, Tehran was apprehensive about what his Iran policy would be. It significantly dialed back its provocations – both its verbal threats and its naval forays against U.S. vessels in the Gulf – and even cancelled the launch of a ballistic missile, removing the missile from its launching pad on the eve of Iran's Revolution Day on February 10, after the Trump administration announced that Iran was being "put on notice."
Three months later, Iran has changed its approach: It is stepping up its naval provocations; its anti-U.S. discourse is again in evidence – including the "Death to America" chant; and its verbal threats against the U.S. are increasing. Additionally, the same missile which was taken off the launching pad last February was launched on July 27, 2017, in disregard of the U.S.'s warning.
The naïve expectations of President Trump, that, as with a business deal, a positive approach on his part would be met with an equally positive approach, yielded the opposite. Like what happened with President Obama – whose experience President Trump ignored – Iran reacted to the U.S.'s positive policy with more hostility and aggression. The Iranians have interpreted both presidents' approach as weakness, and stepped up their antagonism to the U.S., including threats and chants of "Death to America." Moreover, they have used the Trump approach as an opportunity to advance their regional expansion and the ideology of exporting the Islamic Revolution.
It is the approach of the Trump administration – which has agreed to Iran's regional expansion, under the cover of the war on ISIS – that has prompted this huge shift in the attitude of Iran, which also is relying on Russian backing.
Iran rejects US demand for UN inspector visit to military sites
Iran has dismissed a US demand for UN nuclear inspectors to visit its military bases as "merely a dream" as Washington reviews a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and six world powers, including the United States.
US President Donald Trump has called the nuclear pact - negotiated under his predecessor Barack Obama - "the worst deal ever". In April, he ordered a review of whether a suspension of nuclear sanctions on Iran was in the US interest.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, last week pressed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to seek access to Iranian military bases to ensure that they were not concealing activities banned by the nuclear deal.
"Iran's military sites are off limits...All information about these sites are classified," Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht told a weekly news conference broadcast on state television. "Iran will never allow such visits. Don't pay attention to such remarks that are only a dream."
Under US law, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. The next deadline is October, and Trump has said he thinks by then the United States will declare Iran to be non-compliant.
Under terms of the deal, the international nuclear watchdog can demand inspections of Iranian installations if it has concerns about nuclear materials or activities.
Will President Trump Stand Up to Iran in Syria?
Despite tough talk on the campaign trail, and despite reported discussions within the administration about jettisoning the nuclear deal, the White House has yet to formulate a coherent strategy for containing the Islamic Republic or for thwarting its plan to seize de-facto control of parts of Iraq and Syria. Surveying the president’s policies thus far, John Hannah determines that “we just don’t know” whether he will deter Iranian ambitions:
[O]n the handful of occasions this summer when Iran and its proxies have sought to challenge U.S.-backed positions in Syria (near Islamic State’s capital in Raqqa and on the Jordanian border), they’ve been met with a swift and forceful response—including the shoot-down of two Iranian drones as well as a Syrian Su-22 bomber. . . . But . . . the U.S. military has been at pains to stress that it will only confront pro-Assad elements for narrow force-protection purposes, with no mention of preventing Iran’s strategic land grab. . . .
In early July, the administration gave its blessing to a series of Russian-negotiated ceasefires in western Syria, including one near the border with Israel and Jordan that U.S. diplomats helped broker. Though hailed as a breakthrough that could advance an eventual end to the civil war, the ceasefires’ more immediate impact has been to help the Assad regime consolidate battlefield gains in western Syria while freeing up scarce manpower resources to support this summer’s offensive in the east. . . .
And just days later, in late July, the U.S. military announced that it had cut ties with one of its main Sunni Arab partners in southern Syria after the group . . . had launched operations to impede the eastward progress of pro-Assad forces. . . .
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad praised Iran, Russia, China, and Hizbullah for their support!

Tensions rise as North Korea fires missile over Japan
North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan and landed in waters off the northern region of Hokkaido early on Tuesday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, marking a sharp escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The test, which experts said appeared to have been a recently developed intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile, came as US and South Korean forces conduct annual military drills on the peninsula, against which North Korea strenuously objects.
Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire four Hwasong-12 missiles into the sea near the US Pacific territory of Guam after US President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang would face "fire and fury" if it threatened the United States.
North Korea has conducted dozens of ballistic missile tests under young leader Kim Jong Un, the most recent on Saturday, but firing projectiles over mainland Japan is rare.
"North Korea's reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and a grave threat to our nation," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.
Abe said he spoke to Trump on Tuesday and they agreed to increase pressure on North Korea. Trump also said the United States was "100 percent with Japan," Abe told reporters.
JPost Editorial: Guterres in Jerusalem: UN Chief will witness the reality first-hand
There is nothing that compares to first-hand impressions when shaping one’s opinions about the world around us. Ask any reporter and he or she will tell you that being on the scene, seeing things for yourself and meeting with people face to face are all essential in order to achieve an accurate and well-balanced account of what happened.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is getting his own taste of what it is like to gather first-hand impressions. And he is doing it in a country that is bashed so regularly in the conference rooms, assemblies and corridors of Turtle Bay.
Guterres, who arrived Sunday for a three-day visit, which will include meetings in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza City, is no stranger to Israel. A seasoned Portuguese diplomat, Guterres has visited the country in the past.
But since being appointed to head the UN, Guterres has been made very aware of the bias against Israel that exists in the world body. US Ambassador Nikki Haley has turned the issue into a crusade. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted in a speech in Jerusalem to an audience that included Guterres that the UN’s preoccupation with Israel was an “absurd obsession.”
Unlike his predecessors, Guterres has been remarkably receptive. In March, the UN chief demanded that a report by a UN body be withdrawn after it accused Israel of imposing an apartheid system on the Palestinians.
UN chief in Ramallah says no alternative to two-state solution
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained the only viable option as he made his first visit to the West Bank since taking office.
Guterres spoke after meeting Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah following talks with Israeli leaders on Monday.
“I want to express very strongly [not only] the total commitment of the United Nations but my personal total commitment to do everything for a two-state solution to materialize,” he said.
“I have said several times there is no Plan B to a two-state solution.”
A two-state solution to the conflict has been endorsed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders for over a decade, but support for the framework has recently been called into question in Jerusalem and Washington.
Netanyahu to UN chief: We won’t let Iran surround us
Jerusalem cannot be expected to sit idly by as Iran entrenches itself in Syria and Lebanon and declares with Hezbollah that they are planning a two-front war against Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday.
“Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as war fronts [in] its declared goal to eradicate Israel,” Netanyahu said before his meeting in Jerusalem with Guterres. “It is also building sites to produce precision- guided missiles toward that end in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the UN should not accept.”
During the meeting, Netanyahu said: “It is our right not to allow this noose to tighten around Israel.”
Diplomatic sources said Israel sees Guterres’s first visit here since taking office in January as a good opportunity to present its case before having to take action in Syria or Lebanon, well aware that any action it takes will lead for calls of condemnation in the UN Security Council.
During a day packed with meetings with the country’s senior political and military officials, Guterres was shown intelligence information on Hezbollah’s build-up in southern Lebanon.
Head of Military Intelligence: Hezbollah is tightening grip on Lebanon
The Head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate Major General Herzi Halevi warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Hezbollah is tightening its hold on Lebanon at a meeting in Jerusalem on Monday.
According to Halevi there are serious and prolonged violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 by the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite terror group.
The IDF has accused the Shi’ite terror organization numerous times of violating the resolution which set the terms to end the 34-day Second Lebanon War fought between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.
According to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, while the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is helping maintain calm in southern Lebanon, its leadership does not do enough when Hezbollah violates the resolution. Eisenkot has accused Hezbollah of continuing to prepare themselves for war in villages, cities and towns south of the Litani River, “arming itself with more lethal and accurate weapons to harm the Israeli home front.”
Halevi stated that UNIFIL holds an important role with Hezbollah, and could exert more pressure to hinder the group’s effort to strengthen its position in Lebanon. He stressed that more could and should be done on the UN's part, not only to preserve peace but to prevent the next war.
The head of military intelligence also briefed Guterres on the intelligence situation in various sectors.
Israeli official: If Iran expands in Syria, we'll bomb Assad's palace
A senior Israeli official warned the Russian government that if Iran continues to extend its reach in Syria, Israel will bomb Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace in Damascus, according to reports in Arab media.
Israel also warned that if serious changes do not happen in the region, Israel will make sure the ceasefire deal, reached by the United States and Russia in Astana, Kazakhstan, will be nullified.
A senior Israeli source told the Al-Jadida newspaper that no understanding was reached between the Israelis and the Russians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did, however, make it clear to Putin that its concerns must be met or Israel will be forced to act.
The warnings occurred in a meeting between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.
IDF Would Face an Old Foe Battled-Tested by Syria
Well, it’s pretty similar. Hezbollah has something like a total of 15,000 active duty forces and 10,000 or so reserves. They have about 7-8,000 now stationed in Syria, and they are rotating so they’ll go there for a month and then come back. But that leaves 7-8,000 of these hardcore Hezbollah full timers on the border of Israel at any one time. But the order of battle is actually more impressive than in 2006. Hezbollah was able to continue to fire hundreds of rockets everyday into Israel for 34 days during that conflict. Since then, it has been able totally rearm and more, so the group now has 150,000 estimated rockets and missiles. These are of varying quantities and ranges and sophistications but it’s a significant number.
They have also upgraded the quality of the missiles, one of which we believe hit the train station in Haifa, killing a number of Israelis. And the rockets and missiles that have been used to target the Israeli Ministry of Defense, for example, in Tel Aviv are highly accurate, and Hezbollah has plenty of them, as well as longer ranges. So they can hit everywhere in Israel and that includes land to sea capability, which we saw during the 2006 war when a Chinese designed C-802 anti-ship missile nearly sunk the INS Hanit – an Israeli corvette that was 10 miles off the coast of Lebanon. They also now have Russian land to sea missiles that could basically prevent any ship from going into Israel in the event of a conflict.
This is a broad array of capabilities, which could not only shut down the airport, but also shut down sea lanes and cover all of Israel. However, Israel has the most advanced conventional military in the region. They are largely dependent on reserves but they have something like 130,000 active duty, of which probably one third are combat soldiers, tip of spear. My guess is, given the calm nature of relations with Egypt and Jordan, at least half of these combat troops are stationed in the north, which is the hottest border Israel has.
TCB: How worried is Israel about the Hezbollah successes?
Schenker: Israel has really worked on its counter-missile, counter-rocket technology. They have the Arrow missile defense system, which is meant to shoot down long range missiles coming in from Iran. Israel also has developed the Iron Dome to help track and destroy incoming rockets. That system is able to discern the trajectories of these incoming threats and target them when appropriate. Still, the number of missiles Hezbollah has is so enormous that there’s no capability that will provide full protection.
Amb. Haley Condemns UN Peacekeeper Over Spread of Illegal Weapons to Hezbollah
On Friday, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley condemned the UN peacekeeping commander in Lebanon for turning a blind eye to the “massive flow of illegal weapons” to Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon and called for the force to do more to stop these activities, Haaretz reported Sunday.
The U.S. has increased pressure on the UN ahead of the peacekeeping mission’s renewal, scheduled for next week, to stop the spread of illegal arms to Hezbollah, a terrorist organization which Israel has long complained is operating with impunity.
However, the UN peacekeeping commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, has rejected U.S. and Israeli criticism. He told The Associated Press this week that his force has no evidence for illegal activity in the region, and that “if there was a large cache of weapons, we would know about it.”
But according to Haley, there is no shortage of evidence, including Hezbollah’s own boasts about its illegal weapons stockpile. Beary, to her, displayed “an embarrassing lack of understanding of what’s going on.” She added: “He seems to be the only person in south Lebanon who is blind to what Hezbollah is doing,” adding that his view of the situation “shows that we need to have changes” in the operation.
PA confirms plan to suspend diplomatic offensive against Israel
A senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has confirmed reports that U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner had asked Abbas to halt the PA's diplomatic offensive against Israel for a period of three to four months to provide the White House with the necessary time to formulate a plan to return Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table.
In interviews with Palestinian and other Arab media outlets, Nabil Shaath confirmed that Kushner as well as a number of Arab leaders contacted by U.S. officials on the matter had made the request.
In statements following their joint meeting in Ankara Monday night, Abbas and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said efforts to revive the peace process, stalled in 2014, and bring both sides back to the negotiating table were in the interests of both parties and would contribute to stability in the region.
Abbas said he told Kushner and the rest of the U.S. team that visited Ramallah last week that the Palestinians would not be the ones to impede Trump's efforts to bring about a just and historic peace deal that would see the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
The London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat also reported that Abbas acceded to requests by senior officials from Arab states that he agree to Kushner's request so as to prevent the Palestinians from being accused of thwarting the administration's efforts.
US to keep anti-Semitism envoy, drop Iran nuke deal coordinator
The United States’ will retain its special envoy for battling anti-Semitism but will abolish a slew of other diplomatic posts, including an envoy on the Iran nuclear deal, as part of a major State Department overhaul, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress on Monday.
Tillerson has faced pressure from Jewish groups, lawmakers and others to maintain and fill the anti-Semitism monitor office, which has remained vacant since President Donald Trump took office in January.
The special envoy post, which was mandated in the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, monitors acts of anti-Semitism abroad, document the cases in State Department reports, and consults with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations.
In a letter to Congress, Tillerson said the post would be returned to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, with two positions and $130,000 of funding.
Congressional lawmakers from both parties have pressed the Trump administration, in letters and proposed bills, to name an envoy and to enhance the office’s status. They have noted that unlike some other envoys, whose positions were created by Trump’s predecessors, the office of the envoy on anti-Semitism is a statute and requires filling.
Congress Seeks to Cut U.S. Aid to Islamic Charity Tied to Terror
A new congressional measure seeks to cut all U.S. funding for an Islamic charity that has been banned in some countries for providing assistance to Hamas and other terror-tied organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.
The new measure, which was proposed as an amendment to Congress's yearly appropriations bill, which sets U.S. expenditures, would ban any taxpayer funds from being provided to Islamic Relief Worldwide, or IRW, a global charitable organization that has been linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
IRW is banned in some Middle Eastern countries for its alleged support of terror organizations, though the United States has continued to provide taxpayer funds to the organization under the Obama administration, sparking outrage among some lawmakers and regional experts.
The move to ban U.S. funding to IRW was authored by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who told the Free Beacon that the U.S. taxpayers should not be giving to any organization tied to terror movements, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, which continues to support extremist activities.
"U.S. tax dollars cannot go to groups involved in funding terrorism," DeSantis told the Free Beacon. "Any group tied to Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood should be ineligible for funding. It is a slap in the face of the American taxpayer to allow such groups to receive federal funding."
IRW has been a source of tension for some time. Congressional leaders and terrorism experts expressed shock at the Obama administration in 2015, when the Free Beacon disclosed the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, a taxpayer funded group, had awarded IRW $100,000 in grants.
Ousted Trump adviser Bannon to speak at ZOA gala dinner
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is set to make his first major public appearance since his ouster from the White House at the annual Zionist Organization of America gala dinner in November.
ZOA president Mort Klein confirmed to The Times of Israel on Monday that Bannon would speak, but indicated the specifics of his appearance had yet to be finalized.
“It’s not clear what his role will be, but he will be speaking at the dinner,” he said in a phone call.
Klein declined to confirm reports that Bannon would introduce billionaire pro-Israel philanthropist and ZOA donor Sheldon Adelson at the event.
Among those to be honored that night, according to the ZOA website, are the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and former US Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are listed as presenters.
Earlier on Monday, ZOA policy adviser Arthur Schwartz told The Atlantic that Bannon “is one of the best friends that Israel has had in any administration,” and said the group was “honored that he accepted our invitation.”
Sudanese minister praises Israel’s morals, says normalization would be ‘no big deal’
A Sudanese minister said any possible normalization of ties between Sudan and Israel would be “no big deal” and that Palestinians bear a large responsibility of the blame in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an interview last week on Sudanese television, Mubarak Al-Fadil Al-Mahdi, Sudan’s minister for investment, said any decision to establish ties with Israel should be based “on the interests of Sudan” and not emotions, while adding that the “Palestinians themselves have normalized their relations with Israel.”
“I think that people are more invested in this than reality warrants,” he said in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“The entire issue is very complex. It’s not black and white. The Palestinians themselves meet with the Israelis. They coexist with the Israelis, earn their living there, and get their electricity from them. These people live together,” he added.
Al-Mahdi said the Palestinians bear “much of the responsibility” for their loss of lands and displacement.
Erdogan tells Abbas rising tensions ‘no good’ for Israelis, Palestinians
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ankara, and said finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be beneficial to both sides.
“To find a solution and provide peace is not only in Palestinians’ favor but also that of Israel,” he said at a joint press conference with Abbas according to reports in Turkish media. “As we witnessed during events, rising tension is not good for either side.”
Abbas and Erdogan reportedly discussed Israeli “acts of aggression” during the recent uptick in tensions surrounding the Temple Mount holy site, in the wake of a deadly terror attack at the Jerusalem holy site.
Erdogan called the two-state solution to the conflict as the “historical responsibility of the international community to the Palestinian people,” and said that his government “always back[s] efforts to accelerate the peace process.”
“We do not want the holy city of Jerusalem, which we have served for four centuries, to dominate the news with blood, tears and conflict,” the Turkish leader said.
Jewish MKs make first Temple Mount visit since 2015
Two Jewish Knesset members visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tuesday for the first time since October 2015, when the government barred MKs from going there as part of an attempt to reduce tensions amid a wave of terror attacks against Israelis that was linked to the flashpoint site.
Likud’s Yehudah Glick and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, of the Jewish Home party, visited the compound, which was recently the focus of a major crisis between Israeli authorities and local Muslims over contentious security measures taken at the entrances to the compound. Metal detectors and cameras were installed following a deadly attack in which three Arab Israelis emerged from the site and shot dead two Israeli police officers using weapons that had been smuggled onto the Temple Mount. The upgraded security measures were all ultimately removed.
Following discussions with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the prime minister decided in early July that the ban on MKs going to the Temple Mount would be lifted for a period of seven days to assess any fallout from the move — though on Tuesday, the trial period seemed to have been reduced to a single day.
The site, Judaism’s most holy as the site of the biblical Temples, remains otherwise off-limits to government ministers. The government and police have said they will assess allowing lawmakers to visit the site on a regular basis in the future.
Israel declares Hebron an official Jewish settlement
Hebron’s Jewish community acquired the official status of an independent settlement on Tuesday, some 38-years after returning to live in the West Bank city.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced that the community will no longer be under the auspices of the adjacent Kiryat Arba Council during a briefing he held with reporters in Tel Aviv.
Instead it will now be registered with the interior ministry and the Civil Administration as its own separate legal community.
The move upgrades the status of Hebron’s Jewish community and comes during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
In July the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization registered Hebron’s old town and the Tomb of the Patriarchs to the State of Palestine on its World Heritage List.
The inscription focuses on preserving the Muslim character of the 3,000 year old city with ties to three monotheistic faiths; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Most of Hebron’s Jewish community of close to 1,000 people, live in the city’s old town.
Netanyahu on construction in Beit El: "Very soon"
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to build 300 housing units in Beit El, a commitment which he first made five years ago.
Arutz Sheva has learned that the approval for the housing units is expected to be postponed until after the prime minister returns from his trip to the United States next month.
Netanyahu has recorded a video clip that will be screened at the main event in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the community of Beit El tonight. The Prime Minister addressed his commitment in the clip.
"In Beit-El, the fate of the people of Israel is tied to the Land of Israel. This is the place where Abraham built an alter. This is the place where Jacob rested his head (and dreamed of the angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven). And most importantly, his is the place where we were promised: 'The land on which you lay, I shall give it to you and to your descendants (Genesis 28:13). And you shall spread abroad to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south (Genesis 28: 14)," Netanyahu said in the video.
"Indeed, after a period of 50 years, we have been privileged to return to the land of our forefathers. And since then the State of Israel has flourished and prospered," he added.
Israel’s ambassador returns to Egypt after 8 months away
Israel’s ambassador to Egypt has returned to his post, eight months after he and his small staff returned home because of unspecified security threats.
Cairo airport officials said the ambassador, David Govrin, flew back to Cairo on Tuesday with eight staff members. The ambassador and his staff are expected to resume work from the envoy’s suburban Cairo home.
The Israeli embassy in Cairo has been closed since protesters stormed it in 2011.
The Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment. The airport officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Prior to their departure in mid-December, the ambassador and his staff routinely flew home on Thursday and returned to their post on Sunday.
Last week, Egyptian media reported Govrin visited the country for a day, accompanied by a team of embassy employees.
Netanyahu vows he will never evacuate another settlement
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Monday that his government will never evacuate another settlement, issuing the promise days after he met with a US delegation to discuss restarting the peace process with the Palestinians.
At an event celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in Samaria — the biblical name for the northern West Bank — Netanyahu told a crowd of thousands, “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”
“This is the inheritance of our ancestors,” he said. “This is our land.’
He also stressed the dangers Israel would face if it withdrew from the West Bank, a key demand of the Palestinians in any future peace deal.
“Samaria is a strategic asset for the State of Israel,” the prime minister said. “It is the key to our future. Because from these high hills, the heights of Mount Hatzor, we can see the entire country, from one side to the other.”
He said that Israel had withdrawn from settlements in the past but received nothing in return.
IDF Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion Documents Palestinian Rioters
The Nitzan Combat Intelligence Collection Battalion has improved its operations in recent months to more efficiently catch main instigators and prominent rioters red-handed during Palestinian protests in the West Bank.
The recent improvements have led to the incrimination of 650 of the main instigators and the imprisonment of some 200 of them since the beginning of 2017.
The new operation methods have been perfected over the last two rounds of escalation in the West Bank over the past year and a half—during the Palestinian prisoners' hunger strike and during the Temple Mount crisis.
The Nitzan Battalion troops either stand on the front line along with the IDF or Border Police forces who are holding back the rioters or operate from concealed positions located 300-400 meters from the rioting.
The combat intelligence collection soldiers are equipped with protection gear as well as advanced Nikon cameras with 300-400mm lenses.
They use these cameras to document a rioter throwing a stone or a Molotov cocktail, while making sure to capture a clear shot of his face.
"We've improved our operation techniques, and we are working—throughout the entire operational process—with the Judea and Samaria Division's legal advisor and with intelligence forces to translate the materials we produce into legal evidence," the commander of the Nitzan Battalion, Lt. Col. Ayalon Peretz, told Ynet.
"We reach the home of the rioter in a matter of days, arrest him and bring him in front of a judge. These are mostly rioters aged 18-30, because our focus is not on children and teens," he added.
UK police seek killer in 1987 death of Palestinian cartoonist
British police relaunched an investigation Tuesday into the murder of a Palestinian cartoonist 30 years to the day after he died of a gunshot wound he sustained in a London street.
Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali, a political cartoonist for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas, was shot in the back of the neck as he walked to his office on July 22, 1987.
The 51-year-old died in a coma in the hospital on August 29 that year.
Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) is reopening the case, appealing for information about the gunman and a second man later seen driving away from the scene.
They feel allegiances may have shifted over time and people with information who did not come forward in 1987 may now feel able to speak.
Al-Ali’s cartoons were sometimes perceived as critical of the Palestinian authorities and he had received several death threats.
Al-Ali was shot in the plush Knightsbridge district.
Kurds Wave Israeli Flag in Solidarity with Jewish State at Independence Rally in Germany
At a rally in the German city of Cologne on Saturday, attended by some 20,000 Kurds from different parts of the world expressing support for an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq, the Israeli flag was raised in solidarity with the Jewish state.
Kurdish people from Greater Kurdistan that includes all four parts of the Kurdish homeland divided among four Middle Eastern countries—Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey—gathered at the rally, many waving the flag of Iraqi Kurdistan alongside the flags of Israel, the United States, and Germany.
One of the flags read “Thank you for your support,” referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comment earlier this month when he expressed a “positive attitude” toward a Kurdish state. The Prime Minister told a delegation of US Congressmen that the Kurds are “brave, pro-Western people who share our values.”
Jahwar Slemani from Iraqi Kurdistan told The Israel Project that he brought an Israeli flag to the rally to express his solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. “Kurds and Jews, we have the same enemies,” he said. “Jews know what it takes to survive as a minority in the Middle East. We have to stick together.”
He recalled how his parents lived side by side with Jews in northern Iraq before they were expelled by the central government in Baghdad after Israel declared independence. “Jews were our friends, our neighbors,” Slemani explained, adding “it is a bond that cannot be destroyed.”
“This is our 1948 moment,” he said. “and I want an independent Kurdistan to have good relations with Israel. Together we can fight the terrorists.”

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