Wednesday, February 14, 2018

From Ian:

Saeb Erekat Looks for Excuses Not to Negotiate with Israel
In an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, the longtime PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat declared the U.S. ineligible to broker talks between Israel and the Palestinians given, among other sins, its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Noting Erekat’s two-decade history of prevarication—including his absurd and libelous claims of a “massacre” in Jenin in 2002—Elliott Abrams explains why Erekat cannot be taken seriously. The column, writes Abrams, is in fact about something else entirely:

Erekat returns in the Times to the usual, and sad, Palestinian victimhood trope, criticizing President Trump for failing to recognize “the painful compromises the Palestinians have made for peace, including recognizing Israel and trying to build a state on just 22 percent of the land in the historic Palestine of 1948.” It is striking to call those “compromises”: the first requires Palestinians to do no more than recognize reality, and the second to make their best efforts on behalf of their people. Trying to build a state that can live in peace and engage in economic and social development would not normally be called a huge sacrifice.

Erekat’s message in the Times is that peace efforts must now be multinational, with the United States joined as equal partners by the European Union, Russia, India, Japan, South Africa, and China. PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will soon address the UN Security Council on this point. Good luck with that. There is zero chance that such a group could be formed or could possibly do anything to promote a peace agreement. This is not a serious proposal for moving toward peace but a fantasy designed to forestall any real pressure on the PLO for compromises it does not wish to make. . . .

Erekat concludes by writing that “we are planning to move toward national elections in which all Palestinians, including our diaspora, can take part, with the goals of better representation, more support for our refugees, and strengthening our people’s steadfastness under occupation.” But Abbas has refused to hold elections in the area he controls, the West Bank, since 2006, despite repeated promises to do so. Note that his “national elections” will include the diaspora. This suggests that the “national elections” will not be Palestinian Authority presidential and parliamentary elections that could threaten Abbas’s hold on power. . . .
Palestinians: Abbas's Lies and Falling Mask
For the past two decades, the anti-Israel rhetoric of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership has radicalized many Palestinians, to a point where they are no longer willing to accept any form of compromise or peace with Israel.

By accusing the Trump administration of hostility to the Palestinians, the Palestinian leadership has delegitimized the US to a degree where many Palestinians now feel that Americans are legitimate targets for violence and terror attacks.

How, exactly, do these condemnations conform with Abbas's other claims that he seeks to resume peace talks with Israel? The mask on Abbas's face has fallen once again. That mask has, in fact, been falling for many years. Perhaps one day the world will even see that.

Gaza Needs to Look in the Mirror for Its Problems
Gaza is broke. As Monday’s front-page New York Times feature explained at length, the conflict between the Gaza Strip’s Hamas overlords and the Fatah party that runs the West Bank has resulted in a cash crunch that has left many of the area’s two million people without money. Along with Gaza’s inadequate infrastructure, the resulting poverty from this crisis contributes to a general picture of despair for many Palestinians.

Of course, the notion that everyone in Gaza is starving is an exaggeration. As journalist Tom Gross points out, Gaza’s thriving malls continue to operate, as does its water park, restaurants, and hotels — inconvenient facts that are missing from the Times story and most of the coverage of the current crisis.

But even if we concede that the talk of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is probably exaggerated, there’s no question that most of the people there are poor and have little hope of improving their plight.

This means, as it almost always does, that Israel will be blamed for this awful situation. Since most of the world believes that Israel is still “occupying” Gaza, and is therefore responsible for the coastal territory’s problems, it is only natural that the worse things get there, the more opprobrium will be directed at the Jewish state in international forums and the press.

This is wrong — but not just because Israel hasn’t occupied Gaza since 2005.

Police recommend charging Netanyahu for taking bribes from mogul, publisher
In a dramatic and far-reaching announcement Tuesday night, police said they are recommending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted for a series of serious corruption charges including bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, and that they believe they have collected enough evidence to bring the cases to trial.

As the recommendations and detailed allegations were published, new bombshell reports said the ostensible key witness against the prime minister in one of the cases is his political rival, former finance minister Yair Lapid.

The recommendations include indictments for bribery in both Case 1000 and Case 2000, as they have been dubbed. A decision to press formal charges against the veteran premier now rests with the attorney general’s office, which is expected to take weeks or months to decide how to proceed.

According to police, Netanyahu made a number of quid pro quo deals to receive favors from businessmen in return for passing laws that would benefit them financially.

Police said that in Case 1000, they have concluded “that there is sufficient evidence against the prime minister on suspicions of the offense of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust regarding his connection with businessman Arnon Milchan and fraud and breach of trust in connection with the Australian businessman James Packer.”

In Case 2000, they are recommending prosecuting Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Tax breaks, visas, et al: The 6 frauds for which police want Netanyahu charged
Bribery, however, is considered a much more severe crime and carries with it the additional label of “moral turpitude” — defined in law as “an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community” — which prohibits politicians from running for office for a full seven years after the end of a prison or community service sentence.

Police said that in Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) with around NIS 750,000 ($212,000) coming from Milchan and a further NIS 250,000 ($70,000) from Packer.

And according to the penal code, a public servant can be found guilty of bribery for requesting or agreeing to receive a bribe, even if the bribes were ultimately rejected or the deal fell through before implementation.

While some had indeed predicted Netanyahu would face at least one police charge of bribery, the recommendations (which advocated two such charges) also contained new and potentially explosive allegations that had previously not been part of the discourse surrounding the prime minister, and are likely to shape it in the coming weeks, months and even years.

Here are the specific crimes that police say they have collected enough evidence to bring Netanyahu to trial for — six from Case 1000 and one multi-faceted claim from Case 2000. All, it should be noted, have been denied by Netanyahu:
PM rejects police bribery report as 'biased, full of holes'
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked the Israel Police and the media on Wednesday, a day after police investigators announced that they have sufficient evidence to indict him on corruption charges in two separate cases.

Netanyahu called the police findings "biased and extreme, and riddled with holes like Swiss cheese."

Netanyahu reiterated his oft-stated assertion that "nothing will come of this," accused police of being on a witch hunt, and vowed to serve out his entire term.

Police announced on Tuesday that they had gathered sufficient evidence to indict Netanyahu in the two corruption probes known as Case 1,000 and Case 2,000.

In a case summary report submitted to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, the investigators said the evidence suggests that Netanyahu's conduct involved fraud and breach of trust (considered one offense under the penal code), as well as soliciting and accepting bribes.
Caroline Glick: Israel’s ‘Deep State’ Targets Netanyahu with Bogus Charges
According to Israel’s Hadashot television news, this investigation was the top story in terms of volume of coverage during 2017.

The police allege that between 2007 and 2016, Milchen showered Netanyahu and his wife Sara with cigars, champagne, and jewelry, often purchased at their request. In 2014, Milchen’s business partner, Australian businessman James Packer, who was also a friend of Netanyahu and his family, allegedly began giving similar gifts to the Netanyahu family.

In exchange for those gifts, the police allege that Netanyahu supported extending a law passed in 2008, when Netanyahu was the head of the parliamentary opposition, that gave returning Israeli expatriates tax forgiveness for ten years of unpaid back taxes. That is, Israeli expatriates were not liable for Israeli income tax for their global income earned over the decade before they returned to Israel.

According to the police, after Netanyahu returned to office in 2009, Milchen lobbied Netanyahu’s finance minister at the time, Yair Lapid, to extend the tax forgiveness period. Lapid, who is now in the opposition, heads the center-left Yesh Atid party. If Netanyahu’s Likud party fails to win the next election, according to the polls, Lapid and his Yesh Atid party will form the next government.

In other words, today, Lapid is Netanyahu’s chief political rival.

On Tuesday, the police told reporters that Lapid is the key witness against Netanyahu in Investigation 1000.

In other words, Netanyahu’s chief political rival is the key witness against him.
David Horovitz: The flaw in Netanyahu’s articulate public defense
In the short term, maybe even in the medium term, therefore, Netanyahu’s political prospects, though they can hardly be called sunny, are also far from unremittingly bleak. He can certainly hang on for a good while yet. Politically, and legally.

Nonetheless, there is a flaw in Netanyahu’s defensive wall. However attorneys general in the past have worked closely, or not worked closely, with police investigators, in this case, this attorney general, the Netanyahu-appointed Avichai Mandelblit, has overseen the gathering of evidence from the start with an emphatically hands-on approach. (Mazuz was not even attorney general when the Greek Island probe began.) Those police recommendations so furiously contested by the prime minister did not land on Mandelblit’s desk Tuesday like a bolt from the blue. Mandelblit and his team may now take weeks, even months, to decide on whether to press charges, but they won’t be starting from scratch. They know this case inside out.

The police investigation so castigated by Netanyahu was, to a considerable degree, a Mandelblit investigation. The picture so determinedly painted by the prime minister of a police probe unhinged by impure motives, and a sagacious attorney general now poised to restore sanity, may be compelling. It may comfort some of Netanyahu’s supporters. But it does not square with the way in which the investigation has played out.

Doubtless, Netanyahu is entirely aware of this. And doubtless, while he fires back at detractors and enemies imagined and real, he has concluded that it would not be smart, at least not at this stage, for him to impugn the motives of the official who holds the key to his fate.
The corruption scandals plaguing Netanyahu and his family, explained
Netanyahu could be nearing indictment — but might still stay in office.

So what does this all mean for the prime minister, who has governed Israel since the beginning of the Obama administration in his second go-round as prime minister? It depends on two factors: Whether he is indicted, and whether that creates enough pressure to force him to resign.

The prime minister’s fate may come down to pressure from fellow politicians and the public. A poll by Israel’s Channel 10 found that 66 percent of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign if indicted. There is intrigue within Netanyahu’s Likud party as well, with some ministers openly backing him while another, speaking anonymously, said he should resign if indicted.

(Un)fortunately, there’s a precedent for this decision: Nine years ago, facing multiple corruption scandals, centrist Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned even before police recommended an indictment. But stepping down didn’t help him, as Olmert was sentenced to prison in 2015 and served 16 months before going free in July.

Nor did resigning help Olmert’s Kadima party. His successor, Tzipi Livni, lost the subsequent election in 2009 — to Benjamin Netanyahu.
No diplomatic fallout from recommendations – yet
Outside of Ramallah, in capitals around the world, policy-makers will be watching the developments very carefully. But there too it is unlikely to have any immediate impact on Israel’s diplomatic position for two reasons:

The first is that these relations – for the most part – are with Israel, and not with any one leader. US President Donald Trump, for example, will be sympathetic toward Israel regardless of who is prime minister.

Even regarding relations with countries like India – where the personal dynamic between Netanyahu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been very important in moving the relationship forward – the ties are unlikely to change because of a change at the top, because these ties are very much based on the interests of both countries. They are interest, not personality, based.

The second reason that Tuesday’s announcement is unlikely to have any significant diplomatic impact for Israel is that ambassadors stationed here are undoubtedly sending cables back to their home capitals reminding them that it was only the opening shot of what now will certainly be a legal marathon that – despite the recommendations – may still lead to nothing.

These cables probably read something like this: “Don’t interfere in what is happening. Don’t express support or reservations. It is an internal Israeli matter.
David Singer: UN Secretary-General Guterres Ignores Jordan-Palestine Nexus
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres displayed how little he knows of the history, geography and demography of Palestine when addressing the opening of the 2018 Session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (“CEIRPP”). Established by the General Assembly in 1975 – CEIRPP was responsible for the publication in 1978 of a false narrative of the Arab-Israel conflict – “The Origins and Evolution of the Palestine Problem 1917-1947" (“UN Study”) – which has undoubtedly influenced United Nations thinking and decision-making.

Three examples highlight the falsity and outright bias of this UN Study:
1. Deliberately misrepresenting General Assembly Resolution 181 spoke of a “Palestinian Arab State” – when claiming:
“After investigating various alternatives the United Nations proposed the partitioning of Palestine into two independent States, one Palestinian Arab and the other Jewish, with Jerusalem internationalized.”

The actual wording of Resolution 181 stated:
“Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this Plan, shall come into existence in Palestine....”

2. Omitting any mention of the fact that 78% of Palestine had become an independent Arab State in 1946 and been renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.

3. Falsely alleging:
“The decision on the Mandate [for Palestine] did not take into account the wishes of the people of Palestine”
The evidence contradicting this falsehood actually sits in the United Nations own archives.
Intel Source: Arab States Fed Up with Abbas Opposing Trump
Arab countries have started to communicate to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinians can’t continue to cause problems for the Arab world and its relations with the U.S., an Arab intelligence official told Breitbart Jerusalem.

According to the source, the issue of Abbas’ ongoing complaints about the American government and his repeated criticisms of Arab countries and Arab leaders was raised in a meeting last week between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates.

The source stated that Abbas is endangering the region as his policies are likely to cause an explosion in the Palestinian territories that would play into the hands of Iran, who will use the campaign to drag Hamas in the Gaza Strip into firing rockets at Israel despite the decision made by Hamas and most of the terrorist groups active in the Strip to maintain calm.

The source noted that the Arab states are determined to cooperate with the coming American peace effort in the Middle East and believe the Palestinians must take advantage of the initiative even at the cost of Abbas’ removal from his position.

“The Palestinians will mark 70 years since the Nakba and the Arab states intend to release a peace initiative in that period that integrates the political plan that Trump’s Middle East team is trying to form,” said the source. The Palestinians refer to Israel’s founding as the Nakba, or catastrophe. “[Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi] Mohammed Bin Zayed even suggested that Arab media affiliated with their governments begin a campaign to warn the Palestinians of another Nakba if they continue to boycott the Americans and don’t cooperate with the political initiative they are trying to consider.”
MEMRI: Article In Egyptian Government Daily: Trump's Announcement About Jerusalem Is Another Phase In The Implementation Of 'The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion'
On December 11, 2017, the Egyptian government daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' published an article by Hashem Al-Fakharani titled "From the '[Arab] Spring Plots' to 'the Buying of the White House' – The Protocols of the Elders of Zion Are Realizing Their Goals after 100 Years ..." In this article, Al-Fakharani claimed that President Donald Trump's announcement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is the result of pressure by the Jewish lobby, and is another phase in the implementation of the Jewish-Zionist plot to take over the world set out in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He wrote that, as part of the implementation of this plot, the Jews also extorted the Balfour Declaration from Britain and concocted schemes to destroy Arab countries and ignited the flame of "The Arab Spring" within them, which undermined their stability.

The following are translated excerpts from the article:[1]

"Through diligent activity, in accordance with its dubious agenda, the occupation state has cautiously spun its web. For many decades, Israel replaced [its] sponsors in the region in order to [create] chaos-inducing scenarios. First, it extorted the Balfour Declaration from Britain during the Colonial period, then it replaced [the British sponsorship] with the patronage of the U.S., and finally it led [the U.S. to] the obscene announcement made by President Donald Trump, in which he declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to his decision to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the occupied city [Jerusalem].

"The unilateral American recognition [of Jerusalem as Israel's capital], which ignored the warnings of the international community about its implications, was not sudden. Rather, it was part of the Zionist plot that the Jews of Europe started to weave, like a spider's web, in the year 1901, by means of the document The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which includes 24 protocols. [These protocols comprise a plan] to take over the world by appointing [the Jews'] henchmen to sensitive positions among decision-makers, and by establishing lobby groups – [collectively] known as the Zionist lobby – that tyrannically control the fates of the nations.

"The vile Protocols were written by an agent for the political secret police in Russia, the Russian Matvei Golovinski. He received the inspiration to write them from the book Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, by the [French] author Maurice Joly...
Why Qatar Has Been Wooing American Jews
Qatar—facing attempts by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates to isolate it for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist organizations, as well as the Trump administration’s receptivity to these efforts—has launched a public-relations campaign to re-establish its good name in the U.S. Part of this campaign has involved outreach to American Jews. Jonathan Tobin comments on this strange turn of events.

The obvious explanation for Qatar’s strategy is the increased importance of pro-Israel opinion in the Trump administration, especially when compared to its predecessor. With supporters of the settlement movement appointed to posts like the U.S. ambassador to Israel and an Orthodox Jew like the presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner at President Trump’s side, the Jewish right’s stock is at an all-time high.

That elevates the importance of pro-Israel organizations and lobbyists who might otherwise be assumed to be hostile to any Gulf nation, especially one that hosts and sponsors the rabidly anti-Israel Al Jazeera network and is believed to have played a major role in funding Hamas. That has led to a stream of invitations for pro-Israel figures to visit Qatar and to hear its leaders make the case that it has gotten a bum rap from critics. Some . . . returned from a tour of Qatar singing its praises or at least willing to give its assertion that it no longer has ties with Hamas the benefit of the doubt, [a response that] in turn generated some fierce pushback from other pro-Israel figures. . . .

But there’s another factor here that needs to also be examined. While [Doha’s] Washington PR representative—a former aide to Senator Ted Cruz—may have told his client that winning over supporters of Israel is the path to success, the attention given by Qatar to the American Jewish community is still disproportionate. . . . [One] plausible explanation for all this attention stems from the traditional anti-Semitic belief that Jews and Zionists can exert mysterious control over major powers like the United States. . . .
Israel Defense Minister: Iran declared war on us long ago
Israel will do everything necessary to prevent Iran from consolidating itself in Syria, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday.

“Iran declared war on us. The highest echelons in Tehran want to erase the Zionist entity; they do not hide the fact that they want to wipe the State of Israel off the face of the earth,” Liberman said at the annual conference organized by the Federation of Local Authorities and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, held at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.

“Iran is also fighting us through its proxies – Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and now Hamas, and of course the Syrian regime. Therefore, it is a daily war not only in the military aspect but also in the realm of international terrorism, and we do everything in order to preserve Israel’s security,” he continued, adding that Israel maintains absolute freedom of action. “Everything we need to do has been done.”

On Saturday an Iranian drone which took off from Syria’s T4 airbase in the northern Homs province flew through Jordanian territory before it infiltrated into Israel. It flew for about a minute-and-a-half in the northern Jordan Valley, before it was shot down by an Israeli Apache helicopter. In retaliation for the incursion, eight Israeli jets took off to strike the drone’s launch site. During the operation, around 20 Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired at Israeli jets, bringing one of them down.

“The Iranian activity should, of course, bother us. It is not only theoretical threats. They are investing billions of dollars in weapons of mass destruction and are trying to establish themselves in Syria,” he said.

Officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah and the growing Iranian presence on Israel’s border with Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Bracing For Conflict With Israel, Syria Puts Rubble On War Footing (satire)
Embattled President Basher Assad today ordered the crumbling remains of his military and economy to prepare for a possible eruption of prolonged and intensified hostilities with Israel after a weekend exchange of fire across the border between the two states.

Battered by a civil war that has raged for the better part of a decade and from sectarian conflicts rending apart the repressive but once-stable dictatorship, Syria has also been targeted by Israeli strikes aimed at preventing Iran’s proxy Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weapons to use against the Jewish State from Syrian or Lebanon. The growing likelihood of more violent conflict with Israel prompted the president to instruct his military and other planners to place Syrian rubble on a war footing.

The strategic regional conflict playing out on Syrian soil between Iran and Israel escalated Saturday after a Syria-based Iranian drone penetrated sovereign Israeli airspace. In the ensuing battle between Israeli fighter jets and Syrian antiaircraft fire, an Israeli F-16 was downed, numerous Syrian antiaircraft batteries destroyed, and several Iranian assets in Syria were also eliminated. Two Israeli pilots of the jet were injured; they elected over Israeli territory. Casualty figures from the episode among the Syrians and Iranians remain unclear, but hundreds of thousands of Syrians are already dead and millions more displaced from the protracted civil war.

“We must tell our corpses, our bombed-out hulks of buildings, ruins of neighborhoods, and wrecks of industry to make ready for war with the Zionist entity,” declared Assad in a televised speech. “Our crumbling walls, mutilated infrastructure, fractured polity, delapidated facilities, nonexistent economy, depleted resources, and drained coffers must now meet the task of serving as cannon fodder for two regional powers duking it out.”
Turkey denies Israeli accusation it provides military aid to Hamas
Turkey on Tuesday blasted as “incompatible with reality” accusations by Israel it had helped the Palestinian terror group Hamas to gain in military strength, following the arrest and deportation of a Turkish citizen.

According to the Israeli authorities, Turkish national Cemil Tekeli was arrested in January, on suspicion of aiding Hamas through business platforms that launder funds, and later deported.

The Shin Bet intelligence agency said the investigation into Tekeli had shown that Turkey contributes to the military strengthening of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

But the Turkish foreign ministry said it rejected the allegations, describing the claim as “incompatible with reality and lacking in seriousness.”

Alluding to the Israeli investigation into Tekeli, it said that Israel made the claims based on “statements obtained from our detained citizen under ambiguous circumstances.”

It added: “It is out of the question for Turkey to permit an activity on its soil that can jeopardize the security of another country.”
Tunisian MP rips up Israeli flag in push for bill to criminalize ties
A Tunisian legislator ripped up an Israeli flag during a parliament session to push his demands for a law criminalizing relations with Israel.

A left-wing opposition coalition proposed a bill making it a crime to “normalize” relations with Israel, but the debate has been indefinitely delayed because parliament officials did not see at as a priority. Tunisia’s president has played down the proposed law.

Opposition lawmaker Ammar Amroussia tore the flag Tuesday to protest the delay, in images shown on national television.

Moderate Islamist party Ennahdha, part of the governing coalition, warned such a law could hurt Tunisia’s relations with western nations and international organizations.

Tunisia, like most Arab countries, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Tunisia was long seen as a model of tolerance in the region but has faced growing Islamic extremism.
Settlers hail passing of law regulating West Bank universities
Settler leaders praised a new law that places Israeli colleges and universities in the West Bank on a par with institutions located inside Israel and under the auspices of the Council for Higher Education.

Ariel Mayor Eli Shviro called the legislation, passed by the Knesset on Monday, “a correction of a historic injustice,” adding in a statement Tuesday that it was a “necessary step, albeit late.”

The measure has been dubbed the Ariel University Law because, in granting West Bank institutions the same academic standing as other higher education institutions, it will allow the largest school over the Green Line to move forward with the establishment of a medical school.

Ariel University, located in the city-settlement of Ariel in the central West Bank, plans to double in size within the next five years, according to a plan promoted by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. The billionaire financiers Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, longtime supporters of West Bank settlement projects, will provide roughly $20 million for the major expansion. Part of the project, which includes an additional 10 to 12 facilities, is to build a four-year medical school to be named after the couple.
13 years after Gaza evacuation, 160 families still without housing
The Knesset House Committee convened on Tuesday to mark Gush Katif Day, commemorating the evacuation of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005.

Nearly 13 years after the settlers were evacuated from 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and from four others in the West Bank, the Knesset committee was told that 160 families still have not been assigned permanent housing in place of the homes they were forced to evacuate.

However, it emerged that all but 28 of those families are expected to move into new homes within the coming year.

The remaining 28 families have used up the grants they received as compensation from the state after the evacuation and cannot afford to purchase new homes. To assist them, the state has offered to install prefabricated structures on their lots and charge them only 1,500 shekels ($425) per month in rent.

The structures, known as "caravillas," will be provided without charge.
Head of NGO Watchdog: Amnesty International and Family of Palestinian Detained for Hitting Soldier ‘Work Closely Together’
The advocacy group Amnesty International and the family of a Palestinian teenager arrested for hitting an Israeli soldier “work closely together,” the head of a leading local watchdog group charged on Tuesday.

Amnesty released a statement on Monday condemning the detention and upcoming trial of Ahed Tamimi, who was filmed in December kicking and slapping Israeli soldiers — who did not respond to the attack — in the West Bank. Tamimi was arrested shortly after and is being held in prison pending trial.

In its press release, Amnesty said, “The Israeli authorities must immediately release teenage activist Ahed Tamimi whose continued detention is a desperate attempt to intimidate Palestinian children who dare to stand up to repression by occupying forces. … Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a state party, the arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a child must be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.”

In an interview with The Algemeiner, Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of NGO Monitor, stated that Amnesty’s claim is not based on an objective analysis of international law.

“This is another dimension of Amnesty’s political warfare,” he said, “waged in alliance with UNICEF and with Palestinian NGOs such as [Defense for Children Palestine] and Adameer, which are reportedly linked to the [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] terror organization.”
IDF Court closes Ahed Tamimi trial off from public against her request
Despite Ahed Tamimi’s willingness for a transparent and public trial, the Judea Military Court on Tuesday ordered her case to be tried behind closed doors.

The court said it was standard procedure to hold trials involving minors, like Tamimi, out of public view in order to protect those involved who are not yet adults.

But Tamimi’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, criticized the decision saying, “It’s strange that the court decided – after sending Ahed into detention until the end of her trial and after her name had already been publicized – that it is in her interests to conduct the trial far off from public view.”

“While this decision nominally is said to protect Ahed,” she said, “instead it really tries to protect the court.”

Lasky also pointed out that multiple court hearings relating to Tamimi had already been held that included a massive media and diplomatic presence, as well as that a video of Tamimi, which is the main subject of the trial, already went viral on social media.

In the video, Tamimi can be seen pushing and kicking two soldiers, though there is no sign that her small size presented any danger to the soldiers, who mostly ignored her.

The video evoked polarized reactions, with much of the Israeli camp expressing outrage that Tamimi and her cousin were not arrested on the spot, and much of the Palestinian camp cheering her aggressive resistance of what they view as Israeli occupation.

She has sparked such attention that dozens of media outlets in Hebrew, Arabic and English, as well as diplomats from several European countries, have attended her pre-trial hearings, which were standing- room only.
Tamimi trial proves to be a spectacle for mostly foreign eyes
The line at the check-in window outside the Ofer Military Court stopped moving. Well over a hundred reporters, diplomats and activists began to get agitated, worried they would miss the start of Ahed Tamimi’s trial.

A court officer exited from the other side of the glass window and began shouting at the flock to back up.

“We’re here for the Tamimi hearing,” said one reporter in broken Hebrew, apparently under the assumption that not everyone in the compound knew about the 17-year-old Palestinian girl who was filmed in December slapping an IDF soldier outside her home in the West Bank village of Nebi Saleh.

“Clearly,” snapped the officer. “But you see all those people on the other side of the gate?” he said, pointing to an equal-sized throng of Palestinians standing behind the mostly foreign group. “Those are her family members, as well as other people here for their own trials. You’re preventing me from letting them in first.”

Still, nobody moved.

“What did he say?” asked one reporter, who had been dispatched from London to cover the trial. He received no response, making it clear that most of the crowd did not speak Hebrew.

Eventually, an English-speaking soldier from the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit appeared and explained to the crowd why they needed to back up.
Daniel Pomerantz on international law (i24 News): PERSPECTIVES With Tracy Alexander 1-1-18

Omani FM: Need for Palestinian state like the need for Israel after WWII
Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi on Wednesday, in a rare visit to the Palestinian Authority, compared the current need for establishing an independent state of Palestine to the urgency felt globally to establish the State of Israel after the two world wars of the 20th century.

“There was a global desire to establish Israel after the first and second world wars… Now the establishment of a Palestinian state has become a strategic necessity for all the world,” he said during a visit to the southern West Bank city of Jericho.

Alawi arrived in the West Bank on Tuesday for a three-day visit to the PA — an unusually long sojourn there by an Arab foreign minister. It was also the first visit by an Omani foreign minister to the Palestinian territories, the Gulf news site AlKhaleej Online reported.

He is slated to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.

Oman’s official news agency published an image on its Twitter account of Alawi meeting with senior Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub
PreOccupiedTerritory: I Think The Reunion For My Suicide Bombing Class Will Be Lightly Attended By Semtek Siffor, Jihadist (satire)
I love reunions. Even if you’re the kind of person who stays in touch with the people in your class after graduation, having everyone gather in one place to reconnect more directly and to reminisce, to catch up on things, can be very special. But I’m concerned that there won’t be many people at the reunion of my suicide bombing class, and that depresses me.

There were seventeen of us in the class, back in Raqqa in 2014. At least four of the guys were never heard from again within a week after we finished, but I confess I never got to know them well in the first place. They were quiet, dedicated, studious types. Me, I was never very good at technical things, or even following instructions, so I guess they moved on to bigger and better things, but I never quite made it as a career suicide bomber.

I even started a Facebook group just before graduation so that the guys could maintain a connection, keep one another updated on family, education, career, that sort of thing. Five guys joined, but the last post in the group from anyone other than me is at least two years old. They used to post photos of Yezidi and Christian girls, which I guess is their idea of memes, and there was definitely one farewell message in the mix, but the group is effectively inactive now. I still check every couple of weeks in case one of my old buddies decides to pop back in, but maybe they’ve forgotten. People can get really busy with their lives.
Despite Jerusalem position, Jordan to secure 5-year U.S. aid pledge
Jordan will secure a promise of five more years of US financial aid on Wednesday, a Jordanian official said, despite US President Donald Trump's threat to withhold support from countries that opposed his position on Jerusalem.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to sign the non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Amman on Wednesday, the official said.

The new MoU secures a minimum $1.275 billion per year from 2018, said the official, who declined to be named because the details had yet to be officially announced.

The previous such MoU between Jordan and the United States was for three years.

Though a staunch US ally, Jordan has been sharply at odds with Trump over his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In December, Trump threatened to cut off financial aid to countries that voted in favor of a UN resolution calling for the United States to withdraw its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jordan backed the resolution.
France threatens Syria strikes if chemical attacks proven
France will launch strikes if proof emerges that the Syrian regime has used banned chemical weapons against its civilians, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.

“We will strike the place where these launches are made or where they are organized,” Macron told the presidential press corps.

“But today our services have not established proof that proscribed chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations,” he added.

“As soon as such proof is established, I will do what I said,” Macron warned, while adding that “the priority is the fight against the terrorists, the jihadists.”

Regarding the Syrian regime itself, either during or after the conflict, he added, “It will be answerable to international justice.”

Macron also called for an international meeting on Syria, in the region if possible.
U.S.: Iran Should Withdraw from Other Mideast Countries and Send Their Forces Home
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Al Hurra TV in an interview on Tuesday: "I had a very lengthy telephone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the [air] strikes, and we had a long discussion around the threats that Israel is confronted with that emanate both from Lebanon due to Lebanese Hizbullah, but also from Syria. We take the threats to Israel seriously and we take a view that Israel has every right to defend itself from those threats."

"With respect to Iran's broader involvement in the region, we have spoken very clearly about Iran's destabilizing presence in Yemen, their destabilizing presence in Syria, in Lebanon, and in Iraq as well. It is our view...that Iran's presence in these countries is not helpful....We ask Iran to withdraw and send their forces home."

"I understand President Abbas, his concern about certain steps and decisions taken by the United States. My message to President Abbas is the United States is still committed to seeing a successful Middle East peace process, and are prepared to assist in that effort going forward. We hope that President Abbas will find his way back to the table."

France says Iran's missile program must be put 'under surveillance'
Iran's ballistic missile program must be placed under international surveillance, French President Emmanuel Macron said, in an bid to get tougher on Tehran while preserving the nuclear deal that Donald Trump has threatened to scrap.

With the 2015 deal, aimed at stopping Iran developing nuclear weapons, put in jeopardy by the US president, Britain, France and Germany are working on a plan to satisfy him by a May 12 deadline to address Iran's ballistic missile tests and its regional influence.

Macron said France, one of the signatories to the nuclear deal, wanted to preserve it as nothing better had been offered.

However, he said the use of Iranian-linked missiles in Yemen and Syria needed to be addressed because they were a security problem for French allies.

"I want a new cycle of negotiations with regional parties and the permanent members of the Security Council, like we did for the nuclear deal, but widening it to regional countries so that we can reduce and eradicate this insecurity," Macron told reporters late on Tuesday.

"And (we need) to put Iran under surveillance over its ballistic missiles. It's indispensable for the security of the region and so we need a mechanism of sanctions and control adapted to that."
Iranian 'winter' coming to northern border, analyst warns
Three days after Israel’s first direct confrontation with Iran on its northern border, concern remains over the growing danger posed by the Islamic Republic's growing foothold in the neighborhood.

“Winter is coming from the north where we have a concrete threat,” Orit Perlov, a social media analyst for the Institute for National Security Studies, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview just days before an Israeli F16I was downed over the country by Syrian air defenses.

“We have a factory for advanced weapons in the north of Lebanon, in Sunni areas,” she said referring to an Iranian-built factory near the town of Hermel in the eastern Bekaa Valley in northern Lebanon.

It can produce the fairly accurate Fateh-110 missile with a range of close to 300 km. with a half-ton warhead.

“In the south, it would be a different story, we could very easily bomb it,” she said, adding that bombing a Shi’ite area would be viewed differently by pragmatic Sunni Gulf states, which behind closed doors, are growing closer to the Jewish state.

According to a report by French online magazine Intelligence Online, another factory is located between the towns of Sidon and Tyre in southern Lebanon, which is capable of producing surface-toair and anti-tank missiles as well as unmanned aerial vehicles able to carry explosives.
Iran claims environmentalist who died in prison was Mossad, CIA agent
Tehran’s chief prosecutor on Tuesday accused a renowned Iranian-Canadian environmentalist who died in prison of being part of an espionage network set up by Israel’s Mossad and the CIA.

Kavous Seyed Emami, 63, a renowned professor and founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, was buried on Tuesday in the village of Ammami around 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Tehran.

Officials say he committed suicide in his prison cell a fortnight after being arrested along with seven members of his NGO.

Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said the NGO was set up “about a decade ago” as a cover to collect “classified information in defense and missile fields.”

“Defendants in the case, under the guidance of the CIA and Mossad intelligence officers, have pursued a triple mission focused on the environment, infiltrating the scientific community, and collecting information from the country’s sensitive and vital centers, including missile bases,” he said, according to the judiciary-linked Mizanonline news agency.

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