Friday, May 25, 2018

From Ian:

Col Kemp: Do not be fooled by what Hamas is doing
The Hamas-organised crowds were hell-bent on breaking through the border fence. Had the IDF allowed the fence to be breached, they would have surged through in their thousands. Using their Google maps showing routes from the border, they would have dashed for pre-designated villages, intent on mass slaughter.

Yes, the IDF would have stopped them — but to do so they would have had to kill many times more than have been killed already.

The Jewish community in Britain must not succumb to the hysteria demanded by Hamas and stoked by a predominantly anti-Israel media which has the world howling in outrage as the Gaza terrorists again and again jerk the strings.

Of course, we can only be horrified by the heart-breaking death toll on the Gaza border in the last six weeks and especially on Monday. But those of us who remain sober know this has been directly caused by Hamas and their Iranian paymasters.

At the Gaza border, I met five officers and four soldiers from North London. With their brothers in arms from Israel and around the world, these young people were risking death every minute of the day to stand between innocent men, women and children in villages like Nahal Oz and the bloodthirsty hordes desperate to butcher them.

These fine, courageous soldiers are your brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They would no more indulge in an orgy of unnecessary killing than you or I would. Do not believe the lies that are told about them.

There is another reason you must stick up for them and the Jewish state in this dark hour. Those who falsely condemn Israel play into Hamas’s hands, fuel their terrorism, encourage their use of human shields and contribute to the death and bloodshed.

Standing up for the IDF is also standing up for innocent Palestinian civilians so betrayed, exploited and sacrificed by their leaders.

If the Jews won’t find the courage to do that, who will?
Richard A. Epstein: The Israel-Palestine Standoff
Few issues produce more political and emotional discord than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In principle, there is much to commend a two-state solution. If achieved, it could allow the two groups to live beside each other in peace. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the interminable peace process came to a screeching halt this past week as the American embassy opened in Jerusalem. An exultant Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed before Israeli and American dignitaries, “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.” At the same moment, thousands of angry Palestinian demonstrators were rebuffed with deadly force as they sought to storm into Israel from Gaza. The confrontations took place on May 14 and 15—and the Palestinians consciously timed their protests to correspond with the seventieth anniversary of the Palestinian Exodus that resulted in the birth of the Israeli state. Some 62 Gazans died and thousands were wounded as the Israelis used live ammunition to keep protestors from storming over the barricades into Israel.

Now that the protests have subsided, Hamas seeks to capitalize on the deaths and injuries to isolate Israel diplomatically. The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has harshly condemned the Israelis for a “wholly disproportionate response” to the provocations they faced. Any fair-minded assessment can only judge the Israeli response by first looking at Hamas’s provocation. But as with other UN tribunals, the evidence on the ground does not matter. In this instance, Hamas was fiendishly clever by mixing in children with violent protestors to bolster its common claim that the Israelis fired on “unarmed individuals” who posed little or no imminent threat to the Israelis, a claim that was quickly repeated by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

Hamas’ charge is bizarre for two reasons. The first is that a mob, even of “unarmed” individuals, is typically intent on committing acts of violence by its sheer force of numbers. Indeed, the fiery confrontation looked like a war zone, marked by the hurling of Molotov cocktails, rocks, grenades, and pipe bombs at IDF border guard forces, backed up by the use of incendiary kites flown over Israeli territory. At multiple points along the border, Hamas operatives used wire cutters to tear up fences in order to allow hordes of thuggish Palestinians to fan out into Israeli territory. As Israeli intelligence reports, Hamas paid women and children to go to the front in order to put them in the line of fire.

This was no peaceful protest, and it takes an uninformed view of the law of self-defense to insist that Israeli soldiers should have held back their fire until personally faced with “imminent danger,” at which point it would have been too late both for them and the civilians they were there to protect. There is no principle in the law of self-defense that requires a group to forego self-defense because there is some chance that the assailant, if successful, will inflict fewer casualties by its aggression than are in fact inflicted on it. The Israelis were right to stand their ground.
Melanie Phillips: Going onto the front foot on the battleground of the mind
The attempt to scapegoat the IDF communications team for the shocking western media coverage of the Gaza Strip border riots reveals once again that Israel’s political class simply hasn’t got a clue about the anti-Israel madness.

Mainstream media in Britain, America and Europe presented the murderous attempts by Hamas to storm the border, using Molotov cocktails, IEDs, firearms and flaming kites under cover of the unarmed civilians they pushed to the front, as peaceful demonstrators being killed by brutal Israeli soldiers. That was the coverage Hamas was out to procure.

The media thus made themselves accessories to Hamas war crimes.

Within Israel, this has been blamed on the IDF spokesperson, Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, and on Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, head IDF spokesperson to the foreign press. This is deeply unfair.

Doubtless, they could have done things better. When BBC Radio asked Conricus how he could justify firing live ammunition at unarmed protesters, he said they were members of Hamas – but failed to list the weapons they were using or that the IDF had tried tear gas, rubber bullets and shooting at legs before the last resort of lethal fire.

Merely saying they were Hamas meant nothing to a British public indoctrinated by wall-to-wall propaganda that unarmed protesters were mowed down – a public, moreover, for whom the greater the violence Hamas uses against Israel, the deeper the Gazans’ desperation is thought to be as a result of Israeli “oppression.”

The problem is far too profound to be adequately addressed in such circumstances by any individual. For the demonization of Israel is a derangement that has gripped the media and intelligentsia in Britain, Europe and America.

Elliott Abrams: On North Korea, Iran, and Trump
The cancellation of the US/North Korea meeting begins, in my view, with the JCPOA.

Logic suggests that what Kim really wanted from the new administration was a JCPOA of his own. That is, he wanted a nuclear deal that was time-limited by sunset provisions, that permitted him to keep on developing better and better missiles, and that required only that he suspend his nuclear work for a short period of years. Such a deal would legitimize the North Korean nuclear program and Kim would see sanctions lifted and his economy greatly benefitted.

No wonder he wanted such a deal. And from the regime stability angle, he might well have been persuaded that the Chinese and Vietnamese models are better long-run bets than his own. Those models allow for great economic growth and growing prosperity while maintaining single-party despotic rule.

President Trump’s decision to exit the JCPOA was a critical prelude to the summit from the American point of view. Kim had to be fully disabused of the notion that such a deal was even remotely available. The best he could hope for was a step-by-step agreement, in which he was not required to end his nuclear program entirely on Day One, and instead was rewarded for each serious step he took. When the Libya example was mentioned, I do not think Kim really believed that was because American officials hoped to see him dragged through the streets and killed while his country underwent terrible violence and divisions. Rather, the Libya model calls for complete denuclearization at the inception; it was not a long, step by step process. For Kim, that was bad enough.
Gaza health ministry removes baby from border clash death toll
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said an 8-month-old girl has been taken off a list of Palestinians killed in border clashes with Israeli troops last week, while authorities await results of a pathologist’s report.

Layla al-Ghandour had originally been listed among the 60 Palestinians killed during massive border protests on the Gaza fence on May 14. The infant’s death intensified condemnation of Israel over the violence, though the health ministry has since signaled the child may not have been killed from tear gas inhalation but rather because of a pre-existing condition.

“Layla al-Ghandour is not listed among the martyrs, because we are still waiting for the report,” Dr. Ashraf Al-Qidra, director of public relations for the ministry, told The Guardian newspaper according to a Thursday report.

“The baby arrived to the hospital dead, and the family said she was there at the border and she inhaled tear gas,” he added. “It wasn’t clear in the beginning whether she died because of that or not. That’s why we referred the case.”

Al-Qidra earlier told The Times of Israel that the baby’s death was being investigated, but refused to commit to removing her from the list of those killed.
Oren: 'No soldier fires at will' on Gaza border
After weeks of protests on the Israel-Gaza border, over 100 Palestinians have been killed, alongside thousands injured by Israeli gunfire.

Against this background, Conflict Zone’s Tim Sebastian meets Michael Oren, Israeli deputy minister for public diplomacy and a former ambassador to the US.
Gaza Israel Konflikt Jerusalem US Botschaft (Reuters/I. Abu Mustafa)

A wounded Palestinian protester is evacuated near the Israel-Gaza border. The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, has said over 3,500 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition

Intensive fire

Sebastian asked Oren about his comments in a recent radio interview, where the deputy minister had said the Israeli army had come under intensive fire.

"There was a threat to the border and the soldiers are charged with defending our border from terrorists and civilians who have been driven by terrorists, with the express purpose of breaking through the border, killing our civilians and destroying our state," Oren said.

There had also been "dozens" of attempts to cross the border, Oren told Conflict Zone.

But according to an Israeli Defense Force spokesman, Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, on May 15, there were several attempts to cross the border and soldiers had "not taken any sustained direct fire."

Did Oren and Conricus therefore have different views about what had actually happened?

"Maybe I have a different interpretation than our military spokesperson because I'm also dealing with the Gaza issue on the government level. And it is not uncommon in combat situations to have different reports," said Oren.

Palestinians have been protesting at the Israel-Gaza border since March 30, calling for refugees displaced when Israel declared independence in 1948 to be allowed to return

Were several attempts to cross the border, as Conricus said, a threat to Israel's way of life? asked Sebastian.
Israel Supreme Court Declares IDF Conduct on Gaza Border Legal
In one of the most important decisions it has made about the laws of war and human rights in years, the High Court of Justice declared late Thursday night that the IDF’s rules of engagement during the Gaza border crisis were legal.

The blockbuster decision will have an immediate impact on any protests that might occur on Friday, or on future protests for which the petitioners had hoped the IDF would be forced to adapt more restrictive open-fire regulations.

Due to the high esteem in which the High Court is held overseas, the decision will make it more difficult for the International Criminal Court to declare the IDF’s conduct a violation of international law.

While declaring the IDF’s conduct legal, the High Court’s panel of President Esther Hayut, Vice President Hanan Melcer and Justice Neal Hendel did send warnings to the IDF.

It said from the large number of killed and injured Palestinians with wounds above the waist, the court expected: a) the IDF would immediately make changes voluntarily to further reduce casualties, and b) possible individual violations of the laws of war by individual soldiers would be thoroughly investigated.

The court also criticized the petitioners for refusing to allow it to see the full classified rules of engagement being used in a closed hearing without the petitioners, and having to settle with a paraphrase of those rules in open court.
Hamas, Gaza, and the Rush to Judgment - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
In 2009, Israel was bombarded with criticism that it had used disproportionate force as it tried to suppress Hamas rocket fire aimed at Israeli cities. Now in 2018, Israel was bombarded again with a whole series of false accusations about how it handled the situation along the Gaza-Israel fence.

This time, Hamas ordered an attack on the Kerem Shalom international crossing from Israel into Gaza - the passageway that supplies food, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and everything that the people of Gaza need for a normal life. Kerem Shalom was set on fire by the Palestinians themselves.

Former Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud al-Zahar said of the demonstrations along the fence, "This is not peaceful resistance. It is supported by our weapons." Hamas even released a press release that said the "Great Return March," which was leading Palestinians to charge the border fence, was actually part of the heroic armed struggle.

Another statement by Hamas said the goal of the march was to breach the fence, meaning to break open the fence and allow thousands to pour into Israel. They weren't going there to have a picnic.

The picture became clearer when a senior Hamas member admitted that of the 62 Palestinians who had been killed, 50 were Hamas operatives.

What is common to all the critics of Israel in the wars involving Gaza is a kind of rush to judgment by which people automatically assume that Israel is to blame for whatever has occurred. It's this rush to judgment that encourages Hamas to keep its war going against the State of Israel.

Petrol bomb-laden kite causes huge blaze along Gaza border
Strong winds hampered efforts to control fires which broke out at three points near Kibbutz Kissufim along the Gaza border Friday after incendiary kites were flown into Israel from the Palestinian coastal enclave.

Video filmed by the Jewish National Fund showed a huge fire burning its way through trees and foliage.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

By late afternoon, fire services said they brought the blazes under control.

In recent weeks, Gazans have been flying kites into Israel outfitted with Molotov cocktails and containers of burning fuel, setting fire to large swaths of fields.
Hamas writes the anti-Israel script and Canada foolishly plays along
It’s a good thing the Israel Defense Forces do a better job resisting Hamas’s aggression than western political leaders and journalists do in resisting Hamas’s propaganda. Alas, across much of the world this West this week, the reflexive response to Monday’s violence at Israel’s border with Gaza was to blame the Jewish state for defending itself against what was obviously a deliberate provocation by terrorists.

The violence, which saw, at latest count, 62 people die at or immediately proximate to Israel’s border security fence, was roundly portrayed as a massacre of innocents. A particularly bad editorial in another Canadian national newspaper claimed “It seems now that Israel has no upper limit on the number of poorly armed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip it will gun down and kill.” (Really? Do they suppose the Israelis just ran out of ammunition?) Commentators and world leaders lined up to condemn Israel. The UN arranged a special session to scrutinize Israel. It all felt so very routine.

Because it is. We’ve seen this play many times before. Which makes it all the stranger that no one ever seems to learn from the mistakes. A day after the hysterical accusations accusing Israel of a massacre and genocide, it was already becoming clear that the violence at the border was a justified if bloody response to a cynical attack on Israel organized and controlled by Hamas. Much like 2002’s so-called “Jenin Massacre,” where Israeli troops were accused of slaughtering hundreds, perhaps thousands of civilians — until international investigators eventually concluded the death toll was 52 Palestinians, most of them armed, along with 23 Israeli soldiers killed.
What an ICC 'war crimes' probe could mean for Israel
Amid a push by the Palestinian Authority for an expedited investigation into alleged Israeli “war crimes,” the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague indicated that a preliminary examination opened in 2015 “will continue to follow its normal course.”

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued the statement after meeting with PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, who called for an urgent probe into Israel's policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The PA claims against Israel cover a wide array of issues, ranging from this month's deadly clashes along the Gaza border to the 2014 war with Hamas; from Israeli housing projects in the West Bank to the IDF's practice of demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists.

It is debatable, however, whether the ICC has legal jurisdiction to conduct any such investigation given that Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, the court's founding charter. For its part, the PA is not a full member of the United Nations, although the General Assembly in 2012 voted to upgrade its status to "non-member observer state."

Less than two years later the PA formally acceded to the ICC, and in June 2015 was able to convince the body to open a preliminary examination into Israel's conduct.

“The PA has been trying to bring the subject of Israel into the International Criminal Court for a long time,” according to Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, formerly the head of the IDF's Military Prosecution in the West Bank. But, he contended to The Media Line, the Palestinian accusations “have very little veracity” and are thus unlikely to result in the launch of a comprehensive investigation.

“These [Palestinian] claims tend to be mostly political, based on questionable facts that paint a very one-sided picture. If you’re looking at a potential legal battle in the ICC, I think the Palestinians would have much more to fear than the Israelis do,” Hirsch argued in reference to Hamas’ reported tactic of using civilians as "human shields" and the PA's so-called "pay-for-slay" policy of providing salaries to those who commit terror attacks against Israelis.

"Also, the Palestinian Authority isn’t a state and therefore it’s questionable whether it should have been able to ascend to the [Rome] convention in the first place.” Still, he concluded, if an investigation were to materialize “Israel would take it very, very seriously,” especially if senior officials were targeted for prosecution.
Expert: If Palestinians Take Israel to ICC, They Will Be Defendants as Well as Plaintiffs
Once the Palestinians become plaintiffs against Israel in the International Criminal Court, “they will become defendants as well,” an Israeli legal expert told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

The comments by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center came after the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday referred Israel to the ICC on charges of alleged war crimes. The move is the latest salvo in a years-long effort by the PA to join the Court and damage Israel legally.

Later on Tuesday, US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert expressed opposition to the move, saying, “We have long believed that these types of actions are not conducive to peace. … We oppose the actions taking place against Israel at the International Criminal Court because we see that simply as counterproductive.” Neither the US nor Israel are members of the Court.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that it takes a “severe view” of the Palestinian move, calling it “a cynical step without legal validity” and an attempt to “exploit the Court for political purposes.” It also called the referral “legally invalid,” and asserted that “the ICC lacks jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian issue, since Israel is not a member of the Court and because the Palestinian Authority is not a state.”

Darshan-Leitner agreed with the latter objection, saying that the primary issue is whether the Palestinian Authority has the legal status to pursue its case against Israel. “The Palestinian Authority is formally approaching the International Criminal Court and asking them to open an investigation against Israel for committing alleged war crimes in Gaza. And they did it on behalf of the state of Palestine, something which doesn’t exist,” she said.
UK's Prince William will visit Jerusalem, Ramallah in June
Queen Elizabeth's grandson Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah next month, becoming the first senior member of Britain's royal family to make an official state visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

William, second in line to the British throne after his father, Prince Charles, will begin his Middle East trip in Jordan on June 24 before traveling to Tel Aviv the following day, his office in Kensington Palace said in a statement Friday.

The prince will spend the next three days in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah. The palace gave no further details of where he will go or whom he will meet.

The trip, which William is carrying out on behalf of the British government, was widely welcomed by both Israeli and Palestinian officials when it was announced in March.

"It is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be received here with great enthusiasm," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' office said it was an important visit, "which we hope will contribute to strengthening ties of friendship between the two peoples."

Britain regards Israel as a close and important ally, but the visit comes at a time when the two countries have publicly disagreed over a number of major issues.

Like most of its Western allies, the British government criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv earlier this month.
Will Prince William follow his predecessors and get a tattoo in Jerusalem?
The Royal family has not visited Israel since 1948 due to controversial and historical grievances between the British, Israelis and the Palestinians. Prince William will be the first Duke of Cambridge to visit the Holy Land in 70 years and will follow in the footsteps of three British Princes who made official trips to the Holy Land in the nineteenth century.

The history of official visits to the Holy Land began with Prince Albert Edward who visited the holy land in 1862 and he was followed by his two sons, Prince Albert Victor and George V, twenty years later.

In their tours of the holy land, Prince William's progenitors got tattoos on their arms consisting of five crosses and the three crowns of Jerusalem, according to the NGO Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM).

The tattoo was given by the Razzouk family, who were Coptic Christians specializing in tattoos and migrated to Jerusalem in 1750 from Egypt, according to BICOM. Today, the family still has a parlor on Saint George street near the Jaffa Gate in the Old City.

No sources have confirmed that the Duke of Cambridge will indeed receive the tattoo.
Indian general: Israel's regional air superiority undisputed
The Israeli Air Force is held in high regard ‎worldwide and it has demonstrated multiple times ‎that it has a wide range of capabilities it does not ‎shy away from exercising, India's air force ‎commander ‎said Wednesday.‎

Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa and dozens ‎of other air force chiefs are in Israel for a ‎weeklong visit, attending a conference hosted by the ‎IAF in honor of Israel's 70th year. ‎

The last IAF conference of this kind was held in ‎‎1998 and marked Israel's 50th anniversary.‎

The visiting air force chiefs toured IAF bases ‎nationwide, received briefings on Israeli military ‎activity in Syria and elsewhere and had the chance ‎to see various military aircraft in action.‎

Israel and India enjoy close ties and under Prime ‎Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, the two ‎countries defense collaboration has significantly ‎increased, to deals amounting to billions of ‎dollars. ‎

‎"Recently, senior Israeli officials visited New ‎Delhi and were exposed to our activities, and now we ‎have had the opportunity to learn from them," Dhanoa ‎‎told Israel Hayom. ‎

‎"We had the opportunity to watch the Israeli Air ‎Force's weapons and its structure. We watched the ‎various activities and it was interesting to see how ‎things were being done. It was a very good visit," ‎he said.‎
Congressional Measure to Recognize Israeli Sovereignty Over Golan Heights Killed
A congressional resolution to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights region in Syria met a quick demise this week after House GOP leadership quietly put the kibosh on the measure following what sources allege was opposition from top Republican leaders and some in Trump administration, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

While White House officials familiar with the matter deny playing any role in opposing the measure, it was nixed earlier this week by House leadership, which refused to allow the historic measure to come up for a vote.

The resolution, authored by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), would have represented a historic step towards the United States formally recognizing Israeli control over the Golan Heights territory, which rests on Israel's border with Syria and was annexed by the Jewish state in 1981. The United States has declined for decades to take a position of the status of this territory, but lawmakers backing the amendment felt the time was right for this effort following the Trump administration's successful bid to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Israel's capital city of Jerusalem.

Multiple U.S. officials familiar with the situation blamed GOP leadership for punting on the resolution, which was legally non-binding and said to be supported by many in the Israeli government as a first step in the United States siding with Israel in the decades-old land dispute.
Turkey says Israel will harm itself if it recognizes Armenian genocide
Turkey on Friday said Israel would only harm itself if it recognized the Armenian genocide because to do so would undermine the special status of the Holocaust.

“We think that Israel putting the events of 1915 on the same level as the Holocaust is harming itself first and foremost,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters in Ankara.

Knesset lawmakers on Wednesday voted to debate the recognition of the Armenian genocide in the parliament chamber, amid a nadir in ties with Turkey over deadly clashes on the Gaza border.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, who has long spoken out in favor of recognition, again expressed support for the measure. But he also voiced discomfort with public calls to recognize the genocide merely to irk Turkey and its bellicose leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Since when does Ankara tug at the strings of my morality?” he asked, upon introducing the motion by Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg.

“The Israeli Knesset should recognize the Armenian genocide because it is the right thing to do, the just thing to do,” Edelstein added.
Joe Lieberman: 'I'd put my money on the US and Israel against Iran'
"It's very hard to trust the Iranians. There's a very radical regime in Tehran. During the nuclear agreement negotiations, they kept saying that it doesn't change anything, they'll remain anti-American, anti-Israel, anti everyone who doesn't agree with their revolution," former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman sums up the views of the opponents of the 2015 nuclear agreement, essentially reflecting the sentiments coming out of the Oval Office over the last year.

These sentiments led U.S. President Donald Trump to make a dramatic decision two weeks ago and withdraw from the agreement, effectively reimposing tough sanctions on Iran.

Lieberman, in Israel to celebrate the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, concedes that Trump has surprised everyone and came through for Israel and the Middle East. Lieberman, it seems, is not sorry that the candidate he supported in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, ultimately lost to Trump.

Q: You've seen quite a few presidents over the course of your career. Do you think that Trump is the most pro-Israel president you've encountered?

"So far he's been extremely pro-Israel. It's still early in his presidency. For the time I've followed U.S.-Israel relations and certainly during the 24 years I was in the Senate, some presidents are closer to Israel and some are not, usually in the term of every president there are some disagreements between the prime minister of Israel and the president of the U.S. But I would say that President Trump is really off to a very strong pro-Israel start."
As country’s evangelicals bid to move embassy, ‘Brazil’s Trump’ says he will
With considerable fanfare, a small number of Latin American countries have followed the example of United States President Donald Trump and are transferring their embassies in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Guatemala and Paraguay moved their missions to Jerusalem in recent days with public celebrations. Honduras has promised to follow.

At the same time, nearly unnoticed, a session in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, organized by the Evangelical Parliamentary Front — a conservative faith-based congressional caucus — paid homage to the 70th anniversary of “the Rebirth and Declaration of the State of Israel.”

At the event last week, the organizer, deputy Roberto de Lucena, took the microphone and announced that he had sent a letter to Brazilian president Michel Temer requesting that Brazil join the growing cadre of countries moving their embassies to Jerusalem.

According to Lucena, Israel’s ambassador to Brazil, Yossi Shelley, was surprised by the announcement.

“In fact, he was informed [about the request] at the same time that everybody learned about it during my speech,” Lucena told The Times of Israel via telephone.

“Of course, the ambassador was pleasantly surprised,” added the evangelical deputy.
Strike on Syrian air base said to target Hezbollah arms depot
A military air base in western Syria was hit in an airstrike Thursday night, sparking large explosions, which were heard throughout the area, state media reported.

The targets of the strike were munitions depots belonging to the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group, located on an air base south of the city of Homs, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, which also said the strikes were most likely carried out by Israel.

“Six missiles were fired at the Daba’a military airport and surrounding area in the western sector of Homs province, targeting Lebanese Hezbollah weapons warehouses,” Rami Abd el-Rahman, director of the Observatory, told AFP.

The Observatory identified Israel as the likely perpetrator. “The missiles would have been fired by Israel,” el-Rahman said.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the attack.
Russia said to test missile that can down F-35 fighter jet
Russia has successfully conducted the world’s longest-range surface-to-air missile test, according to a report in US media on Thursday.

The S-500 missile, which Russia said will be able to down F-35 fighter jets — the most advanced in America’s (and Israel’s) fleets, as well as ballistic missiles — was able to hit a target 480 kilometers (299 miles) away CNBC reported, citing “sources with direct knowledge of US intelligence concerning the weapons program.”

Israel said this week its F-35 fighter jet conducted airstrikes on at least two occasions, reportedly in Syria, which Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said made Israel the first country in the world to use the American-made stealth aircraft operationally.

The US military source, who spoke to CNBC anonymously, said that the Russian test was 80 kilometers (50 miles) further than any previous test.
A photograph of an Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jet flying over the Lebanese capital of Beirut, which was apparently leaked to Israel’s Hadashot news, May 2018. (Screen capture)

Russia has said that the S-500 will be operational by 2020 and will also have the capability to hit targets in near space, 100 kilometers (62 miles) above earth.

There was no confirmation of the test from the Kremlin.

The S-500 will operate alongside the S-400 missiles and are set to replace the aging S-300 systems.
Elite unit soldier hit by marble slab during arrest still fighting for his life
Doctors were still fighting Friday morning for the life of a soldier from an elite IDF unit who was critically injured after a marble slab was dropped on his head during an operation to arrest suspected terrorists in the West Bank.

The heavy slab was thrown from a third-story rooftop at a group of troops conducting an arrest raid early Thursday morning in al-Am’ari refugee camp near Ramallah, the army said.

The soldier, from the Duvdevan unit, remained in critical condition in Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem’s intensive care unit. He was still sedated and on a respirator, the hospital said.

On Thursday, the IDF revealed that the soldiers had been on a mission to arrest members of a terror cell who had been carrying out shooting attacks. One member of the cell was nabbed during the raid and two more later on Thursday, the army said. The raid was based on intelligence information obtained in coordination with the Shin Bet security agency.

There was no indication that the Palestinian who threw the rock was one of the cell members.
If you’re asking about Abbas’s successor, you’re not paying attention
If there are no last-minute alarms, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be released from the hospital in the coming days. Sources close to him say this could happen as soon as Saturday.

His condition is fine, they say; he doesn’t have a high fever, is walking and composed, and is getting updates all the time on diplomatic and security matters.

In short, after almost a week’s hospitalization in Ramallah, sources now insist 83-year-old Abbas is not in life-threatening danger.

Still, his rush to the hospital on Sunday, just days after he had been released after minor ear surgery, as well as the fog that in the first days surrounded the issue of his health, with rumors and denials running rampant, created a sense that the question of succession is more relevant than ever.

And yet no clear answer has emerged.

Innumerable names have been cited in Hebrew media, most of them familiar: Palestinian sports chief Jibril Rajoub, top Fatah leader Mahmoud Aloul, PA premier Rami Hamdallah, jailed former head of Fatah’s Tanzim armed wing Marwan Barghouti, and maybe even the exiled former Gazan security chief Mohammed Dahlan. But while the candidates jockey, and Israeli analysts play the name game, ordinary West Bank Palestinians don’t seem to care.
MEMRI: Jordanian Liberal Harshly Criticized For Her Condemnation Of University Of Jordan For Naming Prayer Hall After Al-Qaeda Ideologue 'Abdallah 'Azzam
Jordanian journalist, writer, and educator Zuleikha Abu Risha, who is known for her fierce opposition to religious extremism in Jordan and who has received death threats because of her views,[1] again drew fire recently for her condemnation of the naming of a prayer hall at the Shari'a Faculty of the University of Jordan after 'Abdallah 'Azzam, Osama bin Laden's mentor and an Al-Qaeda founder.[2]

On February 25, 2018, on Facebook, Abu Risha commented on a photo of a prayer hall at the university's Shari'a Faculty that was circulating on social media; a sign above the door notes that the hall is named after "the Jihad Fighter and Martyr Dr. 'Abdallah 'Azzam." Abu Risha responded with a post stating: "The Shari'a Faculty is an island belonging to Al-Qaeda and ISIS."[3]

Abu Risha's post evoked a furious response from the Shari'a Faculty and from several current and former Jordanian officials, including calls to prosecute her. She responded with a series of Facebook posts reiterating her position, calling 'Abdallah 'Azzam a terrorist and adding that anyone who expresses support for him is essentially promoting his extremist doctrine.

This report reviews the exchange between Abu Risha and her critics.

Harsh Criticism Of Abu Risha, Including Calls For Her Prosecution

University of Jordan Shari'a Faculty Dean: The Real ISIS Propagandists Are Those Hurling Accusations At Noble Institutions Of Learning

The day Zuleikha Abu Risha posted her initial comment, University of Jordan Shari'a Faculty dean Dr. 'Abd Al-Rahman Ibrahim Al-Kailani responded with an announcement on the faculty's website saying: "As the Shari'a Faculty at the University of Jordan celebrates... its groundbreaking academic achievements and its national and global standing [as a facility] disseminating moderate Islamic discourse and opposing the preachers of extremism and fanaticism, websites report that a [certain] Jordanian writer published a post with a hideous accusation against the faculty, calling it 'an island belonging to the terrorist ISIS organization.'
How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War
In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished.

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .
Iran Sets May 31 Deadline in Scramble to Salvage Nuclear Deal
European powers have until May 31 to present Iran with a plan to offset the U.S. pullout from its nuclear deal and Washington's renewed sanctions, a senior Iranian official said, with Tehran "weeks" away from deciding whether to quit the pact.

The 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers lifted international sanctions on Tehran. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear activities, increasing the time it would need to produce an atom bomb if it chose to do so.

Since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States this month, calling the agreement deeply flawed, European states have been scrambling to ensure Iran gets enough economic benefits to persuade it to stay in the deal.

But this has proven difficult with many European firms alarmed at the specter of far-reaching U.S. financial penalties.

Nations that remain in the deal—Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia—held a formal meeting on Friday without the United States for the first time since Trump's announcement, but diplomats saw limited scope for salvaging the agreement.

"To be honest with you, we are not confident," a senior Iranian official told reporters shortly before the talks between senior officials aimed at fleshing out the package of measures to keep oil and investments flowing.
Recent Iran protests part of potential wider unrest
Protesters in the southern Iranian city of Kazerun represent wider percolating unrest that has continued in Iran since the large protests in December and January.

Several protesters were reportedly killed on May 16 when police used deadly force to disperse them.

Video posted online on Tuesday showed hundreds of people chanting that they would “avenge” the dead during renewed protests.

The seeds of this week’s protests lie in the mass protests that broke out in Mashhad last December.

They soon spread throughout rural areas and regional centers in Iran. Reports indicated that outside Tehran, they were far larger than the mass protests of 2009. A UN Security Council discussion on the protests on January 5 said that more than 1,000 were reportedly detained and affirmed that protesters had burned government offices, banks and others infrastructure.

Since then, there have been continued local protests in Iran. This has also included women refusing to wear the headscarf that Iranian law imposes. Usually these take the form of “White Wednesday” protests, named for the women who don white hijabs on Wednesdays and sometimes remove them.
JCPA: The Results of the Iraqi Elections? A Slap in the Face to Iran
Is Iran’s Influence over Other Middle Eastern Countries Starting to Wane?

In fact, the Iraqi election result has occurred in a difficult context for Iran. These elections are but another hurdle facing Iran in its effort to expand its influence in Arab lands. Iran is challenged by the Trump Administration, Israel, Egypt, the Gulf states (with the exception of Qatar), Saudi Arabia, and lately by Vladimir Putin, who stated at the end of his meeting with Bashar Assad in Sochi (in mid-May) the need for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria (which in other terms mean also Iranian and proxy forces). Iran finds itself on the defensive, under fire and needing to re-organize. What seemed to be easy prey just weeks ago has transformed into a major crisis. Even the results of the elections in Lebanon and the victory of the Hizbullah coalition do not presage a greater grip on elusive Lebanon, especially since the Arab Gulf states (except Qatar) have lately declared Hizbullah a terrorist organization.

The question remains how the Iranian regime will respond to these new challenges. One cannot ignore the potential of Iranian-directed terrorist acts against Muqtada al-Sadr to eliminate him from the Iraqi political scene. Iran will do its utmost to bar al-Sadr’s faction from forming the next Iraqi government. Moreover, it is more than likely that the Ayatollahs will use their proxies for their destructive and subversive capabilities to destabilize the anti-Iranian wave rising against Iran. They will try to strengthen their grip on existing allies (Hizbullah, Houthis, and Bashar Assad) and intensify their arms race, ignoring all the limitations imposed on them by the United Nations, the United States, and the international community.

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