Wednesday, July 25, 2018

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: President Trump and Jared Kushner Target Hamas in Gaza
Last week, President Donald Trump’s Middle East team signaled a shift in the administration’s policy for contending with Hamas-controlled Gaza — one no prior administration had the courage to make.

On July 19, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, his special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman published a joint op-ed in the Washington Post in which they made clear that they are walking away from their earlier efforts to rebuild Gaza’s economy as a means of advancing the prospects for a broader peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
(This columnist had argued for exactly that policy just two days before.)

Noting that the blame for Gaza’s humanitarian crisis rests squarely on the shoulders of the Hamas regime, the three wrote:
International donors are conflicted: Should they try to help the people directly, at the certain risk of enriching terrorists, or withhold funding to Hamas and watch the people it is supposed to govern suffer? In the past, investments in badly needed infrastructure have been diverted for weapons and other malign uses, and even the projects that are built are often destroyed as a consequence of Hamas’ aggression. Until governance changes or Hamas recognizes the state of Israel, abides by previous diplomatic agreements and renounces violence, there is no good option.

Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman acknowledged as well that “the international community also bears some blame.”

“More countries want to simply talk and condemn than are willing to confront reality, propose realistic solutions and write meaningful checks,” they wrote.

The President’s Middle East policy team concluded by noting that the time has come for the international community to base its policy towards Gaza on reality rather than platitudes. In their words, Hamas is the root cause of the endless rounds of war with Israel and the suffering of the people in Gaza.

“Hamas leadership is holding the Palestinians of Gaza captive,” they explained.

“This problem must be recognized and resolved or we will witness yet another disastrous cycle [of war].”
Isi Leibler: Trump: A balance sheet
Trump's election has proved to be a gift to Israel.

Trump was the first American president to formally refer to Israel as an ally. He ended Obama's policy of moral equivocation between Israeli self-defense and Palestinian terrorism and refused to maintain the façade that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a peaceful moderate. He also drastically cut U.S. aid to the Palestinians.

He has made it clear that the U.S. would not tolerate the Palestinian diversion of aid money to reward terrorists and their families.

The administration placed full blame on Hamas for the Gaza escalation of terror.

Envoy Nikki Haley aggressively defends Israel at the U.N. The U.S. also withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council, an organization dominated by anti-Israel tyrants and rogue states.

Despite howls of protest, Trump has fulfilled his electoral promise to move the U.S Embassy to Jerusalem.

Trump and Putin issued an unprecedented joint press statement following their recent meeting in which they explicitly proclaimed their commitment to "work together to ensure the security of Israel." Trump said, "I think that working with Israel is a great thing, and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much."

To sum up, Trump is clearly calling the shots and rearranging the existing global order.

For Israel, Trump has been like manna from heaven. That does not mean that we endorse all his actions, and we continue to squirm at his cruder outbursts.

PMW: PA: What is “Zionist ISIS-ism”? Israeli MPs visiting the Temple Mount
Abbas' advisor on religious affairs said that the presence of Jewish Israeli MPs in Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount, "defiles" the Islamic holy sites and in particular the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rescinded his previous ban on Israeli Parliament members visiting the Temple Mount - which had been in place for nearly three years as a precaution against violence - and allowed them to visit once every three months.

According to PA Supreme Shari'ah Judge and Mahmoud Abbas' advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Netanyahu's decision is no less than a "war crime" and the presence of Jewish Israeli MPs at Islamic holy sites constitutes "defilement":

"The prime minister of the extremist right in the occupation state [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] has committed a complete war crime against the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, and particularly at the Al-Aqsa Mosque...
The prime minister of the occupation state is engaging in bullying, arrogance, and Zionist "ISIS-ism" against the members of our people and its holy sites, both in Jerusalem and Hebron, by giving relief, support, and protection to the break-in campaigns of the extremist Jews into the holy sanctuaries in Jerusalem and Hebron, to [the sanctuaries'] defilement, and to the attack on the Muslim worshippers, who have the right to manage their holy sites with complete freedom and without the interference of the tyrannical occupation authorities."
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 5, 2018]

Al-Habbash further threatened that "a continuation of the crime mentality led by the occupation government will drag the entire region and the world into a religious war whose results will be disaster for everyone."

In a later statement, Al-Habbash repeated his antisemitic accusation, claiming that "the series of Israeli crimes against the holy sites has severely escalated due to occupation [Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to allow the Israeli Parliament members to invade the Al-Aqsa Mosque plazas and defile them." [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 11, 2018]

MEMRI: Palestinian Authority (PA) President 'Abbas: 'If We Had Only A Single Penny Left, We Would Pay It To Families Of The Martyrs And Prisoners'
Since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been pressured to stop the allowances it has been paying to families of Palestinian martyrs, wounded, prisoners, and released prisoners since it was established, on the grounds that these payments encourage continued terrorism.[1]

Senior PA officials, headed by PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas, totally reject this demand, and emphasize that these payments will not be stopped, noting that they are a clear national obligation. Thus, for example, at an August 2017 meeting with President Trump's advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, 'Abbas said that he would never stop the payments to the families of prisoners, released prisoners, and martyrs, even if he was forced out of office as a result.[2] A month later, Abbas said in an interview with the London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi that he would not give in to the American and Israeli demand to stop payments to the families of prisoners and martyrs, calling them "fighters" and underlining his obligation to them.[3]

In similar statements yesterday, July 23, 2018, at a Ramallah ceremony, he called the prisoners "pioneers" and "stars in the firmament of the Palestinian people's struggle" who head the Palestinian priorities. He added that the payments would not be stopped.
Inside the Iron Dome
On July 13 and 14, over 200 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel from Gaza, one of which hit a playground and another a synagogue. One reason why more projectiles failed to hit their targets is the Iron Dome missile-defense system, which shoots incoming ordinance out of the sky. In 2006, after Hizballah launched thousands of rockets into Israel during the Second Lebanon War, the Israeli firm Rafael tasked an engineer named Chanoch Levin, whose own town was bombarded that year, with building a system to protect against them. Dan Raviv tells the story of Levin and his collaborators:

A couple, Boris and Polina (not their real names), both thirty-four, were at the center of Levin’s innermost team. Both had immigrated to Israel with their parents when they were teenagers—she from Soviet Moldova and he from St. Petersburg. In Israel, they grew up to become masters of algorithms. It was their role to come up with an entirely new way for the interceptor missile’s tiny computer to calculate when it was close enough to the attacking rocket to explode its warhead and destroy both projectiles. This had to occur in mere microseconds, since two fast-flying objects meeting nearly head-to-head would have only the briefest of encounters. Polina was a brilliant computer programmer, but testing her algorithms required trial-and-error repetitions on test platforms that had never been used before. Boris’s job was to combine his wife’s mathematical solutions with a unitary, working system that could communicate with software written by dozens of people. He referred to his challenge as a Tower of Babel.

The senior team also included a non-Jew. At twenty-nine, Mula was young for a major in the IDF. Always in uniform, he was assigned to Rafael while he studied for his doctorate in mechanical engineering. A member of the Druze community of northern Israel, Mula invited his teammates to all the big celebrations in his village, where they were warmly welcomed and treated to huge meals. Mula’s assignment was to make sure, during the testing phase of the project, that IDF soldiers would be in place and ready to fire the exact same rockets that Hamas and Hizballah would be using. . . .

To save time, humans were also written out of the equation. With the short-range Katyusha rockets and mortar attacks from Gaza, there would be less than fifteen seconds to decide whether Iron Dome should fire an interceptor, a choice that would be made entirely by an automated system. Although five soldiers would sit in a battle management center, a portable trailer near the launchers, monitoring what their Iron Dome was doing, there would be no time for humans to push a “Fire!” button.
2 Syrian rockets said to land in Sea of Galilee
Two rockets from Syria reportedly landed in the Sea of Galilee Wednesday in what the army said was spillover from the Syrian civil war.

The Sea of Galilee is tens of kilometers from the Syrian border; the missiles would appear to have flown over the Golan Heights before landing. Hadashot TV news said they fell into the Sea of Galilee; the IDF said it was confirming exactly where the projectiles landed.

Eyewitnesses said they saw the projectiles land in the water — one of them exploding, and the other not, the TV report said.

The Sea of Galilee area was crowded with tourists at the time.

The rockets reportedly came from the southern part of the Syrian Golan Heights, where the regime of Bashar Assad has been completing its campaign against the last rebel villages remaining in the area.
Israel's message to Syria: No more 'small violations'
The downing of a Syrian fighter jet that breached ‎Israeli airspace Tuesday, together with recent ‎events on Israel's northern front have created the ‎impression that we are on the brink of a serious ‎security escalation - but that is not the case. ‎Chances of a war with Syria were and remain low. ‎

Recent events show that both Israel and Syria are ‎operating solely according to their own interests. ‎The Syrian army is busy taking over the country's ‎southwest, on the Syrian Golan Heights, and as far ‎as it is concerned the end justifies the means. ‎Israel, for its part, enforces its predetermined red ‎lines, chief among them that it will not tolerate ‎any attempt to undermine its sovereignty.‎

As a rule, Israel and Syria refrain from ‎provocations, as neither has any interest in a ‎clash. Skirmishes the likes of which we saw Tuesday ‎are rare and usually involve errant Syrian fire that ‎hits the Israeli side of the border over the ‎fighting near the shared border.‎

Tuesday's incident fits into that category. The ‎Syrian pilot had no intention of breaching Israeli ‎airspace and the incident most likely stemmed from a ‎navigational error made during a strike on rebel ‎pockets near the border. ‎

Israel, which has reiterated in the past that there ‎are no "small violations of sovereignty," did what ‎it always does when a threat presents itself – it ‎engaged and eliminated it. ‎

Double whammy: Female IDF officer downed Syrian jet and drone
IDF Captain Or Na’aman commanded the Patriot battery which shot down a Syrian fighter jet over Israel’s northern Golan Heights Tuesday, the IDF has confirmed to The Jerusalem Post.

As the commander of the Patriot Battery of the 138th Battalion, Na’aman was also in charge of the interception of a Syrian drone which fell south of the Lake of the Galilee almost two weeks to the day of the downing of the jet.

The Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet was intercepted Tuesday by two Patriot missiles launched from Safed after the jet penetrated 2 kilometers into Israeli airspace. The pilot identified Colonel Umran Mare of Tartous was confirmed to have been killed.

Israel says it shot down the the jet after it entered Israeli airspace from the Golan Heights border, and while it is now believed that the pilot likely made a navigation error, the incident is still considered by Jerusalem as a serious breach of Israeli sovereignty.
Islamic State releases video purporting to show Syrian jet downed by Israel
The Islamic State terrorist group on Wednesday published pictures it said showed the remains of a Syrian jet shot down by Israel a day earlier.

Israel on Tuesday said the Sukhoi-model jet had traveled two kilometers into Israeli airspace when the Israeli military fired two Patriot missiles at the plane, shooting it down. The plane crashed inside Syria, killing its pilot.

An official based in Syria and allied with government forces said that Islamic State fighters had seized the body of the pilot.

The fate of a second crewman was initially said to be unknown; later reports indicated there was only one pilot.
Syria says response to fighter jet’s downing ‘will come soon enough’ — report
A Syrian official warned Tuesday night that his country will respond “soon enough” to the IDF shooting down a regime fighter jet after it entered Israel’s airspace, according to a Lebanese news site.

“Damascus is in no hurry to enter a war with Israel,” the unnamed source told El Nashra, but added that “the response to the downing of the jet will come soon enough.”

The official claimed Israel supports “terrorist centers” in southern Syria and shot down the jet to stop the regime’s operations against them.

The first step of the Syrian response would be to complete operations against those centers, he said. Afterwards “the direct response to the Israeli forces will come at the appropriate time.”

The third part of the response would be to “foil any attempt to push Syria’s allies away from the (border) area.”
BBC News report on Syrian plane interception won’t say where it happened
With much of this article based on IDF statements as well as local and agency news reports, it is notable that the BBC News website did not inform its readers that Israel had tried to contact the pilot or that due to the fighting in Syria close to the border, earlier in the day the IDF had put out warnings.

“The IDF said it had noticed increased air force activity in southwestern Syria, near the border, since the morning.

“We have issued numerous warnings through numerous channels and in various languages to make sure that no one on the other side violates Israeli airspace or threatens Israeli civilians or sovereignty,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told reporters.”

Obviously the basic task of any journalist reporting this story was to inform members of the public what happened and where. Rather than doing that, the BBC News website chose to present two conflicting versions of where the aircraft was located when it was intercepted and leave readers to decide which one they prefer to believe. Apparently the BBC is of the opinion that passes as journalism.
JPost Editorial: White Helmets
Israeli officials, who managed to keep the clandestine operation under wraps until it was over, said that the original plan had been to rescue more than 800 people over the Golan Heights and via Quneitra into Jordan, but the operation had been hampered by Syrian checkpoints and Islamic State fighters in the region.

Convincing the volunteers to leave their homes, deciding who among the families would depart, and assembling them in a country where there is spotty communication were also enormous hurdles, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported. Others reportedly declined to be rescued because their rescuers were Israeli and they had no guarantees where they would end up.
In contrast to the lack of praise for Israel from the countries involved and the White Helmets themselves, the US said it “deeply appreciates” Israel’s role in their rescue as well as Jordan’s “generosity” in providing them with a temporary safe haven.

CBC revealed that former justice minister and human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler, who recently visited The Jerusalem Post offices, had been enlisted “in order to broker the arrangement.” Also involved in coordinating the operation was US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who tweeted, “I had the privilege to work with the Israeli government and my incredible colleagues at State and NSC in coordinating Israel’s daring rescue of #White Helmets and their families from Syria.”

An estimated 3,000 White Helmets and their families remain in areas controlled by the opposition in northern Syria, which the Assad regime is expected to target next. We can only hope that they too can be rescued in time. In the meantime, the world might do well to pause and thank Israel for its role in the successful rescue of the 422 people from a hostile country who are now safe in Jordan.
Canada: Israel's role in rescuing White Helmet volunteers 'indispensable'
Israel’s role was “indispensable” in saving the lives of the White Helmet rescue workers and their families, Canada’s Deputy Head of Mission Anthony Hinton told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“From Canada’s perspective, Israel’s role was indispensable... there was no way to save these Syrians without Israel’s coordination, collaboration and leadership,” Hinton, who was acting ambassador during the operation, said in a telephone interview.

“The IDF were the ones who made it happen on the ground,” he stressed.

While the original plan had been to bring the 800 White Helmets and their families directly to Jordan, in the end only 98 White Helmet rescue workers and 324 of their family members crossed into Israel from southern Syria on Saturday night and were then bused into Jordan.
CBC’s Appalling Coverage of Israel’s Daring Rescue of Syria’s White Helmets
Though Israel won widespread praise for its leading role and brave humanitarian efforts in the daring rescue of hundreds of individuals associated with Syria’s White Helmets, our public broadcaster, the CBC, produced truly appalling coverage that maligned Israel’s efforts.

Amazingly, though media outlets wide and far prominently acknowledged Israel’s integral role in the dangerous rescue mission, in its coverage on July 22, CBC failed to even mention Israel’s efforts at all. Indeed, a report by senior defense reporter Murray Brewster entitled: “Canada to accept up to 250 Syrian White Helmet volunteers, family after dramatic escape” originally only detailed how “Several hundred people — volunteers and their families — belonging to the rescue organization known as the White Helmets were extracted late Saturday from the southwestern portion of the war-torn country that’s being overrun by forces loyal to leader Bashar al-Assad.”

The story lead by mentioning (emphasis added): “Canada is among three Western nations that will accept hundreds of volunteer emergency workers plucked from Syria under the cover of darkness in a dramatic international rescue, CBC News has learned.”

Untold in the entire article was that it was Israel who evacuated 400 White Helmets rescuers and their families from Syria to Jordan overnight at the request of the United States, Canada and European countries, as noted by Al Jazeera for example.
UNHRC appoints legal panel to war crimes probe on Gaza border violence
The United Nations Human Rights Council appointed a three member legal panel to hold a war crimes probe into alleged Israeli human rights violation on Gaza border violence that began on March 30.

The panel includes legal experts David Michael Crane of the US, Sara Hossain of Bangladesh, and Kaari Betty Murungi of Kenya, according to the UNHRC.

Crane served as the Chief Prosecutor to the Special Court for Sierra Leone from April 2002 to 2005. He now teaches international criminal at Syracuse University College of Law.

Hossain has been a barrister for the Supreme Court of Bangladesh since 2016, and has worked with the UNHRC Special Rapporteur on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Murungi was a legal adviser for gender-related crimes for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and was vice chairperson and commissioner to the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation commission of Kenya. She is on the boards of the boards of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court.
Firefighters battle 10 fires, one caused by Gaza balloon, amid heat wave
Firefighters have been working since the morning to extinguish 10 brush fires along the Gaza border. At least one of them was caused by an incendiary balloon. At this stage, a spokesman for the rescue service says, there is no indication that the remaining fires were caused by incendiary devices.

Israel is in the throes of a heat wave that has seen temperatures soaring to 40°C (104°F) and more on Wednesday.
Haley: "If We Extend a Hand in Friendship to Palestinians, We Do Not Expect Our Hand to Be Bitten"
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council on Tuesday: "In the last three months, the terrorist flaming swastika kites that have crossed over from Gaza into Israel have damaged or destroyed 7,500 acres of land. Now Israel is a small country. The equivalent proportion of land in the United States would be the size of the entire state of Connecticut. In France, the equivalent would be 10 times the entire land area of the city of Paris....While the international media pays very careful attention to every step Israel takes in self-defense, we must not lose sight of the very real damage that is being done to Israel from terrorist attacks coming from Gaza."

"Last year, Iran's contribution to UNRWA was zero. Algeria's contribution to UNRWA was zero. Tunisia's contribution to UNRWA was zero....China provided $350,000 to UNRWA. Russia provided $2 million to UNRWA. The U.S. gave $364 million....And that's on top of what the American people give annually to the Palestinians in bilateral assistance. That is another $300 million just last year....Since 1993...the United States has provided over $6 bilateral assistance to Palestinians....Americans are very generous people....But we are not fools. If we extend a hand in friendship and generosity, we do not expect our hand to be bitten."

"If [the Arab countries] really cared about the Palestinian people...they would condemn extremism and they would put forth serious ideas for compromises that could end this struggle and lead to a better life for the Palestinian people. They would tell the Palestinian leadership how foolish they look for condemning a peace proposal they haven't even seen yet. The Palestinian leadership has been allowed to live a false reality for too long because Arab leaders are afraid to tell them the truth. The United States is telling the truth because we do care about the Palestinian people."
Trump’s UN Envoy: ‘Every Day I Feel Like I Put Body Armor On’
President Donald Trump came into office disparaging the United Nations and appointed politician Nikki Haley as the ambassador to carry out his disruptive agenda, but she has also shown Trump how the world body serves his purposes, specifically on North Korea.

The UN Security Council’s unanimous adoption of tougher sanctions three times last year that put pressure on Pyongyang to enter talks on scrapping its nuclear weapons program is the example Haley gave Trump in a phone call in June.

In an interview with Reuters, Haley recalled telling Trump: “We would not be in the situation we are with North Korea without the UN because that was the only way to get the international community on the same page.”

The United States and other countries believe the sanctions helped to bring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un around to meeting with Trump at an historic summit in Singapore in June.

Haley said Trump asked her what she thought of the United Nations, then 17 months into her post and after the United States became the first country to quit the UN Human Rights Council. She said she rattled off a litany of complaints.
HonestReporting in a Minute: What are the "Palestinian Territories?"

US envoy rips Arab, Muslim states over meager Palestinian aid
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday slammed Arab and Muslim states for talking a lot about supporting the Palestinians but not giving more money to help.

Haley listed how much money countries like Egypt, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, along with Algeria, Tunisia, Pakistan, Oman, Iran and Turkey, have given – or not given – to the U.N.'s agency for Palestinian refugees.

"No group of countries is more generous with their words than the Palestinians' Arab neighbors, and other OIC member states," Haley told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East, citing the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

"But all of the words spoken here in New York do not feed, clothe, or educate a single Palestinian child. All they do is get the international community riled up," she said.

Haley said Iran, Algeria and Tunisia gave nothing to UNRWA last year and Pakistan and Egypt gave just $20,000. While Turkey gave $6.7 million, Kuwait $9 million and the United Arab Emirates $12.8 million, she said the United States gave $364 million to UNRWA last year – plus an additional $300 million to the Palestinians in bilateral aid.

Since 1993, Haley said, the United States has provided over $6 billion in assistance to Palestinians.
UNRWA lays off hundreds of employees, triggering protests
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday expressed outrage over a decision by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) to lay off hundreds dozens of its its employees.

Several employees fainted when they heard they had lost their jobs. One worker poured gasoline over his body and tried to set himself on fire before he was stopped by his co-workers.

Sources in the Gaza Strip said that some 1,000 employees have been affected by UNRWA's latest measures, which include the immediate dismissal of 125 workers from the agency's emergency program. UNRWA employees in the West Bank will also be affected by the measures.

Another 570 UNRWA employees were notified that they would be hired only on a part-time basis, while an additional 270 were told that their contracts would be terminated at the end of the year if the financial crisis is not resolved.

The financial crisis is the direct result of the US administration's decision to suspend more than half of the annual funding ($65 million out of $125 million) to UNRWA.

Palestinians see the US administration's move as being part of an Israeli-US "conspiracy" to "liquidate the right of return" for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes inside Israel.
Haley forsaking US allies to defend Israel, Palestinian envoy charges
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has ignored United States interests and alienated its allies through her unwavering support of Israel, a Palestinian Authority envoy Riyad Mansour charged on Tuesday.

“She is becoming more Israeli than the Israelis themselves,” Mansour told reporters in New York.

Mansour spoke after Haley told the UN Security Council that the US was one of the strongest financial backers of the Palestinians and that most other countries had failed to live up to their obligations on that score, particularly the Arab states.

It was why, she said, that the US was particularly upset that the Palestinian “vitriol” against it.
Palestinian envoy Zumlot: American public, not Trump, key to the future
The Palestinian Authority has adopted a new policy of transmitting its messages directly to the American public, which Ramallah believes is liable to ally with its cause. At the same time, this tactic allows the PA to circumvent the Trump administration, which it has boycotted since Washington's recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Husam Zomlot, the PA's chief envoy to the United States, confirmed the new strategy during an interview this week with The Media Line on the sidelines of a West Bank conference focused on Palestinian-American relations.

Zomlot made clear that the Palestinian mission in Washington is seeking to strengthen its relations with the American people, rather than mend ties with the White House.

"We have been engaging America [using a] top-down [approach], but we must instead do so from the bottom-up," he contended, adding that the PA is already working with existing Palestinian organizations throughout the U.S. to achieve its aim.

Zomlot described the policy shift as a means of creating a "continuity of peace," one in which Palestinian rights are supported by a broad spectrum of the American populace.
In first, ‘Palestine’ to head bloc of 134 nations at UN
The “State of Palestine” will reportedly preside next year over the largest bloc of developing nations at the United Nations.

Palestine — which is not a member state of the UN but has observer state status — was chosen to head the so-called Group of 77, a consortium now consisting of 134 nations that often speaks in one voice at the UN General Assembly, starting January 1, 2019, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

“We will be negotiating on behalf of 135 countries,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour told the paper, including his own delegation in the count.

The group was originally founded in 1964 with 77 countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Thailand and India. Over the years it has grown to include countries such as South Africa, Qatar, Cuba, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Singapore, and Angola. It represents some 80 percent of the world’s population.

Egypt currently holds the group’s presidency until December 31.

The Foreign Ministry in Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon expressed misgivings about the move.

“The goal of the Group of 77 originally was to facilitate the economic advancement of underdeveloped nations,” he told The Times of Israel. “It is unfortunate that it will now become a platform for spreading lies and incitement. This will not promote the G-77’s goals, and encourages the Palestinians to not engage in negotiations for peace.”
PA: Western Wall is part of Al-Aqsa
The official Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency Wafa reported on Monday about the incident in which a heavy boulder crashed into the egalitarian plaza at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, but noted that the incident involved "a rock that had been cut off from the wall of the Western Al-Aqsa Mosque."

Wafa wrote in its report, "The Al-Buraq Wall (the Islamic name of the Western Wall) is part of the western wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the control of the forces of the occupation, who call it the Wailing Wall."

According to Islam, Al-Buraq is the name of a horse-like flying beast on whose back Muhammad rode from Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the night when he ascended to heaven.

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, Grand Mufti of "Palestine", claimed the fall of the boulder might be related to the Israeli excavations in the region. The Islamic Endowments Department is examining the location of the fall, he added.
The Trump Team Is Wrong About Hamas
Donald Trump’s senior Mideast advisers are proposing to give Hamas billions of dollars if it will recognize Israel and suspend terrorist attacks. Bad idea. Getting rid of Hamas — not bribing it — is the only hope for peace in Gaza.

In a Washington Post op-ed on July 20, presidential advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, together with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, noted that despite the international community’s gifts of “billions of dollars” to Gaza over the past 70 years, unemployment is at 49 percent, and 53 percent of Gazans live below the poverty line.

The Trump team’s solution? Give Gaza many billions more in exchange for some paper promises by Hamas. Talk about throwing good money after bad.

If Hamas “acknowledges that the existence of Israel is a permanent reality,” “abides by previous diplomatic agreements,” and “renounces violence,” the US officials wrote, then “all manner of new opportunities becomes possible” — because “engaged, interested parties with resources” will start pumping in foreign aid. Gaza will “enjoy economic success and integrate into a thriving regional economy — if they let us help,” they said.

In other words, the Trump administration is willing to provide US taxpayers’ money in exchange for Hamas’ promises.
Palestinian Authority Silences Students
By targeting Palestinian journalists and university students, the Palestinian Authority shows that it has turned the territories under its control into a dictatorship that systematically grinds public freedoms into the ground.

Palestinians are permitted to badmouth Israel and the US -- but that is where their "freedom of speech" ends. Let a Palestinian utter a bad word about his leaders -- he will find himself (or herself) behind bars. This bodes rather poorly for the future of democracy and free speech in a Palestinian state. In fact, it discloses exactly what a Palestinian state would look like, if and when it is ever established.

Failing to hold the PA leadership accountable for its actions against journalists and university students drives Palestinians into the open arms of Hamas. Yet the international media remains mute in the face of the PA's flouting of the right to freedom of expression. Why? Because, for the foreign media, a story that does not serve to bash Israel is not "news that's fit to print."
UAE, Palestine added to Asian Games soccer after left off roster
The United Arab Emirates and Palestine were on Wednesday officially added to the soccer tournament at the Asian Games after they were accidentally omitted from the original draw.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) conducted a limited re-draw at their headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to include the two sides alongside 24 others taking part in soccer at the Games, which begin next month.

AFC secretary-general Windsor John said Games organizers failed to pass the names of UAE and Palestine to his body for the initial draw, even though both teams had attempted to register.

John said he was not sure what caused the problem, adding “it could be some computer glitch, it could be some communication breakdown.”
MEMRI: Russia Expert Sveshnikova: After The Helsinki Summit, Iran Is Desperate To Show That The Russia-Iran Alliance Remains Intact
Yulia Sveshnikova, a research associate at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, wrote an article for,[1] titled "Alarm in Tehran: Why Did Iran Eagerly Await the results of the Helsinki Summit" in which she argued that a reversal of roles has taken place in Russia-Iran relations. If after the signing of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), Russia feared that Iran would now prefer to improve relations with Washington at Moscow's expense, it is now Iran's turn to be worried. The Iranians fear that Russia (with whom the Iranians share a problematic history) may use Iran as a bargaining chip to secure concessions from the Americans in other areas. Since Tehran has low expectations from the Europeans, it must swallow slights from Russia and emphasize the bilateral military cooperation in Syria.

MEMRI's translation of Sveshnikova's article follows below:

Iran Fears Russia Will Deliver It To Trump

"One of the topics discussed during the meeting between presidents Trump and Putin in Helsinki was the situation concerning Iran in connection with the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and Washington’s efforts to restrict Iranian influence in Syria. The Americans are trying to press Moscow to abandon its neutral stance on this issue. Tehran fears that Trump may somehow have come to an agreement with Putin so that the latter will contribute to the complete withdrawal of the Iranian and pro-Iranian forces from the civil war-torn country.

"On July 12–13 in Moscow, literally on the eve of the [Trump-Putin] summit, Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to the spiritual leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tried to influence Russia’s position. It is not his first visit, and the official agenda is always approximately the same: political liaison, expanding economic cooperation, the Iranian nuclear program. Since Velayati’s previous visit to Moscow in February 2016, the setting has changed a little: at that time, Iranian and Russian analysts were discussing Russia’s concern about a possible Iranian-American rapprochement, whereas the meetings on July 12-13 have taken place in the period of clear exacerbation of the 'Iranian nuclear problem'. Now it’s Iran that is discussing the possibility of becoming a bargaining chip in the relations between Russia and the US. 'Can we trust Russia?' – this is an important domestic political issue, to which Velayati was evidently trying to find a positive response in Moscow.
Iran Dissidents Greet Pompeo Speech With Renewed Calls for Overthrow of Tehran Regime
Thousands of opponents of Iran’s Islamist regime have taken to social media in reaction to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech on Sunday declaring solidarity with the Iranian people.

Pompeo told an audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, CA., that in the light of recent anti-regime protests, along with “forty years of regime tyranny, I have a message for the people of Iran.”

Pompeo continued: “The United States hears you; the United States supports you; the United States is with you.”

One Twitter user inside Iran responded by telling Pompeo, “We have a rich country and we are poor, we have tourist attractions and we are isolated.”

“We are peaceful but we live under the shadow of war,” the tweet continued. “We are not hostile to other countries, yet we are under sanctions. And finally, we do not have what we should have, and we do have what we should not have.”

The tweet concluded: “The cause of all these troubles is the Islamic Republic.”
Iran’s Long, Bloody History of Terror and Espionage in Europe
The Iranian regime’s potent espionage and assassination network in Europe has operated largely without interruption since the Islamic revolution of 1979. European governments have caught and imprisoned individual terrorists, yet they fail to deter Tehran because they only punish the perpetrators, not the regime that gives them their orders.

German prosecutors have filed charges of conspiracy to commit murder against Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat connected to Tehran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Assadi recruited agents to bomb a conference in Paris, but police apprehended them before the attack. The question now is whether European governments will hold Tehran accountable in ways that signal zero tolerance for state-sponsored terrorism. So far, no European government has cut diplomatic ties or halted business contracts.

Assadi apparently recruited a Belgian couple with Iranian roots to plant explosives at a 25,000-person gathering in Paris organized by an exiled Iranian opposition group. Belgian police found the couple with 500g of TATP explosive and a detonator.

Speakers at the Paris conference included former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The seriousness of the allegations prompted the Austrian government, to whom Assadi is accredited, to demand that Iran’s ambassador to Vienna “lift the immunity of the Iranian diplomat.” Soon after, the Netherlands announced that it had expelled two Iranian diplomats for undisclosed reasons.

Such pinpricks are unlikely to influence Iran’s calculus when it considers whether to order the next attack. In contrast, if European governments threatened to impose sanctions at a time when the Iranian economy is deeply vulnerable, Tehran might have to rethink its strategy.
Elon Musk Lashes Out at Human Rights Groups For Ridiculing His Two-State Solution Submarine (satire)
Elon Musk, desperate to find a use for his newly constructed submarine which Thailand’s divers declined to use for their daring rescue mission, has invited further ridicule for his suggestion that his invention could be used to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Some say that PR stunts and loads of money being thrown at expensive toys can’t solve everything”, the billionaire engineering entrepreneur said in a statement. “Well, I disagree. Just look at Donald Trump and his golf courses. OK, bad example. Anyway, the point still stands that my submarine is multi-purpose and can not only save boys trapped in a cave but can also further the prospects for a two-state solution in the Middle East. How you ask? Doesn’t matter. It’s an expensive toy, I’m a genius and a billionaire. It’s bound to work.”

However, numerous human rights groups have raised doubts about the practicality of a submarine in solving one of the most intractable geopolitical conflicts. “Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, all of these professionals who raise doubts about the practical application of my inventions, they’re all pedos.”, Musk snapped back in a tweet. He later apologised for the tweet, adding that he was “nonetheless in the right and these guys are 100% in the wrong, even if they’re not necessarily child molesters.”

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