Friday, October 19, 2018

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Mowing the lawn in Gaza
According to media reports, the cabinet decided Wednesday night to “change the rules of the game” in relation to Hamas, and particularly in relation to its riots along the border every Friday afternoon. What this means remains to be seen.

Perhaps the IDF will assert control over the security perimeter it controlled on the Gaza side of the border until the end of 2012. Israel abandoned its security perimeter, which was 300 meters wide, and permitted Gazans to farm along the border fence, (and so set the conditions for Hamas’s current border aggression) in the framework of cease-fire talks at the end of Operation Pillar of Defense – the mini-war it fought against Hamas in 2012. Such a move would certainly constitute a significant improvement over the current situation.

Perhaps Israel will carry out major air assaults that could destroy a significant number of Hamas’s missile and mortar stocks. Perhaps Israel could retaliate for Wednesday’s missile strike by destroying the homes of Hamas leaders.

Whatever it does, and whatever military moves Israel makes, the fact is that Israel cannot end the menace it faces from Hamas. It can and should weaken Hamas’s war-fighting capability and perhaps intimidate Hamas leaders into cooling their jets for a few months or a year or two. But the next round will come whenever Hamas decides to open one and Israel will be forced to respond again.

As for Judea and Samaria, Israel has no reason to be concerned about who is in charge and to what degree they are in charge in the Palestinian population centers so long as Israel retains overall security control of the area. We don’t have a dog in the fight. None of the possible successors to Mahmoud Abbas or to his kleptocratic PA are any better than he is. And none of them are significantly worse.

The main strategic takeaway from Gaza and from Judea and Samaria is that there is no solution, military or otherwise to the Palestinians’ never-ending war against the Jewish state.

All Israel can do is secure its control over what it already controls by, among other things, applying its law to Area C, and use military force to limit the Palestinians’ ability to attack its civilians and its territory.

The coming days and weeks may and should see a significant escalation in IDF offensive strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza. But no matter how successful they may or may not be, they shouldn’t be seen as anything more than a military version of mowing the lawn. And just as grass grows back, so Hamas will rebuild its strength. Israel’s challenge is not to uproot the grass, but to maintain the capability to keep it as short as possible.

Who knows? Maybe one day the Palestinians will get tired of fighting and there will be peace.
Dueling Op Eds in the Australian press
Colin Rubenstein: Jerusalem embassy is logical step in Australia-Israel relationship
However, an examination of trade data between the US and Arab and Muslim states since President Donald Trump’s announcement in December 2017 of his decision on this issue and subsequent move of the US embassy to Jerusalem shows no evidence that the announcement had any negative effect on US trade with most Arab and Muslim countries.

As federal Trade Minister Simon Birmingham argued regarding the resilience of Australia’s trade ties with Indonesia: you “don't … expect that two nations will always agree in terms of foreign policy positions as they relate to a third nation. But that shouldn't get in the way of a strong bilateral relationship".

Similarly, claims that there is something diplomatically improper about recognising Israel’s sovereignty in west Jerusalem or moving our embassy there has no historical basis. In 1966, 20 countries, including the Netherlands, located their embassies to Israel in Jerusalem. The Arab oil embargo of the 1970s and feeble defence by the US Carter administration against Palestinian pressure at the UN on this issue in 1980 eventually led to an embassy flight. Since 1995 it has been US law to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to Jerusalem, mandates that the Trump administration has boldly implemented.

Moreover, there is a strong case to be made that an embassy move may help unlock the peace-process deadlock. The US embassy move has been part of a range of measures under a strategy by the Trump administration to break through the current impasse by signalling to the Palestinian leadership that time is not on their side. Australia’s bipartisan policy of supporting a negotiated two-state peace would be best served by doing what we can to assist these efforts to encourage a return to direct negotiations.

It should be further recognised that the PM's reviews of both the Iran and Jerusalem issues will also be well received by our most important strategic ally in Washington – a critical national interest consideration at a time when Australian security and economic concerns vis-a-vis North Korea and China loom larger than ever.

Scott Morrison, who has reaffirmed his decision to evaluate the potential policy shifts in the face of misplaced criticisms and intense pressure, should be commended for his tenacity and his unwillingness to buckle under threats both foreign and domestic.

Colin Rubenstein is executive director of The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.
Izzat Abdulhadi: What Australian embassy move would really mean
In consideration of all this, one thing should be exceedingly clear: successive Israeli governments have not distinguished between East and West Jerusalem. Why then, do the supporters of unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital insist that such a move would be confined to only the western part of the city when Israel itself has and continues to ignore this crucial distinction?

Recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would mean, in practical terms, legitimising the de facto realities (which are clear for all to see), and affirming Israel’s ultimate vision for the city. If Israel considers Jerusalem one and the same city, then it will similarly consider Australia’s recognition and embassy relocation as affirmation of this, regardless of whether our diplomatic presence would be physically located in the west.

Morrison is right on one point, though. His assertion that “you don’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results” is sage advice. If Australia, as a so-called “middle power”, seeks to use what leverage it has to push both parties closer to a two-state peace – and to prevent the toxic and unsustainable status quo from continuing unaddressed – then the most sensible course of action would be to restore legitimacy to the weaker and exploited side by recognising a Palestinian state on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. And to not embolden Netanyahu’s government in ignoring legitimate Palestinian claims in its pursuit of an exclusive and “greater Israel”.

Izzat Abdulhadi is Palestinian envoy to Canberra. Co-written with Cam Brady.

Hamas Makes It Clear It Has No Interest in Peace with Israel
Each Sunday morning at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invites the press for a brief photo-op, when he also makes clear the issue and message that he intends to dominate the news cycle that week.

Two days ago, Netanyahu left no doubt that Israel will move militarily, and soon, against Hamas should current hostilities continue.

For the past seven months, Hamas has organized riots at the border with Israel on Fridays after mosque prayers. Many among the international press have accepted the Hamas rendering of these gatherings as being “peaceful,” even though photos and video clearly show an overwhelmingly young, male crowd, many of whom are armed with Molotov cocktails, knives and grenades. They participate in what Hamas calls “The March of Return,” in which they aspire to overrun the Israeli border, murder and maim civilians, and then carry on to liberate all of Palestine and, especially, Jerusalem, from Israeli rule. There is nothing peaceful about these gatherings.

Hamas and its army of rioters, some weeks numbering more than 10,000, does not pose an existential challenge to Israel, but any one of these knife-wielding warriors absolutely does so to Israelis living in small farming communities near the border.

Compounding the immediate dangers posed by the riots is the Hamas launching of arson weapons: kites attached to oil-soaked rags and other incendiary devices that have directly caused the incineration of more than 4,000 hectares of Israeli farmland and nature preserve.

In recent weeks, encouraged by Hamas leadership, the riots have become night-time occurrences, every night, presenting greater challenges for Israeli troops to detect border breaches and other violent activity.

Hamas justifies the violence as a direct result of the appalling humanitarian conditions of the Gaza population, for which it lays sole blame on the Israeli “blockade” of the Strip.

Prior to Hamas assuming power in the coastal enclave in 2007 there was virtually no restriction on goods entering Gaza from Israel. With the entrenchment of a virulently hostile “government,” things changed.
10,000 rioters at Gaza border, in tense IDF-Hamas standoff
Some 10,000 Palestinians rioted along Gaza’s southern border Friday as the IDF increased its forces there to halt violent protests and the launching of incendiary devices into Israel.

Tanks have also been positioned by the barrier as part of anticipated ramped-up IDF response to any violence.

In an unusual move, Hamas asked protestors to stay away from the barrier, according to Israeli media reports.

In the afternoon, rioters gathered at several points along the barrier. They burned tires and hurled stones at the troops. The IDF responded with riot dispersal means. There were three attempted infiltrations, in which Palestinians crossed into Israel and then back to Gaza, an IDF spokesperson said.

An IDF aircraft attacked a terrorist squad that launched incendiary devices into Israel.

The IDF noticed that in several places Hamas forces are acting to restrain protesters and to keep them away from the security fence.

The IDF also estimates the number of people taking part in the protests to be roughly one half of the number who took part in the protests on October 12.

On Friday morning, Israel’s police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld tweeted a photo of an officer diffusing a Palestinian launched incendiary device with the following text.

Terror leader tells Gazans to keep border protests nonviolent after flareup
One of the main organizers of the “March of Return” protests along the Gaza border called on participants on Thursday night to behave nonviolently in the demonstration planned for the next day, following a flareup between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group that threatened to spark all-out war.

“The most important message tomorrow is the masses gathering in a peaceful manner,” Khaled al-Batsh, a senior leader of the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group and an organizer of the march, wrote in a statement.

“The March of Return is continuing until its goals are attained, with an emphasis on the importance of holding marches that will be non-violent and led by the people,” he wrote.

Al-Batsh also called on participants not to give Israeli snipers a reason to open fire at them.

Daoud Shehab, another member of the organizing committee of the marches, said officials were encouraging protesters to stay away from the border fence. But he said he was not sure to what extent they would succeed in “restraining the public mood.”

“There will be attempts to prevent them from approaching the fence. There might be a reduction of [incendiary] balloons,” he said. “We hope there will be no human losses tomorrow. We are giving a chance to the Egyptian efforts.”

According to reports, Egypt had warned Hamas that renewed protests would bring a heavy Israeli response.

In his statement, al-Batsh also thanked the Egyptian military intelligence delegation for its work bringing about a limited ceasefire with Israel on Wednesday and Thursday.
Israel, Gaza brace for Friday protests as region lurches between war and calm
Israel and Gaza were girding for a possible return to violence Friday, amid fears that renewed border protests could push the sides back to the brink of war after a brief violent flareup days earlier.

Israeli troops were readying for weekly border protests Friday that have turned deadly in the past, with the day being seen as a key test in whether the sides can continue negotiating a long-term ceasefire deal as part of an Egyptian-led effort.

Israel has demanded an end to the weekly confrontations, as well as the frequent launches of incendiary balloons into Israeli territory.

Daoud Shehab, a member of the organizing committee of the marches, said officials were encouraging protesters to stay away from the border fence. But he said he was not sure to what extent they would succeed in “restraining the public mood.”

“There will be attempts to prevent them from approaching the fence. There might be a reduction of balloons,” he said. “We hope there will be no human losses tomorrow. We are giving a chance to the Egyptian efforts.”

According to reports, Egypt had warned Hamas that renewed protests would bring a heavy Israeli response.
Jason Greenblatt: Trump Mideast peace plan ‘path to change’ for Gaza
We share the desire to see a thriving economy in Gaza with jobs for all those who strive to work. We understand that war will not bring a better life to Palestinians in Gaza; in fact it will create more misery, suffering, and loss for all.

Hamas chooses terrorism, rationalizing violence as a means of achieving their political objectives. But this has no chance of succeeding. Hamas will never defeat Israel, and each rocket, flaming swastika-displaying kite, and terror tunnel brings Gaza closer to destruction, not to prosperity.

The old tactic of threatening violence to elicit international aid has failed. The United States cares for the Palestinian people and wants to help, but we will not empower a regime that launches attacks on Israeli kindergartens. The threats and violent behavior of Hamas prevent the international community from being able to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Hamas must realize that the world has passed it by. The civilized world does not accept violence and terrorism as a legitimate form of resistance. Hamas must renounce these tactics and admit that Gaza needs help it cannot provide.

If Hamas wants Gaza to be like Singapore or Dubai, it needs to embrace change, to embrace democracy, pluralism, cooperation, human rights, and freedom. These do not exist in Gaza.

We and others around the world have made it clear what Hamas' next steps must be: renounce violence, recognize Israel, and accept previous agreements. Commit to peace and the improvement of Palestinian lives.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar: The PLO-Hamas divorce is final
This week the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot informed us that Jason Greenblatt, President Trump's special representative for international negotiations, said that the Americans intend to reconnect the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority. If Greenblatt actually did say that, it reveals an important component of the American Peace Plan whose preparation has been going on for over a year

Whoever included reconnecting Gaza to Judea and Samaria in the as-yet-unannounced plan must have been really impressed by the pronouncements of various Palestinian spokesmen, because all of them – to the very last one, whether PA or Hamas – keep harping on the need to reunite the two "parts of the homeland." Israel prefers having the two continue as separate entities hostile to one another. Polls taken in the PA show unequivocally that the Arab street, whether in Gaza or Judea and Samaria, wants the unification which fell apart when Hamas took over Gaza in June 2007.

The Americans hearkened to the Palestinian consensus they observed on this issue and concluded that both the Palestinian leadership and public are all for it, leading them to make it part of their plan, in the hope that the Palestinians would then accept the plan which all – the PLO, Hamas, Fronts and organizations – have refused pointblank even to consider. Greenblatt also said that "Netanyahu will have to make difficult decisions," meaning that Israel will have to accept the reuniting of Gaza with Judea and Samaria.

So if all the Palestinians want reunification and the Americans agree, where does the problem lie? Why don't the Palestinians agree to this part of the peace plan, at the very least? The answer is found in a very important aspect of Middle Eastern culture, one which has no counterpart in Western culture – the varied nuances of speech.

Western culture takes what is said at face value, for example: If I say that I agree with the person I am talking to, it means that I have listened to what he says, thought about it and have decided to accept his opinion. The West has faith in the sincerity of the person talking, believes what he says and accepts it as is. After all, there is free speech and anyone can say what is on their mind, so that when someone says something, it is what he really thinks and feels.
Israeli UN Ambassador: Palestinian Authority Leader Abbas Has ‘Done Nothing but Inspire Rampant Culture of Hate’
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon excoriated Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in a speech to the Security Council on Thursday.

Addressing the body’s regular meeting on the Middle East, Danon presented an official Palestinian Authority textbook that Abbas had authorized for the current school year.

“This textbook lists a number of so-called heroes — like Dalal Mughrabi — the terrorist responsible for a massacre that killed 38 people,” Danon declared. “This is Abbas’ culture of hate — right in front of you. This is the reason Palestinian schoolchildren learn that it is better to kill a Jew than keep a job.”

Danon commented that in “13 years of rule, Abbas has done nothing but inspire this rampant culture of hate…He preaches tolerance in English and terror in Arabic…He has led his people down a path of self-destruction and misery, stealing their chance at a good life. He is the obstacle to peace. If you hope to see a better future between Israelis and Palestinians, you will join us in indicting Abbas.”

Danon also highlighted the PA’s policy of paying salaries and other benefits to terrorists and their families — a practice that resulted in new legislation in the US this year that conditioned the continuation of direct aid to the PA on a verifiable end to what critics have dubbed a “pay-to-slay” policy.

“In this year’s budget, Abbas has allocated $355 million dollars toward the pay-to-slay policy,” Danon said. “That’s 7 percent of the total PA budget.”

Concluded Danon: “Nearly half of every dollar [the international community] gives to the Palestinian people to build roads and schools is put in the pocket of those who murder Jews.”
Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, before the UN Security Council, Oct 18
Israel's Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, reveals to the international media that Palestinian Authority set aside money for terrorist payments in its 2018 budget

The Problem With B’Tselem
The UN Security Council heard testimony on Thursday about the Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians from B’Tselem. The group, which dubs itself “The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories,” was there at the behest of the country of Bolivia. B’Tselem’s leader, Hagai El-Ad, sat alongside the representative of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and gave a speech that differed little from those routinely delivered at the United Nations by Arab and Muslim countries dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

El-Ad’s speech was denounced by Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both of whom made it clear that they thought it appalling for an Israeli group to not merely take sides against their own country, but to do so in a forum that is well-known for its prejudice against the Jewish state.

Neither, however, disputed B’Tselem’s right to speak freely, whether in Israel or in New York. Nor should any friend of Israel. Despite arguments that Israeli democracy is under attack, it’s actually alive and well. The problem for most of those who criticize Israel in this vein is that Israelis keep electing Netanyahu and supporting policies that the left abhors.

The interesting point about El-Ad’s speech is why people who purport to care about Israel — and support its right to exist and defend itself — continue to fund an organization that sides with those seeking its destruction and opposing its right of self-defense against deadly terrorist threats. That’s a question that deserves an answer from not just the many European nations and NGOs that give it and similar groups money, but also American Jews who, whether through grants from the New Israel Fund or directly, subsidize activities that the vast majority of Israelis consider not merely obnoxious, but bordering on treason.
Former UN ambassador: B'Tselem at the UN 'a stab in the back'
Dr. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations, on Friday referred to the appearance of the head of B’Tselem, Haggai El-Ad, before the United Nations Security Council, calling it “a stab in the back.”

In an interview with Reshet Bet, Dr. Gold emphasized that El-Ad's behavior is not acceptable in democratic politics and that El-Ad has many options inside and outside Israel to criticize Israel - but he cannot do so on the Security Council stage and on the invitation of a country like Bolivia, which is not a good example of democracy in the world.

"There is nothing better for Israel's enemies than to quote an Israeli who attacks Israel," says Dr. Gold, "especially if it appears in official UN documents. That is exactly what our enemies are looking for.”

The former ambassador to the United Nations said that a trip to New York does not necessarily help the peace process, and that it is unacceptable when the director general of B'Tselem tries to put pressure on Israel after he fails to get elected and influence Israel's official policy.
Melanie Phillips: The story behind the story of Jamal Khashoggi
In any event, this affair has once again revealed the deep hypocrisy of the West. Many regimes with which it regularly deals have a dreadful record in jailing, torturing and murdering dissidents. No one gives this a second thought. The only reason the fate of Jamal Khashoggi has caused such a furor is that he wrote for The Washington Post and was part of the liberal media circuit that tolerates Islamists and disdains their opponents.

Khashoggi seems to have embodied the contradiction so fatally misunderstood by the West over the “Arab Spring”: that opposition to Arab authoritarianism does not necessarily mean an attachment to democracy and human rights. It can mean instead the desire for the freedom to destroy freedom through radical Islam.

This is surely the reason why, despite this debacle, the United States will continue to support MBS. It’s not because Jared Kushner is his friend, or President Donald Trump loves despots, or the West has always sucked up to Saudi Arabia. It is because the West faces two giant threats in both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime. And to aid it in that great civilizational fight, the West needs Saudi Arabia.

That’s why there’s now a tacit alliance between America, Saudi Arabia and Israel against Iran, Turkey and Qatar. This must not be undermined by the Khashoggi debacle. However flawed MBS may be, does the West really want the return to power of Saudi Islamists determined once again to export Wahhabism throughout the world?

Maybe it might even give the United States the leverage with which to force MBS to do what he has so far signally failed to achieve—to bring Saudi Arabia out of the darkness and end one of the most backward and repressive regimes in the world.
US, Israel, Colombia Reveal Maduro Accomplice Is Connected to Hezbollah
Investigations from the United States, Israel and Colombia have linked, through several financial transactions, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s alleged accomplice Alex Saab to Hezbollah.

Saab is seen as a beneficiary under the Venezuelan state program called the Local Supply and Production Committees, which administers basic foods to citizens at a subsidized costs through foreign exchanges for the acquisition of food items from abroad.

Saab was connected to the food distribution by the contracts that the Grand Limited Group company signed with Maduro.

These transactions traced back to Saab “originated with the Central Bank of Venezuela and ended up in Asia after passing through tax havens,” reported The PanAm Post. Those transactions then allegedly went to Hezbollah.

Although Colombia is investigating Saab, a native of the country, for money laundering, both the US and Israel are seeking to capture him, according to The PanAm Post.

Meanwhile, Venezuela recently forbid journalists from publishing about Saab’s connections to Hezbollah.
Report: Russia upgrades S-300 missile system in Syria
Moscow has transferred three advanced S-300PM anti-aircraft batteries to the Syrian regime, Russian news outlet Izvestia reported on Friday.

The S-300PM is more sophisticated than the S-300 system transferred to Syria earlier this month and was delivered together with mobile radar stations, the report said.

The Russian Defense Ministry downplayed concerns that the Iranians would use the advanced systems, claiming they lack the technical expertise to operate a system such as the S-300PM.

According to the ministry, only the Russian military has experts with the know-how to operate the sophisticated system and they intend to strictly compartmentalize the transfer of technical knowledge to the Syrians.

"The Iranians have no ability to use the system. The anti-aircraft systems we transferred to [the Syrians] in the past are compatible for export and the needs of Iran and are completely different. The systems we are transferring to the Syrians were built for the Russian military and it alone has the know-how and capability to operate them at the moment," the ministry told Izvestia in a statement.
Iranian Official Hossein Amir-Abdollahian Threatens to "Raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the Ground"
Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who is the special assistant to the speaker of the Iranian parliament and a former Iranian deputy foreign minister, said that if Israel "carries out even the smallest mistake" against Iran, Iran would raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground. He accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of employing childish and bombastic diplomatic tactics at the U.N. General Assembly and on TV, and said that Netanyahu and Israel have reached the end of the road. Abdollahian added that the Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, will never unite, and that Iran, Iraq, and Turkey are the only reason the Arab nations can maintain their security. Abdollahian called on the Arab countries to stop playing Trump "the lunatic" and Netanyahu's games, and invited them to partner with "their real friends, like Iran." Abdollahian's remarks aired on Russia Today TV on October 18, 2018.

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