Friday, December 21, 2018

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Trump pushes past Obamas legacies
On its face, President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is pulling US forces out of Syria seems like an unfriendly act towards Israel. But it isn’t. Trump’s decision to pull US forces out of Syria is of a piece with outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley’s address on Tuesday to the UN Security Council regarding the Palestinian conflict with Israel. Both statements reflect the depths of the administration’s friendship and support for the State of Israel.

In Haley’s speech at the Security Council’s monthly meeting concerning the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel she decried the “UN’s obsession with Israel.”

Haley noted that the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has failed for 50 years. And she said that it is time to try something new. She enjoined her “Arab and European brothers and sisters” to move beyond the “failed talking points” that formed the basis of the failed peace plans of the past half century.

Haley’s address intuited a key point that has never been raised by a senior US official. The “peace process” which has been ongoing between Israel and the PLO since 1993 is antithetical to actual peace.

Consequently, any effort to achieve actual peace between Israel and the Palestinians requires the abandonment of the “peace process.”

Haley made this clear by acknowledging that Israel has far less to gain and much more to lose from the peace process than the Palestinians do.

In her words, “Israel wants a peace agreement, but it doesn’t need one.”

“Both sides would benefit tremendously from a peace agreement. But the Palestinians would benefit more and the Israelis would risk more,” Haley said.

She added that if efforts to achieve peace were to fail, “Israel would continue to grow and prosper.”

The Palestinians on the other hand, “would continue to suffer.”

Haley’s insight puts paid the popular claim that Israel’s survival depends on the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and northern, eastern and southern Jerusalem. For years, pro-Palestinian forces have insisted that their demand that Israel surrender its capital and its heartland to the PLO is actually a pro-Israel position. Indeed, they say, anyone who rejects it is anti-Israel.
Caroline Glick: Pros and Cons of the U.S. Pullout from Syria
One of the consequences of the U.S. pullout from Syria is that Trump will finally abandon Obama’s pro-Iranian policy in Syria. True, he isn’t replacing it with an anti-Iranian policy in Syria. But all the same, by abandoning a pro-Iranian policy in Syria, the move will lend some coherence to the U.S.’s overall strategy for countering Iran’s growing power and influence in the region and worldwide.

Israel’s Hadashot news channel reported on Wednesday that along with Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria, U.S. officials told Israel that if Hezbollah gains a more powerful position in the next Lebanese government, the U.S. will end its support for the LAF and agree to Israel’s request that it place an economic embargo on the Lebanese government.

Hezbollah announced its intention to take control over Lebanon’s health ministry shortly after the elections in May. The ministry has one of the largest budgets and plenty of disposable cash. The U.S. had already warned Lebanese President Michel Aoun that it would end its support for Lebanon if Hezbollah receives the health ministry.

On Thursday, it was reported that Hezbollah loyalist Jamil Jabak will serve as Lebanese health minister in the next government. If the U.S. follows through on its promise to end its support for Lebanon as a result, then the Trump administration will entirely abandon Obama’s pro-Iranian policy in the Middle East.

From Israel’s perspective, continued U.S. support for the Hezbollah-controlled Lebanese government and military has been a major concern. In 2006, due the Bush administration’s support for the Lebanese government, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prohibited Israel from targeting Lebanese infrastructures and other resources critical to Hezbollah’s war effort. If the U.S. is true to its word and aligns its policy towards Lebanon with Israel, the move will vastly expand Israel’s ability to decisively defeat Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army in Lebanon, in the next war.

Commenting Thursday morning about Trump’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We will continue to act in Syria to prevent Iran’s effort to militarily entrench itself against us. We are not reducing our efforts, we will increase our efforts.”

Netanyahu added, “I know that we do so with the full support and backing of the U.S.”

Time will tell whether Trump’s decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria was a prelude to disaster for U.S. allies and a boon for America’s enemies, or whether the opposite is the case. But what is clear enough is that move is not entirely negative.
If You Like the Peace Process, Please Don’t Read Polls of Palestinians
There is one thing that Palestine obsessives never seem obsessed with: the opinions of Palestinians. There's no mystery here—asking what Palestinians believe exposes a fundamental problem with the liberal approach to the peace process, which is based on the belief that Palestinians are willing to live peacefully beside Israel.

If such a mentality prevailed, it would be easily revealed through polling. The Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research conducts a quarterly poll of Palestinians that is largely focused on internal political questions but also surveys views toward Israel and peace. That one never reads media coverage of this poll suggests that its findings are reliably inconvenient. The latest poll is out. What does it say?

  • If a new presidential election was held today between the current president, Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas, and the leader of the terrorist group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas would beat Fatah 49 percent to 42 percent.
  • 88 per cent said that Palestinians who sell property to Jews are traitors. 64 percent said the punishment for selling property to Jews should be the death penalty.
  • Palestinians oppose the concept of a two-state solution, 55 percent to 43 percent.
  • "A large minority of 44 percent thinks that armed struggle is the most effective means of establishing a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel while 28 percent believe that negotiation is the most effective means and 23 percent think non-violent resistance is the most effective."
  • In lieu of negotiations, "54 percent support a return to an armed intifada," i.e. terrorism.
  • 50 percent of Palestinians reject in principle the holding of negotiations in order to resolve the conflict.
There exists an entire class of people in Washington and other western capitals who have devoted their careers to promoting Palestinian statehood, a quest now entering its fourth fruitless decade. Such people—many with good intentions—regularly explore every aspect of this issue in excruciating detail, every aspect except the one that matters the most: Palestinian public opinion.



Barry Shaw: The Palestinian pioneering spirit
When a nation or culture is judged on its success or failure as a nation, one is required to evaluate what unique and positive developments it gave to its people and to mankind.

With this in mind, it’s worth examining what has been the exceptional prowess we associate with the word "Palestinians."

In a brief history, we remind ourselves that a nation or state called Palestine never existed. The name was an insult, a curse to obliterate the vanquished nation of Israel two millennia ago by the Romans. Today, we have come full circle with Arabs using the term Palestine as an insult and a curse as they attempt to obliterate the modern State of Israel.

A century ago, those described a carrying the term “Palestinians” were mainly the Jews who inhabited the district of Greater Syria, a barren and barely inhabited area of the fading Ottoman Empire, an empire that died after Turkey foolishly allied itself with Germany in World War One and was defeated by the British-led Expeditionary army aided by a volunteer force of Palestinian Jews who fought and died to liberate the land.

The Arabs, during and after the Great War, disliked being called "Palestinian." In 1937, the Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, told the United Nations Peel Commission on Palestine that “there is no such country as Palestine. Palestine is a term the Zionists invented. Palestine in alien to us. Our land was for hundreds of years a part of Syria.”

This was confirmed decades later in 1970 by no less than Yasser Arafat who admitted in an interview with Italian journalist, Arianna Palazzi, that, “Palestine is nothing but a drop in an enormous ocean…What you call Jordan is nothing more than Palestine.”
Daniel Pipes: If Trump Wants to Divide Jerusalem into Three
Ben Caspit in Al-Monitor has leaked details of the Trump administration's "ultimate deal" to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Citing an anonymous "senior diplomatic source," he writes that the Trump plan

includes a clear partition of Jerusalem into three sections, and "it is not about a Palestinian capital in Abu-Dis (a Palestinian village in the Jerusalem governance area) but in significant sections of East Jerusalem." According to the source, there will be two capitals in Jerusalem: the Israeli capital in West Jerusalem including control over the Western Wall and Jewish neighborhoods in the city's eastern sections, and the capital of Palestine in the eastern section. In addition will be a third region, within the Holy Basin, to be under international control.

Well, "interesting if true" should be one's first response, as prior leaks that have proved to be inaccurate. But let's suppose that this anonymous senior diplomatic source knows of what he speaks. Then what?

– Any area "under international control" in the Arab-Israeli theater is a recipe for trouble. Think Lebanon, the Golan Heights, and Hebron.
– The "international control" idea harks back to the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine's ill-fated but enduring notion of Jerusalem as a Corpus separatum. In other words, it's anachronistic.
– The Trump plan wrestles away sovereign areas of Israel and hands them to the Palestinians.
– Doing so rewards the Palestinians despite their fulfilling basically none of their prior commitments dating back to the Oslo Accords of 1993. In other words, it encourages further Palestinian bad behavior.
– Of course, making eastern Jerusalem into "the capital of Palestine" implies the U.S. government recognizes the state of "Palestine." Trump's remarks over the past year likely imply he will demand the Government of Israel recognize it too, setting off a huge debate in Israel.
– Presumably, that "Palestine" will include parts of Jerusalem, most of the West Bank, and all of Gaza. Where the borders should run in the first two areas will drive one massive argument. A second will follow when the Palestinians inevitably decide, actually, that "Palestine" includes all of Israel too.
– As Caspit points out, a proposal to divide Israel into three will roil Israeli politics and harm Netanyahu, who no longer can satisfy both his nationalist base and the U.S. president.
Is ‘East Jerusalem’ Palestinian Territory?
It is an unfortunate commentary on the politicization of both courts that meritless PLO claims have gone as far as they have in the ICJ and ICC. In 2011, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its alter ego Palestinian Authority, announced on the pages of the New York Times a plan to pursue recognition of a Palestinian state as part of a strategy of “internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter.” Since then, the PLO, calling itself the “State of Palestine,” has ginned up legal proceedings in legal fora suspected of sharing its bias against the Jewish state. The ICC and ICJ bring disrepute upon themselves by allowing themselves to be used as weapons by the PLO in its conflict against Israel.

But it is far more damning that international legal observers have remained silent about the irreconcilable contradiction between the PLO’s arguments to the two courts.

The PLO’s claim that all of Jerusalem is a “corpus separatum” is central to its ICJ case. If the PLO were to concede the legal possibility that a state like Israel could claim sovereignty over at least part of Jerusalem, it could no longer deny the legitimacy of locating embassies in Jerusalem, or of countries like Australia and Russia recognizing “West Jerusalem” as Israel’s capital. The PLO would, at best, have to argue about the embassy’s location within Jerusalem—a concession the PLO is unwilling to make.

Likewise, the PLO’s claim to a “state of Palestine’s” sovereignty in “East Jerusalem” is central to its ICC case. The ICC is not a court of unlimited jurisdiction. It can only consider cases concerning conduct within the territory of states that have accepted the court’s jurisdiction. If “East Jerusalem” is part of a corpus separatum, it is not territory of a “state of Palestine,” and the ICC lacks jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute any alleged crimes committed there—a concession the PLO is unwilling to make when it seeks to criminalize Jewish residents of “East Jerusalem” as “illegal settlers.”

It is simply not possible for all of Jerusalem to be a corpus separatum subject to no territorial sovereignty, and at the same time for more than half of Jerusalem to be sovereign territory of a state called Palestine.

Logic, it seems, is not the currency of a successful legal strategy in international courts. The politicized ICJ may bow to Palestinian demands to call Jerusalem a “corpus separatum” even as the politicized ICC bows to Palestinian demands to recognize “East Jerusalem” as “occupied Palestinian territory.” Experience teaches that Palestinian claims need not persuade or even be logically consistent to succeed, as long as they aim at disadvantaging Israel. The tragedy is that the ICC and ICJ are now joining hands in helping the PLO make a mockery of international law.
Mattis and Israel – Not a Love Story
In July 2013, after serving two years as the chief of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) under President Barack Obama, retired Marine Corps General James Mattis told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the situation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was “unsustainable.”

“It’s got to be directly addressed,” Mattis argued. “We have got to find a way to make the two-state solution that Democrat and Republican administrations have supported. We’ve got to get there, and the chances for it are starting to ebb because of the settlements, and where they’re at, they’re going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.”

Which is to suggest that while the world is in shock over President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defense’s decision to quit, it is possible that his resignation removed from the discussion table a staunch supporter of what UN Ambassador Nikki Haley (also on the way out) described as a coming proposed peace deal which Israelis are not going to like. At least not all of it.

Back in 2013, Mattis told CNN: “If I’m in Jerusalem and I put 500 Jewish settlers out here to the east and there’s 10,000 Arab settlers in here, if we draw the border to include them, either it ceases to be a Jewish state or you say the Arabs don’t get to vote — apartheid.”

In other words, when it came to the peace process, there was no daylight between the views of General Mattis and say, Peace Now, or Meretz, or, come to think of it, President Vladimir Putin.

That is not to say that Mattis was not an admirable leader of US forces in both Syria and Afghanistan, and that he was not absolutely on the money when he wrote President Trump: “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” meaning he believed Trump was not doing any of that; and, “We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances,” meaning Mattis didn’t think Trump was doing that either, hence his world-shocking resignation.
Cruz introduces bill to impose sanctions on Palestinian officials for rewarding terrorism
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced legislation on Thursday to impose sanctions on Palestinian officials who reward terrorists.

The End Palestinian Terror Salaries Act would, within 90 days of being enacted, impose financial penalties on Palestinian officials who financially reward Palestinian terrorists and their families.
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“Palestinian terrorists have wounded or killed more than a dozen Israelis over the last few months, including 45-year old American-Israeli Ari Fuld,” said Cruz. “The Palestinian government continues to provide hundreds of millions of dollars each year rewarding such terrorists and their families, providing an incentive for ever more violence.”

Fuld was stabbed to death in September by an Arab teenager in the West Bank. Despite being severely wounded, he got up and ran after the attacker, shooting him as other Israelis shopping in the area drew arms and rushed to the scene.

Fuld was soon pronounced dead at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem after doctors unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate him.

The terrorist was transported to a hospital and is currently behind bars. His family is scheduled to receive a monthly stipend of $392 from the Palestinian Authority over the next few years.

“It’s past time for Congress to impose direct costs on the Palestinian officials who manage the programs that provide these rewards,” said Cruz.
Jordanian man indicted for attempted murder, terrorism in Eilat assault
A Jordanian man who was employed in the southern port city of Eilat was indicted Friday over the assault of two Israeli men several weeks ago, in what prosecutors are saying was a terror attack.

According to the indictment, which was filed at the Beersheba District Court, Taher Halef had been planning to attack Israelis for over a decade. He is accused of several counts of attempted murder, as well as a terrorist conspiracy.

Two Israelis, who were working as divers at the port, were seriously wounded when Halef attacked them with a hammer on November 30, police said at the time. In addition to the injured Israelis, who were brought to the city’s Yoseftal Hospital with head injuries, a second Jordanian worker who tried to restrain the attacker was lightly hurt.

Halef was arrested following the incident, and police said several hours later that an initial probe had raised suspicions that the attack was nationalistically motivated.

The suspect began working in Israel days before the attack after receiving a daily work permit from the Population and Immigration Authority. Friday’s indictment said he had succeeded in passing the screening process despite being flagged as a potential terrorist by the Jordanian manpower agency that first interviewed him.

Israel in 2014 granted permission for 1,500 Jordanians to work in Eilat, the Red Sea resort town located directly across the border from the Jordanian city of Aqaba. The countries signed a peace treaty in 1994, but relations have been tumultuous due to occasional violent incidents and political disagreements.

The indictment said that Halef, who identifies as Palestinian, received help from cousins in Jordan on previous occasions that he sought to carry out attacks.

Allegedly, his first terrorist plot was in 2008, when, after seeing television footage of the first war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Operation Cast Lead, he planned to carry out a shooting attack at the border. The indictment said that Halef’s father foiled his son’s plan by blocking the road while he was already en route to the border, having stolen the father’s gun.
Israel prepares for major influx of French Jewish immigrants
Israel is putting together a plan to encourage tens of thousands of French Jews to immigrate to Israel and absorb them once they arrive, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett announced Wednesday.

Many French Jews have become skittish about their future in the country following a series of Islamic extremist terror attacks in recent years which targeted the Jewish community as well as the wider French population, and rising anti-Semitism.

“Every Jew in France should know, as should Jews anywhere in the world, the State of Israel awaits them with open arms,” Bennett said in statement.

Bennett, who is also education minister will submit the plan to the cabinet at its upcoming weekly meeting Sunday, together with National Economic Council Chairman Avi Simhon,

“Immigration to Israel does not end on the day of arrival, that is just the beginning,” Bennett continued. “The State should assist in absorption in all areas – language, education, housing, employment and more. We will do it.”

The proposed team, lead by Bennett and Simhon, will include representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, the Ministry of Economy, and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.

The team will put together an immigration program to be presented within to 60 days to the Ministerial Committee for Absorption and Immigration, which is chaired by Netanyahu, who currently also serves as minister of absorption, and includes Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, NEC chair Avi Simhon and the prime minister’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz.

At last Sunday’s cabinet meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Bennett to team up with the Prime Minister’s Office National Economic Council and draft an umbrella framework for government-wide action focused on increasing aliyah, or Jewish immigration, from France.
Video shows military blowing up Hezbollah cross-border tunnel
The Israeli military on Friday morning released video footage of soldiers blowing up a cross-border tunnel that it said was dug by Hezbollah near the Israeli community of Zarit, along the Lebanese border.

In the video, filmed Thursday night, an Israel Defense Forces officer can be seen speaking into a megaphone and urging resident of the Lebanese town of Ramyeh on the other side of the border to clear the area for their own safety.

“We are about to blow up this tunnel built by Hezbollah,” the unnamed officer can be heard saying. “We ask you to evacuate the area immediately. You are in danger.”

The video then cuts to another officer, 300th Regional Brigade Commander Col. Roey Levi, ordering the demolition of the tunnel and then shows a series of explosions.

The army’s efforts to find and destroy the Iran-backed terror group’s tunnels have taken place on the Israeli side of the border, though often quite close to Lebanon.

“The neutralization and destruction phase of Hezbollah’s cross-border attack tunnels begun yesterday and is led by the combat engineering units of the Northern Command and the Yahalom (Special Combat Engineering) Unit,” the military said in a statement.
The case against Hezbollah: Watch how Amb Danny Danon exposes Hezbollah’s plans to attack Israel
Dec 20, 2018 | Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, addressed the Security Council and called on UNIFIL to enforce its mandate and take action against Hezbollah. Speaking at a special session focused on Hezbollah's terror tunnels, Ambassador Danon exposed the terror organization's operations, and called on the UNSC to condemn Hezbollah before it precipitates a war. “Today is that day when a future war could have been prevented, with this body acting as it is charged to do,” Ambassador Danon said. "If Hezbollah has the arrogance to attack Israel, we will bury it in the rubble of Lebanon"






MEMRI: Retired Lebanese General: The Tunnels Exposed On Israeli Border Were Dug Before 2006; All The Sides Knew Of Their Existence Even Then
An article in the Lebanese Al-Nahar daily, known for its opposition to Hizbullah, claims that Israel's main objective in exposing Hizbullah's tunnels at this time is to broaden the mission and authorities of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and transform it into a force serving Israel. The article quotes retired Lebanese army general 'Abd Al-Rahman Chehaitli, who until 2013 served as the Lebanese army's representative to the regular meetings with UNIFIL and the IDF. He said that the tunnels Israel exposed recently had been dug before 2006 as part of defenses against Israel, and that Israel and UNIFIL were aware of their existence even then.

It should be noted that, to date, no official Lebanese source has admitted the existence of the tunnels on the Lebanon-Israel border.

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

"This is not the first time Israel has acted, with Western help, to redefine the mission of UNIFIL, the UN force in South Lebanon. [The exposure of] the tunnels is another attempt by Israel... to saddle Lebanon with the consequences of what it calls the exposure of 'attack' tunnels that cross the Blue Line.[2]But what is the truth regarding this matter, and did UNIFIL know about it?

"Retired general 'Abd Al-Rahman Chehaitli told Al-Nahar that 'these tunnels are old, and UNIFIL knew about their existence.' He explained: '[Even] before [Israel's] aggression in July 2006, when the Lebanese security force[3] was deployed in South [Lebanon] after its liberation [i.e., Israel's withdrawal] in 2000, the commander of UNIFIL [at the time], Alain Pellegrini, raised the issue of the tunnels on the Israel-Lebanon border out of concern for [the safety of] the UNIFIL troops, and called to take measures [regarding them]. Bear in mind that the Lebanese army was not deployed [in the south] at that time, as it was after the July [2006] aggression.'

"Chehaitli, who represented Lebanon in the tripartite [Israel-Lebanon-UN] committee between 2005 and 2013, added: 'Israel never raised the issue [again], and neither did UNIFIL. Everyone knew there were some tunnels, but nobody discussed them, even though they were no secret.'
No One Injured in Latest Shooting Incident Near Ofra
In the second incident of its kind in a week, shots were fired at a hitchhiking post near the West Bank settlement of Ofra. Several Israelis were present at the site, though no one was wounded.

The shots reportedly came from the direction of the nearby Palestinian village of Ein Yabrud and IDF forces at the scene returned fire.

Due to the recent spike in terror attacks in the West Bank, emergency services and security forces were on alert and arrived at the scene in large numbers almost immediately.

Two witnesses to the incident, Omer Mozes and Aviad Ochion, told Mako, “We were standing at the hitchhiking post by the exit from Ofra in the direction of Neve Tzuf, and then shots began from the village. The minute we heard the shots, we laid on the ground behind the soldiers until there started to be a lot of shots, then more soldiers arrived who told us to follow them.”
Israel to demolish homes of Ofra and Givat Assaf terrorists
IDF forces, together with the Shin Bet and the Border Police, mapped out the homes of the two Barghouti brothers for demolition late Thursday night, according to an IDF spokesperson.

The IDF carried out an operation late Friday night in the village of Kobar, home of the two Barghouti brothers who carried out recent terrorist attacks in Ofra and Givat Assaf.

Earlier on Thursday night, there was a report of shooting at the Ofra Junction from the nearby village of Ein Yabrud. IDF soldiers searched the area and found bullet shells near a hitchhiking station in the area.

Saleh Omar Barghouti, 29, the son of West Bank Hamas leader Omar Barghouti, from the village of Kobar, shot and injured seven Israeli civilians at a bus stop outside of the Ofra settlement on December 9. Among the wounded was a pregnant woman who gave birth prematurely. Her baby boy died three days later.

Security forces are now conducting a wide-scale hunt for his brother As'am Barghouti, 32, who murdered two IDF soldiers, and critically wounded another soldier at Givat Assaf on December 13.
Khaled Abu Toameh: President Mahmoud Abbas is convinced that there’s a big conspiracy against him
When PA President Mahmoud Abbas is angry, he often starts firing in all directions. That’s precisely what he has done in the aftermath of the recent upsurge of violence in the West Bank, which began with the drive-by shooting attack outside Ofra and the killing of two IDF soldiers near Givat Assaf.

It’s not that Abbas wasn’t angry and frustrated before the events of the past week. He has been extremely angry since US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017. Trump’s additional decisions, including the relocation of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and suspending US financial aid to the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, as well as the closure of the PLO diplomatic mission, have further reinforced Abbas’s fear that something big is being cooked up against him and the Palestinians.

Abbas’s feeling of embattlement and exasperation has also intensified against a backdrop of reports suggesting that key Arab countries – such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates – have turned their backs on the Palestinians, and are headed toward normalizing their relations with Israel.

The IDF’s tough security measures – including the killing of Saleh Barghouti, who was reportedly involved in the Ofra attack, and Ashraf Na’awla, who shot dead two of his co-workers in the Barkan Industrial Park near Ariel – prompted Abbas and his senior officials in the PA and Fatah to direct most of their public and harsh criticism against Israel and the US. In private, however, some Ramallah officials also pointed an accusatory finger at Hamas and accused it of seeking to undermine the PA and instigate unrest in the West Bank.

For several months now, Abbas has been telling foreign and local figures with whom he meets in Ramallah on a regular basis that he’s convinced that Israel and the US administration are “colluding” with other Arab countries, specifically Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to undermine his regime and possibly remove him from power.

“President Abbas is convinced that there’s a big conspiracy against him,” said a Western diplomat who met with the PA president last week. “His strategy is essentially based on whining and complaining about a big conspiracy, which he believes is being concocted by the Israelis and Americans to get rid of him and liquidate the Palestinian cause. His strategy now is to try and rally as many countries as possible to support him against what he perceives as the most dangerous conspiracy facing the Palestinians ever.”
Iran’s strategy to destabilize West Bank entering a crucial stage
According to The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh writing for the Gatestone Institute, “Hamas (is) openly working and encouraging the eruption of a new anti-Israel uprising in the West Bank.”

Will it lead to a replay of Hamas’s Gaza putsch of 2007, where Hamas violently overthrew President Abbas, collapsing his Palestinian Authority rule in the Gaza Strip?

Will it result in an Islamist foundation in the West Bank, with missiles a stone’s throw from Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion Airport? The geopolitical implications of that eventuality for the Untied States and the region are huge.

Is Iran directly involved, or is just financially supporting Hamas’s instigation of an uprising within the disputed territories in the West Bank?

It is an open secret that Hamas has followed Iranian instructions in Gaza, best illustrated by an Al Monitor headline this week, “Will Iran ask Hamas to ignite Gaza front in support of Hezbollah?”

According to Daniel Levin of the Wilson Center, Iran supports Hamas geostrategically to “expand its regional influence”, and ideologically because both “view Israel as a usurper of Muslim lands and a threat to Islam.” Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar says that Iran is the “largest financial supporter of its military.”
Hamas Can’t Disrupt Flights to Tel Aviv—Unless the West Cooperates
Amid the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza in November, Hamas threatened to target Ben-Gurion airport with its rockets; Israeli authorities responded by rerouting some flights without causing any serious disruption to business as usual. But earlier, during the brief 2014 war, when a rocket from Gaza landed a mile from the airport, the Obama administration quickly suspended U.S. flights to Israel for a few days and the EU just as quickly followed suit. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen comments:

Hamas learned [in 2014] that it can leverage flight restrictions to its advantage, even if only as a propaganda factor. If it so much as mentions Ben-Gurion airport in the context of potential retaliation targets, Israel has to take notice and will therefore be deterred.

Technically speaking, Hamas missiles and rockets are indeed capable of reaching a radius beyond 70 km, potentially threatening much of Israel, [the airport included]. This was demonstrated in 2014, though most of the missiles and rockets fired toward Tel Aviv were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome. Still, it is rational to wonder whether this hazard turned out to be a critical factor that caused Israeli decision-makers to advocate for military restraint [last month, despite] Hamas’s provocations. . . .

In practical terms, the flight bans imposed in 2014 . . . were drastically and needlessly overdramatic. . . . The double standard put on display during these events was manifested once again very recently, when ballistic-missile barrages were launched on an almost daily basis by the Yemenite Houthi rebels toward several Saudi main airports. No flight prohibitions were even considered in light of these attacks. . . .

The flight prohibition enforced on Ben-Gurion Airport in 2014 was a form of political pressure exerted on Israel by the Obama administration to stop the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, not a reflection of genuine safety concerns. This suggests that Hamas’s threats to “close the Israeli sky” are little more than mere propaganda.


Unfortunately, if American or European governments want to punish or pressure Jerusalem, they can follow President Obama’s example and use Hamas’s threats as a pretext.
Weapons Experts: Iranian Nuclear Archive Shows that Iran Lied About Uranium Mine
Nuclear weapons experts, who have reviewed the Iranian nuclear archive that Israel recovered from a Tehran warehouse, concluded that Iran lied that a uranium mine was under control of its civilian atomic energy agency in a paper published jointly by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Institute for Science and International Security on Wednesday.

The paper — written by David Albright, a former weapons inspector and president of the institute; Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); Frank Pabian, a former inspector for the IAEA; and Andrea Stricker, a senior policy analyst at the institute — asserts that Iran falsely told the IAEA that its uranium mine at Gchine was under civilian control, when it, in fact, remained under the auspices of its military nuclear weapons program.

“The site was originally part of the AMAD plan to produce nuclear weapons. It was military-owned and created to produce uranium for Iran’s covert nuclear fuel cycle and five initially-planned nuclear weapons,” the paper charged in its conclusion. “Gchine is but another egregious example of Iran’s deceptions to the IAEA and the international community.”

In reviewing the files recovered from Iran’s nuclear archive, the team has previously learned not only that Iran’s nuclear weapons program had progressed further than previously thought, but that Iran possessed “advanced capabilities” to develop nuclear weapons. What the experts concluded, was that “that Washington and the IAEA were constantly underestimating how close Tehran was to a bomb” prior to negotiating the deal that was finalized in 2015.
Report: German gov’t will ban Iran’s 'terror' Mahan Air
The federal German government is slated to shut down Iran’s Mahan Air within its territory because the airline endangers American citizens at airports.

The mass circulation BILD newspaper reported on Friday that the expected closure will take place in January.

The American ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, has long urged the German government to take action against Mahan Air. The Jerusalem Post reported in June that in a meeting with a senior delegation from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Grenell said, “Here in Germany, I have asked the German government to support our efforts to stop an airline called Mahan Air from utilizing German airspace and airports. We know that Mahan Air has been used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] as a mode of transport for weapons, resources and fighters, so we’re asking our allies to help us put a stop to it.”

BILD reported that American politicians and security officials told the German government that American citizens are endangered at airports because of Mahan Air's activities in the Federal Republic. The United States classifies the IRGC as a terrorist entity.

Germany has declined to outlaw the IRGC or join the re-imposed US sanctions againt the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Mahan Air frequently uses the airport in the West German city of Dรผsseldorf.

The Post reported in October that the German bank Varengold in the city of Hamburg conducts business with Iran Air – an airline that the US sanctioned on November 4.
Iran blames US, Israel after Albania expels diplomats
ran is blaming the United States and Israel for Albania's expulsion of two Iranian diplomats accused of engaging in criminal activities that threatened the small European country's security.

Tirana on Thursday expelled Iran's ambassador and another diplomat for "damaging its national security", the country's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The ministry did not identify the two, and did not say when they were expelled or if they had left the NATO member country, but said it had consulted its alliance partners on the decision.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Thursday the move was made under pressure from Israel and the United States, which he said were working to destroy relations between Iran and European countries. Albania should not allow others to dictate its relations with Tehran, he said.

"I believe that this is a step aimed at harming Iran's ties with Europe at such a sensitive time," the state news agency IRNA quoted Qassemi as saying.

"Obviously this is a measure which has been taken under Israel and America's pressure. We expect Albania to respect its own independence. … Albania has become an unintentional victim of the United States, Israel and some terrorist groups."
Egyptian Journalist Emad Albeheery on MB TV: President Al-Sisi's Mother Is Jewish
During a show on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Elsharq TV (based in Turkey), Egyptian journalist Emad Albeheery criticized journalist Khaled Salah for Tweeting a call to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. He also criticized Egyptian poet Fatima Naoot for praising the Jews' toughness and cleverness in an article in Al-Masry Al-Youm. Albeheery said that that the Jews have caused catastrophes and conspired throughout history, and that this is why Hitler burned them during the Holocaust. In addition, he criticized Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for allocating 1.3 billion Egyptian Pounds for the restoration of Jewish antiquities, saying: "What more do you need to realize that [Al-Sisi's] mother is Jewish? Do you need an angel to come down and tell you that he is a Jew?" He claimed the Al-Sisi's Jewish mother raised him as a Muslim and got him into the military academy, and suggested this is the ultimate reason that he is in power today. The show aired on December 10, 2018.




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