Monday, February 18, 2019

From Ian:

Ministers approve slashing $138 million from Palestinians over terror payments
The security cabinet on Sunday approved the implementation of a law to cut over half a billion shekels in funds to the Palestinian Authority over its payments to terrorists and their families.

Applying the law has faced opposition from the security establishment, who worry it could destabilize the situation in the West Bank.

A statement from the security cabinet said that ministers agreed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could withhold NIS 502,697,000 ($138 million) in PA tax revenues, the amount Israeli officials say the PA paid out in stipends to attackers and their families in 2018.

Netanyahu also instructed security authorities to examine additional payments the PA is making in relation to terrorists and their families, the statement said.

“The amount frozen will be adjusted accordingly,” it noted.

The $138 million will likely be deducted incrementally over a 12-month period, according to local media reports.
PA fumes over Israeli ‘piracy’ after decision to deduct terror money
A spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas denounced Israel’s decision to cut half a billion shekels in funds over its payments to security prisoners and their families Sunday.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh called the decision to implement the law “piracy of the Palestinian people’s money.”

Abu Rudeinah warned that the decision would have serious repercussions and would be placed at the top of the agenda when the PA leadership meets in the coming days.

“We consider this arbitrary Israeli decision to be a one-sided blow to the signed agreements, including the Paris Protocols,” he said, referring to an annex of the Oslo Accords that defines Israel and the PA’s economic relations.

Earlier Sunday, the security cabinet approved the implementation of a law to cut NIS 502,697,000 ($138 million) from the PA, over its payments to terrorists and their families.

Applying the law has faced opposition from the security establishment, who worry it could destabilize the situation in the West Bank. Some analysts have predicted that it may also lead to a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip should Abbas cut funds to the coastal enclave in order to continue paying security prisoners.

Abu Rudeineh said the move would not keep the Palestinians from supporting “imprisoned heroes” or the families of those killed while carrying out attacks.
Politics Drives European Aid
Let’s begin with the principle of impartiality: the provision of aid solely on the basis of need. A chart (see below) plotting the organization’s 2019 budget shows that the Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid – nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros (174 million is earmarked for reserves and bureaucratic costs). The bulk of the funds go towards meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, and North Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount.

The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh, according to a map (below) drawn up by a group of concerned economists based at Oxford University. These countries have the highest percentage of populations with a household consumption of less than $2 a day. Only one country in the Middle East fits this sorry bill: Yemen. According to the map and the principle of impartiality, the bulk of EU aid should be going to these countries, yet they receive only a small percentage.

To get a clear picture of the reality of ECPHAO “impartiality,” one need only compare the amount Palestinians receive to the amount received by the poorest 20% of the world. According to the World Bank, 732 million people live in lower income countries. The 4.8 million Palestinians, by contrast, are classified as “lower middle class” – that is to say, in the quintile above them. Yet those 4.8 million Palestinians will receive 36 million euros, while 490 million will be disbursed for the benefit of 680 million people living in 32 other countries (not including Syria and Yemen, which are funded separately). The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, will thus receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states will receive around 0.70 euro per capita – less than one-eighth that amount.

No one has explained why Ethiopia, which has a GDP per capita one-third that of Gaza and one-fifth that of the West Bank, should receive one-eighth the amount of aid Palestinians receive on a per capita basis. This is particularly remarkable as the ECPHAO has itself acknowledged Ethiopia’s greater plight – including a massive emergency refugee problem stemming from the 37-year-old Somali crisis.

Discrimination in favor of the Palestinians even extends to Yemen, where a true humanitarian disaster exists. According to the EU, 79 million euros have been expended annually on average since the onset of the Yemeni crisis, compared to 36 million for the Palestinians. That is slightly more than double. Yet there are 4.8 million Palestinians, while the population of Yemen is estimated at over 28 million (of whom 22.5 million are in dire straits, according to the Commission). Yemenis thus receive less than half of what the already richer Palestinians receive.



Will the ICC criminally probe Abbas for mass torture?
An NGO plans to file a crimes against humanity complaint with the International Criminal Court prosecution later this week against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for mass torture.

The NGO, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ), said that with the ICC prosecution signaling in December that it was closer to potentially criminally probing Israelis for war crimes, it wanted to make sure that the PA was taken to task at the same time.

According to JIJ, the PA under Abbas has ordered and facilitated mass torture of its own people numbering around 180 per year.

It expects to file its complaint in The Hague on Wednesday.

Citing a combination of human rights groups’ reports, such as a 2016 report by the Independent Commission for Human Rights, as well as around a dozen of their own witnesses whom they have met with, JIJ said that the evidence is sufficient for a crimes against humanity charge against Abbas.

Though when the ICC was founded in 2002, many might have thought that the court would only deal with crimes like genocide, in November 2017, the ICC prosecution opened a full criminal probe into the US for torture of detainees during the post 9/11 years.

If the ICC was willing to go after the US for torture, it would seem to be even more obligated to do the same for Abbas and other members of the PA.
Palestinians, Jordan join forces to torpedo 'deal of the century'
The Palestinians and the Jordanians have established a joint council to manage the Temple Mount and holy sites in Jerusalem as the first step of a plan to torpedo the Trump administration's "deal of the century" for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, Middle East analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has discovered.

Ben-Menachem calls the decision a "move that violates the Oslo Accords and strikes a dangerous blow to Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem."

Senior officials in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' office and the Fatah movement confirmed to Israel Hayom that cooperation with Jordan has been stepped up recently, ahead of the expected publication of U.S. President Donald Trump's peace plan.

A senior Palestinian official told Israel Hayom that the joint council was a step taken in response to understands reached between King Abdullah of Jordan and Abbas in August 2017, following the metal detector crisis on the Temple Mount.

A few days ago, under instructions from Abdullah, the Jordanian government approved an increase in the number of council members. It will now number 18 instead of 11. In addition, with Jordan's approval, the council will now include senior Palestinian political officials and Fatah members.

Palestinian officials said Israel could prevent the expansion of the council, but thus far had refrained from doing so. The officials said Israel did not want a diplomatic crisis with Jordan just before the Trump peace plan was due to be presented.
Nasrallah: Warsaw meet unmasked Israel-Gulf ties, Arab leaders Israel’s ‘tools’
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday dismissed last week’s Middle East conference in Warsaw as “weak and stale,” and warned that Arab leaders moving toward normalization with Israel were only “a tool” in Israel’s hands.

In a speech marking the terror group’s annual remembrance day for “martyrs,” Nasrallah said the summit in Poland, which focused strongly on Iran’s belligerence in the region, aimed to “rally against Iran and the resistance movements in the region… The enemies are trying to rally the world to conspire against the resistance after their wars failed to eradicate it.”

He said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “speaking from the heart” when he talked at the conference of seeking “war with Iran,” a statement that has been characterized as a mistranslation of Netanyahu’s original Hebrew comments.

But Nasrallah asserted that “today Iran is a strong state and stronger than anyone who targets it with war.”

Nasrallah said the Warsaw summit had “brought out into the open Israel’s relations with the Gulf states.

“We knew about normalization between Israel and Oman and the United Arab Emirates, but at the summit we also clearly saw normalization with the Saudis,” he said.
TV report: Netanyahu held secret talks with Morocco foreign minister in New York
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting with Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in New York last September, an Israeli TV report said.

Netanyahu met with Bourita during his visit to participate in the UN General Assembly, Channel 13 news reported Sunday.

Quoting a senior Israeli official who was involved in arranging the meeting, the TV report said Netanyahu asked Bourita to advance the normalization of Israeli-Moroccan ties. He offered assistance for Morocco regarding Iran, the report said without elaborating.

Netanyahu also sought to arrange a visit to Morocco.

Asked for a response, the Prime Minister’s Office said it does “not comment on contacts with countries with which Israel does not have formal relations.” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said he was unaware of such a meeting.
V4 summit canceled in Jerusalem after Poland quits over Holocaust crisis
Poland officially canceled the visit of its foreign minister to Israel, leading to the cancellation of a Europe-Israel summit, after acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that "Poles suckle antisemitism from their mothers' milk." The Polish foreign minister was supposed to travel to Israel on Monday to participate in a meeting of the 'Visegrad Group'.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki branded Katz's remarks as "racist and unacceptable." Poland's ambassador to Israel also slammed the Israeli leader, saying on Twitter: "It is really astonishing that the newly appointed foreign minister of Israel quotes such a shameful and racist remark. Utterly unacceptable."

Poland’s decision not to take part in the summit in Jerusalem on Tuesday together with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia means that the meetings to be held Tuesday between the heads of the other three governments and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be bilateral meetings, and not under the rubric of the Visegrad Group, a Foreign Ministry spokesman explained.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday that there would not be a meeting of the V4 in Israel.

"There will be no full V4 meeting," said Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, in a text message. "Three PMs are arriving will hold meetings with (Israel's) PM."

Katz had appeared on i24 News channel to discuss the Warsaw conference and the diplomatic fallout from Netanyahu's comments on Poles and the Holocaust. He downplayed the suggestion that Israel-Polish relations were in crisis, pointing out that Netanyahu expressed himself clearly on the issue.

He continued, "That's what Yitzhak Shamir said [of the Poles who murdered his father]: 'the Poles suckle antisemitism from their mothers' milk.' No one will tell us how to remember the fallen."
Cherry trees cut down and destroyed by Arab extremists in West Bank
Cherry trees have been reported to be uprooted and destroyed by Arab vandals in a kibbutz near Gush Etzion in the West Bank.

The head of the Gush Etzion regional council, Shlomo Ne'eman, said “we must take steps to eradicate agricultural terror and fight terror in all its cruel forms.”

Ne’eman made his comments in a statement on Sunday after some 200 vines and cherry trees belonging to Kibbutz Kfar Etzion were uprooted and destroyed by Arab vandals.

“I see the destruction of orchards in Kfar Etzion by terrorists from neighboring Arab villages seriously,” Ne’eman said. “Is there anyone who finds it difficult to see the extensive success of our agriculture or the prosperousness of this settlement?"

“We will continue with pride to grow and cultivate our agriculture without fear,” Ne’eman said.

According to reports, the trees were planted on Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund land in an area known as the Mukhtar’s Saddle. This area has been the focus of extremist vandalism in the past.


Violent clashes on the Temple Mount - developing report
According to reports from the Arab networks, the Waqf tried Monday to break through the Sha'ar HaRachamim compound, which was locked up by police, as violent clashes ensued on the Temple Mount.

A number of rioters were arrested, according to the reports.

Sha'ar HaRachamim is known as the Golden Gate in Christian literature. It is the only eastern gate of the Temple.

This is a developing story.
IDF soldier wounded, 19 Gazan rioters reported shot as border heats up
An IDF soldier was moderately injured in clashes along the northern Gaza border on Sunday night, days after a similar attack lightly wounded a Border Police officer, the army said.

The serviceman appeared to have been hit by an improvised explosive thrown by Palestinians during a riot along the Gaza border, east of the city of Jabaliya, around 9:00 p.m., the Israel Defense Forces said.

He was taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center in moderate condition. The soldier sustained shrapnel wounds to the neck, the hospital said.

During the same clash in the northern Gaza Strip, 19 Palestinians were injured by Israeli gunfire, the spokesman for the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said in a statement to reporters. They suffered varying injuries of different degrees, he added.

One person was seriously injured, sustaining a head wound, according to the health ministry.

The Gaza health ministry spokesman said there were no Palestinian fatalities in the clash.

Palestinian media reported that the rioters tried to breach the security fence, but were driven back by Israeli gunfire.






Report: Assad regime executed over 300 chemical attacks
The Syrian regime under President Bashar Assad has perpetrated over 300 discrete attacks using chemical weapons during the seven-year Syrian war, according to a new report by the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute published on Sunday.

The report, titled "Nowhere to Hide: the Logic of Chemical Weapons use in Syria," states that GPPI researchers had found clear evidence of "336 chemical weapons attacks over the course of the Syrian civil war – significantly more than has commonly been known."

The report said that over 98% of the attacks were carried out by forces aligned with the Assad regime, including the Tiger Forces, whose members were trained and equipped by the Russians. The rest of the chemical attacks were attributed to the Islamic State, and only one chemical attack was attributed to the rebel forces.

The GPPI began tracking the use of chemical weapons in Syria in 2012. According to the report, most of the chemical attacks took place after former U.S. President Barack Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government comprised a "red line" for the U.S. administration.

GPPI staff said they based the report on testimony by local residents and on field surgeries conducted by doctors in Syria, both at government and rebel-run hospitals. Researchers also made use of chemical analysis of the scenes of some of the attacks, obtained by foreign observers.
Syria’s Assad: United States Will Sell Out Those Relying on It
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned on Sunday the United States would not protect those depending on it, in reference to Kurdish fighters who control much of the north.

“We say to those groups who are betting on the Americans, the Americans will not protect you,” he said without naming them. “The Americans will put you in their pockets so you can be tools in the barter, and they have started with (it).”

US President Donald Trump declared in December he would pull troops from Syria, raising more questions over the fate of Washington’s Kurdish allies under threat of Turkish attacks.

US forces have long supplied arms and training to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish YPG militia, the main US partner in the battle against Islamic State. The US presence helped the SDF seize swathes of north and east Syria, and has also been widely seen as a deterrent against Turkey, which has vowed to crush the YPG.

Ankara sees the YPG as a security threat and an extension of the Kurdish PKK movement that has waged an insurgency on Turkish soil for decades.




Female German referee causes Bundesliga broadcast to be canceled in Iran
Iranian state broadcaster IRIB did not show a Bundesliga match between Bayern Munich and Augsburg on Friday because German referee Bibiana Steinhaus was officiating, German media reported, citing Iranian media.

The broadcast was reportedly canceled because the country's strict Islamic regulations do not allow the showing of images of women wearing clothes that reveal large amounts of skin, such as football shorts.

Natalie Amiri, Iran correspondent for German public broadcaster ARD, tweeted that the broadcast in Iran had been canceled "at the last minute," asking, "and who is responsible? Of course, it's Bibi again..."

Strict censorship

In Iran, movie scenes showing women in what is deemed revealing clothing are censored. But this would have been impossible when broadcasting Friday's match, as Steinhaus was continually visible, reports said.

However, a Bundesliga match in May last year, with Steinhaus as referee, was reportedly censored in this way, with random shots of spectators shown every time the cameras focused on her.




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