Tuesday, June 25, 2019

From Ian:

There Won’t Be Peace Until the Palestinians Accept Israel
Amnesia and willful ignorance seem to be running amok in today’s political arena, especially when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians — mostly due to the desperation for a peace agreement. And it is in this environment that we were introduced to President Trump’s plan to alleviate the economic hardships facing the Palestinian people.

But the uncomfortable reality of the situation is that the conflict is not about economics. Nor is it about two states. This festering conflict fails to cease because one side absolutely refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the other.

Even before being presented with the US plan, the Palestinians rejected it outright. They did not know any details, nor did they come to the table with any counter-proposals. They simply rejected it, just as they rejected the peace plans presented by former Israeli leaders Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert.

And they will continue to reject any proposal that will end the conflict — because right now, they do not want it to end.

Palestinian politicians are masters of intransigence. The peace proposals of the past would have ensured that they gained statehood on the majority of the land they claim to want as their own.

The Palestinians had an amazing opportunity when Israel withdrew from Gaza. They could have put aside their never-ending animosity, and truly experimented with nation building. True, Gaza may not have become a Singapore or a Hong Kong, but the Palestinians could have tried to build a new world for themselves. Instead, they broke down into civil strife and elected a monstrous terrorist organization to rule over them.
Noah Rothman: Obama, Syria, and the Left’s Revisionist History
Obama closed the speech by asking Congress not to vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force against Assad’s regime. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed a vote indefinitely to the relief of his fellow Senate Democrats. But the crisis was not defused. The Syrian civil war raged, atrocities mounted, ISIS exploded over the border with Iraq, and Obama eventually ordered strikes inside Syrian territory just over a year later. A year after that, he put boots on the ground inside Syria. Obama insisted that this military intervention in a sovereign and adversarial nation was covered by previous congressional authorizations that target stateless terrorists, but that didn’t prevent coalition forces from conducting offensive operations against Assad’s forces. Accidents happen, you see.

Landler’s claim that Obama sought an AUMF against Syria to justify strikes on Iran is betrayed by the administration’s response to Iranian nuclearization in 2009, which was typified by diplomacy, not ultimatums. The same month that Obama backed off his plan to strike Iran’s allies in Syria, he reached out to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani—the first bilateral contact between U.S. and Iranian leaders since 1979. That November, Kerry joined his Iranian counterpart in Geneva to settle on the terms of a precursor agreement to what would become the 2015 nuclear accords.

Unlike Assad, the Iranians “did not cross the red line” according to Landler, which he defines as Sec. Mike Pompeo’s warning to Tehran that it would face retaliation only if American service personnel were harmed. But no one needs to articulate the fact that multiple operations sabotaging commercial shipping in international waters and the direct, claimed attack on an American military asset constitute acts of war. The notion that “Iran’s actions were rooted in” Trump’s decision to partially withdraw from the 2015 nuclear accords suggests that Iran should have put an end to attacks on Americans and their allies when the U.S. was a party to that accord, but they did not.

Landler concedes only that “defenders of Mr. Trump” claim that Obama never truly wanted congressional approval for strikes on Iran but only an excuse not to act. But a judicious review of the administration’s confused messaging and lethargic legislative strategy in the run-up to a strike leave cautious observers with no other conclusion.

Landler’s attempt to rebrand Obama’s legacy on Syria as the product of strategic thinking and gamesmanship derailed only by events beyond his control is unpersuasive. Indeed, these excuses contradict Obama himself, who told The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg that he was “very proud” of this mortifying sequence of events. By linking the canceled strike on Syria to Trump’s halted response to Iranian aggression, Landler inadvertently demonstrates how hard it is to defend Obama’s legacy.
Marking 40 years of peace with Egypt, Rivlin urges pact with Palestinians
President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday hosted Egypt’s envoy to Israel at an event marking 40 years since the peace treaty between the two countries and urged that the pact serve as an inspiration for reaching a similar agreement with the Palestinians.

He also told Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Khaled Azmi that he would like to meet with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Rivlin and Azmi were joined at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem by Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, according to a statement from the president.

“The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed only six years after a terrible war between our countries in 1973,” Rivlin said. “We could never have imagined that only a few years later our leaders would hug and shake hands. This should serve as an inspiration for our efforts to achieve peace with all of our neighbors, and especially our Palestinian neighbors.

“When courageous leaders are willing to end their conflict, and set out on a new path based on reconciliation and mutual respect, peace can be achieved more quickly than we can imagine,” he said.

Members of the diplomatic corps also attended the event, among them Israeli ambassadors who previously served in Egypt and officials who played key roles in the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord, signed by prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. The pact was brokered by US president Jimmy Carter and formally signed at the White House.

“I want to especially express our appreciation to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose commitment to peace, stability and cooperation has ensured that our relationship stays strong,” Rivlin said.

Bahrain confab set to kick off with loaded schedule but meager expectations
The program for the Bahrain conference does not mention Israel or Palestine and refers to Palestinians by name only four times. One of those references is in the description of the sole Palestinian participant with a speaking role at the meeting, a West Bank businessman who works with Israeli settlers and is viewed with deep suspicion by many of his fellow Palestinians.

Critics also note that the seven-page program for the workshop contains no discussion of how to resolve the political disputes at the core of the long-running conflict. A 40-page document outlining a $50 billion plan to jumpstart the Palestinian economy has been derided by some as containing plans that are either “pie-in-the-sky” or a rehash of old ideas. One commentator compared it to a real estate brochure.

“I don’t think that they’re being realistic about how hard it is,” said Dave Harden, a former mission director for the West Bank and Gaza for the US Agency for International Development. “Even if you have the money, implementation can be an immense challenge.”

Palestinians have rejected the plan outright, calling it an attempt to buy them off, and are boycotting the conference.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that his transition government would give it a fair chance, but hours earlier one of his ministers, Tzachi Hanegbi, pooh-poohed an idea of a land link between the West Bank and Gaza as “irrelevant.”

The Trump administration acknowledges that its ambitious economic proposals are contingent on acceptance of a political plan, which will not come out until the fall.

“How anything could come out of that agenda is hard to know,” said Shibley Telhami, a Mideast scholar and the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland.
JPost Editorial: Bahrain opportunity
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas invited members of the Foreign Press Association to Ramallah on Sunday, in yet another stage of his campaign against the US-led “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop which is slated to get underway in Bahrain today.

“We are confident that the conference will not be successful,” Abbas declared. He seems set to do almost anything to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy. Abbas does not want the success of the workshop – where the Trump administration’s economic plan will be fully presented, the complement to the yet-to-be-unveiled diplomatic portion of the “Deal of the Century.”

Ignoring the past record of his own Fatah movement, Abbas said that the Palestinians need an improved economy but, “before anything, there must be a political solution.”

Of course, the Palestinians have not accepted even the most generous political solutions in the past, hence the focus this time on the economy first. And while bemoaning the undoubted current economic crisis, Abbas is refusing to accept any of the millions of dollars Israel wants to transfer from tax revenues collected on behalf of the PA, because Israeli authorities are deducting the money slated to go to the families of imprisoned and dead terrorists.

Abbas repeated his stance that he will not accept any peace plan – no matter how advantageous it could be to his own people – as long as it was presented by the US under President Donald Trump. “We will not accept America to be the sole peaceful mediator for the Middle East cause,” Abbas said. “We want Europe, Russia, the UN, [and] China, and we need Britain and Germany, as well. We will not be slaves or servants to [US special envoys] Jared Kushner [and] Jason Greenblatt or [US Ambassador to Israel] David Friedman.”

More than anything else, Abbas is against any normalization of relations with Israel, without which peace will be impossible, and quiet and stability will remain elusive.
Jonathan S. Tobin: What the Trump plan cannot accomplish
When the Trump administration released the economic portion of its Middle East peace plan last week, the avalanche of criticism was immediate and harsh. Even though the president’s foreign policy team couched the plan as a “vision” of peace rather than an intricate blueprint, its critics weren’t wrong in pointing out that there was little in it that was new, and that its chances of success were nil.

Yet in analyzing the effort, it’s important to note that there’s a difference saying that the plan won’t succeed and saying that putting it forth was the wrong thing to do. That’s because the problem with it isn’t the content, but the context. An effort to shift the focus from a push on Israeli concessions, which are never enough to satisfy the Palestinians, to one in which Palestinian society could be transformed – economically and hopefully peaceably – was long overdue. But as long as the intended beneficiaries aren’t interested in such programs, the “ultimate deal” is simply not going to happen under any circumstances.

The sticking point is clear. Palestinian Authority leaders say they want the investment and aid, but that any discussion of economics must await a political settlement in which they will be given an independent state. Only after they achieve sovereignty, they say, will the aid be welcome or relevant.

That’s a fact that many Trump-administration critics have echoed when dismissing the plan authored by presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner and US negotiator Jason Greenblatt. They say Trump’s team is putting the cart before the horse and effectively rendering the peace process irrelevant by not focusing on the actual points of contention that separate the parties, like borders, settlements, and refugees.

As veteran State Department peace processor Aaron David Miller, who now heads the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank, put it: “The Palestinians’ economic problem isn’t a lack of money. It’s a lack of liberty.”

Even if we were to lay aside for the moment the fact that the main obstacle to Palestinian liberty is the tyrannical rule of Hamas in Gaza and that of Fatah in the West Bank rather than Israel, this argument fails to answer the key question that must be posed to critics of Trump’s plan: Why have decades of peace processes by foreign policy professionals like Miller, who knew a lot more about the conflict and diplomacy than Trump’s Middle East team, always failed?
The Real Reason the Palestinians Won’t Attend the Bahrain Conference
While PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the PA, Fatah, and the PLO were quick to depose the democratically elected Hamas leadership in the West Bank, Hamas continues to rule the Gaza Strip.

In this context, when considering the fact that the PA and PLO only actually represent less than a half the Palestinians ostensibly living under PA rule, it is clear why the Trump administration’s economic plan poses such a real threat to them and why they refuse to participate in the Bahrain conference.

The conference will focus on the economic development of the Palestinians, and not the PA. In doing so, the plan clearly, albeit not explicitly, reflects the reality that the PA and PLO no longer represent all of the Palestinians. The plan also clearly reflects that the Trump administration is questioning what happened to the billions of dollars of international aid that have been pumped into the PA over the past two and half decades.

This is the worst nightmare of the PA and PLO, and the real reason they refuse to participate in the conference. The underlying message of the plan exposes the fact that the PA and PLO no longer represent the interests of the Palestinians and that instead of using the massive aid that they have received to invest in the Palestinian people, they have abused it for their own gain.

In the absence of the PA and PLO, the discussions in Bahrain will be able to focus on ways to promote the best interests of the Palestinians.
Five takeaways from Trump's ‘peace to prosperity’ Palestinian plan
What’s next?

This plan, like so many before it, has a lot of generalizations and hopeful words. Its sentiments may be right, but the question will be if this is a realistic model that the US and its allies will actually invest in or if this is just a nice-looking brochure.

Some parts of the plan appear more generalization than substance. It is hampered by ignoring the political realities.

This is part of its goal, to focus purely on the economy and prosperity. But the Palestinian leadership has rejected it, understanding that it seeks to go around the leadership and focus only on prosperity without a political end game.

In some ways it seeks to draw parallels to Singapore or the Baltic states or Dubai as models. But if Singapore was still part of Malaysia or the Baltic states part of Russia or Dubai controlled not by the UAE but by some foreign power, would these countries be what they are today?

These countries had a political horizon and then an economic success story, not the other way around. There is an essential problem in proposing a massive economic package without consultation on the ground.

I used to lecture at a Palestinian university and I wonder what my former students would think of this. They were young professionals, the kind of people pictures in the plan who the plan seeks to help.

But if you don’t consult them and ask what they want, then how can you help them? Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day, teach them to fish and you give them food for a lifetime, the saying goes. But what if you don’t even bother to ask him if he wants to fish or has a pond to fish in? Then all you’ve done is thrown a rod at him and left.

“How will it work without Palestinian leaders,” a former student asked me. Indeed, that’s the question those in Bahrain should also ask.
Bolton on Bahrain: Palestinians shouldn't re-litigate decades of dispute
The Palestinians should look to the bright future offered to them by US President Donald Trump’s peace plan and stop their boycott of it, US National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Bolton spoke as the US led an economic workshop in Bahrain on a $50 billion plan to bolster the Palestinian and regional economies once the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been resolved.

Neither the Palestinian Authority nor the Israeli government was invited to the workshop. Instead, invitations were issued to Israeli and Palestinian business people. The PA is boycotting the Trump peace process, and many Palestinian business people chose to ignore the Bahrain invitations.

“It is mistake for the Palestinians to boycott [Bahrain]. What makes this particular proposal which is being rolled out in pieces and slowly – the thing that makes it unique is the economic aspect of it,” Bolton said.

“The prospects for Palestinians, for Israelis, and for everyone in the region, if we could find an acceptable agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, is incredibly bright,” he added.

On Monday, Bolton visited the Jordan Valley, which is located over the pre-1967 lines. He spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the importance of the Jordan Valley to Israel’s security.

But in talking with reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Bolton ducked a question about whether he would support Israeli application of sovereignty on the Jordan Valley for security reasons.
U.S. Middle East Plan Is a Refreshing Change
Administration critics adopt the odd view that, although all past efforts have failed, we must never deviate from them. They are offended by alterations to old formulas, when the old formulas achieved no peace. The current administration does not feel tied down by the unsuccessful formulas of the past and is willing to openly challenge that conventional thinking.

The Jerusalem decision is a prime example. The historic move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital was not a "free gift" to Prime Minister Netanyahu as critics claim. It brought to fruition longstanding U.S. policy as expressed by large, bipartisan congressional majorities, and it recognized reality. There has never been a peace agreement scenario under which Jerusalem would cease to be Israel's capital. So why go on with a charade that only served to encourage unrealistic Palestinian goals and was therefore harmful to peace prospects?
Saudi Diplomat: Palestinians Must Shed Image of Victim
A Saudi diplomat discussed the U.S. economic plan for the Palestinians in an interview with Globes: "We and other countries are willing to make enormous investments in this - amounts that the Palestinians never dreamed of getting. If this framework gets going, they will get real independence, good education, employment, a healthy economy, and won't be dependent on charity. It may be hard for them to relinquish the image of the eternal victim. Maybe they don't believe that they'll be able to get along without it."

At the end of the conversation, the diplomat asked to send a message to Israelis: "This blood conflict has lasted too long. It's clear to us - the Saudi Arabians, all of the Persian Gulf countries, Egypt, and Jordan - that the era of warfare with Israel has ended, and that the advantages of normal relations are very great."
Goldin family implores Bahrain attendees to advocate for release of son
Before moving on to any conditions of a peace agreement, the U.S.-led conference in Bahrain focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian peace conflict should demand the return of fallen soldiers and civilians illegally detained by Hamas for years, demanded Leah and Simcha Goldin, the parents of 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, killed in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge.

Goldin was an IDF soldier who was killed on August 1, 2014, during a humanitarian ceasefire, brokered between Israel and Hamas by the United States and the United Nations. Shortly thereafter, rumors spread that a soldier from the Givati Brigade had been attacked and kidnapped, which turned out to be Goldin, whose twin brother Tzur was evacuating wounded Israeli soldiers from Gaza at the time.

"Almost five years ago, our son Hadar Goldin was murdered by Hamas and his remains seized in violation of an internationally sanctioned humanitarian ceasefire. An additional fallen soldier and two innocent civilians are being illegally held in Gaza [at the moment as well]," the Goldin family wrote in a statement.

They fully support the "lofty effort" to create peace between the two states, the statement continued, but they do not concur with agreeing to any conditions without the Hamas-run coastal enclave abiding by international law with regards to deceased victims of wartime efforts.

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law obligations states that the remains of the deceased must be treated with respect and honorably interred, thereby presupposing the obligation to repatriate the remains of the deceased," said the Goldin family. They continued by stating that these illegal seizures of human remains make it impossible for the families or the state to bury the deceased according to both Islamic and Jewish burial laws - which follow very strict procedures and normally prompt burial.
Bahrain remains committed to Palestinians, rabbi with ties to king says
The kingdom of Bahrain remains fully committed to efforts to improve the Palestinian economy, an American rabbi with close ties to the Gulf country’s ruler said Tuesday, hours before a US-led conference on the administration’s forthcoming peace proposal was set to open here.

The rabbi, Marc Schneier of New York, also said that a future normalization of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Israel is “possible” by the end of the year, though not in the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

“I think the conference will generate tremendous momentum that will propel things forward. It’s a very, very powerful consortium,” he said of participants of the Peace to Prosperity workshop, which is billed as the rollout of the first — purely economic — part of the US administration’s two-pronged proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is spearheading the peace initiative, said that the second part of the proposal, which deals with the political issues of the conflict, will likely be released toward the end of the year, after the Israeli elections.
MEMRI: International Union Of Muslim Scholars, Supported By Qatar, Calls To Boycott Bahrain Conference On Deal Of The Century, Support Palestinians' Jihad
In a statement issued on June 23, 2019, the International Union of Muslims Scholars (IUMS) called on the Muslim nation and the Arab leaders to boycott the Peace to Prosperity workshop in Bahrain, to be held on June 25-26 to discuss the economic part of the Trump administration's "Deal of the Century." The statement, signed by IUMS head Dr. Ahmad Al-Raissouni and by the union's secretary-general Dr. 'Ali Al-Qaradaghi, blasts the Arab leaders for "rushing towards the deal" instead of rejecting it and for falling over each other to serve the enemies. It warns them that the current and future generations may curse them and that Allah may condemn them for this on the Day of Judgement. The statement also urges the Arab leaders, the entire Muslim nation and all people of conscience in the world to take part in restoring Palestine to its rightful owners, since this is a religious and human duty, and to support the jihad of the Palestinian people against the occupiers.

The IUMS was founded in 2004 by Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, who also headed it until recently. Considered to be a major ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaradawi resides in Qatar and has been supported and sponsored for decades by the Qatari regime. He and his IUMS have promoted an extremist discourse, including rhetoric against Jews and Christians and encouragement of jihad and martyrdom.[1]

Dr. Ahmad Al-Raissouni has been head of the IUMS since November 2018. Upon his appointment, he told Al-Jazeera that Qatar has supported the IUMS since its inception and that Turkey now funds it as well, and said: "There is nothing wrong with that and we don't hide it. On the contrary, we are proud of it and we urge all the countries to follow in the footsteps of those two."[2] The IUMS under Al-Raissouni has continued to promote extremist discourse. For example, in April 2019 it called on Muslim preachers to encourage armed jihad against Israel.[3]

The following are excerpts from the IUMS statement on the Bahrain workshop:[4]
In trilateral Jerusalem summit, Russia sides with Iran, against Israel and US
Russia’s top national security adviser spoke out on behalf of Iran during trilateral meetings with his Israeli and American counterparts in Jerusalem on Tuesday, backing Tehran’s claims against the United States and supporting its ongoing military presence in Syria, which Israel sees as a threat to its security.

The trilateral conference of Israeli, Russian, and US national security advisers is the first event of its kind to be held in Jerusalem and, according to Israel, is aimed specifically at countering Iran, including both its nuclear aspirations and its influence throughout the Middle East.

The meeting comes amid escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal last year and put in place a series of crushing economic sanctions. The Islamic Republic has retaliated by stepping up its uranium enrichment to levels beyond those permitted under the 2015 accord, allegedly carrying out a number of attacks on petroleum facilities around the Middle East, and shooting down a sophisticated US drone last week.

Russia, which maintains close ties to both Israel and Iran, is seen as a potential interlocutor between the West and Tehran. But comments made by its representative at the summit, security adviser Nikolai Patrushev, indicated that Moscow was siding with the Islamic Republic.

In press conferences on Tuesday, Patrushev rejected the view held by the US and Israel that Iran represents “the main threat to regional security” and said Israeli airstrikes in Syria against Iranian forces and its proxies were “undesirable.”
Bolton slams Iran’s ‘belligerence’ but says ‘door is open’ for negotiations
US President Donald Trump’s top national security adviser urged Iran on Tuesday to step back from its “malign behavior” and enter into “real negotiations” over its nuclear weapons program, ballistic missile development, and backing for international terror groups.

Speaking at a summit meeting between Israel’s, Russia’s and America’s national security advisers in Jerusalem, John Bolton slammed Iran as the “source of belligerence and aggression” in the Middle East.

He accused Tehran of supporting violence throughout the region — from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Assad regime in Syria, as well as Shiite militias in Iraq, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and terror attacks on US forces in Afghanistan — and of threatening Middle Eastern oil supplies.

He also charged that the Islamic Republic was still pursuing nuclear weapons, saying, “There’s simply no evidence that Iran has made the strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons and open realistic discussions to demonstrate that decision.

“In just a few days,” he noted, “Iran has threatened to exceed the key limits imposed by the inadequate 2015 Iran nuclear deal, exposing once again the fatal deficiencies of that failed agreement.”

He said Trump, while imposing “significant new sanctions” on Iranian leaders on Monday, “has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, its pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism, and its other malign behavior worldwide.

“All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door,” he said.
Netanyahu tells Russian official: We will do ‘anything’ to prevent nuclear Iran
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top security adviser on Monday that Israel will do “anything it takes” to ensure Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons.

“I’m certain that Russia understands what it means for us when a regime calls for our annihilation, and acts on a daily basis to achieve that aim,” Netanyahu said in a meeting at his Jerusalem office with Russia’s National Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.

“Israel won’t allow an Iran that calls for our annihilation to entrench itself on our border, and we will do anything it takes to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons,” the prime minister said.

The meeting comes ahead of a first-ever trilateral summit Tuesday between the Russian, Israeli and American national security advisers — Patrushev, Meir Ben-Shabbat and John Bolton, respectively.

“The security cooperation between Russia and Israel has already contributed a great deal to the security and stability of our region, and has profoundly changed the regional situation,” Netanyahu said.
Chilean president visits Western Wall, offers prayer for peace
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Tuesday as part of a state visit to the country, offering a prayer for peace in the Jewish state.

The billionaire businessman and Harvard-educated economist was accompanied by wife Cecilia Morel and a delegation of Chilean officials.

During his visit to the holy site, the Chilean president said he brought written prayers given to him by students at the Anne Frank school in Santiago, to be placed in the stones of the Western Wall.

He had a staffer record him placing the notes between the stones.

A statement by Western Wall officials said Pinera then signed the site’s guestbook with a prayer for peace.

The visit by the center-right leader came after Pinera and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Brazil during the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in early January.
Such visits by foreign dignitaries to Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Western Wall, the holiest place in Judaism at which Jews are permitted to pray freely, are adamantly opposed by Palestinians, who say they legitimize Israeli claims to the eastern half of the city, which they claim for the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Charges dropped against Palestinian accused in rape of 7-year-old girl
A Palestinian man indicted earlier this month for raping a seven-year-old girl at her school in the Binyamin region of Judea and Samaria, a case that transfixed Israel, was released from prison on Tuesday morning and the charges against him were dropped.

After Israel Police investigators re-interviewed the victim, Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Sharon Afek made the decision to cancel the indictment against Nazmi Abed el-Hamid Kattousa due to a glaring lack of evidence, and proceed with an investigation to find the culprit.

"After examining the evidence in the case, the completion of the investigation and the analysis of the investigative actions that are yet to be carried out, the Military Advocate General believes that at this time there is no reasonable chance of convicting Kattousa. Therefore, the MAG decided to walk back from the indictment and allow the Israel Police to continue completing the investigation," the office of the Military Advocate General announced.

Kattousa was originally indicted in mid-June after a three-month investigation. He worked as a janitor at the victim's school and reportedly fostered a relationship with her by occasionally speaking to her and giving her candy.

On the day in question, Kattousa reportedly took the girl by the hand and forcefully led her to a nearby house, where he brutally raped her. After the attack, he released her.
13 fires sparked in southern Israel by Gazan balloons
At least 13 brush fires were sparked in southern Israel on Monday by balloon-borne incendiary devices launched from the Gaza Strip, the local fire service said.

Two fires, at Alumim Forest and near the Nir Am Reservoir, have not yet been brought under control, firefighters said Monday evening.

According to a statement, five of the fires were sparked in the Eshkol Regional Council area southeast of Gaza, three in the Sha’ar Hanegev area northeast of the Strip, and five in the Sdot Negev region, east of Gaza.

All 13 fires were found by investigators to have been started by these balloon-borne arson devices, the fire department said.

Tensions with Gaza have been steadily rising in recent weeks amid a spike of incendiary balloon attacks, including some that carried explosive devices that detonated in the air or on the ground inside Israeli territory.

Earlier this month there was a fresh surge in violence, including two nights of rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli air force strikes.
Hamas warns ceasefire in danger as Israel cuts fuel supply over arson attacks
A senior Hamas member warned Tuesday that recent Israeli policies on the Gaza Strip are endangering ceasefire understandings reached after last month’s two-day flareup between Israel and Palestinian terror groups.

“The Israeli occupation is manipulating the fishing zone and stopping fuel supply to the power stations,” Khalil al-Hayya told the Hamas-affiliated Shehab news agency. “This puts the understandings in a dangerous situation.”

Hayya, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza, warned “the Israeli occupation not to export its internal crises to our people,” apparently referring to Israel’s holding of national elections in September for the second time in under six months.

His comments came as a delegation representing UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov arrived in Gaza to meet with Hamas leaders for talks on an unofficial ceasefire deal between Israel and the terror group, as well as how to prevent further violence, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Kan quoted unnamed international sources as saying the United Nations has warned Hamas multiple times that launching incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel could endanger the agreement between the sides.

Bolton 'opens door' to Iran at historic tripartite summit in Jerusalem
US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Tuesday in Jerusalem that President Donald Trump is open to real negotiations and "all that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door."

Bolton spoke at a high-profile trilateral security summit on Tuesday, attended by his Israeli and Russian counterparts Meir Ben-Shabbat and Nikolai Patrushev, along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The prime minister welcomed Patrushev to Israel, thanking him and Russian President Vladimir Putin for agreeing to attend the summit in Jerusalem.

Addressing the threat posed by the Iranian regime, Netanyahu said, "I am certain that from this perspective … it is understood in Russia the significance for us of a regime that calls for our destruction, not just to conquer us but to destroy us, and is daily acting to achieve this goal."

He continued: "Therefore, Israel will not allow Iran, which calls for our destruction, to entrench on our border; we will do everything to prevent it from attaining nuclear weapons. Self-defense is a very important lesson of 20th-century history, certainly for the Jewish people and its state."

Netanyahu also revealed that Putin is expected to visit Israel later this year "in order to lay the cornerstone of the monument commemorating the siege of Leningrad, and also to begin the events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz."
Iran says it will abandon further nuclear deal commitments on July 7
Iran will “resolutely” abandon more commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers on July 7, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported on Tuesday quoting a “note” from a top security official.

Tehran had announced on May 8 that it was suspending two of its 2015 pledges and gave Europe, China and Russia a two-month ultimatum to help Iran circumvent US sanctions and sell its oil or it would abandon two more commitments.

Last year Washington withdrew from the landmark nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran, and Europe’s efforts so far to help Iran economically benefit from the accord have been dismissed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a “bitter joke.”

“As of July 7, Iran will forcefully take the second step of reducing its commitments” to the nuclear deal, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying by Fars.

This was so “countries who interpreted Iran’s ‘patience’ with weakness and inaction realize that Iran’s answer to the American drone’s violation of its airspace will be no different than its reaction to devious political efforts to limit Iranian people’s absolute rights,” he added.

Amid escalating tensions last week, Iran shot down a US spy drone it said had crossed into its territory, a claim denied by the United States.

Russia, a key ally of Iran, on Tuesday backed Iran’s version of events.
Trump Imposes New US Sanctions on Iran, Targeting Ayatollah Khamenei
US President Donald Trump targeted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior Iranian officials with new US sanctions on Monday, looking for a fresh blow to Iran‘s economy after Tehran’s downing of an unmanned American drone.

With tensions running high between the two countries, Trump signed an executive order imposing the sanctions, which US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said would lock billions of dollars more in Iranian assets.

Trump said the new sanctions were in part a response to last week’s downing of a US drone, but would have happened anyway. He said Khamenei was ultimately responsible for what Trump called “the hostile conduct of the regime.”

“Sanctions imposed through the executive order … will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader’s office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support,” Trump said.

The Trump administration wants to force Tehran to open talks on its nuclear and missile programs and its activities in the region. Tensions between the United States and Iran have grown since May when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.
Congress Seeks to Make Iran Pay For Downed American Drone
Congress is considering a new measure that would extract millions from frozen Iranian bank accounts in order to subsidize the cost of its recent downing of an American drone in the region, according to congressional sources and a copy of draft legislation viewed by the Free Beacon.

The measure, filed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) late Monday, would require the Trump administration to assess the exact cost of the drone, which could be anywhere from $120 million to $220 million, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The move comes as congressional hawks and Iran critics seek more ways to penalize Iran for its increasingly flagrant military attacks against the United States and its assets in the Persian Gulf region. While President Donald Trump called off a strike on Iran minutes before it was to take place last week, his administration and allies in Congress continue to seek a financial price from Iran, via economic sanctions and other measures meant to squeeze the regime.

The Trump administration moved on Monday to sanction Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei and his associates in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran's paramilitary fighting force that has conducted multiple terror attacks across the region. Khamenei and his hardline allies are believed to have billions stockpiled and the new sanctions will directly target these cash assets, according to Treasury Department officials.

The administration is seeking to target Iran's top officials, including its foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who negotiated the landmark nuclear deal with the former Obama administration.
Iran's illegal missile tests endanger the region and beyond
Iran is violating UNSCR2231, launching long-range missiles that endanger countries from Europe to the Middle-East:
▶18 launches since January 2018
▶A missile launched every month on average
The regime in Tehran must be held accountable.

Iran currently setting up terror cells in Africa to attack U.S., others
The Islamic Republic of Iran is spreading its state-sponsored terrorism to Western African countries to attack the US and Western assets, the British Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

“Iran is setting up a network of terror cells in Africa to attack US and other Western targets in retaliation for Washington’s decision to impose sanctions against Tehran, according to Western security officials,” according to the newspaper.The article by veteran defense and security journalist Con Coughlin said that the “new terror network has been established on the orders of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, the elite section of Iran’s Republican Guard Corps that has responsibility for overseas operations.”

The United States government classifies Iran’s regime as the leading international state-sponsor of terrorism.

According to the Telegraph, “The aim of the new terror cell is to target US and other Western military bases on the continent, as well as embassies and officials. The Iranian cells are said to be active in a number of African countries including Sudan, Chad, Ghana, Niger, Gambia and the Central African Republic.”

“Iran is setting up a new terrorist infrastructure in Africa with the aim of attacking Western targets,” a senior Western security source told The Telegraph, adding, “It is all part of Tehran’s attempts to expand its terrorist operations across the globe.”

The report noted “Intelligence officials say Iran has been working on the new terror network for the past three years since signing the nuclear deal on freezing its uranium enrichment activities with the US and other major world powers in 2015.”

Coughlin wrote that “The operation is being organized by Unit 400, a highly specialized section of the Quds Force which is run by Hamed Abdollahi, a veteran Republican Guard officer who was designated by the US as supporting terrorist activity in 2012.”

Syria Renames Town ‘Khamenei Heights’ Just out of Spite (satire)

A spokesman for the Syrian government has announced that they will be renaming the town of Ruweihina in the Syrian Golan Heights ‘Khamenei Heights’.

The decision comes after Israel named a new settlement in the area ‘Trump Heights’ to show gratitude to what the President of the United States has done for Israel such as pulling out of the Iran deal, moving its Embassy away from all the sexy beach people, and possibly destabilizing the region for years.

Syria decided to respond to the move by naming a town on their side of the border after Iran’s Supreme Leader as they thought this would ‘piss Trump off the most’. The President was initially calm about the decision before being reminded that Khamenei is the leader of Iran. “They have made a very, very big mistake,” he commented. “I don’t know what the consequences will be or whether there will be consequences at all, but I assure you, it’s a very big mistake.”

“To be honest I am just surprised we have time for this,” said a Syrian government spokesman. “I thought with the whole civil war thing we didn’t have time to be petty, but hey, it just goes to show what you can do when properly motivated.”
Weird Ways Israel Won its War of Independence
On this week’s History of Israel Explained, we’re heading back to 1948 and Israel’s War of Independence. While modern-day Israel is a force to be reckoned with, in its early days, its military might was pretty much non-existent. Back then the Israeli army primarily consisted of a bunch of barely trained Holocaust survivors who waged war with outdated, ineffective and hardly functioning weapons. Actually, “weapons” is probably too strong a word for most of the equipment they were using, which included the (in)famous Davidka... Above all odds, though, this makeshift army performed heroic - some would say miraculous - feats, including the creation of Israel’s own Burma Road. These feats turned the tide in the war and guaranteed the existence of the fledgling State of Israel amid a sea of hostile neighbors.

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