Thursday, June 27, 2019

From Ian:

Will Arabs Accept Normalization with Israel?
Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan were a result of their leaders coming to terms with the fact that fighting Israel was too costly and that it was therefore preferable to make peace. But the treaties were not about the public's recognition of the legitimacy of Israel and the Zionist cause.

The idea of "normalization," as Israelis like to call it, is unacceptable to most Arabs. It means acceptance of Israel as a natural facet of the Middle Eastern neighborhood. But they don't, and they won't (and they don't think they should).

There is an antipathy towards Israel which is perceived as having imposed itself on the Arabs, inflicting a humiliating defeat upon them. It is too much for us to ask for them to not only accept Israel, but to embrace it too. This "cold peace" means that Israel must retain its military superiority to maintain deterrence.

The Arab world has entered a protracted period of crisis, with declining economies and rapidly growing populations creating unmanageable economic situations and instability. What happens if Jordan or Egypt collapses economically? How is Syria expected to be re-established? What lies ahead for the West Bank and Gaza? There is a zone of instability on Israel's doorstep and it could blow up at any time.

Honest Reporting: Palestinian Poverty: Who Isn’t Sharing the Wealth?
A key refrain in the Israeli-Palestinian narrative is the issue of the Palestinian poverty, allegedly resulting from the Israeli occupation. Surveys cite statistics that anywhere from 26 to 53 percent of Palestinians are poor. In October 2018, the United Nations warned that humanitarian aid to the Palestinians is at an all-time low, a sign of increasing Palestinian poverty.

This raises several key questions:
- How poor are the Palestinians relative to other economies?
- Is Palestinian poverty evenly distributed at all levels of society?
- What is being done to remedy Palestinian poverty and is it effective?
- Are there other nationalities that are poor, but do not get the attention that poor Palestinians get?
- Is Palestinian poverty a legitimate reason for the belligerent actions of its leaders?

The default reason for Palestinian poverty is “Israeli occupation.” Thus, by extension, since Israel wishes to prolong the occupation, Palestinian poverty is in Israel’s interest. As the argument goes, Israel wishes to force its enemy into submission and therefore keeps the Palestinians impoverished. This argument however doesn’t account for something befuddling – the wealth of the Palestinian leadership. If a nation wishes to defeat another nation, it looks to weaken the other nation’s leaders. In the case of the Palestinians:
Professor Ahmed Karima of Al-Azhar University in Egypt claims that Hamas has some 1,200 millionaires among its members, but is unwilling to reveal his sources.

Corroborating this claim, albeit on a lesser scale, Deborah Danan writes:
Pan-Arab London based paper, Asharq al Awsat, which is considered a reliable media outlet, recently ran a story saying there are 600 millionaires in Gaza.

Moreover, as Ynet detailed:
In 2010, Egyptian magazine Rose al-Yusuf reported that [Hamas leader Ismael] Haniyeh paid for $4 million for a 2,500 m sq parcel of land area in Rimal, a tiny beachfront neighborhood of Gaza City.
The Tikvah Podcast: Michael Doran on America’s Standoff with Iran
This Friday, the world’s leading economic powers will gather in Osaka, Japan, for the G20 summit, and though it won’t be on the official agenda, the rising tensions between Iran and the United States will loom large over the gathering. Since May, the Islamic Republic has carried out half a dozen acts of sabotage and violence against the U.S. and its allies. What is the story behind Iran’s escalating provocations? Is it looking for war? Is America? Earlier this week, Hudson Institute scholar Michael Doran offered a compelling account of the strategic thinking behind these recent Iranian actions. In “What Iran Is Really Up To,” published in Mosaic, Doran presents compelling evidence that Iran is seeking to sow fear among European governments in the hope that they will pressure the Trump Administration to reinstate two vital waivers that would ensure the continued viability of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This is part of a long game, writes Doran, to revive the Iran Deal and preserve Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb. In our podcast this week, Michael Doran joins Jonathan Silver to explain his essay and its argument. He discusses why the revoked waivers are so important, why the Iranians believe their strategy will work, and why the biases of European governments and many American Democrats play right into Iranian hands.

The Flawed Human Rights Watch Report on Gaza, Lawfare
"Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently released a report accusing both Hamas and the Israeli government of committing war crimes regarding an incident in May 2019. During these hostilities, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) struck 350 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza after those groups launched roughly 690 rocket attacks into Israel. HRW's report claims that both sides unlawfully attacked civilians during the hostilities. While loss of life on all sides of this endless conflict is tragic, the HRW conclusions related to IDF attacks are legally flawed by an 'effects-based"' methodology. By treating the unfortunate effects of attacks as definitively indicating the claimed unlawfulness of such attacks, human rights groups like HRW reinforce the practice of judging compliance with the law of armed conflict (LOAC) by pure numbers: whether armed attacks killed or injured 'too many' civilians.

This tendency by human rights groups to invoke war crimes based on the effects of hostilities, and to conclude that "too many" civilians were killed in a particular attack, is all too common. This frequently used approach to assessing compliance with the international law that regulates the conduct of armed hostilities undermines the legitimacy of states' military operations. It also produces the perverse effect of incentivizing terrorist groups, such as Hamas and the Islamic State, to illegally shield their military operations with civilians. These groups exploit the resultant deaths caused by lawful strikes by professional armed forces such as the U.S. military and the IDF. Indeed, civilians are the weapons de jure used by terrorist groups, and HRW fails to recognize this crucial fact...

HRW is certainly correct to emphasize the legal prohibition against launching an indiscriminate attack, and we share their condemnation of any attack that violates the LOAC. But we do not believe they have made a case for a credible comparison between the conduct of these two parties to the conflict. When Palestinian militants launched missile, rocket and mortar attacks into Israel with no plausible indication the attacks were directed at lawful military objectives, their attacks were not merely "indiscriminate." They indicated a deliberate attack directed at civilians in violation of the principle of distinction, undoubtedly the most egregious violation of the LOAC's targeting rules. Nothing suggests these attacks were directed at military objectives. Nor is there any plausible basis to support a claim of reasonable mistake, as the IDF, unlike its opponents, simply does not utilize civilian communities or buildings in support of its military operations, nor does it exploit the presence of civilians to shield its military assets...
US envoy: Iran's foreign policy brought Arabs, Israelis together
United States Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said Wednesday that the economic workshop in Bahrain was a great chance "for a lot of countries to come together" and discuss how to deter Iranian aggression in the Middle East.

"The Iranian regime does not get a veto over American and Israeli national security. One of the nice things that I've seen in this role is that Iran's foreign policy has brought together Arabs and Israelis in ways we never thought were possible. So that's a gift from this regime. We are going to leverage that," Hook told i24NEWS.

"We saw it in the Warsaw summit and we have seen it here [in Bahrain]. We are going to continue this work and we think that this sort of work – I wouldn't describe it as normalization – but it's becoming the new normal. When you talk to all of the countries in the Middle East today, what they want to talk about is Iran's aggression, their missile, and their nuclear programs. And together we are working to fight it," Hook continued.

The US Special Representative for Iran also criticized the Obama administration's "accommodation" of Iran, saying the Trump administration is taking an "entirely different approach."

"Iran has a 40-year paradigm of using state terrorism as a tool of statecraft. We have put in place such enormous pressure on Iran to change its behavior. This is the right policy at the right time," Hook said.

Kushner hails Bahrain conference as ‘tremendous success’
White House adviser Jared Kushner on Thursday hailed the US-led economic workshop in Bahrain as a “tremendous success,” as he made another appeal for the Palestinians to consider Washington’s $50 billion economic stimulus plan.

Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, this week launched a long-awaited Middle East initiative with a two-day conference in Bahrain, where economic leaders heard the details of the plan that promises to jumpstart the stagnant Palestinian economy.

The proposal — which aims in 10 years to create a million new jobs, slashing unemployment and improving living standards in the West Bank, Gaza and across the Middle East — has been rejected by Palestinians because it does not include a framework for resolving their conflict with Israel. US officials say the political portion of the plan addressing the longstanding thorny issues may not be released until fall.

Speaking to the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper after the Peace to Prosperity workshop in the Bahraini capital Manama, Kushner defended his plan to combine private investment and government support to transform the Palestinian economy as the foundation of any eventual peace agreement.

“I believe the workshop was a tremendous success,” he said in the interview published by the Saudi-owned daily, adding that people from “all over the world” attended the conference on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Bahrain’s FM tells ToI he hopes ‘to visit Israel, when it’s all open, peaceful’
Even though we’d met several times, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa had not agreed to an on-the-record interview until Wednesday, when I visited his country to cover the US-led economic peace workshop.

“You remember when we first met at COP in Paris? When you approached me?” he recalled, referring to a United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015. I was there covering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appearance at the conference when a colleague and I spotted Khalifa and sought to engage with him.

“I wasn’t ready,” he told me this week in his suite at Manama’s posh Four Seasons hotel. “You surprised me… I should always prepare myself for talking to people, especially like you, very able journalists.”

Here in Manama, Khalifa was finally ready to grant a sit-down interview to The Times of Israel; and he spoke also with two Israeli television channels. It was the first time he had spoken on record with media outlets from Israel.

During nearly 20 minutes in our one-on-one, the foreign minister, whose full name is Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, spoke openly of why he is optimistic about the US administration’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and why his country decided to host the White House’s economic workshop despite the bitter protests from Ramallah.

He stressed the importance of his government’s warm embrace of the Israeli journalists who traveled to Bahrain, and his hopes that this tiny island nation in the Gulf would be well-perceived in Israel.
Bahrain FM to Times of Israel: Israel is here to stay, and we want peace with it
Bahrain sees the US-led economic workshop taking place in Manama this week as a possible “gamechanger” tantamount in its scope to the 1978 Camp David peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, the Gulf state’s foreign minister said Wednesday, also firmly backing Israel’s right to exist.

“We see it as very, very important,” Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told The Times of Israel on the sidelines of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop.

Khalifa also stressed that his country recognizes Israel’s right to exist, knows that it is “there to stay,” and wants peace with it.

He said the US-organized conference here, which is focused on the economic aspects of the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, could be like Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem in 1977, which helped pave the way to the Camp David Accords and the normalizing of relations between Egypt and Israel.

“As much as Camp David 1 was a major gamechanger, after the visit of President Sadat — if this succeeds, and we build on it, and it attracts attention and momentum, this would be the second gamechanger,” Khalifa said.

In an interview in his suite at Manama’s posh Four Seasons hotel, Khalifa did not commit to normalizing diplomatic ties with Israel in the near future, but unequivocally affirmed Israel’s right to exist as a state with secure borders.
Bahrain conference reveals ‘Palestinian Authority has no interest in peace’
Despite bringing together a historic number of Arab states and prominent world leaders, the Bahrain economic conference, which seeks to be the first step in the Trump administration’s efforts to bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, has been buffeted and vilified, especially by the Palestinians, who called the Trump plan “dead on arrival” and have boycotted the summit.

Senior adviser to and son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump Jared Kushner, who spearheaded the initiative, opened the two-day summit on Tuesday by calling it the “opportunity of the century” that the Palestinians should seize upon.
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“My direct message to the Palestinian people is that despite what those who have let you down in the past say, President Trump and America have not given up on you,” he said.

Given the decades of failures to achieve peace, the Trump administration has taken a different approach with the Bahrain summit, one that broaches the Palestinian economy before tackling the political aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

However, with so much controversy and seemingly intractable issues, many have questioned if the business-minded Bahrain workshop can accomplish anything at all.

But some are already seeing achievements. Eugene Kontorovich, director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and who has extensively briefed senior officials in the Trump administration on the Arab-Israeli conflict, told JNS: “The Bahrain Economic conference has already succeeded in one major way; it has revealed that the Palestinian Authority has no interest in peace, and no ability to make concessions.”
Eugene Kontorovich: On I24 News Discussing the Bahrain Economic Conference
I explain why even if this peace effort fails, the blowback will be far less than with prior schemes, which empowered terrorists and lead to violence.

The ‘Deal Of The Century,’ D.O.A.
Don’t fault Jared Kushner for attempting to make peace between Arabs and Israelis. To the contrary, he should be praised for the effort. But if history is a guide, his "deal of the century" is dead on arrival.

Palestinian Authority’s unelected President Mahmoud Abbas rejected out-of-hand Kushner’s proposal to use $50 billion to build a peaceful Palestinian Authority. This is not a negotiating strategy, but a conscientious decision.

The Arab/Israeli dispute is not about territory, boundaries, or finances. If the Israelis were Muslims, exercising the same policies with the same geographic divisions, there would be no dispute.

The Arab/Israeli conflict is about one thing: Jews.

When Jordan grabbed the Arab part of the British Mandate of Palestine in 1948, there was no outrage. Although Jordan’s land grab was illegal, Britain and Pakistan even recognized Jordan’s sovereignty.

The rest of the world demurred. Jordan was not demonized for preventing Palestinian self-determination. There were no demonstrations on college campuses for Palestinian independence.

Jordan is a Muslim country that took over another Muslim entity.

The sole issue of the dispute is that Israel is a Jewish state. Under hardline interpretations of Islamic law, land, once Islamic, is Islamic forever. Militant nationalists and fundamentalist Muslims believe that Israel’s very existence is unacceptable, non-negotiable, and forever a mark of shame in a culture of honor.
Trump Mideast Peace Envoy: We Changed Conflict Conversation
As part of Trump and his Middle East peace team's efforts to start a negotiation process and reach a deal, an economic prosperity conference was held in Bahrain to discuss future business projects. Key team member, special envoy Jason Greenblatt, attended the event and spoke with our Nurit Ben about the purpose of it and future plans.

In Israel, Chilean president signs agreements on health, science, tech
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera on Wednesday to further the relationship between Jerusalem and Santiago.

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding between Israel’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Space and the Chilean National Authority for Scientific and Technological Research, as well as agreements related to aviation, and a declaration of intent on health and medical cooperation between the two countries’ health ministries.

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"Israel and Chile have a lot in common,” said Netanyahu. “We share values of democracy and human rights. We share a belief in market economies and both of us have done a few things to promote these values in our respective countries."

“We believe in entrepreneurship. We believe in creativity. We have relatively small, not so small, but relatively small, very vibrant economies,” he continued. “It’s recognized by the countries in Latin America, Chile’s capacity in this regard just as the countries of the Middle East and the world recognize Israel’s capacities as an innovation nation."

As part of his three-day visit, Piñera drew the ire of the Israeli government when he visited the Temple Mount on Tuesday accompanied by senior Palestinian Authority officials.

He apologized to President Reuven Rivlin for the incident.

On the diplomatic front, Piñera said the Chilean Embassy would not relocate from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
Moscow blamed for disruption of GPS systems at Ben Gurion Airport
Israeli officials on Thursday accused Russia of responsibility for the ongoing disruptions to the satellite navigation systems of airplanes flying around Ben Gurion International Airport.

The Russian embassy in Israel dismissed the allegations as “fake news” that they “couldn’t respond to seriously.”

The issue has not yet caused any accidents or safety incidents, but has a “significant impact on all aspects of operating a plane from the cockpit, as well as on managing air traffic,” the Airports Authority said in a statement Wednesday.

The interference with the airplanes’ GPS reception appears to stem from a form of electronic warfare known as “spoofing,” which Russia has been accused of doing in the past as a defensive measure, despite the disruptions it causes to nearby aircraft and ships.

The interference appears to originate in Syria, where Russian troops and aircraft are fighting on behalf of the country’s dictator, Bashar Assad, Israeli officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
France reseals Jerusalem historic site after opening marred by dispute
France reopened a revered but long-closed archaeological site in the heart of Jerusalem on Thursday, but a dispute over access immediately disrupted its reopening and France said it would shutter the site again.

France, the owner of the site known as the Tomb of the Kings, reopened it to visits after having kept it closed since 2010.

But concerns that it would become more of a religious pilgrimage site than an archaeological one immediately reemerged.

Around 15 people who had pre-registered online as required were allowed to visit, but a group of more than a dozen ultra-Orthodox Jews who consider the site holy pressed to enter and pray there despite not having followed procedures.

They were prevented from entering since French officials had limited visits to 15 people at once during set times due to the sensitivity of the site. Online registration was required, but many ultra-Orthodox Jews do not use the internet for religious reasons.

The first group of visitors was initially blocked inside and eventually exited through a second gate, accompanied by police.

France’s Jerusalem consulate said in a statement that due to the scuffle the site would be closed to the public until further notice.
Did the International Atomic Energy Agency Recognize a Palestinian State?
A newly signed safeguards agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the “State of Palestine,” dated June 18, 2019, enables IAEA access to “the territory of Palestine” to ensure that safeguards are applied regarding nuclear materials.

The IAEA represents that this “does not imply the expression by the IAEA of any opinion regarding the status of Palestine and doesn’t affect its status in the IAEA.”

Such representation is totally unrealistic since any access by the Agency to “the territory of Palestine” implies recognition of the existence of a sovereign Palestinian state, with the jurisdiction and powers to enable IAEA inspections.

The Palestinian 2015 accession to the International Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the denomination as the “State of Palestine,” as well as the Palestinian leadership’s signing of the safeguards agreement with the IAEA, constitute violations of their commitments under the Oslo Accords and a prejudgment of the outcome of agreed-upon negotiations on the permanent status of the disputed territories.

Regrettably, the IAEA has permitted itself to be abused and manipulated by the Palestinian leadership and has taken a distinct political position recognizing a Palestinian state.
Palestinian murdered German for being 'rich Jew’ who 'destroyed my country'
A Palestinian man allegedly murdered a German real estate investor in November because he was a “Jew” who "destroyed his country," according to shocking testimony during a Wednesday court appearance in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg.

A Lebanese-born witness using the alias of Haitham Ahmad said the 31-year-old Palestinian man named Iyad B. said that 57-year-old victim Michael Riecher is a " Jew" who “annihilated my country,” according to a report in the local newspaper Schwarzwälder Bote.

Jürgen Lück, a reporter for Schwarzwälder Bote, who broke the story about the lethal antisemitic motive behind Riecher's death, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that "according to Riecher's friend Riecher was definitively not Jewish.

Lück has reported extensively on the trial.

Ahmad said that the Palestinian’s hatred in connection with the apparent reference to Jews destroying his country is related to the motive for murder. It is unclear what Iyad means by "my country." Ahmad presumably meant the West Bank because he and Ahmad knew each other from the West Bank and Jordan.

Riecher played a critical role in the renovation of a local sanctuary room of the synagogue and worked with Syrian refugees regarding housing placement.

Iyad’s accomplice, 28-year-old Syrian Mohammed Omran Albakr, allegedly devised the plan to attack and rob Riecher. Albakr eventually moved into Riecher's parent’s house with his wife.
Gaza Arson Balloons Spark 19 Blazes in Israel
Incendiary balloons launched from the Gaza Strip started 19 fires in southern Israel on Wednesday, according to authorities.

The southern branch of the Fire and Rescue services said the blazes were quickly extinguished and that investigators determined they were started by arson balloons.

Israel has recently seen a rash of cross-border arson attacks and on Tuesday announced it would cut supplies of fuel to Gaza in response.

The halting of fuel shipments marked a shift for Israel, which over the last several weeks opted instead to put various restrictions on the size of the Strip’s fishing zone in response to arson attacks.

Israel in the past has cut off fuel supplies to Gaza’s sole electricity station in response to attacks emanating from the Strip, though such moves have drawn criticism from Palestinians and the international community for worsening an already dire humanitarian situation in the Strip.

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.
PMW: PA top officials support terrorist murderers
They are "before all" and second only to Allah (June 26, 2019)

While 39 countries are gathered in Bahrain to discuss how to bring economic prosperity to the Palestinian Authority, the PA itself is in fact the greatest obstacle and reason for its own financial crisis. Uncompromisingly, PA Chairman Abbas keeps prioritizing financially rewarding murderers and terrorists with "pay-for-slay" salaries rather than spending PA money where it is needed and would do good. Palestinian Media Watch has documented that PA leaders are backing the decision to continue the payments - even at the expense of ordinary law-abiding Palestinian citizens.

Recently, three PA top officials emphasized their support for the imprisoned Palestinian murderers and terrorists. One of them is the head of the PA General Intelligence, Majed Faraj, who described murderers and terrorists who have killed and attacked Israelis as "the most honorable, the best, and the most supreme among us." Faraj, who has been mentioned as one of Abbas' possible successors, went on to say that the dead and imprisoned terrorists are second only to Allah:

Head of PA General Intelligence Majed Faraj: "We are with you in Hebron today on behalf of our brother, our beloved, and our leader [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas... We came today to the Ramadan fast-breaking meal of [the families of] the Martyrs and the prisoners... [They are] the most honorable, the best, and the most supreme among us. After our faith in Almighty Allah, we bow before the Martyrs and prisoners... On behalf of all of you, and on behalf of the Fatah Movement, we say good evening, my brother Marwan Zalum (i.e., terrorist, responsible for the murder of at least 7)... We say to these Martyrs... convey greetings to our leaders Yasser Arafat, Abu Jihad, Abu Iyad."
[Facebook page of the PA General Intelligence, June 1, 2019]

In his speech, Faraj also singled out several murderers worthy of "greetings," among them arch-terrorist Abu Jihad who organized the murder of at least 125 Israelis and Abu Iyad who planned the murder of 11 Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972.

PMW: Terror mom urges imprisoned terrorists to smuggle out sperm and father as many children as possible
Um Nasser Abu Hmeid - the PA’s adored terror mom who has 6 terrorist sons who together murdered at least 10 Israelis and participated in numerous terror attacks became a grandmother earlier this month after her terrorist son, Nasr Abu Hmeid, smuggled his sperm out of the Israeli prison where he is serving 4 life sentences for his involvement in the murder of 4 Israelis.

Interviewed together with her daughter-in-law, terror mom Um Hmeid urged all other terrorist prisoners to smuggle out their sperm to father “as many babies as possible” for the Palestinian people. Her daughter-in-law expressed satisfaction that she and her terrorist husband had a baby “in defiance of the Jews”:

Text on screen: “Yaman, a Palestinian baby, born June 15, 2019 but far from his father, prisoner Nasr Abu Hmeid”

Wife of terrorist Nasr Abu Hmeid, Ala’ Al-Naji: “We feel very good about having given birth to Yaman in defiance of the Jews. May he light up our lives and light up our faces, and may Nasr return safely, Allah willing.” ...

Text on screen: “Abu Hmeid, 43, is serving 5 life sentences in prison and succeeded in fathering his son through sperm smuggled out of the occupation’s prisons”

Mother of terrorist Nasr Abu Hmeid, Um Nasser Abu Hmeid: “I say to every mother of a prisoner, whose son is in prison and whose sentence is long, not to hesitate, [so] that as many babies as possible will be born. Even two or three from one womb is an achievement for the Palestinian people.”

Posted text on Facebook: “In defiance of the occupation; Yaman - a new baby who prisoner Nasr Abu Hmeid was blessed with through smuggled sperm.”
[Facebook page of the Quds news agency, June 16, 2019]

Is Qatari Money to Gaza Falling into Hamas' Hands?
Since October 2018, Qatar has distributed tens of millions of dollars to some 100,000 needy families in Gaza. A source in Israel's Civil Administration told Al-Monitor, "Huge crowds of people appear at the distribution centers, including Hamas activists with status and power in Hamas. They disguise themselves as needy recipients in order to get money."

In addition, there is a problem in overseeing the larger sums of money that Qatar sends to Gaza to improve the enclave's infrastructure. Hamas is able to acquire funds under the table from local contractors and merchants who have won infrastructure tenders. "The big contractors approved by Israel, who get work paving roads, laying water pipelines or fixing power lines, are forced to pay protection to Hamas activists."

The owner of an Israeli firm involved in the transport of goods from Israel's Ashdod port to the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza said his Palestinian counterparts in Gaza have described how anyone who wins a tender to do work there is required to pay a 10-22% "commission" to Hamas to ensure that they can do the work safely.

Have Iran violations brought it closer to a nuke? - analysis
Tehran could have reduced IAEA access to its nuclear facilities. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could have pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal or out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He did none of those things.

This means he is messaging restraint to the US even as Iran acts increasingly aggressively using military force against US-allied oil tankers and a US drone last week.

So now the next Iran deadline of July 7 approaches.

No one knows exactly what new escalated violation Iran will commit on July 7, but the latest reports in Iranian media are that it will enrich uranium to 3.7%, up from the nuclear deal’s 3.67%. If that is all, it would be another very symbolic violation.

Without jumping to at least the 20% enrichment level as the Islamic Republic did before the 2015 deal, the breakout time to a nuclear bomb will only get reduced on a very incremental basis.

Trump also seems in no rush to bring things to a conclusion. Despite expectations that he would strike Iran in response to Tehran shooting down an expensive US drone, he sufficed with additional sanctions and is now saying “I have time,” and is in no rush to resolve the standoff.

All of this is potentially explosive and could blow up at any moment, but in the meantime, it appears that both sides prefer gradual and calculated escalation to try to reach a deal over brinkmanship.
Australia should back up US pressure on Iran with sanctions of its own
The attacks on the tankers were probably intended to send a message that Iran can choke the vital Strait of Hormuz if it desires to do so in the lead-up to the July deadline. Iran likely calculated that this aggressive move could increase its leverage against the US, push the Europeans into finding a way around US sanctions, or both.

But Iran's piracy and aggressive actions in the Persian Gulf should instead be a reminder that Iran is an inherently disruptive and dangerous rogue actor. Relying on the JCPOA to – hopefully – merely delay temporarily the Iranian nuclear bomb while allowing Iran to test missiles, run riot disruptively and aggressively on numerous other fronts across the region, should not be an option.

The only real alternative to armed conflict at this point is strong and resolute international pressure on Iran to return to negotiations with the US, as President Trump has repeatedly urged, and end its aggressive provocations both in the Gulf and around the world.

Last year, when Australia reviewed its policy on Iran and decided to continue its support for the JCPOA despite the US withdrawal from it, the government committed to confront aggressive Iranian behaviour on other fronts. Prime Minister Scott Morrison proclaimed: "We will keep the option of additional autonomous sanctions under active review."

Given the alleged Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf and Iran's plans to begin openly violating the JCPOA, now is the time for that review process to lead to major policy changes. In terms of its own profound national security interests and commitment to a stable, rules-based international order, Australia should be doing whatever it can to contribute to the timely, calibrated and well-justified US-led strategy of increasing the pressure on Iran.

Autonomous sanctions should be an important part of a larger program for Australia to contribute to efforts to maximise economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran as creatively and expansively as possible.
Ted Cruz files amendment to pay for downed drone from Iran's frozen assets
Ted Cruz has officially filed to have the federal government recoup the losses for a drone shot down by the Iranian government by extracting the drone's value in cash from Iran's frozen assets.

"Yesterday I filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that begins process forcing #Iran to pay for the U.S. drone they shot down, using frozen Iranian funds," the Texas Republican senator tweeted.

The RQ-4A Global Hawk High-Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aircraft drone, valued at approximately $130 million, was shot down after the Iranian government said it left international waters and entered Iran's airspace. The U.S. disagreed, with President Trump saying that it was "all documented" that the drone did not leave international airspace. The two governments both released footage of the attack.

The U.S. froze approximately $100 billion in Iranian assets held in international accounts following the Iranian Revolution of 1979. A recent bipartisan bill introduced into Congress would distribute almost $2 billion of that to the families of Americans killed in the Beirut bombing of 1983, perpetrated by what would later become Hezbollah, which was backed by the Iranian government.
Tehran Friday Sermon by Iranian Cleric: America Sabotaged the Oil Tankers in the Gulf of Oman
Iranian cleric Mohammad Javad Haj Ali Akbar said in a June 21, 2019 Friday sermon in Tehran that aired on Channel 1 TV (Iran) that, according to Supreme Leader Khamenei, Iran's enemies are planning to "turn Iran into another Andalusia." He said that the "Satanic think tanks" of Iran's enemies have concluded that they must defile Iran with promiscuity, immodesty, and shamelessness in order to restrain it. Mentioning the American drone that Iran recently shot down, Akbar said that the Strait of Hormuz will continue to be the "eternal graveyard of trespassers," and he said that the Iranians are people of "resistance and active deterrence" that will "smack" their enemies back when attacked and that will not start confrontations, but will finish them. He accused the U.S. of sabotaging the oil tankers that were recently destroyed in the Gulf of Oman and he criticized the U.S., saying that it acts like a robber at sea, in air, and on land. Hinting at Saudi Arabia, Akbar said that the countries in the region that bought defense systems from the U.S. should buy Iranian weapons systems instead, because Iran would sell them to them for less and because the American systems "could not even defend against the Yemeni drones." He said: "Be on our side. Until when will you continue with your stupidity?"

Iraqi Political Commentator Slams Al-Jazeera TV Host for Defending Iran: Iran Is Enemy of Arabs
England-based Iraqi academic Sabah Al-Khozai appeared in a June 16, 2019 show on Al-Jazeera TV (Qatar) and referred to Iran as a "Safavid regime." The Al-Jazeera anchor asked Al- Khozai to refrain from calling Iran a "Safavid regime" because it is "disrespectful" and because such talk is "not allowed" on the show, and Sabah Al- Khozai angrily pointed out that the anchor did not make any attempt to prevent another guest on the show from saying that Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman is controlled by the Americans. Al- Khozai criticized Al-Jazeera, saying that he felt as if he was on an Israeli channel or a "Safavid" Iranian channel despite the fact that Al-Jazeera is supposed to be an Arab TV channel. He stressed that Iran is the enemy of the Arabs like Israel is, calling Iran "Eastern Israel," and he said that the Iran that the Al-Jazeera host and the other guests are defending is the same Iran that burned down his homeland of Iraq, as well as Syria and Yemen. Al- Khozai said: "Don't teach me about current affairs. My Arab heart is burned! (Bin Salman) is defending the Arabs." He responded to the critique of Bin Salman's relationship with the U.S. by adding that everybody in the world wants America on their side.

MEMRI: At Turkey Memorial Service For Mohamed Morsi, Crowd Chants Antisemitic Slogans; Turkish President Erdoğan: Morsi Is A Martyr; I Doubt His Death Was Natural
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Dr. Ali Erbaş, the Turkish minister of religious affairs, spoke at a June 18, 2019 memorial service that was held in Turkey in honor of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who had died the previous day. Erbaş referred to Morsi as a martyr and prayed for Allah to grant Turkish children and youth the ability to view people like Morsi as role models. Erdoğan said that he believes that Morsi, who he also said was a martyr, did not die a "normal" death, and that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is a weak coward, a tyrant, and a killer who should burn in Hell. He also criticized the West for remaining silent about Morsi's death, and he said that there are people like Sisi in Turkey who threaten him with the same fate as Morsi's. Erdoğan cautioned the audience against these people and said: "If they understood [martyrdom], they would not say these things."

The crowd chanted several slogans, including: "Down with the rule of the military," "Allah is our goal, the Prophet Muhammad is our role model, the Quran is our constitution, jihad is our path, and death for the sake of Allah is our loftiest aspiration," and "Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the Army of Muhammad will return." The videos in this clip were uploaded to the Internet by the YouTube channel of the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs and TicToc by Bloomberg.

"Personally, Right Now I Have No Belief That This Was A Normal Death"

Dr. Ali Erbaş: "In the Holy Quran, our Lord tells us that every soul will taste death. Some will taste death in bed and some will become sick and die, but some will taste the reality of death by drinking the elixir of martyrdom. Some martyrs are martyred in the soldiers' battlefields, standing with their swords against the enemies and the tyrants. Some martyrs – some people, some heroes – pass their lives by proclaiming the truth against the tyrants, and that is how they are martyred. The departed Mohamed Morsi completed his life and drank the elixir of martyrdom by proclaiming these truths into the faces of the tyrants. Lord, grant all our young people – all our children – the ability to grow up viewing people like this as role models, and grant us the ability to raise them to do so."

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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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