Wednesday, September 18, 2019

From Ian:

An Israeli Groundhog Day - analysis
It’s clear that a unity government is the only option to avoid another dreadful third round, but that would necessitate some major changes. Either Blue and White’s Benny Gantz reneges on his promise to voters to not sit in a coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu, or the Likud puts in process a motion to replace Netanyahu as leader. Neither of those is likely, even though President Reuven Rivlin could appeal to Gantz’s national pride and attempt to convince him to join a national-unity government out of obligation to the country.

Also improbable is the option of Liberman going back on his word to his constituents to not sit in a government with non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox parties, in order to join a right-wing coalition with the Likud, Yamina and the religious parties. That would be an even bigger jump than Gantz would have to make.

Both the Right and Left predictably spun the results for their own means, with the Likud touting the Right’s bigger bloc and the Left proclaiming “the end of the Netanyahu era.”

However, a declaration like that when dealing with Netanyahu is always premature. Given his legal woes and the groundswell of opinion that a change is needed for Israel’s leadership, the fact that Blue and White was unable to strike a clear-cut victory could also be seen as a considerable failure of its lackluster campaign.

The day after the election, all sides seemed to be digging into their well-worn trenches of “I’ll only join X if Y happens.” Even though, during the campaign, every candidate insisted that there was no way there would be a third round of voting, all indications point to another stalemate in the weeks ahead, as Rivlin attempts to convince the sides to compromise.

If he fails, it looks like we’ll be waking up to Groundhog Day again real soon.
JPost Editorial: After the vote
Whether Benjamin Netanyahu or Benny Gantz ends up forming the next coalition is immaterial. What is important is to realize that it’s time for the country to come together, and for our politicians to understand their place in history. They are not here just for the power and influence that comes with their roles, but to work on behalf of us, the people. They are supposed to work to improve our quality of life, to ensure that we are safe, and that the gap between those who have and those who do not closes and doesn’t widen.

A 61-member coalition should never be the goal. A razor-thin majority is never good for a country. Instead, the ideal should be 70 or 80, where fewer parties have the ability to pull out and bring down the government. This is not hard to achieve. Everyone has to compromise a little bit, and everyone can. Just think how many times it has been done over the 34 governments of Israel’s history. Can Israel’s politicians find a way to work together?

Putting aside the results, Israelis have to move forward today and pick up the pieces. First, our political leaders must ensure that there is not another stalemate, and that the country does not again go to an unnecessary third election. The country must come first, even it means that some parties will be forced to go back on some of their campaign promises of “I won’t sit with him” or “I won’t countenance them.”

It’s time for the parties to put the betterment of the country ahead of their own narrow interests.

And it’s time for the nation to heal. After two dirty elections during which entire sectors of society – the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs to name two – were delegitimized by candidates and political parties, we need to try to find a way to come back together, to stand on common ground and build a future that ensures no Israeli feels disenfranchised. That is the work that the next government must set out for itself. Failure is unacceptable.
With 90% of vote officially counted, Blue and White edging out Likud 32-31
With 89.8 percent of votes having been counted by the Central Elections Committee, Benny Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party on Wednesday was projected to secure 32 seats in the Knesset, edging ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, which stood at 31 seats.

In the official count, the Gantz-led center-left-Arab bloc has a slight advantage over the Netanyahu-led right-religious bloc with 56 seats versus 55. In the middle are the nine seats of Yisrael Beytenu, whose leader, MK Avigdor Liberman, has vowed to force Likud and Blue and White into a unity government.

The Joint List, an alliance of mostly Arab parties, stands at third with 13 seats, followed by the ultra-Orthodox Shas and Yisrael Beytenu, both with nine seats.

Bringing up the rear are the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism (8), the nationalist alliance Yamina (7), center-left Labor-Gesher (6) and the leftist Democratic Camp (5).

The tally was announced at noon and was not final, with votes from Arab population centers expected to be finished shortly, followed by counts of the votes cast by soldiers, diplomats and patients in Israeli hospitals, among others.

The figures indicated that the deadlock from the previous elections on April 9 would continue. Netanyahu’s difficult situation was compounded by the fact that the right-wing bloc bled votes to Liberman.
Apparent Kingmaker Lieberman Says ‘Emergency Situation’ Requires Unity Government With Likud, Blue and White
Leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party Avigdor Lieberman, who according to exit polls will play the kingmaker in the coalition negotiations following Israel’s Tuesday elections, said that he would accept only one outcome — a national unity government.

The exit polls show that Lieberman’s secular-nationalist party has won 8-10 seats in the next Knesset, with the right-wing Likud and centrist Blue and White parties essentially tied at around 30 seats and the right-religious and center-left blocs hovering around 55 seats, giving neither side a working majority without him.

Lieberman addressed his supporters Tuesday night and appeared to flex his muscles, saying, “There is only one option: a broad liberal government made up of the Likud, Blue and White and Yisrael Beiteinu.”

“We have always said that a unity government is possible only in an emergency situation, and I say to every citizen that is watching us now on television — the situation, security-wise and economically, is an emergency situation,” Lieberman said.

Lieberman called on President Reuven Rivlin not to wait for the final results to name someone to undertake coalition negotiations, saying the president should “invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz to an informal conversation as early as Friday.”

“The state needs a broad government,” Lieberman asserted, “even a unity government without us is preferable to dealing with endless negotiations.”

Israel, he said, did not need “a government fighting for its survival from week to week.”

Jonathan Tobin: Israeli Elections Did Not Determine the Future of the Peace Process
With all the apocalyptic rhetoric over the Israeli election, many still fail to understand the broad consensus among Israelis on security issues and the peace process. That consensus holds that the Palestinians have no real interest in peace and that in the absence of a peace partner, the kind of territorial concessions some demand that Israel make wouldn't be so much unwise as insane. That's why all the talk about Israel's latest election deciding the future of the peace process is wrong.

As Arafat did in 2000 and 2001, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said "no" to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 2008 offer of an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, as well as a share of Jerusalem. Abbas to this day refuses to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

Palestinian peace with Israel is impossible until a sea change in their culture produces a leadership that would be serious about peace. Should such a leadership ever emerge, they will, no doubt, find willing Israeli partners. But that's something for the future. For now, Israelis understand that the Palestinians have already decided against peace - no matter who is Israel's prime minister.
Benjamin Netanyahu vows to build a new government
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised that he would build the next government in a speech to his supporters at Expo Tel Aviv, after 3 a.m. early Wednesday morning.

Netanyahu spoke half an hour after Blue and White leader Benny Gantz vowed to do the same. Amid chants of “no to a unity government,” the prime minister said all of the Likud’s current coalition partners want to build a coalition.

“All of Likud's partners want to move forward together to build a strong government and not permit a dangerous anti-Zionist government,” he told the crowd.

A hoarse Netanyahu was greeted by chants of “Bibi, King of Israel.” He quipped that “it is better to lose your voice than lose the state.”

“We will stand united in the missions ahead for Likud and for Israel,” he said. “We are still waiting for the true results, but one thing is clear: The State of Israel is at a historic juncture ahead of great security and diplomatic challenges and opportunities.”

Singling out Iran and the policies of US President Donald Trump, Netanyahu said: “We need to make sure we maintain our achievements.”
Likud says right-wing, Haredi factions to operate as bloc in coalition talks
Right-wing and ultra-Orthodox political leaders rallied around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, agreeing to present a united front ahead of coalition talks after they jointly came up short of winning enough seats in Tuesday’s elections to form a new majority government.

Netanyahu met at his office Wednesday with United Torah Judaism party heads Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni, as well as Ayelet Shaked, Rafi Peretz, Bezalel Smotrich and Naftali Bennett of the Yamina electoral alliance. He met earlier in the day with Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

A spokesman for the premier’s Likud party said the party chiefs decided to set up a joint negotiation team for coalition talks and act as a “single right-wing bloc” moving forward.

After the talks, Netanyahu, speaking at a special Likud party faction meeting, said that the four parties would negotiate the coalition talks as one bloc with senior Likud lawmaker, Tourism Minister Yairv Levin, leading them on the other parties behalf.

“Once we have established the right-wing bloc, there are only two options: A government led by me, or a dangerous government that relies on the Arab parties. At this time, more than ever, especially in the face of the huge security and political challenges at stake, a government that relies on the anti-Zionist Arab parties must not be established. Every effort must be made to prevent such a dangerous government,” Netanyahu said.
Benny Gantz: We want to build broad national unity government
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz vowed to form a broad, national unity government and "heal Israel's wounded society" after exit polls suggested his party would be the largest in the Knesset following Tuesday's election.

He added that his party would immediately start to work on a broad national unity government and that he had already spoken with the leaders of the left wing parties.

"According to the current results, the Israeli public put their faith in us for the second time," said Gantz in the early hours of Wednesday, speaking to supporters at the party's election night headquarters in Tel Aviv.

"No to incitement and division, yes to unity. No to corruption, and yes to clean hands. No to attempts to destroy Israeli democracy, and yes to statesmanship and Israel as a democratic and Jewish state."

A feeling of cautious optimism swept across a modest crowd of Blue and White Party supporters as they watched exit polls broadcast simultaneously on Israel’s three major television channels at the party’s election night headquarters in Tel Aviv. Revised exit polls gave even greater cause for optimism.

Netanyahu cancels UN appearance due to election results
Due to the political climate after the election results, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cancelled his visit to the UN General Assembly next week. Foreign Minister and Likud MK Yisrael Katz will speak in his stead.

Netanyahu has taken part in the UN General Assembly’s general debate every year except one since coming to power in 2009.

According to the UN schedule, Netanyahu was listed as the 12th speaker on September 26, the third and final day of speeches by world leaders. He was scheduled to come to the podium just three slots after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

In addition to giving his speech to the UN, Netanyahu was also expected to meet US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the meeting. Trump will speak to the body on Tuesday, and tweeted on Saturday that he would be meeting Netanyahu to discuss an Israel-US defense pact.

Generally, invitations to the media to join prime ministerial visits are sent a few weeks in advance, though not always. For instance, when Netanyahu flew to London two weeks ago, the media was informed only a few hours prior.

The timing of such a trip would pose political challenges, since the official election results are to be handed next Wednesday to President Reuven Rivlin, who then must pick one of the candidates to form a government.

Netanyahu has spoken as prime minister at the UN General Assembly on 10 different occasions: first in 1998, and then every year since he became prime minister for a second time in 2009, with the exception of 2010.
In Post Election Speeches, Netanyahu Lashes Out at Arab Parties, Gantz Emphasizes Unity
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared neither victory nor defeat following the results of Israel’s Tuesday elections, but lashed out at Israel’s Arab parties and appeared to lay the groundwork for an attack on any attempt by his rival Benny Gantz to collaborate with them.

For his part, Gantz emphasized that the election results remain unclear, but he pledged to bring unity and heal what he described as a divided Israeli society.

Most exit polls are predicting a nearly even division between Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’s Blue and White parties, with Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party poised to be the kingmaker and the Arab party the Joint List possibly playing a decisive role as well.

Given that Lieberman upended Netanyahu’s last attempt to form a government in April after his demands for religious reforms were rejected by Netanyahu’s Haredi coalition partners, and that Netanyahu requires the Haredi parties to form a majority government, it is unlikely that Lieberman will join a coalition led by Netanyahu.

Arriving at Likud party headquarters on Tuesday evening, Netanyahu thanked his supporters and apologized for a hoarse throat, which he said he’d acquired thanks to 24 hours of non-stop campaigning.
Arab turnout rises to 60% after reaching an all-time low in April
Voter turnout among Arab Israelis rose significantly on Tuesday as compared to the last national elections on April 9, when fewer than half of Arab voters cast ballots.

According to Haaretz, approximately 60 percent of Arab voters came out to the polls, despite what many in Israel see as various voter suppression efforts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his ruling Likud Party and right-wing activists. In April, Arab turnout hit a record low of 49.2%.

Exit polls have predicted that the recently reunified Joint List, a coalition of the four largest Arab-majority parties, could receive up to 13 seats in the next Knesset, a significant improvement over the Arab parties’ showing in April when they broke up into two competing slates and won a total of 10.

Dr. Thabet Abu Ras, co-executive director of The Abraham Fund Initiatives, a civil society group, told Israeli financial newspaper Globes that he believed that Netanyahu’s warnings about high Arab turnout, meant to energize his base, backfired. Instead, he said, Netanyahu’s fiery rhetoric and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz’s promise to enact a Basic Law promising equality spurred Arab voters to come out and vote in an attempt to dethrone the prime minister.

Aaed Kayel, the Joint List’s campaign manager, said he could not provide precise data on turnout in Arab communities, but said he also believed it rose above 60%.
Joint Arab List leader: We just became the 3rd-largest faction
With a higher-than-expected voter turnout of at least 60% in the Arab sector, the Joint Arab List is poised to have around 12 seats after all votes are tallied.

After the initial exit polls were announced Tuesday night, Joint Arab List chairman Ayman Odeh announced, "Once again, we have united and managed to get to 13 [the highest estimate] seats and become the third-largest faction in the Knesset."

"[Prime Minister] Netanyahu incited against us and led to a dramatic rise in voter turnout in our sector. This is election drama because we are now a force that comprises a real alternative to the political map in Israel," Odeh said.

"Our votes prevented Netanyahu from establishing a government. That's something historic."

Odeh's party colleague MK Ahmad Tibi said the Joint Arab List would not join any coalition or government with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz.

"When it comes to blocking [a coalition], we'll sit down in the next few days and decide what to do," Tibi said.

"The Netanyahu era is over, and his fate is either to go home or go to prison. And we'll just say, 'the deal of the century' no longer exists," Tibi continued.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Putin Declares Victory In Israel Elections (satire)
A long night of vote-counting, speeches, and tension culminated this morning in an announcement by Russia’s president thanking Israeli citizens for voting into office the candidates and parties of his choosing.

Vladimir Putin congratulated Israelis Wednesday morning on voting the way he had manipulated them via social media trolling, bankrolling elements to sow division, and fomenting uncertainty on the Jewish state’s northern border to undermine any sense of security.

“I would like to take this special moment to show my appreciation for the victory the Israeli electorate has handed me,” pronounced the autocrat-in-all-but-name and former KGB operative. “We can now move forward with the fractured polity, political stalemate, hyperpartisanship, and mutual mistrust that best suits the policy I have been pursuing for Russian interests in the Middle East and beyond. Today marks a victory for democracy as cover for my machinations.”

“Together, or it will appear that way at least, we can work to build a region and world as I have envisioned,” continued Putin. “This mandate to continue undermining democratic institutions and sentiments in the West and elsewhere forms an important building block in Russia’s long-term strategy for hegemony. I would say we couldn’t have done it without you, but that is not strictly true; what we could not have done without you, the voters, is give the result the veneer of democratic legitimacy. So thank you for that.”
David Singer: Netanyahu and Trump Hatch Plan for a Jordan Exclave in West Bank
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-minute election pledge to apply Israeli sovereignty in parts of the West Bank could possibly see a large part of the remainder of the West Bank being offered to Jordan as an exclave in direct negotiations between Jordan and Israel.

An exclave is a piece of land that is politically attached to a larger piece but not physically conterminous (having the same borders) with it because of surrounding foreign territory.
Netanyahu’s pledge was clear:
“We will apply sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and the Northern Dead Sea as soon as the next government is established in the next Knesset. Today I have appointed a working team led by the director-general of my ministry, Ronen Peretz, to formulate an outline for applying sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea”

Netanyahu has now gone even further reportedly saying that if re-elected he plans to annex additional “vital” parts of the West Bank in coordination with the United States.
Trump’s Ambassador in Israel, David Friedman, has already indicated that Trump’s plan will not call for the creation of an additional Arab state between Israel and Jordan based on the 1949 ceasefire lines agreed between those two former enemies.

Friedman declared:
“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”

Friedman then declined to say how the United States would respond if Netanyahu moved to annex West Bank land unilaterally – stating:
“We really don’t have a view until we understand how much, on what terms, why does it make sense, why is it good for Israel, why is it good for the region, why does it not create more problems than it solves. These are all things that we’d want to understand, and I don’t want to prejudge.”

Trump seemingly has not yet secured an ironclad guarantee from Jordan or any other Arab interlocutor that they stand ready to negotiate with Israel on Trump’s plan. Releasing it without such a guarantee would constitute political suicide for Trump.

Jonathan Tobin: Does Israel Need a Mutual Defense Pact with the United States?
Indeed, as Israel learned in the weeks leading up to the 1967 Six Day War and then during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, even American administrations that were favorable to Israel didn’t hesitate to use their leverage to advance their own perceived interests, even if it meant making the Jewish state’s situation more perilous. That was also true with respect to President George H.W. Bush’s not-so-subtle request that Israel not retaliate against Saddam’s SCUD missile attacks on the Jewish state during the first Gulf war.

Similarly, it is arguable that a treaty between the two countries might have stopped Menachem Begin from ordering an airstrike on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 or Ehud Olmert’s decision to take out Syria’s nuclear program in 2007.

It’s also true that although Obama’s 10-year commitment to military aid to Israel seemed like a gift, its purpose was as much to handcuff Israel’s freedom of action with respect to Gaza or Iran as it was to help.

What these examples remind us is that although Israel and the United States are united by common values and interests as fellow democracies, no two nations’ security interests are the same. The United States will, even under the friendliest presidents, perceive its interests in the Middle East as encompassing issues that transcend what is good for Israel. And despite Israel’s understanding that America’s desires must be given great deference, the Jewish state’s imperative to protect its people from deadly foes can’t be ignored in order to please Washington.

Seen in that light, perhaps Israel is better off retaining its freedom of action than getting a commitment to its security from the Americans. Indeed, such a pact might only be of value in wars in which US assistance might come too late to be of any utility. So while Trump deserves credit for thinking of Israel as an ally rather than a burden, as Obama seemed to do, it might be better for both nations to table the discussion of a mutual defense pact that might be more trouble than it’s worth.
Trump names new US national security adviser after Bolton’s ouster
US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is naming hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien as his new national security adviser.

Trump tweeted the announcement from California, while on the third and final day of a West Coast fundraising swing.

“I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor,” Trump said. “I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!”

The announcement of O’Brien’s selection comes a week after the Republican president ousted John Bolton from the national security adviser’s post, citing policy disagreements. Bolton was Trump’s third national security adviser. O’Brien was among five job candidates Trump said Tuesday were under consideration.

In a pair of tweets, Trump said he had disagreed with much of Bolton’s advice and had asked for his resignation. Bolton’s ouster came as a surprise to many in the White House. Just an hour before Trump’s tweet, the press office announced that Bolton would join Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a briefing.

Bolton was reportedly displeased that Trump indicated he was ready to meet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran to renegotiate a nuclear deal. He had been widely cheered by Israel’s right-wing government, which had pushed the administration to abandon the nuclear deal and take a more hawkish stance toward Iran.
CNN Video - Knesset Speaker: Applying Israeli Sovereignty in Jordan Valley Could Bring Us Closer to Peace
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein told CNN on Thursday:
"We are talking about the plan of applying Israeli sovereignty to the area of the Jordan Valley, an area not densely populated by the Palestinians, and the prime minister was very clear that sovereignty would not apply to the town of Jericho where the Palestinians live, according to the Oslo agreements."

"On this particular issue of the Jordan Valley, I would justify it with two paragraphs: One, our historic rights there in the area, and the other one - every military expert I know and you know would agree that it's impossible to defend the State of Israel without military control in this area. So with these two issues combined I think that is quite obvious that under no negotiations will we be able to give up the Jordan Valley."

"Unfortunately, I haven't seen any negotiations for the last several years. I regret that. That's definitely not Israel's fault or Netanyahu's fault. But I would dare say, I noticed your stress on the word 'unilateral.' When we were protesting Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, I don't remember that anyone was talking so negatively about unilateral steps."

"The results are very well-known. The moment we uprooted all the Jewish communities there and withdrew all the Israel Defense Forces from the Gaza Strip, we've been in an ongoing war on our southern border for the last 14 years."

"I think that as far as the Jordan Valley plan is concerned, it could bring us even closer to peace because things will become more clear. Right now with this probably illusion of some people about the future of this area, it makes it harder to negotiate."
King of Jordan warns of 'disaster' if Israel annexes settlements
Jordan's King Abdullah II says if Israel goes ahead with the idea of annexing all the settlements in Judea and Samaria it would be a "disaster" for attempts to find any two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, Abdullah said he was "extremely concerned" about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vow to annex all of the settlements in the West Bank.

He says it will "directly impact" the relationship between Israel and Jordan, and Israel and Egypt, and that "these types of statements are ... a disaster to any attempt to move forward to the two-state solution."

Merkel agreed, calling Netanyahu's vow "unhelpful."

Abdullah added that "we're looking at this with tremendous concern."
Female terrorist shot dead after stabbing attempt
Israeli security personnel shot a Palestinian woman who tried to stab them at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, Israeli police said, and Palestinian officials said she died of her injury.

The West Bank, among territories where Palestinians seek statehood, has seen simmering street violence since U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Israel brok down in 2014.

Video circulated on social media, and which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed men with rifles confronting a woman. A shot is heard and she collapses, dropping something from her hand. One of the men then kicks the item out of reach.

An Israeli police spokesman said on Twitter that a "female terrorist attempted to carry out (a) stabbing attack" at Qalandia checkpoint. He posted a picture of a knife on asphalt.

The Palestinian health ministry said a woman shot at Qalandia had died. Palestinian officials did not immediately provide further details on her.
Woman Killed After Wielding Knife at Israeli Soldiers
A woman who approached soldiers wielding a knife, was shot and later died at the hospital due to her injuries. Our Jonathan Regev has the report.

Survey shows Palestinians tiring of Abbas
A large majority of Palestinians rejects Mahmoud Abbas’s presidency and believes that large scale corruption exists in the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

According to a new poll, confidence in Abbas is low, with more than 60% demanding his resignation and only a little more than a third wanting him to stay. If elections were held in which President Abbas would stand against Hamas leader Ismail Haniyyeh, the result would be very close.

The findings are startling as the Palestinian president’s popularity continued to decline according to the poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) of Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between September 11 and 14, 2019.

“The people hold Abbas accountable,” said Abdul Sattar Kassem, former political science professor at An-Najah University in the West Bank. Kassem argues that bad governing by the PA is to blame for these numbers.
“The authority is its own worst enemy. There is financial corruption, administrative corruption and social issues, injustice to people, high taxes, bullying by PA security.”

The results show that about three quarters of the public are dissatisfied with the performance of the Palestinian Authority and political factions towards Israel's demolition of buildings in the Wadi al-Homs neighborhood near Jerusalem. The majority believes that President Abbas's response to the demolition, threatening to suspend all agreements with Israel, is not appropriate.

Three-quarters of the Palestinian street believe that Abbas’s decisions are nothing but a media maneuver to appease people and absorb their anger over the PA's failure to stand up to Israel and prevent it from demolishing buildings in areas under PA control. About 80% of those surveyed believe that the leadership will not follow through on their threat and won't implement any of the decisions.

Elected in 2005, his first term ended in 2009. But because no elections have taken place since, Kassem says Abbas “lacks legitimacy” and his lost credibility with the people.
Arrest warrant issued for Lebanese-American who worked for Israel
A Lebanese judge issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for a Lebanese-American who confessed he’d worked for Israel during the nearly two decades of its military presence in Lebanon, Lebanese judicial officials said.

The officials said acting military investigative judge Najat Abu Shakra postponed the questioning of Amer Fakhoury at the Military Court in Beirut pending permission from Lebanon’s Bar Association for an American lawyer to attend.

The officials said Fakhoury told the judge he wants the American lawyer to be present and since she had no permission from the Bar Association, the judge decided to postpone the questioning. No date has been set for the next session, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Fakhoury was detained after returning to his native Lebanon from the US earlier this month. He had worked as a senior warden at the Khiam Prison in southern Lebanon that was run by an Israeli-backed militia, known as the South Lebanon Army, until Israel withdrew from the area in 2000 after 18 years.

“The Department of State does not comment on cases involving American citizens due to privacy considerations,” a US State Department official said.

Outside the court, scores of people gathered, including former Khiam prison detainees, some of whom demanded the death penalty for Fakhoury.
Iran offers Trump an opportunity to rally the world against it
Whether last weekend’s attacks on the Saudi oil industry were launched from Yemen (by Iran-backed Houthi rebels), from Iraq (by Iran-backed Shiite militias), or from Iran itself, there is no doubt that Tehran is the culprit, writes Ray Takeyh. Noting the long history of the Islamic Republic’s attacks on America’s soldiers, citizens, and allies going unpunished, he urges Washington to take action:

In the coming days, the [Trump] administration will be advised to cool the temperature in the Middle East. It will be cautioned against forceful measures for they could only lead to a wider conflict. It will be accused of somehow instigating this crisis and thus having an obligation to switch tracks. The underlying assumption of all these claims is that the U.S. is somehow responsible for Iranian mischief. But the Islamic Republic responds to resolution, not a retreat from punitive measures. It respects strength, not blandishments.

The task ahead for the Trump administration is a formidable one. It must marshal evidence demonstrating Iranian complicity at a time when most Democrats and European leaders are inclined to blame the [U.S.] instead. It must convince its jittery allies in the Middle East, particularly in the Persian Gulf, to come together and unite behind an anti-Iran stance. It should continue its pressure campaign to reduce Iranian oil exports. It must draw its red lines clearly and unambiguously.

All this is not to suggest a rush to rash action. The Islamic Republic has offered us a unique opportunity to mobilize the international community against it. . . . The theocracy’s most important vulnerability is still its weakening economy, and it is that nerve that Washington should continue pinching. Given this latest Iranian act of terror, the Trump administration may have stumbled on a unique opportunity to make its strategy of maximum pressure a multilateral one.
Stand up to Iran's oil market terrorism
At times, previous administrations have tolerated the Islamic Republic’s provocations in the Gulf, hoping restraint would prevent a direct conflict. It never worked then and is not working now. During the last six months, Iran has attacked vessels in the Gulf and made transit insecure. Other than a reported U.S. cyberattack, Iran has not paid a significant price for its aggression. Predictably, Tehran remains undeterred.

The U.S. and its allies should therefore expect more attacks, whose target may be a major oil facility in another country, for example the UAE or one beyond the Gulf. Tehran may use its own forces or its proxies (including Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias or the Houthis in Yemen) to carry out the next operation. Other producers need to prepare. Since oil is traded globally, knocking out substantial production anywhere will help achieve Iran’s goal of higher prices. Still, prices remain moderate for the moment, at $65-$70 per barrel for Brent crude, whereas prices topped $100 on several occasions in 2014.

To limit the upwards pressure on price, Trump announced his administration will work to relieve pipeline bottlenecks within the U.S. This could provide important relief to the market, but it is not clear that the government can actually facilitate change, and certainly not quickly.

In addition, the U.S. should work with oil- and gas-producing allies to improve the security of their infrastructure. Iran’s ability to disrupt the Gulf’s sea lanes affects the natural gas trade as well, since liquid natural gas moves by sea. The new growing global liquid natural gas trade enhances global energy security, but also creates a whole new set of security challenges, for which the U.S. needs to develop a strategy.

As both an energy and military superpower, the United States is best positioned to guarantee the free flow of energy, continued global prosperity, and enhanced stability in the world’s most volatile region.
Trump orders US Treasury to ‘substantially increase’ sanctions on Iran
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced what he said would be substantial new sanctions against Iran in the first response to what US officials say was likely Iranian involvement in an attack on Saudi oil facilities.

“I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!” Trump said in a tweet.

The United States already enforces widespread sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy, including attempting to shut down its major oil export industry.

There were no immediate details on what the new measures might be.

This image provided on Sept. 15, 2019, by the US government and DigitalGlobe and annotated by the source, shows damage to the infrastructure at at Saudi Aramco’s Kuirais oil field in Buqyaq, Saudi Arabia (US government/Digital Globe via AP)

Trump has yet to put categorical blame on Iran for last weekend’s bombardment by drones or missiles of Saudi oil facilities. However, a US official has confirmed to AFP that the administration believes Iran is responsible.
Saudi Arabia joins US-led maritime coalition after attack on its oil production
Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it joined a US-led coalition to secure the Mideast’s waterways amid threats from Iran after an attack targeting its crucial oil industry.

The kingdom’s decision to enter the International Maritime Security Construct came ahead of a planned visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Saudi officials separately planned to share information about the weapons used to attack a Saudi oil field and the world’s largest crude oil processing plant Saturday.

Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have claimed the attack, but the US and Saudi Arabia say they suspect Iran carried out the assault. Iran denies that, though it comes amid a summer of heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over its unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a statement Wednesday morning quoting an unnamed official saying the kingdom had joined the International Maritime Security Construct.

Australia, Bahrain and the United Kingdom already have joined the mission.

“The kingdom’s accession to this international alliance comes in support of regional and international efforts to deter and counter threats to maritime navigation and global trade in order to ensure global energy security and the continued flow of energy supplies to the global economy and contribute to maintain the international peace and security,” the news agency said.

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