Monday, February 03, 2020

02/03 Links Pt1: The New York Times Dreads Peace; Why even the Israeli Left has embraced Trump's peace plan; Israel-Sudan ties on the agenda for Netanyahu’s Uganda visit

From Ian:

Rock, Paper, Scissors in the Middle East
On the Israel front, Trump nullified the 1967 lines, the cornerstone of the Arab rejectionist position that Obama had attempted to enshrine in UNSCR 2334. He did this by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and then by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The latter move eliminated the 1967 framework altogether with regard to Syria and Lebanon. As far as the United States is concerned, there are no more disputed territories: The land is Israel’s.

The current plan extends that same approach to the Jordan Valley, in addition to existing settlements. “If the State of Israel withdrew from the Jordan Valley, it would have significant implications for regional security in the Middle East,” the president’s vision states, expressing a positive desire for Israel to remain there. An extension of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley would therefore serve U.S. regional security interests. Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ acceptance of the Trump plan as the basis for any future talks between Israel and the Palestinians indicates that the United States’ regional allies have accepted the president’s nullification of the 1967 lines framework. The significance of this is that the Saudis and the Emiratis have accepted that the starting point for any movement going forward is not the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, which the Saudis originally sponsored almost 20 years ago, and which has subsequently been loaded with additional rigid language, especially regarding the so-called right of return for Palestinian refugees, by rejectionists led by the Assad regime. The Trump peace plan is the new starting point.

The truth is, none of these frameworks matter anymore. Trump has made it clear that he is not bound by the fantasies of previous American peace processors—who today show contempt for the president’s plan even as they admit their own decades-long failure. Trump’s deal is designed to underscore Israel’s special relationship with the United States—and it slams shut the rusty gates of the peace processing factory for good. It doesn’t much matter how the Palestinians respond. The American position is not dependent on the outcome of future negotiations.

Israel’s political class now has a clear window in which to determine its own fate. Israel can then live with the consequences of its own choices.
The two-step solution
Let us imagine that Jordan changes its mind and agrees to become the Palestinian state in place of the one that fails to materialize pursuant to the Deal of the Century. This change of mind can come about either through the King's agreement or by his giving over the reins of leadersihp to someone who will.

Were this to happen, all Palestinian Arabs in both sides of the Jordan R. would become full Jordanian citizens. without restrictions. The two roads connecting the proposed “state” to Jordan would be completed facilitating transportation between the Palestinian Arabs on both sides of the Jordan R.

Jordan would take over the administration of Areas A and B and Gaza in place of the PA and Hamas. Jordan would also fulfill the role of UNRWA in providing education, welfare and health care to all the current day refugees.

Rather than build the tunnel connecting Gaza to the rest of the “state”, pursuant to the vision, at a cost exceeding $15 Billion, Jordan can invite all residents of Gaza and Judea and Samaria (aka West Bank) to relocate to Jordan to receive these benefits. Also immigrants could be offered free housing in Jordan with international aid to sweeten the deal. It is not too far-fetched to believe that 2 million Arabs living in these areas could be incentivized to relocate to Jordan which is only 100 miles away or to any other country prepared to accept them.

It would not be necessary for Israel to give up any parts of its territory.

Israel would extend its law to all the lands west of the Jordan R including Gaza and the Arabs would become foreign residents in Israel with Jordanian citizenship.

The $50 Billion pledge in support of this vision could be provided to Jordan to enable it to become the home for all Palestinian Arabs and to provide them with jobs, education and healthcare.

Instead of investing in industrial parks in Area C in Israel to benefit the Arabs as proposed by Min Bennett and PM Netanyahu, these zones will rightly be created in Jordan thereby incentivizing Arabs to emigrate to Jordan.

This is a two step solution.

The first step is to change the vision as above set out.

The second step is to make Jordan, Palestine.

The New York Times Dreads Peace
When President Donald Trump’s peace plan was released, assuring Israel of sovereignty along the Jordan River, the security of settlements in Biblical Judea and Samaria, and the entirety of Jerusalem including the Old City under Israeli jurisdiction, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (and Israelis in general) had every reason to exult.

But The New York Times had every reason to lament. Reporter Megan Specia, a story editor based in New York with little evident familiarity with the Middle East, Israel, or Palestinians, reported on the plan and its deficiencies (January 29). Her conclusion, that the proposal “strongly favors Israeli priorities,” is indisputable, as is her perception that it is “a sharp departure from decades of American policy.”

Worst of all, as the Times has repeatedly complained, “is American recognition of Israel’s claim over the Jordan Valley and all Jewish settlements in the West Bank.” After all, she writes in an endlessly reiterated Times cliché, “Most of the world regards the settlements as illegal.” They have “steadily encroached” on land, by implication, that is Palestinian — unidentified by Specia as the Biblical homeland of the Jewish people.

In their familiar duet of complaints about Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu and settlements, Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger and his colleague Isabel Kershner sadly concluded that a viable Palestinian state is now “quickly slipping away.” Rather than focus on the decades of Palestinian intransigence that have obstructed that possibility, they predictably (for the Times) blamed President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu for imposing their will on beleaguered Palestinians. President Mahmoud Abbas, they suggested, should “try to weather the storm” in the hope that Trump and Netanyahu will be defeated in forthcoming elections. That is also the Times’ endlessly reiterated hope.

The Times drumbeat continued. On the Opinion page, Nathan Thrall, widely praised for his plea (in The Only Language They Understand) to force compromise on Israel and the Palestinians, offered his own laceration of the Trump plan. It “gives Israel cover to perpetuate the status quo of occupation and sovereignty,” he complained, thereby “depriving millions of stateless people of basic civil rights and dispossessing them of their land.”

Thrall, clearly not enthralled by Zionism or Israel, refers to an “indigenous Palestinian population” whose rights to the Biblical Land of Israel have been ignored. He does not acknowledge that this “indigenous Palestinian population” did not assertively define itself in national terms until after the Six Day War in 1967, when the Jordanian land on the West Bank where they lived was returned to the Jewish people. He is convinced, without offering a shred of evidence or confronting evidence to the contrary, that Israel “illegally established settlements” in Biblical Judea and Samaria.

Einat Wilf: Why even the Israeli Left has embraced Trump's peace plan
To the Palestinians’ credit they have never lied nor wavered about their goal of an Arab Palestine stretching “From the River to the Sea”. They have been consistent and persistent in its pursuit, whether by wars and terrorism or by seeking to isolate Israel on the international stage. To that end, they have never backed down from their claim that they possess a “right of return” into the sovereign state of Israel.

Exercising this “right of return” would effectively transform Israel into an Arab Islamic state with a Jewish minority, thereby ending Jewish self-rule. Even when negotiating with Israel over two states, Palestinians have remained adamant that this “right of return” (which is neither a right nor a return) is non-negotiable.

When some Palestinians claim to support two states, while rejecting any formulation that would deny them the “right of return”, the two states which would actually result are a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza and another Palestinian state to replace Israel.

Westerners who genuinely want to believe that there is a peace plan that allows both a Jewish Israel and an Arab Palestine to live side by side in peace, have sought to square the Palestinians’ decades of consistent rejectionism by engaging in a practice I have come to term “westplaining”. Westplaining means that when Palestinians say “no”, westerners explain it means “maybe”, and that while Palestinians may insist that the “right of return” is holy and non-negotiable, in reality they “know” deep down it won’t really happen.

What Westplaining has sought to mask is the Palestinian view that if the price of an Arab state of Palestine is that the Jewish people will be allowed to retain their sovereign state and self-rule in another part of the land, whichever part that is, then that is too high a price to pay.

Faced with such choices, whether early in 1937 and 1947 or later in 2000 and 2008, the Palestinians have, to date, considered it far better to keep fighting. President Trump’s plan is by no means perfect, but its key virtue has emerged from the simple understanding that there is no plan, short of the end of Zionism, to which the Palestinians would say yes.

This is a painful realisation which for many Left-wing Israelis, like myself, was purchased in decades of dashed hopes watching Palestinian leaders walk away from opportunity after opportunity, and in the blood of families blown to bits by suicide bombers days after Palestinians could have had a state. Yet it is the reason the Trump plan has been embraced by the vast majority of Israel’s Jews, Left and Right.
An Arab case for the Trump peace plan
It was hardly a surprise that no Saudi official attended: The "land of the two holy mosques" is in a state of political flux, with hardline elements struggling against a brash reformist crown prince at the helm. But few doubt that the kingdom's future king is working hand in glove with the Trump administration on a range of issues, including this one.

As to the parties to the conflict, there is a widespread view of the proposal as being heavily biased toward Israel.

But let's unpack that: This is the first plan that unambiguously repudiates the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, which would spell the end of the Jewish state via demographic engineering.

It's also the first plan that calls for the disarmament of Hamas and a structure for territorial concessions that protect Israel from a repeat of the rash of mass suicide attacks that followed the Oslo Accords. This is not the partisan agenda of any faction in Israel; these are consensus goals for mainstream Israelis on the Right and Left, and reasonable baseline expectations for any population.

Thus the plan is, by comparison with its predecessors, refreshingly realistic. Recent opinion surveys on the Palestinian side, for their part, lend their form of faith to this principle. Though rejectionist ideologues remain in power, younger generations express greater interest in economic progress, standing up to corruption in their institutions, and engaging Israel and the broader region in pursuit of these goals.

Young Gazans, moreover, are increasingly turning against Hamas – and would welcome the change in leadership over their territory, which the Trump plan calls for.

If the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to be resolved, the needed settlement will provide a path toward Palestinian statehood that runs through economic development and institution-building while protecting Israeli citizens from a new wave of "peace-plan violence."

Leaving all partisanship aside and separating any personal feelings about the architects from the content of their plan, I believe it offers the strongest basis yet for negotiation. It should be seriously engaged – if not accepted piecemeal – by all parties to the conflict and encouraged by Arab and Western actors alike.
The National-Abu Dhabi: U.S. Peace Plan: Palestinians Should Abandon Posturing
European countries, collectively or individually, will not oppose the proposed U.S. peace plan. Russia will not oppose the U.S. as the erstwhile Soviet Union had done. China will not bring this issue into the calculations of its relationship with the U.S. The Arab countries are divided, with some calling for negotiations to improve the terms and others encouraging the Palestinians to focus on the positives.

Iran and Turkey will engage in one-upmanship, but beyond the use of shiny slogans devoid of meaning, neither country is interested in having a direct confrontation with Israel or risking further U.S. sanctions. The Palestinians should realize that Iran will be unable to deliver on any promises of resistance and retaliation against the deal.

Given that there would be no way for a Palestinian state to emerge without U.S. approval, its leaders need to take a hard look at their policy of refusing to talk to U.S. or Israeli authorities.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority must stop engaging in verbal posturing. The posturing, which includes calling for resistance and boycotts, almost always takes place at the expense of Palestinians.

The leadership's current bid to oppose the deal will not have much impact on the ground, except garnering applause at the UN. However, Abbas is unlikely to receive as much moral support as before.

As one Russian official said, the Palestinians must "not overdo contrariness" and should "adopt a flexible tactic rather than absolute rejection of what has been proposed."
Israel's Security in a Redrawn Middle East
The new U.S. Mideast peace plan changes nothing on the ground. There is nothing to compromise the capabilities of Israel's security services in the West Bank to gather intelligence, conduct counter-terrorism operations, or contain riots.

There are elements of the plan that will improve Israel's security situation, namely, the demilitarization of a Palestinian state, including Gaza, and permanent Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. These will help to thwart terrorism and boost Israel's ability to face strategic threats from the east.

However, the prospect of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley has already incited the Palestinians in Jordan as well as Jordanian Islamists who are threatening the survival of Jordanian King Abdullah's regime. The king may be pleased that he has a border with Israel and not the Palestinian Authority or a Palestinian state, which could pose a threat. But he will not say this publicly.
U.S. Seeks Normalization of Ties between Israel, Arab States
The US is actively pursuing normalization between Israel and numerous Arab countries in the Middle East, a senior White House official told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday just a day after the Arab League rejected the administration’s new peace plan.

“We are getting close on our work on normalization,” the official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive relations between the White House and Arab countries, said that three measures were currently on the agenda: non-belligerency agreements with Israel, direct flights between Israel and Arab countries, and allowing Israel officials to attend events in Arab countries.

"We have been working behind the scenes to get it ready," he said.

Last week, ambassadors from Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates attended the unveiling of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, often referred to as the “Deal of the Century.” Their attendance was seen as a warming of ties between Israel and the Arab world.

The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration's peace plan. A few media reports indicated frustration among Arab countries from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' decision not to take a call from President Donald Trump just days before the White House ceremony.
Israel-Sudan ties on the agenda for Netanyahu's Uganda visit
Israel and Sudan may upgrade their diplomatic relations, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda on Monday.
Sudan’s leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan left for Uganda on an unannounced trip while Netanyahu was there, Sudanese media reported.

Before boarding a flight to Entebbe, Netanyahu said: “I hope that at the end of the day we will have very good news for the State of Israel.”
The US invited Burhan to visit Washington on Sunday, after the Sudanese army topped president Omar al-Bashir last year.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extended the invitation to Burhan in a phone call. Pompeo said in December that the countries plan to exchange ambassadors after a 23-year hiatus. The US declared Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993.

The warming of ties with the US and Israel indicates that Sudan is leaving Iran’s orbit following Bashir’s ousting.

Earlier Monday, on the tarmac before his flight to Uganda, Netanyahu said touted the importance of his visit to Uganda.
Israeli Delegations Have Been Quietly Visiting Saudi Arabia
Saudi Minister of State Adel al-Jubeir insists that "we have no ties of any kind with Israel."

The truth is that Israeli delegations have been quietly visiting Saudi Arabia for the past two years.

Some were accompanied by senior members of the security community, some by businessmen.

Most - although not all - hold passports from other countries, but it is clear to their Saudi hosts who they really are and where they really came from.
3 chunks of Israeli land for Palestine, and 5 more overlooked parts of US plan
The Trump administration released its long-delayed, much-discussed and highly-controversial peace plan to considerable Israeli acclaim and overwhelming Palestinian protestation last week.

Its main points are by now well known. If implemented, the proposal would hand some 30 percent of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, to Israel. A future Palestinian state over the remaining 70% would have restricted sovereignty, especially where its defense is concerned, with Israel maintaining security control over the West Bank’s airspace and border crossings into Jordan.

There would be no right of return for refugees or the descendants of Palestinian refugees into Israeli territory, and a Palestinian capital would be declared in East Jerusalem, but only in its easternmost sections that lie outside of Israel’s security barrier, some of which, like Abu Dis, are considered part of Jerusalem by Palestinians but not by Israelis. Meanwhile, the Palestinians would need to recognize Israel as a Jewish nation-state.

All of that was enough for many observers and pundits to call the US proposal the most pro-Israel in the 27-year history of the peace process.

The Palestinians have long asserted that the pre-1967 borders should be the basis from which to begin negotiations for a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The new map pushes those borders deep into the West Bank and accepts numerous longstanding Israeli demands from the Palestinians as key planks of the plan — such as Palestine’s demilitarization. The Trump administration has argued its new map recognizes the realities on the ground of Israeli settlement expansion and security needs — and may constitute the Palestinians’ “last chance” to stop Israel from “expanding” further and secure for themselves a state.
Israel Rejects Moving Israeli Arab Towns to Palestinian State
Senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said that even if a Palestinian state is established under the Trump peace plan there will not be a redrawing of Israel’s borders to see Arab towns in the so-called Triangle area included in the future Palestine, Channel 12 television news reported Sunday.

The Triangle is an area southeast of Haifa, near the Palestinian city of Jenin, which includes 14 towns and villages where more than 260,000 Arab Israelis live. Residents of those ares have protested against the idea that they may one day be redefined as living in a new Palestine state.

Officials in the PMO told the network the idea — mentioned in the Trump plan as a possibility — is unrealistic because it requires agreement by all sides, which is currently lacking even on much more straightforward aspects of the plan.

The officials, who were not identified in the report, said the citizenship transfer is not critical for the Trump plan and was only included because US researchers had conducted a survey that found the notion was popular in Israel, presumably among the Jewish population. Another reason for its inclusion, the officials speculated, was to win support from hawkish Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman who has long advocated for such adjustments in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

US President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited peace plan last week in Washington. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stood alongside Trump in the White House during the roll-out, immediately indicated his support for the plan, but the Palestinian leadership emphatically rejected the proposal.
Abu Dis, the Palestinian Capital, According to Trump's Mideast Peace Plan

Khaled Abu Toameh: Abbas: Caught between a rock and a hard place
His goal is to isolate Israel and the Trump administration in the international arena and force them to accept a new mechanism for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – one that prevents the US from having a monopoly over the peace process.

Abbas is hoping that his diplomatic drive would convince the international community to endorse his proposal for holding an international conference for peace in the Middle East on the basis of UN resolutions, and not the Trump plan.

Abbas, meanwhile, is not pinning high hopes on the Arab countries, some of which have made it clear that they see the Trump plan as a basis for future negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel.

He is well aware that the Arab League foreign ministers’ communique, issued after the emergency meeting, is nothing but lip service Arabs have long been paying to the Palestinians.

Palestinians, on the other hand, are also aware that Abbas’s threat to cut all ties with Israel and the US is nothing but lip service he has regularly been paying to his people.

Palestinian security officials said on Saturday night that they have not received orders from anyone to halt security contacts with their Israeli counterparts.

The 84-year-old Abbas, who recently entered his 16th year of his four-year term in office, is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Cutting off security cooperation with Israel and the US would undermine his own security forces, thus destabilizing his rule over the PA-controlled areas of the West Bank. On the other hand, failure to halt the security cooperation or renounce the Oslo Accords would further undermine his credibility among Palestinians.
Despite threat, Abbas suggests security ties with Israel, US still intact
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to hint Monday that security ties with Israel and the United States were still intact, despite having earlier announced their cessation in response to US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

On Saturday, Abbas had said he was cutting all relations — including security ties — with Israel and the US over the initiative, which was released last week and has been angrily rejected by Palestinians.

A cut in security ties could jeopardize the relative calm in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

But on Monday, Abbas appeared to step back from that statement, implying he had not yet severed ties but still could.

“If the Americans continue with this project, the boycott is there (as an option), a full boycott,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Israeli-Palestinian security coordination ranges from information-sharing about terrorist cells in the West Bank to coordination between police forces. Palestinian forces have also received training from the United States and other Western countries.
UNRWA head warns Trump peace plan could lead to West Bank violence
The Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” could lead to Palestinian violence, warned UNRWA acting commissioner-general Christian Saunders, speaking to journalists in Geneva.

Many Palestinians are in a state of “shock” and “disbelief" over the plan, he said.

“What will happen after the shock wears off?” Saunders pondered. “We have serious concerns it will result in an escalation of clashes and violence,” he said.

Saunders spoke in Geneva on Friday as he launched the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s $1.4 billion appeal for 2020 to help 5.6 million Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

BBC’s ‘Newshour’ serves up ‘rumours and leaks’ with one-sided analysis
As we saw earlier, BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme supplied its listeners with preemptive framing of the US administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan which was based primarily on speculation and promoted the unchallenged talking points of the Palestinian Authority’s representative in the UK, Husam Zomlot.

BBC World Service radio adopted a similar editorial line and the afternoon edition of ‘Newshour’ on January 28th included an eleven-minute section (from 30:05 here) about a document that at the time of broadcast had not been made public which likewise provided Zomlot with a friendly platform.

Presenter Razia Iqbal introduced the item with the unsupported assertion that the US president “claims he is close to establishing it [peace] for good” and with amplification of the BBC Middle East editor’s speculations concerning the ‘weighting’ of the plan.
Iqbal: “Peace in the Middle East has been as elusive as a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow or the search for the Holy Grail. But President Trump claims he is close to establishing it for good. He is of course…he has of course always got a view and others are likely to contest it. Mr Trump is expected to announce his peace proposal later today, the groundwork having been done by his son-in-law Jared Kushner. Although we don’t know exactly what’s in it, rumours and leaks suggest it is heavily weighted towards Israel in comparison to previous initiatives. The optics as he made the announcement about today’s impending announcement at the White House also offer a clue. Flanked by two Israeli politicians, the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz: both invited to be briefed on the plan. […]”

Netanyahu and Gantz in fact met Trump separately and so the “optics” described by Iqbal are inaccurate. She went on to promote another talking point in the BBC’s cross-platform framing of the story:
Iqbal: “Some further political context for you: President Trump faces an impeachment trial of course and back in Israel president…err…prime minister Netanyahu has been formally indicted on three corruption cases. Far away from all of that Mr Netanyahu thanked President Trump for what he has done for Israel. […] Well we haven’t seen a full plan but according to Israeli media it could see the US formally back Israeli control of Jerusalem’s Old City which contains most of the city’s sensitive holy sites. The Old City lies in East Jerusalem, annexed decades ago by Israel in a move not internationally recognised, which Palestinians want as their future capital. Let’s speak first to Husam Zomlot who is the Palestinian ambassador to London. […] What do you know about what’s in this plan?”

As mentioned in relation to Zomlot’s earlier interview with the ‘Today’ programme, in 2018 the BBC corrected a similar misrepresentation of Mr Zomlot’s title after BBC Watch pointed out that according to its definition, the title ambassador means that the individual represents a state and that – as the BBC’s own style guide rightly says – there is no Palestinian state at this time.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Palestinian Leadership To Reestablish Relevance By Sticking To Failed Approach (satire)
Officials in the ruling Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which now governs Palestinians under a 1993 self-rule arrangement, vowed measures this week aimed at putting their national cause back in the center of Arab and international discourse instead of having it treated as a nuisance that should have disappeared long ago, measures consisting in the main of the same things they have done for decades that got them into this situation in the first place.

PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas – serving also in the sixteenth year of his four-year term in the capacity of President of the Palestinian Authority – instructed his deputies and ministers today to stay the failed course, following a dramatic session of the Arab League in which the body declared its unanimous rejection of the Trump peace plan announced last week even as many of its individual members embraced it publicly, and following more than seventy years of futile violent resistance to the fait accompli of Jewish sovereignty in the ancestral Jewish homeland.

Fatah officials present at a meeting with Abbas Sunday night provided several details regarding the measures that the president/chairman had outlined. “First of all we must never let go of our right to resist by whatever means possible,” recalled Fashla Fadikha, Deputy Minister for Thuggery. “Forgoing attempts to kill Jews is like forgoing air. You can manage it for a little while, and some of us can hold out longer than others, but in the end you can’t help it. Why bother, you know what I’m saying? Its gotten us this far.”
Officials: Netanyahu turned down 2013 opportunity to negotiate with Iran
Oman offered to broker behind-the-scenes talks between Israel and Iran in 2013, it has been revealed, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu turned down the offer on the advice of his then national security advisor, Yaakov Amidror, who believed that doing so would legitimize secret talks between the US and Iran.

Speaking to Channel 13's Barak Ravid, Israeli officials explained that in 2009, Netanyahu banned the Mossad from engaging with the Iranians either directly or indirectly without his approval, a measure which was not put in place for any other nation. However, in early 2013, Israel discovered that the US was holding secret talks with Iran in Muscat, Oman.

Amidror told Channel 13 that he lodged a protest with his American counterpart at the time, Susan Rice, telling her that Israel found it insulting that the US thought it wouldn't find out about the back channel. "I was disappointed that the Americans more or less cheated us, and I told them that," Amidror said.

In May of the same year, Hassan Rouhani, seen by many as a moderate, won the presidential elections in Iran. The Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said, saw an opportunity to push ahead with the second part of his initiative to champion Israeli-Iranian talks under his auspices.

Former officials have told Channel 13 that a few weeks after Rouhani's election, then director of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo, presented Netanyahu with sensitive information from the Sultanate of Oman during their weekly meeting.

Pardo told Netanyahu that Qaboos had proposed opening a secret back channel between Israel and Iran, and that doing so would enable both parties to de-escalate tensions.
London attacker who stabbed 2 was recently freed from jail for terror offenses
A man wearing a “hoax device” shot dead by police in London Sunday after stabbing two people had recently been released from prison for previous terrorism offenses, British media reported.

The suspect was released last month after serving around half of an approximate three-year sentence for disseminating terrorist material, according to multiple reports.

In a statement, British police said they were not formally identifying the attacker but “felt confident” to name the suspect as Sudesh Amman.

British media said he was deemed so high risk that he was under surveillance by police.

According to Sky News, Amman, 20, was released just a week ago after he was jailed for the possession and distribution of extremist material and was said to have been inspired by the Islamic State terror group.

He was said to have claimed in online chats that Muslims in London were being massacred and put in conditions worse than concentration camps, and according to the report “said that Jews were doing worse to Muslims.” He is also said to have expressed the view that it was permissible to rape Yazidi women.

British media reported he had told a girlfriend she she kill her “kuffar” parents, and had spoken of wanting to carry out an attack in Queensbury in northwest London. He was said to have talked of carrying out an attack by throwing acid from a moving moped or using a knife.

Border Police officer, IDF soldier hit by Molotov cocktails in clashes
A Border Police officer was struck and lightly wounded by a Molotov cocktail during clashes with Palestinians in Hebron on Monday, a day after an IDF soldier was hit by a Molotov cocktail in the same city. The Border Police officer was struck in the face and video of the incident showed his clothes on fire.

On Sunday, an IDF soldier was struck by a Molotov cocktail during clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in Hebron.
A Border Police spokesperson stated that Border Police officers confronted dozens of Palestinians throwing stones in Hebron on Monday. While officers used riot dispersal methods to disperse the Palestinians, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at an officer. The officer did not require medical care.

Three Palestinians were injured by rubber bullets in Hebron during clashes with Israeli security forces on Monday. Clashes were reported throughout the West Bank, including in Hebron and Tulkarem. Multiple arrests were reported during the clashes at multiple sites in the West Bank.

The Palestinian WAFA news agency reported on Monday that Jewish settlers beat a 3-year-old Palestinian girl and her family at their home in the Tul Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron. The child was bruised in the incident. According to the father of the family, Ibrahim Ramadan, stated that Israeli soldiers were at the scene during the incident and prevented the family from leaving their home.

The governor of Salfit in the West Bank Abdullah Kamil issued an order for all shops and businesses to remove all signs and store names written in Hebrew and replace them with Arabic within the week on Monday, according to WAFA. Strict legal action will be taken against all those who fail to do so.
Lebanon judge postpones questioning of Lebanese-American who worked for Israel
A Lebanese judge on Monday postponed the questioning of a Lebanese-American who confessed he’d worked for Israel, state-run National News Agency reported.

The agency said that because Amer Fakhoury is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer, the investigative judge’s questioning session will be postponed until February 17. Fakhoury’s family said doctors have told them his condition is life threatening. In addition to an infection and a bleeding disorder, doctors believe he’s developed an aggressive form of lymphoma.

The 57-year-old was detained after returning to his native Lebanon from the US in September. He had worked as a senior warden at the Khiam Prison in southern Lebanon. It was run by an Israeli-backed militia, known as the South Lebanon Army, until Israel ended its 18-year occupation of the area in 2000. The two countries technically remain at war.

Several former inmates at Khiam Prison filed a lawsuit against Fakhoury after he returned to Lebanon, blaming him for cases of torture.
ISIS claims attacked Egypt-Israel gas line, gas flow undisrupted
A gas line between Israel and Egypt in northern Sinai was attacked Sunday night, Al Jazeera reported.

The partners that run the Leviathan gas platform said Sunday there had "not been any damage to the EMG pipeline connecting Israel and Egypt. The flow of gas from Leviathan to Egypt is continuing as normal."

Previous explosions have closed the Egyptian pipeline for weeks.

At least six masked militants planted explosives under the pipeline in the town of Bir al-Abd, Egyptian security officials said Sunday.

The explosion sent thick flames shooting into the sky, and authorities stopped the flow of gas to extinguish the fire.
PMW: Fatah greets 2020 with terror glorification fest
Even before Fatah’s violent threats in response to the US peace plan, Fatah showed its true colors, promising that it will continue on the path of violence in 2020.

Looking at Fatah’s recent anniversary rallies, it is clear that Abbas’movement wants to remind its people and the world that it adheres to the use of violence and terror. In a Fatah-produced video from its anniversary rally in Ramallah, Fatah chose to include almost entirely footage showing masked Fatah members carrying knives and Qurans, assault rifles, and mock explosive belts – complete with detonators in hand. The video, which opens and closes with the logo of Fatah’s youth movement Shabiba and was posted by Fatah on its official Facebook page - also included Fatah members shooting in the air.
Posted text: "The Fatah Shabiba [Youth Movement] at the Ramallah and El-Bireh branch on the 55th anniversary of [Fatah’s] Launch”
[Official Fatah Facebook page, Jan. 15, 2020]

The mock suicide belts and detonators held by the marching Fatah members can be seen clearly in the following raw footage from the same Fatah rally in Ramallah:
Fatah members: “Shabiba” (i.e., Fatah’s Shabiba Youth Movement)
Tweeted text: “This is how masked men from the Fatah Movement celebrated the anniversary of the beginning of [Fatah’s] activity in Ramallah
#Palestine #The_West_Bank”
[Twitter account of Quds News Network, Dec. 31, 2019]

Another video shows Fatah members shooting in the air, and participants holding posters of terrorists Fuad Al-Shubaki – who attempted to smuggle 50 tons of illegal weapons into the PA - and Marwan Barghouti – who orchestrated terror attacks in which 5 Israelis were murdered. Two PA and Fatah officials - Fatah Movement Central Committee member Jamal Muhaisen and General Supervisor of the Official PA Media Ahmad Assaf – also participated in this rally:

Report: Gaza Terror Groups Fear Israeli Retaliation After Rocket Attacks, Islamic Jihad Leaders Go Into Hiding
Terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip are reportedly on high alert as tensions rise in Israel’s south after a series of rocket attacks over the weekend, with Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders going into hiding for fear of targeted assassinations.

Palestinian sources told leading Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that the terror group’s leaders are changing their daily routines and moving clandestinely from place to place, fearing that the IDF will locate and kill them in retaliation for the spate of rocket attacks.

Islamic Jihad, which is primarily sponsored by Iran, is particularly fearful because the group has been responsible for the majority of the rocket attacks that have taken place recently, and believes the head of their “Gaza Brigade,” Khalil al-Bahtini, is the most likely target for an assassination attempt.

Bahtini belongs to a family affiliated with Islamic Jihad and has survived several Israeli assassination attempts in the past. Palestinian sources told Yediot that he has been groomed for a top post by the terror group from an early age, and was trained extensively by Iran.

Three months ago, Israel killed the commander of Islamic Jihad’s “northern division,” Baha Abu al-Ata, further raising the terror group’s concerns.

The sources told Yediot that Islamic Jihad is not the only terror group that fears further Israeli retaliation. Hamas, which rules the Strip, has suffered far more significant losses in recent days than is widely known.
Recording shows Iran knew immediately it had shot down plane - Zelensky
A leaked audio recording of an Iranian pilot talking to the control tower in Tehran shows that Iran knew immediately it had shot down a Ukrainian airliner last month, Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky said.

On the recording, which was played on a Ukrainian television station late on Sunday, the pilot of another plane apparently in the air at the time when Iran shot down Ukraine International Airways flight 752 can be heard saying: "Is this an active area? There’s lights like a missile."

Tehran blamed the Ukrainian authorities for leaking what it described as confidential evidence, and said it would no longer share material with Ukraine from the investigation into the crash.

All 176 people aboard the flight were killed when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff en route from Tehran to Kiev on Jan. 8.

After denying blame for three days, Iran acknowledged shooting it down, saying it done so by mistake while under high alert, hours after it had fired at U.S. targets in retaliation for a U.S. strike that killed an Iranian general.

In a television interview, ZelensKy said the leaked audio "proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile."

"He says that 'it seems to me that a missile is flying', he says it in both Persian and English, everything is fixed there," Zelensky said.
The Iranian official in charge of accident investigations at Iran's Civil Aviation Organization criticized Ukraine for releasing the recording.

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