Tuesday, March 03, 2020

03/03 Links Pt1: Benjamin Netanyahu defeats Gantz, but is still short a majority; Pompeo Promises to Protect U.S. Businesses in UN West Bank Data Base

From Ian:

Benjamin Netanyahu defeats Gantz, but is still short a majority
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on track to win 59 seats for his bloc of right-wing and religious parties in Monday’s election, down by one from the 60 predicted by the initial exit polls. The new prediction leaves him two short of a majority in the Knesset.

The first polls indicated that Netanyahu’s Likud won 36-37 seats. Its allies in Shas, UTJ and Yamina won 9, 7-8 and 6-7 respectively. The polls showed Blue and White with 33 seats, its ally Labor-Gesher-Meretz with 6-7, the Joint List 14-15 and Yisrael Beytenu 6-8.

When Channel 13 updated its numbers at around 1 a.m. Israel time, however, Gantz gained one seat to 34 and the blocs shifted slightly, leaving the right-wing with only 59 seats.

Channel 12 also updated its numbers, giving Likud 37 seats, Blue and White 32, Arab Joint List 15, Shas 9, Yisrael Beytenu 7, UTJ 7, Labor-Gesher-Meretz 7 and Yamina 6.

However, by 4 a.m., Kan News gave Likud 36 seats and Blue and White 33, with the right bloc also holding a total of 59.

The numbers are expected to continue to change. The votes of soldiers, who tend to lean to the right, have not yet been counted and the Joint List tends to lose a seat when the soldiers’ votes are added. But, if the Right does not obtain its 61st seat, it could end up being because the far-right Otzma Yehudit Party refused Netanyahu’s repeated requests to quit the race.

Netanyahu immediately tweeted “thank you.”
Say hello to the 23rd Knesset!
As Israel awaits the final results from the elections for the 23rd Knesset, the most recent results from the Central Elections Committee (CEC) show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc as having 59 seats in the new Knesset, meaning it will need two more members of Knesset in order to become a majority if the seat distribution remains the same after final results are received.
Here are the new members of Knesset according to the most recent results from the CEC:

King Bibi Netanyahu, the magician – analysis
The coalition may not yet be in the bag, but after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's impressive showing in Monday's election, it can now be said with complete certainty: the man is a political magician.

After already serving as prime minister for 14 years, 11 of them consecutively; just two weeks before the start of a trial on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud; with a good part – but by no means all – of the media against him; with a bevy of former security chiefs and diplomats declaring his continued rule would endanger democracy -- Netanyahu again defeated the odds and pulled out what, according to the exit polls, looks like a victory.

His path to building a coalition will not be easy, but with all the parties – and the public – sick of elections, this time Netanyahu is definitely in the driver's seat and should be able to pick up the seat or two he needs to finally give Israel a government.

And the key to his political magic is the fact that Netanyahu is simply a consummate campaigner.

No one campaigns better than Netanyahu. No one. He has energy, charisma, and a once-in-a-generation ability to talk to his voters at eye level. He knows what buttons to press – Jewish and Zionist pride, fear of the Left – and he presses them better than anyone else.
Jpost Editorial: A time to heal after Israel's third elections
The president, Netanyahu and Gantz should use these elections as an opportunity to try to bridge the tribes. If Israel is to recover and rally now, after three harmful and costly elections, our leaders – especially the president – should see us as one people with one destiny.

Furthermore, the people need to know that we did not waste three elections for no benefit, and that a new government and Knesset will seek to operate on behalf of all the country’s citizens – to make Israel safe and secure, boost the economy and trade, maintain the rule of law, promote equal opportunity and recognize the legitimacy of all streams of Judaism.

There are critical budgets to be passed – from health to military. Key legislation awaits Knesset approval in a range of areas, from haredi conscription to civil marriage, and important appointments need to be made, such as a new police commissioner and state attorney. The country must come together to resolve such pressing issues as halting the ongoing terrorist attacks from Gaza, returning the two Israelis and the remains of two soldiers being held by Hamas, confronting Iran’s efforts to expand its regional tentacles and become a nuclear power, making progress on implementing the Trump peace plan, and countering the coronavirus threat.

The last thing Israel needs now is another stalemate that could force a fourth election. The country – led by the president and the politicians – must find a way to heal itself from the damage caused by the last three elections and move us all forward toward a brighter future.
Alan Dershowitz says, "Israel's Democracy is alive and well!"
Likud, chaired by Israel's caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, edged ahead of Blue and White alliance with 37-34 seats respectively, an exit poll by Channel 12 shows.

The initial results hint that the alliance led by Benny Gantz could see Likud take its status as Israel's largest party, boosting Netanyahu's position in the coalition talks that will follow. The PM was brief in his initial reaction, saying: "Thank you!"

Pence to AIPAC: Sanders would be most anti-Israel president ever
"The most pro-Israel president" in US history must not be replaced by "the most anti-Israel one," US Vice President Mike Pence told the annual AIPAC conference on Monday.

Making the case for US President Donald Trump's re-election, Pence warned that if elected, Senator Bernie Sanders would be the complete opposite of Trump as it pertains to the US-Israel relationship.

"We must ensure that the most pro-Israel president in history must not be replaced by one who would be the most anti-Israel president in the history of this nation," said Pence at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference, where he slammed Sanders for calling Israel "a racist state" and defaming AIPAC as "a platform for bigotry."

On February 23, Sanders announced that he would skip the AIPAC conference.

"If we can agree on one thing, it should be this: Those who side with Israel's enemies must never be allowed to call themselves friends of Israel," said Pence. "It is wrong to boycott and slander Israel. It is wrong to boycott and slander AIPAC."

Pence also said that "anti-Semitism is anti-Zionism."

The US vice president also said it was troubling that none of the Democratic candidates challenged Sanders on the stage during a recent Democratic debate "when Bernie Sanders smeared Israel."
At AIPAC, Trump’s Israel envoy takes aim at Democrats, pushes peace plan
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman gave a scathing and highly partisan speech at the AIPAC Policy Conference on Monday night, castigating the American left for opposing US President Donald Trump’s Israel policies and Mideast peace plan.

At a forum that has historically been used to foster bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill, the president’s Israel envoy tried to emphasize the fault lines that exist between Democrats and Republicans, all the while dismissing criticism of the White House’s Israeli-Palestinian proposal as politically motivated.

“To my friends on the left: Hating Donald Trump is not an Israel policy,” Friedman told a crowd of 18,000 gathered in the nation’s capital. “If the only reason you don’t like our policy and Israel is that you don’t like our president, regrettably, we will remain unnecessarily, endlessly divided and potentially miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

In late January, the Trump team released a proposal that envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in roughly 70% of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave, and fulfill other conditions.

The proposal also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.
Shmuley Boteach: The existential threat of a Palestinian state
And this becomes especially acute after the conclusion of a Trump presidency even in 2024. No Democratic candidate running for office is even close to being as trustworthy on Israel as Trump. On the one hand, that would be an argument to accept the Trump plan now, given how awful the pressure on Israel to almost completely withdraw from Judea and Samaria under a Democratic administration would be. Remember the Obama years and “the 1967 borders”?

On the other hand, an even more powerful argument can be made that this is the time for Israel to hunker down and say that it will never negotiate the return of any land whatsoever. It is immovable on its ancient biblical birthright, especially now that it’s finally been captured in a defensive war as the Arab’s sought Israel’s annihilation.

It is quite possible that Israel will never again have a friend in office as devoted as Trump. He makes even the very friendly administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush seem lukewarm by comparison. And Bush, let’s recall, is an Evangelical Christian. But it took Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

But Israel is not deeded to the Jewish people by its greatest friends, the world’s mightiest nation, nor by any human agency. To the contrary, the president’s precedent-setting plan to allow Israel to annex 30% of Judea and Samaria is a recognition of the eternal Jewish connection to the land. Israel was gifted to the Jews by God as an eternal inheritance that no power on earth can undo.

And any map will show that there is no room for another state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Tiny Israel is small enough. Autonomous, self-governing Palestinian regions that recognize Israeli sovereignty and are short of a state are the future.

This is not really about the Palestinians, as they will reject both ideas either way. The word “state,” I understand, would provide the cover for the Arab states to forge new relations with Israel, but at the expense of Israel relinquishing claims to 70% of its most storied biblical lands, and give fodder to all those who would use the Jewish renunciation of the land as fodder for their argument that the Jews stole the rest of it as well.

Is it worth it?
Pompeo Promises to Protect U.S. Businesses in UN West Bank Data Base
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday put United Nations member states on notice against punishing American companies operating in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

Six U.S. companies were among the 100 businesses identified in a report published last month by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report cited potential implications on the "civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people."

No legal action or judicial recommendations against the companies were made in the report, which both Republican and Democratic lawmakers criticized as “biased,” “politically motivated” and supporting efforts to boycott Israel.

Pompeo on Monday said the State Department is “urging U.N. members states to join us in repudiating publication of the database and to oppose any expansion of the mandate.”

“The State Department will monitor the reaction of the United Nations and member states closely and will firmly oppose any efforts to use this list against U.S. companies,” he continued.

Airbnb, Expedia, Tripadvisor, Booking Holdings Inc., General Mills and Motorola were the U.S. companies the report identified as operating in “illegal” Israeli settlements.

Pompeo published five points offering support to U.S. companies operating in Israeli-controlled territory in the West Bank and rejected any authority of the United Nations body “to dictate to U.S. companies where they can and cannot do business.”

Why the Palestinian Authority Should Accept the U.S. Olive Branch of Opportunity
In the past year alone, Shin Bet security services have thwarted over 560 imminent terror attacks, including suicide bombings, kidnappings and upwards of three hundred shootings, a slight uptick from 2018. All the while Israel partially controls security in the West Bank and collaborates with the Palestinian Authority. Imagine what would unfold if Israel completely withdrew. It’s no secret that the Palestinian Authority cooperates with Israeli forces because it serves the authority’s stability as much as Israel’s—they understand that radical elements strive to overthrow the Palestinian Authority as well. Palestine needs Israeli intelligence and know-how to preserve the integrity of its state, especially at a time where over a dozen rival Islamist factions operate across the territories, and transnational terror movements such as Al Qaeda and ISIS are seeking, and succeeding, to infiltrate. An Israeli foothold in security and border issues will prevent chaos from erupting.

With safety covered, Palestinians will be able to focus on tackling corruption (over 80 percent of Palestinians consider their leaders corrupt), bolstering institutions of self-government, safeguarding the rule of law, and nourishing the civil society necessary for a thriving democracy.

Another prerequisite for a flourishing state is economic prosperity. Indeed, unlike previous plans, this proposal facilitates $50 billion in new investment over ten years, projected to more than double the Palestinian GDP, generate over one million new jobs, slash the poverty rate by 50 percent, and reduce the rate of Palestinian unemployment to single digits. Whether this works as projected, $50 billion is a significant infusion of cash for a territory desperately in need of it. Currently, unemployment is high at 26 percent, the Palestinian Authority faces a fiscal crisis, and the World Bank expects the thus stagnant GDP in Palestinian territories to slip into negative growth in 2020 and 2021.

In 1947, Arabs rejected the United Nations Partition Plan separating the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Arabs subsequently waged war against nascent Israel. Since then, Palestinians have spurned peace offers in 1967, 1993, 2000, 2008, and 2014. Only in 2011 did Abbas admit rejecting the 1947 proposal was a “mistake.”

As the world becomes ever more preoccupied with other problems—Syrian refugees, the rise of China, the nuclear weapons race, Iranian expansion, among many others—and Muslim states continue to normalize relations with Israel, it would serve the Palestinian cause to use this plan as an opportunity to engage and embrace this vision as a malleable blueprint for negotiations. Given global trends and facts on the ground, there’s no guarantee a future will hold something better for them.
The US ‘Ally’ That Protects Killers of Americans
At first glance, you might not think there was anything very significant about the recent trial of a little-known Muslim imam in the Czech Republic.

Samer Shehadeh, a Palestinian Arab who is serving as a Muslim religious leader in Prague, was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for giving financial assistance to Al-Nusra — the Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda — and helping his brother and sister-in-law join that terrorist group.

But the most important part of the story was not the trial, the verdict or the sentencing. It was how Shehadeh was captured. Way down near the end of the news accounts of the case, we learned: “Shehadeh was arrested in Jordan before being flown back to the Czech Republic and taken into custody in November 2018.”

Now compare Jordan’s extradition of Samer Shehadeh with its refusal to extradite another Palestinian Arab terrorist.

On Aug. 9, 2001, terrorists bombed the Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed and 130 wounded. Three of the fatalities were American citizens, including 15 year-old Malki Roth. One of the perpetrators, Ahlam Tamimi, lives in Jordan and used to have her own TV show. The United States has requested her extradition. Jordan’s King Abdullah has refused.

Whenever Malki’s parents have raised this issue with State Department officials or leaders of certain Jewish organizations, they have been told that Abdullah can’t extradite any Palestinian Arab terrorists because the population of Jordan consists mostly of Palestinian Arabs, and they will overthrow him if he surrenders any terrorists.
Argentina Reversing Progress on Probe Of Big Terror Bombings
So now President Fernandez says there is no proof Nisman was murdered.

So was it suicide? Murder? Can’t be both, although a documentary series on Nisman’s death, widely distributed on Netflix, tries to present both as possibilities. The six-part series claims to show “all sides”: Kirchner accolades insist on the suicide theory while others maintain he was murdered.

That is, both flat-earthers and scientists are given equal time.

Mr. Macri tried to end the charade. Mrs. Kirchner’s MOU with Iran was declared unconstitutional. During his tenure, Mrs. Kirchner and others were indicted on coverup charges. But he’s gone and she is vice president, and as such immune from incarceration.

Worse: in February the judge assigned to continue Nisman’s investigation into the terrorist cases, Claudio Bonadio, passed away after months-long bout with a brain tumor.

Kirchner loyalists were named as successors. And, as Toby Dershowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies notes, in addition to Mrs. Kirchner eleven Argentinians were indicted in relation to the AMIA case — “and now some of them have influential jobs in the new government.”

So it looks like the government is set to wind down the AMIA investigations. The Iranian masterminds, Hezbollah operatives, and Argentine collaborators will not be brought to justice. Mr. Kirchner is protected from any accusation of complicity in Nisman’s death. Any hope of closure for terror victims’ loved ones is fast fading.

Yet, as Mr. Pachter, the reporter who fled Argentina to Israel, notes, a top perpetrator of the AMIA bombing, Hezbollah master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, was assassinated in Syria in 2008 by the Israelis. “So some justice was done after all,” Mr. Pachter says.
Joint US-Israeli military exercise mothballed due to coronavirus
The United States military and Israel Defense Forces called off a joint exercise that was due to be held in Israel over concerns stemming from the new coronavirus, according to officials from both countries.

The “Eagle Genesis” exercise between the IDF’s Ground Forces and US European Command (EUCOM) was set to include American paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade stationed in Italy, where there has been a significant outbreak of the virus among the general public. As of Monday, 52 people have died in Italy, where there was also a sharp jump in diagnosed cases over the weekend.

As a result of the viral outbreak, the Israeli Health Ministry blocked visitors from Italy — along with a number of other countries — and ordered Israelis returning from there to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“In light of instructions from the Health Ministry and the inclusion of Italy in the list of countries from which people arriving [in Israel] must be quarantined, it was decided to postpone the joint exercise between EUCOM and the Ground Forces,” the IDF said in a statement Monday.

A US military official also confirmed the cancellation to CNN.

“In close coordination with the Israeli government and out of an abundance of caution in the face of the evolving situation with COVID-19, the decision has been made to cancel the exercise. We value our strong partnership with Israel and look forward to continuing training together in the future,” the official told the network.

The IDF said it still planned to host the US military for the joint biannual Juniper Cobra air defense drill, which is scheduled to take place in Israel in the coming weeks, but that this may change as well.
Blue and White defeat due to Gantz's failings, Netanyahu’s campaign flair
The final component of Netanyahu’s victory was the incredible campaign he waged, in which he feverishly traveled the length and breadth of the country, glad-handed his supporters and motivated them to come to the polling stations in their droves.

Netanyahu pounded away at his core message, that Likud’s constituents must help him fight back against the left-wing elites trying to do him and them down, and that Blue and White was a band of leftists who would form a government with the Arab parties and undermine the country’s security.

In addition, he appealed to every possible electoral constituency and subsector that he could to scrape another few thousand votes.

Netanyahu promised the Ethiopian-Israeli community to bring members of the Falash Mura community still in Ethiopia to Israel, pledged to wipe away the criminal records of marijuana offenders and postponed reforms to the taxi industry to stop taxi drivers from abandoning the Likud.

Ultimately it was a combination of Gantz’s failings, together with Netanyahu’s dark political arts and his election campaign tour de force that put him back in the driver’s seat of the country’s most unpredictable, divisive and rancorous election season ever.
Again likely kingmaker, Liberman vows to do everything to prevent 4th elections
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman vowed Tuesday to do “everything” to prevent fourth elections, as emerging results indicated his party could again be in the kingmaker position with seven seats.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu appeared poised for an electoral victory, with about 90 percent of votes counted, but still short of a 61-seat majority in the 120-member Knesset, meaning he would require the support of another party or defectors from opposition parties to form a coalition.

“As we promised voters, we will do everything to prevent fourth elections,” Liberman told reporters outside his home in the settlement of Nokdim. “We intend to make a decision one way or the other.”

He charged that the parties supporting Netanyahu constituted not a right-wing bloc, but an “ultra-Orthodox-messianic bloc.”

Liberman said his party would convene later this week to make a decision.

“We will make the decision according to what’s best for Israel and with our promises to voters,” he added.

Liberman vowed he would not join a Likud-led government that includes ultra-Orthodox parties.

“We won’t move a millimeter from what we promised our voters,” he said.
Headed for 15 seats, Joint List chief claims ‘huge’ success, cites Jewish voters
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh declared on Tuesday that the alliance of four Arab-majority parties had realized a “huge achievement” in Monday’s national elections after nearly final results suggested it had won 15 seats in the Knesset.

“Brothers and sisters, you have created a historic day,” Odeh said in a recorded statement in Arabic. “From the first elections in 1949 until today, we have not received this degree of support and this number of seats.”

The almost final results of the elections showed that more than 530,000 Israelis voted for the Joint List.

In a separate statement to reporters in Hebrew, Odeh said that the Joint List received votes from many Jews and contended that it needed to become “the principled alternative for the entire Israeli political map.”

“I call on left-wingers not to despair or soul-search, but rather to think about partnership and a principled alternative,” he said, adding that he was talking about “real peace and democracy, actual equality between Arabs and Jews and social justice for all disadvantaged persons.

“As of this moment, we will strengthen the cooperation between us and the weak groups of Israeli society,” he said.
BBC’s Bateman sketches a simplistic portrait of the Arab Israeli vote
Obviously the level of turnout of 20% of any nation’s citizens would “help shape the overall result”, regardless of ethnicity.

Also remarkable is the fact that at no point in this report were BBC audiences informed which parties make up the Joint List and what kind of political views they represent. Ayman Odeh did indeed court certain sectors outside his list’s usual base during this year’s campaign but, as the Times of Israel pointed out:

“A more significant obstacle between the Joint List alliance and its coveted Jewish votes is its inclusion of the Islamist Ra’am party and the Balad party, which contests Israel’s Jewish character.

Odeh is the secular leader of Hadash, a political offshoot of the Israeli Communist Party and other leftist groups. […]

But it’s not just Hadash that’s on the ballot. It’s the entire Joint List alliance — and many potential Jewish voters recoil at the words of Balad’s terrorist-supporting female MK Heba Yazbak, feel threatened when they see Palestinian flags at protests, and can’t vote for a party of which some members oppose LGBTQ rights.”

So while BBC audiences heard the opinions of a philosophy student who would not vote and three women who would – along with claims such as “a lot of racism against us” and “second class citizens” – they were told nothing of the policies of “their parties” which make up the Joint Arab List or how those policies have affected efforts to form past governments.

This of course is not the first time that BBC audiences have seen simplistic reporting on the topic of Arab Israeli voters: Kevin Connolly likewise portrayed that sector in monochrome terms in 2013 and 2015.
BBC News promotes non-starter topic to advance Israel election narrative
Neither Tom Bateman nor the writer of the BBC News website report bothered to inform BBC audiences that both the main contenders for the post of prime minister of Israel in this election have already rejected that possibility raised in the US proposal.

“The Triangle area in Israel’s North will not become part of a Palestinian state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview with Israeli Arabic-language channel Hala TV on Tuesday night.

Asked about the section of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan that raises the possibility of trading the predominately Arab Triangle area – which includes Umm el-Fahm, Kafr Kara, Baka al-Gharbiya and more – to the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu responded: “There is some vague statement [in the plan] that has no meaning.”

“There will not be any population transfers under any circumstances: I oppose it in principle,” he added.

In recent years and in the immediate aftermath of the plan’s release last month, Netanyahu said that he will not have people forced from their homes on the Israeli or Palestinian side.

The US “Peace to Prosperity” plan did not call for any populations to be moved but did suggest that the border could be redrawn such that the Triangle’s approximately 250,000 Arab citizens of Israel be in a future Palestinian state. However, this was not a core point: the map in the 180-page plan shows Israel swapping land in the Negev near Gaza and Egypt with the Palestinians, and keeps the Triangle in Israel.

The idea of swapping the Triangle was highly controversial and sparked protests in the North and in Tel Aviv. Blue and White leader Benny Gantz has said he opposes it.”

In short, worldwide audiences were once again denied information that erodes the narrative the BBC has chosen to promote – in this case that of supposed background to the “anger” of Arab Israeli voters.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Who Is Preventing Palestinians From Voting?
The absence of parliamentary life for the Palestinians has, in fact, been highly convenient for Abbas, who continues to demonstrate zero tolerance towards his political rivals and critics.

While Palestinian members of parliament have been deprived of salaries and stripped of parliamentary immunity, as well as denied freedom of expression and the opportunity to exercise their parliamentary work, Arab members of the Knesset in Israel are free to say whatever they wish about the Israeli government and its policies without giving a single thought to possible repercussions.

For now, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will have to continue accepting the reality of living under the unelected and totalitarian leaders of the PA and Hamas. For the Palestinians, each Israeli election serves as a sad reminder of the catastrophic failure of Palestinian leaders and the complete absence of democracy under the PA and Hamas.

The international community, meanwhile, continues to ignore that the Palestinians are being denied the chance to hold elections. Denouncing Israel can be a full-time job, one that leaves little room for remembering that, for 14 years, Palestinians have been deprived of their right to touch a ballot.
Why Are Palestinians Dying in Hamas Prisons?
The families' calls for launching investigations into the death of their sons while in Hamas detention have been ignored not only by Hamas, but also by the international community, human rights organizations and media.

Al-Sa'afeen's mother emphasized that the Israelis treat Palestinians much better than Hamas does. "When the Jews arrest someone, they contact his family to say they are holding him... But Hamas refused to provide us with any information about the detention of my son or his health condition.... We told [Hamas] that he's sick and needs medicine, but they refused to give him any treatment. Until today, we don't know why my son was arrested."

When Palestinians die in Palestinian prisons, the murders are presumably regarded as the handiwork of supposedly savage Arabs, who are -- with racist contempt -- held to a lower standard of conduct than Westerners, and therefore regarded as unworthy of human rights, accountable governance, due process or equal justice under the law.

They are evidently considered "just" Palestinian families complaining about brutal torture in Palestinian prisons -- so international human rights organizations do not even notice them.
Hamas’s Haniyeh meets Russian FM, thanks him for critical view of US plan
Hamas terror group chief Ismail Haniyeh met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday in Moscow and thanked him for Russia’s critical view of the recently revealed US plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the terror group’s website.

Haniyeh, who left the Gaza Strip in early December, has since traveled to several countries including Qatar, Turkey, Oman, Iran, Egypt, and now Russia.

“The head of the movement expressed our people’s thanks for Russia’s positions that support Palestinian rights in the different regional and international forums,” the Hamas website reported.

“He expressed his appreciation for its position in rejection of the deal of the century,” the Hamas report said, adding that Lavrov also conveyed Russia’s rejection of the plan to Haniyeh.

Iran refusing to give answers on 3 undeclared nuclear sites, UN watchdog says
Iran has nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium over the last three months in violation of its deal with world powers and is refusing to answer questions about three possible undeclared nuclear sites, the UN nuclear watchdog agency said Tuesday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency made the statement in a confidential report distributed to member countries that was seen by The Associated Press. The agency said as of February 19, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile amounted to 1,020.9 kilograms (1.1 tons), compared to 372.3 kilograms noted in its last report on November 3, 2019.

The nuclear deal that Iran signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms.

The deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for the curbs on its nuclear program, but since US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal unilaterally in 2018, however, Iran has been slowly violating the deal’s restrictions. With the violations, Tehran has said it hopes to put pressure on the other nations involved to increase economic incentives to make up for hard-hitting sanctions imposed by Washington after the American withdrawal.

In a second report issued Tuesday, the IAEA said it had identified three locations in Iran where the country possibly stored undeclared nuclear material or undertook nuclear-related activities without declaring it to international observers. It said it had sent questions to Iran in three separate letters but received no answers.
UN Nuclear Watchdog Plans Alert on Iranian Stonewalling: Diplomats
The UN atomic watchdog policing Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers plans to issue an imminent rebuke to Tehran for failing to provide access to one or more sites that are of interest to it, several diplomats who follow the agency said on Monday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency overseeing the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, which lifted international sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities, issues quarterly updates on Iran’s atomic program to its member states.

The next of those quarterly reports is due on Tuesday but, in a first for the IAEA since the deal was put in place, the agency plans to issue a separate report on the same day, calling Iran out for its lack of cooperation in general and its failure to provide access in particular, diplomats said.

“The general message is: There’s a new sheriff in town,” a diplomat from a country on the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors said, referring to new IAEA chief Rafael Grossi of Argentina, who was elected in October with the support of countries including the United States and Brazil.

Grossi took over following the death in office of long-serving IAEA chief Yukiya Amano of Japan, who pressured Iran to provide swifter access to sites of interest to the agency, while avoiding confronting the Islamic Republic publicly, diplomats say.

Under Amano, the IAEA at first resisted public pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit a site he cited in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, calling it a “secret atomic warehouse” mentioned in a trove of data seized by Israeli intelligence agents. Tehran has said the site is a carpet-cleaning facility.

But the IAEA inspected the site in February of last year, diplomats say, and gathered environmental samples that showed traces of uranium that Iran has yet to fully explain.
MEMRI: Missile Attack Targets U.S. Embassy As Shi'ite Factions Escalate Threats Against U.S. For Designating Militia Leader As Global Terrorist
On March 2, 2020, two missiles struck Baghdad's Green Zone, one falling near the U.S. Embassy, according to Iraqi security sources.[1] Iraqi media are reporting on a video that has surfaced online that shows the moment before the strikes. In the video, sirens can be heard as well as loud bangs heard in the background.[2] Iraqi security released photos showing the rocket launcher that was used in the attack, saying that it was found in Zayona district of east Baghdad.

The recent attack comes amid a series of threats made by Shi'ite militias commanders who recently began escalating their hostile rhetoric against the U.S., particularly after the U.S. Department of State announced on February 26 the designation of Ahmad Al-Hamidawi, the secretary general of the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Hizbullah Brigades, as a global terrorist.

Wa'dallah Brigades Denies Responsibility For Attack
On March 2, the Wa'dallah Brigades, a group of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) that is linked to Shi'ite cleric Mohammad Al-Yaqoubi, a student of the father of Muqtada Al-Sadr, issued a statement saying it was not responsible for the recent missile attack. The statement came in response to what Wa'idallah Brigades described as "false news circulated by media agencies that are exploiting the name of the formation." The statement further emphasized that the group operates "under the leadership of the Hashad [i.e., PMU] and by the order of the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces," adding that the group "denies any responsibility for any military action outside the framework of its official work as a military entity linked to the state agencies and in which it has a legal cover."[3]

Al-Sadr Threatens To Activate Al-Mahdi Army
Days before the attack, Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr said in a televised interview that he was considering reactivating the Mahdi Army, which carried out many attacks against U.S. forces until he suspended it in 2008.[4] Zayouna, the district where Iraqi security forces found the rocket launcher, is near Al-Sadr city, a stronghold of the cleric's supporters and militiamen.

Hizbullah Escalates Tone of Threats
On February 27, the Hizbullah Brigades issued a communique responding to the Department of State's designation of Ahmad Al-Hamidawi as a global terrorist. The communique said: "America, the first country of terrorism in the world, still violates the sovereignty of Iraq, demeans its dignity, and belittles its people and national [political] powers. It rudely describes its men who defend their homeland as terrorists, despite the criminal history of the U.S. administrations, and their barbaric practices against the Iraqi people and the people of the world." It went on to say this "miserable and malicious decision [to designate Al-Hamidawi] does not represent anything for us. And we shall put it under our feet." The statement said the group will continue "to pursue the path of resistance to humiliate America, its proxies and supporters," pledging "not to allow the American occupation to stay in the land of the sacred sites as long as we [i.e., the Hizbullah Brigades] are alive."
Iranian Researcher Dr. Sam Mehdi Torabi: Only Iranian Pressure Can Expel the U.S. from the Region
Iranian researcher Dr. Sam Mehdi Torabi, the Director of the Risalat Strategic Studies Institute, said in a February 11, 2020 interview on Iranian filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh's show on Ofogh TV (Iran) that American soldiers are committing suicide because they served in an oppressive army, because they have killed innocent people, and because the wars they have fought in, such as Vietnam and the Second World War, are unjust. He also said that pressure from Iran is the only thing that will lead to the expulsion of the U.S. from the Middle East and he elaborated that this should involve the development of strategic weapons and attacks against U.S. bases in the region. For a related interview on Talebzadeh's show, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7839.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Iran Mandates Face-Licking To Prove Corona Contained (satire)
Islamic Republic authorities embarked on a new public safety and public order measure today with a policy that requires officials in each city, town, and district to assign personnel to lick the faces of every citizen to demonstrate that a deadly pathogen sweeping across the country no longer presents a threat.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani signed an order Tuesday mandating the formation of a face-licking corps in every unit of regional and local government throughout the country by the weekend, regime-controlled media reported this morning. FARS news agency reporters informed citizens via broadcast and print media to make appointments to have their faces licked by approved regime officials starting next week, with the goal of showing once and for all that coronavirus will spread no further.

“District, city, and village leaders will appoint one face-licker for at most every 400 citizens,” the order reads. “These face-lickers will position themselves in central locations in every locale so that people can come have their faces licked. We will thus demonstrate to the world, and to our heroic citizenry, that we have vanquished coronavirus once and for all.” The order includes provisions for management of larger areas, and special instructions for officials in charge of outlying or sparsely populated districts. It also requires that every citizen undergo at least one official face-licking by the 15th of April, eight days before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

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