Wednesday, May 20, 2020

From Ian:

Netanyahu to Iran: Those who threaten Israel will be destroyed
Anyone who threatens Israel will himself be threatened, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khaminei via Twitter on Wednesday.

“Khamenei’s threats to carry out ‘The Final Solution’ against Israel bring to mind the Nazi ‘Final Solution’ plan to annihilate the Jewish People,” Netanyahu said. “He should know that any regime that threatens the destruction of the State of Israel faces a similar danger.”

Netanyahu’s tweet came in response to one from Khamenei, featuring a poster that reads: “Palestine will be free. The final solution. Resistance is referendum.”

Khamenei displayed the antisemitic poster in English, Farsi and Arabic on his official homepage.

The picture shows a conquered Jerusalem with photos of the late Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.

The US and the EU classified Soleimani as a leading international terrorist. A US drone strike killed the Quds Force leader in January. He was responsible for the murder of over 600 US military personnel as well as Israelis.

The poster was released from Khamenei’s office to celebrate Quds Day, the annual Iranian regime rally calling for Israel’s destruction.

Khamenei also tweeted a screed against Israel, writing that "the Zionist regime was built based on oppression, lies, deception, bloodshed, massacre and trampling human rights" and compared "the Zionists" to "a cancerous tumor...masscring children, women and men."

The Iranian leader called for Muslims around the world to unite against Israel and US President Donald Trump's peace plan, which he called "satanic." He called for Palestinians to be armed.

US Secretary of State Slams ‘Disgusting, Hateful Antisemitism’ of Iran Regime Leader
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday blasted Iran’s titular “supreme leader” for a flurry of “disgusting and hateful antisemitic remarks” posted to his Twitter feed.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a series of tweets on Monday and Tuesday that viciously attacked the State of Israel as the “occupying Zionist regime” and described the Jewish state as a “cancerous tumor.”

Slamming neighboring Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia for moderating their stances toward Israel, Khamenei urged that Palestinians in the West Bank “must be armed, just as Gaza.”

The Iranian leader repeated the myth that Israel’s survival was dependent on external backing, as he denounced the “satanic” US for providing “unconditional, shameless support” alongside those “Arab and Islamic governments refraining from supporting Palestine.”

Addressing the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, Khamenei mocked the US president as “Physician Trump” and called Pompeo “the lowly, ranting Secretary of State who keeps making illogical, nonsensical comments here and there.”

In response, Pompeo pointed out that a recent Iranian propaganda poster threatening a “Final Solution” to the conflict with Israel “invoked the Nazi call for the Final Solution.”

“I ask all nations: is this someone who can be trusted with deadly weapons?” Pompeo asked.

Thousands of Iranians ask Israel for asylum and help
The number of Iranians asking Israel for help has spiked in recent months, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

“Thousands of people are asking to come to Israel for medical assistance or to emigrate,” according to Yiftah Curiel, head of Digital Diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry.

The requests have arrived mostly through private messages on the Foreign Ministry’s social media accounts in Persian, as well as from e-mails. Some have been made openly, in public comments on social media, but by accounts using pseudonyms.

Curiel said many of the messages are serious asylum requests.

“Sometimes they are from people who have been forced to flee and are refugees in other countries, or people who had to flee after expressing solidarity with Israel,” he stated.

One of the messages they received was from a 31-year-old man who said he “had to escape Iran because of the corrupt regime. I asked for asylum in Turkey, and my wife and 4-year-old daughter and I are in unlivable conditions; there is no one who can help. We have been abandoned and our lives are in danger.”

A Cabinet of Rivals
Dubbed the “unity government,” this Knesset, laudably, does include members representing parties across the political spectrum, left to right. Most key ministries have been assigned to Likud stalwarts: Finance, Health, and Knesset Speaker. Blue and White’s Benny Gantz is Minister of Defense and Gabi Ashkenazi is serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs. How much authority they end up exercising remains to be seen.

The only real surprise was that Netanyahu agreed to assign Blue and White’s Avi Nissenkorn to the Justice Ministry, a critical portfolio for executing a core aspect of Likud’s agenda (like justice reform). And then, there are the optics of the prime minister’s imminent trial on multiple corruption-related charges, which begins next week.

The plan appears to be for Bibi to attend at court three days and focus otherwise on government affairs. Even Bibi–with his legendary capacity for work–will be hard-pressed to control this vendetta-riven cabinet on a part-time basis. This is likely why he appointed his pugnacious ally, Dudi Amsalem, as chief enforcer (officially, minister with responsibility for government-Knesset liaison).

So much of the dramatic political negotiations played out while Israelis were isolated in home-lockdown, permitted to leave for specific and limited purposes. People focused inward, understandably, on caring for elderly parents, home-schooling children, and constantly improvising on new techniques to safeguard continuing sanity.

In the midst of the extreme anxiety that has gripped much of the western world during the pandemic, Israelis showed little interest in which politician was betraying who and for what. They became laser-focused on economic survival and health and, frankly, had no capacity left to further indulge the political hijinks that have been ongoing for more than a year.

The political class picked up on the building public resentment–which was surely confirmed in polling data–and the message was received by the warring factions in the Knesset. In the end, enemies came together, forming an albatross of a government with a whopping price tag for executives of more than NIS 1-billion.

The plan, agreed upon by the Benjamins–Netanyahu and Gantz–is that Bibi will serve as prime minister for the first 18 months and then hand then cede the Chair to Benny.

I give it twelve months. Tops.
ICC Blues, Sue the Palestinian Authority for Hamas war crimes
It seems very likely that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will decide to try Israel for alleged war crimes. They have already recognised the ‘State’ of Palestine, a victory for Palestinian weaponising of the ICC, even if the case never goes to trial.

Although I appreciate the reasons Israel (and America) have refused to sign on to the court I am worried that she will make the same mistake she made with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of surrendering the field of battle to the enemy. I am concerned the court will rule against us in our absence.

Instead of taking the advantage, outclassing and outmaneuvering her opponents in court Israel is constantly ‘on the back foot’. Defensive rather than attacking.

We shouldn’t be. One thing Israel is not short of, is lawyers.

Let’s make some lemonade.

Every time the issue of ICC comes up on social media I try to respond on the lines of:

If Palestine is a suitable state to bring charges in the ICC it is suitable to be charged with Hamas war crimes in Gaza.

I encourage you to do the same.

Five Minutes for Israel discussed Hamas war crimes in Criminals call for court in 2014 and added an extra discussion of aerial incendiaries in Like a lead balloon last year.

Although 5MFI hasn’t written about it, the death of at least 160 children used to dig their terror tunnels is another undisputed war crime to be added to the charges.

All these war crimes are quite unlike the tendentious interpretation of article 49. of the 4th Geneva Convention on which the Palestinian Authority bases their claims. They involve intended death and destruction, far more serious and far more numerous, than building some houses.
Jpost Editorial: Annexation must be one part of a broader national security strategy
Israel does not have a way to square the circle on this. Instead, it engaged in the discussions that led to the Oslo Accords in the 1990s and got the US to sign on to support this plan. There was the Wye River agreement and the negotiations 20 years ago at Camp David. Not all of these plans worked, just like the Rogers Plan or the Allon plan never came to fruition. Clearly, the peace process and various “plans” litter Israel’s history, going back to the 1930s Peel Commission and various maps drawn up by the British.

It turns out that when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, maps are easy to draw but making historic decisions is not. Israel has said that it is committed to the two-state solution – and many allies fear that walking away from that will erode Israel as a democratic state.

Except for the US, few countries support or will accept annexation. In past decades, the UN declared that Zionism was “racism” and America would constantly pressure Israel over minutiae, such as the building of a home or the initial approval of future homes in eastern Jerusalem.

Gone are those days when there was such an avalanche of attention. That has been replaced by a Middle East that concentrates on Iran, Syria, Libya and other crises. But annexation could cause a break with the Kingdom of Jordan, which has been angry at Israel’s behavior for more than a decade. Jerusalem has done little to placate Amman or even try to work with the Jordanians.

The problem with Netanyahu’s method of governance is that it often seems shortsighted. The last 17 months of three elections made Israel look like a chaotic mess and an unstable country. Instead of laying out a strategic vision for the future, the again-reinstated prime minister appears to prefer to govern by thinking about short-term gains like annexation without considering a larger resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

But the country needs a vision. An important, historic act such as annexation requires a worldview of where Israel is going. Policymakers may be afraid to say the two-state solution will not happen, worrying that it will jeopardize relations with some countries. But the country’s leadership also refuses to say how their application of sovereignty will mesh with the two-state concept. It’s time to take responsibility and lay out a plan.
The Benefits and Risks of Extending Sovereignty to Parts of the West Bank
After decades of failed Palestinian-Israeli "peace processes," the Trump administration has indicated that it would not object if Israelis were to extend sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.

As international legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich has noted, "annexation" means taking over "territory that is under the sovereignty of another country." The West Bank is not that.

Under the White House peace plan, a future Palestinian state would rule more territory than the Palestinian Authority does now. However, that future state would have less land than Israeli leaders offered to Palestinian leaders in 2000, 2001 and 2008.

Where is it written that rejecting Israeli concessions will always lead to more concessions, even absent reciprocal concessions? Would it not be helpful to disabuse Palestinians of the belief that time is on the side of the rejectionists?

American friends may advise, but it is for Israelis to decide how best to defend themselves and their children from enemies who regard the "Palestinian cause" as the extermination of a small nation attempting to live peaceably in a corner of its ancestral homeland.

UN Ambassador Danny Danon: Abbas must talk with Israel, not threaten it
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should hold negotiate a peace deal with Israel rather than threaten to cut security ties with it, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said on Tuesday.

“Mahmoud Abbas is failing the Palestinian people. Under his leadership, the PA continues to demonstrate its obstinance, now threatening to end security ties with Israel if we pursue applying sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, as per the Trump Administration's Vision for Peace,” said Danon.

He spoke out after a PLO meeting in which Abbas spoke of cutting security ties with Israel and canceling all agreement with it in response to Israeli plans to annex the West Bank.

“The decision to apply sovereignty will be made by Israel, and only Israel. As Prime Minister Menachem Begin said after extending Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, 'you can annex foreign land. You cannot annex your own country,'” Danon said.

"Abbas only has to do one thing: enter into direct negotiations with Israel. Instead, at this late hour, he continues to bluster and make threats. Ending ties with Israel will ultimately hurt the Palestinians far more than it harms Israel,” he added.
Liberal Jewish Opposition to Israel’s Sovereignty is Cowardly
The domestic Muslim constituencies, whether it’s the Imams in Manchester and Toulouse, or CAIR and Rep. Ilhan Omar, are not going to stop agitating for the destruction of Israel no matter what it does. Nor will their lefty allies who have incorporated the ‘Palestinian’ plank into their socialist rage programs.

They are unappeasable because hating Jews and Israel gives them added purpose and meaning.

The Wahhabis can readapt to circumstances, but there’s no need for the green diaspora and its red ruling class to adapt to a damn thing. There’s virtually no downside to hating Jews, bombing synagogues, or attacking Jewish students on campus. And whatever downside occurs is suffered by the red allies, Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders, not the green diaspora which will go on hating just as much.

Especially because its Muslim Brotherhood leadership is interchangeable with Hamas.

And liberal Jews? They have the same choice that they always did. They can stand with their people or their fashionable progressive friends. They can, in their cowardly fashion, blame Netanyahu for forcing them to make that choice. But they’re only lying to themselves about why they made the wrong choice.

Israel and the hard Left were irreconcilable long before Netanyahu was born. Go ask Marx what he thought of the Jews, “What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.” Go ask Lenin, “Whoever, directly or indirectly, puts forward the slogan of Jewish ‘national culture’ is… an enemy of the proletariat... he is an accomplice of the rabbis and the bourgeoisie.”

Go ask the guy who coined the term, ‘socialism’, “Every government having regard to good morals ought to repress the Jews”. That’s exactly what every moral socialist government from the Soviet Union to the Sandinistas, from Gomulka’s Poland to Chavez’s Venezuela did, for over a century.

I’m sorry that it’s awkward when Jewish liberals show up to campus intersectional protests over pipelines, police, Palestine, and other things beginning with ‘P’. But it didn’t begin with Netanyahu or Israel. Liberal Jews need to stop blaming Israel because their lefty friends are anti-Semitic bigots.

The Saudis have for the moment stopped hating Israel. Wouldn’t it be nice if liberal Jews did too?
Biden: Israeli threats of annexation choke off hope of peace
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday said he opposes Israeli plans to annex settlements in the West Bank.

During a conversation with Jewish donors, the former vice president said both the Israelis and the Palestinians should take steps that promote the two-state solution and avoid unilateral measures. “I think we also have to make it clear that I do not support annexation,” he said in a conference call.

“The Palestinians need to end incitement in the West Bank and rocket attacks in Gaza,” Biden said. “What they are teaching in their schools is still in the school books. No matter what legitimate disagreement they may have with Israel, it’s never a justification for terrorism, and no leader should fail to condemn as terrorists those who commit these brutalities.

“The Palestinians needs to accept once and for all reality and Israel’s right to have a secure democratic Jewish state in the Middle East. And Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation, stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace.”

The Jerusalem Post obtained audio of the conversation.

He voiced a similar message during a videoconferencing speech at AIPAC policy conference in March.

In his conference call with donors, Biden vowed that if elected, he would support the Taylor Force Act while restoring funding to security cooperation with Israel.

“I’m going to reverse Trump’s administration steps [that] I think significantly undercut the prospects of peace and restore diplomatic relationships with the Palestinian Authority and assistance to support the Israeli Palestinian security cooperation and economic, humanitarian aid for Palestinian people,” Biden said.
NGO Monitor: In a first, EU to investigate if funding went to terror linked NGOs
During a May 19, 2020 meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi stated that he had instructed the heads of EU delegations to Israel and West Bank/ Gaza to “look deep” in to the allegations that some EU funds go to terror-linked or -supporting NGOs, declaring that such funding “will not be tolerated.”1

This follows concerns raised by Members of the European Parliament and civil society over a “clarification letter regarding the EU-funded contracts” sent on March 30, 2020 by the EU Representative Office to the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) – an umbrella organization of 135 Palestinian NGOs. In it, the EU diplomats appear to give in to Palestinian pressure and effectively annul EU regulations that prohibit the transfer of EU funds to terror groups or individuals connected to these groups (what Palestinian NGOs label “political parties” and “resistance factions”). After the letter was made public in Israeli media, the EU Ambassador to Israel was summoned for a demarche at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At least five members of PNGO have reported ties to EU-designated terror organizations, including through employees and/or board members who are directly involved in the activities and programs – on top of the various Palestinian NGOs and humanitarian groups that are affiliated with the PFLP. In addition to ongoing funding, on April 9 the EU announced a massive assistance package to the PA of “around €71 million in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” including “€6.9 million in humanitarian aid” to unnamed “non-governmental organisations and UN agencies already present on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

In practice, this means that even if a Palestinian NGO applying for EU grants is an affiliate of terrorist groups or employs individuals from these groups, the EU will still provide them with taxpayer funding – whether designated for emergency responses to COVID-19 or for regular programs.

1 out of 10 Israelis calls Jerusalem home
Israel's capital, Jerusalem, is also the nation's most populous city, with 924,800 residents, data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of Jerusalem Day 2020 shows.

One out of every 10 Israelis lives in Jerusalem, and 560,000 of the city's residents are Arabs.

Still, the city has suffered from negative population growth for years, and thus far 2020 has seen 8,400 residents move away.

Jerusalem's birth rate is higher than the national average, with the average number of children in Jerusalem families standing at 3.9, compared to 3.09 elsewhere in Israel. The average Jerusalem household contains 3.84 members, compared to the national average of 3.24. Jewish women in Jerusalem give birth to more children than Arab women in the city – 4.41 children on average compared to 3.14.

The capital's housing stock is limited, and housing prices there are some of the most expensive in the country. In 2019, the city saw only 2,452 housing starts, a drop of 16.6% compared to the previous eyar. The average cost of a three-bedroom apartment in the city is 2.15 million shekels ($612,000), compared to the average of 1,830,000 shekels ($521,000) elsewhere.

Half of Jerusalemites of working age (25-64) do not work, and only 50% of adults in Jerusalem are employed, a much lower number than the national average of 63.5%. However, Jerusalem boasts one of the highest percentages of residents who work locally, rather than commuting: 88.7%.

A total of 79,950 students are enrolled in Jerusalem elementary schools, 53,000 of whom are in haredi frameworks, with another 14,200 in religious Zionist schools, and only 12,700 in secular public schools.

The population of Jerusalem is young, with a third (33.5%) of residents aged 0-14. In Haifa and Tel Aviv, the percentage of city residents age 14 and under stands at 19.9% and 18.5%, respectively.
Jerusalem Day march to be replaced with 700-person chain around Old City
Police and organizers came to an agreement Wednesday on holding a smaller, more coronavirus-friendly Jerusalem Day march on Thursday, to mark the anniversary of Israel taking control of the Temple Mount compound and the eastern parts of the city during the 1967 Six Day War.

The day is usually marked by a right-wing march through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter ending at the Western Wall, and has in the past been blamed for increased tensions between Jews and Arabs.

According to the agreement reached with the Israel Police, instead of a march through the Old City’s narrow warren of streets, 700 people will be allowed to form a human chain, with two meters between links, around many of the Old City gates, organizers said in a statement.

In addition, a convoy of cars will drive around Jerusalem and circle the Old City. The events will culminate in a ceremony at the Western Wall attended by 450 people who registered in advance.

Organizers had sought permission for a 3,000 person human chain stretching from the center of western Jerusalem through the Old City.

The agreement comes after a High Court hearing on the matter.
StandWithUs: Yoni Zierler Tours : Battle for the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem
First live tour after Covid-19 restrictions loosened! Join @yoni zierler- tours in israel on a tour exploring the battle for the Jewish Quarter in Israel's War of Independence

PMW: PA: Israel steals Palestinian falafel and hummus to create a history for itself
PA: Israel steals Palestinian falafel and hummus to create a history for itself
[Official PA TV, Simply Put, May 10, 2020]

Official PA TV host: Since food reveals each people’s culture and history, the occupation has attempted and is still attempting to steal everything that is connected to us and our history: the garb, the keffiyeh, and foods like hummus and falafel. It tries to steal them and attribute them to it, because it lacks any history in this land. It isn't making do with stealing the land, no. It covets our foods, our garb, and our water.

Jordanian shot after infiltrating Israeli border
Israeli military and police forces intercepted an attempt to smuggle weapons over the Jordanian border into Israel in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the IDF confirmed.

According to available details, the soldiers identified two suspects attempting to infiltrate from Jordan to Israel. Teaming with the Israel Police, the troops engaged. A short gunfight erupted and one of the suspects was shot. The other suspect escaped back into Jordan.

No harm came to the Israeli troops.

The injured man was taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment, the IDF said.

Nine handguns and six rifles, along with other smuggled weapons, were found on the suspects, according to the police.

The incident is believed to be criminal, not terrorist, in nature.
Man crosses border from Lebanon, is shot by Israeli troops
Israeli troops shot a man who crossed the border from Lebanon into Israel for as-yet unknown reasons on Sunday, the military said.

The Israel Defense Forces said the suspect was flown to the hospital to treat his injuries.

The military said the suspect crossed into Israel near Mount Dov, also known as Shebaa Farms, a contested area along the border that is claimed by Israel, Lebanon and Syria.

The Hezbollah-affiliated al-Manar news outlet reported that the man was a shepherd with Syrian citizenship, walking his flock through the area.

“The event is being investigated,” the IDF said.
Iran blasts UAE for delivering aid to PA via Israel
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday accused the United Arab Emirates of "betraying" Persian Gulf states and the Palestinians after the UAE-based Etihad Airways debuted a direct commercial flight between Israel and Abu Dhabi.

The airline sent one of its cargo planes, carrying 16 tons of coronavirus aid for Palestinians. As Neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip have airports, the plane landed at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The UAE has no diplomatic ties to Israel, yet the flight marked a moment of cooperation between the two nations after years of rumored back-channel discussions over the mutual enmity of Iran and other issues.

Etihad, the state-owned, long-haul carrier based in Abu Dhabi, confirmed the flight took place, saying, "Etihad Airways operated a dedicated humanitarian cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv ... to provide medical supplies to the Palestinians. The flight had no passengers on board."

In the past, private and diplomatic planes often had to travel to a third country before heading onto Israel.

The UAE's state-run WAM news agency later issued a statement saying it delivered 16 tons of protective gear, medical items, and ventilators "to curb the spread of [the] COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in the occupied Palestinian territory."
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians doubt Abbas's threats will stop Israeli settlement annexation
PA President Mahmoud Abbas threatened on Tuesday to renounce all agreements with Israel but stopped short of cancelling the agreements, Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

An official pointed out that Abbas' previous threats had failed to stop the U.S. from recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving its embassy there.

A senior PA security official said on Wednesday that he was unaware of any instruction from the Palestinian leadership to halt security coordination with Israel.

A Fatah official said, "Since 2015, President Abbas has been reading from the same paper. How many times can you repeat the same threat? How can you renounce the same agreements you said you renounced five years ago? That's why Israel and many in the international community no longer take these threats seriously."

A Ramallah-based veteran Palestinian journalist remarked, "Everyone knows that these threats are meaningless because, without the agreements with Israel, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority won't be able to survive for another day."

AP Fabricates Palestinian President Abbas Has Always Opposed Violence
Abbas has met with the families of terrorists like Baha Alyan and Bilal Ghanem, who attacked passengers on a bus in Armon Hanatziv using a gun and a knife, ‎killing two, including a 78-year-old man, and wounding four Israeli, and Thaer Abu Ghazaleh, who stabbed five Israelis with a screwdriver. In what way does meeting with the families of terrorists, promising them compensation, oppose violence? Likewise, as Israeli officials frequently note, hefty Palestinian Authority payments to imprisoned terrorists and the families of suicide bombers and others killed as they carried out attacks against Israel does little to “oppose violence.”

CAMERA has contacted AP to request correction of this egregious falsehood. Hopefully, the correction will be more forthcoming than the AP’s clarification of the 2018 falsehood that “Iran never threatened to attack Israel.” About those very real threats, AP’s clarification had prevaricated, casting Iranian saber-rattling about Israel’s demise as an Israeli perception:

In a story Nov. 24, The Associated Press reported that Iran frequently condemns Israel and predicts its demise. The story should have made clear that Israeli officials view any such comments from Iran as existential threats.

Stay tuned for an update.

P.L.O. Seeks Vatican Assistance in Dealing with Israel over West Bank
The secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) contacted the Vatican Wednesday to “inform” of their concerns over possible Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.

In a carefully worded communiqué, the Vatican revealed that on Wednesday morning, Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator and secretary general of the P.L.O., telephoned Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.

Mr. Erekat “wished to inform the Holy See about recent developments in the Palestinian territories and of the possibility of Israeli applying its sovereignty unilaterally to part of those territories, further jeopardizing the peace process,” the communiqué said.

In mid-April Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement to form a unity government. According to the terms of the deal, the issue of annexation can be voted in the Knesset on July 1 at the earliest, “after discussion between the prime minister and alternate prime minister.”

“The Holy See reiterates that respect for international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, is an indispensable element for the two peoples to live side by side in two States, within the borders internationally recognized before 1967,” the text stated.

“The Holy See is following the situation closely, and expresses concern about any future actions that could further compromise dialogue,” it continued, “while also expressing its hope that Israelis and Palestinians will be soon able to find once again the possibility for directly negotiating an agreement, with the help of the International Community, so that peace may finally reign in the Holy Land, so beloved by Jews and Christians and Muslims.”

In January 2017, Pope Francis received Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican for a formal inauguration of the first Embassy of the State of Palestine to the Holy See.

The new Palestinian embassy, said Abbas, “is a sign that the Pope loves the Palestinian people and peace.” The Vatican recognized the state of Palestine about a year and a half ago.

After the meeting, Abbas also said that he hopes “other states will follow the Holy See’s example.”

“We are proud to be the birthplace of Christianity and about having one of the oldest Christian communities in the world,” he said.
MEMRI: Palestinian Journalist: Through Their Internal Schisms, The Palestinians Have Brought Upon Themselves More Catastrophes Instead Of Realizing The Right Of Return and Establishing A State
On the occasion of Nakba Day (literally "Catastrophe Day," commemorating the displacement of Palestinians that attended the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948), Gazan journalist Akram 'Atallah published an article in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam titled "The Nakba and Its Sisters," in which he accused the Palestinians of compounding the original Nakba with further catastrophes of their own making. He wrote that, 72 years after the first Nakba, the goal of establishing a state has not only failed to come nearer, but has actually receded due to the intra-Palestinians schisms and power-struggles. The various Palestinian parties and factions, he said, are more interested in gaining power than in realizing the dream of establishing a state. The result is ongoing schism and a failure to establish proper government and judicial institutions that safeguard freedom, pluralism and the rule of law.

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]
"The Palestinians have marked, for the 72nd time, the sorrowful memory of their expulsion from their cities and villages. None of the members of the [1948] generation, who kept the keys to their homes, imagined that they would not be returning even after so many years…

"The journey has not ended that the Nakba is not yet over. More than 70 years later, we are no closer [to realizing] the dream. On the contrary, we are [even] more frustrated and bereft of hope. Much water has flowed down the river of the [Palestinian] enterprise and many stones have fallen on the Palestinians' heads, hitting them one after the other. Every time they lift their heads, another [catastrophe] strikes. The dream of return is more distant than ever…

"The Palestinian schism has grown deeper as well: [The Palestinians] have tried to unite into a single national movement in order to [realize their] dream, but [instead] they are fighting one another, when they have not yet arrived and [the dream] is not yet fulfilled.

"Along the way, the Israelis threw them a little bribe that distracted them [from the goal] and halted their progress [towards it]. This caused the brothers to fall out and [become] mortal enemies, and the dispute, it turns out, is not temporary. It is part of an old Eastern tradition of quarreling over who will rule over this wretched [Palestinian] people that has not yet realized its dream, [namely] who will govern it under the occupation. We discovered that our political genes are part of the Arab tradition [when it comes to] government and exclusion [of the other] to the point of killing [him].
Khaled Abu Toameh: "A Black Day for Palestinian Journalism"
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS) has denounced the order as a "black day in the history of Palestinian journalism and a massacre against freedom of expression."

The number of Palestinian journalists targeted by the Palestinian Authority may have dropped, but it is obvious that most of these reporters practice self-censorship and take extreme care to avoid angering their leaders.

That is most likely why most Palestinian journalists living in PA-controlled areas rarely, if ever, report on issues that reflect negatively on Palestinian leaders. The only freedom of expression they are allowed to practice is one that includes heaping praise on Palestinian leaders while bashing Israel on a daily basis.

Those journalists probably see themselves as foot soldiers in the Palestinian national struggle to destroy Israel and replace it with yet another extremist Muslim state.

MEMRI: Iranian Regime: The Entire Persian Gulf Is Our Sea – 'Mare Nostrum' – And Has Belonged To Iran For Centuries; U.S. Forces Must Leave It
In advance of Iran's National Persian Gulf day, which this year fell on April 29,[1] the Iranian regime stepped up its provocations against U.S. vessels in international waters in the Gulf, in an attempt to establish in the international community the perception that these waters are Iranian. On April 15, 11 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) speedboats harassed a formation of six U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships, getting within a few meters of them, refusing to heed warnings to move away, and "repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches," according to the U.S. Navy.[2]

IRGC speedboats harassing U.S. vessels, April 15, 2020.

On April 19, Iran stated that the presence of foreign forces, particularly U.S. forces, in the Gulf endangers security and stability in it, and issued a warning stating that there would be "a decisive response to any mistake" by the Americans. It added that it the U.S. vessels had been interfering with Iranian maneuvers that were underway and that they had disregarded instructions by Iran to leave the area.

Majlis National Security Committee chairman Mojtaba Zolnour set out, on May 5, Iran's version of events: "The Americans are looking for provocations in the region, and are saying that Iranian [speed] boats surrounded the American ship... [But what really happened was] the American ship blocked the path of an Iranian ship everywhere it wanted to go. We have noticed that if we do not respond to [the Americans] at the right time, they become even more impudent, and begin to carry out other operations. Therefore, the Iranian [speed]boats' blocking of the American vessels was in fact a response to the Americans' interference."[3]

A week after the incident, on April 22, President Trump tweeted: "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea."

This explicit U.S. threat led the Iranian regime to stop harassing U.S. vessels in the Gulf and to direct its efforts into online media activity, and statements by regime officials, to establish the notion of "our sea" – "mare nostrum" – regarding the Persian Gulf, much as the ancient Romans considered the Mediterranean "mare nostrum." To this end, regime officials, headed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and Iran's diplomatic corps, under the leadership of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as well as top military commanders, mobilized to instill the notion that the Persian Gulf – not the Arabian Gulf, as the Arab countries surrounding it consider it – is Iranian territory, that Iran is in charge of the Strait of Hormuz, and that the IRGC carries out legitimate and legal policing operations in it in order to keep traffic in it secure and safeguard Iran's borders. Based on this, they reiterated their demand that the U.S. immediately withdraw its forces from the region, claiming that they were causing the tension.
US Blacklists Iran’s Interior Minister Over Human Rights Abuses
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Iran‘s interior minister, accusing him of having a role in serious human rights abuse, including giving orders that led to violence against peaceful protesters, the US Treasury Department said.

The Treasury said in a statement that Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli gave orders authorizing the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) to use lethal force in response to protests in November, leading to the killing of protesters, including at least 23 minors.

The Treasury’s action on Wednesday also blacklisted seven senior officials of the LEF and a provincial commander of Iran‘s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The LEF Cooperative Foundation — which the Treasury said is controlled by the LEF and which is active in Iran‘s energy, construction, services, technology and banking industries — was also blacklisted, as were its director and members of the board of trustees. The organization’s name in Iran is Bonyad Taavon NAJA.

Wednesday’s action freezes any US-held assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

“The United States will continue to hold accountable Iranian officials and institutions that oppress and abuse their own people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
Trump Admin Sanctions Chinese Firm Aiding Iran’s Weapons Smuggling Network
The Trump administration on Tuesday issued new sanctions on a Chinese firm that it says is providing critical services to Iran's Mahan Air, an airline that the United States has designated for terrorism due to its smuggling of weapons and terrorist fighters.

Sanctions will immediately be applied to Shanghai Saint Logistics Limited, a Chinese company that "provides general sales agent services" for Mahan, according to the State Department. The United States first listed Mahan Air as a "specially designated global terrorist" in 2011 due to its role in Tehran's shipment of weapons and soldiers across the Middle East. It was designated again in 2019 under weapons of mass destruction authority for allegedly shipping banned missile and nuclear infrastructure to Iran.

China is one of the few countries still doing business with the airline and it is likely the coronavirus first spread to Iran because of the daily flights between the two countries.

"The People's Republic of China is one of the rapidly dwindling number of countries that welcomes Mahan Air, which ferries weapons and terrorists around the world for the Islamic Republic of Iran," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement announcing the new sanctions. "Such cooperation has consequences."

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