Monday, June 15, 2020

From Ian:

How Russia saved Israel from a Palestinian state based on the '48 borders
New details about some drama involving Israel, Russia, and the US that played out behind the scenes at the United Nations Security Council some four years ago are coming to light.

It appears that Russia demonstrated a rare willingness to use its UNSC veto on Israel's behalf to block a resolution led by then-US President Barack Obama, which would have compelled Israel to set up a Palestinian state based on the 1948 borders.

Approximately six months ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at an election rally in Maaleh Adumim that he had asked a "friend," whom he referred to as "the leader of one of the superpowers who holds veto power in the UN Security Counci," to vote against the resolution. Netanyahu credited that leader, whom he did not name, with stopping the resolution.

In a recent closed-door meeting, Netanyahu revealed more details about the unusual event.

Toward the end of Obama's second term in office, the US spearheaded UNSC Resolution 2334, which states that Israel is in violation of international law by its presence in the territories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel realized at the time that the US administration was coordinating the resolution with the Palestinians and Europeans, but had no way of blocking it without support from the US.

On Nov. 24, 2016, Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin and explained that the resolution Obama was working to pass would disrupt regional stability and harm Israel. Netanyahu asked Putin to state that he intended to use his UNSC veto to scupper the resolution. But Putin refused. On Dec. 23, 2016, the UNSC passed Resolution 2334, although then-US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power ultimately abstained.

However, Obama had additional plans, even though he had less than a month left in the White House. He and his staff began working on another UNSC resolution, which would have forced Israel to agree to a Palestinian state based on the 1948 borders. Israel's UN ambassador at the time, Danny Danon, sounded the alarm.
Harry Truman and the cause of Jewish statehood
Eli Kavon in his May 31 column, “President Truman was not a saint,” laments the fact that Harry S. Truman was not a saint in his complaints against Jews pressuring him on the question of Palestine.

Truman was a politician, and since when does anyone expect a politician to conduct himself like a saint? The main point is that he acted on behalf of the Jews in the creation of the State of Israel decisively at critical moments when his action made all the difference.

The story began with his demand after the Second World War for the British government to allow 100,000 Jewish refugees in the camps in Europe to enter Palestine. This did not spring doors open, but it became a basic plank in the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, which recommended the immediate entry of the 100,000 Jews. It also seems that Truman personally worked hard to obtain a majority for the UN Partition Plan in the 1947 General Assembly.

Above all, however, his recognition of Israel, 11 minutes after it was proclaimed in Tel Aviv, was a very fateful turning point in the survival of the Jewish state. He did this even against the strong advice of his secretary of state, George Marshall, who charged that it was all politics, and threatened not to vote for Truman in the forthcoming presidential elections. Truman regarded Marshall as the greatest living American, yet he defied him on this critical issue because he had promised Chaim Weizmann that he would immediately recognize the Jewish state if it proclaimed its independence.

The background to this promise to Weizmann is not well known, and should be repeated here. In January 1948, the State Department had reached a decision to abandon partition, for which it had fought in November 1947. The Jewish Agency got wind of the State Department’s move, and realized there was only one person who could move Truman to counter the State Department scheme, namely, Weizmann.

However, every attempt to get Truman to agree to meet with Weizmann was met with a flat refusal. Truman was hopping mad at the American Jews for supporting the Republicans and charging Truman with deserting partition. This applied especially to Abba Hillel Silver, who supported senator Robert Taft as the Republican candidate for the presidency. (Both Silver and Taft were from Ohio.)

It was at this moment that the Jewish Agency contacted Truman’s old Jewish partner, Eddie Jacobson, who had free entry into the White House. The agency asked Jacobson to travel immediately by the midnight train from Missouri to see Truman. Jacobson agreed, and upon arrival in Washington the next morning went straight to the White House.
David Singer: America Erases its Past as Israel Resurrects 3000-years-old History
It is amazing that in the midst of an unprecedented global economic shutdown some Americans are presently hell-bent on erasing America’s past by pulling down statues of controversial persons in America’s deeply-troubled history and engaging in cultural cancelling – whilst Israelis are simultaneously planning to resurrect Jewish history by restoring Israeli sovereignty in the Jewish people’s biblical heartland – Judea and Samaria – after 3000 years.

Trashing America’s past is violent and unlawful – whilst Israel’s democratically elected Government is reinstating the Jewish People’s past in tandem with President Trump’s Peace Plan published on 28 January 2020.

Many American mayors and governors have watched on – restraining their police forces from doing anything to halt these monuments to history being torn down by chanting mobs. Residents and businesses located in the affected cities will continue to pay a high price for these elected officials failing to allow the police to take back control of the streets and restore safety and security for all.

Alarmingly many of these mayors and governors are now considering defunding or replacing their police forces in what can only be described as abject surrender in the face of extreme provocation by rampaging and looting protestors out of control and oblivious to maintaining any semblance of complying with the laws of social distancing that the majority populations in these cities under attack follow, respect and obey.

As this epidemic of unbridled lawlessness spreads worldwide – the international community’s response to Israel’s intended application of sovereignty in 1697km2 of Judea and Samaria’s 5655km2 is deeply troubling.

An avalanche of international opposition – led by the United Nations and European Union – falsely claims that Israel is acting “in flagrant violation of international law” – ignoring:
The San Remo Resolution and the Treaty of Sevres 1920
The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine 1922
Article 80 of the United Nations Charter 1945
President Bush’s written commitment to Israeli Prime Minister Sharon on 14 April 2004 overwhelmingly approved by the Congress by 502 votes to 12 (America’s Commitment) – promising that Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza would not require Israel to withdraw from all of Judea and Samaria.
The Quartet – Russia, United Nations, European Union and America – endorsing America’s Commitment on 4 May 2004
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert acknowledging Israel’s reliance on America’s Commitment at the Annapolis Conference on 27 November 2007:

“The negotiations [with the PLO] will be based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.”

What does Trump’s West Point speech mean for Israel and the Middle East?
As the US walks away from parts of the world, the vacuum is inevitably being filled by other countries, usually America's adversaries. Trump’s message at West Point is that those countries abroad willing to use force will see no pushback from the US. This has in fact been the general theme of the administration. Other countries need to take care of themselves. If European countries care about NATO or ISIS, they need to chip in more.

The US has not ended all military aid and assistance; it is still, for example, providing funds to Ukraine or Lebanon. The overall trend though is to reduce the US footprint, even when the footprint isn’t very large, such as in Syria.

This has ramifications for Israel because the US-Israel alliance is predicated not only on mutual interests and military links, but also on a network of alliances. When the US is strong and Israel is strong, they work together with other states. If Washington is seen to be reducing its role, Jerusalem will need other allies and even have to go it alone in some places.

America's retreat may embolden enemies and adversaries over time to challenge Israel in new ways. The overall ramifications are not yet clear, but we can see elements of them as US allies in the Middle East have turned to China to buy drones; some have even turned to Russia. Iran continues its mission creep in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.

While US national defense strategy officially seeks to confront China and Russia, the notion that America won’t help rebuild countries – and will dismiss as ancient hatreds the modern conflicts around the world – may not bode well for Israel.
'US will always support Israel's right to defend itself'
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday addressed the opening plenary of the 2020 AJC Global Forum and reaffirmed the strong bond between Washington and Jerusalem.

AJC's signature annual event was originally scheduled to take place in Berlin but was changed to a video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing what the AJC said was thousands of people in the US and around the world, America's top diplomat condemned the troubling uptick in global anti-Semitism and cautioned Iran against pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening Israel with annihilation.

"Since 1948, Israel has proven time and again that it's up to any challenge to the Jewish people's right to govern themselves in their ancestral homeland," Pompeo said. "The United States will always support Israel's right to defend itself."

Touching on his visits to Israel since taking office, the latest just last month, Pompeo noted that "as a Christian, being in Israel is deeply moving, a very moving experience for me."

"The United States and Israel are blessed nations, and we share a very special bond. Our bilateral partnership is all the more vital given the rise in anti-Semitism around the world."

Honest Reporting: What Are Israel’s Settlement Blocs?
‘Consensus’ on the settlement blocs

There is indeed a general consensus that the highly populated blocs of settlements located in areas near the Green Line will remain part of Israel in any peace agreement with the Palestinians. These blocs cover roughly five percent of the West Bank, but contain approximately 80 percent of the entire settlement population.

A look at the Gaza disengagement of 2005 is instructive. One settlement bloc that was dismantled was Gush Katif, where some 8,600 Israelis livingin 17 settlements were evacuated in heart-wrenching scenes. Israeli debate about that withdrawal centered not only the possibility of Hamas taking over the Strip, but whether Israelis would ultimately continue living in the Strip after a final peace deal. Gush Katif didn’t have the wider consensus support that the West Bank blocs have.

That consensus includes not just Israel’s right and left wings, but also the US and even the Palestinians.

The Israeli left has for a long time been part of the consensus. Examples include the Geneva Initiative headed by Yossi Beilin, which comprises many prominent leftists like former Peace Now director Mossi Raz. In 2018 Labor Party MK Eitan Cabel called on his party colleagues to “sober up” and incorporate settlement bloc retention into the Labor platform.

In America the concept of Israel absorbing the settlement blocs also has bipartisan support. In 2009, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said that no Israeli leader can accept a peace deal that excludes the large settlement blocs.
Former president Jimmy Carter

Most surprisingly, former President Jimmy Carter, widely perceived as being hostile to any Israeli presence in the West Bank, also expressed his support for Israel’s claim to some of the settlement blocs. Carter visited Gush Etzion in 2009 and told reporters afterwards that it should remain in Israeli hands “forever.”

“This particular settlement area [Gush Etzion] is not one that I envision ever being abandoned or changed over into Palestinian territory,” Carter said. “This is part of the close settlements to the 1967 line that I think will be here forever.”

As for the Palestinians, their official presence at Camp David II and in talks over the years including the peace offer from prime minister Ehud Olmert showed they were party to the idea of Israel’s retention of the settlement blocs. The Palestinians and other Arab leaders have talked openly about the concept.
EU ministers kick off campaign to pressure Pompeo on annexation
EU foreign ministers will hold video talks with their US counterpart Mike Pompeo on Monday as rifts widen over how to handle relations with Israel, China and international organizations.

The meeting kicks off a crunch week for trans-Atlantic ties, with a virtual meeting of NATO defense ministers starting Wednesday already overshadowed by Washington’s controversial plans to slash its troop presence in Germany.

US President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach has seen ties with Europe lurch from crisis to crisis in recent years, but EU officials are determined to keep talking to Washington, even if little progress is apparent.

High on the agenda will be the Middle East peace process, as Brussels seeks to persuade Israel to back down from plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

The Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has signaled it intends to annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, as proposed by Trump, with initial steps to begin from July 1.

A senior EU official said Monday’s talks with Pompeo would begin three weeks “devoted to strongly reaching out” to all parties — including the Israeli and US governments — to try to stop the moves.
'Annexation will destroy any chance of peace,' chief Palestinian negotiator warns
Israel's plan to apply sovereignty to large parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley will spell that end of the Palestinian Authority and with it any chance of a peaceful resolution to the regional conflict, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned Sunday.

In an interview with the PA's Wafa news agency, Erekat said that if Israel applies sovereignty to even "one inch of occupied Palestinian territory it will mean the extermination of any chance of peace in the region.

If Israel applies sovereignty to even "one inch" of Judea and Samaria, it will be the end of the Palestinian Authority, says Saeb Erekat, adding that if PM Netanyahu goes ahead with the plan, "He must ally with the American racist organization called the Klu Klux Klan, and must be ready to assume all the responsibilities of an occupying power," according to Israel National News.

"Annexation means the destruction of the Palestinian Authority, and this will be the end of a solution through negotiations," he warned. "The Israelis do not like the facts and believe that denying the facts annuls their existence. They [the Israelis] must realize that annexation means apartheid and racism."
Do Jordanians Want a Palestinian State?
Jordanian Awad Al-Maharmeh stated, “I am satisfied with saying that I do not support the establishment of an armed Palestinian state on the borders of Jordan, but Palestinian autonomy only.” As for Israel’s plans to annex some of the territory, on that topic, he refused to comment.

A Jordanian entrepreneur residing in Chile said, “Jordanian lands for me, as a Jordanian, are holy lands from the Jordan River to the borders of Saudi Arabia, from the borders of Syria and Iraq to Aqaba. But the Palestinian issue does not at all concern me.”

Laith Haddad is a Jordanian singer living in the United Arab Emirates. “I am in favor of an unarmed Palestinian state. … If a Palestinian state were to be established, it must be demilitarized,” he said. As for Israel annexing some of the territory, Haddad insisted that Israel didn’t have the right to do so. “However,” he added, “as a Christian, I also recognize that these lands have been Jewish since the time of the biblical Exodus.”

A retired engineer and professor of theology at a Christian college in Amman called Israel’s plans to annex the Jordan Valley another act of “occupation.” But he added that he “does not encourage the establishment of an Islamic Palestinian state west of the river. I prefer to see the West Bank under Jordanian guardianship, and let the Palestinians self-rule in a demilitarized state.”

Finally, Modar al-Momani, a Jordanian-born international journalist based in Jerusalem, said, “The safest solution is two neighboring states, which just like any two countries in the world, would be governed by international law. And this according to the 1967 border lines.”
Jordan's King Abdullah refuses to speak with Netanyahu - report
Jordan's King Abdullah II refused to speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone and would not specify a date for a meeting requested by Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, according to the Palestinian Ma'an news agency. This is not the first time such an incident has occurred in recent years.

A Jordanian official told Ma'an that the refusal came due to plans by Israel to annex parts of the West Bank in July. The king ordered the royal court to not set a date to meet with Gantz, after Gantz requested a meeting with the king to discuss the annexation.

Relations between Abdullah and Netanyahu have been frosty for a few years, with the two only meeting once in recent years with cameras and media banned from the meeting. The king often does not take calls from Netanyahu and refused to meet him last August.

Jordan has repeatedly warned Israel in recent weeks and months against unilaterally annexing parts of the West Bank.

In May, Abdullah told German newspaper Der Spiegel that if Israel fulfills its promise to annex the Jordan Valley, it will lead to a "massive" confrontation with Jordan.

When asked if annexation will lead to the cessation of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, Abdullah said he doesn't "want to make threats and create an atmosphere of controversy, but we're considering every option."
Greek PM heads to Jerusalem for meetings on post-corona tourism reopening
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakisis set to arrive in Israel on Tuesday to try to negotiate the renewal of tourism between his country and Israel following this year’s lockdowns to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Greece is seeking reciprocity with Israel, by which people flying to Israel from Greece – including Israelis returning from vacation – will not have to go into a two-week quarantine upon arrival.

The Greek economy relies heavily on tourism, which accounted for 25.7-30.9% of Greece’s GDP in 2018, according to the Greek Tourism Confederation’s research department, and 90% of tourism revenue came from abroad.

The EU is expected to allow member states to open their borders to other countries on July 1, and Greece would like an agreement to come into place by this date.

However, with the rising COVID-19 numbers, Foreign Ministry officials said Israel will not be able to commit to a date for such an arrangement. When Israel opens up again, Greece, a country with a very low rate of coronavirus, will be one of the first destinations to not require a quarantine, the officials said.

Instead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely express a positive attitude towards starting tourism without setting specific dates.

On Trump’s Birthday, Israel Greenlights Construction of Trump Heights
Israel announced on Sunday the approval of plans to build a new town in the Golan Heights named after US President Donald Trump.

Trump Heights was so named in June of last year in honor of the American administration’s official recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights.

At the start of Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Today, we will begin practical steps in establishing the community of Trump Heights on the Golan Heights, Israel’s sovereignty over which was recognized by President Trump.”

Settlement Affairs Minister Tzipi Hotoveley wrote on Facebook: “Today, the government approved the decision on the establishment of Trump Heights on the Golan Heights and the Ministry of Settlement Affairs began its work on providing approval to make it suitable for 300 families.”

Hotoveley, who will serve as Israel’s next ambassador to the United Kingdom, went on to state that settlement of the Golan, “an area whose historical (Jewish) roots extend back to the days of the Hasmoneans,” was “in line with the concept of helping the land flourish.”

Netanyahu also sent President Trump a birthday message via Twitter, writing: “Happy birthday President Donald Trump! You’ve been an INCREDIBLE friend to Israel and you’ve done extraordinary things for the Jewish state for which we are eternally grateful.

“Here’s just a brief list: You recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moved your embassy there, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, withdrew the U.S. from the dangerous Iran nuclear deal, exposed the corrupt and biased ICC … and put forward your Vision for Peace which gives hope for peace, security and prosperity in our region. Thank you for your historic leadership, Mr. President!”
Security forces raze 12 buildings in 2 central West Bank illegal Jewish outposts
Security forces razed a dozen makeshift buildings at a pair of neighboring central West Bank outposts on Monday morning, detaining at least 15 hilltop youth residents of the wildcat communities who clashed with troops during the demolitions, according to a legal aid organization representing them.

The order to flatten six illegal structures in Maoz Esther and another six in Baladim — both next to the Kochav Hashahar settlement — appeared to be the first signed off on by Benny Gantz since he took over as defense minister last month.

“Enforcement activities were carried out in accordance with the authority of the Civil Administration and were subject to operational considerations,” a defense official told The Times of Israel.

Both the Baladim and Maoz Esther outposts have been razed and rebuilt several times in recent years, with the former hilltop community known for its particularly extremist residents, who have been involved in violent attacks against IDF soldiers and neighboring Palestinians.

The Honenu legal aid organization said in a statement that Border Police operating at the scene used excessive force to remove the five families living in the two outposts from their homes.
JCPA: Turkey’s Intrusion into Jerusalem
Tens of millions of dollars are disbursed by Turkey each year for various projects and to gain influence on the Temple Mount, in the Old City, and east Jerusalem.

The Turks’ allies in the city are affiliated with the Israeli Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement and with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Two recent flashpoints are in the vicinity of the Western Wall and al-Zahra Street in east Jerusalem, where the Turkish Cultural Center is located.

Erdogan is trying to boost “al-Aqsa tourism” by Turkish citizens and Muslims from around the world.

Turkey’s Our Heritage (Mirasimiz) and TIKA nonprofit associations are at the forefront of Turkish assistance to various Islamic projects in Jerusalem.

Turkey funds Hamas activities and harbors Hamas terrorists.
Turkey embraces Iran once again, defying US
Turkey on Monday reiterated its opposition to US sanctions on neighboring Iran, saying the coronavirus pandemic has shown that the world needs greater cooperation and solidarity.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comments in Istanbul during a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is the first dignitary to visit Turkey since its outbreak began in March.

"Iran's stability and peace is important for us," Cavusoglu said. "We oppose unilateral sanctions. In fact, the pandemic has taught us that the world needs greater cooperation and solidarity."

Zarif said the US had "tightened the sanctions in order to damage the Iranian economy during the pandemic." He thanked Turkey for its support.

US President Donald Trump imposed heavy sanctions on Iran after he withdrew the United States from Iran's nuclear agreement with world powers in May 2018. American officials contend Iran is working to obtain nuclear-capable missiles, which the Iranians deny.
PMW: PA foreign minister fans the flames of “religious war”
PA Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Malki has twice recently fanned the flames of religious war among Palestinians and the entire Muslim world. The top PA official continues to demonize Israel with the libel that Israel plans “to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and build the alleged Temple.” Al-Malki made one of his statements in a video conference of Arab officials at the level of foreign ministers regarding Israel's presumed future annexation - i.e., applying Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and the Jewish cities and towns in the West Bank:

PA Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Malki: “[Israel's annexation] will place the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque… under full Israeli control, in order to execute their plan to promote their false narrative in order to destroy it and build their alleged Temple. This will turn the conflict from a political conflict into a religious conflict whose end will be bad and bitter, will undermine the stability, and will destroy the security and peace in the region and the world.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 11, 2020]

PA Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad Al-Malki: “This step [Israel's annexation of the Jordan Valley] if it is carried out… will place the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the first direction of prayer, the second mosque [in the world], and the third [most] holy sanctuary – under Israeli control, before it is destroyed and the alleged Temple is built in its place. This step, if it is carried out, will turn this conflict from a political one into an endless religious conflict.”
[Official PA TV News, May 1, 2020]

Al-Malki’s statement and prediction of “religious war” functions as a call to Palestinians to take to violence and terror in the event Israel goes through with the annexation. His statement joins a long line of music videos and fillers broadcast by the PA designed to ignite the Palestinian street, calling to carry out suicide bombings and stabbings and “restore honor,” and fight with “daggers and knives,” and “redeem Jerusalem.”

World Bank to Invest $15 Million to Offer IT Jobs to Palestinian Youth
The World Bank has approved a $15 million grant to improve sustainable economic opportunities for Palestinian youth through the information technology (IT) sector, the World Bank announced Friday.

“There are more than 3,000 IT graduates every year from Palestinian universities and most of them do not have a job,” Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza said in a statement. Moreover, he added, the sector is less vulnerable during crises and can accommodate remote work during times like the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic or other restrictions on movement.

“This new project is part of the World Bank’s strategy to invest in a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem for job creation,” he said.

According to Shankar, the IT sector has the potential to contribute strongly to economic growth and can offer opportunities to Palestinian youth, who constitute 30% of the population in the Palestinian territories and suffer from acute unemployment.

More than a quarter of working-age Palestinians were unemployed even prior to the Covid-19 crisis. Youth unemployment in the West Bank stood at 37% in the fourth quarter of 2019 and an alarming 61% in Gaza, according to data provided by the World Bank. Palestinian women’s participation in the labor force is the lowest in the Middle East and North Africa region, mainly because of mobility restrictions, according to the World Bank’s statement.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: Pursuing War on Their Media
"The case of Sami [Al-Sa'i] and what he was exposed to drove concern regarding the attempts of Palestinian Security Services... of torturing Palestinian Journalists, that may enhance the intimidation of journalists and the practice of self-censorship," MADA said. It also called on the PA to launch an investigation into the torture and ill-treatment of Al-Sa'i and other Palestinian journalists.

These are extraordinary violations of press freedoms and freedom of expression. Perpetrated anywhere else in the world, the international community would be up in arms. Because they are being committed by Palestinians against Palestinians, however -- and because the Palestinian leadership has not yet found a way to blame Israel for these particular crimes -- the torture of a Palestinian journalist is considered a no-news story.

We do not know how pro-Palestinian groups feel about the abuse: they never object to it. What they only seem to find objectionable is Israel. No wonder Palestinian leaders feel they have a green light to continue persecuting journalists and anyone else who utters a word against Abbas and his associates.
Israel said to let $50 million in Qatari aid into Gaza; balloon attacks to halt
Israel approved the transfer of $50 million by Qatar to Gaza as part of an apparent deal to halt escalating tensions with terror groups in the Strip, a Lebanese newspaper reported Monday.

The alleged agreement came after terror groups in Gaza renewed their practice of launching balloons carrying arson devices and explosives into southern Israel.

The Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper, citing Qatari and international mediators, reported that the terror groups in the Strip had agreed to stop the balloon attacks, which have thus far caused no injury or damage.

The apparent deal came despite bitter criticism of such arrangements by Defense Minister Benny Gantz throughout the past three national election campaigns, in which the opponent-turned-ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the government of paying “protection money” to the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group by allowing the transfer of millions of dollars of Qatari aid into the Strip as part of a ceasefire agreement.

“Netanyahu pays the Hamas murderers 15 million dollars. Every month. In cash. In exchange we got hundreds of rockets on the residents of the south, tens of thousands of dunams burned, hundreds of incendiary kites and balloons, tens of thousands of children in bomb shelters. We won’t pay Hamas protection money,” Gatnz said in one campaign video.

Gantz’s office refused to comment on Monday’s al-Akhbar report.
Seaside Vendors Decry Gentrification of Gaza Beach
Dotting the Gaza coastline, hundreds of young Palestinians set up carts to sell coffee, tea or corn to passers-by.

But now the Hamas leadership in Gaza City has ordered that all mobile carts along the seafront be replaced by municipality-owned cement booths.

Would-be vendors will have to pay the municipality $2,500 in rent per year for a booth - $1,500 up front before 20 June and another $1,000 over the course of the year.

Those unable to afford the rent have been threatened with confiscation of their carts.

Is Assad about to Fall?
It has become commonplace to declare Assad the victor of the civil war in Syria. He has managed to survive nearly a decade of rebellion by brutally suppressing dissent and exploiting the support of Russia and Iran to keep his grip on a burning country. Assad may have crushed the opposition to his rule in 60% of the country, but in 2020, every single root cause of the 2011 uprising has worsened.

In recent months, Syria's economy has collapsed, resulting in hyperinflation, mass business closures, widespread food shortages and increasing unemployment. An average monthly salary in Syria now buys roughly one watermelon. Beyond the economic sphere, the Assad regime's failure to stabilize former opposition areas and its continued brutal and corrupt practices are driving intensifying instability.

MEMRI: Syrian Oppositionists: The Protests In America Over George Floyd’s Killing Are Proof Of Its Strong Civil Society, Spark Hope For Similar Protests Against Assad’s Crimes
While the state media of the Syrian regime presented the George Floyd incident as proof of the racist and terrorist character of the U.S.,[1] Syrian oppositionists claimed that the protests sparked by this incident throughout the U.S. reflected the solidarity of American society and its determination to defend the rights and dignity of all its members. Oppositionists stated that Syria can only hope to one day develop a strong civil culture like the one in the U.S., and slammed the hypocrisy of the Syrian regime, which condemns the violence in the U.S. when its crimes against its own people are so much worse.

This report reviews statements by Syrian oppositionists and writers in the opposition media about the protests in the U.S.

Syrian Oppositionists: The Protests Over Floyd's Murder Reflect The Solidarity In American Society
In light of the U.S. protests over George Floyd's death, Syrian oppositionists praised America’s civil culture while contrasting it with the situation in Syria. Oppositionist Mohamad Sabra, a former member of the High Negotiations Committee (NHC), which represents the opposition in the political process, wrote on Facebook: "Some people celebrate the violent protests in the U.S. over the murder of an African American by a racist cop, seeing them as the beginning of America's demise. That is a bizarre and strange position, which can only be espoused by someone who does not know the meaning of freedom, human dignity and social solidarity in the face of [human rights] violations by the regime. While we condemn their violent nature, the protests in the U.S. clearly reflect the powerful ability of American society to defend its freedom, dignity and civil rights. They also indicate America's strength as a state and a nation. When [a citizen] can protest a racist crime committed against another citizen, to whom he may be totally unconnected, it means first of all that he has a sense of civil [responsibility] and is part of a unified society.

"If our [Arab] peoples understood this, and saw the violation of the rights of any citizen as a violation of the rights of all citizens, we would never have reached our present [state of] disgrace and weakness. If the Syrian supporters of the criminal Bashar Al-Assad had felt that the arrest of youths in Dara in 2011[2] was a violation of every Syrian's rights and dignity, Syria would not have been destroyed, half its people would not have been displaced, and a million of its best sons would not have been martyred. Only the lovers of freedom know that the denial of one man's freedom is an infringement of their own freedom, regardless of their [political] views and their relationship to the victim. What is happening in the U.S. is a lesson to our [Arab] peoples, and especially to us Syrians. The freedom of your neighbor is your freedom, and his dignity is your dignity. Defending the freedom of any citizen is defending the freedom of us all, and protests over the violation of one man’s rights defend the rights of us all."[3]

NHC member Yahya Al-'Aridi likewise came out against those who see the events in the U.S. as proof of its tyrannical regime and imminent collapse. He tweeted: "The power of law saves a country from danger, [whereas] the law of power undermines and destroys a country. Whoever drowns in the shallow waters of the U.S. unrest, and whoever confuses the ballots of tyranny with the ballots of the rule of law, is delusional and betrays his own ignorance…The U.S. may commit injustice and crimes against other countries, but its people are free and sovereignty is in their hands, not in the hands of a tyrant." [4]

Syrian Writers: The American Regime Cannot Be Compared To The Assad Regime; The Protests Against Floyd's Murder Give Us Hope That The World Will Also Come Out Against Assad's Crimes
U.S. reportedly targets 2 senior al Qaeda figures in airstrike in Syria
Two al Qaeda leaders were reportedly killed in a drone strike in Syria’s Idlib province earlier today, according to jihadists on social media. Pictures of the car carrying them were posted on Telegram and other messaging applications.

It appears the vehicle was struck with a R9X, a version of the Hellfire missile that has been used in previous targeted killings, or a similar weapon. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the R9X doesn’t explode upon impact, but instead deploys a “halo of six long blades” that slice through their target. The missile was intended to further limit civilian casualties.

Jihadists identified the two men killed as Abu al Qassam al Urduni and Bilal al Sanaani. If confirmed, their deaths would be significant. The U.S. government hasn’t officially commented on the report.

Abu al Qassam (also known as Khaled al Aruri and Abu Ashraf) is an al Qaeda veteran whose jihadist career dates back to the 1990s. He was one Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s closest companions, as the two grew up in Jordan and then worked together from the early 1990s until Zarqawi’s demise in 2006. He was also Zarqawi’s brother-in-law.

In 2015, Abu al Qassam was one of five senior al Qaeda figures who were freed in exchange for an Iranian diplomat.

Since then, Abu al Qassam became one of al Qaeda’s top operatives in Syria. According to an expert monitoring team report submitted to the UN Security Council last year, he was the leader of Hurras al-Din (HAD), or the “Guardians of Religion” organization.
Secretive 'Ninja Sword' R9X airstrike reported in Idlib
A drone was filmed over Idlib on Sunday and allegedly carried out a strike on a car using the secretive R9X “ninja” missile, a modified version of a Hellfire missile that uses blades to kill instead of a warhead. A bloody body and what appeared to be a blade from the weapon were seen in a Hyundai vehicle as people shouted and sought to aid the deceased passenger.

This weapon first was revealed in May 2019 reports that appeared to confirm a mysterious weapon that struck vehicles from Syria to Yemen and penetrated the top of cars like knife going through butter, opening them up like a tin can. This weapon was reportedly used in February 2017 to kill Abu Khayr al-Masri, a deputy of Al-Qaeda, in Idlib province.

The IAEA Did Its Part regarding Iran, Now It's Time for the World to Act
The new report of the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Iran's implementation of its agreements under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) paints a disturbing picture of Tehran stonewalling the agency on an investigation into alleged undeclared nuclear materials and activities directly related to the development of nuclear weapons.

Iran, an NPT member, is party to legally binding accords - which are separate from the 2015 nuclear deal - that require Tehran to provide complete declarations about its use and production of nuclear material and to permit immediate and unrestricted inspections by the IAEA at any site the agency deems necessary to visit. Since the end of January 2020, Tehran has refused the IAEA access to two nuclear sites of concern and declined to answer questions about a third.

The IAEA can go only so far in investigating and reporting on its findings. It has done its job to report Iran's non-compliance, and it is now up to the board of governors to act. The board can support the agency by passing a resolution by 2/3 of its 35 members finding Tehran in breach of the NPT. It is past time for the world to unite around the threat of Iran's nuclear program. This should start with the IAEA's board of governors recognizing that Tehran's nuclear program is not peaceful.
IAEA has 'serious concern' on undeclared nuke material, activities in Iran
IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi expressed serious concerns on Monday regarding Iran’s failure to clarify questions regarding possible undeclared nuclear material and related activities.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors, Grossi ratcheted up the pressure on the Islamic Republic for failing to grant his inspectors access to two nuclear facilities and failing to clarify undeclared nuclear material which the inspectors discovered last year.

“I note with serious concern that, for over four months, Iran has denied us access to two locations and that, for almost a year, it has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify our questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities,” said Grossi.

He continued, “This is adversely affecting the Agency’s ability to resolve the questions and to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities at these locations in Iran.”

Moreover, Grossi said, “I call on Iran to cooperate immediately and fully with the Agency, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by us.”

When pressed by members of the media about whether he would take concrete steps to escalate against Iran in order to bring it into compliance, Grossi quickly demurred, saying that was an issue for the Board of Governors.
Tehran hosts ‘I Can’t Breathe’ exhibition featuring criticism of US, Israel
The United States, its police and its president, Donald Trump, are all depicted as Nazis and Ku Klux Klan affiliates in a new art exhibition.

One minor detail: The display is in Iran, a country that routinely threatens to annihilate Israel and whose regime has used deadly force to crush many mass protests in recent years, and blocked the internet to prevent footage being published.

The Tehran cartoon exhibition, titled “I Can’t Breathe,” also features criticism of the Jewish state, with a Star of David seen crushing the neck of a dove seemingly symbolizing peace with the Palestinians.

Iran has made a point of criticizing Washington daily in the wake of the ongoing turmoil in America and the protests over police killings of African Americans.

State television in Iran, which in November put down nationwide demonstrations by killing hundreds and arresting thousands, has repeatedly aired images of the US unrest.

the George Floyd protests in the US, June 14, 2020. (Screenshot: Twitter)

The United States, its police and its president, Donald Trump, are all depicted as Nazis and Ku Klux Klan affiliates in a new art exhibition.

One minor detail: The display is in Iran, a country that routinely threatens to annihilate Israel and whose regime has used deadly force to crush many mass protests in recent years, and blocked the internet to prevent footage being published.

The Tehran cartoon exhibition, titled “I Can’t Breathe,” also features criticism of the Jewish state, with a Star of David seen crushing the neck of a dove seemingly symbolizing peace with the Palestinians.

Iran has made a point of criticizing Washington daily in the wake of the ongoing turmoil in America and the protests over police killings of African Americans.

State television in Iran, which in November put down nationwide demonstrations by killing hundreds and arresting thousands, has repeatedly aired images of the US unrest.

On Sunday, the Press TV station aired footage from the exhibition, which was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei, the director of the Center for Visual Arts in Hozeh Honari, said the exhibition included 72 art pieces by 45 artists from 27 different countries.

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