Saturday, August 15, 2020

From Ian:

Mujahed Kobbe (Siraj Hashmi's co-host): I grew up with anti-Semitism in the UAE. Peace with Israel is a dream come true.
Never in a million years did I believe there would be a deal in my lifetime where an Arab Gulf state would recognize the Jewish state. Watching the news this week of Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalizing relations was something of a dream come true.

From the age of eight until adulthood, I called the UAE home. It was a place I enjoyed most of my firsts: my first day of school, the first time I ditched school, my first kiss, my first chicken shawarma, crashing my first car.

It’s also where I had my first experience with anti-Semitism. Of course, I didn’t know what that actually was at the time.

Calling Israel and its Jewish inhabitants the enemy of Islam and God was as common as breathing while I was growing up. Anti-Semitism was in my home. It was in the school hallways and yard. You heard it at the café while having a hookah, enjoying a chicken shawarma and playing a hand of tarneeb.

At Friday prayers, a religious cleric at any given mosque was sure to make a comment about how Allah will one day destroy Israel from the map and all the yahoud that live in it so that our brothers may finally be free.

Believing in conspiracies like the idea that Israel was the true mastermind behind 9/11 or that Israel is funding ISIS was prevalent, mainstream, part of the culture. It was a hate taught and passed down through generations by people who had never once interacted with a Jew.

It’s so weird looking back at it now, trying to understand how it is that I had this hate in my heart for an entire group of people I had never met.

I myself didn’t meet a Jewish person until I was about 25 years old and traveling through New York. He also happened to be an Israeli.

I’m not going to lie: I was nervous when he first told me where he was from. I didn’t know how to feel about, if I was supposed to walk away, or punch him in the face.

But something came over me, a curiosity, a deep desire to know more about this person I was taught to just hate. We talked about a wide range of topics in the short time we spent together, but the one that interested me the most was Israel.

You could tell he loved his country; there was a glow about him when talking about his favorite bakery that he would go to on the marina, or how he enjoys his chicken shawarma with pickles and garlic paste — just the way I would eat it as a kid in the UAE.


Vivian Bercovici: A Dream of Peace Made Real
To say that Israel is reeling today is a cosmic understatement.

All of Israel–left, right, center–was dealt a knockout blow by the indefatigable Netanyahu on Thursday when the Oval Office announced on Thursday the agreement between Israel and the UAE to immediately formalize “full normalization” of diplomatic, economic and all relations.

The revelation was so surreal, in fact, that in this hopelessly gossipy nation, where everything leaks, nothing did. It was the equivalent of an atomic bomb. In terms of sheer force, not devastation. A good atomic bomb.

For the Emiratis to engage openly, fully, and proudly has left this nation stunned. In the best way. It was totally unexpected.

Perhaps it was best expressed in a tweet by former MK Einat Wilf, who wrote: “Israeli Jews are keenly aware of their minority status in an Arab and Islamic region and so yearn for peace with the Arab and Islamic world. The #UAE showed today yet again that when the Arab world comes to us with offers of genuine peace, they always find in us willing partners.”

Mired in an evergreen domestic political morass, PM Netanyahu, “the magician,” has clearly worked for years to pull off the impossible, as he was sliced and diced six ways to Sunday by local scandal and subterfuge.

“Full normalization.”

Peace, in the vernacular. With one of the most important, progressive, influential Middle Eastern countries, the UAE.

Israeli media reports that this agreement has been brokered by Jared Kushner, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen, and others. But foremost, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, ruler of the UAE, has boldly led the Middle East into what will not just re-align the region’s geopolitics, but quite likely those of the world. And, in a flash, the notoriously aggressive Israeli media was rocked back on its heels, collective mouths agape, at the unsurpassed brilliance of Bibi.

If Shakespeare were alive, he would have to reinvent his canon, which has become the literary foundation of Western story-telling. With Bibi, there simply is no Act V–no denouement. We are stuck in Act III, where the hero is unstoppable. Where his brilliance and unsurpassed triumphs continue, mere human frailties notwithstanding.





David Horovitz: Taking normalization over annexation, Netanyahu poised to enter exalted company
Unlike Israel’s two previous peace deals, the agreement announced Thursday with the United Arab Emirates does not remove from the regional equation a direct neighbor with a history of involvement in wars intended to achieve our destruction. It does not feature a large, populous or especially militarily potent adversary.

But its significance is profound nonetheless, and it was legitimate for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, detailing the agreement to Israelis on Thursday night, to add himself, at least in pencil, to the short list of Israeli prime ministers who have widened Israel’s circle of peace: Begin (1979, Egypt), Rabin (1994, Jordan), Netanyahu (2020, the United Arab Emirates).

Characteristically, the prime minister is trying to dance at two weddings. He is hailing the deal he reached with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed for the full normalization of relations while simultaneously insisting that the quid pro quo — that “Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace,” as specified in Thursday’s joint US, Israel, UAE statement — has no long-term significance. Extending sovereignty to the 30 percent of the West Bank allocated to Israel under the Trump administration’s January peace plan “remains on the table,” Netanyahu said. President Donald Trump had merely requested a “temporary halt” to the move as part of the UAE deal, he added. “There is no change in my plan… I’m the one who put it on the table… I did not take sovereignty off the table,” he repeated, with the aggrieved insistence of one who doth protest too much, methinks.
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the White House in Washington, May 15, 2017. (AP/Andrew Harnik, File)

The American president himself rather punctured the contention, telling his own press briefing, when asked about Netanyahu’s unilateral annexation plan, that “Israel has agreed not to do that. More than just off the table, they’ve agreed not to do it, and I think that was very important and I think it was a great concession by Israel…” This, before he and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman returned to the specific formulation of the deal and stressed that the word “suspend” was the order of the day. “I can’t talk about some time in the future,” Trump wound up saying.

And, indeed, who can?

But the bottom line is that annexation is off, and normalization is on.

Netanyahu is naturally trying to mitigate the damage this simple equation does to his pro-settlement base. Yet the fact is that the prime minister had a choice — applying sovereignty to parts of Biblical Judea and Samaria at the price of alienating Israel’s allies and empowering its enemies; or jettisoning that unilateral gambit and working with the US administration to bolster regional acceptance of the Jewish state.

He chose the latter. And he should be commended for it.
Netanyahu thanks Egypt, Oman, Bahrain for their ‘support’ of UAE deal
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday thanked the leaders of Egypt, Oman and Bahrain for their “support” of the agreement to normalize ties with the UAE.

While Israeli newspapers overwhelmingly welcomed the accord, Palestinian media condemned the “triple aggression against Palestinian rights,” referring to Israel, the Emirates and the deal’s broker, the United States.

In the West Bank city of Nablus, protesters set ablaze posters of the leaders of the three countries.

Netanyahu, for his part, thanked Arab supporters of the normalization.

“I thank Egyptian President al-Sisi, and the governments of Oman and Bahrain, for their support of the historic peace treaty between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, which is expanding the circle of peace and will be good for the entire region,” Netanyahu tweeted.

Israel has two official peace treaties with Arab states — Egypt, since 1979, and Jordan, signed in 1994.

The US administration launched a peace plan for the Middle East in January that would see the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states of the Gulf.

The Israeli press said Bahrain or Oman, but also Sudan, could be next.
Kushner says Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization is an ‘inevitability’
US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Friday that normalized ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia were inevitable, following the US-brokered agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates the day before.

Arab countries that are friendly to Israel welcomed the historic accord, but regional power Saudi Arabia has remained conspicuously silent following its announcement.

Saudi Arabia, like Israel and the UAE, shares Iran as a common foe and maintains close ties to Washington.

Kushner, who reportedly played a role in brokering the Israel-UAE agreement, said in an interview with CNBC on Friday that Saudi Arabia’s younger generation admired Israel and sought ties with the Jewish state.

“They see Israel as almost the Silicon Valley of the Middle East and they want to be connected to it as a trading partner, as a technology partner, as a security partner,” Kushner said of young Saudis.

The older generations, he said, were “still stuck in conflicts of the past,” and despite the country’s recent efforts toward modernization, “you can’t turn around a battleship overnight.”

Despite the opposition from some of the older generation, Kushner predicted that Thursday’s landmark deal would serve as a catalyst for opening ties between Israel and other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia.
David Friedman: Joe Biden Helped Middle East Peace Deal Only by Being So 'Hostile'
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Breitbart News Daily on Friday morning that former Vice President Joe Biden had contributed to the peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) only by being so “hostile.”

The deal, known as the Abraham Accord, was announced by President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday morning and provides for “full normalization” for the first time between Israel and a Gulf Arab state. It is expected to lead to similar deals with other Arab states.

Even liberal critics of President Trump praised his “huge achievement,” calling the deal a “breakthrough” and an “earthquake.”

Biden rushed to take some of the credit:
The coming together of Israel and Arab states builds on the efforts of multiple administrations to foster a broader Arab-Israeli opening, including the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to build on the Arab Peace Initiative. I personally spent time with leaders of both Israel and UAE during our administration building the case for cooperation and broader engagement and the benefits it could deliver to both nations, and I am gratified by today’s announcement.

However, Friedman said, if Biden deserved credit, it was only because the Obama-Biden administration was so hostile to both Israel and the UAE that they realized they had to work together.

“I think the credit that he [Biden] deserves is he was — they were so bad and so hostile to both Israel and the Emirates that it caused both of them to commiserate a little bit, which was something that we were able to take advantage of when the president [Trump] took office,” Friedman said.

“So, to that extent, I think the Obama policy was so terrible that it probably created more of a commonality of interest between Israel and the Emirates.”

The Iran nuclear deal, in particular, which was enthusiastically pushed by the Obama-Biden administration, was a threat to both Israel and the UAE.


Normalization with other Arab countries is possible, says Avi Berkowitz
Normalization between Israel and additional Arab countries is possible, Avi Berkowitz, the White House special representative for international negotiations told The Jerusalem Post.

Berkowitz said that he prefers not to name those countries for now.

“One of the things we're proud of is the fact that the entire negotiation between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, didn't leak prior to the president announcing it,” he said. “And so, while obviously now speculation is going to abound, I would like to try my best to sort of allow the negotiations to take their time and not rush it.”

Berkowitz, who is part of Jared Kushner’s peace team, replaced Jason Greenblatt as Middle East envoy last November. He noted that the UAE, Oman and Bahrain – all participated in the Trump administration’s rollout of the “peace for prosperity” in January at the White House, but added that “there are other countries that have reached out to us. And we've had extremely positive conversations with them.”

“But peace agreements are extraordinarily difficult, and progress can happen quickly, but it can also happen slowly,” he continued. “We want to take the time that it is necessary to work through the details and to make sure that we can accomplish a real historic achievement with another country. These things are extremely complex negotiations with numerous discussions constantly ongoing, and so I'd really like to allow them to have the space and time.”

Berkowitz weighed in on negotiations during a pandemic and said that travel has been difficult.
Azerbaijan to UAE: Four ways you will benefit from peace with Israel
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s decision to normalize ties with Israel was well calculated – a move that was made with the understanding that the technology, geopolitical and religious rewards would far outweigh any risks.

This is the first Mideast peace treaty in 26 years, but it is not unprecedented for a Muslim-majority country and Israel to enjoy strategic ties. Muslim-majority Azerbaijan and Israel established diplomatic ties in April 1992 that have been developing ever since.

“Normalization between #Israel and the #UAE is a historic step towards a future of peace, prosperity and hope,” wrote George Deek, Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan on Twitter on Friday. “For nearly 30 years, #Azerbaijan has been a model to other Muslim-majority countries, showing what could be achieved through partnership & friendship with #Israel.”

Similarly, wrote Mark Dubowitz, “as we celebrate #UAE-#Israel normalization, remember #Azerbaijan was a pioneer in its friendship with Israel. It is an example of what is possible between Muslim-majority countries and Israel. Baku’s open relations helped ease the acceptance of Israel in the wider Muslim world.”
UAE locals hail Israel peace, offer hotel discounts; elsewhere in Gulf, wariness
Two days after the bombshell announcement that the UAE and Israel have agreed to establish full normalized relations, Israel’s TV news shows Saturday night featured interviews with UAE ministers, locals, Israeli expats, and even a hotel reservations clerk offering 40% discounts to Israeli tourists.

“All of us in the UAE are celebrating this agreement, welcoming it and encouraging other states to establish agreements like it,” an unnamed driver in Dubai enthused in Channel 12’s news broadcast. “We are happy about this decision by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and we support him for anything with Israel,” said a local, Jabar bin Shanan.

Rival Channel 13, whose correspondent had already made his way to Dubai, interviewed an Israeli-born businessman named Yoni who proclaimed the newly announced establishment of ties to be “absolutely amazing. Yoni’s UAE-born friend Hamdan weighed in, in Hebrew, to say that “I started learning Hebrew a while back.”

Telephoning a Dubai hotel, Channel 12 found a delighted reservations clerk, who said, “Everybody is exited about the peace with Israel.” And “I will be very much looking forward if you come to stay with us. We would be happy to give you a 40% discount from the room rate.”

Hebrew TV outlets also screened short clips from several pro-Israel bloggers in the Emirates, one of whom wished the countries “mazaltov” on the new ties.
Seth Frantzman: Iran, Turkey, Ben Rhodes, Tlaib united in criticism of UAE-Israel deal
In the US, Rhodes and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) were some of the only high-profile voices that appeared critical of the peaceful connection. Rhodes was a standout as one of those who amplified criticism by downplaying the deal.

“This agreement enshrines what has been the emerging status quo in the region for a long time (including the total exclusion of Palestinians),” wrote Rhodes. “Dressed up as an election eve achievement from two leaders who want Trump to win.” The election is several months away. Rhodes also retreated another criticism of the deal which noted it could lead to drone sales.

Tlaib was harsher, saying she wouldn’t celebrate “Netanyahu for stealing land he already controls” and slamming “devastating apartheid.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Rhodes was wrong about how easy the deal was and noted it had not been accomplished during the previous administration.

Rhodes is a frequent critic of both Israel and the UAE. On August 11 he compared Israel to authoritarian regimes such as Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Egypt and Zimbabwe. He frequently calls Israel’s leadership “racist.”

In January he compared UAE to other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, China and Russia and said in September 2018 that the US was outsourcing policy in Yemen to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He tweeted in August 2019 about the “depth of corruption of US policy in the Middle East due to Saudi/UAE efforts.”

He constantly slams the UAE over “paid speaking opportunities” and influencing US policy, as well as harming the Iran deal. A search of Rhodes tweets show he rarely critiqued Qatar, reserving his criticism for the UAE.

Qatar’s Al-Jazeera network was also at the forefront of attacking the UAE deal. It ran a story on how its ally Turkey might suspend ties with the UAE. Turkey also has relations with Israel. It also ran two op-eds attacking the deal as cementing “Israel’s war on the Palestinians.” It claimed Palestinians “unanimously” rejected the deal.


Thomas L. Friedman: A Geopolitical Earthquake Just Hit the Mideast
The big geopolitical losers are Iran and all of its proxies: Hezbollah, the Iraqi militias, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen and Turkey. This is for a number of reasons. Up to now, the U.A.E. has kept up a delicate balance between Iran and Israel, not looking to provoke Iran, and dealing with Israel covertly.

But this deal is right in Iran’s face. The tacit message is: “We now have Israel on our side, so don’t mess with us.” The vast damage Israel inflicted on Iran through apparent cyberwarfare in recent months may have even given the U.A.E. more breathing room to do this deal.

But there is another message, deeper, more psychological. This was the U.A.E. telling the Iranians and all their proxies: There are really two coalitions in the region today — those who want to let the future bury the past and those who want to let the past keep burying the future. The U.A.E. is taking the helm of the first, and it is leaving Iran to be the leader of the second.

When the Trump administration assassinated Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the foreign-operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in January, I wrote a column saying that America had just killed “the dumbest man in Iran.”

Why? Because what was Suleimani’s business model, which became Shiite Iran’s business model? It was to hire Arab and other Shiites to fight Arab Sunnis in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria — to project Iran’s power. And what was the result of all this? Iran has helped to turn all four into failed states. Iran’s clerical leadership has become the largest facilitator of state failure in the Middle East — including its own — which is why so many Lebanese blame it and Hezbollah for their country’s mismanagement that led to the devastating explosion last week in Beirut’s port.

I have followed the Middle East for too long to ever write the sentence “the region will never be the same again.” The forces of sectarianism, tribalism, corruption and anti-pluralism run deep there. But there are other currents — young men and women who are just so tired of the old game, the old fights, the old wounds being stoked over and over again. You could see them demonstrating all over the streets of Beirut last week demanding good governance and a chance to realize their full potential.

The U.A.E. and Israel and the U.S. on Thursday showed — at least for one brief shining moment — that the past does not always have to bury the future, that the haters and dividers don’t always have to win.

It was a breath of fresh air. May it one day soon turn into a howling wind of change that spreads across the whole region.


Daniel Pipes: Feeling Optimistic about Israel and the Emirates
Third, an unhealthy combination of Israeli land withdrawals and U.S. subsidies drove the diplomacy of prior agreements (ignoring the Lebanon deal, which was not implemented). To one extent or another, the deals amounted to grand bribes: "Recognize Israel and the Americans will reward you." Naturally, the bribees disliked this arrangement; it's only human to resent taking adverse steps for the money. Washington did not impose the pacts, but critics convincingly claimed it did. A flawed basis caused the agreements either to turn out badly (the cold peace with Egypt and Jordan) or to fail completely (the PLO's continued rejectionism).

In contrast, the Israel-UAE-U.S. statement has a legitimate basis, with no hint of bribery: Israeli forces retreat from no territory and American taxpayers cough up no money. The statement has a sound premise: Jerusalem gives up a widely condemned and counterproductive symbolic step in return for acceptance by an emerging regional power.

Yes, the agreement contains lofty language about charting "a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region" and transforming the region "by spurring economic growth, enhancing technological innovation, and forging closer people-to-people relations." Yes, the words Iran, Qatar, Turkey, and Islamism are not overtly mentioned by name, but everyone knows those are the threats. The joint statement relies not on a bribe but on a classic, if implicit, pact of mutual benefit. It also further opens the American arsenal to the Emirates.

One of those predictable Palestinian howls of treason.

For these reasons, this skeptic of prior Israel-Arab agreements is now uncharacteristically hopeful (admittedly, a career-threatening move for a Middle East hand). The UAE-Israel statement helps the Palestinian Authority, enjoys widespread support, meets with limited domestic opposition, has a sound, non-bribery basis, and contains positive features crucial to both parties. If my unwonted optimism is correct, Arab-Israeli relations just might begin to exit from the sterile futility of the past seventy-plus years.
Dem Senate Hopefuls Mum on Historic Israel-U.A.E. Peace Deal
Democratic Senate hopefuls are remaining silent about the Trump administration’s Thursday announcement that it had brokered a historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, an indication of the manner in which the issue has split progressive and mainstream Democrats.

Nearly all of 2020's top Democratic Senate challengers avoided making public statements about the agreement, which formally normalizes relations between the Arab nation and Israel. The U.A.E. is the first Gulf Arab nation to increase its relations with Israel, a move that sent shockwaves through the region and sparked anger from Palestinian leaders.

In the United States, the announcement was met with ambivalence by former Obama administration officials and outright hostility from Israel’s top critics in Congress. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), a frequent Israel critic who has been accused of spreading anti-Semitic rhetoric, said she "won’t be fooled" by an agreement that she described as a "sweetheart business deal."

The announcement puts Democrats in a tricky political position: While mainstream Democrats have advocated regional peace with Israel for years, they are hesitant to give President Donald Trump a win. Since Trump assumed office, the Democratic Party has argued that he is an irritant to global security. Yet the historic peace agreement between Israel and the U.A.E. shows that, behind the scenes, the administration has been working to broker an accord that will ultimately increase stability in the Middle East.

Among candidates for seats in states expected to determine Senate control next year, only Arizona's Mark Kelly has addressed the agreement, calling it an "important, positive step forward for our ally, Israel, and for lasting peace in the region." Democratic Senate nominees in Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina have yet to acknowledge the deal following President Donald Trump's Thursday-morning announcement. None of the candidates responded to requests for comment from the Washington Free Beacon.
MEMRI: Reactions To Israel-UAE Normalization Agreement: Senior Saudi Journalist Praises It, Qatari Press Vehemently Attacks It
The announcement of a normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE, in advance of the signing of an Israel-UAE peace agreement, sparked many reactions across the Arab world. Senior Saudi journalist Mishari Al-Dhaidi wrote in his August 14 column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the agreement was an "historic diplomatic achievement" and compared it to the peace agreements with Israel by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Jordan's King Hussein.

In contrast, the Qatari press, as expected, vehemently attacked the agreement, including with invective against the UAE and accusations that it had betrayed and sold out the Palestinian cause and gotten nothing in return. Qatari journalists also tweeted messages attacking it and UAE leader Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed personally, calling him a liar and the "Satan of the Arabs," and claiming that with this agreement he had left the fold of Islam. Some even called on the Arab countries to boycott the UAE and recall their ambassadors from it.

The following are translations of Al-Dhaidi's column praising the agreement and Qatari attacks on it.

Saudi Journalist: The UAE-Israel Agreement Is A Breakthrough That Will Benefit The Arabs And Palestinians

In his August 14, 2020 column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Mishari Al-Dhaidi wrote: "To put it directly and clearly, the UAE achieved a great political, psychological and security breakthrough in the Middle East when the historic agreement with Israel was announced. This agreement does not disregard the justified right of the Palestinians to establish their state and protect the Islamic holy places for all Muslims. [Rather,] it provides a feasible opportunity… to implement the two-state solution in practice.

"The UAE has made a tangible achievement on the Palestinian front ̶ through action, not slogans ̶ by stopping the erosion of the Palestinian lands in the West Bank in favor of [Israeli] settlements, an issue that was explicitly stated in the tripartite announcement by the UAE, the U.S. and Israel. Turkey, Qatar, Iran and all the rest of the big talkers, and obviously also the organizations of chaos, such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Houthis and Hizbullah, will continue operating their word-mill against the UAE, for [this word-mill] never stopped churning out invective and against this noble, strong and tranquil Arab country…

"Egypt's historic [leader], president Anwar Sadat, was attacked when he protected his country from a dire fate and from the loss of its territories [by signing the Camp David Accords]. He was a true hero of war and of peace, for Egypt still enjoys the benefits of the peace he made with Israel. Later, the great Jordanian king, Hussein bin Tallal, was attacked when he refused to succumb to the market of populist slogans and brought his country peace [while also] restoring its territories as part of the famous Wadi Araba [peace] agreement. Being a realistic and responsible Arab leader, Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi welcomed the [agreement] between the UAE and Israel, achieved under the aegis of the U.S. and [its president] Trump.

"The absurd thing is that the propaganda [machine] of the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey and Iran is shooting its arrows at the UAE, while Turkey's trade, military and tourism relations with Israel continue unabated. Qatar, the shop where Al-Jazeera [hocks its wares,] is also friendly with Tel-Aviv and coordinates with it!
Khaled Abu Toameh: Saudi, Emirati analysts: Palestinians will benefit from accord
Abd al-Aziz bin Razen, a prominent Saudi academic and researcher, defended the normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, saying it “pulled the rug from under the feet of Turkey and Iran” and turned the Palestinians into the “biggest winners.”

In an article published in the Saudi al-Khaleeg online newspaper, Razen wrote that the agreement was not a “blank check, but rather the goal was to protect the rights of the Palestinian people who have been abandoned by Hamas and thrown into the arms of Iran.

“The UAE is sovereign and has the right to do what its political and security interests dictate,” Razen argued. “It initiated this agreement after 72 years of the Arab-Israeli conflict to protect Islamic sanctities. One of the conditions of the agreement is to allow Muslims around the world to pray at the blessed al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The Saudi academic noted that the Israel-UAE deal was not the first of its kind. “It was preceded by several agreements such as the [Israel-Egypt] Camp David agreement, the [1991] Madrid Peace Conference, the [1993] Oslo Accords [between the PLO and Israel] that resulted in the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the [1994] Wadi Araba Agreement [between Israel and Jordan],” Razen pointed out.

The UAE, he added, “is trying to put an end to the era of denunciation and condemnation by taking this step to serve the defenseless Palestinian people. It threw the ball into the court of the Palestinians, who must now seize the opportunity and abandon the policy of lip service.”
Iran: UAE made ‘huge mistake’ with Israel deal, and now faces ‘dangerous future’
The United Arab Emirates made a “huge mistake” by taking steps toward normalization with Israel, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Saturday.

For its part, Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vowed there would be dangerous consequences for the UAE, and that the deal was accelerate Israel’s demise. The IRGC, designated a terrorist organization by the US, called the deal a “shameful” agreement and an “evil action” that was underwritten by the US, and said it would bring a “dangerous future” for the Emirati government.

Rouhani additionally warned the UAE against allowing Israel to have a “foothold in the region,” the Reuters news agency reported.

“[The UAE] better be mindful. They have committed a huge mistake, a treacherous act. We hope they will realize this and abandon this wrong path,” Rouhani said.

Iran has “historically been the protector of its neighbors and ensurer of the security of the Persian Gulf,” Rouhani said, noting the Emirates apparently thought the agreement could help guarantee security.
Nasrallah: UAE betrayed Arabism, did Trump a ‘personal favor,’ with Israel deal
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel on Friday that his organization intended to carry out a game changing revenge attack for the death of one of its fighters in an airstrike last month that was widely attributed to Israel.

He also called the new UAE-Israel normalization deal a betrayal of Arabism, and said the UAE had given “a personal electoral favor” to US President Donald Trump.

Israel had been on high alert along the northern border, but slightly reduced its troop presence following the deadly explosions that rocked Beirut last week, killing some 200 people, injuring thousands, and leaving nearly a third of a million people homeless.

“Everything that happened since July until today, the high alert of the Israeli military and more is our punishment to Israel,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech commemorating the anniversary of the end of the bloody 2006 conflict between Israel and the Iran-backed terror group. “If you kill us, you need to wait across the border for the reaction. This is a decision that is still in force, nothing has changed it is just a question of time.”

Nasrallah warned that Hezbollah’s reaction will “redefine the rules of the game along the border,” adding that only a “considered, serious reaction, not some public relations stunt, can do this.”

In his speech, which came hours after he was reported to have met with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Nasrallah also condemned the normalization agreement announced Thursday between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

“This is a betrayal of Islam and Arabism, it is a betrayal of Jerusalem, of the Palestinian people,” Nasrallah said.
Iran's president says Emirates made 'huge mistake' in Israel deal
The United Arab Emirates has made a "huge mistake" in reaching a deal toward normalizing ties with Israel, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday in a speech furiously condemning what he called a betrayal by the Gulf state.

The Iranian hardline daily Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said "the UAE has turned itself into a legitimate target for the resistance," according to its website.

The UAE-Israel agreement announced on Thursday, which U.S. President Donald Trump helped to broker, is seen as aimed at bolstering opposition to regional power Iran.

In his televised speech, Rouhani warned the UAE against allowing Israel a “foothold in the region”.

“They (the UAE) better be mindful. They have committed a huge mistake, a treacherous act. We hope they will realize this and abandon this wrong path,” Rouhani said without elaborating.

In a front-page comment, the newspaper Kayhan said: "The UAE's great betrayal of the Palestinian people ..., will turn this small, rich country which is heavily dependent on security into a 'legitimate and easy target' for the resistance."

Iran often refers to militant forces and regional countries opposed to Israel and the United States as a “resistance” front.
Erdogan: Turkey may suspend ties with UAE over Israel deal
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey was considering closing its embassy in Abu Dhabi and suspending diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates over its accord to normalize ties with Israel.

Erdogan was speaking to reporters in Istanbul after the Turkish Foreign Ministry said history will never forgive the "hypocritical behavior" of the UAE in agreeing such a deal.

The Foreign Ministry said the Palestinian people and administration were right to react strongly against the agreement, which recasts the order of Middle East politics from the Palestinian issue to the fight against Iran.

"History and the conscience of the region's peoples will not forget and never forgive this hypocritical behavior of the UAE, betraying the Palestinian cause for the sake of its narrow interests," the ministry said in a statement.

"It is extremely worrying that the UAE should, with a unilateral action, try and do away with the (2002) Arab Peace Plan developed by the Arab League. It is not in the slightest credible that this three-way declaration should be presented as supporting the Palestinian cause."


Gaza fire balloons spark 19 blazes in south on Saturday
At least 19 fires were started Saturday by incendiary airborne devices launched from the Gaza Strip, the Fire and Rescue Service said.

Most of the blazes were in the Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regional councils.

There were no reports of injuries.

The launches came amid a sharp rise in arson attacks from Gaza Strip over the past week.

Late Friday, the Israeli military struck Hamas targets in the Strip for the fourth night in a row in response to the flying of balloon-borne incendiary and explosive objects from Gaza.

The overnight attack on sites used by Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza, was the fifth such operation since the start of the week.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that combat helicopters and tanks hit a number of terror targets belonging to Hamas, including sites used by its naval forces, underground infrastructure and observation posts. It reiterated That it holds Hamas responsible for all acts in and emanating from the Strip.

On Saturday, Hamas warned of a “dangerous escalation” after two children were reportedly lightly injured in the Israeli strikes.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum claimed Friday’s strikes hit “innocent civilians” and that they constituted a “red line and a dangerous escalation [for which] Israel will bear the consequences.”
Israel strikes Hamas in Gaza for 4th straight night in response to arson attacks
Israel launched airstrikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip for the fourth night in a row late Friday in response to a spate of attacks using balloon-borne arson and explosive devices sent from the Strip into Israel in recent days.

The overnight attack on sites used by Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules the enclave, was the fifth such operation since the start of the week.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that combat helicopters and tanks hit a number of terror targets belonging to Hamas, including sites used by its naval forces, underground infrastructure and observation posts.

“The attack was carried out in response to balloons with explosives and incendiary balloons [launched] from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory over the past week,” the IDF said.

The IDF added that it holds Hamas responsible for all acts in and emanating from the Strip.

There have been no reports of casualties in the latest bout of violence in the south.

Makeshift firebombs attached to bunches of balloons or kites ignited over 100 fires in Israel in the past week, setting alight agricultural fields and brush. Officials said most were small fires, but some caused damage.




Turkey gave citizenship to Hamas members planning terror attacks - report
Turkey has allegedly given citizenship to senior Hamas operatives in Istanbul, raising concerns that the terrorist group will have greater freedom to organize attacks against Israeli citizens, according to a report from The Telegraph on Thursday.

According to the report, journalists from The Telegraph saw the Turkish identity papers and found that at least one of 12 senior Hamas members received Turkish citizenship and an 11-digit identity number.

While Hamas has been proscribed as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union and has had its armed wing banned in the UK, Turkey argues that it is a legitimate organization that was democratically elected, in reference to the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and violent removal of Fatah members from the Gaza Strip in 2007.

A senior source told The Telegraph that the Hamas operatives "are not foot soldiers but the most senior Hamas operatives outside of Gaza. [They] are actively raising funds and directing operatives to carry out attacks in the present day.

"The Turkish Government gave in to pressure by Hamas to grant citizenship to its operatives, thereby allowing them to travel more freely, endangering other countries that have listed Hamas as a terror group,” the source added.


Richard Goldberg: Don’t Let Iran Blow Up the U.N. Security Council
The precedent governing the Security Council dictates that the United States wins, because a preliminary vote must be held to decide whether a matter is procedural or substantive. That preliminary vote is subject to the permanent member veto, meaning the United States could veto a motion by Russia and China to rule their question procedural. The underlying motion then becomes substantive, meaning it too is subject to a U.S. veto. This is known as the “double veto” power of a permanent member. It is the ace in the hole for each of the P5—and though it has not been employed for decades, this is a paradigm case for its proper use.

Refusing to hold the preliminary vote, or denying the United States’ right to use its veto in that vote, would not only violate 75 years of Security Council precedent, it would forever change the Security Council. No longer would a permanent member’s veto be absolute; instead, it would be subject to consensus opinion. The United States might be the victim of such a coup in 2020, but Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France would all find their vetoes up for debate in the months and years to come.

With such a new reality, U.S. leaders might rethink the utility of the Security Council. Skepticism of the U.N. system is already at an all-time high within the Republican Party, yet if Russia and China increasingly get their way, Democrats, too, may come to see the council as a liability, not an asset. Calls for the United States’ withdrawal from the United Nations might become mainstream. Withdrawal is not likely to be a priority if former Vice President Joe Biden is elected president. But what about four years later if former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sen. Tom Cotton, or Sen. Ted Cruz is elected?

So now it is time for London and Paris to take a deep breath and evaluate the magnitude of the diplomatic decision before them. Johnson and Macron can still avoid a diplomatic showdown at the Turtle Bay Corral. They could opt to trigger the snapback themselves, a logical step seven months after initiating the JCPOA’s dispute resolution process with nothing to show for it. If they’d rather oppose snapback and maintain support for the JCPOA until the very end, UNSCR 2231 gives them the tools to do that, too. Either country could introduce the resolution to ignore the U.S. complaint and keep the JCPOA alive. While the United States could veto the resolution, France and the United Kingdom would get to save face by voting to keep the nuclear deal and condemning the Americans for killing it—all without shredding the permanent member veto and risking the collapse of the United Nations.

But if either leader sides with Russia and China against the United States’ “double veto” right, they will not only shoulder the blame for the arms embargo on Iran expiring, but will also bear the responsibility for the beginning of the end of modern multilateralism.
Iran claims victory after UN soundly rejects US bid to extend arms embargo
Iran on Saturday hailed a UN Security Council vote rejecting a US bid to extend an arms embargo on the Islamic republic, saying its foe has “never been so isolated.”

President Hassan Rouhani said the United States had failed to kill off what he called the “half alive” 2015 deal with major powers that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

“The United States failed in this conspiracy with humiliation,” Rouhani told a televised news conference.

“In my opinion, this day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance.”

Only two of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo, highlighting the division between Washington and its European allies since US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord in May 2018.

Washington’s European allies all abstained, and Iran mocked the Trump administration for only winning the support of one other country, the Dominican Republic.
Israel Condemns UN Decision Not to Extend Iran Arms Embargo
The UN Security Council’s decision not to extend an arms embargo on Iran will lead to further Middle East instability, Israel’s foreign minister said on Saturday.

“The extremist regime in Iran doesn’t just finance terrorism: it takes an active part in terrorism through its branches around the world and uses it as a political tool. This behavior represents a danger to regional and international stability,” Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement.




Seth Frantzman: The US successfully seized Iranian gas on the high seas
While not exactly a fascinating operation involving helicopters roping special forces down to the bridge of ships, the US was able to offload Iranian gas that was being exported to Venezuela. The details of the US seizing the gas on board the tankers was part of an effort by Washington to stop multi-million-dollar fuel shipments to Caracas that violate US sanctions.

“These actions represent the government’s largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran,” the US Justice Department said.

The US has vowed to cut Iranian exports of oil and gas to near zero. Iran has a capacity to produce 3.7 million barrels of oil per day and consumes some 1.7 million of them a day. The US has cut Iranian oil exports by 2.7 million barrels a day, Reuters reports on August 20, 2019.

But sanctions don’t cut everything. A convoy of Iranian vessels was detected near Syria’s Baniyas port earlier this year, supposedly carrying some 6.8 million barrels of oil. Groups like Tanker Trackers help track these types of shipments. Iran is also storing some 30 million barrels of oil at sea in a fleet of supertankers, reports indicated in May.

This “floating storage” may have reached 50 million barrels by July. Last July a tanker named Grace 1 was briefly interdicted with 2.1 million barrels on the way to Syria. In retaliation Iran seized a British tanker.
Seth Frantzman: What were Iranians looking for on the ship ‘Wila’?
US Central Command observed Iranian forces, including two ships and an Iranian Sea King helicopter, board a ship called "Wila" on August 12. The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) said it had “monitored an incident involving Iranian forces who boarded a tanker in the international waters of the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz.”

At the same time, the US revealed it had confiscated a million barrels of Iranian gasoline from four ships heading to Venezuela. Was the Wila incident connected? Samir Madani, co-founder of Tanker Trackers suggests the explanation may be more complex than it appears.

Let’s start with what we know. Iran’s use of military forces to board the commercial vessel in international waters constituted a blatant violation of international law, the IMSC said. It now turns out that the Wila did not call for help.

Sentinel, which is the Coalition Task Force (CTF) aspect of the IMSC, said its mission is to deter and expose this malign activity and reassure the maritime community. A coalition ship was providing overwatch during the incident.

So what happened with the M/T Wila ship? The ship was on the way to Khor Fakkan, a UAE port in the Gulf of Oman. At around 8:30 p.m. the Coalition warship saw the Iranian Navy SH-3 Sea King helicopter approach and armed men rope down.

Could this be Iran hijacking a ship? Iran has done this before. In July 2019 Iran did the same thing with a British tanker. The Gulf Sky ship also disappeared in July off the UAE and ended up off the coast of Iran with the crew claiming they were hijacked.


Garry Kasparov slams antisemitism of NY socialist group against Israel
The world’s greatest living chess player, Garry Kasparov, on Friday blasted the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America for singling out Israel in its questionnaire, asking city council candidates if they will agree to not visit and support a boycott of the Jewish state.

Kasparov wrote in a tweet to his more than 564,000 followers on Twitter that “A NYC Socialist questionnaire stipulating that candidates refuse to visit Israel. Repulsive. As always, the far-left meets the far-right when it comes to intolerance, especially antisemitism.”

“The questions about Israel comes at the end of the 12-page questionnaire, which was sent out late last month,” The New York Post reported.
“Do you pledge not to travel to Israel if elected to Cityb Council in solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation,” asked the Democratic Socialist, a group that advocates the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The German and Austrian parliaments declared BDS to be an antisemitic movement.

The socialist organization asked in its survey to politicians: “Do you support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement? If not, why.”


Quiet on Israel for now, US progressives still at odds with pro-Israel community
The Israel issue isn’t necessarily toward the top of the progressive to-do lists at the moment, but that doesn’t mean elements of the movement are any less at odds with the pro-Israel community.

That was evident in an interview this week that the Democratic Socialists of America’s New York City co-chairwoman, Sumathy Kumar, gave with the news site Kings County Politics.

Here’s the passage involving Israel:
Kings County Politics: I noticed in the DSA questionnaire given to all local candidates looking for DSA support before this year’s state races that they were asked if they support Divestment, Sanction and Boycott (BDS) [actions against] the state of Israel for their policies regarding Palestinians. Does the DSA support BDS as a policy plank?

Kumar: The DSA is in favor of BDS and believes everybody has a right to their home. Obviously in New York City, we don’t have that much that we’re doing around that here, but we have a national organization that focuses on international affairs.

So does the DSA support the existence of the State of Israel?

Kumar: I feel like that’s not really relevant to this conversation.

That’s a tough stance to back in a country that’s still overwhelmingly pro-Israel. But it’s worth noting that not all progressives feel this way. Ritchie Torres, a progressive being backed by pro-Israel groups who secured the Democratic nomination last month in a Bronx congressional district, did not think the exchange made much sense.

“The leadership of the DSA declines to affirm that the state of Israel should exist,” he said on Twitter. “’Insane’ is the word that comes to mind.”

On Wednesday night, four Democrats — notably Sen. Bernie Sanders — whose Israel positions rile the pro-Israel community met for an hour-long conversation on YouTube, and Israel never came up.




Belgian daily runs cartoon seeming to label Jewish area ‘coronavirus village’
A Belgian daily is under fire for a cartoon that critics say refers to the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Antwerp as “coronavirus village.”

The August 7 drawing in Le Soir by artist Pierre Kroll, who has fought off allegations of anti-Semitism for several previous drawings, shows a tourist bus under the title “Go Visit Antwerp.” An Orthodox Jewish man is cycling nearby without wearing a face mask, several of which are seen on the ground around the bus. A speech balloon above the bus driver reads: “After the zoo, we’ll go tour ‘Coronavirus Village.’”

Richard Kennigsman, a well-known Jewish-Belgian satirist, wrote on Facebook that while he has “not called Kroll an anti-Semite, his painting may be considered as such.”

Joel Rubinfeld, the president of the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, said the caricature “again shows that Kroll obsessively returns to Jews in his works.” The August 7 caricature is “subtle in comparison to previous Kroll works,” Rubinfeld added, including one of a lavishly dressed Jewish diamond dealer smiling while visiting the tax office amid unhappy and poor visitors.

In a 2010 interview for L’avenir, Kroll said he “can’t stand being accused of anti-Semitism” because he isn’t anti-Semitic and said he has “many Jewish friends.”

The Orthodox Jewish community of Antwerp has had fewer than 20 deaths from the coronavirus, largely thanks to an early and vigilant adherence to anti-contagion measures.
Arabic Newspaper in Canada Falsely Blames Israel for Beirut Explosion
A Canadian Jewish advocacy group on Friday highlighted the misinformation campaign by an Arabic-language newspaper in Ontario that claimed Israel was to blame for the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port area on August 4.

In a statement that detailed the false allegation pushed by the Al Meshwar newspaper, B’nai Brith Canada noted that its Aug. 7 edition included a half-page editorial by editor-in-chief Nazih Khatatba titled “Who Is Responsible for the Beirut Port Disaster?”

The group quoted Khatatba’s conclusion that “the Beirut disaster cannot be anything but the result of a planned Israeli-American act by direct implementation or via their local proxies.”

The same piece then added that “in the event that Israel is responsible for the detonation, Hezbollah can do nothing but respond with attacks at the same level as the crime.”

B’nai Brith Canada observed, “[I]ronically, Hezbollah itself has told Lebanese media that Israel was not responsible, and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, did not point the finger at Israel.”
Group set up by German soccer stars donates $80,000 to Auschwitz museum
A German organization that two professional soccer players established to fight the coronavirus has donated approximately $80,000 to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland.

The WeKickCorona Initiative, established this year by Bayern Munich players Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, gave the money after the museum asked for public contributions in the wake of the pandemic, which has paralyzed tourism.

“Auschwitz is part of our history and its memory is omnipresent 75 years after the end of the war. We are all challenged to ensure that one of the darkest chapters in human history does not repeat itself. It is a matter close to our hearts to help ensure that the culture of remembrance is upheld even in the corona pandemic,” the WeKickCorona Initiative said in a statement.

Kimmich and Goretzka, both 25, each play for the German national team as well.

More than 1.5 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz, a concentration and labor camp that the Nazis built in occupied Poland.
Pixel inventor, computer scientist Russell Kirsch dies at 91
Russell Kirsch, a computer scientist credited with inventing the pixel and scanning the world’s first digital photograph, died ust 11 at his home in Portland, Oregon, The Oregonian reported. He was 91.

Pixels, the digital dots used to display photos, video and more on phone and computer screens, weren’t an obvious innovation in 1957, when Kirsch created a small, 2-by-2-inch black-and-white digital image of his son, Walden, as an infant. That was among the first images ever scanned into a computer, using a device created by his research team at the US National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institutes of Science and Technology).

This work “laid the foundations for satellite imagery, CT scans, virtual reality and Facebook,” said a 2010 Science News article about Kirsch, subsequently republished by Wired. That first square image, that article said, measured a mere 176 pixels on a side — just shy of 31,000 pixels in total. Today, the digital camera on the iPhone 11 can capture roughly 12 million pixels per image.

Though computers have become exponentially more powerful and can now fit in our pockets, science has ever since been coming to terms with the fact that Kirsch made his pixels square. The square shape of the pixels meant that image elements can look blocky, clunky or jagged — just generally not as smooth as real life. There’s even a word for this effect: “pixelated.”

“Squares was the logical thing to do,” Kirsch told the magazine in 2010. “Of course, the logical thing was not the only possibility … but we used squares. It was something very foolish that everyone in the world has been suffering from ever since.”




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