Friday, October 16, 2020

10/16 Links Pt1: Knesset approves UAE normalization 80-13; mainly Arab party is sole opposition; The ICC vs. Israel: The fallout of a war crimes investigation

From Ian:

Seth Frantzman: Will there ever be peace?
WE HAVE discussed the decline of the Middle East ossifying dictatorial regimes since 2010 and the defeat of insurgencies and rise of Turkey, as well as Israel’s lessons from past wars. What is missing in this discussion?

First we need to acknowledge that with the new generation of leaders, such as the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in Saudi Arabia and Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) in the UAE, there is a new era. The era of jihad, embodied by Osama bin Laden, is largely over. Even the Hamas leaders who now meet with Turkey’s Erdogan are not the Islamic rabble-rousers of the 1980s.

It may be that the Islamist extremism which grew out of the region and led to ISIS is being reduced. It is being replaced by Turkey’s sponsorship of extremism, but this state sponsorship is quite different than the 1980s when Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and later the Taliban were dabbling in extremism. It is no longer as chaotic. The unstable areas of the Middle East, stretching from the Sahel to Somalia, Yemen and Iraq, may be more stable today.

Iran has largely entered the vacuum where there was chaos. That means the old jihadist lines that led via the Euphrates River Valley to Iraq are now being digested by an Iranian octopus with bases of Shi’ite militias where jihadists once roamed. Iran has its fingers in Yemen too. This means that much like the Soviets took over former Nazi properties in eastern Europe, Iran has taken over the property of Sunni insurgents in Iraq and elsewhere. Iraq is now Iran’s “near abroad,” as Ukraine and Poland were for imperial Russia.

This era of changing leadership in the Middle East is festooned with younger men trying to fill the shoes of fathers and grandfathers. Bashar Assad in Syria, Saad Hariri in Lebanon. The Emir of Qatar. The King of Jordan. Masrour and Nechirvan Barzani, as well as Qubad and Bafel Talibani in the Kurdistan region. The new leaders of Kuwait and Oman are similar, as is the King of Morocco. This is a region still rooted in monarchy, family, tribe. That has been challenged by revolution, whether Nasser’s Arab nationalism or Ba’athism, or the Islamic Revolution and Muslim Brotherhood. But not everything changes in the region.

What does change is the US administration. The American election in November could bring Joe Biden to the White House. Countries in the region are concerned about what that change could mean. Tehran hopes Trump will be removed. The Taliban, oddly, reportedly prefer Trump, as does Erdogan in Turkey and the Gulf allies of Israel. That’s a group of strange bedfellows, but it is brought about by the transactional nature of the Trump administration and its doctrine of combining pro-Israel support with the desire to end the US role in Syria and Afghanistan, and overturning the Iran Deal.

It’s unclear what a new US administration will bring. Most countries in the region assume the US is drawing down its role. This means larger regional and global powers such as Russia, China, Iran and Turkey will play a leading role in the Middle East. The West’s role is declining.

If we look back at that Sirte meeting 10 years ago, it represented the end of an era of powerful Arab leaders. Today the region is more about Erdogan and Iran, alongside an emerging Israel-Gulf-Greece alliance system. (h/t Zvi)
Knesset approves UAE normalization 80-13; mainly Arab party is sole opposition
The Knesset on Thursday approved Israel’s normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates with an overwhelming majority, all but ensuring that it will be ratified in the near future.

Eighty lawmakers voted in favor of the agreement, including many from the opposition.

Only 13 parliamentarians — all from the Arab-majority Joint List — voted against the agreement, criticizing it as a scheme to undermine the Palestinian people.

There were no abstentions, while 27 MKs did not participate in the vote.

The vote took place after nearly nine hours of an at times stormy debate, during which more than 100 ministers and MKs spoke. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the plenary twice — at its start at 11:00 a.m., and right before the vote after 8:00 p.m. — hailing the agreement as a paradigm shift in the Arab world’s approach to Israel, while touting his role in bringing many Sunni nations closer to Israel due to his vociferous public opposition to Iran.

“Since the start of Zionism, one of our hands has been holding a weapon in defense and the other hand was stretched out to everyone who wants peace,” he declared in his early speech. “They say peace is made with enemies. False. Peace is made with those who have stopped being enemies. Peace is made with those who desire peace and who no longer remain committed to your annihilation.”

Netanyahu said the agreement with the UAE was different from Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan in that it does not require Israel to relinquish any territory. “It’s a warm peace, between peoples,” he said, recalling being moved at seeing social media footage of Emirati children draping themselves in an Israeli flag.

Kohelet Policy Forum, Shiloh Policy Forum, Israel Hayom to host conference on Abraham Accords
A month after the historic peace treaty was signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House, the Kohelet Policy Forum, Shiloh Forum and Israel Hayom have teamed to host a special digital conference on the regional peace process.

Titled "The Abraham Accords: Towards a New Middle East?" this digital international symposium will feature high-ranking Israel and US officials, as well as senior members from the Arab media, and prominent Israeli academics.

The conference, slated to be held on Oct. 21-22, seeks to delve deeper into the implications of the historic Abraham Accords, especially against the backdrop of the rapidly developing ties between Israel and the UAE.

It will begin at 5:00 p.m. (Israel time) and will be livestreamed by Israel Hayom's English and Hebrew editions, as well as on the Kohelet Policy Forum and the Shiloh Forum's websites.

The conference will focus on the changing regional paradigms, such as the "peace for peace" equation, new regional alliances, the economic implications of the peace deal and more, as participants try to assess the impact of the peace agreements on Israel's status in the international arena and especially among Arab countries.

A future plan to establish an Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian free trade zone in the Jordan Valley will also be revealed.

"Thanks to a man sitting in the White House, we have a new Middle East, based on peace that derives from a position of power, sans buses exploding in the streets or ceding Israeli land," said Israel Hayom's Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth.

"The old paradigms have dissolved and a new chapter in the region is being written right befor our eyes. The international digital conference will present the meanings of the peace agreements and the new faces of our friends from Arab countries, who are happy to talk with us about shaping a new future."

Kohelet Policy Forum Chairman Moshe Kopel said, "After the colossal failures of trying to strike peace through unilateral concessions, we have changed course. The conference seeks is to present a new approach with all it implies. Advancing the new Middle East runs through cooperation – not capitulation."

UAE visit to Israel may be held at airport due to coronavirus
The first official delegation to Israel from the United Arab Emirates may remain at the airport and fly home the same day, rather than conduct a wider visit, due to coronavirus precautions, an Israeli minister said.

Israel is under a second coronavirus lockdown, which it plans to begin easing next week, after a surge in cases.

Science Minister Izhar Shay, whose ministry is taking part in talks with the UAE delegates due to arrive on Tuesday, said the visitors would stay for several hours under a coronavirus protocol.

"Right now it looks kind of 'touch and go'. It's possible that the meetings will be at the airport or close to it," he told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM.

Officials have said the UAE delegation will involve eight or nine groups working on various areas of bilateral cooperation, as a follow-up to talks launched in Abu Dhabi during an Aug. 31 visit by an Israeli delegation.

The UAE and Bahrain signed diplomatic deals establishing formal ties with Israel at a White House ceremony on Sept. 15.

Two other officials involved in the planning, one Israeli and the other US, said it was possible the UAE delegation visit would take place entirely at Ben Gurion airport, near Tel Aviv. The UAE has yet to confirm the delegation visit.
Small but growing, UAE’s Jewish community to get second full-time rabbi from NY
The small but growing Jewish community of Dubai is getting its second full-time rabbi, the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE), one of two Orthodox congregations in the country, announced Friday.

Beirut-born Elie Abadie, a prominent rabbi and scholar of Sephardic Judaism currently living in New York City, will relocate to the Gulf metropolis to serve as the community’s senior rabbi. The JCE is the country’s oldest congregation and the only one recognized by local authorities.

“I feel like I’m coming home to my roots, to the region where I was born, to the language that I first spoke, and to the beautiful traditions and customs with which I grew up,” Abadie said in a statement.

“I look forward to meeting, teaching and praying with all of the congregants and members of the Jewish community at large. I will be honored to share and celebrate in all of your semahot [life cycle events] and rejoice in all of our holidays together. Together we will grow the seeds of the UAE Jewish community.”

Abadie will assume his post on November 1, the JCE said in a press release.

“The Jewish community of the Emirates deserves nothing less than a true renaissance man, a scholar, pastor and visionary builder,” said Yehuda Sarna, the JCE’s New York-based non-resident chief rabbi. “He comes not only with a sense of indigeneity, being of the region, but also of internationalism. His fluency in both Arabic, as well as six other languages, positions him as a unique resource to the entire region.”

Sarna will remain in the US but will continue to connect the Dubai community “to global Jewry and building bridges of cooperation with Emirati authorities and international stakeholders,” according to the JCE press release.
In rare Zoom call with Israelis, Sudanese activists say country ready for peace
Violating local laws and risking possible criminal prosecution, a handful of activists from Sudan participated Thursday in an online forum discussing with Israelis their country’s relations to the Jewish state.

Amid reports saying Khartoum may be next in line to normalize ties with Jerusalem, the activists, including journalists and artists, said the Sudanese public is largely in favor of ties with Israel, but also discussed how they occasionally face opposition for their activism.

“The Sudanese people are very interested in normalizing ties with Israel, especially since the meeting between [Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah] al-Burhan and Prime Minister Netanyahu in February,” said El-Sadig Ishaq, a human rights activist and co-founder of the Sudanese-Israeli Friendship Society, an organization founded several months ago.

“This trend of interest in ties with Israel continues to grow. As opposed to what many outside Sudan are saying, that the public tends to be against normalization — we see the opposite,” he added. “The trend is in favor, and it continues to gain momentum. That’s what we hear and see on the street, especially with young people. That’s why we felt encouraged to create the Friendship Society, because it reflects the will of the people.”

Despite years of government-promulgated anti-Israel propaganda, many Sudanese simply ignore what they were taught in school and are told by state-controlled media, he said.

“Especially young people have been able to get their news from alternative sources and have been seeing the true face of Israel for a long time. And we do our best to disseminate accurate information about Israel, as well,” Ishaq said.
Saudi FM pushes Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, nixes imminent normalization
Saudia Arabia’s top diplomat on Thursday called for direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, while again suggesting the kingdom won’t normalize ties with the Jewish state until the decades-old conflict is resolved.

In an interview with a US-based think tank, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud underlined the kingdom’s support for the Arab Peace Initiative, which sees a Palestinian state as a prerequisite to rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world.

“We welcome the recent efforts to bring the parties together towards a comprehensive peace plan because an important step for a secure… Middle East remains a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. All other things will follow from that,” the Saudi foreign minister told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“I believe that the focus now needs to be on getting the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table. In the end, the only thing that can deliver lasting peace and lasting stability is an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. If we don’t manage to achieve that, we will continue to have that festering wound in the region.”

Invoking the 2002 Saudi-led peace initiative, the foreign minister added: “We always envisioned that normalization would happen but we also need to have a Palestinian state and we need to have a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan.”

Saudi leaders, including Al Saud, have previously ruled out forging ties with Israel before a Palestinian state was created, even as they welcomed the normalization deals between the Jewish state and Gulf Arab states signed in Washington last month.
Top European rabbi to address Saudi Arabia interfaith forum
Saudi Arabia is presiding over a virtual global interfaith forum that began on Tuesday, with participation from Muslim clerics, Jewish rabbis, Christian priests and other religious figures.

The kingdom is hosting the online event as part of its presidency this year of the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations.

Saudi Arabia has embarked more assertively in recent years on an outreach effort to Jewish and Christian groups. Some of those efforts have coincided with a broader alignment of interests and emerging ties between the Gulf Arab states and Israel, which share a common foe in Iran.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has also overseen efforts to supplant a religiously conservative Saudi identity with one rooted in hyper-nationalism, following decades of adherence to a hard-line interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism, which has flourished in the kingdom.

Faisal bin Muaammar, who heads the Saudi-funded International Dialogue Center organizing the five-day forum, told The Associated Press the purpose of the event is to enhance relationships among different faiths.

“We are talking about a relationship between religions, between Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus. The dialogue has no political agenda at all, or a political direction in terms of political conversations or negotiations,” he said.
The ICC vs. Israel: The fallout of a war crimes investigation
Critical questions and concerns have emerged as the International Criminal Court at The Hague nears its final decision whether to launch a criminal investigation into Israel for alleged war crimes violations. Join Shurat HaDin and a panel of legal experts this upcoming Sunday, October 18th, at 12 PM EDT for a fascinating webinar on the potential threat of an ICC war crimes investigation into Israel.

The court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has opened investigations targeting Israel and the United States, even though both countries are not ICC members and boast their own independent judicial systems.

Why is the ICC so preoccupied with Israel? Does the court pose a real threat to the Jewish state and its leadership? What are the implications of a criminal investigation into Israel for other democracies? How should Israel and the U.S. respond to the prospect of foreign nations arresting their citizens and extraditing them to the ICC for trial? Is there a real danger of IDF officers and troops being detained and charged with war crimes while traveling abroad?

Shurat HaDin’s live webinar will feature the following distinguished participants:
• Joseph Lieberman, former U.S. Senator from Connecticut
• Luis Moreno Ocampo, former Chief Prosecutor of the ICC
• Danny Danon, Israeli Ambassador to Australia and Former Israeli Permanent Representative to the UN
• Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Attorney-at-law & President of Shurat HaDin
European powers, Jordan condemn Israel settlement approvals
European powers on Friday condemned Israel’s decision to approve thousands more settlement homes in the West Bank, calling it a “counterproductive” move that undermines regional peace efforts.

Jordan, meanwhile, said the move violated international law and called for global pressure to prevent construction.

A joint statement from the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain said: “The expansion of settlements violates international law and further imperils the viability of a two-state solution to bring about a just and lasting peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“As we have emphasized directly with the government of Israel, this step furthermore undermines efforts to rebuild trust between the parties with a view to resuming dialogue,” they said, urging an immediate halt in settlement construction.

The ministers said pushing ahead with more settlements would be a “counterproductive move in light of the positive developments of normalization agreements reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.”

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi called the decision “a violation of international law… illegitimate steps that undermine the two-state solution and the chances of achieving a comprehensive peace.

“A clear international position to reject these [homes] and put pressure to block them is necessary to protect peace and protect international law,” al-Safadi said.

Israel agreed to suspend plans to annex swaths of the West Bank under the US peace plan in exchange for the normalization deals with the Gulf states.
Palestinians warn of apartheid, one state with new settler housing plans
The Palestinian Authority warned the United Nations that Israel had paved the way for apartheid and a one-state reality with its advancement and approval this week of plans for 5,288 new settler homes.

"Such duplicity cannot be ignored as Israel persists with its violations and further undermines the two-state solution on the pre-1967 lines, paving way for an apartheid one-state reality, while it simultaneously disguises itself as a regional partner who believes in advancing peace and stability, attempting to promote its standing in the international community based on false credentials," the PA Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour wrote in a letter on Friday.

“This is the direct result of lack of accountability for an occupation that has only expanded its territorial control by the day over the last 53 years. Given its complete departure from the two-state solution, Israel’s calls for 'peace' should not be trusted,” he said.

He spoke out after the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria held its first meeting in eight months on Wednesday and Thursday, during which it approved and advanced plans for the construction of 5,288 homes, bringing the annual total of such plans to 9,333. This does not include the deposit of plans for 3,165 homes for Ma’aleh Adumim’s E1 project.

The approvals took place on the sidelines of Israel’s historic Knesset vote on Thursday, by which it overwhelmingly approved a peace deal with the United Arab Emirates. It is only the third such deal that exists, following the Egyptian one in 1979 and the Jordanian one in 1994. Bahrain has also agreed to a normalization deal with Israel, but that has not come to a vote yet.

Both Arab states required Israel to suspend its plans to annex portions of the West Bank as a prerequisite for the agreements.

UN Watch: Non-democracies rise to 60% of UNHRC as China, Cuba, Russia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan win seats
The independent human rights group UN Watch condemned today’s election of rights-abusing governments in China, Cuba, Russia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan to the UN’s top human rights body, and expressed alarm that the percentage of non-democracies on the UN human rights council now goes from 51% to a staggering 60%.

“Today is a black day for human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, the Geneva-based non-governmental human rights organization, which deemed those countries to be “unqualified” in a Joint NGO Report, on account of the regimes’ domestic human rights records as well as their voting records on UN resolutions concerning human rights.

At a UN Watch online press conference on Friday, human rights dissidents who were persecuted for their activism by China, Russia, Cuba and Pakistan joined in calling on all UN member states to oppose those countries’ bids for election to the 47-nation council.

UN Watch regretted that the regimes won support today from more than 70% of the 193-nation UN General Assembly:
• Cuba: 170 votes (88%)
• Pakistan: 169 (87.5%)
• Uzbekistan: 169 (87.5%)
• Russia: 158 (82%)
• China: 130 (72%)
“Electing these dictatorships as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade,” said Neuer.

Israel denies visas to UN human rights staff after settlement blacklist
Israel has declined to renew the visas of most of the international workers of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the months after its publication of a blacklist of companies doing business in Judea and Samaria.

OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville confirmed on Thursday that nine out of 12 foreign staff members have left Israel since August, because their visas were not renewed. Three other workers who were to begin working in Israel were not allowed entry, and another three remain until their visas expire in the coming months.

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the matter but referred to a statement from former foreign minister Israel Katz about the OHCHR’s settlement blacklist.

The UN published its database in February of 112 businesses operating in east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria. It was the first list of its kind about any country.

Although the list did not specifically accuse the companies of violating international law, Israel, which argues that such business activity is legal, feared the blacklist would be used to support boycotts.

At the time, the Foreign Ministry announced it was cutting ties with the OHCHR, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “whoever boycotts us will be boycotted.”

Some OHCHR staff visas were renewed for short periods in March and June, but all renewal requests submitted since June have been rejected. (h/t Zvi)
As cases drop to 2,000, virus czar says threshold for easing lockdown is close
Ronni Gamzu, the leader of the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, estimated on Thursday that infection rates in Israel could reach the threshold for easing some lockdown restrictions in the coming days, while warning that the current downward trend could still be reversed and that it was too early to draw definite conclusions.

Health Ministry figures published Thursday morning showed 2,004 new cases were confirmed throughout Wednesday, just over the 2,000 mark below which authorities have determined that measures can start to be eased.

However, as Gamzu has clarified, the target number of 2,000 daily infections — along with a positive test rate of under eight percent and a basic reproduction number of less than 0.8 — must be met as a daily average for an entire week.

“According to this morning’s data there has been another drop in confirmed [carriers] and it is currently around 2,000,” Gamzu told Army Radio. “The positive rate is under 8%, and the basic reproduction number reached its goal. However, we need to consider the number of daily infections while looking several days back and see the daily average over at least a week.”

Gamzu said authorities would check early next week whether the target numbers have been reached, and expressed optimism.

“I believe we will reach the target number, and that is what I will tell the cabinet,” he said, referring to a key meeting of the so-called coronavirus cabinet taking place Thursday, during which ministers were discussing separate exit plans for cities with low and high infection rates, as well as reopening preschools and allowing restaurants to offer takeout in addition to the current delivery-only services. There are reported differences of opinion among ministers regarding allowing businesses that don’t see customers to reopen.

“We will have to double-check the numbers, but my opinion is that at the beginning of next week, we will definitely be able to take the first step in easing the restrictions,” Gamzu said. That phase is expected to return the private sector to normal operations, excluding businesses that receive customers in person, and reopen kindergartens and preschools.
Former Shin Bet deputy director Yitzhak Ilan dies from COVID-19
Former Shin Bet Deputy Director Yitzhak Ilan died overnight Friday from the coronavirus. He was 64.

According to Channel 12 News, Ilan contracted COVID-19 last month and had been hospitalized in critical condition.

Ilan served as the Israel Security Agency's chief detective in Ramallah during the First Intifada in the late 1980s and as head of its Samaria division during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s. He headed the Shin Bet's counterterrorism unit in Gaza and later headed its Investigations Department.

He was named deputy director of the Shin Bet in 2010 and served in this position for nearly two years. He was slated to replaced Director Yuval Diskin in 2016, but , but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision name Nadav Argaman to the post led to him retiring.
Police arrest four Palestinians trying to infiltrate into Israel
Dozens of Israeli Border Police officers have taken part in recent days in the arrest of suspects making fake entry permits into Israel, transporting illegal residents an stealing property in Jerusalem surroundings, the Israel Police said Friday.

Four suspects have been arrested during Border Police operations in the villages of Bidu, a-Ram and Katana in cooperation with Special Forces.

As part of the operation, the Border Police raided numerous houses in Palestinian villages where four suspects were arrested for forging permits, transporting illegal residents and stealing property in the Jerusalem district.

The battalion commander who was responsible for the mission explained that "the way in which fake permits to enter Israel are obtained and the illegal entry routes leading to Israel may also serve terrorists who will try to harm civilians and security forces, and therefore we are fighting that phenomenon."

The Border Police is investing a great deal of effort and advanced capabilities to eradicate the illegal infiltration of Palestinians into Israel.
Transition From Terrorist to Gandhian Figure Will Not Wash
Get ready for the onslaught of sympathetic media coverage for Maher al-Akhras, who is approximately 80 days into a hunger strike against the powers that be in Israel. He had recently appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court for release from Israeli custody, but the court ruled against him. Given that most hunger strikers die sometime after 60 days into their strike, it’s reasonable to conclude that al-Akhras will soon die.

His death will be a fruitless tragedy that could have been avoided if Palestinian elites had negotiated in good faith with Israel at numerous points over the past few decades, but they didn’t. Barring some miracle or change of heart by al-Akhras, his death seems inevitable.

Predictably, al-Akhras, who is currently in an Israeli hospital, has been lionized in all the usual places — Al Jazeera, 972, and Mondoweiss — for his Gandhian protest against the evils of the Jewish state. In the event of his death, there’s a good chance that Western media outlets, which have largely ignored his plight, will seize on his case to generate clicks from the anti-Israel crowd and to demonize Israel just as growing numbers of Arab leaders conclude that using Israel as a unifying political agenda is a losing strategy.

The Palestinian elites haven’t gotten the memo, nor have their Palestinian Christian stooges in Bethlehem. And pro-Palestinian activists in the West haven’t gotten the memo either.

If Western media outlets take up al-Akhras’ cause, their audiences need to remember one thing: the man is a terrorist. While his wife denies that he’s a member of Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, media outlets affiliated with that organization and Hamas did, at the time of his previous arrest in 2018, describe him as a “commander,” a phrase they regularly use to refer to active members of their organizations.

Allowing al-Akhras to drape himself in the flag of Gandhian non-violence will be profoundly irresponsible given that his coffin will be draped with the flag of a terrorist organization responsible for 30 murderous suicide bombings in the Holy Land.
Jibril Rajoub's problematic Palestine
While the Palestinian Authority finds itself mired in a state of deep depression, it seems as though Fatah secretary-general and central PA official Jibril Rajoub is shining in triumph.

Rajoub is using the strategic crisis brought on by Israel's normalization agreements with Bahrain and the UAE to build himself up and claw his way into the president's seat the day after Mahmoud Abbas vacates it.

Rajoub is solidifying his position by inciting against Israel, calling for the nullification of all agreements, advancing the peace talks between the Fatah-dominated PA and the Hamas terrorist organization and promoting a model of "popular resistance" - fighting against Israel mainly by way of rioting and civil unrest.

This method, Rajoub insists, will facilitate cooperation with long-term rival Hamas and will even be received with understanding and even sympathy in the international arena.

The rest of the PA leadership, Abbas included, have displayed caution and even reluctance towards the moves being pushed by Rajoub. But despite this, Rajoub’s vigorous promotion of such ideals may end up turning these plans into reality.

Such a step would return the PA leadership to a familiar pattern of being mired in an unwanted situation despite fighting to avoid it.
PMW: OK to murder Israeli civilians because they are all “criminals” - Hamas’ message in TV series
Murdering Israeli/Jewish civilians is legitimate according to TV series produced and ‎broadcast by Hamas. ‎

In a scene on the show Self-Sacrificing Fighter (Fida’i), which was produced by Hamas’ ‎Al-Aqsa TV and rebroadcast recently, an armed terrorist enters a restaurant in Tel Aviv ‎and shoots and murders Israeli/Jewish diners. Following the attack, a Palestinian ‎woman is being interrogated by an Israeli investigator. She explains that while Islam ‎forbids murdering civilians, killing Israelis/Jews is justified because Israelis/Jews are all ‎‎“criminals”: ‎
Woman under investigation: “If you know everything, then what do you want ‎me to say?”‎
Israeli investigator: “No. When it is told by a heroine, the story is better and ‎more beautiful. Are you not a heroine? Didn’t you set out to murder innocents in ‎Tel Aviv?”‎
Woman: “We’re not criminals like you and we’re not murderers. Our religion ‎‎[Islam] forbids us from murdering civilians!”‎
Investigator: “So who did you‎‏ ‏set out‏ ‏to murder?”‎
Woman: “I set out‏ ‏to murder criminals like you!”‎
Investigator: “Murderer!”‎
[Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), Aug. 25, 2020]‎
Palestinian Media Watch has exposed that Hamas broadcasts similar messages to ‎Palestinians – MPs call for “death to Israel”, officials threaten violence, and TV fillers ‎glorify suicide bombings, ‎ ‎

Bill introduced to Congress aims to stop Hezbollah money laundering
A new bill designed to prevent money laundering by Hezbollah has been introduced in the US House of Representatives by a group of Republican congressmen.

The bill calls upon the President to make a determination that areas currently under Hezbollah's control are "primary money laundering concerns" under section 311 of the PATRIOT Act. The regions in question are south Lebanon and the tri-border region in South America, which encompasses three cities in three different countries: Puerto Iguazu in Argentina, Ciudad del Este in Paraguay and Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil. The latter region is widely recognized as a major hub for illicit activities including money laundering, with some US$ 6 billion a year in illegal funds thought to be laundered there annually by organized crime groups and rogue operators.

“This bill represents the toughest sanctions on Hezbollah ever proposed by Congress," said Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who introduced the bill. "By cutting off banks in areas under the terror group’s control from the international financial system, this bill will go a long way towards drying up the Iranian terror proxy’s resources to conduct murderous attacks against the US and our allies.

"This bill will make it much harder for Hezbollah to do Iran’s bidding in propping up the criminal Assad regime, the Houthis in Yemen, and continue to destabilize the Middle East,” said Congressman Wilson. “I am grateful that twelve of my colleagues on the Republican Study Committee joined me on this bill as original co-sponsors and I hope that it will send a strong message to the White House that Republicans in Congress continue to support a hard line on Iran.”

Cybersecurity groups: Iranians targeted top Israeli firms in ransomware attack
Iranian hackers contracted by the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targeted prominent Israeli companies in a series of ransomware attacks last month, a pair of cybersecurity firms reported Thursday.

The attacks were attributed to “MuddyWater,” which Microsoft exposed earlier this month as a contractor for the IRGC — designated by both Israel and the US as a terror group.

Dubbing the Iranian effort “Operation Quicksand,” the Clearsky and Profero cybersecurity firms said they “uncovered the first known instance of a potentially destructive attack executed by MuddyWater, focusing on prominent organizations in Israel and in other countries around the world.”

The firms said they identified and thwarted the attacks before any harm could be inflicted, but were now raising an alarm to the methods used, indicating that they could have been employed in earlier hacking attacks that might have gone unnoticed.

The names of the Israeli firms targeted in the ransomware attacks were not identified in the report, ostensibly for security reasons.
Trump Admin Brings Home Two American Hostages Held By Iran-Backed Militia
The Trump administration brought home two American hostages held in Yemen by an Iran-backed militia, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Washington negotiated a hostage exchange for humanitarian worker Sandra "Sam" Loli and businessman Mikael Gidada, whom the Houthi militia group had held in Yemen for over a year. The negotiations were rapid because of Loli's deteriorating health condition. The United States also secured the remains of Bilal Fateen, a third American the Houthis had taken hostage.

"Today is a day we have long hoped for," said Richard Boni, Loli's husband. "Our family is filled with immense relief and gratitude that Sam—a beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend—has been released and reunited with her family."

In exchange for the American citizens, the Trump administration offered over 200 Houthi loyalists. The Iran-backed insurgents are currently locked in a bitter civil war with Yemeni security forces, which have the support of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis were instrumental in securing this latest hostage deal.

Hostage retrievals continue to be a major effort for the Trump administration, which has so far brought home over 50 hostages from 22 countries. In August, the president invited six of these former hostages to the Republican National Convention stage.

"We're very proud of the job we did," Trump told the crowd.
MEMRI: Paris-Based Geopolitics Expert Dr. Imad Eddine Hamrouni: The Leading Western Intellectuals Have Adopted The Values Of Islamic Resistance; Zionism, Freemasonry Control Western Economy And Regimes
Dr. Imad Eddine Hamrouni, a Paris-based Tunisian expert on geopolitics, said in a September 20, 2020 interview on Al-Alam TV (Iran) that Zionism and Freemasonry control the West, its economy, its ideology, and its regimes. He said that religion and religious values have died out in the West and that only the values of Islamic resistance have survived. Dr. Al-Hamroun elaborated that the leading non-Muslim intellectuals in the West have adopted the principles and values of the "Islam of resistance" and defend Iran and the "axis of resistance."

"Zionism And The Freemasons Stand Against Religious Values, Especially Islamic Values"

Dr. Imad Eddine Hamrouni: "There is a crisis of Zionism in the West. There is a Zionist economic hegemony, the Freemasons control the regimes and the ideologies. Zionism and the Freemasons stand against religious values, especially Islamic values.

"The Interests Of The Weak Are [Islam's] Top Priority"

"Islam is the most influential factor... Today Christianity has collapsed in the West. There are no more Christians in the West. In France, only 20-30% [of the population] is Christian. There are no more Jews left [in the West], Judaism has become a race and nationality. What else is left? There is Communism, which has collapsed, and there is Islam. Which Islam? Islam of resistance – and the interests of the weak are its top priority.

Leading European Intellectuals "Defend Resistance, The Islamic Republic Of Iran, And The Values Of Islam"

"We see that the leading intellectuals in France – Christians or leftist-secularists – have started supporting Islam of resistance. What do I mean by 'Islam of resistance?' They are not becoming Muslims, rather, they adopt its mode of conduct and the axis of resistance. Today we have intellectuals in Belgium, Germany, Britain, Italy, and France, who defend resistance, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the values of Islam, which carries the prospect of an [Islamic] awakening."

MEMRI: Questioned By Skeptical Interviewers, Russian FM Lavrov Struggles To Defend Russia's Current Policy Towards Turkey
On October 14, 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave an interview to three pro-Kremlin radio stations: Sputnik, Komsomolskaya Pravda and Govorit Moskva (Radio Moscow). The interview started with Moscow's efforts to obtain a ceasefire in Nagorno Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but the questions quickly turned to Russia's relations with Turkey. Recently, a rare consensus has emerged between Putin's critics and supporters that Russia has been too deferential to Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan, and he must be put in his place.[1] Lavrov was hard pressed by the normally deferential interviewers to defend the current policy in light of Turkey's recent actions, and sought to distinguish between Turkey's legitimate pursuit of its national interests and competition for influence in the Islamic world, and the illegitimate pursuit of American interests in Syria and elsewhere (including America's brokerage of the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, bypassing the Palestinians). However, even he acknowledged the build-up of anti-Turkish sentiment and witnessing a tee shirt with the caption "if they don't listen to Lavrov, they will listen to [Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu" and interjecting the comment "naturally, there could be situations when there is aggression against you, and you must strike back".

The lengthy section from Lavrov's interview on Russia's relations with Turkey follows below[2]:

Question: Mr. Lavrov, the current war in Nagorno-Karabakh, if we call a spade the spade, has been inspired by Turkey. In general, we regularly “run into” Turkey, in Libya, as well as in Syria, where Ankara is emerging as a military opponent to us rather than an ally. At the same time, we regularly declare that it is our strategic ally. How will all of this work today in the light of the current developments? Where do we, and Turkey, stand? What are we in relation to each other?

Sergey Lavrov: Turkey has never qualified as our strategic ally. It is a partner, a very close partner. In many sectors, this partnership is of a strategic nature.

In fact, we are working in Syria, and we are trying to help settle the Libyan crisis. Turkey is also seeking to promote its interests in this region. The main thing is that this is absolutely legitimate, if interests are legitimate, be it Turkey, Iran, UAE, or Qatar. Many countries in this region have interests of their own, which are projected outside of their state borders.

In what Syria is concerned, I think that these transparency and legitimacy have been ensured, despite the fact that the Turkish military are present on Syrian territory without an invitation from the legitimate authorities. The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and his government have accepted and supported the establishment of the Astana format. They are cooperating in the implementation of all those initiatives that have been advanced by the threesome of the Astana guarantors. In this sense, the Russia-Turkey-Iran partnership plays a very important role. It is this actual partnership that has made it possible to cut down the terrorist-ruled territories, in fact, as far as the Idlib de-escalation zone.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Erdogan Declares War on Arabs
"Some countries in our region did not exist yesterday, and they may not exist in the future...." — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressing parliament on October 1, 2020.

"His [Erdogan's] crimes against the Arab peoples must be exposed, such as his massacres against the Syrian people, against the Kurds in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and in Libya...." — Abdel Aziz Razan, a Saudi adviser at the Center for Arab-Russia Studies, Okaz, October 4, 2020.

Such powerful responses made by Saudis and other Arabs to Erdogan's contemptuous statements show that the Arabs now understand it is Erdogan and his friends in Iran whom they should fear. In the eyes of these Arabs, Erdogan and his Iranian connections represent the real threat to their security and stability.

In light of such reactions, perhaps more Arab countries will follow the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in signing diplomatic agreements with Israel. The State of Israel, as it turns out, is a strategic and strong ally that can help Arab countries stop Turkey and Iran from spreading their contagion of terror in the Middle East.
Saudis Apologize for Executing Infidels Based on ‘Sexual Preference’ (satire)
Acknowledging that the term is considered offensive, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman apologized for executing homosexuals based on their “sexual preference” rather than their sexual orientation.

Bin Salman’s apology came after Kyle Griffin, a senior producer for MSNBC, pointed out on Twitter that the Saudi penal code called for “the beheading of the homosexual evildoers, who defy the will of Allah with their sexual preference.”

“Sexual preference, a term used in the Saudi penal code, is offensive and outdated,” Griffin tweeted. “News organizations should not cover these executions without providing that important context.”

Bin Salman, known as MBS, told The Mideast Beast that he checked Merriam-Webster’s dictionary earlier this week to make sure that he was using the term correctly.

“I really do not recall reading anything about it being an offensive term, but when I went back and checked today, the entry clearly stated that it is considered offensive. I could’ve sworn it said something different,” MBS said. “I can ensure you that this language will never be used again.”

The Saudi penal code was soon changed, and future beheadings will be punishment only for the perpetrators’ “sexual orientation.”

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