Tuesday, October 20, 2020

From Ian:

Meir Y. Soloveichik: The Wonder of the Abraham Accords
The Abraham Accords is a moment to be remembered in Jewish history and an achievement in American diplomacy that, no matter what occurs in the election, deserves to be studied and celebrated. It ought to inspire us to ask what else “experts” might have been missing. What other aspects of the Arab–Israeli divide, once thought unbridgeable, can now be contemplated? Most interesting is a question raised by several Israeli writers: Is it now time to take a new approach to the Temple Mount? If parts of the Arab world can at least come to terms with a Jewish Jerusalem, is there a possibility that not only Muslims but also Jews can pray at Judaism’s most sacred site?

Three days after we sat on the South Lawn of the White House, I stood in the synagogue overseeing Rosh Hashanah services unlike any other. What was usually a packed sanctuary was this year marked by masked worshippers socially distanced from one another. We prayed, of course, for a return to health and normalcy, but we knew the pandemic would continue to impact our lives for months to come. In Jerusalem, a resurgence of the virus would lead to a shutdown of synagogues and a Western Wall largely devoid of worshippers. But in the midst of the depressing nature of that moment, I read from the Torah, to the congregation, of Ishmael, of God’s concern for Abraham’s eldest son.

For the first time, its text to me embodied not an abstract aspiration, but something that, in a very small way, seemed directed to us in our time. And then, as the Torah was returned, a millennia-old verse was suddenly sung, sanctified by the dreams of Jewish generations yet in the moment endowed with renewed relevance: Adonai oz le’amo yiten; Adonai yevarekh et-amo va’shalom.

It was a reminder that even amid our caustic politics and trials, we still live in an age of wonder of which our ancestors could only have dreamed, and that in such an age it was not unreasonable to have hope in the year to come—perhaps even more wondrous things than Passover programs in the United Arab Emirates will happen next year in Jerusalem.

How Israel Helped Win the Cold War
Truman’s motive in supporting the Zionists has been ascribed variously to high principle, electoral expediency, and close Jewish friends. Neither he nor the advocates for a Jewish state framed it in terms of geopolitics. But Israel turned out to be a major strategic asset.

U.S. diplomats and brass were not alone in failing to foresee this. Moscow did not anticipate it either. Hoping to drive Britain from the region, it was arguably even more helpful than Washington in facilitating Israel’s birth. This moment, however, was short-lived, ending abruptly on Rosh Hashanah of 1948.

That day, Golda Meir, Israel’s first ambassador to the USSR, attended services at Moscow’s Great Synagogue, one of the very few left open. Despite a pointed warning in Pravda that “the state of Israel has nothing to do with the Soviet Union, where there is no Jewish problem and therefore no need for Israel,” a crowd estimated at 50,000—25 times the usual attendance—was waiting to see and touch her. In her autobiography, Meir records how deeply she was affected by this display of identity with the Jewish state. But Stalin, who brooked no loyalty to anyone or anything other than himself or his regime, was affected, too, in a quite different way. Within a month, Jewish cultural institutions were closed, and soon various Yiddish actors and poets were murdered or dispatched to the Gulag. An anti-Jewish campaign in the name of anti-Zionism raged until the dictator’s death in 1953.

Israel, thus driven from its original stance of neutrality, got its first stroke of revenge in 1956 when a Pole who went by the non-Jewish name of Viktor Grayevsky managed to get his hands on a copy of the secret speech that Premier Nikita Khrushchev had delivered at the Soviet Communist Party’s 20th congress. It denounced Stalin for having created a “cult” of himself and for choosing “the path of repression and physical annihilation” against whomever raised his ire. Grayevski, quietly a Zionist, daringly brought the document to the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw where intelligence officers made a duplicate. Ben-Gurion ordered it passed to the CIA, which leaked it to the New York Times, which ran it on page 1.

The impact on the world Communist movement was shattering. The one-time Trotskyist leader Max Shachtman captured the import sardonically: “Stalin…has been officially demoted from the office of greatest, wisest and most adored leader in recorded history to the lesser office of maniacal mass-murderer.” For three decades, Communists worldwide had parroted hymns to Stalin’s glories, deriding what they saw as calumnies against him from anti-Communists of all stripes (as well as Trotskyists). Now Stalin’s successor, the new leader of world Communism, was saying plainly that the anti-Communists had been right all along and that the Communists had been dupes and fools. The American and other Communist parties never recovered from this blow.
Mordechai Kedar: No Longer United Against Israel: The New Arab World
Meanwhile, deep processes are at work. The younger generation of Arabs did not experience the “Palestinian nakba” and it is not part of their historical memory. The “Arab Spring,” which precipitated the collapse of regimes and economies and the rise of the Islamic State, threw millions of Arabs into great distress and mass emigration for a life of refugee status, poverty, and suffering far from home. The Palestinians’ belief that those Arabs should fight for the “liberation of Palestine” is not uppermost among their concerns.

As for Palestinian conduct, here is an interesting case. One of Israel’s harshest critics is Jamal Rian, the brain behind Al Jazeera and its main newscaster. He was born in Tulkarem, moved to Jordan, and became a prominent activist in the Muslim Brotherhood. It was recently revealed that Rian’s father was a land dealer who, before Israel’s establishment, sold sizable tracts of land to the Jews. What Arab wants to be a “sucker” and fight Israel to liberate for Jamal Rian the lands his father sold to Jews, a transaction that did not exactly harm his son financially?

Another factor that works against the Palestinian ethos is the huge increase in the use of social media. Today, any Arab can see the truth about Israel without needing to rely exclusively on his government’s propaganda outlets for information. Automatic translation allows him or her to “read” Hebrew websites even if he does not understand a word of Hebrew. This makes it much harder for the Palestinians to keep selling “the problem” the way it used to. Indeed, many Arabs now intentionally misspell “the problem” in a way that expresses contempt for it.

The Arab world of 2020 differs from that of 2000 in many ways. It is not the delusional “new Middle East” envisaged by Shimon Peres but its complete opposite: a region that is violent, fractured, rife with failed states, and afflicted with mass killing. But these unfortunate developments work in Israel’s favor. True, there is still hatred among Arabs for Jews and the Jewish state that must be acknowledged and contended with, and there are still hundreds of thousands of rockets surrounding and threatening Israel. Nevertheless, the trend is clear.

The peace and normalization between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain signifies the collapse of the old theories, enabling the Jewish state to be accepted as a member, not an enemy, in the “right” coalition.

Would Biden’s Middle East Proposals End Any Prospect for Saudi-Israeli Normalization?
The Biden team’s policy proposals that would undermine any prospect of normalization don’t end there. The structural shift that pushed Israel and the Gulf States together allowed for the diplomatic opening, but wasn’t enough on its own for the UAE take the final step of formal recognition. In fact, as long ago as 2002, Saudi Arabia, and later the Arab League, expressed a willingness (in theory) to recognize Israel with the announcement of the Arab Peace Initiative. The problem was that the demands the initiative made of Israel were complete nonstarters, such as an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines and the implementation of the Palestinian “right of return,” the standard Arab euphemism for Israel’s demographic subversion. No Israeli government is going to accept such terms, so whatever potential existed for normalization has been dead on arrival for almost two decades.

It was only the recent change in US policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue that altered the dynamic. Instead of making unreasonable and ill-founded demands on Israel for territorial concessions, the Trump administration demonstrated its willingness to go along with Israeli plans to assert sovereignty over parts of the Jordan Valley. This put an entirely new card on the table. It was the credible threat of annexation that opened the door for normalization. The Gulf States were interested in normalization for their own interests but needed another incentive to take the next step. Once annexation was on the table, there was a concession that Israel could reasonably make, as putting off the application of sovereignty for an undefined period is something even the Israeli right can live with. The UAE could then show it had achieved something concrete by taking the final step.

But Biden and his advisors intend to reverse that as well. As he and his team have made abundantly clear for months, Biden adamantly rejects any prospect of extending Israeli sovereignty to additional territory.

It is a basic principle in negotiations that a stalemate can be broken by adding more dimensions to the mix that can then be traded. But by preemptively rejecting even the notion that Israel could move forward with extending its sovereignty over vital territories in the future, Biden would be doing the exact opposite: he would remove dimensions for negotiation and deepen the state of deadlock.

In November, Americans will decide whom to elect as their next president, and Israel will work and cooperate with whomever the American people place in the White House. One would hope that whoever is making decisions in Washington will be open to learning the lessons of the Abraham Accords regarding what works in today’s Middle East and what does not, and to adapt their actions accordingly. If Biden wishes to further the historic process that began with Trump, he might want to consider retaining a little more continuity with current US policies in the region. This would be for the good of the US, Israel, and their Arab partners.
When Biden met Golda: New details emerge of storied encounter on the eve of war
Channel 13’s Nadav Eyal has now provided excerpts from a classified memo of the meeting made by a senior Israeli official who was in attendance.

The unnamed official said Biden told Meir that during meetings in Cairo prior to his arrival in Israel, officials there assured him they accept “Israel’s military superiority.”

Biden warned that Israel’s actions in the territories it had captured during the Six Day War, including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, were leading to “creeping annexation.”

Since he believed Israel was militarily dominant in the region, he suggested the Jewish state might initiate a first step for peace through unilateral withdrawals from areas with no strategic importance.

The official said Biden criticized the Nixon administration for being “dragged by Israel,” complaining that it was impossible to have a real debate in the Senate about the Middle East as senators were fearful of saying things unpopular with Jewish voters.

Meir rejected Biden’s call for unilateral steps, launching into a speech about the region and its problems (possibly the spiel Biden alluded to in his own comments years later).

The official added his own personal impressions regarding the young senator at the bottom of the document, saying Biden was full of respect toward the Israeli leader and repeatedly said he had come to learn, “and yet while speaking displayed a fervor and made comments that signaled his lack of diplomatic experience.”
Senior UAE delegation comes to Israel; Netanyahu: ‘Today we are making history’
In another major milestone for Israel-Gulf relations, a delegation of senior United Arab Emirates officials arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday for a series of meetings with their Israeli counterparts.

After landing, the UAE delegation, headed by the ministers of the economy and finance and two deputy ministers, signed four bilateral agreements with Israel, including a visa waiver agreement.

During the welcoming ceremony ant Ben-Gurion Airport, the United States, Israel and the UAE also announced the creation of a trilateral fund seeking to foster regional cooperation and prosperity.

“Today we are making history,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared minutes after the Etihad plane landed in Tel Aviv. “The enthusiasm for this peace agreement among our people is enormous. It’s real, it’s broad, it’s deep, and it reflects the potential that is realized today.”

Netanyahu listed the four agreements Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi had agreed to sign — including on aviation and taxation — vowing that they will bring many benefits to the people of both countries, including regular direct flights.

“The visit of such a high-level delegation from the UAE, and the agreements we are about to sign, will show our peoples, the region and the entire world the benefit of having friendly, peaceful, normal exchanges,” he said. “I believe that more and more governments across the Middle East understand, as we do here today, that we’re so much better off working together, as friends.”
UAE asks Israel to move quickly on establishing mutual embassies
The United Arab Emirates said Tuesday it wished to facilitate the reciprocal opening of embassies in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi “as soon as possible,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, as a senior Emirati delegation made a landmark visit to the Jewish state.

The Foreign Ministry said the UAE delegation — headed by the ministers of the economy and finance and two deputy ministers — had handed Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi a letter from his Emirati counterpart, Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, during a working lunch.

The two leaders met in Berlin earlier this month in the first public high-level bilateral meeting between the countries.

In the letter — said to have been written in Hebrew — Bin Zayed reportedly also thanked Ashkenazi for his hard work advancing ties.

“I have full trust in your unequivocal support for opening the diplomatic missions in Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi as soon as possible,” he wrote. “Best wishes for the two countries and the two friendly nations to enjoy progress and prosperity down the road.”

Speaking to Emirati journalists who made the trip, Ashkenazi told them that Israel appreciates the “courageous step taken by Abu Dhabi toward peace and leading the entire region toward a better future,” according to a separate statement from the Foreign Ministry.

“The relations between our countries are an important and significant step on the way to turning the Middle East from a region of conflict to a region of hope, prosperity, stability and peace,” he added.
Israel to sign visa exemption agreement with UAE, its first with an Arab state
Israel and the United Arab Emirates are set to sign a visa exemption treaty Tuesday, in what will be the Jewish state’s first such agreement with an Arab country, according to Israeli officials.

The treaty will be signed during high-level meetings and a ceremony in Tel Aviv attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and two senior UAE ministers — part of the first high-level delegation from the Gulf nation to visit Israel.

The Israel-UAE visa exemption agreement will mean that citizens from both countries will be allowed to enter each other’s countries without having to go through the hassle of applying for a visa first. However, it will enter into force only after it is ratified by both countries, a process that will require a vote in the Knesset.

Israel currently has normalization agreements with four Arab countries — Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE — but so far only the latter has agreed to allow Israelis to visit without a visa. Notably, even Israel’s closest ally, the US, has so far refused to sign a visa exemption agreement with the Jewish state.

In addition to the visa waiver, bilateral agreements in the areas of aviation, investment protection, science and technology are all expected to be signed at Tuesday’s ceremony, which will take place at Ben-Gurion Airport.

The visit is set to take place a day after both the UAE and Bahrain on Monday gave parliamentary approval to their respective normalization agreements with Israel.
What I’ve learned about Emirati culture as the chief rabbi’s wife
Jews around the world are rightfully celebrating the historic and euphoric peace agreement between Israel and the UAE — and so are the Emiratis.

In particular, Israelis are looking forward to visiting the United Arab Emirates once travel is again possible. As a Jew with close ties to the UAE, I have insights about what they’ll experience — a place they’ll surely find both familiar and challenging.

Over the past two years, my husband, children and I have visited the UAE four times, most recently spending Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot in Abu Dhabi. I am intrigued by some striking parallels to Israel, such as taking great pride in “making the desert bloom,” building a hub for global tourism, achieving remarkable advancements in technology and maintaining the identity of a small nation with a huge impact.

My husband Yehuda, now the Chief Rabbi of the UAE, has visited more than 20 times during the past decade as the University Chaplain at NYU, working closely with NYU’s campus in Abu Dhabi, UAE representatives in the US, and the developing Jewish community of the Emirates.

I’m optimistic about the historic new partnership between Israel and the UAE, and the unique opportunity to learn and grow with and from our new partners and friends.

It is perhaps understandable — although not pardonable — that after decades of terrorism, tension and conflict with Islamic countries in the region, many Jews in Israel and Diaspora communities speak in generalizations and express fear and resentment toward our Muslim cousins. But after developing close personal relationships, my children have a hard time understanding that perspective. It has been heartwarming to observe how eager Jewish people worldwide are to embrace their Arab Muslim Emirati friends.
Israeli airline Arkia starts offering flights to Dubai from January
Israeli airline Arkia on Tuesday announced direct flights to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, starting at $149 for a one-way ticket. Arkia said the daily flights will begin on January 3, 2021 and some were already available for order on its website.

The airline is Israel’s first to announce a date for direct commercial flights to the Gulf Kingdom since Israel and the UAE signed a normalization agreement last month.

The flights will last 3-4 hours and will continue at least until March, 2021, the company said.

Oz Berlowitz, CEO of Arkia, said in a statement, “The decision to start a flight line to Dubai was made after increasing requests from our customers, private business clients and many requests from groups organizing conferences.

The airline is checking into the possibility of launching flights to Bahrain and Sharjah, another city in the UAE.

The flight lines are pending approval from authorities, which is expected to be issued soon, the statement said.

The company has also signed commercial agreements with tourism companies in the UAE and will offer vacation packages.
Top Sudan cleric: There is no general Islamic opposition to salaam with Israel
Last month, amid reports that Sudan could soon normalize relations with Israel, the northeast African Arab country’s leading governmental agency in charge of interpreting Islamic law issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, saying ties with the Jewish state remain forbidden.

But in good Talmudic tradition, a senior cleric from a rival group of Islamic scholars thought his colleagues were mistaken and issued a fatwa arguing the exact opposite.

“They issued their fatwa. I found it to be problematic and not in keeping with Islamic principles, which are more flexible in nature. And so I thought to issue a fatwa that does reflect this flexibility that is inherent in Islamic principle,” Sheikh Abdel-Rahman Hassan Hamed told The Times of Israeli in a recent exclusive phone interview.

“It is an effort to issue a fatwa on the basis of present realities,” he said of his religious ruling, issued earlier this month. “When circumstances change, it is the responsibility of the mufti to look at the situation as it is, and to evaluate it without any preconception — to face reality. That is what we did.”

Hamed, who heads the Sudan Scholars Organization’s fatwa department, said that Islamic law doesn’t know the modern political concept of “normalization.”

“From an Islamic standpoint, the terms that are relevant are sulh [treaty or armistice] and salaam [peace],” he said, speaking in Arabic through an interpreter.

“As a general principle, from an Islamic standpoint, there is no opposition to sulh or salaam with Israel. On the contrary, sulh and salaam are virtues that are to be earned, without exception.”
Why the UAE Wants Israeli Help to Secure Its Food Supplies
Food security is emerging as a key area in which the United Arab Emirates is eager for Israeli expertise, investors in each country tell ISRAEL21c.

The Gulf states import more than 90% of their food. This has long been a concern, but the issue intensified when pandemic-related transportation stoppages disrupted supply for several months. The UAE now has a food security minister and Food Security Council.

The Abraham Accords announced between Israel and the UAE on August 13 — and with Bahrain a month later — give these countries access to promising food-supply solutions from the ground up.

“The Gulf states see how we produce vegetables in the desert and are very impressed. This is essential to them and they seek companies that can deploy technologies tomorrow,” says Edouard Cukierman, chairman of Cukierman Investment House and managing partner at the Catalyst Fund.

He and senior partners of his Tel Aviv-based firm recently met with Hamed Ahmed Ali, CEO of Nasdaq Dubai and the local stock exchange, to discuss opportunities for Israeli businesses.

“One topic that came up again and again is food security,” Cukierman tells ISRAEL21c. “They are ready to allocate a lot of funds to assuring their food supply.”

Palestinians Choose Guns Over Butter
Sure, it’s ironic that a Palestinian leader who accused Israel of spreading the coronavirus has checked himself into an Israeli hospital now that he is afflicted with it. But the implications of this episode are much more significant than another chuckle over Palestinian hypocrisy.

This week’s two-face is Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the PLO executive committee. He has served as the PLO’s representative in various negotiations, and as Yasser Arafat’s spokesman to the foreign news media. Among the blood libels that Erekat has spread against Israel was his loudly publicized claim in 2002 that Israel “massacred” more than 500 Palestinian Arabs in Jenin. The actual number was 53, and they were terrorists who were killed in battle.

A more recent anti-Israel slander from Erekat was his announcement, in the official Palestinian Authority (PA) newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on March 20, that Israelis were “spitting on Palestinian cars and property in order to transfer the corona disease to them” (translation by Palestinian Media Watch).

When Erekat himself came down with the disease last week, he had many Palestinian Arab hospitals from which to choose. He could have opted to be treated at the hospital closest to his home, which is the Jericho Government Hospital. Or he could have gone to one of the 15 hospitals in other PA-occupied areas, such as the “Martyr Yasser Arafat Government Hospital” in Salfit. Or one of the five hospitals in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

But no, Erekat insisted on being taken to Hadassah Hospital in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. And the kind folks at Hadassah took him in, despite all the Jewish blood on his hands from all those years of terrorist attacks perpetrated by the organization of which he was, and is, a senior representative.

Egyptian Journalist: Time Has Come for Palestinian Brothers, Their Political Elite to Rethink Things

IDF exposes offensive tunnel from the Gaza Strip
IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hadi Zilberman announced on Tuesday that "in the past few hours IDF forces have exposed an offensive terrorist tunnel that crossed into Israeli territory, but did not cross the barrier that is being established these days."

Zilberman noted that the discovery was made on Monday thanks to the technological means that the underground barrier includes, and that the tunnel, which was dug from the area of Khan Yunis, was exposed today following excavation efforts.

He emphasized that "the tunnel was still in the process of being built, so that at no point did it pose a danger to the surrounding towns. It will be neutralized in the next few days." He stated that it is still unclear which terrorist organization is behind the tunnel. "The IDF estimates that it was part of a relatively new operational outline, but has not yet determined who was responsible for it."

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit added that "the barrier, which will be completed on March 2021 will consist of three sections: a wall dug dozens of meters underground, an obstacle above ground and technological means for locating tunnels. Most of the work underground has been completed."
PMW: Fatah: Let Jerusalem “be freed of the Jews” and prepare “the Jews’ graveyard”
Abbas’ Fatah Movement recently posted a video with a song calling for Jerusalem “to be freed of the Jews.” It also encouraged Arab states to unite and break down borders between them to “redeem” Jerusalem and prepare “the Jews’ graveyard”: Lyrics: “When the Arabness becomes heretical
and it becomes Zionist
and American
We will come to you [Jerusalem]
with the knights of Allah
You’ll be freed of the Jews
We will redeem you
The borders [between the Arabs] will be broken down
And we will be united
This is the Jews’ graveyard”
[Official Fatah Facebook page, Oct. 13, 2020]

This is an excerpt of the song “Our Jerusalem,” which calls on all Arabs and Muslims to “redeem” Jerusalem. It was originally published in December 2017 following US President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The reference to “the Arabness” becoming “heretical, Zionist, and American” also fits the current context of the UAE and Bahrain signing peace agreements with Israel. Something that the PA has criticized in strong terms, calling it “betrayal,” and naming the two Arab states “enemies of Islamic society.”

PA Grand Mufti: All the terrorist prisoners are “heroic,” admired by the Palestinian people

Jonathan Tobin: Saeb Erekat: Why Israel Chose to Aid an Ailing Enemy
It’s the kind of story that drives a lot of friends of Israel nuts. One of its chief opponents, Palestinian Liberation Organization senior leader Saeb Erekat, recently fell ill with COVID-19. Faced with the decision as to where to be treated, it was only natural that instead of going to a Palestinian hospital or even one in neighboring Jordan, he chose to go to Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

This is, after all, the same person who spent his career lying about Israel, and smearing it as a nation of oppressors and war criminals. He’s part of a government that spends far more on paying salaries and pensions to terrorists and their families than on hospitals. Indeed, in March of this year, he actually went so far as to falsely allege that Israelis were spitting on Palestinian cars so as to spread the coronavirus to them. And though he has served as the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s chief peace negotiator, he’s spent his tenure in that position working to make peace negotiations impossible, swearing that he will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state and end the ongoing conflict.

However, when faced with the question of the best place in the region to seek help, Israel was the obvious answer.

One of the region’s pre-eminent health-care facilities, Hadassah and its doctors took him in. The odds may be against the seriously ill Erekat, who has already had a lung transplant and a heart attack, surviving the illness. But if he were to have a chance anywhere, it would be at Hadassah.

The better question is: Why would Israel, which has been on the receiving end of his vitriol, slanders, and worse, open its doors to Erekat and do what it could to save him?

Some Israelis and friends of the Jewish state can’t understand it. They see this willingness to help even enemies as a particular form of weakness. They cite the passage from the Midrash of the sages that says, “He who becomes compassionate to the cruel will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate” as a good reason to turn Erekat down.
Hadassah hospital consulting with US medics on COVID treatment for Erekat
Veteran PLO official Saeb Erekat, who contracted the coronavirus earlier this month, was intubated on Monday after his condition worsened, and he is now considered in critical condition in Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem.

On Monday the hospital issued a statement reporting that Erekat was "ventilated on high concentration of oxygen and on nitric oxide gas and is in the prone position. He has received concentrated convalescent plasma with high levels of anti-Covid antibodies."

"We have consulted with specialists from Tel Aviv, New York and Washington," the spokesman said, adding: "Prognosis remains very guarded." Erekat was transferred to Hadassah on Sunday in serious condition.

Erekat, 65, underwent a lung transplant in the US in 2017 after suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that scars the lungs and damages their ability to circulate oxygen.

"Mr. Erekat had a quiet night but his condition deteriorated this morning, and is now critical," a statement from Hadassah said Monday morning. "Due to respiratory distress, he is in a coma and ventilated. Mr. Erekat's treatment presents a significant challenge as, as the recipient of a lung transplant, he is immunosuppressed and suffers a bacterial infection in addition to the corona."

According to the hospital, Erekat is in the intensive care unit for corona patients and required high-flow oxygen therapy (HFOT) and oxygen (Airbo). He was not ventilated and was deemed stable when he entered the hospital on Sunday, although his condition deteriorated on Monday.
BBC News report mirrors inaccurate PLO tweet
This is a Tweet sent by the PLO’s negotiations affairs department on the afternoon of October 18th:

Even before that Tweet was posted it was known that Saeb Erekat had in fact been taken to a hospital in Jerusalem – Hadassah Ein Kerem – rather than one “in Tel Aviv” and the PLO-NAD put out another Tweet clarifying that about 90 minutes later.

Some seven hours after the appearance of the PLO’s first Tweet, the BBC News website published a report about Erekat’s hospitalisation – obviously without adequate fact checking.

The original version of that report was headlined “Covid-19: Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat taken to Israeli hospital” and, like the PLO’s first Tweet, it wrongly informed readers that he had been “admitted to hospital in Tel Aviv, Israel”.

Several hours later the article was amended and its subsequent versions, which were titled “Covid-19: Top Palestinian official Saeb Erekat in ‘serious’ condition”, told readers that:

“Earlier on Sunday Mr Erekat was transferred from his home in the West Bank to Hadassah University Hospital – Ein Karem, near Jerusalem.”

The hospital is located in – rather than “near” – Jerusalem, as is acknowledged in the latest version of the report which is now titled “Coronavirus: Top
PreOccupiedTerritory: Erekat Warns Israel: Dire Consequences For Depriving Palestinians Of Propaganda If He Survives COVID (satire)
A high-ranking Palestinian official undergoing treatment at a leading Israeli medical facility threatened negative outcomes for the Jewish State in the even that he recovers from his current viral respiratory infection, given that such a recovery would remove from his people the opportunity to accuse Israel of assassinating him.

Saeb Erekat took several moments before entering an induced coma Monday at Hadassah Medical Center in southwestern Jerusalem, to warn Israel against allowing him to survive his treatment for SARS-CoV-2. The onetime chief negotiator for the Palestinians with Israel demanded that he be allowed to expire under Israeli medical auspices so that Palestinians get the chance to blame Israel for his death just as they did for that of Yasser Arafat in 2004, and use that accusation to incite further violence. If he lives, Erekat warned, Palestinians will become enraged that Israel deprived them of that propaganda pretext, and resort to violence.

“On behalf of my Palestinian brethren and the entire Palestinian national movement, I hereby warn Israel not to make the grave mistake of letting me survive this ordeal,” he stated. “The expected outcomes for someone in my condition are dim, and any outcome that defies those expectations will immediately lead my people to suspect a malicious hand in it, with consequences for whom the enemy alone will bear the blame.”
U.S. May Impose Preemptive Sanctions to Thwart New Iran Arms Deals
The United States will preemptively sanction any country that tries to deliver arms to Iran, effectively blocking new arms deals well before they develop, the Trump administration’s top Iran official told the Washington Free Beacon in an exclusive interview.

Elliott Abrams, the administration’s special envoy for Iran, said that in the aftermath of restoring all international sanctions on Iran in late September, the administration would not wait for new weapons to be transferred to Iran—in violation of sanctions—but would act preemptively to obstruct new deals as they advance.

"We don’t have to wait until a transaction is completed and someone has physically sent arms to Iran or imported arms from Iran," Abrams said. "We can go after people engaged in exploratory visits or negotiations as well."

Iran and its international partners, including Russia and China, have vowed to breach U.S. and international sanctions barring new weapons deals. This includes a United Nations arms embargo on Iran that was set to expire over the weekend, but was extended indefinitely by the United States under a mechanism known as "snapback." This enabled the United States to keep the arms ban alive and revive a litany of international sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile development, nuclear program, and weapons trade. Still, U.S. officials anticipate that Russia and China will move to sell Iran billions of dollars’ worth of weapons and advanced arms in the coming months.

"We will step in even before they become tangible and real," Abrams said, referring to possible Iranian arms deals with Russia and China. "We will be watching to see if there is movement towards arms deals."
US Blacklists Chinese Entities, Individuals for Dealing With Iran
The United States on Monday said it blacklisted two Chinese men and six Chinese entities for having dealt with Iranian shipping company Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and, in some cases, helping it to evade US sanctions.

The US State Department named the entities as Reach Holding Group (Shanghai) Company Ltd.; Reach Shipping Lines; Delight Shipping Co., Ltd.; Gracious Shipping Co. Ltd.; Noble Shipping Co. Ltd.; and Supreme Shipping Co. Ltd.

In a statement, it also said it had targeted Eric Chen, also known as Chen Guoping, chief executive of Reach Holding Group (Shanghai) Company Ltd., and Daniel Y. He, also known as He Yi, the company’s president.

As a result of being put on the US Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals list, the assets of the entities and individuals falling under US jurisdiction are frozen and US persons are generally barred from dealing with them.

“Today, we reiterate a warning to stakeholders worldwide: If you do business with IRISL, you risk US sanctions,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in the statement.

Among other things, the State Department accused the six entities of providing “significant goods or services” used in connection with Iran’s shipping sector. It also accused Reach Holding Group and its Reach Shipping Lines unit helping IRISL and its subsidiaries evade US sanctions.
Iran's massive air defense drill to cover 'half the country'
Iran says that it is conducting a massive air defense drill that will cover half of Iran’s airspace this week. It will begin on Wednesday and comes in the wake of a joint Israel F-35 drill with the US. It comes in the context of increased focus on air defense in the region after Azerbaijan has used drones successfully against Armenian forces for the last three weeks of fighting. An arms embargo on Iran recently expired and the country is looking to improve its military and defense technology.

Iran’s Tasnim news says that the new drill with air defense units is aimed at “improving the combat readiness and increasing the air defense capability of the Armed Forces and is one of the goals of holding a joint specialized air defense exercise for the 99th Sky Defenders of the provinces.” The operation will take place as if it is a “real battle.”

In the drill, the network-based operation will coordinate air defense units, including using locally-produced missiles and radar. Iran says it is one of the leaders in missile and radar technology. Iran will also use electronic warfare and visual intelligence systems to track the “threats” during the drill. Iran has recently been trying to improve its defenses against drones. This is assumed to be due to Iran believing that its adversaries have stealth drone technology. Iran long ago downed a US Sentinel drone in 2011 so the country is familiar with some of the kinds of drones that might be conducting surveillance over the country.

The goal of this drill, Iran says, is to test real-time air defense using the latest technology. It will be designed to stop both drones and enemy bombers. Iran says it is observing its enemies and learning from them about the kinds of threats it faces. Iran shot down a US Global Hawk drone last year and it has increasingly sought to export air defense to Syria and Yemen.

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