Monday, November 16, 2020

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: We can't ignore the funding of terrorism any longer - opinion
The effects of Iranian-sponsored terrorism have been felt around the globe, through Hezbollah attacks in place as diverse as Argentina and Burgas, Bulgaria, to attacks regularly taking place against targets in Saudi Arabia.

Israel has not made any official comment regarding the targeted killing, but that is in keeping with its policy in such cases.

The report itself serves Israeli interests even without an official statement: Firstly, it sends another strong message to Iran that Israel is closely monitoring what goes on in the Islamic Republic and able to take action there. This targeted assassination, not the first, follows a series of mysterious fires and explosions at Iran’s nuclear facilities earlier this year and the heist of its nuclear archives from a Tehran warehouse in 2018, for which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu credited the Mossad.

Both issues – Iran’s nuclear aspirations and its backing of global terrorism – remain high on Israel’s agenda and the government is clearly concerned that the incoming US administration under Joe Biden, unlike Trump, will not see eye-to-eye with Israel on how to confront Iran. Israel, of course, is not alone in its concerns regarding the Islamic Republic. Saudi Arabia, a frequent Iranian target, is also concerned that Biden might roll back the US policy on Iran. Similarly, the recently signed Abraham Accords between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are also seen as being based on similar concerns about Iranian intents. Iran has created a crescent of terrorism that expands from Tehran to Beirut and as far south as Yemen.

If Iran is serving as a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists in addition to backing other terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, this should concern all decent peace-loving people everywhere – especially as Iran continues to advance its nuclear weapons capabilities.

No government can afford to ignore the deadly implications of the combinations of terrorism and nuclear weapons. When Iran receives funds through the lifting of sanctions, the world must ask where this money is going and what it is supporting.
PMW: Where is the EU aid to the Palestinian Authority going?
In May 2020, Palestinian Authority Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, declared that the PA and the PLO no longer see themselves bound by the agreements signed with Israel. Implementing this decision, the PA has refused to accept tax monies that Israel collects and transfers to the PA. These funds provide for half of the PA’s annual budget. The unilateral decision to refuse the tax income has once again plunged the PA into a self-made financial crisis. In order to deal with the ramifications of the decision, the PA decided to cut the salaries of all of its civil servants by 50%.

Since the beginning of 2020, the European Union has provided the PA with hundreds of millions of euro in aid. Of that aid, over 90 million Euro was given to the PA, designated, according to EU press statements, for the payment of salaries to “civil servants mostly in the health and education sector in the West Bank.”

In November 2019, European Member of Parliament Carmen Avram submitted written questions to the European Commission seeking to ensure that the EU aid to the PA was not being used to fund the payment of salaries to terrorists. The March 2020 response of the commission explained the mechanism by which the EU ostensibly tracks the final beneficiaries of the EU aid saying:

“The Palestinian Authority provides a list of eligible beneficiaries which is checked by EU-contracted independent auditors against a list of eligibility criteria as well as a second check of individuals considered to be associated with any terrorist organisations or activities. No payments are made to any beneficiaries falling within these categories.”

According to this answer, the EU thinks it knows exactly which civil servants are the recipients of the EU aid.

Since the EU is providing a considerable amount of funding to these specific civil servants, one would assume that their salaries have not been affected by the PA decision to cut all salaries. But this does not appear to be the case.
Gov’t not enforcing transparency law on NGO foreign funding
The government has not enforced its law requiring organizations mostly funded by foreign government entities to submit special reports and disclose its funding publicly, a Knesset Research and Information Center report found.

The requirement was legislated in the 2016 NGO Law, which was highly controversial and drew international criticism. At the time, a US State Department spokesman said the law poses dangers to a “free and functioning civil society,” and the EU said “the reporting requirements imposed by the new law go beyond the legitimate need for transparency and seem aimed at constraining the activities of these civil society organizations.”

Yet, despite the pitched Knesset battle to pass the law and then-justice minister Ayelet Shaked’s defense of it to her counterparts abroad and in the international media, the Associations Registrar, a department in the Justice Ministry, has done nothing to enforce the law.

Knesset Research and Information Center report, ordered by Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich, found that the Associations Registrar does not take any particular action to oversee the law’s implementation, beyond its general supervision of NGOs.

In 2019, only 118 (0.3%) of 39,399 NGOs registered in Israel reported foreign entity funding, a decrease from the previous two years; in 2017 there were 204.

One complaint from a member of the public on undisclosed foreign funding of 13 organizations found that 11 of them were violating the law, but the Associations Registrar did not take action to enforce it.

Alan Baker: The Gang-Assault on Israel at the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly
When it comes to the annual sessions of the UN General Assembly, one can easily bet on the fact that of all the General Assembly committees, the Fourth Committee, with the curious title of “Special Political and Decolonization Committee,” will blindly and inanely adopt the same resolutions, year after year. As the runner-up, the Assembly’s Third Committee entitled “Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues” earns a place on the podium.

UN General Assembly Main Committees
Sadly, both the 3rd and 4th General Assembly committees would not have “fulfilled their international task” without duly adopting their regular, annual Israel-bashing resolutions.

Perusing the new spate of resolutions adopted by these committees during the current 75th session of the General Assembly during October and November 2020, and pending automatic confirmation by the General Assembly Plenary in the coming days, the General Assembly will not disappoint. It is a safe bet. There is nothing new!

The same Israel-bashing resolutions, repeatedly rehashed every year, are re-adopted by virtually the same automatic majorities of around 150 states (including the EU states and other countries ostensibly friendly to Israel), with virtually the same states (usually only Israel and the United States, but occasionally together with Canada and Australia) voting against, and a few states abstaining (Pacific Island states and occasionally Hungary and the Czech Republic).

A regular “squad” of some of the world’s most non-democratic, repressive, and ardently hypocritical states – genuine “paragons of humanitarian virtue” – such as Cuba, Indonesia, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Nicaragua, Qatar, with occasional assistance from other enlightened democracies like South Africa, Egypt, and Jordan, support proposals sponsored by the Palestinian UN observer delegation that the UN has, for almost a decade, denominated as the “State of Palestine.”

These resolutions emanate from and revolve around two agenda items:
- “United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (item 52) which has been on the UN agenda since the UNRWA agency was created in 1948,2 and the
- “Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” (item 53), which has been on the agenda since the establishment of the special committee in 1968.3

These agenda items generate a spate of annual, self-repeating, political resolutions that revolve around the one single theme of singling out Israel.
Melanie PhillipsShame for the UK at the United Nations
Once again, the British government has chosen a strange way to demonstrate its purportedly close friendship with the State of Israel.

Last week saw another typical episode of Israel-bashing at the UN. Its General Assembly Special Political and Decolonisation Committee passed no fewer than seven resolutions condemning Israel.

One of these denounced it for “repressive measures” against Syrian citizens in the Golan Heights, simply because Israel remains in control there. Since the only reason Israel is in the Golan is to repel Syrian aggression, this is clearly absurd.

Three other resolutions addressed the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), one of them renewing its mandate.

According to the NGO UN Watch, none of these noted the corruption in the agency that had been exposed by a UN investigation.

Not to mention, of course, the fact that UNRWA’s very existence is designed to perpetuate hostility to Israel, by creating in the classification of Palestinian “refugees’’ a unique category that actually multiplies them over time; nor that most of UNWRA’s staff are under the thumb of Hamas.

As the UN Watch director Hillel Neuer pointed out, the UN stayed silent when the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group recently attacked Israeli civilians with a barrage of rockets from Gaza. Yet two weeks later, the UN bashed Israel instead in this slew of resolutions.
The Self-Assured Hubris of the World’s Human-Rights Abusers
U.S. participation in this farce implicitly approves of this cynical sham.

The United States will likely set a new record for recommendations for improving its human-rights practices after its third review is complete. That, naturally, implies that the U.S. human-rights record is the worst in the entire world. Does anyone seriously believe this? What does it say about a process that arrives at this conclusion?

What is needed is a UPR that does not elevate politics over human rights and a Human Rights Council whose membership is not comprised of the worst abusers in the world and which objectively promotes human rights and condemns violations.

Former vice president and presumptive-president elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Human Rights Council and “work to ensure that body truly lives up to its values.” This is the same tactic used by President Obama, which as the United States admitted failed to yield even “minimally positive” results. Reengaging the council without reform will only affirm the inclinations of other governments to continue the deplorable status quo.

A mandatory review of the Human Rights Council is required between 2021 and 2026. The next U.S. administration should insist that the review be conducted promptly and use the opportunity to challenge UN member states to improve the membership, eliminate anti-Israel bias, and implement other reforms that would allow the council to live up to its lofty mandate. The success or failure of this endeavor will reveal whether other member states actually want the council to “live up to its values” and whether the council itself merits U.S. engagement.

Is Hezbollah’s ammonium nitrate linked to plot against Jews in Argentina?
Argentina said over the weekend that it had increased security on its border with Paraguay due to an “anonymous tip” to authorities that was passed on via its embassy in the United Kingdom. There was a possibility of “bomb-making materials entering across Argentina’s northern border,” the report by Reuters noted.

The specifics of the case raise questions about the possible involvement of Hezbollah. The article noted on Saturday that the tip “warned of a person seeking to ship ammonium nitrate from Paraguay to Argentina.” The chemical would then be used to make a bomb to target a “Jewish objective.” The 1994 bomb against the AMIA Jewish Center, which killed 86 people in Buenos Aires, has been linked to Iran.

A 2006 report by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman pointed to Iran and Hezbollah as likely behind the attack. Nisman was killed in 2015. Allegations of cover-ups and conspiracies have rocked the country since the bombing in the 1990s.

The Paraguay connection is interesting because it was believed that the 1994 attack may also have been linked to perpetrators who crossed over from Paraguay. The porous borders of the area where the borders of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet have often been referenced by the US and other countries as a safe haven for Islamist extremist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.

After the August blast in Beirut was caused by ammonium nitrate there were many reports about Hezbollah’s use of the chemical. Ammonium nitrate is a crystal-like chemical that is used for fertilizer and can also be used for explosives. Hezbollah has used it for explosives.
Argentina tightens borders after alleged bomb threat on Jewish community
After receiving an anonymous tip about explosives entering the country ahead of a potential terrorist attack on the Jewish community, the government has asserted controls at Argentina's border crossing at with Paraguay, according to the Buenos Aires Times.

The Security Ministry stated that it was investigating a complaint delivered to Argentina’s Embassy in the United Kingdom, which was notified about the alleged entry of “ammonium nitrate, a component used to manufacture explosives, by a person from the Republic of Paraguay.”

The anonymous tipster reportedly claimed the material was to be used “for a bomb in Argentina with a Jewish objective” and warned the explosive material was to be moved from the Paraguayan city of Encarnación across the border to Posadas, Misiones Province.

Authorities have launched a series of measures to identify those allegedly involved.

The president of the Delegation of Argentine Israelite Associations (DAIA), Jorge Knoblovits, said that leaders had “already been informed and had knowledge" of the complaint.
Bahrain ministers said making first official visit to Israel for three-way talks
Two Bahraini ministers will make the first official visit to Israeli by ministers from the Gulf kingdom later this week to take part in a trilateral meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli and US officials, the Walla news site reported Sunday.

The Wednesday meeting is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Netanyahu, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al- Zayani.

Foreign Minster Gabi Ashkenazi will also take part, as will Bahrain’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Zayed Bin Rashid Al Zayani.

The trip marks the first official visit by Bahraini ministers to Israel.

Pompeo is on a seven-nation tour that includes stops in France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Israeli officials quoted by Walla said they are working to finalize an aviation agreement for direct flights between Tel Aviv and Manama by Wednesday so it can be signed at the meeting.

The officials are also expected to discuss opening embassies and exchanging ambassadors.

Earlier Sunday the cabinet voted unanimously to ratify the “Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful, and friendly relations” with the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Can Pompeo replace annexation with a glass of Psagot wine?
Could US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo already be stumping for votes for his own presidential run in 2024 by weighing a visit to the West Bank Psagot Winery?

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi certainly seemed to make that assumption, when she attacked him for contemplating such a trip during his visit here later this week.

‘There is no second coming for you in Palestine,” she tweeted as she urged him to “slouch back home.”

News of a Pompeo visit garnered headlines, because he would be the first US Secretary of State – really the first such high level official at all – to enter the West Bank to visit areas under Israeli control, such as a settler-owned entity or a settlement.

Such a move would have been taboo prior to the Trump administration, because it would have been seen as tacit acceptance of Israeli settlement activity, something all past US administrations viewed as illegitimate and in some cases illegal under international law.

It was diplomatic edict, adhered to even at the envoy level. US Ambassador David Friedman was the first in his position to cross into the settlements in an official capacity.
Itinerary for upcoming Pompeo visit infuriates Palestinians
Palestinian Authority officials are enraged by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s plan for a visit this week to an Israeli-operated winery near Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal by most of the world.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said on Sunday that Israel was “trying to benefit from the unlimited support” of the Trump Administration “for the sake of settlement expansion and the takeover of more Palestinian lands” in the West Bank.

“This American administration has become a fundamental partner in the occupation of the Palestinian lands. Neither this visit nor any U.S. support for Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands can give legitimacy to the settlements or change the fact that they are doomed to end.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Friday that the visit would set a “dangerous precedent” in violation of international law, calling it a way to “legitimize the settlements.”

On Monday, Pompeo is scheduled to visit the Psagot Winery, located about four miles southeast of a settlement of the same name, which itself is just east of the city of Ramallah in the West Bank.

It will mark the first time a secretary of state travels to a settlement area in contradiction to the policies of previous U.S. administrations. It comes exactly one year after he announced that Washington no longer considered settlements illegal.

The decision puts the U.S. at odds with UN Security Council resolutions and almost all other countries aside from Israel.

He will also be the first secretary of state to travel to the Golan Heights, whose de facto annexation by Israel was recognized by President Donald Trump in March 2019.

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, stated that Pompeo’s visit represented a violation of international law.

“It is a participation in the war crime that Israeli settlement constitutes under international law,” she said.
BESA: Normalizing with Cairo Rather than Riyadh Could Be a Major Achievement
Normalizing relations between the two veteran peacemakers, Israel and Egypt, rather than making peace with Saudi Arabia could be the crowning achievement of the Abraham Accords peace process. An official Egyptian approval of the normalization of relations between Israel and Sudan could be the harbinger of change.

It has become almost a mantra that the prime objective of the Abraham Accords is a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. This overlooks an even more important Israeli foreign policy goal: normalizing relations with Egypt. This normalization has been a long time coming, as the states signed their historic peace treaty establishing full diplomatic relations in 1979. The reason why this goal has been overlooked is probably the remarkable durability of 41 years of Israeli-Egyptian peace after 25 years of enmity and war. Given the bloodshed and the costs both sides incurred before the treaty compared to the relative calm they have enjoyed since, one might not be inclined to fret too much over the cold peace Egypt has imposed on Israeli-Egyptian relations.

Even less does one feel like quibbling over cold versus warm peace when everyone acknowledges that Egypt’s departure from hot war meant the effective end of war-making between all the Arab states and Israel.

This is not to say no shots were fired. Israel faced the Syrian army during the first Lebanese war, and Syria is today a base for Iranian operations against Israel—either directly, in attempting to set up military installations in the country (especially in southern Golan), or in supporting its proxies in the area. Iraq under Saddam launched two dozen or so rockets at Israel to divert attention away from its occupation of Kuwait. In neither case was there a deliberate attempt to engage Israel in a full-scale war.

Yet it is an undisputed fact in a region where even basic facts are hotly contested that ever since Egypt departed from its pursuit of war with Israel, no Arab state has dared challenge Israel either alone or in any alliance.

The US election: Preliminary lessons for America’s allies
Though the result of the 2020 U.S. presidential election is still pending litigation over allegations of pervasive fraud, many U.S. allies have been unrestrained in their expressions of happiness and relief at the prospect of Trump’s ouster. As Biden is indeed likely to take office in January, U.S. allies in the Middle East and elsewhere need to take stock of the implications of a Biden administration.

The Trump administration was routinely excoriated for its defiance of “norms” and eschewing of experts. What would the reestablishment of these “norms” by Obama-era experts mean, particularly in a world reorganized by Trump, the coronavirus pandemic and China?

As a whole, Trump’s foreign policy is being retroactively condemned as “chaotic” for its military disengagement from conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria, economic confrontation with China, and disdain for international institutions. All these aspects will likely be reemphasized in a Biden administration.

One obvious result will be the return of the so-called “experts,” who, in the case of the Middle East, were proven failures at both bringing peace to the region and promoting American national interests. A foreshadowing of their return is that the breakthrough Abraham Accords, which were negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, are already being buried by a torrent of elite abuse.

Much has been and will be said about the Iran nuclear deal, which Biden and his advisers have promised to reenter, albeit while maintaining some sanctions. Two points bear emphasis. First is continued evidence of Iranian cheating both past and present, most recently revelations that Iran massively exceeded agreed-to levels of stockpiled enriched uranium. Second is the parlous state of the Iranian economy, which has been brought to near-collapse by sanctions.

Rescuing Iran from disaster is a specialty of Democratic administrations; recall Obama’s unwillingness to support the Green Revolution of 2009. But thanks to the Trump administration and their own initiative, the Gulf States and even Saudi Arabia are less dependent on U.S. security arrangements, have opened relations with Israel and may be in a better position to foil renewed U.S. overtures to Iran. Saudi Arabia in particular would be well advised to formalize relations with Israel now as a counterweight to American pressure.
Right-wing activists chase EU envoy from site of planned East Jerusalem project
Right-wing demonstrators chased the European Union’s top representative to the Palestinians away from the East Jerusalem site of a planned new housing project, calling him an anti-Semite and a supporter of terrorism.

Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff later said that while he did not feel threatened, he regretted that he had been unable to conduct a constructive dialogue with the protesters.

He had planned to lead a delegation of diplomats from 13 EU member states to protest Israel’s plan to expand Givat Hamatos, a neighborhood where Israeli authorities on Sunday opened bidding on the construction of new homes.

Many in the international community have condemned the plan, saying new building in the sensitive location would harm the prospects of a future contiguous Palestinian state.

Von Burgsdorff and the other European diplomats, including representatives from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and other countries, were greeted by about a dozen activists from the right-wing Im Tirzu movement as they arrived in the area.

They shouted slogans such as “EU, shame on you,” and “Go back to Europe,” and accused the European officials of supporting terrorism. Several activists repeatedly called the European diplomats “anti-Semites.”

Israel in Contact with Niger to Normalize Ties
Intelligence director Eli Cohen revealed that Israel has carried out secret contacts with Niger to reach an agreement on the normalization of relations between the two countries, as a source said there have also been Israeli attempts to conclude such a deal with Morocco.

“Niger is the largest Muslim country in West Africa, with a population of more than 25 million,” Cohen said, adding that an agreement with Niamey as well as agreements expected between Israel and other Muslim states in Africa, will help regional stability.

He said the upcoming elections in the country will be essential for the advancement of the normalization process between the two states.

According to Israel media reports, the Israeli Foreign Ministry expects the administration of US President Donald Trump will continue to seek further agreements between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries.

The reports said Niger will be the second Muslim state to ink such deal following Chad, which will conclude a normalization agreement with Israel.

They expected that the presidential election in Niger next month will result in the victory of former Interior Minister and President of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism Mohamed Bazoum, who supports normalization with Israel.

The reports also said there are common interests between the two states, mainly the fight against terrorism.
PreOccupiedTerritory: We Continue To Maintain Fraud Occurred In The 1947 Partition Vote by the late Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator (satire)
Saeb ErekatJericho, November 16 – I died last week. You might think that prevents me from further expression of my political mantras and propaganda, but I’m not going to let a little death stop me from doing what I’ve always done. Besides, arguing a dead issue is the perfect context for me to speak as I do despite my death, fighting, as I always have, to undo something that cannot be undone: the State of Israel. This time I echo the claims of the dissatisfied credulous masses of Trump supporters who still think election shenanigans “stole” the vote from their candidate in key states; I aver that the November 29, 1947 United Nations vote on the Partition Plan, which allegedly garnered the majority it needed to approve a Jewish state in part of British Mandatory Palestine alongside a new Arab state, was rife with fraud that rendered it meaningless.

The official accounts and tallies from that day of course align with the side that has always carried a reputation for manipulating international events to suit their global hegemony agenda, and that alone must serve as cause for suspicion. Are we to believe that a world so insensitive to the plight of a beleaguered, persecuted, slaughtered people that it refused to take the steps necessary to prevent a Holocaust, suddenly decided it cared about those people? Please. And that’s even assuming you accept there was a Holocaust! But the only red flag the world accepts in this context is that of the Soviet Union, which voted in favor of partition. Stalin! In favor of a Jewish state! Is there anything more suspect that that?!

“No evidence of widespread fraud!” I can already see the headlines scream it. But it needn’t be “widespread.” Just enough to tip the balance in favor of the plotters’ desired outcome. But no one in the mainstream media appears to care about the glaring problems, the mathematical improbabilities, the wrongness of the scenario. And who controls that media? Bingo.
Perfect storm: Israel, Hamas again conveniently blame rocket fire on the weather
For the third time in just over two years, Israeli and Hamas officials identified a convenient cause for a rocket attack that threatened to upset the relative calm between the two sides: the weather.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, just after 2 a.m., two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward central Israel, triggering sirens and the Iron Dome air defense system. The Iron Dome interceptor missiles failed to bring down the incoming projectiles, both of which appeared to land in unpopulated areas, where they caused neither injury nor damage.

The Israel Defense Forces responded with a seemingly perfunctory retaliation: strikes on an underground Hamas structure and several of the terror group’s military bases in the Strip.

The rocket attack came at a general period of heightened tensions between Israel and terrorist organizations in the Strip. The middle of November is rife with fraught anniversaries — on November 12, 2019, Israel killed Baha Abu al-Ata, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad senior commander; on November 11, 2018, an Israeli commando raid in the Gazan city of Khan Younis went awry, leading to a major firefight and the death of one Israeli officer, as well as several terrorists; and Israel and terror groups in the Strip fought a week-long battle on November 14-21, 2012, touched off by the IDF killing a top Hamas officer, Ahmed Jabari.

At the same time, Israel and Hamas are engaged in ongoing talks — through the intermediaries of Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations, principally — to negotiate a long-term ceasefire, optimally one that addresses the issue of the two Israeli citizens and the remains of two IDF soldiers currently being held by Hamas in Gaza.
HR CEO on ILTV: Israel-Hamas Tensions, Pompeo's Visit & Incoming Biden Administration
HonestReporting CEO Daniel Pomerantz was invited into ILTV's studios to discuss Sunday's flare-up with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's upcoming visit to Israel, and what Jerusalem might expect from the incoming Biden Administration.

Hamas Losing Control of Coronavirus Outbreak in Gaza
Since the election of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, Hamas is in a holding pattern. Its leaders do not wish to begin their relationship with the new administration by appearing as a terrorist group that targets civilians without cause.

In addition, a Hamas representative has been in Cairo for the past few weeks to negotiate a possible prisoner swap with Israel. Any renewal of violence could derail those negotiations that the organization views as critical for its own interests, and lead to an all-out conflict that is ill-advised on the eve of the group's own internal elections.

But most of all, Hamas's actions are dictated by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis that is crippling the Strip.

Hamas appears to have lost control of the outbreak. As of Thursday, there were 3,052 active COVID-19 cases in Gaza, with 250 to 300 additional patients added daily - although many experts believe the numbers are far greater.

With 50% unemployment, primarily among young Gazans and the educated population, the rulers are facing hunger riots that according to the Egyptian media are being met with mass arrests.

Crime, drug abuse and even divorce and suicide cases have broken all earlier records in Gaza and that should be a real cause for concern in Israel, because those could be the motivators of the next outbreak of violence.

Perhaps someone in the Islamic Jihad would fire a few rockets at Israeli communities along the border, but it would be up to Jerusalem to see such an attack for what it is and save the real worry for real security challenges.

Longtime Syrian Foreign Minister Moalem Dies at Age 79
Syria’s longtime foreign minister Walid al-Moalem, an unyielding defender of Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters that sparked a decade old conflict, died on Monday, the government said.

There were no details on the cause of death, but the 79-year old had been in poor health with heart problems. A source close to the government said it was expected his deputy, veteran diplomat Faisal Mekdad, would replace him as foreign minister.

The genial public face of Assad’s rule to the outside world, Moalem was branded a traitor by the opposition for supporting the violent crackdown on protesters at the beginning of the conflict in 2011. Thousands took to the streets that year demanding an end to the Assad family’s decades-old authoritarian rule that later erupted into a full-scale civil war.

Moalem was unrepentant. The soft-spoken diplomat accused the United States and others in the West of fueling his country’s unrest and labelled insurgents “jihadi terrorists” in a conflict in which more than half a million people have been killed and more than 5.6 million have become refugees, most of them Sunnis.

“No government in the world can accept an armed terrorist group, some of them coming from abroad, controlling streets and villages in the name of ‘jihad,'” Moalem said in a 2012 newspaper interview.

He was first appointed foreign minister in 2006 and was also a deputy prime minister. He held a series of top diplomatic posts, including envoy to the United States and was involved in unsuccessful negotiations with Israel in the 1990s on a peace settlement.

“He was known for his honorable patriotic positions,” the government said in a statement, adding he died at dawn and would be buried later on Monday in Damascus.

Seth Frantzman: Timing of report on 'Israeli hit' could aid Biden-Israel relations
A New York Times report that says Israel took out one of the world’s most-wanted al-Qaeda terrorists in Tehran has major implications for the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

First, it illustrates the close relationship between Israel and the United States in combating terrorism. Second, it could make the new administration more cautious about going soft on an Iran, which hosted an al-Qaeda operative wanted for US Embassy bombings in the 1990s.

Initial reports said Abu Muhammad al-Masri was killed at the “behest” of the US. He was killed in August, so why did the information only come out in November?

The reports of the killing in Tehran led to important questions about Iran’s role in accepting global terrorists, former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren said.

“No one is asking why Iran is hosting al-Qaeda commanders and why the United States should renew a nuclear deal that gives tens of billions of dollars to those who harbor the murderers of 3,000 Americans,” he said.

The operation to track and kill Masri took place earlier this year, the Associated Press reported Sunday, and was facilitated by “bold intelligence operations by the two allied nations.” The US provided the intelligence on where Masri was living and his alias, and “Israeli agents carried out the killing,” the report said.
Assassination of Senior Al-Qaeda Leader Is a Clear Message to Iran
One key question surrounding the assassination of senior Al-Qaeda leader Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah still remains: Why was the incident divulged only now?

There’s no doubt that The New York Times story was intentionally leaked. The report is replete with accurate details, meant to negate Iran’s and Al-Qaeda’s denials in advance. Whoever relayed the information wanted not only to shed light on an assassination carried out in the shadows but to send a message that would reverberate throughout the entire Middle East.

This message was meant for numerous entities. For Al-Qaeda, of course, which lost yet another senior leader, and on the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which he helped plan. It was meant for Iran, which was exposed as harboring a leader of an organization that is supposed to be its bitter ideological and religious enemy. And it also sent a message to all other extremist actors in the region that the United States and Israel, regardless of their coronavirus and domestic political problems, will continue working together in the war on terror.

According to foreign reports, this level of cooperation between the two countries is not unusual and has been evidenced many times in the past. The relationship between the Mossad and the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate and their American counterparts is a deep one. It entails the sharing of intelligence information, and for the past 15 years, operational intelligence as well. Two of the most prominent examples are thought to have been “Operation Olympic Games,” in which the Stuxnet computer worm disrupted Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts for many months, and the assassination of former Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008.

This type of cooperation, it appears, can be attributed to Abdullah’s case as well. It seems the Americans provided the intelligence and the Mossad carried out the operation, possibly indicating the Americans lack sufficient operational infrastructure in Iran. Even the US assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January was carried out in Iraq.
Families of Al-Qaida victims 'extremely thankful' to Mossad after reported hit
The New York Times report that the Israeli Mossad was behind the assassination of the Al-Qaida's second-most senior official, Abu Muhammad al Masri, was welcome news for the families of his victims.

More than 200 people were killed in the al-Qaida terrorist attacks he orchestrated in August 1998 near the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, including 12 Americans.

The most senior US official to die in these double bombings was the US Consul General in Nairobi, Julian Bartley, Sr., who died with his son, Jay. His daughter, Edith Bartley, has become the spokeswoman for the families of the victims.

She spoke with Israel Hayom on Sunday to discuss what she and other family members scarred from August 7, 1998.

Do you think that Israel's reported assassination serves as closure?

"Our families are grateful that the second-highest ranked al-Qaida operative accused of helping orchestrate the 1998 bombings on two American embassies in Africa will no longer be able to carry out deadly terrorist attacks. This brings us one step closer to the justice we have sought for 22 years," she said.

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