Wednesday, November 25, 2020

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: 2020 brought us COVID-19, but it also brought a new Middle East
In Israel, too, media reviews of 2020 will surely not place it in a positive light, especially given the loss of nearly 3,000 lives to COVID-19 and the havoc that the pandemic has wrought on people’s livelihoods and the country’s economy. In addition, 2020 has proven to be yet another year of political dysfunction and instability.

But not all has been dismal. This year will also go down in Israeli history as the one when the Jewish state took enormous strides, via peace and normalization treaties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, to further break out of its long regional isolation.

For a few weeks back in September, it seemed to be raining peace agreements. And on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Neom, Saudi Arabia, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

No, this was not the first time that senior Israeli and Saudi officials have met, nor did the meeting lead to any dramatic announcement regarding the establishment of formal ties. But that the meeting was leaked to the public – and it beggars belief that this would have happened without the consent of all the parties – sends important messages to various significant audiences.

The first audience is US president-elect Joe Biden. The message to Biden is simple: the Mideast table has been reset – including a spanking new Israel-UAE-Saudi place setting – that he and his new administration will need to take into account when re-assessing Washington’s Iran policy.

It is no coincidence that this meeting took place now, a few weeks before Biden is set to move into the Oval Office, just as it was no coincidence that the deals with the UAE and Bahrain were consummated just before the US elections.

Dr. Sabah al-Binali: UAE and Israel: A partnership that can help the world
News of the Abraham Accords normalizing diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel has been greeted with enthusiasm across Emirati society.

The positive attitude is being led from the top. One striking example is the website of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, which appears in Hebrew if you click on it from Israel. They are also running Hebrew promotions across social media and have announced that they will open an office in Israel.

Many business executives in the Gulf already have friends and even business relationships with their Israeli counterparts. Many of us have spent time studying or working in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, and established connections with Jewish and Israeli colleagues that in some cases go back decades.

The normalization of diplomatic relations now allows us to build commercial ties on existing social ties, and new ones are already flourishing.

The initial response to the Abraham Accords from Israel’s business community was to welcome the opportunity to access funds in the UAE and Bahrain for investment in Israeli startups. While that is certainly one facet of the new relationship, it is by no means the only one—nor the most significant.

While Israel has been building its Startup Nation in the western Middle East, the UAE has been developing its own high-tech sector over in the east.
Houda Nonoo: My first trip to Israel – when dream became reality
Last week, I had the honor and privilege of participating in a delegation led by Foreign Minister H.E. Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani’s to Israel – the first time Bahraini officials landed in Israel, flying on our national carrier, Gulf Air Flight number 972. While it was historic and memorable for all, it was particularly exciting for me as a Bahraini Jew.

This was my very first visit to Israel. As you may know, I was the first Jew to ever be appointed as an ambassador of Bahrain and the first woman to serve as Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States. During my five years serving in Washington, I made many new friends and was often asked if I had been to Israel. I always said, “Not yet.” In my heart, I hoped and prayed for the opportunity, but I was determined to wait for the moment when circumstances would allow such a visit. As a loyal and committed citizen of Bahrain, I naturally respected the reality of the situation. I could only dream. And hope. And wait. And dream some more. Last week, that dream became a reality.

I wish to thank His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and His Royal Highness, Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, for their leadership, vision, and courage to lead our nation proudly and boldly into the future through the signing of the Abraham Accords. I, like my fellow Bahraini citizens, express our support and enthusiasm for the opportunity our leaders have seized and the promise it represents to build a better life with security and opportunity for all of us and for future generations still to come.

2020 has been a difficult year for all of us as we continue to battle the pandemic sweeping across the world. However, 2020 was also a historic one in a positive way. It’s when Bahrain, Israel and the United Arab Emirates decided to pave the path forward for a bold vision of the new Middle East. During this time, the world has shifted on its axis in a very positive way. Amid a world dealing with so many difficult issues, a pandemic, economic challenges, social unrest, the Middle East gives all of us a ray of hope.

Seth J. Frantzman: How Israel Uses the F-35 to Send a Deadly Warning to Iran in Syria
Iran’s confrontation with Israel is multi-layered, involving cyber warfare, and threats to Israel’s partners and allies, including Jerusalem’s new friends in the Gulf. On November 22 as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was flying back and forth for an unprecedented meeting with Saudi Arabia’s leadership, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen said they targeted Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. This was symbolic because it came amid the G20 which Riyadh was hosting. Iran has done this before, using proxies such as Iran’s Kataib Hezbollah in May 2019, and also using drones and cruise missiles against Abqaiq in Saudi Arabia in September 2019. It purposely activates allies to strike at the Gulf to send a message to the United States, Saudi Arabia and others in the region.

The issue now is the converging of several issues. Iran has new drone and missile technology, including reports that it has resumed work with North Korea on ballistic missile technology. It has launched a new warship, a kind of converted cargo ship, and it has been improving air defense and military satellites and radar. Now it is eyeing the end of the Trump administration to up pressure on Israel and the Gulf. Meanwhile the Gulf states, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have been increasing ties and joint training with Egypt and Greece. Clearly a larger paradigm is emerging. Rapidly emerging ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain are underpinned by shared concerns about Iran as well as Turkey’s aggressive moves.

Israel’s messaging about Iran’s role in Syria was made clear in mid-November during the November 18 airstrikes. But the question is whether the airstrikes actually set back Iran’s strategy. Iran says it will retaliate with a “crushing reply.” News that the President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Tony Blinken as Secretary of State however may lead Iran to wonder if it should attempt a move before Trump leaves office or after. Tehran is not going to get a pushover administration in Washington, despite its boasts about having survived the Trump administration’s sanctions. It will also take time for it to recover from sanctions, even with trade with China, Russia or other countries. Israel hopes Iran go the message. In the long-term Israel has also supported F-35 sales to the UAE. Limited opposition in Congress and from a few voices, such as the Zionist Organization of America, may slow down the procurement of the advanced warplane to Abu Dhabi. Nevertheless, the overall posture, with America deploying B-52s to the Middle East on November 21, is that Iran is being told to be careful with its provocations.
Fatwa Council of UAE Declares Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization
The Fatwa Council of the United Arab Emirates on Monday declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, and has advised Muslims to stay away from it, the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reports.

The Council joins Saudi Arabia’s decision to classify the organization as a terrorist group.

The move, led by Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayya, chairman of the Fatwa Council in the United Arab Emirates, was made during a video conference in which delegates reviewed the statement of the Council of Senior Scholars of Saudi Arabia which affirmed Shari’a “promotes unity and warns against opponents and rogue groups.”

“The UAE Fatwa Council declared its full support for the Council of Senior Scholars’ statement, which echoes the previous proclamations of the governments of the UAE and Saudi Arabia that consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, due to its support for violent extremist groups, disputes and with leaderships, and disobedience,” the Emirati news agency WAM reported.

The government body was established in 2018 and is responsible for licensing Islamic authorities to issue fatwas.
Report: UAE halts new visas to citizens of 13 Muslim-majority states
The United Arab Emirates has stopped issuing new visas to citizens of 13 mostly Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a document issued by a state-owned business park.

A source briefed on the matter told Reuters the visas had temporarily stopped being issued to Afghans, Pakistanis and citizens of several other countries over security concerns, but did not provide details of those concerns.

The document, sent to companies operating in the park and seen by Reuters, cited an immigration circular that came into effect on Nov. 18.

The document said applications for new employment and visit visas had been suspended for nationals – those outside the UAE – of 13 countries that also included Somalia, Libya and Yemen until further notice.

The ban also applies to citizens of Algeria, Kenya, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey, it says.

It was not clear if there were any exceptions to the ban.

The UAE's Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

The circular took effect a week after the French Embassy in the UAE urged its citizens to maintain vigilance after a bomb attack in Saudi Arabia on diplomats claimed by Islamic State.

The explosion, which occurred during a World War I commemoration ceremony in Jeddah, was the first attack in years where explosives were used in an attempt to hit foreigners in the conservative kingdom.

The visa ban also comes two months after the Gulf state established formal ties with Israel, a move that broke with decades of Arab policy and angered some Muslim states and communities. Others welcomed it.

Google Plans First Fiber-Optic Network Between Saudi Arabia and Israel
Google is planning a fiber-optic network that will connect Saudi Arabia and Israel through internet traffic for the first time as part of a larger project sending signals from Europe to India.

The project, called the Blue Raman internet cable route, will run 5,000 miles and could cost up to $400 million, a Dubai-based telecommunications company told the Wall Street Journal. The project aims to circumvent internet traffic going through Egypt, which charges outsized fees to telecommunications companies for connections traveling between Europe and India.

This alternate route could bring together Israel and Saudi Arabia, two historic adversaries, economically and politically. Neither country has formally opened channels of communication, but a flurry of peace deals that the United States brokered between Israel and other Gulf countries opens the door to economic arrangements.

Israeli communications minister Yoaz Hendel expressed openness and optimism about the plan.

"In any place where you can lay down cables overland or undersea, you also create mutual interests," he said in an interview.

Hendel downplayed concerns about data breaches, saying Israel "knows how to defend its infrastructure and its data."
Netanyahu says Bahraini crown prince invited him to Manama in ‘near future’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday morning that he had spoken on the phone with Bahrain’s crown prince and prime minister, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who invited him to visit the Gulf nation, months after the countries normalized their ties.

The development followed the first-ever visit by a Bahraini foreign minister to the Jewish state last week.

The state Bahrain news agency said the phone call between the leaders was held Monday night. It said they discussed the promotion of relations between the two countries and “ways to establish collaboration across various sectors to further enhance peace and stability in the region.”

In his own statement, Netanyahu said he had a “very friendly” conversation with the crown prince, adding that it was the second time they had spoken.

“We are both very excited by the fact that we can bring the fruits of peace to our nations and countries in a very short time,” Netanyahu said. “That’s why he invited me to come in the near future for an official visit to Bahrain. I will do that, on your behalf, with pleasure.”
First Israeli business delegation travels to Bahrain
Bank Hapoalim CEO Dov Kotler led a business delegation to Bahrain on Tuesday, marking the first Israeli business group to visit the country since peace was announced last month.

The trip was overseen by Aryeh Lightstone, senior adviser to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Other members of the delegation included Harel Insurance CEO Michel Siboni and Israel Manufacturers Association President Ron Tomer. The group met on Wednesday with Bahrain’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Zayed bin Rashid al-Zayani.

The trip on Wednesday was the first Israeli business group to visit Bahrain. Last week, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani visited Jerusalem for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Relations with Bahrain are an amazing opportunity for Israeli businesses with an emphasis on fintech,” Kotler said. “This is a continuation of Bank Hapoalim’s efforts to open new business opportunities for our clients throughout the region.”

Adiv Baruch, Chairman of the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute who was also part of the delegation, said that the Bahraini market created opportunities for Israel throughout the Arab world.
‘Fantasy world’: Pompeo knocks Biden administration picks as out of touch on foreign policy Pompeo specifically criticized former Obama administration officials as having “led from behind” in their relations with Iran, which he said the U.S. had been “funneling tens of billions of dollars into” — giving them “the things that help you build out a nuclear weapons program” — until the Trump administration took over four years ago.

“The previous administration had chosen to give them an awful lot of that thing, money. We’ve chosen to deny them,” he said.

Pompeo also responded to a Tuesday statement from Linda Thomas-Greenfield — an assistant secretary of State during the Obama administration whom Biden will nominate as ambassador to the United Nations. Thomas-Greenfield declared that “multilateralism” and “diplomacy are back.” Pompeo countered her statement, saying the Trump administration had developed “coalitions that actually deliver real results and reflect the reality on the ground.”

“I couldn’t tell exactly from her statement, but multilateralism for the sake of hanging out with your buddies at a cool cocktail party?” Pompeo said. “That’s not in the best interest of the United States of America.”

The Biden transition team declined to comment on the secretary of State’s criticism. Can Biden Renew Foreign Aid to Palestinians While Still Adhering to Taylor Force Act?
According to Kuperwasser, the Palestinians simply moved the office responsible for paying terrorists from the PA to the PLO, and in the PA budget, there was a clause that gave money to the PLO, which then gave the money to the terrorists.

“On the basis of that move, which changed nothing, the State Department wrote that there are efforts, and things are moving in the right direction,” he said. “But no action was taken.”

“I am worried that something similar is going to happen now,” said Kuperwasser. “The new State Department under Biden may say they are in the midst of making changes. They might say: ‘We should wait and encourage the Palestinians, so let’s resume the aid even if they are still paying terrorists.’ ”

He said that while the situation “is much better than it was in 2014,” the Palestinians continue to be worried about ATCA, the United States continues to worry about the Palestinians, and Israel is worried that America will renew funding to the PA—funding that will end up in the pockets of terrorists.

But Kuperwasser said Israel will be watching the Biden administration’s decisions with regard to renewing aid to the Palestinians, hoping that the new administration will move beyond the Obama administration’s foreign policy approach and move closer to the moves of the Trump administration, which placed more pressure on the Palestinians.

“The Taylor Force Act and other relevant legislation remain a deterrent to Palestinian terror support, although it clearly hasn’t halted that activity,” said Schanzer.

“Opposition to Palestinian intransigence and radicalism will remain a centrist issue in Congress, even if the incoming administration is eager to re-establish ties with the Palestinians,” he added. “In short, existing policies and legislation will act as a balance against some of the moves the next administration might consider.”
Antony Blinken's track record
Israel policy. Blinken opposes Israel's annexation of – and expanded Jewish presence in - any part of Judea and Samaria, as well as in Jerusalem beyond the 1949 ceasefire lines. He considers Israeli dramatic land concessions to be a prerequisite for peace. He supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the pre-1967 Jordan-occupied-Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem.

However, according to Blinken, "US aid to Israel is beyond debate and should never be used as leverage to influence Israel's policies toward Palestinians…. It's in the US interest that Israel has the means to secure itself…. Israel's security is challenged on a daily basis. Israel faces existential threats every single day."

Palestinian policy. Blinken assumes that a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and East Jerusalem would serve justice and would spare Israel a demographic calamity. He ignores the well-documented demographic reality, which exposes the myth of the Arab demographic timebomb. He approaches the Palestinian issue from the human rights angle, notwithstanding the Palestinian track record as a role model for anti-Jewish hate-education and incitement, 100-year-old anti-Jewish terrorism and intra-Arab terrorism and treachery.

Irrespective of Middle East reality, he believes in the centrality of the Palestinian issue on the Arab agenda and the pursuit of Israel-Arab peace.

Blinken aims to restore annual financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (which was suspended due to the PA's financial support of families of terrorists and the systematic heralding of terrorists), as well as the annual financial transfer to UNRWA (which was suspended due to its funding of the PA's hate education). Also, he will reopen the PLO office in Washington, DC.
Biden secretary of state pick Blinken opposed terrorist label for Iran's Revolutionary Guard
Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of state, opposed designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization out of fears it would lead to blowback -- a potential sign of the softer stance a Biden administration is expected to take toward Iran.

Biden announced Monday that Blinken, a former deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, would be his pick for the nation’s top diplomat. It was the Obama administration that entered the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) -- known as the Iran nuclear deal -- which normalized relations with the Iranian regime.

During that administration, Blinken served as deputy secretary of state and as a principal deputy national security adviser to former President Obama, having also served as Biden’s national security adviser.

The Trump administration has taken a harder line on Tehran, withdrawing from the JCPoA, reimposing sanctions on Iran’s economy and energy sectors, and taking steps against the IRGC -- including killing General Qassem Soleimani and designating it a terror group in 2019.

In 2017, when the Trump administration was still mulling the idea, Blinken said he opposed designating the IRGC a terror group, noting that the Bush administration had also shied away from making such a designation. The Trump administration would make the designation in 2019.

“If there's a formal designation as a terrorist organization, I think there is going to be blowback,” he said on CNN in October 2017. “That's exactly why the Bush administration and the Obama administration, while using other sanctions against individual members, leaders or the IRGC, resisted designating the organization.”
Jake Sullivan Trashed Trump’s Israel Policy In Interview With Chinese Propaganda Outlet
Jake Sullivan, the incoming national security adviser, criticized President Donald Trump’s policies related to the Middle East during an interview in late 2017 with CGTN, a Beijing-based media outlet controlled by the Chinese government.

Sullivan appeared on the network to discuss Trump’s announcement that he would begin the process to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as Israel’s capital.

“This was a political decision, not a foreign policy decision. This was about Trump and his supporters. It was not about moving the peace process forward,” Sullivan said in the interview, which aired Dec. 9, 2017.

Sullivan asserted that Trump’s decision “created turbulence and turmoil” in negotiations for a peace deal between Israel, Palestine and other nations in the Middle East.

“It’s hard to find a good argument for this decision with respect to advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East,” said Sullivan, who was a top adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department and to Joe Biden when he was vice president. (RELATED: Report: Economist Being Floated For Biden Cabinet Position Appeared On Chinese Propaganda Outlets)

Biden announced on Tuesday that Sullivan would be his White House national security adviser.

Under Trudeau, Canada shifts in its stance with Israel
UNRWA lost its funding from Canada due to well-documented ties to the Hamas terrorist group during the Harper years. Since coming to office, the Trudeau Liberals have sent more than $110 million Canadian tax dollars to the group.

Last year, when an internal UN report documented what Al Jazeera described as “abuse of authority for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives,” the Trudeau government expressed concern. Switzerland and the Netherlands suspended payments to UNRWA.

“When abuses at UNRWA came to light, the government of Canada did nothing,” Chong said. “The government funding of these organizations has been atrocious.”

UNRWA isn’t the only problematic group. The MA’AN Development Centre has been linked to another terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The organization, which has received more than $2.8 million from Canada under the Trudeau government, has hired members of the PFLP, including Ahmed Abdullah Al Adine, a self-professed commander in the terrorist group who was on the payroll of MA’AN while they were getting Canadian funding.

This isn’t the kind of group Canadian aid money should be going to.

Canada needs a foreign policy based on principle, but sadly over the last few years, the only principle has been do whatever it takes to win Trudeau his coveted security council seat. Canada lost that bid and along the way a bit of our soul over what we agreed to fund to get there.

I miss the days when regardless of whether the government was Liberal or Conservative, Canada stood with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.
Belgian MP proposes Hezbollah ban
Belgium must act to ban Hezbollah in its entirety, lawmaker Michael Freilich said, submitting a bill to that effect this week.

Brussels, like many other countries in Europe, follows the European Union policy of banning Hezbollah’s military arm and not its political branch, though the Shia terrorist group does not divide itself in that way.

Citing fundraising for Hezbollah in Belgian mosques, Freilich said “it is absurd to believe that if you transfer $100,000... to Lebanon, that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah will look at the statement and say, ‘Hey guys, be aware, this is only for political purposes.’ Of course, this is absurd, and we all know these funds will be used for military, terrorist purposes such as Katyusha rockets.”

The MP called on Belgium to follow Germany and the UK, which have recently banned Hezbollah, and the Netherlands, which outlawed the terrorist group in 2004. Estonia and Lithuania also banned Hezbollah this year.

Freilich appealed to the political Left “who can’t stop talking about human rights,” saying that the right to live is fundamental.

“The fight against terror must be fought by all of us together,” he added.
Czech Republic launches parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus
A new Israel Allies caucus has been formed in the parliament of the Czech Republic with the objective of strengthening legislative support for Israel on the basis of Judeo-Christian values, making it the 46th Israel Allies caucus in the world.

The Israel Allies Foundation (IAF), which coordinates the activities of the 46 caucuses worldwide, is a network dedicated to promoting communication between parliamentarians and legislators around the world who support Israel, and aims at having 50 by the end of the year, IAF president Josh Reinstein said.

“I am convinced that our relationship towards Israel has deep spiritual roots," said the inaugural chairman of the Czech Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus, MP Miloslav Janulik. "I am very glad that we maintain the tradition of excellent mutual relationships and that the Czech Parliament is expressing its long-term support to the State of Israel unequivocally" he said, adding that "this is the right path towards peaceful co-existence in the Middle East.”

Janulik said that the caucus "can fruitfully contribute to the further enhancement in the field of international cooperation. Such cooperation and support can have different forms.”
A fourth election within two years is now a certainty
Sometimes it’s important to state the obvious: The 35th Government of the State of Israel was a halting, limping mess.

It couldn’t pass a state budget, struggled to craft coherent coronavirus restrictions, often failed to enforce those it managed to approve, and couldn’t fill vital posts in the public service — from top cop to key public health officials.

It couldn’t even coordinate among its bickering partners basic steps to streamline the new regional normalization moves as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on keeping his Blue and White partners far from any limelight or credit.

It was that compartmentalization that left the Defense Ministry scrambling to sign a new agreement with the Pentagon ensuring Israel’s “qualitative military edge” after the surprise discovery that the UAE peace deal included, unofficially, a fleet of F-35s for Abu Dhabi.

Many might understandably consider it a mercy, then, that such a government’s end is now imminent.

Four developments in recent days clarified the point and removed all doubt.
Syrian Army Says Israel Hits Southern Damascus in Second Strike in Week
The Syrian army said early Wednesday that Israel launched air strikes on an area in the southern outskirts of Damascus, where there is reportedly a strong Iranian military presence, in the second such attack within a week.

The Israeli aerial strike on a strategic area that Israel had hit in the past came from the Golan Heights and caused only material damages, the army statement said.

Syrian military defectors said the strike targeted an military base in Jabal Mane Heights near the town of Kiswa, where Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have long been entrenched in a rugged area almost 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) south of the center of Damascus.

Strikes that occurred in July also hit towns near Kiswa, where the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah militia is deployed with other pro-Tehran militias in strength, according to a senior army defector.

The area has anti-aircraft missiles that are stationed to defend the Syrian side of Golan Heights along the border with Israel, the military sources said.

“We don’t comment on these kind of news reports,” an Israeli military spokesman told Reuters.

Israel drops leaflets in Syrian Golan warning military to cut ties with Iran
The Israel Defense Forces dropped leaflets in the Syrian Golan Heights on Wednesday warning the country’s military to halt its cooperation with Iran and the Hezbollah terror group, Syrian media reported.

The move came hours after Israel reportedly conducted a number of airstrikes in southern Syria, including in the Syrian Golan. Photos of the leaflets were posted to social media on Wednesday morning.

“We will not allow anyone to upset the stability here,” read the fliers, which were stamped with an eagle, the symbol of the IDF’s 210th Division, which guards the Golan border.

The military added that it will “take action against Hezbollah and Iranian operatives at any time, as needed.”

The leaflets also referred to what Israel says was a recent attempt to set off explosive charges against IDF soldiers near the Syrian border. Jerusalem has accused Iran of being behind the attempted attack.

“Hezbollah and Iran, as we have seen in recent years, are using (Syrian) military sites, military personnel and Syrian civilians unwittingly and carrying out their terrorist missions against the State of Israel,” the IDF wrote.
Palestinian driver shot dead while trying to ram through checkpoint — police
Border guards shot dead an East Jerusalem man who rammed his car into one officer after being caught presenting false identification papers at a checkpoint outside of Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon, police said.

According to police, the suspect was stopped at the A’zaim checkpoint east of the capital and asked to identify himself. However, the papers he presented the officers appeared to belong to someone else.

While being questioned, the suspect — later identified by the Palestinian news site Ma’an as Nur Jamal Shaqir, a 30-year-old resident of the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem — drove his car quickly toward a border guard, hitting and lightly injuring him, police said.

Shaqir was shot by other officers at the scene and taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus, where he was pronounced dead, the medical center said.

According to the hospital, Shaqir sustained gunshot wounds to the stomach and arrived without a pulse.

Police said it was not immediately clear if the incident was an act of terror.

PMW: PA Shari’ah Judge: Jews/Israelis are "impure... occupying thieves”
During a recent sermon, one of the PA’s Shari’ah judges called on Allah to “liberate Al-Aqsa” and free it from “the impurity of the occupying thieves”:

PA Shari'ah Judge Ata Al-Muhtasib: “We will continue to defend our land, our holy sites, our noble Jerusalem, and our right to freedom and independence… Allah, forgive us our sins and exaggerations… and grant us victory over our enemies and the enemies of the Muslims… Allah, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Ibrahimi Mosque (i.e., the Cave of the Patriarchs), and the rest of the Muslim sites from the impurity of the occupying thieves, amen.” [Official PA TV, Oct. 9, 2020]

Calls to “liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque” from the “impurity” of Jews, and the claim that the Al-Aqsa Mosque plaza and its surroundings – i.e., the Temple Mount - “belongs to Muslims only” have become some of the most frequently heard slogans of the PA’s hate speech and demonization of Israel, as Palestinian Media Watch has documented for decades.

Israel to Transfer Medical Equipment to Gaza in Exchange for ‘Lull’
Israel has agreed to transfer medical equipment – including respirators – to Gaza, from the Palestinian Authority, in exchange for a “hudna” or “lull” in hostilities, according to an Arabic-language report by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.

“The policy of ‘dropping missiles’ from the Gaza Strip towards [Israel] continues . . . amid a large outbreak of the emerging coronavirus,” wrote journalist Rajab Al-Madhoun.

“At this time, the mediators transmit a number of messages exchanged between the resistance and the occupation, the last of which is the enemy’s agreement to bring medical equipment into Gaza, contrary to what the Hebrew media say.”

A Hamas official told the newspaper Tuesday that Egyptian mediators sent a message to Israel that “matters might get out of control as a result of the great pressure on the Strip, and that the launching of rockets ‘is a clear indication that we must pay attention to and address the causes that lead to it.’ Nevertheless, the enemy responded that it was preparing for a large and massive campaign.”

Hamas is requesting both respirators and PCR tests; there are reportedly 100 hospital beds in Gaza equipped with ventilators and currently 70 patients are hospitalized.

According to the report, Israel has agreed to deliver ventilators that were sent by the Palestinian Authority from Ramallah to Gaza in exchange for maintaining a ‘hudna’ or ‘calm.’ In addition, Israel reportedly will also allow the entry of other medical devices at a later time without specifying a date.
Hamas: Security coordination with Israel foiled unity talks
The Palestinian Authority’s recent decision to restore its relations with Israel has scuttled efforts to end the long-standing dispute between the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction and Hamas.

Last week, the PA announced that it has decided to resume its ties with Israel six months after PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared that the Palestinians would no longer abide by agreements and understandings signed with Israel and the US, including security coordination.

The announcement, made by Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs, came as leaders of Fatah and Hamas were holding a meeting in Egypt to discuss ways of ending their rivalry and holding long-overdue elections for the PA presidency and parliament.

Abbas’s decision last May to sever relations with Israel and halt security coordination between the PA security forces and the IDF saw Fatah and Hamas renew their efforts to achieve “national unity” and end their conflict, which reached its peak in 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip.
Report: Israeli Military Preparing for Potential US Strike Against Iran Before Trump Leaves Office
The IDF is readying itself for the possibility that the US will take military action against Iran before President Donald Trump’s term ends in January, Axios reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed senior Israeli officials.

“The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate ‘a very sensitive period’ ahead of [President-elect Joe] Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20,” the report said.

It added, “The IDF’s preparedness measures relate to possible Iranian retaliation against Israel directly or through Iranian proxies in Syria, Gaza and Lebanon.”

Last week, it was reported that Trump had asked advisers at a recent meeting for options for a strike on Iran’s main nuclear site, the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.
Oil tanker damaged off Saudi Arabia in mine explosion
A mine in the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia near Yemen exploded and damaged an oil tanker Wednesday, authorities said, the latest incident targeting the kingdom amid its long war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The blast happened early Wednesday and struck the MT Agrari, a Maltese-flagged, Greek-managed oil tanker near Shuqaiq, Saudi Arabia.

“Their vessel was attacked by an unknown source,” a statement from the Agrari’s operators said. “The Agrari was struck about 1 meter above the waterline and has suffered a breach. It has been confirmed that the crew are safe and there have been no injuries.”

The ship was still floating off the coast and had been boarded by Saudi officials, the company said. Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the incident.

Ambrey, a British security firm, reported the blast and attributed it to a mine. It said the Agrari had cargo from Rotterdam, Netherlands, that it had discharged at the Shuqaiq Steam Power Plant.
Sweden urges Iran not to execute researcher convicted of spying for Israel
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Tuesday she had spoken to her Iranian counterpart to formally object to the planned execution of an Iranian-Swedish professor sentenced to death on spying charges.

Linde, who announced the call on Twitter, said she had been in touch with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif following reports that Iran was preparing to carry out the execution of Ahmadreza Djalali, a specialist in emergency medicine.

“Sweden denounces the death penalty and is working to not have the sentence against Djalali carried out,” Linde wrote in a post on Twitter.

Djalali, formerly based in Stockholm where he worked at the Karolinska Institute, a medical university, was arrested during a visit to Iran in April 2016.

He was subsequently found guilty of passing information about two Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency that led to their assassinations.

While imprisoned he was granted Swedish citizenship in February 2018, only months after his death sentence was confirmed by Iran’s Supreme Court.
Report: British-Australian academic freed from Iranian prison
Iran state TV says Tehran has released British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert in exchange for three Iranians held abroad, according to reports.

Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer before being imprisoned at Tehran’s Evin Prison in September 2018.

She was sentenced to 10 years on espionage charges.

"An Iranian businessman and two Iranian citizens who were detained abroad on baseless charges were exchanged for a dual national spy named Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who worked for the Zionist regime," the Iranian Young Journalist Club news website said, according to the Telegraph.
Iran cracks down on champion Iranian wrestler for street peddling
The Islamic Republic of Iran has deprived a former champion Greco-Roman wrestler of his efforts to make ends meet as a street peddler.

Mohsen Madhani says in a video posted on social media that “An athlete and a world champion doesn’t deserve to be a street vendor.” He complains that Iran’s government doesn’t even let him sell goods on the sidewalk and make money for his life. He is speaking from Andimeshk, a city in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

“Iranian world Champion wrestler Mohsen Madhani got kicked out while he was selling stuff next to the street by Iranian government! What a shame! #freeiran #banirsports #nomoremullahs,” tweeted Sam Rajabi, an Iranian former Judo national team member and world champion, on Sunday.

Mariam Memarsadeghi, an advocate for democratic change in Iran and an expert on human rights violations in the Islamic Republic, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday: “While the regime’s thugs drive around in their luxury cars and send their kids and money abroad, honest, hardworking Iranians are denied a livable wage.”

PreOccupiedTerritory: Khamenei Disappointed Not To Be Named Part Of Biden Transition Team (satire)
Insider reports emerged today that Iran’s Supreme Leader has admitted he feels let down at the fact that the incoming US president has not seen fit to invite him to participate in shaping the next administration directly.

Aides to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of the Islamic Republic of Iran disclosed Tuesday that their leader had expected to form part of Joe Biden’s transition team, and now admits to disappointment that such a position has not come to pass.

“It’s not a big deal, I don’t think,” explained one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It was just the general thrust of the way things were going, with all the conciliatory rhetoric from Biden and some of his coterie, about going back into the JCPOA and maybe lifting some sanctions – it seemed that making everything the next administration aims to do dovetail with the Ayatollah’s interests was the new trend, nd what could serve that trend better than having the Supreme Leader himself take part? So you can see he might find this a letdown of sorts.”

A second anonymous adviser also noted that some time remains before the situation can change. “There could be late hires,” he argued. “Perhaps with all the current brouhaha in American society surrounding the Trump campaign’s legal battles against the vote tallies, Biden prefers to disturb the waters only a little at a time. Think about how Republicans would pounce all over again were this announcement to take place right now. Give it a week or two.”

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