Thursday, November 26, 2020

From Ian:

Al Arabiy: Fight against Islamist terror must begin with opposing extremist ideas
Look at who were the top figures in the Muslim world from different countries that came out and issued provocative and reprehensible statements subtly or overtly justifying the terrorists in the recent weeks. All of them belonged to one ideological spectrum, albeit minor differences between them – political Islam. While religion as faith always elevated human beings to heights of nobility and grace, religion as ideology unleashed mindless violence on a genocidal scale.

We stand with the victims of all terror attacks. We disagree with the controversial cartoons, and, as a Muslim, I am offended by them but I can realize the underlying politics, ongoing exploitation and manipulation that are pursued behind this issue for political purposes. Linking the Prophet Muhammad, who represents a great sanctity amongst Muslims and is far too great to have his name and status exploited in cheap politicized campaigns, to violence and politicization is unacceptable.

Terrorist attacks are not Islam, they are the Islamist interpretation of Islam, and will always deserve our unqualified condemnation, and whole-hearted support in uprooting its terror.

That is precisely the spirit with which our Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan participated at the unity rally where hundreds of thousands of the French people and tens of world leaders gathered in Paris in 2015 to condemn terror attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killing of hostages in a restaurant and a Jewish supermarket.

The sad truth, however, is that we are exactly where we were five years ago because nothing was done to curb the murderous Islamist propaganda in Europe. It is high time European authorities paid closer and urgent attention to the tumor spreading far and wide in their midst. As for the UAE, we are clear-headed in our opposition to extremism and terrorism in all forms and speak out against them without the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ customary in some circles. We believe that opposition to extremist ideas, alongside promotion of cultural and religious tolerance and harmonious coexistence, is the only way to root out the scourge of terrorism.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Why Palestinians Owe Arabs an Apology
The Palestinian decision to renew ties with Israel comes at a time when the Palestinian media is continuing to condemn other Arabs for engaging in normalization with Israel.

"They [the Palestinians] were trampling on the pictures of our leaders. But we have not seen them trampling on the pictures of Abbas." — Emirati social media user BintUAE1900, Twitter, November 18, 2020.

Several Palestinians and Arabs took to social media to demand sarcastically that the PA withdraw its ambassador from Ramallah to protest its own decision to "normalize" relations with Israel.

The PA leadership's decision to restore ties with Israel and return the Palestinian ambassadors to the UAE and Bahrain is viewed by some Palestinians as an apparent attempt to cozy up to a possible new US administration under the presumptive new President-elect Joe Biden. Abbas is also likely hoping that in return, the US and some Gulf states will resume pouring money into the PA coffers -- for a start.
Alan Baker: Belgium Supports Illegal Construction in the West Bank and Then Demands Compensation
Belgium is providing financial and political support and sponsorship to illegal Palestinian construction projects in Area C of the West Bank and is demanding compensation for Israel’s dismantling of these illegally constructed buildings.

The Oslo Accords between the PLO and Israel provide that Area C is under the sole administration and control of Israel, pending negotiation of a permanent status agreement between them.

In supporting and financing such illegal construction, Belgium openly admits to undermining the internationally accepted Oslo Accords, to which, as a member of the European Union, Belgium is a signatory as a witness. As such, Belgium is openly supporting endeavors by the Palestinian leadership and hostile organizations aimed at undermining and obstructing Israel’s legal and security control in Area C with a view to influencing the outcome of any future negotiation between the parties.

Belgium’s own national legislation prohibits illegal building in violation of its Belgian planning and zoning regulations and enables the destruction of structures built without the requisite permits.

In openly supporting and encouraging illegal building in Area C, in condemning Israel’s actions to prevent such illegal building, and in its demand for compensation, Belgium is acting with audacity and hypocrisy.

Belgium has a sad history of political and legal activity aimed at undermining the legitimacy of Israel’s security policies, including active support for organizations acting against the legitimacy of Israel and a failed attempt in its courts to accuse a former Israeli defense minister and senior military officials of involvement in war crimes.

Netanyahu: ‘We’re Flying at Breakneck Speed Into a New Era in the Middle East’
i24 News – “We are flying at breakneck speed into a new era in the Middle East,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday as he welcomed the first commercial flight from Dubai to Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu hailed the historic moment, saying that the landing paved the way to many more flights connecting Israel with the UAE, which now has a visa-free travel accord with the Jewish state, and other friendly Gulf states.

“Welcome, and come back again and again!” the PM said.

The flight was operated by the Emirati budget airline flydubai, which is now launching a direct air corridor between the two cities following the normalization of ties between the UAE and Israel

The United Arab Emirates in September signed a landmark US-brokered deal to formalize relations with Israel, the first such agreement by an Arab state in the Gulf.

With their economies hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the UAE and Israel are hoping for rapid dividends from the deal, including an influx of tourists as Dubai enters its winter high season.

“The start of scheduled flights will contribute to economic development and create further opportunities for investment,” flydubai CEO Ghaith al-Ghaith said when the service was announced earlier this month
Pompeo: "Many More Nations Will Ultimately Recognize Israel as the Rightful Homeland of the Jewish People"
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Fox News on Tuesday:
Q: Do you expect more normalization announcements from other countries with Israel?
Pompeo: "I expect more normalization announcements....The direction of travel is very clear, and the rationale for that has a little bit to do with American policy. We got it right. We took away the excuse of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. We took away the excuse that the United States was going to appease Iran."

"Everybody who joined the Abraham Accords will see the benefits for their own people. So I am highly confident that many, many more nations will ultimately choose to do the right thing and recognize Israel as the rightful homeland of the Jewish people."

Regarding Iran, "Appeasing terrorists, appeasing those who have hegemonic desires, appeasing those who are underwriting militias all throughout the region and destabilizing the Middle East, cannot possibly be the right course of action."
Ambassadors for peace: UAE, Bahrain and Israel envoys to UK in historic meeting
A remarkable picture of how the newly-signed Abraham Accords — between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Israel and Bahrain — are working in practice, emerged at a ground-breaking webinar on Wednesday, convened by the Anglo-Israel Association.

For the first time, the ambassadors of the three countries in Britain, in a panel event moderated by Lord Finkelstein, spoke of their hopes for close co-operation and, in the pointed comments of both the UAE ambassador, Mansoor Abulhoul, and the Bahraini ambassador, Sheikh Fawaz al-Khalifa, their wish that the Abraham Accords should be “a warm peace”. An Israeli trade delegation was in Bahrain on Wednesday morning, and twice-weekly flights between the UAE and Israel start next week.

For her part, Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, in one of her first public appearances since arriving in the UK, said that she wanted the Abraham Accords to “inspire” the countries with which Israel already had peace treaties, Egypt and Jordan. “We are not replacing our friends, we are extending the number of our friends”, she said.

Ambassador Abulhoul said that the approach was different for both the UAE and Bahrain from the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. “We don’t share borders with Israel and we haven’t had a conflict with it. So we start from a different position”.

But while all three ambassadors enthused about the opportunities in the context of the Abraham Accords — particularly in hi-tech, tourism, trade, co-operation on dealing with Covid, all of which have already begun — they were more circumspect when it came to discussing the prospects of peace between Israel and other countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. Israeli media have reported a visit to Saudi Arabia this week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but this has been denied by the Saudi Foreign Ministry. None of the ambassadors was ready to confirm or deny the visit, but expressed optimism that other Arab countries would join the Accords in due course.
Meet Dan Shaham, the Israeli diplomat who strived for UAE-Israel peace
We grew up knowing that there is going to be somebody on the other side, who reaches out their hand and says, come let's do it together, says Israel's acting representative to the UAE.

Before the Abraham Accords shook the entire Middle East, there was a small Israeli mission to the UAE comprised of one person – Israeli diplomat Dan Shaham.

For over one year and a half, Shaham sat in the capital Abu Dhabi where he served as the head of the mission to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), imagining everything he would be able to do if relations between Israel and the UAE were normalised. He had no timeline as to when normalisation would materialise, and whether it would be under his watch.

“You’re there as an Israeli diplomat, you’re so eager to do all of the things that you’ve been trained to do. For 30 years you’ve been looking forward to this moment, and then the first year you are just standing and waiting and looking at all these amazing things that you could have done,” says Shaham.

Before the normalisation of ties, Israel’s modest presence in the UAE (under IRENA) was known to few, and those familiar with this post made sure to keep it under wraps. Shaham arrived to the UAE on his Israeli diplomatic passport, but only a small group of people in Abu Dhabi were aware of his Israeli background. He made sure of it.

Shaham describes how they would sit in various IRENA forums with the Israel sign, and every time he would introduce himself as the Israeli representative, there would be a short pause accompanied by glances of curiosity.
First flights by Emirati carrier flydubai flights arrive in Israel
United Arab Emirates airline flydubai started direct passenger flights to Israel on Thursday after the two countries normalized ties.

Israel and the UAE agreed in August to establish diplomatic relations, paving the way for economic cooperation. Bahrain and Sudan have also agreed to forge formal ties with Israel in deals brokered by the Trump administration and promoted as a strategic Middle East shift that isolates Iran.

Dubai state-owned flydubai will operate twice-daily fights between the UAE's and Israel's financial capitals – Dubai and Tel Aviv – the airline said this month.

Dubai's Emirates, the UAE's biggest airline, will sell tickets on the flydubai service through a codeshare agreement between the carriers, an Emirates spokeswoman said.

The detente comes at a time when the aviation industry is in crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Israel, whose borders have been largely been closed to foreign nationals since the pandemic outbreak, has seen its tourism take a sharp dive.

UAE and Israeli citizens are now able to visit each others' country without applying for a visa before travelling.

"This opens up trade, economy, tourism and makes for a truly new Middle East, it is a meeting of two peoples," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a welcoming ceremony for the flight at Ben-Gurion International Airport.

El Al Israel Airlines said on Monday it would operate 14 weekly flights from Tel Aviv to Dubai from Dec. 13. Smaller rivals Arkia and Israir have said they plan to begin flights to Dubai next month.
Netanyahu Welcomes First Commercial Dubai Flight to Israel

Israel Foreign Ministry Defends Egyptian Actor over Photo with Israeli
Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday forcefully defended a prominent Egyptian singer and actor who is facing a public outcry and legal charges after posing for photos with Israeli celebrities.

Photos emerged online earlier this week of Egypt’s Mohamed Ramadan posing with Israeli pop star Omer Adam and soccer player Diaa Sabia at a party in Dubai.

The images sparked public outrage in Egypt and charges on social media that Ramadan had “betrayed” the Palestinians. A lawyer filed a case against Ramadan, accusing him of causing “offense to the Egyptian people,” local media reported.

“He probably thought that the matter would blow over. But it hasn’t. People are furiously angry,” said pro-regime commentator Omr Adib.

Lior Ben Dor, who works on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s North Africa desk, covering Egypt, blasted the invective against Ramadan.

He defended the celebrity in an Arabic-language video posted to the State of Israel’s official Arabic Twitter account.

“Do you seriously believe that the criticism against him serves the Palestinians? Are you aware that you’re ignoring the changes that are important? What are you afraid of?” he said in colloquial Egyptian Arabic.
Jonathan Tobin: The foreign-policy establishment strikes back
Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and the Iran nuclear deal will be very popular in London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin, as well as in the halls of the United Nations. That will be in line with their predilection for multilateralism, and their ideological stands on climate change and avoiding confrontation with Islamists. But neither will make the US stronger or richer or the world safer.

Nor will a return to the familiar tactics of muscling the Israelis to promote a two-state solution that the Palestinians still don't really want widen the circle of peace that Trump's more sensible and transactional approach helped create.

The change in attitude won't make Russia, Turkey or Iran less aggressive or solve insoluble problems in Europe or the Middle East. And there is little indication that Biden's team has any appetite for confronting China or seeking a shift in trade policies that will bolster America's manufacturing base, as Trump at least tried to do.

It's true that Biden's appointees are a disappointment to the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. The appointees may be left-leaning, but they are for the most part not the sort of radicals that will gratify the Democratic Socialists and BDS-supporters of "The Squad."

By contrast, Biden's team represents the sort of establishment thinking that always considers the illusion of momentum towards illusory goals of peace and cooperation to be its chief object rather than actually accomplish something to advance Western interests. The mentality that gave us the Iran nuclear deal is rooted in this superficial approach. It is why appearances and manners matter so much to them.

A well-behaved and internationally minded US administration that seeks the approval of their diplomatic partners is exactly what the educated classes and Biden's corporate donors crave. It can only be hoped that it will avoid egregious disasters like the Iran nuclear deal and not concede American interests – or those of Israel – in the process. But if good manners and the good opinion of people who don't actually care about America or the Jewish state are what you want, then that is exactly what you are likely to get in the next four years.
NBC, Indyk, Falsely Claim Palestinian Leaders Committed to Palestinian and Jewish State
Mahmoud Abbas and his longtime chief negotiator Saeb Erekat never dithered in expressing their views on the Jewish state. Again and again, they rejected the idea of Israel as it is, loudly announcing that they don’t accept a Jewish state within any boundaries.

An NBC news opinion piece by Martin Indyk, though, would have readers think otherwise. According to Indyk, “Erekat had become the embodiment of the Palestinian commitment to a stage-by-stage process in which an independent Palestinian state would emerge to live in peace alongside the Jewish state of Israel,” an approach Indyk insists was authored by Abbas.

The passage nearly requires a map to get through — Erekat was the embodiment of a commitment to a process meant to hatch something — but it clearly ends at a Jewish state. The process, we’re told, is designed to produce two states for two peoples, the Jewish people and the Palestinian people, living side by side in peace. Many would support that goal. Not Erekat and Abbas.

“We are not going to recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” Erekat said in 2014. Abbas couldn’t agree more. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” he said in 2011 (and indeed, before and since). “I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a ‘Jewish state.'”

In 2014, Abbas reiterated, “The Palestinians won’t recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel and won’t accept it.” In 2015: “We won’t accept a Jewish state.” In 2016: “The Palestinian leadership categorically rejects the idea of a Jewish Israel.” (Although emphatically opposed to Israel’s Jewish nature, Abbas raised no objections after an official Palestinian committee drafted a constitution that left no doubt about the envisioned Arab nature of a future state of Palestine.)

Indyk, in response to criticism of his NBC language, insisted he “never said Saeb [Erekat] accepted recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.”

Netanyahu supports gov't vote on legalizing West Bank outposts
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to a government vote to legalize the West Bank outposts, Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) told the Knesset on Wednesday.

“We will formulate the text of a government decision with the objective of advancing all the legal processes that would lead to the regulation of the young settlements [outposts],” Hanegbi said.

He explained that he would write out the proposal together with Michael Biton, who is a Blue and White minister in the Defense Ministry.

Hanegbi said the decision was a response to the opinion of legal advisers who cautioned that a government declaration was needed to set the record straight on the intention to legalize the outposts.

Netanyahu has been under pressure from the Right to authorize the outposts, particularly in light of his failure to annex the West Bank settlements.

The legalization of the outposts would expand Israel’s footprint in the West Bank beyond the boundaries of the map set out by US President Donald Trump for a two-state resolution to the conflict.
District Courts Rule in Favor of Jewish Owners of 3 Homes in Eastern Jerusalem, Evict 87 Arab Squatters
Eighty-seven Arab residents in eastern Jerusalem are expected to be evicted from their homes following three court decisions in favor of Ateret Cohanim, an Israeli association dedicated to the creation of a Jewish majority in the Old City and the neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem.

All three cases have to do with claims by the association for the eviction of Arab squatters on the grounds of restitution of Jewish property that was stolen by the Jordanian occupier in the 1948 war.

On Monday, a panel of judges of the Jerusalem District Court – Rafael Yaakobi, Moshe Bar-Am. and Hannah Miriam Lump, rejected the appeal of the Duwik family from Silwan and ordered the evacuation of the building in favor of the Ateret Cohanim association, within two weeks. The family intends to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The building where the family has lived since 1963 is home to 30 family members, including 12 children under the age of 18. Ateret Cohanim also filed a financial claim against the Duwik family, in the amount of NIS 600,000 ($180,000).

The Duwik family is one of the dozens of Arab families squatting in the former Yemenite Village neighborhood of Silwan. The neighborhood was established by Yemenite Jews who made aliyah in the late 1800s and lived there until the Arab pogroms of 1936-39 when the British Mandate government evacuated the local Jews for fear of the Arab murderers.
Daniel Pipes: What does 'victory' really mean to the Israel Defense Forces - Opinion
There’s been much talk over the past two years of the Israel Defense Forces and victory. What does it mean in practice?

In August 2018, then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman announced that the IDF’s next chief of staff would be someone who talked “in terms of decisiveness and victory.” That turned out to be Aviv Kochavi. He, indeed, affirmed at his January 2019 swearing-in ceremony that the army “is all about victory.” Also speaking at that ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu concurred; all recent efforts, he added, focused on making the army “ready for a single goal – victory in war.”

Kochavi then relentlessly kept victory in the limelight. At a 2020 ceremony, for example, he stated, “The IDF is there: ready, powerful and aggressive. We will be there for every mission, prepared and determined. We see victory as the only way to achieve our goal.”

Naftali Bennett, the next full-time defense minister after Liberman, also emphasized victory. On one occasion, he criticized former chief of staff and then-political party leader, Benny Gantz, for settling for “a tie,” and not a decisive victory, in the 2014 Gaza war. Gantz replied indignantly with four videos titled “Only the Strong Win.”

So persistent is this theme, Kochavi’s immediate predecessor as chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, has felt compelled caustically to defend himself from charges of timidity: “We have been combating terrorism rather impressively, and managed to confront a complex, convoluted reality and overcome it every day. But these days, some people, influenced by political agendas, are trying to make the military out to be indecisive, having lost its will to win and too focused on liberal, leftist issues.”

The IDF under Kochavi’s leadership developed “Momentum” (Hebrew: Tnufa), a multi-year program to achieve this much-bruited victory. As explained by Yaakov Lappin, a specialist on Israel’s defense establishment, Momentum revised the very definition of victory. Previously, it meant ground offensives seizing enemy territory. Now, that no longer suffices because the enemy can “continue to launch guerrilla strikes from tunnels, bunkers or residential buildings on advancing (or halted) forces or fire volleys of projectiles at the Israeli home front.” In this case, “Israel is denied decisive victory.”
War monitor claims Israeli strike killed at least 19 pro-Iran fighters in Syria
Airstrikes likely carried out by Israel killed at least 19 pro-Iran militia fighters in war-torn eastern Syria, a war monitor said Thursday.

The early morning strikes hit positions of Iran-backed militias outside the town of Albu Kamal in Deir el-Zour province, killing mostly Pakistani fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-Syrian opposition organization of uncertain funding.

Syrian state media did not report the attack and Israel rarely acknowledges individual strikes, but the Observatory has said the Jewish state launched at least two other aerial attacks against pro-Iran forces in Syria since Saturday.

Last Tuesday, at least eight Iran-backed fighters were killed in strikes near Damascus and in southern Syria, according to the war monitor, which is based in the UK but relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

On Saturday night, airstrikes near Albu Kamal killed at least 14 pro-Iran militia fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Observatory said.

Iran responded by warning Israel that it would bring an end to what it called Israel’s practice of “hit and run” strikes in Syria.
Ethiopian Israelis beg government to airlift relatives from war-torn country
Some 200 Ethiopian Israelis rallied outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on Wednesday, condemning the government’s foot-dragging that has prevented their relatives from immigrating to Israel from the war-torn African country.

“We demand justice for our relatives,” read signs at the protest, as many demonstrators held up photographs of the relatives left behind.

Up to 14,000 people with Jewish roots are waiting in Ethiopia to come to Israel, but the government has approved the airlifting of just 2,000 in January 2021, despite the pandemic and the recent outbreak of a war in the northern Tigray region.

A group that campaigns to bring the Jews remaining in Ethiopia to Israel warned last week that those waiting in Gondar and Addis Ababa are in “immediate, real and mortal danger” and should be airlifted immediately.

Fighting between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front from the country’s northwest claimed its first victim from Gondar’s Jewish community on November 12 — Girmew Gete, 36. He had waited 24 years to immigrate to Israel.
UN agency accuses Israel of 'devastating' Gaza's economy
Israel's blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has cost the coastal enclave as much as $16.7 billion in economic losses and sent poverty and unemployment skyrocketing, a UN report said Wednesday, as it called on Israel to lift the closure.

The report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development echoed calls by numerous international bodies over the years criticizing the blockade. But its findings, looking at an 11-year period ending in 2018, marked perhaps the most detailed analysis of the Israeli policy to date.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2007 after Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group that opposes Israel's existence, seized control of Gaza from the forces of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in a military coup. The Israeli measures, along with restrictions by neighboring Egypt, have tightly controlled the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.

Both Israel and Egypt maintain that the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling terrorists and weapons into Gaza.

The measure's critics, however, say the blockade has amounted to collective punishment, hurting the living conditions of Gaza's 2 million inhabitants while failing to oust Hamas or moderate its behavior.

"The result has been the near-collapse of Gaza's regional economy and its isolation from the Palestinian economy and the rest of the world," the UN agency said in a statement.
PMW: PA defies coming Biden administration: Palestinian terrorist prisoners will continue to receive “full rights”
The PA apparently deceived The New York Times, which falsely reported:
“Seeking Restart With Biden, Palestinians Eye End to Prisoner Payments.”
Jibril Rajoub, Fatah Central Committee Sec.:
“In no way will any decision be made that detracts from any right [the prisoners] receive today. On the contrary - if we want to change it, we will make it better.”
Commissioner of Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr:
“There will be no bargaining over the prisoners’ rights… the prisoners’ rights will be realized. We also deny that the prisoners’ allowances will be paid through social institutions. These news [reports in the NY Times] are completely unfounded.”

The New York Times apparently was deceived by the Palestinian Authority, which resulted in the prominent Times’ story this week headlined: “Seeking Restart With Biden, Palestinians Eye End to Prisoner Payments.”

Nearly every day since the Times’ report, one or more senior PA officials has denied that Palestinian prisoners’ “rights” will be hurt. The head of the PA Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr himself, who was quoted by The New York Times as saying: “Economic need must serve as the basis, a single man should not be earning the same as someone with a family,” denied the information when interviewed by a Palestinian TV station. Abu Bakr said that the source was “an American paper… unfortunately we [Palestinians] have adjusted to them and repeated the same things.”

Independent Palestinian news agency Wattan host: “Are there really news reports about transferring these [prisoners’] allowances (i.e salaries) to the [Ministry of] Social Affairs [and paying] according to the prisoner’s living conditions, and not [as is PA law] according to the number of years of his sentence?”

Director of PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr: “[The New York Times] published it, and [so did] the Israeli papers. Unfortunately we [Palestinians] have adjusted to them and repeated the same things.”

[Wattan, independent Palestinian news agency, Nov. 22, 2020]

PA to establish new bank to pay terror rewards

Terrorist involved in murder of 4 was “special patriot,” “a lion of Palestine” - PA TV host

Israeli Policy toward Renewed Negotiations with Iran
Any attempt by a new U.S. administration to start fresh negotiations on the nuclear deal will face significant obstacles. Tehran's current political climate is not as amenable to a deal like the JCPOA as it once was. After incidents like the assassination of Qassem Souleimani, Iranian officials' already limited trust in the U.S. has significantly eroded. Moreover, conservative-moderate political forces like President Rouhani that made the deal possible have waned in power.

Israel's presence, at least behind the scenes, is necessary to make sure that any future agreement is in some accordance with its requirements and needs. Israel must insist on a number of fundamental and realistic principles, primarily a significant extension of the nuclear agreement conditions, the continued existence of an intrusive inspection regime, and especially a dramatic limitation of Iran's research and development (R&D) capabilities in the nuclear field, to block the development of advanced centrifuges that will greatly facilitate Iran's ability to conceal enrichment from international supervision in the future.

If Israel works with the future Biden administration, it may be able to avoid a worst-case scenario in which its greatest ally forms a deal with one of its greatest enemies that harms Israeli interests severely.
JCPA: Iran: We Will Not Renegotiate the Nuclear Deal
In the run-up to the Iranian presidential elections in June 2021, conservatives in Iran will try to frustrate any dialogue with the incoming U.S. administration. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has minimized the significance of the U.S. elections, saying, "It does not matter who will be the next president in the United States....No matter which one will be elected, there is one obvious point, which is the political, civil, and moral decline of the American regime."

The conservative camp in Iran emphasizes that there is no real difference between Biden and Trump. They state that only if the U.S. fulfills a long list of conditions that Iran will impose on it would they agree to return to the negotiating table with Washington regarding the nuclear deal. However, they would by no means enter into a dialogue on other issues, including ballistic missiles, human rights, or regional issues.
US Iran envoy says more sanctions coming, urges Biden to maintain leverage
The Trump administration plans to tighten sanctions on Tehran during its final months in power, the top US envoy on Iran said on Wednesday, as he urged President-elect Joe Biden to use the leverage to press for a deal that reduces the regional and nuclear threats posed by the Islamic republic.

US Special Envoy for Iran Elliott Abrams, praising Biden's National Security Adviser and nominee for Secretary of State as "terrific people," cautioned against repeating what he saw as former President Barack Obama's mistakes in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal. President Donald Trump left that deal unilaterally two years ago.

Biden, set to take office on Jan. 20, has said he will return the United States to the Obama-era deal if Iran resumes compliance.

Abrams, at a virtual Beirut Institute event, said the Trump administration plans further pressure on Tehran, with sanctions related to arms, weapons of mass destruction and human rights.

"We will have next week, and the week after, and the week after - all through December and January, there will be sanctions that deal with arms, that deal with weapons of mass destruction, that deal with human rights. ... So this will continue on for another couple of months, right until the end," Abrams said.
Iran frees Australian-British researcher accused of spying for Israel
Iran has released Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was serving a 10-year prison sentence for spying, in exchange for three Iranians, state television in the Islamic Republic reported Wednesday.

The broadcaster’s Iribnews website showed video footage of three unidentified men — one of them in a wheelchair — draped in Iranian flags and being met by officials.

It also aired images of a veiled Moore-Gilbert entering a building with the Australian ambassador to Tehran, Lyndall Sachs, before taking off her face mask. She is later seen getting into a white van carrying a brown bag.

“A businessman and two (other) Iranian citizens detained abroad on the basis of false accusations were freed in exchange for a spy with dual nationality working for” Israel, the broadcaster’s Iribnews website said, also identifying Moore-Gilbert by name.

The broadcaster provided no further information on the prisoner swap.

A lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, Moore-Gilbert’s arrest was confirmed by Iran in September 2019 but it is believed she had been detained a year earlier.

She has denied the charges against her.
Thailand to release 3 Iranians suspected of bomb plot against Israeli diplomats
The bomb plot of the three Iranians was exposed in 2012 when an accidental explosion blew apart the Bangkok villa where they were staying. Israeli and Thai officials have said the plot was aimed at Israeli diplomats in Bangkok — though Iran denied the allegations and the men were never charged with terrorism.

Two of the men, Saeid Moradi and Mohammad Kharzei, were convicted in Thailand in 2013. Moradi was sentenced to life for attempting to murder a police officer, while Kharzei was sentenced to 15 years for possessing explosives.

Moradi, a factory technician from Tehran and a former soldier, lost parts of both legs as he tried to flee the villa on a crowded Bangkok street. He was carrying explosives from the house and dropped them in the street as police tried to stop him.

The third suspect, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, was detained in Malaysia. In 2017, a federal court there ordered his extradition to Thailand.

Israeli officials on Thursday had no immediate comment on the release of the Iranians.

Iran’s report of the prisoner swap was scant on detail, saying only that the Iranians had been imprisoned for trying to bypass sanctions on Iran.

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