Saturday, November 28, 2020

From Ian:

Melanie Phillips: The prospective return of global appeasement
Under former President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which at best would delay its ability to build nuclear weapons by only a few years, billions of dollars poured into Tehran while the regime steadily increased its power across the region and continued to ramp up its terrorist activities.

Only when Trump took America out of the deal and reimposed sanctions did the regime start to totter and hopes began to grow that it might implode without the need for war.

Under successive American presidents, whether or not they were well-disposed towards Israel, Palestinian appeasement took the form of an endless peace process.

In order to keep the Palestinians in this process, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union refused to bring up anything that would cause them to walk out.

This meant ignoring their incitement to violence, their incendiary anti-Semitism and their declared aim of using a Palestinian state as means of destroying Israel in stages. The result of this surrender to blackmail was not peace, but endless Palestinian attacks against Israel through terrorism, murder and war.

When Trump ended this lethal appeasement strategy and instead moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as a defiant statement of the Jews’ right to the land, the foreign-policy establishment confidently asserted that this would cause the region to go up in flames.

Not only did this not happen, with no one other than the Palestinians and their acolytes turning a hair, but the Gulf states started to normalize relations with Israel. This ended the Palestinian veto on peace and advanced the prospect of an end to the Arab war against Israel more than at any time since the 1920s.

But now these gains may be put into reverse. Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State is Antony Blinken, the Jewish stepson of a U.N. lawyer and the ultimate foreign-policy establishment insider.

Blinken served as President Bill Clinton’s chief foreign-policy speechwriter, a national security adviser to Biden and deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry. He is said to be a centrist who won’t make aid to Israel conditional on its policy choices, will keep the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and will support Israel at the United Nations.

But the label “centrist” means he is a liberal universalist, and thus committed to policies that ultimately rest upon the appeasement of evil people.

John Podhoretz: Trump’s leaving Biden a Christmas gift of Middle East peace — will Joe throw it in the trash?
First, there is a general sense among all Democrats that anything and everything Trump has touched is corrupted and diseased and must be discarded.

The Abraham Accords are in part an outgrowth of the Trump administration’s clear tilt toward Israel from the moment it took ­office and the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem. That may alone may render the accords suspect in Obamian eyes.

At the same time, Biden now presides over a Democratic Party whose antipathy toward Israel is growing, as represented by the left-wing activists in the House who have made their loathing of the Jewish state a key element of their Squad’s cheerleading. Ironically, the Squad is committed to a Palestinian cause that its Arab sponsors have now largely abandoned.

The Arab signatories have grown tired of, and uninterested in, the Palestinian cause, and they seem eager to move on and deal with the world as it is. As they change course, the Democratic Party writ large may be eager to take up the cudgels of Palestinian nationalism more openly than ever before.

Perhaps even more painful for the Biden team, the ultimate success of the accords would be a history-making achievement for two leaders detested by the administration in which they served — Netanyahu, the subject of some of the ugliest score-settling jabs in ­Obama’s new memoir, and MBS, who has more than earned the ­opprobrium of all civilized people due to his apparent role in the literal dismemberment of his critic Jamal Khashoggi.

A Middle East in which Israel and Arab states find they can live together, trade together and move into the 21st century in a normal way is an international blessing. The Biden team doesn’t have to do anything but reap the fruits of this new reality. It’s the easiest thing in the world. Let’s see if they screw it up.
UNSC Resolution 242 at Fifty
Other factors explain the novelty of 242 as well, especially the impulse to “learn lessons” from previous rounds of postwar diplomacy and the inevitable over-learning that such an impulse generates. None of the four factors discussed above — multiple fronts, multiple players on one front, short duration, and inauspicious timing in the global order — is unique in its own right, but the combination of all four is. And the Six-Day War was not merely a unique war but a war in a unique conflict.

The wording of the resolution ignores the existence of a Palestinian national movement with real claims on the land, even while acknowledging their genuine historical grievance at the result of a previous war. And it ignores entirely that the very existence of Israel is at the center of the conflict of which the recent war was just one episode.

The standard model might work where the dispute is about land or resources or even holy sites and refugees. But when one side regards accepting the very existence of the other as an insufferable concession, any diplomatic process that makes overly ambitious demands (full peace instead of a truce) with no clear benchmarks (territorial compromises to be negotiated by all parties) among competing belligerents with vastly different interests is doomed to fail. When it leaves no room for any party or combination of parties to alter a status quo in any meaningful way by the adoption of half-measures, it has the inevitable result of cementing a reality of semi-permanent occupation.

The semi-permanent occupation has been reasonably tolerable for the Arab states that lost the war, allowing them to pursue their own means for disengaging from a conflict they had no hope of winning. But it has been a catastrophe for the Israelis and Palestinians themselves, who still find their very national existence questioned and threatened in a way nations in other conflicts, even bitter conflicts, do not.

Richard Goldberg: Let this be a warning to Biden: Iran has been cheating this whole time
That reality was deliberately obfuscated to sell the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Iran deal supporters wanted the world to believe that Iran had left its nuclear ambitions in the past. To clear the way for the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was pressured to close the book on Iran’s past activities and remove issues related to Iran’s undeclared nuclear work from the agency’s agenda. Outstanding questions were left unresolved. Iran was required to respond to questions posed by the IAEA — but under the terms of the nuclear deal, those responses could remain incomplete, untruthful and unverifiable for sanctions relief to follow.

We now know Iran lied to the IAEA and to the participants of the Iran nuclear deal. Today, the IAEA is again investigating Iran’s concealment of undeclared nuclear material, activities and sites. The investigation reportedly stems from an inspection of a warehouse in Iran where commercial satellite imagery suggested Iran was engaged in sanitization work after Netanyahu had exposed the location in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

This month, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi told reporters that Iran’s responses to the agency were deemed “not technically credible” — which is IAEA speak for “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Taken together, SPND’s existence, Iran’s curation of a secret nuclear weapons archive and its concealment of undeclared nuclear material present a simple truth. We do not face an Iran deal crisis created by President Donald Trump, as members of the incoming U.S. administration have alleged. Instead, we face a more fundamental Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty crisis created by Iran.

President-elect Joe Biden can no longer pretend that the Iran deal prevented the Islamic Republic’s nuclear advancement. It did not.

Nor can Biden’s incoming Secretary of State or National Security Adviser — both of whom were instrumental players in putting the deal together — pretend that Iran can return to compliance with that flawed deal without addressing all outstanding questions about the archive, SPND and its undeclared activities.

Team Biden should issue a clear message to Tehran: come clean or say goodbye to future talks.

Iran Lied To The World About Who Scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Really Was: Reports
Fakhrizadeh maintained a low profile until 2018 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed information about him that had been obtained during a massive seizure of highly classified Iranian nuclear documents. “But in recent years, Fakhrizadeh’s reticence toward publicity appeared to have slipped,” The Washington Post reported. “He appeared on official Iranian websites at events with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ultimately, that may have been his downfall.”

“Iran had lied about the purpose of its nuclear research, he charged, and he identified Mr. Fakhrizadeh as the leader of the Amad program,” the Times reports. During that press conference, Netanyahu said, “remember that name” when he spoke of Fakhrizadeh.

During the secretive raid in Iran, Israeli operatives seized half a ton of materials inside Iran’s vaults, including “55,000 pages of documents and another 55,000 files on 183 CDs,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

Fakhrizadeh’s death sent a chilling message to other Iranian nuclear scientists: The country’s top nuclear scientist, who was reportedly one of its most guarded scientists, was easily eliminated within its own borders. Fakhrizadeh’s killing comes just a couple of weeks after Israeli operatives terminated Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader in Tehran, the capital of Iran, at the request of the United States.

“The Qaeda figure, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri and was accused of being one of the masterminds of the deadly 1998 attacks on two U.S. embassies in East Africa,” the Times added. “He was killed along with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden.”

For more than 20 years, Fakhrizadeh was believed to be the “driving force” behind Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program. His work continued after Iran disbanded, at least publicly, their nuclear weapons program in 2003.

In a 2017 interview with The Daily Wire, nuclear weapons expert Dr. Peter Vincent Pry explained where Iran was in terms of developing a nuclear weapon in 2003:

Seth Frantzman: Fakhrizadeh assassination a huge embarrassment for Iran
He was shot down on a road in broad daylight. This was not a clandestine hit, but a brutal clear killing – the destruction of a major and well-known Iranian figure. He was not as well known as Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, not a glad-hander who sucks up to Western politicians and is known for nice suits and “moderation,” but a man well-known in intelligence circles, among the kinds of people who follow Iran closely. They say he was not a “household name.”

But in the households where people know about Iran’s nuclear efforts, ostensibly on hold since the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, he was known. Iran has been increasing its advanced centrifuges in the last years and enriching uranium. One key nuclear site, Natanz, was impacted by sabotage in July.

What we know is that this man was a high up in the IRGC, Iran’s key military and ideological unit. “Even as a scientist he reportedly retained a senior rank in the IRGC as a brigadier general,” notes The Guardian.

He was spotlighted in 2011 by an Iranian nuclear watchdog. He was named again in 2018 by Israel. He was at the pinnacle of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program. His death is considered to have a major impact on Iran. This is more than the killings of other scientists, such as one killed by an assassin on a motorbike in 2010 or by a car bomb in 2012.

Iran’s regime is also embarrassed. It comes the same month that al-Qaeda’s second-in-command was gunned down in Tehran. Tehran can’t keep safe al-Qaeda terrorists it harbors or its own head scientists and generals. No one is safe in Iran’s Iran.

Seth Frantzman: ‘Tehran has become Mossad’s street corner’
The killing of Fakhrizadeh on Friday sent shock waves through those who watch Iran. He was an academic and was accused by Israel of work on the secret Amad program to develop nuclear weapons, and had been targeted in the past. He had a security detail. He was named by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a 2018 speech.

Iranians tweeted about the killing with surprise, even as they highlighted the abilities of those who allegedly killed him. Beside the tweets blaming Mossad and Israel, there were others debating how it came about. One user suggested that the hit was linked to a meeting several days ago between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Others have comments on this “message” to Iran that was sent about a week ago during the high-level meeting.

Another user on Twitter wrote “The assassination of Fakhrizadeh, the most prominent figure and most important commander of the IRGC [nuclear program] is the biggest intelligence failure of the IRGC in 39 years. The intelligence abilities of the Islamic Republic is an illusion.” The user suggested that Iran is only good at arresting dissidents, not protecting its own high level officials.

Pro-Iran IRGC members tweeted that the assassination showed the failure of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s policies of dealing with the West. One user wrote “two months ago you said if something would happen to any of our nuclear scientists, then we will retaliate. It’s time to do so, not to say slogans.” In a sense this means that Iran warned after the Natanz sabotage they would retaliate. However Iran has not retaliated against anyone, yet.

Seth Frantzman: Timing is everything: Assassination of Iran nuke chief Fakhrizadeh
IRAN IS concerned about a harsh response to the US because it doesn’t want to anger the incoming Biden administration. However, others in Iran’s regime want to see a tough response to the US and also more threats to Israel. They say the US has lost and that Iran can pivot to China. Iran has vowed retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the IRGC Quds force killed by the US in January.

In this sense, Iran watched as Israel and the Gulf states have made peace, and is watching Washington closely. The death of its key scientist on the road to Absard, not far from the Khojir missile site, is a huge embarrassment for Iran. Some on social media compare it to the death of Soleimani. Iran retaliated for the death of Soleimani with ballistic missile strikes on US forces at al-Asad base in Iraq.

Iran also downed a civilian airliner by mistake, revealing the regime’s technological programs. Iran has advanced 3rd Khordad missile defenses and recently put these missiles and other drones on a new ship it acquired. It also downed a US drone.

All this looks like complex timing for Iran. Iran must consider what to do next as some elements in the regime will demand retaliation, angry that they didn’t get to retaliate in January. In Iraq, Iran has been ordering its proxies to attack US forces.

However it has been cautious after the US threatened to close its embassy in September. Iran must weigh a response, as it also wonders about angering the new US administration. Iran recently released an Australian academic and wants to appear more palatable to western countries.

Western states are fearful of Iran, but one Iranian diplomat is on trial in Belgium over an alleged bombing plot. Iran considers all this as it is busy cleaning the blood off the street near Absard.
Israeli missions, Jews around world said on alert after hit on Iran nuke chief
Israel has raised alertness in its embassies around the world in the wake of the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Tehran’s finger-pointing at Israel and the Islamic Republic’s vow to avenge his death, according to television reports Saturday.

Jewish communities across the globe are also taking precautions, according to Channel 12 news.

The Foreign Ministry has refused to comment on security arrangements.

Multiple top Iranian officials have blamed Israel for the death of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the alleged mastermind of Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, and vowed to avenge his death. The New York Times also reported that Israel was behind the attack, citing three unnamed intelligence officials.

Fakhrizadeh died in a bombing and shooting attack outside Tehran Friday.

Iran and Hezbollah have been accused of targeting Israelis and Jews around the world on multiple occasions, and Israeli and Jewish sites are seen as prime targets for reprisals following alleged Israeli attacks.

Tehran also has forces at its disposal all around Israel, including troops and proxies in neighboring Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad — and to a lesser extent Hamas — in the Gaza Strip.

There has been no word so far of the Israeli military raising its alertness level along the country’s borders.
Rouhani: Iran will retaliate for killing of nuclear scientist
Iran vowed revenge on Saturday for the assassination a day earlier of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, raising the threat of a new confrontation between the Islamic Republic and the West with just over seven weeks left of US President Donald Trump’s term in office.

“Once again, the evil hands of global arrogance were stained with the blood of the mercenary usurper Zionist regime,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said. “Iran will surely respond to the martyrdom of our scientist at the proper time.”

Head of Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program, Fakhrizadeh was shot and killed in Damavand, east of Tehran on Friday afternoon. Pictures from the scene showed two vehicles, one damaged in an explosion and another riddled with bullets in what appeared like a professional hit.

Fakhrizadeh was a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) officer and headed Iran’s nuclear weapons project. He was a professor of physics at the Imam Hussein University in Tehran and was former head of Iran’s Physics Research Center (PHRC). He was the only Iranian scientist named in the IAEA’s 2015 “final assessment” of open questions about Iran’s nuclear program. It said he oversaw activities “in support of a possible military dimension to (Iran’s) nuclear program.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledged to continue the work of Fakhrizadeh, whom Western and Israeli governments have dubbed the Iranian version of Robert Oppenheimer, one of the heads of the Manhattan Project.

A military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accused Israel of trying to provoke “a full-blown” war by killing Fakhrizadeh. “In the last days of the political life of their... ally (US President Donald Trump), the Zionists (Israel) seek to intensify pressure on Iran and create a full-blown war,” commander Hossein Dehghan tweeted.
Palestinian terror groups condemn killing of Iranian scientist
A number of Palestinian terror groups, holding Israel and the US responsible, have condemned the assassination of Iranian military scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh outside Tehran on Friday.

The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, did not comment on the killing. Relations between Ramallah and Tehran have been strained due to Iran’s continuous support for Hamas and other Palestinian extremist groups.

Hamas said that the assassination “coincided with ongoing American and Zionist threats against the Islamic Republic of Iran with the aim of depriving it of possessing advanced scientific tools so that it would remain [only] in the hands of the Zionist occupation.”

The killing of Fakhrizadeh, Hamas warned, would lead to “chaos and instability that mainly serve the interests of the Zionist entity.” Hamas offered “sincere condolences” to the Iranian people and leadership on the “martyrdom of this nuclear scientist.”

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) condemned the “despicable terrorist attack,” dubbing it “a cowardly assassination that bears the fingerprints” of Israel and the US.

“This cowardly terrorist act targets the elements of scientific advancement in the Islamic world in general and the Islamic Republic of Iran in particular,” PIJ said in a statement. “This is a desperate attempt to punish Iran for standing by the just causes of the weak people in the world, including the Palestinian issue.”
EU condemns assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist, calls for 'calm'
The European Union (EU) condemned the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in an official statement posted on the EU's foreign affairs website Saturday, calling for calm and restraint following Iranian statements that retaliation against the perpetrators, allegedly Israel, is coming.

"The High Representative expresses his condolences to the family members of the individuals who were killed, while wishing a prompt recovery to any other individuals who may have been injured," the statement read. "In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever for all parties to remain calm and exercise maximum restraint in order to avoid escalation which cannot be in anyone’s interest."

Germany also urged all sides on Saturday to show restraint after the killing of the Iranian nuclear scientist and to avoid escalating tensions that could derail any talks on Iran's nuclear program.

"A few weeks before the new US administration takes office, it is important to preserve the scope for talks with Iran so that the dispute over Iran's nuclear program can be resolved through negotiations," a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "We therefore urge all parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to a further escalation of the situation," he said in an emailed statement.
Democrats Erupt After Scientist Behind Iran’s ‘Clandestine Nuclear Ambitions’ Is Killed
Democrats lashed out on Friday in response to the news that the scientist who was at the center of Iran’s clandestine nuclear ambitions had been killed in an attack.

“Iran’s top nuclear scientist, who American and Israeli intelligence have long charged was behind secret programs to design an atomic warhead, was shot and killed in an ambush on Friday as he was traveling in a vehicle in northern Iran,” The New York Times reported. “The scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, believed to be 59, has been considered the driving force behind Iran’s nuclear weapons program for two decades, and continued to work after the main part of the effort was quietly disbanded in the early 2000s.”

The attack comes after President Donald Trump was reportedly dissuaded from attacking a nuclear facility in Iran a couple of weeks ago after he spoke with top U.S. officials about the idea. The attack also comes just days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Saudi Arabia for talks.

News that Fakhrizadeh had been killed rankled Democrats, who called the action a “criminal act.”

“This was a criminal act & highly reckless. It risks lethal retaliation & a new round of regional conflict,” former Obama-era CIA Director John Brennan said. “Iranian leaders would be wise to wait for the return of responsible American leadership on the global stage & to resist the urge to respond against perceived culprits.”

What challenges shake the foundations of the modern Zionist project?
“I lived most of my life in this home,” Dan Meridor tells me, as we sit drinking coffee in his Rehavia kitchen. “My grandfather – my mother’s father – bought it when he came here from Vienna in 1935.”

The apartment is one of several that the Meridor family own in the building on a quiet street in this leafy and pleasant Jerusalem neighborhood. Meridor’s mother Raanana, a 98-year-old retired professor of classics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, lives in another.

There is nothing to indicate, as you walk past this unpretentious house, that it has served as the base for one of the more remarkable careers on record in Israeli public life. A particular detail that seemed to me to characterize something of the nature of this unusual man and his family is the intercom at the entrance. One might expect, at the very least, a finely painted or engraved card detailing something of the status of the inhabitants. A former deputy prime minister, after all, who served as finance minister and justice minister is resident here. There is none of that. Instead, on a scrap of paper taped next to the intercom, is written in biro in scrawled Hebrew script: Dan and Liora Meridor in the way that students who rent accommodation in Rehavia tend to record their presence.

Status, display, the trappings of power or influence are not of interest to Dan Meridor and his family.

This modesty, however, should not be permitted to deceive. For four decades, Dan Meridor, now 73, has dwelled at or close to the inner sanctum of Israeli policymaking at the highest and most sensitive levels. His career encompasses membership in two tangentially overlapping but distinctive elites: the first is the leadership group of the Herut movement and Revisionist Zionism – from which the current ruling Likud Party emerged, and specifically the ‘Fighting Family’ – those who took part in the underground war against Britain in the 1940s and their descendants.

The second is a more inchoate and less tangible gathering – consisting of those officials and former officials, politicians and former politicians, generals and former generals, who collectively form what might be called Israel’s national security and policy establishment. People who, having worked at the very highest levels of policy, never really retire – but remain through formal and informal channels close to the heart of affairs in Israel.

This ultimate insider status notwithstanding, Meridor is today deeply concerned about the direction of public life in Israel. Indeed, he cautions, that the country is currently embarked on a course that, unless diverted, could mean the historic defeat of the Zionist project in modernity.
Seth Frantzman: From Greece To India, via Israel: A New Middle East Alliance Is Expanding
The Iran front is one issue that brings Israel and Saudi Arabia closer together. It is also a threat that concerns the UAE and Bahrain. However, Iran is not the only issue. Turkey's support for Qatar and its links to Hamas, as well as Ankara's role in the Libya conflict, have set off alarm bells from Jerusalem to Abu Dhabi to Cairo. The same week Netanyahu went to Saudi Arabia, a joint training took place in Egypt with Bahrain, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE. Dubbed "Sword of the Arabs," the joint training's intent was to help participating countries coordinate more closely. Importantly, there was no U.S.-backed umbrella behind this the way annual joint training exercises such as Eager Lion or Iron Union in the UAE have a large American presence. The message was clear: The UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Sudan will act alone to defend themselves.

The reason these countries are working more closely is because the U.S. has signaled it is drawing down forces from places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and perhaps wrapping up the war on terror that 700 U.S. forces have waged in Somalia, as well. That means that U.S. allies must do more on their own. Toward this end, Greece and the UAE have also done joint training with F-16s, and both the UAE and Greece have worked more closely with Israel. Israel, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and Jordan all signed on this year to an East Mediterranean Gas Forum. Israel and India are strategic partners, and India's external affairs announced one of his first major foreign visits in months would be to Bahrain and the UAE. He discussed growing cooperation with these two states, which are the same states that signed the Abraham Accords.

Together, this arc of transnational partnerships from Greece to India is part of an alliance that includes economic ties and geostrategic discussions about common interests and security, as well as the need for stabilization in the face of terror and extremist threats. Israel is a hub for these relationships, along with the UAE. It looks to also be a corridor that will grow amid the pandemic, as countries realize they need closer regional ties in this uncertain world.
Israeli minister optimistic about Saudi Arabia signing peace deal next
Israel’s foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi is optimistic about Saudi Arabia signing the Abraham Accords next, after the UAE and Bahrain.

“Saudi Arabia is a major player in the region. It is a very important country in the region and we are the first to recognise it, and I think it will be significant if they join,” Ashkenazi, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview on Thursday.

“I am very optimistic about it because they are already very supportive, they support the UAE decision, they support the Bahraini decision."

On September 15 this year, the UAE and Bahrain signed the US-brokered peace deal, normalising relations with Israel.

Ashkenazi said Saudi Arabia has tangibly contributed to the success of the deed as they allowed Israeli airlines to fly over the Saudi sky. “It is evident that they are moving in the right direction.”

“They need their time. We understand and we are not pushing.”
Saudi prince delays normalization pact with Israel due to Biden win — report
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly pulled back from a normalization deal with Israel due to US President-elect Joe Biden’s election win this month and the prince’s desire to build ties with the incoming administration.

Bin Salman, son of the 84-year-old King Salman and the kingdom’s de facto ruler, is reluctant “to take the step now, when he could use a deal later to help cement relations with the new American leader,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Friday.

Bin Salman held a meeting on Sunday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who flew to the Saudi Red Sea city of Neom for the secret rendezvous alongside US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, where the trio discussed developments in Iran and possible normalization.

A Saudi government adviser had earlier in the week confirmed the meeting and the trip to the WSJ, saying that the meeting, which had lasted several hours, focused on Iran and the establishment of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Jerusalem, but did not yield substantial agreements.

Citing Saudi advisers and US officials, the WSJ reported Friday that a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia under the brokerage of the new president, Bin Salman hopes, “could put relations between the Biden administration and Riyadh on surer footing.”
Abbas to make first trip abroad since outbreak of COVID-19
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled on Sunday to hold his first trip abroad since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic by visiting Jordan and Egypt.

In Amman, the 85-year-old Abbas is expected to hold talks with King Abdullah before heading to Cairo, where he is scheduled to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi on Monday.

PA presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said that Abbas was expected to brief Abdullah and Sisi on the latest developments in the Palestinian arena “in the context of ongoing coordination and consultation” the Palestinian leadership and the Jordanians and Egyptians.

Palestinian sources said that Abbas’s visit comes in the framework of preparations for engaging with a new US administration under President Joe Biden.

On Friday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki said that the Palestinians were holding indirect contacts with the Biden team. He said that the Palestinians were ready to renew contacts with the Washington after Biden enters office.

The Palestinians have been boycotting the US administration since President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.
Four more students charged in France over teacher's beheading
Four teenage students have been charged in France over the killing of Samuel Paty, including three for allegedly pointing out the teacher to his murderer, a judical source said Thursday.

Three other pupils were charged with complicity earlier this month over the beheading last month of Paty, who had shown his students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson on free speech.

Paty's murder sparked a torrent of outrage that prompted President Emmanuel Macron to crack down on Islamist extremism and violence in a country reeling from a wave of jihadist attacks since 2015 that have killed more than 250 people.

Three of the four students charged Thursday were suspected of identifying Paty to his killer, 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, who then tracked him down and beheaded him in a street near his school.

Anzorov, who was killed by police at the scene of the beheading, paid the students a few hundred euros for their help.

The three, who are between 13 and 14 years old, are being charged with "complicity in a terrorist murder," the source said.

The fourth is the daughter of Brahim Chnina, who launched a virulent online campaign against Paty denouncing the teacher's use of the cartoons published by satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

Chnina himself -- as well as Islamist militant Abdelhakim Sefrioui, who ran the campaign together with him -- have already been charged with complicity.
Union members call on King's College to let them criticize Zionism, Israel
Union members at King's College London have called on the university to revoke its adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, claiming that its stipulation that anti-Zionism is antisemitism constitutes revisionist history.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism lists a number of contemporary examples of antisemitism, among them: "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor."

However, members of the University and College Union (UCU) have tabled a motion which argues that some of the examples within the IHRA definition “require us to deny or suppress matters of historical record and contemporary reality,” which they claimed was a breach of the Equality Act, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

The motion calls upon the management of Kings College London to "reaffirm KCL’s commitment to academic freedom, including freedom of speech, critical of capitalism, critical of white privilege, and critical of Zionism and Israel."

It also makes clear the members' intention to file the motion at the union's national level, in addition to the King's College branch. The university was one of the first in the UK to adopt the IHRC definition, in 2018.
Catholic cardinal condemns antisemitic attack on rabbi in Vienna
Cardinal Christoph Schรถnborn condemned Friday an antisemitic attack on a rabbi in the Austrian capital of Vienna, as reported by the Catholic News Agency.

In a statement on his Twitter in German, the cardinal said “I am dismayed by yesterday’s attack on a rabbi in the middle of Vienna. I assure our fellow Jewish citizens of my complete solidarity. [Antisemitism] must have no place among us. It endangers the peaceful coexistence of us all.”

A woman in her 50s confronted a rabbi on Thursday with a knife on the previous afternoon, kicking him in the leg and taking his kippah before running away.

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was also quick to condemn the antisemitic attack, saying on Twitter a few days earlier that “We must fight [antisemitism] with all determination. Jewish life in Austria must be possible in safety. For a Europe without Jews is no longer Europe.”
3000-year-old temple-era gold bead found by 9-year-old Jerusalem boy
The first ever First Temple-era gold granule bead was discovered during wet sifting of earth from the Temple Mount by a nine-year-old boy, the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP) announced earlier this week.

While sifting through the dirt with his family in August, Jerusalem resident Binyamin Milt uncovered a perfectly preserved small, flower-shaped cylinder, created by four layers of tiny gold balls, unaware that the artifact he was holding was likely forged around 3,000 years ago.

The bead was so well preserved in fact, that when the boy brought the bead to the supervising archaeologist, he initially wrote it off as likely being an unidentified modern object, not even writing down the boy's contact information before hurrying back to continue sifting. It was only while sorting through the summer's artifacts in Dr. Gabriel Barkay's back yard that he realized the bead was strikingly similar to several similar items he had found when he excavated burial systems from the First Temple period in Katef Hinom.

While those beads were made of silver, they were identical to the gold bead in both shape and manufacturing method (called granulation). Similar beads have been found in several other sites across Israel, dated to various periods, with the overwhelming majority dating to the Iron Age (twelfth century BCE-sixth century BCE).

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