Thursday, December 17, 2020

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Trump's Legacy of Peace
For 72 years, U.S. presidents sought to achieve peace between Israel and the Arab world. For 72 years, they largely failed.

What for so long eluded presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama seems to have come effortlessly to President Donald Trump. In the space of just four months, together with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump has achieved four peace deals between Israel and Arab states—twice the number achieved by all his predecessors combined. Last Thursday, Trump announced Morocco has joined the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Sudan in the Abraham Accords normalization agreements with Israel. Three or four more Arab states are likely to join the circle of peace in Trump's final weeks in office.

Not only has Trump brought more peace to the Middle East, more comprehensively and faster than all of his predecessors combined, but he made it look easy. Israel's ties with its Abraham Accords partners are expanding massively by the day. Tourists from the UAE are streaming into the country. And with one in seven Israeli Jews descended from the Moroccan diaspora, the potential for business and cultural ties between Israel and Morocco is almost limitless.

Trump's sundry Middle East peace deals are humiliating for his predecessors. Not only did they fail where Trump has succeeded, but they insisted that his achievements were impossible.

For instance, John Kerry, who as Barack Obama's secretary of state oversaw the administration's failed Middle East peace efforts, insisted back in 2016: "There will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world."

Speaking at the Brookings Institution, Kerry continued emphatically:
"I want to make that very clear with all of you. I've heard several prominent politicians in Israel sometimes saying, 'Well, the Arab world is a different place now. We just have to reach out to them. We can work some things with the Arab world and we'll deal with the Palestinians.' No. No, no, no and no. ...There will be no advanced and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace. Everybody needs to understand that. That is a hard reality."

The "several prominent politicians in Israel" certainly included Netanyahu. It was during the Obama administration that Netanyahu began developing close strategic ties with a number of Arab states—particularly Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The sides came together due to mutual distress over the negative impact of Obama's Middle East policies.

What was it about Obama's policies that brought them together?
Jonathan S. Tobin: In praise of diplomatic quid pro quos
The ability of the Trump foreign-policy team to succeed in doing something its predecessors failed to do was based on two factors. One was that its members were not blinded by ideology when it came to Israel and the Palestinians, as were the Obama, Clinton and both Bush administrations. The other was that they took a more openly transactional approach to diplomacy.

The foreign-policy establishment likes to dress up agreements based on mutual interests in high-sounding language about principles. But the Trump team, which was composed to a large extent of people like White House senior adviser/presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner with a background in real estate, didn't get bogged down in such meaningless and ultimately counterproductive exercises, and stuck to dealing with the world as it is rather than as they'd like it to be. They strove to make deals that made sense for both sides. And as a result of what some consider a crass rather than a principled approach, they advanced the cause of peace far more than any of the experts who mocked them as shallow amateurs.

With American foreign policy about to fall back into the hands of Obama alumni, some are lamenting the Trump administration's achievements in expanding the circle of governments with normal relations with Israel as boxing them and ignoring their obsession with forcing a two-state solution that the Palestinians don't want. Instead, the Biden team should learn from their predecessors. More Trump-style quid pro quos – and less magical thinking and expert ideological condescension from Washington – will make the world a safer place.
What Happens to Israel When Democrats Are in the White House?
Biden and his team have been harshly critical of Trump’s symbolic efforts to tilt U.S. policy toward the Jewish state, such as moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and allowing the word “Jerusalem” to appear on the passports of Jews born in that city. But symbolic actions can have tangible effects. The muted reaction to the embassy move throughout the Middle East revealed the hollowness of the long-standing threat that the “Arab street” would greet any thaw with Israel with violence and revolution. Given how low the cost was, and the fact that the embassy move was directed by U.S. law, it is hard to imagine that a President Biden would expend any political capital on an effort to return the embassy to Tel Aviv. And indeed, Biden has indicated he does not plan to do so.

Another traditional lever used against Israel is U.S. military aid. Biden has both supported aid and threatened cutting it to Israel in the past, but aid to Israel is a bipartisan policy. The current levels are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding established under the Obama administration, and the Biden team has said it does not plan to make that aid conditional. Even more telling, U.S. aid is no longer the existential necessity for Israel that it once was—so threatening to limit it no longer provides the leverage over Israeli decision-making that it once did.

But it is very likely that the Biden administration will put more rhetorical pressure on Israel to strike a deal with the Palestinians. It’s not clear, however, what policy leverage the U.S. has to push Israel in this regard while the Middle East landscape is changing—or whether the Palestinians will even consider some kind of a deal in any case. Still, Biden could, as Obama did, support UN resolutions critical of Israel. He could also sternly lecture Israeli officials, as he has intermittently throughout his career. Biden is on the record unambiguously about restoring the U.S.–Iran nuclear deal.

Looking at all of this, one can discern the outlines of a policy framework toward Israel—call it Bidenism. It will be supportive of continued aid to Israel and unlikely to publicly question the wisdom of such aid. Rhetorically, Biden will repeatedly present himself as a friend of Israel and of Prime Minister Netanyahu, even as he questions whether Netanyahu is too far to the right and as he exerts private pressure for concessions with the Palestinians.

Bidenism will seek a return to the problematic Iran deal in some form but will continue to profess its concerns about Iran getting nuclear weapons and will be unlikely to try to stop Israel from allying with Sunni Gulf states as a counterweight to Iran. Bidenism will not seek to move the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem—but it won’t encourage other nations to move their embassies from Tel Aviv. And Bidenism will likely be muddled when it comes to the woke left’s intersectional hostility toward Israel—willing to condemn certain outrageous and anti-Semitic statements but ever careful not to offend and, on occasion, will even apologize if its condemnations produce too much blowback.

Israel’s relationship with the outgoing administration was extraordinary. We shall not see its like again. The question going forward is whether the Biden administration will take the recent successes into account as it makes its own way in the Middle East—or whether the powerful urge to restore the status quo ante of the Obama administration will set the course for the next four years.

Nikki Haley: Biden shouldn’t reject all Trump’s foreign policies. Here are three he should keep.
At the United Nations, I often found that many countries agreed with U.S. policies in private but would not say so in public. One wonders if President-elect Joe Biden has a similar view of President Trump’s foreign policy successes.

Biden is sure to feel strong partisan pressure to reject most, if not all, of Trump’s foreign policy. That would be a mistake. Sweeping away the achievements and strategies of the past four years would endanger American safety and interests.

I have no illusions that Biden would simply pick up where Trump leaves off. He won’t. I’m confident I will disagree with many Biden policies. For instance, his intention to rejoin the Paris climate accord is foolish, elevating platitudes over real economic and environmental progress and putting the United States at the mercy of other nations, such as China, that seek to strengthen themselves at American expense. But in the spirit of helping our country, I urge Biden to prioritize continuity and continued progress in three critical areas.

Third: Biden should encourage the remarkable progress of Arab-Israeli peace.

The blooming friendships between Israel and numerous Arab countries have been among the most beautiful developments of the past four years. The Obama administration said such a peace would never happen. But it did — because of U.S. leadership. Trump refused to accept the tired thinking that the Palestinian cause was the key to broader regional peace. And he put strong pressure on Iran’s murderous regime, which hates the Arab world nearly as much as it hates Israel and our country. Trump’s actions aligned American, Israeli and Arab policy, with peace the result.

How can Biden foster a deeper peace? Not by caving to Iran or turning on Israel, both of which would fray the nascent Arab-Israeli bonds that still need strengthening. The better path is to continue to isolate Iran and encourage harmony between Israel and the Arab states, which now clearly see their common interests. A peaceful Middle East depends on it and is essential to U.S. security.
In struggles for West Sahara and West Bank, thorny parallels may loom for Israel
They are both rugged regions claimed by an indigenous population but ruled by a UN member state in a seemingly neverending struggle. They have both seen periods of violent fighting and are riven by a physical barrier built for security. They are both the subject of countless UN resolutions, international condemnations, and US-brokered peace plans. They are both places where US President Donald Trump’s administration has upended decades of consensus by favoring the ruling party’s claims. Not to mention, they both have “west” in their names.

Though thousands of miles away from each other, and the subject of utterly different conflicts, Western Sahara and the West Bank sometimes seem to share uncanny similarities. At the same time, there are fundamental differences between the two territories, both in terms of their history and how they are viewed by the international community.

Last week, the two were linked fatefully when the Trump administration recognized Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, seemingly in exchange for Morocco agreeing to re-establish ties with Israel.

But while some see the similarities possibly foreshadowing a similar step for Israel’s currently suspended plan to annex the West Bank, others note that Washington’s recognition of Morocco’s claims over the territory may have far-reaching implications that may not necessarily work in Israel’s favor.

The Western Sahara situation “in some ways resembles Israel’s, because there was no previous sovereign when Morocco took control,” said Eugene Kontorovich, an Israeli-American expert on international law who did extensive research on the issues. “On the other hand, Morocco lacks the strength of Israel’s claims, based on the prior borders of the [British] Mandate, which is a strong legal claim.”

The West Bank was part of the British Mandate for Palestine from the fall of the Ottoman Empire until British forces left in 1948. It was controlled by Jordan until Israel captured it in 1967, though it was never annexed by Jerusalem, and Jordan, whose annexation was not recognized by the international community, no longer maintains any claim over it.
UN Security Council to Talk Western Sahara After Trump Policy Switch
The UN Security Council is planning to discuss Western Sahara on Monday, diplomats said, after US President Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed region in return for the kingdom normalizing ties with Israel.

Trump’s announcement last week was a departure from longstanding US policy on Western Sahara. A closed-door UN Security Council meeting on the situation was requested by Germany, diplomats said.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft sent a copy of Trump’s proclamation recognizing “that the entire Western Sahara territory is part of the Kingdom of Morocco” to UN chief Antonio Guterres and the Security Council on Tuesday.

The United States had supported a 1991 ceasefire between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a breakaway movement that seeks to establish Western Sahara as an independent state. The ceasefire is monitored by UN peacekeepers.

The region has effectively been split by an earthen wall separating an area controlled by Morocco that it claims as its southern provinces, and territory controlled by the Polisario with a UN-mandated buffer zone between them.

UN talks have long failed to broker an agreement on how to decide on self-determination. Morocco wants an autonomy plan under Moroccan sovereignty. The Polisario wants a UN-backed referendum including on the question of independence.

US President-elect Joe Biden, due to succeed Trump on Jan. 20, will face a decision whether to accept the US deal with Morocco on the Western Sahara, which no other Western country has done. A Biden spokesman declined to comment.
Canada defends pro-Palestinian vote at UN General Assembly
Canada defended its shift in its historic pro-Israel voting pattern at the United Nations General Assembly, through which it cast a "yes" vote for the second year in a row on the annual resolution in favor the right of Palestinian people to self-determination. Prior to 2019, Canada had joined a small number of countries in rejecting the resolution, which the UNGA approved Wednesday in New York with a 168-5 vote, compared to 167-5, last year.

Both years the following five countries rejected the resolution; Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and the United States. This year, 10 counties abstained compared to 11 in 2019. They were; Australia, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guatemala, Honduras, Kiribati, Palau, South Sudan, Togo and Tonga.

The resolution was the 14th pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel the UNGA has approved this month.

Countries that stand with Israel on these resolutions often do so, as a protest vote against the bias of UN member states toward Israel as reflected in the number of resolutions leveled against it. No other country in the UN, including the worst human rights abuser nations, is the subject of so many resolutions.
Deputy health minister says Israel may offer surplus vaccines to Palestinians
The United States is backing the construction of a subsea pipeline that would supply Europe with natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean, US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said on Thursday.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel have approved an agreement for the Eastmed pipeline, which has been in planning for several years. The countries aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the 6-billion-euro scheme completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.

"We are going to continue to work with Israel, Greece and other interested parties to ensure that the infrastructure will be developed," Brouillette told reporters in Athens.

"There is still an enormous amount of interest both from private industry and from governments of the region to see that infrastructure developed and to be developed as quickly as we can possibly do it."

Greece aims to play an important role in helping Europe diversify its energy resources away from Russia, an objective strongly supported by Washington.

Imports of US natural gas to Greece have risen sharply in recent years as the country has built up gas infrastructure, including an 878-kilometer (545-mile) pipeline.
The Unknown Story of Moroccan Holocaust Survivors
Although Morocco was a French protectorate and France's Vichy regime was complicit in the murder of French Jews, not a single Jew living in Morocco was sent to a concentration camp during World War II. Nor did Morocco's Jews wear the yellow star, their property was not seized (unlike Jewish property in neighboring Algeria), and they were not stripped of their citizenship. At the same time, Moroccan Jews were forced to live in mellahs, or historic Jewish quarters, where food was scarce and typhus and cholera were common. Those who were already living there were not allowed to move out, and some who were living outside of the Jewish districts had to move into them - a policy that may have been put in place as the first step to extermination.

Between 1940 and November 1942 when the Americans landed in Morocco, Jewish children were expelled from schools, Jews were fired from government jobs, and there were quotas on how many Jews could attend universities or work as doctors, lawyers and pharmacists, said Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The First UAE-Bahrain Delegation Lands in Israel, Visits Golan Heights, Yad Vashem and Parliament

Paving the way for Jewish culture and education in the UAE
Alec Sellem moved to the United Arab Emirates in February. “We were tired of Europe and didn’t feel safe,” he said. In the UAE, he found a nation with visionary leadership and a place of safety, surrounded by welcoming people.

This safety has now been underpinned by the Abraham Accords, increasing relations with Israel and a higher profile for the Jewish community in Dubai.

Sellem said he has been impressed by government messages that show Jews as part of one of the many diverse groups in the country. Hotels will now have kosher options, and that symbolism is important.

“The knowledge of Jewish life and culture is limited because there isn’t Jewish history here,” he said. “We wanted to have a center and educational program.”

Sellem got in touch with other leaders who are working on UAE-Israel relations, including Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum. He said he wants to open a nursery school and Jewish identity center by January 2021. The plan is to open a school that will serve children ages 18 months to four years.

“Core values and principles are to be taught,” he said. “We want to base it on a model in the US, a Jewish secular preschool.”
The 'Jewish-Muslim Effect' and the New Middle East

Abu Dhabi’s ADX signs MoU with Tel Aviv Stock Exchange
Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) on Wednesday signed an MoU with Israel’s Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) to foster cooperation between the two exchanges, according to the Abu Dhabi Media Office (ADMO).

“ADX signed an MoU with TASE to foster co-operation between the two exchanges, contribute to the growth of UAE and Israeli capital markets, and collaborate in the advancement of innovative financial technologies,” ADMO said in a tweet.

“The MoU was virtually signed by Mohamed Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi, Chairman of ADX, and Amnon Neubach, Chairman of TASE,” ADMO added.

Indonesian president: No normalization with Israel until Palestinians have state
Indonesian President Joko Widodo assured Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Thursday that Jakarta would not join the trend of Arab and Muslim countries normalizing with Israel until after a Palestinian state has been established.

“Despite the rapid changes in the Middle East, Indonesia will not take any steps to normalize with Israel until a permanent and comprehensive peace is achieved between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” Widodo told Abbas in a phone call, according to a readout published by the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

Widodo went on to express his devotion to the Palestinian cause, his rejection of the recent normalization agreements reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, and his commitment to a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Wafa reported.

Abbas thanked the Indonesian president for his support and updated Widodo on the latest developments relating to Ramallah’s efforts at achieving statehood, according to the report.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has never had formal diplomatic ties with Israel and has been a longtime supporter of Palestinian aspirations for statehood.

French Court Convicts 14 Accomplices of Islamist Terrorists Behind 2015 Massacres at Magazine, Kosher Market in Paris
The harrowing trial of 14 accomplices in the January 2015 Islamist terror attacks in Paris came to an end on Wednesday, with a series of prison sentences ranging from four to 30 years handed down by the court in the French capital.

The trial spanned the three days of terror that enveloped Paris between Jan. 7-9 2015. Twelve people were massacred at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by the brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, while a policewoman was murdered the following day by their comrade, Amedy Coulibaly. The next day, a heavily-armed Coulibaly seized the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in eastern Paris where he murdered four Jewish hostages. All three terrorists were killed in separate shoot-outs with French police.

Shortly after the verdicts were announced, Patrick Klugman — a lawyer representing relatives of the victims of the Hyper Cacher slaughter — posted on Twitter: “3 days of terror, many victims, 5 years of waiting, 4 months of trial … suffering, forgetting, other attacks, more deaths, and then, a feeling after being heard: justice, finally!”

Among those sentenced on Wednesday was Hayat Boumeddiene, the former partner of Coulibaly and one of three defendants tried in absentia. Believed to be still alive and on the run from an international arrest warrant, prosecutors referred to her as an “Islamic State princess.”
Right livid with Gantz saying Jerusalem has 'room' for Palestinian capital
Prominent figures on Israel's Right are furious with Defense Minister and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for saying in an interview to the Saudi news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat, published Thursday, that he did not envision full regional peace without the Palestinians and that Jerusalem had enough room to include the capital of a future Palestinian state.

When asked about the status of Jerusalem, Gantz was quoted saying, "Jerusalem must remain united, but it will include a place for a Palestinian capital. It is a very big city and full of places sacred to us all."

Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Rafi Peretz (Habayit Hayehudi) said in a Twitter post that "United Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, not the capital of anyone else. This is where our forefathers walked and this is where we were created. Gantz, I know you enough to know you believe that, too."

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud), wrote on his Facebook page that Jerusalem was "the heart of the Land of Israel and the State of Israel, for which Jews longed during 2,000 years of exile. We were privileged to unite Jerusalem as the capital of Israel forever. There are not two Jerusalems and no one has the right to question our full right to it. No one has the right to forgo the dream of generations that came true."

Likud MK and former mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat responded to Gantz on Twitter: "This is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the State of Israel."

Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, was also criticized by the movement Habitchonistim, comprised of former military officials, which issued a statement calling on him to resign and take back his remarks.
A third of Israeli youths avoid IDF service, report finds
A growing number of Israeli youth are securing exemptions from IDF service due to emotional or mental health issues, the Knesset State Control Committee was informed Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Amir Vadamni, head of the IDF Personnel Directorate's Planning and Personnel Management Division, told the committee that "the numbers of exemptions from military service are going up steadily, reflecting the Haredi community's growing segment of the population, and the most worrying data is about the number of exemptions issued for mental health problems."

In 2018, 7.9% of all potential recruits received exemptions for medical or mental health reasons. In 2019, that number rose to 9%. The projection for 2020 is that 11.9% of potential recruits this year will have received exemptions on medical grounds or for reasons of mental health.

Translated into numbers, some 2,000 potential recruits this year were exempted on physical or mental health grounds before even enlisting. Since the percentage of exemptions for medical issues has not changed dramatically, most of the increased exemptions are issued on grounds of mental health issues.

Vadamni presented an analysis of the data and told the committee that "The generation of recruits has changed its profile and there is high awareness of psychological evaluation that was not common in the past, but there is social [also] social legitimacy for not serving in the IDF. The ethos of service is being eroded."
US throws weight behind construction of EastMed gas pipeline
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch said Thursday that because Israel plans to obtain more than enough coronavirus vaccines for its citizens, it may offer any excess to the Palestinian Authority, which is currently relying on a World Health Organization handout of vaccines that may take months to arrive.

Kisch told Kan Bet Radio that Israel was working to acquire a surplus of vaccines for Israelis and that “should we see that Israel’s demands have been met and we have additional capability, we will certainly consider helping the Palestinian Authority.” He said doing so would also help prevent a resurgence of outbreaks in Israel proper.

Asher Shalmon, a Health Ministry official, said its approach was in line with past agreements. The Oslo accords require the PA to maintain international vaccination standards and say the sides must exchange information and cooperate in combating epidemics.

While Israel will begin rolling out a major coronavirus vaccination campaign next week, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out personally to the head of Pfizer, millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will have to wait much longer.
PMW: PA: All Israel is “our land Palestine”; All Israelis are settlers; Israel's demise is certain
In two recent broadcasts, the PA reiterated its internal narrative that it tries to hide from the international community: All of Israel is Palestinian land - including Safed, Haifa, Acre, and Jaffa:
Official PA TV host: “From Safed, Haifa, Acre, and Jaffa (i.e., Israeli cities), and from every inch of our land Palestine: “Good morning Jerusalem. A morning of splendor and glory for the capital of our hearts and our state… Many invaders have passed here. They have vanished, and Jerusalem has remained Palestinian, Islamic, and Christian. The occupation is nearing its end. And tomorrow, which is full of hope and freedom, is ours.”
[Official PA TV, Good Morning Jerusalem, Dec. 4, 2020]

Moreover, official PA TV facilitated the spreading of the message that all Israelis – even those living in Haifa, Jaffa, and Be’er Sheva - are “settlers”:
Head of the Committee of Relatives of Jerusalem Prisoners Amjad Abu Asab: “When did the prisoners’ movement begin? When did the arrests begin? They began in 1948, not in 1967. We need to shake off the dust, and to say that the fighter who realized his right to fight in Haifa, Jaffa, and Be’er Sheva(i.e., Israeli cities) is a fighter who realized his natural right to his land… Why is the settler sitting in Hebron, Jaffa, and Haifa? We are the true owners of the land. The prisoners’ movement began the struggle from the first moment of the occupation [in 1948], and it has continued and not stopped for a moment. Therefore we must shake off the dust and tell the entire world: Every prisoner in the occupation’s (i.e., Israel's) prisons is a fighter who defended his religious, historical, and human right.”
[Official PA TV, Good Morning Jerusalem, Nov. 6, 2020]

The message that Israel “will come to an end” as happened to past “invaders” has been disseminated for years by the PA. For example, Palestinian Media Watch reported that the following PA music video, portraying Israel as a foreign invader like the Romans, Christians, and British destined to be expelled, has been broadcast hundreds of times on official PA TV stations, from 2012 – 2020:

After sanctions, Congress committee criticises Turkey over six policies
The first was its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defence system, which “compromises Nato interoperability and undermines the alliance’s collective defence pledge".

On Monday, the Trump administration took an unprecedented step in imposing sanctions on Ankara over buying and testing the S-400 system from Moscow.

The statement also referred to Turkey’s military operation in north-east Syria, which it claimed “risked reversing critical gains by the United States and our local partners in the ongoing counter-ISIS fight, and exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis".

It accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of fanning the flames of other global conflicts, “reportedly sending Syrian mercenaries to Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh".

The congressmen also mentioned the Eastern Mediterranean conflict, in which they said Ankara was disrupting transatlantic relations.

It “has surveyed for hydrocarbon resources in disputed waters also claimed by Greece, a Nato member, and Cyprus, a key transatlantic partner".

The committee members also mentioned Ankara’s relations with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and that Mr Erdogan “has openly hosted Hamas terrorists in Turkey, including individuals designated by the United States for their terrorist activities".

In August, Mr Erdogan hosted a delegation from Hamas led by its leader, Ismail Haniyeh.

It included deputy chief Saleh Al Arouri, chief of Hamas abroad Maher Salah, the group’s head of Arab and Islamic religions, Ezzat Al Rihiq, and its representative in Turkey, Jihad Yaghmor.
Turkish media vows to take over Tel Aviv, calls opposition ‘terrorists’
Turkey has in the last few weeks sought to use media connections abroad to push narratives about how it wants reconciliation with Israel, even as its own media pushes extremist anti-Israel comments. One commentator, according to T24 Turkish media, said that Turkey could “enter Tel Aviv in 48 hours.” He claimed, “we are not like the Arabs,” an apparent reference to the inability of Arab armies to defeat Israel in 1948 and 1967.

The commentary on Turkish television was not abnormal. Hatred of Israel and vows to destroy Israel, invade Jerusalem, “liberate Al-Aqsa” and spread extreme nationalist, anti-Zionist or antisemitic comments have become increasingly normal in Turkey. Most journalists who are critical of the ruling party in Turkey have been silenced, forced to flee the country or imprisoned. Turkey is considered the largest jailor of journalists in the world under the AK Party.

In March 2018, a Turkish daily also suggested that Turkey should form an Islamist army to destroy Israel. In 2019, according to MEMRI, a retired Turkish general named Adnan Tanriverdi who heads the SADAT consulting firm also spoke about the need to liberate Jerusalem from Israel. “The Islamic world should prepare an army for Palestine from outside Palestine. Israel should know that if it bombs [Palestine] a bomb will fall on Tel Aviv as well."

It appears these views have become mainstream in Turkey’s ruling party. Israel is seen as the main enemy of Turkey. Abroad, Turkey works with a few lobbyists in Washington to try to get media to present the country in a more favorable image and even tries to influence some Israeli media with false stories of “reconciliation.” However, Turkey’s new envoy to Israel has said that Zionism is racism and accused Israel of displacing millions and committing “many massacres.” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office has vowed to “liberate Al-Aqsa” and declared that “Jerusalem is ours.”
Khaled Abu Toameh: Iran's Plan to Topple Arab Leaders
Hamas's call on Moroccans to revolt against their leaders contradicts its own declared policy that it does not intervene in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. "Hamas does not meddle in the internal affairs of Arab and Muslim countries," said senior Hamas official Salah Bardaweel. If true, why is Hamas denouncing Morocco's decision to establish relations with Israel?

Showing Hamas's hypocrisy out in the sunlight, Hamas maintains continuous communication with Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Just last week, Egyptian intelligence officials again visited the Gaza Strip....

Hamas would not dare to fire one rocket or bullet toward Egypt. Evidently, Hamas leaders know that the moment they attack Egypt, they and the entire Gaza Strip would pay a heavy price, most likely by having a huge military offensive launched against the Islamist movement.

These Arabs say that they hope to see the new US administration endorse a tough policy toward Iran and not send a message of weakness to the mullahs. Any attempt to appease Iran or ease the sanctions on it will only embolden the mullahs and increase their appetite to instigate coups to overthrow various Arab countries.
JCPA: Is Iran Threatening Oil Shipping before President Trump Departs the White House?
On Monday, December 14, 2020, a fuel tanker, the Singapore-flagged BW Rhine, was hit with an explosion while unloading at the Jeddah port in Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea. The resulting fire was extinguished, and the crewmen were rescued. The Red Sea is a crucial shipping route between the narrow Bab-el Mandeb and the Suez Canal, and recently, ships have been sailing the gauntlet avoiding terrorist acts, mines, and remotely-steered explosive boats. It is believed that the Rhine was hit by a robot boat, probably steered by Houthis, a Yemenite Shiite military movement serving as Iran’s proxy and at war with Saudi Arabia.1

In 2000, the USS Cole destroyer, refueling in Yemen’s Aden harbor, was attacked by a suicide boat steered by two bombers. The massive explosion blew a 12 by 18-meter hole in the ship and killed 17 American sailors. The differences in the attacks are few: the Cole was hit in an al-Qaeda attack. In the Rhine bombing and other similar attacks recently, the attackers apparently learned to take the “man” out of the robot boat. But the devastation can be just as lethal.

Several such “suicide boats” have been intercepted in recent months in the Red Sea. “The boats represented a threat to regional and international security, maritime routes, and international trade,” according to Arab Coalition Spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Malikial-Maliki.

The spokesman said the boats were launched from Hudaydah Governorate, which the Houthi militias use “as a base to launch ballistic missiles, drones, booby-trapped remote-operated craft, as well as the random deployment of sea mines in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”2
With arms embargo lifted, Iran races to upgrade its arsenal
With an international arms embargo lifted, Iran plans on buying advanced military systems, including armed drones, air defense systems, fighter jets and tanks, Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami told local media Wednesday.

The Islamic republic has previously shown interest in Russia's Su-30 and Yak-130 jets, T-90 tank, S-400 air defense system. It has also expressed interest is in several Chinese defense systems, including the J-10 and J-20 fighter jet, but was prevented from purchasing such items under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Hatami noted that Iran entered negotiations "with several countries" even before the arms embargo was lifted earlier this year, adding that the talks were now in their "advanced stages."

Tehran is also in talks to sell several domestically produced weapon systems, including anti-tank missile systems, he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened that his country has yet to "fully retaliate" over the Jan. 3 killing of Quds Force Commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Iraq.
MEMRI: Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif In Response To MEMRI TV Clip Of His Statements Calling Jews 'Kikes': "MEMRI Has Sunk To A New Low In Taking My Prejorative [sic] ... To Accuse Me Of Antisemitism"
Following the December 15 release of a MEMRI TV clip translating and exposing statements by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on December 9, in which he used a derogatory antisemitic term in Farsi for Jews, jahoud, Zarif tweeted on December 16 a response to MEMRI falsely claiming that he had merely been "mocking" the idea that "Iran seeks to 'throw the Jews into the sea.'" He stated: "MEMRI has sunk to a new low in taking my prejorative [sic] usage of a word to accuse me of Antisemitism."

In his statements released in the MEMRI TV clip, Zarif was interviewed by Iranian journalist Mehdi Nasiri in a video that was uploaded to the Arman Media YouTube channel on December 9, 2020. Zarif said that the U.S. has forfeited its rights according to the JCPOA because it has withdrawn from the agreement, but that it was still obliged to abide by the agreement and must lift all its sanctions on Iran. Zarif joked that he wished the U.S. would leave Planet Earth, just like it withdrew from the JCPOA. He said that President Elect Biden will be obligated to return to the JCPOA. Zarif added that America "owes" Iran for arming other countries in the region. He explained that the Western powers tried to include Iran's missile program and its regional activity in the JCPOA but failed and had to compromise about it. Hence, Zarif added, they do not have the option to demand the inclusion of this issue now.

Zarif added that he could not conceive of a situation in which Iran would officially recognize Israel. Furthermore, he said that Iran's strategy for confronting the issue of Israel would not be to throw the "kikes" [jahoud] into the sea or to initiate a military attack against it, but rather it has suggested to the U.N. that a popular referendum, including Palestinians worldwide, would resolve this matter.

"By Leaving The JCPOA, The U.S. Has Forfeited Its Rights, But Not Its Obligations... Mr. Biden's America Will Be Obligated To Rejoin... Unless It Chooses To Break The Law And Mounts An Insurgency"

US refuses to share intel with Qatar due to its support for Iran
British MP Ian Paisley Jr. delivered a shocking presentation last week during a House of Commons debate, saying the American government does not share military intelligence with Qatar, where the US has a huge military base, because the Gulf monarchy is aligned with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“Some of the reading in that report is very worrying indeed,” he said. “For example, it indicates that the USA, our partner, no longer shares information that has military intelligence associated with it with Doha because of its concerns over the proximity that Qatar has to Iran.”

Paisley referenced a report from the management consultants at the London-based Cornerstone Global Associates. “Today, I have left in the House of Commons Library a very important report by Cornerstone into the Fakhrizadeh assassination, which links some of the activities in the Gulf with Qatar and Iran and with the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading Iranian physicist and a brigadier-general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was under US sanctions for his work on nuclear weapons. He was assassinated near Tehran on November 27.

Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base, the largest military installation in the Middle East, hosts units of the US Air Force, the British Royal Air Force and a forward headquarters of US Central Command.

The Cornerstone report alleges, based on Western intelligence sources, that “Qatar would undertake that it would not permit the US to carry out any attacks against Iran from Qatari territory.”

Iran arrests father and brother of executed wrestler while cleaning grave
Iranian regime intelligence agents arrested the brother and father of Navid Afkari, the champion Greco-Roman wrestler who was illegally executed by the regime in September for his participation in a protest against the clerical system of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

According to a Thursday report on the website of IranWire, “A source told IranWire that Hossein Afkari and his son Hamid were cleaning the area around Navid's grave when they were detained on the morning of December 17 and taken to an undisclosed location.”

Iran’s regime sentenced Navid’s brothers Vahid and Habib to 56 years and six months in prison, and 24 years and three months in prison respectively. Both brothers are also slated to receive 74 lashes.

IranWire's report based on its source said that “the family had not been allowed to visit the cemetery or care for the headstone and the area around the grave. But the father and son had gone to the cemetery to tidy the unkempt area around the grave, which had not been prepared for the tombstone to be positioned."

The online website added that “The eyewitness said the arrest was carried out without any clashes or confrontations. The father and his son slowly accompanied the officers and left the cemetery with them.”

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