Monday, January 18, 2021

From Ian:

David Singer: Trump's Middle East solution will sink into oblivion
Trump’s Peace Plan was rejected by PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on 5 February 2020:
“They told me Trump wants to send me the deal of the century to read, I said I would not,” Abbas told the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers.

“Trump asked that I speak to him over the phone, so I said ‘no’, and that he wants to send me a letter, so I refused to receive it.”

On 9 February 2020 - US Ambassador to Israel – David Friedman – affirmed:
“The process [preparing a detailed map – ed] will not last very long, but we want to go through a process… We’re going to go through a mapping process to convert a map which is drawn of more than a million to one into something which really shows on the ground how the territory will be put together.

"It’s not unduly difficult, but it’s also not simple, because there are a lot of judgment calls. We don’t want to do this piecemeal …

"We want to do it once, holistically, in totality, and get it done right. We just want to get it done right. That’s not too much to ask. And that was the president’s message when he spoke about it the first time.”

On 15 February 2020 - the three US members of a joint US-Israel committee to join Israel’s three nominees in translating Trump’s conceptual plans into two defined territorial entities were announced (Mapping Committee).

Eleven months later the Mapping Committee’s map remains under tight wraps. No reasons have been given for the Committee’s failure to publish.

Failing to release the Mapping Committee’s detailed map before 20 January setting out defined borders to facilitate future Israel-PLO negotiations – should they ever be resumed - will see Trump’s two-state solution sink into political oblivion.

President Trump’s opportunity to finally end the 100 years-old unresolved Jewish-Arab conflict will then become just a footnote in history – joining the failed attempts of his Presidential predecessors.


Commentary Magazine Podcast: Trump’s Gift to Biden
Hosted by Abe Greenwald, Christine Rosen, John Podhoretz, Noah Rothman Bret Stephens, newly minted COMMENTARY contributing editor, joins the podcast today to discuss his blockbuster article, “Memo to President Biden: Please Don’t Mess Up the Abraham Accords.




Col. Richard Kemp on 30th Anniversary of 1991 Gulf War

City of David recognized as 'testament' to US Judeo-Christian heritage
The City of David was recognized as a “testament to America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and founding principles” by the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad at a special ceremony on Monday.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Chairman of the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad Paul Packer dedicated a plaque recognizing the “seminal role” the City of David plays in connecting visitors to “the origins of the values that helped shape America.” “In modern America, we are inspired by many monuments that remind us of the history of our Republic,” said Friedman at the ceremony. “I’ve often wondered, what monuments inspired our Founding Fathers. When the drafters of the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that our Creator had endowed each and every American with certain unalienable rights, what monuments inspired them? I suggest that those monuments are located right here, in the ancient City of Jerusalem. We have given this plaque to the City of David Foundation with the hope that it will prompt all who read it to think of the Judeo-Christian values upon which our country was founded and how those values were inspired by ancient Jerusalem and its inhabitants.”

“With the unveiling of this plaque and the recognition of the City of David for its contribution to America’s heritage, we are fulfilling another, larger purpose: to unify Americans around our foundational principles and values,” said Packer. “The City of David serves as a living testament to those enduring values, and it is our duty to ensure it remains for generations to come.”
Netanyahu: There has never been a greater ambassador than David Friedman
In anticipation of the transition to Joe Biden's administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday extended his thanks to outgoing US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, tweeting, "David, in the name of all of Israel's citizens, thank you!"

"Yesterday, we said goodbye to... my friend, David Friedman," wrote Netanyahu.

"Over the years, I have met many ambassadors from many countries, including the US, our great ally. I can safely say that there has never been a greater ambassador than David Friedman in strengthening the deep relationship between Israel and the US," he added.

Netanyahu thanked Friedman for "fixing the injustices and discrimination that the diplomatic world has subjected Israel to over the years, for establishing Jerusalem as the nation's capital, and for many more acts that have yet to be told."

Last week, Friedman was honored at the Knesset for his for his dedicated service as ambassador, in anticipation of the finishing of his term this week.


Linking the New Middle East
In the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, the firm is working with thought leaders, organisations and non-profits. The firm sees a melding of skills and talent in several sectors, particularly technology, travel and tourism, education and healthcare. In travel and tourism, they are helping hotels understand how to make Jewish guests feel at home, with the availability of kosher food, for example. In technology, the firm forecasts fintech and agritech to be frontrunners. "The whole world is trying to rebound economically post Covid-19. What better time to open up new markets than now. Following the Abraham Accords, Israelis have access to two markets in the Gulf - the UAE and Bahrain - and Bahrain and the UAE each can access the Israeli market," stated Ariella.

Working with clients in the professional services, home furnishings, fashion, consumer goods, education, travel and tourism sectors etc., Steinreich Communications launched a UAE-Israel specialty practice following the Abraham Accords, led by Ariella, to help Israeli and Gulf businesses explore new regional relationships following the announcement of the Abraham Accords. What originally started as a service for Emirati and Israeli companies and organisations quickly grew to include Bahrain once the Kingdom announced the normalisation of relations with Israel. The practice has already grown tremendously in the travel and tourism, food, tech and finance sectors and is looking to do more cross-border business. Many of firm's existing clients moved into the practice as well. Ariella is quick to praise her team, "My colleagues and I view our work as a mission and we are very passionate about what we're doing. We're honoured to help in whatever way we can. We're excited about the New Middle East."

PR firms play a vital role in educating the public. At its core PR is about storytelling and when it comes to these Accords and the next steps once they are signed, messaging is critical. Firms test multiple types of messaging and gauge the reaction. In the UAE, people were incredibly supportive of the UAE-Israel agreement from its very announcement. Tied to that, social media has played a pivotal role in these Accords as that is where many-a-time, news and announcements are first broken. Ariella touts social media as the winner of 2020, stating that Twitter is the way to reach the masses. She noted that both the announcements about the UAE-Israel normalisation and the Bahrain-Israel normalisation were announced on Twitter. She is quick to thank the Emirati and Bahraini social media influencers who were supportive of these announcements from the beginning and helped spread positivity about them to their followers, regardless of naysayers. "Their leaders took the bold step of establishing relations with Israel but what makes these Accords different from other peace deals Israel has with its neighbours is that the people here are supportive of them. They are helping to carry them out through business and friendship," stated Ariella.

The signing of the Abraham Accords was momentous not just for the UAE, Bahrain and Israel, it was significant for Jews worldwide. Harnessing skills and new talents, an illustration of the new Middle East is born. The goal is for future generations to never know anything different. Emirati, Bahraini and Israeli children will study in the same university classrooms, and the same children will see no anomalies when they grow up to become the leaders in business, finance, academia, etc. The Accords also present an investment gateway to the Middle East for Jews from other parts of the world. "The possibilities are endless," said Ariella, adding excitedly, "There is a transformation happening in the Middle East and it's wonderful to watch it develop."


UAE Suspends Visa-Free Travel Agreement for Israelis Until July
The United Arab Emirates has suspended an agreement to inaugurate visa-free travel for Israelis to the Gulf country until July 1, citing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said.

Until then, Israeli citizens seeking to travel to the UAE will need to obtain a visa, as will UAE citizens seeking to travel to Israel, the ministry said on Monday. The UAE has taken a similar step regarding travel from most European countries, as well as India and Pakistan, the Israeli ministry said.

Israel is in its third lockdown and discussing the possibility of extending it beyond Jan. 21 as the number of new cases remains high.

The UAE ratified the agreement on visa-free travel with Israel last week and it was set to go into effect 30 days from then. The agreement follows a normalization accord between the countries signed in September.

The announcement of the suspension comes a day after Israel’s cabinet voted to require all people returning from the UAE and Brazil to quarantine in government-run hotels. A similar decision made previously regarding travelers returning from South Africa and Zambia was extended for 10 days.
Morocco Jews 'already packing' for direct Israel flights
Fanny Mergui has no doubt: Moroccan Jews "are already packing their suitcases" to board direct flights to Israel after the kingdom normalized ties with the Jewish state.

Morocco, home to North Africa's biggest Jewish community and the ancestral homeland of some 700,000 Israelis, is also hoping for an influx of Israeli tourists when the Covid-19 pandemic eases.

"I'm very happy" that the five-hour route will be served by direct flights, said Mergui, a Moroccan Jew who lives in Casablanca. "It's a true revolution."

The first direct commercial flight headed from Tel Aviv to Rabat in December to mark the three-way, US-brokered accord, under which Washington also recognized Moroccan sovereignty over disputed Western Sahara.

But tickets for regular commercial flights have yet to go on sale.

Bureaucratic delays have been compounded by the pandemic, which forced Morocco to mostly close its borders since March and impose a nationwide curfew in December.
Israeli race drivers traveled to Saudi Arabia to compete in Dakar Rally
Israeli drivers traveled to Saudi Arabia to take part in this week’s Dakar Rally, despite a ban on Israeli travelers to the kingdom.

Two of the drivers, Danny Pearl and Charly Gotlib, were listed as representing Belgium and didn’t wear any identifying Israeli symbols. However, some members of their team entered the country on their Israeli passports and the Saudis were aware of their presence, according to Army Radio.

They were sponsored by MyHeritage, an Israeli online genealogy and DNA testing company, and finished in 29th place in the SSV category.

Israelis Aviv Kadshai, Izhar Armony and Maoz Vilder also participated under the US-flagged Team CRV. They came in 17th place in the trucking competition.

According to Army Radio, nine Israelis attended the event and returned to Israel on Saturday.

The MyHeritage team was accompanied by Nirit Ofir, a research fellow at Haifa University’s Ezri Center for Gulf Studies, who shared photos from Saudi Arabia on her Facebook account. In one picture, she can be seen posing with Saleh Al Saif, a Saudi driver.


Indonesia Could Get Billions in U.S. Funding for Ties with Israel
The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, a government agency that invests overseas, could more than double its current $1 billion portfolio if Indonesia develops ties with Israel, DFC Chief Executive Officer Adam Boehler said in an interview last month in Jerusalem.

"We're talking to them about it," Boehler said. "If they're ready...then we'll be happy to even support more financially than what we do."


Russia's FM: Syria must not be an Israel-Iran battlefield
Israel should report security threats in Syria rather than immediately respond to them, in order to keep the country ravaged by civil war from being turned into a battlefield against Iran, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday, according to Russian news outlet Sputnik.

Speaking at a press conference, Lavrov criticized Israel for responding to security threats from Iran in Syria, while stressing that Moscow also does not approve of Syria being used against.

Rather, Israel should simply report these threats to Moscow.

"So, our dear Israeli colleagues, if you have facts that your state is facing threats from the Syrian territory, report the facts urgently, and we will take every measure to neutralize the threat," Lavrov said, according to Sputnik.

Israeli forces have launched numerous strikes into Syria against Iranian targets, as part of its ongoing conflict with the Islamic Republic's proxies. Among the most notable of recent airstrikes was last Tuesday, which targeted the city of Albukamal and Deir al-Zor, both of which are on the Euphrates River but are separated by over 120 km.

Israel notifies Russia before conducting strikes against security threats in Syria.
Israel won't normalize relations with Turkey until Hamas branch closed
Israel won't normalize relations with Turkey or return its ambassador to Ankara until the branch of the Hamas military wing in the country is closed, Ynet reported on Monday.
As Israeli death toll tops 4,000, ministers set to extend lockdown for 3rd week
A majority of ministers are expected to back extending the tightened national lockdown by another week beyond its Thursday expiration date, amid discouraging data morbidity data presented to the cabinet.

As of Sunday night, 1,945 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, of some 81,000 active cases, and 1,177 are in serious condition. The national death toll rose to 4,005, having passed 4,000 during the day and rising by some 1,000 over the past month alone.

Meanwhile, Israel’s vaccination drive continues apace, with more than 290,000 Israelis having gotten the second dose of the vaccine and over 2,100,000 the first shot.

Channel 13 reported that an extension of the lockdown is backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein. Defense Minister Benny Gantz backs it so long as there is equal enforcement for the ultra-Orthodox community, where there are ongoing breaches of regulations and where some 20 percent of tests are coming back positive compared to around 5% in the general population.
IDF strikes Hamas tunnel workshops after 2 rockets fired toward Israel
The IDF struck Hamas tunnel excavation workshops in the Gaza Strip Monday morning after two rockets were fired toward Israel, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported.

The rockets landed harmlessly in open areas near Ashdod, and warning sirens were not activated.

Video footage reportedly taken at the scene of one of the IDF strikes in Gaza was published on Palestinian social-media outlets Monday morning. “The IDF takes all terrorist activity against Israel very seriously and is prepared and ready to act as resolutely as necessary against attempts to harm Israeli citizens and its sovereignty,” the IDF said in a press release. “The Hamas terrorist organization bears responsibility for what is happening in and out of the Gaza Strip, and it will bear the consequences of terrorist actions against the citizens of Israel.”


UK ‘seriously concerned’ by Israeli approval of new West Bank homes
Britain on Monday expressed serious concern over Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, warning that the construction of 780 new homes could threaten future peace negotiations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Sunday approved the construction of the new homes, the Civil Administration said.

“The UK is seriously concerned by the Government of Israel’s decision to approve the construction of 780 new settlement units across the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” a Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said.

The inclusion of areas “deep within the West Bank” in the construction plans “could threaten future peace negotiations,” the spokesperson said. “Settlements are illegal under international law and risk undermining the physical viability of the two-state solution. We call for the construction of these in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank to cease immediately.”

The UK and much of the international community have decried the construction of settlement homes in areas claimed by Palestinians for a potential future state. However, in 2019 the administration of outgoing US President Donald Trump broke with decades of foreign policy, declaring that Washington no longer considered settlement construction a breach of international law.


PMW: Ad against domestic violence in the PA – funded by Canada, produced by the UN
The Palestinian Authority is currently running a TV ad that speaks out ‎against domestic violence and informs women (and male victims as well) ‎where they can get help. The ad stresses that domestic violence is more than ‎just physical blows, and includes psychological violence, sexual coercion, ‎and also the withholding of resources. The ad is paid for by Canada and ‎produced by the UN. (See below):

Narrator: “Violence is damage that harms women, young women, ‎men, and young men. It has many forms such as physical blows, ‎psychological violence, or sex against your will.‎
Violence is not only physical, [but] also threats, coercion, and ‎withholding resources such as studies, monetary expenditures, ‎inheritance, and access to services.‎
Did you know that last year, 243 million women suffered from sexual ‎or physical violence worldwide?‎
In Palestine, 29% of the women were subjected to violence by their ‎husbands…‎
Violence is not inevitable. Violence is unacceptable. You can always ‎get help. ‎
You can find information on the protection and support services for ‎victims of violence at:‎
www.palestine.unwomen.org
The gender-based guide for violence services”‎
[Official PA TV, several times since Jan. 4, 2021]‎


But do the Canadian funders and the UN offices involved in the ad know ‎that the PA often preaches a contradictory message? Palestinian Media ‎Watch has exposed that the PA’s official stand on women’s rights is quite ‎different and that the PA has even condoned domestic violence.‎

Abbas’ advisor and PA's Supreme Shari'ah Judge, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, ‎has emphasized that even though the PA signed the international ‎Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), ‎they are “not committed to it at all, except for what is consistent with ‎Islamic law": ‎

Abbas’ advisor, Supreme Shari’ah Judge, and Chairman of the ‎Supreme Council for Shari'ah Justice Mahmoud Al-‎Habbash:
"President [Abbas'] ratification in 2009 (sic., 2014) of the ‎CEDAW convention was a ratification conditioned on what is ‎consistent with the Palestinian constitution, with the Basic Law… We ‎have a Basic Law that says: 'Islamic law is the source of legislation' ‎‎… Truthfully, even if we signed the CEDAW convention we are not ‎committed to it at all, except for what is consistent with Islamic ‎law… We are committed to the international laws in what does not ‎contradict our national heritage, religious heritage, and our faith. The ‎president has said this, the [PA] government has said this, and we [the ‎Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice] have said this."‎ [Facebook page of Supreme Shari’ah Judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Jan. 9, 2020]‎


The first P.A. elections in 17 years raise fundamental questions
Assuming that the Biden administration and the Europeans do allow the participation of Hamas and potentially other terror organizations in the elections, ‎what will their position be when Haniyeh is elected P.A. president? ‎Will they continue to provide the P.A. with financial aid, despite it being a clear breach of ‎their own domestic anti-terror laws? This question is further complicated when one takes ‎into account that in the United States, not only is Hamas a designated terror organization, but Haniyeh himself is also personally designated as a terrorist. ‎

What will happen if Hamas, as was the case in 2006, wins the elections for the Palestinian ‎Parliament, and is then charged with forming the new Palestinian government? Will the ‎United States and Europe continue to grant legitimacy to a P.A. government led by a designated terror ‎organization? As noted above, in the 2006 elections, Hamas ran as the “Change and ‎Reform” party. While this cosmetic name change appeared to have been sufficient to ‎facilitate their participation in 2006, since then, that veil of deception has been lifted; there is no question today that Hamas and “Change and Reform” are identical ‎entities. ‎

On a similar note, if Hamas wins the presidential elections, the parliamentary ‎elections or both, and Fatah, as most Palestinians expect, refuses to relinquish control, will ‎the Biden administration and the European Union continue to support the de facto Fatah dictatorship in ‎the West Bank?‎

The option of “crossing that bridge when we get to it” is clearly not a sound basis for making ‎major foreign policy decisions.

If reason and basic morality were to prevail, the Biden administration and the European Union would ‎make it clear that they do not accept, in any shape or form, the participation of designated terror organizations in the Palestinian elections, and are unwilling to ‎facilitate—in any manner—such a decision. Moreover, they would do well to clarify that any ‎member of Hamas holding any position in the P.A. would automatically result in the ‎immediate cessation of any aid to the P.A.

Similarly, the United States and European Union would do well to clarify ‎that they do not and will not accept Marwan Barghouti—a convicted murderer ‎currently serving consecutive life sentences in Israel—as a ‎legitimate candidate for the P.A. presidency, or any for any position in the Palestinian Parliament.
PA demands Israel allow East Jerusalemites to take part in Palestinian elections
The Palestinian Authority is set to formally request that Israel allow East Jerusalem Palestinians to participate in scheduled Palestinian national elections, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.

“We will officially ask Israel to allow our people in Jerusalem to formally participate in the elections, whether as voters or as candidates,” Shtayyeh said.

On Friday night, PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree setting dates for three consecutive Palestinian national elections. If held, they would be the first Palestinian national elections in 15 years.

Observers are skeptical, however, that elections will actually take place. Abbas has vowed to hold elections several times since his four-year term ostensibly expired in 2009. However, repeated attempts to hold votes for president and parliament have flopped, largely due to the inability of rivals Fatah and Hamas to agree on terms.

East Jerusalem has also posed an obstacle to holding elections — or, some allege, a convenient excuse for Abbas not to hold them. Israel considers the entirety of Jerusalem to be its sovereign capital, and cracks down on Palestinian Authority activity within the city’s boundaries.

The European Union called on Monday for Israel to allow the Palestinians to hold their elections in East Jerusalem, which the EU considers part of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”


Return to Iran Nuclear Deal Would Be Unwise
The deeply flawed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran never blocked the world's most prolific state sponsor of terrorism from a direct path to a nuclear arsenal in a short time. The Iranians have made progress in the nuclear realm since 2015.

The U.S. ignored the concerns of Israel and its new regional partners during last round. It will be harder to ignore them now, especially if they speak with one voice. Israel and its Gulf allies must join hands to oppose up-front concessions to Iran. It is important to convince banks and businesses worldwide that re-entering Iran would be risky. Iran is still engaged in a wide range of illicit conduct, and no political agreement can erase that.

Israel must work with the U.S. to retain a credible military threat against Iran's nuclear program. Iran simply will not negotiate a new reasonable deal unless Tehran is certain its nuclear facilities are under threat of destruction.

Israel and its regional allies are not opposed to a new agreement. However, the next deal must permanently block Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. The last one failed to do that. The next deal must fully prevent Iran from maintaining a "civilian nuclear program" in underground facilities. It should also address all three elements of Iran's illicit nuclear program: fissile materials, weaponization, and means of delivery.

Those that seek a rapid new deal with Iran posit that such tough demands will only lead to conflict with the Islamic Republic. This is the wrong mindset for starting a negotiation with Iran. The new administration should not rush to the negotiating table.
Friedman: No rational person would return to Iran deal
US President-elect Joe Biden’s senior foreign policy appointments are reason for concern when it comes to the Iran nuclear threat, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said in a final interview before he leaves office on Wednesday.

When it comes to the next administration, Friedman said: “I am worried about one thing in particular: about Iran.”

Friedman pointed to top Iran deal negotiator Wendy Sherman being tapped as deputy secretary of state, Anthony Blinken as secretary of state and Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, along with former secretary of state John Kerry and ex-national security adviser Susan Rice being appointed to senior posts, all of whom were involved in making the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers happen.

“The Iran band is back together again,” the ambassador said. “You’d have to not be paying attention not to be concerned about Iran, given [their] prominent positions.”
Countering Iran's Missile Program
Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East.

It is able to produce its own missiles and has demonstrated that it can significantly expand the range of acquired missiles, as it has done with Nodong missiles from North Korea.

Iran's missiles can already hit any part of the Middle East, including Israel.

However, it is significant to note that the satellite navigation units, such as Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers, employed by Iran's precision-guided missiles can be rendered less-effective by jamming or spoofing GPS signals, a capability that Tehran's technologically superior adversaries possess.







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