Friday, January 22, 2021

From Ian:

'We left the Middle East in good shape'
One morning in the winter of 2017 a young, unknown man arrived at the Kesher Israel synagogue in the heart of Washington. He prayed fervently, as if his heart was filled with a special request. His tallit bag bore the name "Friedman," and it was the only time he had come to the famous synagogue. That same day, his father David M. Friedman, was undergoing Senate confirmation for his appointment as US ambassador to Israel.

In the best tradition of Jewish divisiveness, powerful forces were aligned against Friedman Sr., led by the J Street lobby. But a few weeks later, in a ceremony organized by B'nai B'rith International, Friedman made his first speech as ambassador.

"If you were wondering about my middle name, Melech, it's not because my parents expected great things of me, but because my grandmother was named Malka [the feminine version of the name]," he began the speech, causing the audience to double over with laughter.

The prayers of his son and his parents had come true. Not only was the appointment approved, but David Melech Friedman became the most influential US ambassador in the history of US-Israeli relations. And not only through the steps known to everyone – stamping down Iran, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, relocating the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli and shaping the Trump peace plan – but also through endless moves that never made headlines in the dramatic Trump era. For example, visits to the Golan Heights, to Ariel in Samaria, and the City of David in Jerusalem – all of which would have been inconceivable prior to Freidman's arrival.

After four intense years, Friedman sat down with Israel Hayom for an "exit interview." For decades, the American Consulate on Agron St. in Jerusalem served as a conduit through which the Palestinian Authority would spread its lies and incitement into Washington. Friedman shut down the consulate and turned it into the official residence of the American ambassador in Jerusalem.

David Friedman reflects on Trump's revolutionary Middle East policies
Friedman emphasized the extensive efforts the Trump administration took to make the agreements a reality, highlighting his senior adviser Aryeh Lightstone’s travels throughout the region to foster agreements between Israel and the other countries’ governments once normalization was announced.

“The Abraham Accords are still new; they need to be nurtured,” Friedman said. “I hope we can continue to nurture this relationship. It’s too new to leave it on its own.”

Friedman’s advice to his replacement would basically be to leave Israel be. He argued that there is a consensus that the Trump administration did a good job in the Middle East, and the next administration would do well to address other problems in the world and domestically.

“We left our relationship with Israel as strong as it has ever been, and it is reciprocal – we are getting an excellent return on investment in Israel that should be maintained. The Abraham Accords have been transformational and need to be maintained.... The issues that tend to occupy people’s attention are all in a good place,” he said.

As such, Friedman said, “the short answer [is that], oddly enough, of all places, the Middle East is pretty good. You should leave well enough alone.

“There are lots of other problems – China, Russia, domestic issues. There is plenty to work on. Leave the Middle East alone. Leave Israel alone, on the path that it is on,” he suggested.

Now that Friedman is no longer ambassador, what is next for him?

Trump’s former bankruptcy attorney said he does not plan to return to practicing law.

First, the departing ambassador plans to write a book about his experiences.

Then, Friedman says, he hopes to continue to have a positive impact in Israel.

“I’m going to find a way to be relevant in this space,” he promised.

The Palestinian Authority Is Still Paying Terrorists
In 2018, the United States Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, which ended U.S. aid to the PA unless the latter ceased paying stipends to terrorists and their families. The legislation is named after Taylor Force, a 28-year-old U.S. Army vet who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist while he was visiting Israel for his MBA program. Force's murder helped galvanize efforts to penalize the PA and end "pay to slay." In 2019, Israel enacted its own version of the Taylor Force Act, which deducted the amount that the PA pays to terrorists from tax revenues that the Jewish state collects and transfers to the authority.

Yet, the PA has been unbowed.

In a Sept. 26, 2019 speech before the U.N. General Assembly, PA president Mahmoud Abbas declared, "Even if I had only one penny, I would've given it to the families of the martyrs, prisoners and heroes." Abbas's boast of paying people to murder Jews was met with applause. And the PA's actions match his words. In the first five months of 2019 alone, the PA paid terrorists and their families $66 million—an 11.8 percent increase from the previous year.

Abbas has also tried to hide the "pay to slay" program. As journalist Donna Rachel Edmunds observed in May 2020, "monthly budget documents prepared by the Palestinian Authority for 2020 show that it is attempting to hide the salaries that it pays to terrorists from international donors, making a sham of its commitment to financial transparency." Edmunds cited research from Palestinian Media Watch, which found that "the PA is diverting the payments through the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a trick it has used in the past."

Indeed, as AFP reported in June 2020, Abbas ordered his security services to destroy "secret documents, fearing possible Israeli raids on their offices." The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis noted at the time that the PA might have had the past in mind. An Israeli raid in September 2000 resulted in the seizure of PA and PLO documents which showed that "senior Palestinian Authority officers were actively involved in terrorism, providing logistical and financial assistance" to other terrorist groups.

There is no evidence that the PA, facing a new U.S. administration, intends to reduce its support for terror. In January 2021, the authority announced that it was creating the "Alive and Provided For" initiative, which plants trees in honor of terrorists. Jibril Rajoub, a prominent PA official and possible successor to Abbas, declared, "these martyrs are the most sacred thing that we have."

Policymakers and press alike should take note.

Will America remain the strong horse on Iran?
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed earlier this month that Iran had started enriching uranium up to 20 percent. Enrichment at this level is only a short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.

Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, has said that Iranian nuclear scientists are now producing half a kilo of uranium enriched to 20 percent every day.

And what price America’s alliance with Saudi Arabia if, as Blinken told the Senate hearing, the United States should stop supporting it in Yemen — which would help Iran win its proxy war against Saudi Arabia through backing Yemen’s Houthi rebels?

There are also concerns that the Biden administration will re-energise the Palestinians’ war of annihilation against Israel. Blinken said the United States was still committed to a “two-state solution,” which the Palestinians regard as waging its war of annihilation in stages. But he also said it would continue to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and that the US embassy would remain there.

So what does all this mean? Could the new administration be floundering in policy incoherence and arguments between opposing factions? Could they want to keep everything in play — encouraging further Arab recognition of Israel while simultaneously empowering the Palestinians, the left’s cause of causes, while still scratching their heads about Iran?

Or could it be that they have tacitly accepted that the despised and reviled Trump, whose moves against Iran and in support of Israel were opposed by the Democrats tooth and nail, has actually brought about the greatest movement towards peace in the Middle East for a hundred years — and for which the Democrats will now aim to steal the credit?

After all that’s happened, do you think that could really be so?
Jpost Editorial: Biden's approach to the Middle East should be realistic, pragmatic
What matters however is that on the big issues regarding Israel-US relations, the Biden administration appears to want to build on some aspects of what Trump put in place. Moreover, it appears to have the intention to build on the close defense relationships with Israel that is part of the multi-billion dollar annual support Israel receives from the US.

This is important because Israel has delivered two Iron Dome batteries to the US, and is seeking to procure more F-35s, helicopters, as well as refueling aircraft. There is talk of greater research and development cooperation with Washington, on top of the defense relationships that already exist.

Israel conducted an unprecedented air defense test last month, and the US is likely seeking to learn from and watch closely how the programs it has supported in Israel are handling emerging threats, particularly from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

All this means is that Blinken, Haines and other senior Biden officials will see Israel as a key relationship in US foreign policy.

We urge the Biden administration to keep up the realistic approach that Blinken and Haines articulated during their confirmation hearings, and to support the work that has already been done to extend stability in the region and among its different allies.

That means working with Israel – not against it – when it comes to the threat from Iran. From what we see so far, the new administration seems to get it.
Israeli-Palestinian Peace Starts With Combating Anti-Semitism
First, Mahmoud Abbas’ government must immediately and unconditionally accept the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. Such an acceptance would demonstrate the Palestinian leadership’s commitment to recognizing Zionism as a basic tenant of Judaism and, as a result, accept to coexist with a sovereign, Jewish state. Moreover, such a move is likely to positively impact the Israeli electorate’s hope that the Palestinian leadership is able and willing to move forward with a meaningful and comprehensive peace process—a 2020 poll indicated that over 80 percent of Israelis believe peace with the Palestinians is unlikely to happen within the next five years.

Second, the PA’s next step must include the dismantling of the pay-for-slay policy. Established by Yasser Arafat in the late 1960s, the policy encourages the murder of Israeli civilians by promising perpetual salaries to terrorists and their families. In fact, in 2017 the Palestinian Authority’s total expenditure for this program totaled nearly $355 million. The Palestinian leadership’s commitment to this horrendous policy is deemed of such importance that, even amidst a pandemic, the PA decided to prioritize payments to convicted terrorists and their families over the distribution of salaries to social welfare recipients. This policy has only helped to further demonize Israelis in the eyes of Palestinians—it is no surprise that a September 2020 poll indicated that only 24 percent of Palestinians believe in a peace process based on negotiations.

A long-lasting peace agreement can only be sustained if both peoples are allowed to humanize one another and believe in the potential of economic, security, and cultural relations with one another. The decades-long Palestinian Authority pay-for-slay policy runs counter to this spirit.

Lastly, the Palestinian Authority’s system of anti-Semitic indoctrination in its schooling system must be eradicated. From a young age, Palestinian children are taught to view Zionism as an inherent threat to their nationalist aspirations and that Jews are a European people who have colonized their ancestral homeland. A foundation of lies will not hold up the structure of peace.

Palestinian children must be exposed to studies that detail Jewish connection to the land and to the region. They must be taught about the horrific legacy of anti-Semitism and its modern shapes and forms.

Unless these three steps are endorsed by the stakeholders of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a resolution is unlikely to happen in the near future, and—even if one is found—it is unlikely to last long.

These three steps will grant Palestinians and Israelis the promise of a prosperous and peaceful future. The same future that we are beginning to see for the people of Morocco, Bahrain, and the UAE.
The Palestinian Plan to Dupe the Biden Administration
The proposed Palestinian elections are part of a scheme designed to deceive the international community, specifically the US and EU, into believing that the Palestinians are serious about implementing major reforms, ending financial and administrative corruption, and engaging in another peace process with Israel.

Not only does Abbas have no plans to depart from the political scene anytime in the near future, he is even said to be considering running in the presidential election.

There is one reason, and one reason only, why Abbas is now talking about holding general elections: to continue milking the cash cow he has in the form of American and European governments. Abbas wants the money to ensure his continued dictatorial rule over the Palestinians.

Abbas is hoping that such an international conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, European Union, Russia and China, would impose a solution on Israel. Abbas has only one solution in mind: one that would see Israel fully withdraw to the pre-1967 lines, including east Jerusalem, and the establishment of a Palestinian state that would undoubtedly be used in the future as a launching pad to wage war on Israel.

The Palestinians live under two dictatorships: one in the West Bank and one in the Gaza Strip. Elections, even if they are held, will not produce new leaders. They will produce Fatah flunkies and Hamas henchmen who bow obediently to their corrupt bosses.
BESA: Saudi Arabia Is Sending Joe Biden Mixed Messages
Saudi Arabia appears to be drawing lines in the sand as the kingdom prepares for a new era in relations with the US once President-elect Joe Biden assumes office in January. The kingdom is seemingly signaling that it is willing to go only so far to get off on the right foot with the Biden administration.

Saudi Arabia seems to be betting that Joe Biden will be sufficiently cautious to avoid a rupture in relations with the kingdom despite criticism he expressed, at times in strong language, during the US presidential election campaign.

The Saudi bet is not unreasonable.

US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel D. Brownback recently echoed existing US policy, which could well be the attitude adopted by a Biden administration. Asked why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave the kingdom a waiver even though Brownback’s department had designated the kingdom a “country of particular concern” under US law for its failure to respect freedom of religion, as well as its apostasy and blasphemy laws, which include the death penalty, he said:
Saudi Arabia is a country that the administration and prior administrations have deemed as having a strategic interest… It’s the major, obviously, Gulf state country. It’s a major source of trade… We have a great deal of frustration at times in what Saudi Arabia does… But there’s also a national interest here, and that’s something that you’ve always have to weigh back and forth in diplomacy. And in this case, the Secretary weighed it that we needed to provide the national interest waiver.

Recent events indicate the parameters of the Saudi bet.

The kingdom seems prepared to accommodate both outgoing President Donald Trump as well as Biden by engaging with US and Kuwaiti efforts to lift the 3.5-year-old Saudi- and UAE-led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar.

Secretary Pompeo, Jared Kushner (Trump’s Middle East negotiator), and other senior US officials have traveled to the Gulf in recent weeks to push for a breakthrough in the Gulf stalemate as well as Saudi recognition of Israel in the wake of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE, Bahrain, and the Jewish state.
Syria Says Four Dead in First Israeli Strike Since Biden Took Office
Syrian air defenses confronted “an Israeli aggression” in the region of Hama on Friday that killed four people from the same family, state media said, in what would be the first such action by Israel since Joe Biden became US president.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria in recent years against suspected Iranian military deployments or arms transfers to Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah fighters.

Regional sources said such attacks had been stepped up during the final weeks of Donald Trump’s term as US president.

The new strikes, if confirmed, would be the first since Biden took office on Wednesday. Israel, which enjoyed strong support from Trump, is waiting to gauge whether the new administration will review US policy in the Middle East.

“At about four o’clock in the morning today, the Israeli enemy launched an aerial aggression with a barrage of missiles coming from the direction of the Lebanese city of Tripoli, aiming at some targets in the vicinity of Hama governorate,” a military source said, according to Syrian state media.

“Our air defenses confronted the enemy’s missiles and downed most of them,” the source said, without detailing the nature of the targets.

The Israeli military declined to comment.

A father, mother and their two children were killed in the strikes, and four other civilians were wounded, while three houses were destroyed, the Syrian military source said.

Israel has previously said its strikes in Syria were necessary to protect its northern front from its enemy Iran.
IDF says it shot down drone that crossed into Israeli airspace from Lebanon
The IDF shot down a drone that was crossing into Israeli airspace from Lebanon, the military said Friday.

The drone was identified as it approached the border and “monitored by the IDF throughout the incident,” the IDF said.

“The IDF will continue to act to prevent any violation of the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” the military added in a statement.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Last month, the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah claimed to have flown a drone into Israel and filmed two military bases near the border.

Hezbollah’s television channel al-Manar said the aerial video was filmed during the “Lethal Arrow” drill held by the Israel Defense Forces in October, which included the simulation of a war in the north against the terror group.

That drone returned to Lebanon without being exposed, Hezbollah claimed.
Russian COVID-19 vaccines for Palestinians delayed for technical reasons
A shipment of 5,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine designated for Palestinian health workers in the West Bank and Gaza was delayed for technical reasons.

The shipment was expected to arrive this weekend via Jordan, but now the date of the shipment's arrival is unclear.

The delay is not connected to Israel, which facilitates the movement of goods and people in and out of the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority informed Israel of the delay.

On Thursday, the government issued a statement on the matter explaining that the Palestinian Authority has committed to reserve the vaccines solely for the use of health workers in Gaza and the West Bank.

The government added that the PA has not requested that the vaccine doses be transferred to Gaza. It spoke about the matter in response to a High Court of Justice petition by Leah and Simcha Goldin who seek to block the transfer of people, goods or coronavirus vaccines to and from Gaza, beyond the minimum requirement of international law.
Ahead of Palestinian elections, Abbas stays wary of rivals Dahlan, Hamas
On November 23, 2009, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a “presidential decree” for holding presidential and parliamentary elections on January 24, 2010.

A few weeks later, Abbas said that he was determined to hold the elections on the date he announced and accused his rivals in Hamas of foiling Egyptian efforts to end the dispute with his ruling Fatah faction.

“The decree for Palestinian elections is very serious and we are determined to implement it,” Abbas told a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in Ramallah.

Then, Hamas leaders dismissed Abbas’s decision as “illegitimate and unconstitutional,” arguing that he was not authorized to announce elections, because his four-year term in office had expired in January 2009.

Abbas was elected in the second presidential election for the PA presidency, held on January 9, 2005. His plan to hold the elections in 2010 never materialized, due to the dispute between Fatah and Hamas.

In October 2011, Abbas decided to try again. This time, he sent a proposal to Hamas suggesting that the general elections be held at the beginning of 2012.

MEMRI: D.C.-Based Egyptian Journalist Atef Abdel Gawad To Hizbullah TV: The World Will Remember Trump Like It Does Hitler; He Needed A Psychiatric Clinic
Egyptian journalist, based in Washington D.C., Atef Abdel Gawad said that Donald Trump was not mentally or emotionally healthy in an interview, which was aired on Al-Manar TV (Hizbullah-Lebanon) on January 17, 2021. He said that the world will remember Trump like it remembers Hitler, as someone who needed a psychiatric clinic. He suggested an amendment to American elections regulations, which would require presidential candidates to undergo mental and physical testing before they can take office.

History Will Remember Trump "As It Remembers Hitler" And "As A President Who Needed A Psychiatric Clinic"

Interviewer: "Dr. Abdel Gawad, do you think that history will remember Trump's presidency?"

Atef Abdel Gawad: "On the one hand, it will remember him as it remembers Hitler, and on the other hand, it will remember Trump as a president who needed a psychiatric clinic.

"I Support Amending The Regulations Of The U.S. Elections" So That No President Can Take Office Unless He Is Tested, "Mentally And Psychologically"

"Therefore, I support amending the regulations of the U.S. elections. This amendment suggests that any presidential candidate or any president would not be allowed to take office until he is tested – not only physically, but also mentally and psychologically. Because, as a matter of fact, there is a lot of evidence that shows that President Trump has not been mentally and emotionally healthy."

Anti-Israel ‘Million Man March’ Held in Karachi by Islamist Pakistani Party
Images and video circulated on social media Thursday of a so-called “million man march” against Israel in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

The massive rally was organized by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), a right-wing Islamist party at the head of the country’s political opposition, against the possibility of Pakistan normalizing relations with Israel.

“Israel is involved in the genocide of Muslims in Palestine and we would never allow the federal government to establish diplomatic relations with it,” said JUI-F leader Maulana Saleemullah Alwazi at a separate rally on Monday, according to The News International, a Pakistani newspaper.

In December, Pakistani officials denied rumors that the country was moving towards such a deal, following normalization agreements between the Jewish state and countries like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Footage of the Thursday march showed tens of thousands of protesters draped in the black-and-white stripes of the JUI-F party, which broke away from its parent (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam) in the 1980s.

Party head Fazal-ur-Rehman — whose name gave the breakaway faction its “F” appendage — addressed the protest, and was recently named head of a coalition opposing the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
MEMRI: Iraqi Pro-Iranian Militia Launches Hebrew Website In Presence Of Palestinian Authority Ambassador In Iraq
On January 18, 2021, the Al-Nujaba Islamic resistance movement, an Iraqi, pro-Iranian Shi'ite militia, launched – a Hebrew-language website. In content and structure, the website is identical to the movement's Persian-language website,, and includes translations of reports published on the Persian-language site. Both websites focus on reports about declarations from the movement's leadership against the U.S. and Israel, and translations of studies published in the West about the movement and its activities. The movement's Arabic-language website focuses more on internal Iraqi politics.[1]

It appears that all the websites are operated under the auspices of the movement's Communications and Media Affairs Center in Iran.

The ceremony for the launch of the Hebrew website, which took place in Baghdad, was dubbed "Jerusalem is the Ultimate Goal of the Resistance." It was held on the 12th anniversary of "the victory of the Palestinian resistance over the Zionists," in Gaza.[2] Nasser Al-Shammari, the movement's spokesman and deputy secretary-general and Palestinian Authority (PA) ambassador to Iraq Ahmad 'Aql were both present at the ceremony.

The launch of a Hebrew-language website is an additional step which reflects the desire of Al-Nujaba, which is supported by Iran, to extend the range of its activity and stress its presence and intentions in Palestine.

During the inauguration ceremony for the Hebrew-language website, Nasser Al-Shammari explained the rationale behind its creation: "Previously, we saw the creation of Arabic networks and [web] pages, as well as the emergence of Arabic-speaking speakers by the enemy to sow discord," he said. "Today we use the same weapon to target the enemy that in the past was exclusively in their hands. From now on, we will address the depths of the enemy, including its supporters and popular bases, in order to inform them of all the crises and the terrible future that awaits them… The opportunity for the Zionists is short and now we have entered the process of the decline of that regime. The same path that the martyr Qasem Soleimani drew and the martyr Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandes moved, continues until the liberation of Quds and we go to their houses, where is the source of all conspiracies."

According to Al-Shammari, the Zionist regime and the Americans only understand the language of force, and he states that plans such as the "establishment of two governments" or the "normalization of relations with the Zionist regime" will never be the solution to peace and tranquility in the region, saying that the solution for the region is rather to resist the American and Zionist occupiers.

PA ambassador to Iraq Ahmad 'Aql praised the launch of the Hebrew website, describing it as, "an important step in the fight against the occupying regime in Jerusalem," and adding, "We are used to Israel setting up Arabic-language bases for Arabic-speaking audiences, but this is the first time we have responded to this regime."
Khamenei account suspended after tweet of Trump golfing under warplane shadow
Twitter on Friday suspended an account of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office after it posted a photomontage of former US President Donald Trump playing golf under the shadow of a warplane alongside a pledge to avenge a deadly 2020 drone strike he ordered.

The post on the @khamenei_site Twitter account late Thursday warned there was no escape from payback for the US strike outside Baghdad airport which killed Iran’s foreign military operations chief General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi lieutenant.

“Revenge is inevitable. Soleimani’s killer and the man who gave the orders must face vengeance,” it said.

“Revenge can take place at any moment.”

By Friday morning Twitter had suspended the account.

In response to a request for comment from The Associated Press, a Twitter spokesman said that the tweet had violated the company’s “abusive behavior policy,” and that the account had violated its “manipulation and spam policy, specifically the creation of fake accounts,” without elaborating.

However, Khamenei’s office runs several accounts and the others were still working, including his main account, which he regularly uses to call for the destruction of the Jewish state.


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