Wednesday, January 27, 2021

From Ian:

Seth Frantzman: Renewed talk of two-state solution illustrates US influence - analysis
The narrative in Israel has been, with perhaps shortsighted reference to the Trump years, that the Palestinian issue no longer matters to the region. Israeli experts say that countries care more about the Iranian threat. That may be true and it may be not. For instance Turkey’s aggressive behavior also appeared to bring Israel closer to Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and the UAE. However, Qatar and Saudi Arabia recently agreed to normalize relations and this inevitably affects views of Ankara.

There is much more moderate talk from Cairo now about Ankara and also about Iran and other issues. In short, the idea that an aggressive Iran and Turkey would mean that no one cares about Ramallah and Gaza may be oversold, especially as Biden’s administration wants to talk two states again.

WHAT IS clear from the recent talk of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Germany, France, Egypt, Jordan – and basically everyone taking an interest in two states again – is that there is a hunger for a US role and a kind of competition to see who can fit in with the new administration on this issue.

In contrast to the Trump administration’s early discussions with Jordan, the Biden administration has not had a lot of talks with Middle East leaders – yet. The US is focusing on repairing relationships with its neighbors Canada and Mexico, supporting friends in Japan and South Korea, talking about what to do in Afghanistan, and looking at European allies, as well as the Iran issue.

That means that Israel’s assessment that the two-state issue is not the top priority may be correct. However, any signal from Washington regarding moves in the Middle East – and how it may play a role with Moscow, Riyadh or Paris on their interest in two states – will matter. Russia and France’s role is important as both are historic key players in the region. In addition, Israel’s growing relations with the Gulf matter to Saudi Arabia, which has signaled support for these relationships.

How, exactly, anything can manifest itself in the Palestinian arena is unclear. The divided Palestinian authority, Hamas in Gaza, talk of elections – and the tenuous nature of Ramallah’s control of an autonomous statelet – all leave serious questions.
Palestinians Greet Our New President With an Old Trick
Eying the new administration in Washington, Ramallah is promising full democracy in Palestine. The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, has declared parliamentary and presidential election in June and July respectively.

It’s an old trick. Not that it went unwelcomed by the marks at the United Nations. Secretary General Guterres was to make that clear. He was followed by a number of Western governments, hoping the 85 year old Mr. Abbas, who was elected for a four year stint back in 2005, will finally face voters and democracy will return.

Ramallah is eager to present its promised election round as superior to that of Israel, which will go to the polls in March for the fourth time in less than two years. Here is how Mr. Abbas’s foreign minister, Riad Malki, put it in a speech to the Security Council today:

“In this period of electoral campaigns, there are those who, in trying to secure votes, remain committed to international law, the two-State solution and peaceful means, and those who instead announce settlements, advance annexation and persist in their provocations.”

It’s almost impossible to parse all fallacies here. Feature “this period of electoral campaigns.” True, Israel’s politics have gone bonkers. The country is overly segmented, with every third-rate politician believing he or she is a potential national leader, forming new political parties almost daily. The prime minister, Benjamin Netanayhu, prefers election campaigns to dealing with trials against him on various criminal charges.

So Israel’s democracy might be in crisis, but a democracy it is, including a tradition of competitive elections, a vigorous adversarial press, independent courts, and a free economy. None of that is evident in the Palestinian territories.

Yes, 16 years after being elected to his four-year presidential stint Mr. Abbas has declared a new election round. But is that a sign of democracy promotion? Is it even a piece of news?

Canada probes UNRWA funds over textbooks for promoting hate
Canada will investigate its contributions to UNRWA following a report that the refugee agency for Palestinians uses textbooks that incite hatred and violence, Canada’s International Development Minister Karina Gould announced.

Gould said she was “deeply concerned” to learn that educational materials UNRWA gave Palestinian children during coronavirus-related lockdowns “contained references that violated UN values of human rights, tolerance, neutrality and nondiscrimination,” the minister said last week.

Canadian officials plan to investigate “how this happened and to reinforce UNRWA’s corrective actions, monitoring and oversight in the future,” Gould added.

Gould also spoke directly with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini.

“I reiterated that the use of these educational materials violates the neutrality principles that UNRWA is committed to as a UN organization and under the Framework for Cooperation between Canada and UNRWA,” she stated. “I am personally reaching out to a number of my counterparts to discuss this situation and Canada will remain closely engaged with UNRWA and other donor countries on this and other neutrality issues.” Canada pledged $24 million to UNRWA in 2020.

Gould’s statement came less than a week after IMPACT-se, an Israel-based organization that monitors textbooks, mostly in the Middle East, released a report showing UNRWA distributed content that “promoted jihad, violence and martyrdom, [and] libelous claims that Israel intentionally dumps toxic waste into the West Bank.” The materials also erased Israel from its maps.

US announces it’s renewing relations with Palestinians, seeking 2-state solution
Marking a return to traditional US policy before Trump, which opposed Israeli expansion in the West Bank, Mills called on the sides to avoid unilateral steps such as settlement building, annexation, and home demolitions by Israel and incitement to violence and payments to security prisoners by the Palestinians.

In his own remarks before the Security Council, Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan slammed the prisoner payments, referring to it as “pay-to-slay” and arguing that it demonstrated that the Palestinians are not truly interested in peace with Israel. The UN Security Council meets virtually on January 26, 2020 to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Screen capture/United Nations)

Palestinian officials confirmed to The Times of Israel in December that Ramallah is working to alter the way it pays stipends to Palestinian security prisoners, as well as the families of terrorists and others killed by Israelis, in order to lay the groundwork for renewed diplomatic ties with the US. The altered policy would base the stipends on prisoners’ financial need rather than the length of their sentence, potentially marking a shift away from what has long been a sticking point for the PA’s detractors.

The practice of paying allowances to those convicted of carrying out terror attacks and to the families of those killed while carrying out attacks has been pilloried by critics as incentivizing terror.

Palestinian leaders have long defended the payments, describing them as a form of social welfare and necessary compensation for victims of Israel’s callous military justice system in the West Bank.

Over the past year, officials in the US and the EU have warned Ramallah that a failure to substantively change the policy would prove a major obstacle to improved relations, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The change may also usher Ramallah into compliance with the 2018 Taylor Force Act, which suspended US aid to the PA as long as it continued to implement the existing prisoner payment policy.

The PA is hoping the policy change will convince the Biden administration to designate as unconstitutional congressional legislation from 1987 that labeled the PLO “and its affiliates” a terror group, senior Palestinian officials told The Times of Israel in December.

Seth Frantzman: How Dubai’s DMCC is pioneering kosher markets in the UAE
Having kosher certified products available across Dubai and the UAE provides many companies with instant access to a new customer base, Dutta says. According to reports, numerous hotels in the UAE are now offering or will offer kosher options. This is also the case with the Ritz-Carlton in Bahrain which began offering kosher cuisine last year. In the UAE the first kosher restaurant was announced last September and Elli Kriel has pioneered kosher catering since 2019.

“With more tourists and businesses visiting or setting up in Dubai as the relations between Israel and the UAE develop, this new market segment is only set to increase. Ensuring that businesses across the emirates are prepared for this new demand is essential,” says Dutta. Around 130,000 Israelis have already visited the UAE with some 70,000 in November and the first weeks of December when the skies were open without requiring quarantine upon return. Israel has now shut its airport temporarily but flights will likely resume. “It is steps like ensuring ample kosher-certified products are available in the UAE that will deepen our relationship with Israel, which will give rise to a whole host of new business and trade opportunities in the future,” says Dutta.

As the entity responsible for a growing business community of over 18,000 member companies, it is incumbent on us to support them wherever possible, he says. “Raising awareness about interesting new business opportunities helps them continue their success and growth, so hosting a webinar on kosher certification made perfect sense.” The kosher marketplace is definitely one of the key focus areas within the UAE’s food and beverage and agricultural sectors, the DMCC executive director stated. He pointed out that “the global kosher food market was valued at $19.1 billion in 2018, and is projected to reach $25.6b. by 2026, growing at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 3.7% from 2019 to 2026. This shows there is a great opportunity for companies across the UAE to tap into.” This growth is driven by people associating kosher food with higher quality, but for the UAE specifically, we will see rapid growth in this sector as relations between the UAE and Israel continue to grow and more Israeli tourists visit Dubai and the other emirates, Dutta notes.

“Our mandate is to promote, attract and facilitate trade in Dubai, so as kosher products become more widely available in the UAE, this is what our role will be aligned with. What this looks like exactly remains to be seen, though we whole-heartedly support initiatives that drive trade through Dubai.”

Netanyahu to Davos: Israel is 'world's laboratory for immunity'
Israel is “in an arms race between vaccination and mutation,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Davos World Economic Forum, held online this year.

“All the virus mutations you see, you are two weeks too late when you spot them. And the new ones, you won’t know about for a few more weeks. That’s why we had to close down flights.”

Israel closed its airports Monday for at least a week, the first country in the world to do so.

The country has vaccinated 82% of the population above age 60 so far, and aims to reach 95%, Netanyahu told BΓΈrge Brende, president of the WEF. “There will be more [mutations] in the future. That means we have to race as fast as we can.”

Statistically, it’s just a question of time before there is a strain that the current vaccines do not work with, he added.
Cabinet debates extending lockdown as Israel's COVID death toll crosses 4,500
Health Ministry data released Wednesday raised doubts over whether the nationwide lockdown, Israel's third since the global pandemic erupted in March 2020, can be lifted next week, as planned.

Israel has recorded 617,168 coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit the country, including 4,513 deaths. So far, 535,947 Israelis have recovered from the disease.

The national vaccination drive was progressing well, the ministry said, noting that so far, 2,768,202 Israelis were vaccinated with the first dose and 1,377,803 had received the second dose as well.

The Health Ministry screened 83,367 Israelis for the virus over the past 24 hours, and 7,737 (9.6%) tested positive for COVID-19.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that morbidity rates mandate extending the lockdown by at least another week, a measure the government is expected to debate later on Wednesday.

The ministers were set to debate the issue on Tuesday, but Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said he would not back the decision unless he was presented with assurances that lockdown will be properly enforced in ultra-Orthodox communities.

Morbidity in the Haredi sector has been particularly high, mainly over the fact that the Haredi public consistently flouts Health Ministry directives, especially with respect to social distancing.

The past week has seen unprecedented riots in Bnei Brak, a Haredi city in central Israel, where law enforcement seeking to enforce directives were attacked by a local mob.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry's Exceptions Committee has allowed HMOs to vaccinate 10 children under the ages of 16 against the coronavirus.

PMW: “Those representing Palestine must be prepared to sacrifice blood” – Fatah official
Fatah chooses the path of violence and encourages Palestinians to die as “Martyrs” for ‎‎“Palestine.” That message was cemented by Fatah Revolutionary Council member ‎Raed Radwan, who stressed that Palestinians must be prepared “to sacrifice blood”:
Fatah Revolutionary Council member Raed Radwan: “All the activities will be ‎directed towards popular resistance… Palestine is the center of the universe ‎religiously, politically, and even geographically… Those representing it must ‎be prepared to make a sacrifice and to sacrifice blood for the sake of this ‎cause. Therefore, these young people (i.e., founders of Fatah in 1965) who ‎believed in their cause and the certainty of their victory against this enemy (i.e., ‎Israel) succeeded… Fatah carried the rifle and succeeded in realizing a long ‎journey of giving adorned with blood, Martyrs, and prisoners. Therefore, ‎Fatah today has a mighty heritage of Martyrs and prisoners.” ‎ [Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, Dec. 28, 2020]‎

The PA has indoctrinated Palestinians with this message for decades. Therefore it is ‎not surprising to hear a Palestinian man – himself the father of a terrorist murderer – ‎paraphrase a statement attributed to arch-terrorist Abu Jihad that promotes death to ‎‎“liberate Palestine”:
Fatah member and father of terrorist murderer Anan Abu Habseh ‎Muhammad Abu Habseh: “Our heads will reach the sky and our feet will ‎continue to be planted in this good and pure land. With our skulls we will pave ‎the path to victory, until the liberation of Palestine.”‎ [Official PA TV, Good Morning Jerusalem, Jan. 1, 2021]‎

“Every day we will grow a tree, every day we will grow a Martyr” - Father of terrorist “Martyr”
Adnan Abd Al-Jawad Rawajbeh, father of terrorist Bilal Rawajbeh who shot at Israeli soldiers: "The symbolism of [Palestinian Martyrs’] Day is that we are saying to the entire world, to Israel: “Despite death, we will live, and despite the sorrow, we will grow.” Every day we will grow a tree, every day we will grow a Martyr. We love all the Martyrs, we are loyal to the Martyrs, for we are standing firm on this land. We are planted in this land. We’ll die standing here, and we won’t surrender. Therefore, our Martyrs are “alive with their Lord, and provided for” [Quran 3:169].
[Official PA TV, Palestine This Morning, Jan. 6, 2021]

In January 2021, the PA launched a tree planting initiative named Alive and Provided For to honor all Palestinians who died as so-called “Martyrs” since 1917, planting one tree for each “Martyr.” The PA defines “Martyrs” to include all Palestinian terrorists and murderers killed during their terror attacks, including every Palestinian suicide bomber. The PA initiative also includes all Palestinian arch-terrorists such as Abu Jihad who planned the murder of at least 125 Israelis; Salah Khalaf who headed the Black September terror organization and planned the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes; and mass murderers like Dalal Mughrabi who led the most lethal attack against Israel in which 37 were murdered, among them 12 children. The name Alive and Provided For is a paraphrase of Quran 3:169: “And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, and provided for.”

Bilal Rawajbeh – Palestinian terrorist and PA Preventive Security Forces member who shot at Israeli soldiers at a military post near Nablus on Nov. 4, 2020, reportedly using a PA Security Forces issued handgun. The soldiers killed Rawajbeh in self-defense.

Invisible Blockade: Media Silent on Palestinian Authority’s Gaza Sanctions
Ever since Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held for the first time in over 15 years, major news organizations have ignored the fact that Ramallah long ago imposed crippling sanctions on the Gaza Strip.

This, to the serious detriment of its 1.8 million residents.

Instead, the precarious conditions in the Palestinian coastal enclave continue to be reflexively attributed to the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade. The Abbas-induced forced welfare cuts and slashing of funding for electricity, among other punitive measures, in Gaza have gone largely unreported by the vast majority of international media outlets.

Abbas: Targeting Hamas, Punishing Palestinians
Not so for some local journalists such as Khaled Abu Toameh, who this week tweeted a reminder of the true state of affairs:

But Abbas has basically been given a free pass, even as nearly two million Palestinians have been paying the price for the political rivalry between his ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank and the Hamas Islamist terrorist group in Gaza. This blood feud dates back to 2006-2007, when Abbas was ousted from the enclave in an internecine war.

Leading New York Rabbi Criticizes Democrat Bowman for ‘Outrageous Allegations’ That Israel Is Withholding Vaccine From Palestinians
After trading public letters during a heated 2020 primary campaign, prominent New York rabbi Avi Weiss addressed new concerns Tuesday to newly elected Congressman Jamaal Bowman, who recently joined House Democratic colleagues like Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Joaquin Castro in blaming Israel for not vaccinating Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

“The Palestinian government is party to the Oslo Agreement, which in Article 17 declares that it is responsible for the health of its citizens,” Weiss wrote. “When considering that just two years ago the Palestinian Authority allocated $330 million dollars to the families of terrorists, money that could have covered the cost of vaccines for all of their people – they bear responsibility.”

Bowman, who last year defeated 16-term Elliot Engel to represent New York’s 16th Congressional district, tweeted Sunday in support of Rep. Castro’s (D-TX) claim that the Israeli government was denying the vaccine to Palestinians.

“Netanyahu must ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians have access to the Covid vaccine,” Bowman wrote. “This cruelty is another reminder of why the occupation must end.”

Weiss published an open letter to Bowman in The Algemeiner during his 2020 primary campaign against Engel, a longtime pro-Israel voice in the House who served as chairman of its Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Countless Riverdalians now live in Israel, including my daughter and her family,” wrote Weiss, who runs the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the congressman’s district. “Some live in the town of Efrat, just south of Jerusalem, in Gush Etzion. In the center of Gush Etzion, many, including Ezra Schwartz, a teenager from Boston, were viciously murdered by Palestinian terrorists.”

Bowman replied with an open letter of his own, citing his opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and a commitment to the “two-state solution and peace, security and freedom for both the Israeli and Palestinian people.”
University of North Carolina Cops Issue Arrest Warrants After Antisemitic Vandalism Discovered
Police at the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill issued two arrest warrants on Monday in connection with racist and antisemitic graffiti discovered in a campus building over the weekend.

In a statement Monday, UNC Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert A. Blouin and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Amy Johnson said the vandalism happened at the Campus Y sometime between Saturday and Sunday. They said a person unlawfully entered the building and defaced several offices, leaving behind antisemitic symbols and a racial epithet on a white board, the local ABC affiliate reported.

The break-in and vandalism were reported to UNC police, who, with law enforcement partners, have identified a suspect and issued two arrest warrants.

UNC officials noted the Campus Y’s long history as a home for promoting social justice on campus.

“Hateful vandalism is not acceptable anywhere on our campus, but this breach of an established organization that promotes equality and justice is particularly egregious,” the school’s statement read.

Danny Siegel — a Jewish senior at UNC — told ABC that the incident was his first personal encounter with antisemitism.

“As a Jewish person, that type of thing really hits home. I’ve never experienced anti-Semitism on this campus, I haven’t experienced that much in my life,” said Siegel. “It shows that the individuals who did that understood that and did it for a specific purpose, and that type of stuff doesn’t belong on this campus, let alone in this country, in this world.”

Yolande Knell’s contribution to the BBC’s vaccines campaign
On January 25th a filmed report by the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page under the title ‘Covid-19: Vaccine divides in the Middle East’.

As soon became apparent in the synopsis, the BBC actually had no intention of informing its audiences about different levels of immunization against Covid-19 “in the Middle East”. The report chose to completely ignore the situation in places such as Syria, Yemen or Lebanon, instead focusing viewers’ attentions on one location which has already been the topic of copious multi-platform coverage as a result of the BBC’s self-conscription to a political campaign.

“While Israel is vaccinating its population against Covid-19 at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world, the Palestinian Authority only received its first small delivery of vaccine supplies for the occupied West Bank and Gaza, on Saturday.

The contrast highlights inequalities between people living and often working alongside each other. Campaign groups are calling on Israel to vaccinate all Palestinians and some Israeli employers are also asking for their workers to get the jab.”

At no point in Knell’s nearly five and a half minute-long report was any effort made to inform audiences of the identity of those “campaign groups” and their political agenda.
Facebook is among the worst social services at curbing Holocaust denial, ADL says Facebook is among the worst social media services when it comes to combatting Holocaust denial, according to a new report.
The Anti-Defamation League graded 10 social networking services based on their policies against Holocaust denial and whether enforcement of those policies is effective.

Facebook (along with Instagram), Reddit, gaming chat service Discord, and gaming service Steam received Ds, while Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and gaming service Roblox all earned Cs. Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming service for gamers, received the best grade—a B.

“While some platforms have finally stepped up their efforts to stop the amplification of denial, others are still struggling to address anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial effectively,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL. “This is truly shameful at a time when antisemitic conspiracy theories are spreading globally, some outrageously based on the big lie that the Holocaust never happened.”

The grades come after major platforms like Facebook and Twitter recently began removing posts denying the Holocaust under their hate speech policies. But the problem persists, attracting the attention of lawmakers and regulators, who are concerned about it leading to real-world violence.

The ADL’s report card placed more weight on enforcement than policies, which led to Facebook's near failing grade. Facebook was the only service among the 10 that suggested a majority of the content flagged to it by the ADL did not violate its rules.

The ADL also found that Holocaust denial was easy to find on Facebook, similar to Twitter, Discord, Reddit, and Steam.
Facebook directs users to Holocaust education when searching for denial
Facebook will be commemorating the lives of the six millions Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust through a special initiative, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

To do so, Facebook partnered with the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in order to provide credible Holocaust education resources to Facebook users. Through the initiative, Facebook users will be connected with a comprehensive resource that encompasses the full scope of the history of the Holocaust, when searching for terms associated with the Holocaust or its denial. The social media giant developed the resource jointly with UNESCO, supported by Roman Abramovich and Chelsea Football Club’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign.

“I am grateful for all that the World Jewish Congress and UNESCO do to honor the six million people who were murdered just for being Jewish, the countless more who were killed for who they were, and those who survived this horrendous chapter in human history," said Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

"This International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we are proud to partner with them to help people learn the facts about the Holocaust and hear the stories of those who survived," she said. "At a time of rising hate and intolerance, taking time to read and reflect on what happened to Jews and others in Europe is more important than ever.”

Directing users to the online educational resource is the most recent example of Facebook's efforts to eliminate Holocaust denial from its platform.
Twitch receives highest mark for efforts toward removing Holocaust denial
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) gave Twitch the highest marks out of any other social network with reference to its efforts to combat Holocaust denial across the dedicated streaming platform.

The ADL issued a "report card" for each of the ten largest social media networks, which scrutinized platforms such as Twitch, TikTok, Youtube, Facebook and Discord, among others - presenting them with a final grade after reviewing their policies toward Holocaust denial.

The review took a deep look into each platform's terms of service agreements in order to discover whether there are explicit Holocaust denial policies, how the platform addresses the issue in the case of an infraction and what actions are taken, if any.

Twitch received a B, while Twitter, YouTube and TikTok earned a C. Facebook, Discord and Reddit "barely passed" with a D. No platform was awarded an A.

While Twitch and Twitter ranked closely in succession to one another, Twitter did not have any explicit Holocaust denial policy even though it has previously taken action against it, earning Twitch the highest grade. They were the only platforms in the study who had taken "immediate action" when Holocaust denial content was reported.

Seth Frantzman: Iran is totally confused on how to approach Biden - analysis
IRAN IS cold to a new agreement. “It should be noted that changing the label and trying to change the nature of such sanctions is not a sound argument for not lifting them, so Europe and the United States should lift all sanctions if they return, and none of them should be subject to new provisions or conditions," Tansim said. "Any new terms and conditions, or the refusal to lift some of these sanctions, will essentially mean a new agreement or renegotiation of the [Iran Deal], which our country's policy has been to oppose.”

The article notes: “The West seeks to use some of the sanctions as leverage to pressure Tehran in order to gain huge concessions by depriving Iran of all elements of its power and making it surrender. Satisfying to lift some, not all, of the related sanctions is to help the Western campaign and ease its future pressures.

"If Europe and the United States want to return to the nuclear deal, none of the sanctions [can be reinstated] – and the Trump-era sanctions and the sanctions that have been added to the new label should not remain in place.”

In short, Iran is driving a hard bargain. Note that in this discussion the supposed need for a nuclear program is not discussed. Iran’s nuclear program is largely a bogeyman designed to get the US to beg Iran to do things. It is a kind of blackmail. No other country does this, but Iran’s use of this blackmail is only because it was able to get its friends in the West to push a narrative of “we need a deal or there will be war.”

Iran can’t afford a war, so the story of a “war” was entirely a myth. The real story of Iran’s demands is wrapped up in sanctions relief and its demand for more of a role with militias and proxies throughout the region. It seeks regional dominance, while its own country has largely been bankrupted.
Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Erdan Warns UN of Iran Threats
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan addressed the UN Security Council on Tuesday, warning member states that it was time for “an institution charged with safeguarding peace and security to begin addressing the gravest danger in the Middle East: the regime in Tehran.”

“Tomorrow, here at the UN and around the world, we will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day and mourn the unfathomable murder of 6 million Jews. 76 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, there is another genocidal regime epitomizing the very words and actions of the Nazis,” he told the council.

“Iran does not try to hide its intention of destroying the world’s only Jewish state. Spreading antisemitism, denying the Holocaust and even proposing legislation calling for Israel’s destruction by the year 2041. How is it possible that the Iranian Parliament proposing to annihilate a member state is not at the top of this council’s agenda?” he said.

Additionally, Erdan warned against a return to the Iran nuclear deal and called on the Security Council to take action against Iran’s violations, pointing out that lessons have been learned since the deal with signed in 2015.

“What we all know today about Iran is not what the international community knew when it signed the nuclear deal with Iran. Now we know, contrary to the signatories’ premise, Iran did not use the removal of sanctions to improve the lives of its citizens but doubled down instead on its malign activities,” he said.

“Rather than using the dividends of the nuclear agreement to build schools and hospitals, it built an arsenal of missiles. Rather than using its resources to fight COVID-19, it wasted them on funding terrorist proxies and undermining peace and security. Iran deceived the world when it signed the agreement and it continues to deceive the world today,” said Erdan.
Inside The Quds Force: Iran’s Long Arm of Terror
What do Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen have in common? While these groups differ strongly in terms of ideologies and modi operandi, sometimes even raising their weapons against each other, they have one common denominator: support from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Central to Tehran’s extensive terror network is the Quds Force, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) division responsible for covert operations outside Iran. Its stated goal is ending pro-Western presence and influence in the Middle East and to “liberate” Al-Quds, Arabic for Jerusalem.

The secretive Quds Force’s exact size is unknown, but intelligence agencies estimate it has anywhere between 5.000 and 20.000 members. However, through its countless proxies, which act as a force multiplier, the Quds Force spreads havoc across the entire region.

Hence, the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain have officially designated the Quds Force as a foreign terrorist group and sanctioned its commanders, a rare occurrence for an organization that is part of a foreign army.

The Quds Force: Involved in Every Major Conflict
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, founded the IRGC some three months after the fall of the Shah’s monarchy. According to its mission statement, the IRGC was established to protect the revolution against internal and external threats. To this end, the IRGC also created an intelligence unit that would carry out clandestine operations abroad. After several reorganizations, the mullahs established the Quds Force as an independent branch of the IRGC.

The unit was involved in aiding proxies since day one. One of its first known operations took place in Afghanistan, where Iranian operatives supported Shia Hazara militants fighting against the pro-Soviet government. In the 1980s, the Quds Force (then known as Department 900) focused on supporting Iraqi Shia militias, Hazara militant groups, and establishing Lebanon-based Hezbollah.

In the first decade after the Quds Force’s founding, Ahmad Vahidi commanded the unit. Vahidi would later go on to become Iran’s defense minister. In 1998, Qasem Soleimani took over control. At that point, the Quds Force was assisting terrorist groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. He significantly increased their funding, arming, and training, giving the Quds Force a growing presence in the region.
Iran Will Take Steps Next Month to Curb Short-Notice IAEA Inspections: Official
Iran threatened on Tuesday to block short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities, demanding Washington reverse economic sanctions before it returns to compliance with a nuclear deal that President Joe Biden aims to restore.

Biden, who took office last week, aims to reverse a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump to pull out of the 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers.

The agreement lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to Iran‘s nuclear program, but after Trump quit and reimposed sanctions, Iran violated its conditions. Biden says Tehran should return to compliance before sanctions are lifted; Iran wants the sanctions lifted first.

Under the accord, the International Atomic Energy Agency was given wide-ranging access to gather information on Iran‘s nuclear activities, including the right to demand short-notice inspections of any site it deems necessary.

Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said the first steps to restrict those inspections would begin in the week from Feb. 19.

“Our law is very clear regarding this issue,” he told a televised news conference. “But it does not mean Iran will stop other inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
IDF chief says he’s ordered fresh military plans to thwart Iran’s nuke program
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Tuesday said he has directed the military to prepare fresh operational plans to strike Iran to block its nuclear program.

“Iran can decide that it wants to advance to a bomb, either covertly or in a provocative way. In light of this basic analysis, I have ordered the IDF to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones. We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year,” Kohavi said.

He added: “The government will of course be the one to decide if they should be used. But these plans must be on the table, in existence and trained for.”

According to Kohavi, due to its improved centrifuges and growing stockpile of enriched uranium, Iran, were it to now “rush ahead,” could be “months, maybe even weeks” from a bomb.

Israel has twice conducted military strikes against the nuclear programs of its enemies — Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 — under what’s become known as the Begin Doctrine, which maintains that Jerusalem will not allow an enemy country to obtain an atomic weapon.
Iran Complains Israel Waging Unfair 'Psychological War'
A top Iranian official Wednesday said arch-foe Israel was waging a “psychological war” after the Jewish state’s army said new “offensive options” were being drawn up in case they were needed against the Islamic republic.

Mahmoud Vaezi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, also vowed that his country was ready and willing to defend itself.

“We have no intention of going to war, but we are serious about defending the country,” he said.

Israel, a close US ally, accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb, a charge Tehran denies. The Jewish state also frequently targets Iran-backed militant groups in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s military chief General Aviv Kochavi said Tuesday he had ordered new plans be drawn up this year to counter Iran’s nuclear capabilities, in case political leaders decided to target the country.

“The power to initiate them lies with the political echelon,” Kochavi stressed. “However, the offensive options need to be prepared, ready and on the table.”

Iran’s Vaezi shot back on Wednesday that “they are conducting a psychological war.”


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