Tuesday, February 16, 2021

From Ian:

Why Israel should be considered to join NATO
The recent Abraham Accords between Israel and several Arab countries could also trigger the idea that in admitting the State of Israel, NATO would be playing globally, on one hand, and on the other hand, open the doors to further members around the World.

With a solid democracy and values driven society, Israel military capabilities would fit perfectly the present and future needs of the Alliance. The military quality hardware, technology or intelligence would enhance NATO’s existing capabilities. In a moment where NATO’s budget burned share is at the centre of many debates, Israel’s military budget is near the singular value of 4.5% GDP.

To be part of an Alliance, also means that one loses partial autonomy and such issue is remarkably pivotal for a nation that faces singular and constant security challenges. One of the core, if not the main, debates about an Israel NATO membership, will always be focus on NATO’s Article 5 (collective defence) activation over a potential attack from Iran or any of Iran’s proxies, such as the Hezbollah. The odds of such an attack are high and such an event would put the Alliance in a difficult position as this could prompt an armed conflict of years in the Middle East and even some regions in North Africa.

It is also clear that the full membership would not depend only NATO members, especially if Turkey will not veto that same membership, but also in Israel willingness in joining it.

In the balance, if one looks to NATO core values of: “individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law”; with three essential core tasks: “collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security”; one sees here the natural place for Israel to be part of.

On the opposite side, Turkey’s membership, despite its overwhelming present issues, should remain unchanged even if Ankara will suffer different sanctions from NATO member countries as the US and face high political pressure from Paris or London.

Looking at future picture, it is time to start building on Israel’s full membership to NATO.


Mordechai Kedar: The Truth About Financial Aid to the Palestinian Authority
In the past, the donor states have at times sought to circumvent the Palestinian Authority, opting instead to finance specific projects. This idea failed because of the mahsubiya method practiced in the PA: a contractor who gets foreign funding for projects transfers part of the money to the “right people” in the PA, thereby serving as a pipeline for the funneling of “kosher” funds to the instigators of terror.

Another problem is the Israeli government, which is well aware of the situation and yet continues to give artificial respiration to the corrupt PA. Following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993-1995, many in Israel sobered up and realized that the PA’s continued rule could lead to the growth of a terror state in the West Bank compared to which the dangers posed by the terror state that arose in Gaza would pale into insignificance. But no Israeli government has taken the necessary steps to put an end to the Oslo delusion.

After 15 years with no elections in the PA, it was recently announced that elections would at last be held for the Legislative Council and the presidency, a move that will afford the terror Authority a democratic stamp of approval. The question immediately arose as to whether Hamas will be allowed to run in these elections. Many fear that the democratic process would result in Hamas again winning the majority of seats on the Legislative Council and possibly the presidency as well. But what kind of democracy does not permit a preeminent organization to run in elections that are supposed to be free?

The holding of the elections appears to be fully supported by key officials in the Biden administration: both those who favor the establishment of a Palestinian state because of their blind faith in the two-state solution, and those whose sympathies lie with Muslim Brotherhood organizations in the US and elsewhere. The latter group would see a Hamas victory in the PA elections as a desirable outcome.

Muhammad Aref Massad understands that a terrorist Authority has been set up alongside Israel that could give rise to a terrorist state. When will the policymakers in Israel, Europe, and the US understand this?
Blinken’s Worrisome Golan Heights Hedge
On Monday, instead of endorsing President Trump’s 2019 decision to recognize Israel’s claims of sovereignty over the Golan Heights — the disputed territory it seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 — Secretary of State Antony Blinken hedged. He noted, during a CNN interview, that Israel’s control of the territory is “of real importance, to [its] security. Legal questions are something else. . . . And over time, if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we would look at.”

Asked about whether Blinken’s comments should be taken as a sign that he’s open to reversing Trump’s recognition of Israel’s claims, a State Department spokesperson told National Review on Thursday that, “The Secretary spoke to this earlier in the week and we have nothing further.” Although Blinken has also pledged to build on the Abraham Accords and view Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, his decision to leave the Biden administration’s stance on the Golan Heights ambiguous raises serious questions about the new administration’s commitment to Israel, its strongest regional ally, in the face of the growing threat from Tehran.

Downplaying legal recognition of Israel’s Golan claims further strained an alliance weakened by the new administration’s push to reenter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, immediately pushed back against Blinken’s comments. “The Israeli position is clear. In any possible scenario, the Golan Heights will remain Israeli,” Netanyahu’s office told the Times of Israel earlier this week.

Though Israeli officials may be displeased by Blinken’s comments, they can also rest easy in the knowledge that, for the moment, the U.S.’s official position on the Golan claims has not changed: Reversing Trump’s sovereignty-recognition proclamation would require an official act of unrecognition, a move the administration hasn’t yet said it’s considering. “The Golan is, for the purpose of U.S. policy, part of Israel,” said Eugene Kontorovich, a George Mason University law professor who advised the State Department on the 2019 move. “He doesn’t have to call it part of Israel every time he speaks to make that true.”

The key question concerns the likelihood that Biden formally reverses Trump’s decision. Kontorovich calls Blinken’s comments a “trial balloon,” an effort to see what the domestic and global reaction might be if the administration were to use unrecognition of Israel’s Golan claims as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Iran. “Here they’re playing with something, which was not a card that was theirs to play,” Kontorovich said. “It would just be an extremely radical policy to unrecognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan for no productive end.”


Israel hints it may not engage Biden on Iran nuclear strategy
Israel held out the possibility on Tuesday that it would not engage with US President Joe Biden on strategy regarding the Iranian nuclear program, urging tougher sanctions and a "credible military threat."

The remarks by Israel's envoy to Washington came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands for re-election next month.

The new administration has said it wants a US return to a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran – which former President Donald Trump quit, restoring sanctions – if the Iranians recommit to their own obligations. Washington has also said it wants to confer with allies in the Middle East about such moves.

"We will not be able to be part of such a process if the new administration returns to that deal," Ambassador Gilad Erdan told Israel's Army Radio.

Netanyahu aides have privately questioned whether engaging with US counterparts might backfire, for Israel, by falsely signaling its consent for any new deal that it still opposes.

Israel was not a party to the 2015 deal.

"We think that if the United States returns to the same accord that it already withdrew from, all its leverage will be lost," Erdan said.

"It would appear that only crippling sanctions – keeping the current sanctions and even adding new sanctions – combined with a credible military threat – that Iran fears – might bring Iran to real negotiations with Western countries that might ultimately produce a deal truly capable of preventing it breaking ahead (to nuclear arms)."
Netanyahu: Israel-US alliance is very strong
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday acknowledged differences with US President Joe Biden over Iranian and Palestinian issues but said they enjoy a "very strong" working relationship.

The issue of the phone call has made Jerusalem anxious. It made headlines last week when former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon urged the American president to call the Israeli leader via a tweet that went viral.

Netanyahu dismissed any notion that Biden was intentionally excluding him, telling Channel 12 News, "He'll call ... We have had very strong friendly relations for nearly 40 years, dating from the time I came to Washington as an Israeli diplomatic representative and he was a young senator from Delaware."

There has been speculation that the Democratic president could be signaling displeasure over Netanyahu's close ties with former President Donald Trump, who called the right-wing leader two days after his inauguration in 2017.

"We also have many things we agree on and the alliance is very strong," Netanyahu said. "But there are also differences, on the issue of Iran and on the Palestinian issue as well."
Aaron David Miller: Biden is hitting the reset button with Israel
Obama tried to go big on both the Iran nuclear weapons issue and an Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution, virtually guaranteeing tension with the right-wing Netanyahu. Biden is prioritizing Iran, but, as both he and Blinken have admitted, progress will be slow toward any two-state solution. Indeed, the Biden administration has said it will let Trump's decision on the US Embassy in Jerusalem stand; administration members have warmly praised their predecessors' Abraham Accords -- normalizing relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain; and they have not rolled back Trump's declaration of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, essential to normalizing ties between Israel and Morocco.

Biden clearly has no illusions about Netanyahu. He surely knows that his own approach to both Palestinians and Iranians differ significantly from Netanyahu's. It was Biden, after all, who was deeply embarrassed by Israel's 2010 announcement of major expansion of housing units in East Jerusalem. It came on the heels of the Obama administration launching an effort to persuade Israel to do the exact opposite. And, unlike Trump, Biden is not going to shower Netanyahu with gifts or boost the Prime Minister's electoral prospects. With a fourth Israeli election only five weeks away, Biden is extremely unlikely to make any gesture that would demonstrate a preference for a political candidate.

Of course, the President isn't looking to create tensions with Netanyahu, let alone have a sustained fight. And on the Middle East issue of greatest concern -- how to manage Iranian nuclear expansion -- he'll likely try to understand Israeli concerns about Iran's nuclear program and to coordinate, if possible. With regard to Palestinians and a two-state solution, he'll likely refrain from pressing, largely because the prospects of progress right now are slim to none.

But if Netanyahu tries to undermine the President's efforts to reengage Iran -- as he did with Obama -- or force his hand with major settlement expansion, let alone annexation, Biden will surely push back. The President is a believer in a strong US-Israel relationship and understands that mutual respect and reciprocity are key to seeing it thrive. But his support is for Israel, not Netanyahu, and that may become painfully clear if Israel's Prime Minister can't or won't accept those two critically important rules of the road.
Political sources: Biden avoids giving Netanyahu election boost with call
US President Joe Biden is trying to minimize the impact of his planned phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to avoid helping him ahead of the March 23 Knesset election.

The Biden administration is concerned about giving an impression of interference in the upcoming election, and that Netanyahu would try to spin the phone call in order to gain political points, according to sources in two Israeli political parties who have been in contact with administration officials.

Both sources used the precise formulation that Biden is conveying that “there is no special relationship with Bibi.”

Asked why Biden has yet to call him nearly a month into his presidency, Netanyahu said in an interview with Channel 12 on Monday: “We have a great friendship of almost 40 years since I represented Israel in Washington [as deputy chief of mission] and he was in the Senate. We agree about many things, but there are disagreements on Iran and the Palestinians.”

Confronted with the argument that Biden is trying to downplay that friendship, an official close to Netanyahu said: “Precisely because there is a personal relationship that dates back four decades you have the shock-absorbers in place that can assist in weathering an occasional storm.” Biden has called America’s direct neighbors in weeks since his inauguration, as well as major leaders in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, among others, but has not called anyone in the Middle East.

Netanyahu’s call is expected to be a brief courtesy call on the same day as other US allies in the region, the political sources said. The administration has yet to determine if Netanyahu will be the first call in the Middle East, or if Jordan’s King Abdullah will be first.
The international miscarriage of justice at The Hague
The Europeans, who have grown addicted to the ethos of military and political weakness, have a need to believe in their ability to lead this (fictitious) camp, because of its (true) moral qualities. To lead it and build up their status within it, they need to deny that the UN and its organizations are perverting their values, or accept it. In the end, they lose on both ends: they sold their moral high ground for a mess of pottage, and they now carry painfully little weight in shaping the world.

The moral perversion of the UN and the bodies that follow its lead focuses on a false symmetry between fundamentally unacceptable practices of non-pluralistic societies and mistakes, aberrations, or twisted pictures of acts by open and democratic societies. The role of these organizations, according to most of their participants, is to obscure the moral difference between the absolute evil that characterizes their own behavior and the inherently imperfect good in the democratic societies. By obscuring that distinction, they successfully lock down forgiveness for their own atrocities in much of European public opinion and a smaller part of US public opinion, and instill in western societies feelings of guilt for their sins, both real and imagined. When it comes to Israel they, with help from a considerable chunk of the European elite, have managed to turn things around entirely and paint barbaric acts as heroism by oppressed victims and Israel's efforts to defend itself as war crimes. Without European support, both active and passive, they would not have been able to.

The processes in The Hague that are intended to accuse Israel of war crimes are more damaging that condemnations from the UN, but there are signs of positive change in the Europeans' conduct at The Hague. The threat is that Israeli politicians and officers could be harassed by arrest warrants abroad as part of legal warfare. But it should be noted that recently, the authority of ICC judges to discuss the territory of "Palestine" has been rejected, not only by Israel and the Biden administration, but also European nations that recognize the authority of the ICC – primarily Germany.

The explanations are legal, but the issue itself is blatantly political: should violent societies that hold human rights in contempt be allowed to use the international court as a way of defending themselves against democracy, in the framework of a twisted kind of symmetry that compares the imperfectly good to the thoroughly evil?
Why Israel Cannot Expect Fair Treatment at the ICC
It has been suggested by some that an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation will treat Israel fairly, and hold Palestinian terrorists accountable. But the political nature of the ICC and Israel’s past treatment in similar situations should erase any such naïve hope.

The ICC Is a Political Institution
The idea that the ICC is guided by the law, rather than being a fundamentally political institution, must be dispelled. In its recent decision claiming jurisdiction over Israelis, the Court said it could treat “Palestine” as a state because, in short, the UN gave “Palestine” the status of “non-member observer State.”

Instead of examining the legal consequences of the British Mandate or international legal principles like uti possidetis juris that would expose the myth of an “occupation,” the majority simply wished away its problems by bestowing upon the hyper-political UN General Assembly the sudden and consequential ability to make legally binding pronouncements.

Let us be clear. Legally speaking, UN resolutions are meaningless in this context. Morally speaking, why would anyone rely on the judgment of a body that once declared “Zionism is racism”?
The ICC elephant in the room
The Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo ended on Feb. 9, with a declaration of success and the confirmation of the May 22 parliamentary elections previously announced by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas Political Bureau head Ismail Haniyeh was quick to thank Abbas for supporting the reconciliation, but talking to people in Ramallah, the PA's seat of power, one gets a different picture.

Firstly, there is the "elephant in the room" – the International Criminal Court's decision that the court may investigate Israel for war crimes also allows it to investigate Hamas for war crimes. This came as a surprise to Hamas, which has demanded that the PLO somehow remove this part of the ruling, though it is unclear how the PLO would do that.

Then there is the serious and as-yet unsolved problem of the Palestinians' requirement to establish a joint political list that will express the return of the National Union. This demand is acceptable to Fatah and Hamas, but it has not been agreed upon, and there will be further dialogue regarding this issue. A joint list between rivals is acceptable in Palestinian culture and is called tazkiya, or "partnership agreement."

Hamas will wait to see what happens in The Hague. If the tribunal decides to launch an investigation, a violent confrontation in the West Bank between Fatah and Hamas could break out. Fatah would fear that a partnership with Hamas could hurt its legitimacy since Israel would be able to make the claim that due to the formal connection between Fatah and Hamas, the Palestinian state recognized by the ICC is a terrorist state, the leaders of which must all be held accountable for war crimes.
ICC assures Netanyahu decision to investigate Israel 'not political'
In response to an international outcry over the International Criminal Court at The Hague's decision that its jurisdiction extends to investigating Israel for alleged war crimes against the Palestinians, should it decide to do so, the ICC has published a document in which it seeks to clarify the meaning of the process and responds to allegations that its ruling was political, including one made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The document argues that the decision about its authority to investigate Israel was not political in nature, because the ICC prosecution was addressing the legal issue about whether a territory, including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and east Jerusalem, was subject to international law and the court's jurisdiction. The decision recognizes that the legal status of the territory requires further clarification.

In a direct answer to Netanyahu, who called the decision "pure anti-Semitism," the ICC writes that the court was an "independent, incorrupt" judicial body that played a critical role in providing a legal solution to the most serious crimes under international law.

The ICC said it operated solely under the legal framework of the Rome Statute, which granted the court its authority.
More European countries speak out against ICC despite EU support
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “Our legal view on jurisdiction of the ICC regarding alleged crimes committed in the Palestine territories remains unchanged. The court has no jurisdiction, because of the absence of the element of Palestinian statehood required by international law.”

Maas added that Germany supports the ICC in general, as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó wrote on Facebook that “Hungary does not agree with this decision. During the legal procedure, we already signaled that, according to our position, Palestine does not have criminal jurisdiction over Israeli citizens.

“We have always supported Israel’s right to defend itself and we believe that peace in the region can only be achieved through negotiations based on mutual respect,” Szijjártó added. “The decision of the ICC does not take us closer to this.”

The Czech Foreign Ministry said it “believes that Palestine has not fulfilled yet all criteria of statehood under international law. In this context, the... decision of the ICC does not change the current international law status of Palestine in any way.

“The Czech Republic has always spoken in favor of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which can be achieved only through direct negotiations between both parties,” the statement reads.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi have appealed to Israel’s allies around the world in recent weeks to push back against the ruling.

Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Brazil, Uganda and Canada expressed their opposition to an ICC investigation of Israel before the ruling, and Jerusalem hopes to get their public support afterwards, as well. Of that list, Uganda and Brazil have yet to comment in recent weeks.


Director of Abu Dhabi Arms Exhibition Calls on Netanyahu to Approve Israeli Participation in Defense Event
The organizers of the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), which is set to open in Abu Dhabi next Sunday, haven’t given up on Israeli participation, with Director of IDEX Saeed Al Mansouri sending a letter on Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressing that the Israeli delegation’s presence is “extremely important for the exchange of business and the building of ties” and “presents the chance to evaluate the best possible solutions for the regional and global threats that we commonly face.”

The participation of Israeli companies in the event was thrown into serious doubt on Sunday after the governmental exemptions committee refused to approve the departure of the first flight of cargo and representatives scheduled to leave for the UAE on Sunday night, just hours before its planned takeoff.

Following the signing of the agreement to establish full diplomatic relations with both the UAE and Bahrain last summer, Israel’s defense sector companies were meant for the first time to openly participate in IDEX, a biennial arms and defense technology sales exhibition and the largest of its kind in the Middle East.

However, Israel banned passenger flights in and out of the country three weeks ago as it sought to stop the spread of new coronavirus variants and the airport has been closed ever since, apart from cargo and emergency flights, or any flights approved by the exemptions committee.

“The exhibition is amongst the most prestigious defense exhibitions in the world and will attract premier vendors in the defense industry from around the globe, including the Israeli delegation who will participate historically for the first time,” wrote Al Mansouri. “Participants and exhibitors have already invested vast amounts of money in planning, reserving space, marketing and logistics for their delegations along with respecting the special health requirements and criteria that are necessary at this time. There are approximately 270 participants from 50 companies expected from Israel.”
The ongoing battle over illegal construction in Judea and Samaria
According to Gabi Harow, a resident of the settlement of Nokdim in Gush Etzion, there have been massive changes in the landscape since he moved to the community with his family in 2012.

"The amount of illegal Arab building and the takeover of the land have grown tremendously," he told Jewish News Syndicate. "You see structures going up all the time in our area and in the nature reserves between our community and the Judean Desert."

Harow said that Nokdim has been "slowly, slowly" losing its 150 acres of agricultural space.

"For residents, losing land, left and right, is a scary thought," he added. "It seems that the Israeli government has no problem intervening when it comes to illegal Jewish building, but doesn't prevent illegal Arab building."

Nokdim, along with the rest of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) are located in Area C which – under the Oslo Accords – is under full Israeli military and administrative control. Area C makes up roughly 60% of the area.

According to the latest West Bank Jewish Population Stats report, released last month, more than 475,000 Jewish residents live in Judea and Samaria, not including those in eastern Jerusalem.

Nadia Matar, co-founder with Yehudit Katzover of Israel's Sovereignty Movement, describes the phenomenon as a "war going on over our land," which "has been taking place for more than a decade."

Matar said the battle began 12 years ago with the introduction of the "Fayyad Plan."


Report: Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh receives funds from PLO
The leader of the Knesset’s Joint Arab List, Ayman Odeh, received payments from a senior Palestinian Authority official, Israel’s Channel 20 reported on Sunday.

According to the report, the transfer of cash took place when Odeh visited Paris in March 2018, to attend a conference organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. While in the French capital, Odeh—then head of Israel’s far-left Hadash Party—met with P.A. treasurer Ramzi Khuri, who served as bureau chief of the late Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat, at a fancy restaurant.

The report said that during the meeting, Khuri gave Odeh an envelope believed to contain about $20,000.

Khuri later told associates that the funds were a “campaign donation” for Hadash, the report said.

A source privy to the meeting, however, told Channel 20 that “Khuri funds various expenses that MK Odeh has as the head of an Arab party. … The funds were given to Odeh with the knowledge and approval of Abu Mazen [P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas].”

“Abu Mazen saw Odeh as having the power to change the political map. The funds are meant to cover Odeh’s personal expenses ahead of the elections in Israel,” the source alleged.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: What Real Education Means
The result of the 2006 election showed that a majority of Palestinians fully supported Hamas's call for ending corruption in the Palestinian Authority, imposing Islamic law and, most importantly, continuing the armed struggle against Israel.

Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. It seeks to replace Israel with an Islamic state.

Palestinians did not buy Fatah's talk about ending corruption: they saw how Fatah's leaders had enriched themselves after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, thanks to hundreds of millions of dollars that were lavished on them without a shred of accountability by the US, the European Union and other Western donors.

The reason that Fatah, unlike Hamas, did not talk about the "liberation of all of Palestine" or promise to launch an armed struggle against Israel is because its leaders were afraid that the US and EU would halt financial aid to the Palestinians.

Any Palestinian, like Fayyad, who runs in the election on a platform that talks about peace and coexistence with Israel will lose.

Real education starts at home, not necessarily in the classroom.... Palestinian leaders need to tell their people that Israel has the right to exist. They need to tell their people that peace and normalization is good not only for Israel, but also for the Palestinians. They need to tell their people that cooperation with Israel is better than boycotts.

Under the current circumstances, in which anti-Israel sentiments are at an extreme high, one wonders whether it is a good idea to proceed with the plan to hold new elections. They are certain only to strengthen the radical camp among Palestinians even further.
Turkey Invests $10 Million in Jenin Construction Project
Turkey has invested $10 million in a new industrial zone currently under construction in the Palestinian city of Jenin. The move is a significant step for Turkey, which normally invests in the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem.

“There is a plan to build Turkish factories in the industrial area,” Palestinian Authority Economy Minister Khaled al-Osaily told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on Sunday.

Turkey is not the only country investing in the project. Germany is investing €24 million ($29.1 million) in the initial construction phase, which will focus on preparing the external infrastructure and is slated to be completed in mid-2021. The second phase, to focus on the internal infrastructure, will be partly funded with the $10 million from Ankara.

The investment will be channeled through the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), which received the green light from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to transfer the sum to the PA. The project itself was first conceived in 1999, but perpetual foot-dragging has thus far prevented it from getting off the ground.

“We thank the president of Turkey, the government of Turkey and the people of Turkey for their political stance with us and for their support for the Palestinian economy,” said al-Osaily, according to the report.
PMW: Terrorist prisoners are “soldiers” who “fought according to instructions” from the Palestinian leadership says head of PA-funded Prisoners’ Club
Palestinian terrorist prisoners are viewed by the Palestinian Authority as “soldiers” who carried out orders from the PA leadership. Palestinian Media Watch has exposed a number of such statements in the past, and now Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares has again confirmed this position. In a recent speech, Fares stated that all prisoners are “soldiers” who “fought according to instructions” from the Palestinian leadership. Fares made sure to include all “national and Islamic factions,” thus accepting overall responsibility for all Palestinian terror attacks carried out not only by Fatah but also by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others:
Chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners’ Club Qadura Fares: “[Prisoners from] the Palestinian national movement (i.e., Fatah) and the Palestinian national and Islamic factions (i.e., the PFLP, Hamas, Islamic Jihad) fought according to instructions from them. They are their soldiers in the battle.”
[Facebook page of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, Feb. 2, 2021]


A prime example of the PA’s viewing terrorists and murderers as “soldiers” and “fighters” on behalf of the PA was delivered by PA Chairman Abbas himself who called for the release of all Palestinian prisoners because it was the PA that sent them to kill Israelis:


Hamas imposes travel restrictions on unmarried women
The Supreme Sharia Court Council in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has imposed travel restrictions on unmarried females, drawing sharp criticism from Palestinians and human-rights organizations.

In a circular issued on Sunday, the council ruled that “an unmarried female may be prevented from traveling if she did not obtain permission from her guardian,” who is often her father or in some cases her son.

“Her guardian may prevent her from traveling if there is absolute harm in her travel or if there is a lawsuit requiring a travel ban,” the council ruled.

A [young man] over the age of 18 may be prevented from traveling by one of his parents or his grandfather “if his travel could result in absolute harm,” it also said.

The ruling, which went into effect on Sunday, was issued by Sheikh Hassan al-Juju, chairman of the Supreme Sharia Court Council.
In message to Hezbollah, IAF practices striking 3,000 targets in 24 hours
A Hezbollah missile hits an IAF fighter jet. Then, the entire air force is scrambled to participate in a broad offensive against Lebanon, including attacks against infrastructure such as bridges, power plants, and airports spanning 24 hours. That scenario was the focus of an IDF exercise that began on Sunday morning and ended on Tuesday at noon.

IAF aircraft is seen participating in the Vered Hagalil drill. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)IAF aircraft is seen participating in the Vered Hagalil drill. (Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit) During the drill, the IAF proved its ability to strike at 3,000 Hezbollah targets within a 24-hour period.

“We practiced defending Israel’s skies against cruise missiles and operating our active [aerial] defense system against the rockets that they will want to use to target air force bases and densely populated areas,” a senior IAF officer said.

“We practiced attacking high value targets in quantities in a way we never did before,” the officer added. “It was 24 hours with over 3,000 targets attacked – causing severe damage to the operations of the enemy.”

Despite the limitations imposed by coronavirus, some 85% of the air force’s personnel participated in the exercise which involved all sections, including technicians, ammunition officers and reservists, who were called up to participate.


Seth Frantzman: Houthis step up attacks after removal from ‘terror’ list
On February 5, the Houthi leadership in the mountains of Yemen read welcome news from Washington that they would soon be removed from a list of foreign terrorist organizations.

They had just been put on the list by the Trump administration.

Because of their designation as “terrorists,” it made it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid through areas they control, so the US wanted to make them not terrorists. For the Houthi leadership and their Iranian backers, this meant a new round of attacks and that a military offensive would be planned.

The 10 days since the announced removal have seen almost daily Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and increased fighting in Yemen. It comes as the US has also said although it supports Riyadh’s right to self-defense, it will no longer back an offensive war in Yemen.

This was not a surprise as the Biden team was known to be critical of Saudi Arabia and sympathetic to Yemen. Yemen is divided between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Saudi-backed government that controls Aden and some other areas.


JCPA: Iran’s Intelligence Minister: If Pushed, Iran May Build an Atomic Bomb
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi warned in a television interview on February 10, 2021, that Iran might be drawn into a military nuclear program. “Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes … and considers it a prohibited weapon. But I must make it clear that if a cat is pushed into the corner, it may behave differently from a cat that walks freely. If Iran is pushed into a corner, it will not be its fault [implying the production of nuclear weapons] but rather the fault of those pushing it.”

Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, wrote that the minister had made “a major blunder” and his comments “are very wrong in itself, do not reflect the policies of the Islamic Republic, contradict the declarations of the Supreme Leader of the Revolution, and may have serious consequences for the state.”

Alavi’s ministry is responsible for investigating the killing of nuclear scientist Gen. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. In his interview, he claimed, “We asked the relevant elements of the armed forces to do the intelligence work [and assist to deter the terrorist act] because the traitor who prepared the ground for the assassination was a member of the armed forces.”

Alavi’s remarks could not have been made without receiving the approval of Iran’s Supreme Leader and are part of mounting pressures that Iran is exerting on the Biden administration groping its way back to the JCPOA.

The remarks made by the Iranian Intelligence Minister reflect internal power struggles within the Iranian security and intelligence apparatuses after a series of assassinations of Iranian scientists and the sabotage of sensitive nuclear facilities in Iran.
US Forces in Iraq Hit by Rockets, Contractor Killed
A rocket attack on US-led forces in northern Iraq killed a civilian contractor on Monday and injured a US service member, the US coalition in Iraq said, in the deadliest such attack in almost a year.

The rockets landed in and around a military air base operated by the coalition at Erbil International Airport.

The coalition spokesman tweeted on Tuesday that the dead contractor was not American, but did not elaborate. He said three 107 mm rockets had landed inside the base.

Of the nine other people hurt, eight were civilian contractors and one a US service member, a coalition spokesman said. A US official who declined to be named said the US serviceman had concussion.

The attack, claimed by a little-known group that some Iraqi officials say has links with Iran, raises tensions as Washington explores some degree of detente with Iran.

It also comes just three weeks before a March 5-8 visit to Iraq by Pope Francis, which is due to include Erbil, the capital of Iraq‘s Kurdish autonomous region.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States was “outraged” by the attack.







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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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