Wednesday, February 17, 2021

From Ian:

Israel negotiating release of Israeli woman held in Syria
Israel and Syria are intensively negotiating a prisoner exchange deal with Russian mediation, in which two incarcerated residents of the Israeli Golan could reportedly be released in exchange for a young Israeli woman who entered Syrian territory by mistake.

The woman has not been identified. According to Channel 12, she is a 25-year-old formerly Haredi woman from Modi’in Ilit who left the ultra-Orthodox community. It is not clear why she crossed into Syrian territory.

Syrian state media announced on Wednesday: “The exchange is taking place through Russian mediation to liberate the Syrians Nihal Al-Maqt and Dhiyab Qahmuz, the Syrian prisoner from the occupied Syrian Golan, in an exchange during which a young Israeli woman who entered the Syrian territories by mistake will be released. She entered the Quneitra region by mistake and was arrested by the Syrian authorities.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an interview with Army Radio, declined to comment on the negotiations but said: “We are working to save lives. I can just say I’m using my personal connections” with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure her release.

Israel is “at the height of sensitive negotiations” on the issue, he said. “I believe we will resolve it.”

National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and hostage coordinator Yaron Bloom left Wednesday morning for Moscow to negotiate the release of the Israeli woman, according to Hebrew media reports.

The two prisoners Israel has reportedly been asked to release are residents of the Golan Heights. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 during the Six Day War and annexed it in 1981. Many residents of the region retain Syrian citizenships and identify as Syrian.
Not Again: NYT Op-Ed Pushes Utopic, Unrealistic Israel/Palestine Vision
It’s unbelievable how often the very concept of Israel as a regular sovereign state comes under attack in the New York Times, and indeed across the media.

A recent article, titled “Want Israeli-Palestinian Peace? Try Confederation“ by Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour encourages readers to toy with the concept of Israel as a state like any other and view it as a theoretical plaything that can afford to, “share a capital city, a transportation and urban infrastructure, and a business ecosystem.” Before proceeding with an analysis of this piece, it’s vital to note one fundamental fact: this view is not so much a minority opinion amongst Israelis and Palestinians as practically non-existent.

That the New York Times affords such a perspective means it gains prominence amongst the influential. But while the idea of doing away with Israel as a sovereign state with control over its population and a capital city like any other nation gain currency amongst outsiders, back in the Middle East – where people have to grapple with reality – such impractical ideas are laughed at by Arabs and Jews alike.

The New York Times’ Distortions and Impractical Ideas
Back to the New York Times’ piece. Among the impractical ideas and distortions of reality that the op-ed promotes are:
A “dotted-line border in Jerusalem”

The suggestion that Jerusalem can be split is something many Israelis and Zionists – as well as Palestinians, by the way – have extreme difficulty accepting. For millennia, Jerusalem was a single city. For precisely 19 years, it was divided by an ugly barrier, the frontier between Israel and Jordan. Since 1967, the city has been reunited, and while life is far from perfect, it has become immeasurably better for citizens of both sides. Not least because there are no more no-mans-land zones that citizens cannot approach out of fear of being fired upon by soldiers on the other side.

Nevertheless, Avishai and Bahour suggest that “Confederal institutions would permit dividing sovereignty in Jerusalem with a dotted-line border, actually keeping the city open to all.” As if the presence of armed Palestinian police in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, with no real border separating them from Israeli citizens, is something Israel could tolerate. Even more so when considering the reality that over 25% of Jerusalem’s Jewish population live in the neighborhoods of Gilo, Pisgat Ze’ev, and Ramot, all of which are on what would be on the Palestinian side.

All told, over a third of Jerusalem’s Jewish population live in such neighborhoods. Trusting the Palestinian security administration with the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews, or effectively creating Israeli enclaves surrounded by Palestinians with the means of attacking them, and hoping for the best is no more than a wild fantasy.

Seth Frantzman: NYT accused of whitewashing Turkey’s Afrin occupation
The New York Times has been accused of whitewashing Turkey’s military occupation of Afrin and the ethnic cleansing of Kurdish people. This surprised many, given that the newspaper has covered other conflicts by giving both sides a voice but when reporting in Afrin it appeared to only give Turkish military occupation officials and pro-Ankara voices a place.

An illegal military occupation. Stolen olives shipped to the occupying power for resale. Far-right settlers rampaging and attacking indigenous communities. Religious persecution. Locals kidnapped in extrajudicial raids, imprisoned in secret military detention centers. Ethnic-cleansing. All of this has happened in Afrin in northwest Syria, an area that was once Kurdish and was invaded and occupied by Turkey and Turkish-backed extremist militias in 2018. Since then, it has been ethnically-cleansed of Kurds, and minority graveyards and religious sites have been ransacked and destroyed. The New York Times is now accused of whitewashing Turkey’s occupation of Afrin in an article on Tuesday.

Experts, activists, former residents and commentators expressed shock at the article online noting that it failed to mention human rights abuses and the displaced people forced out of Afrin. Some compared the article to state-run Turkish media propaganda. For a US press that prided itself on confronting the far-right in the US and critiquing an authoritarian leader, or “speaking truth to power,” the article was slammed for not including any critical or dissenting voices.

Titled “In Turkey’s Safe Zone in Syria security and misery go hand in hand,” the article claims that while Turkey’s invasion three years ago was widely criticized, “today, the Syrians they protect are glad the Turks are there.” The article hints at the fact that 160,000 Kurds were ethnically cleansed. “Thousands of Kurdish families fled the Turkish invasion, along with the Kurdish fighters. In their place came hundreds of thousands of Syrians from other areas, who have swollen the population, taking homes.” Usually, when the indigenous population is expelled and other populations are moved in, it is called ethnic cleansing. In this case, Kurds were removed by Turkey and far-right religious extremist militias it controls, and Sunni Arabs and Turkmen were moved into Afrin.

NGO Montior: FAQs: The International Criminal Court and the “Situation in Palestine”
Is the ICC biased against Israel?
The evidence clearly points in this direction. For the past ten years, the ICC has been a willing participant in the blatant exploitation of the Court by the PLO and its associated network of NGOs.

Both the Prosecutor and the Pre-Trial Chamber have ignored the clear language of the Rome Statute and invented a justification by which the Palestinians have been allowed to join the ICC and by which it can investigate and potentially prosecute Israelis, even though the Palestinian Authority is not a state and Israel is not a party to the Court.

As mentioned above, in January 2009, when the Palestinians first attempted to join the ICC the former ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo began a highly unusual and unprecedented three-year campaign purportedly to “debate the issue”. This included soliciting briefs from NGOs and legal scholars, authoring op-eds including in the New York Times and elsewhere, and creating an academic platform with UCLA Law School. And in 2012, he invented the detailed blueprint, neither grounded in the Rome Statute nor in international law, through which the Palestinians could join the Court, and the Palestinians adopted the process.

When Fatou Bensouda took over as Prosecutor in 2012 she also engaged in efforts to lobby the Palestinians to join the Court. This included a notable op-ed in The Guardian. In 2015, when the Palestinians again attempted to join the Court, the Prosecutor accepted the request.

In addition, throughout the Preliminary Examination stage, the Prosecutor has solely engaged with NGOs targeting Israel. She does not appear to have met with any groups representing Israeli victims, despite those victims presenting her with detailed evidence of Palestinian war crimes. Many of the Palestinian NGOs are linked to the PFLP-terror organization, and she also met with suspected PFLP members and took photos with them.

The Prosecutor is not the only Court actor to manifest bias towards Israel. In 2018, the Pre-Trial Chamber issued a highly unusual order for the Court “to establish, as soon as practicable, a system of public information and outreach activities for the benefit of the victims and affected communities in the situation in Palestine.” Israel officials criticized the order for being issued prior to the opening of an investigation and for exclusively focusing on Palestinian “victims.”

It is also clear also that the ICC is improperly allowing itself to be exploited by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party to target Israel and Fatah’s Palestinian political opponents. As noted, the Prosecutor’s brief to the Court, the Pre-Trial Chamber decision, and the Court’s Q&A emphasize investigation of Israeli authorities, Hamas, and other Palestinian armed groups, but not “Palestinian authorities.”
Israel welcomes ICC prosecutor pick, but no evidence he’ll nix war crimes probe
With Israel facing a possible war crimes investigation in the Hague, Jerusalem is watching the appointment of new prosecutor Karim Khan closely, amid signs that he may seek to shift the direction of the International Criminal Court.

While experts say his appointment does not offer any definitive clues on how the court will proceed with its possible probe into alleged misdeeds by Israel and the Hamas terror group, some Israeli analysts are optimistic about the pick and the departure of outgoing prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

Khan’s “appointment harbors the potential for the ICC to fulfill its important mission — to uphold, promote, and protect the rights of all those needing its representation as a court of last resort,” said MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, the Knesset’s top legislator dealing with matters related to the ICC.

She noted specifically Khan’s work on behalf of the UN investigating war crimes by the Islamic State in northern Iraq. “Kahn has shown care and concern for victims of human rights, such as in the case of the Yazidis,” she told The Times of Israel.

Khan, 50, boasts a long career involving some of the biggest war crimes prosecutions and other cases, both as a prosecutor and for the defense. The British lawyer served as an adviser to prosecutors at the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, but also defended Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Khan was elected on Friday by the ICC’s 123 member states, beating out Irish lawyer Fergal Gaynor. In June, he will become the third prosecutor in The Hague-based court’s history, taking over for Fatou Bensouda of The Gambia.
Knesset bill outlines plan to defend Israel from ICC probe
What will Israel's relationship with the International Criminal Court in The Hague look like now that British human rights attorney Karim Khan has been elected the court's new chief prosecutor?

As previously reported by Israel Hayom, the choice of Khan could lead officials in Jerusalem to reconsider boycotting the ICC, but the legal advocacy organization Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center holds the opinion that Israel should stop cooperating with the international agency, and even enforce that position through legislation and has already prepared a bill to that effect.

Shurat Hadin believes that whoever serves as ICC chief prosecutor, it is still vital that Israel stop cooperating with the court, of which Israel is not a member. Therefore, a bill has been prepared that would block the ICC from carrying out investigations in Israel or investigating Israelis. For years, the US has had a similar law. Kenya, which has been the subject of an ICC investigation, also took similar action.

The bill includes a series of steps to prevent investigations against Israel, including five-year prison sentences and financial penalties for any civilian group, such as an NGO, that hands information of any kind over to the ICC, either directly or indirectly; a five-year sentence for anyone who provides services to the ICC; a prohibition on any financial ties, direct or indirect, with the ICC, including the possibility that the ICC might hire investigators to operate in Israel; a ban on any governmental agency handing any type of information over to the ICC or its representatives without explicit approval from the justice minister; a ban on handing over anyone the ICC wants to investigate or arrest to the ICC or any third party; and a ban on ICC representatives entering Israel or conducting any activity within Israel's borders.

In addition, the bill proposes defining any assets the ICC holds in Israel as assets owned by a terrorist organization; "meaningful" government statements about any foreign officials helping the ICC from within Israel; and a governmental obligation to provide legal and financial assistance to any Israeli who becomes the subject of an ICC investigation.

Shurat Hadin said that the bill has been authored and is ready to be presented to the 24th Knesset as soon as it begins its work.
Palestinian Authorty to Sue the JNF at ICC for Alleged War Crimes
The Palestinian Authority (PA) plans to sue the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) at the International Crimes Court (ICC) in The Hague, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said at a cabinet meeting in Ramallah on Tuesday.

Shtayyeh said that there is evidence that the JNF has started operating in the Judea and Samaria area and in eastern Jerusalem and warned Arab residents against acts of fraud and forgery by intermediaries, aimed at purchasing land from PA Arabs for the JNF.

The JNF’s management recently discussed a proposal to regulate its activities in Area C in Judea and Samaria in a way that would allow it to purchase land and expand and develop Israeli communities.

The JNF refrained from operating in Judea and Samaria except through subsidiaries, and it seems that the new JNF chairman, Avraham Duvdevani, is now working to change the policy, a development that could see millions from JNF’s funds being earmarked for the purchase of lands in Judea and Samaria.

Shtayyeh stated that the JNF is one of the “most important tools in the hands of the Israeli settlement” and called it a “colonialist crime.”
Argentine Jewish group slams deceased ex-president cleared of bombing coverup
Just hours after his death, the Argentine umbrella Jewish group DAIA sharply criticized former president Carlos Menem, who was in that office during both of the country’s bloody terrorist attacks on Jewish institutions in the 1990s.

The Delegation of Argentine Israelite Associations wrote in a Twitter thread on Sunday that Menem “dies in freedom, despite the fact that his government used the institutions of the Argentine State to perpetuate impunity and cover up the responsibility of those who committed and were accomplices in the attacks.”

Menem, who was 90, was still in politics as a national senator when he died at a Buenos Aires hospital. That office kept him out of prison after he was found guilty in 2013 of illegal arms smuggling to Ecuador and Croatia between 1991 and 1995.

The son of Syrians who immigrated to Argentina, Menem was the first ever Argentine president to visit Israel on an official state visit, two years after he was elected. He was reelected in 1995 for another four-year term.

In March 2019, Menem was absolved of charges that he tried to interfere with the investigation of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center, which killed 86.

The ruling came in a trial ordered in August 2015 based on allegations that Menem and other government officials tried to divert attention in the bombing investigation away from a Syrian businessman who was a Menem family friend.

PMW: Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinians “just for crossing the street” – libel still going strong among Palestinians
The Palestinian Authority’s demonization through libels about Israelis in general - and Israeli soldiers in particular - is successful. As the statement below shows, this Palestinian believes what the PA has presented to him as truth for years: That Israeli soldiers fabricate stabbing attacks and shoot Palestinians for no reason. This Palestinian believes that Israeli soldiers are so scared of Palestinians that they shoot them “just for crossing the street”:

Palestinian landowner Muhammad Abu Suway: “The Martyrs are not something new… Just today there was a Martyr. Tomorrow there will be a Martyr. After that there will be a Martyr. They shoot them just for crossing the street because of the [occupation] army’s fear. Because of their cowardliness. Because of their fear. Is that a machine gun? Is that a knife? Is there a stabbing? You say there is a Martyr, show me who the Martyr harmed. Who did he wound? They commit [crimes] – they are afraid because of their cowardliness – with their weapons. Due to their fear, they see a person and tell you he is like this.”

[Official PA TV, Lovers of the Land, Feb. 6, 2021]

Abu Suway made this comment after an unidentified Palestinian terrorist on Jan. 31, 2021, attempted to stab Israeli soldiers who then shot him in self-defense.

Palestinian Media Watch exposed that no other than the PA’s Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh disseminated this libel to the Palestinian public earlier this month following two stabbing attacks.
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon more likely to die with COVID-19
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are three times more likely to die with COVID-19 than the population as a whole, according to UN figures that highlight the pandemic's outsized impact on the community.

An estimated 207,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, the vast majority in cramped camps where social distancing is impossible.

In the year since Lebanon registered its first case, about 5,800 have been infected with the coronavirus and about 200 of them have died, said a spokeswoman for the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

That is three times the COVID-19 mortality rate for the country as a whole of just over 1%.

Most Palestinians who died after contracting the disease in Lebanon had health conditions such as cardiac or pulmonary issues, which are aggravated by poverty and conditions in the camps, said UNWRA spokeswoman Hoda Samra.

Cramped living conditions and the need to go out to work meant Palestinian refugees were more likely to be exposed to the virus, she added.

Ashrawi will not run in Palestinian elections, to mentor new generation
Hanan Ashrawi, the most famous woman in Palestinian politics, will not be running in the first elections for 15 years, opting instead to mentor a new generation of political leaders.

Over three decades in public office, the veteran negotiator and women's rights advocate was one of the highest-profile Palestinian officials, especially to international audiences.

In December she resigned from her senior post in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), citing a need for reform and criticizing what she called a lack of opportunities for women and young people.

Now that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced parliamentary and presidential elections for later this year, 74-year-old Ashrawi says she will not change her mind.

"I want to set an example that people can leave office," she told Reuters.

"I have been supporting and mentoring many young men and women in different capacities... it's important that I do that in a variety of ways, and I am," she said between back-to-back meetings with diplomats at MIFTAH, her civil society organization to promote global dialog and democracy.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Son of slain ‘collaborator’ sentenced to death by Hamas
A Hamas court on Wednesday sentenced a Palestinian man to death by hanging after convicting him of killing an activist who murdered his father for allegedly collaborating with Israel.

Shadi al-Sufi, 38, was found guilty of killing Jaber al-Qeeq, a former activist with the PLO’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

He belonged to a cell that brutally murdered Subhi al-Sufi, a resident of the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, during the First Intifada, which erupted in late 1987.

The victim was reportedly hacked to death in front of his wife and children.

Qeeq’s terror cell was responsible for the abduction and murder of a number of Palestinians suspected of collaboration with Israel. More than 1,000 suspected collaborators with Israel were murdered by Palestinians during the First Intifada.

Qeeq was arrested by Israeli authorities and sentenced to a lengthy prison term for his role in the murder of al-Sufi and other suspected collaborators.

He was released shortly after the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993. Although he belonged to the PFLP, which rejected the Oslo Accords, Qeeq was recruited to the Palestinian Authority security forces with the rank of colonel.
JCPA: Hizbullah Opposes a Limited War with Israel, and Issues Threats
In a videotaped speech on February 16, 2021, marking Hizbullah’s “Martyred Leaders Day” on February 16, 2021, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel against the concept of limited “Battle Days.” “No one can guarantee that it won’t develop into a general war,” cautioned the Hizbullah leader. He also referred to threats by Israel Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, to attack with force any residential area or civilian facility in which Hizbullah stores missiles and rockets or from which projectiles are launched at Israel.

Nasrallah declared, “If you attack our towns and civilians, we’ll attack yours. We will take part in any confrontation imposed on us and I say it clearly: bombing cities for bombing cities and bombing settlements for bombing villages…. You are an army state, so there’s no distinction whatsoever between Israeli soldiers and civilians.”1

Nasrallah warned Israel “to stop playing with fire. We are in a new era…. Israel must recognize the limits of its power. Gone are the days when Israel would threaten, and the other side was silent. Should war erupt, Israelis will face incidents not witnessed since the establishment of Israel in 1948.”2

It should be noted that as early as the end of October 2020, when Israel concluded its “Lethal Arrow” drill, Hizbullah made it clear that it opposed Israel’s concept of “limited battle days,” which by their scale, they perceived as an all-out war, and, therefore, à la guerre comme à la guerre.3 Hizbullah put its forces in Lebanon and Syria on high alert and vowed it would achieve its goals by all means at its disposal.
Hezbollah’s Nasrallah: In Case of War, ‘Israel Will Experience Things Never Seen Since Its Formation’
Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah issued a warning to Israel Tuesday night following its conclusion of a massive air force drill simulating war in the north.

“No one can promise that a game of ‘days of battle’ will not transform into an all out war,” Nasrallah remarked in a speech commemorating “martyred commanders,” outlet N12 reported.

“And if a war occurs, Israel’s home front will experience things that have not happened since the formation of Israel,” he warned.

The Lebanese terrorist group’s chief was commenting in large part on an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) security intelligence assessment, estimating that Hezbollah may initiate “restricted” operations against the Jewish state as it continues to seek revenge for the killing of one of its top members.

The IDF noted that the Shiite movement will most likely not seek a full military campaign, but carry out attacks of a similar nature to that of Gaza’s ruling Hamas.
Hezbollah and the UN’s Toothless Resolution 1701
Following the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1701, at the time perceived as a strongly worded document. It was aimed at not just maintaining the ceasefire, but of strengthening the hands of the government in Beirut by endorsing and calling for the central government to assert control over the entire country.

However, for the most part 1701 has reflected the toothless inability of the international body to take those words and effectively implement them on the ground.

The 2006 war was not between two countries, but between Israel and the terrorist Hezbollah organization headed by Hassan Nasrallah that is funded, trained and armed by Iran. Hezbollah is not under the control of the Lebanese government, is not part of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and thus considers itself not obligated at all to the document. Its terrorist activities have been documented for years.

Resolution 1701: In Its Own Words
Two paragraphs in the UNSC resolution appeared to have been directly aimed at Hezbollah:
- “security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL …”
- “full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of (UNSC) resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of 27 July 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State.”

In short, 1701 calls for the disarming of Hezbollah and the deployment of the Lebanese army to exert sovereignty – especially in the south of the country along the Lebanon-Israel border. That area is monitored by UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon that is tasked with monitoring the area and whose heavy presence was intended to dissuade militias.
Elliott Abrams: The Deterrent Message Iran Needs to Hear
On February 15, Iran-backed Shia militia groups in Iraq fired a barrage of missiles — a minimum of 14 — at an American base in Erbil, Iraq. One contractor was killed and five were wounded; one American soldier was wounded.

That no American was killed was a matter of luck, it seems.

The U.S. reaction has so far been verbal only. Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement, saying “We are outraged by today’s rocket attack in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. . . . I have reached out to Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to discuss the incident and to pledge our support for all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible.”

“Those accountable” are sitting in Tehran, and this is a key test of the Biden administration: If the United States reacts with words alone, the Biden administration will show the Iranians that such attacks are cost-free. The only lesson that Iran’s leaders will learn from such a response is that the Biden administration’s desire to return to nuclear diplomacy will permit Iran to put American lives at risk whenever it wishes. If the U.S. reaction is to strike at the Iraqi Shia group that claimed the attack, it will once again play Tehran’s game. Iran is pleased to allow those proxies to absorb American strikes while it acts with impunity.

An Iraqi Shiite group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, which means “Guardians of Blood Brigade,” said it conducted the attack. Which Iran-backed militia actually carried out the attack is largely irrelevant because Iran controls them all. Proof can be found in the way such militia attacks appear to have been called off by Iran in October. Back then, Iran seemed to fear that if an American were killed and then-President Trump reacted against Iran strongly, Trump might gain popularity and win reelection. Attacks by Iranian-backed Shia groups in the pre-election period did not fall off because they ran out of ammunition or decided to take vacations; there is no other explanation except decisions made in Tehran.
Iran’s Khamenei Demands ‘Action, Not Words’ From Biden to Revive Nuclear Deal
Iran‘s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded “action, not words” from the United States if it wants to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the latest challenge to new President Joe Biden to take the first step towards a thaw.

Tehran has set a deadline of next week for Biden to begin reversing sanctions imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump, or Iran will take its biggest step yet to violate the nuclear deal — banning short-notice inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog.

“We have heard many nice words and promises which in practice have been broken and opposite actions have been taken. Words and promises are no good. This time (we want) only action from the other side, and we will also act,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.

Biden aims to restore the pact under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, struck by the Obama administration and abandoned by Trump in 2018.

But while both Tehran and Washington now say they want to see the agreement revived, they are at odds over who should make the first move. Iran says the United States must first lift Trump’s sanctions, while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal, which it began violating after the sanctions were reimposed.
Iran Denounces Dissident Judoka for Competing in Israel
Exiled Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who arrived in Israel on Sunday to compete in the Tel Aviv Grand Slam was castigated on Tuesday by his former sponsors for participating in the prestigious tournament.

“This isn’t something to be proud of; [it’s] rather a mark of shame that will remain with Saeid Mollaei for eternity,” said Arash Miresmaeili, head of the Iranian Judo Association.

“I apologize to the families of the martyrs and the Iranian people for this act, and am ashamed that a foolish athlete who only considers his personal interests traveled to Tel Aviv, and what’s more, is even proud of it. Saeid, you’ve turned your back on your homeland for a handful of dollars or a medal,” he added, referring to Moallaei, who fled Iran after speaking out against the regime more than a year ago, and who now possesses Mongolian citizenship.

He continued: “It is a tremendous disgrace that a hollow athlete will have competed under the Mongolian flag, while 90,000 Iranian judokas are suspended from all [international competitions]. Mollaei is the one who turned the story into a political issue, while we are trying not to make Iranian sport political. It’s not for nothing that media outlets hostile to Iran are covering this visit extensively. He sold out his homeland solely for his own interests.”

Mollaei has been warmly received by the Israel Judo Association and its president, Moshe Ponte.


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