Thursday, February 18, 2021

From Ian:

Iran's Soleimani set up centers to monitor Jews for Zionism - report
The Iranian regime Islamic scholar Ahmed Abedi declared in a bombshell report in early February on Noor TV that the late IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani created centers to spy on Jews in the Islamic Republic.

"Regarding the Jews in this country who spy for Israel, [Soleimani] established centers for monitoring the Zionist spies. He established many such centers,” said Abedi, according to a transcription of the Iranian Noor TV broadcast by The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), an independent, nonpartisan press-monitoring organization.

The US military killed Soleimani in a January 2020 drone attack. Soleimani was the commander of the Quds force for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The US government accused Soleimani of being the architect of the murders of over 600 Americans in the Middle East. There is estimated to be less than 10,000 Persian Jews in Iran. Iran has a population of nearly 83 million.

JCPA: “The Yemeni Maneuver” – Biden Administration Gives a Free Pass to Iran
Iran has an interest in continuing the fighting in Yemen, which, since the Saudi-led Arab coalition forces were sent to the country has not led to any substantial change in the situation on the ground. The Houthis continue to control most of the territory they have captured, including the important Red Sea port city of Al-Hudaydah and the capital Sanaa. Beyond testing various weapons, the fighting allows Iran to continuously exhaust and attrite Saudi Arabia, its sworn Sunni rival.

The U.S. decision to remove the Houthis from the terror list and halt some Saudi military aid used to attack Houthi targets in Yemen with U.S.-made precision-guided munitions plays into Iran’s hands at the sensitive timing of the possibility of the United States rejoining the nuclear agreement. The decision raises doubt about the seriousness of the United States’ policy statements to “expand and strengthen” the Iran deal to address the issues of ballistic missiles and Iran’s “destabilizing actions in country after country” – two key issues in which Iran “specializes” and which it “exports” Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

A Test for the Biden Administration in Iraq as Well
To illustrate the depth of Iran’s dilemma for American reintroduced policy in the region, pro-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite militia linked to Hizbullah-Iraq – Saraya Awlia al-Dam – claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the Erbil Airport and the adjacent U.S. military base on February 16, 2021. Fragments at the target indicate that 24 Fajr-1 (107 mm) Iranian made rockets were fired. The U.S. Secretary of State denounced the “outrageous attack”10 in which a civilian contractor was killed, and a U.S. service member and five more contractors have been injured. Secretary Blinken acknowledged that in the past, Shiite militias under Iran’s control carried out similar attacks in Iraq, “but for now it is too early to determine who is behind the attack” and that “the incident is under investigation.”11

It is possible that the action is another part of the pressure being exerted by Iran on the United States in the region, and it puts the American administration to its first serious test regarding its willingness to use force against Iran and its allies in the area, alongside its intention to return to the framework of the nuclear agreement.
JINSA PodCast: Crisis in Yemen: Analysis of an Ongoing Civil War
There’s an ongoing crisis in Yemen, financed and fueled by Iran. The Houthi movement, formed around Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, has seen an opening to try to take control of the country amidst the disorganized Hadi government. Why did the Trump Administration designate the Houthis to be a terrorist organization, and why did the Biden Administration reverse this policy? What does Yemen’s civil war have to do with the Iran nuclear deal? All of these questions—and more—are answered in this week’s episode. Erielle interviews Mohammed Alyahya, the current Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya in English.

The Tikvah Podcast: Shany Mor on What Makes America’s Peace Processors Tick
The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has in the last several decades sucked up more American attention, time, and resources than nearly any other conflict in the world. Presidents, cabinet secretaries, national-security officials, and diplomats have poured themselves into solving the problem. These resources have been expended not only because of how Americans perceived the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s strategic importance to the United States, but perhaps more so because it is a conflict that engages and symbolizes the way Americans see themselves acting in the world.

Despite that huge effort, Americans haven’t succeeded in bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians to any kind of settled arrangement. Furthermore, as the Israeli researcher Shany Mor wrote in this month’s essay in Mosaic, American policymakers seem insistent on returning to the same frameworks of analysis and strategy that have failed systematically time and again. Now Mor joins Mosaic editor Jonathan Silver to explain what’s gone wrong, and to talk about why so many American peace processors think the way they do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Time for a Palestinian Reckoning
The one-time pan-Arab call for a united front against Israel has given way to normalization. Palestinian diplomacy has failed massively. It takes exceptional talent to transform an almost complete consensus among Arabs and Muslims on the future of Palestine and Jerusalem into just another matter on a packed Arab agenda.

The PLO's one-time virtue was that it gave the Palestinians a voice. Yet it has not adjusted its form and mission to meet the goal of statehood. In both construction and function, it is beyond reform. To move forward, a substantial recalibration of Palestinian aspirations is essential.

In the last two decades, Palestinian leaders developed a culture of dependency, an expectation of external salvation rather than self-reliance. This sapped their will to build their society and stymied their willingness to explore new thinking. Foreign supporters have become exasperated with Palestinian conduct, which has been marked by nagging, complaining, sulking, and a sense of entitlement.

The PLO's default position is to appeal to international law, one of the more enduring delusions of the Palestinian leadership. In reality, international law has not been a dependable friend to the Palestinians (from the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to the UN Partition Plan in 1947 to UN Security Council Resolution 242 in 1967). International law has not helped solve conflicts in Crimea, Cyprus, Kashmir, Kosovo, or Nagorno-Karabakh.

The prospects of securing "hard" Palestinian sovereignty, based on 19th-century notions of the nation-state, with full and complete control over land, borders, and resources, are remote. Harsh as this conclusion may seem, the Palestinians' choice may be between clinging to the self-defeating chimera of hard sovereignty and adopting softer versions, as in the case of member states of the European Union. The Palestinians need a new approach - one founded on recalibrated aspirations.
Former Obama Foreign Policy Hand Disappointed in Biden’s Pro-Israel Posture
Former Obama administration official Ben Rhodes said he is disappointed in the Biden administration’s early support for pro-Israel policies but suggested that he does not think Biden officials are supportive of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a podcast conversation with anti-Zionist writer Peter Beinart posted Wednesday, Rhodes said the Biden administration is approaching Israel "in a defensive crouch," too beholden to pro-Israel forces in the United States.

"It feels like we’re in the defensive crouch," Rhodes said of the Biden administration, adding that "these issues are shaped and framed and defined from the right" and that "if you’re a mainstream Democrat not only are you expected to take a set of positions, but you are expected to apologize for the people to your left."

The Obama foreign policy hand also said he is troubled that Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said she opposes the campaign to boycott Israel and supports a robust U.S.-Israel military alliance. But Rhodes and Beinart indicated the new administration—which is filled with many Obama White House veterans—may be inclined to become more adversarial with Israel over time because many of the foreign policy hands had witnessed Netanyahu's maliciousness firsthand.

"Come on, these guys were in with me, Netanyahu made our lives hell every day that he could and every one of those people in the Biden administration know that, that we were treated with no respect," Rhodes said.

He argued that Jewish advocacy organizations wage influence by withholding money to lawmakers they deem insufficiently pro-Israel, saying, "we’re never supposed to name the issue of money" due to its anti-Semitic connotations but that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s most influential pro-Israel group, wields influence by threatening lawmakers "that they’re going to cancel fundraisers."
Biden Calls Netanyahu, Promises Stronger Alliance

Jonathan Tobin: The Issue Is Biden Not Wanting to Help Bibi, Not a Phone Conversation
Most of those debating when President Joe Biden is going to finally pick up the phone and call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are either overestimating or underestimating the significance of this kerfuffle. The point isn’t when the two leaders will chat or how insulted Netanyahu should be by the obvious snub. The real issue is what it portends for the relationship between the two nations over the next four years. It also relates to the temptation to which every past US administration has succumbed: trying to intervene in Israeli politics.

On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki promised that the much-talked-about phone call would happen “soon.” As to when “soon” was, she told reporters to “stay tuned” and that the chat with the prime minister would be the first with any Middle East leader. Only last week, she wouldn’t say whether Israel was an ally when asked directly about it, but now describes the ties between the two countries by saying, “Israel is, of course, an ally. Israel is a country where we have an important strategic security relationship.”

That’s good news for those who feared that the absence of direct communication between the two leaders was a sign that the alliance was on the rocks. Or is it?

While not on the same scale as the message that former President Barack Obama sent Netanyahu when he chose to visit surrounding Arab countries but not Israel in 2009, making the prime minister wait his turn to speak with the new president was not an accident. After the uber-close relationship between Netanyahu and Trump, the White House wanted to make it clear to the Israeli leader that he understood that things are different now.

Gulf-Israel partnership founded to build social bonds
One of the most promising initatives to come out of the Abraham Accords has been the founding of Sharaka, the Gulf-Israel Centre for Social Entrepreneurship.

Sharaka is Arabic for 'partnership'. Their self-declared mission is 'to build bonds between young Israeli and Gulf leaders in order to strengthen peace, trust and cooperation between our societies'.

The Israelis in the Sharaka team include members with roots in Arab countries, such as Amit Deri, Ben-Dror Yemini and Ofir Ohayon. In December Sharaka organised a group visit of young Arabs to Israel.

This video shows members of the delegation wiping away tears while being shown around the Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

Majid Al-Sarrah from the UAE encouraged all people to “see the reality of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem and promised, “We will spread the knowledge about the Holocaust. We will raise peace and love, say never again to anti-Semitism, hate and discrimination. We are brothers and sisters. We will stand together, and together, we will build a world free of anti-Semitism and hate.”

Mashael Al-Shemeri from Bahrain said, “I would like to say to all Jews and the people of Israel: You are not alone anymore.” Najat Al-Saeed from Saudi Arabia added, “We must educate young generations about the full horrors of the Holocaust, including by ensuring that the Holocaust is taught in schools in the Abraham Accords countries and that special envoys are appointed for preserving Holocaust remembrance.”
UAE’s First Ambassador to Israel Kicks Off Tenure With Twitter Message of Welcome and Peace
The first ambassador to Israel from the United Arab Emirates opened his official Twitter account on Wednesday, wishing welcome in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

Mohamed Mahmoud Al Khaja was sworn in as ambassador on Sunday in the UAE, marking another milestone in the ongoing process of normalization that began with the signing of the Abraham Accords and other agreements between the UAE, Israel, and several other Arab and Muslim countries.

To kick off his tenure, Al Khaja tweeted, “Delighted to launch my official account as the #UAE’s first Ambassador to #Israel.”

“I look forward to strengthening ties between Emiratis and Israelis,” he said, “by fostering peace, understanding and prosperity among our people and across the region.”

“Marhaba, B’ruchim Haba’im, Welcome!” he added.

Leading Knesset Member Michal Cotler-Wunsh replied, “Welcome!” also in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

“Looking forward to meeting & furthering the blossoming ties between our countries & people!” she said.

2 Syrian shepherds freed as prisoner swap for Israeli woman believed imminent
The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday freed two Syrian shepherds who entered Israeli territory several weeks ago, the army said, in a move widely seen to be part of an imminent prisoner swap for an Israeli woman held by the Syrian regime after crossing into the country.

The Syrians were handed over to the Red Cross at the Quneitra crossing into Syria, the IDF said, in a move that was backed by the government.

Hebrew media outlets, citing Israeli officials, were reporting that Russian-brokered prisoner exchange talks between Israel and Syria have seen “significant” progress and a deal could be clinched as early as Thursday night.

Israel is seeking the release of an Israeli woman who recently crossed the border and was arrested. The woman, who hasn’t been identified, is reportedly a 25-year-old from Modiin Illit who left the ultra-Orthodox community. It is unclear why she entered Syria.

The agreement had reportedly been temporarily held up by the refusal of two residents of the Golan Heights who are in Israeli prison — the reciprocal side of the swap — to be deported to Damascus.

According to the Ynet news site, Israeli officials assess that the deal will go through Thursday “unless there are any surprises.”

EU Living in "Alternate Universe" over Construction in Jerusalem
The Israel Lands Authority last month awarded contracts to several building companies to begin marketing 1,257 new housing units in Jerusalem's southern neighborhood of Givat Hamatos. It's the first stage of a 2,600-unit subsidized housing project targeting young families to encourage them to remain in the Israeli capital, where there is a housing shortage and high prices. At the same time, the master plan calls for the construction of 700 units for the nearby Arab area of Beit Safafa.

Givat Hamatos is bordered by several of Jerusalem's largest neighborhoods, including Gilo to the south and Har Homa to the east. The EU has dubbed the project an "illegal settlement." Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum responded, "Givat Hamatos doesn't change anything; it simply supplies demands of building and growth. The fact that the EU doesn't accept the reality that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel shows that they are living in an alternative universe."
The PA Is Winning in Area C
The PA is consolidating its control over Area C of the West Bank. According to the Oslo Accords, Area C was to remain under exclusive Israeli jurisdiction until a final-status agreement. A report by Regavim documents illegal encroachment on state land by the PA over the past decade. In 2009, the majority of built-up space in Area C was populated by Jews (47,000 dunams compared to 46,000 for the Palestinians). By 2019, after a 10-year settlement push directed by the PA, most of the built-up space is Palestinian (79,000 dunams compared to 57,000 inhabited by Jews).

Behind the PA's successful settlement drive stands an array of EU and UN institutions that both finance the project and provide much of the planning.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar: The Truth about Financial Aid to the Palestinian Authority
Muhammad Aref Massad, a former terrorist who is now a candidate in the upcoming PA presidential elections, recently wrote about the PA's misuse of international aid: "I was recruited to the terror organizations when I was 13, and I fought boldly against the Israeli side, but to my sorrow I discovered that the Palestinian leaders do not want freedom and do not want peace because they profit from the war and destruction in which we are engulfed."

"The greater the number of fatalities among our people, the more attention they get from the free and good people in the world, and the world gives them large quantities of aid each time the pictures of destruction in our land are published worldwide."

"If you really want the killing, the destruction, and the siege of the Palestinian people to stop, if you really want the injustice and the poverty of the Palestinian people to come to an end, please terminate your support for the Palestinian Authority, which is run by a corrupt and unelected dictator."

In the past, donor states have at times sought to circumvent the PA, 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.
JCPA: Pitfalls on the Way to Palestinian Elections in the Territories
This is the stage at which Israel needs to intervene and make very clear to the PA Chairman that it does not intend to allow Hamas to participate in the elections, even indirectly by using a “straw party” that would contest the parliamentary elections under another name.

Israel must not give any legitimacy to Hamas by means of its participation in the elections. Hamas is a proxy of Iran that publicly supports jihad and the armed struggle to destroy the State of Israel and to establish in its place “Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

Israel has sufficient power to act on its own to prevent Palestinian elections in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. It is the one in control on the ground from a security standpoint. It can carry out arrests of election candidates, ban election rallies/conventions, stop polling stations from opening, and prevent 300,000 east Jerusalem residents from participating in the vote. The Trump Administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital strengthened Jerusalem’s status, and Israel cannot now permit erosion of this status by allowing its Arab residents to participate in elections whose purpose is to thwart real peace negotiations and to sabotage the Arab states’ process of normalization with Israel.

PA Chairman Abbas is at the end of his political career. He is 86-years-old and suffers from severe heart problems. At the top levels of Fatah, there is an assessment that he wants to leave the political stage amid “fire and billowing smoke” to cover up his diplomatic failures — just as Yasser Arafat did. It is possible that he is seeking a diplomatic-political conflict with Israel by using his agreement with Hamas to hold elections.

This should not deter Israel. The Palestinian street in the West Bank has lost faith in the PA leadership, which is perceived as corrupt and failing. The public has not responded to the leadership’s calls to embark on “popular resistance” against Israel. Few Palestinians are willing to sacrifice their lives so that Abbas and his circle can continue to occupy the seats of power in the Mukata in Ramallah.
Abbas rival Dahlan arranges 20,000 UAE-funded coronavirus vaccine doses for Gaza
A shipment of 20,000 Russian coronavirus vaccine doses donated by the United Arab Emirates is on its way to the Gaza Strip, according to an announcement Thursday by Mohammad Dahlan, an exiled Fatah official who lives in the Emirates.

Dahlan, a key rival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is rumored to be a close adviser to Abu Dhabi’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed.

“We hope that the vaccines will be allocated to medical teams fighting the epidemic head-on and heroically, as well as to the groups that most seriously need it,” Dahlan said in a Facebook post announcing the vaccine shipment.

A spokesperson for the Emirati Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Former PA Health Minister Jawad al-Tibi, who directs health affairs for Dahlan’s breakaway Fatah faction, told The Times of Israel that the vaccines arrived in Abu Dhabi seven days ago and were earmarked for use by the Palestinians.

According to al-Tibi, the vaccines were sent to Egypt and had been set to cross into Gaza through Rafah crossing on Thursday. But due to the winter storm that swept through large swaths of the Middle East this week, their entrance was delayed.

Hezbollah Is Vulnerable. Lokman Slim’s Assassination Proves It.
The assassination of the Lebanese activist and writer Lokman Slim—who was openly critical of Hezbollah—was in the making for years. His killer pulled the trigger earlier this month because the timing at home and abroad was convenient for his assassins, who wanted to send a message.

It has always been a matter of time. Hezbollah’s critics—including myself—always felt the shadows following. You have to go about your daily life constantly looking over your shoulder, checking under your car for a bomb every time you leave your house, and feeling your heart sink deeper each time your children’s school bus is late. We always knew we were being followed and monitored. Slim refused to live his life in these shadows, but he was not careless.

When I decided to leave Lebanon for good in 2016, after receiving similar threats, Slim encouraged me to do so. He refused to leave but did not expect me to do the same because he also knew that not everyone could afford to make the same sacrifices. His motto—“Zero Fear”—which has taken over Lebanon’s social media scene recently, is not a requirement; it’s a choice and a very calculated one.

Slim was threatened directly and repeatedly by Hezbollah, and he himself wrote a statement last year holding the party responsible for any action that would harm him or his family. He was assassinated in the south of Lebanon—a Hezbollah stronghold—a mile away from a U.N. compound. Most importantly, he was killed in a way that would send a clear message to other activists and to the international community. If Hezbollah’s leaders only wanted to get rid of Slim, they could have easily made it look like a car accident or a robbery, and thereby avoid the blame, but they wanted to send a message to others while testing the limits of the international community.
Gantz Responds to Hezbollah Threats, Says in Case of War ‘Lebanon Will Shake’
Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz issued a stark warning Thursday to Israel’s archenemy Hezbollah, stipulating that if a military campaign erupts, “Lebanon will shake and Hezbollah will be fatally hurt.”

The remarks were delivered at the state memorial service for the victims of the Israeli military operations whose burial place is unknown, on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

Gantz stipulated that the government was doing everything within its power to bring home two soldiers who fell in battle in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge in 2014 , St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin, as well as other soldiers whose remains have been lost in wars in the past.

The former military chief responded to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s recent threats, asserting, “Even now, in spite of the fact that Israel has the strongest armed forces in the Middle East, we are still on the receiving end of threats of war.”

“And, in fact, if it comes to that, it would be difficult for the Israeli homefront, but it would be considerably more difficult for our enemies. This is true in particular of Hezbollah and Hamas, both of whom are violating international law by developing offensive capacity for operation within civilian populations,” Gantz added.

Iran: The Mullah's Pursuit of Obtaining Nuclear Weapons
The IAEA at first did not take these reports of a secret Iranian atomic warehouse seriously. This should not be surprising: the IAEA has a long history of misreporting the Iranian regime's compliance with the deal and declining to follow up on credible reports about Iran's illicit nuclear activities.

Iran's nuclear deal has dangerous fundamental flaws, specifically the ability to enrich uranium in the first place -- as the preeminent US nuclear negotiator Ambassador John R. Bolton wrote a few years ago, without it, no bomb -- and the deal's notorious sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran's nuclear program after the deal soon expires.

After a significant amount of pressure was imposed on the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, inspecting the suspected site that the Israeli Prime Minister referred to was implemented two years later, in the fall 2020. Even then, although Iran's leaders certainly had enough time to clean up the facility, the IAEA's inspectors nevertheless reported that traces of radioactive uranium had been detected by examining remaining samples.

It should also not come as surprise that the ruling mullahs of Iran are declining to answer the IAEA's questions.

It is also important to point out that one of the most basic requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a party, as well as one of the terms of the 2015 "nuclear deal," was that the Iranian regime is required to reveal its nuclear activities to the IAEA -- a condition with which it also failed to comply.

The detection of radioactive particles in Turquz Abad not only points to the high probability that Tehran has been undertaking work on nuclear weapons in secret; it also points to the high probability that Iran's ruling mullahs have most likely been violating the nuclear deal since it was reached in 2015.

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