Wednesday, March 24, 2021

From Ian:

Israeli Elections 2021: With Most Votes Counted, Arab Party Ra’am Poised to Play Key Role as Netanyahu’s Advantage Slips Away
With 87% of the vote counted in Israel’s 2021 elections, the political ground appeared to shift on Wednesday, with Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party falling from the position of kingmaker and the Arab party Ra’am emerging as a possible decisive force.

Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the “pro-Netanyahu” bloc of parties has fallen from 56 seats to 52, while the “anti-Netanyahu” bloc — a diverse group of parties that seek to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — dropped slightly to 56 mandates.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 seats, Yair Lapid’s opposition Yesh Atid 18, and the religious parties Shas and Yehadut HaTorah 9 and 7, respectively. The results show Benny Gantz’s Blue and White with 8, Labor with 7, and Yisrael Beiteinu, the Joint List, New Hope, and Religious Zionism with 6 apiece, with Meretz winning 5.

Crucially, the Yamina party received 7 seats, while Ra’am is now slated to win 5 — despite appearing to fall below the threshold to enter the Knesset during much of Tuesday night.

Initial exit polls Tuesday showed Yamina’s Bennett set to play kingmaker, with his party’s 7 seats able to swing the balance between the pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs. Now, however, those seats would not be enough to give Netanyahu a majority to form a government.

However, if both Ra’am and Yamina join with Netanyahu, he would have such a majority. By the same token, if either or both of them joined the anti-Netanyahu bloc, it would theoretically be able to form a government, although such a coalition forming is unlikely.

Even with most results in, they appear close enough that it remains possible the map will continue to change as the final ballots are counted.

Both blocs have to some extent declared victory, with Netanyahu pledging to form a right-wing government but leaving his options open.
Outcome still up in air, officials to start count of 450,000 absentee ballots
The Central Elections Committee was preparing on Wednesday afternoon to begin counting some 450,000 absentee ballots, and said it hoped to conclude the tally by Friday morning.

The ballots, cast in special double envelopes, account for some 10 percent of the national vote, and could yet determine whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is able to form a new government, whether his rivals do so, or whether the political gridlock continues and Israel heads for yet another election after four inconclusive rounds.

As of 5 p.m., 97 percent of regular votes had been tallied, with the Central Elections Committee expected to add the final 3% shortly.

The double-envelope system is used for anyone voting outside a regular polling station assigned to them according to their place of residence. They are all brought to the Knesset to be counted by CEC representatives. The process takes longer than the regular count as officials cross-reference the person’s details on the outer envelope to ensure they have not also voted elsewhere. After this is completed, the anonymous inner envelopes are amassed together and the ballots within can be counted like all other votes.

Absentee ballots are usually cast by members of security forces, prisoners, diplomats and persons with mobility issues who can not reach their assigned polling station.

In the previous three elections, the number of people voting by double envelope rose from 240,000 to 280,000 to 330,000, but this year jumped significantly as it now includes isolated COVID-19 patients and those in quarantine.

Eugene Kontorovich: Fake International Law Is the Newest Anti-Israel Libel
Not only are Palestinians capable of securing vaccines from abroad, they have in fact done so—though, according to media reports, they have misallocated early doses to ruling party officials and even re-exported many to Jordanian royals. The Palestinians get to choose which vaccines they want—typically not the Pfizer doses preferred by Israel—and how much they are willing to pay for them. Israel got its shots early because it paid top taxpayer dollar for quick delivery. The Palestinians are not taxed by Israel.

Again, the experts waving around Art. 56 are surely aware of the ICRC commentary that makes clear it does not mean what they say it does. But they disingenuously choose not to mention that inconvenient fact.

The official commentary also makes clear that even when an occupying power does provide public health services, it does not have to do so for free. But Israel does not control the Palestinian budget, and it is surprising that Jerusalem's critics insist that it impose its spending priorities on the Palestinian government. Part of having one's own government is the ability to set budgetary priorities. According to a State Department report, the PA spends hundreds of millions of dollars on its "pay for slay" program that incentivizes terror against Israeli Jews. The funding for that program would be more than enough to buy vaccines for its entire population. But the PA has put killing Jews ahead of protecting its own people.

The claim of Israeli responsibility for vaccinating the PA's populace was never made before Israel achieved global renown for its rapid vaccine rollout program. The accusations against Israel now are designed to besmirch and belittle this remarkable achievement. But absolutely nothing in the Geneva Convention says that an occupied territory is unable to "look after the health of its population" if it does not vaccinate them with the speed of the fastest country on earth. This idea is baseless and preposterous. In fact, the PA is receiving vaccines at roughly the same speed as are comparable governments.

And of course, none of this even touches upon the dispute as to whether Israel actually illicitly "occupies" Judea and Samaria in the first instance.

Pandemics throughout history have seen Jews blamed for the spread of disease. Today, such claims come dressed in legal robes—and get amplified by progressive U.S. legislators.

An open letter to Tom Friedman from the UAE
Mr. Thomas Friedman, in your March 2 New York Times op-ed—“Jumping Jehoshaphat! Have You Seen How Many Israelis Just Visited The U.A.E?”—you say that you have “lived through the shotgun marriage between Israelis and Lebanese Christians.”

But that was no marriage; it was barely an engagement.

How can you compare that relationship with the Abraham Accords? You are still living in the past, with the old “conventional wisdom” of Mideast dynamics.

Here’s some real news: There is a new Middle East that has passed you by and demonstrated to you and the rest of the western world that fresh thinking is what was necessary to break the mold and the old narrative. Clearly, that has eluded you.

Your infatuation with “multiparty democracy” is utterly misplaced and out of sync with the reality of democratic governments and countries. In 1947, Winston Churchill told the British House of Commons that “democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

I have lived in several “democratic countries,” including the United States, and have seen the rampant corruption of democratically elected political leaders, their self-interest placed above the interest of the electorate, their broken promises and their egotistical selfishness; what’s good for the electorate is not good for them.
America Should Not Make the Mistake of Adopting the Arab Interpretation of UN Resolution 242
As the Biden Administration weighs its Mideast diplomatic options, it ought to avoid one major historical and dangerous mistake: Adoption of the so-called “Everybody Knows Paradigm.” This is the all-too-familiar “international consensus” position whereby Israel is expected to withdraw to pre-Six Day War borders based on the June 4, 1967 lines (i.e., the 1949 armistice lines), with a few minor and equal swaps of land with the Palestinians.

This position ignores irreversible facts on the ground, contradicts Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s original vision for a settlement with the Palestinians, and would be politically unacceptable to any Israeli government of the foreseeable future.

Adoption of this paradigm would feed unrealistic Palestinian expectations, which is bound to vitiate future peace efforts. The same goes for the new ICC “criminal investigation” of Israel. While some American gestures towards the PA may be understood as an attempt to be rid of Trump’s shadow, abandoning the healthy logic underlying the 2020 “Peace to Prosperity” plan would do more harm than good.

Misreading of 242 in its Historical Context
Until the Trump administration team put forward an alternative framework, a common assumption among policy planners in Washington was that “everybody knows” what the outcome of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process must be. This even more true in Europe, where the EKP (the “Everybody Knows Paradigm”) acquired the force of a zealously guarded ideological orthodoxy. Essentially, the EKP rests upon a slightly modified Arab interpretation of UN Security Resolution 242 of November 1967.

However, this is a false reading of that famous formative text. It assumes that a total withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines – possibly with some minimal and equal land swaps – is mandated by the resolution, as if it were under Chapter 7 of the UN charter (Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression). However, resolution 242 is obviously, albeit not explicitly, under Chapter 6 (The Pacific Settlement of Disputes). It took more than five months after the Six Day War for it to be finally endorsed, precisely because Arab and Soviets efforts to define that war as an act of Israeli aggression failed again and again, even in the General Assembly.

Moreover, the language of resolution 242 clearly points in the direction of a territorial compromise. This is indicated by the well-known omission of the definite article regarding withdrawals (withdrawal from “territories,” not from “the territories”), and the reference to “secure and recognized borders.” The 1949 armistice lines are neither.
UNHRC arms embargo call against Israel passes with EU OK, Bahrain absence
The United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution calling for an arms embargo against Israel that had the support of many of the European countries but received a nod of disapproval from Bahrain, which was absent for Tuesday’s vote.

The measure, dubbed the accountability resolution, passed 32-6, with eight abstentions. It included some of the harshest language against Israel out of the four resolutions that the 47-member UNHRC is expected to approve, as the 46th session ends this week.

The six countries that opposed the resolution were Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Malawi and Togo.

In an unusual move, Bahrain, which typically approves texts bashing Israel at the United Nations, was absent for the vote. It is the first time that this has occurred.

In addition, the following eight countries abstained: Bahamas, the Czech Republic, India, Marshall Islands, Nepal, Philippines, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Among the 32 countries that approved the text were five European ones, including nations that typically abstain from such votes as a show of support for Israel. Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland all voted in favor of the resolution.

Last year, support for this text dropped perilously low, as it passed 22-8, with 17 abstentions. No European countries supported the measure last year, seven of the abstained and three opposed it all together.

Mideast Quartet discusses reviving 'meaningful' Israel, Palestinian peace talks
The Middle East Quartet of mediators – the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – discussed on Tuesday reviving "meaningful negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians with the aim of a two-state solution.

In a statement following their meeting, the Quartet said that both Israel and the Palestinians need "to refrain from unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve."

It appeared to be the first time since September 2018 that envoys from the four mediators have met. Last month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped there would be a Quartet meeting in coming weeks, now that there was a new president in the White House.

The Palestinians want a state in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital.

The new administration of US President Joe Biden has said it supports a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians and will overturn several decisions made by former US President Donald Trump.

It has said it will continue to urge other countries to normalize ties with Israel, but stressed that is not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Colin Kahl in the Pentagon Would Be a Disaster for Israel and the Mideast
For many years, American and Israeli leaders were rightly proud that the excellent relationship between their two nations was a bipartisan issue in Washington. Obviously, for a variety of reasons, that truism has faltered in recent years even while remaining broadly accurate.

However, the nomination of Colin Kahl for undersecretary of defense for policy could change that.

Kahl's resume is impressive on paper. His most recent administration appointments were as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011 and as then-Vice President Biden's national security adviser from 2014 to 2017.

Nonetheless, with so much experience comes little to no achievement, only unmitigated disaster. On his major remit in the Middle East, every policy issue has been shown to be a failure. Whether it was trying to press Israel into concessions during the Obama administration, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the infamous inaction on Obama's "red line" on Bashar al-Assad's Syria, Kahl was intensely involved — and tried to justify them all.

Now he is on the verge of returning to a prominent policy position, just as the region is moving forward away from conflicts that have raged for a century.
Harris To Go ‘One-On-One’ With Bill Clinton On Empowering Women; Attend Event With Ties To Anti-Semite
Vice President Kamala Harris is set to go “one-on-one” with former President Bill Clinton this week during an event about “empowering women and girls.” Harris is also reportedly set to speak at a separate event that has ties to an anti-Semite who has praised Louis Farrakhan and refused to affirm Israel’s right to exist.

Politico reporter Christopher Cadelago, who specifically covers the vice president, wrote on Twitter: “Kamala Harris will go one-on-one with Bill Clinton on Friday to talk about the impact of COVID-19 on women, and empowering women and girls in the U.S. and around the world as part of a Clinton Global Initiative event.”

Cadelago included a link to the event; however, Harris’s name did not appear in the schedule lineup. It’s not clear whether Harris’s name was removed following backlash online or if her name was left off.

Harris is also scheduled to speak at this week’s Black Women’s Roundtable, which has ties to Tamika Mallory, the far-left activist who had to step down from The Women’s March amid widespread allegations of anti-Semitism.

“Mallory is a member of the Black Women’s Roundtable, which is part of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation led by her friend Melanie Campbell,” Fox News reported. “Campbell defended Mallory when she faced accusations of anti-Semitism before stepping down from The Women’s March, sharing a petition in support of Mallory.”

Joel Pollak: Samantha Power Tries to Walk Back Anti-Israel Position on Jerusalem
Power, evidently flummoxed by the question, presented the U.S. decision to abstain from Resolution 2334 as if the Obama administration would have liked to support the measure, but merely objected to the anti-Israel bias at the “venue.” She did not volunteer any objection to the substance of the resolution.

The U.S. had traditionally vetoed such resolutions. In her speech at the time explaining the Obama administration’s shift, Power complained: “The total settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem now exceeds 590,000.”

The term “East Jerusalem” includes the territory across the 1949 armistice line, including the Old City of Jerusalem, which had been home to Jews for centuries, but was occupied by Jordan during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Power’s speech therefore endorsed the view that the Jewish presence in the Old City under Israeli sovereignty was illegitimate and illegal.

Jordan destroyed much of the Jewish Quarter, whose residents were expelled. Jews were prohibited from visiting the Jewish Quarter and Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem until Israel gained control of the city in the 1967 war, fighting in self-defense.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also questioned Power over her support for military intervention in Libya under her “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, which left the country in shambles and vulnerable to control by terrorists, including the so-called Islamic State.

Israel’s COVID-19 Reproduction Rate Drops to 0.59
Israel’s coronavirus reproduction rate (R) continues to drop, according to Health Ministry data released on Wednesday, and now stands at 0.59.

Of the 41,443 COVID-19 tests that the ministry conducted on Tuesday, 679 came back positive, placing the infection rate at 1.7 percent.

There are currently 14,403 active cases in Israel. Some 762 Israelis are hospitalized; 500 are in serious condition; and 207 are on ventilators.

Of those hospitalized: 74 percent are not vaccinated; 15 percent have received their first jab; and 11 percent have been fully vaccinated. Of those on ventilators: 76 percent are not vaccinated; 16 percent have been partially vaccinated; and 8 percent have been fully vaccinated inoculated.

Nineteen children under the age of 18 are hospitalized, among them three newborns. Of those, one is in critical condition, five are in serious condition and the rest exhibit minor symptoms.

Twelve pregnant women are hospitalized, and nine women who gave birth tested positive for the virus. Three of the women are on ventilators and one is connected to an ECMO machine. None is fully vaccinated.

Israel has reported 829,832 cases and 6,131 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic last year. To date, 809,298 Israelis have recovered from the virus.

US air defense chief praises Iron Dome and close partnership with Israel
In a recent conversation with Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Brad Bowman, the director of US Air and Missile Defense Brig.-Gen. Brian Gibson praised the Iron Dome system.

He said that the system should be ready by the end of the year. The US currently has two batteries of Iron Dome, which was developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

“You have US Army air defense soldiers on them as we speak. So, there’s a series of activities we need to complete en route to the end of this year, when we give them the thumbs-up – things that you can imagine, of training, testing, and integration of US communications, a few other things,” said Gibson.

Bowman is a former Army Black Hawk pilot and former national security adviser to US senators, and he moderated the March 15 session with Gibson. He is senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power.

The discussion, titled “The spirit to field the army force of the future,” included Brig.-Gen. John L. Rafferty, who heads Long Range Precision Fires for the US, and also Willi Nelson, director, Programs and Technology, US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command. Lt.-Gen. Ed Cardon also delivered introductory remarks.

Gibson said that in the past 18 months the US has conducted a number of limited user tests for the Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense System. The US has also bought and assessed two Iron Dome batteries. They have also designed and fielded and are now training the first maneuver short-range air defense battalion.

“Our two Iron Dome batteries will be fully employed across our army, whether that be inside of training and garrison or deployable around the world, based on decisions that get made and the environment we operate in. Our enduring competition for the indirect fire protection capability will have been concluded, and we will have initial capability, [with] several number of launchers and missiles in 2023.”
IDF Hits Hamas Positions in Gaza in Response to Rocket Fired at Beersheva
Israeli aircraft struck several Hamas military installations in the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday morning, hours after Palestinian terrorists fired a rocket at Beersheva in an apparent attempt to disrupt Israel’s general election. There were no reports of casualties.

“Fighter jets and attack helicopters targeted a rocket manufacturing facility and a military outpost belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. The attack was carried out in response to the rocket fire from Gaza into Israeli territory,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.

The rocket was launched just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was hitting the campaign trail in the city. The army added that it holds Hamas responsible for what happens in Gaza and that the terror group would “bear the consequences of terrorist acts against Israeli citizens.”

The IDF earlier said that the rocket had not been aimed at a residential area and thus no specific alert to take shelter was issued.

Despite this, Netanyahu’s security detail evacuated him to a secure area as soon as the launch was identified.

PMW: The PA’s productive terrorists – prisoner fathered 2 babies by smuggling sperm, got a master’s degree, a Quran recitation license, and published a book
The PA takes great pride in the imprisoned terrorists and murderers, and even more so when they accomplish things such as fathering children by smuggling sperm out of jail or obtaining academic degrees, as Palestinian Media Watch has exposed.

One very productive prisoner is terrorist Fahmi Mashahreh who is serving 20 life sentences for his aiding and instructing suicide bomber Muhammad Al-Ghoul, who murdered 19 and wounded 74 when he blew himself up on a bus in Jerusalem on June 18, 2002.

While in prison, terrorist Fahmi Mashahreh has succeeded twice in smuggling out sperm and has fathered two children in addition to the ones he already had:
Official PA TV reporter: “Prisoner Fahmi Mashahreh (i.e., terrorist, involved in murder of 19 and wounding of 74)… was arrested during the Al-Aqsa Intifada (i.e., PA terror campaign 2000-2005)… Fahmi was the father of a baby girl and a fetus in its mother’s womb, and today he is the father of four children. He managed to achieve the joy of the birth of two of them from inside the prison by smuggling sperm [out of prison.] He became the father of the first ‘ambassador of freedom’ on the land of Jerusalem. That was in 2013, and he triumphed [again] in 2018 when his son Eid was born, who lit up the life of his father and his family, while leaving the jailor perplexed, defeated, and humiliated…”

[Official PA TV, Good Morning Jerusalem, Feb. 19, 2021]

Moreover, Mashahreh has finished high school in jail, earned a master’s degree, and a license in Quran recitation. Official PA TV proudly told its viewers that he has even written and published a book:
Official PA TV reporter: “Prisoner Fahmi Mashahreh… managed to achieve a matriculation certificate and a master’s degree in business management and institution management… and in addition obtained a license in Quran recitation… and his greatest achievement is the publication of a book.”

[Official PA TV, Good Morning Jerusalem, Feb. 19, 2021]

My machine gun and my bullets are the path to salvation-PA highlights songs about bullets and rifles

Report: Iran Hiding Important Components of Its Nuclear Program From UN Inspectors Western intelligence officials believe Iran is concealing important components of its nuclear program from UN inspectors, the UK’s Telegraph reported Monday, citing unnamed sources.

Iran is required under the 2015 nuclear deal reached under the Obama administration to disclose all nuclear materials and equipment to international inspectors, who can make regular inspections of nuclear sites. Former president Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal in 2018, but Iran and other countries such as Britain, Germany, and France are still signatories.

Now, The Telegraph reported, intelligence officials believe Iran is hiding materials related to centrifuges used to enrich uranium. They are thought to be held in secret sites under the control of the Iranian military’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the US lists as a terror group.

The materials are reportedly concealed in 75 separate containers that are regularly shuttled around the country to avoid discovery.

A senior Western intelligence source told the British paper, “The new revelations that Iran is trying to conceal vital elements of its nuclear program from the outside world shows that Tehran has no intention of complying with its international obligations under the terms of the nuclear deal.”

“It is yet another indication that the regime remains committed to acquiring nuclear weapons,” the official said.


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