Thursday, March 25, 2021

From Ian:

With near-final results in, Netanyahu appears once again short of majority
With 4,429,518 total votes tallied — more than the original estimated turnout, which appears to have been an undercount — there are no changes in the results, and no candidate has an obvious path to the premiership.

According to statements from today by the Central Elections Committee, it appears that there are no more than 10,000 votes left to count, meaning further changes in the Knesset makeup are highly unlikely.

The only possible change is Meretz losing a seat to Labor, which wouldn’t change the blocs — but even that change would require a swing of over 900 votes.

Bibi on the Brink
Once embarked on his political career, Netanyahu was submerged in the relentless intrigues of Likud and coalition politics, but for his years as finance minister under Sharon. In that role his performance was downright phenomenal, as even his most bitter opponents readily concede. He inherited stalled growth, high cyclical unemployment, and much institutionalized underemployment in the overgrown, almost Soviet-style public sector.

Everything he did was predictably MIT Business School and Boston Consulting, everything he did from deregulation to privatization was bitterly criticized as the abandonment of the founding fathers’ socialism. It certainly did increase inequality. But Israel’s economy was launched on a boom of high-quality growth that continues still after 17 years, drastically reducing unemployment, eliminating most “socialist underemployment,” sharply improving the debt-to-GDP ratio, and allowing the country to pay for a health care system that takes care of all Arabs and Jews within its borders (that is, not Gaza or the West Bank), and that competes with the world’s best. Israel now ranks ahead of Sweden, France, Germany, and the U.K. in overall longevity, even as it invests heavily in education, science, technology, and of course, in very expensive armed forces. The country’s high-tech sector that now carries the rest of the economy could never have boomed and kept booming without Netanyahu’s reforms.

That is actually the ultimate irony of Netanyahu’s career. In contrast to his great managerial effectiveness as a reforming finance minister, his political performance as prime minister has consisted of a very long sequence of mediocre compromises, but for a few brilliant exploits: His commando raid on Pfizer has made Israel the most vaccinated country in the world; just before that, he was a protagonist—along with the oh-so-easy to underestimate Jared Kushner—of the “Abrahamic” diplomacy that diminished the Arab encirclement of Israel that began in 1947 to a few irrelevant holdouts, and the two fractured states of Iraq and Syria. It was not even by Netanyahu’s own decision that the Palestinians were never really on his agenda but for brief bouts of fighting to tame Hamas, and for constant jockeying with the Palestine Liberation Organization to preserve its security cooperation. It was automatically mandated by the only coalitions that would support him. As for Iran, Netanyahu was not the sole author of Israeli policy. It really was an institutional team effort with the Mossad at the center, but Netanyahu was certainly its eloquent advocate, at least most of the time.

All Israelis I know are sick and tired of Netanyahu, who is now bitterly opposed on the right as well as by the left, while centrists support the ex-officials and ex-generals who function as midstream “institutional” candidates. Even his core support among the least educated Israelis has shrunk. Last time, he pulled off a Houdini act to remain prime minister even after essentially losing the election. But a repetition is unlikely: Last time, his rival believed his promise to take turns in heading the government, a mistake no one will repeat. ’Tis a pity that Israel’s economy is not in crisis, for otherwise Netanyahu and his supporters might be seen off with the offer of the Finance Ministry once again.
Securing Peace in the Middle East
The Abraham Accords reversed the order of the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002: then, ending occupation came first and in return Israel got diplomatic recognition. Now, normalization comes first. Arab states have always put their interests first before the Palestinians, even if they elevated the Palestinian cause rhetorically.

What is different now is there is a loss of fear about the Palestinian ability to mobilize a threatening reaction against those Arab leaders who make the decision to normalize with Israel because it serves their interests. Israel offers not just security benefits but can help when it comes to health, water, and agriculture.

Building on the Abraham Accords won't just happen, it will require some active brokering by the Biden Administration. Passive support won't add to the accords.

What has stood in the way of Palestinian self-rule is not the fervor of Palestinian claims for which they had no realistic capacity of achieving, but rather the conceptual unwillingness to agree to anything that might involve genuine reconciliation with the existence of Israel. A struggle for liberation wouldn't have this problem, and indeed others haven't. But a struggle for elimination of another people does. The Palestinians have had to bear the burden of the Arab struggle against a cosmically evil Israel whose very existence was seen as a monumental crime that needed to somehow be reversed. The widening circle of normalization with Israel reduces the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a cosmic one to a territorial one, where the difference in the competing territorial claims is actually quite minimal.
Did Israel Expel Palestinian Arabs? | The Israeli-Palestinian Context
What’s the true story of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the Middle East? One of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s biggest hot potatoes is the idea that ethnic cleansing transpired against Palestinian Arabs in 1948. This week, we are zooming out to give you a wider perspective of the events that caused the removal of both Arabs and Jews from their homes in pre-and-post state Israel.

UN Human Rights Council Passes Four Anti-Israel Resolutions With EU Support
The United National Human Rights Council passed a total of four anti-Israel resolutions condemning Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank and other policies, as it wrapped up its forty-sixth session on Wednesday.

The Council adopted a resolution on what it called the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, by a vote of 42 in favor, including major European Union countries; 3 against, including the UK and Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic; and 2 abstentions from Cameroon and Malawi. The resolution called upon Israel, to immediately end its “occupation” of the Palestinian territory, including in eastern Jerusalem. Additionally, the UNHRC further reaffirmed its support for a two-state solution, for a Palestinian state and Israel to live side by side in peace and security.

In the resolution on Israeli settlements in the “Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan” — which was passed by a vote of 36 in favor, 3 against and 8 abstentions — the Council urged Israel to stop “all actions causing the alteration of the character, status and demographic composition” in those areas. Again, the UK and the Czech Republic voted against the resolution.

The “vote on four anti-Israel resolutions at the UNHRC represents a moral stain on the UN, and is additional proof of the hypocrisy of those countries who supported these resolutions,” said Lior Haiat, spokesperson of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Twitter. “Instead of acting to advance human rights across the world, the Council continues to engage in an obsessive and biased manner against Israel, effectively being a political platform in the hands of countries who have absolutely no connection to human rights. The votes are an additional proof that

“The State of Israel will continue to promote its democratic values and protect its interests in the international arena,” he added.

On March 23, the UNHRC passed a resolution criticizing the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories, including eastern Jerusalem, and called for the ensuring of “accountability and justice”, as well as non-discriminatory access to COVID-19 vaccines. It was adopted by a vote of 32 in favor, 6 against and 8 abstentions. The six countries that voted against the resolution were Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Malawi and Togo.
EU supports Israel on Golan at UNHRC as Agenda Item 7 opposition grows
European countries supported two United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions that condemned Israeli "occupation" of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, but they rejected a text slamming Israeli sovereignty on the Golan heights as part of their growing opposition to Agenda Item 7. The Czech Republic and Great Britain, however, stood out for their support of Israel on both of the Palestinian texts, which were approved Wednesday as UNHRC in Geneva wrapped up its 46th session. The resolution against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem passed 42-3, with two abstentions. The one against Israeli settlements was approved 36-3, with eight abstentions, including by Austria and Bulgaria. Lastly, the resolution condemning Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, which had the least support passed 26-18, with three abstentions. All the resolutions were voted on under Agenda Item 7. Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi attacked the UNHRC on Twitter, stating that it had "once again proven itself to be an anti-Israel, discriminatory, and hypocritical body.

Exposed: PA Grand Plan to Occupy Area C, Israel is ‘Losing Judea and Samaria’
Israel is losing the battle for the control of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) grand plan to take it over illegally, leaders from Judea and Samaria and the political system warned, following an expose by the Ad Kan organization on the strategic threat.

Members of the Ad Kan organization conducted an undercover operation and disguised themselves as Arabs working for a Belgian news agency and were successful in obtaining the PA’s grand plan to overtake Area C in Judea and Samaria through illegal construction projects, funded by the European Union (EU) and Arab countries.

Area C is parts of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction as per the Oslo Accords.

The Ad Kan operation exposed that the PA is operating in the shadows together with the EU and the United Nations that have allocated about 3 billion euros for the construction of a Palestinian state and the construction of a new capital in Jerusalem.

In conversations with PA officials and original documents unveiled by the architects of the grand plan during interviews, Ad Kan found that the EU “is pushing with all its might,” knowingly operating against the law and in contravention of the Oslo Accords, to build a Palestinian state.

Ad Kan uncovered what it described as “a well-oiled mechanism” in which the EU secretly provides money, people and planning and legal knowledge to prepare a plan that will “isolate Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem and establish a de facto terrorist state in the heart of Israel.”

During the operation, they realized that the process was already in full swing and that about 100 such programs are taking shape in the field, unhindered.
The Inflated Demographics of the Palestinian People (with Aaron Lipkin)
The Palestinian Authority keeps dead citizens on their census roll. They double count the residents of East Jerusalem. They use a birth rate formula from the 1980s. Is it any wonder why no one really knows how many Palestinians live in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria? The question is - why does it all matter? Find out on today’s show where we’re joined by special guest Aaron Lipkin. Also on today’s show - the I Am Israel movie was rejected by Microsoft Advertising for violating their religious and political policy. As a thank you to our listeners, you can get the I Am Israel Film (digital download) for free right now! Just order here and use the promo code JOSHUAANDCALEB when checking out. Fight back against anti-semitism, Israel revoked the VIP card from Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki after he returned to Ramallah from a meeting with Fatuous Bensouda, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Palestinian Elections: Groundhog Day or New Path Forward?
In 2014, another unity government was formed following a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement, but it disbanded a year later over disagreements. According to Abbas, the government was unable to operate in the Gaza Strip. When the PA’s Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited the coastal enclave in 2018 for reconciliation talks, his motorcade was targeted by a roadside bomb. The PA said it held Hamas responsible for the attack.

Despite several assurances over the years that new elections would be held, the PA has always failed to deliver on these promises. That Palestinians will probably in May have the opportunity to express themselves in the most fundamental democratic manner is a step in the right direction.

According to a March 2021 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), if elections were held today — with all factions participating — 43 percent would vote for Fatah. Hamas would garner 30 percent of the votes, with 18 percent of eligible voters undecided.

As the 2006 election showed, however, polls can be deceiving. According to Dan Diker, the US in 2006 almost had “blind trust” in PCPSR polling data that predicted a Fatah victory. Time will tell if the Palestinian people again choose Hamas’s violent rejectionism or a new path forward towards internal political reconciliation and, just maybe, peace with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority’s Financial Support for Terrorism Circumvents U.S. and Israeli Law
Deductions Mandated by Israeli and American Laws
Last year, Israel began deducting tax revenues in accordance with the “offset law” approved by the Knesset and following the comparable American “Taylor Force” legislation passed by Congress.

The PA initially considered establishing an independent bank to transfer the grants to terrorists and their families but eventually dropped the idea, deciding to make the payments through the postal bank branches.

Cat and Mouse Game
Paying the salaries to terrorists through post offices is a new evasive maneuver to circumvent Israel’s demand to halt paying salaries to terrorists and their families.

This is a “cat and mouse” game. Israel is obligated to transfer the tax dollars to the PA under the Paris Agreement. Israel does not seek the PA’s collapse and wants tens of thousands of PA officials to receive salaries. However, the PA takes shameless advantage and uses the money it receives from Israel to pay terrorists and their families.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas knows that Israel is not interested in the collapse of the PA or Hamas’ control of the West Bank after the May 2021 elections. He is confident Israel will continue to transfer tax dollars, so, with impunity, he continues this confrontation with Israel and presents himself as a “national hero” who cares about the rights of the Palestinian “fighters.” He claims that the PA’s financial support for terrorists and their families was a “red line” that he would never cross. An Ironic Postscript
In December 2020, Palestinian Authority civilian and security employees protested to European donors that the PA finance minister had suspended their salaries because they supported the election of opponents to the Abbas regime.2
The Planned Palestinian Election Is Really a Battle within Fatah
When Palestinian elections were first discussed, the spotlight immediately turned to the struggle between Fatah and Hamas. But the story is really about Fatah against Fatah. The "first Fatah" consists of the PLO leadership who moved to the Palestinian territories from Tunisia and set up headquarters in Ramallah after Israel's withdrawals following the 1994 Oslo Accords. The "second Fatah" are long-term Palestinian residents of the West Bank, including those in Nablus, Bethlehem, and Hebron, who want stability in their lives.

A year ago, I visited Jenin and met with members of the Tanzim grassroots offshoot of Fatah. I was surprised to hear that they wanted one state with Israel. The reason: they do not believe the "Tunisians" because they are "foreigners," and they prefer Israel to "Ramallah." Indeed, the desire for one state is an opinion heard in broad circles in the West Bank. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that Palestinian support for the two-state solution had declined to 39% in 2020.
PA: “In every tune – a bullet, in every lyric – a rifle” “My machine gun and my bullets are the path to salvation” – PA highlights songs about bullets and rifles
The PA’s “hit parade” in the PA TV program Tune of the Homeland continues to promote songs that romanticize, stress, and even promote the “armed struggle” and the use of violence and terror against Israel. Recently the narrator of the PA’s quiz program about “national songs” even highlighted the beauty of these songs:
Official PA TV narrator: “We play the most beautiful tunes
And in every tune – a bullet
And in every lyric – a rifle”

And true enough, the specific song in question included both a machine gun and bullets – both said to lead to “salvation”: Official PA TV narrator: “Because songs are a basic part of our culture and they express our national identity… and because these songs are present in our consciousness and still fascinate us with values and meanings… It’s here: ‘The Tune of the Homeland.’”

Lyrics: “My machine gun is in my hand, and I want to continue marching
Our occupied land will not return for free
I want to continue marching, I want to continue marching
My machine gun and my bullets are the path to salvation”

Official PA TV narrator: “We play the most beautiful tunes
And in every tune – a bullet
And in every lyric – a rifle

Who is the composer of the song “My machine gun is in my hand”?
Lyrics: My machine gun is my comrade, my brother, and my friend

[Official PA TV, The Tune of the Homeland,
March 13 (twice), 14, 15 (three times), 16 (twice), 17, 2021]
Another song underscored that “self-sacrifice” and giving one’s blood for the cause is a value: “I will carve my path with my blood”:
PA spreads libel Israel is “deliberately” spreading Coronavirus among Palestinian prisoners PLO: No one should criticize PA education for “incitement” PA: Palestinians welcomed Jews escaping the Nazis, but Jews “betrayed” them Hebron has been “Judaized” into a “ghetto that is similar to the Nazi period,” claims activist PA lauds as “hero” terrorist who died in Fatah’s first attack “Pull along the cannon, self-sacrificing fighter… I will carve my path with my blood”

Khaled Abu Toameh: Arabs: A Warning to Biden about Iran's Mullahs
President Biden's decision to pursue the sanctions against Iran, however, has failed to reduce the fears of many Arabs. They say they remain skeptical about Washington's policy toward the threats posed by the mullahs in Tehran.

"He [Biden] should not make any concessions [to Iran] that do not serve stability in the region. Iran will continue with its tricks and deception to avoid sanctions and attempts to stop it from possessing a nuclear bomb that would pose a danger to countries in the region." — Khaled bin Hamad al-Malek, Saudi newspaper editor and writer, Al Jazirah, March 5, 2021.

"Iran is an evil, terrorist, and rogue state, and it does not abide by what is agreed upon with it." — Khaled bin Hamad al-Malek, Al Jazirah, March 5, 2021.

"The current Iranian ploy aims to delude the American side into believing that Tehran wants to return to the agreement, but it cannot make concessions due to street pressure, so it needs Washington to drop the sanctions before starting any negotiations.... With regards to Iran, it wants to pursue its goal of achieving nuclear weapons that threaten the region and the world." — Dr. Salem Hameed, Emirati political analyst and academic, Al-Ittihad, March 6, 2021.

"Iran's mullahs are like dangerous poisonous snakes. The mullahs cannot be tamed unless their fangs are completely pulled out. President Biden does not seem to be aware of how dangerous they are." — Mohamed al-Sheikh, prominent Saudi writer, Al Jazirah, March 5, 2021.

The Biden administration, "especially the left-wing of the Democratic Party, still hope to win the mullahs into their camp and pull them out of the Chinese-Russian camp," he remarked.

"The mullahs of Iran are still dreaming of establishing the Great Persian Empire, and for the sake of this goal they are not averse to harnessing all efforts and funds to reach this goal, even if they are forced to be patient." — Mohamed al-Sheikh, Al Jazirah, March 5, 2021.

Former Egyptian diplomat Amr Helmy lashed out at the Biden administration for "dropping" most of the 12 conditions... set for returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran. The conditions ... require Iran... to stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing, provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with unqualified access to all its sites, end its proliferation of ballistic missiles, halt support to Middle East terrorist groups and end its threatening behavior against its neighbors.

"US begging for negotiations [with Iran] will lead to more Iranian intransigence and promote its extremism," [Egyptian political analyst Dr. Tarek] Fahmi said. He warned that the US would be the "biggest loser" if Iran is allowed to continue with its maneuvers and threats against the security of the region. — Al-Ain, March 4, 2021.

Significantly, such voices seem to be shared by a large number of Arabs in different Arab countries – not only the Gulf states.
Iran fired missile at Israeli ship in Arabian Sea - report
An Iranian missile was fired at an Israeli ship in the Arabian Sea, hitting and damaging it, N12 reported Thursday. The container ship is owned by an Israeli businessman and was making its way to Tanzania from India, N12 reported. As the ship sailed between Indian and Oman, it was hit by a missile that damaged it, according to N12. The incident was reported to Israeli security officials and to the company's owners. The ship will continue on its path to India, where the damage will be assessed. Israeli security officials are examining the possible implications of the incident and estimate that it could mean Iran intends to attack more Israeli ships, according to N12.
Lawmakers Investigate State Department Over $1 Billion Ransom Payment to Iran
Republican foreign policy leaders in Congress are pressing Secretary of State Antony Blinken to fully disclose the contents of secret talks with South Korea that are believed to have paved the way for that country to hand Iran $1 billion as part of a ransom payment.

Reps. Bryan Steil (R., Wis.), Jim Banks (R., Ind.), and Greg Steube (R., Fla.) say the State Department is withholding from Congress key details about the Biden administration's reported efforts to help South Korea skirt economic sanctions and pay Iran the billion-dollar ransom, which came after Tehran seized a South Korean tanker and its crew in January. Blinken dodged several questions on the matter when testifying earlier this month before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, prompting the lawmakers to launch a formal probe seeking answers.

In a letter sent Thursday to Blinken and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, the lawmakers demand the State Department answer questions about whether it waived sanctions to enable the payment and took part in negotiations aimed at securing the cash for Iran. The lawmakers suspect the administration helped free the money—frozen abroad as a result of U.S. sanctions—as part of its efforts to coax Iran into negotiating a revamped nuclear deal.

The probe signals mounting GOP frustration with the Biden State Department as it makes a series of concessions to Iran aimed at enticing it back to the bargaining table. The administration has already waived United Nations sanctions on Iran and removed a key terror designation on the Tehran-armed Houthi militia groups in Yemen, which continue to attack U.S. allies in the region.

As U.S.-Iran envoy Robert Malley seeks direct talks with Iran, Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees have been mostly left in the dark. Malley and other senior officials have not briefed them on their diplomatic efforts and have repeatedly dodged questions about the ransom payment, as well as other reported concessions, such as easing travel restrictions on Iranian officials. Republicans and many of their Democratic colleagues remain concerned the Biden administration will move forward with sanctions relief, despite public promises that this would not occur before Iran demonstrates a willingness to roll back its nuclear program.
Report: Iran Hiding Equipment to Build a Nuclear Bomb
Iran is hiding equipment from international officials that could enable it to build a nuclear bomb, according to a Monday report.

Unnamed Western intelligence officials told The Telegraph that they fear Iran is concealing essential parts and pumps for centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium to the weapons-grade level of 90 percent.

The machinery is allegedly hidden at secret sites run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the report said.

Iran denies its nuclear program has military goals, but has repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel and has said that it can enrich uranium to 90% quickly if it wants.

Tehran signed a deal with world powers that limited its nuclear program, including on weapons, in exchange for sanctions relief in 2015. It began breaching its commitments to the agreement after former US president Donald Trump left the deal and reimposed sanctions in 2018.

Since the US left the nuclear deal, Iran has walked away from the pact’s limitations on its stockpile of uranium and has begun enriching up 20%, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels.

Iran has been accused of hiding its nuclear activities from the international community, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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