Friday, March 26, 2021

From Ian:

Dore Gold: Recalibrating the diplomacy of Middle East peace
THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY part of their proposals involve a recalibration of Palestinian national goals. They admit that chances of securing “hard” sovereignty,” on the basis of “full and complete control over land, borders and resources” is remote. They clearly have no use for the resolutions of the UN General Assembly that only reaffirm ideas based on the “self-defeating chimera of hard sovereignty.”

Their hope is that by moderating Palestinian goals in the direction of what they call “soft sovereignty,” other arrangements might become possible. They depart from the conventional notion of a two state solution but rather look to multilateral arrangements, such as a trilateral model for the West Bank.

The Abraham Accords open up a whole new model for discussing alternative solutions. It would not be far-fetched for Abu Dhabi to sponsor a discussion among relevant players about how federalism has worked for them in the United Arab Emirates. Federalism could be exactly the framework for the soft sovereignty that Agha and Khalidi propose.

What Agha and Khalidi don’t consider is how strategic military factors could shape this discussion. The Gulf states could embrace their model if they were persuaded it could affect the Iranian issue. Years ago, a Palestinian leader commented that when the US fully pulls out from Iraq, the new border between Iran and the Arab world will be the Jordanian-Iraqi border.

But he wondered whether Jordan had sufficient critical mass to block Iranian expansionism by itself. Jordan, in his analysis, would find itself in the position of postwar Germany facing masses of Soviet armor. Only it would have no NATO to back it up.

Given the growing role of pro-Iranian militias today in Iraq, the need to have a regional arrangement once the US goes has grown. If the Palestinians found their place in such an arrangement, undoubtedly the Gulf states would have a greater propensity to work with them in new federal schemes – diplomatically, financially and otherwise.

Agha and Khalidi’s important statement opens the door for a new political discourse in the Middle East. It can only be hoped that their path to a new political realism is seriously considered and not obliterated by those still clinging to worn-out concepts that plainly have not worked in the past.
Pollard: 'I don't regret helping my people and my land'
Q: Looking back, do you regret what you did?

Pollard says he thinks about that a lot but asks what he should regret – helping his people and his land? He says that at his synagogue, there were two flags: a US one and an Israeli one. "That's how I was raised."

Pollard says he does regret not being "more effective," and he regrets that the Israeli government treated him the way that it did, and that the American government used him as a "weapon" against Israel.

But he is not sorry for working for his people and his homeland. He says that given the information he had, he had no other choice. Israel was supposed to have received the intelligence from the US according to an agreement that was in place, but when Israel asked for it, the US said it didn't exist.

Pollard says that denying its existence was "much worse" than not handing it over.

The intelligence was "so critical to our existence," he says. It was intelligence that would win a war and something that could not be neglected.

Esther says, "The gas masks. I like to use this example because it's the easiest for people to understand. Before we had gas masks and chemical antidotes and secure rooms and sealed rooms, we were building bomb shelters, how did we suddenly know to start building bomb shelters and to start getting gas masks and chemical antidotes?

"Because Israel did not want to acknowledge Jonathan, they kept this very quiet. Nobody ever officially explained how we suddenly have gas masks or how we suddenly have security rooms. And if you go in the Education Ministry, and you go into the library and try to find [the] information they teach children in classrooms, there's not a word about him," she says.

Pollard: "There was an incident where Israeli defense officials came through the Pentagon and asked about a certain facility in Iraq that they heard was producing poison gas during the Iran-Iraq war. The Americans told them it didn't exist. We didn't have a satellite at the time, we weren't flying, because it was a war, we weren't flying Phantoms, RFEs over Iraq at the time. Okay, so you trust the Americans. So I was asked to find out before the delegation left. So I found out."

Pollard said he went to the safe house. "I walked in, and my team was standing there, there were three people standing there. A nice big floor. I asked them to move the furniture and I started pulling out evidence at putting it down. It covered the entire floor.

"Yossi Yagur looked at me, I'll never forget this as long as I live, looked at me and said, 'Jonathan, it's sometimes better to deal with reliable enemies than unreliable friends. We were told this doesn't exist.' I said, 'Well, you were lied to.'"

JCPA: The Palestinian Authority’s Financial Support for Terrorism Circumvents U.S. and Israeli Law
The Palestinian government has decided to pay grants to terrorists and their families through the Palestinian postal banks to circumvent the Israeli prohibition on West Bank commercial banks’ involvement in terrorism-related activity.

Israel and the U.S. Congress see these payments as rewards and incentives to terrorists.

The “Cat and Mouse” game continues as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas challenges Israel’s regulations with impunity and takes advantage of Israel’s reluctance to destabilize his rule.

The struggle between Israel and the Palestinians over the payment of grants to terrorists and the families of “shahids [martyrs]” entered a new phase after the Palestinian government decided to pay the funds through postal banks to some 12,000 families. The PA’s postal banks are not considered “banking institutions.”

The Palestinian government’s action came after the West Bank commercial banks shut the accounts of the terrorists and the families of the “shahids” and the wounded following an order issued by the IDF Central Command threatening to impose penalties on any bank that transfers funds to those accounts.

Amendment 67 of the military order issued by the commander of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan, stipulates that banks through which salaries are transferred violate the “Terrorism Law.” The order also warned bank managers operating within the PA that they and their employees will be considered criminal accomplices if they continue to manage accounts of Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel because it “supports, promotes, funds or rewards” terrorism, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

The PA’s Chairman of the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, said that the salaries of the security prisoners in Israeli jails for March would be paid early in April through the post offices in the West Bank until automated teller machines (ATMs) are established from which the salaries can be withdrawn with a “smart” card. The Palestinian Ministry of Communications and Technology has already begun to install a network of ATMs in branches of the postal bank in the West Bank.

The Truth About Palestinian Fatalities in the 2014 Hamas-Israel Confrontation
Whether or not Israel cooperates with a judicial team from the International Criminal Court, there is now likely to be renewed focus on the confrontation between Israel and Hamas that lasted from July 8 to August 26, 2014. Two issues in particular should come to the fore: the number of Palestinian casualties and the breakdown between civilian and terrorist fatalities.

According to both IDF and Palestinian sources, there were at least 2,000 Palestinian fatalities in the 50-day confrontation. There are grounds, however, to dispute this figure.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there were 4,609 deaths in Gaza in 2013, or a monthly average of 430 deaths. In the following year, when the confrontation took place, 6,774 deaths were registered, an unprecedented increase of 2,165 deaths that ostensibly could be attributed the conflict. As it occurred over 50 days, deaths during the period appear to have occurred at nearly triple the natural incidence of monthly deaths in the Gaza Strip.

This high death rate prompts some questions.

Given the great expense of maintaining morgues, even the most advanced states in the world do not sustain surplus space in case of emergency. This means that when a considerable increase in fatalities occurs — from, say, 13 to 40 deaths a day — there should be scenes of overflowing morgues and a vast increase in burial activity at cemeteries. The phenomena are interconnected, in that a lack of morgue space calls for quick burial to avoid the spread of disease. Quick burial is also an Islamic religious obligation in a traditional religious society such as the Gaza Strip.

One can safely assume that had these scenes occurred, they would have been exploited by the well-oiled propaganda organs sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, such as the vast array of Palestinian “human rights” organizations, the UN’s OCHA, anti-Israel media such as Al Jazeera, and of course Hamas, Fatah, the PA, and the many media organs they finance and control.
Anne Bayefsky: Why is Biden indifferent to a UN celebration of anti-Semitism?
At the U.N. Human Rights Council last Friday, Americans learned something important about the Biden administration’s views on combating racism and xenophobia. Paradoxically, equality for the many is to be built on the inequality of the Jewish few. Abandoning 20 years of strong bipartisan concern about anti-Semitism, President Joe Biden’s State Department took the lead in embracing the U.N. hate-fest held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

The “Durban Declaration,” adopted three days before 9/11, encourages the hatred of Jews. It is the 21st-century reincarnation of the infamous 1975 U.N. General Assembly “Zionism is Racism” resolution. Israel is the only state mentioned in the entire global manifesto, which claims that Palestinians are “victims” of Israeli racism. Actually, it is Palestinian Arabs who reject peaceful cohabitation with Jews, insist on a state without Jews and officially reward Palestinians who kill Jews.

The racist “anti-racism” conference that produced the declaration featured disturbing scenes of overt, violent anti-Semitism. The American delegation, led by Hungarian Holocaust survivor and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), walked out of the reprehensible governmental conference, together with Israel, fully supported by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

That was America’s response to Jew-hatred in 2001, and it was repeated in the years following.

The United States and others boycotted successive attempts to resuscitate Durban: “Durban II” (the “Durban Review Conference”) held in Geneva in 2009, and Durban III, a 10th-anniversary summit in New York in 2011. Both events “reaffirmed” the original Durban Declaration. At Durban II, the United Nations handed Holocaust-denier and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a microphone to open the conference. Which he did with these words: “The word Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religion and abuses religious sentiments to hide their hatred and ugly faces.”

First woman appointed as artillery fire commander for Givati Brigade
The IDF's Artillery Corps appointed Major Chen Hamra as commander of a unit that provides fire support for infantry units on Thursday, making her the first woman to serve in the position.

The appointment came following a discussion led by the Chief Artillery Officer, who promoted Hamra to her new role after previously serving as Deputy Commander of the 405th Battalion in the 282nd Brigade.

In her new role, Hamra will be responsible for providing artillery support for the Givati infantry Brigade when it maneuvers in enemy territory in future conflicts.

In response to the appointment, Lt. Col. Elchai Cohen remarked on Hamra's professionalism and strengths, saying in a statement on Twitter that 'Chen is an excellent officer with impressive abilities. I'm very happy about the appointment because she deserves it and she's the right woman in the right place. "
How the IDF invented 'Roof Knocking', the tactic that saves lives in Gaza
December 2008 was the turning point. After a year of incessant rocket fire, the Israeli government decided enough was enough. It was time to go back into the Gaza Strip and do everything possible to take down Hamas.

While a ceasefire had been in effect for six months, sporadic rocket fire – Kassams and mortars – continued to rain down on Israel. Nevertheless, the government had initially preferred quiet. The situation was tenuous but the residents of the South were, for the first time in years, able to leave their homes with some measure of safety. The government wasn’t going to put that at risk so quickly.

In November, though, the calculation changed. The IDF received intelligence that Hamas was digging a terror tunnel across the border into Israel similar to the one that had been used two-and-a-half years earlier to kidnap Gilad Schalit, a soldier in the Armored Corps. Schalit was still being held by Hamas somewhere in Gaza and the IDF decided that the “ticking tunnel” – as it was being called – had to be destroyed.

An elite IDF force from the Paratroopers’ Brigade was sent across the border near the home under which the tunnel was being dug. In a subsequent firefight, a few Palestinian gunmen were killed. At one point, a large bomb went off in the home, bringing down the structure and collapsing the tunnel.

The Hamas response and rocket onslaught was immediate. Dozens of Kassams, Katyushas and mortar shells pounded the South, reaching as far as Ashdod. A rocket attack led to an Israeli Air Force bombing and then more rockets and more airstrikes. By mid-December the truce – tahdiya in Arabic – had completely fallen apart.

Only a handful of people knew that at the same time as Israeli diplomats were trying to salvage the ceasefire with Egyptian assistance, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IAF were busy building a bank of Hamas targets – headquarters, arms caches, command posts, tunnel openings and rocket launchers. Homes, schools, hospitals, mosques – everything was being used by Hamas to hide their weapons and everything was being added to the IDF list.
Israel Prepares Offer of Emergency Oxygen Supplies to Meet Shortage in Lebanon
Israeli Health Ministry Director General Hezi Levy has ordered his staff to prepare for the possibility of sending oxygen machines to Lebanon, Channel 13 reported Thursday, due to the severe shortage of medical equipment for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

The news came as Eitan Dangot, former chief Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), suggested that the Jewish state offer the supplies to Lebanon via the United Nations, even if it was not accepted.

“Lebanon is in need of oxygen balloons — Israel will be wise and just if it offers through the UN to deliver oxygen balloons as a tribute and for purposes of humanitarian aid,” retired IDF major-general Dangot wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

“The proposal is likely to be rejected, but it is a signal to its citizens, to the sane political echelon, to France and the United States that Lebanon can be helped in many ways with reasonable policy changes to build public confidence and to differentiate and isolate [Lebanese terror group] Hezbollah,” he wrote. Dangot has in the past served as Military Secretary to three of Israel’s Defense Ministers: Shaul Mofaz, Amir Peretz and Ehud Barak.

Reuters has reported that Syria has agreed to offer emergency oxygen supplies to Lebanon, where hospitals have 1,000 patients on respirators and are about to run out, ministers in both countries said Wednesday. According to the report, Syria will provide over 82 tons of oxygen over three days, health minister Hassan al-Ghobash told the state news agency SANA.
The End of PLO Political Hegemony in the West Bank
When Palestinian elections were first discussed, the spotlight immediately turned to the struggle between Fatah and Hamas, and the fear that under cover of the elections, Hamas would infiltrate the West Bank. But it soon became clear that the story was not Fatah against Hamas, but Fatah against Fatah.

What is at the root of the Fatah problem? Actually, there are two competing Fatahs.

The first consists of the PLO leadership of the “exile,” with its old roots in today’s Israel, for whom the formative event was the 1948 Nakba. What matters to them is the “right of return” to pre-1967 Israel. Most of them moved to the Palestinian territories after Israel’s withdrawals in the wake of the 1994 Oslo Accords, where they established the Muqata, Arafat’s administrative center in Ramallah. Their primary audiences were the residents of refugee camps in Arab countries, largely in Lebanon.

The second is made up of the Palestinians in the West Bank, who have little or no attachment to the Nakba; what they want is the stabilization of their lives in the West Bank. Until the appearance of the “Tunisian leaders” of the PLO, the Nakba issue was hardly mentioned by Palestinian residents in the West Bank. The Nakba gained momentum when the PLO entered the territories, and the famous statues of “keys to the homes they abandoned” began to show up everywhere. This is the ethos of the Tunisians and the bureaucrats in Ramallah, where the PLO veterans landed, not the residents of Nablus, Bethlehem, and Hebron.
Report: Head of Israel’s Security Service Warned Abbas Not to Run or Form Government With Hamas in Upcoming PA Elections
The head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas not to run or form a government with Hamas in the upcoming PA elections, Axios reported Wednesday.

According to the report, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman met with Abbas in Ramallah to urge him not to collaborate with Hamas out of concern in the Israeli security establishment that the Islamist terrorist group may exploit electoral success to take over the West Bank, as it did in Gaza.

Palestinian officials have claimed Argaman told Abbas to cancel the scheduled May 22 elections, but that Abbas refused.

Israeli officials have denied this, but said that Argaman did tell Abbas that a government that included Hamas would cause a serious crisis in PA-Israel relations.

Israeli sources also said that the White House is apparently unconcerned about the elections, and “didn’t give the Palestinians any negative signals about it.”

The US administration has yet to announce its stance on the elections and it has not even been discussed at senior levels, sources said.

According to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Abbas’ Fatah party is leading Hamas 38% to 22%, but 57% of Palestinians want Abbas to step down rather than run for president again.

At least 32 killed, 66 injured when two trains collide in Egypt
At least 32 people were killed and 66 injured Friday when two trains collided in southern Egypt, the health ministry said, the latest deadly rail accident to hit the country.

A statement said dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene in the Tahta district of Sohag province, some 460 kilometers (285 miles) south of the capital Cairo.

“32 people were killed and 66 injured” and transported to the hospital, the statement said.

Video footage seen by AFP showed several carriages overturned.

Egypt has been plagued with deadly train accidents in recent years that have been widely blamed on inadequate infrastructure and poor maintenance.

One of the deadliest occurred in 2002 when 373 people died as a fire ripped through a crowded train south of Cairo, and there have been many fatal crashes since.
Man convicted then acquitted in Daniel Pearl killing to leave Pakistan prison
A British-born man sentenced to death for the murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl was ordered to be let out of prison Thursday by Pakistan’s Supreme Court in the latest twist to a legal saga spanning nearly two decades.

The court said, however, that Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh should remain in custody in accommodation similar to that given to prison staff while another appeal is considered.

Sheikh and three accomplices have been behind bars since 2002 when they were convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Pearl — at the time the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal.

Since then they have won and lost a series of appeals and counter-appeals in connection with the case, with a top court last year overturning their murder convictions.

That decision meant they had completed their sentences on the kidnapping charge, and the court in January ordered them to be released.

They were kept in custody, however, as the provincial and federal governments — as well as Pearl’s family — launched another petition to keep them behind bars.

On Thursday, the court said they should be confined to prison staff accommodation during the process.

“We are not satisfied with the continuous detention of this person,” Justice Umar Ata Bandial told the court.

“The detainee Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh shall be accommodated in a government building in which officers of jail reside.”

Head of Iran’s Olympics implicated in murder of prisoners via torture
Iranian dissidents accused the Islamic Republic of Iran’s National Olympic Committee chairman, Seyed Reza Salehi, of killing Kurdish and Azerbaijani political prisoners via torture while he served as an intelligence officer.

“Is the Olympics aware that there are horrific reports about Seyed Reza Salehi, the president of the NOC of Iran? During his time as senior director at the ministry of intelligence, he went by the name of Seyed Reza Fallah and was involved in the torture and murder of prisoners,” tweeted Sardar Pashaei, the former head coach of Iran’s Greco-Roman team and a world gold medalist in Greco-Roman wrestling, last week.

Pashaei added that “We, the Iranian athletes, call on the Olympics to ban the entry of the President of the Iranian NOC from attending the Tokyo 2020 because of his security record in the Ministry of Intelligence. He has arrested and tortured many opponents of the Iranian regime.” The former Greco-Roman wrestling coach lives in the US and is part of the United for Navid campaign named after Navid Afkari who was executed by Iran's regime in September, 2020. Elite Iranian athletes from United for Navid have urged the International Olympics Committee to pull the plug on the Iranian regime’s participation because of its extrajudicial killing of Afkari for his 2018 protest against regime corruption.

In a 2018 Persian language article by Pedram Ghaemi on the website of IranWire, he reported on a Voice of America TV broadcast in which an Iranian regime historian named Abdollah Shahbazi told someone close to the administration of then-president Mohammad Khatami that Ebad (Ali Rabei) told him about the suffocation of Azerbaijanis in coffins. Ali Rabei, who used the name Ebad while an intelligence official, worked with Salehi.


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