Wednesday, March 31, 2021

03/31 Links Pt1: In return to pre-Trump norm, State Dept report refers to ‘occupied’ territories; IDF’s Point Man on Iran Says Israel ‘Definitely’ Has Capacity to Destroy Nuclear Program

From Ian:

Vic Rosenthal: The Invisible War
I’ve written before about the European Union’s intervention in Judea/Samaria, how our “friends” in Europe pour massive amounts of money into illegal Palestinian development in Area C – the part of the territory that is supposed to be under full Israeli control according to the Oslo Accords. Control of these areas is absolutely critical for the defense of the State of Israel, both against Palestinian terrorism and against invasion across our borders.

Area C had very few Arab residents, and contains virtually all of the Jewish communities outside the 1949 armistice lines. Although President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” encouraged Israel to extend Israeli law to much of this area, it did not happen – to a great extent because of the chaos brought about by successive elections, and PM Netanyahu’s preoccupation with his legal problems.

Palestinians and their supporters typically falsely accuse Israel of precisely the evil intentions that they themselves hold toward us, and this is no exception. One hears no end of talk of “creeping annexation,” in which Jewish settlements are said to be inexorably capturing “Palestinian land,” while Israel torpedoes attempts to reach a negotiated settlement to end “the occupation.” But the reality is precisely the opposite: the Palestinian Arabs are increasingly appropriating land and building illegal settlements in Area C.

Thanks to the ever-vigilant European-funded left-wing Israeli NGOs like B’Tselem and others, with the cooperation of Israel’s Supreme Court and other elements of the judicial system, there has been very little, if any, growth in the area occupied by Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria for decades. But Palestinian construction, agricultural development, and conversion of state land into what the courts will declare “private Palestinian land” is flourishing in Area C, paid for by money from Europe and Qatar.

The motivations of the EU, which has adopted the Palestinian cause as its own, are manifold. There is the influence of Europe’s growing Muslim population. There is the lingering effect of decades of Soviet anti-Israeli propaganda. There is the residual guilt over European colonialism (the European Left is wedded to the view that Israel is a colonial power), and of course over their cooperation with the Nazis. By equating Israel with the Nazis that they allowed (and sometimes helped) to murder the Jews of Europe, and then opposing us, they expiate their guilt.

But regardless of its causes, this is war, a war to conquer and occupy territory, and part of a long-time campaign to end Jewish sovereignty altogether. It is being fought with money and not guns, but ultimately it will come to that. It’s a war that doesn’t make headlines, and a war that’s invisible to most of our people and politicians. Our opponent is an axis that includes some of the richest nations in the world, who are allied with our bitterest enemies. And it appears that the new government of our formerly most important ally, the US, is sympathetic to their cause.

In return to pre-Trump norm, State Dept report refers to ‘occupied’ territories
In a partial return to a pre-Trump era norm, the US State Department’s annual report on human rights violations around the world published today refers to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as territories “occupied” by Israel.

However, the Biden administration does not go as far as to title the specific chapter in the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices “Israel and the Occupied Territories,” as had been the custom for decades until the Trump administration, led by former US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, pushed to have it altered to say “Israel” followed by a list of the disputed territories.

In the 2017 report, the chapter was titled “Israel, Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza. After then-US president Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the 2018 and 2019 reports dropped that territory from the section title.

The 2020 report — the first during the Biden administration — uses the same chapter label from the previous two years, “Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.”

In addition to changing the chapter title, the Trump-led State Department dropped almost every mention of occupation from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 annual reports. The 2016 report was published in the early months of Republican administration, while the more moderate Rex Tillerson was secretary of state and before Friedman began his stint as ambassador. The 2020 chapter states that it “covers the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem territories that Israel occupied during the June 1967 war.”
Debunking the Fake History of Palestine & Israel
Ever wondered where the Palestinians came from and when the term “Palestine” was first used to refer to the land of Israel? Find out on today’s show.

Experience the Aaronic Blessing live from the Western Wall during Passover. Get a tour of the Temple Mount with former Knesset Member and Rabbi Yehuda Glick during Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits.

Afterwards, Joshua and Luke dive into a hard-hitting segment on the real history of the land of Canaan. Who was here first, the Arab or the Jew? When do we first hear the term Palestinian and Palestine?

You might be surprised that “Palestinians” did not refer to Arabs in the 1940s and 1950s.

Want to equip yourself with the facts of the land of Israel and the history of her people? This show can do just that.

Rivlin urges unconventional alliances to enable formation of gov't
President Reuven Rivlin caused a political storm on Wednesday when he called upon the parties elected to the 24th Knesset to form alliances that are not considered normal.

Rivlin spoke at the President’s Residence after receiving the official results of the March 23 election from the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Supreme Court Judge Uzi Vogelman. The president said the ongoing political crisis had weakened Israeli democracy but would not defeat it.

“We are stronger than [the crisis], and Israeli society is stronger,” he said. “I hope our elected officials will be wise enough to listen to the people of Israel and hear their demand for unconventional alliances, cooperation between sectors and professional and dedicated work for all Israeli citizens.”

The Likud responded to Rivlin in the name of Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin (Likud) and two other Likud ministers, saying that “the president does not decide the results of the election, and it is forbidden for him to be a political player.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party said the president must give the mandate to form a government to whoever gets the most recommendations, as he and his predecessors have in the past.

The President’s Residence responded that the Likud reaction was disrespectful and should not have been said. The leaders of parties in the anti-Netanyahu bloc issued stronger criticism.

“The Likud’s attack on the president is further proof that there are two possibilities: either the continuation of Netanyahu’s rule and a savage attack on state institutions, or joining the bloc of change and replacing the government,” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said.

The Pinsker Centre PodCast: Israel and its Neighbours: a Security Assessmen?t?
In this week's episode, Peter, Eli and Tom discuss not only the sources of security threats facing Israel and the Middle East at large, but also the severity of these threats and theories for how they should addressed.

Israel has no planned approach, response to ICC, with 9 days to go
Senior ministers have not held a meeting to discuss and decide on Israel’s approach to the pending International Criminal Court investigation in the three weeks since receiving the official letter from The Hague announcing the probe, a senior government source said on Wednesday.

Jerusalem’s response to the ICC is due on April 9, a month after ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sent the letter notifying Israel that she is opening a war crimes investigation. The probe against Israel is expected to include 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, the riots at the Gaza border in 2018, and the settlement enterprise, including east Jerusalem. Among the senior officials who could be vulnerable to war crimes suits are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who was IDF chief of staff in 2014, and others, as well as hundreds of IDF officers.

Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, and has thus far had a policy of not cooperating with it. The Palestinian Authority, which the ICC recognizes as a member state, initiated Bensouda’s preliminary inquiry that led to the official investigation.

Ahead of the investigation’s official start, policy makers will need to decide whether to continue to ignore the ICC, saying the probe is not legitimate, or to work with the ICC. If the path of cooperation is chosen, there are different options for Israel, including opening its own investigations of war crimes accusations against soldiers. That would run the risk of legitimizing those claims, and it does not address the settlements issue.

The messages put out by Israelis officials thus far have mostly called the investigation illegitimate and focused on jurisdiction, pointing out that Israel has its own strong judiciary capable of trying soldiers who commit war crimes, if need be, and that the Palestinian Authority is not a state and therefore cannot legally be a member of the court. Netanyahu has called the probe antisemitic and said Jews have the right to live in their historic homeland.
Kosovo FM says country’s embassy staying in Jerusalem: ‘It’s a done deal’
Kosovo’s new foreign minister says she considers the opening of the country’s embassy in Jerusalem to be “a done deal.”

Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla was asked during an interview about the pressure Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put on Kosovo’s new government to reconsider the Balkan nation’s recent opening of an embassy in Jerusalem.

“I believe that the issue of our embassy in Israel is a done deal. Why is it a done deal? Because we cannot get involved in diplomatic adventures to reconsider an issue that already has ended,” Gervalla said during the Tuesday night interview with online news site

Gervalla said Kosovo wants to strengthen ties with Israel but also wants to have “a good friendship, good ties with Palestinian authorities.”

Kosovo established diplomatic ties with Israel on February 1, and earlier this month became the first European country and the first Muslim-majority one to establish an embassy in the western part of Jerusalem.

The moves followed a White House summit Kosovo’s former prime minister, Avdullah Hoti, attended in September with then-US president Donald Trump and Serbian President Aleksander Vucic.

The United States and Guatemala are the only other countries with embassies in Jerusalem. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed, as the capital of a future state. Most nations have their Israel embassies in Tel Aviv.

Marwan Barghouti to Run Against Mahmoud Abbas’ Faction on Separate Ticket
Convicted Palestinian arch-terrorist Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences for his involvement in deadly terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada, will run his own list of candidates against members of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.

The development came one day before the candidate deadline expired on March 31. Barghouti, who has reportedly mulled his entry into Palestinian politics for months, could pose a serious threat to Abbas’ hold on power in Ramallah.

Barghouti’s wife, attorney Fadwa Barghouti, said that the new list will include more Fatah activists who wish to break away from the party’s line, as well as other independent candidates.

His brother, Muqbil, told Qatar-based Al-Araby TV that the decision was made after Abbas’ Fatah party failed to honor previous agreements.

“The decision came after it was confirmed to Marwan Barghouti that the Fatah movement did not comply with what was agreed upon with regard to choosing the names on the movement’s list,” he said.

Sources close to Barghouti said that his independent list could be a prelude to a presidential bid, as well. The Palestinian Authority holds separate elections for its legislature and president. The upcoming Palestinian legislative elections, the first to be held in the West Bank and Gaza in 15 years, are scheduled for May 22, while presidential elections are scheduled for July 31.
EU: Israel not granting visas to its delegation on Palestinian elections
Israel has yet to grant visas for a preliminary European Union delegation that wants to prepare for its representatives to observe the Palestinian legislative council election scheduled for May 22 and as a result its observers may not be able to participate fully in the event, the EU said.

“The delay has considerably reduced the EU option to observe the 22 May legislative elections,” the EU Representative Office in Jerusalem said. The Foreign Ministry said it was not commenting on the matter.

The Palestinian Authority’s Central Elections Commission had asked the EU to observe the elections already in January. It had similarly observed the 2006 elections.

“On 8 February 2021, in light of current and ongoing travel restrictions and access limitations for nonresidents due to COVID-19, the European External Action Service sent a formal request to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting access for the EU exploratory mission via Israel to the Palestinian territory,” the EU said.

“Despite continuous contact with the Israeli authorities over the past five weeks, a reply granting access has yet to be received,” it added. “There is a long lead-time to prepare for such a complex operation as an Election Observation Mission. One of the prerequisites is the deployment of an EU exploratory mission several months before the elections to assess the situation,” the EU explained.

Are the warming ties between Turkey, Egypt a sign of shifting geopolitics?
Relations between the two regional rivals reached rock bottom following the 2013 overthrow of Egypt’s former Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, who was strongly backed by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Other disputes between them include the nearly decade-long war in Libya, which is now unwinding and where the two countries support opposing sides.

And in a sign that it wants to mend fences with Cairo, Ankara has pressed Egyptian opposition media based in Istanbul to "tone down” criticism of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Istanbul became a bastion for media outlets for Arab dissidents fleeing persecution from Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Libya following the 2011 Arab Spring protests.

Yusuf Erim, chief political analyst and editor-at-large for Turkish public broadcaster TRT, told The Media Line that the two regional powers have many shared interests.

“Egypt was, is and always will be very important to Turkey, and good relations are a top foreign policy priority for Ankara,” he said. Erim says that the hostile relations between the presidents of the two countries impacted official ties.

“Unfortunately, the bad relationship between Erdogan and Sisi had a trickle-down effect on the relationship and neither side was able to compartmentalize the freeze in relations since the 2013 coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi and saw Sisi come to power,” he said.

Even though diplomatic ties have been almost nonexistent, other essential cooperation has continued.

“Let’s not also forget that Turkey never cut off relations with Egypt, there was always communication at least on the intelligence level, and we are seeing that upgraded to the diplomatic level,” Erim said.

Erim also said that Turkey’s president “will put the interests of the citizens above his relationship with Sisi.”

He added that, with the changing geopolitical landscape in the region, this détente was inevitable.
Seth Frantzman: The UN is starving Syria and the US is calling them out - analysis
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on the UN Security Council to reauthorize the opening of three border crossings for humanitarian assistance to Syria.

He said the UN had allowed two of them to close, “unconscionably.”

The real story here is that several authoritarian regimes that back the Syrian government don’t want aid flowing into areas where the US has influence in eastern Syria, and also don’t want aid going through Turkey to Turkish-occupied northern Syria.

In essence the UN has been used as a tool to prop up the Syrian regime. This is in line with the general way the UN is exploited, and also is in line with the problematic nature of international law, which tends to view “states” as sacrosanct, not wanting to deal with “substate entities” or autonomous regions.

This means that when states break down or have a civil war, areas that may have long ago broken away from a central government have difficulty accessing international markets. Whether it is eastern Syria or Somaliland, this may be the case.

However, in other cases the UN is flexible and helps prop up substate entities such as its large infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank. This may depend on history or the whims of the powerful countries on the Security Council.

The issue in Syria, as in other conflicts historically, is that the US and others are divided. Russia supports the Syrian regime. The US has opposed the regime, and, through fighting ISIS, the US became influential in eastern Syria, where it backs the Syrian Democratic Forces.
US Announces More Than $596 Million in New Humanitarian Aid for Syria Crisis: Blinken
The United States will provide more than $596 million in new humanitarian aid to respond to the Syrian crisis, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.

The assistance is designed to help many of the estimated 13.4 million Syrians inside Syria, as well as 5.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, Blinken said in a statement.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced the aid during an international conference on supporting Syria, he said.

Thomas-Greenfield urged the international community to allow unhindered humanitarian access to all Syrians, including through cross-border aid. The U.N. Security Council in January 2020 allowed a six-year-long cross-border aid operation to continue from two places in Turkey, but dropped crossing points from Iraq and Jordan due to opposition by Russia and China.

Blinken said the re-authorization and expansion of the cross-border mandate in July is a US priority.
MEMRI: Ammar Al-Mousawi, Head Of Hizbullah Int'l Relations: We Are In Touch With All European Countries But Two; We Get Many American Requests To Meet With Us, Including By Former Officials
Ammar Al-Mousawi, head of international relations at Hizbullah said that Hizbullah cooperated closely with Russia in Syria, fighting terrorism and preventing the fall of the Al-Assad regime. He made these remarks in an interview with Al-Manar TV (Hizbulah-Lebanon) that aired on March 25, 2021. Al-Mousawi said that when the Russians decided to intervene in Russia, it was a watershed moment. He added that Russia and Hizbullah together defeated the "enterprise" led by the U.S., and the "Friends of Syria Group," which had used terrorism as a tool. Al-Mousawi said: "We had a 90% agreement [with the Russians] when the Syrian issue was discussed." He stated that Russia and Hizbullah cooperate as partners, and "everybody knows" that Hizbullah is present at Hmeimim Air Base, the main Russian base in Syria. Al-Mousawi continued to say that Hizbullah is in touch with all the countries in Europe besides Britain and the Netherlands, and even the Americans have unofficial contacts with them.

"We Have Always... Encouraged The Russian Side To Act In A More Serious Manner To Prevent The Fall Of The Syrian State... We And The Russians Have Had Joint Results... [In] Defeating Terrorism"

Ammar Al-Mousawi: "We all remember that Mr. Mikhail Bogdanov visited Beirut twice, and both times he met Hizbullah's Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah, and discussed with him issues of shared interest, or issues that were on the agenda back then. The relations have continued. Everybody knows that in Syria we have had great cooperation in fighting terrorism, and in preventing the fall of the Syrian state.

"We have always – even before Russia entered Syria – encouraged the Russian side to act in a more serious manner to prevent the fall of the Syrian state. I believe that it was a watershed moment when the Russians decided to intervene. We had cooperation in the fighting on the ground. We have fought terrorism side by side. There was coordination and joint forces...

"I believe that we and the Russians have had joint results – very important results that will go down in history. I'm not just talking about defeating terrorism, but also about defeating the enterprise that had used terrorism as a tool. This enterprise was led by the U.S. by means of what was named the 'Friends of Syria Group.'

"We have discussed the issue of Syria as part of a group of issues that were debated. I believe that even if we don't have 100% agreement [with the Russians], we had a 90% agreement when the Syrian issue was discussed.

"We cooperate as partners and everybody knows that we are even present in the Hmeimim Air Base, which is the main base of the Russian military in Syria. This is no secret. Our guiding principle is that what happened in Syria was a victory, and we should work to complete and boost this victory, so that it culminates in political gains.

"Today, There Are Two Or Three Countries In Europe With Which We Have No Contact[;] All The Rest Are In Touch And Meet With Us[;] Some Say 'Brother, Please Forgive Us... We Are Subjected To Pressure...'

"Today, there are two or three countries in Europe with which we have no contact. They designate us as terrorists..."
MEMRI: Article On Hizbullah Website: U.S. Ambassador To Lebanon Dorothy Shea Is A 'Wicked Witch' And The Representative Of Satan In Beirut
In a March 16 article on Hizbullah's website, Lebanese journalist Layla 'Amasha virulently attacked U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, describing her as a "wicked witch" and as "the ambassador of Satan in Beirut," who sows division in Lebanon, hatches poisonous plots against its people in the service of Israel, and casts "evil spells" – all this with the help of Lebanese politicians, activists and media figures who do her bidding. 'Amasha added that Shea's efforts are thwarted by the Lebanese resistance, i.e., Hizbullah, which stands like a solid mountain against her, and hoped that Shea will meet the fate of the wicked witches in children's stories, who end up crumbling, shattering or disappearing.

The following are translated excerpts from her article.[1]
"Among the images that linger in the minds of [our] youngsters after they watch animated series is the image of the wicked witch who lives in a mysterious castle and spreads evil and destruction wherever she goes. She conspires with anyone who may become an ingredient in her poisonous brews, and surrounds herself with a group of 'slaves' who automatically do her bidding. Sometimes she uses the media to cover her 'charity' activities and broadcast anything that helps to amplify her false spells. Her name changes from one story to the next, but the heinous and evil nature of her actions always serves to expose her identity, even if she dresses like a princess… or plays the role of a good and gentle old woman who hands out shiny red apples filled with poison or distributes masks during the Covid pandemic.

"It is not difficult to recognize the evil witch in the current series of Lebanese local news, for [U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon] Dorothy Shea, who lives in a den of evil in Beit Aaoukar [a town near Beirut where the U.S. embassy is located], is so famous she required no introduction – especially for whoever follows the television channels that constantly air her spells, cover her activity and spread her poison recipes on every media [platform] and in every news report.

"Dorothy Shea is currently directing the destruction of Lebanon with conspicuous activity and with the stubbornness of one who is willing to do anything she can in order to realize the goals of her country, for she has been the official ambassador of Satan in Beirut since 2020. Her predecessors were witches and sorcerers with similar traits, for the U.S. administration is careful to select, as its representatives in the Middle East, people with particular traits, chief among them the ability to sow division and a talent for managing local groups that emulate the Americans and using them to serve the Zionists on various levels.
UN Team Finds Houthis Launched Aden Airport Attack That Killed 22: Diplomats
An investigation by a UN team of experts found Yemen’s Houthis were responsible for a Dec. 30 attack on Aden airport that killed at least 22 people as members of the country’s internationally recognized government arrived, two diplomats familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The experts presented their report to the UN committee that oversees Yemen-related sanctions during closed consultations on Friday, but Russia blocked its wider release, the diplomats said. They asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Iran-aligned Houthis denied responsibility for the attack when it took place.

The diplomats did not elaborate on why Russia blocked the release of the findings. The Russian mission to the United Nations did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The report comes at a sensitive time for new US President Joe Biden as his administration and the United Nations press the Houthis to accept a peace initiative that includes a ceasefire.

Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni government have endorsed the initiative but the Houthis say it does not go far enough.

The Houthi movement, which controls most of Yemen’s north, has been fighting forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition in what is widely seen as a proxy war between Tehran and Riyadh.
IDF’s Point Man on Iran Says Israel ‘Definitely’ Has Capacity to Destroy Nuclear Program, Biden Administration ‘Keeping Its Promises’ So Far
The head of the IDF directorate tasked with dealing with the Iran nuclear issue said that the Biden administration largely sees the situation as Israel does, and is so far “keeping its promises.”

Maj. Gen. Tal Kalman, who heads the Strategy and Third-Circle Directorate and has participated in discussions with the Biden White House at the highest levels, told Israel Hayom that “the first stage is to be aligned with [the US] on the intelligence picture.”

“I think that in very high percentages they see the situation as we do,” he said.

Asked about Israel’s concern that many officials who negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently opposed, have returned to office, Kalman said, “It’s true that in some of the cases these are the same people, but it’s not the same administration.”

“So far, this administration is keeping its promises,” he asserted. “It has come to listen, not rush to a new deal.”

“So, I think there’s a space of a few months to try and influence the administration’s policy,” Kalman said. “Even the Americans are clearly saying they will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear capability. Now, the question is how to act in this situation.”

Israel’s position, he added, is “we’re saying ‘yes’ to a deal that will be longer and stronger” than the 2015 agreement.
EU Set to Sanction More Iranians for Rights Abuses, First Since 2013, Diplomats Say
The European Union is set to agree to sanction several Iranian individuals on Wednesday for human rights abuses, the first such measures since 2013, three EU diplomats said.

EU envoys are expected to agree to impose travel bans and asset freezes on the individuals, the diplomats said, and their names would be published next week, when the sanctions take effect. They gave no further details.

The European Union declined to comment.

Like the United States, the European Union has an array of sanctions over human rights since 2011 on more than 80 Iranian individuals which has been renewed annually every April. Those will also be renewed on Wednesday, the three diplomats said.

Asked why the latest measures were being taken now, one of the diplomats said the EU was seeking to take a tougher stance to uphold human rights. This month, the EU sanctioned 11 people from countries including China, North Korea, Libya and Russia.

“Those responsible for serious rights violations must know there are consequences,” an EU diplomat said.

The United Nations has regularly complained that Iran arrests political opponents in a clampdown on freedom of expression. On March 9, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, presented a report documenting Iran’s high death penalty rate, executions of juveniles, the use torture to coerce confessions and the lawful marriage of girls as young as 10 years old.