Friday, April 02, 2021

From Ian:

NYPD Nabs Assailant Behind Shocking Knife Assault on Jewish Family in Battery Park
Police in New York City have arrested a 30-year-old man for a shocking knife attack on a young Orthodox Jewish couple and their baby in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park.

Darryl Jones was taken into custody on Wednesday night and charged with assault, possession of a weapon and possession of the K2 drug. Jones has 12 prior convictions and was released from his latest prison sentence only in February, after serving time for attempted murder.

The attack occurred just before 6 p.m. Wednesday. Video showed Jones running up behind the couple, who were pushing their baby in a stroller through the park. Wielding a knife, Jones slashed at the mother and then the baby, before grappling with the father, who fought off Jones as his wife ran away from the scene with their child.

The unnamed family — visiting New York from their home in Belgium for the Passover holiday this week — were not seriously hurt, but the mother and father both sustained knife cuts to the face, head and lips, while the baby was cut on the chin.

One eyewitness to the attack praised the father’s courage during the attack, observing that his actions had likely prevented an even worse tragedy.

The father had managed to bend the blade of Jones’ knife as the two fought, the witness told the Orthodox Jewish news outlet Hamodia.

“He is a hero, that young guy,” the witness said. “He fought off the thug.”

Girls spit at Jewish man in Brooklyn, bite cop
Some three young girls spat at a Jewish man in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn before biting a cop who confronted them on Thursday, according to the New York Post.

The three, a 13-year-old and two girls younger than her, threw garbage and spat at the Jewish man during an argument on Thursday evening. Police were called to scene and, when officers confronted the girls, the 13-year-old bit one of them and was taken into custody, according to the report.

The other two girls were not detained and the officer suffered minor injuries, according to police.

Alan Baker: Biden's Israeli-Palestinian reset is premature, ill-advised
There can be no genuine and bona fide reset if the Palestinian support and encouragement of the BDS campaign against Israel’s economic, cultural, and political integrity is allowed to continue and to develop.

There can certainly be no genuine and bona fide reset on the administration’s approach to Palestinian-Israeli peace process if the Palestinian leadership is allowed – and even encouraged to continue in its efforts to undermine that process – by undermining Israel’s legitimacy and that of its leadership, as well as through its cynical manipulation of the ICC with numerous allegations of war crimes.

In fact, the Palestinian leadership is openly continuing to poke a finger in the eye of the administration by its continued abuse and manipulation of the ICC by turning it into its own “back-yard” Israel-bashing tribunal.

To reset the US approach to the Israel-Palestinian peace process without requiring the Palestinian leadership to cease their “pay-for-slay” policy of paying salaries to terrorists and their families, is tantamount to closing a blind eye to such payments and ignoring valid US legislation.

To reset Washington’s approach to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process by reopening Palestinian diplomatic offices in the US and the American consulate in Jerusalem, as well as by restoring US financial assistance for the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, and other programs for the Palestinians, without exacting the appropriate substantive quid pro quo from the Palestinian leadership, will not reset the peace process.

To the contrary, it will rather place that process into a mode of acute regression, by giving a green light and encouraging the Palestinians to continue their intransigence, their inflexibility and obstruction. It will send a signal to blatantly violate their commitments in the Oslo Accords.

Restoration of financial aid to the Palestinians without requiring them to cease their attempts to undermine Israel’s legitimacy, and without demanding that they cease their actions against Israel in the International Criminal Court, is misguided and ill-advised.

It signals to them that they can freely advance their policies of bypassing and undermining any possible chance to reengage with Israel in a meaningful and genuine negotiation process. This will mean they put through initiatives in the UN and other bodies aimed at prejudicing Israel’s international standing.

This ill-advised and misguided reset will be interpreted by the Palestinian leadership as support and encouragement by the US in their determination to continue undermining and attempting to nullify Israel’s Jewish historic and religious heritage and sacred sites.

One wonders why this new US administration is so intent on coddling the Palestinians, without exacting the appropriate, necessary and obvious price for such coddling.
Biden is sour on Israel-Gulf peace while chasing Iran deal - opinion
So, to entice the Iranians, the Biden administration has been pulling away from all these emphases. It steers clear of the “Abrahamic” moniker. It does not speak loudly about Iran as a strategic danger, nor does it openly promote regional alliances against Iran. The administration has not actively and intensely pursued additional Arab-Israeli peace agreements, as far as I can tell. (There is, for example, no special US envoy for this purpose; certainly, nothing on the level of a Jared Kushner).

Even more pointedly, the administration has suspended for “review” the goodies promised to Arab countries making peace with Israel, such as sale of F-35 jets to the Emirates and US recognition of the Western Sahara as sovereign Moroccan territory.

The US also has started beating up on Saudi Arabia and Egypt for their human rights records (while being silent on Iran’s more egregious human rights violations). It has ended US support for Saudi Arabia’s war against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen (a war that has enormous strategic implications). It again has begun using the term “occupied territories” regarding the West Bank. (See annual State Department report on human rights worldwide, released this week).

All this, once again, to curry favor with Iran and signal Washington’s willingness to cut Tehran a soft deal as quickly as possible. (Fortunately for Israel and for the long-term security of the West, Iran is not jumping at the bait).

The Biden administration’s behavior casts a pall over the Abraham Accords, and engenders doubt that the “Abrahamic narrative” can grow beyond its current contours.

Why should the Saudis, for example, take another step toward Israel if Washington looks upon this with disfavor (again, because it would anger the Iranians)?

Why should the Omanis upgrade their relationship with Israel if Israeli leaders cannot help broker better ties for Muscat in Washington?

Why should the Indonesians make a breakthrough normalization agreement with Israel if the Biden administration is not truly on board enthusiastically?

And what will become of the genuine discourse of religious moderation and broad-mindedness that lies underneath the Emirati and Bahraini pursuit of peace with Israel?

How can it grow beyond these countries to other Arab states when the world’s leading promoter (supposedly) of democracy and religious tolerance places little premium on these values in its foreign policy, and instead seems to be running helter-skelter into another evil deal with the ayatollahs of radical Islamist and hegemonic Iran?

USAID Failed to Ensure Palestinian Aid Dollars Kept from Terrorists, GAO Says
The United States Agency for International Development is downplaying the significance of a recent government oversight report highlighting the agency’s failure to ensure that taxpayer aid dollars sent to the Palestinian government did not ultimately make their way to terrorists.

The Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog group, recently cited USAID over its failure to certify from 2015 to 2019 that taxpayer funds did not benefit organizations tied to terrorism. While the agency did check its primary grantees for terrorism ties, it "did not consistently ensure" that awards these entities made to others, known as subawards, were compliant with "antiterrorism requirements," according to the GAO’s findings.

The disclosure comes amid a larger debate about the Biden administration’s decision to restart aid to the Palestinian government. The State Department announced last week that it is giving $15 million to the Palestinians to help combat the coronavirus pandemic. A Wednesday Associated Press report claims the administration quietly approved another $75 million in aid already set to be disbursed by USAID.

Congressional Republicans oppose a restart in Palestinian aid, which was frozen by former president Donald Trump, and the watchdog’s latest findings are likely to add fuel to these calls. The Palestinian government is known to use international dollars on a program known as "pay-to-slay," in which donor funds are spent caring for terrorists and their families. The State Department recently informed Congress in a private report that the Palestinians spent at least $151 million in 2019 on that program. There are also concerns that the resumption in aid violates a bipartisan 2018 law called the Taylor Force Act, which bars the federal government from providing the Palestinians with aid until they officially end the "pay-to-slay" program.

USAID downplayed the GAO’s findings in comments to the Washington Free Beacon, saying it is already implementing a series of reforms meant to ensure that taxpayer dollars do not reach terrorists.

"We are already taking steps to increase oversight of subawardees in the future," a USAID spokesman said, adding that the GAO "found no cases of USAID funding to parties who failed vetting."

As new aid money begins to flow, USAID’s Mission at the West Bank and Gaza will conduct compliance reviews for all prime and subawardees "within the first 18 months of program implementation," the spokesman said.
US removes Gulf air defense batteries amid Houthi drone strikes - report
The US has removed at least three Patriot antimissile batteries from the Gulf region, despite recent waves of Houthi drone and missile strikes against targets in Saudi Arabia, as part of a move to shift military capabilities from the Middle East, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

In addition to the Patriot batteries, an aircraft carrier and surveillance systems are also being moved to other locations to answer military needs elsewhere, with additional reductions under consideration, US officials told The Wall Street Journal.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense system was also proposed for removal, but is currently set to remain in the region, the officials added.

The withdrawals are part of the early stages of an attempt by the Biden administration to further reduce the US's presence in the Middle East, according to the report. Some equipment may be redeployed to focus on China and Russia instead.

Despite the withdrawals, a Pentagon team is looking into equipment and training that can be shared with Saudi Arabia to help them protect itself from missile, rocket and drone attacks from Iranian-backed forces in Yemen and Iraq.
Happy 10th birthday Iron Dome
In 2011, Israel’s brand new Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted its very first rocket fired from Gaza, high above the country’s battered south.

The all too familiar screeching whistle of the rocket siren was heard in Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot.

But this time, instead of people fleeing to their reinforced rooms in a panicked wave, everyone excitedly stepped onto their balconies to watch the light show that was the Iron Dome in action.

People clapped and cheered at the sight of the system’s first successful interception. Pride swelled in the chests of Israelis who knew that reality in the country would forever be changed.

Despite the south's newly found euphoria, many around Israel believed that this multi-million dollar system - whose missiles are priced at tens of thousands of shekels apiece - was nothing less then an overkill response to the ramshackle rockets cobbled together in Gaza’s dilapidated scrapyards.

That notion was a mistake. Iron Dome is one of the best things to happen to the communities adjacent the Gaza Strip in particular and the south as a whole. The fighters operating the system are seen as nothing less than family in every household in southern Israel.

The very deployment of the system both changed life in the south and signaled that Israel’s leaders finally understood the country’s home front had to be protected by any means.

It served as a stepping stone for the deployment of additional protective means in the south, such as the new and technologically advanced fence along the Gaza Strip border.
Caroline Glick: The Israeli NeverNetanyahu Right's Moment of Truth
A month before Israel's March 21 general elections, I argued in Newsweek that they would likely result in continued political paralysis. Last week's election was Israel's fourth election for its parliament—the Knesset—since April 2019. Based on the polls, I argued that nothing changed—those late March elections would lead again to a stalemate and force the country into a fifth election in August 2021.

Alas, the election results bore out my assessment. The ruling Likud party, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, received 30 seats in Israel's 120-seat Knesset. Together with its natural partners on the political Right, the Likud-led bloc is two seats shy of a 61-seat governing majority to form a government.

Netanyahu's chief opponent, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who leads the center-left Yesh Atid party, won a mere 17 seats. The three other center-left and hard-left parties—Yesh Atid's natural coalition partners—won another 21 seats between them, giving 38 seats to the center-left bloc.

As these results make clear, the reason Israel has been stuck in a political stalemate for two years is not because Israel's political Left is equally as popular as its Right. The reason for the deadlock is that two center-right parties, which together won 13 seats, are led by politicians driven mainly by their personal hatred for Netanyahu. Both the New Hope party, formed last December by former Likud Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, and the Yisrael Beiteinu party, led by Netanyahu's former chief of staff and former Defense and Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, ran on platforms devoid of content beyond sheer personal hatred of Netanyahu.

Another rightist party, Yamina, led by Naftali Bennett, who also served as Netanyahu's chief of staff and as defense and education minister, has not formally broken ranks with Netanyahu to join the NeverNetanyahu forces. But Bennett ran an anti-Netanyahu campaign and has positioned himself as the kingmaker in today's post-election coalition wrangling. In fact, with his mere seven seats in the Knesset, Bennett is presenting himself as an alternative premier to Netanyahu.

Despite the right-wing political convictions of his voters, Lieberman formally removed his party from the rightist bloc after the first election in April 2019. In those elections, Netanyahu had secured a 60-member bloc. Lieberman, with his five seats, then stunned the political system when he refused to join the bloc and instead forced the country into a second—and later, third and fourth election. Lieberman's voters are overwhelmingly Russian-speaking denizens of nursing homes who have little contact with information from independent sources. And Lieberman enjoys the loyalty of Israel's Russian-language media.

Were Bennett and Sa'ar to both join Netanyahu, they would form a stable 65-seat center-right government that would be capable of advancing the Right's policy and ideological goals. At that point, at the age of 75, after 16 straight years in office and three earlier years at the helm during the 1990s, Netanyahu would likely retire from politics. Bennett, Sa'ar and Netanyahu's colleagues in Likud would be well-positioned after full terms in senior ministries to present themselves as credible successors.
Netanyahu Meets Bennett in an Attempt to Form Right-Wing Government
Israel’s interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Friday afternoon with Yamina party’s chairman for coalition talks in an attempt to sway Naftali Bennett to join his government, Hebrew media reported.

According to daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Likud members are “raging” against Netanyahu for allegedly offering Bennett top positions within the party.

“It’s a disgraceful proposal that indicates a loss of nerves. It’s putting the Likud movement up for sale in exchange for Netanyahu’s seat,” an unnamed top Likud official was quoted as saying.

However, another senior faction member dismissed the report, stressing that Netanyahu’s offer “died before it was born” as Bennett “completely” ruled it out.

On Thursday, Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist Ra’am party, delivered a speech announcing he will make a decision on which candidate to support for the prime minister post in the coming days.

If Abbas would support Netanyahu for the role — as some reports suggest he would — it could put Netanyahu in a tough negotiating position.

Outlet Kipa reported that following the Islamist leader’s remarks, Religious Zionism chief and lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich refused to speak to the incumbent Israeli premier as he was “outraged” over Netanyahu’s alleged legitimization of Ra’am.
Ra'am leader appeals to Jewish compatriots, says he is 'proud Israeli citizen'
Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas all but endorsed the partnering of his pro-Islamist party with one of Israel's political blocs on Thursday, in what could be a sea change in the relations between Arab and Jews in the country.

Arab parties have never officially joined a coalition in Israel, although they have occasionally provided indirect backing in confidence votes. But Abbas, who appears to hold the balance of power in the wake of the March 23 election, has been courted by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his left-wing challengers as neither side has enough Knesset seats to secure a successful confidence vote and form a government.

In his speech on Thursday Abbas addressed his Jewish compatriots and said that he, like them "is a citizen of the state of Israel ... and what unites us is bigger than what divides us."

"I pray for an uncompromising pursuit for hope and co-existence based on mutual respect and real equality, he said. "I am a proud Arab and a member of the Islamic Movement, a citizen of Israel and the head of the most important political movement in the Arab sector and I extend my hand, on behalf of my friends in the Arab community that elected us, to create an opportunity for coexistence in the land that is holy to the three faiths," he added, stressing that his organization "disavows any form of violence."

Ra'am and the Islamic Movement have been accused of being closely linked to the terrorist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip, and these associations could complicate any effort to have it join a coalition in the Knesset and swear in a government, especially on the Right, with some parties saying that they would not allow this to happen.

Jordan warns Israel it's violating Temple Mount status quo
Jordan sent a formal complaint to Israel's Foreign Ministry over its concern that the status quo on the Temple Mount had been violated by the large number of Jewish visitors to the site over the Passover holiday.

Temple Mount Heritage Foundation CEO Tom Nissani said that the 2,641 Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount over Passover set a record. "It's not for nothing that the Jordanians sent an official letter of condemnation," Nissani said.

Jordan's Foreign Ministry spokesman tweeted Thursday that his country "condemned the continuation of the Israeli violations in the al-Aqsa mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif."

He added that most recently "extremists" had been able "to enter the mosque in large numbers under the protection of the Israeli police, in flagrant violation of the legal and historical status quo and international law."

Israel's Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had received a written complaint from Jordan, which has a special custodial relationship to the Temple Mount, also known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif.
JPost Editorial: What will Palestinian elections mean for Israel?
Palestinian elections at this time could conceivably be a time of renewal, a time for stock-taking and new thinking.

It could be a time for the Palestinians to look around and realize that the international community, the Arab world, the region and Israel are not what they were 15 years ago. The train is steaming ahead and they need to alter strategy, because neither Hamas terror on one hand nor PA attempts to have the international community force Israel’s hand have worked.

Israel, too, must realize that the train is moving forward, and that the world is not on hold as it tries to get its own political house in order.

Elections in the PA – or even a decision not to hold those elections – are likely to kick-start international discussions on how to move the Israeli-Palestinian issue forward. And these calls are not only likely to come from the Jordanians, Europeans and Russians, but also from the Americans.

At a certain point in time, US President Joe Biden, already under pressure from Progressives in his party to take more active steps on the Israeli-Palestinian track, will begin to focus more attention on the Mideast. When that happens, Israel would benefit enormously having ready proposals and plans of its own, and not just reacting to what others are putting on the table. It will want to show Biden that it has its own ideas on how to move forward on the Palestinian issue.

To do that, however, it needs a government able to set goals and outline a vision. Yet another reason why Israel so desperately needs a permanent, functioning government.
The PA Just Made It Harder for Biden To Help Palestinians
With presidential elections scheduled for July, the Palestinian Authority (PA) appears to be paying some homage to democracy 16 years after its last vote. But is the scheduled vote sincere homage, or sleight of hand? Despite his scheduling of elections, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is cracking down on private individuals and organizations. His new presidential decree on NGOs may trigger a U.S. law that prohibits "directly" funding the PA government. Congress should take note.

A recently leaked State Department memo reveals that the U.S. government is gearing up to restore U.S. economic assistance to the PA, possibly as soon as this month. It reportedly argues that restoring economic aid to the Palestinians could strengthen "civil society, media watchdogs and other elements of the fourth estate." But what happens when the PA effectively nationalizes civil society groups?

As of this month, Palestinian NGOs are required to submit plans of action and budgets to the PA, which reviews them for conformity to the "work plan of the relevant ministry." Palestinian organizations now claim this not only interferes with their independence, but also indicates "a deliberate intention to dissolve" NGOs. Why? Because the law authorizes the government to absorb the dissolved organization's assets into the PA treasury or transfer them "to a similar Palestinian association or institution." Funders of anti-corruption NGOs may soon find that their dollars are enriching the very authorities whose graft those NGOs have sought to expose. U.S. government funds might also get swept up in this scheme.

Biden's acting ambassador to the U.N. said in January that this renewed assistance is not "a favor to the Palestinian leadership." But if it is such a favor, the aid would not comply with federal law.

Since 2018, U.S. law prohibits sending economic assistance that "directly benefits the Palestinian Authority" so long as the PA continues its practice of doling out financial rewards to people who have committed terrorism against Israelis. The law is known as the Taylor Force Act, named after an American West Point graduate and veteran who was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in Israel. It is not clear how the Biden administration plans to square its aid intentions with the requirements of that extant law.
Report: Abbas’ Party List for Upcoming Elections Includes Terrorists and Their Relatives
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party has placed convicted terrorists and relatives of terrorists in high positions on its list for the upcoming PA elections, Israeli public broadcaster Kan reported Thursday.

Second on Abbas’ party list is the widow of one of those responsible for the notorious 2001 attack that killed Israeli 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass, during the second intifada.

In addition, a former security prisoner from Jenin — who killed an Israeli named Moti Biton in 1992 and was later released as part of a goodwill gesture to Abbas in 2013 — has the tenth spot on the Fatah list.

Another released security prisoner, a man from Hebron who received a life sentence before being let go in another deal and was later imprisoned for 15 years during the second intifada, holds the fifteenth place on the list. The legislative elections, announced by Abbas in January, are scheduled for May.

Fatah is not the only party to place terrorists on its election slate. The list endorsed by infamous Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti — who is serving a life sentence in Israel on several counts of murder — has former prisoner Fakhari Barghouti, who was given a life sentence for murdering an Israeli bus driver, in tenth place.

The Palestinian Authority’s Office of the Prime Minister did not respond to an Algemeiner request for comment.

Kan also reported that Abbas has refused to take a telephone call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
FDD: Jaysh al-Ummah emir offers solution to ‘Palestinian case’, derides ‘Resistance’ leaders
In a recent issue of Thabat, an Al Qaeda affiliated media outfit, the emir of Jaysh al-Ummah in Gaza – Sheikh Mujahid Abu Hafs al-Maqdisi – explained his vision to solve the Palestinian issue while accusing Palestinian factions of serving the interests of “Western Zionist-Crusaders” and “Eastern Russian-Persian” projects.

In the article, al-Maqdisi recognized the “Palestinian case” was “the only concern of sincere Muslims,” adding that some “gave their lives in defense of Palestine” in order to “liberate it from the Zionist enemy.”

Al-Maqdisi complained about the lack of “vision” of the ummah (worldwide community of Muslims) in uniting against the “Zionist-Crusader occupation.”

“But as an ummah, we were and still lack a clear vision through which we can gather the ummah’s forces and unite them in the face of the Zionist-Crusader occupation of Muslim countries,” al-Maqdisi stated.

Furthermore, al-Maqdisi accused Palestinian factions of corruption by adopting “Western Zionist-Crusader” and “Eastern Russian-Persian” projects instead of choosing one implemented by a true Islamic regime.

“Thus, our Palestinian factions are divided between two projects. A Western Zionist-Crusader project and an Eastern Russian-Persian project. With an apparent absence of the nation’s project. This is due to the absence of an Islamic regime that adopts and sponsors this project, as in the case of the projects that conflict over the occupation of Muslim countries and the theft of their wealth,” al-Maqdisi said.

Moreover, al-Maqdisi accused longtime Palestinian Authority critic Muhammad Dahlan of corruption.

“Some of the leaders of these organizations and their security apparatus became the spearhead in confronting the ummah’s uprising against the functional regime. Dahlan’s role in many Arab and Islamic countries is no longer hidden,” al-Maqdisi said.

Lebanon’s Top Christian Cleric Criticizes Hezbollah in Leaked Video
Those dragging Lebanon into regional conflicts were not acting in its best interests, the country’s top Christian cleric said, in unusually direct comments that appeared to refer to Hezbollah.

“I want to tell them … Do you want to force (Lebanon) to go to war? Are you asking before you go to war? Before you go to Syria? … You’re not looking out for the interest of your people,” Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said in a video circulated by local media on Thursday.

Rai has called for Lebanon to remain neutral, referring to Hezbollah’s role fighting in neighboring Syria to support Damascus and its alliance with Iran in regional conflicts.

Iran Still Hiding Key Parts of its Nuclear Programme, US Trying Bribery Again
The latest evidence that Iran is continuing to conceal vital elements of its nuclear programme from the outside world suggest that, even if there is a resumption of negotiations on Tehran's nuclear programme, the regime has little genuine interest in complying with the terms of any future deal.

In another provocative move, Iran's conservative-dominated parliament has ordered the government to start limiting some inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear activities.

The move by the Iranian parliament comes after the IAEA published a report revealing that last summer inspectors found uranium particles at two Iranian nuclear sites that Iran tried to block access to.

The Biden Administration has also apparently been trying to sidestep legally-required congressional approval to funnel more money to Iran and other dictatorships through a new International Monetary Fund programme, "special drawing rights" (SDRs). Through them, Iran would receive an additional $4.5 billion, usable in other currencies. According to the Wall Street Journal, which referred to the program as "Special Dollars for Dictators", Iran's leadership will most likely use these newfound billions to strengthen domestic repression, to intensify regional adventurism -- Iran's proxy Houthi rebels in Yemen have already targeted a "large Saudi oil field" -- and to escalate their nuclear programme still further.


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