Friday, April 09, 2021

From Ian:

Melanie Phillips: Israel: The necessary superpower
Appeasement is a symptom of profound cultural demoralization, caused by a loss of national self-belief and faith in the future. That process has been going on in the West ever since the Holocaust delivered the devastating message that there was something rotten at the very heart of Western high culture.

The most important proof of this demoralization is the birthrate in America and Europe, which is either below or barely the rate at which the indigenous population can reproduce itself. In other words, the West is literally dying out.

By contrast, Israel is emerging from the pandemic at a world-beating rate – its economy strong and resilient, and crucially, its birthrate healthy and high.

This is because Israel actually believes in itself. Sure, it has a ludicrously dysfunctional political culture, currently illustrated once again by its post-election gridlock and absence of a functioning government. It is also disfigured by deep social divisions between secular and religious communities, and subversive elements who regard the very idea of a Jewish state as anathema.

But the vast majority of Israel's public understands that its core value is the preservation of life and liberty and doing good in the world. It is a society built on redemption and hope, and in dramatic contrast to the death-spiral gripping America and Europe, it is relentlessly focused on its survival.

The Arab world has come to understand that all this is of priceless value – not just for Israel but for itself, too. It sees that Israel actually takes out its enemies. It is increasingly realizing that the country most likely to defend Arab interests against Iran is not America but Israel, the Arabs' new and unlikely ally.

As America falters and Western societies break apart, might this become Israel's century?
The Tikvah Podcast: Mohammed Alyahya on Two Competing Visions of Power in the Middle East
This week, the Biden administration officially began multilateral negotiations with Iran, in hopes of re-entering some form of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the so-called Iran nuclear deal.

The debate over the deal is one of the most contentious in contemporary American foreign policy, and reveals a genuine conflict of visions. Supporters of the deal, including prominent officials in the Biden administration, tend to view the Middle East as consumed by an eternal conflict between the Sunni states of the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia, and the Shia allies led by Iran. Opponents of the deal tend to think that the central regional faultline is not Shia Iran vs. Sunni Saudi Arabia, but instead the American-led alliance structure—including Saudi Arabia and Israel—against Iran and its regional proxies.

That’s the view of this week’s podcast guest, Mohammed Alyahya, the editor of Al Arabiya‘s English edition. He, who is based in Dubai and grew up in Saudi Arabia, explains the central paradigms at the heart of Middle East politics, and he outlines what the Biden administration should and shouldn’t do when confronting Iran and the threat it poses to America and the regional order.
David Singer: Israel’s voting system needs urgent reform
A million or more Israelis did not vote in each of the four indecisive elections held in the last two years – costing Israel an estimated $4.24 billion - whilst causing political upheaval and electoral instability as a result.

The Central Elections Committee (CEC) sets out how Israel’s electoral system works:
“Israel has an electoral system based on nation-wide proportional representation. In other words, the number of seats that each list receives in the Knesset - the House of Representatives - is proportional to the number of votes it received…the only limitation placed on a list which participated in the elections that can keep it from being elected is that it must pass the qualifying threshold, which is currently 3.25%.”

The CEC explains the historical background for this unique voting system:
“The State of Israel inherited the rigid system of proportional representation from the political system of the yishuv (the organized Jewish community) in mandatory times. This system was based on the zeal with which the various political parties - in which ideology and personalities played a major role - fought to preserve their independence. The justification given for the large number of parties resulting from the system was, that in a period in which major, far-reaching and rapid changes were still taking place in the population make-up as a result of immigration, it was important to enable maximal representation for various groups and opinions.”

What was appropriate during the Mandate for Palestine (1920 – 1948) is clearly not working now.

The following highlights why Israel’s electoral system needs urgent reform:


Ruthie Blum: Abbas’s snubs work like a charm on Biden
Abbas’s gall is not new and has served the P.A. ruler well with the international community, which has elevated him to ill-deserved heights. This is due to an unfounded, knee-jerk opposition to Israel, not to the way in which he rules his own people, who view him with disdain and outrage.

Nor is American appeasement of petty tyrants a novelty; certainly not among those, like Biden and many of his appointees, who served under former President Barack Obama. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s verbal abuse of former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during nuclear negotiations—so loud and disrespectful that even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered him to tone it down—comes to mind in this context.

Trump put a temporary stop to such supplication. Ramallah, like Tehran, responded by spewing rhetoric, but feared suffering the consequences of Washington’s wrath. One key basis for the trepidation was financial.

True, sanctions didn’t stop the P.A. from paying terrorists’ hefty salaries or prevent Iran from keeping its centrifuges spinning. The withholding of cash has, however, made life more difficult for both regimes.

Emboldened by the old sheriff’s posse being back in town, each has been testing Washington’s limits. So far, there don’t seem to be too many.

In fact, the Biden administration’s allocation of $90 million in aid to the P.A. ($15 million in “coronavirus relief” and another $75 million for the Palestinians to regain “trust” in the United States) comes weeks after Abbas rejected Blinken’s telephone overture. Talk about a return to Obama’s proud “leadership from behind.”

Whether Abbas and his governing Fatah faction survive the fast-approaching elections—slated for the Palestinian Legislative Council on May 22, for the P.A. presidency on July 31 and for the Palestinian National Council on Aug. 31—remains to be seen. Still, what’s already clear to him and any potential successor is the path to Uncle Sam’s purse and heart strings.


Khaled Abu Toameh: Biden Administration to Support Palestinian Dictatorship
Sadly, while the Biden administration is talking about the "need to protect [Palestinian] civil society through the reduction of arrests of bloggers and dissidents," the Palestinian leadership is evidently moving in precisely the opposite direction.

While the Biden administration says it wants to strengthen Palestinian civil society organizations, the Palestinian leadership is working to tighten its grip on these organizations.

The elections are part of Abbas's attempt to curry favor with the Biden administration and present himself as a leader who cares about democracy and fair elections. The fact is that Abbas is desperate for US funding to preserve his regime and remain in power until his last day.

Abbas's punitive measures against [Nasser al-Kidwa, a former PA foreign minister] are aimed at sending a warning to these officials that they would meet the same fate should they run outside the Abbas-led list. Abbas is essentially announcing that anyone who challenges him will be expelled from Fatah and deprived of money and employment.

Instead of holding Abbas to account for his repressive measures, the Biden administration seems to be headed toward financially supporting his totalitarian regime.

According to the internal memo, the US is planning to resume unconditional financial aid to the Palestinians in late March or early April. This means propping up Abbas and his associates ahead of the elections and allowing them to step up their campaign of intimidation against any candidate who dares to demand reforms and an end to rampant corruption.

The Biden administration is about to pump millions of dollars into Abbas's coffers to help him cut off the emergence of new and young leaders and to help him maintain his authoritarian rule over the Palestinians. Once the bounty is paid, Abbas shows all signs of stepping up his repressive measures against his rivals and critics to ensure that he and his Fatah faction triumph in the elections.
Nikki Haley slams UNWRA as 'corrupt' and 'counterproductive'
Congressional Republicans put a hold on $75 million of the newly reinstated US aid to the Palestinians, two sources in Washington confirmed on Thursday.

On March 26, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sent Congress a “program narrative” of about $75m. in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for programs in the West Bank and Gaza that would begin 15 days after the notification was received.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), used their respective positions as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to stop the USAID’s notification about the reinstated funding from reaching the committees, which means the aid will not start on April 10 as planned.

The USAID programs for the Palestinians include roads, sidewalks, bus lots, emergency preparedness, adapting to climate change, “community initiatives” and “safe spaces to engage in community initiatives.”

On Wednesday, the State Department announced a financial package of $290m. for the Palestinians, including security and humanitarian aid, as well as funding for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Risch and McCaul said, shortly after the announcement, that “resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority undermines US interests.
UN Watch: Hillel Neuer calls out U.S. funding of UNRWA, blasts ICC investigation

Republicans delay Biden administration’s funds to Palestinians
Congressional Republicans put a hold on $75 million of the newly reinstated US aid to the Palestinians, two sources in Washington confirmed on Thursday.

On March 26, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) sent Congress a “program narrative” of about $75m. in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for programs in the West Bank and Gaza that would begin 15 days after the notification was received.

Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), used their respective positions as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to stop the USAID’s notification about the reinstated funding from reaching the committees, which means the aid will not start on April 10 as planned.

The USAID programs for the Palestinians include roads, sidewalks, bus lots, emergency preparedness, adapting to climate change, “community initiatives” and “safe spaces to engage in community initiatives.”

On Wednesday, the State Department announced a financial package of $290m. for the Palestinians, including security and humanitarian aid, as well as funding for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Risch and McCaul said, shortly after the announcement, that “resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority undermines US interests.
Republican Senators Oppose Palestinian Aid in Letter to Blinken
A group of Republican senators sent a letter to the Biden administration urging it to halt aid to the Palestinians until several conditions can be met to ensure the support isn’t going to terrorists.

“We call on you to halt these expenditures until the State Department accounts for statutory restrictions and remedies known deficiencies in the distribution of such assistance, which have for years promoted and facilitated terrorism against Americans and Israelis,” the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The letter comes after the Biden administration restarted aid to the Palestinians that had been frozen during President Donald Trump’s tenure. That includes about $100 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development to support Covid-19 recovery as well as peace-building programs and aid to address basic needs, according to a statement from USAID on Wednesday.

“U.S.-funded programs have better developed the provision of public services; improved the functioning of local governance; alleviated human suffering; increased economic opportunities; and supported civil society and youth,” according to the statement.

The letter, which was led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz along with more than a dozen colleagues, cites a March 19 Government Accountability Office report that found that USAID “did not consistently ensure” that assistance would not land in the hands of terrorist groups during the fiscal years 2015-2019. The letter asks the State Department to implement the changes recommended by the report.

It also asks the department to certify to Congress that the assistance doesn’t violate the 2018 Taylor Force Act, which restricts funding for programs in the region under certain conditions.
By restoring aid to UNRWA, Biden insists on going backward
There is no justification for the existence of Palestinian refugees 73 years after the 1948 War of Independence and 54 years after the 1967 Six-Day War outside of the Arab desire to ensure Israel's decimation through the return of generations of "refugees" who have no personal connection to the Land of Israel.

UNRWA, which was initially intended to serve the "Palestinians" that fled the State of Israel for Arab states until that time when they would be integrated into their new places of residence, has long been a tool in the political struggle against the Jewish state. This is clear from the existence of "refugee camps" in territories governed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Has there ever been any other instance in which refugees were kept in miserable conditions in their own land by an international system that pours a lot of money into efforts aimed at preventing said "refugees" from living under normal conditions?

Former US President Donald Trump understood the absurdity of UNRWA's existence. He knew how to deal with inherent Palestinian recalcitrance that seeks to ensure the continuity of the Palestinian "refugee" problem, among other things. Current US President Joe Biden insists on going backward, to the pre-Trump status, instead of marching ahead and acting to improve the situation.

The Democrat administration could have conditioned a renewal of funding on UNRWA's cancellation and its replacement by a temporary Palestinian welfare agency that would act to resolve the Palestinian "refugee" problem in their places of residence. Such an agency would need to be temporary, it would require a limited budget, and its management would need to be absolutely transparent.

Caught up in disproven political perceptions, the Biden administration insists on destroying all of the positive steps Trump took while in office. The former US president thought outside the box. Biden prefers to bury himself, his administration, and the entire Middle East in a box.
5 things to know about US funding to Palestinians and terror payments
Can the US offer financial assistance to the Palestinians even while the Palestinian Authority pays monthly stipends to terrorists and their families?

The question was raised by reporters and pundits on Wednesday when the US announced it planned to restore humanitarian and security assistance to the Palestinians, as part of an overall financial package of $290 million.

Former US president Donald Trump cut all funding to the Palestinians, which had soared close to $600 million annually under the Obama administration. Trump also put in place legislation to hold the PA financially accountable for terror activity and to halt its practice of terror stipends, known as “pay-for-slay.”

A reporter referenced that legislation when quizzing US State Department spokesman Ned Price on how the Biden administration could legally restore funding. “US laws – there’s several of them – say that the US cannot provide money to the Palestinian Authority,” the reporter stated.

Price assured him that the funding was “absolutely consistent with relevant US law.”
Pro-Israel Groups Press Congress to Help End ‘Hateful Content’ in UNRWA Schools
Several pro-Israel and Jewish organizations urged US legislators to pressure the United Nations to end hateful antisemitic content found in the curriculum of schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The letter to Congress—spearheaded by Hadassah and signed by more than a dozen leading Jewish and pro-Israel groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith, the Orthodox Union, the Zionist Organization of America, the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement and Christians United for Israel—called on lawmakers to urge “UN Secretary-General António Guterres to shield students in UN-run schools from lessons steeped in antisemitism and supportive of violence.”

“It is critical that we stand together to demand systemic reform to educational materials used by … UNRWA before one more child is taught from textbooks riddled with hateful lessons,” the letter stated.

It cited a recent report by IMPACT-se that discovered how UNRWA staff have authored and disseminated educational content, which in some cases was “more egregious than that of the Palestinian Authority.”
Martin Sherman: Jordan’s “House of Cards”–The implications for Israel
There is nothing certain, but the uncertain. ~ Traditional Proverb.

Incoming media reports from Jordan indicate that the clash within the royal family earlier this week has now been resolved…or quashed.

Swirling shrouds of suspicion & uncertainty
However, much uncertainty still shrouds the recent events in the Hashemite monarchy as to whether there was a genuine attempt at a coup, led by King Abdallah’s half-brother and former crown prince, Hamzah bin Hussein; or a pre-emptive power play by the king himself against his recalcitrant sibling.

Prince Hamzah was Jordan's heir apparent for five years after his father, King Hussein, died in 1999. But in 2004, King Abdullah stripped him of his title, later appointing his then-teenage son, Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, as crown prince.

Amid conflicting reports that Hamzah had been placed under house arrest—and following a number of high-level arrests allegedly linked to a coup attempt-- he accused the Jordanian leadership of corruption, incompetence and harassment in a video conveyed to the BBC.

Hamzah denied that he was part of any initiative to undermine the regime, and although the military had claimed that he was not under house arrest, it did disclose that he had been ordered to stop actions that could be used to harm Jordan's "security and stability".
For Jordan’s Allies, Royal Ructions Are a Rude Awakening
The 100-year-old monarchy faces serious challenges at home and abroad. The Jordanian government’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic has deepened the longstanding public dissatisfaction over endemic corruption and general economic malaise. By casting himself as a crusader against corruption, Hamzah might have scored powerful points against the status quo represented by his half-brother.

On the foreign-policy front, Jordan has long felt taken for granted by the U.S., Israel and Gulf Arab countries, all of which rely on the kingdom to play a quiet but essential regional role. The resentment in Amman deepened during the administration of President Donald Trump, when Washington seemed to go along with Israeli plans to annex large swathes of the West Bank. Jordanians regard annexation with existential dread because it could export Palestinian nationalism into the kingdom, given that over half its population is made up of Palestinians displaced by Israel in the 1948 and 1967 wars.

More generally, Jordanians feel they are punished for the relative stability of their country in a restive region, the non-squeaking wheel that doesn’t get much grease. The consequences of instability in its neighborhood are often visited upon the kingdom, most obviously in the form of refugees, whether from Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion or from Syria after the rise of the Islamic State and the subsequent civil war.

For the West, Israel and Gulf Arab states, the Jordanian government is an important contributor to political and diplomatic initiatives, whether on the Palestinians, Iraq or Syria. They also rely on Jordanian intelligence services in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

So the specter of instability in Amman should have set off alarms in capitals across the Middle East, and in Washington. A collapse of order could easily turn much of Jordan into a facsimile of parts of Iraq and Syria just over the border, with militias, ISIS-like terrorist groups, tribal warlords and other forces battling it out in a situation of protracted chaos. The Hamzah affair is a useful reminder of how much all the other parties stand to lose if, like many of its neighbors, Jordan begins to fall apart.

The government’s success in reining in Prince Hamzah may in the short run strengthen the king’s hand and undermine oppositional activities. The challenge for Jordan’s allies is to preserve the stability of the monarchy while pressing the palace for the political, institutional and economic reforms necessary to prevent a repeat of last weekend’s events.
Jordan ‘coup’ no danger to Israel, but simmering discontent with king may be
Jordan has been gripped by rare palace intrigue since King Abdullah’s half-brother Prince Hamzah was placed under house arrest on Saturday, accused of plotting a coup.

The dramatic and very public episode — which appears to be drawing to a close — is a potential source of significant concern for Israel, which considers the stability of the Hashemite kingdom a central plank of its national security doctrine.

Since its founding, Israel has had some level of security cooperation with Jordan. In the days before the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Jordan’s King Hussein met secretly with Prime Minister Golda Meir near Tel Aviv to warn her about the impending Arab invasion. Cooperation ramped up following the 1994 peace treaty between the sides, and though diplomatic ties are often frayed, the military relationship has been especially close over the decades, with Israeli and Jordanian jets even driving Russian planes in Syria away from their borders together in 2016 in a firm show of resolve.

Israel views Jordan as a reliable buffer against hostile states to the east — once Iraq, now Iran. Israel’s border with Jordan, and the Israel-controlled frontier between the West Bank and Jordan, has remained an oasis of quiet even as Iran’s armed proxies entrench themselves from Baghdad to Beirut, and jihadist groups grow in the Sinai.

A weakened regime in Amman could create a power vacuum that would allow terrorist groups to establish a foothold all along Jordan’s border with Israel and the West Bank. Palestinian refugees in Jordan could inspire dangerous unrest in the West Bank, and far more radical elements could replace the Jordan-funded Islamic Waqf on the Temple Mount. Iran would also likely seek to take advantage of the chaos to open a new front against Israel.

Hamzah is not about to lead a coup that destabilizes Jordan, certainly not without the support of significant parts of the military. But behind the unfolding drama are real frustrations in Jordanian society that, if they continue to grow, could threaten the foundations of Abdullah’s regime.
Seth Frantzman: Yemen, Syria and Iran’s capabilities: A look at Israel’s strategic view of key proxy conflicts in the MidEast
Recent years have seen increased reports of Israel and U.S. cooperation on Syria, including U.S. sources indicating January 2021 airstrikes were aided by American intelligence provided to Israel. Former U.S. envoy for Syria James Jeffrey highlighted that support in statements in January. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other officials were key to the cooperation in the last years. The Israeli official sees the U.S. as vital in this space and underscores that Israeli operations must never jeopardize U.S. forces. Full coordination with Israel’s “friends” in the region is key. “Coordination will continue,” he said, praising the new Biden team, including U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, CENTCOM’s McKenzie, Brett McGurk and Colin Kahl among others.

Iran’s increased role in Syria, as well as foothold in Yemen and influence over proxies and militias in Iraq and Lebanon, showcase recent success. This has changed the region rapidly in just the last few years. While Iran’s desire to export its 1979 Revolution largely failed in the 1980s and 1990s, it has now “done well,” the official pointed out. Iran’s only setback was in Sudan in recent years. Reports between 2009 and 2015 alleged Israeli airstrikes in Sudan and linked them to Iranian weapons trafficking. Today, Sudan and Israel appear on the path toward warmer relations.

The corollary of these two trends, the rise of Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen and the War between the Wars in Syria, also dovetails with decreased influence by the Gulf states in regional affairs. Saudi Arabia once played a larger role in Iraq and Syria. Today, the Gulf states, which have grown closer to Israel, are more focused internally or on their immediate neighbors. This appears to mean that there is little balance for Hezbollah in Lebanon, for instance. Progress on a maritime deals to delimitate economic zones by Israel and Lebanon will likely be held hostage by Hezbollah.

Israel warned that Iran’s capabilities are increasing. In the wake of the Abqaiq attack in Sept. 2019 and the ballistic missile attack on U.S. forces in Jan. 2020, Iran’s abilities are on full display. Iran has carried out recent tests with its ballistic missiles, including a satellite-carrying missile called Soljanah in early February. Such large missiles could carry other payloads, such as a nuclear capabilities. In the first months of 2021, Iran claimed new anti-ship ballistic missiles and used its Emad, Sejjil and Ghadr-type missiles in its Great Prophet 15 exercise.

“Iran has tremendous capabilities,” the Israeli official admitted. These capabilities, paired with UAVs and cruise missiles, puts Iran in a unique category with only a handful of countries in the world that have such an arsenal.
Biden Builds Back Obama’s Middle East
What was particularly galling about Blinken's announcement was its disconnect from the nature of Palestinian governance. Here is an administration that says the conflict between democracy and authoritarianism will define the 21st century. Here is an administration that prides itself on its support for human rights. And here is an administration that says it will be able to prevent millions in taxpayer funds from directly benefiting the Palestinian Authority, and thereby breaking U.S. law, by taking into account:
the intended primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; whether the PA is the direct recipient of the assistance, of course; whether the assistance involves payments of Palestinian Authority creditors; the extent of ownership or control the PA exerts over an entity or an individual that is the primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; and whether the assistance or, in some cases, the services provided directly replace assistance or services that the PA would otherwise provide.

Good luck. The renewed assistance, remember, will be circulated in a polity whose president is in the 16th year of a 4-year term, whose official corruption is legendary, whose 2.7 million subjects are policed by no less than six internal security forces, and whose entry in the 2020 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reads as follows:
reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, torture, and arbitrary detention by authorities; holding political prisoners and detainees; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of nongovernmental organizations; restrictions on political participation, as the Palestinian Authority has not held a national election since 2006; acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; violence and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; anti-Semitism in school textbooks; violence and threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons; and reports of forced child labor.

The entry for Hamas is no better.

For all of his "transformative" ambitions at home, Biden's Middle East policy is remarkably backward-looking and uninspired. By denying aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, the Trump administration recognized that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had become a counterproductive sideshow, and that U.S. aid wasn't contributing to the resolution of conflict, but incentivizing it. The more urgent problem is Iran, which is why Trump was able to broker the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco.

Now Biden has pivoted away from the anti-Iran coalition and toward the pro-Iran deal European allies. He's distanced himself from Israel and moved toward the Palestinians. He's rebuked the Saudis and coaxed the Houthis. He is trying to reconstruct, ever so slowly, Barack Obama's Middle East. But he hasn't really explained why this time will be different. After all: When you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. And that is exactly what Biden is doing.
Biden’s Anti-Israel “Point Man” Behind Plan to Fund Terrorists
“I was inspired by the Palestinian intifada,” Hady Amr wrote a year after September 11 while working with an anti-Israel group.

A few years later, the Beirut-born extremist had become an advisor on Muslim relations to the World Economic Forum before heading up Brookings' Doha Center for Qatar. The tiny Islamic tyranny is allied with Iran, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s a backer of Hamas.

The Obama administration appointed Amr as the Deputy Head of USAID's Middle East Bureau which put him in a key position to direct taxpayer money from an organization already notorious for funding pro-terrorist and anti-Israel groups.

A decade after Amr had responded to the death of a Hamas leader by ranting that "there will be thousands who will seek to avenge these brutal murders of innocents", the Obama administration made him a Deputy to its Special Envoy for Israeli Palestinian negotiations.

Amr decamped back to Brookings during the Trump administration, becoming one of Biden’s big bundlers, joining his transition team and getting picked as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Within two decades of praising the intifada against Israel and a decade of working for a think-tank deeply compromised by its pro-Hamas regime sponsor, the foreign radical had climbed to a pole position in setting the Biden administration’s policy on Israel.

Politico described Amr as “the key U.S. official dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.” The Times of Israel called him, “Biden’s point-man on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Biden’s point man didn’t waste much time.
Gantz slams ‘blind and unjust’ ICC decision, as Israel issues formal response
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Friday criticized the International Criminal Court’s probe of alleged war crimes by Israel as “blind and unjust,” after Israel sent a formal response to the decision.

“I believe the truth will come to light,” Gantz said. “It’s not just a matter of the court’s ‘technical-legal’ lack of jurisdiction, but a matter of justice and morality, of a strict military ethical code, of truth and falsehood, of a democratic state with strong legal institutions, clear values, rules and laws — against a blind and unjust decision.”

“I am sure many countries will understand that there is no room for [such an] investigation, that could harm many other countries in the future,” Gantz said, adding that such an ICC investigation would harm Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and make it difficult to “improve the regional situation.”

The defense minister made his remarks at a ceremony marking 80 years since the formation of the Palmach in Sha’ar Hagai — a site near Jerusalem that commemorates the efforts of the paramilitary’s Harel Brigade during the War of Independence.

In its formal response to The Hague-based court’s decision to open the war crimes probe, Israel will say it won’t cooperate with the investigation, according to a statement Thursday from the Prime Minister’s Office.

“In the letter, it will also be noted that Israel completely rejects the claims that it is carrying out war crimes,” the statement said.


Israel-France relations in light of the ICC decision
France not only does not tend to oppose biased, discriminatory U.N. resolutions promoted by the Palestinians and anti-Israeli states and organizations, but at times even joins them. Such resolutions single out Israel for unique opprobrium and are designed to isolate and delegitimize it. They present Israel’s justified fight against terror as on a par with the actions of Iranian terrorist proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah.

There are several factors that could motivate France to change tack and join the countries that are supporting Israel’s position.

The attitude of Paris toward the ICC probe might damage its attempt to portray itself as an impartial mediator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. France recently renewed its efforts to promote an initiative that would advance an agreement. Its reluctance to publicly support Israel’s position on the ICC ruling could not only undermine its legitimacy as an impartial mediator but encourage the Palestinians to double down on their unilateral legal war against Israel, which, one can argue, will ultimately harm them.

The French reaction to the ICC ruling could also be detrimental to France’s own fight against terror. The overtly political ICC prosecution of Israel regarding its fight against terror could equally come to expose French soldiers who are involved in anti-terrorist operations to ICC prosecution.

The controversy surrounding the recent decision of the ICC risks weakening its ability to fulfill its true role, which is to prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide when state mechanisms for prosecution are either nonexistent or failed.


Azerbaijani official calls to open embassy in Israel
Israel and Azerbaijan celebrated 29 years to the establishment of bilateral ties, Wednesday.

Senior officials from both countries, including Azeri politicians and Israel's Deputy Ambassador to Azerbaijan Doron Pe'er, took part in the event.

Marking the occasion, Farid Shafiyev, the chairman of Azerbaijan's Center of Analysis of International Relations, said, "The Azeri people and the Jewish people have a long history together."

According to Shafiyev, "Jews have lived in Azerbaijan for 2,500 years. The historic ties between the peoples are deep."

He said this shared history was the basis for bilateral ties.

"There are Israelis that are influenced by the Armenian lobby, who think the basis for Israel-Azerbaijan ties is oil and weapons," he said. "Factually speaking, they are wrong; the basis for the ties is historic. There's also no doubt the economic ties are significant."

He said, "Historians attack the image of the Israelis and the Azerbaijanis. This is antisemitism and anti-Azerbaijanism. Nevertheless, that is also what unites us. We are united, and we need to upgrade our ties. The time has come to open an Azerbaijan Embassy in Israel."

Anatoliy Rafailov, the head of the Azerbaijan-Israel lobby in the National Assembly in Baku, and fellow lobby member Shahin Seyidzade, both members of Azerbaijan's parliament, also took part in the virtual event.

"I represent the Jewish community in the Azeri parliament. It's known that Azerbaijan has no antisemitism problem, and that relations between the countries are particularly strong. Israel has also supported Azerbaijan's territorial continuity.
Caroline Glick: The new plan to oust Netanyahu and its implications for Israel
At the end of the day, there are only three possible political outcomes from last month's elections: Bennett and Sa'ar can agree to form a right-wing government with Netanyahu, in keeping with the wishes of the voters for the Right-religious bloc of parties and in keeping with their own ideological convictions. They can form a leftist government in which they serve as a minority faction. Or, Israel can have a fifth election in August.

This then brings us back to the devastation that ousting Netanyahu through parliamentary procedure rather than at the ballot box will wreak on Israel's national solidarity – and its strategic implications.

After Sharon split Likud and formed Kadima, his successor Ehud Olmert formed a leftist-dominated government that advocated appeasement. Its stance broadcast weakness and so invited aggression. That aggression came from the Bush administration in the form of pressure to make massive concessions to the Palestinians. Olmert collapsed under pressure and offered PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

It came as well in the form of war from Iran's Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. Olmert, together with his radical leftist defense minister then-Labor party leader Amir Peretz and then-foreign minister and fellow Likud deserter Tzipi Livni demonstrated utter incompetence in leading the nation in war. Their helter-skelter, ill-conceived military operations and self-destructive diplomatic efforts ensured Israel's failure to defeat Hezbollah and so set Hezbollah on course to take over the Lebanese government two years later.

The Likud voters Olmert and Livni demonized and trampled just the year before did not rally around them during the war and the public's distrust of its leaders was impossible to set aside even in time of war.

Israel now faces the most hostile US administration in its history. The Biden administration is itself inviting aggression against Israel by empowering Iran, the Palestinians and international organizations in their campaigns against Israel. Our time is one fraught with dangers. A plan to crown a leftist government and undermine national solidarity by ousting Netanyahu without first defeating him will undoubtedly produce disastrous results for the country.
JPost Editorial: Smotrich has not learned the lessons of the Holocaust - editorial
Nevertheless, an essential lesson that Israelis must internalize from the experience of the Shoah is how to treat the ‘other’ in our midst.

Whether they be Muslim, Christian or Druze, the non-Jewish citizens of Israel must be regarded with an extra measure of sensitivity.

As long as they abide by the rules and laws of the state, they must be considered equals in all aspects of the Israeli experience. And that includes the right to express divergent opinions.

When Joint List MKs pledged on Tuesday to fight “apartheid,” “the occupation” and “racism” while being sworn into the Knesset, it was unpleasant – and unprecedented. But just as they are free to express those opinions – which are held also by a minority of the Jewish public – it is also every Israeli’s right to refute those ill-advised claims with reasoned arguments.

That’s what Bezalel Smotrich should have done, instead of issuing threats to those who don’t share his ideology – a dogmatic belief system that seems to discount anyone who doesn’t share his view of a Jewish-only “greater Israel.”

His party’s entrance into Israel’s government would be a huge mistake, a setback to the inroads being made to create an open and democratic society. It would also expose the reality that we still have not learned the lessons of our past.
This professor is not worthy of public esteem
The ruling by the High Court of Justice on Thursday that the Israel Prize can be withheld from Professor Oded Goldreich until it can be clarified whether or not his political stances violate laws against boycotting Israel is an important one that shows a different side of the High Court.

The education minister is supposed to clarify the matter within 30 days, but it can still be hoped that Professor Goldreich will demonstrate integrity and follow in the footsteps of the late Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who decided to forgo the prize. This would allow Goldreich to, as he put it, "avoid the pain of shaking hands with two slimebags – the prime minister and the education minister, who does his bidding." If that is how a candidate for the Israel Prize expresses himself, and this is the personal example he chooses to represent, we shouldn't wonder at the slanderous slogans being shouted at the anti-Netanyahu demonstrations.

Education Minister Yoav Gallant did well to not allow Goldreich's remarks, in which he calls for a boycott and has reached out to foreign and hostile entities on the matter, to be ignored.

I am not an expert in the field of cryptography and computational complexity theory, but I accept the Israel Prize committee's decision that Goldreich is a world-renowned expert.

The Israel Prize is awarded for excellence and for achievements in the fields of science and humanities, as well as for life achievement. No one disputes that this is the most prestigious award granted by the nation and its citizens. This is why it is called the "Israel Prize." But scientific excellence is not the only aspect of it. The prize is also an expression of appreciation for unique individuals who can serve as role models and inspiration. As scientist, talented as he might be, who signs a petition calling on the European Union to boycott academic cooperation with Ariel University – thereby working against academic institutions in the country in which he lives as a citizen, and attempting to harm the thousands of students who study there – is not worth of the recognition by Israeli society that the Israel Prize confers.
Israel will fully reopen in a month if no new rise in contagion, virus czar says
Israel will be fully reopened in a month if there is no new sudden rise in contagion as the country moves to return the education system toward full operation, coronavirus czar Nachman Ash said Thursday.

“We want to see that the return to studies does not cause a rise in contagion,” Ash told Channel 13 news after government ministers voted to further ease coronavirus restrictions at schools.

“We are talking about a few weeks only if the current rates are maintained,” he said. “We want to get past the [recently completed] Passover holidays and see that there are no infections in the schools.”

“If there is no rise in contagion, everything will be open in a month,” he said.

It was not clear if Ash’s comments also referred to completely reopening Ben Gurion airport to international travel. Israel currently limits the number of people who can enter and exit each day, fearing the spread of variants that could undermine the effective vaccination program.

Channel 13 reported that airport authorities plan to test arriving passengers on the airplanes to prevent overcrowding in testing tents at the airport.
El Al announces new flights to multiple countries
El Al will offer new flights to Belgrade, Sophia, Paphos, Rhodes, Crete, and Thessaloniki, the company announced this week. These destinations have been added to the list of other cities to which El Al currently provides flights to, including Paris, London, Dubai, Amsterdam and more.

The list of cities to which El-Al provides flights will be updated at the end of June, according to the company.

El-Al will offer flexible tickets with no fees for ticket changes and allow changes to tickets up until April 2022.

All passengers must have a negative coronavirus test from up to 72 hours before departure and must fill out health statements.

El Al has said it will offer significant discounts on 25,000 tickets for flights to New York, Miami and Los Angeles during the spring, summer and High Holy Day season.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Al-Aqsa preacher: Muslims who sell property to Jews are denied burial
Sheikh Ikrimah Sabri, the preacher of al-Aqsa Mosque and former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, announced on Thursday that any Muslim who sells land or houses to Jews will be denied burial in a Muslim cemetery.

Sabri’s new fatwa (Islamic religious decree) came after 15 Jewish families moved on Thursday morning into 15 apartments in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan (Kfar HaShiloach).

The village, built on the slope descending from the Mount of Olives, includes the City of David (Ir David) archaeological site and was previously inhabited by Yemenite Jews.

The apartments were reportedly purchased by Ateret Cohanim, an organization that has long been working to expand the Jewish presence in east Jerusalem. “Anyone who sells property to Jewish organizations will not be buried in Muslim cemeteries,” Sabri ruled.
Richard Goldberg: How Republicans Can Stop Biden from Lifting Iran Sanctions
President Joe Biden sent his negotiators to Vienna this week with a singular mission: Offer Iran billions of dollars as part of a first step toward rejoining a dangerous nuclear deal that Tehran cheated on from the very beginning. The only question now is what Congress plans to do to defend the sanctions architecture it has built over many years.

For weeks, Republicans and centrist Democrats in Washington held out hope that Biden would utilize the historic sanctions leverage he inherited from his predecessor to negotiate a better, more comprehensive deal with Iran. Biden had said that his goal was to “tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.” Secretary of State Tony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it would not be in the U.S. interest to lift terrorism sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran or the National Iranian Oil Company — institutions that were originally provided sanctions relief under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the 2015 nuclear deal is formally known.

Under the Biden administration’s reported offer, however, the U.S. would lift terrorism sanctions on Iran up front without requiring any halt to the regime’s state sponsorship of terrorism. Iran would gain access to billions of dollars through its central bank and national oil company — both of which are subject to sanctions because of their ties to terrorism and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which itself is correctly designated as a terrorist entity. When asked this week if terrorism sanctions were, in fact, on the table in Vienna, State Department spokesperson Ned Price all but admitted it.

Under the arrangement being discussed, the Islamic Republic would gain tacit approval to sponsor terrorism, hold Americans hostage, enrich uranium on its own soil, test nuclear-capable missiles and engage in human-rights abuses against the Iranian people. More shockingly, a so-called nuclear deal to limit Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons would not require Tehran to account for its secret nuclear-weapons archive or clandestine nuclear sites, materials and activities currently under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Recall that Iran lied to the IAEA in 2015 to gain access to sanctions relief. Its continued deception should be at the heart of any negotiation over its nuclear program.

Effectively, Biden is offering to subsidize the IRGC and reward Iranian nuclear deceit if the mullahs merely stop enriching uranium at higher levels and stop testing advanced centrifuges — neither of which are truly concessions since the JCPOA allows Iran to do both over time. Moreover, the offer of terrorism-sanctions relief constitutes a material breach of trust by the secretary of state, who led senators to believe that would never happen if they voted to confirm him.
Erdan Demands UN Security Council Investigate Iran’s Ballistic Missile Violations
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations Gilad Erdan sent a letter to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General on Thursday demanding action against Iran after recent violations of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 were exposed.

In the letter, Erdan highlighted that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had carried out a series of tests of ballistic missiles, including those capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The information comes as members of the council are meeting in Vienna with representatives of the Iranian regime and as the United States considers returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“I strongly urge the Security Council to condemn these ongoing violations by Iran of UNSCR 2231, and call on members to respond to the clear threat to international peace and security posed by the Iranian nuclear program, their ballistic missile program and the regime’s active arms proliferation,” wrote Erdan. “Furthermore, I call on the UN secretariat to investigate and report the findings of the cases outlined in this letter. It is imperative that these violations be reflected in the upcoming report of the implementation of UNSCR 2231, and for the Security Council to remain actively seized of these matters in its deliberations.”
Does Iran Even Need Spies in Academia?
The Justice Department recently indicted professor Kaveh Afrasiabi, charging that for decades his persona as a neutral, mild-mannered scholar was a cover and that, in reality, he was an agent of the Islamic Republic of Iran. If the allegations are true and this seasoned academic (Boston University, Harvard and UC Berkeley) was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote Iranian interests in the New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe and to appear on television, it was wasted money.

Perhaps Iran got lucky and a man with a good cover offered his services, or perhaps he is one covert operative in a much larger operation to infiltrate American academia. But the sad truth is that Iran really doesn't need agents to pose as neutral experts because American academics long have done Iran's public messaging free of charge.

After his arrest, Afrasiabi's alleged handlers at Iran's United Nations Mission defended him by invoking his credentials, insisting that "Dr. Afrasiabi has not been working as an agent of the Mission, and only as a university professor and an expert on international relations." The two aren't mutually exclusive.

Even before the Shah of Iran was overthrown, Michel Foucault, France's most famous academic, helped to usher in the Revolution by downplaying the ruthlessness of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's followers and exaggerating their popularity. In September 1978, traveling to Iran as a journalist for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Foucault wrote enthusiastically that "the reactivation of Islam" would be peaceful and women would be free under the new system. Claiming that he "met, in Tehran and throughout Iran, the collective will of a people," he insisted that Khomeini "is not a politician" but rather "the focal point of a collective will."


“Curse on Jews” and calls on children to “fight against the tyranny of the Jews” found across educational materials in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen
Explicitly hostile attitudes to Jewish people and Israel, including repeated use of the slogan “curse on the Jews” have been found in educational materials in Yemen.

A newly released report by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School (IMPACT-se) reveals a violent and hostile attitude to Jewish people in materials published in areas of Yemen controlled by the rebel Houthis, the Iranian proxy whose organisation is known as Ansar Allah. The report points out that Ansar Allah’s attitudes to Jews closely mirror those of its Iranian backers.

IMPACT-se notes that “Violence and jihad are expressly encouraged” and that the materials contain “explicit antisemitism”, including manipulated images relating to the Holocaust and children urged to “fight against the tyranny of the Jews.” It also states that the Houthi Ansar Allah slogan, “death to Israel, curse on the Jews,” is seen repeatedly throughout the material.

IMPACT-se states that while Ansar Allah has “made education a core tenet” of its campaign to increase its influence in Yemen, the “hatred, glorification of violence” and “worldview of its materials” are contrary to “UNESCO standards of peace and tolerance and are unacceptable in any society.”

IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said that the report offered “a worrying insight into the violent mindset” of Ansar Allah and was “an extreme example of how education can be weaponised to perpetuate conflict.”







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