Monday, April 12, 2021

04/12 Links Pt1: Biden's Taylor Force Betrayal; The West’s shameful Iranian capitulation; How Israel Helps Defend American Interests in the Middle East

From Ian:

Biden's Taylor Force Betrayal
In his first 100 days in office, Biden has resumed funding of the Palestinians and UNRWA. He has rejoined the UNHRC, will probably soon rejoin UNESCO and has pledged to re-open the PLO mission. Biden's State Department has gone back to the old practice of referring to Judea and Samaria as "occupied territories."

For decades, the Palestinian leadership has conducted itself as the political arm of the various terrorist organizations it controls. Whether they call themselves Fatah, PLO, PA or Hamas, Palestinian leaders invariably coordinate attacks and obstruct rapprochement with Israel. The U.S. has long endured this truth, and has often pretended it wasn't so. American presidents have looked the other way when our own citizens and diplomats were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, all in the hope of achieving the chimera of peace in the Middle East.

During his four years in office, Donald Trump changed that. De-emphasizing the Palestinian centrality of Middle East policy led to the Abraham Accords—the most notable peace in the region since 1979.

But Joe Biden likes things the old way.

As secretary of state, John Kerry acknowledged that Iran would fund terrorism with some of the money it received in the 2015 nuclear deal. It was worth the trade-off, he believed, of a grand deal that would turn the Islamic Republic of Iran into a responsible nuclear power. That was a complete fantasy.

Likewise, Joe Biden believes that the advantages to funding Palestinians outweigh the unfortunate fact that a percentage of that money will be spent on missiles, salaries of imprisoned terrorists and pensions for the families of Palestinian "martyrs."

Biden seems to have forgotten the visceral shock he felt five years ago when Taylor Force was murdered nearby. He is now blinded as he chases the fantasy of a responsible Palestinian leadership that can be persuaded to accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel.
The West’s shameful Iranian capitulation
On a sweltering day in July 2018, German police pulled over a scarlet Ford S-Max hire car that was travelling at speed towards Austria. The driver, Assadollah Assadi, the third secretary to the Iranian embassy in Vienna, was arrested at gunpoint and taken into custody.

Although unusual, there was a good reason for detaining the diplomat: Assadi had used his immunity to smuggle a bomb on a commercial airliner from Tehran to Austria, intending to carry out what would have been one of Europe’s worst atrocities in recent years.

Once in Vienna, he had handed the device — codenamed the ‘Playstation’ — to two married Belgian-Iranian agents, Amir Saadouni and Nasimeh Naami, and instructed them to blow up an anti-regime event in Paris, which was to be attended by dignitaries including Rudy Giuliani and former environment secretary Theresa Villiers.

The plot was thwarted on the day of the attack after a tip-off from Mossad, saving hundreds of lives. Assadi was arrested the following day while pursuing diplomatic refuge in Austria. But as we reported in this week’s Jewish Chronicle, the treasure trove of evidence inside the vehicle should have set off alarm bells in European corridors of power — alarm bells that should be sounding especially loudly today.

The car was effectively being used as a mobile intelligence station to run agents. It contained handwritten records of trips to 289 locations in 22 cities across Europe as well as notes on bomb handling and ideas for attacks using acid and toxic pathogenic substances. Also discovered were receipts for expense reimbursements and salary payments to spies, details of computers issued to them, numerous mobile phones and GPS devices, and more than €30,000 (£26,000) in cash. In short, it revealed an Iranian espionage network in Europe that was startling in both its scale and scope.

When seen in the light of the political context at the time, the arrest seemed almost ironic. Not eight weeks previously, Donald Trump had pulled America out of the nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reimposing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on the theocracy. The Europeans were appalled.
How Israel Helps Defend American Interests in the Middle East
Israel plays an indispensable role in helping defend American interests in the Middle East, serving as a stabilizing bulwark in a dangerous region that remains vitally important to the U.S.

Israel's determination to prevent a nuclear Iran represents significant leverage for American diplomats in negotiations with Tehran. If wielded skillfully by American negotiators, this leverage can play an essential role in pressuring Iran to dramatically curb its nuclear ambitions.

Should talks fail and Iran's march toward the bomb continue, Israel's ability to act decisively is a unique strategic asset - one that the Biden administration should have every interest in preserving and ensuring is as effective as possible.

Israel also has taken the lead against Iran on the ground. In Iran's shadow wars across the region, Israel alone has mastered gray-zone combat, conducting more than 1,000 strikes against Iranian-related targets in Syria, Iraq and the surrounding seas, almost single-handedly crippling Tehran's master plan to turn Syria into an IRGC fortress and forward operating base.

For the U.S., it's hard to put a price on the value of having a local partner with the power and skill to operate so effectively.

President Biden: Israel’s Friend or Foe?
Donald Trump was indisputably the best presidential friend of Israel since 1948, when Harry S. Truman recognized the fledgling Jewish state moments after its Declaration of Independence. Trump’s gifts to Israel included transfer of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in recognition of the ancient Jewish city as the capitol of the Jewish state; and acknowledgment of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, vital to Israel’s northern security. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo authorized a passport rule change to permit Americans born in Jerusalem to identify Israel as their birthplace. He also rescinded a State Department memorandum (1978) that settlements are inconsistent with international law.

Little more than two months after his inauguration, President Joe Biden is already competing to become the worst president toward Israel. He might even surpass his revered presidential mentor Barack Obama, whose antagonism toward Israel was one of the distinguishing features of his presidency. Understandably, a public opinion poll in 2016 reported that 63% of Israelis thought that Obama was the worst president for Israel since 1986. His closest rival for that dubious honor was Jimmy Carter at 16%.

President Biden seems eager to join them, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken as his messenger. It began in early April when Blinken told Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi of the Biden administration’s belief that both “Israelis and Palestinians should enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.” It is a fanciful hope. Freedom and democracy have never been priorities for the Palestinian Authority, whose leader President Mahmoud Abbas is now in the sixteenth year of his four-year term. Biden has expressed his farfetched belief that Israel’s control over the West Bank (biblical Judea and Samaria) is “occupation.” He might consider whether New Mexico, as its name implies, is also occupied territory.

As the Biden decision to undo Trump administration support for Israel accelerated, Blinken announced plans to resume American funding for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Administration dedicated to preserving the fiction that there are five million Palestinian “refugees” entitled to financial support. In reality, an estimated 30,000 refugees from the 1947-48 Arab war to exterminate the fledgling Jewish state are still alive. But for UNRWA, which has nothing but lavish funding to lose — and, it seems, for Blinken — the refugees’ children, grandchildren, and their descendants unto eternity all qualify as “refugees.” It is, in translation, a scam.
Does Biden Admin’s Proposed Aid to Palestinians Violate US Law?
Security Assistance
The proposed resumption of security assistance is similarly problematic in light of the Taylor Force Act. Until two years ago, the US transferred $60 million annually to the PA for its security apparatus. Indeed, the Palestinian Authority’s security forces had come to rely heavily on American aid. “American aid is at the core of the process of training Palestinian security forces,” the Palestinian police said in a 2019 statement.

This funding was cut in 2019 at the PA’s request following the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA). Under this law, receiving aid would place the PA under the jurisdiction of US courts, potentially exposing it to lawsuits by terror victims.

However, according to US State Department Spokesman Ned Price, the renewing of US security assistance will “advance the rule of law in the West Bank for the benefit of all through the development of professional and accountable security and criminal justice institutions.” [emphasis added]

But it is unclear who could possibly control these institutions in the West Bank other than the PA government itself. This, however, would likely amount to direct aid to the PA, prohibited by the Taylor Force Act.

HonestReporting has requested comment on the matter from the State Department and is awaiting a response.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021
Moreover, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (section 7041) is an obstacle to Washington’s funding plans. Since 2014, annual appropriation legislation contains provisions that condition US aid to the Palestinians on Ramallah abstaining from initiating or actively supporting an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

Yet just last month, PA official Ahmad Majdalani admitted that the PA did indeed initiate the ICC case, and continues to support the prosecution. “We submitted three main dossiers to the court in our proposal — documentation relating to the 2014 Gaza war, settlements, and various homicides committed by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian civilians,” Majdalani said.

The PA Foreign Ministry also told the court it would provide “any assistance required…to realize justice for the Palestinian people.”

Further Reading: ICC Gives Itself Authority to Adjudicate Israeli ‘War Crimes’

Not only did they submit a formal referral to the court, but the Palestinian administration has also repeatedly provided purported evidence, and is in constant contact with the ICC prosecutor. “We are now in the stage of evaluating matters and developing an integrated plan of action, developing a complete strategy for how to work with the court,” PA Foreign Minister Al-Maliki told Palestinian television in March.

That the PA is violating the conditions set forth by the Consolidated Appropriations Act is, therefore, crystal clear. It is for this reason that, two weeks ago, 25 Members of Congress wrote a letter warning US President Biden not to restart funding for the Palestinians. “Accountability and respect for US law is, of course, a linchpin of any successful American foreign policy,” they stated, noting that the previous administration had concluded that the PA did initiate an investigation in The Hague.
Memo to NYT, CNN, LA Times: US Taxpayers Have Right to Know If They’re Abetting Palestinian Terrorism
News organizations’ apparent inability to effectively cover this story is supported by data. Between April 7, the date of the White House announcement, and April 12, HonestReporting reviewed 79 articles produced on this topic by major media outlets (CNN, The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, MSN, MSNBC, NBC, and ABC). Only one of these stories mentions the Taylor Force Act, while a mere four items specifically explore the question of whether the White House may be violating US law. In addition, just nine of the 79 stories make any reference to Palestinian terrorism.

Why No Debate? Media’s Disconcerting Silence on Major Policy Shift
The likelihood that this funding will help the Palestinian people live better lives, in a more democratic society, should be a matter of robust public debate. Instead, it appears that influential news organizations are opting to uncritically relay the Palestinian Authority’s response to the White House’s largesse:
The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement that it “renewed its commitment to the two-state solution based on the foundations of international legitimacy, and its willingness to respond to any international efforts to reach this goal.”

Media have a profound responsibility to paint a full picture of every situation, given that in free societies they shape public opinion. For example, it was American journalist Nicholas Kristof who drew massive attention to the genocide in Darfur in the early 2000s. And then there is the role of the media in the perception of the Vietnam War. Intense levels of news coverage correlated with shifts in public opinion regarding these conflicts.

Are today’s major news organizations up to the challenge of reporting the facts, providing crucial context, and questioning prevailing narratives?

The answers should be yes, yes and yes when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Transparency Now: Sign Petition to Ensure US Aid to Palestinians Doesn’t Violate Anti-Terrorism Laws
The White House announced plans to resume US financial assistance to the Palestinians in an amount expected to be over $300M.

Yet it is not clear exactly where this money will go, and that raises unanswered questions regarding whether it’s even legal, for example: will this violate the Taylor Force Act and other US anti-terrorism laws? Will the Palestinian Authority divert some of this money to terrorists as a reward for killing Israelis and Americans as part of its official “Martyrs Fund” program? Misuse of these funds would harm both Israelis and Palestinians alike, as well as Americans.

At HonestReporting we believe the media has an ethical duty to “keep our politicians honest” by publicly raising these questions, but most news organizations are failing in that important job. So we’re stepping in, and we need your help! We’ve been in contact with both the State Department and USAID, yet have yet to receive clear answers on the intended use of the funds.

Therefore, we urge you to sign our petition, demanding that the White House, State Department and USAID be fully transparent with respect to the exact use of all aid allocated for Palestinian causes.

Simplistic BBC reporting on renewal of US funding to Palestinians
The article states:
“Palestinian leaders accused Mr Trump of being heavily biased towards Israel.

They rejected a peace plan he unveiled last year that envisaged recognising Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley, and Jerusalem remaining Israel’s “undivided capital”.”

The BBC does not bother to inform readers that “Palestinian leaders” rejected that proposal even before they had read it or that it included the establishment of a Palestinian state and a significant increase in the amount of land under Palestinian control in what the BBC terms “the occupied West Bank” as well as land swaps in the Negev.

A photo caption and the report’s text tell readers of “5.7 million” Palestinian refugees without any mention of the fact that the number of actual refugees is estimated at several tens of thousands, with all the rest being descendants uniquely afforded automatic refugee status.

“Unrwa assists some 5.7 million Palestinian refugees across the Middle East”

“The agency was originally set up to take care of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

It says it now supports some 5.7 million registered refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, including by providing them with healthcare, education and social services.”

In a section of analysis of the story from the BBC Jerusalem bureau’s Yolande Knell readers are told that:
“At Qalandia refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, Hassan Abu al-Eish, 85, said he had felt the effect of the cuts in aid and was left unable to afford the basics. “When Trump arrived, he stopped all the Unrwa funds and closed all the doors on us,” he commented.”

Readers are not told why that refugee camp and eighteen others still exist in territory which has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority for over a quarter of a century or why some Palestinian citizens still receive services from the UNRWA refugee agency rather than from the PA.
Douglas Feith: The U.S. Should "Focus on Getting the Palestinians New and Better Leaders"
The crux of the problem, then, is that the current Palestinian leadership is "unwilling to end the conflict on the basis of territorial compromise." The "peace process" has not overcome that unwillingness. On the contrary, it has entrenched the Palestinian side's "ill-motivated" leadership. The leaders of the Palestinian Authority are lavished with foreign aid and attention because of their unresolved conflict with Israel. As such, they "worry that they would lose diplomatic attention, they would lose foreign aid, ... and lose their own sense of dignity as warriors or revolutionaries in a great cause" if they reached a settlement with Israel.

"I don't believe that any diplomacy aimed at trying to negotiate a compromise peace with the current Palestinian leadership can succeed," said Feith, but "a solution is possible if the Palestinians have new leaders with a different ideology." Instead of pushing Israelis and Palestinians into resuming talks, the Biden administration should instead work to "cultivate new Palestinian leaders who don't have terrorist backgrounds and don't have ideological commitments to Israel's destruction, and are actually interested in improving ... the general wellbeing of their people." Once the Palestinians have accountable leaders "the way would be open" for a peace settlement. "If you want to do something constructive, focus on getting the Palestinians new and better leaders."

In the meantime, Feith expects that the broader Arab-Israeli peace process embodied in the Abraham Accords will continue to develop regardless of the state of Israel-Palestinian relations and regardless of the policies enacted by the Biden administration. "If Biden's team supports the Abraham Accords, the Accords will get stronger, and if they effectively oppose the Accords by reaching out to Iran, the Abraham Accords will get stronger."
Biden administration must push to reform UN Human Rights Council -opinion
US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to differentiate itself from its predecessor in many arenas, foreign policy included. Yet it has endorsed a self-evident truth acknowledged by former US president Donald Trump’s administration, and indeed that of former US president Barack Obama: something is broken at the UN Human Rights Council. For too long, a body intended to impartially promote human rights has instead granted legitimacy and impunity to some of the world’s greatest abusers. By moving to rejoin the council, the Biden administration must now push for significant reforms that promote accountability for major violators, end the disproportionate targeting of Israel and shore up credibility for a body that has too-often failed the most vulnerable.

The Trump administration decided to withdraw from the UNHRC in 2018, calling it “a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.” While recognizing its faults, the Biden team is instead seeking a seat at the table “to ensure that this important body lives up to its purpose.” The council indeed has a laudable founding mission. It was designed to “address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations,” and to do so with, inter alia, “impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity.” Candidates to the UNHRC should have their contribution to “the promotion and protection of human rights” taken into account, while elected members “shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” A member that “commits gross and systematic violations” may be suspended, following a vote.

Sadly, the council’s function has rarely come close to matching aspiration. Indeed, many observers believe it has made a mockery of its founding ethos. The 15 countries elected to the UNHRC this past October include a number that are anything but icons in the protection and advancement of fundamental human rights. Among these are China, which both the Trump and Biden administrations determined has committed genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang; Russia, which independent UN experts accused of poisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Cuba, run by a government that continues to repress the fundamental freedoms of its own citizens. They joined other serial human rights violators already on the 47-member council, most notably Venezuela, whose inclusion speaks volumes about the delta between the council’s hyperbole and what it really represents.
America Has Made a Serious Mistake on UNRWA
The Biden administration’s regressive decision to include $150 million for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as part of its restoration of more than $200 million of financial aid to the Palestinians symbolizes its deeper refusal to recognize the gargantuan obstacle this agency has placed in the way of resolving the Palestinians’ ongoing conflict with Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement last week clearly demonstrated the administration’s conviction that the Palestinian issue must be treated as a humanitarian question before anything else. On the subject of UNRWA, Blinken entirely overlooked the serious, copiously documented accusations against the agency that range from institutionalized corruption to the propagation of antisemitism, focusing instead on the provision of educational services to 500,000 Palestinian children of school age along with “health care, medicine, medical supplies … and cash and food assistance to families severely impacted by COVID-19.”

Blinken’s only concession to the concerns about UNRWA that have been expressed by American politicians from both sides of the aisle for most of President Joe Biden’s political career was to offer the assurance that the United States “is deeply committed to ensuring that our partnership with UNRWA promotes neutrality, accountability, and transparency.”

He then noted, “As with all of our engagements with UN institutions, the United States needs to be at the table to ensure that the reforms advance efficiencies and are in accord with our interests and values” — a rehash of the same argument Blinken used to explain the US decision to return to the structurally flawed UN Human Rights Council back in February.
Before its 73rd Independence Day, Israel’s population stands at 9.3 million
Two days before the eve of Israel’s celebration of its 73rd anniversary, the population of the Jewish state stands at 9,327,000, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced Monday.

That includes nearly 6.9 million Jews, accounting for 73.9 percent of the population; 1.96 million Arabs, just over one-fifth of the population; and 467,000 people of other groups, amounting to 5% of the population.

About 78% of Israel’s Jews are native-born.

Since last year’s Independence Day, 167,000 babies were born, 50,000 people died, and 16,300 immigrated to the country, according to the CBS.

Overall, the population increased by some 137,000 people, amounting to a 1.5% increase.

In 1948, when the Jewish state was established, the population of Israel numbered 806,000 people.
Jewish population at lowest percentage since founding of Israel
The proportion of Jews in Israel's population fell below the threshold of 74% for the first time this year, data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published on Monday in honor of Israel's 73rd Independence Day has revealed.

The report shows that close to the establishment of the state in 1948, the Jewish percentage of the population stood at 82.1%, while today it stands at only 73.9%. On Israel's 70th Independence Day, the rate of Jews was 74.5%, a decrease of more than half a percent in just three years.

Additional data reveals that on the eve of this Independence Day, the population of Israel is about 9.327 million. Segmentation shows that about 6.984 million are Jews (73.9%) and about 1.966 million are Arabs (21.1%), including Muslims (and Circassians), Arab Christians (including Armenians) and Druze. About 467,000 people are defined as others, including non-Arab Christians, members of other religions and those registered as having no religious classification in the population registry.
Courted by Likud, Ra’am adamant it will not back away from anti-Zionist charter
The Islamist Ra’am political party, positioned as a likely linchpin for any prospective governing coalition, is standing by its foundational charter, which forbids any allegiance to Israel and deems Zionism a “racist, occupying project,” a senior party official told The Times of Israel this week.

The faction is being wooed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who needs the support of Ra’am to pass the 61-seat threshold for forming a majority coalition, or the party’s outside backing for a minority coalition. The party could also help an anti-Netanyahu bloc led by Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid. But some right-wing politicians, both in the pro- and anti-Netanyahu camps, have ruled out basing a coalition on the party’s support, due to what they say is an anti-Zionist stance; others, like the far-right Religious Zionism, have accused Ra’am of supporting terrorists.

Ra’am is the political wing of the Southern Islamic Movement, an organization inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood. Updated in 2018 and reviewed at a 2019 conference in Nazareth which was reportedly chaired by Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, the Southern Islamic Movement’s 80-page charter takes positions considered anathema by most Jewish Israelis.

It calls for the so-called right of return for Palestinian refugees who left or were expelled in 1948, widely seen as a red line by most Zionist Israelis, who view an influx of potentially millions of Palestinians to Israel as spelling the demographic end of the Jewish state. It compares the status quo in Israel and the territories to the short-lived Crusader kingdoms built by European invaders in the Holy Land in the Middle Ages.

“There can be no allegiance to [Israel], nor any identification with its Zionist, racist, occupier thought, nor any acceptance of any of the various forms of ‘Israelification,’ which would shed us of our identity and particularity and rights,” says the charter, provided to The Times of Israel last week by a senior figure in Ra’am.
Iran seeking to lure Israelis abroad, could kidnap or harm them – intel agencies
Iranian agents have been attempting to lure Israelis abroad to meet, in an effort to kidnap or otherwise harm them, Israeli intelligence agencies warned Monday.

The Iranian intelligence operatives set up fake Instagram profiles, usually of women in the tourism business, and contacted Israelis. They attempted to draw Israelis to meetings abroad with business propositions or offers of romantic rendezvouses, the Shin Bet security service and Mossad intelligence agency said in a joint statement.

They warned Israelis who conduct business abroad to be wary of queries from social media accounts.

“Security officials call on Israeli citizens who maintain business ties abroad to be aware and vigilant about inquiries on social networks from profiles they do not recognize, and to avoid contact with them,” the agencies said.

The countries named by the agencies include Arab countries, Turkey, the Gulf states, and countries in the Caucasus, Africa and Europe.

The Shin Bet and Mossad also said there was a “real concern” that the Iranian intelligence effort could lead to attempts to hurt or kidnap Israeli citizens overseas.
PA Intelligence Blaming UAE for Jewish Jerusalem Land Purchases
The purchase of three properties by Jewish associations from residents of the Silwan neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem last Thursday ignited a wave of rumors about the involvement of the United Arab Emirates, as the one behind the financing of the transactions through the people of Muhammad Dahlan, a senior Fatah official living in Abu Dhabi.

Behind the wave of rumors is the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence, which is working against Muhammad Dahlan’s list, which is running in the Palestinian Authority elections.

With the completion of the new land deal in Silwan, the large families in the village are announcing the “Honorary Charter” designed to boycott the land sellers and evict them.

The Convention, signed by the heads of families and clans in Silwan and supported by the Supreme Muslim Council, calls on the entire Arab and Muslim public in eastern Jerusalem to boycott the land sellers and their relatives. The convention calls for not attending social and family events of the land traders and prohibits marriage with their families. The Convention prohibits any social contact with land traders and their families, including attending weddings or funerals, burial arrangements, including the washing of the body, and prohibits their burial in Muslim cemeteries.

The families call for severing all friendships with the land sellers, banning all trade ties and stipulating that the property traders will be considered as having taken themselves out of the Islamic religion.

Against the backdrop of growing criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s helplessness, which has pledged to prevent land deals in eastern Jerusalem, families in eastern Jerusalem are now calling on the PA to prosecute land sellers even in their absence and “beat them with an iron fist” as well as those who help them.

The boycott treaty is a continuation of a Muslim ruling issued in 1935 by clerics in eastern Jerusalem that banned all land trade and the sale of homes to Jews.

Israel's New High-Tech Gaza Security Barrier
Israel is close to completing the underground component of its new security fence around Hamas-controlled Gaza and the above-ground elements are 80% complete.

Israelis understood the need for such a barrier during the 2014 Gaza conflict after uncovering several commando tunnels from Gaza into Israel.

In addition to an above-ground physical layer, an upper hi-tech layer will include detection devices like robots, drones, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and more. They are all equipped with visual, electronic and intelligence equipment and powered by artificial intelligence.

The underground component includes a high-tech cement wall extending tens of meters beneath the ground, equipped with a multi-dimensional sensor net to detect any activity near, at, or under the barrier.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinian Elections: What the Biden Administration Does Not Want to Know
Hamas and the PFLP have rejected all the agreements signed between Israel and the PLO, including the Oslo Accords. Yet, these terrorist groups have no problem running in an election held under the umbrella of the Oslo Accords.

[I]t is already evident that some of them have no intention of complying with the wishes of the State Department about "renouncing violence and terrorism" or accepting the "two-state solution."

Representatives of some of the lists running in the election, in fact, are promising the exact opposite. They are saying that they are committed to continuing the fight against Israel and have absolutely no intention of recognizing Israel's right to exist.

These Palestinians oppose any recognition of Israel's right to exist; they oppose any form of normalization with Israel; they oppose any peace talks with Israel and have repeatedly denounced any peace process with Israel as an act of treason.

Abu Zuhri and the Hamas leadership are sending the following message to the State Department spokesman: If you think Hamas will renounce violence and terrorism or accept the so-called two-state solution, you are sadly deluding yourself.

This dangerous exploitation of the Oslo Accords, however, does not seem to bother the US administration or the European Union when they talk about the need for the Palestinians to have free and democratic elections.

Like Hamas, the PFLP also vowed to pursue the fight against Israel "until the liberation of all of Palestine" -- in other words, all of Israel.

Under the current circumstances, it seems that Palestinians who support terrorism and do not accept the "two-state solution" are headed toward dominating the next Palestinian parliament and government.

Now that the Hamas and the PFLP candidates have been approved by the Central Elections Commission, the US or the rest of the international community can prevent this plot from materializing by making it clear that they will not recognize any future Palestinian government with terrorists. This demand should be made before, not after the elections.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Gunmen attack home of Palestinian candidate in Hebron
A candidate for the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary election on Monday said unidentified gunmen opened fire at his house and car in Hebron.

Lawyer Hatem Shaheen, who is running as a candidate on al-Mustaqbal (The Future) list, said the shooting attack took place around 2:30 a.m.

The list is affiliated with exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, an archrival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Shaheen is No. 13 on the list and is considered a major supporter of Dahlan in the southern West Bank.

No one was wounded in the incident, which is seen as a sign of mounting tensions among members of the ruling Fatah faction ahead of the election, slated for May 22.

The attack was in the context of ongoing infighting among Fatah leaders and activists, sources in Hebron said.

They expressed fear that the incident could trigger a wave of violence between rival Fatah activists in the West Bank.
Official PA TV equates Israeli parliamentarian with Eichmann

How Iran Smuggles Arms to Hamas
An arms smuggler who deals with Hamas in Gaza told Al-Monitor that Iranian weapons are first shipped to Sudan or Somalia, "then to Egypt, where smugglers transport it by land to Sinai, and from there, Bedouins who specialize in smuggling deliver the shipment to Gaza through tunnels."

"The second route is through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who send weapons through the Suez Canal all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, where Iranian ships dock off the coast of Gaza in Egyptian territorial waters. When night sets in, Hamas frogmen transport the weapons in closed containers."
Lebanon Looks to Expand Maritime Claims in Border Dispute With Israel
Lebanon’s Public Works and Transport Minister Michel Najjar said on Monday that he had signed a document expanding the country’s claims in its maritime border dispute with Israel.

“I expect it will be signed as everyone, the minister of defense and the prime minister and the president, are concerned about this,” said Najjar, according to Reuters. The document must be signed by all three in addition to Najjar to register a new claim with the United Nations.

“We will not give up any inch of our homeland or a drop of its waters or an inch of its dignity,” he added.

The document adds around 1,400 square kilometers (540.5 square miles) to the exclusive economic zone Lebanon had previously claimed.

Israel and Lebanon began talks last year to resolve the border dispute, but they were postponed in November, though it was agreed that the two sides would continue to hold discussions with US mediators separately.
Syrian Air Force May Have Dropped Chlorine Bomb on Town in Rebel Area in 2018: Chemical Arms Watchdog
The global chemical weapons watchdog has “reasonable grounds to believe” that Syria’s air force dropped a chlorine bomb on a residential neighborhood in the rebel-controlled Idlib region in February 2018, a report released on Monday said.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government. Syria and its military ally Russia have consistently denied using chemical weapons during President Bashar al-Assad’s decade-old conflict with rebel forces, saying any such attacks were staged by opponents to make Damascus look like the culprit.

The new report by the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog’s investigative arm said no one was killed when the cylinder of chlorine gas, delivered in a barrel bomb, hit the Al Talil neighborhood in the city of Saraqib in February 2018.

However, on the night of Feb. 4, a dozen people were treated for symptoms consistent with chemical poisoning, including nausea, eye irritation, shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing, it said.

Chlorine is not an internationally banned toxin, but the use of any chemical substance in armed conflict is banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, the implementation of which is overseen by the OPCW watchdog based in The Hague.
‘Battling Iran Is a Colossal Mission,’ Netanyahu Says Amid Reports Mossad Was Behind Natanz Blackout
Battling Iran is a colossal mission, yet one that saw Israel grow in stature into a global power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday amid reports that the Mossad intelligence agency was behind the blackout at an Iranian nuclear plant.

Speaking at an event with the Israeli military’s top brass, Netanyahu said, “The battle against Iran and its proxies represents a colossal mission. That things are one way now doesn’t mean they will stay that way later on.”

“It’s very hard to explain what we have achieved here in Israel, going from total helplessness to being a global power,” Netanyahu added.

Netanyahu has, however, made no direct reference to the power failure at the Natanz nuclear plant, which Iran’s atomic energy organization said represented an act of “nuclear terrorism.”

Hebrew-language public broadcaster Kan was among the local outlets that reported that Israel was likely behind the incident, while Channel 13 cited “Western intelligence sources” as saying that a cyberattack by the Mossad security agency was behind the outage.

Israel, which has accused Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons that could be used against it, made no official comment on the incident.
Natanz Sabotage Set Back Iran’s Nuclear Program by 9 Months, Improved US Leverage in Talks
Israeli intelligence sources told Kan 11 News on Sunday that the damage to the Natanz nuclear facility was significant and included centrifuges of various kinds, undermining Iran’s capabilities to enrich uranium.

Two US intelligence officials told the NY Times the damage had been caused by a large explosion, the result of an Israeli operation, that destroyed the independent internal power system that supplied the underground centrifuges that enrich uranium. According to the report, the power system was “heavily protected.” The officials said the explosion severely damaged Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, estimating that it could take the Iranians at least nine months to restore the site’s production.

Another intelligence source pointed out that the explosion may have “significantly compromised” Iran’s leverage in its talks with the Biden administration to restore the 2015 nuclear deal. It is not yet known whether the Biden administration received advanced warning from Israel about the Natanz operation, but the operation coincided with the first visit of a senior Biden official in Israel – Secretary of defense Lloyd Austin.

Recently, Israeli officials expressed their frustration with leaks to the media from the Biden administration regarding Israel’s security operations, such as last Tuesday’s attack on the Saviz, an Iranian military vessel in the Red Sea that the White House reportedly leaked was an Israeli mine attack.

But on Sunday night it appeared that the Benjamin Netanyahu government continues its departure from the traditional secrecy regarding clandestine operations to openly boasting about them. On Sunday night, the Prime Minister raised a glass with security operatives in honor of the approaching Israeli Independence Day and declared: “The fight against Iran and its metastases is a huge task. The situation that exists today does not mean that it will exist tomorrow.”

Strike on Natanz Planned Long Before Vienna Nuclear Talks
The strike on Iran’s key Natanz nuclear facility was prepared long before the ongoing Vienna nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Although it is quite possible that the exact timing of the attack, which is being widely attributed to Israel either as a physical or cyberattack, was eventually given a final green light to set the Islamic Republic back at the negotiating table, the operation itself was in the works long before.

At the time the operation was planned, it was still unclear exactly when and if the US and Iran would return to serious negotiations regarding a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, though it has been known for a long time that this was the professed intention of US President Joe Biden.

Previously, the Post has reported that planning of the now legendary Mossad January 2018 raid of Iran’s nuclear secrets started from the beginning of Mossad Director Yossi Cohen in early 2016.

Whether an operation is physical or cyber can also impact how long the planning takes since there are large differences in terms of how many operatives might be required on the ground.

With the New York Times report that the latest strike has brought down the Natanz electrical system for as many as nine months, there could be a major impact on the strength of Tehran’s negotiating position in Vienna.

The Iranians Initiated the Shadow Sea War
Israel did not take responsibility for the April 6 attack on an Iranian ship used by the Revolutionary Guards for surveillance and naval military operations in the Red Sea, says Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the former head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence. "This ship is known to be serving the IRGC. The target has been damaged. We've seen many reports on Iranian ships smuggling weapons and oil, but this is the first time that a naval ship has been attacked."

Israel "wouldn't hit any Iranian ship if they didn't endanger Israel in the sea arena. They're reportedly moving weapons to Hizbullah - Israel is obligated to stop this....It is the Iranians that initiated the shadow sea war. Israel is responding." Israel, "of course, has no interest in escalation," said Kuperwasser.

"Every side wants to be sure that it has deterred the other and wants to be the last side to respond. If the Iranians respond, Israel might have to respond, too. Hence, even if the sides do not want an escalation, there is no mechanism at this time that is able to prevent it."
Iranian Spymaster Ran Agents in 22 European Cities
Documents found by German police in a car used by Iranian spy chief Assadollah Assadi, who in February was sentenced to 20 years in prison for masterminding a failed bomb attack in Paris in 2018, disclosed a network of regime agents in 22 cities in 11 European countries, along with plans for terror attacks using explosives, acid and toxic pathogenic substances. Assadi, 48, was a senior officer in Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, where he worked in Department 312, responsible for international assassinations. He was appointed third secretary at Tehran's embassy in Vienna in 2014.

Police officers discovered a notebook containing handwritten bomb-making and fieldwork instructions, and another recording trips to 289 locations across Europe to meet agents over four years. Investigators also recovered documentation disclosing the workings of the espionage network, including receipts of expenses for reimbursement, records of monthly and quarterly spy salaries, and details of computers issued to agents. Also found were four mobile phones used to contact spies, a laptop, external hard drives and USB sticks containing intelligence training manuals.

"This will have no impact whatsoever on the nuclear discussions in Vienna," said Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs. "European powers are in the palm of Tehran's hand on the nuclear issue. The Iranians know that the Europeans will take no retaliatory action, so they just do whatever they like in Europe."
PreOccupiedTerritory: Every Kitchen Appliance Hiccup Now Making Ayatollah Uneasy (satire)
A series of suspected Israeli sabotage activities affecting Iran’s ability to project regional power and develop its nuclear weapons program have also engendered in the the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader the gnawing feeling that the Zionists will eventually get him by the same clandestine means and causing him to have a minor panic attack each time his toaster, coffee maker, electric kettle, or other powered culinary implement makes noise.

Staff at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s official residence disclosed today that over the last week a tense look has come across his face when any kitchen appliance makes more noise than expected, or a different noise from what he expected. The workers attribute the cleric’s behavior to his developing paranoia in the wake of several Israeli operations against Iranian interests in the region such as a “mother ship” coordinating operations in the Red Sea and a massive electrical failure at the top-secret Natanz nuclear facility, operations that demonstrate the Jewish State’s intelligence apparatus has penetrated far into Iran’s military-industrial systems and can act at will against any Iranian target.

“He’s been acting weird lately,” admitted a senior staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I mean, weirder than usual. You know these ayatollahs; they’re not the most down-to-earth characters, with all the Zionists-did-this and Zionists-caused-that. Not exactly grounded in reality, you know what I’m saying? So yeah, weirder than usual. That says something.”