Thursday, April 22, 2021

From Ian:

Amb. Alan Baker: What Does the Return of the “Two-State Solution” Mean?
With the advent of the new Biden administration in the United States, the phrase “two-state solution” appears to have returned to the forefront in the new U.S. administration’s “reset” of its policy priorities regarding the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.2

The phrase is repeated daily by administration officials as well as by international leaders and organizations, as it was during the Obama and previous administrations.

However, as in the past, the phrase is again being bandied about as a form of collective and generalized “wishful thinking,” as the only panacea to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, but without a full awareness of its history, its practical implications, and the feasibility of its implementation amidst the realities of that dispute.

It is repeated despite the fact that the “two-state solution” has never been accepted by the parties to the dispute as the agreed solution, and despite the fact that the permanent status of the territories, as agreed in the Oslo Accords, remains an open negotiating issue between the parties. As such, repetition of the call for a “two-state solution” would appear to be an attempt to prejudge the outcome of that negotiating process.

Clearly, any concept of a “two-state solution” that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel could only emanate from direct negotiations between Israel and a unified Palestinian leadership. This would not be a result of a partisan political resolution issued by the UN or any other source, or from vague and generalized calls from international leaders for a “two-state solution” as a form of collective wishful thinking.

Any such outcome must include the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people by a Palestinian state, in the same manner in which Israel would recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people.


Amb. Dore Gold: Defensible Borders for Israel: An Updated Response to Advocates and Skeptics
Despite intense efforts in Western capitals to second-guess Israel's security requirements, the top Israeli leadership has been remarkably consistent about what Israel requires to protect its vulnerable borders. The architects of Israel's national security have insisted on retaining "defensible borders" for assuring a stable peace.

In the aftermath of the Six-Day War in 1967, Gen. Earle Wheeler, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted: "From a strictly military point of view, Israel would require the retention of some captured Arab territory in order to provide militarily defensible borders."

In 2004, President George W. Bush wrote to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: "The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure and defensible borders to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself."

IDF Maj.-Gen. Shlomo Yanai published a study on Israel's "Core Security Requirements" in 2005 and concluded: "Despite the technological advances of modern defense systems and warfare, controlling the high ground remains an essential part of basic security doctrine." Similarly, former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gadi Eisenkot wrote Guidelines for Israel's National Security Strategy in 2019 and included "defensible borders" among the seven principles for the military security of Israel.

The West Bank mountain ridge, together with the Jordan Valley, constitutes a strategic barrier reaching more than 4,600 feet in some places to protect Israel against threats from the east on its longest land border.

In the face of threats from Iran and Muslim terror armies equipped with state-of-the-art conventional weapons systems, terrain, topography, and strategic depth remain critical, as does Israel's need for defensible borders.
Caroline Glick: The Thomas-Greenfield Doctrine of U.S. Foreign Policy
Taken at face value, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield's condemnation of the United States in a speech last week before Al Sharpton's National Action Network was one of the most bizarre statements made by a diplomat—from the U.S. or, indeed, from anywhere—in recent years.

In her remarks, Thomas-Greenfield castigated the U.S. as inherently, irredeemably evil. "I have seen for myself how the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles," America's woman at the United Nations said.

While bizarre to the uninformed, it turns out Thomas-Greenfield's remarks were simply her stump speech. She gave the same one—nearly verbatim—at the UN last month.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly's meeting marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Thomas-Greenfield insisted that America's "original sin" of slavery has not been expunged from American life. It has simply morphed into a new form.

There is "a direct line from slavery to lynchings to segregation to mass incarceration," she alleged. So as far as Thomas-Greenfield is concerned, slavery didn't end when hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers gave their lives to end slavery in the Civil War. It didn't end through constitutional amendments, or even during the civil rights movement. America's "original sin of slavery" continues to have a terrible impact "on our people today," she insisted.

The most basic job of a diplomat—for any country—is to put a good face on his or her country before the nations of the world. At the UN, an institution dominated by tyrannies, the U.S faces isolation as a matter of course. For the most part, the only U.S. initiatives at the UN that have succeeded have been those that directly support rogue actors—like then-President Barack Obama's decision to rejoin the dictator-controlled, anti-American and anti-Semitic Human Rights Council, as well as his decision to legitimize Iran's nuclear program.


328 Congress members support full funding of Israel security assistance
A bipartisan group of 328 Members of Congress sent a letter on Thursday morning to the Appropriations Committee to voice support for “robust funding for Israel’s security without added conditions.”

The move comes three days after the speeches of Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who said during the J Street conference that the administration should consider conditioning aid to Israel.

The letter was spearheaded by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida-22), chairman of the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism Subcommittee, and Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-Texas-10), lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“There should be no doubt of where Congress stands in our support for Israel's security after an overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans signed on to support full funding of security assistance to our closest Middle East ally," Deutch said in a statement.

“This letter clearly demonstrates that Republicans and Democrats in Congress stand together in opposing conditions on our security assistance to Israel," McCaul said. "The United States stands with our friend and ally Israel in promoting our shared national security goals abroad. We remain committed to providing Israel with the necessary security aid to protect itself.”

“We strongly believe that robust US foreign assistance is vital to ensuring our national security interests abroad,” the letter reads. “One program that enjoys particularly strong bipartisan backing – and for which we, Democrats and Republicans, urge your continued strong support – is the full funding of security assistance to Israel.
Elizabeth Warren's gall knows no bounds
If Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid does become prime minister one day, one leftist American politicians seems to be eager to become his adviser. Several months ago Lapid accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of "knowing nothing of America," yet Democratic United States senator Elizabeth Warren is chomping at the bit to show off her knowledge of affairs in Israel.

In a speech at the annual J Street conference, she interfered with Israeli politics by criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and urged the "Anyone but Bibi" camp to unite in a quest to oust "the corrupt leader."

It is no wonder that such remarks were made at J Street. The conference of the left-wing group is the only place where a senator can publicly encourage ousting Netanyahu, the leader of a democratic state.

What was Warren's justification for Netanyahu's removal? It was a necessary step for the establishment of a Palestinian state, she said.

Also, according to Warren, if the anti-Netanyahu bloc continues to fight amongst themselves it will continue to "prop up a corrupt leader who puts his own interests ahead of his country."
Biden to Appoint Former Human Rights Watch Official Sarah Margon to Senior State Dept. Post
President Joe Biden is about to nominate the former Washington director of Human Rights Watch, Sarah Margon as the State Department’s assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, Foreign Policy reported Thursday (Biden Looks to Progressive for Key Human Rights Post).

Margon is an outspoken critic of authoritarian allies of the United States, most notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and has had a testy relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as well.

In May 2019, Margon mobilized 17 Democratic lawmakers who wrote Netanyahu asking that he halt the deportation of Omar Shakir, a US citizen and director of the Human Rights Watch office for Israel and the Palestinian territories. Margon told the Washington Post at the time that “taking a stronger or more vocal stance on Omar’s likely deportation would run up against their policy of having no daylight between the Trump administration and prime minister Netanyahu,” and added: “It’s unfortunate because in doing that, they are really allowing the growing democratic deficit to go forward without comment.”

In November 2019, Israel’s High Court of Justice finally ruled that Shakir’s work permit not be renewed and that he should be deported from Israel, because he is a long-standing Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activist and his role at HRW had been to advance BDS and related anti-Israel campaigns.

In response, Shakir accused Israel of “joining the ranks of Iran, North Korea, and Egypt in blocking access for HRW officials.”
Melanie Phillips: Rattling Israel's BBC tormentors
A reliable sign that someone has managed to puncture one of the BBC’s doctrinal falsehoods is when an interviewer is sufficiently rattled to keep interrupting that individual by intoning the same false accusation that has just been persuasively refuted, or unhappily and needlessly mumbling about “right of reply”.

These enlightening theatrics occurred last evening on BBC TV’s Newsnight, when anchor Emily Maitlis grilled Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s new ambassador to the UK, in her first broadcast interview. You can watch it here on BBC iPlayer at about 35 minutes in.

Hotovely, Israel’s former deputy foreign minister, is highly controversial because of her profile as an Israeli religious nationalist. Lefties in both Israel and Britain therefore regard her as a far-right racist colonialist warmongering white supremacist (her parents were actually immigrants from Soviet Georgia). Others may think she is truthful, principled and direct.

The Newsnight item was ostensibly about what Britain might learn from Israel’s “green” vaccination passport. Maitlis, however, appeared to be intent upon two other purposes: to skewer Hotovely personally for her supposed extremism, and to skewer the State of Israel for its supposed extremism.

Thus much was predictable. Even so, the bare-faced falsehoods the BBC disseminates about Israel do take the breath away.
Jewish Conservative youth group protests Hotovely with 'Occupation' event
The UK Conservative Movement (Masorti) invited Israeli Ambassador to Lonodn Tzipi Hotovely to speak. Noam, an independent Masorti UK-based youth movement, will host its own protest event in response, "The Occupation: What is it and what is our role as British Jews?" on Wednesday.

"Throughout her career, Hotovely has made many racist and inflammatory statements," the movement wrote in a Facebook post, explaining its reasoning for protesting the event and hosting a counter one instead.

Hotovely, who was a Likud MK for eight years, and has also filled various ministerial positions in her political is one of three women in charge of the Israeli Embassy in London, and spoke to The Jerusalem Post on International Women's Day about smooth dynamic and close professional relationship they share.

The movement claims that she "has consistently refused to recognise Palestinian heritage, referring to the Palestinians as ‘thieves of history’, going on to say that their "history books are empty, and [they] are trying to co-opt Jewish history and Islamicize it".

The statement that Noam is referencing is a speech that Hotovely made in Knesset in 2017, in which she reportedly told Palestinian MKs that they are "thieves of history."
For Arab Israelis, the New Peace Treaties Spell Opportunity
Mas Watad, a Hebrew University-educated diet guru, is one of Israel's Arab citizens playing to a vast potential market in the Arabian Peninsula, after commercial ties were initiated last year through peace agreements with Israel. Investment from the UAE and its neighbors should lead to greater economic opportunities and prosperity for Israel's Arab population. Palestinians in the West Bank may also benefit.

Israeli Arabs - 21% of the population - have an emerging professional class concentrated heavily in the medical sector. Arab-owned businesses, which figure prominently in Israel's construction and trucking industries, are increasingly moving into the realm of technology start-ups.

A large number of Arab Israelis are eager to enjoy the sights and sounds of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Manama. Besides sharing language and culture, they are able to circulate in these countries more freely than in, say, Egypt, where they are generally subjected to scrutiny and sometimes harassment.

The mayor of Kafr Qasim near Tel Aviv, Adel Badir, who recently returned from the Cybertech Global conference in the UAE, said, "As Arabs in Israel, we've always been a bridge to encourage peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We are happy to play that role now with Arab countries that have opened to us through the Gulf accords."
Caroline Glick: Naftali, don't abandon the course
Dear Naftali,

Maybe you remember the conversation we had back in November 2018 when we were waiting for our flight home from New York. I was coming back from a lecture tour. You were coming back from a trip to Pittsburgh. In the aftermath of the massacre of American Jews as the Tree of Life Synagogue, as Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs you rushed to the scene as the representative of the State of Israel to console and support the community.

I was bursting with pride at your conduct there. When American Jewish leaders tried to use the atrocity to harm then-president Donald Trump, falsely accusing him of responsibility for the slaughter, you refused to play along. You were pilloried in the American Jewish media for sticking to the truth. Dan Shapiro raced out an oped telling you to shut up. But you were a hero to me.

So when you raised the possibility of me joining you to run in the next election, even though I was already a voice in my own right as a writer, I agreed immediately. I believed that together, not only would we successfully advance the issues most important to us – including sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and reform of the legal system – we would have fun doing it.

You and I never spoke about the source of your sour relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I didn't attribute much importance to your feud. I figured that if leaders focus on advancing the national interest in light of their values and beliefs, they can find a way to work together for the good of the country and the nation.
Mansour Abbas and his party have no place in Israel’s government
Of the many developments that have followed Israel’s recent election, one in particular should give pause to anyone who cares deeply about the future of the Jewish State – the very real possibility that a government may be formed relying on the support of the United Arab List.

Led by Mansour Abbas, this party serves as the Islamic Movement’s political wing in Israel and is known by the abbreviation Ra’am, which means “thunder.” Putting aside what we are being fed about the placid, melodious sound of this type of thunder, there is little doubt that the people behind Ra’am are Islamists to the core.

The results of last month’s vote left Abbas with four crucial Knesset seats and a media-bestowed role as a kingmaker who could break the deadlock between the pro and anti-Netanyahu blocs, neither of which currently have a majority of seats.

Desperate to unseat Netanyahu, Yair Lapid wasted little time in signaling a willingness to consider making Ra’am part of his potential coalition. Given who we are talking about, perhaps this should not have come as a surprise.

Far more problematic for those who support the Jewish and Zionist character of Israel are the indications that some in the pro-Netanyahu, right-wing/religious alliance are also willing to entertain such a coalition, either formally or informally.

Speculation about a potential governmental role for Ra’am, along with the whitewashing of its record of extremism fueled by a radical Islamist ideology, reached a fever pitch on April 1st when Abbas delivered an address carried live on Israeli networks. For most Israelis this event took place in the midst of Passover, but Abbas must have viewed it as an April Fools’ Day prank.
Jordan gives PA documents to help prevent Israeli evictions in East Jerusalem
Jordan’s top diplomat on Wednesday handed the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah documents intended to help prevent Israel from evicting Palestinian families from part of East Jerusalem, he said.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi made the trip to the West Bank after an Israeli court reportedly gave the families until May 2 to leave their homes in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah or be evicted.

Jordan administered the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, until the 1967 Six Day War and remains the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

The kingdom says it built homes for Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948. Hundreds of Palestinians and left-wing Jewish activists demonstrate against the eviction of Palestinian residents from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem on Friday, April 16, 2021 (Aaron Boxerman/The Times of Israel)

“All the documents we hold on property and land in Jerusalem have been passed on to the Palestinian Authority,” Safadi told a news conference in Ramallah.

“We are cooperating with the Palestinian Authority and the international community to prevent the expulsion of the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah.”
Olympics tells 'Post' it will assess alleged Iran bias vs. Israel
The International Olympic Committee will examine allegations about Iranian-sponsored discrimination against Israeli athletes in response to a public letter authored by elite Iranian athletes who urged IOC action against Tehran.

“The IOC takes note of the letter and continues to evaluate the alleged issues,” the IOC press office wrote the Post.

Sardar Pashaei, former head coach of Iran’s Greco-Roman wrestling team and signee of the letter to the IOC, told the Post that “The IOC should tell us whether not being allowed to compete with Israeli athletes and the systematic gender and racial discrimination of athletes in Iran is against Olympic ideals. Keeping the Olympic charter in mind should guide their decisions and actions.

“Those who support the Navid campaign want the International Olympic Committee to reach a consensus about the requests of Iranian athletes. The IOC did not act when the wrestler, Navid Afkari, was executed last fall, and the IOC has not responded to the campaign’s letter of March laying out many examples of Iranian athlete abuse.”

Pashaei is one of the key organizers of the United for Navid campaign, which seeks justice for Afkari, who was hanged by the regime in a widely viewed extrajudicial killing in September 2020 for his role in protesting regime corruption.
Facebook: Palestinian spies are behind hacking campaign
Facebook says it has disrupted a long-running cyberespionage campaign run by Palestinian intelligence which features spies posing as journalists and the deployment of a booby-trapped app for submitting human rights stories.

In a report published Wednesday, Facebook accused what it said was the cyber wing of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service (PSS), which is loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, of running rudimentary hacking operations that targeted Palestinian reporters, activists, and dissidents, as well as other groups in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

PSS spokesman Ikrimah Thabet rejected Facebook's accusations and said: "We respect the media, we work within the law that governs our work, and we work according to law and order. We respect freedoms, privacy and confidentiality of information."

He said the service has good relationships with journalists and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

Mike Dvilyanski, Facebook's head of cyber espionage investigations, told Reuters ahead of the report's publication that the campaign's methods were crude, but "we do see them as persistent."

The PSS had intensified its activities over the past six months or so, Dvilyanski said. He said Facebook believed that the organization had deployed some 300 fake or compromised accounts to target roughly 800 people overall.
IDF investigating failed interception after Syrian missile hits south
A missile launched from Syria was fired into southern Israel early Thursday, setting off air raid sirens near the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center in the southern town of Dimona, the Israeli military said, adding that there was no damage despite an attempt to intercept the projectile. In response, it said it attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.

The incident, marking the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years, pointed to likely Iranian involvement. Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria, has accused Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including sabotage at its Natanz nuclear facility on April 11, and vowed revenge. It also threatened to complicate US-led attempts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran.

The Israeli military said it had deployed a missile-defense system and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that "the attempted interception of the missile by Israeli air defense was unsuccessful, but in most cases we see success."

The IDF confirmed that there had been no damage. The air raid sirens were sounded in Abu Krinat, a village just a few kilometers from Dimona, the desert town which, according to foreign reports, houses the country's undeclared atomic weapons program. Explosions heard as far away as Jerusalem and the Shfela District area might have been the air-defense systems.

The Israel Defense Forces initially described the weapon fired as a surface-to-air missile, which is usually used for air defense against warplanes or other missiles, that it said had been fired at Israeli aircraft during an earlier strike and had overflown its target and reached the Dimona area.

The errant Syrian missile was an SA-5, one of several fired at Israeli Air Force planes, according to the spokesman.

However, Dimona is some 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of Damascus, a long range for an errantly fired surface-to-air missile.
Seth Frantzman: Syria has a history of wildly firing air defense missiles
Israel used David’s Sling for the first time in July 2018 when Syria launched SS-21 missiles near the Golan. “The alarms that were heard in northern Israel were the result of launches that were carried out as part of the internal fighting in Syria,” the army said. As a result, two David’s Sling interceptors were fired at the rockets, as there was a fear they could strike Israeli territory. The Syrian rockets… landed inside Syrian territory. No damage was caused, and there were no injuries,” the IDF said at the time.

Questions remain about why David’s Sling was used and whether it worked. What is important is that it was chosen due to errant rocket fire in Syria.

In February 2018 an Israeli F-16I crashed in northern Israel after an incident in Syria. It was later revealed that Damascus had targeted the jet with an S-200 missile. Then in July 2019, Syrian air defenders, firing wildly, sent one of their missiles flying into a hillside in Cyprus, several hundred kilometers from Syria.

These incidents, along with actual attacks on Israel from Syria, form the background for the incident this morning. In February 2018, Iranian agents at Syria's T-4 base launched a drone that entered Israeli airspace before the Jewish state shot it down. In May 2018, Iran ordered proxies to fire a salvo of missiles at Israel from Syria. Then in August 2019, Israel said it struck a “killer drone” team in Syria that was preparing to launch a drone attack.

A Patriot air defense system was also used in July 2018 to intercept a UAV that was flying from Syria. In 2017, a Patriot was also used against another drone that approached the Golan border. In November 2019, Russia accused Israel of carrying out airstrikes in Syria by flying over Jordan. Israel’s former chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot said in January 2019 that Israel had carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes against Iranian targets in Syria.

This timeline leaves many questions about what happened on April 22, 2021. What we do know is that there is a long history of complex incidents involving Syria and also its wildly inaccurate air defense systems. The area near Dimona where sirens sounded on Thursday morning is several hundred kilometers from Syria.
Seth Frantzman: Aiming at Dimona: Did the Syrian regime purposely target Israel?
A sleepless night on Thursday morning left many in Israel wondering what sirens at two in the morning, sounds of explosions and stories of airstrikes in Syria reveal about a shadowy conflict in the region. Israel used a Patriot air defense system to try to stop a Syrian surface-to-air missile that was fired from Syria and which set off sirens near Dimona, where a sensitive nuclear facility is located.

Israel has said the Syrian missile was not directed toward a specific target. However, that leaves questions about the explosions people reported from the South to the center, including areas near Modi’in and Jerusalem, and in Rechovot.

According to reports, the interceptor, which was apparently a Patriot system, failed to intercept the missile. This is not a good result when Israel said in the past year that it has increased the capabilities of its integrated, multi-layered air defense systems.

Israel has Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow, three systems designed to stop threats from missiles to drones. It also has the US Patriot system. Jerusalem and Washington jointly developed Arrow and David’s Sling and Israel built Iron Dome, two batteries of which have been provided to the US Army in the past year.

Why was a Patriot chosen to take down the S-200 missile that was flying from Syria? Patriots were used by Israel in 2017 and 2018 against drones flying from Syria. The Jewish state has also had Patriot batteries in southern Israel for many years near Eilat to defend against threats. Patriot missiles have been used widely by Saudi Arabia against threats by the Houthis in Yemen, including against ballistic missiles.
A late-night missile attack that sums up all of Israel's fears - analysis
They go along with Iranian media reports of the sirens and an explosion in Israel that could be heard as far away as the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jerusalem and Modi’in. Reports on the Shahab Arabic news site also said that Bedouin communities near Dimona had heard sirens and explosions. They were also heard in the hills of Hebron. The unusual number of reports and their extent represent a serious and unusual incident.

It comes on the heels of Iranian media claiming that an explosion in central Israel two days ago may have been “deliberate.” Likely a propaganda story, it nevertheless goes along with another Fars News report about Iran using a drone to conduct surveillance of a US carrier.

Only days ago, the Iranian Kayhan newspaper, linked to the regime, called for Iran to target Dimona, according to expert Yossi Mansharof. The Iranian media had called for “action” against Dimona, claiming they would strike at an Israeli “nuclear facility” in retaliation for an incident at Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.

The last major attacks on Israel from Syria have included a drone launched from T-4 base in February 2018 and a rocket salvo three months later in May.

In 2018 and 2019, Iran was reported to have moved ballistic missiles to Iraq. It has also moved precision-guided munitions to Iraq and Syria, and has armed Hezbollah with long-range rockets. In January, Newsweek reported that Tehran moved a drone to Yemen that has a range to strike Israel. Iran has used drones to strike Saudi Arabia and targeted a US base in Iraq in January 2020 with precision ballistic missiles.

Hopefully, today's Syrian missile incident is not a portent of things to come and of the fulfillment of threats that have been made.


‘Sitting on a Powder Keg’: Residents of Israel’s North Warily Eye Border, Years After Hezbollah Tunnels Thwarted
Since Israel exposed Hezbollah’s best kept secret weapon – the Hezbollah cross-border attack tunnels – in 2018, the northern border between Israel and Lebanon has been relatively quiet. However, local residents living in communities along the northern border say they are still facing the day-to-day fears of the next cross-border attack by Iran’s proxy in Lebanon.

Israeli military forces on the northern border have been on high alert since a Hezbollah fighter was killed in July in an air strike in Syria, which was attributed to Israel, and with the terrorist group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah vowing retaliation. Over the past year, there have also been a series of infiltration incidents involving, among others, jobless Sudanese migrants moving across the border from Lebanon into Israel in search of work due to the ongoing Lebanese economic crisis.

“Local residents are living in a constant contradiction between completely normative lives with farmers cultivating their land, children going to kindergarten and being alert to the threat and fear that something will happen, but you don’t know when,” Sarit Zehavi, a retired Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. — who lives in Kfar Havradim near the northern border, and studies Israel’s security challenges along the northern command as head of the Alma Research and Education Center — told The Algemeiner. “Whether or not Hezbollah gains profit from foreign workers breaching the border, what it shows is that someone can cross and even enter communities, which are a few feet away from the border security fence with Lebanon.”

“In one such incident, a resident of the Shlomi border town found a Sudanese migrant hiding behind their house after crossing the border. The next thought is, if he can cross, who else can and what does this mean about Hezbollah’s attempts that could put many lives in danger?” Zehavi added.


Elliott Abrams: Palestinian Elections: As In 2006, A Dangerous Idea
Will the elections happen?
It is apparent, then, why observers have wondered all year whether Abbas would in the end call the elections off. Does he really want a coalition government with Hamas, should the various Fatah and independent tickets not win a majority of seats? Does he really want a presidential election in July that could force him from office? There are always excuses for cancellation, ranging from a new Covid outbreak to a refusal by Israel to allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote. As to the latter, there are always acceptable technical fixes if they are wanted — but difficulties in Jerusalem always offer a good excuse to cancel the election if that is the result desired in Ramallah. (In 2006, Fatah leaders realised in the last days before the election that Hamas was likely to win. An envoy asked then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to take some action in Jerusalem that would allow them to cancel the voting. Sharon refused, not wanting Israel to be blamed for stopping the election.)

But what if the PLC elections are in fact cancelled? This decision lies solely in Abbas’s hands, and it is likely that today he feels trapped by bad choices. While such an outcome avoids the many problems noted here, it deepens the crisis of legitimacy for Abbas, who would still be ruling by decree after 14 years. Cancelling the presidential and PNC elections as well make that problem even worse, leaving Palestinians with no institutional political life, an 86-year-old president-for-life, and no way to address the Fatah-Hamas split either now or when Abbas dies. Which is worse, then: that outcome, or a set of elections that legitimise Hamas’s role in Palestinian political institutions while it maintains its terrorist activity — competing, as the saying goes, with ballots and bullets? The answer is clear for what seems to be the majority of observers in Washington and Jerusalem, and likely in Arab capitals as well. The EU appears to want the elections to happen, which is a dangerous sign: should Hamas win enough representation to demand a role in a coalition government, it can be expected that the EU will want that outcome respected by continuing to deal with PA ministries led by representatives of Hamas terrorism.

Conclusion
The fundamental problem remains what it was in 2006. Neither of the two Palestinian entities, the West Bank and Gaza, is democratically governed, and Gaza is governed by a terrorist organisation that has shown no sign of being willing to abandon violence. These elections may come off, but they will have moved the Palestinian people no closer to being governed peacefully by democratic political parties, nor will they have reinvigorated the ‘peace process.’ Indeed, if Hamas comes to take an official role in the West Bank and in the PLO, the establishment of a Palestinian state will — for better or for worse — be even less realistic than it appears now. As in Lebanon due to the role of Hezbollah, Palestinians face what is for now an impossible task: coping with an armed, aggressive terrorist group that seeks to use political mechanisms to enhance its power but will not disarm and submit itself to democratic control. Elections cannot solve that problem. Elections that enlarge the role of terrorist groups without demanding that they abandon armed struggle simply make it worse.
Palestinians take Jerusalem election dispute to Security Council
The controversy surrounding the holding of Palestinian elections in Jerusalem is expected to move to the United Nations Security Council as part of the Palestinian leadership’s effort to pressure Israel to allow the vote to take place in the city.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, said on Thursday that the Security Council is expected to hold an open session to discuss exerting pressure on Israel “not to obstruct” the elections in Jerusalem.

He told the Palestinian Authority’s official Voice of Palestine radio station that he was planning to hold a meeting with the representative of the UN Secretary-General to discuss “many important issues, including the upcoming elections for the Palestinian parliament and presidency and the role of the international community in ensuring its implementation without obstruction.”

According to Mansour, the European Union delegates are planning to express their support for holding the elections and call on Israel not to place any obstacles in their way.

Palestinian officials have threatened to delay of cancel the elections, citing Israel’s failure to respond to their request to hold the vote in Jerusalem.
Hamas warns against delaying first Palestinian national vote in 15 years
Any change to the timetable for the first Palestinian elections in 15 years would deal a heavy blow to efforts to reconcile the rival administrations in Gaza and the West Bank, a top official in the Hamas terror group warned Thursday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas finally set election dates in January, days before US President Joe Biden took office promising to give negotiations more weight in the search for a solution to the Middle East conflict.

Abbas called a parliamentary election across the Palestinian territories for May 22, to be followed by a presidential election on July 31, saying that it was the fruit of a reconciliation deal struck with Hamas last September after a decade of false starts.

But with his once-dominant Fatah movement under challenge from breakaway factions as well as Gaza’s ruling terror organization, there has been mounting speculation the 86-year-old president may yet again postpone the twin polls originally scheduled for 2010.

The head of the Hamas slate of candidates for next month’s vote, Khalil al-Hayya, said any postponement, however small, would undermine efforts to restore unity.

“A postponement would push the Palestinian people into the unknown, and I warn that this will complicate the situation, perpetuate and reinforce the division,” Hayya said in an AFP interview.
Press Gears Up for Possible Palestinian Election Postponement… By Preemptively Blaming Israel
With only weeks until the scheduled May 22 Palestinian legislative elections, senior officials in Ramallah are hinting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will cancel the vote. It would not be the first time. Palestinians in 2006 last had the opportunity to make their voices heard at the ballot box, a vote that resulted in a victory by Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and other countries.

Since then, Palestinian elections have been announced and subsequently canceled at least four times: in 2009, 2011, 2018 and 2019.

Time and time again, the PA has prevented Palestinians from exercising their ostensible democratic right to choose political representatives. Consequently, the West Bank has essentially been governed via Abbas’ decrees for over a decade, while the Gaza Strip continues to be ruled by Hamas. Although numerous media outelets have extensively covered Abbas’ repeated vows to hold elections, the media have for the most part failed to thereafter accurately report on why the PA leader called off the votes: that is, due to a combination of internal Palestinian strife and the possibility that Hamas would again come out on top.

Instead, in many instances the media have blamed Israel for the Palestinians’ self-inflicted predicament.

While it is still unclear if the May elections will take place, numerous reports in Israeli and Palestinian media suggest that the prospect is becoming increasingly unlikely.

Enter the Associated Press (AP), which on Monday published an article titled, “Jerusalem dispute could derail Palestinian vote.” The piece preemptively blames Israel for the possible postponement or cancelation of the Palestinian vote, while only in passing mentions the intra-Palestinian divide.
Gaza gravediggers and medics stretched as COVID spikes during Ramadan
The sick and dying are rapidly pushing Gaza's hospitals close to capacity amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the impoverished Palestinian territory, health officials said.

Palestinians fear a combination of poverty, medical shortages, vaccine scepticism, poor COVID-19 data and mass gatherings during Ramadan could accelerate the increase, which began before the start of the Muslim holy month on April 13.

Gaza health officials said around 70% of intensive care unit beds were occupied, up from 37% at the end of March. There were 86 deaths over the past six days, an increase of 43% over the week before.

"The hospitals are almost at full capacity. They're not quite there yet, but severe and critical cases have increased significantly in the last three weeks, which is a concern," said Dr Ayadil Saparbekov, head of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Team in the Palestinian Territories.

Gaza's daily positivity rate reached as high as 43% this week, although Saparbekov said that number could be inflated because a shortage of tests meant they were mostly given to people already showing symptoms.

Saparbekov also said Gaza does not have the capacity to identify highly infectious COVID-19 variants when testing, meaning there is little data on them.
Turkey invites Steinitz for highest-level visit in years
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu invited Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz to an official conference sponsored by the Turkish government in June, which would make it the highest-level diplomatic visit between the country in years.

Steinitz was asked to participate in a conference called “Innovative Diplomacy: A new age, new approaches,” sponsored by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the minister’s spokesman confirmed following a report by KAN’s Amichai Stein.

The Israeli minister would be the first to visit Turkey since it recalled its ambassador to Israel in 2018. Turkey harbors Hamas terrorists, Erdogan’s AKP Party has compared Israel to Nazi Germany and condemns Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank and treatment of the Palestinians, despite its own illegal occupations of northern Cyprus and northern Syria and persecution of the Kurds.

However, Erdogan and other senior Turkish officials have made public overtures towards Israel in the past year, and inviting Steinitz to the conference is another step in that vein.

Ankara likely chose Steinitz to invite over other ministers because of gas issues in the eastern Mediterranean; Israel has aligned itself with Greece and Cyprus, seeking to build a pipeline from Israel to Europe. Israel is also a founding member of the EastMed Gas Forum, which also includes Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, along with Greece and Cyprus, but not Turkey.

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at an election campaign event that Israel is “in talks with Turkey” about natural gas, but the Prime Minister’s Office declined to further elaborate on his comments.
Biden readying to recognize Armenian genocide in move sure to test Turkish ties
US President Joe Biden is preparing to formally acknowledge that the systematic killing and deportation of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in modern-day Turkey more than a century ago was genocide, according to US officials.

The anticipated move — something Biden had pledged to do as a candidate — could further complicate an already tense relationship with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Administration officials had not informed Turkey as of Wednesday, and Biden could still change his mind, according to one official. The US officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Lawmakers and Armenian-American activists are lobbying Biden to make the announcement on or before Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which will be marked on Saturday.

One possibility is that Biden would include the acknowledgement of genocide in the annual remembrance day proclamation typically issued by presidents. Biden’s predecessors have avoided using “genocide” in the proclamation commemorating the dark moment in history.

A bipartisan group of more than 100 House members on Wednesday signed a letter to Biden calling on him to become the first US president to formally recognize the World War I-era atrocities as genocide. Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California spearheaded the letter.
MEMRI: Columnist In Turkish Daily: Western Civilization Has Become 'A Monster That Can Sense Its End Is Nigh!' It Must 'Also Be Saved From The Western Threat!'
On April 13, 2021, Turkish columnist Yusuf Kaplan wrote an editorial titled "Western Civilization Must Also Be Saved From The Western Threat!" affirming that Western civilization is in decline and must be saved from itself.

In the article, Kaplan stressed that anti-Islam and anti-Turkey sentiments are being "resurrected" in European countries, adding that the West suffers mainly from two phobias: "The first is Islamophobia, which has now turned into clear hostility. The second is Turkophobia, which has been openly and officially incensed in all European countries in the last few years, to the extent that it will suppress the first."

According to Kaplan, whenever the West faces difficulties, as now with the pandemic crisis, it looks for a convenient scapegoat for its own failures. For this reason, Kaplan stressed, the West needs to nurture the image of the "Savage Other" as an enemy. However, Kaplan opined that the real threat to the West is not Islam and Turkey, but the West itself. He wrote that the West "has become a barbaric capitalist global system, which acts out of the fear that its reign over the world may shatter, and regulates the world with this psychopathology. It has become a monster that can sense its end is nigh!"

Kaplan assessed that the West is so intrinsically menacing that it endangers all of humanity: "This is a danger [i.e. the West] never before seen in history, which destroyed the idea of God, truth, and nature, which made a hole in the ozone layer, which wiped out all civilizations, and fossilized all religions. We can, in a sense, liken this to the Mongolian danger, or the threat posed by barbaric tribes such as the Goths and Visigoths, who wrought destruction on Europe through the migration of barbaric tribes."

Nonetheless, Kaplan stated, Islam is the only resistance to the dangers posed by the West. In his opinion, "Islam's resistance" is represented by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's policies and stances, as when the Turkish leader made the "one-minute"[1] remark and stormed off the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009, shaking Turkish-Israeli relations, or when he said at the headquarters of the United Nations that "the world is bigger than five," objecting to the fact that only five countries are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.[2] Kaplan concluded by stating that the West should start understanding that a new world order cannot be established without Turkey.
Strategic Implications of the Damage at the Natanz Enrichment Facility
This highlights the supreme importance of the serious damage inflicted upon the enrichment facility at Natanz. This facility has been the target of several attacks in the past (– including, as David Sanger relates in his book, Confront and Conceal, systemic cyber-attacks planned during the Bush years and carried out under Obama in close cooperation with Israel). If the battle is for time, then every moment is of the essence. Therefore, the US should be appreciative of any significant delay in Iran’s ability to breakout towards a bomb, and certainly of a setback measured in months. The time gained should be used to sustain the pressure on Iran towards a better agreement – without the current “sunset clauses.”

The Biden Administration may well resent independent Israeli actions, and has made manifest its preference for diplomacy over the use of force. (See the Interim National Security Strategy document). Events such as the blast at Natanz “muddy the waters” at Vienna and may disrupt the negotiations led by the State Department and European allies. But at the end of the day, Israel’s right “to defend herself by herself” – a right formally recognized by President Obama – is an asset for US diplomacy, if used in the right manner. Israel’s independence could provide American negotiators and their European partners with key cards as the talks evolve.

In any case, the effort to “gain time” is legitimate and worthy. In the face of a determined, ambitious, and totalitarian Iranian regime, the US must not concede key principles or forfeit decisive tools of leverage, nor should it abandon loyal allies.

Alas, European appeasement of Hitler is the historical analogy that comes to mind. Chamberlain, who probably understood what sort of villain he was dealing with, wanted to gain time, and was tempted to believe that his concessions to Hitler in 1938 bought him a couple of crucial years. (They did not. War came within 11 months). The sad observation is that had Chamberlain been willing to fight Hitler right then, World War II could have been avoided since the German High Command was ready to overthrow Hitler. The time supposedly “bought” by Chamberlain’s weakness at Munich came at the cost of 60 million lives, the devastation of Europe and Asia, and the Holocaust.

The two cases are not quite similar, except for this one central lesson. Once the wish to gain time drives a willingness to accept the demands of a ruthless, totalitarian regime hellbent on subversion and destruction – the tragic consequences are inevitable. It is this insight that should be imparted to friends in American politics and diplomacy.
Israel ‘Will Not See Itself Bound’ by Deal That Ignores Iranian Threats, Erdan Tells UN Security Council
Israel will not see itself bound by any agreement that does not “fully address” Iranian threats against its existence, said Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and United Nations, to the United Nations Security Council during a session on the situation in the Middle East.

“Israel, as you know, is in a unique position. We are the only country in the world that the Iranian regime threatens to annihilate. For Israel, Iran poses an existential threat,” Erdan said Thursday at the virtual session.

“That is why we will not see ourselves bound by any agreement that does not fully address the threats against the existence of the State of Israel. And every one of you would do the same if you were in our shoes, particularly in light of the Holocaust,” he continued.

Parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been meeting in recent weeks in Vienna in an effort to revive the original accord, which the US left in 2018 under the Trump administration and whose limits on uranium enrichment and other activities Iran has repeatedly breached.

Erdan said Thursday that Iran had “escalated its nuclear extortion” by recently increasing enrichment to 60% levels. “It is clear to everyone that there is no need for Iran to enrich uranium to that level if it is intended for civilian purposes,” he said. “Any Iranian claims of wanting to develop nuclear capabilities for civilian purposes should be seen for the lies they are. There is no civility in Iran’s nuclear program. If the regime truly wanted nuclear capabilities for civilian purposes, it could have achieved this years ago.”
U.S. Sees Major Differences with Iran in Nuclear Talks
In a briefing on Wednesday, a senior State Department official discussed the indirect nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna. "There still are disagreements and, in some cases, pretty important ones on our respective views about what is meant by a return to full compliance.... We're not near the conclusion of these negotiations. The outcome is still uncertain. We've made some progress...but with still many differences that would need to be overcome."

"We're not going to accept a process in which the U.S. acts first and removes all of the sanctions that it is committed to removing before Iran does anything....If Iran hopes that it could do less than come back into compliance with its nuclear obligations under the JCPOA, that won't work."

"We have had numerous conversations with Israeli officials before and after every round of talks....We intend to be as transparent as we can. We know there's a disagreement with Israel's perspective and we respect that....We certainly intend to continue to pressure Iran and to counter their activities in the region that are destabilizing and that are going after our interests or the interests of our partners."
GOP Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Require Iran Deal to Be Submitted as Treaty
Legislation to make it harder for the Biden administration to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal, was introduced in both houses by Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

The Iran Nuclear Deal Advise and Consent Act of 2021 (H.R. 1479) was introduced on the floor of the US House of Representatives by Barr on March 2 and would cut off funding for the administration’s efforts to rejoin the JCPOA unless and until the administration submits an agreement to Congress for approval as a formal treaty. A treaty requires congressional approval under Article I of the US Constitution.

“Recently, Iran announced their intentions to increase their uranium enrichment, accelerating their path towards a nuclear weapon. By even considering rejoining the JCPOA at this point, the Biden administration is threatening to undermine the American-Israeli alliance and further exacerbate the conflict over Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit,” Barr said in a news release on Wednesday. “Barr-Blackburn ensures Congress will serve as a check on the Biden administration’s urge to rejoin the failed JCPOA and reclaims congressional oversight over the international treaty process … .”

Blackburn introduced a companion bill in the Senate on Monday with co-sponsors Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Rounds (R-SC), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

Earlier this month, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi announced that the country will increase its uranium enrichment to 60 percent, in violation of the JCPOA, after a blast hit the country’s Natanz nuclear facility.
Israel's Shadow War with Iran Doesn't Have to Strain Relations with the U.S.
The regional and nuclear tracks of Iranian foreign policy might appear to be separate, but in fact they are part and parcel of a unified strategy. Nuclear weapons capability, once achieved, will ensure the regime's survival, whereupon Iran can use its conventional forces to subvert regional states under the cover of a nuclear umbrella.

Washington aims to build a "stronger and longer" deal through follow-on agreements that close some of the deal's loopholes. But once the nuclear deal has been reinstated, the U.S. may lack the necessary economic and political leverage over Iran to negotiate additional pacts.

If Israel intends to continue its covert campaign against Iran's nuclear program, it ought to do so within the framework of a joint strategy with the U.S. The idea that Washington might negotiate with Iran about its nuclear program while greenlighting efforts to degrade that very program may seem absurd - but consider that Iran is doing the exact opposite of that by expanding its program while negotiating.

A U.S.-Israeli agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should delineate agreed-upon nuclear redlines for Iran, formulas for calculating Tehran's distance from the bomb, contingency plans for a wide range of possible scenarios, a division of labor in the event of a last resort military option, and joint exercises to ensure that the military option remains credible.
U.S.: "We Will Continue to Support Israel to Counter Threats Posed by Iran's Aggressive Behavior"
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in New York on Monday: "We support Israel's recent efforts to build relationships with its neighbors and the Arab and Muslim world. And we will work to expand the circle of peace in the Middle East, which is not only good for Israel, but for the whole region."

"The U.S. position on the JCPOA is clear: we are ready to return to the agreement if Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear commitments....At the same time, we will continue to support Israel as it works to counter the threats posed by Iran's aggressive behavior."

"And at the United Nations, I will continue to stand by Israel, especially when it is unfairly and disproportionately singled out by one-sided resolutions and actions....We won't stand for single-minded targeting that doesn't get us any closer to peace."
UN Watch: U.N. Elects Iran to Commission on Women’s Rights
UN Watch is calling on U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and EU states to condemn the UN’s election of Iran to a 4-year term on its Commission on the Status of Women, the “principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”

The vote yesterday by the UN’s Economic and Social Council, reported first by UN Watch, sparked outrage among human rights activists. “Electing the Islamic Republic of Iran to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, the Geneva-based human rights group. “It’s absurd — and morally reprehensible. This is a black day for women’s rights, and for all human rights,” said Neuer.

At Least 4 EU & Western Democracies Backed Iran

Though the ballot was secret, UN Watch has determined that at least four of the 15 EU and Western Group democracies on ECOSOC—which include Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Latvia, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—voted for Iran.

UN Watch called on lawmakers to demand that their governments reveal how they voted.

In 2017, after a similar secret ballot for the same UN women’s rights commission, a UN Watch campaign led to Belgium’s admission that it voted to elect Saudi Arabia, and to the revelation that the the Belgian government made sure to tell the Saudis that they voted for them.


US Says Iran Support to Yemen’s Houthis ‘Significant, Lethal’
Iran’s support for Yemen’s Houthi movement is “quite significant and it’s lethal,” US special envoy on Yemen Tim Lenderking said on Wednesday, as he called a battle for Yemen’s gas-rich Marib region the single biggest threat to peace efforts.

Lenderking told US lawmakers that Iran supports the Houthis in several ways, including through training, providing lethal support and helping them “fine tune” their drone and missile programs.

“Unfortunately all of this is working to very strong effects as we see more and more attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — and potentially other countries — more accuracy and more lethality. So this is a great concern to us,” Lenderking told a hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Iran’s support to the Houthis is quite significant, and it’s lethal,” Lenderking said.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Lenderking’s remarks. Iran has denied supporting the Houthis.

“It’s been, frankly, very difficult to intercept ships,” Lenderking said. “We need our international partners to join us. … We need countries like Oman to help make sure that their border remains close to any of this type of traffic from Iran.”

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the country’s government from the capital Sanaa. The Houthis have said they are fighting a corrupt system.
Qods Force Official: Iran’s Friends in Region have Retaliated against Israel, Will Continue to Do So
Former Iranian Minister of Oil General Rostam Ghasemi, Qods Force Commander’s assistant for economic affairs said that Israel is behind every sabotage operation around the world and in Iran and that Israel’s actions will not go unanswered. He made these remarks in an interview with Russia Today TV that aired on April 21, 2021. General Ghasemi said that while Iran has “espoused a policy of patience and restraint,” it has retaliated against Israel with the help of its “many friends in the region” and it will continue to do so. He added that the Yemenis participated in retaliation against Israeli ships. General Ghasemi continued to say that “all the weapons the Yemenis possess are a result of our aid.











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