Thursday, April 29, 2021

From Ian:

David Singer: Israel reels from rockets, riots and arm-wrestlng
Rockets from Gaza indiscriminately targeting Israel’s civilian population and Arab riots targeting Israel’s Jewish population in the streets of Jerusalem seem to have not moved Israel’s politicians to stop engaging in arm-wrestlng in pursuit of their own personal political power.

It is hard to know who is to blame for this current sorry state of affairs: the electors who have brought about - what appears on the face of it - four indecisive elections in two years – or the seemingly-intelligent politicians they have elected who have been unable to reach a compromise on setting up a Government with at least 61 of the Knesset’s 120 currently-elected representatives.

A vendetta continues to be pursued to remove Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu - despite the overwhelming vote of confidence he and his party received from Israeli voters on 23 March 2021 - 1,066,892 votes.

The following leaders and their respective parties are seeking to replace Netanyahu as Prime Minister or deny him the right to head a right of centre Government:

Naftali Bennett – 273836 votes
Avigdor Liberman – 248370 votes
Gideon Sa’ar – 209161 votes

All three and their respective parties have similar policies and political ideologies as Netanyahu and his allies. Collectively - as Likud, Shas, Yemina, United Torah Judaism, Yisrael Beytenu, Religious Zionism and New Hope - they comprise 72 of the 120 Knesset members.

These three leaders need to fall in behind Netanyahu to end the political uncertainty steadily eroding Israel’s ability to deal with the challenges it is facing – not only from rockets and rioting – but from the continuing confrontation with Iran, Hezbollah, the International Criminal Court, a hostile United Nations and the Biden Administration.

That this appalling political stand-off could have also been avoided in the three previous elections is an indictment on the common obstructionist denominator in all four elections: Avigdor Liberman


Congress Needs to Review UN Agency's Terror Finance Problem
UNRWA provides no public records detailing its payments or beneficiaries from its cash assistance program. There is also no indication that U.S. authorities run clearance checks prior to making disbursements to UN agencies. In the late 2000s, congressional criticism of how the U.S. Agency for International Development handled Gaza-based assistance forced an overhaul of its anti-terrorism vetting. It now pre-clears every potential recipient of U.S. assistance, including sub-contractors. The same standard should be set for UNRWA.

In this year's foreign aid bill, Congress should condition U.S. assistance to UNRWA on thorough anti-terror vetting for all UNRWA expenditures prior to disbursement. UNRWA staff, contractors and recipients of cash assistance should be vetted to ensure that they don't have ties to terrorism. Legislation should require the State Department to halt and claw back U.S. funding if the agency declines to turn over its payroll, contractor and beneficiary information for vetting.

Congress can also legislate broader reforms. Since UNRWA is a welfare agency—not a refugee agency—the U.S. government should not use scarce refugee assistance dollars to support it. Wherever possible, assistance should transition away from UNRWA and toward bilateral aid programs that help Palestinians achieve self-sufficiency. Any contribution to UNRWA should also be contingent on allowing the U.S. to independently audit its books. American taxpayers should not trust China with ensuring UNRWA's financial transparency.

Congress should consider two other conditions for future assistance to UNRWA: verification that textbooks used in UNRWA schools do not include anti-Semitic content, incitement or extremism and a requirement that UNRWA return all contributions should the U.S. discover its facilities are being used by terrorist organizations to store weapons or equipment.

UNRWA's steering millions of dollars to terror group affiliates should alarm U.S. taxpayers and their representatives in Congress. If the Biden administration wants to restart U.S. funding to UNRWA, congressional appropriators should insist that funding be contingent on verifiable reform. Congress must ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the Palestinian people, not terrorist group affiliates.
'There's no such thing as occupied Palestinian land,' legalist says
Dr. Jacques Gauthier is a Canadian lawyer and international law expert who is currently the greatest expert on the San Remo Conference, during which the legal infrastructure for the Jewish state was laid in 1920.

Gauthier, whose life's work has been devoted to proving the legitimacy of the Jewish claim to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria under international law, says the question of the legitimacy of the settlement enterprise – and the legal basis of Israel's very existence – is one of crucial importance.

He believes that for Israel and the Jewish people, it is imperative not to lose sight of what was theirs in the past.

Over the past two decades, the legal arena has become rife with propaganda by left-wing organizations and by the Palestinians, giving way to the rise of a new term: Lawfare- the misuse of legal systems and principles against with aim to delegitimizing the adversary, wasting their time and money, or winning a public relations victory.

In this reality, the question is simple, Gauthier says: Are Jews living east Jerusalem, or as settlers in Judea and Samaria, or in Hebron, or even within the Green Line legal residents? Do they own land and property that are not actually theirs?

Israel's critics, he explained, claim that Jews should be barred from living in certain areas in the country, so the question of justice and sovereignty is crucial because if the right granted over the entire territory exists within the framework of international law – then the Jews are not in breach of the law.

According to Gautier, Israel lacks sufficient understanding and recognition of the historical rights of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.
Amb. Alan Baker: Refuting the Palestinian Allegation to the ICC that Israeli Settlements Are a War Crime
Israel’s settlement activity cannot be considered as a “war crime” in the context of the ICC Statute. The overriding criteria established by the Statute for war crimes include the requirement that such activity be “part of a plan,” “done on a large scale,” and be “of sufficient gravity as to justify further action by the Court.” Israel’s settlement activity does not fill any of these overriding criteria. Therefore, the allegation of a war crime cannot be considered admissible by the Court.

Israel’s settlement activity is conducted in accordance with the requirements of international customary law, which enables the legitimate use of state and non-privately owned land and property, pending resolution of the conflict. Strict measures are taken by Israel’s investigative and judicial authorities to ensure that violations of laws and norms are duly investigated and prosecuted. Israel’s ongoing legal and juridical supervision fulfills the complementarity requirement of the ICC Statute.

The most important legal document used to evaluate the legality of Israel’s settlement activity has been the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. As clarified by the ICRC Official Commentary to that document, the population transfer prohibition set out in the Convention was specifically drafted to address a repeat of the mass, forced population transfers conducted by the Nazis during the Second World War. As such, it is not applicable to Israel’s settlement activity.

The “transfer” prohibition in Article 8 of the ICC Statute does not reflect established international law inasmuch as it was deliberately tailored and manipulated to address Israel’s settlement activity. As such, Israel’s settlement activity cannot be seen to fulfill the Statute’s overriding requirement that such a crime be within the “established framework of international law.”

The Oslo Accords established an agreed legal regime enabling each party to conduct planning, zoning, and construction activities within the areas under its respective jurisdiction, pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. Israel’s investigative and judicial institutions regulate all such construction activity, including, where necessary, investigating and prosecuting violations. Such activity fulfills the complementarity requirement of the ICC Statute.

Israel’s official governmental commission to investigate the legality of construction in the territories established strict criteria prohibiting seizure and use of private property in violation of international law and requiring that construction be carried out in accordance with the law. The observance of such criteria fulfills the complementarity requirement of the ICC Statute.
The Joshua and Caleb Network: Joe Biden's Undercover Building Freeze - on Israel
Adventure Show #2 is here! This week, we’re answering a similar question to our first adventure show, but in a different location. Is there a Jewish housing crisis inside the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria? You might be shocked to find out the answer.

We started the day by visiting what some might call an Israeli outpost. There we talked to Nati Rom, Jewish attorney and a settlement founder. Nati explained how building Jewish homes in the heartland is vastly different than building Arab homes.

The second half of the show we visited an established Israeli settlement that is home to more than 3,000 Jewish people. Here we hear from the city manager, Chaim Margolis about the difficulties that the community faces when building and expanding, even after being in existence for 30+ years!


Seth Frantzman: Former CIA head targets Jewish suffering in Israel’s actions - analysis
THE ARGUMENT is essentially: Europe put you in gas chambers and now we will tell you how to behave. The historic abusers – the ones who carried out slavery, colonialism, genocide and crusading – are not held to a unique standard. These men never make the same remarks about hundreds of other nations and dozens of religions.

This is likely because a pathological obsession with Jews – portrayed either as saints or Nazis, uniquely vengeful or having a special role to play – is linked to historic antisemitism. If it wasn’t, then we would just as likely see tweets by Brennan, Ward and others demanding the same of other countries. They would argue that because Muslims have suffered Islamophobia, Iran should therefore not commit human rights abuses.

This puts Jews in an awkward position: first being murdered for being different and being Jewish and then being told that if they survived, they have to behave with special empathy or the former persecutors will dislike them for not having “empathy.”

The overall issue is that Jews are never portrayed as equal or similar to others. Prior to the Holocaust various demands were made on Jews, demanding they assimilate or hating them for being different, then after the Shoah the demand shifted to demanding perfection from them. These demands always benefit the Western narrative, which can portray Jews as a problem, shifting blame to the Jewish state as not behaving in the correct way.

The Brennans, Deans and Wards of the world would do better to first hold themselves and their community to a high standard, rather than treating every abuse in the US or UK as a few bad applies, while demanding that every Israeli action be tied to the Holocaust.
New York Times Essayist, Obama CIA Chief, Infuriates Jews by Accusing ‘Scarred’ Nation of Lacking Empathy
Noah Pollak, executive director of the Alliance Initiative, commented sarcastically, “On behalf of The Jews let me sincerely apologize for letting you down. Indeed we haven’t been living up to your ideals of giving land & power to terrorists trying to kill us. We should be more generous. We hope to earn your praise soon by dropping our objections to Hamas.”

Sara Yael Hirschhorn was succinct: “Two words: HAMAS rockets.”

An editor at Newsweek, Batya Ungar-Sargon, commented, “There’s a word for holding Jews to a higher standard than everyone else: It’s called antisemitism. But there should be a special word for holding Jews to a higher standard than everyone else due to the very persecution and genocide that was inflicted on us throughout history.”

And Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, commented, “John Brennan is in therapy, trying to get in touch with his inner antisemite.”

The CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, wrote, “Outrageous. Using Jewish history, incl. Holocaust, as a cudgel against Israel is obscene. Jewish history means Israel must take any threat to its existence seriously & rely on itself. Israel needs a Palestinian partner to make peace. Alas, that partner has been MIA since 1947.”

It’s hard to top what’s been said, but let me venture a longer-than-tweet-length explanation of my own take on precisely why Brennan’s tweet was such a clunker. First, one of the whole founding ideas of Zionism was that of the “new Jew” — not “scarred,” but muscular, tanned, and strong. Second, the idea that the experience of suffering translates into morality is a classically Christian idea; think of Jesus on the cross. Jews would prefer not to suffer. After we have, we prefer not to be lectured by non-Jews about how we’ve failed to properly learn our lessons. And the symmetry of Jewish victimhood and Palestinian victimhood that Brennan draws is actually asymmetrical, as the scales are vastly different. Contrary to Brennan’s suggestion, Jews are still victims in various contexts. And contrary to Brennan’s assertion, Jews are empathetic — not only to the Palestinians, but to other oppressed minorities around the world.

It’s dismaying that a person with these views was CIA director. And it’s not a good look for the Times to kick off its “guest essay” era with a contributor whose essay itself required a correction, and whose outrageous tweet makes the Times look foolish.
John Brennan, “Drone Warrior,” Laments that the Jews Use Checkpoints
While serving as National Security Advisor from 2009 through 2013, John Brennan oversaw America’s unmanned aerial vehicle program. Dubbed the Obama administration’s “drone warrior” by CNN, Brennan wasn’t just the chief architect of the country’s deadly campaign of strikes overseas, but also its most visible champion. While others sounded alarms about hundreds of civilians believed to have been killed under his watch, Brennan defended the strikes as legal, ethical, just, and wise. And as the Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf noted, he had also “been willing to lie about those drone strikes to hide ugly realities.”

It might seem surprising, then, or even improbable, that this same Brennan was so galvanized by the depiction of Palestinian actors passing through an Israeli checkpoint — “twice in a single day,” Brennan lamented — that he rushed to write an Op-Ed in the New York Times to promote the film in which the scenes appeared, and to expound on the Arab-Israeli conflict. After all, the dispatcher of Predator drones and their Hellfire missiles should surely understand that checkpoints are a non-violent even if unpleasant security measure.

But if he does recognize a security need for these checkpoints, he didn’t let on as much in his essay, titled “Why Biden Must Watch This Palestinian Movie.” While acknowledging that legitimate Israeli security concerns existed back in 1975, when he saw “several” people in a long line of Arabs face “discourtesy and aggressive searches by Israeli soldiers” as they crossed into the West Bank from the Kingdom of Jordan (then still in a formal state of war with Israel), Brennan insists that times have “profoundly changed.”

Since 1975, he correctly noted, there have been peace treaties between Israel and two of its neighbors, Jordan and Egypt. But incredibly, in an essay focused on Israeli checkpoints, and in which the author plugs a film focused on Israel’s security barrier, Brennan made no mention of devastating waves of violence from the West Bank that Israeli civilians continued to face in the years after the signing of those treaties. Nothing about the scores killed in suicide bombings in the late 1990s; nothing about hundreds of innocent Jews slaughtered in a wave of Palestinian violence in the early 2000s; nothing about the deadly Palestinian “stabbing intifada” in 2015 and 2016.

These inconvenient facts are all missing from Brennan’s history. He tells readers only that, with the exception of some Hamas rockets from Gaza, there has been “significant progress in reducing violence carried out by Palestinians.” And if he can’t acknowledge the brutal Palestinian suicide bombing campaign of the 2000s, how could he possibly acknowledge that the barrier and checkpoints he finds so disturbing were raised as a result of that campaign? How could he acknowledge, too, that the same passive security measures he decries contributed to the “significant progress” against Palestinian violence he describes?
John Kerry treachery: How far US officials fight Israel's Iran campaign
KERRY’S BADLY broken diplomatic compass and his pretentiousness also played a role in selling Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran (the JCPOA). “There is no better deal with Iran,” Kerry swore in 2015, after being bamboozled by his negotiating counterpart, Zarif. “The deal has eliminated the threat of an Iran with a nuclear weapon,” he ostentatiously declared. Like Obama, he then libelously tarred opponents of the deal, such as Netanyahu, as “warmongers.”

Later, Kerry went on an international campaign to drum-up big business for the mullahs of Tehran. He crisscrossed America and Europe in his official government jet to persuade the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to invest in Iran; to make sure that Iran got its “peace” dividends, aside from the billion of dollars in Iranian assets that Obama released to the coffers of the regime.

Once out of office, Kerry was caught colluding with Zarif again. In a series of meetings in 2018, Kerry advised Zarif to wait-out Trump and hope for more pliant Democrats to be elected in 2020.

And then arrives the new story, suggesting that years ago Kerry tipped-off the Iranians about covert Israeli operations. Again, this may not be true. But one must ask: What other secrets, American or Israeli, might Kerry have spilled to the Iranians?

Worse still, this week’s revelation fits a pattern of Obama administration callousness, and now Biden administration coldness, towards Israel. It comes in the context of growing tensions between Washington and Jerusalem over (supposedly Israeli) sabotage of the Iranian nuclear program and strikes on IRGC targets in Syria and the Red Sea; strikes that seem to have been outed by the administration.

One must also ask: How much farther will Biden appointees go to undercut Israel’s diplomatic and military efforts against Iran? Out of pique with Israel, might the Biden administration – in which John Kerry serves as climate envoy with cabinet rank, and Kerry’s protégés oversee Iran policy – “punish” Israel for its resolute stance against Tehran by withholding diplomatic support for Israel on other fronts? Might the administration apply linkage between Iran policy and, for example, US support for Israel at the ICC and other international forums where Israel is or might become under attack?
Exclusive - Jewish Republican David Kustoff: Biden Should Fire 'Loose Lips' John Kerry for Iran Leaks
Rep. Nick Kustoff (R-TN) told Breitbart News on Wednesday that special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry should be removed from the White House if reports of the former secretary of state leaking classified information to Iran are true.

Kerry allegedly informed Iran that Israel carried out at least 200 covert strikes against Iranian targets, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif revealed in a leaked recording obtained by the New York Times. Several Republicans are now calling for Kerry to be investigated over the alleged intelligence leaks.

Kustoff noted that Kerry’s position with the Biden administration — informally dubbed the White House’s “climate czar” — grants access to classified intelligence and national security information.

“By virtue of this new position that John Kerry holds, he does sit on Biden’s National Security Council, and … by sitting on the security council, he does have access to certain classified information that isn’t disseminated into the public,” Kustoff said on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily with host Alex Marlow, author of Breaking the News: Exposing the Establishment Media’s Hidden Deals and Secret Corruption. “It’s obviously a close hold, and ultimately it’s gonna be up to Joe Biden. Joe Biden is the one calling the shots to ask his friend to step down.”

Kustoff stated, “We have to assume — based on the position that [Kerry’s] got [and] his prior service in government — that he has access, at some level, to classified information. We know that — not only with the allegations of this audio tape, but throughout the course of his public service — John Kerry has loose lips.”

“Not only from a political standpoint, but certainly from a best interest standpoint, Biden ought to ask him to step down and serve his retirement,” he determined.
Joel Pollak: Biden Fails to Mention Israel or Middle East Peace in First Address to Congress
It is almost customary for American presidents to discuss Middle East policy in their annual speeches to Congress. Even Biden’s former boss, President Barack Obama, regularly did so, stressing the importance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

But Biden said nothing about either, despite the recent flurry of agreements between Israel and Arab states under the Abraham Accords, the breakthrough achieved by former President Donald Trump last September. The peace efforts have continued: earlier this month, for example, Sudan announced that it had canceled a decades-old boycott of trade with Israel.

Biden mentioned his plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and his plans to revive a nuclear deal with Iran: “On Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs that present a serious threat to America’s security and world security – we will be working closely with our allies to address the threats posed by both of these countries through diplomacy and stern deterrence,” he said.

He did not mention peace, except in a general sense, in the opening of his address: “Throughout our history, Presidents have come to this chamber to speak to the Congress, to the nation, and to the world. To declare war. To celebrate peace. To announce new plans and possibilities.”

The momentum toward peace in the Middle East is apparently not high on his agenda.
JINSA: A Failing State: What’s Next for Lebanon?
As Iranian-backed Hezbollah increases its hold on Lebanon, questions are emerging as to what an effective U.S. policy towards Lebanon might look like (or if a policy is truly needed, at all). Is there a substantive difference in actuality between state institutions in Lebanon and Iranian-backed Hezbollah? What role do the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) play in enabling Hezbollah’s control? Are the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) effective at cabining Hezbollah in southern Lebanon? These questions and more are answered by Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and by (ret.) IDF MG Yaakov Ayish of JINSA.
Hamas’ Goal is a Temple Mount Cleansed of Jews
Hamas' demand that Israel start prohibiting Jews from visiting the Temple Mount "in exchange" for quiet in the Gaza sector, can only come from a terrorist organization that feels immune to repercussions for its untamed behavior – whether this includes firing rockets at southern Israel or carrying out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, Lod or Judea and Samaria. Hamas is presenting an opposite reality: Instead of Israel deterring the terrorist group – Hamas is looking to deter Israel. It has succeeded in doing so in the past.

The organization that has leveraged the modern-day libel of "al-Aqsa is in danger" and turned it into an assembly line for producing terrorist attacks to "save," "liberate" or "redeem" al-Aqsa from the Jews and Israel who "defile its Muslimhood," is now taking it one step further.

Hamas is no longer content with libeling the State of Israel, which it accuses of wanting to destroy the Temple Mount mosques; it is no longer satisfied with knife and car-ramming attacks across Israel "on behalf of al-Aqsa" and its "liberation." Neither is it placated anymore by lone-wolf stabbers who boasted in their interrogations of trying to commit knife attacks at the Temple Mount entrance to disrupt and prevent Jews from visiting the site.

Now, Hamas is allowing itself to go one step further and put things on the table: No more Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. Essentially, it wants to return to the time when Jews were banned from visiting their own most holy sites.
Druze in the Golan Heights Are Warming Up to Israel
Relations between the Golan Druze and Israel are becoming closer.

The Syrian civil war, with the massacres perpetrated by the regime against its citizens, has weakened the bond between the Druze and the Assad regime, and reduced their desire to be reunited with the country that ruled there until 1967.

Photographs of President Bashar Assad have been taken down from the walls of restaurants, while Israeli flags now fly over some of the educational institutions and over sports centers built by the Israeli national lottery.

Female IDF soldiers teach classes in the schools. A quarter of the Golan Druze have acquired Israeli ID cards. Only a few people showed up for this year's event to mark Syrian Independence Day.
Israel braces for fallout as Abbas expected to delay Palestinian elections
The Israel Defense Forces is bracing for possible unrest following the expected delay of the Palestinian elections on Thursday, which would likely be blamed on Israel, Channel 12 reported Wednesday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to declare that he is postponing the legislative vote — the first in 15 years, scheduled for next month — over the question of voting rights for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, which Israel considers part of its unified capital.

The Israeli army’s Southern Command is already preparing for border disturbances with the Gaza Strip and is closely watching developments among the Palestinians, the television report said.

Hamas, the Islamist terror group that is the de facto ruler of Gaza, said in a statement Wednesday that it would hold Israel responsible if the vote is pushed off.

“Jerusalem is a red line,” Hamas said, according to Hebrew media reports of the statement, adding that Palestinians cannot hold elections without the participation of East Jerusalem residents. The terror group said that not holding the legislative election on May 22 would be a denial of the rights of the Palestinians.
CAMERA Op-Ed Why the Palestinian Authority’s Strategy for Biden is Backfiring
“Fate,” Winston Churchill once observed, “holds terrible forfeits for those who gamble on certainties.” By choosing to hold national elections for the first time in more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has tossed the dice. But the PA’s decision—part of a revamped strategy to appeal to the new administration in Washington—is already backfiring.

On Jan. 15, 2021, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the authority would conduct parliamentary and presidential elections. The former would take place in May and the latter in July. The PA, which rules over the majority of Palestinians, hasn’t held elections in fifteen years.

The last time that the authority held elections they ended in disaster. Hamas, the U.S.-designated terrorist group that calls for Israel’s destruction, won parliamentary elections held in January 2006. Fatah, the movement which dominates the PA and is controlled by Abbas, refused to recognize the results, sparking a brief and bloody civil war that resulted in Hamas taking power in the Gaza Strip. The years since have witnessed multiple “mini-wars” between Hamas and Israel, prompted by indiscriminate rocket fire and kidnappings by the terrorist organization.

The election and its aftermath also resulted in a fracturing of the Palestinian national movement, with the West Bank being run by the Fatah-controlled PA and Gaza being dominated by Hamas.
On Palestinian Aid and Accountability
Upwards of $235 million in aid to the Palestinians has been proposed by the White House, with no quid pro quo in exchange. Since 1993, the conventional wisdom has been that providing financial assistance to the PA would incentivize it to reach a settlement with Israel. Since 1994, the U.S. has provided more than $5 billion to the PA.

With the restoration of U.S. aid, a tremendous opportunity to condition assistance on serious changes both in the PA and UNRWA has been lost. Why not insist that the PA close down "pay-to-slay," end the campaign against Israel in multilateral forums like the UN and the International Criminal Court, end the backing of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, cease anti-Semitic incitement against Israel and the Jewish people, and stop educating its young people to hate?

The Palestinians are mired in a cycle of victimization, promoted and manipulated by leaders who have a bigger stake in the status quo than in ending this decades-long conflict.
Condition Reopening Washington PLO Office on Ending PA's "Pay to Slay" Program
The Biden administration is contemplating reopening the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington and restoring direct aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA). However, instead of diving headfirst into another diplomatic dead-end with the PA/PLO, President Biden should attach real and substantial conditions to any reopening.

The State Department shut down the PLO mission in Washington in October 1987 in response to the PLO's involvement with various acts of terror. Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987, which declared the PLO to be a terrorist organization and prohibited the opening of PLO facilities on U.S. soil. Yet Congress allowed for the president to issue a waiver on his own accord. Another U.S. law, the Alien Tort Claims Act, could hold the PLO responsible for terrorist damages if it resumes a presence in American jurisdiction.

It would behoove the Biden administration to place conditions on the PLO for reopening its mission or receiving any new direct aid. A starting point would be to demand the PLO end its "pay to slay" program, in strict accordance with a third U.S. law, the Taylor Force Act. A credible Palestinian opinion poll from last year shows 2/3 of West Bankers agree that the PA should "stop paying extra bonuses and benefits to prisoners or 'martyrs' families."

At the same time, polls show that 2/3 of West Bankers and Gazans now say that, even if an independent Palestinian state is established, "the conflict should not end and the struggle should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated." This violates every tenet of U.S. policy.
PMW: “We are Allah’s hand,” declares Fatah amid riots
Arabs attacking Jews in Jerusalem are “Allah’s hand.” This message was Abbas’ ‎Fatah Movement’s response following days of violent Arab riots in Jerusalem, ‎which Fatah seems intent on turning into a religious war. ‎

In two posts on its official Facebook page, Fatah declared the Arabs committing the violence to ‎be “Allah’s hand”:‎
Posted text with image above: “We are Allah’s hand that will restore ‎Jerusalem’s status
There_will_be_no_[PA]elections_without_Jerusalem
[Fatah] Commission of Information and Culture”‎


Text on image: “The Fatah Movement‎
The Commission of Information and Culture
We are Allah’s hand that will restore Jerusalem’s status”
[Facebook page of the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture, ‎April 26, 2021]‎


Text at bottom of image: “We are Allah’s hand that strikes every usurper ‎and everyone who carries out normalization [with Israel]”‎

Posted text: “We are Allah’s hand that strikes every usurper and everyone ‎who carries out normalization [with Israel]‎
#There_are_no_[PA]elections_without_Jerusalem‎
[Fatah] Commission of Information and Culture”
[Facebook page of the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture, April 28, 2021]‎


Another Fatah leader stressing the religious value of the confrontations, was Fatah ‎Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi who wrote that supporting the rioters and ‎participating in the riots is a religious “obligatory personal commandment” (fard ayn) ‎‎- one of the highest religious obligations in Islam: ‎
“Fatah Movement Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi said that the ‎resistance of the residents of Jerusalem to the occupation is a holy battle ‎that they are fighting alone, and he considered supporting them, coming ‎to them, and participating with them in the battle to defend Jerusalem ‎and the holy sites an obligatory personal commandment (fard ayn), and ‎whoever shirks this is a mute devil who, with his silence and passivity, ‎allows the occupation to tyrannically rule the Palestinian residents of ‎Jerusalem, the holy city, and the holy sites.”

[Facebook page of Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi, April 25, 2021]‎
Despite Egyptian Campaign, Gaza Border Tunnels Resume Smuggling Activity
Despite Egypt's largely successful security campaign launched in 2013 against the border tunnels in Rafah in southern Gaza, sources in Rafah told Al-Monitor of Palestinian attempts to restore some of the destroyed tunnels. Palestinian organizations, along with large families in Rafah, had dug hundreds of tunnels along the 9-mile border with Egypt, making huge profits by smuggling and selling Egyptian goods in Gaza. Egypt established a 1-mile-deep buffer zone, flooded the area with water from the Mediterranean, and built two walls.

The source explained that Palestinian families are involved in attempts to smuggle goods, especially cigarettes, honey, fuel and spare parts for various types of machinery that are blocked by Egypt and Israel, in addition to goods available in Egypt at a low price and sold in Gaza at exorbitant prices, such as cosmetics. Many of these tunnels became operational just weeks ago.


Turkey: How Erdogan's Pledge for Reform Collapsed in Five Months
"We don't see ourselves elsewhere but in Europe," Erdogan said on November 21. "We envisage building our future together with Europe."

According to Turkish news site Gazete Duvar, a total of 128,872 people have been indicted in the past six years for insulting Erdogan. Of those, 27,824 had to stand trial and 9,556 were convicted.

Apparently, Erdogan wants a democratic system without opposition.

But who cares about the Constitution in a country where the governing bloc is proposing to close down even the Constitutional Court, in addition to banning opposition parties? All these autocratic measures occurred in the less than half-year since Erdogan pledged democratic reforms.

A few years ago, then Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had vehemently refuted claims that Turkey was a second-class democracy. He was right. Turkey has since remained a third-class democracy.
MEMRI: Erdogan Rejects Biden's Statement On 'Armenian Genocide': 'I Am Speaking Based On Documents'

MEMRI: Saudi And Lebanese Accusations: Hizbullah Is Operating A Network For Smuggling Drugs To Saudi Arabia And The Region; It Has Turned Lebanon Into A Base For Exporting Drugs And Terrorism
On April 23, 2021, customs authorities at the Saudi port of Jeddah announced that they had thwarted an attempt to smuggle drugs – mainly Captagon (fenethylline hydrochloride) pills, an amphetamine drug popular in the Middle East – in a shipment of pomegranates arriving from Lebanon. Subsequently, the Saudi Interior Ministry announced that beginning April 25, the country would accept no Lebanese imports of agricultural produce. The ministry added that it had previously warned Lebanese authorities about the increase in drug smuggling attempts from its territory, and that the ban would remain in force until the Lebanese authorities "provide satisfactory and documented guarantees that they have taken the necessary steps to stop the systematic smuggling against the kingdom."[1]

Addressing the increase in smuggling attempts from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Boukhari tweeted that in the past six years over 600 million pills and hundreds of kilos of hashish from Lebanon had been seized by Saudi authorities, and that the drugs smuggled via this route during that time "could drown the entire Arab world, not just Saudi Arabia."[2] Additionally, Saudi Interior Minister Prince 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin Saud bin Naif tweeted that "the kingdom's security is a red line." [3]

On their part, the Lebanese authorities hastened to condemn the drug smuggling from Lebanon, and stressed that they would step up their efforts to prevent further smuggling.[4] In an April 26 meeting convened by Lebanese President Michel 'Aoun, with Prime Minister Hassan Diab, ministers, and security and customs directors, 'Aoun stressed that Lebanon was working hard to maintain good relations with the Arab countries and to preserve these countries' security and stability. Also at the meeting, 'Aoun called on the country's security apparatuses to step up the fight against smuggling and those behind it,[5] and a series of measures for increased oversight of agricultural exports was put in place.[6]

As expected, the incident sparked widespread interest in Saudi Arabia. Although top Saudi government officials did not implicate any specific element in Lebanon for the drug shipment, the Saudi press published many articles and op-eds pointing at Hizbullah. Stating that Hizbullah was functioning as an organized crime network and had turned Lebanon into a base for waging direct war on Saudi Arabia, they added that the latest attempt to smuggle drugs into Saudi Arabia was one of many, and that the organization was acting to flood the kingdom with drugs in order to destroy it and bankroll its terror activity in the region.

There was also harsh criticism of Hizbullah in Lebanon, where journalists and politicians accused the organization and its political allies, including President 'Aoun, of responsibility for drug smuggling and its impact on the country's agriculture and economy, already in grave crisis. They accused the organization and the groups ruling Lebanon of bringing the country under occupation by Iran, of turning it into a hub for drug smuggling and terrorism, and of starving and weakening the Lebanese people. Some Lebanese politicians even defended the measures taken by the Saudis.
Simply Returning to the JCPOA Would Be a Huge Mistake
In 2016, an American official who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal told me that after 5-7 years, "the U.S. president at that time is going to have to reassess, and if it seems that our expectations that Iran would change its behavior do not come true, the president will have to leave the agreement. This is why we insisted on the snapback mechanism through which we can reimpose all the sanctions unilaterally."

Five years have elapsed and Iran did not meet the Obama administration's expectations. Iran prefers a return to the JCPOA because it's the only safe path to having the capability to produce a large nuclear arsenal.

The Biden administration claims that the maximum-pressure policy failed because Iran didn't succumb and instead escalated violations of the deal. The truth is the exact opposite. The pressure was so effective that Iran's main goal has been to rid itself of the sanctions. This pressure gives the U.S. a formidable starting point for negotiating a new and much better deal.

What is the point of wasting this strong leverage by bringing Iran back into the JCPOA - which is where it wants to go anyhow - and only trying to negotiate a better deal once that leverage is gone?


US talks with Iran on nuclear deal are bound to sink - opinion
More testimony on the cement and the fate of the plutonium reactor at Arak was provided by “Nuclear Nonproliferation Experts on the Iran Deal,” in a September 2017 declaration, signed, among others, by Robert Malley, former Iran deal negotiator and today the US special representative for Iran, and Colin Kahl, another former negotiator and today the US under secretary of defense for policy.

One month later, Malley briefed members of Americans for Peace Now on the JCPOA in a video session: “concrete has been poured into the only reactor that’s capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium [Arak]. It’s now permanently inoperable.”

The American spokespeople were parroting Behrouz Kamalvandi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesperson, who said in January 2016: “The core vessel of the Arak reactor has been removed... and IAEA inspectors will visit the site to verify it and report it to the IAEA... We are ready for the implementation day of the deal [signed with international powers in July 2015].” Kamalvandi added that the core would be filled with concrete to make it unusable. This photoshopped version was remarkably amateurish. See, for instance, the man with the wheelbarrow on the bottom left who was pasted into the picture.

Fool me once, shame on me. Twice? Also shame on me.

The Times’s repeating last week the report that Iran decommissioned its Arak reactor with cement. The claim is audaciously false, considering that the act was even denied by the highest nuclear official in Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief. In January 2019, Salehi told an Iranian Mojahedin TV interview that the calandria core was not filled with cement. The proof Iran presented was a “photoshopped” version. Moreover, while narrow tubes were blocked by cement, another set of identical tubes were purchased to replace the decommissioned ones, Salehi explained with amusement.

US negotiators to the JCPOA walked out of the 2015 Vienna negotiations stripped bare – no decommissioned Arak reactor, no negotiations on ballistic missiles, no attempt to stop regional terrorism or to extend the “sunset” obligations. Even without the leak of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif’s interview to show us, the negotiators’ misfeasance, gullibility, malfeasance prove that the next attempt at a deal is bound to sink.
JCPA: The Growing Iranian Threat to Regional and Western Security

US Navy Ship Fires Warning Shots After Close Encounter With Iranian Vessels
A US military ship fired warning shots after three vessels from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) came close to it and another American patrol boat in the Gulf, the United States military said on Tuesday.

Such incidents have occurred occasionally over the past five years, though there has been a relative lull over the past year.

While officials said it was too early to discern the exact motivation of the Iranian forces, they have said that generally in the past such incidents are carried out by local commanders rather than directed by senior Iranian leaders.

“The US crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio and loud-hailer devices, but the IRGCN vessels continued their close range maneuvers,” the military statement said.

“The crew of Firebolt then fired warning shots, and the IRGCN vessels moved away to a safe distance from the US vessels,” the statement added, using the name for the US Navy patrol ship.

The closest the Iranian fast inshore attack craft came to the American ships was 68 yards (204 feet) during the incident, which took place on Monday in international water in the northern Gulf.

The incident comes as world powers and Iran seek to speed up efforts to bring Washington and Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord, and the United States has reassured its Gulf Arab allies on the status of the talks.
Shakeup in Iran’s presidential office after Zarif tape leaked
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has replaced the head of a think tank that recorded an interview with the country’s foreign minister after it leaked out this week, providing a rare glimpse into the theocracy’s power struggles and setting off a firestorm in Iran.

In the recording of the conversation held in March 2020 between Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Saeed Leylaz, an economist at the Strategic Studies Center, the think tank associated with Iran’s presidency, Zarif offered a blunt appraisal of Iranian diplomacy and his constricted role in the Islamic Republic. Zarif also criticized the power of Qassem Soleimani, the late IRGC general killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad.

Soleimani had been setting Tehran’s policy, Zarif charged, had worked with Russia to sabotage the nuclear deal, and had acted in Syria’s long-running war in ways that damaged Tehran’s interests.

The audiotape, leaked earlier this week to London-based, Persian-language news channel Iran International, set off political controversy across Iran ahead of the country’s June 18 presidential election. While Zarif has said he does not want to run in the election, some have suggested him as a potential candidate to stand against hardliners.

On Thursday, Iran’s presidency announced that the chief of the Strategic Studies Center, Hesamodin Ashna, had resigned and Ali Rabiei, who already serves as the Cabinet spokesman, would replace him. Ashna was reportedly present during the interview with Zarif. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, right, is shown new centrifuges and listens to head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi, while visiting an exhibition of Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran, April 10, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AFP)

Also Thursday, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported, citing an informed source in the judiciary, that 15 people connected to the interview have been banned from leaving the country.
Elliott Abrams: More Iranian Missiles to Syria: A Problem that a "Working Group" Cannot Solve
This is an important aspect of exactly what was mentioned in the White House read-out. And it suggests trouble ahead.

Russia appears willing to assist Iran now in placing precision guided missiles or "PGMs" in Syria, for Syrian use but also for transfer to Hezbollah. This may mean fewer Israeli attacks on land convoys but it will also mean more attacks on locations in Syria and eventually Lebanon where such weapons are stored. The PGM threat is one that Israel has been intent on diminishing to the extent possible, because such missiles could do great damage if Israel and Hezbollah ever come into conflict as they did in 2006. Israel will not decide that its efforts must cease because the shipments are now going by sea rather than land, and it will have no alternative but to hit the shipments when they arrive in Syria or Lebanon. To date, Israel has avoided such strikes at Lebanon and hit only inside Syria—but that cannot last if the number of PGMs rises and rises.

That Russia helps Iran ship oil to the Syrian regime, which Russia supports, is no surprise. But why Russia would help Iran get PGMs to Hezbollah is not obvious-- not to me at least. The Syrian regime, not Hezbollah, is the Russian client, and assisting Iran to ship PGMs to Hezbollah is an incendiary action, especially in the context of generally deconflicted Israeli and Russian military actions north of Israel.

The establishment of a new U.S.-Israel working group is a sensible move, if it allows Israel to keep the United States informed on what weapons are arriving in Syria-- and on Israel’s general policy and intentions regarding those weapons. But it solves nothing, and cannot be a substitute for action. Working groups offer Israel no protection from precision-guided Iranian missiles that arrive in Syria and Lebanon. Only Israeli action can do that, and we can expect that we will see more of it in the coming months and years.
Russia Protecting Iranian Ships Smuggling Arms to Syria
Iran appears to have moved its overland weapons shipments to Syria - where Israel has regularly tracked and destroyed them - to ships that may be receiving protection from the Russian navy in the Mediterranean.

At the same time, Israeli defense sources say Israel has intensified its aerial attacks on targets in Syria once the weapons are delivered by sea.

Uzi Rabi, an expert on Iran, said, "The rules of the game at sea are different. What was achievable when Israel operated against the ground and air shipments of weapons from Iran to Syria is not valid when the action is at sea, under a Russian umbrella."

The Russian news agency Sputnik reported on April 17 that a joint Russian-Iranian-Syrian force would be established in the Mediterranean to ensure the safe arrival in Syria of oil and other goods.
MEMRI: Former Iranian Ambassador To Iraq Hassan Danaeifar: 'The Attacks On The U.S. Military Bases Are Part Of The Same Attacks Being Carried Out' In Other Parts Of Iraq – And 'Will Continue'
Against the backdrop of attacks carried out against U.S. military bases in Iraq by pro-Iran Shi'ite militias, particularly in Kurdistan in the north of the country, former Iranian ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danaeifar said that the attacks on the U.S. forces will continue as long as they remain in Iraq. He made the statements in an April 19, 2021 interview with the Iranian news agency Tasnim.

Danaeifar served as ambassador from 2010 to 2016, after holding several senior positions in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), including IRGC deputy naval commander, head of the IRGC University of Command and Staff, commander of the IRGC's Khatam Al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, and also administrative and financial affairs deputy chair in the secretariat of Iran's Expediency Council. In 2007, he served as secretary of the Headquarters for Iran-Iraq Economic Relations at the presidential palace, and headed the Iranian delegation to the Iran-U.S. security talks in Baghdad that year. In January 2012, as Iran's ambassador to Iraq, Danaeifar told the ISNA news agency that "Iran's presence in Iraq has been and still is logical."[1]

It should be noted that Iran is spearheading the fight against the U.S. presence in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, and is demanding that the Iraqi leadership expel U.S. forces from the country.

The following are excerpts from Danaeifar's remarks in his recent interview with Tasnim:[2]

"The Americans Are Very Vulnerable And Their Abilities Are Not Very High-Level"

"These attacks [on U.S. bases and facilities in Iraq] are part of similar operations against the American forces throughout Iraq. The [Iraqi] citizens, and especially Iraq's young people, cannot stand the presence of the Americans in their country.

"The American troops must leave Iraq, in accordance with the Iraqi parliamentary decision. However, the Americans occasionally conduct talks with Baghdad officials and make promises [to leave the country], but take no action [to do so].

"Some people may think the Americans are very powerful, but that is not true. The Americans are very vulnerable and their abilities are not very high-level – so there is no need to think every action taking place in the world is controlled by America.











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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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