Wednesday, June 22, 2022

From Ian:

Jonathan Tobin: The fatal contradictions of Biden's Middle East trip
If the administration was really committed to stopping Iran, then it would be increasing its efforts to expand former President Donald Trump's Abraham Accords to other Arab and Islamic countries to shore up a regional alliance against Tehran.

Hopes that the Saudis will swap their under-the-table alliance with Israel for a full-fledged normalization are probably misplaced. As the self-styled guardians of the Muslim holy places, the odds that the Saudi regime – whose legitimacy is rooted in its own peculiar brand of religious extremism – would ever fully embrace the Jewish state are slim and none. But as they did in 2020 when the Trump foreign-policy team made the first real breakthrough for peace in a generation, their acquiescence to other countries normalizing relations with Israel is key.

But Biden's disinterest in widening the circle of peace is painfully obvious. His priority is keeping Israel and the Saudis from taking any actions that will undermine his hopes of a new deal with Iran, which means that it would be extremely foolish for either Jerusalem or Riyadh to place much trust in any assurances the president offers to them.

That is a painful dilemma because as much as the Saudis can flirt with trying to come to some sort of arrangement with Iran and its terrorist proxies, that isn't a viable option since Tehran will never be satisfied until the Saud dynasty and its allies are overthrown. Nor can Israel look elsewhere for help. Both an isolated Russia and a China bent on expanding its own malign influence in the Middle East are bad actors that have no real sympathy or common interests with the Jewish state.

So, while the Israelis and the Saudis combine to present an Iran still seeking regional hegemony as well as nuclear status with a formidable foe, having the United States led by a president that cannot be relied upon to oppose the deadliest threat to stability in the region creates a problem to which there is no obvious solution.

Nor can Americans feel good about an administration that, for all of its high-flown talk about standing by allies when it speaks of Ukraine, still seems intent on discarding its real friends in the Middle East. Expecting Israel and the Saudis to have America's back while also attempting to betray them by embracing Iran is a contradiction that may lead to yet another Biden disaster, which may be even more costly than the ones he has already blundered into.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Arabs to Biden: Shut Down Iran's 'Expansionist Project'
Ahead of Biden's visit, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, in a clear message to the US administration and other Western powers, affirmed that any nuclear agreement or future negotiations with Iran must address the Iranians' "destabilizing behavior in the region, their support for terrorist militias, and their missile program."

"Western countries prefer to talk about upcoming measures, preparing us for their failure to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the truth is that we are in a race against time, and it is still possible to force Iran to abandon its secret plans to acquire nuclear weapons. The problem is that the entire international community does not seem serious and resolute in dealing with this issue and deterring Iran." — Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, founder and chairman of the Gulf Research Center, alanba.com.kw, June 14, 2022.

Iran thinks with the "mentality of an empire" and that is why it is continuing its efforts to extend its control to several Arab countries. — Dr. Abdulaziz Sager, alanba.com.kw, June 14, 2022

Washington's Arab allies have repeatedly warned that the US against complacency with the Iranian threat, "specifically after the instructions of the administration of former President Barack Obama to build a partnership with the Tehran regime under the roof of the nuclear agreement that contributed to Iran's pervasiveness, and gave it free rein, allowing it to increase its hostile activities against the countries of the region without being held accountable for the consequences of its reckless policies." — Khaled Al-Yemany, former foreign minister of Yemen, independentarabia.com, January 26, 2022.

[T]he Arab countries have always preferred dialogue with Iran, but this was seen by the mullahs as a sign of weakness. — Khaled Al-Yemany, independentarabia.com, January 26, 2022.

Tehran is using negotiation diplomacy to achieve more military gains and develop its arsenal in the nuclear and missile fields and missile technology," he said. "The reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency confirm that Iran is far from the commitments it made in the nuclear agreement, and it is progressing to build a nuclear bomb. A nuclear Iran, its expansionist project that destabilizes regional and international security and stability will be more ferocious and its ambitions will transcend all borders, and it must be deterred before it is too late." — Khaled Al-Yemany, independentarabia.com, January 26, 2022.

[T]he Arab and Western media have remained silent about the Iranian people's protests against the corruption of the regime, which spent its wealth to destroy four Arab countries (Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq). — Abdul Jalil Al-Saeid, Syrian author, al-ain.com, June 7, 2022.

The Arabs are saying that they expect the Biden administration to reverse its stance on the mullahs and act in accordance with reality: that Tehran poses a catastrophic threat to America's allies – all of its allies, Arab and Israeli alike – in the Middle East.


Russia Still a Threat Even if Putin Dies, Says Renowned Holocaust Investigator Now Probing War Crimes in Ukraine
Russia will continue to pose a deadly threat to Ukraine even if current President Vladimir Putin dies, according to the French Catholic priest who built an international reputation documenting the mass slaughter of the country’s Jewish community during the Holocaust.

In a wide-ranging interview on Wednesday with the Pravda Ukraine news outlet, Fr. Patrick Desbois, who is actively documenting Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians, argued that the Russian threat would outlast Putin, the principal architect of the invasion of Ukraine in late February.

“You have to understand that even if Putin dies, they will still be deadly,” Desbois said. “It is your great misfortune that you have such neighbors.”

The founder of Yahad-In Unum, a French NGO dedicated to researching what he calls the “Holocaust by bullets,” Desbois has devoted much of his career to investigating the mass graves of Jews murdered by Nazi mobile killing squads across occupied eastern Europe. In an interview with The Algemeiner in March, Desbois — who has assembled a team of investigators in Ukraine — emphasized that the responsibility for war crimes during the current conflict was not Putin’s alone.

“Remember that the excuse of the people on the ground is always that they were just obeying orders,” he said.

In his latest interview, Desbois also expressed pessimism about the prospects of Putin ever facing trial for war crimes.
Caroline Glick: The U.S. and NATO are losing catastrophically in Ukraine | Mideast News Hour
In this week’s episode of "Middle East News Hour," Caroline Glick is joined by David Goldman from Asia Times and the Claremont Institute to discuss why the United States and NATO are the real losers of the Ukraine war. They look at:
- The situation on the ground
- U.S. options for managing the war going forward
- The global economic implications of the Western sanctions on Russia
- What this all means for Israel


UN’s anti-Israel special rapporteur again excuses Palestinian violence
The new U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestinian issues has justified violence against Israelis for the second time in her short stint.

In a June 9 interview with the Italian magazine Altreconomia, Francesca Albanese claimed that “Israel says ‘resistance equals terrorism,’ but an occupation requires violence and generates violence,” adding that the “Palestinians have no other room for dissent than violence.”

Albanese also repeated long-running accusations of Israeli apartheid and suggested that Israelis holding dual citizenship could be tried for crimes in the countries of their secondary citizenship if they live in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, or any other location deemed “occupied Palestinian territory.”

Albanese, a lawyer, also told an Italian national television station in May that “Palestinian violence is inevitable because the right to exist of the Palestinian people has been denied for 55 years—almost three generations.”

Albanese has accused Israel several times of apartheid, genocide and war crimes, and has equated Palestinian suffering with the Holocaust. In 2019, Albanese addressed an event by an organization linked to the terrorist Hamas group that controls the Gaza Strip.

The U.N. Human Rights Council announced the appointment of Albanese in April. She recently replaced Canadian Michael Lynk, who, despite his mandate of impartiality, was recently awarded the “Order of the Star of Jerusalem” by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas after publishing countless anti-Israel reports during his tenure.

Albanese recently started a six-year term as Special Rapporteur in a position whose mandate hasn’t changed since being established nearly 20 years ago.


Gil Troy: A thank you to Naftali Bennett, the pacemaker prime minister - opinion
As Israelis brace for our third prime minister in barely a year, and our fifth election in three years, let’s say it loud and clear: todah rabah (thank you) Naftali Bennett. You, your erstwhile partner Yair Lapid, and every member of your governing-by-the-skin-of-our-teeth government, earned your place in history. All hail Bennett as the Pacemaker Prime Minister, in all four meanings of the word.

First and foremost, thinking of “pacemaker” as trendsetter, scout, trailblazer, Bennett taught the Israeli people an invaluable lesson: there’s life after Bibi. Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had us bamboozled. Even many who disdained him were addicted to him, fearing anyone else as prime minister. Bibi was Franklin Roosevelt to Americans in the 1940s, or Winston Churchill to Brits then, too – the forever-leader who was always there – and, for all his day-to-day faults, super-reliable under the gun.

Suddenly, blessedly, in one year, Bennett showed even the most die hard Likudnik that Israel’s security is secure, Israel’s stock market can soar and difficult decisions can be decided, even without Bibi. When Israel needed to defend itself against terrorists, against lying UN and human rights libelers, against insidious EU diplomats, Bennett and his team, especially Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, behaved steadily, admirably, reassuringly – precisely what we needed.

On the biggest issues facing Israel, from managing Palestinian, Iranian, and COVID-19 threats, to continuing our economic and technological miracles, these leaders showed that Israel works because of Israel, not because of Bibi or Bennett or anyone else. No one is irreplaceable. These public servants – not self-servants – also led, protected and served without Bibi’s divisiveness, demagoguery and deviousness. As a result, Bennett not only set the stage for the Beyond Bibi era, he helped set a new tone for a kinder, gentler but still formidable post-Bibi Israel.

Bennett’s government wasn’t just a harbinger, promising a brighter tomorrow, it delivered that tomorrow today. This government “took the lead and set an example” in numerous ways. Its big broad coalition approach taught a new math, a muscular moderate, 70-30 formula every democracy should master. Healthy polities benefit by emphasizing the 70% that unites us rather than the 30% that divides us.
Ruthie Blum: The Fall of the Israeli Government and the Upcoming Election
The moment that some Israelis have been dreading and others happily anticipating finally arrived on Monday. Though the announcement by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of a call for the disbanding of the Knesset was virtually a foregone conclusion, it came as a bit of a surprise.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that Bennett had bought his teetering coalition an additional week. This was attributed to the fact that Likud Party and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was postponing a no-confidence motion for several days.

Still, the public response has been similar to that surrounding the death of someone who suffered a long and drawn-out illness; despite the inevitability of the demise, the end is slightly jolting. Nevertheless, nobody skipped a beat—certainly not the politicians or reporters scrambling to address the new reality—at the sound of the government’s last breath.

Judging by the polls, those who had hoped it would survive aren’t numerous, but they have begun to reiterate the rhetoric of the anti-Netanyahu camp. Sadly, some voters who experienced buyers’ remorse at having opted for Bennett in the first place—as he represented for them the uncompromising Zionist who would annex Judea and Samaria—are singing the same tune about Netanyahu.
Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked Kicks Off Official Visit to Morocco
Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked landed in Morocco on Monday, where she is scheduled to meet with a series of senior officials, including Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Shaked and her Moroccan counterpart will discuss ways to increase bilateral cooperation between the two countries “in areas of common interest,” according to Israeli Ambassador to Morocco David Govrin.

In a video from Morocco released on social media, Shaked also announced that she is working on a program to bring Moroccan workers to Israel, with an emphasis on the construction and nursing sectors. In the same video, Shaked addressed the collapse of the Israeli government, stating, “I heard that a few things are happening in Israel. I am continuing this visit as normal. I have a mission, to bring foreign workers to Israel for the nursing and construction fields.”

She also dismissed as “nonsense” Israeli media reports regarding a breakdown in relations between herself and fellow Yamina Party member Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Economy and Industry Ministry announced on Monday that an Egyptian delegation of industrial leaders had arrived in Israel for the first time in a decade.

Twelve senior Egyptian industry and business figures, in the textile and clothing sectors, are meeting Israeli Economy and Industry Ministry representatives, as well as Israel’s Manufacturer’s Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the Israel Export Institute, according to the statement.
Pilot program to see Moroccan workers in Israel
The Moroccan workers could begin arriving in Israel by the beginning of 2023, he added.

They would earn higher salaries in Israel, Moyal noted. The average annual salary in Morocco is approximately $11,400, while the minimum wage for construction workers in Israel is almost twice as much.

Israel suffers from a shortage of both construction workers and caregivers for the elderly and the infirm, most of whom are foreign workers. There are about 60,000 caregivers in the country, mostly from East Asia. There are about 100,000 foreign construction workers, coming chiefly from the West Bank, Thailand, and China.

Before she flew to Morocco on Monday, Shaked said in a statement, “We are certain that this cooperation with the Moroccans will help us advance the housing market and also support the elderly population in Israel.”

In her absence, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced he intends to dissolve parliament and schedule early elections. Shaked, a longtime political partner of the prime minister, was updated about the move about 15 minutes before the announcement, and she reportedly implored Bennett to postpone it until her return to Israel.

Shaked’s office told The Media Line she was updated before the announcement but declined to elaborate.

Shaked is the third Israeli minister to visit Morocco in recent months, after Economy Minister Orna Barbivai in February, and Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen in May.

Both women met with Moroccan Industry and Trade Minister Ryad Mezzour and signed bilateral agreements intended to deepen the economic cooperation between the two countries.
JCPA: Understanding the Psychology of Terrorist Behavior: How the Virtual “Pack” Stirs Lone Wolves to Action
Arab terror against Israelis has been a constant presence for an extended period, with different “waves” of violence characterized, among other features, by various means of attack.

A combination of motivational “fuel” and environmental “triggers” determines when and how a particular attacker may choose to act.

Terrorist behavior can be understood as having different layers or levels, which produce “waves” of violence when triggered and acted upon.

Jewish and Arab Israelis differ in their perceptions of the threat represented by the general Israeli Arab population, resulting in lower perceptions of personal security among Jewish Israelis.

While some Arab sources condemn terror activity, others are more ambivalent, and others consciously incite and promote violence.

Clearly, social media and social networks have significantly increased the perception and presence of Arab anti-Israel incitement. They also cultivate a culture of Palestinian victimhood which adds psychological fuel to justify terror activity.

Social networks have also expanded the environments of individuals previously considered “lone wolves” to where they now enjoy widespread support in both the real world and in a “virtual” world.

Ultimately, the source of Palestinian terror activity lies in an ideology of rejectionism, with the intransigent refusal to come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state resulting in a culture of non-acceptance of the reviled Jewish “other.”

The extended virtual social environment of would-be Palestinian terrorists now means that, in reality, they are members of a more extensive “pack” rather than solo operators. This reality presents a significant challenge that calls for a proactive cyber campaign to counter terror.


Construction begins on new West Bank security barrier
The construction of a 45-km. (28-mile) security barrier has begun in the northern Samaria region, the Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday morning.

Construction began on Tuesday and is being carried out by the Defense Ministry’s Department of Engineering and Construction and the IDF Central Command.

The new security barrier will be nine meters (29.5 feet) high and will run from northern Samaria up until the Bat Hefer area. It is designed to replace the old security fence built around 20 years ago that has fallen into disrepair.

The security budget approved the plan for the new barrier after a string of terror attacks earlier this year that claimed the lives of 21 people.

The majority of the attacks were carried out by terrorists who succeeded in entering Israel via gaps in the broken-down security fence.


Palestinian Terror Groups May Increase Attacks Ahead of Israeli Elections
Buoyed by the collapse of the Israeli coalition, Hamas and other terror groups have threatened to continue carrying out attacks against Israel.

The groups said that they see the collapse of the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennet as a direct result of its failure to confront the Palestinian “resistance” factions, especially during and after last year’s war between Hamas and Israel.

The terror groups’ appetite is likely to increase after the collapse of the coalition, paving the way for increased attacks against Israel, especially in the West Bank, during the period leading up to the next general elections in Israel.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials were quoted as saying that the collapse of the coalition was a sign of Israel’s “fragility” and “weakness.” They said that the Gaza-based groups will remain on high alert to “thwart” a new Israeli “aggression against the Palestinian people.”

Several Palestinians said that they did not rule out the possibility that the terror groups may exploit the period before the elections to step up their attacks against Israelis because of their belief that an interim government would be very weak and unwilling to engage in new hostilities.

Even before the political drama in Israel unfolded, Hamas and PIJ gunmen in the Jenin area threatened to continue carrying out terror attacks, particularly after the killing of several of their friends by the IDF during the past few weeks.
Hamas Is Preparing to Exploit the PA’s Security Vacuum
The Hamas terror organization is preparing to exploit what it believes to be an impending security vacuum in the West Bank. Its goal is to undermine the stability of its rival, the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority (PA).

In recent days, Palestinian media reports claimed that PA security forces uncovered a Hamas bomb lab near Ramallah, which was part of a wider reported bomb plot to attack the PA’s government headquarters in the West Bank city.

Hamas senses that the PA will soon enter into an internal power struggle. Since taking power in elections in January 2005, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has ruled, but now, according to senior Fatah sources, he is considering ending his historic 17-year term.

While rumors of Abbas’ departure have so far been premature — rumors that Hamas made sure to spread and amplify — the succession battle is inevitably heating up as the countdown to the end of his rule continues to gain speed, either because of a decision to step down or his age.

Now, Hamas sees an opportunity to boost its status and influence through increased terror attacks against both Israeli and Fatah targets. It believes this will strengthen its attractiveness on the Palestinian street, and enable it to challenge the PA’s leadership.

Abbas eventually quashed rumors of his withdrawal in a telephoned speech about the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, in which he vowed that “Jerusalem is not for sale” and promised to fight the Israeli “occupation” of the Temple Mount. Abbas also held an official visit to Cyprus on June 13 to boost his visibility and counter rumors of his demise.
Top Fatah official in favor of terror against Israel

Fatah threatens more terror like attacks in which 15 Israelis were murdered

PA minister: EU restoring funding to the PA is endorsement of PA terror salaries and PA curriculum

Fatah official: Palestinians have a right to “Palestine between the Sea and the River”



Iran Renews Threats To Assassinate Mike Pompeo
Iran is renewing threats to assassinate former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, prompting a fresh warning from the State Department that any attempt to take the life of a current or former U.S. official will prompt "severe consequences."

An Arabic-language Twitter account affiliated with the hardline Iranian regime stated during the weekend that Pompeo, who served under former president Donald Trump, should fear for his life.

"Live in fear, liar," the account tweeted, alongside an image of Pompeo with crosshairs on his forehead. The post indicates that Iran wants Pompeo dead as payback for the 2020 drone strike that killed Iranian terror leader Qassem Soleimani.

The threats on Pompeo’s life were disseminated again on Tuesday when an account belonging to Soleimani’s daughter, Zainab, tweeted that Pompeo should "live in fear" of an assassination attempt.

Iran is engaged in efforts to assassinate Pompeo and his Iran envoy Brian Hook, who helmed the Trump administration’s "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran. Pompeo and Hook face "serious and credible" threats on their lives, according to nonpublic reports to Congress, one of which was exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon in January.

The State Department says it is taking these threats seriously, telling the Free Beacon that Iran will face "severe consequences" if it attacks any American official.

"Make no mistake: the United States will protect and defend its citizens," a State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon. "This includes those serving the United States now and those who formerly served."

As Americans, the official said, "we are united in our resolve against threats and provocations. We are united in the defense of our people. Should Iran attack any of our nationals it will face severe consequences."

The State Department pays around $2 million dollars per month to provide 24-hour security services to Pompeo and Hook.
Jordan, Saudi Arabia support efforts to prevent a nuclear Iran
Jordan and Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday that they support international efforts aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The two countries expressed support for Arab efforts to urge Iran to stop meddling in the internal affairs of Arab countries and avoid all “destabilizing activities.”

In addition, Saudi Arabia expressed support for Jordan’s role as custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Unconfirmed reports over the past few years claimed that Saudi Arabia was seeking to replace Jordan as custodian.

The announcement was included in a joint communique issued at the end of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Jordan, where he held talks with King Abdullah and his son, Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah.

“The two sides stressed the importance of redoubling efforts to confront extremism and work to combat terrorism in all its forms, confront its ideological roots, dry up its sources, stop all means of financing it, and spread the values ​​of religious, cultural and moderation,” the statement read.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan condemned the terrorist attacks carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen against Saudi Arabia, and that Jordan supports the Saudis in all the steps they take to protect their security, stability and interests.
UN blasts Iran for executing over 100 people between January and March
Iran executed more than 100 people in the first three months of 2022, continuing a worrying upward trend, according to a report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented on Tuesday.

Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN deputy human rights chief Nada Al-Nashif presented Guterres' latest report on Iran, decrying that executions in the country were on the rise.

The report cited data collected by non-governmental organizations showing that 310 individuals were executed in 2021 compared with 260 in all of the previous year. In the first three months of 2022, the trend continued with at least 105 people executed, it said.

Guterres's report also highlighted the increase in executions for lesser crimes, Nashif noted. Capital crimes in Iran include same-sex relations, armed rebellion, and "spreading corruption," the report stated.

"The death penalty continues to be imposed on the basis of charges not amounting to 'most serious crimes,' and in ways incompatible with fair trials standards," she told the council.
UN urges Iran to halt finger amputations as eight burglars face punishment
The United Nations on Wednesday urged Iran to halt plans to amputate the fingers of eight prisoners and called on Tehran to do away with any form of corporal punishment.

UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said seven of the men were currently being held at the Greater Tehran Central Prison.

“We are deeply concerned by the likely imminent amputation of the fingers of eight men convicted of burglary in Iran and urge the Iranian authorities to call off the planned amputations,” she said in a statement.

“We also call on Iran to urgently revise its criminal penalties to do away with any form of corporal punishment, including amputations, flogging and stoning, in line with its obligations under international human rights law.”

Seven of the eight men have been identified. They are Hadi Rostami, Mehdi Sharafian, Mehdi Shahivand, Amir Shirmard, Morteza Jalili, Ebrahim Rafiei and Yaghoub Fazeli Koushki.

They were sentenced to have four fingers on their right hands completely cut off, said the UN rights office, and all of them were likely to be transferred to Tehran’s Evin Prison.






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