Thursday, June 23, 2022

From Ian:

JPost Editorial: US-Israel relations boosted by Biden refusal to delay visit
Despite the turmoil, uncertainty and instability caused by the current political crisis in Jerusalem, it’s encouraging that US President Joe Biden is still planning to visit Israel next month.

Biden’s trip to the region – scheduled for July 13-16 and including visits to the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia – had already been postponed by a month, due to domestic considerations. Back then, the Biden administration expected to be meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who visited the White House once as prime minister last August.

With the process of dissolving the Knesset and declaring new elections well underway, it wouldn’t have been surprising for the White House to decide to postpone the July trip. All indications are that Biden will be greeted in Jerusalem by caretaker prime minister Yair Lapid who would serve as Israel’s leader until the next elections, likely in October.

However, as a National Security Council spokesperson said this week, “Israel is a strategic partner and fellow democracy. We respect its democratic processes. We have a strategic relationship with Israel that goes beyond any one government. The president looks forward to the visit next month.”

Former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro told The Jerusalem Post’s Omri Nahmias on Tuesday that the impending Israeli election will have little impact on the substance of Biden’s visit.

Jonathan Tobin: The fatal contradictions of Biden's Middle East trip
The decision of an American president to visit the Middle East has always been seen primarily through the lens of its impact on efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is not the case with President Joe Biden's planned trip next month to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia. With inflation and the price of gasoline skyrocketing in recent months, Biden's priority should be to increase Middle East oil production, not resurrecting the failed policies of the past and pressuring Israel to appease the Palestinians.

That will require the president to abandon his much-publicized hostility to the Saudi regime. In recent years, many Democrats have become ardent opponents of the US-Saudi alliance, finding Riyadh's admittedly egregious human-rights record to be intolerable even as they downplayed or ignored the equally terrible if not worse actions of Iran. But with the American economy teetering towards recession as a result of Biden's overspending and Washington needing the Saudis to help offset the impact of sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Biden is going to have to swallow his pride. Though he had vowed to make Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the country's de facto ruler – an international pariah, the president will now have to resurrect what's left of his old glad-handing skills to get the Saudis to help him out of this fix.

The fact that the international sanctions on Russia seem to have hurt the United States more than the authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin is ironic but no joke. Despite military setbacks and Europe uniting to cut Moscow off from the international economy, Putin has doubled down on his determination to continue his illegal and brutal aggression, meaning that no end to the fighting and the rising toll of civilian casualties seems to be in sight. What's worse, Russia appears to not have suffered too badly from the sanctions with the ruble becoming the best-performing currency, gaining value against both the Euro and the US dollar, during the course of the war. While the world has been hoping that the embarrassing performance of the Russian military and economic isolation would lead to Putin's fall, that much-desired outcome doesn't appear to be a possibility.

That means that America's Ukraine policy, while rooted in a justified desire to oppose aggression, seems to be turning out to be as much of a disaster as Biden's catastrophic retreat from Afghanistan or his inability to curb inflation or deal with supply chain crises.
Jonathan Tobin: Biden will do everything he can to help Lapid and sabotage Netanyahu
The latest developments in Israeli politics provided President Joe Biden with a good excuse to postpone his visit to Israel next month. With the collapse of Israel’s coalition government this week, the country is saddled with an interim government headed by an unelected prime minister in Yair Lapid who is about to launch his campaign to hold onto the office. Scheduling a visit by the leader of Israel’s sole superpower ally at the start of what promises to be a bitterly fought election campaign will make it clear that Washington is far from neutral when it comes to the outcome.

And that is exactly the impression that Biden is hoping to leave when he goes to the Jewish state in July.

Far from being an unwelcome development, the exit of Naftali Bennett from the prime minister’s office is good news for the Biden administration. It viewed Bennett—the leader of a small party that was actually to the right of the Likud and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu—as a necessary evil. Since his decision to throw in with Lapid and the ragtag coalition of parties from the left, right, center and one Arab Islamist faction was the only reason that Netanyahu was ousted, Biden and his foreign-policy team treated him with kid gloves over the course of his year in Israel’s top job.

The administration was itching to bash the Jewish state over every new home built in Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria, as well as for every ginned-up dispute about the Palestinian Arabs involving Israeli self-defense against terrorism. It was also less than enthused over Jerusalem’s ongoing campaign to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program that was being conducted even as the Americans were desperately trying to convince Tehran to cut a new and even weaker deal. But they passed on every opportunity to do so, signaling that their preference was for the Bennett-Lapid coalition to somehow cling to power.

Bennett repaid their courtesy by declining to push openly for Americans to speak up against the new push for appeasement of Iran, thereby undermining critics of Biden’s feckless policy among both Democrats and Republicans.

In a first trip abroad, US antisemitism envoy travel to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE
Deborah Lipstadt, the US Special Envoy to Monitor and combat antisemitism is traveling to the Middle East in her first trip abroad. She will travel to Israel, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

“Saudi Arabia is a very important country in the Gulf,” she said. “It has shown a willingness and openness to hosting me. We've gotten a very warm reception from them, and I've gotten strong support from my colleagues in [the State Department].”

“In the light of the atmosphere was created and the worldview that's been created as a result of being able to talk with them about normalizing the situation of the vision of the Jews, normalizing the understanding of Jewish history, for their population, particularly the younger, is really important,” she added.

“If someone opens the door to me, and members of my team to fight this pernicious hatred,” of antisemitism, she said, then she is willing “to go anywhere.”
“I am not coming to discuss regional politics. In my title, it couldn’t be more clear what I am about. If they are willing to discuss [that] I am willing to do it.”
US Special Envoy Deborah Lipstadt

“I said that that was someplace I'd like to go,” she said, an idea that was warmly received both at the State Department and in Saudi Arabia. “They showed receptivity,” she said of the Saudi reaction.

Lipstadt's visit comes a month before President Biden’s visit to the kingdom, and as the Biden administration is working to bring Israel and Saudi Arabia closer. However, Lipstadt said that her visit has nothing to do with regional or security issues. “I am not coming to discuss regional politics,” she said. “In my title, it couldn’t be more clear what I am about. If they are willing to discuss [that] I am willing to do it,” she said.
Dennis Ross: The Abraham Accords and the Changing Shape of the Middle East
As the lead U.S. negotiator on the Oslo and Arab-Israeli processes, I set up a number of discreet meetings between Israeli officials and their Gulf state counterparts in the 1990s. Most of the bilateral meetings involved security cooperation and built on intelligence contacts that Israel's Mossad had established. Security was the basis of these talks.

In 2007, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice decided to launch an ambitious initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and presented the initiative to the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, fully expecting them to embrace and endorse her effort. To her surprise, the Saudi, Emirati, Bahraini, Qatari, Kuwaiti, and Omani leaders showed little interest in her initiative and instead made it clear that, in her words, they had three priorities: "Iran, Iran, and Iran." Israel shared the same priority and the reality of a strong converging strategic threat perception fostered deeper security cooperation.

The fundamental point is that Arab leaders increasingly came to view cooperation with Israel as in their interests. As Arab officials told me, "Israel, unlike the U.S., isn't going anywhere" and "Israel actually acts and doesn't talk about it."

Moreover, among the Gulf states, frustration with the Palestinians, especially their leadership, has become commonplace. In my trips to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, prominent officials assert their unwillingness to deny their country what is in its best interests for the sake of the Palestinians.
President Biden's Nobel Peace Prize?
As President Joe Biden reportedly prepares to go the Middle East next month, a positive development for him to build on and turn around his poll numbers, and possibly win a Nobel Peace Prize for totally eliminating the threat of Iran going nuclear, is the signing on May 31, 2022, of a groundbreaking trade agreement between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel.

[T]here can be no downplaying the importance and scope of this deal or the potential for greater peace in the region without a nuclear Iran destabilizing the area....

The UAE-Israel Business Council expects up to 1,000 Israeli companies may begin operating in Dubai by the end of the year. This is also a major development.

CEPA is a win-win-win accomplishment. The agreement opens a window of opportunity not just for the US, but also for Israeli companies to do business in the UAE, and more importantly, it will serve as a gateway to other parts of the Middle East and Asia.

The announcement of CEPA pointed the way to three real and potential impacts that Biden could have in the Middle East:
Congress Should Help End UN's Latest Anti-Israel Waste of Funds
The first report of the new UN Commission of Inquiry into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a sad reminder of how much time and money has been wasted on obsessively and unfairly bashing Israel. The COI report blames the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entirely on Israel. It whitewashes Palestinian terrorism, disregards Israel's need and right to protect its citizens, omits Israel's diligent compliance with the law of armed conflict, and ignores Hamas and Iran's continued genocidal threats. It is Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism, not Israel's exercise of its right of self-defense, that is the root cause of the conflict.

With the UN budget in crisis, stretched by coronavirus and by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it is even more irresponsible than usual to waste precious UN resources on the COI or any other Israel-bashing exercise.
Republicans slam Biden administration for upgrading Palestinian Affairs Unit
Republican lawmakers and former Trump administration officials are criticizing the Biden administration’s plan to upgrade the Palestinian Affairs Unit in the U.S. Embassy in Israel to a separate office reporting directly to the State Department, calling the move a de-facto effort to divide Jerusalem.

In a statement set to be released on Thursday, organized by Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), 35 senators and 56 House members will argue that the administration’s move “undermines our nation’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and signals support for dividing Jerusalem.”

When the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2019 and subsequently closed the Jerusalem consulate that had historically served the Palestinians, it folded the diplomatic mission into a Palestinian Affairs Unit at the embassy, reporting to the U.S. ambassador to Israel, rather than directly to the State Department, as it had done previously.

The Biden administration — stymied by Israeli resistance to efforts to reopen the consulate — moved earlier this month to redesignate the Palestinian Affairs Unit as the Office of Palestinian Affairs, and gave it a direct line to Foggy Bottom independent of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides.

The congressional statement, obtained by Jewish Insider, called the move “alarming” and described the mission as “what amounts to be a separate U.S. diplomatic office to the Palestinians in Israel’s capital.”

“This decision is wholly inconsistent with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 that Congress passed into law and has repeatedly reaffirmed with overwhelming bipartisan support over the years,” it continues. “Let there be no misunderstanding: this unprecedented arrangement… is an effort to open an unofficial and de facto U.S. consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. In fact, the Biden Administration admits this decision is one step closer to opening an official U.S. consulate, a plan it refuses to stop pushing despite the Government of Israel’s adamant opposition.”
Biden to Palestinians: ‘Thank You, Sir, May I Have ANOTHER?’
In the classic hazing scene in the film “Animal House,” a student whacks another from behind with a large wooden paddle, with the victim wincing in pain and then declaring after each blow: “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

I was reminded of that scene when I read this week that a senior Palestinian Authority official called for the expulsion of the United States from a prominent United Nations agency.

Ibrahim Khraishi, the P.A.’s ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, launched his anti-American tirade after the U.S. representative to the council dared to disagree with the council’s latest anti-Israel report.

That laughably absurd report was unveiled by Navi Pillay, one of the heads of an “investigation” conducted by the U.N. Human Rights Council concerning Israel’s 11-day conflict with Hamas in Gaza last May. Barely even mentioning the more than 4,000 Palestinian rockets fired into population centers in Israel, Pillay announced that Jerusalem—not the massive Hamas rocket attack—was to blame for “acts of violence that serve to further fuel endless cycles of conflict on both sides.”

The U.S. delegate to the council had the temerity to disagree with the council’s blame-the-victim approach. That’s what infuriated the P.A. and its ambassador, Ibrahim Khraishi. To be clear, Khraishi, like every other representative of the P.A. around the world, is not an independent actor. Whatever he says in public is scripted by the Palestinian leadership, which he represents.

So, when we hear that Khraishi is demanding the expulsion of the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council for the “crime” of disagreeing with the council’s Israel-bashing, let’s be clear: This is the P.A., the elected leaders of the Palestinian Arabs, demanding the expulsion of America.

Yes, the same Palestinian Arabs who are currently receiving $360 million annually in aid from America’s taxpayers.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians warn against pinning hopes on Biden visit
Palestinian officials are scheduled to hold meetings in Ramallah over the next 48 hours to discuss US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to the region, and the Israeli “escalation” in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The meetings of the PLO Executive Committee and Fatah Central Council will be chaired by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has expressed hope that Biden’s visit would help create a “political horizon” between the Palestinians and Israel.
“US President Biden will visit us, and I will ask him only one thing - to fulfill what he promised.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas also expressed hope that Biden would fulfill his promises to the Palestinians, especially regarding reopening the US Consulate in Jerusalem, which was closed by the Trump administration in 2018.

Senior Palestinian officials, however, said they did not expect Biden’s visit to bring about a breakthrough in the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and warned the Palestinian leadership against pinning high hopes on the Biden administration. They also called for severing ties with Israel.

Dalal Salameh, a senior Fatah official, said that the Palestinian leaders will discuss “taking practical steps on the ground and the implementation of previous resolutions in light of the continuation of the occupation’s crimes.”

Salameh was referring to resolutions taken by the PLO Central Council to halt security coordination with Israel, and to suspend agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.
'We have no illusions about Lapid premiership,' PA official says
Nasser al-Laham, editor-in-chief of the PA's Ma'an news agency, noted that "strategically, this will not lead to a change of government in Israel but only to a rotation in office. The Palestinians are not counting on [anything happening during] the transition period."

Officials in Gaza, meanwhile, hedged that "Israel is headed toward a deeper [political] crisis. Polls there predict that no party can win the majority" in the Knesset.

The announcement also triggered a wave of criticism against the Palestinian Authority, as social media users lambasted Abbas for clinging to power.

The 86-year-old leader, elected in 2005, has overstayed his five-year term over the rift with Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in a military coup in 2007, effectively splitting the Palestinian Authority into two separate entities. No presidential elections have taken place over the past 17 years, as Abbas repeatedly finds excuses for canceling them, and to date, no one has been able to challenge him for the role.

Gazan commentator Faiz Abu Shamala said that the Israeli government is "disbanding in a process that is takin place with consent … I wish the Palestinian would have a fraction of what the enemy has. They topple the government, replace the prime minister and enjoy democracy. Allah gave us a president who butchered democracy, buried our dreams, and swore not to leave until he dies."
‘The Jewish Factor, It’s Money’: Biden Ambassador Pick Under Fire for Anti-Semitic Tirade
The Biden administration’s nominee to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Brazil spoke at length about the influence of Jewish money in politics, claiming the "Jewish lobby" exerts undue influence over the Democratic Party with its "major money."

Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, a longtime diplomat and Democratic Party insider, is scheduled on Thursday to have her nomination advanced to the full Senate by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But Bagley’s comments about Jewish money in politics—tropes long considered anti-Semitic in nature—are raising red flags among Democratic and Republican members of the committee, senior congressional sources told the Washington Free Beacon.

Bagley, in a 1998 interview, a full copy of which was obtained by the Free Beacon, bemoaned "the influence of the Jewish lobby because there is major money involved." She went on to claim "the Democrats always tend to go with the Jewish constituency on Israel and say stupid things, like moving the capital to Jerusalem always comes up." Support for these Israel-related issues are due to "the Jewish factor, it’s money." The interview was conducted by a historian at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training for an oral history project.

Senate sources involved in the confirmation process said Bagley’s comments should disqualify her from the ambassador’s role and told the Free Beacon that both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate committee have privately expressed concerns about these remarks.

"Under a normal administration this kind of vicious anti-Semitism would be disqualifying. You couldn't get hired as an intern," said one senior congressional Republican staffer, who was not authorized to speak on record about the concerns related to Bagley. "It speaks volumes that the Biden administration was confident enough to nominate Bagley and send her to the Senate for confirmation. They know that Democrats are going to fall into line."

Bagley opened up about the "Jewish lobby" and its impact on Democratic Party politics in the 1998 interview. She was asked about "the Israeli influence" on the Clinton administration, where Bagley served as the ambassador to Portugal.

"There is always the influence of the Jewish lobby because there is major money involved," Bagley said. "But, I don’t remember any major issues coming out on that, besides the usual ‘make Jerusalem the capital of Israel,’ which is always an issue in the campaign."

‘Proud’ of Funding: Qatar Defends Work With Biden USAID Nominee in Letter to Senate
The Qatari government defended its work with Biden administration nominee Tamara Cofman Wittes in an unsolicited letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, saying it was "proud" of its financial contributions to Wittes’s former employer, the Brookings Institution.

The letter from Qatar’s ambassador, obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, is unlikely to alleviate Republican concerns about Wittes’s role at the Brookings Institution think tank, which raked in at least $22 million from Qatar during her employment.

It also indicates that Doha, the capital of Qatar, is going on the offensive in response to renewed public scrutiny into its funding for U.S. think tanks and Washington policy leaders. Earlier this month, Brookings Institution president and retired general John Allen resigned amid a federal investigation into his alleged work as an unregistered lobbyist for Qatar.

Wittes, the nominee for assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, has denied that her policy work was influenced by the funding. But Senate Republicans grilled her over her pro-Doha statements and positions during a hearing last Thursday, during which Sen. Ted Cruz said Qatar put its "damn logo on the cover" of a Brookings policy report co-published with Wittes.

Qatar’s ambassador to the United States said he was offended by the term "damn logo" in the letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) last Thursday.

Iranian kidnapping of Israeli diplomats and tourists in Istanbul foiled
Just before the arrival of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Turkey, Turkish intelligence revealed on Thursday that it managed to thwart an Iranian attack attempted in Istanbul last Friday, Israeli media reported.

According to intelligence reports, Iranians planned to kidnap Israeli diplomats and tourists in Istanbul. The report states that the perpetrators were already in Istanbul. One of the targets, according to the report, was the former Israeli ambassador and his wife who were staying at a hotel in the city.

Turkish intelligence and local police arrested close to ten suspects last Friday, including local collaborators, at the Sol Hotel and three other rented apartments in the Istanbul area.

Iranian intelligence members and Revolutionary Guards members impersonated students, businessmen and tourists, Turkey said that the Mossad located the Israelis who were supposed to be the target of the attack, and flew them to Israel in a private plane.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid had previously urged citizens in Turkey to leave “as soon as possible” over threats that Iranian operatives are actively planning to kill or abduct Israelis in Istanbul.
Knesset finally adopts IHRA definition of antisemitism
The Knesset approved MK Zvi Hauser's (New Hope) proposal that it adopt the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of antisemitism. In doing so, the Knesset joins more than a thousand governments, parliaments, bodies and organizations around the world that have already adopted the definition.

The proposal was passed Wednesday night by a majority of 33 supporters (from the coalition and the opposition) against five opponents including MKs of the Joint List party.

It was formally endorsed by the government of Israel in 2017 but never by the Knesset. “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” the definition states. “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Along with the definition, 11 examples of antisemitism were published by IHRA, some of which have to do with Israel, including “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” and “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” by “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

IHRA's working definition fits the definition of the term antisemitism in modern times and states that anti-Israelism is also part of the phenomenon of antisemitism.
Israel to head Int’l Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2025
Members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance unanimously elected Israel at its annual plenary in Stockholm on Thursday to lead the group in 2025.

IHRA is an intergovernmental organization with 35 member countries uniting governments to promote Holocaust education, research and remembrance. The group seeks to influence Holocaust-related policy. It is also known for its working definition of antisemitism, released in 2016.

Israel’s year of IHRA presidency coincides with the group’s 25th anniversary, the 80th anniversary in January of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the end of World War II in Europe in May.

The Israeli delegation to IHRA includes representatives of the Foreign Ministry and Yad Vashem.

“IHRA’s activities have growing importance and significance at a time in which we see concerning phenomena of Holocaust distortion and antisemitism in different places around the world,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan, who presented Israel’s candidacy in Stockholm.
Einat Wilf: Israeli-Arab MK Mansour Abbas is What Zionism Intended
Israel is closer today than it has ever been in its history to realizing the goal of full acceptance in a predominantly Arab and Islamic region. The Abraham Accords present a compelling alternative Arab-Muslim narrative, one that embraces the Jewish state as an integral part of the region rather than a foreign implant.

Similarly, Mansour Abbas has given political voice to the Arab citizens of Israel who seek true integration into the Jewish state. Those are the Arab citizens who are volunteering in increasing numbers to serve in Israel’s Defense Forces. Those are the Arab citizens who defend Israel in diplomatic forums and on social media against its detractors.

These developments reflect very real achievements of Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall. Many Arab Israelis do not seek the country’s destruction. They support and participate in its success.

But these achievements remain fragile. Abbas’ political rival among Israel’s Arab political leaders, Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List (an alignment of Arab parties), recently told young Israeli-Arabs not to join the “occupation forces.” Odeh described Abbas’ conduct as being “insulting and humiliating” and called on those who already serve in the security forces to “throw the weapons in their (the Israelis’) face and tell them that our place is not with you.”

Odeh represents a substantial number of Israel’s Arab citizens, if not its majority. This complex situation is best summed up by Abbas himself who, criticizing his colleagues, called on them “to not look at the half-empty cup but at what we have achieved so far.”

The Iron Wall, as applied through a century of the Zionist movement, has led to great achievements, but the process continues. The IDF will be needed for the foreseeable future, and the Jewish state must continue to be vigilant regarding those who would celebrate its demise, from without and within. Israel must insist that it be embraced as the Jewish state, rather than allow for the negation of this core principle of its nationhood. While positive signs of acceptance need to be celebrated, it would be unwise to ignore or explain away indications to the contrary.

Ultimately, Jabotinsky best combined the realism of necessary strength with a hopeful vision of peace based on Arab acceptance of the Jewish state. Those two goals – strength and peace – remain the twin pillars grounding the reality and vision of the Jewish state.
'Apartheid' Accusation, Refuted: Israel Found to Be Among World's Most Vibrant Democracies (VIDEO)
Israel's parliament, the Knesset, has overwhelmingly approved a preliminary bill to dissolve itself, paving the way for the country's fifth national election in less than four years. Two days earlier, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternative PM Yair Lapid conceded that they had "exhausted options to stabilize" their coalition a year after it was established.

Bennett's government is the most diverse in Israel's history, with nine female ministers, two Arab ministers, two openly gay ministers and a minister with physical disabilities.

Despite this unprecedented breadth of representation, the prospect of another round of elections has led some media pundits to mock Israel's democratic credentials.

The Israel Guys Daily: Israel's Government is Set to Dissolve
Although Israel’s current government lasted much longer than anyone anticipated, the time has finally come for its collapse. A bill to dissolve the current government and set elections for October 2022 is now being voted on in the Knesset. With that, current Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will become the interim prime minister.

Benjamin Netanyahu is desperately trying to form a government in the next few days before elections are called. Regardless of whether or not he is successful, hopefully members of Israel’s parliament will be able to set their egos aside and form a stable, right-wing governing coalition.

"Far-left Activists Disrupt IDF Live-Fire Drill in Hebron Hills"
Israeli forces were forced to drag protesters away from a live-fire training area in the Hebron Hills region in Judea and Samaria on Wednesday.

Video footage of the troubling incident was later posted to the Twitter account of “Torat Lehima,” a right-wing organization whose stated purpose is “disseminating Judaism and Torah to youth to strengthen and encourage motivation for military service.”

In the video, soldiers could be seen dragging the activists off in order to continue their training exercise.

The incident was the latest in a string of clashes over a live-fire training area that has been seized by Bedouin squatters. The area, called “Firing Range 918” by the Israel Defense Forces, is referred to by Palestinians as “Masafer Yatta.”

The land was declared a military firing range in the 1970s, and in 1999 most of the residents of the area received eviction notices. Bedouin have remained in the area for the past 22 years, however, despite demolitions of illegally built homes and infrastructure. Around one month ago, Israel’s High Court of Justice authorized the expulsion of some 1,000 Bedouin residents from the area.
IDF Appoints First Female Brigade Commander
IDF Col. Reut Rettig-Weiss was nominated last Thursday to serve as the first female brigade commander in the Israel Defense Forces.

She will serve as commander of the 99th division's artillery brigade, as well as head of an artillery unit at the Tze'elim urban warfare training center.

Rettig-Weiss previously commanded the Artillery Corps' Sky Riders Unit, which gathers intelligence before and during missions using drones.

According to a recent tally by Walla news, there were 47 women serving in the IDF at the rank of colonel. In 2016 there were 24 female colonels.

Jerusalem court orders PA to pay $37.5M to Israeli terror victims
The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday ordered the Palestinian Authority to pay 130 million shekels ($37.5 million) in compensation to 32 Israeli families that lost members to terror attacks during the Second Intifada (2000 to 2005).

According to reports in the Israeli media, Tuesday's ruling comes after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in April that the Ramallah's practice of paying security prisoners and their families constituted "approval" of terrorist attacks against Israelis, meaning that the PA can be legally sued for compensation.

Attorneys from the Shurat HaDin NGO who represented the families thanked the court for the ruling, which they said provided justice for the families of the victims, but added that they intend to appeal the ruling to seek greater compensation, the report stated.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner is the founder of Shurat Hadin Israeli Law Center, tweeted Wednesday: "Another huge victory of ours over terror."

The ruling, she said, "forms a precedent, and it is the highest that a court has ruled on in a lawsuit ruling against the Palestinian Authority."

The Palestinian Authority routinely spends hundreds of millions of dollars on payments to terrorists imprisoned in Israel and to the families of terrorists killed while carrying out attacks against Israel. The PA's "pay-for-slay" policy is a widely condemned practice that takes a growing cut of Ramallah's budget – funded by donor countries in the West and the Arab world – every year.
PMW: The PA’s priorities: Terrorist prisoners rather than cancer patients The PA’s priorities: Terrorist prisoners rather than cancer patients
“The great shortage in aid to the Palestinian health sector has led to a severe shortage in medicine, and especially medicine for cancer patients,” PA Minister of Health Mai Al-Kaila stated recently at a meeting with supporters and donors to the Palestinian health sector.

Al-Kaila blamed Israel and international donors for this, stating it is “a result of the financial siege that the occupation is attempting to impose on Palestine and the shortage in international aid.”

But is that really true?
- No, it isn’t.

Is there a part of the PA budget that could have been allocated to pay for medicine for cancer patients and other things needed in the PA health sector?
- Yes, there is.

The so-called “financial siege” imposed by Israel on the PA refers to Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law according to which Israel deducts a sum equal to the amount of money the PA spends on salaries to terrorists from the taxes Israel collects on behalf of the PA. Likewise, some international donors have frozen their funding to the PA because of this PA policy of rewarding terrorists who have attacked, murdered, and wounded Israeli civilians. Israel and these foreign donors have demanded the PA cease to reward and incentivize terror with generous salaries in order to resume the tax transfer and the funding.

Other donors, including the EU, have suspended funding to the PA due to the problematic content in PA schoolbooks, demanding that the PA edit out antisemitic, violent, and hateful content before they resume funding.
Egypt energy deal is potential win for Syrian regime
Lebanon has suffered from power outages and economic collapse over the last several years. This is in part due to the fact that Hezbollah seeks to run a state-within-a-state in Lebanon, with its own communications network and hijacking of various government systems. “To ease the power crunch, a plan was floated last year for Lebanon to receive electricity from Jordan and natural gas from Egypt, both via Syria, which would add up to 700 MW to Lebanon's grid. The World Bank had agreed to provide financing if Lebanon enacts long-awaited power sector reforms to reduce waste and boost tariff collection,” Reuters says.

Reports says that Syria may receive some of the gas but won’t get cash from the agreement. This is to smooth the way for Syria to accept the agreement but prevent US sanctions being slapped on this plan.

It remains to be seen how this deal will work. If it works and the World Bank is involved and the US gives some kind of sanctions wavers, then Lebanon and Syria will be knit into a new trade network with Jordan and Egypt. This will end the isolation of both countries. It would be surprising if the Iranians and other nefarious actors did not try to get involved somehow. If Jordan supplies the electricity and Egypt the gas, the question is whether Jordan will also benefit and get security guarantees. Will the Syrian regime crack down on the drug smuggling? What about the US role at Tanf? Russia and Iran have threatened US forces and US-backed Syrian rebel groups at Tanf near the Jordanian border. This energy deal has big potential but it also can have a downside if the Syrian regime and Iran use it as cover to increase the use of militias and trafficking of weapons.
MEMRI: Hizbullah And The Israeli-Lebanese Gas Field Dispute
A main element in the current economic and financial crisis in Lebanon is its energy crisis. The Lebanese people have been hit hard by the accelerated devaluation of the Lebanese pound and the fuel shortage; many lost their life savings in the recent collapse of the country's banking system. Thus, the prospect of exploiting the potentially rich offshore natural gas fields appears to be a golden opportunity.

However, some of these natural gas fields are also claimed by Israel, and the decade-long U.S.-brokered Israel-Lebanon negotiations on the issue are deadlocked. This is due not only to the dispute over economic interests, but also to Lebanon's political hesitations to engage in negotiations and cooperation with Israel.

Recent developments, however, suggest that there may soon be a breakthrough in this political impasse.

The Economic Crisis And Failed Solutions
In a June 10, 2022 interview on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Marwan Charbel, former Lebanese interior and municipalities minister, acknowledged before a live audience that despite his pension as a former cabinet minister, and despite his high rank in the military, he could not afford to connect to Lebanon's main power grid and had had to dismiss his servant because her wages, paid in dollars, amounted to his entire pension.[1] This is a reflection of the severity of Lebanon's economic situation.

In an attempt to resolve energy crisis, Lebanon has signed agreements for importing natural gas from Egypt and electricity from Jordan. However, these resources must, due to geography, go through either Israel or Syria to get to it. Israel is obviously not an option; at the same time, Syria is under international sanctions. Therefore, Cairo and Amman are waiting for American assurances that they will not be penalized if they send gas and electricity to Lebanon through Syria. So far, there have been no such assurances, and it is not certain that they will.

Hizbullah's recent efforts, hyped by media, to truck fuel in from Iran have turned out to be nothing but a gimmick. Other Iranian proposals to provide a more comprehensive solution have been rejected by Lebanon, which fears the U.S. sanctions on Iran.

PMW: Lebanese university lecturer warns Israelis: “Settler, leave! Your life is in danger”
Lebanese university lecturer warns Israelis: “Settler, leave! Your life is in danger… the resistance fighter will come at you with a weapon and a knife”

Lebanese university lecturer on international law Hassan Jouni: “A feeling has begun to appear that the end of the occupation and the colonialism, the end of this oppressive entity is coming… We have started a new equation: The equation of strong deterrence. Settler, leave! Your life is in danger every day. Watch out, look right and left, behind you and in front of you, and above you, the resistance fighter will come at you with a weapon and a knife.”

[Official PA TV, May 29, 2022]

Hassan Jouni made this statement during a broadcast on the Jerusalem Day flag march – an Israeli national holiday that marks the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six Day War in 1967 when Israel liberated East Jerusalem from Jordanian rule. It is celebrated on the 28th of the Hebrew month of Iyar with celebrations and ceremonies throughout Israel. A flag march is traditionally held in Jerusalem, which begins in the city center, goes through the Old City, and ends at the Western Wall. Jerusalem Day has regularly been met by violent Arab riots, particularly in Jerusalem.

Syrian Drug Smuggling: Assad Would Not Survive Loss of Captagon Revenues
In April 2020, Romanian customs officials found 2.1 million Captagon pills with amphetamine content of 11.5% and a street value of 43.5 million euros inside a cargo container loaded with refrigeration units. In July 2020, 84 million pills were confiscated in the port of Salerno, Italy, with a street value of a billion euros.

Syria has transformed into a Mediterranean narco-state, generating a significant portion of its revenues through international sales of Captagon, which is especially popular in Arab countries. It's not like the Syrian regime merely stands aside to allow the ongoing production and export of the drugs, says Joel Rayburn, a former U.S. special envoy for Syria. "They are the cartel."

German investigators have found proof that the Fourth Army Division, under the leadership of the president's brother, Maher Assad, earns money from the drug shipments. They believe the unit is paid $300,000 for every container shipped out of Latakia. The New Lines Institute in Washington holds that the total value of the shipments amounted to at least $5.7 billion in 2021, several times higher than Syria's legal exports.
JCPA: The Iranian Protests Continue and Are Shaking the Unity of the Conservative Camp in Iran
In the year since the electoral triumph of President Ebrahim Raisi, Iran has been awash with protests by teachers, factory workers, pensioners, bazaar merchants, drivers, and professional unions. The average monthly income of a senior government official or a veteran high school teacher, which stood several months ago at $250, has fallen to less than $170.

The regime is performing an economic "emergency operation," removing subsidies for basic commodities. This has led to price rises for all essential and nonessential services. Tens of millions of middle-class families are now under the poverty line. Since June 16, protests have been held in at least 40 cities.

Based on several unconfirmed reports, in the recent demonstrations, the security and law-enforcement arms apparently defied their commanders' orders and did not crack down very hard on demonstrators. Their families, too, are suffering from the economic woes, and the regime has stopped granting them special economic privileges.

With no improvement in sight, President Raisi finds himself under fire including from among his own conservative camp, which currently dominates all the governmental institutions and the regime's power centers. At the same time, the opposition to the regime is weak, divided, and disorganized.
WSJ: International Banks Help Iran Defy U.S. Sanctions
Chinese, Middle Eastern and Western banks have provided banking services to Iran's sanctioned energy and industrial sectors, corporate documents show. Through a network of proxy companies, foreign exchange houses and intermediaries, Iran holds bank accounts that collectively transact tens of billions of dollars a year in trade that is otherwise banned under U.S. sanctions.

The network was designed and implemented by Iran's political leadership. HSBC Holdings PLC and Standard Chartered PLC, two of the largest banks in the world, were among a slew of institutions that provided services to companies that handled banned trade on behalf of major Iranian exporters. The international banks have provided a critical release valve from U.S. financial pressure and have bought Iran time to advance its nuclear program.

While Western intelligence officials have no evidence that the banks are complicit in permitting the sanctioned Iranian transactions, companies registered outside of Iran that secretly maintain bank accounts for Iranian companies could escape controls meant to catch money laundering. Iran's ability to circumvent the West's blockade on its financial system shows the limits of global financial sanctions.
Why is there so much intrigue in Iraq over Soleimani's death? - analysis
Nasr al-Shammari, spokesman for the pro-Iranian militia Harakat al-Nujaba, slammed claims made by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo while also addressing conspiracies inside Iraq. The report was published by Iran’s Fars News and reflects the continuing fears among pro-Iran groups that they have been infiltrated by “traitors” who feed intelligence to foreign services.

The Nujaba movement is known for being one of the most anti-American groups in Iraq. Iranian-backed groups in Iraq have carried out rocket and drone attacks against US forces over the last three years, and Harakat al-Nujaba has been behind a number of such attacks and threats against the US.

In the Fars News interview, it appears that the Nujaba movement continues to blame “the traitors in the Iraqi intelligence service who were involved in the assassination of the martyrs Soleimani and Mohandes.”

This refers to the US drone strike on IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani and Kata’ib Hezbollah head Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes in January 2020. Mohandes was a key figure in the pro-Iran militias in Iraq. Kata’ib Hezbollah has been involved in threats against Saudi Arabia and the pro-Iran militias also threaten Israel via its network in Syria and Lebanon. Some of them are close to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Soleimani helped guide this network.

The militias have long spread rumors that current Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was somehow linked to the killing because of his role with the Iraqi intelligence services prior to becoming premier. The militias used a drone to target his house last year. The report says that the Nujaba movement believes some of the claims about their movement being infiltrated is an “exaggerated lie” and at the same time they called for the prosecution of “traitors” in the Iraqi intelligence service who collaborated with the Americans in the assassinations.
The Backstory behind the Killing of Qods Force Col. Khodaei
On May 22, gunmen killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei outside his home in Tehran. Khodaei was reportedly the deputy commander of Qods Force Unit 840, responsible for planning external Iranian operations such as kidnappings, abductions, and assassinations. While Iran has carried out such operations for over four decades, they have become more frequent and aggressive in recent years.

After the July 2018 plot to bomb a National Council of Resistance of Iran rally in Paris, I started collecting data on Iran's external assassination, surveillance, and abduction plots. My research assistants and I found 98 cases of Iranian external operations from December 1979 through December 2021. At least 26 well-documented plots have taken place in the three years following the Paris plot: in Colombia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Kenya, the Netherlands, Scotland, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, the UAE, the UK, and the U.S.

So long as Iran continues to pursue external operations such as assassinations and kidnappings, the countries targeted by such operations will act to thwart them.
Iranian court orders US to pay $4B over nuclear scientists' death
A court in Iran on Thursday ordered the United States government to pay over $4 billion to the families of Iranian nuclear scientists who have been killed in targeted attacks in recent years, state-run media reported.

The largely symbolic ruling underscores the escalating tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran's rapidly advancing nuclear program, with negotiations to restore the tattered atomic accord at a standstill.

Although Tehran has blamed Israel in the past for slayings targeting Iranian nuclear scientists since a decade ago, Iran did not directly accuse its arch-foe Israel in its announcement. Iran has not recognized Israel since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the pro-West monarchy and brought Islamists to power.

The court mentioned Israel only in saying the US supported the "Zionist regime" in its "organized crime" against the victims.

It's unclear how the court decision, like a raft of previous Iranian cases against the US as the two sides have engaged in a spiraling escalation of threats, would gain traction; there are no American assets to confiscate in the Islamic republic.

Still, the court branch, which is dedicated to the review of Iranian complaints against the US, summoned 37 former American officials, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, as well as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Iran envoy Brian Hook and former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
Pro-Iran professor slips up on his ‘crimes against humanity’ in interview
Oberlin College's Islamic Studies professor Mohammad Jafar Mahallati’s alleged interview with Voice of America’s Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist on Friday, revealed a number of instances in which he covered up crimes against humanity during his time serving as Iran's ambassador to the UN in 1988, according to lawyers and human rights experts.

Iranian human rights activist Lawdan Barzargan has, in recent times, emerged as the pivotal leader of a dynamic international campaign called Alliance Against Islamic Regime of Iran Apologists to dislodge Mahallati from academia.

The writing on the wall
Bazargan told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday: "Last year, I wrote to Oberlin College that 'time is not your friend. The sooner you fire Mahallati, the better it is.' They didn’t listen and now more than 1.2 million people have seen the interview of Masih Alinejad with me and Mahallati and learned that Oberlin College has a professor that is involved in crimes against humanity. This is just the beginning, once the Congress gets involved, it will get worse."

Prominent Iranian-Canadian lawyer Kaveh Shahrooz wrote on Twitter: "Mahallati begins by saying that as UN ambassador in NYC he couldn't know all the (little details) of what was happening back home in Iran. The ‘little details’ he refers to was the massacre of at approximately 5000 people.”

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