Wednesday, January 25, 2023

From Ian:

The UNIFIL Follies Turn Deadly on the Israel-Lebanon Border
Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, the deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hezbollah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hezbollah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

Recognizing these deficits, in 2020, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to veto UNIFIL’s renewal in the Security Council if changes weren’t made to the mandate to improve the security situation along the border. Judging from Hezbollah’s aggressive response to even the slightest amendment to the mandate’s language, it’s unlikely these changes would have improved UNIFIL’s performance.

Absent these revisions, the Trump administration pressed to downsize the force, consistent with its limited mission. But stiff opposition on the Security Council, particularly from France, prevented this proposed change to the mandate. Then with the August 2020 Beirut port explosion—which killed over 200 and decimated the capital—the administration balked, dropping any talk of vetoing the mandate renewal. In the end, it settled for strengthening the organization’s reporting requirements and symbolically lowering the troop cap from 15,000 to 13,000 peacekeepers

While UNIFIL provides a useful forum for talks between the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, and its maritime task force is beneficial, the peacekeepers will never play a role in constraining Hezbollah or securing the frontier. Making matters worse, neither the government of Lebanon nor the LAF will fulfill their U.N. obligation to support and protect the organization. Notwithstanding the enormous sums of U.S. funding provided to the LAF since 2006, the Lebanese military remains and will continue to remain beholden to Hezbollah. And Hezbollah’s sponsors in Tehran have zero interest in securing the Lebanese-Israeli border. As a result, south Lebanon remains volatile and UNIFIL isn’t helping. To wit, just weeks ago, Israel downed yet another Hezbollah drone in its airspace.

Three years into a devastating man-made economic crisis and months into a vacuum in the presidency in Beirut, Washington and Paris—the Security Council penholder for UNIFIL—are sure to resist significant changes in the status quo. Indeed, the annual French refrain during mandate renewal discussions has long been “now is not a good time.” To be sure, when it comes to Lebanon, which exists in a perennial state of crisis, there will never be a good time. But now, with Hezbollah increasingly threatening UNIFIL and with Lebanon actively obstructing the mission, it’s incumbent on the Biden administration to reassess the utility of the deployment and of America’s unqualified support for the LAF.

Given its deficiencies, a compelling argument could be made to scrap UNIFIL entirely. Washington could do so simply by vetoing the organization’s mandate renewal this summer—as the Pompeo State Department nearly did. Notwithstanding its shortcomings, however, Israel continues to support the persistence of UNIFIL, believing that the so-called tripartite mechanism, the maritime task force, and the continued presence of some peacekeepers along the frontier may be useful in deescalating tensions.

While the administration may not be able to dispense with UNIFIL, it’s time to downsize the deployment so its size is commensurate with the limited access the organization has in south Lebanon. It will take some heavy diplomatic lifting for Washington to right-size this self-perpetuating interim U.N. bureaucracy, but the effort will be worth it. Reducing UNIFIL will mitigate the risk to the peacekeepers while having only a negligible impact on stability along the Israel-Lebanon frontier. Along the way, it might even convey the message that Washington’s patience with an impotent UNIFIL and intransigent Beirut is limited.
Hezbollah blinding Israeli drivers, pedestrians nightly with lasers
Hezbollah activists have been harassing residents of the northern town of Metullah from across the border for the last several weeks by using powerful lasers, Channel 11 reported Monday evening.

Standing on a hill in Lebanon that is perhaps 180 meters from the town, they shine a blinding green light into Jewish homes, at pedestrians, and perhaps most hazardously, into the eyes of Israeli drivers.

This kind of laser can cause irreparable damage to people’s eyes, including permanent blindness, the report said.

The IDF has not yet found a solution to the problem.

In an effort keep the long-distance stalkers away from their gathering spot, a large floodlight was placed for several days at the most directly affected area, the town’s popular promenade, to shine a revealing beam at them. This has not discouraged Hezbollah, and it was taken away a few days ago.

The Northern Command has turned to the UNIFIL forces that have been stationed on the border since 1978 and whose formal mandate includes assisting the Lebanese government to return its effective authority in the border area rather than leaving Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, in charge.
BBC ‘Newshour’ listeners hear one side of a story
Listeners then heard an interview with Rashid Khalidi – who had published an op-ed in the New York Times on the same topic three days earlier and has been campaigning on the long-running issue for some time – in which Iqbal asked:
Iqbal: “On the issue of the building of a US embassy in Jerusalem, what do you know about the land that will be used to do that?”

Khalidi: “What we know – have always known – is that most of this land is privately owned Palestinian land. Many of the owners, many of the descendants of the owners, are – as it happens – US citizens. This has always been known. We, a group of heirs, descendants of owners, presented this evidence to the then Secretary of State Madeline Albright in the late 1990s and the State Department took note of it and at that point the plan was frozen. So we’ve known about this and it has been known by the State Department – unless they don’t know how to access their own archives – for the better part of 25 years. We’ve known it, the Israeli government knows it, the US knows it.”

Later on Khalidi mentioned the related planning documents that have been submitted to the Jerusalem planning authorities, stating:
Khalidi: “And Adalah, the legal group that represents all of the Arabs, is filing an objection to this planning document which we will have the results of towards the end of this month.”

Referring to what he termed the “so-called Allenby Barracks site”, he later added:
Khalidi: “This is a site that the British government during the mandate period before 1948 rented from my family and a large number of other families for use as a British military barracks. That site is going to be the embassy if the United States plans that have been submitted to the Israeli planning commission go ahead.”

In July 2022 the NGO ‘Adalah’ published documents dating from May 1947 which show a “hiring agreement” between several individuals and the Government of Palestine – i.e. the British mandate authorities. All those documents relate to a block numbered 30113 which, as can be seen on a map from the same era, made up one part of the Allenby Barracks. Adalah claims that the plots concerned were expropriated by Israel in 1950 under the Absentees Property Law but does not address the topic of any compensation that may have been received.

The area known as the Allenby Barracks was originally an Ottoman military site set up in 1916 during the Second World War which included an airfield for the use of their German allies. The site was conquered by the British in late 1917 and used as a military base up until the end of the mandate period.

As the British mandate came to an end, the mandate authorities handed over that site and other military camps in Jerusalem to the Jordanian Arab Legion. The site was captured by Israeli forces during the War of Independence which broke out when surrounding Arab countries attacked the nascent Israeli state.

In 1950 a financial agreement was signed between the Israeli and British governments. Under that agreement, part of the Allenby Barracks remained under British ownership.

In 1964 the British government agreed to sell part the Allenby Barracks to the Israeli government for 140,000 British pounds and in November 1966 the sale was completed. As can be seen in the document below (p.44), the area is numbered Block 30113 – the same number as the block including the plots claimed by Rashid Khalidi and others.

Clearly this topic is far more complex that listeners to ‘Newshour’ would understand from Rashid Khalidi’s obviously partisan version of the story. While Iqbal did say at the end of the item that a response had been requested, but not received, from the US State Department, no right of reply was given to any Israeli representative – for example from the Jerusalem planning department or the government – which would enhance audience understanding of the issue.

Congress members urge removal of UN official for antisemitism exposed by ToI
US Congress members on Monday called for the removal of a UN Palestinian rights official over antisemitic comments exposed by The Times of Israel.

UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese, who is tasked with investigating Israeli activities in the Palestinian territories, has a history of antisemitism but has not faced any repercussions from the UN or issued a clear apology.

Albanese said during a 2014 conflict between Israel and Gaza terror groups that the “Jewish lobby” was in control of the United States.

She has also sympathized with terror organizations, dismissed Israeli security concerns, compared Israelis to Nazis, accused the Jewish state of potential war crimes, said Israel controlled the BBC, and claimed that the Jewish state started wars out of greed.

Albanese attempted to distance herself from the comments in a statement to The Times of Israel, but since the report exposing the comments last month, has denied that the comments are antisemitic and brushed off criticism as “yet another politically motivated attack.”

A member of a UN Commission of Inquiry into Israel, Miloon Kothari, has also made antisemitic statements and remains in his position.

In a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner Volker Turk, 11 Congress members said, “Enough is enough.”

“It’s clear from Ms. Albanese’s statements that these comments were not simply a mistake, but rather a fundamental part of her worldview,” they said. “Instead of taking responsibility for repeating age-old antisemitic tropes and her incitement to violence, Ms. Albanese attacks those who notice her public comments.”

“You have stated that ‘there is no room for antisemitism in the UN,’ but it seems you have room for Special Rapporteur Albanese and others who have repeatedly made statements that are antisemitic,” the letter said.

Watchdog group calls on High Court to declare Netanyahu unfit to hold office
An Israeli democracy watchdog filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday asking it to rule on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fit to hold office.

The petition was filed just days after the High Court ruled that Shas leader Aryeh Deri was unable to serve as a minister, and amid reports that the attorney general has considered compelling Netanyahu to take a leave of absence due to a conflict of interest — something she has denied.

The Israeli Democracy Guard called on the High Court justices “to instruct” the government and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara “to determine that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unable to fulfill his duties as prime minister,” the organization said in a statement.

Netanyahu is unfit for office due to his ongoing criminal trial, his conflict of interest and his actions to promote a “regime coup d’etat,” the organization added.

In its petition to the court, the Israeli Democracy Guard wrote that there is “a serious and real concern that there is a direct connection between the government plan” to radically overhaul the justice system “and the criminal cases against Netanyahu — and the main purpose of the plan is to help [Netanyahu] escape prosecution.”

Netanyahu is currently on trial for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three cases, known as Cases 1000, 2000 and 4000, in which he is accused of providing quid pro quo benefits to two billionaires in return for luxury gifts, and of working to improperly influence media coverage. The prime minister has denied all wrongdoing.

When Netanyahu was indicted in November 2019, he was forced to relinquish all ministerial positions — with the exception of that of prime minister — in line with a High Court precedent.

On Monday, Baharav-Miara denied reports that she had been discussing the possibility of ordering Netanyahu to take a leave of absence from the premiership.

Last week, the attorney general told the High Court that Netanyahu remains bound by conflict of interest rules barring him from making senior law enforcement and judicial appointments, or getting involved in legislative matters that may impact his ongoing trial on corruption charges.

Caroline Glick Show: Is Israel on the verge of a coup?
In this week’s episode, Caroline analyzes the efforts to thwart judicial reform in Israel and the threat from the newly appointed Attorney General to fire Netanyahu. She analyzes how over the past thirty years, the left transformed Israel’s legal fraternity into a means to control government policies and Knesset legislation to compensate for its loss of power.

In her main interview, Caroline speaks with Naomi Kahn the head of the International Division of Regavim about one of the critical areas that has suffered due to the throttle hold the radical left holds on policy through the legal fraternity. That issue is the wholesale destruction of Jewish antiquities and heritage sites in Judea and Samaria conducted by the Palestinian Authority as an official policy.

If you want to understand the stakes of the current fight, and the toll the legal fraternity has taken on the record of Jewish history in Judea and Samaria – the cradle of Jewish civilization – you don’t want to miss this episode.

Is the Biden Administration Subverting US Allies? ‘Biden Files’ Update
After reportedly playing a role in Brazil’s presidential election, the Biden team is now taking sides against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. By encouraging domestic opposition to elected governments, the White House is interfering in the political process of allied democracies.

In the latest episode of Over the Target Live, Israeli writer Caroline Glick uncovers the Biden administration’s plans to destroy the government in Jerusalem. And Arkansas Congressman Rick Crawford explains the latest developments in the growing Biden scandal.

‘Israel is an independent country’: Ben-Gvir vows to return to Temple Mount
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir vowed on Wednesday to continue visiting the Temple Mount, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Jordan’s king that he would uphold the status quo governing interfaith relations in Jerusalem.

“I devise my own policy on the Temple Mount, not that of the Jordanian government,” said Ben-Gvir. “I went up to the Temple Mount and I will continue to go up to the Temple Mount.

“With all due respect to Jordan, Israel is an independent country. I assume the Americans understand freedom of movement; in the United States, no person would be prevented from going anywhere just because he is a Jew,” he said.

The comments come after Netanyahu made an unannounced trip to Jordan on Tuesday to meet with King Abdullah II.

“King Abdullah stressed the importance of maintaining the current situation at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in his talk with the Israeli prime minister,” the palace in Amman said in a statement.

Amman reacted furiously when earlier this month Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount in the Israeli capital.

Jordan denounced Ben-Gvir “in the severest of terms [for] the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and violation of its sanctity,” despite the Israeli minister not having approached the mosque.
Former Meretz leader Gal-On compares Ben-Gvir to Hitler
Former Meretz Party leader Zehava Gal-On on Wednesday compared Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to Hitler, posting to social media a picture of him with his arm raised and captioning it “Heil Kahane.”

It was a double reference to the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach Party was banned from the Knesset for espousing anti-Arab views, and to the Nazis’ “Heil Hitler” salute.

Ben-Gvir is a former disciple of Kahane.

After coming under fire for the tweet, Gal-On deleted it, writing, “I erased the tweet, still waiting for racism to be erased from the Knesset.”

In response, Ben-Gvir took Gal-On to task, tweeting: “The daughter of Holocaust survivors is cheapening and ripping up the [memory] of the holy six million [Jews who were killed by the Nazis]. Zehava, what would your mother and father say about this?”

Masked Palestinian shot dead after aiming fake gun at police in East Jerusalem
A masked Palestinian teenager carrying a fake gun was shot and killed by police officers in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem on Wednesday as they worked to demolish the home of a Palestinian gunman who killed an Israeli soldier at a nearby checkpoint last year, law enforcement officials said.

Hundreds of police officers entered the camp on Wednesday morning to demolish Udai Tamimi’s home. Tamimi is accused of killing Sgt. Noa Lazar, 18, and seriously wounding a civilian guard on October 8, 2022, at a checkpoint near the camp.

Tamimi fled the scene and was killed while attempting to commit another attack at a checkpoint near the entrance of the West Bank settlement city of Ma’aleh Adumim on October 19. One security guard was lightly hurt in the incident.

Police said one officer was lightly hurt Wednesday when Palestinians hurled pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails during the demolition of a Tamimi’s home in the camp.

During the clashes, officers opened fire at a suspect who appeared to have been armed with a gun and was aiming it at the forces, but later the item was found to be a “dummy weapon.”

Police published footage of the Palestinian thought to have been armed. The video showed the suspect pointing what appears to be a gun at the forces, then running away as officers opened fire.
IDF kills Palestinian man who attacked soldiers with knife in West Bank
An IDF soldier on Wednesday shot and killed a Palestinian terrorist who attacked him and multiple other soldiers at a checkpoint near Kedumim with a knife.

Kedumim is in the northern Samaria region of the West Bank.

Video footage shows an IDF soldier approaching a red car in a line between two other cars to perform a standard security check.

The Palestinian initially slowly gets out of the car with no sign of danger, but then suddenly dashes toward the IDF soldier brandishing the knife.

At first, the IDF soldier runs backward away from the Palestinian while keeping his gun aimed at the terrorist.

Seeing that this first soldier has a gun aimed at him and is moving away, the Palestinian changes direction and runs toward other soldiers at the checkpoint.

At this point, IDF soldiers opened fire, killing the Palestinian terrorist.

Shin Bet reveals Hamas attempts to recruit West Bank Palestinians for terror
The Shin Bet security agency on Wednesday said Israel was revoking the entry permits to Israel from 230 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, relatives of Hamas members who allegedly worked to recruit West Bank Palestinians to help commit attacks.

In a statement, the Shin Bet said in recent weeks dozens of West Bank Palestinians had been arrested and questioned over their alleged ties with Hamas operatives in Gaza. The agency said many of the young suspects were unaware that Hamas was using them to prepare attacks against Israeli targets.

According to the Shin Bet, the Hamas operatives hid their real identities by masquerading as companies and other entities, while recruiting West Bank Palestinians for paid work.

The Palestinians in the West Bank would be tasked with transferring funds intended for purchasing weapons or delivering packages of weapons and ammunition to Hamas operatives, it said.

“All this is without the couriers being aware, in most cases, that they are transferring weapons or are involved in terror activity,” the Shin Bet said.

The agency says the operation was led by Farah Hamed, 45, a Hamas member from the West Bank town of Silwad who was deported to Gaza as part of the 2011 Shalit deal.
"Mahmoud Abbas: 40 Years of Holocaust Revisionism"
With a 40-year history of Holocaust revisionism, Mahmoud Abbas is not expected to participate in somber International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorations on Friday.

January 27, the anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945, is the date designated by the United Nations to remember the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany during World War II. But Abbas’s views on the Holocaust are contrary to the spirit of the day.

The Palestinian Authority leader’s views go back to 1982 while studying in Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University — now known as the Peoples Friendship University of Moscow. That was the year he completed his dissertation, “The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement 1933–1945.”

The dissertation, for which Abbas was awarded a Ph.D degree, claimed that Zionists and Nazis collaborated to kill Jews in exchange for receiving “Palestinian” property. He described Jews and Nazis as “fundamental partners” in the Holocaust who shared equal blame.

According to Abbas, the extermination campaign was not aimed only at Jews. He further argued that the number of Jews killed by the Nazis was 896,000.

In 1984, the dissertation was published as a book in Arabic titled “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism,” and became a best-seller among Holocaust deniers. The book characterized the death count of six million as a “myth” and fantastic lie” which was “exaggerated for political purposes.” The book was republished in Arabic in 2011.

Abbas was forced to tone down his rhetoric after being appointed Prime Minister in 2003 by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Abbas would condemn Holocaust-denial in English, but never in Arabic.

MEMRI: Former Palestinian Minister: The Palestinians Should Learn From The Public Protest In Israel Against Judicial Reform – And Demand Their Right To Democracy And Rule Of Law
In his January 22, 2023 column in the Palestinian Al-Quds daily, Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former minister of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian Authority (PA), urged the Palestinian public to learn from the current public protest in Israel against the judicial reform being advanced by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Urging the Palestinians to take to the streets to protest the lack of democracy in the PA, he wrote of his sadness at the contrast between the demonstrations in Tel Aviv and the Palestinian public's silence and apathy at the situation in the PA – which he describes as having no legislature, no parliamentary and presidential elections, utter contempt for the judiciary, and "legislation enacted by those who have not been elected that is not subject to the principles and procedures determined by law."

Abu Zayyad goes on to contend in his column that the Palestinians need "an electric shock" to rouse them from their stupor and prompt them to demand their right to democracy, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, freedoms, and life with dignity. His criticism is also an indirect reference to the undemocratic functioning of the PA under President Mahmoud Abbas. Since the 2007 Fatah-Hamas rift, and the Hamas coup, the PA has not recognized the legislative council, elected in 2006, in which Hamas holds the majority and which was dissolved in 2018 by the PA Constitutional Court, although no other legislative body was elected. In such a situation, it is Abbas, who heads the executive authority, who personally issues presidential decrees as a substitute for legislative procedure – thus appropriating legislative powers.Moreover, in recent years, Abbas has also used presidential decrees to take control of the judiciary, enraging and prompting protests from the Palestinian Bar Association.[1]

It is notable that Abu Zayyad often publishes articles critical of the PA's operation of its institutions.[2]

The following are translated excerpts from Ziad Abu Zayyad's column:
"Yesterday [January 21, 2023], Tel Aviv hosted one of the biggest demonstrations in its history. The number of participants vastly exceeded the 80,000 of the previous week's demonstration. Both demonstrations were part of the popular protests by hundreds of thousands [sic] of Israelis against the plan that the new justice minister, Yariv Levin, intends to implement, in coordination with and with the support of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu. [This plan's] goal is to restrict the authority of the Supreme Court, to grant the government a majority on the committee that selects judges, to limit the attorney general's authority... and to subordinate [the attorney general] to [the government]. Opponents of the plan believe that it is a grave violation of the rule of law and of the essence of the democracy on which the establishment of the State of Israel was based. The acute tension escalated after the Supreme Court... ruled that Shas Movement leader Aryeh Deri may not serve as a minister in the government due to his past involvement in matters of corruption...

"One of the main motives behind the reform of [Israel's] existing judicial system is to lay the groundwork for the closure of three pending criminal cases against Prime Minister Netanyahu. This matter places Israel at a crossroads today: Either it relinquishes its judiciary and its democratic principles – about which its leaders have continued to boast since [the state] was founded – and becomes a Middle Eastern country by all criteria, or the opposition to the reform will succeed in either preventing it from happening or in making substantive changes that will limit its damage.

"This protest, against a blow to the purity of law, democracy, and the sovereignty of the rule of law in Israel, is just beginning. However, I confess that as I follow events in Israel I feel sorrow when I compare the hundreds of thousands participating in the popular protest movement in Israel... with the total silence in the Palestinian arena at the abolition of the legislative authority, the refusal to hold parliamentary or presidential elections, and the utter contempt for the judiciary.
PMW: PA PM annoyed that participating in and rewarding terror has consequences
In the eyes of the Palestinian Authority and its Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, Palestinians - including PA employees - are entitled to participate in terror and indiscriminately murder Israelis, and should be able to do so with full impunity. That is why Shtayyeh lashed out when Israel’s government decided to use the tax money that Israel collects and transfers to the PA every month to fully pay compensation awarded to terror victims who sued the PA for its direct involvement in terror and to implement Israel’s Anti “Pay-for-Slay” Law.
Claiming that these decisions were “an attempt to topple the PA and push it to the brink financially,” Shtayyeh added that the “acts of robbery, theft, and revenge by the occupying force will not dissuade our people and its leadership from continuing their political, diplomatic, and legal struggle.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 10, 2023]

In reality, Israel simply did justice to the victims of PA terror, paying them the compensation they had fought for almost two decades to receive and punished the PA for obstinately clinging to its policy of paying substantial cash rewards to terrorists as a prize for their acts of terror.

PA denies justice to victims of terror
Regarding the decision to use the tax money Israel collects and transfers to the PA to pay the 139 million shekels (almost $40.5 million) judgment against the PA for its involvement in terror, Shtayyeh said:
“The prime minister emphasized that the Israeli courts’ deduction rulings, the latest of which was the deduction of 139 million shekels, as compensation for Israelis who were killed by Palestinians, are illegal and illegitimate, and we do not recognize them. He said: ‘It is important that we remember that there are a number of lawsuits in the Israeli courts against the PA, which hold it responsible for every military operation carried out by any Palestinian against Israel. We know that the Israeli courts are political, and therefore the results are known in advance, and they are always against us.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 10, 2023]

To put Shtayyeh’s comment into context, one must understand what cases were decided and why the PA was held responsible.
Released Israeli Arab terrorist murderer Maher Younes about Israel: “We call this an entity”

Released prisoner urges kidnappings to release terrorists

Palestinian Workers Strike as UN Agency Squeeze Hits Salaries
Schools, clinics and some municipal services in the West Bank were closed on Wednesday as workers went on strike for a third day amid an escalating funding squeeze on the United Nations agency that pays their wages.

Around 3,700 workers in the West Bank joined the strike, demanding an across-the-board pay increase of 200 Jordanian dinars ($281.81) a month from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

“The strike will go on until UNWRA accepts our demands,” said Jamal Abdullah, head of the union representing workers paid by the agency in the West Bank.

On Tuesday, UNRWA appealed for $1.6 billion in funding for schools, healthcare and aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, where most Palestinian refugees or their descendants from various Arab-Israeli conflicts live.

With donations to the agency hit by crises across the world, compounded by inflation and supply chain disruptions, there was no immediate prospect of relief.

“All indications point out that it is going to be a difficult year,” said Adnan Abu Hasna, spokesman of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza City.

Seth Frantzman: Hezbollah, Iran's next move as Lebanon's politics reach an impasse
HEZBOLLAH LEADER Hassan Nasrallah has said that he is committed to the agreement. Tasnim noted that “the noteworthy point is that both Hezbollah and the National Free Movement were interested in media coverage of this meeting in order to end the rumors about the severing of relations between these two parties in some circles.”

L’Orient Today reported on January 4 that “in addition to showing openness to a broader political compromise around the presidential election, Hezbollah wanted to send a message to an ally who has been giving it a hard time: Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, who categorically refuses to endorse [Joseph] Aoun, and is also opposed to the election of Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh, Hezbollah’s preferred candidate.”

The Tasnim article notes that there are only two realistic candidates for president; Frangieh and Aoun. Frangieh is the son of Tony Frangieh, who was assassinated in 1978 during the Lebanese civil war; and he is the grandson of political leader and President Suleiman Frangieh. He is also related to Samir Frangieh. Joseph Aoun is the commander of the Lebanese army.

Iran hopes that Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement leadership can come to some kind of understanding despite the impasse. Meanwhile, other lawmakers in Lebanon are demanding that the vote for the president continue and that the lawmakers not continue to walk away from their responsibility. But no one seems to be able to agree on how to go forward.

As the crisis continues, Hezbollah continues to entrench. It continues to build watchtowers and fortifications in southern Lebanon and to threaten Israel, which is carrying out large-scale military drills with US Central Command this week. Hezbollah knows that it must tread carefully – and benefits from the vacuum of power at the heart of Beirut.
US reroutes $72 million in aid to Lebanon to pay wages for army, police
The United States is rerouting $72 million of America’s assistance to Lebanon to help the country’s cash-strapped government boost wages of its soldiers and police officers, the US ambassador said Wednesday.

Washington is a key donor of the Lebanese Army and its 80,000 members, providing over $3 billion in military aid since 2006. The announcement Wednesday is the first time the US is allocating funds for wages of security personnel in Lebanon.

Lebanon, a tiny Mediterranean country of 6 million people, is struggling with an unprecedented economic crisis, one that the World Bank says is among the worst worldwide since the 1850s. Three-quarters of the population live in poverty, while the Lebanese pound has lost over 90% of its value against the dollar.

Lebanese leaders, deep in political deadlock, have failed at implementing economic reforms to make the country viable again. The economic meltdown has also impoverished Lebanese soldiers and members of the police — two forces that have been rare unifiers in a country deeply divided by sectarian politics. Their inability to pay viable wages and feed their personnel has threatened Lebanon’s overall security and stability.

Before the crisis, an enlisted soldier earned the equivalent of about $800 a month, but that has now dropped to just over $100 due to the devaluation of the pound. A higher-ranking officer’s monthly salary is now worth around $250.

FDD: Biden Envoy Met Secretly with Iranians Amid Tehran’s Violent Crackdown on Protests
“Since Malley’s objective remains securing some form of nuclear agreement with Iran that includes the United States lifting sanctions on Tehran, secret meetings between Malley and the regime in Tehran raise serious concerns about the Biden administration’s commitment to the Iranian protest movement and Ukraine’s defense from the Russian-Iranian war machine. The administration should answer basic questions on the timing, content, and third-party coordination of these meetings: Who authorized these meetings, what was discussed, and who has been briefed outside of the U.S. government?” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor Reported Meetings Would Embolden Tehran Regime

Over the course of the last two months, when Malley reportedly was meeting with Tehran’s UN ambassador, the regime was intensifying its crackdown on dissent in Iran, including public executions of peaceful protesters. At the same time, Tehran continued to provide military and sanctions evasion support to Russia, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan even accusing Iran of complicity in war crimes perpetrated in Ukraine. Sending Malley to meet with the regime — and perhaps even offer incentives to change its behavior — could have backfired by signaling American weakness to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

What Else Could Have Been Discussed
Malley’s meeting with Iravani might be related to Iran’s continued detainment of U.S. citizen Siamak Namazi, who last week declared a hunger strike and wrote an open letter urging President Joe Biden to do more to win his release. Last year, Malley reportedly offered to unfreeze billions of dollars in regime assets held in Iran’s U.S.-sanctioned bank accounts in South Korea in exchange for Namazi’s release. The administration should explicitly state whether Malley’s recent secret meetings included any discussion relating to the unfreezing of accounts or lifting of sanctions on Iran — a move that would directly undermine the ongoing protest movement in Iran and Kyiv’s drive to hold Tehran accountable for transferring armed drones to Russia.

EU, UK impose new sanctions, stop short of blacklisting IRGC

FDD: With an Eye on Adversaries, the U.S. and Israel Conduct Major Military Exercise
On Monday, the American and Israeli militaries began a weeklong, large-scale joint exercise in Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, involving 6,400 personnel from the U.S. armed forces and 1,180 from the IDF—not to mention all kinds of aircraft, ships, and other materiel. Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst provide an overview of the exercise, known as Juniper Oak, and explain the signals it is meant to convey in the region:
The message to Jerusalem is that the American commitment to Israel’s security remains rock-solid. One can certainly compliment or criticize various Biden administration national-security and foreign policies, particularly toward Iran, but the exercise this week represents a major and positive milestone in U.S.-Israel security cooperation—and the White House, the Pentagon, and U.S. Central Command deserve credit for making it happen.

In addition to the positive message this sends to Jerusalem about American commitment, Washington hopes America’s partners in the region—including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others—take note. The administration’s intended message to them is that the United States military has not completely departed from the region, does not intend to depart from the region, and retains an unmatched ability to [direct] additional combat forces into the region quickly when necessary to conduct military operations.

Perhaps the most important message from the exercise is intended for Tehran and its terror proxies. . . . The Biden administration wants Tehran to understand that the United States has both the military means and the political will to stand with Israel, secure American interests in the region, and conduct successful large-scale strikes if necessary.

The military muscle on display this week certainly demonstrates some of this capability. The ability to deter aggression from Tehran and its terror proxies, however, will depend on their perceptions of the willingness of Washington and Israel actually to use force if necessary.
US and Israel hold military drills in show of force against enemies

Israel's Elbit to supply anti-missile systems for NATO tanker transports
Five-year agreement also includes establishment of service center at NSPA in Luxembourg

Israeli aerospace and defense company Elbit has signed a contract with NATO to supply anti-missile systems for its fleet of tanker transport planes.

The five-year deal announced Tuesday also includes the establishment of a service center at the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) in Luxembourg for logistical and tech support.

NATO's Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) fleet of Airbus A330 planes will be equipped with Elbit's Direct Infrared Counter Measures (DIRCM) systems. The DIRCM system has the capabilities to protect larger aircraft from the threats posed by infrared-guided missiles.

“Demand for our DIRCM systems is growing due to increased threats posed to aircraft. We are proud to provide NATO with a logistics and service center for local repair and maintenance of our systems," Oren Sabag, general manager of Elbit Systems ISTAR & EW, said in a statement.

Azerbaijan: The Shia Muslim state standing up to Iran — with Israel's help
Bordered by Russia to the north and Iran to the south, and a conflicted border with Armenia to the West, Azerbaijan faces a number of threats as the secular republic in the Caucasus continues its tremendous growth of the past three decades. And, it is forging a new strategic relationship with a perhaps unexpected ally — Israel.

Henrique Cymmerman traveled across Azerbaijan to document the geopolitical considerations of this partnership, and joins us in studio to discuss the making of his documentary.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 18 years and 38,000 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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