Tuesday, March 07, 2023

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: How Biden Subverts Israeli Democracy
The Movement for Quality Government (MQG) in Israel is the far-left organization at the epicenter of the Israeli left's war against the Netanyahu government. MQG began its current campaign of delegitimization, subversion and demonization immediately after the Netanyahu government was sworn into office on December 29. The next day, MQG petitioned the Supreme Court to prevent Shas leader Aryeh Deri from serving as a minister in the government.

There was no legal basis for the petition. But that didn't bother the lawyers at MQG.

Like MQG, the Supreme Court justices didn't bother giving a legal basis for their decision.... The justices said Deri's appointment was "unreasonable," and with a stroke of a pen, the court retroactively disenfranchised Shas voters.

Building on its success, late last month MQG submitted a new petition asking the justices to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Never mind that the justices have a conflict of interest since it is their powers the government's proposed reforms would check. Never mind that in a bid to prevent politicized judges and prosecutors from overturning the will of the voters, the law explicitly permits prime ministers to serve not only while standing trial, but even if convicted. And never mind that the charges against Netanyahu have fallen apart in Jerusalem District Court.

Someone is paying tens of millions of shekels to rent buses to transport scores of thousands of people to rallies, buy them flags, print banners and signs, rent stages and sound systems, and finance ad campaigns in every newspaper and on billboards across the country.

Whoever is footing the bill, the front group for all of it is MQG.

MQG's only named donor on its annual reports is the U.S. State Department.

Since MQG's primary activity is subverting democracy in Israel by waging lawfare and sowing chaos in a bid to block democratically elected right-wing governments from fulfilling their pledges to voters, it's fairly clear that when MQG refers to "democracy education," it doesn't mean majority rule.

Since its first day in office the Biden administration has demonized its political opponents as "semi-fascists" and threats to democracy. Biden governs without regard for his political opponents, and at least in the case of his open borders policy, in contravention of federal law.

Perhaps Biden is driven by jealousy. Two-thirds of Israelis support judicial and legal reform. Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Biden's handling of immigration and inflation. A large majority of Americans disapprove of Biden's handling of the economy, foreign policy and crime issues. Biden could only dream of having as broad a consensus of support for his policies as Netanyahu has for his.
Michael Doran: How U.S. Ambassador Tom Nides Became Israel’s Arsonist-in-Chief
So what, precisely, is the source of the terror that these people are feeling? The reform is five conflicts in one. First, it is a debate about the proper role of the Supreme Court, which has usurped authorities that rightly belong to the Knesset. Yair Lapid, the leader of the opposition, now paints any attempt to change the court as a fascist putsch, but in 2016 he critiqued the court precisely as the reformers are now critiquing it. Indeed, any observer who examines the reforms with a traditional American understanding of checks and balances, cannot but conclude that many of the demands of the reformers are not only reasonable but also desirable.

Second, it is a flash point between the two major political blocs, between the “pro-Netanyahu” and “anyone but Netanyahu” camps. Having bitterly divided over the rise of Donald Trump, Americans are familiar with this kind of tribal split. So too are citizens of Great Britain, who similarly clashed over Brexit. Four elections in two years were fought over Netanyahu’s leadership. This most recent election did not end the fight, which is now being prosecuted by means of the struggle over judicial reform.

Third, the reform is a fight over the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the issue that, 20 years ago, used to be the dividing line between left and right in Israeli politics. Opponents of the reform argue that it will facilitate the annexation of the West Bank. “I’m a member of an ever-diminishing minority,” my friend the scientist told me, “but the occupation of the West Bank remains the top issue for me. Ruling over another people is destroying us from the inside.”

Fourth, the judicial reform plays on feelings of discrimination among the Sephardim, the Jews from the Arab world, who see the Supreme Court as a bastion of Ashkenazi European Jewish power and privilege. Like the two-state issue, the Ashkenazi-Sephardi divide is no longer the heated political issue that it once was. Intermarriage and socio-economic changes have opened up the Israeli elite, which is no longer an exclusively Ashkenazi club. But old resentments die hard. A taxi driver from Morocco, who was in his late 50s, told me, “Just a few days ago Aharon Barak said that they searched and searched but couldn’t find Moroccans qualified to be judges.” He was referring to the former president of the Supreme Court of Israel and the legal mind who laid the groundwork for the expansion of the court’s powers. The quote the driver attributed to Barak is apocryphal, but the feelings of resentment that it expresses are real and still of some importance politically. Chikli, the minister whom Ambassador Nides insulted, offered a related observation when he said that politics is 10% ideology and 90% sociology.

Fifth, and most importantly, the conflict over the judicial system pits secularists against both the ultra-Orthodox and the religious nationalists. The Israeli journalist Amit Segal sparked an animated debate when he suggested that the key indicator of whether an individual will support the judicial reform is whether he or she identifies as a Jew first or as an Israeli—the idea being that those for whom the religious tradition is most alive are the staunchest supporters of the reform. Segal’s dichotomy is perhaps too neat, but there can be no doubt that the most enduring split in Jewish Israeli politics is sociological in nature. The religious-secular split will likely define left and right in the country for the next two generations, perhaps even longer.

The greatest single source of the terror on the Israeli left is the demographic, cultural, and political rise of the religious communities. “We are going to turn into the Islamic Republic of Iran here,” a professor friend of mine said, with no hint of irony in his voice. In historical terms, what we are witnessing is nothing less than the second stage of the Mahapach, the election in 1977 that brought Menachem Begin’s Likud Party to power. Begin’s election broke the monopoly that the Labor Party had exercised over the Knesset since the founding of the state. Yet while the traditional elite—Ashkenazi, secular, and associated with the Labor Zionist movement—lost control of the government in 1977, its offspring have continued to exercise influence over national affairs through the state bureaucracies, the universities, the press, and, importantly, the judiciary. (It is perhaps no accident that the usurpation of power by the judiciary took place in the 1980s, on the heels of the Mahapach.)
Jonathan Tobin: What's worse: Threats by Smotrich or Amnesty Int'l?
Amnesty and others, including some who say they accept the legitimacy of Israel in the pre-1967 armistice lines, believe that all Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are illegal settlements. In order to promote the fiction that the West Bank is historically Arab, they ignore not just the history of the country but the early 20th-century international agreements such as the San Remo Treaty of 1920 and the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine that both recognized the right of Jews to "close settlement" throughout all of the country.

Contrary to the mythology in which Israel is depicted as a colonial enterprise, Jews are the indigenous people of their historic homeland. That fact doesn't invalidate the rights of Palestinian Arabs. But the anomalous situation in the West Bank, whose Arab communities are autonomously ruled by the corrupt Palestinian Authority, is a function of their refusal to negotiate a peace in which they would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn.

To note this is not "whataboutism." Amnesty is already one of the principal authors of the "apartheid Israel" smear, a big lie rooted in antisemitism and hatred. But for Amnesty, and others in the "human rights" sector, Jews have no rights. That is the reason why they view the destruction of the homes of several hundred thousand people, including schools and synagogues in places where Jews have lived for millennia, as "justice."

If any Israeli or Jew were to suggest depopulating Arab villages and towns and expelling that many Palestinians, Amnesty would be labeling them racists who should be treated as pariahs. But say the same about Jews, and you can be considered an "anti-racist" or advocate for human rights. That's also why they treat Palestinian terrorist murders as merely a case of Jews getting their just desserts instead of crimes against humanity.

So, perhaps it is understandable that while Smotrich is roasted, Amnesty's call for the mass expulsion of Jews in response to Hawara was ignored.

None of this should get Smotrich off the hook.

JPost Editorial: Will IDF insubordination bring Netanyahu to the negotiating table?
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was quite right to denounce insubordination, while at the same time calling for a speedy dialogue. “The situation today requires dialogue and quickly,” Gallant said. “We face heavy and complex external challenges. Calls for insubordination hurt the Israeli military’s ability to function and carry out its missions.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi was also correct in speaking out forcefully against the reservists’ intentions. Halevi said that while he was aware of the public debate, he “will not permit harming the ability of the IDF to actualize its fateful mission – safeguarding the nation’s security.”

IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar was right, too, when he wrote to the reservist pilots urging them to “continue to report to your units for duty, continue to serve and fulfill your commitment to your unit, to your subordinates and to your commanders, to the State of Israel, to its security and the protection of its citizens.”

National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz, a former defense minister and a chief of staff, was also right to call on reservists to “keep serving and show up, no matter what. Defend this country, in protests and in service. Don’t lend a hand to insubordination.”

Having said all that, we cannot ignore the sense of despair that many Israelis feel, including those who serve in special units and as fighter pilots, but also regular soldiers and citizens in reserve units who are called up regularly to serve their country.

This is something that cannot be ignored. Developments such as the reservist pilots’ refusal to participate in training puts the entire country in danger. At the moment, it’s just a tiny group of people who serve in the reserves, but we can’t afford to lose them and risk their numbers swelling.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu really cares about Israel, this should be the alarm bell that spurs him to recalibrate, recalculate and ultimately negotiate, as President Isaac Herzog has implored.

“I call upon those in the opposition to do something simple: Present your alternative in an attempt to reach an agreement,” Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, adding that with goodwill, an agreement could be reached “within days.”

Mr. Prime Minister, the ball is in your court, not the opposition’s, and now is the time – before it’s too late.
Purim Shpiel: Anti-Netanyahu protesters storm Gaza in navigation error
Over 80,000 Israeli protesters found themselves straying dangerously close to entering the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip Monday due to a glitch in the Waze navigation app.

The demonstrators had planned to converge on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home on Jerusalem’s Aza Road, but Waze took them to the Gaza enclave, in what is being called the worst digital navigation mishap in history since the Children of Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert.

Soldiers from the IDF’s Gaza Division and gunmen from Hamas’s Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades were stunned as the huge mass of Israelis, armed with Israeli flags, black flags and menacing signs, charged through the Kerem Shalom crossing and clambered over the security fence into Gaza.

The worst navigational mishap since getting lost in the desert for 40 years
“I actually wanted to go to the protest when I heard about it,” IDF Lt. M. Eretz said. “But I heard it was going to be on Aza Road and I thought, no way am I going all the way to Jerusalem for that. But lucky for me, they came here!”

“It was like something out of a horror movie,” recounted Hamas fighter Salim al-Rabat. “They kept climbing up the fence and pushing forward while shouting ‘DE-MO-KRAT-YA!’ What do we know from democratiya? We tried shooting them, but they just kept blocking the shots with effigies of Israeli politicians that they charged at us with like battering rams. My buddy Omar got beaten unconscious with a Miri Regev with devil horns and a goatee!”
Two Years Ago, the American Military Recognized That Israel Is in the Middle East
On Thursday, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to arrive in the Jewish state for his second visit to the region since assuming office. His tenure has seen closer cooperation between the IDF and the American military, as a result of the Pentagon’s decision in 2020 to place Israel in the area of responsibility of its Central Command (CENTCOM)—which includes the Middle East and Afghanistan—rather than its European Command. David Levy and Shay Shabtai survey the effects of this change:

Security cooperation with Arab states, multinational exercises, and frequent visits by the CENTCOM commander are all indications of Jerusalem’s deepening role as a regional power.

The long-term implications of Israel’s shift to CENTCOM have yet to reveal themselves. However, at the second anniversary of the shift, some effects are already evident. Israel will now participate in CENTCOM’s review and updating of Middle East Concept of Operations, or war plans. CENTCOM will help sway Arab states into allowing the Israeli Air Force to use their airspace to conduct distant operations. Future operations may even include refueling and other logistics support in these states.

In November, Israel and the U.S. held a joint exercise that drilled in long-range strike capability and inflight refueling. Potential adversaries, like Iran, recognize the capabilities displayed and the message sent by such exercises. Earlier this year, the IDF participated in the massive U.S.-led International Maritime Exercise (IMX) hosted in Bahrain. Through these exercises, the IDF is learning to work in a multinational force with other USCENTCOM partners. On a personal level, IDF personnel have and will continue to have positive interactions with the personnel of the U.S. and Arab militaries.

As Levy and Shabtay explain, there are very concrete advantages as well, such as the integration of the sophisticated missile-defense systems used by both countries. For instance, the electronic sensors of an American vessel in the Persian Gulf could detect a missile launched toward Israel and immediately pass the information to Israeli anti-missile batteries, making a successful interception more likely.
IDF shows off new Merkava tanks in military drill on northern border

Israel engaging 4 Muslim nations to expand Abraham Accords
Israel is working to expand the Abraham Accords with four other nations, Israel Hayom learned this week.

Sources said that Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was working to normalize ties with Mauritania, Somalia, Niger and Indonesia.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is – of course – also involved in efforts behind the scenes, as are United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and Amos Hochstein, who mediated the Israel-Lebanon maritime deal during the Bennett-Lapid government.

Negotiations with Mauritania are in the advanced state, as Cohen hinted last week in a meeting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, during which he officially asked her to help Israel with the breakthrough vis-a-vis Mauritania and Niger.

Israel and Mauritania used to have diplomatic relations – established in 1999 – but cut ties in 2008 due to the Gaza war.

Israel and Somalia have never had diplomatic ties, but over the past year, reports have said that the country's president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is interested in establishing them. Jerusalem too is interested due to Somalia's important strategic location between the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean at the entrance to the Red Sea.

With Niger, Israel has never had official diplomatic relations either, and even those that did exist unofficially suffered during the Yom Kippur War and the Second Intifada, but no efforts to re-establish them have been made since.
4 Muslim-majority countries said to be in talks to join Abraham Accords

Thomas-Greenfield discusses UNRWA oversight, reaffirms commitment to Israel in House hearing
Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-KS) told Thomas-Greenfield it is “difficult for any of us to justify” U.S. funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency — which provides services to Palestinians — given recurring issues such as antisemitic content in UNRWA curricula and the use of UNRWA educational facilities for terrorist purposes.

“We see the same response, a promise of investigation, staffers put on leave, a statement of condemnation, and then another violation occurs, we’re back to square one,” LaTurner said. “Clearly the steps the administration has taken to address and more critically prevent these violations from occurring are not enough.”

Thomas-Greenfield said that she has emphasized to UNRWA leadership in “a very intense and very strong conversation” that they must “do everything in their power” to ensure that UNRWA facilities and materials are not used in support of terrorism. She also said that she and the State Department’s Office of Population, Refugees and Migration is “constantly” monitoring UNRWA to ensure that the U.N. agency is upholding its memorandum of understanding with the U.S.

The U.S. ambassador said she had also had discussions with Palestinian leadership on the issue “because what is happening damaged them as well, it damages the authority, it victimizes students.”

“UNRWA provides needed services to the most desperate people among the Palestinians, education, and the fact that terrorists are victimizing them by turning their facilities into possible places where they might operate… is absolutely unacceptable,” she added.

The ambassador later condemned a range of actions and statements by Francesca Albanese, the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, who has compared Israel to the Nazis and appeared at conferences alongside members of terrorist groups. Such behavior has prompted two calls from Capitol Hill for Albanese’s firing since the beginning of the year.

Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. finds “her statements, her public stances completely unacceptable” and has raised its concerns “at the highest levels of the United Nations,” calling for action against Albanese and other U.N. officials whose public statements have suggested bias against Israel. But she said the U.S. has stopped short of explicitly calling for Albanese’s removal, as lawmakers have urged.

Thomas-Greenfield also noted that the U.S. had successfully worked to decrease the budget for the U.N.’s Commission of Inquiry investigating Israel by a quarter and to reduce staffing for the inquiry.

The U.S. is working to “support a two-state solution and continue to push both sides to avoid escalatory actions that would move us further from achieving that goal,” she added.

Among those efforts, Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. delegation has “objected strongly” to the General Assembly vote to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice on Israel’s actions vis a vis the Palestinians.

“We do not find this acceptable that this was turned over to the ICJ,” she said.

Multiple lawmakers urged the ambassador to work to fight antisemitism at the U.N. and around the world.

She said that the U.S. is “vigilantly combating” antisemitism and other forms of hate, pointing to a recent U.S.-organized forum on the subject and the adoption of the first General Assembly resolution condemning Holocaust denial in 15 years.

The Israel Guys: The Biden Administration Has LOST ITS MIND!
The US seems to have lost its mind with the atrocious way it has been treating Israel. The US Ambassador to Israel has gone so far as to threaten the Finance Minister of Israel. Let’s just say the Biden administration has been blasting its ally Israel for fighting terror while refusing to call on the Palestinian leadership to condemn and put a stop to this terror.

Kemi Badenoch lays wreath at Yad Vashem as UK-Israel trade deal push continues
Secretary of State for International Trade, Kemi Badenoch, laid a wreath at Yad Vashem last night paying tribute to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

In a tweet, the British embassy in Israel wrote: "Unforgettable moment with Secretary of State Kemi Badenoch at Yad Vashem, laying a wreath at the Hall of Remembrance in commemoration of six million Jewish men, women and children murdered in the horrors of the Holocaust."

The visit to Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Nazi genocide took place on the last night of a three-day trip to Israel as part of negotiations to secure an expanded free trade agreement.

Since landing in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Badenoch has met with her Israeli counterpart, and has also met with local businesses to understand their needs in advance of the next round of negotiations.

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch pictured meeting with Israel's Economy Minister Nir Barkat (Photo: Department for International Trade)

UK officials are emphasising "quality over speed" in the negotiations, but the JC understands that both sides are very positive about the prospect of agreeing an expanded trade deal.

Badenoch has said Britain intends to strengthen its trade relationship with Israel across a range of high growth sectors, including financial services, digital, healthcare and infrastructure.

On Sunday, she met with Israel’s Economy Minister, Nir Barkat, in Jerusalem for bilateral talks ahead of the next round of negotiations between the two countries.

Following their discussions she described a “shared ambition to negotiate a modern, innovative services free trade agreement to mutually benefit both of our economies,” adding that “services will be at the heart of this deal.”

There is already a trade deal between the UK and Israel as part of the EU continuity programme. The EU signed a deal with Israel in 1995, but much has changed in the economies of both countries and around the world since then, especially with the growth of smartphones, e-commerce and the widespread use of the Internet. Israel’s service industry has also boomed in that time, growing around 5 or 6 per cent in the last decade.
Saudi Arabia gives Turkey 5 billion USD to help stabilize economy

Qatar urges Israel to de-escalate tensions with Palestinians
Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi has urged Israeli officials to work towards de-escalating tensions with the Palestinians, especially during the holy month of Ramadan which begins on March 22.

Emadi met in the past few days with a number of Israeli and Palestinian officials as part of Qatar’s effort to prevent further deterioration of the situation. He also met with US and European Union representatives.

During his talks with Israeli officials, the Qatari envoy demanded that Israel “refrain from escalating the situation, especially during Ramadan, and stop proving the feelings of all Muslims,” according to a statement issued by the Gaza Reconstruction Committee, which is headed by Emadi.

He also urged the Israeli officials not to change the status quo at al-Aqsa Mosque, halt all measures against Palestinian security prisoners and stop incursions by the IDF into Palestinian cities, the statement said.

In Ramallah, Emadi met with PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh and discussed with him the latest developments in the Palestinian arena.

Last weekend, Emadi met in Doha with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was in Qatar to attend the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries.

The Qatari envoy is also scheduled to hold talks in the Gaza Strip with Hamas officials to discuss ways of preventing a confrontation with Israel.

IDF kills Palestinian terrorist who shot dead Yaniv brothers near Huwara
Israel Defence Forces troops reportedly killed on Tuesday the person who 10 days ago allegedly shot dead at point-blank range brothers Hallel Menachem and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv near Huwara.

The military said that soldiers were conducting a counter-terrorism operation in Jenin, a hotbed of Palestinian terrorism in northern Samaria, when gunmen opened fire on them from a house they had surrounded.

Palestinian media reported five people killed in the exchange.

The reports also said that Israeli troops arrested several wanted suspects in concurrent operations in or around Nablus. The men detained are reportedly the children of the terrorist who gunned down the Yanivs on 26 February while they were stuck in a traffic jam near Huwara. Hillel and Yigal Yaniv

Hallel Menachem and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv were shot dead at point-blank range 10 days ago

That night, several hundred Jews responded by taking part in vigilante activity in the Palestinian city, with some setting fire to property and engaging in clashes with local Arabs, leaving one person dead.

The rioting was strongly denounced by Israeli leaders, with President Isaac Herzog saying at the time: “Taking the law into one’s own hands, rioting and committing violence against innocents—this is not our way, and I express my forceful condemnation. We must allow the IDF, police and security forces to apprehend the despicable terrorist and restore order immediately.”
Huwara terrorist killed in Israeli army operation in Jenin

Lebanon's Hezbollah backs Christian politician Frangieh for presidency
Lebanon's powerful armed Hezbollah group will back Christian politician Suleiman Frangieh to be the country's president, the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday, a move that gives him important backing but does not secure his election. Lebanon in political crisis

Lebanon has had no head of state since former president Michel Aoun's term ended at the end of October, deepening institutional paralysis in a country where one of the world's-worst economic crises has been festering for years.

"The natural candidate we support in the presidential elections is (former) minister Suleiman Frangieh," Nasrallah said.

Frangieh, 56, is heir to an old Lebanese Christian political dynasty and a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

His grandfather, of the same name, served as president from 1970 into Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

Frangieh has the support of House Speaker Nabih Berri's Amal Movement party but still falls short of the 65 votes required for him to be elected.

A close Hezbollah ally, he appeared close to becoming president in 2016, but Hezbollah's support went to Aoun - another of its Christian allies who now have a 20-member bloc in parliament but have opposed Frangieh's election.

Frangieh's candidacy is also opposed by the Lebanese Forces party led by Christian politician Samir Geagea.

Israeli fighter jets strike Aleppo airport overnight - Syria state media
Alleged Israeli airstrikes shut down the airport in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo early on Tuesday morning, according to Syrian state media.

“At 2:07 a.m. on Tuesday, the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial act of aggression from the direction of the Mediterranean, west of Lattakia, targeting Aleppo International Airport, which led to material damage at the airport as it went out of service,” SANA reported.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The Israel Defence Forces did not comment on the report, in accordance with Jerusalem’s long-standing policy regarding specific foreign operations. However, the military has acknowledged in the past conducting hundreds of strikes on Iran-backed forces attempting to establish a foothold in Syria.

Tuesday’s incident comes after a strike in Damascus late last month attributed to Israel targeted Iranian officials meeting to advance the development of the drone or missile capabilities of Tehran’s proxies in Syria.

Five people were killed and more than a dozen wounded in the alleged Israeli air raid, which targeted a building in the city’s Kafr Sousa neighbourhood and damaged several structures near a heavily guarded security complex linked to Iran.
Airstrike in Syria targets Iranian weapons smuggled via humanitarian aid

Michael Doran: The Needy Lover
“President Biden,” asked a woman at a campaign event in early November, “are you going to announce that the [Iran nuclear deal] is dead?”
“No,” he replied.
“Why not?”
“A lot of reasons. It is dead but we are not going to announce it.”
But what, precisely, are Biden’s reasons? What does he fear?

A domestic political backlash, for starters. Back in 2015, when President Obama first previewed the nuclear deal to the American people, he sold it not only as a way of blocking Iran’s path to a bomb but also of inaugurating a new era in US-Iran relations. When addressing progressive audiences, he and his team took the argument a step or two further, presenting it as a superior approach: a “soft” or “smart power” alternative to the Republican approach, which, by inference, was hard and dumb.

When running for office in 2020, Biden and his team doubled down on the pitch. They argued that President Donald Trump’s “Maximum Pressure” policy was a piece of mindless bravado that would never achieve its goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Even worse, it was leading the country to war. “There’s a smarter way to be tough on Iran,” wrote candidate Biden in an article published during the presidential campaign.

As president, however, Biden can’t substantiate the claim. Since he took office, Tehran moved closer to developing a nuclear weapon by, among other steps, routinely enriching uranium to sixty percent and operating advanced centrifuges. As a wave of unprecedented protests swept Iran, Tehran supplied killer drones to Russia, thus becoming an indirect threat to the Eastern flank of the European alliance. Meanwhile, it continued its policies of periodically attacking American and allied forces stationed throughout the Arab world and of planning terror attacks abroad, including plots to kill former American officials on American soil.

And yet the commitment to the “smarter way” remains steadfast. According to a recent speech by Secretary of State Blinken, Biden and his team “continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Blinken revealed this belief last December to J-Street, a progressive organization, which greeted the news with warm applause. Like programs such as “climate justice” and “critical race theory,” “the smarter way on Iran” has become a defining facet of progressive identity. Any announcement by Biden of the death of the Iran deal would strike progressives as a betrayal of their foundational beliefs. They would respond with a rebellion on the president’s left flank.

Politics alone, however, does not fully explain why the president can’t bring himself to admit that the Iran deal is defunct. Iran is also deterring Biden. In response to a more aggressive American policy, Tehran might begin enriching uranium to ninety percent and race toward a nuclear weapon. If Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei were to give the order tomorrow, Iran could produce highly enriched uranium to build four nuclear weapons within about one month. It could explode a nuclear device underground within approximately six months. Only American military action could deter such moves. With a war raging in Europe and China threatening Taiwan, the last thing the Pentagon wants to see is a crisis in the Middle East. By dodging calls to develop a Plan “B” on Iran, Biden seeks to prevent military escalation.
Iran's proxy war
On Jan. 26, 2023, Israel eliminated a Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell in the heart of Jenin, including a leader of the organization's Jenin Brigade, Salahat Ezz a-Din. This operation returned the spotlight to PIJ, a proxy organization that works to change the regional order in the Iranian interest.

In early August 2022, PIJ threatened violence against Israel unless Sheikh Bassam al-Saadi, the group's leader in Judea in Samaria, was freed. This threat led to Operation Breaking Dawn (August 5 – 7, 2022). This heightened activity by PIJ, especially in northern Samaria, with an emphasis on Jenin, reflects Iran's efforts to use its proxies to create a balance of deterrence.

There are other examples of Iranian proxies threatening Israel on Tehran's behalf in the Palestinian arena, which Tehran perceives as an Israeli weak spot. Hezbollah, for instance, threatened to strike the Karish gas field with Yakhont (P-800 Oniks) missiles before the signing of the maritime border agreement with Lebanon; Hamas warned that Israel would regret holding its annual flag march in the capital on Jerusalem Day.

What is common to all three organizations (Hezbollah, PIJ, and Hamas) is the considerable military assistance and support they receive from Iran. Through the organizations it sponsors, Iran has forged a broad terrorist front that includes the Houthis in Yemen and Shi'ite militia organizations in Iraq and Syria. Iran's proxies strive to create a new equation vis-à-vis Israel – a country that prefers quiet to military operations, even though, in the Middle East, quiet is an elusive thing.

PIJ was established under Iranian influence in the early 1980s. Its founder, Fathi Shaqaqi, authored the book "Al-Khomeini al-Hal al-Islami wa-al-Badil" (Khomeini, the Islamic Solution, and the Alternative). This book views the Iranian revolution as the model for a comprehensive Islamic revolution that will foster a widespread Islamic renaissance.
Ambiguity Surrounds Iran’s Purported Nuclear Concessions
Expert Analysis
“Grossi returned from Tehran with nothing more than handshakes and pleasantries. Iran did not roll back its capability to produce near weapons-grade uranium at an underground enrichment facility nor did it give any concrete details on how or when it will resume IAEA monitoring or cooperate with a four-year probe of undeclared nuclear material. You can put lipstick on an illicit nuclear threat, but it’s still an illicit nuclear threat.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“Iran’s intention is clear: It seeks to stave off IAEA censure by pretending to cooperate with the agency. At the same time, it hopes to resuscitate the value of the rial, which has collapsed due in part to its increasing nuclear intransigence. The Biden administration should call Iran’s bluff and urge the IAEA to refer Tehran to the UN Security Council to reimpose sanctions.” — Tzvi Kahn, Research Fellow and Senior Editor

Conflicting Statements
On Saturday, Grossi said Tehran had decided to reinstall cameras at key nuclear facilities and allow a 50 percent increase in inspections at the Fordow enrichment plant. “We have put a tourniquet on the bleeding,” Grossi declared. However, a joint statement by the IAEA and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran articulated no such commitments. The joint statement did say Tehran “expressed its readiness to continue its cooperation” on “outstanding safeguards issues,” an apparent reference to Iran’s failure to disclose key nuclear activities at undeclared locations. However, the statement identified no specific steps Tehran would take to cooperate. Grossi also failed to receive an explanation from Iran for the IAEA’s recent discovery of particles of uranium enriched to 84 percent purity — just short of atomic weapons-grade — at the Fordow enrichment facility.

IAEA Censure
These developments come as the IAEA Board of Governors meets this week, when they can decide whether to censure Iran for its lack of cooperation with the agency. U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said on Thursday that Washington would wait for the results of Grossi’s visit before deciding how to proceed. Iran’s record of nuclear mendacity and its apparent effort to feign cooperation with the agency indicate that the United States has ample grounds for Iran’s censure at the IAEA, which could lead to a referral to the United Nations Security Council for countermeasures.
Does Iran's uranium enrichment and mean the JCPOA is dead?
We convene the Global Eye panel of experts to discuss the future of the flailing nuclear deal, as the IAEA board of governors convenes in Vienna, trying to balance deterrence with diplomacy.

Camelia Entekhabifard, the editor-in-chief of the Independent Persian, Nadav Tamir, the diplomatic advisor for former Israeli President Shimon Peres, and Sima Shine, the head of the Iran Program at the Institute for National Security Studies make up our panel of experts.

What Iran’s Navy Was Doing in Brazil, and Why the U.S. Should Be Worried
On February 26, two Iranian warships docked in Rio de Janeiro, where they remained for a week—despite the Brazilian president Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva’s assurances to the U.S. that he would prevent them from doing so. Emanuele Ottolenghi explains the significance of the Islamic Republic’s naval mission to Brazil:

Lula has much to gain by standing up to America. He can burnish his credentials as a prominent leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, wresting that mantle away from his lesser regional competitors—Venezuela’s Maduro, Colombia’s Petro, and the Hernandez duo in Argentina. He can stoke feelings of national pride and bank on resentment for the “imperio del norte,” the northern empire, as many refer to America in the region. And he can forge a foreign policy of engagement with countries, like Iran, that seek to displace America’s influence in the region in favor of a multipolar world dominated by competing powers like Russia and China.

Tehran too greatly benefits from the visit. For decades, it has aspired to play a role in the Western Hemisphere, chiefly through soft-power influence operations and by cementing strategic relationships with anti-American regimes such as Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. And while its forays into Venezuela have yielded Tehran both a gateway to and a forward operating base in Latin America, making strides with countries traditionally within the sphere of U.S. political, military, and economic influence has been much more difficult.

The presence of two Iranian warships at Brazil’s iconic waterfront city is also meant to warn both the U.S. and Israel. For years, Iran has begrudged America’s regional presence and its role as the gendarme of the Gulf. Iran’s intended message is clear: we can poke you in your backyard, much like you poke us in ours. Iran’s puny blue-water fleet is currently no match for the U.S. But establishing bilateral relations with other navies around the world will help Iran expand its capabilities.

After Brazil, Iran’s navy task force will continue its voyage in the region, likely seeking to cross the Panama Canal. Arm-twisting Panama after nothing happened to Brazil is not in the cards. Besides, If Brazil faces no adverse consequences, more missions will return to build on this initial success.

MEMRI: Iranian Regime Official: The Young American Who Attacked Salman Rushdie Will Be Awarded A Dunam Of Fertile Land In Iran
In February 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Revolution regime, issued a fatwa calling on any Muslim to kill the author Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses, on the grounds that the book is "blasphemous" and Rushdie is an infidel. Throughout the next three decades, Iran has been stressing that this fatwa must be carried out.

In August 2022, Hadi Matar, a Muslim-American of Lebanese origin, attacked Rushdie as he was about to give a public lecture in Chautauqua, New York, severely wounding him.

On February 21, 2023, Iranian cleric Mohammad Esmail Zarai, secretary of the Popular Organization for Implementing [Ayatollah] Ruhollah Khomeini's Fatwa to Kill Salman Rushdie and chief military prosecutor in Mazandaran province in northern Iran, praised Hadi Matar for attacking Rushdie, and announced that he would be given a one-dunam field in Iran as a reward. Zarai reiterated the organization's commitment to implementing the fatwa and promised that every effort would be made to do so, and added that whoever killed Rushdie would also be given land in Iran.

It should be noted that Iran has officially denied any connection to Matar's attack on Rushdie, and has said that Rushdie himself is to blame for what happened to him.

Zarai made his announcement at a conference held by his organization. Another speaker at the conference was Mohammad Javad Larijani, who formerly served as senior foreign affairs advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as secretary of the Human Rights Committee in the Iranian judiciary and as a Majlis member.

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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 19 years and 40,000 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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