Thursday, March 16, 2023

From Ian:

Europe Slowly Understands the Importance of the Abraham Accords
A symposium organized last week by the European Coalition for Israel in the European Parliament brought together stakeholders both from the European Commission and the European Parliament with some of the key states behind the Abraham Accords to discuss the next steps of the normalization process. After the signing of the Abraham Accords, which normalized Israel's relations with several Arab states in 2020, the EU had remained on the sidelines.

Israel's ambassador to the EU and NATO, Haim Regev, said, "It took time for us to convince them that this was a deep and dramatic development, that they should be part of it. In the last three months, we see a real change." Last month for the first time, Israel participated in a trilateral workshop in Rabat with the EU and Morocco, financed by the EU, that will lead to water projects, the construction of new desalination plants, and wastewater management.

EU Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy Oliver Varhelyi has allocated 10 million euros to expand those kinds of activities. There is a new steering committee led by the EU embassy in Tel Aviv which together with Israel is looking into additional projects. "Soon we hope to have within the European Parliament an Abraham Accords network. We have also held a joint seminar in NATO that brought experts from Israel, Bahrein, and Morocco to see what we can do together," said Regev. "There is a growing interest and appetite in the EU to be part of the Abraham Accords."
Bassam Tawil: Biden Administration's Delusional Plan to Combat Palestinian Terrorism
[T]he Biden Administration officials recently proposed a plan "to provide 5,000 Palestinians with commando training in Jordan" and then deploy them to areas under the control of the PA. The 5,000 officers will bring with them 5,000 rifles to Palestinian cities and towns -- where almost every Palestinian already has a weapon.

Any time the US has funded, armed and trained Palestinian militias, the target has invariably ended up not terrorist groups but Israelis. Why is there any reason to think that this time will be different?

In addition, the plan would require Israel "to sharply curtail IDF counterterror operations." The Biden administration, in other words, wants Israel to stop defending itself and rely on the Palestinian leadership and the new Palestinian "commandos" to go after the terrorists. Palestinian officials, meanwhile, are busy glorifying terrorism and paying visits to the families of terrorists.

This would leave the Israelis with the rights to neither self-defense nor hot-pursuit. Terrorists will be able strike inside Israel, then run back to the Palestinian areas where they will be "home free;" instead of being arrested, they will be celebrated.

The Biden plan also reportedly "foresees the deployment of foreign forces, including U.S. military forces, on the ground."

Israel, roughly the size of New Jersey, would have on its border a Palestinian terrorist army, well-trained, well-funded, and "protected" by a superpower.

[The Israelis] would find themselves in the impossible position of risking harming the Europeans and Americans forces stationed there. These troops, mingled among the Palestinians, would essentially be "human shields," deliberately placed in harm's way to prevent Israel from taking any action.

What, then, is the Biden Administration really doing?

An international military presence to help the Palestinians in the West Bank would handcuff the Israelis. This appears to be the real plan.
JCPA: The Axis of Resistance Led by Iran Threatens Israel during Ramadan
Hamas Terrorist Chief’s Warning
Saleh al-Arouri, the vice chairman of the Hamas movement and head of its military wing in the West Bank, the man who coordinates in Beirut the activity with Hizbullah, said in an interview to the official website of Hamas on March 14, 2023, that the events to come will be very difficult for the “occupation and its settlers.” The “resistance” in the West Bank is in a state of escalation and it is diversifying its weapons.

Marwan Issa, the shadowy deputy commander of Hamas’ military wing in the Gaza Strip, hinted at the possibility of massive rocket fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. He told the Al-Aqsa channel on March 15, 2023, that the “political project in the West Bank has ended; the enemy brought the Oslo Accords to an end; and the coming days will be eventful.”

Issa continued: A political solution in the West Bank “is a thing of the past…. Any escalation in the Al-Aqsa Mosque area will result in a reaction in the Gaza Strip; Hamas in Gaza will not [just] be an observer to events in Jerusalem.”

“The desire to commit suicide among the (Muslim) residents of the West Bank is unprecedented, and the state of resistance in the West Bank is excellent. So is the state of national unity in the face of the Occupation,” the Hamas official claimed.

The Iranian Connection
A spokesman for the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad threatened Israel with a new intifada and a conflict it had never experienced before.

The accumulation of these statements by the heads of the terrorist organizations in the media and intelligence information indicate an impending escalation. The security meeting initiated by the United States in Aqaba on February 26, 2023, has failed, and the fate of the next meeting, scheduled in Sinai, is uncertain. It is very doubtful whether Israel will be able to stop the approaching tsunami of terrorism since this is a strategic decision by the terrorist organizations in coordination with Iran.

The terrorist cells are showing the increasing use of explosive devices in the territories of Judea and Samaria and an attempt to activate them also within the territory of Israel itself. The Shin Bet has recently foiled several attacks using explosive devices by Palestinians from the West Bank who were recruited by Hamas from the Gaza Strip through social networks.

According to officials in the military wing of Hamas, the attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on March 9, 2023, marks the organization’s decision to resume attacks within the Green Line.

Why is the Biden administration funding a UN agency it deems 'unacceptable'?
In the diplomatic understatement of the year, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides stated last month that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, the U.N. body tasked with helping so-called Palestinian refugees, “has serious flaws.” Then, during a March 1 hearing on Capitol Hill, Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield asserted that the proven misuse of UNRWA facilities for terroristic purposes “is absolutely unacceptable.”

Yet despite these “unacceptable” facts, the Biden administration has funded UNRWA to the tune of nearly $700 million since the president took office.

Far more than mere flaws, UNRWA is rotten to the core and has been since it was established in 1949. For this reason, a pair of congressional bills called the “UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act” was introduced in February to strip UNRWA of its funding from the United States government until it undergoes a systemic overhaul to address its failings.

The failings are well documented. For starters, various nonprofit groups, national governments, and intergovernmental bodies have sounded the alarm about the content of UNRWA’s textbooks, which glorify Palestinian terrorism and portray Jews as “treacherous” and “impure” and describe the establishment of the state of Israel as a “major racist calamity.”

Relatedly, the watchdog group U.N. Watch revealed in 2021 that over 120 UNRWA educators posted antisemitic and pro-terrorist posts on their social media accounts, including praises of Adolf Hitler and theories about Jews controlling the world.

According to its own website, UNRWA operates 96 schools in the West Bank and East Jerusalem where, over the last month, several terrorist attacks against Israelis were perpetrated by Palestinians as young as 13. Even if potential teenage attackers are not themselves enrolled in one of UNRWA’s many schools, surely they have friends who are. And if their friends repeat what they learn in school and hear from teachers, as children so often do, is it that far-fetched to think that some would take the incitements that these schools teach to their logical, violent conclusion?

Moreover, in a little-known piece of trivia, UNRWA actually has a Gaza-based workers union dominated in large part by Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, two U.S.-designated terrorist organizations with American blood on their hands. Put simply, American taxpayer dollars may be lining the pockets of America’s enemies.

Last but not least, the State Department admitted that Palestinian terrorists use UNRWA facilities as weapons caches and cover for underground terror tunnels, effectively using them and the innocent people who live around them as human shields.
Berlin pumps cash into UNRWA despite teachers urging murder of Jews
The German government in March funneled €5 million ($5.27 million) into a school project in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, even as a report by Israeli NGOs shows Palestinian teaching materials “glorify terrorism, encourage martyrdom, demonize Israelis and incite antisemitism.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center told JNS that the German transfer of funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians Refugees (UNRWA)—the U.N. agency that oversees schools in Gaza—is disturbing because of the lack of linkage to an end of terrorism and lethal antisemitism.

Israel Behind the News first revealed the German donation, noting that a delegation led by Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), attended the ceremony, and Thomas White, director of UNRWA affairs in Gaza, greeted the Germans.

According to the Israel Behind the News website, “Germany generously contributed over EUR 180 million [$189.5 million] to UNRWA operations in 2022.”

It is unclear whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will raise Berlin’s funding of UNRWA without the promised vetting procedures and its funding of anti-Israel NGOs such as al-Haq during his meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Thursday.

In 2019, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry disclosed that Germany plays an instrumental role in financing NGOs that boycott the Jewish state.

The German organizations Bread for the World, World Peace Service and the Green Party’s Heinrich Böll Foundation fund Ramallah-based Palestinian “human rights” NGO Al-Haq.

World Peace Service is a German government agency. The Israeli government classified Al-Haq as a terrorist organization due to its links to the E.U.- and U.S.-designated terrorist entity the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock of the Greens Party has declined to crack down on public funding of antisemitic boycotts of Israel. The Bundestag passed a resolution in May 2019 declaring the BDS campaign an antisemitic movement.

In first, Israel said to authorize sale of defensive military equipment to Ukraine
For the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Israel has authorized the sale of defensive military equipment to Kyiv, a report said Thursday.

According to the Walla news site, which cited three Israeli and Ukrainian officials, Jerusalem approved export licenses for two Israeli companies to sell electronic warfare systems with a range of some 40 kilometers (25 miles) that could be used to defend against drone attacks.

Russia has sent thousands of Iranian-made suicide drones to attack targets across Ukraine, particularly power stations and other crucial infrastructure.

The report said that the export licenses were approved by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in mid-February. Cohen then informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky of the decision during his visit in Kyiv.

A Ukrainian official told Walla that while the country was pleased with the development, it was still pressing Israel to supply anti-missile systems, saying: “On that, we have a gap that we are not managing to solve.”

Israel has until now resisted providing weapons to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February 2022. One major reason for Israel’s hesitance appears to be its strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.

Israeli officials told Walla that the approval of the export licenses was not a shift in policy because the systems are defensive in nature and do not use any live fire that can kill Russian soldiers.

‘Hundreds of Israeli lives saved by Operation Break the Wave’
A little over a year ago, on April 7, 2022, a Palestinian gunman who infiltrated Israel from Jenin shot and killed three Israeli civilians on Tel Aviv’s bustling Dizengoff Street, before being shot dead by police in Jaffa hours later. In an eerily similar terrorist atrocity committed on March 9, a Palestinian terrorist who infiltrated Israel from Nil’in in Judea and Samaria, commonly known as the West Bank, committed another atrocity on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street, shooting and wounding three Israeli civilians, one critically.

Yet in between these two events was a rolling Israel Defense Forces security operation called “Operation Break the Wave,” which has made significant achievements in fighting terrorism in Judea and Samaria, but has not extinguished the wave of violence, as the latest attack demonstrates.

On March 12, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and the Commanding Officer of IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, who is responsible for Judea and Samaria, spoke at an event honoring the forces participating in the ongoing operation.

“The IDF is carrying out ‘Operation Break the Wave with the assistance of a large and high-quality reserve force that works alongside active-duty forces. Fifty-six reserve battalions were summoned and arrived to carry out the terrorism-fighting mission,” said Halevi.

Maj. Nir Dinar, head of the IDF’s International Press Department, told JNS in recent days that the operation had a number of main focuses. The first, he said, is boosting the number of reinforcements and battalions operating in Judea and Samaria. The second is increasing the number of arrest operations, primarily in the Nablus and Jenin areas, where the Palestinian Authority has largely lost control.

For roughly six months prior to the outbreak of the terror wave last March, the IDF almost totally refrained from entering those areas, in an attempt to allow the P.A. to take control. The result, however, was a series of deadly attacks in Israeli cities, prompting the IDF to work tirelessly in Jenin and Nablus to track down, pursue and reach the terrorists.

“Our first duty is to our citizens. Security operations are occurring almost every day,” said Dinar.

In 2022, 33 Israelis lost their lives in terrorist attacks, while so far this year, after just three and a half months, the Israeli casualty number already stands at 14. Nevertheless, Dinar stressed, “Hundreds of people—civilians and IDF soldiers—have been saved as a result of these security operations.”
MEMRI: Article In Qatari Daily Incites To Terror Attacks Against Israelis: Surround Them, Pursue Them, 'Make It So That They Will Never Be Safe – Not In Jerusalem, Not In Tel Aviv'
In his March 12, 2023 column in Qatar's Al-Watan daily, titled "The Time Has Come For You To Get Out," Palestinian journalist Samir Al-Barghouti, who frequently writes in favor of armed struggle against Israel, stated that it was time to expel the Israelis "from Huwara to Tel Aviv... from the river to the sea," and to fight them in brigades and with lone attackers.

Stressing that "people who sacrifice themselves are about to emerge from all the villages and the cities and from every neighborhood and street," he wrote: "Make it so that they will never be safe – not in Jerusalem, not in Tel Aviv, and not in their settlements."

In conclusion, he addressed the Israelis, saying: "We will fight [you] as long as we live, and you will never enjoy a good life on land that rejects you."

The following are translated excerpts from Al-Barghouti's column:
"From Nablus to Jerusalem, from Jenin to Bethlehem, from Hawara to Tel Aviv, from all the cities and villages, from the mountain and from the plain, from the river to the sea, in the brooks and in the streams, from Palestine to Palestine – surround them, pursue them, terrify them!

"This is the time to return to the homeland. This is the time for them to get out. Victory lies in patience alone. We have been patient since the accursed British [Balfour] declaration that granted them our homeland – our land, our country, our soil from which [Allah] created us – as [their] homeland, so that Europe could be rid of them, after it had suffered from their maliciousness and the disasters of the wars they ignited, from their schemes and their treachery.

"Ever since Allah has put us to the test through them, we have suffered from their disasters, [including] civil wars and brother ruling over brother. The Arabic language no longer unites us, religion no longer unites us, and [our] customs do not unite our hearts.
Gallant: Israel will exact a price from those behind highway bombing
Progress is being made in the investigation into the highway bombing near Megiddo earlier this week that seriously wounded a man, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Thursday.

Israeli authorities revealed Wednesday evening that the roadside bomb was planted by a terrorist who infiltrated the country from Lebanon. He was later killed by Israeli forces while trying to return to that country.

The Israel Defense Forces has not yet named who it believes dispatched the terrorist, but it is not ruling out Hezbollah.

“Following the assessment today on the northern border, I am impressed by the progress of the probe into the incident, the deployment of forces in the [northern] sector and the extensive intelligence work,” said Gallant on Thursday.

“The determined actions of the security agencies, which led to the elimination of the terrorist and the prevention of another attack, deserve all the praise. Whoever is responsible for the attack will pay for it. We will find the right place, the correct way, and hit back,” he added.

On Monday, Shareef ad-Din, 21, from the Israeli Arab town of Salem, was wounded when the explosive device detonated around 6 a.m. The bomb was planted behind a barrier by the side of the road near the Megiddo Junction, some 18 miles southeast of Haifa. The Megiddo Junction is located 37 miles from the Lebanese border as the crow flies, though traveling by roads would extend the journey by a further 12.5 miles.

An urgent investigation into the incident was opened, led by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet).

The initial inquiry found that the explosive device was of a design unusual to the area and not seen commonly in Judea and Samaria, said the IDF.

After the blast, the IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police began a joint manhunt in an effort to catch the terrorist, including the establishment of roadblocks in northern Israel.
4 Palestinians, including terror group members, killed by Israeli troops in Jenin
Four Palestinians, at least two of whom were members of terror groups, were shot dead Thursday by undercover Israeli forces during a daytime raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, the military and Palestinian media reports said.

In a joint statement with the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security agency, police said members of the elite Yamam counterterrorism unit entered Jenin and “neutralized” two wanted Palestinian gunmen, after receiving intelligence about their whereabouts.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry said four people were killed and at least 23 others were hurt in the raid, five of them seriously.

Palestinian media outlets identified the slain men as Yusuf Shreim, 29, a member of the military wing of the Hamas terror group, and Nidal Khazem, 28, a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

They were both later claimed as senior members by their respective terror groups.

According to the Shin Bet, Khazem was involved in advancing “significant terrorist activity,” and Shreim was involved in the production of explosive devices and shooting at IDF forces in the West Bank.

The Israel Guys: US Pressures Israel to Arrest Suspected Jewish "Rioters" WITHOUT EVIDENCE
A terrorist who has been in Israeli prisons for 17 years for smuggling illegal weapons from Iran to Gaza was just released and the Palestinians are heralding him as a hero.

Two Jewish men suspected of being involved in the Huwara riots were rearrested just minutes after they were released from the courts for lack of evidence. You probably won’t believe the ABSURD reason why. . .

Backgrounder: 5 ‘New’ Terror Groups Threatening West Bank Intifada
Violence in Israel and the West Bank has once again spiked as Palestinian terror groups attempt to propel the region into a third intifada.

Terrorism against the Jewish state continues to evolve, with genocidal groups like Islamic Jihad and Hamas making common cause to attract young Palestinians. The emergence of new terror militias that are centered around territory rather than political affiliation, like the Lions’ Den and the Jenin Battalion, increasingly poses a threat to Israeli security forces.

Here are five new anti-Israel terror groups:
1. Lions’ Den (Nablus)
Founded: August 2022
Links to: Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Perhaps the most infamous “new” terror organization plaguing Israel and the West Bank, Nablus-based Lions’ Den (“Areen al-Usood”) publicly announced its existence in August 2022 following the death of co-founder Mohammed al-Azizi a month earlier. Azizi reportedly also served as an operative in Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

Its members, estimated at around 10-50 gunmen as of March 2023, moreover include Palestinians affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Within months of its founding, the Lions’ Den gained notoriety as it launched a wave of attacks against both Israeli soldiers and civilians, including a shooting in October 2022 in which IDF Staff Sergeant Ido Baruch was murdered.

According to Israeli intelligence assessments, Iran-backed Hamas initially provided the Lions’ Den with weapons and ammunition worth $1 million. In a voice note released in August 2022, founding member Ibrahim al-Nabulsi thanked Hamas for its support.

The Lions’ Den became popular among Palestinian youth due to its prominent presence on social media, including TikTok and Telegram. In February 2023, thousands of Palestinians joined a march in support of the Lions’ Den, with polls indicating that over 70% of the public backs the group.

While the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) claims it asked the Lions’ Den to lay down its weapons in return for immunity from prosecution, the PA has taken little concrete action. In some cases, senior PA officials have even praised the terrorist organization, necessitating Israeli raids on Nablus.
Palestinians pave new road over archaeological site in northern West Bank
The Palestinian Authority has paved a new road through an archaeological site in Sebastia in the northern West Bank, right-wing activists warned on Tuesday.

The Sebastia Municipality posted a video on Monday night showing the works on the road stating that it leads from the northern area of Sebastia to the entrance of an ancient Roman horse racing stadium. The municipality noted that work on the road is continuing.

Sebastia has been a site of constant arguments and clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, with right-wing activists warning for years of damage being done to archaeological sites and Palestinians opposing the entry of Israelis into the site.

A photo posted by the municipality over the weekend showed Palestinian flags put up at an archaeological site in Sebastia with the caption "they are staying here."

Sebastia: A site of constant arguments, clashes between Israelis and Palestinians
The "Protecting Eternity" organization, along with patrollers from the lands department of the Samaria Regional Council and Kedumim found heavy construction equipment working to pave a road on a route through an archaeological site in Areas B and C. Area B is administered by both the PA and Israel, while Area C is administered by Israel. Area A is exclusively administered by the PA.

During the works on the road, a wall from the Herodian era was destroyed and burial caves from the Second Temple period were broken into and looted, according to the organization. The organization claimed that Palestinian activists threw pig carcasses into the ancient graves. (h/t jzaik)
The Future Direction of Palestinian Politics
Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, said in an interview that there's no doubt that the Palestinians are unhappy with their own leadership and their own political system. There is a perception that the Palestinian Authority leadership is more interested in maintaining the status quo, maintaining its position in power, and putting its own self-interest and survival ahead of the interests of the Palestinian people.

The current leadership has been in place since 2009 without electoral legitimacy, and the absence of elections is one reason why there is a lot of discontent. There is also a perception that there is a great deal of corruption within the PA, which is becoming a one-man show. It is highly authoritarian, there is no separation of powers anymore, the judiciary has been undermined considerably, and there is no legislature and no accountability or oversight in the political system.

There isn't going to be an intifada as long as the Palestinian Authority is strong enough to be able to deliver basic services and to deploy its security forces in most of the West Bank. The leadership can decide that it will fight against a third intifada or that it will allow a third intifada to take place. In 2000, Arafat decided to allow an intifada to take place. Today, there is not a leadership that will allow this process to unfold without putting brakes on it.
UAE to donate $3 million to rehabilitate Palestinian town ravaged by settlers
United Arab Emirates AE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered that $3 million be given to rehabilitate the West Bank Palestinian town of Huwara, where Israeli settlers rampaged last month in revenge for a deadly terror attack.

The money will be used to repair damaged buildings and help those whose property was ruined, UAE state media reported Thursday.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Municipalities and Transport will work with the Emirati-Palestinian Friendship Club to implement the project.

The London-based The National reported that the department held a meeting to discuss the funds with a Palestinian delegation that include the mayor of Huwara. It did not say when the meeting was held.

Hours after two Israeli brothers were gunned down by a Palestinian terrorist while driving through Huwara, south of Nablus, on February 26, hundreds of settlers went on a destructive rampage through the town, burning homes, cars, and storefronts, and assaulting Palestinians, leading to scores of injuries and the death of a Palestinian man in unclear circumstances. Palestinians say he was shot.
MEMRI: Hamas Daily: An Outsider Cannot Understand The Intensity Of A Palestinian's Joy At News Of A Terror Attack Against Israelis
On March 12, 2023, the Felesteen daily, identified with Hamas, describes the rising joy and adrenalin that erupt in the Palestinian street following every terror attack against Israelis, such as suicide attacks and bombings of buses and cafes.

This joy has a "special fragrance" as people gather in public squares and streets, passing out sweets, and embracing, along with cries of praise for Allah from mosques.

There is tremendous happiness among the Palestinians when they hear news of terrorist attacks by West Bank Palestinians, who "add their unique fingerprint to the shooting operations in the streets of the tranquil [Israeli] cities," and who, with their deeds, are reviving the glory of the days of the Second Intifada.

PreOccupiedTerritory: IDF To Lower Security Barrier Amid Palestinian Reliance On Child Soldiers (satire)
Israeli security officials disclosed today that they are considering modifications to the robust defense mechanisms against terrorism to account for the increased use of minors by terrorist groups, including measures such as a shorter Separation Wall, earlier bedtimes for juvenile Palestinian detainees, and changing the WiFi password.

A Ministry of Defense spokesman told journalists today that the growing exploitation of children by Palestinian terrorist organizations to attack Israeli soldiers and citizens – both to indoctrinate the next generation in to violence resistance and to benefit either from IDF hesitation to shoot minors or from the international opprobrium Israel faces if it neutralizes those minors – has prompted the ministry and military officers to mull adjustments to their deterrence systems. The spokesman gave several examples, chief among them a Separation Barrier that needs not reach as high as the current one, given the shorter stature of those attackers than the average Palestinian terrorist.

“We’re weighing a number of possibilities,” stated Deputy Undersecretary for Planning Khakhmei Khelm. “Some of them require significant expense, such as smaller bullets, or extensive modifications to existing systems, such as Nerf mines. But we must adapt to the changing face of the threat.”
Egypt’s Looming Economic Crisis, and Why It Should Worry Israel
During the past few months, the value of the Egyptian pound has plummeted, while Cairo struggles to impose austerity measures to prevent a fiscal catastrophe. Eran Lerman argues that further economic deterioration in the most populous Arab country could threaten the Jewish state:

[T]he continued stability of the political order in Egypt is among Israel’s most important national interests, if only because the alternative—the collapse of governance in a nation of 105 million on our border and possibly a full or partial takeover by radical totalitarian Islamists in the Sinai Peninsula and/or Egypt—would itself constitute a grave danger to Israel’s national security.

Moreover, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime—despite points of friction from time to time—has positioned itself as a constructive actor when it comes to Arab-Israeli normalization, joining the Negev Forum (alongside the U.S., Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco) and serving through its intelligence service as an effective go-between with Hamas on a range of issues, including the fate of Israelis and bodies held in Gaza. Egypt played a role in the Aqaba emergency meeting [last month to help reduce terrorism from the West Bank], and will host the next round.

While it is true that Cairo’s position on the Palestinian question remains unchanged, and its posture toward Israel in UN institutions remains quite hostile, cooperation in other aspects of the relationship, including the war on terror in Sinai, is closer than ever. The regime now claims to have achieved a decisive outcome in the struggle against the “Sinai Province” of Islamic State—to some extent, as it is willing to admit in private, with Israel’s help.

As Lerman goes on to explain, Jerusalem can assist Cairo in finding a way out of its current predicament. And, although the causes of Egypt’s economic woes are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon, there are a few reasons for hope.
Libyan military says it recovered 2.5 tons of uranium that IAEA reported missing
Some 2.5 tons of natural uranium reported missing by the UN’s nuclear watchdog in war-scarred Libya have been found, a general in the country’s east said Thursday.

General Khaled al-Mahjoub, commander of eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar’s communications division, said the containers of uranium had been recovered “barely five kilometres (three miles)” from where they had been stored in southern Libya, and after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported their disappearance earlier Thursday.

Natural uranium can’t immediately be used for energy production or bomb fuel, as the enrichment process typically requires the metal to be converted into a gas, then later spun in centrifuges to reach the levels needed.

However, each ton of natural uranium — if obtained by a group with the technological means and resources — can be refined to 5.6 kilograms (12 pounds) of weapons-grade material over time, experts say. That makes finding the missing metal important for nonproliferation experts.

In a statement, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said its director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, informed member states Wednesday about the missing uranium.

The IAEA statement remained tightlipped though on much of the details.

On Tuesday, “agency safeguards inspectors found that 10 drums containing approximately 2.5 tons of natural uranium in the form of uranium ore concentrate were not present as previously declared at a location in the state of Libya,” the IAEA said. “Further activities will be conducted by the agency to clarify the circumstances of the removal of the nuclear material and its current location.”
Lebanon State Security Seizes Israeli-Made SodaStream Machines
A Lebanon State Security patrol seized nine machines made in Israel used to manufacture sparkling water at a commercial center in Dahr el-Ain on Monday.

Investigations are underway as the authorities prepare to take the necessary legal action against those responsible.

China, Russia, and Iran Form a New Axis of Tyranny
In 1996, representatives of Russia, China, and three former Soviet republics gathered to sign a treaty in Shanghai, laying the groundwork for an alliance between these two nuclear powers—one that Xi Jinping affirmed last year when he declared that there would be “no limits to Sino-Russian cooperation.” Together with Iran, these countries constitute what Clifford May and Waller Newell call an “axis of tyrannies,” the primary goal of which is to reduce the influence of the U.S. They write:

For Vladimir Putin, the goal is the “new world” of a Eurasianist empire; for Xi Jinping, the ceaseless extension of his totalitarian “social-credit” blueprint and the replacement of the American-led liberal international order with one that is illiberal and whose rules are made in Beijing; for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the restoration of a powerful new Islamic empire.

While differing in important ways, these tyrants all subscribe to an authoritarian and collectivist vision of society. All are irrevocably hostile to America and, beyond that, to Enlightenment values of individual rights and democratic governance.

One encouraging note: all three axis regimes are enduring difficulties, none more serious than in Iran, where the Khamenei dictatorship has been beset not just by an unprecedented demand for rights—women’s rights in particular—but by opposition to clerical rule. Nevertheless, his regime continues to threaten his neighbors. He provides funds and arms to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and of course, Hizballah, through which he dominates Lebanon, which is now—not merely coincidentally—a failing state. Most strikingly, his regime has begun supplying Mr. Putin with weapons for use in his war to conquer Ukraine.

The axis of tyrannies will no doubt draw lessons from what Mr. Putin does or does not achieve [in this war]. Its leaders will make decisions based on whether the [America and its] allies are steadfast in their support of Ukraine over time or confirm the prediction of the 9/11 mastermind (and tyrant) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to his CIA interrogator: “We will win because . . . we do not need to defeat you militarily; we only need to fight long enough for you to defeat yourself by quitting.”
Aaron David Miller: Takeaways from the China-Brokered Saudi-Iran Deal
Anyone who believes that we're on the cusp of a golden era between Tehran and Riyadh should lie down and wait until the feeling passes. Decades of Saudi-Iranian tensions and bitter rivalries between Persian Shiites and Arab Sunnis will not be easily healed. The fundamental dynamics of that rivalry haven't changed. It strains credulity to believe that conflict reduction can be achieved over such a broad region with so many moving parts by this latest agreement alone. And, of course, there's the unresolved matter of Iran's nuclear program, which might lead to a Saudi effort to acquire a bomb of its own.

The Saudis have informed Washington that the main result of the accord is that Iran has agreed to stop attacking Saudi interests and supporting anti-Saudi proxies - a glorified cease-fire.

The argument that this is a major defeat for the U.S. is overblown. If the Saudi-Iran deal actually defuses tensions and opens up a pathway to end Yemen's nightmare, that would be a welcome development. Talk of a U.S. withdrawal from the region is silly. Washington retains critical economic, security, and political ties with the region's key players. And neither China nor Russia can yet replace Washington as a key security partner for both Israel and Arab countries alike.
Seth Frantzman: Iran’s messaging on Saudi deal is anti-Israel strategy game
Iranian pro-government media messaging in the wake of the Iran-Saudi deal has portrayed the deal as a major setback for the US and Israel. This is interesting because the pro-regime analysis at news organizations such as Tasnim News in Iran appears to dovetail with some commentators in the West who also see the deal as a blow to the two Western allies.

It is clear that Iranian pro-regime media is not coming to this conclusion in agreement with those in the West who are pro-Israel and critics of Iran but worried about the deal’s ramifications.

Instead, Iranian media, with support from the regime and the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), is messaging about this deal in such a way as to portray it as some kind of real-world chess game.

The concept of three-dimensional chess is one in which something is overly complicated and not played out in a linear or two-dimensional landscape. Iran’s regime doesn’t want to send the message that the deal with Saudi Arabia was simply due to necessity and pragmatism and that Iran is now pro-Saudi. Instead, it wants to message that it is doing more than just normalizing ties with Riyadh, pretending that it has done so to undermine the US and Israel.

According to the Tasnim International News Agency report, “the developments in the region in the recent stage have moved in different directions, which shows that the period of maneuvers and benefits of the US and the Zionist regime – from the tension in the relations of the countries of the region to stabilize the existence of Israel and create a Zionist-Arab coalition against Iran and the axis of resistance – is over.” This convoluted statement means that the new Saudi-Iran deal is part of a larger process by which Tehran and its “resistance” allies in the region are reversing several years of Israeli success that came about via the Abraham Accords.
Iran to stop weapons shipment to Houthis in Yemen - WSJ
Iran has stopped its weapons shipments to its Houthi allies in Yemen as part of the China-brokered deal to re-establish diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing US and Saudi Arabian officials.

By ending the weapons sales and shipments, it could "put pressure on the militant group to reach a deal to end the conflict," the WSJ said.

Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015 to prevent the Houthis from taking over a swath of the country. Since then, Iran has supplied the Houthis with missile and drone technology used to target Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this week, the special UN envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, flew to Tehran to discuss their role in ending the conflict. The special US envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking met with Saudi officials in Riyadh to also make an attempt to bring back peace talks.

The officials said that the top priority is to extend the cease-fire in Yemen that has been going on for almost a year. The truce initially expired in October but the rival side has continued to honor the terms.
MEMRI: Former Saudi Ambassador: No Normalization Of Relations With Israel Before Establishment Of Palestine
Prince Turki Al-Faisal, formerly Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief and Ambassador to the United States, said in a March 14, 2023 on France 24 TV that Saudi Arabia's condition for normalizing relations with Israel would be compliance with the Arab Peace Initiative. He explained that this would include the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as the return of all Palestinian refugees. Regarding Saudi aid to Syria after the February 6, 2023 earthquake, Al-Faisal said that he does not believe that this would lead to normalization of relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia because the Syrian regime "must be held accountable for its actions against the Syrian people."

Time to "Snapback" Sanctions on Tehran, Experts Say
After the International Atomic Energy Agency discovered last month that Iran had enriched uranium to 84% purity, a level that has no conceivable civilian use, Michael Rubin, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told JNS, "Washington bureaucrats and pundits need to stop counting trees while being blind to the forest. Nor should they make ever-more irrational arguments as they become so invested in a bad nuclear deal that they end up acting as Iran's lawyer."

"Iran justifies its nuclear program in a desire for civilian energy generation. That requires enrichment to 5%. Anything more suggests Tehran has a weapons program. What is going on now is North Korea-like nuclear extortion."
Iran Cashed in During Biden's First Year in Office
President Joe Biden's lax sanctions enforcement during his first year in office allowed $23 billion to flow into Iran's coffers, even as the country armed the Taliban, attacked U.S. forces in the Middle East, and financed terror plots across five continents, according to a State Department report.

Iran’s illicit oil trade with China jumped from just $6.6 billion in 2020 to more than $23 billion in 2021, according to data from United Against a Nuclear Iran, when Biden took office and stopped enforcing sanctions on Iran’s oil trade with China. The decision to halt sanctions came as part of the administration's bid to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which has not been successful.

The State Department’s 2021 global terrorism report, the latest version publicly available, provides a clear account of Iran’s growing terrorism activities during the Biden administration’s first year in office. With more cash resources on hand, Iran supported terror plots across Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America, according to the report. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also provided support to eight U.S.-designated terror groups in 2021. Iran also provided "weapons and support" to the Taliban in 2021, the same year the Biden administration oversaw a bungled evacuation from the country that resulted in the terror group’s return to power.

Former U.S. officials and regional experts say the findings show the Biden administration’s early diplomacy with Iran helped fuel its support for terrorism.

"The State Department's latest admissions about Iran's terror activity make clear that Biden's negotiations with Tehran empowered the regime to supercharge their terror plots—with zero pushback or accountability," Gabriel Noronha, a senior Iran adviser at the State Department during the Trump administration, told the Free Beacon. "Worse, they looked the other way at Iranian attacks and sanctions evasion, allowing the regime to raise tens of billions of dollars to destabilize Iraq and conduct dozens of attacks against our servicemembers and citizens there."

How Iran’s Regime Is Threatened by Its Clerics
Although it has become commonplace to hear Western and Iranian feminists describe Iran’s Islamic society as misogynistic, that isn’t how the faithful, especially the regime’s supporters, view it. They see themselves as protecting women from the depredations of men. It’s been obviously hard for the regime to square the imperative to protect women, which is at the core of male Islamic culture, with the demand to beat and kill girls. Khamenei, who isn’t soft-hearted and has a proven fondness for men who excel at killing, has flinched in his rhetoric when it comes to describing young women as the “enemies of God,” which is the usual way the regime labels those who rebel. As they always do when demonstrations disquiet them, Khamenei and the guards have tried to cast the latest revolt as a Western and Zionist plot to undermine Islam and an uncompromising revolution. In their eyes, the tumult after Amini’s murder is a conflict between believers and nefarious agents of foreigners. This charge is also hard for Iranians to take seriously when young women and girls—some may well be the daughters and granddaughters of clerics and guardsmen—are on the front lines.

Given that female dissent in Iran is now present even among the poor and lower middle class, the pressure on the poorly educated foot soldiers of the regime must be intense. The Islamic Republic’s increasingly permanent state of instability is a minefield for those who must oppress dissenters who look and talk like them.

Khamenei likely knows he will have no surcease to this agitation before his death. He is 83 years old and not in the best of health. He sees his true enemy—Westernization—pretty clearly since he himself was once enraptured by European literature. He translated the works of Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian father of modern Islamic militancy, into Farsi because he, too, was appalled by, and perhaps guiltily attracted to, the Occident’s personal freedom. Khamenei knows that the West’s secret sauce is its capacity to encourage people to self-actuate.

Among women, even in the holy city of Qom, which has seen frequent demonstrations since September, Western views, values, and sentiments appear to have penetrated quite deeply. It’s a perverse paradox for the theocracy: The Islamic revolution’s success has produced a secularizing nemesis. For the moment, on the streets, the regime appears to have the upper hand. Though strained, the security services have held.

But all revolutions have their ebbs and flows. Intense activity alternates with relative calm. Iran’s senior seminarians have extensive alms-collecting networks throughout the country. They have, in other words, informal intelligence services nationwide feeding information back to them. They are surely aware how deep the anger is now against the theocracy. They probably sense more tumult coming. Like the ruling elite, they don’t appear to have any clear idea of how to stop it. They obviously don’t want more violence. It’s a biting irony that their pacific intentions, that their commendable public airing of their concerns, may well make the Islamic Republic even more unstable.
Iran's Slow Boil
In response to nationwide demonstrations that erupted in September, widespread arrests, which often include torture, have been constant, with the Iranian regime deploying high-tech and more old-fashioned methods of coercion to collect information on those protesting. Violence against the regime's security forces appears to be petering out, at least in the big, majority-Persian cities. Tactically, the regime has, at least temporarily, given up on forcing women to wear the hijab, hoping to take some wind out of what is clearly a revolutionary movement.

It's crystal clear, however, to many in the Iranian religious and political elite that for Iranians under 40 (60% of the population), there is zero chance that they will re-embrace the Islamic Republic. Even for those older, it's doubtful they have much affection for the theocracy left, especially given its conduct towards their children and grandchildren.
Manchester cleric led ‘death to Israel’ event in Iran regime
One of the trustees of Manchester’s Islamic Cultural Centre is facing questions about his links to Tehran after he praised terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani at a regime event in Iran where the audience chanted “death to England” and “death to Israel”.

The preacher, Farrokh Sekaleshfar — who called for homosexuals to be put to death while preaching in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, shortly before a terrorist murdered 49 people at a nearby gay nightclub — is a trustee of a Manchester charity, based on an industrial estate in Carrington, south west of the city centre.

Now the JC can reveal that in 2020, the Manchester-born Shia cleric was a keynote speaker at a memorial organised by the Iranian regime in Qom, Iran’s holiest city, for terror chief Qasem Soleimani after he was killed in a US drone strike. Soleimani was the so-called “shadow commander” of the brutal Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Sekaleshfar is also listed as a speaker at the Islamic Centre of England (ICE), which has been named as the “London office” of the IRGC and is under investigation by the Charity Commission.

The revelations come after Manchester Labour MP Jeff Smith called on the government to launch an investigation into links between the Iranian regime and Islamic cultural centres in the city and across the UK.
SA’s warm relationship with Iran ‘perplexing’, says activist
Visiting American Israeli journalist and social media influencer, Emily Schrader, has spent the past six months bringing the world’s attention to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s persecution of its own civilians. Somehow, she hopes to share what she knows with the South African government.

“South Africa is being used as a pawn” by the Iranian government, she said. “The Islamic Republic’s values are completely antithetical to the values that South Africa purportedly has. South Africa is a constitutional democracy, Iran is an autocratic theocracy.”

Schrader has been involved in organising peaceful demonstrations, solidarity rallies, and has taken part in several social initiatives to gain support for every day Iranians seeking greater freedom.

She has garnered thousands of signatures in a petition to Twitter Chief Executive Elon Musk calling on him to ban the Ayatollah Khamenei from the social media platform.

“The more I see what goes on in repressive regimes, the more I find myself unable to be silent,” Schrader, 31, told the SA Jewish Report. She has a following across social media of more than 180 000, including 70 000 in Iran.

“Iranians were never enemies of Israel, they were allies before the Islamic Revolution,” Schrader said.

“Someone with no filter must stand up for women in Iran because so many people cannot,” she said.

The Tel Aviv-based human rights activist engaged legislators, civil society, non-profit organisations, and students on campuses during her visit to South Africa this week.

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