07/13 Links Pt1: Kontorovich: The U.S. Must Stop Funding UN Agencies That Admit the Palestinian Authority; Amari: The Iranian Terror State Targets Europe; Syrian civilians appeal to Israel calling for intervention
JPost Editorial: Northern exposure In the last six months, the threats have grown. An Iranian drone flew into Israel near Beit Shean in February. A salvo of twenty rockets was fired at the Golan in May. Each action has led to a reaction by Israel, usually punishing Iran and the Syrian regime. But the attacks have not deterred the regime or Tehran. Tehran knows that it can continue to threaten Israel in a variety of ways. Israel has sought to warn Damascus via Moscow to stop the Iranian threat. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly stressed that Iran must leave Syria. Assad responds that there are no Iranian forces in Syria. Beneath the war of words the airstrikes and Iranian presence continue. In retaliation for the drone incursion, the IDF struck three targets in Syria. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has warned that Syria must refrain from any actions that violate the border area. “I made it clear here, both to the commanders and to the representatives of the UN Disengagement Observer Force that any Syrian entering into the buffer zone, every Syrian soldier in the buffer zone, would endanger his soul.” A new report at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argues that “Israel now seeks to ensure this does not develop into a pattern, where Iran is allowed to test Israel and simply absorb limited retribution.” On the heels of Netanyahu’s trip to Moscow and US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week, the message must be clear: Iran must leave Syria. The regime and Moscow must take this seriously and not continue the rhetorical charade of claiming there are no Iranian forces in Syria or that they are not “foreign” or that they consist merely of militias or advisors. The Golan border must not become another Gaza, it must remain quiet or Assad will pay the price for allowing threats to fester. Eugene Kontorovich: The U.S. Must Stop Funding UN Agencies That Admit the Palestinian Authority In 1990 and 1994, Congress enacted laws requiring the government to cease funding any “specialized agencies” or “affiliated organization[s]” of the United Nations that grant full membership to the Palestinian Authority (PA). These laws have become relevant since Mahmoud Abbas began a campaign to join international institutions as a stepping stone to a unilateral declaration of statehood and a tool for lawfare against Israel. Since 2016, the PA joined four such groups, which nonetheless continue to receive funds from the U.S. Eugene Kontorovich argues that these organizations should be defunded, not only on strictly legal grounds but also as a matter of policy: PDF The acceptance of [the PA as a] member state turns these UN agencies into political tools for Palestinian unilateralism, rather than technical agencies dealing with specialized tasks. Moreover, as evidenced by the Palestinian membership in UNESCO, once it is a part of these agencies, the PA will hijack their agendas and divert them to anti-Israel policies and polemics… . [I]f the U.S. does not enforce non-waivable statutory measures triggered by PA action, it will lose its credibility as a potential broker of Middle East peace. Any peace plan will require U.S. assurances to Israel in the event the Palestinians take certain hostile measures. Implementing those assurances will always have a cost, a downside. If the U.S. will not abide by its own statutes when doing so might be uncomfortable, it can hardly be expected to do so with mere diplomatic assurances. [Furthermore], a failure to implement the funding restrictions will only encourage the PA to step up its “internationalization” campaign… . Finally, the UN agencies admitted the PA with full knowledge of the consequences. The UN itself has thus put the promotion of the PA’s agenda above the original goals of these agencies. If mandatory U.S. funding cuts would be destructive to the mission of these organizations, they would not have accepted PA membership. If cutting funding impedes the functioning of these organizations, the solution consistent with U.S. law is not to continue funding, but rather defunding [in order] to pressure the PA to quit the organizations it has already joined. Israel Transfers Aid to Syrians Displaced by Fighting The IDF on Tuesday transfered aid and care packages donated by Israeli residents of the Golan Heights to Syrians displaced by fighting on the other side of border, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced Wednesday. The transfer of the packages, which was done under Operation Good Neighbor, was carried out by the Bashan Division, which transferred them in two military operations to the other side of the fence for Syrians in camps in the northern and southern Syrian Golan Heights. The IDF has been providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Syrians on the Golan Heights – all while maintaining the principle of noninvolvement in the Syrian civil war – as part of Operation Good Neighbor launched in June 2016. Over the past week, hundreds of care packages were donated from communities in the Golan Regional Council. The aid included personal gift bags containing toys, crayons, games, candies and notes from Israeli children living on the Golan.“For six years, a cruel war that has claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people has been taking place in Syria, and the world remains quiet in the face of this horror. We, the residents of the Golan, look right over the fence and see the people fleeing from the killing fields together with their children, and clinging to the fence with Israel,” said Eli Malka, the head of the Golan Regional Council, who initiated the collection. An Israeli Aid Worker’s Clandestine Effort to Help Syrian Refugees Eventually, Lusky’s aid work brought her to Syria. “This was awkward, working in an enemy country so close to our border,” she said. “The government began shooting civilians. I wasn’t sure the civilians would not shoot Israeli aid workers, so we had to keep things discreet at first. We brought supplies in from two countries neighboring Syria”—Lusky will not reveal which ones (she was arrested in one of them)—“and it was very frightening for us volunteers.“ In all, IFA mobilized some twelve hundred Israeli men and women, divided into four specialties: medical, search-and-rescue, trauma and social workers, and logistics and food organizers. In the past seven years, IFA has donated more than a million dry meals (“usually, enough to feed a family for two weeks”), more than ten million dollars in medical equipment and drugs, fifteen tons of baby formula, and even organized training missions to local doctors who learned to make prosthetic limbs with donated 3-D printers. “We managed, in all, about twelve hundred tons of food, blankets, and shelters,” she said. There are some lines that she does not cross. IFA has never organized in mosques, which Lusky says “are usually controlled by Islamists.” The prejudices of traditional Muslim society in less-educated rural areas remain, for Lusky, a sore point. Her most urgent current project in the buffer zone is helping “raped women, divorced women, and widows who refused immediate remarriage,” who she believes would not be welcomed by Islamist aid societies working out of the mosques. Even more urgent is the fate of about fourteen hundred war orphans, some of whom are the children of rape. She is panicked about their fate and “hopes to persuade,” since she cannot demand, Israeli and American officials to facilitate their rescue. “We know where they are; I can show you the spreadsheets. They are under the protection of three commanders of the F.S.A.”—commanders whom Lusky supposes will be killed, or will flee to Jordan, as the Syrian government offensive intensifies. “When the commanders are gone, and supplies vanish, there is little prospect of the families adopting them—since adoption is uncommon, if not actually frowned upon, in the rural Sunni-Muslim families I’ve worked with—certainly not the rape babies, who will never find adoption in Syria.” If it were up to her, Lusky said, she would simply open the border and take in some of the quarter-of-a-million Syrian refugees. She does not expect the Netanyahu government to share such sentiments. “The greatest commandment is to save the orphan, and what are we doing?” She supposes that many Israeli families would adopt these children and says that she cannot remain silent if, by making a public appeal, there is a chance to save them. “All last week, the Israeli and American press was focussed on the rescue of those twelve young boys in the flooded caves of Thailand. Fine. Thank God they were saved,” she told me. “But this is a much bigger disaster, right in our back yard, and we act like these Syrian babies are a burden. A child is not a burden. A child is a blessing.” (h/t Zvi) Congress Demands State Department Release Secret Report Busting Myth of Palestinian Refugees Key lawmakers in Congress are increasing pressure on the Trump administration to release a long classified government report on Palestinian refugees that insiders have described as a potential game changer in how the United States views the refugee issue and allocates millions in taxpayer funding for a major United Nations agency, according to conversations with senior congressional officials working on the matter. The State Department has, since the Obama administration was in office, been hiding a key report believed to expose the number of Palestinian refugees as far smaller than the U.N. and other have claimed for decades. The public release of this information could alter how the United States provides funding for Palestinian refugees. The Washington Free Beacon first disclosed the existence of the refugee report in January, when the Trump administration decided to significantly cut funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, an organization long accused of harboring anti-Israel bias and of aiding Hamas terrorists in the Palestinian territories. Though the State Department is legally required to publish an unclassified version of the report, it has repeatedly ignored demands by Congress that the report be released. The State Department, when asked by the Free Beacon, could not provide any information or timeframe on the report’s possible release. Sohrab Amari: The Iranian Terror State Targets Europe In a rare lucid moment in January 2016, then-Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the Tehran regime would use some of the funds from the Iranian nuclear deal to fund terrorism.“I think that some of [the money] will end up in the hands of the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” he said in the interview with CNBC in Davos. “You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented.” It’s worth watching footage of the interview to observe Kerry’s nonchalance as if the possibility of transferring money to some of the world’s most lethal terrorist groups bothered him not in the least. Flash forward more than two years later, and Reuters reports: Germany’s federal prosecutor on Wednesday remanded in custody an Iranian diplomat suspected of having been involved in a plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France but said the suspect could still be extradited to Belgium. Mercifully, European security forces unraveled the plot before the attack took place. But imagine if they had failed. Imagine the blood spilled and body parts scattered outside a rubbled convention center in Paris; the smoke rising high above the densely populated urban core of the French capital. Now think back to Kerry’s arrogance and indifference to what it would mean for the U.S. and its allies to grease the wheels of Iran’s terror machine. Say what you will about President Trump’s penchant for hyperbole, but his characterization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action–“the worst deal ever”–was spot on. Germany’s Shameful Iran Policy Germany of all countries should appreciate the need—indeed, the obligation—of free societies to take a strong and consistent stand against a murderous and anti-Semitic regime. Yet Berlin, which has gone to great lengths to atone for its own crimes under such a regime, refuses to back the U.S. in confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran, which seeks to destroy Israel. Just this past weekend, for example, press reports revealed that Berlin is considering Tehran’s plan to use the European-Iranian trade bank in Hamburg to transfer 300 million euros in cash back to Iran to circumvent pending U.S. sanctions. Israeli and American officials are concerned that Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, will use the money to finance terrorist activities. (Of course the Iranian facilitating the transfer, Ali Tarzali, a senior official with Iran’s Central Bank, is subject to U.S. sanctions for supporting terrorist groups.) The Trump administration is working to stop Germany from allowing Tehran to withdraw the cash. Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, urged Berlin to intervene, only to be rebuffed by Johann Wadephul, deputy leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in parliament. Wadephul said the transaction “should not be blocked on political grounds if it passed legal muster,” according to Reuters, reflecting the sentiments of Merkel’s cabinet. The Iranian plan could be legal—that remains to be seen—but regardless, it would be shameful and dangerous of Germany to facilitate the transfer when it could block it. Berlin has made repeated efforts to continue providing Iran with sanctions relief, hindering U.S. efforts to push back on the Islamic Republic’s brutality and belligerence. German businesses rushed into Iran after the nuclear deal—officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA—was struck in 2015, with the German government eager to improve bilateral relations. After President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear accord in May, promising to re-impose sanctions on Iran lifted under the deal, Germany has worked furiously to preserve the agreement and continue business with the Islamic Republic. The German government last month created a special office—what the Economy Ministry calls an “Iran contact point”—to advise companies worried that their business dealings with Iran may trigger U.S. sanctions. The ministry stressed, as Merkel did this week, that Germany is committed to its sanctions relief for Iran. Merkel added that individual firms should decide on their own whether they want to invest in Iran, without indicating the slightest hint of a tougher posture toward Tehran. Hamas plans to launch exploding drones into Israel, IDF warns Hamas is planning to use exploding drones to step up its arson terrorism campaign, Israeli defense officials warned Thursday. Over the last three months, Gaza terrorists have launched hundreds of improvised incendiary devices across the border into Israel, setting more than 1,000 fires in border-area Israeli communities. According to intelligence gathered by the IDF and Israel Police, the terrorist group controlling the Gaza Strip plans to step up the arson campaign and launch drones rigged with explosives deeper into Israeli territory, targeting communities located farther from the border. Some defense officials expressed concern that explosive drones could potentially reach Judea and Samaria. The Palestinian kite terror campaign has laid waste to over 8,200 acres of forest and agricultural land on the Israeli side of the border, causing tens of millions of dollars in damage. Environmental experts say it will take at least 15 years to rehabilitate the vegetation and wildlife in the affected areas. According to experts, Hamas is now looking for a way to ratchet up the threat. Two soldiers injured in crash while battling fire near Gaza border Two soldiers were lightly injured in a car crash near the Gaza border Friday afternoon when a utility trailer connected to their vehicle overturned. The soldiers were taking part in efforts to put out a large fire caused by an incendiary kite at Kibbutz Or Haner. Firefighters said they managed to get the blaze under control, with the help of several teams and four firefighting planes. Officials said 15 separate fires had erupted in the Gaza periphery since the morning due to incendiary kites and balloons. All were brought under control. Some rioting was also reported along the border in the afternoon, with protesters burning tires and launching kites. Palestinians said several people were wounded by the Israeli military response. Israeli Ambassador Urges Top UN Environmental Advocate to Condemn Hamas Arson Attacks Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, on Thursday urged a top UN official known for her strong advocacy on environmental protection to condemn Hamas for its ongoing arson attacks against Israeli agricultural communities.“For over one hundred days, Hamas terrorists…have used arson kites and other aerial delivery means to set almost 700 fires that have torched thousands of acres, including over 1,500 acres of agricultural fields in Israel,” Danon wrote in a letter to the deputy secretary-general of the UN, Amina Mohammed. “This is a new face of terrorism directly targets the Israeli ecosystem and has caused over $2 million in damages.” Mohammad previously served as Nigeria’s minister of environment, where she worked on issues related to sustainable development.“As a country that proudly spearheads the advancement of agricultural technology at the United Nations and around the world through our bi-annual resolution on Agricultural Technology for Sustainable Development, it is infuriating to see the terrorists of Hamas do the opposite,” Danon wrote.“Hamas is attacking Israel’s southern source of livelihood and their acts of eco-terrorism have not only devastated land that provides food and livelihood to our civilians, but they have also caused irreparable damage to nature preserves and dozens of species of wildlife,” he continued. How to Report on the Next War in Gaza How to be better about reporting the next war in Gaza? Easy. Just follow these five commandments: Thou Shalt Not Share Memes: Or, at least, be very slow and judicious before you pass something along. That kindly and dedicated French doctor who the Palestinian Information Center’s Twitter feed tells you just arrived at Gaza to help the victims of Israeli aggression may turn out to be Katherine Heigl, posing on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. As we’ve seen all too clearly on too many occasions, our appetite for titillation is endless, and the truth is the price we pay for our amusement. So put that picture or that video or that quote aside for an hour or two, do some basic research to confirm its claims, and, even then, think thrice before hitting “publish.” Thou Shalt Take Everyone’s Word With a Grain of Salt: Especially when said word is coming from the side you support. There’s an old journalistic adage that informs you that if your mother tells you she loves you, you ought to check it out and make sure it’s true. And what’s true for your mother is true, too, to war in the Middle East. Before sharing official assessments, casualty numbers, or anything else of any real significance, see if the other side has a radically different claim. If so, try to find other sources that confirm or refute what you’ve learned. This is the basic work once reserved for reporters and now mandatory for us all. Thou Shalt Not Speak of a Cycle of Violence: There are many ways to be wrong about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the most popular and pervasive way is to conjure everyone’s favorite metaphor, the cycle of violence. According to this vacuous theory, the conflict continues because both sides are locked in a morbid dance, equally responsible and equally engaged. That, of course, is nonsense: When a terrorist organization attacks a neighboring nation’s sovereign border, for example, what you have is not a cycle but a pretty straight line of cause and effect. If you forget your emotional attachments and simply observe the facts, a more accurate—and utterly nonmetaphorical—story emerges. Thou Shalt Listen to People on the Ground: If we were blessed with seasoned reporters backed by resolute newsrooms and supported by robust budgets, following the latest developments would be simple. We’re not, for many, tragic reasons, which leaves us with the next best alternative: people on the ground. Twitter and Facebook have many flaws, but their one big advantage is that they allow us a window into people’s lives in real time. Choose wisely, then: Reject the haters, the howlers, and the hysterics, and focus on people who are both in a position to know what’s really going on and of a mindset to share their knowledge calmly and intelligently. If you’re only listening to points of view you already agree with, you’re doing it wrong. A good Twitter feed, like a good stock portfolio, is diversified: Listen to a few folks in the IDF, a few reporters in Gaza City, and a few other miscellaneous observers, and you’re likely to get a helpful picture of what’s going on. Thou Shalt Empathize: When the bullets start flying, people die. Some of them will be vile terrorists launching their attacks from a school, say, or a hospital, and it’s normal to feel nothing but relief at their demise. But many, many more will be innocent civilians or soldiers, medics, or journalists just doing their jobs. If you ignore all other commandments on this list, kindly heed this one: Mourn every innocent life lost, no matter on what side, and pray in whatever way you’d like for the killing to stop. The rest is commentary. Mordechai Kedar: The end of the democratic dream An Arab online newspaper asked its readers: “Do you believe equitable democracy can exist in Arab states?” An overwhelming said no. Most Western countries yearn for the day that democracy is established in the Arab and Islamic world. Democracy means freedom to vote, a legitimate regime, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, the rule of law, equality among citizens, free press and all the other wonderful characteristics that make it fullfilling and desirable to live in the West. To Western eyes, democracy is the only way to run an organized, sustainable and respectable state. When the “Arab Spring” broke out towards the end of 2010, many Western observers thought they saw the buds of democracy beginning to flower at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, soon to make the Middle Eastern deserts bloom, while butterflies born during the Tunisian youth march fluttered above the cruel political systems of the region’s countries. And when the Muslim Brotherhood began to rule Egypt in the middle of 2012, democratically, of course, the democracy seers called Turkey an Islamic democracy, not at all a bad thing. Eight years have passed since then and what has become clear is that ruling dictators were definitely deposed – either entirely or partially – in five Arab states (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria) but that what took their place can hardly be called democracy. Instead, there are a variety of dictatorships: ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Al Sisi in Egypt, terror in Libya, war in Lebanon and total destruction in Syria. Turkey, the mother of Islamic democracy, has become an Ottoman Erdogan-style Sultanate, a goal achieved, of course, by democratic means. The Arabs should be saying ‘thank G-d for Israel’ There was never any slavery or Apartheid in Israel. From day one we have given full rights and freedoms to all Arabs. There was never a law forbidding them from restaurants, universities, or sports teams. There are over 47,000 Arabs currently enrolled in universities in Israel. Israeli Arabs rank among the best actors, judges, even doctors in the Jewish State. Arab Labor, a show about Israeli Arabs, is one of the highest-ranking shows on Israeli TV enjoying cameos from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Jewish Agency Chair Yitzchak Herzog. Despite that, most Arab communities don’t fly the blue and white in their homes. They refuse to serve in the IDF. They call the day they received more rights and freedoms that Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East the nakba, or tragedy. I know what you are saying, what about the Palestinian Arabs? They didn’t want to live in Israel, so we took bits and pieces of our country and let them manage their own affairs in Areas A and B of Judea and Samaria. .It isn’t we who practice Apartheid, we let them in to work and earn for their families. Over 100,000 Palestinians married Israeli Arabs and gained Israeli citizenship. It is they who refuse to let us work in their territory or gain residence in their cities. No Palestinian Arab city has a welcome sign. Instead, there are huge menacing red warning signs put up by the IDF telling Israelis that they are forbidden to enter and doing so can come at the cost of their own life. They are right. It has. Even South Africa would never kill a black man for entering the wrong area. EU envoy denies using ‘derogatory language’ to describe Jewish state bill The European Union on Friday denied its ambassador to Israel used derogatory language to describe a controversial Knesset bill, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the envoy of meddling in Israel’s domestic affairs. On Thursday evening, a diplomatic spat was sparked between Jerusalem and Brussels over a report that EU Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret told Likud lawmakers the government-sponsored so-called Jewish state bill “reeks of racism” and could harm the country’s international standing. The envoy was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Friday morning as a result. But the EU insisted on Friday that no derogatory language had been used in the envoy’s discussions of the issue.“Across the world and as every diplomatic service, we engage with members from all parties in elected assemblies, including with MKs, to discuss a wide range of issues, including the legislative agenda,” a spokesperson for the EU’s mission in Tel Aviv told The Times of Israel on Friday. “We do sometimes share perceptions within the EU of policy and initiatives of our partner country. This is an important part of our diplomatic work.” IsraellyCool: Palestinian Information Center Still Failing at Propaganda The Palestinian Information Center never met a propaganda opportunity it didn’t like. The problem for them is they are so damn bad at it! They found this interview and thought they had found some gold. But all they really have for themselves here is some Golda. Their takeaway from this? I am actually happy they decided to post this great soundbite of Golda speaking about British Mandate Palestine and fact she was a Palestinian at the time – her point being “Palestinian” was the name for someone who lived in that area at the time, and not a designation for some clearly identifiable Arab nation as they have claimed in more recent times. Thank you Palestinian Information Center for what you do (as opposed to what you try to do). It truly is grist for my mill. Yisrael Medad: Al-Jazeera’s “Illegal Settlements” Poster Here is Al-Jazeera’s summing up poster on “Fifty Years of Illegal Settlements in Palestine”:How they push our population to 750,000 is difficult even for me to confirm but if they want us to be more, fine. It just proves, again, that the “demographic threat” all use as a scare tactic doesn’t exist. I do want to remind all, since UNSC 242 is right up at the top there, that it does not mention a “Palestinian people” it does not mention a “state of Palestine”. Not all territories needed to be evacuated. The only related problem needing a solution is “the refugee” one. And there were Jewish refugees, too. It’s approach that there is an “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” should have been applied to Jordan in 1949 (in addition to the many other cases and since it was/is not, it cannot be applied only to Israel). Swiss Ambassador Issues Lukewarm Apology to Hebron Jews After Activist Slaps Child Switzerland’s ambassador issued a half-hearted apology to the Jewish community of Hebron in Judea on Friday, two days after a Swiss man from a radical-left observer group slapped a 10-year-old Jewish boy from the city. Footage showed a member of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) attacking the boy, who had approached the group as it took a tour organized by the controversial Breaking the Silence organization, which is critical of the Israel Defense Forces. The man had entered the Jewish neighborhood of Tel Rumeida in contravention of TIPH’s mandate and sparked a confrontation with local residents when the assault occurred. In response, Jean-Daniel Ruch, the Swiss ambassador to Israel, said he had “no doubt” that the “settlers” had conducted “some provocation,” but that “it is expected from our TIPH members that they keep their nerves in any circumstance” and that “the concerned Swiss individual is leaving the country today.” TIPH, which maintains a presence in Hebron since 1997, says its mission is “to promote by their presence a feeling of security to the Palestinians of Hebron.” Though 80 percent of the city is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, local Jewish residents have decried the organization’s practice of roaming through Hebron and videotaping the movements of soldiers and residents, interfering in IDF security operations, and attempting to influence Israeli politics and policy. Kidnapped Israeli boy held in West Bank released after 3 days in captivity A seven-year-old Arab Israeli boy who was kidnapped earlier this week and held in the West Bank was freed Friday and released to police custody. Israel Police said contacts working on its behalf had located the captors of Karim Jumhour, who was taken Tuesday from outside his home in the central city of Qalansawe, and took custody of the child before turning him over to police. Police said Jumhour had been given a medical examination and that his family was brought to take him home. Hebrew media reports said the boy was released with the help of the Jarushi family from Ramle in central Israel. Video showed family members celebrating in Qalansawe as they waited for Karim to return home. Police credited their investigation and the arrest of “all interested parties” for creating a”situation in which the child became a burden to those holding him on behalf of the criminals.”“The Israel Police will bring to justice all those involved in the kidnapping,” police said. Supreme Court grants reprieve to illegal Bedouin town near J’lem The planned demolition of an illegal Bedouin encampment built on Israeli land east of Jerusalem has been postponed for one month, after the Supreme Court of Israel ruled in favor of squatters living in the unauthorized community. Khan al-Ahmar, built in the 1990s on land belonging to the Israeli town of Kfar Adumim east of Jerusalem, is home to some 170 Bedouin, who have expanded the encampment in recent years with the aid of foreign governments. While Israeli courts, including the Supreme Court, have found the unauthorized encampment to be illegal, and approved its demolition, the United Nations and European Union have condemned plans to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar, and called on Israel to legalize the settlement. Last week, Israeli security forces began preparations to evacuate Khan al-Ahmar, and declared the area a closed military zone. But the demolition was halted last Thursday, when the Supreme Court accepted an appeal filed by eastern Jerusalem attorney Ala Mahajana on behalf of Khan al-Ahmar’s residents. The temporary injunction barred the state from demolishing the town for one week. Fatah: Trump encouraging ‘occupation’ The Fatah Revolutionary Council, headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, on Thursday stressed its opposition to “the plans of the occupation to isolate the city of Jerusalem from its surroundings and the right of our people to fight these plans.” The Revolutionary Council, which met near the illegal Bedouin encampment Khan al-Ahmar, issued a statement claiming that the intention to demolish the Bedouin community is part of Israel’s policy of “ethnic cleansing” and “forced expulsion” as well as an attempt to bury the two-state solution.“The acts of the occupation continue with the encouragement of President Trump’s administration, which denies international legitimacy and renounces its commitments to a just and comprehensive solution to the conflict and tries to impose the ‘Deal of the Century,’” the Fatah statement said. The Revolutionary Council noted that Israel’s policy should lead to the implementation of the decisions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian National Council regarding the reexamination of relations between the Palestinians and Israel as the “occupying power.” Hamas leaders in Cairo for talks on Gaza crisis, ‘reconciliation’ Egypt has invited senior Hamas officials to Cairo for talks on the continued tensions along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel and ways of ending the dispute between the Islamist movement and the ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank. On the eve of the visit, Hamas leaders said they were not prepared to “pay any political price” in return for economic and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip. The visit comes amid increased tensions between Fatah and Hamas, with representatives of the rival parties holding each other responsible for thwarting efforts to achieve “national reconciliation.” On Tuesday, Hamas said that some of its supporters were beaten by Fatah activists at An-Najah University in Nablus. Hamas also accused the PA security forces of continuing its campaign of arrests and harassment against its supporters and members in the West Bank. The Hamas delegation to Cairo, which is headed by Saleh Arouri, consists of Musa Abu Marzouk, Khalil al-Haya, Husam Badran, Ezat al-Risheq, and Rouhi Mushtaha. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said the discussions in Cairo are focusing on bilateral relations and the latest developments in the Palestinian and Arab arenas. He reiterated Hamas’s keenness to end the dispute with Fatah, saying the best way to achieve this was by lifting the sanctions that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas imposed on the Gaza Strip about one year ago. Meet the 75-year-old palestinian woman who only just passed her high school exams. But she gets an A+ in blaming Israel! We are supposed to believe she never passed the exams before because she kept getting arrested right as she took them. She must think we are as dumb as she is (causing her to fail the exams for the past god-knows-how-many years and say really stupid things like “Culture is the core of resistance”). By the way, if she had been arrested this many times, rest assured it was not because she was taking high school exams. Or playing bingo. Update: Gary makes a great point in the comments: If she’s 75, then that means she was born in 1943 or the back half of 1942. So her high school graduation should have been around 1961, years before the ‘occupation’ of Hebron. If she was ‘arrested’ then, it would have been by the Jordanians. Iranians protest water scarcity, one killed by police Iran’s state-run news agency said Thursday that police had killed a man while trying to disperse a protest over water scarcity. IRNA quoted Col. Mohammad Ebadi Nejad, a local police chief in southern Iran, as saying police fired shots in the air after ordering a crowd to disperse. He said the man was shot in the neck and taken to a hospital, where he died. IRNA said the clashes began after authorities removed illegal water pumps from a river. Protests have been held across southern Iran in recent weeks over water scarcity. Much of the country is suffering from drought, and in some areas tap water has turned muddy or salty. The water shortage has compounded Iran’s economic woes after the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord and vowed to instate severe economic sanctions. Last week, Iran’s head of Civil Defence Organisation Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali accused Israel of stealing their clouds. It turns out he also accused us of a snow job. (hat tip: Arsen) The threat of climate change and how it might negatively affect skiing is nothing new. But claims countries are stealing each others’ snow, causing slopes to be left bare, is something more out of the ordinary. Last week Iran’s head of Civil Defence Organisation claimed Israel had been stealing clouds and snow from his country. The accusations were made at an agricultural conference in the Iranian capital of Tehran by Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, who said: “Foreign interference is suspected to have played a role in climate change. Joint teams from Israel and one of the neighbouring countries make the clouds entering into Iran barren. Moreover, we are faced with the cases of cloud theft and snow theft.” Jalali later cited a recent survey finding that all mountainous areas higher than 2,190m stretching from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean Sea were covered in snow, except for Iran. This adverse weather was blamed on Iran’s nearby nations. Eli Lake: Trump Can’t Play Putin’s Game in Syria Secretary of State John Kerry spent his last year in office following Lavrov all over the world in an attempt to create a U.S.-Russian framework for resolving the Syrian civil war. He failed… . President Trump [now] wants to get to know Putin better—and gauge his willingness to help isolate Iran. This is a pointless and dangerous gambit. First, by announcing his intention to pull U.S. forces out of the country “very soon,” Trump has already given away much of his leverage within Syria. Ideally, Trump would want to establish a phased plan with Putin, where the U.S. would make some withdrawals following Iranian withdrawals from Syria. But Trump has already made it clear that prior [stated] U.S. objectives for Syria, such as the removal of the dictator Bashar al-Assad, are no longer U.S. objectives. The U.S. has also declined to make commitments to give money for Syrian reconstruction. Without any leverage, Trump will have to rely even more on Putin’s word, which is worthless. Putin to this day denies any Russian government role in interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Just last month, Putin went on Austrian television and lied about his government’s role in shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Why would anyone trust Putin to keep his word to help remove Iran and its proxies from Syria? And this gets to the most dangerous possible outcome of the upcoming summit. The one thing that Kerry never did was to attempt to trade concessions on Syria for concessions on Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. There was a good reason for this: even if one argues that the future of Ukraine is not a high priority for the U.S., it’s a disastrous precedent to allow one nation to change the boundaries of another through force, and particularly of one that signed an agreement with the U.S., UK, and Russia to preserve its territorial integrity in exchange for relinquishing its cold-war-era nuclear weapons. Top IDF Official: Due to Israeli Military Actions, Iran Is ‘Far Away’ From Where It Wants to Be in Syria Israeli military actions have taken a toll on Iran’s efforts to consolidate its presence in Syria, a high-ranking IDF official said on Wednesday, Voice of America Persian reported. Speaking at a Jewish Policy Center event in Washington, DC, Maj. Gen. Michael Edelstein — Israel’s defense and armed forces attaché to the US — explained, “If I would have to draw…a graph, and the Iranians would like to be here in July 2018,” Edelstein stated, as he raised his hand above his head. “They are far away from this, due to Israel’s campaign against Iranian activities in Lebanon, in Syria, and any other place that threatens us.” Israel launches Patriot missile at Syrian drone flying over demilitarized zone The Israel Defense Forces launched a Patriot missile at a Syrian drone that was flying inside the demilitarized zone between the two countries on Friday, in what the army said was a violation of a 1974 ceasefire agreement. This was the second case of Israeli air defenses firing at a Syrian drone in under a week. The military said the drone was shot down by the anti-aircraft Patriot missile, after initially saying it was not sure whether the aircraft went down.“With the completion of an investigation into the incident by the air force, it was determined that the Patriot battery intercepted the Syrian unmanned aerial vehicle that was operating in the buffer zone,” the Israeli Air Force said. Danon to UN: Condemn UAV incident Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, on Wednesday called on the Security Council to condemn the infiltration of Israeli airspace by an unmanned aerial vehicle launched from Syria.“Earlier today, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was launched from Syria into Israel, penetrating 9.6 kilometers into Israeli airspace and threatening the safety and security of Israel’s northern cities and towns. Thankfully, the Israel Defense Forces intercepted the UAV, preventing the possibility of a more serious security incident,” Danon wrote to the Council. He noted that Wednesday’s incident comes during a time of heightened tensions on Israel’s border with Syria.“We have repeatedly warned the Security Council of the destabilizing activities taking place in Syria and the threats they pose to Israel and the Middle East. Israel holds the Syrian government accountable for every attack originating from its territory. We will not tolerate breaches of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement and will continue to defend our citizens and our territory from any threat or violation of our sovereignty,” wrote the Israeli Ambassador.“I urge the Security Council to condemn this dangerous act that not only threatens Israel, but the stability of the entire region,” Danon concluded. Syrian government raises its flag over cradle of 2011 revolt For the first time in more than seven years, the Syrian government raised its flag Thursday over Daraa, the first city to revolt against President Bashar Assad in 2011 and plunge the country into a calamitous civil war. The display is laden with symbolism as the government moves to stamp out the last of the uprising against the 52-year-old. His father Hafez Assad was president for three decades before him. Officials accompanied by state media crews hoisted the two-star flag over the rubble of the city’s main square, allowing it to wave in sight of the shell of the Omari Mosque where protesters first gathered in demonstrations demanding reforms then Assad’s ouster in the spring of 2011. The mosque has since been destroyed in the government’s brutal crackdown against the city, which ranged from alleged torturing of dissidents to shelling the city with tanks and planes. Government forces backed by Russian airstrikes have recovered swathes of Deraa province in the last three weeks, advancing unopposed by Assad’s Western and regional foes into the strategically vital southwest region near Jordan and Israel that serves as an important corridor for trade between Syria and Jordan, and onward to the oil-rich Persian Gulf states. ‘Open the borders,’ Syrians appeal to Israel calling for intervention Citizens of Syria called on Israel to intervene after Basher Assad’s forces took control of Deraa, the birthplace of the rebellion against the Syrian president.“I wish the Israelis were here to protect these people, under the banner of the United Nations or the Israeli flag … I do not know how, but the politicians must solve this problem,” said a Syrian source to TPS news agency. The same source mentioned that the local councils of Deraa and Qantara on the Golan Heights called on Israel to open its borders to refugees or to enter Syria to protect the attacked Syrian people. Syrian citizens stand and protest near the border fence asking Israel to protect them or to allow an international force to intervene, according to the Syrian source.“We toured the border and saw the tents of the Syrian refugees. We are ready to grant any humanitarian assistance but we are not willing to accept any refugees in our territory,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman during a tour of the Golan Heights with senior IDF officers.