U.S. Exits, Israel ‘Lowers’ Participation In Human Rights Council

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Following US exit, Israel ‘lowers’ its participation in UN Human Rights Council

Israeli seat empty in plenary session Friday. Diplomats in Geneva say Jerusalem has reduced its ties with the controversial rights body since US quit on Tuesday

A picture taken on June 18, 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a general view during the opening of the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (AFP/Alain Grosclaude)

A picture taken on June 18, 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland, shows a general view during the opening of the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (AFP/Alain Grosclaude)

Diplomats say Israel has temporarily reduced its participation in the UN Human Rights Council, days after the United States pulled out.

The diplomats in Geneva, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said Israel had “lowered” its participation in the council’s ongoing activities.

Israel was not participating in the council plenary Friday, where its seat sat empty. The diplomats noted that the move was not definitive and could change from day-to-day.

Israeli diplomats have not participated in UNHRC events since a council discussion Thursday on discrimination against women, they said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applauded the US walkout announced Tuesday. The Trump administration insists the council is biased against Israel.

Since Israel is not a member of the 47-nation UNHRC, it cannot follow suit this time. But Israeli sources maintained Wednesday that it was possible and even likely that Netanyahu would soon announce that Israel was ceasing all contacts with the council.

The US name sign is photographed one day after the United States announced its withdrawal at the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council at the UN headquarters in Geneva on Wednesday. June 20, 2018. (Martial Trezzini/Keystone via AP)

Jerusalem welcomed the US decision to leave the council, with Netanyahu hailing it as “courageous” and calling the council a “biased, hostile, anti-Israel organization that has betrayed its mission of protecting human rights.”

Options for measures Israel can take against the council are limited, but in the past it has found ways to express its displeasure with the Geneva-based body.

In 2012 Israel announced it was cutting all ties with the UNHRC after member states voted for the establishment of a fact-finding mission into Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank. It restored contact less than a year later.

Last month the council voted for a probe into Israel’s recent military actions to fend off protests at the Gaza border, which was vehemently denounced by Israeli politicians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 17, 2018. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool/Flash90)

Just two months ago Aviva Raz Shechter, Israel’s envoy to UN institutions in Geneva, assumed a position representing the Western States and Others Group at the so-called Consultative Group to the Council, a body nominating and appointing special mandate holders.

She is currently set to serve in that position until April 2019.

The US exit was the first time in the council’s history that a member state quit voluntarily. (Libya was kicked out seven years ago.) The US, whose term was to expire at the end of 2019, will now have to be replaced by another state from the West European and Others Group. Member states are elected by the UN General Assembly; it is currently unclear when and how a replacement for the US will be selected, or whether formally the US will remain an observer until December 31, 2019.

While many Israeli politicians have expressed satisfaction at the US withdrawal, Foreign Ministry officials told Channel 10 that America’s absence would make it much more difficult to block or influence anti-Israel initiatives at the council.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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Gaza tensions flare: IDF strikes 8 more Hamas targets as rockets barrage south

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Gaza tensions flare: IDF strikes 8 more Hamas targets as rockets barrage south

18 rockets fired from strip in a number of separate incidents; four intercepted by the Iron Dome while an unspecified number fall in Israeli territory

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Tensions flared on Israel’s border with Gaza early Wednesday morning as the IDF carried out a second round of overnight airstrikes on Hamas targets in response to a barrage of rockets fired from the Strip towards Israeli territory.

The IDF said fighter jets struck eight further “terror targets” on three separate Hamas military bases in the south of the Gaza Strip, in addition to several other sites that were targeted earlier in the night.

In total, 18 rockets were fired towards Israeli territory in a number of separate incidents, the army said. Of those, four rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system while an unspecified number fell in Israeli territory.

There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side of the border.

Earlier, Palestinians fired five rockets at southern Israel after Israeli aircraft hit  Hamas targets in the south of the coastal enclave in response to numerous arson attacks launched across the border by Palestinians, the military said.

The overnight incidents mirror several rounds of rocket fire and IDF strikes on Monday in which Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas positions in the southern Gaza Strip after a group of Palestinians launched incendiary balloons at southern Israel.

Following those strikes, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Israel would not allow Palestinian terror groups to continue launching incendiary devices into Israeli territory, the likes of which have caused hundreds of brush fires and burned thousands of acres of land in recent months.

“If anyone thinks it will be possible to continue with the daily kites and fires, they are wrong,” Liberman said during a tour of Israel Aerospace Industries, the country’s primary aerospace manufacturer.

An explosion is seen in Gaza City after an airstrike by Israel on June 18, 2018. (AFP / MAHMUD HAMS)

The Monday rockets were the first to be fired at Israel in over two weeks, breaking a tacit ceasefire that has largely held since a day-long flareup in late May.

Before the rocket attack, Israeli fighter jets carried out strikes on three military compounds and one weapons manufacturing plant in northern Gaza belonging to the Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The army said it hit a total of nine targets spread out between the three Hamas facilities, in response to flammable and explosive-laden kites and balloons launched from Gaza that have wreaked havoc in Israel over the past several weeks.

“The attack was carried out in response to the launching of incendiary and explosive kites and balloons at Israeli territory. This is terrorist activity that endangers the lives of southern residents and has damaged large amounts of land,” the military said.

The army warned that it had the “intelligence knowledge and operational capability” necessary to conduct further strikes in Gaza if the balloon and kite attacks did not stop.

A masked Palestinian man launches a balloon loaded with flammable materials toward Israel, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on June 17, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

The airstrikes on Hamas facilities appeared to be a new tactic by the military to deter Palestinians from flying the airborne arson devices into Israel, after its previous attempts to do so by firing warning shots at kite-flyers failed to yield results.

The Palestinian rocket fire appeared to come in response to the airstrikes.

The projectiles shot at Israel triggered sirens in the Hof Ashkelon region and the city of Ashkelon’s industrial area, sending thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters. The alarms were triggered in two waves, first at 4:40 a.m. and then again shortly after 5 a.m.

The Iron Dome missile defense system did not appear to have been activated, indicating the two incoming rockets that cleared the border struck open fields, where there was no risk to life and thus no need to intercept them.

Israel’s airstrikes in the Strip and the subsequent Palestinian rocket fire followed a day of airborne arson attacks by Gazans, who launched dozens of balloons laden with incendiary devices and explosives at southern Israel, sparking at least 20 fires, some of them large.

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Former Israeli minister Gonen Segev charged with spying for Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

((OPED) IF THESE CHARGES ARE PROVEN TO BE TRUE THE SPY SHOULD BE HUNG OUTSIDE OF JERUSALEM CITY HALL FOR ALL TO SEE)(OLDPOET56)

Former Israeli minister Gonen Segev charged with spying for Iran

Ex-politician, previously jailed for drug smuggling, arrested in Guinea and extradited to Israel last month, accused of giving Tehran sensitive information about security, energy

Then-MK Gonen Segev seen outside the Knesset on March 15, 1993. (Flash90)

Then-MK Gonen Segev seen outside the Knesset on March 15, 1993. (Flash90)

Former minister Gonen Segev was charged last week with spying for Iran, giving Israel’s arch-foe sensitive information about locations of security centers and the country’s energy industry, the Shin Bet security service said Monday.

He was allegedly an active agent at the time of his arrest, and had twice been to Iran to meet his handlers.

Segev, a disgraced politician who served time in jail for drug smuggling, was extradited to Israel from Equatorial Guinea and charged with spying for Iran last month.

According to the Shin Bet, Segev, whose former ministerial responsibilities included energy and infrastructure, has knowingly been in contact with Iranian intelligence officials since 2012, making first contact with them at Iran’s embassy in Nigeria.

“Segev gave his operators information about [Israel’s] energy sector, about security locations in Israel, and about buildings and officials in diplomatic and security bodies, and more,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

“Segev even visited Iran twice to meet with his handlers in full knowledge that they were Iranian intelligence operatives,” the security service said.

The Shin Bet said Segev met with his Iranian handlers in hotels and safe houses around the world and used a special encrypted device to send them messages in secret.

He was accused of making contact with Israeli figures in security, defense and diplomacy order to mine them for information to send to Iran. According to the Shin Bet, he tried to make direct connections between his Israeli contacts and Iranian handlers, presenting the spies as businesspeople.

Former energy minister Gonen Segev seen at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem during an appeal hearing on August 18, 2006. (Flash90)

In mid-May, Segev traveled from Nigeria to Equatorial Guinea where he was arrested by local police and sent back to Israel, the intelligence agency said.

On Friday, he was indicted in a Jerusalem court on charges of assisting the enemy in wartime and a number of other related crimes, but the case remained under a gag order until Monday. Some details of the case remain sealed.

Segev’s lawyers said in a statement to the press that the full charge sheet painted a “different picture” from that which can be seen from only the parts cleared for publication.

Segev is reportedly being held in a Shin Bet facility.

As somebody who sat in government meetings and headed ministries dealing with energy and national infrastructure, Segev would have had access to sensitive material during his time as a politician. Given that material relating to the case was not released in full, it was not clear what damage he may have caused to Israeli security.

The former politician had been living abroad since his release from prison after he was found guilty of drug smuggling in 2006.

Hadashot TV reported that he initiated the contact with Iran, “knocking on the door” of the Iranian embassy in Nigeria “to offer his services.”

A car drives past the Iranian Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. (AP Photo)

Segev was born in Israel in 1956. He was a captain in the IDF and went on to study medicine at Ben Gurion University in the Negev and became a pediatrician.

He was elected to the Knesset in 1992, at the age of 35, as part of Raful Eitan’s now defunct Tzomet party.

He famously split from that party in 1994 and joined the short-lived Yiud faction along with two other Tzomet MKs. His vote was critical in passing the Oslo Accords in the Knesset.

In 1995-1996, Segev headed the Energy and Infrastructure Ministry (now known as the Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources), before quitting politics.

Gonen Segev (L) speaks with then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during a conference in Jerusalem. (Government Press Office)

Segev then became a businessman, and was arrested in 2004 for attempting to smuggle 32,000 ecstasy (MDMA) tablets from the Netherlands into Israel. He also illegally extended his diplomatic license and committed several offenses involving use of credit cards.

The former minister was convicted in 2005 of drug smuggling, forgery and fraud. He received a five-year prison sentence as well as a $27,500 fine. He was released from prison in 2007 after a third of his sentence was cut due to satisfactory behavior in jail.

However, Segev could not go back to working as a doctor since his medical license was stripped from him shortly before his release. Segev appealed this decision to the Jerusalem District Court, but was rejected.

Immediately following his release, Segev left the country and has since been working as a doctor and a businessman in Nigeria.

In 2016, the Israeli Health Ministry rejected a request from Segev to reinstate his medical license in order for him to return to the country.

His attorney argued at the time that there were ministers who had committed offenses and still returned to government positions. He cited the example of current Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who was previously jailed for bribery and yet returned to the very same ministerial position he held when he committed his crime.

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US envoy to reporters: ‘Keep your mouths shut’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(OPED: EVEN THOUGH I AGREE WITH THE U.S. ENVOY BELIEFS IN HIS BACKING OF ISRAEL IN THIS MATTER I STRONGLY DISAGREE WITH HIS “TRUMPIAN” B.S. THEOLOGY OF TELLING THE PRESS OR OTHER PEOPLE IN GENERAL TO “SHUT UP” AND TO NOT EXPRESS THEIR DIVERSE OPINIONS. YOU CAN’T HAVE A DEMOCRACY IF THE PEOPLE ARE OT ALLOWED TO HAVE BUT ONE OPINION.)(oldpoet56)

 

REPORTERS ‘CREATING IMPRESSIONS THAT HAVE NO BASIS IN FACT’

US envoy to reporters: ‘Keep your mouths shut’ on criticizing Israel over Gaza

David Friedman says the media should either figure out how anyone could have better dealt with the border protests or stop its negative coverage of the Jewish state

David Friedman speaking to the media in Jerusalem on June 4, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi)

David Friedman speaking to the media in Jerusalem on June 4, 2018. (Lior Mizrahi)

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman attacked the media on Monday over what he said was a failure to fairly cover deadly protests on the Gaza border over the past months, advising reporters to “keep your mouths shut” unless they know better than Israel how to deal with the demonstrations.

Some criticism of Israel may be legitimate, Friedman allowed, but said journalists should have worked harder to find alternatives to Israel’s use of lethal force, which has left scores of Palestinians dead, before accusing the state of wrongdoing.

“It would seem to me that in a journalistic environment where nine out of ten articles that are written about the Gaza conflict are critical of Israel, you’d think that some journalists would take the time and go and meet with experts and try to understand what could have been done differently or better before they criticize. And I just haven’t seen it,” Friedman said at a media conference in Jerusalem.

Friedman said he had spent a great deal of time speaking to military experts in the US, Israel and other countries about the proper rules of engagement — which he said reporters should have done — and had found that the criticism of Israel was for the most part unfounded.

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Saying that his criticism was mainly geared at US media, Friedman said reporters should “just keep your mouths shut until you figure it out. Because otherwise, all you’re doing is creating impressions that have no basis in fact. They fit a narrative. They fit an opinion. They fit an agenda. But it’s not reporting, because it’s not based on hard, factual analysis.”

Israel has defended its use of tear gas, as well as lethal force, as a means of defending the Gaza border during violent riots which have seen tens of thousands of people gather at the fence weekly, starting March 30. The protests peaked on May 14, coinciding with the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

Military officials said terrorists used the protests as cover to carry out attacks on troops or try to damage or infiltrate across the border. Dozens of the over 110 people killed were members of Hamas or other terror groups, according to Israel and Gazan sources.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on May 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Criticism of Israel renewed on Friday after a Gazan medic was shot and killed while apparently trying to help wounded protesters during a border demonstration. The IDF said it was investigating the case.

Friedman said experts had told him tear gas, water cannons and other nonlethal means of crowd dispersal would not have been effective during the weeks of riots and clashes, but did not provide more detail.

“If what happens isn’t right, what is right? What do you use instead of bullets?” he asked rhetorically.

The US envoy, who has been criticized for hawkish views closely mirroring those of Israel’s right-wing government, said the last several weeks had seen “lots and lots of criticism of Israel” in the media.

Israeli forces take position near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. (Thomas COEX/AFP)

“Some of it even may be legitimate. I think the State of Israel itself hasn’t concluded its own internal inquiries into what happened. Maybe there are things they could have done better. I am sure there’s always things you could do better,” he allowed, adding: “With all the criticism Israel’s gotten, nobody has identified the less lethal means by which Israel could have defended itself during the last four weeks. Nobody.”

Friedman said Israel had performed as best it could under what he described described as an unprecedented situation.

“Who did this better in some other circumstances? Where is the other case where 40,000 people rush the border under the cover of burning tires, with Molotov cocktails, pistols, kites painted with swastikas, starting fires everywhere — fires that are still burning today?” Friedman said.

“Where did that happen in some other place, where the people rushing the border were committed to killing the citizens on the other side, and somebody did it better? Where is the manual that says, when this happens, you do this, this and this, and you can avoid the loss of human life or bodily injury?”

Without this comparative analysis, “all the reporting is completely superficial,” Friedman said.

‘No democracy without free press’

During his speech, Friedman, a former bankruptcy lawyer, also had some good words for the media, hailing the First Amendment of the US Constitution and saying a free press was vital to a functioning democracy, even if it attacks positions he holds dear.

“We don’t have a democracy without a free press. It’s simply impossible to do that,” he said. “Criticism is fair game. It’s what I would expect and what I appreciate,” he added.

The comment seemed to contrast with some of those made by his boss, US President Donald Trump, who has recommended cracking down on media freedoms and dismissed critical reporting as “fake news.”

Having to grapple with the competing requirements of accuracy and speed was not a valid excuse for sloppy journalism, Friedman said Monday, speaking at the launch of the new Jerusalem office of The Media Line, an American news organization covering the Middle East. While everybody is entitled to their own opinion, not everybody is entitled to their own facts, he said.

“And the facts do matter. If you get the facts wrong, there ought to be some recognition and some accountability,” he said.

“And as long as there isn’t, I think people will continue to feel comfortable with getting it first and getting it wrong. Because if you’re getting it first and you’re getting it wrong, and there’s no price to pay, you’ll do it over and over again.”

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HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

(THIS ARTICLE SI COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

Relations between Israel and Iran are at breaking point. The multinational nuclear deal signed with Iran is on the verge of collapsing—partly thanks to Israeli lobbying against it. Iranian leaders have warned that if it fails, the country will resume its uranium enrichment program, a step Israel considers a threat to its very existence.

Meanwhile, multiple Israeli strikes have sought to dislodge Iranian forces from Syria, where Tehran enjoys increasing influence. Israeli leaders are fighting hard to stop Iranian soldiers deploying along its northern border.

Though it would appear that neither nation wants a full-scale war, the potential for miscalculation and escalation remains. Both nations have considerable military clout, and any prolonged confrontation between them would be bloody.

RTS1IFO9Israeli forces are seen near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria, on November 4, 2017. Israel is wary of Iran’s growing influence across its northern border.REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD

Iran is a much larger country with a far higher population than Israel, but numbers alone do not dictate military capability—combat technology and experience are vital factors too. Technological capability is even more important in an era where technology is changing the way war is waged, allowing nations to hit each other harder, from further away and with less human involvement.

A small nation with a population of just 8.5 million, Israel’s military punches significantly above its weight. Formed amid a war with seven Arab neighbors, the country’s short history is punctuated with conflicts fought for its survival. This tough history combines with a burgeoning technology sphere and close relations with powerful western nations to create one of the world’s most formidable fighting forces.

According to Global Firepower, Israel has approximately 170,000 active personnel with a further 445,000 in reserve. Conscription exists for all non-Arab citizens of Israel over the age of 18, giving the country a large and well-trained pool of fighters to call up in the event of war.

Though less sophisticated than Israel, the Iranian military is a force to be reckoned with. Its large population—around 82 million—enables Tehran to maintain a standing force of around 534,000 soldiers, with a further 400,000 in reserve, making it the largest force in the Middle East.

In a drawn-out engagement, national manpower becomes an important issue. Iranian available manpower is around 47 million compared with just 3 million for Israel. Of course, how important this is will depend on the nature of any war being fought.

RTXYQI5Members of Iranian armed forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013.REUTERS/HAMID FOROOTAN/ISNA/HANDOUT

In 2017, Israel spent $16.5 billion on its armed forces, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Iran was not far behind on $14.5 billion. Though this does not seem like a big gap, the fact that Israel is spending billions more than Iran on a smaller military indicates the gulf in the quality of equipment used.

Israel fields more tanks than Iran—2,760 compared to 1,650. Israel wins this matchup on quality as well as quantity, the latest version of its Merkava tank being one of the best and most heavily defended in the world. Iran is mostly using second-rate tanks, though it has announced the development of the new Karrar platform, which it claims will be able to compete with top-class opponents.

The Israeli air force is one of the best in the world, equipped and trained to the highest level. Its pilots are experienced too, having regularly conducted missions against targets in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Its 250 or so fighters include a handful of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, one of just four fifth-generation fighter planes in the world. Israel will eventually have 50 F-35s.

By contrast, Iran fields around 160 fighter jets, none of which are as advanced as the F-35. Furthermore, its pilots are less well-trained and experienced than their Israeli counterparts.

Neither nation is a significant maritime power. Iran has more than 30 submarines, five frigates, three corvettes and more than 200 patrol craft. Israel currently has five submarines, three corvettes, eight missile boats and 45 patrol boats. Considering the geography, the naval theater is unlikely to play any significant role in a potential conflict.

RTX2UPSIAn Israeli soldier sits inside a F-35 fighter jet after it landed at Nevatim air base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016.REUTERS/AMIR COHEN

In the event of an all-out war, Israel holds the nuclear trump card. Notoriously secretive about its nuclear arsenal, the country is believed to possess between 75 and 400 warheads. The weapons can be delivered using Israel’s Jericho ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles or even fighter planes.

Iran has no nuclear capability. Even if talks break down, it will take many years before Tehran joins the nuclear club. Iran is working hard to improve its ballistic missile arsenal, already one of the most potent in the region and well-able to hit Israel.

But Iran has other tricks up its sleeves. Financial and military support for anti-Israeli militant groups across the Middle East give it an unconventional way to hit its rival in the event of conflict. The Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah group, especially, is a worry for Israeli leaders. Hezbollah has a well-trained and well-equipped military, far more powerful than the Lebanese army and able to operate freely.

Hezbollah’s experience fighting alongside regime forces in Syria has given it vital combat exposure. The group maintains a huge rocket arsenal, and its weapons can hit anywhere in Israel. Iran also provides support to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups in Gaza, which maintain smaller, but still significant, rocket capabilities.

Iran’s Khamenei: Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’ that ‘must be eradicated’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Khamenei: Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’ that ‘must be eradicated’

Iran’s supreme leader says destruction of Jewish state is ‘possible and will happen,’ slams ‘traitorous countries’ for not defending Palestinians

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers' meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader's Website /HO)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers’ meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website /HO)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday lashed out at Israel, calling the Jewish state the “cancerous tumor” of the region that must be “removed and eradicated.”

In a series of tweets Sunday, Khamenei leveled harsh criticism at Israel for its handling of the violent Hamas-orchestrated “March of Return” protests along the Gaza border.

“Our stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken,” he said. “#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.”

For Iranians, Khamenei said the issue of Palestine was not motivated by politics, but was “an issue of the heart… and faith.”

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

For , the Palestinian cause is not a tactical issue, nor is it a ‘political’ strategy. It’s an issue of beliefs, an issue of the heart and an issue of faith. 2/27/10

A day earlier, the supreme leader took to Twitter to warn “traitorous countries” that refused to confront Israel militarily in order to appease the US, saying that “resistance is the only way to save #Palestine from oppression.”

Khamenei has previously branded Israel as “barbaric,” “infanticidal,” and the “sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region.” More recently, he blamed “Zionists” for the anti-government demonstrations held across Iran earlier this year.

His tweets over the weekend came amid a tense few days along the Gaza border that saw multiple exchanges of mortar and rocket fire and violence along the security fence.

On Friday, a 21-year-old volunteer Gazan paramedic was shot dead as she tried to help evacuate wounded protesters near Israel’s perimeter fence. UN officials condemned Razan Najjar’s killing, and thousands of Palestinians attended her funeral on Saturday. The IDF said it was investigating the incident.

Later Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza resumed firing rockets over the border, shattering an official ceasefire agreement. In response, the IDF said Israeli jets carried out two rounds of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

Razan al-Najjar (R), a 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic, tends to an injured colleague during clashes near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed Israel Monday morning for Europe to rally support from key allies for amending the international nuclear deal with Iran and for pushing Tehran-backed forces out of neighboring Syria.

The Israeli leader is set to meet with leaders from Germany, France and Britain, beginning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Monday.

Netanyahu has long identified Iran as Israel’s greatest threat, pointing to its nuclear program, calls for Israel’s destruction and support of anti-Israel terrorist groups.

Before departing, the prime minister told his cabinet that archenemy Iran would top his agenda and voiced optimism for a successful visit. Israel has been a leading critic of the international nuclear deal with Iran, and more recently, has said it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in war-torn Syria.

Agencies contributed to this report

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Why Palestinians care what Donald Trump thinks about Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Why Palestinians care what Donald Trump thinks about Jerusalem

Israelis appreciated but mostly shrugged at last month’s US Embassy move, but Palestinians exploded in fury. The gap reveals much about their predicament

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The US Embassy has moved. With the exception of the effect the move purportedly had on the ailing health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and acknowledging Palestinian claims that the violence on the Gaza border was mostly due to the American recognition of Jerusalem, or at least its western half, as Israel’s capital, this latest round of Jewish-Arab scuffling seems to have died down.

That doesn’t mean Israeli-Palestinian tensions have decreased, of course. A confluence of powerful moments on the Palestinian calendar — the embassy move on May 14; the recurring Gaza protests launched by Hamas from March 30 until mid-May; Nakba Day on May 15, mourning the displacement of the Palestinians upon Israel’s founding; the May 17 start of the holy month of Ramadan; and even the upcoming Naksa Day on June 5, which mourns the Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War — coupled with Hamas’s fraught political position in Gaza have all pushed the sides to new rounds of violence, and may do so again at any time.

But it wasn’t just the calendar. Israelis and Palestinians remain strangers to each other despite living such close and intertwined lives. Each has only a sketchy, piecemeal grasp of what motivates and frightens the other across the ethnic and religious divide.

This gap in comprehension was the reason many Israelis were surprised by the frantic Palestinian response to the American embassy’s opening in Jerusalem. Most Israeli Jews certainly appreciated the gesture, but did not seem to take part in the gushing platitudes of politicians about its unique strategic or “historic” significance.

The Palestinians disagreed. Political factions vied with one another in their expressions of rage over the American move. The Palestinian Authority declared a school strikeurged mass protests across the West Bank and Gaza, cut direct talks with the Trump administration and announced the US had forsaken its role as a peace broker in the region. Protests mounted in the West Bank and Hamas announced its seven-week-long campaign of border rallies in Gaza.

In the process, Palestinian rhetoric shed light on how they view their strategic position, and how their current strategy is failing them.

The Palestinian resort to internationalizing the conflict — the appeal to international institutions, the BDS campaign, and the like — is rooted in the deepest anxieties of Palestinian nationalism. The only real alternative to internationalization (besides terrorism, of course, which vanishingly few Palestinians still view as a winning strategy) is to meaningfully engage with Israel and Israelis, a step too ideologically and politically painful for any major Palestinian faction to contemplate seriously. (Some factions will agree to negotiate with Israeli officials; none with any following will agree to push for engagement or coexistence with Israeli Jewish society.)

Then, too, there is the fact that the appeal to the world’s conscience fits the Palestinian meta-narrative of dispossession. In the telling of the Palestinian national movement, the injustice of Palestinian displacement is larger than the narrow question of Palestinian suffering; it violates history’s deepest logic and purpose, its moral arc. A strategy premised on the existence and political potency of an amorphous moral conscience capable of mobilizing a broader humanity to act in the Palestinians’ favor validates this narrative of lost-but-inevitably-to-be-reclaimed justice. It makes the insistence that an idealized pre-Israeli condition can yet be restored a little less ludicrous and a little more believable.

There is a risk, however, to this reliance on the world’s moral emotions. An indelicate framing of the question might be: What if the international community does not in any meaningful sense exist? What if there are very few nations (even among Arab states) that would risk hard interests in the name of an idealistic call for justice, especially when that call is so hard to apply to the messy conditions of this conflict? Even the Palestinians’ most vocal allies — Turkey, for example — see in the Palestinian cause not a fight for the well-being of Palestinians, but a politically convenient battlefield on which to pursue their own broader ideological battle over the future of Islam and their place in global affairs. It doesn’t help, of course, that the half of Palestinian politics represented by Hamas actively pursues a politics of violence that makes it all the harder for foreign players to act in defense of the Palestinians.

As they discovered yet again with the US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem on May 14, there are costs to the overreliance on the politics of foreign nations: it leaves you vulnerable when those politics change.

Lacking any other strategic horizon, it’s no wonder Palestine’s cause seemed to many Palestinians to be dramatically set back by the election of a populist American right-winger as president.

The point here is not to argue that Trump is actually bad for the Palestinians, at least in the sense that another American president might be better. It’s arguable that a Hillary Clinton presidency, or even a Bernie Sanders one and its undoubted sympathy for the Palestinians, would not really tilt events very much in the Palestinians’ direction. Palestine’s troubles run deep, and Palestinian leaders have a long history of squandering foreign sympathy. The point here is only to say that many Palestinians believe their cause has been dramatically set back by Trump’s rise.

And so Palestinians exploded over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, which suddenly and viscerally clarified the extent to which their long-established strategic truths offer exceedingly few good answers in this ever-changing world.

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Russia OKs Israeli strikes on Iranian targets deep inside Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia OKs Israeli strikes on Iranian targets deep inside Syria — report

Arabic daily says deal between Moscow and Jerusalem includes removal of Tehran-backed forces from border area, protection for Syrian army

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, in Moscow, Russia on May 31, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, in Moscow, Russia on May 31, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Israel and Russia have reached an agreement green-lighting Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, as well as the withdrawal of Tehran-backed troops from Syria’s border with Israel, according to an Arabic media report Friday.

According to the Arabic-language daily Asharq al-Awsat, the agreement will see Iranian forces leave southwestern Syria, while allowing Israel to strike Iranian assets deep in the country. Israel agreed not to attack Syrian regime targets, the report said.

A Russian source told Asharq al-Awsat that Russia was tight-lipped about the agreement to maintain “balance” in its diplomatic ties with Israel and Iran.

Israel has repeatedly vowed to prevent Iran establishing a permanent presence in Syria and Lebanon and has carried out dozens of air strikes against Iran-backed forces and attempts to smuggle advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

“Russia is somehow embarrassed because the talks with the Israelis mainly focused on a plan to remove Iran and its forces from southern Syria,” the source told the paper. Russia is a main ally of Iran.

The reported agreement comes after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Thursday for talks focused on Syria.

Liberman thanked Russia for “understanding” Israel’s security concerns. However, neither Jerusalem, nor Moscow, publicly acknowledged any agreement between the sides regarding Iran’s military presence in Syria.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

“It is important to continue the dialogue between us and to keep an open line between the IDF and Russian army,” Liberman told Shoigu.

Before leaving Israel for Russia, Liberman said Israel was committed to “preventing Iran and its offshoots from establishing themselves in Syria.”

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday evening to discuss the situation in Syria. Moscow said the conversation focused on “some aspects of the Syrian settlement,” which it didn’t specify, following up on the two leaders’ talks in Moscow earlier this month.

The Liberman-Shoigu meeting came on the heels of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov‘s demand Wednesday that all foreign forces — including those from Iran, Turkey and the US — leave southwestern Syria as soon as possible, as well as his remarks Monday at a press conference in Moscow that only the Syrian regime should field military forces in the country’s southern border areas.

“As regards the confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria, we have agreements on the southwestern de-escalation zone. These agreements have been reached between Russia, the United States and Jordan. Israel was informed about them as we were working on them. They [the agreements] stipulate that this de-escalation zone should consolidate stability, while all non-Syrian forces must be withdrawn from this area,” Lavrov said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a joint press conference with his German counterpart following their talks in Moscow on May 10, 2018. (AFP/Yuri Kadobnov)

Lavrov’s comment apparently referred to areas including the Syrian Golan Heights region abutting the Israeli Golan Heights and the border with Jordan, and indicated that Russia was open to Israeli demands that Iranian forces be kept far from Israel’s borders.

The return of the Syrian army to Israel’s northern border in return for the distancing of Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah from the area has been the subject of back channel discussions between Israel and Russia over recent weeks.

Liberman visited Russia with a defense establishment delegation, hoping to flesh out the understandings to give Syrian President Bashar Assad control over the Syria-Israel border region.

Netanyahu’s office continues to insist publicly that Israel demands the complete ouster of Iran and Hezbollah from the whole of Syria.

A source told the Ynet news site on Thursday that “Israel is uninterested in partial agreements, but rather in an exit of all Iranian forces from Syria.”

On Wednesday, Netanyahu told ministers that he had spoken with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo primarily to urge the US government to demand that an evolving agreement on troop deployment in Syria between the US, Russia and Jordan make clear that Iranian forces must leave the whole of the country.

Israeli soldiers seen beside tanks near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018 (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The agreement appears to be slated to demand that Iranian and Iran-backed forces stay 20 kilometers from the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

Amidst a flurry of activity relating to Iran, Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel’s National Security Adviser, flew to Washington on Wednesday to coordinate positions with the Trump administration.

Next week, Netanyahu will leave for France and Germany to discuss Iran’s role in Syria and the nuclear deal which the Europeans are trying to salvage after the US withdrawal earlier this month. He is due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. He may also call on Prime Minister Theresa May in the UK.

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Israel unveils plan to pump billions into neglected Arab areas of East Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel unveils plan to pump billions into neglected Arab areas of East Jerusalem

Education, infrastructure and jobs program called ‘most comprehensive attempt’ yet to narrow gap between Arab and Jewish parts of city

Palestinian schoolgirls play after school in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, March 30, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Palestinian schoolgirls play after school in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat, March 30, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The government on Thursday unveiled what it billed as a groundbreaking program to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in long-neglected Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

The “Leading Change” program aims to reduce the huge social gaps between the Palestinian neighborhoods and the overwhelmingly Jewish western part of the city. Palestinian neighborhoods suffer from poor infrastructure, neglect and subpar public services, and nearly 80 percent of the city’s Palestinian families live in poverty.

The program will invest NIS 2 billion, or $560 million, in three core areas: education, infrastructure, and helping Palestinian women enter the work force.

The money will be spent on a variety of programs, including nine pilot projects, in the coming five years, with the aim of attracting further government and private investment down the road.

Various government ministries, along with the Jerusalem municipality, will carry out the program, which was launched at a ceremony at President Reuven Rivlin’s official residence on Thursday.

Rivlin, a proponent of coexistence, praised what he called “the most comprehensive attempt by the government to date to narrow the gaps and to develop the economy” of East Jerusalem.

View of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, on December 14, 2017. (Dario Sanchez/Flash90)

He said East Jerusalem has experienced “lost generations” over the decades.

“I very much hope that the near future will ensure hope for change, and ensure that we not give up on future generations,” he said.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed the area in a move that is not internationally recognized. Israel considers East Jerusalem an inseparable part of its capital, while the Palestinians seek the area as the capital of a future state.

Ze’ev Elkin, the government’s minister for Jerusalem affairs, is expected to play a leading role in implementing the program. Elkin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party who is running for mayor of Jerusalem, said bringing to prosperity to East Jerusalem is an Israeli interest.

Minister Ze’ev Elkin speaks during a ceremony honoring veterans of the Six Day War at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, as Israel marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war, on May 23, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“All those who truly believe in a unified Jerusalem and aspire to full sovereignty must act with determination to govern on one hand, and to take responsibility for developing infrastructure on the other,” he said.

While critics are likely to point to such comments as signs of an Israeli power play, proponents say the program recognizes the reality on the ground and gives Palestinians a chance to participate in the thriving high-tech Israeli economy.

Most East Jerusalem Palestinians are not Israeli citizens, and instead hold residency rights that allow them to work and freely travel in Israel.

Israeli security forces check a Palestinian man at the entrance to the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem on December 2, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, who critics accuse of neglecting East Jerusalem, said he has done his best to develop the area and blamed the national government for chronically underfunding his city.

He said “Leading Change” would provide just a small percentage of what is needed, but expressed hope the program would raise awareness of the city’s needs.

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Israel destroys ‘unique’ Hamas tunnel extending into Israel via Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel destroys ‘unique’ Hamas tunnel extending into Israel via Egypt

Army strikes in Gaza seal off tunnel — intended for both smuggling and attacks according to IDF — that reached 900 meters into Israel

The Israeli army on Tuesday afternoon struck what it said was a Hamas tunnel in the Gaza Strip that extended hundreds of meters into Egyptian and Israeli territory.

The IDF said the U-shaped attack tunnel destroyed near Rafah and the Kerem Shalom border crossing was still under construction and not yet usable.

The military said the tunnel crossed from Gaza into Egypt and from there into southern Israel, and was intended both for smuggling weapons and for attacks against Israel.

Its full length was around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), the army said, and the segment inside Israeli territory was 900 meters (half a mile) long.

The military discovered the tunnel in the past two weeks, an army spokesperson said.

The army called the tunnel’s design “unique.”

“This is a very long tunnel,” a source told the Ynet news site. “It also had exit shafts on the Egyptian side. The tunnel was dealt with using airstrikes [in Gaza], and in the coming hours will also be taken care of on our side to neutralize it entirely.”

Israeli officials reportedly informed Egyptian counterparts of the planned strike on the tunnel, according to Hebrew-language media. It was not clear if Israeli strikes on the tunnel included action over the border in Egypt.

A map handed out by the Israeli military showing the apparent route of a Hamas tunnel that extended from Gaza to Israel and Egypt, and destroyed by Israel on May 29. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The destruction of the tunnels came as Israeli planes pounded Gaza in response to a morning barrage of mortar fire, including one shell that landed in a kindergarten playground shortly before children were due to arrive.

The IDF said it struck over 35 terror targets in Gaza throughout the day, belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These included weapons caches, naval targets and terror headquarters, the IDF said.

A picture taken from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 29, 2018, shows smoke billowing over buildings following an Israeli air strike on the Palestinian enclave. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Hamas identified one of the targets as a training facility.

Some 28 mortar shells and rockets were fired into Israel by Palestinian terror groups Tuesday morning, and media reported dozens more in the afternoon following the strikes.

Three Israeli soldiers were lightly injured from shrapnel in the afternoon attacks.

The military said a total of 25 projectiles had been knocked down by Iron Dome missile defense batteries as of 4 p.m., though the tally was not official.

The morning attacks were mounted by the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, apparently in revenge for the IDF killing three of its members in a cross-border exchange earlier in the week.

In a statement, Islamic Jihad described its assault as “a blessed response of the resistance,” adding, “our people’s blood is not cheap.”

The Israeli military, however, ultimately blamed the barrages on the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, saying the barrages were the result of the organization’s “failures” to successfully attack Israel during the recent riots along the border.

There was no claim of responsibility for the afternoon barrage. As a matter of policy, the Israeli army considers Hamas, which rules Gaza, to be responsible for any attack emanating from the beleaguered coastal enclave.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to respond “with great force” to the mortar shells, one of which landed just outside a kindergarten less than an hour before children were due to arrive.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the military had launched a “massive and forceful” retaliatory attack.

Defense officials reportedly said the next 24 hours would be “intense” amid the worst escalation on the Gaza border since the 2014 war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

The army evacuated the Zikim beach near Gaza, while local authorities in the region told residents to stay near their bomb shelters in the coming hours.

An Israeli soldier takes cover as rocket sirens blare in southern Israel on May 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Israel views the attacks on it and on its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip with great severity,” Netanyahu said earlier, during a conference in the northern Galilee region, ahead of urgent security consultations set to take place later in the day.

“The IDF will retaliate with great force to these attacks,” the prime minister added. “Israel will make anyone trying to harm it pay a heavy price, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman earlier called a “special situational assessment” at army’s Tel Aviv headquarters with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior figures from Israel’s security services, his office said.

Judah Ari Gross and Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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